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date: 20 October 2020

Sumer is icumen inlocked

  • Lisa Colton


A Rota, composed in the middle of the 13th century, in England. The nature of the English lyrics and the host manuscript’s origins at Reading Abbey have led to its popular appellation as the Reading Rota or the Summer Canon. It is most commonly known by its English incipit, though the piece has a Latin text (Perspice Christicola), whose genesis may have been earlier or later than that of the English words, but it seems likely that the composer or scribe designed the two lyrics to be complementary. Arguments for and against the primacy of each text examine metre, language, suitability for performance in a monastic environment, and expressive elements, such as the efficacy of the melody in imitating cuckoo song; no conclusive proof has been brought to bear on this question, and the existence of many other contrafact songs from 13th-century England suggests that this element of ‘Sumer is icumen in’ is of less cultural significance than the song’s unique structure and six-voice realisation....

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