I thinkMay is my favourite month. May is the month when the protagonist in “The Rocky Road to Dublin” sets off on his adventure. In the more plaintive poem & song “On Raglan Road” the poet harks back to heady May days from his advanced position at the closing of the years of his life.
Apples blossom and the first food plants are emerging from the soil, bearing a promise of plenty. The lambs and calves are born and there is new life and new energy everywhere. The sun shines longer and we begin to get some real heat into the days.
This outpouring of new life reflected itself in times past in pagan May Day fertility rites, with lusty lads and lithe lassies cavorting about Maypoles. Communal spring dancing is a feature of societies all across Europe. They provided a reason for people to get out and about and for young adults to meet up and form couples. The heavy spring work of ploughing and planting is done and there is an opportunity to celebrate and let the hair down before the haymaking begins.
A modern revision of these ancient rites is now re-enacted in the USA every year. Not many young Americans are involved in ploughing and planting these days. Instead they plough the library stacks and plant ideas onto college papers. The date of the fertility rites has moved slightly, for reasons of academic planning, but the intent is the same. Gangs of young adult men and women meet up to cavort every year at Spring Break.
Young adults always think their generation is new, exciting, dynamic and different, but in truth they follow very well worn paths.
On Raglan Road; by Patrick Kavanagh
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.