The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Of A Rose, A Lovely Rose

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional from the Sloane Ms. 2593, British Library, London

Music: Not Stated

Source: E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick, eds., Early English Lyrics (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #LI, p. 103-104.

Of a rose, a lovely rose,
Of a rose is all mine song.

Lesteneth, lordinges, bothe elde and yinge,
    How this rose began to springe ;
Swich a rose to mine likinge 5
    In all this world ne knowe I none.

The aungil cam fro hevene tour,
    To grete Mary with gret honour,
And seide sche schuld bere the flour,
    That schulde breke the fendes bond. 10

The flour sprong in heye Bedlem,
    That is bothe bright and schene.
The rose is Mary, hevene quene ;
    Out of her bosum the blosme sprong.

The ferste braunche is full of might, 15
    That sprong on Cirstemesse night ;
The sterre schon over Bedlem bright,
    That is bothe brod and long.

The secunde braunche sprong to helle,
    The fendes power down to felle ; 20
Therein might none sowle dwelle.
    Blessed be the time the rose sprong !

The thredde braunche is good and swote,
    It sprang to hevene crop and rote,
Therein to dwellen and ben our bote ; 25
    Every day it scheweth in prestes hond.

Prey we to her with gret honour,
    Sche that bare the blessed flour,
Sche be our helpe and our socour
    And schild us fro the fendes bond ! 30

Notes:

12 schene. Fair.

25 bote, profit.

Editor's Note:

Other versions of this carol on this website:

There are other carols on this web site with similar first lines or burdens, although they have very separate themes and lyrics, including:

"Listen, Lordings, Both Great and Small" (Burden: A, a, a, a, Nunc gaudet ecclesia):

"Listen, Lordings, both leve and dear" (Nowell, -ell, both Old and Young):

"Listen, Lordings, Both More and Less" (Burden: Puer nobis natus est de Virgine Maria)

Of A Rose, A Lovely Rose
Notes to #LI, p. 348.

Sloane 2593. Printed Wright, W.C., 16, and Carols (1836), No. V.

Other versions in Eng. Poet. c. i, printed by Wright, P.S., 21 ; and Balliol 354, printed in Anglia, xxvi. 232, by Flugel, W.L, 62, N.L., 116, and by Pollard, 85.

Cf, also Seld. B. 26, 9v, ‘Of a rose synge we’, printed in E.B.M. ii. 108 (facsimile, i. plate L).

30. schild; MS. ‘schyd’.

Extended Citations

Wright, W.C., 16
Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (Warton Club, 1856),
Lestenyt, Lordynges, Bothe Elde and 3ynge, p. 16. (Texts from Sloane 2593);

Wright, Carols (1836), No. V.
Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum Preface signed Thomas Wright. (London: William Pickering, 1836), No. V,
Lestenyt, Lordynges, Bothe Elde and 3ynge. [Text, twenty pieces only, from Sloane 2593. No page numbers.]

Wright, P.S., 21
Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Percy Society, 1847),
Lyth and lystyn, both old and young, p. 21. [Texts from Eng. Poet, e.1, then in Wright’s possession.]

Editor's Note: This was printed in Volume 23 of the Percy Societies Series Early English Poems, etc. This title was number 73 of the list of 96 publications of the Society (not Volume 73) published in the Bibliographer's Manual of English Literature, Vol. 6, pp. 59-65. Also published in Volume 23 was William Sandys, ed., Festive Songs of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, and J. O. Halliwell, Popular English Histories.

William Thomas Lowndes and Henry G. Bohn, eds., The Bibliographer's Manual of English Literature. Volume Six of Six Volumes. (London: Bell & Daldy, 1865). The list of the Percy Society's publications is found on pp. 59-65. [pdf 74-80] No reference is made to the Volume number in which a particular title is printed.

Anglia, xxvi. 232,
Ewald Flügel, ed., “Liedersammlungen des XVI Jahrhunderts, Besonders Aus Der Zeit Heinrichs VIII. III. 6. Die lieder des Balliol Ms. 354,” in Eugen Einenkel, ed., Anglia - Zeitschrift für englische Philologie enthaltend Beitrage zur Geschlicht der englischen Sprache und Literatur. Band XXVI. (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1903), Off A Rose, A Louely Rose, pp. 232-233.

Flügel, N.L., 116 ;
Ewald Fl
ügel, Neuenglisches Lesebuch (Herausgegeben von Ewald Flugel: Band I, 1695), p. 116.

Flügel, W.L., 62;
Ewald Fl
ügel, "Englische Weihnachtslieder aus einer Handschrift des Balliol College zu Oxford." In Forschungen zur deutschen Philologie: Festgabe fur Rudolf Hildebrand, (Leipzig, 1894), p. 62. Texts from Balliol 354.

Pollard, 85.
A. W. (Alfred William) Pollard, ed., Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse. (A. Constable and Company, Limited, 1903), Hearken To Me Both Old And Young, p. 85.

Selden B. 26, folio 9v, ‘Of a rose synge we’

E.B.M. ii. 108 (facsimile, i. plate L).
Sir John Stainer, ed., Early Bodleian Music. Sacred and Secular Songs together with other MS. Compositions in the Bodleian Library, Oxford : ranging from about a.d. 1185 to about a.d. 1505. With an Introduction by E. W. B. Nicholson, and Transcriptions into Modern Musical Notation by J. F. R. Stainer and C. Stainer. Volume Two of Two volumes (vol. 1, facsimiles, vol. 2, transcriptions), 1901, p. 107 (facsimile, i. plate XLVII).

Available from Rickert and Sir Richard Runciman Terry:

  • This Rose is Railed on a Ryse, Text Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 11.
  • Text and Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #176, pp. 10-11.
  • Text and 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 #5, pp. 10-11.

Concerning Manuscripts:

Sloane 2593.
Sloane 2593. Paper, 5 3/4 x 4 1/2. Songs and carols, seventy-four in number, of which three are in Latin, and the rest in English. Mainly religious or moral, but some trivial and satirical. Wright considered it to be the song-book of a minstrel (cf. Eng. Poet. e. 1) ; the last folio bears the name ‘Johannes Bardel' or ‘Bradel,' written in the same hand as the rest of the MS. Wright traces one poem to 1362-9, but probably this and others were traditional when written down ; he dates the handwriting temp. Henry VI. According to Bradley-Stratmann, the MS. was written in Warwickshire at the beginning of the XV cent. Variants of some poems appear in Eng. Poet. e. i. Extracts in Ritson (1790), Wright, Carols (1836), and S.L.P., Rel. Ant., and Fehr in Archiv, cvii. 48; Edited complete by Wright for the Warton Club in 1856 ; and by B. Fehr in Archiv, cix. 33 ; who does not print poems extracted as above, but is ignorant of the Warton Club print. Source: Notes, pp. 303-304.

Extended Citations:

Extracts in:

  • Ritson (1790); 
    Joseph Ritson, ed., Ancient Songs, from the time of King Henry the Third to the Revolution. (London: J. Johnson, 1790), p. nnn. "Advertisement in 1829 edition says that this edition was printed in 1787, dated 1790, and published 1792."
  • [Ritson] (1829)
    Joseph Ritson. ed., Ancient Songs and Ballads, from the reign of King Henry the Second to the Revolution. 2 Vols. (London: For Payne and Foss by Thomas Davison, 1829).
  • Hazlitt-Ritson.
    Joseph Ritson, ed., Ancient Songs and Ballads From the Reign of King Henry the Second to the Revolution. Third Edition, revised W. Carew Hazlitt. (London: Reeves and Turner, 1877).
  • Wright, Carols (1836).
    Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum Preface signed Thomas Wright. (London: William Pickering, 1836). [Text, twenty pieces only, from Sloane 2593.]

  • Wright, S.L.P.
    Thomas Wright, ed., Specimens of Lyric Poetry, composed in England in the reign of Edward the First (Percy Society, 1842). [Texts from Harl. 2253.]
  • Wright, Rel. Ant.
    Thomas Wright and
    James Orchard Halliwell, eds., Reliquiæ Antiquæ. Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts, illustrating chiefly Early English Literature and the English Laguage. Vol. 2 of 2 vols. (1841, 1843).
  • Fehr in Archiv, cvii. 48;
    Bernhard Fehr, "Weitere Beiträge zur englischen Lyrik des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts," in Alois Brandl and Adolf Tobler, eds., Archiv für das Studium der Neueren Sprachen und Litteraturen. CVII Band / Volume 107. (Braunschweig: George Westermann, 1901), p. 48. With excerpts from Sloane 2593, Sloane 1212, Sloane 3501, Harley 541, Harley 367, & Harley 7578.

Edited complete by:

  • Wright for the Warton Club in 1856 ;
    Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (Warton Club, 1842). (Texts from Sloane 2593);
  • B. Fehr in Archiv, cix. 33; who does not print poems extracted as above, but is ignorant of the Warton Club print.
    Bernhard Fehr, "Die Lieder der Hs. Sloane 2593," in Alois Brandl and Adolf Tobler, eds.,  Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Litteraturen. Band CIX. (Braunschweig: George Westermann, 1902), pp. 33-72.

Eng. Poet. e. 1.
Eng. Poet. e. 1. Paper, 6 x 4 1/4. ‘Seventy six songs, religious and other, including some Christmas carols and drinking songs, presumably collected for the use of a professed minstrel’ (Madan, v. 679). Written partly in English, partly in Latin, partly in both. In several hands ; two pieces of music (facsimiles in E.B.M.). Variants of several poems in Sloane 2593. Dated 1460-80 by Madan, and ‘about 1485-90’ by Nicholson in E.B.M. Belonged in 1847 to Thomas Wright, but was then lost, and was said to have been taken away by the bookbinder to whom it was entrusted (Chappell, 43, note). It was bought for the Bodleian in 1887 at the sale of the library of Joseph Mayer, who was a patron of Wright’s. Described by Madan as above, and in E.B.M., i. xxiv. Edited complete by Wright in 1847 as No. LXXIII of the Percy Society publications (misquoted XXIII by Flügel, Fehr, and others, owing to an error in the Brit. Mus. Catalogue).

Editor's Note: The reference to "XXIII" (23) is to the Volume number published by the Percy Society's series Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages. Wright's work was Number LXXIII (73) in their list of publications.

MS Eng. Poet. e. 1. is located in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Madan is Falconer Madan, Richard W. Hunt, et al., Summary Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. 7 volumes in 8. (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1895-1953). E.B.M. refers to Sir John Stainer, ed., Early Bodleian Music. Sacred and Secular Songs together with other MS. Compositions in the Bodleian Library, Oxford : ranging from about a.d. 1185 to about a.d. 1505. Two volumes (vol. i, facsimiles, vol. ii, transcriptions) (London : Novello ; New York : Novello, Ewer, 1901). With an Introduction by E. W. B. Nicholson, and Transcriptions into Modern Musical Notation by J. F. R. Stainer and C. Stainer. A third volume was subsequently published.

The complete description by Madan, pp. 679-680:

29734. In English and Latin, on paper: written about A. D. 1460-80 by several hands : 6 1/4 x 4 3/4 in., in a box lined with red velvet 7 1/4 x 5 3/8 in., 64 leaves : stained and worn in parts, but repaired : binding, green morocco with gold ornament, done for mr. J. Mayer (19th cent.).

Seventy-six songs, religious and other, including some Christmas carols and drinking songs, presumably collected for the use of a professed minstrel : a few have the music as well as the words (foll. 40v , 41v , 50v).

This valuable MS. was edited for the Percy Society (vol. 23) in 1847, see also W. Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time (1855-7), i. 41. Most of the songs are in English or mixed English and Latin, a few in Latin alone.

In 1847 this volume was owned by Thomas Wright, who edited it : he subsequently lost it, and it was bought by the Bodleian at the Joseph Mayer sale (lot 42) on July 19, 1887, for £16.

[On this MS. see further 'Early Bodleian music' i. p. xxiv and plates 99-100 (where I have ascribed the date 'about 1485-90'), ii. pp. 182-4. E. W. B. N.]

Now MS. Eng. poet. e. 1.

Source: Falconer Madan, A summary catalogue of Western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the quarto series with references to the Oriental and other manuscripts. Vol. V: Collections received during the second half of the 19th century and miscellaneous MSS. acquired between 1695 and 1890. Nos. 24331-31000. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), pp. 679-80.

In the Preface to Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, Thomas Wright wrote:

The following very curious collection of old English Songs and Carols is printed verbatim from a manuscript at present in the possession of the Editor. It appears by the writing and language to have been written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, probably during the period intervening between the latter end of the reign of Henry VI [1421-1471], and the beginning of that of Henry VII [1457-1509]; a date which is confirmed by the fact that the few other copies of songs in this collection that occur elsewhere, are invariably found in manuscripts of the reign of Henry VI or of the age immediately following.

This manuscript has in all probability belonged to a professed minstrel, who sang at festivals and merry makings, and it has therefore been thought to merit publication entire, as giving a general view of the classes of poetry then popular. A rather large proportion of its contents consists of carols and religious songs, such as were sung at Christmas, and perhaps at some other of the great festivals of the church; and these are interesting illustrations of the manners and customs of the age.

Another class of productions, in which this manuscript is for its date peculiarly rich, consists of drinking songs, some of which are singular in their form and not wanting in spirit. The collection also contains a number of those satirical songs against the fair sex, which were so common in the middle ages, and which have a certain degree of importance as showing the condition of private society among our forefathers. In addition to these three classes, the manuscript contains a few short moral poems, which also are not without their peculiar interest.

Manuscript collections of songs like the present, of so early a date, are of great rarity. The only one with which I am acquainted, which may be considered of exactly the same character, is the MS. Sloane, No 2593, in the British Museum, which has generally been ascribed to the reign of Henry VI.

See: Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum (London: William Pickering, 1836); twenty songs and carols from Sloane MS 2593, and Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (The Warton Club, 1856); the complete Sloane MS 2593.

Balliol 354.
Balliol 354. Paper, 11 1/2 x 4. Commonplace book of Richard Hill, who describes himself as ‘seruant with Mr. Wyngar, alderman of London.' John Wyngar, grocer, was alderman in 1493, mayor 1504, and died 1505. Richard Hill married in 1518 Margaret, daughter of Harry Wyngar, haberdasher, 'dwellyng in bowe parishe in London,' and the births of his seven children are recorded in the MS. from 1518 to 1526. The MS. is a miscellany of the widest character, English, French, and Latin, poems, romances, fabliaux, extracts from Gower and Sir Thomas More, receipts, legal notes, London customs, etc. Some pieces, signed by Hill, must be in his own hand ; so probably is most of the MS. The latest date in it is 1535, but part must have been written before 1504. Rimbault, 120, refers apparently to the MS. in 1851, (see notes on CXXXI), and said he intended to print it entire. Chappell (1855-59), 50, notes that this MS. had been 'recently found in the library . . . , where it had been accidentally concealed, behind a bookcase, during a great number of years.' Extracts printed by Flugel, W.L., in 1894; and thence by Pollard, 1903 ; also in Flugel, N.L. Edited, almost complete, with full table of contents, by Flugel in Anglia, xxvi, 94, printing 126 items. Source: Notes, p. 307-308.

See:

  • Rimbault
    E. F. Rimbault, ed., A Little Book of Songs and Ballads, gathered from Ancient Musick Books, MS. and Printed (1851).
  • Chappell
    William Chappell, ed., The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. The airs harmonized by G. A. Macfarren. Two vols. (but continuous pagination). [1855-1859.] In some copies the title begins with ‘Popular Music,’ &c.
  • Flügel, W.L.
    Ewald Flügel, "Englische Weihnachtslieder aus einer Handschrift des Balliol College zu Oxford." In Forschungen zur deutschen Philologie: Festgabe fur Rudolf Hildebrand, (Leipzig, 1894), pp. 52-84. Texts from Balliol 354.
  • Pollard
    A. W. (Alfred William) Pollard, ed., Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse. (A. Constable and Company, Limited, 1903).
  • Flügel, N.L.
    Ewald Flügel, Neuenglisches Lesebuch (Herausgegeben von Ewald Flugel: Band I, 1695).
  • Anglia, xxvi
    Ewald Flügel, ed., “Liedersammlungen des XVI Jahrhunderts, Besonders Aus Der Zeit Heinrichs VIII. III. 6. Die lieder des Balliol Ms. 354,” in Eugen Einenkel, ed., Anglia - Zeitschrift für englische Philologie enthaltend Beitrage zur Geschlicht der englischen Sprache und Literatur. Band XXVI. (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1903).

Editor's Note:

See also

  • Roman Dyboski, ed., Songs, Carols, and Other Miscellaneous Poems, From the Balliol MS. 354, Richard Hill's Commonplace Book. Issue 101, Early English Text Society, Extra Series. (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1907).
  • Jessie L. Weston, ed., Old English Carols from the Hill MS. (London: David Nutt 1911). Translations by Jessie L. Weston.

Balliol Ms. 354 is available on-line at Early Manuscripts at Oxford University; see Balliol Ms. 354.

Selden B. 26., ‘Of a rose synge we’
Selden B. 26: Oxford, Bodleian Library, 'Several MSS., apparently bound together after they came into the possession of the library' [in or about 1659] ; ff. 3-33, parchment, 10 1/4 x 7, contains 52 English and Latin carols and songs with music in 2, 3, and 4 parts. Nicholson traces eleven different hands in the music and nine in the words ; Southern English; about 1450. One tune by John Dunstable, who died 1453. Variants of four lyrics and tunes in Trinity College Library, 0. 3. 58 ; including the Song on Agincourt, transcribed hence by or for Samuel Pepys, now in his collection of Ballads, i. 3. Described in E.B.M., i. xx-xxiii, and O.H.M., ii. 133 (from musical point of view).

Editor's Note: Selden Ms. B 26 is available  on-line at Early Manuscripts at Oxford University; see Selden MS B26.

E.B.M.
Sir John Stainer, ed., Early Bodleian Music. Sacred and Secular Songs together with other MS. Compositions in the Bodleian Library, Oxford : ranging from about a.d. 1185 to about a.d. 1505. With an Introduction by E. W. B. Nicholson, and Transcriptions into Modern Musical Notation by J. F. R. Stainer and C. Stainer. Volume Two of Two volumes (vol. 1, facsimiles, vol. 2, transcriptions), 1901, p. 107 (facsimile, i. plate XLVII).

O.H.M.
The Oxford History of Music
. Edited by W. H. Hadow, 6 vols. First two vols. are Parts I (1901) and II (1905) of 'The Polyphonic Period' by H. Ellis Wooldridge.

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