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for nuts in May, Nuts in May, nuts in May,
for nuts in May, May, May, May."
Very well, very well, so you may,
May, may, may.
Whom will you have to take her away,
to take her away,
away, Way, way, way.”
The children form in two lines of equal length, facing one another, with sufficient space between the lines to admit of their walking in line backwards and forwards, towards and away from each other, as each line sings the verses allotted to it. The first line sings the first, third, and sixth verses, and the opposite line the second, fourth, and fifth. At the end of the sixth verse a handkerchief or other mark is laid on the ground, and the two children (whose names have been mentioned, and who are as evenly matched as possible) take each other's right hand and endeavour to pull each other over the handkerchief to their own side. The child who is pulled over the handkerchief becomes the “captured nut," and joins the side of her capturers. Then the game begins again by the second line singing the first, third, and sixth verses, while advancing to gather or capture the
nuts," the first line responding with the other verses, and with the same finish as before. Then the first line begins the game, and so on until all the children are in this way matched one against the other.
Almost the only variants in the song are in the last line of each verse, which may run-"On a cold and frosty morning" (which I have heard in Cambridgeshire), “ On a fine summer's morning,” “ So early in the morning,” etc.
The game is always played in lines, and the principal incidents running through all the versions are the same, i.e., one player is selected by one line of players from her oppo. nents' party. The “ selected ” one is refused by her party, unless someone from the opposite side can effect her capture by a contest of strength. In all but two or three versions this contest takes place between the two; in one or two all the players join in the trial of strength. Sometimes the side which is victorious has the right to begin the next
In one version, when one child is drawn over the boundary line by one from the opposite side, she has to be “crowned ” immediately. This is done by the conqueror putting her hand on the captured one's head. If this is not done at once the latter can return to her own side. In some versions the player who is selected for “Nuts" is always captured by the one sent to fetch her. When boys and girls play, the boys are always sent to “ fetch away " the girls.
Mrs. Gomme, from whose monograph'I have abstracted the foregoing account, points out that there is some analogy in the game to marriage by capture and to the marriage customs practised at May Day festivals. She attributes the term “ Nuts in May” to the gathering by parties of young men of bunches of may at the May festivals and dances, to decorate not only the May-pole, or the May“ kissingbush," but the doors of houses. Nuts is a misapprehension
1 A. B. Gomme, Traditional Games, i., p. 431.
of knots. In Buckinghamshire the children speak of “knots of may,” meaning each little bunch of hawthorn blossom. Mrs. Gomme has heard the “ May girls” sing in London on May Day
“ Knots of may we've brought you,
Before your door it stands;
By the work of the Lord's hands."
The gathering of bunches of may by parties of young men and maidens to make the May-bush round which May Day games were held, and dancing and courting, is mentioned by Sir William Wilde.'
Mrs. Gomme continues :
“ The association of May—whether the month, or the flower, or both—with the game is very strong, the refrain, 'Cold and frosty morning,''All on a summer's morning,''Bright summer's morning,' 'So early in the morning,' also being characteristic of the early days of May and spring, and suggests that the whole day, from early hours, is given up to holiday.'
For the evidence for marriage by capture in the game, there is no element of love or courtship, though there is the obtaining possession of a member of an opposing party. It differs from ordinary contest-games in the fact that one party does not wage war against another party for possession of a particular piece of ground, but individual against individual for the possession of an individual. That the player sent to fetch the selected girl is expected to conquer seems to be implied—first, by a choice of a certain player being made to effect the capture; secondly, by the one sent to “ fetch ” being always successful; and, thirdly, the
crowning" in one version.
• Loc. cit., p. 432.
Marriage by capture is still practised in Australia and a few other places. In many savage and barbaric countries the bride makes a show of resistance, resorting in some cases to physical force, though all the time willing to be married, and there is frequently a sham fight between the relatives of the bride and bridegroom, and there are actual survivals in English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish customs of marriage by capture.
Marriage by capture is now in the main a thing of the past, but there are records and survivals which prove it at one time to have been very widely spread.
“ All the Carib tribes used to capture women from different peoples and tribes, so that the men and women nowhere spake the same tongue, and Von Martius states that in Brazil ‘some tribes habitually steal their neighbours' daughters.' Among the tribes of Eastern Central Africa, described by Macdonald, marriage by capture occurs not as a symbol only."
According to a common belief, the Australian method of obtaining wives is capture in its most brutal form. But contrary to Mr. Howitt, Mr. Curr informs us that only on rare occasions is a wife captured from another tribe and carried off. The possession of a stolen woman would lead to constant attacks, hence the tribes set themselves very generally against the practice.
Westermarck,' from whom I have so largely quoted, gives a list of a good many peoples in various parts of the world. In Europe it occurred in former days among the Lapps, Finns, and Esthonians. The same practice prevailed among the peoples of the Aryan race. “ The forcible abduction of a maiden from her home, while she cries out and weeps, after her kinsmen have been slain or wounded, and their
1 E. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, 1891, p. 384, et seq.
houses broken open," was, according to the laws of Manu, one of the eight legal forms of marriage.
According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, marriage by capture was at the time customary throughout ancient Greece. The ancient Teutons frequently captured women for wives. The Slavs, in early times, according to Nestor, practised marriage by capture; and in the marriage ceremonies of the Russians and other Slavonian nations, reminiscences of this custom still survive. Indeed, among the South Slavonians, capture de facto was in full force no longer ago than the beginning of the present century. Among the Welsh, on the morning of the wedding day, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends on horseback, carried off the bride.
It will probably be new to many people that there are traces of marriage by capture yet remaining in country districts in England. It was only in the spring of 1896 that at a wedding in the University Church at Cambridge, none of the bride's people entered the church, and as the wedding party left the building they were met by the bride's friends, who banged inflated paper bags. The absence of the bride's relations from the church is the remnant of a fiction of enmity which is also emphasised by the popping of paper bags. These replaced the firing of guns of an older period, and these, again, replaced the weapons of war which in the dim past of prehistoric times were called into active requisition.
We read in the Folk-lore Journal : :
" At Bocking, in Essex, the parents of the bride keep studiously out of the way at the time of the marriage ceremony. I remember the surprise, not to say horror, of an old gardener who was
The Laws of Manu, book iii., vv. 33, 26. 9 Vol. ü., p. 246.