Old King Cole

“Old King Cole” lyrics date back to the early 18th century England.

The first version was published around 1708 in William King’s work “Useful Transactions in Philosophy”.

The origin of King Cole character can be traced back to early history. “Cole” is a derived name from the Brythonic “Coel”. The character was related to some legendary names in British History, all identified as King Coel and mostly mentioned in British legends and literature.

One of those figures was Coel Hen, also nicknamed, Coel the Old or Old King Cole because of his age. He was the King of Northern Britain during the decline of the Roman Empire when Britain was assailed by the Goths and exempt by the Romans.

Another legendary figure in Britain’s History was Coel Godhebog, a predecessor of Coel Hen, known as Cole the Magnificent.

The son of Coel Hen, identified as Saint Ceneu ap Coel, (English: Kenneth) was also a King of Northern Britain, mostly famous for defending and claiming the Christian religion especially during pagan invasions. He was canonized for this practice later on.

Another interpretation of this song’s origins is that it could be a musical theme song. In Gaelic the term ceol means music. The term fiddle is an old instrument that resembles today’s violin. The pipe is also used to define a flute or recorder. A literal analysis of this song will suggest that King Cole is the name of a musical group singing.

“Old King Cole” Lyrics

Modern Version

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there’s none so rare, as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three

“Old King Cole” Original Version

Good King Cole,
And he call’d for his Bowle,
And he call’d for Fidler’s three;
And there was Fiddle, Fiddle,
And twice Fiddle, Fiddle,
For ’twas my Lady’s Birth-day,
Therefore we keep Holy-day
And come to be merry

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