Today’s adventure in folklore was difficult to pin down even though it’s Low Sunday, aka Little Easter Sunday, aka Hock Sunday, aka Balaam’s Ass Day, aka St Alphege’s Day, aka the last day of the Octave of Easter, aka White Sunday, aka Thomas Sunday, aka Divine Mercy Sunday, aka Renewal Sunday, and most delightfully, aka Quasimodo Sunday (named for the Latin at the start of today’s mass, not for Victor Hugo’s hero who was in fact named for Quasimodo Sunday as that’s the day he was found on the steps of Notre Dame), because despite this array of opportunities, being in lockdown and of the atheistic persuasion, not a lot of folklore presented itself, and I was not about to re-watch Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as once was enough and even then, one time too many; but what did present itself was the 196th anniversary of Lord Byron’s death, a man of mythical proportional, who along with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Shelley), John Polidori, and Percy Bysshe Shelley had an epic ghost story battle at the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816 which resulted in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Polidori’s The Vampyre, and Byron’s A Fragment; with both The Vampyre and A Fragment riffing on similar unnatural themes, and The Vampyre later being credited as the first written vampire story (although this might be a Eurocentric take given vampire tales are found all over the world) with Byron himself being the inspiration for the bloodsucker and even initially being credited with writing it before disputing this claim, but given it’s thought Polidori might have originally nicked his idea for The Vampyre from A Fragment and given it’s the anniversary of Byron biting the
neck dust, it was to this snippet that I drew my attention, finding the text online at the British Library and then having a gander, which was not the attitude to take as I had forgotten that c19th writers need commitment when reading due to lack of editing resulting in inordinately long wandering sentences containing confusing convoluted word structure; multiple thoughts, semi colons, commas, and conjunctives; and words that have fallen out of favour such as valetudinarian that need looking up in order to understand what on earth is going on; but despite this, by crikey, Byron could turn a phrase; in his tale of the suspicious and unnatural death of Augustus Darvell in an abandoned Turkish cemetery, in under 2000 words he riddles the story with folklore, superstition, omens, foreshadowing and the uncanny, stating ‘Where there is mystery, it is generally supposed that there must also be evil’ which is as glorious as it is memorable and I would have cheerfully continued to read more of A Fragment had there been more of it to read, but as it is, it remains a fragment, but notwithstanding, given the allusion to Darvell’s impending vampiric behaviour, I also felt it best to plant some garlic, just to be on the safe side.
Not much to report other than I think I’m shortchanging them on the watering so I’m going to step up my fluid attendance.
The Onion Update
I may have come a cropper with the alliums as they are very listless and only perked up after some bouffing. Not sure if it’s under or over watering or general lacklustreness.
No sign of the parsley, throwing my witch credentials into question. However the thyme is first out of the starting blocks.
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Byron, Lord (1819) ‘A Fragment’ in Mazeppa, London, John Murray, pp. 59 – 69
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books