Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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XXV
• nies and superstitions of their forefathers, added to them some imitations of the revelries of their supe­riors, but, as may be supposed, of a grosser descrip­tion ; and. many abuses were committed. It was therefore found necessary by an Act passed in the 3d year of Henry VIII. to order that no persons should appear abroad like mummers, covering their faces with vizors, and in disguised apparel, under pain of three months' imprisonment: and a penalty of 20s. was declared against such as kept vizors in their houses for the purpose of mumming. It was not intended, however, to debar people from proper recreations during this season, but on the contrary we have reason to believe that many indulgences were afforded to them, and that landlords and masters assisted them with the means of enjoying the customary festivities; listening to their tales of legendary lore, round the yule-block, when weary of more boisterous sports, and encouraging them by their presence, as is yet the case in some parts of the country, though the practice is unfortunately gradually wearing out.
The working classes at this period were pro­fessedly allowed greater privileges at Christmas than at any other part of the year.* The Act of 11 Hen. VII. c. 2, against unlawful games, ex­pressly forbids Artificers, Labourers, Servants, or Apprentices, to play at any such, but in Christmas ;
* There is the form of a proclamation made by the She­riff of York, given by Leland (Itinerary, vol. iv. p. 182), where the encouragement is so extended as to appear al­most ironical. It contains the following passage :—
" Also that all manner of whores and theives, dice-players, carders, and all other unthrifty folke, be welcome to the towne, whether they come late or early, att the reve­rence of the high feast of Youle, till the twelve dayes be passed."
c

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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III