Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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Nativity, which was considered one of the greatest in the year, and some scattered specimens may probably yet be found. When the Anglo-Normans obtained the sway in this country, their priests introduced more pomp into the ceremonies of reli­gion, and equally encouraged church music. There are some Latin hymns, with music of the time of King Stephen, still existing in the British Museum.* In the 12th century, and probably sooner, the monks composed legends in verse of the lives of the saints, &c for the proper holidays; and at Christmas therefore religious pieces suited to the time were recited, accompanied with appropriate hymns or songs. Some of these spiritual songs came gradually to be introduced into private meet­ings, and others were composed for the same pur­pose of a lighter description. The theatrical exhi­bitions at this season of the year, also frequently contained songs incidental to the performances, which, as before stated, were at first subjects taken from the Scriptures. iasThe term carol appears originally to have sig-I nified songs intermingled with dancing, or a sort of i divertisement; and it is used in that sense in " Le j Roman de la Rose," and by Chaucer and other old j writers. It was afterwards applied to festive songs, and as these became most prevalent during Christ­mas, it has for a long time past designated (though not exclusively) those sung during that feast; but these should in strictness be distinguished from Christmas hymns, which are of a more solemn nature, although they are now generally con­founded together under the name of carols.
In one of the Coventry pageants, being that of the Shearmen and Tailors, towards the beginning
* Royal MSS. Caligula, A. xiv.

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