National Trust themes for 2020 are Food and Here and Now (mindfulness) Hard Times and Harvest

Hard Times and Harvest Programme, which The New Hardy Players would have presented in Max Gate Gardens in October 2020. Devised by Sue Worth,Devina Symes and Sonia Morris

Hard Times and Harvest, which The New Hardy Players would have presented in Max Gate Gardens October 2020.  Poems, prose and song of the celebrations and uncertainties of harvests and the hard times that too often followed.

Hard Times of Old England                                                              Copper Family Song Sussex

Come all brother tradesmen that travel alone,
O, pray come and tell me where the trade is all gone,
Long time I have travelled and cannot find none,
And it’s O, the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

Provisions you buy at the shop it is true,
But if you’ve no money there’s none there for you.
So what’s a poor man and his family to do?
And it’s O, the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

If you go to a shop and you ask for a job
They will answer you there with a shake and a nod.
That’s enough to make a poor man to turn out and rob,
And it’s O, the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

You will see the poor tradesmen a-walking the street
From morning till night for employment to seek.
And scarcely they have any shoes to their feet,
And it’s O, the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

So now to conclude and to finish my song
Let us hope that these hard times they will not last long.
And I may soon have occasion to alter my song,
And sing O, the good times of old England,
In old England very good times

Corn A-Turnin Yollow                                                                                                     William Barnes

The windless copse ha’ sheädy boughs,
Wi’ blackbirds’ evenèn whistles;
The hills ha’ sheep upon their brows,
The zummerleäze ha’ thistles:
The meäds be gaÿ in grassy Maÿ,
But, oh! vrom hill to hollow,
Let me look down upon a groun’
O’ corn a-turnèn yollow.
An’ pease do grow in tangled beds,
An’ beäns be sweet to snuff, O;
The teäper woats do bend their heads,
The barley’s beard is rough, O.
The turnip green is fresh between
The corn in hill or hollow,
But I’d look down upon a groun’
O’ wheat a-turnèn yollow.
‘Tis merry when the brawny men
Do come to reap it down, O,
Where glossy red the poppy head
‘S among the stalks so brown, O.
‘Tis merry while the wheat’s in hile,
Or when, by hill or hollow,
The leäzers thick do stoop to pick
The ears so ripe an’ yollow.

A Harvest Morning                                                                                                                        John Clare

The mist hangs thick about the early field
& many a shout is heard while nought appears
Till close upon the gaze so thick conseald
Are things in mornings mist mayhap her tears
For summers sad departure—silence hears
Brown harvests dittys that disturb full soon
Her rest—toils lusty brawls that daily cheers
Its ignorance of sorrows with the boon
Of pastoral tunes ere morns red sun appears
Till dreamy evenings ruddy harvest moon
Hangs its large lamp to light them home again
The little children in their harvest dress
Amid the stubs of trifling ills complain

Far From the Madding Crowd  Chapter 36 The Harvest Supper                     Thomas Hardy

1st Narrator      The night had a sinister aspect.  The light had a sinister aspect.  The fields were fallow with the impure light.  Thunder was imminent.

This was the night which had been selected by Sergeant Troy — ruling now in the room of his wife — for giving the harvest supper and dance. As Gabriel Oak approached the building the sound of violins and a tambourine, and the regular jigging of many feet, grew more distinct. He came close to the large doors, one of which stood slightly ajar, and looked in.

2nd Narrator     Immediately opposite to Oak a rostrum had been erected, bearing a table and chairs. Here sat three fiddlers, and beside them stood a frantic man with his hair on end, perspiration streaming down his cheeks, and a tambourine quivering in his hand.

The dance ended, and on the black oak floor in the midst a new row of couples formed for another.

1st Violin            Now, ma’am, and no offence I hope, I ask what dance you would like next?

Bathsheba        Really, it makes no difference.

1st Violin            Then, I’ll venture to name that the right and proper thing is ‘The Soldier’s Joy’ — there being a gallant soldier married into the farm — hey, my sonnies, and gentlemen all?

Chorus               It shall be ‘The Soldier’s Joy!’.

Sergeant Troy  Thanks for the compliment – For though I have purchased my discharge from Her Most Gracious Majesty’s regiment of cavalry the 11th Dragoon Guards, to attend to the new duties awaiting me here, I shall continue a soldier in spirit and feeling as long as I live.”

So the dance began.

From Come Ye Thankful People Come                                                      Harvest Hymn

Come, ye thankful people, come,

Raise the song of harvest home;

All is safely gathered in
ere the winter storms begin. 
God our Maker doth provide 
for our wants to be supplied; 
come to God’s own temple, come, 
raise the song of harvest home. 

From This Gentle Place                                                                                    Douglas Northover

For our safety out fishing when danger is near;

Thou walkst on water to banish our fear,

For the mackerel and herring we catch in our seines,

And the calm days and sunshine that follow the rains.

A Failure                                                                                                                              Cecil Day-Lewis

This soil was deep and the field well-sited.

The seed was sound

Average luck with the weather, one thought,

And the crop would abound.

If harrowing were all that is needed for

Harvest, his field

Had been harrowed enough, God knows, to warrant

A record yield

He gazed from a hill in the breezy springtime;

That field was allow

With wave upon wave like a sea’s green shallows

Breathing below.

He looked from a gate one summer morning

When the mists uprolled;

Headland to headland those fortunate acres

Seemed solid gold

He stood by the field as the day of harvest

Dawned.  But, oh

The fruit of a years work, a lifetimes lore,

Had ceased to grow.

No wickedest weather could thus have turned,

As it were overnight,

His field to so wan and weedy a showing;

Some galloping blight

From earth’s metabolism must have sprung

To ruin all;

Or perhaps his own high hopes had made

The wizened look tall.

But it’s useless to argue the why and wherefore.

When a crop is so thin,

There’s nothing to do but to set the teeth

And plough it in.

Cecil Day-Lewis was greatly influenced by Thomas Hardy.  He was buried near him in the Churchyard at Stinsford.

Forefathers                                                                                                           Edmund Blunden

Here they went with smock and crook,
Toiled in the sun, lolled in the shade,
Here they mudded out the brook
And here their hatchet cleared the glade:
Harvest-supper woke their wit,
Huntsmen’s moon their wooings lit.

From this church they led their brides,
From this church themselves were led
Shoulder-high; on these waysides
Sat to take their beer and bread.
Names are gone – what men they were
These their cottages declare.

Names are vanished, save the few
In the old brown Bible scrawled;
These were men of pith and thew,
Whom the city never called;
Scarce could read or hold a quill,
Built the barn, the forge, the mill.

On the green they watched their sons
Playing till too dark to see,
As their fathers watched them once,
As my father once watched me;
While the bat and beetle flew
On the warm air webbed with dew.

Unrecorded, unrenowned,
Men from whom my ways begin,
Here I know you by your ground
But I know you not within –
There is silence, there survives
Not a moment of your lives.

Like the bee that now is blown
Honey-heavy on my hand,
From his toppling tansy-throne
In the green tempestuous land –
I’m in clover now, nor know
Who made honey long ago.

Epitaph on a Devon tombstone

Here lies I by the Chancel door

They put me here because I was poor.

The further in the more you pay

But here lies I as snug as they.

(Folk customs)


Blackberry Picking                                                                                                           Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full,

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

From Ode to Autumn.                                                                                                                   John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

   Steady thy laden head across a brook;

   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

From The Burning of Leaves                                                                          Robert Laurence Binyon

Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.

The last hollyhock’s fallen tower is dust;
All the spices of June are a bitter reek,
All the extravagant riches spent and mean.
All burns! The reddest rose is a ghost;
Sparks whirl up, to expire in the mist: the wild
Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.

Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,
Time for the burning of days ended and done,
Idle solace of things that have gone before:
Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there;
Let them go to the fire, with never a look behind.
The world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.

They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.

From The Common a Took in                                                                                                    William Barnes

THOMAS.
 Good morn t’ye, John. How b’ye? how b’ye?
 Zoo you be gwaïn to market, I do zee.
 Why, you be quite a-lwoaded wi’ your geese.

  JOHN.
 Ees, Thomas, ees.
 Why, I’m a-gettèn rid ov ev’ry goose
 An’ goslèn I’ve a-got: an’ what is woose,
 I fear that I must zell my little cow.

  THOMAS.
 How zoo, then, John? Why, what’s the matter now?
 What, can’t ye get along? B’ye run a-ground?
 An’ can’t paÿ twenty shillèns vor a pound?
 What can’t ye put a lwoaf on shelf?

  JOHN.
                          Ees, now;
  But I do fear I shan’t ‘ithout my cow.
  No; they do mëan to teäke the moor in, I do hear,
  An’ ’twill be soon begun upon;
  Zoo I must zell my bit o’ stock to-year,
  Because they woon’t have any groun’ to run upon.

  THOMAS.
Why, what d’ye tell o’? I be very zorry
To hear what they be gwaïn about;
 But yet I s’pose there’ll be a ‘lotment vor ye,
 When they do come to mark it out.

  JOHN.
No; not vor me, I fear. An’ if there should,
 Why ‘twoulden be so handy as ’tis now;
 Vor ’tis the common that do do me good,
 The run for my vew geese, or vor my cow.

 THOMAS.
‘Tis handy to live near a common;
But I’ve a-zeed, an’ I’ve a-zaid,
That if a poor man got a bit o’ bread,
They’ll try to teäke it vrom en.
But I wer twold back tother day,
That they be got into a way

O’ lettèn bits o’ groun’ out to the poor.

  JOHN.
Well, I do hope ’tis true, I’m sure;
An’ I do hope that they will do it here,

Or I must goo to workhouse, I do fear.

The Nightingales were Singing                                                                      Roud Index no. 25903.

The nightingales were singing in the valley
The stars like shining jewels deck the sky       
And there beside a garden gate they linger
And whisper of  a love that never dies.

“The summer soon will pass away,” he murmurs,
“And when the fields are ripe with golden grain,
Then I’ll come back to keep my loving promise
And you and I will never part again.”

When the harvest moon is shining on the river
And merry are the songs again we’ll hear,
When as sweethearts we will roam         
Down the path that leads to home,
When the harvest moon is shining, Molly dear.

It’s Autumn now and in the peaceful valley;
The paths are strewn with leaves of red and gold;
And there she waits for some one who’s returning
And dreams about the loving vows he told.

The Farm Woman’s Winter.                                                                                        Thomas Hardy

If seasons all were summers,
And leaves would never fall,
And hopping casement-comers
Were foodless not at all,
And fragile folk might be here
That white winds bid depart;
Then one I used to see here
Would warm my wasted heart!

One frail, who, bravely tilling
Long hours in gripping gusts,
Was mastered by their chilling,
And now his ploughshare rusts.
So savage winter catches
The breath of limber things,
And what I love he snatches,
And what I love not, brings

Merry Autumn Days                                                                                         Charles Dickens

Tis pleasant on a fine spring morn
To see the buds expand,
‘Tis pleasant in the summer time
To see the fruitful land;
‘Tis pleasant on a winter’s night
To sit around the blaze,
But what are joys like these, my boys,
To merry autumn days!

We hail the merry Autumn days,
When leaves are turning red;
Because they’re far more beautiful
Than anyone has said,
We hail the merry harvest time,
The gayest of the year;
The time of rich and bounteous crops,
Rejoicing and good cheer.

From The Woodlanders and the second verse of Shortening Days at the Homestead                                                                                                                                                      Thomas Hardy

“He Looked and smelt like Autumn’s very brother, his face being sunburnt to wheat-colour, his eyes blue as corn-flowers, his sleeves and leggings dyed with fruit-stains, his hands clammy with the sweet juice of apples, his hat sprinkled with pips, and everywhere about him the sweet atmosphere of cider which at its first return each season has such an indescribable fascination for those who have been born and bred among the orchards.”


 Who is this coming with pondering pace,
      Black and ruddy, with white embossed,
      His eyes being black, and ruddy his face,
      And the marge of his hair like morning frost?
            It’s the cider-maker,
            And appletree-shaker,
      And behind him on wheels, in readiness,
      His mill, and tubs, and vat, and press.

Apple  Day                                                                                              Jeff Cloves

Here’s a Bramley’s seedling for Mum’s pastry

a Golden Russett for our red haired son

the juice of Cox’s Orange Pippins

for his baby brother to suck on.

A Cherry Permain for my sweetheart

she is the apple of my eye

and in memory of my dear Dad

fill a plate with perfect apple pie

Beauty of Bath and Newton Wonder

Laxton’s  Superb..we kiss and pray

that for every home-grown Stroudie

there’s a home grown Lodgemore Nonpareil.

A deserve-ed windfall for all teachers

be they average good or bad

sweet Sturmers for all shining schoolgirls

the pip for every sullen lad.

A rotten apple for all preachers

young Eve was right- their God was wrong

and apple maggots for all monarchs

and their sour corps of hangers on.

Apple fritters , apple dumplings

charlottes,crumbles, glazed French Tarth,

Chutney,strudel, scrumpy cider

each recipe a work of art.

Sharp apples served with Demerara,

cloves and cinnamo, clotted cream

almonds, honey baked Alaska

the stuff of everybody’s dream.

So celebrate our apple history

keep apples ever close to heart.

Sow them,grow them, store them, adore them

But never upset the apple cart.

No never upset the apple cart!

Great Things                                               Thomas Hardy

Sweet cyder is a great thing,

     A great thing to me,

Spinning down to Weymouth town

     By Ridgway thirstily,

And maid and mistress summoning

     Who tend the hostelry:

O cyder is a great thing,

     A great thing to me!

The dance it is a great thing,

     A great thing to me,

With candles lit and partners fit

     For night-long revelry;

And going home when day-dawning

     Peeps pale upon the lea:

O dancing is a great thing,

     A great thing to me!

Love is, yea, a great thing,

     A great thing to me,

When, having drawn across the lawn

     In darkness silently,

A figure flits like one a-wing

     Out from the nearest tree:

O love is, yes, a great thing,

     A great thing to me!

Will these be always great things,

     Great things to me? . . .

Let it befall that One will call,

     “Soul, I have need of thee”:

What then?  Joy-jaunts, impassioned flings,

     Love, and its ecstasy,

Will always have been great things,

     Great things to me!

How the Other Half Live                                                                             Devina Symes

Based on a true account of a happening in Dorset in 1900

As the severe frost and snow continued into yet another week, villagers were beginning to say that perhaps the hamlet of Apsley Green should be re-named Apsley White.

And, as most of the folk knew, it wasn’t only the bitter cold weather which was sapping their energy; it was the lack of good food.

     In the first winter of the 20th century the wages were extremely low in Dorset and it had become increasingly difficult for many of the farm folk to put nourishing food on the table. Even swedes, which normally could be surreptitiously eased out of the ground on a moonless night, were now impossible to retrieve from the frost bound earth.

     On December 24th, Amy Fry was awoken by the cries of her baby sister, who was lying in bed next to her, along with her two brothers. Bleary eyed, the teenager carried the baby Florence downstairs to her mother for her morning feed.

“Bless you, Amy.” Jenny smiled weakly as the small babe was placed on her mother’s chest.

“’Tis such a blessing my milk be still coming. At least one of us be properly fed.”

Amy nodded thoughtfully at her mother. This had been the routine for Amy since her little sister had been born six weeks ago. The birth had left Jenny paralysed from the waist down, making Amy, the eldest daughter at thirteen, mother to the rest of the family.

“I only hopes father can get us someit to eat for our Christmas dinner. We ‘ad the rabbit that was s’posed to be our Christmas box from Farmer Trim, yesterday.”

Jenny’s tired face sparked with indignation. “Christmas box indeed! Rabbit be our main diet, an’ ‘tis no cost to old Trim. There be thousands of ‘em in ‘is fields.”

“But father do poach ‘em, ‘tis not legal.”

     Their conversation was abruptly interrupted by the sound of horse’s hoofs and a loud rap on the cottage door. Amy peered cautiously through the small frozen pane.

“Huh, talk of the devil, ‘tis old Trim himself. I best go an’ see what he wants.”

“Thanks dear. Oh Lord, there must be some trouble about if old Trim have darkened our door. I ‘ope yer father’s alright.”

     Farmer Trim’s face was framed by the long icicles which hung from the thatched porch, and as he started to speak white clouds spewed from his mouth, reminding Amy of the steam train which panted by the village each day. His angry, distorted face frightened her and she realised she was not listening to his words until he pushed past her saying, “Your father

has been stealing from me. The evidence is here in this cottage and I am determined to find it.” Striding to the fireplace he picked up the poker and raked through the dead ashes.

Not finding anything there but ashes, he pulled open the drawers and cupboards of the dresser, which were pitifully empty. Angry at his fruitless journey he turned towards Amy, and waving his well- manicured finger under her nose, snarled, “Thieving peasants! I’ll get you yet.”

     James Fry was feeling cheerful as he walked the final mile to his cottage home. It had been a long day, but a good day. Instead of going home after milking he went to the pub, but not to drink. The landlord owed him some money for some pheasants, which he had taken there after a recent shoot. This was strictly between James and the landlord of course; and now he was going to collect his payment in the form of a Christmas pudding, made by the landlord’s wife, and also some tobacco.

James thanked the Lord that Amy was able to look after the family as well as she did, but he also knew that she couldn’t do everything on her own, and treats like this pudding would cheer her up, as well as the load of furze which he carried on his back. At least they would be warm and have something in their belly this Christmas.

     Half a mile away at the farmhouse, bachelor farmer Edwin Trim was eating his meal of venison and ham pie in his cold, quiet dining room. The delicious home cooked meal followed by apple tart and cream, slid down his throat almost unnoticed. This was not due to the quality of the food, but to his distracted mind, which focused almost totally on his cunning workers.

     Later that same evening as James relaxed in the family’s only armchair, which was placed next to his wife’s bed, Jenny told her husband of the uninvited guest. Now over the morning’s shock, Amy joined in with the conversation. “’Tisn’t fair, father, that you and all the other farmhands ‘ave to work so ‘ard to keep the likes of old Trim in luxury.”

With a nod and a wry smile, James remarked, “Well now my child ‘tis like granny Fry used to say, the poor always kept the rich, an’ ‘tis true.”

Then he put back his head and laughed. “Come wi’ me Amy.” Amy followed her father up to the attic room, where a fireplace was in one corner. James walked over to the fireplace and scraped through the ashes with a poker, which revealed some small bones. “See here maid, these be pheasant bones, an’ we will have a cock an’ hen pheasant for our Christmas dinner tomorrow. That’s the evidence old Trim were lookin’ for this morning. I don’t know who tipped him off, but whoever ‘twas don’t realise that we country folk live by our wits.”

Taking out his pipe, he began to fill it with his newly acquired tobacco.

“When I thinks of old Trim sat up there on ‘is own in thik big ‘ouse, I don’t envy ‘im one bit. We mid not ‘ave any money child, but we be rich in so many other ways. Now, let’s go an’ find some holly an’ mistletoe for yer mother.”

Tolpuddle Tree                                                                                                                    Devina Symes

You see that tree,

It speaks to me

Of days gone by

Of history.

That pollard sycamore

Has bore

A message to us

From days of yore.

Where, in the 19th century

It provided a canopy

As the Tolpuddle men vowed

To ease their poverty.

Following their arrest

Documents suggest

Evidence against them

Was hard to contest.

George Loveless, undeterred

Quickly wrote some words,

“We raise the watchword Liberty

We will, we will, we will be free.”

Cruelly, they had no say

And were led away

Shackled hands and feet . . .

Walking to Southampton bay.

George’s faith was rewarded

And the country applauded,

When, after three long years

Justice was accorded.

Their legacy

So vital, so key

To the nation

Was the creation of the TUC.

That’s why that tree

Speaks to me

Of days gone by

Of history.

Its roots survive

To provide

A memorial,

A living testimony.

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