The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

On Hire Is Al Mi Lif Ylong

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional from Trinity College Library, Ms. B. 14. 39. (James, no. 323), Cambridge
On hire is al mi lif i-long (Wright)

Music: Not Stated

Source: E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick, eds., Early English Lyrics (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #XLVII, p. 94-96.

On hire is al mi lif ylong
    Of wham ic wille singen,
And herien him ther among
    That gon us bote bringen
Of helle pine that is strong,
    Ant brut us blisse that is so long,
Al thurut hire childinke.
    We biddit hire in ure song
He yef us god hendinke,
    Thau we don wrong.

Al this world hid sal agon
    Wid serue and wid sore ;
And al this blisse ic mot for gon,
    Lof thingit me so sore.
This world nis bute ure fon 15
    Thar for ic wille henne gon
And lernin Godis lore.
    This worldis blisse nis wrd a flo.
I bidde, God, thin hore,
    Nu and hever mo. 20

To longe ic abbe sot iben,
    Fill sorre I me adrede.
Ylovid ic abbe gomin and gle,
    And hevir fayre wedin.
Al that nis nout ful wel ic seo ; 25
    Ther fore we sulin ur sunnis flen
And ure sothede.
    We biddit hire us to seo,
That con wissin and redin,
    That is so freo. 30

Heo is hele and lef and licte
    And helpit al moncunne ;
Ho us havet ful wel idiit ;
    Ho yaf us wele and wunne.
Thu brutis us day and Eve nit ; 35
    Heo brout wou, thu brought rid,
Thu almesse, and heo sunne.
    Thu do us merci, lavedi brit,
Wene we sulin henne ;
    Ful wel thu mit. 4o

Agult ic have, weylawey !
    Sunful ic am a wreche.
Thu do me merci, lavedi brit,
    Ar det me henne fecche.
Yif me thi love, ic am redi ; 45
    Let me live and amendi,
That fendes me ne letten.
    Of mine sunnin ic am sori,
Of mi lif ic ne recche.
    Lavedi, merci ! 50


3 herien, praise.

7 childinke, child-bearing.

8 biddit, ask.

19 hore, mercy.

21 sot, foolish.

33 idiit = idight, prepared.

28 seo, protect.

34 wunne, joy.

29 wissin, guide : redin, advise.

41 Agult, sinned.

44 Ar det, ere death.

On Hire Is Al Mi Lif Ylong
#XLVII, p. 94-96.

Note to XLVII, p. 347

T.C.C., B. 14. 39; not printed hitherto. The dialect is Southern. Other versions are in MSS. Cotton Calig. A. ix (‘tempore circiter R. Hen. III exaratus’) and Jesus Coll. Oxford, I. 29 (a deficient version), both printed by Morris, O.E.M., 158-9; the Cotton version also printed by Wright, Owl and the Nightingale, 65. The relations between these three MSS. demand further investigation.

Extended Citations

T.C.C., B. 14. 39, Notes. pp. 308-309.
Trinity College Library, Ms. B. 14. 39. (James, no. 323). Parchment, 7 1/8 x 5 3/8. XIII cent.; Skeat says ‘a Norman scribe.’ (Bound with B. 14. 40, James, no. 324, of the XIV and XV centuries.) Poems in English, Latin, and French.

Some items appear also in the contemporary MSS., Jesus College, Oxford, I. xxix, and Cottonian Calig. A. ix ; see Morris, O.E.M., 158-163. The whole MS., including B. 14. 40, was transcribed in 1843 by Sir Frederick Madden, which transcript is now B. 14. 40a. The MS. was missing from the library 1863-1896. It was used by Hickes for his Thesaurus. Extracts in Rel. Ant. On the French pieces in it, see MSS. Français de Cambridge by Paul Meyer in Romania (1903). Described, with list of contents, in James, i. 438. [Nos. XLV, XLVII, and note on XLVI.]


Morris, O.E.M., 194.
R. Morris, ed., An Old English Miscellany. (E.E.T.S., 1872), Of On That Is So Fayr and Bri3t, pp. 194-195. [Texts from Jesus College, Oxford, I. 29, Cotton Calig. A. ix, Egerton 613, etc.]

Wright, Owl and Nightingale, 65.
Thomas Wright, The Owl and the Nightingale : An early English Poem attributed to Nicholas de Guildford, with some shorter poems from the same manuscript, which was contained in Early English Poetry, Ballads and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages. Vol. XI. (London: Printed for the Percy Society by T. Richards, 1844), p. 65.  [Texts from Cott. Calig. A. ix.]

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