"ST GEORGE"--THE CHRISTMAS PLAYS.
THE Christmas play is a very ancient institution in Cornwall. At one time religious subjects were chosen, but those gave way to romantic plays. The arrangements were tolerably complete, and sometimes a considerable amount of dramatic skill was displayed.
"St George, and the other tragic performers, are dressed out some. what in the style of morris-dancers, in their shirt sleeves and white trousers, much decorated with riblbons and handkerchiefs, each carryg a drawn sword in his hand, if they can be procured, otherwise a cudgel. They wear high caps of pasteboard, adorned with beads, small pieces of looking-glass, coloured paper, &c. ; several long strips of pith generally hang down from the top, with small pieces of different coloured cloth strung on them; the whole has a very smart effect.
Father Christmas is personified in a grotesque manner, as an ancient man wearing a large mask and wig, and a huge club, wherewith he keeps the bystanders in order.
The Doctor, who is generally the merryandrew of the piece, is dressed in any ridiculous way, with a wig, three-cornered hat, and painted face.
The other comic characters are dressed according to fancy.
The female, where there is one, is usually in the dress worn half a century ago.
The hobbyhorse, which is a character sometimes introduced, wears a representation of a horse's hide.
Beside the regular drama of "St George," many parties of mummers go about in fancy dresses of every sort, most commonly the males in female attire, and vice versa.
BATTLE OF ST GEORGE
[One of the party steps in, crying out, -
Room, a room, brave gallants, room !
Within this court
I do resort
To show some sport
Gentlemen and ladies, in the Christmas time.
[After this note of preparation, Old Father Christmas capers into the room, saying -
Here comes I, Old Father Christmas;
Welcome or welcome not,
I hope Old Father Christmas
Will never be forgot.
I was born in a rocky country, where there was no wood to make me cradle; I was rocked in a stouring bowl, which made me round shouldered then, and I am round shouldered still.
[He then frisks about the room, until he thinks he has sufficiently amused the spectators, when he makes his exit, with this speech -
Who went to the orchard to steal apples to make gooseberry pies against Christmas ?
[These prose speeches, you may suppose, depend much upon the imagination of the actor.
Enter Turkish Knight
Here comes I, a Turkish Knight,
Come from the Turkish land to fight;
And if St George do meet me here,
I'll try his courage without fear.
Enter St George
Here comes I, St George,
That worthy champion bold;
And, with my sword and spear,
I won three crowns of gold.
I fought the dragon bold,
And brought him to the slaughter;
By that I gain'd fair Sabra,
To the King of Egypt's daughter.
T.K. St George, I pray, be not too bold
If thy blood is hot, I'll soon make it cold
St. G Thou Turkish knight, I pray forbear;
I'll make thee dread my sword and spear.
[They fight until the Turkish knight falls
St. G I have a little bottle, which goes by the name
If the man is alive, let him rise and fight again.
[The Knight here rises on one knee, and endeavours to continue the fight, but is again struck down
T.K. Oh pardon me, St George; oh pardon me, I crave;
Oh pardon me this once, and I will be thy slave.
St. G I'll never pardon a Turkish knight;
Therefore arise and try thy might.
[The knight gets up, and they fight, till the knight receives a heavy blow, and then drops on the ground as dead.
St G Is there a doctor to be found
To cure a deep and deadly wound ?
Oh yes, there
is a doctor to be found,
To cure a deep and deadly wound.
St. G What can you cure ?
Doctor I can cure the itch, the palsy, and gout;
If the devil's in him. I'll pull him out.
[The doctor here performs the cure with sundry grimaces, and St George and the knight again fight, when the latter is knocked down, and left for dead.
[Then another performer enters, and on seeing the dead body, says, -
ashes, dust to dust;
If Uncle Tom Pearce won't have him, Aunt Molly must.
[The hobby horse here capers in, and takes off the body.
Enter Old Squire
Here comes I,
old, Old Squire
As black as any friar
As ragged as a colt,
To leave fine clothes for malt.
Enter Hub Bub
Here comes I,
old Hub Bub Bub Bub;
Upon my shoulders I carries a club,
And in my hand a frying pan,
So am I not a valient man ?
[These characters serve as a sort of burlesque on St George and the other hero, and may be regarded in the light of an anti-masque
Enter the Box-holder
Here comes I,
great head and little wit;
Put your hand in your pocket, and give what you think fit.
Gentlemen and ladies sitting down at your ease,
Put your hand in your pocket, and give me what you please.