Category Archives: Medieval

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

Old Carolingian coin found in Norway

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An archaeological dig in Trondheim, Norway turned up quite a surprise last week, when a 1200-year-old coin was unearthed – the oldest coin from the Carolingian period ever found in Norway.

The coin reads CAR LVS (Carolus). (Photo: Ellen Wijgård Randerz, NTNU University Museum)

The coin was found at Ranheim, which lies just north of the city of Trondheim, in mid-Norway. Trondheim is the country’s third largest city and became an important pilgrimage centre starting in medieval times.

“We are looking for traces of a farm called Vik, mentioned in historical sources and recognised in surrounding place names,” says Geir Grønnesby, an archaeologist and head of the dig, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum.

“It seems it was deserted in the 17th or 18th century, and since then the exact location has been lost.  We have localized Vik from piles of cooking stones, post holes and cooking pits.”

The archaeologists found four coins during this survey – including the very early Carolingian coin.

King of the Franks

The silver coin was made during the rule of Charlemagne, also called Charles I or Charles the Great, who reigned from 768-814. It was made before he reformed coinage practices in 793-794, which means the coin must have been made between 768 and 793-794.

Aerial photo of the surveyed location. The dark areas are soil layers from the farm Vik. (Photo: Kaare Grytting, NTNU University Museum)

“Two factors make this find stand out. Firstly, this coin is older than the Carolingian coinage reform, and so far the oldest coin from Charlemagne’s reign found in Norway,” says Jon Anders Risvaag, an associate professor of numismatics and monetary history from NTNU University Museum.

“Secondly, this coin was not found in a grave, in contrast to almost all other coins from Charlemagne and his successors that have been found in Norway.”

The coin reads CAR LVS (Carolus) split in two lines on the front, and has Rx.F on the reverse. The Rx.F is short for Rex Francorum, the King of the Franks.

Viking raids

The Vikings conducted extensive raids in Frankish areas during the ninth century. In addition to looting, they held people and towns for ransom. Researchers have assumed that the reason for the relatively few coin finds in Scandinavia is that they were melted.

Most of the coins that survive were used as jewellery, usually marked with a hole or a loop for hanging.

Profile through the soil layers. The layers of rock is cooking stones. (Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum)

This coin does not have any of these features, but it seems that the coin might have been gilded.  Gilding might suggest it was used for jewellery, but the Museum will have to conduct further investigations to determine certainly whether or not it was ever gilded.

“One might speculate as to how and why this coin ended up at the Vik farm in Trøndelag. The find shows very clearly that this was a great farm with international contacts,” Grønnesby says.

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5 Minutes in the Middle Ages

Enjoy Anthony Esolen’s sketch of the Middle Ages.

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Filed under classical conversations, Europe, literature, Medieval, philosophy, religion