The Complaint of Christmas: A Serialised Christmas Tale. Part 7

A Beggar


And to round of these posts, as John Taylor does his  ‘Complaint of Christmas’ here is his Christmas carol, to the tune of Poore Tom* 


I’ll be honest with you, it’s not the catchiest of carols, though there are familiar elements in there from modern carols. In medieval times carols were sung by the homeless poor in the street at Christmas time, they would sing festive songs as part of their begging. Of course public carol singing retains an element of this to this day.

I haven’t managed to find with any certainty the tune of ‘Poore Tom’, although I’m almost entirely sure its not the same as the Led Zeppelin song . There are a couple of tunes that appear in the old English ballad archives that sound close: ‘Poor Tom’s progress’,  ‘Poor Tom the Taylor’ or ‘Tom O’Bedlam’. Of the three, it seems most likely that it was the latter tune. Tom O’Bedlam was a contemporary song, part of which describes the begging poor, this would fit in quite nicely with the theme of ‘A Complaint of Christmas’ and its concern with the obligation to provide hospitality to the less well off.  Here is the tune anyway:


And here is the carol itself:


A Christmas CARROLL,

To the tune of Poore TOM.

REjoyce, rejoyce, this day is come

Saluation unto Christendome:

All that will heare their blest Redeemers voyce,

Let them all with mirth rejoyce, rejoyce.

The Saviour of the world is borne,

To ransome us that were forlorne:

He left the Heavens, and came to us on earth,

And from a blessed Virgins wombe had birth.

Here a mighty mystery well was wrought,

whose depth no man can gather;

A Mayden-mother pure, a Sonne forth brought,

and no man was the father:

God above, with peace and love,

The sinfull world possessed

With heavenly treasure, past all measure,

Who is ever blessed.

He this day to Grace a feast,

sent his Sonne to be a Guest:

Let us then, like thankfull men

give entertainment to him:

And let us still with heart and will,

our best of service doe him:

Himselfe for us he hath given,

to draw us from earth to heaven.

Therefore for all his paine,

let’s give him our selves againe.


TO wipe away our sinnes great summes,

Gods Sonne and heire in person comes;

He left his glorious and Immortall throne,

and underneath his Fathers curse did [illeg.] groane :

Downe from the heavens to the earth he came,

to honour us he tooke our shame;

He suffer’d death that we might live thereby,

and through his merits reigne eternally.

Seeing he hath with his precious blood

wash’d cleare our foule offences,

How can we render any thing

that may be recompences,

Since we may not any way

give any thing worth taking;

Or all that can be done by man,

no satisfaction making:

Let vs doe as David sayes,

give him honour, laud and praise.

Let Christmas day put vs in minde,

that Christ was borne this day:

Let’s entertaine him here, that we

may entertaine him aye.

That we all with one heart and desire,

amidst the [illeg.] Celestiall Quire

All honour and praise may sing,

to Christ our heavenly King.




*Which I can only assume was a ballad about a poor chap who decided to reformat and correct the u/v f/s switches in a 17th C text for modern eyes


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