|Image from The Essays of Leigh Hunt, 1903|
From the 1839 book The Pictorial History of England: "Next to Christmas in importance as a festival was that of May-day, held on the 1st of May. On the midnight preceding that morning the people of each parish assembled, and, after dividing themselves into companies, repaired to the woods, groves, and hills, where they spent the rest of the night in sports and pastimes. When they returned they brought with them birch-boughs and branches of trees, with which they adorned the places where they meant to hold their festival. 'But the chiefest jewel they bring from thence...is the May-pole, which they bring home with great veneration, as thus--they have twenty or forty yoke of oxen, every ox having sweet nosegay of flowers tied to the tip of his horns; and these oxen draw home the May-pole...which they covered all over with flowers and herbs, bound round with strings from the top to the bottom; and sometimes it was painted with variable colours, having two or three hundred men, women, and children following it with great devotion... And thus equipped, it was reared with handkerchiefs and flags streaming on the top...and then fall they to banqueting and feasting, to leaping and dancing about it.'"