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Christmay-day, which was; New-year's day, which is; and Twelfth-day, which is to be; let us compel them all three into our presence-with a whisk of our imaginative wand convert them into one, as the conjurer does his three glittering balls-and then enjoy them all together, with their dressings, and coachings, and visitings, and greetings, and gifts, and "many happy returns"-with their plumpuddings, and mince-pies, and twelfthcakes, and neguses-with their forfeits, and fortune-tellings, and blindman's-buffs, and sittings up to supper-with their pantomimes, and panoramas, and new penknives, and pastrycooks' shops-in
short, with their endless round of ever new nothings, the absence of a relish for which is but ill supplied, in after life, by that feverish lingering and thirsting after excitement, which usurp without filling its place. Oh! that I might enjoy those nothings once again in fact, as I can in fancy! But I fear the wish is worse than an idle one; for it not only may not be, but it ought not to be. "We cannot have our cake and eat it too," as the vulgar somewhat vulgarly, but not less shrewdly, express it. And this is as it should be; for if we could, it would neither be worth the eating nor the having."
But here they let us stand
All freezing in the cold; Good master, give command, To enter and be bold,
With our Wassel.
Much joy into this hall
And after his good wife
For our Wassel.
Some bounty from your hands,
This is our merry night
Of choosing King and Queen,
It is a noble part
To bear a liberal mind, God bless our master's heart, For here we comfort find,
With our Wassel.
And now we must be gone,
As we have found it here,
With our Wassel.
Much joy betide them all,
Our prayers shall be still,
We hope and ever shall,
For this your great good will,
To our Wassel.
From the "Wassail” we derive, perhaps, a feature by which we are distinguished. An Englishman eats no more than a Frenchman; but he makes yuletide of all the year. In virtue of his forefathers, he is given to "strong drink." He is a beer-drinker, an enjoyer of "fat ale;" a lover of the best London porter and double XX, and discontented unless he can get "stout." He is a sitter withal. Put an Englishman “behind a pipe" and a full pot, and he will sit till he cannot stand. At first he is silent; but as his liquor gets towards the bottom, he inclines towards conversation; as he replenishes, his coldness thaws, and he is conversational; the oftener he calls to "fill again," the more talkative he becomes; and when
thoroughly liquefied, his loquacity is deluging. He is thus in public-house parlours: he is in parties somewhat higher, much the same. The business of dinner draws on the greater business of drinking, and the potations are strong and fiery; full-bodied port, hot sherry, and ardent spirits. This occupation consumes five or six hours, and sometimes more, after dining. There is no rising from it, but to toss off the glass, and huzza after the "hip! hip! hip!" of the toast giver. A calculation of the number who customarily" dine out" in this manner half the week, would be very amusing, if it were illustrated by portraits of some of the indulgers. It might be further, and more usefully, though not so agreeably illustrated, by the reports of physicians, wives, and nurses, and the bills of apothecaries. Habitual sitting to drink is the "besetting sin" of Englishmen-the creator of their gout and palsy, the embitterer of their enjoyments, the impoverisher of their property, the widow-maker of their wives. By continuing the "wassail" of our ancestors, we attempt to cultivate the body as they did; but we are other beings, cultivated in other ways, with faculties and powers of mind that would have astonished their generations, more than their robust frames, if they could appear, would astonish ours. Their employment was in hunting their forests for food, or battling in armour with risk of life and limb. They had no counting-houses, no ledgers, no commerce, no Christmas bills, no letterwriting, no printing, no engraving, no bending over the desk, no "wasting of the midnight oil" and the brain together, no financing, not a hundredth part of the relationships in society, nor of the cares that we have, who "wassail" as they did, and wonder we are not so strong as they were. There were no Popes nor Addisons in the days of Nimrod.
The most perfect fragment of the "wassail" exists in the usage of certain corporation festivals. The person presiding stands up at the close of dinner, and drinks from a flaggon usually of silver having a handle on each side, by which he holds it with each hand, and the toastmaster announces him as drinking "the health of his brethren out of the loving cup.
The loving cup, which is the ancient wassail-bord, is then passed to the guest on his left hand, and by him to his left-hand neighbour, and as it finds its way round the room to each guest in his
turn, so each stands up and drinks to the president" out of the loving cup.”
The subsequent song is sung in Glous cestershire on New-year's eve :
Wassail! Wassail! over the town,
Here's to Filpail, † and her long tail,
Be here any maids, I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone;