Dateline: 9 February 2014
Uncle Daniel quit when the sun did. It was “blasphemous-like” to work in the field after the sun had finished. The sun was Uncle Daniel’s time-piece. He was up with the sun, for that was the beginning of a Lord’s day and one should not waste the Lord’s time in bed. He worked till the sun went down, and as a consequence he frequently took a half or whole day off. Sun-to-sun made a natural day, for did not the Good Book speak of the evening and the morning of the sixth day when man was put at work? Sometimes when haying or harvest was on, the bay-and-gray team would still be in the field at sundown, but Uncle Daniel would always stop and wait for the sun to sink out of sight, as a fitting observance of the properties.
—Liberty Hyde Bailey
The Harvest of The Year To The Tiller of The Soil (1927)
L.H. Bailey's prose, peppered with semicolons and unusual phrases, is not as easy to read as, say, the more contemporary agrarian writings of Wendell Berry. But he presents us with some rare and interesting word pictures.
For example, in the selection above Bailey writes that the "robin curls his vesper deep into the gloaming." That selection of words sent me once again to the Webster's 1828 dictionary.
There I found that "curls" can mean, "to raise in waves or undulations; to ripple."
Vesper is defined as, "the evening song or evening service of the Romish church."
"Gloaming" is not in the 1828 Webster's. But gloam is there. It means, "to be sullen." One definition of sullen is "dark." I thought perhaps Bailey was creating a word with gloaming, meaning something like, "the developing darkness." But the word is found in more modern dictionaries where it is defined simply as, "twilight; dusk."
With these definitions, I have a picture in my mind. And I am looking forward to the coming spring and summer when, in that special time of the day, after the sun has set, in the fading daylight, I can hear for myself the familiar sound of a robin curling his vesper into the gloaming.