1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Hymn to May.

Gentleman's Magazine 18 (May 1748) 229.

Craftsman


A delightfully pagan imitation of Milton's L'Allegro, signed "Craftsman." The imagery in this Hymn to May is largely original, including a handsome catalogue of flowers, a glance at France, and a portrait of Bacchus: "Know him by his forehead sleek, | And the roses of his cheek, | By his sparkling eyes, and smile | Which is ever free from guile, | By his Thyrsus and his wreath, | By his leafy belt beneath." Monthly periodicals were naturally given to celebrating the turning of the seasons.

In 1761 this poem was reprinted in Lloyd's Evening Post over the signature "A. B." In 1780 it was boldly plagiarized in the Weekly Miscellany when it was published over the signature "J. Harrison, near the Market Place, Plymouth Dock."



Fairest daughter of the Day,
Lovely goddess, sprightly May,
Hither come, with roses crown'd,
Painting where you tread the ground:
At the lov'd approach of thee
Shoots the mulb'ry, tim'rous tree,
Vines their gentle leaves unfold:
Nor the fig tree dreads the cold:
Now the flow'ry lote is seen;
Last the stately oak is green.

Nymph divine, behold the flow'rs
Rise to grace thy vernal hours:
Woodbines, spangled o'er with dew,
Deck their arborets for you:
Th' anemony of various dye,
Who, when either wind is high,
Hides her ever tender face,
Opens to thy soft embrace:
See the purple Iris blow,
Ting'd by the celestial bow,
Chose by Lewis in the field
To adorn the Gallic shield:
Tulips rear the glitt'ring heads;
Pinks bestrew their fragrant beds;
And for thee the lillies swell,
And the golden asphodel.

Hear the birds around thee sing:
In the gardens of the spring,
Ev'ry bush, and ev'ry tree,
Warble forth their joy to thee:
Nature's songsters all are gay
At the lov'd return of May.

Goddess with thy vest of green,
Goddess with thy youthful mien,
Come, and bring thy mines of wealth,
Gladness and her parent health:
Drive away the sickly gloom,
Blaster that of ev'ry bloom,
Of the garden-flow'r, and rose
On the virgin-cheek that blows:
Bring with thee thy chearful train;
Chasing care and chasing pain:
See the loves and graces all
Throng obedient to thy call.

Goddess haste, and bring with thee
Virtue's child, fair liberty;
For, if liberty's away,
Who can taste the sweets of May?
See Provencial olives blow,
And the vats of Bourdeaux flow,
Pallas yet would have her tree
Flourish where her sons are free:
Bacchus, ever youthful god,
With his wreath and verdant rod,
Gives the vines of France encrease,
As he gives the vines of Greece;
Yet the jolly god disdains
French alike and Grecian plains,
And the mirthful spirit sends
To his freeborn British friends;
And with them he keeps his court;
And with them he deigns to sport;
Here he comes, I hear the sound
Of the merry songsters round:
Know him by his forehead sleek,
And the roses of his cheek,
By his sparkling eyes, and smile
Which is ever free from guile,
By his Thyrsus and his wreath,
By his leafy belt beneath:
Here he comes, and, never fear,
Brings no wanton revels here:
Here he comes, all fresh and gay,
Doing homage to thee, May.

Goddess who perfum'st the air,
Who hast deck'd the earth so fair,
Thou, with gladness by thy side,
Lay'st the raging of the tide,
Bid'st the winds forbear to roar,
And the thunders roll no more:
Meads, and groves, and valleys, sing;
Love himself is on the wing.

Wounded by his shafts the swain,
Breathes his vows, and sighs his pain,
Hastens to th' appointed shade,
Anxious eyes the distant glade,
Ev'ry moment thinks an hour,
Till he reach the blissful bow'r.

Lovely nymph, divinest May,
Thou to whom this verse I pay,
O! thy healing warmth impart
To the mistress of my heart,
Round infuse thy balmy breeze,
Sooth her soul with health and ease,
From her eyes the deadness chace,
Move the paleness from her face,
Drive away the lurking pain;
Let the matron smile again;
Ev'ry day with gladness crown;
By her health preserve my own:
Then I'll wake to thee the lyre,
Rouse the emulating quire,
Who shall all thy praises sing,
Hail the empress of the spring,
Blooming nymph of heav'nly birth,
Goddess thou of health and mirth.

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