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NOTES TO CANTO SIXTH.
— the sarage Dane
The Iol of the heathen Danes, (a word still applied to Christmas in Scotland,) was solemnized with great festivity. The humour of the Danes at table displayed itself in pelting each other with bones; and Torfaeus tells a long and curious story in the history of Hrolfe-Kraka, of one Hottus, an inmate of the court of Denmark, who was so generally assailed with these missiles, that he constructed, out of the bones with which he was overwhelmed, a very respectable entrenchment, against those who continued the raillery. The dances of the northern warriors round the great fires of pine-trees are commemorated by Olaus Magnus, who says, they danced with such fury, holding each other by the hands, that, if the grasp of any failed, he was pitched into the fire with the velocity of a sling. The sufferer, on such occasions, was instantly plucked out, and obliged to quaff off a certain measure of ale, as al
penalty for “spoiling the king's fire.”
Note II. On Christmas eve the mass was sung.-P. 300. In Roman Catholic countries, mass is never said at night, excepting on Christmas eve. Each of the frolics with which that holiday used to be celebrated, might admit of a long and curious note; but I shall content myself with the following description of Christmas, and his attributes, as personified in one of Ben Jonson's Masques for the Court.
“ Enter CHRISTMAS, with two or three of the Guard. He is attired in round hose, long stockings, a close doublet, a highcrowned hat, with a broach, a long thin bearil, a truncheon, little ruffs, white shoes, his searfs and garters tied cross, and his drum beaten before him.
“The names of his children, with their attires.
“ Miss-Rule, in a velvet cap, with a sprig, a short cloak, great yellow ruff, like a reveller; his torch-bearer bearing a rope, a cheese, and a basket.
“ Caroll, a long tawny coat, with a red cap, and a flute at his girdle; his torch-bearer carrying a song-book open.
“ Minc'd-pie, like a fine cook's wife, drest neat, her man carrying a pie, dish, and spoons.
“ Gamboll, like a tumbler, with a hoop and bells; his torclibearer arm'd with cole-staff, and blinding cloth.
“ Post and Pair, with a pair-royal of aces in his hat, his garment all done over with pairs and purs; bis squire carrying á box, cards, and counters.
“New-year's gift, in a blue coat, serving-man like, with an orange, and a sprig of rosemary gilt on his head, his hat full of broaches, with a collar of gingerbread; his torch-bearer carrying a march-pain, with a bottle of wine on either arm. “Mumming, in a masquing pied suit, with a vizor; his torchbearer carrying the box, and ringing it. “Wassall, like a neat sempster and songster; her page bearing a brown bowl, drest with ribbands, and rosemary, before her. “Offering, in a short gown, with a porter's staff in his hand; a wyth borne before him, and a bason, by his torch-bearer. “Baby Cocke, drest like a boy, in a fine long coat, biggin, bib, muckender, and a little dagger; his usher bearing a great
cake, with a bean and a pease.”
Who lists, may in their mumming spy Traces of ancient mystery.-P. 303. It seems certain, that the Mummers of England, who (in Northumberland at least) used to go about in disguise to the neighbouring houses, bearing the then useless ploughshare; and the Guisards of Scotland, not yet in total disuse, present, in some indistinct degree, a shadow of the old mysteries, which were the origin of the English drama. In Scotland, (me ipso testé,) we were wont, during my boy-hood, to take the characters of the apostles, at least of Peter, Paul, and Judas Iscariot; the first had the keys, the second carried a sword, and
the last the bag, in which the dole of our neigbours' plumb-cake was deposited. One played a Champion, and recited some traditional rhymes; another was
............ Alexander, king of Macedon,
These, and many such verses, were repeated, but by rote, and unconnectedly. There was also occasionally, I believe, a Saint George. In all there was a confused resemblance of the ancient mysteries, in which the characters of scripture, the Nine Worthies, and other popular personages, were usually exhibited. It were much to be wished, that the Chester Mysteries were published from the MS. in the Museum, with the annotations which a diligent investigator of popular antiquities might still supply. The late acute and valuable antiquary, Mr. Ritson, showed me several memoranda towards such a task, which are probably now dispersed or lost. See, however, his Remarks on Shakespeare, 1783, p. 38.—Since the quarto edition of MARMio N appeared, this subject has received much elucidation
from the learned and extensive labours of Mr. Douce.
Note IV. Where my great-grandsire came of old, With amber beard and flaren hair.—P. 304. Mr. Scott of Harden, my kind and affectionate friend, and distant relation, has the original of a poetical invitation, addressed from his grandfather to my relative, from which a few lines in the text are imitated. They are dated, as the epistle in the
text, from Mertoun-house, the seat of the Harden family.