Robert Burns.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin days of auld lang syne

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn
Frae morning sun till dine
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin days of auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp
And surely I’ll be mine
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught
For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Robert Burns (1759- 1796. Scotland’s national poet.

Have a wee dram for Rabbie Burns tonight.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti.

Well who knew?

I have only discovered today that my favourite Christmas Carol was written by a favourite poet of mine.

In the Bleak Midwinter was published originally under the title “A Christmas Carol “and was first collected in book form in Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems(Macmillan, 1875).

Then in 1906, the composer Gustav Holst composed a setting of Rossetti’s words (titled “Cranham”) in The English Hymnal, which is sung throughout the world. Gustav Holst drew inspiration from walks in his native Gloucestershire: the tune for Rossetti’s poem. The tune was named after the small Cotswold village where his grandparents lived.

Goblin Market, as readers of myblog will know, is a favourite of mine too.

Christmas by Sir John Betjeman.

A Christmas treasure by Betjeman, describing the traditions of Christmas compared to the story of the birth of Christ.

‘The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ?  For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.’

The Crocodile by Roald Dahl.

“No animal is half as vile
As Crocky–Wock, the crocodile.
On Saturdays he likes to crunch
Six juicy children for his lunch
And he especially enjoys
Just three of each, three girls, three boys.
He smears the boys (to make them hot)
With mustard from the mustard pot.
But mustard doesn’t go with girls,
It tastes all wrong with plaits and curls.
With them, what goes extremely well
Is butterscotch and caramel.
It’s such a super marvelous treat
When boys are hot and girls are sweet.
At least that’s Crocky’s point of view
He ought to know. He’s had a few.
That’s all for now. It’s time for bed.
Lie down and rest your sleepy head.
Ssh. Listen. What is that I hear,
Galumphing softly up the stair?

Go lock the door and fetch my gun!
Go on child, hurry! Quickly run!
No stop! Stand back! He’s coming in!
Oh, look, that greasy greenish skin!
The shining teeth, the greedy smile!
It’s Crocky–Wock, the Crocodile!”

Carved crocodile. Standen House Estate.

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)

The Secret Garden.

Bateman’s Robin. Burwash East Sussex.

‘The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it.’

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Chapter 8. “The Robin Who Showed the Way.

An autumn walk around Bateman’s gardens and this engaging robin reminded me of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. A childhood favourite book.

Village Cricket.

“You don’t win or lose the games because of 11 you select. You win or lose with what those 11 do on the field.”

Rahul Dravid

Cricket Pavilion Sheffield Park

A key part of cricket is the pavilion- the main building in which the players usually change and the main location for watching the cricket match for members and others.

It’s also the epitome of Englishness- the place where the ‘cricket teas’ are served. Pots of tea, sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones, cream and jam and of course cake. Summertime personified.

The 2020 cricket season is now over, for what it was worth this year, in England. Let’s hope village cricket has a better ‘run’ in 2021.

River Cam, Cambridge England.

River Cam

We took a road trip recently to Cambridge , England. While there we did a chauffeured punt down the River with local company Scudamore’s Punting: https://www.scudamores.com/punting-quayside. As we sailed the river past the university colleges, listening to our very knowledgable chauffeur, I was reminded of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge September 3, 1802…’ :

Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

River Cam

The poem was about the river Thames, not the River Cam, however Wordsworth did study at St. John’s College Cambridge, so I felt my connection was valid.

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.

The Mill-Pond by Edward Thomas

The Mill pond, Batemans, Burwash

THE sun blazed while the thunder yet 
Added a boom: 
A wagtail flickered bright over 
The mill-pond’s gloom:

Less than the cooing in the alder 
Isles of the pool 
Sounded the thunder through that plunge 
Of waters cool.

Scared starlings on the aspen tip 
Past the black mill 
Outchattered the stream and the next roar 
Far on the hill.

As my feet dangling teased the foam 
That slid below 
A girl came out. “Take care!” she said— 
Ages ago.

She startled me, standing quite close 
Dressed all in white: 
Ages ago I was angry till 
She passed from sight.

Then the storm burst, and as I crouched 
To shelter, how 
Beautiful and kind, too, she seemed, 
As she does now!

The Cormorant.

Seen on my morning run in Eastbourne Harbour today.

A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/cormorant/

The Common Cormorant or Shag

by Christopher Isherwood

The Common Cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag.
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out.
But what these unobservant birds
Have never noticed is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

The Gentleman’s Game

Vitai Lampada

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ‘

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ‘

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!

By Sir Henry Newbolt.

The Mill-Pond by Edward Thomas

The First World War was already in its second year when Edward Thomas wrote this little piece of Englishness;

THE MILL-POND

Edward Thomas, ‘The Mill-Pond’

The sun blazed while the thunder yet
Added a boom:
A wagtail flickered bright over
The mill-pond’s gloom:

Less than the cooing in the alder
Isles of the pool
Sounded the thunder through that plunge
Of waters cool.

Scared starlings on the aspen tip
Past the black mill
Outchattered the stream and the next roar
Far on the hill.

As my feet dangling teased the foam
That slid below
A girl came out. ‘Take care!’ she said—
Ages ago.

She startled me, standing quite close
Dressed all in white:
Ages ago I was angry till
She passed from sight.

Then the storm burst, and as I crouched
To shelter, how
Beautiful and kind, too, she seemed,
As she does now!

(1917)

Mill Pond. Batemans Burwash.
Mill Pond. Batemans Burwash.

~