Christopher Smart’s “The Hop-Garden”

hop-leaf
Christopher Smart was an English poet. Born in 1722, he “was a major contributor to two popular magazines and a friend to influential cultural icons like Samuel Johnson and Henry Fielding. Smart, a high church Anglican, was widely known throughout London.” He had some goofy nicknames, such as “Kit Smart”, “Kitty Smart”, and “Jack Smart.”

Christopher_Smart

Here’s some basic info about him from Wikipedia:

Smart was infamous as the pseudonymous midwife “Mrs. Mary Midnight” and widespread accounts of his father-in-law, John Newbery, locking him away in a mental asylum for many years over Smart’s supposed religious “mania”. Even after Smart’s eventual release, a negative reputation continued to pursue him as he was known for incurring more debt than he could repay; this ultimately led to his confinement in debtors’ prison until his death.

Smart’s two most widely known works are A Song to David and Jubilate Agno, both at least partly written during his confinement in asylum. However, Jubilate Agno was not published until 1939 and A Song to David received mixed reviews until the 19th century. To his contemporaries, Smart was known mainly for his many contributions in the journals The Midwife and The Student, along with his famous Seaton Prize poems and his mock epic The Hilliad. Although he is primarily recognised as a religious poet, his poetry includes various other themes, such as his theories on nature and his promotion of English nationalism.

hop-garden-book

One of his longer poems was called “The Hop-Garden” and was first published in 1752. It was originally part of Poems on Several Occasions, an early collection of Smart’s poems. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

The poem is rooted the Virgilian georgic and Augustan literature; it is one of the first long poems published by Smart. The poem is literally about a hop garden, and, in the Virgilian tradition, attempts to instruct the audience in how to farm hops properly.

While the poem deals with natural and scientific principles, there is a strong autobiographical tendency. While the poem marks Smart’s classical and Latin influences, it also reveals Smart’s close association and influence with Miltonic poetic form, especially with the reliance on Miltonic blank verse.

The poem is divided into two books.

THE HOP-GARDEN.

A GEORGIC.

BOOK the FIRST.

THE land that answers best the farmer’s care,
And silvers to maturity the Hop:
When to inhume the plants; to turn the glebe;
And wed the tendrils to th’ aspiring poles:
Under what sign to pluck the crop, and how
To cure, and in capacious sacks infold,
I teach in verse Miltonian. Smile the muse,
And meditate an honour to that land
Where first I breath’d, and struggled into life
Impatient, Cantium, to be call’d thy son.
Oh! cou’d I emulate Dan Sydney’s muse,
Thy Sydney, Cantium—He from court retir’d
In Penshurst’s sweet elysium sung delight,
Sung transport to the soft-responding streams
Of Medway, and enliven’d all her groves:

While ever near him, goddess of the green,
Fair Pembroke [sister to Sir Philip Sydney] sat, and smil’d immense applause.
With vocal fascination charm’d the Hours
Unguarded left Heav’ns adamantine gate,
And to his lyre, swift as the winged sounds
That skim the air, danc’d unperceiv’d away.
Had I such pow’r, no peasants toil, no hops
Shou’d e’er debase my lay: far nobler themes,
The high atchievements of thy warrior kings
Shou’d raise my thoughts, and dignify my song.
But I, young rustic, dare not leave my cot,
For so enlarg’d a sphere—ah! muse beware,
Lest the loud larums of the braying trump,
Lest the deep drum shou’d drown thy tender reed,
And mar its puny joints: me, lowly swain,
Every unshaven arboret, me the lawns,
Me the voluminous Medway’s silver wave,
Content inglorious, and the hopland shades!
Yeomen, and countrymen attend my song:
Whether you shiver in the marshy Weald [commonly, but improperly call’d, the Wild],
Egregious shepherds of unnumber’d flocks,
Whose fleeces, poison’d into purple, deck

All Europe’s kings: or in fair Madum’s [Maidstone] vale
Imparadis’d, blest denizons, ye dwell;
Or Dorovernia’s [Canterbury] awful tow’rs ye love:
Or plough Tunbridgia’s salutiferous hills
Industrious, and with draughts chalybiate heal’d,
Confess divine Hygeia’s blissful seat;
The muse demands your presence, ere she tune
Her monitory voice; observe her well,
And catch the wholesome dictates as they fall.
‘Midst thy paternal acres, Farmer, say
Has gracious heav’n bestow’d one field, that basks
Its loamy bosom in the mid-day sun,
Emerging gently from the abject vale,
Nor yet obnoxious to the wind, secure
There shall thou plant thy hop. This soil, perhaps,
Thou’lt say, will fill my garners. Be it so.
But Ceres, rural goddess, at the best
Meanly supports her vot’ry’, enough for her,
If ill-persuading hunger she repell,
And keep the soul from fainting: to enlarge,
To glad the heart, to sublimate the mind,
And wing the flagging spirits to the sky,
Require th’ united influence and aid
Of Bacchus, God of hops, with Ceres join’d

‘Tis he shall gen’rate the buxom beer.
Then on one pedestal, and hand in hand,
Sculptur’d in Parian stone (so gratitude
Indites) let the divine co-part’ners rise.
Stands eastward in thy field a wood? ’tis well.
Esteem it as a bulwark of thy wealth,
And cherish all its branches; tho’ we’ll grant,
Its leaves umbrageous may intercept
The morning rays, and envy some small share
Of Sol’s beneficence to the infant germ.
Yet grutch not that: when whistling Eurus comes,
With all his worlds of insects in thy lands
To hyemate, and monarchize o’er all
Thy vegetable riches, then thy wood
Shall ope it’s arms expansive, and embrace
The storm reluctant, and divert its rage.
Armies of animalc’les urge their way
In vain: the ventilating trees oppose
Their airy march. They blacken distant plains.
This site for thy young nursery obtain’d,
Thou hast begun auspicious, if the soil
(As sung before) be loamy; this the hop
Loves above others, this is rich, is deep,
Is viscous, and tenacious of the pole.
Yet maugre all its native worth, it may
Be meliorated with warm compost. See!

Yon craggy mountain [Boxley-Hill, which extends through great part of Kent], whose fastidious head,
Divides the star-set hemisphere above,
And Cantium’s plains beneath; the Appennine
Of a free Italy, whose chalky sides
With verdant shrubs dissimilarly gay,
Still captivate the eye, while at his feet
The silver Medway glides, and in her breast
Views the reflected landskip, charm’d she views
And murmurs louder ectasy below.
Here let us rest awhile, pleas’d to behold
Th’ all-beautiful horizon’s wide expanse,
Far as the eagle’s ken. Here tow’ring spires
First catch the eye, and turn the thoughts to heav’n.
The lofty elms in humble majesty
Bend with the breeze to shade the solemn groves,
And spread an holy darkness; Ceres there
Shines in her golden vesture. Here the meads
Enrich’d by Flora’s daedal hand, with pride
Expose their spotted verdure. Nor are you
Pomona absent; you ‘midst th’ hoary leaves
Swell the vermilion cherry; and on you trees
Suspend the pippen’s palatable gold.
There old Sylvanus in that moss-grown grot
Dwells with his wood-nymphs: they with chaplets green
And russet mantles oft bedight, aloft

From yon bent oaks, in Medway’s bosom fair
Wonder at silver bleak, and prickly pearch,
That swiftly thro’ their floating forests glide.
Yet not even these—these ever-varied scenes
Of wealth and pleasure can engage my eyes
T’ o’erlook the lowly hawthorn, if from thence
The thrush, sweet warbler, chants th’ unstudied lays
Which Phoebus’ self vaulting from yonder cloud
Refulgent, with enliv’ning ray inspires.
But neither tow’ring spires, nor lofty elms,
Nor golden Ceres, nor the meadows green,
Nor orchats, nor the russet-mantled nymphs,
Which to the murmurs of the Medway dance,
Nor sweetly warbling thrush, with half those charms
Attract my eyes, as yonder hop-land close,
Joint-work of art and nature, which reminds
The muse, and to her theme the wand’rer calls.
Here then with pond’rous vehicles and teams
Thy rustics send, and from the caverns deep
Command them bring the chalk: thence to the kiln
Convey, and temper with Vulcanian fires.
Soon as ’tis form’d, thy lime with bounteous hand
O’er all thy lands disseminate; thy lands
Which first have felt the soft’ning spade, and drank
The strength’ning vapours from nutricious marl.

This done, select the choicest hop, t’ insert
Fresh in the opening glebe. Say then, my muse,
Its various kinds, and from th’ effete and vile,
The eligible separate with care.
The noblest species is by Kentish wights
The Master-hop yclep’d. Nature to him
Has giv’n a stouter stalk, patient of cold,
Or Phoebus ev’n in youth, his verdant blood
In brisk saltation circulates and flows
Indesinently vigorous: the next
Is arid, fetid, infecund, and gross
Significantly styl’d the Fryar: the last
Is call’d the Savage, who in ev’ry wood,
And ev’ry hedge unintroduc’d intrudes.
When such the merit of the candidates,
Easy is the election; but, my friend
Would’st thou ne’er fail, to Kent direct thy way,
Where no one shall be frustrated that seeks
Ought that is great or good. Hail, Cantium, hail!
Illustrious parent of the finest fruits,
Illustrious parent of the best of men!
For thee Antiquity’s thrice sacred springs

Placidly stagnant at their fountain head,
I rashly dare to trouble (if from thence,
If ought for thy util’ty I can drain)
And in thy towns adopt th’ Ascraean muse.
Hail heroes, hail invaluable gems,
Splendidly rough within your native mines,
To luxury unrefined, better far
To shake with unbought agues in your weald,
Than dwell a slave to passion and to wealth,
Politely paralytic in the town!
Fav’rites of heav’n! to whom the general doom
Is all remitted, who alone possess
Of Adam’s sons fair Eden—rest ye here,
Nor seek an earthly good above the hop;
A good! untasted by your ancient kings,
And almost to your very sires unknown.
In those blest days when great Eliza reign’d
O’er the adoring nation, when fair peace
Or spread an unstain’d olive round the land,
Or laurell’d war did teach our winged fleets
To lord it o’er the world, when our brave sires
Drank valour from uncauponated beer;
Then th’ hop (before an interdicted plant,
Shun’d like fell aconite) began to hang
Its folded floscles from the golden vine,
And bloom’d a shade to Cantium’s sunny shores

Delightsome, and in chearful goblets laught
Potent, what time Aquarius’ urn impends
To kill the dulsome day—potent to quench
The Syrian ardour, and autumnal ills
To heal with mild potations; sweeter far
Than those which erst the subtile Hengist mix’d
T’ inthral voluptuous Vortigern. He, with love
Emasculate and wine, the toils of war,
Neglected, and to dalliance vile and sloth
Emancipated, saw th’ incroaching Saxons
With unaffected eyes; his hand which ought
T’ have shook the spear of justice, soft and smooth,
Play’d ravishing divisions on the lyre:
This Hengist mark’d, and (for curs’d insolence
Soon fattens on impunity! and becomes
Briareus from a dwarf) fair Thanet gain’d.
Nor stopt he here; but to immense attempts
Ambition sky-aspiring led him on
Adventrous. He an only daughter rear’d,
Roxena, matchless maid! nor rear’d in vain.
Her eagle-ey’d callidity, grave deceit,
And fairy fiction rais’d above her sex,
And furnish’d her with thousand various wiles
Preposterous, more than female; wondrous fair

She was, and docile, which her pious nurse
Observ’d, and early in each female fraud
Her ‘gan initiate: well she knew to smile,
Whene’er vexation gall’d her; did she weep?
‘Twas not sincere, the fountains of her eyes
Play’d artificial streams, yet so well forc’d
They look’d like nature; for ev’n art to her
Was natural, and contrarieties
Seem’d in Roxena congruous and allied.
Such was she, when brisk Vortigern beheld,
Ill-fated prince! and lov’d her. She perceiv’d,
Soon she perceiv’d her conquest; soon she told,
With hasty joy transported, her old sire.
The Saxon inly smil’d, and to his isle
The willing prince invited, but first bad
The nymph prepare the potions; such as fire
The blood’s meand’ring rivulets, and depress
To love the soul. Lo! at the noon of night
Thrice Hecate invok’d the maid—and thrice
The goddess stoop’d assent; forth from a cloud
She stoop’d, and gave the philters pow’r to charm.
These in a splendid cup of burnish’d gold
The lovely sorceress mix’d, and to the prince
Health, peace, and joy propin’d, but to herself
Mutter’d dire exorcisms, and wish’d effect
To th’ love-creating draught: lowly she bow’d
Fawning insinuation bland, that might

Deceive Laertes’ son; her lucid orbs
Shed copiously the oblique rays; her face
Like modest Luna’s shone, but not so pale,
And with no borrow’d lustre; on her brow
Smil’d Fallacy, while summoning each grace,
Kneeling she gave the cup. The prince (for who!
Who cou’d have spurn’d a suppliant so divine?)
Drank eager, and in ecstasy devour’d
Th’ ambrosial perturbation; mad with love
He clasp’d her, and in Hymeneal bands
At once the nymph demanded and obtain’d.
Now Hengist, all his ample wish fulfill’d,
Exulted; and from Kent th’ uxorious prince
Exterminated, and usurp’d his seat.
Long did he reign; but all-devouring time
Has raz’d his palace walls—Perchance on them
Grows the green hop, and o’er his crumbled bust
In spiral twines ascends the scancile pole.—
But now to plant, to dig, to dung, to weed;
Tasks how indelicate? demand the muse.
Come, fair magician, sportive Fancy come,
With thy unbounded imagery; child of thought,
From thy aeriel citadel descend,
And (for thou canst) assist me. Bring with thee
Thy all-creative Talisman; with thee
The active spirits ideal, tow’ring flights,

That hover o’er the muse-resounding groves,
And all thy colourings, all thy shapes display.
Thou to be here, Experience, so shall I
My rules nor in low prose jejunely say,
Nor in smooth numbers musically err;
But vain is Fancy and Experience vain,
If thou, O Hesiod! Virgil of our land,
Or hear’st thou rather, Milton, bard divine,
Whose greatness who shall imitate, save thee?
If thou O Philips [Mr. John Philips, author of Cyder, a poem] fav’ring dost not hear
Me, inexpert of verse; with gentle hand
Uprear the unpinion’d muse, high on the top
Of that immeasurable mount, that far
Exceeds thine own Plinlimmon, where thou tun’st
With Phoebus’ self thy lyre. Give me to turn
Th’ unwieldly subject with thy graceful ease,
Extol its baseness with thy art; but chief
Illumine, and invigorate with thy fire.
When Phoebus looks thro’ Aries on the spring,
And vernal flow’rs promise the dulcet fruit,
Autumnal pride! delay not then thy setts
In Tellus’ facile bosom to depose
Timely: if thou art wise the bulkiest chuse:
To every root three joints indulge, and form

The Quincunx with well regulated hills.
Soon from the dung-enriched earth, their heads
Thy young plants will uplift their virgin arms,
They’ll stretch, and marriageable claim the pole.
Nor frustrate thou their wishes, so thou may’st
Expect an hopeful issue, jolly Mirth,
Sister of taleful Jocus, tuneful Song,
And fat Good-nature with her honest face.
But yet in the novitiate of their love,
And tenderness of youth suffice small shoots
Cut from the widow’d willow, nor provide
Poles insurmountable as yet. ‘Tis then
When twice bright Phoebus’ vivifying ray,
Twice the cold touch of winter’s icy hand,
They’ve felt; ’tis then we fell sublimer props.
‘Tis then the sturdy woodman’s axe from far
Resounds, resounds, and hark! with hollow groans
Down tumble the big trees, and rushing roll
O’er the crush’d crackling brake, while in his cave
Forlorn, dejected, ‘midst the weeping dryads
Laments Sylvanus for his verdant care.
The ash, or willow for thy use select,
Or storm-enduring chesnut; but the oak
Unfit for this employ, for nobler ends
Reserve untouch’d; she when by time matur’d,
Capacious, of fome British demi-god,
Vernon, or Warren, shall with rapid wing

Infuriate, like Jove’s armour-bearing bird,
Fly on thy foes; They, like the parted waves,
Which to the brazen beak murmuring give way
Amaz’d, and roaring from the fight recede.—
In that sweet month, when to the list’ning swains
Fair Philomel fings love, and every cot
With garlands blooms bedight, with bandage meet
The tendrils bind, and to the tall pole tie,
Else soon, too soon their meretricious arms
Round each ignoble clod they’ll fold, and leave
Averse the lordly prop. Thus, have I heard
Where there’s no mutual tye, no strong connection
Of love-conspiring hearts, oft the young bride
Has prostituted to her slaves her charms,
While the infatuated lord admires
Fresh-budding sprouts, and issue not his own.
Now turn the glebe: soon with correcting hand
When smiling June in jocund dance leads on
Long days and happy hours, from ev’ry vine
Dock the redundant branches, and once more
With the sharp spade thy numerous acres till.
The shovel next must lend its aid, enlarge
The little hillocks, and erase the weeds.
This in that month its title which derives

From great Augustus’ ever sacred name!
Sovereign of Science! master of the Muse!
Neglected Genius’ firm ally! Of worth
Best judge, and best rewarder, whose applause
To bards was fame and fortune! O! ’twas well,
Well did you too in this, all glorious heroes!
Ye Romans!—on Time’s wing you’ve stamp’d his praise,
And time shall bear it to eternity.
Now are our lab’rours crown’d with their reward,
Now bloom the florid hops, and in the stream
Shine in their floating silver, while above
T’embow’ring branches culminate, and form
A walk impervious to the sun; the poles
In comely order stand; and while you cleave
With the small skiff the Medway’s lucid wave,
In comely order still their ranks preserve,
And seem to march along th’ extensive plain.
In neat arrangement thus the men of Kent,
With native oak at once adorn’d and arm’d,
Intrepid march’d; for well they knew the cries
Of dying Liberty, and Astraea’s voice,
Who as she fled, to echoing woods complain’d
Of tyranny, and William; like a god,
Refulgent stood the conqueror, on his troops
He sent his looks enliv’ning as the sun’s,
But on his foes frown’d agony, frown’d death.

On his left side in bright emblazonry
His falchion burn’d; forth from his sevenfold shield
A basilisk shot adamant; his brow
Wore clouds of fury!—on that with plumage crown’d
Of various hue sat a tremendous cone:
Thus sits high-canopied above the clouds,
Terrific beauty of nocturnal skies,
Northern Aurora [Aurora Borealis, or lights in the air; a phoenomenon which of late years has been very frequent here, and in all the more northern countries]; she thro’ th’ azure air
Shoots, shoots her trem’lous rays in painted streaks
Continual, while waving to the wind
O’er Night’s dark veil her lucid tresses flow.
The trav’ler views th’ unseasonable day
Astound, the proud bend lowly to the earth,
The pious matrons tremble for the world.
But what can daunt th’ insuperable souls
Of Cantium’s matchless sons? On they proceed,
All innocent of fear; each face express’d
Contemptuous admiration, while they view’d
The well-fed brigades of embroider’d slaves
That drew the sword for gain. First of the van,
With an enormous bough, a shepherd swain
Whistled with rustic notes; but such as show’d
A heart magnanimous: The men of Kent

Follow the tuneful swain, while o’er their heads
The green leaves whisper, and the big boughs bend.
‘Twas thus the Thracian, whose all-quick’ning lyre
The floods inspir’d, and taught the rocks to feel,
Play’d before dancing Haemus, to the tune,
The lute’s soft tune! The flutt’ring branches wave,
The rocks enjoy it, and the rivulets hear,
The hillocks skip, emerge the humble vales,
And all the mighty mountain nods applause.
The conqueror view’d them, and as one that sees
The vast abrupt of Scylla, or as one
That from th’ oblivious Lethaean streams
Has drank eternal apathy, he stood.
His host an universal panic seiz’d
Prodigious, inopine; their armour shook,
And clatter’d to the trembling of their limbs;
Some to the walking wilderness gan run
Confus’d, and in th’ inhospitable shade
For shelter sought—Wretches! they shelter find,
Eternal shelter in the arms of death!
Thus when Aquarius pours out all his urn
Down on some lonesome heath, the traveller
That wanders o’er the wint’ry waste, accepts
The invitation of some spreading beech
Joyous; but soon the treach’rous gloom betrays
Th’ unwary visitor, while on his head
Th’ inlarging drops in double show’rs descend.

And now no longer in disguise the men
Of Kent appear; down they all drop their boughs,
And shine in brazen panoply divine.
Enough—Great William (for full well he knew
How vain would be the contest) to the sons
Of glorious Cantium, gave their lives, and laws,
And liberties secure, and to the prowess
Of Kentish wights, like Caesar, deign’d to yield.
Caesar and William! Hail immortal worthies,
Illustrious vanquish’d! Cantium, if to them,
Posterity will all her chiefs unborn,
Ought similar, ought second has to boast.
Once more (so prophecies the Muse) thy sons
Shall triumph, emulous of their sires—till then
With olive, and with hop-land garlands crown’d,
O’er all thy land reign Plenty, reign fair Peace.

Smart-hop-garden
This illustration accompanied the second book. The British Museum has it in their collection, and they describe it as “a woman sitting in a vat, two others lifting a man in to join her, an amused crowd looking on.” Interestingly enough, the illustration appears to show an old ritual associated with hop-picking. According to the poem, it seems to involve a “festive ritual that played a part in the annual hop harvest, where a young woman, and a young man, are placed in a container of hops and covered up by it.”

Many years later, in 1931, George Orwell went hop-picking and made the following entry in his diary for September 19, 1931:

On the last morning, when we had picked the last field, there was a queer game of catching the women and putting them in the bins. Very likely there will be something about this in the Golden Bough. It is evidently an old custom, and all harvests have some custom of this kind attached to them.

The only reference I could find in the Golden Bough was this. “In hop-picking, if a well-dressed stranger passes the hop-yard, he is seized by the women, tumbled into the bin, covered with leaves, and not released till he has paid a fine.” One scholar speculates:

In any case, the ritual in the oldest version – Smart’s – seems to be some kind of fertility ritual: a male and a female hop picker are submerged together in a container of hops, which are the bounty of the harvest. It also seems to include some kind of wealth-redistribution element, where the other pickers claim a “largesse” or “fine” from those submerged. Whether it was for the honor, or just because they were the most efficient pickers, I don’t know, but it’s interesting either way. Ron Bateman notes that at least in Orwell’s day, the ritual took place on the last day of hop-picking, which I think strongly supports the idea of it being some vestige of a pagan fertility rite (or, even, the whole of the rite, with its purpose forgotten): having completed the harvest, the rite would help appease the field, its spirits, the gods, etc. to ensure the next year’s harvest would also be plentiful.

Anyway, here’s the second part of the poem.

THE HOP-GARDEN.

A GEORGIC.

BOOK the SECOND.

AT length the Muse her destin’d task resumes
With joy; agen o’er all her hop-land groves
She longs t’ expatiate free of wing. Long while
For a much-loving, much-lov’d youth she wept,
And sorrow’d silence o’er th’ untimely urn.
Hush then, effeminate sobs; and thou, my heart,
Rebel to grief no more—And yet a while,
A little while, indulge the friendly tears.
O’er the wild world, like Noah’s dove, in vain
I seek the olive peace, around me wide
See! see! the wat’ry waste—In vain, forlorn
I call the Phoenix fair Sincerity;
Alas!—extinguish’d to the skies she fled,
And left no heir behind her. Where is now
Th’ eternal smile of goodness? Where is now

That all-extensive charity of soul,
So rich in sweetness, that the classic sounds
In elegance Augustan cloath’d, the wit
That flow’d perennial, hardly were observ’d,
Or, if observ’d, set off a brighter gem.
How oft, and yet how seldom did it seem!
Have I enjoy’d his converse?—When we met,
The hours how swift they sweetly fled, and till
Agen I saw him, how they loiter’d. Oh!
THEOPHILUS [Mr. Theophilus Wheeler, of Christ-College, Cambridge], thou dear departed soul,
What flattering tales thou told’st me? How thou’dst hail
My Muse, and took’st imaginary walks
All in my hopland groves! Stay yet, oh stay!
Thou dear deluder, thou hast seen but half—
He’s gone! and ought that’s equal to his praise
Fame has not for me, tho’ she prove most kind.
Howe’er this verse be sacred to thy name,
These tears, the last sad duty of a friend.
Oft i’ll indulge the pleasurable pain
Of recollection; oft on Medway’s banks
I’ll muse on thee full pensive; while her streams
Regardful ever of my grief, shall flow
In sullen silence silverly along
The weeping shores—or else accordant with
My loud laments, shall ever and anon
Make melancholy music to the shades,

The hopland shades, that on her banks expose
Serpentine vines and flowing locks of gold.
Ye smiling nymphs, th’ inseparable train
Of saffron Ceres; ye, that gamesome dance,
And sing to jolly Autumn, while he stands
With his right hand poizing the scales of heav’n,
And with his left grasps Amalthea’s horn:
Young chorus of fair bacchanals, descend,
And leave a while the sickle; yonder hill,
Where stand the loaded hop-poles, claims your care.
There mighty Bacchus stradling cross the bin,
Waits your attendance—There he glad reviews
His paunch, approaching to immensity
Still nearer, and with pride of heart surveys
Obedient mortals, and the world his own.
See! from the great metropolis they rush,
Th’ industrious vulgar. They, like prudent bees,
In Kent’s wide garden roam, expert to crop
The flow’ry hop, and provident to work,
Ere winter numb their sunburnt hands, and winds
Engoal them, murmuring in their gloomy cells.
From these, such as appear the rest t’ excell
In strength and young agility, select.
These shall support with vigour and address
The bin-man’s weighty office; now extract
From the sequacious earth the pole, and now

Unmarry from the closely clinging vine.
O’er twice three pickers, and no more, extend
The bin-man’s sway; unless thy ears can bear
The crack of poles continual, and thine eyes
Behold unmoved the hurrying peasant tear
Thy wealth, and throw it on the thankless ground.
But first the careful planter will consult
His quantity of acres, and his crop,
How many and how large his kilns; and then
Proportion’d to his wants the hands provide.
But yet, of greater consequence and cost,
One thing remains unsung, a man of faith
And long experience, in whose thund’ring voice
Lives hoarse authority, potent to quell
The frequent frays of the tumultuous crew.
He shall preside o’er all thy hop-land store,
Severe dictator! His unerring hand,
And eye inquisitive, in heedful guise,
Shall to the brink the measure fill, and fair
On the twin registers the work record.
And yet I’ve known them own a female reign,
And gentle Marianne’s [the author’s youngest Sister] soft Orphean voice
Has hymn’d sweet lessons of humanity
To the wild brutal crew. Oft her command
Has sav’d the pillars of the hopland state,

The lofty poles from ruin, and sustain’d,
Like ANNA, or ELIZA, her domain,
With more than manly dignity. Oft I’ve seen,
Ev’n at her frown the boist’rous uproar cease,
And the mad pickers, tam’d to diligence,
Cull from the bin the sprawling sprigs, and leaves
That stain the sample, and its worth debase.
All things thus settled and prepared, what now
Can let the planters purposes? Unless
The Heav’ns frown dissent, and ominous winds
Howl thro’ the concave of the troubled sky.
And oft, alas! the long experienc’d wights
(Oh! could they too prevent them) storms foresee.
For, as the storm rides on the rising clouds,

Fly the fleet wild-geese far away, or else
The heifer towards the zeinth rears her head,
And with expanded nostrils snuffs the air:
The swallows too their airy circuits weave,
And screaming skim the brook; and fen-bred frogs
Forth from their hoarse throats their old grutch recite:
Or from her earthly coverlets the ant
Heaves her huge eggs along the narrow way:
Or bends Thaumantia’s variegated bow
Athwart the cope of heav’n: or sable crows
Obstreperous of wing, in crouds combine:
Besides, unnumber’d troops of birds marine,
And Asia’s feather’d flocks, that in the muds
Of flow’ry-edg’d Cayster wont to prey,
Now in the shallows duck their speckled heads,
And lust to lave in vain, their unctious plumes
Repulsive baffle their efforts: Next hark
How the curs’d raven, with her harmful voice,
Invokes the rain, ahd croaking to herself,
Struts on some spacious solitary shore.
Nor want thy servants and thy wife at home
Signs to presage the show’r; for in the hall
Sheds Niobe her prescious tears, and warns
Beneath thy leaden tubes to fix the vase,
And catch the falling dew-drops, which supply
Soft water and salubrious, far the best
To soak thy hops, and brew thy generous beer.

But tho’ bright Phoebus smile, and in the skies
The purple-rob’d serenity appear;
Tho’ every cloud be fled, yet if the rage
Of Boreas, or the blasting East prevail,
The planter has enough to check his hopes,
And in due bounds confine his joy; for see
The ruffian winds, in their abrupt career,
Leave not a hop behind, or at the best
Mangle the circling vine, and intercept
The juice nutricious: Fatal means, alas!
Their colour and condition to destroy.
Haste then, ye peasants; pull the poles, the hops;
Where are the bins? Run, run, ye nimble maids,
Move ev’ry muscle, ev’ry nerve extend,
To save our crop from ruin, and ourselves.
Soon as bright Chanticleer explodes the night
With flutt’ring wings, and hymns the new-born day,
The bugle-horn inspire, whose clam’rous bray
Shall rouse from sleep the rebel rout, and tune
To temper for the labours of the day.
Wisely the several stations of the bins
By lot determine. Justice this, and this
Fair Prudence does demand; for not without
A certain method cou’dst thou rule the mob
Irrational, nor every where alike
Fair hangs the hop to tempt the picker’s hand.

Now see the crew mechanic might and main
Labour with lively diligence, inspir’d
By appetie of gain and lust of praise:
What mind so petty, servile, and debas’d,
As not to know ambition? Her great sway
From Colin Clout to Emperors she exerts.
To err is human, human to be vain.
‘Tis vanity, and mock desire of fame,
That prompts the rustic, on the steeple top
Sublime, to mark the outlines of his shoe,
And in the area to engrave his name.
With pride of heart the churchwarden surveys,
High o’er the bellfry, girt with birds and flow’rs,
His story wrote in capitals: “‘Twas I
“That bought the font; and I repair’d the pews.”
With pride like this the emulating mob
Strive for the mastery—who first may fill
The bellying bin, and cleanest cull the hops.
Nor ought retards, unless invited out
By Sol’s declining, and the evening’s calm,
Leander leads Laetitia to the scene
Of shade and fragrance—Then th’ exulting band
Of pickers male and female, seize the fair
Reluctant, and with boist’rous force and brute,
By cries unmov’d, they bury her in the bin.
Nor does the youth escape—him too they seize,
And in such posture place as best may serve

To hide his charmer’s blushes. Then with shouts
They rend the echoing air, and from them both
(So custom has ordain’d) a largess claim.
Thus much be sung of picking—next succeeds
Th’ important care of curing—Quit the field,
And at the kiln th’ instructive muse attend.
On your hair-cloth eight inches deep, nor more,
Let the green hops lie lightly; next expand
The smoothest surface with the toothy rake.
Thus for is just above; but more it boots
That charcoal flames burn equably below,
The charcoal flames, which from thy corded wood,
Or antiquated poles, with wond’rous skill,
The sable priests of Vulcan shall prepare.
Constant and moderate let the heat ascend;
Which to effect, there are, who with success
Place in the kiln the ventilating fan.
Hail, learned, useful man! [Dr. Hales] whose head and heart
Conspire to make us happy, deign t’ accept
One honest verse; and if thy industry
Has serv’d the hopland cause, the Muse forebodes
This sole invention, both in use and fame,
The mystic fan of Bacchus shall exceed.

When the fourth hour expires, with careful hand
The half-bak’d hops turn over. Soon as time
Has well exhausted twice two glasses more,
They’ll leap and crackle with their bursting seeds,
For use domestic, or for sale mature.
There are, who in the choice of cloth t’enfold
Their wealthy crop, the viler, coarser sort,
With prodigal oeconomy prefer:
All that is good is cheap, all dear that’s base.
Besides, the planter shou’d a bait prepare,
T’ intrap the chapman’s notice, and divert
Shrewd Observation from her busy pry.
When in the bag thy hops the rustic treads,
Let him wear heel-less sandals; nor presume
Their fragrancy barefooted to defile:
Such filthy ways for slaves in Malaga
Leave we to practise—Whence I’ve often seen,
When beautiful Dorinda’s iv’ry hands
Had built the pastry-fabric (food divine
For Christmas gambols and the hour of mirth)
As the dry’d foreign fruit, with piercing eye,
She cull’d suspicious—lo! she starts, she frowns
With indignation at a negro’s nail.
Should’st thou thy harvest for the mart design,
Be thine own factor; nor employ those drones

Who’ve stings, but make no honey, felfish slaves!
That thrive and fatten on the planter’s toil.
What then remains unsung? unless the care
To stack thy poles oblique in comely cones,
Lest rot or rain destroy them—’Tis a sight
Most seemly to behold, and gives, O Winter!
A landskip not unpleasing ev’n to thee.
And now, ye rivals of the hopland state,
Madum and Dorovernia rejoice,
How great amidst such rivals to excel!
Let Grenovicum [Greenwich, where Queen Elizabeth was born] boast (for boast she may)
The birth of great Eliza.—Hail, my queen!
And yet I’ll call thee by a dearer name,
My countrywoman, hail! Thy worth alone
Gives fame to worlds, and makes whole ages glorious!
Let Sevenoaks vaunt the hospitable seat
Of Knoll [the seat of the Duke of Dorset] most ancient: Awefully, my Muse,
These social scenes of grandeur and delight,
Of love and veneration, let me tread.
How oft beneath you oak has amorous Prior
Awaken’d Echo with sweet Chloe’s name!
While noble Sackville heard, hearing approv’d,

Approving, greatly recompens’d. But he,
Alas! has number’d with th’ illustrious dead,
And orphan merit has no guardian now!
Next Shipbourne, tho’ her precincts are confin’d
To narrow limits, yet can shew a train
Of village beauties, pastorally sweet,
And rurally magnificent. Here Fairlawn [the seat of Lord Vane]
Opes her delightful prospects: Dear Fairlawn
There, where at once at variance and agreed,
Nature and art hold dalliance. There where rills
Kiss the green drooping herbage, there where trees,
The tall trees-tremble at th’ approach of heav’n,
And bow their salutation to the sun,
Who fosters all their foliage—These are thine,
Yes, little Shipbourne, boast that these are thine—
And if—But oh!—and if ’tis no disgrace,
The birth of him who now records thy praise.
Nor shalt thou, Mereworth, remain unsung,
Where noble Westmoreland, his country’s friend,
Bids British greatness love the silent shade,
Where piles superb, in classic elegance,
Arise, and all is Roman, like his heart.
Nor Chatham, tho’ it is not thine to shew
The lofty forest or the verdant lawns,

Yet niggard silence shall not grutch thee praise.
The lofty forests by thy sons prepar’d
Becomes the warlike navy, braves the floods,
And gives Sylvanus empire in the main.
Oh that Britannia, in the day of war,
Wou’d not alone Minerva’s valour trust,
But also hear her wisdom! Then her oaks
Shap’d by her own mechanics, wou’d alone
Her island fortify, and fix her fame;
Nor wou’d she weep, like Rachael, for her sons,
Whose glorious blood, in mad profusion,
In foreign lands is shed—and shed in vain.
Now on fair Dover’s topmost cliff I’ll stand,
And look with scorn and triumph on proud France.
Of yore an isthmus jutting from this coast,
Join’d the Britannic to the Gallic shore;
But Neptune on a day, with fury fir’d,
Rear’d his tremendous trident, smote the earth,
And broke th’ unnatural union at a blow.—
“‘Twixt you and you, my servants and my sons,
“Be there (he cried) eternal discord—France
“Shall bow the neck to Cantium’s peerless offspring,
“And as the oak reigns lordly o’er the shrub,
“So shall the hop have homage from the vine.”

Patent No. WO2007130736A1: Improvements To The Bittering Of Beer

patent-logo
Today in 1989, US Patent WO 2007130736 A1 was issued, an invention of Richard J. H. Wilson and Robert J. Smith, assigned to S.S. Steiner, Inc., for their “Improvements to the Bittering of Beer.” Here’s the Abstract:

Iso-α-acids and reduced iso-α-acids in their free acids states are converted into mobile resins by the addition of concentrated solutions of alkali metal hydroxides. A food compatible viscosity reducer is added to reduce viscosity and also discourage phase separation during storage. The products may be used in brewing for the bittering of beer and are most effectively used in an apparatus that automatically blends the product with water and injects the resultant, aqueous solution into beer.

P1010386

Patent No. 2487911A: Cluster Cutter

patent-logo
Today in 1949, US Patent 2487911 A was issued, an invention of Charles E. Wehn, for his “Cluster Cutter.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The object of the present invention is to provide a machine whereby clusters of several hops may be quickly and readily separated. A gentle method would be to hold a cluster in the hand and with scissors clip the stems, so that leaves and hops would be separated. To circumvent such a tedious process, the present invention operates in a similar gentle manner. A hook on a revolving disc engages the stem of a cluster. As the hook raises the cluster, the hops settle to either” side of the disc and only the stem on the hook passes through the cutters, the hops falling away uninjured.

US2487911-0

Patent No. 4780330A: Method Of Producing Isomerized Hop Preparations

patent-logo
Today in 1988, US Patent 4780330 A was issued, an invention of Derek R. J. Laws, assigned to The Brewing Research Foundation, for his “Method of Producing Isomerized Hop Preparations.” Here’s the Abstract:

A method for the production of isomerized hop preparations comprising admixing whole or powdered hops with a solid or aqueous alkali or alkaline earth metal salt. The invention provides that the resultant admixture is simultaneously subjected to a pressure of at least 2 Kg/cm2 and at a temperature of at least 80° C. in a closed vessel, thereby to form a hop preparation high in iso-α-acids and with substantially undegraded hop oils. The closed vessel is preferably an extrusion cooker.

US4780330-1

Patent No. 3106522A: Hop Separation Flights

patent-logo
Today in 1963, US Patent 3106522 A was issued, an invention of Florian F. Dauenhauer, for his “Hop Separation Flights.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The stripping of hops from hop vines by mechanical means results in the by-product of mixtures of considerable foreign material and stripped hops; such foreign material including vine fragments, branches, leaves and leaf fragments as Well as long and short stems all comrningled with individual hops. And, it has continuously been a problem in the art to reduce such foreign material to a minimum in order to avoid deleterious factors in beverages utilizing hop. The present invention is directed to the provision of means for effecting the separation of an appreciably increased quantity of leaves and leaf fragments at a hop-cleaning stage prior to the final cleaning stage so that the end result is appreciably cleaner hops having much less than 1% of foreign material intermingled or commingled therewith.

A primary object of the present invention is to provide hop separation flights capable of effecting the removal of substantial quantities of leaves and leaf fragments from moving mixtures of hops intermingled and commingled with foreign material, including leaves and leaf fragments.

Another important object of the invention is to provide improved hop separating flights of the indicated nature which are additionally characterized by their ability to relieve the load on the final cleaner or clean-up separating equipment and make the latter more effective in reducing the quantity of foreign material in mixtures of hops and foreign material.

A still further object of the present improvement is to provide hop separation flights of the aforementioned character which can readily be installed at a minimum of expense for utilization with hop separating machines of any type.

US3106522-0
US3106522-1

Patent No. 3104974A: Process For Improving The Brewing Characteristics Of Hops

patent-logo
Today in 1963, US Patent 3104974 A was issued, an invention of Pavel Weiner, for his “Process For Improving the Brewing Characteristics of Hops.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Hops which have been freshly picked and are then used either immediately, or after having been stored for a reasonably short period, for brewing, contain etheric oils which are of considerable importance for the taste of the resulting beer. Since hops cannot always be processed immediately after picking, the storage of hops represents a special problem, since hops stored in the open air start to decompose immediately even when given a conventional drying treatment to reduce their water content to from about 10 to 12% by weight. Decomposition proceeds more rapidly if the air in contact with the hops is moist, and if the temperature at which the hops are stored is high.

Known methods of ensuring that hops retain their desirable qualities even during long storage are, therefore, based on storing the hops at a low temperature and in dry air, or on keeping atmospheric air away from the hops while they are in store and while they are being conveyed to the brewery. The hops are therefore placed in gas-tight vessels, the air being then sucked out of the vessel and replaced by an inert gas, usually carbon dioxide. In another known process to improve the keeping properties of hops, they are compressed into a rigid block, then enclosed in a gas-previous envelope, and temporarily subjected to a low ambient pressure of from about 1.5 to 2.3 mm. of mercury, whereafter they can be stored in the open air for a longer but still limited time.

All these methods of storing or improving the keeping properties of hops are expensive, increase the cost of the hops, and cannot prevent the gradual advance of the decomposition processes which start immediately the hops have been picked. Such processes lead to the formation and collection in the hops of undesirable odorants and flavoring substances which are imparted very rapidly to the beer brewed with such hops. Although some of these volatile substances evaporate with the steam while the mash is being boiled with the hops, the flavor of the mash is nevertheless impaired and this deficiency is clearly perceptible in the finished beer.

The main groups of flavoring substances which impair the taste of beer are substances which are naturally present in some kinds of hops, substances arising out of natural aging of the hops, and substances produced by very bad storage conditions.

There are also other flavoring substances which the hops can pick up from the ambient air while they are in store.

Many breweries endeavour to improve the brewing properties of a hop having undesirable flavor substances by brewing or even boiling the hops before they are added to the mash. This step does not remove all the unwanted substances and also has the disadvantage of removing from the hops ingredients which are very important for brewing, for such ingredients are, like the unwanted decomposition products, etheric oils or resins which are readily soluble in water and are transferred into the water used for brewing or boiling and so separated from the hops with such water.

According to the present invention loose hops are introduced into a gas-tight vessel which is then evacuated to a pressure between 15 and mm. of mercury and maintained at that pressure for from 15 to 60 3,104,974 Patented Sept. 24, 1963 ice minutes by introducing pure air or a neutral gas as the remaining atmosphere is sucked out.

This process has the effect of removing from the hops every kind of flavor substance which impairs the beer, but only such substances, and so does not significantly reduce the content in the hops of these flavor substances which are important for brewing.

What the residual pressure maintained in the treatment vessel should be, within the limits specified, depends upon the extent to which unwanted flavor substances are present in the hops, but the pressure should not go any lower than the bottom limit of 5 mm. of mercury, since at this pressure the hops start to release the volatile aroma substances which are useful in brewing. Similarly, the treatment time largely depends upon the proportion of unwanted flavour substances, but it is better to treat the hops at a relatively high residual pressure in the vessel for a relatively long time, rather than to reduce the residual pressure to the lower limit specified or even further in order to shorten the treatment time.

The results of the treatment just outlined can very easily be determined directly after treatment by an odor test. If such a test is unsatisfactory, the treatment can readily be repeated one or more times.

To ensure that decomposition and production of further unwanted flavorings does not restart in hops which have been treated in accordance with the invention, it is preferable to apply the process according to the invention immediately before the hops are added to the mash.

If, as is often done, the hops are ground before being added to the mash, it is convenient to apply the process according to the invention after the hops have been ground, since unwanted flavoring substances are formed as a result of the heat generated when the hops are ground. Treatment after grinding removes these undesirable substances.

The apparatus for carrying out the process is very simple for instance, the vessel can have, in addition to the connection for the suction pump, another connection through which it can be connected to a fresh air or inert gas source. This other connection can take the form of a valve which opens when the required pressure in the vessel is reached, so that the air or gas enters the vessel as soon as the pressure to which the valve has been set is reached and for as long as that pressure is maintained.

Extended experiments and the practical application of the process according to the invention have confirmed that all the disadvantages associated with the hop are obviated, hop aroma is improved very considerably, and so unwanted flavoring substances or odorants do not enter the beer, thereby yielding in a beer having a very fine aroma.

Example From a hop pocket which had bee-n stored for several months, a proportion having an unpleasant cheesy smell was removed, loosened up by being crumbled, and subjected to a low pressure of 10 mm. of mercury for 15 minutes. The atmosphere which continued to be sucked out of the vessel after the pressure of 10 mm. of mercury had been reached because of continuing operation of the pump was replaced by a supply of fresh air. The cheesy smell was not perceptible after this treatment, and the beer brewed with the hops thus treated was free of any unwanted secondary flavor.

hops_v1.12

Patent No. 3607298A: Hop Concentrates

patent-logo
Today in 1971, US Patent 3607298 A was issued, an invention of Robert O. V. Lloyd and William Mitchell Hatfield, assigned to Bush Boake Allen Ltd., for his “Hop Concentrates.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The present invention relates to hop extracts, including isomerized hop extracts and to processes for their production.

Hops contain, among other things: soft and hard resins including such weakly acidic compounds as humulones (e.g. humulone, cohumulone and adhumulone) and lupulones; essential oils which are those relatively volatile oils which contribute to the characteristic odor of hops; fixed oils, which are contained in the hop seeds and are not readily distilled or extracted by hot water; and water-soluble material such as tannins and proteins.

In the traditional brewing process hops are boiled with wort, which is an aqueous solution of malt sugars. As a consequence of the boiling, a variety of resins and oils pass into the wort. Of these the most important are the humulones, which on boiling are partially isomerized to form water-soluble isohumulones. It is believed that the isohumulones are the principle bittering agent present in the finished beer, but a very large number of other compounds of widely differing chemical nature are also present in traditional beer and contribute to its properties. in the traditional process only a small proportion of the humulones present in the hops are isomerized and taken into solution. Further disadvantages of the traditional method are the need to store a large bulk of hops, which are liable to deteriorate, and the variability of flavor between batches.

The extraction of hops by solvents to give hop extracts which can be used to replace or augment hops in the brewing of beers and ales has received considerable attention for many years. This problem has attracted increased attention during the last l years because of the development in the chemistry of hop constituents and because the brewing industry has become rather less conservative in its attitude toward changes in materials and methods.

DSCN2724

Patent No. 285246A: Hop Drier

patent-logo
Today in 1883, US Patent 285246 A was issued, an invention of James L. Filkins, for his “Hop Drier.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

I have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Driers for Hops and other Substances, of which the following is a complete description.

The invention consists in certain novelties in the construction and arrangement of the parts of which the apparatus is composed, as will hereinafter more fully appear.

US285246-0

Historic Beer Birthday: Hildegard of Bingen

hildegard
Today is apparently the birthday of Hildegard of Bingen (September 16, 1098-September 17, 1179). I say “apparently,” because record keeping from the 11th century is notoriously unreliable. Though most accounts of her life that do include a date for her birth list it as September 16, so it at least seems somewhat agreed upon despite there being no specific source cited for that date’s accuracy. So I’ll go with that, it’s better to have some reason to celebrate her life that none at all. Anyway, Hildegard of Bingen ” was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany,” and perhaps most importantly, from my point of view, is credited with one of the earliest mentions of hops in beer. As a result, she is generally considered to be the patron saint of hop-growers, although this designation appears to be largely unofficial. Her feast day is actually tomorrow, September 17 — the day of her death — which is fairly common with the Catholic Church and their saints’ feast days.

hildegard-von-bingen-2

Although she was beatified in 1326 by Pope John XXII, she was not actually canonized until May of 2012. At that time, Pope Benedict XVI also named her a Doctor of the Church, only the fourth woman to receive that designation. None of the catholic sources I looked at online reveal any patronages for her, apart from the town of Eibingen, where her abbey was located, who made her their patron saint in 1900. And a few sources, though again all non-catholic, mention her as being a patron saint of gardeners, too, and a single source saying she was a patron of musicians, artists and even human potential. All of the sources for her being the patron of hop-growers appear to be from beer-related sources, so I have to conclude that like Gambrinus, her patronage is more symbolic than official.

hildegard-von-bingen-3

She did mention hops in her writings, though not in 1079 (31 years before being born) as a well-known quote insists, despite being debunked as long ago as 1911. Here’s what she did say, best explained by Martyn Cornell in his article, A short history of hops:

About 1150, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), mystical philosopher and healer, published a book called Physica Sacra, which translates best as “The Natural World”. Book I, Chapter 61, “De Hoppho”, or “Concerning the hop”, says of the plant: “It is warm and dry, and has a moderate moisture, and is not very useful in benefiting man, because it makes melancholy grow in man and makes the soul of man sad, and weighs down his inner organs. But yet as a result of its own bitterness it keeps some putrefactions from drinks, to which it may be added, so that they may last so much longer.”

bingen-hops

By itself this does not prove hops were used in beer, just “in drinks” (in potibus in Hildegard’s original Latin). But in a later chapter, on the ash tree, the abbess wrote: “If you also wish to make beer from oats without hops, but just with grusz [gruit], you should boil it after adding a very large number of ash leaves. That type of beer purges the stomach of the drinker, and renders his heart [literally ‘chest’ or ‘breast’] light and joyous.” Clearly Hildegard knew about brewing beer with hops. The passage also suggests that Hildegard knew about boiling wort, without which just adding hops is not much help in keeping away “putrefactions”.

hildegard-von-bingen

Here’s her profile, from Catholic Saints:

At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard produced major works of theology and visionary writings. When few women were respected, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and kings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and the medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first musical composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. Interest in this extraordinary woman was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion. Unfortunately, Hildegard’s visions and music have been hijacked by the New Age movement; New Age music bears some resemblance to Hildegard’s ethereal airs. Her story is important to students of medieval history and culture, and an inspirational account of an irresistible spirit and vibrant intellect overcoming social, physical, cultural, gender barriers to achieve timeless transcendence.

Hildegard was the tenth child born to a noble family. As was customary with the tenth child, which the family could not count on feeding, and who could be considered a tithe, she was dedicated at birth to the Church. The girl started to have visions of luminous objects at the age of three, but soon realized she was unique in this ability and hid this gift for many years.

At age eight her family sent Hildegard to an anchoress named Jutta to receive a religious education. Jutta was born into a wealthy and prominent family, and by all accounts was a young woman of great beauty who had spurned the world for a life decided to God as an anchoress. Hildegard’s education was very rudimentary, and she never escaped feelings of inadequacy over her lack of schooling. She learned to read Psalter in Latin, but her grasp of Latin grammar was never complete (she had secretaries help her write down her visions), but she had a good intuitive feel for the intricacies of the language, constructing complicated sentences with meanings on many levels and which are still a challenge to students of her writing. The proximity of the Jutta’s anchorage to the church of the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg exposed Hildegard to religious services which were the basis for her own musical compositions. After Jutta’s death, when Hildegard was 38 years of age, she was elected the head of the budding convent that had grown up around the anchorage.

During the years with Jutta, Hildegard confided of her visions only to Jutta and a monk named Volmar, who was to become her lifelong secretary. However, in 1141 a vision of God gave Hildegard instant understanding of the meaning of religious texts. He commanded her to write down everything she would observe in her visions.

And it came to pass…when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming…and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books…

Yet Hildegard was also overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and hesitated to act.

But although I heard and saw these things, because of doubt and low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, I refused for a long time a call to write, not out of stubbornness but out of humility, until weighed down by a scourge of god, I fell onto a bed of sickness.

Though she never doubted the divine origin of her visions, Hildegard wanted them to be approved by the Church. She wrote to Saint Bernard who took the matter to Pope Eugenius who exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings. With papal imprimatur, Hildegard finished her first visionary work Scivias (“Know the Ways of the Lord“) and her fame began to spread through Germany and beyond.

The 12th century was also the time of schisms and religious confusion when anyone preaching any outlandish doctrine could attract a large following. Hildegard was critical of schismatics, and preached against them her whole life, working especially against the Cathari.

s-hildegardis

Franciscan Media has yet another account:

Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian—where to begin describing this remarkable woman?

Born into a noble family, she was instructed for ten years by the holy woman Blessed Jutta. When Hildegard was 18, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of Saint Disibodenberg. Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she had received since the age of three, Hildegard took ten years to write her Scivias (Know the Ways). Pope Eugene III read it and in 1147 encouraged her to continue writing. Her Book of the Merits of Life and Book of Divine Works followed. She wrote over 300 letters to people who sought her advice; she also composed short works on medicine and physiology, and sought advice from contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Hildegard’s visions caused her to see humans as “living sparks” of God’s love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Sin destroyed the original harmony of creation; Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection opened up new possibilities. Virtuous living reduces the estrangement from God and others that sin causes.

Like all mystics, she saw the harmony of God’s creation and the place of women and men in that. This unity was not apparent to many of her contemporaries.

Hildegard was no stranger to controversy. The monks near her original foundation protested vigorously when she moved her monastery to Bingen, overlooking the Rhine River. She confronted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for supporting at least three antipopes. Hildegard challenged the Cathars, who rejected the Catholic Church claiming to follow a more pure Christianity.

Between 1152 and 1162, Hildegard often preached in the Rhineland. Her monastery was placed under interdict because she had permitted the burial of a young man who had been excommunicated. She insisted that he had been reconciled with the Church and had received its sacraments before dying. Hildegard protested bitterly when the local bishop forbade the celebration of or reception of the Eucharist at the Bingen monastery, a sanction that was lifted only a few months before her death.

In 2012, Hildegard was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke about Hildegard of Bingen during two of his general audiences in September 2010. He praised the humility with which she received God’s gifts and the obedience she gave Church authorities. He praised the “rich theological content” of her mystical visions that sum up the history of salvation from creation to the end of time.

During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he may inspire in the Church holy and courageous women like Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who, developing the gifts they have received from God, make their own special and valuable contribution to the spiritual development of our communities and of the Church in our time.”

Hildegard_von_Bingen

And finally, Women’s History Month chose her as their woman of Day 29, with this irreverent take on her life:

Hildegard was born to middle-class German parents somewhere around 1098, and was the youngest of many children. Despite the fact that she was a sickly child, she claimed to have visions from God. Due to this (and probably also for political reasons), her family put her into a monastery as a child and she became a nun. There, she learned to read, write, and transcribe music, and quickly became a respected member of the nuns’ community.

When the Magistra of the nuns died, Hildegard was unanimously elected to replace her. The Abbott of the monastery asked her to be Prioress, but she knew this would mean she would be directly under his jurisdiction and control. So, she told him she would, if the women could branch off and have their own monastery in the nearby town of Rupertsberg. She told him this idea came to her in one of her visions from God. He refused, so she went into a state of paralysis, and it was determined that paralysis was a sign of anger from God because of the Abbott’s refusal. Only when the Abbott himself tried and failed to move Hildegard’s frozen body did he grant her request. Hildegard ran her monastery like a boss and was soon able to open a second monastery in Eibingen.

As Hildegard became more and more educated, she began writing pretty much everything you can think of. Illuminated texts, historical chronicles, two volumes on medicine, scientific texts, plays, anthologies of songs, and more. She also kept all of her correspondence, which is now one of the largest sets of letters still in existence in the middle ages, and wrote detailed accounts of her divine visions that were approved by Pope Eugenius.

Most importantly, around 1151 she wrote the first known morality play (with music!): Ordo Virtutum. It tells the story of a Soul, and the Soul’s struggle between accepting the 17 Virtues and going to heaven, or being tempted by the Devil and going to hell. It’s the only Medieval musical manuscript to survive history with both its text and music intact. The Soul (strong female lead, am I right?) and 17 Virtues are all played by women, and the only male role is the Devil, who can only communicate in grunts and screams. Hildegard says that he’s not capable of divine harmony. Coincidence, or early feminism?

As if that wasn’t enough, she then invented her own alphabet and language for her nuns to use with each other. Just because she’s awesome.

All the while, she claimed that she was unlearned and unintelligent. That way, men would take her interactions with divine spirit seriously, because they believed her to be too dumb to make them up on her own. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

When she died in 1179, her sisters swore that two beams of light shot down from the sky.

Her Sainthood status was debated for hundreds of years, but in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made it official. Out of 35 Saints, only 4 women have ever been granted the title “Doctor of the Church” by the Pope.

Oh, and she has a plant genus named after her, thanks to her contributions to herbal medicine – Hildegardia. And a planet. A fucking planet. See you all on Planet 898 Hildegard where we start our new feminist colony.

She was an amazing artist as well, and her books were all illustrated with drawings and art that looks a lot like Indian mandalas, like this one about “the Cycle of the Seaons” from the Scivas, a book describing 26 religious visions she experienced.

Scivias

If you made it through all of the accounts of her life, including her Wikipedia page, one thing you’ll notice is that none of them mention her contribution to the brewing sciences, or indeed anything about her mention of hops. That appears to be a more modern interpretation, though I’m not sure of its origin. One thing seems clear, however, and that it’s an association that here to stay.

Naughty-Hildegard-Banner
Naughty Hildegard ESB from the Driftwood Brewery in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

hildegard-hops-bottles

In addition to her writing on many subjects, she also wrote liturgical music. Here is one of the works she composed, “Antiphon; O quam mirabilis est,” which is essential a hymn entitled “Oh, how wonderful.”

Patent No. 525913A: Hop Cleaning Machine

patent-logo
Today in 1894, US Patent 525913 A was issued, an invention of Raphael J. Mackison and John P. Mackison, for their “Hop Cleaning Machine.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Our invention relates to improvements in machines for cleaning hops; and the object of our invention is to produce a very simple and efficient machine which may be easily operated, which is provided with an inclined bed and a carrying apron to carry away the dirt, dust, leaves. and other trash deposited by the hops, which has “means for adjusting the bed, which is adapted to clean the apron on its under side, and which is constructed so that perfectly clean hops may be rapidly delivered from one end of the machine.

A further object of our invention is to produce a machine of this kind which is adapted to clean the hops perfectly and without in the least degree injuring or bruising them.

US525913-0