Friday, May 1, 2009

Tra La! It's May! The lusty month of May!

The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke

by Richard Dadd

The Princess Out of School
by Edward Robert Hughes

by Edward Robert Hughes

The Fairy Wood
by Henry Meynell Rheam

Indeed, it is a lusty month! Consider the Maypoles of the Romans and the ancient Druids with their floral vines and colorful ribbons intricately woven around a towering pole. It is a custom that still survives in some communities, or a least I hope it does.

The little country school I attended for grades 1 to 9 always presented a May Day program on a baseball field on the first Thursday evening in May. Each grade level presented a brief program. The first graders had a marching rhythm band every year. The junior high aged classes performed a square dance. Other classes might interpret a popular movie, song, or novel, but the fourth grade was as fixed as the sun in the sky, with the unabashed fertility dance ritually pairing a boy and girl around the Maypole. There were two on the field: one at first base and one at third. (There were only two fourth grade classes consisting of about 28 students each.) Every girl held a gold and each boy a purple shimmering ribbon. Girls wore pale spring colors and boys a white shirt and white pants. It was my favorite. I never wanted to be in the May Queen Court (Each class had a representative...but the Queen was always a 9th grader). Oh how I loved the Maypole. One of the 4th grade teachers, Miss Fitzgerald, a spinster and the most feared teacher in the school had been the guardian of this tradition, and the practice was intense for several weeks before the big event. It was truly the highlight of the night.
As the music was played over the loud speaker, each boy and girl faced one another, and the dance began....skipping and weaving....over and under.... over and under.... over and under.....until the the pole was a brightly woven symbol of spring!

Little did I know what a sordid event it was when I was ten years old! (The Puritans banned these during the Reformation in England...too pagan.) Whew! Later I would come to truly appreciate what it was all about when the movie Camelot was released!

To this day, I spend most of May 1st either humming, singing , or playing "The Lusty Month of May." And as the sun goes down, I will be remembering those magical first Thursday's in May when my older sister Sue and I -thrilled with all the performances - would walk home amid the dreamy, warm night fully redolent with the first opening and abundant blooms of wild honeysuckle woven along the roadside.


Rowan said...

I wonder whether your old school still keeps up the tradition of maypole dancing - I hope it does. The painting by by Edward Robert Hughes of Day is just beautiful, he just has to be one of the Pre-Raphaelite school. I must google him as he is a new name to me.

Rowan said...

I've just googled Edward Robert Hughes and find that he painted the fairy picture that I used in my May Day post! I didn't know the name of the artist before.

Sandra Leigh said...

Those are beautiful paintings. I especially like "A Princess Out of School" - but maybe that's because of the title. She certainly looks as if she knows how to play hookey. A girl after my own heart.

My May Day hum-song is "Now Is the Month of Maying".

Sandra Leigh said...

OCD - and of course I got the title wrong. THE Princess...sigh. It's late, isn't it?

Michael said...

What a wonderful illustration and celebration of May Day M, thank you. I particularly enjoyed the paragraph of your sisterly memories.

Derrick said...

Hello FireLight,

Can't beat Camelot for all that is congenial and happily everaftering! I have a vague recollection of maypole dancing on ONE occasion during my infant school days! Perhaps because we weren't country folk!

Lyn said...

I love the portrait of Day, also the Fairy Wood..Thanks for the May Day celebration!

willow said...

We did the maypole thing with the pale spring dresses and skipped around the pole.

LOVE Camelot...the month of yes you may!

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Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat