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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleCuckoo
Roud No.413
Collected FromIles, Elijah
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 396
Source SecondaryWilliams, A: Folk songs of the upper Thames, 1923, p 165
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

The cuckoo is a merry bird,
He sings as he flies,
He brings us glad tidings,
And tells us no lies.

Verse 2

He sucks up the bird's eggs
To make his voice clear,
And the more he cries 'Cuckoo!'
The summer draws near.

Verse 3

The cuckoo is a lazy bird,
She never builds a nest,
She makes herself busy,
By singing to the rest.

Verse 4

She never hatches her own young,
And that we all know,
But leaves it to some other bird
While she cries, 'Cuckoo!'

Verse 5

And when her time is come
Her voice we no longer hear,
And where she goes we do not know
Until another year.

Verse 6

The cuckoo comes in April,
She sings a song in May,
In June she beats upon the drum,
And then she'll go away.
Print Song Lyrics
Note 1

Alfred Williams - 'Once very popular. This is the only version I have heard; it was sung by Elijah Iles, Inglesham, Wiltshire.

The cuckoo is said to 'beat the drum' when he often falters and cries 'Cuck, cuck, cuck' without the final syllable. This is said to be a sign of his intending departure.'

Note 2

In Verse 6 Line 3 the original text read:

In the month of June she beats the drum

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2007.



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