Before being devoted to the labour movement, May Day was an old Celtic celebration of spring and fertility, Beltane; throughout the centuries it evolved, with the maypole dancing by girls and the election of the May Queen, but it kept its hidden symbolism of youthful love. Crowley’s poem gives it back its ancient pagan meaning.
THE MAY QUEEN
IT is summer and sun on the sea,
The twilight is drawn to the world:
We linger and laugh on the lea,
The light of my spirit with me,
Sharp limbs in close agony curled.
The noise of the music of sleep,
The breath of the wings of the night,
The song of the magical deep,
The sighs of the spirits that weep,
Make murmur to tune our delight.
Slow feet are our measures that move;
Swift songs are more soft than the breeze;
Our mouths are made mute for our love;
Our eyes are made soft as the dove;
We mingle and move as the seas.
The light of the passionate dawn
That kissed us, and would not awaken,
Grew golden and bold on the lawn;
The rays of the sun are withdrawn
At last, and the blossoms are shaken.
Oh, fragrant the breeze is that stirs
The grasses around us that lean!
Oh, sweet is the whisper that purrs
From those wonderful lips that are hers,
From the passionate lips of a queen.
A queen is my lover, I say,
With a crown of the lilies of light—
For a maiden they crowned her in May,
For the Queen of the Daughters of Day
That are flowers of the forest of Night.
They crowned her with lilies and blue,
They crowned her with yellow and roses;
They gave her a sceptre of rue,
And a girdle of laurel and yew,
And a basket of pansies in posies.
They led her with songs by the stream;
They brought her with tears to the river;
They danced as the maze of a dream;
They kissed her to roses and cream,
And they cried, “Let the queen live for ever!”
They took her, with all of the flowers
They had girded her with for God’s daughter;
They cast her from amorous bowers
To the river, the horrible powers
Of the Beast that lurks down by the Water!
My was was more swift than a bow
That flings out its barb to the night:
My sword struck the infinite blow
That smote him, and blackened the flow
Of the amorous river of light.
I plunged in the stream, and I drew
My queen from the clasp of the water;
I crowned her with roses and blue,
With yellow and lilies anew;
I called her my love and God’s daughter!
I gave her a sceptre of may;
I gave her a girdle of green;
I drew her to music and day;
I led her the beautiful way
To the land where the Winds lie between.
So still lingers sun upon sea;
Still twilight draws down to the world;
The light of my spirit is she;
The soul of her love is in me;
Lithe kisses with music are curled.
Like light on the meadows we dwell;
Like twilight clings heart unto heart;
Like midnight the depth of the spell
Our love weaves, and stronger than hell
The guards of our palace of art.
We are one as the dew that is drawn
By the sun from the sea: we are curled
In curves of delight an of dawn,
On the lone, the immaculate lawn,
Beyond the wild way of the world.
Source: The Temple of the Holy Ghost, I, The Court of the Profane, in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume I (1905), published online by The Hermetic Library. I took the indentation of the verses and the decomposition of the poem into stanzas from the digitisation of the original on the IAPSOP site.