A summary of the medieval Christmas carol
‘I sing of a maiden’ – or, to render it in its delightful original spelling, ‘I syng of a mayden’ – is one of the oldest surviving Christmas carols written in English. The words to this classic carol are included below, along with some words of explanation and gloss.
I syng of a mayden
That is makeles,
king of alle kinges
to here sone che chees.
He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dew in Aprylle,
That fallyt on the gras. Read the rest of this entry
The ten best Christmas carols – and their interesting literary origins and meaning
‘Tis the season to the jolly, so let’s all sing a Christmas carol and enjoy a mince pie. No? Okay, how about you sit back with your mince pie and a glass of sherry, and we regale you with a few interesting facts about the literary origins and histories of some of the best-loved Christmas carols. We’ve included a link to a recording of each carol, should you wish to hear them – simply click on the carol’s title to hear the merry notes ring out. What’s your favourite Christmas carol? If you had to choose one, which Christmas carol would be crowned the greatest of all?
Anonymous, ‘Coventry Carol‘. Dating from the early sixteenth century (its words were written down by one writer in 1534) and originally part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, this carol was a favourite of local Coventry boy Philip Larkin, who chose it as one of his Desert Island Discs. Read the rest of this entry
The best ghost stories from the Victorian era to read for Halloween or Christmas
As the nights are drawing in, how about a ghost story? The Victorians loved a ghost story, and many of the most celebrated writers of Victorian novels had a go at this ghoulish genre, from Elizabeth Gaskell to Charles Dickens to Robert Louis Stevenson. Here are ten of our favourites. If you like the sound of these suggestions, more blood-curdling reading matter can be found in our pick of Edgar Allan Poe’s best stories.
Elizabeth Gaskell, ‘The Old Nurse’s Story‘ (1852). Gaskell is best known for writing such classic realist novels as North and South (which we include in our list of best Victorian novels), but she could also write spookily about the supernatural. ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ was written for Charles Dickens’s magazine Household Words. The narrator – the old nurse of the title – is an old family retainer who has worked in the service of the same family for three generations. She tells the young children about a dark incident that she experienced in the company of the children’s mother, when she was a young woman and visiting her mother’s ancestral home (this isn’t the last time a haunted house will feature on this list). Mysterious goings-on involving a spooky organ playing music and a scene reminiscent of Wuthering Heights ensue. Read the rest of this entry