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
EARLIEST DATE: fifteenth century (National Library of Wales MS. Porkington 10)
KEYWORDS: religious Jesus clergy nonballad
REFERENCES (5 citations):
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)
Brown/Robbins, _Index of Middle English Verse_, #298
Digital Index of Middle English Verse #298
NOTES [178 words]: According to Geene, 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.
Greene also suggests that the burden is borrowed from a secular May song. This seems rather more probable.
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. - RBW
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