Kage Baker liked to celebrate the Summer Solstice with the old hymns to the sun.
One of her favourites was called (Maybe. I’m not sure.) The Mummer’s Song. It was one of the songs we learned at Faire, live, sitting on hay bales with warm beers in our mugs and absorbing the songs the singing groups sang on long golden afternoons. We knew two or three tunes to this one, depending on who was doing it – so I suppose it is a traditional, one of those old, old songs still travelling down the genetic ladder of humanity, mutating and adapting and never dying.
I even heard it a few years ago appended to the end of a Loreena McKennit song. When it goes commercial, you know it’s engraved in the genes.
However, I associate this most especially with Cyderman’s Fancy, at Black[point on the Gypsy Wagon Stage. John with his hairy breeks and curly beard, fiddling and stamping like a satyr out of Breugel; wren-small Claire playing a harp as tall as herself; Morgan on violin or boudran or recorder, her hair coming down like a tide of night as she danced; Steve with an outrageous leather hat like a gravy boat, so heavily waxed he could (and did) drink beer out of it.
We always sang a lot of the old songs, Kage and I, on the old days. It’s one of the really ancient way to mark the turning of the sweet wide world, marking it with the old music. Sometimes we were at a Faire; less and less, though, as the years went on. The song was just as fine, when it was only our two voices as we stood in the twilight of our garden or on the enormous ballroom floor of the sands.
So here is Kage’s song for today, the solstice. Yeah, I know, we’ve tipped over now and are on our way into the dark again (as this song gently reminds). But we have to get through flower and fruit and harvest home first, to get there; all the glories of summer still await us now. With every passing day we turn more to gold; with every night, the stars some closer to the earth.
Today was the longest day of the year – last night was the shortest night. I was awake the night long, watching the skies wheel overhead into the gate of summer. The way it feels, I’ll be awake this night too, singing away the hours as we spin.
Time to dance, Dear Readers. Time to dance!
Oh, we have been travelling all of the night,
And the best part of the day;
We are returning here back again
And we’ve brought you a garland gay.
A branch of May we have borne all about;
Before your door it stands.
It is but a sprout, it’s well-budded out
And it is the work of God’s own hands.
Oh wake up, you – wake up pretty maid
And let the May Bush in!
For it will be gone before tomorrow’s dawn,
And you will have none within.
The life of Man, it is but a span,
He’s cut down like the flower.
He is here today and tomorrow he’s gone
And vanished all in an hour.
And when you are dead and in your grave
And covered with the cold, cold clay
The worms they will eat your flesh, Good Man
And your bones they will waste away.
Our song is run, we must be gone,
We can no longer stay.
God keep you all, both great and small
And send you a gladsome May!