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In Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, act i. sc. 11, the ancient puerile sport called muss is thus mentioned :
Ant. “When I cry'd, ho!
And cry, your will ?" Muss, a scramble, so used by Ben Jonson, Magnetic Lady, act iv. sc. 3, p. 44.
Rabelais mentions a muss among Gargantua's games, book i. cap. 22 ; and in another place, book iii. cap. 40. “ That the game of the musse is honest, healthful, ancient, and lawful ; à Muscho Inventore, de quo Cod. de petit. Hæred. 1. Si post motum.” See Grey's Notes on Shakesp. ii. 208, and Halliwell's Dictionary, p. 568.
MY SOW'S PIGGED. [A VERY old game, being mentioned in Taylor's Motto, 1622. It is thus alluded to in Poor Robin's Almanack, 1734: “The lawyers play at beggar my neighbour ; the new-marry'd young couples play at put; the doctors and surgeons at thrust out rotten, but if they meet with a man that is so eat up with the pox that he is all compos'd of that sort of metal, they thrust out all together; the farmers play at My Sow's pigg'd; the schoolmasters play at questions and commands; and because every man ought to mind his business, he that plays most at all sorts of gaming, commonly at last plays a game at hide and seek, and cares not to leave off till he has got the rubbers.”]
NINE MEN'S MORRIS, OR MERRILS. The following are the accounts of this game given by the commentators on Shakespeare, who has noticed it in the Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii. sc. 2:
“ The Nine Men's Morris is fill'd up with mud.”
“In that part of Warwickshire where Shakespeare was educated, and the neighbouring parts of Northamptonshire, the shepherds and other boys dig up the turf with their knives to represent a sort of imperfect chess-board. It consists of a square, sometimes only a foot diameter, sometimes three or four yards. Within this is another square, every side of which is parallel to the external square ; and these squares are joined by lines drawn from each corner of both squares, and the middle of each line. One party, or player, has wooden pegs, the other stones, which they move in such a manner as to take up each other's men, as they are called, and the area of the inner square is called the pound, in which the men taken up are impounded. These figures are by the country people called nine men's morris, or merrils ; and are so called because each party has nine men. These figures are always cut upon the green turf, or leys as they are called, or upon the grass at the end of ploughed lands, and in rainy seasons never fail to be choked up with mud.” Farmer.
“Nine men's morris is a game still played by the shepherds, cow-keepers, &c., in the midland counties, as follows: à figure (of squares one within another) is made on the ground by cutting out the turf; and two persons take each nine stones, which they place by turns in the angles, and afterwards move alternately, as at chess or draughts. He who can play three in a straight line may then take off any one of his adversary's, where he pleases, till one, having lost all his men, loses the game.” Alchorne.
“ In Cotgrave's Dictionary, under the article Merelles, is the following explanation : "Le Jeu des Merelles. The boyish game called merils, or fivepenny morris : played here most commonly with stones, but in France with pawns, or men made on purpose, and termed merelles. These might originally have been black, and hence called morris, or merelles
, as we yet term a black cherry a morello, and a small black cherry a merry, perhaps from Maurus, a Moor, or rather from morum, a mulberry. Tollet.
“ The jeu de merelles was also a table-game. A representation of two monkies engaged at this amusement may be seen in a German edition of Petrarch de Remedio utriusque Fortunæ, b. i. ch. 26. The cuts to this book were done in 1520." Douce.
The following is the account of this game given by Mr. Douce, in the Illustrations of Shakespeare and of Ancient Manners, 1807, i. 184: “This game was sometimes called the nine men's merrils, from merelles, or mereaux, an ancient French word for the jettons, or counters, with which it was played. The other term, morris, is probably a corruption suggested by the sort of dance which, in the progress of the game, the counters performed. In the French merelles each party had three counters only, which were to be placed in a line in order to win the game.
It appears to have been the tremerel mentioned in an old fabliau. See Le Grand, Fabliaux et Contes, ii. 208. Dr. Hyde thinks the morris, or merrils, was known during the time that the Normans continued in possession of England, and that the name was afterwards corrupted into three men's morals, or nine men's morals. If this be true, the conversion of morrals into morris, a term so very familiar to the country-people, was extremely natural. The Doctor adds, that it was likewise called nine-penny or nine-pin miracle, three-penny morris, five-penny morris, nine-penny morris, or three-pin, five-pin, and nine-pin morris, all corruptions of three-pin, &c., merels. Hyde, Hist. Nederluddi, p. 202.” See also Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 236.
[Forby bas, “Morris, an ancient game, in very common modern use. In Shakespeare it is called 'nine men's morris,' from its being plaid with nine men, as they were then, and still are called. We call it simply morris. Probably it took the name from a fancied resemblance to a dance, in the motions of the men. A wood-cut of it is given in the varior. edition of Shakespeare. Dr. Johnson professes that he knew no more of it than that it was some rustic game. Another commentator speaks of it as common among shepherds' boys in some part of Warwickshire. It cannot well be more common there than here, and it is not particularly rustic. Shepherds' boys and other clowns play it on the green turf, or on the bare ground; cutting or scratching the lines, on the one or the other. In either case it is soon filled up with mud in wet weather. In towns, porters and other labourers play it, at their leisuré hours, on the flat pavement, tracing the figure with chalk. It is also a domestic game; and the figure is to be found on the back of some draught-boards. But, to compare morris with that game, or with chess, seems absurd; as it has a very distant resemblance, if any at all, to either, in the lines, or in the rules of playing. On the ground, the men are pebbles, broken tiles, shells, or potsherds; on a table, the same as are used at draughts or backgammon. In Nares it is said to be the same as nine-holes. With us it is certainly different.”]
I FIND the following in Herrick's Hesperides, p. 178. Upon Raspe. Epig.:
Raspe playes at nine-holes, and 'tis known he gets
[A WELL-KNOWN game, still common, under the name of skiltles, thus alluded to in Poor Robin, 1707 :
“ Ladies for pleasure now resort
Unto Hide Park and Totnam Court;
As merry are as birds in May.”] Sir Thomas Urquhart, of Cromarty, in his curious work entitled the Discovery of a most exquisite Jewel, found in the Kennel of Worcester Streets the Day after the Fight, 1651, p. 237, in continuation of a passage which will presently be quoted under “Cards,” says: “They may likewise be said to use their king as the players at nine-pins do the middle kyle, which they call the king, at whose fall alone they aim, the sooner to obtain the gaining of their prize."
Poor Robin, in his Almanack for 1695, in his observations on the Spring quarter, says: “In this quarter are very much practised the commendable exercises of nine-pins, pigeon-holes, stool-ball
, and barley-break, by reason Easter holydays, Whitsun holydays, and May-day, do fall in this quarter."
In the Brothers of the Blade, answerable to the Sisters of the Scaberd, 4to. 1641, we read: “I would wish thee to haunt bowling-alleys, and frequent gaming-houses, where you may live all day long upon the rooke on the Bankside, or to play at nine-pins, or pigeon-holes, in Lincolnes Inne Fieldes ; these are ordinary exercises.” p. 3.
NOR AND SPELL
Is a game described and represented in the work entitled the Costume of Yorkshire; where it is presumed to be the same with what Strutt, in his Sports and Pastimes, denominates Northen, or Northern spell. • The little wooden ball” (used in this game) “is in Yorkshire called the Nor, and the receptacle in which it is placed the Spell.” The reader may refer to the work already quoted for the representation of this game. It approaches very nearly to the modern game of trap-ball.
(The following letter relating to this game is extracted from the Worcestershire Chronicle, Sept. 1847: "Before the commons were taken in, the children of the poor had ample space wherein to recreate themselves at cricket, nurr, or any other diversion ; but now they are driven from every green spot, and, in Bromsgrove here, the nailor boys, from the force of circumstances, have taken possession of the turnpike-road to play the before-mentioned games, to the serious inconvenience of the passengers, one of whom, a woman, was yesterday knocked down by nurr, which struck her in the head. Surely it would be an act of humanity on the part of those who have been most benefited by the inclosing of the common to afford the children of the poor in this parish a small space of ground for the purposes of health and amusement."]