WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

Guess what happens this week!

If you guessed Valentine’s Day, you’re only partially correct. I was shooting for the day after Valentine’s Day, when candy goes on sale for half-price or more. Now that’s something to celebrate, amiright?!

Anyway. On to the Word of the Week.

The observation of St. Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival. That celebration involved lots of naked men running around the city spanking women’s bottoms, which was thought to increase their fertility. Ahem.

And like all good pagan rites of yore, Christians swooped in and usurped the pagan’s place in the festivities; after the death of Christ, February 14th became a date associated with the martyring of three different saints, all coincidentally named Valentine (or Valentinus, in the Latin of the day).

Now, the first documented association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love came with the publication of Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382:

Ye knowe wel how, Seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and through my governaunce,
Ye come for to chese — and flee your way —
Your makes, as I prik yow with plesaunce.

History also reveals a Frenchman (but, of course!) holds the honor as first to send a Valentine, although under tragic circumstances. After his capture following the Battle of Agincourt, the duc D’Orléans wrote a missive to his wife from his cell in the Tower of London. He addressed her as “my sweet Valentine.”

Poem from Charles, duc D’Orléans, to his wife in 1415. Photo courtesy BBC; original document at the British Museum.

Shakespeare brought the concept of Valentines and Valentine’s Day to the masses when  he penned Ophelia’s mournful song for Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5).

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door.
Let in the maid that out a maid
Never departed more.

The idea of sending notes specifically on Valentine’s Day took off in England, so much so that a how-to book was published in 1797, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer. The rampant popularity naturally meant the term would be adopted into the vernacular.

Hence this week’s timely slang term.

Valentine (noun)

The first woman seen by a man, or man seen by a woman, on St. Valentine’s day, the 14th of February, when it is said every bird chuses his mate for the ensuing year.

Early Valentines were personal and hand-made, specific to the tastes and feelings of the sender and recipient. Witness this lovely Puzzle Purse Valentine from 1816. The squares are numbered so that the message can be read in order as each section is opened. The final message or illustration takes the center spot. Who wouldn’t love to receive one of these?

Valentine Puzzle Purse, 14 February 1816. Image courtesy Nancy Rosin.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lushey

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lushey

I hope everyone had a Happy Twelfth Night!

It’s a holiday that goes largely unnoticed in the United States, so in case you missed it, consider reading up on it and possibly practicing it a few days late. That way, you’ll be ready for it next year! And you won’t fall into the wassail bowl like this week’s word.

Twelfth Night by Isaac Cruikshank, 1807, British Museum.

Lushey

Drunk. Example: The rolling kiddeys hud a spree, and got bloody lushey ~ the dashing lads went on a party of pleasure, and got very drunk.

First came the ancient Roman holiday Saturnalia, the December celebration of the god Saturn, and making of all things debauched and merry. As little gods were gradually swapped out for one single God, the old customs centered around the winter solstice morphed into traditions and customs of a Christian nature, that of the birth of the single Savior. The ‘Birthday of the Unconquered Sun‘ became the Birthday of Christ by the Medieval era.

Twelfth Night festivities resulted in response to the 40 days of Advent the preceded Christmas. And what better way is there to break a fast than with tons of food, drink, and a bit of frivolous mayhem? The Advent fast would break on Christmas day; partying continued for twelve days and ended with a Twelfth Night feast the evening before January 6th, also known as Ephiphany.

True devotees of Twelfth Night fun would appoint a Lord of Misrule. It was his job to organize all the feasting and fun. Selection of the Lord was also part of the entertainment and entirely up to chance: a bean was baked inside a cake. Receive the slice with the bean and be crowned Lord of Misrule, you lucky devil. The Tudors even included a pea in their cakes, to be crowned Queen of the Pea. I’m not sure of her honors beyond that dubious title.

Traditional Porter Cake for Twelfth Night, made with Porter Ale, courtesy Historical Foods.

By the Regency era, beans and peas were replaced by silver trinkets and charms, and Twelfth Night traditions became purely secular in practice. The Victorians gilded the lily by wrapping their cakes in crowns.

I knew about the infamous Twelfth Night Cake, but not so much about the drinking. It’s time for recipes! And for authenticity’s sake, they’re metric!

Buttered Beere

Forget whatever Harry Potter drank. This here be Tudor buttered beere. The kind that puts hair on your codpiece. (That sounded better in my head.)

Tudor Butterbeer Recipe
(‘Beer’ means what today in the UK is called a ‘real ale.’ It is not a lager, or German-styled beer.)

Recipe Ingredients:
1500 ml (3 bottles) of good quality British ‘real ale’
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
200g demerara (brown) sugar (adjust to taste)
5 egg yolks (yolks only are needed)
120g unsalted butter (diced)

For The Chilled or Warm Milk Version:
1500 ml of chilled or warm butter beer (as above).
1500 ml of cold or warm milk to mix with the butter beer

Authentic Recipe Method:
Pour the ale into a saucepan carefully (without exciting it too much) and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat this mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer on a low heat – the frothy ale will now clear. If this butterbeer is for adults then only simmer it for a few minutes on a low heat; for any younger adults, heat the ale like this for 20 minutes at 140C, (use a cook’s or jam thermometer). This will burn off almost all of the alcohol.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. You may need to make this drink for the first time and then decide on how sweet you like it (if it comes out too sweet for you, make it again using less sugar next time). However the amount of sugar stated is from the authentic recipe, (if later blending with milk, then it is the perfect amount).

Once the spiced ale is simmering, remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stir constantly, and return to a low heat, (you must stir constantly) until the liquid starts to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot again or the egg yolks will scramble and the sugar will burn on the bottom before dissolving. Simmer at this low temperature for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the diced butter until it melts. Then froth the Butterbeer mixture with a hand-whisk until it looks like frothy, milky tea – you can also follow the Tudor advice and pour the Butterbeer from serving jug to serving jug to froth it up (like Mr. Carson would pour wine from decanter to decanter to aerate it and let it breathe). Allow to cool to a warm, drinkable temperature, pour into small glasses or small tankards, and serve immediately.

Authentic buttered beere of 1588, served warm in small pewter goblets. Photo courtesy Historical Foods.

Traditional English Wassail

This is not hot, mulled cider. Let’s just get that misconception tossed in the rubbish bin straight out. It is hot, and it is mulled, but it’s closer to beer than any cider you’ve ever had. To be fair, we’re talking Medieval recipes here. Apples were involved, although more as a garnish. Slices of bread even factor into the ingredient list; original wassail had toast in the bottom of the pot, with hot wassail poured over.

Perhaps the association of wassail and apples came from the tradition of wassailing the apple trees, that of pouring leftover wassail around the roots of apple trees to ensure a good harvest the following year.

<insert your own joke here about how many people you know who ‘wassail their trees’ after a night of exuberant drinking at a party>

Lambswool (Hot Wassail)

1.5 Litres (3 x 500ml bottles or about 6 1/2 cups) of traditional real ale
6 small cooking apples, cored (Bramley apples)
1 nutmeg freshly grated
1 tsp ground ginger
150g (3/4 cup) brown sugar (demerara)

Ingredients for lambswool wassail. Photo courtesy recipewise.uk.co.

Preheat the oven 120C. Prepare the apples in advance and time it so that they are ready about half an hour before you want to put them into the Lambswool to serve. Core the 6 apples fully, getting rid of the pips. Lightly grease a baking tray, then place the apples on the baking tray about 6cm apart (they will swell up a little). Bake the apples for about an hour or so.

Now, while those are baking, grate yourself some nutmeg. In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan (they make the rockin’ world go ’round – still with me? Yes, it’s late and I should be in bed, and yes, I’ve taken my bronchitis cough syrup already.) with high sides, add the sugar. Cover the sugar in a small amount of the ale and heat gently. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved, then add in the ground ginger and the nutmeg. Stir, and keeping the pan on a gentle simmer, slowly add in all the rest of the ale. Leave for 10 minutes on a gentle heat as you deal with the apples.

Take the baked apples out of the oven to cool slightly for 10 minutes. Break open the apples and scoop out the baked flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin. Either mash them with a fork or purée them in a food processor until smooth, but not liquid. Think thick, dry applesauce. Add the apple purée into the ale – which is now called Lambswool – mixing it in with a whisk.

Let the saucepan continue to warm everything through for thirty minutes, on a very gentle heat, until ready to drink. When warmed through, use the whisk again for a couple of minutes (or use a stick blender) to briskly and vigorously froth the drink up and mix everything together. The apple and light froth will float to the surface, and depending on how much you have whisked it, the more it looks like lamb’s wool.

Ladle the hot Lambswool into heat-proof mugs or glasses, and grate over some nutmeg (to taste, because a little goes a long way). Or, pour the drink into a communal bowl (with several thick pieces of toast in the bottom if you want to be completely authentic) to pass around if you happen to be wassailing the local apple orchard.

Traditional Lambswool Wassail. Photo courtesy recipewise.uk.co.

Cheers!

 

  • Slang term from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • You can learn a lot about Twelfth Night at the more specifically-titled A History of the Twelfth Night Cake.
  • The Guildhall Library Newsletter also tells much about Twelfth Night in a post entitled merely Twelfth Night Cake.
  • Find the Porter Cake Recipe at Historical Foods. A cake from the Tudor era made with 300ml of Guinness? Yes, please!
  • Here’s the link to the Buttered Beere recipe from 1588 from ‘The Good Huswifes Handmaide.’ There’s also a link to the 1664 version from ‘The Accomplisht Cook.’
  • The Lambswool Wassail recipe came from Oakden, and my brother’s kitchen right before we bid farewell to Auld Reekie. Yum-o.
Happy Christmas (and load your e-reader book sale!)

Happy Christmas (and load your e-reader book sale!)

The flu.

For two years running now, I’ve been thus victimized. At Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year to eat, and I’ve been denied by fever, chills, and all over ickiness. This year, the husband and I are both down at the same time; we are simply praying our house doesn’t turn into a trial run of Lord of the Flies.

But my brain fever is your barn sale. A Wulf in Duke’s Clothing is just 99¢ from now til New Year’s. In fact, all the lovely ladies of the A Legend to Love series have priced their novels at that low-low price so we can all feed our hungry e-readers! Simply click the graphic below to grab your copy from your favorite online vendor (or click HERE to go to Amazon).

Each one of the full-length novels in the A Legend to Love Series features a legend taken from its own time and woven into the Regency era. You’ll meet our very own versions of Robin Hood, Mulan, Cuchulainn and Emer, Vlad Dracula, Odysseus and Penelope, Romulus and Remus, the Lady of the Lake, Beowulf, Tristan and Iseault, Pygmalion and Galatea, and Dick Whittington and his cat.

If I felt better, you’d get all the beautiful covers with direct buy links below. As I am passing out into my keyboard, I apologize for the lack of creativity and one simple link. But if you’ll scroll up to the A Legend to Love Series tab above, you will find my previous profiles of all the authors, with all their buy links at your preferred online vendor reflecting their sale price. Clicking the graphic below will take you to the Amazon series page, where all the novels are linked, too.

Through the relative safety of the internet, I wish you the Happiest of Christmases and Safest of New Year’s, and will see you back here for new posts after January greets us in all her (flu-free) glory!

Keep Calm and Read This: Paradise Regained by Jude Knight

Keep Calm and Read This: Paradise Regained by Jude Knight

I am so pleased and honored to welcome back author Jude Knight this weekend. She has three new releases in just about as many weeks (House of Thorns released on 26 October, and Abbie’s Wish in Christmas Babies on Main Street released two days ago on 1 November) and I have the pleasure of featuring release number three today: the novella Paradise Regained. Best of all, this little gem is tucked inside a Bluestocking Belles Holiday Collection, so Merry Christmas to all!

Here’s a bit of background about the collection’s connective theme, and a sneak peek into Jude’s story.

The Magic of the Ring

Magic rings are at least as old as literature, and probably as old as rings themselves. There’s something in a solid circle – no beginning and no end – that calls to the story teller in us, by the time stories began to be recorded, these stories had coalesced in tales of rings that made the wearer invisible, rings that summoned powerful spirits or armies or teams of magical workers, rings that conferred the ability to travel great distances in a flash, or speak with animals, or increase wealth, or protect the bearer from harm.

Rings have also long been associated with love, or at least with marriage. The ancient Egyptians saw the circle as symbolizing the promise of eternal love between a man and a woman. Imagery from ancient artifacts shows rings worn on what we now think of as the ring finger. The Egyptians believed a special vein from this finger connected directly with the heart.

The connection between rings and marriage continued through the ages. A Roman groom would put an iron ring on the finger of his bride, symbolizing that she now belonged to him. In the Middle East centuries ago, a husband would give his wife a puzzle ring – several rings that connected together in a complex fashion to make a single band. The idea was that if the wife took the ring off, she’d have trouble putting it back together again, and the husband would know she had been unfaithful (or at least scrubbing the vegetables).

The gimmel ring was a more benign form of puzzle ring – two pieces, worn by a medieval swain and his intended bride. At the wedding, the two halves would be put together for the bride to wear.

In Renaissance times, the poesy rings came into being – gold bands inscribed with a message of love and commitment. My own was such a ring. The message has worn away with nearly 50 years of wear, but it is still inscribed in my heart: Yesterday, today, forever.

And you can’t get more magic than that.

The Viking Ring in Follow Your Star Home

Follow Your Star Home, the Bluestocking Belles’ latest holiday box set, features a Viking ring, forged for lovers way back in the 9th century. In each of the eight stories in the box set, lovers are separated by space, misunderstandings, and the machinations of others. And in each, one of them has the ring. Is it magic? Does it have the power to bring lovers together? Read it and see.

Paradise Regained

Kopet Dag Mountains, 1794
In discovering the mysteries of the East, James has built a new life.
Will unveiling the secrets in his wife’s heart destroy it?

James Winderfield yearns to end a long journey in the arms of his loving family. But his father’s agents offer the exiled prodigal forgiveness and a place in Society — if he abandons his foreign-born wife and children to return to England.

With her husband away, Mahzad faces revolt, invasion and betrayal in the mountain kingdom they built together. A queen without her king, she will not allow their dream and their family to be destroyed.

But the greatest threats to their marriage and their lives together is the widening distance between them. To win Paradise, they must face the truths in their hearts.

“We are going home,” Yousef explained to Cecily, who had joined them for dinner at their fire, bringing her chief guard with her. James was happy to let him carry the burden of the conversation, while James brooded about the distance that still separated him from his family.

Yousef was also yearning for the valley. “We left in the spring, and it is now winter. It will be good to be at our own hearths again.”

Home,” she said, with a sigh. She looked down at the signet ring she wore on the middle finger of her left hand, a man’s ring surely, and an old one too, gold and crowned in a star. “A star to lead you home.” Looking up, she met James’s eyes. “The promise of the ring. It is from Viking times, or so they say, and is meant to be good luck for travelers.” More quietly, she added, “I, too, have been away from home for a long time.”

“What adventures bring you here, Cecily?” James asked. He had been burning with curiosity all afternoon. Had McInnes left her with enough wealth to travel? He would not have thought so, though she may have had other wealthy relatives to endow her in twenty years.

She chuckled, the wistful expression on her face disappearing as if it had never existed. “Too long a tale for such an evening, Lord James. We would be here all night, you and Yousef asleep from boredom, long before I was done.”

As she had all evening, she ignored Peter and her own guard, a Turk from Istanbul called Kamal. The Turkmen habit of regarding all men as equal, and of treating servants as family, was much more to James’s taste, but she could not help her upbringing. He would try not to hold it against her.

“Suffice it to say,” she continued, “that I left home to broaden my horizons, and I am now ready to return to England.” She turned to Yousef, leaning slightly toward him, and James was amused to realize she was trying to make him jealous. “I love the East, Yousef, but I miss my own land. I miss the green hills and the trees and flowers of home. I even miss the rain.”

“Have you been to Persia, Cecily?” Yousef asked. “You would love the gardens of Persia.”

“Persia, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt.” Cecily sighed. “They all have their beauties. None of them are home.”

Yousef quoted the thirteenth century Sufi poet, Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī.

“I burst my breast, striving to give vent to sighs, and to express the pangs of my yearning for my home. He who abides far away from his home is ever longing for the day he shall return.”

 

Paradise Regained is a novella in Follow Your Star Home, currently on prerelease and to be published on 4 November. Get your copy today!

 

 

 

For information about the other novellas in Follow Your Star Home, please see the Bluestocking Belles’ website.

 

Jude Knight wants to transport you to another time, another place, to enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, and delight in a happy ending.

She writes everything from Hallmark to Regency Noir, in different eras and diverse places, short, medium and extra-long. Expect decent men with wounded hearts, women who are stronger than they think, and villains you’ll want to smack or worse. and all with a leavening of humour.

Learn more about Jude at:
WEBSITE
NEWSLETTER
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
PINTEREST
BOOKBUB

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Elbow Grease (Revisited)

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Elbow Grease (Revisited)

I once heard a pastor say he always took his wife out to eat each Sunday so she wouldn’t have to work on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, a day of rest. It was evidently lost on him all the other people working in her place, from dishwashers to line cooks to patrol men keeping the streets safe for them to and from Cracker Barrel.

So, in honor of Labor Day in the USA, I’m taking a peek back at an earlier post for this holiday profiling portraits of the working class. Those who rarely had a day off, in honor of their labor or otherwise.

Young Woman Ironing by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1800, Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Elbow Grease

Labour. Elbow grease will make an oak table shine.

The Chocolate Girl by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1744-1775, Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden Germany.

A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen by Henry Robert Morland, 1765, Tate Museum.

Her First Place by George Dunlop Leslie, late 19th century, Christopher Wood Gallery.

Apple Dumplings by George Dunlop Leslie, 1880, Hartlepool Museums and Heritge Service.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

Hello, February.

The second month of the year in our Gregorian calendar, the only month with less than thirty days, and the only month whose name means both ‘Day of Purification’ (dies februatus, in Latin) and ‘Mud Month’ (Solmonath, in Old English). February’s flower is the violet and its birthstone the amethyst, the symbol of piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity. It’s also the month crammed full with such random holidays as National Freedom Day (1st), checking groundhogs for shadows (2nd), eating/drinking/merrying for Mardi Gras (13th), Chinese New Year (17th, et. al.), commemorating the birthdays of two Presidents (19th), and Rare Disease Day (28th). According to Holidays Calendar, there are over 160 things you can observe, celebrate, or just ponder during the month of February.

How on earth did February come to hold the responsibility for all things love? And since Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year, will anyone give up chocolate for Lent? Especially since my favorite day in February is the 15th, when Valentine’s candy goes 75% off at Target.

Thou hast no shame in the discount candy game.

It’s interesting to me that the shortest month of the year commemorates the very emotion that is supposed to encompass people wholly, truly, and 4-ever. Valentine’s Day falls smack in the middle of this month of amour – the same day every year – and yet stores are still overrun at 5:00pm that day with males desperate to find something their loves will find worthy.

The Pearl Necklace by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Art Renewal Center, New Jersey.

Might I suggest the word of the week?

Cold Pudding

This is said to settle one’s love.

Perhaps a little poetry wouldn’t go amiss. And chocolate. Must have all the chocolate.

The Lovers’ Tryst by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Bonhams Gallery, London.

 

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.