Set to Music, to be chaunted or sung throughout the United Kingdom and the Dominions beyond the Seas, by all Persons thereunto especially moved

God rest you, merry Gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

Remember we were left alive,

Upon last Christmas day,

With both our lips at liberty

To praise Lord C———h

With his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

 

He ‘turn’d his back upon himself’

And straight to ‘Lunnun’ came,

To two two-sided Lawyers

With tidings of the same,

That our own land must ‘prostrate stand’

Unless we praise his name –

For his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

 

‘Go fear not’ said his L——p

‘Let nothing you affright

‘Go draw your quills, and draw five Bills,

‘Put out yon blaze of light;

‘I’m able to advance you,

‘Go stamp it out then quite –

‘And give me some “features” of joy!’

 

The Lawyers at those tidings

Rejoiced much in mind,

And left their friends a staring

To go and raise the wind,

And straight went to the Taxing-men

And said ‘the Bills come find –

‘For “fundamental” comfort and joy!’

 

The Lawyers found majorities

To do as they did say,

They found them at their mangers

Like oxens at their hay,

Some lying, and some kneeling down,

All to L—d C———h

For his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

 

With sudden joy and gladness

Rat G-ff—d was beguiled,

They each sat at his L——p’s side,

He patted them and smiled;

Yet C-pl-y on his nether end,

Sat like a new born Child, ­-

But without either comfort or joy!

He thought upon his Father,

His virtues, and his fame,

And how that father hoped from him

From glory to his name,

And, as his chin dropp’d on his breast,

His pale cheeks burn’d with shame: –

He’ll never more know comfort or joy!

 

Lord C———h doth rule yon House,

And all who there do reign;

They’ve let us live this Christmas time –

D’ye think they will again?

They say they are our masters –

That’s neither here, nor there:

God send us all a happy new year!

The above Political Christmas Carol was published by the radical journalist William Hone in 1820. It criticised Lord Castlereagh, Leader of the House of Commons, and those who Hone considered his sycophantic, ambitious adherents, who had pushed through the repressive acts which limited, along with other forms of protest, the freedom of the press. Hone was successful in adapting familiar forms as political propaganda, and had earlier in the year published the highly successful Political House that Jack Built, which altered the familiar rhyme to form a damning indictment of those who had ordered and condoned the Peterloo massacre, including the Prince Regent. Using familiar rhymes and songs made political messages more accessible, especially as literacy was limited among many working people. A man, woman or even a child who could not read a political pamphlet could be taught and pass on this irreverent version of a popular carol. Political songs helped to strengthen convivial bonds, whether at the tavern, marching to a meeting or around the hearth at home.  Prominent radicals such as the land reformer Thomas Spence and the weaver-poet Samuel Bamford wrote and published their own songs, with Bamford keen to replicate the ‘heart-stirring’ effects of the music he had heard at Methodist meetings in his youth. Bamford’s father Daniel, a Methodist himself as well as an active radical in the turbulent 1790s, was also something of a songsmith.  If you wanted to follow up your radical carolling with something patriotic, here’s his 1793 alternative anthem, God Help the Poor:

Whence all this dire debate?

Why shakes the British state –

From shore to shore?

Oppression’s iron hand –

Too long hath scourg’d the land,

By ministerial brand;

God help the poor.

 

Statesmen and placemen join,

Hands, hearts, and heads combine,

Fools to allure.

With cry of church and state,

And show of high debate,

Bad laws to propagate;

God help the poor.

 

Burdens enormous lie –

On the community,

Hard to endure;

And the poor workman’s pay,

By tax is taen away –

From his starv’d family;

God help the poor.

 

Great God! the poor befriend;

Let Thy right arm defend;

Thy strength is sure:

Aid us our rights to gain,

And in our land maintain,

Freedom for Englishmen;

God help the poor!

Songs from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England and Samuel Bamford’s Early Days.

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