Merry It Is on a May Morning

DESCRIPTION: "Mery hyt ys in May mornyng, Mery wayys for to gone." "And by a chapell as Y came, Mett Y wythe Jhesu to chyrcheward gone." Peter, Paul, Thomas, John, St. George, and Collas (Nicholas?) attend. All take part in the chapel service
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: fifteenth century (National Library of Wales MS. Porkington 10)
KEYWORDS: religious Jesus clergy nonballad MiddleEnglish
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Greene-TheEarlyEnglishCarols, #323, p. 223, "(And by a chapell as Y came)" (1 text)
Brown/Robbins-IndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse, #298
DigitalIndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse #298
ADDITIONAL: Richard Greene, editor, _A Selection of English Carols_, Clarendon Medieval and Tudor Series, Oxford/Clarendon Press, 1962, #68, pp. 130-131, "(Mery hyt ys in May mornying)" (1 text)
Maxwell S. Luria & Richard Hoffman, _Middle English Lyrics_, a Norton Critical Edition, Norton, 1974, pp. 220-221, #129 (no title) (1 text)
Celia and Kenneth Sisam, _The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse_, Oxford University Press, 1970; corrected edition 1973, #180, p. 423, "By a Chapel" (1 text)
Carleton Brown, editor, _Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century_, Oxford University Press, 1939, #116, p. 183,"By a Chapel as I Came" (1 text)
MANUSCRIPT: {MSPorkington10}, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS. Porkington 10, folio 198

NOTES [290 words]: According to Greene, p. 231, "This chanson d'aventure, with its highly unorthodox religious imagery, its 'popular fantasy uncontrolled by the book' (E.E.C., p. xcv), and its characteristic style, quite unlike any of the other religious carols, has a good claim to be considered as true folk-song." I'm not sure I buy that, but I include the piece just in case.
It certainly isn't very popular; the only copy is in MS. Porkington 10, in the National Library of Wales. This is a miscellany, with a number of important and rare pieces, but few show up in the more "folky" Middle English manuscripts.
Greene also suggests that the burden is borrowed from a secular May song. This seems rather more probable than that it is a folk song.
Greene says that there is nothing in canonical scripture, or even in apocryphal, comparable to this -- although he does point to an instance of Christ as priest in "The Famous Flower of Serving-Men" [Child 106].
I would consider this to be partly true. The image of the Apostles serving as assistants to a higher priest is one I have not encountered elsewhere. But the notion of Jesus as chief priest is the central theme of Hebrews: "We have a great High Priest... Jesus, the Son of God" (Hebrews 4:14), "You are my son... a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:6), etc.
On the other hand, Hebrews 7:14 says "For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and regarding that tribe Moses said nothing about priests."
Carleton Brown suggests that the "Collas" is Saint Nicolas; I know of no better suggestion, though there may be ways to emend the line to make better sense (e.g. for "and sent[=Saint] Collas the mas gane sing" read "and sent Collas the mas to sing"). - RBW
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