I am fortunate to live in a fairly dry and sunny part of the United States. We get about 6 and a quarter inches of rain a year. However, over half that amount falls in just four months: November through February. So, I’ve been sitting looking at gloomy skies and feeling grumpy.
Jolly Olde England in the nineteenth century had her share of gloomy days as well, not just because of the abundant rain but because the coal fires brought about horrendous fogs, particularly when a large number of people (and fires) happened to live near water (like the Thames). Breathing the air literally burned the lungs, and carriage driving was downright dangerous. So, people tended to stay indoors on such days.
While the older folks caught up on correspondence, exclaimed over the latest newspaper reports from the various wars, and even snoozed in their libraries, the young folks were looking for entertainment. They played some of the games we know today, like charades and twenty questions. One of the more popular games was Crambo, where the leader called out a word, and everyone else had to come up with a rhyme for it or you were out. So if I as the leader said “peas,” you all could say “please,” “keys,” “cheese,” and so forth.
Another popular game was cap verses, and I personally think this one would be hard! The leader makes up a line to start a poem, let’s say “Today the trees weep loud with cold.” Whoever is next has to take the last letter of the last word in the line and start her line with a word that begins with that letter. So, since my line ended in a d, yours would have to start with a d. You might say “Down dusty lanes to town we go.” Yikes! Pity the next person — she has to come up with something that starts with an O and still makes sense. Variations of the game had you naming famous people in the same way: “Trollop,” “Pitt the Younger,” “Richard the Lion-Heart,” “Turner,” and so forth. You could also play the game with Bible verses. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” “Nothing is too hard for you.”
So, would you like to play? Let's make a poem. I’ll start: “Writers are a funny lot . . .”