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from the trees, adorned them with wreaths and crowns of flowers. They returned home at the rising of the sun, and made their windows and their doors gay with garlands. In the villages they danced during the day around the May-pole, which afterwards remained the whole year untouched, except by the seasons, a fading emblem and a consecrated offering to the Goddess of Flowers. At night, the villagers lighted up fires, and indulged in revellings, which sometimes were, perhaps, 'after the high Roman fasbion;' and might, indeed, have vied even with those religious festivities with which the • True Believers' are still accustomed to reward themselves, for their pious abstinence during the fasts of Rhamazan..
By the highlanders of Scotland, and also by some of the nations of Italy, May-day was observed, as well as by us. With us, indeed, it had the additional recommendation of being called 'Robin Hood's day;' and persons representing Robin and Maid Marian were wont to preside on these occasions, accompanied by villagers in the true Sherwood green'. The May-queen, crowned with
Roses reigning in the pride of May, and other flowers, is a creature beautiful enough for fiction, and may vie in idea almost with the nymphs and spirits of antiquity.
As I have seen the Lady of the May
His pains to fill their rural merriment. 1 See the processions and ceremonies described at length in our last volume, pp. 124-128.
The poets have ever been the great advocates and patrons of May. Spenser, and Shakspeare, Fletcher, and Milton, and all the greater spirits of England, have stooped from their lofty places, without disdain, to do justice and honour to this delicate month. Spenser, in his account of the months, thus introduces May:
Then came faire May, the fairest Mayd on ground,
And throwing flow'rs out of her lap around. The circumstances of a May morning are thus beautifully and naturally described by the same poet, in his Shepherd's Calendar:
Young folke now flocken in-every where
Sicker this morowe, no longer agoe,
To helpen the ladies their May-bush beare. Shakspeare has scattered allusions to May, like flowers, over all his plays and poems. We hear of • The merry month of May; ''the May-morn of
1 Or Boskets-Bushes—from Boschetti, Ital. 2 Went.
At once-With him.
youth ;' the ‘May of blood;' &c. &c. He tells us also of
Love, whose month is ever May, and that
Maids are May when they are maids,
But the sky changes when they are wives. To these poetical testimonies in proof of the observance of May-day, we add the beautiful Maiæ Calendæ of Buchanan, as translated by Mr. Langhorne :
The FIRST of MAY.
To mirth and wine, sweet First of May!
The sprightly dance, the festive play!
That gracest still the ceaseless flow!
Aye bastening on to winter's snow!
On earth unveiled, and years of gold
By law's stern terrors uncontrolled :
Mild Zephyr breathed on all around;
Yielded its wealth th’unlaboured ground. -
Which o'er the islands of the Blest
Nor age's peevish pains infest.
Such winds with whispered murmurs blow;
They heave, scarce heave the cypress-bough.
Shall purge the globe, that golden day
Haply such gale again shall play.
Hail, thou, the fleet year's pride and prime!
Hail! day, which Fame should bid to bloom!
Hail! sample of a world to come! Thus then have the First of May, and the flowrie month of May,' been spent by our ancestors, and celebrated by our poets. Now, there is scarcely a garland to be seen: the song is silent, and the dance is over: the revelry has ceased; and vulgar pursuits usurp the place of those pleasant pastimes which seemed a sort of first offering to gentle skies, and were consecrated by the smiles of the tender ycar. If we were dwellers in the country, we would try to revive these things, for they are worth revival. They are landmarks of happiness, to which the peasant was wont to look: he enjoyed them in anticipation and remembrance; they stimulated his exertions and rewarded his toil. The introduction of these castoms would render luxuries of little worth' and less desired, and might charm back many a spirit to its pure and early simplicity.
The only remaining followers of May-day sports are the poor chimney-sweepers, with their soot, and shovels, and brushes, and finery. To them the First of May is still a gaudy day;' though we fear that their dancing is not altogether spontaneous. However, they are now the sole ‘lords of holiday,'--the only sporters and revellers in the spring. They are, indeed, splendid instances of gaiety. They have crowns, and garlands, and merry looks, and sometimes even pyramids of flowers. They disdain man's every-day attire; and come forth in the morning to run their course, decked out in all the paraphernalia of their order: their visages, it must be confessed, are of an indisputable black:
Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister might beseem. And this sombre colour is relieved by a liberal use of the brightest rouge:--their dress is adorned by
ribands, and glitters with tinsel that might look becoming, even on the boards of our mighty theatres. And yet, on consideration, we think that even the chimney-sweepers begin to feel the influence of the times. Yes, it is certainly so. The clamour of their stomachs is no longer hushed by Mrs. Montagu's benefaction'. The brightness of their looks is on the wane. They are no longer the happy mortals that they were wont to be. They have become unlike
T'he inhabitants of the earth. The grins with which they demand a reward for their melancholy movements are scarcely of this world; and the music which they, once a year, degrade from its sublime elevation to please us mortals on the
· The late humane MRS. MONTAGU, on every May-Day, gave a treat to the unfortunate sweeps in London and its vicinity, and saw that they were clean and well shod. Some lines on the death of this excellent woman are here inserted, less on account of their poetical merit than in the hope that they may induce some second MONTAGU to emulate the first in benevolence.
And is all pity for the poor Sweeps fled,