by Jerric Chong
A very happy New Year, and welcome back from all us at The Poor Print as we embark on Hilary 2022!
‘Joy’, like so many other utterances in this language of ours, arrived with the conquering Normans, and derives ultimately from Latin gaudium through French joie (also meaning ‘jewel’), which then became joye in Middle English.
The word ‘joy’ is first attested in a treatise known as the Ancrene Riwle, written in the early 13th century. Strangely enough, it was a manual of rules for anchoresses, women who chose to be walled up in a small, dark cell to devote themselves to a solitary life of prayer and contemplation for the rest of their lives. I can’t imagine that many of us would derive much joy from an experience like that!
But the medieval author offers this advice to an anchoress who might start having enough of her isolated lifestyle: ‘Efter þe spreoue on ende þenne is þe muchele Ioie’ [After the testing, at the end then is great joy]. We quickly see here that joy is far from being an immediate feeling of ecstasy or instant gratification – it is instead the culmination of a long and often difficult journey towards a distant but noble aim.
In this issue, you’ll find fleeting snapshots of moments of joy, found both in the elation of a winner’s acclamation by a rapturous crowd, and in the intimate reunion of close but separated friends; in that unutterable feeling of flow when fully engaged in an activity you love, and simply in the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Each is a dream long yearned for being brought to fulfilment, and it is this from in which joy then comes.
But Joy is also a canine companion, enigmatically (but yet poetically) named in spite of a smile that hints otherwise, and the harmony of perfect balance achieved after having striven towards it long. Sometimes we need to be reminded to proclaim joy in our lives, to sing out in lyrical melody with much rejoicing and gladness.
We are often encouraged to be full of joy. But how could that look like, and might it even be possible to have an overabundance of joy?
These and other questions may strike your mind as you explore this issue’s contributions. So as you go about a new term’s worth of work, pause and ponder about what you could be joyful for. After all, if medieval hermits could find joy in strict seclusion, why can’t you?