Please to see the king

Music: Trad. arr. Paul Carline. Words: Trad. Anon
performance time approx 1m 30s
Range S: g' – f'' / A: e' – c'' / T: f – e' / B: G – g
Price code: B
Complexity: *

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The wren traditionally symbolised winter and the robin summer, and on Twelfth Night in parts of Wales and the west of England, a wren was hunted and killed to represent the death of winter. The dead bird would be placed in a garlanded box and taken from door to door, and at each house this song would be sung. The occupants would be asked for money to see the dead wren, with the words: 'Please to see the king'.

This king of birds is described in terms of enormous power and magnificent splendour, in ludicrous contrast to the tiny, frail, plain-looking wren that was actually displayed.

This fine strophic arrangement is a lot of fun to sing. A soloist introduces the song, and there is one men's verse, in three part harmony.

The piece can be sung a whole tone lower in the key of B flat if that is more comfortable.


Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place.
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our king.

Our king is well dressed
In the silks of the best,
In ribbons so rare
No king can compare.

We have travelled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our king:
Unto you we bring.

We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot,
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

O Christmas is past,
Twelve tide is the last,
And we bid you adieu -
Great joy to the New!

Traditional (from Pembrokeshire in Wales)

Purchase – 2005: Please to see the king

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