“Martinmass” by John Clare

Today is, along with Veteran’s Day, and Remembrance Day, and Armistice Day, it is also St. Martin’s Day, referring to St. Martin of Tour.  It is Martinmas, which in many places marked the end of the harvest.

I once held the skull of St. Martin in my hands.  But that’s another story.

Here is, for your poetic pleasure, …

“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

I would love to hear this read by someone with a Northhamptonshire accent.

BTW… starnels are starlings, which group together in great “mumurations”.  You can see these each year over Rome as they migrate.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    Oh that’s lovely. Thank you Fr. Z.
    That’s a starnel biretta!

  2. the little brother says:

    a mumuration for St. Martin ~
    Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus exercituum.
    Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.

  3. pelerin says:

    St Martin was believed to have been born in the year 315 and in Tours they are celebrating his birth with various events.

    In 1960 I was staying in Tours when I heard about celebrations for the centenary of the rediscovery of his relics. I had no idea who St Martin was at the time but decided to attend an open-air Mass in the grounds of the abbey at Marmoutiers a short walk away. This left a lasting impression on me as did several subsequent visits to his tomb in the basilica in Tours. I still have the leaflet giving the music sung that day – Latin entrance hymn as the clergy walked across the fields, Kyrie, Latin sequence and finally a hymn in French to Saint Martin whose refrain I remember to this day:

    Martin enseigne-nous ton amour du Seigneur
    Et reviens partager les tresors de ton coeur.

    St Martin pray for us.

  4. StWinefride says:

    While in Sopron, Hungary, at the end of August, I was surprised to learn that St Martin was born at the base of a small mountain called Márton-hegy, not far from there. Centuries later an abbey was built on top of the mountain – Pannonhalma Abbey (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/hungary/pannonhalma-abbey). I had always thought that St Martin was born in present-day France.

    “O God, who knowest that we depend on no strength of our own: mercifully grant that by the intercession of blessed Martin, Thy Bishop and Confessor, we may be kept from all that is hurtful. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ…”

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you for the John Clare poem.

    One of the pivotal battles of world history occurred in 732 near the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours. A Moslem army advancing north, apparently to sack the Abbey, was soundly defeated near Tours-Poitier by a Frankish army led by Charlemagne’s grandfather Charles Martel “the Hammer.”

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    How appropiate that the day we honor veterans and commemorate the end of the First World War is the feast of a patron saint of soldiers who is also the Patron of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

  7. Connecting this post and one yesterday, Vultus Christi today includes a wonderful painting (click here) that shows two angels holding a houseling cloth as St. Martin elevates the Sacred Host.

  8. oldconvert says:

    A Maltese friend tells me that at the Feast of Martinmas in Malta, children are given bags of nuts and fruit as gifts to celebrate the occasion, which seems to me a lovely idea!

  9. John Knoss says:

    Ahh, Fr John, I’m afraid. As a born ‘cobbler’ with a pronounced ‘teyn’ (town) accent you might be a little disappointed in the difference between Northampton and John Clare’s local accent. Of course at this remove in time and it is only speculation on my part but I would think his accent would would have borne more influence from the East Anglian region.
    Still, it would have been nice to hear the poet himself…try the following link – there are some recordings of the local accent as it was up until fairly recently.


  10. Kerry says:

    Here today in Hutchinson county, SD, we’ve strong, constant winds, with gusts to 50 mph. Cabbages were snugged with straw in case of a too hard freeze, the geese lofted over the shed to their surprise in the wind, and even a couple of ducks took to the air. With lights on a timer, extending the day, we’ve just begun to get duck eggs. Most of the corn’s a week past harvested. It will blow for another day and a half. Martinmas.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: St. Martin’s birthplace, he was a Legion brat. His dad was stationed on the Eastern side of things, and Martin only went to Gaul/France with Emperor Julian the Apostate’s armies.

  12. MAJ Tony says:

    The cultural capital of mostly Catholic Slovakia (62% Roman Rite, ~4% Greek Catholic) is the ski resort town of Martin (which is supposed to have received it’s name from the first town church of St. Martin), which, I am told, is just across the mountain from where Pope St. John Paul used to ski in Poland. I spent a few days there representing the Indiana National Guard for the State Partnership Program in June of 2012.

  13. vetusta ecclesia says:

    St Martin’s day in Madrid (and I assume the rest of Spain) marks the beginning of the season for wearing the traditional cloak (capa castellana). “Capistas” have an inaugural Mass at the cathedral of La Almudena on this day.

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