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THE EVOLUTION OF THE BALLAD 9
pedlars, who frequently sang them first and sold them afterwards.
The earliest known example of an old English popular song or ballad which has come down to us is the now famous Rota, or endless canon, "Sumer is icumen in." This dates in all probability from about the year 1240, and contains the earliest known example of canon, and of persistently repeated bass. Its antiquity, if nothing else, makes it sufficiently interesting for me to quote the words here.
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing Cuccu, Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
And springth the wde nu, Sing Cuccu.
Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calve cu ; Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth,1
Murie sing Cuccu,
Wei singers thu Cuccu
Ne swik thu naver nu.
Summer is come in,
Loud sing, Cuckoo ! Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And spring'th the wood now ; Sing Cuckoo.
1 i.e. frequents the green fern.