Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry


Christmas Carols


Jolly Jankyn

(15th century)


Christmas Mass
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry



Kyrie, so kyrie,
Jankyn syngyt merie,
With Aleison.

As I went on Yol Day
In owre prosessyon,
Knew I joly Jankyn
By his mery ton,

Jankyn began the Offys
On the Yol Day,
And yyt me thynkyt it dos me good
So merie gan he say,

Jankyn red the Pystyl
Full fayre and full wel,
And yyt me thinkyt it dos me good
As euere haue I sel,

Jankyn at the Sanctus
Crakyt a merie note,
And yyt me thinkyt it dos me good -
I payid for his cote,

Jankyn crakit notes
An hunderid on a knot,
And yyt he hakkyt hem smallere
Than wortes to the pot,

Jankyns at the Angnus
Beryt the pax-brede:
He twynkelid but said nowt,
And on myn fot he trede,

Benedicamus Domino,
Cryst fro schame me schylde:
Deo gracias, therto -
Alas! I go with chylde,


Kyrie, so kyrie,
Jankin sings merrily,
with Alison.

As I went on Christmas day
in our procession,
I knew jolly Jankin
by his merry voice.
Kyrie eleison.

Jankin began the Service
on Christmas day,
and yet it seems to me it does me good
so merrily he began to say,
'Kyrie eleison'.

Jankin read the Epistle
very pleasingly and well,
and yet it seems to me it does me good
as for ever I gain eternal reward,
Kyrie eleison.

Jankin at the Sanctus
trills a merry note
and yet it seems to me it does me good -
I paid for his coat,
Kyrie eleison.

Jankin trills notes
a hundred at a time,
and yet he hacks them smaller
than herbs in the pot,
Kyrie eleison.

Jankin at the Agnus
carries the pax-board:
he winked but said nothing,
and on my foot he trod,
Kyrie eleison.

Let us bless the Lord,
Christ shield me from shame,
thanks be to God as well -
alas! I am with child,
Kyrie eleison.


Poems about cleric's love affairs are not uncommon and Jankin (Little John) seems to have been the typical name. The heart of this poem is the delicate incongruity of the indelicate situation, the unexpected transporting of Holy Mass and sexual attraction, typified by the play on the name of the woman, Alison, and the Greek words of appeal to God, Kyrie eleison ("God have mercy").

Stanza 6 pax-brede: a small plate or tablet with a handle on the back and with the image of Christ or of the Virgin on the front, to be kissed at mass by priest and congregation.


Source: Richard L. Greene. The Early English Carols. Oxford 1977, pp.278-279.
Note: R.T. Davies. Medieval English Lyrics. London 1963, pp.336-337.

About the structure of the catholic mass:
On the Liturgy of the mass:
Middle English Lyric 1100-1500:

St. Francis and the Miracle of the Crib (1297-1300)
(Frescoe of Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis, Assisi)


About Giotto:

About St. Francis of Assisi: