November Rhymes and Miscellanea

November was the ninth month of the Roman calendar. Its name is derived from the Latin novem, nine. The Anglo Saxons called it Blotmonath (‘Bloodmonth’) or Windmonath (‘Wind Month’).

In Welsh it is Tachwedd – the month of slaughtering, or Y Mis Du – the black month. In Gaelic it is Ant-Samhuinn – the month of the Samhain festival.

November is the pioneer of Winter, who comes, with his sharp winds and keen frosts, to cut down every bladed and leafy bit of green that is standing up, so as to make more room for the coming snowflakes to fall on the level waste, and form a great bed for Winter to sleep on . . . But amid all these images of desolation, which strike the eye more vividly through missing the richly-coloured foliage that threw such beauty over the two preceding months, November has still its berries which the early frosts have ripened to perfection.

November – the time when fishermen beached their boats and stopped fishing for winter.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – November!
Thomas Hood ‘No’ (1844)

On the first November if the weather hold clear
An end of what sowing you do for this year

November’s child is born to bless,
He’s like a song of thankfulness.

Married in veils of November mist,
Fortune your wedding ring has kissed.

If you wed in bleak November
Only joy will come, remember.

Ice in November to bear a duck,
Nothing afterwards but slush and muck.

November take flail,
Let ships no more sail.

Ice in November brings mud in December.

If the November goosebone be thick, so will the winter’s weather be.
If the November goosebone be thin, so will the winter’s weather be.

November’s sky in chill and drear,
November’s leaf is red and sear.

A child born at Hallowtide is sure to have the second sight and all November’s children will be fortunate and beloved.

A cold November, a warm Christmas.

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.


















September Rhymes and Miscellanea

Warm September brings the fruit;
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.


September from Septem, the seventh month of the Roman calendar. The Saxons called this ‘harvest month’.

The Anglo Saxons called it Gerstmonath (‘barley month’). In Welsh it is ‘medi’, meaning ‘the month of reaping’, and in Scottish-Gaelic it is ‘Sultuine’, meaning ‘the month of plenty’.

Beautiful are the fern and heath covered wastes in September – with their bushes bearing wild-fruits, sloe, and bullace [wild plum], and crab; and where one may lie hidden for hours, watching how beast, bird, and insect pass their time away, and what they do in these solitudes. In such spots, we have seen great gorse-bushes in bloom, high as the head of a mounted horseman; impenetrable places where the bramble and the sloe had become entangled with the furze and the branches of stunted hawthorns, that had never been able to grow clear of the wild waste of underwood.


It is said that a fine day on the first day of September signifies a fine spell of weather in the month ahead.

September rain is much liked by the farmer.

Married in September’s golden glow,
Smooth and serene your life will go.

September blow soft
Until the apples be in the loft.

Onion skin very thin –
Mild winter coming in.
Onion skin thick and tough –
Coming winter cold and rough.

Cider on beer, never fear.
Beer on cider makes a bad rider!

Many haws, many sloes, many cold toes!

A cat born around Michaelmas is called a blackberry cat, and is always mischievous.

With the harvest drawing to a close for corn, hops and other produce, many fairs up and down the country were held selling and celebrating the end of the country year.

Hop processions were held in Kent, Hereford and Worcester.

Hazelnuts, blackberries, crabapples and other fruits were gathered from the trees and hedges and made into jams, jellies and wines to last through the coming winter.

Gorse was cut for fuel and bracken for bedding, and the whitebait season began for fishermen.

August Rhymes and Miscellanea

There’s something about August that is so English. Here are a few miscellanea that I think encapsulate the month.

The Irish-Gaelic and Scottish-Gaelic names for the month, Lunasa and Lunasdal, refer to the festival Lughnasadh (in honour of the pagan god Lugh) on 1st August, which became synonymous with Lammas.

The Anglo-Saxons called it Weodmonath (‘month of weeds’). In Welsh it is Awst.

It is the sixth month of the Roman calendar, named after the Roman Emperor, Augustus.

August is the month of harvest.


August comes, and though the harvest-fields are nearly ripe and ready for the sickle, cheering the heart of man with the prospect of plenty that surrounds him, yet there are signs on every hand that summer is on the wane, and that the time is fast approaching when she will take her departure . . . But, far as summer has advanced, several of her beautiful flowers and curious plants may still be found in perfection in the water-courses, and beside the streams – pleasanter places to ramble along then the dusty and all but flowerless waysides in August.


August Sayings

Dry August and warm
Doth harvest no harm.

A rainy August
Makes a hard bread crust.

Married in August heat and drowse,
Lover and friend as your chosen spouse.

If a fly lands on your nose, swat it till it goes;
If the fly then lands again, it will bring back heavy rain.

Dew at night
Next day will be bright.

The moon and the weather
Change together.

Evening red and morning grey,
Two good signs for one fine day.
Evening grey and morning red,
Send the shepherd wet to bed.

When a cow tries to scratch its ear,
It means a shower is very near.
When it dumps its side with its tail,
Look out for thunder, lightning and hail.

Rain from the east
Will last three days at least.

If the moon shows a silver shield
Be not afraid to reap your field.
But if she rises haloed round
Soon we’ll tread on deluged ground.

Let the wealthy and the great
Roll in splendour and in state,
I envy them not, I declare it.
I eat my own lamb, and my chicken and ham,
I shave my own fleece and I wear it.
I have lawns, I have bowers,
I have fruit, I have flowers,
The lark is my morning alarmer;
So jolly boys now, ne’er good speed to the plough,
Long life and success to the farmer.

Make sure of thy reapers, get harvest in hand,
The corn that is ripe doth but shed as it stand.
Grant harvest Lord more, by a penny or two
To call on his fellows the better to do.
Give gloves to thy reapers, a largess to cry
And ever to loiterers have a good eye.


Harvest Time

Crying the Neck

When the last sheaf is cut, the harvest spirit lurking in the corn dies, its throat symbolically slit by the scythe.

The mowers call ‘We have it!’, the response is, ‘What have ee? A neck?’ ‘A neck’, comes the reply. The sheaf is then made into a corn dolly and usually carried to the farmhouse where it stayed over the fireplace until ploughing time.

We ha’ neck! We ha’ neck!
Well a-ploughed! Well a-sowed!
We’ve a-reaped and we’ve a-mowed!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll a-cut, we’ll a-bound!
We’ll a-zot upon the ground!
We ha’ neck! We ha’ neck!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Corn Dolly

The original purpose of the corn dolly was to preserve the spirit of the corn through the winter. Come January, the dolly would be ploughed back into the soil. Until then she presided over the kitchen. Occasionally she was hung in the church.

The last cartload of corn harvested from the field was called the Horkey or Hockey load, and both cart and horse were dressed with ribbons and garlands. The cart and procession wound its way to the farm, where it was greeted with food and drink.

The Harvest Home

When the harvest is over to our master we will steer
And wet a good supper with a drink of strong beer.

The usual fare was a roast, along with hare or rabbit pie (often made from the animals caught during the harvesting), plum pudding and endless supplies of beer and cider, followed by a round of toasts to masters and mistresses, and songs, dancing and revelry.

Well ploughed
Well sowed
Well harrowed
Well mowed
And all safely carted to the barn with nary a load throwed!

It was common for the church to demand a tithe of one tenth of the crop and it was equally common for the harvesters to try and cheat the tithe. One harvester chant runs:

We’ve cheated the Parson, we’ll cheat him again,
Why should the Vicar have one in ten?

There’s nothing like this poem to picture August perfectly:

The South Country

WHEN I am living in the Midlands
That are sodden and unkind,
I light my lamp in the evening:
My work is left behind;
And the great hills of the South Country
Come back into my mind.

The great hills of the South Country
They stand along the sea;
And it’s there walking in the high woods
That I could wish to be,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Walking along with me.

The men that live in North England
I saw them for a day:
Their hearts are set upon the waste fells,
Their skies are fast and grey;
From their castle-walls a man may see
The mountains far away.

The men that live in West England
They see the Severn strong,
A-rolling on rough water brown
Light aspen leaves along.
They have the secret of the Rocks,
And the oldest kind of song.

But the men that live in the South Country
Are the kindest and most wise,
They get their laughter from the loud surf,
And the faith in their happy eyes
Comes surely from our Sister the Spring
When over the sea she flies;
The violets suddenly bloom at her feet,
She blesses us with surprise.

I never get between the pines
But I smell the Sussex air;
Nor I never come on a belt of sand
But my home is there.
And along the sky the line of the Downs
So noble and so bare.

A lost thing could I never find,
Nor a broken thing mend:
And I fear I shall be all alone
When I get towards the end.
Who will there be to comfort me
Or who will be my friend?

I will gather and carefully make my friends
Of the men of the Sussex Weald;
They watch the stars from silent folds,
They stiffly plough the field.
By them and the God of the South Country
My poor soul shall be healed.

If I ever become a rich man,
Or if ever I grow to be old,
I will build a house with deep thatch
To shelter me from the cold,
And there shall the Sussex songs be sung
And the story of Sussex told.

I will hold my house in the high wood
Within a walk of the sea,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)