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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

June,   pp. [unnumbered]-832 PDF (75.4 MB)

Page 718

is as high as a man's head, and not a vestige of a
windrow is left when the work is finished by the
rakers. Rolling those huge haycocks together is
hard work; and when you see it done, you
marvel not at the quantity of beer the men
drink, labouring as they do in the hot open
sunshine of June. We then see the loaded hay
wagons leaving the fields, rocking as they cross
the furrows, over which wheels but rarely roll,
moving along green lanes and between high
hedgcrows, which take toll from the wains as
they pass, until new hay hangs down from every
branch. What labour it would save the birds in
building, if hay was led two or three months
earlier, for nothing could be more soft and
downy for the lining of their nests than many
of the feathered heads of those dried grasses.
Onward moves the rocking wagon towards the
rick-yard, where the gate stands open, and we
can see the men on the half-formed stack waiting
for the coming load.
When the stack is nearly finished, only a strong
man can pitch up a fork full of hay; and it
needs some practice to use the long forks which
are required when the rick has nearly reached to
its fullest height.  What a delicious smell of
new-mown hay there will be in every room of
that old farmhouse for days after the stacks are
finished; we almost long to take up our lodging
there for a week or two for the sake of the
fragrance. And there, in the 'home close,' as it
is called, sits the milkmaid on her three-legged
stool, which she hides somewhere under the
hedge, that she may not have to carry it to and
fro every time she goes to milk, talking to her
cow while she is milking as if it understood her:
for the flies make it restless, and she is fearful
that it may kick over the contents of her pail.
Now she breaks forth into song-unconscious
that she is overheard-the burthen of which is
that her lover may be true, ending with a wish
that she were a linnet, 'to sing her love to rest,'
which he, wearied with his day's labour, will
not require, but will begin to snore a minute
after his tired head presses the pillow.
But we cannot leave the milkmaid, surrounded
with the smell of new-mown hay, without taking
a final glance at the grasses; and when we state
that there are already upwards of two thousand
varieties known and named, and that the dis-
coveries of every year continue to add to the
number, it will be seen that the space of a large
volume would be required only to enumerate the
different classes into which they are divided.
The oat-like, the wheat-like, and the water-
grasses, of which latter the tall common seed is
the chief, are very numerous. It is from grasses
that we have obtained the bread we eat, and we
have now many varieties in England, growing
wild, that yield small grains of excellent corn,
and that could, by cultivation, be rendered as
valuable as our choicest cereals. It is through
being surrounded by the sea, and having so few
mountain ranges to shut out the breezes, the
sunshine, and the showers, that England is
covered with the most beautiful grasses that
are to be found in the world.   The open sea
wooes every wind that blows, and draws all the
showers towards our old homesteads, and clothes
our island with that delicious green which in
the wonder and admiration of foreigners.   It
also feeds those flocks and herds which are our
pride; for nowhere else can be seen such as
those pastured on English ground. Our Saxon
forefathers had no other name for grass than
that we still retain, though they made many
pleasant allusions to it in describing the labours
of the months-such as grass-month, milk-month,
mow-month, hay-month, and after-month, or the
month after their hay was harvested. After-
month is a word still in use, though now applied
to the second crop of grass, which springs up
after the hay-field has been cleared. None are
fonder than Englishmen of seeing a'bit of grass'
before their doors.  Look at the retired old
citizen, who spent the best years of his life
poring over ledgers in some half-lighted office
in the neighbourhood of the Bank, how delighted
he is with the little grass-plat which the window
of his suburban retreat opens into. What hours
he spends over it, patting it down with his spade,
smoothing it with his garden-roller; stooping
down until his aged back aches, while clipping
it with his shears; then standing at a distance to
admire it; then calling his dear old wife out to
see how green and pretty it looks. It keeps
him in health, for in attending to it he finds
both amusement and exercise; and perhaps the
happiest moments of his life are those passed in
watching his grandchildren roll over it, while
his married sons and daughters sit smiling by
his side. Hundreds of such men, and many
such spots, lie scattered beside the roads that
run every way through the great metropolitan
suburbs; and it is pleasant, when returning from
a walk through the dusty roads of June, to peep
over the low walls, or through the palisades, and
see the happy groups sitting in the cool of
evening by the bit of grass before their doors,
and which they call 'going out on the lawn.'
Ovid, in his Fasti, makes Juno claim the
honour of giving a name to this month; but
there had been ample time before his day for
an obscurity to invest the origin of the term,
and he lived before it was the custom to investi-
gate such matters critically. Standing as the
fourth month in the Roman calendar, it was in
reality dedicated a Junioribus-that is, to the
junior or inferior branch of the original legisla-
ture of Rome, as May was & Majoribus, or to
the superior branch. 'Romulus assigned to this
month a complement of thirty days, though in
the old Latin or Alban calendar it consisted of
twenty-Eix only. Numa deprived it of one day,
which was restored by Julius Casar; since
which time it has remained undisturbed.' --
Though the summer solstice takes place on the
21st day, June is only the third month of the
year in respect of temperature, being preceded
in this respect by July and August-. The morn-
ings, in the early part of the month especially,
are liable to be even frosty, to the extensive

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