Happy May Day // a Sappho poem for you

Today is May Day, a day I have recently associated with spending time with my sisters, usually putzing around the Bronx Botanical Gardens and eating takeout, or reading my favorite books. May is my favorite month of the year; somehow it always seems magical to me, and May Day is an ancient, pagan ritual that goes back centuries. Now, we celebrate it for fun, but it used to mean a lot to a lot of our ancestors.

It was originally a celebration of spring and a day to worship Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. It was also associated, at times, with witches and the occult, whether it was positively skewed (as in healers and mystics) or negatively (during Puritan times).
But that’s all in the past. Anyway, I digress. I would like to share a poem here from one of my favorite poets, Sappho. Her work only exists in fragments, but her capacity to describe love, desire, heartbreak, and the strength of nature is undiminished despite the works’ brevity. Her work reminds me of spring, so it seems fitting to share here on May Day.

Here are a couple of my favorite fragments (if I had to choose):

But you, O Dika, wreathe lovely garlands in your hair,

Weave shoots of dill together, with slender hands,

For the Graces prefer those who are wearing flowers,

And turn away from those who go uncrowned.

and then there’s another lovely fragment, so short yet extremely evocative:

Like the mountain hyacinth, the purple flower

That shepherds trample to the ground…

That’s all! Off to find a flower crown tutorial and dance around a Maypole for the next hour or two…have a happy May! Do you do anything fun/strange/cool for May Day?

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