Friday 31 October 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!


Robert Herrick (1648)

The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride;
The Devil and she together:
Through thick, and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne’er so foul be the weather.

A Thorn or a Burr
She takes for a Spur:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
Through Brakes and through Briars,
O’er Ditches, and Mires,
She follows the Spirit that guides now.

No Beast, for his food,
Dares now range the wood;
But hush't in his lair he lies lurking:
While mischiefs, by these,
On Land and on Seas,
At noon of Night are a working,

The storm will arise,
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the Tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Called out by the clap of the Thunder.

I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Hallowe'en these days. The mini trick or treaters tottering around the neighbourhood with one or more suitable adults in tow are sweet enough, but there are always those few absurdly large and suspiciously old callers (please, you probably earn more than me - by the look of it, you might even be older than me - and yet still you're here demanding sweets/cash/my first-born child...) who seem to consider the entire festival a licence to solicit various goods with menaces.

The whole thing reminds me of another set of unwelcome visitors whose company we can expect to enjoy in the not-too-distant future: Bad Carol Singers. Now, I've got absolutely nothing against good carol singers - I've even been one myself on numerous occasions - but I'm afraid that the bad ones make me want to do extremely unseasonal things, both to them and to anyone else unfortunate enough to stray across my path at the time of their visit.

These caterwauling carollers hammer away at the door until you open it - no use hiding in the back room and waiting for the tenacious blighters to go away - and then regale you with three or four terrifyingly tuneless lines of 'Good King Wenceslas', before holding out their hands for payment. Muttering with resentment, you rootle out a quid or two and press it into their palms, all the while cursing yourself for your weakness and praying that you've given them enough to make them go away. After all, that is what you're paying them for - leaving. It's the 'leaving' that makes surrendering your money so worthwhile, not the 'music' that precedes it. As for where that money might be going, well, I usually find it advisable not to ask - discretion being the better part of valour and all that.

However, I digress. My 'atrocious carol singers' rant is several weeks premature (rather like those chocolate advent calendars that have adorned supermarket shelves since mid-to-late September) and I have sweets to pile by the door, pumpkins to carve and spooky lighting to arrange. Let the annual onslaught of witches, monsters and assorted other mythical creatures begin...

From Ghosties and Ghoulies
And long-leggity Beasties
And all things that go bump in the night -
Good Lord, deliver us!

Happy Hallowe'en!

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