British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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may i.]                              may daY                                      241
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 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 Denton and Chaldecote, when they went round with their " garland ":—
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