1660 - Hall, Thomas - Sir Maypole

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Date 1660
Author Hall, Thomas
Title Sir Maypole
Mentions Maid Marian; hobby horse; morris dance

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-08-12. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.


     Hath holy Pope his noble guard?
So have I too, that watch and ward:
For where 'tis noys'd that I am come,
My followers summon'd are by drum.
I have a mighty retinue,
The scum of all the rascal crew
Of Fidlers, Pedlers, Jayl-scap't-slaves,
Of Tinkers, Turn-coats, Tospot-knaves,
Of Theeves, and Scape-thrifts many a one,
With bouncing Besse, and jolly Jone,
With idle boyes, and journey-men,
And Vagrants, that their Country run:
Yea, Hobby-horse doth hither prance,
Maid-marrian, and the Morrice-dance.
My summons fetcheth far and near
All that can swagger, roar and swear,
All that can dance, and drab, and drink,
They turn to me as to a sink:
These, mee for their Commander take,
And I do them my black-guard make.[1]

Source notes

An untitled poem of 298 lines appended to Thomas Hall's prose pamphlet against Maypoles. It is introduced as follows: "As a Mantissa, and a little Over-weight, I shall give you a Copy of Verses, which have lain about by mee, they will give some light and some delight to the [...] ingenious Reader."[2]

IRHB comments

In view of the brief introduction just cited, it is of course not entirely certain that Thomas Hall, the author of the prose text, also wrote the poem, but I would be surprised if this was not the case. Already on the title-page, the prose text Funebria Floræ, subtitled "the Downfall of May-Games", fulminates against "the rudeness, prophaneness, stealing, drinking, fighting, dancing, whoring, mis-rule, mis-spence of precious time, contempt of God, and godly Magistrats, Ministers and People, which oppose the Rascality and rout, in this their open prophaneness, and Heathenish Customs [...]" The poem, in which a maypole is the first-person speaker, expresses quite similar sentiments, though in a slightly more entertaining style.

In his Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words,[3] J.O. Halliwell quotes the verses on Maid Marian and the hobby horse in illustration of the word "hobby-horse", citing as his source MS Harley 1221, a miscellany of manuscripts (with a few printed pamphlets) of the 17th century, which contains as item No. 37 what the official catalogue of the Harleian MSS describes as "May-poles Speech to a Traveller: a puritanical Ballad against May-poles".[4] Perhaps a fellow Maypole hater found the poem important enough to copy it from the print, perhaps it was Thomas Hall's MS, holograph or not.

The poem has no title in the print or MS; the title I have chosen was suggested by a line in the poem: "I am Sir May-Pole, That's [sic] my name".[5] It has just a single line that relates directly to the Robin Hood tradition, but the poem and the prose text are important if highly biased sources for a study of the May game in the 17th century.

The prose text also alludes to Maid Marian.





Also see