THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
the Tyrolese patois and racy and humorous, other parts, and particularly the speeches of Mary and Joseph—out of respect for these holy personages—had been rewritten in the eighteenth century in a very stilted and undramatic style. Some simple shepherd plays are said to be still presented in the churches of the Saxon Erzgebirge.28
The German language is perhaps richer in real Christmas plays, as distinguished from Nativity and Epiphany episodes in great cosmic cycles, than any other. There are some examples in mediaeval manuscripts, but the most interesting are shorter pieces performed in country places in comparatively recent times, and probably largely traditional in substance. Christianity by the fourteenth century had at last gained a real hold upon the German people, or perhaps one should rather say the German people had laid a strong hold upon Christianity, moulding it into something very human and concrete, materialistic often, yet not without spiritual significance. In cradle-rocking and religious dancing at Christmas the instincts of a lusty, kindly race expressed themselves, and the same character is shown in the short popular Christmas dramas collected by Weinhold and others.29 Many of the little pieces—some are rather duets than plays—were sung or acted in church or by the fireside in the nineteenth century, and perhaps even now may linger in remote places. They are in dialect, and the rusticity of their language harmonizes well with their naive, homely sentiment. In them we behold the scenes of Bethlehem as realized by peasants, and their mixture of rough humour and tender feeling is thoroughly in keeping with the subject.
One is made to feel very vividly the amazement of the shepherds at the wondrous and sudden apparition of the angels :—
" Ricpl. Woas is das fur a Getiimmel, 1 versteh mi nit in d'Welt. Jorgl. Is den heunt eingfalln der Himmel,
Fleugn d'Engeln auf unserm Feld ? R. Thuen Sprung macha
J. Von oben acha !