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Origins: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

DigiTrad:
GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN


Related thread:
Lyr/Chords Req: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (19)


Amy_Florence_Nthants 13 Apr 09 - 12:27 PM
RTim 13 Apr 09 - 01:33 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 09 - 02:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 09 - 03:54 PM
Newport Boy 13 Apr 09 - 03:55 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 09 - 04:06 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 09 - 04:10 PM
JohnInKansas 13 Apr 09 - 04:17 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 09 - 05:58 PM
Genie 14 Apr 09 - 10:14 AM
Steve Gardham 14 Apr 09 - 03:49 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Apr 09 - 03:50 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Apr 09 - 03:59 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Apr 09 - 04:36 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Apr 09 - 05:19 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Apr 09 - 05:54 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Apr 09 - 06:03 PM
Bill D 14 Apr 09 - 07:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Apr 09 - 08:41 PM
Bonecruncher 14 Apr 09 - 10:02 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Apr 09 - 11:44 PM
Newport Boy 15 Apr 09 - 01:38 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Apr 09 - 02:43 PM
mrmoe 15 Apr 09 - 02:57 PM
Genie 15 Apr 09 - 04:52 PM
Steve Gardham 15 Apr 09 - 05:01 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Apr 09 - 07:36 PM
Jim Dixon 12 May 09 - 08:45 AM
Joe_F 12 May 09 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,Gerry 12 May 09 - 08:13 PM
Genie 29 Jul 11 - 07:58 PM
michaelr 29 Jul 11 - 08:34 PM
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Subject: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Amy_Florence_Nthants
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 12:27 PM

Ok, slightly out of season here, but just wondering if anyone knew anything about the origins of 'God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' which hasn't been posted on wiki, such as any earlier collections or referances to the song.

Here is the wiki entry:

"Like so many early Christmas songs, this carol was written as a direct reaction to the music of the fifteenth century church," writes Ace Collins, in Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas. It was the most popular of the early carols, sung for centuries before being published in Britain in 1833, when it appeared in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys, though its incipit was in William Hone's "List of Christmas carols now annually printed" in Ancient Mysteries Described, 1823. The author is unknown"

If there is already an origins page that i have somehow missed then would it be possible for someone to send me the link?

Thank You


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: RTim
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 01:33 PM

I don't know when the carol was written
But I do know that the collector Dr. George Gardiner did collect two
versions of the tune from one man - Henry Blake of Bartley, Hampshire in
1909 - see Gardiner Collection H1198 and H1199 (I think)

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 02:58 PM

Like many Wikipedia articles, these are errors and omissions and documentation of remarks is mostly absent. This post also will have omissions; I am not a student of English carols.

Most of the following is quoted from James J. Fuld, "The Book of World-Famous Music":
The carol was first printed in the Roxburghe Collection, c. 1770. It has not been found with an earlier date.
More than one melody has been used, "the present melody is said to have been in a broadside printed by J & C. Evans, London, about 1796, but no copy of this broadside has been found."
"The earliest known printing of the present melody, and words, is in a satirical pamphlet, The Man in the Moon, by William Hone (London, 1820).
"The title has two separate meanings, depending on where there is a pause or comma. The word "rest" means "keep." One thought is, "God rest you, merry gentlemen"; the other, perhaps a solecism, is, "God rest you merry, gentlemen.""

The following from William Chappell, 1859, "Popular Music of the Olden Time, p. 752, vol. I (Dover reprint).
The first words in Hone:
God rest you, merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay;
Remember we were left alive
Upon last Christmas Day,
With both our lips at liberty,
To praise Lord C[astlereag]h
For his 'practical' comfort and joy,
etc.

Chappell also printed words and the current popular tune, "noted down by Dr. Rimbault." First verse:
God rest you merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay;
For Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
Was born on Christmas-day,
To save us all from Satan's pow'r,
When we were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and of joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and of joy.

2
In Bethlehem, in Jewry, this blessed babe was born,
And laid within a manger, upon this blessed morn;
etc.
This version is similar to the one in Sandys, 1833, which is printed in its entirety with music which now is seldom heard, in "The Oxford Book of Carols," 1928 and later printings, with the chorus:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day.
.

Chappell also prints the one from Sandys' Collection.
God bless you, merry gentlemen
etc.

"The Oxford Book of Carols" also prints Rimbault's version (No, 12) with the common tune, but the words differ somewhat from those printed in Chappell, ("Traditional, London," says the Oxford Book of Carols):

1
God rest you merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day,
To save poor souls from Satan's power
Which had long time gone astray,
And it's tidings of comfort and joy
2
From God that is our Father,
The blessed Angels came,
Unto some certain shepherds
With tidings of the same;
That there was born in Bethlehem,
The son of God by name.
And it's tidings of comfort and joy.
etc.

The lyrics printed in Wikipedia are one of the several variations sung.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 03:54 PM

An accessible source for several sets of sheet music, lyrics and comment is "Hymns and Carols of Christmas."

Hymns and Carols


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Newport Boy
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 03:55 PM

It's included in Ancient English Christmas Carols (1400-1700) by Edith Rickert, London 1910. Edith Rickert was Prof of English at University of Chicago.

The entry gives no date for the carol, marking it 'Traditional', so the pre-1700 date must be in doubt. I couldn't see any other note re its origins.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 04:06 PM

I left a character out of the link. If at first you don't ....

God rest you merry

Or go to the home page Hymns and Carols to get the various sections of this web site.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 04:10 PM

Well, the last one worked. Click on Table of Contents.

Newport Boy, nothing has been found before the c. 1770 date of Roxburghe Coll.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 04:17 PM

A clue might come from when the blessing "God Rest Ye Merry" was current? (And where and for how long?) Perhaps it still is used, but it's "unrecognized" in my parts.

I'm told that, spelled "correctly," the title is

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

and NOT

"God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen"

(as most commonly sung in the US at least.)

John


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 05:58 PM

Both punctuations and a third are found in print and sheet music; 19th c or earlier origins.
Two versions in "The Oxford Book of Carols;" version 11 "God rest you merry, Gentlemen," version 12, "God rest you merry gentlemen" with no punctuation; and "God rest you, merry gentlemen" in the earliest, Roxburghe Coll. and reprinted in Chappell, 1859, "Popular Music of the Olden Time."

God rest you, comma, has age on its side.

That "ye" business is modern choral practice but none of the old versions used it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Genie
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 10:14 AM

Still, if one understands the meaning of the greeting "rest you merry," then to me it makes more sense for the song title to be "God Rest You [Ye] Merry, Gentlemen" than "God Rest You [Ye], Merry Gentlemen" ("Let nothing you dismay ...").   The latter punctuation makes it sound like the only people we are wishing God to "rest" (or save) are the merry ones. If "God rest you merry" basically meant "May God grant you good cheer," that sentiment seems to fit with the rest of the carol.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 03:49 PM

Bruce Olson quotes a Bodleian ms c1650. Somebody please do a blue clicky to it for me. I'm surprised it hasn't cropped up here before. There are 8 stanzas in the Bodl version and it's on p318 of the website, first line 'Sit yow merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.'


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 03:50 PM

The Oxford Book of Carols points out that "'God rest you merry' means 'God keep you merry', but the comma after 'merry' is generally misplaced."

The earliest- God rest you, comma,- is a parody, so really doesn't count.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 03:59 PM

Steve, I'll look for that one and post it. That puts it on the upper side of that Hone parody.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 04:36 PM

Steve, thought I could find it, but I looked through sections of Olson's old web site, and couldn't find it. No page numbers, everything I found 19th c.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 05:19 PM

Okay I'll have a go.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 05:54 PM

Okay, it's a long url but here goes...

http://web.archive.org/web/20031229112047/users.erols.com/olson/SONGTXT1.HTM#DGBYFWL   and then scroll down a couple of songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 06:03 PM

Okay let's try again....

Click here then scroll down two songs.

Alternatively.....go to the site, scroll down the contents list.
Click on SCARCE SONG 1...Scroll down index and click on Digby's Farewell. This should take you about three quarters of the way down the page and scroll 2 songs further and you have it.

--------------------link fixed. Mudelf---------------------


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Bill D
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 07:00 PM

try this one

(In the Mudcat archive)


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 08:41 PM

Thanks Steve and Bill D. I hadn't looked in that particular file before. Some interesting songs!
(SONGTEXT.HTM)


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Bonecruncher
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 10:02 PM

God rest you merry, Gentlemen
Sleep easy in your beds.
The British independent bomb is flying overhead
To save us all from Russia when the rest of us are dead.
Oh tidings of comfort and joy!

Version from the early 1960's
Colyn.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 11:44 PM

Since a copy of Olson is archived at Mudcat, the early version of the song is available for them as wants it.
Here is the 1st verse, so that we can list another 'title'.

Sit yo w merry Gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ is borne
to save o r soules from Satan
When as we runne away
O tidings of comfort & joy.

Superscript letters in the Olson text are represented by separation in the two instances in that verse.

In Olson, Within SONGTEXT.HTM
Oxford Bodleian library MS Eng. poet. b.5; the manuscript c. 1650.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Newport Boy
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 01:38 PM

So, Edith Rickert was correct in including it in her 1400 - 1700 book?

Phil


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 02:43 PM

Rickert gave no evidence or citation. Was she depending on hearsay? Had she a reference to the 1650 MS at the Bodleian but didn't cite it?
Or was she including the 1700s and referring to the version in the Roxburghe Coll., c. 1770?

This out-of-print book is again available on a 'print-to-order' basis.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: mrmoe
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 02:57 PM

I think it's a parody of an Alan Sherman song about Harry Mendlebaum......


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Genie
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 04:52 PM

Yeah, I think it's something like "God Bless You [or was it Goddamn You?], Harry Mandlebaum ...?


Q, when you said that the Oxford Book of Carols notes that "'God rest you merry' means 'God keep you merry', but the comma after 'merry' is generally misplaced," I'd add "... or omitted."

As for the "ye" being substituted later for "you," it does seem fairly common for "ye" to be used in older (or 'traditional') Christmas carols, e.g., "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and It Came Upon A Midnight Clear." I mean, the King James version of the Bible is all full of "ye's," and many Christian hymns from the 17th, 18th and 19th C were written in that sort of language.
If GRYMG does date back to the 17th C, would it have been unusual for "Ye" to have been used?


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 05:01 PM

Q,
From whence cometh your c1770?
My copy of Rox Vol 7 p775 has the 4 Choice Carols of which GBYMG is the first. It is reprinted from the Rox Coll itself at III, 452 with a duplicate at BL 11621, 1. 2, fol. 13., neither with colophon so difficult to date precisely.

The description on p777 at the foot of the reprinted broadside runs thus..
'No Colophon. Three woodcuts: etc...., Roxb. has no colophon, but the second and third of these ditties were printed by J Millet in a volume of New Carols (Wood's No 40), in Black-letter, c1674, or earlier, and this is the probable date of the originals. Ours is a modern reprint in White-letter. It is a fairly trustworthy version.'

This seems to me to be implying that though their copy is a modern reprint, it is a reprint of a broadside of the late 17thc, or not!


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Apr 09 - 07:36 PM

A Black-letter of c. 1674 is cited, but apparently has not been found.
The c. 1770 date is approx. for the Roxburghe vol. 3. If Rickert was basing her 17th c. date on the desc. at the base of the broadside, it should be followed by a question mark.

In view of the c. 1650 MS text at the Bodleian and quoted in Olson, it is likely such a broadside could have existed, but it remains with a query since it has not been found.

Quibling? Perhaps.


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Subject: Lyr Add: GOD REST YOU MERRY, GENTLEMEN (1833)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:45 AM

Here's how it appears in Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern by William Sandys (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), page 102. Note there are several differences from how we sing it today. In particular, notice the second line of the refrain. It would be very awkward to fit that to the tune I know. Unfortunately, the book doesn't give a tune.

I have boldfaced the differences. For the verses that haven't been posted at Mudcat before, I use the version in the NetHymnal (formerly known as CyberHymnal) for comparison.


GOD REST YOU MERRY, GENTLEMEN.

1. God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray.
    O tidings of comfort and joy,
    For Jesus Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day.

2. In Bethlehem in Jury [=Jewry] this blessed babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessed morn;
The which his mother Mary nothing did take in scorn.
    O tidings, &c.

3. From God our Heavenly Father a blessed Angel came,
And unto certain Shepherds brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born The Son of God by name.
    O tidings, &c.

4. Fear not, then said the Angel, Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour of virtue, power, and might;
So frequently to vanquish all the friends of Satan quite.

    O tidings, &c.

5. The Shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a feeding in tempest, storm, and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway, this blessed babe to find.
    O tidings, &c.

6. But when to Bethlehem they came, whereas this infant lay,
They found him in a manger where oxen feed on hay,
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.
    O tidings, &c.

7. Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.
    O tidings, &c.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: Joe_F
Date: 12 May 09 - 05:49 PM

In early modern English (e.g., in the King James Bible), "ye" is nominative & "you" objective. Thus, it's "God rest you" but "O come, all ye faithful". So recently as the 19th century, Julia Ward Howe got that right: "As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal" (she was archaizing, of course).


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Subject: RE: Origins: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 12 May 09 - 08:13 PM

The Allan Sherman version goes,

God bless you, Jerry Mendelbaum
Let nothing you dismay
This May you had a rotten month
So what is there to say
Let's hope next May is better
And good things will come your way
And you won't have a feeling of dismay
Next May

It should be noted that the word "This" beginning line 3 is pronoounced "Dis."


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Subject: RE: Origins: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
From: Genie
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 07:58 PM

Well, it's in the DT as "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen."   

(Shameless plug alert!)

It will be on the new Mudcat "This Is Us" CD: "Until The Dark Season Ends," played and sung by our own Lonesome EJ.


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Subject: RE: Origins: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
From: michaelr
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 08:34 PM

Gee, I always thought it was "Get Dressed, Ye Merry Gentlemen!"


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