Medieval English Song - 'Sumer is icumen in'

c.1225 - 1250

Medieval English Song


  • Intro

    This manuscript is the oldest known musical round with English words, written in the 13th century for six voices. Singers can choose between Middle English lyrics in black or Latin ones in red. The English version celebrates the arrival of spring, and many of the words are recognisable. The second set of lyrics is religious, and reflects the continuing presence of Latin in churches and monasteries.



    In this manuscript


    Cuccu (cuckoo) appears numerous times, and familiar animal names include lomb (lamb), cu (cow), and bulluc (bullock). This cuckoo heralds the summer because Middle English did not have a separate word for spring. The bucke (buck) at the end of the third line uerteþ (farteth) – the first record of the verb ‘to fart’.


    Shelfmark: Harley MS. 978, ff.11v–12.

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