« AnteriorContinuar »
dinner, desert, wine, &c. which they had Original Poetry.
left their husband, to pay for. The dis- To the Edi(or of the Every.Day Book_ covery at first disconcerted the gentlemen,
but the wine they had drank having Sir,—The following beautiful lines
opened their hearts and inspired them were written in the summer of the year
with liberality, they took the trick put t808, at Sheffield, and have not been
upon them in good part, and paid the published; as they are no mean effusion,
bill; and the recollection of the wivet of perhaps they will not disgrace your inter
the city company, long afterwards afforded esting little work,
.them an ample subject for conversation Believe me, Sir,&c.
and laughter. July 9, 1826. C. T.
The Oak And The Willow.
When the sun's dazzling brightness oppresses the day,
And thro' the arched boughs hung with woodbine so gay,
And lo I where the charms of the wild woodland vale,
Expanding in beauty, enrapture the sight;
There the lawns and the hills are all blazing in light.
From yonder high rocks, down the foaming stream rushes,
While the songsters of spring, warbling wild from the bushes,
The peasant boy now with his cattle descends,
Winding slow to the brook down the mountain's steep tide;
And the mountain-ash waves in luxuriance beside.
And mark yonder oak—'tis the cliff's nodding crest,
The morning's first glances alight on its breast,
And evening there spends the last glimpse of her time.
But hark! the storm bursts, and the raging winds sweep-
E'en the leaves, where the sunbeams delighted to sleep.
Yet the shrubs in the vale closely sheltered from harm,
While the mountains reecho the thunder's alarm,
Thus the rich and the great who engross fortune's smiles,
While peace all the toils of the peasant beguiles,
Then mine be the lot of the willow that weeps,
'Mongst whose pensile branches the flow'ret creeps,
Some nook in the valley of life shall be mine,
True friendship and love round my heart shall entwine,
Then haply my wild harp will make such sweet notes,
May stop and may list, as the music still floats,
Old Midsummer Day. This day is still marked in our almanacs, on account of its being adhered to, in a few places, as a " %' od old day," of the "good old times."
Laying Out Of Lands In the Parish of Puxton, Somerset. The subjoined letter was duly received according to its date, and is now in due time inserted. The editor has very few omissions of this kind to apologize for: if he has prematurely, and therefore unduly, introduced some communications which arrived too late for their proper days, he may be excused, perhaps, in consideration of the desire expressed by some correspondents, that their papers should appear in a "reasonable" time or not at all. Unhappily he has experienced the mishap of a "reasonable" difference, with one or two of his contributors. From the plan of this work, certain matters-of-fact could only range, with propriety, under certain days; while it has been conceived of, by some, as a magazine wherein any thing could come, at any time. In this dilemma he has done the best in his power, and introduced, in a few instances, papers of that nature out of place. On two or three occasions, indeed, it seemed a courtesy almost demanded by the value of such articles, that they should not await the rotation of the year. The following curiously descriptive account of a remarkable local custom is from a Somersetshire gentleman, who could be relied on for a patient endurance of nine months, till this, its due season arrived.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. Bristol, October 19, 1825. Sir,—Having observed in your Every
Day Book, p. 837, vol i. mention of an ancient custom of dividing lands, which formerly took place on the Saturday before old midsummer-day, in the parish of Puxton, in Somersetshire, (taken from Mr. Collinson's history of that county,) I now send you a more explicit and enlarged account, with the marks as they were cut in each person's allotment.
The two large pieces of common land called Dolemoors, which lie in the parishes of Congresbury, Week St. Lawrence and Puxton, were allotted in the following manner. On the Saturday preceding midsummer-day O. S. the several proprietors (of the estates having any right in those moors) or their tenants, were summoned at a certain hour in the morning, by the ringing of one of the bells at Puxton, to repair to the church, in order to see the chain (kept for the purpose of laying out Dolemoors) measured. The proper length of such chain was ascertained by placing one end thereof at the foot of the arch, dividing the chancel from the body of the church, and extending it through the middle aisle, to the foot of the arch of the west door under the tower, at each of which places marks were cut in the stones for that purpose. The chain used for this purpose was only eighteen yards in length, consequently four yards shorter than the regular landmeasuring chain. After the chain had been properly measured, the parties repaired to the commons. Twenty-four apples were previously prepared, bearing the following marks, viz. Five marks called "Pole-axes," four ditto " Crosses," two ditto "Dung-forks, or Dung-pikes," one mark called " Four Oxen and a Mare," one ditto "Two Pits," one ditto "Three Pits," one ditto " Four Pits," one ditto "Five Pits," one ditto "Seven Pits," one "Horn," one "Hare's-tail," one "Duck's-nest," one"Oven," one"Shell," one " Evil," and one " Hand-reel."
It is necessary to observe that each of these moors was divided into several portions called furlongs, which were maiked out by strong oak posts, placed at regular distances from each other; which posts were constantly kept up. After the apples were properly prepared, they were put into a hat or bag, and certain persons fixed on for the purpose, began to measure with the chain beforementioned, and proceeded till they had measured off one acre of ground; at the end of which, the boy who carried the hat or bag containing the marks took out one of the apples, and the mark which such apple bore, was immediately cut in the turf with a large knife kept for that purpose: this knife was somewhat in the shape of a scimetar with its edge reversed. In this manner they proceeded till the whole of the commons were laid out, and each proprietor knowing the mark and furlong which belonged to his estate, he took possession of his allotment or allotments accordingly, for the ensuing year. An adjournment then took place to the house of one of the overseers, where a certain number of acres reserved for the purpose of paying expenses, and called the "out-let or out-drift," were let by inch of candle.
During the time of letting, the whole party were to keep silence, (except the person who bid,) under the penalty of one shilling. When any one wished to bid, he named the price he would give, and immediately deposited a shilling on the table where the candle stood; the next who bid, also named his price and deposited his shilling in like manner, and the person who first bid was then to take up his shilling. The business of letting thus proceeded till the candle was burnt out, and the last bidder, prior to that event, was declared the tenant of the out-let, or outdrift, for the ensuing year.
Two overseers were annually elected from the proprietors or their tenants. A quantity of strong ale or brown-stout was allowed for the feast, or "revel," as it was called ; also bread, butter and cheese, together with pipes and tobacco, of which any reputable person, whose curiosity or casual business led him to Puxton on that day, was at liberty to partake, but he was expected to deposit at his departure one shilling with the overseer, by way of forfeit for his intrusion. The day was generally spent in sociality and mirth, frequently of a boisterous nature, from the exhilarating effects of the biown-stout befoie alluded to; for it rarely happened
but that some of the junior part of the company were desirous of making a trial of their skill in the sublime art of pugilism when hard knocks, thumps, bangs, ana kicks, and consequently black eyes, bloody noses, and sore bones, were distributed with the greatest liberality amongst the combatants.
"And now the field of Death, the lists Are enter'd by antagonists."
'In this stage of the business, some venerable yeoman usually stepped forward and harangued the contending parties, in some such speech as the following, which I am sorry to say was most commonly thrown away upon these pot-valiant champions :—
"What rage, 0 friends! what fury
Yet after these civil broils, the parties seldom bore each other any grudge or illwill, and generally at the conclusion of the contest,
"Tho' sorely bruis'd, their limbs all o'er With ruthless bangs still stiff and sore,"
they shook hands, became good friends again, and departed with the greatest sang-froid to apply
"Fit med'eines to each glorious bruise
In the year 1779, an attempt was made to procure an act of parliament for allotting these moors in perpetuity; but an opposition having been made by a majority of the proprietors, the plan was relinquished. I have now by me a printed copy of the bill drawn up on that occasion. The land, however, was actually enclosed and allotted in the year 1811, and the ancient mode of dividing it, and consequently the drunken festival, or revel, from that time discontinued.
The following marks are correct delineations of those used, being taken from the originals in the book appropriated for the purpose of keeping the accounts of this very singular and ancient usage.
Dung-fork, or pike
Four Oxen & a Mare Two Pits .
Oven . Shell .
Evil . . Hand-reel
No. of each.
After this description of the method of '' laying out of lands," at a period of the year when steam boats are conveying visiters to the " watering places on the Thames," it seems prudent and seasonable to notice another custom—
Latino Out Op Wives
in the Fens of Essex and Kent.
And, first, as to this "grave" custom on the London side of the Thames, we have the epistolary testimony of a writer in the year 1773, viz.—
Sir,—Nothing but that unaccountable variety of life, which my stars have imposed upon me, could have apologised for my taking a journey to the fens of Essex. Few strangers go into those scenes of desolation, and fewer still (I find) return from thence—as you shall hear.
When I was walking one morning between two of the banks which restrain the waters in their proper bounds, I met one of the inhabitants, a tall and emaciated figure, with whom I entered into conversation. We talked concerning the manners and peculiarities of the place, and I condoled with him very pathetically on his forlorn and meagre appearance. He gave me to understand, however, that his case was far from being so desperate as I seemed to apprehend it, for that he had never looked better since he buried the first of his last nine wives.
"Nine wives 1" rejoined I, eager and astonished, " have you buried nine wives V
"Yes," replied the fen-man, "and I hope to bury nine more."
"Bravissimo !"—This was so far from allaying my astonishment, that it increased it. I then begged him to explain the miraculous matter, which he did in the following words:—
"Lord 1 master," said he, " we people in the fens here be such strange creatures, that there be no creatures like us; we be like fish, or water-fowl, or others, for we be able to live where other folks would die sure enough."
He then informed me, that to reside in the fens was a certain and quick death to people who had not been bred among them; that therefore when any of the fen-men wanted a wife, they went into the upland country for one, and that, after they carried her down among the fens, she never survived long: that after her death they went to the uplands for another, who also died; then " another,and
another, and another," for they all followed each other as regular as the change of the moon; that by these means some " poor fellows" had picked up a good living, and collected together from the whole a little snug fortune; that he himself had made more money this way than he ever could do by his labour, for that he was now at his tenth wife, and she could not possibly stand it out above three weeks longer; that these proceedings were very equitable, for such girls as were bom among themselves they sent into the uplands to get husbands, and that, in exchange, they took their young women as wives ; that he never knew a better custom in his life, and that the only comfort he ever found against the ill-nature and caprice of women was the fens. This woman-killer then concluded with desiring me, if I had a wife with whom I was not over head and ears in love, to bring her to his house, and it would kill her as effectually as any doctor in Christendom could do. This offer I waved; for you know, sir, that (thank God) I am not married.
This strange conversation of my friend, the fen-man, I could not pass over without many reflections; and t thought it my duty to give notice to my countrymen concerning a place which may be converted in so peculiar a manner to their advantage.*
So far is from the narrative of a traveller into Essex, who, be it observed, "speaks for himself," and whose account is given "without note or comment;" it being certain that every rightly affected reader will form a correct opinion of such a narrator, and of the " fearful estate" of "upland women" who marry "lowland men."
As regards the "custom of Kent," in this matter, we have the account of a "Steam-boat Companion," who, turning "to the Kentish shore," says thus :—
Divides the isle of Grean from Allhallows, on the main land, and from the cliff marshes.
Who would believe while beholding these scenes of pleasure before us, that for six months in the year the shores of this hundred (Hoo) were only to be explored by the amphibious; that the sun is sel
• UniTcrul MoRMin*.