The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

This Endris Night I Saw A Sight

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional from the Advocates' Library Ms. 19. 3. I, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

See below for various versions of this song.

Music: Not Stated

Source: E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick, eds., Early English Lyrics  (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #LXIV , p. 121-123.

This endris night I saw a sight,
    A stare as bright as day ;
And ever among a maiden song,
    ' Lullay, by by, lullay.'

This lovely lady sat and song, 5
    And to her child con say,
' My sone, my broder, my fader dere,
    Why liest thou thus in hay ?
My swete brid, thus it is betid,
    Thogh thou be king veray ; 10
But nevertheles I will not cese
    To sing, By by, lullay.'

The child than spak in his talking,
    And to his moder said,
' I bekid am for heven king, 15
    In cribbe thogh I be laid ;
For aungeiles bright done to me light.
    Thou knowest it is no nay.
And of that sight thou mayst be light
    To sing, By by, lullay.' 20

' Now swete sone, sin thou art king,
    Why art thou laid in stall ?
Why ne thou ordende thy bedding
    In sum gret kinges hall ?
Me thinketh it is right, that king or knight 25
    Shuld lie in good aray ;
And than among it were no wrong
    To sing, By by, lullay.'

' Mary moder, I am thy child,
    Thogh I be laid in stall ; 30
Lordes and dukes shall worsship me
    And so shall kinges all.
Ye shall well see that kinges three
    Shall come the twelfthe day.
For this behest yeve me thy brest, 35
    And sing, By by, lullay.'

' Now tell me, swete son, I thee pray,
    Thou art me leve and dere,
How shuld I kepe thee to thy pay
    And make thee glad of chere ? 40
For all thy will I wold fullfill,
    Thou weteste full well in fay ;
And for all this I will thee kiss,
    And sing, By by, lullay.'

' My dere moder, whan time it be, 45
    Thou take me up on loft,
And sette me upon thy knee,    
    And handell me full soft ;
And in thy arme thou hill me warme,
    And kepe night and day ; 50
If that I wepe, and may not slepe,
    Thou sing, By by, lullay.'

' Now swete son, sin it is so,
    That all thing is at thy will,
I pray thee graunte me a bone, 55
    If it be both right and skill,
That child or man that will or can
    Be mery upon my day,
To blisse hem bring, and I shall sing Lullay,
    By by, lullay.' 60


15. bekid, proclaimed.

39. pay, liking.

49. hill, protect.

56. skill, reason.

Notes to #LXIV, pp. 351-352.

Eng. Poet. e. 1. Printed Wright, P.S., 12.

Other versions in Advoc. Lib. 19. 3. 1, printed Rel. Ant., ii. 76, by D[avid] L[aing]; Balliol 354, printed Anglia, xxvi. 250, Flügel, N.L., 120; and Royal Appx. 58, printed Anglia, xii. 270, Flügel, N.L., 119.

1. Again Wright does not print the first stanza as burden.

6. Wright prints ‘to hyr chyld sayd', following Bodl. MS. (‘hayd ’ in 8) ; Balliol MS., ‘thus gan she say'; our reading from Advoc. Lib. MS.

15. Wright prints ‘I bekydde am kyng'; in the Bodl. MS. ‘am’ is written in modern ink over the original, which is apparently ‘sir’. The Advoc. Lib. Ms. reads,

'I am kend for heven kyng',

the Balliol MS.,

‘I am knowen as hcvyn kyng'.

Bekid; from kithe, to proclaim; see Murray, N.E.D., under kid,

47. sette; MS. ‘set’.

Extended Citations

Eng. Poet. e. 1.

Wright, P.S., 12.
Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Percy Society, 1847), Thys endris nyghth, p. 12. [Texts from Eng. Poet, e.1, then in Wright’s possession.]

Advoc. Lib. 19. 3. 1,

Rel. Ant., ii. 76, by D[avid] L[aing];
Thomas Wright and James Orchard Halliwell, eds., Reliquiæ Antiquæ. Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts, illustrating chiefly Early English Literature and the English Laguage. Vol. 2 of 2 vols. (1841, 1843), This endurs ny3t I see a syght, p. 76.

Balliol 354,

Anglia, xxvi. 250,
Ewald Flügel, ed., “Liedersammlungen des XVI Jahrhunderts, Besonders Aus Der Zeit Heinrichs VIII. III. 6. Die lieder des Balliol Ms. 354,” in Eugen Einenkel, ed., Anglia - Zeitschrift für englische Philologie enthaltend Beitrage zur Geschlicht der englischen Sprache und Literatur. Band XXVI. (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1903), This Enders Nyght - Balliol 354, pp. 250-251.

Flügel, N.L., 120;
Ewald Flügel, Neuenglisches Lesebuch (Herausgegeben von Ewald Flugel: Band I, 1695), p. 120.

Royal Appx. 58,

Anglia, xii. 270,
Ewald Flügel, "Liedersammlungen des XVI. Jahrhunderts, Besonders Aus Der Zeit Heinrich's VIII. I. 1. Die lieder des Add. Ms. 31922," in Anglia ; Zeitschrift für englische Philologie enthaltend Beitrage zur Geschlicht der englischen Sprache und Literatur. Volume xii. (Halle a.S.), Thys Ender Nyzth, p. 270-272.

Flügel, N.L., 119.
Ewald Flügel, Neuenglisches Lesebuch (Herausgegeben von Ewald Flugel: Band I, 1695), p. 119.

Information concerning manuscripts

Eng. Poet. e. 1.
Eng. Poet. e. 1. Paper, 6 x 4 1/4. ‘Seventy six songs, religious and other, including some Christmas carols and drinking songs, presumably collected for the use of a professed minstrel’ (Madan, v. 679). Written partly in English, partly in Latin, partly in both. In several hands ; two pieces of music (facsimiles in E.B.M.). Variants of several poems in Sloane 2593. Dated 1460-80 by Madan, and ‘about 1485-90’ by Nicholson in E.B.M. Belonged in 1847 to Thomas Wright, but was then lost, and was said to have been taken away by the bookbinder to whom it was entrusted (Chappell, 43, note). It was bought for the Bodleian in 1887 at the sale of the library of Joseph Mayer, who was a patron of Wright’s. Described by Madan as above, and in E.B.M., i. xxiv. Edited complete by Wright in 1847 as No. LXXIII of the Percy Society publications (misquoted XXIII by Flügel, Fehr, and others, owing to an error in the Brit. Mus. Catalogue).

Editor's Note: The reference to "XXIII" (23) is to the Volume number published by the Percy Society's series Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages. Wright's work was Number LXXIII (73) in their list of publications.

MS Eng. Poet. e. 1. is located in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Madan is Falconer Madan, Richard W. Hunt, et al., Summary Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. 7 volumes in 8. (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1895-1953). E.B.M. refers to Sir John Stainer, ed., Early Bodleian Music. Sacred and Secular Songs together with other MS. Compositions in the Bodleian Library, Oxford : ranging from about a.d. 1185 to about a.d. 1505. Two volumes (vol. i, facsimiles, vol. ii, transcriptions) (London : Novello ; New York : Novello, Ewer, 1901). With an Introduction by E. W. B. Nicholson, and Transcriptions into Modern Musical Notation by J. F. R. Stainer and C. Stainer. A third volume was subsequently published.

The complete description by Madan, pp. 679-680:

29734. In English and Latin, on paper: written about A. D. 1460-80 by several hands : 6 1/4 x 4 3/4 in., in a box lined with red velvet 7 1/4 x 5 3/8 in., 64 leaves : stained and worn in parts, but repaired : binding, green morocco with gold ornament, done for mr. J. Mayer (19th cent.).

Seventy-six songs, religious and other, including some Christmas carols and drinking songs, presumably collected for the use of a professed minstrel : a few have the music as well as the words (foll. 40v , 41v , 50v).

This valuable MS. was edited for the Percy Society (vol. 23) in 1847, see also W. Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time (1855-7), i. 41. Most of the songs are in English or mixed English and Latin, a few in Latin alone.

In 1847 this volume was owned by Thomas Wright, who edited it : he subsequently lost it, and it was bought by the Bodleian at the Joseph Mayer sale (lot 42) on July 19, 1887, for £16.

[On this MS. see further 'Early Bodleian music' i. p. xxiv and plates 99-100 (where I have ascribed the date 'about 1485-90'), ii. pp. 182-4. E. W. B. N.]

Now MS. Eng. poet. e. 1.

Source: Falconer Madan, A summary catalogue of Western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the quarto series with references to the Oriental and other manuscripts. Vol. V: Collections received during the second half of the 19th century and miscellaneous MSS. acquired between 1695 and 1890. Nos. 24331-31000. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), pp. 679-80.

In the Preface to Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, Thomas Wright wrote:

The following very curious collection of old English Songs and Carols is printed verbatim from a manuscript at present in the possession of the Editor. It appears by the writing and language to have been written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, probably during the period intervening between the latter end of the reign of Henry VI [1421-1471], and the beginning of that of Henry VII [1457-1509]; a date which is confirmed by the fact that the few other copies of songs in this collection that occur elsewhere, are invariably found in manuscripts of the reign of Henry VI or of the age immediately following.

This manuscript has in all probability belonged to a professed minstrel, who sang at festivals and merry makings, and it has therefore been thought to merit publication entire, as giving a general view of the classes of poetry then popular. A rather large proportion of its contents consists of carols and religious songs, such as were sung at Christmas, and perhaps at some other of the great festivals of the church; and these are interesting illustrations of the manners and customs of the age.

Another class of productions, in which this manuscript is for its date peculiarly rich, consists of drinking songs, some of which are singular in their form and not wanting in spirit. The collection also contains a number of those satirical songs against the fair sex, which were so common in the middle ages, and which have a certain degree of importance as showing the condition of private society among our forefathers. In addition to these three classes, the manuscript contains a few short moral poems, which also are not without their peculiar interest.

Manuscript collections of songs like the present, of so early a date, are of great rarity. The only one with which I am acquainted, which may be considered of exactly the same character, is the MS. Sloane, No 2593, in the British Museum, which has generally been ascribed to the reign of Henry VI.

See: Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum (London: William Pickering, 1836); twenty songs and carols from Sloane MS 2593, and Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (The Warton Club, 1856); the complete Sloane MS 2593.

    - - -

Advoc. Lib. 19. 3. 1,
Advoc. Lib. 19.3.1. Paper, 8 3/4 x 6. It is lettered on the back ‘Metrical Romances and Moralizations' (see Rel. Ant. ii. 76). A flyleaf bears a list of contents, not exhaustive, in Sir Walter Scott’s hand. Late XV cent. Described by K. Breul, Sir Gowther (1886), 1. Two lyrics printed from it by Breul in Englishe Studien, xiv. 401-2. [Nos. LVIII, LXXII, and note on LXIV.]

    - - -

Balliol 354.
Balliol 354. Paper, 11 1/2 x 4. Commonplace book of Richard Hill, who describes himself as ‘seruant with Mr. Wyngar, alderman of London.' John Wyngar, grocer, was alderman in 1493, mayor 1504, and died 1505. Richard Hill married in 1518 Margaret, daughter of Harry Wyngar, haberdasher, 'dwellyng in bowe parishe in London,' and the births of his seven children are recorded in the MS. from 1518 to 1526. The MS. is a miscellany of the widest character, English, French, and Latin, poems, romances, fabliaux, extracts from Gower and Sir Thomas More, receipts, legal notes, London customs, etc. Some pieces, signed by Hill, must be in his own hand ; so probably is most of the MS. The latest date in it is 1535, but part must have been written before 1504. Rimbault, 120, refers apparently to the MS. in 1851, (see notes on CXXXI), and said he intended to print it entire. Chappell (1855-59), 50, notes that this MS. had been 'recently found in the library . . . , where it had been accidentally concealed, behind a bookcase, during a great number of years.' Extracts printed by Flugel, W.L., in 1894; and thence by Pollard, 1903 ; also in Flugel, N.L. Edited, almost complete, with full table of contents, by Flugel in Anglia, xxvi, 94, printing 126 items. Source: Notes, p. 307-308.


Editor's Note:

See also

Balliol Ms. 354 is available on-line at Early Manuscripts at Oxford University; see Balliol Ms. 354.

    - - -

Royal Appx. 58,
Royal Appendix 58. Paper, 8 1/2 x 6. Music throughout, including compositions by Cornish and Cowper ; 27 with words, some incomplete. One poem is on the marriage of Margaret to James IV in 1503 ; Flügel places the MS. in the first decade of the XVI cent, and before Addl. 31922, which contains variants of some of the poems. Extracts in Stafford Smith, Chappell, Rimbault, Briggs' Songs and Madrigals, and Flügel, Neuenglisches Lesebuch; the last has also edited the whole of the words in Anglia, xii. 256. [Nos. XXVI, XXXl-XXXIII.] Found on p. 303.

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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