Sumer Is i-Cumin In

Herbert Arnould Olivier, Summer Is Icumen In

MondayFirst Day of Summer

This being the first full day of summer, the famous mid-13th century lyric “Sumer is i-cumin in” is a must. My father, who was both a bird watcher and a lover of nature, lamented that the French couldn’t match the English for nature imagery, and this poem pulsates with the sounds, sights, and smells (“verteth” means farts) of early summer. The Middle Ages may have been a particularly spiritual age but it was also very earthy. These two aspects make for wonderful creative tension in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer.

There’s no such tension in “Sumer is i-cumin in,” however. This lyric is all earth all the time. You should be able to make out most of the middle English, but here are words you may need translated:

Nu – now
Med – meadow
Wude – wood
Awe – ewe
Lhouth- cow
Lu – lows
Sterteth – starts up
Verteth – farts
Bucke – male goat or deer

The last line means “never stop now.”

Sing, cuccu, nu. Sing, cuccu.
Sing, cuccu. Sing, cuccu, nu.

Sumer is i-cumin 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,
Wel singes thu, cuccu.
Ne swik thu naver nu!

Bonus Poem:

While looking up the lyric on Wikipedia, I came across a very funny parody by A.Y. Campbell, a classic scholar who composed it in the 1920s or 1930s:

Plumber is icumen in;
Bludie big tu-du.
Bloweth lampe, and showeth dampe,
And dripth the wud thru.
Bludie hel, boo-hoo!

Thaweth drain, and runneth bath;
Saw saweth, and scrueth scru;
Bull-kuk squirteth, leake spurteth;
Wurry springeth up anew,
Boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

Tom Pugh, Tom Pugh, well plumbes thu, Tom Pugh;
Better job I naver nu.
Therefore will I cease boo-hoo,
Woorie not, but cry pooh-pooh,
Murie sing pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh,
Pooh-pooh!

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