Friday, 9 May 2014
Here we go Gathering Nuts in May but Ne'er Cast a Clout!!
I do love to know about origins of rhymes and proverbs and there are so many for the Merry Month of May, now the flowers are appearing on a daily basis, although at this time the weather is very inclement - in fact since our dear daughters 22nd Birthday it has got colder and more miserable - we have had many years of May birthdays but this year - it's just not nice!
On our way out to take DD for a birthday lunch I realised the hedgerows were white again, not with Blackthorne this time but the Hawthorne, it's suddenly appeared really. On spotting this I started thinking about all the facts I have picked up trying to increase my "little knowledge" about flowers - I take photos of them so I should know what they are called and know a little really!
For those like me that like to know, this is what I have found out over the last couple of years....
We all know and remember this nursery rhyme I am sure?
"Here we go gathering nuts in May,
Nuts in May, nuts in May,
Here we go gathering nuts in May,
On a cold and frosty morning."
I was quite surprised last year to learn that in fact in all my years of singing this, it actually could be a little incorrect! Yes I know...childhood shattered! In fact the song was most likely referring to something completely different as Nuts are not gathered in England in May but in Autumn! However, Conopodium majus is commonly called pignut, groundnut etc. and would be in season in May. This was commonly gathered by children as it grows under the ground.
The lyrics could have been changed over the years and a corruption of "knots of may", referring to the blossom of the common hawthorn or May Tree for the May Day celebrations to decorate the village greens and for sweethearts to give and receive a bunch of May was indeed true love!
An ancient specimen, and reputedly the oldest tree of any species in France, is to be found alongside the church at Saint Mars sur la Futaie, Mayenne. The tree has a height of 9 m, and a girth of 2.65 m (2009). The inscription on the plaque beneath reads: "This hawthorn is probably the oldest tree in France. Its origin goes back to St Julien (3rd century)", but such claims are impossible to verify.
The oldest known living specimen in East Anglia, and possibly in the United Kingdom, is known as The Hethel Old Thorn, and is located in the churchyard in the small village of Hethel, south of Norwich, in Norfolk. It is reputed to be more than 700 years old, having been planted in the 13th century.
Another favoured saying as I was growing up in our family was "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" I always thought this was the Month of May, so indeed I had many beautiful sunny Birthdays, but would I take off that cardi? Not if my Nana was near, no.. ;) BUT again, it could be meaning that the May Tree is out in the month of May and...I won't be casting a clout today that's for sure!
So a little probing brings me to think that maybe it could be the month, as I originally thought when younger...
A French proverb - 'En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît'. This translates as 'In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please', which has much the same meaning as 'ne'er cast a clout...'
In Spain they say, 'Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo', that is, 'Don't leave off your coat till May 40th'
Or in England...
"Button to chin, till May be in,
Cast not a clout till May be out"
Also the rhyme "April showers bring forth May flowers" could be referring to the May tree again...and we have had many Showers in April and of course May is notoriously iffy weather wise, so did those wet months give us the abundance we see in the hedgerows that are growing so prolifically today? As I have been seeing May/Hawthorn growing everywhere over the last couple of days, it's suddenly a wave of white again along the roadsides. But not outside my house as yet this year!
We visited friends yesterday and they have it growing in abundance!
I found this page also that has a lovely history of the The Hawthorn Tree - Queen Of The May White Dragon
But I think today I shall leave the final words to William Shakepeare himself.....
"Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May".
Have a lovely weekend and I do hope we get some sunshine! PamelaJayne