Folklore Accounts (under construction ocr corrections underway!)
|Charles Dickens: "The Clergy on May Day"||From London labour and the London Poor,||Hone:THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY.||
British Popular Customs, Present and Past....,Thomas
|The Observances of Brand||
MAY-DAY CAROL ON
TOWER and other things
|Description of a Mayhouse||MAY-DAY-More customs|
|HIGH DAYS AND HOLIDAYS||Guinevere,||May Games
|1827- SAILORS ON THE FIRST OF MAY.|
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Hone, William, The Table Book: or, Daily Recreation,1827
For the Table Book. Sir,—
You have described the ceremony adopted by our sailors, of shaving all nautical tyros on crossing the line,* but perhaps you are not aware of a custom which prevails annually on the first of May, in the whale-fishery at Greenland and Davis's Straits. I therefore send you an account of the celebration which took place on board the Neptune of London, in Greenland, 1824, of which ship I was surgeon at that period.
Previous to the ship's leaving her port, the sailors collected from their wives, and other female friends, ribands "for the garland," of which great care was taken until a few days previous to the first of May, when all hands were engaged in preparing the said garland, with a model of the ship.
The garland was made of a hoop, taken from one of the beef casks; this hoop, decorated with ribands, was fastened to a stock of wood, of about four feet in length, and a model of the ship, prepared by the carpenter, was fastened above the hoop to the top of the stock, in such a mariner as to answer the purpose of a vane. The first of May arrives; the tyros were kept from between decks, and all intruders excluded while the principal performers got ready the necessary apparatus and dresses. The barber was the boatswain, the barber's
mate was the cooper, and on a piece of tarpawling, fastened to the entrance of the fore-hatchway, was the following inscription :—
“Neptune's East Shaving Shop,
The performers then came forward, as follows :—First, the fiddler, playing as well as he could on an old fiddle, "See the conquering hero comes;" next, four men, two abreast, disguised with matting, rags, &c. so as to completely prevent them from being recognised, each armed with a boathook; then came Neptune himself, also disguised, mounted on the carriage of the largest gun in the ship, and followed by the barber, barber's mate, swab-bearer, shaving-box carrier, and as many of the ship's company as chose to join them, dressed in such a grotesque manner as to beggar all description. Arrived on the quarter-deck they were met by the captain, when his briny majesty immediately dismounted, and the following dialogue ensued :—
Nept. Are you the captain of this ship sir?
Capt. I am.
Kept. What's the name of your ship?
Capt. The Neptune of London.
Nept. Where is
she bound to?
Kept. What is
Kept. You are
engaged in the whale
Capt. I am.
Nept. Well, I hope I shall drink your honour's health, and I wish you a prosperous fishery.
[Here the' captain presented him with three quarts of mm.]
Nept, (filling a glass.) here's health to you, captain, and success to our cause. Have you got any fresh-water sailors on board? for if you have, I must christen them, so as to make them useful to our king and country.
Capt. We have eight of them on board at your service; I therefore wish you good morning.
The procession then returned in the same manner as it came, the candidates for nautical fame following in the rear; after descending the fore-hatchway they congregated between decks, when all the offerings to Neptune were given to the deputy, (the cook,) consisting of whiskey, tobacco, &c. The barber then stood ready with his box
of lather, and the landsmen were ordered before Neptune, when the following dialogue took place with each, only with the alteration of the man's name, as follows:—
Nept. (to another.) What is your name?
Ant. Gilbert Nicholson.
Nept. Where do you come from?
Nept. Have you
ever been to sea before?
are you going to?
At each of these answers, the brush dipped in the lather (consisting of soap-suds, oil, tar, paint, &c.) was thrust into the respondent's mouth and over his face; then the barber's-mate scraped his face with a razor, made of a piece of iron hoop well notched; his sore face was wiped with a damask towel, (a boat-swab dipped in filthy water) and this ended the ceremony. When it was over they undressed themselves, the fiddle struck up, and they danced and regaled with their grog until they were "full three sheets in the wind."
I remain, sir, &c.
H. W. Dewhurst.
- Hone, William, The Table book: or, Daily recreation and information concerning remarkable men, manners, times, seasons, solemnities, merry-makings, antiquities and novelties, forming a complete history of the year, 1827.
THE "CLERGY" ON MAY DAY.
IT is doubtful whether the heading of this brief article will be
intelligible to my younger readers, but had they lived fifty, or even
thirty years ago.they would have known, without any explanation on my
part, that chimney-sweeps were called the " clergy," from the very obvious
reason that both professions usually appear in black. In those days,
too—fifty years back at any rate—the sweeps were climbing boys, and
possibly attracted more attention and excited more interest than they do
now, as wielders of machines. This brief introduction will prepare every
one to hear that I propose to deal with the sweeps and their
Jacks-in-the-Green. I spoke above of the diminished knowledge possessed by
our young people of sweeps in general ; and unless a very decided revival
takes place, the next generation is certainly not likely to know much
about Jack-in-the-Green, with his attendant lords and ladies, for the May
Day festival is evidently dying out. It is not easy at first to see why
this is so, as whatever pays its followers, commonly finds followers in
plenty; but the Greens are going, as the Punch and Judy shows and the
Ombres Chinoises are going, although the two latter, I am informed,
pay better than ever. With the sweeps, the undeniable advance in the
class of men forming the trade may partly account for the decline, as some
of the younger professors think it too low and coarse a practice for
a master tradesman to encourage. Yet in this age of revivals it would not
astonish me to see some improved form of the festival under
consideration become again popular. I have tried to discover how many
Greens are now sent out in London, but fail to obtain any trustworthy
statistics ; it appears certain, however, that the number diminishes year
by year, and that unless a business is one in which the sending out the
Green has become a tradition, and a custom, it is not done. No new
business, as a rule, docs it. In addition to this, a blow was dealt at the
institution in 1874, by an order being issued to prevent the Greens from
going into the city of London, which had always been looked upon as one of
the very best quarters for them, containing more good " pitches " than any
other district ; and this fact in relation to the City reminds me of a
great difference between the " Jacks " and certain other al - fresco
performers. Whereas the organ-men, the ballad-singers, and the beggars
find their best harvest in the poorest neighbourhoods, the Jacks receive
the more money the better the locality. On a recent May Day, as the Green
of my chief informant was jigging away in front of a large house in a
quiet neighbourhood, the mistress herself came to the door, and calling My
Lady to her, said : " I am very glad to see a Jack-in-thc- Grecn again. I
thought they were all gone. As I am pleased to see you, I will give you
something which shall make you pleased to have seen me." And with that she
gave her a " golden half-suvrin." On my informant concluding his
narrative, he added, with a sigh, something to the same effect as that to
which Mr. Crummies gave utterance when speaking of the actor who blacked
himself all over to perform Othello — "Such feeling warn't common, more's
the pity." The sweeps—for it is hardly worth while to speak of them any
more as the " clergy," and even the familiar slang of " chutnmey" is now
but seldom applied to them—who still send out the Jacks, look forward to
the display almost from one May Day to the next, and, indeed, the
preparations occupy some considerable time. No " respectable house " would
equip its lord or lady in last year's finery refurbished; every bit of
lace, every riband, every silken streamer, should be new, and in this they
are helped by the drapers. Mr. Brush, the old-established chimney-
cleanser, as he is fond of calling himself, or rather Mrs. Brush, for it
falls in her department—and I never knew an unmarried sweep, which fact
forms a curious addition to our social statistics—goes round to her
customers and buys any odds and ends of finery she can, often getting them
as a present ; but she seldom can obtain enough for their purpose in this
way, and so she goes to the draper. In expectation of this visit he has
allowed his faded finery to accumulate, and so the necessary amount of
frippery is collected. As there is a recognised dress for Hamlet, for
Richard the Third, and the like, to which every orthodox actor of the "old
school" feels bound, so the traditions of May Day prescribe a costume for
My Lord, which all sweeps of a proper conservative turn must respect. His
coat should always be blue, or black, and always trimmed with gold; his
trowsers should be white, and also trimmed with gold; and for him to wear
anything but a cocked hat would be an outrage on propriety, on which oven
the most reckless would scarcely venture. It may surprise the reader as
much as it did me to know that the ladles wielded by My Lord and My Lady
are frequently heirlooms—my informant used the very word ; he said, " they
were heirlooms "—and have probably been used by two or three generations.
The Green is usually built by the sweeps themselves, and is composed
of a framework of old hoops, connected by uprights of flexible wood ; the
framework is covered with green baize, and on to this are sewn the
boughs which make the green ; it is a very light affair. Not less
than a dozen persons are required for the full staff of a
Jack-in-the-Green, although this number is not always reached. First of
all, in priority of engagement, is the musician. He must be able to
play the drum—a tolerably easy achievement, in their style of
performance, I should say—and the Pandean pipes, or mouth-organ; a less
easy thing to do. The number of musicians seems to diminish faster than
even the Greens themselves ; the organ-men and the German bands have
been great foes to them, and it is not easy to find a musician now, so
the sweep tries to engage him fully three months before he is wanted. The
musician is technically known as the " whistler," and he is required
to assist in the rehearsals which take place a few days before the
first of May, for, about the time when they buy the laurel boughs to sew
on the Green, the intended performers are called together to learn the
dance. I have not the slightest idea as to what this dance is called, but
all my readers have certainly seen it, and to them, as to myself, it has
no doubt appeared a most monotonous, meaningless jig, which anyone could
execute, yet candidates are rejected every year because they cannot
dance well. I have now and then seen, I must admit, a clown, or " fool "
as he is more generally called—and this helps to show how old these
games are—dance in a style which engendered a suspicion that the boards of
a theatre were not absolutely unknown to him, and now and then, too, one
of the girls will dance in a manner which suggests some training. Next
come My Lord, My Lady, Jack-in- the-Green, the clown, and there should
also be four boys and four girls. I was surprised to find that the
business was not a commonwealth, but that the artiste receive a fixed
salary, nearly always the same—I give the schedule—and in addition the
employer has to provide food. So, in theory, he has to provide liquid
refreshment, but as a matter of fact, the latter is most commonly provided
by friendly public-houses, or the customers thereof, by whom a very kindly
feeling for the poor draggled exhibitors is generally manifested. My Lord
is in charge, and has six shillings per day, My Lady has four shillings,
Jack five, the clown four; the boys and girls, according to age, have from
half-a-crown to three shillings and sixpence. The takings of the third
day, in a good bright May, usually pay the whole of the staff, leaving the
two previous days for the master's profit. I doubt if any one ever gave
such interesting information as I impart when I say that the takings of a
very well-appointed Green on the first of May, a year or two back,
amounted to eight pounds nineteen shillings and eightpence- halfpenny !
Wet, raw, cold days, such as have been the fashion with us so often of
late, are of course terribly against the receipts, but something like the
above amount may be looked for under favourable circumstances. When the
May Day excursions prove so remunerative, it of course goes far to make
the spring a good one, and help the poor sweep over the summer— always a
hard and painful time for him ; but the spring, for another reason, is not
quite so bad. Although the sweeps have more actual work in the winter, as
every housewife knows, yet the spring is the time in which they sell their
soot, and this, as may bo supposed, is a very important item in their
income. The income of a sweep—I mean a master sweep—in only a small way of
business, is not so bad as to be despised, I should say, by many a
struggling shopkeeper or mechanic. I hope I am not wandering too far from
my subject when I say that in the last past winter our sweep was much
behind time in his appointment—one o'clock instead of nine, I think, but
he was a civil attentive man as a rule, and he excused himself by saying
he had already swept twenty-one chimneys that morning, and had several to
sweep after leaving my house. Now, at ninepence a chimney, he had not done
so badly. Let not my returns of the May Day profits stimulate a host of
readers to start Jacks-in-the-Green next year, as they will find, at the
last moment, that this privilege is denied them, unless they are
professional sweeps—a qualification which many might fancy made even the
possession of a Green a dear bargain. This, I am well aware, is opposed to
the popular belief, which credits very few of the May Day exhibitions with
really issuing from a sweep's yard ; but though custom and the law both
recognise the existence of these mummers in the sweep's trade, yet the
exhibition is punishable if attempted by others. It is usual to show, by a
semicircular brass plate, fixed on the front of the Green—such as
some of my readers can remember the climbing boys used to wear in
their caps— who the proprietor is, and My Lord must carry a card
with the address of the owner, which he is bound to show to any policeman
who may demand its production. It is hardly necessary to say thati My Lord
is often the proprietor himself, or still more often,one of his family.
That the owner is always represented either among the performers, or in и
vigilant attendant and watcher of the receipts, is pretty certain. Among
other innovations which jar upon the sensitive mind of the orthodox
-Charles Dickens."THE "CLERGY" ON MAY DAY",April 30, 1S31 In: ALL THE YEAR ROUND,
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There are some curious customs among the London sweepers which
deserve notice. Their Mayday festival is among the best known. The most
intelligent of the masters fell me that they have taken this " from the
milkmen's garland" t of which an engraving has been given). Formerly, say
they, on the first of May the milkmen of London went through the street,
performing a sort of dance, for which they received gratuities from their
customers. The music to which they danced was simply brass plates mounted
on pole«, from the circumference of Which plates depended numerous bells
of different tones, according to size ; these pole» were adorned with
leaves and flowers, indicative of the season, and may hart- been a relic
of one of the ancient pageants or mummeries. The sweepers, however, by
adapting themselves more to the rude taste of the people, appear to have
completely supplanted the milkmen, who arf now never seen in pageantry. In
Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes of the People of England," I find the
following with reference to the milk-people:— " It is at this time," that
is in May, says the author of one of the papers in the Spectator, " we see
brisk young wenches in the country parish» dancing round the Maypole. It i»
likewise ca the first day of this month that we see the ruddy milkmaid
exerting herself in a most sprightly manner under a pyramid of silver
tankards, and. like the Virgin Tarpeia, oppressed by the costly ornaments
which her benefactors lay upon her. These decorations of silver cups,
tankards, and salvers, were borrowed for the purpose, and hung round the
milk-pails, with the addition of flower! and ribands, which the maidens
carried upon their heads when they went to the houses of their customers,
and danced in order to obtain a ssmall gratuity from each of them. In a
set of prints, called ' Tempest'» Cries of London/ there is on called the
' Merry Milkmaid,' whose proper name was Kate Smith. She is dancing with
the milk- pail, decorated as above mentioned, upon her head. Of late years
the plate, with the other decorations, were placed in a pyramidical form
and carried by two chairmen upon a wooden horse. The maidens walked before
it, and рerformed the dance without any incumbrance. I really cannot
discover what analogy the silver tankards and salvers can have to the
business the milkmaids. I have seen them act with much more propriety upon
this occasion, when, in place of these superfluous ornaments, they
substituted a cow. The animal had her horns gilt, and win nearly covered
with ribands of various colours formed into bows and roses, and
interspersed with green oaken leaves and bunches of flowers." With
reference to the May-day festival of the sweepers the same author says : —
" The chimneysweepers of London have also singled out the first of May for
their festival, at which time they parade the streets in companies,
disguised in various manner. Their dresses are usually decorated
with gilt paper and other mock finer! they hare their »hovels and
brushes in their hands, which they rattle one upon the other ; and to this
rough music they jump about in imitation of dancing. Some of the larger
companies have a fiddler with them, and a Jack in the Green, as well as a
Lord and Lady of the May, who follow the minstrel with great stateliness,
and dance as occasion require*. The Jack in the Green is a piece of
pageantry consisting of n hollow frame of wood or wicker-work, made
in the form of a sugar-loaf, but open at the bottom, and sufficiently
large and high to receive a man. The frame is covered with green leaves
and bunches of flowers, interwoven with each other, so that the man within
may be completely concealed, who dances with his companions; and the
populace are mightily pleased with the oddity of the moving
My lady, who acts as Columbine,
Jack in the green, who is often an individual acquaintance, and
And the boys, who have no term applied to them, receive
The share accruing to the boys is often spent in purchasing some article of clothing for them, but the money got by the other individual» is mostly spent in drink. The sweepers, however, not only go out on May-day, but likewise on the 5th of November. On the last Guy-Fawkes day, I am informed, some of them received not only pence from the public, but silver and gold. "It was quite a harvest," they say. One of this class, who got up a gigantic Guv Fawkes and figure of the Pope on the 5th of November, 1850, cleared, I am informed, 10l. over and above all expenses. For many years, also, the sweepers were in the habit of partaking of a public dinner on the 1st of May, provided for every climbing-boy who thought proper to attend, at the expense of the Hon. Mrs. Alontigu. The romantic origin of this custom, from all I could learn on the subject, is this : — The lady referred to, at the time a widow, lost her son, then a boy of tender years. Inquiries were set on foot, and all London heard of the mysterious disappearance of the child, but no clue could be found to trace him out. It was supposed that he was kidnapped, and the search at length was given up in despair. À long time afterwards a sweeper was employed to cleanse the chimneys of Mrs. Montagu's house, by Portman- square, and for this purpose, as was usual at the time, sent a climbing-boy up the chimney, who from that moment was lost to him. The child did not return the way he went up, but it is supposed that in his descent he got into a wrong flue, and found himself, on getting out of the chimney, in one of the bedrooms. Wearied with his labour, it is said that he mechanically crept between the sheets, all black and sooty as he was. In this state he was found fast asleep by the housekeeper. The delicacy of his features and the soft tones of his voice interested the woman. She acquainted the family with the strange circumstance, and, when introduced to them with a clean face, his voice and appearance reminded them of their lust child. It may have been that the hardships he endured at so early an age had impaired his memory, fur he could give no account of himself; but it was evident, from his manners and from the ease which he exhibited, that he was no stranger to such places, and at length, it is said, the Hon. Mrs. Montagu recognized in him her long-lost son. The identity, it was understood, was proved beyond doubt. He was restored to his rank in society, and in order the bettor to commemorate this singular restoration, and the fact of his having been a climbing-boy, his mother annually provided an entertainment on the 1st of May, at White Conduit House, for all the climbing-boys of London who thought proper to partake of it. This annual feast was kept up daring the lifetime of the lady, and, as might be expected, was/ numerously attended, for sine« there were no question asked and no document required to prove any of the guests to be climbing-boys, very many of the precocious urchins of the metropolis used to blacken their faces fur this special occasion. This annual feast continue.!, as I have said, as long as tb« lady lived. Her son continued it only for three or four years afterwards, and then, I am told, left the country, and paid no further attention to the matter.
-London labour and the London Poor, Henry Mayhew, John D. Rosenberg,1861, p.370.
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THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY. MAY. Also, in calendars, the month of May Is marked the month of Love two lovers stray, In the old wood-cuts, in a forest green, Looking their love into each other's eyes And' dreaming happiness that never dies ; And there they talk unheard, and walk unseen, Save by the birds, who chant a louder lay To welcome such true lovers with the May. * The month of May was deemed by the they made several expiations, they pro- Romans to be under the protection of hibited marrying in May. On the first Apollo j and it being the month wherein day of May the Roman ladies sacrificed to 569 THE E VERY-DAY. BOOR. MAY 1. 570 BonaDea, the Good Goddess, or the Earth, ' The world is too much with us ; late antf represented in the Frontispiece to the first volume of the Every-Day Book, with the zodiacal signs of the celestial system, which influences our sphere to produce its fruits in due order. It is in May that " Spring is with us once more pacing the earth in all the primal pomp of her beauty, with flowers and soft airs and the song of birds every where about her, and the blue sky and the bright clouds above. 'But there is one thing wanting, to give that happy com- pleteness to her advent, which belonged to it in the elder times ; and without which it is like a beautiful melody with- out words, or a beautiful flower without scent, or a beautiful face without a soul. The voice of man is no longer heard, hail- ing her approach as she hastens to bless him ; and his choral symphonies no longer meet and bless her in return bless her by letting her behold and hear the happi- ness that she comes to create. The soft songs of women are no longer blended with her breath as it whispers among the new leaves ; their slender feet no longer trace her footsteps in the fields and woods and wayside copses, or dance delighted measures round the flowery offerings that she prompted their lovers to place before them on the village green. Even the lit- tle children themselves, that have an in- stinct for the spring, and feel it to the very tips of their fingers, are permitted to iet May come upon them, without know- ing from whence the impulse of happiness that they feel proceeds, or whither it tends. In short, ' All the earth is gay ; Land and sea Give themselves up to jollity, And with the heart of May " Doth every beast keep holiday :' while man, man alone, lets the season come without glorying in it ; and when it goes he lets it go without regret ; as if ' all seasons and their change J were alike to him ; or rather, as if he were the \ord of all seasons, and they were to do Homage and honour to him, instead of he to them ! How is this ? Is it that we have ' sold our birthright for a mess of pottage ?' that we have bartered ' our being's end and aim' for a .purse of gold ? Alas ! thus it -is : Getting and spending, we lay waste oui powers : Little we see in nature that is ours ; We have given our hearts away a sordid boon ! But be this as it may, we are still able "to feel what nature is, though we have in a great measure ceased to know it; though we have chosen to neglect her ordinances, and absent ourselves from her presence,we still retain some instinctive reminiscences of her beauty and her power ; and every now and then the sordid walls of those mud hovels which we have built for ourselves, and choose to dwell in, fall down before the magic touch of our involuntary fan- cies, and give us glimpses into " that im- perial palace whence we came," and make us-yearn to return thither, though it be but in thought. ' Then sing ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song ! And let the young lambs bound As to the tabor's sound ! We in thought will join your throng, Ye that pipe and ye that play, Tfe that through your hearts to-day Feel the gladness of the MAY!'"* jWap l< St. Philip and St. MAYDAY. As we had some agreeable intimacies to-day last year, we will seek our country friends in other rural parts, this " May morning," and see " how they rfo." To illustrate the custom of going "a Maying," described in volume i., a song still used on that occasion is subjoined : THE MAYER'S CALL. Come, lads, with your bills, To the wood we'll away, We'll gather the boughs, And we'll celebrate May. We'll bring our load home, As we've oft done before, And leave a green bough, At each good master's ~) door, good neighbour's pretty maid's * Mirror of the Months, t See yol. i. p. 541. 571 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 572 To-morrow, when work's done, I hold it no wrong, If we go round in ribands, And sing them a song. Come, lads, bring your hills, To the wood we'll away We'll gather the boughs, And we'll celebrate May. There is a rural ditty chanted in vil- lages and country towns, preparatory to gathering the May : THE MAY EVE SONG. If we should wake you from your sleep, Good people listen now, Our yearly festival we keep, And bring a Maythorn bough. An emblem of the world it grows, The flowers its pleasures are, But many a thorn bespeaks its woes, Its sorrow and its care. Oh ! sleep you then, and take your rest, And, when the day shall dawn, May you awake in all things blest A May without a thorn. And when, to-morrow we shall come Oh ! treat us not with scorn ; From out your bounty give us some Be May without a thorn. May He, who makes the May to blow, On earth his riches sheds, Protect thee against every woe, Shower blessings on thy heads. After "bringing home the May," .here is another lay : THE MAYEK'S SONG. On the Mayers deign to smile, Master, mistress, hear our song, Listen but a little while, We will not detain you long. Life with us is in its spring, We enjoy a blooming May, Summer will its labour bring, Wintsr has its pinching day. Yet the blessing we would use Wisely it is reason's part. Those who youth and health abuse, Fail not in the end to smart. Mirth we love the proverb says, Be ye merry but be wise, We will walk in wisdom's ways., There alone true pleasure lies. May, that now is in its bloom, All so fragrant and so fair, When autumn and when winter come, Shall its useful berries bear. We would taste your home-brew'd beer, Give not, if we've had enough, May it strengthen, may it cheer, Waste not e'er the precious stuif. We of money something crave, For ourselves we ask no share, John and Jane the whole shall have, They're the last new married pair. May it comfort to them prove, And a blessing bring to you ; Blessings of connubial love, Light on all like morning dew. So shall May, with blessings crown'd, Welcom'd be by old and young, Often as the year comes round, Shall the May-day song be sung. Fare ye well, good people all, Sweet to night may be your rest, Every biessing you befall, Blessing others you are blest. As the day advances, a ballad suitable to the "village sports" is sung by him who has the honour to crown his lass as the " May-day queen." f HR WREATH OF MAY. This slender rod of leaves and flowers, So fragrant and so gay, Produce of spring's serener hours, Peculiarly is May. This slender rod, the hawthorn bears, And when its bloom is o'er, Its ruby berries then it wears, The songster's winter store. Then, though it charm the sight and smell, In spring's delicious hours, The feather'd choir its praise shall tell, 'Gainst winter round us lowers. O then, my love, from me receive, This beauteous hawthorn spray, A garland for thy head I'll weave, Be thou my queen of May. Love and fragrant as these flowers, Live pure as thou wert born, And ne'er may sin's destructive powers, Assail thee with its thorn. 573 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 574 One more ditty, a favourite in many parts of England, is homely, but there is a prettiness in its description that may reconcile it to the admirers of a "country life:" THE MAY DAY HERD. Now at length 'tis May-day morn, And the herdsman Mows his horn ; Green with grass the common now, Herbage bears for many a cow. Too long in the straw yard fed, Have the cattle hung their head, And the milk did well nigh fail, The milk-maid in her ashen pail. Well the men have done their job, Every horn has got its knob ; Nor shall they each other gore, Not a bag, or hide, be tore. Yet they first a fight maintain, Till one cow the mastery gain ; They, like man, for mastery strive, They by others' weakness thrive. Drive them gently o'er the lawn, Keep them from the growing corn ; When the common they shall gain, Let them spread wide o'er the plain. Show them to the reedy pool, There at noon their sides they'll cool, And with a wide whisking tail, Thrash the dies as with a flail. Bring them gently home at eve, That their bags they may relieve, And themselves of care divest, Chew the cud and take their rest. Now the dairy maid will please, To churn her butter, set her cheese ; We shall have the clotted cream, The tea-table's delightful theme. Raise the song, then, let us now, Sing the healthful, useful cow, England well the blessing knows, A laud with milk that richly flows. May-day is a Spring day. Spring " the innocent spring," is the firstling of revolving nature ; and in the first volume, is symbolized by an infant. In that engraving there is a sort of appeal to parental feeling; yet an address more touching to the heart is in the following little poem : A Mother to her First-born. Tis sweet to watch thee in thy sleep, When thou, my boy, art dreaming ; 'Tis sweet, o'er thee a watch to keep, To mark the smile that seems to creep O'er thee like daylight gleaming. Tis sweet to mark thy tranquil breast, Heave like a small wave flowing ; To see thee take thy gentle rest, With nothing save fatigue opprest, And health on thy cheek glowing. To see thee now, or when awake, Sad thoughts, alas ! steal o'er me For thou, in time, a part must take, That may thy fortunes mar or make, In the wide world before thee. But I, my chiki, have hopes of thee, And may they ne'er be blighted ! That I, years hence, may live to see Thy name as dear to all as me, Thy virtues well requited. I'll watch thy dawn of joys, and mould Thy little mind to duty I'll teach thee words, as I behold Thy faculties like flowers unfold, In intellectual beauty. And then, perhaps, when I am dead, And friends around me weeping Thoul't see me to my grave, and shed A tear upon my narrow bed, Where I shall then be sleeping ! BARTON WILFORO. The Maypole nearest to the metropo- lis, that stood the longest within the recollection of the editor, was near Ken- nington-green, at the back of the houses, at the south corner of the Workhouse- lane, leading from the Vauxhall-road to Elizabeth-place. The site was then nearly vacant, and the Maypole was in the field on the south side of the Woik- house-lane, and nearly opposite to the Black Prince public-house. It remained till about the year 1 795, and was much frequented, particularly by milk maids. A delightfully pretty print of a merry- making " round about the Maypole" sup- plies an engraving on the next page illus- trative of the prevailing tendency of this work, and the simplicity of rural man- ners. It is not so sportive as the dancings about the Maypoles near London for- merly ; there is nothing of the boister ous rudeness which must be well remem bered by many old Londoners on May- day. 67,5 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 576 Cmmtrp jMagpoIe. It is a pleasant sight, to see A little village company Drawn out upon the first of May To have their annual holiday : The pole hung round with garlands gay ; The young ones footing it away; The aged cheering their old souls "With recollections and their bowls ; Or, on the mirth and dancing failing, Their oft-times-told old tales re-taleing. The innocent and the unaspiring may always be happy. Their pleasures like their knitting needles, and hedging gloves, are easily purchased, and when bestowed are estimated as distinctions. The late Dr.Parr,the fascinating converser, the skilful controverter, the first Greek scholar, and one of the greatest and most nfluential men of the age, was a patron of May-day sports. Opposite his par- sonage-house at Hatton, near Warwick, on the other side of the road, stood tta parish Maypole, which on the annual festival was dressed with garlands, sur- rounded by a numerous band c< villagers. The doctor was " first of tht throng," and danced with his parishioners the gayest of the gay. He kept the large crown of the Maypole in a closet of his house, from whence it was produced every May-day, with fresh flowers and streamers preparatory to its elevation, and to the doctor's own appearance in the ring. He always spoke of this festivity as one wherein he joined with peculiar delight to ikiniseif. and advantage 577 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY l. 578 to his neighbours. He was deemed ec- centric, and so he was ; for he was never proud to the humble, nor humble to the proud. His eloquence and wit elevated humility, and crushed insolence ; he was the champion of the oppressed, a foe to the oppressor, a friend to the friendless, and a brother to him who was ready to perish. Though a prebend of the church with university honours, he could afford to make his parishoners happy without derogating from his ecclesiastical dig- nities, or abatement of self-respect, or lowering himself in the eyes of any who were not inferior in judgment, to the most inferior of the villagers of Hatton. Formerly a pleasant character dressed out with ribands and flowers, figured in village May-games under the name of JACK-O'-THE-GREEN. The Jack-o'-the-Greens would some- times come into the suburbs of London, and amuse the residents by rustic danc- ing. The last of them, that I remember, were at the Paddington May-dance, near the "Yorkshire Stingo," about twenty years ago, from whence, as I heard, they diverged to Bayswater, Kentish-town, and adjoining neighbourhoods. A Jack-o'- the-Green always carried a long walking stick with floral wreaths ; he whisked it about in the dance, and afterwards walked with it in high estate like a lord mayor's footman. On this first of the month we cannot pass the poets without listening to their carols, as we do, in our walks, to the sones of the spring birds in their thickets. VOL II. 71. To MAY. Welcome ! dawn of summer's day, Youthful, verdant, balmy May ! Sunny fields and shady bowers, Spangled meads and blooming flowers, Crystal fountains limpid streams, Where the sun of nature beams, As the sigh of morn reposes, Sweetly on its bed of roses ! Welcome ! scenes of fond delight, Welcome ! eyes with rapture bright Maidens' sighs and lovers' vows Fluttering hearts and open brows ! And welcome all that's bright and gay, To hail the balmy dawn of May ! J. L. Stevens. The most ancient of our bards makes noble melody in this glorious month. Mr. Leigh Hunt selects a delightful pas- sage from Chaucer, and compares it with Dryden's paraphrase : It is sparkling with young manhood and a gentle freshness. What a burst of radiant joy is in the second couplet ; what a vital quickness in the comparison of the horse, " starting as the fire ;" and what a native and happy case in the conclusion ! The busy lark, the messenger of day, Saleweth* in her song the morrow gray ; And fiery Phoebus riseth up so bright, That all the orient laugheth of the sight ; And with his stremes drieth in the grevesf The silver droppfcs hanging in the leaves ; And Arcite, that is in the court realj With Theseus the squier principal, Is risen, and looketh on the merry day ; And for to do his observance to May, Remembring on the point of his desire, He on the courser, starting as the fire; Is risen to the fieldes him to play, Out of the court, were it a mile or tway . And to the grove, of which that I you told, By aventure his way he gan to hold, To inaken him a garland of the greves, Were it of woodbind or of hawthorn leaves, And loud he sung against the sunny sheen : " O May, with all thy flowers and thy green, Right welcome be thou, faire freslie May : I hope that I some green here getten may." And from his courser, with a lusty heart, Into the grove full hastily he start, And in a path he roamed up and down. Dryden falls short in the freshness and feeling of the sentiment. His lines are beautiful ; but they do not come home to us with so happy and cordial a face. * Saluteth. t Groves. Royal. 579 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 58* Here they are. The word morning in second, we are bound to consider as a the first line, as it is repeated in the slip of the pen ; perhaps for mounting. The morning-lark, the messenger of day, Saluteth in her song the morning gray ; And soon the sun arose with beams so bright, That all the horizon laughed to see the joyous sight He with his tepid rays the rose renews, And licks the drooping leaves, and dries the dews ; When Arcite left his bed, resolv'd to pay Observance to the month of merry May : Forth on his fiery steed betimes he rode, That scarcely prints the turf on which he trod : At ease he seemed, and prancing o'er the plains, Turned only to the grove his horses' reins, The grove I named before ; and, lighted there, A woodbine garland sought to crown his hair Then turned his face against the rising day, And raised his voice to welcome in the May " For thee, sweet month, the groves green liveries wear, If not the first, the fairest of the year : For thee the Graces lead the dancing hours, And Nature's ready pencil paints the flowers : When thy short reign is past, the feverish sun The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on. So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight, Nor goats with venom' d teeth thy tendrils bite, As thou shalt guide my wandering steps to find The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind." His vows address'd, within the grove he stray' d. " How poor," says Mr. Hunt, " is this at St. James's, and one of Chaucer's to Arcite's leaping from his courser l with lounges on the grass, of a May morning, a lusty heart.' How inferior the common- All this worship of May is over now. place of the ' fiery steed,' which need not There is no issuing forth in glad compa- involve any actual notion in the writer's nies to gather boughs ; no adorning of mind, to the courser l starting as the houses with ' the flowery spoil ;' no fire ;' how inferior the turning his face songs, no dances, no village sports and to ' the rising day,' and ' raising his coronations, no courtly-poetries, no sense voice/ to the singing ' loud against the and acknowledgment of the quiet pre- sunny sheen ;' and lastly, the whole sence of nature, in grove or glade. learned invocation and adjuration of May, about guiding his l wandering steps' and O dolce primavera, o fior novelli, ' so may thy tender blossoms' &c. to the aure arboscelli, o fresche erbette, call upon the fair fresh May, ending with P ia ^ e henedette, o colli o monti, that simple, quick-hearted line, in which y alli finm ! f ntl ? Verde " ^ he hopes he shall get some green here ;' ^ ed ohve edere e mirU ; atouc P h in the happiest taste the Italian g^^Mo^ linfe, vivacity. Dryden's genius, for the most o faretrate n infe o agresti Pani, part, wanted faith in nature. It was too Q Satiri e Silvani, o Fauni e Driadi, gross and sophisticate. There was as Naiadi ed Amadriadi, o Semidee, much difference between him and his Oreadi e Napee, or siete sole. original, as between a hot noon in perukes Sannazze.t<. O thou delicious spring, O ye new flowers, O airs, O youngling bowers ; fresh thickening grass, And plains beneath heaven's face ; O hills and mountains, Vallies, and streams, and fountains ; banks of green, Myrtles, and palms serene, ivies, and bays ; And ye who warmed old lays, spirits o' the woods, Echoes, and solitu<J*s, and lakes of light ; A81 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. >82 O quivered virgins bright, Pans rustical, Satyrs and Sylvans all, Dryads, and ye That up the mountains be ; and ye beneath In meadow or flowery heath, ye are alone. " This time two hundred years ago, our ancestors were all anticipating their May holidays. Bigotry came in, and frowned them away ; then debauchery, and identified all pleasure with the town ; then avarice, and we have ever since been mistaking the means for the end. Fortunately, it does not follow, that we shall continue to do so. Commerce, while it thinks it is only exchanging com- modities, is helping to diffuse knowledge. All other gains, all selfish and extrava- gant systems of acquisition, tend to over-do themselves, and to topple down by their own undiffused magnitude. The world, as it learns other things, may learn not to confound the means with the end, or at least, (to speak more philosophically,) a really poor means with a really richer. The veriest cricket-player on a green has as sufficient a quantity of excitement, as a fundholder or a partizan ; and health, and spirits, and manliness to boot. Knowledge may go on ; must do so, from necessity ; and should do so, for the ends we speak of: but knowledge, so far from being incompatible with simplicity of pleasures, is the quickest to perceive its wealth. Chaucer would lie for hours looking at the daisies. Scipio and Laelius could amuse themselves with making ducks and drakes on the water. Epami- nondas, the greatest of all the active spi- rits of Greece, was a flute-player and dancer. Alfred the Great could act the whole part of a minstrel. Epicurus taught the riches of temperance and in- tellectual pleasure in a garden. The other philosophers of his country walked between heaven and earth in the collo- quial bowers of Academus ; and ' the wisest heart of Solomon,' who found every thing vain because he was a king, has left us panegyrics on the spring and ' the voice of the turtle/ because he was a poet, a lover, and a wise man."* Aubrey remarks, that he never remem- bers to have seen a Maypole in France ; but he says, " in Holland, they have their May-booms, which are streight young trees, set up ; and at Woodstock, in Oxon, they every May-eve goe into the parke, * The Indicator. and fetch away a number of hawthorne- trees, which they set before their dores : 'tis pity that they make such a destruc- tion of so fine a tree." As the old antiquary takes us to Wood* stock, and a novel by the " Great Un- known," bears that title, we will " inn" there awhile, agreeably to an invitation of u correspondent who signs nj/w^iAraroy, and who promises entertainment to the readers of the Every- Day Book, from an account of some out-of-the-way doings at that place, when there were out-of-the- way doings every where. Our friend with the Greek name is critical ; for as regards the " new novel," he says, that " Woodstock would have been much better if the author had placed the inci- dents before the battle of Worcester, and supposed that Charles had been drawn over to England to engage in some plot of Dr. Rochecliffes, which had proved un- successful. This might have spared him one great anachronism, (placing the pranks of the merry devil of Woodstock in 1651, instead of 1649,) at the same time that it would throw a greater air of probability over the story ; for the reader who is at all acquainted with English history, continually feels his pleasure de- stroyed by the recollection that in Charles's escapes after the battle of Worcester, he never once visited Woodstock. Nor does the merry devil of Woodstock excite half the interest, or give us half the amuse- ment he would have done, if the author had lately read the narrative I am now about to copy. He seems to have perused it at some distance of time, and then to have written the novel with imperfect re- collection of the circumstances. But let me begin my story ; to wit, an article in the 4 British Magazine' for April, 1747, which will I suppose excite some curiosity, and is in the following words : " THE GENUINE HISTORY of the " GOOD DEVIL OF WOODSTOCK, " Famous in the world in the year 1649 and never accounted for, or at all under- stood to this time" The teller of this " Genuine History" proceeds as hereafter verbatim. 583 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 584 Some original papers having lately fallen into my hands under the name of " Authentic Memoirs of the Memorable Joseph Collins of Oxford, commonly known by the name of Funny Joe, and now intended for the press," I was ex- tremely delighted to find in them a cir- cumstantial and unquestionable account of the most famous of all invisible agents, so well known in the year 1649, under the name of the good devil of Woodstock, and even adored by the people of that place for the vexation and distress it oc- casioned some people they were not much pleased with. As this famous story, though related by a thousand people, and attested in all its circumstances be- yond all possibility of doubt by people of rank, learning, and reputation, of Oxford and the adjacent towns, has never yet been accounted for or at all understood, and is perfectly explained in a manner that can admit of no doubt in these papers, I could not refuse my readers their share of the pleasure it gave me in reading As the facts themselves were at that time so well known that it would have been tedious to enumerate them, they are not mentioned in these papers ; but that our readers may have a perfect account of the whole transaction, as well as the secret history of it, I shall prefix a written ac- count of it, drawn up and signed by the commissioners themselves, who were the people concerned, and which I believe never was published, though it agrees very well with the accounts Dr. Plot and other authors of credit give of the whole affair. This I found affixed to the author's memo- rial, with this title : " A particular account of the strange and surprising apparitions and works of spirits, which happened at Woodstock, in Oxfordshire, in the months of October and November, in the year of our Lord Christ 1649, when the honourable the commissioners for surveying the said manor-house, park, woods, and other demesnes belonging to that manor, sat and remained there. Collected and attested by themselves.. " The honourable the commissioners arrived at Woodstock manor-house, Oc- tober 1 3th, and took up their residence in the king's own rooms. His majesty's bed- chamber they made their kitchen, the council hall their pantry, and the presence chamber was the place where they sat for despatch of business. His majesty's dining- room they made their wood yard, and stowed it with no other wood but that of the famous royal oak* from the high park, which, that nothing might be left with the name of the king about it, they had dug up by the roots, and bundled up into faggots for their firing. " October 16. This day they first sat for the despatch of business. In the midst of their first debate there entered a large black dog (as they thought) which made a terrible howling, overturned two or three of their chairs, and doing some other damage, went under the. bed, and there gnawed the cords. The door this while continued constantly shut, when after some two or three hours, Giles Sharp, their secretary, looking under the bed, perceived that the creature was vanished, and that a plate of meat which one of the servants had hid there was untouched, and showing them to their honours, they were all convinced there could be no real dog concerned in the case; the said Giles also deposed on oath that to his certain knowledge there was not. " October 17. As they were this day sitting at dinner in a lower room, they heard plainly the noise of persons walk- ing over their heads, though they well knew the doors were all locked, and there could be none there ; presently after they heard also all the wood of the king's oak brought by parcels from the dining-room, and thrown with great violence into the presence chamber, as also the chairs, stools, tables, and other furniture, forcibly hurled about the room, their own papers of the minutes of their transactions torn, and the ink-glass broken. When all this had some time ceased, the said Giles proposed to enter first into these rooms, and in presence of the commissioners of whom he received the key, he opened the door, and entering with their honours following him, he there found the wood strewed about the room, the chairs tossed about and broken, the papers torn, and the ink-glass broken over them, all as they had heard, yet no footsteps appear- ed of any person whatever being there, nor had the doors ever been opened to admit or let out any persons since their honours were last there. It was therefore * This is not king Charles the Second's cele- brated " Royal Oak," but the " King's Oak" so often mentioned in the novel. Tft make it stand ing in ]651 is another anachronism by the by. Civ <a<pl\TaTos. 5H5 THE EVERY- DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 586 voted nem. con. that the person who did this mischief could have entered no other way than at the keyhole of the said doors. " In the night following this same day, the said Giles and two other of the com- missioners' servants, a^ they were in bed at the same room with their honours, had their bed's feet lifted up so much higher than their heads, that they expected to have their necks broken, and then they were let fall at once with such violence as shook them up from the bed to a good distance ; and this was repeated many times, their honours being amazed spec- tators of it. In the morning the bed- steads were found cracked and broken, and the said Giles, and his fellows, declared they were sore to the bones with the toss- ing and jolting of the beds. " October 19. As they were all in bed together, the candles were blown out with a sulphurous smell, and instantly many trenchers of wood were hurled about the room, and one of them putting his head above the clothes, had not less than six forcibly thrown at him, which wounded him very grievously. In the morning the trenchers were all found lying about the room, and were observed to be the same they had eaten on the day before, none being found remaining in the pantry. " October 20. This night the candles were put out as before, the curtains of the bed in which their honours lay, were drawn to and fro many times with great violence ; their honours received many cruel blows, and were much bruised be- side with eight great pewter dishes, and three dozen wooden trenchers which were thrown on the bed, and afterwards heard rolling about the room. " Many times also this night they heard the forcible falling of many faggots by their bed side, but in the morning no faggots were found there, no dishes or trenchers were there seen neither, and the aforesaid Giles attests that by their dif- ferent arranging in the pantry, they had assuredly been taken thence and after put there again. " October 21. The keeper of their or- dinary and his bitch lay with them; this night they had no disturbance. " October 22. Candles put out as be- fore. They had the said bitch with them again, but were not by that protected ; the bitch set up a very piteous cry, the clothes of their beds were all pulled off, and the bricks, without any wind, were thrown off the chimney tops into the midst. " October 24. The candles put out as before. They thought all the wood of the king's oak was violently thrown down by their bedsides ; they counted sixty-four fag, gots that fell with great violence, and some hit and shook the bed, but in the morning none were found there, nor the door of the room opened in which the said faggots were. " October 25. The candles put out as before. The curtains of the bed in the drawing-room were forcibly drawn many times ; the wood thrown out as before ; a terrible crack like thunder was heard, and one of the servants running to see if his masters were not killed, found at his return three dozen of trenchers laid smoothly upon his bed under the quilt. " October 26. The beds were shaken as before, the windows seemed all broken to pieces, and the glass fell in vast quan- tities all about the room. In the morn- ing they found the windows all whole, but the floor strewed with broken glass, which they gathered and laid by. " October 29.* At midnight, candles went out as before ; something walked majestically through the room and opened and shut the window ; great stones were thrown violently into the room, some whereof fell on the beds, others on the floor ; and at about a quarter after one a noise was heard as of forty cannon dis- charged together, and again repeated at about eight minutes distance. This alarmed and raised all the neighbourhood, who coming into their honours' room gathered up the great stones, fourscore in number, many of them like common peb- bles and boulters, and laid them by where they are to be seen to this day at a corner of the adjoining field. This noise, like the discharge of cannon, was heard through- out the country for sixteen miles round. During these noises, which were heard in both rooms together, both the commis- sioners and their servants gave one ano- ther over for lost and cried out for help, and Giles Sharp snatching up a sword had well nigh killed one of their honours, taking him for the spirit as he came in his shirt into the room. While they were to- gether the noise was continued, and part of the tiling of the house and all the win- dows of an upper room were taken away with it. * Sic in orig. Why the other two days are passed over so silently I know not. 687 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1 588 " October 30. At midnight, something walked into the chamber treading like a bear : it walked many times about, then threw the warming-pan violently on the floor, and so bruised it that it was spoiled. Vast quantities of glass were now thrown about the room, and vast numbers of great stones and horses' bones thrown in ; these were all found in the morning, and the floor, beds, and walls, were all much damaged by the violence they were thrown in. " November 1. Candles were placed in all parts of the room, and a great fire made ; at midnight, the candles all yet burning, a noise like the burst of a cannon was heard in the room, and the burning billets were tossed all over the room and about the beds, that had not their honours called in Giles and his fellows, the house had been assuredly burnt ; an hour after the candles went out as usual, the crack of many cannon was heard, and many pails full of green stinking water were thrown on their honours in bed ; great stones were also thrown in as before, the bed curtains and bedsteads torn and bro- ken : the windows were now all really broken, and the whole neighbourhood alarmed with the noises ; nay,' the very rabbit-stealers that were abroad that night in the warren, were so frightened at the dismal thundering, that they fled for fear, and left their ferrets behind them. " One of their honours this night spoke, and in the name of God asked what it was and why it disturbed them so. No an- swer was given to this, but the noise ceased for a while, when the spirit came again, and as they all agreed brought with it seven devils worse than itself. One of the servants now lighted a large candle, and set it in the doorway between the two chambers, to see what passed, and as he watched it he plainly saw a hoof strik- ing the candle and candlestick into the middle of the room, and afterwards mak- ing three scrapes over the snuff of the candle to scrape it out. Upon this, the same person was so bold as to draw a sword ; but he had scarce got it out when he perceived another invisible hand had hold of it too, and pulled with him for it, and at length prevailing, struck him so violently on the head with the pummel, that he fell down for dead with the blow. At this instant was heard another burst like the discharge of a broadside of a ship of war, and at about a minute or two's distance each, no less than nineteen more such ; these shook the house so violently that they expected every moment it would fall upon their heads. The neighbours on this were all alarmed, and running to the house, they all joined in prayers and psalm-singing, during which the noise still continued in the other rooms, and the discharge of cannon without though no one was there." Dr. Plot concludes his relation of this memorable event with observing, that though tricks have been often played in affairs of this kind, many of these things are not reconcileable to juggling ; such as 1 . The loud noises beyond the power of man to make without such instruments as were not there. 2. The tearing and breaking the beds. 3. The throwing about the fire. 4. The hoof treading out the candle ; and, 5. The striving for the sword, and the blow the man received from the pummel of it. To see, however, how great men are sometimes deceived, we may recur to this one tract, where among other things there is one entitled " The secret history of the good devil of Woodstock?' in which we rind it under the author's own hand, that he, Joseph Collins, commonly called funny Joe, was himself this very devil ; that he hired himself as a servant to the commis- sioners under the feigned name of Giles Sharp, and by the help of two friends, an unknown trap-door in the ceiling of the bedchamber, and a pound of common gunpowder, played all these amazing tricks by himself, and his fellow servants, whom he had introduced on purpose to assist him, had lifted up their own beds. The candles were contrived by a com- mon trick of gunpowder put in them, to put themselves out by a certain time. The dog who began the farce was, as he swore, no dog, but truly a bitch who had the day before whelped in that room and made all this disturbance in seeking for her puppies ; and which when she had served his purpose, he let out and then looked for. The story of the hoof and sword himself alone was witness to, and was never suspected as to the truth of them though mere fictions. By the trap- door his friends let down stones, faggots, glass,water, &c.which they either left there or drew up again as best suited with him ; and by this way let themselves in and out without opening the doors and going through the key-holes ; and all the noises he declares he made by placing quanti- ties of white gunpowder over pieces o 589 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 590 burning charcoal on plates of tin, which as they melted went off with that violent explosion. One thing there was beyond all these he tells us, which was also what drove them from the house in reality, though they never owned it. This was they had formed a reserve of part of the premises to themselves, and hid their mutual agree- ment, which they had drawn up in writ- ing, under the earth in a pot in a corner of the room in which they usually dined, in which an orange tree grew : when in Jhe midst of their dinner one day this earth of itself took fire and burned vio- lently with a blue flame, filling the room with a strong sulphurous stench ; and this he also professes was his own doing, by a secret mixture he had placed there the day before. I am very happy in having an oppor- tunity of setting history right about these .-ernarkable events ; and would not have the reader disbelieve my author's account of them, from his naming either .white gunpowder going off when melted, or his making the earth about the pot take fire of its own accord ; since, however impro- ba ole these accounts may appear to some readers, and whatever secrets they might be in Joe's time, they are well known now in chemistry. As to the last, there needs only to mix an equal quantity of iron fil- ings, finely powered, and powder of pure brimstone, and make them into a paste with fair water. This paste, when it has lain together about twenty-six hours, will of itself take fire, and burn all the sulphur away, with a blue flame and great stink. For the others, what he calls white gun- powder, is plainly the thundering powder called pulvis fulminans by our chemists. It is made only of three parts of saltpetre, two parts of pearl-ashes, or salt of tartar, and one part of flower of brimstone, mixed together and beat to a fine powder; a small quantity of this held on the point of a knife over a candle will not go off till it melts, and then give a report like a pistol ; and this he might easily dispose of in larger quantities, so as to make it go off of itself, while he was with his masters. From this diversion at Woodstock, wherein if we have exceeded be it remem- bered that Aubrey carried us thither, we return to the diversions of the month. Ye shepherdesses, in a goodly round, Purpled with health, as in the greenwood shade, Incontinent ye thump the echoing ground, And deftly lead the dance along the glade ; (O may no showers your merry makes affray !) Hail at the opening, at the closing day, All hail, ye Bonnibels, to your own season, May. Nor ye absent yourselves, ye shepherd swains, But lead to dance and song the liberal May, And while in jocund ranks you beat the plains, Your flocks shall nibble and your lambkins play, Frisking in glee. To May your garlands bring, And ever and anon her praises sing : The woods shall echo May, with May the vallies ring. MAY DAY IN LONDON. The traunt schoolboy now at eve we meet, Fatigued and sweating thro' the crowded street, His shoe embrown'd at once with dust and clay, With whitethorn loaded, which he takes for May. Round his flapp'd hat in rings the cowslips twine, Or in cleft osiers form a golden line. On milk-pail rear'd the borrow'd salvers glare, Topp'd with a tankard, which two porters bear, Reeking they slowly toil o'er rugged stones, ind joyless milkmaids dance with aching bones. 591 THE EVEIIY-DAY BOOK.-MAY 1 695 ' fflawe, A pageant quite as gay, of less estate, With flowers made and solid silver plate A lesser garland on a damask bed, Was carried on a skilful porter's head ; It stopp'd at every customer's street-door, And all the milkmaids ranged themselves before ; The fiddler's quick'ning elbow quicker flew, And then he stamp'd, and then the galliard grew. Then cows the meadows ranged and fed on grass, And milk was sometimes water'd now, alas ! In huge first floors each cow, a prison'd guest, Eats rancid oil-cake in unnat'ral rest, Bids from her udder unconcocted flow A stream a few short hours will turn to foh ! Milk manufactories usurp the place Of wholesome dairies, and the milkmaid's face, And garlands go no more, and milkmaids cease Yet tell me one thing, and I'll be at peace ; May I, ye milk companions, hope to see Old " milk mi-eau " once more dilute my tea ? 593 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1 694 planting tfre Profitons enfans des beaux jour Cette verdure passagere Nous apprend qu'une loy severe En doit bientost finir le cours. In this way the setting up of the May- pole is represented by one of the old French prints of the customs of the sea- sons,published " a Paris chez I.Mariette," with the preceding lines subjoined. It is wholly a rustic affair. In an English village such an event would have been celebrated to the simple sounds from a pipe and tabor, or at most a fiddle ; but our neighbours of the continent perform the ceremony by beat of drum and sound of trumpet Their merriments are showy as themselves ; ours are of a more sober character, and in the country seem nearer to a state of pastoral simplicity. My brown Buxoma is the featest maid, That e'er at wake delightsome gambol play'd, Clean as young lambkins or the goose's down, And like the goldfinch in her Sunday gown. The witless lamb may sport upon the plain, The frisking kid delight the gaping swain, The wanton calf may skip with many a bound, And my cur, Tray, play deftest feats around ; 595 THE E VERY-DAY BOOK MAY 1. 596 But neither lamb, nor kid, nor calf, nor Tray Dance like Buxoma on the first of May. Gay. Also, on May-day we have the super- longing to different seasons, he represents stitions of innocence, or ignorance if a young girl divining respecting her the reader please no matter which, it is sweetheart, with as much certainty as the the same thing. In the same poet's budget Pythian dame concerning the fate of of country charms and divinations be- nations. Last May-day fair I search'd to find a snail That might my secret lover's name reveal : Upon a gooseberry-bush a snail I found, For always snails near sweetest fruit abound. I seiz'd the vermine ; home I quickly sped, And on the hearth the milk-white embers spread , Slow crawl'd the snail, and if I right can spell, In the soft ashes mark'd a curious L : Oh, may this wond'rous omen lucky prove ! For L is found in LuberJdn and Love. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. Gay. MAY DAY IN UUBLIN. For the Every-Day Book. On the first day of May, in Dublin and its vicinity, it is customary for young men and boys to go a few miles out of town in the morning, for the purpose of cutting a May-bush. This is generally a white thorn, of about four or five feet high, and they carry it to the street or place of their residence, in the centre of which they dig a hole, and having planted the bush, they go round to every house and collect money. They then buy a pound or more of candles, and fasten them to various parts of the tree or bush, in such a manner so as to avoid burning it. Another portion of " the collection" is expended in the purchase of a heap of turf, sufficient for a large fire, and, if the funds will allow, an old tar barrel. For- merly it was not considered complete with- out having a horse's skull and other bones to burn in the fire. The depots for these bones were the tanners' yards in a part of the suburbs, called Kilmainham ; and on May morning, groups of boys drag loads of bones to their several destinations. This practice gave rise to a threat, yet made use of: "I will drag you like a norse's head to the bone -fire." About dusk when no more money can be col- 'ected, the bush is trimmed, the turf and oones are made ready to set on fire, the candles are all lighted, the bush fully illuminated, and the boys giving three huzzas, begin to dance and jump round it. If their money will afford the expen- diture, they have a pot of porter to drink round. After an hour or so, the heap 01 turf and bones are set fire to, and when the candles are burnt out, the bush is taken up and thrown into the flames. They con- tinue playing about until the fire is burnt out ; each then returns to his home ; and so ends their May-day. About two or three miles from Dublin, on the great northern road, is a village called Finglass ; it is prettily situated, and is the only place I know of in the neighbourhood of Dublin, where May-day is kept up in the old style. A high pole is decorated with garlands, and visiters come in from different parts of the country, and dance round it to whatever music chance may have conducted there. The best male and female dancer are chosen king and queen, and placed on chairs. When the dancing is over, they are carried by some of the party to an ad- jacent public-house, where they regale themselves with ham, beef, whiskey- punch, ale, cakes, and porter, after which they generally have a dance in-doors, and then disperse. There is an old song relating to the above custom, beginning Ye lads and lasses all to-day, To Finglass let us haste away ; With hearts so light and dresses gay To dance around the Maypole. A. O. B. 597 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 598 It is communicated by T. A. that it was formerly a custom in Cheshire for young men to place birchen boughs on May-day over the doors of their mis- tresses, and marke the residence of a scold by an alder bough. There is an old rhyme which mentions peculiar boughs for various tempers, an oivler (alder) for a scolder, a nut for a slut, &c. Mr. Ormerode, the county historian, presumes the practice is disused; but he mentions that in the main street of Weverham, in Cheshire, are two Maypoles, which are de- corated on this day with all due attention to the ancient solemnity : the sides are hung with garlands, and the top terminat- ed by a birch, or other tall slender tree with its leaves on ; the bark being peeled, and the stem spliced to the pole, so as to give the appearance of one tree from the summit. ORIGIN OF MAY DAY. Our usages on this day retain the cha- racter of their ancient origin. Tha Romans commenced the festival of Flora on the 28th of April, and continued it through several days in May. Ovid records the mythological attributes and dedication of the season to that god- dess : Fair Flora ! now attend thy sportful feast, Of which some days I with design have past ; A part in April and a part in May Thou claims't, and both command my tuneful lay ; And as the confines of two months are thine To sing of both the double task be mine. Circus and stage are open now and free Goddess ! again thy feast my theme must be. 3ince new opinions oft delusive are Do tliou, O Flora, who thou art declare ; Why should thy poet on conjectures dwell ? Thy naine and attributes thou best can'st tell. Thus I . to which she ready answer made, And rosy sweets attended what she said ; Though, now corrupted, Flora be my name, From the Greek Chloris that corruption came : In fields where happy mortals whilome stray'd Chloris my name, I was a rural maid ; To praise herself a modest nymph will shun, But yet a god was by my beauty won. Flora then relates, that Zephyr became enamoured of her as Boreas had been, that " by just marriage to his bed/' she was united to Zephyr, who assigned her the dominion over Spring, and that she strews the earth with flowers and pre- sides over gardens. She further says, as the deity of flowers, I also rule the plains. When the crops flourish in the golden field ; The harvest will undoubted plenty yield ; If purple clusters flourish on the vine, The presses will abound with racy wine ; The flowering olive makes a beauteous year, And how can bloomless trees ripe apples bear ? The flower destroyed of vetches, beans, and peas, You must expect but small or no increase ; The gift of honey's mine, the painful bees, That gather sweets from flowers or blooming trees, To scented shrubs and violets I invite, In which I know they take the most delight ; A. flower an emblem of young years is seen, With all its leaves around it fresh and green ; So youth appears, when health the body sways, And gladness in the mind luxuriant plays. From these allegorical ascriptions, the Roman people worshipped Flora, and celebrated her festivals by ceremonies and rejoicings, and offerings of spring flowers 599 THE E VERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 600 and the branches of trees in bloom, which through the accommodation of the Romish church to the pagan usages, remain to us at the present day. WEI.IINGTON, UNDER THE WREKIN. For the Every-Day Book. It has been usual for the people in this neighbourhood to assemble on the Wre- kin-hill, on the Sunday after May-day, and the three successive Sundays, to drink a health " to all friends round the Wre- kin ;" but as on this annual festival, various scenes of drunkenness and other licentiousness were frequently exhibited, its celebration has, of late, been very properly discouraged by the magistracy, and is going deservedly to decay. February, 1826. W. P. the place, of a late bishop of Carlisle pas- sing through in his carriage on this par- ticular day, when his attention being attracted by the group of persons assem- bled together, very naturally inquired the cause. His question was readily an- swered by a full statement of facts which brought from his lordship a severe lecture on the iniquity of such a proceeding; and at the conclusion, he said, " For my part I never told a lie in my life." This was immediately reported to the judges, upon which, without any dissent, the hone was awarded to his lordship as most deserv- ing of it; and, as is reported, it was actually thrown into his carriage. For the truth of the anecdote I cannot venture to assert ; but the existence of the custom is a well-known fact to many of your readers in the metropolis. I am, Sir, &c. C. T. MAY DAY STORY-TELLING. To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. slpriZZb, 1826. Sir, At a village in Westmoreland called Temple Sowerby, perhaps if not the most, at least one of the most beautiful in the north of England, there has been, " from time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary," and still is, a custom on the first day of May for a number of individuals to assemble on the green, and there propose a certain number as candidates for contesting the various prizes then produced, which consist of a grindstone as the head prize ; a hone or whetstone, for a razor, as the second ; and whetstones of an inferior description, for those who can only reach a state of me- diocrity in " the noble art of lying." The people are the judges : each can- didate in rotation commences a story, such as his fertile genius at the moment prompts ; and the more marvellous or improbable his story happens to be, so much the greater chance is there of his success. After being amused in this manner for a considerable length of time, and award- ing the prizes Jto the most deserving, the host of candidates, judges, and other attendants, adjourn to the inns, where the sports of the day very often end in a few splendid battles. There is an anecdote, very current in FLORAL GAMES OF TOULOUSE. Over a door in the consistory of the Hotel de Ville at Toulouse, is a small marble figure of Clemence Isaure. In this consistory, the meetings were held for distributing the prizes in the floral games ; the figure had flowers in her hand, but they are broken off. Below it on a tablet of brass, is a Latin inscrip- tion, in Roman capitals, but with so many abbreviations, and some of these of a nature so unintelligible, that the mean- ing is scarcely to be deciphered. Thus much, however, is to be collected from it, that Clemeace Isaure is represented to have been the daughter of L. Isaurus, ol the ancient and illustrious family of the Isaurae of Toulouse ; that the institution of the " floral games" is ascribed to her ; that she is said to have built the Hotel de Ville at her own expense ; to have bequeathed to the city the markets for corn, wine, fish, and vegetables ; and to have left the remainder of her pro- perty in perpetuity to the city for the support of the floral games ; yet, it does not mention her age, or at what period she lived, or whether she was maiden, wife, or widow. " Le Roman de Clemence Isaure," an old ballad story, represents her to have been a fair lady of Toulouse, with whom the handsome Lautrec was deeply en- amoured, and that she returned his love with equal passion. Alphonso, her fa- 601 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 602 ther, having chosen another husband for Clemence, she resisted the union, declar- ing that her life was at his disposal, but that as long as she should live, her heart must be wholly Lautrec's. Then Al- phonso caused her to be chained, and shut her up in a strong tower, and threat- ened Lautrec's life if he could get him into his power; and Lautrec, having found the place of his mistress's impri- sonment, like a true lover despised her cruel father's threats, and went to the tower and repeated his vows and sorrows to the fair Clemence, who came to the grate and tcld him of his danger, and prayed him to enter into the service of the French king, and follow military glory, and chase the recollection of their loves and their misfortunes ; and as a pledge, she presented him with three flowers, a violet, an eglantine, and a ma- rigold. The first she gave him as her colour, that he might appear as her knight; the second was her favourite flower ; and the third an emblem of the chagrin and sorrow by which her heart was consumed. Then Clemence kissed the flowers, and let her tears fall on them, and threw them to her lover, and her father appeared, and Lautrec gathered up the flowers, and hastily withdrew. In obedience to the injunctions of his mis- tress, he departed from Toulouse for the French king's court ; but before he had proceeded far on his journey, he heard that the English were marching against the city ; and he returned when the inha- bitants were flying before the enemy, and abandoning the ramparts, and leaving them defenceless : and only one old man re- sisted and valiantly maintained his ground. Then Lautrec fled to his assistance, and discovered hinT to be Alphonso, the fa- ther of Clemence: and at the moment when a fatal stroke was aimed at the old man, he rushed forward and received the mortal wound himself, and died in Al- phonso's arms, and gave him the flowers he received from Clemence, and conjured him to deliver them to his daughter, and to console her under the distress his fate would bring upon her. And Alphonso elented, and in great sorrow carried the lowers to Clemence, and related the un- timely death of Lautrec ; and her afflic- ons were too heavy for her to bear, and she fell a victim to despair and anguish, and followed her lover to the grave. But in remembrance of their sad story, she bequeathed her whole property to the city of Toulouse for the celebration of annual games, at which, prizes of golden flowers, like those she had given to Lautrec, were to be distributed to the skilful troubadours who should compose the best poem, upon the occasion. This is the history of the gallant Lautrec and the fair Clemence, in the poetical romance. But according to Pierre Caseneuve, the author of an " Inquiry into the Origin of the Floral Games at Toulouse," there is strong reason to doubt whether such a person as Clemence ever existed. Among the archives of the Hotel de Ville are se- veral chronicles of the floral games, the oldest of which states, that in the year 1324, seven of the principal inhab- itants of Toulouse, desirous to promote the fame and prosperity of the city, re- solved to establish an annual festival there, for the cultivation of the Pro- venpal poetry, a spirit of piety, and sua- vity of manners. They therefore pro- posed that all persons skilled in Provencal poetry, should be invited to assemble at Toulouse every year in the beginning of May, to recite their compositions, and that a violet of gold should be given to him whose verses the judges should de- termine the most worthy; and a circula. letter in the Provencal poetry was dis- persed over the province of Languedoc, inviting competitors to assemble in the beginning of May the following year, to celebrate this festival. The poetical compositions were not to be confined to the lays of lovers reciting their passion, and the fame of their mis- tresses; but the honour of God, and glorifying his name, was to be their first object. It was wished that poetry should conduce to the happiness of mankind, and by furnishing them a source of in- nocent and laudable amusement, make time pass pleasantly, repress the unjust sallies of anger, and dissipate the dark vapours of sadness. For these reasons it was termed, by the institutors, the " Gay Science." In consequence of this invitation, a large concourse of competitors resorted to Toulouse ; and in May, 1325, the fir$ festival of the floral games was celft brated. Verses were recited by the candidates before a numerous assembly The seven persons with whom the meet- ing originated, presided under the title of the chancellor of the " Gay Science. THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 604 nnd his six assessors, and there also sat with them, the capitouls or chief magistrates of the town as judges ; and there was a great assemblage of knights, of gentlemen, and of ladies. The prize was given to the candidate whose verses were determined by the majority of the judges to be the most worthy. The "floral games" of Toulouse continued to be celebrated in like man- ner, at the sole expense of the institutors, till the magistrates seeing the advantage they were of to the town, by the vast concourse of people brought thither, and considering that their continuance must be precarious while they depended upon the ability and disposition of a few in- dividuals for their support, resolved to convert the institution into a public con- cern ; and, with the concurrence of the principal inhabitants, it was determined that the expense should in future be de- frayed by the city, that to the original prize two others should be added, a silver eglantine, and a silver marigold ; and that occasional ones might be distributed at the option of the judges to very young poets, as stimulants to them to aim at obtaining the principal prizes. After about thirty years it was judged expedient to appoint a committee, who should draw up such a code of statutes as might include every possible case that could occur, and these statutes were laid before the judges for their approbation. Among these decrees the principal were, that no prize could be given to a heretic, a schismatic, or an excommuni- cated person; that whoever was a candidate for any of the prizes, should take a solemn oath that the poetry was his own composition, without the least assistance from any other person ; that no woman should be admitted to the competition, unless her talents in com- posing verses were so celebrated as to leave no doubt of her being capable of writing the poetry offered : that no one who gained a prize was allowed to be a candidate again till after a lapse of three years, though he was expected in the intervening years to compose verses for the games, and recite them ; and that if any or all the prizes remained undisposed of, from no verses being produced that were judged worthy of them, the prizes were to remain over to the next year, then to be given away in addition to the regular prizes of the year. Under these and other regulations the " floral games" became celebrated throughout Europe ; and within fifty years from their first institution they were the resort of all persons of distinction. In 1 388, the reigning king of Arragon sent ambassadors to Charles the Sixth of France, with great pomp and solemnity, requesting that some of the poets of the " floral games" at Toulouse might be permitted to come to the court, and assist in establishing similar games there ; pro- mising that, when they had fulfilled their mission, they should receive rewards equal to their merits, and consistent with his royal munificence. This account of the institution of the " floral games" is from the oldest re- gisters relative to them ; wherein there is no mention made of the lady Clemence Isaure till 1513, nearly two hundred years after their institution; and it is well known that the statue of the lady Cle- mence in the consistory, was not put up till the year 1557. In that year it had been proposed in the college of the Gay Science to erect a monument to her me- mory in the church of La Dorade, where she was reputed to have been buried ; but this idea was afterwards changed for putting up her statue in the room where the " floral games" were held. From that time the statue was always crowned with flowers at the time of the celebration of the games, and a Latin oration pro- nounced in honour of her. A satirical sonnet in the Provencal language upon the idea of erecting either a monument or a statue to a lady who never had any eixstence in the world, is preserved in Pierre Caseneuve's " Inquiry into the Origin of the Floral Games." But by whomsoever the " floral games" of Toulouse were instituted, it is remarkable, that the festival was con- stantly observed for more than four cen- turies and a half without interruption. It did not cease to be celebrated till the revolution. It was not, however, con- tinued entirely according to the original institution, since for a considerable time the use of the Provencal language, in the poetry for the prizes, had been aban- doned, and the French substituted for it. At what period this change took place does not seem to be well ascertained. The number of prizes, too, was increased to five, the principal of which was still the golden violet; but instead of one 605 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 600 eglantine, and one mangold of si'vcr, two of each were given. The violet was appropriated to the best ode ; the others were for a piece in heroic poetry, for one in pastoral poetry, for a satirical piece, and for a sonnet, a madrigal, a song, or some other minor effusion. Three of the deputies to the parliament had~ for some time presided at these games, instead of the chancellor of the Gay Science with his six assessors ; and with them were associated the capitouls, or chief magistrates of the town. All the other magistrates, and the whole body of the parliament, attended in their robes of office, with the principal gen- tlemen of the town, and a brilliant as- semblage of ladies in full dress. These were ranged round the room in seats raised like an amphitheatre, and the students of the university sat on benches in the centre. The room was ornamented with festoons of flowers and laurel, and the statue of Clemence Isaure was crowned with them. After the oration in honour of her was pronounced, the judges, having previously consulted to- gether in private, and assigned the prizes to the pieces which they thought most worthy of them, stood up, and, naming the poem to which one was given, pro- nounced with an audible voice, " Let the author come forward." The author then presented himself; when his name was declared, it was followed by a grand flourish of music. The same cere- mony was repeated as each piece was announced. The whole concluded with each author publicly reading his poem. Many of these prize poems are to be found in different collections. Several prizes were in latter times adjudged to females, without any strict investiga- tion having been previously made into the possibility of the pieces to which they were decreed being female com- positions. It was owing to having gained a silver eglantine at one of these festivals that the celebrated Fabre d'Eg- lantine assumed the latter part of his name. He was a Languedocian by birth, a native of Limoux, a small town about four leagues from Toulouse.* Without such encouragements to be poetical, as were annually offered by the conductors of the "floral games" at * Plumptre. Toulouse, our kind feelings have been cultivated, and our literature is enriched by a race of poets, whom we may venture to array against the united armies of con- tinential bards. It may be doubted whether a May prize of Toulouse was ever awarded for sweeter verses, than Matt. Prior's on Chloe's May flowers. IHE GARLAND. The pride of every grove I chose The violet sweet and lily fair, The dappled pink, and blushing rose, To deck my charming Chloe's hair. At morn the nymph vouchsaf d to place Upon her brow the various wreath ; The flowers less blooming than her face, The scent less fragrant than her breath. The flowers she wore along the day, And every nymph and shepherd said, That in her hair they looked more gay Than glowing in their native bed. Undrest at evening, when she found Their odour lost, their colours past, She changed her look, and on the ground Her garland and her eye she cast. The eye dropt sense distinct and clear, As any muse's tongue could speak, When from its lid a pearly tear Ran trickling down her beauteous cheek. Dissembling what I knew too well, " My love, my life," said I, " explain This change of humour ; pr'ythee tell : That falling tear what does it mean ?" She sighed ; she smil'd ; and, to the flowers Pointing, the lovely moralist said, " See, friend, in some few fleeting hours See yonder, what a change is made ! " Ah, me ! the blooming pride of May, And that of beauty are but one, At morn both flourish bright and gay ; Both fade at evening, pale and gone. " At dawn poor Stella danc'd and sung ; The amorous youth around her bowed, At night her fatal knell was rung ; I saw and kissed her in her shroud. " Such as she is, who died to-day r Such I, alas ! may be to morrc'w ; Go, Damon, bid thy muse display The justice of thy Chloe's sorrow.' Prior. A beautiful ode by another of our poets graces the loveliness of the season, 607 THE EVERY-DA\ BOOK. MAY 1. 608 and finally " points a moral" of sovereign virtue to all who need the application, and will take it to heart. SPRING. Lo ! where the rosy hosom'd hours, Fair Venus' train appear, Disclose the long expected flowers, And wake the purple year ! The attic warbler pours her throat, Responsive to the cuckoo's note. The untaught harmony of spring : While whispering pleasure as they fly, Cool zephyrs through the cleat blue sky Their gathered fragrance fling. Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch A. broader, browner shade ; Where'er the rude and moss-grown beech O'er-canopies the glade, Beside some water's rushy brink With me the muse shall sit, and think (At ease reclined in rustic state) How vain the ardour of the crowd, How low how little are the proud, How indigent the great ! Still is the toiling hand of care ; The panting herds repose : Yet hark, how through the peopled air The busy murmur glows ! The insect youth are on the wing, Eager to taste the honied spring, And float amid the liquid noon : Some lightly o'er the current skim, Some slow, their gayly-gilded trim Quick-glancing to the sun. To Contemplation's sober eye Such is the race of man : And they that ci-eep and they that fly, Shall end where they began. Alike the busy and the gay But flutter through life's little day In fortune's varying colours drest . Brushed by the hand of rough mischance ; Or chill'd by age, their airy dance They leave in dust to rest. Methinks I hear in accents low The sportive kind reply ; " Poor moralist ! and what art thou ? A solitary fly ! Thy joys no glittering female meets, No hive hast thou of hoarded sweets, No painted plumage to display : On hasty wings thy youth is flown . Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone We frolic while 'tis May." Gay. Then, too, a bard of the preceding centuries introduces "the Shepherd's Holiday," the day we now memorialize, with nymphs singing his own sweet verses in " floral games." Nymph 1. Thus, thus begin, the yearly rites Are due to, Pan on these bright nights , His morn now riseth, and invites To sports, to dances, and delights : All envious, and profane away, This is the shepherd's holiday. Nymph 2. Strew, strew, the glad and smiling ground, With every flower, yet not confound The primrose drop, the spring's own spouse, Bright daisies, and the lips-of-cows, The garden-star, the queen of May, The rose, to crown the holiday. Nymph 3. Drop drop your violets, change your hues, Now red, now pale, as lovers use, And in your death go out as well As when you lived unto the smell : That from your odour all may say, . This is the shepherd's holiday. Jonson. It is to be observed as a remarkable fact, that among the poets, the warmest ad- vocates and admirers of the popular sports and pastimes in village retreats, uniformly invigorate and give keeping to their pictures, by sparkling lights and har- monizing shadows of moral truth. But hark ! the bagpipe summons on the green, The jocund bagpipe, that a.waketh sport ; The blithsome lasses, as the morning sheen, Around the flower-crown'd Maypole quick resort ; The gods of pleasure here have fix'd their court. Quick on the wing the flying moment seize, Nor build up ample schemes, for life is short, Short as the whisper of the passing breeze. 609 THE EVLUY-DAY BOOK MAY 1. 610 GATHERING OF MAY DEW. This engraving represents certain lads ad lasses of " auld Reekie," who are early gatherers of " May-dew," in tlw act of dancing to the piper's " skirl." From a slight sketch accompanying the commu- nication, Mr. George Cruikshank's pencil depicts the " action," which it should be observed takes place on a hill. Darner* at 9rtl;tur'tf*0eat. Strathspeys and reels, Put life and metal in their heels. Burns. To the Editor of the Every- Day Book. Edinburgh, April 20, 1826. My Dear Sir, Allow me, without pre- face, to acquaint you with a custom of gathering the May-dew here on the first of May. About four o'clock in the morning there is an unusual stir; a great opening of area gates, and ringing of bells, and a " gathering" of folk of all clans, arrayed in all thp colours of the rainbow ; and a VOL. II. 72. hurrying of gay throngs of both sexes through the King's-park to Arthur's-seat In the course of half an hour the entire hill is a moving mass of all sorts and sizes At the summit may be seen a company or bakers, and other craftsmen, dressed in kilts, dancing round a Maypole. On the more level part " next door," is usually an itinerant vender of whiskey, or moun- tain (not May) dew, your approach to whom is always indicated by a number of " bodies " carelessly lying across your THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 612 path, not dead, but drunk. In another place you may descry two parties of Irish- men, who, not content with gathering the superficial dew, have gone " deeper and deeper yet," and fired by a liberal desire to communicate the fruits of their industry, actively pelt each other with clods. These proceedings commence with the daybreak. The strong lights thrown upon the various groups by the rising sun, give a singularly picturesque effect to a scene, wherein the e.ver-varying and unceasing sounds of the bagpipes, and tabours and fifes, et hoc genus omne, almost stun the ear. About six o'clock, the appearance of the gentry, toiling and pechin up the ascent, becomes the signal for serving men and women to march to the right-about ; for they well know that they must have the house clean, and every thing in order earlier than usual on May-morning. About eight o'clock the " fun" is all over ; and by nine or ten, were it not for the drunkards who are staggering towards the " gude town," no one would know that any thing particular had taken place. Such, my dear sir, is the gathering of May-dew. I subjoin a sketch of a group of dancers, and I am, &c. P. P., Jun. It is noticed in the" MorningPost" of the second of May, 1791, that the day before, " being the first of May, according to annual and superstitious custom, a num- ber of persons went into the fields and bathed their faces with the dew on the grass, under the idea that it would render them beautiful." May -dew was held of singular virtue in former times. Pepys on a certain day in May makes this entry in his diary : " My wife away, down with Jane and W. Hewer to Woolwich, in order to a little ayre, and to lie there to night, and so to gather May-dew to-morrow morn- ing, which Mrs. Turner hath taught her is the only thing in the world to wash her face with ; and" Pepys adds, " I am con- tented with it." His " reasons for con- tentment" seem to appear in the same line ; for he says, " I (went) by water to Fox-hall, and there walked in Spring- garden ;" and there he notices " a great deal of company, and the weather and garden pleasant : and it is very pleasant and cheap going thither, for a man may go to spend what he will, or nothing all as one : but to hear the nightingale and other birds; and here a fiddler, and there a harp ; and here a jew's-trump, and here laughing, and there fine people walking, is mighty diverting," says Mr. Pepys, while his wife is gone to lie at Woolwich, " in order to a little ayre, and to gather May-dew." GERARD'S HALL MAYPOLE. Basing Lane. Whence this lane derived its name of Basing, Stow cannot tell. It runs out of Bread-street, and was called the Bake- house, but, " whether meant for the king's bakehouse, or bakers dwelling there, and baking bread to serve the market in Bread-street, where the bread was sold, I know not," says Stow ; "but sure I am, I have not read of Basing or of Gerard, the gyant, to have any thing there to doe!" It seems that this Maypole was fabled to have been " the justing staff of Gerard, a gyant." Stow's particulars concerning it, and his account of Gerard's-hall, which at this time is an inn for Bath and West of England coaches and other convey- ances, are very interesting. He says, " On the south side of this (Basing) lane is one great house, of old time builded upon arched vaults, and with arched gates of stone, brought from Cane in Normandie ; the same is now a common ostrey for receit of travelers, commonly and corruptly called Gerard's-hall, of a gyant said to have dwelled there. In the high roofed hall of this house, sometime stood a large Firre-Pole, which reached to the roofe thereof, and was said to be one of the staves that Gerard the gyant used in the warres, to runne withall. There stood also a ladder of the same length, which (as they said) served to ascend to the top of the staffe. Of later yeeres this hall is altered in building, and divers roomes are made in it. Notwithstanding, the pole is removed to one corner of the hall, and the ladder hanged broken upon a wall in the yard. The hosteler of that house said to rnee, the pole lacked half a foote of forty in length. I measured the compasse thereof, and found it fifteene inches. Reason of the pole could the master of the hosiery give me none, but bade mee reade the Chronicles, for there 613 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 614 he heard of it. Which answer," says Stow, "seemed to me insufficient: for he meant the description of Britaine, for the most part drawne out of John Ley land, his commentaries (borrowed of myselfe) and placed before Reynes Wolfe's Chronicle, as the labours of another." It seems that this chronicle has " a chap- ter of gyants or monstrous men of a man with his mouth sixteene foote wide, and so to Gerard the gyant and his staffe," which Stow speaks of as " these fables," and then he derives the house called Gerard 's-hall, from the owner thereof, " John Gisors, maior of London, in the yeere 1245," and says, " The pole in the hall might bee used of old time (as then the custome was in every parish) to bee set up in the summer, a Maypole, before the principall house in the parish or streete, and to stand in the hall before the scrine, decked with hollie and ivie at the feast of Christmas. The ladder served for the decking of the Maypole, and reached to the roof of the hall." To this is added, that " every man.-; house of old time was decked with holly and ivie in the winter, especially at Christmas;'* whereof, gentle reader, be pleased to take notice, and do " as they did in the old time." Wethink we remember something about milkmaids and their garlands in our boyish days; but even this lingering piece of professional rejoicing is gone ; and in- stead of intellectual pleasures at courts, manly games among the gentry, the vernal appearance every where of boughs and flowers, and the harmonious accompani- ment of ladies' looks, all the idea that a Londoner now has of May-day, is the dreary gambols and tinsel-fluttering squa- lidness of the poor chimney-sweepers! What a personification of the times; paper-gilded dirt, slavery, and melan- choly, bustling for another penny ! Something like celebrations of May-day still loiter in more remote parts of the country, such as Cornwall, Devonshire, and Westmoreland ; and it is observable, that most of the cleverest men of the time come from such quarters, or have other- wise chanced upon some kind of insula- tion from its more sophisticated common- places. Should the subject come before the consideration of any persons who have not had occasion to look at it with refer- ence to the general character of the age, they will do a great good, and perhaps help eventually to alter it, by fanning the little sparks that are left them of a bright- er period. Our business is to do what we can, to remind the others of what they may do, to pay honours to the season ourselves, and to wait for that alteration in the times, which the necessity of things must produce, and which we must endea- vour to influence as genially as possible in its approach.* From Mr, Leslie's pencil, there is a picture of May-day, " in the old time" the "golden days of good queen Bess" whereon a lady, whose muse delights in agreeable subjects, has written the following descriptive lines : ON MAY DAY. By Leslie. Beautiful and radiant May, Is not this thy festal day ? Is not this spring revelry Held in honour, queen, of okee ? "Pis a fair : the booths are gay, With green boughs and quaint display Glasses, where the maiden's eye May her own sweet face espy ; Ribands for her braided hair, Beads to grace her bosom fair j From jron stand the juggler plays With the rustic crowd's amaze ; There the morris-dancers stand, Glad bells ringing ou each hand ; Here the Maypole rears its crest. With the rose and hawthorn drest j And beside are painted bands Of strange beasts from other lands. In the midst, like the young queen, Flower-crowned, of the rural green, Is a bright-cheeked girl, her eye Blue, like April's morning sky, With a blush, like what the rose To her moonlight minstrel shows ; Laughing at her love the while, Yet such softness in the smile, As the sweet coquette would hide Woman's love by woman's pride. Farewell, cities ! who could bear All their smoke and all their care, All their pomp, when wooed away By the azure hours of May ? Give me woodbine, scented bowers Blue wreaths of the violet flowers, Clear sky, fresh air, sweet birds, and trees, Sights and sounds, and scenes like these I L. E. L. * The Examiner. THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. TvlAY 1 To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. Northampton, April, 1826. Sir, Having received much inform- ation from your Every-Day Book, I shall be very happy to afford any that I may be able to glean ; but my means are extremely limited. 1 however mention a custom at Northampton on the first ot May, with some hope that I am not troubling you with a " twice-told tale." The girls from the neighbouring villages of Kingsthorpe, &c. on the morning of May-day, come into the town with May garlands, which they exhibit from house to house, (to show, as the inhabitants say, vhat flowers are in season,) and usually receive a trifle from each house. The garland is composed of two hoops cross- <arlaria. ing each other vertically, and covered with flowers and streamers of various coloured ribands ; these are affixed to a staff about five feet long by which it is car- ried, and in each of the apertures between the hoops is placed a smartly dressed doll. The accompanying sVetch will convey some idea of the garland. There are numerous streamers attached to it, of all the colours of the rainbow. Should you think this notice worth inserting, I shall feel obliged by your substituting any sig- nature you please for my name, which, agreeable to your request to correspond- ents who communicate accounts of cus- toms, &c., I subjoin. 1 am, &c. B S G. S THE-EVEIIY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. last Cljunnep >toeeper, A large brush made of a number of small whalebone sticks, fastened into a round ball of wood, and extending in most cases to a diameter of two feet, is thrust up the chimney by means of hollow cylinders or tubes, fitting into one another like the joints of a fishing rod, with a long cord running through them ; it is worked up and down, as each fresh joint is added, until it reaches the chimney pot ; it is then shortened joint by joint, and on each joint being removed, is in like manner worked up and down in its de " yon have your a Scandiscope. chimney swept perfectly clean escent; and thus by this machine, which is called Some wooden tubes, a brush, and rope, Are all you need employ; Fray order, maids, the Scandiscope, And not the climbing boy. Copy of a printed hand-bill, distributed before May-day, 1826. lio CAUTION. e inhabitants of this parish are most respectfully informed, that the UNITED SOCIETY or MASTEII CIIIMNFV SwEEPEus intend giving their apprentices a dinner, at the Eyre Anns 619 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 620 St John's Wood, on the first of May, instead of suffering them to collect money as heretofore ; the public are therefore cautioned against encouraging in any way such collections, as they are too frequently obtained by persons of the worst descriptions, or for the sinister purposes of their employers. N. B. The procession will start from the Bedford Arms, Charlotte-street, Bedford-square, at eleven o'clock. On Monday, the first of May, 1826, (pursuant to the above notice,) the first anniversary dinner of the " United So- cietyv of Master Chimney Sweepers," took place at the Eyre tavern, St. John's-wood, Marylebone. About eleven o'clock, two hundred of their apprentices proceeded in great regu- larity through the principal streets and squares at the west end of the town, ac- companied by an excellent band of music. The clean and wholesome appearance of the lads, certainly, reflected much credit on their masters, and attracted crowds of persons to the above tavern, where the boys were regaled with a substantial re- past of roast beef and plum-pudding ; after which the masters themselves sat down to a very excellent dinner provided for the occasion. On the cloth being removed, and the usual routine of loyal toasts drank, the chairman addressed his brother trades- men, congratulating them on the formation of a society that was calculated to do such essential service to the trade in general. It would be the means of pro- moting the welfare of their apprentices, which was a feeling he was convinced every one of them had at heart, who, in- stead of being permitted to loiter and dance about the streets on the first of May, dressed up in tawdry apparel, and solicit- ing money, should in future be regaled with substantial fare on each forthcoming day of the anniversary of the society, in order to put an end to the degrading practice which had for such a length of time stigmatized the trade. (Applause.) " Success to the United Society of Chimney Sweepers," having been drank with thunders of applause, Mr. BENNETT, of Welbeck-street, ad- dressed the company on the subject of cleansing chimnies with the machine, the introduction of which he was confident would never answer the intended pur- poses. He urged the absolute necessity of employing climbing boys in their trade ; and instanced several cases in which the machines were rendered perfectly useless : most of the chimnies in Ihe great houses at the west end of the town were constructed in such a manner that it was utterly impossible to clear them of soot, unless a human being was sent up for that purpose. He admitted that some houses had chimnies which were built perpendicular; but even in those were frequently to be met with what the trade called " cores," which were large pieces of mortar that projected out from the brick -work, and that collected vast quantities of soot on their surface, so that no machine could get over the difficulty. When the subject of the climbing boys was before the house of lords, he (Mr. Bennett) was sent for by the earl of Hardwicke, who was desirous of person- ally ascertaining whether the practice of allowing boys to ascend chimnies could be dispensed with entirely. He (Mr. Bennett) had attended at his lordship's residence with the machine, which was tried in most of the chimnies in the huose, but the experiment failed ; one of his apprentices having been ultimately obliged to ascend for the purpose of ex- tricating the machine from impediments which were only, to be surmounted by the activity of climbing boys. The result was, that his lordship subsequently expressed his opinion that the machines could never answer the purposes for which they were originally intended, and therefore had his chimnies swept by the old method. Mr. Bennett concluded by making some ob- servations on the harsh manner in which the trade had been aspersed. He said it had been insinuated that their ap- prentices, in consequence of being per- mitted to ascend chimnies, were often rendered objects for the remainder of their lives. There were, he admitted, a few solitary instances of accidents hap- pening in their trade as well as in every other. He now only wished that their opponents might have an opportunity of witnessing the healthy and cheerful state in which their apprentices were. A master chimney-sweeper, with great vehemence of action and manner, said, "lam convinced, Mr. Chairman, that it is a thing impossible to do away with our climbing boys. For instance, look at the duke of York's fifty-one new chimnies. 621 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 623 Let me ask any one of you in company, is it possible a machine could be poked up any one of them ? I say, no ; and for this reason that most of them run in a horizontal line, and then abruptly turn up, so that you see a machine would be of no more use than if you were to thrust up an old broomstick ; and I mean to stick to it, that our opponents may as well try to put down chimney-sweepers in the old way, as the Equitable Loan Bank Com- pany endeavoured to cut up the business of the pawnbrokers. (Applause.) When I look round the table, (said the speaker,) and see such respectable gentlemen on my right and on my left, and in front of me, who dares to say that the United Society of Master Chimney Sweepers are not as respectable a body of tradesmen as any in London ? and although, if I may be excused the expression, there is not a gentleman now present that has not made his way in the * profession/ by climbing up chimnies. (There was a universal nod of assent at this allusion.) Therefore, continued the speaker, the more praise is due to us, and I now conclude by wishing every success to our new society." The above animated address was received with the loudest plaudits. Several other master chimney-sweepers addressed the company, after which the ladies were introduced into the room, and dancing commenced, which was kept up to a late hour.* On the first of May, 1807, the slave trade in the West Indies was proscribed by the British parliament, and we see by the proceedings at the Eyre tavern, St. John's-wood, that on the first of May, 1 826, an effort was made to continue the more cruel black slavery of white infants. Some remarks reported to have been made by these gentlemen in behalf of their " black art," require a word or two. We are told that after the usual routine of loyal toasts, the chairman congratulated his " brother tradesmen" on the formation of a society that was calculated to do " essential service to the trade in general." There can be no doubt that " the king" was the first name on their list of toasts, yet it happens that his majesty is at the head of an association for abolishing their " trade." The first names on the roll of " The Society for suspending Climbing The Times, May 3, 1826. Boys by the use of the Scandiscope," are those of the " patron," and the president, vice-presidents, committee, and treasurer. These are chiefly prelates, peers, and mem- bers of the house of commons; but the " patron" of the society is " the king," in opposition to whom, in the capacity of " patron," Mr. Bennett, the master-sweep, of Welbeck-street, urges the " absolute necessity" of employing climbing boys. One of his reasons is, that in some chim- nies the bricklayers have " cores" of mor- tar whereon the soot accumulates so that, no machine can get over the difficulty ; but this only shows the " absolute neces- sity" of causingthe " cores" to be removed from chimnies already so deformed, and ot making surveyors of future houses respon- sible for the expenses of alteration, if they suffer them to be so improperly con- structed. Mr. Bennett says, that lord Hardwicke was convinced " the machines could never answer the purposes for which they were originally intended, and there- fore had his chimnies swept by the old method." If his lordship did express that opinion, it is in opposition to the opinion of the king, as " patron," the late bishop of Durham, the present bishop of Oxford, the duke of Bedford, the lords Grosvenor, Morley, Harrowby, Gwydir, Auckland, and other distinguished individuals, who as president and vice-presidents of the society, had better opportunities of deter- mining correctly, than Mr. Bennett pro- bably afforded to earl Hardwicke. Another " master chimney-sweeper" is reported to have said, ' look at the duke of York's fifty-one new chimnies : most of them run in a horizontal line, and then abruptly turn up, so that, you see, a ma- chine would be of no more use than if you were to thrust up an old broomstick :" and then he asks, " who dares to say that the United Society of Master Chimney Sweep- ers are not as respectable a body of trades- men as any in London ?" and triumphant- ly adds, that " there is not a gentleman now present that has not made his way in the profession by climbing up chimnies." To this " there was a universal nod of as- sent." But a universal admission by all " the gentlemen present" that they had climbed to respectability by climbing up chimnies, is of very little weight with those who observe and know that willing slaves become the greatest and most effective oppressors ; and as to the duke of York's new chimnies, it is not credible his royal highness can be informed that the present THE EVEKY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 624 construction of his chimnies necessarily dooms unborn infants to the certain fate of having the flesh torn from their joints oefore they can sweep such chimnies. The scandalous default of a surveyor has subjected the duke of York to the odium of being quoted as an authority in oppo- sition to a society for abolishing a cruel and useless trade, wherein servitude is misery, and independence cannot be at- tained but by the continual infliction of blows and torture on helpless children. Yet as an act of parliament abated the frequency of conflagrations, by empower- ing district surveyors to cause the erection of party walls, so a few clauses added to the building act would authorize the sur- veyors to enforce the building of future chimnies without " cores," and of a form to be swept by the " Scandiscope." Master chimney-sweepers would have no reason to complain of such enactment, inasmuch as they would continue to find employment, till the old chimnies and the prejudices in favour of cruelty to children, disappeared by eJHuxion of time. The engraving at the head of this arti- cle is altered from a lithographic print re- presenting a " Scandiscope." Perhaps the machine may be better understood from the annexed diagram. It simply consists of a whalebone brush, and wooden cylin- ders strung on rope, and put into action by the method described beneath the larger engraving. Mr. George Smart obtained two gold medals from the Society of Arts for this invention. The names of the machine chimney-sweepers in different parts of London may be obtained from Mr. Wilt, secretary of the " Society for superseding Climbing Boys," No. 125, Leadenhall- street ; the treasurer of the institution is W. Tooke, esq., F. R. S, Any person may become a member, and acquaint himself with the easy methods by which the ma- chine is adopted to almost any chimney. As the climbing chimney-sweepers are combining to oppose it, all humane indivi- duals will feel it a duty to inquire whether they should continue willing instru- ments in the hands of the " profession " for the extension of the present cruel practice. an The late Mrs. Montagu gave annual dinner to the poor climbing boys which ceased with her death. And is all pity for the poor sweeps fled, Since Montagu is numbered^with the dead ? She who did once the many ^sorrows weep, That met the wanderings of the woe-worn sweep ! Who, once a year, bade all his griefs depart, On May's sweet morn would doubly cheer his h^art ! Washed was his little form, his shirt was clean, On that one day his real face was seen, His shoeless feet, now boasted pumps and new. The brush and shovel gaily held to view ! The table spread, his every sense was charmed. And every savoury smell his bosom warmed ; His light heart joyed to see such goodly cheer, And much he longed to taste the mantling beer : His hunger o'er the scene was little heaven If riches thus can bless, what blessings might be given ! 625 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1 . 26 But, she is gone ! none left to soothe their grief, Or, once a year, bestow their meed of beef ! Now forth he's dragged to join the beggar's dance ; With heavy heart, he makes a slow advance, Loudly to clamour for that tyrant's good, Who gives with scanty hand his daily food ! It is the interest of the " United Society of Master Chimney Sweepers" to appear liberal to the wretched beings who are" the creatures of their mercy ; of the variation and degrees of that mercy, there is evi- dence before the committee of the house of commons. Sympathy for the oppressed in the breast of their oppressors is reason- ably to be suspected. On the minutes of the " Society for superseding Climbing Boys," there are cases that make humanity shud- der ; against their recurrence there is no security but the general adoption of ma- chines in chimnies instead of children. Mr. Montgomery's " Chimney Sweeper's Friend, and Climbing Boys' Album," is a volume of affecting appeal,dedicatedtothe king, " in honour of his majesty's condes- cending and exemplary concern for the effectual deliverance of the meanest, the poorest, and weakest of British born sub- iects, from unnatural, unnecessary, and unjustifiable personal slavery and moral degradation." It contains a variety of beautiful compositions in prose and verse : one of them is THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER. Communicated by Mr. Charles Lamb, from a very rare and curious little work, Mr. Blake's " Songs of Innocence " When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me, while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry, " Weep ! weep ! weep !" So your chimnies I sweep, and in soot I sleep. There's little Tom Toddy, who cried when his head, That was curl'd like a lamb's back, was shaved, so 1 said, " Hush, Tom, never mind it for when your head's bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." And so he was quiet, and that very night As Tom was a sleeping, he had such a sight, That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins so black. And by came an angel, who had a bright key, And he opened the coffins, and set them all free ; Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run, And wash in a river, and shine in the sun, Then naked and white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind ; And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy He'd have God for his father, and never want joy. And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark, And got with our bags and our brushes to work ; Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm, So if all do their duty they need not fear harm. Dining with Duke Humphrey, MAY DAY HONOURS TO HIM. In old St. Paul's cathedral " within a proper chappel purposely made for him/' and in a proper tomb, sir John Beau- champ, constable of Dover, and warden or the cinque ports, was buried in the year 1358. " This deceased nobleman," says Stow, " by ignorant people hath been erroneously mistermed and said to be 627 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 1. 628 duke Humfrey, the good duke of Glou- cester, who lyeth honourably buried at Saint Albans in Hartfordshire, twenty miles from London; in idle and frivolous opinion of whom, some men, of late times, have made a solemne meeting at his tombe upon Saint Andrewe's day in the morning (before Christmasse) and con- cluded on a breakfast or dinner, as assur- ing themselves to be servants, and to hold diversity of offices under the good duke Humfrey." Stow's continuator says, " Likewise, on May-day, tankard bearers, watermen, and some other of like quality beside, would use to come to the same tombe early in the morning, and, according as the other, deliver serviceable presentation at Ihe same monument, by strewing herbes, and sprinkling faire water on it, as in the duty of servants, and according to their degrees and charges in office : but (as Master Stow hath discreetly advised such as are so merrily disposed, or simply profess themselves to serve duke Hum- frey in Pauls) if punishment of losing their dinners daily, there, be not sufficient for them, they should be sent to St. Albans, to answer there for their disobe- dience, and long absence from their so highly well deserving lord and master, as in their merry disposition they please so to call him." There can be no doubt that this mock solemnity on May-day, and the feast of St. Andrew, on pretence of attending a festival in Paul's, on the invitation of a dead nobleman in another place, gave rise to the saying concerning " dining with duke Humfrey." It is still used respect- ing persons who inquire " where shall I dine ?" or who have lost, or are afraid of " losing their dinners." PRINTERS' MAY FESTIVAL The following particulars of a very curious celebration is remarkable, as being a description of the old mode of festivous enjoyment, " according to order,'' and the wearing of garlands by the stewards, with " whifflers" in the pro- cession.* It is extracted from Handle Holme's "Storehouse of Armory, 1688." Stationers' Hall May Feast. The Printers, Journeymen, with the Founders and Ink-makers have every * Wk\fflers, see vol. i. p, 1444, note, and 1188. year a general Feast, which is kept in the Stationers Hall on or about May Day. It is made by 4 Stewards, 2 Masters, and 2 Journeymen ; and with the Collection of half a Crown a piece of every Guest, the charges of the whole Feast is de- frayed. About 10 of the Clock in the Morning on the Feast day, the Company invited meet at the place appointed, and from thence go to some Church thereabouts in this following Order. First, 4 Whifflers (as Servitures) by two and two, walking before with white Staves in their Hands, and red and blew Ribbons hung Belt- wise upon their Shoulders : these make way for the Company. Then walks the Beadle of the Company of Stationers, with the Companies Staff in his Hand, and Ribbons as afore. Then the Minister, whom the Stewards have engaged to Preach the Sermon, and his Reader or Clerk. Then the Stewards walk, by two and two, with long white wands in their Hands, and all the rest of the Company follow in like order, till they enter the Church, &c. Service ended, and a Ser- mon suitable for the occasion finished, they all return to their Hall in the same order, where upon their entrance each Guest delivers his Ticket to a Person appointed, which gives him admittance ; where every one Feasts himself with what he likes best, being delighted all the while with Musicks and Songs, &c. After Dinner the Ceremony of Electing new Stewards for the next Year begins : then the Stewards withdraw into another Room, and put Garlands of Laurel or Box on their Heads, and white wands in their Hands, and are Ushered out of the withdrawing Room thus ; First, the Companies Beadle with his Staff in his Hand, and Musick sounding before him ; Then one of the Whifflers with a great Bowl of White wine and Sugar in his right Hand, and his Staff in the left : after him follows the eldest Steward. Then another Whiffler as aforesaid, before the second Steward ; in like man- ner another Whiffler before the third ; and another before the fourth Steward. And thus they walk, with Musick sounding before them, three times round the Hall; and, in the fourth round, the first Steward takes the Bowl from his Whiffler, and Drinks to one (whom be- fore he resolved on) by the Title of Mr 629 THE EVERY-DAY BOOK. MAY 630 Steward Elect ; and taking the Garland off his own Head, puts it on the Steward Elect's Head, at which all the Company clap their Hands in token of Joy. Then the present Steward takes out the Steward elect, and Walks with him, hand in hand, (giving him the right Hand,) behind the three other Stewards, another round the Hall ; and in the next round as aforesaid, the second Steward drinks to another with the same Cere- mony as the first did ; and so the third, and so the fourth. And then all walk one round more, hand in hand, about the Hall, that the Company may take Notice of the Stewards Elect : and so ends the Ceremony of the Day. They are both represented in an en- graving published by the late Mr. Nath-i niel Smith, of Great May's buildings, from whence the preceding views are copied for the purpose of more especially marking the discovery of the old tower on this festival day. British Popular Customs, Present and Past....,Thomas Firminger Thiselton Dyer,
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MAY i.] MAY DAY.
The Irish still retain the Phoenician custom of lighting fires
MAY i.J MAT DAT. 225
226 MAT DAY. [MAT i.
MAY i.] MAT DAT. 227
Maypoles.—The earliest representation of an English
maypole is that published in the Variorum Shakespeare, and
depicted on a window at Betley in Staffordshire, then the
property of Mr. Toilet, and which he was disposed tu think as
old as the time of Henry VIII. The pole is planted in a
mound of earth, and has affixed to it St. George's red-cross
banner, and a white pennon or streamer with a forked end.
The shaft of the pole is painted in a diagonal line of black
colour upon a yellow ground, a eharaeteristic decoration of
all these ancient maypoles, as alluded to by Shakespeare
in his Midsummer Night's Dream, where it gives point to
Hermia's allusion to her rival Helena as, " a painted maypole."—
Book of Days, vol. i. p. 575.— £ee Brand's Pop.
Antiq. 1849, pp. 234-247.
It was, says Hone (Every Day Boole, vol. i. p. 556), a great
object with some of the more rigid reformers to suppress '
amusements, especially maypoles ; and these idols of the
people were taken down as zeal grew fierce, and put up as
it grew cool, till, after various ups and downs, the favourites
of the populace were by the Parliament, on the 6th April,
1644, thus provided against : " The Lords and Commons do
further order and ordain that, all and singular maypoles
that are or shall be erected, shall be taken down and removed
by the constables, bossholders, tithing-men, petty constables,
and churchwardens of the parishes where the same
be, and that no maypole be hereafter set up, erected,
or suffered to be set up within this kingdom of England
or dominion of Wales ; the said officers to be fined five
shillings weekly till the said maypole be taken down." Accordingly
down went all the maypoles that were left.
The restoration of Charles II. however was the signal for
their revival. On the very 1st of May afterwards, in 1661,
the maypole in the Strand was reared with great ceremony
and rejoicing. A contemporary writer (in Cities Loyalty
Displayed, 1661, 4to) speaking of it, says, " This tree was a
most choice and remarkable piece ; 'twas made below Bridge,
and brought in two parts up to Scotland Yard, near the Ring's
Palace, and from thence it was conveyed, April 14th, to the
Strand to be erected [nearly opposite Somerset House]. It
was brought with a streamer flourishing before it, drums
MAY i.] MAY DAY. ¡229
saw cause, deposed or punished their governors, their
barons, and their kings. The judge's bough or wand (now
discontinued, and only faintly represented by a trifling
nosegay), and the staff or rod of authority in the civil and
in the military (for it was the mace of civil power, and the
truncheon of the field-officers), are both derived from hence.
A mayor, ho says, received his name from this May, in
the sense of lawful power ; the crown—a mark of dignity
and symbol of power, like the mace and sceptre—was also
taken from the May, being representative of the garland or
crown, which when hung on the top of the May or pole, was
the great signal for convening the people ; the arches of it,
which spring from the circlet and meet together at the
mound or round bell, being necessarily so formed, to suspend
it to the top of the pole. The word maypole, he observes, is
a pleonasm ; in French it is called singly Mai.
In front of the spot now occupied by St. Mary-le-Strand
anciently stood a cross, at which, says Stow, " In the year
1294 and other times, the justices itinerant sat without
In the British Apollo (1708, vol. i.) a writer says : It was
a custom among the ancient Britons, before converted to
Christianity, to erect these maypoles, adorned with flowers,
in honour of the goddess Flora.
Keysler, says Mr. Borlase, thinks that the custom of the
maypole took its origin from the earnest desire of the
people to see their king, who, seldom appearing at other
times, made his procession at this time of year to the great
assembly of the states held in the open air.—Pop. Antiq.
1849, vol. i. p. 246.
Chimney-sweepers.—How or when the chimney-sweepers
contrived to intrude their sooty persons into the company of
the gay and graceful Flora upon her high festival does not
appear. It is certain, however, that in London they have
long observed the early days of May as an established
holiday, on which occasion they parade the streets in
parties, fantastically tricked out in tawdry finery, enriched
with strips of gilt and various coloured papers, &c. With
their faces chalked, and their shovels and brushes in hand,
they caper the " Chimney-sweeper's Dance " to a well-known
tune, considered by amateurs as more noisy than musical.
bodice, looking upon one; sho seemed a mighty pretty
In. a set of prints called the Tempest Gryes of London,
one is called the Merry Milkmaid, whose proper name was
Kate. Smith. She is dancing with lier milk-pail on her head,
decorated with silver cups, tankards, and salvers borrowed
for the purpose, and tied together with ribbons, and ornamented
with flowers. Missou, too, in his Observations on his
Travels in England, alludes to this custom. lie says : On
the 1st of May, and the five and six days following, all the
pretty young country girls that serve the town with milk
dress themselves up very neatly, and borrow abundance of silver
plate, whereof they make a pyramid, which they adorn with
ribbons and flowers, and carry upon their heads instead of
their common milk-pails. In this equipage, accompanied by
some of their fellow milkmaids and a bag-pipe or fiddle,
they go from door to door, dancing before the houses of their
customers, in the midst of boys and girls that follow them
in troops, and everybody gives them something.— Ozell's
Translation, 8vo, 1719, p. 307.
In Bead's Weekly Times, May 5th, 1733, occurs the following :—
On May-day the milk-maids who serve the Court
danced minuets and rigadoons before the Eoyal family, at
St. James's House, with great applause.
The following lines descriptive of the milkmaid's garland
are taken from Every Day Book, vol. i. pp. 569, 570 :— "
In London thirty years ago,
When pretty milkmaids went about,
It was a goodly sight to see
Their May-day pageant all drawn out.
Themselves in comely colours drest,
Or else the foot-inspiring fiddle.
They stopt at houses where it waa
Their shining garland in the middle, A pipe and tabor on before, Their custom to cry ' milk below !'
And, while the music play'd, with smiles
J oin'd hands and pointed toe to toe.
Thus they tripp'd on, till—from door to door
The hop'd-for annual present sent—
A signal came, to courtsey low,
And at that door cease merriment.
Such scenes and sounds once blest ray eyes
And cbarm'd my ears ; but all have vanish'd.
For milkmaids and their dance are banish'd.
See Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, 1855-9; On May-day now no garlands go,
ulso Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 1562. " U. P. K.
spells May-goslings " is an expression used by
hoys at play as an insult to the losing party. U. P. K. is
tip-pick, that is, up with your pin or peg, the mark of the
goal. An additional punishment was thus : the winner made
a hole in the ground with his heel, into which a peg about
three inches long was driven, its top being below the surface ;
the loser, with his hands tied behind him, was to pull it up
with his teeth, the boys buffeting with their hats, and calling
out, "Up-pick! you May gosling!" or "U. P. K., gosling
in May." * May-gosling.—A writer in the Gent. Mag. (1791, vol. Ixi. p. 327) says a May-gosling, on the 1st of May, is made with as much eagerness in the north of England as an April noddy (noodle) or fool on the 1st of April.
At Abingdon the children and young people formerly
went about in groups on May morning, singing the following
carol :— "
We've been a-rambling all the night,
And sometime of this day ;
Aud now returning back again,
We brino; a garland gay.
Why don't you do as we have done
On this first day of May?
And from our parents we have come,
And would no longer stay.
A garland gay we bring you here,
And at your door we ataúd;
It is a sprout well budded out,
The work of our Lord's hand.
Why don't you do, &c.
So dear, so dear as Christ loved ve,
And for our sins was slain ;
Christ bids us turn from wickedness
Back to the Lord again.
Why don't you do." &c.—
N. & Q. \ih 8. vol. iii. p. 401. *
Seo p. 26f>.
In a MS. in the British Museum entitled Status Scholce
Etonensis, A.D. 1560, it is stated that on the day of St. Philip
and St. James, if it be fair weather, and the master grants
leave, those boys who choose it may rise at four o'clock, to
gather May-branches, if they can do it without wetting their
feet ; and that on that day they adorn the windows of the
bed-chambers with green leaves, and the houses are perfumed
with fragrant herbs. \
Some derive May from Maia, the mother of Mercury, to
whom they offered sacrifices on tho first day of it ; and this
seems to explain the custom which prevails on this day at
Cambridge of children having a figure dressed in a grotesque
manner, called a May-lady, before whicli they set a table
having on it wine, &c. They also beg money of passengers,
which is considered as an offering to the Manikin ; for their
plea to obtain it is " Pray remember the poor May-lady."
Perhaps the garlands, for which they also beg, originally
adorned the head of the goddess. The bush of hawthorn, or,
as it is called, May, placed at the doors on this day, may
point out the firstfruits of the spring, as this is one of the
earliest trees which blossoms.—Audley, Companion to the
Almanack, 1816 pv 71.
In this county the young men formerly celebrated Mayday
by placing large bidden boughs over the doors of the
houses where the young women resided to whom they paid their
addresses ; and an alder bough was often placed over the
door of a scold—Lysous' Magna Britannia, 1810, vol. ii. pt.
ii. p. 462.
Maypoles are also erected, and danced round in some
villages with as much avidity as ever.—Jour, of Arch. Assoc.,
1850, vol. v. p. 254. Washington Irving in his Sketch Book
says^I shall never forget the delight I felt on first seeing
a Maypole. It was on the banks of the Dee, close by the
MAY i.] MAY DAY. 235
without any would have been voted an utter failure ; nevertheless
the coppers of commutation were very acceptable, as
the great two-day fair of the town was held towards the close
of the week, when cash was generally in demand. Hence
when any one flung pence among them, they were wont to
chant during the scramble— "
The First of May is dipping-day,
The Sixth of May is Looe's fair day."
On the 1st of May a species of festivity, Hitchins tells
us, was observed in his time at Pad stow : called the Hobbyhorse,
from the figure of a horse being carried through the
streets. Men, women, and children flocked round it, when
they proceeded to a place called Traitor Pool, about a
quarter of a mile distant, in which the hobby-horse was
always supposed to drink. The head after being dipped into
the water, was instantly taken out, and the mud and water
were sprinkled on the spectators, to the no small diversion
of all. On returning home a particular song was sung, which
was supposed to commemorate the event that gave the hobbyhorse
birth. According to tradition the French once upon :
a time effected a landing at a small cove in the vicinity, but
seeing at a distance a number of women dressed in red
cloaks, whom they mistook for soldiers, they fled to their
ships and put to sea. The day generally ended in riot and
dissipation.—Hitchins, History of Cornwall, 1824, vol. i. p.
On the first Sunday after May-day it is a custom with
families at Penzance to visit Eose-hill, Poltier, and other
adjacent villages, by way of recreation. These pleasure-
parties generally consist of two or three families together. '
They carry flour and other materials with them to make the
11 heavy cake "* at the farm-dairies, which
are always open
for their reception. Nor do they forget to take tea, sugar, rum,
and other comfortable things for their refreshment, which,
by paying a trifle for baking and for the niceties awaiting
their consumption, content the farmers for the house-room
and pleasure they afford their welcome visitants.- -Every Day
Book, vol. i. p 561. *
See May-eve, Penzance, p. 216.
MAY i.] MAY DAY. 237
BERKSHIRE, which see) is sung by the little girls, who go
and " my lord " in the Sunday gear of her master. The
saw to-day, which remained in Bancroft for more than an
MAY I.] MAY DAT. 241
242 MAY DAT. [MAT i.
who shall produco tho most gorgeous exhibition. A few
years ago the Corporation of Liverpool exhibited no fewer than
one hundred and sixty-six horses in the procession, the first
cart containing all thè implementa used by tho scavenging
department, most artistically arranged. The railway companies,
tho brewers, the spirit-merchants, and all tho principal
dock-carriers, &c., send their teams with samples of produce
to swell the procession. After parading the principal
streets, headed by bands of music and banners, the horses are
taken home to their respective stables, and public drinks are
given to the carters by tho Corporation, tho railway companies,
and other extensive firms. The Mayor and other
members of the Corporation attend these annual feasts, and
after the repasts arc ended the carters are usually addressed
by some popular speaker, and much good advice is frequently
given them.—Harland and Wilkinson, Legends and »
Traditions of Lancashire, 1873, p. 96.
In the Life of Mrs. Pilkington (Gent. May. 1754, vol. xxiv.
p. 354) allusion seems made to this custom. The writer says,
They took places in the waggon, and quitted London early
on May-morning ; and it being the custom in this month for
the passengers to give the waggoner at every inn a ribbon to- (
adorn his team, she soon discovered the origin of the proverb,. "
as fine as a horse ;" for before they got to the end of their
journey the poor beasts were almost blinded by tho tawdry
party-coloured flowing honours of their heads.
In connection with this custom may bo mentioned one
practised at Gilmerton, in the parish of Liberton, county of
Edinburgh. The carters have friendly societies for the
purpose of supporting each other in old age or during ill-
health, and with the view partly of securing a day's recrea-
Ition, and partly of recruiting their numbers and funds, they have an annual procession. Every man decorates his cart, horse, and ribbons, and
a regular procession is made, accompanied
by a band of music. To crown all there is an uncouth,
uproarious race with cart-horses on the public road, which,
draws forth a crowd of Edinburgh idlers, and all ends in a
dinner, for which a fixed sum is paid.—Slat. Ace. of Scotland,
1845, vol. i. p. 12.
B The maypole of Lostock, a village near Bolton, in Lanca-
MAY i.] MAY DAY. 245
ISLE OP MAN.
that of its rival, the Winter, some years, and now, like many
218 MAT DAT. [MAY I.
at Paul's Cross, persuaded the people that this polo hod been
made into an idol by iiauiing the church of St. Andrew with
the addition of Under that ¡Shaft ; aud so worked upon them,
that in the afternoon of the same day, " after they had dined,"
the inhabitants with great labour raised the pole off the
hooks on which it had rested thirty-two years, and each man
sawing off for himself a piece equal to the length of his
house, it was quickly demolished and burned.—Godwin
and Britton, Churches of London, 1839 ; Brayley, Londiniana,
1829, vol. iii. p. 223 ; Hall's Otronicle, 1517.
Brayley in his Londiniana (vol. iv. p. 318) says, nearly
opposite to Craven Buildings is a low public-house, bearing
the sign of the Cock and Pye (a contraction fur the Cock and
Magpye), which two centuries ago was almost the only
dwelling in the eastern part of Drury Lane, except the
mansion of the Drewries. Hither the youths and maidens
of the metropolis, who, in social revelry on May-day threaded
the jocund dance around the maypole in the Strand, were
accustomed to resort for cakes and ale and other refreshments.
May Fair.—This saturnalia was held by a grant of the
Abbot of Westminster, " with revelry for fourteen days."
It took place annually, commencing on the first of May.
The locality was anciently called Brook Field, the site of
which is now covered with Curzon Street, Hertford Street,
and Chesterfield House. Frequent allusions to the fair are
found in plays and pamphlets of Charles II.'s time, and
hand-bills and advertisements of the reign of James II. aud
his successors are in existence.
May Fair was granted by James II., in the fourth year of
his reigu, to Sir John Coell and his heirs for ever, in trust
for Henry Lord Dover, and his heirs for ever. Before 1704
the ground became much built upon, as we learn from the
old rate-books, and in November 1708 the gentlemen of
the grand jury for the county of Middlesex and the city
of Westminster made presentment of the fair, in terms of
abhorrence, as a " vile and riotous assembly." The Queen
listened to a petition from the bench of justices for Middlesex,
and a royal proclamation, dated April 28th, 1709, prohibiting
the fair (at least as far as the amusements incerncd),
250 MAY DAT. [MAY i.
On the morning of May-day the girls from the neighbouring
villages of Kingsthorpe, &c., bring into Northampton
their garlands, which they exhibit from house to house (to
show, as tho inhabitants say, what flowers are in season),
and usually receive a trifle from each house.
The skeleton of the garland is formed of two hoops of
osier or hazel crossing each other at right angles, affixed to a
staff about five feet long, by which it is carried ; the hoops
are twined with flowers and ribbons so that no part of them
is visible. In the centre is placed one, two, or three dolls,
according to the size of the garland and the means of the
youthful exhibitors. Great emulation is excited amongst
them, and they vie with each other in collecting the choicest
flowers, and adorning the dolls in the gayest attire ; ribbon
streamers of the varied colours of the rainbow, the lacemakers
adding their spangled bobbins, decorate the whole. The
garlands are carried from house to house concealed from
view by a large pocket-handkerchief, and in some villages
it is customary to inquire if the inmates would like to see
the Queen of the May.
Wherever the young people receive a satisfactory contribution
they chant their simple ditties, which conclude with
wishing the inhabitants of the house " a joyful May," or " a
merry month of May." The verses sung by the Dallington
children are entirely different from those of any other village,
and are here subjoined :— "
The flowers are blooming everywhere,
O'er every hill and dale ;
Am 1 oh ! how beautiful they are,
How sweetly do they smell !
Go forth, my child, and laugh and play.
And let your cheerful voice,
With birds, and brooks, and merry May,
Cry out, Rejoice ! rejoice ! "
When the Mayers have collected all the money they can
obtain, they return to their homes, and regale themselves,
concluding the day with a merry dance round the garland.
MAY i.] MAY DAY. 253-
AY DAT. -[M AT I.
A nativo of Fotheringliay, Mr. W. C. Peach,
village have the right of pasturing cows upon.* The pasturo
Benson commences on May-day, and on the evening preceding
a rail is put across the entrance to the pasture,
which the cows must leap to get into. Much rivalry takes
place on this occasion. The lads watch through the night
and the dawning of May-day, the lasses with their cows
being ready at the proper moment to see which cow shall
leap the rail first into the meadow, and the cow which does
this is led round the village in the afternoon, her horns
decorated with rihbons, &c. Degradation only awaits the
hindmost cow, she has to carry elder, nettles, and thistles as
her badge, and the lass who milks her has to bear the gibes
and jeers of the villagers.—Glossary, ¿cc.t p. 428.
At Morton-Pi nkeney the following song is sung by the
children on May-morning :— "
I have a little puree in my pocket,
All fixed with a silver pin ;
Ami all that it wants is a more little silver
To line it well within.
The clock strikes one, I must be gone,
Or else it will be day;
Good morning to you, my pretty fair maid,
I wish you the merriment of May."—
Ibid. p. 426.
At Polebrook, on the last few days of April, the Queen of
May and her attendants gather what flowers they can from
the surrounding meadows, and call at the houses of the
principal inhabitants to beg flowers, the gift or the loan of
ribbons, handkerchiefs, dolls, &c., with which to form their
garland. This being arranged on hoops, the young maidens
assemble on May-morning, and carry it round the village,
preceded by a fiddler; and the following quaint song—
very similar to the one used at Hitchin, and thought from
its phraseology to have been written in the time of the
Puritans—is sung by the Queen and her company at the
different houses, and a gratuity is solicited. "
Eemember us poor mayers all,
For now we do begin
To lead our lives in righteousness,
For fear we die in sin.
Vide Bridge's Hist, of Co. of Northampton, 1791, vol. ii. p. 468.
AT DAT. [MAT I.
NOBTHUMBERL AN D
One was not many years ago remaining by Hucknall Fol-
kard, and at the top were portions of the ironwork and
decorations still in being. The morris-dance was unquestionably
one of the most popular of the many games incident
to this season, and was very generally prevalent throughout
this county, and many are the ballads dedicated to its
observance. The following is of 1614 :— "
It was my hap of late by chance
To meet a country morris-dunce,
When, chiefest of them all, the foole
Plaid with a ladle and a toóle;
When every younker eliak't hia hels,
And fine Maid Marian with her emoile,
Showed how a rascal plaid the voile,
And when the hobby-horse did wihy,
Then all the wenches gave a tihy," &c.
May-day, although a day of general holiday and rejoicing, is
nevertheless considered, as is the whole of the month, unlucky
for marriage, and few are celebrated on this day ;
more weddings being hastened, so as to be over before this
day, than postponed until June. This does not apply to
divinations for future partners, for in some parts of the
county it is usual to prepare a sweet mixture on the first of
May, composed of new milk, cakes, wine, and spice, and for-
tho assembled company to fish with a ladle for a ring and a
sixpence, which have been dropped into the bowl ; the young
man who gains the ring and the young woman the sixpence
being supposed to be intended for each other.—Jour, of Arch.
Assoc. 1853, vol. viii. p. 234.
Previous to the Reformation a requiem mass is said to
have been performed every May-morning at an early hout
on the top of Magdalen tower, Oxford, for the repose of the
soul of Henry VII., who had honoured that college with a
visit in 1486-7. The choristers continue to execute in tho
same place, at five o'clock in tho morning of the same day,
certain pieces of choir-music, for which service the rectory
of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire pays the yearly sum of £
10. The ceremony has encouraged the notion that Henry
The following hymn is sung on the occasion of this ceremony : contributed to the erection of the tower, but his only recorded act of favour to the college is the confirmation of its claim to the rectory charged with the annual payment.
41 Te Deum Patrem colimus,
Te laudibus prosequimur,
Qui corpus cibo reficis
Ccelesti men tern gratia.
Te adoramus, O Jesu 1
Te, Fili unigenite !
Tu, qui non dedignatus es
Subire claustra Virginia.
Actus in crucem faetus es,
Irato Deo victima ;
Per te, Salvator unice,
Vitse spes nobis rediit.
Tibi, seterne Spiritus,
Cujus afflatu peperit
Infanterà Deum Maria, .¿
Eternum benedicimus !
Triune Deus, liominum
Salutis Auctor optime,
Immensum hoc mysterium
Ovanti lingua canimus."
A correspondent of N. & Q. (2nd S. vii. p. 446) thinks
this hymn was composed by Dr. Thomas Smith, a very
learned fellow of Magdalen College, soon after the Kestora-
tion, and that it was not sung till about the middle of the
last century.*—Akerman, History of Oxford, vol. i. p. 251 ;
Wade, Walks in Oxford, 1817, vol. i. p. 132. *
Whilst making some researches in the library of Christchurch,
Oxford, Dr. Rimbault discovered what appeared to him to be the first
draft of the hymn in question. It has the following note :—" This
hymn is sung every day in Magdalen College Hall, Oxon, dinner and
supper, throughout the year for the after-grace, by the chaplain, clerks.'
und choristers there. Composed by Dr. Benjamin Rogers, Doctor of
Musicke, of the University of Oxon, 1685." It has been popularly
supposed, saya Dr. Rimbault, to be the Hymnus Eucharisticus,
written by Dr. Nathaniel Ingelo, and sung at the civic feast at Guildhall
on the 5th of July, 1660, while the King and the other exalted
personages were at dinner ; but this is a mistake, for the words of
Ingelo's hymn, very different from the Magdalen hymn, still exist,
ard are to be found in "Wood's Collection in the Ashmolean Museum.
Dr. Rimbault, in a communication to the Illustrated London
News (May 17th, 1856), speaking of this custom, says:—
Tn the year of our Lord God 1501, the "most Christian"
King Henry VII. gave to St. Mary Magdalen College the
advowsons of the churches of Slimbridge, county of Gloucester,
and Fyndon, county of Sussex, together with one acre
of land in each parish. In gratitude for this benefaction,
the college was accustomed, during the lifetime of their
royal benefactor, to celebrate a service in honour of the Holy
Trinity, with the collect still used on Trinity Sunday, and
the prayer, " Almighty and everlasting God, we are taught by
Thy Holy Word that the hearts of kings," &c. ; and after the
death of the king to commemorate him in the usual manner,
The commemoration service ordered in the time of Queen
Elizabeth is still performed on the 1st of May, and the
Latin hymn in honour of the Holy Trinity, which continues
to be sung on the tower at sun-rising, has evidently reference
to the original service. The produce of the two acres
above mentioned used to be distributed on the same day
between the President and Fellows ; it has however for many
years been given up to supply the choristers with a festal
entertainment in the college-hall.
It was also the custom at Oxford a generation ago for little
boys to blow horns about the streets early on May-day, which
they did for the purpose of " calling up the old maids." " I (
iskcd an aged inhabitant," says a correspondent of N. & Q. (
ith S. vol. vii. p. 430), "how long the horn-blowing had
ceased, and he replied, ever since the Reform Bill camo
in ; but that ho remembered the time when the workhouse
children were let out for May-day early in the morning with
their horns and garlands, and a worthy alderman whom h&
named always kept open house on that day, and gave them
a good dinner." " Calling up the old maids " no doubt refers
to the practice of calling up the maids, whether old or
young, to go a-maying. Hearne, in his preface to Robert of
Gloucester's C/ironicle, alluding to the custom (p. 18)„,says : —" '
Tis no wonder, therefore, that upon the jollities on
the first day of May formerly the custom of blowing with,
and drinking in, horns so much prevailed, which, though it
bo now generally disused, yet the custom of blowing them
MAY i.] MAY DAT. 261
At Islip the children, carrying May-garlands, go about in
little groups, singing the following carol :— "
Good morning, missus and master,
I wish you a happy day ;
Please to smell my garlaud,
Because it is the first of May."
Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 219.
It has been usual for the people in this neighbourhood to
assemble on the Wrekin hill on the Sunday after May-day,
and the three successive Sundays, to drink a health " to all
friends round the Wrekin ; " but as on this annual festival
various scenes of drunkenness and licentiousness were
frequently exhibited, its celebration has of lato been very
properly discouraged by the magistracy, and is going
deservedly to decay.—Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 599.
At Minehead May-day is observed by the celebration of a
custom called " Hobby-horsing. " A number of young men,
mostly fishermen and sailors, having previously made some
grotesque figures of light stuff, rudely resembling men and
horses with long tails, sufficiently large to cover and disguise
the persons who are to carry them, assemble together and
perambulate the town and neighbourhood, performing a
variety of antics, to the great amusement of the children and
young persons. They never fail to pay a visit to Dunster
Castle, where, after having been hospitably regaled with
strong beer and victuals, they always receive a present in
money. Many other persons, inhabitants of the places they
visit, give them small sums, and such persons as they meet
are also asked to contribute a trifle ; if they are refused, the
person of the refuser is subjected to the ceremony of booting
or pursuing. This is done by some of the attendants holding
his person while one of the figures inflicts ten slight blows on
him with the top of a boot, he is then liberated, and all
parties give three huzzas. The most trifling sum buys off
this ceremony, and it is seldom or never performed but on
MAY i.] M AÏ DAT. 203
occasion was called the steward. At the meeting in 1698,
Mr. John Panther, being in that office, proposed to make a
collection for binding out as apprentices the children of poor
persons having a legal settlement. This was readily acceded
to, and it was resolved that the minister of the parish, and
such gentlemen as had served the office of steward, and should
afterwards serve it, should be governors. This excellent
plan has been followed ever since : the members for the
borough are always invited to the feast, and a liberal collection
is made. By means of donations and good management
on the part of the governors a considerable sum has been
invested in the public funds. These boys are apprenticed
annually; and if so many are not found in St. Thomas's
parish, the stewards in rotation may each appoint one from
any other parish.—Brayley, History of Surrey, 1841, voL v. p.
In very early times May-day was celebrated with great
spirit in the town of Eye ; young people going out at sunrise
and returning with large boughs and branches of trees, with
which they adorned the fronts of the houses. About three
hundred years ago the Corporation possessed certain woodlands,
called the common woods, whither the people used to
go and cut the bougbs, until at length they did so much
damage that the practice was prohibited. A few years ago
here and there a solitary may-bough graced a house, but they
have now ceased to appear altogether. A garland or two
carried by little children, and the chimney-sweepers in their
ivy-leaves, representing " Jack of May," are the only relics
of these May-day sports, so characteristic of merry England
in former times.—Holloway, Hist, of Bye, 1847, p. 608.
At a village called Temple-Sowerby it is customary for a
number of persons to assemble together on the green, and
there propose a certain number as candidates for contesting
the various prizes then produced, which consist of a grindstone
as the head prize ; a hone, or whetstone for a razor, as
MAY i.] MAT DAY. 265
among the farmers for good conduct, they go from house
to house throughout their parish, begging the loan of
watches, silver spoons, and other utensils of this metal,
and those who are satisfied with the parties, and have a
regard for the celebration of this ancient day, comply with
their solicitation. When May-day morn arrives the group of
dancers assemble at the village tavern. From thence (when
permission can be obtained from the clergyman of the
parish) the procession sets forth, accompanied by the
ringing of bells. The arrangement and march arc settled by
tho Cadi, who is always the most active person in the
company, and is, by virtue of his office, the chief marshal,
orator, buffoon, and money-collector. He is always arrayed
in comic attire, generally in a partial dross of both sexes, a
coat and waistcoat being used for the upper part of the body,
and for tho lower petticoats somewhat resembling Moll
Flagon, in the "Lord of tho Manor." His countenance is
also distinguished by a hideous mask, or is blackened entirely
over, and then the lips, cheeks, and orbits of the eyes are
sometimes painted red. The number of the rest of the party,
including the garland-bearer, is generally thirteen, and with
the exception of the varied taste in the decoration of their
shirts with ribbons, their costume is similar. It consists
of clothing entirely new, made of a light texture for dancing.
White decorated shirts, are worn over the rest of their
clothing; the remainder of the dress is black velveteen
breeches, with knee-ties depending halfway down to the
ancles, in contrast with yarn hose of a light grey. The
ornaments of the hats are large rosettes of varied colours,
with streamers depending from them ; wreaths of ribbon
encircle the crown, and each of the dancers carries in his
right hand a white pocket-handkerchief. The garland consists
of a long staff or pole, to which is affixed a triangular
or square frame, covered with strong white linen, on which
the silver ornaments are fixed, and displayed with great
taste. Silver spoons, &c., are placed in the shape of stars,
squares, and circles. Between these are rows of watches,
and at the top of tho frame, opposite to the pole in
its centre, the whole collection is crowned with the largest
and most costly of the ornaments, generally a large silver
MAY i.] MAT DAY. 267
268 MAY DAT. [MAY i.
MAY i.j MAT DAY. 2GS>
Popular Customs, Present and Past....,Thomas
The Monthly welcome and parish visitor
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But cross two fields more, and up a quiet
lane, and we are at the Maying, announced
afar off by the merry sound of music, and the
merrier clatter of childish voices. Here we
are at the green; a little turfy spot, where
three roads meet, close shut in by hedgerows,
with a pretty white cottage, and its long slip
of a garden at one angle. I had no expectation
of scenery so compact, so like a glade in
a forest; it is quite a cabinet picture, with
green trees for the frame. In the midst grows
a superb horse-chesnut, in the full glory of its
flowery pyramids, and from the trunk of the chestnut the Mayhouses commence. They are covered alleys built of green boughs, decorated with garlands and great bunches of flowers, the gayest that blow — lilacs, Guelder-roses, pionies, tulips, stocks — hanging down like chandeliers among the dancers ;. gav dark-eyed young girls in straw bonnets and white gowns, and their lovers in their .Sunday attire, the May-houses were full. The girls had mostly the look of extreme youth, and danced well and quietly like ladies — too much so; I should have been glad to see less elegance and more enjoyment: and their partners, though not altogether so graceful, were as decorous and as indifferent as real gentlemen. It was quite like a ball-room, as pretty and almost as dull. Outside was the fun. It is the outside, the upper gallery of the world, that has that good thing. There were children laughing, eating, trying to cheat, and being; cheated, round an ancient and practiced vender of oranges and gingerbread ; and on the other side of the tree lay a merry group of old men, in coats almost as old as themselves, and young ones in no coats at all, excluded from the dance by the disgrace of a smock-frock. Who would have thought of etiquette finding its way into the Mayhouses! That group would have suited Teniers; it smoked and drank a little, hut it laughed a great deal more. There were a few decent matronly looking women, too, sitting in a cluster; and young mothers strolling about with infants in their arms; and ragged boys peeping through the boughs at the dancers ; and the bright sun shining gloriously on all this innocent happiness. Oh what a pretty sight it was ! — worth losing our way for — worth losing our dinner — both which happened ; whilst a party of friends, who were to have joined us, were far more unlucky ; for they not only lost their way and their dinner, hut rambled ¡ill day about the country, and never reached Bramley Maying.
-The Works of Mary Russell Mitford: Prose and Verse, Viz Our Village, Belford ,Mary Russell Mitford,1846
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MAY is so called from Afaia, the mother of Mercury, to
whom sacrifices were offered by the Romans on the 1st
of this month, or, according to some, from respect to the
senators and nobles of Rome, who were called Majores, as
the following month was termed Junius in honour of the
youths of Rome.
The Saxons called May tri-milchi, because in that month
they began to milk their kine three times a-day.
Is not this the merry Month of May,
Youth folks now flocken in everywhere When love lads masken in fresh array ?
To gather may-baskets and smelling bréese,
Hut we here Sitten as drowned in a dream.—SPENCER.
All ranks formerly went out into the woods a maying early
on the ist of this month, returning laden with boughs and
garlands, and spending the remainder of the day in dancing
round a May-Pole crowned with flowers; of customs like ;
he>e. Mr. Leslie's picture of May Morning conveys a most
excellent representation. One of the poles was standing in
East Smithfield about the year I 740, and another opposite
the new church in the Strand, in Queen Anne's reign, bul
was taken down in 1717.
In the time of Cromwell fifty Cornish gentlemen on one
side "hurled the great Ball " to fifty on the other ; one party
played in red caps, the other in white, in Hyde Park.
Cromwell, and many of his Privy Council were present. The
ball they played with was silver and designed for the party
that won the goal. Other sports and pastimes besides those of Maying were celebrated by our ancestors on this day.
A peculiar rustic ceremony used annually to be observed
at Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, about fifty years ago. The
young of the neighbourhood assembled to partake of the
amusements, with wands enwreathed with cowslips, and
walked in procession to the May-Pole—there uniting in the
wild joy of young enthusiasm ; they struck together their
wands and scatter around their cowslips. At Saistow in
Cornwall, there is a singular species of festivity on the 1st of
May. This is called the Hobby-horse, from canvas being
extended with hoops, and painted to resemble a horse.
Being carried through the streets, men, women, and children
flock round it, when they proceed to a place called Traitar-
pnal, about a quarter of a mile distant, in which the Hobby-
b.rsc is always supposed to drink, when the head, being
dipped into the water, is instantly taken up and the mud and
water are sprinkled upon the spectators, to the no small
diversion of all ; on returning home a particular song is sung
that is supposed to commemorate the event that gave the
That Queen Elizabeth actually went a Maying, we have
the authority of " The progress of this Queen," (vol. iv.
part I.) where the fact is thus stated. " May 8th, 1602. On
MJY Day the Queen went a Maying to Sir Richard Buckley's
at Lewisham, some three or four miles off Greenwich."-The Antiquary,1873
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MAY-DAY was celebrated with a gaiety and poetical grace far
beyond all other festivals. It had come down from the pagan
times with all its Arcadian beauty, and seemed to belong to those
seasons more than to any Christian occasions. It is one that the
poets have all combined to lavish their most delicious strains
upon. The time of the year was itself so inspiring, — with all
its newness of feeling, its buds and blossoms and smiling skies.
It seemed just the chosen period for heaven and earth and youth
to mingle their gladness together. There is no festivity that is
so totally gone ! Washington Irving in his very interesting account
of his visit to Newstead Abbey, takes the opportunity to say, that
he had been accused by the critics of describing in his Sketch
Book popular manners and customs that had gone by, but that he
had found those very customs existing in that neighbourhood.
That those who doubted the accuracy of his statements must go
north of the Trent. That he found May-poles standing in the
old-fashioned villages, and that a band of plough-bullocks even
came to the abbey while he was there.
Washington Irving certainly seemed most agreeably impressed
with the primitive air of that part of Nottinghamshire, and it is
interesting to see the effect which places most familiar to you
produce on the minds of strangers of taste and poetical feeling.
His delight at finding himself in old Sherwood, the haunt of Robin
Hood; in hearing tbe bells of Mansfield at a
distance; and his
remarking the names of Wagstaff, Hardstaff, Beardall, as names
abounding about the forest, naturally suggesting the character
of those who first bore them — names so common to our eyes as
never to have awakened any such idea; — all this is very agreeable;
but let no lover of ancient customs go thither on the strength of
Washington Irving's report, unless he means to travel much
farther north of the Trent than Newstead. There is certainly a
May-pole standing in the village of Linby near Newstead, and
there is one in the village of Farnsfield near Southwell; but I have
been endeavouring to recollect any others for twenty miles round
and cannot do it, and though garlands are generally hung on these
poles on May-day, wreathed by the hands of some fair damsel who
has a lingering affection for the olden times, and carried up by
some adventurous lad; alas! the dance beneath it, where is it? In
the dales of Derbyshire, May-poles are more frequent, but the
dancing I never saw. In my own recollection, the appearance of
moms-dancers, guisers, plough-bullocks, and Christmas carollers,
has become more and more rare, and to find them we must go into
the retired hamlets of Staffordshire, and the dales of Yorkshire and
One would have thought that the May-day fete would have outlasted
all others, except it were Christmas, on the strength of the
poetical wealth of heart and fancy woven with it through our
literature. Every writer of any taste and fancy has referred with
enthusiasm to May-day. Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, Fletcher,
Milton, Browne, Herrick, and all our later poets, have sung of it
with all their hearts. Chaucer, in Palamon and Arcite, describes
Arcite going to the woods for garlands on May morning, according
to the old custom.
He Is risen, and looketh on the merry day;
And for to do his observance to May,
Remembering on the point of his desire.
He on the courser, starting as the fire,
Is risen to the fielded him to playe -
Out of the court were it a mile or tway :
And to the grove of which that I you told,
By Aventine his way began to hold,
To maken him a garland <>!' the greves,
Were it of woodhine, or of hawthorn leaves,
And loud he sung, against the sunny sheen: "
O May, with all thy flowers and thy green,
Right welcome be thou, faire, freshe May;
1 hope that I some green here getten may."
And from his courser with a lusty heart,
Into the grove full hastily he start,
And in a path he roamed up and down.
Milton has many beautiful glances at it, and Shakspeare. touches
on it in a hundred places, as in " The Midsummer Night's Dream :
If thou lovest me then.
Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night ;
And in a wood, a league without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee.
The European observance of this custom is principally derived
from the Romans, who have left traces of it in all the countries
they subdued. It was their festival of Flora. It was the time in
which they sacrificed to Maia; and in Spain, where this custom
seems to remain much as they left it, the village-queen still is
called Maia. But we have traces of it as it existed amongst the
Saxons, whose barons at this time going to their Wittenagemote,
or Assembly of Wise Men, left their peasantry to a sort of saturnalia,
in which they chose a king, who chose his queen. He wore
an oaken, and she a hawthorn wreath ; and together they gave
laws to the rustic sports, during those sweet days of freedom.
The May-pole too, or the column of May, was the grand standard
of justice amongst these people, in the EY-COMMONS, or fields of
May: and the garland hung on its top, was the signal for convening
the people. Here it was that the people, if they saw cause,
deposed or punished their governors, their barons and kings. It
was one of the most ancient customs, which, says Brande, has by
repetition been from year to year perpetuated.
But we have traces also of its mode of celebration among our
Druid ancestors, for it is certainly one of the old customs of the
world, having come down from the earliest ages of Paganism
through various channels. Dr. Clarke in his
Travels, vol. ii.
p. 229, has shewn that the custom of blowing horns on this day,
still continued at Oxford, Cambridge, London, and other places,
is derived from a festival of Diana. These ancient customs of the
country did not escape the notice of Erasmus when in England,
nor the ceremony of placing a deer's head upon the altar ol
St. Paul's church, which was built upon the site of a temple of
Diana, by Ethelbcrt, king of Kent. Mr. Johnson, in his " Indian '"
Field Sports," also states the curious circumstance, that the Hindoos
held a vernal feast called BHUVIZAH, on the 9th of Baisach,
exclusively for such as keep horned cattle for use or profit, when
they erect a pole and adorn it with garlands ; and perform much
the same rites as used to be adopted by the English on the first of
May. Thus it appears how ancient and how widely spread was
this custom ; and its celebration by the Druids and Celts points
it out as belonging to the worship of the sun. In Ireland and the
Highlands of Scotland, the people still kindle fires on the tops of
their mountains on this day, called Beal Fires, and the festival
then celebrated Beltane, or Bealtane. The practice is to be traced
in the mountainous and uncultivated parts of Cumberland, amongst
the Cheviots, and in many parts of Scotland. Mr. Pennant says — "
On the first of May, in the Highlands of Scotland, the herdsmen
of every district hold their Beltein. They cut a square trench
in the ground, leaving the turf in the middle. On that they make
a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of eggs, butter,
oatmeal, and milk, and bring, besides the ingredients of the caudle,
plenty of beer and whisky; for each of the company must contribute
something. The rite begins with spilling some of the
caudle on the ground, by way of libation. On that every one
takes a cake of oatmeal, on which are raised nine square knobs,
each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of
their flocks and herds; or to some particular animal, the real
destroyer of them. Each person then turns his face to the fire,
breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulder, says — " This
I give to thee ; preserve thou my sheep : this I give to thee ;
preserve thou my horses :" and so on. After that they use the
same ceremony to the noxious animals — " This I give to thee O
Fox ! spare thou my lambs ; this to thec O hooded Crow ! this to
hee Eagle ! When the ceremony is over they dine
on the caudle,
Something of this kind is retained in Northumberland, in the
syllabub prepared for the May-feast, which is made of warm milk
from the cow, sweet cake, and wine ; and a kind of divination is
practised by fishing with a ladle for a wedding-ring, which is
dropped into it for the purpose of prognosticating who shall be
first married. This divination of the wedding-ring is practised in
the midland counties on Christmas-eve ; and they have a peculiar
kind of tall pots made expressly for this purpose, called posset-potsi
I have myself fished for the ring on many a merry Christmas-eve.
One cannot avoid seeing in these ceremonies their most ancient
origin and consequently wide-spread adoption. The throwing
over the shoulder offerings to good and evil powers is exactly that
of all savage nations, the effect of one uniform tradition. The
American Indians, indeed, seldom propitiate the good, but are
very careful to appease, or prevent the evil Manitou. These
notions have, no doubt, everywhere contributed to connect ideas of
the presence and power of spiritual and fairy creatures, and the
extraordinary license of witcheraft on this night and day. We
cannot avoid thinking of the wizard rites of the Blocksburg in
Germany, made so familiar by Goethe ; and we see the reason why
all houses were defended by forest boughs, gathered with peculiar
ceremonies, and worn by the young on May-eve, in almost every
What then were the exact ceremonies of May-day ? The
Romans celebrated the feast of Flora in this manner. The young
people went to the woods, and brought back a quantity of boughs,
with which they adorned their houses. Women ran through the
streets, and had the privilege of insulting every one who came in
their way. And here may we not see the custom, still continued
in France, though fallen into desuetude here, of the epoustles (
brides) of the month of May? The epous&s are the little
daughters of the common people, dressed in their best, and placed
on a chair, or bank, in the streets and public walks, on the first
Sunday in May. Other little girls, the brides' companions, stand
near with plates, and tease the passengers for some money for
Like the Romans, then, our ancestors celebrated
May-day as a
festival of the young. The youth of both sexes rose shortly after
midnight, and went to some neighbouring wood, attended by songs
and musie, and breaking green branches from the trees, adorned
themselves with wreaths and crowns of flowers. They returned
home at the rising of the sun, and made their windows and doors
gay with garlands. In the villages they danced during the day
round the May-pole, which was hung to the very top with wreaths
and garlands, and afterwards remained the whole year untouched,
except by the seasons, — a fading emblem and consecrated offering
to the Goddess of Flowers. At night the villagers lighted up fires,
and indulged in revellings, after the Roman fashion. In this
country they added the pageant of Robin Hood and Maid Marian,
with Friar Tuck, Will Stutely, and others of their merry company;
the dragon and the hobby-horse, — all of which may be found fully
described in Strutt's Queenhoo-Hall.
Spenser and Herrick give very graphic pictures of these popular
festivities, which I shall here transcribe ; and first, Spenser from the
Young folke now flocken in everywhere
To gather May buskets,* and smelling brere ;
And home they hasten the posts to dight,
And all the kirk pillars, ere daylight:
With hawthorne buds, and sweet eglantine,
And garlands of roses, and sops-in-wine.
Sicker this morrow, no longer agoe,
I sawe a shole of shepherds outgoe
With singing and shouting, and jolly chere ;
Before them rode a lustie tabrere,
That to the many a hornpipe played,
Wherto they dauncen, eche one with his mayd.
To see these folks make such jovisaunce
Made my heart after the pipe to daunce.
Tim to the greene-wood they speeden hem all,
To fetchen home May with their musical).
And home they bringen, in a royall throne,
Crowned as king, and his queen attone
Was Lady Flora, on whome did attend
A fayre flock of faeries, and a fresh band
Of lovely nymphs. O that I were there
To helpen the ladies their May-bush beer ! •
CORINNA'S GOING A-MAYING.
Get up, get up for shame: the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the God unshorn :
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air :
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept and bowed towards the east
Above an hour ago, yet you not dressed :
Nay, not so much as out of bed
When all the hirds have matins said,
And sung their thankful hymns ; 'tis sin,
Nay, profanation to keep in ;
When as a thousand virgins on this day
Spring sooner than the lark to fetch in May !
B.ise and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth like the spring time, fresh and green,
And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your crown, or hair ;
Fear not. the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
Come and receive them, while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night,
And Titan, on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying !
Come, my Corinna, come, and coming mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park,
Made green and trimmed with trees; see how
Devotion gives each house a bough,
A branch; each porch, and door, ere this,
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of whitethorn, neatly interwove,
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street,
And open fields, and we not see "i ?
Such were the festivities of youth and nature to which our
monarchs, especially Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and James, used to go
forth and participate. In the reign of the Maiden Queen, pageant
seemed to arrive at its greatest height, and the May-day festivities
were celebrated in their fullest manner; and so they continued,
attracting the attention of the royal and noble, as well as the
vulgar, till the close of the reign of James I. In " The Progresses
of Queen Elizabeth," vol. iv. part i., is this entry: "May 8th,
1602. On May-day, the queen went a-Maying to Sir Rich.
Buckley's, at Lewisham, some three or four miles off Greenwich."
This may be supposed to be one of those scenes represented in
Mr. Leslie's magnificent picture of May-day, in which Elizabeth is
a conspicuous object. It is recorded by Chambers that Henry
VIII. made a grand procession, with his queen Katherine and
many lords and ladies, from Greenwich to Shooter's Hill, where
they were met by a Robin Hood pageant. In Henry VI. 's time,
the aldermen and sheriffs of London went to the Bishop of
London's wood, in the parish of Stebenheath, and there had a
worshipful dinner for themselves and other comers ; and Lydgate
the poet, a monk of Bury, sent them by a pursuivant " a joyful
commendation of that season, containing sixteen stanzas in metre
In April, 1644, there was an ordinance of the two houses of
Parliament for taking down all and singular May-poles; and in
1654, the Moderate Intelligencer says — "this day was more
observed by people's going a-Maying, than for divers years past,
and indeed much sin committed by wicked meetings, with fighting,
drunkenness, ribaldry and the like. Great resort came to
Hyde Park; many hundred of rich coaches, and gallants in rich
attire, but most shameful powdered-hair men, and painted and spotted
women." And this before my Lord Protector ! so that the old
spirit was rising up again from beneath the influence of Puritanism;
and the Restoration was again the signal for hoisting the Maypoles.
In Hone's Everyday Book, and in that valuable miscellany,
Time's Telescope, many particulars of the rearing again the great
May-pole in the Strand, and of the latest May-pole standing in
London, may be found.
Old Aubrey says, that in Holland they had their May-booms
before their doors, but that he did not recollect seeing a May-pole
in France. Yet nothing is more certain than the custom of the
French of planting tall trees in their villages at this time, and of
adorning their houses with boughs, and of planting a shrub of
some pleasant kind under the window, or by the door of their sweethearts,
before day-break, on a May-morning. Aubrey complains
himself bitterly of the people taking up great trees in the forest of
Woodstock to plant before their doors; and John Evelyn as bitterly
laments the havoc made in the woods in his time. They are safe
from such depredations now. Yet in different parts of England
still, till within these few years, lingered vestiges of this once great
day. At Horncastle in Lincolnshire, the young people used to
come marching up to the May-pole with wands wreathed with
cowslips, which they there struck together in a wild enthusiasm,
and scattered in a shower around them. At Padstow in Cornwall,
they have, or had lately, the procession of the hobby-horse. At
Oxford on May-day, at four o'clock in the morning, they ascend
to the top of the tower of Magdalen College, and used to sing a
requiem for the soul of Henry VII., the founder, which was afterwards
changed to a concert of vocal and instrumental music, consisting
of several merry catches, and a concluding peal of the bells.
The clerks and choristers, with the rest of the performers, afterwards
breakfasted on a side of lamb. At Arthur's Seat, at Edinburgh, they
make a grand assembly of young people about sunrise, to gather
May-dew, and dance. In Huntingdonshire, a correspondent of
Time's Telescope says, that the children still exhibit garlands.
They suspend a sort of crown of hoops, wreathed and ornamented
with flowers, ribbons, handkerchiefs, necklaces, silver spoons, and
whatever finery can be procured, at a considerable height above
the road, by a rope extending from chimney to chimney of the
cottages, while they attempt to throw their balls over it from side
to side, singing, and begging halfpence from the passengers. A
May-lady, or doll, or larger figure, sometimes makes an appendage
in some side nook. The money collected is afterwards spent in a
tea-drinking, with cakes, etc. May-garlands with dolls are carried
at Northampton by the neighbouring villagers, and at other places.
At Great Gransden in Cambridgeshire, at Hitchin, and elsewhere,
they make a lord and lady of May. At night, the farmers' young
servants go and cut hawthorn, singing what they call the Night-
song. They leave a bough at each house, according to the number
of young persons in it. On the evening of May-day, and the
following evening, they go round to every house where they left a
bush, singing The May-Song. One has a handkerchief on a long
wand for a flag, with which he keeps off the crowd. The rest
have ribbons in their hats. The May-Song consists of sixteen
verses, of a very religious cast. At Penzance, and in Wales, they
keep up May dances and other peculiar ceremonies.
I have been more particular in detailing the rites and customs
of this festivity, because, once more popular than any, they are
now become more disused. There have been more attempts to
revive the celebration of May-day, from its supposed congeniality
to the spirit of youth, than that of any other festivity, but all in
vain. The times, and the spirit of the times, are changed
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HIGH DAYS AND HOLIDAYS. BY AGNES STRJCKLAND.
HIGH days and holidays, the merry days of England, are out of date. The more is the pity, for they were bright spots in the calendar of the industrious classes — seasons of recreation to look forward to through dark vistas of toil and sore. There is no stimulus to exertion more effectual than the promise of a little pleasure — no proverb more true than the homely adage, " All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Relaxation is as necessary to the mind as aliment to the body, and assists in keeping both in a healthy tone. It is the want of simple and innocent pastimes in which all classes could seasonally unite, that has rent the links of society, and taught the poor to look with envy and hatred on their wealthy neighbours. The frightful increase of intemperance in our metropolis and great towns, which defies alike the influence of the law and the gospel, from what does it proceed ? I answer, From the stagnation of the system, the " green and yellow melancholy" engendered by unremitting care. The bow has lost its elasticity from being always bent, and the languid hand that holds it endeavours to raise the string to action by giving it the sharp fillip which completes the destruction of the instrument. The fiery dram — the intoxicating drug, with when the cared-worn man, hopeless matron, or miserable child strives to quicken the torpid pulse of life at the expense of all its moral duties, only increases the evil by creating a maddening longing for a repetition of the fatal excitement. A dance round the maypole would have enlivened the circulation and cheered the spirits of those poor creatures, and cost them nothing, not even a regret. The chronicles of Henry the Eighth's reign, indeed, bear record of the frightful tragedy which on one occasion stained the May-day festival with the blood of peaceful citizens, caused by an outbreak of the London 'prentiees, whose jealousy against foreigners having
been exited, they rose, and, assisted by a mischievous
mob, plundered the houses of the Spanish merchants,
and massacred several persons who endeavoured to
resist their violence ; which outrages were avenged on
the spot by the earl-marshal hanging .1 number of the
young culprits on the sign-posts of their master's
shops ; and but for the powerful intercession of the
three queens, Catharine of Aragon, Henry's consort,
and his sisters, the dowagers of France and Scotland,
upwards of two hundred more of these juvenile
offenders would have been executed — so exasperated
was the king at this daring breach of his peace. But
for one " EM May-day" there have been at least
seventeen hundred joyous festivals on that sweet
anniversary both in country and town.
King Henry himself — and it was one cause of his
popularity with the Commons of England in the early
years of his reign — always honoured the customs of the
May with his observance. On the 1st of May, 1515,
we find that he and good Queen Catherine, with the
newly wedded widow of France, Mary Tudor and her
jolly bridegroom, Brandon Duke of Suffolk, and a
goodly train of nobles, knights, and gentle ladies, rode
a-maying from Greenwieh palace to Shooter's-hill; and
all the " loving commonaltie" of London and Westminster
rose np betimes to go a-maying too with their
liege lord, and enjoyed the treat of seeing how the
archers of the king's guard, dressed like Robin Hood
and his outlaws, met their graces and invited them and
their noble attendants to enter the good greenwood,
and see how outlaws lived. Wherenpon King Henry
pleasantly performed his part in the popular drama by
turning to the queen, and asking her " whether she
and her ladies would venture into a thicket with so
many outlaws ;" and the royal Catherine set all the
married women present a good example by replying
right lovingly to her lord, " that where he went, she
was content to go." Then the queen's grace and all
her ladies lighted down from their palfreys, and the
king leading her by the hand, they were conducted to
a sylvan bower formed of hawthorn boughs, flowers,
and moss, opening into a booth or arbour, where a
breakfast of venison and other substantial dainties was
laid out, of which the royal party partook. As they
turned their steps towards Greenwich, they were met
on the road by a flowery ear, drawn by five horses,
each ridden by a fair and gaily decorated damsel, personating
the attributes of Spring.
The horses had their names lettered on their headgear,
the damsels theirs on their dresses. In the ear
was the lady May, attended by Flora. The encounter
took place at the foot of Shooter's-hill. As soon as
the fair actresses caught sight of the royal cavalcade,
they burst into sweet song, and preceded their graces,
earolling hymns to the May, till they reached Greenwich
As for the Londoners of low degree, " the smug
apprentices and washed artizans," the motley rout of
cobblers, tinkers, tailors, men, women, and children, who
had risen before the sun had kissed the dew from the
Kentish meads, and wended forth to meet and go a- maying with the King and queen and their gay eonrt, and having seen the forest pageant, returned with glowing cheeks, light hearts, and hands full of wild- flower posies in time to bring up the rear of the milkmaids' procession, — were they not better primed for the duties of the day than the pale listless beings who ereep shivering to the gin-shop for the fatal draught which sends liquid fire through every nerve and vein, and paralyzes the brain it influences ? That great sovereign queen Elizabeth, who understood so thoroughly the way to please her lieges of low degree, never failed to honour all little popular customs with her observances. Even in the last year of her reign, and the 69th of her age, she was up betimes, and went a-maying with all her eourt in the green glades of Lewisham. May garlands and May games were rigorously interdicted and put down as sinful vanities by the puritan legislators of the Commonwealth, but were destined to see a gay revival in the May-day anniversary that succeeded the restoration of royalty, when the Londoners decorated so lofty and elaborate a May pole for the Strand, opposite the church of St. Clement Danes, that they could by no means contrive to set it up. While they were in great perplexity as to the means of accomplishing their object, it happened by lucky chance that his royal highness the Duke of York came along the Strand with a party of his sailors, and volunteered his assistance, and so effectively, that in the course of a few minutes, he and his shipmates succeeded in rearing aloft the giant shaft, and fixing it with cords after the manner of the mast of a man- of-war, to the infinite admiration of all beholders. There is a very pretty and characteristic wood-eut engraving in the Table-book, of the milk-maidens' dance in London, 169S, taken from a contemporary drawing in a rare volume by a foreign traveller, who gives the following description of the now forgotten custom : — " On the first of May and the five or six days following, all the young pretty peasant girls who are accustomed to carry about milk for sale in the city, dress themselves very orderly, and bear about on their heads a pyramid formed of their vases and measures, soured so bright as to look like silver, filled with flowers; and so, accompanied by certain of their neighbours, and the music of a fiddle, they go dancing from door to door, surrounded by young people and children, who follow them in crowds, and every where they are made some little present." The following old pithy ballad of The Mayer's Song is full of beauty :
The Mayers SONG. "Remember us poor mayors all, And thus do we begin To lead our lives in righteousness , Or else we die in sin. " We have been rambling all this night, And almost all this 'lay, And now, returned back again. We have brought you a branch of May.
A branch of May we have brought you,
And at your door it stands,
It is but a sprout,
But it's well budded out
By the work of our Lord's hands. "
The hedges and trees they are so green,
As green as any leek,
Our heavenly Father He watered them
With his heavenly dew so sweet. "
The heavenly gates are open wide,
Our paths are beaten plain,
And if a man be not too far gone,
He may return again. "
The life of man is but a span,
It flourishes like a flower,
We are here to-day, and gone to-morrow,
And we are dead in an hour. "
The moon shines bright, and the stars give a light,
A little before it is day,
So God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a joyful May."
But alack ! we have neither May-poles nor sweet
May garlands in this dull century. The poor little
sweeps are the only fraternity who now honour the
May with a floral pageant, and we should be sorry to
see those sooty "Jacks in the Green" deprived of
their holiday ; but although .their sable hue renders
them appropriate Morris ergo Moorish dancers, and it
would make Heraclites laugh to see their merry grins
and antics, they are but sorry successors to the bright
May queens and fair Maid Marians of the olden times,
nor do they venture to personify bold Robin Hood, "
Will Scarlet, or even Friar Tuck. These quaint
street dramas mingled pantomimes, ballets, and masks,
that were enacted by an unlettered but shrewd-witted
corps that improvised as they went along. How they
delighted the good commons of England! and the
gentles too, if the playful strokes of satire in which
they abounded did not hit the great ones too hard.
The May games came, it is true, but once a-year,
like Christmas, with her sweet carols, holy recollections,
festive observances, and blessed charities; but then
there was the pleasant anticipation to enliven the
months of toil which must be plodded through, the
work-day realities of life that intervened, between the
-Sharpe's London Magazine, 1848
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-For some years after the Revolution, in fact, as late as the war of 1812, the old English festival of Mayday was kept by certain classes of people. The Maying parties, composed principally of young men and young women, left the city in the early morning to spend the day in the fields and woods. They had a feast and dances on the grass, for they went with well-provided hampers, and the fiddler was an indispensable guest. After a day's enjoyment in the cool shade and sweet-scented fields, they returned laden with fragrant spoils, tired but happy. Lovers fully appreciated the innocent pleasures of Maying; hands met in breaking the lilac bough ; cheeks met in close contact as two young heads bent over the same tiny field-flower, and the gay carol of the feathered songster overhead was a fit accompaniment to the softly- whispered vows of youthful love. Although spring flowers are not suggestive of fish, May-day was the special holiday of the fish hucksters and shad fishermen. They met in the Water Street taverns, where they indulged in much jollification and dancing. May-poles were eroded in front of these taverns or upon the Market Street hill, around which there was also much dancing. These good people went in for a day of fun and frolic, and they made the most of it while it lasted. For many years alter the May-pole ceased to be seen, and Maying-parties went out of fashion, the fishermen . and fishwomen kept up their May-day dancing and feasting in the taverns.
-History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, John Thomas Scharf, Thompson Westcott, 1884.
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Children's rhymes and songs have been handed down in two principal ways. First, they have been used for winter amusements, particularly at the Christmas season, as has from time immemorial been the case in northern countries; and, secondly, they have been sung as rounds and dances, especially during summer evenings, upon the village green or city sidewalk. The latter custom is fast becoming extinct, though the circling ring of little girls "on the green grass turning" may now and then be still observed; but a generation since the practice was common with all classes. The proper time for such sports is the early summer; and many of our rounds declare themselves in words, as well as by sentiment, to be the remainder of the ancient May dances. To render this clear, it will be necessary to give some account of the May festival; but we shall confine ourselves to customs of which we can point out relics in our own land. These we can illustrate, without repeating the descriptions of English writers, from Continental usage, which was in most respects identical with old English practice.
It was an ancient habit for the young men of a village, on the eve of the holiday, to go into the forests and select the tallest and straightest tree which could be found. This was adorned with ribbons and flowers, brought home with great ceremony, and planted in front of the church, or at the door of some noted person, where it remained permanently to form the centre of sports and dances. The May-pole itself, the songs sung about it, and the maiden who was queen of the feast, were alike called May. In the absence of any classic mention, the universality of the practice in mediæval Europe, and the common Latin name, may be taken as proof that similar usages made part of the festival held about the calends of May—the Floralia or Majuma.
Notwithstanding all that has been said about the license of this festival in the days of the Empire, it is altogether probable that the essential character of the feast of Flora or Maia was not very different from its mediæval or modern survival. The abundance of flowers, the excursions to the mountains, the decoration of houses, and the very name of Flora, prove that, whatever abuses may have introduced themselves, and whatever primitive superstitions may have been intermingled—superstitions to an early time harmless and pure, and only in the decline of faith the source of offence and corruption—the population of ancient Italy shared that natural and innocent delight in the season of blossom which afterwards affected to more conscious expression Chaucer and Milton.
This "bringing home of summer and May" was symbolic; the tree, dressed out in garlands, typifying the fertility of the year. As in all such rites, the songs and dances, of a more or less religious character, were supposed to have the power of causing the productiveness which they extolled or represented. These practices, however, were not merely superstitious; mirth and music expressed the delight of the human heart, in its simplicity, at the reappearance of verdure and blossom, and thanksgiving to the generous Bestower, which, so long as man shall exist on earth, will be instinctively awakened by the bright opening of the annual drama. Superstition has been the support about which poetry has twined: it is a common mistake of investigators to be content with pointing out the former, and overlooking the coeval existence of the latter. Thus the natural mirth and merriment of the season blended with the supposed efficacy of the rite; and the primitive character of the ring-dance appears to be the circle about the sacred tree in honor of the period of bloom.
A relic, though a trifling one, of the ancient custom, may be seen in some of our cities on the early days of the month. In New York, at least, groups of children may then be observed carrying through the streets a pole painted with gay stripes, ribbons depending from its top, which are held at the end by members of the little company. These proceed, perhaps, to the Central Park, where they conduct their festivities, forming the ring, and playing games which are included in our collection. Within a few years, however, these afternoon expeditions have become rare.
The May-pole, as we have described it, belonged to the village; but a like usage was kept up by individuals. It was the duty of every lover to go into the woods on the eve or early morn of May-day, and bring thence boughs and garlands, which he either planted before the door of his mistress, or affixed thereto, according to local custom. The particular tree, or bush (this expression meaning no more than bough), preferred for the purpose was the hawthorn, which is properly the tree of May, as blooming in the month the name of which it has in many countries received. A belief in the protective influence of the white-thorn, when attached to the house-door, dates back to Roman times. The May-tree, whatever its species, was often adorned with ribbons and silk, with fruit or birds, sometimes with written poems. The lover brought his offering at early dawn, and it was the duty of his mistress to be present at her window and receive it; thus we have in a song of the fifteenth or sixteenth century from the Netherlands—
An English carol alludes to the same practice—
The custom was so universal as to give rise to proverbial expressions. Thus, in Italy, "to plant a May at every door" meant to be very susceptible; and in France, to "esmayer" a girl was to court her.
Some of our readers may be surprised to learn that an offshoot of this usage still exists in the United States; the custom, namely, of hanging "May baskets." A half-century since, in Western Massachusetts, a lad would rise early on May-morning, perhaps at three o'clock, and go into the fields. He gathered the trailing arbutus (the only flower there available at the season), and with his best skill made a "basket," by the aid of "winter-green" and similar verdure. This he cautiously affixed to the door of any girl whom he wished to honor. She was left to guess the giver. The practice is still common in many parts of the country, but in a different form. Both boys and girls make "May baskets," and on May-eve attach them to each other's doors, ringing at the same time the house-bell. A pursuit follows, and whoever can capture the responsible person is entitled to a kiss. We do not venture to assert that the latter usage is entirely a corruption of the former.
The term "May-baskets" is no doubt a modernized form of the old English word "May-buskets," employed by Spenser. Buskets are no more than bushes—that is, as we have already explained, the flowering branches of hawthorn or other tree, picked early on the May-morn, and used to decorate the house. It seems likely that a misunderstanding of the word changed the fashion of the usage; the American lad, instead of attaching a bough, hung a basket to his sweetheart's door.
A French writer pleasantly describes the customs of which we are speaking, as they exist in his own province of Champagne: "The hours have passed; it is midnight; the doors of the young lads open. Each issues noiselessly. He holds in his hand branches and bouquets, garlands and crowns of flowers. Above the gate of his mistress his hand, trembling with love, places his mysterious homage; then, quietly as he came, he retires, saying, 'Perhaps she has seen me.' ... The day dawns. Up! boys and girls! up! it is the first of May! up, and sing! The young men, decked out with ribbons and wild-flowers, go from door to door to sing the month of May and their love."
Of the morning song and dance about the "bush," or branches of trees planted as we have described, we have evidence in the words of American rhymes. Thus—
In one or two instances, a similar refrain figures in the childish sports of little girls, who have probably got it by imitation; in others, it is the sign of an old May game. An English writer of the sixteenth century alludes to the morning dance in a way which proves that these songs really represent the practice of his time.
The playing of May games was by no means confined to the exact date of the festival. The sign of a country tavern in England was a thorn-bush fixed on a pole, and about this "bush" took place the dance of wedding companies who came to the tavern to feast, whence this post was called the bride's stake. Whether the thorn-bush was introduced into the "New English" settlements we cannot say; but the dancing at weddings was common, at least among that portion of those communities which was not bound by the religious restraint that controlled the ruling class. There were, as a French refugee wrote home in 1688, "all kinds of life and manners" in the colonies. In the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 7th May, 1651, the General Court resolved, "Whereas it is observed that there are many abuses and disorders by dauncinge in ordinaryes, whether mixt or unmixt, upon marriage of some persons, this court doth order, that henceforward there shall be no dauncinge upon such occasion, or at other times, in ordinaryes, upon the paine of five shillings, for every person that shall so daunce in ordinaryes." While youth in the cities might be as gay as elsewhere, in many districts the Puritan spirit prevailed, and the very name of dancing was looked on with aversion. But the young people met this emergency with great discretion; they simply called their amusements playing games, and under this name kept up many of the rounds which were the time-honored dances of the old country.
The French writer whom we have already had occasion to quote goes on to speak of the customs of the younger girls of his province—the bachelettes, as they are called. "On the first of May, dressed in white, they put at their head the sweetest and prettiest of their number. They robe her for the occasion: a white veil, a crown of white flowers adorn her head; she carries a candle in her hand; she is their queen, she is the Trimouzette. Then, all together, they go from door to door singing the song of the Trimouzettes; they ask contributions for adorning the altar of the Virgin, for celebrating, in a joyous repast, the festival of the Queen of Heaven."
This May procession, which has been the custom of girls for centuries, from Spain to Denmark, existed, perhaps still exists, in New England. Until very recently, children in all parts of the United States maintained the ancient habit of rising at dawn of May-day, and sallying forth in search of flowers. The writer well remembers his own youthful excursions, sometimes rewarded, even in chilly Massachusetts, by the early blue star of the hepatica, or the pink drooping bell of the anemone. The maids, too, had rites of their own. In those days, troops of young girls might still be seen, bareheaded and dressed in white, their May-queen crowned with a garland of colored paper. But common-sense has prevailed at last over poetic tradition; and as an act of homage to east winds, a hostile force more powerful at that period than the breath of Flora, it has been agreed that summer in New England does not begin until June.
These May-day performances, however, were originally no children's custom; in this, as in so many other respects, the children have only proved more conservative of old habit than their elders. There can be no doubt that these are the survivals of the ancient processions of Ceres, Maia, Flora, or by whatever other name the "good goddess," the patroness of the fertile earth, was named, in which she was solemnly borne forth to view and bless the fields. The queen of May herself represents the mistress of Spring; she seems properly only to have overlooked the games in which she took no active part.
A writer of the fifteenth century thus describes the European custom of his day: "A girl adorned with precious garments, seated on a chariot filled with leaves and flowers, was called the queen of May; and the girls who accompanied her as her handmaidens, addressing the youths who passed by, demanded money for their queen. This festivity is still preserved in many countries, especially Spain." The usage survives in the dolls which in parts of England children carry round in baskets of flowers on May-day, requesting contributions.
Of this custom a very poetical example, not noticed by English collectors, has fallen under our own observation. We will suppose ourselves in Cornwall on May-day; the grassy banks of the sunken lanes are gay with the domestic blooms dear to old poetry; the grass is starry with pink and white daisies; the spreading limbs of the beech are clad in verdure, and among the budding elms of the hedge-rows "birds of every sort" "send forth their notes and make great mirth." A file of children, rosy-faced boys of five or six years, is seen approaching; their leader is discoursing imitative music on a wooden fife, to whose imaginary notes the rest keep time with dancing steps. The second and third of the party carry a miniature ship; its cargo, its rigging, are blooms of the season, bluebells and wall-flowers; the ship is borne from door to door, where stand the smiling farmers and their wives; none is too poor to add a penny to the store. As the company vanishes at the turn of the lane, we feel that the merriment of the children has more poetically rendered the charm of the season than even the song of the birds.
There is in America no especial song of the festival, though children at the May parties of which we have spoken still keep up the "springing and leaping" which mediæval writers speak of as practised by them at this occasion. Popular songs are, however, still remembered in Europe, where their burden is, May has come! or, Welcome to May! Pleasing and lyric is the song of the "Trimazos," the lay of the processions of girls to which we have alluded, though its simplicity becomes more formal in our version of the provincial French:
So, in the Vosges, young girls fasten a bough of laurel to the hat of a young man whom they may meet on the way, wishing
They ask a gift, but not for themselves:
Corresponding to the French song from which we have quoted is the English May carol, similarly sung from dwelling to dwelling:
The frequent allusions of the earlier English poets to "doing May observance," or the "rite of May," show us how all ranks of society, in their time, were still animated by the spirit of those primitive faiths to which we owe much of our sensibility to natural impressions. Milton himself, though a Puritan, appears to approve the usages of the season, and even employs the ancient feminine impersonation of the maternal tenderness and bounty of nature, invoking the month:
Time, and the changes of taste, have at last proved too strong for the
persistency of custom; the practices by which blooming youth expressed
its sympathy with the bloom of the year have perished, taking with them
much of the poetry of the season, and that inherited sentiment which was
formerly the possession of the ignorant as well as of the cultivated class.
 The feast of Flora, says Pliny, in order that everything should flower.
 So in Southern France—
 "On May-day eve, young men and women still continue to play each other tricks by placing branches of trees, shrubs, or flowers under each other's windows, or before their doors."—Harland, "Lancashire Folk-lore."
 The "Shepheards Calender" recites how, in the month of May,
"Sops in wine" are said to be pinks.
 See Nos. 23, 26, and 160.
 "In summer season howe doe the moste part of our yong men and maydes in earely rising and getting themselves into the fieldes at dauncing! What foolishe toyes shall not a man see among them!"—"Northbrooke's Treatise," 1577.
In parts of Georgia and South Carolina, as soon as a group of girls are fairly out of the house for a morning's play, one suddenly points the finger at a companion with the exclamation, "Green!" The child so accosted must then produce some fragment of verdure, the leaf of a tree, a blade of grass, etc., from the apparel, or else pay forfeit to the first after the manner of "philop$oelig;na." It is rarely, therefore, that a child will go abroad without a bit of "green," the practice almost amounting to a superstition. The object of each is to make the rest believe that the required piece of verdure has been forgotten, and yet to keep it at hand. Sometimes it is drawn from the shoe, or carried in the brooch, or in the garter. Nurses find in the pockets, or in the lining of garments, all manner of fragments which have served this purpose. This curious practice is not known elsewhere in America; but it is mentioned by Rabelais, under the name by which it is still played in parts of Central France, "Je vous prends sans vert"—"I catch you without green." The game, however, is not merely a children's sport, and is played differently from our description. At Châtillon-sur-Inde it is during Lent, and only after the singing of the Angelus, that "green" is played. If any lady accost you and shows you her bough, you must immediately exhibit yours. If you have not such a one, or if your green is of a shade less rich than your adversary's, you lose a point; in case of doubt, the matter is referred to an umpire. The game was much in vogue from the thirteenth to the fourteenth century, and is described as a May-game. "During the first days of May, every one took care to carry on his person a little green bough, and those who were not so provided were liable to hear themselves addressed, I catch you without green, and to receive, at the same instant, a pail of water on the head. This amusement, however, was in use only among the members of certain societies, who took the name of Sans-vert. Those who belonged to these had a right to visit each other at any hour of the day, and administer the bath whenever they found each other unprovided. In addition, the members so surprised were condemned to a pecuniary fine, and the income of these fines was devoted to merry repasts which, at certain seasons of the year, united all the comrades of the Sans-vert."
The practice has given to the French language a proverb: to take any one without green, to take him unawares.
Our child's game was doubtless imported by Huguenot immigrants,
who established themselves in the states referred to two centuries since,
where they long preserved their language and customs, and from whom
many well-known families are descended.
 The custom has been supposed to be derived from the ancient Roman usage of gathering green on the calends of May, with which to decorate the house.
About fifty years since, in a town of Massachusetts (Wrentham), the young people were in the habit of playing an exceedingly rustic kissing-game. A girl in the centre of the ring simulated sleep, and the words were—
The awakening was then effected by a kiss.
The same game comes to us as a negro sport from Galveston, Texas, but in a form which shows it to be the corruption of an old English round:
Some unintelligible negro rhymes follow.
The refrain of the last version indicates that it is of old English origin, and was used as a May-game.
It would appear, from the character of the round, that various names are proposed to the sleeping girl, which she rejects until a satisfactory one is presented. At all events, this is the case in a Provençal game which we take to be of the same origin as ours. In this game it is explained that the girl is not asleep, but counterfeiting death. "Alas! what shall we give our sister? N. N. to be her husband."
A favorite French round describes the maiden as asleep "in the tower." The pretty song represents her as awakened by the rose her lover has left upon her breast. Though there is no very close resemblance between this and the Provençal game, the same idea of deliverance from enchantment appears to underlie both.
We infer, therefore, that the game, apparently so natural an invention, originally represented some form of the world-wide story of the "Sleeping Beauty." If this be so, to explain its history would lead us to write of Northern lay and mediæval legend; we should have to examine the natural symbolism of primitive religions, and the loves of ancient gods. The kissing-romp of a New England village would be connected with the poetry and romance of half the world.
In any case, this interlinking of the New World with all countries and ages, by the golden network of oral tradition, may supply the moral of our collection.
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