May 1, 1627: The Young Men of Massachusetts Dance around the Maypole.

Thomas Morton remembered that fine spring day on the shores of Massachusetts Bay, after he had left Plimoth for a life with less restraint:

“The Inhabitants of Merry Mount prepared to set up a Maypole and brewed a barrel of excellent beer and provided a Maypolecase of bottles, to be spent, with other good cheer, for all comers of that day. And upon Mayday they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drums, guns, pistols and other fitting instruments and there erected it with the help of Savages that came to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot long was reared up.

There was likewise a merry song made, which was sung with a Chorus, every man bearing his part; which they performed in a dance, hand in hand about the Maypole, while one of the Company sung and filled out the good liquor, like Ganymede and Jupiter.

     Drink and be merry, merry, merry boys;
           Let all your delight be in the Hymens joys;

Joy to Hymen, now the day is come,
About the merry Maypole take a room,
Make green garlands, bring bottles out
And fill sweet Nectar freely about.
Uncover thy head and fear no harm
For here’s good liquor to keep it warm.
    Then drink and be merry, &c.
        Joy to Hymen, &c.

Nectar is a thing assign’d
By the Deities own mind
To cure the heart oppressed with grief,
And of good liquors is the chief.
     Then drink, &c.
           Joy to Hymen, &c.

Give to the Melancholy man
A cup or two of ‘t now and then;
This physick will soon revive his blood,
And make him be of a merrier mood.
     Then drink, &c.
          Joy to Hymen, &c.

Give to the Nymph that’s free from scorn
No Irish stuff nor Scotch over worn.
Lasses in beaver coats come away,
Ye shall be welcome to us night and day.
     To drink and be merry &c.
             Joy to Hymen, &c.

William Bradford (1588-1657), governor of Plymouth colony, recorded a different point of view:

“After this they fell to great licentiousness, and led a dissolute life, powering out themselves into all profaneness. And Morton became Lord of Misrule, and maintained (as it were) a school of Atheism. And after they had got some goods into their hands, and got much by trading with the Indians, they spent it as vainly, in quaffing & drinking both wine & strong waters in great excess, and, as some reported, £10 worth in a morning. They also set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together (like so many fairies, or furies rather) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of the Roman Goddess Flora, or the beastly practices of the mad Bacchanalians. Morton likewise (to shew his poetry) composed sundry rimes & verses, some tending to lasciviousness, and others to the detraction & scandal of some persons, which he affixed to this idle or idol May-pole. They changed also the name of their place, and instead of calling it Mount Wollaston, they call it Merry-mount, as if this jollity would have lasted ever…”

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