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1660 - Hall, Thomas - Funebria Florae

Allusion
Date 1660
Author Hall, Thomas
Title Funebria Floræ
Mentions Flora; Maid Marians; morris dancers; maskers; mummers; maypole stealers; fiddlers; fools

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-09-12. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-07-28.

Allusion

           The Indictment of Flora.

Flora, hold up thy hand,
Thou art here indicted by the name of Flora, of the City of Rome in the County of Babylon, for that thou, contrary to the peace of our Soveraign Lord, his Crown and Dignity, hast brought in a pack of practical Fanaticks, viz. Ignorants, Atheists, Papists, Drunkards, Swearers, Swash-bucklers, Maid-marrions, Morrice-dancers, Maskers, Mummers, May-pole-stealers, Health-drinkers, together with a rascalian rout of Fidlers, Fools, Fighters, Gamesters, Whoremasters, Lewd-men, Light-women, Contemners of Magistracy, affronters of Ministery, rebellious to Masters, disobedient to Parents, mis-spenders of time, abusers of the creature, &c.
     Judge. What sayest thou, guilty, or not guilty?
     Prisoner. Not guilty, My Lord.[1]

IRHB comments

The title of Thomas Hall's pamphlet, Funebria Floræ, means "the Funeral of Flora". It has the wonderful subtitle "The Downfall of May-Games: wherein Is set forth 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." (etc.)

In view of the tone of this title, banishment, the punishment meted out to Flora at Thomas Hall's imaginary court, seems relatively lenient. May games may at times have been rowdy affairs, but on the other hand the jury by which our Roman goddess is here judged is far from impartial. When Flora is dragged into court, it is because early modern theologians were convinced. or whished to convey the idea, that May games had their origin in the Roman floralia, annual festivals in honour of Flora. There is in fact no evidence that this was the case, but it served to suggest a connection between the Catholics, who had allowed such 'heathen' customs to thrive, and the pagan Romans.

It was a customary pastime to try to steal maypoles from neighbouring parishes, hence the mention of "May-pole-stealers". Though heavily biased, there is no doubt Hall's pamphlet is an valuable source for the history of May games in England. It has been ignored in most previous discussions of May games.[2] To the prose text is appended an untitled poem which also alludes to Maid Marian.

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