A NEW YEAR'S GIFT
SENT TO SIR SIMON STEWARD.|
by Robert Herrick
NO news of navies burnt at seas ;
No noise of late-spawn'd tittyries ;
No closet plot, or open vent,
That frights men with a parliament ;
No new device or late-found trick
To read by the stars the kingdom's sick ;
No gin to catch the state, or wring
The freeborn nostrils of the king,
We send to you ; but here a jolly
Verse, crown'd with ivy and with holly,
That tells of winter's tales and mirth,
That milkmaids make about the hearth,
Of Christmas sports, the wassail-bowl,
That tost up, after fox-i'-th'-hole ;
Of blind-man-buff, and of the care
That young men have to shoe the mare ;
Of twelve-tide cakes, of peas and beans,
Wherewith ye make those merry scenes,
Whenas ye choose your king and queen,
And cry out : Hey, for our town green ;
Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use
Husbands and wives by streaks to choose ;
Of crackling laurel, which fore-sounds
A plenteous harvest to your grounds ;
Of these and such-like things for shift,
We send instead of New-Year's gift.
Read then, and when your faces shine
With buxom meat and cap'ring wine,
Remember us in cups full crown'd,
And let our city-health go round,
Quite through the young maids and the men,
To the ninth number, if not ten ;
Until the fired chestnuts leap
For joy to see the fruits ye reap
From the plump chalice and the cup,
That tempts till it be tossed up ;
Then as ye sit about your embers,
Call not to mind those fled Decembers,
But think on these that are t' appear
As daughters to the instant year :
Sit crown'd with rosebuds, and carouse
Till Liber Pater twirls the house
About your ears ; and lay upon
The year your cares that's fled and gone.
And let the russet swains the plough
And harrow hang up resting now ;
And to the bagpipe all address,
Till sleep takes place of weariness.
And thus, throughout, with Christmas plays
Frolic the full twelve holidays.
Tittyries, meaning unexplained.
Fox-i'-th'-hole, a game of hopping.
To shoe the mare, or, shoe the wild mare, a Christmas game.
Liber Pater, Father Bacchus.
Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 157-159.