John Barleycorn & other songs of Late Summer

sharelate summertime

The ancient cross-quarter harvest feast of the season, Lammas or Lughnassa, corresponds to Late Summer, (one of five that Chinese medicine recognizes*).  The frenzy of early summer has to ripened and paused, the grain harvest has begun, and the first signs of autumn are upon us. Birds gather on a wire, cricket voices are a deeper chorus. We gorge on tomatoes and sweet corn, complain about too many zucchini. I feel a deep, rich melancholy sweetness this time of year, and it’s affecting the music I want to hear.


Play Lynn Hollyfield’Late Summertime from her first album Layers, available HERE

ripegrass copycorn & grain rise & fall

As a Wiccan descended from Czech peasants the deep and ancient pull of the turning earth still calls my blood.  Can you feel it? There’s a ripeness and a waiting, and a strange sadness that accompanies the harvest wealth. There’s an ancient poem about this, handed down to us by Robert Burns, recorded as a song in 1970:


Play Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die

It’s remarkable how in the poem we identify with the barley plant: his green youth, golden maturity and painful demise (and creative revenge!) These days busy humans seldom pause and consider the life of the other beings around them, particularly if they are plants!

bittersweet august

In my younger life the calendar was driven by the school year. August was a season of intense and conflicting emotion: time to grieve summer’s delirious freedom, the looming loss of my summer love. At the same time I was alive with anticipation, and dread, for the coming school year. There were summer songs that so captured this:


Play Jefferson Airplane’s Embryonic Journey

Summer loves no longer come and go as they once did, but the turning time still brings that thrill of change to come. Such an ancient thing, riding the cycle around again, grieving for the innocent joy of sweet spring, giving thanks for the bounty we feast on, and trepidation for the harsh winter to come.


Play The Moody Blue’s Eternity Road

I’d love to hear your stories of this season, the joyous, the bittersweet, the wheel of time milling us like grain. (Please comment, email or link to your reply. Sharing is love.)

*Earth: the in-between transitional seasonal periods, or a separate ‘season’ known as Late Summer or Long Summer – in the latter case associated with leveling, dampening (moderation) and fruition. from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Xing

2 thoughts on “John Barleycorn & other songs of Late Summer”

  1. I find a strong call back to work in this late summertime, because I’ve been a teacher so many years of my life. Even when I am not going back into the classroom in the Fall, I feel the mixed blessing of loved labor — not so much the dreams of youth, but the cycle of the year as work. As I write this, teachers are sneaking a last day at the pool thinking of their curriculums and principals and new classes, or in schools putting up bulletin boards and copying handouts and syllabi, checking supplies, the discipline of the year once again taking over from the slow introspection and blessed sleep of summer…
    I love that “John Barleycorn” song…

  2. What a beautiful and sobering post, Patrise. As other of your posts have done, this gives me pause to reflect, and, once again, commune with Nature’s seasonal shifts…and Nature Herself.

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