THE MORRIS threads a mysterious path through the seasons, from daybreak on May Day to sundown at the closing of the year. On May morning, with the sun barely up and dew still heavy on the grass, morris sides come out dancing The Rose
around Ickwell Maypole.
Each leap beats a rhythm from the earth to greet the day.
With white handkerchiefs to spread purity and bells to drive off malignant spirits, the pagan symbolism once led to bitter opposition from the Christian church. Now at Ring Meetings a church service often includes dancing, as at Thaxted, where clogs and shoes rap out steps on the sacred stone floor.
For public displays the morris brings out all its comic characters to entertain at fetes and country dances. Some ceremonies have become world-famous; the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance attracts hundreds to the little town in Staffordshire for the annual September ritual.
As a fertility dance the morris is inseparable from rebirth and regeneration. In time the dancers must give way to younger men for the tradition to survive. Like Nature herself, the dance finds form only with each year's new life.
Thanks are particularly due to the Offley Morris Men, and Bill Tidy, who drew the cartoon for the occasion.