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Old Clem - Dickens expression. Help!

Posted by Bruce Kahl on August 09, 2002

In Reply to: Old Clem - Dickens expression. Help! posted by James Briggs on August 09, 2002

: I had the following request today. A Google search doesn't help - merely giving sites which quote the Dickens' text. Can anyone offer suggestions?
: Thanks
: ....
: Dear James,
: I am currently working as an assistant director on a stage adaption of Great Expectations by The Melbourne Theatre Company.
: I have just discovered your enlightening comments on the phrase 'happy as a sandboy' and am hoping you may be able to help me with a few other Dickensian mysteries.
: Joe and Pip sing a song in chapter 12 as they work the forge called (I presume this is the title) "Old Clem"
: The text is as follows:

: Hammer boys round - Old Clem!
: With a thump and a sound - Old Clem!
: Beat it out, beat it out - Old Clem!
: With a clink for the stout - Old Clem!
: Blow the fire, blow the fire - Old Clem!
: Roaring dryer, soaring higher - Old Clem!

: I was hoping you may have some information regarding the historical context of the song, any further lyrics to the piece and possibly a suggestion as to where I may source the tune - either in printed form or recording.

: I look forward to your reply,
: kind regards,
: Ben Harkin.
: Assistant Director
: Great Expectations

: Melbourne Theatre Company
: 129 Ferrars Street
: Southbank
: VIC 3006

I found an outline of a course given at the U of Michigan entitled "English 434:Nineteenth-Century English Novel".
One of the aspects of the course was studying Blacksmithing in Great Expectations and from this I found the following:

"Throughout the novel there are numerous references to the song "Old Clem." The first one occurs when Pip is pushing Miss Havisham around her room and she asks him to sing a song. Pip states, "It was a song that imitated the measure of beating upon iron" (104; ch. 12). The song comes from the blacksmith's patron Saint Clement. He is said to have an anvil as an emblem and was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea (Webber 28). Blacksmiths took a holiday on November 23rd, The Day of Saint Clement. It was often celebrated with loud explosions of gunpowder on anvils. A senior apprentice dressed in a cloak and mask to represent Old Clem and was carried in a procession that would move around town and stopped at all the taverns along the way. At all their stops the blacksmiths told the brief history of Old Clem and then passed a box around for donations. The money paid for the apprentices' supper. The story of Saint Clement has numerous origins, but all are relatively the same......".

For the balance of the paper go to the link below.

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