“The Moon Shines Bright (The Bellman's Song)”


"The moon shines bright And the stars give a light." Listeners are told to awake that they may hear the life of Jesus and of the passion: "We ne'er shall do for Jesus Christ as he hath done for us." Listeners are reminded that life is short


This song in its current form seems to have originated in broadsides. It has some material in common with May carols, but whether the lyrics originated there (so A. L. Lloyd) or moved from this piece to the May songs is not clear.

The initial lines, "The moon shines bright The stars give a light" are found in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, volume II, from around 1744, but this is yet another separate piece:

The moon shines Bright

The Stars give a light

And you may kiss

A pretty girl

At ten a clock at Night.

The Baring-Goulds connect the above item with "Now I Am a Big Boy"; this appears possible but not certain.

A second stanza also occurs in nursery tradition: "God bless the master of this house, The Mistress bless also..." (see Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #423, p. 196).

Ravenscroft also printed a "Bellman's Song"; it is not the same thing.

Bradley in _The Penguin Book of Carols_ says "This is not, as might appear from its first line, a song about Charlie Chaplin." Don't ask me what that is supposed to mean; I have no clue. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 28(200), "The Moon Shone Bright," W. Armstrong (Liverpool), 1820-1824; also Douce adds. 137(66), Douce adds. 137(8), Johnson Ballads 1392C, Johnson Ballads 1485, "The Moon Shines Bright"; Harding B 7(31), "St. John's Day"; Johnson Ballads 2456, "Carol 2" ("The moon shines bright"); Harding B 25(379), "Christmas carol. III. ("The moon shone bright, & the[sic] gave light")


  • Jasper Smith, "The Moon Shine Bright" (on Voice11)


  1. Leather, pp. 193-194, "The Moon Shines Bright" (1 text plus an excerpt, 2 tunes)
  2. OBC 46, 47, 48, "The Bellman's Song" (1 text, 3 tunes)
  4. ADDITIONAL: Ian Bradley, _The Penguin Book of Carols_ (1999), #80, "The Moon Shines Bright" (1 text plus sundry loose stanzas)
  5. Roud #702
  6. BI, DTbellma


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1825 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 28(200))
Found in: Britain(England(Lond,West))