Henry's Songbook

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Bedford May Carol

  • Trad

    We've been a-rambling all the night
    And the best part of the day
    And now we are returning back again
    We have brought you a branch of May

    A branch of May, my dear I say
    And at your door it stands
    It's nothing but a sprout but it's well budded out
    By the work of our Lord's hands

    Arise, arise, you fair pretty maid
    And bring your May bush in
    Or else in the morning if it should be gone
    You'll say we've never been

    Arise, arise, you fair pretty maid
    Out of your dozy dream
    And go down to your dairy house
    And fetch us a dish of cream

    If not a dish of your fresh cream
    A jug of your brown beer
    And if we return for to tarry in your town
    We'll call on you next year

    The clock strikes one, it's time to be gone
    We can no longer stay
    So God bless you all, both middle great and small
    And send you a happy May

    As sung by The Spinners

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1862:] [John Harland:] While reading one evening towards the close of April, 1861, [...] I was on a sudden aware of a party of waits or carollers who had taken their stand on the lawn in my garden, and were serenading the family with a song. [...] Inquiry resulted in my obtaining from an old 'Mayer' the words of two songs, called by the singers themselves 'May Songs', though the rule and custom are that they must be sung before the first day of May.[...]He says that the Mayers usually commence their singing round about the middle of April, though some parties start as early as the beginning of the month. The singing invariably ceases on the evening of the 30th April. (Chambers, Book of Days, vol. I, quoted in Palmer, Country 133f)

    [1967:] The great Labour festival of the modern proletariat is but the continuation, on a new plane, of the springtime processions and revels of working people in ancient times. Nor has the old sense of ceremonial orgy quite faded; in some continental countries, May Day is at least as boozy and unbuttoned as any Durham Big Meeting Day. The ribaldry persists, though the old sacred reasons no longer apply. Formerly the peasantry were strong in the belief that the fertilization of plants involved the sexual participation of the grower, and that at seed-time licentiousness is not only permitted but demanded. Phillip Stubbs [...] in a famous passage from his 'Anatomie of Abuses' (1583) offers this view of merrie England in Shakespeare's time:
    "Against May, Whitsonday, or other time, all the yung men and maides, olde men and wives, run gadding over night to the woods, groves, hils, and mountains, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withall [...] But the chiefest jewel they bring from thence is their Maypole, which they have bring home with great veneration [...] I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravitie and reputation, that of fortie, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over night, there have scarcesly the third part of them returned home againe undefiled."
    Commenting on Stubbs' last sentence, Violet Alford remarks: "If this was true, and, allowing for some exaggeration, it seems to have been, it was a confirmation of firmly seated use at this time of the year and belonged, not to lack of moral sense, but to an earlier stage of culture."
    The mayers would return from the woods in the night or early on May morning, with big bunches of May or garlanded poles. They had their special May songs to sing at every door and, as usual, they expected their ritualistic reward of a bit to eat or the price of a pint. (Lloyd, England 100f)

    [1976:] [This was] sung as part of the May Day rituals in Bedford (Cornwall). [...] in the Cornish May Day celebrations, the 'creature' was a form of 'Old 'Oss' [...] (Notes 'The Spinners' English Collection')

    [1982:] Another important festival was May Day. This used to be seen as the first day of summer, and therefore a time for great celebration. It was the custom for young people to go out to the woods to collect May branches to decorate the houses and church on May eve (30 April). Then on May Day there would be feasting and dancing round the Maypole. There were many complaints that the young people got out of hand, and misbehaved [by the 17th century Puritan Philip Stubbes, for one]. (Lee, Folksong 6)

    [1998:] The word [carol], from the French 'carole', first appears in English in 1300 and only became primarily associated with Christmas songs in the fifteenth century. According to the classic work, Richard Leighton Greene's 'The Early English Carol', 'a carol is a song of joy originally accompanying a dance ... it has come eventually to be used to designate a kind of lyric poem, usually, but not exclusively on sacred subjects, intended to be sung with or without musical accompaniment.' (Peter Silverton, Observer, 5 July)


Quelle: England

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