The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

This Endnes Nyght I Saw A Syght

For Christmas Eve, For Christmas

Also: A, My Dere Son
Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), pp.11-12.

Words and Music: 15th Century England, Addit. Ms. 5465, British Library, also known as the Fairfax Manuscript
The earliest manuscript containing the song comes from c. 1475.

A, my dere son, sayd mary, a, my dere,
kys ži moder Jhesu wt a lawghyng chere.

This endnes nyght I saw a syght
    all in my slepe,
Mary žt may she sang lullay
    & sore did wepe.
To kepe she sawght full fast a bowte
    her son fro colde;
Joseph seyd, wiff, my joy, my leff,
    say what ye wolde;
no thyng my spouse is In žs howse
    unto may pay;
my son a kyng žt made all thyng
    lyth in hay.

                    A my dere son.

My moder dere, a mend yor chere,
    & now be styll;
thus for to ly it is sothely
    my fadirs will.
derision gret passion
As it is fownde many a wownd
    suffyr shall I,
on caluery that is so hye
    there shall I be;
man to restore naylid full sore
    uppon a tre.

                    A my dere son.

Sandys' Note, p. 179.

"From Addit. MSS. Brit. Museum, 5465. (being ancient songs, temp. Hen. VII. and VIII. with the music in three and four parts)".

Editor's Note:

Add. MS 5465 is also known as the Fairfax Manuscript. The British Library identifies a song with the burden "Ah my dear, Ah my dear son," in folios 50v-53. Images are said to be stored at DIAMM, the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music, #1237,

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 21, with modernized spelling (similar to Rickert's This Endernight I Saw A Sight). He notes that this carol was printed in Sandys' Christmas Carols, from Add. Ms. 5165 [sic] (ancient songs temp Henry VII and VIII). He also notes, at page 252, "The MS. from which this piece is taken contains a large collection of church-services, hymns, carols, and songs, — with music. It formerly belonged to Joseph Ritson, who presented it to the British Museum. The collection deserves to be printed in full."

Editor's Note:

There are numerous carols with a very similar title, and at least five manuscript sources for versions of these two songs, including, but not limited to:

1. Versions from Addit. Ms. 5465, British Library:

2. Versions from Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1.:

3. Versions from the Advocates Library, Edinburgh:

4. A Version from the Ms. Royal Appx. 58:

5. A Version from the Balliol MS. 354, the Richard Hill Commonplace Book:

6. A Version from Ritson's Manuscript, Add. MS 5665

Because of the similarity of the texts from Add. MS 5465 (Fairfax Ms.) and Add. MS 5665 (Ritson's Ms.), it is impossible to determine the source of Edith Rickert's second version of this carol, This Endernight I Saw A Sight (Burden: "Ah, my dear Son," said Mary, "ah, my dear,), pp. 62-63.

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