Glad Christmas comes again

I  shared a lovely seasonal poem by John Clare, entitled ‘Glad Christmas’ or ‘Christmas Time’, and while I was looking it up and finding out about it, I came across a version with an extra stanza, but then I came across another version with the ‘extra’ stanza included and no mention made of it being an addition. So her it is, extra or last verse of John Clare’s Christmas poem:

The yule cake dotted thick with plums
Is on each supper table found
And cats look up for falling crumbs
Which greedy children litter round
And hus wifes stuff’d seasoned chine
Long hung in chimney nook to dry
And boiling eldern berry wine
To drink the Christmas eve’s “good bye.”

The plums in the cake I’m sure would have been dried plums – not bought from any shop but fruit from the tree in the back garden or from a market stall, dried at home. A chine is a delicious sounding cured or salted pork neck, boned and stuffed. I vaguely remember it from my childhood, and i remember it as being covered in breadcrumbs round the outside. However, here is a great site which will tell you much more, and with a picture:

The chine in the verse would have been home-made, but may have been from a neighbour’s pig; slaughtering and preparing a whole animal would have been too much for one family, so all the neighbours would help and would be paid in bacon and pork! The prepared chine would have been hung by the fire to smoke.

Eldern berries are elder berries, and in an autumn poem entitled ‘October’ John Clare describes picking them and making them into wine:

Oft dames in faded cloak of red or grey
Loiters along the mornings dripping way
Wi wicker basket on their witherd arms
Searching the hedges of home close or farms
Where brashy elder trees to autum fade
Each cotters mossy hut and garden shade
Whose glossy berrys picturesquly weaves
Their swathy bunches mid the yellow leaves
Where the pert sparrow stains his little bill
And tutling robin picks his meals at will
Black ripening to the wan suns misty ray
Here the industrious huswives wend their way
Pulling the brittle branches carefull down
And hawking loads of berrys to the town
Wi unpretending skill yet half divine
To press and make their eldern berry wine
That bottld up becomes a rousing charm
To kindle winters icy bosom warm
That wi its merry partner nut brown beer
Makes up the peasants Christmas keeping cheer


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