Tuesday, 31 December 2013

'Make we merry as we may!'

Feasting in January (BL Royal 2 B VII, f. 71v)

A boisterous, rollicking medieval carol for the New Year.

Hey, ay, hey, ay,
Make we merry as we may!

Now is Yule come with gentyll cheer; [excellent fun]
In mirth and games he has no peer,
In every land where he comes near
Is mirth and games, I dare well say.

Now is come a messenger
Of your lord, Sir New Year,
Bids us all be merry here
And make us merry as we may.

Therefore every man that is here
Sing a carol in his manner;
If he knows none, we shall him lere [teach]
So that we be merry alway.

Whosoever makes heavy chere, [is solemn and mopey]
Were he never to me so dear,
In a ditch I would he were
To dry his clothes till it were day!

Mend the fire and make good cheer!
Fill the cup, Sir Butler!
Let every man drink to his fere! [companion]
Thus ends my carol: with care away!

Janus drinking, from a calendar for January (BL Yates Thompson 13, f. 1)

This carol comes from British Library Additional 14997, a manuscript which contains poems, charms and medical recipes in Welsh, English and Latin. This carol bears the very precise date '1500'; it's been set to music by John Rutter, and you can listen to his arrangement here. The unmodernised version is:

Hay, ay, hay, ay,
Make we mere as we may!

Now ys Yole comyn with gentyll chere;
Of merthe and gomyn he has no pere,
In euery londe where he comys nere
Is merthe and gomyn, I dar wel say.

Now ys comyn a messyngere
Of yore lorde, Ser Nu Yere,
Byddes us all be mere here
And make us mere as we may.

Therefore euery mon that ys here
Synge a caroll on hys manere;
Yf he con non we schall hym lere
So that we be mere allway.

Whosoeuer makes heve chere
Were he neuer to me dere,
In a dyche I wolde he were
To dry hys clothys tyll hyt were day!

Mende the fyre and make gud chere!
Fyll the cuppe, ser boteler!
Let euery mon drynke to hys fere!
Thys endes my carol with care away.

'Care away!' Good advice. As a more famous medieval carol enjoins, 'be merry and glad this good New Year'! (It's from this manuscript, and the unmodernised text can be found here.)

What cheer? Good cheer! Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year.


'Lift up your hearts and be glad
In Christ's birth,' the angel bade;
Say each to other, if any be sad:
What cheer? Good cheer! Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year.

Now the king of heaven his birth hath take,
Joy and mirth we ought to make.
Say each to other, for his sake:
What cheer? Good cheer! Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year.

I tell you all with heart so free,
Right welcome ye be to me.
Be glad and merry for charity.
What cheer? Good cheer! Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year.

The goodman of this place in fere [company]
You to be merry he prayeth you here;
And with good heart he doth to you say:
What cheer? Good cheer! Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year.


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