Monday, 21 June 2010

The Fairfields Wassail

So of course it is midsummer, and therefore I must needs do a wassail posting!

This is a Kateverse folk-song that is actually sung about the present point in Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, though in order to prevent an epidemic of book-wall moments I don't there stop the story to quote it. It is quite closely modelled on traditional English wassail songs, including my favourite, the Gower Wassail above.

The similarities tell you a good deal about my bolshy Lothlórien, my mortal peasant-founded Fairfields. The differences, though relatively few, may convey rather more.

One non-explicit difference from our traditions is that the wassail-song is sung in a full village gathering around a fire, as the year-ale is passed around. The door-to-door wassailing is reserved for the sick and the infirm (who are brought ale and gifts rather than being solicited for them), and for the various real and suspected spirits of place and boundary. These customs are likely local innovations for the most part.

The Fairfields Wassail

Wassail! drink hale! and pass the bowl round.
Our cakes they are white and our beer it is brown.
In good faith and good fellowship gather we here
And together join hands at the dark of the year.
Joy and love be unto you
And to you a wassail too,
And drink wakemead for the dying of the year.
Wassail the white bowl! Drink hale!

We are friends and no strangers who gather along
Nor is black night so hardy as threaten us wrong.
We will make such a noise as the woods never heard
For we roar like the lion, but we sing like the bird
With joy and loving unto you
And to you a wassail too,
And sing lusty at the turning of the year.
Wassail my neighbour! Drink hale!

But to strangers who find us by grange or by hold,
And to all of you wood-wights out there in the cold,
Here is beer and salt cake, here is fleet and here fire,
And it all do await if your heart do desire
Joy and loving unto you,
And to you your wassail too,
And bring comfort at the changing of the year.
Wassail the stranger! Drink hale!

To the earth and brave beasts and the trees we do keep,
Be awake for our blessing, and lie back to sleep.
We will hail you and watch you, by hand and by mind,
And we hope when you wake you'll be kindly inclined
For joy and loving unto you,
And to you your wassail too,
And sleep soundly through the dreaming of the year.
Wassail our fair fields! Drink hale!

To my lover, my elf or my lad or my lass,
Let us warm by our hearth till the winter do pass.
Let us quarrels and coldness forget and reprove:
Let us dance like the dragon, and kiss like the dove,
For joy and love I bear to you,
And to us our wassail too,
And burn ardent for the getting of the year.
Wassail my love-light! Drink hale!

Wassail! drink hale! drink deep and drink long!
Our cakes they are salt, and our beer it is strong.
In good mirth and good merriment gather we here,
And we'll sing and we'll dance till we see the new year.
Joy and love be unto you,
And to you a wassail too,
And drink kindly for the borning of the year.
Wassail a good year! Drink hale!

The wassail opens the wider year's-getting festivities, which take place on Midwinter's Eve, and combine sundry features of our familiar yule-feasts Christmas and Hogmanay.

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