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Of Sports and Pastimes.
Representation of Miracles.
London, instead of common interludes belonging to the theatre, hath plays of a more holy subject; representations of those miracles which the holy confessors wrought, or of the sufferings, wherein the glorious constancy of martyrs did appear.
Of Cock-fighting and Ball.
Moreover, that we may begin with the school of youth, seeing once we were all children : yearly at Shrove-tide, the boys of every school bring fighting, çocks to their masters, and all the foreņoon is spent at school, to see these cocks fight together. After dinner, all the youth of the city goeth to play at ball in the fields; the scholars of every study have their balls. The practisers also of all trades have every one their ball in their hands. The ancienter sort, the fathers and the wealthy citizens, come on horse back to see these youngsters contending at their sport, with whom, in a manner, they participate by motion; stirring their own natural heat in the view of the active youth, with whose mirth and liberty they seem to communicate.
Sports in Lent.
Every Sunday in lent, after dinner, a company of young inen ride out into the fields on horses which are fit for war, and principal runners : every one among them is taught to run the rounds with his horse.
The citizens' sons issue out through the gates by troops, furnished with lances, and warlike shields; the younger sort have their pikes not headed with iron, where they make a representation of battle, and exercise a skirmish. There resort to this exercise many courtiers, when the king lies near hand, and young striplings out of the families of barons and great persons, which have not yet attained to the warlike girdle, to train and skirmish. Hope of victory inflames every one: the neighing of fierce horses bestir their joints and chew their bridles, and cannot endure to stand still : at last they begin their race, and then the young men divide their troops ; some labour to outstrip their leaders, and cannot reach them; others fling down their fellows, and get beyond them.
In Easter holidays they counterfeit a sea fight: a pole is set up in the middle of the river, with a target well fastened thereon, and a young man stands in a boat which is rowed with oars, and driven on with the tide, who with his spear hits the target in his passage; with which blow, if he brakė the spear and stand upright, so that he hold footing, he hath his desire ; but, if his spear continue unbroken by the blow, he is tumbled into the water, and his boat passeth clear away; but on either side this target, two ships stand in ward, with many young men ready to take him up, after he is sunk, as soon as he appeareth again on the top of the water: The spectators stand upon the bridge, and in solars upon the river to behold these things, being prepared for laughter.
Upon the holidays all summer the youth is exercised in leaping, shooting, wrestling, casting of stones, and throwing of javelines fitted with loops for the purpose, which they strive to fling beyond the mark; they also use bucklers, like fighting men. As for the maidens, they have their exercise of dancing and tripping until moon-light.
Fighting of Boars, Bulls, and Bears.
In winter, almost every holiday before dinner, the foaming boars fight for their heads, and prepare with deadly tusks to be made bacon; or elsс some lusty bulls or huge bears, are baited with dogs.
Sport upon Ice.
When that great moor which washeth Moor-fields, at the north wall of the city, is frozen over, greať companies of young men go to sport upon the ice; then fetching a run, and setting their feet at a distance, and placing their bodies sidewise, they slide a great way. Others take heaps of ice, as if it were great mill-stones, and make seats : many going before, draw him, that sits thereon, holding one another by the hand in going so fast, some slipping with their feet, all fall down together : some are better practised to the ice, and bind to their shocs bones, as the legs of some beasts, and hold stakes in their hands headed with sharp iron, which sometimes they strike against the ice; and these men go on with speed as doth a bird in the air, or darts shot from some warlike engine: sometimes two men set tbemselves at a distance, and run one against another as it were at tilt, with these stakes, wherewith one or both parties are thrown down, not without some hurt to their bodies; and after their fall, by reason of the violenţ motion, are carried a good distance from one another, and wheresoever the ice doth touch their head, it rubs off all the skin and lays it bare; and if one fall upon his leg or arm, it is usually broken : but young men greedy of honour, and desirous of victory, 'do thus exercise themselves in counterfeit battles, that they may bear the brunt more strongly, when they come to it in good earnest.