This section is from the book "Drinks Of The World", by James Mew. Also available from Amazon: Drinks of the world,.
Of this horn Dugdale 1 says: "About this time also, Ulphe, the son of Thorald, who ruled in the west of Deira,2 by reason of the difference which was like to rise between his sons, about the sharing of his lands and lordships after his death, resolved to make them all alike; and thereupon, coming to York, with that horn wherewith he was used to drink, filled it with wine, and before the altar of God, and Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles, kneeling devoutly, drank the wine, and by that ceremony enfeoffed this church with all his lands and revenues. The figure of which horn, in memory thereof, is cut in stone upon several parts of the choir, but the horn itself, when the Reformation in King Edward the Vlth's time began, and swept away many costly ornaments belonging to this church, was sold to a goldsmith, who took away from it those tippings of gold wherewith it was adorned, and the gold chain affixed thereto; since which, the horn itself, being cut in ivory in an eight square form, came to the hands of Thomas, late Lord Fairfax."
1 Hist. Account of the Cathedral Church of York, Lond., 1715, p. 7.
2 That division of the ancient kingdom of Northumberland, which was bounded by the river Humber southwards, and to the north by the Tyne.
He, dying in 1671, it came into the possession of his next relation, Henry, Lord Fairfax, who restored its ornaments in silver-gilt, and restored it to the cathedral authorities. It bears the following inscription:
"cornv hoc, vlphvs in occidentali parte
Deirae princeps, vna cum omnibvs terris et redditibvs suis olim donavit.
Amissvm Vel Abreptvm.
Henricvs dom. Fairfax demvm restitvit.
Dec. et capit. de novo ornavit.
A.D. Mdc. LXXV."
Most of us know Longfellow's poem of King Wit-laf's drinking horn, a story which may be found in Ingulphus, who says that Witlaf, King of Mercia, who lived in the reign of Egbert, gave to the Abbey of Croyland the horn used at his own table, for the elder monks of the house to drink out of it on festivals and saints' days, and that when they gave thanks, they might remember the soul of Witlaf the donor. That they had some horn of the kind is probable, for the same chronicler says that when the monastery was almost destroyed by fire, this horn was saved.
Besides the liquors above mentioned, the Anglo-saxons had others, as we see in a passage of Henry of Huntingdon (lib. vi.), which is probably an invention, the same story being told by Florence of Worcester, of Caradoc, the son of Griffith, a.d. 1065. However, he says that in 1063, in the kings palace at Winchester, Tosti seized his brother Harold by the hair, in the royal presence, and while he was serving the king with wine; for it had been a source of envy and hatred that the king showed a higher regard for Harold, though Tosti was the elder brother. Wherefore, in a sudden paroxysm of passion, he could not refrain from this attack on his brother.
Tosti departed from the king and his brother in great anger, and went to Hereford, where Harold had purveyed large supplies for the royal use. There he butchered all his brother's servants, and inclosed a head and an arm in each of the vessels containing wine, mead, ale, pigment,1 morat,2 and cider, sending a message to the king that when he came to his farm he would find plenty of salt meat, and that he would bring more with him. For this horrible crime the king commanded him to be banished and outlawed.
There is no doubt but that the Anglo-saxons drank to excess, and thought no shame of it. Many times in Beowulf are we told of their being dragged from the mead-benches by their enemies and slaughtered, and in a fragment of an Anglo-saxon poem on Judith we read:
"Then was Holofernes Enchanted with the wine of men: In the hall of the guests
1 A liquor made of honey, wine, and spice.
2 Honey, diluted with the juice of mulberries.
He laughed and shouted,
He roared and dinn'd,
That the children of men might hear afar,
How the sturdy one
Stormed and clamoured,
Animated and elate with wine
He admonished amply
Those sitting on the bench
That they should bear it well.
So was the wicked one all day,
The lord and his men,
Drunk with wine;
The stern dispenser of wealth;
Till that they swimming lay
All his nobility
As they were death slain,
Their property poured about.
So commanded the lord of men,
To fill to those sitting at the feast,
Till the dark night
Approached the children of men."
Even the clergy and monks drank probably more than was good for them, for a priest was forbidden by law to eat or drink at places where ale was sold. But that did not prevent their drinking at home; their benefactors provided well for that, as one instance will show. Ethelwold allowed the Monastery of Abingdon a great bowl, from which the drinking vessels of the brothers were filled twice a day. At Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the Nativity and Assumption of the Virgin, on the festivals of Saints Peter and Paul, and all the other saints, they were to have wine, as well as mead, twice a day; and taking the number of Saints in the Anglo-saxon Calendar, it must have gone hard with them, if this was not almost an every-day occurrence.
The Northern nations did not lose their love of drink as time rolled on, as we may find in the pages of Olaus Magnus. They drank wine, but owing to the extreme cold it was not of native production, but imported. In this illustration we see the vessel that has brought it, and the bush outside, denoting that it was to be sold. They got it from Spain, Italy, France, and Germany, but he says that the wine most in repute was a Spanish wine called Bastard, which Shakspeare mentions more than once, as (I Henry IV. act ii. sc. 4) Prince Henry relating his adventures with a drawer, says, "Anon, anon, sir ! Score a pint of Bastard in the Half Moon."
He gives receipts for making Hydromel, or Mead, which was to be made of one part honey, and four of boiling water, to be well stirred, boiled, and skimmed. Hops were then to be added, then casked, and brewers' yeast added. Then to be strained, and it was fit for drinking in eight days. He tells a pathetic story of King Hunding, who being sorely grieved at the loss of his brother-in-law, Gutthorm, called all his nobility around him to a great feast, and had a large tun, filled with hydromel, placed in the middle of the hall. When his guests were sufficiently inebriated, he threw himself into the liquor, and died sweetly.
Beer had they, made of malt and hops, and he gives various methods of brewing, and also a list of divers beers and their medicinal qualities.
He also gives an illustration of various drinking vessels then (16th cent.) in use among the Danes and Swedes, where is here reproduced. Here we see some plain, others ornamental with runes, and some with very curious handles. He says they were mostly of brass, copper, or iron, because in that cold climate the liquor they held had to be warmed over the fire.
An old translation of a portion of his Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus gives the following account "Of the manner of drinking amongst the Northern People."
"It will not displease curious Readers to hear how the custom is of drinking amongst the Northern People. First, they hold it Religion to drink the healths of Kings and Princes, standing, in reverence of them; and here they will, as it were, sweat in the contention, who shall at one or two, or more draughts, drink off a huge bowl. Wherefore they seem to sit at Table as if they had Crowns on their heads, and to drink in a certain kind of vessel; which, it may be, may cause men that know it not, to admire it. But that were more admirable to see the servants go in a long train, in troops, as Pastours of Harts with horns, that they may drink up those Cups full of beer to the Ghests. And, not content with these Ceremonies, they will strive to shew their Sobriety, by setting such a high Cup full of Beer upon their naked heads, and dance and turn round with it; in like manner they deliver other Cups which they bring in both hands to the Ghests to drink off, at equall draughts, which are full of Wine, Ale, Mede, Metheglin, or new Wine."
He winds up with a moral dissertation on the punishment of drinkers, and, after detailing the various effects of alcohol on different races, as rendering the Gaul petulant, the German quarrelsome, the Goth obstreperous, and the Finn lachrymose, he suggests that drunkards should be seated on a sharp wedge, compelled to drink a mighty horn of beer, and then be hauled up and down by a rope. J. A.