The picture above shows the first line of a manuscript page (British Library Harley 978, folio 11v). The page holds the text and musical score of the well-known round song Sumer is icumen in (“Summer has arrived”), which is thought to have been composed, or at least first written down, around the middle of the 13th century. The song is written in the Wessex dialect of Middle English.
I won’t bore you by going into the reasons for my searching for the song on Wikipedia, but once I had it presented a little puzzle. The second line of the song is Lhude sing cuccu (“Loudly sing cuckoo”). You can see it in the picture, starting just below the red cross on the music stave. The seventh line of the song is Lhouþ after calue cu (ˈThe cow lows after the calf”). My question is a simple one. What does <lh> stand for? I have looked around and have not yet come up with an answer. Does anyone out there know?
Anyway, on the evidence of the weather of the last few days here indeed sumer is icumen in. I hope I’m not tempting fate by saying this.