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About this poet

George Wither was born in Bentworth, England, on June 11, 1588. He attended Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1604 to 1606 but left before receiving a degree. In 1613, he published a collection of satirical essays, Abuses Stript and Whipt (G. Eld), which resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in 1614. While in prison, Wither wrote The Shepheards Hunting (W. White, 1615), which is often considered his best work. He went on to write several more works of poetry, including Britain’s Remembrancer (John Grismond, 1628), The Hymnes and Songs of the Church (George Wither, 1623), and Faire-Virtue, The Mistress of Phil’Arete (Augustine Mathewes, 1622). Wither died in London on May 2, 1667.

A Christmas Carol

So now is come our joyful feast,
  Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
  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' chimnies smoke,
  And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked 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 it 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 bagpipe 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 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 Swatch hath fetched 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 errands;
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 depths 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 sheep-cotes 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 rowland-hoe,
    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 we thus inspired sing,
    Let all the streets with echoes ring;
    Woods, and hills, and everything
  Bear witness we are merry. 

 

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

George Wither

Born in 1588, George Wither was the author of The Shepheards Hunting (W. White, 1615), Britain’s Remembrancer (John Grismond, 1628), and other books of poetry.