1 May 2009

May Day

Is May Day really observed (on May Day) anywhere in the world apart from Oxford? Pam and I went down to Magdalene bridge and listened to the Latin Hymn to the Undivided Trinity, which, this year, was followed by an (English) prayer, quite decent in form and content, then a madrigal. We then admired the Morris Men (nondum - laetanter dico - exstant mulierculae morrisianae) and sauntered to S John's for their madrigals. This year they were preceded by Prayer; which rather irritates me. It's so divisive; some aged parson, dressed in what I believe is called a "sarum cassock", started off with a prayer addressed to "Creator God", which I take to be a formula expressive of the New Religion. He then moved on to a prayer referring to the "friends" of Jesus whom "we observe today; James and John". Is it a local usage in S John's College to observe James and John rather than Philip and James; or was the poor old boy just gaga? I must try to find out.

Then I looked at my watch and decided that there was yet plenty of time before I needed to return to S Thomas's for our Extraordinary Form Mass in honour of SS Philip and James; so we went, in the company of a young man of Indian appearance dressed in tall hat, long coat and concomitants, spats and patent leather shoes (Oxford is such a normal place), to Hertford College for madrigals from the bridge. Nicely done, although I say so myself (I am a Hertford Man, but prefer to think of it by its medieval title, Aula Cervina). No prayers here, thank God. But one of the madrigals coincided with the second of the S John's songs, having a refrain apparently referring to 'hymns to Diana' (at S John's they sang "Die-anna"; at Hertford "Diahna"; but I take it that the deity was the same).

You know how the mind wanders; it reminded me of a hymn in sapphics written by Athelstan Riley which, though disused, was still in the Lancing College Hymn Book. The adonius at the end of one of the stanzas was "Dumb Dead Diana". I tried to persuade the Director of Chapel Music to bring this jolly ditty back into our repertoire in the hysterical aftermath of the demise - oops, sad demise - of Diana Spencer; but he declined.

Why are musicians such cowards?


Stefan said...

Cambridge, Father!

Andrew Teather said...

When I used to live in the Rheinland Pfalz, May Day was kept with great solemnity in the majority of the Catholic minded villages.

Gengulphus said...

Is May Day really observed (on May Day) anywhere in the world apart from Oxford?I am happy to report that enterprising small children were on my doorstep as early as half past six in the morning offering extortionately expensive sprigs of muguet.

The number of cars subsequently seen parked in the woods and forests of la France profonde that day suggest that the time-honoured silvan customs were being performed as vigorously as ever.

Nebuly said...

Here in Holy Catholic Ireland the Summer is deemed to begin on May Day

And we put 'flowers of the rarest and fairest' on our roof - not I fear for Mary our Queen, but so that the Fairies do not 'change' our butter.