“Sumer Is Icumen In” is a traditional English round, or a musical composition in which two or more voices sing exactly the same melody but nevertheless fit harmoniously together. It is possibly the oldest such example in existence of counterpoint, which is the relationship between two or more voices. The title might be translated as “Summer has come in” or “Summer has arrived.”
The round is sometimes known as the Reading Round because the manuscript comes from Reading Abbey, which was founded by Henry the First in 1121 “for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William, my father, and of King William, my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife, and all my ancestors and successors.” The round may not have been written there, but it is the oldest piece of six-part polyphonic music, that is, music with two or more independent melodic voices. Its composer is anonymous, and it is estimated to date circa 1260. The manuscript – written in Middle English, extant between the late 11th and the late 15th century – is now at the British Library (the source for some of the material here; the other is Wikipedia, which is accessed via the words underlined.)
Summer has arrived,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
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 you ever stop now,
Sing Cuckoo now.
Sing cuckoo now!
A lively rendition of the ancient round can be heard on YouTube: Sumer is icumen in
In 2015, the summer begins with the solstice on June 21 at 12:38 P.M. EDT.
This year, Father’s Day is also celebrated on the 21st!
This summer solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year.
The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop (or seemingly stand in the sky) at this time.
The crescent Moon joins Venus and Jupiter on the 19th and 20th, respectively, creating truly eye-catching conjunctions at dusk.
This is a rare chance to see a triple conjunction of the three brightest objects in the night sky!
After sunset near dusk, look towards the western horizon. (You’ll need to find an unobstructed view.) First you’ll see bright white Venus. Nearby is a fainter yellowish Jupiter and the thin crescent Moon.
Main Sources: British Library, London and Wikipedia.