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If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may, in their mumming, see
Traces of ancient mystery:
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made :-
But, oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England when
Old Christmas brought his sports again :
'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale,
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year."

SIR WALTER SCOTT.

We must not omit mentioning "The Book of Christmas," a work containing much research into old customs, and also enriched by the finest specimens of poor Seymour's genius. The following extracts will give but a faint notion of its many merits.

"The revels of merry England are fast subsiding into silence, and her many customs wearing gradually away. The affectations and frivolities of society, as well as its more grave and solemn pursuits, the exigencies of fashion, and the tongue of the pedagogue,—are alike arrayed against them; and, one by one, they are retreating from the great assemblies where mankind 'most do congregate,' to hide themselves in remote solitudes and rural nooks. In fact, that social change which has enlarged and filled the towns at the expense of the country, which has annihilated the yeomanry of England, and drawn the estated gentleman from the shelter of his ancestral oaks, to live upon their produce in the haunts of dissipation, has been in itself the circumstance most unfavourable to the existence of many of them, which delight in bye-ways and sheltered places,—which had their appropriate homes in the old manor-house, or the baronial hall. Yet do they pass lingeringly away. Traces of most of them still exist,

and from time to time reappear, even in our cities and towns; and there are probably scarcely any which have not found some remote district or other of these islands in which their influence is still acknowledged and their rites are duly performed. There is something in the mind of man which attaches him to ancient superstitions even for the sake of their antiquity, and endears to him old traditions only because they are old. We cannot readily shake off our reverence for that which our fathers have reverenced so long, even where the causes in which that reverence originated are not very obvious, or not very satisfactory. We believe that he who shall aid in preserving the records of these vanishing observances, ere it be too late, will do good and acceptable service in his generation; and such contribution to that end as we have in our power, it is the purpose of this volume to bestow. Of that taste for hunting out the obsolete, which originates in the mere dry spirit of antiquarianism, or is pursued as a display of gladiatorial skill in the use of the intellectual weapons, we profess ourselves no admirers. But he who pursues in the track of a receding custom which is valuable, either as an historical illustration, or because of its intrinsic beauty, moral or picturesque, is an antiquarian of the beneficent kind: and he who assists in restoring observances which had a direct tendency to propagate a feeling of brotherhood and a spirit of benevolence, is a higher benefactor still. Right joyous festivals there have been amongst us, which England will be none the merrier, and kindly ones which she will be none the better, for losing.

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They should have drawn thee by the high-heap'd hearth,
Old Winter! seated in thy great arm'd-chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;

Or circled by them, as thy lips declare
Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,

Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night;
Pausing at times to move the languid fire,

Or taste the old October brown and bright.'

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"In Ben Jonson's Mask of Christmas,' presented before the court in 1616, that venerable personage (who describes himself 'Christmas,' 'Old Christmas,' 'Christmas of London,' and 'Captain Christmas,') is made to give a very significant hint to some parties who fail to receive him with due ceremony: 'I have seen the time you have wished for me,' says he, and now you have me, they would not let me in—I must come at another time!—a good jest! as if I could come more than once a year!' Over and over again, too, has this very same pregnant argument been enforced in the words of the old ballad :

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'Let's dance and sing and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year!'

Now, if this suggestion was full of grave meaning in the days of Jonson,-when the respectable old man was for the most part well received and liberally feasted-when he fed with his laughing children at the tables of princes, and took tribute at the hands of kings-when he showed beneath the snows of his reverend head a portly countenance, (the result of much revelling,) an eye in which the fire was unquenched, and a frame from which little of the lustihood had yet departed,—we confess that we feel its import to be greatly heightened in these our days, when the patriarch himself exhibits undeniable signs of a failing nature, and many of his once rosy sons are evidently in the different stages of a common decline. A fine and a cheerful family the old man had, and never came they within any man's door without well repaying the outlay incurred on their account. To us, at all times, their coming was a gladness;' and we feel that we could not, without a pang, see their honest and familiar faces rejected from our threshold, with the knowledge that the course of their wanderings could not return them to us, under a period so protracted as that of twelve whole months.

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"In that long space of time, besides the uncertainty of what may happen to ourselves, there is but too much reason to fear

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that, unless a change for the better should take place, some one or more of the neglected children may be dead. We could not but have apprehensions that the group might never return to us entire. Death has already made much havoc amongst them since the days of Ben Jonson. Alas for Baby-cokke! and woe is me for Post-and-paire! And, although Carol, and Mincedpie, and New-year's Gift, and Wassail, and Twelfth-cake, and some others of the children, appear still to be in the enjoyment of a tolerably vigorous health, yet we are not a little anxious about Snap-dragon, and our mind is far from being easy on the subject of Hot-cockles. It is but too obvious that, one by one, this once numerous and pleasant family are falling away; and as the old man will assuredly not survive his children, we may yet, in our day, have to join in the lamentation in the Hue and Cry,'-and exclaim, But is old, good old Christmas gone? -nothing but the hair of his good, grave old head and beard left!' For these reasons, he and his train shall be welcome to us as often as they come. It shall be a heavy dispensation under which we will suffer them to pass by our door unhailed; and if we can prevail upon our neighbours to adopt our example, the veteran and his offspring may yet be restored. They are dying for lack of nourishment. They have been used to live on most bountiful fare,―to feed on chines and turkeys, and drink of the wassail-bowl. The rich juices of their constitution are not to be maintained—far less re-established-at a less generous rate; and though we will, for our parts, do what lies in our power, yet it is not within the reach of any private gentleman's exertions or finances to set them on their legs again.

"From the first introduction of Christianity into these islands, the period of the Nativity seems to have been kept as a season of festival, and its observance recognised as a matter of state. The wittenagemots of our Saxon ancestors were held under the solemn sanctions and beneficent influences of the time; and the series of high festivities established by the Anglo-Saxon kings

appear to have been continued, with yearly-increasing splendour and multiplied ceremonies, under the monarchs of the Norman race. From the court, the spirit of revelry descended, by all its thousand arteries, throughout the universal frame of society,-visiting its furthest extremities and most obscure recesses, and everywhere exhibiting its action, as by so many pulses, upon the traditions and superstitions and customs which were common to all, or peculiar to each. The pomp and ceremonial of the royal observance were imitated in the splendid establishments of the more wealthy nobles, and far more faintly reflected from the diminished state of the petty baron. The revelries of the baronial castle found echoes in the hall of the old manor-house; and these were, again, repeated in the tapestried chamber of the country magistrate, or from the sanded parlour of the village inn. Merriment was everywhere a matter of public concernment; and the spirit which assembles men in families now, congregated them by districts then.

"Neither, however, were the feelings wanting which connected the superstitions of the season with the tutelage of the roof-tree, and mingled its ceremonies with the sanctities of home. Men might meet in crowds to feast beneath the banner of the baron, but the mistletoe hung over each man's own door. The black-jacks might go round in the hall of the lord of the manor, but they who could, had a wassail-bowl of their own. The pageantries and high observances of the time might draw men to common centres, or be performed on a common account, but the flame of the Yule log roared up all the individual chimneys of the land. Old Father Christmas, at the head of his numerous and uproarious family, might ride his goat through the streets of the city and the lanes of the village; but he dismounted to sit, for some few moments, by each man's hearth; while some one or another of his merry sons would break away to visit the remote farmhouses, or show their laughing faces at many a poor man's door. For, be it observed, this worthy old gentleman and his kind-hearted children were no respecters of

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