Yorkshire farmer

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The tale of the Yorkshire farmer, like that of the Basque sailor and the Newcastle glovemaker's daughter is one of a body of stories all tending to hint that when John Uskglass departed from England he did not go without a backward glance. All three stories suggest that the King occasionally returned.

The incident of the Yorkshire farmer happened in the late sixteenth century. A farmer out haymaking with his men one misty morning noticed people appearing on the old, neglected fairy road that ran alongside his field. He saw a small crowd, strange of face and dressed in quaint and antique gear, and at their head was a single dark figure. This dark man left the road and came into the field, and though the farmer and his men had never seen John Uskglass they were convinced at once it was indeed their vanished king. They knelt and did him homage. The person - be it the Raven King or no - then raised them up, explained he was on a journey and accepted their proffers of food and a horse. He gave his blessing to them and their families and, noticing the uneasiness with which the farmer was regarding the silent crowd upon the fairy road, he assured him they would do no harm. Then he left.

The figures on the fairy road lingered only until the rays of the morning sun grew stronger. As the mist upon the fields vanished, so did they[33].

Haymaking 1.jpg

Haymaking, 16th C oil painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.There was no more densely populated region north of the Alps than the Netherlands. This was largely due to higher wages. The textiles industry flourished: the Netherlandish ports attracted coastal trade from the Baltic in the north to Lisbon in the south; for several decades Antwerp, the site of the first stock exchange, was the economic hub of Europe.


Haymaking 2.jpg

Detail found on the top left of the painting. Now we know that Bruegel worked in the beautiful region around Brussels, but this close-up is quite the discovery: a (possibly) neglected fairy road and a wanderer. My educated guess is that the Yorkshire farmer moved about in similar landscapes...