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thy life of toil? Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow Workmen there, in God's Eternity; surviving there, they alone surviving : sacred Band of the Immortals, celestial Body-guard of the Empire of Mankind. Even in the weak Human Memory they survive so long, as saints, as heroes, as gods; they alone surviving; peopling, they alone, the immeasured solitudes of Time! To thee Heaven, though severe, is not unkind; Heaven is kind—as a noble Mother; as that Spartan Mother, saying while she gave her son his shield, “ With it, my son, or upon it!” Thou too shalt return home, in honour to thy far-distant Home, in honour; doubt it not-if in the battle thou keep thy shield! Thou, in the Eternities and deepest Death-kingdoms, art not an alien; thou every where art a denizen! Complain not; the very Spartans did not complain.
74.—MAY GAMES. We select a few passages from the elder poets that have reference to the great rural festival of May-day. The festival is bequeathed, as in mockery, to the chimney-sweeps. First comes Spenser, in his antique · Shepherd's Calendar :'
· Palinode. Is not thilke the mery moneth of May,
When love-lads masken in fresh aray?
How falles it, then, wee no merrier beene,
Ylike as others, girt in gawdy greene?
Our bloncket liveries bene all to sadde
For thilke same season, when all is ycladde
With pleasaunce; the ground with grasse, the woods
With greene leaves, the bushes with bloosming buds.
Youngthes folke now flocken in everywhere,
To gather May-buskets and smelling brere;
And home they hasten the postes to dight,
And all the kirk-pillours, eare daylight,
With hawthorne buds, and sweete eglantine,
And girlonds of roses, and soppes in wine.
Such merimake holy saints doth queme,
But wee here sitten as drownde in dreme.
Piers. For younkers, Palinode, such follies fitte,
But we tway bene men of elder witte.
Pal. Sicker this morowe, no lenger agoe,
I sawe a shole of shepheardes outgoe
With singing, and shouting, and jolly chere:
Before them yode a lustie tabrere,
That to the many a horn-pype playd,
Whereto they dauncen eche one with his mayd.
To see those folks make such jovysaunce,
Made my heart after the pype to daunce :
Tho to the greene wood they speeden hem all,
To fetchen home May with their musicall;
And home they bringen in a royall throne,
Crowned as king; and his queene attone
Was Lady Flora, on whom did attend
A fayre flock of faeries, and a fresh bend
Of lovely nymphes. (Oh that I were there,
To helpen the Ladies their Maybush beare !)
SPENSER. The Lady of the May is described by Browne, in his Britannia's Pastorals :'
As I have seen the lady of the May
Set in the arbour (on a holy-day)
Built by the May-pole, where the jocund swains
Dance with the maidens to the bagpipe's strains,
When envious night commands them to be gone,
Call for the merry youngsters one by one,
And for their well performance soon disposes,
To this a garland interwove with roses ;
To that a carved hook, or well-wrought-scrip,
Gracing another with her cherry lip;
To one her garter, to another then
A handkerchief cast o'er and o'er again;
And none returneth empty that hath spent
His pains to fill their rural merriment. With such songs as these was the Lady and her band of happy revellers saluted :
With fragrant flowers we strew the way,
And make this our chief holiday.
For though this clime were blest of yore,
Yet was it never proud before.
O beauteous queen of second Troy,
Accept of our unfeigned joy.
Now th' air is sweeter than sweet balm,
And satyrs dance about the palm ;
Now earth, with verdure newly dight,
Gives perfect signs of her delight.
O beauteous queen, &c.
Now birds record new harmony,
And trees do whistle melody;
Now every thing that Nature breeds
Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds
O beauteous queen, &c.
WATSON. Herrick is the great May-day Poet:
Get up, get up for shame, the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air;
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept, and bow'd toward the east,
Above an hour since, yet you not drest;
Nay, not so much as out of bed ;
When all the birds have matins said,
And sung their thankful hymns; 'tis sin,
Nay, profanation to keep in,
When as a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May,
Rise, and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
And, sweet as Flora, take no care
For jewels for your gown or hair,
Fear not, the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you ;
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
Come and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night;
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
Few beads are best when once we go a Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and, coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park
Made green, and trimm'd with trees; see how
Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch ; each porch, each door, ere this,
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove;
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street
And open fields, and we not see 't?
Come, we'll abroad, and let 's obey
The proclamation made for May;
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying ;
But, my Corinna, come, let 's go a Maying.
There's not a budding boy or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream
Before that we have left to dream;
And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth ;
Many a green gown has been given ;
Many a kiss, both odd and even;
Many a glance, too, has been sent ,
From out the eye, love's firmament;
Many a jest told of the key's betraying
This night, and locks pick'd, yet we're not a Maying.
Come, let us go, while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time.
We shall grow old apace and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun;
And as a vapour, or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne'er be found again,
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade;
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drown'd with us in endless night.
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a Maying.
HERRICK. The decay of the old custom forms the subject of an anonymous lament, a century old, written under the title of Pasquil's Palinodia :'
Fairly we marched on, till our approach
Within the spacious passage of the Strand
Objected to our sight a summer broach,
Yclep'd a Maypole, which, in all our land,
No city, town, nor street, can parallel,
Nor can the lofty spire of Clerkenwell,
Although he have the advantage of a rock,
Perch up more high his turning weathercock.
Stay, quoth my Muse, and here behold a sign
Of harmless mirth and honest neighbourhood,
Where all the parish did in one combine
To mount the rod of peace, and none withstood :
When no capricious constables disturb them,
Nor justice of the peace did seek to curb them,
Nor peevish puritan, in railing sort,
Nor overwise churchwarden, spoiled the sport.
Happy the age, and harmless were the days,
For then true love and amity was found,
When every village did a Maypole raise,
And Whitsun ales and May games did abound :