vol II date / index
St. Martin, Bp. A. D. 397. St. Mennas, A. D. 304.
He is in the church of England calendar and the almanacs. By Romish writers he is called "the Great St. Martin, the glory of Gaul." They say that he was born in Lower Hungary, about 316, and becoming a soldier, a beggar requested alms, when having no money he drew his sword, and cutting his cloak into two pieces, gave half to the beggar, and wrapped himself up in the other; whereupon Christ appeared to him the next night, in the half he had given away, asked him if he knew it, and said to angels that surrounded him, "Martin has given me this garment." This occasioned him to leave the army and enter the church, and he was made an exorcist by St. Hilary. Turning hermit, he lived on roots and wild herbs, and unawares ate a quantity of hellebore sufficient to kill an unprivileged person. After this, one of his disciples fell ill of a fever, and died suddenly without baptism; "whereupon," says Alban Butler, "feeling in himself a divine impulse to work a miracle," he stretched himself upon the body, and prayed till the deceased came to life. She said her soul had been before the divine tribunal, and been sentenced to a dark dungeon;— but that on two angels representing St. Martin was praying for her coming back, she was ordered to be restored to the body and raised to life. "Another time the saint restored to life, in the same manner, a slave who had hanged himself." In 371, he was chosen bishop of Tours, and is said to have lived in a narrow hole in the side of a rock. Near to it was a chapel with an altar, over a tomb, but St. Martin would not visit it, becuase, although the person buried was represented to have been a martyr, he was not assured that the relics were genuine. He went, however, one day with some of his clergy, and prayed for information, whereupon on his left hand, "he saw near him a pale ghost of a fierce aspect, whom he commanded to speak; the ghost told his name, and it appeared that he had been a robber who was executed for his crimes, whom the people honoured as a martyr; none but St. Martin saw him, the rest only heard his voice; he thereupon caused the altar to be removed. After the rectification of this trifling mistake, he went on raising the dead, casting out devils, and receiving revelations; but as he grew older "it cost him more difficulty, and longer prayers, to cast out devils than formerly." He died in 397, and his shrine worked the usual miracles. This account of St. Martin is abstracted from the rev. Alban Butler's life of him.
A custom anciently prevailed, though generally confined at present to country villages, of killing cows, oxen, swine, &c. at this season, which were cured for the winter, when fresh provisions were seldom or never to be had.
When Easter comes, who knows not than
That veale and bacon is the man?
And Martilmass Beefe doth beare good tacke,
When countrey folke do dainties lacke.
Martlemas beef was beef dried in the chimney, as bacon, and is so called, because it was usual to kill the beef for this provision about the feast of St. Martin.* There is mention of
—dried flitches of some smoked beeve,
Hang'd on a writhen wythe since Martin's Eve.
Mr. Brand relates, that rustic families in Northumberland clubbed at Martinmas to buy a cow or other animal; the union for this purchase is called a "mart." After the animal was killed, they filled the entrails with a kind of pudding meat, consisting of blood, suet, groats, &c. which being formed into little sausage links, were boiled and sent about as presents. These are called "black-puddings" from their colour. There is also noticed a kind of entertainment in Germany, called the "feast of sausages," which was wont to be celebrated with great joy and festivity. The day is a great festival on the continent: new wines then begin to be tasted, and the hours are spent in carousing. An old author says, that the great doings on this occasion almost throughout Europe in his time, are derived from an ancient Athenian festival, observed in honour of Bacchus, upon the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth days of the month Anthestcrion, corresponding with our November. Another says, that the eleventh month had a name from the ceremony of "tapping their barrels on it;" when it was customary to make merry. It is likewase imagined by Dr. Stukeley, in his "Itinerary" concerning Martinsal-hill, thus: "I take the name of this hill to come from the merriments among the northern people, called Martinalia, or drinking healths to the memory of St. Martin, practised by our Saxon and Danish ancestors. I doubt not but upon St. Martin's day, or Martinmass, all the young people in the neighbourhood assembled here, as they do now upon the adjacent St. Ann's-hill, upon St. Ann's day." He adds, that "St. Martin's day, in the Norway clogs, (or wooden almanacs) is marked with a goose: for on that day they always feasted with a roasted goose: they say, St. Martin, being elected to a bishoprick, hid himself, (noluit episcopari) but was discovered by that animal. We have transferred the ceremony to Michaelmas."*
Dr. Forster, so often cited, observes, that a medal has lately been struck in France in commemoration of this laudable custom; on one side of which is embossed a goose, and on the reverse occurs the word Martinalia. Relative to the custom of goose-eating, it is further noticed in the "Perennial Calendar," that the festival of St. Martin occurs when geese are in high season. "It is always celebreated with a voracity the more eager, as it happens on the eve of the petit carême, when fowls can no longer be presented on the tables of a religious age. A German monk, Martin Schoock, has made it a case of conscience whether, even on the eve of the little Lent, it be allowable to eat goose: 'An liceat Martinalibus anserem comedere?' After having dived into the weedy pool of the casuist's arguments, the delighted devotee emerges with the premission to roast his goose; and thus the goose came to be a standing dish on Martinmas as well as Michaelmas day."
In some of the old church calendars the celebration of this day is called "The Martinalia, a genial feast; wines are tasted of and drawn from the lees; Bacchus is the figure of Martin."†
"Time's Telescope," for 1814, cites some extracts from a little ballad, entitled "Martilmasse Day:"—
It is the day of Martilmasse,
Cuppes of ale should freelie passe;
What though Wynter has begunne
To push downe the Summer sunne,
To our fire we can betake,
And enjoye the crackling brake,
Never heedinge Wynter's face
On the day of Martilmasse.
Some do the citie now frequent,
Where costlie shows and merriment
Do weare the vaporish eveninge out
With interlude and revellinge rout;
Such as did pleasure Englande's queene
When here her Royal Grace was seen
Yet will they not this day let passe,
The merrie day of Martilmasse.
When the dailie sportes be done,
Round the market crosse they runne,
Prentis laddes and gallant blades
Dancing with their gamesome maids,
Till the Beadel, stout and sowre,
Shakes his bell, and calls the houre;
Then farewell ladde and farewell lasse
To the merry night of Martilmasse.
Martilmasse shall come againe,
Spite of wind, and snow, and raine;
But many a strange thing must be done,
Many a cause be lost and won,
Many a tool must leave his pelfe,
Many a worldlinge cheat himselfe,
And many a marvel come to passe,
Before return of Martilmasse.
Weymouth Pine. Pinus Strobus.
Dedicated to St. Martin.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Tusser Redivivus. [return]
2. Brand. [return]
3. Brady's Clavis Calendaria. [return]