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God rest ye merry, gentlemen (traditional version)
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One of the most beautiful English carols. Still thrilling.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

YE= (Old English) /ji:/ You.
In fact the title is wrong, it should be "God rest you merry", because in Old English YE was the form of subject plural and YOU the form of object plural, later YE disappeared and now we use YOU for both forms in singular and plural. But under the influence of I-ME (and the old singular THOU-THEE) people thought it should be YOU-YE, which is a mistake; it was YE-YOU.

MERRY= (Old fashioned) happy, cheerful.

GOD REST YE MERRY= (Old fashioned) may God rest you merrily, may God make you feel happy and relaxed.
The verb REST here is not a present (in that case it would be "God rests ye"). It is in the subjunctive mood (not in use in modern English) and is used to express a desire. An old surviving expression with the same "present subjunctive tense" is "God save the queen" (= May God protect the queen) or "God bless you".

DISMAY= Disillusion; loss of courage.

LET NOTHING YOU DISMAY= Let nothing dismay you.
In poetry we can often find hyperbatons like this. A hyperbaton is a figure of speech that uses deviation from normal or logical word order to produce an effect. We can find many hyperbatons in this song.

SATAN= The devil; the personification of sin and evil.

GONE ASTRAY= If you go astray you get lost or you take the wrong path.

TIDINGS= (Old English) News.

COMFORT= /kʌmfə*t/

JOY= Happiness.

BLESSED= /blesɪd/ Holy, saint, worthy of worship.

UNTO= (Old fashioned) To.

SHEPHERDS= epə*dz/ The man who takes care of the sheep (fem. Shepherdess).

BETHLEHEM= /beθlɪhem/ The name of the town where Jesus was born.

O= (Old fashioned) Oh.

FEAR NOT= (Old fashioned) Don't be afraid.

AFFRIGHT= (Old English) To frighten, to cause you fear, to make you afraid.

LET NOTHING YOU AFRRIGHT= (hyperbaton) Let nothing frighten you, let nothing make you afraid.

VIRGIN BRIGHT= (hyperbaton) bright Virgin (bright = shining; glorious, splendid).

TRUST= To place confidence in someone.

MIGHT= (Old fashioned) power.
(but in modern English we can still say MIGHTY=Powerful). In colloquial AmE we can also use "mighty" meaning "very", e.g., "that's mighty interesting" = "that's very interesting".

REJOICED= Became happy.

FLOCK= A group of sheep.

A-FEEDING= (Old English) Feeding (eating).

STRAIGHTWAY= (Old fashioned) Straightaway = immediately, at once.

BABE= /beɪb/ baby.

WHEN TO BETHLEHEM THEY CAME= (hyperbaton) When they came to Bethlehem.

LAY= (lie-lay-lain) To be in a horizontal position, resting on a surface.

MANGER= /mnə*/ The place where Jesus was put when He was born. A manger is an open box with straw or other food for cattle. (see picture)

OXEN= Plural of OX. An ox is a castrated bull. They grow fat and very strong and they were used to pull from heavy loaded carts. (see picture)

FEED= Eat. Notice the preposition ON (e.g. sheep feed on grass, lions feed on gazelles).

HAY= Straw. Hay is grass or other plants, such as clover or alfalfa, cut and dried. (see picture)


PRAY= Talk to God.

DID PRAY= (Old fashioned) prayed. In poetry we can still find this old past tense. Instead of adding –ED to the verb, we use the auxiliary verb DID in front. In modern English we can still use this form for emphasis.

UNTO THE LORD DID PRAY= (hyperbaton) [his mother] prayed to the Lord.

PRAISES= Expressions of admiration (or of adoration to God).

WITH BROTHERHOOD= With the feeling that we are all brothers and sisters and so we love each other.

EMBRACE= Hold, hug, put your arms around a person.

HOLY= (adjective) Saint, sacred.

TIDE= (Old English) Time: "tide of Christmas" = Christmastide = Christmas time.

DEFACE= (Old English) Surpass, eclipse, outshine. In modern English this word has a different meaning (= to spoil, to vandalise), but we use the word EFFACE with the meaning of "surpass, eclipse".

DOTH= /dʌθ/ (Old English) Does. In old English, the third person singular in the present added -TH instead of modern -S, so "he loves you" was "he loveth thee" /hi: lʊvɪθ ði:/  .

DOTH DEFACE= The same as DID PRAY means "prayed", DOTH DEFACE means "defaces" (instead of adding -s for the 3rd person singular we say "does + verb").
The sentence "the holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface" means "the sacred news of Christmas is much superior/better to any other news".



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