Sumer Is Icumen In

Words & Music:

Traditional English


This song is a medieval English round (or canon) and was first notated in 1240, but existed long before then.  It is the only known 6-part piece of music which was written before the 15th century.  Here is a line from the Medieval neume [source lost]s:




When you sing it, it is best a capella (natch!) and in the Middle English, not modern.  The way I learned it, all sing the first two lines together ("Sing cuccu, nu..."), then break into a 6-part round.  Each part comes in after the previous part has finished the third line.  Then, all parts repeat the last "Sing cuccu..." line until all parts are singing it together.


Original Middle English:                        Modern English Translation

Sing, cuccu, nu. Sing, cuccu.                   Sing, cuckoo, now!  Sing, cuckoo!

Sing, cuccu, nu. Sing, cuccu.                   Sing, cuckoo, now!  Sing, cuckoo!


Sumer is i-cumin in,                            Summer is a-comin' in,

*Lhude sing, cuccu!                             Loudly sing, cuckoo!

Groweth sed and bloweth med                     Grows the seed and meadow blooms

And springth the wude nu.                       And springs the wood anew.

Sing, cuccu!                                    Sing, cuckoo!


Awe bleteth after lamb,                         The ewe, she bleats after the lamb,

Lhouth after calve cu,                          The cow lows for her calf.

Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth,                 The bullock stirs, the buck farts,

Murie sing, cuccu!                              Merrily sing, cuckoo!


Cuccu, cuccu,                                   Cuckoo!  Cuckoo!

Wel singes thu, cuccu.                          Sing you well, cuckoo!

Ne swik thu naver nu!                           Don't you ever stop, now.


Sing, cuccu, nu. Sing, cuccu.                   Sing cuckoo, now!  Sing, cuckoo!


*  subsequent parts enter here




Richard Thompson version:

Richard Thompson (bless him!) recorded this as the first cut on his live album "1000 Years of Popular Music" – which includes "greatest hit" songs from the 1000s to present day.  Here are his lyrics, slightly updated, sung a capella with percussion & open drone guitar with melody.


Summer is icumen in, loude sing, cuccu!

Groweth seed and bloweth mead and spring the wood anew.

Sing, cuccu!


Ew-eh bleateth after lamb, loweth afte calve cu.

Bullock starteth, buck-eh farteth.  Murie sing, cuccu!  [alt: "Loude sing, cuccu!"]


Cuccu, cuccu, well sing thou, cuccu!

Ne swik thou naver nu!


[sing the above 3x, then sing:]


Cuccu, cuccu, well sing thou, cuccu!

Ne swik thou naver nu!



Here is a modern notated score [source lost]:


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