Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/178

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
170
English Folk-Drama.

the Bessy, a bullock's tail behind, under his gown, which he held in his hand while dancing.

From a rare book, dated in 1814, I have the following note of the custom in Yorkshire :

"The Fool Plough. — This is the name given to it by Strutt, though it is better known in Yorkshire under the title of 'Plough Stotts'. Plough-Monday, or the first Monday after Twelfth-Day, has been considered as the ploughman's holiday, and the annexed plate represents a ludicrous procession on that day, not unlike that of the Mummers, or Morris-Dancers, at Christmas. The principal characters in this farce are the conductors of the plough ; the plough-driver, with a blown bladder at the end of a stick by way of whip ; the fiddler ; a huge clown in female attire ; and the commander-in-chief, 'Captain Cauf Tail', dressed out with a cockade and a genuine calf s tail, fantastically crossed with various coloured ribands. This whimsical hero is also an orator and a dancer, and is ably supported by the manual wit of the plough-driver, who applies the bladder with great and sounding effect to the heads and shoulders of his team."

With this formless procession and dance the sword-dance became combined, as described in Young's History of Whitby, and the result of the union was the Plough-Monday play. Here we have a repetition of the process I described in connection with the Easter and mumming plays. The shaping factor in folk-drama was the sword-dance, with its circle, chorus, and carefully concerted movements.

I will now read the version of the play, for which we are indebted to Mrs. Chaworth Musters. I do this because, although that lady has happily insured its preservation — an act which I feel this Society ought gratefully to acknowledge — it is far less familiar than the mumming or Easter plays ; and I think its communication this evening may strengthen my plea for the speedy and exhaustive collection of all the remains of English folk-drama still surviving. Also, it is a very pleasant tradition, which seems to take us into the midst of country life in mid-winter, a sensation which Mrs. Musters has kindly offered to allow some of us