Lavenders Blue

Not so long ago, in a place close to home, there lived a widower by the name of Eli. He was eighty-three and all alone. His wife had died six months ago; at the age of seventy-five and things would never be the same again. They had been sweethearts at school and had grown to love each other with a passion that is seldom known, these days.

On this day, Eli stepped out of his country cottage, on the coast of Dover, in which the couple had lived, since Eli’s retirement some years previously. He was wearing an old cloth apron, wore a wicker hat upon his wrinkled, bald head and held, in his shaking hand a small trowel. As he stepped, he raised his head to the sky and took a long breath in, inhaling all the aromas of the day. Looking down and over to his left he admired the garden. It had always been his wife’s garden, really, but he took care of it every day, since her passing.

It really was something to see. There were Roses and Violets; Daffodils and Bluebells; but also, carefully planted and tended, in little rows around the circumference of the plants, were herbs of all kinds. Sage and Thyme were there, and there was an abundance of Rosemary and Basil. Also, placed strategically amongst it all, was his wife’s utmost favourite, Lavender.

The fact that Lavender was also the name of his late wife was purely a coincidence. She had loved the plants for their beauty and scent. She would have bouquets of it all over the house, because she believed that the perfume was relaxing and always kept them replenished, whenever possible.

Her favourite song was even “Lavender Blue”, which she sang constantly, while nursing her garden. He went through it in his mind; “Lavenders green, dilly, dilly, Lavenders blue – You must love me, dilly, dilly, ‘cause I love you – I heard one say, dilly, dilly, since I came hither – That you and I, dilly, dilly, must lay together.

It was a strange song, he had to admit, but it would always be stuck in his mind, as a reminder of her. The next verse was more of the same; “Call out your men, dilly, dilly, set them to work – Some with the rake, dilly, dilly, and some with the fork – Some to make hay, dilly, dilly, and some to make corn – While you and I Dear, dilly, dilly, keep ourselves warm.

As he went through the song, in his head, while he knelt and tended the herbs, he really thought that he could hear her voice, singing along with him. He stopped for a second, to wipe away a tear and found that the voice he thought he heard carried on without him. He listened. “Wedding’s for life, dilly, dilly, love is to share – And love must grow, dilly, dilly, with joy and care – Lavenders green, dilly, dilly, lavenders blue – I was your queen, dilly, dilly, when I wed you.” Yes, it was real, he could really hear it, and it was her voice. No doubt about it. He stood up and looked around to see where it was coming from.

In a trance, he followed the voice out of the garden and off in the direction he imagined the hypnotic resonance to be emanating from. He crossed the road and into the field, opposite. The song was constant along the way; “Close we did live, dilly, dilly, and when we die – Close in one grave, dilly, dilly, Close we will lie – Lavenders green, dilly, dilly, lavenders blue – We’ll be together, dilly, dilly, ‘cause I love you.”

He felt like he was in a dream. All manner of memories and feelings came flooding back to him, as he listened to the words and followed the transient voice along the way. Images of his beloved wife flashed through his mind; her face, glowing when she smiled; her golden hair, before the silver overtook, flowing alluringly down over her shoulders and her gentile laugh when he did something silly.

She had always been there to chastise him at the times when he needed it and lift his spirits in times of great sorrow or self-doubt. She had always been there, and that was it, wasn’t it? She had been there for him, in good times and bad, looking out for him, keeping him on the straight and narrow. He missed those days with all his heart and now that he was all alone he didn’t know how to carry on. Oh, he went through the motions and everything that needed to be done got done, but there was no joy in anything any more. He felt like a pre-programmed machine, which paid lip service to life, but never actually lived. He wished for the return of the days when he felt alive and, in every sense of the phrase, had something to live for.

The voice, as he tracked it across the fields, grew more and more clear. With every word sung to him, he felt a growing sense of elation, bubbling up inside of him, making him smile again as hope elevated his disposition.

He listened to the words as they came to his ears; “When you were at work, dilly, dilly, I brewed your beer – When you came home, dilly, dilly, I was your Dear – I served your meat, dilly, dilly, I baked your bread – I shared your board, dilly, dilly, I shared your bed.”

It was all true. She had looked after him all those years they were together. She had cooked his meals and looked after the house; she had tended the whole garden, front and back, and not just the small patch she called her own. Everything he needed in life, she had provided. She was the best thing to ever happen to him and he knew it. Now all he had was his routine, since they had no children, and that was no life.

The voice drew him out of the fields and up the small hill that he and Lavender had climbed many a Sunday afternoon, carrying with them a picnic of sandwiches and tea, to have while they looked out over the cliffs, to the never ending sea. Those were magical days for the both of them and Eli felt blessed, in every way, to have experienced them. They used to dream of sailing out into the vast waters and envisioned what they might find in the new lands they encountered. They joked about pirates boarding their craft and of natives imprisoning them in their villages; of big pots and red hot fires. It was all in fun, though. They knew that they would never do anything so adventurous, but the imaginings kept them amused for a short while.

As he reached the top of the hill, he looked around and saw, to his surprise, where the couple had previously sat and dreamt their dreams, assembled in the way he had always remembered, was a red and white chequered cloth, with a flask of tea; a Tupperware containing roast beef sandwiches and two small fishing stools. He feared that all this was just in his mind and that the bubble would pop, leaving him alone and in a saddened state, once more.

As he looked up from the laden cloth he saw, to his amazement, a figure, all in white, standing at the edge of the cliff, still singing as he watched; “If you love me, dilly, dilly, never to roam – And I love you, dilly, dilly, eternity must come – I’ll be your girl, dilly, dilly, you’ll be my boy – Binding us close, dilly, dilly, bringing us joy.”

As he looked closer, he could see the figure beckoning to him to draw nearer.  He did so and joy filled his soul, for it was indeed Lavender. She was young again, as she was when they first met and more beautiful than ever. Her smile was enchanting and he found himself moving towards her with more virtuosity than he had felt in many a year.

As he approached her, he noticed that she was not standing on the edge of the cliff, as he had first thought, but floated in mid air, just off of the edge. He paused and looked at her face. It was a picture of love, happiness and compassion; everything that she had portrayed in life. Her hand was outstretched and he moved closer to her, raising his own, in order to feel her touch once more. Her song continued as he did; “Come with me now, dilly, dilly, and we shall go home – No more to be lost, dilly, dilly, no more to roam – I am at peace, dilly, dilly, And you shall be too – For we have a love, dilly, dilly, that is honest and true.”

He reached out is hand further, with all the love in his heart, to clasp hers. She smiled her wonderful smile, as he did. With every step he got closer, until he reached the edge of the cliff, unseen now in his bliss.

Come,” she said, as his outstretched hand went to grip hers. He lifted his foot, once more and, as he tried to hold her had, he found that his own passed straight through. His balance lost, he looked down, to see that his foot had no place to stand.

As he fell, the dream snapped and he was suddenly faced with reality. He looked up at the figure of his beloved and saw her change from the striking features of Lavender, into a cackling creature of ferocious temperament. The fiend laughed and laughed. For the figure, as you will have guessed, was not the ghost of his wife, but an Evil Faerie that calls out to men’s souls and lures them to their deaths.

As Eli fell, the Faerie threw back her head in delight and, in a puff of smoke, vanished, until another heartbroken man could be found.

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Some New Old Books

Today I would like to talk about some of the books which I have recently purchased. Books can mean a lot of things to a lot of people and every new buy tends to be made for a specific reason, not counting those of us who can’t keep away from the old curiosity book stores.

I have recently bought six books but they are not all ones that would be readily available in the bookstores, real-life or web-based.

The first of my purchases, excuse the title, is, “The Cambridge Tart”. It is a selection of satirical poems relating to Cambridge University. This copy was published in 1823 and the title is a mocking of an old Oxford term, stating inside, “Oxford has its sausage and why not Cambridge its tart.”

The Cambridge Tart 2

The preface goes thus:

“For my part, seeing no legal objection, I shall turn cook and mould as delicate a Pasty as my slight knowledge in the art will permit; and I do hope that every Cantab will design to taste it. Should any individual find a kernel of spice rather too hot for his palate, I entreat he will forgive its biting quality and not turn Crusty on the occasion; but place the accident to my over anxiety, in wishing to indulge his appetite for the delicious.”

Basically, the author is saying that some of the poems inside may be a little naughty and he asks the readers forgiveness early on, in case he has gone a little too far in his attempt to entertain. I have yet to read through this and the others on this list but I am intrigued to read on and see what humours lie ahead.

The second of my new buys is “The Poetical Works of Longfellow”, published somewhere between 1850 and 1899. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet from Portland in Maine. His works have included, “Paul Revere’s Ride”, “The song of Hiawatha” and “Evangeline”. I enjoy a good poem, now and then, and am looking forward to reading the informative and talented efforts of this New Word Poet.

Longfellow 2

I will put books three and four together as they are both by the wonderful, Bombay born, Rudyard Kipling and they are, “Soldier’s Tales” (published in 1896) and “Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories” (also published in 1896). Kipling has always been a favorite of mine and has become, because of the success of “The Jungle Book” and “How the Camel Got Its Hump”, one of the best known Late-Victorian Authors.

Soldier's Tales 2

Kipling is a wonderful writer who was most capable of writing for children as he was for adults. His work spanned poetry and novels; to articles and letters of encouragement. I can’t wait to get stuck into these two books and expect great things.

Book five is “Heroes and Martyrs” (Charles H. Kelly) and recounts the histories of famous Churchmen and Missionaries, from Wycliffe to Wesely. I enjoy a bit of Church history although I cannot say I am well read. My father, the Rev. Prof. ATB McGowan, is the man to speak to there. He has more theological history in his head than I could ever hope to imbibe. I do, however, like to stick my toe in the water every so often and this is a great book to give me some insights into the to’s and throws of the Christian Church and what the Churchmen went through for their beliefs.

Heroes and Martyrs 2

Finally, I come to “Sea Songs and Ballads”, published in 1923, by C. Fox Smith. Songs of the sea are endearing to me. I love the idea of sailors singing songs that get lost in the wind, in an attempt to keep themselves occupied during long trips. Also, drinking songs (of which most folk songs seem to be) are great in number.  If you are able to get a copy of this, I would advise it. A lot can be learned about a group or society by their songs and tales and this book is looking to be a good read, through and through.

Sea Songs and Ballads 2

I hope you found this interesting. Not having read the books yet, I am unable to go into great detail about them but I love old books and love to share my new purchases with others. Whether a book is old or new, enjoyment can be found and there are a great many wonderful tales out there. Delve into the old curiosity bookstores, rummage around in the back and see what you find.

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