A Ditchling Winter's Tale - the Ditchling Carol
The Ditchling Carol
Be merry all, be merry all
With holly deck the festive hall.
Prepare the song, the feast, the hall
To welcome merry Christmas.
And all remember, gentles gay:
For you who bask in fortune's ray
The year is all a holiday.
The poor have only Christmas.
You who in velvet mantle go,
Defy December's tempest's roar.
Oh, spare one garment from your store
To clothe the poor at Christmas.
You who the costly banquet deal
To friends who never famine feel,
Oh, spare one morsel from your meal
To feed the poor at Christmas.
With blazing logs of fuel the while,
Your homes are within summer's smile.
Oh, spare one log from off your pile
To warm the poor at Christmas.
So shall each note of mirth appear
More sweet to Heaven than praise or prayer,
And angels in their carols there
Shall bless the poor at Christmas
Born in Ditchling in1825, Peter Parsons became the village shoemaker. He was also the parish Clerk and choirmaster, at one time having nine of his thirteen children singing in the choir. He also led the Ditchling Glee Club (singers specialising in singing in the round). In Sussex at the time, there was a strong tradition of singing both religious and secular Christmas carols and Peter Parsons developed quite a reputation locally for his repertoire of popular and comic songs and anecdotes.
The words of the Ditchling carol have been found on a broadside ballad sheet dating from the early 19th century. Peter Parsons composed the music to the carol which was to be sung robustly by tenor and bass voices.
Peter Parsons died on Christmas Eve in 1901 but the Ditchling Carol lives on and is sometimes sung in the village on Boxing Day by the Ditching Mummers.