National Trust themes for 2020 are Food and Here and Now (mindfulness) Conjuring and Corn

Conjuring and Corn Programme, which The New Hardy Players would have presented in Max Gate Gardens in September 2020. Devised by Sue Worth and Sonia Morris

Conjuring and Corn looks at grains and Bread, the staff of Life; of reading the weather and protecting crops told in poetry, prose, superstition and song and a celebration of September, when we so often enjoy the best of Summer at the beginning of Autumn.

The Ripe and Bearded Barley                                                                                                     Traditional Song

Come out, ’tis now September, the hunters’ moon’s begun,
And through the wheaten stubble we hear the frequent gun;
The leaves are turning yellow, and fading into red,
While the ripe and bearded barley is hanging down its head.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
All among the barley, who would not be blithe,
While the ripe and bearded barley is smiling on the scythe.

The wheat is like a rich man, it’s sleek and well-to-do;
The oats are like a pack of girls, they’re thin and dancing too;
The rye is like a miser, both sulky, lean and small,
Whilst the ripe and bearded barley is the monarch of them all.

The spring is like a young maid that does not know her mind,
The summer is a tyrant of most ungracious kind;
The autumn is an old friend that pleases all he can,
And brings the bearded barley to glad the heart of man.

Bathsheba in Corn Exchange Far From the Madding Crowd                            Thomas Hardy

Narrators/gossips  Among the heavy yeomen  a feminine figure glided, the single one of her sex that the room contained.  She was prettily and even delicately dressed.  She moved between them as a chaise between carts, was hear after them as a romance after sermons, was felt among them like a breeze among furnaces.

In arguing on prices she held to her own firmly, as was natural in a dealer and reduced theirs persistently, as was inevitable in a woman.  But there was an elasticity in her firmness which removed it from obstinacy, as there was a naivete in her cheapening which saved it from meanness.

First Farmer                   Who is she?

Second Farmer             Farmer Everdene’s niece; took on Weatherbury Upper Farm; turned away the baily, and swears she’ll do everything herself.

First Farmer shaking head  Yes, but tis a pity she’s so headstrong.  But we ought to be proud of her here – she lightens up the old place.  Tis such a shapely maid however that she’ll soon get picked up.

The Wheat Ripening                                                                                                                      John Clare

What time the wheat-field tinges rusty brown

And barley bleaches into mellow grey

Tis sweet some smooth mown baulk to wander down

Or cross the fields on footpaths narrow way

Just in the mealy light of waking day

As glistening dewdrops moist the maiden’s gown

And sparkling bounces from her nimble feet

Journeying to milking from the neighbouring town

Making life light with song – and it is sweet

To mark the grazing herds and list the clown

Urge on his merry ploughing team with cheerful calls

And merry shepherds whistling toils begin

And hoarse tongued bird-boy whose unceasing calls

Join the larks ditty to the rising sun

Baulk      = a strip of grass between ploughed fields

Clown     = rustic farm labourer

Bird-boy = boy who frightens birds away from crops

Kettle Broth                                                              from National Trust Hardy’s Cottage Recipe Thomas Hardy’s favourite meal as a child was the unassuming Kettle Broth, made by his Mother Jemima.

Ingredients      1 knob of butter, 1 medium sized onion, 1 slice of diced smoky bacon, 3 slices of white bread and 1 pint of stock or water.

Fry the diced onion in butter until soft.  Add the bacon, then crumble in the bread and fry for a little time.  Add the stock and stir until the broth resembles thin porridge.

This Bread I Break                                                                                                           Dylan Thomas

This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.

Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind;
Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.

This flesh you break, this blood you let
Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape
Born of the sensual root and sap;
My wine you drink, my bread you snap.

Assize of Bread             Laws guaranteeing the size, weight and quality of a loaf of bread, dating back to Mediaeval times, were abolished in 1822 in London and 1836 in the rest of the country.

The Corn Laws 1815-1846 were a series of laws intended to protect farmers from cheap imports of grain following the Napoleonic Wars. They kept the price of corn and bread high and so caused much distress.

The Four Dears                                                                                                                 Ebenezer Elliot

Dear sugar, dear tea and dear corn

Conspired with dear representation

To laugh worth and honour to scorn

And beggar the whole British Nation

From The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 4 – Casterbridge Bread                Thomas Hardy

Narrator           In an open space before the church walked a woman.  She carried a loaf under her arm from which she was pulling pieces of bread and handing them to some other women who walked with her; which pieces they nibbled critically.  The sight reminded Mrs Henchard-Newson and her daughter that they had an appetite; and they inquired of the woman for the nearest bakers.

Woman             Ye may as well look for manna-food as good bread in Casterbridge just now.  They can blare their trumpets and thump their drums, and have their roaring dinners.

Narrator           She said waving her hand towards a point further along the street, where the brass band could be seen standing in front of an illuminated building…

Woman             But we must needs be to put-to for want of a wholesome crust.  There’s less good bread than good beer in Casterbridge now.

Man                    And less good bear than Swipes.

Mrs H-N            How does it happen there’s no good bread?

Woman             Oh, tis the corn-factor – he’s the man that our millers and bakers all deal wi’, and he has sold ‘em growed wheat, which they didn’t know was growed, so they say, till the dough ran all over the ovens like quick silver; so that the loaves be as flat as toads and like suet pudden inside.  I’ve been a wife, and I’ve been a mother, and I never see such unprincipled bread in Casterbridge  as this before – but you must be a real stranger here not to know what’s made all the poor volks plim like blowed blathers this week.

Mrs H-N            I am.

Bird Scarer’s song                                                                                Leonard Studley’s Grandmother

Heigh Ho Old Jack and Jennie Crow,

Let’s lie down and have a rest.

‘Spose my master were to come,

Thee must fly, and I must run.

Sow four grains in a row,

One fer the rook, one fer the crow,

One fer to rot, one fer to grow.

Traditional Forecast                                                                                         John Bowles memories

If lilies be plentiful,

Bread will be cheap

Titania to Oberon – Midsummer Night’s Dream                                     William Shakespeare

These are the forgeries of jealousy;

And never, since the middle summer’s spring,

Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,

By paved fountain or by rushy brook,

Or in the beached margent of the sea,

To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,

But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,

As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea

Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land,

Hath every pelting river made so proud

That they have overborne their continents.

The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard.

The fold stands empty in the drowned field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,

For lack of tread, are undistinguishable.

From the Prologue to Mayor of Casterbridge                                                       Thomas Hardy

Bear in mind that in the days recalled by this tale, the home Corn trade on which so much of the action turns had an importance that can hardly be realized by those accustomed to the sixpenny loaf of the present date, (prologue dated 1895 ) and to the present indifference of the public to harvest weather.

Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 26 – Conjuror Fall                                               Thomas Hardy

Narrator           It was June, and the weather was very unfavourable.

Michael Henchard read a disastrous garnering, but before acting he wished—what so many have wished—that he could know for certain what was at present only strong probability. He was superstitious—as such head-strong natures often are—and he nourished in his mind an idea bearing on the matter; an idea he shrank from disclosing even to Jopp.

In a lonely hamlet a few miles from the town, there lived a man of curious repute as a forecaster or weather-prophet. Behind his back he was called “Wide-oh,” on account of his reputation; to his face “Mr.” Fall.

Henchard knocked on the door.

Henchard         Can I speak to ’ee?.  I’ve long heard that you can—do things of a sort?

Fall                      Maybe so, Mr. Henchard.

Henchard         Ah—why do you call me that?

Fall                      Because it’s your name. Feeling you’d come I’ve waited for ’ee; and thinking you might be leery from your walk I laid two supper plates—look ye here.

Narrator           He threw open the door and disclosed the supper-table, at which appeared a second chair, knife and fork, plate and mug, as he had declared.

Henchard         Then I have not come in vain…. Now, for instance, can ye charm away warts?

Fall                      Without trouble.

Henchard         Cure the evil?

Fall                      That I’ve done—with consideration—if they will wear the toad-bag by night as well as by day.

Henchard         Forecast the weather?

Fall                      With labour and time.

Henchard         Then take this, ’Tis a crownpiece. Now, what is the harvest fortnight to be? When can I know?

Henchard         I’ve worked it out already, and you can know at once.  By the sun, moon, and stars, by the clouds, the winds, the trees, and grass, the candle-flame and swallows, the smell of the herbs; likewise by the cats’ eyes, the ravens, the leeches, the spiders, and the dungmixen, the last fortnight in August will be—rain and tempest.

Henchard         You are not certain, of course?

Fall                      As one can be in a world where all’s unsure. ’Twill be more like living in Revelations this autumn than in England. Shall I sketch it out for ’ee in a scheme?”

Henchard         Oh, No, No.  I don’t altogether believe in forecasts, come to second thoughts on such. But I—

Fall                      You don’t—you don’t—’tis quite understood.  You have given me a crown because you’ve one too many. But won’t you join me at supper, now ’tis waiting and all?

Narrator           Henchard would gladly have joined; for the savour of the stew had floated from the cottage into the porch with such appetizing distinctness that the meat, the onions, the pepper, and the herbs could be severally recognized by his nose. But as sitting down to hob-and-nob there would have seemed to mark him too implicitly as the weather-caster’s apostle, he declined, and went his way.

Murphy’s Winter         as it became known, made the astrologer from Cork a small fortune from the sale of an Almanac for the year 1837-38 in which he predicted a severe frost would occur in January.  By the 20th of January temperatures as low as -16 degrees Celsius were recorded in London.

Come All Jolly Fellows Who Follow the Plough                                                    Traditional Song

So early one morning at the break of the day,
The cocks they was crowing; the farmer did say,
“Come arise, young fellows rise up of good will,
For your horses want something their bellies to fill.”

So when four o’clock comes, boys, then up we do rise
And into the stable we merrily flies.
With a rubbing and scrubbing, I’ll swear and I’ll vow
That we’re all jolly fellows that follows the plough.

At six o’clock then our breakfast we seek;
On beef, bread and pork, boys, we heartily eats.
With a piece in our pocket, I’ll swear and I’ll vow
That we’re all jolly fellows that follows the plough.

Then we harness our horses and out we do go,
A trip o’er the clods, boys, as nimble as dough,
And when we gets there then so jolly and bold
To see which of us a straight furrow can hold.

Now, one day the master he came riding by and thus he did say,
“What have you been doing this very long day?
You have not ploughed your acre, I’ll swear and I vow
That you’re all idle fellows as follows the plough!”

And then I turned around and I made this reply,
“We’ve all ploughed our acre; You tells a big lie!”
And the master he looked and he laughed at the joke
“Oh, it’s past two o’clock, boys, it’s time to unyoke.”

“So unharness your horses and we’ll rub them down,
And I’ll bring you some ale in the jug that is brown.”

So all you young fellows wherever you be,
Come take this advice and be ruled by me:
For fear not your master, for I’ll swear and I’ll vow
That we’re all jolly fellows that follows the plough.

PLOUGH MONDAY — The first Monday after the 6th of January.                  Various Sources

It was formerly the day on which work on the farm was resumed after Christmas and Spring ploughing began.

In the first new furrow they would plant the Corn Dolly so that the Corn spirit would return to the field and ensure another harvest. Country people used Corn Dollies as a talisman against crop failure. Women would wear them because they believed and hoped they would help them conceive. But the Corn had to be taken from the last stook

On Plough Monday ploughmen decorated their ploughs and went around collecting money or drink. Anyone refusing were likely to find their front garden ploughed up!

Blessing the plough was particularly common in Hampshire. Memories of this linger on in the Plough Sunday Church Services when a plough is brought in to the Church and prayers are offered for a plentiful harvest

The Mouse’s Nest                                                                                                                          John Clare

I found a ball of grass among the hay
And progged it as I passed and went away;
And when I looked I fancied something stirred,
And turned again and hoped to catch the bird—
When out an old mouse bolted in the wheats
With all her young ones hanging at her teats;
She looked so odd and so grotesque to me,
I ran and wondered what the thing could be,
And pushed the knapweed bunches where I stood;
Then the mouse hurried from the craking brood.
The young ones squeaked, and as I went away
She found her nest again among the hay.
The water o’er the pebbles scarce could run
And broad old cesspools glittered in the sun.

Progged – to prod or poke                      Craking  – a harsh grating cry

From Still Glides the Stream                                                                                        Flora Thompson

Broad beans were planted in gardens on Candlemas day;

“Candlemas day, stick beans in the clay.   Throw candle and candlestick right away.”

Flora notes that by the time she was writing, people no longer heeded the second admonition; they lighted their paraffin lamps and stayed up until 9 or 10.

Traditional Country Advice                                                                                          John Bowles

When you hear the cuckoo shout Tiz time to put your tatties out 

If you want to know when to sow, take your trousers off and sit on the ground 

Mist in March, frost in May 

When oats were reaped and wheat was ripe                                                       Thomas Hardy

That day, when oats were reaped, and wheat was ripe, and barley ripening,

The road-dust hot, and the bleaching grasses dry,

I walked along and said,

While looking just ahead to where some silent people lie:

‘I wounded one who’s there, and now know well I wounded her;

But, ah, she does not know that she wounded me!’

And not an air stirred,

Nor a bill of any bird, and no response accorded she.

The Barley and the Rye                                                                                                  Traditional Song

It’s of an old country farmer living in the West Country,
And he had the prettiest little wife that you ever did see,
Well, the young fellow came a-courting her when the old man he wasn’t nigh,
And it’s ofttimes they take a tumble amongst the barley and the rye.

When the old man woke in the morning, and he found himself all alone
He looked out of the window, and saw his wife in the corn,
And the young fellow lay beside her, it caused the man to cry
He cried, “Wife, wife, I wonder at you, for the spoiling of the rye!”

She cried, “Husband,” she cried, “Oh husband, it’s the like I’ve ne’er done before
And if you’ve got one friend, love, I’ve another one in store.
He’s a friend, love, that will not deceive you, if you will him employ,
He’s got money enough, love, to pay for both the barley and the rye.”

Henry Fred Cox 1885-1971 a Norfolk farm worker and one of the most important singers of Traditional English Music was known to sing this song.

Summer                                                                                                                               Christina Rossetti

Winter is cold-hearted
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weather-cock
Blown every way:
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree;


When Robin’s not a beggar,
And Jenny Wren’s a bride,
And larks hang singing, singing, singing,
Over the wheat-fields wide,
And anchored lilies ride,
And the pendulum spider
Swings from side to side,


And blue-black beetles transact business,
And gnats fly in a host,
And furry caterpillars hasten
That no time be lost,
And moths grow fat and thrive,
And ladybirds arrive.


Before green apples blush,
Before green nuts embrown,
Why, one day in the country
Is worth a month in town;
Is worth a day and a year
Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion
That days drone elsewhere.

Crop rotation Charles Townsend 1674-1738 also known as Turnip Townsend popularised a 4 crop rotation of wheat, turnip, barley, clover as it allows the fertility of the soil to increase year on year.

From The Village                                                                                                George Crabbe

Lo! Where the heath, with withering brake grown o’er.

Lends the light turf that warms the neighbouring poor;

From thence a length of burning sand appears,

Where the thin harvest waves its wither’d ears;

Rank weeds that every art and care defy,

Reign o’er the land, and rob the blighted eye;

There thistles stretch their prickly arms afar,

And to the ragged infant threatens war;

There poppies, nodding, mock the hope of toil;

There the blue bugloss paints the sterile soil;

Hardy and high, above the slender sheaf,

The slimy mallow waves her silky leaf;

O’er the young shoot the charlock throws a shade,

With mingled tints the rocky coasts abound,

And a sad splendour vainly shines around.

In 1905, Thomas Hardy participated in the official celebrations marking 150 years since the birth of Aldeburgh’s poet George Crabbe

Traditional Rhyme                                                                                                           John Bowles

 A poor old widow in her weeds Sowed her garden with wild flower seeds Not to shallow, not too deep And down came April, drip, drip, drip. And now all summer she sits and sows Where willow herb, comfrey and bugloss blows. Teasel and tansy, meadowsweet, campion, toadflax and rough hawksbit 

Burning the Stubble                                                                                          John Stallworthy

Another harvest gathered in
Worse than the last; only a bin
of rotten grain for all our trouble.
But there is a time for the plough,
a time for harvesting, and now
a time for burning the stubble.

Flames snap at the wind, and it
etches the eye with a bitter
mirage of summer. Returning
I looked for the dip in the ground,
the nest, the unfurled poppy; found
nothing but stubble burning

and charred ground hardening towards frost.
Fire before ice; and the ground must
be ploughed after burning the stubble,
the ground must be broken again.
There can be no new grain
without, first, burning the stubble.

John Stallworthy          ‘So my view of my favourite poems changes, but on the sort of short list, one that would always come up, one would be Thomas Hardy’s poem Drummer Hodge.’

Song at the Beginning of Autumn                                                                              Elizabeth Jennings

Now watch this autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.

Proust who collected time within
A child’s cake would understand
The ambiguity of this –
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that autumn gropes for us.

But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names –
Autumn and summer, winter, spring –
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.

But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marble, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air.
When I said autumn, autumn broke.

John Barleycorn                                                                                                      Traditional Song

  There were three men come out of the west
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn should die.
They’ve ploughed, they’ve sown, they’ve harrowed him in,
Throwed clods on his head.
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn was dead.
They’ve let him lie for a very long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
And little Sir John sprung up his head
And soon amazed them all.
They’ve let him stand till midsummer day
Till he looked both pale and wan.
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man.
They’ve hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee.
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him barbarously.
They’ve hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart.

And the loader, he served him worse than that
For he’s bound him to the cart.
They’ve wheeled him round and around the field
Till they came into the barn And there they’ve made a solemn mow
Of poor John Barleycorn. They’ve hired men with the crab tree sticks
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller, he has served him worse than that
For he’s ground him between two stones.
Here’s little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
And here’s brandy in the glass
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last.

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