Seein’ as ‘ow my youngest is due to add Number Nine to the Janus clan in the Autumn, I feel qualified to comment on the theme of naming children, further aroused by the Beeb: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21229475.
Auntie (possibly wishing to avoid some nasty social aspersions being cast) seems to have missed out a very widespread reason for countries restricting the choice of names – RELIGION. Some countries allocate days to ’holy’ names – so if you are born on 25th December you automatically become Christos/Christina (!); and although I confess to knowing almost nothing about Islam law, I have the impression that babies are only given ‘approved’ names.
What surprises me is that Denmark – otherwise notoriously free of constraint in almost every imaginable respect – has its own list, outside which a child may not be named. The religion or what’s left of it, is Lutheran but its tentacles still reach into daily life by awarding Spring days off work for General Prayer, Ascension and Whitsun respectively, promoting the Confirmation industry among greedy teens and, yes, forbidding one to ‘christen’ a baby with the Liverpool cup-winning team. So there’s the rub – what a pity their holiness doesn’t extend beyond their sanctified monikers!
In Britain of course the rich and famous persist in giving their offspring silly names, often of dubious gender and provenance, like themselves in many cases. But relax, friends, it’s all cyclical and soon the Johns and Joans will be rife amongst us again.
You May (Huh?) have been wondering where Nicholas Breton’s portrait is, since it’s now the second of the month.
Nicholas Breton expected dripping clouds in May
Well, here it is, copied from his Fantasticks, published in 1626 and now out of print.
It is now May, and the sweetnesse of the Aire refresheth every spirit: the sunny beames bring forth faire Blossomes, and the dripping Clouds water Floraes great garden: the male Deere puts out the velvet head, and the pagged Doe is neere her fawning: The Sparhawke now is drawne out of the mew, and the Fowler makes ready his whistle for the Quaile: the Larke sets the morning watch, and the evening the Nightingale: the Barges like Bowers keep the streames of the sweet Rivers, and the Mackrell with the Shad are taken prisoners in the Sea: the tall young Oke is cut downe for the Maypole: the Sithe and the Sickle are the Mowers furniture, and Fayre weather make the Labourer merry: the Physitian now prescribes the cold Whey, and the Apothecary gathers the dew for a medecine: Butter & Sage make the wholsome breakfast, but fresh cheese and creame are meat for a dainty mouth: and the Strawbery and the Pescod want no price in the market: the Chicken and the Ducke are fatned for the market, and many a Goslin never lives to be Goose. It is the moneth wherein Nature hath her full of mirth, and the Senses are filled with delights. I conclude, It is from the Heavens a Grace, & to the Earth a Gladnesse.
A few learned observations:
Pagged means pregnant.
Sparhwake is sparrow-hawk.
Sithe is a scythe.
Nor was it usual in his time to use apostrophes with nouns in the genitive. (kindly remember you heard that here first)
Both Shad and Strawberry seasons are in full swing here, (Asparagus too), no sign of fresh peas yet.
…made glorious Summer by this son of York.
One of the best first lines ever written IMO.
I always thought the last Plantagenet had suffered from a bad press, although by heritage I had to support his nemesis Henry Tudr (it is so, how it is spelled, only the English need extra vowels).
Well, just to show I’m not totally prejudiced, I joined the Richard 111 society (American Branch) this year and now get access to all the latest goings-on around the car park.
Where was I? Yes, discontent, well there must be some as a result of the April Poetry Competition, which unlike modern playground games will only have one winner. A fine crop of entries from many of the usual suspects plus a few from some expert prevaricators. I liked them all, especially Soutie’s pairing of poem and picture, but most of all I liked this little gem from Bilby:
And raise a glass for William Shakespeare too, despite the misery he has inflicted on school-children for centuries. For today is our National Day. The Harry I refer to is of course Mr Rednapp, the architect of Spurs’ excellent season and now the undertaker for QPR. Because that’s what being English is all about. Highs and lows. Effortless superiority, born of experience unequalled among other tribes of man. They come and go, but like old Father Thames, the English go on for ever. Cheers!
If you want an exercise in suspending belief, try this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22152700
Allegedly the ultra-orthodox Jews, despite thousands of years of practice, are still unable to find out how to procreate and need a book to help them. ”We wanted to give people a sense of not only where to put their sexual organs, but where to put their arms and legs,” the author says. “If you have never seen a movie, never read a book, how are you supposed to know what you do?” Well, sir, as a former schoolboy in the late ’40s and ’50s, I can’t remember my contemporaries ever being uncertain about the positions employed, despite a total lack of access to films or books on the subject. You put the right one in, the right one out, the right one in and you shake it all about. You do the okey kokey and you turn around. That’s what it’s all about. Remember, son?
Go forth and multiply, I say.
The old memory reacted to this portrait of Dylan Thomas by reminding me that when I joined the Kit Kat team at Rowntrees, his son, Llew was a copy-writer at JWT in Berkeley Square, W1. I chatted with him in the penthouse bar during my ‘induction’ visit in 1965 – a day-trip by Pullman from York which revealed some of the inner sancta of the agency and the luminaries who populated them.
Let’s see what Nicholas Breton has to say for April.
He, if you are new round here, was the author of Fantasticks, a weird collection of strangely spelled observation published in 1626.
It is now April, and the Nightingale begins to tune her throat against May: the Sunny showers perfume the aire, and the Bees begin to goe abroad for honey: the Dewe, as in Pearles, hangs upon the tops of the grasse, while the Turtles sit billing upon the little greene boughes: the Trowt begins to play in the Brookes, and the Sammon leaves the Sea, to play in the fresh waters: The Garden bankes are full of gay flowers, and the Thorne and the Plumme send forth their faire Blossomes: the March Colt begins to play, and the Cosset Lamb is learned to butt.
The Poets now make their studies in the woods, & the Youth of the Country make ready for the Morris-dance; the little Fishes lye nibling at a bait, and the Porpas playes in the pride of the tide: the Shepheardes pipe entertaines the Princesse of Arcadia, and the healthfull Souldier hath a pleasant march. The Larke and the Lambe looke up at the Sun, and the labourer is abroad by the dawning of the day: Sheepes eyes in Lambs heads, tell kind hearts strange tales, while faith and troth make the true Lovers knot: the aged haires find a fresh life, and the youthfull cheeks are as red as a cherry: It were a world to set downe the worth of this moneth: But in summe, I thus conclude, I hold it the Heavens blessing, and the Earths comfort.
Turtles are Turtle Doves I would imagine.
Not much Heaven’s blessing or Earth’s comfort around this neck of the woods yet (perhaps in Washington State?) but it’s a goodly way to go ’til May.
Since it’s Easter I can give you a bonus installment from Fantasticks, the peculiar book by Nicholas Breton (1554-1626), a series of sketches, of hours, season and months. Breton’s take on Easter is a little different from mine, but times do change.
It is now Easter, and Jacke of Lent is turned out of doores: the Fishermen now hang up their nets to dry, while the Calfe and the Lambe walke toward the Kitchin and the Pastry: the velvet heads of the Forrests fall at the loose of the Crosse-bow: the Sammon Trowt playes with the Fly, and the March Rabbit runnes dead into the dish: the Indian Commodities pay the Merchants adventure: and Barbary Sugar puts Honey out of countenance: the holy feast is kept for the faithfull, and a knowne Jew hath no place among Christians: the Earth now beginnes to paint her upper garment, and the trees put out their young buds, the little Kids chew their Cuds, and the Swallow feeds on the Flyes in the Ayre: the Storke clenseth the Brookes of the Frogges, and the Sparhawke prepares her wing for the Partridge: the little Fawne is stolne from the Doe, and the male Deere beginne to be hearde: the spirit of Youth is inclined to mirth, and the conscionable Scholler wil not breake a holy-day: the Minstrell cals the Maid from her dinner, and the Lovers eyes do troule like Tennis balls. There is mirth and joy, when there is health and liberty: and he that hath money, will be no meane man in his mansion: the Ayre is wholesome, and the Skye comfortable, the Flowers odiferous, and the Fruits pleasant: I conclude, it is a day of much delightfulnesse: the Sunnes dancing day, and the Earths Holy-day.
Well, our cherished poets certainly dreamed this time, just as they were invited to. So my eggy-toast repast served by a disorientated Backside (unable to deal with the summertime change) has been full of unlikely images. It must be the effects of the subarctic conditions, all recorded here: http://charioteers.org/2013/03/14/easter-poetry-competition/
FEEG’s ode from a bunny was short and sweet, as was Papag’s scientific Christianity; joined later by two ‘blank verses’, LW harking back to a dysfunctional family life and Soutie giving us a new slant on ‘be prepared’.
Then the two heavyweight entries from Araminta and LW. Could I hear our Cilla’s rendering of ‘What’s it all about?’ in Arrers’ poem? Or was it ‘Just imagine’ – life without the DT? And then LW’s tribute to old Eostre herself, whose very own eggs have a lot to answer for (allegedly).