Category Archives: Language

Those wyr the best dayes of mie lyf

 

Sumer is Icumen In!

By Danièle Cybulskie

When I hear people talk about the Middle Ages, I get the impression that most people picture it as a time of mud and dreariness, in which people slogged miserably through their daily lives. While mud would certainly have been a big part of reality, there was also beauty, liveliness, and entertainment.

One of the most famous pieces of music that has survived is a Middle English song about summer: “Sumer is Icumen In”. Like us, medieval people were overjoyed at the coming of warm weather, and all of the loveliness that comes with it. Here are the lyrics (in Middle English, and in my own translation):

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteþ after lomb
Lhouþ after calue cu
Bulluc sterteþ bucke uerteþ
Murie sing cuccu
Cuccu cuccu
Wel singes þu cuccu
Ne swik þu nauer nu

Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Summer has come in!
Loudly sing “Cuckoo!”
The seeds are growing, the meadow is blowing,
And the wood is springing newly.
Sing, “Cuckoo!”

The ewe is bleating after the lamb,
The cow is lowing after the calf,
The young bull is jumping, the buck is farting,
Merrily sing, “Cuckoo!
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!”
You sing well, “Cuckoo!”
Don’t ever stop now!

Sing, “Cuckoo!” now, sing “Cuckoo!”
Sing, “Cuckoo!” Sing, “Cuckoo” now!

Now, I do wonder if the whole “farting” thing might have been supposed to be more like “snorting”, but medieval people did like their fart jokes (just watch or read one of their plays, and you can see for yourself!).

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Filed under agriculture, Europe, Language, Medieval, Middle Ages

Helen Keller reviews Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

Original source for this post found here

93 Seminole Avenue,
Forest Hills, L. I.,
February 2, 1924.


The New York Symphony Orchestra,
New York City.

Dear Friends:

I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” I do not mean to say that I “heard” the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. It was a great surprise to myself. I had been reading in my magazine for the blind of the happiness that the radio was bringing to the sightless everywhere. I was delighted to know that the blind had gained a new source of enjoyment; but I did not dream that I could have any part in their joy. Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm. What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibrations, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and intermingling vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roll of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voice leaped up trilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices. I felt the chorus grow more exultant, more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flame-like, until my heart almost stood still. The women’s voices seemed an embodiment of all the angelic voices rushing in a harmonious flood of beautiful and inspiring sound. The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth—an ocean of heavenly vibration—and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes.

what beautiful music

Of course, this was not “hearing” but I do know that the tones and harmonies conveyed to me moods of great beauty and majesty. I also sensed, or thought I did, the tender sounds of nature that sing into my hand—swaying reeds and winds and the murmur of streams. I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone-vibrations.

As I listened, with darkness and melody, shadow and sound filling all the room, I could not help remembering that the great composer who poured forth such a flood of sweetness into the world was deaf like myself. I marvelled at the power of his quenchless spirit by which out of his pain he wrought such joy for others—and there I sat, feeling with my hand the magnificent symphony which broke like a sea upon the silent shores of his soul and mine.

Let me thank you warmly for all the delight which your beautiful music has brought to my household and to me. I want also to thank Station WEAF for the joy they are broadcasting in the world.

With kindest regards and best wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours, 

(Signed)

HELEN KELLER

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Thomas Kuhn’s Unrevolutionary Foreign Language

http://theamericanscholar.org/the-best-foreign-language-for-writers/#.Ul1kdFAqhnh

 

The Best Foreign Language for Writers

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By Maxine Kumin

 

 

I am grateful to the late Thomas (Tommy) Kuhn, a famous physicist and philosopher, who was the pal of my older brother. The two of them were college students, wise and worldly. I was about to transfer from the small, snug environment of grammar school to the big, heterogeneous student body of high school. This involved changing classrooms and selecting “electives.”

“Never mind choosing between French and Spanish,” Tommy said. “Take Latin, straight through; you’ll never be sorry. Four years of Latin will do you more good than 14 of any other subject.”

He was right. Latin syntax is precise, its vocabulary comprehensible. Those four years, plus an elective my senior year spent translating stories from Ovid’sMetamorphoses, gave me the courage to begin writing my own poetry. I’ve never looked back.

 

Maxine Kumin won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was the Library of Congress poet laureate in 1981-82. Her 17th collection, Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, won the Los Angeles Times Book Award in 2011.

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