The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Three Damsels In The Queens Chamber

Words: A. C. Swinburne, 1866, from Poems and Ballads: First Series

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 295-7.

1. Three damsels in the queen's chamber,
    The queen's mouth was most fair;
She spake a word of God's mother
    As the combs went in her hair.
        Mary that is of might,
        Bring us to thy Son's sight.

2. They held the gold combs out from her,
    A span's length off her head;
She sang this song of God's mother
    And of her bearing-bed.
        Mary most full of grace,
        Bring us to thy Son's face.

3. When she sat at Joseph's hand,
    She looked against her side;
And either way from the short silk band
    Her girdle was all wried.
        Mary that all good may,
        Bring us to thy Son's way.

4. Mary had three women for her bed,
    The twain were maidens clean;
The first of them had white and red,
    The third had riven green.
        Mary that is so sweet,
        Bring us to thy Son's feet.

5. She had three women for her hair,
    Two were gloved soft and shod;
The third had feet and fingers bare,
    She was the likest God.
        Mary that wieldeth land,
        Bring us to thy Son's hand.

6. She had three women for her ease,
    The twain were good women:
The first two were the two Maries,
    The third was Magdalen.
        Mary that perfect is,
        Bring us to thy Son's kiss.

7. Joseph had three workmen in his stall,
    To serve him well upon;
The first of them were Peter and Paul,
    The third of them was John.
        Mary, God's handmaiden,
        Bring us to thy Son's ken.

8. "If your child be done other man's,
    But if it be very mine,
The bedstead shall be gold two spans,
    The bedfoot silver fine."
        Mary that made God mirth,
        Bring us to thy Son's birth.

9. "If the child be some other man's,
    And if it be none of mine,
The manger shall be straw two spans,
    Betwixen kine and kine."
        Mary that made sin cease,
        Bring us to thy Son's peace.

10. Christ was born upon this wise,
    It fell on such a night,
Neither with sounds of psalteries,
    Nor with fire for light.
        Mary that is God's spouse,
        Bring us to thy Son's house.

11. The star came out upon the east
    With a great sound and sweet:
King's gave gold to make him feast
    And myrrh for him to eat.
        Mary, of thy sweet mood,
        Bring us to thy Son's good.

12. He had two handmaids at his head,
    One handmaid at his feet;
The twain of them were fair and red,
    The third one was right sweet.
        Mary that is most wise,
        Bring us to thy Son's eyes.  Amen.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp.87-90, citing the same source. He also adds that it was suggested by a drawing of Mr. D. G. Rossetti's.

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