[In Hampshire, the following was called a Christmas play, within our recollection, and in boyhood's hour of wonder it afforded us pleasure, which will never be forgotten. There was a party of eight, dressed most fantastically, in all colors and fashions, but first come venerable old Father Christmas, who cried aloud -]
"Room, room, all you brave gallants give room,
I've come with my sports to drive away gloom,
To help pass away this cold winter day;
And such sports as never before were seen
Unto all you gallants shall now be shewn."
[This was the prologue, and when delivered the speaker retired, but only for an instant, for he soon returned to say,]
"Here comes I, old father Christmas, welcome or welcome not,
I hope old father Christmas will never be forgot.
All in this room there shall now be shewn
The hardest battle that ever was known,
So come in Sir Knight, with thy great heart,
And in the battle quick do thou thy part."
[A noise as of knocking was now made, and the leader cried out,]
"Enter the Turkish Knight,"
[when in bounced a man with a wooden sword, a painted face, and clothing that belonged to the catalogue of the indescribable. It was neither that of the warrior nor of the peasant, but a compound of both, with numberless ribbons, borrowed from Motley, flying over all. Directly he entered he cried out,]
"Here comes I, the Turkish Knight,
Just come from Turkish lands to fight,
To fight St. George, the man of courage bold,
If his blood be not too hot or heart too cold."
[Another noise, another cry of]
"Clear the way, St. George for England!"
[and in marched the hero of the evening. It was always a disputed point among the young men who "should do St. George;" nobody cared for playing the Turkish Knight, for he was ordained to be terribly beaten, and thus, as a rule, it was found necessary to cast lots for the honourable post. But St. George is about to speak -]
"What ho! my little fellow, who cryest out so bold,
Like all the other Turks, as I have been told,
Here am I, St. George, the man of courage bold,
With my broad sword and spear to win more gold.
I fought the fiery dragon, I put him to a slaughter,
And that was how I won the King of Egypt's daughter.
So now, thou Turkish Knight, out sword and fight,
For thou shalt pay, and dearly, before thou seest night."
[They now begin to fight, but not desperately, for other lines were to be repeated. St. George consented to pause for breathing time, and then said,]
"I'll conquer this Paynim Knight, I'll hack him into dust,
And send him to the kitchen to be made into mince-pie crust."
[To which, however, the Turkish Knight raised an objection, valorously declaring,]
"My head is made of iron, and my body lined with steel,
I'll fight with thee till on the ground I make thy head to reel."
[Again they fought, although clearly the case was hopeless, for what Christian audience would have tolerated the idea of a Turkish Knight beating St. George? Evidently the hero must conquer. Matters were soon brought to a close, for down went the Turk, and our Patron Saint, as though stricken with remorse for having taken life, cried aloud,]
"Just you come and see what I, great George have done,
I've cut and slain my brother, and broken every bone."
[The father of the sport, old Christmas, now came forward, crying,]
"St. George, St. George, what hast thou been and done?
Is there no doctor here to heal this bleeding wound?"
[In marched a primitive apothecary -]
"Oh yes, there's a doctor now has come - Doctor Sound,
I'll cure the man that lies bleeding on the ground;
I can cure the ague and stone, the palsy and gout,
And that's a roving pain that goes round about;
Ribs, legs, arms, heads, if any's broke, I'm sure
Stoutly to set right, and make a goodly cure.
Bring me an old woman of three score and ten
I'll give her pills to make her fair and young again;
With hairs on her chin, and no tooth in her head,
She shall be all fresh again ere she goes to bed.
My pills cure all ills, present, past, and to come,
And to heal love-sick maids like me there is none,
So to cure this man now bleeding on the ground
A better doctor than I could nowhere be found."
[The doctor now used a wonder-working drop, and the Turkish Knight was instantly restored to his senses, with all his wounds healed, fit and strong to go elsewhere and be killed over again. Whereupon the hint was given that it was time to go round with the box; and then we heard as a close,]
"Here comes I, little Johnny Jack,
My family is large, though I am small,
Give a little to help us all.
Roast beef, plum porridge, strong ale, and mince pie,
Who loves them better than old father Christmas and I?"