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CHESTER MIRACLE PLAYS.
collect money, and exhibiting low conjuring tricks, except when he engaged the dragon, like a second St. George.
The morris dancers of the times of the Tudors wore gilt leather and silver paper, and sometimes coats of white fustian; parses hung at their girdles, and bells rang merrily from their garters. Scarves, ribbons, laces, and gilt rings, and a slip of thrift or a feather in the hat completed their motley garb. Their names at a later period were exchanged for the lord and lady of the ale, a steward, sword-bearer, purse-bearer, mace-bearer, train-bearer, page, fool, and pipe and tabor, with a following of young men and women who danced in a large empty barn.
At Kidlington, Oxfordshire, on Whitsun Monday, the girls provided a lamb, which they pursued with their thumbs tied behind them, and she who caught it was called the lady of the lamb; and after accompanying the animal in procession to the green with music and morris dancers, presided eventually at a feast, of which it formed the principal part. In 1676 football and barley break were Whitsun sports, and at Islington a fair famous for the sale of cakes and ale was observed.
“Whitsontyde” was the opportunity for tourneys and tilts, as we find in the romance of “Bevis of Hampton;" and the Norman and Plantagenet kings kept the season with special pomp in various cities, following the example of King Arthur, who loved to keep Pentecost in Wales, and on that day would “not go to meat until he had heard or seen some great adventure or marvel ;” and in one of these meetings occurred the famous episode of the fatal mantle. In the fourteenth century, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Whitsun-week, " The Miracle; or, Whitsun plays of Chester," the work of Ralph Higden, monk of St. Werburgh's Abbey, were performed, consisting of twentyfour parts, each played by one of the city guilds, and at their cost, in every one of the principal streets in succession, and at convenient intervals. The first place where they began was in front of the great abbey gates for the delectation of the ecclesiastics, and then “ the pageant” or scaffold of the actors was drawn to the High Cross before the mayor and aldermen, “and so passed on from street to street," until all that was appointed for the day was ended. On the Wednesday “Whitsonday, the making of the Crede,” was acted. The last exhibition, reformed, however, from old superstitions, took place in 1574; from that time to this, happily, the “banes,” or “ proclamations” have never been issued; but we must remember that in these quaint, and we must own, unintentionally profane representations, lay the germs from which Shakespere developed bis immortal dramas.
One of the most interesting English customs, that of Eton Montem, was abolished in 1847. At Eton, Westminster, Queen's College, Oxford,
and in some foreign universities, it was the practice to administer salt to newly-come boys and freshmen, as a disagreeable mode of initiation into a society, the learning of which was represented by salt. At the close of the last century the scouts at Eton made every passer-by take a pinch of salt at the tumulus known as Salt Hill, and then collected from them “salt” in the shape of money on Whitsun Tuesday. The king and queen, the royal children, noblemen, and gentry, who attended the show, were all in turn mulcted by the collectors, or salt-bearers, who wore gay dresses; a procession was formed of all the boys, wearing uniforms, and proceeding with music playing, drums beating, and colours flying, to Salt Hill; the evening usually concluded by their appearance on the north terrace of Windsor Castle.
At Winchester, so lately as 1796, the masters, chaplains, scholars, and choristers with a band of music, marched in procession round the courts before the Whitsun holidays, and then round the Domum tree, when Dr. Joseph Warton, mounted on his little gray pony, formed a conspicuous object in the procession. Twenty years before Domum was sung at the wharf by Black Bridge, round the tree, and at the college gates on the evening before Whitsuntide. In 1804, Hudderford wrote some pretty lines“On the threat of cutting down the tree at Winchester, round which the scholars at breaking up sing the celebrated song called Dulce Domum."
The beautiful old song is still chanted, but the time has been changed to July; although it commemorates the return of the swallow.” Domum domum, dulce domum; home homo, sweet home, dear to the Wykehamist, suggests another and deeper thought to the elder man, the passing out from the discipline of this world to the eternal home of the great Father of all, the ending of all care and toil in the land of everlasting bliss, where angels sing its glory. Till then may the holy Spirit guide us on our way, with His sevenfold gifts of grace.
“Lord, though we change, Thou art the same,
The same sweet God of love and light,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.”