A-Maying. Glorious weather, moonset and sunrise. All sorts of morris. And a splendid hobby-horse, prancing and curvetting, sidling and shying. Great glass-eyed head, a skein of mane and tail, and the most elegant upholstered petticoats with a fringe. His dancer never said a word, but led through all the longways dances, wore a backpack and a topper, centaur-like. He played the squeeze-box and gave ecstatic toddlers rides.
Was much amused by the scene of dancers frolicking about the Maypole, to the tune of "Yellow Submarine." Also by the all-night party-ers, in black tie and exiguous spangles, who joined in the dancing, for as many as will.
Fresh woods and pastures new
Absolutely gorgeous May morning. All a bit giddy after weeks of cold rain. Set out with the last stars fading and the sky a deep luminous bluegreen. It paled, turning rosegold at the hem, then flawless Virgin's mantle blue. Leaves dazzling. So we brought in the spring. A heady feeling.
It's milkier now.
What the hey, it was a lovely and a lively celebration. Everyone sang like birds, and danced; and even the May pole ribbons wove up neatly and unwove. (And I murmured, as I always do, "O must I ravel out my weaved-up follies?" as they turned widdershins to disentangle.)
When I got to the river, there was a shivering little band of anthropology students huddled on the bridge with notebooks. They asked plaintively, "Is something going to happen?" "Soon," I said.
The revellers drifted in by twos and threes, yawning and bedizened, fantastically masked and garlanded; they drove the May pole in the ground. Much jingling and thwacking.
The long-legged squire of the Morris came in bells and ribbons and a trig white tailcoat; the mistress of the May, as tall as he, wore trousers and a simple straw of more than Arcadian shadiness.
The Cotswolds dancers turned out in clean linen and bright frippery.
The Border Morris came in tattercoats, like wild men in a tapestry; they capered and they clashed like goats.
A fata Morgana appeared in loose silk trousers and a spangled scarf, with a violet half-mask hung with moss-green ribands like a beard. Or Beardsley. Could have been Titania as Tamburlaine, or maybe Oberon reviving Salome. Or Bosie's ghost.
The young things from the May Ball at the river Houses tripped over in exiguous wisps of black cypress and stiletto heels.
Bruce the ex-satyr came. He used to dance goatshod, in nothing but a faun suit: shaggy smalls and wicked little horns. Now he has a child on his shoulders (it comes to them all, eh?).
Old Poppy came, as ever. Don't think she's changed a hair in twenty years. Round and rosy and apple-cheeked, a dumpling like a minor deity. Hat wreathed with tulips, and a basket of flowers to give away. Like someone out of Mary Poppins.
Madame [B.] was no less elegant, in a flat straw bonnet decked with grape hyacinths and kitchen herbs, and a long green cloak. She looked like a fairy godmother out of a Victorian picture book. Too shrewd and witty for Kate Greenaway, too earthy for MacDonald. Mrs. Ewing, perhaps?
[G.] brought a new puppet: marvelous furious green face, grey spikes of hair; black dress and pointy hat, striped stockings; black spiked-heeled witch boots. Called Esme (what else?). You can stick your hands in her gloves and make menacing clawed hands, my pretty.
And she brought a loaf with a green man's face baked into it, within a plaited wreath of bread. Clove eyes and sun-burnt cheeks. Not a wood god, but the Sun in grain. She danced in and out with him amid the wildmen. And at last he was torn to pieces, devoured by a rabble of Maenads and gonads
Last of all, grave but joyful, came a band of nymphs, the deer-legged votaries of Artemis, who leapt and clashed with long braids flying, dark and fiery and fair. Still children. Cold as April. On a pole wound Maywise with ribands, they bore the loveliest of garlands: hoops fixed crosswise in an orb, wound with ivy, crowned with flowers, trailing tendrils like a thyrsus. In it hung a Lady made of grass. She had a fichu of pale leaves, a sort of Breton bonnet in white flowers--bindweed? morning glories?--and a rake of grass blades in her hand. Reaper to herself, the mower mown. A Marvellian paradox, to go with all those moon-cold crescent girls: "And flow'rs and grass, and I, and all / Will in one common ruin fall..."
And as ever, we processed from green to dancing green behind a sally of music, fiddlers and taborers: the garland bobbing and the May pole streaming, the long bright serpentine of dancers weaving in and out, their hankies flapping like clean sheets at the morning of the world.
I love that.
And the daphne's in flower. Great wafts of it.
Golden nymphs and fauns all must / As drab domestics, sweep and dust.