Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/400

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breast of the corpse just before the grave was filled up. In the same line above there is a reference to the hanging of pirates and mutineers at the seaside in such a position that the waves at high tide would wash over the body.

It was a curious custom of the time to shave the head just before death. This custom is referred to in Measure for Measure (iv. 2). "O, death's a great disguiser; and you may add to it. Shave the head and tie the beard; and say it was the desire of the penitent to be thus bared before his death: you know the course is common."

The passing bell was originally tolled by the sexton at the moment of death as a help towards the driving away of the evil spirits. It was also expected that whoever heard the passing bell should meditate for a moment on his own sins, and breathe a prayer for the dying.

"No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly, sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world."

"And now his grief may be compared well
To one sore sick that hears the parting bell."

Subsequently, however, the practice of ringing the bell at the moment of death was given up, though it continues to this day to be rung at