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ENGLISH SONG AND BALLAD MUSIC.
According to Wordsworth, the singing of carols also commenced in the North of England on Christmas Eve. In some lines addressed to his brother, the Rev. Dr. Wordsworth, he writes thus :— " The minstrels played their Christmas Or they are offered at the door
tune, That guards the lowliest of the poor.
To-nignt beneath my cottage eaves:......
Keen was the air, but could not freeze, ^ow touching, when at midnight sweep Nor check the music of their strings; Snow-muffled winds, and all is dark,
So Btout and hardy were the band £o hear—and sink agam to sleep !
That scraped the chords with strenuous ®r>?l an ea™er call> to maris,
hand, By blazing fire, the still suspense
Of self-complacent innocence. And who but listen'd ? till was paid •
Respect to every inmate's claim; The mutual nod—the grave disguise
The greeting given, the music played " i'8 gladness brimming o'er;
In honour of each household name, And some unbidden tears that rise
Dulv pronounced with lusty call, £or names once heard, and heard no more ;
And"' merry Christmas' wished to all!... ^ears brightened by the serenade
For infant in the cradle laid I For pleasure hath not ceased to wait Hail, ancient manners ! sure defence,
On these expected annual rounds, Where they survive, of wholesome laws,"
Whether the rich man's sumptuous gate &c
Call forth the unelaborate sounds,
The singing of religious carols is also heard in some of the midland counties, and, even in the streets of London, hoys go about on the morning of Christmas Day, singing and selling them. Hone gives a list of eighty-nine carols in use within the last few years, excluding the numerous compositions published by religious societies, under the name of carols.
The reader who seeks for information about carols, wassail songs, and other celebrations of Christmas, will find an ample fund of amusement and instruction in Christmas-tide, its History, Festivities, and Carols, by W. Sandys, F.S.A., and some further collections towards the history of carol-singing in the preface to A little book of Christmas Carols, by Edward F. Rimbault, LL.D.
To Mr. Sandys's Collection I am chiefly indebted for the following traditional tunes to religious carols:—
GOD BEST YOU, MERRY GENTLEMEN.
The words of this carol are in the Roxburghe Collection (iii. 452), together with three other "choice Carols for Christmas Holidays," for St. Stephen's St. John's, and Innocents' days. The tune was printed by Hone, in his Facetim, to a " political Christmas Carol," beginning— " God rest you, merry gentlemen, With both our lips at liberty,
Let nothing you dismay; To praise Lord C[astlereag]h
Remember we were left alive For his ' practical' comfort and joy," &c.
Upon last Christmas Day, I have seen no earlier copy of the tune than one in the handwriting of Dr. Nares, the cathedral composer, in which it is entitled " The old Christmas Carol;" but I have received many versions from different sources, for no carol seems to be more generally known.
In the Halliwell Collection of Broadsides, No. 263, Chetham Library, is "The overthrow of proud Holofernes, and the Triumph of virtuous Queen Judith; to the tune of Tidings of comfort and joy." As those words form the burden of " God rest you, merry gentlemen," the two are to the same air.