The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Tell Us, Thou Cleere And Heavenly Tongue

A Caroll To The King.
Sung at Whitehall.

Alternate Title: The Star Song

Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

The flourish of musick; then followed the song.

Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)

1. Tell us, thou cleere and heavenly tongue,
Where is the Babe but lately sprung?
Lies he the lillie-banks among?

2. Or say, if this new Birth of ours
Sleeps, laid within some ark of flowers,
Spangled with deaw-light; thou canst cleere
All doubts, and manifest the where.

3. Declare to us, bright star, if we shall seek
Him in the morning's blushing cheek,
Or search the beds of spices through,
To find him out?

Star.        No, this ye need not do;
But only come and see Him rest,
A princely Babe, in's mother's brest.

Chor.        He's seen! He's seen! why then around
Let's kisse the sweet and holy ground;
And all rejoyce that we have found
A King, before conception, crown'd.

4. Come then, come then, and let us bring
Unto our prettie twelfth-tide King,
Each one his severall offering.

Chor:        And when night comes wee'l give him wassailing;
And that his treble honours may be seen,
Wee'l chuse him King, and make his mother Queen.

Note: In the text from Sandys, the first and fourth verses contained three lines; the second and third contained four lines.

Sandys' Note: This [is] from Herrick's Poems, 2 vols. Edinb. 1823. Herrick was born in 1591, and the first edition of the "Hesperides" was published in 1648.

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

This delightful carol is by the author of the preceding [A Christmas Carol (What sweeter music can we bring) by Robert Herrick]. The concluding lines, with their allusion to wassailing, represent very well the spirit of the season in old times, a mixture of devotion and thankfulness, with a little worldly, yet harmless, rejoicing.

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

Editor's Note:

Robert Herrick left a considerable legacy of Christmas carols and customs. See this article, with links, by Henry Vizetelly, from Christmas With The Poets: Robert Herrick

See also: Christmas Customs - Robert Herrick.

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