In the days before centralised state welfare, each parish would have a poor box, into which the wealthier members of the community would put donations. The money was shared out among the destitute.
In Greek mythology, the shepherd god Pan fell in love with with the water-nymph Syrinx. To help her elude his clutches, her sisters transformed her into a reed. Still infatuated, Pan cut the reeds to make pipes so that he could keep her near him.
A similar tale concerns the nymph Lotis and the fertility god Priapus, known for his exceptionally large genitals. Finding Lotis asleep, Priapus attempted to rape her. But a braying ass caused him to lose his erection and woke the nymph up. Priapus carried on in his attempts until the gods turned Lotis into a lotus plant out of pity.
Love-making in this period meant being affectionate or flirting, not having sex. Tess is still very much a virgin.
The Tishbite was the prophet Elijah who, in 1 Kings 18:27 in the Bible, describes the heathen god Baal as neglecting his duties. Hardy is keen to show that he sees no distinction between heathen gods and the Judao-Christian God. Both are as bad as each other in his book.
Tishbite is taken to mean "stranger".
The word adultery in this context has a broader scope than we usually give it, and encompasses any form of sexual intercourse outside marriage. No doubt this is what rattles Tess.
Your first cousin is the child of one of your parents' siblings. Your second cousin is the grandchild of one of your grandparents' siblings.
For someone to be classed as your thirty-first cousin, you'd only have to be related by blood 31 generations back (roughly 1,000 years). This could really apply to anyone at all. The stranger you sit next to on the bus is probably more closely related to you than that.
Chants are musical settings of Psalms from the Bible. They are written out in a single line of music above the text, which is punctuated with dots and lines to show the singers when to change notes. The different chants are named after their (almost exclusively male) composers, so the composer of Tess's favourite chant would have been a Mr Langdon. When psalms are sung well, as in the video below, you can hear every word.
One of the many industrial innovations to revolutionise farming in the 19th century, reaping machines replaced the older technique of scything by hand.
They were generally welcomed for the speed they brought to harvesting, but Hardy here casts the reaping machine in quite a sinister light, reflecting his own unease about the erosion of the old rural ways of life.