vol II date / index
—Sturdy March with brows full sternly bent
And armed strongly, rode upon a ram,
The same which over Hellespontus swam;
Yet in his hand a spade he also hent,
And in a bag all sorts of weeds ysame,
Which on the earth he strewed as he went,
And fill'd her womb with fruitfull hope of nourishment.
MARCH is the third month of the year; with the ancients it was the first: according to Mr. Leigh Hunt, from Ovid, the Romans named it from Mars, the god of war, because he was the father of their first prince. "As to the deity's nature, March has certainly nothing in common with it; for though it affects to be very rough, it is one of the best natured months in the year, drying up the superabundant moisture of winter with its fierce winds, and thus restoring us our paths through the fields, and piping before the flowers like a bacchanal. He sometimes, it must be confessed, as if in a fit of the spleen, hinders the buds which he has dried from blowing; and it is allowable in the less robust part of his friends out of doors, to object to the fancy he has for coming in such a cutting manner from the east. But it may be truly said, that the oftener you meet him firmly, the less he will shake you; and the more smiles you will have from the fair months that follow him."
Perhaps the ascription of this month to Mars, by the Romans, was a compliment to themselves; they were the sons of War, and might naturally deduce their origin from the belligerent deity. Minerva was also patroness of March.
Verstegan says of our Saxon ancestors, that "the moneth of March they called Lenet-monat, that is, according to our new orthography, Length-moneth, because the dayes did then first begin in length to exceed the nights. And this moneth being by our ancestors so called when they received Christianity, and consequently therewith the ancient christian custome of fasting, they called this chiefe season of fasting the fast of Lenet, because of the Lenet-monat, whereon the most part of the time of this fasting alwayes fell; and hereof it cometh that we now cal it Lent, it being rather the fast of Lent, thogh [sic] the former name of Lenet-monat be long since lost, and the name of March borrowed in stead thereof." Lenet, or Lent, however, means Spring; hence March was the Spring-month. Dr. Sayer says the Saxons likewise called it Rhed-monath, a word derived by some from one of their deities, named Rheda, to whom sacrifices were offered in March; others derive it from rœd, the Saxon word for council, March being the month wherein wars or expeditions were usually undertaken by the Gothic tribes. The Saxons also called it Hlyd-monath, from hlyd, which means stormy, and in this sense March was the Stormy month.
No living writer discourses so agreeably on the "Months" as Mr. Leigh Hunt in his little volume bearing that title. He says of March, that—"The animal creation now exhibit unequivocal signs of activity. The farmer extends the exercise of his plough; and, if fair weather continues, begins sowing barley and oats. Bats and reptiles break up their winter sleep: the little smelts or sparlings run up the softened rivers to spawn: the field-fare and woodcock return to their northern quarters; the rooks are all in motion with building and repairing their nests; hens sit; geese and ducks lay; pheasants crow; the ring-dove coos; young lambs come tottering forth in mild weather; the throstle warbles on the top of some naked tree, as if he triumphed over the last lingering of barrenness; and, lastly, forth issues the bee with his vernal trumpet, to tell us that there is news of sunshine and the flowers.—In addition to the last month's flowers, we now have the crown-imperial, the dog's-tooth violet, fritillaries, the hyacinth, narcissus, (bending its face like its namesake,) pilewort, scarlet ranunculus, great snow-drop, tulips, (which turned even the Dutch to enthusiasts,) and violets, proverbial for their odour, which were perhaps the favourite flowers of Shakspeare. The passage at the beginning of 'Twelfth Night,' in which he compares their scent with the passing sweetness of music is well-known, and probably suggested the beautiful one in lord 'Bacon's Essays,' about the superiority of flowers in the open air, 'where the scent comes and goes like the warbling of music.'"
Now, Winter, dispossessed of storms, and weak from boisterous rage,
—— Ling'ring on the verge of Spring,
Retires reluctant, and from time to time
Looks back, while at his keen and chilling breath
Fair Flora sickens.
St. David, Archbishop, A.D. 544. St. Swidbert, or Swibert, A.D. 713. St. Albinus, Bishop, A.D. 549. St. Monan, A.D. 874.
Patron of Wales.
St. David, or, in Welch, Dewid, was son of Xantus, prince of Cardiganshire, brought up a priest, became an ascetic in the Isle of Wight, afterwards preached to the Britons, founded twelve monasteries, ate only bread and vegetables, and drank milk and water. A synod being called at Brevy, in Cardiganshire, A.D. 519, in order to suppress the heresy of Pelagius, "St. David confuted and silenced the infernal monster by his learning, eloquence, and miracles." After the synod, St. Dubritus, archbishop of Caerleon, resigned his see to St. David, which see is now called St. David's. He died in 544. St. Kentigern saw his soul borne by angels to heaven; his body was in the church of St. Andrew. In 962, his relics were translated to Glastonbury.*
Butler conceals that St. David's mother was not married to his father, but Cressy tells the story out, and that his birth was prophecied of thirty years before it happened.
One of the miracles alleged of St. David is, that at the anti-Pelagian synod he restored a child to life, ordered it to spread a napkin under his feet, and made an oration; that a snow white dove descended from heaven and sat on his shoulders; and that the ground whereon he stood rose under him till it became a hill, "on the top of which hill a church was afterwards built, which remains to this day." He assembled a provincial synod to confirm the decreees of Brevy; and wrote the proceedings of both synods for preservation in his own church, and to be sent to the other churches of the province; but they were lost by age, negligence, and the incursions of pirates, who almost every summer came in long boats from the Orkneys, and wasted the coasts of Cambria. He invited St. Kined to this synod, who answered that he had grown crooked, distorted, and too weak for the journey; whereupon ensued "a double miracle," for "St. Kined having been restored to health and straightness by the prayers of St. David, by his own prayers he was reduced again to his former infirmity and crookedness." After this synod he journeyed to the monastery of Glastonbury, which he had built there and consecrated, with intent to repair it, and consecrate it again; whereupon "our Lord appearing to him in his sleep, and forbidding him to profane the sacred ceremony before performed, he, in testimony, with his finger pierced a hole in the bishop's hand, which remained open to the view of all men till the end of the next day's mass." Before his death "the angel of the lord appeared to him, and said to him, Prepare thyself." Again: "When the hour of his departure was come, our Lord Jesus Christ vouchsafed his presence, to the infinite consolation of our holy father, who at the sight of him exulted." More to the same purpose is alleged by the catholic writers respecting him. Such as, that at his death "being associated to a troop of angels, he with them mounted up to heaven," and that the event was known "by an angel divulging it." This is Cressy's account.
According to another biographer of St. David, he was uncle to the famous prince Arthur, or, strictly speaking, half uncle, if St. David's illegitimacy be authentic. The same author relates of him, that on his way from building the church of Glastonbury he went to Bath, cured an infection of the waters, and by his prayers and benediction gave them the perpetual heat they still retain. On the same authority, St. David's posthumous virtue, in the reign of king Stephen, occasioned the brook above the church-yard of St. David's church to run wine, by miracle: the well near it, called Pisteldewy or the conduit of David. [sic] sent forth milk instead of water. Also a boy, that endeavoured to take pigeons from a nest in St. David's church at Lhannons, had his fingers miraculously fastened to the stone, till by his friends' watching, fasting, and praying before the altar three days and nights, the stone fell from his hand. "Manie thousands of other miracles have been wrought by the meritts of this holy man, which for brevities sake we omitt. I only desire all true hearted Welchmen allwaies to honour this their great patrone and protector, and supplicate the divine goodnes to reduce his sometimes beloved countrey out of the blindnes of Protestancie, groveling in which it languisheth. Not only in Wales, but all England over is most famous in memorie of St. David. But in these our unhappie daies the greatest part of his solemnitie consisteth in wearing of a greene leeke, and it is a sufficient theme for a zealous Welchman to ground a quarrell against him, that doeth not honour his capp with the like ornament that day." So saith Porter.
This legend has been the theme of successive writers, with more or less of variation, and much of addition.
Inscription for a monument in the Vale of Ewias.
Here was it, stranger, that the Patron Saint
Of Cambria past his age of penitence,
A solitary man; and here he made
His hermitage, the roots his food, his drink
Of Hodney's mountain stream. Perchance thy youth
Has read, with eager wonder, how the knight
Of Wales, in Ormandine's enchanted bower
Slept the long sleep: and if that in thy veins
Flow the pure blood of Britain, sure that blood
Hath flowed with quicker impulse at the tale
O f DAVID'S deeds, when thro' the press of war
His gallant comrades followed his green crest
To conquest. Stranger! Hatterill's mountain heights
And this fair vale of Ewias, and the stream
Of Hodney, to thine after-thoughts will rise
More grateful, thus associate with the name
Of David, and the deeds of other days.
St. David's Day.
Wearing the Leek.
Mr. Brady, in the "Clavis Calendaria," affirms that the custom of wearing the leek on St. David's day is derived from St. David; who, according to him, caused the Britons under Cadwallader to distinguish themselves from their enemies during a great battle, wherein they conquered the Saxons by virtue of his prayers and that regulation. Unfortunately he lays no ground for this positive statement, and the same misfortune attends almost every representation in his book, which would really be useful if he had pointed to his sources of information. A work professing to state facts without referring to authorities has no claim to confidence, whoever may be its author.
For any thing in the shape of ancient and authentic statement to the contrary, the institution of wearking the leek on St. David's day by the saint himself, may rest on a Jeffrey of Monmouth authority, or on legends of no higher estimation with the historian, than "The famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom," by Richard Johnson.
Shakspeare, whose genius appropriated every thing that his extraordinary faculty of observation marked for its own, introduces this custom of the Welch wearing leeks upon St. David's day into his play of King Henry V.
Enter Pistol to King Henry.
Pistol. Qui va lá?
K. Henry. A friend.
P. What's thy name?
K. H. Harry le Roy.
P. Le Roy! a Cornish name: art thou of Cornish crew?
K. H. No, I am a Welchman.
P. Knowest thou Fluellen?
K. H. Yes.
P. Tell him, I'll knock his leek about his pate
Upon St. David's day.
K. H. Do not you wear your dagger in your cap that day, lest he knock that about yours.
It is again referred to in a dialogue between Henry V. and Fluellen.
Fluellen.Your grandfather of famous memory, an't please your majesty, and your great-uncle, Edward, the black prince, as I have read in the chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France.
K. Henry. They did, Fluellen.
F. Your majesty says very true: if your majesties is remembered of it, the Welchmen did goot service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty knows, is an honourable padge of the service: and, I do believe, your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy's day.
K. H. I wear it for a memorable honour: for I am a Welch, you know, good countryman.
This allusion by Fluellen to the Welch having worn the leek in a battle under the black prince, is not, perhaps, as some writers suppose, wholly decisive of its having originated in the fields of Cressy or Poictiers; but it shows that when Shakspeare wrote, Welchmen wore leeks. In the same play, the well-remembered Fluellen's enforcement of Pistol to eat the leek he had ridiculed, further establishes the wearing it as a usage. Fluellen wears his leek in the battle of Agincourt, which it will be recollected takes place in this play, and is there mentioned, as well as in the chronicles, to have been "fought on the day of Crispin Crispianus," in the month of October. The scene between Fluellen and Pistol takes place the day after this battle.
Enter Fluellen and Gower.
Gower. Why wear you your leek today? St. David's day is past.
Fluellen. There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things.—The rascally, scald, peggarly, pragging knave, Pistol, a fellow look you now of no merits, he is come to me with pread and salt yesterday, look you, and pid me eat my leek. [I]t was in a place where I could not preed no contentions with him, but I will be so pold as to wear it in my cap till I see him once again, and then—(Enter Pistol)—Got pless you, ancient Pistol! you scurvy knave, Got pless you!
P. Hence! I am qualmish at the smell of leek.
G. I peseech you heartily scurvy knave, at my desires, and my requests, and my petitions, to eat, look you, this leek
P. Not for Cadwallader, and all his goats.
F. There is one goat for you. (strikes him.) Will you be so goot, scald knave, as eat it?
P. Base Trojan, thou shalt die.
F. I desire you to live in the mean time, and eat your victuals; come there is sauce for it.—(strikes him.) If you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek.
By beating and taunt, Fluellen forces Pistol to eat the leek, and on its being wholly swallowed, Fluellen exhorts him "when you take occasions to see leeks hereafter, I pray you, mock at them that is all!" Having thus accomplished his purpose, Fluellen leaves Pistol to digestion, and the consolation of Gower, who calls him "counterfeit cowardly knave: will you mock at an ancient tradition, begun upon an honourable aspect, and worn as a memorable trophy of predeceased valour, and dare not avouch in your deeds any of your words?"
Here we have Gower speaking of the custom of the Welch wearing leeks as "an ancient tradition," and as "a memorable trophy of predeceased valour." Thoroughly versed in the history of the few reigns preceding the period wherein he lived, it is not likely that Shakspeare would make a character in the time of Henry V. refer to an occurrence under the black prince, little more than half a century before the battle of Agincourt, as an affair of "ancient tradition." Its origin may be fairly referred to a very early period.
A contributor to a periodical work* rejects the notion, that wearing leeks on St. David's day originated at the battle between the Welch and the Saxons in the sixth century; and thinks it more probable that leeks were a druidic symbol employed in honour of the British Ceudven or Ceres. In which hypothesis, he thinks, there is nothing strained or far-fetched, presuming that the Druids were a branch of the Phœnician priesthood. Both were addicted to oak worship; and during the funereal rites of Adonis at Byblos, leeks and onions were exhibited in "pots with other vegetables, and called the gardens of that deity." The leek was worshipped as Ascalon, (whence the modern term of Scallions,) as it was in Egypt. Leeks and onions were also deposited in the sacred chests of the mysteries both of Isis and Ceres, the Ceudven of the Druids; leeks are among the Egyptian hierogyphics; sometimes a leek is on the head of Osiris; and at other times grasped in an extended hand; and thence, perhaps, the Italian proverb, "Porro che nasce nella mano," a leek that grows in the hand, for a virtue. Porrus, a leek, is derived by Bryant from the Egyptian god Pi-orus, who is the same as the Beal Peor of the Phœnicians, and the Bell or Bellinis of the Druids. These accordances are worth an ancient Briton's consideration.
Ridicule of national peculiarities was formerly a pleasantry that the English freely indulged in. They seemed to think that different soil was good ground for a laugh at a person, and that it justified coarse and insolent remarks. In an old satirical tract there is the following sneer at the Welch:
"A WELCHMAN, Is the Oyster that the Pearl is in, for a man may be pickt out of him. He hath the abilities of the mind in potentiá, and actu nothing but boldnesse. His Clothes are in fashion before his Bodie; and he accounts boldnesse the chiefest vertue. Above all men he loves a Herrald, and speakes pedigrees naturally. He accompts none well descended that call him not Cosen, and prefers Owen Glendower before any of the nine worthies. The first note of his familiaritie is the confession of his valour; and so he prevents quarrels. Hee voucheth Welch a pure, an unconquered language; and courts Ladies with the storie of their Chronicle. To conclude, he is pretious in his own conceit, and upon St. David's day without comparison."*
Not quite so flouting is a poetical satire called,
The Welchman's Song in praise of Wales.
I's come not here to tauke of Prut,
From whence the Welse dos take hur root;
Nor tell long pedegree of Prince Camber,
Whose linage would fill full a chamber;
Nor sing the deeds of ould saint Davie,
The Ursip of which would fill a navie,
But hark you me now, for a liddell tales
Sall make a great deal to the creddit of Wales,
For hur will tudge your eares.
With the praise of hur thirteen seers;
And make you as glad and merry,
As fourteen pot of perry.
There are four other stanzas; one of them mentions the leek:
But all this while was never think
A word in praise of our Welse drink:
Yet for aull that is a cup of bragat
Aull England seer may cast his cap at.
And what you say to ale of Webley,
Toudge him as well, you'll praise him trebly
As well as metheglin, or syder, or meath,
Sall sake it your dagger quite out o' the seath.
And oat cake of Guarthenion,
With a goodly leek or onion,
To give as sweet a rellis
As e'er did Harper Ellis.*
In "Time's Telescope," an annual volume already mentioned for its pleasant varieties and agreeable information, there is a citation of flouting lines from "Poor Robin's Almanac," of 1757, under the month of March:
The first of this month some do keep,
For honest Taff to wear his leek;
Who patron was, they say, of Wales,
And since that time, cuts-plutter-a nails,
Along the street this day doth strut
With hur green leek stuck in hur hat,
And if hur meet a shentleman
Salutes in Welch; and if hur can
Discourse in Welch, then hur shall be
Amongst the green-horned Taffy's free.
The lines that immediately succeed the above, and follow below, are a versified record of public violence to the Welch character, which Englishmen in this day will read with surprise:
But it would make a stranger laugh
To see th'English hang poor Taff;
A pair of breeches and a coat,
Hat, shoes and stockings, and what not;
All stuffed with hay to represent
The Cambrian hero thereby meant;
With sword sometimes three inches broad,
And other armour made of wood,
They drag hur to some publick tree,
And hang hur up in effigy.
These barbarous practices of more barbarous times have disappeared as knowledge has advanced.
St. David's day in London is the Anniversary of "the most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons," established in 1714; they celebrate it with festivity in behalf of the Welch charity school in Grays-inn-road, which was instituted in 1718 for boarding, clothing, and educating 80 boys and 25 girls, born of Welch parents, in or within ten miles of the metropolis, and not having a parochial settlement within those limits. This institution has the king for patron as prince of Wales, and is supported by voluntary contributions. The "Ancient Britons," according to annual custom, go in procession to the royal residence on St. David's day, and receive the royal bounty. The society are in carriages, and each wears an artificial representation of the leek in his hat, composed of ribbands and silver foil. They have been sometimes accompanied by horsemen decorated in the same way, and are usually prreceded by marshals, also on horseback, wearing leeks of larger dimension in their hats, and ornamented with silk scarfs. In this state they proceed from the school-house to some adjacent church, and hear a discourse delivered on the occasion, by a prelate or other dignified clergyman. The day is concluded by an elegant dinner under the regulation of stewards, when a collection is made for the institution, and a handsome sum is generally contributed.
Leek: Album Porrum.
Dedicated to St. David.
Notes [All notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Butler's Saints. [return]
2. "Gazette of Fashion," March 9, 1822. [return]
3. "A wife, now the widdow of sir Thomas Overburye, being a most exquisite and singular poem of the choice of a wife, whereunto are added many witty characters," &c. London, printed for Lawrence Lisle, 4to. 1614. [return]
4. "An Antidote against Melancholy," 4to. 1661. [return]