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he raised it in both hands, and with the air of a boon companion, struck up the old wassail chanson :
The browne bowle,
And sound a lusty laugh-a.* After the dinner-table was removed, the hall was given up to the younger members of the family, who, prompted to all kinds of noisy mirth by the Oxonian and Master Simon, made its old walls ring with their merriment, as they played at romping games.
When I returned to the drawing-room, I found the company seated round the fire listening to the parson who was deeply ensconced in a high-backed oaken chair : from this venerable piece of furniture, with which his shadowy figure and dark weazen face so admirably accorded, he was dealing out strange accounts of the popular superstitions and legends of the surrounding country.
Whilst we were all attention to the parson's stories, our ears were suddenly assailed by a burst of heterogeneous sounds from the hall, in which were mingled something like the clang of rude minstrelsy, with the uproar of many small voices and girlish laughter. The door suddenly flew open, and a train trooped into the room, that might almost have been mistaken for the breaking-up of the court of a Fairy. That indefatigable spirit, Master Simon, in the faithful discharge of his duties as Lord of Misrule, had conceived the idea of a Christmas mummery or masking; and having called in to his assistance the Oxonian and young officer, who were * The custom of drinking out of the same cup gave place to each having
When the steward came to the door with the Wassail, he was to ery three times, Wassel, Wassel, Wassel, and then the chappell (chaplain) was to answer with a song.
equally ripe for anything that should occasion romping and merriment, they had carried it into instant effect. The old housekeeper had been consulted, the antique clothes-presses and wardrobes rummaged and made to yield up the relics of finery that had not seen the light for several generations; the younger part of the company had been privately convened from the parlour and hall
, and the whole had been bedizened out into a burlesque imitation of the antique mask.
Master Simon led the van as “Ancient Christmas,” quaintly apparelled in a ruff, a short cloak which had very much the aspect of one of the old housekeeper's petticoats, and a hat that might have served for a village steeple, and must indubitably have figured in the days of the Covenanters. From under this his nose curved boldly forth, flushed with a frost-bitten bloom, that seemed the very trophy of a December blast. He was accompanied by a blue-eyed romp, dished
up Dame Mince Pie,” in the venerable magnifi. cence of a faded brocade, long stomacher, peaked hat, and high-heeled shoes. The young officer appeared as Robin Hood, in a sporting-dress of Kendal green, and a foraging cap with a gold tassel. The fair Julia hung on his arm in pretty rustic dress, as “ Maid Marian." The rest of the train had been metamorphosed in various ways; the girls trussed up in the finery of the ancient belles of the Bracebridge line, and the striplings bewhiskered with burnt cork, and gravely clad in broad skirts, hanging sleeves, and full-bottomed wigs, to represent the characters of Roast Beef, Plum-Pudding, and other worthies celebrated in ancient maskings. The whole was under the control of the Oxonian, in the appropriate character of Misrule.
The irruption of this motley crew, with beat of drum, according to ancient custom, was the consummation of uproar and merriment. Master Simon covered himself with glory by the stateliness with which, as“ Ancient Christmas," he walked a minuet with the peerless, though giggling, Dame Mince Pie. It was followed by a dance of all the characters, which from its medley of costumes, seemed as though all the family portraits had skipped down from their frames to join in the sport.
But enough of Christmas and its gambols : it is time for me to pause in this garrulity.-WASHINGTON IBVING.
The minstrels played their Christmas tune,
To-night beneath my cottage eaves ;
The encircling laurels, thick with leaves,
Had sunk to rest with folded wings;
Nor check the music of the strings ;
So stout and hardy were the band,
Respect to every inmate's claim;
In honour of each household name.
How touching, when, at midnight, sweep
Snow-muffled winds, and all is dark,
Or at an earlier call, to mark,
Of hearts with gladness brimming o'er ;
For names once heard, and heard no more;
CHURCH-DECKING AT CHRISTMAS. Would that our scrupulous sires had dared to leave
Less scanty measure of those graceful rites
And usages, whose due return invites
A crown for Hope! I dread the boasted lights
That all too often are but fiery flights,
The counter-spirit found in some gay church,
Green with fresh holly, every pew a porch In which the linnet or the thrush might sing
Merry and loud, and safe from prying search, Strains offered only to the genial spring.
THE HOLLY TREE.
HOLLY. We still dress up both our churches and houses on Christmas and other festival days, with its cheerful green and rutilant berries. Is there under heaven a more glorious and refreshing object of the kind than an impregnable hedge of about four hundred feet in length, nine feet high, and five in diameter, which I can now show in my round gardens at Say's Court (thanks to the Czar of Muscovy) at any time of the year, glittering with its armed and varnished leaves, the taller standards at orderly distances blushing with their natural coral ?—EVELYN.
THE HOLLY TREE.
The holly tree?
Its glossy leaves
Wrinkled and keen;
Can reach to wound;
Can emblems see,
Harsh and austere,
Reserved and rude,