John Speller's Web Pages - Christmas

When bloody Herod reignèd king
It is a most curious fact that a carol to John the Baptist, whose feast day is June 24th., was traditionally sung on St. John the Evangelist's day, viz.: December 27th., the Third Day of Christmas. Perhaps this was owing to confusion between the two Johns, but in a broadside in the British Library the text is clearly marked as a text for St. John's Day in the Christmas season. See: British Library, Roxburghe Ballads, 3.452, C.20.f.9(452). The text is as follows:

1. When bloody Herod reignèd king
Within Judea land,
Much woe his cruel will did bring,
By bloody fierce command.
Amongst the rest, with grief opprest,
Was good St. John here slain,
Who on this day midst sport and play,
A martyred death did gain.

2. King Herod, being in his tower,
Herodias dancing spied,
As fair as any Summer flower
In all her painted pride;
Clad in bright gold, which to behold
King Herod's heart admired
He bid her crave what she should have,
Though she half his crown desired.

3. A kingly crown I do not wish,
But Saint John's head, she said;
Wherefore, all bleeding in a dish,
Before me be it laid.
Which was the thing she of the king
Desired with right good will,
Whose death was wrought, and to her brought:
Such minds have strumpets still.

4. Thus wine and women, we do see,
Men's minds to folly win;
For Herod did too soon agree,
And gave consent to sin.
For on this day, as scriptures day,
St. John did lose his head,
Whilst [s]he did sing before the king,
As he at table fed.

5. Then let us all by him take heed
Of riot and excess,
For fear that soon to us it breed
As great a wickedness.
And let our sport in civil sort,
Content each merry mind;
So shall we all in this good hall
Much joy and comfort find.

6. Now kindly for my pretty song,
Good butler, draw some beer;
You know what duties do belong
To him that sings so clear.
Holly and ivy, drink will drive ye,
To the brown bowl of perry;
Apples and ale, with Christmas tales,
We'll make the household merry.

"Salome" by Pierre Bonnaud (1865-1930)
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