> Shirley Collins > Songs > Cambridgeshire May Carol

Cambridgeshire May Carol

[ Roud 305 ; Ballad Index JRSF238 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang this May Day carol on her 1967 album The Sweet Primeroses. It was also included in her compilation CD Fountain of Snow and on the anthology The Season Round. She commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Wherever May Day is still observed in Britain it is still fairly pagan, even though sometimes, as in this song, it has Christian bits grafted on. It's not all ribbons and blossom though, for the terrifying black hobby horse still dances through Padstow in Cornwall to welcome summer in. I learned this from Jean Ritchie, who was taught it by Rossell Wortley. I love what this song evokes so much that I sing it all the year round.


Arise, arise, you pretty fair maids,
And take your May bush in,
For if that is gone before tomorrow morn
You would say we had brought you none.

Oh, the hedges and fields are growing so green,
As green as grass can be;
Our heavenly father watereth them
With his heavenly dew so sweet.

I have got a little purse in my pocket
That's tied with a silken string;
And all that it lacks is a little of your gold
To line it well within.

Now the clock strikes one, it's time we are gone,
We can no longer stay;
So please to remember our money, money box
And God send you a joyful May.