Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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There is a story of Roprecht the robber some­where, where the hero is also hung for certain pec­cadilloes, but his body disappears miraculously from the gibbet, whether by good or evil agency is doubt­ful ; however in no long time he suddenly appears again ready hung, but with the addition of a pair of boots and spurs. As he is now very dead, the reason of his freaks remains a mystery to his coun­trymen, but the readers of the tale are informed in confidence by the author, that this same Roprecht is taken down from the gibbet by some passer by, who finds him still living, whether by aid of the Three Kings or otherwise does not appear, and maintains him for some time; but he returns to his old tricks, and takes off his benefactor's horse ; he is however pursued, and after some trouble replaced in the halter which he so well deserved, and this time the noose is effectually fastened.
Their history was a favourite subject for paint­ings and tapestry from an early period. Warton (vol. iii. p. 11.) mentions some at the convent of St. Swithin, at Winchester, in 1374; and Henry the Fifth had a piece with the same subject: many other instances might be given.
The early mysteries, as might be expected, fre­quently adopted so popular a legend, and some of the most recent continental ones have preserved it; it was also introduced into a puppet-show at Bar­tholomew Fair, in the time of Queen Anne, as before stated. Lebeuf mentions a Latin mystery of the Three Kings so early as the time of Henry the First of France in the 11th century, wherein Virgil is introduced accompanying them; and at the end of the adoration, he joins with them in singing a long Benedicamus.* The first feast of the Three Kings was celebrated at Milan, in 1336,
* Warton's Hist, of Poetry, vol. ii. p. 68-9. n.

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