Medieval manuscripts blog

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25 June 2012

Sumer Is Icumen In

A page from a 13th-century miscellany, showing the Middle English canon 'Sumer is icumen in'.

"Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu!" (Summer has come in, Loudly sing, Cuckoo!), Harley MS 978, f. 11v

One of the world's most famous medieval music manuscripts, Harley 978, is now available in full online on the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts site. Written in 13th-century England, and belonging at one stage to the monks of Reading Abbey, the book in question contains the fables of Marie de France and the poems of Walter Map plus, most importantly to musicologists, the Middle English canon "Sumer is icumen in", written in square notation on a five-line red stave. The manuscript also contains medical texts and recipes and a glossary of herbs, and for that reason was included in our Harley Science Project.

"Sumer is icumen in" is found on f. 11v of Harley MS 978. Here are the lyrics in full with a translation into modern English.

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med

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.

Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!


Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!
The ewe bleats after the lamb
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the stag farts,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Don't ever you stop now,

Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.
Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now!


The logo of the British Library's Harley Science project.


It seems that you've only provided a translation for half the document. There is a Latin verse in red ink. What does it say?

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