The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Sir Christmas

For Christmas

Words and tune from the British Museum Additional MSS. 5665, fol. 86. (Ritson's MS)

The probable composition of Richard Smert, of Plymtree, Devon. (? Temp. Henry VIII.)

Compare: Sir Christmas.

Source: Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #196, pp. 46-48.

Sir Christmas appears and sings

Nowel, Nowel, Nowel, Nowel.

The Assembly asks

Who is this that singeth so,
Nowel, Nowel, Nowel.

Sir Christmas replies

I am here, Sir Christemas.

The Assembly

Welcome my Lord, Sir Christemas.
Welcome to us all, both more and less.
Come near. Nowel.

Sir Christmas

1. Dieu vous garde beaux sieurs, tidings I you bring:
A maid hath y-bore a Child full young,
The which causeth you for to sing Nowel.

The Assembly

Nowel, Nowel, Nowel, Nowel.

Sir Christmas

2. Christ is now born of a pure maid,
In an ox stall He is laid,
Wherefore sing we all at a brayde. Nowel.

The Assembly

Nowel, Nowel, Nowel, Nowel.

Sir Christmas

3. Buvex bien par toute la compagnie.
Make good cheer and be right merry
And sing with us now joyfully. Nowel.

The Assembly

Nowel, Nowel, Nowel, Nowel.

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #196, pp. 46-48.

196a-Sir_Christmas.jpg (113384 bytes) 196b-Sir_Christmas.jpg (112538 bytes) 196c-Sir_Christmas.jpg (110787 bytes)

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 #32, pp. 57-59
(British Library, Additional MSS. 5665.)

AMCB70.jpg (700683 bytes) AMCB71.jpg (639689 bytes) AMCB72.jpg (660474 bytes)

Sheet Music from John Stafford Smith, Musica Antiqua, Vol. I of II. (London: Preston, 97, Strand, 1812), p. 26. "Another In die Nativitatis."

I_Am_Here_Sir_Christmas-Smith-Mus_Ant-I-26.jpg (87429 bytes)

Notes from Rev. Terry.

Some modern versions of this carol are in existence in which the melody is treated as Plainsong and its notes given as crotchets. Why this should be so I cannot conjecture, as the melody most certainly is not Plainsong but a very clearly defined piece of menaurable music. The note values (as given here) are exceptionally clear and unambiguous in the MS.

The carol can be sung either in unison or in harmony (or in both alternately). The accompaniment is really a four-part arrangement for S.A.T.B.

Editor's Note:

According to Dr. Rickert, the words and music are by Rev. Richard Smart (or Smerte), Rector (1435-1477) of Plymtree, Devon, and vicar-choral at Exeter Cathedral (1428-ca. 1466). The carol was likely composed ca. 1461-1477. He was also the author of one of the Boar's Head carols (“The borys hede that we bryng here”), among several other carols in Ritson's Manuscript (British Library, MS. Addit. 5665, f.8.v. ff).

This very old carol is one of a number of carols, mummers' plays, or texts featuring a personification of Christmas, and, in this one, a ceremony welcoming “Sir Christmas” into the season. For the notes on this carol, and links to other versions, please see Sir Christmas.

In addition to these sources, the following have this very popular carol according to the Digital Index of Middle English (DIMEV), Record 1128:

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