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Origins: The Holly and the Ivy

DigiTrad:
THE HOLLY AND THE IVY
THE HOLLY BEARS A BERRY (SANS DAY CAROL)


Related threads:
Lyr Req: A different Holly and Ivy? / Nay Ivy Nay (18)
The Holly & the Ivy (Wren's Heart) (15)
Lyr Req: Sans Day Carol / The Holly Bears a Berry (31)
(origins) Origin: The 'Holly and Ivy' Girl (John Keegan) (8)
(origins) Origins: Holly and the Ivy (48)
Lyr Req: Sans Day Carol (in Cornish) (9)


Caitrin 28 Nov 99 - 08:37 PM
Murray on Saltspring 28 Nov 99 - 09:09 PM
Leslie 28 Nov 99 - 09:17 PM
Caitrin 29 Nov 99 - 10:19 PM
katlaughing 30 Nov 99 - 01:03 AM
Liz the Squeak 30 Nov 99 - 09:48 AM
Liz the Squeak 30 Nov 99 - 09:49 AM
MMario 30 Nov 99 - 09:23 PM
Bruce O. 30 Nov 99 - 10:24 PM
katlaughing 30 Nov 99 - 10:29 PM
sophocleese 30 Nov 99 - 10:42 PM
Bruce O. 30 Nov 99 - 11:14 PM
katlaughing 01 Dec 99 - 12:35 AM
Sian 01 Dec 99 - 07:10 AM
Jo Taylor 02 Dec 99 - 07:58 PM
Jon Freeman 02 Dec 99 - 08:15 PM
Mari-rose 03 Dec 99 - 06:53 AM
GUEST,A needy Student 01 Dec 04 - 09:27 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Dec 04 - 11:01 PM
GUEST,Blackcatter 01 Dec 04 - 11:29 PM
GUEST 02 Dec 04 - 07:37 AM
Chris Amos 03 Dec 04 - 12:09 PM
Artful Codger 21 Nov 09 - 08:43 AM
WalkaboutsVerse 21 Nov 09 - 09:24 AM
GUEST,Ed 21 Nov 09 - 09:26 AM
Jack Blandiver 21 Nov 09 - 05:02 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Nov 09 - 05:14 PM
Artful Codger 04 Dec 09 - 10:06 PM
Ruth Archer 05 Dec 09 - 05:05 AM
Tootler 05 Dec 09 - 03:10 PM
GUEST,carolb 17 Dec 11 - 04:23 PM
Tradsinger 18 Dec 11 - 03:59 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 18 Dec 11 - 05:33 AM
GUEST,Jared M. 20 Oct 12 - 08:16 AM
Artful Codger 21 Oct 12 - 12:17 AM
Artful Codger 21 Oct 12 - 12:25 AM
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Subject: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Caitrin
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 08:37 PM

I understand the significance of the Holly in this song. What I was wondering about is the Ivy. Does anyone know how it figures in?


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Murray on Saltspring
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 09:09 PM

In some English Shrovetide dances, a couple were featured: a Holly Boy and an Ivy Girl. The holly represents the male principle, the ivy the female. In China, I'm told, it's associated with the mother goddess. On the other hand, Fun & Wagnalls Dict. of Folklore tells me that "in Christian lore, its evergreen quality symbolizes the immortality of the soul". In the carol, therefore, I'd say they have a sort of phallic significance. Remember that in mediaeval times the old beliefs were still rather strong, and Mother Church hadn't entirely purified (or emasculated) ancient pagan beliefs.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Leslie
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 09:17 PM

You will never convince me that the last lines of this song were not changed by 'the church' It is a beautifully 'old faith' song. "of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. (Does the term 'Holly King' come to mind? The rising of the sun,the running of the deer -- then the playing of the merry organ and singing in the choir? (In my questionable opinion, this last doesn't fit with the entire rest of the song). Anyone know of a way to research REALLY OLD music? As reference to the mother Goddess, one doesn't really have to go as far as China.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Caitrin
Date: 29 Nov 99 - 10:19 PM

This is very interesting...I didn't even realize the song was that old. I've always heard it with a Christian reference point, so I didn't realize it even had any relation to the Old Faith. Cool.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 01:03 AM

From my family's old The Christmas Carolers' Book in Story & Song by Torsten O. Kvamme, now out of print:

The Holly and the Ivy:

The beauties of Nature have always won the deep admiration of mankind and it was natural for pagan humanity to worship nature. Accordingly, we find many early carols about birds, flowers, and trees. In some of these we find the masculine (holly) and the feminine(ivy) elements symbolized. Originally some of these pagan carols were sung as a dance between the young men and the maidens-the men representing the holly and the maidens the ivy.

An amusing story concerning the rivalry of the sexes, as represented by the holly and ivy, is of an English knight who invited his tenants and their wives to dine with him at Christmas. When the food was on the table, the knight commanded that no man should eat until he who was master of his wife had sung a carol. After some hesitation, one of the men present arose and rather timidly sang a short carol. Then the command was given to the women's table that no woman should eat until she who was the master of her husband had sung a carol. "Whereupon," we are told, "they fell all to such a singing that there was never heard such a caterwauling piece of music, whereat the knight laughed heartily."

This carol, The Holly and the Ivy, has a curious blending of nature worship and Christianity. It is set to an old French carol-tune first published in England, in Sylvester's "Christmas Carols", 1861.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 09:48 AM

Ivy has always been feminine, which is why the mostly male orientated church conveniently forgot it. Also, it has black berries, no thorns and a nasty strangling habit, none of which could be moulded to a Christian analogy. In the language of flowers, Ivy stands for faithfulness.

LTS


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 09:49 AM

Ivy has always been feminine, which is why the mostly male orientated church conveniently forgot it. Also, it has black berries, no thorns and a nasty strangling habit, none of which could be moulded to a Christian analogy. In the language of flowers, Ivy stands for faithfulness.

LTS


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: MMario
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 09:23 PM

On the other hand, ivy has been a traditional part of Christmas decorations for centuries. Quite possibly because it is (in some climates and depending on the species) evergreen. BTW - Many hollies also bear black berries and some white or yellow.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Bruce O.
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 10:24 PM

The song is in A Good Christmas Box, 1847. Husk in Songs of the Nativity, 1864, said he reprinted it from a broadside 'printed a century and a half since'. Broadside copies in Steve Roud's broadside index (Roud #514) seem to be considerably later than c 1715.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 10:29 PM

Thank you, Bruce, never did know just how accurate the old, well relatively, book was, although I did note that it said the tune was even older and French. Would you please let us know any background on just the tune?

Thanks, kat


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: sophocleese
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 10:42 PM

Which tune are we talking about. I've heard two different tunes to this. From the notes in The Oxford Book of Carols the one I know was 'taken from Mrs. Clayton at Chipping Campden, Glos. by Cecil Sharpe." But the other tune was lovely and in a minor mode I just can't find it again.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Bruce O.
Date: 30 Nov 99 - 11:14 PM

I don't have much history on the tunes. I have Cecil Sharp's, 1911 as in 'Oxford Book...'. There are two in JFSS 33 (1929), said to the of the "Chevy Chase" family, but actually of "The Children in the Wood" (Beggar's Opera). [They still thought that was "Chevy Chase" in 1929]


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Dec 99 - 12:35 AM

Well, I don't know how to notate it in here, but the one I have says an "Old French Melody Arr. by Gordon Campbell".

In 6/8 time, it starts out on D 8th note(below middle C); (bar) A-1/4; A-1/8; A-1/8; G-1/8; A-1/8 (bar); Bflat dotted 1/4(above middle C); A-1/4; D-1/8(below mid-C); (bar)all 1/8:EFGFEF; (bar)D1/4 dotted with slur to D 1/4, then onto to D 1/8.

Hope that is clearer than mud. If this keeps up I WILL have to learn ABC notation! I would be happy to fax or email this to anyone who might interested.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Sian
Date: 01 Dec 99 - 07:10 AM

I know at least 3 different tunes for The Holly and the Ivy, 2 of them are in A Cornish Book of Carols which I bought years ago in Perranporth (Cornwall) - don't know if it's still in print. Both lovely tunes. Can't remember if the Cornish words were included - but one has since been recorded in Welsh ...


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Jo Taylor
Date: 02 Dec 99 - 07:58 PM

These are the two I know - might not be very accurate, just scribbled them out:
Firstly the 'popular' one:
T:Holly&Ivy1
M:4/4
L:1/4
Q:100
K:G
GG/2G/2Ge|dBG/2G/2G/2G/2|Ged2|d/2c/2B/2A/2GB/2B/2|EDG/2A/2B/2c/2BA|G2

And secondly the 'folksingers' one, much, much nicer in my opinion:
T:Holly&Ivy2
M:6/8
L:1/8
Q:100
K:G
GA|BAGDGF|G3G2d|d2BGAB|(A3A2)d|d2BBAB|c2ccdc|BAGDGF|G4
Would be interested in the third one, Sian, can you put the abcs here please?
Jo


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Dec 99 - 08:15 PM

I'd also love to know what the 3rd tune is. I know the 2 tunes that Jo has given and I am another one who prefers the one in 6/8 time.

Jon


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Mari-rose
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 06:53 AM

I always understood the holly to be a plant metaphor for Jesus and the ivy is Mary--or their non-Christian equivalents. There is a similar song in Oxford Book of Carols called Furry Day Carol from Cornwall.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST,A needy Student
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 09:27 PM

If any1 can get the actual background, like a quick little brief on it, it would be GREATLY appretiated. You have no idea how hard it has been for me to find background on it. I need it for school, extra credit. We are playing it in concert band and it is extra credit if we can make a little paragraph about the song, and even more extra credit if we announce it on stage... so I chose 'The Holly and The Ivy" Because I play piccolo for it. I didn't know it was so old though. But the oldest song we're playing is 'A Child is Born' a 15th century English Carol, I bet it was originally called 'A Childe (old English is) Borne' ... I don't know... oh well. Help is appreticated!


~T~


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 11:01 PM

Guest Student, you have picked a tough one.
See posts by Bruce O(lson) from 1999, above. He was an expert song researcher.
So all we know is that it appeared in a book in 1847, and later a remark was made that it was in an old broadside from the 18th c (disputed by Olson).

The comments about an old French carol may be wrong. Musical settings today are 19th c although one or more have borrowed French melodies (see posts above).

See comments by Malcolm Douglas (another careful authority) in the other thread- 42010. He found a couple (and gave a link) in the Bodleian Collection that are early 19th c. Thread 42010: Holly and the Ivy

All the comments in various websites about a pagan origin are nonsense.
There are other 'holly' songs, mentioned in a footnote to the carol in "The Oxford Book of Carols," 1929, p. 81.

Some 19th century sheet music can be found here (scroll down below the song text): Holly and the Ivy


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST,Blackcatter
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 11:29 PM

Q is correct - probably unlikely that it is older than 18th Cent. Though, of course the traditions that it connects with can be partially Christian and Pagan. Chrisitanity adapted to the local folk traditions wherever it was introduced, made some of them its own, and attempted to forget other ones. Of course, not all were forgotten by the converted masses and some got passed down through story, lore, poetry and music.

Also, in sokme pagan traditions, there are two kings which rule the two seasons each year. The Holly King and the Oak King. There are parts of the British Isles where the Oak King is also known as the Ivy King. I don't know if this has anything to do with the song, but you never know.


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Subject: RE: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 07:37 AM

John Kirkpatrick does an intersting alternative version in which the Holly(male, earth, strength) and the Ivy (female, water, cunning) are contending for mastery. From the imagery and the nature of the battle the song is clearly a "battle of the sexes" and has a much more pagan origin. Unhappily if he has recorded it I can't find a copy. Even more unhappily I can only completely recall the refrain:

The Holly and the Ivy
they could not agree
of all the trees in forests
who should have the mastery


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Chris Amos
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 12:09 PM

I was clearing up a corner of the Amos estate the other week where we have a few trees, the ivy had completely run all over the apple tree, (and the back fence and washing line pole), but appeared to find it very difficult to gain a hold in the holly trees. I assume that this is to do with the density of the holy foliage but with a bit of imagination you could easily see them as being in conflict with each other, two monarchs in their own realms.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Nov 09 - 08:43 AM

I'm curious about the "folksinger" tune which Jo Taylor posted. I found a clip of it on YouTube--mislabeled "The Boar's Head Carol"--, sung by Herga folksingers. But in looking for alternative tunes to the relatively recent Sharp/Clayton one, I've only found printed music for the modal one supposedly of French origin. For instance, this page at the "Hymns and Carols of Christmas" site has multiple sheet music scans and a MIDI of the "French" one (and Sharp's).

Does anyone have information on the "folksinger" tune (6/8, major)? Was it perhaps lifted from another carol or song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 21 Nov 09 - 09:24 AM

They are both among the few native evergeens in England, of course, and, as such, were brought indoors long before the Christmas tree.

My recording of it is on myspace, by the way.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 21 Nov 09 - 09:26 AM

among the few native evergeens in England

Could you please define 'native' in this context, WAV?

Thanks,

Ed


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 21 Nov 09 - 05:02 PM

Check out my reconstructed / reinvented / folk processed / neo-paganised version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7Un87fiduI

Hey, just noticed - 5 stars from Dick Miles! Cheers, Dick - coming from you that means a lot, man!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Nov 09 - 05:14 PM

The broadside c. 1715 has not been re-found.
Two printings are in the Bodleian Collection, Douce adds 137(25) and Douce adds 137(63), resp. dated c. 1817-1827 and c. 1812-1830. The lyrics are the same as those in Bramley & Steiner, 1871, where a musical score is given (scans, "Hymns and Carols of Christmas," as noted by Artful Codger).

The version in these printings includes a verse 5, missing in the DT (following 'prickle'), and verse 1 line 2 follows Sharp ("Now both are full well grown," in the broadsides).


^^ 5
The Holly bears a bark,
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
For to redeem us all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Artful Codger
Date: 04 Dec 09 - 10:06 PM

Again, any info tracing the origin of the "folksinger" tune for this song? For instance, from whom did you first hear it, or where did you first encounter it?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 05:05 AM

First time I heard it was at the Blue Ball at Worrall, one of the Sheffield Carols pubs.

(Off to The Royal at Dungworth tommorrow! Hurrah!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Tootler
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 03:10 PM

I first heard it on a Magpie Lane Album "Wassail! A Country Christmas" which is dated 1995. I think I bought it back about then - I didn't realise I had had it for so long.

On their sleeve notes they say the tune was collected in Herefordshire.

On their recording, they start by playing the tune through on fiddle and Anglo Concertina and they give it a real bounce. Played that way makes it sound like a Morris Dance tune, especially at the tempo they play it, harking back to the dance origins of carols.

We prefer the "folksinger tune". Someone I know complained bitterly when we sung that tune. She reckoned that we shouldn't "mess about" with a "traditional" carol.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST,carolb
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 04:23 PM

I have heard a version where the chorus is .......The rounding of the shining moon
To light our weary way home
I need the verses ! Anyone know them ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Tradsinger
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 03:59 AM

The well-known tune was collected by Sharp from Mary Ann Clayton in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire on 13 Jan 1909 and published in 1911 in 'English Folk Carols'. This is an 'unusual' version, being in 3/4 time whereas most of the other collected versions are in 6/8. The tune which most people in the folk world sing seems to derive from the version collected by Maud Karpeles and Pat Shaw from Peter Jones of Bromsash, Herefordshire in 1952. The recording was issued on the LP Caedmon TC 1224 / Topic 12T 197 ('Songs of Christmas' / 'Songs of ceremony').

There's more information on the carol here. including another version from Gloucestershire.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 05:33 AM

For what it's worth, and for the sake of the season, a new version of my old pagan / steamfolk re-write, re-set to the tune of Searching for Lambs:

http://soundcloud.com/winterflora/the-holly-bears-the-crown-lnyd


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: GUEST,Jared M.
Date: 20 Oct 12 - 08:16 AM

I have an old carol book called "Sing For Christmas" by Opal Wheeler. For Holly and the Ivy they use a minor 6/8 tune.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Oct 12 - 12:17 AM

One of the three most common tunes for this song is in minor mode and in 6/8 time, of French origin; this is most likely the one you mean. A MIDI can be heard at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas site:
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/holly_and_the_ivy.htm

If it's not this tune, please send me a scan (codger at witloose com).


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Holly and the Ivy
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Oct 12 - 12:25 AM

By the way, does anyone happen to know which French carol uses this tune? I can find nothing in my notes on that matter, nor have I yet encountered it when browsing French collections.


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