Sumer is icumen in


Sumer is icumen in
(13th century)
   Sumer is icumen in is occasionally known as The Cuckoo Song because of its chorus. This song, celebrating the joy of spring (MIDDLE ENGLISH often used “summer” in this sense), is often assumed to have been written between 1230 and 1240, but the complexity of the music suggests that a date of about 1300 might be more likely. It has two stanzas and a two-line refrain with the following rhyme scheme: abcbb abcbbb bb.
   The poem celebrates the effects of spring and lists numerous indications of its presence. The first stanza has the images of seeds, leaves growing on trees, and blossoming flowers. The second stanza addresses animal life and celebrates the birth of lambs and calves.
   The poem is the only English lyric found in a 13th-century commonplace book, compiled by Reading Abbey monks,with numerous contemporary Latin and French musical pieces. The lyric contains singing instructions in Latin that explain the rota or round form. Because of the deceptively simple lyrics linked with the complex music, written for four voices accompanied by two additional voices, it appears this poem may be a learned, religious adaptation of a popular secular tune. Twentieth-century poet Ezra Pound wrote a parody of Sumer is icumen in that he entitled Winter is icumen in and in which he described the frustrations associated with winter.
   Bibliography
   ■ Davies, R. T., ed. Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1964.
   ■ Moore,A. K. The Secular Lyric in Middle English. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1951.
   ■ Reiss, Edmund. The Art of the Middle English Lyric: Essays in Criticism. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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