Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · GLOSSARY · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Ralph, the May-lord
By Francis Beaumont (1584–1616)
 
LONDON, 1 to thee I do present
  The merry month of May;
Let each true subject be content
  To hear me what I say:
For from the top of conduit-head,        5
  As plainly may appear,
I will both tell my name to you,
  And wherefore I came here.
My name is Ralph, by due descent,
  Though not ignoble I,        10
Yet far inferior to the flock
  Of gracious grocery;
And by the common counsel of
  My fellows in the Strand,
With gilded staff and crossèd scarf,        15
  The May-lord here I stand.
Rejoice, oh, English hearts, rejoice!
  Rejoice, oh, lovers dear!
Rejoice, oh, city, town, and country,
  Rejoice eke every shire!        20
For now the fragrant flowers do spring
  And sprout in seemly sort,
The little birds do sit and sing,
  The lambs do make fine sport;
And now the birchen-tree doth bud,        25
  That makes the schoolboy cry;
The morris rings, while hobby-horse
  Doth foot it feateously;
The lords and ladies now abroad,
  For their disport and play,        30
Do kiss sometimes upon the grass,
  And sometimes in the hay.
Now butter with a leaf of sage
  Is good to purge the blood;
Fly Venus and phlebotomy,        35
  For they are neither good!
Now little fish on tender stone
  Begin to cast their bellies,
And sluggish snails, that erst were mewed,
  Do creep out of their shellies;        40
The rumbling rivers now do warm,
  For little boys to paddle;
The sturdy steed now goes to grass,
  And up they hang the saddle;
The heavy hart, the bellowing buck,        45
  The rascal, and the pricket,
Are now among the yeoman’s pease,
  And leave the fearful thicket;
And be like them, oh, you, I say,
  Of this same noble town,        50
And lift aloft your velvet heads,
  And slipping off your gown,
With bells on legs, and napkins clean
  Unto your shoulders tied,
With scarfs and garters as you please,        55
  And “Hey for our town!” 2 cried,
March out and show your willing minds,
  By twenty and by twenty,
To Hogsdon, or to Newington, 3
  Where ale and cakes are plenty;        60
And let it ne’er be said for shame,
  That we the youths of London
Lay thrumming of our caps at home,
  And left our custom undone.
Up then, I say, both young and old,        65
  Both man and maid a-maying,
With drums and guns that bounce aloud,
  And merry tabour playing!
Which to prolong, God save our king,
  And send his country peace,        70
And rout out treason from the land!
  And so, my friends, I cease.
 
Note 1. From The Knight of the Burning Pestle, played 1610–11; printed 1613. [back]
Note 2. Hey for our town! On May-day it was the custom for one village to contend with another in dancing matches. “Hey for our town” was the cry raised on such occasions. Cf. Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-books, ed. 1887, p. 68:
  Then all at once for our town cries!
Pipe on, for we will have the prize.
Note 3. To Hogsdon or to Newington: Hogsdon and Newington were favourite resorts of pleasure-seekers, particularly ’prentices and their sweethearts. They were noted for cakes and cream:
  For Hodgsdon, Islington, and Tot’nam Court
For cakes and cream had then no small resort.
 
 
CONTENTS · GLOSSARY · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors