Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?

And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?


Hallowe’en, or All Hallows’ Eve

Celebrated each year on October 31st, Hallowe’en means the Eve of Hallotide (1st and 2nd November) which was designated as a time to remember the dead.

The modern Hallowe’en developed from the two closely linked Christian festivals of All Saints (1st November) and All Souls (2nd November).

The last night of October, Old Year’s Night in the Celtic calendar, a night of witches and fires, was transmuted by the Church into the Vigil of All Saints or Hallowe’en. It was celebrated much more in the North of England, where people made lanterns out of turnips, disguised themselves in costumes, and ducked for apples and jumped for treacle scones. It was a time for ghost stories and games.

Hence, journeys had to be finished before sunset, and lighted candles were left burning all night in the stable to keep evil from farm stock, because Hallowe’en was the night upon which animals were allowed back into the homestead for winter.

Away from the farm, villagers were advised never to leave a door ajar or an unwelcome supernatural visitor might enter and remain with the household for life. And church bells were rung and bonfires lit to guide returning souls to Earth.

On Hallowe’en the old ghosts come
About us – and they speak to some.

It was a time for divination. Nut shells were burned and prophecies made from their ashes. Young ladies threw apple peel in the air to make the initial of their future betrothed when it landed.

Sprigs of Rosemary or Yew under the pillow would reveal their future husband in their dreams. Also, if you ate an apple at midnight whilst seated in front of a mirror you would see your future husband peeping over your shoulder.

Until at least 1890, Cornish greengrocers laid in stocks of fine Allan apples, the traditional gift for children at All Hallows.

“Hey ho for Hallowe’en
When all the witches are to be seen.
Some in black and some in green,
Hey ho for Hallowe’en.”

In some rural areas it was usual at Hallowe’en to serve a Mash of Nine Sorts to unmarried guests.

Assorted charms were added. Each guest was then asked to take a spoonful in turn to bring out a charm.

A coin for wealth,
A ring for marriage,
A button for a bachelor,
A thimble for a spinster,
A wishbone for your heart’s desire.
Halowe’en charms

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
Cornish prayer


The Lord of Misrule

All-Hallows Eve was traditionally the day on which the Lord of Misrule was appointed for the Christmas to come. He would reign through till Candlemas, 2 February, known by other names, such as ‘The Master of Merry Disport’, ‘The Abbot of Unreason’, ‘Candlemas King’. It was his appointed task to ensure continuous merriment from New Year’s Eve through to Twelfth Night.

He was the personification of the spirit of disorder, fun and merrymaking which made the Christmas holidays something to look forward to in the Middle Ages, a welcome break during the hard winter months.


October Days of the Month

1st – St Mylors Day

Patron saint of Amesbury Abbey, Wiltshire.

It is claimed that the Norman abbey-church was founded by Guinevere, and her body is allegedly buried under the building.

October is the main month for apple-picking and cider-making.

The old sorts of apple are the most valuable for cider, such as the Hagloe Crab, Golden-Pippin, Woodcock, Moyle, Gennet Moyle, Fox-Whelp, Dymock-Red, Yellow Musks, and the Ten Commandments.


The first Thursday in October is the start of the Nottingham Goose Fair. At its height some 20,000 birds were driven to the town. Today it is a large three day funfair.

The fair featured a Pie Powder Court, dispensing justice for on-the-spot offenders. The name comes from the French pied-poudre – dust-feet – referring to the state of the many travellers who arrived.

4th – St Francis’ Day 1182-1226

This is the feast day of St Francis of Assissi, founder of the Franciscan Order of Mendicant Friars (also known as the Grey Friars).

This is also the day when swallows prepare to migrate.

5th – St Faith’s Eve

The Faith Cake is the symbol of St Faith. Her feast day is celebrated on the 6th October, and a Faith Cake baked on St Faith’s Eve is believed to bring a vision of a future husband.

The first Monday in October is the date of the Wibsey Horse Fair, Yorkshire.

“I’m Collier Jack, through Wibsey Slack, I’m allus praad to tell
That few fairs in old England can Wibsey Slack excel;
There’s plenty raam for cattle, and other sports we share,
I’m allus praad t’go wi my mate to t’seets at Wibsey Fair.”

6th – St Faith’s Day

She was an early Christian, martyred with her sisters, Hope and Charity. Because she was said to have been grilled over a fire, she is the patron saint of cakes.

‘Oh good St Faith, be kind tonight,
And bring to me my heart’s delight;
Let me my future husband view
And be my visions chaste and true.’

7th – St Osyth’s Day 7c

Osyth was an East Saxon Queen who gave her name to the Essex village where her nunnery stands. Her emblems are two keys and three loaves. Four churches are dedicated to her.

Tonight, by invoking St Osyth, hearth and home can be kept free of calamity in the year ahead. Last thing before bed, rake the ashes in the grate and mark them with a cross. After saying a prayer to the saint to protect the house from fire, water and all other calamities, you can drift into a peaceful and protected sleep.

8th – St Keynes’ Day

Son of 6th century King Brychan of Wales. Keynsham, in Avon, is named after her.

At St Keynes’ Well, at St Keyne in Cornwall, according to legend, whichever of a newly married couple drinks the water first will rule the roost.

‘I hastened as soon as the wedding was o’er
And left my good wife in the porch,
But i’faith she had been wiser than I
For she took a bottle to church.’
Robert Southey

9th – St Denis’ Day (or Denys, Dionysius)

Patron saint of France.

A day to loose pigs to fatten on fallen beech-mast and acorns.

The second Wednesday in the month is Tavistock Goosey Fair, in Devon.

The pubs of Tavistock habitually removed their doors for the fair, enabling barmen to eject the many drunks with greater ease and less damage.

‘And it’s oh, and where you be a-gwain, and
What be a-doin’ of there?
Aive down your prong and stap along to
Tavistock Goosey Fair.’

‘Tis just a month come Friday next, Bill Champerdown and me,
Us traipsed across old Darty Moor, the Goosey Fair to see.
Us made ourselves quite fitting, us greased and oiled our hair,
Then off we goes in our Sunday clothes, behind old Bill’s grey mare.’

10th – Old Michaelmas Day

Michaelmas Spring, a spell of fine weather, was thought to come around October 10th, on Old Michaelmas Day.

Devil’s Blackberry Day is on October 10th. It is no longer safe to pick blackberries as by now the Devil will have spat on them.

This day is also St Paulinus’ Day, d 644. First Bishop of York. Five English churches are dedicated to him.

11th – St Canice’s Day

St Canice lived in the 6th century and spent much of his time on the remote islands of Scotland.

It was on this day in 1216 that King John lost his Crown and jewels whilst crossing the Wash.

Sherborne’s Michaelmas Fair is held on the Monday after October 10th. An 1826 list of its delights includes ‘the learned pig, the giantess and dwarf, the menagerie of wild beasts . . . Mr Merry Andrew cracking his jokes . . . Rebecca Swain with her black and red cock . . . pricking in the Garter . . . raffling for gingerbread . . . the Sheffield hardwareman sporting a worn out wig and a large pair of spectacles. Sounds like yet another festival we ought to bring back.

12th – St Wilfred’s Day (634 – 709)

He was a Bishop of York and is a popular saint with 48 dedications. St Wilfred’s Chair – the bishop’s throne – at Hexham was once the sanctuary seat.

A west wind today points to a mild winter.

13th – St Edward the Confessor’s Day (1003 – 1066)

Edward was King of England, and after his death he became patron saint of England until supplanted by St George in the 15th century. Edward’s greatest work was the building of Westminster Abbey.

14th – The Battle of Hastings was fought on this day in 1066.

‘The future Conqueror of England was the last to land, and as he placed his foot on shore, he made a false step, and fell on his face. A murmur of consternation ran through the troops at this incident as a bad omen, but with great presence of mind William sprang immediately up, and shewing his troops his hand filled with English sand, exclaimed: “What now? What astonishes you? I have taken seisin of this land with my hands, and by the splendour of God, as far as it extends it is mine – it is yours!’


If there is no rain today, it will be a dry spring next year.

17th – St Luke’s Eve

Sleep with a crooked sixpence and a sprig of Rosemary under your pillow tonight and you will dream of your future love.

St Audrey’s Day

Died 679.

Daughter of a Christian prince, she founded the monastery at Ely and became its first abbess. Twelve churches are dedicated to her.

A fair was always held at St Audrey’s Chapel in Ely on this day. Various merchandise was offered for sale. Silk ribbons, and lace that became known as St Audrey’s laces, shortened to ‘tawdry laces’.

It was cheap imitations of these ornaments that gave rise to the use of the word ‘tawdry’ to describe anything that is showy but without quality, taste or worth.

18th – St Luke’s Day. 1st century.

He is an important saint in the church’s calendar. Patron saint of doctors and artists.

Today traditionally heralds a spell of warm weather, St Luke’s Little Summer. Beloved Luke: the physician was the disciple, helper and friend of St Paul (formerly Saul, a very dubious person and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, who probably deceived poor St Luke – and everyone else).

Up to St Luke’s Day put your hands where you like, after it keep them in your pocket.

Today was a lucky day to choose a husband.

‘St Luke, St Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams let me my true love see.’
Repeat this three times before going to bed.

During the night your future husband will appear. If he will prove a loving partner he will smile at you, but if after marriage he will forsake thy bed to wander after strange women, then he will be rude and uncivil with thee.

19th – St Frideswide (d 735)

A princess who became a nun and founded a nunnery on the site of Christ Church, Oxford. She is patron of the city and university. Her holy well at Osney is visited by many people each year. Henry VIII visited the well with Catherine of Aragon.


As the days grow darker and Hallowe’en approaches, beware of witches.

21st – St Ursula’s Day

Patron saint of girls’ schools, Princess Ursula was a devout 4th century Christian. A stained glass window at Trinity Church in York depicts her image.

This day is also St John of Bridlington’s Day – a miracle worker who died in 1329.

Trafalgar Day

Celebrating the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when the British fleet under Admiral Nelson defeated the French and Spanish fleets in the decisive battle of the Napoleonic Wars.

‘England expects that every man will do his duty.’
Signal sent from Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory before the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805.


The Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire was fought today in 1642, the first major conflict of the Civil War.


Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII died on this day in 1537, twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI.

25th – St Crispin and Crispinian’s Day

St Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers. He and his brother, Crispinian, were French. They are the patron saints of cobblers because they were both pricked to death by cobblers’ awls.

‘The twenty fifth of October
Cursed be the cobbler who goes to bed sober.’

‘Now shoe makers will have a Frisken
All in honour of St Crispin.’

St Crispin’s Day itself gained popularity as a holiday after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, where his name was evoked to rally the English to victory.

“This day is called the Feast of St Crispian.
He that outlives this day and came safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispian!’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s Day.'”
Act IV, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Henry V

26th – King Alfred the Great died on this day in AD 899.

Although he was never canonized, the English church celebrates his feast day.

28th – St Simon and St Jude’s Day 1st century

A joint saints’ day for the saints who worked as a team. Simon and Jude were 1st century Apostles. They were killed in Persia. In art, Jude is represented holding a boat and Simon clutching a fish.

Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and Simon is patron saint of wood cutters.

The weather takes a turn for the worse on St Simon and St Jude’s Day. It marks the traditional last gasp of the tail end of summer, and the onset of wet and windy winter.

On St Jude’s Day
The oxen play.

On St Simon’s Day we throw the sickle away. It’s a day when heavy rain is always forecast.

To catch a glimpse of a future lover, pare an apple without breaking the skin, throw the skin over your left shoulder, and when it lands it will form the initial of the lover’s name. The parer must recite this rhyme and turn three times:

‘St Simon and St Jude, on you I intrude
By this paring I hold to discover,
Without any delay, please tell me this day
The first letter of him my true lover.’

However, the success of this process may be drawn into question by the fact that St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes!

Also on the 28th, in Bedford and the surrounding area, baked Wardens were sold on the streets –

‘Smoking hot, piping hot,
Who knows what I have got?
Hot baked Wardens,
All hot! All hot! All hot!’

Wardens are Warden pears, cooked in red wine with cinnamon and clover.

29th – Sir Walter Raleigh beheaded on this day in 1618.

He observed calmly, ‘I have a long journey to go, therefore must take leave!’

30th – Punkie Night

Rather similar to Hallowe’en, a punkie is a lantern made from a mangold wurzel.

These were hollowed out and lit with candles, then suspended on string and carried around the streets by local children begging for candles. As they parade along, they sing –

It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Give us a candle, give us a light.
If you don’t you’ll get a fright (or if you haven’t a candle a penny’s all right);
It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Adam and Eve would never believe it’s
Punkie Night tonight.

31st – Hallowe’en

See separate post














October Rhymes and Miscellanea

The woods never look more beautiful than from the close of last month to the middle of October, for by that time it seems as if nature had exhausted all her choicest colours on the foliage. We see the rich, burnished bronze of the oak; red of many hues, up to the gaudiest scarlet; every shade of yellow, from the wan gold of the primrose to the deep orange of the tiger-lily . . . and all so blended and softened together in parts, that like the colours on a dove’s neck, we cannot tell where one begins and the other ends.
Chambers Book of Days (1864)


October, the tenth month of the year, was the eighth month of the Roman calendar. Its name is derived from the Latin octo, eight. The Anglo Saxons called it Wynmonath (‘wind month’) and Winterfyllith, the month of the winter moon. The Irish-Gaelic name Deireadh Fomhair, means ‘end of autumn’. In Welsh it is Hydref – the month of autumn, and in Gaelic-An Domhais – the month of deer rutting.


If in October you do marry
Love will come but riches tarry.

Drunk or sober,
Sow wheat in October

A good October and a good blast
To blow the hog, acorn and mast.

Married when leaves in October thin,
Toil and hardship for you begin/

For every fog in October, a snow in the winter, heavy or light according as the fog is heavy or light.

In October dung your field
And your land its wealth shall yield.

A warm October presages a cold February.

As the weather is in October, so it will be next March.

Where the wind is at Hollantide (Hallowe’en) the season of All Saints, it will be most of the winter.

If the October moon comes without frost, expect no frost till the full moon of November.

October hath always
One and twenty fine days.

An October bride is fair of face and affectionate, but she is also jealous.

If the deer’s coat is grey in October, there will be a severe winter.

If the October moon appears with the points of her crescent up the month will be dry; if down, wet.

If during the fall of leaves in October many leaves remain hanging and wither on the bough, a frosty winter with much snow will follow.

Much rain in October, much wind in December.

A warm October, a cold February.