Thursday, 1 May 2014

The magical merry month of May

And after April
When May follows
And the white-throat builds
And all the swallows, Robert Browning,

Every year on the first of May the moment I wake up I am aware of its magic. My heart is singing like the birdsong outside my window It is surely the most beautiful day of the year. Nature is full of promise and beauty. The green is still fresh and bright, colours of the blossoms can still be seen, the cuckoo is calling. Over the centuries hundreds of poems have been written about this lovely month which starts today. My mum used to tell me about how they still had a May pole and chose a May queen to celebrate May Day. Just in case I get a lot of disappointed clicks I'd better explain that Maypole dancing has nothing to do with Pole dancing. We Brits drew the short straw when it comes to traditional dancing. No sensual sambas or belly dancing for us. Just clomping and stomping around doing things like Morris dancing The Irish did manage to spice things up a bit with River dance though The Maypole dancing has been revived in some villages and Primary schools in Britain. The last proper Maypole was taken down in London in the 18th  century.
There are lots of sayings about May, they mostly warn us not to trust the temperature at this time of year. The bright sunny days can be followed by treacherous winds and cold nights.
 Cast not a clout, till May is out, it is unclear whether this means not to take off your warm clothes until the month of May is over, or until the May blossom is out.
May blossom is another name for the Hawthorn blossom, which some think brings bad luck if you take it indoors.

Shear your sheep in May
and shear them all away.

A cold May and a windy
A full barn will find ye

He who daff's his coat on a winter's day
will gladly put it on in May.

Chaucer wrote a pretty poem about the Hawthorn, or May, blossom, bringing all his lusty sensuality to the countryside.

Among the many buds proclaiming May
Decking the fields in holiday array,
Striving who shall surpass in braverie,
Marke the faire flowering of the hawthorne tree
Who finely clothed in a robe of white
Fills full the wanton eye with May's delight.

In Italy the first of May is traditionally La Festa del lavoro. It doesn't matter which day of the week it is on it is always a holiday. There is a big concert in Piazza S.Giovanni in Rome and being such a sunny country people flock to the sea and lakes to enjoy the sweet May sunshine which doesn't have the fierce heat that is round the corner. It is a holiday to celebrate the workers from factories, the ones that keep everything going and I can't think of a more lovely day than the first of May to rejoice in freedom and solidarity.

Of the many poems to choose from to celebrate the first of May I have chosen this one by Wordsworth to start of with. I'm sure I speak for most of us when I say that his poems seem to say exactly what I feel and would express like that if I could. I'm really glad he's done it for us.

Ode, William Wordsworth

While earth herself is adorning
This sweet May morning
And the children are culling
On every side
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers, while the sun shines warm
And the babe leaps up on it's mother's arm-

Then sing ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song
And let the young lambs bound as to the tuber's sound
We in thought will join your throng
Ye that pipe and ye that play
Ye that through your hearts today
Feel the gladness of the May.

Hawthorn or May blossom

Water lilies in bud

Elderflower, the flowers can be used to make a drink like champagne, so I'm told

Wild roses , very popular with buzzing insects

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