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Written by Hunter   
Monday, 17 November 2008 00:11

10 to 100 players.

Indoors; out of doors.

The players are divided into two lines and stand facing each other, with a distance of about ten feet between. Each line numbers off in twos, and the players in each line take hold of hands. The following dialogue takes place between the two lines, all of the players in a line asking or answering the questions in unison. The lines rock forward and backward during the dialogue from one foot to another, also swinging the clasped hands forward and backward in time to the rhythm of the movement and the words. The time should be rapid.

The first line asks:—

"How many miles to Babylon?"

Second line:—

"Threescore and ten."
"Will we be there by candle light?"
"Yes, and back again."
"Open your gates and let us through."
"Not without a beck [courtesy] and a boo [bow]."
"Here's a beck and here's a boo,
Here's a side and here's a sou;
Open your gates and let us through."

As the players in the first line say, "Here's a beck and here's a boo," they suit the action to the words, drop hands, and make each a courtesy, with wrists at hips for the "beck," and straighten up and make a deep bow forward for the "boo"; assume an erect position and bend the head sideways to the right for "Here's a side," and to the left for "Here's a sou." Then the partners clasp hands and all run forward in eight quick steps in the same rhythm as the dialogue that has been repeated, each couple passing under the upraised hands of the opposite couple, which represent the city gates. Having taken the eight steps, the running couple turns around, facing the other line from the opposite side. This is done in four running steps, making twelve steps in all. The couples that made the gates then turn around in four running steps (a total of sixteen steps or beats) until they face the first line, when they in turn begin the rocking motion and the dialogue, "How many miles to Babylon?" This is repeated indefinitely, each line being alternately the questioners and the gates.

The time in which the lines are repeated and the accompanying movements should be very brisk and rapid, so as to give life and action to it. The start forward in the run when the couples pass through the gates should be made with a decided stamp or accent on the first step; and the last step with which they turn in place, facing the line after they have passed through the gates, should have a similar accent. The questions and answers should be given with varied intonation to avoid monotonous singsong.

Mrs. Gomme ascribes the origin of this game to a time when toll was required for entrance into a city, or for the carrying of merchandise into a walled town. The form here given is of Scottish origin, gathered by the writer, and is different from any published versions that have been consulted.

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