Lay for the Day
eve of Mayday, when the Celts held the festival of Beltane. At the same
time, their Roman conquerors celebrated the spring festival of Floralia
(see 28th April). Both together contributed to the Mayday rites that have
have hung on in Europe to this day. This feast, intriguingly, was never
suppressed by the Church, nor Christianised.
the Celts, Beltane was one of the doorways in time when this world and
the other the realm of gods, of Faërie, of spirits of the
dead drew close together. The second such time, on the opposite
side of the year, was Samhain, at the end of October. So in later Christian
eyes, Walpurgisnacht (as Mayday eve is also known) became a season like
Halloween when witches and demons and goblins were abroad.
this is why, as the song says, Spring Can Really Hang You Up the
My heart was doubly sad
Looking into the spring
For loss of what I had
And hope that May could bring
Again what made me glad.
Now sorrows harsh, but
Of hope is a boundless
Wilderness without track
Or cairn, shade- and soundless,
Where to go on or back
Are neither of them good.
Such deserts were at hand
Though under buds I stood
To see spring fill the land
And the flowering wood.
Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar