Lyrics are fun

First of all, it was fun to read these lyrics. The rhythm and strange syllables and unfamiliarity made even the more somber or religious topics much more lighthearted and enjoyable. Aside from causing ear-to-ear grins, the secular lyrics appealed to me far more than the religious lyrics. Reading through the secular lyrics gave me this feeling of ‘hey they weren’t much different than we are in 2015.’ I loved a child of this countree deals with the age old problem of mixed signals. And we see in Bring us in good ale that men have been interested in nothing except for beer since as far back as the 15th century. Probably earlier, actually. I have a gentile cock had me giggling like a grade-school kid and I still have not stopped singing “Sumer is incumen in/ Sing, cucu, nu. Sing, cucu.”

While questions of God and sin and virtue are all well and good, the secular lyrics felt like a medieval edition of ‘Stars– they’re just like us!’ from Us Weekly.

4 thoughts on “Lyrics are fun

  1. I, too, enjoyed the secular lyrics. They were easier and more fun to read, probably because of the content and the similarity I found to modern day life, like you said. The religious lyrics interested me, though. The tones of some of them were different from what I expected. I somehow imagined they would feel somber and subdued. Perhaps a humble reverence. While they were definitely reverent when speaking of Jesus and Mary, they also sounded joyful and in awe. “A god and yet a man,” for example, ponders the teachings of Christianity and is in awe of what humanity doesn’t understand. The speaker in “Farewell this world, I take my leve forever” is glad to die and move on, grateful for their life but rejoicing in death and the Heaven that awaits. There is, of course, a sense of humility in many of the religious lyrics, but I just didn’t read them as solemnly as I expected I would.

  2. I completely agree with your comment. I thought these lyrics were delightfully fun and peculiar to read. Reading these were a great introduction into this class and the time period as well. I think it created a commonality and common ground between what we are used to and modern day language to the Medieval Time Period for many of us judging from the other posts as well. It almost made me appreciate the lyrics more. I am feeling a little less intimidated and a bit more encouraged than I did on the first day of class that’s for sure!

  3. I can absolutely agree here. When I first read the “I have a gentile cock” I was thinking this is not about a bird i’ll bet. But the lyrics are really light humored. I felt the same as you when reading them like “wow people were still human back then,” just different language and attire.

  4. I was a little surprised at how enjoyable the lyrics actually were — but I guess this makes sense because they were sung or read aloud, most for entertainment. As others have noted, they definitely became more enjoyable as the language shifted from earlier 13th century to later 15th century middle English (glosses only help so much) and in the secular lyrics. What I found most interesting was how the rhythm really came through the poetry. On page 249 we see an image of the music along with the lyric “Sumer is icumen in.” But even without the music, poetic devises like repetition, rhyme, and meter allow us to get a sense of how they might have sounded aloud. “Maiden in the mor lay” and “Bring us in good ale” are two that stand out to me especially.
    One question I had while reading was where and when these lyrics would have been sung. The content matter was so diverse–from Jesus speaking to Mary on the cross, to lamenting unrequited love, to the sort of dark poems about dying. They are all anonymous though we “may infer that many were read and quite possibly written by clerics” which seems strange given the subject matter of many (“I have a gentil cock” ?!). I wonder in what context these lyrics would be read.

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