May-Day Songs and Poems

The Milkmaid's Life 

Upon the first of May,

With Garlands fresh and gay

They nimbly their feet do ply,

In honour of Th' milking paile.

-c1640 (Anon.)

The Humours of May Day

What Frolicks are here

So droll and so queer

How joyful appeareth the day

E'en Bunter and Bawd

Unite to applaud 

And celebrate first of the May

-1770 (Anon.)

The Chimney Sweepers Glee 

Then on May-day we sons of soot

Through the streets do feetly foot,

With silver garlands are so grand,

With silver garlands are so grand,

And thus we dance our saraband

With a ruttock, a cluttock,

A wallet, a satchel

O rare May-day.

We be kings and queens and duke,

Here is Lord Tye-Wig and Lady Jewkes

And hand in hand with Madam Flaskin

The great grandee Don Galligaskin

So Ladies now we bid adieu,

May May-day wever smile on you,

And thus in all our gear so fine

With Madam Montague we dine.

With a ruttock, etc…

By Dr. J. Beckwith of Norwich and words by J. Walker, 1790

Home Page | May-Day  | Popular Literature | Fairs, Festivals, and Freaks | Pleasure Gardens

and Tea Rooms | Bibliography | Credits

The Chimney-Sweepers: A Town Eclogue


Last May-day as I skipp'd the garland round,

Cheer'd by the merry hurdy-gurdy's sound,

I look'd, methought, with an unusual grace,

For Moll herself had wash'd and chalk'd my face.


That happy day I never shall forget
The jack-ass that I rode did so curvet,

He brayed for joy - say cou'd the beast do less?

The knots on his rump were tied by Bess.

-1773 (Anon.)  10

Which one of the songs do you think they are singing?  Probably not the Chimney Sweepers Glee.