Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A-conjuring Summer In

Song on a May Morning

Now the bright morning-star, day's harbinger,
Comes dancing from the east, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth and youth and warm desire!
Woods and groves are thy dressing,
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

John Milton (1608-1674)

John Milton's best known work is 'Paradise Lost' but the lovely poem above was written when he was a student at Christ's College in Cambridge.

Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass

From 'A Shepherd's Calendar' by John Clare

Sumer is i-cumin in,
Lhude sing, cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wude nu.
Sing, cuccu!
Sing, cuccu!

Say the words out loud and they will make more sense:) These are the first few lines of the oldest known English part song, it was written in the mid 13th century.I can remember learning to sing it in music lessons at school when I was 12 or 13 years old. (The word 'sing' is used very loosely here!) It's written in Middle English, the language of Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales. In case you're struggling it translates:

Summer is a-coming in,
Loud sing,cuckoo!
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And springs the wood anew.
Sing, Cuckoo!
Sing, Cuckoo!

Mead means meadow here, not the rather scrummy alcoholic drink made from honey!

I heard my first cuckoo yesterday morning - I was so pleased as I was worried that their falling numbers and the poor weather might mean that I wouldn't hear that wonderful herald of early summer this year.

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight

William Shakespeare

The lines are from 'Love's Labours Lost' and the photos show the 'daisies pied'. If you click on the second one to enlarge it you can see that the some of the daisies are pink and white which is what makes them 'pied'.

This is Beltane when the door to summer opens and all the beauty of vibrant new life awaits us in the merry month of May - hopefully with rather more in the way of blue skies and sunshine than we've seen lately:) For the ancient Celts the day ran from sunset to sunset which is why this post appears on the 30th April:) So onward we go for

The dust coloured cuckoo
Cries welcome O Queen!
For winter has vanished,
The thickets are green.


Granny Sue said...

Lovely post, Rowan! The old poets knew how to make us feel the season, certainly.

George said...

A lovely post, Rowan, and I love that second photo. Are those bluebells?

Sandies' Patch said...

Lovely poems and verse.
A blessed Beltane to you and yours,

Sandie xx

Thimbleanna said...

Another lovely post Rowan! Your photos are so pretty -- bring on summer!!!

WOL said...

Knowing the cuckoo's reproductive habits (whence the term "cuckold"), the decline in songbirds generally inevitably means a decline in cuckoos.

Cheryl said...

What a beautiful post Rowan.
It must have taken ages to put together....I wish I had the patience.

I heard the cuckoo a week ago....I always await their return with much anticipation.
The swallows are also back and arrived around three weeks ago.

I am happy :)

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Lovely post Rowan. I haven't heard a cuckoo for years now, not that we ever had them round here. Such a wonderful sound.

elaine said...

Lovely poems - evocative of the month of May - sadly, the weather here today is nothing like. I haven't heard a cuckoo round here for years.

Mac n' Janet said...

Love to hear cuckoos, before we heard them in Germany I hadn't realized they were a real bird.
Often hear them when we take walks in England.
Hope your May is better than your April was, ours will be hot, not warm.

Magdalena said...

Beautiful! Greetings from Poland ✿ܓ

Anonymous said...

What a delightful start to May. Ah! summer is it possible? I will enjoy the poetry and wish you a Happy May Day.
Hugs Rosemary...xx

Bovey Belle said...

What a beautiful post. After the rain and gales, we have sunshine here as I write. Long may it last!

Kathy said...

Let's hope your lovely post heralds the start of a spring of some sort! It's still raining here!

Heron said...

A lovely compilation. I always think the early poems by Milton are unfortunately eclipsed by Paradise Lost so it's good to see one here.

Lady Smock painting the meadows with delight - that's always seemed to me the essence of the merry Month of May - may your May be merry!

Dog Trot Farm said...

Happy May Day Rowan. What lovely poetry, a perfect read for such a cold rainy day as it is here in Maine today. Blessings, Julie.

Rosie said...

What a lovely post! Let's hope we get some more spring like weather soon. I long to feel the gentle warmth of a proper May morning and also to hear a cuckoo as I haven't heard one yet this year:)

Nella Miller said...

Lovely, Rowan, I feel like I am right there with you! I love to hear the morning doves here in my garden. I feel at peace and happiness prevails with their soft cooing..Mother Earth provides the greatest gifts, don't you think? N.xo

Witchcrafted Life said...

One could not have asked for a more befitting poem and post to usher in May with. Beautifully fitting, Rowan, thank you.

Many thanks, too, for being the first person to complete my survey. I fully understand what you mean about the more encompassing topic of home life and hope that you've found some of the posts I've put up in the past to fall under that broader header (as many future ones will, too).

Wishing you the most marvelous of Mays,
Jessica said...

Lovely post Rowan,
your photos of the daisies and the poems are all great. I did not know what "pied" meant.. i have learnt something today.
Happy Thursday

Jenny Woolf said...

I wasn't familiar with the Milton poem. He always seems rather a chilly and sad poet to me, so it's good to know that he was young once.

I do hope May warms up. We had such a lovely day earlier in the week and of course nothing can spoil the wonderful colours of the trees and flowers, but I do wish it was a bit warmer ....

Anonymous said...

Belated Happy Beltane. What a wonderful post with gorgeous pictures.
Our son was born on Beltane and out daughter late in the evening of December the 20th, so Winter Solstice. I didn't plan that honestly ; )
Have agreat day.

C said...

Blessed beltane :) beautiful post ty x

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Such a sweet and calming post. The pictures are fabulous.

I've never heard a cuckoo - oh that would be such a fine thing.

Jane said...

Hello Rowan, I have lived more of my life in Australia now, than I have in England, but oh how I miss the call of the cuckoo, which you have so beautifully brought to me. Thank you. Jane

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Such a lovely post, Rowan! I love poetry and your photos along with the verse makes for a delightful read. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend. Thank you too for your visit and nice comment.


Clara said...

Hi Rowan,
Lovely post. English Lit. was one of my favorite subjects in high school and Chaucer was my favorite. Thank you for sharing.

bright star said...

Wonderful poems and pictures.I was excited to see the Milton! He was an ancestor of mine. lol Angela

Martha said...

I love your post!

Hildred said...

I love the Milton poem...and the Shakespeare is very sweet.