’Tis Autumn and the leaves are turned, and fallin’ red and yellow, the wheat is picked, the fields all burned, let’s drink and feel well mellow!
[Chorus] Wassail, we sang to the grand King Tree, and all his court and county, and hark, the boughs swingin’ low with glee, full blessed with apple bounty!
The Winter orchard were asleep, we woke it with our stickin’, our weavin’ round, a skip, a leap, set Nature’s clock to tickin’!
Time came to rouse all orchard souls from Snowshill far as Stroud, see, with howlin’ pans o’er fields and knolls, and rifle firin’ loudly!
We hung a ball of fat, a treat, for orchard’s guard, red Robin, then cidered toast, ’twas sour and sweet, set fruit-tree sap to throbbin’!
Some cider next, we took and poured ’round King Tree’s roots and trunkwoods, to tempt him to provide a hoard for brews to make us drunkards!
And last, we raised a glass to say, our hopes for this year’s Autumn, fruit hangs from every branch today, ’tis red and green and all firm!
* * *
Welcome to my Poem of the Month for November! (POTM is a new feature on the Happenstance official website and all back issues will appear here.)
I haven’t seen Happenstance in action for a while, as pain has prevented travel. However, last Autumn I was able to attend Snowshill for the Apple Festival. At that time, I wasn’t aware of the part played by Happenstance in the success of the orchards, as I hadn’t witnessed the wassailing of orchards in January. But at the beginning of this year, I was able to watch the wassail activities at Postlip – so I appreciate the context in retrospect!
I wrote a song describing the wassail activities at Postlip in late January and I draw on this to compose the verses and chorus above. ‘Drinking Song’ describes all the rituals that were involved in waking King Tree and the other fruit trees and orchards across the shire. I use the same rhythm and the same rhyme scheme – perfect rhymes for the first and third lines, near rhymes for the second and fourth lines. Some of the near rhymes are quite tricky and the critic might wince at ‘Autumn’ and ‘all firm’ particularly! However, this poem/song is intended to be performed by keen drinkers, so Received Pronunciation is not necessary.