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'Tis The Merry Month of May

DigiTrad:
CORNISH MAY CAROL
DRAWING NEARER TO THE MERRY MONTH OF MAY
MAY DAY CAROL
MAY DAY CAROL (2)
MAY MORNING CAROL
MAY MORNING DEW
QUEEN OF THE MAY


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May Queen 01 May 13 - 01:08 AM
GUEST,Eliza 01 May 13 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,flying cat 01 May 13 - 05:03 AM
Claire M 01 May 13 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,leeneia 01 May 13 - 09:24 AM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 01 May 13 - 05:38 PM
GUEST 01 May 13 - 08:58 PM
Bill Brown 01 May 13 - 09:16 PM
Little Robyn 01 May 13 - 09:53 PM
Dave the Gnome 02 May 13 - 03:35 AM
GUEST, topsie 02 May 13 - 04:47 AM
Dave the Gnome 02 May 13 - 05:39 AM
May Queen 02 May 13 - 05:52 AM
SteveMansfield 02 May 13 - 08:04 AM
GUEST 02 May 13 - 11:06 AM
Bill Brown 02 May 13 - 06:59 PM
SteveMansfield 03 May 13 - 01:58 AM
Dave the Gnome 03 May 13 - 03:28 AM
GUEST 03 May 13 - 05:07 AM
Max Johnson 03 May 13 - 07:20 AM
Claire M 03 May 13 - 09:26 AM
GUEST,Dr Price, cookieless 03 May 13 - 11:35 AM
Dave the Gnome 03 May 13 - 12:23 PM
sleepyjon 12 Mar 18 - 03:10 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Mar 18 - 04:01 PM
Steve Gardham 12 Mar 18 - 04:27 PM
sleepyjon 14 Mar 18 - 06:19 AM
Steve Gardham 14 Mar 18 - 05:35 PM
Steve Shaw 14 Mar 18 - 09:02 PM
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Subject: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: May Queen
Date: 01 May 13 - 01:08 AM

Happy May Day one and all!

Why is it that many many folk song stories take place in May? Can anyone tell me if other months get a mention in any traditional songs? I seem to remember June appearing in something I listened to recently but cant remember what.

Gotta go....I got somewhere to be ;-)

"Then to the Maypole haste away, For 'tis now our holiday"


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 01 May 13 - 04:20 AM

September is mentioned in a The Big Ship Sails on the Ally-Ally-O.
and 'He came all so still, as dew in April' etc.
Happy may Day to you too, May Queen. Are you off to sport upon the grass? (falalalalalalalaLAH etc)


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST,flying cat
Date: 01 May 13 - 05:03 AM

Ah but you must remember "ne're cast a clout @till may's oot"

Happy May Day one and all!

Moira


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Claire M
Date: 01 May 13 - 07:08 AM

Hiya,

"Unite & unite & let us all unite......"

No idea. Might be to do with Beltane. I've got a taster course starting on the 14th. Oh dear.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 May 13 - 09:24 AM

Picture life before central heating, when shoes (if you had them) might leak and there was no way to get warm. The month of May, with its flowers, birdsong and warmth must have brought real joy to people.

Why does more happen? Because people felt more like getting out of the house and into the world.
=============
Claire, what's a taster course?


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 01 May 13 - 05:38 PM

My father as a youngster would take his boots off for the summer on the first of May.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST
Date: 01 May 13 - 08:58 PM

1st of May 


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Bill Brown
Date: 01 May 13 - 09:16 PM

Bad scholarship and wishful thinking? Early folk enthusiasts in the late 19th c and early 20th believed just about all traditions had some kind of pre-Christian origin - because that fit the prevailing theories. May Day was one of these, and after a while a lot of invented stuff - including May poles, morris dancing at dawn, and tons of songs about May - became "traditions" that people thought they'd been doing since "pagan times."


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Little Robyn
Date: 01 May 13 - 09:53 PM

Well down in Cornwall, in Padstow, they've put the Obby Osses away for another year after a beautiful day bringing in the May. I watched it online - on the Padstow Harbour webcam and a friend phoned us (here in NZ) as the Blue Oss went down to the slipway for a drink in the water.
Tis been going on since 'time immoral'!
OSS OSS!
WEE OSS!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 02 May 13 - 03:35 AM

The Keighley Road Wassailers regaled us at the local last night with many May Day songs - Including the old Swinton May Song from our home town. Funny that I never heard it sung in Swinton but now we have moved 40-add miles away to North Yorkshire I heard it :-) A lady from the Wassailers brought in a twig of Blackthorn that was in flower so we can definitely say that May is out and clouts can be cast!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 02 May 13 - 04:47 AM

Isn't may blossom hawthorn, not blackthorn? Not much of it flowering yet THIS spring!


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 02 May 13 - 05:39 AM

Probably, Topsie, but ANY blossoms are welcome after all the bad weather we had :-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: May Queen
Date: 02 May 13 - 05:52 AM

Thanks for the comments so far...esp Bill, Ill look into that one more. Thanks also for the links to previous threads I'll read them when I have more time.

Here in Bristol we had Morris men dancing at dawn yesterday and we have a Jack-in-the-Green procession which is reserved for May bank holiday Saturday disappointingly...I guess these customs dont always fit with the needs of a busy modern city.

Also rather disappointingly and in line with Bills comments many British customs have been given a more modern phoney Pagan air with pentangles and spells making an appearance. Although these customs are undoubtley ancient in origin with themes of rebirth and celebration as far as Im aware they were not part of even middle ages celebrations.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 02 May 13 - 08:04 AM

Also rather disappointingly and in line with Bills comments many British customs have been given a more modern phoney Pagan air with pentangles and spells making an appearance. Although these customs are undoubtley ancient in origin with themes of rebirth and celebration as far as Im aware they were not part of even middle ages celebrations.

Unfortunately some Morris people tend to propagate that misinformation themselves, which only makes the situation worse. By contarast we (The Powderkegs) were up on Windgather Rocks at May morning, and when asked why the most mystical explanation you'll get is 'well because we did it last year ... '


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST
Date: 02 May 13 - 11:06 AM

I'm a hand weaver to my trade
I fell in love with a factory maid
And if I could but her favour win
I'd stand beside her and weave by steam

My father to me scornful said
How could you fancy a factory maid
When you could have girls fine and gay
Dressed like unto the Queen of May

The Weaver and the Factory Maid
A L Lloyd


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Bill Brown
Date: 02 May 13 - 06:59 PM

Please don't take my word for this. Most of the problem with this sort of thing is people taking what they are told for facts because somebody sounds credible.

Looking up info on May poles. The poles are indeed ancient, but ribbons are 19th century. And there's no evidence for phallic symbolism - mostly just celebrating "yahoo! It's SPRING!". My source is Ronald Hutton in The Stations of the Sun, Oxford Univ. Press, 1996. Now, that's pretty old, and it seems to me that academic research falls into disrepute every decade or two. Everyone has an axe to grind, it seems. I don't know what current scholarship says about it.

I have read (maybe Sutton, again, can't remember), that the elaborate ribbon interweaving was invented for the London stage, and people thought "hey, that's cool, let's do it like that back in the village." And so was born an ancient pagan fertility ritual. I can't cite a source on that one.

James Frazer's The Golden Bough carries the blame for a lot of this. Written before any kind of scientific standards, it spun a theory so compelling it is still believed. Which is that everything harkens back to pagan, tribal practices of pre-history, especially the king-sacrifice - done to insure fertility and the return of summer. (see the original Wicker Man and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring). Frazier is sort of the the pagan movement's Ayn Rand, I think.

If John Biggun's WWI historical fiction is to be believed, this stuff was like catnip to nationalists trapped in the huge empires of the early 20th c., encouraging claims to pre-empire, pre-Christian tribal identities. This encouraged interest in folk customs (but now they were "folk rituals") and unfortunately, also in racial/cultural purity.

Somewhere in there was the academic belief that once upon a time humans had perfect understanding of why they did things, but in passing it down, it got muddled. So, by tracing things back, finding the original, or as near to it as they could get, they could figure out what that was all about - religion being the main field of study. We still have folk song collectors and singers doing that today. Though in most cases we aren't taking it back to the ancient Greeks. (see The Myth and Ritual School, J. G Frazer and the Cambridge Ritualists, R Ackerman, Routledge, 1991)

I'm no scholar, I just happen to have read up on these things, and it's very possible I have muddled ideas, or have picked up ideas that have been discredited.

I think I'm on pretty solid ground when I say the May Day dawn dancing started in 1920's Oxford when the local morris teams decided to entertain the crowds gathered to hear choristers sing from the college towers at dawn.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 03 May 13 - 01:58 AM

Somewhere in there was the academic belief that once upon a time humans had perfect understanding of why they did things, but in passing it down, it got muddled. So, by tracing things back, finding the original, or as near to it as they could get, they could figure out what that was all about - religion being the main field of study.

That theory only worked, of course, if you'd first convinced yourself that you were looking at a dumb uncreative group of people who unthinkingly repeated the same ritual year after year, never consciously innovating but gradually losing the original meaning. A highly snobbish and patrician approach, in other words, like the collectors who ironed all the modes out of folk songs so they were suitable for pianoforte accompaniment in the drawing rooms of respectable people.

Didn't know that about story about the Morris in Oxford in the 20s, interesting.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 May 13 - 03:28 AM

What I think we should bear in mind though is that if we find it enjoyable, which I certainly do, then other people will as well. Those other people could well include those in past times as well as different places. All over the world countries in all stages of development have some sort of celebration of anything that they deem good, be it spring or passing of winter or a good harvest or whatever. Even though the May Day celebrations or Morris dancing or Wassailing may not be as traditional as some would have us believe I suspect that what we have today only replaced something that has been done before. Just my 2 pen'urth.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST
Date: 03 May 13 - 05:07 AM

I find this all very interesting even though its not answering my original question :-)

Whatever the origins of our customs, thanks Bill for distingushing them from rituals which to me smacks of outdated superstition ie if I dont slaughter a virgin the sun wont come back next year(!), I think its important to keep them alive as part of our heritage.Even if they are only a couple of hundred years old our fathers and grandfathers still observed them and thats enough for me. After all I wouldnt dream of not putting up a Christmas tree and thats only custom in England since Victorian times.

Originally I was just wondering why everything in folk songs happens in May...murders, shipwrecks, mining disasters, the lot! Possibly May just rhymes with more things than February...


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Max Johnson
Date: 03 May 13 - 07:20 AM

'Twas in the merry month of May, when bees from flower to flower did hum.
Soldiers through the town marched, gay, and the villagers ran to the sound of the drum.
The cobbler, he's thrown down his awl. With last and apron he has done.
Left wax and thread for powder and ball; he's left them all to follow the drum'.


The above is such a clever verse, I think. beautifully tight poetry, and you can almost feel the tattoo of that drumbeat as well as hear it. A splendid old tune, as well. A great song to sing.

'May' rhymes with 'Gay', which is useful, but more interestingly, why is May almost invariably 'merry'? Spring has sprung, I suppose, as in the first line of the song.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Claire M
Date: 03 May 13 - 09:26 AM

Hiya,

Pentangles & spells, eh ??

To Guest: I do too. The closest I can get is putting music & floaty clothing on/chatting to you lot. A lot of staff here are younger than me & they laugh when I put 'Light Flight' on cos they've never heard anything like it. I really wish I could've been alive when said rituals were actually done.

To Leeneia: a taster course is one you go to to see if you like it/if it's worth paying for cos it's VERY expensive (should be free I think) – people are trained to help me too. I went with a friend & by the end of the session we both wanted to move in there!


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: GUEST,Dr Price, cookieless
Date: 03 May 13 - 11:35 AM

We enjoyed some brilliant bands at the Wales Millennium Centre's Dathlu Calan Mai (Celebrating the First of May) festival in Cardiff Bay. The Cardiff-based duo, Blanche Rowen and Mike Gulston, have a new CD, The Dance Goes On, in which they sing the Welsh May carol, Mwynen Mai. They write: "The custom of going Maying included leaving hawthorn blossom at your beloved's door on May Day morning (assuming you hadn't been out in the woods with her all night.)


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 May 13 - 12:23 PM

included leaving hawthorn blossom at your beloved's door on May Day morning

They'd be bloody lucky to find any hawthorne blossoms on May morning after the cold spell we had! :-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: sleepyjon
Date: 12 Mar 18 - 03:10 PM

from Max Johnson, above:

'Twas in the merry month of May, when bees from flower to flower did hum.
Soldiers through the town marched, gay, and the villagers ran to the sound of the drum.
The cobbler, he's thrown down his awl. With last and apron he has done.
Left wax and thread for powder and ball; he's left them all to follow the drum'.

Can anyone give me more about this song and tune? - I can't find it through the searches.

(Also I can't put it into italics!)

SJ


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Mar 18 - 04:01 PM

Follow the Drum. Fairly common broadside ballad, mostly 5 or 6 double verses but one printed by Taylor of London has 8. There must be some on the Bodl. I'll check. Don't seem to have a tune but again I'll have a look.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Mar 18 - 04:27 PM

Got 10 hits on the Bodleian website, Catnach, Fortey, Pitts, Walker and some without imprint.

Yes there are tunes. There are a few trad versions. There's a Bedfordshire version in Hamer's Garner's Gay, p48 with tune. There's what appears to be the original sheet music in Speaight's 'Bawdy Songs of the Early Music Hall', along with a bawdy parody called 'The Drummer's Stick'. The original is written and sung by Mr Thomas Hudson 1791-1844 at London Concerts. There's no date on it but I'd guess about 1840. It's Roud 1076 by the way.

Hudson died in 1844 but this does not correspond with the publishers's dates. Henry White at 337 Oxford Street is the publisher and my dates for White at this number are 1849-57. White was at 350 Oxford St from 1838-49 but these dates are only approximate and he could have had both outlets running at once.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: sleepyjon
Date: 14 Mar 18 - 06:19 AM

Great stuff, Steve - thanks for that. I had difficulty with the tunes, though - can they be viewed/heard online, or only by tracking down the books?
Fwiw, a version of the tune appears in Bacon for the Brackley and Field Town traditions - more or less the same tune but with the A and B in opposite order between the two. The dance is called Month of May.
SJ


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Mar 18 - 05:35 PM

PM me your email and I'll scan and send.


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Subject: RE: 'Tis The Merry Month of May
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 14 Mar 18 - 09:02 PM

Then there's that lovely madrigal, Now Is The Month Of Maying. When I was a teacher in the 70s, trying to teach my more junior classes the importance of dental hygiene, I used to show them a short film with me 16mm projector (I'm still the proud possessor of a certificate in the use thereof) which, oddly, used that madrigal as background music. If you google it you can get the King Singers having a go!


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