|Those Opposed to May Customs
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"Indictment Of Flora." -1827
"Flora, hold up thy hand, thou art here indicted by the name of Flora, of the city of Rome, in the county of Babylon, for that thou, contrary to the peace of our sovereign lord, his crown and dignity, hast brought in a pack of practical fanatics, viz. —ignorants, atheists, papists, drunkards, swearers, swashbucklers, maid-marian's, morrice-dancers, maskers, mummers, Maypole stealers, health-drinkers, together with a rascallion rout of fiddlers, fools, fighters, gamesters, lewd-women, light-women, contemners of magistracy, affronters of ministry, rebellious to masters, disobedient to parents, misspenders of time, and abusers of the creature, tec.
• A copy of Hall's Fwtebr>aFtor* was sold January W. 1819, in the Bindley Collection, for £6. Us. 6d.
"Judge. What sayest thou, guilty or not guilty?
"Prisoner. Not guilty, tny lord. "Judge. By whom wilt thou be tried? "Prisoner. By the pope's holiness, my lord.
"Judge. He is thy patron and protector, and so unfit to be a judge in this case.
"Prisoner. Then I appeal to the prelates and lord bishops, my lord.
"Judge. This is but a tiffany put off, for though some of that rank did let loose the reins to such profaneness, in causing the book of sports, for the profanation of God's holy day, to be read in churches, yet 'tis well known that the gravest and most pious of that order have abhorred such profaneness and misrule,
"Prisoner. Then I appeal to the rout and rabble of the world.
"Judge. These are thy followers and thy favourites, and unfit to be judges in their own case.
"Prisoner. My lord, if there be no remedy, I am content to be tried by a jury
"Judge. Thou hast well said, thou shah have a full, a fair, and a free hearing.— Crier, call the jury.
"Crier. O yes, O yes; all manner of persons that can give evidence against the prisoner at the bar let them come into court, and they shall be freely heard.
"Judge. Call in the Holy Scriptures.
"Crier. Make room for the Holy Scriptures to come in.
"Judge. What can you say against the prisoner at the bar?
"Holy Scriptures. Very much, my lord. I have often told them, that the night of ignorance is now past, and the light of the gospel is come, and therefore they must walk as children of the light, denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts. I have often told them, that they must shun all the appearance of evil, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, nor conform themselves like to the wicked of this world. I have often told them, that our God is a jealous God, and one that will not endure to have his glory given to idols.
"Judge. This is full and to the purpose indeed; but is there no more evidence to come in?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is Pliny, an ancient writer, famous for his Natural History.
"Judge. What can you say against the prisoner at the bar?
"Piiny. My lord, I have long since told them, that these were not christian, but
pagan feasts; they were heathens, (and as such knew not God,) who first instituted these Floralia and May-games. I have lold them that they were instituted according to the advice of the Sibyl's books, in the 516th year after the foundation of the city of Rome, to prevent the blasting and barrenness of the trees and the fruits of the earth. (Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. xviii. c. 29.)
"Judge. Sir, you have given us good tight in this dark case; for we see that the rise of these feasts was from Pagans, and that they were ordained by the advice of Sibyl's books, and not of God's book; and for a superstitious and idolatrous end, that thereby Flora, not God, might be pleased, and so bless their fruits and flowers. This is clear, but have you no more evidence?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is Caelins Lactantius Firmianns, who lived about three hundred years after Christ, who will plainly tell you the rise of these profane sports.
"Judge. I have heard of this celestial, sweet, and firm defender of the faith, and that he was a second Cicero for eloquence in his time. Sir, what can you say against the prisoner at the bar?
"Lactantiut. My lord, I have long since declared my judgment against this Flora, in my first book of false religions, &c
"Judge. This is plain and full, I now see that Lactantiut is Firmianus, not only sweet, but firm and constant, See. Have you no more evidence?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is the Synodus Francica, which was called, Anno Dom. 742.
"Judge. What can you say against the prisoner at the bar!
"St/nodus. My lord, I have long since decreed, that the people of God shall have no pagan feasts or interludes, but that they reject and abominate all the uncleannesses ot Gentilism, and that they forbear all sacrilegious fires, which they call bonfires, and all other observations of the Pagans whatsoever.
"Judge. This is clear against all heathenish feasts and customs, of which this is one. But have you no evidence nearer home?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is one that will conquer them all, and with the sword of justice suddenly suppress them.
"Judge. Who is that I pray you ? Let me see such a man.
"Crier. My lord, it is Charles the Second, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith.
"Judge. Truly he deserves that title, if
he shall now appear in defence of the truth, against that profane rout which lately threatened the extirpation both of sound doctrine and good life. I hear that the king is a sober and temperate person, and one that hates debauchery; I pray you let us hear what he saith.
"Crier. My lord, the king came into London May 29th, and on the 30th he published a Proclamation against Profaneness, to the great rejoicing of all good people of the land. When all was running into profaneness and confusion, we, poor ministers, had nothing left but our prayers and tears: then, even then, it pleased the Most High to put it into the heart of our sovereign lord the king, eminently to appear in the cause of that God who hath so eminently appeared for him, and bath brought him through so many dangers and difficulties to the throne, and made so many mountains a plain before him, to testify against the debauchery and gross profaneness, which, like a torrent, had suddenly overspread the land. (Proclamation against Profaneness, Sec. &c.)
"Judge. Now blessed be the Lord, the King of kings, who hath put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, and blessed be his counsel, the good Lord recompense it sevenfold into his bosom, and let all the sons of Belial fly before him; as the dust before the wind, let the angel of the Lord scatter them.
"Prisoner. My lord, I and my retinue are very much deceived in this Charles the Second; we all conceited that he was for us. My drunkards cried, " A health to the king;" the swearers swore, " A health to the king;" the papist, the atheist, the roarer, and the ranter, all concluded that now their day was come; but alas 1 how are we deceived 1
"Judge. I wish that you, and all such as you are, may for ever be deceived in this kind, and that your eyes may rot in your heads before you ever see idolatry, superstition, and profaneness countenanced in the land.—Have you no more evidence to produce against these profane practices?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is an Ordinance of Parliament against them.
"Prisoner. My lord, I except against this witness above all the rest; for it was not made by a full and free parliament of lords and commons, but by some rump and relic of a parliament, and so is invalid.
"Judge. You are quite deceived, for this, ordinance was made by lords and commons when the house was full and free; and those the best that England ever had, for piety towards God and loyalty to their sovereign. Let us hear what they say.
"Ordinance of Parliament. My lord, I nave plainly told them, that since the profanation of the Lord's day hath been heretofore greatly occasioned by May-poles, the ords and commons do therefore ordain that they shall be taken down and removed,and that no May-pole shall be hereafter erected or suffered to remain within this kingdom, under the penalty of five shillings for every week, till such May-pole is taken down.*
This is to the purpose. This may clearly convince any sober man of the
sinfulness of such practices, and make them abhor them; for what is forbidden
by the laws of men, especially when those laws are consonant to the laws of
God, may not be practised by any person; but these profane sports being
forbidden by the laws of men, are herein consonant to the laws of God, which
condemn such sinful pastimes. Have you no more evidence besides this ordinance
to batter these Babylonish towers' "
Crier. Yes, my lord, here is the Solemn League and Covenant, taken in a solemn manner by king, lords, and commons, the assembly of divines, the renowned city of London, the kingdom of Scotland, and by many thousands of ministers and people throughout this nation.
"Prisoner. My lord, these things are out of date, and do not bind now our troubles are over.
"Judge. The sixth branch of the covenant will tell you, that we are bound all the days of our lives to observe these things zealously and constantly against all opposition; and I suppose every good man thinks himself bound to preserve the purity of religion, to extirpate popery, heresy, superstition, and profaneness, not only in times of trouble, but as duties to be practised in our places and callings all our days. Now if May-games and misrules do savour of superstition and profaneness, (as 'tis a| parent they do,)—if they be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness, (as to all unprejudiced men they are,)—then, by this solemn league and sacred covenant, we are bound to root them up. This is sufficient, if there were no more; but because men are loath to leave what they dearly love, let us see whether you have any further evidence?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is an excellent Order from the Council of State, made this present May, (1661,) wherein they take
*Ordinance of Parliament 1644.
notice of a spirit of profaneness and impiety that hath overspread the land; therefore they order, that the justices of the peace and commissioners for the militia do use their utmost endeavours to prevent all licentiousness and disorder, and all profanation of the sabbath; that they suppress all ale-houses, and all ungodly meetings; that they own and protect aH good men in theii pious and sober walking. The council doth likewise command them to have a specia. care to prevent profaneness and disorders of people about May-poles and meetings ot that nature, and their rude and disorderly behaviours towards people, in molesting them, to get monies to spend vainly at such meetings.
"Judge. This is full and to the point indeed, blessed be God, and blessed be their counsel. But have you yet no more evidence?
"Crier. Yes, my lord, here is Mr. Elton, a man eminent for piety, and of known integrity in his time; he hath long since told us, that such filthy company, where there is such filthy speeches and lascivious behaviour, with mixed dancing at their merry meetings, &c.; and therefore to be abhorred by all sober Christians.*
"To him assents that great divine, Dr. Ames, who tells us, that those who will shun incontinency and live chastely, must shun such profane meetings ; and take heed of mixed dancing, stage-plays, and such incentives.*;
"Prisoner. My lord, these were old puritans and precisians, who were more nice than wise.
"CriVr. I will produce men of another strain; here are bishops against you. Bishop Babington hath long since told us, that these sinful pastimes are the devil's festival, &c. being forbidden by scripture, which commands us to shun all appearance ot evil.J
"Here is also bishop Andrews, who tells us that we must not only refrain from evil, but also from the show of evil; and must do things honest not only before God, but also before men; to this end we must shun wanton dancing, stage-plays, fkc. because our eyes thereby behold much wickedness and a man cannot go on these hot coals and not be burnt, nor touch such pitch tnd not be defiled, nor see such wanton actions and not be moved §
* Elron*s Exposition of the Second Commandment. + Amen, Ca*. Con*. 1 v. c. 39. X Babington on the Seventh Commandment. } Bishop Andrews's Exposition of the SevenO- Coll' land meat.
"Judge. This is pious, and to tlie purpose; here is evidence sufficient; I shall now proceed to sentence.
"Crier. My lord, I desire your patience to hear one witness more, and then I have done.
"Judge. Who is that which comes so ate into court?
"Crier. My lord, 'tis the acute and accomplished Ovid.
"Prisoner. My lord, he is a heathen poet, who lived about twenty years before Christ.
"Judge. His testimony will be the stronger against your heathenish vanities. Publius Ovidius Naso, what can you say against mistress Flora f
"Ovid. My lord, I have long since told the world, that the senatorian fathers at Rome did order the celebration of these Floralian sports to be yearly observed about the beginning of May, in honour of Flora, that our fruits and flowers might the better prosper. At this feast there was drinking, dancing, and all manner, &c*
"Priioner. Sir, you wrong the poet, and may for ought I know wrong me, by wrapping up his ingenious narrative in so little room—
"Judge. I love those whose writings are like jewels, which contain much worth in a little compass.
"Crier. And it please you, my lord, we will now call over the jury, that the prisoner may see we have done her no wrong.
"Judge. Do so.
"Crier. Answer to your names—Holy Scripturet, One—Pliny, Two—Lactantius, Three—Synodus Francica, Four—Charlei the Second, Five—Ordinance of Parliament, six—Solemn League and Covenant, Seven—Order of the Council of State, Eight—Messrs. Elton oiirf Ames, Nine— Bishop Babington, Ten—Bishop Andrews, Eleven—Ovid, Twelve.—These, with all the godly in the land, do call for justice against this turbulent malefactor.
"Judge. Flora, thou hast here been indicted for bringing in abundance of misrule and disorder into church and state; thou hast been found guilty, and art condemned both by God and man,—by scriptures, fathers, councils,—by learned and pious divines,—and therefore I adjudge thee to
that thou no more distuib this church and state, lest justice do arrest thee."—
-The Table Book, of Daily Recreation and Information., William Hone, 1827.