Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/296

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252 The Dancing- Tower Processions of Italy.

In the early morning of May 15th, 1903, the vigil of Sant' Ubaldo, the empty market-place and deserted streets of the poverty-stricken town showed little animation, for the real business of the Festa begins on the following day. Only crowds of boys, the most loquacious and ubiquitous of all their kind, attaching themselves firmly to our company, led the way to the shrine of the sweet Madonna Belvedere of Ottaviano Nelli, and the repository of those Eugubean Tables which are the pride of Gubbio. Towards midday, however, stalwart white-clad men wear- ing red caps, and with coloured scarfs round their necks and loins, began by twos and threes to make their ap- pearance. Following in their tracks, we visited in turns the various halls, where fast-day repasts of fish, fruit, and sweets, flanked by graceful wine-flagons and long loaves of bread, were served on narrow tables, and the whole population of Gubbio, male and female, poured in and out in an unending variegated throng. The scene was an animated one, and as the day wore on and the com- pany met together for the third time, the excitement became more intense. Now and again one or another of the Ceraioli, raising his wine-cup, broke through the hubbub of voices with the shout, " Viva Sant' Ubaldo, viva ! " and the cry, taken up by a comrade at a distant table, had the significance of the old refrain at the Thessalian banquets, " Evoe, Bacchus, evoe ! "

In the hall of the Cero of Sa-nt' Ubaldo the dignitaries of the town sat long over their cups, even though an interruption was effected by a rush to the kitchen window to show the visitors the ceremony of the baptism of the Cero. This took place before its elevation, when a man climbing on the barella broke a large clay vessel of water over the base of the tower. This curious custom is in- tended, it is said, to ensure the good quality of the new wine. Then, not without difficulty, the unwieldy structure was raised on the shoulders of twelve bearers, who at once