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CHRISTMAS VERSES OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
FEW words will suffice by way of introduction to the Christmas Poems of the nineteenth century, as these, for the most part, treat of customs and peculiarities familiar to all. The picturesque ceremonies and rude festivities that distinguished the Christmas of bygone times have passed away, and, for ourselves, we can regard the loss of them without regret. We are too thankful to have lighted upon a more civilized age, and to have escaped all the troubles, dangers, and miseries with which the “ good old times” were so thickly beset, to grieve overmuch for the
loss of even the better part of them. We AVO
conceive that Queen Victoria can celebrate wwwwww.000000www her Christmas with her accustomed gracious hospitality, without its being necessary for the Lord Chamberlain to assume the character, and perform all the absurdities, of a Lord of Misrule. And, although the office of poet-laureate has come to be regarded as inconsistent with the spirit of the present age, yet it was an advantageous change for the fooleries of a court-jester. We are well content, too, that the Christmas pantomime, and an occasional bal-masquè, should be the only existing remnants of the absurd Mummings of our ancestors. The Yule log and the Wassail bowl are beyond revival, and even the Christmas Carol is falling into desuetude. The practice of decking churches and houses with evergreens is, perhaps, the most honoured of all the old Christmas customs. The Boar's head has still a place in the Christmas banquet at one of our colleges, and at the mansions of some few of our nobility; yet, even this once favourite dish is very nigh displaced by the formidable baron of beef. It is at Queen's College, Oxford, that the Boar's head is brought, on Christmas day, to the high table in the Hall, while an altered version of the Old Carol printed by Wynkin de Worde, is chanted forth by a band of attendant choristers.
The following picturesque and oft-quoted description of Christmas in the olden time is from the introduction to the sixth canto of “Marmion.”
HEAP on more wood !—the wind is chill;
The lord, underogating, share
What dogs before his death he tore,
(From “ Ainsworth's Magazine,” 1848.)
Wassail! wassail! Ye merry men, hail,
Who brightened the days of old ;
Are sung of our fathers bold.
They revelled in careless glee,
As the notes of their minstrelsy.
Wassail! wassail! At the knight's regale
'Twas the signal for deep carouse, Nor there alone, for the joyous tone
Shook many a priestly house;
Surrounded by goodly cheer,
To the utter contempt of care.
Wassail! wassail! cried the yeoman hale,
As he shouldered his quarter-staff,
Awaiting his hearty quaff;
Of a frank good-hearted mirth,
Was the happiest place on earth!