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December 11: Gloucestershire Wassail December 13, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Advent Calendar of Carols, Just for Fun, Music.
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I’ve been going to and hosting a lot of Christmas parties this past week, so I thought I’d post another party song. The “Gloucestershire Wassail” is by far my favorite traditional secular carol. Any time I turn it on it’s bound to bring a smile to my face…it so perfectly conjures up the image of a Christmas party with lots of great food, drink and good music!

This site has some great notes on the origin of wassailing, an ancient English tradition with pagan roots thought to originate between 300-500 AD; “pre-Christian fertility rites where the villagers went through orchards at mid-winter singing and shouting loudly to drive out evil spirits, and pouring cider on the roots of trees to encourage fertility…It was only later that these traditions became associated with “luck visits” made around the neighborhood, together with general merry-making…and “fortified by copious quantities of alcohol”.”😀

As a vegan, I can’t say I’m crazy about the lyrics, which mainly refer to various animals popular for their meat in English cooking. However, I do love the last verse. Like much of the song, it has the feeling of something joyfully improvised on the spur of the moment…perhaps by a young man in the wassailing group who wished to catch the attention of the “maid in the lily white smock” he’s seen earlier that evening?😉

…And the rollicking tune is simply irresistible.

My favorite performance is by the Baltimore Consort, but unfortunately it is completely unavailable online. Here’s a close second best, by the Waverly Consort.

Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here is to Colly and to her long tail
Pray God send our master he never may fail
A bowl of strong beer! I pray you draw near
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

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