Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. I.

AMUSEMENTS.

Dull and monotonous would the circle of existence have been, had not the Divinity decreed moments when the mind, fatigued with thought, seeks for relaxation in frivolity. It is of little importance what mode is adopted to employ those moments, provided every immoral and dangerous pursuit is avoided. Many of the Amusements of the aborigines of England would now be considered by their descendants as fatiguing and almost impossible, particularly those which required strength and energy in the limbs, and long privations of rest. The natural suggestions of the human mind, unassisted by reflection and contrivance, produced dancing: every fortunate event occurring to individuals prompted the joyous leap, the contagious motion. Families thus infected introduced method, to avoid collision ; and as some one or other excelled in the gracefulness or agility of their movements, imitation soon

effected

VOL. III.

B

effected improvement. Singing originated from the same source; and the utterance of pleasing sounds being co-eval with the active expression of pleasure, the step unavoidably regulated the voice, and the voice the step. Instrumental assistance might have been the consequence of accident: any substance producing a heavy deep sound, when struck, marked pauses in the leap; but the pipe resulted from some exertion of the ideas. Judging from the circumstances already mentioned, and the modes of dancing, accompanied by rude drums and flutes in Savage nations at present, we cannot doubt our countrymen and women had their dances as early as they were aggregated.

If the generality of the Celtic nations were in the habit of indulging upon all great occasions in the pleasures of eating and drinking, as it is asserted they were, their feasts must have often ended in dancing, if not in the contentions of intoxication. At a later period, refinement might introduce bards, who sung or recited the favourite exploits of their wars: whether they had dances appropriated to martial purposes, is doubtful at least, though probable: a rude harp is, however, assigned them by antient authors.

The instinctive sports of infancy suggested their subsequent usefulness, in providing food, and resisting their enemies. All young animals

are

are in the habit of springing upon each other, struggling together, and chasing one another; and in this respect the youth of the human species closely resemble them -- wrestling, leaping, and running, being universally the first attempts at infantile amusement; to those are added throwing of stones, swimming, &c. Emulation

may

be assigned as a sufficient reason for improvement in these exercises; and as youth were not originally taken from them for the purposes of modern times, they were pursued till uncommon address and excellence were attained, and each branch became a part of the system of offensive and defensive war, at the period of manhood. Hunting cannot be considered altogether as an amusement, as it was a necessary labour in the then state of society. Several other methods may have existed to prolong the hours of relaxation, but they are totally unknown to us at present.

We shall, therefore, proceed to the time when the Romans introduced their customs in this particular.

The policy of these people was as conspicuous and eminent as their courage; hence we may suppose those athletic exercises, which were practised by themselves on the Continent, tending to make the youth fearless and skilful in combat, were in some degree suppressed in the earlier stages of their residence here, for very obvious After some time elapsed, we find that

amphi

[ocr errors]

reasons,

B 2

amphitheatres were erected, though not of the best materials, where the soldiers and the natives were entertained in miniature with wrestling and all the other sports of the Circus! and as some of those were practised by slaves, it is not improbable captive Britons sometimes glutted the savage vengeance of the invaders by cutting one another to pieces before them. Many of the little games of chance used by the Romans, that of latrunculi, similar to the modern chess, the ludus talomum, and the ludus tesserarum, or dice, we still persevere in admiring, the latter even to our destruction. The ball served for the foundation of several kinds of diversion, and nearly as we practise it at present; and beating the hoop set with rings amused many a muscular Roman, though with us it has descended to youth alone. Pitching of quoits is also another of the arts we have derived from them.

The theatrical representations of Rome were imitated in her colonies, if not immediately after their conquest, yet certainly when the government of them became settled and secure; but as they do not appear to have been naturalized, they cannot be considered as belonging to the Britons. With respect to the instruments of music, the Romans introduced to us the Tubæ, the Cornua, the Buccinæ, and the Litui, each of which were made of brass, and resembled our

trumpet,

« ZurückWeiter »