The Wassail Table
The Book of Christmas, London: 1836
"The New Year's Eve is, in all quarters, looked upon as a time of rejoicing; and perhaps no night of this merry season is more universally dedicated to festivity. Men are, for the most part, met in groups, to hail the coming year with propitiatory honours; and copious libations are poured to its honour, as if to determine it to look upon us with a benignant aspect. We generally spend our New Year's Eve in some such group; but, we confess, it is not every class of wassailers that will suit us for the occasion.
But, in any case, we have never failed to observe that, as the midnight hour draws near, a hush falls upon these assemblies;—and when men rise to usher in the new comer, it is, for the most part, in silence. We do not believe that moment is ever a merry one. The blithe spirits of the night stand still. The glasses are full;—but so is the heart—and the eye is strained upon the finger of the dial whose notes are to sound the arrival, as if held there by a spell.
We do not think that any man, of all that group whom our artist has represented, could turn his face away from the dial [clock], even by an effort; —and he who could would be out of place in any assembly of which we made one.
The instant the solemn sounds of the midnight chime have ceased, the bells from a thousand steeples lift up their merry voices—but they never, at that moment, found a true echo in our hearts; and the shout which rises from the wassail table, in answer, has ever seemed to us to want much of the mirth to which it makes such boisterous pretension."
The Book of Christmas ...by Thomas Kibble Hervey… Illustrations by R. Seymour. London: 1836
©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
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