This month, as we begin a new calendar year, Goddard Chapel’s carillon features the traditional new year carol “Levy-Dew.” Originating in the southwestern Welsh county of Pembrokeshire, the song has been a customary element of a start-of-year ritual in which children, using a fresh sprig of evergreen, will sprinkle newly-drawn well water on passers-by. The purpose of this ritual may be to purify the passers-by for the coming year.
In modern times, the tune is most famous in its setting by 20th-century English composer Benjamin Britten, which can be heard here.
The text of the Carol, as presented by Walter de la Mare in 1931 is as follows:
Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with, this happy New Year.
Chorus (after each verse):
Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine,
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.
Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her toe;
Open you the West Door and turn the Old Year go.
Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her chin;
Open you the East Door and let the New Year in.