Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yonder Peasant, Who Is He.....

“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze.
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Give us a penny to bury the wren!”

I listened and listened, when I woke up this morning, but couldn’t hear the raucous cries and tin-can clatter of the Wren Boys.

“That’s because, Dorothy,” a little voice in my head reasoned, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Boxing Day, the English called it. We thought that sounded awfully posh. To us it was simply St. Stephen’s day, of Good King Wencslas fame, and, more locally, the day the Wren Boys, bright and early, came prancing and rattling around our houses, begging for pennies to bury the wren. There was nothing posh about them. They came in loose, raggle-taggle, straggling bands, faces blackened, dressed in rags, making an awful din with tin cans and makeshift instruments, chanting their rhyme at the top of their lungs. All the children rushed out to see them. We didn’t know who they were or where they came from, or where they went when they got too hoarse to sing anymore. They were simply carrying on a centuries-old tradition, whose origins had been long ago forgotten. If you didn’t have keen ears you might miss them altogether. They never lingered for long. They were on a mission to raise enough pennies to give the wren a decent burial. Wink,wink.

Soon it was quiet again and we all wandered off. St. Stephen’s day was still part of the Christmas holiday. Everyone sighed contentedly. If I got a new book for Christmas you’d find me blissfully buried in it, curled up by the fire. Sometimes, joy of joys, a fire would be lit in the front sitting room, where there were comfy couches and you could pretend to be a grand lady. Usually the front room was off limits to hooligans like us, and warmed up and used only on state occasions, a few days around Christmas included. Sometimes you’d wonder if those raucous, wretched Wren boys had such a comfy place to go at the end of their adventures, and vaguely wonder why some people did and some people didn’t…..and feel a little guilty for being, undeservedly, among the lucky ones.

3 comments:

meggie said...

We have always called 26th Boxing Day. It was such a nice relaxed day, after the hectic hustle & bustle, & there were leftovers to pick at, so no cooking.
Bliss of books for Christmas.
Bliss of time to read them!

Isabelle said...

Yes, I like Boxing Day too because of the books and leftovers. We had two of ours with us on Christmas morning; the third (or actually the first) was at her husband's home down south. Which is fair enough. Sigh. But we all had a nice time.

sMC said...

Happy New Year Molly. May it be better than the last one.