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May Day

May 1, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Its wintry arrival in 2013 is not quite the stuff of poetry

Sir Thomas Malory had a thing about May. On our snowy May Day following a wintry April, there's some reassurance to be found from Malory.

He was the 15th century Englishman who wrote the stories that later were collected as the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Malory apparently was a disreputable human being who is believed to have spent the last 20 years of his life in jail.

Apparently that gave him plenty of time to write, and historians think the King Arthur stories probably were penned from a jail cell.

From them have come "Morte d'Arthur," "King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table," dozens of children's books adapted from the source material, and the famed Broadway Musical "Camelot," which has been performed twice by our Central Wyoming College Theater Department.

And Malory loved May. "Camelot" fans instantly recall Guinevere singing "Tra-la, it's May, the lusty month of May, that lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray!"

Perhaps Malory was cooped up in jail when the delights of May were transforming the air, the sky, the landscape -- everything, including the human mind. Or perhaps he was in jail because he had enacted the very spirit of the "Camelot" song himself when, in the words of the second verse, he "threw self-control away."

In any case, he serenaded the month with his quill pen and ink. Here's one sample from the King Arthur tales:

"The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds.

"For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May."

Our Fremont County May Day this year dawned like December -- snowy, cold, cloudy, with winds swirling from winter, not toward summer. We all envy May Day a year ago -- 70 degrees, sweet-aired and sunny -- and get a bit glum looking out the window or pulling on the snow boots and grabbing the shovel again.

Think, then, of Malory, cooling his heels in jail after his misbehaviors, but still welcoming May. Our fourth winter storm in 25 days has locked us up as well, if not behind bars then constrained by the delays of the season we long for.

So let's listen to Malory and "call into our remembrance the month of May," even as the snow flies. If he, confined in whatever passed for an English jail in the 1460s, could find optimism in the arrival of May, then we can do the same, snow be damned.

May is here. It doesn't look like it yet, but soon it will.

Let it giveth us courage.

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