I thought I'd get the jump on Beltane and talk about everyone's favourite May Day song (even if you're not on Summer Isle) as it is a great piece of history. 'Sumer is icumen in' also known as the 'cuckoo song' embodies that glorious sense of happiness that the first real warm days offer us. Here in the north we still can't quite believe that summer is a-coming, which makes me want to sing it even more.
This is the earliest secular song recorded in English in the Middle Ages and appears in a 13th century manuscript along with a Latin version. Here's the original lyrics:
Here are a few further stanzas in the gnomic poem of Viking wisdom, translated from the medieval Norse with a commentary on significance and context. Read the other entries in this ongoing project here. Read the original Old Norse poem here.
Here's the latest round of translations and commentary from my ongoing examination of the gnomic verses of Hávamál, the Sayings of the High One. While many of the verses deal with the magic of the Norse, many of the lines simply offer sage advice on best behaviour, especially when one travels.
19. Haldi-t maðr á keri, drekki þó at hófi mjöð, mæli þarft eða þegi, ókynnis þess vár þik engi maðr, at þú gangir snemma at sofa.
20. Gráðugr halr, nema geðs viti, etr sér aldrtrega; oft fær hlægis, er með horskum kemr, manni heimskum magi.
21. Hjarðir þat vitu, nær þær heim skulu, ok ganga þá af grasi; en ósviðr maðr kann ævagi síns of mál maga.
22. Vesall maðr ok illa skapi hlær at hvívetna; hittki hann veit, er hann vita þyrfti, at hann er-a vamma vanr.