The Merry Month of May


‘The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit, for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is is any manner a lover springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.’

Thus Sir Thomas Malory in La Morte d’Arthur…..

I woke this morning early, to the moon shining golden across the valley in front of the house and lay for a while, simply enjoying the peace and beauty of it all before starting the daily round.

There never seem to be enough hours in the day, but I doubt I would have the energy to follow the advice of Thomas Moore and steal  some hours from the night…

I rose shortly though, as the day was already on the wing and even if there is no mayblossom to be gathered I can’t afford to be a slugabed, unlike Herrick’s Corinna who had to be coaxed to join in the fun of the May day morning.

Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne
Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.
                     See how Aurora throwes her faire
                     Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:
                     Get up, sweet-Slug-a-bed, and see
                     The Dew-bespangling Herbe and Tree.
Each Flower has wept, and bow’d toward the East,
Above an houre since; yet you not drest,
                     Nay! not so much as out of bed?
                     When all the Birds have Mattens seyd,
                     And sung their thankful Hymnes: ’tis sin,
                     Nay, profanation to keep in,
When as a thousand Virgins on this day,
Spring, sooner than the Lark, to fetch in May.
Rise; and put on your Foliage, and be seene
To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and greene;
                     And sweet as Flora. Take no care
                     For Jewels for your Gowne, or Haire:
                     Feare not; the leaves will strew
                     Gemms 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 himselfe, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dresse, be briefe in praying:
Few Beads are best, when once we goe a Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and comming, marke
How each field turns a street; each street a Parke
                     Made green, and trimm’d with trees: see how
                     Devotion gives each House a Bough,
                     Or Branch: Each Porch, each doore, ere this,
                     An Arke a Tabernacle is
Made up of white-thorn neatly enterwove;
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
                     Can such delights be in the street,
                     And open fields, and we not see’t?
                     Come, we’ll abroad; and let’s obay
                     The Proclamation made for May:
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But my Corinna, come, let’s goe a Maying.
There’s not a budding Boy, or Girle, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
                     A deale of Youth, ere this, is come
                     Back, and with White-thorn laden home.
                     Some have dispatcht their Cakes and Creame,
                     Before that we have left to dreame:
And some have wept, and woo’d, and plighted Troth,
And chose their Priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
                     Many a green-gown has been given;
                     Many a kisse, both odde and even:
                     Many a glance too has been sent
                     From out the eye, Loves Firmament:
Many a jest told of the Keyes betraying
This night, and Locks pickt, yet w’are not a Maying.
Come, let us goe, while we are in our prime;
And take the harmlesse follie of the time.
                     We shall grow old apace, and die
                     Before we know our liberty.
                     Our life is short; and our dayes run
                     As fast away as do’s the Sunne:
And as a vapour, or a drop of raine
Once lost, can ne’r be found againe:
                     So when or you or I are made
                     A fable, song, or fleeting shade;
                     All love, all liking, all delight
                     Lies drown’d with us in endlesse night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying;
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s goe a Maying.
Carpe diem indeed…
Corinna might think herself lucky in her swain….had it been Sir John Suckling, a contemporary of Herrick, she could have been left snorting in the seven sleepers’ den until June……his idea of constancy being somewhat fluid.
Out upon it, I have lov’d
Three whole days together;
And am like to love three more,
If it prove fair weather.
Time shall moult away his wings,
Ere he shall discover
In the whole wide world again
Such a constant lover.
But the spite on’t is, no praise
Is due at all to me;
Love with me had made no stays,
Had it any been but she.
Had it any been but she,
And that very face,
There had been at least ere this
A dozen dozen in her place.
And May, let us not forget, was the month in 1660 when Charles II – aptly nicknamed the Merry Monarch – was restored to the throne.
Given his reputation for dalliance it should come as no surprise that his favourite dance was that of  Cuckolds All Awry.
Which WordPress, in an excess of puritanical zeal, will not allow to be played.
And it has cocked up the spacing.
May their IT nerds wear horns.


39 thoughts on “The Merry Month of May”

  1. Blimey Helen, the merry month of May doth fairly make you wax lyrical from your little eyrie in the valley. I’m glad you find it so full of life and relied on Herrick, Malory and Moore to prove your point.
    I hope you’re well and having a good week.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. Thank you…it was a beautiful early morning, the light was perfect and everything around me was quiet…even the cockerels.
      I always used to look forward to May when in Europe…you could finally get some gardening done…and here it is the start of the rainy season…ditto!

  2. Re: dis-allowing youtubes,et cetera and making a muck of your indentation…I, with my untrusting heart, think they are going to squeeze all the free sites into “opting” for a site where your coin buys the domain and “it’s all yours!”
    And I don’t reckon jumping ship to blogger will be any different;Google wants your brass, too!

    But May, as celebrated in olden times, was lovely. Randy lads chasing young girls into the woods (or the pub, if you were in the city) and Maytime ditties sung .

    1. No coincidence then that I get an e mail from them each week promising all the joys of paradise is I cough up for a domain name….

      Oh yes! May was just as Malory said…

    1. Thank you….does your commune have the Mayday charivari where the youth go round collecting anything not nailed down and piling it all in front of the mairie?

  3. Dancing round the Maypole and chasing a thousand virgins is not done in this area.
    We are short of the latter somewhat…

    1. You have my sympathy! The auto correct is a swine…you look to see what you have typed, carry on…only to find that the invention of the devil has changed what you wrote after you looked. It is slower than me…but definitely more fiendish.

  4. Ooh er missus! I feel right plebeian! (Have I spelt that correctly? Would WP know?) I actually like the indentation they assigned to your Herrick and am delighted ot discover where slug-a-bed comes from – it was used of me often in my youth by fond but exasperated parents. Oriental pearls. Ah. This was lovely, thank you. You always open new doors in my mind and in May, how fitting. I wish I could go a-Maying – and you’ve reminded me there will be May Queen parades in odd places in Lancashire. Perhaps we will find one this weekend.
    I must away, Happy Blooming Morne to you!

    1. I hope you find your parade…
      My maternal grandmother used slugabed too…when it came to the paternal one you didn’t wait to be called anything. You were out of bed washed dressed and present and correct for the breakfast porridge…or else.
      There’s a bit of Donne in there too….it sort of sneaked in by the back door…

  5. I confess I signed up for special domain/package thingy from WordPress where I could make some money from ads. It ran for 7 months during which I “made” $4.84: with the caveat that I could only collect my ad money if it accrued more than $100… lucrative career in blogging is well underway…thanks IT nerds indeed.

  6. I overdid it on the First of May, and fell back on the pillow with a groan this morning. To no avail. The sun blazed through the window and forced me to turn on my side. The sun continued blazing, and warmed my backside. I just got up and got back to it. Loom dressing. Groan.

  7. The only thing I can remember about May is when I was a child and singing…..
    Nuts in May, nuts in May,
    Here we go gathering nuts in May,
    On a cold and frosty morning………..

    And many following verses!!!

    Take care both of you. Diane

      1. Speaking as a parent of a passel of children I can safely say that mine, at least, appear to have been taught little if any verse in school. A bit of Shakespeare, for which I’m grateful, and everything else has been mid- to late-20th century or 21st century literature, little of which can be classified as belonging to the classics. But they’ll be up to speed on identity politics, which will serve them well in college.

  8. As you know, May Day goes virtually unrecognised in the UK – very few celebrations or special events. Someone suggested that on May Day we should recognise all those workers who labour in awful conditions to provide our daily necessities and pleasures, and all those who laboured in the past to improve working conditions and end child labour, 60-hour working weeks etc.

    1. We have the May day march through San Jose by the unions…,united, unlike in France where they seem to march separately lest they contaminate each other…

    1. Odd that it does it both in spring in Europe and at the beginning of the rainy season here….after the heat of the summer I feel like a wet rag and not up to doing anything, then along comes May and I’m keen to be up and doing.

  9. May 1st in Hawaii is “Lei day”. It used to be that everyone wore a flower lei about their neck. Nowadays few remember or care about Lei Day but it was always a charming custom to me especially since that was my birthday. Actually, it still is my birthday but it was my birthday back then, too. 🙂

  10. I didn’t know the Herrick – I am surprised to say. It’s lovely.
    If the tune is “Cuckolds All A Row” then there are some versions on Youtube as it was in Playford’s Dancing Master, but as so often the case, not well performed any of them. Or did Playford really mean for people to trudge through his steps in that glum kind of way?

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