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abroad in all the land ; and every Ruth had leave to “ eat of the bread, and dip her morsel in the vinegar.” At that great harvest of rejoicing, all men were suffered to glean ; and they with whom, at most other seasons, the world had “ dealt very bitterly,”. whose names were Mara, and who eat sparingly of the bread of toil—gleaned, “even among its sheaves,” and no man reproached them. The old English gentleman, like the generous Bethlehemite, in the beautiful story, even scattered that the poor might gather; and “commanded his young men, saying, * * * let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for them, and leave them, that they may glean them, and rebuke them not:"_and the prayer of many a Naomi went up, in answer,—“ blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee ;"_" blessed be he of the Lord !”
In a word, the blaze of royal and noble celebration was as a great beacon to the land, seen afar off by those who could not share in its warmth, or sit under the influence of its immediate inspirations. But it was answered from every hill-top, and repeated in every valley, of England; and each man flung the Yule log, on his own fire, at the cheering signal. The hearth, according to Aubrey, at the first introduction of coals, was usually in the middle of the room ; and he derives from thence the origin of the saying, “ Round about our coal fire.” But whether the huge faggot cracked and flustered within those merry circles, or flared and roared up the ample chimneys,-all social feelings, and all beautiful superstitions and old traditions, and local observances, awoke at the blaze ; and, from their thousand hiding places, crept out the customs and ceremonials which crowd this festal period of the year,—and of which it is high time that we should proceed to give an account, in these pages. The charmed log that (duly lighted with the last year's brand, which, as we learn from Herrick, was essential to its virtue), scared away all evil spiritsattracted all beneficent ones. The 'squire sat, in the midst of his tenants, as a patriarch might amid his family; and appears to have had no less reverence, though he compounded the wassail-bowl with his own hands, and shared it with the meanest of his dependents. The little book from which we have more than once quoted, by the title of “ Round about our Coal-fire,” furnishes us with an example of this reverence, too ludicrous to be omitted. Its writer tells us that if the 'squire had occasion to ask one of his neighbors what o'clock it was, he received for answer, a profound bow, and an assurance that it was what o'clock his worship pleased ; an answer, no doubt, indicative of profound respect, but not calculated to convey much useful information to inquirer. In fine, however, while the glad spirit of the season covered the land, hospitality and harmony were everywhere a portion of that spirit. The light of a common festival shone, for once, upon
the palace and the cottage ; and the chain of an universal sympathy descended unbroken, through all ranks, from the prince to the peasant and the beggar.
The fire with well-dried logs supplied,
There the huge sirloin reeked; hard by
The poor man's heart through half the year.” The ceremonies, and superstitions, and sports of the Christmas season, are not only various in various places, but have varied from time to time in the same. Those of them which have their root in the festival itself, are, for the most part, common to all, and have dragged out a lingering existence even to our times.. But there are many which, springing from other sources, have placed themselves under its protection, or, naturally enough, sought to associate themselves with merry spirits like their own. Old Father Christmas has had a great many children in his time, some of whom he has survived ; and not only so, but in addition to his own lawful offspring, the generous old man has taken under his patronage, and adopted into his family, many who have no legitimate claim to that distinction, by any of the wives to whom he has been united-neither by the Roman lady, his lady of the Celtic family, nor her whom he took to his bosom, and converted from the idolatry of Thor. His family appears to have been, generally, far too numerous to be entertained, at one time, in the same establishment_or indeed by the same community; and to have rarely travelled, therefore, in a body.
In Ben Jonson's Masque of Christmas-to which we have
already alluded,--the old gentleman is introduced, " attired in round hose, long stockings, a close doublet, a high-crowned hat, with a broach, a long thin beard, a truncheon, little ruffs, white shoes, his scarfs, and garters tied cross, and his drum beaten before him ;” and is accompanied by the following members of his fine family,—MISSRULE, CAROLL, MINCED-PIE, GAMBOLL, Post-AND-PAIR (since dead), New Year's Gift, MUMMING, WASSALL, OFFERING, and BABY CAKE,—or BABY Cocke, as we find him elsewhere called, but who, we fear, is dead too,-unless he may have changed his name, for we still find one of the family bearing some resemblance to the description of him given by Ben Jonson.
What a merry masque is this said masque of Christmas! The old man, like another magician, summons his spirits from the four winds, for a general muster. The purpose, we believe, is to take a review of their condition, and see if something cannot be done to amend their prospects. We are glad to see, amongst the foremost, as he ought to be, Roast Beef, that English “champion bold,"
BEEF who has driven the invader, hunger, from the land, in many a wellfought fray; and for his doughty deeds, was created a knight banneret on one of his own gallant fields, so long ago as King Charles's time. We suppose he is the same worthy who, in the Romish calendar appears canonized by the title of St. George, where his great adversary, Famine, is represented under the figure of a dragon. Still following Roast Beef, as he has done for many a long year, we perceive his faithful ’squire (bottleholder, if you will), PLUM PUDDING, with his rich round face, and rosemary cockade. He is a blackamoor, and derives his extraction from the spice lands. His oriental properties have, however, received an English education, and taken an English form; and he has long ago been adopted into the family of Father Christmas. In his younger days, his name was “ Plum PORRIDGE,” but since he grew up to be the substantial man he is, it has been changed into the one he now bears, as indicative of greater, consistency and strength. His master treats him like a brother! and he has, in return, done good service against the enemy, in many a hardfought field, cutting off all straggling detachments, or flying par
ties, from the main body, whom the great champion had previously Touted. Both these individuals, we think, are looking as vigorous as they can ever have done in their lives ;-and offer, in their well-maintained and portly personages, a strong presumption that they, at least, have at no time ceased to be favorite guests at the festivals of the land.
Near them stands, we rejoice to see, their favorite sister Wassail. She was of a slender figure, in Ben Jonson's day, and is so still. If the garb in which she appears has a somewhat antiquated appearance, there is a play of the lip and a twinkle of the eye, which
prove that the glowing and joyous spirit which made our ancestors so merry ages long ago," and helped them out with so many a pleasant fancy and quaint device, is not a day older than it was in the time of King Arthur. How should she grow old who bathes in such a bowl? It is her fount of perpetual youth! Why, even mortal hearts grow younger, and mortal spirits lighter, as they taste of its charmed waters. There it is, with its floating apples and hovering inspirations ! We see, too, that the “ tricksy spirit,” whose head bears it (and that is more
head could do), has lost none of his gambols; and that he is, still, on the best of terms with the Turkey who has been his play-fellow, at these holiday times, for so many years. The latter, we suppose, has just come up from Norfolk, where Father Christmas puts him to school; and the meeting on both sides seems to be of the most satisfactory kind.
MUMMING, also, we see, has obeyed the summons, although he looks as if he had come from a long distance, and did not go about much now. We fancy he has become something of a student. MISRULE too, we believe, has lost a good deal of his mercurial spirit, and finds his principal resource in old books. He has come to the muster, however, with a very long “ feather in his cap," as if he considered the present summons portentous of good fortune. He looks as if he were not altogether without hopes of
king office again. We observe, with great satisfaction, that the Lord of Twelfth-night has survived the revolutions which have been fatal to the King of the Cockneys, and so many of his royal brethren ; and that he is still, “every inch a king." Yonder he