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Good fires to curb the cold,

And meat for great and small :
The neighbours were friendly bidden,

And all had welcome true ;
The poor from the gates were not chidden,

When this old cap was new.

Black jacks to every man

Were fill'd with wine and beer ;
No pewter pot nor can

In those days did appear :
Good cheer in a nobleman's house

Was counted a seemly show;
We wanted no brawn nor souse,

When this old cap was new.

We took not such delight

In cups of silver fine :
None under the degree of a knight

In plate drank beer or wine :
Now each mechanical man

Hath a cupboard of plate for a show ; Which was a rare thing then,

When this old cap was new.

Then bribery was unborn,

No simony men did use ; Christians did usury scorn,

Devised among the Jews. The lawyers to be fee'd

At that time hardly knew : For man with man agreed,

When this old cap was new.

No captain then caroused,

Nor spent poor soldier's pay; They were not so abused

As they are at this day: Of seven days they make eight,

To keep from them their due ; Poor soldiers had their right,

When this old cap was new :

Which made them forward still

To go, although not prest; And going with good will,

Their fortunes were the best.

Our English then in fight

Did foreign foes subdue, And forced them all to flight,

When this old cap was new.

God save our gracious king,

And send him long to live : Lord, mischief on them bring

That will not their alms give, But seek to rob the poor

Of that which is their due :

This was not in time of yore,

When this old cap was new.

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[GEORGE WITHER was born in Hampshire in 1988, and, after studying at Oxford, entered Lincoln's Inn, where he wrote satires for which he was imprisoned. He afterwards joined the Parliamentarians, and was taken prisoner by the king's party, by whom he would have been put to death had not Denham interfered, under the jocose pretext that, so long as Wither lived, he himself could not be considered the worst poet in England. Wither was afterwards made Governor of Farnham Castle, and was enriched by the estates of the Royalists; but at the Restoration he was deprived of all his possessions, and sent to the Tower. When he angrily remonstrated, he was treated with great severity. He was at length released, and died in obscurity, in 1667.

Most of his best productions were written while he was in confinement, and before he became imbued with puritanical ideas. His principal poem is “The Shepherd's Hunting," but his shorter pieces are better known.]

So now is come our joyful'st feast;

Let every man be jolly ;
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,

And every post with holly.

Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,

And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbours' chimneys smoke,

And Christmas blocks are burning ; Their ovens they with baked meat choke,

And all their spits are turning. Without the door let sorrow lie; And if for cold it hap to die, We'll bury't in a Christmas pie,

And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim,

And no man minds his labour ; Our lasses have provided them

A bagpipe and a tabor ; Young men and maids, and girls and boys, Give life to one another's joys; And you anon shall by their noise

Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun;

Their hall of music soundeth ; And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,

So all things there aboundeth.

The country folks themselves advance,
With crowdy-muttons out of France ;
And Jack shall pipe and Gill shall dance,

And all the town be merry.

Ned Squash hath fetcht his bands from pawn,

And all his best apparel ;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn

With dropping off the barrel.
And those that hardly all the year
Had bread to eat, or rags to wear,
Will have both clothes and dainty fare,

And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices

With capons make their errants ; And if they hap to fail of these,

They plague them with their warrants : But now they feed them with good cheer, And what they want they take in beer, For Christmas comes but once a year,

And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse

The poor, that else were undone ; Some landlords spend their money worse

On lust and pride at London.


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