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Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875)

Modryb Marya -- Aunt Mary
A Christmas Chant


In old and simple-hearted Cornwall, the household names "Uncle" and "Aunt" were uttered and used as they are to this day in many countries of the East, not only as phrases of kindred, but as words of kindly greeting and tender respect. It was in the spirit therefore of this touching and graphic usage, that they were wont on the Tamar side to call the Mother of God in their loyal language Modryb Marya, or Aunt Mary.

              1Now of all the trees by the king's highway,
              2    Which do you love the best?
              3O! the one that is green upon Christmas Day,
              4    The bush with the bleeding breast.
              5Now the holly with her drops of blood for me:
              6For that is our dear Aunt Mary's tree.

              7Its leaves are sweet with our Saviour's Name,
              8    'Tis a plant that loves the poor:
              9Summer and winter it shines the same,
            10    Beside the cottage door.
            11O! the holly with her drops of blood for me:
            12For that is our kind Aunt Mary's tree.

            13'Tis a bush that the birds will never leave:
            14    They sing in it all day long;
            15But sweetest of all upon Christmas Eve,
            16    Is to hear the robin's song.
            17'Tis the merriest sound upon earth and sea:
            18For it comes from our own Aunt Mary's tree.

            19So of all that grow by the king's highway,
            20    I love that tree the best;
            21'Tis a bower for the birds upon Christmas Day,
            22    The bush of the bleeding breast.
            23O! the holly with her drops of blood for me:
            24For that is our sweet Aunt Mary's tree.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Rev. R. S. Hawker, The Cornish Ballads And other Poems (Oxford and London: James Parker, 1869): 39-40. Facsimile Reproduction with an intro. by Kay J. Walter and Terence Allan Hoagwood. Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles, 1994. PR 4759 H9C6 1869a Robarts Library
First publication date: 1853
Publication date note: C. E. Byles, The Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker (John Lane, the Bodley Head, 1906): 252.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/4/29

Composition date: 1838
Form: sestets
Rhyme: ababcc


Other poems by Robert Stephen Hawker