> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > Sugar Wassail

Sugar Wassail

[ Roud 209 ; VWML RoudFS/S224854 ; Mudcat 116651 ; trad.]

Waterson:Carthy recorded the Sugar Wassail for their 2006 album Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man. Martin Carthy noted:

Sugar Wassail was handed to us about fifteen years ago by Vic Gammon: it's one of the myriad songs of the sort found in the body of traditional music making and sung between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night. This particular one is from the small Sussex collection from the 1840s by the pioneer in the field Rev. John Broadwood [ VWML RoudFS/S224854 ] and we took to calling it by this name.

Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes sang Broadwood Wassail on the 2011 re-issue of their No Masters CD of regional and historical carols, Fire and Sleet and Candlelight. They noted:

Another of the Wassails performed by groups who went from door to door at Christmastime with bowls of drinks, offering good wishes in song in exchange for gifts of more drink, food or cash. Although many Wassail songs have similar texts, this version is unusual in that it combines requests for presents from the household with an offer to wassail ‘bees’’ rather than farm animals and ‘apple trees’—a custom more often associated with orchard visits in cider-growing regions. This linked form of Wassail seems to be localised to the Sussex-Surrey area. The appearances of owls, silver tankards and golden spears in the verses are rare too.

We've called it the Broadwood Wassail because the earliest version we can find appeared in the snappily titled, “Old English Songs as Now sung by the peasantry of the Weald of Surrey and Sussex and collected by one who has learnt them by hearing them sung every Christmas from early childhood by the country people, who go about to the Neighbouring Houses, singing, or ‘Wassailing’ as it is called, at that season…”, privately published by Rev. John Broadwood (1798-1864) in 1843.

A Winter Union sang Our Wassail on their eponymous 2016 CD A Winter Union. A live recording from Otford Memorial Hall, Kent on 21 December 2018 was released a year later on their download album Live in Concert.

The Teacups sang the Sugar Wassail in 2020 on their third and final album, In Which…. They noted:

This is a traditional Wassailing song collected by Rev. John Broadwood in the 1840s. Will [Finn] and Rosie [Calvert] arranged it for a songbook, and we decided to add it to our repertoire as well.

Lyrics

A Wassail, a Wassail collected by John Broadwood

A wassail, a wassail, a wassail we begin,
With sugar plums and cinnamon, and other spices in.

Chorus (after each verse):
With a wassail, a wassail, a jolly wassail,
And may joy come to you and to our wassail.

Good master and good mistress, as you sit by the fire,
Consider us poor wassailers, who travel thro’ the mire.

Good master and good mistress, if you will be but willing,
Come, send us out your eldest son with sixpence or a shilling.

Good master and good mistress, if thus it should you please,
Come, send us out your white loaf, likewise your Christmas cheese.

Good master and good mistress, if you w ill so incline,
Come, send us out your roast beef, likewise your Christmas chine.

If you’ve any maids within your house, as I suppose you've none,
They'd not let us stand a-wassailing so long on this cold stone.

For we've wassailed all this day long, and nothing could we find,
But an owl in an ivy-bush, and her we left behind.

We'll cut a toast all round the loaf, and set it by the fire,
We'll wassail bees, and apple-trees, unto your hearts' desire.

Our purses they are empty, our purses they are thin,
They lack a little silver to line them well within.

Hang out your silver tankard upon your golden spear,
We'll come no more a-wassailing, until another year.

Waterson:Carthy sing the Sugar Wassail

A wassail, a wassail, a wassail we begin
With sugar strands and cinnamon and all the treasures in.

Chorus (after each verse):
With a wassail, a wassail, a jolly wassail,
And may joy come to you and to our wassail.

And if you any maids within your house as I suppose you've done,
They'd not let us stand a-wassailing so long on this cold stone.

We'll cut a toast from off the log and sat it by the fire,
We'll wassail bees, and apple trees, unto your hearts' desire.

Bring out your silver tankard, likewise you kissing sphere,
We'll come no more a-wassailing until another year.

Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya, Georgina Boyes sing Broadwood Wassail

A Wassail, a wassail, a wassail we begin
With sugar plums and cinnamon and other spices in.

Chorus (after each verse):
With a wassail, a wassail, a jolly wassail,
And may joy come to you and to our wassail.

Good master and good mistress, if you will so incline,
Come send us out your roast beef, like wise your Christmas chine.

If you’ve any maids within your house, as I suppose you’ve none,
They’d not let us stand a-wassailing so long on this cold stone.

For we’ve wassailed all this day long, and nothing could we find,
But an owl in an ivy bush and her we left behind.

We’ll cut a toast all round the loaf, and set it by the fire,
We’ll wassail bees and apple trees, unto your hearts desire.

Our purses they are empty, our purses they are thin,
They lack a little silver to line ‘em well within.

Hang out your silver tankard upon your golden spear,
We’ll come no more a-wassailing, until another year.