‘May-mess’: The Wild Word Series

There’s something magical about blossom as it starts to appear in our wild hedgerows and trees. The moment so fleeting we grab our camera’s to snap the beauty before it fades. ‘May-mess’ is a poetic word but it captured my interest as a description for the profusion of blossom we experience at this time of year.

Have you heard of the saying?

Ne’er cast a clout till May be out

My dad (a farmer) used to say this to us as children. It was one of a barrage of sayings I usually shook my head at and didn’t take much notice of. Now I see there is some discussion on whether the ‘May’ is the flower (Hawthorn is called the May flower) or the month. It is an old saying first recorded as early as 1732 but probably used verbally long before that. I believe it is the flower (if you’d like to read more about the Hawthorn blossom take a look at this post). The saying means – do not cast your winter clothes too early, wait until the May (Hawthorn) flower is out.

By the time we reach the month of May, there is certainly a profusion of blossom. A ‘May-mess’. Blossom can be spotted in the form of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Fruit trees and Wild Cherry trees. I look forward to this every year – one of the reasons why May and June are my favourite months outside of Autumn.

So what does ‘May-mess’ mean exactly?

May-messa profusion of hedge blossom in full spring. (Gerard Manley Hopkins) poetic

I love the simplicity of this word. A mess of May blossom in our hedgerows, an abundance of tiny, petals floating gently to floor and creating a snow like covering. It doesn’t hang around for long: a natural mess that cleans up after itself. Isn’t nature wonderful?

Read the full poem below.

The Starlight Night


Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!

   O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!

   The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!

Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!

The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!

   Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!

   Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare! 

Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.


Buy then! bid then! — What? — Prayer, patience, alms, vows.

Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!

   Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!

These are indeed the barn; withindoors house

The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse

   Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

More Gerard Manley Hopkins Poetry 

Want to keep up to date with Feather & Hay’s Wild Word Series, hand woven textiles, behind the scene updates and regular discount coupons?

Join the VIP Mailing list