Tuesday, April 03, 2007

April is in My Mistress' Face -- a National Poetry Month post

Yesterday's talk of Chaucer's Aprille brought to mind two separate songs. The first was Simon and Garfunkel's April Come She Will, which is based on an old English nursery rhyme about the cuckoo. The rhyme goes:

April come she will,
May she will stay,
June she'll change her tune,
July she will fly,
August die she must.


Paul Simon revised and expanded the lyrics. The first two lines from the English nursery rhyme were expanded as follows to form longer, more descriptive lines and a more song-like rhyme scheme:

April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain
May she will stay
Resting in my arms again


The other song that came to mind was an old, old madrigal called April is in My Mistress Face by Thomas Morley. It's a beautiful madrigal, and I've found a version you can listen to online -- click the first MP3 version here. Here are the lyrics:

April is in my mistress' face.
And July in her eyes hath place.
Within her bosom is September,
But in her heart a cold December.


I found it interesting how both songs, written centuries apart, use the months in different ways. In the Simon & Garfunkel song, they represent an actual passage of time, whereas in Morley's madrigal, the selected months represent personality traits.

Which of April's traits appeal best to you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is also a song by the English classical composer Benjamin Britten called Cuckoo. It was used in the movie Moonrise Kingdom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=py9xTJ3R2rM