One of the more famous poetry anthologies in English language opens up with a 1250 Middle English song:
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
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!
The poem – or, should we say, the sound painting – is intended to evoke Spring. Second verse is especially full of the sound images, and translates into modern English as follows:
The ewe bleats after the lamb
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the stag farts,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
I feel like this calls for some conclusions about the far-reaching impression this verse must’ve made on English poetry…
Here are the performance instructions:
The piece is intended to be sung in a round, requiring four singers to sing the same melody, one after the other, each starting when the previous singer reaches the red cross on the first line (end of the verse line). While this is happening, two lower voices repeat the words ‘sing cuccu’… Instructions on how to perform the song are given in the bottom right-hand corner of the page… This is the earliest known manuscript in which both religious and non-religious words are written to the same piece of music. *