Friday, December 11, 2020

15th cen. Boar's Head poem, Medieval manuscripts digitalized

The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) digitalized all 160,000 pages from Medieval works held by member libraries. HERE
A fifteenth century Carol about the boar's head at a Christmas feast.

The following carol described the festive meal, beginning with the entrance of the Boar’s Head encircled with garlands for the “first mess.” The second course had many birds, venison, furmity, wines, ale and sweets.

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
The boar's head is armed gay.

The boar's head in hand I bring,
With garlands gay encircling,
I pray you all with me to sing,
With Hey!

Lords, knights, and squires,
Parsons, priests, and vicars,
The boar's head is the first mess,
With Hey!

The boar's head, as I now say,
Takes its leave and goes away,
Goeth after the Twelth day,
With Hey!

Then comes in the second course with great pride,
The cranes, the herons, the bitterns, by their side,
The partridges, the plovers, the woodcocks, and the snipe,
Larks in hot show, for the ladies to pick,
Good drink also, luscious and fine,
Blood of Allemaine, romnay, and wine,
With Hey!

Good brewed ale and wine, I dare well say,
The boar's head with mustard armed so gay,
Furmity for pottage, and venison fine,
And the humbles of the doe and all that ever comes in.
Capons well baked, with knuckles of the roe,
Raisins and currants, and other spices too,
With Hey!

"In spite of the invitations contained in these Carols to partake of the first mess," the Boar's Head, we anticipate, was little else but a show dish; for, in all of the allusions to it, mention is only made of one head being served at each feast, though, even were the number greater, it could hardly have been sufficient to have yielded a mouthful a-piece to the numerous guests who were generally present at these entertainments." [1851]

"The second course was the substantial one, and yet it lacked much of what is now looked upon as essential to the Christmas dinner. There were great Christmas pies served up, which, as a compound of all edible substances, deserve some notice. These pies contained turkeys and geese, various kinds of game with small birds, and a liberal admixture of pork and mutton. Such pies are still made in the north, and of a considerable size also, yet nothing in comparison with those of the olden times, some of which weighed above an hundred weight..." [1858]

Calendar of virtual food history talks HERE

Medieval foodways virtual talks HERE

Christmas with the Poets: a collection of songs, carols, and descriptive verses relating to the festival of Christmas, from the Anglo-Norman period to the present time. London: 1851. the carol and 2 images

The Christmas Book: Christmas in the Olden Time. London: 1858

The Porkington Manuscript, #10, f 202 r; (now Brogyntyn MS ii.1) The National Library of Wales. source of carol

©2020 Patricia Bixler Reber
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