The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Now Thrice Welcome Christmas

A Christmas Song

Words and Music: Unknown

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

1. Now thrice welcome, Christmas,
    Which brings us good cheer,
Minc'd pies and plum-porridge,
    Good ale and strong beer;
With pig, goose, and capon,
    The best that can be,
So well doth the weather
    And our stomachs agree.

2. Observe how the chimneys
    Do smoke all about,
The cooks are providing
    For dinner, no doubt;
But those on whose tables
    No victuals appear,
O may they keep Lent
    All the rest of the year!

3. With holly and ivy
    So green and so gay;
We deck up our houses
    As fresh as the day,
With bays and rosemary
    And laurel complete,
And every one now
    Is a king in conceit.

Husk's Note:

The old almanacks occasionally contained carols. The following is from "Poor Robin's Almanack" for 1695. This almanack enjoyed a long continuance of public favour, having appeared regularly from 1663 to 1828. The earlier numbers were said to have been written by Robert Herrick, the poet, from whom also the almanack was supposed to have derived its name. As regards the last particular, however, Antony Wood, gives a different account, viz. that the name was given in derision of Robert Pory, D.D., a noted pluralist, and that a mock "Imprimatur" purporting to bear his signature as placed on the title of the first number.

The following lively and genial effusion has somewhat of a spice of Herrick's quality, although it is not at all likely to be one of his production, as he died, at a very advanced age, several years before its publication.

It is given here from Brand's "Observations on Popular Antiquities," [See: Christmas Song] as it has not been found possible to meet with a copy of the almanack for 1695. There appears to have been an additional verse concluding the carol, but of which Brand has preserved the last four lines only, viz: --

"But as for curmudgeons
Who will not be free,
I wish they may die
On the three-legged tree."

The "three-legged tree" was the creation at Tyburn on which malefactors suffered the extreme penalty of the law. It consisted of three horizontal beams joined together in the form of a triangle, and supported by three upright posts.

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

THE old almanacks often gave a new Carol in praise of the festive season. The following is taken from "Poor Robin's Almanack," 1695.

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvester" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

Thomas Wright, Specimens of Old Christmas Carols Selected from Manuscripts and Printed Books (London: The Percy Society, 1841):

A Christmas Song, from "Poor Robin's Almanac," 1695. It is taken from Brand's "Popular Antiquities," as we have not been able to meet with a copy of the Almanac of that year. Brand appears to have omitted a part of a stanza.

Editor's Note: Wright adds the following at the end of the carol:

But as for all curmudgeons,
    Who will not be free,
I wish they may die
    On the three-legged tree.

Also found in Specimens of Lyric Poetry, Composed in England in the Reign of Edward the First (1841), The Percy Society, Volume 4, Thomas Wright, ed.

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 241. She also gives the source as "Poor Robin's Almanac."

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 215-6, who notes "From Poor Robin's Almanac, 1695."

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