PASTIMES, ANCIENT. Most of the recreations of our ancestors are resolvable into the public defence of the state against the attacks of a foreign enemy. " Every Friday in Lent," says Fitz-Stephen, " a company of young men comes into the field on horseback, attended and conducted by the best horseman: then march forth the sons of the citizens, and other young men with disarmed lances and shields; and there practise feats of war. Many courtiers likewise, when the king is near the spot, and attendants upon noblemen, do repair to these exercises; and, while the hope of victory does inflame their minds, they show by good proof how serviceable they would be in martial affairs." This evidently is of Roman descent, and brings to our recollection the Ludus Trojae, supposed to be the invention, as it was the common exercise, of Ascanius. In the vacant intervals of industry and labour, commonly called the holidays, indolence and inactivity, which now mark this portion of time, were found only in those who were distempered with age or infirmity. Fitz-Stephen says, " In Easter holidays they fight battles upon the water. A shield is hanged upon a pole, fixed in the middle of the stream. A boat is prepared without oars, to be borne along by the violence of the water ; and in the fore part thereof standeth a young man, ready to give charge upon the shield with his lance. If so be that he break his lance against the shield, and doth not fall, be is thought to have performed a worthy deed. If without breaking his lance he runs strongly against the shield, down he falleth into the water; for the boat is violently forced with the tide; but on each side of the shield ride two boats, furnished with young men, who recover him that falleth, soon as they may. In the holidays, all the summer, the youths are exercised in leaping, dancing, shooting, wrestling, casting the stone, and practising their shields; and the maidens trip with their timbrels, and dance as long as they can well see. In winter, every holiday before dinner, the boars prepared for brawn are set to fight, or else bulls or bears are baited." Such were the pursuits to which leisure was devoted by our forefathers so far back as 1130. Their immediate successors breathed the same spirit. In 1222, the sixth year of Henry III., certain masters in exercises of this kind made a public profession of their instructions and discipline, which they imparted to those who were desirous of attaining excellence and victory in these honourable achievements. About this period, persons of rank and family introduced the game of tennis; and erected courts or oblong edifices for the performance of it. In the reign of Henry III. the quintain was a sport much in fashion in almost every part of the kingdom. This contrivance consisted of an upright post, firmly fixed in the ground,upon the top of which was a cross piece of wood, moveable upon a spindle; one end of which was broad like the flat part of a ha1berd, while at the other end was hung a bag of sand. The exercise was performed on horseback. The masterly performance was, when, upon the broad part being struck with a lance, which sometimes broke it, the assailant rode swiftly on so as to. avoid being struck on the back by the bag of sand, which turned round instantly upon the stroke given, with a very swift motion. He who executed this feat in the most dexterous manner was declared victor. But if, upon the aim taken, the contender miscarried in striking at the broad side, his want of skill became the ridicule and contempt of the spectators. Dr. Plott, in his Natural History of Oxfordshire, tells us, that this pastime was in practice in bis time at Deddington. He and Matthew Paris give similar accounts. But all the manly pastimes seem to have given place to one indeed no less manly, which was archery. This continued till the reign of Charles I. It appears from 33 Hen. VIII. that, by the intrusion of other pernicious games, archery had been for a long time disused; to revive which, a statute was made towards the beginning of the reign of James I. He, to gratify the importunity of the common people, published a book of sports, in which the people had been some time before indulged on Sunday evenings, but which had been lately prohibited. These sports consisted of dancing, singing, wrestling, church ales, and oilier profanations of that day. Charles, his successor, in the very entrance of his reign, abolished these sports.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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