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sword-players, trumpeters on horseback, demilances on great horses, gunners with hand-guns, or half hakes, archers in coats of white fustian, signed on the breast and back with the arms of the city, their bows bent in their hands, with sheaves of arrows by their sides, pikemen in bright corslets, burgonets,* &c., halberds, the like billmen in almaine rivets and apernes of maile in great number; there were also divers pageants, morris-dancers, constables, the one half, which was one hundred and twenty, on St. John's Eve, the other half on St. Peter's Eve,† in bright harness, some overgilt, and every one a
unable to draw any thing like a right conclusion from the most simple premises, has a vast deal of trash upon this subject, (Glossary, sub voce) all of which has been greedily swallowed by poor Hone without the slightest suspicion of an error. The derivation, however, is plain enough; it comes from whiffle, to disperse as by a puff of wind, to scatter." This is a plain and obvious sense, against such as would whiffle away all these truths by resolving them into a mere moral allegory."-More on the Ser. Ch. ch. 9. Whiffle again is derived us, a sudden puff of wind,
from whiff, which means, as Junius tells (flatus subitus et vehemens) but he seems not to be quite satisfied with his own explanation, for he refers us to Otfred's poem, as likely to throw a better light upon this subject. I must confess that on looking at the work I have been unable to find any thing that at all bears upon the question.
* The burgonet, as any dictionary will inform the reader, signifies a sort of helmet." As to the almaine rivets and apernes of mail, I
must plead ignorance.
†There are no less than seven festivals of St Peter. Probably the festival here alluded to is that on the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, on the 29th of June, which at one time appears to have been celebrated with no little splendour. Mention has already been made of it incidentally in a previous quotation from Stow.
It is hardly necessary to remind the reader of Shakspeare that harness was formerly used for armour
At least we'll die with harness on our back."-Macbeth.
jornet of scarlet thereupon and a chain of gold, his henchman following him, his minstrels before him, and his cresset light passing by him, the waits of the city, the mayor's officers for his guard before, all in a livery of worsted or say † jackets party-coloured, the mayor himself well-mounted on horseback, the swordbearer before him in fair armour, well mounted also, the mayor's footmen and the like torchbearers about him, henchmen twain upon great stirring horses following him. The sheriffs' watches come one after the other in like order, but not so large in number as the mayor's, for where the mayor had besides his giant three pageants, each of the sheriff's had besides their giants but two pageants, each their morrice-dance and one henchman, their officers in jackets of worsted or say party-coloured, differing from the mayor's, and each from other, but having harnessed men a great many, &c. This Midsummer Watch was thus accustomed yearly, time out of mind, until the year 1539, the 31st of Henry VIII., in which year on the 8th of May a great muster was made by the citizens at the Mile's end, all in bright armour, with coats of white silk, or cloth and chains of gold, in three great battles,‡ to the number of fifteen thousand, which passed through London to West
A jornet is a surtout or wrapper, from the French journade, which Roquefort, in his Glossaire de la Langue Romane, interprets "surtout, casaque."
+ I should hardly have thought this word needed any explanation but that it has pleased Todd in his edition of Johnson's Dictionary to tell us it is deduced from the French soie, and means a thin sort of silk. It is neither so derived nor does it signify any thing of the sort. Say-or sai, as Minshew writes it,-is a sort of fine serge, and comes from the Italian saia, which is well explained in the great Dictionary of the Academy, "spezie di panno lano sottile e leggieri." Minshew at once, and very properly, refers us to SERge.
i. e. Divisions-a very common use of the word in all our old writers.
minster, and so through the Sanctuary, and round about the park of St. James, and returned home through Oldborne.* King Henry then considering the great charges of the citizens,"-(jealous rather of so large an armed force)" for the furniture of this unusual muster, forbad the marching watch provided for at Midsummer for that year, which being once laid down was not raised again till the year 1548, the 2nd of Edward VI., Sir John Gresham then being mayor, who caused the marching watch, both on the Eve of St. John the Baptist, and of St. Peter the Apostle, to be revived and set forth in as comely order as it hath been accustomed, which watch was also beautified by the number of more than three hundred demilances and light horsemen prepared by the citizens to be sent into Scotland for the rescue of the town of Haddington, and others kept by the Englishmen."+
We must not however imagine that this festival was confined to the city of London, for we have ample records of its observance in many of the provincial capitals. In Deering's Nottingham, in the various histories of Chester, of Cornwall, and of other principal places, we have similar details in abundance. But the chief point now to be noticed is the appearance of giants in the procession, a fact which seems to be connected with the images of Gog and Magog, in Guildhall. That they formed at customary part in all such processions is evident not only from what has been just quoted from Stow, but from a multitude of other authorities. Puttenham mentions it
* With such strange examples before us how a word may be corrupted from its original spelling, one is almost tempted to believe in any derivations however fanciful. But that the thing is here too plain for doubt, who could have ever supposed that our modern Holborn was to be sought in Old Borne, the Old Spring? + Stow's Survey of London, p. 39, 8vo. 1842.
in his ART OF POESIE, (p. 128,) wherein he compares a bloated style to "these midsommer pageants in London where, to make the people wonder, are set forth great and uglie gyants marching as if they were alyve and armed at all points, but within they are stuffed full of browne paper and tow." So again King in his VALE-ROYAL, (p. 208,) says "this mayor for his time altered many ancient customs,—as, the shooting for the sheriff's breakfast, the going of the gyants at midsommer, &c." But the fact being allowed, we do not seem to be a jot nearer the origin of the custom. Perhaps after all, the truth lies upon the surface, and instead of seeking for the cause of it in any ancient tales or superstitions, we shall find that the custom originated simply in the circumstance of giants adding to the exhibition by the oddity of their appearance, and that they were introduced with no more reason, than flags and banners are introduced into any modern procession. Still it is possible, as the whole ceremony is clearly of Druid origin, that they also have relation to Druid rites. I allude to the horrible fact related by Cæsar of these barbarous fanatics, that they formed immense images of wicker-work, and filled them with living men, when they set fire to the figures and burnt to death all within them.*
As to the giants in Guildhall, Stow,-and he no doubt gave the received opinion of his day,-states that they were the representatives of a Briton and a Saxon. It does not, however seem very probable, and unless they were originally used as parts of the Midsummer pageant, I am at a loss to offer any reasonable conjecture for these Dagons of civic idolatry.
“Alii immani magnitudine simulacra habent, quorum contexta viminibus membra vivis hominibus complent, quibus succensis, circumventi flammâ exanimuntur homines."-Cæsar, L. vi.
St John's Eve and Day, as the shadowy relicks of a Pagan festival, were naturally connected with a multitude of superstitious observances. Thus the rain, if it should fall on this day is particularly injurious to nuts,* a fact which is allowed by that arch-protestant, Hospinian, who even attempts to assign a cause for it, though he has the grace to say he has heard some maintain the opinion to be vain and superstitious. It was a famous time too for charms and divinations, which appear to have been of various kinds. Not the least singular of these was the drawing of lots, which we find mentioned with much other curious matter in the scholiasts on the sixth Trullan council-"The demoniacal mystery of fires and drawing lots prevailed till the time of the most holy patriarch Michael, who was the prince of philosophers in this queen of cities, and in this manner. On the twenty-third evening of the month of June, men and women assembled on the sea-shore and in certain houses, and adorned some first-born maiden like a bride. After they had feasted, and leaped and danced in Bacchanalian fashion, and had shouted as was their wont on holydays, they poured seawater into a narrow-necked vessel, and flung into it some articles belonging to each of them; then, as if the maiden had received from Satan the faculty of predicting future events, they would interrogate her in loud voice as to their good or evil fortunes; hereupon she would draw out any of the things thrown into the vessel, which the foolish owner receiving imagined he was now more
Persuasum denique est vulgo si circa diem S. Joannis officere id avellanis. Causa fortasse est ipsarum tunc teneritudo, humoris impatiens. Audivi qui dicerent esse opinionem vanam et superstitiosam, quæ etiam in aliis id genus observationibus multis simplicium animos teneat."-Hospinian De Festis Christ., fol. 114.