Thursday, July 16, 2009

I don't know how we could possibly have overlooked it, but...

Yesterday, July 15, was St. Swithin’s Day.

That's him there in the stained-glass window.

St. Swithin was born about 800 near Winchester, Hampshire, in Great Britain and died July 2, 862. He was bishop of Winchester from 852 to 862. At his request, he was buried in the churchyard, where rain and the steps of passersby might fall on his grave. On July 15, 971, more than a century after his death, his remains were moved inside Winchester Cathedral. According to legend, after his body was moved inside the cathedral, a great storm ensued.

English tradition teaches that since it rained heavily on that day, July 15th will mark the start of a 40-day rainy season. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is a popular belief that if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, it will rain for 40 days, but, if it is fair, 40 days of fair weather will follow.

Here is a picture of Winchester Cathedral, the only cathedral to have had popular songs written about it, with the possible exception of the ever-popular “Caaaaaaaaaan-terbury, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.”

According to Wikipedia, the song “Winchester Cathedral” was a top ten hit in the U.K. and a number one song in the U.S. in 1966. In related show-biz and political news, Rain was a 1932 movie starring Joan Crawford, and there was once a U.S. Senator from Idaho named Frank Church.

We will close this St. Swithin’s Day observance by listening to Johnny Cash sing “How High’s The Water, Mama?” while watching a clever rebus that illustrates the song’s lyrics perfectly.

If our celebration seems to have become more and more madcap as we went along, we can always blame it on having entered the dog days of summer.


  1. I DID enjoy Johnny Cash singing this song - My Bro used to serenade us with it, many moons ago, and the 'Five feet high an' risin' phrase has made its way into our 'family sayings', ever since! Thanks for the memory...

  2. where the corn is high, as an elephant's eye, and the rain comes just before the storm ,,, oh cannnterbberrry

  3. jinksy (Penny) - You're welcome, I'm sure, although I had no idea! You have demonstrated the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    Putz (David) - "The corn is as high as an elephant's eye" is followed by "and it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky" in the song "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning"....

    The song "Oklahoma!" is where the line "And the wavin' wheat can sure smells sweet" immediately precedes "when the wind comes comes right behind the rain."

    Do I know the lyrics or what? But you gave it the good old college try! BYU?

  4. I've had the extreme pleasure of attending Evensong at Winchester Cathedral, yes, that very one. Prior to the service, I was treated to a lesson on St. Swithin. Poor old Bishop! Only parts of him remain at Winchester; the rest of him is scattered around England in various places.

    Following the Evensong, I spent the night at a small hotel which is out of sight on the left of your photo, right outside the fence surrounding the cathedral's burial grounds. On said occasion, I was "treated" to the sound of the bell-ringers' practice which, it seemed, went on forever, and was not always in proper ringing sequence.It was an unusual experience, but one I'm happy not to have missed.

    I don't know where you find them, but the Johnny Cash/rebus is.... well, it is something else, but clever! I did listen and watch all the way through. :)

  5. If I remember correctly, Jane Austen is buried at Winchester. I remember thinking of that song when I visited her tomb and feeling slightly disrespectful.

  6. hello - i'm new here. and feeling somewhat like chris columbus arriving on the shore of a land that was not actually where he was heading :)

    i popped over from ruth's site - i liked your comment there on her drawing. and i do like your wicked sense of humor....

    as for swithin - i read that one of his miracles involved reconstituting eggs that had fallen from a woman's basket. Now THAT'S a miracle i could get into!

  7. Pat - I think if I blog long enough, I will find out eventually that you have been absolutely EVERYWHERE and done EVERYTHING! My quiet little life pales in comparison.

    Ruth - A little bird told me to tell you that Ms. Austen isn't offended. She is just happy that anyone visits her tomb after all these years.

    Roberta - Welcome to our little gang at rhymeswithplague! You are in good company, I think; this is the third comment in a row I've addressed to an Episcopalian woman.

  8. Thanks for the reminder of St. Swithin/Swithun. Ever fascinating are the legends that become attached to these "holy" people of long ago.

  9. Oh, dear Mr. Brague: I didn't go "anywhere" until I was 40 years old, and before that thought I would never get to travel outside my home town. All my adventures to that that point had been vicarious. However, a list of places I have NOT been, and the things I have NOT done, would fill several tomes. I've been very fortunate to have had a few very lovely traveling experiences, and blessed with the ability to remember most of it.