come sailing in, come sailing in
I see three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning."
Like many Christmas carols, the origin of I Saw Three Ships is unclear. What we do know is that it was included in the book Christmastide: Its History, Festivities, and Carols, gathered together by William Sandys in 1833. Versions dating from the 17th century are mentioned as is the notion that the carol was composed and spread by minstrels wandering the English countryside during the Medieval times.
Lilian Westcott Hale (1881-1963) was a an accomplished and successful American artist whose work is often described as Impressionistic. Since Hale often worked at home On Christmas Day in the Morning may be the view out the window of the Hale house in Dedham, Massachusetts. Bare trees and snowy skies provide a background that renders the interior scene the more inviting. The ivy trailing along the window frame and the wreath decorated with pears, apples, lemons and cinnamon sticks signal holiday warmth as does the kettle in the corner. The realistic, even sober, rendering of the scene avoids greeting card sentimentality.
Image: Lilian Westcott Hale - On Christmas Day in the Morning, 1924, charcoal and colored pencil on paper, Richard York Gallery, NYC.