• I am needing help in some of the language in Ding Dong! Merrily on High ... I have put in parentheses what I think are the equivalent of the text:

    Ding dong! merrily on high
    In heav'n the bells are ringing:
    Ding dong! verily the sky
    Is riv'n (riven: split open) with Angel singing.

    Hosanna in excelsis!
    Hosanna in excelsis!

    E'en so here below, below,
    Let steeple bells be swungen, (swinging)
    And "Io, io, io!" (I, Me, ?)
    By priest and people sungen. (singing)


    Pray you, dutifully prime (at your best)
    Your matin (midnight or daybreak) chime, ye ringers;
    May you beautifully rime (rhyme)
    Your evetime (evening) song, ye singers.

    Thanks in advance,
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    The Latin "io" is an interjection meaning something like "ho!", "huzza!", or "hurra!" it's an expression of joy.
    "swungen" and "sungen" are the past participles of "swing" and "sing" - thus correspond to "swung" and "sung".
    I think "prime" refers to "prepare" (as in "prime the pump"), but I may be wrong.
    The rest of your definitions seem spot on.

  • CHGiffen is right on all counts, except that "prime" (from the Latin prima) is a canonical hour of the traditional Divine Office. Matins and lauds at night, then prime (at the first hour of day, ~6:00), terce (at the third hour, ~9:00), sext (at the sixth hour, ~noon), none (at the ninth hour, ~3:00 pm), etc. Thus the verse says to pray prime dutifully, and this is followed in the next lines by other hours, matins and evening prayer (vespers).
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    I wondered about that, Mark, but wasn't sure "prime" in the liturgical sense could be used as a verb - I even thought it might be a double-entendre.
  • Excellent, thanks guys!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,192
    Prime and Matins are often sung together. It's a pun, I think. "Prime your bells! Chime your Matins!" It's Christmas, after all!

    Is Io the same as Eia?
    Thanked by 2Gavin CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    I don't think Prime in that verse refers to the liturgical hour.

    That reading would be:

    Pray you, dutifully, prime.
    Your matin, chime, ye ringers.

    (Note the extra commas).

    1. Pray Prime. (Do so dutifully)
    2. Chime matin. (as if Matin is a bell to be chimed.)(This makes "matin" the object, with "chime" the verb.)

    When the text seems to better support:

    Pray you: (That's a request)
    Prime your matin chime. (Prepare your morning bell). ("Prime" is the verb, "chime" is the object, and "matin" is an adjective modifying "chime").
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    (I think Kathy is right. My reading above is the literal grammar, but the author is clearly smart enough to know that the word "Prime" is also a prayer.)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,192
    I think you're also right, Adam, that the primary sense is "prepare." The pun (secondary sense) is about the hours.
  • Yes, I suppose you all are right. I just assumed that a comma had been left out in the typing, but when I see the lines formatted like this, it certainly does seem that prime means "prepare, make ready," and that chime is a noun, and not a verb as I had taken it. Contra Adam, though, all those commas are hardly necessary, especially in poetry emulating archaic sentence structure.
  • From the web, regarding change ringing:

    The Prime Ring Concept

    "During each practice night every individual ringer or group should have at least one piece of ringing specifically to suit their needs — their own Prime Ring. This may consist of a plain course or touch for one learner or several more advanced ringers practising a new method or a touch which they are learning together."

    I also suspect "Io Io" would later be anglicized into "Hi ho, hi ho", but that's a guess.
  • The Merriam Webster dictionary gives:

    mat·in adj \ˈma-tən\ of or relating to matins or to early morning Middle English, from Anglo-French First Known Use: 14th century

    If the line was referring the the service of matins (as a noun), it would probably have put an "s" on the end, so it makes sense a matin chime is a bell rung at matins or, possibly, just in the morning (as the language of the carol is archaic in other areas too, like the words swungen and sungen), which would make it simple the opposite of "eventime". I am pretty sure "prime" is a verb, but as to whether it means "get ready" (but what would be involved in getting a bell ready?) or is meant to refer to the act of ringing for the service of Prime, it seems to me hard to know - this could still make sense if "matin" is just taken as an old adjective meaning "of the morning" or if as was stated above Prime and Matins are often combined. Or a third alternative could be taken from Richard R's post, in which case it might mean "perform a piece of ringing that is a special favourite of the group and that they have practised a lot".
    It doesn't seem a very clear fit as to what it means, but then again the writer probably just needed something that rhymed with chime and rime...
  • I believe that in the Oxford Book of Carols, the more recent edition, it says that "i-o" is a corruption of the Latin "in excelsis Deo". Hence, "i-o".
  • ... it says that "i-o" is a corruption of the Latin "in excelsis Deo". Hence, "i-o".

    Not likely, since, per Lewis & Short, io is recorded in Plautus, Pliny, Virgil, and Ovid.
    Thanked by 1Chris Allen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,870
    Here is my Christmas Choral book. It's in there if you want to compare.

    Thanked by 1expeditus1
  • I-o is a contraction or corruption of "ideo," Latin for "therefore."
    The implied thought is "ideo... gloria in excelsis deo,"
    "therefore... glory to God in the highest." That Latin phrase occurs in "On This Day Earth Shall Ring"
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    I assert still that "io" is a Latin interjection (usually an exclamation of joy). In fact, there is a curious relation with (Latin) origins of the Question mark "?" and the exclamation point "!":

    Question Mark

    Origin: When early scholars wrote in Latin, they would place the word questio – meaning “question” – at the end of a sentence to indicate a query. To conserve valuable space, writing it was soon shortened to qo, which caused another problem – readers might mistake it for the ending of a word. So they squashed the letters into a symbol: a lowercased q on top of an o. Over time the o shrank to a dot and the q to a squiggle, giving us our current question mark.
    Exclamation Point

    Origin: Like the question mark, the exclamation point was invented by stacking letters. The mark comes from the Latin word io, meaning “exclamation of joy.” Written vertically, with the i above the o, it forms the exclamation point we use today.
    Thanked by 1Chris Allen
  • How is 'io,io,io' pronounced?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    "ee-o, ee-o, ee-o" ... with the "o" as in "not" (it's Latin, after all).
  • CHG -
    ee-o is certainly the correct Latin pronunciation.
    However, I have several British recordings of them singing eye-o.
    (But then, they also say ve-night-ee for venite, and dee-cay-nigh for decani. Anglicising Latin has a very long pedigree over there, and some of us over here ocassionally follow suit 'just for the fun of it'.)
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,383
    Jackson -
    It did occur to me that on the right side of the pond (think pun or not), it might be "eye-oh" ... and I did forget about the Anglican Ordinariate perhaps preferring that pronunciation ... but I was just giving Latin as I perceive it for the non-Anglican parts of our church. Thanks for pointing out the alternative.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • When in doubt, just sing "fa la la la la".
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Enjoyed these posts, thanks. Think we'll go with ee-o, although up til now I've sung eye-oh.

    I found this sight while googling to find the meaning of 'riv'n' (Also in "Ding Dong, Merrily On High", and found the threads from last year pertaining to some more words in this song. For examples "matin" - "prime" - "chime".

  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,353
    MJO, re: Anglicanized Latin.
    Two words for you:
    Vivat Regina!

    and two more:
    oi, vey!
  • 'I-O' comes in Verse 3 of 'Adeste fideles'
    Cantet nunc i-o, chorus angelorum. It is usually translated as: Sing, choirs of
    angels, sing in exultation.