The Saints' Maying

A poem by Maurice Henry Hewlett

Since green earth is awake
Let us now pastime take,
Not serving wantonness
Too well, nor niggardness,
Which monks of men would make.

But clothed like earth in green,
With jocund hearts and clean,
We will take hands and go
Singing where quietly blow
The flowers of Spring's demesne.

The cuckoo haileth loud
The open sky; no cloud
Doth fleck the earth's blue tent;
The land laughs, well content
To put off winter shroud.

Now, since 'tis Easter Day,
All Christians may have play;
The young Saints, all agaze
For Christ in Heaven's maze,
May laugh who wont to pray.

Then welcome to our round
They light on homely ground:--
Agnes, Saint Cecily,
Agatha, Dorothy,
Margaret, Hildegonde;

Next come with Barbara
Lucy and Ursula;
And last, queen of the Nine,
Clear-eyed Saint Catherine
Joyful arrayeth her.

Then chooseth each her lad,
And after frolic had
Of dance and carolling
And playing in a ring,
Seek all the woodland shade.

And there for each his lass
Her man a nosegay has,
Which better than word spoken
Might stand to be her token
And emblem of her grace.

For Cecily, who bent
Her slim white neck and went
To Heaven a virgin still,
The nodding daffodil,
That bends but is not shent.

Lucy, whose wounded eyes
Opened in Heaven star-wise,
The lady-smock, whose light
Doth prank the grass with white,
Taketh for badge and prize.

Because for Lord Christ's hest
Men shore thy warm bright breast,
Agatha, see thy part
Showed in the burning heart
Of the white crocus best.

What fate was Barbara's
Shut in the tower of brass,
We figure and hold up
Within the stiff king-cup
That crowns the meadow grass.

Agnes, than whose King Death
Stayed no more delicate breath
On earth, we give for dower
Wood-sorrel, that frail flower
That Spring first quickeneth.

Dorothy, whose shrill voice
Bade Heathendom rejoice,
The sweet-breath'd cowslip hath;
And Margaret, who in death
Saw Heaven, her pearly choice.

Then she of virgin brood
Whom Prince of Britain woo'd,
Ursula, takes by favour
The hyacinth whose savour
Enskies the sunny wood.

Hildegonde, whose spirit high
The Cross did not deny,
Yet blusht to feel the shame,
Anemones must claim,
Whose roses early die.

Last, she who gave in pledge
Her neck to the wheel's edge,
Taketh the fresh primrose
Which (even as she her foes)
Redeems the wintry hedge.

So garlanded, entwined,
Each as may prompt her mind,
The Saints renew for Earth
And Heaven such seemly mirth
As God once had design'd.

And when the day is done,
And veil'd the goodly Sun,
Each man his maid by right
Doth kiss and bid Good-night;
And home goes every one.

The maids to Heaven do hie
To serve God soberly;
The lads, their loves in Heaven,
What lowly work is given
They do, to win the sky.


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