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It blazes soon ; nine bandages it bears,
High on the cheerful fire
Lo! now is come our joyful'st Feast !
Let every Man be jolly.
And every Post with Holly:
And Christmas Blocks are burning ;
Without the Doore let sorrow lie;
And ever more be merry.
And no Man minds his Labour.
A Bagpipe and a Tabor.
Theire Hall of Musicke soundeth:
The Countrey Folke themselves advance;
And all the Towne be merry.
Gratiae.-On Evergreen Decorations, such as decking Houses
and Churches with the Boughs and Berries of Holly, Ivy, and Misletoe.
From every hedge is plucked by eager hands
The verdant garb confess.
“ Christmas," a Poem, by J. Thorn, 1795.
of Bracara, Canon 73, as forbidding Christians to deck their houses with Bay leaves and green boughs; but this extended only to their doing it at the same time with the Pagans.
Dr. Chandler tells us, in his Travels in Greece, that it is related, where Druidism prevailed the houses were decked with evergreens in December, that the sylvan spirits might repair to them, and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds, until a milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes.
Stowe, in his Survey of London, says, that against the Feast of Christmas, every man's house, as also their parish churches, were decked with Holme, Ivy, Bayes, and whatsoever the season of the
afforded to be green. The corners of the streets, conduits, market crosses, and other eminent places, were also decorated.
In the South of England our churches and houses are still decked with evergreens regularly every Christmas Eve, as they are taken down every Candlemas Eve—a cheerful custom, which we hope may continue. Gay, in his Trivia, b. ii. 1. 437, describes this practiee:
When Rosemary and Bays, the poet's crown,
With Lawrel green, and sacred Misletoe. This sacred Epidendron, our modern Misletoe, is beautifully described by Virgil in the 6th Aeneid “Quale solet silvis brumali frigore Viscum,” &c. See January 3, p. Ovid says,
" Ad Viscum-Druidae Druidae cantare solebant." A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for February 1791, says,
“ That Guidhel, Misseltoe, a magical shrub, appears to be the forbidden tree in the middle of the trees of Eden.” Hence, perhaps, the idle custom of kissing the girls under the Misletoe.
We shall conclude our account of evergreens with the following Carol in praise of the Holly, written during the reign of the sixth Henry: it is to be found in the Harleian Collection of Manuscripts, No.5396 :
Nay, Ivy! nay, it shall not be I wys;
Holy hath berys as 'red as any Rose,
Non but the Howlet that “ How ! How!" From this it should seem that Holly was used only to deck the inside of Houses at Christmas; while Ivy was used not only as a vintner's sign, but also among the evergreens at funerals.
A modern writer observes, “ The evergreens, with which the churches are usually ornamented at Christmas, are a proper emblem of that time, when, as God says, by the prophet Isaiah, I will plant in the wilderness the Cedar, the Shittah tree, and the Myrile, and the Oil tree; I will set in the desert the Fir tree, and ihe Pine, and the Box tree, together, xli. 19. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the Fir tree, the Pine tree, and the Box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious, Ix. 13. See also li. 3, ly. 12, 13, and Nehemiah viii. 15, 16."
Of various Superstitions relating to Christmas Eve and to this Time of Year in general.-Candles and lamps are still lighted up to figures, pictures, and images of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Eve of the Nativity, which are kept burning all night.
Cocks have been said, at this season, to crow all night long, instead of keeping their wonted nightwatches. This notion had its origin in the popular belief, that the sound of the cockcrowing had the power of driving away ghosts, daemons, and other hideous creatures of the imagination, usually believed to walk about by night. Then these birds, by their perpetual vigilance on Christmas Eve, freed the country of evil spirits against the Feast of the Nativity. Prudentius, in a poem written early in the fourth century, observes :
Ferunt vagantes daeronas,
This word may incan doole, pain.
The following beautiful passage in Shakespeare's Hamlet is well known, wherein the ghost of the King of Denmark is described as retreating at the crowing of the Cock :
And then it started, like a guilty thing
Hor. So have I heard, and do in part believe it.
We have noticed, whatever may be the reason, that during the dark season of midwinter, Cocks often crow all day and night, and are particularly vociferous; especially in dark still open weather. It is probable that the religious feelings prevalent at this time of year may have converted this circumstance into a sign of the Nativity; for at this season, although physically the darkest, the light of Christianity was said first to dawn on the darkness of the Pagan world. There is this remarkable circumstance about the crowing of
The following curious note is extracted from Ellis's edition of Brande's Popular Antiquities: it relates to a similar superstition :-“A superstitious notion prevails in the western parts of Devonshire, that at twelve o'clock at night on Christmas Eve, the oxen in their stalls are always found on their knees, as in an attitude of devotion; and that, which is still more singular, since the alteration of the style they continue to do this only on the Eve of old Christmas Day. An honest countryman, living on the edge of St. Stephen's Down, near Launceston, Cornwall, informed me, October 28th, 1790, that he once, with some others, made a trial of the truth of the above, and watching several oxen in their stalls at the above tinie, at twelve o'clock at night, they observed the two oldest oxen only fall upon their knees, and, as he expressed it in the idiom of the country, make ' a cruel woan like Christian creatures.' I could not but with great difficulty keep my countenance: he saw, and seemed angry that I gave so little credit to his tale, and, walking off in a pettish humour, seemed to marvel at my unbelief, There is an old print of the Nativity, in which the oxen in the stable, near the Virgin and Child, are represented upon their knees, as in a suppliant posture." It is well known that an Ox and Ass are recorded to have been in the stable at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ,
Cocks. At several different times in the course of the night a general crowing may be heard from all quarters of the villages where there are Cocks; the first that begins apparently setting all the rest off: and this fact is remarkably striking in places where numbers of Cocks are bred for the purpose of fighting. As far as we can observe, excepting at the dawn of day, these crowing matches happen at uncertain periods. The ancients, however, seem to have regarded them as taking place at marked intervals of time, which appear to have caused their division of the night watches by the first, second, and third Anextgogovias, as mentioned by St. John.
Some observations on this subject may be found in vol. i. of Dr. Hale's Analysis of Ancient Chronology, 4to, London, 1810. See also some account of the Gallicantus in Gesner's Hist. Avium, folio, sub Gallo.
Bourne has a long dissertation on the Periods of Cockcrowing, and attempts to explain the superstitions relating to it. And in Brande's Popular Antiquities are numerous additional citations on the same subject. See November 27.
MUSAE.—The following verses, written by a late eminent divine, in the style of Chaucer, deserve commemoration :
THE VILLAGE PRIEST.
Sir Priest, with Curate by his side,
O'er Bradoc Downs doth hie;
Them greet most courteously.
The clock struck ten, the Priest his breakfast got,
Ne mote he stop till come to churchis town,
When come to that high church which Bradoc hight,
The elder folk him hail'd with words well meant,