Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | December ~ And at Christemasse I drinke red wine

Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar

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,

Januar ~ By this fire I warme my hands,
Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar Januar ~ By this fire I warme my hands,

Februar ~ And with my spade I delve my lands.

Chartres Cathedral c. 13th century, France. via Wikipedia

Marche ~ Here I sette my thinge to springe,

 Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | Marche ~ Here I sette my thinge to springe,
Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | Marche ~ Here I sette my thinge to springe,

Abril ~ And here I here the fowles singe.

Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | Abril ~ And here I here the fowles singe.
Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | Abril ~ And here I here the fowles singe.

Maii ~ I am as light as a bird in bowe

 Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | Maii ~ I am as light as a bird in bowe
May in the Shaftesbury Psalter, 12th Century, with calendar and prayers, England

Junii ~ And I wede my corne well enow.

Celestial ceilings and soaring skies in Poland
A pastoral scene during summer on a farm outside of Zamosc https://wp.me/p41CQf-IE8

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,

Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | September ~ With my flail I erne my brede,
A calendar page for September with a miniature of labourers ploughing and sowing grain, from a Book of Hours (Bruges), c. 1540. Via The British Library

October ~ And here I sawe my whete so rede.

Dyeing garments in the Middle Ages with tiny maggots Polish cochineals (Porphyrophora polonica
Dyeing garments in the Middle Ages with tiny maggots Polish cochineals (Porphyrophora polonica). A quirky meander through the origins of language in the Polish calendar

November ~ At Martinmasse I kille my swine,

 boar hunting scene representing September-October in a calendar from a scientific miscellany which includes Cicero's Aratea, c. 1040, English, British Library
A boar hunting scene from a scientific miscellany which includes Cicero’s Aratea, c. 1040, English, British Library

December ~ And at Christemasse I drinke red wine

Omnia tempus habent: a delightful medieval rhyming calendar | December ~ And at Christemasse I drinke red wine
Medieval Christmas Party, via History Today

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.

Read more

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.

Leave a Reply