“England is a strong land and a sturdy, and the plenteousest corner of the world… England is full of mirth and of game, and men oft-times able to mirth and game; free men of heart and with tongue.”
Source: Angles at Play – Crisis Magazine
An interesting take, from a Roman Catholic perspective, on the relationship between England’s “land of mirth and game,” and the English spirit, and spirituality – particularly as expressed in traditional faith and practice during the centuries of medieval catholicism, but continuing well into the modern era, especially in more rural (and thus, typically, traditional) areas:
“The English have a genius for play. Which other nation of Christendom has at the center of its villages not just a church but a field for sport? Along with the church and pub, the quintessential center of the English village is the cricket green…
“The origins of sport lie in the recreations and pastimes of pre-modern rural people. The agrarian and religious calendar shaped popular recreation as it did nearly every other aspect of English culture. From the land full of mirth and game, originated the primordial forms of many of the sports the world enjoys today.
“During the Middle Ages, the Church’s feast days were firmly embedded in England’s seasons of agricultural labor. Plough Monday, spring-time celebrations, harvest feasts, and autumn fairs were vital moments within the rhythm of organic English society. Robert Malcolmson notes how feast days were the occasion for festive leisure and for archaic forms of contemporary sports.
“Most of the saints’ days fostered in medieval England were tragically suppressed during the English Reformation, but many of the associated customs survived. Parish feasts (known as wakes) continued into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while the principal holidays—Christmas, Shrovetide, Easter, May Day, and Whitsuntide—continued to be observed despite the best efforts of the essentially urban puritan movement.”
Well worth a read!