This article about the song and legend of The Mistletoe Bough appeared in an early 20th century children’s encyclopedia (1911), The Book of Knowledge. I’ve included a clip from a silent film of the same title that I found on

Then there was Thomas Haynes Bayly. We do not know his songs so well as our grandfathers and grandmothers used to know them; but we know at least “The Mistletoe Bough,” and we have heard of “She wore a Wreath of Roses,” and of “Oh, no! We Never Mention Her,” of “I’ll hang my Harp on a Willow Tree,” and of “Gaily the Troubadour touched his Guitar.”

Victorian illustration of a scene from The Mistletoe Bough, shows the innocent bride entering the old chest that would become her tomb.

We all know the sad story of “The Mistletoe Bough.” The bride of Lord Lovel, on her wedding night, hid for fun in a large oak chest, but the lid closed down and the spring lock fastened her in. Many years later her skeleton was found in the chest. This story was made into a song by Thomas Haynes Bayley.

Bayley was born in the old town of Bath in 1797, and died in 1839, after years of  misfortune. His father was a lawyer, and he wanted his son to become a lawyer  also. But the youth took a great dislike to the law. The father then tried him with the Church, but he did not like that either; so at last he joined the ranks of those who looked to literature for a living. There is a fine old flavor about his songs, something like what we should experience, perhaps, if we opened an old bureau and turned over the letters of our grandmothers.

Mr. Andrew Lang says it is “like listening, in the sad yellow evening, to the strains of a barrel-organ, faint and sweet, and far away.” And so it is. Bayly could play beautifully with old romance, and in that direction song has nothing more effective to show us than “The Mistletoe Bough.” When the bride got into the ancient chest,

“It closed with a spring. And, dreadful doom!
The bride lay clasped in her living tomb;”

so that her lover, “mourned for his fairy bride,” and never discovered the whereabouts of her premature tomb.

The Text of the Song: The Mistletoe Bough by 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.

A short silent film, possibly a fragment of a longer film, shows a different scenario for this tragic tale:

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