Poet's Corner

The Mistletoe Bough

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The midi that is playing is the music that accompanies The Mistletoe Bough.

The Mistletoe Bough

Thomas Haynes Bayley (1884)

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall
The holly branch shone on the old oak wall.
The Baron's retainers were blithe and gay,
Keeping the Christmas holiday.

The Baron beheld with a father's pride
His beautiful child, Lord Lovell's bride.
And she, with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of that goodly company.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

"I'm weary of dancing, now," she cried;
"Here, tarry a moment, I'll hide, I'll hide,
And, Lovell, be sure you're the first to trace
The clue to my secret hiding place."

Away she ran, and her friends began
Each tower to search and each nook to scan.
And young Lovell cried, "Oh, where do you hide?
I'm lonesome without you, my own fair bride."
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

They sought her that night, they sought her next day,
They sought her in vain when a week passed away.
In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot,
Young Lovell sought wildly, but found her not.

The years passed by and their brief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past.
When Lovell appeared, all the children cried,
"See the old man weeps for his fairy bride."
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

At length, an old chest that had long laid hid
Was found in the castle; they raised the lid.
A skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair.

How sad the day when in sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest,
It closed with a spring and a dreadful doom,
And the bride lay clasped in a living tomb.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

And here is the music if you would like to sing it as the Victorian ballad.

You can get the notation for a whistle in various keys. Click here to get it.

The Mistletoe Bough is said to have been taken from a true story, where for a game a bride hid from her husband in a game of hide-and-seek. Her hiding place was an old oak chest which, unknown to her, locked on a hidden spring on closing.

Looking around the Internet here is some information that I found on a search for "Mistletoe Bough".

Brockdish Hall, a 17 century manor is said to be the setting of the 'Mistletoe Bride'. On her wedding night, as part of a hide-and-seek game, a young bride hid in an old wooden chest with a heavy lid. She was sought high and low but not found. Only years later someone opened the chest by chance and found a mouldering corpse in bridal wear. The story is also reflected in the popular Victorian ballad, The Mistletoe Bough, by Thomas Haynes Bayley (1884).

Bramwell House near Basingstoke is said to be the most haunted house in Hampshire and is also thought/claimed to be the site of the same tragedy. It is said that for 50 years the chest lay undisturbed, until one day the chest was opened and the bride was found inside a mouldering corpse.

So we have two places that are claimed to be the site of the tagedy of Lord Lovell. If anyone knows which place is the actual one correctly associated with the poem and the tragedy, then please let me know. I would also like to know if you know of anywhere else that is associated with the poem or tragedy. Also, if you know it by actual fact, please let me know if Lord Lovell is just a fictional character or whether he was the actual bridegroom in both name and title.

Actually, thinking about the whole affair, I find it difficult to believe or accept that an oak chest can remain untampered with for 50 years or more. It must have been discovered at some time during those 50 years, even if it had been left in an attic, and someone must have been wondered about what was in it, or must have been considered using it for something during that time. I mean, you don't just find a chest and think "Oh, that's a nice chest" and just walk away. Your curiosity makes you want to have a look in it.

However, stranger things have happened than this. So it might also be worthwhile finding out if The Mistletoe Bough really did come from a true story or if it is just a story. If you have some positive proof either way then please let me know

Email me at shirleyb@mc-systems.co.uk

I asked for any information that anyone could give me on the events surrounding the Misletoe Bough song, as to whether it was written from an actual event, and any information on that event. Anyway, here is some correspondence that I have received on the subject.

This is the textual content of an email from Charles Tremewen

I have record of a Lord Lovell who live in Cornwall in the 1400's. Our name
came from his lineage through his illegitimate son. If you need more
information on this you might want to contact Alan Tremewen in Melbourne

Hope this helps,
Charles Tremewen

This is the textual content of an email from Keith Sharp

Hi Shirley,
I always thought that the events of "The Mistletoe Bough" happened at the Lovells own seat at Minster Lovell, now a ruin.
Brewer's 'Dictionary of Phrase and Fable' (1898 edition) says that Marwell Old Hall, once the residence of the Seymour, afterwards the Dacre family, has a similar tradition attached to it, and (according to the Post Office Directory) "the very chest became the property of the Rev. J. Haygarth, a rector of Upham."
Two more to chose from !

About some of the locations linked with the Mistletoe Bough mystery.

Norfolk: Brockdish

Extract from William White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845

BROCKDISH, on the south [ should be north ] bank of the Waveney, 2 miles W.S.W. of Harleston, and 5 miles E. of Diss, has in its parish 466 souls, and 1054 acres of land, all freehold. John Birkbeck, Esq., is lord of the manors of Brockdish Hall and Brockdish Earl, and owner of the Hall estate, formerly the seat of the Le Grys family. T.C. Brettingham, Esq., of London, owns Brockdish Place, a handsome modern mansion, of white brick, and has a large estate here. The Grove estate, anciently the seat of the Wythes, belongs to the heirs of Mr. Thos. Walne.

The Church (Saint Peter and St. Paul,) has a tower, partly rebuilt in 1714, and containing five bells. The rectory, valued in the King's Book at 10, is in the patronage of W.B. France, Esq., and incumbency of the Rev. Geo. France. M.A., who has lately erected a handsome Rectory House, in the Elizabethan style. The glebe is 25A., and the tithes have been commuted for 350 per annum.

Bramshill House

Location: nr Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Origin: 18th Century Background: Since 1953 the house has been a police training college, but reference to Bramshill (Bromeselle) can be traced back to Saxon times.

In 1605, Edward Lord Zouche of Harringworth became lord of the manor and demolished a large part of the building and began to build the present house. This was completed in 1612. In 1699, it passed to Sir John Cope. The ghost is thought to be a member of his family.

This is the Legend of the Mistletoe Bough. Story:

It was my wedding day and I was so happy. We were playing games and everyone was having fun. But it was not meant to be a happy day for me. We were playing hide and seek. I found an old chest and hid inside. Nobody could find me; I thought I had been so clever.

It went quiet and I decided to get out of the chest; I assumed the others had given up. The lid wouldn't move. No matter how hard I tried it wouldn't open. I shouted and screamed but nobody came. Eventually there was no air left in the chest and I suffocated. I wander through the house hoping to find someone who can release me.