v 16 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
come to us, as often as they come. It shall be a heavy dispensation under which we will suffer them to pass by our door, unhailed : and if we can prevail upon our neighbors to adopt our example, the veteran and his offspring may yet be restored. They are dying for lack of nourishment. They have been used to live on most bountiful fare,—to feed on chines and turkeys, and drink of the wassail-bowl. The rich juices of their constitution are not to be maintained—far less re-established—at a less generous rate ; and though we will, for our parts, do what lies in our power, yet it is not within the reach of any private gentleman's exertions or finances, to set them on their legs again. It should be made a national matter of; and as the old gentleman, with his family, will be coming our way, soon after the publication of the present volume, we trust we may be the means of inducing some to receive them with the ancient welcome, and feast them after the ancient fashion.
To enable our readers to do this with due effect, we will endeavor to furnish them with a programme of some of the more important ceremonies observed by our hearty ancestors on the occasion; and to give them some explanation of those observances which linger still,—although the causes in which their institution originated are becoming gradually obliterated, and although they themselves are fallingnto a neglect, which augurs too plainly of their final and speedy extinction.
It is, alas ! but too true that the spirit of hearty festivity in which our ancestors met this season, has been long on the decline ; and much of the joyous pomp with whicli it was once received, has, long since, passed away. Those " divers plente of plesaun-ces," in which the genius of mirth exhibited himself,—
" About zule, when the wind blew cule, And the round tables began,"
have sent" forward to these dull times of ours but few, and those sadly degenerated, representatives. The wild barbaric splendor, the unbridled " mirth and princely chcare"—with which, upon the faith of ancient ballads, we learn that " ages long ago," King Arthur kept Christmas " in merry Carleile," with Queen Gue-never " that bride soe bright of blee"—the wholesale hospitality,