The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Now, Now, The Mirth Comes

Twelfe Night, or King and Queen

Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Poem 3 of 7 of Christmas Customs from Herrick

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)

Compare: Twelfe Night (From William Sandys, 1833)

1. Now, now the mirth comes,
With the cake full of plums,
Where Bean's the king of the sport here;
Besides we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.

2, Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.

3. Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
and let not a man then be seen here,
Who, unurg'd, will not drink,
To the base from the brink,
A health to the king and queen here.

4. Next crown the bowl full
With the gentle lamb's-wool1
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

5. Give then to the king
And queen wassailing;
And, though with ale ye be wet here,
Yet part ye from hence
As free from offense,
As when ye innocent met here.


1. A compound of strong beer, roasted apples, sugar and spice. Return

Husk's Note:

The Twelfth Cake was formerly made full of plums, amongst which were placed a bean and a pea. The cake being cut into slices and distributed amongst the company, he to whose lot fell the piece containing the bean was the King, whilst she who obtained the piece holding the pea became the Queen, for the evening. This ceremony was also formerly practised in France, under the name of “La Roi de la Feve.”

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 229-30.

Concerning the reference to "Where bean’s the king of the sport here," Bullen notes:

"A bean and pea were enclosed in the Twelfth-cake. When the cake was divided, he who got the slice containing the bean was king of the feast, and the girl to whose lot the pea fell was queen. This Twelfth-tide custom existed in France as early as the thirteenth century. See some interesting remarks in the preface to Sandys’ Christmas Carols (pp. lxxvi—ix.)" [See: Twelfth Day Ceremonies From Sandys]

Concerning the reference to "With gentle lambs-wool," Bullen notes

"Lambs-wool consisted of strong nappy ale, in which roasted crab-apples were pressed. Nares conjectures that the name was derived from the liquor’s “smoothness and softness, resembling the wool of lambs.”

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