A manuscript of what is now considered the earliest English secular song was found some time ago in an unexpected place. The name of this song is Mirie It Is While Sumer Ilast. Here’s the story. Someone wrote out this English song and two other French songs and stuck the sheets of paper in the front of a book of psalms. The paper dates from the first half of the 13th century.
Whoa. That’s over 760 years ago!
The other contender for earliest English secular song had been Sumer is Icumen In. This manuscript predates it.
Ian Pittaway has written a fantastic blog post on Mirie It Is While Sumer Ilast. He provides great detail on the song’s significance and structure.
Image attribution: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Rawlinson Collection, MS. Rawl. G. 22 via earlymusicmuse.com.