Symondsbury Mummers' Play 1880

J.S.Udal (1880) pp.91-102


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Context:
Location: Symondsbury, Dorset, England (SY4493)
Year: Publ. 1880
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Mummers

Source:

J.S.Udal
Christmas Mummers in Dorsetshire
Folk-Lore Record, 1880, Vol.III, No.1, pp.87-112


Cast: (Click on any name for the character name index.)
Text:

{SCENE:-The servants' hall or kitchen of the mansion or farmhouse in which the performance is to take place. The actors are grouped together at the back of the stage, So to speak, and each comes forward as he is required to speak or to fight, and at the conclusion falls back upon the rest, leaving the stage clear for other disputants or combatants. This is the "enter" and "exit" of the mummers.}

{Enter OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS.}

Old Father Christmas

Here comes I, Father Christmas, welcome or welcome not,
I hope Old Father Christmas will never be forgot.
Although it is Old Father Christmas
he has but a short time to stay
I am come to show you pleasure and pass the time away.
I have been far, I have been near,
And now I am come to drink a pot of your Christmas beer;
And if it's not your best,
I hope in heaven your soul will rest.
If it is a pot of your small,
We cannot show you no Christmas at all.
Walk in Room, again I say,
And pray good people clear the way.
Walk in, Room.

{Enter ROOM.}

Room

God bless you all, ladies and gentlemen,
It's Christmas time, and I am come again.
My name is Room, one sincere and true,
A merry Christmas I wish to you.
King of Egypt is for to display,
A noble champion without delay.
St. Patrick too, a charming Irish youth,
He can fight or dance, or love a girl with truth.
A noble Doctor I do declare,
and his surprising tricks bring up the rear,
And let the Egyptian King straightway appear.

{Enter EGYPTIAN KING.}

Egyptian King

Here comes I, Anthony, the Egyptian King.
With whose mighty acts all round the globe doth ring
No other champion but me excels,
Except St. George, my only son-in-law.
Indeed that wondrous knight whom I so dearly love,
Whose mortal deeds the world dost [well?] approve,
That hero whom no dragon could affright,
A whole troop of soldiers couldn't stand in sight.
Walk in St. George, his warlike [ardour?] to display,
And show Great Britain's enemies dismay.
Walk in, St. George.

{Enter ST. GEORGE.}

St. George

Here am I, St. George, an Englishman so stout,
With those mighty warriors I long to have a bout;
No one could ever picture me the many I have slain,
I long to fight, it's my delight, the battle o'er again.
Come then, you boasting champions,
And hear that in war I doth take pleasure,
I will fight you all, both great and small,
And slay you at my leisure.
Come haste, away, make no delay,
For I'll give you something you won't like,
And like a true-born Englishman
I will fight you on my stumps.
And now the world I do defy,
To injure me before I die.
So now prepare for war, for that is my delight.

{Enter ST. PATRICK, who shakes hands with ST. GEORGE.}

St. Patrick

My worthy friend, how dost thou fare, St. George?
Answer, my worthy knight.

St. George

I am glad to find thee here;
In many a fight that I have been in, travelled far and near,
To find my worthy friend St. Patrick, that man I love so dear.
Four bold warriors have promised me
To meet me here this night to fight.
The challenge did I accept, but they could not me affright.

St. Patrick

I will always stand by that man that did me first enlarge,
I thank thee now in gratitude, my worthy friend St. Gearge;
Thou dids't first deliver me out of this wretched den,
And now I have my liberty I thank thee once again.

{Enter Captain BLUSTER.}

Captain Bluster

I'll give St. George a thrashing, I'll make him sick and sore,
And if I further am disposed I'll thrash a dozen more.

St. Patrick

Large words, my worthy friend,
St. George is here.
And likewise St. Patrick too;
And he doth scorn such men as you.
I am the match for thee,
Therefore prepare yourself to fight with me,
Or else I'll slay thee instantly.

Captain Bluster

Come on, my boy! I'll die before
I yield to thee or twenty more.

{They fight, and ST. PATRICK kills CAPTAIN BLUSTER.}

St. Patrick

Now one of St. George's foes is killed by me,
Who fought the battle o'er,
And now for the sake of good St. George,
I'll freely fight a hundred more.

St. George.

No, no, my worthy friend,
St. George is here,
I'll fight the other three;
And after that with Christmas beer
So merry we will be.

{Enter GRACIOUS KING.}

Gracious King

No beer or brandy, Sir, I want my courage for to rise,
I only want to meet St. George or take him by surprise;
But I am afraid he never will fight me,
I wish I could that villain see.

St. George.

Tremble, thou tyrant, for all thy sin that's past,
Tremble to think that this night will be thy last.
Thy conquering arms shall quickly by thee lay alone,
And send thee passing to eternal doom.
St. George will make thy armour ring;
St. George will soon despatch the Gracious King.

Gracious King

I'll die before I yield to thee or twenty more.

{They fight, ST. GEORGE kills the GRACIOUS KING.}

{Enter General VALENTINE.}

St. George.

He was no match for me, he quickly fell.

General Valentine

But I am thy match, and that my sword shall tell,
Prepare thyself to die and bid thy friends farewell.
I long to fight such a brave man as thee,
For its a pleasure to fight so manfully.
[Note 1]
Rations so severe he never long to deceive [receive?]
So cruel! for thy foes [are?] always killed;
Oh! what a sight of blood St. George has spilled!
I'll fight St. George the hero here,
Before I sleep this night.
Come on my boy, I'II die before
I yield to thee or twenty more.
St. George, thou and I'll the battle try,
If thou dost conquer I will die.

{They fight. ST. GEORGE kills the General.}

St. George.

Where now is Colonel Spring? He doth so long delay,
That hero of renown, I long to show him play.

{Enter Colonel SPRING.}

Colonel Spring

Holloa! behold me, here am I!
I'll have thee now prepare,
And by this arm thou'lt surely die-
I'll have thee this night beware.
So see what bloody works thou'st made,
Thou art a butcher, Sir, by trade.
I'll kill, as thou didst [kill?] my brother,
For one good turn deserves another.

St. George.

Come, give me leave, I'll thee battle,
And quickly make thy bones to rattle.

Colonel Spring

Come on my boy, I'll die before
I'll yield to thee or twenty more.
St. George, so thee and I
Will the battle try.

{They fight. ST. GEORGE kills the COLONEL.}

St. Patrick

Stay thy hand, St. George, and slay no more;
for I feel for the wives and families of those men that you have slain.

St. George.

So am I sorry.
I'll freely give any sum of money to a doctor
to restore them again.
I have heard talk of a mill to grind old men young,
but I never heard of a doctor to bring dead men to life again.

St. Patrick

There's an Irish doctor, a townsman of mine,
who lived next door to St. Patrick, he can perform wonders.
Shall I call him, St. George?

St. George.

With all my heart.
Please to walk in Mr. Martin Dennis.
Its an ill wind that blows no good work for the doctor.

{Enter DOCTOR.}

St. George.

If you will set these men on their pins,
I'll give thee a hundred pound, and here is the money.

Doctor

So I will my worthy knight,
and then I shall not want for whiskey for one twelvemonth to come.
I am sure the first man I saw beheaded,
I put his head on the wrong way.
I put his mouth where his poll ought to be,
and he's exhibited in a wondering nature.

St. George.

Very good answer, Mr. Doctor.
Tell me the rest of your miracles and raise those warriors.

Doctor

I can cure love-sick maidens,
jealous husbands,
squalling wives,
brandy-drinking dames,
with one touch of my pepble [triple?] liquid,
or one sly dose of my Jerusalem balsam,
and that will make an old crippled dame dance the hornpipe,
or an old woman of seventy years of age conceive and bear a twin.
And now to convince you all of my exertions,
rise Captain Bluster, Gracious King,
General Valentine, and Colonel Spring!
Rise, and go to your father!

{On the application of the medicine they all rise and retire.}

{Enter OLD BET.}

Old Bet

Here comes I dame Dorothy,
A handsome young woman, good morning to ye.
I am rather fat but not very tall,
I'll do my best endeavour to please you all.
My husband he is to work and soon he will return,
And something for our supper bring,
And perhaps some wood to burn.
Oh! here he comes!

{Enter JAN or OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS.}

Old Bet

Well! Jan.

Old Father Christmas

Oh! Dorothy!

Old Bet

What have you been doing all this long day, Jan?

Old Father Christmas

I have been a hunting, Bet.

Old Bet

The devil a hunting is it!
Is that the way to support a wife?
Well, what have you catched to-day, Jan?

Old Father Christmas

A fine jack hare, and I intend to have him a-fried for supper;
and here is some wood to dress him.

Old Bet

Fried! no, Jan, I'll roast it nice.

Old Father Christmas

I say I'll have it fried.

Old Bet

Was there ever such a foolish dish!

Old Father Christmas.

No matter for that.
I'll have it a-done;
and if you don't do as do bid,
I'll hit you in the head.

Old Bet

You may do as you like for all I do care
I'll never fry a dry Jack hare.

Old Father Christmas

Oh! You won't, wooll'ee? [will you]

{He strikes her, and she falls.}

Oh! what have I done! I have murdered my wife!
The joy of my heart, and the pride of my life.
And out to the gaol I quickly shall be sent.
In a passion I did it, and no malice meant.
Is there a doctor that can restore?
Fifty pounds I'll give him, or twice fifty more.

{Some one speaks.}

Oh I yes, Uncle Jan, there is a doctor just below,
and for God's sake let him just come in.
Walk in, Doctor.

{Enter DOCTOR.}

Old Father Christmas

Are you a doctor?

Doctor

Yes, I am a doctor - a doctor of good fame.
I have travelled through Europe, Asia, Africa, and America,
and by long practice and experience I have learned the best of cures
for most disorders instant [incident?] to the human body;
find nothing difficult in restoring a limb, or mortification,
or an arm being cut off by a sword,
or a head being struck off by a cannon ball,
if application have not been delayed till it is too late.

Old Father Christmas

You are the very man, I plainly see,
That can restore my poor old wife to me.
Pray tell me thy lowest fee.

Doctor

A hundred guineas I'll have to restore thy wife.
'Tis no wonder that you could not bring the dead to life.

Old Father Christmas

That's a large sum of money for a dead wife!

Doctor

Small sum of money to save a man from the gallows.
Pray what big stick is that you have in your hand?

Old Father Christmas

That is my hunting-pole.

Doctor

Put aside your hunting-pole, and get some assistance to hclp up your wife.

{OLD BET is raised up to life again.}

Old Father Christmas

Fal, dal, lal! fal, dal, lal! my wife's alive!

{Enter SERVANT-MAN, who sings.}

Servant-Man

Well met, my brother dear!
All on the highway
Sall and I were a walking along,
So I pray come tell to me
What calling you might be;
I'll have you for some servant-man.

Old Father Christmas

I'll give thee many thanks,
And I'll quit thee as soon as I can;
Vain did I know
Where thee could do so or no,
For to the pleasure of a servant-man.

Servant-Man

Some servants of pleasure
Will pass time out of measure,
With our hares and hounds
They will make the hills and valleys sound;
That's a pleasure for some servant-man.

Old Father Christmas

My pleasure is more than for to see my oxen grow fat,
And see them prove well in their kind,
A good rick of hay and a good stack of corn to fill up my barn,
That's a pleasure of a good honest husbandman.

Servant-Man

Next to church they will go with their livery fine and gay,
With their cocked-up hat and gold lace all round,
And their shirt so white as milk,
And stitched so fine as silk,
That's a habit for a servant-man.

Old Father Christmas

Don't tell I about thee silks and garments
that not fit to travel the bushes.
Let I have on my old leather coat,
And in my purse a groat,
And there, that's a habit for a good old husbandman.

Servant-Man

Some servant-men doth eat
The very best of meat,
A cock, goose, capon, and swan;
After lords and ladies dine,
We'll drink strong beer, ale, and wine;
That's a diet for some servant-man,

Old Father Christmas

Don't tell I of the cock, goose, or capon, nor swan;
let I have a good rusty piece of bacon,
pickled pork, in the house,
and a hard crust of bread and cheese once now and then;
that's a diet for a good old honest husbandman,
So we need must confess
That your calling is the best,
And we win give you the uppermost hand;
So no more we won't delay,
But we will pray both night and day,
God bless the honest husbandman.
Amen.

{Exeunt OMNES.}


Notes:

Udal's Preamble:

"I will now proceed to give the entire rendering of the first version as it was obtained for me some few years ago by an old Dorsetshire lady, who is now dead, and in this the dramatis personae are as follows:-

OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS.

ROOM.

ANTHONY, the Egyptian King.

ST. GEORGE.

ST. PATRICK.

CAPTAIN BLUSTER.

GRACIOUS KING.

GENERAL VALENTINE.

COLONEL SPRING.

OLD BETTY.

DOCTOR.

SERVANT-MAN."

Udal's Footnote 1:

"Line Missing."

Indexer's Notes (with help from Peter Robson):

This is the first of two Dorsetshire texts published by Udal in this paper. The location of neither is identified in the paper, but in his 'Christmas Mummers in West Dorset', in Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, 1904, Vol.9, pp.9-19 (p.9) he states:-

"I refer him to a paper.....in the Folk Lore Record.....in which he will find the libretto, as it is obtained in a West Dorset parish (Symondsbury),.....and also another one from a local source..."

Other versions have been collected later from Symondsbury. See Peter Kennedy (1952) 'Symondsbury Mumming Play' in Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Dec.1952, Vol.VII, No.1, pp.1-12.

Udal uses the uncapitalised word "mummers" throughout this paper, which taken in isolation would raise doubts as to whether this was the actual name used locally for the actors.


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28th Sep 2000 - Entered by Peter Millington

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