Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wales celebrates the end of winter with Furry Day

As if there are no new ways to celebrate spring, some folk in the British Isles -- who know a thing or two about the end of winter, and revels -- have a spring fling on May 8. Thanks are due the always-intriguing daybook of editor / translator Thomas Christiansen at his Right Reading blog for the following:

Tomorrow [May 8] is Furry Day in Cornwall and Wales, a day of mischief, revels, entering houses by windows, Morris dances, and the famous Furry Dance. Furry may derive from feria, "fair" (or not).  
In the morning, very early, some troublesome rogues go round the streets of Helstone, with drums and other noisy instruments, disturbing their sober neighbours, and singing parts of a song, the whole of which nobody now re-collects, and of which I know no more than that there is mention in it of the "grey goose quill," and of going "to the green wood" to bring home "the Summer and the May, O!'' During the festival, the gentry, tradespeople, servants, &c., dance through the streets, and thread through certain of the houses to a very old dance tune..The Furry-Day Song possesses no literary merit whatever; but as a part of an old and really interesting festival, it is worthy of preservation. 
      --Gentleman's Magazine, June 1790  

            Robin Hood and Little John,
            They both are gone to the fair, O!
            And we will go to the merry green-wood,
            To see what they do there, O!
            And for to chase, O!
            To chase the buck and doe.
            With ha-lan-tow, rumble, O!
            For we were up as soon as any day, O!
            And for to fetch the summer home,
            The summer and the may, O!
            For summer is a-come, O!
            And winter is a-gone, O!
            Where are those Spaniards
            That make so great a boast, O?
            They shall eat the grey goose feather,
            And we will eat the roast, O!
            In every land, O!
            The land where'er we go.
            With ha-lan-tow, &c. 
            As for St. George, O!
            Saint George he was a knight, O!
            Of all the knights in Christendom,
            Saint George is the right, O!
            In every land, O!
            The land where'er we go.
            With ha-lan-tow, &c.

[Here's a You Tube video from British Pathe featuring film of Furry Day festivities, 1955.]

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