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A, my dere son (anon., Fayrfax Manuscript, ca.  1500)

A, my dere son (anon., Fayrfax Manuscript, ca.  1500)

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«A, my dere son»

Anonymous (Fayrfax Manuscript, c. 1500)

From «Nowell, nowell» 29.11.20

Barfüsserkirche, Basel Historical Museum


Grace Newcombe – Voice, Clavisimbalum 
Amy Farnell – Voice, Bells

Live concert recording: Oren Kirschenbaum
Moderation: Grace Newcombe and Marc Lewon

Picture: Burden (Refrain) from «A my dere son», London, British Library, Add. MS 5465 (Fayrfax Manuscript), f. 51r

«A, my dere, a my dere son»
Said Mary, «A my dere 
Kys thi moder, Jhesu 
With a lawghyng chere» 


This endurs nyght 
I sawe a syght 
All in my slepe 
Mary, that may 
She sang lullay 
And sore did wepe 
To kepe she sought 
Full fast abowte 
Her Son from colde 
Joseph sayd, «Wiff 
My joy, my leff 
Say what ye wolde.»
«Nothying, my spouse

Is in this howse 
Unto my pay. 
My Sone, a Kyng 
That made all thyng 
Lyth in hay.» 

«A, my dere ...»

«My moder dere 
Amend your chere
And now be styll 
Thus for to ly 
It is sothely 
My Fadir’s will 
Gret passion 

As it is fownde 
Many a wownd
Suffyr shall I 
On Calvery 
That is so hye
Ther shall I be 
Man to restore 
Naylid full sore 
Uppon a tre.» 

«A, my dere, ...» 

The term Carol is so closely associated with Christmas in England that it is often used as a synonym for a Christmas song.


However, the carol has its origins in the Middle Ages and is derived from the old French «carole» or Latin «choraulum», which may refer to a dance tradition.


So-called Carols were also very popular during the Renaissance and were played on festive occasions at the court of the Tudors.

A strong carol theme drawn from medieval poetic meditations is the dialogue between Mary and Christ; in the Middle Ages passion texts and in particular the Planctus Mariae were suitable meditations for anyone.


It is typical of the Renaissance that Jesus’ role in the song is not as an adult on the cross but as a baby: the mother-son passion dialogues and the Marian laments thus often became lullabies or mother-child dialogues such as «A, my dere son».


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