The Gloucestershire Wassail

Wassail songs are associated with Christmastide, the new year, through “Twelfth Night” – the word “wassail” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “wes hal”, or “be whole” is in “good health!” as a greeting or even a toast.  Much like we think of Christmas carolers, wassailers travel from house to house singing, carrying their wassail cups which the hosts were expected to fill.

The Gloucestershire Wassail dates back to the turn of the 18th century as far as can be ascertained; it appears in print the first time in England’s “Times Telescope” of 1813 although it was of earlier origin rather than being composed for that paper.  This is a version of that song.

Gloucestershire Wassail

           F               F           Bb    C   F
Wass-ail! wass-ail! All over the town,
        Gm            C                        F            C
Our bread it is white and our ale it is brown;
        F               C                    F                     C
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
                 F                  Bb               C                 F
With the wassailing bowl we’ll drink unto thee.

Here’s a health to the ox and to his right eye,
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie!
A good Christmas pie that may we all see,
With the wassailing bowl we drink to thee.

Here’s a health to the cow and to her long tail,
Pray God send our master a good cask of ale!
A good cask of ale that may we all see,
With the wassailing bowl we drink to thee.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we pray that your soul in heaven may rest;
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
May the Devil take ye butler, bowl and all!

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock;
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let all we jolly wassailers come in.

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