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The quintain at first was nothing more than the trunk of a tree or post, set up for the purpose of tyros in chivalry. In process of time, the diversion was improved, and the resemblance of a human figure, carved in wood, was introduced. To render the appearance of this figure more formidable, it was generally made in the likeness of a Turk or Saracen, armed at all points, bearing a shield upon his left arm, and a sword in bis right. The quintain thus fashioned was placed upon a pivot, and so constructed as to move round with great facility. In running at the figure, it was necessary for the horseman to direct his lance with great adroitness, and make his stroke upon the forehead between the eyes, or upon the nose ; for if he struck wide of these parts, especially upon the shield, the quintain turned about with velocity, and if he was not exceedingly careful would give him a severe blow on the back with the wooden sabre held in the right hand, which was considered highly disgraceful to the performer, while it excited the laughter of the spectators.
The exercise of the quintain was practised in London in summer, and in winter, but especially about Christmas. Stowe relates, he had seen the quintain set on Cornbill, where the attendants of the lords of merry disports have ran, and made great pastime." Tilting or running at the ring, was evidently a sport derived from the quintain.
Hock-Day was once a popular holiday, mentioned by Matthew Paris and other ancient writers. It was usually kept about Easter, and distinguished by various sportive pastimes, in which the men and women, divided into parties, were accustomed to bind and draw each other with ropes. Hock-day was generally observed, so late as the sixteenth century:
SHEEP-STEARING and the HARVEST-HOME were both celebrated in ancient times, with feasting and rustic sports : at the latter the masters and servants used to sit down at the same table, to a plentiful regale, and spend the night in dancing and singing, without distinction. At the present day, excepting a dinner, or more frequently a supper, at conclusion of sheep-shearing and harvest, we have little remains of these great rural festivals.
The advent of the New Year is still marked by the ob. servance of some old customs; the old year being considered well ended by copious libations, and the new by sending presents, termed New-Year gifts, to friends and acquaintance. - Young women formerly went about with the famous Wassail bowl ; that is-a bowl of spiced ale, on New-year's eye, with some verses which were sung by them in going from door to door.
FAIRs were formerly a greater kind of market, to which people resorted periodically, for the purchase of all kinds of necessaries for the ensuing year. One of the chief of them, was that of St. Giles's Hill, near Winchester : it was at first for three days, but afterwards by Henry III. prolonged to sixteen days. Its jurisdiction extended seven miles round; comprehending even Southampton, then a capital trading town. A toll was levied on all' merchandize brought to the fair, the produce of which had been given by the Conqueror to the bishop of Rochester.
Fairs were often the anniversary of the dedication of a church, when tradesmen used to sell their wares in the churchyard ; as at Westminster, on St. Peter's day; at London, on St. Bartholomew's ; at Durham, on St. Cuthbert's day. They have long been on the decline in public estima. tion. Southwark fair, May fair, and St. James's fair, in the city of Westminster, were suppressed at the beginning of the last century; and if the present hostility of the magistrates continues to these annual assemblages, few will shortly remain in the villages and bamlets round the metropolis.
Mar-Games are of great antiquity, and were formerly generally celebrated, especially in the metropolis. Stowe says, on May-day, in the morning, the citizens used to walk “ into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers;" and he gives an account of Henry the Eighth's riding a Maging from Greenwich to Shooter's bill, with Queen Catherine, accompanied with many lords and ladies. He further says, that “ every parish, and sometimes two or three parishes, joining together, had their Mayings, and did fetch in May-poles, with divers warlike shows, with good archers, morris dancers, and other devices for pastime, all the day long; and, towards evening, they had stage plays and bonfires in the streets.” It was a custom to elect a lord and lady
of the May, who presided over the sports. Robin Hood and his merry companions were personified in appropriate dresses, and added much to the pageantry of the May-games. He presided as lord of the May, and a female, or man habited like a female, called the Maid Marian, his faithful mistress, was the lady of the May. The May-pole, in some villages, stood the whole year without molestation. The only remains of May-games in the south is Jack-in-the-Green, who still parades the streets ; though a very trumpery representation of the old sports.
The WhitsuNTIDE HOLIDAYS were celebrated by various pastimes and drolleries. Strutt says, that at Kidlington in Oxfordshire, a fat lamb was provided; and the maidens of the town, having their thumbs tied behind them, were permitted to jun after it; and she who, with her mouth, took hold of the lamb, was declared the Lady of the Lamb; wbich being killed and cleaned, but with skin hanging upon it, was carried in procession before the lady and her companions to the green, attended with music, and a morris dance of men, and another of women. The rest of the day was spent in mirth and glee.
COUNTRY WAKES are the last rural holiday I shall notice: they were generally observed in the northern and southern parts of the kingdom, consisting of feasting, dance ing on the green, wrestling, and cudgel-playing. They were originally intended to commemorate the dedication of the parish church, when the people went to pray with lighted torches, and returned to feast the remainder of the night.
To these rural pastimes and ancient sports succeeded the less healthy amusements of balancing, tumbling, and juggling—the tricks performed by bears, monkeys, horses, and dancing dogs. Astley's Amphitheatre and the Royal Circus exhibited feals of equestrianship. Music began to form a principal ingredient in popular amusements, and Vauxhall, Ranelagh, Sadler's Wells, and the Marybonne Gardens, were the chief marts for recreation. These, with the great attraction and variety of dramatic entertainments, and a more sedulous devotion to cards, dice, and billiards, have continued, to the present day, the prevalent amusements.
CUSTOMS AND CEREMONIES.
Many of our ancient castoms and ceremonies may be traced to the remotest period and the most distant nations ; and few but have had their origin prior to the time of the Reformation. I shall briefly describe a few of the most remarkable, premising that the facts are chiefly collected from the curious and interesting work of the late Mr. Brand, on « Popular Antiquities.”
On MIDSUMMER-Eve, fires were lighted, round which the old and young amused themselves in various rustic pastimes. In London, in addition to the bonfires, every man's door was shaded with green birch, long fennel, Saint John's wort, and white lilies; ornamented with garlands of flowers. The citizens had, also, lamps of glass, with oil burning in them all night; and some of them hung outbranches of iron, curiously wrought, containing hundreds of lamps lighted at once, which made a very splendid appearance. On these occasions, Stowe says, New Fish-street and Thames-street were peculiarly brilliant.
It is a ceremony, says Browne, never omitted among the volgar, to draw lots which they term Valentines on the eve before Valentine-day. The names of a select number of one, with an equal number of the other, sex, are put into some vessel; and, after that, every one draws a name, which for the present is called their Valentine, and is looked upon as a good
ays, the custom of choosing Valentines was a sport practised in the houses of the gentry in England, so ealry as the year 1476.
In the North of England, the Monday preceding ShroveTuesday, or Pancake Tuesday, is called CollOP MONDAY; eggs and collops forming a principal dish at dinner on that
day, as pancakes do on the following, from which custom they derive their names. It would seem, that on Collop Monday they took their leave of Aesh in the papal times, which was formerly prepared to last during the winter by salting, drying, and being hung up. Slices of this kind of nieat are, to this day, called collops in the North ; whence they are called steaks when cut off fresh, or unsalted flesh.
Hallow Eve, called, in the North, Not-crack Night, is the vigil of All-Saints' Day, which is on the first of No. vember; when it is the custom, in the north of England, to dive for apples, or catch at them, suspended from a string, with their mouths only, their hands being tied behind their backs. In Scotland, the young women determine the figure and size of their husbands, on Hallow Even, by drawing cabbages, blindfold; and, like the English, Aling nuts into the fire. Burning the nuts answers also the purpose of divination. They name the lad and lass to each particular nut as they put them into the fire; and, accordingly as they burn quietly together, or start from beside each other, the course and issue of the courtship will be. In Ireland, the young women put three nuts upon the bar of the grates, naming the nuts after the lovers. If a nut cracks, or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has a regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts, mentioned after the girl and her sweetheart, burn together, they will be married. A similar mode of divination, by means of a peascod, is described by Gay.
“ As peascods once I pluck’d, I chanc'd to see
But, in his proper person, -Lubberkin!” The election of a Boy BISHOP on St. Nicholas Day is one of the most singular customs of former times. In cathe. drals, the Boy Bishop was elected from among the children of the choir. After his election, being completely apparelled in the episcopal vestments, with a mitre and crozier, he bore the title and state of a bishop, and exacted ceremonial obedience from his fellows, who were habited like priests. What is most strange, he took possession of the church, and, except mass, performed all the ceremonies and offices. At Salisbury,