Song on May Morning – John Milton

John Milton (1629)
National Portrait Gallery, London
source Wikipedia

I always have such good intentions to start reading poetry on a regular basis, but somehow those good intentions get backlogged.  So I thought that the least I could do is to post a poem every now and then on my blog.  Who knows, I may even start a full-fledged poetry project one day …….. but not yet …….


Song on May Morning
Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws

The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
   Hail bounteous May that dost inspire [ 5 ]

   Mirth and youth, and warm desire,

   Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,

   Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.

Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long. [ 10 ]

This poem is by John Milton, best know for his work, Paradise Lost, which I read earlier this year and reviewed here.  As you read through the poem you can perhaps discover two main themes.  Have you found them yet?  The focus in this poem is on “dawn” and, of course, “May.”  In fact, if you found the first theme, you will then know that this ten-line poem is an aubade. What is an aubade, you ask?  I didn’t know either.  The definition of an “aubade” is “a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or morning.” Do you notice “song” in the title of the poem?  It appears that Milton covered the definition very thoroughly.  And, in honour of my Language Freak Summer Challenge, did you know that “aubade” translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian and German is “aubade”?  However in Japanese it is オーバード. 

Yellow Cowslips
Photo courtesy of Caroline
source Flickr

The poem mentioned both primroses and yellow cowslip.  I am familiar with primroses but had no idea what cowslip looked like, so I investigated.  As you will see from the photo above, I found a picture of beautiful yellow cowslip. Yet it only took me a moment to realize that strangely the cowslip looked very similar to …………. primroses (see photo below) ………… :-Z

Photo courtesy of Pirate_Renee
source Flickr

More investigation revealed that primroses, or Primula Vulgaris, are actually a family of flowering plants, of which cowslip is one.  I must say I was rather disappointed.  In this poem, not only would you think that “bounteous May” would be able to produce more than one type of flower, but also that Milton would have the creativity to include more natural variety.  Oh, well.  At least I learned something.

And so, as you read through this poem, do any particular words stand out for you?  What feelings does it evoke?  What images does it bring to your mind?

And welcome bounteous, flowry, May!



2 thoughts on “Song on May Morning – John Milton

  1. Perhaps his favourite colour was yellow! And of course primrose rhymes with throws 😉

    I love that we have done opposing season poems this week – I nice reminder of how big our beautiful world is…but thanks to technology, how small at the same time.

    I love the lilt of "mirth & youth and warm desire" – I can almost see the blossoms and gamboling lambs in new cut fields!!

  2. I'm so glad you commented on this thread, Brona. My long-term plans are definitely to expose myself to more poetry, but I know many people aren't that interested in it.

    Blossoms and young lambs certainly come to mind. I like the image of May having a green lap and tossing flowers off of it. Very neat!

    I really enjoyed your poem as well. It gave me an appreciation for Keats that I hadn't had before.

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