Guest poem submitted by Bill Whiteford :
(Poem #1709) Cuckoo Song
Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu! Groweth sed, and bloweth med, And springth the wude nu- Sing cuccu! Awe bleteth after lomb, Lhouth after calve cu; Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth, Murie sing cuccu! Cuccu, cuccu, well singes thu, cuccu: Ne swike thu naver nu; Sing cuccu, nu, sing cuccu, Sing cuccu, sing cuccu, nu!
GLOSS: lhude] loud. awe] ewe. lhouth] loweth. sterteth] leaps. swike] cease. I stumbled across this the other day, while trying to find out more about cuckoos; why they sing, that sort of thing. I now realise it's the origin of the phrase most usually rendered as "summer is a-comin' in", which is interesting. What I like about it is that the anonymous author (or more likely, authors) was hearing the same noise that I am, some 800 years later. Here in Scotland the cuckoos call most insistently in the month of May. Since they sing as long as there's daylight, that's a long time this far north. The minstrels who would have passed this around would tap into the same feelings we have when we we're outdoors now at this time: it's nice to hear the cuckoo song ("well sings thu, cuccu") but they don't half go on ("ne swike thu naver nu")! Hope it's not too obscure. Bill Whiteford. [Links and Stuff] Here's the Columbia Encyclopedia on today's poem: "Sumer Is Icumen In", an English rota or round composed c.1250. It is the earliest extant example of canon, of six part music, and of ground bass. Four tenor voices are in canon and two bass voices sing the pes, or ground, also in canon. The secular text is in Wessex dialect, and in the same manuscript source, from Reading Abbey in England, is a Latin text to adapt the tune for church use. The attribution to the monk John of Fornsete, who kept the records of Reading Abbey, is no longer credited. -- http://www.bartleby.com/65/su/SumerIsI.html For a picture of the original illuminated manuscript, follow this link: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~wpwt/harl978/sumer.htm The above website also includes a translation into "modern" English, notes, a full glossary, and a lengthy bibliography. Plus instructions on how to sing the song karaoke-style, from the original manuscript. Richard Thompson opened his "1000 Years of Popular Music" tour with a version of this song; see http://www.richardthompson-music.com/catch_of_the_day.asp?id=117