The moon shines bright, the stars gave a light,
A little before 'tis day,
Our heavenly Father he call-ed to us
And bid us wake and pray.
Awake, awake, oh pretty, pretty maid,
Out of your drowsy dream,
And step into your dairy below
And fetch me a bowl of cream;
If not a bowl of your sweet cream
A mug of your brown beer,
For the Lord knows when we shall meet again
To be maying another year.
So dear, so dear Christ lov-ed us
And for our sins was slain,
He bids us leave off our wicked, wicked ways
And turn to the Lord again.
Turn to the Lord and our sweet God,
O turn to him with praise,
For when we are dead and in our graves
We are nothing but dust and clay.
I have been rambling all this night
And the best part of this day,
And now return-ed back again,
And have brought you a branch of may.
A branch of may I have brought you
And at your door it stands,
It is but a sprout, but well budded out
By the work of our Lord's hand.
My song is done and I must be gone,
No longer can I stay,
So it's God bless you all, both great and small
And send you a joyful May.
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Source: Lucy Broadwood and J A Fuller Maitland. 1893, English County Songs, Leadenhall Press, London
Lucy Broadwood wrote:
Compare the "Hitchin May-day Song," given in Hone's Every Day Book, i 567, and Chambers' Book of Days. Also Chappell, Popular Music, p 753, and Baring Gould's Songs of the West, Bell's Songs of the Peasantry, Chappell's Christmas Carols, Sussex Songs, etc. A Northampton version is sung to part of tune "Brighton Camp," known as "The girl I left behind me;" and in Northamptonshire Notes and Queries for July 1886 and April 1887, there is a tune given to these words, which does not however seem to be genuinely old. A version repeated at Letchworth Rectory in 1883, is given in the Folk-Lore Journal, iii 185, and the words of a version sung at Tilsworth, Bedfordshire, are given in the Bedfordshire Times and Independent for June 4, 1881. An incomplete Essex version will be found on p 98.
The text which is reproduced here, published by Lucy Broadwood in English County Songs (1893) came from Thomas Gray of Weston, near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, and the tune came from Mrs Marshall of King's Langley. Gray's tune is given in a footnote. Another set was collected from the Goby's and printed in Lucy Broadwood's English Traditional Songs and Carols (1908).
Roud: 702 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six