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everywhere inspired a general curiosity and interest ; and most nations have returned with renewed affection to the earliest monuments of the genius of their fore. fathers.

The favorite diversions of the higher classes in the Middle Ages, during the intervals of war, were those of hunting and hawking. The former must, in all countries, be a source of pleasure, but it seems to have been enjoyed in moderation by the Greeks and Ro. mans. With the Northern invaders, however, it was rather a predominant appetite than an amusement. It was their pride and their ornament, the theme of their songs, the object of their laws, and the business of their lives. Falconry, unknown, as a diversion, to the ancients, became, from the fourth century, an equally delightful occupation. A knight seldom stirred from his house without a falcon on his wrist, or a greyhound following him; and on the monuments of those who

1 died anywhere but on the field of battle, it is usual to find the greyhound lying at their feet, or the bird upon their wrists. Nor are the tombs of ladies without their falcon; for this diversion, being of less danger and fatigue than the chase, was shared by the delicate sex,

About the eighth century, trade was principally car. ried on by means of fairs, which lasted several days. Charlemagne established many great marts of this sort in France, as did William the Conqueror and his successors in England. The merchants, who frequented these fairs in numerous caravans or companies, employed every art to draw the people together. They were therefore accompanied by jugglers, minstrels,


and buffoons. As but few large towns then existed, no public spectacles or popular amusements were es, tablished ; and, as the sedentary pleasures of domestic life and private society were yet unknown, the fairtime was the season for diversion. In proportion as these shows were attended and encouraged, they were heightened with new decorations and improvements; and the arts of buffoonery, being rendered still more attractive by extending their circle of exhibition, acquired an importance in the eyes of the people. By degrees, the clergy, observing that the entertainments of dancing, music, and mimicry at the fairs turned the minds of the people from religion, proscribed these sports, and excommunicated the performers. But, finding that no regard was paid to their censures, they changed their plan, and took these recreations into their own hands. They turned actors, and, instead of profane mummeries, presented stories taken from holy legends, or the Bible. Such was the origin of the Religious Shows and Mysteries of the Middle Ages, the most singular amusements, perhaps, that ever were known, and which merit a detailed description, in order to exhibit a faithful picture of the manners of the times.

In these most extraordinary performances, the religious, ceremonies of the time and the events of sacred history were travestied in so bizarre a style, that we could hardly credit the facts, were they not related in the most circumstantial detail by numerous writers. About the year 990, Theophylact, Patriarch of Constantinople, caused the Feast of Fools, and the Feast of the Ass, with other religious farces,


to be exhibited in the Greek Church. Beletus, who lived in 1182, mentions the Feast of Fools as celebrated in some places on New Year's day, and in others, on Twelfth day. In France, at different cathedral churches, there was a Bishop or an Archbishop of Fools elected ; and, in the churches immediately dependent on the papal see, a Pope of Fools. These mock pontiffs had usually a proper train of ecclesiastics, and one of their ridiculous ceremonies was to shave the Precentor of Fools upon a stage erected before the church, in the presence of the populace, who were amused, during the operation, by his coarse and licentious discourses, and tricks of buffoonery. They were attired in the ridiculous dresses of pantomime players, and, in these grotesque habiliments, entered the church, and performed the sacred service, accompanied by crowds of people in masks, representing monsters, or with their faces smutted to excite laughter. During divine service, they sang vulgar songs in the choir, ate puddings on the corner of the altar, played at dice upon it by the side of the priest while he celebrated mass, incensed it with smoke from old shoes set on fire, and ran capering all over the church. The Bishop or Pope of Fools performed the service habited in pontifical garments, and gave his benediction. When it was concluded, he was seated in an open carriage, and drawn about the town, followed by the crowd, and by a cart filled with dirt, which they threw upon the spectators, to the great glee of all concerned. These licentious festivals were called the December Liberties. They were always held about Christmas, and appear to have continued through the chief part of January..

The Feast of the Ass, as it was anciently celebrated in France, consisted almost entirely of dramatic shows. It was instituted in honor of Balaam's ass. The clergy walked on Christmas day in procession, dressed to represent the prophets and other Scripture characters. Moses appeared in an alb and cope, with a long beard and a rod. David was clad in green. Balaam, with an enormous pair of spurs, was mounted on a wooden ass, which enclosed a speaker. There were also six Jews and six Gentiles. Among other characters, the poet Virgil was introduced, singing monkish rhymes, as a Gentile prophet, and a translator of the Sibylline oracles. They moved in procession through the church, chanting versicles, and conversing in character on the nativity and kingdom of Christ. Sometimes they performed the miracle of the fiery furnace, with Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Sometimes the Feast of the Ass commemorated the flight of the Virgin into Egypt with the infant Jesus. The most beautiful girl that could be procured was selected to represent the Virgin ; a pretty child was placed in her arms, and she was mounted on an ass richly caparisoned. The Bishop, with a train of clergy, followed, and they all went in grand procession to church, where the service was performed, with the burden of “ Hin-han! Hin-han !to represent the braying of

Me Archbishop of Sens composed a missal for this ceremony, containing, among other strange things, a hymn in praise of the ass, from which we extract the two following verses.

“ From the country of the East
Came this strong and handsome beast,

an ass.

This able Ass, beyond compare,
Heavy loads and packs to bear.

Huzza! Seigneur Ass, Huzza!

" Amen bray, most honored Ass,

Sated now with grain and grass ;
Amen repeat, Amen reply,
And disregard antiquity.

Huzza! Seigneur Ass, Huzza !”


This was sung in the most discordant manner possible. The service lasted all night and part of the next day, and constituted the most ridiculous medley imaginable. A liberal use of wine was not wanting on the occasion, and both clergy and laity danced round the animal, and strove to imitate his braying.

The Mysteries, or sacred plays, were acted on a stage consisting of three platforms, one above another. On the uppermost sat God the Father, surrounded by his angels. On the second story were the glorified saints; and on the lowest, men who had not yet passed from this life. On one side of the lowest platform was the resemblance of a dark, pitchy cavern, whence issued flames; and when it was necessary, the audience were treated with hideous yellings and noises, in imitation of the cries of the damned. From this yawning cave the devils ascended, to delight and edify the spectators. The Mysteries were usually acted in churches or chapels, on temporary scaffolds, and the performers were chiefly of the clergy. In the Coven. try Mysteries, the story of Adam and Eve was represented in the genuine natural costume, and this extraordinary spectacle was beheld by a numerous company of both sexes with perfect composure.

They had the

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