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the Welch man wold haue a pursse, he praied to Darvel Gatherne. If a wife wer weary of her husband she offred otes at Poules at Londo, to S. Uncumber. Thus haue we bene deluded with their images."
A little later on the dialogue continues : “Oliue. Cannest thou saye the Lordes praier ? “ Nich. Nay, nor our Ladies neither. I can say mi Pater Noster.
Oliu. What is Pater Noster ? “ Nich. Mary, Pater Noster : What cā ye make of it?
“ Oliver. But why have you not learned the Lordes praier in English al this while ?
Nic. Sir Jho bade me kepe to mi old pater noster, for he said the newe wold not abide alway. And nowe I see he is a true
The passage has been quoted by many writers, but has now been carefully collated with the original.
That invaluable storehouse of curious information, Notes and Queries, supplies an illustration of the offering of oats to an image from a rare poem ascribed to Henry Bradshaw, and printed by Pynson :*
"Among all myracles after our intelligence
Whiche Radegunde shewed by her humilite,
Among the common people noted with hert fre
At her lady aulters where myracles in sight
Dayly haue be done by grace day and nyght.
Hath ben restored vnto prosperite;
Sicke men delyuered from payne and miserie,
Wyddowes defended from greuous oppression,
And clerkes exalted by her to promocion.” The oaten offerings appear to connect St. Rhadegund with St. Uncumber. The legend of St. Rhadegund
1 Signature C. ii. b, iii. a.
2 Signature C. 8. 3 In Christopher Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Biography, fourth ed., 8vo, London, 1853, vol. i, p. 310; in Brand's Popular Antiquities, edited by Sir Henry Ellis, 8vo, Lond., 1853, vol. i, p. 359; in Notes and Queries, series i, vol. i, p. 287 ; and in other places.
4 There is a copy of the poem in the library of Jesus College, Cambridge. - Notes and Queries, ser. I, vol. iii, p. 404.
affirms that once, when closely pursued, a crop of oats sprang up miraculously and concealed her from her followers.
The learned editor of Notes and Queries, Mr. W. J. Thoms, editor when that valuable publication first made its welcome appearance, supplies yet another allusion to the saint, in the words :
' And the commending hiniselfe to the tuition of S. Uncumber, or els our blessed Lady.”
The reference given is Harsenet's Discouerie, etc., p. 134: the book referred to is :
“A Discovery of the Fraudulent practises of John Darrel Bacheler of Artes in his proceedings concerning the pretended possession and dispossession of William Somers at Nottingham, etc. London. Imprinted by John Wolfe. 1599.”2
The Epistle to the Reader is signed S. H., and the writer was Samuel Harsnet,
successively Bishop of Chichester and Norwich, and Archbishop of York. The present writer not having been fortunate enough to find the passage, though he has looked through the 324 pages of which the book is composed, was led to suspect a wrong reference, and, at the suggestion of a friend, found the
in “A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures, to withs-draw the harts of Her Maiesties Subiects from their allegeance, and from the truth of Christian Religion professed in England, under the pretence of casting out deuils.
Practised by Edmynds, alias Weston a Iesuit, and diuers Romish Priests his wicked associates . . . At London. Printed by Iames Roberts, dwelling in Barbican. 1603.3"
The preface addressed “ To the Sedveed Catholiques of England” is signed, “ Yours in Christ S. H.” The whole passage is full of interest,' from its allusions to many superstitions of our forefathers.
How were our children, old women, and maides afraid to crosse a Church yeard, or a three-way leet, or to goe for spoones into the
Notes and Queries, series 1, vol. ii, p. 342.
Kitchin without a candle ? and no merueile. First, because the deuil comes from a smoakie blacke house, he, or a lewd frier was still at hand, with ougly hornes on his head, fire in his mouth, a cowes tayle in his breech, eyes like a bason, fangs like a dogge, clawes like a Beare, a skinne like a Neger, and a voyce roaring like a Lyon; then boh, or oh, in the dark was enough to make their haire stand vpright. And if that the bowl of curds and creame were not duly set out for Robin gooil-fellow the Frier, and Sisse the dairy-maide, to meete at hinch pinch, and laugh not, when the good wife was a bed, why then, either the pottage was burnt to next day in the pot, or the cheese would not curdle, or the butter would not come, or the ale in the fat would neuer have good head. But if a Peeter-penny, or an houzle-egge were behind, or a patch of tyth vnpaid to the Church (lesu Maria) thē ware where you walke for feare of bull-beggers, spirits, witches, vrchins, Elues, hags, fairies, satyrs, Pans, Faunes, Sylnans, Kit with the candlesticke, Tritons, Centaurs, Dwarfis, Giants, impes, Calcars, coniurors, Nymphs, chunglings, scritchowles, Incubus the spurne, the mare, the man in the oake, helwayne, the fire drake, the puckle, Tom thumbe, hobgoblin, Tom-tumbler, Boneles, and the rest and what girl, boy, or old wisard would be so hardy to step ouer the threshold in the night for an halfpenny worth of mustard amongst this frightful crue, without a dozen aucmaries, two dozen of crosses surely signed, and halfe a dozen Pater nosters, and the commending himselfe to the tuition of S. Vncumber, or els our blessed Lady.”
A few words, by way of glossary, seem necessary to render the passage intelligible. A Bull-beggar is a hobgoblin ; an urchin, a fairy or spirit; calcars are astrologers ; Incubus the spurne, an evil spirit; Helwayne, a supernatural waggon seen in the sky at night; the fire drake is either a fiery dragon or meteor ; Boneless, a kind of ghost ; Puckle, probably the same as Puck.
(See Ritson's Essay on Fairies, p. 45 quoting Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584.)
It would appear from the words “commending himselfe to the tuition of S. Vncumber” that the saint was venerated by men as well as by women.
But perhaps the most interesting of all the references to St. Uncumber is that furnished by John Heywood, in his curious play, “ The Four PP”.
Here is the title of what is believed to be the earliest edition :
1 Marginal note : "See Scot's book of Witches."
The playe called the four PP.
“Imprynted at London in Flete strete at the sygne of the George by Wyllyam Myddylton.” 1
The play opens with a long speech by the Palmer, in which he enumerates a great many places of pilgrimage which he had visited. He had been to Hierusalem, to the Mount of Caluery, to Josophat and Olyuete, to Rome.
" Then at the Rodes also I was
Deuotly haue I prayed and gone."
And here the inquirer is met by a preliminary difficulty. Surely never was any saint designated by such a perplexing and copious variety of names !
1 British Museum.
Press mark (C. 34. c. 43].
Thus, Father Cahier' says, that in the North :
“le nom de Liberata donné à la sainte à cause de la façon dont le Ciel l'avait débarrassée du mariage, la fit appeler à peu près sainte Débarras. Cela est devenu en Allemagne : Ohnkummer, Oh!kummernuss, Kummernis, Kummernissa, Sancte-Gehulf. En Flandre: Ontcommera, Onkommera, Ontcommene, Regentlegis, Regnufledis. En Angleterre : Sainte Uncumber. En France : Sainte Livrade. Et en différents pays, pour les livres liturgiques, Liberata, Liberatrix, Eutropia, etc.
“ Par suite de cette dénomination, était venue en Angleterre l'idée que le sainte pouvait être particulièrement secourable aux femmes qui voulaient se débarrasser de leurs maris. La Revue Britannique (Janvier, 1852, p. 231), a consacré quelques détails à cette singulière dévotion Anglaise et à la légende primitive.”
The Bollandist fathers devote no less than twenty folio pages of the Acta Sanctorum to the history and legend of St. Uncumber. At the very outset they acknowledge the difficulty of their task :
“De Sancta in titulo proposita acturus vastum ingredior labyrinthum, qui tot tamque variis semitarum amfractibus est implexus, ut mihi vix ullum ex eo exitum promittere ausim.”
It seems, indeed, an almost hopeless labour to attempt to unravel the tangled thread of this strange story; it will be enough to give a few of its salient features.
Seldom, surely (as has been said already), has any saint been known to her worshippers by so many names : names so various, so dissimilar. In many places in Belgium she is called St. Liberata, or Wilgefortis, and in che vernacular Oncommera, or Ontcommena; which Flemish words are said to have some affinity with the Latin Liberata. Others, in Belgium, not satisfied with these four names, call her Liberatrix, Eutropia, Regrufledis, or Regenflegis. They agree, however, in saying that this “ polyonyma Sancta” was the daughter of a King of Lusitania.
In France, in the days of Charlemagne, she was known
i Caractéristiques des Saints dans l'Art populaire ; enuméreés et expliquées par le P. Ch. Cahier, de la Compagnie de Jésus. 4to, Paris, 1867, p. 121.
2 Acta Sanctorum. De S. Liberata alias Wilgeforte Virgine et Martyre. July 20, pp. 50-70.