THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
R. War fein gross bald !
y. Kannst in mein Dienst stehen cin,
Wann darzu wirst gross gnue sein." * 33
Far more interesting in their realism and naturalness are these little plays of the common folk than the elaborate Christmas dramas of more learned German writers, Catholic and Lutheran, who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries became increasingly stilted and bombastic.
The Italian religious drama 34 evolved somewhat differently from that of the northern countries. The later thirteenth century saw the outbreak of the fanaticism of the Flagellants or Battuti, vast crowds of people of all classes who went in procession from church to church, from city to city, scourging their naked bodies in terror and repentance till the blood flowed. When the wild enthusiasm of this movement subsided it left enduring traces in the foundation of lay communities throughout the land, continuing in a more sober way the penitential practices of the Flagellants. One of their aids to devotion was the singing or reciting of vernacular poetry, less formal than the Latin hymns of the liturgy, and known as laude.\ These laude developed a more or less dramatic form, which gained the name of divo%ioni.\ They were, perhaps (though not certainly, for there seems to have been another tradition derived from the regular liturgical drama), the source from which sprang the gorgeously produced sacre rappresentazioni of the fifteenth century.
The sacre rappresentazioni corresponded, though with considerable differences, to the miracle-plays of England and France. Their great period was the fifty years from 1470 to 1520, and
* uy. The best of health to thee ever, my little clear ; when thou wantest anything, come to me.
J. God keep thee ever !
R. Grow up fine and tall soon !
y. I'll take thee into service when thou'rt big enough."
f Jacopone da Todi, whose Christmas songs we have already considered, was probably connected with the movement.
I An interesting and pathetic Christmas example is given by Signor D'Ancona in bis " Origini del Teatro in Italia." 35