John Speller's Web Pages 'Twas jolly, jolly Wat

John Speller's Web Pages - Christmas

'Twas jolly, jolly Wat
The Right Rev. Charles William Stubbs, D.D, who was Bishop of Truro, based this carol on a section of the fifteenth-century Second Shepherds' Play from the Towneley/Wakefield Mysteries. The tune was supplied by Dr. T. Tertius Noble, organist of York Minster and later of St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue, New York. [Technical note: Shepherds carried a tar-box in order to use tar as a salve for healing any injuries that night befall their sheep. Indeed, shepherds were sometimes referred to as tar-boxes and were generally perceived to be country oafs, smelling of their flocks and smeared with tar.]

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Dr. Stubbs does not, however, seem to have been aware that there was already a sixteenth-century carol on the same theme, whose words are to be found in the Commonplace Book of Richard Hilles, Balliol College, Oxford MS 354:

Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


1. The shepherd upon a hill he sat,
He had on him his tabard1 and his hat,
His tar-box, his pipe, and his flagat;
For name was jolly, jolly Wat;
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


2. The shepherd upon a hill was laid,
His dog to his girdle was tied;
He had not slept but a little braid,
But "Gloria in excelsis" was to him said.
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


3. The shepherd on a hill he stood,
Round about him his sheep they yode;
He put his hand under his good,
He saw a star as red as blood.
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


4. "Now farewell Mall and also Will,
For my love go ye all still
Unto I come again you till,
And evermore, Will, ring well thy bell."
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


5. "Now must I go where Christ was born;
Farewell! I come again to-morn.
Dog, keep well my sheep from the corn,
And warn well Warrock when I blow my horn."
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


6. When Wat to Bethlehem come was,
He sweat; he had gone faster than a pace;
He found Jesus in a simple place,
Between an ox and an ass.
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


7. The shepherd said anon right:
"I will go see yon ferly sight,
Whereas the angel singeth on height,
And the star that shineth so bright."
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


8. "Jesu! I offer to Thee here my pipe,
My script, my tar-box, and my skirt;
Home to my fellows now will I skip,
And also look unto my sheep."
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


9. "Now, farewell, my own herdsman Wat!"
"Yea, for God, Lady, even so I hight;
Lull well Jesu in thy lap,
And farewell, Joseph, with thy round cape!"
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


10. "Now may I well both hope and sing,
For I have been at Christ's bearing;
Home to my fellows now will I fling;
Christ of heaven to His bliss us bring!"
For he was a good herd's boy,
Ut hoy!
For in his pipe he made so much joy.
Can I not sing but hoy,
When the jolly shepherd made so much joy?


[The original tune sadly does not seem to have survived.]

"A Shepherd with his Pipe," by Abraham Bosse (1604-1676)
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