The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Now May We Singen As It Is

For Christmas

Words and melody from a parchment roll in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. (Date, Fifteenth Century.)
Mode I.
See:
Cambridge UK, Trinity College O.3.58 (1230)

Source: Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #190, pp. 38-39.

Refrain:
Now may we singen as it is
Quod puer natus est nobis.

1. The Babe to us that now is bore
Wonderful workès He hath y-wrought,
He will not love that was forlore
But boldly (He) again it bought,
    And thus it is,
    Forsooth I wis
    He asketh nought but that is His.

2. This chaffer lovèd He right well;
The priee was nigh and y-bought full dear.
Who would suffer and for us feel,
And did that Prince withouten peer?
    And thus it is,
    Forsooth I wis
    He asketh nought but that is His.

3. His ransom for us hath (been) paid,
Of reason that we ought to be His,
Be mercy ask'd and He be prayed;
We (then) by right may claim1 (our) bliss
    And thus it is,
    Forsooth I wis
    He asketh nought but that is His.

4. To some purpose God madè man,
I do leve well to sal-va-ci-on.
What was His blood that from Him ran,
But defence 'gainst dam-na-ci-on?
    And thus it is,
    Forsooth I wis
    He asketh nought but that is His.

5. Almighty God in Trinity,
Thy mercy we pray with (our) whole heart;
Thy mercy may all woe make flee,
And cruel2 dread from us doth start.
    And thus it is,
    Forsooth I wis
    He asketh nought but that is His.

Text Notes from Rev. Terry.

1. In the MS. It stands 'Kalange,' an unusual form of the word "to challenge." But on the authority of Henry Bradley it is translated 'claim.' See M.E. Dict. Return.

2. It stands 'daugerous' in the MS., which gives a syllable too many for the note. I have therefore substituted 'cruel' which is its equivalent. Return.

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #190, pp. 38-39.

190a-Now_May_We.jpg (97476 bytes) 190b-Now_May_We.jpg (88338 bytes)

Sheet Music Notes from Rev. Terry (see the sheet music):

1. Between the asterisks there is a hiatus in the MS. The words are clearly written but their corresponding notes have been omitted. I give a conjectural reading.

2. Two crotchet notes omitted here.

Sheet Music from Sir Richard Runciman Terry, A Medieval Carol Book: The Melodies Chiefly from MMS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), Carol #24, pp. 46-47.

AMCB59.jpg (575256 bytes) AMCB60.jpg (528390 bytes)

Editor's Note:

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 169-70: The Babe To Us That Now Is Born. On this page is contained the sheet music in both the original, 15th century form and a contemporary format as found in J. A. Fuller Maitland in English Carols of the Fifteenth Century From A MS Roll in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. (London: The Leadenhall Press, et al., 1891) whose source was a roll in the Library of Trinity College.

Also found in Chambers and Sidgwick, Early English Lyrics (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #LX, p. 116, Now Sing We Right As It Is.

This description of the source manuscript is from Chambers and Sidgwick:

T.C.C., O. 3. 58
Trinity College Library, O. 3. 58. (James, no. 1230). Parchment roll 7 inches wide, and 6 feet 7 inches long. One side bears a Latin ecclesiastical treatise; the other 13 carols and poems with music, perhaps by John Dunstable (see Bodl. Selden B. 26). Df the XV cent.; the forms of the words indicate northern origin. A variant of the Agincourt song is the only secular poem. The MS. was presented in 1838 to the College by H. O. Roe, Esq. Described in James, iii. 247. Edited with a facsimile and added vocal parts by J. A. Fuller Maitland and W. S. Rockstro in 1891, English Carols of the Fifteenth Century, from a MS. Roll in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Some Middle English resources from the World Wide Web:

Editor's Note.

This carol is found in two manuscripts. Versions of this carol from these two manuscripts on this website include:

I. Balliol Ms. 354, the Richard Hill Commonplace Book

II. Trinity College O.3.58 (1230), Cambridge UK

And see also John Stevens, ed. Mediaeval Carols. Musica Britannica 4. (London: Stainer and Bell, 1952, 2nd ed. 1958), p. 4.

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