Godbwye, Farewell.

While there has always been farewell, there has not always been goodbye.

No: goodbye emerged during the latter part of the sixteenth century, first heard in syllables jotted down in a letter by a grumpy poet-with-attitude, whose verse was laboured and execrable, but who was a jolly good crafter of words.

Gabriel Harvey picked fights with other poets. He wanted to be known as “The Inventour of the English hexameter.” His verse was laboured:

"Shutt upp the wyndowes of your eies awhile, 
And open the gates of your eares a myle. 
But by your leave a litle her must firste goe pisse, 
And then that her pen hath to say is this..."

But one thing he could do, and he did well.

He was a wordsmith. He made up cracking words. In fact he was cited as a creator of words by a rival and, much later, a modern etymologist. The calibre of his words was pooh-poohed by the man he regularly clashed words with. These words, jeered Thomas Nash, would not stand the test of time.

Try them. Roll them round the palette a little. Harvey came up with conscious; extensively; idiom; notoriety, and gloriously, rascality.

They’re still here. Etymologist Robert Hendrickson credits every one of the words which has lasted four  hundred years, and some, to Harvey.

And then there’s godbwye.

The first instance of the word goodbye lies there in his tortured verse, in 1573: “To requite your gallonde of godbwyes , I regive you a pottle of howedyes.”

Godbwye. The spelling leaves us much closer to that sentiment, the old ‘God be with you.’

In every profound goodbye lies something more.  The wish that when someone has left you, that the music of the spheres speed them on their way. That happiness will be theirs, though they no longer walk alongside you.

In the old days a man might get on a ship and simply never come back.

How yawning those goodbyes must have been! Readers of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre will know the uncompromising, unbending clergyman St John Rivers: whose two sisters had lived with him all their lives on the Yorkshire moors, and who suddenly, and quite deliberately, set sail for India, leaving them in the certainty that he would never see them again.

Before jet planes, a journey across the world was a one way ticket. Yet still the traveller’s loved ones yearned that they be safe; that they make a happy ending.

I am walking like a wraith through the place I have worked for five years, because tomorrow I shall wish many of them Godbwye.

I am already not there, in that subtle way which happens when people know you are no longer a permanent state of affairs, and close in to fill the void before you are fully gone.

My computer has been cleared, my drawers scoured. My pupils know, finally, that tomorrow morning I shall come once more and then not return. Gifts have been bought for those special souls who have filled my days with my favourite thing: surprise.

The dearest souls come from the strangest quarters. Each adult, every child is a shadow walking off and away on another trajectory, possibility mixed with probability, a life not yet lived, followed by my ineffectual godbwye.

It is time to close the chapter and walk away.

And head purposefuly for a pottle of howedyes.


Image source: From Old Books.Org


76 thoughts on “Godbwye, Farewell.

  1. oh wow, I had not realised you were really changing job.

    So here’s wishing you a good-bye and a great howdie when you return from that (hopefully) sunny break to your new role.

  2. “Godbwye” made me think irresistibly of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore… 😀

    “I am already not there, in that subtle way which happens when people know you are no longer a permanent state of affairs, and close in to fill the void before you are fully gone.” Beautifully expressed. Have an excellent last day. Take hankies.
    Good luck wherever you are heading. x

  3. Times they are a-changing, it would seem!
    One hopes that you are following a dream
    And one which turns out pleasantly, indeed;
    (Will Gdspd do for wishing you God speed?)

    1. 😀 nope: instead of teaching small classes of children with very specific educational needs, I shall be teaching a latge class of nine year olds for two days every week. Giving me a little time to develop my writing….

  4. how very interesting!
    I hope your last day goes well and son we shall be enlightened about your future career plans?!

  5. A good wish for your next foray as you leave behind the goodbyes and move forward to the new greetings. I will be retiring at the end of December this year and although I say little about it at the office, I can sense the subtle differences in how things are done knowing that I am not part of the long term group. A bit invigorating I must say. Bon Voyage and here’s to new hat raisings.

    1. The Summer holidays involve book writing, I’d love to write a full length ghost story based on the Christmas shortie I did. But it require discipline with the family around. Early mornings….

  6. You are changing you job? Very beautiful expressed Kate. I am sure with the difficult goodbye comes the excitement for new chapter as well.

  7. Goodbyes are seldom easy; from those that are forced upon us through no plan of our own, to those long thought out and eagerly anticipated, they are an upheaval to our status quo. Hoping your goodbyes today will be tempered by the anticipation of what is to come.

    Often, I find myself quoting a line from Patti Loveless: “Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same.”.

    1. The most important trick, I feel sure, Karen, is to appreciate what passes while it is here, knowing it is temporary. It feels like using the fast setting on the camera, which will snap the merest instant and hold it for me forever. But sometimes that is easier than at other times.

  8. “The dearest souls come from the strangest quarters. Each adult, every child is a shadow walking off and away on another trajectory, possibility mixed with probability, a life not yet lived, followed by my ineffectual godbwye … It is time to close the chapter and walk away.”

    There was a little tear in my eye when I read this, and a big space in my chest. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. You have left hints and words here and there about a move and now comes the goodbwye. It is better to think of it as God be with you. I like that and wish it for you, Kate. I look forward to hearing about about your upcoming holiday, and then then, in time, your new adventures. Here is a cheer for you as you proceed onward.

  10. best wishes for memory as well as whatever comes next – after the holiday? I once wrote this – you reminded me – it is how you live in each moment which makes your posts so alive

    1. I think that will serve admirably, Barbara 🙂 Glad Gabriel Harvey made someone’s day. A great scholar of the classics, he is nevertheless remembered for al his scraps with fellow members of the literary world. He was a friend of Edmund Spencer, though.

  11. Oh if this means we get to read more of your wonderful writing, then I am delighted! Wishing you good luck with the Godbwyes Kate and an abundant pottle of howedyes!

    1. Thank you, Cam. Already plotting an assault with eldest daughter on Oxford tomorrow 😀 Can’t look back for long, can we? It didn’t do Orpheus much good.

  12. I’m glad you’ve shared with us the shift in your journey. My godbwyes almost always seem bittersweet, even when I’m the intiator of the change. Change brings fresh perspectives, which to a writer of your caliber, is gold. Blessings…Debra

  13. Kate said Godbwye to us today with home-made scones with Cornish Clotted cream and jam – just that typical twist on the normal staff-room leaving goodies that I’d expect from her.

    We will all miss you, Kate, but at least we have the blog to keep us in touch – and I’m looking forward to that ghost story…

    1. Jan,thank you. It is unusual but most pleasant to see you front of house – some of our readers will not know the stalwart subbing job you do behind the scenes. I will miss you more than I can say. Life won’t be the same, but I suppose that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Thank God for social media so we can all keep in touch 🙂 One ghost story, coming up.
      Haven’t opened my prompt yet. Saving it for my bedtime hot chocolate tonight.

  14. I like godbwye ever so much better than the soulless (good)bye, which to me tastes of finality, of disregard for shared memories, etc. – I shall think god.b.w.ye from now on…

    And I wish you that & also, all the best in whatever lies around the curve of life’s river.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. I knew you would appreciate the overtones and undercurrents of this strange old word. Right now, I’m paddling like the clappers, straining for a view…

  15. Kate, with this lovely post, you taught me the word “wraith” or at least compelled me to look up its meaning so I know have 301 words in my former 300 word vocabulary. I also looked up “dumbify” a word I was certain one of my wordsmith-ier colleagues cobbled just for our boss (but we’ve yet to bestow her with this gift) and learned someone else got there first. Good luck with the nine-year-olds. Glad you’re making even more time for writing. I enjoy your posts.

    1. Glad to bring you ‘wraith’, Lameadventures; you set me on a search for a dumb word which does not already exist. Dumbify has my vote. I did wonder about a verb ‘endumb’. Cannot find a definition anywhere. But perhaps that is because it has all the charm and vivacity of one of Gabriel Harvey’s poems.

    1. Thanks, Andra 🙂 I’d love the gorgeous words to start paying me a wage, but hey: we’ve covered that territory with TS Eliot…hope the book’s journey is surging ever onwards. I am eager for the day when there is a signed copy moment.

    1. Old English is huge fun, Carl. Was reading about Chaucer yesterday. Apparently there was a time when he was in charge of the banks of the Thames. Amazing the trivia that’s out there.

  16. Obviously you love words. You weave them well into the flying carpet that will carry you elsewhere. Hopefully, you’ll still be carrying on with the blog because I just subscribed.

  17. ‘I am already not there, in that subtle way which happens when people know you are no longer a permanent state of affairs, and close in to fill the void before you are fully gone.’ – such a profound statement you have come up with – loved this blog post Kate 🙂

  18. Dear Kate, once again, I learn such interesting historical facts from your post. But it was from one of your responses to a comment that I learned you are going to be teaching a group of nine-year-olds twice a week. Moreover, you indicated that would give you time for writing. I am so glad to know that you are going to concentrate on your writing. You are gifted in many fruitful ways. I’m wondering what you plan on writing or if you are just going to let the Spirit of Creativity inspire you. Any ideas? Peace.

  19. Like other readers, I’m always riveted by your history and linguistics classes–but I think what really keeps me reading all the way through the comment threads is not your showcased lively intellect or keen powers of observation, and not even your wonderful sense of humor and irony, but rather the suppressed vulnerability, the heartbeat underneath it all in these occasional hints about your personal story that some of us read, correctly, I think, as evidence of a soul who is reticent to inflict struggle on others. What a rare breed! Maybe because of that, we want to stand behind you, and with you, and around you. No one deserves success–defined in her own terms–more than you, Kate. I hope this career move takes you where you want to go. (And that is going to be one lucky room full of nine-year-olds!)

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