South Downs Smugglers and Coastguards.

I walked a National Trust section of the South Downs this morning, from Went Hill to Brass Point.

Walking, my mind was full of mariners tales, coastguards, forgotten villages and smugglers- all fighting to survive in the rugged and wild conditions.

I will never tire of this landscape and its rich history!

A Smuggler’s Song.

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street;
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson,
Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, 
While the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again — and they’ll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining’s wet and warm — don’t you ask no more!

If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you “pretty maid,” and chuck you ‘neath the chin,
Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house — whistles after dark —
You’ve no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie —
They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you’ve been told, ‘likely there’s a chance,
You’ll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood —
A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson,
‘Baccy for the Clerk;
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie —
Watch the wall, my darling,
While the Gentlemen go by!

By Rudyard Kipling.

The Jackdaw.

Went for a winter walk up here:

Sussex Downs

And saw several of these little chaps:

Jackdaw

These cheeky little birds love humans and anything shiny. They pair for life and stalk around with a dignified bearing. They love human structures and a church steeple is an ideal spot to set up home:

‘A great frequenter of the church, Where bishop like, he finds a perch And dormitory too’

William Cowper (18th century poet).

They have their place in folklore too. A jackdaw on the roof meant a new arrival, or could mean an early death . Encounter one on the way to wedding and this was meant to bring good luck.

Sitting against a stone wall, with a flask of tea and a slice of homemade cake they entertained me on a sunny January morning.

The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Elliot.

I love this poem. The nitty, gritty of the journey to see Mary and Joseph’s baby. The feeling of ‘I could be somewhere else other than on this damn journey’:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Look to the Rainbow 🌈

Every colour of the rainbow visible.

Rainbow over Eastbourne Pier 23 December 2020

‘Look, look
Look to the rainbow.
Follow it over the hill
And the stream.
Look, look
Look to the rainbow.
Follow the fellow
Who follows a dream.’

Look to the Rainbow. Finian’s Rainbow (Musical fantasy , 1968)

Somewhere over there might be a better 2021 for us all.

Saint Andrew’s Day.

Today (30 November) is Saint Andrew’s Day- the feast day of Andrew the Apostle and Scotland’s national day.

Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland,was born between the years 5 AD and 10 AD in a place that is now part of Israel. According to Christianity, he went on to become one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. Andrew’s brother, Simon Peter, was also one of the disciples. They both lived in Galilee, where they were fishermen.

St Andrew never actually stepped foot in Scotland his whole life! So why is he their Patron Saint? One story says that in the 9th Century, King Angus in Scotland was preparing for a battle against the English. St Andrew appeared to King Angus in a dream promising him victory and on the day of the battle, an X symbol appeared in the sky, which was the symbol of St Andrew. He vowed that if they won, St Andrew would be made the patron saint of Scotland – and that is exactly what happened.This is why the Scottish flag has the X-shaped cross on it, as it is St Andrew’s symbol.

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day Scotland.

Goblin Market (again)

By Christina Rossetti

Stumbled across this guy on a walk at the weekend. So had to do another Goblin Market post…!

Batemans, Burwash East Sussex.

‘…

So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I toss’d you for a fee.”—
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One call’d her proud,
Cross-grain’d, uncivil;
Their tones wax’d loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbow’d and jostled her,
Claw’d with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots,
Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat…’

(Extract)

Tree folklore.

Ents are a race of beings in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world Middle-earth who closely resemble trees. They are similar to the talking trees in folklore around the world. Their name is derived from the Old English word for giant.

en.m.wikipedia.org › wiki › Ent

I like to think that Sheffield Park Gardens in East Sussex has its own Ents.

Autumn walk and trees and toadstools. Magical season.

Goblin Market

By Christina Rossetti.

Goblin Market (published in 1862) is a narrative poem which tells the story of Laura and Lizzie who are tempted with fruit by goblin merchants. It is one of my favourite poems generally and my favourite Rossetti poem in particular.

Evening by evening 
Among the brookside rushes, 
Laura bow’d her head to hear, 
Lizzie veil’d her blushes: 
Crouching close together 
In the cooling weather, 
With clasping arms and cautioning lips, 
With tingling cheeks and finger tips. 
“Lie close,” Laura said, 
Pricking up her golden head: 
“We must not look at goblin men, 
We must not buy their fruits: 
Who knows upon what soil they fed 
Their hungry thirsty roots?” 
“Come buy,” call the goblins 
Hobbling down the glen. 

“Oh,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.”
Lizzie cover’d up her eyes,
Cover’d close lest they should look;
Laura rear’d her glossy head,
And whisper’d like the restless brook:
“Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.”
“No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.”
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat’s face,
One whisk’d a tail,
One tramp’d at a rat’s pace,
One crawl’d like a snail,
One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

… (extract)

It’s a fairytale world of temptation and mystery, exploring themes of temptation, sacrifice and salvation.

Ancient themes magically visited in beautiful lyrical language.

Groundhog Day

Folklore and Tradition

Groundhog Day

My diary tells me that today, Sunday 2 February 2020 is Groundhog Day in the USA and Canada. I didn’t really have any idea about what this meant, apart from a vague notion of a film and the same day happening over and over again, so had to look it up.

Groundhog Day is a popular tradition celebrated in Canada and the United States on February 2nd. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

The official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, lives at Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Here thousands of people will gather to watch a rodent predict the weather at the end of winter. So, will the USA see six more weeks of winter? I would love to hear from any USA followers what happened today?