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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Sat. 05/01/04 10:22:05 AM

A Bouquet of May Poetry


May! queen of blossoms,
   And fulfilling flowers,
With what pretty music
   Shall we charm the hours?
Wilt thou have pipe and reed,
Blown in the open mead?
Or to the lute give heed
   In the green bowers?

Thou hast no need of us,
   Or pipe or wire;
Thou hast the golden bee
   Ripen'd with fire;
And many thousand more
Songsters, that thee adore,
Filling earth's grassy floor
   With new desire.

Thou hast thy mighty herds,
   Tame and free-livers;
Doubt not, thy music too
   In the deep rivers;
And the whole plumy flight
Warbling the day and night—   
Up at the gates of light,
   See, the lark quivers!

Edward Thurlow, Lord Thurlow (1781-1829)
The Oxford Book of English Verse (1939) # 595
ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch

Young Love

All glorious as the Rainbow's birth
   She came in Spring-tide's golden hours,
When Heaven went hand-in-hand with Earth,
   And May was crown'd with buds and flowers.
The mounting devil at my heart
   Clomb faintlier, as my life did win
The charmed heaven she wrought apart
   To wake its better Angel in.
With radiant mien she trod serene
   And pass'd me smiling by—
0, who that look'd could help but love?
   Not I, sweet soul, not I!

Her budding breasts like fragrant fruit
   Of love were ripening to be pressed:
Her voice that shook my heart's red root
   Might not have broken a Babe's rest,—
More liquid than the running brooks,
   More vernal than the voice of Spring,
When Nightingales are in their nooks,
   And all the leafy thickets ring.
The love she coyly hid at heart
   Was shyly conscious in her eye;
0, who that look'd could help but love?
   Not I, sweet soul, not I!

Gerald Massey (1828-1907)
The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1913) # 328
ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch

An Even-Song

In the spring twilight, in the colour'd twilight
Whereto the latter primroses are stars,
And early nightingale
Letteth her love adown the tender wind,
That thro' the eglantine
In mixed delight the fragrant music bloweth
On to me,
Where in the twilight, in the colour'd twilight,
I sit beside the thorn upon the hill.
The mavis sings upon the old oak tree
Sweet and strong,
Strong and sweet,
Soft, sweet, and strong,
And with his voice interpreteth the silence
Of the dim vale when Philomel is mute!
The dew lies like a light upon the grass,
The cloud is as a swan upon the sky,
The mist is as a brideweed on the moon.
The shadows new and sweet
Like maids unwonted in the dues of joy
Play with the meadow flowers,
And give with fearful fancies more and less,
And come, and go, and flit
A brief emotion in the moving air,
And now are stirr'd to flight, and now are kind,
Unset, uncertain, as the cheek of Love.
As tho' amid the eve
Stood Spring with fluttering breast,
And like a butterfly upon a flower,
Spreading and closing with delight's excess,
A-sudden fann'd and shut her tinted wings.
In the spring twilight, in the colour'd twilight,
Ere Hesper, eldest child of Night, run forth
On mountain-top to see
If Day hath left the dale,
And hears, well-pleased, the dove
From ancient elm and high
In murmuring dreams still bid the sun good night,
And sound of lowing kine,
And echoes long and clear,
And herdsman's evening call,
And bells of penning folds,
Sweet and low;
O maid, as fair as thou
Behold the young May moon!
O, happy, happy maid!
With love as young as she
In the spring twilight, in the colour'd twilight,
Meet, meet me, by the thorn upon the hill!

Sydney Dobell (1824-1874)
OBVV # 302

The World's May-Queen

When Spring comes back to England
   And crowns her brows with May,
Round the merry moonlit world
   She goes the greenwood way:
She throws a rose to Italy,
   A fleur-de-lys to France;
But round her regal morris-ring
   The seas of England dance.

When Spring comes back to England
   And dons her robe of green,
There 's many a nation garlanded
   But England is the Queen;
She 's Queen, she 's Queen of all the world
   Beneath the laughing sky,
For the nations go a-Maying
   When they hear the New Year cry—

"Come over the water to England,
   My old love, my new love,
Come over the water to England,
   In showers of flowery rain;
Come over the water to England,
   April, my true love;
And tell the heart of England
   The Spring is here again!"

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)
OBVV # 726

Corinna's going a-Maying

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 dress'd;
      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.

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 keys 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 drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
OBEV # 255

Glycine's Song

A sunny shaft did I behold,
      From sky to earth it slanted:
And poised therein a bird so boldó
      Sweet bird, thou wert enchanted!

He sank, he rose, he twinkled, he troll'd
      Within that shaft of sunny mist;
His eyes of fire, his beak of gold,
      All else of amethyst!

And thus he sang: "Adieu! adieu!
Love's dreams prove seldom true.
The blossoms, they make no delay:
The sparking dew-drops will not stay.
            Sweet month of May,
                  We must away;
                  Far, far away!
                        To-day! to-day!"

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
OBEV # 568

The Young May Moon

The young May moon is beaming, love,
The glow-worm's lamp is gleaming, love;
            How sweet to rove
            Through Morna's grove,
When the drowsy world is dreaming, love!
Then awake!—the heavens look bright, my dear,
'Tis never too late for delight, my dear;
            And the best of all ways
            To lengthen our days
Is to steal a few hours from the night, my dear!

Now all the world is sleeping, love,
But the Sage, his star-watch keeping, love,
            And I, whose star
            More glorious far
Is the eye from that casement peeping, love.
Then awake!—till rise of sun, my dear,
The Sage's glass we'll shun, my dear,
            Or in watching the flight
            Of bodies of light
He might happen to take thee for one, my dear!

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
OBEV # 592

Ode in May

Let me go forth, and share
The overflowing Sun
   With one wise friend, or one
Better than wise, being fair,
Where the pewit wheels and dips
   On heights of bracken and ling,
And Earth, unto her leaflet tips,
   Tingles with the Spring.

What is so sweet and dear
   As a prosperous morn in May,
   The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
   Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
   And half of the world a bride?

The Song of Mingling flows,
   Grave, ceremonial, pure,
   As once, from lips that endure,
The cosmic descant rose,
When the temporal lord of life,
   Going his golden way,
Had taken a wondrous maid to wife
   That long had said him nay.

For of old the Sun, our sire,
   Came wooing the mother of men,
   Earth, that was virginal then,
Vestal fire to his fire.
Silent her bosom and coy,
   But the strong god sued and press'd;
And born of their starry nuptial joy
   Are all that drink of her breast.

And the triumph of him that begot,
   And the travail of her that bore,
   Behold they are evermore
As warp and weft in our lot.
We are children of splendour and flame,
   Of shuddering, also, and tears.
Magnificent out of the dust we came,
   And abject from the Spheres.

O bright irresistible lord!
   We are fruit of Earth's womb, each one,
   And fruit of thy loins, O Sun,
Whence first was the seed outpour'd.
To thee as our Father we bow,
   Forbidden thy Father to see,
Who is older and greater than thou, as thou
   Art greater and older than we.

Thou art but as a word of his speech;
   Thou art but as a wave of his hand;
   Thou art brief as a glitter of sand
'Twixt tide and tide on his beach;
Thou art less than a spark of his fire,
   Or a moment's mood of his soul:
Thou art lost in the notes on the lips of his choir
   That chant the chant of the Whole.

William Watson (b. 1858)
OBVV #595 / OBEV #871

May, 1840

A lovely morn, so still, so very still,
   It hardly seems a growing day of Spring,
   Though all the odorous buds are blossoming,
And the small matin birds were glad and shrill
Some hours ago; but now the woodland rill
   Murmurs along, the only vocal thing,
   Save when the wee wren flits with stealthy wing,
And cons by fits and bits her evening trill.
Lovers might sit on such a morn as this
   An hour together, looking at the sky,
Nor dare to break the silence with a kiss,
   Long listening for the signal of a sigh;
And the sweet Nun, diffused in voiceless prayer,
Feel her own soul through all the brooding air.

Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849)
OBVV # 48

See also John Milton: Song on May Morning.

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Sat. 05/01/04 10:22:05 AM
Categorized as Literary & Most Notable.


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