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The Tenby guisers' play

(This version appears in Tales and Traditions of Tenby, published by F B Mason in 1858, and was lifted wholesale by Edward Laws for his book Little England Beyond Wales, which appeared in 1888.)

"We must not omit to mention one other custom which is fast going to decay, we mean the Christmas mummers, or "guisers". For three weeks before and after Christmas they are accustomed to go their rounds, mostly three in company, in a quaint guise, when every house is visited by them and leave to enter requested. When admitted, they hold dialogues in doggerel rhyme, and as the subject of it embraces kings, knights, princesses ­ nay, even Beelzebub himself ­ we may be excused if we lay the dialogue verbatim before our readers. As each of the three during the dialogue represent various characters, they shall be designated Nos 1, 2 and 3:

NO 1: Here comes I, old Father Christmas,
Christmas or not,
I hope old Father Christmas
Will never be forgot.
A room ­ make room here, gallant boys,
And give us room to rhyme,
We've come to show activity
Upon a Christmas time.
Acting youth or acting age,
The like was never acted on this stage;
If you don't believe what I now say,
Enter St George and clear the way.

NO 2: Here comes I, St George, the valiant man,
With naked sword and spear in hand,
Who fought the dragon, and brought him to the slaughter,
And for this won the King of Egypt's daughter. (Occasionally the King of England's daughter).
What man or mortal will dare to stand
Before me with my sword in hand;
I'll slay him and cut him as small as flies,
And send him to Jamaica to make mince pies.

NO 3: Here comes I, a Turkish knight,
In Turkish land I learned to fight,
I'll fight St George with courage bold
And if his blood's hot, will make it cold.

NO 2: If thou art a Turkish knight,
Draw out thy sword and let us fight.

(A battle is the result; the Turk falls, and St George, struck with remorse, exclaims:

NO 2: Ladies and gentlemen,
You've seen what I've done,
I've cut this Turk down
Like the evening sun;
Is there any doctor that can be found
To cure this knight of his deadly wound?

NO 1 (metamorphosed): Here comes I, a doctor,
A ten pound doctor;
I've a little bottle in my pocket,
Called hokum, skokum, alicompagne;
I'll touch his eyes, nose, mouth and chin,
And say: Rise, dead man, and he'll fight again.

(After touching the prostrate Turk, he leaps up again ready for the battle. St George, however, thinks this to be a suitable opportunity for sounding his own praises, and rejoins:)

Here am I, St George, with shining armour bright;
I am a famous champion, also a worthy knight.
Seven long years in a close cave was kept,
And out of that into a prison leaped,
From out of that into a rock of stones,
There I laid down my grievous bones.
Many a giant did I subdue
And run a fiery dragon through.
I fought the man of Tillotree
And still will gain the victory.
First, then, I fought in France,
Second, I fought in Spain,
Thirdly, I came to Tenby,
To fight the Turk again.

(The notion of St George coming to Tenby to fight the Turk is not quite as absurd as at first sight may seem. In the 17th century, and at the beginning of the last, the Barbary corsairs, who were usually comprised under the name of Turks, not unfrequently made their appearance in the Channel, and sometimes landed suddenly, attacked a defenceless village, and carried off into slavery any of the inhabitants who fell into their hands.­TW)

(A fight ensues, and St George, being again victor, repeats his request for a doctor, who succeeds, as before, in making a miraculous cure, and at once comes forward as the Protector)

Here comes I, Oliver Cromwell,
As you may suppose,
Many nations have I conquered
With my copper nose.
I made the French to tremble
And the Spanish for to quake,
I fought the jolly Dutchman,
And made their hearts to ache.

(No 2 then changes his character into that of "the gentleman in black.")

NO 2: In comes I, Beelzebub,
And under my arm I carry a club.
Under my chin I carry a pan,
Don't I look a nice young man?

(The main object of the visit is delicately hinted by No 3)

NO 3: Ladies and gentlemen, our story is ended,
Our money box is recommended;
Five or six shillings will not do us harm,
Silver, or copper, or gold if you can.

(After this appeal has been responded to, St George, the Turk, Doctor, Oliver Cromwell, and Beelzebub, take their departure.)

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Last updated 08 March 2010 . Copyright © 1999 Celfyddydau Mari Arts.