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“ PHæBUS waxed old, and huéd like laton;
That in his hot declination
Shone as the burnéd gold, with streams bright,
But now in Capricorn adown doth light
Wherein he shone full pale, I dare well sain.
The bitter frosts with sleet and rain
Destroyed have the green in every yard.
Janus sits by the fire with double beard,
And drinketh of his bugle horn the wine !
Before him stands brawn of the tuskéd swine,
And Nowel* crieth every lusty man."






IVE hundred years ago, Chaucer, who, in his racy verse, has preserved the exactest descriptions of the manners of the age in which he lived, incidentally sketched the above slight picture of the Christmas season. Unfortunately, it furnishes us with but few points to dwell upon. The wintry sun no longer shining like burnished gold, and throwing out broad rays of light, but of a dull brazen hue; the bitter frosts, that with sleet and rain have destroyed the last vestiges of the garden's green; these, relieved by an incident allegorical of the jovial feasting which never failed to usher in the festival of the Saviour's nativity, comprise, not only the whole of this little sketch, but all that the father of English

poetry has left us connected with our subject. It is not, therefore, by extracts from his works that we shall be enabled to illustrate the customs and festivities of the Christmas season among our forefathers at this early period of our history. The materials for this purpose will have to be culled from more fugitive sources, and will be mainly comprised of poems which were chaunted forth by the minstrels of old, at a time when a scanty measure of devotion furnished the excuse for the most extravagant revelry.

Among the primitive Christians, the festival of the Saviour's nativity was doubtless ushered in by the display of a calı, religious state of feeling, unmingled with the consideration of mere worldly enjoyments; but in course of time, when this important feast of the Christian

* The French word Noël, signifying Christmas.

Church had come to be incorporated with those heathen rites of the
northern nations, which were celebrated towards the end of the year, it
degenerated, for the most part, into a mere display of boisterous festivity:
Such we find it to have been during the Anglo-Saxon period, and such
it continued under the line of Norman kings; though one good feature
connected with the celebration of the Christmas festival by these latter
monarchs, was, the practice that prevailed with them, of assembling
upon the occasion, the chief prelates and nobles of the kingdom, when
the general affairs of the country were taken into consideration. As a
relief, however, to these deliberations, the guests were feasted with a
series of grand banquets; and one of the metrical romanees of the period
has the following allusion to the circumstance :--

“Christmas is a time full honest;
King Richard it bonoured with great feast,
All his clerks and barons
Were set in their pavilions,
And served with great plenty

Of meat, and drink, and cach dainty."
And, in truth, the company were served with “meat and drink in great
plenty;" for we find it recorded, that at several of the entertainments
of the period, as many as thirty thousand dishes were set before the
famished guests. Some of the “dainties” would doubtless be regarded
as questionable by modern tastes; they may be judged of, however, by
an enumeration of the favourite dishes of the period, which will be
found contained in one of the Boar's Head Carols, a few pages further
on. Days thus spent in fcasting and deliberation gave place to nights
of revelry, at which masques and mummings, varied with games of chance,
and the tricks of jugglers and mountebanks, formed the chief features of
the evening's entertainment. A continual round of pleasure was thus kept
up throughout the whole of the twelve days forming the feast of Yule ;
and it was rarely until the expiration of the closing night's debauch that a
time was found for the return to a more sober course of proceeding.

The earliest existing Carol known to antiquaries, is in the AngloNorman language. It was discovered written on a blank leaf in the middle of one of the manuscripts+ preserved in the British Museum. The date assigned to it is the thirteenth century. As but few of our readers would readily comprehend a reprint of the poem in its present form, we have preferred to insert a new translation of it, wherein the style and language of the original has been very closely adhered to. We may suppose this Carol to have been one of those in use among the bands of professional minstrels half vagrants, half troubadours, who wandered from one to the other of the different castles of the Norman nobility,

discoursing sweet sounds” for the gratification of the assembled guests, and who were certain of a ready welcome on so jovial an occasion, as the celebration of the Christmas feast.

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To English ale, and Gascon wine,
And French, doth Christmas much incline-

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