How beautiful May and its morning comes in!

[A beautiful, May day poem - largely unknown]

How beautiful May and its morning comes in!
The song of the maidens you hear them begin,
To sing the old ballads while cowslips they pull,
While the dew of the morning fills many pips full.
The closes are spangled with cowslips like gold,
Girls cram in their aprons what baskets can't hold;
And still gather on to the heat of the day,
Till force often throws the last handful away.

Then beneath an old hawthorn they sit one and all,
And make the May garlands and round cuck a ball
Of cowslips and blossoms so showy and sweet,
And laugh when they think of the swains they shall meet.
Then to finish the garland they trudge away home,
And beg from each garden the flowers then in bloom;
Then beneath the old eldern, beside the old wall,
They sit out to make it, maids, misses, and all.

The ribbons the ploughmen bought maids at the fair,
Are sure to be seen in a garland so fair;
And dolls from the children they dress up and take,
While children laugh loud at the show they will make.
Then they take round the garland to shew at each door,
With kerchief to hide the fine flowers cover'd o'er;
At cottages also, when willing to pay,
The maidens their much admired garland display.

Then at duck under water adown the long road,
They run with their dresses all flying abroad;
And ribbons all colours how sweet they appear!
May seems to begin the new life of the year.
Then the garland on ropes is hung high over all,
One end to a tree and one hooked to a wall;
Where they cuck the ball over till day is nigh gone,
And then tea and cakes and the dancing comes on.

And then, lawk! what dancing and laughing is there,
While the fiddler makes faces within the arm chair;
And then comes the cushion, the girls they all shriek
And fly to the door from the old fiddler's squeak;
But the doors they are fastened, so all must kneel down
And take the rude kiss from the unmannerly clown.
Thus the May games are ended, to their houses they roam,
With the sweetheart she chooses each maiden goes home.

The Later Poems of John Clare 1837-1864
ed. Eric Robinson and David Powell
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1984)

1 comment:

Arborfield said...

I've never quite been able to work out just WHY this has never been published outside the Clarendon editions?