Monday, April 30, 2012
Song on a May Morning
Now the bright morning-star, day's harbinger,
Comes dancing from the east, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth and youth and warm desire!
Woods and groves are thy dressing,
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
John Milton (1608-1674)
John Milton's best known work is 'Paradise Lost' but the lovely poem above was written when he was a student at Christ's College in Cambridge.
Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass
From 'A Shepherd's Calendar' by John Clare
Sumer is i-cumin in,
Lhude sing, cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wude nu.
Say the words out loud and they will make more sense:) These are the first few lines of the oldest known English part song, it was written in the mid 13th century.I can remember learning to sing it in music lessons at school when I was 12 or 13 years old. (The word 'sing' is used very loosely here!) It's written in Middle English, the language of Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales. In case you're struggling it translates:
Summer is a-coming in,
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And springs the wood anew.
Mead means meadow here, not the rather scrummy alcoholic drink made from honey!
I heard my first cuckoo yesterday morning - I was so pleased as I was worried that their falling numbers and the poor weather might mean that I wouldn't hear that wonderful herald of early summer this year.
When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight
The lines are from 'Love's Labours Lost' and the photos show the 'daisies pied'. If you click on the second one to enlarge it you can see that the some of the daisies are pink and white which is what makes them 'pied'.
This is Beltane when the door to summer opens and all the beauty of vibrant new life awaits us in the merry month of May - hopefully with rather more in the way of blue skies and sunshine than we've seen lately:) For the ancient Celts the day ran from sunset to sunset which is why this post appears on the 30th April:) So onward we go for
The dust coloured cuckoo
Cries welcome O Queen!
For winter has vanished,
The thickets are green.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The photo of my granddaughters has nothing to do with the post, I just like it :) Kaitlyn, who is hidden behind her mug, was 6 last Sunday and Lucy is just turned 3.
What I'm doing is just noting that I've gone back to the old interface for as long as it lasts as I really dislike the new one, it's pale and insipid and doesn't work properly. Many thanks to Jenny of An English Travel Writer who left a comment on another Jenny's blog Codlins and Cream saying how to go back. I shall pass it on to others who may like to do the same. You click on Design, click on the tools icon then select Blogger Options on the right of the page and hey presto! Sadly it seems this option will be removed soon but while it's there I'm going to use it. I know I'm far from alone in disliking the new set up and I wish Blogger would let well enough alone. Change isn't always progress!
Monday, April 23, 2012
April 23rd is the feast day of St George, Patron Saint of England. St George's name was invoked to his soldiers by Henry V in his speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and after the tremendous victory against all the odds St George's Day was elevated to become a feast day as important as Christmas in the English church calendar.
Today is also the anniversary of both the birth and the death of William Shakespeare so in celebration of both England's patron saint's day and of her greatest playwright I am posting these stirring words written by William Shakespeare and spoken by Henry V during the Battle of Agincourt.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height! On, on, you noblest English!
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof;
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought,
And sheath’d their swords for lack of argument.
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and,upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England and Saint George!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
From the splendours of the castle we are now back to the homes of ordinary people, this is the Mountain Farmhouse from the upland Sliabh Luachra district where the counties of Cork,Kerry and Limerick meet. I can't pronounce the name of the district but I love to see as well as hear the Gaelic language. The family who lived here would have had about half a dozen cows and their calves along with chickens and pigs. They would also have earned extra income from turf cutting the turf being sold in the local town.
Both dogs are really friendly but especially Fionn, the grey one, who is a leaner - and being leaned against by a dog who is pretty much shoulder high to you is something you notice:)
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I arrived in Ireland a day ahead of my American friends and so once I had checked in to the Bunratty Castle hotel and had a spot of lunch I decided to spend the afternoon at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. The cottages and houses in the Folk Park are replicas of buildings from the Shannon region (Clare, Limerick and North Kerry) and all represent Irish rural life as it was in the early 1900s. The small farmhouse above is from the coastal region of south west Clare and would have been lived in by a family who earned their living from both small scale farming and fishing.
On the shelves is a collection of liquor jugs, drinking vessels and wine bottles.