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Fairly we marched on, till our approach
Within the spacious passage of the Strand,
Y cleap'd a May Pole, which in all our land,
Of harmelesse mirth and honest neighbourhood,
To mount the rod of peace, and none withstood :
(For then true love and amity was found,)
And Whitson-ales and MAY-GAMES did abound :
Rejoic'd when they beheld the farmer's flourish,
To see the country.gallants dance the Morrice.
But since the SUMMER POLEs were overthrown,
And all good sports and merriments decay'd,
It were but labour lost if more were said.
But I doe hope once more the day will come,
shall mount and pearch your cocks as high
Shall bid defiance to your enemy ;
Play many a fit of merry recreation.* The restoration of Charles II. was the Palace, and from thence it was conveyed signal for the restoration of May-poles. April 14th to the Strand to be erected. On the very first May-day afterwards, in It was brought with a streamer flourish1661, the May-pole in the Strand was ing before it, Drums beating all the way reared with great ceremony and rejoicing, and other sorts of musick; it was supa curious account of which, from a rare posed to be so long, that Landsmen (as tract, is at the reader's service. “Let me Carpenters) could not possibly raise it ; declare to you,” says the triumphant nar- (Prince James the Duke of York, Lord rator, “ the manner in general of that High Admiral of England, commanded stately cedar erected in the strand 134 twelve seamen off a boord to come and foot high, commonly called the May-Pole, officiate the business, whereupon they upon the cost of the parishioners there came and brought their cables, Pullies, adjacent, and the gracious consent of his and other tacklins, with six great anchors) sacred Majesty with the illustrious Prince after this was brought three Crowns, bore The Duke of York. This Tree was a by three men bare-headed and a streamer most choice and remarkable piece; 'twas displaying all the way before them, Drums made below Bridge, and brought in two parts up to Scotland Yard near the King's
* Pasquil's Palinodia, 1634, 410.
beating and other musick playing ; nu- ciety, represents this May-pole, as a door merous multitudes of people thronging or two west ward beyond the streets, with great shouts and acclamations all day long. The May pole " Where Catharine-street descends into the then being joyned together, and hoopt Strand;" about with bands of iron, the crown and
and as far as recollection of the print cane with the Kings Arms richly gilded, serves, it was erected opposite to the site was placed on the head of it, a large top of sir Walter Stirling and Co's. present like a Balcony was about the middle of
banking-house. In a compilation reit. This being done, the trumpets did specting “ London and Middlesex," it is sound, and in four hours space it was stated that this May-pole having deadvanced upright, after which being cayed, was obtained of the parish by sir established fast in the ground six drums Isaac Newton, in 1717, and carried did beat, and the trumpets did sound; through the city to Wanstead, in Essex ; again great shouts and acclamations and by license of sir Richard Child, lord the people give, that it did ring through- Castlemain, reared in the park by the out all the strand. After that came a rev. Mr. Pound, rector of that parish, Morice Dance finely deckt, with purple for the purpose of supporting the largest scarfs, in their half-shirts, with a Tabor telescope at that period in the world, and Pipe, the ancient Musick, and danced given by Mons. Hugon, a French member round about the Maypole, and after that of the Royal Society, as a present; the danced the rounds of their liberty. Upon telescope was one hundred and twentythe top of this famous standard is likewise five feet long. This May-pole on public set up a royal purple streamer, about the occasions was adorned with streamers, middle of it is piaced four Crowns more, flags, garlands of flowers and other ornawith the King's Arms likewise, there is also a garland set upon it of various
It was near the May-pole in the Strand colours of delicate rich favours, under that, in 1677, Mr. Robert Perceval was which is to be placed three great J.an- found dead with a deep wound under his thorns, to remain for three honours; that left breast, and his sword drawn and is, one for Prince James Duke of York, bloody, lying by him. He was nineteen Ld High Admiral of Engla ; the other
years of age, had fought as many duels for the Vice Admiral; and the third for
as he had lived years, and with uncomthe rear Admiral; these are to give light
mon talents was an excessive libertine. in dark nights and to continue so as long He was second son to the right hon. as the Pole stands which will be a perpe- sir Robert Perceval, bart. Some singutual honour for seamen. It is placed as
lar particulars are related of him in the near hand as they could guess, in the
History of the House of Yvery.” A very same pit where the former stood, but stranger's hat with a bunch of ribbons in far more glorious, bigger and higher, it was lying near his body when it was than ever any one that stood before it; discovered, and there exists no doubt of and the seamen themselves do confess his having been killed by some person that it could not be built higher nor is who, notwithstanding royal proclamations there not such a one in Europe beside, and great inquiries, was never discoverwhich highly doth please his Majesty, ed. "The once celebrated Beau Fielding and the illustrious Prince Duke of York ;
was suspected of the crime. He was bulittle children did much rejoice, and ried under the chapel of Lincoln's-inn. antient people did clap their hands, say; His elder brother, 'sir Philip Perceval, ing, golden days began to appear. I inteut on discovering the murderers, vioquestion not but 'twill ring like melodious lently attacked a gentleman in Dublin, musick throughout every county in Eng- whom he declared he had never seen belend, when they read this story being fore; he could only account for his rage exactly pen'd; let this satisfie for the by saying he was possessed with a belief glories of London that other loyal sub- that he was one of those who had killed jects may read what we here do see.'
his brother; they were soon parted, and A processional engraving, by Vertue, the gentleman was seen no more. among the prints of the Antiquarian So
The last poet who seems
mentioned it was Pope; he says of an + Cities Loyalty Displayed, 1661, 4to.
assemblage of persons that,
Amidst the area wide they took their stand, for their refreshment, which, by paying a Where the tall May-pole once o'er-look'd trifle for baking, and for the niceties awaitthe Strand.
ing their consumption, contents the far
mers for the house-room and pleasure they A native of Penzance, in Cornwall, afford their welcome visitants. Here the relates to the editor of the Every- young ones find delicious “junkets," with Day Book, that it is an annual custom sour milk," or curd cut in diamonds, there, on May-eve, for a number of young which is eaten with sugar and cream. men and women to assemble at a public- New made cake, refreshing tea, and exhouse, and sit up till the clock strikes hilarating punch, satisfy the stomach, twelve, when they go round the town cheer the spirits, and assist the walk home with violins, drums, and other instru- in the evening. These pleasure-takings ments, and by sound of music call upon are never made before May-day; but the others who had previously settled to join first Sunday that succeeds it, and the leithem. As soon as the party is formed, sure of every other afternoon, is open to they proceed to different farmhouses, the frugal enjoyment; and among neighwithin four or five miles of the neighbour- bourly families and kind friends, the enhood, where they are expected as regularly joyment is frequent. as May morning comes; and they there partake of a beverage called junket, made of raw milk and rennet, or running, as it
To the Editor of the Every-Day Bouk. is there called, sweetened with sugar, and Sir, a little cream added. After this, they There still exists among the labouring take tea, and “heavy country cake," com classes in Wales the custom of Mayposed of flour, cream, sugar, and currants; dancing, wherein they exhibit their pernext, rum and milk, and then a dance. sons to the best advantage, and distinguish After thus regaling, they gather the May. their agility before the fair maidens of While some
are breaking down the their own rank. boughs, others sit and make the “ May About a fortnight previous to the day, music.” This is done by cutting a circle the interesting question among the lads through the bark at a certain distance from and lasses is, “ Who will turn out to the bottom of the May branches; then, by dance in the summer this year ?" From gently and regularly tapping the bark all that time the names of the gay performers round, from the cut circle to the end, the are buzzed in the village, and rumour bark becomes loosened, and slips away “ with her hundred tongues” proclaims whole from the wood; and a hole being them throughout the surrounding neighcut in the pipe, it is easily formed to bourhood. Nor is it asked with less inteemit a sound when blown through, and rest, “Who will carry the garland ?" and becomes a whistle. The gathering and
“Who will be the Cadi 9" Of the peculiar the “ May music” being finished, they offices of these two distinguished personthen “bring home the May,” by five or ages you shall hear presently. six o'clock in the morning, with the band About nine days or a week previous to playing, and their whistles blowing. After the festival, a collection is made of the dancing throughout the town, they go to gayest ribbons that can be procured. their respective employments. Although Each lad resorts to his favoured lass, who May-day should fall on a Sunday, they gives him the best she possesses, and observe the same practice in all respects, uses her utmost interest with her friends with the omission of dancing in the or her mistress to obtain a loan of whattown.
ever may be requisite to supply the defiOn the first Sunday after May-day, it is ciency. Her next care is to decorate a a custom with families at Penzance to visit new white shirt of fine linen. This is Rose-hill, Polticr, and other adjacent vil a principal part of her lover's dress. The lages, by way of recreation. These plea- bows and puffs of ribbon are disposed acsure-parties usually consist of two or three cording to the peculiar taste of each fai. fainilies together. They carry flour and girl who is rendered happy by the pleasother materials with them to make the ing task; and thus the shirts of the "heavy cake,”just described, at the pleasant dancers, from the various fancies of the farm-dairies, which are always open for their adorners, form a diversified and lively reception. Nor do they forget to take tea, appearance. sugar, rum, and other comfortable things During this time the chosen garland
beærer is also busily employed. Accom- firmly fixed, and displayed with the most panied by one from among the intended studious taste. Silver spoons and smaller dancers, who is best known among the forms are placed in the shape of stars farmers for decency of conduct, and con- squares, and circles. Between these are sequent responsibility, they go from house rows of watches; and at the top of the to house, throughout their parish, begging frame, opposite the pole in its centre, the loan of watches, silver spoons, or
their whole collection is crowned with the whatever other utensils of this metal are largest and most costly of the ornaments : likely to make a brilliant display; and generaily a large silver cup or tankard. those who are satisfied with the parties, This garland, when completed, on the eve and have a regard for the celebration of of May-day, is left for the night at that this ancient day, comply with their solicit- farnhouse from whence the dancers have ation.
received the most liberal loan of silver When May-day morn arrives, the group and plate for its decoration, or with that of dancers assemble at their rendezvous farmer who is distinguished in his neighthe village tavern. From thence (when bourhood as a good master, and liberal to permission can be obtained from the the poor. Its deposit is a token of respect, clergyman of the parish,) the rustic pro- and it is called for early on the following cession sets forth, accompanied by the morning: ringing of bells.
The whole party being assembled, they The arrangement and march are settled march in single file, but more generally in by the Cadi, who is always the most active pairs, headed by the Cadi. After bim folperson in the company; and is, by virtue lows the garland-bearer, and then the of his important office, the chief marshal, fiddler, while the bells of the village orator, buffoon, and money collector. He merrily ring the signal of their departure is always arrayed in comic attire, generally As the procession moves slowly along, the in a partial dress of both sexes: a coat Cadi varies his station, hovers about his and waistcoat being used for the upper party, brandishes a ladle, and assails part of the body, and for the lower every passenger with comic eloquence and petticoats, somewhat resembling Moll Fla- ludicrous persecution, for a customary and gon, in the “ Lord of the Manor." His expected donation. countenance is also particularly distin When they arrive at a farmhouse, they guished by a hideous mask, or is blackened take up their ground on the best station entirely over; and then the lips, cheeks, for dancing. The garland-bearer takes and orbits of the eyes are sometimes his stand; the violin strikes up an old painted red. The nuinber of the rest of national tune uniformly used on that oc the party, including the garland-bearer, is casion, and the dancers move forward in a generally thirteen, and with the excep- regular quick-step to the tune, in the order tion of the varied taste in the decoration of procession ; and at each turn of the of their shirts with ribbons, their costume tune throw up their white handkerchiefs is similar. It consists of clothing en with a shout, and the whole facing quickly tirely new from the hat to the shoes, about, retrace their steps, repeating the which are made neat, and of a light tex same manœuvre until the tune is once ture, foi dancing. The white decorated played. The music and dancing then vary shirts, plaited in the neatest manner, are into a reel, which is succeeded by another worn over the rest of their clothing; the dance, to the old tune of “ Cheshire remainder of the dress is black velveteen Round." breeches, with knee-ties depending half During the whole of this time, the bufway down to the ancles, in contrast with foonery of the Cadi is exhibited without yarn hose of a light grey. The ornaments intermission. He assails the inmates of of the hats are large rosettes of varied the house for money, and when this is colours, with streamers depending from obtained he bows or curtsies his thanks,and them; wreaths of ribbon encircle the the procession moves off to the next farmcrown, and each of the dancers carries in house. They do not confine the ramble his right hand a white pocket handker- of the day to their own parish, but go from chief.
one to another, and to any country town in The garland consists of a long staff or the vicinity. pole, to which is affixed a triangular or When they return to their resident vilsquare frame, covered with strong white lage in the evening, the bells ringing linen, on which the silver ornaments are merrily announce their arrival. The
money collected during the day's excur corated by four o'clock in the morning. sion is appropriated to defray whatever Throughout the day parties of these Mayexpenses may have been incurred in the
ers are seen dancing and frolicking in necessary preparations, and the remainder various parts of the town. The group is spent in jovial festivity.
that I saw to-day, which remained in This ancient custom, like many others Bancroft for more than an hour, was comamong the ancient Britons, is annually posed as follows. First came two men growing into disuse. The decline of with their faces blacked, one of them with sports and pastimes is in every age a sub a birch broom in his hand, and a large ject of regret. For in a civil point of artificial hump on his back; the other view, they denote the general prosperity, dressed as a woman, all in rags and tatters, natural energy, and happiness of the with a large straw bonnet on, and carrying people, consistent with morality,—and a ladle : these are called “ mad Moll and combined with that spirit of true religion, her husband :" next came two men, one which unlike the howling of the dismal most fantastically dressed with ribbons, hyæna or ravening wolf, is as a lamb and a great variety of gaudy coloured sportive and innocent, and as a lion mag- silk handkerchiefs tied round his arms nanimous and bold !
from the shoulders to the wrists, and I am, Sir,
down his thighs and legs to the ancles ; Yours sincerely, he carried a drawn sword in his hand;
H. T. B. leaning upor his arm was a youth dressed April 14, 1825.
as a fine lady, in white muslin, and profusely bedecked from top to toe with gay
ribbons: these, I understood, were called MAY-DAY AT HITCHIN, IN HERTFORDSHIRE.
the “ Lord and Lady" of the company; For the Every-Day Book.
after these followed six or seven couples EXTRACT from a letter dated Hitchin, the lord and lady, only the men were
more, attired much in the same style as May 1st, 1823.
When this group reOn this day a curious custom is ob- ceived a satisfactory contribution at any served here, of which I will give you a house, the music struck up from a violin, brief account.
clarionet, and fife, accompanied by the Soon after three o'clock in the morning long drum, and they began the merry a large party of the town-people, and dance, and very well they danced, I asneighbouring labourers, parade the town, sure you; the men-women looked and singing the “ Mayer's Song.” They carry
footed it so much like rea, women, that I in their hands large branches of May, and stood in great doubt as to which sex they they affix a branch either upon, or at the belonged to, till Mrs. J.-assured me side of, the doors of nearly every respect- that women were not permitted to mingle able house in the town; where there are in these sports. While the dancers were knockers, they place these branches within merrily footing it, the principal amusethe handles; that which was put into our ment to the populace was caused by the knocker was so large that the servant grimaces and clownish tricks of mad Moll could not open the door till the gardener and her husband. When the circle of came and took it out. The larger the spectators became so contracted as to inbranch is, that is placed at the door, the terrupt the dancers, then mad Moll's more honourable to the house, or rather husband went to work with his broom, to the servants of the house. If, in the and swept the road-dust, all round the course of the year, a servant has given circle, into the faces of the crowd, and offence to any of the Mayers, then, instead when any pretended affronts were offered of a branch of May, a branch of elder, (and many were offered) to his wife, he with a hunch of nettles, is affixed to her pursued the offenders, broom in land; if door : this is considered a great disgrace, he could not overtake them, whether they and the unfortunate subject of it is ex were males or females, he flung his broom posed to the jeers of her rivals. On May at them. These flights and pursuits morning, therefore, the girls look with caused an abundance of merriment. some anxiety for their May-branch, and I saw another company of Mayers in rise very early to ascertain their good or Sun-street, and, as far as I could judge ill fortune. The houses are all thus de- from where I stood, it appeared to be of