July Rhymes and Miscellanea

July is named after Julius Caesar, who was born on 12th July. In Welsh it is Gorfennof – the month of completion, in Gaelic it is Am Mius buidhe – the yellow month, and in Anglo Saxon it is Litha – the month of the midsummer moon.

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If the first of July be rainy weather,
It will rain more or less for four weeks together.

A shower of rain in July when the corn begins to fill
Is worth a plough of oxen, and all belongs there till.

No tempest, good July,
Lest the corn come off bluely.

“Bow-wow, dandy fly,
Brew no beer in July.”

Cut thistles in July, then they will die.

Married in July with flowers ablaze,
Bittersweet memories on after days.

July to whom the dog star in her train
St James gives oysters and St Swithin rain.

A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a butterfly.

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July is now what our old poets loved to call ‘sweet summer time, when the leaves are greeen and long,’ for in such brief word-painting did they picture this pleasant season of the year; and, during this hot month, we sigh while perusing the ancient ballad-lore, and wish we could recall the past, were it only to enjoy a week with Robin Hood and his merry men in the free old forests . . . We heel the harness chafe in which we have hitherto so willingly worked, amid the ‘fever and the fret’ of the busy city, and pine to get away to some place where we can hear the murmur of the sea, or what is nearest the sound – the rustle of the summer leaves.

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Here’s a fitting little rhyme for this time of year, from A. W.Housman (1859-1936):

“Into my heart an air that kills…”
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

And another one, this time from Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953):

MATILDA – WHO TOLD LIES, AND WAS BURNED TO DEATH
MATILDA told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London’s Noble Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
Were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow.
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow,
They galloped, roaring through the Town,
‘Matilda’s House is Burning Down!’
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda’s Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the Men to go away!

It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out–
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street–
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) — but all in vain!
For every time she shouted ‘Fire!’
They only answered ‘Little Liar!’
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.

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