HAL AN TOW
This is a May Day song. The Britons gained the festival of dancing in
the spring from the Romans. They erected their May Poles to Goddess
Flora and decorated it on every village green. During the 15th and 16th
centuries, May Day plays featured Robin Hood's band of outlaws, and the
marriage ceremony of Robin Hood and Maid Marion which turned these two
characters into the ritual hero and heroine of the May Day celebrations.
One of the ancient customs was to bathe the face in the dew of the
morning with the hope that it would make one beautiful. May Poles were
noted as late as 1795 in England, though we hope they have made a recent
In his Anatomie of Abuses, published in 1583, Phillip Stubbes wrote
a graphic and slightly disapproving description of the excesses of May
Day and its symbol the May Pole: 'Against May, Whitsunday, or other
time, olde men and wives, run gadding over-night to the woods, groves,
hills and mountains, where they spend all night in pleasant pastimes;
and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of
trees, to deck their assemblies withal. ... But the chiefest jewel they
bring from thence is their May-Pole, which they have bring home with
great veneration. ... They have twentie or fortie yoke of oxen, every
oxe having a sweet nose-gay of flowers placed on the tip of his hornes,
and these oxen drawe home this May-Pole (this stinking Ydol, rather),
which is covered all over with floures and hearbs, bound round about
with strings, from the top to the bottome, and sometime painted with
variable coulours, with two or three hundred men, women and children
following it with great devotion. And this being reared up ... then
fall they to daunce about it, like as the heathen people did at the
dedication of the Idols, wereof this is a perfect pattern, or rather the
thing itself. I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by
men of great gravitie and reputation, that of forty, threescore, or a
hundred maides going to the wood over-night, there have scarcely the
third of them returned home againe undefiled.'
HAL AN TOW, JOLLY RUMBLE OH
WE WERE UP LONG BEFORE THE DAY OH
TO WELCOME IN THE SUMMER
TO WELCOME IN THE MAY OH
THE SUMMER IS A-COMIN' IN
AND WINTER'S GONE AWAY OH
TAKE NO SCORN TO WEAR THE HORN
IT WAS A CREST WHEN YOU WERE BORN
YOUR FATHER'S FATHER WORE IT
AND YOUR FATHER WORE IT TOO
ROBIN HOOD AND LITTLE JOHN
HAVE BOTH GONE TO THE FAIR OH
AND WE WILL TO THE MERRY GREEN WOOD
TO HUNT THE BUCK AND HARE OH
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SPAN-IARD
THAT MADE SO GREAT A BOAST OH
THEY SHALL EAT THE FEATHERED GOOSE
AND WE SHALL EAT THE ROAST OH
THE LORD AND LADY BLESS YOU
WITH ALL THEIR POWER AND MIGHT OH
AND SEND THEIR PEACE UPON US
AND BRING PEACE BY DAY AND NIGHT OH
ROBIN HOOD AND LITTLE JOHN
THEY BOTH ARE GONE TO FAIR O!
AND WE WILL GO TO THE MERRY GREEN-WOODS
TO SEE WHAT THEY DO THERE, O!
AND FOR TO CHASE THE BUCK AND DOE.
WITH HAL-LAN-TOW. RUMBLE-O!
FOR WE WERE UP
AS SOON AS ANY DAY O!
AND FOR TO FETCH THE SUMER HOME,
THE SUMMER AND THE MAY O!
FOR SUMMER IS A COME, O!
AND WINTER IS A GONE O!
WHERE ARE THOSE BOLD SPANIARDS
THAT MAKE SO GREAT A BOAST O!
WHY THEY SHALL EAT THE GREY GOOSE FEATHERS,
AND WE WILL EAT THE ROAST, O!
IN EVERY LAND, O!
THE LAND WHERE'ER WE GO.
another version differently titled:
SUMER IS ICUMEN IN
dating to 1240, as recorded in the Wessex dialect
SUMER IS ICUMEN IN,
LHUDE SING CUCCU,
GROWETH SED, AND BLOWETH MED
AND SPRINGTH THE WUDE NU
AWE BLETETH AFTER LOMB
LHOUTH AFTER CALVE CU;
BULLUC STERTETH, BUCKE VERTETH
MURIE SING CUCCU,
WEL SINGES THU CUCCU
NE SWIK THU NAVER NU.
in modern words:
SUMMER IS COME IN,
LOUD SING CUCKOO!
GROWETH SEED, AND BLOWETH MEAD
AND SPRING'TH THE WOOD NOW
EWE BLEATETH AFTER LAMB,
LOWETH AFTER CALF [the] COW.
BULLOCK STRTETH, BUCK VERTETH
MERRY SING, CUCKOO;
WELL SING'ST THOU CUCKOO
NOR CEASE THOU NEVER NOW.