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make a man to be suspected and taken for a Christian, for which he shall be apprehended for committing high Parliament Treason and mighty malignancy against the general Council of the Directorian private Presbyterian Conventicle.” *
In another pamphlet, published a few years later, Taylor gives us a further insight into the doings of the Puritanical party. It would appear, however, that their efforts "to keep Christmas day out of England," as he expresses it, were unattended with success, so far as the rural districts were concerned. He brings forward old Father Christmas, who informs us that certain "hot, zealous brethren were of opinion that, from the 24th of December at night, till the 7th of January following, plum pottage was mere Popery, that a collar of brawn was an abomination, that roast beef was anti-christian, that mince pies were relics of the woman of Babylon, and a goose, a turkey, or a capon, were marks of the beast."
After a few words of remonstrance, Christmas proceeds to describe his visit to a "grave, fox-furred mammonist," by whom he is received with anything but cordiality; and, taking his departure, he makes his way into the country, where he meets with the "best and freest welcome from some kind country farmers: I will describe one," he observes, “for all the rest in Devonshire and Cornwali, where the goodman, with the dame of the house, and every body else, were exceeding glad to see me, and, with all country courtesy and solemnity, I was had into the parlour; there I was placed at the upper end of the table, and my company about me, we had good cheer and free welcome, and we were merry without music. "After dinner we arose from the board and sat by the fire-where the hearth was embroidered all over with roasted apples, piping hot, expecting a bowl of ale for a cooler (which presently was transformed into warm lambswool). Within an hour after we went to church, where a good old minister spoke very reverendly of my Master, Christ, and also he uttered many good speeches concerning me, exciting and exhorting the people to love and unity one with another, and to extend their charities to the needy and distressed.
"After prayers we returned home, where we discoursed merrily, without either profaneness or obscenity; supper being ended, we went to cards; some sung carols and merry songs (suitable to the times); then the poor labouring hinds and the maid-servants, with the ploughboys, went nimbly to dancing, the poor toiling wretches being all glad of my company, because they had little or no sport at all till I came amongst them; and therefore they leaped and skipped for joy, singing a catch to the tune of hey,
"Let's dance and sing, and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.'
Thus at active games and gambols of hotcockles, shoeing the wild mare, and the like harmless sports, some part of the tedious night was spent ; and early in the morning we took our leaves of them thankfully; and though we had been thirteen days well entertained, yet the poor people * The Complaint of Christmas, written after Twelftide, and printed before Candlemas, 1646.
were very unwilling to let me go; so I left them, quite out of hope to have my company again for a twelvemonths' space, that, if I were not banished in my absence, they should have my presence again next 25th of December, 1653."*
So, now is come our joyful'st feast;
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
Now all our neighbours' chimneys smoke,
Christmas In and Out; or, Our Lord and Saviour Christ's Birthday, 1652.
Without the door let sorrow lie;
Now every lad is wondrous trim,
And no man minds his labour;
Our lasses have provided them
A bag-pipe and a tabour;
Young men and maids, and girls and boys,
And you anon shall by their noise
Rank misers now do sparing shun;
Their hall of music soundeth;
And Jack shall pipe, and Jill shall dance,
Ned Squash hath fetched his bands from pawn, And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
With droppings of the barrel;
Had bread to eat, or rags to wear,
And all the day be merry.
Now poor men to the justices
With capons make their errants ;*
And if they hap to fail of these,
They plague them with their warrants :
And then they shall be merry.
This was an old custom on the part of tenants to their landlords, which, we presume, came to be followed by all the poorer sort who made their annual offering at the great man's shrine at this particular season of the year. Gascoigne, who wrote in the reign of Elizabeth, says
"And when the tenants come to pay their quarter's rent,
And somewhat else at New Year's tide, for fear their lease fly loose."
And Bishop Hall, in his Satires, has the following allusion to the circumstance:
"Yet must he haunt his greedy landlord's hall,
With often presents at each festival;
Or with green cheeses when his sheep are shorn."
Good farmers in the country nurse
The poor that else were undone; Some landlords spend their money worse,
On lust and pride at London. There the roysters they do play, Drab and dice their lands away, Which may be ours another day; And therefore let's be merry.
The client now his suit forbears,
The prisoner's heart is eased :
Though other purses be more fat,
Hang sorrow! care will kill a cat,
And therefore let's be merry.
Hark! how the wags abroad do call
Anon you 'll see them in the hall
For nuts and apples scrambling.
Hark! how the roofs with laughter sound! Anon they'll think the house goes round, For they the cellar's depth have found, And there they will be merry.
The wenches with their wassail bowls
The wild mare in is bringing.