1250) A traditional English rota (round), this secular lyric is sometimes considered the earliest example of a canon (a six-part musical composition). It is rather short, consisting of a celebration of summer, with a repeated directive to the cuckoo to sing. A few animals—cows and ewes—are keeping watch over their offspring. The cuckoo is enjoined to sing again.
The poem is found in one manuscript: London, British Library, MS Harley 978, which can be traced to Reading Abbey. The lyric appears on the page alongside an alternate Latin text, which is a lyric on the Passion of Christ. Thus, many of the critical discussions surrounding this lyric involve identification of its genre, particularly in context with its companion piece. Some scholars connect this lyric with the reverdie tradition, citing the images of birth and growth. Others suggest it is a contrafactum (parody), in which secular words were adapted to sacred verse.
More recently, scholars have begun looking at other aspects of the lyric, including its treatment of adultery. The cuckoo was a common symbol for adultery— called cuckoldry in the Middle Ages—based on the cuckoo's practice of stealing other birds' nests.
Fischer, A. "'Sumer is icumen in': The Seasons of the Year in Middle English and Early Modern English." Topics in English Linguistics 13 (1994): 79-96. Obst, W. "'Svmer is icumen in': A Contrafactum?' Music and
Letters 64 (1983): 151-161. Roscow, G. H. "What Is 'Sumer is Icumen in?'" Review of English Studies 50, no. 198 (1999): 188-196.
"SUNSET ON CALVARY" See "Now Goth Sonne Under Wod."
Was this article helpful?
Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.