Here I sawe my
...Here I sow my wheat so red
Labors of the Month
Sow winter grains;
harvest grapes for wine and verjuice; breed sheep; let
pigs forage for mast in the woodlands; begin to thresh and winnow grain
Fields left fallow were now plowed for the last time, and
then sown with wheat
and rye. Wild fruits and nuts were gathered and
preserved. Mast crops -- beechnuts, hazel nuts, hawes, and acorns -- were
monitored; when nut drop began, swineherds drove their
hogs into the woodlands to forage.
Labors of October from Early Calendars
Salzburg Labors of the
c. . 818
October is a vintner's month, with grapes to pick and process to make not only
wine, but also a very popular vinegary condiment called verjuice.
At left, a laborer grips a stylized grapevine with one
hand, and with the other lowers a bunch of newly picked grapes into
small bag suspended above a barrel. He is making verjuice. The bag
will be squeezed to force the juice from the grapes, much like a jelly bag,
while straining out stems, skin, and other debris. The clear juice will drain into the storage container
the early 800s, the
Salzburg manuscript (Codex 387
fol-90v) from which this figure comes is one of the oldest
calendars of its kind. It is now in Vienna's Austrian National Library.
Images from Wikimedia Commons.
A barefoot sower
wears a short, green, long-sleeved tunic. A
strap around his neck supports his seed bag,
which he cradles in his right
hand. With his
left, he carefully broadcasts seed onto the
green ground at his feet.
Calendar page from the
Sacramentary fragment. In the center is Annus, the year.
In each corner is a season, and the twelve months
are arranged in vertical columns, six to the
left and six to the right. Day and night are in
the round medallions top and bottom.
British Library Lansdowne 383,
c. 1135 CE
A long-haired, shirtless man pulls a large
cluster of grapes over and into the green wine vat, ready to be stomped to
release the juice. Stylized grape vines curs around a pillar to the left of the
Probably made at
the nunnery at Shaftesbury, Dorset, this psalter with its prayers, psalms, and
is the oldest manuscript in the
British Library to have been made for a woman. Dating to the early 1100s, its style, Romanesque, became popular
following the first crusade. It employs unusually vivid colors -- blue from lapis lazuli, red
from vermillion, green from buckthorn berries; and is illuminated with gold
c. 1145 CE
This vintner scrutinizes a
cluster of grapes before putting it into the
full basket he carries suspended by its handle
from the stick resting on his right shoulder. To
the right, a vine, tied to a vertical post,
bears a heavy crop of grapes, some red and and
Zwiefalten monatsbilder, (Cod hist 2° 415, fol.17v)
shows the Zodiac figure and the labor for each
month in concentric circles around a central
figure representing the year (see a larger image
here). This calendar is now in the collections of the
Wurttemberg State Library, Stuttgart, Germany.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
October, from the Cathedral
of Our Lady of Amiens,
c. 1250 CE
Wearing a short, long-sleeved tunic and carrying his seed in a bag suspended
from a cord around his neck, this bearded sower broadcasts seed with his right
Amiens cathedral, the largest surviving Gothic
cathedral in France, was begun in 1220 and
completed fifty years later, in 1270 CE. The
labors of the month appear in two sets of
quatrefoil rows on its west facade. The
upper row in each set contains images from the
Zodiac; the lower row contains the labors of
the months. Image from Wikimedia
British Library Harley 2895.
c. 1175 CE
left hand to grasp one side of a very full seed pouch suspended from his
belt, this barelegged sower broadcasts the seed with his right hand. Behind
him is a strange creature that should be this month's sign, Sagittarius, the
archer, but instead appears to be a cross between an otter and a two-legged
Charité-sur-Loire Psalter (BL
Harley 2895) was created in central France c. 1175, CE. Now in the collections
of the British Library, this psalter begins with a calendar whose glowing
labors of the months appear as illuminated roundels.
Fécamp Psalter, made
Library of the Netherlands
c. 1180 CE
In the upper panel, a light-footed sower carries
his seed in a loose, pouched length of fabric
that is knotted at the back of his neck. He
wears a long-sleeved, knee-length red tunic, a
close-fitting white cap, black shoes, and short
stockings. Behind him a stealthy crow picks a
seed out of the furrow.
Walking ahead of the sower is a woman holding a
distaff in her left hand, and using a drop
spindle to spin thread with her right as she
looks back at the sower.
In the lower panel another man
follows the sower with a horse-drawn harrow that
rakes the soil over the seed. He holds a
long goad in his right hand, and the reins in
his left. The horse is harnessed to the harrow
by means of a well-padded collar beneath the
hames. These are attached by long traces that
are fastened to the harrow.
Fécamp Psalter (KB 76) was made for a
woman in Normandy in the late 12th century.
Unlike most psalters, its calendar provides
colorful, full page images for the labors of the
months. It is now in the collections of the
National Library of the Netherlands, Den Haag.
Image from Wiki Commons.
Royal 2 B II, France,
c. 1250 CE
Using his mantle to form a seed bag, this sower
throws the seed in an overhand toss onto the hilly ground before him. He wears a
short red tunic, colorful green leggings, and black shoes.
Made in France in the first
half of the 13th century, this illuminated psalter has twelve miniatures showing
the labors of the months. It was written for a nun, perhaps at Nantes. It is now
in the collections of the British Library.
Sowing the fields involves three
participants here. To the left, a small horse enters
the scene, carrying a bag of seed on its back. Just ahead of the horse is a bearded man in a short
tunic. At his waist is a small pouch to hold seed; with his left hand, he
broadcasts the seed.
In the center, another man
gathers his mantle up in his left hand to form a pouch, also full of seed. He
broadcasts this seed with his right hand.
At the right is a third man,
wearing a bright blue tunic and holding a brown woven seed bag or basket that
is supported by a strap over his right shoulder. With his right hand, he
also scatters seed over the ground. It was often the practice to seed the ground
first in one direction, and then to seed it again, traveling at right angles to
your original path, to be sure the seed was evenly distributed. Perhaps that is
what is shown here.
Queen Mary Psalter,
British Library Royal 2 B VII, made
in London at Westminster, or in
c. 1315 CE.
Psalter, British Library
Egerton 3277, England,
c. 1360 CE
In this labor, we have returned to the vineyard. A man in a wide-brimmed red hat;
blue, wide-sleeved surcoat, and red under-tunic is picking grapes. He carries a
stout, footed, two handled box or basket to hold his harvest, its weight supported by heavy rope
straps at his waist and over his right shoulder.
The Bohun Psalter (Egerton 3277)) was
probably made for one of the Earls of Hereford in the late 1300s, or for Mary de
Bohun, who married Henry of Bolingbroke in 1380. Its calendar has a dozen
historiated Ks, each decorated with
a labor of the month.
Labors of the Months
By thys fyre
I warme my handys
And with my spade
I delfe my landys
Here I sette
my thinge to sprynge
And here I here
the fowlis synge
I am as lyght
as byrde in bowe
And I wede my corne
With my sythe
my mede I mawe
And here I shere
my corne full lowe
With my flayll
I erne my brede
And here I sawe
my whete so rede
I kylle my swyne
And at Christes masse
I drynke redde wyne
Oxford, BL Digby 88 (SC1689),