Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/387

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303
BIRTH—BAPTISM—ETC.

entertainments. But high and low, rich and poor alike made much of the wedding feast. All sorts of dishes were cooked in great variety, especially many kinds of highly spiced cakes and drinks.

As the festivities drew to a close on the evening of the wedding day the women present took off the bride and put her to bed. Later, the same was done by the men for the groom. The ceremony of blessing the bridal bed, which followed, is thus described by the antiquary, Mr. Jeafrison (Brides and Bridals, i. 98): "On the evening of the wedding day, when the married couple sat in state in the bridal bed, before the exclusion of the guests, who assembled to commend them yet again to heaven's keeping, one or more priests, attended by acolytes swinging to and fro lighted censers, appeared in the crowded chamber to bless the couch, its occupants, and the truckle bed, and fumigate the room with hallowing incense."

Shakespeare had the custom in mind when he wrote the words for Oberon:

"Now until the break of day,
Through the house each fairy stray.
To the best bride bed will we,
Which by us blessed shall be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate."

"It is recorded in France," Mr. Dyer tells us,