Marmion’s Christmas Song is the 2nd song on The Gifts of Midwinter, the Christmas album by Ken and Lisa Theriot. Lisa adapted the lyrics from a poem by Sir Walter Scott, called “Marmion.”Then Lisa set these lyrics to the tune of “The Sussex Carol” (ca 1684) and voila! Marmion’s Christmas Song was born. We tried our best to infuse it with all the feel of a traditional Christmas song.
You can listen to the song below. After that you will find the entry about this song from the album liner notes (download here!), written by Lisa. Then following that are the lyrics to the song. The song – as well as the complete album – is available on iTunes and just about every other digital music store.
Marmion’s Christmas Song
Adapted from “Marmion”, 1808, by Sir Walter Scott
“Marmion” is an epic poem by Sir Walter Scott set around
the time of the Battle of Flodden Field (1513). In the
middle, there is a totally unrelated description of a jolly
Christmas party. I moved a few bits around and decided
that it goes well with the melody from “The Sussex Carol,”
which begins, “On Christmas Night all Christians sing…”
On Christmas Eve the bells are rung
On Christmas Eve the mass is sung
The damsel dons her kirtle sheen;
The hall is dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood the merry-men go,
All to gather the mistletoe.
Then opens wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power lays his rod aside,
And Ceremony doffs his pride.
And to the cottage, as the crown,
Comes good news of salvation down.
The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Goes roaring up the chimney wide:
The wassail round, in good brown bowls,
Bedecked with ribbons, blithely trowls.
So mix sobriety with wine,
And good cheer with thoughts divine
Then come the merry maskers in,
And carols roar with blithesome din;
If unmelodious the song,
It is a hearty note, and strong.
Listen, and in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery.
And so to merry England then
Old Christmas brings his sport again.
At Christmas broach the mightiest ale;
At Christmas tell the merriest tale;
Let chill winds whistle as they will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Words by Sir Walter Scott
From the introduction to Canto VI of “Marmion,”
Dedicated to Richard Heber, Esquire,
and set at “Mertoun House, Christmas.”
Music, traditional, to “The Sussex Carol,” melody
collected from tradition in 1919 by R.V. Williams
(the original lyric for the Sussex Carol was published in
Ghent in 1684 in a collection called “Small Garland of Pious
and Godly Songs.”)
Adapted and arranged by Lisa Theriot
© 2010 Raven Boy Music, ASCAP