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> Maddy Prior > Songs > God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen / Somerset Carol

[ Roud 394 ; Ballad Index FSWB378A , FSWB377B ; Bodleian Roud 394 ; Wiltshire 321 ; Mudcat 120141 ; trad.]

Mary and Nigel Hudleston: Songs of the Ridings

This carol is titled God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, but neither God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen nor God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen. Our modern word ‘you’, the second-person pronoun, originally had four principal forms: the subjects were ‘ye’ (plural) and ‘thou’ (singular); the objects were ‘you’ (plural) and ‘thee‘ (singular). The expression used here requires an object pronoun. And the Oxford English Dictionary has the phrase “God rest you merry” from as early as 1534, centuries before the appearance of the carol. It means “God grant you peace and happiness”.

Ewan MacColl and carollers, Charlie Bate and group, The Brian Newey Skiffle Group, and a Birmingham studio group respectively sang God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen at the live Christmas Day 1957 broadcast on BBC Radio, Sing Christmas and the Turn of the Year.

Martin Carthy and Martyn Wyndham-Read sang God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen in 1986 on the Greenwich Village album Yuletracks.

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band sang God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen in 1987 on their Saydisc album A Tapestry of Carols, and live at Oxford Town Hall on their 2005 CD and DVD An Evening of Carols and Capers. This live video was published on YouTube in 2018:

David Hughes and Chris Leslie sang God Rest You Merry Gentlemen on their 1998 album Acoustic Christmas.

The Albion Christmas Band sang the related Somerset Carol in 2006 on their CD Wintersongs and in 2009 on their CD Traditional. It looks like a composite of God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen and a Wassail song.

West of Eden sang God Rest You Merry Gentlemen on their 2010 album A Celtic Christmas.

GreenMathews sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen on their 2011 album A Victorian Christmas. They noted:

This quintessentially Victorian carol is actually from the 18th century, but experienced a huge revival in popularity when it became the only carol to be mentioned by name in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker sang God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen in 2013 on their CD Midwinter.

Vikki Swan and Jonny Dyer sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen on their 2014 album A Sound of Christmas Past. They noted:

A broadsheet carol from 1760. This version was taken from William Sandy's Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern.

Emily Smith sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in 2015 on her CD Songs for Christmas.

Johnny Coppin sang God Rest You Merry Gentlemen on his 2016 album All on a Winter's Night. He noted:

Three verses from the popular nineteenth century London broadside, given a celtic twost by The Barra NcNeils from Canada.

Megson sang God Rest You Merry Gentlemen on their 2019 album A Yuletide Carol.

Jon Wilds sang God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen on a 2020 download single and on his 2021 album Up the Cut. He noted:

I found this broadside version of the well-known carol on the Broadside Ballads website. Printed by D. Wrighton at 86 Snow Hill, Birmingham, sometime between 1812-30, it contains lyrics I don't recognise from my school days. Throwing down Satan wasn't a major part of Yuletide festivities in 1980s Solihull, as far as I recall.

As soon as I realised this album was likely to be out in time for winter, I knew I had to include a recording of this song. Sure, it's a bit cheesy to do a Christmas song, but I feel it's something of a Midlands tradition. If Slade can do it, then I'll have a bash, too. This one's for Noddy. Oi, oi.

And of course there is the Kipper Family's Arrest These Merry Gentlemen on their 1989 album of the same name, Arrest These Merry Gentlemen.

Lyrics

Maddy Prior sings God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray;

Chorus (after each verse):
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy!

In Bethlehem in Jewry
this placid babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The Virgin mother Mary
Did nothing taking scorn,

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed angel came.
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by name:

“Fear not,” then said the angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour,
Of virtue, power, and might;
So frequently to vanish all
The friends of Satan quite”;

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding,
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
This blessed babe to find:

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this infant lay
They found him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling,
Unto the Lord did pray:

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
Is drawing on apace:

The Albion Christmas Band sing the Somerset Carol

Come all you worthy gentlemen
That may be standing by,
Christ our blessed saviour
Was born on Christmas Day.
The blessed Virgin Mary
Unto the Lord did say
“O we wish you comfort and tidings of joy.”

Christ our blessed Savior
Now in the manger lay.
He's lying in the manger,
While the oxen feed on hay.
The blessed Virgin Mary
Unto the Lord did say
“O we wish you comfort and tidings of joy.”

God bless the ruler of this house
Long, long on may he reign.
May happy Christmases
He live to see again!
God bless our generation,
Who live both far and near,
And we wish them a happy, a happy new year.

Emily Smith sings God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray.

Chorus (after each verse):
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy!

From God our heavenly father
The blessed angel came
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born,
The Son of God by name.

“Fear not then,” said the angel,
“Let nothing you affright.
This day is born a saviour
Of the pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in him
From Satan's power and might.”

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear saviour lay,
They found him in the manger
Where oxen feed on hay.
His mother Mary kneeled down
And to the Lord did pray.

Jon Wilks sings God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save our souls from Satan's thrall
Which long have gone astray

Chorus (after each verse):
This brings tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
This brings tidings of comfort and joy

From him that is our father
A blessed angel came
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same
That there was born in Bethlehem
The son of God by name

Fear nothing said God's angel
Let nothing you affright
This night was born our Saviour
Of a virgin pure and bright
He's able to advise you
And throw down Satan quite

Then these certain shepherds
Rejoiced much in mind
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind
And straight they went to Bethlehem
The son of God to find

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our sweet Saviour lay
They found him in a manger
Where oxen fed on hay
The blessed lady kneeling down
Unto the lord did pray

Let me to you all invite
Who are within this place
To live in love and unity
The gospel to embrace
The merry time of Christmas
Is drawing on a-pace