CRYING THE NECK.
OWING to the uncertain character of the climate of Cornwall, the farmers have adopted the plan of gathering the sheaves of wheat, as speedily as possible, into "arishmows." These are solid cones from ten to twelve feet high, the heads of the stalks turned inwards, and the whole capped with a sheaf of corn inverted. Whence the term, I know not; but "arish" is commonly applied to a field of corn recently cut, as, "Turn the geese in upon the 'arish' "-- that is, the short stubble left in the ground.
After the wheat is all cut on most farms in Cornwall and Devon, the harvest people have a custom of " crying the neck." I believe that this practice is seldom omitted on any large farm in these counties. It is done in this way. An old man, or some one else well acquainted with the ceremonies used on the occasion (when the labourers are reaping the last field of wheat), goes round to the shocks and sheaves, arid picks out a little bundle of all the best ears he can find; this bundle he ties up very neat and trim, and plaits and arranges the straws very tastefully. This is called "the neck" of wheat, or wheaten-ears. After the field is cut out, and the pitcher once more circulated, the reapers, binders, and the women stand round in a circle. The person with "the neck" stands in the centre, grasping it with both his hands. He first stoops and holds it near the ground, and all the men forming the ring take off their hats, stooping and holding them with both hands towards the ground. They then all begin at once, in a very pro-longed and harmonious tone, to cry, "The neck !" at the same time slowly raising themselves upright, and elevating their arms and hats above their heads; the person with the neck also raising it on high. This is done three times. They then change their cry to "We yen ! we yen !" which they sound in the same prolonged and slow manner as before, with singular harmony and effect, three times. This last cry is accompanied by the same movements of the body and arms as in crying "the neck." I know nothing of vocal music, but I think I may convey some idea of the sound by giving you the following notes in gamut --
Let these notes be played on a flute with perfect crescendoes and diminuendoes, and perhaps some notion of this wild-sounding cry may be formed. Well, after this they all burst out into a kind of loud, joyous laugh, flinging up their hats and caps into the air, capering about, and perhaps kissing the girls. One of them then gets "the neck," and runs as hard as he can down to the farmhouse, 'where the dairy-maid, or one of the young female domestics, stands at the door prepared with a pail of water. If he who holds "the neck" can manage to get into the house in any way unseen, or openly by any other way than the door at which the girl stands with the pail of water, then he may lawfully kiss her; but, if otherwise he is regularly soused with the contents of the bucket. I think this practice is beginning to decline of late, and many farmers and their men do not care about keeping up this old custom. The object of crying "the neck" is to give notice to the surrounding country of the end of the harvest, and the meaning of" we yen" is "we have ended." It may probably mean "we end," which the uncouth and provincial pronunciation has corrupted into "we yen." The "neck" is generally hung up in the farmhouse, where it often remains for three or four years.