Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Food & Drink - Washington Irving & the Wassail Bowl


Washington Irving, Old Christmas – From the Sketch Book of Washington Irving (London: Macmillan & Co., Fifth Edition, 1886), pp. 132-5


 Washington Irving (1783-1859) by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)

Old Christmas – Christmas Dinner
The Wassail Bowl

When the cloth was removed, the butler brought in a huge silver vessel of rare and curious workmanship, which he placed before the Squire. Its appearance was hailed with acclamation ; being the Wassail Bowl, so renowned in Christmas festivity. The contents had been prepared by the Squire himself; for it was a beverage in the skilful mixture of which he particularly prided himself; alleging that it was too abstruse and complex for the comprehension of an ordinary servant. It was a potation, indeed, that might well make the heart of a toper leap within him ; being composed of the richest and raciest wines, highly spiced and sweetened, with roasted apples bobbing about the surface.

The old gentleman's whole countenance beamed with a serene look of indwelling delight, as he stirred this mighty bowl. Having raised it to his lips, with a hearty wish of a merry Christmas to all present, he sent it brimming round the board, for every one to follow his example, according to the primitive style; pronouncing it “the ancient fountain of good feeling, where all hearts met together.” 

There was much laughing and rallying as the honest emblem of Christmas joviality circulated, and was kissed rather coyly by the ladies. When it reached Master Simon he raised it in both hands, and with the air of a boon companion struck up an old Wassail chanson : The Squire's Toast
The browne bowle,
The merry browne bowle,
As it goes round about-a,
Fill
Still,
Let the world say what it will,
And drink your fill all out-a.
The deep canne,
The merry deep canne,
As thou dost freely quaff-a,
Sing,
Fling,
Be as merry as a king,
And sound a lusty laugh-a.

(From “Poor Robin's Almanack.”)


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