Omnia tempus habent – All things have their season. Ecclesiastes
Here is a medieval rhyming calendar depicting the labours of the months in the fields, designing in rhyming couplets dating from 14th century England. And yes the mis-spelling of the words is intentional. This is how it was spelt in Old English of medieval times.
Januar ~ By this fire I warme my hands,
Februar ~ And with my spade I delve my lands.
Marche ~ Here I sette my thinge to springe,
Abril ~ And here I here the fowles singe.
Maii ~ I am as light as a bird in bowe
Junii ~ And I wede my corne well enow.
Julii ~ With my scyth my mede I mawe;
Auguste ~ And here I shere my corne full lowe.
September ~ With my flail I erne my brede,
October ~ And here I sawe my whete so rede.
November ~ At Martinmasse I kille my swine,
December ~ And at Christemasse I drinke red wine
Medieval rhyming couplets like this are delightful, even to our modern ears and ways of speaking, because they make us recall the timelessness of the seasons and the toil and work of farms in their agrarian calendar. This one was designed to be easy enough for a child to merrily sing along to and remember the months.
Sometimes calendars were copied and bound together as annals and histories, featuring local saints, martyrs and prominent figures in them. Some calendars were less jokey and more serious. These forms of calendars had a liturgical or devotional purpose to mark Christian feast days.
Although a lot was done in the predominantly Christian middle-ages to eradicate all traces of Britain’s more earthy, spiritual and pagan origins, I am happy to see that this shines through in the rhyming couplet here, the wheel of the year is still very prominent. Also that this remembrance of things past reignites neo-pagan beliefs and Christian beliefs alike.
The ever-delightful book Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris
Medieval calendars: The British Library Digitised Manuscripts
Original rhyming couplet poem: Poems without names: The English Lyric 1200 – 1500.