February 1, 2013

A Poem for Candlemas Eve

Robert Herrick's poem is for the eve of Candlemas which was the day (February 2nd) on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes.

Superstitions of an earlier time said that leaving traces of berries, holly and other decorations would bring death among the congregation before another year is out. Another belief was that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative.

Hopefully, your neighbors have taken down their outdoor Christmas decorations by now. If not, perhaps you should share the old beliefs with them.

Read more about Candlemas traditions

by Robert Herrick

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).

The holly hitherto did sway ;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew ;
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside ;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold ;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

for more poems by Herrick, see  http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/herrick/herribib.htm

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