Saturday, January 6, 2018

TWELFTH NIGHT by Arletta Dawdy

      The custom of Twelfth Night celebrations spread throughout the British Isles since the Middle Ages, adapting to local color and habits. Some Arthurian enthusiasts believe that King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table gathered in Cornwall and honored the drinking of the apple flavored ale in days of old. Surely the use of a special bowl may well have graced the table and made its round  
no doubt refilled many times over. 

In BISBEE’S GLORY, my work-in-progress, Glory’s father relates the story of Cornwall’s experience of Twelfth Night and its adaption in the new land. It is January 6, 1887, twelve days after Christmas.
            “Da, I hear some singing! Can it be the carolers? Oh, it must be them.” Glory ran and flung open the door of the tiny cabin they’d called home since her father’s horrible mine accident left him crippled the previous summer.
            “Who’s to care,” the ornery patient grumbled. He pulled the patchwork quilt over his head and turned as best he could to the stonework wall
“Ah, me dad, listen to the sound of them. Ain’t it wonderful.”  Moving to the hook on the wall, she grabbed her thick blue shawl and whipped it around her shoulders. Then, standing in the open doorway, she listened to the words and felt the joy of harmonizing voices.
 “Da, it’s your old choir boys. The ones you led all these years past. They’ve come to sing special for you!
. Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;

 The chorus of strong male voices rang out, as if to challenge their old leader to take part.
             “Go off and away with you!” David yelled in response and continued to cover his ears against memories as much as the present. “Have ya no caring for this old man? No honor for what is done and gone?’ His voice faded at the last.

                                                            Here we come a-wand'ring
                                                                    So fair to be seen. 

                                                            Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year*

Glory looked back to see that her father lowered the quilt from his ears and face as the voices rose higher. A light smile caressed his cheeks, a sight not often seen of late. She looked out into the night sky, radiant with the glitter of so many stars. The hillsides of Bisbee appeared rolling and gentle in the moonlight and the gleaming of so many home side fires and lamps. Their little world rang with sounds of celebration that even the thundering stampmill couldn’t blot out.
 “My mother is here now, Da. She and Mrs. Cragen are passing out drinks and  cookies to all who have gathered. Will I get you some?”  
 Not waiting for an answer, Glory skipped out the door and took the offerings from the women, giving her mother a wink and a kiss on the forehead. Voices called out to Glory and her father with wishes for a Happy New Year. None made a wish for Health to come, knowing the futility of such a wish for their former leader of song and deep mining.
Glory watched as the chorus and Mrs. Cragen’s boarders left to resume their celebrations elsewhere. She welcomed her mother with a deep hug and found the woman shedding tears. The unspoken fear for their husband and father was always at the surface of their thoughts and actions. Even so at the celebration of Twelfth Night.
While Brita rushed about to get David’s hot super ready, Glory pulled a stool close to her father’s bed. His eyes searched her face and he reached inside himself to tell her a story as had become their habit of an early evening.
“You know the wassailing goes back aways in the old country. Even to the days of the King Arthur. ‘Course that could only be legend.”
“But what a fine legend!” Glory conjured up visions of the moors, the rugged coastline and the smattering of villages and farmlands. ..and the many copper wheals scattered around the countryside. The same mines that had given out in the mid-nineteenth century, sending families like hers from its shores.