Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

beating and other musick playing; numerous multitudes of people thronging the streets, with great shouts and acclamations, all day long. The May pole then being joymed together, and hoopt about with bands of iron, the crown and cane with the Kings Arms richly gilded, was placed on the head of it, a large top like a Balcony was about the middle of it. This being done, the trumpets did sound, and in four hours space it was advanced upright, after which being established fast in the ground six drums did beat, and the trumpets did sound; again great shouts and acclamations the people give, that it did ring throughout all the strand. After that came a Morice Dance finely deckt, with purple scarfs, in their half-shirts, with a Tabor and Pipe, the ancient Musick, and danced round about the Maypole, and after that danced the rounds of their liberty. Upon the top of this famous standard is likewise set up a royal purple streamer, about the middle of it is placed sour Crowns more, with the King's Arms likewise, there is also a garland set upon, it of various colours of delicate rich favours, under which is to be placed three great Janthorns, to remain for three honours; that is, one for Prince James Duke of York, Ld High Admiral of England; the other for the Vice Admiral; and the third for the rear Admiral; these are to give light in dark nights and to continue so as long as the Pole stands which will be a perpe‘ual honour for seamen. It is placed as near hand as they could guess, in the very same pit where the former stood, but far more glorious, bigger and higher, than ever any one that stood before it; and the seamen themselves do confess that it could not be built higher nor is there not such a one in Europe beside, which highly doth please his Majesty, and the illustrious Prince Duke of York; little children did much rejoice, and antient people did clap their hands, saying, golden days began to appear. I question not but 'twill ring like melodious musick throughout every county in Englend, when they read this story being exactly pen'd; let this satisfie for the giories of London that other loyal subjects may read what we here do see.” A processional engraving, by Vertue, among the prints of the Autiquarian So

[ocr errors]

ciety, represents this May-pole, as a door | or two westward beyond

[blocks in formation]

rev. Mr. Pound, rector of that parish, |

for the purpose of supporting the largest telescope at that period in the world, given by Mons. Hugon, a French member of the Royal Society, as a present; the telescope was one hundred and twentyfive feet long. This May-pole on public occasions was adorned with streawners, flags, garlands of flowers and other ornaInents. It was near the May-pole in the Strand that, in 1677, Mr. Robert Perceval was found dead with a deep wound under his left breast, and his sword drawn and bloody, lying by him. He was nineteen years of age, had sought as many duels as he had lived years, and with uncommon talents was an excessive libertine. He was second son to the right hon. sir Robert Perceval, bart. Some singular particulars are related of him in the “History of the House of Yvery.” A stranger's hat with a bunch of ribbons in it was lying near his body when it was discovered, and there exists no doubt of his having been killed by some person who, notwithstanding royal proclamations and great inquiries, was never discovered. The once celebrated Beau Fielding was suspected of the crime. He was buried under the chapel of Lincoln’s-inn. His elder brother, sir Philip Perceval, intent on discovering the murderers, violently attacked a gentleman in Dublin, whom he declared he had never seen be

fore; he could only account for his rage
by saying he was possessed with a belief
that he was one of those who had killed
his brother; they were soon parted, and
the gentleman was seen no more.
The last poet who seems to have
mentioned it was Pope; he seys of an
assemblage of persons that,

[graphic]

Amidst the area wide they took their stand, Where the tall May-pole once o'er-look'd the Strand.

A native of Penzance, in Cornwall, relates to the editor of the EveryDay Book, that it is an annual custom there, on May-eve, for a number of young men and women to assemble at a publichouse, and sit up till the clock strikes twelve, when they go round the town with violins, drums, and other instruments, and by sound of music call upon others who had previously settled to join them. As soon as the party is formed, they proceed to different farmhouses, within four or five miles of the neighbourhood, where they are expected as regularly as May morning comes; and they there partake of a beverage called junket, made of raw milk and rennet, or running, as it is there called, sweetened with sugar, and a little cream added. After this, they take tea, and “heavy country cake,” composed of flour, cream, sugar, and currants; next, rum and milk, and then a dance. After thus regaling, they gather the May. While some are breaking down the boughs, others sit and make the “May husic." This is done by cutting a circle through the bark at a certain distance from the bottom of the May branches; then, by sently and regularly tapping the bark all round, from the cut circle to the end, the bark becomes loosened, and slips away whole from the wood; and a hole being cut in the pipe, it is easily formed to omit a sound when blown through, and becomes a whistle. The gathering and the “May music” being finished, they then “bring home the May,” by five or six o'clock in the morning, with the band o and their whistles blowing. After ancing throughout the town, they go to their respective employments. Although May-day should fall on a Sunday, they observe the same practice in all respects, with the omission of dancing in the town. On the mrst Sunday after May-day, it is a custom with families at Penzance to visit Rose-hill, Polticr; and other adjacent villages, by way of recreation. These pleasure-parties usually consist of two or three families together. They carry flour and other materials with then to make the “heavy cake,"just described, at the pleasant farm-dairies which are always open for their reception. Nor do they forget to take tea, sugar, rum, and other comfortable things

[ocr errors]

for their refreshment, which, by paying a trifle for baking, and for the niceties await ing their consumption. contents the farmers for the house-room and pleasure they afford their welcome visitants. Here the young ones find delicious “junkets,” with “sour milk,” or curd cut in diamonds, which is eaten with sugar and cream. New made cake, refreshing tea, and exhilarating punch, satisfy the stomach, cheer the spirits, and assist the walk home in the evening. These pleasure-takings are never made before May-day; but the first Sunday that succeeds it, and the leisure of every other afternoon, is open to the frugal enjoyment; and among neighbourly families and kind friends, the enjoyment is frequent.

To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. Sir, There still exists among the labouring classes in Wales the custom of Maydancing, wherein they exhibit their persons to the best advantage, and distinguish their agility before the fair maidens of their own rank. About a fortnight previous to the day, the interesting question among the lads and lasses is, “Who will turn out to dance in the summer this year !” From that time the names of the gay performers are buzzed in the village, and rumour “ with her hundred tongues” proclaims them throughout the surrounding neighbourhood. Nor is it asked with less interest, “Who will carry the garland?” and “Who will be the Cadi 2" Of the peculiar offices of these two distinguished person ages you shall hear presently. About nine days or a week previous to the festival, a collection is made of the gayest ribbons that can be procured. Each lad resorts to his favoured lass, who gives him the best she possesses, and uses her utmost interest with her friends or her mistress to obtain a loan of whatever may be requisite to supply the deficiency. Her next care is to decorate a new white shirt of fine linen. This is a principal part of her lover's dress. The bows and puffs of ribbon are disposed according to the peculiar taste of each fal, girl who is rendered happy by the pleas. ing task; and thus |. shirts of the dancers, from the various fancies of the adorners, form a diversified and lively appearance. During this time the chosen garland.

ocerer is also busily employed. Accompanied by one from among the intended dancers, who is best known among the farmers for decency of conduct, and consequent responsibility, they go from house to house, throughout their parish, begging the loan of watches, silver spoons, or whatever other utensils of this metal are likely to make a brilliant display; and those who are satisfied with the parties, and have a regard for the celebration of this ancient day, comply with their solicitation. When May-day morn arrives, the group of dancers assemble at their rendezvous— the village tavern. From thence (when permission can be obtained from the clergyman of the parish,) the rustic procession sets forth, accompanied by the ringing of bells. The arrangement and march are settled by the Cadi, who is always the most active person in the company; and is, by virtue of his important office, the chief marshal, orator, buffoon, and money collector. He is always arrayed in comic attire, generally in a partial dress of both sexes: a coat and waistcoat being used for the upper part of the body, and for the lower betticoats, somewhat resembling Moll Flagon, in the “Lord of the Manor.” His countenance is also particularly distinguished by a hideous mask, or is blackened entirely over; and then the lips, cheeks, and orbits of the eyes are sometimes painted red. The number of the rest of the party, including the garland-bearer, is generally, thirteen, and with the exception of the varied taste in the decoration of their shirts with ribbons, their costume is similar. It consists of clothing entirely new from the hat to the shoes, which are made neat, and of a light texture, fol dancing. The white decorated shirts, plaited in the neatest manner, are wori, over the rest of their clothing; the remainder of the dress is black velveteen breeches, with knee-ties depending halfway down to the ancles, in contrast with yarn hose of a light grey. The ornaments of the hats are large rosettes of varied colours, with streamers depending from them; wreaths of ribbon encircle the crown, and each of the dancers carries in his right hand a white pocket handkerchief. The garland consists of a long staff cr pole, to which is affixed a triangular or square frame, covered with strong white lineu, on which the silver ornaments are

firmly fixed, and displayed with the mos' studious taste. Silver spoons and smallel forms are placed in the shape of stars squares, and circles. Between these are rows of watches; and at the top of the frame, opposite the pole in its centre, their whole collection is crowned with the largest and most costly of the ornaments: generally a large silver cup or tankard. This garland, when completed, on the eve of May-day, is left for the night at that farmhouse from whence the dancers have received the most liberal loan of silver and plate for its decoration, or with that farmer who is distinguished in his neighbourhood as a good master, and liberal to the poor. Its deposit is a token of respect,

and it is called for early on the following

morning. The whole party being assembled, they march in ... file, but more generally in pairs, headed by the Cadi. After him follows the garland-bearer, and then the fiddler, while the bells of the village merrily ring the signal of their departure As the procession moves slowly along, the Cadi varies his station, hovers about his party, brandishes a ladle, and assails every passenger with comic eloquence and ludicrous persecution, for a customary and expected donation. When they arrive at a farmhouse, they take up their ground on the best station for dancing. The garland-bearer takes his stand; the violin strikes up an old national tune uniformly used on that oc casion, and the dancers move forward in a regular quick-step to the tune, in the order of procession; and at each turn of the tune throw up their white handkerchiefs with a shout, and the whole facing quickly about, retrace their steps, repeating the same manoeuvre until the tune is once played. The music and dancing then vary into a reel, which is succeeded by another dance, to the old tune of “Cheshire IRound.” During the whole of this time, the buf. foonery of the Cadi is exhibited without intermission. He assails the inmates of the house for money, and when this is obtained he bows or curtsies his thanks,and the procession moves off to the next farmhouse. They do not confine the ramble of the day to their own parish, but go from one to another, and to any country town ic the vicinity. When they return to their resident village in the evening. the bells ringing merrily announce their arrival. he

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic]

money collected during the day's excursion is appropriated to defray whatever expenses may have been incurred in the necessary preparations, and the remainder

is spent in jovial festivity.

is ancient custom, like many others among the ancient Britons, is annually growing into disuse. The decline of sports and pastimes is in every age a subject of regret. For in a civil point of view, they denote the general prosperity, natural energy, and happiness of the people, consistent with morality,+and combined with that spirit of true religion, which unlike the howling of the dismal hyaena or ravening wolf, is as a lamb sportive and innocent, and as a lion magnanimous and bold ! I am, Sir, Yours sincerely, H. T. B.

April 14, 1825.

MAY-DAY AT IIITchix, IN HERTForpsii in E

For the Every-Day Book.

ExtRAct from a letter dated Hitchin, May 1st, 1823.

On this day a curious custom is observed here, of which I will give you a brief account.

Soon after three o'clock in the morning a large party of the town- o and neighbouring labourers, parade the town, singing the “Mayer's Seng.” They carry in their hands large branches of May, and they affix a branch either upon, or at the side of, the doors of nearly every respectable house in the town; where there are knockers, they place these branches within the handles; that which was put into our knocker was so large that the servant could not open the door till the gardener came and took it out. The larger the branch is, that is placed at the door, the more houourable to the house, or rather to the servants of the house. If, in the course of the year, a servant has given offence to any of the Mayers, then, instead of a branch of May, a branch of elder, with a bunch of nettles, is affixed to her door : this is considered a great disgrace, and the unfortunate subject of it is exposed to the jeers of her rivals. On May morning, therefore, the girls look with some anxiety for their May-branch, and rise very early to ascertain their good or ill fortune. The houses are all thus de

[ocr errors]

corated by four o'clock in the morning. Throughout the day parties of these Mayers are seen dancing and frolicking in various parts of the town. The group that I saw to-day, which remained in Bancroft for more than an hour, was composed as follows. First came two men with their faces blacked, one of them with a birch broom in his hand, and a large artificial hump on his back; the other dressed as a woman, all in rags and tatters, with a large straw bonnet on, and carrying a ladle: these are called “mad Moll and her husband :" next came two men, one most fantastically dressed with ribbons, and a great variety of gaudy coloured silk handkerchiefs tied round his arms from the shoulders to the wrists, and down his thighs and legs to the ancles; he carried a drawn sword in his hand; leaning upon his arm was a youth dressed as a time lady, in white muslim, and profusely bedecked from top to toe with gay ribbons: these, understood, were called the “Lord and Lady" of the company; after these followed six or seven couples more, attired much in the same style as the lord and lady, only the men were without swords. When this group received a satisfactory contribution at any house, the music struck up from a violin, clarionet, and fife, accompanied by the long drum, and they began the merry dance, and very well they danced, I assure you; the men-women looked and footed it so much like rea, women, that I stood in great doubt as to which sex they belonged to, till Mrs. J. assured me that women were no permitted to mingle in these spotts. While the dancers were merrily footing it, the principal amusement to the populace was caused by the grimaces and clownish tricks of mad Moll and her husband. When the circle of spectators became so contracted as to interrupt the dancers, then mad Moll's husband went to work with his broom, and swept the road-dust, all round the circle, into the faces of the crowd, and when any pretended affronts were offered (and many were offered) to his wife, he ursued the offenders, broom in hand; if e could not overtake them, whether they were males or females, he flung his broom at them. These flights and pursuits caused an abundance of merriment. I saw another coinpany of Mayers in Sun-street, and, as far as I could judge from where 1 stood, it appeared to be o

[graphic]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]
« ZurückWeiter »