Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day!

The first day of May is known as May Day. It is a celebration of Nature's beauty at this time of year as the spring sets over into summer. In order to invoke a feeling of the old~fashioned Victorian celebrations of this special day and its traditions of dancing around the May~Pole, here is an excerpt of Washington Irving's "Sketch Book":

'I shall never,' he says, 'forget the delight I felt on first seeing a May-pole. It was on the banks of the Dee, close by the picturesque old bridge that stretches across the river from the quaint little city of Chester. I had already been carried back into former days by the antiquities of that venerable place, the examination of which is equal to turning over the pages of a black-letter volume, or gazing on the pictures in Froissart. The May-pole on the margin of that poetic stream completed the illusion. My fancy adorned it with wreaths of flowers, and peopled the green bank with all the dancing revelry of May-day. The mere sight of this May-pole gave a glow to my feelings, and spread a charm over the country for the rest of the day; and as I traversed a part of the fair plains of Cheshire, and the beautiful borders of Wales, and looked from among swelling hills down a long green valley, through which "the Deva wound its wizard stream," my imagination turned all into a perfect Arcadia. I value every custom that tends to infuse poetical feeling into the common people, and to sweeten and soften the rudeness of rustic manners, without destroying their simplicity.

Indeed, it is to the decline of this happy simplicity that the decline of this custom may be traced; and the rural dance on the green, and the homely May-day pageant, have gradually disappeared, in proportion as the peasantry have become expensive and artificial in their pleasures, and too knowing for simple enjoyment. Some attempts, indeed, have been made of late years by men of both taste and learning to rally back the popular feeling to these standards of primitive simplicity; but the time has gone by—the feeling has become chilled by habits of gain and traffic --the country apes the manners and amusements of the town, and little is heard of May-day at present, except from the lamentations of authors, who sigh after it from among the brick walls of the city.'

Happy May Day to you all!


Ragged Roses said...

Happy, belated May Day to you Heidi! I remember dancing around the May Pole at Primary School - the ribbons were always getting tangled up and our teacher was always getting cross! Thanks for the lovely comments - if the snails don't get to the sweet peas first I will post some photos in the summer!
Kim x

Lesley said...

Heidi, have you seen the article on May Poles at Wikipedia? I found it very interesting. Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maypole

Nan said...

Heidi, isn't it just so interesting to read old writing that laments the past, when we think it was great when the writer lived? It makes me wonder. When I was a girl, the local town had a "May ball" and I am quite sure a Maypole was part of it. I have some memory of going under and around in a certain pattern. Thank you for the lovely post.