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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 Firminger
Thiselton Dyer

MAY. customs


The Observances of Brand

School Celebration 1912

TOWER and other things
Description of a Mayhouse MAY-DAY-More customs  

19th Century Philadelphia

May Games
USA  1884



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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,

Kept by

John Johnson."


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?

Capt. Greenland.

Kept. What is your name?

Capt. Matthew Ainsley.

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?


Ant. Shetland.


Nept. Have you ever been to sea before?

Ant. No.


Nept. Where are you going to?

Ant. Greenland.


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.



Charles Dickens

 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
tradesman, may be reckoned the anomalous fact that there are a good many teetotal sweeps, and, by consequence, several teetotal Jacks and My Lords. I am not able to say whether, when these perform outside a public-house, the ordinary " 'arf-an'-'arf " is exchanged for ginger - beer or lemonade, or whether
scruples are sunk for this particular festival; I only know that there are teetotalers in the Jack-in-the-Green ranks, which seems to me a fact of astounding novelty. There is a picture of Haydon's in the Kensington Museum, entitled May Day, which is intended to give an idea of the sweep's Saturnalia. I merely mention this picture that my readers may look at it when next they visit the museum, and note how preposterously unlike everything they ever saw in the Jack-in-the-Green line, is this composition. To sum up, I may say that the days of Jack-in-the-Green are numbered, and I conclude as I began, by expressing my
belief that the coming generation will know little or nothing of him. With him will disappear the last remnant of popular mediaeval romance, and of the old English sports, which venerable items Jack had grown to represent about as well as Temple Bar recalled a baron's fortress of the time of Cœur de Lion. In the United States I do not think the sweeps hold any such jubilee as they do in England. I am far from
committing myself to the assertion that in their vast area no festival is held by the trade, at which My Lord, My Lady, and above all, Jack-in-the-Green, assist; I only venture to say I never heard of anything like it, nor do I think the custom exists. If I am correct, then, what might have i been one great chance for the perpetuation of the Green, the pipe, the tabor, and the Morris-dance, is lost. Yet, after all, the greatest danger to the festival—the cause, indeed, which secures its certain extinction—is the unquestionable advance in the members of the trade. For a long time to come—always, perhaps —it may be the rule to laugh at and satirise the sweep, especially in all his attempts at refinements, but he will improve, as he has improved, and his level will rise as the level of those around him rises. The growing dislike to the exhibition, and the feeling that it is "low," weakens year by year the foundation of the festival, and by itself would make its extinction merely a question of time ; for year by year younger and better- educated men come into the trade, who think its interests are better served, and its poorer members more efficiently helped, by the establishment of sick and relief societies than by these mumminge ; and they have already a very fair nucleus for such associations. If the public would only assist by systematic help to the sweeps in this direction, even though they withheld their support from Jack-in-the- Green, they would do a great deal of good to a deserving, useful, and hardworking class of the community.

-Charles Dickens."THE "CLERGY" ON MAY DAY",April 30, 1S31  In: ALL THE YEAR ROUND,

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From London labour and the London Poor,

Henry Mayhew

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  pyramid."
Since the date of the above, the sweepers have greatly improved on their pageant, substituting  for the fiddle the more noisy and appropriate music of tb« street-showman's drum and
pipes, and adding to their party several diminutive imps, no doubt as representatives of the
climbing-boys, clothed in caps, jackets, and trowsers, thickly covered with party-coloured
shreds. These still make a show of rattling tiieir shovels and brushes, but the clatter is unheard
alongside the thunders of the drum. In this manner they go through the various streets
for three days, obtaining money at various places, and on the third night hold a feast at one of
their favourite public-houses, where all the sooty tribes resort, and, in company with their wives or
girls, keep up their festivity till the next morning, l und that this festival is beginning to disappear
in many parts of London, but it still holds its  ground, and is as highly enjoyed as ever, in all the
eastern localities of the metropolis.  It is but seldom that 'any of the large masters
go out on May-day ; this custom is generally confined to the little masters and their men. The time usually spent on these occasions is four  days, during which as much as from 1l. to 4l. a
clay is collected ; the sums obtained on the three  first days are divided according to the several
kinds of work performed. But the proceeds of the fourth day are devoted to a supper. The average
gains of the several performers on these occasions are as follows : —

My lady, who acts as Columbine,
and receives 2s.. per day.

My lord, who is often the master
himself, but usually one of the
journeymen  3s.

Clown 3s.

Drummer  4s.

Jack in the green, who is often an individual acquaintance, and
does not belong to the trade . 3s,

And the boys, who have no  term applied to them, receive
from  1s. to 1s 6d

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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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 




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. 

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 : 


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. 




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 : 


If we should wake you from your 

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 

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 

On earth his riches sheds, 
Protect thee against every woe, 

Shower blessings on thy heads. 

After "bringing home the May," 
.here is another lay : 


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 

Shall its useful berries bear. 

We would taste your home-brew'd 

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." 


This slender rod of leaves and 

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 


In spring's delicious hours, 
The feather'd choir its praise shall 

'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 

Assail thee with its thorn. 




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 


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 ! 


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- 




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 




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 


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 

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. 



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 ; 




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 : 


of the 

" 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. 




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 

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 

" 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. 




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. 




" 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 

" 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 




burning charcoal on plates of tin, which 
as they melted went off with that violent 

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. 


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. 




' 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 ? 




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 ; 




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. 


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 

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. 




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 


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 




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. 

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. 

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 

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 


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- 




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. 



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 




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. 


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.' 


A beautiful ode by another of our 
poets graces the loveliness of the season, 




and finally " points a moral" of sovereign 
virtue to all who need the application, 
and will take it to heart. 


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." 


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. 


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. 





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. 


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 

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 



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 


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 

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 




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 : 

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. 


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- 


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 


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. 



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 




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, 

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. 




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 



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 

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 


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 ! 




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 


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, 

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 




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 

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." 


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- 

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 




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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The festival of May Day has existed in this country, though
its form has often changed, from the earliest times, and we
find abundant traces of it both in our poets find old chroniclers.
Toilet imagines that it originally came from our
Gothic ancestors ; and certainly, if this is to be taken for
a proof, the Swedes and Goths welcomed the first of May
with songs and dance, and many rustic sports ; but there is
only a general, not a particular, likeness between our Mayday
festivities and those of our Gothic ancestors. Others
again have sought for the origin of our customs in the
Fioratici, or rather the Maiuma, of the Romans, which were
established at a later period under the Emperor Claudius,
and differed perhaps but little from the former, except in
being more decent. But though it may at first seem probable
that our May-games may have come immediately from the
Floralia or Maiuma of the Bomans, there can be little question
that their final origin must be sougnt in other countries, and
far remoter periods. Maurice says (Indian Antiquities, vol. i. p.
87) that our May-day festival is but a repetition of the
phallic festivals of India and Egypt, which in those countries
took place upon the sun entering Taurus, to celebrate Nature's
renewed fertility. <ï>oAAoç (phattos) in Greek signifies a pule,
in addition to its more important meaning, of which this is
the type ; and in the precession of the Equinoxes and the
changes of the calendar we shall find an easy solution of
any apparent inconsistencies arising from the difference of
That the May-festival has come down to us from the Druids,
who themselves had it from India, is proved by many striking
facts and coincidences, and by none more than the vcstigep
of the god Bel, the Apollo, or Orus, of other nations. Th«.
Druids celebrated his worship on the first of May, by
lighting immense fires in honour of him upon the various
earns, and hence the day is called by the aboriginal Irish and
the Scotch Highlanders—both remnants of the Celtic stock-
la Bealtine, Bealtaine or Beltine, that is, the day of Belon't
fire, for, in the Cornish, which is a Celtic dialect, we find
that tan is fire, and to tine signifies to light Vlvu foe.

The Irish still retain the Phoenician custom of lighting fires
at short distances, and making the cattle pass between them.
Fathers, too, taking their children in their arms, jump or run
through them, thus passing the latter as it were through the
flames—the very practice so expressly condemned in Scripture.
But even this custom appears to have been only a substitute
for the atrocious sacrifice of children as practised by the
elder Phoenicians. The god Saturn, that is, Moloch, was
represented by a statue bent slightly forward, and so placed
that the least weight was sufficient to alter its position.
Into the arms of tliis idol the priest gave the child to be
sacrificed, when, its balance being thus destroyed, it flung or
rather dropt, the victim into a fiery furnace that blazed below.
If other proofs were wanting of Eastern origin, we might
find them in the fact that Britain was called by the earlier
inhabitants the Island of Beli, and that Bel had also the
name of Hu, a word which we see again occurring in the
Hull festival of India.—New Curiosities of Literature, vol. i. p.
229. See Higgins' Celtic Druids, chap. v. sect. 23, p. 181 ;
Household Words, 1859, vol. xix. p. 557; Tolan's History of the
Druids, 8vo, p. 115 ; Celtic Besearches, 1806, 8vo, p. 191 ;
Vossius, On the Origin of Idolatries : Essai sur le Culte des
Divinités Génératrice*.
Going a-Maying.—Bourne (Antiquitates Vulgares, chap, xxv.)
describes this custom as it existed in his time:—On the calends,
or first of May, commonly called May-day, the juvenile
part of both sexes are wont to rise a little after midnight and
walk to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with music
and blowing of horns, where they break down branches from
the trees, and adorn themselves with nosegays and crowns
of flowers ; when this is done they return with their booty
homewards, about the rising of the sun, and make their doors
and windows to triumph with their flowery spoils.
In Chaucer's Court of Love we read that early on May-day "
Fourth goth al the court, both most and lest, to futche the
flowris fresh and blome."
In the old romance, too, La Morte d'Arthur, translated by
Sir Thomas Maleor, or Mellor, in the reign of Edward IV.,
is a passage descriptive of the customs of the times. " Now it
befell in the moneth of lusty May, that Queene Guenever

MAY i.J MAT DAT. 225

Shakespeare likewise, alluding to this custom, says (Henry
VIII. Act v. sc. 3), it was impossible to make the people
sleep on May-morning, and (Midsummer Night's Dream, Act L
se. 1) that they rose up early to observe May day. called unto her the knyghtes of the Eound Table, and gave them warning that early in the morning she should ride on maying into the woods and fields beside Westminster." The rural clergy, who seem to have mingled themselves with their flock on all occasions, whether of sorrow, devotion, or amusement, were reproved by Grostetc, or Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln, for going a-maying.—Med. Mvi Kalend. vol. i. p. 233. "
If thou lovest me then,
Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night ;
Anil in the 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."
And again : "
No doubt they rise up early to observe
The rite of May."—Act. iv. sc. 1.
May-dew.—This was held of singular virtue in former times,
and thus in the Morning Post of 2nd May, 1791, wo are told
that the day before, being the First of May, according to
annual and superstitious custom, a number 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. 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 morning, which Mrs. Turner hath taught
her is the only thing in the world to wash her face with."
May-games.—When Christianity, says Soane (Curiosities of
Literature, p. 230), found its way into Britain, the same mode
would seem to have been adopted in regard to the May-games
by the wise liberality of the first missionaries that we see
them employing in so many other cases. Conceding to the
prejudices of the people, they did not attempt to root out long
established characters, but invested them with another character
as bees close in with wax the noxious substance

226 MAT DAY. [MAT i.

unable to remove. Thus in course of time the festival was
not only diverted from its original intention, but even the
meaning of its various symbols was forgotten. It degenerated
into a mere holiday, and as such long continued to be the
delight of all ages and of all classes, from king and queen
upon the throne to the peasant in his cottage. Tims, for
example, Henry VIII. appears to have been particularly
attached to the exercise of archery and the observance of
May. " Some short time after his coronation," says Hall (
Vit. Henry VIII., fol. vi. 6), " he came to Westminster with
the Queen and all their train. And on a time being there,
his Grace, the Earls of Essex, Wiltshire, and other noblemen,
to the number of twelve, came suddenly into the
Queen's chamber, all apparelled in short coats of Kentish
Kendal, with hoods on their heads, and hosen of the same,
every one of them his bow and arrows, and a sword and
buckler, like outlaws or Eobin Hood's men ; whereof the
Queen, the ladies, and all others there, were abashed, as well
for the strange sight, as also for their sudden coming ; and
after certain dances and pastimes made, they departed."
Stow, too, in his Survey of London (1603, 4to, p. 99) has
the following :—" In the moneth of May, namely on May-day
in the morning, every man, except impediment, would walke
into the sweete meadows and greene woods, there to rejoyce
their spirites with the beauty and savour of sweete flowers,
and with the harmony of birds praysing God in their kind ;
and for example hereof Edward Hall hath noted that K.
Henry the Eighth, as in the 3 of his reigne and divers other
years, BO namely on the seventh of his reigne on May day
in the morning, with Qween Katheren his wife, accompanied
with many lords and ladies, rode a-maying from Greenwitch
to the high ground of Shooter's hill, where as they passed
by the way they espied a company of tall yeomen clothed all
in greene, with greene whoodes and with bowes and arrowes,
to the number of 100. One being their chieftaine was
called Eobin Hoode, who required the king and his companio
to stay and see his men shoote, whereunto the king graunting,
Robin Hoode whistled, and all the 200 archers shot off,
losing all at once, and when he whistled againe, they likewise
shot againe ; their arrowes whistled by craft of tho

MAY i.] MAT DAT. 227

head, so that the noyse was strange and loude, which greatly
delighted the king, queene, and their companie."
It may seem strange, remarks Soane, that Robin Hood
should be so prominent a figure in a festival which
originated long- before he was born, since we first find
mention of him and his forest companions in the reign of
King John, while the floral games of England, as we have
seen, had their rise with the Druids. The sports of Robin
Hood were most probably first instituted for the encouragement
of archery, and it is not surprising if a recreation so
especially connected with summer and the forest, was celebrated
at the opening of the year—the opening, that is, so
far as it related to rural sports and pleasures. By degrees
it would become blended with the festival already existing,
and in a short time, from its superior attraction, it would
become the principal feature of it.
Douce, in his Illustrations of Shakespeare (vol. ii. p. 454),
says the introduction of Robin Hood into the celebration
of May probably suggested the addition of a king or lord
of May. Soane, however, takes a very different view, being
of opinion that the custom of electing a Lord and Lady
of the May in the popular sports existed at a far earlier
period—long indeed before the time of Robin Hood's introduction—
at the same time supporting his statement from a
command given in the synod at Worcester, A.D. 1240, Canon
38, " Ne intersint ludis inhoncstis, nee sustineant ludos fieri
de rege et regina." For an interesting account of the Robin
Hood games see Strutt's novel, Queen Hoo Hall (quoted in
J3oo7i of Days, vol. i. p 580). Consult also Ritson's Collection
of Poems relating to Robin Hood (1853), and Brand's Pop.
Anliq. 1849, vol. i. pp. 247-272.
Morris-dance.—It is svipposed to be of Moorish origin, and
to be derived to us from Spain. Hence its name. The principal
characters of it generally were Robin Hood, Maid
Marian, Scarlet, Stokesley, Little John, the Hobby Horse,
the Bavian or Fool, Tom the Piper with his pipe and tabor,
the Dragon, of which we have no mention before 1585. Tho
number of characters varied much at different times and
places. See Brand's Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. pp. 247-270,
and Book of Days, vol i. pp. 630-633.

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

beating all the way, and otlier sorts of musick ; it was supposed
to be so long that laudsmen (as carpenters) could not
possibly raise it ; (Prince James, the Duke of York, Lord
High Admiral of England, commanded twelve seamen off
aboord to come and officiate the business, whereupon they came
and brought their cables, pullies, and other tackling, with six
great anchors) ; after this was brought three crowns borne by
three men bare-headed, and a streamer displaying all the way
before them, drums beating, and other musick playing;
numerous multitudes of people thronging the streets with
great shouts and acclamations all day long. The maypolo
then being joyned together, the crown and cane with the
King's arms richly gilded was placed on the head of it.
This being clone, the trumpets did sound, and in four hours
space it was advanced upright, after which being established
fast in the ground, six drums did beat, and the trumpets did
sound ; again great shouts and acclamations the people give
that it did ring throughout all the Strand. After that came
a morris-dance finely deckt, with purple scarfs in their half-
shirts with a tabor, and pipe, the ancient musick, and danced
round about the maypole, and after that danced the rounds
of their liberty. Upon the top of this famous standard is
likewise set up a royal purple streamer, about the middle of
it is placed four crowns more, with the King's arms likewise ;
there is also a garland set upon it of various colours of
delicate rich favours, under which is to bo placed three great
lanthorns, to remain for three honours ; that is, one for Prince
James, Duke of York, Lord High Admiral of England ; the
otlier fur the Vice-Admiral ; and the third for the rear-
Admiral : these are to give light in dark nights, and to
continue so long as the pole stands, which will be a perpetual "
honour for seamen."—See The Town, Leigh Hunt (1859, p.
The author of a pamphlet entitled The Way to Thing» by
Words, and Words by Things, considers the maypole in a
curious light. We gather from him, says Brand (Pop. Antiq.
1849, vol. i. p. 245), that our ancestors held an anniversary
assembly on May-day, and that the column of May (whence
our maypole) was the great standard of justice in the Ey-
commons, or fields of May. Here it was the people, if they

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.
Some of the larger parties are accompanied by a fiddle, a "
Jack-in-the-Green," and a " Lord and lady of the May."
The "Jack-in-the-Green" is a man concealed within q
frame of wickerwork covered with leaves, flowers, &c.—•
Soane, New Curiosities of Literature, p. 261 ; Sports, Pastimes,
and Customs of London, 1847, p. 34 ; See Every Day Book,
vol. i. p. 583, vol. ii. p. 619.
Milkmaid's Dance.—On the first day of May, says a writer
in the Spectator (vol. v.), " the ruddy milkmaid exerts 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 flowers and ribbons, which the maidens
carried upon their heads when they went to the houses
of their customers, and danced in order to obtain a small
gratuity from each of them. Of late years the plate, with
the other decorations, was placed in a pyrumidical forin, and
carried by two chairmen upon a wooden horse. The maidens
walked before it, and performed the dance without any
ineumbrance. Sometimes in place of the silver tankards
And salvers they substituted a cow. The animal had her
horns gilt, and was nearly covered with ribbons of various
colours, formed into bows and roses, and interspersed with
green oaken leaves and bunches of flowers.—Strutt, Sports
and Pastimes, 1801, b. iv. p. 266.*
Pepys in his Diary, May 1st, 1667, says, " To Westminster ;
on the way meeting many milkmaids, with their
garlands upon their pails, dancing with a fiddler before
them, and saw pretty Nelly [Nell Gwynne] standing at her
lodgings' door in Drury Lane in her smock sleeves and •
At Baslow, in the countj of Derby, the festival of kit-dressing is,
occasionally, observed. The kits or milk pails are fancifully and
tastefully decorated with ribbons, and hung with festoons of iiowers
and ornaments of muslin and silk, and with gold and silver thread.
The kits aro carried on the heads of the young womrn of the
village, who, attended by the young men and preceded by a band of
music, parade the streets, and end the day's proceedings by ¡i dance.
Jour, of Arch. Assoc. 1852, vol. vü. p. 208.

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

picturesque old bridge that stretches across tho river from
the quaint little city of Chester. I had already been carried
back into former days by the antiquities of that venerable
place, the examination of which is equal to turning over the
pages of a black-letter volume, or gazing on the pictures in
Froissart. The Maypole on tho margin of that poetic
stream completed the illusion. My fancy adorned it with
wreaths of flowers, and peopled the green bank with all the
dancing revelry of May-day.
In Cornwall this day is hailed by the juveniles as "
dipping-day." On May-morning the children go out into
the country and fetch home the flowering branches of the
white-thorn, or boughs of the narrow-leaved elm, which has,
just put forth its leaves, both of which aro called " May."
At a later hour all the boys of the village sally forth with
their bucket, can, and syringe, or other instrument, and avail
themselves of a licence which the season confers " to dip "
or well nigh drown, without regard to person or circumstances,
the passenger who has not the protection of a piece of " May "
in his hat or button-hole. The sprig of the hawthorn or elm
is probably held to be proof that the bearer has not failed to
rise early " to do observance to a morn of May."—N. & Q. 1st
S. vol. xii. p. 297. Borlase, in his Natural History of Cornwall,
tells us that an ancient custom still retained by the
Cornish is that of decking their doors and porches on the 1st
of May with green sycamore and hawthorn boughs, and of
planting trees, or rather stumps of trees, before their houses.
Bond, in his History of East and West Looe (1823, p. 38),
says :—On May-day the boys dress their hats with flowers and
hawthorn, and furnish themselves with bullocks' horns, in
which sticks of about two feet long are fixed, and with these
instruments filled with water they parade the streets all day,
and dip all persons who pass them if they have not what is
called May in their hats, that is, a sprig of hawthorn.
A writer also in Once a Week (Sept. 24th, 1870), speaking
of certain Cornish customs, tells us that dipping was admitted
by the boys of Looe to be very great fun, and a May-day

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

Maypoles are to be seen in some of the village-greens
still standing, and adorned with garlands on May-day. On
this morning, too, the young village women go out about
sunrise for the purpose of washing their faces in the May-
dew, and return in the full hope of having their complexions
improved by the process.—Jour, of Arch. Assoc., 1852, vol.
vu, p. 206.
At the village of Holne, situated on one of the spurs of
Dartmoor, is a field of about two acres, the property of
the parish, and called the Ploy (play) Field. In the centro
of this stands a granite pillar (Menhir) six or seven feet high.
On May-morning before daybreak the young men of the
village used to assemble there, and then proceed to the moor,
where they selected a ram lamb (doubtless with the consent
of the owner), and after running it down, brought it in triumph
to the Ploy Field, fastened it to the pillar, cut its throat, and
then roasted it whole, skin, wool. &c. At midday a struggle
took place, at the risk of cut hands, for a slice, it being
supposed to confer luck for the ensuing year on the fortunate
devourer. As an act of gallantry the young men sometimes
fought their way through the crowd to get a slice for the
chosen amongst the young women, all of whom, in their best
dresses, attended the Earn Feast, as it was called. Dancing,
wrestling, and other games, assisted by copious libations of
cider during the afternoon, prolonged the festivity till midnight.—
N. & Q. 1st S. vol. vii. p. 353.
Jn some places it is customary for the children to carry
about from house to house two dolls, a large and a small
one—beautifully dressed and decorated with flowers. This
custom has existed at Torquay from time immemorial.
At Safíton-Walden, and in the village of Debden, an
old May-day song (almost identical with that given under

BERKSHIRE, which see) is sung by the little girls, who go
about in parties, carrying garlands from door to door.
The garlands which the girls carry are sometimes large
and handsome, and a doll is usually placed in the middle,
dressed in white, according to certain traditional regulations. —
Illustrated London News, Juno Cth, 1857, p. 553.
In the village of Eandwick, hard by the Stroud cloth-mills,
at the appointed daybreak, three cheeses were carried upon
a litter, festooned and garlanded with blossoms, down to the
churchyard, and rolled thrice mystically round the sacred
building ; being subsequently carried back in the same way
upon the litter in triumphal procession, to be cut up on the
village-green and distributed piecemeal among the bystanders. —
Household Words, 1859, vol. xix. p. 515.
In this county the children sing the following song as
they dance round the Maypole : "
Round the Maypule, trit-trit-trot !
See what a Maypole we have got ;
Fine and gay,
Trip away,
Happy is our new May-day."—
Aunt Judy's Magazine, 1874, No. xcvii. p. 436.
In the village of Burley, one of the most beautiful villages
of the New Forest, a maypole is erected, a fête is given to the
school-children, and a May-queen is chosen by lot ; a floral
crown surmounts the pole, and garlands of flowers hang
about tEe shaft.
At Baldock, in former times, the peasantry were accustomed
to make a " my-lord and-my-lady " in effigy on the
first of May. These figures were constructed of rags, pasteboard,
old masks, canvas, straw, &c., and were dressed up in
the holiday habiliments of their fabricators—"my lady" in
the best gown'd, apron, kerchief, and mob cap of the dame,

and " my lord " in the Sunday gear of her master. The
tiring finished, " the pair " were seated on chairs or joint-
stools, placed outside the cottage-door or in the porch, their
bosoms ornamented with large bouquets of May flowers.
They supported a hat, into which the contributions of the
lookers-on were put. Before them, on a table were arranged
a mug of ale, a drinking-horn, a pipe, a pair of spectacles,
and sometimes a newspaper.
The observance of this usage was exclusively confined to
the wives of the labouring poor resident in the town, who
were amply compensated for their pains-taking by the contributions,
which generally amounted to something considerable.
But these were not the only solicitors on May-day ;
the juveniles of Baldock constructed a garland of hoops
transversed, decorated with flowers, ribbons, &c., affixed to
the extremity of a staff, by which it was borne, similar to
those at Northampton and Lynn.—Hone, The Year Book,
1838, p. 1593.
The following amusing account ot the manner in which
May-day was formerly observed at Hitchin is given by a
correspondent of Every Day Boole, 1826, vol. i. p. 565 :
Soon after three o'clock in the morning a large party of the
townspeople, and neighbouring labourers parade the town,
singing the Mayer's Sony. They carry in their hands large
branches of May, and they affix a branch either upon or at
the side of the doors of nearly every respectable house in the
town. Where there are knockers they place their branches
within the handles. The larger the branch is that is
placed at the door the more honourable to the house, or
rather to the servants of the house. If in the course of the
year a servant has given offence to any of the mayers, then,
instead of a branch of May, a branch of elder, with- a bunch
of nettles, is affixed to her door : this is considered a great
disgrace, and the unfortunate subject of it is exposed to the
jeers of her rivals. On May-morning, therefore, the girls
look with some anxiety for their May-branch, and rise very
early to ascertain their good or ill-fortune. The houses are
all thus decorated by four o'clock in the morning. Throughout
the day parties of these mayors are seen dancing and
frolicking in various parts of the town. The group that I

saw to-day, which remained in Bancroft for more than an
hour, was composed as follows:—First came two men with
their faces blacked, one of them with a birch broom in his
Imiid, and a large artificial hump on his back ; the other
dressed as a woman, all in rags and tatters, with a large-
straw bonnet on, and carrying a ladle; these are called ' Mad
Moll and her husband ;" neit came two men, one most fantastically
dressed with ribbons, and a great variety of gaudy-
coloured silk handkerchiefs tied round his arms, from the
shoulders to the wrists, and down his thighs and legs to the
ancles ; he carried a drawn sword in his hand ; leaning upoa
his arm was a youth dressed as a fine lady in white muslin,
and profusely bedecked from top to toe with gay ribbons—
these were called the " Lord and Lady" of the company ;.
after these followed six or seven couples more, attired
much in the same stylo as the lord and lady, only the men
were without the swords. When this group received a
satisfactory contribution at any house the music struck up
from a violin, clarionet, and fife, accompanied by the long
drum, and they began the merry dance. While the dancers
were merrily footing it the principal amusement to the
populace was caused by the grimaces and clownish tricks
of Mad Moll and her husband. When the circle of spectators
became so contracted as to interrupt the dancers,
then Mad Moll's husband went to work with his broom, and
swept the road-dust, all round the circle, into the faces of
the crowd, and when any pretended affronts were offered
to his wife, he pursued the offenders, broom in hand ; if
lie could not overtake them, whether they were males or
females, he flung his broom at them. Those flights ana
pursuits caused an abundance of merriment.
The Mayer's Song is a composition, or rather a medley of
great antiquity, and is as follows :— "
Remember us poor mayers all.
And thus do we begin
To lead our lives in righteousness,
Or else we die in Bin.
We have been rambling all this night,
And almost all this day,
And now returned back again
We have brought you a branch of Muy.

MAY I.] MAY DAT. 241

And at your door it stands,
It is but a sprout, but it's well budded out A branch of May we have brought you,
By thu work of our Lord's hands.
The hedges and trees they are so green,
As green as any leek,
Our Heavenly B'ather, he watered them
With his heavenly dew so sweet.
The heavenly gates are open wide,
Our paths avo 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 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."
In the village of Glatton, May-day is observed by the election
of Queen, of the May, and the making of the garland.
The garland is of a pyramidal shape, and in this respect
resembles the old milk-maid's garland ; it is composed of
crown-imperials, tulips, anemones, cowslips, kingcups, daffodils,
meadow-orchis, wallflowers, primroses, lilacs, laburnums,
and as many roses and bright flowers as the season may
have produced. These, with the addition of green boughs,
are made into a huge pyramidal nosegay, from the front of
which a gaily-dressed doll stares vacantly at her admirers.
This doll is intended to represent Flora. From the base of
the nosegay hang ribbons, handkerchiefs, pieces of silk, and
any other gay-coloured fabric that can be borrowed for the
occasion. The garland is carried by the two maids of
honour to the May queen who place their hands beneath the
nosegay, and allow the gay-coloured streamers to fall towards
the ground. The garland is thus some six feet high.
The following song was sung by " the Mayers " on Mayday,
1865, in the village of Dentón and Chaldecote, when
they went round with their " garland " :—

242 MAY DAT. [MAT i.

ll.-ro comes us poor Mayers all,
And thus do we begin
To lead our lives in righteousness,
For fear we should die in sin.
To die in sin is a dreadful tiling,
To die in sin for nought ;
It would have been better for us poor soul«
If we had never been born.
Good morning, lords and ladies,
It is the first of May ;
I hope you'll view the garland,
For it looks so very gay.
The cuckoo sings in May,
The cuckoo sings in June, The cuckoo sings in April,
In July she flies away
Now take a Bible in your hand,
Ami read a chapter through ;
And when the day of judgment comes
The Lord will think of you."—
N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. vii. p. 873.
It is the custom at Warboys for certain of the poor of the
parish to be allowed to go into Warboys Wood on May-day
morning for the purpose of gathering and taking away
bundles of sticks. It may possibly be a relic of the old
custom of going to a wood in the early morning of May-day
for the purpose of gathering May-dew.—N. & Q. 3rd S. vol.
xii. p. 42.
Sir Dudley Diggs, by his will, dated 1C38, left the yearly
sum of £20 to be paid to two young men and two maids,who on
May 19th yearly should run a tye at Old Wives Lees in
Chilham and prevail ; the money to be paid out of the profits
of the land of this part of the manor of Selgrave, which
escheated to him after the death of Lady Clive. These
lands, being in three pieces, lie in the parishes of Preston
and Faversham, and contain about forty acres, all commonly
called the Running Lands. Two young men and two young
maids run at Old Wives Lees in Chilham yearly on May 1st,
and the same number at Sheldwich Lees on the Monday
following, by way of trial; and the two who prevail at

each of those places run for the £10 at Old Wives Lees as
above mentioned on May 19th.—Hasted, History of Kent,
vol ii. p. 787.
At Sevenoaks the children carry their tasteful boughs
and garlands from door to door. The boughs consist of a
bunch of greenery and wild flowers tied at the end of a stick,
which is carried perpendicularly. The garlands are formed
of two hoops interlaced cross-wise, and covered with blue
and yellow flowers from the woods and hedges. Sometimes
the garlands are fastened at the end of a stick carried
perpendicularly, and sometimes hanging from the centre of
a stick borne horizontally by two children. Either way the
effect is pleasing, and fully worth the few pence which the
appeal of " May-day, garlaud-day ! please to remember the
May-bough 1" makes one contribute.—N. & Q. ith S. vol. iii.
p. 424
In most places it is customary for each driver of a team
to decorate his horses with gaudy ribbons on May-day. In
Liverpool and Birkenhead, however, where some thousands
of men are employed as carters, this May-day dressing has
grown into a most imposing institution. Every driver of a
team in and around the docks appears to enter into rivalry
with his neighbours, and the consequence is that most of
the horses are gaily dressed and expensively decorated. The
drivers put on their new suits, covered with white linen slops,
and sport new whips in honour of the occasion. Some of the
embellishments for the horses are of a most costly character ;
not a few are disposed in most admirable taste ; and in several
instances they amount to actual art-exhibitions, since the
carts are filled with the articles in which their owners deal.
Eeal and artificial flowers are disposed in wreaths and other
forms upon different parts of the harness, and brilliant velvet
cloths, worked in silver and gold, are thrown over the loins
of the horses ; and if their owners are of sufficient standing
to bear coats-of-arms, these are emblazoned upon the cloths,
surrounded with many curious and artistic devices. Not
only are the men interested in these displays, but wives and
daughters, mistresses and servants, vie with each other as to
B. 1.

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

shire, is probably the most ancient on record. It is mentioned
in a charter by which the town of West Halton was
granted to the Abbey of Cockersand, about the reign of King
John. The pole, it appears, superseded a cross, and formed
one of the landmarks which defined the boundaries, and must
therefore have been a permanent and not an annual erection.
The words of the charter are, " De Lostockmepull, ubi crux
sita fuit recta linea in austro, usque ad crucem-super-le-
Tunge."—Dugd., Monast. Anglic. 1830, vol. vi. p. ii. n. ii.
p. 906 ; Ned. tâvi Kalend. vol. i. p. 238.
Formerly it was customary in some parts of this county
to change servants on May-day.—Time's Telescope, 1823,
p. 118.
Dr. Stukeley, in his Itinerarium Curiosum (1724, p. 29),
alluding to this custom, says there is a maypole hill near
Horncastle, where probably stood an Hermes in Eoman times.
The boys annually keep up the festival of the Floralia on
May-day, making a procession to this hill with May-gads (as
they call them) in their hands. This is a white willow wand,
the bark peeled off, tied round with cowslips. At night
they have a bonfire, and other merriment, which is ™>»H" a
sacrifice or religious festival. A peculiar rustic ceremony used annually to be observed at Horncastle towards the close of the last century. On the morning of May-day, when the young people of the neighbourhood assembled to partake in the amusements which ushered in the festival of the month, a train of youths collected themselves at a place called the May-bank. From thence with wands enwreathed with cowslips, they walked in procession to the maypole, situated to the west end of the town, and adorned on that morning with every variety in the gifts of Flora. Here, uniting in the wild joy of young enthusiasm, they struck together their wands, and, scattering around the cowslips, testified their thankfulness for that bounty which, widely diffusing its riches, enabled them to return homo rejoicing at the promises of the opening year.— Weir, Sketches of Horncastle.

May Day is ushered in with blowing of horns on the
mountains, and with a ceremony which, says Waldron, has
something in the design of it pretty enough. In almost all
the great parishes they choose from among the daughters of
the most wealthy farmers a young maid for the Queen of May.
She is dressed in tho gayest and best manner they can, aud
is attended by about twenty others, who are called maids
of honour. She has also a young man, who is her captain,
and has under his command a good number of inferior officers.
In opposition to her is the Queen of Winter, who is a man
dressed in woman's clothes, with woollen hood, fur-tippets,
and loaded with the warmest and heaviest habits one upon
another. In tho same manner are those, who represent her
attendants, drest ; nor is she without a captain and troop for
her defence. Both being equipt as proper emblems of the
Beauty of the Spring and the Deformity of the Winter, they
set forth from their respective quarters, the one preceded by
violins and flutes, the other with the rough music of the
tongs and the cleavers. Both parties march till they meet on
a common, and then their trains engage in a mock battle.
If the Queen of the Winter's forces get the better, so as to
take the Queen of May prisoner, she is ransomed for as much
as pays the expenses of the day. After this ceremony
Winter and her company retire, and divert themselves in a
barn, and the others remain on the green, where, having
danced a considerable time, they conclude the evening with
a feast, the queen at one tablo with her maids, the captain
with his troop at another. There are seldom less than fifty
or sixty at each board.
For the seizure of her Majesty's person that of one of
her slippers was substituted moro recently, which was in
like manner ransomed to defray the expenses of the pageant.
The procession of the Summer—which was subsequently
composed of little girls, and called the Maceloard *—outlived *
The maceboard (probably a corruption of May-sports) went from,
door to door inquiring if the inmates would buy the queen's favour,
which was composed of a small piece of ribbon.

that of its rival, the Winter, some years, and now, like many
other remnants of antiquity, has fallen into disuse.—Train,
History of the Isle of Man, 1845, vol. ii. p. 118; Waldron,
Description of the Isle of Man, p. 15a.
A maypole was annually erected on May-day morning in "
Leadenhall Street, then called Cornhill, before the south door
of the church known as that of St. Andrew the Apostle ; and,
in order to distinguish this church from others dedicated to
the same saint, it was termed in consequence St. Andrew's-
Under-Shaft* On the 1st May, 1517 (9th of Henry VIII.),
a violent tumult occurred in the city, and this pole was not
raised afterwards.^ The inhabitants had long regarded with
much jealousy the numerous foreigners who about that time
took up their abode in LondonJ and practised various trades, London boasted several maypoles before the days of Puritanism. Many parishes vied with each other in the height and adornment of their own. One famed pole stood in Basing Lane, near St. Paul's Cathedral, and was in the time of Stow kept in the hostelry called Gerard's Hall. " In the high-roofed hall of this house," says he, "sometime stood a large fir pole, which reached to the roof thereof—a pole of forty feet long and fifteen inches about, fabled to be the justing staff of Gerard the Giant." A carved wooden figure of this giant, pole in hand, stood over the gate of this old inn until March 1852, when the whole building was demolished for city improvements.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 576. See Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 612. *
This pole, when it was fixed in the ground, was higher than the
church steeple ; and it is to this that Chaucer the poet refers when he
says, speaking of a vain boaster, that he bears his head " as he would
bear the great shaft of Cornhill."—Stow's Survey, B. ii. p. 65 ;
Godwin and Britton, Churches of London, 1839.
t Pennant, London (5th edition, p. 587), says this shaft gave rise to
the insurrection. Godwin and Britton deny this was the case.
t Hall, in his Chronicle, says these foreigners " compassed the citie
rounde aboute, in Southwarke, in Westminster, Temple Barre, Holborne,
Saynète Martynes, Saynète John's Strete, Algate, Toure Hyll, and
Sainet Katherines."

218 MAT DAT. [MAY I.

to the great injury, as was then thought, of the citizens, and
on the 28th of April a quarrel took place between some of
the London apprentices—at that time a powerful body—and
two or three foreigners whom they met in the street, when
blows were exchanged. This disturbance, however, was
quickly quelled, but a rumour suddenly became general,
although none knew on what grounds, that on the ensuing
May-day, taking advantage of the sports and pastimes which
were expected, all foreigners then in the city would be slain.
In consequence of this various precautions were adopted by
the authorities with a view to prevent if possible any contemplated
outrage, and all men were commanded to stay in
their houses. Notwithstanding this injunction, on the even-
ning before May-day two striplings were found in Cheapside "
playing at the bucklers," and having been commanded to
desist, theory of "'Prentices, 'prentices,bats and clubs!" the
usual gathering words at that period, was heard through the
streets, and many hundreds of persons, armed with clubs and
other weapons, assembled from all quarters, broke open the
prisons, destroyed many houses occupied by foreigners, and
committed other excesses. After some exertions on the part
of the city authorities,* nearly three hundred of the rioters
were captured. A commission was appointed to inquire into
the insurrection, and a great number of the prisoners were
condemned to die, but with the exception of one John
Lincolne, who was hung, they were all ultimately pardoned.
After this circumstance, which acquired for the day on wVich
it happened the title of " Evil May-day," and induced those
in power to discountenance sports which led to large congregations,
the Cornliill shaft was hung on a range of hooks
under the "pentisesf" of a neighbouring row of houses,
where it remained till 1549. In that year, one Sir Stephen,
curate of St. Catherine Cree, in a sermon which he preached *
Cholraondeley, constable of the Tower, discharged some gnna into
the streets, while the Earls of Shrewsbury and Surrey, collecting the
gentlemen of the Inns of Court, restrained the violence of tliu populace. —
Lyttluton, History of England, vol. ii. p. 167.
t Of the pent-house, or shelving roof projecting from the main wall,
by which the shops at that period were ordinarily protected, many
examples, Godwin and Britton say, existed in their time.

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.

was the result. It was, however, soon revived " as of old,"
and, wo are told, was much patronised "by the nobility
and gentry." It had also its attractions for the ruder
class of holiday-makers, as wo learn from the following
copy of a hand-bill formerly in the Upcott Collection, dated
1748: "
May Fair.—At the Ducking Pond on Monday next,
the 27th inst., Mr. Hooton's dog Nero (ten years old,
with hardly a tooth in his head to hold a duck, but well
known for his goodness to all that have seen him hunt),
hunts six ducks for a guinea against the bitch called the
Flying Spaniel, from the Ducking Pond on the other side
of the water, which has beat all she has hunted against,
excepting Mr. Hooton's Good Blood. To begin at two
o'clock. "
Mr. Hooton begs his customers won't take it amiss to
pay twopence admittance at the gate, and take a ticket,
which will be allowed as cash in their reckoning ; no person
admitted without a ticket, that such as are not liked may
be kept out. "
Note—Eight Lincoln ale."
Mr. Morley, in his History of Bartholomew Fair (1859,
p. 103), after noticing the presentment of the grand jury in
1708 and the prohibition of May Fair, tells us that the fair
was revived, and " finally abolished in the reign of George II.
after a peace-officer had been killed in the attempt to quell a
riot." The statement, however, of the fair having been finally
abolished in the reign of George II. is perfectly gratuitous
on the part of the historian of " Bartlemy," as it existed until
near the end of another reign. Carter the antiquary wrote
an account of it in 1816, and he says that a few years
previously it was much in the same state as it had been for
fifty years. This description, full of curious interest, was
communicated to the Gentleman's Magazine for March 1816 (
vol. Ixxxvi. p. 228). It has been reprinted in Hone's Every
Day BooJc, 1826, vol. i. p. 572 ; See Soane's New Curiosities of
Literature, 1867, vol. i. p. 250, &c. ; N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. x. p.

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.

r;i Day Boole, 1826, vol. ii. p. 615 ; Glossar» of North-
iinijit/ntgltire Words and Phrases, 1854, vol. ii. p. 421. .
Clare, " the Peasant Poet" of Northampton, iu one of his
MS. ballads, describes the manner in which May-day is observed
iu his native -«liage, Helpstone, near Peterborough,
and the neighbourhood. His delightful ballad is printed
by Miss Baker in her work already quoted (vol. ii. p. 423). "
How beautiful May und its morning comes in !
The songs of the maidens, you hear them begin
To sing the old lial'iuls while cowslips they pull,
While the dew of the morning fills many pipes full.
The closes are spangled with cowslips like gold, (¡
iris cram in their aprons what baskets can't hold;
And still gather on to the heat of the day,
Till force often throws the last hamlful away.
Then beneath an old hawthorn they ait, one and all.
And make the May-garlands, and round cuck a ball
Of cowslips und blossoms so showy and sweet,
And ¡augh when they think of the swains they shall meet.
Then to finish the garland they trudge away home,
And beg from each garden the flowers tlien in bloom ;
Then beneath the old eldern, beside the old wall,
They set out to make it, maid, misses and all.
The ribbons the ploughmen bought maids at the fail
Are sure to be seen in a garland so fair ;
And dolls from the children they dress up and take.
While children laugh loud at the show they will make.
Then they take round the garland to show at each door,
With kerchief to hide the fine ilowers cover'd o'er ; At cottages also, wheu willing to pay, The maidens their much-admired garland display. Then at ducli-under-water * adown the long road They run witli their dresses all flying abroad ; And ribbons all colours, how sweet they appear ! May seems to begin the life of the year. * Dnck-vmder-the-water. Agame in which the players run, two and two, in rapid succession, under a handkerchief held up aloft by two persons standing apart wilh extended arms. Formerly in this northern part of Northamp
tonshire even married women on May-day played at this game under the
garland, whicli was. extended from chimney to chimney across
the village street.—Glossary of Northamp
tonshire Words
and Phr
1854, vol. i. p. 204.

MAY i.] MAY DAY. 253-

Then the garland on ropos is hung high over all,
One end to a tree, and one hookrd to n wall ;
When they cuck the ball over till day is nigh gone,
And then tea and cakes and the dancing cornea on.
And then, lawk ! what laughing nnd dancing is there,
While the fiddler makes faces within the arm-chair ;
And then comes the cushion,* the girls they nil shriek,
And fly to the door from the old fiddler's squeak.
But the doors they are fastened, so all must kneel down,
And take the rude kiss from the unmannerly clown.
Thus the May games are ended, to their houses they roam.
With the sweetheart she chooses each maiden goes home." *
The cushion dance appears to be of some antiquity : it is thu»
mentioned by Seiden in his Table Talle, under " King of England":— '•
The court of England is much altered. At a solemn dancing, first
you have the great measures, then the Corrantues and the Galliards,
and this is kept up witli ceremony ; at length to French-mora [
Frenchmore] and the cushion dance, and then all the company
dance—lord and groom, lady and kitchen-maid, no distinction. So in
our court in Queen Elizabeth's time gravity and state were kept up.
In King James" time things were very pretty well. But in King
Charles' time there was nothing but Frenchmore and the cushion-
dance, omnium gatherum, tolly polly, hoite come toite." In Playford's
Dancing Master (HÌ98, p. 7) it is described as follows :—" This dance
is begun by a single person (either man or woman), who, taking a
cushion in hand, dances about the room, and at the end of the tune
stops and sings, 'This dance it will no further go;' the musician
answers, ' I pray you, good sir, why say you so ?' Man. ' Because
Joan Sanderson will not come to.' Musician. ' She must come to, and
she shall come to, and she must whether ehe will or no." Then he
lays down the cushion before a woman, on which she kneels, and he
kisses her, singing, ' Welcome, Joan Sanderson, welcome, welcome.'
Then she rises, takes up the cushion, and both dance, singing, '
Prinkum prankum is a fine dance, and shall we go dance it once
again ? ' Then making a stop, the woman sings as before, ' This dance
it will no further go." Musician. ' I pray you, madam, why say you
so?' Woman. 'Because John Sanderson will not come to." Musician. '
He must come to," &c. (as before). And so she lays down the cushion
before a man, who, kneeling upon it, salutes her, she singing ' Welcome,
John Sanderson,' &c. Then he taking up the cushion, they dance
round, singing as before, and thus they do till the whole company are
taken into the ring. Then the cushion is laid before the first man, the
woman singing "This dance,' &c. (as before), only instead of'not come
to," they sing, ' go fro ;' and instead of ' Welcome, John Sanderson,' '
Farewell, farewell ;' and so they go out one by one as they came in."
This dance was well known in Holland in *T n" part of the r

54 M

A nativo of Fotheringliay, Mr. W. C. Peach, relates that
ho was formerly accustomed to go into the fields over-night
and very early on May-day to gather cowslips, primroses,
wood-anemones, blue bells, &c., to make the garlands. The
garland, if possible, was hung in the centre of the street on
a rope stretched from house to house. Then was made the
trial of skill in tossing balls (small white leather ones) through
the framework of the garla-nd, to effect which was a triumph.
Speaking of the May-bush (a large tree selected for being
tall, straight, full of branches, and if possible flowers), Mr. W. C.
Peach says, " I have been looking out for a pretty bush
days before the time, and if hawthorn and in blossom, then
it was glorious. I have seen them ten or twelve feet high,
and many in circumference, and they required a stalwart arm
to carry and put them into a hole in the ground before the
front door, where they were wedged on each side so as to
appear growing. Flowers were then thrown over the bush
and around it, and strewn as well before the door. Pretty
little branches of whitethorn, adorned with the best flowers
procurable, were occasionally put up, unperceived by others
if possible, against the bed-room of the favourite lass, to
show the esteem in which she was held, and the girls accordingly
were early on the alert to witness the respective
favours allotted them. Elder, crab-tree, nettles, thistles,
sloes, &c., marked the different degrees of respect in which
some of them were held." — Glossary of Northamptonshire
Words and Phrases, vol. ii. p. 427.
At Nassington they carry garlands about, and beg for
money ; in the evening they tie them across the street from
chimney to chimney, and dance under them. Formerly
married women used to amuse themselves by playing under
them at the game of Duck-under-the-water.*—Ibid. p. 428.
At Nassington a curious pasture custom also takes place
on May-day. There is a large tract of meadow-land lying
on the side of the river Nen, which the inhabitants of the
seventeenth century, and an interesting engraving of it may be seen in
the ' Emblems of John de Brunnes,' Amst. 1624.—Nares' Glossary (
Halliwell and Wright), 1859, vol. i. p. 219. *
See note on page 252.

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.

To go where sinners mourn ;
Twould have been better for oar poor sonto To die in sin U a ferions thing,
If we bad ne'er been born.
Now we've been travelling all the night, "
And best part of this day ;
And now we're returning back again.
Before your door to stand ;
Ti» but a sprout, but 'tis well spread out, And have brought you a branch of May. A branch of May, which looks so gay.
The work of our Lord's hand.
Arise, arise, yon pretty fair maid,
Out of your drowsy dream.
And step into your dairy-house
For a sup of your swett cream.
O, for a sup of your sweet cream,
Or a jug of your own beer ;
And if we tarry in the town,
We'll call another year.
Now take the Bible in your hand,
And read a chapter through,
And when the day of judgment comes,
The Lord will think of you.
I!' pent, repent, ye wicked men,
Hcpent before you die ;
There's no repentance in the grave,
When in the ground you lie.
But now my song is almost done,
I'vo got no more to say ;
Qod bless you all, both great and small,
I wish you a joyful May."
Tho garland is afterwards suspended by ropes from tho
Hc.liool-houso to an opposite tree, and the mayers and other «
In Id ron amuse themselves by throwing balls over it. With
tin; money collected tea and cakes are provided for tho
party. Tho Queen of tho May takes her seat at the
of tho tea-table, under a bower composed of branches of
may ami blackthorn; a wreath of flowers is placed on her
liiiiul, and H!IO is hailed " Lady of tho May." The attendimi
H wait round lier, tho party of mayers seat themselves nt
a long tabi u below, and the evening concludes with mirth
unii »iwriniont.—Glossary, âc., p. 424.

The young people of both sexes go out early in tho
morning to gather the flowering thorn and the clew off the
grass, which they bring home with music and acclamations ;
and having dressed a polo on the town-green with garlands,
dance around it. A syllabub is also prepared for the May-feast,
which is made of warm milk from the cow, sweet cakes, 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.—
Hutchinson, Hist, of Northumberland, 1778, vol. ii., Appendix,
p. 14.
At Newcastle-upon-Tyno it was formerly usual on May-
mornings for the young girls to sing these lines in the
streets, at the same time gathering flowers :— "
Eise up, maidens, fie for shame 1
For I've been four long miles from harae,
I've been gathering my garlands gay,
Rise up, fair maids, and take in your May ! "—
Tii Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 219. NOTTINGHAMSHIRE. The May-day customs observed in this county are in many
respects similar to those of other counties, but Nottinghamshire
has the honour of being the parent of most of the happy
sports which characterise this joyous period of the year, from
the fact of most of the May-day games having had their
origin in the world-famous Robin Hood, whose existence and
renown are so intimately connected with this district. His
connection with " Morry Sherwood" and tho Sheriff of Nottingham
have been universal themes for centuries ; and these
and the " Miller of Mansfield " and the " Wise Men of Gotham"
have done more towards making this county famous than all
the rest of the ballads and popular literature put together.
Maypoles and morris-dances were formerly very general, and
the characters of Kobin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck,
Maid Marian, and the Hobby-horse were well sustained.
The maypoles were sometimes very elegantly ornamented,
and surmounted by flags and streamers of various colours.

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

prevails tit this season, even to this day at Oxford, to remind
people of the pleasantness of that part of the year, which
ought to create mirth and gayety."
Aubrey has this memorandum in his Remains of Gentil-
isme and Judaïsme (MS. Lansd. 266, p. 5) i^At Oxford the
boys do blow cows' horns and hollow canes all night ; and
on May-day the young maids of every parish carry about
garlando of flowers, which afterwards they hang up in their
At Combe, in the same county, troops of little girls dressed
up fantastically parade the village, carrying sticks, to the
top of which are tied bunches of flowers, and singing the
following song :— "
Gentlemen and ladies,
We wish you a happy May ;
We've come to show our garlands,
Because it is May-day."
The same verse, substantially, is the May-day song at Woot-
ton, an adjoining parish. The last two of the four lines aro
sometimes as follow :— "
Come, kiss my face, and smell my mace,
And give the lord and lady something."
N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. vii. p. 425.
At Headington, about two miles from Oxford, the children
gather garlands from house to house. Each garland is
formed of a hoop for a rim, with two half hoops attached
to it and crossed above, much in the shape of a crown ; each
member is adorned with flowers, and the top surmounted
by a crown imperial or other showy bunch of flowers. Each
garland is attended by four children, two girls dressed in
all their best, who carry the garland, supported betwixt them
by a stick passed through it between the arches. These are
followed by the " lord and lady, " a boy and girl, who go
from house to house and sing the same song as is sung at
Combe. In the village are upwards of a dozen of these
garlands, with their " lords and ladies," which give to the
place the most gay and animated appearance.—Literary
Gazette, May 1847.

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

those who purposely throw themselves in their way, and join
the party, or obstruct them in their vagaries. This custom
probably owes its origin to some ancient practice of perambulating
the boundaries of the parish.— Savage, History of
Carthampton, p. 583.
At Uttoxeter groups of children carry garlands of flowers
about the town. The garlands consist of two hoops, one
passing through the other, which give the appearance of four
half circles, and they are decorated with flowers and evergreens
and surmounted with a bunch of flowers as a sort of
crown, and in the centre of the hoops is a pendent orange
and flowers. Mostly one or more of the children carry a
little pole or stick, with a collection of flowers tied
together at one end, and carried vertically, and the children
themselves are adorned with ribbons and flowers. Thus
they go from house to house, which they are encouraged to
do by the pence they obtain.—Eedfern, History of Uttoxeter,
1865, p. 262.
Formerly in this county it was the custom in most
farm-houses for any servant who could bring in a branch
of hawthorn in full blossom to receive a dish of cream for
breakfast. To this practice the following rhyme apparently
alludes :— "
This is the day,
And here is our May,
The finest ever seen,
It is fit for the queen ;
So pray, ma'am, give us a cup of your cream."—
Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 229.
In the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark, says Allen (History
of (-Surrey and Sussex, 1829, vol. i. p. 261), there was an
ancient custom for the principal inhabitants to meet and
dine together annually on the first of May. This was called
the " May-feast." The gentleman who presided on the

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

the second ; and whetstones of an inferior description for
those who can only roach a state of mediocrity in " the noble
art of lying!" The people are the judges. Each candidate
in rotation commences a story such as his fertile genius at
the moment prompts, and the more marvellous and 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 awarding the prizes to
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.—Every Day Book,
vol. ii. p. 599.
In this county it is the practice, every May-morning, to
make folks May-goslings,* a practice similar to that on the
first of April. This custom prevails till twelve o'clock at
noon, after which time none carry on the sport. On this
day, too, ploughmen and others decorate themselves with
garlands and flowers, and parade through different towns for
their annual collection, which they spend in the evening with
their sweethearts at the maypole.—Time's Telescope, 1829,
p. 176.
The dance round the Maypole is kept up, says Cuthbert
Bede (N. & Q. 1st S. vol. x. p. 92), at the village of Clent,
near Hagley.
About a fortnight previous to May-day the question
among the lads and lasses is, " Who will turn out to dance in
the summer this year ? " From that time the names of the
performers are buzzed in the village, and rumour proclaims
them throughout the surrounding neighbourhood. Nor is it
asked with less interest, " Who will carry the garland ? " and "
Who will be the Cadi?" About nine days or a week previous
to the festival a collection is made of the gayest
ribbons that can be procured. During this time, too, the
chosen garland-bearer is busily employed. Accompanied by
one from among the intended dancers who is best known *
See page 233.

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

cup or tankard. This garland, when completed on the eve of
May-day, is left for the night at that farm-house from
whence the dancers have received the most liberal loan of
silver and plate for its decoration, or with that farmer who is
distinguished in his neighbourhood as a good master, and
liberal to the poor. Its deposit is a token of respect, and
it is called for early on the following morning. The whole
party being assembled, they march, headed by the Cadi.
After him follows the garland-bearer, and then the fiddler,
while the bells of the village merrily ring the signal of their
departure. As the procession moves slowly along the Cadi
varies his station, hovers about his party, brandishes a ladle,
and assails every passenger for a customary and expected
donation. When they arrive at a farm-house they take up
their ground on the best station for dancing. In the meantime
the bufibonery of the Cadi is exhibited without intermission.
He assails the inmates of the house for money, and when
this is obtained the procession moves off to the next farmhouse.
They do not confine the ramble of the day to their
own parish, but go from one to another, and to any county
town in the vicinity. When they return to their resident
village in the evening, the bells, ringing merrily, announce
their arrival. The money collected during the day's excursion
is appropriated to defray whatever expenses may
have been incurred in the necessary preparations, and the
remainder is spent in jovial festivity.—Every Day Book,
vol. i. p. 562.
At Tenby, says Mason (Tales and Traditions of Tenby,
1858, p. 22), it was customary for the possessors of a maypole
to try and pull down those set up in other places. A watch
was therefore set up round each.
In some parts of Scotland, says Pennant, there is a rural
sacrifice on May-day. A cross is cut on some sticks, each of
which is dipped in pottage, and the Thursday before Easter
one of these is placed over the sheep-cote, the stable, or the
cow-house. On the first of May they are carried to the hill,
where the rites are celebrated, all decked with wild flowers.

268 MAY DAT. [MAY i.

and after the feast is over replaced over the spots they were
taken from. This was originally styled Clonau-Beltein, or
the split branch of the fir of the rock.—Tour in Scotland,
1790, vol. i. p. 206.
At Edinburgh about four o'clock in the morning there is
an unusual stir ; and a hurrying of gay throngs through the
King's Park to Arthur's Scat to collect the May-dew. In the
course of half an hour the entire hill is a moving mass of
all sorts of people. At the summit may be seen a company
of bakers and other craftsmen, dressed in kilts, dancing
round a maypole. On the moro level part is usually an
itinerant vendor of whisky, or mountain (not May) dew.
These proceedings commence with the daybreak. About
six o'clock the appearance of the gentry, toiling up the
ascent, becomes the signal for servants to march home ; for
they know that they must have the house clean and everything
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 anything particular had taken
place.—See Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 609.
Fergusson the Scottish poet thus describes this custom :— "
On May-day in a fairy ring
We've seen them, round St. Anthon's spring,
Frae grass the caller dew-drops wring,
To wet their ein,
And water clear as crystal spring,
To synd them clean."
Formerly the magistrates of Canongate, Edinburgh, used
to walk in procession to church upon the first Sunday after
Beltane, carrying large nosegays. This observance was
evidently a modified relic of the ancient festival of the sun ;
and the original meaning of the custom must have been an
expression of gratitude to that luminary, deified under the
name of Baal, for the first-fruits of his genial influence.—
Household Words, 1859, vol. six. p. 558.


On the first of May the herdsmen of every village hold
their Beltein, a rural sacrifice. They cut a square trench on
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 rites
begin with spilling some of the caudle on the ground, by
way of libation ; on that every one takes a cake of oatmeal,
upon 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
oif a knob, and flinging it over his shoulder, says, This I give
to thee, preserve thou my horses ; this to thee, preserve thou
my sheep ; 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 thee, O hooded-crow ! and
this to thee, O eagle !
When the ceremony is over they dine on the caudle, and,
after the feast is finished, what is left is hid by two persons
deputed for that purpose ; but on the next Sunday they
re-assemble, and finish the reliques of the first entertainment. —
Pennant's Tour in Scotland, 1790, vol. i. p. 112,
In Sinclair's Stat. Ace. of Scotland (1794, vol. xi. p. G20) •
the Minister of Callander says :—Upon the first day of May
all the boys in a township or hamlet meet on the moors.
They cut a table in the green sod of a round figure, by
casting a trench in the ground of such circumference as
to hold the whole company. They kindle a fire, and dress
a repast of eggs and milk of the consistence of a custard.
They knead a cake of oatmeal, which is toasted at the
embers against a stone. After the custard is eaten up,
they divide the cake into so many portions, as similar
as possible to one another in SÌKO and shap» — " ^VQ are

persons in the company. They daub one of these portions
all over with charcoal until it is perfectly black. They
put the pieces of the cake into a bonnet. Every one
blindfold draws out a portion ; he who holds the bonnet is
entitled to the last piece. Whoever draws the black piece is
the devoted person who is to be sacrificed to Baal, whose
favour they mean to implore in rendering the year productive
of the sustenance of man and beasts. There is little
doubt of these inhuman sacrifices having been once offered
in this country as well as in the East, although they now
omit the act of sacrificing, and only compel -the devoted
person to leap three times through the flames ; with which
the ceremonies of this festival are closed.—See N. & Q.
1st. S., vol. viii. p. 281.
At Logierait the 1st of May, old style, is chiefly celebrated
by the cowherds, who assemble by scores in the fields to dress
a dinner for themselves of boiled milk and eggs. These
dishes they eat with a sort of cakes baked for the occasion,
and having small lumps raised all over the surface.—Ibid.
vol. v. p. 84.
Martin, in his Account of the Western Islands of Scotland (
1703, p. 7), speaking of the Isle of Lewis, says that the
natives in the village Barvas retain an ancient custom of
sending a man very early to cross Barvas river every first <
lay of May, to prevent any females crossing it first ; for that
they say would hinder the salmon from coming into the river
all the year round. They pretend to have learned this from
a foreign sailor, who was shipwrecked upon that coast a long
time ago.
In- the south-eastern parts of Ireland (and no doubt all
over the island) a custom used to prevail—-perhaps so still —
on May-day, when the young people of both sexes, and
many old people too, collected in districts and localities, and
selected the handsomest girl, of from eighteen to twenty-one
years of age, as queen of the district for twelve months. She
was then crowned with wild flowers ; and feasting, dancing,

and rural sports were closed by a grand procession in the
evening. The duties of her majesty were by no means heavy,
as she had only to preside over rural assemblies of young folks
at dances and merrymakings, and had the utmost obedience
paid to her by all classes of her subjects. If she got married
before the next May-day her authority was at an end, but
still she held office until that day, when her successor to the
throne was chosen. If not married during her reign of twelve
mouths, she was capable of being re-elected ; but that seldom
happened, as there was always found some candidate put
forward by the young men of the district to dispute the
crown the next year.—N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. iv. p. 229.
In Ireland, says Mr. Crofton Croker, May-day is called La
na Seal tina, and May-eve neen na Baal tina, that is, the
day and eve of Baal's fire, from its having been in ancient
times consecrated to the god Beai, or Belus ; whence also
the month of May is termed in Irish Mi na Beai tine. Mayday
is the favourite festival of the mummers. They consist
of a number, varying according to circumstances, of the girls
and young men of the village or neighbourhood, usually selected
for their good looks, or their proficiency—the females
in the dance, the youths in hurling and other athletic exercises.
They march in procession, two abreast, and in three
divisions : the young men in the van and the rear, dressed in
white or other gay-coloured jackets or vests, and decorated
with ribbons on their hats and sleeves. The young women are
dressed also in light-coloured garments, and two of them
bear each a holly-bush, on which are hung several new hurling
balls, the May-day present of the girls to the youths
of the village. The bush is decorated with a profusion of
long ribbons, or paper cut in imitation, which adds greatly^to
the gay and joyous, yet strictly rural, appearance of the
whole. The procession is always preceded by music, sometimes
of the bagpipe, but more commonly of a military- fife,
with the addition of a drum or tambourine. A clown is of
course in attendance: he wears a frightful mask, and bears
a long pole, with shreds of cloth nailed to the end of it, like
a mop, which ever and anon he dips in a pool of water or
puddle, and besprinkles such of the crowd as press upon his
companions, much to the delight of the younger spectators,

Tho mummers during the day parado the neighbouring
villages, or go from one gentleman's seat to another, dancing
before the mansion-house, and receiving money. The evening
of course terminates with drinking.—Fairy Legends
and Traditions of the South of Ireland, 1825.
On the first of May from time immemorial, until the year
1798, a largo pole was planted in the market-place at Magherà,
and a procession of May-boys, leaded by a mock king and
queen, paraded the neighbourhood, dressed in shirts over
their clothes, and ornamented with ribbons of various
colours. This practice was revived in 1813, and the May-
boys collected about £17 at the different places where they
called : this defrayed the expense of a public dinner next
day. Circumstances, however, occurred soon after which
induced one of the neighbouring magistrates to come into-
the town and cut down the pole, which had been planted
in the market-place.—Mason, Stat. Ace. of Ireland, 1814,
vol. i. p. 593.
On the first day of May in Dublin and its vicinity it is
customary for young men and boys to go a fe~v 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 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. Formerly it was not considered complete without
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 destina-

tions. This practice gave rise to a threat, yet made use of —"
I will drag you liko a horse's head to the boue-tìro."
About dusk, when no more money can be collected, the bush
is trimmed, the turf and bones are made ready to set on tire,
the candles are all lighted, the bush fully illuminated, and
the boys, giving three huzzas, begin to dance and jump round
it. After an hour or so the heap of turf and bones is set
fire to, and when the candles are burnt out the bush is takea
up and thrown into the flames. They continue 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. A high
pole is decorated with garlands, and visitors come in from
dififerent parts of the country, and dance round it to whatever
music chance may have conducted there. The best male and
female dancers are chosen king and queen, and placed on
chairs. When the dancing is over they are carried by some
of the party to an adjacent public-house, where they regale
themselves with ham, beef, whisky-punch, ale, cakes, and
porter, after which they generally have a dance indoors,
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."—
Every Day Book, vol. ii, p. 595.
On May-day also, or on the preceding night, women put a
stocking filled with yarrow under their pillow, and recite the
following lines :—- "
Good morrow, good yarrow, good morrow to thee ;
I hope "gain [by] the morrow ray lover to see,
And that he may be married to me ;
The colour of his hair, and the clothes he does wear;
And if he be for me may his face be turned to me ;
And if he be not, dark and surly he may be,
And his back be turned to me."—
N. & Q. ith 8. vol. iv. p. 505.


From: British Popular Customs, Present and Past....,Thomas Firminger
Thiselton Dyer, 1900.

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School Celebration 1912

The Enthronement of the May Queen
The Lord of the May presents the Lady of the May with the insignia of office*
wreath, crown, and acepter
Song: " Give to our Lady o* May "
Homage to the Queen by her follower*, including:
The Harbingers: the Sun and the Robin
The Garland of the Harvest May or Spirit of Plenty
Spring and the Flower Maids and Heralds
The Queen and the Bearers of her Insignia
Lords and Ladies
Jack-in-the-Green and the Sweeps
Mother Goose, her faithful bird, and her brood
Boy Blue, Bo Peep, Mistress Mary
Miss Muffet, Simple Simon and the Pieman
The Queen of Hearts, Jack and Jill
Mother Hubbard, Jack Sprat and his Wife
April Fool
Dance of the Lords and Ladies
Song: "Hail! Hail! Sweet May!"
Sports and Revels on the Green
Robin Hood and his companions — Maid Marian, Little John, Fair Ellen,
Allen-a-Dale, Will Scarlet, and Friar Tuck — greet the Queen. The Hobby-
Horse causes trouble. Robin summons the men and maids of the merry green-
wood, who march before the Queen.
Song: " Robin Hood and Little John "
They display their prowess with the bow In an archery exercise; then retire,
a woodland May dance.
Song: " Bow and Arrow bearing, lo! the Archer "
The peasant dancers bedeck and do honor to the May-pole; then dance around it.
Song: " Come, Lasses and Lads "
Salutation of the Queen by the rival Villagers.
Song: ".Lavender's Blue, dilly, dilly "
The Challenge (Orange). The Acceptance (Lemon).
The Combat
The rivals, in token of good-fellowship, give a display of their athletic agility
before the Queen in pyramid formations and tumbling. They then greet the
Maids of the rival Villages, who unite in friendly dances — the Morris Dance,
the Faithful Shepherd, and the Trenchmore.
Reassembling of Players and Recessional
Song: " Hail! Hail! Sweet May "


Festivals and Plays in Schools and Elsewhere. Percival Chubb, 1912.


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MAY customs are nothing more than a gratulation of
the spring, to testify universal joy at the revival
of vegetation. Hence the universality of the
practice ; and its festivities being inspired by the gay face of
Nature, they are as old as any we have on record. There is
at Oxford a May-day ceremony which has a special claim.
upon our respect and veneration, for nearly four centuries.
Upon the majestic Perpendicular tower of Magdalen College
we have many time and oft looked with reverential
feeling : seen from every point, it delights the eye with its
stately form, fine proportions, and admirable simplicity ; and
with its history is associated a May-day custom of surpassing
interest. For more than three centuries and a half the
choristers of the College have assembled upon the top of its
tower on a May-day morning, and there performed a most
harmonious service, the origin of which has been thus traced
by the learned Dr. Rimbault.
In the year 1501, the " most Christian " King Henry VIL
gave to Magdalen College the advowsons of the churches of
Slymbridge, in Gloucestershire, and Fyndon, in Sussex,
together with one acre of land in each parish. In gratitude


or this benefaction, the College was accustomed, during the
lifetime of the 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 word that the heart 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 ; when is
sung on the College-tower a Latin hymn, which has evidently
reference to the original service. The produce of the two
acres before-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.
The arrangement of the ceremony is as follows. At about
half-past four o'clock in the morning, the singing boys and
men, accompanied by members of Magdalen and different
colleges, ascend to the platform of the tower ; and the choristers,
having put on their surplices, range themselves on the
slightly-gabled roof, standing with their faces towards the
east. Magdalen bell having tolled five, the choristers sing
from their books the Latin hymn, of which the following
is a translation : — "
Father and God, we worship Thee,
And praise and bless on bended knee :
With food Thou'rt to our bodies kind, "
With heavenly grace dost cheer the mind. "
0, Jesus, only Son of God !
Thee we adore, and praise, and laud :
Thy love did not disdain the glooin
Of a pure Virgin's holy womb.

Nail'd to the cross, a victim made,
On Thee the wrath of God was laid :
Our only Saviour, now by Thee
Immortal life we hope to see. "
To Thee, Eternal Spirit, rise
Unceasing praise, from earth and skies :
Thy breath awoke the heavenly Child,
And gave Him to His mother mild. "
To Thee, the Triune God, be paid—
To Thee, who our redemption made —
All honour, thanks, and praise divine,
For this great mystery of Thine ! "

At the close of the hymn, all heads are covered, and the
singers hasten to the belfry, whence the bells ring out a
joyful peal. The spectators in the road beneath disperse,
the boys blowing tin horns, according to ancient custom, to
welcome in sweet May ; while others ramble into the fields
to gather cowslips and field flowers, which they bring into
the town. Occasionally the singing on the tower has been
heard, with a favourable wind, at two miles' distance. This
being a " gaudy day " for the choristers, they have a dinner
of roast lamb and plum-pudding in the College-hall at two
o'clock. There is a good representation of the ceremony on
the tower, carefully engraved by Joseph Lionel Williams,
in the Illustrated London News, whence the accompanying
representation has been reduced.
Dr. Tlimbault, whilst making some researches in the library
of Christchurch, Oxford, discovered what appeared to him
to be the first draft of the above hymn. 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 chaplains, clerks, and choristers

there. Composed by Benjamin Rogers, Doctor of Musicke
of the University of Oxon, 1685." The author of the
hymn is unknown.
At Oxford, formerly, boys used to blow cows'-horns and
hollow canes all night, to welcome in May-day ; and girls
carried about garlands of flowers, which afterwards they
hung upon the churches.
Before we leave the sacred ground whereon this holy
May-day ceremony is, year by year, performed, we present
the reader with a very ably-drawn picture of the locality
itself, and its many attractions… "

…At Saffron Walden, and in the village of Debden, an old
May-day song is still sung by the little girls, who go about
in parties carrying garlands from door to door. The first
stanza is to be repeated after each of the others by way of
chorus : — "
I, I been a rambling all this night, '
And some part of this day,
And. now returning back again,
I brought you a garland gay. "
A garland gay I brought you here,
And at your door I stand ; '
Tis nothing but a sprout, but 'tis well budded out,
The works of our Lord's hand. "
Why don't you do as I have done
The very first day of May ?
And from my parents I have come,
And could no longer stay. "
So dear, so dear as Christ loved us,
And for our sins was slain,
Christ bids us turn from wickedness,
And turn to the Lord again."

The garlands which the girls carry are sometimes large and
handsome, and a doll is usually placed in the middle, dressed
in white, according to certain traditional regulations: this
doll represents the Virgin Mary, and is a relic of the ages of
The May-pole still lingers in the village of St. Briavel's, in
the picturesque forest of Dean. In the village of Burley


in the New Forest, a May-pole is erected, a fete given to
the school children, and a May-queen is chosen by lots ; a
floral crown surmounts the pole, and garlands of flowers
hang about the shaft. Among other late instances are recorded
a May-pole, eighty feet high, on the village-green of
West Dean, Wilts, in 1836 ; and in 1844, there was "dancing
round the May-pole " in St. James's district, Enfield.
William Howitt describes May-poles in the village of Lisby,
near .Newstead; and in Farnsfield, near Southwell, Derbyshire,
May-poles are to be seen. Dr. Parr was a great patron
of May-day festivities : opposite his parsonage-house at
Hatton, near Warwick, stood the parish May-pole, which
was annually dressed with garlands, and the doctor danced
with his parishioners around the shaft. He kept its large
crown in a closet of his house, from whence it was produced
every May-day, and decorated with fresh flowers and
streamers, preparatory to its elevation to the top of the
On May-day and December 26th, is distributed the fund
bequeathed in 1717 and 1736, by Mr. Raine, a wealthy
brewer at St. George's-in- the  East, who founded schools and
a hospital for girls, and added marriage portions of 100Z., to
be drawn by lots : the winner is married to a young man, of
St. John's, Wapping, or St. Paul's, Shadwell ; the couple
dine with their friends, and in the evening an ode is sung,
and the marriage portion of one hundred new sovereigns is
presented to the bride.
Miss Baker, in her Northamptonshire Glossary, tells us
that there are very few villages in that county where the
May- day Festival is not noticed in some way or other.

-Nooks and Corners of English Life, Past and Present

 By John Timbs, 1867.

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May-Day was the great rural festival of our forefathers. Their
hearts responded merrily to the cheerfulness of the season. At
the dawn of May morning the lads and lasses left their towns and
villages, and, repairing to the woodlands, by sound of music they
gathered the may, or blossomed branches of the trees, and bound them
with wreaths of flowers; then returning to their homes by sunrise,
they decorated the cottages and doors with the sweet-smelling spoil of
their joyous journey, and spent the remaining hours in sports and
set up in some parts of the country. An old author, in relating the
fetching in of the may, says, "But their chiefest Jewell they bring
is their May-pole, which they bring home thus. They have twenty
or forty yoke of oxen, every ox having a sweet nosegay of flowers tied
on the tip of his horns, and these oxen draw home this May -pole,
which is covered all over with flowers and herbes, bound round about
with strings, from the top to the bottom, and sometimes painted with
variable colours, with two or three hundred men, women, and
children following. And thus being reared up, with handkerchiefs
and flags streaming on the top, they strew the ground about it, set
up summer halls, bowers, and arbours hard by it, as the heathen
people did at the dedication of their idols." In 1644 May-poles were
forbidden by Parliament.
In some parts of the country, it was formerly the custom for Maying
parties to affix branches of flowers and branches of hawthorn to
the doors of those whom they desired to honour ; whilst those who
had rendered themselves in any way unpopular would often find their
doors adorned with branches of elder and bunches of nettles. This
was done before daybreak.
Another custom observed on the first of May was that of choosing
the May-queen. This custom is still observed in some villages in the
country. The popular beauty of the village is crowned with May
flowers and receives the homage of the villagers for the day.
In London the name Mayfair still survives to mark a spot which
was once the scene of much merry-making at this season. Very little
notice is now taken, however, of May-day in the metropolis. " Jack-
in-the-Green," an entertainment formerly provided by the chimneysweeps,
is now seldom seen. Milkmaids are almost unknown in
London. Formerly they existed in great numbers ; and on May-day
they would carry round the " milkmaid's garland." This garland
was a pyramidal frame, covered with damask, glittering on each side
with polished metal and adorned with knots of gay-coloured ribbons,
such as those with which carmen or carters still decorate their horses.
The garland was carried by two men, preceded by music, to which
the milkmaids danced at the doors of their customers. Some milkmaids,
instead of following a garland, would lead about a sleek cow,
decked with flowers and ribbons. This custom brings to mind the
Anglo-Saxon name for the month of May — Trimilki, "because in
that month they began to milk their kine three times in the day."
In concluding this short notice of some old May-day customs, we
sincerely say to our readers, in the words of a very old "Mayers'"
song— "
So God bless you all, both great and small,!
And send you a joyful May."

The Monthly welcome and parish visitor




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 Description of a Mayhouse

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
Hobby-horse birth.
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,
etc. etc."
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
European country.
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
their epousees.

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
Shepherds' Calendar.
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 ! •

Herrick's poem is in the form of a lover inviting his sweetheart
to go out a May-gathering.

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 ?

Come, we'll abroad, and let's obey
The proclamation made for May;
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying ;
But my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying !
There's not a budding boy or girl, this day,
But is got up and gone to bring in May :
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with whitethorn laden home ;
Some have despatched their cakes and cream,
Before that we have left to dream ;
And some have wept, and wooed, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth.
Many a green gown has been given ;
Many a kiss both odd and even ;
Many a glance too has been sent
From out the eye, love's firmament;
Many a jest told, of the key's betraying
This night, and locks picked ; yet we're not a- Maying !
Come, let us go while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time ;
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty :
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun :
And as a vapour or a drop of rain,
Once lost can ne'er be formed again :
So when, or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade ;
All love, all liking, all delight,
Lie down with us in endless night,
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying!

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

-The Rural Life of England,William Howitt, Thomas Bewick, Samuel Williams, 1840


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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
people's festivals.

-Sharpe's London Magazine, 1848

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3. their wont, 'as was their custom,' the words being in
apposition to the words ' Had been ... a-maying.'
a-maying, originally 'on maying,' as we have it in the Morte
Darthur, xix. 1, where such an occasion is described: "So it
befell in the month of May queen Guenever called unto her
knights of the Table Round, and she gave them warning that
early upon the morning she would ride on maying into the woods
and fields beside Westminster. And I warn you that there be
none of you but that he be well horsed, and that ye all be clothed
in green, other in silk other in cloth, and I shall bring with me
ten ladies, and every knight shall have a lady behind him, and
every knight shall have a squire and two yeomen, and I will that
ye all be well horsed— And so upon the morn they took their
horses, with the queen, and rode on maying in woods and
meadows, as it pleased them, in great joy and delights."

-Guinevere,with Introduction and Notes, G.C. MacaulayA. Tennyson, 1895


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19th Century Philadelphia

-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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All lovers' hearts that are in care To their ladies they do repair, In fresh mornings before the day, Before the day; And are in mirth aye more and more, Through gladness of this lovely May, Through gladness of this lovely May.

Old Song.

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,[17] 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.[18] 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—

Fair maiden, lie you still asleep, And let the morning go? Arise, arise, accept the May, That stands here all a-blow.

An English carol alludes to the same practice—

A branch of May I bring to you, Before your door it stands.[19]

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.[20]

The term "May-baskets" is no doubt a modernized form of the old English word "May-buskets," employed by Spenser.[21] 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—

As we go round the mulberry-bush, All on a frosty morning.

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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24]

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:

It is the merry month of May, Winter has taken flight; I could not keep my heart at home that bounded for delight: And as I went, and as I came, I sang to the season gay, It is the May, the merry May, the merry month of May!
E'en as I came the meadows by, the wheat-fields have I seen, The hawthorn branches all a-flower, the oat-fields growing green; O Trimazos! It is the May, the merry May, the merry month of May!
Madam, I thank you for your coin, and for your courtesy; It is for Mary and her Babe, and it is not for me: But I will pray the Child for you to whom your gift is given, That he return it you again more royally in heaven.

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

That God may give him health and joy, And the love that he loves best: Take the May, the lovely May.

They ask a gift, but not for themselves:

It shall be for the Virgin Mary, So good and so dear: Take the May, the lovely May.

Corresponding to the French song from which we have quoted is the English May carol, similarly sung from dwelling to dwelling:

Rise up the mistress of this house, with gold along your breast, For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay; And if your body be asleep, we hope your soul's at rest, Drawing near to the merry month of May.
God bless this house and harbor, your riches and your store, For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay; We hope the Lord will prosper you, both now and evermore, Drawing near to the merry month of May.

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:

The flow'ry May, who from her green lap throws The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose. Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire Mirth and youth, and warm desire; Woods and groves are of thy dressing, Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing. Thus we salute thee with our early song, And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

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.

17 In the country, in Massachusetts, Thanksgiving evening was the particular occasion for these games.

[18] The feast of Flora, says Pliny, in order that everything should flower.

[19] So in Southern France—

"Catherine, ma mie—reveille-toi, s'il vous plaît; Regarde à ta fenêtre le mai et le bouquet."

[20] "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."

[21] The "Shepheards Calender" recites how, in the month of May,

Youngthes folke now flocken in every where, To gather May-buskets and smelling brere; And home they hasten the postes to dight, And all the kirk-pillours eare day-light, With hawthorn buds, and sweete eglantine, And girlonds of roses, and soppes in wine.

"Sops in wine" are said to be pinks.

[22] See Nos. 23, 26, and 160.

[23] "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.


As I have seen the lady of the May Set in an arbour (on a holy-day) Built by the May-pole.

—Wm. Browne.

No. 47.

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."[88]

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.

[88] 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.

No. 160.
The Sleeping Beauty.

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—

There was a young lady sat down to sleep; She wants a young gentleman to wake her up; Mr. —— —— shall be his name.

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:

Here we go round the strawberry bush, This cold and frosty morning.
Here's a young lady sat down to sleep, This cold and frosty morning.
She wants a young gentleman to wake her up, This cold and frosty morning.
Write his name and send it by me, This cold and frosty morning.
Mr. —— his name is called, This cold and frosty morning.
Arise, arise, upon your feet, This cold and frosty morning.

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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