Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas in old England

From chapter 15 of The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White:
It was Christmas night in the Castle of the Forest Sauvage, and all around the castle the snow lay as it ought to lie. It hung heavily on the battlements, like extremely thick icing on a very good cake, and in a few convenient places it modestly turned itself into the clearest icicles of the greatest possible length. It hung on the boughs of the forest trees in rounded lumps, even better than apple blossom, and occasionally slid off the roofs of the village when it saw a chance of falling upon some amusing character and giving pleasure to all.
The boys made snowballs with it, but never put stones in them to hurt each other, and the dogs, when they were taken out to scombre, bit it and rolled in it, and looked surprised but delighted when they vanished into bigger drifts. There was skating on the moat, which roared all day with the gliding steel, while hot chestnuts and spiced mead were served on the bank to all and sundry.
The owls hooted. The cooks put out all the crumbs they could for the small birds. The villagers brought out their red mufflers. Sir Ector’s face shone redder even than these.
And reddest of all shone the cottage fires down the main street of an evening, while the winds howled outside and the old English wolves wandered around slavering in an appropriate manner, or sometimes peeping in at the keyholes with their blood-red eyes.
Now you see where Christmas at Bonkers Hall comes from.

Oh, and "scombre"? According to the University of Rochester glossary for The Once and Future King, it is a variant of scumber: "intr. Of a dog or fox: To evacuate the fæces.

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