The Holly and the Ivy

I love the obliquity of some of the older Christmas carols. What do holly and ivy have to do with the birth of Christ? The early modern caroling imagination knew the answer.

The holly and the ivy,
Now both are full well grown.
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Savior.

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

~ Traditional, first printed in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1861)

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About middlingpoet

From the Gawain poet to Rainer Maria Rilke: I love traditional poetry.
This entry was posted in Advent & Christmas, Carols and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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