WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Happy New Year’s

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Happy New Year’s

 

A New-Year’s Eve
Bernard Barton

A NEW-YEAR’S EVE! Methinks ’tis good to sit
At such an hour, in silence and alone,
Tracing that record, by the pen unwrit,
Which every human heart has of its own,
Of joys and griefs, of hopes and fears unknown
To all beside; to let the spirit feel,
In all its force, the deep and solemn tone
Of Time’s unflattering, eloquent appeal,
Which Truth to every breast would inwardly reveal.

A New-year’s Eve! Though all who live on earth,
Or rich, or poor, or vulgar, or refined,
Have each a day from whence they date their birth,
In their domestic chronicles enshrined—
To-morrow is a birth-day for mankind!
One of those epochs to which all refer
Their measure of existence; in each mind
Be hope or fear its mute interpreter,
Of pleasure or of pain the silent chronicler.

It was no flight of fancy, then, in him,
Of proudest living bards the gifted peer,
Whose mental vision, purged from vapours dim,
Beheld “the skirts of the departing year!”
All who have eyes to see, or ears to hear,
Objects which every grosser sense defy,
Its parting footsteps catch with wakeful ear,
Its fading form behold with wistful eye,
‘Till lost in that dark cloud which veils eternity.

Is this the preacher’s cant? the poet’s dream?
But few in silent solitude would dare,
Unless deceived by ignorance extreme,
As such to brand it. Age’s silver hair,
Youth’s blooming cheek, and manhood’s brow of care,
What are they all but things that speak of time?
Nor lives there one, whatever form he wear,
Or rank he fill, who hears that midnight chime,
In whom it should not wake thoughts solemn and sublime.

Nature herself seems, in her wintry dress,
To own the closing year’s solemnity:
Spring’s blooming flowers, and summer’s leafiness,
And autumn’s richer charms are all thrown by;
I look abroad upon a starless sky!
Even the plaintive breeze sounds like the surge
On ocean’s shore among those pine trees high;
Or, sweeping o’er that dark wall’s ivied verge,
It rings unto my thought the old year’s mournful dirge.

Bear with me, gentle reader, if my vein
Appear too serious: — sober, but not sad
The thoughts and feelings which inspire my strain;
Could they with mirthful words be fitly clad?
The thoughtless call the melancholy mad,
And deem joy dwells where laughter lights the brow:
But are the gay indeed the truly glad,
Because they seem so? O, be wiser thou!
Winter which strips the vine, harms not the cypress’ bough.

There is a joy in deep thought’s pensive mood,
Far, far beyond the worldling’s noisiest mirth;
It draws from purer elements its food,
Higher and holier is its heavenly birth:
It soars above the fleeting things of earth,
Through faith that elevates, and hope that cheers;
And estimates by their enduring worth,
The cares and trials, sorrows, toils, and fears,
Whose varied shadows pass across this vale of tears.

Think not the sunny track, which lies thro’ flowers,
The sweetest or the safest course may be,
Though Fancy there may build her fairy bowers,
And Pleasure’s jocund train there wander free:
If heaven assign a thornier path to thee,
By clouds o’ershadow’d, start not at its gloom;
Wait patiently its onward course to see—
Those seeming thorns may bear unfading bloom,
And more than sun-set’s light rest on the opening tomb.

E’en flowers are sweetest after summer’s rain;
The sun shines brightest bursting from the cloud;
Pleasure is purest when it follows pain;
The moon smiles loveliest when, in beauty proud,
She breaks forth from her fleecy, silvery shroud;
Calm is the eve of many a stormy day;
The heart has joys it knows not in a crowd;
And those alone are happy, if not gay,
Who tread in patient hope life’s smooth or rugged way.

Then marvel not, at such an hour as this,
If, musing thus in silence and alone,
I feel a mournful, yet a soothing bliss,
In yielding up my spirit to the tone
Of sober thought and feeling round it thrown.
To render life a boon most justly dear,
Enough of sunlight on my path has shone;
More than enough of shadows dark and drear,
To bid in brightest moods my heart rejoice with fear.

If such be life, oh! who of its strange book
Shall turn, unmoved, a yet unopen’d page?
What eye with dull indifference coldly look
On what may be its changeful heritage?
The lone way-farer on his pilgrimage,
On each hill-top looks round with wistful eyes,
To see what warfare he must onward wage,
Or ponder well the lore the past supplies:
Are we not pilgrims all, whose home is in the skies?

And when we find another stage is won
On life’s important journey, when we gain
An eminence whence we may look upon
The path already trodden, not in vain
Should we review its pleasure or its pain;
He who refuses to retrace the past,
Must meet the future! wherefore then refrain,
Because life’s onward course seem overcast,
To look with steadfast eye on what may come at last?

To me the yet untrodden road presents
More clouds than sunshine, less to hope than dread;
And yet among its unforeseen events,
Some there may be to lift in hope the head,
O’er which thick mists of darkness now are spread:
If e’en the little hoped may prove untrue,
Bringing but disappointment in its stead,
Fear’s dark forebodings may deceive the view,
And life’s declining hours may wear a happier hue.

That he who lives the longest may out-live
Much that gave life its highest, purest zest,
Is true, though mournful; one by one we give,
In childhood, youth, or age, to earth’s cold breast,
The friends we’ve loved the fondest and the best:—
The very bells that now “ring out the year,”
Since morn arose, this painful truth imprest;
And sadly those who loved Thee paused to hear
Thy slow and solemn knell fall on the startled ear.

But can we mourn thee, gentlest friend, with grief
That knows no soothing hope? Oh! name it not;
All that can yield to anguish sweet relief,
Brightens the tear that mourns thy early lot;
A blameless life with no dark shade to blot
Its tranquil splendour, save its early end,
Was thine; unmourned, unhonoured, or forgot,
Thou didst not to the silent grave descend;
What most embalms the dead must with thy memory blend.

In one bereaved, in many a pensive heart,
Thy loved remembrance not e’en death can chill;
Strengthening that humble faith whose only chart
Is meek submission to the Almighty’s will:
For “tribulation worketh patience” still,
“Patience experience, and experience hope!”
And thus is power afforded to fulfil
Each duty, ’till the thorns with which we cope
Burst forth in grateful flowers, and resignation slope

Our passage to the tomb! Grief is a sad
Yet salutary teacher; not so stern
As many deem, although his brow be clad
With the cold flowers that wreathe the funeral urn!
And wise are they who stoop of him to learn;
If these are taught wherein their weakness lies,
Not less are they instructed to discern,
And praise His goodness who their strength supplies,
‘Till “crosses from His hand are blessings in disguise!”

When He, the pure and sinless One, came down
To sinful earth, our load of guilt to bear,
And teach us how to win a heavenly crown
By patient suffering, ’twas not His to wear
Joy’s smiling mien or mirth’s enlivening air;
By human folly, human crime untainted,
Of human woes he bore his ample share,
And in his mortal aspect still is painted
A man of sorrows deep, with darkest grief acquainted.

Rare at the banquet board, but often found
Where want, disease, and sorrow heaved their groan;
Whether he trod Gethsemane’s sad ground,
Or on the Mount of Olives prayed alone,
For us was grief’s dark vesture round him thrown;
Why? but to teach us how to kiss the rod,
And, “perfected through suffering,” to make known
That sorrow’s thorny path, if meekly trod,
Must guide his followers still to glory and to God.

Here then we reach the panacea, sought
In vain of old by proud philosophy,
Whereby e’en seeming ill with good is fraught,
And grateful tears gush from the mourner’s eye;
For holy faith’s all potent alchymy
Can do far more than language can express:
Beauty for ashes it can still supply,
Give joy for mourning, and the spirit dress
In the glad garb of praise for that of heaviness.

Has not the Christian cause then to exclaim,
Beyond the Greek philosopher of yore,
“EUREKA!” Shall a heathen’s transports shame
The meek disciple of a holier lore?
Thanks be to God, and praise for evermore!
There are whose spirits have been humbly taught
For darkest days his goodness to adore,
And own the mercy which has safely brought
Their feet thro’ rugged paths with thorns of anguish fraught.

For these have found, e’en in the seven-fold heat
Of trial’s fiery furnace, that His power
Can make the bitterest cup seem truly sweet,
And cheer with hope when clouds most seemed to lower:
His holy name hath been their fortress tower;
And faith in his dear Son who reigns above,
Has made them in temptation’s fearful hour,
Wise as the serpent, harmless as the dove,
And more than conquerors still thro’ their Redeemer’s love!

No more of sorrow. Think not I would fling
O’er brighter hearts than mine a sadd’ning shade,
Or have them, by the sober truths I sing,
Be causelessly dejected or dismayed.
My task has been to show how heavenly aid
May lighten earthly grief; how flowers may cheer
Even pale Sorrow’s seeming thorny braid;
And how, amid December’s tempests drear,
Some solemn thoughts are due unto the parting year.

My brighter task remains. “A NEW-YEAR’S EVE!
‘Tis not an hour to sink in cheerless gloom,
To take of every hope a mournful leave,
As if the earth were but a yawning tomb,
And sighs and tears mortality’s sole doom;
The Christian knows “to enjoy is to obey;”
All he most hopes or fears is in the womb
Of vast eternity, and there alway
His thoughts and feelings tend; yet in his transient stay

On this fair earth, he truly can enjoy,
And he alone, its transitory good;
The bliss of worldlings soon or late must cloy,
For sensual is its element and food;
The Christian’s is of higher, nobler mood,
It brings no riot, leaves no dark unrest,
Its source is seen, its end is understood,
Its light is that calm “sunshine of the breast,”
Sanctioned by Reason’s law, and by Religion blest.

To him the season, though it may recall
Solemn and touching thoughts, has yet a ray
Of brightness o’er it thrown, which sheds on all
His fellow-pilgrims in life’s rugged way,
Far more than sunshine; and his heart is gay!
Were all like his, how beautiful were mirth!
Then human feelings might keep holiday
In blameless joy, beside the social hearth,
And honour Heaven’s first law by happiness on earth.

Is not the hour just past when midnight laud
Sang peace on earth, proclaim’d good-will to man?
And would not e’en the coldest hearts be thawed,
Melted to feeling, did they rightly scan
Redemption’s merciful and gracious plan?
Oh! who the memory of that hour shall scorn,
Unless indeed misanthropy’s dark ban
Hath made the heart of every hope forlorn,
When the glad shepherds heard the glorious Child was born?

Then heap the blazing hearth, and spread the board,
Enlarge the circle, open wide the door,
Ye who are rich; and from your ample hoard
Clothe ye the naked, feed the hungry poor;
Impart to those who mourn their scanty store:
The measure that ye mete shall be your own;
Full measure, heaped, and pressed, and running o’er,
May here on earth requite the kindness shown,
And Heaven a richer boon hereafter shall make known.

Confine not to your equals, friends, or kin,
The charities this wintry hour demands;
‘Tis wise to cherish, good to gather in,
As to the heart’s own garner, all that stands
Linked to us by our nature’s strongest bands;
To greet the present, and to think of those,
As fondly loved, who roam in foreign lands,
In whose warm hearts perchance at distance glows
That yearning love of home the exile only knows.

All this is wise and good, and tends to keep
Nature’s best feelings actively alive;
To cherish sympathies which else might sleep
The sleep of death, and never more revive;
But not for these alone so hoard and hive
What Heaven has given you, as to limit there
Your hospitable rites; but rather strive
To let the wretched in your bounty share,
Remembering these were once your Lord’s peculiar care.

Give unto those who cannot give again,
Who have no claim upon you but distress;
Imagine not the boon bestowed in vain,
The blessing of the poor your wealth may bless,
And their prayers prove you worthy to possess
Your earthly substance: — e’en what you partake
Shall be enjoyed with truer happiness
For every grateful feeling you awake;—
Since God hath given to you, give others for His sake.

But banish from your hour of festive joy
The revel’s rude excess, the jest obscene;—
The orgies of the wicked ever cloy,
And harpy feasts, unholy and unclean,
But ill befit a Christian’s sober mien:
His mirth is cheerfulness that leaves no sting;
Nor would he change the happiness serene
Of hours that bear no stain upon their wing,
For all the boisterous joys which prouder banquets bring.

He who of such delights can judge, yet spare
To interpose them oft, is not unwise.
Thus Milton sang; the warbled Tuscan air,
The neat repast and light, his taste implies:—
Pure and refined that taste in Reason’s eyes,
And worthy of Religion’s high applause,
Which taught our noble poet how to prize
“The mirth that after no repenting draws,”
But can God’s gifts enjoy, yet keep His holy laws.

A New-year’s Eve! My fancy, wing thy flight,
Nor doubt that in thy native country dear,
There are who honour with appropriate rite
The closing hours of the departing year;
Who mingle with their hospitable cheer
Feelings and thoughts to man in mercy given,
Brightening in Sorrow’s eye the pensive tear,
And healing hearts by disappointment riven,
Their’s who o’er rougher seas have tempest-tost been driven.

And these are they who on this social eve
Its old observances with joy fulfil;
Their simple hearts the loss of such would grieve,
For childhood’s early memory keeps them still,
Like lovely wild-flowers by a chrystal rill,
Fresh and unfading; they may be antique,
In towns disused; but rural vale and hill,
And those who live and die there, love to seek
The blameless bliss they yield, for unto them they speak

A language dear as the remembered tone
Of murmuring streamlet in his native land
Is to the wanderer’s ear, who treads alone
O’er India’s or Arabia’s wastes of sand:
Their memory too is mixed with pleasures plann’d
In the bright happy hours of blooming youth;
When Fancy scattered flowers with open hand
Across Hope’s path, whose visions passed for sooth,
Yet linger in such hearts their ancient worth and truth.

And therefore do they deck their walls with green;
There shines the holly-bough with berries red;
There too the yule-log’s cheerful blaze is seen
Around its genial warmth and light to shed;
Round it are happy faces, smiles that spread
A feeling of enjoyment calm and pure,
A sense of happiness, home-born, home-bred,
Whose influence shall unchangeably endure
While home for English hearts has pleasures to allure.

And far remote be the degenerate day
Which dooms our thoughts in quest of joy to roam!
From the thatched, white-washed cot, tho’ built of clay,
To Wealth’s most costly, Grandeur’s proudest dome,
A Briton’s breast should love and prize his home:
Changeful our clime, and round our spot of earth,
Roused by the wintry winds, the white waves foam;
But here all household ties have had their birth,
And sires and sons been found to feel and own their worth.

Here the Penates have been worshipped long,
Not merely by the wood-fire blazing bright
By childhood’s pastime, and by poet’s song,
Though these have gladdened many a winter night,
And made their longest, darkest hours seem light;
But their’s has been the homage of the heart,
That far surpasses each external rite,
In which more quiet feelings have their part—
Smiles that uncalled for come, tears that unbidden start.

And though the world more worldly may have grown,
And modes and manners to our fathers dear
Be now by most unpractised and unknown,
Not less their spirit we may still revere;
Honoured the smile, and hallowed be the tear,
Given to these reliques of the olden time,
For those there be that prize them; as the ear
May love the ancient poet’s simple rhyme,
Or feel the secret charm of minster’s distant chime.

Thus it should be! their memory is entwined
With things long buried in Time’s whelming wave;
Objects the heart has ever fondly shrined,
And fain from dull forgetfulness would save;
The wise, the good, the gentle and the brave,
Whose names o’er History’s page have glory shed;
The patriot’s birth-place, and the poet’s grave,
Old manners and old customs, long since fled,
Yet to the living dear, linked with the honoured dead!

Once more, “A NEW-YEAR’S EVE!” My strain began
With sober thoughts, with such it well may end;
For when, oh! when, should these come home to man,
With such a season if they may not blend?
My gentle reader, let an unknown friend
Remind thee of the ceaseless lapse of time!
Nor will his serious tone thy ear offend
If love may plead his pardon for the crime
Of blending solemn truth with minstrel’s simple rhyme.

“I would not trifle merely, though the world
Be loudest in their praise who do no more;”
A standard is uplifted and unfurl’d;
The summons hath gone forth from shore to shore;
In thought’s still pause, in passion’s loud uproar,
Thine ear has heard that gentle voice serene,
Deep, but not loud, behind thee and before;
Thine inward eye that banner too hath seen;—
Hast thou obeyed the call? or still a loiterer been?

Canst thou forget who first on Calv’ry’s height
Lifted that glorious banner up on high,
While heaven above was wrapped in starless night,
And earth, convulsed with horror, heard the cry,
ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACTHANI?
Look back upon that hour of grief and pain;
For thee He came to suffer, and to die!
The blood He shed must be thy boon, or bane,
Let conscience answer which! He hath not died in vain.

Christ died for ALL. But in that general debt
He bled to cancel-dost not thou partake?
Is thine, too, blotted out? Oh! do not set
Upon a doubtful issue such a stake!
Each faculty of soul and sense awake;
Trust not a general truth which may be vain
To thee; but rather, for thy Saviour’s sake,
And for thy own, some evidence attain
For thee indeed he died, for thee hath risen again.

Are thy locks white with many long-past years?
One more is dawning which thy last may be;
Art thou in middle age, by worldly fears
And hopes surrounded? set thy spirit free,
More awful fears, more glorious hopes to see.
Art thou in blooming youth? thyself engage
To serve and honour HIM, who unto thee
Would be a guide and guard through life’s first stage,
Wisdom in manhood’s strength, and greenness in old age!

From A New Year’s Eve and Other Poems by Bernard Barton, 1828, London, by John Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly.

Read all Mr. Barton’s poems at Hathitrust Digital Library. See the excerpted poem, A New-Year’s Eve, courtesy the Spenserians.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Happy Christmas!

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Happy Christmas!

The Triumphal Procession of Merry Christmass to Hospitality Hall, published by William Holland, 1794, British Museum.

Here’s hoping your holiday is falling somewhere between the utter gluttony and drunkenness of this Georgian print, and the reverent words of Shakespeare below. Happy Christmas to all!

Some says, that ever ‘gainst that Season comes;
Wherein our Saviours Birth is celebrated,
The Bird of Dawning singeth all night long:
And then (they say) no Spirit can walk abroud,
The nights are wholesome, then no Planets strike,
No Fairy takes, nor Witch hath power to Charme:
So hallow’d, and so gracious is the time.

William Shakespeare
Hamlet ~ Act. I, Scene 2

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

T-minus one week to Christmas! Shall we go a-caroling?

Waits

Musicians of the lower order, who in most towns play under the windows of the chief inhabitants at midnight, a short time before Christmas, for which they collect a christmas-box from house to house. They are said to derive their name of waits from being always in waiting to celebrate weddings and other joyous events happening within their district.

Christmas-Carols by Henry Heath, 1835, The Lewis Walpole Library.

In my search to find out what Regency celebrants would sing – or have sung to them – while performing as waits at Christmas, I discovered a wonderful recording of two songs: The Gloucester Wassail and The Holly and the Ivy. While there are many more familiar Christmas songs to choose from during the Regency era (such as Greensleeves or Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella), I’ll leave those for other pens to illuminate. I’ve included links to other articles on those very songs, and others, but will focus my attention on the two mentioned above.

During the Georgian era, people would go from house to house singing the wassail song and carrying a wassail bowl, both of which were originally called waysail. Some carolers might use the bowl to hold actual drink or collect money, but most used it as a decoration, adorning their bowl with ribbons, berries, and greenery. This custom of “waysailing” was first noted in publication in the Times Telescope in 1813 Gloucestershire; however, the song is believed to date from as early as the middle ages. Nearly every village added their own lyrics to the song or tailored their customs to fit their burgh, but the general practices were the same, and remained relatively unchanged until the mid-20th century. The most popular version of the song remains as follows:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e’er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

The second song I’m profiling is familiar around the world to this day – The Holly and The Ivy. Holly and ivy have been the go-to decorations for British churches at Advent and Christmas since the 15th century, so it’s only natural a song would arise celebrating these beloved plants. Holly is often called Christ’s Thorn, while the ivy is said to symbolize Mary and her loving support of her divine Son. The words of this carol were first published in anonymous broadsides in Birmingham in the early 19th century, with William Hone first to document the title of the song in his 1823 publication, Ancient Mysteries Discovered. He dated the origin of the lyrics to the mid-17th century.

Ancient Mysteries Described by William Hone, 1823.

Various early 19th century sources do not provide music to accompany the lyrics, though by 1868 carolers are directed to sing The Holly and The Ivy to the tune of an unspecified “old French carol.” That’s not terribly helpful to the modern singer. The music we hear accompanying the lyrics today is immediately familiar to the listener’s ears, at a bare minimum, as a Christmas-y tune.

First verse from anonymous broadside of The Holly & Ivy, published by H. Wadsworth, Birmingham, 1814-1818.

For your delectation, I present The Gloucester Wassail sung by the Waverly Consort, and The Holly and the Ivy sung by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

And for those of a more modern nature, may I present English rock band Blur’s version of The Wassailing Song, presented and arranged by Gold, Frankincense, and Blur. So cool.

Let’s all go a-wassailing!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

Y’all, I am worn out.

This first full week of December nearly killed me. At least one event each night, at least one appointment during daylight hours, plus everyday-ness like school, household chores, and errands.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…or so I’m told. I’m feeling much more like the Word of the Week. But I will say Merry Christmas with a smile!

Queer Prancer

A bad, worn-out, foundered horse.

Whilst searching for illustrative caricatures, I stumbled upon Thomas Rowlandson’s series Horse Accomplishments. The second, third, and ninth plates of the series obviously fit this week’s definition of bad, worn-out, and/or foundered, but I thought to include the rest because they are delightfully wonderful. And the titles!! command!! your attention!!

Enjoy!

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 1, An Astronomer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 2, A Paviour!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 3, A Whistler!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.


Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 4, A Devotee!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 5, A Politician! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 6, A Time Keeper!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 7, A Civilian!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 8, An Arithmetician!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 9, A Loiterer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 10, A Minuet Dancer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 11, A Land Measurer! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 12, A Vaulter!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

A pestilence has descended upon my house. On me, specifically. Not nearly as dire as the cant definition of this week’s word, but enough to get me down, watching Netflix and using Kleenex faster than gossip travels through a small town.

Please forgive my brevity and, as usual, enjoy some Rowlandson and Gillray illustrations of the recordings of Mr. Grose.

Cannikin

In the canting sense, the plague. Otherwise, a small can.

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 29 March 1788, British Museum.

From the description in the British Museum:

The patient sits in profile to the left with chattering teeth, holding his hands to a blazing fire on the extreme left Ague, a snaky monster, coils itself round him, its coils ending in claws like the legs of a monstrous spider. Behind the patient’s back, in the middle of the room, Fever, a furry monster with burning eyes, resembling an ape, stands full-face with outstretched arms. On the right the doctor sits in profile to the right at a small table, writing a prescription, holding up a medicine-bottle in his left hand. The room is well furnished and suggests wealth: a carved four-post bed is elaborately draped. On the high chimney-piece are ‘chinoiseries’ and medicine-bottles. Above it is an elaborately framed landscape. Beneath the design is engraved: “And feel by turns the bitter change of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce.” Milton.’ 29 March 1788. Hand-coloured etching.

Hands-down the best description I’ve ever seen and read of illness. Fierce extremes, indeed.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

Every cloud has its silver lining.
It is what it is.
Call it even and go home.
Six of one, half dozen of another.
But did you die?

There are quite a few ways to simply say “it could have been worse.” Last week the term was Dutch Feast, meaning the host went into a drunken stupor before his guests. This week, I found another term with Dutch in its name. I need to take a stroll down a rabbit trail or three and find out why the Dutch were a favorite slang adjective.

But it’s nigh on December and that means writing, parties, concerts, plays, shopping, and myriad other deadlines are nipping at my heels, so deep diving into Google is not on the agenda. I think I’ll just claim this week’s word for the whole month.

Very Slippy-Weather by James Gillray, 10 February 1808, The Trustees of the British Museum.

Dutch Comfort

Thank God it is no worse.

Miseries of Travelling by Thomas Rowlandson, 1807, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The inscription reads:

Just as you are going off with only one other person on your side of the coach, who you flatter yourself is the last- seeing the door suddenly opened and the L and lady coachman guard [illegible] craning shoving buttressing up an overgrown puffing, greazy human Hog of the bucher or grazier breed. The whole machine straining and groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket- by dint of incredible efforts and contrivances the Carcase is at length weighed up to the door where it has next to struggle with various obstructions in the passage.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the ability to travel by coach rather than foot? Even if another adult sits in your lap the entire journey?

Matrimonial-Harmonics by James Gillray, 25 October 1805, The Trustees of the British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

The couple torment each other in the breakfast-room. A round table is drawn close to a blazing fire. The lady has left her seat to thump on the piano, singing loudly, with her back to her husband, but turning her eyes towards him. He sits in the corner of a sofa, crouching away from her, his hand over his ear, food stuffed into his mouth, reading the Sporting Calendar. The pages of her open music-book are headed Forte. Her song is: ‘Torture Fiery Rage \ Despair I cannot can not bear’. On the piano lies music: Separation a Finale for Two Voices with Accompaniment; on the floor is The Wedding Ring – a Dirge. She wears a becoming morning gown with cap, but has lost the slim grace of early matrimony and her soft features have coarsened. Behind the piano a boisterous coarse-featured nurse hastens into the room holding a squalling infant, and flourishing a (watchman’s) rattle. On the lady’s chair is an open book, The Art of Tormenting, illustrated by a cat playing with a mouse. Her sunshade hangs from the back of the chair. On the breakfast-table are a large hissing urn, a tea-pot, a coffee-pot, &c., a bottle of ‘Hollands’ (beside the woman’s place), and a full dish of muffins. The man’s coffee-cup is full and steaming. He wears a dressing-gown with ungartered stockings and slippers. An air of dejection and ill-nature replaces his former good-humoured sprightliness. Under his feet lies a dog, ‘Benedick’, barking fiercely at an angry cat, poised on the back of the sofa. A square birdcage high on the wall is supported by branching antlers. In it two cockatoos screech angrily at each other, neglecting a nest of three young ones. Beside it on the left is a bust of ‘Hymen’ with a broken nose, and on the right a thermometer which has sunk almost to ‘Freezing’. On the chimney-piece is a carved ornament: Cupid asleep under a weeping willow, his torch reversed, the arrows falling from his quiver. This is flanked by vases whose handles are twisted snakes which spit at each other.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the fact that the single life is firmly behind them, that they will never be alone – or left alone – again? Or in the fact that each can have only one spouse to torment? And that there is only one squalling infant?

At least the dreaded mother-in-law is not also in residence.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and you need to treat yourself to a terrific book as a reward for the hours spent preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the holiday feast. Look no further than this week’s guest, bringing just the thing to present to give yourself for another holiday in the books. It’s a pleasure to welcome Donna Hatch to share with us what she’s learned about smooching under the yuletide greenery, and introduce us to her newest novel, Christmas Secrets.

Mistletoe Kisses

Is it just me, or does the image of sharing a long-awaited kiss underneath a mistletoe sprig create all kinds of delicious images? Mistletoe kissing is a time-honored tradition. Like many holiday customs, kissing under the mistletoe has pagan origins, and the custom has evolved over time. Most sources trace it back to ancient Scandinavia but it spread to England and much of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Probably because it was one of the few plants that stayed green during the winter, Celtic druids believed mistletoe contained magical properties of vitality. They seemed to have been oblivious to that fact that it is a parasitic plant that lives off trees. Apparently, they viewed mistletoe as the tree’s spirit revealing signs of life when the rest of the tree looked dead during winter. Also, oak mistletoe is rare compared to that found in fruit trees, so the druids believed mistletoe growing on oak trees was rare and more powerful. Since these druids thought mistletoe had life-giving powers, they conducted fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of oak mistletoe for sick cattle and other animals.

People also looked to it for protection.

According to the Holiday Spot:

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.

Eventually, a practice in Scandinavia developed for hostile parties to gather underneath mistletoe to negotiate peace. Even quarreling husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe, and kissed to seal their renewed love and commitment to their marriage. Other herbology claims mistletoe is both an aphrodisiac and an abortive plant, which might be why some of the earliest customs involved more than an innocent kiss. But we won’t go into that.

Over time, the custom of kissing moved indoors. Sometimes the ball or sprig of mistletoe was decorated with ribbons, holly, apples, oranges and other fruits. Some people hung mistletoe below figures of the infant Christ, Mary, and Joseph.

In some parts of Europe and Great Britain, arriving guests kissed their host’s hand under a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway. Eventually a custom sprang up to have maidens wait under the mistletoe in the hopes that a young man would kiss her with the expectation that he would marry her within a year. If she didn’t get kissed, she had little expectation of marrying that year, sorta like a marriage fortune teller.

A young man who kissed a girl under the sprig or bough of mistletoe traditionally plucked off one of the white berries. When all the berries were plucked, the kissing, at least while under the mistletoe, also ceased.

I often see people mistake mistletoe with holly. Mistletoe has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries. Holly has green, glossy, ragged-edged leaves and red berries.

By the Regency Era, the custom of mistletoe kissing no longer came with strings attached. It became an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman. Maidservants stood underneath a decorated ball of mistletoe in a doorway to indicate her willingness to kiss in exchanged for a coin.

In my newest novel, Christmas Secrets, an innocent mistletoe kiss leads to a startling realization.

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets is available now – get your copy right now!

 

 

Best-selling author, Donna Hatch, is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish twenty historical romance titles, including the award-winning “Rogue Hearts Series.”  She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six (yes, that is 6) children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

Sources: