Thomas Morton, Revels in New Canaan (1637)


[
Thomas Morton's scandalous erection of a Maypole in the settlement of Merry-Mount (Mount Wollaston) is described in William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation. Here is Morton's account of the revels at Merry-Mount.]


The Inhabitants of Pasonagessit (having translated the name of their habitation from that ancient Salvage name to Ma-reMount [MerryMount]; and being resolved to have the new name confirmed for a memorial to after ages) did devise amongst themselves to have it performed in a solemne manner with Revels, & merriment after the old English custorne: prepared to sett up a Maypole upon the festivall day of Philip and Jacob ; & therefore brewed a barrell of excellent beer, & provided a case of bottles to be spent, with other good cheer, for all comers of that day. And because they would have it in a complete forme, they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present occasion. And upon Mayday they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drums, guns, pistols, and other fitting instruments, for that purpose ; and there erected it with the help of Salvages, that came thether of purpose to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot long, was reared up, with a pair of buckshorns nailed one, somewhat neare unto the top of it : where it stood as a faire sea marke for directions; how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Ma-reMount.

And because it should more fully appeare to what end it was placed there, they had a poem in readiness made, which was fixed to the Maypole, to shew the new name confirmed upon that plantation; which although it were made according to the occurrents of the time, it being Enigmatically composed) puzzled the Seperatists most pitifully to expound it. . . .

The setting up of this Maypole was a lamentable spectacle to the precise seperatists : that lived at new Plymouth. They termed it an Idoll; yea they called it the Calf of Horeb: and stood at defiance with the place, naming it Mount Dagon; threatening to make it a woefull mount and not a merry mount. . . .

There was likewise a merry song made, which (to make their Revells more fashionable) was sung with a chorus, every man bearing his part; which they performed in a dance, hand in hand about the Maypole, whiles one of the Company sung, and filled out the good liquor like gammedes and Jupiter.

The Songe

Drinke and be merry, merry, merry boyes,
Let all your delight be in Hymens joyes,
Iô to Hymen now the day is
come,
About the merry Maypole take a Roome.

Make greene garlands, bring bottles out;
And fill
sweet Nectar, freely about,
Uncover thy head, and feare no
harm,
For hers good liquor to keepe it warme.

Then drinke and be merry, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c.

Nectar is a thing assign'd,
By the Deities owne minde,
To cure the hart opprest with grief,
And of good liquors is
the chief,

Then drinke, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c
.

Give to the Mellancolly man,
A cup or two of't now and than;
This physick' will soone revive his bloud,
And make him be of a merrier mood.

Then drinke, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c
.

Give to the Nymphe thats free from scorne,
No Irish; stuff nor Scotch over worn,
Lasses in beaver coats come away,
Ye shall be welcome to us night and day.

Then drinke, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c
.

This harmless mirth made by young men (that lived in hope to have wives brought over to them, that would save them a labour to make a voyage to fetch any over) was much distasted, of the precise Seperatists: that keep much ado, about the tithe of Muit [mint] and Cunmin ; troubling their braines more then reason would require about things that are indifferent: and from that time sought occasion against my honest Host of Ma-reMount to overthrow his undertakings, and to destroy his plantation quite and cleane . . .


Source: Thomas Morton, A New English Canaan (Amsterdam, 1637), 132-36; reprinted in Albert Bushnell Hart, ed., American History Told by Contemporaries (New York, 1898), volume 1, 361-63. *Some spelling has been modernized.

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