John Speller's Web Pages The holy well

John Speller's Web Pages - Cornish Carols
The holy well
This is a well-known carol, sung in Herefordshire and Derbyshire as well as in Devon and Cornwall; the text is found on a broadside in the Bodleian Library [Harding B.7 (10)] printed in Devonport for S. & J. Keys, 7 James Street, Devonport, and also sold by W. Burridge of Truro and J. Perrow of St. Austle [sic.]. The text is apparently corrupt, and I have supplied the last four lines from another West Country source, William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London, 1833). In this source the phrase "Upon a good set steven," reads as "Upon one good St. Stephen," but this is probably a corruption of the text since it makes no sense in the context of this stanza. Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old suggests substituting the reading "Upon a good set steven," meaning "At the appointed time." I have added the word "for" in the fourth stanza to accomodate the text to the tune. The text has some parallels with the carol, The Bitter Withy.

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St. Breward's well, Cornwall, drawn by Sir Arthur T. Quiller-Couch in 1856
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