The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Traditional English

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

1. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love1

2. Then was I born of a virgin pure,2
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

3. In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

4. Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

5. Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance. Chorus

6. The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

7. For thirty pence Judas me sold,3
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance. Chorus

8. Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance. Chorus

9. Then on the cross4 hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

10. Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance. Chorus

11. Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance. Chorus

1. Alternate Chorus:

Sing O my love, O my love
This have I done for my true love.

2. Or: I born of a virgin pure. Return

3. Sandys' Note: "According to one of the Apocryphal Gospels (1 Infancy, 14) when Judas was a child our Saviour expelled a devil from him, he having previously struck Jesus on the right side and endeavoured to bite him." Return

4. Sandys' Note:

"In "Mount Cavalry," an old Cornish poem, published by Mr. D. Gilbert, it is related that the cross was made from the wood of the tree whence the apple sprang that caused Adam to sin. Another tradition is, that Seth went to the Cherub that Kept Paradise, and received three grains from the Tree of Life. From these he made an oil wherewith Adam was anointed, and the stones were put into his mouth. A tree afterwards sprang up which was subsequently converted into the holy cross. At the time of building the Temple the builder endeavoured to adapt it, but he could not in any way make it suit its purpose, and it remained there for some time unapplied; and afterwards in the pool of Bethesda. After the death of our Saviour great virtues were attributed to the wood of the cross, and fragments of it were eagerly sought for.

"A curious story on the subject is related in Harl. MSS. 2252. (temp. Hen. VIII.) intitled, "A grete Myracle of a Knyghte callyde Syr Roger Wallysborow." This knight being in the Holy Land, wished to bring off privily a piece of the cross; he prayed to that effect, when his thigh opened miraculously and received it. He returned to Cornwall, his native country, having in the course of the voyage through virtue of the cross appeased the elements and prevented shipwreck. On his arrival his thigh again opened to let out the fragment of the cross. He gave part to the parish church where this happened, thence called Cross Parish, and the remainder to St. Buryan, where his lands were.

"The names of the two thieves were said to have been Titus and Dumachus, (1 Infancy, chap. viii.v.3.) of whom the former prevented the latter from robbing Joseph and Mary on their journey to Egypt with Jesus, who then foretold to his mother that they should thirty years afterwards be crucified with him, and that Titus should go to Paradise." Return

Sheet Music from Sandys, 1833

Sheet Music from Sandys, 1852

Sheet Music from Richard R. Terry, Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1931)
SATB: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), pp. 28-29.

014a-Tomorrow_Shall_Be.jpg (143394 bytes) 014b-Tomorrow_Shall_Be.jpg (136440 bytes)

Also found in William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), pp.266-8.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 43-5, who notes that "this and the six following pieces [see index] have been frequently printed in broadside form, and in collections of Carols."

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 146, who notes at page 156 "This traditional carol is perhaps a transformed love-song."

Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

Although this carol has Jesus refer to mankind as 'his love' and to living as 'my dance'- imagery many find very modern - the carol was first published in Sandys' 1833, Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, and probably goes back to medieval times. The use of erotic love motifs in spiritual work is indeed as old as the Song of Songs and the use of dance as a metaphor for living is also old (see for example Sir John Davies 16th century poem, Orchestra). this carol has, indeed, close parallels with a number of 15th century carols in which the infant foretells his future to his mother. The line 'To see the legend of my play' suggests it may have originally been part of a medieval mystery play, in the same way as was the Coventry Carol was, but perhaps in this case, part of one of the three-day religious plays performed in the Cornish language in the 14th and 15th century.

Editor's Note: See, generally, Corpus Christi Day and the Performance of Mysteries, from William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827 (Volume 1, June 2).

Finally, there contemporary arrangement of this carol by Carl Rütti (1949 - ). It is found in a medley, "Three Carols," on his CD "Sermon On The Mount," performed by the Escorial Choir under the direction of by Christopher Duarte (2001). In the liner notes, Rütti writes "The Three Carols were initiated in 1996 by my friend Stephen Jackson (conductor of the BBC Symphony Chorus) for a Carol concert by the Wooburn Singers, to whom they are also dedicated. They were originally written for brass quintet and choir. I picked three texts out of the enormous choice of traditional Carols which could form three parts: Andante - Adagio - Presto."

I Wonder as I Wander is the Andante, O Little Town of Bethlehem is the Adagio, and Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day is the Presto.

Rütti grew up in Zug, Switzerland and received Soloist Diplomas in both piano and organ studies at the Zürich Conservatory in 1975. He has written large a capella works for English choir singing, some of which have been recorded and broadcast by the BBC Singers. Several CDs of his music have been released. As of 2002, he was a piano teacher at the Zürich Conservatory and organist at St. Peter and St. Paul in Oberageri.

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