The pleasant land of counterpane

It was book club this evening and we were discussing ‘Treasure island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, which we all enjoyed. I had forgotten what a great book it is and will write more on my thoughts another time. In the meantime, er’s something I wrote a couple of years ago about bedspreads – the link to Robert Louis comes at the end:

I was thinking about bed covers yesterday, and an old word came back to me – not a word I ever used, or even my parents used, but one I remember from stories I read when I was little – counterpane. We called it a bedspread which is usually called a throw these days and is often decorated by a superfluous piece accessory called a runner (which is also put on table cloths to make the setting more attractive)

The word counterpane comes from counterpoint, which came from the French contrepointe (counterpoynte) which came from Latin  culcitra puncta which meant a quilted mattress (puncta means pricked, which I guess refers to the sewing) If you are wondering how the ‘point’ part of it changed to ‘pane’ – well, pane was an old word for cloth so I guess the two merged through usage.

Pane itself is an interesting word – it came from Latin via French and meant a panel – wither in a garment of a building, and of course once glazed windows became common it referred to the glass panels in the window frame – which is what we still call them today of course!

Here is a poem I loved as a child; when we were ill we stayed in bed, no sitting on the settee watching TV then! We would read or draw if we felt well enough, or colour in our colouring books. I had glandular fever and was in bed for about a month when ill was twelve – so this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson and was a very sickly child, was very much what happened to me (without the toy soldiers!)

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson1850 – 1894

Her is where I found out about counterpanes and panes:

… and apparently bedspreads, you may remember the old ones “the popular chenille or matelassé (textured) bedspreads, complete with pompom fringe” are back in fashion – find out more here:

I have no images of bedspreads, counterpanes, beds or anything associated with counterpanes – so i have as my featured image a picture from Bedfordshire, thinking of what an uncle used to say ‘up the wooden stairs to bed-fordshire’! – as we lived in a ground floor flat it made little sense to me at the time!



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