The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Shropshire Wakes

Or: Hey For Christmas

"Being the Delightful Sports of most Countries."

For Christmas

Words English Traditional

Music: Dargason

Source: Broadside printed for Phillip Brooksby, at the Golden Ball, neer the Hospital-gate in West Smithfield.

1. Come Robin Ralph, and little Harry,
  and merry Thomas at our Green,
Where he shall meet with Briget and Sary,
  and the finest young wenches that ere were seen:

Then high for Christmas once a year
And where we have Cakes, both ale and beer,
And to our christmas feast there comes,
Young men and Maid to shake their bums.

2. For Gammer Nichols has gotten a Custard
  My Neighbour Wood a roasted Pig,
And Widdow Franklin hath beer & mustard,
  & at the Thatcht house there is good swig.
Then high, &c.

3. There's a fidler for to play e'ry Dance
  when the young Lads and Lasses meet:
With which the Men & Maids will prance,
  with the fidler before them down the street:
Then high, &c.

4. The Morice dancers will be ready
  Meat and Drink enough to lade ye:
And in a Fools dress will be little Neddy,
  to entertain our Christmas Lady:

Then high for Christmas once a year,
   Where we have cakes, both ale and beer,
And to our christmas feast there comes,
   Young men and Maids to shake their Bums.

5. And when that they shall all appear,
  that are to  be at our brave Wakes,
To eat iup the Meat, and drink up the Beer,
And to play at cards for Ale and Cakes:

Then high for christmas once a year,
   Where we have cakes, both ale and beer;
And to our christmas Feast there comes,
   Young Men and Maids to shake their bums.

6. Then Grace and sweetest Winnifret,
  and all the Lasses on the place,
When that the young men they have met
  see how the Devils-dream they'l trace:
Then high, &c.

7. They side and then tun round about
  and briskly trip it to each other:
And when they have danct it out,
  they presently call for another:
Then high, &c.

8. Ralph leading up with Sue in 's hand,
  And Briget being by Robins side,
You'd laugh to see how they do stand:
  with their heads together and feet so wide
Then high, &c.

9. The dance being done the fidler plays Kissum
  which Dick and Harry soon did so,
And Randal the Taylor could not missum,
  but he must kiss his Partner too.
Then high, &c.

10. Then they sat down to their good cheer,
  and pleasant were both Maids and Men,
And having din d and drank their bear,
  they rose and went to dance again,
Then high, &c.

11. Thus they did daunce from noon till night,
  and wer as merry as Cup and Can,
Till they had tyrd the Fidler quite,
  and the sweat down their buttocks ran.
Then high, &c.

12. Then they went to the little thatcht house,
  and plaid at Cards a game or two,
And with the good Liquor did so carouse,
  that they made drunk both Tom and Hugh.
Then high, &c.

13. The rest unto Hot-cockles went,
  but Neddy gave Nelly a blow too hard,
That all together by th ears they went,
  and all their sporting soon was mar'd.
Then high, &c.

14. The Pots flew about the glasses were broke 
Doll was taring Mol by th Quife,1 
Richard was pulling John by the throat,
  at which the Hostess drew her knife.
Then high, &c.

15. They took the Fidler and broke his pate
  and threw his fiddle into the fire:
And drunkenly went home so late,
  that most of them fell in the mire.
Then high, &c.

16. The men went away and paid ne'r a groat,
  but left the Maids to pay for their chear,
Betty was forst to pawn her laste coat,
  and ??? to leave her Garget there:2 
They hey, &c.

17. And so my merry ballad is Ended,
  when the Maids come agoin to these wakes
they'l first see the young lads manners mended 
  and make them pay for ale and Cakes.
Then hey, &c.


Printed for Phillip Brooksby, at the Golden Ball, neer the Hospital-gate in West Smith-field.

Footnotes by Tamsin Lewis:

1. I guess this is a spelling of coif. Return.

2. Garget - perhaps gorget - some sort of necklace/scarf going around the neck? Return

Sheet Music "Sedanny," or "Dargason," from John Playford, The Dancing Master. First Edition. (1651), p. 71.


This was my attempt to transcribe the verses from the Broadside at the Bodelein (Ballads Catalogue: Douce Ballads 2(207a)). The printing is a type of Blackletter, although reasonably clear, but there is some damage to the document, and some loss of letters and words. The omissions will be filled with one or more question marks. Where a letter is faint, I've make a "best guess," although I won't necessarily indicate where that is so. In some cases, a faint letter in a word has been filled in if the same word occurs later in the song (for example, "Fidler").

I hope that others will try their luck and share their results with me. The Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads web site has two copies of this Broadside.

I found it a bit odd that the last two verses indicate the burden as "Then hey, &c" rather than "Then high, &c" as was the case for all the earlier verses.

The punctuation, spelling and capitalization were as found on the Broadside, as best as I could tell. There were a couple of times when I've found myself capitalizing a word such as Christmas, although that was not the case on the Broadside.

The two graphics on the Broadside were of interest. The first (above) featured a musician (with something like a viola?) and a feasting table. Note that the musician is standing, not sitting, which is how this instrument is usually played these days.

The second graphic was one a ring dance, with the caller / musician in the middle of the ring. This corresponds with some descriptions of the dance form "carole."

Additional resource for English Broadsides is the English Broadside Ballad Archive at the University of California at Santa Barbara (Department of English; Director: Patricia Fumerton).

My thanks to Tamsin Lewis for her assistance in gathering the words and history of this carol. Ms. Lewis is the author of To Shorten Winter's Sadness, English Music and Song for Christmas and Winter from the 16th and 17th Centuries. Following the religious calendar from Advent to Candlemas, this book contains a selection of carols, ballads, rounds, madrigals, dance melodies and consort songs. It also describes many of the festive customs of the time, with feasts and revels through the cold of winter, and fairs upon the frozen river. Rondo Publishing, 2012. ISBN-13: 979-0708067788.

Ms. Lewis pointed out that there are two songs referred to in the text of this ballad. The first song is "The Devil's Dream" (verse 6, line 4). The second dance is "The Cushion Dance" ("Joan Sanderson"), called "Kissum" (verse 9, line 1). The sheet music below is from John Playford's The Dancing Master. 10th Edition. (1698).

The Devil's Dream



Joan Sanderson / The Cushion Dance


Davies Gilbert included this last dance song in his second edition of Christmas carols, Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1823), with notes. See: Joan Sanderson, Or The Cushion Dance (with sheet music and midi file).

Here are additional copies of these songs:

A recording by John Kirkpatrick, on his Christmas CD "Carolling & Crumpets," is available from "Hey for Christmas, Or The Shropshire Wakes."


William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. London: Chappell & Co., 1859, pp. 65-66.

Come Robin, Ralph, and little Harry
And merry Thomas to our green
Where we shall meet with Bridget and Sary
And the finest girls that e'er were seen
Then hey for Christmas a once year
When we have cakes, with ale and beer
For at Christmas every day
Young men and maids may dance away

Editor's Note: The full song runs to 16 verses and is found in Chappell, A Collection of National English Airs, but, unfortunately, were not provided by Chappell in The Ballad Literature.


In Ritson's Ancient Songs, class 4 (from the reign of Edward VI. to Elizabeth) is “A merry ballad of the Hawthorn tree,” to be sung to the tune of Donkin Dargeson. This curiosity is copied from a miscellaneous collection in the Cotton Library (Vespasian A. 25), and Ritson remarks, “This tune, whatever it was, appears to have been in use till after the Restoration.” I have found several copies of the tune; one is in the Public Library, Cambridge, among Dowland’s manuscripts. The copy here given is from the Dancing Master, 1650-51, where it is called Dargason, or the Sedany. The Sedany was a country dance, the figure of which is described in the The Triumph of Wit, or Ingenuity displayed, p. 206. In Ben Jonson’s Tale of a Tub, we find, “But if you get the lass from Dargison, what will you do with her?” Gifford, in a note upon this passage, says, “In some childish book of knight-errantry, which I formerly read, but which I cannot now recall to mind, there is a dwarf of this name (Dargison), who accompanies a lady, of great beauty and virtue, through many perilous adventures, as her guard and guide.” In the Isle of Gulls, played by the children of the Revels, in the Black Fryars, 1606, may be found the following scrap, possibly of the original ballad:

“An ambling nag, and a-down, a-down,
We have borne her away to Dargison.”

See also “ Oft have I ridden upon my grey nag,” page 63. In the Douce collection of Ballads (fol. 207), Bodleian Library, as well as in the Pepysian, is a song called “The Shropshire Wakes, or hey for Christmas, being the delightful sports of most countries, to the tune of Dargason.” It begins thus:

“Come Robin, Ralph, and little Barry,
And merry Thomas to our green;
‘Where we shall meet with Bridget and Sary,
And the finest girls that e’er were seen.
Then hey for Christmas a once year,
When we have cakes, with ale and beer,
For at Christmas ‘every day,’
Young men and maids ‘may dance away,” &c.

There are sixteen verses in the song. The tune is one of those which only end when the singer is exhausted; for although, strictly speaking, it consists of but eight bars (and in the seventh edition of The Dancing Master only eight bars are printed), yet, from never finishing on the key-note, it seems never to end. Many of these short eight-bar tunes terminate on the fifth of the key, but when longer melodies were used, such as sixteen bars, they generally closed with the key-note. There were, however, exceptions to the rule, especially among dance tunes, which required frequent repetition.

The tree made answer by and by,
I have cause to grow triumphantly,
The sweetest dew that ever be seen,
Doth fall on me to keep me green.

Yea, quoth the maid, but where you grow
You stand at hand for every blow,
Of every man for to be seen,
I marvel that you grow so green.

Though many one take flowers from me,
And many a branch out of my tree;
I have such store they will not be seen,
For more and more my twigs grow green.

But how, an they chance to cut thee down,
And carry thy branches into the town?
Then they will never more be seen
To grow again no fresh and green.

The above will be found in Ritson’s Ancient Songs, in Evans’ Collection of Old Ballads (vol. i., p. 342, 1810), and in Peele’s Works, vol. ii., p. 256, edited by Dyce. It is included in the last named work, because in the MS. the name of "G. Peele” is appended to the song, but by a comparatively modern hand. The Rev. Alexander Dyce does not believe Peele to have been the author, and Ritson, ‘who copied from the same manuscript,' does not mention his name.

Though that you do it is no boot,
Although they cut me to the root,
Next year again I will be seen
To bud my branches fresh and green.

And you, fair maid, can not do oo,
For ‘when your beauty once doeo go,’
Then will it never more be seen,
As I with my branches can grow green.

The Maid with that began to blush,
And turn’d her from the hawthorn bush;
She thought herself so fair and clean,
Her beauty still would ever grow green.

*     *     *

But after this never I could hear
Of this fair maiden any where,
That ever she was in forest seen
To talk again with the hawthorn green.

Note from Chappell:

1. This tune is inserted in Jones’ Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards, p. 129, under the name of “The melody of Cynwyd;” and some other curious coincidences occur in the same work. At page 172, the tune called “The Welcome of the Hostess” is evidently our “ Hitter Rant.” At page 176, the tune called “Flaunting two,” Is the country dance of “The Hemp Dresser, or the London Gentlewoman.” At page 129, “The Delight of the men of Dovey,” appears to be an inferior copy of “Green Sleeves.” At page 174, is “Hunting the Hare,” which we also claim. At page 162, “The Monks’ March” (of which zones says, “Probably the tune of the Monks of Banger, when they marched to Chester, about the year 603,”) is “General Monk’s March,” published by Playford, and the quick part, “The Rammer;” and at page 142, the air called “White Locks” is evidently Lord Commissioner Whitelocke’s coranto, an account of which, with the tune, is contained in Sir J. Hawkins’ History of Music, vol. iv. page 51, and in Barney’s History of Music, vol. iii. page 878. In several of these, particularly in the last, which is identified by the second part of the tune (and especially by a very different version, under the same name, in Parry’s Cambrian Harmony, published about fifty years ago), there is considerable variation, as may be expected in tunes traditionally preserved for so long time, but their identity admits of little question. In vol. ii., at p.28,” The Willow Hymn” is, “By the oslers so dank.” At p. 44, “The first of August” is, “Come, Jolly Bacchus,” with a little admixture of ”In my cottage near a wood.” At page 83, a tune called “The Britons,” which is in The Dancing Master of 1696, is claimed. At p. 45, “Mopsy’s Tune, the old way,” is “The Barking Barber,” and “Prestwich Bells” is “Talk no more Whig or Tory,” contained in many collections. At vol. iii, p. 15, “The Heiress of Montgomery” is another Venice of “As down in the meadows.” At p. 16, “Captain Corbett” is “Of all comforts miscarried;” and at “If love’s a sweet passion,” is claimed.” In addition to these, Mr. Jones has himself noticed a coincidence between the tune called “The Ring’s Note,” (vol. iii) and “Pastyme with good Company.” Such mistakes will always occur when an editor relies solely on tradition. Return



English musician, composer and scholar, Tamsin Lewis, has created two delicious collections of English music and song from the 16th and 17th Centuries for Christmas and Winter. From Advent through Candlemas, these books contain a selection of carols, hymns and ballads that celebrate both the birth of Christ, as well as the festivities of the Christmas-tide.
Rondo Publishing.



To Shorten Winter’s Sadness



For the accompanying CD please see Winter's Sadness



Old Christmas Returned





Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.

Related Hymns and Carols