Page images

For the Antiquarian Repertory.

hearth with their cheerful neighbours,
and then in the spicy wassell-bowl (which
testifies the goodness of their hearts)
drowned every former animosity-an ex-
ample worthy modern imitation. Wassell,
was the word; Wassell, every guest return-
ed as he took the circling goblet from his
friend, whilst song and civil mirth
This annual
brought in the infant year.
custom, says Geoffrey of Monmouth, had
its rise from Rouix, or Rowen, or as some
will have it, Rowena, daughter of the
Saxon Hengist; she, at the command of
her father, who had invited the British
king Voltigern to a banquet, came in the
presence with a bowl of wine, and wel-
comed him in these words, Louerd king
wass-heil; he in return, by the help of an
interpreter, answered, Drinc heile; and,
if we may credit Robert of Gloster,

In the parish of Berlen, near Snodland,
in the county of Kent, are the vestiges of
a very old mansion, known by the name
of Groves. Being on the spot before the
workmen began to pull down the front,
I had the curiosity to examine its interior
remains, when, amongst other things well
worth observation, appeared in the large
oak beam that supported the chimney-
piece, a curious piece of carved work, of
which the preceding is an exact copy. Its
singularity induced me to set about an
investigation, which, to my satisfaction,
The large
was not long without success.
bowl in the middle is the figure of the
old wassell-bowl, so much the delight of
our hardy ancestors, who, on the vigil of
the new year, never failed (says my
author) to assemble round the glowing
Ruste hire and sitte hire adoune and glad dronke hire heil
And that was tho in this land the berst was-hail

As in language of Saropne that we might evere iwite And so well he paith the fole about, that he is put borgute. Thomas De Le Moor, in his "Life of Edward the Second," says partly the same as Robert of Gloster, and only adds, that Wass-haile and Drinc-hail were the usual phrases of quaffing amongst the earliest civilized inhabitants of this island.

with such sort of work before the fourT. N. teenth century.

The two birds upon the bowl did for some time put me to a stand, till meeting with a communicative person at Hobarrow, he assured me they were two hawks, as I soon plainly perceived by their bills a rebus of the and beaks, and were builder's name. There was a string from the neck of one bird to the other, which, it is reasonable to conjecture, was to note that they must be joined together to show their signification; admitting this, they were to be red hawks. Upon inquiry, I found a Mr. Henry Hawks, the owner of a farm adjoining to Groves; he assured me, his father kept Grove 'farm about forty years since, and that it was built by one of their name, and had been in his family upwards of four hundred years, as appeared by an old lease in his possession.

The apple branches on each side of the bowl, I think, means no more than that they drank good cyder' at their Wassells. Saxon words at the extremities of the beam are already explained; and the mask carved brackets beneath, correspond

The following pleasant old song, in serted by Mr. Brand, from Ritson's collection of " Antient Songs," was met with by the Editor of the Every-day Book, in 1819, at the printing-office of Mr. Rann, at Dudley, printed by him for the Wassailers of Staffordshire and Warwickshire. It went formerly to the tune of "Gallants come away."


A jolly Wassel-Bowl,

A Wassel of good ale,
Well fare the butler's soul,
That setteth this to sale;
Our jolly Wassel.
Good Dame, here at your door
Our Wassel we begin,
We are all maidens poor,
We pray now let us in,

With our Wassel.

Our Wassel we do fill

With apples and with spice,
Then grant us your good will
To taste here once or twice
Of our good Wassel.

If any maidens be

Here dwelling in this house,
They kindly will agree
To take a full carouse
Of our Wassel,

But here they let us stand

All freezing in the cold; Good master, give command, To enter and be bold,

With our Wassel.

Much joy into this hall

With us is entered in,
Our master first of all,
We hope will now begin,
Of our Wassel :

And after his good wife
Our spiced bowl will try,
The Lord prolong your life,
Good fortune we espy,

For our Wassel.

Some bounty from your hands,

Our Wassel to maintain :

We'll buy no house nor lands With that which we do gain, With our Wassel.

This is our merry night

Of choosing King and Queen,
Then be it your delight
That something may be seen
In our Wassel.

It is a noble part

To bear a liberal mind,
God bless our master's heart,
For here we comfort find,
With our Wassel.

And now we must be gone,
To seek out more good cheer;
Where bounty will be shown,
As we have found it here,
With our Wassel.

Much joy betide them all,

Our prayers shall be still, We hope and ever shall,

For this your great good will,

To our Wassel.

From the "Wassail" we derive, perhaps, a feature by which we are distinguished. An Englishman eats no more than a Frenchman; but he makes yuletide of all the year. In virtue of his forefathers, he is given to "strong drink." He is a beer-drinker, an enjoyer of "fat ale;" a lover of the best London porter and double XX, and discontented unless he can get "stout." He is a sitter withal. Put an Englishman "behind a pipe" and full pot, and he will sit till he cannot stand. At first he is silent; but as his liquor gets towards the bottom, he inclines towards conversation; as he replenishes, his coldness thaws, and he is conversational; the oftener he calls to "fill again," the more talkative he becomes; and when


thoroughly liquefied, his loquacity is deluging. He is thus in public-house parlours: he is in parties somewhat higher, much the same. The business of dinner draws on the greater business of drinking, and the potations are strong and fiery; full-bodied port, hot sherry, and ardent spirits. This occupation consumes five or six hours, and sometimes more, after dining. There is no rising from it, but to toss off the glass, and huzza after the "hip! hip! hip!" of the toast giver. A calculation of the number who customarily" dine out" in this manner half the week, would be very amusing, if it were illustrated by portraits of some of the indulgers. It might be further, and more usefully, though not so agreeably illustrated, by the reports of physicians, wives, and nurses, and the bills of apothecaries. Habitual sitting to drink is the "besetting sin" of Englishmen-the creator of their gout and palsy, the embitterer of their enjoyments, the impoverisher of their property, the widow-maker of their wives. By continuing the "wassail" of our ancestors, we attempt to cultivate the body as they did; but we are other beings, cultivated in other ways, with faculties and powers of mind that would have astonished their generations, more than their robust frames, if they could appear, would astonish ours. Their employment was in hunting their forests for food, or battling in armour with risk of life and limb. They had no counting-houses, no ledgers, no commerce, no Christmas bills, no letterwriting, no printing, no engraving, no bending over the desk, no "wasting of the midnight oil" and the brain together, no financing, not a hundredth part of the relationships in society, nor of the cares that we have, who "wassail" as they did, and wonder we are not so strong as they were. There were no Popes nor Addisons in the days of Nimrod.

The most perfect fragment of the "wassail" exists in the usage of certain corporation festivals. The person presiding stands up at the close of dinner, and drinks from a flaggon usually of silver having a handle on each side, by which he holds it with each hand, and the toastmaster announces him as drinking "the health of his brethren out of the loving cup.

The loving cup, which is the ancient wassail-bowl, is then passed to the guest on his left hand, and by him to his left-hand neighbour, and as it finds its way round the room to each guest in his

turn, so each stands up and drinks to the president "out of the loving cup.”

The subsequent song is sung in Gloucestershire on New-year's eve :

Wassail! Wassail! over the town,
Our toast it is white, our ale it is brown :
Our bowl it is made of a maplin tree,
We be good fellows all; I drink to thee.

Here's to **** and to his right ear,
God send our maister a happy New Year;
A happy New Year as e'er he did see-
With my Wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here's to ****, † and to his right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pye:
A good Christmas pye as e'er I did see-
With my Wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here's to Filpail, and her long tail,
God send our measter us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer; I pray you draw near,
And then you shall hear our jolly wassail.

Be here any maids, I suppose here be some;

Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone;
Sing hey O maids, come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house, let us all in.

Come, butler, come bring us a bowl of the best :
I hope your soul in Heaven may rest:
But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
Then down fall butler, bowl, and all.

[blocks in formation]

rous Celts and Gauls had to contend with
and superstition presented, it is very
many obstacles which their ignorance.
probable that the clergy, when they were
unable entirely to abolish pagan rites,
would endeavour, as far as possible, to
twist them into something of a christian
cast; and of the turn which many heathen
ceremonies thus received, abundant in-
stances are afforded in the Romish

The performance of religious MYSTE RIES, which continued for a long period, seeins to have been accompanied with much licentiousness, and undoubtedly was grafted upon the stock of pagan observances.- It was discovered, however, that the purity of the christian religion could not tolerate them, and they were succeeded by the MORALITIES, the subjects of which were either historical, or some existing abuse, that it was wished

†The name of another horse.

The name of a cow,

to aim a blow at. Of this we have an interesting instance in an account given by sir William Eure, the envoy of Henry the Eighth to James the Fifth, in a letter to the lord privy seal of England, dated 26th of January 1540, on the performance of a play, or morality, written by the celebrated sir David Lindsay. It was entitled The Satire of the Three Estates, and was performed at Linlithgow, "before the king, queene, and the whole counsaill, spirituall and temporall," on the feast of Epiphany. It gives a singular proof of the liberty then allowed, by king James and his court witnessing the exhibition of a piece, in which the corruptions of the existing government and religion were treated with the most satirical severity.

The principal dramatis persona were a king, a bushop, a burges man, “armed in harness, with a swerde drawn in his hande," a poor man, and Experience, "clede like ane doctor." The poor man (who seems to have represented the people) "looked at the king, and said he was not king in Scotland, for there was another king in Scotland that hanged Johne Armstrong with his fellows, Sym the laird, and mony other mae.' He then makes "a long narracione of the oppression of the poor by the taking of the corsepresaunte beits, and of the herrying of poor men by the consistorye lawe, and of mony other abusions of the spiritualitie and church. Then the bushop raised and rebuked him, and defended himself. Then the man of arms alleged the contrarie, and commanded the poor man to go on. The poor man proceeds with a long list of the bushop's evil practices, the vices of cloisters, &c. This is proved by EXPERIENCE, who, from a New Testament, showes the office of a bishop. The man of arms and burges approve of all that was said against the clergy, and allege the expediency of a reform, with the consent of parliament. The bushop dissents. The man of arms and burges said they were two and he but one, wherefore their voice should have the most effect. Thereafter the king in the play ratified, approved, and confirmed all that was rehearsed."

None of the ancient religious observances, which have escaped, through the riot of time and barbarism, to our day, have occasioned more difficulty than that which forms the subject of these remarks. It is remarkable, that in all disputed etymological investigations, a number of words got as explanatory, are so pro

vokingly improbable, that decision is rendered extremely difficult. With no term is this more the case, than HOGMENAY. So wide is the field of conjecture, as to the signification of this word, that we shall not occupy much space in attempting to settle which of the various etymologies is the most correct.

Many complaints were made to the Gallic synods of the great excesses committed on the last night of the year and first of January, by companies of both sexes dressed in fantastic habits, who ran about with their Christmas boxes, calling tire lire, and begging for the lady in the straw both money and wassels. The chief of these strollers was called Rollet Follet. They came into the churches during the vigils, and disturbed the devotions. A stop was put to this in 1598, at the representation of the bishop of Angres; but debarred from coming to the churches, they only became more licentious, and went about the country frightening the people in their houses, so that the legislature having interfered, an end was put to the practice in 1668.

The period during the continuance of these festivities corresponded exactly with the present daft days, which, indeed, is nearly a translation of their French name fêtes de fous. The cry used by the bachelettes during the sixteenth century has also a striking resemblance to the still common cry hogmenay trololay-gi'us your white bread and nane o' your grey," it being "au gui menez, Rollet Follet, au gui menez, tiré liré, mainte du blanc et point du bis."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The word Rollet is, perhaps, a corruption of the ancient Norinan invocation of their hero, Rollo. Gui, however, seems to refer to the druidical custom of cutting branches from the mistletoe at the close of the year, which were deposited in the temples and houses with great ceremony.

A supposition has been founded upon the reference of this cry to the birth of our Saviour, and the arrival of the wise men from the east; of whom the general belief in the church of Rome is, that they were three in number. Thus the language, as borrowed from the French may be "homme est né, trois rois allois !" A man is born, three kings are come !

Others, fond of referring to the dark period of the Goths, imagine that this name had its origin there. Thus, minne was one of the cups drunk at the feast of Yule, as celebrated in the times of hea

thenism, and oel is the general term for festival. The night before Yule was called hoggin-nott, or hogenat, signifying the slaughter night, and may have originated from the number of cattle slaughtered on that night, either as sacrifices, or in preparation for the feast on the following day. They worshipped the sun under the name Thor. Hence, the call for the celebration of their sacrifices would be "Hogg-minne! Thor! oel! oel!" Remember your sacrifices, the feast of Thor! the feast!

That the truth lies among these various explanations, there appears no doubt; we however turn to hogmenay among our selves, and although the mutilated legend which we have to notice remains but as a few scraps, it gives an idea of the existence of a custom which has many points of resemblance to that of France during the fêtes du fous. It has hitherto escaped the attention of Scottish antiquaries.

Every person knows the tenacious adherence of the Scottish peasantry to the tales and observances of auld lang syne. Towards the close of the year many superstitions are to this day strictly kept up among the country people, chiefly as connected with their cattle and crops. Their social feelings now get scope, and while one may rejoice that he has escaped difficulties and dangers during the past year, another looks forward with bright anticipation for better fortune in the ear to come. The bannock of the oaten cake gave place a little to the currant loaf and bun, and the amories of every cottager have goodly store of dainties, invariably including a due proportion of Scotch drink. The countenances of all seem to say

"Let mirth abound; let social cheer]
Invest the dawnin' o' the year,
Let blithsome Innocence appear
To crown our joy,
Nor envy wi' sarcastic sneer,

Our bliss destroy.

[blocks in formation]

It is deemed lucky to see the new moon with some money (silver) in the pocket. A similar idea is perhaps connected with the desire to enter the new year rife o' roughness. The grand affair among the boys in the town is to provide themselves with fausse faces, or masks; and those with crooked horns and beards are in greatest demand. A high paper cap, with one of their great grandfather's antique coats, then equips them as a guisard—they thus go about the shops seeking their hogmenay. In the carses and moor lands, however, parties of guisards have long kept up the practice in great style. Fantastically dressed, and each having his character allotted him, they go through the farm houses, and unless denied entrance by being told that the OLD STYLE is kept, perform what must once have been a connected dramatic piece. We have heard various editions of this, but the substance of it is something like the following:

One enters first to speak the prologue in the style of the Chester mysteries, called the Whitsun plays, and which appear to have been performed during the mayoralty of John Arneway, who filled that office in Chester from 1268 to 1276. It is usually in these words at presentRise up gudewife and shake your feathers! Dinna think that we're beggars, We are bairns com'd to play And for to seek our hogmenay; Redd up stocks, redd up stools, Here comes in a pack o' fools." Muckle head and little wit stand behint the door,

But sic a set as we are, ne'er were here be


One with a sword, who corresponds with the Rollet, now enters and says: Here comes in the great king of Macedon, Who has conquer'd all the world but Scotland alone.

When I came to Scotland my heart grew so


To see a little nation so stout and so bold, So stout and so bold, so frank and so free! Call upon Galgacus to fight wi' me.

If national partiality does not deceive us, we think this speech points out the origin of the story to be the Roman invasion under Agricola, and the name of Galgacus (although Galacheus and Saint

The author of Waverly, in a note to the Abbot, mentions three Moralities played during the time of the reformation-The Abbot of Unreason, The Boy Bishop, and the Pepe o' Fools-may not pack o' fools be a corruption of this last?

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »