Page images


'« But Hudibras, who us'd to ponder

On such sights with judicious wonder,
Could hold no longer, to impart
His animadversions from his heart :
Quoth he, in all my life, till now,
I ne'er saw so profane a show." HUDIBRAS.

The three festivals of Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas were anciently commemorated by the kings and great nobility of England, with the utmost expence and magnificence. Our elder annalists, apparently consider it as one indispensable part of their office, to record where and how the sovereigns of this realm celebrated these periodical seasons of conviviality. One portion of the gaiety and amusement on these occa- · sions, consisted in the exhibition of plays, mun meries, and disguisings. That the convivialities of these important periods might be conducted in a suitable manner, and proceed in uninterrupted succession, it was a frequent practice to appoint a temporary officer to preside over them, who was variously styled the Lord, and the Abbot of Misrule. This mock officer, as might be expected, was looked to rather to increase than to watch over the decorum of the festival. As lately as the reign of Edward VI. in the year 1551, this magistracy was in so high repute, that George Ferrers; one of the most considerable writers in that celebrated repository of English poetry, "The Mirror of Magistrates,' was appointed by the privy council to exercise it during the twelve days of Christmas; “who," says the old chronicler, “ being of better credit and estima

tion than commonlie his predecessors had beene before, received all his commissions and warrants by the name of the maister of the king's pastime. Which gentleman so well supplied his office both in show of sundrie sights and devices of rare inventions, and in acts of divers interludes, and matters of pastime plaied by persons, as not onelie satisfied the common sort, but also were verie well liked and allowed by the councell, and other of skill in the like pastimes: but best of all by the yoong king himselfe, as appeered by his princelie liberalitie in rewarding that service*.” · A whimsical account has been preserved of the elec. tion and mode of proceeding of an officer bearing the same title, not resident at court, but chosen by persons of inferior rank dwelling in their several parishes. This deserves to be cited, as particularly illustrative of the taste and manners of our ancestors. “ First of all,” says the author, “ the wilde heades of the parish, flocking togither, chuse them a graund captaine of mischiefe, whom they innoble with the title of Lord of Misrule; and him they crowne with great solemnity, and adopt for their king. This king anointed chooseth forth twentie, fourty, threescore, or an hundred, like to him. self, to waite upon his lordly majesty, and to guarde his noble person. Then every one of these men he ina vesteth with his liveries of greene, yellow, or some other light, wanton colour; and, as though they were not gawdy ynough, they bedecke themselves with scarftes, ribbons, and laces, hanged all over with gold ringes, pretious stones, and other jewels. This done, they tie

* Hollingshed, ad ann,

create aboute either legge twentie or fourtie belles, with riche 33handkerchiefes in their handes, and sometimes laid

accrosse over their shoulders and neckes. Thus all thinges set in order, then have they their hobby horses, their dragons, and other antickes, together with their

baudie pypers, and thundering drummers, to strike the bir bir devil's daunce with all. Then march this heathen comLa pany towards the church, their pypers pyping, their

itt dummers thundering, their belles jyngling, their handDie kerchiefes futtering about their heades like madde men,

their hobbie horses, and otber monsters skirmishing amongst the throng; and in this sorte they go to the

church, though the minister be at prayer or preaching, hogy dancing and singing with such a confused noise that no

man can heare his own voyce; and thus these terrestrial cirip furies spend the sabbath day. Then they have certaine i papers wherein is painted some babelerie, or other of

imagerie worke, and these they call My Lord of MisDet er rule's badges or cognizances. These they give to every -* one that will give them money to maintain them in ribe this their heathenish devilrie; and who will not show

himself buxome to them, and give them money, they clients shall be mocked and flouted shamefully; yea, and many

times carried upon a cowlstaffe, and dived over heade ont and eares in water, or otherwise most terribly abused*." moeite The coarseness of manners, the broad humour, and Liene Be the ribaldry displayed on these occasions are essential

features of the character of our ancestors in these early erine ages. Historians, who, from a misjudged delicacy of be sentiment suppress them, by no means discharge the

* Stubs' Anatomie of Abuses, 1595, apud Strutt.

the office which they have rashly and unadvisedly under. taken; and are in danger of painting all scenes with insipidity, and all ages alike. Critics who do not bear these features in their memory are by no means qualified-to do justice to our ancient poets; and will often impute their fiat or indecorous passages for a fault, whereas, if they saw the subject in its full extent, they would be impressed with admiration and awe of the men, who, in the midst of so much rudeness and il! taste, preserved, in so high a degree, the purity of their te thoughts.


A Tale.
“ The weariest and most loathed worldly life

That pain, age, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a paradise
To what we fear of death."- SHAKSPEARE.

The tree of deepest root is found
Least willing still to quit the ground;
'Twas therefore said, by ancient sages,

That love of life increas'd with years
So much, that in our latter stages,
When pains grow sharp, and sickness rages,

The greatest love of life appears.

This great affection to believe,
Which all confess, but few perceire,
If old assertions can't prevail,
Be pleas'd to hear a modern tale.

When sports went round, and all were gay, On neighbour Dobson's wedding day, Death call’d aside the jocund groom, With him, into another room; And looking grave, “ you must,” says he, “ Quit your sweet bride, and come with me." “ With you! and quit my Susan's side! With you!" the hapless husband cry'd: “ Young as I am! 'tis monstrous hard ! Besides, in truth, I'm not prepard: My thoughts on other matters go, This is my wedding night, you know."

What more he urg'd I have not heard, His reasons could not well be stronger.

So Death the poor delinquent spard, And left to live a little longer ; Yet calling up a serious look, His hour-glass trembled while he spoke, “ Neighbour,” he said, “ farewell! no more Shall Death disburb your mirthful hour; And, further, to avoid all blame Of cruelty upon my name, To give you time for preparation, And fit you for a future station; Three several warnings shall you have, Before you're summon'd to the grave. Willing, for once, I'll quit my prey, And grant a kind reprieve; 8 In hopes you'll have no more to say, But, when I call again this way, Well pleas'd the world will leave.”

To these conditions both consented, And parted perfectly contented.

« PreviousContinue »