Greeting May – Origins
In the words of one historian, “The month May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May.”
Below – “May,” from the “Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” (1412-1416).
Greeting May with Poetry: Robert Herrick
The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I’ll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown’d it.
Greeting May with Art – Leandro Bassano: “May”
Greeting May with Prose: Edwin Way Teale
The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.
Greeting May with Poetry: Thomas Tusser
Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers.
On This Date – Part I of II: Judy Collins
“I don’t know where my songs come from . . . If I knew, I’d know too much, more than we are allowed on this plane.” – Judy Collins, American singer, songwriter, and social activist, who was born 1 May 1939.
On This Date – Part II of II: Wallace Stegner
“What do you mean, ‘Angle of Repose?’ she asked me when I dreamed we were talking about Grandmother’s life, and I said it was the angle at which a man or woman finally lies down. I suppose it is; and yet … I thought when I began, and still think, that there was another angle in all those years when she was growing old and older and very old, and Grandfather was matching her year for year, a separate line that did not intersect with hers. They were vertical people, they lived by pride, and it is only by the ocular illusion of perspective that they can be said to have met. But he had not been dead two months when she lay down and died too, and that may indicate that at that absolute vanishing point they did intersect. They had intersected for years, for more than he especially would ever admit.” – From “Angle of Repose,” for which Wallace Stegner won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction on 1 May 1972.
Some quotes from “Angle of Repose”:
“I wonder if ever again Americans can have that experience of returning to a home place so intimately known, profoundly felt, deeply loved, and absolutely submitted to? It is not quite true that you can’t go home again. I have done it, coming back here. But it gets less likely. We have had too many divorces, we have consumed too much transportation, we have lived too shallowly in too many places.”
“Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable.”
“[The modern age] knows nothing about isolation and nothing about silence. In our quietest and loneliest hour the automatic ice-maker in the refrigerator will cluck and drop an ice cube, the automatic dishwasher will sigh through its changes, a plane will drone over, the nearest freeway will vibrate the air. Red and white lights will pass in the sky, lights will shine along highways and glance off windows. There is always a radio that can be turned to some all-night station, or a television set to turn artificial moonlight into the flickering images of the late show. We can put on a turntable whatever consolation we most respond to, Mozart or Copland or the Grateful Dead.”
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
“Touch. It is touch that is the deadliest enemy of chastity, loyalty, monogamy, gentility with its codes and conventions and restraints. By touch we are betrayed and betray others … an accidental brushing of shoulders or touching of hands … hands laid on shoulders in a gesture of comfort that lies like a thief, that takes, not gives, that wants, not offers, that awakes, not pacifies. When one flesh is waiting, there is electricity in the merest contact.”
“Wisdom. . .is knowing what you have to accept.”
“It is an easy mistake to think that non-talkers are non-feelers.”
“Civilizations grow by agreements and accommodations and accretions, not by repudiations. The rebels and the revolutionaries are only eddies, they keep the stream from getting stagnant but they get swept down and absorbed, they’re a side issue. Quiet desperation is another name for the human condition. If revolutionaries would learn that they can’t remodel society by day after tomorrow — haven’t the wisdom to and shouldn’t be permitted to — I’d have more respect for them … Civilizations grow and change and decline — they aren’t remade.”
“The air is so crisp it gives me a brief, delusive sense of health and youth. Those I don’t have but I have learned not to scorn the substitutes: quiet, plenty of time, and a job to spend it on.”
“You can’t retire to weakness — you’ve got to learn to control strength.”
Greeting May with Poetry: Philip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Greeting May with Prose: Audra Foveo
If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.
Below – Stefan Heyer: “Bloom”
Greeting May with Poetry: William Watson
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?
Welcoming May with Song: The Bee Gees
Greeting May with Art – Claude Monet: “Springtime”
Greeting May with Poetry: Ruth Barren
The new earth quickens as you rise.
The May Queen is waiting.
Feel the pulsing ground call you to journey,
To know the depths of your desire.
The May Queen is waiting.
Moving through the night, the bright moon’s flight.
In green and silver on the plain.
She waits for you to return again.
Do not keep Her waiting.
Her temper stings if you refuse to taste Her honey.
Surrender as enchantment brings
The first light of dawning.
Move with Her in sacred dance, through fear to feeling.
Bringing ecstasy to those who dare.
Living earth is breathing.
Loving through the night in the bright moonlight,
As seedlings open with the rain.
She’ll long for you to return again.
Do not keep Her waiting.
Greeting May with Poetry: Adrienne Rich
It is the thirtieth of May,
the thirtieth of November,
a beginning or an end,
we are moving into the solstice
and there is so much here
I still do not understand.
Welcoming May with Song: Arcade Fire
Greeting May with Poetry: William Wordsworth
Though many suns have risen and set
Since thou, blithe May, wert born,
And Bards, who hailed thee, may forget
Thy gift, thy beauty scorn;
There are who to a birthday strain
Confine not harp and voice,
But evermore throughout thy reign
Are grateful and rejoice!
Greeting May with Prose: Sir Thomas Malory
It was the month of May, the month when the foliage of herbs and trees is most freshly green, when buds ripened and blossoms appear in their fragrance and loveliness. And the month when lovers, subject to the same force which reawakens the plants, feel their hearts open again, recall past trysts and past vows, and moments of tenderness, and yearn for a renewal of the magical awareness which is love.
Below – Frank Dicksee: “Romeo and Juliet”
Greeting May with Art – Keith Melling: “Pendle in May”
Greeting May with Poetry: John Milton
Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
Greeting May with Poetry: Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Hebe’s here, May is here!
The air is fresh and sunny;
And the miser-bees are busy
Hoarding golden honey.
Greeting May with Poetry: John Keats
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Welcoming May with Song: Led Zeppelin
“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”
Greeting May with Poetry: Heinrich Heine
Sweet May hath come to love us,
Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;
And through the blue heavens above us
The very clouds move on.
Greeting May with Art – Charles Courtney Curran: “May Afternoon”
Greeting May with Poetry: Thomas Moore
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!
Greeting May with Prose: Herman Melville
For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants.
Greeting May with Art – Adrien Moreau: “May Day”
Greeting May with Poetry: Charles Kingsley
Oh! that we two were Maying
Down the stream of the soft spring breeze;
Like children with violets playing,
In the shade of the whispering trees.
Greeting May with Art – William Morris: “Flora”
Greeting May with Poetry: James Joyce
Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
Dancing a ring-around in glee
From furrow to furrow, while overhead
The foam flies up to be garlanded,
In silvery arches spanning the air,
Saw you my true love anywhere?
For the winds of May!
Love is unhappy when love is away!
Greeting May with Prose: O. Henry
Prithee, smite the poet in the eye when he would sing to you praises of the month of May. It is a month presided over by the spirits of mischief and madness. Pixies and flibbertigibbets haunt the budding woods: Puck and his train of midgets are busy in town and country. In May, nature holds up at us a chiding finger, bidding us remember that we are not gods, but over conceited members of her own great family. She reminds us that we are brothers to the chowder-doomed clam and the donkey; lineal scions of the pansy and the chimpanzee, and but cousins-german to the cooing doves, the quacking ducks and the housemaids and policemen in the parks.
Below – The Web of Life
Greeting May with Art – Maria Oakey Dewing: “Garden in May”
Greeting May with Poetry: Mother Goose
The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes the dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
Greeting May with Poetry: James Thomson
Among the changing months, May stands confest
The sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed.
Greeting May with Art – Maurice Brazil Prendergast: “May Day, Central Park”
Greeting May with Poetry: Jethro Tull
For the May Day is the great day,
Sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley
Will heed this song that calls them back…
Pass the cup, and pass the Lady,
And pass the plate to all who hunger,
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom,
Pass the cup of crimson wonder.
Below – Greek red figure vase, circa fifth century B.C.E.
Greeting May with Art – Evelyn De Morgan: “Flora”
Greeting May with Poetry: Robert Louis Stevenson
“When loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.
So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows.
Below – Jennifer Lommers: “Meadow in Bloom”
Greeting May with Art – Ernest Lawson: “May in the Mountains”
Greeting May with Prose: Henry David Thoreau
Spring – an experience in immortality.
Welcome, Lovely May
Below – John William Waterhouse: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”