The Cuckoo Song


Sumer is ycomen in,

Loude sing cuckou!

Groweth seed and bloweth meed,

And springth the wode now.

Sing cuckou!

Ewe bleteth after lamb,

Loweth after calve cow,

Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,

Merye sing cuckou!

Cuckou, cuckou,

Wel singest thou cuckou:

Ne swik thou never now!

–Middle English, anonymous

Summer has come in;

The cuckoo sings loudly!

Seeds grow and the meadow blossoms.

The wood springs new.

Sing cuckoo!


The ewe bleats after her lamb.

The cow lows after her calf.

The young bull leaps; the buck darts.

Merrily sings the cuckoo!

Cuckoo, cuckoo

Well do you sing,

Never stop singing.

Inexpertly translated by author from notes in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1


For Further Reading

An in-depth discussion on translation/meaning/interpretation (from people who have too much time on their hands, or far more interest and knowledge than I.)

Listen to the sound of a cuckoo.

Cuckoo facts.

Cuckooland Museum, a museum about cuckoo clocks.

Word meanings: Cukoo, cuckold, and kooky.

Note: the cuckoo is like the American red-breast robin, a token of Spring, arriving and singing in the British isles around April.  “Sumer” may as equally refer to Spring as well as Summer, just as in America, summer ‘starts’ on Memorial Day weekend before its official calendar and astronomical date.

Picture credit: From Creative Commons Europeana collection, from a manuscript in the National Library of Netherlands, circa 1350.


One comment on “The Cuckoo Song

  1. Daniela says:

    As an English Major in college, I remember having to read texts in “Old English”. It was painful, but interesting. After a while you got the hang of it. Thanks for reminding me. Thanks also for stopping by my blog and liking Celtic Spirituality. I particularly like the Celtic Cross: “A Christian cross with a great “O” of creation imposed on it. The circle of the world and the cross of redemption brought together in one whole.”

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