Tag Archive | summer is a coming

100 days – Day 9 (the merry morning of May)

100 days – Day 9

A merry May morning to you all!

Unite and unite, and let us all unite
For summer is a-comin’ today.
And whither we are going we all will unite
In the merry morning of May

 

 

A 1945 BBC original recording of the Padstow May Day Song sung by a crowd with accordion and drum has been included in the Alan Lomax collection CD World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: England. The liner notes say:

When the town clock of Padstow strikes midnight on April 30th, there begins a ceremony which is one of the most remarkable pagan survivals in England. Between 12 and 2 a.m. the hobby horse committee walk through streets and gardens singing the May Day Song. Then, next day, the hobby horse dancer appears. He wears a six-foot hoop skirt, painted shiny black and reaching to the ground. This hoop rests on his shoulders, and his head is covered in a conical black mask on which a sinister face is painted in black and white.

At about 11 a.m. this rather terrifying creature emerges from the Golden Lion Inn, accompanied by the “Old ‘Oss Committee,” generally in sailor costume, an orchestra of drums and accordions, a man with a box for voluntary collections, and the teaser, who dances nimbly in front of the horse, directing his movements with the manipulation of a phallic club. All day this strange procession roves through Padstow, singing:

Unite and unite, and let us all unite
For summer is a-comin’ today.
And whither we are going we all will unite
In the merry morning of May.

The hoss visits the sick. Children come shyly to touch the skirt for luck. Young married women, caught up under the hoss’s shirt, will, according to old Padstonians, give birth within the year. And then, every so often, the surging dance rhythm ceases with a sudden bang of the drum. The hoss bows down motionless to the ground, and, while the teaser makes caressing movements with his symbolic club, the crowd sings a solemn dirge, in which some scholars have found a garbled reference to the Norse goddess, Freya, and her long ship.

Oh where is King George? Oh where is he-O?
He’s out in the longboat, all on the salt sea-O.
Up flies the kite, down falls the lark-O.
Aunt Ursula Birdwood she has an old ewe,
And she died in her own park-O.

With a thwack of the club and a crash of the drums the hoss suddenly leaps up, revived; and the singing throng moves on beneath the springtime blossoms.

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