Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

OT: The Holly and the Ivy

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Sunday, August 17, 2003, 17:10
Costentin Cornomorus scripsit:

> I didn't know it was th?t old a song!
Well, it's hard to say. It was first published in 1861; the publisher said he was reprinting it from a broadsheet of a century and a half before, i.e. 1710, and most of the books on carols seem to think it was written about then too. But dammit, the rhymes are *perfect* in Middle English, and who around 1710 could have synthesized *that*, even if he cared to? To me, the only plausible explanation is that the carol is centuries older, and survived either solely in oral tradition or in printed sources that are utterly lost to us. Here are the rhymes again, this time in reconstructed ME pronunciation: grown/crown [grun]/[krun] flower/Saviour [flur]/[savjur] blood/good [blo:d]/[go:d] thorn/morn [Torn]/[morn] gall/all [gal]/[al] I don't know how "quire" (the spelling "choir" is a deliberate archaism) was pronounced in ME days; if as written, then it wouldn't rhyme with "deer" then. Some authorities believe, however, that the chorus is a later addition, especially based on the fact that as printed in 1861 verse 6 is a repetition of verse 1, suggesting that it was the original refrain for a four-verse carol. The only other possibility is that the rhymes are eye-rhymes (if "flower" were spelled "flour, not uncommon), but a poem with such a high density of purely visual rhymes seems very improbable, especially in something intended for singing. The collected official word on this carol, including the lyrics and their very interesting and perhaps recycled-pagan symbolism, is at . An excellent MIDI version, sounding quite like the "merry organ", and with the traditional harmonies, is at . Modern paganized lyrics are at , which are interesting because most of the rhymes have been fixed up for Modern English, despite some attempts at archaism (-eth endings, basically used correctly, except that it's bizarre to see a random mixture of -eth and -s). -- Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out. --Arthur C. Clarke, "The Nine Billion Names of God" John Cowan <jcowan@...>