Its Maÿ!

From the always-to-be-followed Laudator about May!

Read it aloud!

I would love to have a recording of this read by a native of Dorset.  Can any of you readers help Record it and send it to me by email! 

William Barnes (1801-1886), Maÿ, from Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1898), pp. 20-22.

The Oxford Companion to English Literature says, "According to his many admirers, who included Tennyson, G.M. Hopkins, Hardy, and Gosse, Barnes was a lyric poet of the first rank, but the difficulties presented by the Dorset dialect have restricted his audience and contributed to the image of a quaint provincial versifier." The "difficulties presented by the Dorset dialect" are minimal — one soon figures out that v is sometimes substituted for f, d for th, z for s, etc. The only words that gave me pause in Maÿ were alassen = lest, mid = might, parrock = small field, and rig = climb:

Come out o’ door, ’tis Spring! ’tis Maÿ
The trees be green, the vields be gaÿ;
The weather’s warm, the winter blast,
Wi’ all his traïn o’ clouds, is past;
The zun do rise while vo’k do sleep,
To teäke a higher daily zweep,
Wi’ cloudless feäce a-flingèn down
His sparklèn light upon the groun’.

The aïrs a-streamèn soft,—come drow
The winder open; let it blow
In drough the house, where vire, an’ door
A-shut, kept out the cwold avore.
Come, let the vew dull embers die,
An’ come below the open sky;
An’ wear your best, vor fear the groun’
In colours gaÿ mid sheäme your gown:
An’ goo an’ rig wi’ me a mile
Or two up over geäte an’ stile,
Drough zunny parrocks that do leäd,
Wi’ crooked hedges, to the meäd,
Where elems high, in steätely ranks,
Do rise vrom yollow cowslip-banks,
An’ birds do twitter vrom the spraÿ
O’ bushes deck’d wi’ snow-white maÿ;
An’ gil’cups, wi’ the deäisy bed,
Be under ev’ry step you tread.

We’ll wind up roun’ the hill, an’ look
All down the thickly-timber’d nook,
Out where the squier’s house do show
His grey-wall’d peaks up drough the row
O’ sheädy elems, where the rook
Do build her nest; an’ where the brook
Do creep along the meäds, an’ lie
To catch the brightness o’ the sky;
An’ cows, in water to theïr knees,
Do stan’ a-whiskèn off the vlees.

Mother o’ blossoms, and ov all
That’s feäir, a-vield vrom Spring till Fall,
The gookoo over white-weäv’d seas
Do come to zing in thy green trees,
An’ buttervlees, in giddy flight,
Do gleäm the mwost by thy gaÿ light
Oh! when, at last, my fleshly eyes
Shall shut upon the vields an’ skies,
Mid zummer’s zunny days be gone,
An’ winter’s clouds be comèn on:
Nor mid I draw upon the e’th,
O’ thy sweet air my leätest breath;
Alassen I mid want to staÿ
Behine’ for thee, O flow’ry Maÿ!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Lighter fare, SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. sawdustmick says:

    I bet none of you knew that Dorset was an inflected language – LOL as I go and get my second pint of Zider.

  2. wanda says:

    Lovely poem. How about a Fr. Z. podcast of same? Hint..hint.

    If I may offer a contribution in a similar vein, but in honor of our Blessed Mother and her month of May.

    Bring flow’rs of the rarest, bring flow’rs of the fairest,
    From garden and woodland and hillside and vale;
    Our full hearts are are swelling, our glad voices telling
    The praise of the lovliest Rose of the vale.

    O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today,
    Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,
    O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
    Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

    Bring Flowers of The Rarest, St. Basil’s Hymnal, l953 edition.

  3. I would love to have a recording of this read by a native of Dorset. Can any of you readers help? Record it and send it to me by email!

  4. Anyone from Dorset around?

  5. AnAmericanMother says:

    For “parrock” read “paddock” – a common consonant shift over time. Also, it had to happen because in Dorset dialect a “paddock” is a toad, not a field.

    Mr. Barnes has thoughtfully provided a complete Dorset glossary for those who wish to read further. He also goes into the various sound changes and shifts that occur.

    Somebody needs to record all these local dialects before they vanish forever. Mr. Kipling did an excellent job preserving Sussex dialect in his late short stories — but audio recording is what’s really needed.

  6. JaneC says:

    The BBC have a webpage devoted to language, dialect and regional accent recordings from all over Britain (the other languages being Welsh, Gaelic, Manx and Guernsey French). That site also has a link to an archival site with older recordings, beginning in the 1950s. No recordings of anyone from Dorset reading Barnes, but you can at least hear what the accent sounds like.

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    Great source, Jane.

    One of the men who was tape-recorded grew up in the same Dorset village as Barnes, and the name’s pronounced “Burrns”. He adds, “and ye cassent get much more Dahrrset than that.”

    The accent is burred but very forward in the mouth. Different from anything I’ve ever heard before, but very easy on the ears.

  8. RuariJM says:

    Hi, Fr Z

    I may be able to help. Darzet is but 5 moile from wur Oi be standen to now, buoy. Ol Shaston (Shaftesbury) en its foine abbey rublle are jus down a wey.

    There’s a dialect speaker I know a few miles away but if I can’t catch him, I can do it myself.

    If you don’t hear from me in a couple of days, drop me an e-mail to remind me.

  9. I really look forward to this! Excellent!

  10. RuariJM says:

    Dar missus jes zed ‘woi ye doin orl thet spekin? Den’t ye ken w’oi be warkin tha morra?’

    In short, my 28-year beloved (26 years married) told me to keep it down as she has to go to work in the morning. So I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

    Probably just as well – my search for Peter Dean, one of the last handful of native Dorset dialect speakers around, took me to one or two hostelries before I got home.

    (The search was without fruit, I fear; he is away, for he is not well at the moment)

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