May Day – International Labor Day
According to Wikipedia May Day on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the celebrations that the day includes.
In the late 19th Century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. In those countries that celebrate International Workers’ Day, the day may also be referred to as “May Day” but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.
May Day Song or Mayer’s Song
This version “as sung at Hitchin in Hertfordshire” is one of the most widely known of the May Songs because it is mentioned in Hone’s Everyday Book and in Popular Music in the Olden Time by Chappell. It starts out with the line “We have been rambling all the night…”, and the tune is more or less the same as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.” It is given with the music notated in Chappell (p. 753), who quotes it from Rimbault. However, it is so heavily christianized that once that aspect is removed, not much is left and there are much better songs. The first verse is:
We have been rambling all the night,
and almost all the day-a,
And now returned back again,
we’ve brought you a branch of may-a
We’ve been rambling all of the night
And the best part of this day
And now we are returning again
We’ve brought you a branch of may.
A branch of may, so fine and gay
And at your door it stands.
It’s nothing but a sprout, but it’s well-budded out
By the work of our Lord’s hand.
[“our Lady’s hands” would fit the meter better]
Wake up, wake up, you pretty fair maid,
Wake from your drowsy dream,
And step into your dairy house
And fetch us a cup of cream.
If not a cup of your cold cream
A jug of your brown ale [or “beer” which rhymes]
And if we should live to tarry in the town
We’ll call on you next year.
Remember us now May is here
And now we do begin
To lead a life in righteousness,
For fear of death and sin.
Repent, repent, you wicked old men,
Don’t die before you do!
And when the day of judgment comes
The lord will think on you.
The hedges and fields are closed all around
With several sorts of green.
Our heavenly father waters them
With his heavenly showers of rain.
[in some versions “with his dew so sweet”]
I have a purse here in my hand
Rolled up with a silken string
And all that it wants is a coin or two
To line it well within.
The clock strikes one, it’s time to be gone
No longer can we stay.
God bless you all, both great and small
And send you a peaceful May.