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Lyr Req: Sans Day Carol / The Holly Bears a Berry

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


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: The Holly and the Ivy (48)
Lyr Req: A different Holly and Ivy? / Nay Ivy Nay (18)
The Holly & the Ivy (Wren's Heart) (15)
(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)


billssss@gnn.com (Bill Schilling) 07 Dec 96 - 03:13 AM
Martin Ryan 17 Dec 96 - 12:36 PM
Martin Ryan 18 Dec 96 - 04:36 AM
ssssbill@aol.com Bill Schilling 18 Dec 96 - 01:00 PM
dick greenhaus 18 Dec 96 - 09:17 PM
Keith A of Hertford 15 Sep 08 - 09:35 AM
Keith A of Hertford 15 Sep 08 - 09:38 AM
Les in Chorlton 15 Sep 08 - 09:55 AM
masato sakurai 15 Sep 08 - 09:57 AM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Sep 08 - 10:51 AM
JeffB 15 Sep 08 - 07:33 PM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Sep 08 - 08:05 PM
Les in Chorlton 16 Sep 08 - 03:45 AM
Les in Chorlton 16 Sep 08 - 03:45 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Sep 08 - 04:22 AM
Liz the Squeak 16 Sep 08 - 04:27 AM
JeffB 16 Sep 08 - 04:27 AM
Keith A of Hertford 16 Sep 08 - 04:34 AM
JeffB 16 Sep 08 - 06:22 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Sep 08 - 10:11 PM
Jack Blandiver 17 Sep 08 - 04:27 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 17 Sep 08 - 07:26 AM
GUEST,LTS pretending to work 17 Sep 08 - 07:54 AM
JeffB 17 Sep 08 - 01:26 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Sep 08 - 02:45 PM
JeffB 17 Sep 08 - 03:50 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Sep 08 - 08:56 PM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 18 Sep 08 - 07:43 AM
Steve Gardham 18 Sep 08 - 01:29 PM
Liz the Squeak 19 Sep 08 - 12:17 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Sep 08 - 05:49 PM
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Subject: Lyrics for Sans Day Carol
From: billssss@gnn.com (Bill Schilling)
Date: 07 Dec 96 - 03:13 AM

Howdy,

A friend has asked me about lyrics for Sans Day Carol which she is playing on dulcimer. I know nothing about it (including any lyrics, Dick), but she says it may be Cornish. As usual, any help will be appreciated.

Allinkausay,

Bill


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Subject: Lyr Add: SANS DAY CAROL / HOLLY BEARS A BERRY
From: Martin Ryan
Date: 17 Dec 96 - 12:36 PM

SANS DAY CAROL (HOLLY BEARS A BERRY)

Now the holly she bears berry as white as the milk.
And Mary she bore Jesus all wrapped up in silk.

CHORUS: And Mary she bore Jesus Our Saviour for to be
And the first tree that's in the greenwood it was the holly,
Holly, Holly,
And the first tree that's in the greenwood it was the holly.

Now the holly she bears berry as black as the coal.
And Mary she bore Jesus who died for us all. CHORUS

Now the holly she bears berry as green as the grass.
And Mary she bore Jesus who died on the cross. CHORUS

Now the holly she bears berry as blood it is red.
And Mary she bore Jesus who rose from the dead. CHORUS

Above is as sung by the Watersons many years ago on "Frost and Fire"

Happy Christmas!


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Subject: RE: Lyrics for Sans Day Carol
From: Martin Ryan
Date: 18 Dec 96 - 04:36 AM

The Oxford Book of Carols says that the name comes from a cornish village. While originally collected in English, a cornish version was also known, of which the last verse given above is a translation.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics for Sans Day Carol
From: ssssbill@aol.com Bill Schilling
Date: 18 Dec 96 - 01:00 PM

Howdy Martin,

Thanks for the info on the Sans Day Carol. I have just included The Holly Bears a Berry in a Public Domain Songbook -- Christmas Volume, but I had no idea that it also went by that name. Neither had I had the friend who asked about it play it to recognize it. Thanks for your help!

Allinkausay, Bill


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Subject: RE: Lyrics for Sans Day Carol
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Dec 96 - 09:17 PM

Thanx for the notes, Martin. dick


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Subject: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 09:35 AM

Early, but this was sung at a little concert on Saturday.
The thing is, holly berries are not all those colours.
But, the flower is white, the leaf green and the bark, well dark anyway.
The song was originally in Cornish.
Can anyone go back to the original and check?


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 09:38 AM

@displaysong.cfm?SongID=6457


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 09:55 AM

I seem to remember it appearing in Singout a long time ago


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: masato sakurai
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 09:57 AM

See also SANS DAY CAROL at The Hymns and Carols of Christmas site.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 10:51 AM

It wasn't originally in Cornish, though it has been translated into that language. See also

Sans Day Carol (in Cornish) (2000)

and various other discussions here touching on holly and ivy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: JeffB
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 07:33 PM

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.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 08:05 PM

The additional verse is a translation into English from Tyrvab's 20th century translation into Cornish; there is no apparent evidence that it was originally in Cornish, though some people have assumed that that is what the imprecisely-worded OBC note meant.

I have seen green, red and black holly berries (on the same tree, as it happens, though at different times of the year); I can't remember if there were ever any white ones, but it's imagery and not necessarily to be taken literally. Nothing to worry about.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 03:45 AM

As white as the silk
All wrapped up in silk?


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 03:45 AM

Sorry:

As white as the milk
All wrapped up in silk?


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 04:22 AM

Any countrymen out there? I always thought it was because the holly flower is white, which then becomes the berry - green at first (one would imagine, though I can't verify this), red in life, and black in death... Hmmmm - needs must I keep a closer eye on such things with regard to the seasonal cycles of holly trees and folk songs; I know it's certainly true of hawthorn anyway. Sticking to the midwinter evergreen theme - ivy berries are black, and mistletoe berries are white, but I'm surprised that the blood it is red verse is a later addition from the Cornish translation - one would have thought that was the obvious one!


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 04:27 AM

"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?" - As the product of many generations of sensible countrymen and former owner of holly bushes, I'd trust him a lot more than some City bloke who doesn't see holly anywhere else but on the front door between Dec 24th and Jan 5th (or in this day and age, Oct 28th - Dec 26th).

Holly berries:

White as the milk when they are blossom. OK, not strictly a berry but it becomes one and some poetic licence must be allowed.

Green as the grass when newly formed and not ripe (like most berries actually....)

Red as the blood when fully ripe - although there are varieties now that have orange berries.

Black as the coal when old and dried up... those little black balls that you find under the piano in July and you think are currants? If you had holly in the room at Christmas, then it's a holly berry. Don't let the cat eat them.

It's heard a lot in carol concerts by church choirs too... there have been some very good arrangements of it by David Willcocks and (may I wash my mouth out with soapy water for saying this....) John Rutter.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: JeffB
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 04:27 AM

Les: The OBC has "... And Mary bore Jesus who was wrapped up in silk."

Malcolm : I can't see the imprecision in the OBC note. Mr Beard sang three verses in English. Later a four-verse version was published in Cornish. The fourth verse was translated into English and added to the form in which the carol appears in the OBC.

You're saying that someone called Tyrvab translated the fourth verse (of the standard Holly and the Ivy carol? i.e. the one with different colours for different parts of the tree) from English to Cornish, which was then re-translated back into English?

However, it matters little. I for one would not argue with an English source for it. The earliest date, according to the OBC note to "The Holly and the Ivy", is an 18th C broadside.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 04:34 AM

I had considered that explanation Insane Beard , but it does stretch the imagination to regard the flower as an immature berry.
Thanks for the background Jeff and Malcome, and for the interest Les.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: JeffB
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 06:22 PM

'Ere young Liz, whut makes yew fink that Oi be zum koind o city bloke. Plenny o noice cunnrysoide where Oi be to, down ere in Zummerset.

Actually, you're quite right, or rather about three-quarters right, about holly berries, and as far as I'm concerned you can have as much licence as you want.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 10:11 PM

Ilex crenata, from Japan, China, Korea, etc., has varieties with black berries. Other varieties of crenata have yellow berries, and some have yellow leaves. The species Ilex glabra also has black berries.
Both have been cultivated in English gardens since at least the 18th century. See Sanders and other books on cultivated plants. Popular because the size is only 5-10 feet.

The composer of the carol may have had gardening friends who had specimens of these oriental species, which would grow well in Cornwall.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 04:27 AM

Between my own speculations and LTS's more sure-footed wisdom, one might equate the blossom with birth, the red with resurrection and the black with death. I don't think it's stretching it call the flower a berry, though in future renderings I might sing the holly bears a blossom. Q's historical botanism in interesting too, although in my heart the resonances are with native species growing wild or else in hedgerows; and the female of that native species indeed, despite the masculine role the holly plays in certain modern-day pagan symbolism - and I'm not even going to look at my copy of The White Goddess. In the other holly carol it is the whiteness of the flower - along with the redness of the berry, the sharpness of the prickle, the bitterness of the bark - so maybe something's got mixed up somewhere along the way. Us lot most likely, assuming folk songs should be botanically correct...


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 07:26 AM

I note that the sans day carol only refers to berries whereas the Holly and the Ivy refers to blossom, prickles and bark.

Blossom white as silk.

Prickle sharp as any thorn.

Bark bitter as any gaul.

Mix and match to create your own version?


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: GUEST,LTS pretending to work
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 07:54 AM

Gaul? Is that the French version? How galling!

LTS (ducking and running for cover)


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: JeffB
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 01:26 PM

OK guys, I'm holding my hands up. I surrender. Holly berries come in different colours. Well, how was I to know. Asda only sells red ones; I expect there's an EU directive about it ( "Acceptable pigmentation of ilex species and associated seasonal fruiting bodies ...")

IB's comment struck a big chord with me. I read "The White Goddess" with great interest and enjoyment some years ago, and ever since I've been looking for some of the metaphors which Graves described. Occasionally I've found them in folk song and story (and that could be a fun thread), but I missed the white/red/black sequence in this carol. In Graves' interpretion of European mythology it is the classic triad of colours symbolising virginity, motherhood, and death. No doubt the green verse threw me off the scent. So, IB, thanks for that. Nice one.

Which version of this carol came first - all berry verses or different tree parts - must be anyone's guess. I don't have a copy of the 18th C broadside I mentioned above, and in any case that wouldn't necessarily prove anything. I just wish this carol got SUNG more often. To the Sans Day tune I mean, or the the other "folkie" HollynIvy tune.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 02:45 PM

Any indication of Sans Day carol before the late 19th c.? Or it only known from a single collection?


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: JeffB
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 03:50 PM

Q, I'm sorry to say that the only reference I have is the Oxford Book of Carols, which doesn't say when Mr Beard sang the carol to Watson, or when the Rev made the second transcription. Neither does it say how it came to the attention of the editors of the OBC, one of whom was Ralph Vaughan Williams.

If any the RVW Memorial Library at C# House holds any of his personal papers the answer might lie there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 08:56 PM

If you look again at the other discussion I linked to earlier, you'll see that W D Watson, who heard the song from Thomas Beard and passed it on to the Rev G H Doble, was the very same person who translated Mr Beard's verses into Cornish, and added another for good measure.

He adopted his Bardic name, Tyrvab ('Son of the Soil'; he was head gardener for the Corporation at Penzance), on his initiation into the Gorsedd in 1928; Doble was initiated at the same time, as 'Gwas Gwendron'.

The OBC doesn't make the connection and, since the editors refer merely to 'a version in Cornish ... with a fourth stanza', it isn't surprising that many people (Keith, for instance, at the beginning of this thread) have assumed that the original song must have been in Cornish. That is why I described the OBC note as imprecisely-worded. The editors do say that they 'owe the carol to the kindness of the Rev G H Doble', so presumably he provided them with it. There appears to be no record of when Mr Beard sang it, but some time during the 1920s would probably not be too far off the mark.

So far as the reputed C18 broadside of 'The Holly and the Ivy' is concerned, that is quoted in Sylvester's 'Garland of Christmas Carols' (1861), which can be seen at the Internet Archive: http://www.archive.org/stream/garlandofchristm00hottrich

It varies hardly at all from C19 broadsides, several of which can be seen at the Bodleian website.


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 07:43 AM

John Kirkpatrick once claimed that "The Ivy and the Holly" (different song) was sung at Boudicea's wedding.

I think he was making that up, but who knows:)


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 01:29 PM

He should know, he was there!


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 19 Sep 08 - 12:17 PM

The Ivy and the Holly is the Kipper family version!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Origins: St Day Carol
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Sep 08 - 05:49 PM

Has anyone written a nettles and poison ivy version yet?


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