A Lamentable Reformation
by Benjamin Worsley
This was no good news to me and my company, which inforced us to a pilgrimage up to the city of London, where I entred a fair house that had bin an Aldermans, but it was now possest with a grave Fox fur'd Mammonist, whom I found sitting over a few cinders to warm his gouty toes; from head to heel he was fur'd like a Muscovite, & instead of a Bible he had a Bond in his hand, which he poar'd upon to see if it were forfeit or no; but when he espyed me, he cry'd Traytor, Traytor; this reminded me of the Western Tragedy against my Masters Vicegerent; insomuch that I desired him to be patient, saying, Sir, my name is Christmas; and I come onely to make merry with thee. But this old Muckworm cast as dogged a look upon me, as if I had had a privy seal to have borrow'd money, and at last he open'd his mouth and said, Thou old saucy intruding fellow, me thinks one of thy age should have left off thy coltish tries: dost thou see any one that hath a care to live and thrive in the world, to be so mad as to mind thee or thy gambles; we are grown somwhat wiser in 12 yeares, then our Fathers were in twice 800. There dwels my worshipful Neighbor Sir Achitophel Pinchgut, and M. Miser, it is neither they, nor my self, that had ever come to have any estates, if we had not been Timists; therefore, be gone; nothing can change my heart, neither am I in the giving humor; I tell thee, I must follow the Rules of those that have served almost twice 7 years for their policy, for by the cross I have as little hospitality as honesty. I could have answer'd him with divine commandements and precepts; but every vertue (in this Age of Vice) is between two extremes, (as my Master was betwixt two Thieves) liberality in the middle, but prodigality on each side.
At my departure from this all Penny-wise, his son Mr. Pound-foolish, desired his crabbed Sire to bid me stay and dine with him; at which the miserable Curmudgeon was even half mad with anger, calling his son spend-thrift, and prodigal Jack-an-Apes. Thus was poor Christmas used in the city, and wandring into the countrey up and down from house to house, found small comfort in any; some would only smile at me, and (because I should not piss at their doors) they would give me a cup of single, slender; lean, smal Beer, or Ale, which had the vertue to cause a man to make an Alphabet of faces, for it would have warmed a mans heart like pangs of death in a frosty morning. This merry memory (or sad remembrance) of Ale, caused me to ask the reason of this alteration; to which question, an honest Smith made this answer. Alas father Christmas (qd. he) our high and mighty Ale, that would formerly knock down Heacules, and trip up the heels of a Gyant, is lately strook into a deep consumption, the strength of it being quite gone with a blow which it received from Westminster, and there is a Tetter and Ringworm called Excize, doth make it look thinner then it would do. Indeed (to speak truth) my best and freest welcome with some kinde of countrey Farmers, was in Devonshire, where though both the Armies had been with them, and given them several visits, insomuch that if the Cavaliers had taken their horses, the other party made bold with their Oxen; if the one had their sheep, the other plaid sweep-stake; so that (according to the countrey phrase) great crock and little crock, all was ago; yet as soon as they spied me, they saluted me with much love and reverend courtesie.
A, ha, quoth I, this piece of the World is well mended; our dinner is better then our breakfast; this was as Christmas would have it; here is neither too much cost, nor too little meat: here is no surfet on the one side, or hunger on the other; they are alwayes the best feasts where the poor are relieved, for the Rich can help themselves. After Dinner we arose from the boord, and sate by the fire; where the Harth was in brodered all over with roasted Apples, piping hot, expecting a bole of Ale for a cooler which immediatly was transformed into warm Lambwool. After which, we discoursed merily, without either prophaness or obscenity; some went to cards; others sung carols, and pleasant songs (suitable to the times) then the poor laboring Hinds, and Maid-servants, with the plow-boys, went simply to dancing; the poor toyling wretches being glad of my company, because they had little or no sport at all till I came amongst them; and therefore they skipped and leaped for joy, singing a carol to the Tune of hey,
Lets dance and sing, and make good chear
For Christmas comes but once a year:
Draw Hogsheads dry, let Flagons fly,
For now the Bells shall ring;
Whilest we endeavor to make good
The Title 'gainst a King
Thus at active Games, and Gambols of Hotcockles, shooing the wild Mare, and the like harmless sports some part of the tedious night was spent; and early in the morning, I took my leave of them, promising they should have my presence again the next 25 of Decemb. 1653. in the interim, I left this christian Exhortation, to all people in general.
Love one another, as my Master lov'd you, relieve the oppressed, call home Exiles, help the Fatherless, cherish the Widow, and restore to every man his due.
End of Lamentable Reformation by Benjamin Worsley