The (Pleasant) Month of May / The Haymakers
This song from the repertoire of the Copper Family is printed in The Copper Family Song Book. Bob and Ron Copper sang this song as The Merry Haymakers on the LP Jack of All Trades (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 3; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968) and as The Month of May in 1963 on their EFDSS LP Traditional Songs from Rottingdean; which was reissued in 2001 on the Topic CD Come Write Me Down: Early Recordings of the Copper Family of Rottingdean. Bob and John Copper sang Pleasant Month of May in 1971 on their Leader box A Song for Every Season. Another generation, John and Jill Copper, sang The Month of May in 1998 on their CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues. And Mark Barratt and Tom Copper from the most recent Copper Family generation sang Pleasant Month of May in 2008 on the Young Coppers's CD Passing Out.
Sam Larner sang Merry Month of May in a recording made by Philip Donnellan for the BBC in Larner's home in Winterton, Norfolk in 1958/59; this was published in 1974 on his Topic LP A Garland for Sam and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come All My Lads That Follow the Plough (The Voice of the People Volume 5).
Levi Smith sang this song as The Haymakers in a recording made by Mike Yates near Epsom, Surrey, in May 1974. It was published in 1975 on the Topic LP Songs of the Open Road: Gypsies, Travellers & Country Singers and in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Father's the King of the Gypsies (The Voice of the People Volume 11).
Joe Holmes and Len Graham sang this song as Tumbling Through the Hay in a recording made by Neil Wayne and Lyn Murfin in 1975 in the north of Ireland. It was released a year later on their Free Reed LP Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages.
Jane and Amanda Threlfall sang Pleasant Month of May on their 2008 CD Sweet Nightingale. They noted:
This song is cemented into the repertoire of the Copper family. In his book, A Song for Every Season (Heinemann, 1971), Bob Copper describes the earlier pattern of farming his family enjoyed in the Sussex of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He relates it in a way that gives credence to the image of life being very much like this for many country people back then. That is said, not by straining it through some nostalgic gauze or framing it within an imagined idyll, but as the simple reality of a rural world devoid of any future version of itself.
Life was hard, maybe, but most could squeeze a fair amount of enjoyment from it. The singer of this song wouldn't have dared put voice to sentiments such as these, in front of his fellow workers, if he was likely to be pounced upon as a heretic. This is far removed from the world of Tolpuddle, members of the jury, and the song survives to tell the tale.
Jackie Oates sang The Pleasant Month of May in 2009 on her CD Hyperboreans.
Lisa Knapp sang The Pleasant Month of May, in 2012 on her EP Hunt the Hare (A Branch of May Volume One) and in 2017 on her CD Till April Is Dead. According to the EP's sleeve notes, it is “a traditional song most notably from the Copper Family repertoire […] here set in driving, contemporary style yet remains true to the original.”
The Copper Family sing The Month of May
'Twas in the pleasant month of May in the springtime of the year,
And down by yonder meadow there runs a river clear,
See how the little fishes how they do sport and play
Causing many a lad and many a lass to go there a-making hay.
Then in comes the scytheman that meadow to mow down,
With his old leathered bottle and the ale that runs so brown.
There's many a stout and labouring man comes here his skill to try,
He works, he mows, he sweats and blows and the grass cuts very dry.
Then in comes both Tom and Dick with their pitch-forks and their rakes
And likewise black-eyed Susan the hay all for to make.
There's a sweet, sweet, sweet and a jug, jug, jug, how the harmless birds did sing,
From the morning till the evening as we were a-haymaking.
It was just at one evening as the sun was a-going down,
We saw the jolly piper come a-strolling through the town.
There he pulled out his tapering pipes and he made the valley ring,
So we all put down our rakes and forks and left off haymaking.
We callèd for a dance and we trippèd it along,
We danced all round the haycocks till the rising of the sun.
When the sun did shine such a glorious light and the harmless birds did sing,
Each lad he took his lass in hand and went back to his haymaking.