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Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand

[ Roud 808 ; Ballad Index JRUI162 ; Bodleian Roud 808 ; trad.]

This carol was sung by Lal Waterson on The Watersons’ 1965 LP Frost and Fire and reissued on CD in 1990 and 2007. It was also included in 2006 on the Free Reed anthology Midwinter. A live version from a Christmas radio programme recorded in December 1980 at Crathorne Hall, Crathorne, North Yorkshire, was published in 2005 on the Watersons’ CD A Yorkshire Christmas. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original recording’s sleeve notes:

This moralising carol was much used by beggars and others towards Christmas time. Its tune turns up over and again attached to such carols as The Fountain of Christ’s Blood, Have You Not Heard of our Dear Saviour’s Love, and The Black Decree, also to the favourite old dialogue-ballad of Death and the Lady, traceable to the sixteenth century. Here it is sung by Elaine Waterson in a form common among gipsies habitually drifting through the West Midlands half a century ago.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand in 1998 on their No Masters CD A Garland of Carols.

The Albion Christmas Band sang Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand in 2011 on their CD A Sound in the Frosty Air.

Andy Turner sang The Holly and the Ivy and Christmas Now Is Drawing Near At Hand as the 18 December 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. He noted:

In the Journal of the Folk-Song Society for 1914 you will find a number of versions of Christmas Now Is Drawing Near At Hand, collected by Vaughan Williams and Sharp in various locations, but particularly in the West Midlands and counties adjoining Wales. You can find transcriptions of some of the versions which appeared in early volumes of the Journal at Folkopedia.

I, like almost everyone else on the folk scene, learned this fine carol from the singing of the late, great Lal Waterson, on the seminal Watersons LP Frost and Fire.

It looks to me that Lal based her tune on that collected by Vaughan Williams in September 1913: “Sung by a Waggoner (name unknown), Pool-End, near Hereford, Herefordshire”, and one of those printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society Vol V, No. 18 (1914).


Lal Waterson sings Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand

Christmas is now drawing near at hand
Come serve the Lord and be at His command
And God a portion for you will provide
And give a blessing to your soul besides

Down in the garden where flowers grow in ranks
Down on your bended knees and give the Lord thanks
Down on your knees and pray both night and day
Leave off your sins and live upright I pray

So proud and lofty is some sort of sin
Which many take delight and pleasure in
Whose conversation God doth much dislike
And yet He shakes His sword before He strike

So proud and lofty do some people go
Dressing themselves like players in a show
They patch and paint and dress with idle stuff
As if God had not made ’em fine enough

Even little children learn to curse and swear
And can’t rehearse one word of godly prayer
Oh teach them better, oh teach them to rely
On Christ the sinner’s friend who reigns on high


Transcribed by Garry Gillard