The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #271   Message #2441557
Posted By: JeffB
15-Sep-08 - 07:33 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Sans Day Carol / The Holly Bears a Berry
Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
Thanks for pointing out those rather strange words Keith. Like every else who "sort of knew" the Sans Day carol, I had assumed the published words were the same as "The Holly and the Ivy". Those multi-coloured berries are certainly an oddity.

In case you are interested, the editors of The Oxford Book of Carols noted (in 1928), "The Sans Day or St Day Carol was so named because the melody and the first three verses were taken down at St Day in the parish of Gwennap, Cornwall ... We owe the carol to the kindness of the Rev. G. H. Doble, to whom Mr W. D. Watson sang it after hearing an old man, Mr Thomas Beard, sing it at St Day. A version in Cornish was subsequently published( Ma gron war'n gelinen ) with a fourth stanza, [... a berry as blood is it red ...], here translated and added to Mr Beard's English version.

Personally, as it is The Holly and the Ivy sung to a third well-known tune, I would not lose any sleep in singing the usual HollynIvy words with the colours matched to sensible parts of the tree. You have to wonder, "You start with an old man whose memory might be unreliable, someone writes it down and learns it, then sings it to the vicar who also writes it down ... what are the chances of someone making a mistake somewhere? Can you imagine any sensible countryman of any time and place pretending that holly berries are any colour other than red?"

And as the 4th verse is a translation, I would not hesitate either in singing "... as blood it is red ...", which is much better English.

Why is it that of the three HollynIvy versions in this country, the best two are only known to a few folkies? Time we had a Campaign for Real Carols.