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Make We Merry More and Less

 | 
Jane Bliss
, 
Douglas Gray

Chapter 9

Songs

Texte intégral

  • 1 Tales, 1A (Prologue), v. 672.
  • 2 In the Prologue to the 12th book of his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.
  • 3 Early English Carols, 1977 (revised) edition. The Plough Song is no. 418.2 (pp. 248–9), no (...)
  • 4 Gray cites this in Simple Forms (p. 223), giving a reference to Early English Carols p. cx (...)

In spite of considerable losses of material in manuscripts and early prints, a surprisingly large number of early songs and lyrics have survived. The corpus must have been a very substantial one. And behind and beside it lay another: an equally large mass of oral songs, now almost totally lost to us, but which lived in the memories of contemporary literate poets. The heads of some clerks were probably filled with snatches of old songs, remembered from younger days or still heard in the communities in which they lived. They will sometimes refer to such songs in their sophisticated works: Chaucer makes his Pardoner sing ‘Come hider, love, to me’;1 Gavin Douglas quotes (among other examples) ‘the schip salis our the salt fame, Will bring thir merchandis and my lemman hame’.2 And, as we have already seen in the pages of this anthology, other ‘snatches’ are sometimes quoted by (usually hostile) preachers and moralists. A number are quoted below. Such snatches are probably the closest we can come to the lost corpus of early oral song. But many of the lyrics printed below are the work of clerks related in various degrees to the tradition of oral song. Some of these ‘popular lyrics’ are (as Greene described them, see below) popular ‘by destination’, intended for the use of an illiterate or partly-literate audience. The literary skill of the clerks and the quality of their imitations of the simple styles and forms of oral songs often make it very difficult to decide whether a lyric should be described as ‘popular’ or ‘learned’ and, if we decide to place it in the category of popular lyric (a category whose boundaries are not absolutely fixed), how closely it approximates to the oral song from which it came. Thus Greene,3 discussing the plough song (xiii), records numerous parallels in later folksong, but points out that the carol is ‘intended for more sophisticated performance, probably by choirboys’, and concludes cautiously that ‘it is conceivable that a carol on this theme may be the result of a learned clerical composer’s interest in an air heard in the fields.’ Similarly, in the fine drinking song ‘Bryng us in good ale’ (xvi) he notes the ‘repeated formula with a portion changed with each repetition, an old device used by very elementary folk-poetry’ — and which allows improvisation.4 However, the repetition is quite artful, with the rejected items of food becoming a splendidly bizarre ensemble, and the accompanying (apparently explanatory) ‘asides’ are sometimes wonderfully fantastic. Could it be a clever imitation, and transformation, of the techniques of oral folk-poetry? ‘Performance’ seems to lie behind almost all the popular lyrics. Some of them are clearly dance songs; in nearly all of them we seem to hear the voice of the singer. They survive in a variety of forms. Perhaps the most distinctive is the ‘carol’, not yet limited to Christmas songs. The name derives from the French ‘carole’, a ring-dance, and the ideas of performance and entertainment continue to lurk even in the more sophisticated and literary examples. Characteristically the Middle English carol is a stanzaic poem, secular or religious, marked by a recurring ‘burden’ or refrain. Other forms of song are also found, and we see brief glimpses of sharp satire, and examples of popular talk (like the ducks that ‘slobber in the mere’, in xvi below), double entendre, and some entertaining rascals. But in general the popular lyric presents us with a rich and varied array of merry entertainment. Our selection attempts to give a sense of this. After a ‘welcome song’ delivered by a minstrel or a master of ceremonies, we move to a series of snatches of oral songs, then to the merriment of the festal season and throughout the year, and to various contemporary figures, pedlars ‘light of foot’, roving bachelors and an amorous priest, encounters between men and women; to some songs which seem to hover between children’s songs and erotic lyric, and to merry nonsense verse. We end with some religious popular lyrics, some of which show the same zest and merriment as their secular counterparts.

Snatches of Oral Songs

i)5

  • 5 In The Oxford Book of Medieval Verse, no. 259. Normally, only one reference is given for e (...)
  • 6 Mean would be a middle line in the part-song.
Bon jowre, bon jowre a vous! º
I am cum unto this hows
With ‘par la pompe’, º I say.
good day to you
with ceremony
Is ther any good man here
That will make me any chere?º
And if ther were, I wold cum nere
To witº what he woldº say.
A, will ye be wild?º
By Mary myld,
And her swete child,
I trow ye will synge gay.º
Bon jowre…
entertainment
know
hard to catch
merrily
would
Be gladly, º masters everychon!
I am cum myself alone
To apposeº you onº by on;
Let se who dare say nay
Sir, what say ye?
Syng on, let us see.
Now will it be
Thys or another day?
Bon jowre…
joyful
question
one
Loo, this is he that will do the dede!
He temperethº his mowthº — therefore take hede.
Syng softe, I say, lest yowr nose blede,
For hurt yowrself ye may.
tunes voice
But, by God that me bowght, º
Your brest is so towght, º
Tyll ye have well cowghtº
Ye may not therwith away.º
Bon jowre…
redeemed
congested
coughed
do away with it
Sir, what say ye with your face so lene?
Ye syng nother good tenowre, treble, ne mene.º
nor mean6
Utter not your voice withoutº your brest be clene, º
Hartely I you pray.
I hold you excused,
Ye shall be refused,
unless clear
For ye have not beº used
To no good sport nor play.
Bon jowre…
been
Sir, what say ye with your fat face?
Me thynkith ye shuld bere a very good bace.º
To a pot of good ale or ipocras, º
Truly as I you say.
Hold up your hede,
maintain bass
sweet spiced wine
Ye loke lyke lede, º
Ye wast mycheº bred
Evermore from day to day.
Bon jowre…
lead
waste much
Now will ye see wher he stondith behynde?
Iwis, º brother, ye be unkind;
Stond forth, and wast with me som wyndº
indeed
breath
For ye have ben called a synger ay.º
Nay, be not ashamed —
Ye shall not be blamed,
For ye have ben famed
The worst in this contrey.
Bon jowre…
always

ii)7

  • 7 Ibid. no. 66.
Of every kuneº tre,
Of every kune tre,
The hawethorn blowet suotes [t] º
Of every kune tre
kind (of)
blossoms most sweetly
My lemmonº she shal boe, º
My lemmon she shal boe,
The fairest of e [very] kinne,
My lemmon she shal boe.
lover be

iii)8

  • 8 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, no. 61.
Al nistº by the rose, rose night
Al nist bi the rose I lay,
Dar [st] º ich noust the rose stele,
Ant yet ich bar the flourº away.
dared
I took the flower (= maidenhood)

iv)9

  • 9 Ibid. no. 62.

Mayden in the mor lay,
In the mor lay,

Sevenystº fulle, sevenist fulle.
Maiden in the mor lay,
In the mor lay,
Sevenistes fulle ant a day.
seven nights
Welleº was hire mete, º
Wat was hire mete?
The primeroleº ant the,
The primerole ant the,
Welle was hire mete,
Wat was hire mete?
The primerole
Ant the violet.
excellent
primrose
food
Welle was hire dryng, º
Wat was hire dryng?
The cheldeº water of the,
The chelde water of the,
Welle was hire dryng,
Wat was hire dryng?
The chelde water of the,
Of the welle-spring.
drink
cold
Welle was hire bour, º
Wat was hire bour?
The rede rose an te, º
The rede rose an te,
Welle was hire bour,
Wat was hire bour?
The rede rose an te,
The rede rose an te
An te lilie flour.
dwelling
the

v)10

  • 10 Ibid. no. 60.
Ich am of Irlaunde
And of the holy londe
Of Irlande.
Gode sire, pray ich the,
For of saynte charite, º
Come and daunce wyt me
In Irlaunde.
holy charity

vi)11

  • 11 Ibid. no. 63.
Me thingkitº thou art so lovely,
So fair and so swete,
That sikirliº it were mi detº
Thi companie to lete.º
seems
certainly
give up
death

vii)12

  • 12 Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 181.
Westron wynde when wyll thow blow?
The smalleº rayne downe canº rayne.
Cryst, yf my love wer in my armes
And I in my bed agayne!
fine does

viii)13

  • 13 Ibid. no. 3.
Sing, cuccu nu! Sing cuccu!
Sing, cuccu! Sing, cuccu nu!
Somer is ycumen in,
Lhudeº sing, cuccu!
loudly
Groweth sed and blowethº medº
And springth the wodeº nu.
Sing, cuccu!
blossoms
wood
meadow
Aweº bleteth after lomb,
Lhouthº after calveº cu,
Bulluc sterteth, º bucke vertethº
Murye sing, cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu, cuccu,
ewe
lows
leaps
calf
farts
Ne swik thu naverº nu! do not ever cease

Christmas and New Year

ix)14

  • 14 Ibid. no. 168.
Make we mery both more and lasseº
For now ys the tyme of Crystymas.
high and low
Lett no man cum into this hall —
Grome, º page, nor yet marshall, º
But that sum sport he bring with all,
For now ys the tyme of Crystmas.
Make we mery…
servant steward
Yff that he say he can not syng,
Sum oder sport then lett hym bring,
That yt may please at thys festyng,
For now ys the tyme of Crystmas.
Make we mery…
Yff he say he can nowght do,
Then for my love aske hym no mo —
But to the stokesº then let hym go,
stocks

For now ys the tyme of Crystmas. Make we mery…

x) The Boar’s Head15

  • 15 IMEV 436, from Wright, Songs and Carols (song 38, pp. 42–3); also in Early English Carols, (...)
Po, po, po, po, º
Love braneº and so do mo.º
(a barnyard call for pigs)
brawn more
At the begynnyng of the mete
Of a borys hed ye schal hete, º
And in the mustard ye shal wete, º
And ye shal syngyn or ye gon.
  Po, po…
eat
dip
Wolcum be ye that ben here,
And ye shal have ryth gud chere,
And also a ryth gud fare,
And ye shal syngyn or ye gon.
  Po, po…
Welcum be ye everychon,
For ye shal syngyn ryth anon;
Hey yow fast, that ye had don,
And ye shal syngyn or ye gon.
  Po, po…

xi) The Holly and the Ivy16

  • 16 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 171.

Nay, nay, Ive,
It may not be, iwis,
For Holy must have the mastry,
As the maner is.

Holy berith beris, beris rede ynowgh; º
The thristilcok, º the popyngay, º daunce in every bow,
very
cock thrush
parrot
Welaway, sory Ivy, what fowles hast thow
But the sory howlet, º that syngith, ‘How, how.’
Nay, nay…
owl
Ivy berith beris as black as any slo;
Ther commeth the woode-colverº and fedith her of tho, º
wood-pigeon those
She liftith up her tayll and she cakesº orº she go —
She wold not for hundred poundes serve Holy soo.
Nay, nay…
craps before
Holy and his mery men, they can daunce in hall,
Ivy and her jentyll women can not daunce at all,
But lyke a meyny of bullokkes in a waterfall,
Or on a whotº somers day, whan they be mad all.
Nay, nay…
hot
Holy and his mery men sytt in cheyres of gold;
Ivy and her jentyll women sytt withowtº in fold, º
With a payre of kybidº helis cawght with cold —
So wold I that every man had that with Yvy will hold.
Nay, nay…
outside
chilblained
on the ground

xii)17

  • 17 Ibid. no. 177.

What cher? Gud cher, gud cher, gud cher!
Be mery and glad this gud New Yere.
‘Lyft up your hartes and be glad
In Crystes byrth’, the angell bad;

Say eche to oder for hys sake,
‘What cher?’ What cher…
I tell you all with hart so fre,
Ryght welcum ye be to me,
Be glad and mery, for charite —
What cher? What cher…
The gudman of this place in fereº
You to be mery he prayth you here,
And with gud hert he doth to you say,
What cher? What cher…
in company, together

Merriment, of various kinds, throughout the Year

xiii) God speed the Plough18

  • 18 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 152.
The merthe of alle this londe
Maketh the gode husbondeº
With eryngeº of his plowe.
farmer
ploughing
Iblessyd be Cristes sondeº
That hath us sent in honde
Merthe and joye ynowe.º
The merthe…
grace
in plenty, much
The plowe goth mony a gateº
Both erly and late,
In winter in the clay.
The merthe…
path
Abowte barley and whete,
That maketh men to swete, º
sweat
God spede the plowe alº day.
The merthe…
every
Browne Morel and Goreº
Drawen the plowe ful soreº
Al in the morwenynge.
The merthe…
names of the horses (or oxen)
laboriously
Rewarde hem therefore
With a shefeº or more
Alle in the evenynge.
The merthe…
sheaf
Whan men bygynne to sowe,
Ful wel here corne they knoweº
In the mounthe of May.
The merthe…
judge
Howe ever Janyverº blowe,
Whether hye or lowe,
God spede the plowe allway!
The merthe…
January
Whan men begynneth to wedeº
The thystle fro the sede,
In somer whan they may.
The merthe…
weed
God leteº hem wel to spedeº
And longe gode lyfe to lede,
All that for plowemen pray.
The merthe…
grant prosper

xiv)19

  • 19 IMEV 3864; also in Greene’s Early English Carols, no. 416.
We ben chapmenº light of fote,
The fowle weyis for to fle,
pedlars
We berynº abowtyn non cattes skynnys,
Pursis, perlis, º sylver pynnis
Smale wympelesº for ladyis chynnys;
Damsele, beyº sum ware of me.
We ben…
carry
pearls
elegant head-dress
buy
I have a poket for the nonys, º
Therine ben tweyneº precious stonys;
Damsele, hadde ye asayid hem onys;
Ye shuld the rathereº gon with me.
We ben…
for the occasion
two
sooner
I have a jelyfº of Godes sonde, º
Withoutyn fytº it can stonde;
It can smytyn and haght non honde; º
Rydº yourself quat it may be.
We ben…
jelly
feet
hath no hand
guess
grace
I have a powder for to selle,
Quat it is can I not telle —
It makit maydenys wombys to swelle;
Therof I have a quantyte.
We ben…

Drinking Songs

xv)20

  • 20 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 260.
How, º butler, how! Bevis a towt! º hey!
Fill the boll, jentill butler, and let the cup rowght! º
drink to all!
go round
Jentill butler, bell amy, º
Fyll the boll by the eye, º
That we may drink by and by.º
With how, butler, how! Bevis a towt!
Fill the boll, butler, and let the cup rowght!
fine friend
to the brim
one and all
Here is meteº for us all,
Both for gret and for small —
I trowº we must the butler call,
With how, butler, how! Bevis a towt!
Fill the boll, butler, and let the cupe rowght!
food
believe
I am so dry I cannot spek, º
I am nere choked with my meteº —
I trow the butler be aslepe.
With how, butler, how! Bevis a towght!
Fill the boll, butler, and let the cup rowght!
speak
food
Butler, butler, fill the boll,
Or elles I beshreweº thy noll! º
I trow we must the bell toll.º
With how, butler, how! Bevis a towght!
Fill the boll, butler, and let the cup rowght!
curse head
ring
Iff the butlers name be Water, º
I wold he were a galow-claper, º
Walter (apparently so pronounced)
gallows-bird
But ifº he bryng us drynk the rather.º
With how, butler, how! Bevis a towght!
Fill the boll, butler, and let the cup rowght!
unless sooner

xvi)21

  • 21 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 119.
Bryng us in good ale, and bryng us in good ale,
Fore owr blyssyd lady sak, bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us in no browne bred, fore that is mad of brane, º
Nor bring us in no whyt bred, fore therin is no game, º
But bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us…
bran
pleasure
Bryng us in no befe, º for ther is many bonys,
But bryng us in good ale, for that goth downe at onys,
And bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us…
beef
Bryng us in no bacon, for that is passing fate, º
But brynge us in god ale, and gyfe us inoughtº of that,
And bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us…
fat
plenty
Bryng us in no mutton, for that is often lene,
Nor bryng us in no trypys, for thei be syldom clene,
But bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us…
Bryng us in no eggys, for ther ar many schelles,
But bryng us in good ale, and gyfe us nothyng ellys,
And bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us…
Bryng us in no butter, for therin ar many herys, º
Nor bryng us in no pygges flesch, for that wyl mak us borys,
But bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us…
hairs
Bryng us in no podynges, º for therin is al gotesº blod. black pudding goats’

Nor bring us in no veneson, for that is not for our gode,
But bring us in good ale.
Bryng us…
Bryng us in no capons flesch, for that is often der,

Nor bring us in no dokesº flesch, for thei slober in the mer, º
But bring us in good ale.
Bryng us…
ducks’ pond

Amorous Encounters; Men and Women

xvii)22

  • 22 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, no. 113.
Hey, noyney!
I wyll love our Ser John
Andº I love eny.
if
O Lord, so swettº Ser John dothe kys
At every tyme when he wolde pley;
Off hymselfe so plesant he ys,
I have no powre to say hym nay.
Hey, noyney…
sweetly
Ser John love [s] me and I love hym,
The more I love hym the more I maye,
He says, ‘swett hart, cum kys me trym.’º
I have no powre to say hym nay.
Hey, noyney…
nicely
Ser John to me is proferyng
For hys pleasure right well to pay,
And in my box he puttes hys offryng —
I have no powre to say hym nay.
Hey, noyney…
Ser John ys taken in my mousetrappe;
Fayne wold I have hemº bothe nyght and day;
He gropith so nyslye abought my lape,
I have no po [w] re to say hym nay.
Hey, noyney…
him
Ser John gevyth me relyusº rynges
With pratyº pleasure for to assay, º
Furres off the finest with othyr thynges —
I have no powre to say hym nay.
Hey, noyney…
glittering
sweet
try

xviii)23

  • 23 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 195.
How, hey! It is non les: º
I dar not seyn quan che seygh ‘Pes!’º
lie
speak when she says peace! (be quiet!)
Yyngº men, I warne you everychon,
Eldeº wy [v] ys tak ye non,
For I myself [at hom have on] —
I dar not seyn quan che seyght, ‘Pes! ’
How, hey…
young
old
Quan I cum fro the plow at non, º
In a reven dychº myn mete is don, º
I dar not askyn our dame a sponº —
I dar not seyn quan che seyght, ‘Pes! ’
How, hey…
noon
cracked dish
spoon
put
If I aske our dame bred,
Che takyt a staf and brekitº myn hed
And doth me rennynº under the ledº —
I dar not seyn quan che seyght ‘Pes!’
How, hey…
breaks
run
cauldron
If I aske our dame fleych, º
Che brekit myn hed with a dych,
‘Boy, thou art not worght a reych!’º
I dar not seyn quan che seyght ‘Pes!’
How, hey…
meat
worth a rush (= a th
ing of no value)
Yf I aske our dame chese,
‘Boy, ’ che seyght, al at ese, º
‘Thou art not worght half a pese! ’º —
I dar not seyn quan che seyght ‘Pes!’
How, hey…
quite unmoved
pea
  • 24 From Richard Hill’s commonplace-book; IMEV 1222 (NIMEV TM 601, DIMEV 2035).

1xix)24

Hogyn cam to bowersº dore,
Hogyn cam to bowers dore,
He tryld upon the pynº for love,
Hum, ha, trill go bell,
He tryld upon the pyn for love,
Hum, ha, trill go bell.
chamber
rattled at the latch
Up she rose and let hym yn,
Up she rose and let hym yn,
She had a-wentº she had worshippedº all he [r] kyn,
Hum, ha, trill go bell,
She had a-went she had worshipped all her
Hum, ha, trill go bell.
thought
kyn,
honoured
When thei were to bed browght,
When thei were to bed browght,
The old chorle he cowld do nowght, º
Hum, ha, trill go bell,
The old chorle he cowld do nowght,
Hum, ha, trill go bell.
nothing
‘Go ye furth to yonder wyndow,
Go ye furth to yonder wyndow,
And I will cum to you withyn a throw’, º
Hum, ha, trill go bell,
‘And I will cum to you withyn a throw.’
Hum, ha, trill go bell.
while
Whan she hym at the wyndow wyst, º
Whan she hym at the wyndow wyst,
She tornedº owt her ars and that he kyst,
Hum, ha, trill go bell,
She torned owt her ars and that he kyst,
Hum, ha, trill go bell.
knew
put
‘Ywys, º leman, º ye do me wrong,
Ywys, leman, ye do me wrong,
Or elles your breth ys wonder strong’,
Hum, ha, trill go bell,
‘Or ells your breth ys wonder strong’,
Hum, ha, trill go bell.
indeed sweetheart

xx)25

  • 25 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 28.
‘Say me, viitº in the brom, º
Teche ne wouº I sule donº
That min hosebondeº
Me lovien wolde.’º
creature
how
husband
should
broom
must act
‘Holde thine tunkeº stille
And haweº al thine wille.’
tongue
have

Miscellaneous Songs

xxi)26

  • 26 Ibid. no. 189.
I have a gentil co [k], º
Crowyt me [the] dayº
He dothº me rysyn erly,
My matyins for to say.
cock
daybreak
causes
I have a gentil co [k],
Comyn he is of gret; º
His comb is of red [c] orel, º
His tayil js of get.º
distinguished family
coral
jet
I have a gentil co [k],
Comyn he is of kynde; º
His comb is of red corel,
His tayl is of inde.º
high lineage
indigo
His legges ben of asor, º
So geintil and so smale; º
His sporesº arn of sylver qwytº
Into the wortewale.º
azure
slender
spurs
roots
shining silver
His ey [e] nº arn of cristal,
Lokynº al in aumbyr; º
And every nyght he perchitº hym
In myn ladyis chaumbyr.
eyes
set
perches
amber

xxii)27

  • 27 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, no. 106. Its introduction explains the use of (...)
  • 28 By St John’s Day (24th June), hence a ‘John pear’.
I have a newe gardyn,
And neweº is begunne;
Swychº another gardyn
Know I not under sunne.
newly
such
In the myddis of my gardyn
Is a peryrº set,
And it wele non per bernº
But a per jenet.º
pear-tree
bear
early-ripening pear28
The fairest mayde of this toun
Preyid me
For to gryffyn her a gryfº
Of myn pery tre.
insert a shoot, graft
Quan I hadde hem gryffidº
Alle at her wille, º
The wyn and the ale
planted
as she wished
Che dede in fille.º she poured out
And I gryffid her
Ryght up in her home;
And be that day xx wowkesº
It was qwyk in her womb.
weeks
That day twelfus month
That mayde I mette,
Che seyd it was a per Robert, º
But non per Jonet.
‘Robert’ pear

Nonsense Verse, sometimes used for satire, sometimes simply for enjoyment

xxiii)29

  • 29 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 125.
Whan netilles in winter bere rosis rede,
And thornys bere figges naturally,
And bromesº bere appylles in every mede, º
And lorellesº bere cheris in the croppisº so hie,
And okysº bere dates so plentuosly,
And lekesº geve hony in ther superfluens, º
Than put in a woman your trust and confidens.
brooms
laurels
oaks
leeks
meadow
top branches
superabundance
Whan whiting walk in forestes hartesº for to chase
And heryngesº in parkys hornys boldly blowe,
And flowndersº morehennesº in fennes embrace.
And gornardesº shote grengeseº owt of a crossebowe,
And rolyonsº ride in hunting the wolf to overthrowe,
And sperlyngesº rone with speris in harness to defenceº
Than put in a woman your trust and confidence.
,
herrings
flounders
gurnards
smelts
harts
moor-hens
goslings
fish
for protection.
Whan sparowys bild chirches and stepulles hie,
And wrennes cary sakkes to the mylle,
And curlews cary clothesº horsis for to drye,
And se-mewes bryng butter to the market to sell,
And wod-dowesº were wod-knyffesº theves to kyll,
cloths
wood-pigeon
s hunting knives
And griffonsº to goslynges don obedience —
Than put in a woman your trust and confidence.
vultures
Whan crabbis tak wodcokesº in forestes and parkes
And haris ben taken with swetnes of snaylis,
And [cammels in the ayer tak swalows and larkes],
And myse mowe corn with wafeyyngº of ther taylis,
Whan dukkes of the dunghill sekº the Blod of Hayles,30
Whan shrewdº wyffes to ther husbondes do non offens —
Than put in a woman your trust and confidence.
woodcocks
waving
seek
shrewish
  • 30 In Early English Carols (ed. Greene), no. 471; DIMEV 2256. The whetstone, a token of false (...)

2xxiv)30

Hay, hey, hey, hey!
I wyll have the whetston and I may.º
if I can
I sawe a doge sethyngº sowseº
And an ape thechyngº an howse
And a podyngº etyng a mowse;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
boiling
thatching
sausage
pork for pickling
I sawe an urchinº shapeº and sewe
And another bake and brewe,
Scowre the pottes as they were newe;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
hedgehog cut out cloth
I sawe a codfysshe corn sowe
And a worm a whystyll blowe
And a pyeº tredyng a crow;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
magpie
I sawe a stokfyssheº drawing a harrow
And another dryveyng a barrow
And a saltfysshe shotyng an arrow;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
dried fish
I sawe a bore burdeyns bynd
And a froge clewensº wynd
And a tode mustard grynd;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
balls of yarn
I sawe a sowe bere kyrchers to wasshe,
The second sowe had an hege to plasshe, º
The thirde sowe went to the barn to thr [a] sshe;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
weave
I sawe an ege etyng a pye —
Geve me drynke, my mowth ys drye,
Ytt ys not long sythº I made a lye;
I will have the whetston and I may.
Hey, hey…
since

Religious Songs (a brief selection)

xxv)31

  • 31 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 269.
Nou gothº sonne under wod, º goes wood
Me reweth, º Marie, thi faire rode.º I pity face

Nou goth sonne under tre,
Me reweth, Marie, thi sone and the.

xxvi)32

  • 32 Ibid. no. 191.
Adam lay ibowndyn, bowndyn in a bond,
Fowre thousand winter thowt he not to long.
And al was for an appil, An appil that he tok,
As clerkes fyndyn wretyn, wretyn in here bok
Ne hadde the appil take ben, the appil take ben,
Ne hadde never our Lady aº ben hevene qwen.
have
Blyssid be the tyme that appil take was,
Therfore we mownº syngyn ‘Deo gratias! ’º
may thanks be to God

xxvii)33

  • 33 Ibid. no. 29.
Levedie, I thonke the
Widº herte suitheº milde
That godº that thou havest idon me
Wid thine suete childe,
with
good
very
Thou ard god and suete and briht,
Ofº alle otheir icoren; º
Of the was that suete withº
That was Jesus iboren.º
above
sweet creature
born
chosen
Maide milde, biddiº the
Wid thine suete childe
That thou er [e] ndieº me
I pray
intercede for
To habben Godis milce.º mercy
Moder, [thou] loke one me
Wid thine suete eye;
Rest and blisse [gef] thou me,
Mi levedi, thenº ic deye.
when

xxviii)34

  • 34 Ibid. no. 252.

Can I not syng but ‘hoy’,
Whan the joly shepherd made so mych joy.

  • 35 The editor (Sisam) marks this name as ‘obscure’.
The sheperd upon a hill he satt,
He had on hym his tabardº and his hat,
Hys tarbox, hys pype, and hys flagat; º
Hys name was called Joly, Joly Wat,
For he was a gud herdesº boy.
[W] ith hoy!
For in hys pype he made so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
cloak
flask
shepherds’
The sheperd upon a hill was layd,
Hys dogeº to hys gyrdyll was tayd, º
dog tied
He had not slept but a lytill br [a] ydº
But ‘Gloria in excelsis’º was to hym sayd.
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pype he mad so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
while
Glory in the Highest
The sheperd on a hill he stode;
Rownd abowt hym his shepe they yode; º
He put hys hond under hys hode; º
went
hood
He saw a star as rede as blod.
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pype he mad so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
‘Now farwell Mall, and also Will;
For my love go ye all styllº
Untoº I cum agayn you till, º
And evermore, Will, ryng well thy bell.’
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pipe he made so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
quietly
until back to you
‘Now must I go therº Cryst was borne;
Farwell, I cum agayn tomorn;
Dog, kepe well my shepe fro the corn,
And warn well, Warroke, º when I blow my horn.’
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pype he made so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
where
Wat’s dog, or his ‘boy’35
The sheperd sayd anon right, º
‘I will go se yon farlyº syght,
Wheras the angell syngith on hight, º
And the star that shynyth so bright, ’
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pipe he made so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
immediately
wondrous
loudly
Whan Wat to Bedlemº cum was,
He swetº — he had gon faster than a pace.º
He fownd Jesu in a sympill place
Between an ox and an asse.
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pipe he mad so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
Bethlehem
was sweating
walking-pace
‘Jesu, I offer to the here my pype,
My skyrte, º my tarbox, and my scrype; º
Home to my felowes now will I skype, º
And also loke untoº my shepe.’
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pipe he mad so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
kilt
hasten
see to
bag
‘Now, farewell, myne own herdsman Wat, ’
‘Ye, for God, lady, even so I hat.º
Lull well Jesu in thy lape
And farewell, Joseph, wyth thy rownd cape.’º
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in hys pipe he mad so mych joy.
Can I not syng…
am called
round cap
‘Now may I well both hopeº and syng,
For I have bene a Crystes beryng.º
Home to my felowes now wyll I flyng.º
Cryst of hevyn to his blis us bryng!’
For he was a gud herdes boy,
With hoy!
For in his pipe he mad so myche joy.
Can I not syng…
dance
birth
hurry

xxix)36

  • 36 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 77.
‘Lullay, myn lykyng, º my dere sone, myn swetyng,
Lullay, my dere herte, myn owyn dere derlyng.’
beloved
I saw a fayr maydyn syttyn and synge;
Sche lullyd a lytyl chyld, a swete lording.º
Lulllay myn lykyng…
lord
That echeº Lord is that that made alle thinge;
Of alle lordis he is Lord, of all kynges Kyng.
Lullay, myn lykyng…
same
Ther was mekylº melody at that chyldes berthe;
Alle thoº that wern in hevene blys, they made mekyl merth.
Lullay, myn lykyng…
great
those
Aungele [s] bright, thei song that nyght and seydyn to that chyld,
‘Blyssid be thou, and so be sche that is bothe mek and myld.’
Lullay, myn lykyng…
Prey we now to that chyld, and to his moder dere,
Grawnt hem his blyssyng that now makyn chere, º
Lullay, myn lykyng… .
joy

xxx)37

  • 37 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 180.
Mery hyt ys in May morning
Mery wayys for to gone,
And by a chapel as y came,
Mett y wythe Jesu to chyrchewardº gone,
Petur and Pawle, Thomas and Jhon,
towards church
And hys desyplysº everychone.º
Mery hyt ys… .
disciples every one
Sente Thomas the bellys ganeº ryng,
And Sent Collasº the Mas gane syng;
Sente Jhon toke that swete offering,
And by a chapell as y came.
Mery hyt ys…
did
Nicholas
Owre Lorde offeryd whate he wollde, º
A challesº off ryche rede gollde,
Owre Lady the crowne off hyr mowldeº —
The sonº owte off hyr bosom schone.
Mery hyt ys…
wished
chalice
from her head
sun
Sent Jorge, that ys owre Lady knyghte,
He tende the tapyrysº fayre and bryte,
To myn ygheº a semley syghte —
And by a chapell as y came.
Mery hyt ys…
lit the tapers
eyes

Notes

1 Tales, 1A (Prologue), v. 672.

2 In the Prologue to the 12th book of his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.

3 Early English Carols, 1977 (revised) edition. The Plough Song is no. 418.2 (pp. 248–9), notes pp. 464–5.

4 Gray cites this in Simple Forms (p. 223), giving a reference to Early English Carols p. cxx; the comment is not in Greene’s notes to the song.

5 In The Oxford Book of Medieval Verse, no. 259. Normally, only one reference is given for each poem.

6 Mean would be a middle line in the part-song.

7 Ibid. no. 66.

8 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, no. 61.

9 Ibid. no. 62.

10 Ibid. no. 60.

11 Ibid. no. 63.

12 Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 181.

13 Ibid. no. 3.

14 Ibid. no. 168.

15 IMEV 436, from Wright, Songs and Carols (song 38, pp. 42–3); also in Early English Carols, ed. Greene, no. 134.

16 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 171.

17 Ibid. no. 177.

18 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 152.

19 IMEV 3864; also in Greene’s Early English Carols, no. 416.

20 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 260.

21 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 119.

22 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, no. 113.

23 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 195.

24 From Richard Hill’s commonplace-book; IMEV 1222 (NIMEV TM 601, DIMEV 2035).

25 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 28.

26 Ibid. no. 189.

27 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, no. 106. Its introduction explains the use of nursery rhyme for double meanings.

28 By St John’s Day (24th June), hence a ‘John pear’.

29 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 125.

30 In Early English Carols (ed. Greene), no. 471; DIMEV 2256. The whetstone, a token of falseness, was hung about the nect of a convicted liar (MED); he means ‘I shall prove the best liar’.

31 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 269.

32 Ibid. no. 191.

33 Ibid. no. 29.

34 Ibid. no. 252.

35 The editor (Sisam) marks this name as ‘obscure’.

36 In Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Davies, no. 77.

37 In The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, no. 180.

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