Friday, 23 December 2011

'Farewell, Advent, Christmas is come!'

BL Royal 2 B VIII f.88v, England, 15th century

This tongue-in-cheek carol for the end of Advent was written at the end of the fifteenth century, when Advent was a season of fasting almost as strict as Lent. It comes from the carol collection of James Ryman, a Franciscan friar who lived in Canterbury, and Ryman himself may be the author; on his authorship of this carol, the eminent carolologist Richard Greene commented in his 1962 A Selection of English Carols: "One is inclined to doubt that this carol is of Ryman's own composition, in view of the more patent piety of the rest of his work, but perhaps it is unjust to deny him the possibility of some lighter moments". That made me laugh.

The best translation of 'all and some' in the refrain here is 'one and all', i.e. everyone; since I posted this carol which also features it, I've learned that a phrase like this is called a merism. I was pretty pleased to learn that and now I have a chance to share it...

This is in modern spelling, because the vocabulary is fairly simple; the original can be found here.

Farewell, Advent, Christmas is come!
Farewell from us both all and some!

1. With patience thou hast us fed,
And made us go hungry to bed;
For lack of meat we were nigh dead;
Farewell from us both all and some!

2. While thou hast been within our house,
We ate no pudding nor no souse, [pickled pork]
But stinking fish not worth a louse -
Farewell from us both all and some!

3. There was no fresh fish, far or near,
Salt fish and salmon was too dear;
And thus we have had heavy cheer;
Farewell from us both all and some!

4. Thou hast us fed with plaices thin,
Nothing on them but bone and skin;
Therefore our love thou shalt not win;
Farewell from us both all and some!

5. With mussels gaping at the moon
Thou hast us fed at night and noon -
Just once a week, and that too soon!
Farewell from us both all and some!

6. Our bread was brown, our ale was thin,
Our bread was musty in the bin,
Our ale sour before we did begin
Farewell from us both all and some!

7. Thou art of great ingratitude
Good meat from us for to exclude:
Thou art not kind, but very rude -
Farewell from us both all and some!

8. Thou dwellest with us against our will,
And yet thou givest us not our fill,
For lack of meat thou wouldest us spill [want to destroy us]
Farewell from us both all and some!

9. Above all things, thou art so mean
To make our cheeks both bare and lean.
I wish you were at Boughton Blean!
Farewell from us both all and some!

10. Come thou no more, here nor in Kent,
For if thou do, thou shalt be shent; [ruined]
It is enough to fast in Lent;
Farewell from us both all and some!

11. Thou mayest not dwell with none estate,
Therefore with us thou playest checkmate;
Go hence, or we will break thy pate!
Farewell from us both all and some!

12. Thou mayest not dwell with knight or squire,
For them thou mayest lie in the mire;
They love not thee, nor Lent, thy sire,
Farewell from us both all and some!

13. Thou mayest not dwell with labouring man,
For on thy fare no work he can,
For he must eat both now and then,
Farewell from us both all and some!

14. Though thou shalt dwell with monk and friar,
Canon and nuns once every year,
Yet thou shouldest make us better cheer,
Farewell from us both all and some!

15. This time of Christ's feast natal,
We will be merry, great and small,
And thou shalt go out of this hall;
Farewell from us both all and some!

16. Advent is gone, Christmas is come;
Be we merry now, all and some!
He is not wise that will be dumb
In ortu Regis omnium. [At the coming of the King of all things]

Ryman's connections with Canterbury help to explain the references in verses 9 and 10 - Boughton-under-Blean is a little village just outside Canterbury, and since it was on the pilgrim road from London to Canterbury, it gets a mention in the Canterbury Tales. There was a leper hospital there "which would have been an appropriate haven for such a meagre figure as Advent", or so says Richard Greene. As for "here nor in Kent", there was apparently a proverbial expression, "neither in Kent nor Christendom", i.e. 'nowhere'; the phrase appears in Spenser's Shepheardes Calendar. I'm in Kent at the moment, and can testify that Christmas will, indeed, be more welcome here than Advent!

2 comments:

Alice Medcof said...

for this genre of poetry, i am a novice. The selections make me eager to read more.

Edward Nightingale said...

Never mind merisms; carolologist has twisted my tongue!

I like the idea of an otherwise sober man having jolly moments, and thus leaping out of his pigeon-hole. Thank you for sharing your learning and insights, and I hope that the coming year is less stressful.

Happy Christmas!

Edward Nightingale