Monday 6 January 2014

Christmas bids farewell

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

If you, like me, are taking down the Christmas decorations today, here's a carol to cheer you on your way. Technically it belongs to the end of the medieval Christmas season, Candlemas (February 2), but by that time Christmas will feel a very long time ago, so I hope you'll forgive me posting it today!

Now have good day, now have good day!
I am Christmas, and now I go my way.

Here have I dwelt with more and less [i.e. everyone]
From Hallowtide till Candlemas,
And now must I from you hence pass;
Now have good day!

I take my leave of king and knight,
And earl, baron, and lady bright;
To wilderness I must me dight; [I must prepare myself to go into the wilderness]
Now have good day!

And of the good lord of this hall
I take my leave, and of guests all;
Methink I hear Lent doth call;
Now have good day!

And from every worthy officer,
Marshall, panetere and butler,
I take my leave as for this year;
Now have good day!

Another year I trust I shall
Make merry in this hall,
If rest and peace in England may fall;
Now have good day!

But oftentimes I have heard say
That he is loath to part away
Who often biddeth 'Have good day!'
Now have good day!

Now fare ye well, all in fere; [together]
Now fare ye well for all this year;
Yet for my sake make ye good cheer;
Now have good day!

This carol comes from a sixteenth-century manuscript, Balliol MS. 354, which you can see here. It forms a nice counterpart to both 'Farewell Advent, Christmas is come!' and 'Good day, Sir Christmas'; having welcomed Christmas, we must now bid him farewell. Unlike the friars' 'Farewell, Advent', however, it imagines a Christmas in an aristocratic hall, with the lord and his guests and servants. The fourth verse takes particular notice of these 'officers', who had doubtless been working especially hard over the Christmas season: a marshall is the person in charge of seating guests in the hall, etc.; a panetere is the one in charge of the pantry; and the butler the one in charge of the drink!

This is the text in Richard Greene, A Selection of English Carols (Oxford, 1962), pp. 96-7.

Now have gud day, now have gud day!
I am Crystmas, and now I go my way.

Here have I dwellyd with more and lasse
From Halowtyde till Candylmas,
And now must I from you hens passe;
Now have gud day!

I take my leve of kyng and knyght,
And erle, baron and lady bryght;
To wildernes I must me dyght;
Now have gud day!

And at the gud lord of this hall
I take my leve, and of gestes all;
Me thynke I here, Lent doth call;
Now have gud day!

And at every worthy offycer,
Merchall, panter and butler,
I take my leve as for this yere;
Now have gud day!

Anoder yere I trust I shall
Make mery in thys hall,
Yf rest and pease in Ynglond may fall;
Now have gud day!

But oftyntymes I have hard say
That he is loth to pert away
That oftyn byddyth 'Have gud day!'
Now have gud day!

Now fare ye well, all in fere;
Now fare ye well for all this yere;
Yet for my sake make ye gud cher;
Now have gud day!


Anonymous said...

This is so vivid it feels like part of a play!

How late was it common to use a 'Hallow-' form to refer to 'the Holy Day in question', and how common was a combination with '-tide'? Presumably the 'Hallow-' here is Christmas (Day), but what is the scope of the '-tide'? The Twelve Days? (No access to an OED: my apologies for all the questions!)

An Old Mertonian

Clerk of Oxford said...

Having consulted the OED, I think here it refers to the season of All Saints, short for 'All Hallowtide' (which the OED says is 'the first week in November). I'm not quite sure why that should be considered the start of the Christmas season!

Anonymous said...

Thank you: fascinating! Francis Marshman's "Advent" article (1907) in the old Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "A synod held (581) at Mâcon, in Gaul, by its ninth canon orders that from the eleventh of November to the Nativity the Sacrifice be offered according to the Lenten rite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week."
And, "Several synods had made laws about fasting to be observed during this time, some beginning with the eleventh of November, others the fifteenth, and others as early as the autumnal equinox."

But that sounds a lot more like the "Farewell, Advent" carol.

On the other hand, Bernard and Picart's Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World (1723-1743) report a Dutch Three Kings' play involving trooping around with an illuminated star on a pole, singing, as usually starting from mid-November and going on till Epiphany.

Might there have been, in between, in England, a bewildering variety of ways of 'keeping Advent'?

An Old Mertonian

Clerk of Oxford said...

It does sound like it! Perhaps, as with the dates of New Year, practices simply varied. I do know that in Benedictine practice 1 November was considered to be the beginning of winter (for the purposes of the daily schedule) so that may have had some influence, too.

Heliopause said...

This one is fascinating! (It's Father Christmas! :D ) As are your comments and notes about the length of the season.

Is it Lent-as-forty-days-Lent he hears call, or Lent-as-Spring? Is there anything extra known about his going to the wilderness? (The distant north, maybe? Or a reference to Jesus' forty days in the wilderness? Or just simply away from where humanity is?)

I love the joke in the second-last verse! And wonder about the chanciness implicit in the "if" in the verse preceding.

A real sparker of ideas and questions, and delight! Thank you.:)

Clerk of Oxford said...

It's such a clever poem, isn't it? The Lent-as-spring idea actually hadn't occurred to me but that does make sense - especially since even at Candlemas Lent is often still some weeks away, but spring is usually beginning to arrive around that time. Unless the 'wilderness' is also meant to be a reference to Lent, but I think that might be more just 'away from humanity', as the exile presumably lasts all year - until next Christmas, that is!

Fiordelisa said...

No, no, even though 'tis Candlemas, I still cannot take down my tree this year. :-) Beautiful Kate Rusby song. Thank you for your lovely, lovely site.