Tennyson’s “The May Queen” Adapted for Inclement Weather: 1877

An ideal May Queen's bower.

An ideal May Queen’s bower.

THE MAY QUEEN

New Version, adapted to existing Climatic Conditions

Considering apology superfluous, Mr Punch offers none, as the Poet Laureate will doubtless approve the modifications of his beautiful lines, rendered needful by recent meteorological conditions.

You must wake and call me early, call me early, Mother dear;

To-morrow’ll be the tryingest time of all the Spring, this year—

Of all the Spring, this year, Mother, the dreariest, dreadfullest day ;—

For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, Mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

 

There’ll be many a red, red nose, no doubt, but none so red as mine;

For the wind is still in the East, Mother, and makes one peak and pine:

And we ‘re going to have six weeks of it, or so the prophets say—

And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, Mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

 

I sleep so sound all night, Mother, I’m sure I shall never wake,

So you’d better call me loud, Mother, and perhaps you’ll have to shake:

I shall want some coffee hot and strong, before I’m called away,

To shiver as Queen o’ the May, Mother, to shiver as Queen o’ the May.

 

As I was coming home to-night whom think you I should see but Doctor Squills!

And he saw that my nose was as red as red could be;

And he said the weather was cruel sharp, that I’d better stay away,—

But I’m chosen Queen o’ the May, Mother, so I must be Queen o’ the May.

 

The honeysuckle round the porch is white with sleety showers,

And, though they call it the month of May, the hawthorn has no flowers;

And the ice in patches may yet be found in swamps and hollows gray,—

Ain’t it nice for the Queen o’ the May, Mother, so nice for the Queen o’ the May?

 

The East wind blows and blows, Mother, on my nose I follow suit,

For my influenza’s so very bad, and I’ve got a cough to boot;

Perhaps it will rain and sleet, Mother, the whole of the livelong day,

Yet I’m to be Queen o’ the May, Mother; I must be Queen o’ the May

 

I’ve not the slightest doubt, Mother, I shall come home very ill,

And then there’ll be bed for a week or more, and a long, long doctor’s bill;

And with prices up and wages down however will father pay?

But I’m to be Queen o’ the May, Mother—oh, bother the Queen o’ the May!

 

So please wake and call me early, call me early, Mother dear,

That I may look out some winter wraps, fit for the spring this year.

To-morrow of this bitter “snap” I’m sure’ll be the bitterest day,

For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, Mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

Punch 12 May 1877

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This parody is based on the old chestnut, “The May Queen,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which was quoted in the press and recited ad nauseam in drawing-rooms until one wanted to scream. The anonymous Punch contributor has captured perfectly the thumpety-bumpety scansion of the original, which ill-accords with the lingering death-bed and morally uplifting sentiments found in the last two sections of the poem.

It was something of a joke that May-day weather in England was always inclement. In 1876 and 1877, records show that the day was either snowy or very wet. Mrs Daffodil has previously posted an amusing cartoon sequence on the Ideal vs. the Actual May-Day, dating from 1878, when the weather continued perfectly foul. Mrs Daffodil notes that the forecast for May-day is anything but sunny. She wishes all of her readers the happiest of times on this, the maddest, merriest day.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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