Daybook, Whitmonday (5 June) 2017

Been away for a couple of weeks, traveling and trying to get back settled into home. Things are now settling in, and I’m getting ready for 10 weeks or so of summertime reading, writing, and work before the new semester begins. I’ve got some academic work to do, and I’ve also got a couple of essays with personal significance to write. I also made the decision to kill all my social media accounts, and am reassessing what sort of public online life (other than this journal) I should be keeping; I hope to come to those conclusions, and put them in place, soon.

My various newsfeeds were all aswim with various things about the contemporary university here recently. Today’s readings are three of the more interesting pieces I came across.


Something else:

Today is Whitmonday, the day after Pentecost (Whitsunday in the old English reckoning), and we are thus in Whitsuntide, with Trinity Sunday a few days away and then the long, long time of the Church coming up in the ordo kalendar. Whitsuntide was historically treated as the beginning of summer in Britain, with festivals and parades and brass bands and girls processing in white dresses and parishioners getting together to brew “Whitsun Ales.” It was also one of the three vacation weeks a peasant would have from his agricultural labours and service to his manor lord. As such, one would expect there to be a fair amount of art related to the celebration. But for whatever reason, other than Herbert’s magnificent (if distressing, confusing, and strangely dark) poem “Whitsunday,” there seems to be very little “high” art created in reference to Whitsuntide in Britain. It seems that it was more of a folk festival than anything else–which, reflecting on it a bit, makes a lot of sense, considering what I just said about its being a vacation time for the peasantry.

I did, however, find this Victorian-era folk song about Whitsuntide. It’s both profoundly pious, and also has a bit of the Anglo-Saxon pagan still present in it; it seems that in Victorian times, men would cut oak branches and lay them at the steps of all the houses throughout a parish during this time.

The lyrics are as follows:

Now Whitsuntide is come you very well do know,
Come serve the Lord we must before we do go.
Come serve him truly with all your might and heart
And then from heaven your soul shall never depart.

How do you know how long we have to live?
For when we die oh then what would we give?
For being sure of having our resting place
When we have run our simple wretched race.

Down in those gardens where flowers grow in ranks,
Down on your knees and to the Lord give thanks.
Down on your knees and pray both night and day,
Pray unto the Lord that He will lead the way.

Come all those little children all in the streets we meet
All in their pastimes so even and complete
It’s how you may hear them lie, boast, curse and swear
Before that they do know one word of any prayer.

Now we have brought you all this royal branch of oak,
God bless our Queen Victoria and all the royal folk
God bless our Queen and all this world beside
That the Lord may bless you all this merry Whitsuntide.

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