Dec 5, 2022 • 5M


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Have you ever heard a version of the carol “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” as it might have been sung in Shakespeare’s time?  The boisterous melody is in a major key, and the men I heard singing it belted it out as if they were in a public square, with wassail going all round:

O tidings, O tidings
Of comfort and joy!
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this day.

They also sang it with what we can gather was the sixteenth century pronunciation, so they sounded like Australians transplanted to the mountains of Tennessee, and nothing at all like English schoolboys at Westminster.

“Scenes from the Advent and Triumph of Christ,”  Hans Memling (1480). Public Domain.

Tidings is one of those old-fashioned words that you might use once a year for a special occasion, like the holiday that is approaching us now, and when you do use it, everyone understands both what you mean and why you are using it and not some more ordinary word.  It has passed from the current of time and change into the clo…

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