Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Old Christmas Carols’

Faithful readers,

Fronticepiece of Christmas Carols by Thomas Wright, 1841Once again December has caught me flat footed. It is almost 10 days into the month and I am still researching interesting historical information about Christmas holiday celebrations as Jane Austen would have known them. While many books, articles, bloggers and internet sites cover this topic in detail, I hope to add a few interesting items that might not be widely known. I urge you to read Austenonly’s excellent article, “But Surely Christmas in England Didn’t Exist Until Dickens Invented It? “, which explains how and why this season was suppressed for years by the Puritans in the mid-17th century, when Charles I had been deposed and beheaded, and how our customs managed to survive and flourish.

As many of you know, Christmas celebrations as we know it in modern times (the decorative tree, a German custom, the elaborately wrapped presents, and the many traditional carols we still sing today) are rooted in Victorian times. So how did Jane Austen and her contemporaries celebrate this important Christian holiday? I hope to link to many articles of interest and provide a few insights of my own.

I learned with shock that many of my favorite carols, such as Silent Night and The First Noel, were written after Jane Austen’s death. I chose the following two 17th century carols (which Jane Austen might not have known, but which had been retrieved from obscurity in 1841 by Thomas Wright in Specimens of Old Christmas Carols ) because of the Boar’s Head motif, which has endured to this day. I love the old English spelling in these songs and yet their content speaks to the celebrations we still hold today.

A Carol bringyng in the bores heed.

Caput apm’ dgfero, Reddens laudes Domino.

[From a Collection of Christmas Carols, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, in 1521, from which book it is given by Hearne, in his notes to William of Newbery, iii. p. 17 5.]

The bores heed in hande bring I,

With garlands gay and rosemary;

I praye you all synge merely,

qui estis in convivio.

The bores heed, I understande,

Is the chefe servyce of this lande;

Loke where ever it be fande,

servite cum cantico.

Be gladde, lordes, bothe more and lasse,

For this hath ordeyned owr stewarde,

T o chere you all this Christmasse,

The bores heed with mustarde.

Bringing in the Boar's Head image, copyright free.

XIX. [The following modernised form of the foregoing carol, is given by Dr. Dibdin, as preserved and used up to a very recent period at Queen’s College, Oxford. Dibdin’s Ames, vol. ii. p. 252.]

THE boar’s head in hand bear I,

Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary;

And I pray you, my masters, be merry,

Quot estis in convivio.

Caput Apri defero,

Reddens laudes Domino.

The boar’s head, as I understand,

Is the rarest dish in all this land,

Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland,

Let us servire cantico.

Caput Apri dlfero,

Reddens laudes Domino.

Our steward hath provided this

In honour of the king of bliss;

Which on this day to be served is

In Reginemn’ Atria.

Caput Apri defero,

Reddens laudcs Domino.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: