MartinMass and heading into rainy chilly windy London

I’ll be heading into town to meet a famous Catholic journalist for lunch.

If my energy holds, perhaps later in the evening someone might like to meet for a pint.

People may SMS me (don’t send MMS): 07501852559

If I decide for a specific place, I’ll post it, perhaps under this entry.

In the meantime… not… this won’t be about coffee for a change… here is an appropriate poem.

“Martinmass” by John Clare written on 11 Nov 1841.

‘Tis Martinmass from rig to rig
Ploughed fields and meadow lands are blea
In hedge and field each restless twig
Is dancing on the naked tree
Flags in the dykes are bleached and brown
Docks by its sides are dry and dead
All but the ivy-boughs are brown
Upon each leaning dotterel’s head

Crimsoned with awes the awthorns bend
O’er meadow-dykes and rising floods
The wild geese seek the reedy fen
And dark the storm comes o’er the woods
The crowds of lapwings load the air
With buzes of a thousand wings
There flocks of starnels too repair
When morning o’er the valley springs

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. marthawrites says:

    Today is my birthday. Following early morning TLM and adoration with a beautiful poem–the celebration is already perfect. Thanks for this one.

  2. JakeT says:

    Merry Martimas! There is a wonderful palindrome associated with the story of St. Martin.

    “There is an apocryphal story of Martin meeting up with the devil while walking to Rome. (Apocryphal though it may be, it is also quite entertaining.) The devil mocked Martin for not riding on a donkey as a Bishop should, and out of retribution St. Martin turned the devil into a donkey and rode him all the way to Rome, urging him on with the Sign of the Cross. Obviously angry, the devil cursed the Saint with this double palindrome:

    Signa te Signa: temere me tangis et angis,
    Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor.

    (Cross, cross thyself, you plague and vex me without need,
    For by my labors you shall soon reach Rome, the object of your wishes.)”

    I wrote more about this here.

  3. wanda says:

    Thank you for the beautiful poem, Father. Very sigh-evoking. Prayers for your safety and for your intentions.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Happy St. ‘Martinmas’, Father Z!

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you for the vivid, unfamiliar poem!

    (Is the plural of “dykes” in line 5 a typo, or an authorial slip – or am I missing something syntactically?)

  6. Venerator: You tell us. Is it? Do some homework on this and let us know.

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Touché, Père! (Do ‘they’ call you Father ‘Zed’?)

    A quick check has not discovered it here: which purports to have all the poems published in his lifetime.

    Dr. Goodridge does not have its first line in his first-line index, here: / which is admittedly a work in progress.

    Michael Gilleland does not discuss it among his glosses here:

    So far as I am aware, I don’t live anywhere near a copy of Geoffrey Summerfield’s Penguin ‘Selected Poems’ (2004).

    There’s no entry for “dykes” in the “Glossary” in Thomas Sternberg’s fascinating-looking ‘The dialect and folklore of Northamptonshire’ (1851) at:

    Jon Bate never discussed it in my hearing, that I can recall.

    So, I’m close enough to cyber-stymied to call it a Martinmas Day!

    Before I toss in the rutabega lantern, I’ll just try to whet any dialectical appetites for a wrestle with some St. Martin songs from a few hundred miles to the east of Northants. with

    “Van daag is het Sinter Merte
    En morgen Sinter Krukke”

    (see further at:

    “Krukke”is a dialect word for ‘Sedes’, so the second line refers to…

  8. AnAmericanMother says:

    Don’t know if this is helpful or not, but in one of Kipling’s short stories set in Romney Marsh, the singular is ‘dik’ . . . and it means ‘ditch’ in Sussex dialect. And the ‘flags’ are rushes or iris.

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