The sixth day came in the month of May
And summer was blushing, shy and young,
With promise of later beauty too.
April with uncertain rain had passed
And now the days were lengthening fast.
It was a morning fresh and bright and with an air
So clear that it would lighten any care.
The hawthorn hedges were alight.
Each bush was fully dressed in white
With flowers that we call the May.
Just after dawn in the early light
When people are up and about and starting the day,
Dorigen’s friends insisted then
That she should spend some time with them.
They walked to a garden near the town.
There they took both food and drink,
And planned to pass the daylight hours,
For May had painted with soft showers
This garden full of trees and flowers.
The gardener’s hands had worked so well
That no place could compare to this
Unless it were true paradise.
So full were they of beauty and delight,
The scented blooms and colours bright
Were enough to lighten any heart at last
That ever was born unless some sickness
Or deep sorrow held it firm and fast.
So go to a garden when your heart is heavy,
And leave your bag of troubles at the door.
No one will take it. Of that you can be sure,
And when you leave, you’ll find it lighter than before.
Around this garden was a wall
And all along grew roses tall.
The fruit trees trailed their arms across the stones
With pears and apples growing on the sleeves.
The paths led in and out of shrubberies
Where young folk lost themselves among the leaves
Perhaps by chance or by design.
The flowers of the field were growing there,
Primrose, cowslip, celandine, all yellow,
And flowers of the hedgerow, violets,
And purple clover from the meadow
Where the red and sleepy poppies are.
Their colours always match together,
And no shade clashes with another.
The wild eglantine and dog rose too
Wove their way the hedges through.
It was as if the flowers had strayed one day
From the fields and hedgerows where they grew,
And they had all agreed to stay
In such a lovely place to play.
On one side of the winding path
Were mint and thyme and rosemary
And many herbs of scented leaf
With names all marked in clear relief
With characters carved upon the wood
For those who touched and felt and smelled the herbs,
As they pressed them firm between their fingers,
But saw them not at all.
Around a fountain were more roses
Pink and yellow and red,
With buds that promised more to come
Throughout the long, warm summer days.
The lifting breeze would blow the spray
From time to time when least they thought
On to the path and make the women laugh
And run from the shower in the gentle wind.
The lawns there were all neatly cut
In shaded lines of green, one dark, one light
As lawns should look when mown with skill.
The gardener’s art was everywhere
In every bush and every flower,
But the gardener’s hand was never seen.
He must have come when all folk were away.
For magic must be natural not forced.
No sight was there of mattock, spade or hoe.
The plants all looked as if they grew by chance
As if the flowers, each and every one,
Had sprung up with the rain and sun.
Tall trees there were of oak and ash and beech.
Trees that tell us the short time that we live,
For the trees we plant we never see grow big.
Then in the evening when the air was cool
The sun’s last rays fell on the closing flowers.
The twilight came, and the lamps were lit,
And one played a lute, another played a harp
And there upon the lawn they all began to dance.
Dorigen did not stir,
But sat alone where the roses grew
By a bush of flowering rosemary,
The herb, they say, of memory.
She thought of her husband far away,
And wished that he was there with her.
She longed for him to lead her to the dance.
She sighed but then she did her best and tried,
For the sake of her friends and all that they had done,
To put her sorrow quite aside.
She thought again and forced herself
To rise and join the dancing then.
And on the lawn, among the other men,
Danced a young squire in front of Dorigen,
And Tristan was his name.
In looks and dress he was brighter far
Than is the month of May itself.
He sang and danced better than any man,
That is or was since this old world began.
One of the best-looking men alive he was,
Young, strong, virtuous, rich and wise,
And held in great esteem in all of Brittany.
The women there all smiled on him,
But he would look at none of them.
For unbeknown to Dorigen, this squire
Had loved her for two years and more,
But she had no inkling of his mad desire.