« PreviousContinue »
hortation will ever be able to revive the primitive Use of it.
I know not how the present Generation will relish his Reflections in this and many subsequent Chapters : Serious Animadversions of this Sort seem by no Means pleasing to the refined Taste of our Age. We plainly discover an Intention of uniting Entertainment with Utility in his little Ser. mons; which, it must be confessed, are not always delivered in the most agreeable Manner.—He does not always stick by his Text :-His Inferences are often far fetched:- His good Meaning, however, must atone for some little Deficiencies of Stile, and Denury of Composition.-Men, provided with keen Appetites for this kind of Entertainment, will content themselves with the homely Manner in which he has served it up to them.-Indeed Squeamillness in this particular would but ill suit the Study of the English Antique. A great deal of wholsome Meat of this Sort has been brought on upon wooden Platters. Nice Guests will think our famous old Cook, Mr. Hearne himself, but a very coarse and greasy Kind of Hoft.
In fine, I have not presumed to violate my Aue thor's Text, lest I should seem to play the Empiric, and lay the Foundation of my own little Structure upon the Ruins of his.
for Merit, and confounded the Idea of Scarceness with that of intrinsic Value.--I received this Information from one of the Society of Antiquaries, who understands the Subject too well himself to be mistaken in his Opinion of the Merit of those who have write ten upon it. On the Weight of that Opinion alone I have been induced to preserve every Line that our Author has left us in that Work.
CH A P. II.
Of Watching with the Dead.
W ATCHING with the Corps was an an
V tient Custom of the Church, and every where practised. They were wont to fit by it, from the Time of its Death till its Exportation to the Grave, either in the House it died in, or in the Church itself. Agreeable to this, we read in St. Austin, That as they watched his Mother Monica, * Euodius took the Psalter, and began to sing a Psalm, which the whole Family answered with that of the Pfalmift David, I will fing of Mercy and Judgment, unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. And we are told, † That at the Death of St. Ambrose, his Body was carried into the Church before Day, the fame Hour he died. It was the Night before Easter, and they watched with him there.
How unlike to this antient Custom of watching is the modern one, of locking up the Corps
* Pfalterium arripuit Euodius, & cantare cæpit pfalmum, cui respondebamus omnes domus : Miserecordiam & judicium cantabo tibi Domine. .Aug. Lib. 9. Confef. C. 12.
+ Ad ecclefiam antelucana hora qua defunctus est, corpus ipfius portatum eft : ibique eadem fuit nocte, quam vigilavi. mus in pascha. Greg. Turon. de Gloria, Confef. C. 104.
in a Room, and leaving it there alone? How unlike to this decent Manner of watching, is that watching of the Vulgar, which is a Scene of Sport and Drinking and Lewdness? Watching at that Time with a dear Friend, is the last Kindness and Respect we can shew him; and how unfriendly is it, to change it into Negligence and too great Resignation? How unchristian, instead of a becoming Sorrow and decent Gravity, to put on an unbecoming Joy and undecent Pastime,
CH A P T E R
UR Author, for what Reason I know not,
has omitted the vulgar Name given here to this watching with a Corps. It is called the Lakewake ; a Word plainly derived from the AngloSaxon Lic or Lice, a Corpse, and Wæcce, a Wake, Vigil, or Watching. It is used in this Sense by Chaucer, in his Knight's Tale:
Shall not be told for me,
Thus also I read in the Article Walkin, in the learned * Glossary to Douglas' Virgil, “ Properly "Like-wakes (Scotch) are the Meetings of the 66 Friends of the Deceased, a Night, or Nights be66 fore the Burial.”
I am not satisfied with either of the Quotations he has given us in Proof of the Antiquity of the Custom: They are indeed something to the Purpose; but in the last cited Paffage, one would be inclined to think from the Words of the Original, that the Watching was on Account of its being the Vigil of Easter-Day.
The subsequent Extract from one of the antient Councils quoted in Durant, + p. 232, is, I think, much more apposite:-“ Now it must be observed, 66 that Psalms are wont to be sung not only when “ the Corps is conducted to Church, but that the « Antients watched on the Night before the Burial, « and spent the Vigil in singing Psalms.” So also Gregory, in the Epistle that treats of the Death of his Sister Macrina, has thefe Words: I “ Now when the nightly Watching, as is usual" &c.
I could give numerous Passages from the Antients, were there any Doubt of the Antiquity of a Custom, which probably owes its Origin to the tendereft Affections of human Nature, and has pera haps on that Account been used from the Infancy of Time.
* By the late Mr. Ruddiman, as is generally supposed.
+ Porro obfervandum eft, nedum Psalmos cani consuetum, cum furus ducitur, fed etiam nocte, quæ præcedit funus, veteres vigi. lalle, nocturnasque vigilias canendis Pfalmis egiffe.
I Cùm igitur (inquit) nocturna pervigilatio, ut in Martyrum celebritate canendis Psalmis perfecta eflet & Crepusculum advenisfet, &c. Durant, p. 232.
* I find in Durant a pretty exact Account of some of the Ceremonies used at present in what we call laying out or streeking * in the Northt:Mention is made of the closing the Eyes and Lips - the decent washing-dressing- and wrapping in a Linen Shrouds:-Of which Shroud Prudentius, the Christian Poet, has these Words :
Candore nitentia claro
Hymn. ad Exequias Defunct. The Interests of our Woollen Manufactories have interfered with this antient Rite in England.'
Įt is customary at this Day in Northumberland, to set a Pewter Plate, containing a little Saltll, upon C4
the * To streek, to expand, or stretch out, from the Anglo-Saxon strecan, extendere. See Benson's Anglo-Saxon Vocabulary in verbo.-A Streeking-Board is that on which they (tretch out and compose the Limbs of the dead Body #Quinetiam Sanctorum Corpora, manibus erectis supinisque excipere-occludere oculos mora obturare-decenter ornare tavare accuratè & linteo funebri involvere, &c.
Durant. de Ritibus, p. 224. Mr. Pennant, in his Tour in Scotland, tells us, that on the Death of a Highlander, the Corps being stretched on a Board, and covered with a coarfe Linen Wrapper, the Friends lay on the Breast of the Deceased a wooden Platter, containing a small Quantity of Salt and Earth, separate and unmixed; the Earth an Emblem of the corruptible Body; the Salt an Emblem of the immortal Spirit. -All Fire is extinguished where a Corps is kept; and it is rec. koned fo ominous for a Dog or a Cat to pass over it, that the poor Animal is killed without Mercy.
I The Face Cloth too is of great Antiquity.-Mr Strutt tells us, that after the closing the Eyes, &c. a Linen Cloth was put over the Face of the Deceased. Thus we are told, that Henry the Fourth, in his last Illness seeming to be dead, his Chamberlain covered his Face with a Linen Cloth. English Æra, p. 105. Il Salem abhorrere constat Diabolum, et ratione optima nititur,