The following account of a notice, which was scarcely authorised, shows the homely manners of former days. It was at Sapiston Church, a small village on the Duke of Grafton’s estate. The grandfather of the present Duke was returning from a shooting expedition, and was passing the church on Sunday afternoon while service was going on. The Duke quietly entered the vestry, and signed to the clerk to come to him. The Duke gave the man a hare, and told him to put it into the parson’s trap, and give a complimentary message about it at the end of the service. But the clerk, knowing his master would be pleased at the little attention, could not refrain from delivering both hare and message at once before the whole congregation. At the close of the hymn before the sermon he marched into a prominent position holding up the gift, and shouted out, “His Grace’s compliments, and, please sir, he’s sent ye a hare.”
In giving out the hymns or Psalms many difficulties of pronunciation would often arise. One clerk had many struggles over the line, “Awed by Thy gracious word.” He could not manage that tiresome first word, and always called it “a wed.” The old metrical version of the Psalm, “Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks,” etc. is still with us, and a beautiful hymn it is:
“As pants the
hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase.”
A Northumbrian clerk used to give out the words thus:
“As pants the
‘art for coolin’ streams
When ’eated in the chaise,”
which seems to foreshadow the triumph of modern civilisation, the carted deer, a mode of stag-hunting that was scarcely contemplated by Tate and Brady.
SLEEPY CHURCH AND SLEEPY CLERKS
There was a time when the Church of England seemed to be asleep. Perhaps it may have been that “tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep,” was only preparing her exhausted energies for the unwonted activities of the last half-century; or was it the sleep that presaged death? Her enemies told her so in plain and unvarnished language. Her friends, too, said that she was folding her robes to die with what dignity she could. Lethargy, sloth, sleep—a dead, dull, dreary sleep—fell like a leaden pall upon her spiritual life, darkening the light that shone but vaguely through the storied panes of her mediaeval windows, while a paralysing numbness crippled her limbs and quenched her activity.
Such scenes as Archbishop Benson describes as his early recollection of Upton, near Droitwich, were not uncommon. The church was aisleless, and the middle passage, with high pews on each side, led up to the chancel-arch, in which was a “three-decker,” fifteen feet high. The clerk wore a wig and immense horn spectacles. He was a shoemaker, dressed in black, with a white tie. In the gallery sat “the music”—a clarionet, flute,