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Christmas's Lamentation

Christmas is my name, far have I gone,
Without regard; without regard.
Whereas great men by flocks there be flown,
To London-ward--to London Ward.
There they in pomp and pleasure do waste
That which Old Christmas was wonted to feast,
Well a day!
Houses where music was wont for to ring,
Nothing but bats and owlets do sing.
Well a day, Well a day.
Well a day, where should I stay?

Christmas beef and bread is turn'd into stones,
Into stones and silken rags;
And Lady Money sleeps and makes moans,
And makes moans in misers' bags;
Houses where pleasures once did abound,
Nought but a dog and a shepherd is found,
Well a day!
Places where Christmas revels did keep,
Now are become habitations for sheep.
Well a day, Well a day,
Well a day, where should I stay?

Pan, the shepherds' god, doth deface,
Doth deface Lady Ceres' crown,
And the tillage doth go to decay,
To decay in every town;
Landlords their rents so highly enhance,
That Pierce, the ploughman, barefoot may dance;
Well a day!
Farmers that Christmas would still entertain,
Scarce have wherewith themselves to maintain,
Well a day, etc.

Come to the countryman, he will protest,
Will protest, and of bull-beef boast;
And, for the citizen, he is so hot,
Is so hot, he will burn the roast.
The courtier, sure good deeds will not scorn,
Nor will he see poor Christmas forlorn?
Well a day!
Since none of these good deeds will do,
Christmas had best turn courtier too,
Well a day, etc.

Pride and luxury they do devour,
Do devour house keeping quite;
And soon beggary they do beget,
Do beget in many a knight.
Madam, forsooth, in her coach must wheel
Although she wear her hose out at heel,
Well a day!
And on her back wear that for a weed,
Which me and all my fellows would feed.
Well a day, etc.

Since pride came up with the yellow starch,
Yellow starch--poor folks do want,
And nothing the rich men will to them give,
To them give, but do them taunt;
For Charity from the country is fled,
And in her place hath nought left but need;
Well a day!
And corn is grown to so high a price,
It makes poor men cry with weeping eyes.
Well a day, etc.

Briefly for to end, here do I find,
I do find so great a vocation,
That most great houses seem to attain,
To attain a strong purgation;
Where purging pills such effects they have shew'd,
That forth of doors they their owners have spued;
Well a day!
And where'er Christmas comes by, and calls,
Nought now but solitary and naked walls.
Well a day, etc.

Philemon's cottage was turn'd into gold,
Into gold, for harbouring Jove:
Rich men their houses up for to keep,
For to keep, might their greatness move;
But, in the city, they say, they do live,
Where gold by handfulls away they do give;--
I'll away,
And thither, therefore, I purpose to pass,
Hoping at London to find the Golden Ass.
I'll away, I'll away,
I'll away, for here's no stay.

A little light upon this ballad may possibly be found in a letter from
John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton (21st December 1627):--Divers
lords and personages of quality have made means to be dispensed
withall for going into the Country this Christmas according to the
proclamation; but it will not be granted, so that they pack away on
all sides for fear of the worst.

As we are now getting near the attempted suppression of Christmas
under the Puritan regime, it may be as well to notice the extreme
licence to which the season's holiday and festivities had reached--and
perhaps a more flagrant case than the following can scarcely be given.
On 13th January 1626 the Commissioners of the Navy write to the Duke
of Buckingham that they have received information from persons who
have been on board the Happy Entrance in the Downs, and the
Nonsuch and Garland at Gore-end, that for these Christmas
holidays, the captains, masters, boatswains, gunners, and carpenters,
were not aboard their ships, nor gave any attendance to the service,
leaving the ships a prey to any who might have assaulted them. The
Commissioners sent down clothes for the sailors, and there were no
officers to take charge of them, and the pressed men ran away as fast
as the Commissioners sent them down. If they had beaten up and down,
they might have prevented the loss of two English ships taken by the
Dunkirkers off Yarmouth.

This, naturally, was a state of things which could not be allowed, and
on January 15 the Duke of Buckingham wrote to Sir Henry Palmer as to
the officers and men quitting their ships at Christmas time, and
called upon him presently to repair on board his own ship, and to
charge the officers of all the ships composing his fleet, not to
depart from their ships without order.

Next: Attempts Of Puritans To Put Down Christ-tide

Previous: Historic Christ-tides

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