Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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Western extremities, although far different in public estimation from those of former times, a few fur­ther particulars will not be out of place. Traces of the fool's dance, a sort of religious mummery at Christmas, may be discovered as far back as the time of Edward the Third. In the early part of Henry the Sixth's reign, there are payments to " Jakke Travaill & ses compaignons faisans diverses jeuues & entreludes dedeins le feste de Noell de-vant notre dit sire le Roi."*
The feast of fools, and the feast of asses, with other similar observances, were probably derived from some of the rites of idolatry. The ceremonies on the last of these festivals, as described by Du-cange, appear to us in the present day as per­fect profanation of religion, there being a regular burlesque service in honour of the ass, and all sorts of impurities committed even at the holy altar, and a hymn was sung, beginning as follows :
Orientis partibus Adventavit asinus; Pulcher et fortissimus, Sarcinis aptissimus.
Hez, sire asnes, car chantez; Belle bouche rechignez; Vous aurez du foin assez Et de l'avoine a plantez.
The chorus to the last verse was in the following beautiful strain—
Hez va! hez va! hez va hez ! Bialx Sire Asnes car allez; Belle bouche car chantez.t
* Nichols's Progresses, xli. n.
t A full account of this service is given by Ducange, voce Festum: and in Hone on Mysteries, p. 160, &c. many interesting particulars will be found respecting this and similar customs.

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