‘Merrie sing Rishi!’: variations on ‘Sumer is icumen in’

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3154 you were invited to supply your own variations on the medieval round ‘Sumer is icumen in’.

This six-part polyphony — the jaunty accompaniment to the ritual sacrifice of Edward Woodwood’s Christian copper in the horrific climax of The Wicker Man — is also known as the Summer Canon and dates from about 1300. Some contend that it contains the oldest example in written English of the word ‘fart’ (‘Bucke uerteth’ can be rendered as ‘the billy goat is farting’) though the correct translation has been the subject of scholarly squabbles.

This was a tricky challenge and you might have looked for inspiration to Ezra Pound, who wrote a well-known parody of the poem entitled ‘Ancient Music’:

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop.
And how the wind doth ramm!

Those that made the cut, in a smallish, somewhat half-hearted but pleasingly varied entry, are printed below and earn £30 each. Commendations and commiserations go to unlucky losers Bill Greenwell, Katie Mallett, Chris O’Carroll, Michelle Werrett and Nick Syrett.

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude wayle bu-hu —
Futbal gonne, Wimble-donne
Hwæt the helle to doe?


Sumer is a Cumynges sinne:
Unlyke we, the reste,
Norþward driveð, soon arrivð
Eyen for to teste


Sumer is a non-evente
This year, alle shotte –
Crikket cutten, pubbes shutten,
Falleth pounde, detts abounde;


At insystaunce, keepeð dystaunce —
Sodde the lotte, so blodi hwæt?
Cuc-cu, Cuc-cu —
Yea, Thu — Cucc-Yu
Mike Morrison

Sumer is i-cumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth croppe and bloweth toppe,
For no man gathereth it oppe,
And no man cometh therto do.
Sing cuccu.


Boris bleateth after deales chepe.
Meeting starteth, Brussels farteth,
Boris seeketh markets newe.
Trumpè tweeteth: screwè you!
Boris flee-eth to Lorde Barnard’s Keepe.
Not so murie nu!


Owle singeth tu-wit-tu-wu,
Wel weepen we al, bu-hu!
Hither come and say me trewe:
Who is nu cuccu?
Brian Murdoch

Sunac is icumen in
Lhude sing Rishi!
Dresseþ flash
And bloweþ cash
And shakeþ money tre
Sing Rishi!


Leader of þa sumer six
Locdoun haþ a key
Boris sickens
Cumings chiccens
Merrie sing Rishi!


Rishi! Rishi!
Wel singes ye Rishi!
And set þam folces free


Sing Rishi ye! Sing Rishi!
Sing Rishi! Sing Rishi ye!
Nick MacKinnon

Summer is y-cummen in,
red-eyed at-TISH-oo,
pollen count and dripping snout,
annual déjà vu.


Fresh air music, headache bass,
next door’s barbecue;
clouds of smoke and beer-filled folk,
crowd of loud yahoo.


Summer mowing, metal din;
petrol-heads’ tattoo;
oily smell, ear-splitting hell,
grim hullaballoo.


Summer has y-cum, with urge
for any other view;
Barnard Castle worth the hassle?
Loudly sing Cuckoo.
D.A. Prince

Sumer is icumen in
Sadly sigh boo hoo,
Summer is a time for fun
But not for me and you.
Though there’s lots of lovely sun
There’s nothing much to do.
Sigh boo hoo.


Looks as though
In winter snow
We’ll still be dodging flu.
We’ll be victims
Of restrictions
Till the year is through.
Sigh boo hoo.
Frank McDonald

No. 3157: glasto and glynders

Glastonbury and Glyndebourne have both fallen victim to Covid-19 this summer. To fill the gap you are invited to describe a visit to either in the style of an author of your choice. Please email up to 150 words/16 lines to by midday on 8 July. NB. We are unable to accept postal entries for the time being./>

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