Edith Weston Morris-Dancers Play, c.1898

V.B.Crowther-Beynon (1905/1906)


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Context:
Location: Edith Weston, Rutland, England (SK9205)
Year: Perf. About 1898
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Morris-Dancers

Source:

V.B.Crowther-Beynon
Notes on some Edith Weston Village Institutions
Rutland Magazine and County Historical Record, 1905/1906, Vol.2, No.14, pp.176-180


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

{EDITH WESTON MORRIS-DANCERS' PLAY.}

{CHARACTERS :-}

{King George. Doctor. Albert Hart. King of Prussia. First Man. Beelzebub.}

{Enter First Man.}

First Man.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen all!
This is a merry Christmas that we have made bold to call,
Bold to call, I hope there's no offence;
As soon as our sport's ended we will begone hence.
I am the one that's never been before;
There are three merry actors that stand at the door,
They can both merrily dance and sing
And by your consent one shall walk in.

{Enter Beelzebub.}

Beelzebub.

In comes I, old Beelzebub,
On my shoulder I carry my club,
And in my hand a dripping-pan,
And don't you think I'm a funny old man?
My head is made of iron, my body's made of steel,
My knees are made of knucklebone, no man can make me feel.
Please walk in, King George.

{Enter King George.}

King George.

In comes I, King George; this noble knight,
I am come here to shed England's blood for England's right,
For England's right and for England's reason,
That has caused me to carry this unlawful weapon.
Please walk in, Mr. Prussia King.

{Enter King of Prussia.}

K. of Prussia.

In comes I, the real old Prussia King,
Many a battle have I been in
Both abroad and at home;
If you don't like to believe it you can leave it alone.

King George.

I am King George, this Champion bold,
With my blood and spear I won three crowns of gold,
I fought the fiery dragon and brought him to the slaughter
And by that means I won the King of Egypt's eldest daughter.
I hacked him and smacked him as small as flies
And sent him to Jamaica to make mince-pies.
Mince pies hot and mince pies cold,
Mince pies in the pot, nine days old.

K. of Prussia {to King George.}

Pray, saucy fellow, hold your tongue
And tell me no more of your true lies!
Talk about hacking and smacking as small as flies
And sending to Jamaica to make mince-pies!
Pray, saucy fellow, hold your tongue
And tell me no more of your true lies!

King George.

You will raise my blood, the first hearty thing;
I stand before you although you be a King.

K. of Prussia.

No King am I, you plainly see,
But my sword-point shall answer thee.

King George.

With your sword-point there is no doubt,
And if you like, we'll fight it out.

{They fight.}

Beelzebub.

Hullo! what's you two got fighting for?

K. of Prussia.

Your honour.

Beelzebub.

I never had any honour.
Fiddling and dancing is all my delight.
If you knock me down backwards you'll ruin me quite.

{King of Prussia and King George attack Beelzebub and knock him down.}

King George {to K. of Prussia.}

Pretty fine job you've made of this poor fellow,
Killed him before you know what for!
Five pounds for the Doctor!

K. of Prussia.

Ten to keep away!

King George.

Saucy fellow like you to talk about Ten to keep away!
Fifteen pounds for the Doctor if he's not at home!

Doctor. {speaking outside.}

Sixpence for the first man that will hold my horse.

{Enters.}

Doctor.

In comes I, the Doctor.

King George.

Are you the Doctor ?

Doctor.

Yes, I'm the Doctor - very good Doctor too,
Very well known both abroad and at home,
If you don't like to believe it you can leave it alone.

King George.

Well done, Doctor where did you learn your education?

Doctor.

France, Spain and many other foreign nations;
From the fire-side to the bed-side,
From the bed-side to the side of my old grandmother's cupboard,
That's where I've had many a bit of pie,
And that's the truth and no lie.

King George.

Well done, Doctor!
What pains can you cure?

Doctor.

I can cure the hicksy, picksy, palsy and gout,
Pains within and aches without,
Heal the sick and raise the blind,
And bring the dead to life again.
If an old woman tumbled down, fourscore and ten,
Broke her crookle bone or her arm, I could set it again.

King George.

Well done, Doctor!
Is that all you can cure?

Doctor.

Well, no. Once when I was down in Derbyshire,
there was an old woman; she tumbled upstairs.
She grazed her shin-bone against her ankle
and made her stocking bleed,
and I cured that.

King George.

Well done, Doctor!
Well, I want you to try your experiment on this man.

{Points to Beelzebub}

Doctor.

Yes, sir; with your consent I will.

{Examines Beelzebub, putting on spectacles. Feels pulse and gives pills. Beelzebub moves.}

There! I thought those pills would either bring him to life or send him further into death.
He's not dead, he's in a trance;
We'll raise him up and have a dance.
If he can't dance, we can sing,
We'll raise him up and now begin.

{Enter Albert Hart.}

Albert Hart.

In comes I, Albert Hart,
And I hope the Doctor's done his part.
For my Albert Hart and free goodwill
I am come here to drink his fill.
I haven't been here long, but still I'm here yet
With my large head and little wit.
My head's so great, my wit's so small,
But I can act the foolish part as well as them all.

{All march round and sing.}

[All]

[l.]

Good ladies and good gentlemen,
You see our Fool is gone;
We'll make it in our business
To follow him along.
We thank you for civility,
And what you've gave us here;
We wish you all good night
And another prosperous year.

[2.] [Alternative.]

Good masters and good mistresses,
You sit all round the fire
And think of us poor toiling boys
That have travelled through mud and mire.
The mud has been so very thick,
We've travelled both far and near;
We ask you for a Christmas box
And a little of your Christmas beer.


Notes:

Crowther-Beynon's Introduction:

"5. Morris-Dancers' Play.

Emulating the example set by Miss Cherry in vol.i. of the Magazine, I was fortunate enough to obtain the 'book' of the Edith Weston Christmas Play just in the nick of time. The play has not been performed here for some seven or eight years and the member of the caste who kindly dictated the words to me has since left the village. Though several of his fellow performers have been able to furnish me with assistance in clearing up doubtful readings in certain passages, it is unlikely that anyone else would have been able to remember the whole of the Drama, and as it is improbable that it will ever be revived it is some satisfaction to have secured the words before they passed into oblivion. I have made no attempt to 'edit' the play, my endeavour having been to set it down exactly in the form in which I received it.

As an instructive example of the manner in which corruptions and variations creep in I may mention the word Jamaica in King George's second speech. My first informant gave me Jimmy Coe, and though he was unable to suggest any explanation of the words he insisted on their correctness. On referring to a second authority I was given Jimaico, while a third gave me Jamaica, which last agrees with the corresponding line in a version of the play published in Ditchfield's 'Old English Customs,' and is probably the original word. I subsequently learnt that Jericho was known as an alternative reading for Jamaica, a fact which might almost suggest that the author of the immortal 'Jabberwocky' had been applying his 'portmanteau' principle to the two words and had evolved 'Jemico' therefrom!

To anyone who cares to compare the Edith Weston play with the Clipsham Plough Monday play or with some of the published versions of these Folk-dramas, it is quite evident that there is a strong general resemblance underlying the endless variations. The Doctor with his wonderful pills is an almost invariable feature, while the strange hybrid of King George and Saint George is another familiar character in the plays, as are also Beelzebub and the exalted personage usually referred to as the "Proosia King." I have failed to ascertain any derivation of the name Albert Hart and am inclined to think that as a character-name in Folk Drama he is new to science, though his counterpart under other appellations may be found elsewhere. I may explain that this play is not a Plough Monday Play but has invariably been performed at Christmas. The performers have always been known as "Morris-dancers," though "Mummers" would probably be a more accurate name for the actors in such a play."


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