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TIIe author of the Convivial Antiquities tells us that the pastoral life was anciently accounted an honorable one, particularly among the Jews and the Romans. Mention occurs in the Old Testament of the festive entertainments of the former on this occasion, particularly in the second book of Samuel, where Absalom the king's son was master of the feast. And Varro may be consulted for the manner of celebrating this feast among the latter. In England, particularly in the southern parts, for these festivities are not so common in the north, on the day they begin to shear their sheep, they provide a plentiful dinner for the shearers and their friends who visit them on the occasion : a table, also, if the weather permit, is spread in the open village for the young people and children. The washing and shearing of sheep, is attended with great mirth and festivity. Indeed, the value of the covering of this very useful animal must always have made the shearing-time, in all pastoral countries, a kind of Harvest Home. In Tusser's Five Ilundred Points of Husbandry, under “The Ploughman's Feast-days,” are the following lines, alluding to this festivity:

“ Wife, make us a dinner, spare flesh neither corne,

Make wafers and cakes, for our sheepe must be shorne;
At sheepe shearing, neighbours none other things crave,

But good cheere and welcome like neighbours to have.”
There is a beautiful description of this festivity in Dyer's

I “ Apud Latinos oves tondere, ut et sementem facere omnino non fuit licitum, priusquam Catulatio, hoc est, ex cane sacrum fieret : ut Gyraldus testatur de Diis gentium. Ex his ergo omnibus constat illam ovium ton. suram (quam Luna decrescente à veteribus fieri fuisse solitam M. Varro testatur: de tempore autem oves lavandi et tondendi, vide Plin. lib. xvii. c. 17) magna cum festivitate, lætitia, atque conviviis fuisse celebratam ; id quod mirum non est. Nam in animalibus primum non sine causa putant oves assumptas, et propter utilitatem et propter placiditatem : maxime enim hæ natura quietæ et aptissimæ ad vitam hominum. Ad cibum enim lac et caseum adhibitum : ad corpus vestitum et pelles attulerunt. Itaque cum in illis tot presertim numero tondendis plurimum pastoribus atque famulis esset laboris exantlandum, justa profectò de causa patres-familias atque Domini illos conviviali hujusmodi lætitia recreare rursus atque ex. hilarare voluerunt."-Antiq. Conviv. p. 62.

Poem called “The Fleece,” at the end of the first book, 1. 601:

“At shearing-time, along the lively vales,

Rural festivities are often heard ;
Beneath each blooming arbor all is joy
And lusty merriment: while on the grass
The mingled youth in gaudy circles sport,
We think the golden age again returned
And all the fabled Dryades in dance.
Leering, they bound along, with laughing air,
To the shrill pipe and deep remurm’ring chords
Of th' ancient harp, or tabor's hollow sound;
While th' old apart, upon a bank recliu’d,
Attend the tuneful carol, softly mixt
With ev'ry murmar of the sliding wave,
And ev'ry warble of the featherd choir ;
Music of Paradise! which still is heard
When the heart listens; still the views appear,
Of the first happy garden, when Content
To Nature's flowery scenes directs the sight.

- With light fantastic toe, the nymphs
Thither assembled; thither every swain;
And o'er the dimpled stream a thousand flow'rs,
Pale lilies, roses, violets, and pinks,
Mixt with the greens of burnet, mint, and thyme,
And trefoil sprinkled with their sportive arms.

Such custom holds along th' irriguous vales
From Wreakin's brow to rocky Dolvoryn,
Sabrina's early haunt.

The jolly chear
Spread on a mossy bank, untouch'd abides
Till cease the rites : and now the mossy bank
Is gaily circled, and the jolly chear
Dispers'd in copious measure : early fruits
And those of frugal store, in husk or kind;
Steep'd grain, and curdlet milk with dulcet cream
Soft temper’d, in full merriment they quaff,
And cast about their gibes ; and some apace
Whistle to roundelays: their little ones
Look on delighted : while the mountain woods,
And winding valleys, with the various notes
Of pipe, sheep, kine, and birds, and liquid brooks,
Unite their echoes: near at hand the wide
Majestic wave of Severn slowly rolls
Along the deep divided glebe : the flood,
And trading bark with low contracted sail,
Linger among the reeds and copsy banks
To listen, and to view the joyous scene.”

Thus, also, Thomson in his Summer, describes the washing and shearing of sheep :

In one diffusive band
They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog
Compell'd, to where the mazy-running brook
Forms a deep pool: this bank abrupt and high,
And that fair-spreading in a pebbled shore.
Urged to the giddy brink, much is the toil,
The clamour much of men, and boys, and dogs,
Ere the soft fearful people to the flood
Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain
On some impatient seizing, hurls them in;
Embolden'd then, nor hesitating more,
Fast, fast, they plunge amidst the flashing wave,
And, panting, labour to the farthest shore.
Repeated this, till deep the well-wash'd fleece
Jlas drunk the flood, and from his lively haunt
The trout is banish'd by the sordid stream;
Heavy, and dripping, to the breezy brow
Slow move the harmless race; where, as they spread
Their swelling treasures to the sunny ray,
Inly disturb’d, and wondering what this wild
Outrageous tumult means, their loud complaints
The country till; and, toss'd from rock to rock,
Incessant bleatings run around the hills.

At last, of snowy white, the gather'd flocks
Are in the wattled pen innumerous press'd
Head above head; and rang'd in lusty rows
The shepherds sit, and whet the sounding shears;
The housewife waits to roll her fleecy stores
With all her gay-drest maids attending round.
One, chief, in gracious dignity enthron'd,
Shines o'er the rest the past'ral Queen, and rays
Her smiles, sweet-beaming on her shepherd King;
While the glad circle round them yield their souls
To festive mirth, and wit that knows no gall.
Meantime their joyous task goes on apace :
Some mingling stir the melted tar, and some
Deep on the new-shorn vagrant's heaving side,
To stamp his master's cypher, ready stand;
Others th’unwilling wether drag along;
And glorying in his might, the sturdy boy
Holds by the twisted horns th' indignant ram.
Behold, when bound, and of its robe bereft,
By needy man, that all-depending lord,
How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies !
What softness in its melancholy face,
What dumb complaining innocence appears !

Fear not, ye gentle tribes ! 'tis not the knife
Of horrid slaughter that is o'er you waved ;
No! tis the tender swain's well.guided shears,
Who having now to pay his annual care,
Borrow'd your fleece, to you a cumbrous load,

Will send you bounding to your hills again.” By the following passage in Ferne's Glory of Generositie, p. 71, it should seem that cheese-cakes composed a principal dainty at the feast of Sheep-shearing. “Well vor your paines (if you come to our Sheep-shearing veast) bum vaith yous taste of our CHEESE-CAKE. This is put into the mouth of Columell the Plowman. In Braithwaite's Lancashire Lovers, 1640, Camillus the Clown, courting Doriclea, tells her : We will have a lustie CHEESE-CAKE at our sheepe wash,p. 19.

The expense attending these festivities appears to have afforded matter of complaint. Thus in Questions of profitable and pleasant Concernings, &c., 1594: "If it be a Sheepshearing feast, Master Baily can entertain you with his bill of reckonings to his maister of three sheapherds' wages, spent on fresh cates, besides spices, and saffron pottage.

In Ireland, “On the first Sunday in harvest, viz. in August, they will be sure to drive their cattle into some pool or river and therein swim them : this they observe as inviolable as if it were a point of religion, for they think no beast will live the whole year through unless they be thus drenched. I deny not but that swimming of cattle, and chiefly in this season of the year, is healthful unto them, as the poet hath observed :

• Balantumque gregem fluvio mersare salubri.'—Virg.

In th' healthful flood to plunge the bleating flock.' But precisely to do this on the first Sunday in harvest, I look on as not only superstitious, but profane." --Piers's Desc. of West Meath, in Vállancey's Collectanea, i. 121.


BOURNE observes that in his time it was usual in country villages, where the politeness of the age had made no great conquest, to pay a greater deference to Saturday afternoon than to any other of the working days of the week. The first idea of this cessation from labour at that time was, that every one might attend evening prayers as a kind of preparation for the ensuing Sabbath. The eve of the Jewish Sabbath is called the Preparation, Moses having taught that people to remember the Sabbath over night.

In Hearing and Doing the ready Way to Blessednesse, by Henry Mason, parson of St. Andrew Undershaft, 1635, p. 537, is the following, which would seem to prove that at that time Saturday afternoon was kept holy by some even in the metropolis: "For better keeping of which the seventh) day, Moses commanded the Jews (Exod. xvi. 23) that the day before the Sabbath they should bake what they had to bake, and seeth what they had to seeth ; so that they might have no businesse of their own to do, when they were to keepe God's holy day. And from hence it was that the Jews called the sixth day of the week, the preparation of the Sabbath. (Matt. xxvii. 62, and Luke xxiii. 54.) -answerably whereunto, and (as I take it) in imitation thereof, the Christian Church hath beene accustomed to keep Saterday half holyday, that in the afternoon they might ridd by-businesses out of the way, and by the evening service might prepare their mindes for the Lord's day then ensuing. Which custome and usage of God's people, as I will not presse it upon any man's conscience as a necessarie dutie ; so every man will grant mee, that God's people, as well Christian as Jewish, have thought a time of preparation most fit for the well observing of God's holy day.”

In Jacob's History of Faversham, p. 172, in ‘Articles for the Sexton of Faversham,' 22, Hen. VIII. I find : “Item, the said sexton, or his deputy, every Saturday, Saint's even, and principal feasts, shall ring noon with as many bells as shall be convenient to the Saturday, saint's even, and principal feasts,” &c.

The following curious extract is from a MS. volume of Sermons for all the Saints' days and remarkable Sundays in the year, in the Episcopal Library at Durham : “It is writen in the liffe of Seynt ***** that he was bisi on Ester Eve before None that he made one to shave him or the sunne went doune. And the fiend aspied that, and gadirid up his heeris; and whan this holi man sawe it, he conjured him and badde him tell him whi he did so. Thane said he, bycause yo didest

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