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mentators; which hath wearied conjecture, and exhausted all the arts of unnecessary and unprofitable defence. This work will be found by the reader, what it is called by the writer, a free translation. The author was not fettered by his text, but guided by it; he has, however, not forgotten the boundaries by which liberal translation is distinguished from that which is wild and licentious. He has always endeavoured to represent the sense of his original, he hopes sometimes to have caught its spirit, and he throws himself without reluctance, but not without diffidence, on the candour of those readers who understand and feel the difference that subsists between the Greek and English languages, between ancient and modern manners, between nature and refinement, between a Sophocles who appeals to posterity, and a writer who catches at the capricious taste of the day."
For the Analectic Magazine.
There is something inexpressibly pleasing to the heart as well as the imagination, in the rural sports and country festivals of our ancestors of the old world. Whether it be that they are naturally congenial to our tastes, or from being associated with the recollection of our earliest youth, or because they are generally connected with some romantic superstition of fairy land-from the remoteness of their origin, or the patriarchal simplicity of their rites, there is a charm about them that is almost irresistible. Most of them were of pagan origin; but in the early ages of christianity, they became connected with the rites of the church. This was the case with the festival of the New Year which was kept among the northern nations long before the Christian era. The old reformers inveighed most bitterly against these holydays, but finding them too deeply rooted in the hearts of the people to be eradicated, contented themselves at last with giving them the air of religious festivals. Most of these rural anniversaries have been discontinued in this country, either because the people have become more enlightened, or that the first emigrants, being mostly rigid Puritans who abhorred every thing that looked like innocent recreation, neglected to instill a taste for these sports in the minds of their children. Whatever may be the cause, there is certainly less of that romantic superstition which furnishes the materials for popular poetry, and tradition, here, than in any other country whatever. I rather incline, however, to believe, that the dearth of these popu. lar superstitions is owing to the green youth of our nation. Antiquity and obscurity are. the genuine sources of the marvellous, and of both these we are as yet altogether destitute. Our history is but of yesterday, and of tradition we have scarce a vestige. There is, consequently, hardly a single well-anthenticated case of the influence of fairies on record, or even traditionary, in the United States. Of witches we have some few, it is believed, still remaining in New England; and I remember one solitary instance of the appearance of the devil in the shape of a black dog, which is pretty well anthenticated. Ghosts, however, are as plenty here as ia any other part of the world. Every solitary churchyard is peopled with them. Sometimes they appear in the shape of headless horses; sometimes of headless men-and sometimes they are invisible, announcing their presence by some boding and ominous noise, such as the hooting of the Owl, or the whistling of the Whip-poor-will. They never change their fashions; the headless horses are always white, and the human spectres are invariably dressed in a winding sheet. The witches are, as usual, detected by having magic rings round their eyes, and keeping company with cats. It is well for certain ladies it did not happen that witchcraft was inferred from a fondness for lap dogs instead of cats. I know several who in that case would have laboured under terrible suspicions.
But in the most delightful portion of rural superstition we are sadly deficient. The little fairies never haunt our waving woods, that are worthy to be the abodes of the Fawns and the Dryads, nor dance on the margin of our streams, that are more clear and
beautiful than the Thames, the Dee, or the Yarrow. No Kobin Goodfellow plays his pranks with our milk maids-and the only trick I ever heard of, in which he was sus pected of having a band, was once tying the grass across a path through which a number of schoolboys were returning from evening school. They every one tript and fell flat on their noses, except one who happened to be behind the rest. This adventure was at first laid to the account of fairy influence. But the unlucky boy in the rear being detected in laughing, was suspected of the prank, and being the next day brought to the ordeal of birch, confessed the whole.
One of the rural festivals which has fallen into disuse in America is that of May Day, still kept up in many parts of Great Britain, though it has lost much of its splendour and dignity. It seems to have been founded on the idea that the presiding goddess of nature could be conciliated by offerings of her most beautiful productions, so as to bless them with a profusion of the fruits of the earth, and is undoubtedly of Heathen origin. The following account of the manner in which it was anciently celebrated is collected from sources which are probably not accessible to many of our readers, and will, therefore, we believe, be both novel and entertaining.
On the calends, or the first day of May, commonly called May-Day, the juvenile part of both sexes were wont to rise a little after mid-night, and walk to some neighbouring wood, accompany'd with musick and the blowing of horns; where they break down branches from the trees, and adorn them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. When this is done, they return with their booty homewards, about the rising of the sun, and make their doors and windows to triumph in the flowery spoil. The after part of the day is chiefly spent in dancing round a tall poll, which is called a May-Poll; which, being placed in a convenient part of the village, stands there, as it were, consecrated to the goddess of flowers, without the least violation offer'd it, in the whole circle of the year. And this is not the custom of the British common people only, but it is the custom of the generality of other nations; particularly of the Italians, where Polydore Virgil tells us the youth of both sexes were accustomed to go into the fields, on the calends of May, and bring thence the branches of trees, singing all the way as they came, and so place them on the doors of their houses.
Stow tells us, in his Survey of London,* that in the month of May, namely, on May-Day in the morning, every man, except impediment, would walk into the sweet meddowes and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kinde.
He quotes from Hall an account of Henry the Eighth's riding a Maying from Greenwich to the high ground of Shooter's Hill, with Queen Katherine his wife, accompanied with many lords and ladies.
The Mayings, says Mr. Strutt, are in some sort yet kept up by the milk-maids at London, who go about the streets with their garlands and music, dancing: but this tracing is a very imperfect shadow of the original sports; for May Poles were set up in the streets, with various martial shows, morrice-dancing, and other devices, with which, and revelling and good cheer, the day was passed away. At night they rejoiced and lighted up their bonfires. English Ara, vol. II. p. 99.
He further tells us, "I find also that in the month of May, the citizens of London (of all estates) lightly in every parish, or sometimes two or three parishes joining together, had their several Mayings, and did fetch in May-Poles with divers warlike shows, with good archers, morrice-dancers, and other devices for pastime all the day long; and towards the evening they had stage-plaies and bone-fires in the steets." And again he says, "in the reign of Henry the Sixth, the aldermen and sheriffs of London, being on May-Day at the Bishop of London's wood, and having there a worshipful dinner for themselves and other commers, Lydgate, the Monk of Bury, sent them, by a pursuivant, a joyful commendation of that season, beginning thus:
"Mighty Flora, goddess of fresh flow'rs,
To do pleasance of intent full cleane,
Unto the states which now sit here
Hath Ver sent down her own daughter dear."
Mr. Borlase, in his curious account of the manners of Cornwall, tells us "an antient custom, still retained by the Cornish, is that of decking their doors and porches on the first of May with green sycamore and hawthorn boughs, and of planting trees, or rather stumps of trees, before their houses: and on May eve, they from towns make excursions into the country, and having cut down a tall elm, brought it into town, fitted a straight and taper pole to the end of it, and painted the same, erect it in the most public places, and on holydays and festivals adorn it with flower garlands, or insigns and streamers." He adds, "this usage is nothing more than a gratulation of the spring season; and every house exhibited a proper signal of its approach, to testify their universal joy at the revival of vegetation,'
The author of the pamphlet, entitled "The Way to Things by Words, and to Words by Things," in his specimen of an etimological vocabulary, considers the May-Pole in a new and curious
*Mr. Pennant tells us, that on the first of May, in the Highlands of Scotland, the berdemen of every village hold their bellein, a rural sacrifice: they cut a square treach in the ground, leaving the turf in the middle; on that they make a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of ergs, butter, oat meal and milk, and bring besides the ingredients of the caudle, plenty of beer and whiskey; for each of the company must contribute something. The rites begin with spilling some of the candle on the ground by way of libation : On that every one takes a cake of oat meal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds, or to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them : each person then turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulders, says, this I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep; and so on: After that they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals. This I give to thee, O, fox! spare thou my lambs; this to thee, O hooded crow! this to thee, O eagle! When the ceremony is over they dine on the caudle, and after the feast is finished, what is left is hid by two persons deputed for that purpose; but on the uext Sunday they re-assemble, and finish the reliques of the first entertainment. P. 91.
light: we gather from him that our ancestors held an anniversary assembly on May Day; the column of the May (whence our May-Pole) was the great standard of justice in the Ey-Commons, or Fields of May. Here it was that the people, if they saw cause, deposed or punished their governors, their barons, their kings.The judge's bough or wand, (at this time discontinued, and only faintly represented by a trifling nosegay,) and the staff or rod of authority in the civil and in the military, (for it was the mace of civil power, and the truncheon of the field officers,) are both derived from hence. A mayor, he says, received his name from this May, in the sense of lawful power. The crown, a mark of dignity and symbol of power, like the mace and sceptre, was also taken from the May, being representative of the garland or crown, which, when hung on the top of the May or Pole, was the great signal for convening the people. The arches of it, which spring from the circlet and meet together at the mound or round ball, being necessarily so formed to suspend it on the top of the pole.
The word May-Pole, he observes, is a pleonasm; in French it is called singly the mai.
This is, he farther tells us, one of the antientest customs, which from the remotest ages, has been by repetition from year to year, perpetuated down to our days, not being at this instant totally exploded, especially in the lower class of life. It was considered as the boundary day, that divided the confines of winter and summer, allusively to which, there was instituted a sportful war between two parties; the one in defence of the continuance of winter, the other for bringing in the summer. The youth were divided into troops, the one in winter livery, the other in the gay habit of the spring. The mock battle was always fought booty, the spring was sure to obtain the victory, which they celebrated by carrying triumphantly green branches with May flowers, proclaiming and singing the song of joy, of which the burthen was in these, or equivalent terms:
"We have brought the summer home.”
Original. For the Analectic Magazine,
THINK not thy Lover to deceive,
No matter what thy words conceal,
Go, wouldst thou with a vestal care,
But shut thy tell-tale eyes.
They are the mirrors of thy breast,
Not the pure bottom of a well,
WRITTEN IN REMEMBRANCE OF A LADY, THE AUTHOR GAW BUT ONCE.
SHE glane'd before my gazing eye,
Like shooting star one summer night, Leading athwart the azure sky,
A train of pure and living light.