“The British Church” – George Herbert (with some reflections thereupon)

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“A Distant View of Hythe Village and Church, Kent” – Arthur Nelson (c. 1767).

The British Church

~ by George Herbert (1633)

I joy, dear mother, when I view
Thy perfect lineaments, and hue
Both sweet and bright.
Beauty in thee takes up her place,
And dates her letters from thy face,
When she doth write.
A fine aspect in fit array,
Neither too mean nor yet too gay,
Shows who is best.
Outlandish looks may not compare,
For all they either painted are,
Or else undress’d.
She on the hills which wantonly
Allureth all, in hope to be
By her preferr’d,
Hath kiss’d so long her painted shrines,
That ev’n her face by kissing shines,
For her reward.
She in the valley is so shy
Of dressing, that her hair doth lie
About her ears;
While she avoids her neighbour’s pride,
She wholly goes on th’ other side,
And nothing wears.
But, dearest mother, what those miss,
The mean, thy praise and glory is
And long may be.
Blessed be God, whose love it was
To double-moat thee with his grace,
And none but thee.

 

Nota Bene: Herbert is referring, of course, to the Anglican via media (“middle way”), which is perhaps best thought of in Aristotelian terms as the “Golden Mean” between the extremes of surfeit (too much of something) and deficit (too little). Indeed, “via media” is itself a 19th-century term for this phenomenon; earlier centuries expressed it as the mean (cf. Herbert, above) between extremes, or even, as we shall see below, a “virtuous mediocrity.” But all can be understood in fundamentally the same sense.

Herbert’s view in this poem is expressed in rather more extreme language by Bishop Simon Patrick of Ely (1625-1707), who wrote of “that virtuous mediocrity which our Church observes between the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome and the squalid slattery of fanatic conventicles” – though it should be noted that, as one scholarly commentator has pointed out, “squalid slattery” fits the sectaries of the Civil War and Commonwealth period better than the sober demeanor of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of the Continent, the products of the magisterial Reformation.

And indeed, it was within that context – the era of the English Civil War and Interregnum, and the eventual Restoration, that Bishop Patrick was writing.

In any case, a love of order, seemliness, and good taste (cf. I Corinthians 14:40 – “Let all things be done decently and in order”) has led the Anglican Church along a middle path between these two extremes. And as it has furthermore been elsewhere noted, the via media meant positioning the English Church such that it could recognize not only its affinity with the medieval catholic tradition, on the one hand, but with the enduring legacy of the Reformation, on the other: a position of both-and, not either-or.

Indeed, I would submit that the Anglican via media represents the point where several axes come together, if one can visualize a multi-dimensional graph: the legacy of the medieval Catholic tradition and that of the magisterial Reformation, as noted above; “High Church” and “Low Church” liturgy and churchmanship; Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical theology; and indeed Eastern and Western forms of catholic orthodoxy.

I believe that, as a contemporary Collect for that great 16th-century Anglican divine, Richard Hooker, has put it, the Anglican via media is to be understood

“not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth.”

The challenge, and the sadness, of course, is that humans have a tendency to want to hive off into our own little enclaves, and to declare our understanding of the “truth” to be the only one that is acceptable. Anglicans are no less guilty of this than are others!

 

The Moggcast Returns: “Wash your hands for one verse of the National Anthem” – “we can all play our part” against Coronavirus. | Conservative Home

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Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset in the British Parliament, currently serving as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, and a noted conservative voice in Britain, gives his views on a number of issues, including preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Source: The Moggcast Returns. “Wash your hands for one verse of the National Anthem” – “we can all play our part” against Coronavirus. | Conservative Home

I joke that Jacob Rees-Mogg is my “spirit animal.” I like the man very much: his style, his wit and intelligence, his dry and often self-deprecating sense of humour. He is a classic Brit of the old school, both thoroughly entertaining and highly informative to listen to; and this “Moggcast,” the first such fortnightly podcast since the dramatic British elections last Autumn, is no exception to that rule!

Among his comments is the common-sense advice, in helping to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19, which, sadly, is approaching pandemic status, if indeed it is not already there): to use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, “and toss it in the bin” after, and to wash one’s hands for the length of time it takes to sing one verse of the (British) National Anthem.

(Washing one’s hands with soap, and doing so for a sufficient length of time – 20-30 seconds – can actually kill the virus, which is surrounded by a layer of fatty tissue, which soap dissolves.)

He does suggest that one does so “quietly… otherwise I think gentlemen’s toilets might get a bit noisy.” A fine example of that wry sense of humour I mentioned above! In any case, that advice sparked several comments, of which my favorite (only very lightly edited) was

God save our gracious Queen,
Let’s keep our pawses clean,
God save the Queen!
Rub rub rub rub rub rub,
Scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub,
Wash hands, you dirty grub!
God save the Queen!

I do love it.

Indeed, I think this may become my standard hand-washing theme song!

And after Her Majesty, The Queen, may God bless Jacob Rees Mogg! He’s young enough that he may yet be Prime Minister one day. I hope he is, and that I live to see it!

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Some reasons to read Beowulf | The Wordhoard

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“Here are just a few reasons why you might want to read Beowulf.”

Source: Some reasons to read Beowulf | The Wordhoard

There are many reasons you may wish to read Beowulf, the classic Old English epic – which has, of course, been translated into modern English many times. Among the reasons cited by this blogger:

“First, it is a famous example of literature from the Early Middle Ages. Second, it represents English-language literature in its infancy. Third, it has had impacted modern literature since its rediscovery.”

All true, of course! But I am convinced that the best reason is that it’s a rousing good story, created, recited, and later written and read, by and for our forebears – at least, the ancestors of those of us who are of English heritage, by blood, language and culture!

Here is a modern-English translation, and one that grasps the rhythms and richness of the great original. And here is a recitation of the opening stanzas, in the original language:

I like this one, because it’s set up in such a way that one can follow along in both Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and modern English!

 

Shrove Tuesday: penitence, absolution, and… pancakes!

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Pancake races are apparently a “thing” in the UK, for Shrove Tuesday  – the day before Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent – and have been for centuries. Even clergy and choristers get into it, on occasion! Not to mention some really cute kids…

The town of Olney takes credit for their origin, as recorded on the town website:

“According to tradition it was in Olney, back in 1445, that pancake racing started. On Shrove Tuesday the church bell rang out to signal the start of the church service.

“A local housewife who was busy cooking pancakes before the start of Lent, ran to the church. She was still carrying her frying pan and wearing her apron and headscarf, and tossed the pancake to prevent it from burning.

“Local people who saw this were amused, and later started to organise pancake races. Pancake races still take place in Olney each Shrove Tuesday.”

Several of these pics are from Olney itself (a town which presumably gave its name to a town in Maryland, near where I grew up), both modern and historical; others are from elsewhere around the web… and the UK!

But of course, Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day, Doughnut Day, Fastnacht, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, etc.) is not just an excuse to eat yummy pancakes or doughnuts. It is about preparing for a holy Lent by being shriven (past participle of “shrove”) – forgiven, pardoned – for one’s duly repented sins, in preparation for the great season of self-examination, repentance, and preparation that is Lent.

 

The Poetry of England | The Imaginative Conservative

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Source: The Poetry of England ~ The Imaginative Conservative

“The real tragedy of England’s passing… is not that the England we love is a figment of the imagination, but that it is real, in the sense that Platonic forms are real. This real England is present in Old English and Middle English; in Chaucer and Chesterton; in Shakespeare, Austen, and Dickens. The England to be found in these places is more real than it is in present-day Birmingham or Leicester, which are only English in a superficial and fading sense. Nor does the England to be found in these places depend on our ability to see it.

“If England continues to sink into the primeval soup of ‘post-Christian’ barbarism, it is possible that nobody will read Shakespeare a century from now. They will not want to read it and will probably be unable to read it even if they wanted to. Yet the goodness, truth, and beauty to be found in Shakespeare, Chaucer, et al will not be in the least diminished by the inability of future generations to see it. A tree does not cease to exist because a blind man cannot see it. England will not cease to exist because the ‘post-English’ barbarians residing in England fail to understand that which is beyond their ken.”

True indeed! Yet what a loss it would be to the world, if the real England, the true England, the “Olde England,” were to retreat utterly and forever into the Mists of Avalon, into the realm of Platonic forms, into the Mind of God, and into the memory of poets and mystics and musers like me, to exist no more in the world of men…

Brexit Day: end of an era as United Kingdom leaves EU!

Britain’s Independence Day! At 11pm GMT on 31 January, Britain officially left the EU after 47 years of membership.

Here’s a celebratory tweet from Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

Screenshot_2020-01-31 (2) Boris Johnson on Twitter Tonight we have left the EU - an extraordinary turning point in the life[...](1)

And a video of his comments:

Montage of Brexit Day celebration images:

And from The Anglophilic Anglican (meme inspired by a friend’s FB timeline comment):

Congratulations to the British people who voted for Brexit, on this day of independence from the EU after more than three years of struggle and uncertainty (ABC news notes that the departure comes 3½ years after the country voted by a margin of 52%-48% to walk away from the European Union).

I pray it will be the beginning of not only a new, but a positive and successful era in British history, as I have always believed it would be!

And for those who didn’t… hold your pints, mates, and watch this!

 

Classic Recipes from the British Isles: Rumbledethumps, Colcannon, and Bubble-and-Squeak; Yorkshire Pudding, Toad-in-the-Hole, and Onion Gravy

Scottish Rumbledethumps

Traditional Scottish Rumbledethumps

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Robert “Rabbie” Burns, the Bard of Scotland

With tonight being Burns Night, I thought I’d start with the wonderfully-named Rumbledethumps: a traditional dish of the Scots Borders, from whence he hailed – and from which a good chunk of my father’s family likewise hailed! Indeed, we shared a town – Selkirk – with the Ploughman Poet, and had our own subtly distinct version of the well-known “Selkirk Grace”:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some have nae that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit!

Now for two close cousins of Rumbledethumps: Irish Colcannon, and English Bubble-and-Squeak:

Colcannon recipe

Traditional Irish Colcannon

“Colcannon is a favorite Irish recipe, especially on St Patrick‘s Day. Seriously, what is not to like? Creamy mashed potatoes, fresh, crunchy curly kale, a bit of spring onions, and pats of butter.”

Delicious, and not just for St. Padraig’s! The spring onions and kale give it both a fresh flavor and a health boost. I don’t pulse or chop them mechanically, just give the kale a thin chiffonade, and slice the green onion into 1/8 to 1/4″ rounds. Be sure to include the green tops!

Bubble and Squeak

Traditional Bubble and Squeak

The first specifically British dish I ever made, many years ago (many, many years, now…), Bubble and Squeak is the lovely, quirky, evocative name for what is mostly fried leftover vegetables, usually from Sunday’s roast dinner (sometimes leftover meat, or bacon, is incorporated). The name comes from the sound it makes as it’s frying! It can be breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper, as circumstances may dictate.

Yorkshire Pudding

Traditional Yorkshire Pudding

In Yorkshire itself, these puffy pastries, baked in oil (yes, you heard that right…), are often served as a starter; in rest of Britain, they’re the classic accompaniment to a Sunday roast (see here for more on the Sunday roast or “Sunday lunch”). In either case, plenty of gravy is an essential accompaniment – see below!

Toad in the Hole

Family-sized Toad in the Hole

Another evocatively-named dish, Toad-in-the-Hole combines “bangers” (sausages) with a Yorkshire-pudding-like pastry batter (in fact, the Yorkshire pudding recipe could be used for this dish, although the one given here is a wee bit different). A classic supper dish, but could also be the centerpiece for a (slightly less traditional) Sunday lunch. The bangers are rather jumbled in the illustration; I like mine arranged a bit more neatly!

Onion Gravy

Rich Onion Gravy

Several – arguably all! – of the above could deliciously benefit from being served with onion gravy, and Yorkshire pudding and Toad-in-the-Hole practically demand it. As the linked recipe notes,

“The ultimate in comfort food must be any meat dish, or meat and creamy mashed potatoes, smothered in a rich onion gravy. The bringing together of sweet onions and a dark rich sauce—which is both sweet and savory—is a classic of both the British and Irish kitchens.”

And darned tasty on this side of “the Pond,” I must say.

Enjoy!

 

How to lay a hedge | Gardens Illustrated

Learn how to lay a hedge using traditional craftsmanship and hedge laying skills.

“Interested in the centuries-old skill of hedge laying? Follow our guide on how to lay a hedge and learn about the traditional ways to lay a hedge.”

Source: How to lay a hedge – Gardens Illustrated

“Hedge laying is a seasonal job carried out between October and March when trees and shrubs are dormant, and birds have finished nesting in the hedges…”

Ever wondered how to “lay a hedge” in classic English style (or even what that term meant)? Here’s an excellent starting point! No reason it couldn’t be done here in the U.S., for those with the land and resources to do so! I’ve often wished I could have a place where I could recreate an English cottage garden, including / incorporating a traditional hedge.

 

Plough Monday, 2020

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Today is Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night and Epiphany, and what used to be an important date in the agricultural calendar. Traditionally it was the day on which farm workers returned to their duties after the Christmas and New Year break. On this day,

“A plough would be taken to the local church to be blessed in order to ‘speed the plough’ and ensure a bountiful harvest later in the year. It was a difficult time of year for ploughman, as the ground was hard and difficult to work on, so the ploughmen would decorate their ploughs and take them around the local villages where they would ask for money from the wealthy landowners.”

This money was formerly used to pay for “plough lights”: candles lit in the church, to pray God’s blessing upon the agricultural work. And if a donation was not forthcoming, the miserly one might find that his yard would be plowed!

Today would be the perfect day for a classic English “ploughman’s lunch,” which at its most basic consists of rustic country bread, one or more varieties of (originally local, now any British) cheese, pickled onions, chutney and/or some other sort of “pickle,” and ale or (generally “hard,” but sweet would be a perfectly fine substitute) cider.

Some would add an apple, others some type of greenstuff (watercress would seem a traditional choice, as it might have been picked fresh from the stream running at the bottom of the field), or perhaps a boiled egg; but though one occasionally sees them with smoked meats, pork pies, or even Scotch eggs, there seems little need to go too far beyond the basics, to me.

Plough Monday, Cottage Loaf and a Ploughman's Lunch (Recipes)

This one includes spring onions and a (somewhat anachronistic, in my view) tomato, but otherwise sticks pretty close to the basic plan!

In conclusion:

Let the wealthy and great
Roll in splendor and state:
I envy them not, I declare it.
I eat my own lamb,
My own chickens and ham;
I shear my own fleece, and I wear it.
I have lawns, I have bowers,
I have fruits, I have flowers;
The lark is my morning alarmer.
So, jolly boys, now,
Here’s God speed the plough!
Long life and success to the farmer!

(I am almost positive that this verse is on the other side of the mug seen in the picture, above!)

Edwardian Farm: Wassail and Heavy Horses

Edwardian Farm: Episode 5

I have not, alas, been either too Anglophilic or too Anglican on here, of late! So in partial recompense, here is a link to a lovely episode (#5) of “Edwardian Farm.” The Edwardian age is, in some respects, my favorite period in Britain. America, too, though it wasn’t necessarily called by that name; later generations would call it the closing years of the “Gilded Age.”

In some ways the ultimate “Blighty Boys” era, it was the beginning of the modern period, with airplanes, motorcars, and tractors all putting in an appearance; yet, at the same time, there were more draft horses being used for agriculture than at any other time in history, and in Britain, farmers still wassailed their apple orchards as they had since time immemorial!

A most interesting survey of agricultural (and related) activities during this time in history.