Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE FRENCH NOEL
Sa mere avecque lui <5tait: Et Joseph si lui eclairait, Point nc scmblait Au beau fillet, II n'etait point son pere ; Je l'apercus bien au cameau (visage) II semblait a sa mere, Encore est-il plus beau. Laissez paitre, etc."
This is but one of a large class of French Noels which make the Nativity more real, more present, by representing the singer as one of a company of worshippers going to adore the Child. Often these are shepherds, but sometimes they are simply the inhabitants of a parish, a town, a countryside, or a province, bear­ing presents of their own produce to the little Jesus and His parents. Barrels of wine, fish, fowls, sucking-pigs, pastry, milk, fruit, firewood, birds in a cage—such are their homely gifts. Often there is a strongly satiric note : the peculiarities and weak­nesses of individuals are hit off; the reputation of a place is suggested, a village whose people are famous for their stinginess offers cider that is half rain-water ; elsewhere the inhabitants are so given to law-suits that they can hardly find time to go to Bethlehem.
Such Noels, with their vivid local colour, are valuable pictures of the manners of their time. They are, unfortunately, too long for quotation here, but any reader who cares to follow up the subject will find some interesting specimens in a little collection of French carols that can be bought for ten centimes.9 They are of various dates ; some probably were written as late as the eighteenth century. In that century, and indeed in the seven­teenth, the best Christmas verses are those of a provincial and rustic character, and especially those in patois ; the more cultivated poets, with their formal classicism, can ill enter into the spirit of the festival. Of the learned writers the best is a woman, Fran­chise Paschal, of Lyons (b. about 1610); in spite of her Latinity she shows a real feeling for her subjects. Some of her Noels are dialogues between the sacred personages ; one presents
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