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established ; but we can trace it back to the fourteenth century. In all the collegiate churches, at the feast of St. Nicholas, or of the Holy Innocents, and frequently at both, it was customary for one of the children of the choir, completely apparelled in the Episcopal vestments with a mitre and crosier to bear the title and state of a bishop. He exacted a ceremonial obedience from his fellows, who being dressed like priests, took possession of the church, and performed all the ceremonies and offices which might have been celebrated by a bishop and his prebendaries : Warton, and the author of the manuscript he has followed, add, “the mass excepted;" but the proclamation of Henry VIII, for the abolition of this custom proves they did “
singe masse.” Colet, Dean of St. Paul's, in the statutes for St. Paul's school, expressly orders that the scholars "shall, every Childermas, that is, Innocents’-day, come to Paule's Churche, and hear the childe byshop's sermon, and after be at high masse, and each of them offer a penny to the childe byshop ; and with them the maisters and surveyors of the schole." To which Warton adds,
“ I take this opportunity of intimating tat the custom at Eton of going ad montem, originated from the ancient and popular practice of these theatrical processions in collegiate bodies." In point of fact the montem is to commemorate the sale of Holy Salt, which was sold upon a small mount at Salt Hill. The boys now ask all persons whom they meet for salt, and a flag is flourished upon the mount. After having performed divine service, the boy-bishop and his associates went about to different parts of the town, and visited the religious houses, collecting money. These ceremonies and processions were formally abrogated by proclamation from the king and council, in 1542, the thirty-third year of Henry VIII ; the con
cluding clause of the ordinance runs thus : Whereas here. tofore dyvers and many superstitious and chyldish observances have been used, and yet to this day are observed and kept in many and sundry places of this realm upon St. Nicholas', St. Catherine's, St. Clement's and Holy Innocents', and such like holydaies ; children be strangelie decked and apparayled to counterfeit priests, bishops, and women, and so ledde, with songs and dances from house to house, blessing the people, and gathering of money; and boys do singe masse, and preache in the pulpits, with such other unfittinge and inconvenient usages, which tend rather to derysion than enie glorie to God, or honor of his sayntes.” This idle pageantry was revived by his daughter Mary, and, in the second year of her reign an edict, dated November 13, 1554, was issued from the bishop of London to all the clergy of his diocese, to have a boy-bishop in procession. The year following “the child bishop, of Paule's Church with his company were admitted into the queen's privy chamber, where he sang before her on Saint Nicholas-day and upon Holy Innocents-day. Again the next year, (says Strype,) on Saint Nicholas-even, Saint Nicholas, that is, a boy habited like a bishop in pontificalibus, went abroad in most parts of London, singing after the old fashion; and was received with many ignorant but well-disposed people into their houses, and had as much good cheer as ever was wont to be had before.” After the death of Mary this silly mummery was totally discontinued. It may be observed, that most of the churches in which these mock ceremonies were performed, had dresses and ornaments proper for the occasion, and suited to the size of the wearers, but in every other respect resembling those appropriated to the real dignitaries of the church ; hence it is we frequently meet with entries of diminutivc habits and ornaments in the church inventories as una mitra parva cum petris pro episcopo puerorum,” that is, "a small mitre with jewels for the bishop of the boys.” This occurs in the inventory of the Cathedral of York.
The Slaughter of the Innocents, (which, it is remarkable, is not mentioned by Josephus,) is the subject of a poem by Marino. Crawshaw translated the commencement of it into English poetry. The description of Satan and his abode, with which the poem opens, is supposed to have furnished Milton with some ideas for his “ Paradise Lost.” An allegorical description of Cruelty in the poem has been much admired. Guido painted a picture representing the mothers of the Innocents ; a subject for the exhibition of more acute and general anguish could not have been selected by an artist.
In ancient times it was a common imputation against the Jews, that they had a practice of crucifying a child in derision of the sufferings of Christ. In the reign of Henry III, eighteen Jews were hanged for this alleged offence. Among the causes celebres 1670 there is a curious trial of Jews for stealing a child of three
years et cheveux blonds et frisés.”
Bishop Latimer, in the reign of Edward VI, often preached on the subjects which, we have seen, were chosen for miracle plays. For example
“ I would wish that all clergymen, the curates, parsons, and vicars, and the bishops would have this lesson from these poor shepherds; which is this; to abide by their flocks. And if you want to know what bishop abideth most by his flock, who is the most diligent bishop in all England ? I can tell you. I know him well. It is the Devil. He is never out of
« bonnet rouge his diocese ; ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you ; he is the most diligent preacher in all the realm."
I warrant you, there was many a jolly damsel at that time in Bethlehem, yet among all these was not found one that would humble herself so much as once to see poor Mary in her stable. No, no; they were too fine to take so much pains. I warrant you, they had their bracelets, and fardingales, and were trimmed with all manner of fine and costly raiment, like as there be many now-a-days, amongst us, which study nothing else but how they may device fine raiment. But what was her swaddling-clothes wherein she laid the King of Heaven and Earth? No doubt it was poor geer, peradventure it was her kerchief which she took from her head.”
Martin Luther calls the Devil a Doctor of Divinity, and he gives the particulars of his mode of arguing in several personal interviews. The Devil appears to have behaved more civilly to Luther than the angel who, St. Jerome assures us, whipped him for reading the classical writers.
The subject of the Nativity has produced some of the master-pieces of the art of painting. One of the finest pictures for the clear-obscure and coloring ever executed, is that of “ The Night” of Corregio. The whole light of the picture is thrown on the shepherds and bye-standers from the figure of the Infant Jesus. However, in point of light (though of much higher general merit) it is scarcely more surprising than a picture by Parmegiano, where there are three lights, one from the Infant Jesus, another from a torch, and another from the dawn of day, none of them interfering with the rest. The picture painted by Sir J. Reynolds for the window of Queen's College, Oxford, and which is the subject of one of Warton's poems, is the Nativity. Warton is always very happy in the description of architecture, and the parts of the poem which relate to the tracery of the window are of superior merit. He has not soared much above mediocrity in the verses on the painting which represents
Heaven's golden emanation, gleaming mild
Sir J. Reynolds was, in fact, very famous for his pictures of children, particularly of the historical class, as here the Infant Jesus. So he painted Moses in the Bullrushes, Puck, the infant Hercules strangling the snakes in his cradle, young Hannibal taken to the altar by his father, and swearing immortal enmity to the Romans.
On the subject of the Nativity we have an Ode and Hymn composed by Milton, at an early period, indeed, of his fame, but the ode, which follows, contains several of the peculiar traits of his unrivalled genius for sacred subjects :
This is the month, and this is the happy morn,
That he our deadly forfeit should release,
That glorious form, that light unsufferable
Forsook the courts of everlasting day,
Say, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein