London, to thee I do present the merry month of May;
Let each true subject be content to hear me what I say;
With gilded staff and crossèd scarf the Maylord here I stand.
Rejoice! O English hearts rejoice! O lovers dear!
Rejoice, O City, town and country! Rejoice, eke every shire!
For now the fragrant flowers do spring and sprout in seemly sort,
The little birds do sit and sing, the lambs do make fine sport;
And now the birchen-tree doth bud, that makes the schoolboy cry;
The morris rings, while hobby-horse doth foot it feateously;
The lords and ladies now abroad, for their disport and play,
Do kiss sometimes upon the grass, and sometimes in the hay;
Now butter with a leaf of sage is good to purge the blood;
Fly Venus and phlebotomy, for they are neither good;
Now little fish on tender stone begin to cast their bellies,
And sluggish snails, that erst were mewed, do creep out of their shellies;
The rumbling rivers now do warm, for little boys to paddle
The sturdy steed now goes to grass, and up they hang his saddle;
The heavy hart, the bellowing buck, the rascal, and the pricket,
Are now among the yoeman's peas, and leave the fearful thicket;
And be like them, O you, I say, of this same noble town,
And lift aloft your velvet heads, and slipping off your gown,
With bells on legs, with napkins clean unto your shoulders tied,
With scarfs and garters as you please, and 'Hey for our town!', cried,
March out, and show your willing minds, by twenty and by twenty,
To Hogsdon or to Newington, where ales and cakes are plenty;
And let it ne'er be said for shame, that we the youths of London
Lay thrumming of our caps at home, and left our custom undone;
Up, then, I say, both young and old, both man and maid a' maying
With drums, and guns that bounce along, and merry tabor playing!
Which to prolong, God save our King, and send his country peace,
And root out treason from the land! and so, my friends, I cease.
[Beaumont & Fletcher, c. 1610]
Crooked Timber cites Noel Coward on London Pride - and I post a picture of the hardy flower above. The anthem to London was set by Benjamin Britten (rounded with an even older tune); there's a "Fuck you" in there to anyone who wants to limit the joy of rich communal society - moralists, puritans, tyrants, scolds. Rich and honored words, those with four letters!
[And honor to Liam, Claire, Pauly....mates of my heart!]