The May Day Carol resounds from Goddard Chapel’s carillon this month. Popular in England and America, particularly within the Appalachian tradition, this carol alludes to the traditional pagan May Day custom. In the ancient custom, young men and women would rise very early on the first day of May and make music with horns and instruments while traversing to a wood in the moonlight. There, there would break off sprigs and boughs of trees, and continue wandering in the morning dew. The boughs would then be delivered, amidst much singing, to homes and treasured friends as a symbol of the budding season.
A recording can be heard here, with the following lyric:
I’ve been a-wand’ring all the night
And the best part of the day.
Now I’m returning home again.
I bring you a branch of May.
A branch of May, my love, I say
As at your door I stand.
It’s nothing but a sprout, but it’s well budded out
By the work of the Lord’s own hand.
In my pocket I’ve got a purse
Tied up with a silver string.
All that I do need is a bit of silver
To line it well within.
My song is done and I must be gone.
I can no longer stay.
God bless you all both great and small
And send you a joyful May.