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April 17.

St. Anicetus, Pope, 2d. Cent. St. Stephen, Abbot, A.D. 1134. St. Simeon, Bishop, and other Martyrs, A.D. 341.




Antiquaries are exceedingly puzzled respecting the derivation of this annual festival, which commenced the fifteenth day after Easter, and was therefore a movable feast dependent upon Easter.*[1] Though Matthew Paris, who is the oldest authority for the word Hoke-day, says it is "quindena paschæ," yet Mr. Douce assigns convincing reasons for taking it as the second Tuesday after Easter. At Hock-tide, which seems to have included Monday and Tuesday, collections of Hock-money were made in various parishes by the churchwardens, until the Reformation.† [2] Tuesday was the principal day. Hock Monday was for the men, and Hock Tuesday for the women. On both days the men and women alternately, with great merriment, intercepted the public roads with ropes, and pulled passengers to them, from whom they exacted money to be laid out for pious uses; Monday probably having been originally kept as only the vigil or introduction to the festival of Hock-day. Mr. Brand unaccountably, because inconsistently with his previous representations respecting the antiquity of the custom of heaving at Easter, derives that custom from the men and women Hocking each other, and collecting money at Hock-tide.

It is a tradition that this festival was instituted to commemorate the massacre of the Danes in England, under Etheldred, in the year 1002; a supposition however wholly unsupportable, because that event happened on the feast of St. Brice, in the month of November. Another and more reasonable opinion is, that the institution celebrated the final extinction of the Danish power by the death of Hardicanute, on the sixth day before the ides of June, 1042.‡[3] Yet, in relation to the former event, "certain good-hearted men of Coventry" petitioned, "that they might renew their old storial show" of the Hock-tide play before queen Elizabeth, when she was on a visit to the earl of Leicester, at his castle of Kenilworth, in July, 1575. According to "Laneham's Letter," this "storial show" set forth how the Danes were for quietness borne, and allowed to remain in peace withal, until on the said St. Brice's night they were "all despatched and the realm rid;" and because the matter did show "in action and rhymes" how valiantly our English women, for love of their country, behaved, the "men of Coventry" thought it might move some mirth in her majesty. "The thing," said they, "is grounded in story, and for pastime (was) wont to be played in our city yearly without ill example of manners, papistry, or any superstition;" and they knew no cause why it was then of late laid down, "unless it was by the zeal of certain of their preachers; men very commendable for their behaviour and learning, and sweet in their sermons, but somewhat too sour in preaching away their pastime." By license, therefore, they got up their Hock-tide play and Kenilworth, wherein "capt. Cox," a person here indescribable without hindrance to most readers, "came marching on valiantly before, clean trussed and garnished above the knee, all fresh in a velvet cap, flourishing with his ton-sword, and another fence-master with him, making room for the rest. Then proudly came the Danish knights on horseback, and then the English, each with their alder-pole martially in their hand." The meeting at first waxing warm, then kindled with courage on both sides into a hot skirmish, and from that into a blazing battle with spear and shield; so that, by outrageous races and fierce encounters, horse and man sometimes tumbled to the dust. Then they fell to with sword and target, and did clang and bang, till, the fight so ceasing, afterwards followed the foot of both hosts, one after the other marching, wheeling, forming in squadrons, triangles, and circles, and so winding out again; and then got they so grisly together, that inflamed on each side, twice the Danes had the better, but at the last were quelled, and so being wholly vanquished, many were led captive in triumph by our English women. This matter of good pastime was wrought under the window of her highness, who beholding in the chamber delectable dancing, and therewith great thronging of the people, saw but little of the Coventry play; wherefore her majesty commanded it on the Tuesday following, to have it full out, and being then accordingly presented, her highness laughed right well. Then too, played the "good-hearted men of Coventry" the merrier, and so much the more, because her majesty had given them two bucks, and five marks in money; and they prayed for her highness long happily to reign, and oft to come thither, that oft they might see her; and rejoicing upon their ample reward, and triumphing upon their good acceptance, vaunted their play was never so dignified, nor ever any players before so beatified.*[4]


Fravi's Cowl. Arum Arisarum.
Dedicated to St. Stephen of Citeaux

Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. Nares's Glossary. [return]

2. See large extracts from their accounts, in Brand. &c. [return]

3. Allen's Hist of Lambeth. [return]

4. Concerning the Coventry Hock-tide play, it is reasonable to expect curious information from a forthcoming "Dissertation on the Pageants or Dramatic Mysteries, anciently performed at Coventry, chiefly with reference to the vehicle, characters, and dresses of the actors," by Mr. Thomas Sharp, of Coventry, who, with access to the corporation manuscripts, and to other sources hitherto unexplored, and above all, with the requisite knowledge and qualifications, will probably throw greater light on the obsolete drama, than has devolved upon it from the labours of any preceding antiquary. [return]