Графични страници
PDF файл

more probable explanation of the figure, the only thing against it being that we so often find the dog occupying the same place in ancient sepulchres. Thus we are told by the Nubian geographer when speaking of the seven sleepers: "The Inhabitants of the Cavern are in a certain middle province between Amorræa and Nicæa; and that subterranean is in a mountain less than a thousand cubits high, in which there is a ladder-like way leading from its base up to that spot wherein lie the said inhabitants. On the summit of the mountain is a cave like to a well, by which you descend to the gate of your journey, and having passed through it for somewhat more than a quarter of a mile, you come to a place open to the day-light, where you behold a portico supported on columns cut out of the rock, with little chambers; amongst these is one, the entrance of which is about a man's height, having a stone door, and within it repose the dead, who are called the Inhabitants of the Cavern. They are seven in number, and lie upon their sides, being anointed with aloes, myrrh, and Kafur.* At the feet of each lies a dog, rolled up as it were, his head reflexed upon his tail."+

The youth, however, who was elected to the high pri* Kafur, I believe, is camphor.

+ "Incolæ cavernæ sunt in provincia quadam media inter Amorræam et Nicæam; et caverna illa est in monte minus quam mille cubitis alto, in quo patet via schalæ instar, a terræ solo ad eum usque locum perducens, in quo jacent predicti incolæ speluncæ. In summitate montis cernitur caverna puteo similis, per quam descendere licet ad januam itineris per quod trecentorum passuum spatio cum progressus fueris exibis in locum luminosum ubi cernes porticum excisis sustentatam columnis cum aliquot cubiculis, inter quæ unum deprehendes cubiculum habens limen unius mensura staturæ, cum janua de lapidibus excisis, et intra illud mortuos, qui vocantur incolæ Arracquim. Sunt autem numero septem, dormiuntque super latera sua, quæ sunt oblita aloë, myrrha, et Kafur; et ad eorum pedes canis jacet convolutus capite ad caudam reflexo."-GEOGRAPHIA NUBIENSIS in Lat. versa a G. Simita et J. Hesronita. Pars Quarta. p. 235. Parisiis.

vileges that I have just been describing, was not chosen without due reference to his mental and bodily qualifications. It was indispensable that he should be well versed in the church ceremonies, and that he should be handsome, or else his election became null and void.* From this it would seem that the clergy considered the ceremony as important, and one which was likely to influence the minds of the people, a supposition that is yet farther strengthened when we find it strictly forbidden by Henry the Eighth,† and revived by his daughter Mary.‡ For this revival a special enactment was issued by the bishop of London, and it certainly does not say much for the fervour or the orthodoxy of the people that the pageant should have been so great a favourite as it evidently was with them. When on the subsequent Saint Nicolas' Eve the Cardinal ordered that the Boy-Bishop should not walk abroad because he had summoned the head of the clergy to him at Lambeth House to be absolved of their sins, these Saint Nicolases were still carried about in divers parishes to the great delight of the citizens.§


"Capitulum ordinavit, quod electio Episcopi Puerorum in ecclesia Eboracensi de cætero fieret de eo, qui diutius et magis in dicta ecclesia laboraverit, et magis idoneus repertus fuerit, dum tamen competenter sit corpore formosus, et quod aliter facta electio non valebit." -REGISTR. ARCHIV. ECCLES. EBOR.-as quoted by Warton in his History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 303.

This was by a solemn proclamation in the 33rd year of his reign, A.D. 1541. See BISHOP HALL'S TRIUMPHS OF ROME. To be sure Henry had by this time quarrelled with Rome, and made himself, if not in name, at least in reality, the Pope of England.

Strype, in his HISTORICAL MEMORIALS, (vol. iii. chap. xxv. p. 202) records under the head of November 13, " it was commanded by the Bishop of London to all clerks in his diocese to have S. Nicolas, that is a boy-bishop, in procession, and to go abroad, as many as were so minded, according to an old superstition."

§ "On the 5th of December, the which was St. Nicolas' Eve, at evensong time came a commandment that St. Nicolas should not go abroad nor about. But notwithstanding it seems so much were the

But the custom, so far from being confined to this country, would seem to have been common throughout Europe. We find a specific mention of its existence in Franconia by Boemus Aubanus,* and indeed its origin may be traced up to a very remote period, though, as might be expected, under a somewhat different form. In the Constantinopolitan synod in the year 867, at which were present three hundred and seventy-three bishops, it was found to be a solemn custom in the courts of princes on certain days to dress some layman in the episcopal apparel, and to create a burlesque patriarch for the amusement of the company. This, like so many other things of the same kind, was anathematized by the clergy at one time, though there can be little doubt that it had originated with themselves. And here arises a contradiction that at first sight seems not a little puzzling; at one moment we see the church adopting the pagan rites and ceremonies without hesitation, baptizing them as it were with holy names, while at another we find them launching their anathemas against such abuses. That sound policy dictated either measure there can be little reason to doubt, for when was the Romish Church wanting in craft or sagacity to defend its own interests, though at so remote a period it is hardly possible for us to investigate the motives of their conduct?

citizens taken with the mock St. Nicolas, that is a Boy-Bishop, that there went about these St. Nicolases in divers parishes, as in St. Andrews, Holborn, and St. Nicolas Olaves in Bread Street. The reason the procession of St. Nicolas was forbid was because the Cardinal had this St. Nicolas' Day sent for all the convocation, bishops, and inferior clergy, to come to him to Lambeth, there to be absolved from all their perjuries, schisms, and heresies."—Idem. chap. xxvi. vol. iii. p. 205.

* Boemus Aubanus.-ORBIS TERRARUM EPITOME, Lib. iii. cap. xv. p. 241.


We have thus seen what were the actual ceremonies pertaining to the election and office of the Boy-Bishop; it now only remains to enquire why Saint Nicholas should have been more particularly chosen as the saint of this incongruous festival, or why indeed he should have been elevated into the patron-saint of scholars. Various reasons have been assigned for this. The learned Gregorie says, "it is sayd that his fader hyght Epiphanius, and his mother Joanna. And when hee was born they made him christen, and called him Nycolas, that is a mannes name, but he kepeth the name of the child, for he chose to kepe vertues, meknes, and simpleness, and without malice. Also we rede, while he lay in his cradel, he fasted wednesday and friday; these dayes he would souke but ones of the day, and ther wyth held him pleased. Thus he lyved all his lyfe in vertues with this childes name. And therefore children don him worship before all other saints."*

Another version is that given by Maitre Wace, chaplain to Henry the Second,

"Treis clers alvent a escole

Nen frai mie longe parole;
Lor ostes par nuit les oscieit,
Les cors musca +.... la prenoit.
Saint Nicolas par Deu le sout,
Sempris fut la si cum Deu plut,
Les clers al oste demanda,

Nes peut muscier einz lui mustra.
Saint Nicolas par sa priere

Les ames mist el cors ariere,

Por ceo qe as clers fist tiel honor

Font li clerc feste a icel jor."

* GREGORII POSTHUMA, p. 114. But he quotes from the Book of Festivals, fol. 55.

A word is defaced here from the MS. I quote from Douce's ILLUSTRATIONS OF SHAKSPEARE, vol. i. p. 40.

That is, "three scholars were going to school-I shall not make my words long-their host in the night murdered them, and hid their bodies; their he re


served. Saint Nicholas knew it of God, and went there as God directed. He demanded the scholars of the host, who not being able to conceal them showed them to him. By his prayers Saint Nicholas replaced the souls within the bodies. Because he conferred such honour on scholars, they at this day celebrate a festival."

CONCEPTION OF THE IMMACULATE, HOLY, AND BLESSED VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD; or, as it is generally abbreviated, C. B. V. MARY; December 8th.—Some editions, however, of the Roman Calendar would seem to place this feast on the 9th.

ST. THOMAS'S DAY; December 21st.-Brand* has noticed some faint traces of a custom on this day, called, Going a Gooding. It was peculiar to the women, and is thus incidentally mentioned by a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, when speaking of the extreme mildness of the preceding winter; "the pleasing objects of Autumn continued to be seen after the commencement of winter. The women, who went a-gooding,-as they call it in these parts-on St. Thomas' Day, might in return for alms have presented their benefactors with sprigs of palm and bunches of primroses." It should seem, however, not to have been restricted to Kent, for we find it mentioned as having existed at Pinner, about thirteen miles from London.‡

The same custom, or something very like it, appears to bave obtained in Warwickshire, but under another name "My servant B. Jelkes, who is from Warwickshire,


* POPULAR ANTIQUITIES, vol. i. p. 347.

GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE for 1793-4, April, vol. Ixiv. p. 292.

« ПредишнаНапред »