Monday, December 30, 2019

Presents for landlords at New Years, Lent, Midsummer, Michaelmas, Christmas in the 16th century

Poets described the food that tenants gave to their landlords: capon at New Years, fish for Lent, fowl at Midsummer [June 24], goose at Michaelmas [Sept 29], and a capon at Christmas "for fear their lease fly loose" - lose their lease.
George Wither  (1588-1667)

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.

* This was an old custom on the part of tenants to their landlords, which, we presume, came to be followed by all the poorer sort who made their annual offering at the great man's shrine at this particular season of the year. 

George Gascoigne (1535-1577), wrote in 1575 -

"And when the tenants come to pay their quarter's rent,
They bring some fowl at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent,
At Christmas a capon, at Michaelmas a goose,
And somewhat else at New Year's tide, for fear their lease fly loose."

Bishop Hall [Joseph Hall, 1574-1656], in Virgidemiarum in 1597 -

“ Yet must he haunt his greedy landlord's hall,
With often presents at each festival;
With crammed capons every New Year's morn,
Or with green cheeses when his sheep are shorn."

Christmas with the Poets.  London:  1851

©2019 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME

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