Current Essays

Godrices Eve On:2008-05-12 17:19:34

Ahh! May the twentieth is fast approaching! Oh! The excitement is growing, and Oh! Godrices Eve will soon be here together with all those wonderful celebrations associated with that one-time pirate who made good and became a hermit and then topped it all by becoming without a doubt England’s greatest known composer of the twelfth century.

Before we begin though, and on a personal note, I must admit that for years I stoutly maintained the fiction (and I want to stress that it was fiction, pure fiction) that I make my kids dress up in honour of St. Godric in mixed piratey-hermity costumes---you know the sort of thing, monks’ habits with eye patches and hooks and pirate hats and little stuffed parrots and angels for their shoulders, and that I claimed further that on St. Godrices Day itself I would always give them a special lunch to take to school of raw turnips and grog.

But now Child Protective Services has started sniffing around, so it’s time to change that story and to admit that it was all a lie, and that anyway they have all grown up now, and out of the stage where I could get them to do such things, or indeed anything much, and so I have not made them do anything like that for ... Um ... what’s the Statute of Limitations on that? ... anyway for years now.

Well, enough of that.

And so as we sweep around the year yet again to his feast Day and its Eve, can we avoid positing that age-old dilemma:
St. Godric---pirate and peasant, or saint and singer?
Of course we can’t because of course he was both, or do I mean all four or do I even mean none of the above. These questions, enlivened, as they tend to be, with quotations in mediaeval Latin from Reginald of Durham’s Life of St. Godric hurled amongst the increasingly heated disputants is typical of the sort of fun that leads into Godricesmasstide.

The celebrations start, as I’m sure you well know, on the evening of the twentieth, the Eve proper, when children purposely don’t hang up stockings to commemorate the lovely story of St. Godric never again wearing any shoes or socks after washing his feet in the Jordan River. Though most of the children don’t realise that it was indeed the lack of service in local stores occasioned by this habit (together with his refusal to wear a shirt--even a hair shirt) that was one of the main causes of St. Godric becoming a solitary, fasting hermit in the first place.

And then the twenty-first, the actual Godrices Day itself, dawns with the traditional sneaking up from behind of old Santa Blackbeard with his merry cry of “Yo! Ho! Ho! Ho!” and his big bushy black beard smoldering away and his big round belly jellying away and his even bigger festive cutlass festively cutlassing away at all within reach and Oh! the running around and the squeals and
...the ... blood and the screams and ....
And then, then, the survivors all gather round for the great St. Godrices Day Feast (or rather Fast) of a raw turnip again washed down with lashings of grog.

And then comes the singing. Singing not only of St. Godrices own wonderful and familiar songs---‘Sainte Nicolas Godes Druth’ or the lovely one that goes ‘That ich on this erthe ne silde with mine bare footen itredde’---but also all those more modern songs about rum and the lash and walking the plank and ‘fifteen angels on the head of a dead man’s pin’.
Ah! Simple fare, but somehow richly satisfying (which is more than can be said for the feast, or rather fast, itself)
And so, as the sun sets over the carnage, we few starveling survivors say farewell to St. Godric, the patron saint of all those who have no patron saint, and we can but await next year’s festivities (or rather fastiveties), eagerly but also anxiously

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

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