Corpus Christi Carol aka Down In Yon Forest…

Corpus Christi Carol, a song that tends to wake you up and make you go “WTF?”

Whence listening passively to Christmas music and suddenly hearing lyrics about sentient falcons, mysterious lovers, purple gowns, strange abandoned hallways and wounded knights abandoned on tabletops…what kind of Christmas Carol is THIS?

It is technically only a “Carol” in the sense that it is a sacred hymn. The text itself has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with the Fisher King legend. Beautiful, Apocryphal and a gorgeous relic of mythical mystery.

An ancient medieval hymn/carol. Passed down through the ages as “Down In Yon Forest,” an English (and Appalachian?) folk ballad which grew heavier on the “Jesus love” and lighter on the weird death and rebirth and mystical wound elements across the centuries but pretty much held on to its essential weirdness.

Popularized in the pre and post World War II era, as a young, ambitious 19 year old composer named Benjamin Britten penned a work called “A Boy Is Born” and included a version of the Carol.

Popularized AGAIN when Jeff Buckley  recorded a haunting and archaic sounding version on his album, Grace.

Here is some more in depth examination, for your perusual:

It is, and shall always be, a beautifully odd and anachronistic relic of Arthurian genesis. Also, it’s lovely and I want to sing it soon.