Christmas Mummers Play
A rude drama is performed at Christmas by the guisers or mummers in most parts of England and Scotland, but the versions are extremely numerous, and no less than six copies have reached me differing materially from each other. In the following copy, which is the most perfect one I have been able to procure, the dramatis personae consist of a Fool, St. George, Slasher, a Doctor, Prince of Paradine, King of Egypt, Hector, Beelzebub, and little Devil Doubt. I am informed that this drama is occasionally acted at Easter as well as at Christmas.
Fool. Room, room, brave gallants, give us room to sport, For in this room we wish for to resort, Resort, and to repeat to you our merry rhyme, For remember, good sirs, this is Christmas time! The time to cut up goose-pies now doth appear, So we are come to act our merry Christmas here; At the sound of the trumpet and beat of the drum, Make room, brave gentlemen, and let our actors come! We are the merry actors that traverse the street, We are the merry actors that fight for our meat; We are the merry actors that show pleasant play. Step in, St. George, thou champion, and clear the way.
Enter ST. GEORGE.
St. George. I am St. George, who from old England sprung, My famous name throughout the world hath rung; Many bloody deeds and wonders have I made known, And made the tyrants tremble on their throne. I followed a fair lady to a giant’s gate, Confined in dungeon deep to meet her fate; Then I resolved, with true knight-errantry. To burst the door, and set the prisoner free; When a giant almost struck me dead, But by my valour I cut off his head. I’ve searched the world all round and round, But a man to equal me I never found.
Slasher. I am a valiant soldier, and Slasher is my name, With sword and buckler by my side I hope to win the game; And for to fight with me I see thou art not able, So with my trusty broad-sword I soon will thee disable!
St. George. Disable! disable! it lies not in thy power, For with my glittering sword and spear I soon will thee devour. Stand off, Slasher! let no more be said, For if I draw my sword, I’m sure to break thy head!
Slasher. How can’st thou break my head? Since it is made of iron, And my body’s made of steel; My hands and feet of knuckle-bone: I challenge thee to field.
[They fight, and Slasher is wounded. Exit St. George.
Fool. Alas! alas! my chiefest son is slain! What must I do to raise him up again? Here he lies in the presence of you all, I’ll lovingly for a doctor call! (Aloud.) A doctor! a doctor! ten pounds for a doctor! I’ll go and fetch a doctor. [Going.
Doctor. Here am I.
Fool. Are you the doctor?
Doctor. Yes, that you may plainly see, By my art and activity.
Fool. Well, what’s your fee to cure this man?
Doctor. Ten pounds is my fee; but Jack, if thou be an honest man, I’ll only take five of thee.
Fool. You’ll be wondrous cunning if you get any (aside). Well how far have you travelled in doctrineship?
Doctor. From Italy, Titaly, High Germany, France, and Spain, And now am returned to cure the diseases in old England again.
Fool. So far, and no further?
Doctor. O yes! a great deal further.
Fool. How far?
Doctor. From the fireside cupboard, upstairs and into bed.
Fool. What diseases can you cure?
Doctor. All sorts.
Fool. What’s all sorts?
Doctor. The itch, the pitch, the palsy, and the gout. If a man gets nineteen devils in his skull, I’ll cast twenty of them out. I have in my pockets crutches for lame ducks, spectacles for blind humble-bees, pack-saddles and panniers for grasshoppers, and plaisters for broken-backed mice. I cured Sir Harry of a hang-nail, almost fifty-five yards long; surely I can cure this poor man. Here, Jack, take a little out of my bottle, And let it run down thy throttle; If thou be not quite slain, Rise, Jack, and fight again. [Slasher rises.
Slasher. Oh, my back!
Fool. What’s amiss with thy back?
Slasher. My back it is wounded, And my heart is confounded, To be struck out of seven senses into four score; The like was never seen in Old England before.
Enter ST. GEORGE.
Oh, hark! St. George, I hear the silver trumpet sound, That summons us from off this bloody ground; Down yonder is the way (pointing). Farewell, St. George, we can no longer stay.
[Exeunt Slasher, Doctor, and Fool.
St. George. I am St. George, that noble champion bold, And with my trusty sword I won ten thousand pounds in gold; ‘Twas I that fought the fiery dragon, and brought him to the slaughter, And by those means I won the King of Egypt’s daughter.
Enter PRINCE OF PARADINE.
Prince. I am Black Prince of Paradine, born of high renown; Soon I will fetch St. George’s lofty courage down. Before St. George shall be received by me, St. George shall die to all eternity!
St. George. Stand off, thou black Morocco dog, Or by my sword, thou’lt die; I’ll pierce thy body full of holes, And make thy buttons fly.
Prince. Draw out thy sword and slay, Pull out thy purse and pay; For I will have a recompense Before I go away.
St. George. Now, Prince of Paradine, where have you been? And what fine sights, pray, have you seen? Dost think that no man of thy age Dares such a black as thee engage? Lay down thy sword; take up to me a spear, And then I’ll fight thee without dread or fear.
[They fight, and Prince of Paradine is slain.
St. George. Now Prince of Paradine is dead, And all his joys entirely fled; Take him, and give him to the flies, And never more come near mine eyes.
Enter KING OF EGYPT.
King. I am the King of Egypt, as plainly doth appear; I’m come to seek my son, my son, and only heir.
St. George. He is slain.
King. Who did him slay, who did him kill, And on the ground his precious blood did spill?
St. George. I did him slay, I did him kill, And on the ground his precious blood did spill! Please you, my liege, my honour to maintain, Had you been there, you might have fared the same.
King. Cursed Christian! what is this thou’st done? Thou hast ruined me, and slain my only son.
St. George. He gave me a challenge, why should I it deny? How high he was, but see how low he lies!
King. O Hector! Hector! help me with speed, For in my life I never stood more need!
And stand not there with sword in hand, But rise and fight at my command!
Hector. Yes, yes, my liege, I will obey, And by my sword I hope to win the day; If that be he who doth stand there, That slew my master’s son and heir; If he be sprung from royal blood, I’ll make it run like Noah’s flood!
St. George. Hold, Hector! do not be so hot, For here thou knowest not who thou’st got, For I can tame thee of thy pride, And lay thine anger, too, aside; Inch thee, and cut thee as small as flies, And send thee over the sea to make mince-pies; Mince-pies hot, and mince-pies cold, I’ll send thee to Black Sam before thou’rt three days old.
Hector. How canst thou tame me of my pride, And lay mine anger, too, aside? Inch me, and cut me as small as flies, Send me over the sea to make mince-pies? Mince-pies hot, mince-pies cold; How canst thou send me to Black Sam before I’m three days old? Since my head is made of iron, My body’s made of steel, My hands and feet of knuckle-bone, I challenge thee to field.
[They fight, and Hector is wounded.
I am a valiant knight, and Hector is my name, Many bloody battles have I fought, and always won the same; But from St. George I received this bloody wound. (A trumpet sounds.) Hark, hark! I hear the silver trumpet sound, Down yonder is the way (pointing). Farewell, St. George, I can no longer stay. [Exit.
St. George. He comes from post, old Bold Ben.
Fool. Why, master, did ever I take you to be my friend?
St. George. Why, Jack, did ever I do thee any harm?
Fool. Thou proud saucy coxcomb, begone!
St. George. A coxcomb! I defy that name! With a sword thou ought to be stabbed for the same.
Fool. To be stabbed is the least I fear! Appoint your time and place, I’ll meet you there.
St. George. I’ll cross the water at the hour of five, And meet you there, sir, if I be alive. [Exit.
Enter BEELZEBUB. Here come I, Beelzebub, And over my shoulders I carry my club; And in my hand a dripping-pan, And I think myself a jolly old man; And if you don’t believe what I say, Enter in, Devil Doubt, and clear the way.
Enter DEVIL DOUBT. Here come I, little Devil Doubt, If you do not give me money, I’ll sweep you all out: Money I want, and money I crave; If you do not give me money I’ll sweep you all to the grave.
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