e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

May Day and its poetry

Today is 1st May and it has been celebrated for centuries as a special day. As May Day it started as a pagan festival and still includes maypoles and festivities. As Labour Day it celebrates the world’s workers (and in many places gives them a day off).

There is no shortage of May Day poems. One that I remember being introduced to in my teens is Robert Herrick’s Corinna’s Going A-Maying, which starts with encouragement to get up and get going.

It has several verses so I quote the first one only. The whole poem can be found on The Poetry Foundation.

Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne
Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.
  See how Aurora throwes her faire
  Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:
  Get up, sweet-Slug-a-bed, and see
  The Dew-bespangling Herbe and Tree.
Each Flower has wept, and bow’d toward the East,
Above an houre since; yet you not drest,
   Nay! not so much as out of bed?
   When all the Birds have Mattens seyd,
    And sung their thankful Hymnes: ’tis sin,
    Nay, profanation to keep in,
When as a thousand Virgins on this day,
Spring, sooner than the Lark, to fetch in May.
Poetry about Labour Day is harder to find. In the US the day is celebrated in September so has come to be associated with the end of Summer. An example of a poem about both Labour Day and Summer’s end is on Poems for Free. But we are at the beginning of Summer and, although I found plenty of poems about labouring I couldn’t find any specific to the day. Probably there are some in other languages as Labour Day is an international celebration.
The picture is a traditional maypole, probably somewhere in England.
photo credit: Viktor_K79 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/72664727@N05/40306484183″>Midsommar_2018_052_ARGB</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;
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