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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Play Information

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TitleMummers' play
Alternative Title
WordsWilliams, Alfred
Collected FromUnknown
Occupation
Age
Date
LocationLydiard Millicent
CountyWiltshire
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 421
Source SecondaryWiltshire Gazette 30 December 1926 p 3
Recording
 
The Play
Characters

Tinker
St George
Valiant Soldier
Most High Proud and King of Spain
Turkish Knight
Doctor
Beelzebub
Saucy Jack

Enter the Tinker

Tinker

Open the door and let us all in,
Your kind favour I hope we shall win.
Whether we rise, or whether we fall,
We will endeavour to please you all.
Ladies and gentlemen, before we go away;
And if you don't believe what I do say,
Step in, St. George, and clear the way.

Enter St George [with armour and sword]

St George

Here come I, St George,
St George of valiant might,
Who shed his blood for England's right;
England's right or England's wrong,
England's habitation strong.
Ten tigers have I conquered,
And monsters five I slew,
And the bold hearts of many
I have pierced through and through. [pierced replaced 'rammed' in the manuscript]
Close in a corner I was kept,
And guarded with a bayonet,
And that upon a rock of stone,
Which made my heart lament and moan.
If there's any man worthy in Tinker's train,
Bring him this way, I'll fight him again.

Tinker

Walk in the Valiant Soldier

[Enter the Valiant Soldier,with sword of wood]

Valiant Soldier

Here come I the valiant soldier,
Cut 'em and Slash 'em is my name,
With my sword and buckler by my side
I mean to win the game.
My head is not of fire,
My body's not of steel,
But here's courage to my knuckle bone -
I'll fight thee, St. George, the valiant field.

St George

Thou fight he, St George, the valiant field?
And with thy courage make him yield?
I fought a mount of fiery dragons together.

Valiant Soldier

And showed we not one feather,
This bold British champion carries the sway.
This Valiant Soldier thou must slay.
Thou must slay or thou must be slew,
One or the other thou must do.
Draw thy sword, or I'll run thee through.

[They draw swords and fight. St George prevails. The Valiant Soldier drops on his knees.]

Valiant Soldier

Down on my bended knees I fall,
Thy pardon I do crave.
And if thou'lt spare my life, St. George,
I'll be thy mortal slave.

St George

Arise, arise, go home and tell,
What the bold British champion does in England so well.

[Valiant Soldier rises.]

St George

Walk in, the Most High Proud.

[Enter the Most High Proud]

Most High Proud

Here come I, the Most High Proud,
And of the King of Spain,
With my glittering sword I'll conquer any knight,
For I mean to cut him and slay him.

St George

Thou Most High Proud and of the King of Spain,
And be thou come here to fight.

Most High Proud

Ah, bold champion, I think it is my right,
For it is thee I am come for to fight.

St George

Thou Spanish tyrant, I do defy thee,
Although thou hast an army by thee.
Thy crown, thy kingdom, thy country' right, [crown is crossed out and fez substituted]
Thy life I'll have this very night.
One or the other thou must do,
So draw thy sword or thou shalt be slew.

[They fight. St George wounds the Most High Proud, who falls to the ground.]

St George

This man's dead and his blood is shed, [blood's not shed - deleted in the manuscript]
Pray, whatever will become of me?
Is there a Doctor to be found?
To cure this bold champion lies bleeding on the ground?

[Enter a Doctor]

Doctor

Oh yes! There is a doctor to be found,
To cure this bold champion lies bleeding on the ground.

St. George

What is thy fee, Doctor?

Doctor

Ten pound is my fee,
But fifteen pound I will take of thee,
Before I set this gallant man free.

St. George

Work thy will, Doctor

Doctor

I have a little bottle by my side,
And that is mixed both green and white.
Chop of nettles I'll make them grow without rain,
I can make young children cut their teeth without pain [And is replaced by 'I can']
And raise the dead to life again.
Here, lad! Take a drop of this,
Then jump up and fight and cut and slash again.

[The Most High Proud drinks from the bottle then rises and cries for Beelzebub].

Most High Proud

Walk in Beelzebub

[Enter Beelzebub]

Beelzebub

Here come I, old Beelzebub,
On my left shoulder I carry a big nub,
And in my hand a dripping pan,
Now don't you think I'm a jolly old man?
My father's been and killed a fat hog,
And that you can plainly see;
My mother gave me the bladder,
To make a hurly-ga-jee.
I saw a mouse by yonder wall,
And he ran in, and that was all.

All

Tol the rol, tol the rol,
Tol the rol rido.

[Enter Saucy Jack with a bundle of dolls strapped to his back]

Saucy Jack

Here come I, Saucy Jack,
With all my family on my back.
Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer -
Roast beef, plum pudding and mince pie,
And who likes that any better than I?

[Here Tinker and St George quarrel and fight]

Tinker

Good mornin', Moll, and how dost do?
And wher' beest thee agwain?
I got summat to say to thee,
If thee cast spare the time.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

St. George

What hast thee got to say to me,
Of any sort or kind?

Tinker

Why, I should like to marry thee,
If thee oot be but mine.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

St. George

Dost thee think I'd marry a clown,
That is no better bred?
For I must have a handsome man,
To lie with me in bed.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

Tinker

What! Byent I handsome for thee,
With my dandy leather breech,
The gold laced band about my neck?
Look on me the other twitch.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

St. George

Now I must have some butcher's meat,
Of every sort and kind,
And every morning a cup of tea,
To drink instead of wine.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

Tinker

Won't some good fat bacon sar thy turn,
Likewise a powder puff,
And in the morning cup of tea,
And at night a basin o' sop?

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

Tinker

Bold Robin Hood was a forester good,
As ever drew bow in the merry green wood,
And the wild deer did follow, did follow,
And the wild deer did follow,
There's none so bonny, blithe and gay,
As Mary, the pride of the morning.

Then in come Little John with his courage so strong,
He conquered them all with his hey ding dong,
While the bugle horn did echo, did echo,
While the bugle horn did echo.
There's none so bonny, blithe and gay,
As Mary, the pride of the morning.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

St. George

He that courts a pretty girl,
Courts her for his pleasure,
He is a fool if he marries her,
Without store or treasure.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

St. George

Come, let us dance and sing, [let us all dance - all deleted]
And drive away all sorrow,
For perhaps we may not,
Meet again tomorrow.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

Saucy Jack

Away to the green wood we,
And up to the old oak tree,
And join the gypsy dance.

All

Right fol the rol the rido,
And that's the time of day o.

[All join hands and dance in a ring singing]

All

Happy, happy, shall we be,
Happy, happy, three and three,
Dancing now so merrily.
Right fol the rol the rido,
The riddle rol the day.
 
Print Play Verse
 
Notes
Note 1

The text above was taken from the manuscript and includes some additions to clarify when characters are speaking.

Note 2

The text following is a transcription of the newspaper article and includes a transcription of the play. There are some textual differences, especially towards the end of the play.

Wiltshire Gazette 30 December 1926 p 3

Although folk institutions and folk observances, such as Mumming, Wassailing, Morris-dancing, and so forth, are well nigh extinct traditionally, there is still no gainsaying the fact that a fond interest still attaches to the memory of them. There are many who would never deign to listen to a party of mummers outside their door of a night at Christmas time; but the same people would read an account of the mummers with unfeigned pleasure and delight. The truth is that, in spite of our wider experiences and finer culture, at heart we are continually harking back to other days. It is necessary, by the evolutionary process, that we should be thrust further and further forward. But we never really get very far away from our first beginnings. Generally speaking, the culture that is unsympathetic towards folk-lore, and folk origins, is superficial. The better we understand our life and civilisation the more we realise that by far the greater part of current practice is based on tradition. Our laws, habits, rules, rites, and ceremonies, are all a species of folk-lore. Self evident as this is, or ought to be, it is often overlooked by the wise and comprehended by the foolish.

What is the origin of mumming? It is difficult to say. It is not confined to any one country, The fact that the custom was common, in one form or another, over the greater part of Europe, at least, would point to the universality of the practice. No doubt it originally sprang from a solar myth, which is another way of saying that it bore some relation to the astronomical order, or the arrangement of the calendar. Eastern it may be; though positive proof of this is wanting. No people in the world are so much given to games and shows, and crude dramatic representations as the Aryan population of India. There we find, in the ďJastrasĒ, or Birth Tales, the counterpart of the English Miracle Play, only older by many centuries. In the Veda, also, is the germ of the true drama, and most of our popular rites. We have outgrown these things. But in the East they continue to afford as much pleasure to the masses as they did three thousand years ago.

Undoubtedly mumming means ďactingĒ. The word is probably identical in meaning with the old German word ďmummenĒ, which meant ďto mimicĒ. So mumming was a Teutonic custom. By this we may infer some sort of a connection with Eastern folk-lore. In the days of Shakespeare mumming was called ďdisguisingĒ. Young men and women exchanged dresses, and, forming a company, went from house to house, singing, dancing, and partaking of the good cheer provided at Christmas time. At the New Year Festival of the Hindus, in the interludes, young men dress in femalesí clothes and act, dance and sing to make amusement for the company. It not this exactly what the mummers used to do in Wiltshire and elsewhere?

It is curious that in England mumming was often confused with wassailing. Even at Cricklade something of the kind took place, and we see that the wassailers of that town dressed in fancy costumes and wore coloured ribbons, such as was usually done by mummers. But it was not the general rule to dress in gay costume, or to wear any but the ordinary clothes in the local wassail.

As in England mumming was confused with the wassail; in Ireland it was confused with morris-dancing. The time of year at which mumming was observed according fell at May Day or Whitsuntide, instead of at Christmas. The mummers, consisting of young men and women, wore fancy dresses trimmed with ribbons or coloured paper, and they carried drums or tamboureens. The clown wore a mask, and others bore holly bushes. The clown also carried a pole, with a bunch of rags at the end, like a mop. These he dipped in pools of water by the wayside, and sprinkled any of the crowd who were within his reach. In our Wiltshire mummersí play we had a bladder tied on a string with which to buffet those who pressed too hard upon the company.

The full explanation of the characters of the Mummersí Play is not easy; but we possess very good clues. It is natural to find Saint George, the patron saint of England, as the hero of the piece. We may also explain away the Turkish Knight as a relic of the Crusades. The Most High Proud and King of Spain is suggestive of the Saracens, and the mention of the fez would confirm this. The character of Beelzebub is of Biblical origin. The Tinker, Soldier, Doctor and Saucy Jack are subservient to the principal action of the piece. Their activities were extended or curtailed according to the circumstances, and the degree of hospitality shown by the occupants of the house at which the play was presented.

Characters of the piece:

SAINT GEORGE
A TURKISH KNIGHT
THE MOST HIGH PROUD AND KING OF SPAIN
A TINKER
A DOCTOR
BEELZEBUB
SAUCY JACK

[Enter TINKER]

Tinker

Open the door and let us all in,
Your kind favour I hope we shall win;
Whether we rise, or whether we fall,
We will endeavour to please you all,
Ladies and gentlemen, before we go away;
And if you donít believe what I do say,
Step in, St. George, and clear the way.

Enter SAINT GEORGE with armour and sword.]

Here come I, Saint George,
Saint George of valiant might,
Who shed his blood for Englandís right,
Englandís right or Englandís wrong,
Englandís habitation strong.
Ten tigers have I conquered,
And monsters five I slew,
And the bold hearts of many
I have pierced through and through.
Close in a corner I was kept,
And guarded with a bayonet,
And that upon a rock of stone,
Which made my heart lament and moan.
If thereís any man worthy in Tinkerís train,
Bring him this way, Iíll fight him again.

[TINKER]

Walk in the Valiant Soldier

[Enter the Valiant Soldier, with sword of wood]

Here come I the Valiant Soldier,
Cut Ďem and Slash Ďem is my name,
With my sword and buckler by my side
I mean to win the game.
My head is not of fire,
My bodyís not of steel,
But hereís courage to my knuckle bone!
Iíll fight thee, St. George, the valiant field.

SAINT GEORGE

Thou fight he, Saint George, the valiant field?
And with thy courage make him yield?
I fought a mount of fiery dragons together.
And showed we not one feather,

VALIANT SOLDIER

This bold British champion carries the sway.
This Valiant Soldier thou must slay.
Thou must slay, or thou must be slew,
One or the other thou must do.
Draw thy sword, or Iíll run thee through.

[They draw swords and fight. Saint George prevails. The Valiant Soldier falls on his knees.]

VALIANT SOLDIER

Down on my bended knees I fall,
Thy pardon I do crave.
And if thouít spare my life, Saint George,
Iíll be thy mortal slave.

SAINT GEORGE

Arise, arise, go home and tell,
What the bold British champion does in England so well.

[Valiant Soldier rises.]

SAINT GEORGE

Walk in, the Most High Proud.

[Enter the MOST HIGH PROUD]

Here come I, the Most High Proud,
And of the King of Spain,
With my glittering sword Iíll conquer any knight,
For I mean to cut him and slay him.

SAINT GEORGE

Thou Most High Proud and of the King of Spain,
And be thou come here to fight?

MOST HIGH PROUD

Ah! Bold champion, I think it is my right,
For it is thee I am come for to fight.

SAINT GEORGE

Thou Spanish tyrant, I do defy thee,
Although thou hast an army by thee.
Thy fez, thy kingdom, thy countryí right,
Thy life Iíll have this very night.
One or the other thou must do,
So draw thy sword or thou shalt be slew.

[They fight. Saint George wounds the Most High Proud, who falls to the ground.]

SAINT GEORGE

This manís dead, and his blood is shed,
Pray, whatever will become of me?
Is there a Doctor to be found?
To cure this bold champion bleeding on the ground?

[Enter a DOCTOR]

Oh yes, there is a doctor to be found,
To cure this bold champion bleeding on the ground.

SAINT GEORGE

Whatís thy fee, Doctor?

DOCTOR

Ten pound is my fee,
But fifteen pound I will take of thee,
Before I set this gallant man free.

SAINT GEORGE

Work thy will, Doctor.

DOCTOR

I have a bottle by my side,
And that is mixed both red and white.
Chop of nettles, Iíll make them grow without rain,
I can make young children cut their teeth without pain.
And raise the dead to life again.
Here, lad, take a drop of this,
Then jump up and fight, and cut and slash again.

[The Most High Proud drinks from the bottle then rises and cries for Beelzebub].

[MOST HIGH PROUD]

Walk in Beelzebub.

[Enter BEELZEBUB]

Here come I, Beelzebub,
On my left shoulder I carry a big nub,
And in my hand a dripping pan,
Donít you think Iím a jolly old man?
My fatherís been and killed a fat hog,
And that you can plainly see;
My mother gave me the bladder,
To make a hurly-ga-jee.
I saw a mouse by yonder wall,
And he ran in, and that was all.

[ALL]

To my tol the rol,
Tol the rol rido.

[Enter Saucy Jack with a bundle of dolls strapped to his back]

[SAUCY JACK]

Here come I, old Saucy Jack,
With all my family at my back.
Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer Ė
Roast beef, plum pudding and mince pie,
And who likes that any better than I?

[Here Saint George and the Tinker quarrel and fight. TINKER sings]

Good morning, Moll, and Ďow dost do?
And wherí bist thee agwine?
I got zummat to zay to thee,
If thee cast spare the time.

[ALL Ė chorus]

Fol the rol the rido,
And thatís the time of day O.

[SAINT GEORGE]

What hast thee got to say to me,
Of any sort or kind?

[TINKER]

Why, I should like to marry thee,
If thee oot be but mine.

[SAINT GEORGE]

Dost thee think Iíd wed with a clown,
That is no better bred?
For I must have a handsome man,
ĎFore ever I will wed.

[TINKER]

What, byent I handsome enough for thee,
With my dandy leather breech?
The gold laced band about my neck?
Look on the other twitch.

[SAINT GEORGE]

Now I must have some butcherís meat,
And bread and butter fine,
And every morning a dish of tea,
To drink instead of wine.

[TINKER]

Wonít some good fat bacon sar thy turn,
Some delicate powdered beef,
Some bread and cheese, and milk, sweet Moll?
For thatís a farmerís chief.

[SAINT GEORGE]

If thou and I should ever wed,
As sure as thou art born,
A cuckold thou shouldíst surely be,
And thou shouldíst wear a horn.

[TINKER]

Then if a cuckold I should be,
Thou and I should never agree,
So let us kiss and part sweet Moll,
And never wedded be.

[ALL]

Fol the rol the rido,
And thatís the time of day O.

[TINKER]

Bold Robin Hood was a forester good,
As ever drew bow in the merry greenwood,
And the wild deer did follow, did follow,
Thereís none so bonny, blithe and gay,
As Mary, the pride of the morning.
Then in come Little John with his courage so strong,
He conquered them all with his Hey ding dong,
While the bugle horn did echo, did echo,
Thereís none so bonny, blithe and gay,
As Mary, the pride of the morning.

[ALL]

Fol the rol the rido,
And thatís the time of day O.

[SAINT GEORGE]

He that courts a pretty girl,
Courts her for his pleasure,
He is a fool if he marries her,
Without store or treasure.
Come, let us dance and sing,
And drive away all sorrow,
For perhaps we may not,
Meet again tomorrow.

[ALL]

Fol the rol the rido,
And thatís the time of day O.

[SAUCY JACK]

Away to the greenwood we,
And up to the old oak tree,
And join the gypsy dance.
Happy, happy, shall we be,
Happy, happy, three and three,
Dancing now so merrily.

[Here all join hands and dance singing]:

Fol the rol the rido,
And thatís the time of day O.

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2011.

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