Sumer is icumen in (#266)

I got my first taste of Old and of Middle English—of Beowulf and of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales–when I was in the ninth grade: “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote”. “Shoures soote–“shough-ress soh-teh”–how was it that you could once (as in Latin) put the adjective (soote) after the noun (shoures), and rhyme the sweet (soote) with the root (roote)?
The lines are still dancing in my memory and usually tap a little louder when–as today–spring comes. And it is the sounds of the words that have stayed with me, so that “Aprill, with his shoures soote” bears the accent of spring.

Charlie’s words to explain this change of seasons are more to the point.

At the speech therapist late this afternoon, he sat, face open and attentive, eyes sliding to the side as he listened hard. The therapist was having him practice his /st/ and /sw/ sounds. “Swinging. The girl is swinging. What is it?” as she held up a picture labeled “stork.”

“Itsa birdd,” said Charlie.

“Yeah, it is a bird,” the therapist nodded. “Charlie! What is it!”

“Swihm-zoot,” said Charlie.

“That’s right, it is a swimsuit! Where do you wear a swimsuit?”

“Atda Jersee s’ore!”

And Charlie said his favorite vacation spot–perhaps his favorite place of all, the ocean at the Jersey shore–in an even tone, and identified the next card. (“Stairs.”)

Very fast into my mind came the image of Jim and I each grabbing an arm and other parts of a twisting, yelping boy at a rest-stop on the Garden State Parkway. We had stopped for French fries on our way to the beach, one warm day in November—and the next day, Charlie did not go to school until he started his new school a month later in December.

It is only the first day of spring and huge changes lie ahead. And perhaps Charlie is making his first move from one pattern into one as yet unknown; into–at least–the countdown towards “two-weeeks inn August atta Jer-zee s’ore!” (Jim started his countdown at the end of January.)

And Charlie pulling up that bit of his own poetry is a fitting start to the season of sweet showers, shoures soote.

As another Middle English poem I’ve been hearing in my head all day proclaims:

Sumer is icumen in,
+ Lhude sing, cuccu;
Groweth sed
and bloweth med,
And springth the wde nu.
Sing, cuccu!

[Summer has arrived,
+ Sing loudly, cuckoo!
The seed is growing
And the meadow is blooming,
And the wood is coming into leaf now,
Sing, cuckoo!]

“Sumer” is translated as both “spring” and as “summer.” Perhaps it’s all the same difference–my poetry memories of sweet showers, Charlie’s of the shore and the salt ocean.

Sumer is icumen in.

4 Responses to “Sumer is icumen in (#266)”
  1. StyleyGeek says:

    Down here I’m more reminded at the moment of Ezra Pound’s version of that poem:

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

    Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
    An ague hath my ham.
    Freezeth river, turneth liver,
    Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

    Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
    So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.

    Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
    Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

  2. Bronwyn G says:

    SG that was so funny!

    Kristina, great your season reflections are here again.

    Hope you and Charlie have a great summer.

  3. SG: So next we’ll be singing about April as the cruelest month? Or about the cold spring…..

  4. I love Charlie’s way of getting to the heart of it!

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