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"Sumer Is Icumen In" is a very old English song which can be sung as a round. It is the oldest example of a round that we know of. The composer is unknown. It was written down around the middle of the 13th century by a monk but we do not know whether that monk composed it, or whether it had been composed earlier.

The title means "Summer has come in". The round can be sung in six parts. There are also two parts which can be repeated again and again (an ostinato) throughout the piece. The language is Middle English and is based on the dialect spoken in Wessex, England at the time.

MusicEdit

This is the manuscript that the monk wrote:

To sing as a round, one singer (or group of singers) would begin at the beginning, a second singer would start at the beginning as the first got to the point marked with the red cross, then the third would join in when the second singer got to the red cross, and so on until all six were singing. The repeated pattern is marked "Pes". The instructions are written in Latin.


Here is the song in modern notation:

 
The song in modern staff notation


English lyrics (secular)Edit

Here are the words with a modern English translation:

Middle (Medieval) English words Modern English
Sumer is icumen in,

Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ me'
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu, cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.

Summer has arrived,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
Seeds grow and meadows bloom
And the forest springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!-
The ewe bleats after the lamb,
The cow lows after the calf. ,
The bullock jumps, the stag cavorts,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Nor will you ever stop now.