Here is what the English poet Robert Herrick wrote about the morning of the first of May, about 400 years ago, in Corinna’s Gone A-Maying. Read it and feel a rush of blood to the head.
|Flora designed by William Morris|
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,
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May….
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.
Yes, this is the goddess of love’s month.
Here in Oxford we are all recovering from the riotous pagan outburst that is May Morning, when the streets fill at dawn with dancers, singers, drunks and lovers. Being Oxford, it is a weird mixture of earnest, chthonic and at the same time slightly silly.