A Christmas Carol

Original Text: 
George Wither, Fair-virtue, the Mistresse of Philarete (London: G. Grismand, 1622). STC 25903.
1So now is come our joyful'st feast,
2Let every man be jolly.
3Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
4And every post with holly.
5    Though some churls at our mirth repine,
6    Round your foreheads garlands twine,
7    Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
8And let us all be merry.
9Now all our neighbors' chimneys smoke,
10And Christmas blocks are burning;
11Their ovens they with bak'd-meats choke,
12And all their spits are turning.
13    Without the door let sorrow lie,
14    And if for cold it hap to die,
15    We'll bury 't in a Christmas pie,
16And evermore be merry.
17Now every lad is wondrous trim,
18And no man minds his labor;
19Our lasses have provided them
20A bag-pipe and a tabor.
21    Young men and maids and girls and boys
22    Give life to one another's joys,
23    And you anon shall by their noise
24Perceive that they are merry.
25Rank misers now do sparing shun,
26Their hall of music soundeth,
27And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
28So all things there aboundeth.
29    The country folk themselves advance,
31    And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
32And all the town be merry.
33Ned Swash hath fetch'd his bands from pawn,
34And all his best apparel;
35Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
37    And those that hardly all the year
38    Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
39    Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
40And all the day be merry.
41Now poor men to the justices
42With capons make their arrants,
43And if they hap to fail of these
44They plague them with their warrants.
45    But now they feed them with good cheer,
46    And what they want they take in beer,
47    For Christmas comes but once a year,
48And then they shall be merry.
49Good farmers in the country nurse
50The poor, that else were undone.
51Some landlords spend their money worse,
52On lust and pride at London.
53    There the roisters they do play,
55    Which may be ours another day;
56And therefore let's be merry.
57The client now his suit forbears,
58The prisoner's heart is eased,
59The debtor drinks away his cares,
60And for the time is pleased.
61    Though others' purses be more fat,
62    Why should we pine or grieve at that?
64And therefore let's be merry.
65Hark how the wags abroad do call
66Each other forth to rambling;
67Anon you'll see them in the hall
68For nuts and apples scrambling.
69    Hark how the roofs with laughters sound!
70    Anon they'll think the house goes round,
71    For they the cellar's depth have found,
72And there they will be merry.
74About the streets are singing,
79    Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
80And here they will be merry.
81Now kings and queens poor sheepcotes have,
82And mate with everybody;
83The honest now may play the knave,
88Because they will be merry.
89Then wherefore in these merry days
90Should we, I pray, be duller?
91No, let us sing some roundelays
92To make our mirth the fuller.
93    And, whilst thus inspir'd we sing,
94    Let all the streets with echoes ring,
95    Woods and hills and everything,
96Bear witness we are merry.

Notes

30] crowdy-mutton: perhaps a fiddler. The `crowd' was an early form of fiddle, and `mutton' may be a term of contempt. Back to Line
36] from petty savings. Back to Line
54] drab: harlot. Back to Line
63] This refrain occurs in John Taylor's Christmas In and Out (1652). Back to Line
73] wassail bowls: bowls of spiced ale. Back to Line
75] alluding to a rural custom of hunting owls and squirrels of Christmas day. Back to Line
76] wild mare: see-saw. Back to Line
77] broke his box: opened his Christmas box. Back to Line
78] It was the common habit of the time to roast an ox whole for such feasts. Back to Line
84] noddy: a card game. Back to Line
85] a-mumming: merrymaking in disguise. Back to Line
86] rowlandhoe: a game now unknown. Back to Line
87] game boys: not recorded in the O.E.D. Hebel and Hudson (Poetry of the English Renaissance) suggest `gambols.' Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1622
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.300; RPO 1996-2000.