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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 targets. Supposing he succeeded, which I know he would, 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 targets, and joyful mirth.
I am, Sir, &c.
Another correspondent presents an interesting description of usages in another county.
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 hanrest, for the men to leave the field about four o'clock, and retire to the alehouse, and have what is here termed a "whet j" that is, a sort of drinking bout to cheer their hearts for labour. They previously solicit any who happen to come within their sight with, "I nopo, 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. This 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
J>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 still usual with some of the farmers to invite their neighbours, friends, and relations, to the "horkey supper." Smiling faces grace the festive board; 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
The men 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 toot.i 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
to enable him to keep his back in nearly a horizontal position. The doctor brings with him the tongs, which he uses for the purpose of extracting the tooth : this is a piece of tobacco pipe adapted to the occasion, and placed in the mouth; a fainting takes place from the violence ol 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 ceremouy 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 tire 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
So drink, boys, drink.
Another Health Drinking
Behold, and see, his glass is full,
Behold and see what he can do,
Here's a health onto my brother John,
To this may be added the following.
A Health Drinking.
There was a man from London came,
The great object is to start something which will catch some unguarded reply :n lieu of saying " Mum," when the party 10 unguardedly replying, is fined to drink two glasses.
For the beginning of Harvest there is this
Now Lammas comes in,
Our harvest begin,
That did sweetly grow.
The poor old man
That can hardly stand,
Gets up, ice.
Such old harvest man.
But the man who is lazy
And will not come on,
And send him gone,
Such a lazy drone.
Now harvest is over
Our master, he says,
We'll broach the old beer,
And we'll knock along, And now we will sing an old harvest song.
I shall be happy if this will afford the readers of the Every-Day Book any information concerning the harvest customs of this county. I am, Sir, etc.
&. *. i.
A valuable correspondent transmits a particular account of his country custom, which will be read with pleasure.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
Sir,—As the harvest has now become very general, I am reminded of a circumstance, which I think worthy of communicating to you. After the wheat is all cut, on most farms in the north of Devon, the harvest people have a custom of "crying the neck." I believe that this practice is seldom omitted on any large farm in that part of the country. It is done in this way. An old man, or some one else well acquainted with the ceremonies used on the occasion, (when the labourers are reaping the last field of wheat,) goes round to the shocks and sheaves, and picks out a little bundle of all the best ears he can find; this bundle he ties up very neat and trim, and plats and arranges the straws very tastefully. This is called "the neck" of wheat, or wheaten-ears. After the field is cut out, and the pitcher once more circulated, the reapers, binders, and the women, stand round in a circle. The person with - the neck" stands in the centre, grasping it with both his hands. He first stoops and holds it near the ground, and all the men forming the ring, take off their hats, stooping and holding them with both hands towards the ground. They then all begin at once in a very prolonged and harmonious tone to cry "the neck!" at the same time slowly raising themselves upright, and elevating their arms and hats above their heads; the person with " the neck" also raising it on nigh. This is done three times. They
then change their cry to " wee yen!"
"way yen 1"—which they sound in the same prolonged and slow manner as before, with singular harmony and effect, three times. This last cry is accompanied by the same movements of the body and arms as in crying "the neck." I know nothing of vocal music, but I think I may convey some idea of the sound, by giving you the following notes in gamut.
We yen! We yen!
Let these notes be played on a flute that they mean by "we yen!
with perfect crescendo* and diminuendoet, and perhaps some notion of this wild sounding cry may be formed. Well, after having thus repeated "the neck" three times, and "wee yen" or "way yen'' as often, they all burst out into a kind of loud and joyous laugh, flinging up their hats and caps into the air, capering about and perhaps kissing the girls. One of them then gets "the neck," and runs as hard as he can down to the farmhouse, where the dairy-maid, or one of the young female domestics, stands at the door prepared with a pail of water. If he who holds "the neck" cau manage to get into the house, in any way unseen, or openly, by any other way than the door at which the girl stands with the pail of water, then he may lawfully kiss her; but, if otherwise, he is regularly soused with the contents of the bucket. On a fine still autumn evening, the "crying of the neck" has a wonderful effect at a distance, far finer than that of the Turkish muezzin, which lord Byron eulogizes so much, and which he says is preferable to all the bells in Christendom. I have once or twice heard upwards of twenty men cry it, and sometimes joined by an equal number of female voices. About three years back, on some high grounds, where our people were harvesting, I heard six or seven y necks" cried in one night, although I know that some of them were four miles off. They are heard through the quiet evening air, at a considerable distance sometimes. But I think that the practice is beginning to decline of late, and many farmers and their men do not care about keeping up this old custom. I shall always patronise it myself, because I take it in the light of a thanksgiving. By the by, I was about to conclude, without endeavouring to explain the meaning of the words, "we yen I" I had long taken them for Saxon, as the people of Devon are the true Saxon breed. But I think that I am wrong. I asked an old fellow about it the other day, and he is the only man who ever gave me a satisfactory explanation. He says, that the object of crying " the neck" is to give the surrounding country notice of the end of harvest, and
tee have ended. It may more probably mean " we end," which the uncouth and provincial pronunciation has corrupted into "we yen!" I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
July, 1826. R. A. R.
P. S. In the above hastily written account, I should have mentioned that " the neck" is generally hung up in the farmhouse, where it remains sometimes three or four years. I have written " we yen," because I have always heard it so pronounced; they may articulate it differently in other parts of the country.
Essex. To the Editor of the E very-Day Book. Sir,—As harvest has began in various counties, I beg leave to give you a description of what is called the "harvest supper," in Essex, at the conclusion of the narvest.
After the conclusion of the harvest, a supper is provided, consisting of roast beef and plum-pudding, with plenty of strong ale, with which all the men who have been employed in getting in the corn regale themselves. At the beginning of the supper, the following is sung by the whole of them at the supper.
Here's a health to our master,
The lord of the feast,
And send him increase;
That we may reap another year,
Come, drink off your beer.
After supper the following:—
Now harvest is ended and supper is past,
Come, drink a full glass;
For she is a good woman, she provides us good cheer,
Here's your mistress's good health, boys,
The night is generally spent with great mirth, and the merry-makers seldom disperse till "Bright Phoebus has mounted his chariot of day."
I am, &c.
It is the advice of the most popular of our old writers on husbandry, that—
In harvest time, harvest folke,
servants and all, Should make, altogether,
good cheere in the hall: And nil out the black bole,
of bleith to their song, And let them be merry
all harvest time long.
let none be beguilde,
man, woman, and chlild.
such help as they can, Thou winnest the praise
of the labouring man.
"Tusser Redivivus" says," This, the poor labourer thinks, crowns all; a good supper must be provided, and every one that did any thing towards the Inning must now have some reward, as ribbons, laces, rows of pins to boys and girls, if never so small, for their encouragement, and, to be sure, plumb-pudding. The men must now have some better than best drink, which, with a little tobacco and their screaming for their largesses, their business will soon be done."
Harvest Goote. For all this good feasting, yet art thou not loose,
Til Ploughman thou givest
his harvest home goote;
I passe not for that,
be she lean, be she fat.
Whereon "Tusser Redivivus" notes, that "the goose is forfeited, if they overthrow during harvest." A MS. note on a copy of Brand's "Antiquities," lent to the editor, cites from Boys's "Sandwich," an item "35 Hen. VIII. Spent when we ete our harvyst goose iij». via. and the goose xd."
In France under Henry IV. it is cited by Mr. Brand from Seward, that " after the harvest, the peasants fixed upon some holiday to meet together and have a little regale, (by them called the harvest gosling,) to which they invited not only each other, but even their masters, who pleased them very much when they condescended to partake of it."
According to information derived by Mr. Brand, it was formerly the custom at Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, for each farmer to drive furiously home with the last load of his com, while the people ran after him with bowls full of water in order to throw on it; and this usage was accompanied with great shouting.
Who has not seen the cheerful harvest-home,
Enliv'ning the scorch'd field, and greeting gay
The slow decline of Autumn. All around
The yellow sheaves, catching the burning beam,
Glow, golden lustre; and the trembling stem
Of the slim oat, or azure corn-flow'r,
Waves on hedge-rows shady. From the hill
The day-breeze softly steals with downward wing,
And lightly passes, whisp'ring the soft sounds
Which moan the death of Summer. Glowing scene 1
Nature's long holiday! Luxuriant, rich,
In her proud progeny, she smiling marks
Their graces, now mature, and wonder-fraught!
Hail! season exquisite!—and hail, ye sons
Of rural toil!—ye blooming daughters!—ye
Who, in the lap of hardy labour rear'd,
Enjoy the mind unspotted! Up the plain,
Or on the side-long hill, or in the glen,
Where the rich farm, or scatter'd hamlet, shows
The neighbourhood of peace ye still are found,
A merry and an artless throng, whose souls
Beam thro' untutor'd glances. When the dawn