Saturday, December 20, 2008

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I was talking with my Uncle Denis this morning and he reminded me that the John Hancock insurance agent that my grandparents had used to give us Christmas carol songbooks every year, which made me realize that's how I know every verse for every old traditional Christmas carol.

Does anybody else remember those John Hancock songbooks? I'm pretty sure we don't see carolers anymore because they quit printing up those books.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen seems to be a favorite of a lot of people. It's one I like quite a bit too, although I've always kind of wished whoever originally wrote this hadn't brought Satan up!

Here's another boys' choir rendition:

10 comments:

Rob in Denver said...

My favorites...

Traditional: Carol of the Bells

Contemporary: Fairytale of New York by Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

Melissa Marsh said...

This is in my top five of Christmas Carols I Love. :-) I love the Bing Crosby version.

Charles Gramlich said...

This is the first I've ever heard of those handbooks.

debra said...

I'm a sucker for traditional carols sung well. and for boy choirs---and for a whole lot more, too :-)

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

One nitpick (though I've made the mistake before). It's actually "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." Apparently "God rest you merry," was a common greeting or blessing at the time the carol was written. It now survives only in the carol, where the comma is usuaully omitted, so people assume the "merry" is a modifier of "gentlemen."

I'm in a kind of Bah! Humbug! mood right now, but I hope that when and if I get to church Wednesday night, singing songs like this one may get me out of it. And if I'm lucky, I'll get to here Christmas at King's College, Cambridge, with that beautiful rendition of "Once in Royal David's City," with the boy soprano singing the first stanza, and the entire choir singing the last.

LarramieG said...

Piano lesson books...that's how I learned Christmas carol lyrics. And it always felt as though there might be a personal backstory regarding Satan's mention which just doesn't fit.

steve said...

I'll be the devil's advocate here and defend the inclusion of Satan. "Remember Christ our Saviour was born upon this day,/To save us all from Satan's pow'r/When we were gone astray." I'm quoting from memory here. But the doctrine that Jesus died to atone for all our sins and thus rescued us from the power of Satan is perfectly orthodox theology. I don't accept this view of the Atonement unquestioningly, but there's nothing really weird about its inclusion in the song. Now the line "In Behtlehem in Jewry" makes me a little uneasy. But at the time the song was written, I don't think "Jewry" was seen as a inappropriate.

Patti said...

i love it all...and nice new pic. are the books behind you just the ones you have read this month?!

Lisa said...

Rob, Ooh, two good ones!

Melissa, Given your nostalgic sensibilities, I knew Bing would be at the top of your list of favorites :)

Charles, One of these days I'd like to track down the story behind them. Honestly, they used to be everywhere at Christmas where I lived.

Debra, Me too :)

Steve, Thanks for the correction. I think the service Wednesday night will un humbug you!

Larramie, You took piano lessons? Do you still play?

Steve, Point taken on Satan. The Jewry thing struck me a little funny at times too, although it's technically accurate.

Patti, The top two shelves are all books on writing and the bottom three shelves and many of the loose stacks are books I haven't yet read!

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon

Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf