Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Early Christmas Carols (fair copy, Fitzwilliam Museum)
Author: anonymous
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1850?
Type of Manuscript: fair copy
Scribe: DGR

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Ancient Christmas Carols

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Ancient Christmas Carols

1 “Christo parvemus cauticum excelsis gloria”

  • When Christ was born of Mary free,
  • In Bethlehem, in that fair city,
  • Angels sang there with mirth and glee,
  • “In Excelsis Gloria”
  • Herdsmen beheld these Angels bright
  • To them appearing with great light,
  • Who said, “God's son is born this night;
  • In Excelsis Gloria”
  • This King is come to save mankind,
  • 10In scripture as we find;
  • Therefore this song have we in mind—
  • “In Excelsis Gloria”
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  • Lord, out of thy great grace
  • Let us, in bliss, look on thy face,
  • There we may sing to thy solace—
  • “In Excelsis Gloria”


“Jesus Christus hodie natus est de Virgine”

  • Blessèd be that maid Mary;
  • Born he was of her body,—
  • God's son that sitteth on high,—
  • nostro ex virili semine.
  • In the manger of an ass
  • Jesus layed and lulled was,
  • Hard pains for to pass
  • pro peccante homine.
  • Kings came from divers lands
  • 10With great gifts in their hands
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  • There they found him in swaddling-bands,
  • Stella ducti lumine.
  • Man and child, both old and young,
  • Do joy in his blissful coming;
  • To that child now we sing,
  • “Gloria tibi Domine.”
  • Noel! Noel! In this hall
  • Make merry, I pray ye all;
  • Unto that child we may call
  • 20Ullo sine crimine.


“Ah my Dear Son”

  • “Ah my dear Son,” said Mary, “ah my dear!
  • Kiss thy mother, Jesus, with a laughing cheer.”
  • Even this night I saw a sight
  • All in my sleep:
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  • Mary the May she sang lullay
  • And sore did weep;
  • To keep she sought full fast about
  • Her son from cold.
  • Joseph said, “Wife, my joy, my life,—
  • Say what ye wold,
  • No room, my spouse, is in this house
  • 10For any pay:
  • My son (a King that made all thing)
  • Must lie in hay.”
  • Ah my dear Son!
  • “My mother dear, amend your cheer,
  • And now be still;
  • Thus for to lie, it is soothlily
  • My father's will.
  • Derision,—great passion
  • Infinitely,—
  • 20(As it is found) and many a wound
  • Suffer shall I.
  • On Calvary that is so high—
  • There shall I be
  • (Man to restore) nailed full sore
  • Upon a tree.”
  • Ah my dear Son!

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4. A New Carol of Our Lady

  • Lord and Ladies, all bidden
  • For your goodness and honour,—
  • I will sing to you of a Queen;
  • Of all women she is the flower.
  • There came an angel bright of face
  • Flying from Heaven with a great light,
  • And said: “Hail, Mary, full of grace,
  • For thou shalt bear a man of might;
  • Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!”
  • 10This said the Angel Gabriel.
  • Astonied was that lady free,
  • And had marvel of that greeting:
  • “Angel,” she said, “how may that be,
  • For never of man had I knowing?”
  • “Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!”
  • This said the Angel Gabriel.
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  • “Dread thou nothing, Mary mild,—
  • Thou art fullfilled with great virtue;
  • Thou shalt conceive and bear a child
  • 20That shall be named sweet Jesu.
  • Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!”
  • This said the Angel Gabriel.
  • She kneeled down upon her knee:
  • “As thou hast said, so may it be;
  • With heart, thought, and mild cheer,
  • God's handmaid I am here.”
  • Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!”
  • This said the Angel Gabriel.
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Followis ane sang of the birth of Christ,

with the tune of Balulalow

  • Out of heaven I come to tell
  • The best news that ere befell;
  • To ye such tidings true I bring,
  • And of them I will say and sing.
  • This day to you is born a child
  • Of Mary Virgin, meek and mild;
  • That blessèd child, gracious and kind,
  • Shall you rejoice both heart and mind.
  • Ye shall him find sans mark or ring,
  • 10Full simple in a cribb lying;
  • So lieth he who us hath wrought
  • And all the world made out of nought.
  • O God, that made all creäture,—
  • How art thou become so poor,
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  • On the hay and the straw to lie
  • Among the asses, oxen, and kye.
  • Were the world ten times as wide,
  • Clad over with gold and stones of pride,
  • Unworthy still it were of thee—
  • 20Under thy feet a stool to be.
  • The silk and sandell, thee to ease,
  • Are hay and simple swathing-claes,
  • Wherein thou gloriest, greatest King,
  • As thou in Heaven satt'st in thy ring.
  • O my dear Heart, young Jesus sweet,
  • Prepare thy cradle in my spirit,
  • And I shall rock thee in my heart
  • And never more from thee depart.
  • But I shall praise thee evermore
  • 30With sweet songs unto thy gloire;
  • The knees of my heart I shall bow,
  • And sing that right Balulalow.
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  • Glory be to God eternally,
  • Who gave his only son for me!
  • The angels are gladdened when they hear
  • The gracious gift of this new Year.

6. The Wassaile.

  • Give way, give way, ye gates, and win
  • An easy blessing to your kin
  • And basket by our entering in.
  • May both with manchet stand repleat;
  • Your larders, too, so hung with meat
  • That thereof them and folk may eat.
  • Next, may your dairies prosper so
  • As that your pans no ebb may know;
  • But if they do, the more to flow.
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  • 10Like to a solemn sober stream
  • Bankt all with lilies, and the cream
  • Of sweetest cowslips, filling them.
  • Then may your plants be prest with fruit,
  • Nor beehive that you have be mute
  • But sweetly sounding like a lute.
  • Next, may your duck and teeming hen
  • Both to the cock's-trend say Amen,
  • And for their two eggs render ten.
  • Last, may your harrows, shares, & ploughs,
  • 20Your stacks, your stocks, your sweetest mows
  • All prosper by your virgin-vows.

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7. A Carol of Mary Virgin.

  • The Angel Gabriel from God
  • Was sent to Galilee
  • Unto a Virgin fair and dear
  • Whose name was called Mary:
  • And when the Angel thither came,
  • He fell down on his knee,
  • And looking up in the Virgin's face
  • He said “All hail, Mary.”
  • Then sing we all, both great and small,
  • 10Noel! Noel! Noel!
  • We may rejoice to hear the voice
  • Of the Angel Gabriel.
  • Mary anon looked him upon,
  • And said, “Sir, what are ye?
  • I marvel much at these tidings
  • Which thou hast brought to me.
  • Married I am to an old man,
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  • As the lot fell unto me;
  • Therefore I pray, depart away.
  • 20For I stand in doubt of thee.”
  • Then sing, &c.
  • “Mary,” he said, “be not afraid,
  • But do believe in me:
  • The power of the Holy Ghost
  • Shall overshadow thee;
  • Thou shalt conceive without any grief,
  • As the Lord told unto me;
  • God's own dear Son from Heaven shall come
  • And shall be born of thee.
  • 30Then sing, &c.
  • This came to pass as God's will was,
  • Even as the Angel told.
  • About midnight an Angel bright
  • Came to the shepherds' fold,
  • And told them then both where and when
  • Born was the child our Lord,
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  • And all along this was their song—
  • “All Glory be given to God.”
  • Then sing, &c.

8. The Cherry Carol.

  • Joseph was an old man
  • And an old man was he,
  • And he married Mary
  • Queen of Galilee.
  • When Joseph was married
  • And his cousin Mary got,
  • Mary proved big with child,—
  • By whom Joseph knew not.
  • As Joseph and Mary
  • 10Walked through the garden gay
  • Where the cheries they grew
  • Upon every tree,
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  • O then bespoke Mary
  • With words both meek and mild:
  • “Gather me some cherries, Joseph,—
  • They run so in my mind;
  • Gather me some cherries,
  • For I am with child.”
  • O then bespoke Joseph
  • 20With words that reviled:
  • “Let him gather thee cherries
  • That got thee with child.”
  • O then besoke Jesus,
  • All in his mother's womb:
  • “Go to the tree, Mary,
  • And it shall bow down;
  • Go to the tree, Mary,
  • And it shall bow to thee,
  • Yea the highest branch of all
  • 30Shall bow down to Mary's knee,
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  • “And she shall gather cherries
  • By one, by two, by three.”
  • “Now look you,” she said, “Joseph,
  • Those cherries were for me.”
  • O! eat your cherries, Mary,
  • O! eat your cherries now,
  • O! eat your cherries, Mary,
  • That grow on the bough.

  • As Joseph was a-walking,
  • 40He heard an angel sing—
  • “This night shall be born
  • Our heavenly King;
  • “He neither shall be born
  • In housen, nor in hall,
  • Nor in the place of Paradise
  • But in an ox's stall;
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  • “He neither shall be clothed
  • In purple nor in pall,
  • But in fair linen
  • 50As are babies all;
  • “He neither shall be rocked
  • In silver nor in gold,
  • But in a wooden cradle
  • That rocks on the mould;
  • “He neither shall be christen'd
  • In white wine nor in red,
  • But with the spring-water
  • Wherewith we were christenèd.”
  • Then Mary took her young Son
  • 60And set him on her knee:
  • “I pray thee now, dear Child,
  • Tell how this world shall be.”
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  • “This world shall be like
  • The stones in the street,
  • For the sun and the moon
  • Shall bow down at thy feet.
  • And upon a Wednesday
  • My vow I will make,
  • And upon Good Friday
  • 70My death I will take;
  • And upon the third day
  • My uprising shall be,
  • And the sun and the moon
  • Shall rise up with me.”

9. The Twelve.

  • What is that which is but one?
  • We have but one God alone
  • In Heaven above sits on His throne.
  • What are they which are but two?
  • Two Testaments, as we are told;
  • The one is New and the other Old.
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  • What are they which are but three?
  • Three Persons in the Trinity,—
  • The Father, Son, and Ghost Holy.
  • 10What are they which are but four?
  • Four Gospels written true,—
  • John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew.
  • What are they which are but five?
  • Five senses we have to tell;
  • God grant us grace to use them well.
  • What are they which are but six?
  • Six ages this world shall last;
  • Five of them are gone and past.
  • What are they which are but seven?
  • 20Seven days in the week have we,—
  • Six to work, and the seventh holy.
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  • What are they which are but eight?
  • Eight beatitudes are given:
  • Use them well and go to Heaven.
  • What are they which are but nine?
  • Nine degrees of Angels high
  • Which praise God continually.
  • What are they which are but ten?
  • Ten Statutes God to Moses gave,
  • 30Which kept or broke do spoil or save.
  • What are they which are but eleven?
  • Eleven with Christ in Heaven do dwell;
  • The twelfth for ever burns in Hell.
  • What are they which are but twelve?
  • Twelve are attending on God's son:
  • Twelve make our creed. The dial's done.

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10. “O fair Jerusalem!”

  • O fair, O fair Jerusalem!
  • When shall I come to thee?
  • When shall my sorrows have an end?
  • Thy joys when shall I see?
  • Thy fields were green as green could be,
  • When from his glorious seat
  • The Lord our God he watered us
  • With his heavenly dew so sweet.
  • And for the saving of our souls
  • 10Christ died upon the cross:
  • We ne'er shall do for Jesus Christ
  • As he hath done for us.
  • The life of man is but a span,—
  • It is cut down in its flower;
  • We are here to-day, and to-morrow are gone;
  • We are all dead in an hour.

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11. Mary Mother.

  • Mary Mother, be not adread;
  • Jesus is in thy body bred,
  • And of thy breast he will be fed.
  • Mary Mother, the fruit of thee
  • For us was nailed on a tree:
  • In Heaven is now his majesty.
  • Mary Mother, the third day
  • Up he rose as I now say;
  • To hell taking his righteous way.
  • 10Mary Mother, after this soon
  • Up to his Heaven he took thee home.
  • The Angels were glad when thou wert come.
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12. A Song of the Holly and Ivy.

  • Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be, I wis;
  • Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
  • Holly stands in the hall, fair to behold;
  • Ivy stands without the door; she is full sore a-cold.
  • Holly and his merry men, they dance & they sing;
  • Ivy and her maidens, they weep & they wring.
  • Holly hath berries as red as any rose,
  • That foster the hunters and keep them from dews.
  • Ivy hath berries as black as any sloe;—
  • 10There come the owls, and eat them as they go.
  • Holly hath birds, a full fair flock,—
  • The nightingale, the popinjay, the gentle laverock.
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  • Good ivy, what birds hast thou?
  • None but the howlet that cries “how how.”
  • Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be, I wis;
  • Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.

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Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 12-1851.fizms.rad.xml
Copyright: © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge