Sir Walter Scott’s “Marmion” – Christmas in Merrie Olde England!

The Boar's Head on the groaning board

Marmion

~ by Sir Walter Scott (1808)

Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone:
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While Scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death to tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry makers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.

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Merry Christmas from The Renaissance | YouTube

Source: Merry Christmas from The Renaissance – YouTube

And from an earlier tradition – Christmas carols, songs, and motets from the Renaissance.

Carols From King’s – The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge (Full Album) | YouTube

Source: Carols From King’s – The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge (Full Album) – YouTube

Carols of the Christmas season, from the classic English choral tradition.

Christmastide begins!

12daysofchristmas

And let us not forget, dear friends, that this is but the first of Twelve Days of Christmas: today is Christmas Day, but that is only the first day of Christmastide, which extends from today all the way through Twelfth Night – January 5th, the Eve of Epiphany!

Royal College of Music Chamber Choir – Good Christian Men, Rejoice | YouTube

Soure: Royal College of Music Chamber Choir ~ Good Christian Men, Rejoice – YouTube

Good morrow, all, and Merry Christmas! And to my Christian friends, Gloria in excelsis Deo! Our Saviour is born! Wishing you a joyful, holy, and blessed Feast of the Nativity!

Good Christian men, rejoice!
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before him bow,
And he is in the manger now.
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Or, in the words of the ancient Christmas antiphon on the Magnificat:

This day the Christ is born. This day the Savior is appeared. This day the angels sing praise in the earth and the Archangels rejoice. This day the righteous are glad and say: Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia, alleulia.

Feast of the Nativity - icon