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the term was derived from the wastell, vessell or basket in which the bread was made, or carried or weighed; an etymology which is with great reason contested by Dr. Milner in his paper on the Glastonbury cup. The latter writer is of opinion, that during the times of wasselling a finer sort of bread was provided, which on that account was called wassel-bread; and other persons had already conceived that the bread in question took its name from being dipped in the wassel-bowl. As a preliminary objection to these conjectures, it must be observed that the genuine orthography of the word is wastel, and not wassel, which is undoubtedly a corruption, and has led to much misconception. The earliest instance in which mention is made of wastelbread is the statute 51 Henry III., entitled Assisa panis et cerevisiae; where it is coupled with the simnel bread, which was made of the very finest flour, and twice baked. It appears
from the same statute that wastel-bread was next in fineness to the simnel, and is described as white bread well baked. There does not seem therefore any reason for concluding that the wastel bread was in particular, but in general use at all seasons. We are told by Hoveden the historian, that at an interview which took place
between William king of Scotland and Richard the First, at Northampton, a charter was granted to the Scotish monarch, in which it was agreed, that, whenever he should be summoned to the English court for the performance of homage, his daily allowance, among other things, should consist of twelve simnels and as many wastels. In Matthew Paris's history of the abbots of Saint Alban's, p. 141, it is said of the abbot; "Solus in refectorio prandebit supremus, habens vastellum." It is surprising how Mr. Watts the editor should misconceive the meaning of this word so much as to call it a canopy; nor is it indeed much less extraordinary that Dr. Milner, who is so well skilled in ecclesiastical antiquities, should have supposed it to signify a wassel-bowl. The regulation is general, and it had escaped the learned writer's recollection that wasselling was of a particular season; for it could not be applied in its subordinate sense of revelling or rioting, to so grave a person as an abbot. The Doctor might have been misled by the authority of Mr. Blount in his edition of Cowel's law dictionary, where the conjecture on the part of Mr. Somner, that the wastel bread might have been derived from pastillus, is termed unlucky; but, as it is presumed, without sufficient reason, although it may not be
the exact origin of the expression. Chaucer, speaking of his Prioress, says;
"Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde
With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel-brede."
We cannot suppose that these animals would have been regaled with a food which was set apart for particular festivities, but rather with what was to be procured at all times, though of a more delicate and expensive nature. In short, what seems to be the most probable original of this much disputed word is the French gasteau, anciently written gastel, in the Picard language ouastel or watel, and signifying a cake; a name which might with great propriety have been applied to this sort of bread on account of its superior quality, in like manner as the simnel bread was so termed from the Latin simila the finest part of the flour. The cake-like form, too, of this kind of bread seems to be alluded to in the following extract from the register of William of Wykeham, which has been quoted by Bishop Lowth for a very different, but, as it is submitted, inap. plicable purpose: "Octo panes in wastellis, ponderis cujuslibet wastelli unius miche conventualis," i. e. eight loaves in the form of wastels or cakes, the weight of each being that of a conventual
manchet. And to conclude this part of the subject, in the old French language the term was telier is used for a pastry-cook or maker of wastiaux, where it is not likely that there could have been any connexion with our wassel in its Saxon and legitimate construction. What the heralds call torteauxes, in reality little cakes, from the French tourte, were likewise termed wastels, as we learn from the old book on coat armour ascribed to Dame Juliana Bernes, the celebrated abbess of Sopewell near Saint Albans.
The wassel songs were sung during the festivities of Christmas, and, in earlier times, principally by those itinerant minstrels who frequented the houses of the gentry, where they were always certain of the most welcome reception. It has indeed been the chief purpose in discussing the present subject, to introduce to the reader's notice a composition of this kind, which is perhaps at the same time to be regarded as the most ancient drinking song, composed in England, that is extant. This singular curiosity has been written on a spare leaf in the middle of a valuable miscellaneous manuscript of the fourteenth century, preserved in the British Museum, Bibl. Reg. 16, E. viii, It is probably more than a century older
than the manuscript itself, and must have been composed at a time when the Norman language was very familiar in England. In the endeavour to translate it some difficulties were to be encountered; but it has been an object to preserve the whole and sometimes literal sense of the original, whilst from the nature of the English stanza it was impossible to dispense with amplification.
AN ANGLO-NORMAN SONG.
Seignors ore entendez a nus,
De loinz sumes venuz a wous,
Car lem nus dit que en cest hostel
A hi cest jur.
Deu doint a tus icels joie d'amurs
Seignors jo vus di por veir
Ke DANZ NOEL ne velt aveir
Si joie non ;
E repleni sa maison,
De payn, de char & de peison,
Por faire honor
Deu doint a tuz ces joie damur.