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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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The May

The May

Chapter:
(p.226) 23 The May
Source:
The Stations of the Sun
Author(s):

Ronald Hutton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.003.0023

Around the year 1240, the reforming bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, complained to his archdeacons of priests who demeaned themselves by joining ‘games which they call the bringing-in of May’. In the early 1420s, the corporation of New Romney, a port in Kent, gave money to the men of neighbouring Lydd ‘when they came with their May’. References to this custom in England begin with Grosseteste's grumble. They multiply as soon as England's literature became sufficiently developed to include lush background detail for narratives, which was in the fourteenth century. As Geoffrey Chaucer towers over the other writers of the period, so does he furnish the largest number of descriptions. In his Court of Love, heroine Emelie goes out at sunrise ‘to do May observance’. A hundred years later, the major literary work of that age included a similar scene in Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur.

Keywords:   Robert Grosseteste, May, custom, England, literature, narratives, Geoffrey Chaucer, Court of Love, Thomas Malory, Morte D'Arthur

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