Saturday, July 16, 2011

Poetry Prompt #62 - Chants & Charms

When I was a little girl, my English grandmother taught me many old British nursery rhymes and a few chants. Along with Humpty Dumpty, Little Jack Horner, and Jack Sprat, this chant has stayed with me:

“Trefoil, vervain, John’s wort, dill,
hinder witches of their will.”

When I was little, I loved chanting it, singsong style, with Grandma, and I was surprised to encounter it recently in a mystery novel that I was reading. When I Googled the rhyme, I found that it was once believed to act as a countercharm against spells that might do harm, and I found what appears to be its earliest written version in Michael Drayton’s 1627 poem “Nymphidia” (lines 390 & 391) Click Here to Read "Nymphidia" by Michael Drayton

Memories of my grandmother, a dozen or more visits to England over the years, and the old “trefoil, vervain” chant are my inspiration for this week’s prompt. Here it is:

1. Make up your own protective chant that includes herbs or flowers. Use the chant above as a model.  (There’s lots of info about herbs online that might be helpful if you'd like to do some research.)

2. Use your chant in a poem. It may be an epigraph or a first line. It may even be a refrain or the last line. You may address the poem to someone, venture into the world of faerie and create a narrative fantasy, or go in any direction that your poem wants to go.

Sage, verbena, mint, and thyme,
will surely help you with your rhyme!

Make a little magick!


  1. Great idea, Adele!

    Just right for a warm summer afternoon or a moonlight summer night with flowers and herbs scenting the air!

    I take it the clever little rhyme at the end is yours! Your posts are ever so creative! THANK YOU!

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  2. Thanks, Maire!

    So glad you like the prompt.

    It's certainly warm here today - upper 90s (Fahrenheit).

  3. I need a little magic, Adele. I'm going to try it with some basil! George

  4. Anonymous George - is that you George Z.?

    Love the comment, whoever sent it!

  5. Very interesting. It's amazing how little things from childhood can inform the present.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Bob's Mustangs! Yes, you're right - so many things from childhood continue to inform the present!