As I was a-walking one midsummer morning,
The fields and the flowers were green and were gay;
The birds and the blossoms the summer adorning,
So early in the morning, at breaking of day;
The world was a-waking, all drowsiness scorning,
I thought and I warbled of sweet Lemonday.
O hark and O hark to the nightingale's singing,
The lark she is taking her flight in the air,
The turtle-doves now through the green wood are winging,
The sun is glimm'ring - arise up, my fair!
O Lemonday! Lemonday! through my heart ringing,
The name is as bells, between hope and despair.
O Lemonday! Lemonday! thou art the flower,
The sweetest of flowers adorning the May;
I'll play on my pipes in the green summer bower,
So early in the morning at breaking of day.
I'll stand at thy window and watch by the hour,
As the daffodil waiteth the sun's early ray.
Arise, love, arise, I have pluck'd thee fair posies,
The choicest of flowers that grow in the grove;
I've gathered them all for thee, lilies and roses
And pinks, for my Lemonday; maiden, approve!
The sun's on the roof where my fair love reposes,
Then Lemonday waken! my own pretty love!
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Source: B:Baring-Gould, A Garland of Country Song, London 1895, (reprinted LLanerch)
Baring-Gould's notes are as follows:
This graceful little song was taken down from Mr Samuel Gilbert, the aged innkeeper of "The Falcon" in the Vale of Lanherne, N. Cornwall. The words are almost identical with those of a Catnach ballad called "Lemminy." There are five stanzas of four lines each, and if sung to this air must have the two last repeated. The "Midsummer Carol" in "Songs of the West" was clearly sung by a party of young men in the early morning serenade of their loves; "Lemonday," on the other hand, is the song of a single lover to his maid. The "May Carol" has a very early and bold character, very different from the delicate beauty of this dainty air.
As occasionally happened, the musical editor, H. Fleetwood Shepphard, was not entirely satisfied and added further notes of his own:
The words of this song are almost identical with those of the "Midsummer Carol" ("Songs of the West", p 89), and probably the tunes are also identical; at least, in spite of their apparant want of resemblance, there are strong indications of a common origin.
The most curious feature in the song is its title. Lemonday sounds like the picturesque name of a woman, but the passionate expressions addressed to her are no part of the original; and, as will be seen when the meaning of the name is grasped, are singularly inappropriate. For Leman or Lemman is the old English word for sweetheart or lover, used indifferently for either sex. Lemon-day is the sweet-hearting day, and the Leman-day song is, in fact, the Midsummer Carol. The word seems to have become obsolete after the sixteenth century.
The preservation of this ancient carol, with its once popular but long-forgotten name, is very interesting. Unfortunately time has made havoc of the text, and no doubt also of the tune.
(Both quotations above have been abridged)
Roud: 193 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: Midsummer Carol. (thematic)