« AnteriorContinuar »
if he be of able body, he commonly leads the swarth in reaping and mowing. It is customary to give gloves to reapers, especially where the wheat is thistly. As to crying a Largess, they need not be reminded of it in these our days, whatever they were in our author's time.”
Stevenson, in his “Twelve Moneths,” 1661, mentions under August, that “the furmenty pot welcomes home the harvest cart, and the garland of flowers crowns the captain of the reapers; the battle of the field is now stoutly fought. The pipe and the tabor are now busily set a-work, and the lad and the lass will have no lead on their heels. Ol'tis the merry time wherein honest neighbours make good cheer; and God is glorified in his blessings on the earth.”
The Hock CART, on HARvest Home.
Come sons of summer, by whose toile
Which freely drink to your Lord's health,
Mr. Brand says, “the respect shown to servants at this season, seems to have sprung from a grateful sense of their good services. Every thing depends at this juncture on their labour and despatch. Vacina, (or Vacuna, so called as it is said a vacando, the tutelar deity, as it were, of rest and ease,) among the ancients, was the name of the goddess to whom rustics sacrificed at the conclusion of harvest. Moresin tells us, that popery, in imitation of this, brings home her chaplets of corn, which she suspends on poles, that offerings are made on the altars of her tutelar gods, while thanks are returned for the collected stores, and prayers are made for future ease and rest. Images too of straw or stubble, he adds, are wont to be carried
As we were returning, says Hentzner, in 1598, to our inn, we happened to meet some country people celebrating their harvest-home; their last load of corn they crown with flowers, having besides an image richly dressed, by which perhaps they would signify Ceres. This they keep moving about, while men and women, men and maid-servants, riding through the streets in the cart, shout as loud as they can till they arrive at the barn. “I have seen,” says Hutchinson in his “History of Northumberland,” “ in some laces, an image apparelled in great #. crowned with flowers, a sheaf of corn placed under her arm, and a scycle in her hand, carried out of the village in the morning of the conclusive reaping day, with music and much clamour of the reapers, into the field, where it stands fixed on a pole all day, and when the reaping is done, is brought home in like manner. This they call the harvest queen, and it represents the Roman Ceres.” Mr. Brand says, “an old woman, who in a case of this nature is respectable authority, at a village in Northumberland, informed me that not half a century ago, they used every where to dress up something similar to the figure above described, (by Hutchinson,) at the end of harvest, which was called a harvest doll, or kern baby. This northern word is plainly a corruption of corn baby, or image, as is the kern supper, of corn supper. In Carew's ‘Survey | Cornwall, p. 20. b., “an ill kerned or saved harvest’ occurs.”
At Werington, in Devonshire, the clergyman of the parish informed Mr. Brand, that when a farmer finishes his reaping, a small quantity of the ears of the last corn are twisted or tied together into a curious kind of figure, which is brought home with great acclamations, hung up over the table, and kept till the next year. The owner would think it extremely unlucky to part with this, which is called “a knack.” The reapers whoop and hollow “a knack' a knack 1 well cut! well bound ! well shocked l’’ and, in some places, in a sort of mockery it is added, “well scattered on the ground.” A countryman gave a somewhat different account, as follows: “When they have cut the corn, the reapers assemble together: “a knack' is made, which one placed in the middle of the company holds
up, crying thrice ‘a knack,' which all the rest repeat: the person in the middle then says—
* Well cut well hound ! Well shocked well saved from the ground."
He afterwards cries ‘whoop,' and his companions holloo as loud as they can.” “I have not,” says Mr. Brand, “the most distant idea of the etymology of the ‘knack,' used on this occasion. I applied for one of them. . No farmer would part with that which hung over his table; but one was made on purpose for me. I should suppose that Moresin alludes to something like this when he says, “ Et spiceas papatus (habet) coronas, quas videre est in domibus,’ &c.”
It is noticed by Mr. Brand, that Purchas in his “Pilgrimage,” speaking of the Peruvian superstitions, and quoting Acosta, tells us, “In the sixth moneth they offered a hundred sheep of all colours, and then made a feast, bringing the mayz from the fields into the house, which they yet use. This feast is made, coming from the farm to the house, saying certain songs, and praying that the mayz may long continue. They put a quantity of the mayz (the best that groweth in their farms) in a thing which they call pirva, with certain ceremonies, watching three nights. Then do they put it in the richest garment they have, and, being thus wrapped and dressed, they worship this pirva, holding it in great veneration, and saying, it is the mother of the mayz of their inheritance, and that by this means the mayz augments and is preserved. In this moneth they make a particular sacrifice, and the witches demand of this pirva if it hath strength enough to continue until the next year; and if it answers no, then they carry this maiz to the farm whence it was taken, to burn, and make another pirva as before : and this foolish vanity still continueth.”
On this Peruvian “pirva,” the rev. Mr. Walter, fellow of Christ's-college, Cambridge, observes to Mr. Brand, that it bears a strong resemblance to what is called in Kent, an ivy girl, which is a figure composed of some of the best corn the field produces, and made, as well as they can, into a human shape; this is afterwards curiously dressed by the women, and adorned with paper trimmings, cut to resemble a cap, ruffles, handkerchief, &c. of the finest lace. It is brought home with the last load of corn from the field upon the waggon, and they suppose entitles them to a supper at the expense of their employers.
“Crying the Mare.”
This custom is mentioned by Mr. Brand as existing in Hertfordshire and Shropshire. The reapers tie together the tops of the last blades of corn, which they call “mare,” and standing at some distance, throw their sickles at it, and he who cuts the knot, has the prize, with acclamations and good cheer. Blount adds, respecting this custom, that “after the knot is cut, then they cry with a loud voice three times, “I have her.” Others answer as many times, “what have you?”—“A mare, a mare, a mare.”—“Whose is she,' thrice also.-‘J. B.’ (naming the owner three times.)—‘Whither will you send her ?'—“To J. a Nicks,” (naming some neighbour who has not all his corn reaped;) then they all shout three times, and so the ceremony ends with good cheer. In Yorkshire, upon the like occasion, they have a harvest dame; in Bedfordshire, a Jack and a Gill.”
Having been preceded “into the bosom of the land” by a lady, and become acquainted with accounts from earlier chroniclers of harvest customs, we now pay our respects to the communications of other correspondents, who have been pleased to comply with our call for information.
Gloucestershire AND Suffolk.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
Sir, With pleasure I have read your entertaining and instructing collection from its commencement, and I perceive you have touched upon a subject in one of your sheets, which in my youth used to animate my soul, and bring every energy of my mind and of my body into activity; I mean, harvest.
Yes, sir, in my younger days I was introduced into the society of innocence and industry; but, I know not how it was, Dame Fortune kicked me out, and I was obliged to dwell in smoke and dirt, in noise and bustle, in wickedness and strife compared with what I left;
but I forgive her, as you know she is blind. May I, Mr. Editor, converse with you in this way a little In Gloucestershire this interesting season is thus kept. Of course the good man of the house has informed the industrious and notable dame the day for harvest-home; and she, assisted by her daughters, makes every preparation to keep out famine and banish care—the neighbours and friends are invited, hot cakes of Betty's own making, and such butter that Sukey herself had churned, tea, ale, syllabub, gooseberry wine, &c. And what say you? Why, Mr. Editor, this is nothing, this is but the beginning—the grand scene is out of doors. Look yonder, and see the whole of the troop of men, women, and children congregated together. They are about to bring home the last load. You have seen election chairings, Mr. Editor; these are mere jokes to it. This load should come from the furthest field, and that it should be the smallest only just above the rails, a large bough is placed in the centre, the women and children are placed on the load, boys on the horses, they themselves trimmed with cowslips and boughs of leaves, and with shouts of “harvest-home,” the horses are urged forward, and the procession comes full gallop to the front of the farmhouse, where the before happy party are waiting to welcome home the last load. Now, he who has the loudest and the clearest voice, mounts upon a neighbouring shed, and with a voice which would do credit to your city crier, shouts aloud— We have ploughed, we have sowed, We have reaped, we have mowed We have brought home every load, Hip, hip, hip, Harvest home *
and thus, sir, the whole assembly shout “huzza.” The strong ale is then put round, and the cake which Miss made with her own hands:–the load is then driven round to the stack-yard or barn, and the horses put into the stable. John puts on a clean white frock, and William a clean coloured handkerchief: the boys grease their shoes to look smart, and all meet in the house to partake of the harvest supper, when the evening is spent in cheerfulness. Here, Mr. Editor, is pomp without pride, liberality without ostentation, cheerfulness without vice, merriment without guilt, and .. without alloy. They say that old persons are old fools,
and although I am almost blind, yet I cannot resist telling you of what I have also seen in my boyish days in Suffolk. I do not mean to be long, sir, but merely to give you a few particulars of an ancient custom, which I must leave you to finish, so that while you take a hearty pinch of snuff (I know you don't like tobacco) I shall have completed.
At the commencement of harvest one is chosen to be “my lord.” He goes first in reaping, and mowing, and leads in every occupation. Now, sir, if you were to pass within a field or two of this band of husbandmen, “my lord” would leave the company, and approaching you with respect, ask of you a largess. Supposin he *::::::::: with I know he . . would hail his companions, and they would thus acknowledge the gift : my lord would place his troop in a circle, suppose fifteen men, and that they were reaping, each one would have a hook in his hand, or, if hoeing of turnips, he would bring his hoe. My lord then goes to a distance, mounts the stump of a tree, or a gate post, and repeats a couplet (forgive the treachery of my memory, for I forget the words). The men still standing in the circle listen with attention to the words of my lord, and at the conclusion each with his reap-hook pointing with his right hand to the centre of the circle, and with intent as if watching and expecting, they utter altogether a groan as long as four of your breves (if you go by notes): then, as if impelled together, their eyes are lifted to the heavens above them, their hooks point in the same direction, and at the same time they change the doleful groan to a tremendous shout, which is repeated three distinct times.
The money thus got during harvest, is saved to make merry with at a neighbouring public-house, and the evening is spent in shouting of the largess, and joyful mirth.
I am, Sir, &c.
Another correspondent presents an interesting description of usages in another county.
Lar - - - - - (ad infiniturn.)
Norfolk. To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. Norfolk, August, 14, 1826. Sir, In this county it is a general practice on the first day of harvest, for the men to leave the field about four o'clock, and retire to the alehouse, and have what is here termed a “whet;” that is, a sort of drinking bout to cheer their hearts for labour. They previously solicit any who hop. to come within their sight with, “I hope, sir, you will please to bestow a largess on us?” If the boon is conceded the giver is asked if he would like to have his largess halloed; if this is assented to, the hallooing is at his service. At the conclusion of wheat harvest, it is usual for the master to give his men each a pot or two of ale, or money, to enable them to get some at the alehouse, where a cheerful merry meeting is held amongst themselves. The last, or “horkey load” (as it is here called) is decorated with flags and streamers, and sometimes a sort of kern baby is placed on the top at front of the load. +. is commonly called a “ben;” why it is so called, I know not, nor have I the smallest idea of its etymon, unless a person of that name was dressed up and placed in that situation, and that, ever after, the figure had this name given to it. This load is attended by all the arty, who had been in the field, with halooing and shouting, and on their arrival in the farmyard they are joined by the others. The mistress with her maids are out to gladden their eyes with this welcome scene, and bestir themselves to prepare the substantial, plain, and homely, feast, of roast beef and plumb pudding. On this night it is . usual with some of the farmers to invite their neighbours, friends, and relations, to the “horkey supper.” Smiling faces grace the festive bpard; and , many an ogling glance is thrown by the rural lover upon the nutbrown maid, and returned with a blushing simplicity, worth all the blushes ever made at court. Supper ended, they leave. the room, (the cloth, &c. are removed,) and out of doors they go, and a hallooing “largess” commences—thus
(with three successire or'hoops.)
The fmen and boys form a circle by taking hold of hands, and one of the party standing in the centre, having a gotch" of horkey ale placed near him on the ground, with a horn or tin sort of trumpet in his hand, makes a signal, and “halloo ! lar-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-ge-ess" is given as loud and as long as their lungs will allow, at the same time elevating their hands as high as they can, and still keeping hold. The person in the centre blows the horn one continued blast, as long as the “halloolargess.” This is done three times, and immediately followed by three successive whoops; and then the glass, commonly a horn one, of spirit-stirring ale, freely circles. At this time the hallooing-largess is generally performed with three times three. This done, they return to the table, where foaming nappy ale is accompanied by the lily taper tube, and weed of India growth; and now mirth and jollity abound, the horn of sparkling beverage is put merrily about, the song goes round, and the joke is cracked. The females are cheerful and joyous partakers of this * flow of soul.” When the “juice of the barrel” has exhilarated the spirits, with eyes beaming cheerfulness, and in true good rustic humour, the lord of the harvest accompanied by his lady, (the person is so called who goes second in the reap, each sometimes wearing a sort of disguise,) with two plates in his hand, enters the parlour wnere the guests are seated, and solicits a largess from each of them. The collection made, they join their party again at the table, and the lord recounting to his company the success he has met with, a fresh zest is given to hilarity, a dance is struck up, in which, though it can hardly be said to be upon the “light fantastic toe,” the stiffness of age and rheumatic pangs are forgotten, and those who have passed the grand climactric, feel in the midst of their teens. Another show of disguising is commonly exhibited on these occasions, which creates a hearty rustic laugh, both loud and strong. One of the party habited as a female, is taken with a violent pang of the toota ache, and the doctor is sent for. He soon makes his appearance, mounted on the back of one of the other men as a horse, having in his hands a common milking stool, which he bears upon, so as
A large stone, or earthen pitcher.
to enable him to keep his back in nearly a horizontal position. The doctor brin with him the tongs, which he uses for the purpose of extracting the tooth: this is a piece of tobacco ". adapted to the occasion, and placed in the mouth; a fainting takes place from the violence of the operation, and the bellows are used as a means of causing a reviving hope.
When the ale has so far operated that some of the party are scarcely capable of keeping upon their seat, the ceremony of drinking healths takes place in a sort of glee or catch; one or two of which you have below. This health-drinking generally finishes the horkey. On the following day the party go round among the neighbouring farmers (having various coloured ribands on their hats, and steeple or sugar-loaf formed caps, decked with various coloured paper, &c.,) to taste their horkey beer, and solicit largess of any one with whom they think success is likely. The money so collected is usually spent at the alehouse at night. To this “ largess money spending,” the wives and sweethearts, with the female servants of their late masters, are invited; and a tea table is set out for the women, the men finding more virtue in the decoction of Sir John Barleycorn, and a pipe of the best Virginia.
I have put together what now occurs to me respecting harvest-home, and beg to refer you to Bloomfield's “Wild Flowers,” in a piece there called the “Hotkey;” it is most delightfully described.
The glee or catch at the health-drinking is as follows:—
Here's a health unto our master,
Here's your master's good health
Another Health Drinking.
Behold, and see, his glass is full, At which he'll take a hearty pull,