Page images

in Northbrooke's Treatise against Dauncing, p. 118: "Also their daunces were spiritual, religious, and godly, not after our hoppings and leapings, and interminglings men with women, &c. (dauncing every one for his part), but soberly, gravely,' &c. Also, p. 132, “What good doth all that dauncing of yomg women holding upon men's armes, that they may hop the higher ?”

In a most curious and rare tract, entitled A Joco serious Discourse in two Dialogues, between a Northumberland Gentleman and his Tenant, a Scotchman, both old Cavaliers, 1686, p. 32, we read :

“ To horse-race, fair, or hoppin go,
There play our cast among the whipsters,
Throw for the hammer, lowp (leap) for slippers,
And see the maids dance for the ring,
Or any other pleasant thing;
F*** for the pigg, lye for the whetstone,
Or chuse what side to lay our betts on.”

We find notes explaining the word “Hoppin" by "annual feasts in country towns where no market is kept," and "lying for the whetstone,” I'm told, has been practised, but **** for the pigg is beyond the memory of any I met with ; tho' it is a common phrase in the north to any that's gifted that way; and probably there has been such a mad practice formerly. The ancient grossièreté of our manners would almost exceed belief. In the stage directions to old Moralities we often find “Here Satan letteth a ****.” Lying for the whetstone will be explained in another part of the present volume. [The following notice was circulated on the occasion of a hopping at Newcastle in 1758: “On this day (May 22) the annual diversions at Swalwell will take place, which will consist of dancing for ribbons, grinning for tobacco, women running for smocks, ass races, foot courses by men, with an odd whim of a man eating a cock alive, feathers, entrails, &c.”]

Hospinian cites Thomas Naogeorgus, in his fourth book of the Regnum Papisticum, as drawing a most loathsome picture of the excesses and obscenities used in his time at the Feast of Dedications. Thus translated by Barnabe Googe: "The Dedication of the Church is yerely had in minde, With worship passing catholicke, and in a wond'rous kinde:

From out the steeple hie is hangde a crosse and banner fayre,
The pavement of the temple strowde with hearbes of pleasant ayre;
The pulpets and the aulters all that in the church are seene,
And every pewe and piller great are deckt with boughes of greene :
The tabernacles opned are, and images are drest,
But chiefly he that patron is doth shine above the rest :
A borde there standes, whereon their bulles and pardons thick they lay,
That given are to every one that keepes this holyday :
The idoll of the patron eke without the doore doth stande,
And beggeth fast of every man, with pardons in his hande:
Who for bicause he lackes his tongue, and hath not yet the skill
In common people's languages, when they speak well or ill;
He hath his owne interpretor, that alwayes standeth by,
And unto every man that commeth in or out doth cry:
Desiring them the patrone there with giftes to have in minde,
And popishe pardons for to buie, release of sinnes to finde.
On every side the neighbours come, and such as dwell not nere,
Come of their owne good willes, and some required to be there.
And every man his weapon hath, their swordes and launces long,
Their axes, curriars, pystolets, with pykes and darts among.
The yong men in their best array, and trimmest maydes appeare,
Both jeasters, roges, and minstrels with their instruments are heare.
The pedler doth his packe untrusse, the host his pots doth fill,
And on the table breade and drinke doth set for all that will:
Nor eyther of them their heape deceyves, for of the others all,
To them th' advauntage of this feaste, and gaine, doth chiefly fall.
The service done, they eyther to the taverne fast doe flie,
Or to their neighbour's house, whereas they feede unreasonablie:
For sixe or seven courses they unto the table bring,
And for their suppers may compare with any heathen king.
The table taken up, they rise, and all the youth apace,
The minstrell with them called go to some convenient place:
Where, when with bagpipe hoarce he hath begon his musicke fine,
And unto such as are preparde to daunce hath given signe,
Comes thither streight both boys and gyrles, and men that aged bee,
And maryed folkes of middle age, there also comes to see,
Old wrinckled hagges, and youthfull dames, that minde to daunce aloft,
Then sundrie pastimes do begin, and filthie daunces oft :
When drunkards they do lead the daunce with fray and bloody fight,
That handes, and eares, and head, and face, are torne in wofull plight.
The streames of bloud runne downe the armes, and oftentimes is seene
The carkasse of some ruffian slaine, is left upon the greene.
Here many, for their lovers sweete, some daintie thing do buie,
And many to the taverne goe, and drinke for companie,
Whereas they foolish songs do sing, and noyses great do make:
Some in the meane while play at cardes, and some tbe dice do shake.
Their custome also is, the priest into the house to pull
Whom, when they have, they thinke their game accomplished at full:
He farre in noyse exceedes them all, and eke in drinking drie
The cuppes, a prince he is, and holdes their heades that speewing lie.”

In Hinde’s Life of John Bruen, of Bruen-Stapleford, in the county of Chester, Esquire, 1641, at p. 89, the author, speaking of Popish and profane wakes at Tarum, says: Popery and Profannes, two sisters in evil, had consented and conspired in this parish, as in many other places, together to advance their idols against the arke of God, and to celebrate their solemne feastes of their Popish Saints, as being the Dii tutelares, the speciall patrons and protectors of their church and parish, by their wakes and VIGILS, kept in commemoration and honour of them, in all riot and excesse of eating and drinking, dalliance and dancing, sporting and gaming, and other abominable impieties and idolatries.”

“In the northern counties,” says Hutchinson, in his History of Northumberland, i. 26, “these holy feasts are not yet abolished; and in the county of Durham many are yet celebrated. They were originally Feasts of Dedication in commemoration of the consecration of the church, in imitation of Solomon's great convocation at the consecrating the Temple of Jerusalem. The religious tenour is totally forgotten, and the Sabbath is made a day of every dissipation and vice which it is possible to conceive could crowd upon a villager's manners and rural life. The manner of holding these festivals in former times was under tents and booths erected in the churchyard, where all kinds of diversions were introduced. Interludes were there performed, being a species of theatrical performance, consisting of a rehearsal of some passages in Holy Writ personated by actors. This kind of exhibition is spoken of by travellers who have visited Jerusalem, where the religious even presume to exhibit the Crucifixion and Ascension with all their tremendous circumstances. On these celebrations in this country, great feasts were displayed, and vast abundance of meat and drink."

Of Cheshire, Dr. Gower, in his Sketch of the Materials for a History of that County, tells us : “I cannot avoid reminding you upon the present occasion, that frumenty makes the principal entertainment of all our country wakes : our common people call it ‘firmitry.' It is an agreeable composition of boiled wheat, milk, spice, and sugar," p. 10. King, in his Vale Royal of England, p. 20, speaking of the inhabitants of Chester, says: “Touching their house-keeping, it

and comparable with any other shire in the realm : and that is to be seen at their weddings and burials, but chiefly at their wakes, which they yearly hold (although it be of late years well laid down)."

Macaulay, in his History of Claybrook, 1791, p. 93, observes that there is a wake the Sunday next after St. Peter, to whom the church is dedicated : adding, at p. 128, “the people of this neighbourhood are much attached to the celebration of wakes; and on the annual return of those festivals, the cousins assemble from all quarters, fill the church on Sunday, and celebrate Monday with feasting, with musick, and with dancing. The spirit of old English hospitality is conspicuous among the farmers on those occasions; but with the lower sort of people, especially in manufacturing villages, the return of the wake never fails to produce a week, at least, of idleness, intoxication, and riot : these and other abuses, by which these festivals are so grossly perverted from the original end of their institution, render it highly desirable to all the friends of order, of decency, and of religion, that they were totally suppressed.” The following is found in Herrick's Hesperides,


p. 300:

“Come, Anthea, let us two

Go to feast, as others do.
Tarts and custards, creams and cakes,
Are the junkets still at wakes :
Unto which the tribes resort,
Where the businesse is the sport.
Morris-dancers thou shalt see,
Marian too in pagentrie;
And a mimick to devise
Many grinning properties.
Players there will be, and those
Base in action as in clothes ;
Yet with strutting they will please
The incurious villages.
Near the dying of the day
There will be a cudgel-play,
When a coxcomb will be broke
Ere a good word can be spoke.
But the anger ends all here,
Drencht in ale, or drown'd in beere.
Happy rusticks, best content
With the cheapest merriment;
And possesse no other feare
Than to want the wake next yeare."

In Sir Aston Cokain's Poems, 1658, p. 210, is the following:

To Justice Would-be.
" That you are vext their wakes your neighbours keep,

They guess it is because you want your sleep ;
I therefore wish that you your sleep would take,

That they (without offence) might keep their wake.It appears that in ancient times the parishioners brought rushes at the Feast of Dedication, wherewith to strew the church, and from that circumstance the festivity itself has obtained the name of Rush-bearing, which occurs for a country wake in a Glossary to the Lancashire dialect. In the Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Mary-at-Hill, in the city of London, 1504, Yongeham and Revell, is the following article: “Paid for 2 berden rysshes for the strewyng the newe pewes, 3d.Ibid. 1493, Howtyng and Overy—“for 3 burdens of rushes for the new pews, 3d." In similar Accounts for the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster (4to. p. 12), under the year 1544, is the following item : “Paid for rushes against the Dedication Day, which is always the first Sunday of October, 1s. 5d.” In Coates's History of Reading, p. 227, among the entries in the Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Laurence Parish for 1602, we have: “ Paid for flowers and rushes for the churche when the Queene was in town, xxd.In Thomas Newton's Herball to the Bible, 1587, is the following passage : “Sedge and rushes with the which many in the country do use in summer time to strawe their parlors and churches, as well for cooleness as for pleasant smell.” Chambers, and indeed all apartments usually inhabited, were formerly strewed in this manner.

As our ancestors rarely washed their floors, disguises of uncleanliness became necessary things. It appears that the English stage was strewed with rushes. The practice in private houses is noticed by Dr. Johnson from Caius de Ephemera Britannica. In Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 1631, p. 197,

Compare Ducange: “ Juncus majoribus festis sparsus in ecclesia et alibi, Consuetud. MSS. S. Augustini Lemovic. f. 14. In festo S. Augustini præpositus debet recipere juncum qni debetur ex consuetudine ad parandum chorum et capitulum. Codex MS. Montis S. Michaelis annorum circ. 400. Eleemosynarius tenetur etiam invenire juncum in magnis festivitatibus in choro et in claustro.” Naogeorgus thus describes this custom :

"—redolenti gramine templi
Sternitur omne solum, ramisque virentibus aræ."

« PreviousContinue »