by Amy Rose Bennett
I love Christmas time and aside from all the festive food, decorations, and prezzies, I love me a good Christmas carol sing-along! In fact, my whole family loves whacking on anything from Bing Crosby crooning I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, or a CD featuring renditions of traditional songs by carollers.
Maybe it’s the history buff in me, but I do love the pomp of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I have fond memories of belting this one out in the school choir many moons ago, so perhaps there’s an element of childhood nostalgia linked to it for me too.
Anyway, because I’m a big fan of historical research, I couldn’t resist delving into the origins of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Apparently, it’s one of the oldest existing carols and harkens back to the 16th century or perhaps earlier; some accounts mention it was written and sung in Christian churches in the 15th century. The composer of the lyrics and tune is unknown. During the 16th century, bands of itinerant musicians-cum-night watchmen known as ‘waits’ may have sung it as they walked London’s streets at Christmas time. Fancy that. A singing town guard! The earliest known printed edition of the carol appeared in 1760 in a broadsheet, Three New Christmas Carols:
God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.
Charles Dickens also refers to it in A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. “… at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”
I love this Bing Crosby version … Enjoy and Seasons Greetings to you all!
Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…
Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realises that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…
Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…