Käki se kukkuu kuusikossa Ja koivikoss’ on pesä (x2)
Taaskin on tulleet ne tukkipojat Ja kaunis, lämin kesa. (x2)
Pojat ne lähtee ponttuultansa Ja laulusta raikuu lahti (x2)
Tytöt ne vartoo valkeissansa Ja alkaa tanssin tahti.
Listen to the cuckoo, singing so sweetly, among all the trees and meadows (x2),
Here come the loggers through the woods, they are bringing the summer weather (x2).
Boys who are rafting stop by the river, singing as they step on shore (x2)
Girls in white dresses come down to meet them, They want to dance even more (x2).
Of all the migratory birds of Europe, the cuckoo is among the last to arrive in the north. This gave it a reputation for loving warm weather, and bringing the summer with it when it arrived. One of the earliest pieces of English-language music is “Sumer is icumen in,” thought to have been in existence by 1300 at the latest. It begins, “Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cucco,” i.e. “Summer has come in, Cuckoo, sing loud.” “Sumer is icumen in” (which is just a little bit “dirty”) was probably never a folk song, but there is another cuckoo song in English:
Oh the cuckoo, she’s a pretty bird, she sings as she flies,
She brings us glad tidings and tells us no lies.
She sucks the pretty flowers to make her voice clear,
And she never sings cuckoo till the summer is near.
The cuckoo was also famous for putting its eggs in other birds’ nests (hence the word “cuckold” that Shakespeare made so many jokes about). This gave it a reputation for being a “naughty” bird. And not just in English-speaking countries. This cuckoo song originated in Finland and managed to travel to Minnesota.
Source: Marjorie Edgar published an article, “Finnnish Charms and Folk Songs in Minnesota,” in Minnesota History in December 1936. (Thanks to Stephen Osman for bringing this to my attention.) She does not quote this song in either Finnish or English, but the description she gives on page 409 makes it appear that she is referring to this song. In addition, the Edgar collection includes a single stanza as her #37, “Nouskaat Jo Ylös,” “Get You Up.” That fragment is awfully short, so I’ve assembled a slightly fuller Finnish text and tune by comparing Maud Karpeles, Folk Songs of Europe. I have turned the literal translation in that book into a singable one.