National Trust themes for 2020 are Food and Here and Now (mindfulness) Courtship COMES to TABLE

Courtship Comes to Table, which The New Hardy Players would have presented in Max Gate Gardens May 2020. Devised by Sue Worth

The Courtship Comes to Table Programme includes;

Scenes of Courtship successful and unsuccessful that take place amid the drama of the dining table or where there is a sharing of food or drink.  Courtships at all stages, told in poetry and prose.


Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes (sung)                            Ben Jonson

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee!

Giles Winterbourne & Creedle after supper with Grace Melbury & her parents

Thomas Hardy

GILES W      Do you think it went off well, Creedle?”     

CREEDLE    The victuals did; that I know.  And the drink did; that I steadfastly believe, from the holler sound of the barrels.  Good, honest drink ’twere, the headiest mead I ever brewed; and the best wine that berries could rise to; and the briskest Horner-and-Cleeves cider ever wrung down, leaving out the spice and sperrits I put into it, while that egg-flip would ha’ passed through muslin, so little curdled ’twere.  ‘Twas good enough to make any king’s heart merry–ay, to make his whole carcass smile.  Still, I don’t deny I’m afeared some things didn’t go well with the Melbury’s.

GILES W      I’m afraid, too, that it was a failure there!

CREEDLE    If so, ’twere doomed to be so.  Not but what that snail might as well have come upon anybody else’s plate as hers.

GILES W      What snail?

CREEDLE    Well, maister, there was a little one upon the edge of her plate when I brought it out; and so it must have been in her few leaves of wintergreen.

GILES W      How the deuce did a snail get there?

CREEDLE    That I don’t know no more than the dead; but there my gentleman was.

GILES W      But, Robert, of all places, that was where he shouldn’t have been!

CREEDLE    Well, ’twas his native home, come to that; and where else could we expect him to be? I don’t care who the man is, snails and caterpillars always will lurk in close to the stump of cabbages in that tantalizing way.

GILES W      He wasn’t alive, I suppose?” said Giles, with a shudder on Grace’s account.

CREEDLE    Oh no.  He was well boiled.  I warrant him well boiled.  God forbid that a LIVE snail should be seed on any plate of victuals that’s served by Robert Creedle….But Lord, there; I don’t mind ’em myself–them small ones, for they were born on cabbage, and they’ve lived on cabbage, so they must be made of cabbage.  But she, the close-mouthed little lady, she didn’t say a word about it; though ‘twould have made good small conversation as to the nater of such creatures; especially as wit ran short among us sometimes.

GILES W      Oh yes–’tis all over!” Shakes head    Do you know, Robert, that she’s been
accustomed to servants and everything superfine these many years? How, then, could she stand our ways?

CREEDLE    Well, all I can say is, then, that she ought to hob-and-nob elsewhere.  They shouldn’t have schooled her so monstrous high, or else bachelor men shouldn’t give randys, or if they do give ’em, only to their own race.

GILES W      Perhaps that’s true.

To A Wagtail                                                      Douglas Northover

Once more, small chequered friend, we meet

Upon the winter hill

The cruel clay beneath our feet

For you and I to till.

I rake, whilst you, like ship in sail

Across the tussock dance

With tilted head and flick’ring tail

A black and white romance.

Who says that chivalry is dead?

They should be here to see

You call, a feathered gent, well bred,

Your lady from a tree.

You stand with head and tail alert

Whilst she delves in the soil

For larvae, grubs and things minute

And all such wagtail spoil.

I think again of summer’s days

Of your small dancing brood

And know that from these winter clays

The garden will be good.

At Tea                                                                          Thomas Hardy

The kettle descants in a cozy drone,
And the young wife looks in her husband’s face,
And then at her guest’s, and shows in her own
Her sense that she fills an envied place;
And the visiting lady is all abloom,
And says there was never so sweet a room.

And the happy young housewife does not know
That the woman beside her was first his choice,
Till the fates ordained it could not be so. . . .
Betraying nothing in look or voice
The guest sits smiling and sips her tea,
And he throws her a stray glance yearningly.

In 1944 John Betjeman wrote of things which, for him, was England including arguments about cow parsley on the altar, leaning on gates to look at the fields and the poetry of Tennyson, Crabbe and Mathew Arnold.

In a Bath Tea Shop                                           John Betjeman

‘Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another-

Let us hold hands and look.’

She, such a very ordinary little woman;

He, such a thumping crook;

But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels

In the teashop’s inglenook

The Feckless Supper                                       Walter De La Mare

Who are we waiting for? ” ” Soup burnt? ” ” … Eight. “
” Only the tiniest party! — Us! “
” Darling! Divine! ” ” Ten minutes late — “
” And my digest — ” ” I’m ravenous! “
” ” Toomes”? — Oh, he’s new. ” ” Looks crazed, I guess! “
” ” Married” — Again! ” ” Well; more or less! “

” Dinner is served! ” ” Dinner is served. “
” Is served? ” ” Is served. ” ” Ah, yes. “

” Dear Mr. Prout, will you take down
The Lilith in leaf-green by the fire?
Blanche Ogleton? … ” ” How coy a frown!
Hasn’t she borrowed Eve’s attire? “
” Morose Old Adam! ” ” Charmed — I vow. “
” Come then, and meet her now. “

” Now, Dr. Mallus — would you please? —
Our daring poetess, Delia Seek? “
” The lady with the bony knees? “
” And — entre nous — less song than beak. “
” Sharing her past with Simple Si — “
” Bare facts! He’ll blush! ” ” Oh, fie! “

” And you, Sir Nathan — false but fair! —
That fountain of wit, Aurora Pert. “
” More wit than It, poor dear! But there … “
” Pitiless Pacha! And such a flirt! “
” ” Flirt”! Me? ” ” Who else? ” ” You here. … Who can …? “
” Incorrigible man! “

” And now, Mr. Simon — little me! —
Last and — ” ” By no means least! ” ” Oh, come! —
What naughty, naughty flattery!
Honey! — I hear the creatures hum! “
” Sweets for the sweet, I always say! “
” ” Always”? … We’re last. ” ” This way? ” …

” No, sir; straight on, please. ” ” I’d have vowed! —
I came the other … ” ” It’s queer; I’m sure … “
” What frightful pictures! ” ” Fiends! ” ” The crowd! “
” Such nudes! ” ” I can’t endure … “

” Yes, there they go. ” ” Heavens! Are we right? “
” Follow up closer! ” ” ” Prout”? — sand-blind! “
” This endless … ” ” Who’s turned down the light? “
” Keep calm! They’re close behind. “

” Oh! Dr. Mallus; what dismal stairs! “
” I hate these old Victor … ” ” Dry rot! “
” Darker and darker. ” ” Fog! ” ” The air’s … “
” Scarce breathable! ” ” Hell! ” ” What? “

” The banister’s gone! ” ” It’s deep; keep close! “
” We’re going down and down! ” ” What fun! “
” Damp! Why, my shoes … ” ” It’s slimy … Not moss! “
” I’m freezing cold! ” ” Let’s run. “

” … Behind us. I’m giddy. . . . ” ” The catacombs … “
” That shout! ” ” Who’s there? ” ” I’m alone! ” ” Stand back! “
” She said, Lead … ” ” Oh! ” ” Where’s Toomes? ” ” Toomes! ” ” T OOMES ! “
” Stifling! ” ” My skull will crack! “

” Sir Nathan! Ai! ” ” I say! Toomes! Prout! “
” Where? Where? ” ” ” Our silks and fine array” … “
” She’s mad. ” ” I’m dying! ” ” Oh, Let me out! “
” My God! We’ve lost our way! ” …

And now how sad-serene the abandoned house,
Whereon at dawn the spring-tide sunbeams beat;
And time’s slow pace alone is ominous,
And naught but shadows of noonday therein meet;
Domestic microcosm, only a Trump could rouse:
And, pondering darkly, in the silent rooms,
He who misled them all — the butler, Toomes.

I Gave My Love a Cherry (Sung)                                                      Traditional

I gave my love a cherry without a stone,

I gave my love a chicken without a bone

I gave my love a ring that has no end

I gave my love a baby with no crying

How can there be a cherry without a stone,

How can there be a chicken without a bone.

How can there be a ring that has no end.

How can there be a baby with no crying

A cherry when it blossoms it has no stone

A chicken when an egg it has no bone

A ring when its rolling it has no end

A baby when its sleeping there’s no crying

Foods Thought to Inspire Romance  called out by Players  – Chocolate, Oysters, Asparagus, Water Melon, Celery, Apricots, Pomegranates, Honey, Caviar, Chili Peppers? or Strawberries 

NARRATOR       as in this scene from Tess where Alec D’Urberville conducts Tess about his family’s lawns, and flower beds, and conservatories; and thence to the fruit-garden and greenhouses, where he asked her;

ALEC                   Do you like strawberries Tess

TESS                   Yes, when they come.   

ALEC                   They are already here

NARRATOR       D’Urberville began gathering specimens of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as he stooped; and presently, selecting a specially fine product of the ‘British Queen’ variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.

TESS                    No – No! I would rather take it in my own hand.

ALEC                   Nonsense!

NARRATOR    he insisted and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in

Chalice of Circe                                                                      Muriel Stewart

DRINK of our Cup–of the red wine that burns in it,
All the wild shames that have crusted its mouth,
Passion that twists in it, Madness that churns in it,
Fever that yearns in it, Folly that turns in it,
Drink of our Cup! It is Love, it is Youth!

“Amorous valleys have travailed to breed in it,”
Eden hath shaken one tree at its brim,
Syria scattered an infamous seed in it,
Paphos hath freed in it lovers, to bleed in it,
Foam from Armida hath rusted its rim!

Chalice of gold with the bruised roses dying there,
How the mad kisses have clustered and clung!
All the sweet loves of the world, softly crying there,
Longing and lying there, swooning and sighing there,
Call to me: “Scatter our wine on thy tongue!”

Rim of it: poisoned with carrion kisses,
Taints the fresh flower, and forbiddeth the sun:
Doves never brood where the stirred serpent hisses
At maddening kisses–mysterious blisses:
Over its edges the spiders have spun.

Fierce wife of Philip her portion hath found in it,
Messaline waits there, Aspasia woos:
Helen and Egypt go vested and crowned in it,
Phryne is bound in it, Faustine swings round in it,
Crying: “Come down to us, watch us and choose!”

Voices are calling: “The revel begins with us,
Run thou again in the race of delight!
All the sweet chase and the capturing win with us,
Enter thou in with us, gambol and sin with us,
Fleet is the quarry and fair is the flight!”
Ere I could slake at the chalice’s wonder
Lips all a-fire for the taste of such bliss,
Rose a great storm, sucked the white faces under,
And tore them asunder with fury and thunder,
Crushed the last folly and choked the last kiss.

Fiercely it flung them and savagely shattered them,
Burst the last breath in a bubble of blood!
Fury and foam of it broke them and battered them,
Scorched them and scattered them, tortured and tattered them,
Hurling their limbs in the froth of the flood.

Perished their promise, their beauty forsaken;
Silence alone walked the face of the deep:
The whirlpool was stilled, and the surface with snaken
Small ripples was shaken, as if did awaken
Some sorrowful ghost from the margin of sleep.

Nothing was left of their beauty and ‘plaining–
Left of their magic and spared of their spell:
Only the lip of the dark water, staining
The roses, fast waning; and only the craning
Of snakes’ heads, disturbed by the petals that fell.

MR Bumble Courts the Future Mrs Bumble at Tea                 Oliver Twist               Charles Dickens

NARRATOR       Mrs. Corney rose to get another cup and saucer from the closet. As she sat down, her eyes once again encountered those of the gallant beadle; she coloured, and applied herself to the task of making his tea. Again Mr. Bumble coughed–louder this time than he had coughed yet.

MRS CORNEY  Sweet? Mr. Bumble?

NARRATOR       inquired the matron, taking up the sugar-basin.

MR BUMBLE    Very sweet, indeed, ma’am

NARRATOR       replied Mr. Bumble. He fixed his eyes on Mrs. Corney as he said this; and if ever a beadle looked tender, Mr. Bumble was that beadle at that moment.

MR BUMBLE sighs audibly   You have a cat, ma’am, I see,- and kittens too, I declare!

MRS CORNEY I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble, you can’t think,’ — ‘They’re _so_ happy, _so_ frolicsome, and _so_ cheerful, that they are quite companions for me.

MR BUMBLE    Very nice animals, ma’am — so very domestic.

MRS CORNEY Oh, yes! – so fond of their home too, that it’s quite a pleasure, I’m sure.

MR BUMBLE    Mrs. Corney, ma’am  ____ I  mean to say this, ma’am; that any cat, or kitten, that could live with you, ma’am, and _not_ be fond of its home, must be a ass, ma’am.

MRS CORNEY  Oh, Mr. Bumble!.

MR BUMBLE    It’s of no use disguising facts, ma’am

NARRATOR       said Mr. Bumble, slowly flourishing the teaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which made him doubly impressive;

MR BUMBLE    I would drown it myself, with pleasure.

MRS CORNEY  Then you’re a cruel man,’ said vivaciously  ‘and a very hard-hearted man besides.

MR BUMBLE    Hard-hearted, ma’am? ____ Hard?

NARRATOR       Mr. Bumble resigned his cup without another word; squeezed Mrs. Corney’s little finger as she took it.

                             Now, if the matron had moved her chair to the right, she would have been scorched by the fire; and if to the left, she must have fallen into Mr. Bumble’s arms; so (being a discreet matron, and no doubt foreseeing these consequences at a glance) she remained where she was, and handed Mr. Bumble another cup of tea.

MR BUMBLE                   Hard-hearted, Mrs. Corney?  –  are _you_ hard-hearted, Mrs. Corney?’

MRS CORNEY  Dear me! _ ‘what a very curious question from a single man. What can you want to know for, Mr. Bumble?

NARRATOR       The beadle drank his tea to the last drop; finished a piece of toast; whisked the crumbs off his knees; wiped his lips; and deliberately kissed the matron.

MRS CORNEY  Oh Mr. Bumble! – Mr. Bumble, I shall scream!

NARRATOR       Mr. Bumble made no reply; but in a slow and dignified manner, put his arm round the matron’s waist.

As the lady had stated her intention of screaming, of course she would have screamed at this additional boldness, but that the exertion was rendered unnecessary by a hasty knocking at the door: which was no sooner heard, than Mr. Bumble darted, with much agility, to the wine bottles, and began dusting them with great violence: while the matron sharply demanded who was there.

I Once Loved a Lass (sung) An earlier version of this song is called The False Bride

I once loved a Lass

I loved her sae well

That I hated all others

Who spoke of her ill

But now she’s rewarded me

Well for my love

She is gone to be wed to another

I saw my love to the church go

With Bride and Bride maidens

They made a fine show

I followed them on wi’

A heart full of woe

She is gone to be wed to another

I saw my love sit down to dine

I sat down beside them

and poured out the wine

I drank to the lassie

That should ha’ been mine

She is gone to be wed to another

The men in the forest they asked of me

How many strawberries grow in the deep sea?

I answered them then wi’ a tear in my eye

How many ships sail in the forest ?

Bathsheba, Gabriel and Boldwood at Sheep Shearing Supper   Thomas Hardy                                      Stage directions underlined and in italics

 BATHSHEBA steps forward with  her chair .- a chair is placed opposite her at the end of the line of other players who remain seated as at supper with GABRIEL OAK among them

NARRATOR                     For the shearing-supper a long table was placed on the grass-plot beside the house, the end of the table being thrust over the sill of the wide parlour window and a foot or two Into the room. Miss Everdene sat inside the window, facing down the table. She was thus at the head without mingling with the men.

CAINY BALL                     We workfolk shall have some lordly-junketing to-night – This morning I see’em making the great puddens in the milking-pails — lumps of fat as big as yer thumb, Mister Oak! I’ve never seed such splendid large knobs of fat before in the days of my life — they never used to be bigger then a horse-bean. And there was a great black crock upon the brandish with his legs a-sticking out, but I don’t know what was in within – And there was two bushels of biffins for apple-pies

JOSEPH POORGRASS   Well, I hope to do my duty by it all -Yes; victuals and drink is a cheerful thing, and gives nerves to the nerveless, if the form of words may be used. ‘Tis the gospel of the body, without which we perish, so to speak it.”

NARRATOR                     This evening Bathsheba was unusually excited, her red cheeks and lips contrasting lustrously with the mazy skeins of her shadowy hair. She seemed to expect assistance, and the seat at the bottom of the table was at her request left vacant until after they had begun the meal.

BATHSHEBA                   Gabriel – take the seat at the end of table please.   

Gabriel moves with great readiness and sits in the chair to take charge of supper at that end.      

NARRATOR                     At this moment Mr. Boldwood came in at the gate, and crossed the green to Bathsheba.  

Enter BOLDWOOD  who hurries to BATHSHEBA apologising to her for his lateness:

BATHSHEBA                   greets BOLDWOOD warmly then turns to GABRIEL              Gabriel – will you move again, please, and let Mr. Boldwood come there?

GABRIEL                           Moves in silence – and a little gloomily back to his original seat.

JAN GOGGANS starts to sing

I’ve Lost my Love                                                                                                Traditional

I’ve lost my love    And I care not

Ers gone away        And I care not

I’ll soon ‘ave another

That’s better than t’other

I’ve lost my love    And I care not

JAN Sings it again encouraging audience to join in for rousing end

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