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

Image result for robert burns
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.

 

London’s last working shire horses revive centuries-old tradition of cutting rare hay meadows | Daily Mail Online

Ham House head gardener Rosie Fyles said: 'There's something really special about witnessing the sights and sounds of this centuries-old rural tradition in the heart of London today. We know these flood meadows have been part of the London landscape since the 17th Century and would have been used for grazing and ploughed for hay and feed'

London’s last working shire horses are reviving the centuries-old tradition of cutting rare hay meadows without heavy machinery to encourage the return of wild flowers.

Source: London’s last working shire horses revive centuries-old tradition of cutting rare hay meadows | Daily Mail Online

There are some things draft horses – or “heavy horses,” as they’re known in England – can do better than any tractor, and one of those is protecting the ecosystem that they’re working:

Despite weighing up to a tonne, the heavy horses are still lighter than tractors and compact the soil less as they plod the fields, which helps plants and wildlife to flourish…

The National Trust said it decided to return to the traditional method of managing the land because of its many benefits for nature. The horses are a throwback to a bygone era of farming, before the invention of the internal combustion engine. Their remarkable stamina also mean they can work well into their 20s and can mow an average of 10 acres of grass in one day.”

And of course, the “exhaust” they produce fertilizes the land, rather than polluting the air; and unlike tractors, they can breed their own replacements!

Heavy horses back at work in London, even if it is only on one select site… Perhaps Jethro Tull (the band, not the 18th-century agriculturalist) was prophetic:

In these dark towns folk lie sleeping
As the heavy horses thunder by,
To wake the dying city
With the living horseman’s cry.
At once the old hands quicken,
Bring pick and wisp and curry comb:
Thrill to the sound of all
The heavy horses coming home…

— Jethro Tull, “Heavy Horses