The tree is up and decorated to within an inch of its life, the cards and Christmas greetings have been sent and the fridge is well stocked with indulgent food. There’s not much more to be done but to make the most of the season. So why not, just for now, put your feet up in front of the fire, grab a glass of mulled wine or a snowball (or whatever other tipple pleases your pallet) and enjoy this poem by George Wither. There are Christmas Carols a-plenty in the world of literature and poetry, but I find this one particularly enjoyable and encapsulating of Christmases gone by and those present. Its underlying message to simply be merry is something we can all identify with. From all at The Reader Online and The Reader Organisation, we wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmastime.
A Christmas Carol
So now is come our joyful’st feast,
Let every man be jolly.
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.
Now all our neighbors’ chimneys smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with bak’d-meats choke,
And all their spits are turning.
Without the door let sorrow lie,
And if for cold it hap to die,
We’ll bury ‘t in a Christmas pie,
And evermore be merry.
Now every lad is wondrous trim,
And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
A bag-pipe and a tabor.
Young men and maids and girls and boys
Give life to one another’s joys,
And you anon shall by their noise
Perceive that they are merry.
Rank misers now do sparing shun,
Their hall of music soundeth,
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
So all things there aboundeth.
The country folk themselves advance,
For crowdy-mutton’s come out of France.
And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
And all the town be merry.
Ned Swash hath fetch’d his bands from pawn,
And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
With droppings of the barrel;
And those that hardly all the year
Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
And all the day be merry.
Now poor men to the justices
With capons make their arrants,
And if they hap to fail of these
They plague them with their warrants.
But now they feed them with good cheer,
And what they want they take in beer,
For Christmas comes but once a year,
And then they shall be merry.
Good farmers in the country nurse
The poor, that else were undone.
Some landlords spend their money worse,
On lust and pride at London.
There the roisters they do play,
Drab and dice their land away,
Which may be ours another day;
And therefore let’s be merry.
The client now his suit forbears,
The prisoner’s heart is eased,
The debtor drinks away his cares,
And for the time is pleased.
Though others’ purses be more fat,
Why should we pine or grieve at that?
Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
And therefore let’s be merry.
Hark how the wags abroad do call
Each other forth to rambling;
Anon you’ll see them in the hall
For nuts and apples scrambling.
Hark how the roofs with laughters sound!
Anon they’ll think the house goes round,
For they the cellar’s depth have found,
And there they will be merry.
The wenches with their wassail bowls
About the streets are singing,
The boys are come to catch the owls,
The wild mare in is bringing.
Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
And to the dealing of the ox
Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
And here they will be merry.
Now kings and queens poor sheepcotes have,
And mate with everybody;
The honest now may play the knave,
And wise men play at noddy.
Some youths will now a-mumming go,
Some others play at rowlandhoe,
And twenty other gameboys moe,
Because they will be merry.
Then wherefore in these merry days
Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays
To make our mirth the fuller.
And, whilst thus inspir’d we sing,
Let all the streets with echoes ring,
Woods and hills and everything,
Bear witness we are merry.
George Wither (1588-1667)