Shrove Tuesday – the traditional day of feasting and fun before the forty days of Lent, has its own mostly long forgotten tradition of rhymes and verses.
In centuries past a day for eating and exertion with feasting (of a kind) and football (of a sort) Shrove Tuesday has more than its fair share of unique and unusual songs, rhymes and poems. To celebrate the day here’s the Eden.co.uk collection of Seven Magnificent Pancake Day Ditties.
Pancake Tuesday is a Happy Day… in Lancsahire
Celebrating the tradition fry-up of all the forbidden foods of Lent, this is the rhyme most of us know from our school days. This one’s a 1930s Lancashire version:
Pancake Tuesday is a very happy day,
If you don’t gea us holiday we’ll aw run away,
Eating tawfy, crackin’ nut
Stuffin’ aw pancakes deawn awr guts!
Pancakes and the author of ‘In the bleak midwinter’
Christina Rossetti’s poem for Pancake Day gives outline cooking instructions including a vital hint for tossing the pancake: catch it if you can.
Mix a pancake,
Stir a pancake,
Pop it in the pan;
Fry the pancake,
Toss the pancake,
Catch it if you can.
Shakspeare’s Henry IV and Pancake Tuesday
Shakespeare’s Shrove Tuesday rhyme says something about the importance of the day and the feasting that went with it. In Henry IV part 2, Justice Silence sings:
Be merry, be merry, my wife has all;
For women are shrews, both short and tall;
‘Tis merry in hall, when beards wag all,
And welcome merry shrove-tide.
Be merry, be merry.
Good eating and the Cheshire Guttit Bell
In the Middle Ages Shrovetide feasting was announced throughout England with the 11am ‘Pancake Bell’. In Cheshire the signal was called the ‘good-eating’ ‘Guttit’ bell:
But hark, I hear the pancake bell,
And fritters make a gallant smell.
The cooks are baking, frying, boiling,
Stewing, mincing, cutting, broiling,
Carving, gourmandizing, roasting,
Carbonading, cracking, slashing, toasting.
Shrove Tuesday final score: Derby 0 The Army 1
Disorderly, Shrovetide football involving whole towns, were common throughout England. In Derby the 1839 game was so unruly it had to be ended by the intervention of the army:
Pancakes and Fritters say the Bells of St. Peter’s
When will the ball come? Say the bells of St Alkmun,
At two they will throw, says St Werabo,
Oh very well, says little St Mich-ael.
Pancake Day-light robbery going door to door
‘Lensharding’ or ‘Shroving’ was the Lenten version of Christmas carolling and little more than begging with menaces. Most Shroving adventures were accompanied by singing this threat:
Please I’ve come a-shroving
For a piece of pancake
Or a little ruckle cheese
Of your own making.
If you don’t give me some,
If you don’t give me none,
I’ll knock down your door
With a great marrow bone
And away I’ll run.
Mardi de crêpe est un jour heureux
Back to the Lenten themes of feasting, fasting and looking forward to Easter, this is a Shrove Tuesday rhyme from probably the best pancake makers in the world, and its translation:
Alegre, Diou nous alegre,
Cachofué ven, tout ben ven,
Diou nous fague la graci di veïre l’an que ven.
Se sian pas mai,
Que siguen pas men!”
Let us rejoice, and may God keep us merry,
For Cachofué, the season of All Good, is coming.
May God protect us in the year ahead,
And if we cannot grow fat,
May we at least not be lean!