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From the beainninas to Milton

DAVID DAICHES
Revised Edition

A Critical History

oj
EngtiIh Literature
VOLUME]

DAVl.D

DAICHES

A Critical History of
English Literature
IN TWO VOLUMES

VOLUME

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'" CRmc;!.L. HI:STORY OF ENCtlSH

UTSRA WRE

FiISI published inCreat Britain, 19&1 by Martin Sec.l<er& WarbLOrg Limi led Revised edi liol'! published 1969
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Prejace
Tms lS.AN !lGE of specialist scholars, and for one man. to attempt a complete history ·I)f English literature is n.ow both rash and unusual. I cannot claim to be a specialist in all the periods on which I have written, nor, in spite of my best at~empts. have I been able to keep abreast of .an Dew dev,elopments .m ElJlg:lishstudies. But I have been readiog English literature ronoouously and close'!), ever since I began my studies at Edinburgh University in 1930, and I have long felt the urge to describe the whole scene as I see it. This:, therefore. is oseman's history of Eng'!iID litera'Une; n is il:ltellded les5 as a work of referen,ce than asa work of descrtption, explanation. and critical int'erpret:ati[>TI .. It is not meant tobe looked up. but to be read. r have givenmyseH genemus space I'll dealillg with major HglllTessuch as Shakespeare aed Milton,. witboutbotherillg wh.ether. in strict 'temi1S of relative gteahless, they deserve so much more !lian 1. have given to wme othee writers. Iadeed, the chapters on Shakespeare and Milton oon perhaps stand as mdepeadent critical. studies, capaitde of bei.ng extracted frem the rest of the History and read as short books em their wn Nevertlhe2ess, though the word "critical" in my title is .. important,. I hlwe tried never to lose sight of the fact that this is a history,. Dot a series of separate critic-a.1 studies, and liIe appropriate kinds of hIstorical generalizations and the proper contiilluity ofnasratlve hav.e:, I hope, been maintained t.hroughout. I may sometimes ha .... treated. a mino'r Miter who mterest5 me pamcul!a.rly :ilt greater e length tha.tI he deserves .•er rather ba:ielly smnmariz.edi som.ethimg important alld well known .. But I have tried to see my subject steadily and see it whol.e; and I ba,ve med fo write in;erestingly,. less as the impeT!>on al seholae rOC'Ordillg facts thallEtS. the interested reader shar·
0.

ing

his Irnowleclge and

opinions.

On. matters of pure scholarship, I have, of course, olten had to de. pend all. the jesearehes of others. On questions of emphasis and

viii

PREFACE

assessment I' have done so as little as possible, although occasionally even the most conscientious critical historian must be content to take the word. of n ~ympad)etic expert about the value of an odd minor work to which he himself bas never devoted a great deal of careful attention. Art is IOllg and! life is short, and one cannot always be wholly original in everything. I hope, however. that the pattern which a sing.le mind imposes 011 this vast materia] will make my account more lively and suggestive ~han the conscientious composite works of reference by teams of experts, from which I have l1rIyself profited but which are not literary history in the sense that IMs book is intended to be. I have been more IDibe.ralu quotafiowl from the works under disi cussion than is usual for a literary historian; I have found that. the critical side of the work demands this. I have been deliberately inconsistent in the texts of my quotations. As a rule .I have modemized s'pe!]Jng and punctuation, thoug:h not ill MiddleEl1glish texts. which lose too much by such modernization. In sixteenth-, seveneeenth-, and eighteenth-century texts r have retained the original spelLiing where it is important as giving a penod lavor or indicating some hi.storical aspects of the language Or of literary ecnvention, atherv.'isE' I ~ave modernized it. My principle in this and other matters has been maximum ease of reading compatible with sound scholarship and intellectual responsibility.

Contents

VOLUME
CIUP'fER PAGE LITERATURE:

1
2

ANGLO-SAXON

3
MIDDLE ENGLISH PROSE Ai'll)

THE

DEVELOPMENi

OF

VERSE

31
FllBLlJIU. LYRIC, DREJI..M

3
4;

Mll>DLE ·ENCLlSH Lrn:RATURE: ALLEGORY. BALl_AD


C:a.U'CER.

6B
89 128

DAvm Dillie-RES

GOWER, PIERS PLOWMAN ACES

Jesus CoUege, Cambridge February, 1960

Tm

lEND OF THE MIDDLE EIlRLY TU.OOR SCENE M"D K1S TIME.


FlIOl'-{ THE MiRA.CLE

6 Tm::
"1

146
165

SPENSER
DRAMA

8
9 ]0

Pu

YS TO MAIRLOWE

208
246

SHAKESPEARE
DRAMA. FROM JONSON TO mE CLQS1NC OF THE THEATERS AND TKE META-

309 346

H
13

Pmmn:
PROSE

AFrER

SPENSER:

THE JONSONll!.N

PHYSICAL

r·I!...I.OITIONS

IN THE

SIXTEENTH

ANiII SEVENTEEN'tH

CEmuruEs

458

12
14

Mn.TON
SCOTIlSH LrI'ERltTURE '!110

390
1700 504

VOLU~.:IE
CHA!I"'TER

11
PACE

CHAPTEl{

ONE

15
16

THE RESTORt.nON THE .'\ucusn.N AGI;;: DEFOE, SWIFT,POPE


POE"rnV THE

537
590

17
18 19 20 21

FROM THOMSON

TO CW .. BE S

652 700
AND

'NOVEL

I'<lIOM, RICHlIJIDSON 1"0

J AN.E AUSTEN
HISTORlCAL WRITING

A nglo-Sason.

Literature

EICHTEENTH-CENTImY

Pmr..oSOPHICAL,
MISCELLANEOUS

CRITICAL PROSE, i,NO


SCOlTlSH

766 809 THE ANGLO-SAXON INVADERS, who came to Bri.tain in the latter part of the firth century A_D. and eventually established their kingdoms there, were the Iounders of what w -e can properly call English culture ami lEng,lIsh literature. They gave England its name, its language, and its links with "Germanin," that gre:lt body of Teutonic peoples whose rnigmtions disrupted the Homan Empire and utterly changed the face of Europe. Some four' hundred years before they arrived In Britain, the Roman historian Tacitus had given his aeccunt of the Germanic peoples and how they looked to his civilized Roman eyes; and though we can see that Tacttus' Germania idealizes the barbarians in order to hold up the noble savage as all example to decadent Rome. we can nevertheless trace in his account somethin:g of the qualities of these people as they emerge out of the mists of history and legend at a later period. To the Romans. whose world they threatened and finally overcame, they were "barbarians," appearing out of nowhere to endanger, with their primitive vigor and alien ways of thought, both the political structure of the Empire and the ideological structure of Crecc-Roman thought. After the Roman Empire had become Christianized, the contrast between barbarian and Roman WOliS even more striking, fOJ the farmer were heathen and their life and their SOCiety reflected heroic ideals far removed fm-om Roman Christian theory or practice. Yet the history of much or Europe in the so-called "Dark Ages" uS the story of the gradllal fusion of these two ways of life and thought, the gwwing together of barbarian and Christian and the grounding of bath in an approprlately modified phase of the Creco-Roman tradttion. Precisely who the invaders were whom we have Ior so lOfl~ caned "Anglo-Saxon" is not of primary importance to the student of ~iterature. That they belonged to the group of Teutonic peoples to which we 'can appropriately give Tacitus' name of Cermanla is clear. According 10 Bede, wTitJnghh eeelesiastical history 0.£ England two hUH-

LITERATURE FROM

S{;OTT
THE ROMANTIC POETS ]:
COLEAlDCE

Au..AN
BLAKE,

H!lMS,-..y TO

WAl-TEJI,
AND

WORDSWQR"m:,

856

Z2
23

THE

ROMANTIC POETS

H:

S01E:LI_EY, KEATS, AND BYRON


PROSE OF mE

905,
935 961 991'3 1049

FAMnUR.

CHlTICAL, !WD MlSCELLAN"E{)US A,NO MmDLE NIN'ETEENTH

Ellflt..,y 24 25 26
27

CENTURi

VICTOIUAN PROSE: ]OHN HEI"lRY NEWMAI'f MORRIS THE VICTOWAN POETS THE VICTORIAN NOVEL
DRAMA FR.OM THE BEGINmNG OF' THE:

TO WILLIAM

EJClITEENl"H

C~NTlJl'IY 28
29
TWENTJETH-CEN"nJRY

1094
POETRY NOVEL

U22
1]52-

THE Twu'TIE'Tli-O;:1'<7I1JRY II'.'llEX

1179

..

ANGLO-SAXON

LITERATURE A.NCLOSA.XON L rTSR "'''UR E:

dred years and more after their arrival, they came "from three very powerful nations of the Germans: that is, from the Saxones, Angli, and the futile." We know something abeut the Saxons, who appear to have come hOIill1 the low country south of Denmark and east of Holland, the modern Holstein, The Angles appear ~O'have lived in modem Jutland and the neighboring islandsbefO're they appeared in Britain, while the Jutes, whose origin is the most obscure of the three, perhaps carne Iroen the eeuntry east of the lower Rhine and perhaps,.lhougb, less, .probably (the apparent similarity of names, not being the cogent argument it might appe'ar 10' the modem ear),bD>m Jutland. In Anglo-Saxon England there were Saxon kingdoms (in the south and southwest), Anglian kingdoms (in the 'east, north, and rmdlands), and the Jutish Idllgdom of Kent in the. southeast, The cultural dHlerellcesbelweel'lthe t'llree groups are of comparatively littJe moment; their lmgllage was essentially the same, though wi~h important dlaleetlcal difi'eleru:esj and they all considered themselves fart of "Cermania," that loosely associated group of peoples who included Goths, Burgulildians" Lombards, amd others, and W]lO had a common set c£ heroes who might beiong to anyone O'fthese. Of the Romani'zed Britons wllom the invading Anglo-Saxons pushed lllto western comers of England the historian of English titerature has lmle to say. A Celtic people who had been taken in'o the Roman Empire, they were left to' fend (o,r themselves when the Romans, ,desperately trying ronald their empire together against barbarian invaders, withdrew from :England in ....D.. 410. A prey to the ruder Piets and Scots in the north, they soon found themselves more seriously threatened by the invaders from across the North Sea, to whom they were an alien ~e<lple known as ''WeJsh,n which was simpIDythe Germanic peoples name for foreigners who were nC)1 part of Germania. Only in Wales have these Cambro-Britons, continuously preserved their langllage and their traditions; their eontribution to specifically Eng,lis!l literature is sporadic and oblique, and does not appear IIlTItlllong after the Anglo-Saxon period. if Arthur, who plays such an importarit part in Mi,ddle English romance, was really a historical Cambro-British character from .this period-and we have no rnencion of him before the ninth century except for a passing remark by an eady seventh-cenrury 'Welsh poet that 2. eertain warrior, while brave, "was JIOr Arthur" -there is still no reason. tOl conSidering his metamorphosts into a hero of medieval romance and a focus for a host of "'Arthurman" stories as any part of a direct and continuous heritage from Celtic Britain into later times. It was 'tmt unnl the hveHth century, when English hterature sought :its inspira,tiGn from the French, tbat the Arl:hurian 'romances began to

appear. and while it is true that it was an Engl'ishman, Geoffrey of MonmO'uth, who 6rst elaborated the Arthllrian story (in his Hmaria Regr~m BI"i!anniae) to provide rich material for these romances, the Anglo-French develO'pment of the materia] is very far removed from any Celtic origins. Whalever the origins of the Arthurian story. therefore, we are justified in beginning the history of English literature with the Anglo-Saxons. .mn,jving Ang[o-Saxon ~iteratuTe, that which brings us most closely into contact with the Cermanic origins of the invadersis the heroic ptletry, which s1iU bears traces not only of the pre-Christian heroic society of the eoattuental Saxons and others, but also of that community subject which linked these eady English with tbe wider civilization of Cermama, This is written in the language we know as Old Engli,sh o-rAnglo-Saxon. which is essentially the' English language in an 'earljer stage of its development, withinfiections w~ich have since disappeared, a relatively smallvocabulary from which mallY words have since been lost (though some which are lost to standard English remain in altered fonn ill Scots and in regional English dialects), and significant oifl,erences between. for example, the West Saxon dialect of the south and the Anglian dialect o~'North· umbria. The verse is alliterative and stressed, without rhyme. each line contai'nwng four stressed synabIes and a varyililg number nnstressed. There is a deGnite pause (caesura) between the two halves of each line, with twO'stresses in eaeh half,

'Or

or

We gesscodon Eonnel.lrices wyffenlile ge~ht; ahre wide folc Cotena rices, ~ret W8!lS grim cynillg., Salt secg monig sorgum gebunden, wean on wenan, wyscte ,geneail1he pet PIeS (:JIlIe~i0eS ofereumen wrere,

To the superficial eye this looks !leI)" far removed Irom modem English; and m a sense it is. (The letter .p~"th,orn" -has the sound of "th,") But a 'literal translation helps to bring out its relation to modem English;
We have learned of Ecrmanric's wollis.b disposition; he held wide dominion in the realm of the Goths ..That was a cruel king. Many <Ie man sat hound in sorrows, anticipatin,g woe, ohen wis:himg that his kingdom were overcome.

ANCLO-SAXON

LITERATURE:

ANGLO-SAXOIIJ

LITERATURE

Some thirty thousand! lines of Anglo-Sa:>!oD poetry' have survived, nearly al] of it contained ill four manuscripts,' and we have no. reason to believe tbat the older, nOrl1'eitigioLls poetry that survives is more thon a casually preserved fragment of what was written. Specifically religious poetry might be expected to have earned: ecclesiastical care and preservanon, but the heroic poetry which eormeets more directiy with the Germanic origins of the AnglDt-Saxons eonld not be expected to' arouse any special ecdesiaslic~1 interest even when i( had been superflcially purged of Its pagan feeling and ill some degree Christianized in thought. The conversion of .the English peoples began with the arrival of AugusHne in Kent in Sffl; he had been sent by Gregory the Great with a band of monks in order to achieve this missionary task But, though iEthelbe'rht, king of Kent, was duly eonverted to Christianity and AIIj{Usline was sllon able to establish the seat of his bishopne at Canterbury, the permanent esta'blishment of Chrmstianity throughout England proved a milch lengthier task and one which required the active intervention of Celtic missionaries lrom Ireland and Scotland. Difference'S between the customs and practices of the Irish Church-which had remained somewhat iso~ lated from Horae=and the Rom[lTJChurcb, which had sponsored A11-' ;gustine's mission, made for certain difFicultir,>$ between those English ecclesiastics who 10nked to Rome and those who looked to Iona and to Ireland, and these were not resolved until the Synod of Whi.tby in 663;~ but it is sufficient for the historian of literature to note that the development of EnglJisn Chrisp3r:Jiity was not continuous but sporadic Inr the.first centurv and more, with certain notable setbacks such as the defeat and death of the Christian Edwin, king of Northumhrie, at the hands of the pagan Penda, king of Mercia, in 632, which meant the disappearance of the Christian Church in Ncrthumbna until its re-establishment by Aidan and his followers from Iona. If even the external ecclesiastteal organizatiOTIi was thus unstable ill the early centuries, it is not difficult to see how traces or ragan thougbt ill varying kinds of relation to Christianity persisted Forsome tlrne after the nominal conversion of the English.
I Tht"W lin": II) !.IS Cotton V.ilelli...~ A XV In the British Museum, whicb contains' B(!OI£lJlj, /Ilnnl .• Bnn three prose works, (2J The Iunius !lh'UlWtipl in the Bodleian , Llbr.lIY. OlllQ.rd !MS BOOleia.n ~ul1l1J~ III. wbkb ccntaim CrnMs, ,E.-adm. Dlllnkt and CJ••W a,ul Siltlln. I.'].] The E..,lel Book. gI'ileD bl' Bishop Leofrie 100IExeter Carhcdral. col1!ainil1iil Cllrin. J .. li"nn. The Wurld.erer. The' Se"flJrt:r, \I'idrilli. Dcor. and mllny other short pieces. (4) Thl' V"rcelli Book, preserved, in tbO!~lhed,"01 Ilbmr~ 111 Vcroelli. lin nnrthem Itnly'.... hid. contaills Andrea,!'. The fetes 01 tl.e '\PM'II<lr. Addrcu of 11'l! Soul 1'0 Ihe B"du. Tile D~t:am 01 tl,e Rood. 3nd Elene. :t Not 664, as is mdiUon,r,lly held. Bede dates it 564" but he bcllJiru hj~ year in S~ptember. and BS the 5)1,,00 C'f!nbe shown 10 hn ... been held ill lale S.epl.ember Of e early O~!ober, this ""'oold mean 6fI.~ In our dOling,

Unfortunately, thDllgh much is known in genel'al about the mythology of the Germanic and tile Norse peoples, we llavevery linle definite infomnaHoliI about the heathen backgroulld of Old English culture, Though we can draw ,analogies between what we know o~ Scandinavian heathendom and whatwe snrmise of its Old E:ngiish equivalent, the Iaet remains that the common origin of the two was already far in the past by the time we find the Anglo-Saxons: in England, Old English place names give some indication pl'e-ChrLstian activity assoG'iated with certain localities in Anglo-Saxoll England, but tell us nothing of the ~arger patterns 01 aUitude and beltef which are of the' most relevance For a study of the literature, That AngloSaxon heroic poetry, even ru.; we have it, is the product of a'pag,sn heroic SOCiety and in soclal tome and general mood bears evidence of its origins, can. hardly be disputed. But debate OLl the degree to which Beowldf; for example, has been. modified hy a relatively sophisticated Latin culture-not only by Christian sentiment but. as has been claimed, by a Virgilian tradition=cannot be resolved without knowledge of more details than it seems likely we shalt ever possess about prunnive Ang!o-Sax:onbeliefs. 011 fhe whole, it would seem likely that Bewm![ and such other remains of early Ellg'lish heroic poetry as survive are closer to theil" pagan origins in mood and purpose than is sometimes believed. Though there are difficulties in pladng the earliest extant AMl~]oSaxon poetry in its cultural context, we can take some comfort from the knowledge that what has survived! of Anglo-Saxon poetry, fragmentary though it is and an arbitrary sample though it mtly be, is of earlier date than. any extant poetry Of. the other Germanic literatures -of Old Hi,gll German or Old Norse, for example. Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry is the nearest we can get to the oral (laga.n literature of the Heroic Age of Cermania. Tile stressed alliterative verse of AngloSaxon poetry is clearly the product of an oral court minstrelsy; it was intended to be' reciled by the scop, the itinerant minstrel 'who frequented the halls of kings and chlels and sometimes found continuous service with one master. One of the earliest sUJviving AngloSaxon poems. Widsilh., is the autobiogYaphica] record of such a. seop. The poem 35, we have it is probably not homogeneou.>-some of the Iines seem to be later interpolations-but the core of the work finely reflects the heroic attitude to the bard's function and gives us a Iasdnating glimpse of the Cermanic world as it appeared to the imagination of the Anglo.Saxons. The text we have of the poem is in the Exeter Book, and is thus tenth-century and in the West Saxon dialect; the poem-which must have been originally composed in Northurnlbria-dales fmm the late seventh air early eighth century,

or

ANGl.O-SAXON

UTF.RATlJiRE

tho~lgh pill'ts of it must be o'lde!"even 'than that. Widsith, the "Iar wanderer," teUs of his travels dmmghout rbe Cermanic world arid mentions the many rulers he has visited, !I.'~an)'0{ the characters he mentionsfigure in other poems-in Beoll>llll, for example, and ill the fragme~:ar)' stortes o~ Finn and WaMhere. The princes he claims to have VISIted cover VlrtllilJly the whole Germanic world and their lifetimes extend over two hundred years. He was, he tells us, with Eorma~ric (the I?ot~ic king who died about 370); "likewlse I was in ~taly w~th ~If""'me, lIe tells us elsewhere in the poem, and .iElfwine IS Alboin, kmg of the Lornbards, who died about 572 (and who is incid.entally. the lalest character to be mentioned ill any Gennani~ herOIC poem). TI~e poem thus cannot be t.rue autobiography. It is, however, s?m~tlung much more imleresting than that: it is a v.iew of Germamc hIstory and geographr as it appeare~ L a. Nortl.lllmbrian .. O bard of t~e seventh century drawtng on the traditions of ~is people. ~Vhat ~tnkes us. most fordbl!y is its catholicity: praise is meted out IIl11lpartlaUy Huns, Goths, lBurgundians, Franks, Danes, Swedes, to Angles, Wends, Saxons, L.ang.~ obards, IDld.ma:n}'others. "IEtla [AUilaJ ruled the. Huns, Eorrnanrie ~he Goths, Beeea the Barmings, GiBe-a toe Burgulldians, . , . Theodric ruled the Franks, Thyle the Rondings, Breoca the BTOllLdings, Billing, the Wremas. Oswlne ruled the Eowan, and GefwuU the Jutes, Fin Folcwald&ng the face of the Frisians, . • . Olla ruled Angem. AJewih the Danes; he was the most couraeous all thes,e m~n. but ~e. did not excel Olla in hls mighty eeds, ~e arc: gtv,ell here a bud s .eye vie.W .of the s.llbject matter 'of Germann!' Ilerolcpoetry; and we are remmded that file heroes of that poetry were not regional or DB Iional but common to all Gennani a. Wlcl.sith may be pdmitive stuff as poetry-indeed, the first catalogue of ~lers in the poem is cast in the form of a very early type of genealogIcal verse and may well date from the beginning of the Sixth century or even from before the coming of the Anglo-SaKons to Britain-but. it is this very primitive quality wl:dch is of most interest. In its ccmhination of historical memories and heroie tradluons it shows us something of the his,toriCfl] foundations of heroic poetry and reminds 'Usof the nature and estent of that wide world of Cermania~hidl th:e aut~ol" of BeotD1Jif was ~'CllualI1 t~e fOIi gran~ed to as iam~har to hiS audfenee and thus as suitable material fOIi allusion and OOLa~ogy. The whole 'world of barbarian wanderings and conquests-the world which collided with, in a sense destroyed, and in at sense was absorbed by, tho Roman Empire-is here sketched out. And that woddprovides. the orchestration, as it were, for Beowulf. Beowulf holds a special po.siUon in Anglo-Saxon literature-indeed, ,m older Germani,!: literature as a whole--beceuseit is the o'nly com-

AN'CLO-SAXON

UTEnATURl;:

plete extant epic of its kind in an anetent Germanic language. NG..... here else isa traditional theme ~harndledin along narratfve poem agai,nst a background which reveals to us the culture and society of the Heroic Age of the Cermanic peoples. Whether there were in fact other Anglo-Saxon epics, which have not survived" is a question wbich may well be debated forever; hut the fact remains that B.eowulf survives in a single manuscript, which was damaged by fire before it was ever studi,ed or transcribed. H it is impossible to determine eouelusively whether it was the Anglo-Sa:.;on epic or simlJply an Anglo·Saxon epic (though it should be mentioned that modern opinion Incliaes to the belief that It was the only poem of its kind composed in Anglo-Saxon times), it can at least be said that it ls a poem technically impressive in its handling at mmrative verse, remarkably successful iill rendering that combination of heroic idealism and somber fatalism which seems to have been part of the Germanic temper, yet structurally weak and providing insufficient unity of tone or organization to hold together eHectiv,e]y ~he two central episodes and the many digressions which make up the whole. 'fholLlgh the ultimate origin of the story is folldore (workillg, 3.S folklore does,on his~ol"y).and: behmd the poem probably lies a variety of popular lays, the £IDem as we have jt is generally agreed to be the work of a single author writing in the first helf of the eighth century, though a powerful case has been made out Eorits haVing been eompesed orally by a heathen oonsiderably earlier, with the Christian references (.of which there are about seventy) representing later r,evision or rnterp()lahol'ls,. Future scllolars may welli return to this [atter view, BeowfJlf falls into two mainparts. The .fl.rst deals with the visit of Beowulf, nephew of King Hygelac of the Ceats (the Ceats probably occupied what is now southern Sweden), to the court of .King Hrothgar of Denmark, The aging Hrothgar had long been plagued by a man.eatiMl$ monster, Grendel, who came regllliuly to 'the king's great hall of Heorotto pr,ey on his warriors, ama it was 10 sla.y the monster that Beowulf carne to Denmark He fights with andmortally wounds Orendel j9 Heorot, .and when Grendel's mother comes to take ,evenge Ior the death of her son he follows her to her underwater home and alter a desperate struggle slays her too. Beowulf and his companions then leave for home, laden with honors and presents from the Danish king. The second part takes place lift}' ye3i.rs later, when Beowulf has long: been king of the Ceats, A dragon, guarding a h081'd (If treasure, has been disturbed, and. has been. going out 'to wreak daughter throughout the land. Beowulf, to save his country from the dragon's ravages, undertakes to nght it, and though he succeeds in slaying it he is rums-eli l'lDIortally wounded in tne

10

ANGLO-SAXON

LITER.ATUIRE

ANGLO-SAXO~

l!.·ITERATURE

struggle. The poem ends with an account of Beowulf's funeral; his body is burned on an elaborate funeral pyre, amid the lamentations of his warriors. There are historical elements in Beowulf, tbough th.ey are seen thltough the folk men.ory Sind!the folk imagination. in eombinaticn with a variety of marvelous legends. There are also numerous digu'~ssiam and! aUIllS.ionswhich make it clear that the author is taking for graQ.too among his readers (01" audttors) kno,wledge of at whole body oj storles concerning Cermanie heroes. In the feast at Heoret celebrating Beowulf's victory over Grendel we are told how the minstrel recited 'the story .of Hnsef's death at the hands of the sons of Finn and tile subsequent vengeance taken on Firm by the Danes, whose leader Hn~f had been. Part of the minstrel's recital is given at considerablelength in Beowulf, but it can have had little meaning to anyone without a knowledge of the whale story. \Ve can in some degree reconstruct the sequence of events with the hdp of a fragmen.tary An,glo-Saxon lay, The Hgh! at Filln.sburh. which appears to deal with other events, in the same story, told on a different scale. Other stories a:re referred to in BeotIJ1.I1f more casually, and part of its interest ties in the thread of Cermanie story thai runs, through allusions, aaalogies, andrefereeces, through the poem. Thotlgh it is an Anglo-Saxon poem, composed in England, it harks bad: totbe period of Germanic history before t1Je Al1glo.Saxotl invasion and shows 110 bias toward Englishheroeso Ceats, Danes, and Swedes occl!2py the foreground of the narrative, and emerging briefly from the background are a number of figures whom we also meet in Scandinavian tradinoa and in the poetry and legends of a variety of Teutonic peoples. On the surface, Beowulf is a heroic poem, celebrating the' exploits of a great warrior whose character and actions are held tip as a model of aristocratic virtu,e. It reflects !lie ideals of that state o~ sodety we call the, Heroie Age, and its resemblance to the Odyssey in this :respect bas often been noted. The grave courtesywith which men of rank are received and dismissed, the generosity o~ rulers and the loyalty of retainers, (he thirst. for fame through the achievement of deeds of courage and. endurance. the solemn boasting of warriors before arid after performanoe, the interest in genealogies and pride In a noble heredity-all these things are to be found in both poems. But BeDwulf is also a record of marvels rather different in kind from those encountered by Ulysses in his adventures, and, further, its Anglo-Saxon gravity is reinforced by the introduction of Christla.n elements which do not, however. seriously weaken thepagan atmos-

phere of the poem. for they are concerned with large elemental fads such as God s creation and govemanc,e of the world and such Old Testament stories as that of Cain's murder of Abel. If the general atmosphere of Beowulf can be called seriously pagan, with the serieusness deepened and tbepagaIli heroic ideal enlarg.ed by Christian elements, .it is certamlj not uncivilized, though the civilization it releels is primilive enough. There is a genuine ideal of nobility uaderlying its adventure stories. It is the splendid gnlv.ity of the poem that fal1s most impressively OR modem ears. Sometimes in a single llae the paem conveys atmosphere and mood to perfectien. We are given an account ()If Beowulf's reception at Heoret, and his, confident words before his warriors lay themselves down to sleep'. Then:
Com on wanre niht senti' an Sceaclllo3Cl"i33, Seectend swreJoll., ~a ~1Et hom-n:cedl beaMan, scoldon, ealle buton aEum. • . DII oom of more under mist-hleopum
0

3.reJlldel30n)u..

.jade;; rITe bser, " ..

Came OIL the da.Tk night gliding. the shadowy prowler. The warriors slept who were to hold the antlered hall, all but oce. . . . Then from the m~OT under the misty cliffs came Grendel ma.rclring; he bore Cod's anger_ ..•

The tone is not unifonn,lmt the poem is at its most effective in its Eloments of slow terror or suspense, and in its mere elegiac mo-ods. It h.as neither the larger epic conception ()f the Odysseg nor the Hne poIDim. of a "secondary" epic such. as the Aeneid. But it is an lmpressive, i uneven, perfoemanee, carrying IlS sllccessfully into the AngloSaxon hemic imagi.nation, with its emphasis on solemn courtesy, generosity, fidelity, and sheer endueance, And und,em-lyingall is ~he sense ,of the shortness of and the passing away of all things except the fame a man leaves behind. There is little else SUIV iving of Anglo-Saxon literature which makes .. direct contact with the older 'heroic view of Me. Dear, an interesting poem of Jerry-two lilies, is Itlle complaint of a mmstrel who. after years of service to his lord, has been supplanted by' a. nval, Heorrenda, He comforts himself by f,ecoWltillg the trials of Cermanic • 11, like ~,.h;a:s the SOWJ:d of "~.HD is the CIIplW (orm. cl ~.

me

ANGLO-SAXON

LITERA

,[USE

heroes, an of which were eventually everceme, Alter eachreference to the trembles (lIf some famous character there occmsthe wmaiD
Pm5: cfereode,

]8 into touch with Chri5tian Europe,. and Chri:stiallil Europe ill tllm had its contactswith the classical civilizatilln of Greece and Home, W'e must thus distinguish between thaI: part of Anglo--Saxon literature which sought nourishment hom "barbarjan" Germanic. traditions that had nothing 1.0 do with dassical civilization and tllat part 'Whose i~spi[aliorl i5, Latin and which represents an EngHsh treatment of Illemes and attitudes commau tomughout Cbrist,endom and thos found allever Ellrope. The Christian. li.teT.atul:eof ~Ile e.uly English shows them in touchwith the new European civi.lization as wen as with the aDci~n~ classical war Id. It also. e.na::.b.:te.d. Anglo.SaxoD. poets ... ~o work on bi bUea! story and se <connected them with tlJe Hebrew imagination. ReligiOUS poetry seems tohave fioUlrished in northern. EnglandNorthwnbria.-throughout the eighth century. thoog:h most of it bas sUTvi.ved only in West Saxon transcrlpticns of the late tenth century. Bede, the great English ecclesiastical historian 3I1ldscholar who lived f~om 673 t~73.5, tells i.rIi his .£ccle;,:ia.rtical History of the English P'eopk how in the monastery of toe abbess Hilda at.Whitby a.lowly lay brother named Cooclmon suddenly and miraculously received the gift of s(mg al!ld"a't once began to sing, in praise of God the Creator verses wh.icli he had ueve:r heard before ....As th.e abbess Hilda died ill 680, this puts the begrnrun.gs of An,glo-Suon. religiOUS poetry be6cJ<rethat date, The only poem we have which is 'cerl:aJinlyby C1eOOJonis the nineline poem quoted by Bede in his 3.C00UOt of ~he poet's first jn~piratio~. Bede wrote his Ecclesiastical Hist01'y in Latin (though it was b"anslatedint,o Anglo·Saxon under Xing Alfred), but fortllml.~ely in one of the manuscripts of the work the originaJ Northumhrian te:x.t of the poem bas beef! preserved:
NlJ. scylun hergan
Meluda:-s mrect~

p:isses SWI mlfg:.

nat

was surmounted, so may 'this be.

We get fasc:lIilat:ing glimpses of figures famo'lls in Cennanic !egeIl:Oi~ WefaIld~he STrllith, heodoric !:he Ostrcgoth, Eo,rmanric !be Oerth, T and ethers-and of'th,e troubles tbey suHeroo orcaosed, bu~ the main interest o.~the poem lies in its combination (J,f t1.is kin,dl of subject lnaUer Wltn a personal, elegiac note, !lot common LlilAnglo.Sall.'on poetry, though found even more int,ellsefy in The Wandere:r and The Seafaru, to be drseussed later, Two hagments make up the remainder of what we have of older Anglo-Sa:t'O:fl. heroic poetry. andlile fact that beth were discovered by accident ilillsha11f:S: arbi~rariDess as well as the Incempleteness the of tile extant boo}' of Anglo-Sa.-;on verse. 'The rust isa fragment of fif~y lines, incomplete both at the beginning and the end, dealing With the same Finll story which we hear of in Beowulf. It is pa.rt of a lay, and describes the attack on Hilrefs hall bylhe followers of Fhm (the Beowulf passage being a parap~rase of III handling at. mudt greater length 0.£ the same general subject, tfuough there are difEicuJI· 'ties inl'eoondlillg it Wlth tbefl"agment). The second. fragmenl.is part oj an Anglo-Saxon treatment of the Walt:harius story. a story wen!mown on. the oontinmt and preserved in j~s most complete form in. the Latin epic of Wal'thari.uS' Oily Ekkeharo of St. Gall, WDO Iived i.m the btter part of the teath ,century. The AnglO-Saxon fragmelltwhicb, though ,ea.rli'er thILl], Ekkenard's Waltharius, :sbows evidence of a Christian edltmg of whiclil tile Latin poem gives liUle sign-iS geaerally known as; WaUhere:it consists of two separate part!! of aooull!llirty Iffillese~c:b. and its chief interest is in offering rurt:her evidenceof the popularity of stories o£ eontinental Cermaaic heroes ~ong the Anglo ..sllixOlls. The two leaves of manuscript which con .. . law tbe fragment:9.'I"Y W,a1d.heTe were not disoovered lInt.il, 11860. The Christianizing' of the Anglo-,Saxons had more far-reaching elects O.D their literature thu the B.d.dition of Christian elements to hel'c}~cpoems. By the ,eighth cerrt:my tb,e tedmiqlle5 of Anglo-SaxDI!il hero.le ~e~ were_ bemg 'a.pplied ~o purely Christian themes, with the result tJlIat we bave 21 substantial bOOr of Anglo-Saxon religiOUS poetry, repr:esentmg a quite new development, im English literature. Here we see die Anglo-Saxons break:mg loose from their pagan origins and, instead oj seeking su;bjects for t!leir poetry in the herOic themes commoo to old Gemumi.a,fuming; to £ace the new world af Latin Christianity. It b Cbri.stianity that brougmt the Anglu-Suons

hefre:aricres, Uard,
end hi's modgidanc,

uere '.Iwldurbdlir.
eel DryetiD,

suehe uundr .. gihures.

or astelid,(il. . • •

Now let us JI1lIJis;e the glllarn:i:11l,of 'Heaven',5 ki'llgdom, The Creator's might and His purpOiSe, The work of the Father of glory, as He .~ all wonders, E:~rnaJ Lord, esm~IiBhed the beginning. . • .

(The diff'ellence between Nor'thumbriarn and West SU:O:IlI call be seen at a gImce.u we put beside tile Ncrthumbrtan version" quoted above. the following Iater W'esl SSXQIl version.
Nil seulon berigeall he@faarloes WeIIl'd. N'eotodes meahse ond his modgep.anc:,

14
eoe

.'1. NGLO-SAXON

LU'ERATVIIE )

ANCLO-SAXON'

LITiEBAT\lRE

15

weorc ""~I1dorrieder. swa he wundra gehw~.

Drthren

or onstealde ...•

tive verve, wlule his second and longer sl?eec~. m~~ alter be has been cast into Hell, has somelbing of the true Mdtolllcllng:
loh. had 1 hut the strength afmy'hand5 And could far one hour win out 0.1 here, For one winter hour, then I wlith this host-l But around roe Iie iron bonds, ' The retter's cLaim rides on me ..• I look nol 10 behokl that light agaiIU which he Ihinh long 10 enjoy. That happhne'ss' wiLh his host of tmg:el:s; we shan never gain Sohenin~ of Almighty Goo's anger. Let us ~lI.ke from it
Ihe SOil'> of men,

Thjls shows, clearly (>'lIol'1 h. the vocabulary of praise which! the 9 earlier seop had applit·ulo Wlislord now being applied to God, and gives some iudicatiull I)f how the heroic style could be adapted to hfblleal sl1bjt:c~s. Bede tells 1I~ tllllt Csedmen went on to s:ing "'ubout the creation of t~le world and the origin of mankind and thewhole stnry of Genesis; about the exodus of Israel from Egypt and their entrance into the promised land; about many other stories from Holy Writ; about the incarnmiou, passkm, and ascension into Heaven of the Lord; about the coming of the Holy Ghost and tile teaching of the apostles." There are Anglo·Smwn poems on manyof these subjects, and 101" long time these were held to be Ceedmon's. But the a relative stiffness the nine lines quoted by Bede seems to represent an earlier stage in the development of AnglO-Saxon religious poetry than that represented by such poems as Gene.l'is, E:rodl~S,and Dsnier, which show greater vanetyand ease o,f movement (though it is true that nine lines do not give much basis for comparison), and the poems once attributed to Csedmon are now thought to be later in da.te though still regarded as belonging to the "Csedmonlan school," The Junius manuseript" contains four "Csedmonlan' poems, of which the first three are based on Old Testament story. The Rrst. and the longest. of these is Cenesis" II poem ofnearly three thousand lines which, after II brief preHminary account ()£ Satan's rebellion, God"s anger. His casting out of Satan and! his crew, and His decision to "establish agail~ the gloriOUScr,eafion ... when His boastful foes 11;](:1 departed from heavenon hij!:~.- goes on to narrate the substance 01 the :first twenty-two chapters of Genesis. The manuscript is LII'IIperfect and there are several gaps in the text. There is also a relnarl!· able interpolation of over six hundred lines, different in language and style from the bod)' of Ihe poemand dearly comi~g: from another work. This runterpolated passage (generally known as Genesi.s B, to distinguish it from the rest of the poem, Imown as Gel'lesis A) deals .... the temptation of Adam and Eve and their faU and, in consider·nh able detail. with Satan's rebellion, wh.i.ch is so much more brieBy dealt with in the introduction to Genesis A The poetic vigor and dramatic detail of Genesis B is remarkable; the poe.m is a rudimentary Paradise Lost and, indeed, its finest passages can bear comparison wnbparts of Milton's eptc, Satan's Grsf speech ("Why should I toil? I need have no master; 1 can, work as ma'Nly wonders with my hands. .. _ Wl:ly should I wait UpOD His favo.r. bow before Him with such homage? I can be Cod as weU as He.") has tremendous: it primw-

That heaven'!), kingdom,

or

th:'tt \,VI! may not have them 10 forsake !lis u.llegj~nce To transgress whathe bade them with his word .••
1IIOW

it.

lead

Satan's rhetoric in Genesis 8 is the primitive rhetoric of the heroic age compared with the subtler parJiamentary rhetoric of 1',mt?~"s Satan; but there is real poetic imaginatLon at work here, an abilIty to give vigorous new life to a traditional character. The story of the faU of Satan is not. of COUiSe, inthebihlical Genesis, but it had tong been part of Chrislian tradition. The original author oE Genesis B was not EngHsh, but wrote in Old Sascn on the continent; the A:n~loSaxon poem which we have is a 'translation of an Old Saxon ongmal of which only portions have been found. .., Genesis A. which is far the larger work, lacks the' IHgher Imagl;aative quality of Genesis 13, but the ,.ersi~caHon shov.:s aline techll.lc~l ease and the adaptation of the conventtons of ~eTOIc p~etry to blb1:cal narrative is done with real skill, Its source IS essentlallj' Jerome s standard Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate, but the author has drawn also en patristic commentary and Christian legend. He must, tJr.erefore, have been a "clerk"-i.e., a churchman of some kind-for no one else could at' thal period haee had the requisite education. It was probably written i~ Northll~bria cady in the eighlh century. Genesis B cannot be earlier than its ?1d Saxon original. which dates from the oinlll century. As the ]umus manuscrlpt, in which the poem is found, dates from the late tenth or early eleventh century, the poem 35 we have it in Anglo-Saxon must have been produced between the end of the ninth and the end of the ten.th

~~~- adaptatIon 'The

.. See above, 11.6, rot!: L.

'to religiolls verse of the style ~nd conventions 0' heroic, poetl)' is even more vividly demonstrated In tbe Anglo~Sa:<~n ExoduS. The seriptura] narrative is followed less closely than In Genesis A. Moses, emerges as the '"gloriOUS hero" leading a warlike

16

ANGl.>Q-S,AJ[ON

LITERATURE

ANGt.O-$A,lItON

LITERATURE

17

people to freedom and viictmy. The description of the drow:niDg IOf the Egyptian host in the Red Sea is done with great verve:
• . . Sir-eaml!!s St:OOGII, storm up gewat heah 10 hecfonum, herewopa malSl; Ja:l5ecyrmdon, Iyfl up gmvearc, freg1iJill stefnum; lod blodgewod. Randbyrig WIE;ron rofene, rodor swipode meredeafia mat. Modige swuleon, qningas on COl;tsre, 'C}"re switirooe sores<et ende, , , . . . . The seas reared up, "lJlestorm uprll'Se High 10 the heavens, the great clamor of an ann,.; The foe cried out (the air above grew dark) With doomed voices; blood spread through the waters. The wall of !b.ieIds was pulled down; scourged the sky The greatest of water-deaths; breve men pe:rish ed, Kil!lgsin their pride, thdr chance of return vanished
At the sea's end ....

Lingrustic evidence suggests that EllodWi is dm oldest of the Anglo,5:axon bib]jcaJ: poems, and it perhaps dates from the beginning of the eIghth century. Daniel is_ less interesting, with much less dramatic quality and a more ~o:nethroughout I~ is a p,arsphmse ?f the five chapters (I the blbhca.l book of Dame! as .It apptlars 11) the Vulgate, ~th ~e apocrrPbal prayer of Azariah Interpelated' in tbe middle, The m!~rpolati~n see~sto d.eriv,e hom a ~eparatefoem dating fmIn. the middle 01: ~ate,nmth cen.tlJ.l)'; t~e maui .pari 0 Dalliel was probably composed m Northwnbna early ill the elghth century. In the same manuscript that contains the two Genesis poems, Er~d~. and Daniel, there is Found also an untitled religiom: poem \'V.ElIch is 1:1.0w genera]]y called Christ; and Satan, This shows an Anglo-Saxon poet working Dot directly frembibllcal sources bul ~lioma va~i~ty of Christian ~raditjons. Here we get a picture of Satan In HeUw!'uch represents .him ~,ot !IS ~e de6an~ spil"it of GSIl6SW.' B lmt as a lost. 50?! lameMiitil'ilg blUerly h.IS _exclus~onfrom the joys o.f Hea. veil. He.~s gnrel1l se~erallipee. ches. ,each with c.olls~deli.able. elegiac eloquence; the author IS dearly concerned to emphasize the differenc~ between He~ven and and the diHerent resalts of EoUowing Christ ~nd followmg Sa.m·lIl. The laUer part of the poem concentrates O,TI Ch.nst, ~o~gh at th"e very end, after an account of Satan's ~emplaHOI] of chnst In the wilderness, we return to Satan lD his frustration. Christ and Satan seems 10 have been inHuenced. by the school of GyneWI.IH,a poet who may have ilfourished eaily In then.inth century and who is tile lirst Ang)o-S.axonpoet to sign his work (by means ,of

r~osSJ~

msl:

~en

mnic letters WID,vell into the, poem) .. Four of Cynewulfs poems are extant, aU sLOWing IlL more self-conscious ctaftsmans:bip than is fou:nd in. the Credm.onian poems and suggestmg ill style an.d structure the mfluenee of elassiea] models, The heroic strain, so s!llccessfuUy transplanted from the older poet.T}' in such a poem as Exodus, is, baking in Cyn.ewulf. and :in its place we find. a more meditative and contemplative tone, The four Al'ldo-Saxol'l Chl ..ristian poems whiCil.· have the name of Cyne\vuJf worked' iIlito them in aercstic ~Orn1 are Christ, Julwl'lD, Elene, and Tlw FtI.t~ of the Apv·.stles. All] these poems possess both a high degree of literary craftsmanship and a note of mystica].ronte.mplation whic~ sOlJ1eti~-:=s rises to a high lev~1 of religiol.ls passll:m. The story of Ch'ns!: as told In the !IDem of that title maws on a variety of eeelesiastiea] and patristiC sources, but it handles its subject-the Advent, tbe Ascension, and the Last Judgmen.f:i-with an intenSity allits O'Wll. The dialogue between Maty and Joseph in the first. part, brief though it is, silows a real f.eelmg (01: the dramatic si~uatioll. and is, besides, the earliest extant dramatic passage in English literature. Iuliano is a more C(tnventi<mal work, a typical saint's life.• following its Latin prose source without any si,gnilicant d6viatioD, while Elene is the story o.f the discovery of the !:rue cross by St. Helena, mother of OonstaotiJlle, told with a keen sense of the \\',onder of it allI and a relish for the romantic suggestions of distant scenes and places. The .Fates af the Ap.ostres is a short poem of one buadredand twelilty-two Ilnes (and may be the concluding part of Andreas, which n follows inth.e manuscript: if so, then And·,.e~. too, is by Cynewulf, faT The Fates at the Apostles contalns the mnic Signature). The author is here meditating on the adventures of the various apost]es after they dispersed to spread the Gospel, but its inte.rest: for the· modem reader lles largely in the personal passages. Its opening shows an interesting ml.ltation of the heroic mto the personal elegiaC sixain: "Lo, weary of wandering, sad m spirit. I made this song. gathe;e.d .it born far3lDd wide, (If bow the brig'lilt and g~orious: heroes showed forth their courage. '" Witb Cynewul.f. Anglo-Saxon religiOUS poetry moves beyond biblical paraphrase into the didactic, the d.evotiollaI,. and the mysUc,al. These qualities are also exhibited by mllLDy of the religiOUS poems whicb seem to nave been written. under IDs influence" The most remarkable of these is The Dream 01 the Rood, fragments of which are to be found inscribed fll1'lllnic letters on the Ruthwell CI"IJ.SS in Dum~ Some scbol!all'S: JTlJllobl" that IlnlJl the .1~dJl'll'l', ID which the)" g;t ..... !he title elf Ths ~Dn (or C.h1'W;l!B)" Js: by Cyn,ewulf, lw only this part contains Cline> wulfs name bD fUnk eharaeters, The other tv.·o parts t"e~' eenslder 10 be &epllrste poems, giving one lhelitle of Ths Adoenl (or NotfPl'l'IP,o~ Chmt A) amd LIa" o!:hl!l: the title Df D'o~ C (Dr chnr« C" grouping ilOOg"ther with two Diller poems on tile L&st. )'udgmO:lIIt whicb 'they oau. DOO!1'IIdo., A. and. Doomsd.JlI B respecti",d"..

18

ANGLO-SAXON

Lr:rERA.TURE

Iriesshlre, Scot~:md. (probably an early ,eighth century version, freCynewu.lf), while tile complete p<lem exists in the VerceLli Book, il!Dli! mneh later version (probahy late nil1~h century). 'file tone of the complete version 3S we have it suggests tha.t the earlier version had been nfterward adapted oy a. poet of the school of CyneWUllf, erhaps ~ven by CynewlIH himself. n is the oldest surviving Eng~sh poe.m m the form of a dream or viston-a form whiclJ was later to be used for such a variety of purposes. The dreamer tells 'how he sawa vision of Ihe bright CI'OSS, bnUi.antly adorned with gems. and goes on. to t.ell ~he s:peech that he heard it utter, The speech of the cross, in which It tells of its origiu in the fo.rest, it:. removal to be made inte a ernss fl)J "the Master of mankind," its horror at the role it had to play but its determination to,stand fast because til,at was Goo's command, the suffering of "the young Hero"whCl ascends the cross lJ"CSol1!1tely in order to redeem malllkind-all this is done mv,erse; charged w~th a simple eloquence and :rustainlng. a Iljgh Dote of rel.i. gH)u& paSSion and. wonder, The speech ends witb an exhortation to each soul to "seek through tile 'ClOSS the kingdom which is far from earth," and tne poem th.en concludes with tOe dreamer's account of his own reUgioushopes. Other puems associated with the school of Cynew~Uare Andreas. which 'teUs Df the adventures, sufferings, and. evangelical suooesses.of St. Andrew, with deliberateemphasis on the wOl1derfulan~ tIle p]~turesque. and! a perhaps exeesslve .ex:ploitatioll of the rhetoncal devtces of Anglo-Saxon poetry (~e source of tlle poeea ls Iii Latin rendering of tbe :apocryphal Greek Ali7,ts f Andrew o and Matthew); ~o, poems on the Life(If the En.gUsh hermit St. Cuililac; The PhoenIX, of which the first part, deriving from the Latin poem De Ave .PhoenlC8, attributed. to Lactantius, describes an ear~lypar~diSle i? the East,: the beau~y of the phoe~'ixl ·its Hight to SYTla. fter It fIla;' lived for a.thou:sandyearsro·build a its, nest, die, and be re~rn. vo:hi1ethes~lld half takes the phoenix as an allegory both of the life of the vUtuoU,o'~n thj~ world and the next and as a symbol of Christ;. arnd-.foilowing The P1wenb; ln the Exeter Bookill poem ~UUe~ Phys101ogrts or Bestiary wJt.jch belongs to the popular me~beval literary Iorm of bea.st allegories, where real or (more often~ imaginary. ,qual1ti:es of a~imals are given a morel applieation. Physl()logw, whieh derives ultimately from a Gree'koriginal is ~Ilc?mpJ.ete.: and deals with the panther,. the w~ale and, :inoompletely, the pa~lnd~e. It has. the sa~e lushness of descriptive style that is (oundln T~e ~hoeTllx, and rts natut.ali history Is equally fabulous. The w~ale .1:1 given the charming name ol F'astitccaloD-s oon:uptiaDI 0..£ Aspldochelone, Originally applied. to the b.lrtIe.

Finally. tl.ere fans to be mentioned among sigmfica:nt: AngloSnarl religious poems the fragmentary JlIil'ith. of which only the concluding sections survive, in the same manuscript that contains Beowulf. The poem is' a version of the Vulgate textGf !he apo.eryphal book of Judith, and the extant portion tells. ill. vigorous and rapidly movililg verse of Judith's beheading of the drunken HoloIernesalter bis confident feasting, bee rallying of 'the Hebrews 10 attack ~he Assyrians, the consternation of the Assyrians on discovering Holcfernes' headless body, the rout of the Assyrians by the Hebrews, lind Jmuth·s hi1l.lmphand praise to Cod. Judah possesses a fierce energy in desc~ibing the de[lth ,rtf Hclofernes and the defeat of the Ass~'rialls, 8 note of pruitiv,e jllhilation. which is quite different hom anything in the older heroic poetry. In fluidity of movement the verse form shows itself to be bidy late, and the. poe.m may date from the end DC the ninth century or possibly even Iater, Thcugh some of the Allglo·Saxol'l :reHgiol.lspoems, especially some of those by Cynewulf and hi'~ school. expTe~,sa personel devotional :feeljng, none of them C!l11 be said to be really lyrical in character o. to have been written primadl)' lor the purpo'!le of exploring persona] emotion. Neither ~he heroic OO·r the religious poetry of the AngloSaKOi! tends toward the lyric, and though Be note of somber elegy· is sometimes struck, it is rarely developed fol' its own sake. -rhere is., however, 8. gl'oup of Anglo·-SsJ(ol1poems ill which a mood of lyricw ele:gy predominates, and these stand somewhat apart from the poetry we have already discussed. Of these The Wanderer and The S·ea.farer are the: most similar to each other. The lVa~derer is the lament: of 3 solitary man who had once been happy in the service of a loved lord but who now, long after his lord's death and the passing away of that earlier time of happiness and friendship, has become a wanderer journeying the paths of exile across the icy sea. The poem ends with some ecnveneional moraliZing, blot the main part of file elegy .isan impressi ... lament for departedjoys, done with a plan-· e gent. tone of reminiscence and an elecU ... use of the ubi s!mf? e tbeme- "where are the snows of yesteryearr -that was to become such a far",orite in medieval literature. The SelJ!a,er, which has the same melancholy tone, the same mingling ()if regret and self-pity, is the monologue of an old sailor who recalls the loneliness and hardships. of a life at sea ",,·hileat the same time aware of its :lascjnatiol1l. Some critics take It to be a dia!o<gue, ill which tile old sailor urges t.he hardships of the seafaring life against the argWllents of an eager young mall anxious to take to the sea and atlrac!ed by the dLm~ culties, aad the poem can indeed be read in tills way; btl1. the HuC'-

20

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lua"ting m(}ods of the poem seem more impressive if tak,el1l as the' alternation of weariness and fascination in the same person. WM'chi· ever way we read it, however. it is the elegiac element that stands out from among the sometimes obscure sequence of moods. which ends. mile,e Tile W«ndeTiCT, with a conventional reugious sentiment. Tile date of both these poelTlS is uncertain: they may be almost as old as Beowld f. Bet h are found [11 the EJ;,eter Book. Another poem ill the: Exeter Book, which is generaUy giv,en the "title of The Wife's Ltllllent, can also be considered as belonging 1'0 this grollp of elegiac monologues. It is dHficul~to follow the precise situation t[l~ speaker is describing, hut 3llp:uentEy the wife has been separated from her husband and forced to dwell jn a cave in the forest by the plottil'llgs of his kinsmen. In spite of the comparative obscurity of ~l1e Situation, the eentral , emotion comes througlnt strongly, and the note of personal passion-the love and longtllgror the absent husband, the curse On the enemy responsjble for her presene plight-rings out 'with remarkable clarity, Similar in many ~ays .to this poem i~ The Husbantfs Message. Here the speaker is the piece of wood 011 which the letter is carved- it first tells the wjfe its ~wl"llife story and tlle,ll goes on t~' speak the message now canted on It. The husband remiads the wife of her earlier vows, tells her that he has been driven from her by a Ieud, and bids her join him across the sea. Wulf and Eaduieee« is another dramatic monologue" existing oilly in a fmgmel'lt ,of nineteen lines in the Exeter Book, which. for all fhe obscenity of the situatien described, expresses an intense romantic passion in a way quite uncharacteristic of AnglO!Saxon poetry as it has come down to us. Wulf is the woman's outlawed lover and Eadwacer her bated husband. or alt least the man with 'whom, against her will. she is forced to live. The passionate ~~ .
Wul!. min wulf, wena me pine seeee gedydon, ~Ine seldcymas murnende mod, nales meteHsteWulI, my Wulf. my longings Jor thee Have made me sfck. Ib.y rare visits. It was my sorrowlul heart, not want of 1000-

l11ighthe Iseult calling for Tristan as conceived by some nineteenthcentury romantic peet, The Wife's Lament, The Husband's Message, and Wulf and ,Eadwacer represent aU we ha.ve of Anglo-Saxon love poetry. They have not been tampered with by derks allllXiow> give to a moralalld religiolls twist to tbe end, but :bave survived. in aJll the

intensity {If their original utterance. How many poems in a similar style may have been lost it is impossible 10 tell, nor is .it easy to see for what kind of an audience this, kind of poetrywas written. We know 10' what taste the Anglo-Saxon heroic poet catered. and we can understand the appeal of the (eligiolls poetry of the age; but these passiuuate rendermgs of personal emotion. devoid .of either heroic atmosphere or religious leaching, must have appealed to a taste one is not accustomed to tbinking of as at all prevalent in the AngloSaxon period of Englisb culture. There is one other interesting Anglo-S,axou poem Willi.· an elegiac tone, it is: a description of a ruined city (perhaps Bath) in about flfty lines, found in the Exeter Book, It is a sad picture of desolation and decay set against an account 0.£ the earlier prosperity of the place, and, though the texi is impedect, the SeJ1ISIe or passionate regret at the passing away .of what was once li'llely and beautiFul is conveyed with impressivr. eloquence. No elencal improver has tagged a religious moral on to it (or, if he has. it has not survived in the incomplete version which alone is extant) and t'he mood is somberly fatalistie, The Ruin IS mot i.ncompaiible in feeling with much of BefJWUlf. which has its own stem sense of fate, and we can see from it bow in Anglo-Sa::m-npoetry one kind of elegiac mood was thereverse of the medal whose obverse was heroic, The Exet,er book contains nearly a hundred Anglo-Saxon riddles, some of which seem til' have been translated from Latin m'i.gillals composed in England by clerics of the seventh and eigl1th century and some derived. from the fourth. to fifth-century Latin writer Sympbositls. This form of literary amusement has little appeal for the modern reader, though many of Tile Riddles-which are in reg'll[ar Anglo~Saxon verse form-show considerable Eiterary skill, particularly .mn descrtptive passage.£. Theil" chief interest today lies in tile incidental glim{lNcs they give us o~ the daily Wife of Anglo-S,QKOn England and the folk beliefs of the time. Simi]arly. the so-caned "Gnomic Verses," some .of which are alsom the Exeter Book., and MIme in a British Museummanuscripr, with Ithei'r generalizations about rnorajs and experience and the properties of objects encountered. in daily living. are of mterest to the social historian as the only grou P of existin g Anglo-Saxon poems which are not 0(1 the whole aristocratic in origin; they reBe<:t lilIe manners and opinions 011 the peasantry of the period. Toward the end of the Ang1o-Sax.on period the old heroic note, so long unheard, re-emerges finely in two poems dealing with eontemporary histDry. The ,Battle of 8runt.lnburh appears ill the AngloSaxon Chronicle under tile date 9-31: it rete hrates the victory ·0£

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AUhelstan of Wessex and Eadmuod, his: brother; against the comhined forces of Olaf the Norseman. Constantine, king of Soots, and the Britons of Strathelyde. There is an important difference, however, l:ae.twee~ the hemic tone of this poem and that of the older Anglo-Saxon poetry. In the older heroic poetry, emphasis was laid on the individual hero, and his national origins were of little fmportance=he was one of the heroes: of Cermania and as such claimed the admiration of all the Gemlanic peoples without any national plejrud.ice. But The Battle (}f Bmnanburh sbows strong patriotle sentiment, The vidory lS regarded as a. victory of the English forces against None, Scots, and Welsh enemies, and though the heroism. of iEtheIstan llind Eadmund ~s celebrated, the two princes appear nat as heroes in their own right so much as champions of their nation. The Baffle of Maldvn appears in the Anglo-Saron Chronicle under the date 991. It deals in the older epic manner with one of the many clashes between E:nglish and Danes that resulted from the laUer's attacks on England, which culminated in. the conquest of tme 00\10try by Cnut (Canute) in 1012. The older heroic poems did not, of course, deal with historical events that had only just occurred. nor. as we have noted, did they show any trace of national patriotic feeling. Yet The Bnttle oj Maldon is remarkably similar in spidt to the older heroic poetry. It is the story of .3 disastrous English defeat: Byrhtmolfl. ealdormen of Esselt, who Ied the English forces, fou~ht and diecll in a 'recklessly C()urageou~ attempt to stem the Danes. The poem contains nine speeches. mostly of eshertation and encouragement to the English forces, delivered by seven different speakers; many of the English warriors are mentioned by name (thougb not one of the Danes is so singled out); the passionate loyal~y o£retainers to their chief is eloquently presented; and the tone of desperate courage against hopeless odds becomes mote and more in~ tense as the poem proceeds, 10'culminate after the death of ByrntIlOth in the final words his old retainer Byrhtwold:

Here Hes OIU lord, 0.11 hewn down, The good man in the dust; ever rna.,.he lament Who 1l0W from this ...-ar-play lllinhto tum. lam old In years: from here I will not go, But I by the side or my lord, Dy the mar; so dear. purpose to lie.

And, in this high strain, Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry comes to an end. The AnglO-Saxon invaders of Britain brought with them their own poetry, but there is no evidence of their having possessed! any Iliterary prose tradition. The development o(Old English prose does not therefore go back to earlier Cermanfe origins. as the poetry does: it takes place wholly in England, and largely 3.5 a result of the Christianizatlon of England. It is, not surprising that prose developed later than poetry: that is the normal thing ill the history of any !.iterarure, for the primal urge to artistle expression is bound to be poetic, while the proper maturing of the more utilitarian prose medium of communication follows the emergence of later political and cultural needs. With the Cermanic peoples, the delay in the development of prose was emphasized by thetr contact with the old and mature Creco-Homan civilization. which supplied clerks ready to act as secretariesto their leaders and a sophisticated Greek or Latin prose more than capable of making any formal communications 01" keeping any legal or historical records which mighl be required. For the celebration of their 'own heroes and the perpetuation of tilei. own legends, 3 native poetry was necess::Jry and. indeed inevitable, bll!t the need lor prose was only felt by barbarian chieftains after they had come into contact and had been deeply affected by the civilization they threatened, and that civilization could easily supply the need of which it made them aware. There were exceptions to this generalization. but there can be little doubt that it applies 10 the Anglo-Saxons. Or that English prose begins in the reign of King Alfred ill an attempt by the King and his associates to bring within range of the people the most' significantaspects of earlier thought. Latin was, of course, the language of the Christian Church, and an essential tool in clerical education; perhups if England had been geographically 'Closer to Rome, Latin might have stifled a native prose altogether, just as its prestige and availability had earlier hampered the devefopment of a formal TIS.tive prose among many of the Germanic peoples. But, as one el th.e most perceptive historians of early Englisb prose has put it. "when Cregory the Great sent his missionaries to England, Latin civiljz~hOI! reached a land which was so remote hom Rome that Latin

or

Hig~ sceal !le heardra, boone!Je cenre, mod seeal :pe mare, jJe ura m:egenlytlati. Herbti me ealdor eall Foroeawe1ll, god OD groote; II. m;eg, gnomian selle nu fTllm ~is wigplegan wendan pence~. Ic eom {rod l:eores; fram ic ne wille, 11'1: il: tile be healfe minum hlaklroe, he .swa Ieofan men, IIcgan ~ence. l'nollghtshalil be the Ilurder, heart the keener. CoullIge 5balil be the more, as our might lessens,

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could influel1ce the mative !anguage without depressing H;"s and when tl'Ie laws of Kent were amended to introduce new Christian notions" the new clauses were written not In Latin but in English. King A1fred of Wessex, kn01iVII in political history ror his achievement in stemming the Danish conquest of England, the acceptance of his overlordship by-in the words of the Ang,lo-SaxGIl ChronicleNan the English people except those who were under the power of the Danes" and the consequent advance of the peoples of the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms toward an awareness of their political unity as Englishmen. and for his remarkable combination of the statesman, the military strategist, and the patriot, is even more nnportant in the history of English education find the history Qf English literature. Throughout iii reign troubled by milltary problems of desperate mgency,lilot all of which had been resolved by the time of his death in 899, he yet found the time and the energy to meditate on the means' of bringing the Fnllb of Western culture fa "all the free-born. young men of England'" and to see those means ill large measure achieved. Innis preface to his translation of the CU1'a Pastoralis (PastQrClI Care) of Pope Gregory the Great he tells of his COI1cern at the dearth of scholars in Englaed at the time of his accession to the throne (in 871) and at the destruction of churches and books by the Danes, and his wonder why earlier English scholars had not translated any of those books into the vernacular; then he immediately proceeds to answer ~he last question by saying that those earlier scholars can never have supposed that a knowledge of the original languages should have declined '10 such a degree. But he realized that Christian culture had lts roots In Hebrew. Oreek, and Latil1 sources, and that if these were to be made available to the people an ambitious program of translation into the vernacular would have to be undertaken. "When I remembered how Latin learning has already decayed throughout England. though many can read English writing, I began, among many C)ther varied and ma.nifold cares of this kingdom, to translate into Eng~ish the book which is called in Latin PasfoTaUs and In English 'Hierde-boc' (herd's book. i.e., shepherd's book, pastoral)." Alfred's program of translation did 1I10t include direct translations from the original sources or Christian culture, but concentrated 011 later Latin works in which, as he believed, much of the ancient wisdona was distilled. Thus Gregory's C".:m Postor'alis, a wOlrk describing the duties and responsiblltttes of a bishop which had come to be
&R W. Chambers, 1932. Page,ltJ:. 'The Continuily
Sir TI'QmtIS More, ..,Jited by Elsie Yaughan

of English Prose," in H(JrJJS1icld'~ Httcbcoek and R. \Y. Ch"moers,

Life (JI London,

regarded as a manual of a parish priest's duties, came mll'St on his Jist: he must have been attracted by Gregory's emphasis on the bishop's duty to teach the laity, Alfred was especially concerned with the·trainin.g of teachers-who would all, of course, be clerics, and whose t,eaching would be religious-as his choice of this work indicates. All the free-born English youth should be able to read English, and those who wished to proceed to the priestboodwould, after learning English, go on to Latin. English ,vas:nece.ssary as a (irst step both for priest and layman. The translation of the Cum Pastoral'is was done by Alfred with the assistance of scholars who expla.ined the meaning to him "sometimes word by word, sometimes sense by sense"; for Alfred was late in 1eaming Latin and depended on a number of helpers of whom seven are known to us by name. It is on the whole a literal rendermg, but it Ilows easily and there is little indication of the forcing of one language into the idiom of another sm:1:1 we might expect :.in 8.S a pioneer translation, Alfred's next work was a translation of the Hi.storiae aduersam Paganos of the fifth-century Latin writer Paulus Orosiu.s, a work written under the inllluence of St. Augustine in order to prove that the introduction of Christianity had not made the world worse than it had been before. Orosius chronicles the calamities of mankind from the Fall of man to the fall of nome with an equal disregard for hlstorlcal a.ccurac. y and litera.ry gra~. and it is.a pily that this shoddy preduetior; was the only world hlslory available to Altred. Fortunately, Alfred treated his orig£nd rather freely, add~ng his own illustrations and omitting much propaganda; more important, he added two entirely new narratives, one told him by Ohthere, II. Norweg'ian who had explored from his home within the Arctic Circle, sailing round the North Cape as far as the White Sea, the other told him hy a voyager named Wulfstan who had sailed the Baltic from Schleswig to the mouth of the Vi.stula. These lively aecounts of foreigll lands and peoples. to(!;etl1er with Alfred's additions to Oroslus drawn from his own knowledge and experience, give this translation its present value, The voya.ges of Ohthere and! Wulfstan are justly celebrated as among the high spots of Anglo-Sason prose, and the prose is certainly Alfr,ed's own. Thetranslatsm of Bede's Hi.slori.a Ecclesiastics (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) associated with Alfredl's name is a !.itera] rendering of the Latin, perhaps Mt done by Alfred himself though certainly inspired by him. Alh"cd's ~wo final translatiens were of more philosophical works. That of the De Consolatiane Philosophiae (The Consoll.ltion of Philosoph!:!) of Boethius, a Roman philosopher and statesman of the, late 6ftb and early :;h:th centuries, made avail-

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able in Anglo-Saxon one of the most popular philosophical works of the Dark and Middle Ages, later translated by Chaucer. It deals (in the loren of a dialogue between the author and Philo.sophy) with the fundaments] problems of God's government of the world, the nature of true happiness, good and evil, and the question of Cod's foreknowledge of man's free wi!!; though there is no specific reference to Christianity anywhere in the work and the general Woe of the work derives frorm Greek and Boman ethical th{lught rather than ircm Christian teaching, its high idealism and, inparticuJar, its reconciliation of Cod's perfection with the apparently imperfect state of His world, appealed to Christian thought. 1"0 the eighteenth-century Cibbon "such topics of consolat.ion, so obvious, so vague, or so abstruse, are ineffectual to subdue the feelin~s of human nature," but the medieval mind found them more helpful. Alfred mn his later years had left history and googranhy to medrtate on prefounder philcsophlcal themes, and the work of Boethius-cwritren in prison. while the author was ,awai'ling execution-had a particnlar appeal to' a man and to IUl age familiar with sudden reversals oJ fortune. and anxious to find a wider and a calmer perspective from whicb to contemplate human vicissitudes. Alfred's last work was a book of "Blossoms" derived ior the most part from tile Soliloqllies of St. ALlgusline but with Freely interspersed original comments and illustrations .. ]n his preface AHred compares himself in his literary endeavors to a man collecting wood in a vast forest which contains plenty of materials for aU kinds of bllil.ding. The analogy is apt enough. and expressed in a fine piece of Anglo-Saxon p.rose: it can serve as a stlmmin~ up of Alfred's literary pllrposes. Alfred's Laws. though of great importance 10 the political historian must, like the laws of other Anglo-Saxon kings and Like Ang]oSaxon charters and similar nonliterary prose works, remain outside the purview of the historian of literature. even though OU;!y, Iike the charters" have considerable irsterest for the student of the development of English prose. 'File Laws. however, are prefaced by a translation of chapt,ers20.to 2.3 of Exodus., which. tell of the givin~ of the law 10 Moses (lIlc1uding the Ten Commandments and oilier civil and crimina] laws), followed til' the passage from the fifteenth chapter 0'£ Acts describing the enactment 0'£ the council of Jerusalem and the relation of the Mosalc law to the new djspensation, which represent the earliest extant El1glish biblic.aJ translations ex'cept for some ~teral renderings of the Psalms.Bede (who died in 735) was said to ba.\'e translated the Gospel of St. John from Latin mto English. and probably did translate the first six chapters, but the work has not survived.

]t was probably in King Allred's time that the great Anglo-Sll:I:on Chronicle was !regUln, a series of annals which commence with an outline of English Mstory from JuLius Caesar's mvasion to the middle of the fifth cenmrv and continues (iill one of its: seven manuscripts) to 1154. The different manuscripts, each of which was kept and continued at a different locality, diverge considerably after die heginuingof ~he tenth century, often including material of especial local interest. The ChfOtlide includes some flne examples of Frase narrative, one ofth,e most Datable being. t~e story (I,f Cynewlll and Cyneheard, occurring under the 5urpnslngly early date of 155, which shows that at least one English writer of the middJe of the eighth century had at his command a prose style comparable 10 ,that of the Icelandle prose sagas, The conoolllit"of English prose from the Old English (or Anglo-SalCon) period to the Middle English period is demonstrated by the ChronicU more dearly than anywhere else. and ttsdifferent manuscripts are of prime importance for the student of the English IlWguage. The level is far from consisfen.t, dropping considerably in the middle of the tenth century (whi.ch is surprising, I'lITthat was a period of stabili.ty and prosperity) and .brillg up mto some vivid de:scri:piUonsat the end of the tenth and the beginning of the eleventh 'centuries, when the second greSit wave of D~nish invasions was tearing the country apart, Themanuscript known as D gtves :>.' full and lively ptcture of the relations between England and Scandinavia in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1043-66) and a most important account of the Norman iJ)vaS~Olil and subsequent events, while another manuscript. G, which ends in 1006, gives a vivid account of the conflicts witb the Danes in the reign of Ethelred the Unready (978-1016). The latest entry is in a manuscnpt that was continued at Peterborough; it is for the year 1154. By this ·time the English language had developed from the st?ige we call Anglo-Saxon or Old English into Middle English. By this time, too, as a. result of the Norms» Conquest ami what followed, English as alfterary language seemed about 10 disappear and EnglishhistoricaJprose appeared to have come ~o all end. Un.tiJ well into the fourteenth century, English, replaced at co uc~ by Norman ... French since 1066. seemed to be dwindling away into the rustic speech of a handful of "uplandlsh men," But, as we shall see, the 'tradition did 110t wholly dry up; it was to emerge agam triumphant three hundred years after the Conquest; the English language eventually conquered the language of the Norman 'conquerors, and EngliSh. prose rose to new life in the .fifteenth century. Alfred and the writers who kept tip the .Anglo-Sax01J Chronicle wereuot the onJy writers. of Anglo-SaKon prose .. Alfred's associates

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LITERATm\fE

29

were also responsible fer transiatiollS, and we 'knGw that Blshop Wrerlerth of Woreester translated the Dialogues of Gregory the Great,. The most notable of all Anglo-Saxon writers was iEHric, abbot of Eynsham. the great Englishscbola.r of the Benedictine reforrnatlon of the tenth century, whose sermons in the vernacular (the first two series !mown as the Catho.lic Ho'milies-HomiliDe Cat'lolicae-and the third as Lives 0/ the Saints-Passiol'les Sanctum.though their subject matter is not as dearly distinguished as these litleswould suggest) with their careful balance and prose rhythm display a line virtuosity. }ElIne also produced a somewhat abbrevieted version ill Anglo-SalioD of the first seven books of the Old Testament (the Heptateucll) done with suffici"ent skill to enable us to ca]] him the first English Bihle translator to have gone a considerable way towardachi:e"lng an appropriate literary prose style for biblical translation. Beside the carefully balanced sentences of JEIEric we can set the more fiery eloquence of his contemporary, Wulfstan, Archb!s;bop of York from 1002 to 1023. His famous Se"nnol'llto the English. entitled in the manuscript Senno Lupi ael ,Anglos, was delivered in 1014: in it Wulfstan paints a vivld picture of the horrors brought about by the Danish invasions-a picture of wrongdoing, betrayal, violence, ClOp failures, civil w,ar, treachery, murder, immoraUty of every kind-eand uses n as a means of hammering home to his audience the necessity of amendment i1 they are to avoid hellfir,e and earn "the glory and Ute foy that Cod has prepared for those that do His will on earth." A desperate sense of the immille'nce of doomsday [pervades: the whole sermon, hom the opemi1!lg statement that "thls world is in haste and approaches its end" to the powerful "Cod help usl" of the conclusion. WuIfstan's prose, though he, like lElft-ic, uses alliteration and antilhesis, gives all.impression of breathmess passion, of eloquence breaking out through its own force, which msmarkedly diJIerelll( from IEUric'slline,ly chiseled urbanity. ,. The ravages of the Danes at the end of the ninth century .had wr<lught havoc wmth the organization of the EngJish church and, while Alfred's translations represented :31, remarkable attempt till improve the state of educatioa, it was mot until the middl·e and latter part of the tenth century that a rea] revival of religious learning took place in England. That revival was, the work of the great churchman Dunstan who, alter a lUe devoted to monastic reform, was transl.ated to the See of Canterbury in 900; of Oswald of Worcester and tElhelwo·ld of Winchester, who carried further the monastic reviva] begu.n by Dunstan; of iEthelwold's pupil IElfric. who led the literary movement; and of Archbishop Wulfstan, }EUnc's friend for whom he mote some '0£ his famous "Pastoeal Letters." lJ )Eline and Wlilhlan

extended the range of effective .Anglo-Saxon prose, it WQS not because they or ,any ecclesiastic of the time were primarily interested in vernacular literature, but rather because the vitality 'Of the movement of which they were a part carried over Into this field. To iii tenth-century cleric, Latin was the language of learning and o.f literature, and concessions to the unleamed in the form of translations were achievements of minor importance. The main thing was to keep up the standam-d of Latin scholardlip among the clergy. The. most popular oftElfric's works wirh the modem reader is ~ set of sl~ple Latin dialogues (the Collo,?"yl intended to teach Latin to boys Ii[l a monastic school. These dialogues (between the teacher and a monk, the teacher and a. plowman, the teacher and a shepherd, the teacher and a fisnem:lan, etc.) interest lIS today because of the lively glimpses they give us of the daily life oJ tbe time; but)for )Eliric they were means to a very important end. .. . ..Elfric's ColloqlJy reminds .us .that with the triumph of .Ch.mtianity all culture was eceleslasttcal culture and all ecclesiastlcal culture was based Or! Latin. The Latin literature of the Anglo~Saxon period is much greater in bulk than t~at ~rittell in the ~ernacula.r, and UIC histiHY of Angto-SuO'I'l learning IS more extensive and In many ways more remarkable than the history of Anglo-Saxon literature. The sl,ory of the conversion of Engla~d and the d~el~pment of its ecclesiastical institutions from the landing IIf Augustme In Kent in 591 through the Synod of Whitby to the tenth-century reformation, which includes the story of English Latin culture, the art of illuminating manuscripts and of handwriting-and, indeed, all the other arts, including architecture-is a rich and noble one, It would include the names of Aldhelm, "perhaps the most Iearned man of h.is day in Europe"; of Bonifa?e. w~~ lacked Aldhe~m's ov~r-el.a?oration of style but whose Latin wntmgs have thelr ow~ ulidivldual power and charm, of Benedict Biseop ?f Northumbria, wbo f~ullded the two famous Benedictine rnonastenes of Weannouth and Jurow; all1d of Bede (673-735), Biscop's great pupil, who S'pent his life as a monk af Janow and is one of the really great scholars of England and of Europe, author of numerous works of Biblical lnterpretatien, history, hiography, and science; of ,Mcuin of York (735.--B?4)~ho ended. his career as advfser to Charlemagne and head of his palace school, thus p~aying an important part iu the European cultural movement known as the CaroljIlg~an Renaissance: as well as of the tenth-century wl"iters who have been ;ahead), d[scw;sed. It would indude the story of the relations between scholars who looked to .Ireland and those who looked to Rome, and thespeeial contributions of each, and it would tell of the part played by English c.hurch-

30

ANGLO-SAXON

LITERATURE

men as missionaries in Frisia and Cermany and Scandinavia. All this is important, because i.t emphasizes the role of the clerics in carrying on the cultural tIadUioD in this period. Yet it is not strictly a part of the history of Eng]jsfu Iiterature, Literature as such, even in Latin, did not yet play the central part in embodying and tran.smitting the cultural tradition that. it was to do later, particularly from the Benaissanee (In. The man of culture belonged 6rst of all to the church, and the impressive claims of secular Iiterature had not yet begun to be asserted.

CHAFTER

TWO

The Development English

of Middle

Prose and Verse

THE NORMAN CoNQTJEST of England in 1006 provides one of those convenient landmarks for !:he historian, whether political, social, or cultural, that divide up his subject almost too neatly. The temptalion to take 1066 as the dividing line between theold Anglo-Saxon England and the new Anglo-Nonnan England is indeed difficrut. to resist, and of course it should not be altogether resisted. The Norman Conquest imposed iii French-speaking luling castle on Englaad, with the result that Anglo-F.rench developed as the lite[arylanguage of the highest social classes and Anglo-Saxon (now r::Ipidly developing into that stage of the English language known as Middle English) "lias for a period! relegated to the lower classes. English, which remained the language of the vast majority of the peQple, eventually won out over French, and by the beginning of the fourteenth century its vic lory was clearly evident, but its re-establlshment as a polite literary language after the period of Anglo-Freneh ascendancy did not mean that n was starting altogether anew without awareness of' its Anglo-Saxon roots, The English which :finally ousted French as the language of the literature of England was a language changed in many important respects-it had lost the Anglo-Saxon ir&ections and had greatly enriched Its vocabulary From French-but it had not wholly lost touch with its traditions, and there is a greater CODtinuity between Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature tl1an the casual reader of both might imagine. It is true that in English poetry the. rhymed verse of French soon replaced the Anglo-Saxon alliterative tradition, though there was a rernarkabje revival of alliterative verse im. tile [curteeneh century. Andl the English tradition in prose, which, alter the achievements ox the Alfredian translators; ,lIJId tile homiletic traditioa ,of JElhic and Wuifstan, was much mere
31

32

MIDDLE t:'NCl.ISH

PJIOSE AND VERSE

M.IDDLE

ENGl.ISH

Pl\QSE

A'ND VERS,S

advanced than anything in French prose, did not prevent French influence from ma~g verse the medium of much Middle English historical and miscellaneous writing for wbich prose would have been (and, in the Anglo~Saxol!lperiod. was) the appropriate vehicle. Yet, though French influeJilce broug,ht rhyme instead of alliteration to Englisnpoetry and restricted the range of Englisb prose, and though the French language affected both the vocabulary and the prommciatten of English, Middle English literatulie-English literature between the early twelfth and the late fifteenUl censuries-Js In ma.oy important respects the beir of its Anglo-Sax,on ancestry, and the elements which distingui.sh it most sharply hom Anglo-Saxon literature are those which might well have flowed into it in the normal course of international cultural influence. The influence o£ French literary methods and French literary attitudes was felt all over Europe, and would have been felt in England even if there had been. no Norman Conquest. We are entering the period of French cultural domination of Europe. which is a much more signi6cant phenomenon-even for English literature-than William the Conqueror's !Victory in 1066. But if the long-term development of English literature was less affected by the Norman Conquest than migb~ at nrst Sight be imagined, there can be no doubt that the immediate effect of the Conquest. was to disrupt the course of English' literature considerably. The position with rregar,d to language was enough to ensure that. Even though modem scholars tend to regard as exaggerat,ed the older view which held that French was, the regular languag,e of the upper classes for more than two and a half centuries after the Conql.lest, and stress the evidence that points to the use or at least the knowledge of English. amo:ng the upper classes outside the immediate circle of the Com~, the fact remains that for over two centuries the Ilterature produeed under courtly or aristocratic patronage was French both in tone and in la:nguage, while li'lerature ln English was either rough and popular (much of it oral, and so lost), or simply didactic, written by the lower clergy with the object of illlstructing the common people in biblical story and the duties reqnired by their
] I am using the term ·'English·' to refer II) tlle whele field (Ii literature d'sC'Ulssed In this book. as, I regard lite Anglo-Suon phas.e as an integra1 pn:rl of the Enghisb literary tradition. The logirnl t.erm to use for Anglo-Saxon for anyone with Ihis jiIOint (If view wiluld! be "Old English:· which gives us the neat tripartite di"isiolll ol the English 13ngu3~e lnlo Oli! [ ..ghsh, Middle Englisb. and Modrtn ~nglj,];" the commo.. wClrd ~Ellglio;n" emphasizing the continuity. Man}, modem !iCOOhl~do this"yel "Arnglo-S:mm" remains the older-established IIn<l better-knewr, tenn, ."d leern~ )looan,t'io:: til refer, fot· example, 10 the well.~ I1lOW!I A "81...sa.:.m CJ\1'<I'nlc!<> as t.h.e Old £ngii~h Chronicle, ~ ~ wmet'me; IIOW o:Io"e.

,I

niligioo. The immediate form in wwchAnglo-Saxon alliterative verse survived was less teclmically subtle, more simp,ly accentual, than the stricter Iorm of the Ang,]~SaxoD period: it probably represented a popular oral tradition which was less likely to be aHected by the displacement of polite Engljsh literature by French, and it was certainly a kind of verse which was more susceptible to the 00.Iluence of the French rhyrned coupler, toward which it moved. Olle might, indeed, distinguish two lines oJ developme~t of the old Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse. One moves .... this popula:r tr.aditiolJ la toward the rhymed couplets of the French, the long alliterative line breaking into two, acquiring rhyme, and becoming metncaUy regular. The other somehow made contact with the pUTer and stricter allmterative tradition and emerrged ito the so-called "AUireraHv,e Revival" of the fourteenth century. which produced. ill western and northern parts of the country where national Engliish feeling had remained strongest, some of the most ieterestingworks in the whole of Middle ERghsh literature. But' if some aspect.s, of the Anglo-Saxon verse tradltion liingered 011. the same eaonet be said for the hemic note of AJoglG-Sa.xon. oeb"y. p The Norman Conquest was itself the las~ of those many movements, migrations, invasions, and expeditions, ..... hiell had ended the Roman Emptre and brought a new Europe into. being; by the be~inning of the tweHtb century this new Europe had de6ned its relation to the Roman rast, bad established itself as .3 Christian ci\fi~tion, and .had become suHiciiently stable culturally to fonn its own norms of politeness both in We and in letters. The herolc age was gone. and new kmds of courtly sophistication replaced the heroic ideal in manners. There are, of course, Ilnks between the new Europe and the old, and we can trace the movement from the ChansOFI& de ge.ste, with 'their sterner note of heroic endeavor-they include the verse tales of Cbarlemagne and his peers-to the Al"lhurial'l romances, with. 'their steess on courtly behavior and new ideals of love and sentiment. Of these romances, more hereafter; at tbe moment we note merely that the old beroic note was dying away throughout Europe, because the new Europe of the Middle Ages was mot a heroic society In the strict historical sense but a feudal society with its own eenventions of service, honor, and obligation, its own, kind of literary patronage, and its own social conditions breeding its own view of the relation between the sexes, The Norman Conquest did no! bring this feudal organization to England; it had been developing in late Angle-Saxon times; bul. it certainly hastened the process and, what is:more important'tCl the iterary historian, it brnugbt .En.gland more .immedi-

MIllDLE

ENCLISH

PR03:E AND VERSE

ate'!y roto eoataet 'with conttnental civilization and especially with tile new ffowerillg of French culture which was to' change the pattern o.f aU medieval European literatures. Again, we must not imagine t~a'f Anglo-Saxon England had been isolated from the con~inent, and that it was DOt until 1000 that relationsbetween Englalld and the CQ·ntmentdeveloped. There were in Iaet powerful Norman influences working in En.gland m. the generation ~e:fl)re the Conq uest, and the A.nglo~Sa:::onkmgdoms, at. ahe heig:Jl_tof theirpro~erity.had mall)' amI slgomca[ll: European contacts. But the Norman Conqcest 1)!£.O'ugnta More immed.iate" a mereaetive, and a more continuous rela.ti·onship with the 'continent .•and, by imposing III French-speaking rulmg caste on Eng;land. brought the achievements of the new Frencbclllrue mare rapidly and more forcibly to the attention of Englishmen. . 'fhe stOlry ofEnglishliteratu:re during the tw,o centuries and a. half after the Norm.an Conq_lLIesl: is tbe story' o:f what the late seventeenth.celltury critics; were kI call. with reference to the acbievemen~ of their own poets, "the relillement of our lliIIwnbers," Foreed back to its more popular elements, English literature soon began to. rise again :slowly ill the social seale, grndually acquiring an ease, a skill, and. a polishwbicb would enable it to hold. its ownw:i~hFrench. The full and triumphmt achievement DE this new ease and skiU and polish-in the work of Clla.ucel-co!i11cides in date with the final re-establishment of English as theuniversa] nationallamguage, the speech, both written. and spokea, oJ both Court and peop,le. It was a. very different language now from that of BeCH:VIJlf or of II:tfric, hav.ing come undee many inflllle:nces in addition to IIm:llergoll'lg those chan.ges in pmcttncia.tioo and word structure which any language undergoes with the passJ.m.g time. BlIt it was the legitimate descendant O'f its Anglo. of Saxon parent. The reader of En,gUsh literature of ~his period is struck by the numbet of diHe.ent Middle English dialects: it was not until toward the end of~he Middle English period that ~:he East Midland dialect became more 01'Ies5 the standard literary language. 'file reason EOI" the Dumber of Middle Engllih Literary dialec~s was dlat. as a result of the Conquest, Wessex los!: its political and cultutalimpa)rtance, an (ID itsdialect, w.est SaxOIl, which had establlshed its supremacy as:the fiterary language, therefore simila.rly lost. its prestig,e. Wi~hlle Court and lirLstocratic circles 'using French, theie was no :force: making for the .supremacy of anyone Middle Eng,lisb dlaleer over tile others, so writer:s in English used the language of their O'Ml1 region. These regional dialects of Middle lElllgUs.h were the descendants of !:heir Anglo-Saxon aaeestors. the Northum-·
r,

brian dialect of Anglo~Sa'xon split up lnto Scots and Northern Eng~ Ilsb, Mercian developed into East Midland and West Midland; West Saxon div.ided into the Southwestern and Central-Southern dialects; and Kentish became the basis oJ the dialects of Ute Southeast, WheJ',e there is no central standard of polite usage, Iii language will always. split up Into regional dialects, which ts of eourse wily a popular literature, developing jndependently of polne standards, will tend to use the language of its own regio.n, as in American Folk song to this day. This also explains why, For example, Scots, originally .3 branch of Norlhumbrian English and later, as a result of its me by the Middle Scots poets, a fully developed ltterary language in its OWll right, split up :mto regional dialects after the Middle Ages, when, as a result of increaSing association with Enghmd, Scotland more and more adopted standard EllgHs:h as il::;. literary language and thus lost its s!andard for polite Scots. Just as, the eclipse of Wes:se:t and the loss of the standardizing power of its language pmdueed by the Neeman Conquest and the emergence of French as the courtly language led M.iddle: E.nglish to relapse into. aseries of dialects even as a written lanJ!:uage, so. the union of t'he crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 and the union of the parliaments of the two countries in [707 made English the standard polite language of Scotland. and split Scots up into the series of local. dialects which it has remained. 1l1l'l.LI 'OUl' own time, when the movement of contemporary poets to create a synthetic Scots literary language is at la:st trying to reverse this trend, .As French receded.even among the tipper classes, and English moved sloiwly up in the social scale. the poSSibility or a new standcl.rd fOM of literary Ellglish grew steadily, until,by the end oJ the Middle English period, the dialect cf London, now the dominant city of Engla.nd, reig:rned sllpreme. The London dialect had orig~na[]y been a Southern dialect, with its characteristics largely Southeastern, but by Chaucer's time it had become mainly East f..Hclland in eharaeter, with the result that standard modern English derives from East Midland and Dot, as anyone looking at the English literary scene about the year 1050 Migh~ have predicted, We.st. Saxon. The kiss of Normandy by the English "in 1~04, and royal decrees in both England and France in 1224 making: i:! illegal for any one to hold land in both countries, must have helped to make the descendants or the Normans in Ellgland consider themselves bound purely to England and encouraged the growth amon.g them of the English language. Besides, it must be remembered thai the Norman Conquest did 110t. represent-as did the invasions of the Saxonsand the

36

MIDDLE

ENCL1Sf{

P~OSE

I'I..ND VERSE

Danes--a national migration. The army brought to England by WilHam, Duke of Nonnandy,. consisted of [10 more than about six thousand men, and some of these were mercenaries who returned aCf05S the Channelafter the subjugation of England was completed illll07Q. William gave English estates to his followers and made them into a small ruling class which replaced! the Anglo-Saxon. nobility. but underneath. English life went on very much 35 usual. It is true that Henry II (ll54-HB9), the .first of the Plantagel"let kiIilgs, possessed vast realms in France, extending from the Channel to the Pyrenees (having inherited Normandy and Maine from his mother, and Anjou and Touraine from his father, audacquiring Poitou, Cuienne, and Gascon)! by his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and BriUamy through hts SOD Geoffrey •.who mauied! Constance, heiress of that province), and ttJTOughout the late Middle English period English kings regarded themselves as the rightful kings of France (3 claim wbJdl produced the Hundred Years War, which began in 1338,2), Hut, though this intimate contact with France kept the influence of French culture very much alive in England, n could not prevent the steady rise of the English languag,e nntil it became again, in the Iourteentlr century, the polite as well as thepopulaI language of England; for the masses of Englishmen had spoken English all aiong. The classic document on the rehabilitation of English in educated. circles is a paragraph in John af Trevisa's translation of the .Polycfmmicon ot Ralph Higden, Higden, writing aooU't 1350, had stated. that ever since the Normans came to England Englishmen had been. forced to leave their native language and do everything in French, and that the eluldren of gentlemen were taught to speak French frOfiTI mfancy. Trevisa, translating Higdell's work from the Latin in 1385,. adds his own comment on Higden's statement:
f>ys manere WIl.S moehe y-vslld to£o~e ~e flir:5le mQreyn, and )15 se]lthe somdel ychaunged. For Iohaa Cornwal, a mayster of gramcie, chayngede ~ lore in gram.er~cole and construceioa or Frenseh into Englysch, and: !Richard Penerych Iuruede pat manere tech}'li!g of hym, and ober men of Pencrych, so ~at now, pe 3er of oure Lord a bousnnd .~r,e JIiI.ondted fOlue sro:e all.:! fyue, of ~e secunde kyng Rtdlanldter ~ Conquest nyne, in all j:>c gramcl"!ilooles of Engelood children leue~ Frensch, and construep and lumep an Englysch , • , ~ In st'ile or some impre:<sive vidories over the' Frencb Itlt'h 1!.5 Crecv and Pa1tiers 1lS411 and 135!l respecll velyl. Ihe En!l~isb never estnbllshed t:hdr ~IRim- for :my leng;tll of lime:; even HE'llI)' V, who liftEr hl:!r"oIIcttll')' at AginooLln:: 10 ·1415 :md !tis triumphant entry Inlel Pa:ri:5had himself named Ihe heir to the French throne, DCVH lived to be King of France. and in Ithe follClwing reign, that of Hem~' VI, the revival of French n.1tiOnl') fu!ing resolted in Ihe dirivillg 1m! .:Fl the Engli~h. By 1453, ·when the Hundred YearsWnr (whiCh bad been fa~ £<00'1;1 conlinu0U5 since l.3:l8) came to "fl ·e"d, the o...ly French ~ass=i.()D leff to the En.!:lish was Ihe port of CaJ:ak

This was the general cu510m ·oefore the nrst plague [the Blac-k Death af 1349], but Ihing5 have change-d now. For John Cornwall, a school teacher. changed the method of leaching in scbool and made lhij$ pupils translate (rom French i.llto English; a.nd rua:hlTd Pencryeh learned that way of leOlching hom him, ns did ether men of Penerych. so that now. 1585 ,,",[),.,lie 'nil:1~h ! year of the reign of King Blcherd n, i.m all the gnmuRe.r schools 01 England children have abandoned French 31:1d translate and do their lessons in English.

This sets the dale of the change hom French to English as the means of inst'ruction in schools failly precisely, and when we realize that forma] educational methods are always conservative and are: slow to reflect public opinion. we can see why the social and cultural rehabilitation oz EnglIsh can be said to have been achieved in the first half of the fourteenth century, Englisb was lntreduced into the law courts in 1362,'1 and English was used for the first time in the opening of parliament in 1363; the work 'O[ Chaucer came in the immediately f,allowing decades, By this time, too, Ang,lo-Farench-the development of Norman French in England-was giving way in England to Parisian French. the standard French of France, which mdieated that .ib knowledge was a polite accomplishmeerrather than a native endowment. Besides Frenchand English there was Latin, the learned language of Christian <Civilization.Latin had also. of course, been the learned langll1age in Anglo-Saxon times, and H was Dllll)' the dearth of good Latjnists in England thai led. to the use of Anglo-Saxon in serious didactic literature (we saw earlier how King Alf[ed's pro~ram of transjation was, caused by his: fear that Latin had declined throughout. the country), This illustrates very dearly how ignorance-of a kind-e,an 'e~wourage the gro1llltb of a vernacular literature, a not uncommon phenomenon in the history of culture, Anglo-Saxon Literary prose was among tile best de v eloped in Europe,and far more advanced than French prose; but had the Danish invasions not produced a. decay o,f Latin learning, it would never have developed as it did, The ecclesiastical reforms introduced into England by the Normans restored Latin as the language of serfous didactic works and thus did grave harm to the tradition of El'lg[jsh literaryprose= though. as we shall see, the tradition did survive, to re-emerge impressively later, With the Larin literature. of medieval Englal1d we ar-e net concerned in this history, though 1110 ODe who wishes to understand the
m ..oo longv,
1I At least, an ..leI 01 Parliament ' of that I'em ord~red that ali pleas ~hould be conducted in English; but in r'8.CI French rem,,;noo Iho; Iangu.ge lOr the .Iaw t"CUTiI:s IQr

38,

MIDDLE

ENGLISn

lPBOSE AND 'VERSE

MlDDLE

ENGLiSH

PROSE

AND VERSE

literary culture of the Middle Ages ean ignore it. Latin was not only the language of theological and didactic works; it was also the language of science, philosophy, history, and a great deal of poetry. Latin was also used for all officiaJ documents, and was the legal laoguage of NDffilan England until it wasreplaced by Anglo~FreDch In the thirteenthcentury. (Anglo-French remained the official legal language of Englalld until173L} Perhaps the most interesting Latin prose works produced in England in the early Middle English period were the histories, Such Al1glo-l..atil1historians as WiUiam of Malmesbury, whose histories of England show both. learning and a critical judgment, and Ma'lthew Paris, the greatest of the twelfth-century Englisb hisrorians, are of more interest to students of historiography than to those concerned primari]y with hterature, but the Hi.st(}ria Begum Britanniae .of Geolhey of Monmouth, written in the third decade of the twelfth century, provided a mine of material which was later to be fruitfuUy employed by Foets and romancers. Geoffrey was a.Welshman, and drew on old British traditions, including the Welsh historians Gildas and Nenni1!ls. He gives us a pieture of the AngloSaxcn Invasions seen through the eyes of the reheating Britons, and his pages are filled wtth figures which were 1;0 become famO\lS in .imaginative liter,ature. Here we Erst find the stories of Lear asd Cymbehne and G.orboduc, and here, most important of all, we get (he mslt full-dress story of the exploits of Xing Arthur. H- is Artbul: himself, rather than his knights, who keeps the center of the picture: we heaJi nothing yet of Laneelot or Tristan; but we have Uther Pendragon and Me'rliOl;we have. the treachery of Arthur's nephew Mordred and the disloyalty of Ouanhumara (Guinevere), and we have the final bearing of the mortally wounded Arthur to A,.alon. Arthur is a great hero to Geoffrey, rather than a great symbolic figure in the background, as he was later to become, and tile krughts by whom he is surrounded are loyal feudal retainers, rather than epitomes of oourtly virtues, Ceo.ffrey has Arthur successfol ill' war against enemdes both at home and abroad, until, rejecting Rome's demand for tribuie, l1esets out to conquer Rome itself. But the d.isloyalty of Mordred and of Guinevere recalls rum, and so the story goes to Ute last great battle and the journey to Avalon. Here is the outline o~ the stOfY tl1at so much later medieval ]iterah.lre was to use as a grand backcloth for innumerable individu.a~ Incidents. The De Nugis Curialium ("Courtiers' Trifles") of Wa:lter Map is another twelfth-century Latin work likely to interest the reader of medieval English literature, though for very diHerent reasons from those which lead hun to Geoffrey of Monmouth. It Is a lively col-

lection of the most miscellaneous material, loosely organized in the form of a satire on contemporary abuses. It contains anecdotes, folk tales, pieces of invective, witty observations, amusing stories, and similar entertaining matter, and its existence is a reminder thai medieval Latin was not the language only of solemn works. Walter Map was long credited with many o~ those lively Latin lyrics-satirical, amorous, iTl"ev,erel1Jt, haechanaliau, and sometimes indecent-which belong Ito the medieval Coliardic tradition, the tradition .of the wanderi.ng scholars, the rolliCking secular protest against official Ch::islendam's focusing on the next world ..How many of these poems,itf any, Map htmself wrote is not known: but CoUardtic poetry, with its secular moods and its frequent metrical skill, represents a chapter of European poetry of the greatest interest tc anyone conceme~ with a~y of the European literatures, The movement from classical Latin quantitative verse to the rhymed accentual Latin verse of medieval hymns and O.! these Oohardic poems represents a major shift in th_e nature of the European ear for poetry, one might almost 5<1y, and it can be studied more happily than elsewhere inthe faS'dnating literature of the wandering scholars. The cleat 'voice of the dismterested Iyris:t comes to us from the Middle Ages more often than we reallae in the Latin words of some impoverished but singing scholar.
Musa venit carmine, dulce modulamine: pariter earuemus .•• The Muse comes with !lOng, with sweet harmon),. 'Letus.sll1g, too.

There was also an Important Anglo-Freucb literature in ElIlglalld ill the twelfth and thirteenth centu.rj,es.M'lIch 'of it is religiOUS and didactic-and we rnus! never forget that by far the largest number of medieva] works in alilY language are religious and didactic-of which only a few ba .... any strictly literary iU:1~erest. e among them the allegoric.al poem Leo Cha.steau d'AmQur by the brilliant and learned Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln. where praise of the Vkgin and many aspects of Christian theo~ogy are presented througlil an elaborate allegory of a castle and its defenders. The ~i ely and metrically v interesting Voyage of St .. Brendan,with its rich collection of marvelous adventures, is another Anglo-French poem of some lil:erary interest ~oday" There are also many Anglo-French chroniclers, among whom. by far the. most significant £OJ the reader of English literature

40
is' Waee, whose translation of Geoffrey of 'Monmouth's Histori.a Bean important stage in the transmission of the Arthurian legend. Wace's Roman de Brut. as his work is generally called, is more than a. simple translation of Ceolihey of MOlmlouth:; he also includes Arthl.1f"ian stories .from other sources,and is the .fOrstactually to. mention the Round Table, though his references to it seem to indicate that it was already known to his readers, The R01iUiri de Bm;!comists of Bfteeu thcwand Hiles of verse, done wlthvlvacity and a j'eeling for dramatic incident that strike the imagi[]ation more forcibly than the straightforward historical narrative of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is with the translatlon of Ware'.:> ROln6n de Brut by Layamoll early in the thirteenth century that the Arthurian story first appears in English. Works ill French written in England during this period also include a number of romances, verse stories written purely Ior entertainment,and some shorter verse narratives. generally bas-ed OD folllore and olten dea~ng with the supematura], to which the name Breton lais has long been given. The illJ ls of Celtic origin,. and seems to have derived both from Welsh and Breton sources, (Brittany. it will be remembered, was settled by fugitives from Britain after the Anglo-Suon invasions, so that the Bretons were very closely akin, both ~I'l: speech and in tradttlons, to the Britons of Wales and CO,!l)wall; 'Ihey spoke almost the same Celtic tongue ;;md cherished alike the A:rthurian and other Celtic British legends.} The best known author of WtS was Marie de France, who wasapparently born in France but wrote in England and dedicated her Lai8I.o King Henry [1. Of the 'romances we shall speak in greater detail hater; they represent one of the .most Important branches o.f medieval secular literature and require separate treatment. Ang!o·French litecratu.re,. whether written in that form of Frencn. which, since King johlil's loss 0.£ Normandyfn 1204. had been develcpillg In its own way in Eng~and. or written [I} England in the French of Paris, was part. ofthe wider stream of French literature which,. partly because of tbe Norman Conquest bat more fundamentally because of the extraordmary efflorescenee of French Iitcrature m the twelfth century, swept into English literature in the Middle .Eruglish period and moved it fal"away from the Angl.ll-Saxon heroic ]l10·1d. We sbaIlbave to. look more closely, therefore, at French literature and the techniques, attitudes, and subject matter which it introduced. But wbal,meaIlHme. was happening to !he native_ Anglo-Saxon t:rawtion? In poeery, there is little extant ~!l' show precisely what. was
gum Br:itanniae, in the middle of the, twelfth century, represented

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happening in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. We have some fragments of reHgious and didactic poetry which are .sufficient to indicate that the Anglo-Saxon alliterative line was continued, !'hough in a looser and more popular form. The WOfCL?s!·er Fragmenrs (So. ·called because they consist of the remnants of a manuscript 'which had been cut up a:oo pasted togethem-to make the covers of a book in the library of Wvrcester Cathedral) pres:erve, if'! additlon to portions of JElmc·s Grammar (in West Saxon), a short poem lamenting that the people are no. IDn~er taught in English. as they used to be in Anglo-Saxon times by the great Angll1'·Sa1'(OllSflints and scholars, but are left in ignorance by foreign teachers, so that both teachers and people are damned togethe.r.
N u is peo leore forlelO':I'l nd pel: {ole is Iorleren, a Nu beep opere leoden pee l;erlilj"lure role,
And .Ieole of

p.e~ lorpeil1les

los ire.p ad

pet

f"k forp mid.

NO'"" is thi~, tcachrn.g Abandoned ,and the peoplets ~OSI. Now il ls men other I~ngu~g.es thai teach our people, Amd ma,ny of die teachers Me damned and the people as well.

or

The language here is early Middle English, and probably represents a late twelfth <"e!lh.J[Y scribe (abolllt 1180) transcribing into his OWll West Midland dialect a poem originally written in W·esl Saxon soon after the Conquest The ~a:ngl1age is,indeed, translticnal between AnglO-Saxon and l\ndldle English and is nearer to the Language of £lfric than lie tllaf of Chaucer, The verse form is still the AngloSaxon alhterative line, though looser than ill classical Anglo-Saxon poetry, But neither this foem northe fragmental), D,ebale b~!ween the BodylJl1d the Soul which follows it IS 0.£ any general literary llllterest; their lnterest .Iies in their illustration of the de",dopment o[ ~he language and of the "use rOmlS of the Anglo~Saxons ill the twelfth century, The de .... eloprnent can be traced further in much religiIJus and didadic literature (including paraphros'es ,of partsaf the Bible). though there is little else that Is so dose t·CI the AngloSaxon tradition. We soon begfn to. see tile increasingi:llJjlilem:e oJ French models, an influence particularly noticeable where, as ohen happened, the Middle :Englisll work was itseU a translation I:r01lll the FrCIiLc'b. A startling break with any tradition is the curious Omllu!um, wr:ilten probably about the year 1200 by an AllgtJstinian canon 'l:DIamed Orm 0.1" Orn1in. Orrn's intentien was to translate in!{) Elllglish verse the Gospels that were read ln the Muss duri.ng the wha,le year, but !.he verse he used employed neither the [,hyrne of the French nor

42

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Amglo-Saxon anit.eration, depending stmply and wholly all strict syllabic reg,ulal'ity. It can be best illmlrated by quoting, the open.ing line:
l:>i~~ OOCiss nemrnnedd Orrmulum Iorrpi patt Ormm ,itl Wlohhtii This book is called Orrmulurn, because Orm made it.

Once the Middle Ellglish writers had learned rhyme, llotlJing wuld stop them, aad a. didactic writer 01' long-winded romancer given his head in II. dippety",clop meter was 'l/e11'hard to stop. OctosyJl]abic couplets could go on £01' ever: Men Joioernes rimes fnr 10 here, AmI romans red lin milne!'eS sere,

This is the first of the ten thousand estant lines ,of the poem (fortunately, Dilly about one-eighth of the w:nole survives), and each 0'£ the other lines is of exactly the same length, each has precisely the same rnetrieal pattern, with fifteen s),lIables and a "Iemmine" ending, and there is nothing!o vary the intolerable monotony. Orrn's spelling is also original: .it is: a phonetic spelling, with a double consonant after €!,'eTY short vowel except when the vowel is in an open syllahle. Whatever hisreason fOT doing '!his (and! it has, been much debated) he produced a very odd-looking text, interestillg til' philologists but of more than usual tedium to the genera] reader. Oml'S meter is Dot in Itself unusual-jf we (liv.ide his line into two we get the standard ballad measure:
He turned hls face unto l'til:ewall, And.dea.th was with hl~ dea1in,g: ~'Adieu, adieu, my de-ar Friends all, A:Ild 00 kind to Barbara Alian."

Of .o!,.lI's3IJ:no.er :terolilquer~ur; 1
Of lul'l Cesae emp8rOUXj Creee and TIl)}, the strangstrijf: li>ere many thosand lesis their lijf; 0' iB'l"IIllthat. bern bald of hand, I>e.6m coanqu;e:r~u.r ollngbnd: o K:yng J!.rthlllH pat was so rike, Quam none ill hy~,wm: was like.

pe

D fJl'J1~)"spat Ilry~bythes Iel, Pal' aunters sere 1 here of tell, AI:!! awal1i, Cai and oper stalrel. W
For to were )Je ronde ta;1le1l; How Charles k}'ll,gand Rawand faght, Wil: sarazins wald ~a:i aa saghl; o Trirtrem and hys lei! Y5(li~e, How he for here be-eorn It 501.e.

Wordsworth was partial to it :


And hark] ~O'" blithe the !hrostle singsl He, too, is n-omean preacher.

o Toned: lind: OO'·Ysambrase. o Ydolne and of Amadase, .. " .

Come fClrt 11into the I ighl 01 th illgs..


Let Nature

be your

Teneher,

arm might have' done better '1'0 accept theFrench rhyming Iashion, which was now beginning to come into Middle English religiolls and didadic verse, The four-hundred line POMW Mora:le OJ' Moral Poem is a late twelfth-century versified sermon written in the' same meter as the Otrnmium, but with more :8exibility and employing rhyme. Though hardly the most exciting of [poems, the PO!lma Morale has a certain vigor and rome signs o~ personal h~eling tbat are wholly lacldng in the Omnultlm. It deals wi~h the usual medjeval religJous commcnplaees-ilost opporhmities in this life, the Last ]l.Idgmenl, the honors of Hell, the joys oi' Heaven, the call to repentance.-but the note ofeamest conviction which comes duotlg:h saves it from being the purely mechanical rehearsal of commonplaces ..

rhyme, and none of them ran to ten thousand lines.

But 'Wordswmth and the ballad writers at least had thevariety

of

This j,s the opening of the Cursar Mund'l, an enormous poem. of somet:hirt)' thousand lines which deals wil:haJI the ImpOltant mcidents of both Old and New Testament stcry and. ,Q great \lariety of moral and rellglous topics, The pnem, whtch dates from the last qu.arter of the UUrteeDth century. is encyclopedic in scope"ana is earrled along through its varied suhject matter by its author's determined and not: unskillful rhyming. It is a good introduetion to' the medieval view of world history and of milch else, and serves to' remmd us onee again of the didactic purpose of so much medieval writing. With properly varied rhymes and metrical s-ki11-wruc"ll, took a 10l1g 'time to ,d:e'llelop-t:be Middle Engl1sh poet was able to achieve something far removed from anything possible to' his Anglo-S:axon predecessor, and even the most stereetypedrehgleus subject could 'be made fresh and moving with the proper lilt and the proper imagery. One of tbe earliest suceesslol r.eligiDus poems ln Middle English is the tw'el.fth-century Love .Rune by Thomas of Hales. It urges the 'Vanity andtransience of earthly love and advocates instead the love

44. of Cnrist-The traditional theme oJ ubi Stint qui ante nO$ {OO1'e?where are those who lived before uS?-rillgs out with a new confidence:
Hwer is lE'3lrisanC: Heleyne Pat weren so bryht and [eyre
Ame dis and ldeyne,
Oil

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blec [face].

Tristram, Yseude and aile pee, Ec~!}r,Wi~ l!uis searpe meyne, And Ce.53T, riche 0.1WOJGes feo [wealth]? Heo bee p iglp:teD vt 0.1~e rerne wOI]d I So pe schef is of ~e·dec. [As 'the s·ileaf is from '!'il.e hillslde {J7 A.s the shea:E is (ctltl by the ;cl!pimg.hook 1

This SOUl1ru the true note of medieval plangency, a note sounded first (as far as tbe Middle Ages knew) by the late fifth- and! early sixth-century Roman phi]osophel'Boethius, one o£ the most popular writers in the Midd]e Ages, translated both by King Allred and by Chauoer. Boethius had asked:
Ubi nu!rl~ fiddis 00l5a Fa.bcicil manent, qu idl Brutus .aut rigidus Caito? W1:ie:e now I.iethe bones of the fatlhfu.1 Flllbno::iw, Who'l nowIs Brul:li<l or uprtght Cilloi'

King Mfred, in his rendering, suootitutes for the remote classical character Il:gtITcsnearer home, and! asks. "Wber,e are now the bones of the famous and wms:e smith WaYland, and who knows where they be? . ,," A late thirteenth-cenlury English 1yrist asked the same question:
Were be they ]Jill biforen tlS weren, [tfua'i were 'be!:orc us]

Houndes ladden and havd;es beren, [led hounds and carried hawks] And hadd eon feld: and ....ooe? [field and rorest J

And

II;

century later, in France, Villa]] was to ask:


Di~es may Oil, n'ea qwel pays, Est. ·rl.orn. fa belle Bomrnaine, An::hipiada, ne Thais. QlIi fuf sa eousine l5ermaine;

Ec-ho" ?Elrlanl qua,,1 hruyt on m.Elime


Dessus .rlvie!e OU sus esran,

QUi 'bealli'tll et trop plu:s.qu'humsrinei' -Mais rnJ.5:0Di les neiges d'E!I1tan?

A sense of transience of earthly life pressed !bard 'on the Middle Ages, and medieval writers developed their own kind of· cadence for its expression. I1t is equalily far removed from Ai:schyilis' stem sense of Fate, fmm the chastened melancholy of Sophocles. and Item the civilized, almost self-indulgent sadness of Virgil; nor has, i~anything of the thoughtful intr,ospection ,of Matthew &noM's "Dover Beacb.~ It isperhaps a simpler note than ,any or these, and ltcemes impressively into medieval: literature only after UJ.e de"i'e.lopmeltlJt !l\f rhyme and meter had made it possible Ier medievalpoets to e'''pre.ss it with that special kind oi lyric Iih. Anglo-Saxon all:iterative verse was an effective medium for the older herole poetry; bur Hew kinds of sensibility demanded a lighter and more Bexible mode of expres·, sian. The new rb)TIle and. met,el: that the French brought to Emope meant, as we have said, a change in the Europeanear, but that corresponded to a deeper change-achangeill Emopean sensIbility. Theeetesyllabie 'couplet, w~ich English Ieamed born French,ls not always, even in the early Middle English period, bandied. by determined and. long-winded didactic writers; apart Irom its use ill 'romances, it is feund in a variety of works, One of the earliest ap~ pearances of this verse :form 'in Eng~jsll is one of themost successful -In the vivacious The: Ow! and the Nightingale, written probably .uound 1200, the first example ln English of the debaf, the contest ill verse between two or more speakers, The verse debate had beeeme a Iitererv convention i.nboth Latin and French, and eou Id serve a great maIly diHereJil~. purpos'es. 1mThe Owl and Jlie Nightingale the two birds, who p~rsue thei~ altercation witlh great spirit and with all the legal tricks ofa twelfth-eentury lawsuit, presumably stand allegorically for two ways; of life, the monastic-and. the seculnr, or for two kinds of poetry, the didactic and the amorous. Thenightingale is the more sympathetic eharecter to modern readers, but,. though the conHict is unresolved by the end 'of the poem, the owl would appear to have won on points, But whatever the allegorical intention, it is clear that the author delighted In the dramatic quality of ·tbe poem and that his main interest lay in giving life and spirit to a '0011.ventional form, The narrative is handled with an accomplished ease, and the di.aJogue succeeds mpaintillg with great vividness not ,only the characters 'M the two speakers (the respectable owl and the hedonistic nightingale) but also aspects of the dally life of the period, B'lItthese exceptional instances of accomplished early Middle English poems must not be allowed to obscure the Faet that the re~ove.ry of an English poetic style ;uter the Norman Conquest was a

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slow 'business, and was not generally accomplished until the .fourteenth century. There were individual successful poems before the fourteenth century. 'but no great English poet. The substitution of rhyme and meter for the Anglo-Saxon alliterative' verse was not the result of a revolution in taste and attitude, such as some literary historians have seen in the Romantic Movement; it was a slow process of .imitation or and adaptation from the French, with the E.nglish language itself centinually gmwmg in vocabulary and In f:texibiUty until it reached the point where "it could handle the new verse form with con6dence and variety. Without the French element. in Middle English vocabulary, the possibHi~ies ror rhyme would have been very restricted. Some of the early Middle English poems we have quoted above wiJ] show how the native Anglo-Saxon tradition gave way to the new rhymjng fashion; but the alliterative tradition was not altogether dead. We can see it; in its more popular form. in Layamon's Brut', a metrical history of Britain based on Wace's Roman de Brut and written some time in the late twelfth century. Layamon's verse lacks the careful parallelism of Anglo-Saxon verse as we!! as such A.nglo-, Sax-on poe,tic devices as Ihe "kenning," and his lines bave become purely accentual in rhyt.hm, but he uses alliteretlon and no rhyme. More impressive testim(Jny to the survival and even development of the Angio-Suoll alliterative tradition is tlle group of aceoerplished alliteraeive poems which suddenly appear i[;l the fourteenth century. These include romances, re!igiollS poems, and satiriea] and allegorical works, In the last group is the well-known Piers Plowman, to be discussed IDater, and among the romances is the remarkable Sir Gawain and ,tll'e'Creen. Knight, one of Ihe most brilliant or all Middle English allegorical tales of adventure and of the marvelous, written in alliterative blank verse each paragraph of which concludes with fOUT short lmes having alternate rhyme. Among thereT~giolJs poems or the so-called UAlIiterati,,'e Hevival" are three which are found ira the same manuscript as Sir GallA/in; Ihey are Pa tie nee, Purity. and Pearl .. of which the ~rst is a homily on tihe virtues of patience illustraeed by an effective recounting of the story of Jonah, and the last i~ both an elegy on the poet's dead daughter and an allegory of Chrishan faith. one of the most interesting and s:km£ut religiol!ls poems of the Middle Ages. In prose, it is easier to' trace the continuity of the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Its variety and! liveliness had made Anglo,-SaXOiR prose remarkable among European literatures ofthe period: translations. homilies, and didactic, devotional. and Informative works of many

kinds were to be Iound in prose, while in the Anglo-Sa.:x:o!1l Cllronlcle a tradition of historical prose was maintained for centuries. Copying of Anglo-Saxon prose. works went on assiduously in monasteries after the Conquest, and the CIITonicle was continued; the last entty was made in the Peterborough Chronicle in the middle of the twelfth century, after a gap caused! probably by the confusions of King Stephen's reign. and it is between the language of Illi!>" nal scribe B and that of his predecesser who brought the narranve Ill' to 1132 that scholars have drawn ~hemaeoessarily somewhat arbitrary lime between Anglo~SaxG[I (Old Englisb) and Middle English. This was tile end of the Angl.o-SaxQn hadit.ion of hlstoricalprose, and England now loses its lead ill the development of vernacular historical writi.ng. The Norman clerics who took over the local and. national administrative positions in England after the Conquest introduced Latin as the language of officia] cornmunieanon and historical record, and EllglJsh historical prose did not emerge again until the time of the Tudors, At the same time French inlluence was leading E.nglish writers to tum to rhymed verse rather than prose for htstorical and! other kinds ofwriti:ng which had been prose in Anglo-Saxon times, whilethe increase of dialectical dilJeren.ces, in Middle English helped to make a. standard literary prose impossible. As far as Engli~h historical prose was concerned. then-cas with such other arts as manuscript illumination, metal work. and jewelry-the Norman Conquest put the clock back. In homiletic and devotional prase. however, the tradition 1,."3S not 105'[; in spite of handicaps, the work of instructing the people in the vernacular went on after the Conquest. Here the fall from supremacy of the West Saxon literary language in favor of different local dialects was less sig~ilicant . Ior mstructton of the common people could in any case be most effectively done in their own dialect. TILliS t.he An.glo-Saxon homiletic tradi'lion-carrying on the work of JElric with modernizing of and additiolls to his sermons-ecnttnued to .Aourish, and English religious prose prospered side by side with the new French verse renderings of similar ltreratnre, This was especially true in the west 'of Engl.and; in the southeast Frendl seems, to have predommated even in th~s field early in the thirteenth century. but the mass ofhomiletic literature in the West Mid~and dialect of fhis period carried English reUgilOusprose safely through the dang-eli period to provide continuity with the prose of Tudor times. 'The fact that Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, retained llis see after the Conquest until his death in 1095 must have helped to encourage this vernacular pt'o.s.e tradition in the west; it is sig:ni:ficant that after his

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death lrisbiograpby was written ,in English by Coleman, a Worcester monk. The sermons, translations, saints' lives, and other devotional and didactic works in which this prose tr,adition manifests itself are of tittle literary interest, though they are of importance to the philologist and 1:0 ilie historian !}f thought and! society. The earliest writings of this kind after the Conquest are those known as the Kathenne Group, and include tile l!ives of three virgin saints, !iCllJtherille, Margaret, and Juliana, a treatise pointing out the discomforts of marriage and the advam.tage.s I)of viliginj~y, and a prose homily 00,which Wit, the informed master, and Will, the fO(llis,b mistress, appear struggling (amid a, great nernber of aUegorical figures) for control of the soel, These works are written. in a conscious literary prose, with use (especially in the three saints' lives) of alliteration and deliberate rhythmic effects, They were addressed to a female audience. as was the AnCl"el\Riwle, a manual of instruction intended for three young girls who had decided to become anehoresses. In addition to the usual devotional and didactic material, the Ancrefl Riwle contains much lively il1cidental material by way of illustration. and the autho!,'suse of proverb, anecdote, character sketch, and re:distic detail, as, well as his numerous references to matters of dailyllfe-domest"ic aHairs, fa.rn;rUIg; ravel, sport, among other aspects-makes the work t an important and illlterestJng historical document as wen asp,[ovidiog it with a human interest which the modem reader appreciates so much more than the conventional didaetic elemear, It was written probably about 1200 in the West Midland dialect, and its inflluence and popularity were enormous ..Its influence on the religious prose ()f the thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries was largely Instrumental in ensuring the transmission of the prose badition of the Anglo.Sa.xon homilies to such writers as Richard Ro[]e of Hampole, the fourteenth-cenhuy mystical and devotionalwri~er, and his fol1G1~'IIer Walter Hilton. RoUe is important both for the movement. of devottonal :piefy, with its ascetic biasamlllyrkal development of persona] feeling in religious matters, which he founded, and for the clarity and cogency of his prose (which is in the northern dialect of Yorkshire). There is a modem ring to Rolle's prose style, partly because he tends to reduce the inllectioos as in modern English, hut more signilkantly beesose of the ,simple directness of his word order. His r.hymed: verse Is technicaUy less distinguished. Of RoUe"s followers, Walter Hilton (who. died in ]39~) is:the most interesting, and his prose work Tile Scale of Perf,ectioR, which debates the respective claims of the active and the contemplative life, is another imp<lrtallt diocwnellt in the

Jirlstory 'of Englisl1. prose style. How unreadable ,£ollrtee~~la-c~llt~ry religiOUS treatises could be when devoid of any persQ?aI msprratlon or stylistic gra(;e can be seen in Michael. of Nortbgate s A!fenbyte of lnwyt (Prick of Conscietlce) a translation of a thirt,eenth-<eetlltnry didactic work done with an infuriating meehanscal dullness, not even accurately, and not always ~n'lelligibl}'. (This is the 'work whose title haunts Stephen Dedalus in Joyce's Ulgsses, symboHzing his fee~,~ of gu.i1twiLh reference to his mother.) Its importance has ~e~Dm~gnlfi~d by philologists. to whom it is a. great treasure, fer It IS written In the pure KenlCish dialed (If Canterbury and its. date is kno~ precisely, a note at the end of the maausonpt makmg, deal' that It was finished: on Oeteber 2:1, 1340. Conoemporary with Walter Hilton is JDhn Wydif, a very different figure from any member of the R.olle gr,oup. for RolJe was a contemplative mystic by t.emperam ent ~n~ s:aug~1 to withdr,a~. £.rom the world" while Wyclif, ocmtrov,ers)alJst, phl~.osopher. poiitJ.clan, and reformer, was ,.... his fellowers resp.onsible not only for attacks on illl some important claims and practices. DE t~e Church, but also for th~ first complete translation of the Bible mto. Enghs~" The WycW Bible was certainiy not all translated by WycHf; but It was done under his inspiration. Nicholas of Hereford seems to have done part of the earlier of the two versions (6.l1ished between 1382 and 1384) and John Purvey the Iater (finished! soon after 13.88). T~e translation is done hom the Latin text of the Vulgate and It has little grace 01" life. though the later version is better in this respect than ~e ,earlie~. The Wyclifi,te versions have neither the strength nor theldlomahc How of Rolle's prose, and scholars today are inclined to put Rolle and Hilton farabm'e Wyc1if, both among those responsible for the continuity of English prose born Al1glo-Saxon to modem times and as pioneers o,f English proiSe style. They helped to keep a slanda;rd of English 'PTOse alive unti] the late fifteenth century,. v:-hen th~ .mcreasing use of English prose in both secular and rehg,ous \\Tltin.g meant that the danger was over, and nence£ort.h the development of Englislit prose, however uneven, was parI: of the natural progress, of the language and its hterature, .. .. One of the most striking differences between Mruddle Enghsh and Anglo.Saxon Iiterature lies in the realm of' verse narrative. The replacement of the older hemic poetry by the ve~se l'om9.n~e marks a Significant change in taste and sensibil~ty. He.role poe,tryls ~temeT in mood, more realistic in treatment, and claans to deal ''''Ith the exploits of Deroes who have had some rca] place i~ l~istory; the .'10'manee is more frankly ,escapist and. the marvelous IS Introouced for

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its own sake. Fighting in heroic poetry is a grim affair, engaged in for scmespeeific purpose, and even the most valiant hero is liable 10 lose if he fights against heavy odds; in the romance, characters fight on principle, as it were, or as a matter of fashlen, often without any specillc object; t.he outcome depends more on the character of the B.ghte.r than on the odds against which he is fighting, and the whole thing is done rirualistically, as a stylized sport rather than a desperate necessity. The transition between herele poetry and medi.evaJ romance can be seen in the French chamolls de geste, of which the Chanson de Hoidnd is the best known example. These poems are ~ealIy short heroic epics, and it is not improbable that similar poems, dealing with Cermanlc heroes, existed in Anglo·Saxon England: perhaps The Battle oj Bnmtmoorn and TM Battle of MaldGfl are lone survivors of this sort of thing. But the chall:SMiSde gest~ are also early :n:llnanoes.as well as late heroic poems, for they already show something of the interest in idea[~zed character and in purely imaginative elaboratlon which was to be the mark of the fully developed romance. This transitional kind of poetry flourished in France from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. These meroic tales of actlon, the chamon.:t de gesfe, were mostly produced in northern France, it was from the south, especially Provence, that the new elements of sentiment and courtly love came to produce a wholly new kind of romantic story. Provence had already developed, in the lyric poetry of the troubadours, a remarkable new literary form. The rise of Proven~allanguage and literature in the tenth and eleventh centuries represents one of the most prcfcund-sand still one (If the most mysterious-movements in European culture. In the tenth century the Provencal dialedFrench in its southern fonn, the langue d'oc-began toO prevail over others as the literary language O'J southern Europe. This was one of the results of the breakdown of Latin UDder the in!3.uence of the languages of the barbarians, and the process was fraught with the most far-reaching consequences. About noo a host of Provencal poets arose with remarkable suddenness, produeing sophisticated Jove lyricS' diHerent in. both tone and technique from anything hitherto known in Europe, The meter was regular and syllabic, and rhyme was used. The transition from classical Latin quantitative metrtcs to' rhymed verse can be traced ira lat,e Latin hymns; i~ is one of the ~ost fascinating stories in literary history; but it is no direct part ot the history of Eng]is)l literature. The point that chiefly concerns the historian of English literature in dealing with the Middle English period is that Englisb literature, like most of the

European literatures 301:: this time, was in the French cultural OI"bit and that therefore what French literature had become by this time is di.H:ctly ,.dell'Blnt to any account of what was happening in Eogli!lh. One might distinguish between the narrative r~mance of action, unaffected by the courtly and sentimental ideals of the south, and the romance' as it was modified by the new Provencal sophistication. The former, the product of the trol.loeres (northern equivalent of the troubadours, professional minstrels who went 31!ound entertajning in the halls of the great houses), was written in the northern dialect of France, ot wngue d'ail, and" as we have seen, bore some resemblance to the earlier heroic poetry. Influenced by the southern love lyric, it bred the characteristic medieval Iorm of literary entertainraent, the romance in which loyalty to one's king is no greater force than loyalty to one's lady; where both love and war are rituali.zed by elaborate techniques of service; where the devoted knight overcomes fabulous obstacles by virtue of the strictness of his honor and the strength of his passion. We shall discuss later the ideal of courtly love which so affected the tone of medieval romance and indeed had an incalculable eHect 01'1 all subsequent love Iirerature; let us 6TSt look at the subject matter ,of these works. The late tweUth-century trollvere Jean Bedel, in an oft-ell quoted couplet, divided the subject mailer of medieval romance into three categories, the "Mauer 0.1 France," the "Matter of Britain," and the "Matter IQf Rome the Creat." The first of these groups was file earliest to be developed; it deals with the activities of Charlemagn'e and his knights, and its tone is nearer that of heroic poetry; it finds its greatest expression in the Chanson de Roland, which tells a desperate story of a courageous fight agai~st hopeless odds, ending with the hero's death. As the' cycle gre,;v, the interest turned more and more away from the eharacter of Charlemagne to eoncentrate on the eKploits oJ indjvidual members of the' group of warri(}rs that surrounded him, just as ill the Arthmiall cycle of romance the tnterestsbifted from Arthur to his knights. The driving moral force behind the earlier romances of the "Matterof France" cycle is the sense of Christendom pushing: back the infidel Saracen invaders of Europe. and i~ hasbeen'sllggested that these. romances were encouraged or even produced by monks of the rnonasteeies on the pilgrim routes who thou~bt in this w.ay to. identify their founder with one of Charlemagne's heroes and so attract patronage. Other romances in this group are eoncerned with the stmggle of individual heroes against the Emperor's tyranny, or indeed with any kind of adventure which in the process of time became attached to the

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name of Charlemagne or one of his heroes. The "Matter of Britain" is coneemed with the Airthurian stories, which we have seen beginning in Geoffrey of Monmouth and Layamen's Brut, But both Geoffrey and Layamen conceived themselves to be wriling hiloOtOry. :not romance'; the Arthwian romances derive rather hom the French A.rthllrian legends wh.lich were cemmon long before Geo,ifl'ey wrote his history. The stories ofa historical Homane-Bdtjsh Or CambroBdtish leader of his people against the Anglo-Saxonin'lladers may well have been handed down in \Val.es to be carried thence to Britlany by Welshmen who ,emigrated there in the ninth century, and .it was imm the Breton legends rather than from the Englhh chroniclers, that most of the later Arthwrian romances seem to, have sprung. These romances, dealing with theadventures of iDdividua1 knights of the Round Table, are fat rernoved jn tone frollit the GlurrJ;SQIJ. de I1olllTld: they have lost the old heroic note completely and t~eat 'with ,extraordinary Elaboration the practice and ideals of courtly love. The "Matter of Rome the Great" represented another great popular kind of subject matter-the aneient classical! world" as seen tb:rough medieval eyes. This is Dot the world of Homer 'Or of Pericles or of Virgil, but a clHiC:1'I1Sly medievahzedandent world derived from SOI.lTC€S and traditions far removed from, what we would today consider the mainstream of c1assice] culture. The story of Troy, which so haunted the medieval imagination, they got not hom Homer but from the fourth-century Latin writer Dictys Cretensis (Dictys of Crete) and the somewhat later Dares Phrygitls (Dares of I'hrygja), who claimed to have bcenacttlally at the siege and 'laid the story as eyewitnesses" Dictys on the Grec.ian side and Dares Oonthe Trcjan, If the Aeneid was the original source of the Troy story as the Middle Ages knew it,' it was the work of Dictys and Dares which developed the tradition, to be ",O!'[kedup in the late twelfth-century French romance, the Homan de Troie by Benoit de Saint Maure, A century after the Haman !if! Troie, came the His!'orill DestrucU.OI11s Troi!':l!? by Cuido delle Colonne, a Full Latin version of 'the same material. The maJor figure in tbe. development or the. medieval Troy tradition is Benoit de Saint Maur,e, whose work :first brings the material together to make it accessible to later medieval story; here we god Dot only a
4 V;rgil was mown in the Middle Ages. IMLlgh poPllbrly as It "wh"rd" ~.1Ihe; thAn n great· 'poe!. The A'mrld ",a~ m:u;1,1' ~he IiML, <I French mmenee, ~he Rum"" d'.e"oos. But ti,e Tool' ,tory, as 110"Middle Ages 'knew it, W.5 (J.enolf., Dol Virgil'~.

~r

full treatment of the Trojan war which is to be the standard medleea] way of look ing at it, but also the story of Troilus and Cressida, 10 be used S'O eHeetively by later English wrners. ''i The "Matter 'of Rome"' included nut only stories, of the siege of Troy, hut other stories of the ancient world, of Thebes, of Alexandler the Creat, and. of Julius Caesar al1l~ol'lg others, The medieval view or the civilizafion of Greece and Rome can be: clearly seen []'I the "Matter of Rome" romances. Greece, of course, was, more remote, and was seen less as a period of history than ,3 group of legends concerning Greek historical and mythological figures who were COI]>ceived of as feudal lords with their retainers: we can see this ve.ry dearly in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, A.s far as the Trojan war was concerned. medieval Europe was on the side of Troy; indeed, maIlY countries of Western Europe tracedtheir origfns from 'froja!] aneestoes, Rome (also founded by a Trojan) was closer to them: its la,nguage was the internattonal learned language of thei. dl.l)'; its organization had euabled Christianity to establish itself throughollt Europe oncethe Emperor himself had been converted; its roads and aqueducts were often still III use and still admired. . .h 1I,\ras the Roman Empire, not the earlier Republic, that the Middle Ages admired. Dall1tepllt Brutus and Casslus," who conspired agamst thepotential founder of theemptre, ill the lowest circle of Hell; .for UJ,e :Roman Empire was the diVinely ordained machinery th.rough which Christianity would COme to Europe, and the term "'Holy Roman Empire," ill spite of the fact that tile polttical entity so designated may ba\!'lC been Ileithel' holy no!' Roman nor an empir,e"ha:d real meaning to medieval minds in terms oE historical continuity betwee.n the Christianar.:ld the Homan world, Yet with all this there was no real! historical knowledge or historical perspective, nil! sense at all of di1f,el"en~stages and kinds 00= civilizatio», no ability 10 coneetve a radically different political. or econonue organization thau jheir 'own. "Duke" Theseus, ellen to Chaucer, was essentially a medieval feudal lord, The medieval mind playing with the fragments of a lost elassical eivilizaticn is a. fascinating aspect of the hIstory o( culture. The French romances dellIling with tlse "MaUer of Eritain" and the "Matter of Rome" combined adveutureand sentiment, the latter deri.ving from the elaborate conventlonsof courtly love which began in the love lyrics of Provenee, The idea of [)onl1ly love proved to he one of the most far-reachingand oae of the most revelutionary in
~ WlI:n the revival of inle<est in H." Stoic Lrilditi()'~ 1" !ll" Ile"'" i.s~!i"oe, il ..... Ibe as than ti'Je E.mpir,r: thaI was admired. Contrast S!iakesp~ilIre"s IIttitud", 1(1, Brutus w:ith Dante's, and mole also MiiII~:11"5 ~!'tHud.e ID RGm~l!I t.islo:ry.
Jlep .. blk rather

O"';d.'s Reroidas, loW! poel3l.

Virgll'~ Dido, like the Medea of O"td's Met"mGml,~ and "11.,,, heroine., fwm were treated 3.:!1 basle ,omo·"tie love sl(l("ies 'by the "tedi.,,,,,1 aillItl)1'

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the history of European sensibility; it spread rapidly ~roughout Europe. penetratillg both lyTical and narrative literature from the Mediterranean to the Nortb Sea, wherever the spirit of tile Romance litemhues ~ouched. Hitherto, love between the sexes had been regarded simply as physteal passion, or as .Ii: form of aHecl]on (but le.w·erthan that between man and man), or as a kind of madness, Dr as a combination of any of these three elements, In the poetry ·of the troubadours a 'mew conception of love first appea:rs. Love is service, l:ik.ethat of a slave to :his master excepl that 'it is not based on outside compulsion, The knight serves the lady of his choice, suffers any and every kind of indignity for her sake, thinks only 01 her, commends himself to her when he goes into battle, and in referring t,e her uses language that is scarcely, if at all, distinguishable hom that used in religious poems with reference till the Virgin Mary (and mdeed there is a. cleer reeiprocal Influence between the cult or tile Virgin Mary and the oourtly love traditton). The slighlest favor the lady chooses to bestow UPOIl her servant is sufficient reward for the greatest hardship hemal' undergo for her sake. He is he]" hurn~le vassal, and she is his ljege .lady. He must. he loyal to her for life, however she may trea~ Iliim. However desperate he is. however flopeless of 'winning his lady's favor, however he may sigh and moan because of unrequited leve, he must never think of ceasing to be the servant of her whom he has originally chosen, tor it is better to· be in love' than to have no liege lady to serve. Love is, as it were, its own reward, and. though a more concrete reward is desired and sometimes obtained, the lever rm:.Ist not swerve in his allegiance iF it does not rome. This is not a relation between husband and wife: indeed, throughollt most of this literature it is taken as a matte!' of course that a husband cannot be the lover of his own wife. That is a role 1:{1 be taken by someone else, The courtly love tradition implies, in fa.ct, all idealization of adultery. B_nd ·if modern romanli.!! love ls 3utomatical1y linked to marTia~e that is because the sixteenth· and seventeenth-century poets delibe!rate1.y grahed the Idea of' cOllrtly love onto the domestic ideal of married happiness, The ooncept 01 £.al1jllg in love, Vllooing,and marrying, which has been one of the staple themes of fiction .for two centuries, represents a medification or the medieval cOllTtly lo ... trn.dition while deriving from e that tradition. hi 'lledieval courtly love, when a. poet oilers love to a lady he does not bother about her husband at all: his real rival is anyone who seeks to be alover of the lady ill the same way as himself The lover's conduct must coriforru at all pomts to a strict eode of honor; in addition to the service of his lady he must dedicate

himself to the cause of 'women in a general sense, always ready to defend them, always prepered to succor damsels in distress. The rules of knightly behavior were carefully deified, and involverl many sl.Ibtlepoints of conduct: by these rules every lover was bound, There were, in theory if !lot in 'practice, "Courts ef Love," whic.h adjudicated on subtle points of honor and the prope.r conduct in love affairs. The ,origins of this influential new conception of love between the sexes must be sought pa.rt1y in scclal conditions, partly in the way in which such Latin writers on love as Ovid were interpreted in the Middle Ages, p.artly in a religious attitude which shifted attention from woman as Ev,e, the origin ef all our human woes, to woman as the Virgin Mary, the pattem 01 ideal maidenhood. One must remember that feudal civilization (especially on the continent, where central g.ovemment was generally less effiectille than in !England) tended to resolve itself into separate islands of social liJe, the lord I'll the manor !iv.ing with his lady in a lillie. nucleus of civiJffizationof wh.ich be was the guardian. Amol1g his retainers and hangers-l!)D there would be a greatv.ariety of male I)'Pes who, while far above the laud-tilling peasant.ry who supported the whole group by their labor outside the walls of the castle or manor, were nevertheless weriol!' to the lord of the manor and his lady: adventurers, landless knights. squires, pages, would look up 10 their master and mistressas their feudal superiors. The lady would become the source and arbiter of courtesy within the community, superior in rank to all except the lord hfmself, and, if he were away a.t the Crusades or on some other aclveflhrre., superior to all without exeeptien, Thus service and. courtesy were her rights anyway, andi~ any of the men of the community were to love her, the love would have to be expressed in a context of service and courtesy. Perhaps the genealogy of the COUl:rtly poet also throws some light on the ideals of humility and! sen-ice so bound up with the new romantic attitude. Before the real troubadour poetry began, it was the common practice Jor the lord to have about him for his personal entertainment minstrels, jongleurs, at first merely primitive mummers or aerobets, When the aewProvencal poetry began to develop, these: humble enrertainers-« who were soclally among. the lowest of the castle aervants=often took on the function of court poet, ceasillg to be m:ere;ongl.eurs and beooming troubadours, And tl:io~gh the troubadours rapidly rose in the social scale unttl they included in tbeir number many of the lords themselves, it is not. fantastic to see In the stress on service ill courtly love poetry some trace of the humble position of the original

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troubadours, who were merely glorified downs. Marriage, of course, would be out of the question between the lady and either the tronbedour or one .of her husband's male followers. An even more cogent reason Eor courtfy love remaining outside marriage was that in feudal times marriage was so 'bound up wifn the inl:Jeritallce and transmission of property that questions oJ love could not be allowed to enter into it. Lordship of land being the very basis of the system, mything connected with the disposal ali acqwsition of estates was a purely businessmatter into which sentiment must not intrude. Nor was the teaching of medieval religion calculated to drive Ole new conception of love iI1to legal channels, Romalltic passion in th.e relation between the sexes was not regarded by religion as' a virtue under !lilly circumstances, and there was no encouragement by the Church to graft the new feeling onto any conveational vjew of domestic happtness. From every point 01 view the difference between cou.rtly love and the relations between man and wife was emphasized. The lady 'Wasmistress (in a literal sense) but neve, wife, and often .had to be courted secretly (this explains mucb that is otherwise puzzling ~n the relations between Troi.lrus and Criseyde in Chaucer's poem), The courtly lover did not even wish to marry his lady, though he sought a consummation of his love outside marriage. Mamage, the idea often seems to have been, would spoil everythililg. It was only later that the romantic ideal of'ove was linked with marriage and the passion was regarded as virtuous provided that it had marriage in view. It is clear, therefore, that thls conception of courtly love that swept over Europe and penetrated its literature was one that orl,giDated among the aristocracy and had Li~tlerelation to the everyday lives of humbler men and women. It was, at its slmplest, a eonvention.alization of the attitude 'Of the high-placed feudal servant rohts lord's wife, and if 'the, lord bims:eH was awSi}' at the Crusades there was aU the more scope for the courtly lover. How far this attitude was a mere convention and how far it bad a realistic basis is very diffi.cnltl to say. Sometimes the wllole bustness was nothing but a polite game, but we bow that life often limitates art and the emctlnnalpattera laid clown m a 'literary convention Is oHen spon~ taneously followed in leal experience. There must have been something real behind it all. Of course to some the convention was just .a:n opporhmity to discowse subtly 0111 the psychology of love"and it is to be noted that the psychological treatment Oof romantic love, so eommontn European literature, begtms with the medieval allegories of courtly love.

TIlls, then, was the kind of sentiment with which the medieval French romances surrounded their action, Such romances were produced in England as well as i:lIl France, for., as we have seen. French was the language of the English upper class from the Conquest ~til the fourteenth century. and during this period the "polite" litera.ture of England was French. eitlJer imported or domestically pro~uced. The .tra~sl~tions ,of French romances into EngUsh give us an mtereshng indication of the difference in social polish between the audience for works in the French Janguage in England and that for WO~~ written in.English. The English translators were adapting a Sophlshcated, seatimental French literature .~ora much less sophisticated audience, who were more interested in the story than in the refined speculations about love and honor so charactertsne of the courtly love tradiuon, 'JJ:.e French romances combined sentfment with adventure, the' English translators as a rule left out the sentiment and stuck to the adventure, Tille Engli:sbmmances were thus on the whole shorter, cruder, and more of a straight "story" than the French. Such a popll]ar French romancer as the fwe1fth-centmy Chretien de Trojes, who speoialized in what a. Iater age was to call "the language of the Ileart," ill the psychology of col1l'tly love, never achieved the popularity among the English that he had in France and Cermany, The one English romance known to have been translated from Chretien is dille early fifteenth century YI,oo:in, and Gawain (3. eharacteristic "Matter of Britain" story, telling of the adventures 'of a knight caned Ywain who marries the widow of a conquered foe, is separated from her. and after many valorous deeds becomes ]"f!Uinited'With mter;with Gawain serving as a (oil to Ywain and ~hetSgl.lfe of Arthu:r presidil1g dimly in the background). This was condensed .from the much longer l'wail'l. OtI.le ClwooJiBr,au Lion of Chretien; the long speeches, designed to illustrate the psychl)logy 0.£ the speaker and the CoOUIt!:y conventions under \\l1wchboth thought and action develops, are cut in the txanslatioill_ Those in. England wllo were courtly and sophisticated enough to, apl?1ecia~e the nmer points of courtesy and psychology, expected their literature to be in French: the English translations were for theirruder compatriots. We must see these Engllsh romances against the larg.erEuropea.ilil ba.ckgrOI.md to understand what they reilly were. The "MaUeli .of France," with its echoes of the conflict between Christian and Saraceni :in El.lrope, attracting to itself and to its presiding figure Cha:rlemagne folk legends and miscellaneous tales .of adventure. providing one great focus fDr the medieval imagmation; the "Matter of Britain," deriving origillaMy bom Celtic traditions of Arthur .in Wales

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and StTathclyde and CornwalJ and Brittany, provtdmg a mold imto wMcb new notions of courtesy and honor could be poured, a strange symbolic fusion of Chr:isfiall ideals, feudal eonventioa, erotic fashion, and a deep underlying sense 1]£ change and fate; the "MaUer of .Rome," showing how the ancient classical world. came by devious ways into the medieval i.mag~natioll,w:ith its sense of a lost world of herces, the doom of Troy" the pathos .of Dido, the grandeur of Alexander, thed.i.gnity of Theseus=to see all this. to understand the materials with which the medieval romancer worked, is to get closer to the minds of medieval people tilall any pOlitical or philosophical history could take us. The English romancer was part o~ this wodd of medieval romance, and lf he often abbreviated and simplified his French or"igina[Sbecal.lse he was writing for a less courtly audience (and i~is audience rather than readers. for these 'romances would as a rule be read. Or recited aloud to a! group). this does not. mean that he thought of himself as in anyway livi:ng nn B diHerent world than that of fellow romancers, ei~her ill France. or in England, who wrote 'in French. It is perhaps misleading to look at surviving English remanee and .conclude that that gives a representative picture of what the Eng:lish produced ilJJ that field during the Middle Ages. There is little really interesting "Matter ·of France" material surviving in English, for example, bnJ~we know that. the Chulemagne cycle was; popular in England, for one ofthe earliest, of~he survivmg manuscripi:s 'Of the Chanson de Ro'wnd (and the best) was ''Written in England., and there are references in contemporary lite'rarure to the pepulariry of these romances. The oldest surviving English romance dealing with "Matter of France" is the dull Of.ue~ dating from the first half of the fourteenth century; it is one of those deriving [mm a French group dea~:ing with Roland's warfare against the Saracens and deals with II! duel fought between Roland and the Saracen Otuel, The subject was popular and was treated more than once In Eruglish. romance. More popular still was the story of Firurnbras, Saracen. kiog of Alexa.nilii.a, and !:he combat between him and Roland; the late fnurteenth-century Sir Firombms is one (If II nu:rnller dealing with this material, Most m~eTest.ing of the relative!,y few sutvIvillg English Charlemagne romances Is the northern R.ail CoilyeGl1', written in Scotland and possessinga dlstmct ScO'ttish backgmumd. Tiil:is remance is 9. la.te example of its'krnd, composed in the last quarter of the fifteenth c,entury and extant io a umqni.leprinted version of 1572. I~ is written in the popular fhtrteen-Ilne stanza., of which the :lUst nine ames are long; 'With <LIly' thing from five to sevea stresses, and the 1m!: four are shorter with

three Oil' four stresses. The versifica.UoTlis mugh, jogging along with lmle polish, but the story has humor and vivacity and immense gusto" "The story isa wklespread folk tale which bas been grafted on to the Charlemagne background: it tells o£ how Charlemagne seeks shelter i~ the finesl, hut of a comer, who entertains him rudely but lavisllly w:itnout being aware of his iOientit.y;m. e,ting him lalerat.' the palace, e the collier learns who his guest was and is knighted by him. TIle surviving EngHsh "Matter of Britain" romances are a more varied and more interesting lot, a.ndat least three of them-the alhterative Morte Artll1,ue; the romance entitled Le Marie Arthl.lre' which deals with the Maid of .Asrolot, the disco'l'ery of the love cf Laneelot and Cumevere, the combat between Lancelot and Arthur, and the passing of Arthur, 3JJJd Sir" Gawain arid the Green Knigllthaving impressive qualities as literature, especially the last, which is one of the g:reat literary productions of the }.{iddle Ages. The rarnificationsof the Arthur story, with tile development of its difEerent phases, is the S"ubjecl fOJ a book in itself; all we can note here is that the romances can be grouped into those tha.t deal with the whole story of Arthurs life (.of which tlse alltteranve A-Iorle Arthul",e is easily the finest); those concerned. with Arthur's youth, whic~ Is involved with the eharacter oE Merlin (Ie.g., .ArthlJl" tllla Merlin.); those that deal with Gawain, who is the true: hem oJ .Middle English .ArthWiian romance, the only one to become tile hero of a whole cycle of romances, eleven in all, of which Sir Gawain lind the Green Knight is the m[}st remarkable aad Ga!agl1J.:j: and Gawo'i1l and l'wain and CIii'wtlin are able and interesting; these that deal witb Laneelot, never as popular B, figure in the E.ng)isb romances as in the' French. where he is lhe hero of an immense and widely popular proS'e romance, tthough he is the hero Q·f the admirable late' fourteenthcentury Eng~ish romance Le M 006 Artliure; those that deal with the Holy Gra.il,<11'D1spect of the Arthur story not much handled in a English before Malor)" though Joseph of Ari:mathie, one of' the two English romances '!.lIh.lch de handle it,is hist,oricaLly mteresting as being ODe of the earliest alliterative peems: i.ll Middle English; an.d the Perceval leg,end, a popular alld widespread folk ~ale whiclil became grafted on to' the Arthulian story in. the tweUth century, represent-ed in El'lglish by a single romance, Sir PercYDElI.e af GaUes, though more fully treated by {1:ieFrench romancers who developed him from a type IO'f the Simple innocent to the ide3i~ U1,d perfect knight who eventually attains tile Grail (.it is this Perceval who is Wagner's Parsifal), Fin.ally, there is the stOI'}' of Tristram, or Tristan" which im ,later times became perhaps the most popular of all. the

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Artburian stories. The love of Tristram and. Isoude {I5'eu1t) is older ill its: of"j~nsthan that of Laaeelot and Guillevere and i.s another of those independent stories which eventually became associated wi~b the .Arthl.lrian ,cycle; it is represented in English by a single northern romance, Sir Tristram, written at the end! ,of the thir~eelltbcelltuJ)'" Of the oirigins of the stories of !be different i..-night.s', Gawain" Lancelot, Tristram, and others, much has been written, and there has been much discussion, too, about the obscure .origins and complicated development of the Grail leg:end; but we must pass these matters by arid concentrate OD the literatwe as we have it. An,{ithe Artlm:rian romance literature in Eng,lish is remarkable enough. Its greatest document, as we have remarked, is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of four notable poems w~iUen in the Northwest Midland dialect in the late fourteenth century and presumably by the same author," The .2,530 lines of this poem are arranged U:I stanzas of unequal length, each oE which eontains a number of long a:Jliterative lines followed by Ilve: short lines rhyming alternately (ababa), the first having ODe stress and Ute remaiIliBg, fom having leach three. There is real technical accomplishment Intbe hlild~ng or this difficult, stanza; the author also. has great: skill in setting a scene and a lyrical. feeling in .show-ing the movement of the seasoas reflected in the dlanging face of natnre. The story opens with the appearance at Arthur's court of the strange and menacwg Green iKnight~ who asks for ,2 volunteer from among the Knigh~s of the Round Table 10' strike him a blow witb the heavy axe be would provide, on the understanding; that a. year and a day lates thekoigbt would come 2nd receive a, .simll:JJrMow from him, The kl1ights ,are amazed and silent, and Artllllr himself' ffis driven 10 volunteer, but, Ca,wain, model of courtesy, nobility, and courage, steps in and gives the 1:J,1ow. e strikes all the Green Knight's head, hut the IKnigh~ H simply picks his head up and rides cB., teUing Gawain to keep his bargain and appear at the Green Chapel a. year and. s. day later to suifer a. similar blow. A year passes" and we see the earth cha~gjng from. winter to spring, then to summer, then to autumn, 'With angry winds and leaves .falli!lg from the tree, and finally to winter again. In the New Yeae Gawain sets out to look for the C,men Chapel. On the way he seeks she!terat a. castle and Ishandsomely entertained there by the 10m and l:ady. Each rooming the ~ord giles ofil to lnmt, and his bunting is described wi~h lively detail; Gawain stays in the castle, and is tempted by the lady who wants him to make 'love to herr. He has a di:ffictllt time retaining his perfect C6ul"t,esyand at the
~See p. 46"

same time repulsing her advances; buthe goes (10 further thanallewing her to kiss him. Cawain and the lord. have promised to exchange' with each other whatever they gain during the day" and ill accordauce with this bargaiD the lord gives Gawain the animals he bas killed in the hunt and Gawain gives the lord the !kisses. But on the last day the lady presses Gawain to accept a memento of her, and he: accepts a: green ,girdle which she says will g,ive him mv;.ili;!e:rability, which he will require in. his encounter with the Creen. Knight. He says Ilot:l:tingof this girdle to the lord. Then Ga'waill leaves to find ~he Green Chapel, which turns out to be I?I grassy mound nearby. He meets the Crean Knight:, who strikes him with his huge axe, but def!.ects the blow as Gawain fljnches, He taunts Gaw,aiD Em Dincbing, and Cawain replies that he will not Hinch ag,aill. Hestrikes a second time, Gawain Temainillg steady, but again he turns away the biow. The third lime the axe lands, but oaly wounds Gawain slightly on one side of the neck. Gawain now say,s that Ile llas fulfiUed his bargain and demands a chance at a fair fig_ht, but the Gr'ee'll Kni,ght g{lod-Ila~uredly laughs at his ,ferocity audreve.alshimseH as the lord of the castle: the slight wound on Gawain's neck is for the girdle which he took from bis lady ill order to preserve his !ife. Gawa:w, humiliated, admits his weakness and reproaches rum.self bitterly, but the CreeD Knlght absolves him and tells. him to- keep the girdle, On his return 10 Arthur's court Gawain tells the whole story, not as a. heroic exploit but as an example of moral failure, and Artbur comforts rum and ,ail. the: knights agree to wear a green belt for Gawa'in's sake'. The story clearly has deep mots in folkloee and. is capable of many kinds of allegorical interpretation, But it illterests the reader today for the grace and liveliness with which the narrative is presented, for the technical skill of the versilicatkm, for the simple moving way in which the rdeal of corn,age and courtesy is illustrated in Cawam's behavior, fur the charm and conviction of Gaw,ain'!, 'conversation wit~ the lady and. the genial humor of the Green Knight's last CODversatfon with Gawa.iIl. for the brilliant detail of ~he hunting scenes, and above all Ior the feeling for nature and the movement of the seasons, embodied perhaps best of a.1I in the description of the chill winter mornil1g when Gawain leaves the castle to keep his appointment a.t the Green Chapel. It is a. dv~Hzed. and sophisticated work, and it shows what. an unusually accomplished English 1'0mancer could male out of one It:lf the Arthurian stories when the particular tradition represented by that story had reached just the proper stage, A story o.f marvels is mt,erprceted in the light ofa. high

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ideal of physical and moral courage. The Cawain we see here ~s the true heroic Gawain, before he was ousted from his supremacy by Lancelot, who in later Arthuri:an romance ,comp1etely replaced Gawain (even in England, where Gawain remained the great hero longer than in F11Ince}as the central heroic figure the Arthurian cycle. The Oawain of Malory. as of Tennysen, is no longer the model of virtue. courtesy,. and comage but an altogether debased figure. Sir Gawain IJnd the Green Knight splendidly preserves the older. l1e'roic Cawain. and does so in a typical Artburian context, with Arilmr presiding over bis knights at Camelot at C~ristmas time and the spotMght on the Indi""idual adventure of one of them. III it the E:oglish romance achieves full literary stature. Elements from .AngloSaxon, Norman, and French combine in a remarkable way: .ap· parently the AnglO-Saxon alliterative tradition survived ~n modified form in the north, while the ArdlUrian legends were centered in the West, so a Northwestern poet, as the author of Sir Gawain appears to have been, was in a good position for uniting Anglo-SaxolJ arid Celtic traditions. The vigor of the Anglo-Saxon, the polish of the French, and themagical folk strain of I:he Celtic combine successfully ill the poem. Only Chaucer amollg medieval poets could achieve this kind of synthesis. Jean Bedel's third category, the ...Matter or Rome the Great," . must be stretched to include a very miscellaneous collection of stories. There are lives of Alexander mnboth verse and prose, poems on the Siege of Troy (of which the fourteenth-century West Midland alliterative poem, The Gest Historiaie of the Destruction of Troy is the liveliest), verse accounts of the destruction of JerusaJem, and of course Chaucer's Knight"s Tale. Apart from the las~ of these which is a special case, aa elaborate and polished verse narratlve by II master, these romances are more important for the light they throw 01'1 the medieval, imaginaUon than fOI: 131.01 special !.itera:ry achievement. More tmporeant for English ]Dteratw:·ewas a fourth category' of which Jean HoOe! says tJOth.i:ng.for it is peculiarly English. This is a gmup of romances draWing their material from English 'history; stories of these English heroes must have eome dO\i\'11 orally, and eventually reached the AnglO-French romancers who turned: them ~nto French verse narratives. Only after they had been rendered in French did they appear in English. sometimes as translations and sometimes as liendcnngs of the version currently popular in England. (Evidently the EngHsiJ romancers did not feel that a populer emu tradition about an IEnglJsh. hero was worth the dignity of being turned il1~o a written romance ·tm1essit had aIread)'ilJttracted the

or

Anglo-Fren.ch romancers: this seems to be the on.Iy explanation of the ract that, English though these stones are in origm and subject, only those of them which have French originals or parallels appear in English romanee.) On the analogy of Jean Bedel's classification. the subject matter of these romances has been called the "Matter of England," and !:hi.s is a convenient. enough tenn.That part of the "Matter of England" which achieved permanence in written romance must bave represented but a small portion of the oral legends. celebrating popular English heroes such as Atllelstan, OHa, Earl Godwin. Eadric the Wild, and Hereward the Wake: we know of these oral traditions because they are referred to by the histerians Wmiam of Malmsbury and Henry of Huntingdon. Some of the most popular of the "Matter of England" subjects dealt with in Eng~isb romance seem to, derive from traditions associated with the Viking raids on England. Kil'lg Rom, the earliest of the extant romances in the English group, tells the story of Hom, son of the king of Sudene, who after his father's death at the bands of pirates is set adrift and comes ashore al Westemess, wn.ere Himenhild the kings dauglll_6r falls in love with him. Hom, aher living with the kings household, eventually departs to prove his knighfllood Slid returns after destroying a pirate crew . .King Aylmar of Westerness finds Hom and his daughter embracing, and banishes Horn, who goes to Ireland where he does knightly deeds. He returns in disguis·e to Westemess in time to prevent Rimenhild's marriage to another prince, and, after further complications whlchalmest duplicate earher parts of the story, HC)m slays his rival. regains h.'. Is father's kingdom, and makes RimenMld his qU!een. The poem is interesting for its meter; it is in short rhyming couplets wlljch perhaps show the old al1iterative line giving way before French influence or may be more directl, related to contemporary French and AngloFrench verse. The short rhyming lines give the story rapidity o~ movement; and a certain declamatory tone which indicates that it was intended to be spoken. The audience envisaged is .clearly a simple one; the fde i.8 essennally naive, witlJ the interest deriving wholly £rom the sequence of incidents and. the shifts In the fortunes, of the protagonists. King Horn is a good example of the way ill which the English romancers left out the courtly elements of the French; the love element is not dwelt on, and the emphasis is on action and adventure. The story trots oa from incident to incident:
He fond bl be stronde, Arl1!led on his. londe, Scl:upes6:l:tene,.

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160

Will sarazlns kene. He axede what iso3te OjJeT' to londe brojte, A Psyn hit of herde

And hym weI sone answa rede, ~pilend folk we schulle slon AlId alle at Crist. luue vpoa, Ami ~e!elue 1'!3t anon;
Ne scholty 100.111 henne gon.~

This simple movement of verse narrative is a: pretty fair sample of the w.ay the ordinary folk of thirteenth-century England liked to have their stories told. The story itself, with its folk elements of the returned eldle and the reuni'ling of lovers, shows how a legend originally deriving from history can be overlaid by folk materia] to become an unsophisticated romance. There is also an early fourteenth-century North Midland version of the story in twelve- line stanzas, known as Horn ChiMe, and there are several ballad v ersions. Another "Matter of England" romance which apparently derives from events of the Viking period but which also has been overlaid with much folk material (indeed, [!he: central plot isa eommon folk tale which, as so often happens. became 3ttached to a particular hero late in its history) is HfWe1~k the Dane, one of the most success'fIJI) of the simple tales of advent lire in Middle English verse narrative. The s'tor), opens with the death of King At.helwold and the appclntment of Earl God:rich as guardian of his infant daughter Coldeboru, but God rich. seizes power himself and imprisons Coldeboru. Then we are taken to Denmark, where Earl Goddard phil'S a similar role to that of Godrich. lIa\.ing been appointed guardian of the children of King Birkebayn, Havelok and his two sisters, Goddard takes over the kingdom himself, kills the daughters" and hands Havelok over to Grim the fisherman with orders that \1e is to he drowned, But Grim, made aware by a supernatural sign of Havelok's royal birth, saves Havelok, and with h[s wife takes him and his own live ,children to England, where he founds the town of Crimsby. Havelok eventually takes a job as scullion to Earl Cod rich's cook, and impresses everybody by his beauty. pbysique. and skill at games and in arms. GodriCh, thinking that Havelok is "some churl's son and no more," plans to marry him to Coldeboru, and thus confirm his own possession of the throne. He forces the reluctant pair to marry, and they return to Crimsby, where Coldebore learns from a mysterious light issuing from Havelok's mouth that he is really of noble blood and, at the same time, an angers voice announces Havelok's royal parentage and glorious, future: tMs, cheers bel" immensely and Ilit

enee puts the relation between the pair on 3. proper footing ..FurtlJe:r adventures bring them to Denmark where Havelok destroys Goddard and regains his ancestral throne before returning to England to malice an end of Gooridl and gain the English crown as well. The story moves a~ong ill rapid octosyllabic couplets; like King HGm it concentrates on the physical adventures and plays down the love mterest. The scenes describing Havelok's activities as a scullion bave alively realism, and there are accounts of popular sports and a sense of the ()rdinal')' people of England at work which give this romance a. special interest and vitality. A brief quotation may give some indication of the speed and vigor of the narrative: this ls from the section descrihlng Havelok's life as a scullloa:
pet o~er day hekepte ok Swipe yeme ]x erles kok, Til!>Clt he s-aw him on~e brigge, And bi him ml)1lii 6sne!l ligge,
I>e erles mete ~.'Ivede be bouht Of ComW3,i~e, and kalde ·oft:

[second kept watch ~or also]


[very eagerly]

[lyi:ngl [called]

'Bermen, bermen, hide swi»el' Aile made he hem dun Fane l>at in his gate yeden and stode Wei sixtene laddes gOode. . • .
Havelok it herde, Bod wasful pat he herde "bermen' caUl'; blipe

[qmckly'l
[thcmJl
[way went stood]

In addition to the romances of these four "matters," there are a number of mlseellaneousremances dealing with independent subjects. The mid-thirteeeth-century Floris an~a Bkmc;heflour is a pleasing rendering in rhymed couplets of a popular legend of eastern origin. It is, a story of Iove trtumphant, with Floris following his H1am:heflour to the harem of the Emil" of Babylon, who in the end is: so moved by 'the hibwatioms of the lovers that he f(lrgives them and has Ihem married, The plot is one of many that came into Europe from the East through the Crusades bringing a syecial kind of imaginatioll with them. The thirteenth century, when Welsh, Norman, and Ang!o-Saxon traditions mingled in England, when Bretons and Frenclt. m£lue:nced each other's storyte1li:ng, when mental traffic between east and west had been stimulated by the Crnsades and by the journeys of merchants and scholars and pilgrims: who took advantage of the relatively long pertod of internal peace in Western Europe, was Iii greatcentlJry of literary crcss-Iertiltaation. Floris MIa Blanchefl&tlF' is a product of such cms.s~fe:ttifu.ati.on"and brings a refreshing ,change from the constal1t Il.gblmg and courtly

66

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love-making of the typica.1 romance and from the treatment of the Saracens as cenventional infidels which we get iII most of the "Matter of France" romances-for Floris is a Saracen (though he becomes S! Christian in the end), Blancheflour is the daughter of a French widow carried off to Spain by a Saracen king, Floris' father, and the whole seHing of the romance Js Saracen. Another of the unclassified medieval romanees is the fresh and charming Sir Orieo, which shews a diHerent kind of cross-Iertfllzation: here the elassical story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been treated as a 'Breton and in the process bas been changed into a light-hearted fairy story far removed in tone from the stern Greek myth of Hades. Sir Orfeo was probably translated from a French original in the South or South Midlands of England SOOD after 1300. The story trips along ill four-stressed rhyming couplets, simple without being dull, naive in tone but with the Incidents well manipulated and the story well constructed. The setting is medieval, of course, with nothing Greek about it: it is a rninstrel tale of a rescue from fairyland through the power of music, Sir Oneo regains his Dame Herodis=tbere is nothing about his not Iookrng back-and the story ends happily, w. P. Ker has said of Sir Or/eo that "one may refer to it as a standard, to show what ron be done in the medieval art of narrative, with the Simplest elements and smallest amount of decoration." There are other unclassifiable Middle English romances on a grea~ variety of themes, some dealmg with the patience and constancy of an abused woman, some dealing with stock courtly situations, some combining history and folklore in one way or another. The four·· teenth-century Ipomadan is an especially interesting example of those dealing with stock courtly situations: a translation of an Anglo~ French romance, it provides all the standard material of the typical French romantic stOl'y-tbe noble knight falling m love with a lady he has never seen. the .faithful service, the analysis of emotion, the tournaments, disguises, all the physical and psychological gObilgS-'OIl that the medieval audience so de]jghted in; and the English translator has cut less of the passages of sentiment than he usually did, There are two verse versions and one in prose; the earlier of the two verne renderings is by .far Ihe better, though unlike the later, it subsdtutes ~or the French rhyming eouplets one of the favorite and most wearisome of the English romancer's stanzas-the twelve-line stanza with rime COllee or tail rhyme, whose monotony Chaucer illustrated (in a six-line stanza of exactly the same kind) in his parody of Sir Thopas:

Ybom he was in fer eontree, In Flaundres, 81biyonde the see, At Pop-eryng. in the place, His fader was a manful free. And lord he was tOf thaI contree, As it was Coddes grace.

wi

The verse forms of the English romances are not always the happiest fOI" narrative; Ihey v3ry hom short rhyming eouplets to the complicated stanza of Sir Gawain lind the Gr:een Knight. There was dearly a lot of experiment in versification going on among the English romancers, They were ]eam~ng how to rhyme in. EngHsh in the French manner and trying out different kinds 'Of stanzas. The simple, lively trot of Havelok or Sir Orfeorepresellts favorably the level ,of metrical competence in couplets. Sometimes the handling (I,f stanzas Is reasonably admit, but the stanza itself is not suitable for narrative verse. And all the time Mlddle Engllsh verse is learning to beoome as supple and assured and polisbed as the French: with Chaucer it more than achieves this.

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CHAPTER

TH.REE

Middle English

Literature:

Fa bliau, Lyric,
Dream Allegory, Ballad
THE COURTLY French romance, as we have seen, drew i.ts ideals partly from feudal notions of service and honor, sometimes (as in many of tile Arthurian stories) oddly combined with more specifically Christian virtues: and when it was rendered into English much of the oourtfiness was lost and interest centered 011 the physical adventures, Not all medieval French narrative was "polite,"hm~l,ever:, .from France also came a type of short narrative poem, realistic. 'humorous, often coarse, known as the jablwfJ, and fablio.u and romance existed side by side, The fabliau is associated with the mew middle classes who slowly grew in importance as the feudalsystem developed only tOI decay. H romance begins In FY3nCeas the entertainment oE a feudal aristocracy, fabli'au is the product of the class which was eventually to destroy Ieudalism, The deveJopment of 3i money e,conomy out of a natural economy, hastened !bolli by the commutation of different kinds of feudal service to money-payments and the growth of towns with their trading communities, gradually took away the very basis of the feudal system by encouraging the growth of a.class which had no :plllce mit. This new class, town dwellers who 'carried OD commercia] .activlty of one kind or another, traders and. artisans who lilO longer lived on the land but who obftailloo their food and their raw materials by selling to the peasants the gonds they manufactured, were less impressed. by courtly notions of love and honer than the more coaservatlve :feudal landowners; realistic, Iconoclastic, priding themselves on bowing life as it really is and on refusing to look at it through the rose-colored spectacles of
68

sentimental idealists, tbey spon sored a boisterous, sa.tirlcal kicd of narrative which was, as it were, the antitype of the idea~izing vision of cou:rtly knight or piOUS: eh urchman, .,.. .. This middIe-class challenge of the knlglltly Ideal was but one phase of a s'igni.6cal!lt movement in the history of European culture. The heroic age, reflected in Oermarue epic, had grven way to the feudal age, with. its own concept of the hero, when a more commercial civilization develops, the whole possibility ~f heroism ~ the modem 'World is re-examined. W,e are approachmg Don Quu:ot,e, the knightly hero as fool, and Don Qub!0te, who though It f~l is also in an oblique way admirable, is' a sign ~n the road which.~ Enghmd comes at last to Robinson Crusoe, the h_ero as prudeDti~J merchant who, even when cast away on s. desert Island, spends his time recreating as best be can the urban buslness wodd ~e left ~ehlad him. When prudence and sell-interest become the duel motive power of the hero. a reaction sets in, led by those who deplore the loss of the "crowded hour ofg]oriou.s life," Prudentfal morality is examined ironically (as in 'Fielding or Thackeray) or is rductantly conceded to he !II condition Df progress by a novelist such as SC(lU who in his best novels weighs the competing claims of commereial progres5, and heroic tradition, of B~illie ,NIcol Jarvie and Rob Roy, to conelude that while the future lies With the former ~e laHer is more attractive and its loss iii bitter price to pay for materia] advancement. The fate of the hero in Engli.sh lilrenture win emerge more clearly in subsequent pages of this history; here we 'pause ~o remark only that the fabli.au represents 'the Brst real cha~lenge, m European liteu:-ature to the notlon of heroic idealism as iii way of life, and that ehellenge can be traced in Us inBuentiial course hom Cervantes to Evelyn Wauglil. .. Fabliaux are found in France in the twelfth and thirteentheenbuies' but are rare in England before 1400; 1t.bey apparently originated in Nortllem France. There ate many types:: some are indecent stories ef tOWDI life whose only point is: their indecency; others are humorous, satiric tales nf intrigue; others a1!:ai!ll, iike the Roman~ Henan cycle, are anima] stories, also generally bumorous and satmc in tone. Some are made into a:wfUJ! warnings or otherwise turned int.o e:tempfa" "examples," for the use oJ preachers; the Ge$l~ Boma.norom, of which we have an early fifteentb-century English version, is a collection of such exernpla, moralized tales For tlhe enlivening of sermons (such as Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale). In M.idd1e Enl!lish llterature straMl~ely enough, there are very fl'.w indiVidual fabUaux, though French literature abounds ill them. The only English fablwl) 'fhat has survived by itself is Dame Sinfh, iii low tale of how 3. mer-

10

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71

chant's wife is persuaded by a trick to allow a clerk to make love to her in her husband's absence. Yet reference 'to (and warnings against) such stories in contemporary rdigious literature make it clear that they were common tn medieval England; presumably, however, being: a popular rather than a courtly form of literature, they were not often written down. The ,clergy would bave had no interest in !:hem, except in their moralized fonn, and. the clergy were the guardians of the written word Ihmugholll the Middle Ages. We de find the fabliau, however, lin Chaucer, who puts stories of this kind into the mouths of the Merchant, the Miller, the Beeve, the Shipman, and the Summoner in his Canterbury Tales. Another popular medieval literar), fonn-indeed, apopular form in most ages and civilizations-:-js the fable, which came to .the Middle Ages from both Greek and Indian sources. The fable IS a short story In which animals, acting more or less as human beings, behave in such a way as to Illustrate a. simple moral. Beast: tales represent a \'cry widespread kind of popular literature, and the fable develops' out of the beast tale In much tile same way as the exempt11m develops out of the fio.bLuw. In spite of the popularity o~ the fable ill medieval England. especi.ally in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, ]]0 Middle English collection of fables exists, Books of fables in French and Latin survive, but there are only a handful of extant English fables from before Chaucer, and each of these is found. 3S part of 8 lon$er work (two, "The Owl and the Falcon" and "The Fox and tIne Cat, in The Ow~ and ti2€ Nightingale). Beast. tales were also adapted for satirical purposes: by haVing animals: act as men it was easy' to satirize human follies and vices, the presentation ()f men asantmels being itself all implicit criticism of man's claim to superiority over the brutes. These stories about animals varied eensiderably in tone: some are substantially j(Jbliauf: with the characters animals instead of men, others are more pure1y satires, others again are simply enterta:i.rung stories about the cunning or resourcefulness or misadvenlures 0.£ animals. A whole' cycle of the beast stories developed. with Reynard the FOll1 as the principal hero (or viUain); one of the most popular of ~hese collections was the French Raman de Henart, of which no Middle English translation (if it was made) has survived. Indeed, there are only three Middle English e:o::bmtrepreS'enlatives of that cycle of animal tales sometimes called the "beast epic," and these are The For and the Wolf, the sofar unpublishedFer 81~d Geese, and Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale, though it seems fairly certaio that there were other such stories which have not. survived. The coar-se, satirical tone of so many of these animal stories cannot have made them welcome

in monastic libraries, the true custodians of Iiterature in the Middle Ages. The Fox and the Wolf is a lively, humurous tale in rhymed octosyllabic couplets, with Sfirited dialogue, shrewd charactertzalion and a general lightness 0 touch: the story appears to have been translated from the French, i'! is in. the RomiHI de Renllrl and was told again in th.e Fables of the fifteenth·centlJry Scottish poet Robert Henryson, A rather different kind of interest in animals shows itself in !:be medieval bestiary, a literary folllt which prohably originated in Egypt in the second century A.. D. and comes from the Creek through the Latin mto medieval literature. The bestiary i:sa series of aecounts of animals, their qualities and of the legends associated with them, with a moral application made at the end; :fi;rstthere is the description, then the "signi6cacio" or moral meaning. hi the Middle English Besnary, the [iOIl, eagle. adder, ant, hart, fox. spider, mermaid, elephant, turtledove, panther, and dove are dealt with in seven hundred rather crude rhyming lines: of varying ]ength. The work is of little interest as literature, but it provides an interesting window onto the medieval mind, with its mixture of pseudoscientific descrtption, weader, and moralizing, and it provided a seorehouse of antmal lsre which continued to be used In literature long after the bestiary was forgotten. More congenial to the modem mind, and more readily appreciated by the modem reader, is Middle English lyrical poetry, much of which reaches across the ages: with a. freshness and directaess that sometimes positively startle:

or

Fowle.c In ~e frith. I>e lisses in pe Bod, And I mon W3XC wod. Mul.oo sorw [ walke with For beste of bon and blod,

[must: grow mad)

This passionate stanza survives in a manuscript with its musical annotation. reminding IJS that so much ea-rly lyric poetry, like the ballads, was meant to be sung. The tone ofM iddle English lyrics, even when it is one of sorrow or complaint as in the poem [ust quoted, is far removed from the more meditative elegiac strain of tbese few Anglo-Salron poems which can perhaps be called lyrical-The W~mdefer 01 The Seafarer, fOT example, Whelher the Anglo-Saxons had any body of short lyrical poems is doubtful; none has survived at any rate. And when we realize how accidental has been the preservation of those secular Middle English lyrtes which we have-often scribbled by 3. ~red ~eik on the margin or a blank leaf of a manU5lcript

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LITERA TUBE

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BNGLIS.B L1TER./lTUI\E

73

dealing with some quite different subject-we· can see now dangerous it is to generalize from extant Middle English ltterabne, On a blank leaf of a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, some one noted down a tantalizing liule rhyme, to be worked up by W. B. Yeats many centuries later:
kham of ITIa.unde,
Ant of tile holy Ionde

"Row, knights, near the land And bear we the singing of these monks. ~

OlIrlande. Code sire, pray fell In Irlaunde,

pe,

For of saynte ella rile, Come ant daunee wyt me

And on the same bl::ml page we find another fragment:


M.aiden in the mer lay, In. the mOT lay. Seuenys;1 fulle, seuenist fulle, Maid.e!!l in the mar lay, In, the mOT Lay. Seuenistes .fulle <lnt a d.a. y. Welle was hire mete;

W~t was mre mete? Peprlmerole antthe.epe primerole ant !he,WeDe was .hire mete; Wat was hire mete?The primerole Bnt the violet.

•.•

Much of the Middle English seeelar lyric that we have consists of casually preserved scraps. There is no extant Englisll lyric poehy from before. th.e twelfth century. The first record that we n,av.e of 8. Middle English lyric is found in the .lfistoria EHenris of t:betwelfth-oentn!)' chronicler' Thomas of Ely. who teUs us that when Canute (died 1035) was rowlngnear I'he Isle of Ely he heard the monks singilIlg and, pleased with their sing.ing. he himself composed a song in English of which the Chronicler gives the first four lmes:
Merle sungen the Munekes binnen Ely. Tho Cnut ching reu ther by.

Roweth enltes noer the land. And here we the:! Muneches Sleng.
M.eml)' sang the monks ofE.ly When .King Canute rowed thereby.

The chronicler adds that this and "other verses which follow are to this day SlUlg publicly in dances and remembered in proverbs." This proves at least that there was a song of this kind known in the twelfth century and regarded then as a carole (a song with a yehain sung by a chain of dancers; wit.h a leader singing the stanzas and the whole groU!? Joining ill !lie refrain), though it does not prove that Canute was in fact t:1:uefirst Englisb lyrist. Wbethc.r the carole existed in Anglo-Saxon England we cannot tell; it was certainly popular in England soon after due Conquest. presumably as a resule of French inillcnce. Giraldus Carnbrensis, writing his Gemma. Eccl.esia$t1C1l (a series of saints' lives) at. the end of the tw:el!fth century .. tells the story of a colIlpany of dancers singing and dancing all night in a churchyard in Worcestershi:re with the result that the following moming the priest, unable to get the refrain of their song out of his head, intoned at Mass not Dominus oobi.scum but "Swde lemmon, dllin srs" ("'Sweet mistress, have mercy", The carole comes at th.e end of a long tradition of development whirib cannot be certainly traced, even in French Iiterature, Its ancestry may wen include pre-Christian seasonal celebrations, rommunal work songs sung to the rhythms of spinning or threshing OJ rowing among other activines, or the danced folk song arising from pU!re play and recreation. Its movement from folk rut to the professional craftsmanship of the minstre] brought with if not only sophistication ot technique but some significant shifts ~nattitude-for example, folk love poetry tends to give the woman's view, while the love lyrics of the tTQU1JerC8 present the ccurtly love attitude of the man langUishing for love of the woman. What begins as a spontane.01.15 accompaniment to work or play, largely feminine i.n inspiration (fur the women 'Would do most of the 'WOJl"k .fol' which rhythmiC singing was a suitable accompaniment, as in the Hebrideaa wauking songs t~day), develop~ in.to t~e. careful produc~ of a conscious art predmmna.nt1y masculine III ongm and point of view. . We get ollr first gllinpse of written French poetry when this process has just been completed, The new development is recent enough for it. still to bear marks of its origin (the woman's potnt of view for example. being pres.erved ln that species of chanson d' aventure whcre the troovere reports what he has overheard a woman singing). yet the process of sophistication is sufficiently '£al' advanced fOT the new id.eas of courtly love to provide most of the conventlons, The courtly love lpic :from Provence traveled Il.orth.ward through France

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to reach En,gland at last and Inlluenee English poetry_ TbisFrencb Influence in~em:li[i!g!edwlitb that of Latin hymns, which were written in that aeeentual Latin verse whicb derived orginally hom popular songs 3.11:0 soldier songs of Bome, The goUa.rdic poems of the "wandenng scholars" sbow c1eariybow these influ.ence., could come together as well as how the technique of rhymed accentual Latin verse iduenced both French IlJndEnglish versiflcation. As so ohenin medieval literature, we can see the whole picture more dearly in France than in England. There, iII addilioon to the sophisticated lyrical courtly love. we Find,varieties of lyric or a more popular kind representing a development halfway between the Ielk song and the fully professlcnal ecrnposttioa. There is, the chanson d'allenIUl'e, where the poet tells of what happened to him when he went abread one morl'lling; there is the Qtlbe, song of lovers pari i.ngat dawn; thec.hall$Ol'I de mal mariee gIves a woman's complaint against married life overheard! by the poet (another example <of the older folk point of view-the woman's-surviving in these more poplilar though no longer foil lyrics); thech ...1scHI de cllfoie, dance song with refrain. l both popular and courtly varieties: ami other kinds. The more popular kinds of ~oetry cannot always be sharply distinguished born the more courtly, but different layers of llopl1istication C3.1:l e traced. b It is no! until well into the thirteenth century thai: we find any s. gniticant n.u.m.ber_ ~f Engl~s? lyriCS, th~ugh th~ir quality m~ke.s it i clear that the tradition of Iyncal poetry In English had by this time been well established and confirms other evidence that much has been 100stThe well-known "Sumer is icumen in" is fOllnd in a manuscript. of ab.ou.t 1240, together 'With a. fairly elaborate mllsicalsetting: the refrain indicates the CQmle ancestry of !:be poem, wlrile the theme was a common one III medieval Europe:
SumerIs lcurnen in, Lhud Il !iTlg C1J C!:CU.! Growe sed and blowe med And spring' ~e w,de nu,

dmillg the winter, Darkness. cold. isolation, a diet at best of s.alt mceat-thE'se were the aeeompanlments of the medieval winter, ami we must bear them in. mi nd when we read sud!..poems as:
Lenten ys come wip loue I'QI.ouIIe. Wip blosmensnd ....ip b.n-ddes roune, IJ·al.raJ ~i.~hJi 5'.5t.' hryngep. Dayesajes in !J.is dales, Nlile~ suete of n)l'hlegales, Ven foul SoOng sing'ep_ J.>e'prestelcoc him prel,ep 00. Awayi! huere wynter WO, Yl'hen wonderoue spri ngep. pis Ioules si[Jge~ fer!, Iele, Ant wlytep ell huere wynter wele, I>at a! be wode ryngep.

!wend

rous m~ny [warble}

This jO'yful hail to spring is found in the gre<3:t arleian l\b.nu~cript H 2253 i.n the British MusEllln. in which mueh of the best extant l\'liddle English lyricpnetry has been preserved. The manuscript was probably wntten at Leominster and dales from the first quarter of the fourteenth century. It contains a finevariety of lyrical poems. 'fIle nightingaJe, sprillg,Rlld love make their usual conjunction ill one typical poem:
'!''hen the nyhtegEile :rin,ges the wades waxen grelle, Let and gras aod blosme springes Averil, I wene, And 10v., is to myn harte gone with cne ~pel'e so kene, ,..•

']I

Or

similar theme heated wllit 11grea tel"mel rica] de:d,erily ~


Between March a:l!ldAveril, Wh~n spray beginnet:h 10~pring, The little f'Owl hath their wil Oil their Iud 1.0 sing. iin their own IR'ngo "Ce?1. I live ill love-'Ionging semlokest of aile thing; Irlli'resl,l He m ily me b Iisse brillgeIcll3.1ll in her bnundoun, III am at h!;';' dispom1l

rOt

S,inS cuecel

..•
(Refra.inj

The hailing of SiI'rmg is often-as in the French lyric-the prelude to (he description of the woes (lithe I01l',er whosemistress is cold to him. but the welcome of spring fO;f ils own sake is also an important theme, an expression of genuine, excitement ,at the return of the growing season after the bleak medieval 'winter wnhout adequate heat or light or food. Joy in ,spring was no .mere collvention in the Middle Ages, when men had not yet learned te make themselves an artificial ~j;[mmJerindoors or found at way of {,eeding cattle adequate'ly

.An hendy h.ap ichahbe yhent, Jehot fromheaven it is me se~l, FJOm aile wyrnmeu my lowe is leDI And ligilt On A.ly&oun.

Igraciaus

go! ] [I know]

Another ·0£ the Harleian poems has the refrain :


Blow, northeme 'Ivynd, sent thoo me my suclyogl

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blow, flortheme wynd, blou! blcu! bloul

A rather unexpected poem is at swinging, humorous lyric addressed, to the man ill the moon, the only one of ,its killd ,among surviving medieval lyrical poetry. The poHtical lvric was another medieval form, \Witten chiefly in Latin or French in England before the Iourteenrh century. When it does appear in English it clearly owes the usual debt to Latin hymns and French lyrics as far as versification goes, but its inspiration is, natllrally, purelynahve. The only political poem in English which has survived in complete form (il also is in Harley 2253) is the "Song rof Lewes," a mocking poemaddressed by the trturnphant followers of Simon de Montfort after the battle of Lewes (1264) to Richard, Earl, of Cornwall, the king's brother, who is regarded as a trickster respcnsible ror misleading Edward, the King's SOil; it has a narrative basis, with the catchy refrain:
Richard. !.bah thou be ever mchard, Trioclen shalt ~hou nevermorel (trick~!erJ [deceive]

varyfng degrees; of stvlizatlon and polish. Spring and love are still the dominant themes-and with the sweep of the Petrarehan tradition oyer Europe is to be confirmed as a dominant theme tor another three hundred ycanr-alnOl"lg secular lyrics, but there is' also "cecasional" poetry. springing from particular events or situations. . But o.r course tl~e commonest theme among sllrviving Middle English Iynes-especmlly amon~ those of the earlier Middle English period-sis rel~~iol\s, for reHgiOl.IS p~ems would be most likely to have been transcribed and preserved In. an age when clerics were in ch~r~e of h?th aCI.i"'itjes.~he relat~on between the Middle English ,ellgl,olls lyric and the medieval Larin hymn can be seen most c1ea'r'ty in t~10se "rnacarontc" poems where Latin and E~gljsh are used together.
Of on that is so fayr and brijt 001r.d mari.s 81e1!o, Brj,lcr than the dRyi!; 1i3t. parens etpllclla.
Ie erie 10 the. thu sa to me. Leuedy, preye thi sene for me, I«m pia, ThaI ie mote come to the,

In. the fourteenth century, popular interest in social and polilica~ matters isre.flected in an tnereasingnumber of political songs and. poems, of which perhaps the most ~mpil"es:sive. nd certainly the a briefest, is the grim little couplet summing up the year 1390-91 and E',ltplaining more eloquently thanal1), historialll wh.y men turned against Richard II:
The all was sharpe. the slokke wa:s harde, hi the xi iii re,e of K yllg Rleharde.

Mario.

Sometimes the words of an actual hymn are worked into a macaronie poem:
Ave ,mans stella. The sterre on the see, De," maier a/mo., messed mol sehe bel Atquc semper ui'rgo. Pray thy sane for me. F elb:: celi poria, That I,may eorne 10 thee,

We know, too, the couplet which the radical priest John Ball used in preaching his equalitarian doctriMle at the time of the Peasants' Revol~in 1381:
When Adam dslJ. and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? (delved (dug)]

The fourteentll century ,Blso produced the patriotic versifier Laurence Minot, who fllustraeed the growing national feeling of England iIII his political poems: attacking the French and the Scots and eelebl"ating English victories over them. Secular literature is expanding its scope. rre8ecting an increasing number of aspects ·0£ the life and thought of the time. Between thepurely conventional colllrtly IOVEI, lyrics and the' simple and heartfelt poUtical pieces can be found every stage of sophistication; the fourteenth-century lyric lias become capable of handling iii relat~'Yely w.ide range of subjects witli

But secular themes and techniques soon begin to influence religious po~tr)', and the. folk tradition, too, is employed: for religious themes, as In many Christmas carols and in songs of Mary and the holy child:
This endris night I saw a sight,
A m:aid a oradell kepe, And ever s~e s[),!lg Elnd said ,among

[other]

'Lul,III),. my child, end slepe:

Tll~ medieval religious 1pic ranges from the simply moral to the devononal and even mystical. and. between these extremes we can find m.any kmds of use of religious material, including the merely

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descriptive and anecdotal. III later phases of English literature we d.istinguish between the religious poem !,as we get it, say, in John DOnne Of' George Herbert) and the hymn (such as those of Isaac 'W,alts.), the fonner heing a. personal handling of religious experience so as to produce a.eomplex and highly.ind;ividuallyrical poem while 1E1e latter, illtEl'nded for the singing of a congregation, reflects ,3 communal emotion and is both less complex and less iiJdividual. Some!hing of !he same distinction may be drawn in the Middle English religious lyric, tbough by no means so de6nitely. The picture is complieated by the continuous elerioal attempt to tum secular emotion into r,eligious, an attempt whleh was part of the Church's perpetual warfare against "song is of lecherie, IOf balailis and of Icsyngis." Some time in the fourteenth century. Bishop Richard! de Ledrede composed Latin songs for the minor clergy of his cathedralt'ne go:.tbU3 eorum ,et ora deo sanettficata polluantur cantilenis teatral.il:m!>. turpibus et seeularibus" ("'so that they should not pollute their throats and mouths. sanctified to God. with disgraceful and secular minstrel sollgs") and they WEn~ SEt '10 the tunes of well-known secular lYl"k·s. The most extreme case of the deliberate adaptation of SEcular poetry to l"eHgious pLlTFoses ls the Scottish Cude and GodUe B.allat'i$of the mid-sixteenth century, in which even such an unpromis,ing poem as "John come kiss me now" is given a religious meaning oy h1l.ving John represent man and the WOOEr God: though these are Protestant poems, with a strung anti-Papal bias, they repreSEnt in an extreme fO,nn som,ethlng that was happening ;righ~ through the Middle Ages. Clearly something similar has happened to this poem.:
The shepard

79
II!

. . . In him rom U1 .Loocl gon. as Mlpestles selen '"'Woo :selUeye, po~tle5. ani wi nule ye ete? Wou sitte ye,poolles,l!.ot wi ,ulle ye,etl!? Ic am ~oounant lsold troay for ouee mete." Up SIOO him, Iudas: "Lord, am I th.al? I nas never 0 tile stude thet me The evel spec,"

metl£::

[place]

Dramatic i.n a more subdued! way Is the Crucifixion di.alogue preserved in .MS Buley 2253:
~Slond wel, model', 'Under rode, Byholt I.b.y sene witll glllde mode,

Blythe moder rnyht t.hou 'bel."


"Sene, ne,u sbu.!de :If blithe sto:llde? Y se thin fE'!, Y se'!:hi n hoade Hayler! to the harde tre." ...•

The note of Simple dellotion is effectively sounded Jnsome lyrics 0'0 the Virgin:
I si.ng 01' a may(le.n KiIlg of a1lt kymges
to here sone ehe ehes. 'lhst is makeles

of the

[peerless]

,Re cam a!s:o,stvlle IIIer his 'modeJ was,


As dew ill Aprylle

lb!!t fulIyt on the g.TWI.

:s.at't': He Illid on him his 'Iab:a:rd and h.is hEll:, His tcrbox, his pipe, and Iris lIagal; Hi's name wns called Jill)' laly Wal, For' be WJ:L5 a gud berdes boy.
UpeD a blU he

[short coat] !fie.ganl

He cam abo styUI! 10 'till: modCfes bowr,


A, dew 1:111 ApryUe that fc.!lyt ,en the: .llolJl'. . • .

ne shepherd
But 'Cleria

For ill his pipe he rnade so much joy.

Utnayl

upon a 11m was laid; His d(!,g tohis gird ell WEllS taid; He hod not slepl. but a litill braid,
in exeelsis' was 10 him said.

(lime1

Fat im ~

:pipe he made so much

u~ hoy!

~O)". • • •

'S~metjm~s:, dem~liltsfrom Christian story are ~eated in a dmma~c :fashwn wlueh reminds one of the ballads, as Ul the famous t:hir~ teenth-eentury ].tttimJ." which some have seenas tiLe ea1[~iestextant EnglishbaDad;

. Lyrics in praise of Mary, 01"' describing her sorrows, ocmvoking her, are eemmon In ~he fourteenth century; carols in the modem sense of Chrlsbnas carols range from pagan celebrattons of' the lolly and the ivy and the boar's bead. to awed celebrations of the' Nativity: there are religiOUS poems wherea secular CMns01l, d'Ilven.tul""f! has been adapted 10 ,8 rel.igiou.!! context" as in one with. UJe Latin refrain, "Quiaamore la.ngueo": there is oocllJSionaIlya deft treatment of the theme of orlglna15in and the Christian scheme of' redemptio'n, as in this remarkable little piece:
Adam lay t-bowndyn, bowudyn in a bond,
FOWTI!l

thlYM'aJ];d

TW}'Dt!i1"

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81

I:howt he
lUI

1101'

!Clong;

And al was for am appil,

By that bedes "ide mer kneletha may. And .me wepeth both nigh.t and day, And.hy t~a! heddes side ther stondeth e "'iH"-I' eh ristl wr.itl.en Ihereo n.
It

a ppil !hat he tok,

& derki.s fyndyn wretym i~ here book, Ne hadde the a ppll lake ben,

ston,

tJi.e appil take ben. Ne badde 'never our lady Ii ben hevene ltI""ell.. Blyssid be ehe ryme
[J

-:n:ru;s is essentlally a folk song., of w'hicb, inte'restingly ,enough, ver-

thai appll ",I.e was,

Therfore ..... mown syngyn e


Deo grocim.

This is III skiLrfully c..ompact account 1)£ what modern critics: call "the 'parado:c of the fortunate fall," rendered in terms of lyric slmpliC'ity. very different in tone but similar in general idea to the view Mill~ollexpr,esses in Paradise Lost, where Adam, after bearing of the Christian plan of redemphon from lVUchael, exclaims:

o good"~s infinite, goodness Immense! That all this good of evil shall produce,
Alld evil turn to

good: ...

In the medieval r.eligiotls lyric Chl"istiaTII themes mi.llglein mallY d.ifferent way. with themes deriving from a variety of other traditions; there me, as m the secular lyric. vary:ing degrees of sophistication. of techntcal accomplishment, and individmd sensibility, These Iyries iIlu:stral.e, sometimes with startling da.rity, some oE the ways in which :religion entered men's i'maginaticm in the Middle Ages. Sometimes, in coalescing with pre-Chnstian material whkh readied back into a dimly remembered world of symbolrsm, a poem can achieve an unexpected effect, as in the Corpus Christi poem found in an early sixteenth-century manuscript commonplace book-in the library of Balllol College. o.doRI:
He bam hy:m up, he bare bym UOlWTI. H'e bare hym into an orchard brown. 'In tbat menard thele was :I 1r1l~1I, U9.t W~5' hanged with purpill and pall And in that 111111 was a bede, ther Hit was' hanged with guM so rede,
And ill. that bed ther Iytln: :Et knygbt, Hl5 'WQ'Illnde bl.edymg day and. ·11)!ght.

slam have been found in modern times in the ora] traditions oEboth Britain and America; its mell.ning went far deeper than either the compiler oJ the: lBalliom manuscript or the modem fo,lk singer could have known, The central symbolism of the poeol appears to derive from t~e Grail legend: Joseph of Arimarhea bore Chdst's blood, which he had collected in the crail,to Avalon ('"He bare. hym up'.'); the wounded knight is the Maimed Knight, the keeper of the Grail. whose hall is the Castle of the Cmil; and so on. Behind this ties a pre-Christiau symbolism. Thewhole poem is based on the same set '0.1 symbolic meanings w'hieh 1'. S. Eliot employed in The 'Wasile l.and. Thus the medieval poet, mingling themes of diHerent origins and at ditfferent levels, was often wcnking with richer materials than he guessed. The Christian tradition, as mediated througb sermons, Church worship, and the pictures, on stained-glass windows; the classicalworld, obhque1y re6ected through late Lana writers and a mass of megend:s a~d traditions; memories, Eo~k notions." and hag'ments of pwe·Christian paganism ,changed i:n strange ways in the process of oral transmission-these helped to condition the mind and the IDI,agin.ation of the Middle EngH~b poor and to give unexpected. overtones of meaning to his poetry. I.~ the medteval writer sometimes de..aHwitb materials of whose symbobe ,s;jgmificallcc he was unaware, he also dealt often in eonseious and deliberate allegorywho.se: meaniffilg he knew perfectly well. Indeed, as ]13.5, often been pointed out, the medieval mlnd worked! naturally in allegory m a way that we seem to have lost, alld produced a body of allegorical Wl"iting which is of central impOTtam~e [1lJ European literature. The origins of the medievalallegorical mode are oomple.x.Alleg3'Tical illtewpretation of parts of Scripture ~ad already a long history in both Jewish and ChrisUanoibHca] commentary; late Latin poetry tended to' use the old Roman gods as pet'So~i6catiOD!s of abstract qualities arid pSyd1Olo,gical situations; and the new introspective teadeney ~ha~ ChJflstlanity encDu:raged. induced men to objectjly thei:r mental and spiritual stmggles hy pers>c:miJytrng their desires and aims, the appetites and q,lI:ilities that produced them. By the lime courtly love appean on the scene the allegorical mode is ready to be its medium. and so at length we nave the a:l1egoricallJcm.8Ilce, the, most a.rti.6cial and. in many respects the most

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LITERATU1\E

influential and tenadous of the diUI,erentkinds of literature produced in the Middle Ages. Of the three major kinds of literature we consider mn this and the previous chapter-the narrative romance. the lyric, and the aJlegQ~ical romance-the alle,gorical romance was the last to appear, ami tile only One which underwent no development from popular '10 sophisticated. This was essentially a "polite"literatrue from the beginning: OI, if it was netvery "polite" in its earliest, gennillal stages" it was at,leas I learned. Tile most noteworthy allegorical romance of the Middle Ages" tlle most elaborate specimen of its kind and the most influential on subsequent literature, for which it proved an inexhaustible quarry. is the Homan de la Rose, of which the first part (over four thousand lines in short couplets) was composed by Guillaume de Louis about 1227, and the second, over twenty-two thousand lines. was wr:itten by Jean de Meui1lin the vears 1268-77. Guillaume de Lorris' share represents the t;ue ~neg~ry or co.urtl)' love, where the new psy~hoIogy of love.making IS treated WIth great subtlety and effectIveness. Qualities of the heroine, such as shame, fear, kindliness, courtesy; etc" are personified, and thehero's encounter with the lady in her different moods-m some of whieh she encourages and in others of which she repels his suit-is described as an attempt to obtain the "rose" ('slanding for the lady's love) which is enclosed within a hedge in a ~arden whicb is the scene of the action. In his attempt, the hero is aided by such personified qualities as the heroine's natllra] kindliness and courtesy (bialaco~l."fair welcome") and! hindered by, for example, {ear and shame. The whole background of the story is courtly hfe. a lite of leisure and good breed~ng. where there is Dothin~ to do hut dance and sing and make love, . The ,story as Guillaume de Lorris planned it is unfinished, and the eonclusion wrirtea by Jean de Meuo ,abollt Eorty years later is quite differeJ:lltin aim and nature, [ean's buU.y work is quite fonnless beside the well-eonstructed earljer portion, and it showsliUle ability to handle the allegorical method with effectiveness. The ellegory in the first part is done with real skill and finesse; but Jean is a clumsier and more realistic writer, and the fine allegoricel fabric of Guillaume de Lorris comes to pieces in his hands. His purpose is not to tell a subtle love story so much as to produce a piece of work: which is at once didactic, philosophic, satiric, scientific, religious, and lots of other thing,s 'besides. There is a strong satiric strain in his writing which is quite absent hom the earlier part cf the poem: [ean sometimes gives the impression that he is utterly contemptuous of tile courtly love tradition and takes: every oppor'llIl1ity to leave the story and digrESS at ililordinate length cnphllosophic, satiric, or mytholog!cal subjects,

We see in his altitude something of the temper of the rising class of realistic writers which the flew bourgeois element was producing at this time. Polite, courtly literature is no longer sufficient 10 satisfy tbe reading (or listening) puhlic, even with the ,alternative or simple narrative romances of wonder and marvelous action. There is growing up a taste [01" somerhlng different both from the sentimental, sophisticated love story and the Simple tale of derring-do. Jean de Meun is still working withill the courtly tra:dHion, but l1e is out of sympathy wlth it. He has more leamillig and philosophy, more of a serious didactic purp<Jse, than the Iypical fablitlu writer shows; yet in many ways he has something of the same temper and illustrates the same movement born a courtly to a bourgeois tradition. The inOuence of the Roman de la Rose, especially of the Ilirst part, was enormous. The poem was translated all over Europe, and mts characters and conventions are to be met with again and again throllgholll later literature. In England i~ w~s translated, at least i~ part, by Chaucer .. The scene at the begu:mmg of the Roman de 14 Rose is a riverbank outside a walled gardem. and the. nero enters the garden through a wicket gate: tbts scene becomes a.stock property in later medteval hterature, The story is told by the narrator in the [orm of a dream, hom which. he awakes at the conclusion, and this dream fOI111 Is copied by later writers. The 'Story opens 011 3. May morning, with the birds singing and nafure looking her best, The May mo'(1I'I-' ing. the wandering, into the country, the falling asleep and dreaming, the garden-these are the characteristic features of this type of literature, kno\:lln as the dream allegory. The dream allegory is literature produced for a leisured audience, an upper-class audience cut off from the simple routines of labor that fanned so lmpnrtant a part of the life of the peasant and the yeoman and ICUI! 01 likewise from many ()f the oral folk traditions that Simpler folk perpetuated in their daily work. Even more ~han the sophisricated French narrative romance of courlly love, the dream allegory represented a HterntllTe of self-conscious sensibility. The lnfluenee of the .Romal1 de la Rose .is relatively late in com!n~ into English literature: it is seen in Chaucer and ln the poets that follow him. The dream allegory is sometimes used for very different pllTpOSeS from those which either of the authors of the Roman de 10 Rose had in mind. The late fourteenth-century poem The Pearl, an elegy in some twelve hundred lines arranged in groups of twelve-line stanzas, is cast in the (onn or a dream: the poet falls asleep in an arbor on an. August (not the usual May) morning and has tile dream which forms !:he substance of the poem. The ',earl has little else in common with l1Ie R.GIl'lal'l, de la Rose .• however. Using both ;rhyme: and allite:;;atioll,

MIDDLE

EN'GLlSU: .LI:'!1"EIIATURB

MIDDLE

ENGL[SH

L·ITER.ATORE

85

of that ,alliterative revival (01: surv'ival) which ,pr0duced, also Sir Gat.cl6.inand the Green Kmght. ,Pati.em€. and. Crean. ness; became, fu ad,clition, aU four poems are of the same date 'and are lIiI tlhe seme West. Midland dialect, they are sometimes asSigned to the same alltl:Jor,thougI'l this is mere ,co,njecture. In .mood, to:ne.. and emotional: eHect The: P,eMil stands alone. Tile poet IS IsmeiU1ting the toss of a ,lIittle~irl, who wed before she was ~o yelliI'So'id. Lookmg in vain for his precious pearl williout 8, spot, he falls asleep. 8Ild in a marvelous dreaen finds himself in a land of great beauty WIth a bright river running by. He cannot. cross fue river, ~ut sees o~ ~h,e other side, where the ,collll,tryis even, more beautiful, a llhmmg maldea messed in white Wlith ornaments of pearl Sbe is the lost chiM, ,and he is speec:hless with wonder and fear, She speaks to hmt. however" and explains beT position in the New [erusalem. ~e poet attempts to cross the river to be with herr, but she warns him that this callnot yet be: since AdOOll',s hUl therive[ can only be. cro~edl in death. He grieves at diis, but is told to be pa1j.ero~ and. resIgn himself to God's will and mercy. She then tells him much aboot the means of salvatlon, allSwe.rmg his questions in detail. and Bnallyhe sees Ler in a procession ofvi:rgin brides .of Ch~5t, led by the Lamb. I~an. ecstasy of joy aad hmging thepoet agam. attempts to cross; the 'rfV~ to be with Uris glOriOUS ,?sion, b.lIt he a.~akes to find himseH ag~m 1,11. the arbor. sad yet l'esagmed~o the will of God. The poet shows real de:cterH:yin lland1in,g a difficuJt rhyme scheme and in arra:nging a cornplc'X pattern :in the poem 8.5 a. whole; but the moot anesliDg qwility is the' rtehness of eeler and theprofuslon of _imagery, C:O~bined with a wide emotiOOlw ra.nge which enables ,Ium tod.omlcde theology W, elegy and sometimes in wonder. The Pearl stand.sa]o:ne in Middle English relig,iollspoel:ry for .its sustained emotional qua~Jty an!Cll:ec.blll'icalmastery.of versmcatiO:ll. PatiefilC€. and Cleann.e&s (i.e., purity), which discuss these moral virtues and ilJustrateth~m by re:te.lling ,alp!? lO.priate bibliCilil stories,. are technically ,acoomrlli~ed but .. · lack the speciallldnd. of sensilbiruity which makes The Pear se Impres,sive, All this while, the EOgllshlan,guage 'Was being exercised" developing its literary potentiialitie5, ~d English .~tel:S ,,:,ere learning .to handle t1JeiI tongme'with cunmng and fleDhl1ity. WIth Chaucer, the rehabilitaticn of Engl.ish as a Htera:ry languag,e.se:e:ms to be complete: here 'is a m'aster who can handle it in verse as the ablest Freilich poets handled their language. .Bllt bef.ore we leave the v,eat MDl)' of anonymous medieval writers to dwell on the first great kno~ poet of Middle Engllih, something must be ;wd about another kind of

it is the product

anonymous literature which was~o have such 3. great effect on Eng,· lish writing centuries later-the baJJad. ~he ballads, which are orally transmitted IDm'ati'vepoem.s dealing either with themes common ~.o in~ernation.al fol.k song or with themes derived fil'om the romances, or with popular Class heroes, or witb historical ar semihisterica] events, date. in most of the versions whi.ch we now have. frem Ute sixteenth. and sevent~Dth centuries and later; but there caD be no doubt that the !ballad flourlshed in the late Middle Ages, even th(mgh, being still at this stage a purely oral literature, it was not hkeljto be written do'WID;, and so has not survived in its earlier forms. Oral transmission is the very essence of balladry; whatever the origin of the ballad-sand the older view that it was the spentaneous communa] ereatiou of "the folk" is Dot now maintadned in its primal soo.plicity -the~r original life was that oJ sung poems whieh were sometimes improved and sometimes eornrpted by generations of singers. Nevertheless, the grea.t :mafority of the ballads which we have am not medieval, and some of them deal with specific hlstorical events which too~ place m the' sixteenth century and late!".The: Robin Hood balads date from long after the period to which. they are-supposed to refer and have little if amy historical has:is: Robin Hood. is a yeoman hero, the hero.?f 8. class .•not ~ahi.stori~~16gure: there isevidenoe ofthe existence of l)'ffies of Bebtn Hood In the :fourteenth century, but ,of the Robin Hood ballads that we have, two are of ,he :Ei£teentb century and the others are known on~y in sixteeath-century ~~ts. W;e have, in fact, not more than a total of fourteen 'ballads survlvmg in marsnscripts or printedtellts' earlier than 1600. In the, seventeenth century. breadsjdes and. songbooksmak,e many more available. From the mid-eighteenth century onward, interest in the recording and oo]Jectilllg of balladsproceeds apace, but the early coUectol"S,. e~ly h altered and "improved" the texts which they got from oral recitation Or wriUen sources. The dating, of ballads is therefore not easy: we can say in general that ballads, were 'known ill. the fourteenth century and popular tn the fifteenth, while dt.e' six~eell:lth.and early seventeenth century was the p~riodJ produetive ~ most of ~e ~~Mads ~ which we have 'record. The ballad, inde.oo, IS not so pnmlbve a hte:r.al)' form as used to be thougllt: it is far :removed from the heroic epic, which celebrates III hero of the whole race; it is the product of a settled group and deals with, the affairs of that group. There ~s 110 h'ace of the ballad anywhere in Europe until after the great mIgration 1> had long been eompleted, and if. ,:e E~ok at the balla~ p.ictme in GermaIIIY. }i'l"mlce,Spain, and. Scandl1L3Vla as well as Bn~am, we cllln see that the ballad, asa rule, develops in the late MiddleAges. Some oJ the most impressrv,e ballads ded ~th fo& themes cora-

86

MIDDLE ENC.LlSB UTERATURE

MU)DLE ENCLISH LrTEBATtl.RE Up and spak an eldem knicht, Sat at the king's richt !mee: nSiJ-Patr;ck Spens Is the best saiJru That sails upon the sea," The ki.ng has written a braid letter, And signed .it with his hand, And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens Was walkilJg on the 513i1ld, , , •

87

mon to many nations; these g,erterally deal with a single sUuation involving revenge or jealousy or a ret:umf:rom the grave or simply the finality of loss" "Lamkin" is a. good example of the: li.rst. "The Twa Sisters" of the second, "The Wife of Usher's Well" of the third, and "The Unquiet Crave" with its plaintive openiillgThe wind doth 'blow today, my low, And a few small drops of min; I never fla.d but one true-love, IflU)ld glave she was lBill-

of the fourth. Or the baUadmignt create an atmosphere of violence or tragedy or honor lor its own sake, as in the well-known «Lord Randal" and "Edward," or deal with deeeptton, betrayed lovers, or the testing of love. Some deal with the supernatural, with transformations and witcbcraft and the intrusion lnte human affairs, of the world of faery: in "Tarn Lin," for example, the hem has been carried oII by the fairies and is redeemed when the heroine. foUowing; his Instructions, holds him fast tllroughout a. series oE terrifying transfonnations Itlus old fo]k theme is found in the Odyssey, when Mellelaus gets. information from Proteus, the old man of the sea, by holding, fast to him throughout his many transformations). Another important category 'of ballads deals with historical events, either real events in national history or reeojlections of local events which have often been modified by some fall( theme, "The Battle of Otterburn" and "Chevy Chase" represent the fonnel and "Sir Patrick Speas," ilie latter. The ballads are often thought of as peculiarly Scottish, because the enthusiasm of Scottish collectors gath.ered so many Scottish examples; but, in fact, they have been found in all parts of England as w'en as elsewhere in Europe. (The popularity of Scott's Min.strelsy of the Scottish Border accounts similarly for the belief that most Scottish ballads come from the Borders: the majority, in fact, come from Aberdeenshfre.) Some of the: best extant ballads deal with events In Scottish history, real or imagmed, but what makes them ballads is the treatment rather than tbe provenance, The ballads are narrative poems which, completely sUpPI",essing the personality of thenarrator, tell a story dramatieaily by movmg-<ohen without any specific indication of the tTamHjon-from one incident!o the
next:
The king sits in. Dunlermline toua, Drinking the blood-red wine: whalll wr"U I get a guid $3.lIoJ" To sall this ship Il'£ininei'

In these last two lines the sudden shift to a picture of Sir Patrick Spens :-valking on the sand-comparable, as NIT. M. J. C. Hodg;art has pomted out, to the motion picture technique of "montage -is characteristic of the ballad method. In the dialogue 'in "Lord Randal" and "Edward" the lack of background explanation enhances immeasurably the dramatic effect. Other dievices used in the ballads to increase dramatic effect: indude "incremental repetitjon," that is, the repetition of one line from the preceding stanza with an addition leadil1g closer to the

climax:

JD and oome her la~her dear,


C8Inny cam he s,tepping in; Says, "Haud )lour longue, my docbter dear, What need ye mak sic heavy mene? "Haud your tORgUe. my doehter Let all ymu mourning; be; dear,

[moan]

'111C3>ry' Ihe dead cotp5i1!to the day, Alid I'U come back arid enmJort thee."

The repetition of the questions in "Lord Randal" shows the same ~Ort of thing worked up to an extraordinary pitch of tension. Repetitions often have something of an incantatory effect in the ballads: Th,ey
hsdna been a week from her, A week but ba,.,ely ane, '."hen ward came back to the earline wife Tha! h:e:rthree SOilS were gane.
<I

They ha.clm. been

A week but oo.rely th roe, When word came 10 thecarline w~c That her sons she'd never sec.

week from her,

The stanza is generrally the simple "ballad meter" of alternate fourand three-stressed lines, though sometimes (as in "Lord Randal"] all the limes are fow-stressed: the music of the ballads, where ii is

88

MIDDLE ENCLISH L'ITiERATIlRE

known. is a better gwde to the stresses than some of the printed telds.Many of the extant ballads are pretty iOugb affairs, others have been unduly relined by such collectors as Bishop Perc), or Scott; but ballads are by nature subject to change. and there is no point in heing pu.ritanicaUy censorious either about popular corruptions OJ literary polishing-both fates are part of the destiny of the ballad. The ImcaIll1Y power of the best of them remains something to WOIllder at; the mixture of Simplicity and cltHmill.g., of elementary verse Imm and mastery of some subtle e.ffects of rhythm and e.x.pressioR,is (If a. kind we rarely get in "art" poetry. And, like some of the lyrics we discussed earlier, only more continuously and arrestingly, they can make contact with deep-seated folk themes with quiet power. The second stanza of "The Wife of Osher's Well" is a good example of this controlled suggestiveness:
It Iell about the Martinrnass, When nights are llUIg and. milk, The ca.rlin wi re'$ lruee sons came bame, And theis bnts were G the hick. Itneither gr.ew in ~ke nor clitch, Nor yet in any s.bellgb; Bill al the gates 0 Paradise, That bille grew faim' eneugh. [stream] [trench)

CHAPTER

F' 0 U B.

Chaucer"

Gower,

Piers Plourman
GEOFFREY CRAtlCEII, who wasborn illl the early 1340's: and dmed in 1400, marks the brilliant culmination of Middle English literature, He had the metrical craftsmanship to handle English with a subtlety, &! .Ilelfibility, and a polish which made it a.1 once the equal, as aliterary language. of French or Italian: he bad the Earopeae conscfousness, too, to enable him to render in El'IglJsh the dominant themes and attitudes of European literature and d the same time the English national consciousness 'to allow him 'to present the EI1J;1islu scene as it had never been peesented before. He had the relaxed, quizzical attitude that let him contemplate thevaneties of human nature with a combination of sympathy, irony, and amusement, together with the good fortune to have opportunities of knOwing men inall ranks of society; he was trained in the courtly life, the diplomatic me, and the urban life of .affairs; his visits to France andlltaly on Government service gave rum an opportunity of comiog Intn direct contact. with French andItalian men of letters and enriching his knowledge of Ute literature of those countries. He was, in [act, liUed by both natural geniuS"and the circumstances of his lire to become the most technically accomplished, the most widely ranging. and the Dlost ualversally appealwng of medieval Englisll writers, and indeed one of the most skillful and attractive of English writers of any period. With Chaucer, the English language and English literature grew up ..'The gradual process of recovery and refinement which the English language had been undergoing; since il emerged after the Conquest in lough popular render~Dgs of French romances was now complete. It was a happy accident that the man who had the tedinical brilliance in fhe metrical handling ,of langllage also had the 'breadth IOf view, thekaowledge, the int€rests, tile ellpe.rience of life, and largen.es:5 oj'

It is not enough to explain the jriss,on that the reader gets fr,om that simple statement about the birk to say that it is an oblique way of saying that the returned sons were iu fact dead, OT to explaia the magical OJ other signIficance of the birk (the earliest of English trees to come out in full spring green): the touch of quiet horror derives from the balladist's baying made contact with some deep stratum of human feu. The ballad at its best can do this with extraordinary ,,,,!fect. Though its deve~opment belongs to' the later Middle Ages and. not earher, it is the .Iast ilitetary species to draw nousisbment from what might be called tbe anthropological past: it was this element in :it that stirred the. ima. gination of later poets such as Coleridge (not Wordsworth, who looked to the printed broadside ballad, a rouch crude],' affair) and so helped to fertilize Romantic and later poetry.

89

90

CHAUGER,

GOWER,

P 11:1\S, PLOWMAN

CBA.l1CE,B, G,OWEP;, PJl!!RS PLOWMAN

'91

sympathy to enable him, in the latter part of his poetic career, to embody his great secular vision of his fellow men m brilliant literary form, He used the intellectual and imaginative resources of the M iddle Ages, not, as Dante di.d, 'to present a great concrete embodiment of the moral and tbeologicaJ universe in which medieval man lived, but to bring alive, with vividness and cunning, the psychological and social world of his time, whieh turns out to be also the world of our own and e.very other time. Chaucer-to whom, ii, must be remembered, French was: a language as Familiar as English-early absorbed the courtly love tradition as represented by the somewhat overstylized French poets of his own time. He knew and drew on the poetry of Cutllaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, and Eustace Deschamps, and he was thoroughly familiar with (and, at least in part, translated) the Romance oj the Rose, the source of so much fourteenth-century French poetry and especially of Machaut's sophlsticated exercises in 'the conventions of coortly love. The dream allegory had by now become the standard method of entering into a :poem. The waking dream, where 111esleeper wanders into a garden on a May morning, gay with blossoming flowers and the s:illgillg of birds, and there encounters the characters who tell him their 10'118 aHairs or lament their misfortunes in love or act out their story, derives from the Romance of the Rose, but is nnw treated with a sophistteanoa, a formal manipulation of standard properties, with heraldic colors and shapes ami a highly wrought surface finis.h, of which neither the fresh vision of Guillaume de Lorris rim: the encyclopedic and more cynical mind of Jean de Meun was capable. Guillaume's briglllly pictured characters dancing in the garden and Jean's learned misogynistic digressions ming),e in Chaucer's early poetry, presented in narrative frameworks and with picturesque detail which owe a eonsiderahle amount to Machant and others. But the debt is .simpl)' an Indication that Chaucer Is working In 3. European tradition. As he developed, he was to draw on more and more aspects of that tradition and to make a more and more spedfically English use of it. His visits 10 Italy ill 1372-73.and in 1378, brough.t him into contact with the work of Dante, Boccaecio, and Petrarch, and this widened and deepened his literary resources and encouraged him to seek wider 6,e~dsthan the formal garden of Cuillaume de Lorris. And all the lime his career as courtier man of affairs. and civil servant (Iot Chaucer was a bourgeOiS with courtly connections and thus bad the freedom of at 'least two social worlds) brought him into contact with people of all ranks and professions to provide increasing opportunities for his clear-eyed observation of his fellowmen.

Chaucer was thus brought up OD the Bose tradition and OD, later French developments of it before moving Ito the deeper seriousness o.f Italian poetry. The ritual dance of an idealized courtEy life, with its emphasis on "gentilesse" and "franchise" (llobi1ity and generosity of character), gives way to larger concern with the fundamentals of human character and behavior and this, in turn, moves into eontemplatien {both deligbted and iromeal) of the fo:ibles. vanities, ahsurdiUes,pre.tel'ls.ions, vj]lainies, the color, vltality, and exuberance, the everyday vtrtues and vices, of men as he' knew them. But it would be a gross sim.plification of Chaucer's literary career to trace i~merely from an imitative formalism through a greater seriousness SInd Bexlbillty to subtle and realistic psychologic-al observation, conventionally symbolized by r.. ference to his "French," "Italian," and ··Englislr" e period". From an early stage he was free' of a wider wodd of books than is suggested by any of these categories. What. the Midd1e Ages knew of tIle classical world-its history, its mythology, its literature -Chaucer knew; what it knew 01 a...I:ronomy. astrology. medicine, l theology, philosophy, he knew as well as: a layman could, and it is not tbe least testimony to his gen.ius that his poetry gi'ves us the richest picture m English of how the ancient wodd of Greece and Rome appeared to the medieval imagi.nation, its curiously transmuted image mingli.ng with patds.tiC.thol!lght. scholastic categories, and. popular beliefs to produce an attltude to man and the world which is still an important part of the Western traditiol1l. If the liom:ance of the RO:l'e and the poetry of Machallt and Froissert and Deschamps were important to him, so were Virgil's Aeneid, Ovtd's Herofdes and Mefamorphoses, Lucan's Pharsal'ia, Statius" Thebaid, Beethios' De Const1LatJoTie Phiwsopldae (whkh lie translated), Maerobius" commentary OEi the Soml1!um Scipwn.is of Cicero, the Tl"Oy stories of Dares Phrygius and Dtctys Cretensis and of later writers, Pope Innocent Ill's De Contemptu !'I>h.mcli (which he ,apparently also translated), and much patristic !.itefshm~, to say nothing of the Vulgate, the Latin Liturgy of the Church" vast numbers of medieval romances, and a mlscellaneeus assortment of medieval scientific. religiOUS,historical, and entertail'lin,g works. 'This assorted reading blended! in his mind, as it did in the minds of his contemporaries, to produce a world of the imagIDDaHon in which uP~t1toand his: queelile. Proserpina, and al hire faye rye" can meet in a walled garden made by a merchant-a garden
So [.air ..• That he that wroot the Rom anoe oJ the' ilose Ne koude of it the beautes weI devyse-

and quote to each o~her "[hesns, ElIiusSyrak'" (author (If Eeclesiasrlens] and "this Jew, this Salmon" (Le., Kin.g Solomon). Classical myth

9.2

CHAUCER,

GOWE:S,

i'IEI'IS

I'LOWMII..N

CH.AtlClE'ft,

'GOWEll.,

P'IEIlS

I'L,OW·M ..\1\f

93

transposed .m.tQ' the k,ey of medieval foMore and seen. ag~sta background of biblical story and In all ethical COllte,,:t wJ'lIch includes the courtly notion oJ "genl::ilesse," Christian. ideals; of virtue, and. a robust acceptance human weakness and ahsmdJi.t>: t?e fabliati . trad ition-tllis is typical of Chaucer and! of the civillzation for whieh he spoke. In this sense Chaucer is fourteenth century, and his "wor~ gives us a vivid insight into the fourteenth-century w~lild; ~ut III his art he transcended the hounds of his time, so that he illuminates his background rather than allows his b.ackground (if we have Iearaed it) 10 illuminate him. We need make no historical allowenees for Chaucer at all, for he fully jllstifies his picture 'of the world by the literary uses to which he [ntis it. He i.s perhaps the .first English poet blown by [lam e for whom this claim ean he made nmesen.redl!. " Chaucer's first, narrative poem, The Book of the DUI::Iies;i., IS In the dream allegory convemier, and draws considerably on Macbaut. It was written at the end Oil 1369 on the death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, to celebrate the dead woman and console the bereaved Dulte:' in a dream the poet sees "a man in bla.k"'ill a wood, who tells him C)f his courtship of his beautiful lady and ends by revealing that h.i.'i present m Olinlin.g. is for her death. This iIDgeni.O us adapla.ti~n of .. the dream allegory fGr the twin purposes of eulogy and .elegy IS ~lready strnining out of its cenventkmal Iramework: the mterest lies lessin the celebration of the dead duchess than in the life given to the poem by the current of psychological cliriosity that runs throu~h it The octosyllabic couplets move easily enough, t~'()ugh w.ithO?t the combination of control and 'variety that characterizes Chaucer's maturer verse, and they begin by preseClttl1tg' a picture of the poet suffering horn insomnia. reading the story of Ceyx and .Alciooe ~in Ovid} to while away [his sleepless night. He tells the stO'IY, wl~h speed and economy, lingering only 011 an occasional detail that will add vividness, as wbeD J~no's mes~el'lger comes to Morphew, the god of sleep:

or

.m

He finall.y falls a:sleep,and dreams that he waJ~es to find ~self in bed on a. May morning with llie birds siIlging sweetly. The windows of his room attract his attention :
FM hoUl' al the swry o.rTmye Was in the glasyoge ywr>oght I:D.llS, OJ Ector and ot Ir:_lmg :l"rialnus. Of Ach.illes 311.d Larneden, And eke of Medea andof Iason, Of PariJ, .E1eyne, and of La.vyne. And aile I:hewe.l1es wil:h1 colones !)me Were peynted, both 'rex!: 81Ildglese, Of al the R!lmJl:uoce of the Rose.

This is the world in which the poem moves, 'The poet goos:eutside, mt:o a.wood, and finds a; hunt ill pmgress. 001 inquiril1g from a huntsman woo, is hunting here, be is told:
"Syr, th'emper,oW" Octorye:n:

somehow appmpriate in the traneelike atmosphere ot the dream, with its stylized" heraldic scenerr- The hurtt. is forgotten when the poet comes upon tbe black kmght: whose lamentations leave the poet rather st1lpidly puzzled as to thel1 ceuse, Chaucer-and lois was t'lI, be a frequent device with him-makes himself out to be somewhat ohtuse, and even when the knight goes on to a description of his cOl.lrtship of his lady he does not. realize that it is the loss of the lady that now causes his grief. After the aceeunt of his wooing and. winning his love, done with agra'l'e and fo~,a] beauty in spite of ils use of the conventional courtly lo~e pro-rerhe:s, the poet asks where the lady is IDG<W, the. kn.ight.bills into lamenand tation again" Still the poet is puzzled. an answer which seems ~AII:e.,sir, how?' ",'hat moyth:;Jt ber "She ys dedi" "'Nayl" "Yis, be my trGlIth.el" ~.Is t.hat youre 'Ios? Be Cod, bJit )'5 routhe I"

This messenger rom 8eynge faste And cried, "'0, hoillwa:ke anoon]" Hil was lor noght- there heme hym nO'!1. "Awakel~ quod he, "whoo ys lyth there?" And blew his born ryght )1) here eere, And cried .,AwakelM~ wonder hye.

Ha ltin g told the story, he goes on to describe how h e sen led doWTI to sleep, hopiI.lg that "thilk,e Morphp-us,li?r hys goddesse! dame Juno I Or 50m ",.;ght elle.s, 1 ne lioghte who would send hnn sleep, and offering Mmpheus .8 feather bed "Vjf he wol make me slepe a IYle_"

.At thlS moment the hunt returns, the nearby casele bell strikes twelve, and th e poet awakes to .find the book with ~h~ sto~y of Ceyx ~nd Aldone bv his side. Chaucer has succeeded .111 lllfwmg some shgh~ element of psychologicaJ and dramatic l.iv~liness:l!l't~ this Fo~nal. vi-. siouary elegy, But the world of the poom IS trancelske and Its fol'1Tls and colors heraldic. With. The House of FlIme, which is probably Chaucer's next work, we move out of the world of trance, t~<[)l!Igh framework !s still tbe the dream" The influence of Dante's Ditlina CQmmed:ia is clear in the

'94

C'HAUCEII, COWER,

PlEaS, PLOWMAN

CHAUCER,

GOWER,

1P11&BS PLOWMAN

second and third oE the three parts, but the mood of the poem is ,fat from Dantesque. Book 1 opens with a discussion of dreams (8. subject on which Chaucer was much given to speculation) and proceeds to describe a dream in which he found himself in a temple of glass"Hyt was of Venus redely, /The temple":-oll whos~ walls was e~graved the story of the Aeneid, with special emphasis (as alwa)' •. In the-medieval treatment of the Ael'leid) on the Dicloepisode, wInch Chaucer tells in a hundred and forty Iilles; this leads him to give a ,ool1ventional list of faithless: lovers (Ovidinn in origin) before continlling the story Up' to Aeneas' marriage with Lavinla, The lnci~ents are presented as a series of pictures, introduced by ide formula Tho saugh 1" ("Then saw Coming out of the temple doors he sees a f!(olden eagle shining in the sky. At t.he openin,g of Book n .t~e eagle, having descended, seizes the poet in its 'Claws and b~~rs him aloft. With this, the mood of the poem changes from the vtslonary to the lively, humorous: and eolloquial. The poet describes his fright. the eagle's liea~suring words and subsequent conversation. The eagle explains 'to Chaucer that he is taking :him. to the ~OIlS~ of Fame, for the poet is a dun fellow who knows tJoth~TlgOf~l$ nelghlbors. There he willleam of love tidings and of all tile jealousies. fears, and hypocrisies of men. The ea!iile lectu:,es the l.mhappy man ~v.:.hom. e a~h dresses familiarly as 'Ce£hey ) on acousticS,. explamlng 110 all ..... speech eventually reaches the House of Fame, and prides bimseU 0111 his ability to explain difficult scientific matters simply to. an ign.orant man. The foet replies in placatory monosyllables. Nothmg ca~slop the £low 0' the eagle's didactic talk, which continues until he lands the poet on the steep slope below the House of Fame. B~k. n.t beginning with an ililvocatio~ to "Cod of science and. of lygbt l~lta~ed from Book I of Dante's Paradiso, goes on to deserfbe the poet s dlLfficult ascent toothe House of FaJIl1e,which was situated om a high rock of clear ice. The names of many famous people were engraved on this rock, but some letters' of every name !lad melted away, Oil the other side he saw names of famOlDs persons of antiquity, and they were still as fresh as ever, The castle Itself is made of beryl stone, and Chaucer's account of what he saw there is a crowded collection of deliberately lncongruous deta:il, presented with 3D air of naive wonder. In the ha]1 he saw statues of Josephus. Statius, Homer, Dares Phrygius, Dietys Critensis, Guido dena Colonne, Ceoffrey of Monmouth. Virgil, Ovid ("Venus elerk");: Lucan, Claud ian (who WlI"otethe De Rllplu Proserpinae), among others; and! then a large company of people swarmed in, beseeching the Ooddess of Fame to IP'a:nt them her favor:

And somme of hem she 8,!"IIUJ11ted S'OJ1e, And somme she werned w.el and £aire, And some she graented the contnlire Of her axyng oUllterly. But thus I seye 'ow, Irewely, W1:JBI her cause was, Y' uyste.

[I know natl

n.

Another group ask lor good fame and gel' the reverse; a ·.thirdask for it and receive it; a fomt:h group of w,dl-doers do not wish for fame, and receive the ,oblivion: they seek; a ruth group with a simllar request receive immortal fame; a sixth group, of idlers, seek the good fame of active heroes and receive it, a seventh, in Ii similar position, are refused it; a group of people guilty of treachery ask Ear good fame and are denied it; finally, a group of cheerful and self-satisfied evildoers ask for fame as evildoers, which is granted them. All this is done with soun ding Of trumpets, crying of heralds, and much Jively ceremonial Chaucer, though he is sHU in the world of medieval dream allegory, is beginning to enjoy himself in a new way. After Fame has dispmed of the final, group, ,8 mall. turns to the poet and ash:
Frend, what Is thy lIamei' Art!)w rome hid6 1.0!lan fa.me?

Chaucer hastily disclaims any such intention, and says he is there to learn some new tidIngs. The man takes him out of the House of Fame to the House of Rumor. a building of twigs more strangely wrought than the famous Labyrinth built by Daedalus. This cage like building, full of holes to let the sound out. seethes with the noise of rumors of all kinds. As the poet wonders at the strange place, he sees his eagle perched on a stone neerhyA.nd I. gar; streghte 1.0 h.)'RI gon, And seyde thus: "1' preye the
Than thou 8. whiDe abide me. For Goddb love, nnd lete me seen \VhatwQl1d.res in thiis place been ..

_~

"Petrel that is mya entente," Quod he eo me.

"Precisely why I am here," in fact, and the eagle takes him up toa window, where he hears people reporting gmisip to each other, Each man tells his neighbor, and so the tidings grow and spread until they go 0111. by the holes in the house, to come to Fame, who determines their future duration. The poem ends: abruptly, unfinished, witn the poet's discerning, aman whn

96

CHAUCER,

GOWEll,

I'IEI\S

PLOWMAN

CHAUCER,

GOWER,

PIERS

PLOWMAN'

91

seemed for to be A man of gret euetonte.

With these words the poem ends. Presumably, the man of grea~ authol"ity was to announce some important tld'ings, whicll mayor may not have been the norninal r;aison !l'~fre of the poem. A strange melang,e of a poem. The dream and the aUegoriocalliig. ures belong to a hackneyed emmg.h convention, but the poem stro-es notes ~hat had not before been struck ill English. The canversation of the eagle in Book n, with its qUizzical humor, the poet laughing both at himself and at the loquacious and self-important bird, and some of tile detail of action and conversation in the crowded Book HI, let a fresh wind into the medieval garden of' poetry. Echoes of Dante add occasional overtones of high seriousness, but the comic tone. predominates, even though the poet toeches now and again on some of the most profound of human problems. The versil],ealiom has n sureness and fi.eltibility that The Book 01 the Duchess: lacks. while the handling of dialogue would itself justify the claim ,that The House of Fame is one of the imporllant tmnsil"iol'la'ipoems in English, PQLl.luing forward to far-readlilllg developments in the presentation of character and conversation in .fiction:
With that this egle gan to erye, "La! be," quod he" «,thy Iantasyel Wilt tI10u lere of srerres a.ught?" "Nay, eerteynly," quod y. "rygllt oa.nght. "Ana why"" "Fer ~'iIID now to old." "EIle> r wolde the have told," Quod he, "the sterres names, 10, [began]

ASlonyetb with his wonderful werkynge So-sore iwis, tha'l when J on hym thynlce, Nat WGt I wel wher that I 8ete or synke,

He goes on to say-and this is typical of Chaucer's combination of gmvity with i:rOI1Y-. tl1nt he himself knows love not from eKperienoe hut from books. He had been reading, he sayS",the SQl1lnilJ.11I Scipionis' (as tnterpreted by Maerobius), which he proceeds to sumraarize, after a comment on the :significance of old books wbich give's IlS a vivid i'l1sight into Chaucer's attitude toward his reading:
For out of olde felrl.es,Els men seyth, Cometh al this newe eorn from y.er 10 yere. And out ,of olde hokes, in good Ieyth, Cometh al this newe science that men 'ere.

Old books and personal observatlon-J'expenence" and "auctontee" to use Chau-::er's terms-are the 'two sources of knowledge and under:sta.nd~ng, and for Chaucer character was largely determined by the use an individual makes of each. :Fol' the Wife of Barb, experience was to be enoughExperience, t1ulUgh noon auetoritee Were i.n I.his world, is righl yoough for me:

[learn]
d

And :11the hevenes sygnes therto, t\1:1d whic:b they bell." "No fors," quod y. "Yis. pardeel" quod he; ~wostow wIryi' ... "

The ParliGlm,ent of fowlS is probably Chaucer's next major poem, It, too, is in the dream convention, but elements from both Dante and Bcccaceto now enrich the style and ~he content. The verse form is: the seven-line stanza (rhyming ababbcc), known as "'rhyme royal" because of its [ater use by lames I of Scotland in his King's: Q!ltlir (if James j realiy was the author), and Chaucer handles it with a poise and a liquid Ilow of language that is something new in Middle Eng· lish:
The lyf so shOd:" the cralt so long 10 Ierne,

,enough at [east to tell her all she needed to know about marriage, though the lady was not averse to reinforcing her conclusions with copious reference to authorities. In Chaucer's own literary career the relation between literary sources and personal observation keeps shifting. H is not that he moves from the fonner to the latter-sno writeI'" moves simply from litesature to life, however much more simply derivative his earlier work may be than his later-hut Ile ~nds more ol"igil"laland richer ways of ,combining the No'O elements and al10willlg each ~o illuminate the other. Like The ,House of Fame, The Pal'!'i(!men! of Fowls imposes the author's personahty on conventional material, A graver utterance from Dante and picturesque descriptions from Bocoaccio's Teseide (whi'cb he was to draw an mere extenstvely in the Knight's Tale) are part of the flew literary materials he assimilates in the Parliament, which in its narrative au dille and its 'theme are wholly conventional Af~et reading the Somnium Sdpwnis, the poet goes to bed. as day· light is failing:
The day ga" f:.}'le~. and the derke 11y,gbt. That re"eth bestes frnrn here '6€'synesse, Berafte me my bok for 1 11Il!! ~ygbl _ . , a

Th'assay S!) hard, SG sharp and conquerynge, The dredf1!l1 joy!!" alwey that slit so yeme; Al this mene I by Lo,'IIe, that my felynge

98

CHAUCER,

COWER.

PIERS

PLOWMAN

CHAUCER, COWER, PlEBS

PLOWMAN

99

This echo-es Dante's


1.0 glorno se n'Bn,aIiiV&. II< I'aere bruno topievlii Ii 2Infmai ehe sono in leITB dalle faticbe lorn,

and there are several other sueD echoes throughout the 'poem. They are all subdued to the mood of the poem. and the mood itself is defl!y modulated through several diflierent keys. Sleep proouces its, dream [('1 which, after 3i Dantesque journey with SCipio Africamus as his guide ("Can not I seyn if that the cause were !For I hadde red of Affrican byforn, /That made me to mete [dream 1 that he stod there"), he comes to a garden by a river, with the usual bu-ds singing, and the usual a.Llegorica.l characters disporting themselv,es. Cupid, Pleasaunee, Curtey.sie'. Delyt, Centilesse. Bente, Youthe, Flaterye, Des)", and others. It is yet another picture of the ubiquitous gard.en of the Rose tradition. but described freshly enough (oralil that He sees the temple of Venus, too, with its appropriate characters, and comes at last to a beautiful soft green place, where the goddess Nature, on a h.iTlof flowers, was presiding over a great congress of birds. This was Saint Valentine's Day, and the birds had assembled to choose their mates In accordance wltb Nature's rule. Three noble eagles claim the hand of the beautfful Iormel eagle perched on the: goddess's wrist, and each of the three (in descending order of rank) claims the Iormel eagle as his briclein proper courtly-love terms, Then the mass of birds take up the debate: many o~ them have little patience wi,th the niceties ()f courtly love, tile goose in particular laugmng at the notion of constancy to a beloved who does not Jove In retura=
Sut she wol love hjm, 1at hym love another,

sig;n:i1i:canceof the poem, which is a deftly handled "oecastonal" pi~, shOwi~g Chaucer's growing mutery of his medium, his ability to lDlpose IllS 0"'1"1tone on convenrional material. The mood shifts easil~ hom one of quiet gravity through an occasional Bash of irony t? a li'llely and humorous realism, to end on a note of happy celebration,

The spaI1'GWhawk in tum scorns the goose's vulgar artitude, "1.0, here a parSt reseun of a goosl" he exclaims coctemptuously, The turtledove defends constancy, and the argument grows into a magniGcent hubbub until Nature silences them all and gives her verdict •. tbat after waiting a year the Iormel eagle should make her choice. Then the birds sing a roundel for Saint Valentine's Day, "to don to Nature monow and plesaunce" before Hying: a,way. and the poet wakes. The Pa,riament of Fowls lS thus a poem if! celebration of Saint Valentine's Day, using the convention of the dream allegory and the demande d'amour. It may also have been prompted by some speeiliic royal eourtship, and scholars have spilt much ink in debating which one . .Rut any contemporary reference is irrelevant to the true

Troilus and C,iseyde. written probably in the middle 1380's, rusa major work in which tlle full zemus of Chaucer as metrical tech. nician, as storyteller, and as st~dent of human character is 'triumphantly displayed. ,It is in ~ sense the first real novel in Engllsh: it t~!Js a love .story With a delicacy of psy,cholGgicll.lawareness, a brilliant handlm.g of ~etail, a finn sense of structure, and a mastery oE con~roUed dlg~ess!on ~he verse-whi~h is the rhyme royal stanza agal~-~da~IS ~Ise~feasily to the. changmg demands of the narrative" and In Its liquid Row seems to mcrease the sense of tale and ineyi,~Rbility wh~c~ hane:~ over the action throughout. Its immediate source IS Boccaccl~ s l.l ~ll08,trato, but, while taking the main action and m.anv specl.fic incidents from Boecaccio, he expands the simple, hlgWy~~ol""ed" fast-moving Italian story of love and betrayal into a multidimensional work. subtler in psychology, more varied in detail, and richer in moral overtones. Behind the Fllostrato lies the cllTi~us; and cl'l~Tacteristically medieval transmutation of a couple of minor Homeric characters, who originany have no connection with each other at a~!!,into the familiar story (If Troilus' love for Cressida, his winning' of her, and her eventual desertion of him for the Gieek D.iornede. Homer's Briseis and Chryseis were Trojan captives whose d,sposa~ helped to produce the wrath of Achilles. Dares FhryeilllSwhose I~porta~ce for the medieval view of the Troy story we have noted-glv,es brief character sketches of Treilus, Diomede, and Briseis, b;lt does not. bring them together in a stcry. Benoit de Sainte!\fame s.. Roman de Troie makes. Brisejda the daughter of Calchas, the T~lan seer who deserted to the Greeks on foreseeing their ultimate VICtory, and makes T~ojjus in ~ov~ with her, but the only part of the story he dwells on IS the- wmnmg of her love by Diomede after she has been sent to join her father among the Creeks. Cujdo della Colonne in his Historw Tra,lana follo\'ol'5 Benoit. Briseis and Chryseis eventually coalesce as Cnseida (later Cressida), and Boecaeeto is the first to tell the story of Troilus and Cressida now so familiar. Boccacoio dedicates his poem to the lady whom he loves and :-:,ho h~s left him, as a memorial ~of your worth and of m:v sadDes-S,. and It has a personal, lyrical, youthful tone throughout. He first lntraduees Pandarus; whom he makes the brother of Criseida and contempmary of Troi]us, a young m.30 who brings his sister and

100

CHAUCER,

COWER,

PliERS PLOWMAN

'CHAUCER,

a'O'WElI,

PlEBS
lI"I)'ght

l"LOWMAN

101

his friend together out of his friendsh]p for the Jatter. Chaucer's Paudare is Boccaeeio's Pandaro in function but not in character or behavior: he is Criseyde's uncle as well as Troilus' friend, evidently an older man, much given to quoting proverbs aad precedents: a shrewd" good-natured, worldly-wise, affectionate man. who shows infinite resource in :bringing the lovel's toge1her but who is helpless in the face of the final tragedy, Chaucer's Troflus Is the par~it. gentii knight, not snbstantlally different from Boceaecio's Troilo, But Chaucer's Criseyde is drawn wiUl, a psychologica] sLlbtIDety that makes her into awholly new character: she is the nl"St truly complex: heroine in post-classical European literature. This development of a story which grew up within the framework of the Troy story thWW5 interesting light not only em the medi'lwal perspective on the classical world but also on Chaucer's methods and on the way i.1'I which his imagination worked. The Middle Ages had Bol the sense of literary property that we now have, and there was nothing impro,per ,in Chaucer's taking Boecaecio's story as a basis for his own-he had done that sort of thing before and was to do it again. On that story Chaucel" brought tn, bear both "experience" and "auctontee," his own knowledge of human nature, and his wide readtng. The conception of the wheel of Iornme, ever turning so that the individual is now up. now down, and the whole problem of fate and free will as discussed hy Boetmus, pervade the poem. Boethius is more than onceparaphrased at length; Dante, Petrareh, and Ovid are drawn O.D fOT lines or images or situations; indeed, a whole world of reading is domiciled in the richly textured narrative .. And Chaucer's own insight and humor and irony and' sympathy play over all. The Trojan war is the background. A medtevallaed Troy is presented to lIS in varied detail, with the classical properties somehow made to fit a medieval way of Iife; sallies out from the city walls against the besieging Greeks are daily occurrences, a constant opportunity for the performance of knightly deeds. We see Troilus first, the gay young knight scornful of' love. and then Criseyde, the demure young Widow, standing in the temple at a relijaious festival in her black habit. Troilus sees her there and is suddenly smittenhe has Fallen in love in church, as it were. Criseyde .is the very perfection of womanhood:
She nas nat with the leste of hire stature, Bllt alle hire Iymes so wel ['I1'IS\'.'ery'nge
Werl'1l to wcrnrnanhood, II·hat creature w"s nevere lasse rnnnnyssh ill semyoge. And ,.,k Ine [lure wi3e of hjre mevynge

Shewed w~l that men

in lUre gesse Honour, estat, and womma.nly noblesse.

To Troilus right wende; wei with alJe Can for to like hire mevynge and bire ehere, Which somdel deignous was, fm she let falle
Hi!e look Ascsunces,
[ll

Ute aslde ln ~eh enanere, "Whad may I nat stondea herei'"

..•

Troilus at once feels all the woes of the courtly lover. He automati~all'y assumes that Ilis beloved is unattainable" infinitely superior to him m every way. The cheerful, bllstling, proverb-quottng Pandare finds him lamenting in bed. and after much vivid talk-it is remarkable how Chaucer can give the very accent of coaversation tnverse-gets his secret hom him, When It tUTl1S out that Troilas is in Jove, and with Pandare's niece, Pandare has no doubt that all can be managed. This is cOll!rtlylove, and. it must be secret and outside marriage. free from scandal and the breath of wicked tongues (the contradiction lilt the heart of the courtly love notion, that love is supremely hooorable yet the lady's reputation is injllTed if it be known. <comesout cleall'~y in ~he poem). More is involved !ha'l1 the wmnmg of Cnseyde's Jove: she must Grst be br,ought to lay aside her tears for Iler replltation and be reassured that everything can be done with discretion, Those ~ears are particularly sirong in Crlseyde's case, for she is rill a difficult position as weU as fearful by nature. Her father is a traitor who has deserted to the other side. and she therefore must be espedany careful in her behavior. Pandare has his work cut out. Meanwhile Trcilus, reassured by Pandare, rouses himself and perIorms deeds of great valor against the Greeks, For courtly Jove ennobles' the character and makes the heart more brave and generolls.:
FOT I'le bicom the hendlie$!e wighle, The gentil.es!, and e1: the mooste fre, The thriflie!t and. eon the bene kn yght,

ThatIn his tyme was or myghte be. D ede were his [apes and hi!! ern ella. His heighe pori snd his manere estraunge. And eech 0 f tho gao '!,ora very ch :lunge.

Purgat01io, Chaucer begms:

Book

<opens on a: note of hope. Echoi,l1g the opening of the


Owt of tl:use blake wawes lor ~l) saj-lle, o wynd, 0 wynd. the weder gyrmelh elere: . . •

102

CHAU'CER,

COWER" PlEBS

I'LOW'1¥lJl.,l\I

CHAUCER,

,COWE;B, PIERS

PLOWM'.AN

103

-rills book is ~aken up with the maneevertngs

of Pandare. He visits his njece and, after a bantering conversation '10 pu! her in a good mood, he begins to warm up to his news, eventually rousing' her to such a pilch 0'£ stlspen.se that she can hal'dlywait to hear it. He then tells her of Troilw'love. saying that be asks only thai she tale pity en the yOllng man and be nke to him. else he will die of love. And if Troilus dies, Pandare will die 100. She reacts unfavorably at. 6rsL She is:afraid of scandal She is afraid 'of losing her independent way of life as a widow. She is afraid, It appears, of committing herself to a.D)' such relationsbip because it mean adventuring out of her aeeustomed and comfortable single existence. But she is interested and" in spite of hersellf, excited. "Kaa he wei speke of love?" she eventually asks her uncle, who then "a lite! gam to smyle. for he knew the llirst round was won, And when Troilus, lTe!lh from 11 victorious encounter with the' Creeks. rides by he. window amid the cheers of the crowd, she looks out and sees: his handsome and knightly Ilgmealld his modest bearing

F'andare is gone, taking theeandle with him, with theremark thaI: it iSI:]''t good fOI" sick folks' 'eyes. And Criseyde--when Trnilus calls on her to yield at last, she answers passionately in his arms:
Ne hadde 'I er now, my swete herte deere, Ben yold, )"ivi~,I were IUlW naught heerel

wm

,And leet jt sa solte lnb~e berte spike, That to klr'eself $'heseyde, "Who yaf me d'I'}'Nkei'"'

But the Siege is fat" :from over. With a subtle combination of real reluctance and. concern for appearances, both of which covel' a genui[le excitement about Troilus, she concedes 'little at first, and has to have her defenses broken down one by one. The story of this breaking down-too long to be satisfactorily summarized-Is & brillial'l! piece or psychological fictiorn. The question of the genuineness oJ Criseyde's reluctance can still arotlsehealeQ argument ,among the critics, which is suffici'ent testlmony l[Jl Chaucer's skill in character drawing. Criseyde is, in fact, th.e first character in English literature whose character is argued over as!haugh she were a rea! person, First she is persuaded to receive-and too answer-a letter from Troilus, Then Pandare, by an j,ngenious device, brillg.S them togelher briefly. but long enougb to allow Trcilus to offer and Griseyde to accept him with the amhigllous proviso "myn honour sauf." Finally,Pa!ldue invites Criseyde to dinner when nin is expected; the heavy rain prev,enls her from gOing bome and he gives her a bed in his bouse. Of course Troilus is there-he is supposed to have arrived suddenly, out ·of his wits because he has heard thai Criseyde has been haVing an affair wit'h someone else. Pandare hril:lgs Trcilus to Criseyde's bedside and he €1!plains his fears, she reprcaches him fm them so violently that he (aiMs'. Pandare heaves him tnto Cris,eyde's .bed and ~Her fU.11her.mauellverim~ l~aves him to be restored: by CIIseyde. Criseyde IS now caught-or .15 It TrmluSf

Alld a nigh~ of passion follows. described by Chaucer vividly but net coarsely His account of the lovers' wonder in each other is done with a nne psrhologic::d realism, The mornimg follows, and the aubade, the song of I01,l\en reluctantly p:uting at: dawn. Thus Troilus and Criseyde become lovers, and continue to love secretly and llapplly until Fortune's wheel turns again. 'Ihis brings us to t]le beginning of Book IV, which tells of the exchange of prisoners and the decision to send Criseyde to her father, in the Creek camp, ill return for Antenor. The distress of the lovers, Troilus' bitter speculations on fate, their final nigh~ toge'lnel" with their railings on Fale lind! .... .....5 of eternal constancy take up most of 0 the beek, Troilus proposes that they steal away together. bu~ Cr'iseyde dismisses the plan as dangerous and Impracticable. She fears scandal, She promises tbal she will contrive to gel back to Troyan the tenth day after her departure, But of course she does not come, and the fifth book moves hom 'Ircilas to Criseyde showing the state of mind of each. Criseyde is let! to tile Creek camp hy Diomede" handsome, self-confident, unscrupulous, an experienced lady's man. He lays Siege to her at once, and she, fearful among strangers, glad 10 ha ve hts protection to fall back Oil, unable to face Ilte. dange;s of the return to Troy, and taking the line of least resistance, accepts him as her lover. In Troy the line of least resistance Iud been to remain in her single wedded state, in the Creek camp, friendless and bewildered, acceptance of Diomede'{s the e.asy way. For all her goad quallties, she was "slydynge of carage"; sh,e lacked willpower. She repulses Diomede's first attempt with a"not yet," which already shows that the game Is up. Ant.! when she yielded to him she said to herself pathetically:
But 51'rI! se ther is no betrre way, And that 10 !:lle is !'IO\\' lor me to rewe,

To Diomede lllgllte TWill betrwe,

N.; me' ne list this sely womrnan chyde Forrher dum ahe storve "'01 devvse, Hire name, :1]J1l.~!is punysshed 50 wide, T~at lor hire gat it 0 ~gl'l )'rlo;ygh suffis8.

104

CHAUCER,

COWER.

PfEIlS

PLOWMAN

CHAUCER,

GOWER, PIERS PLOWMAN

105

ADd if I myghle excuse hire anywise, Far sbe so wry Wa:5 for hire untrouthe, I wis, I wolde excuse hite yd 'for routhe.

Troilus waits for her return in vain. The picture of him waiting day after day. until dusk, at the city gates, making excuses far her delay, thinking he sees her in the distance only to. £ind that it is "a fare-carte" (traveling cart), is one of the mcstpctgnant and perfectly wrought things in Engl,isl1 literature. At last he writes, and receives a loving but. suspleiously evasive answer. and finally he finds en a cloak taken from Diomede in fight the brooch that he himsell had given to Cl"is'eyde, and he knows for certain what he had for some time suspected. With nothing to live for he becomes bold and cruel in batt le, and is eventually sla.in by Achilles. The poem concludes with :lI picture' of "fl'Oilus'spirll looking down from above at this tiny world, and laughing at tile shabby human scene with its distracting emotions.
Swych ryo hath, 10, this Troilus for love! Swych f)ln hath all his grete wnrthynessel Swycb :I)ffi hath false worldes brolellles5~l . • • [such end)

that common medieval ~onn, the legendary 01" collection of sa.ints' lives. seem to hallie been wriUen without allY great enthusiasm, and there is nothing in them appro-aching the art of the Troi!us. But the prologue !e The Legend of Good Women-,w·hich exists in two Interestingly different versions-has a charm and liveliness that the body of the work lacks .. It opens with a sprightly discussion of the re'lation between book knowledge and experience:
A thousand Iym~s have I herd men telle ThOlt ther )0'5 joy ill hevene and peyne in 'helle. And I aeeorde wei thai it )'S S'O; BlIl, natheles, yet wot.I weI also That the, nis noon dweHyng in this contree, That eythee hath in hevene or helle ybe, Ne ma.y of MI noon OJ the r weye5 wilen, Bul as' he Ilath herd seyd, or Jounde it writ an; . . .

We must trust old books in matters of which nobody has direct experience; the poet himself reverences them
5'0 liIertely. that Iller is game noon Thai ho my bakes m ..kethme 1'0 gaon, Bill. yl be seldom on the. holvdav, Save, eerteynly, ""Imll Ibal the ~onlh May Is comen, and thAt I here the Ioules synge, And that the floures gyn'l1en [01: 10 spr:ynge", Farewel my bok, IIl'Id my dcvocioun!

The emil of the poem is religious, an appeal from human love to. divine love, with a sonorous devotional stanza hom the Paradiso to conclude. The literary greatness and historical Significance of Troilu:s and Cr!seyd,e ~ie in the way Chaucer has presented and enriched the narrative. It has more dimensions than anything that had hitherto appeared in English. Some of the moslimportant effects are lost in a summary-the touches of humorous realism .n the conversation of Pandal"e, particularly in his talk with his niece; the 8a~hes of amused 01" ironic perception; the subHe discernment of character in aU its phases; the moral and philosophical overtones; the adroit use of his reading to achieve these overtones: and the How and 8.exibilily of 111esteadily mo.ving verse. The English prosenovel was well advanced before anything comparahle was to appear in EngHsh literature. [11 TIm Legimd of Good Wom.en Chaucer returns 10 the love-vision for his framework This unfinished work ls a. somewhat tiresome collection of accounts of loving and faithful women-including Cleopatra, Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne. Philomela, and others-which Chaucer explains was required of him as a penance bv the god of love FOT l1aviDllg written heresies ag,ainst love's law, end particularly for having drawn the character of a fauttMe.sswoman in TmUu3 lind Criseyde. The legends themselves, constructed on the :lm'llog" of

or

And rhea Chaucer turns to a description of the conventlonal May morning of the Hose tradition; but it is done with a freshness and a sprightly charm that raises it far above most of the hundreds ef other suet! descriptions in medieval literature. This freshness and sense of personal delight in the world DE J!rowing things which we find in the prologue is all Ihe more remarkablewhen we consider that not only is the setting conventional, bll~ the theme which he goes on 10 elaborate-the worship of the daisy-is itself bound up with a. literary fashion of his time and the passage celebrating the daisy is based on a noern bv Deschamns, By his choice of i~,ages, by {lie limpid flow, or the couplets, by his cl;nning distribution of pauses and emphasis. Chaucer gives new life and conviction to tills traditional material. The appearance in the meadow of the god of love and his queen Alceste occurs in the dream which he has after falling asleep in the OpE-fl_ The I!:od reproaches him for his heresies against love, Alceste defends him and seeks to snft,en her lord's anger, and the result is that he is ¢ven the penance of writing t.he stones of faithful women betrayed by false men. The task, however. was one which Chaucer's genius bad outgrown.

100

CHA,UClEm, 'GOWEF., ,PIERS PLOWMAN

ding of "auctoritee" and "experience," of books and life, than a collection of true-to-life pilgrims drawn from every class of contemporary Englishman who, to' while away the hours of journeying, tell tales drawn from whatever literary or folk source seems most appropriate to the lndtvidualcharaeter? Some of the tales 'bad been written before the plan to link them thro1lgh the pilgrimage device had been thought of: the Second Nun's Tale, .for example (the legend of Saint Cecilia is early" as are the "tragedies" used in the Monk's Tale, and the Knight's Tale, a reworking of Boecaeeio's fe-seide probably done about the same time as the T'foilus. The GeneroIProlo,gue", which establishes the characters and sets the scene, probably dales from the lace 1380's; and the whole scherne=two stories hom each pilgrim en the outward journey, and two each again on the It"etumwas far from complete when Chaucer died. But the real purpo;se. of the scheme was, to give Chaucer the oppcrtuntty of welding his observation of men with his literal)' knowledge, and that pl.lrpase could be achieved without the completion of the total plan, The scheme was thus not SlO much a literary form in itself as a. device for giving new life 10 ether literary forms. A grol1p of linked tales, told by different people was not unknown in earlier medieval, literature, and scholars haveoome up with v arieus parallels, of which perhaps the closest is the .Novelle of Giov,:nmi Sercarnhi, where the s·ettilllg is also a pilgj"imaJl;e, thmn~h the autbor himself (one of the pilgr.imslldls all the tales. It is doubtful Whether Chaucer knew Boccaccio's DecamerOll. 'But Chaucer's work is unique in.its ~ndjvidualizing of the narrators and in the whole sense of the ceutemporary sorial scene which he brings to the reader. He hril1gs together at the Tabard Inn at Scuthwark representatives 0'£ ellery class in the England of his day (except, it should be noted, the very highest and the very lowest; there is roo one' higher th;m the Kn·ight lower than the Plowman, who was a tenant Iarmer ami not a lied laborer). Each 'Pilgrim is at once a. fully realized individual nnd a representative of his class 01" his profession. They are on holiday. not at their daily labors, so thai the), S.IC more relaxed and self-revealmg than they would otherwise be. Further, Oldy on a pii~rima~e could such a heterogeneous collection of people of difIerent social status be bmught together. The characters move "between the inn and the shrine, the !'wo places where different classes areIlkely to mingle. But their daily lives" their normal habits of

TeJ/,e3" tha~ ma,gruficent unfinished opus in whlch he 6:naUy drew the various strands of his genius together. What more perfect wed-

He must nav'e he-en already thinking.of

me plan

101
thinking, their prejuciices"profesS"i,onal bias, most familiar ideas, and persona] J'di:ios),llcr3siescome out in tJleir conversation and their he~, ha'Yior. They are more than a framework: their conduct ;affects and is aHected by the I,elling of the tales. 'the ProiOgli6, which describes them one by one. lakes up the details that would strike the eye of a fellow traveler. There is a deliberately contrived dlserder in the way in ..... hich the fads abouc each character are b(ough~ to our attention. For example, he describes the Cook's skit] in boiling, tOasting. gdlHng, and frying, then remarks
But greet harm was it, as II thtlllghle me, That on l1is shyne a mormal hadde he, For blonkmanger. that made he ..."ith the beste, Ig:rowlh]

of The Ca~terbtJt!l

The afterthought about the "blankmaager" (an elaborate creamed dish) gives an air of absolute naturalness 10 the description, snd this air of innocent observaIicn-Ule author as fellow pilgrim na'ively noting what he sees Or learns about the others in the casual order whleh occurs to him-can be put to most ·effeclive Irenic uses when Chaucer 50 desbes, It is worth noting. too, bow more than onee he begins a new description on the second line of a couplet. Thus the nrs11ine of the Shipman's descriptkm follows immediately 011 tht:1a!it line of the description of the Cook:
.. , I<or bl:l11kmanger" that made he ....ith the beste . A Shipman was tiler .. wonyngeIer by weste; For' alight I WOOl, he was of Derremouthe .•.•

This again gives an air of naturalness and] spGcbneity. A good example of both these devices is in the description of the Monk, followed by that of the Friar. The account oi the Monk concludes:
Now ~r!ainlr he was a faiT ,prelsa!; He was nat pale as a forp)'nea goest. A fat swan loved 'he' best of any roost.

or

His palfrey

WEIS

asbroun as is a berye.
EI

A Frere ther was, a wan!owlleand

merye,

..•

TIle color or the Monk's horse comes il11 casually at the end of his description, as thcmgh the author had just noticed it, and then the Friar is introd ueed in the sam e couplet. Chaucer's naivete as observer IS, assumed for purposes of iTO,"Y. Nothing could be more' perfectly done than the description of file Prioress: it is mere innncent observation, it seems, until. we discever

108
!hat the details add up to an amused picture of a, nun whose real interest in life was to affec~ gent,eel be~avior:
Tiller wm also a Nonne, il Pricresse, That of her ~myltng WOIS f,,] ~tnrle aud coy; Hire gretteste ot)fh W;Jl5 but by Seinte Loy; Ami she was cleped m:uJ.lm" Eg,len'lyne'. Ful weel she 5XlQ'"g the service dy"yne, Enlulle-O j,n hi. "(Lv~ [u] seI11~ly.

CH:II.UCER,

GO'W'EJII,PMERSP,LOWMAN

[09

And Frenssh she >polk lui

f;ljr~

,mel fetidy.

She leet no mor s cI from hir llppes fu!.!e, \'II e 1 koude

,After the sccle of Slmlford atte Bowe, f!],. Frens ..h of Parys 'lVil s to hire unknowe, AI mete wd yt;lll ght W:lS she ""i til ;I tIe; Ne wette hlr EJlugre-s in hiT ~IU'-'f' depe: S" e carie II morsel and ",,,,I kepe That no, drope ne iii!!! upon hire brest, In eurteisie ....as se!: lu,l nJ1uchcl hir lest, Hi:r over-Hppe wyped she so elene Tho t in hir corp!': the;r was no ferlhyng sene Of greee, whe .. she drcsken hadde bi~ draughte, Ful rem.ely after hir mete she raoghte ...•

Only the Knight,the poor Parson, .aud the Plowman are ueated 'without any touch of irony at al'l. as almost ideal 6gul'es, and it is signilic.-3.lIlt that they are all something like anachronisms by Chaucer's 'time. The Knigh~ 'represe[Jils the highest ideals of chivalry and eourtesv; the poo~' Parson's genuinely Christian behavior is implicitl~' ecntraated with thar of the other representanves of the church; and the Plowman. honest. hardworking, goodhearted, would be hard to find in the age of the Peasants" :Revoh and the Statute of Laborers, These perhaps nostalgic porlrai,ts, :rep, esent C,haucer's, oblique comr ment on the troubles of his time, which he never overtly discusses. It is: wortbremembering=wbat would net be guessed hom a study ef Chaucer's writil"lgs-th.at file period in which he lived was a time of rapid change and even of confusion, The growing tendency f[ir the eernmutation of labor service £0'[ money-paymeu! combined with the results of the Black Death 10 cause the decay of villeinage and to increase the independence of the laborers, who. leftt small in number by the ravages of the plague, were able to set their own price on their labor. In vain the governing class tried to ,slop the lire in laborers' wages by statutes of laborers. The clock could not be put back, and the results of the Black Death in depopulating the countryside put the laborers in a.n extremely favorable positlon. Villeins slipped away From tine land I.owhicll they were legally bound. to offer their servlees to the highezt bidder. With harvests rotting for lack of workers, laudowners were forced 1,0 pi'iy in VoI,I,ges what was asked. In addition

to the unrest produced by this problem, there were many other causes iQ~ general dissatisfaction in the last yean 'of .Edward nI's roeignand the beginning of Richard U's, England was being governed by a selfish andcornrpt clique; France was ,'Slipping away from her control and her supremacy at sea being stecadily destroyed; the glory of Creey and Polters had departed and-worst of an-the COUllltry was Ileillg taxed almost out of existence in a vain endeavor 10 win backthe lost power and glory. English commerce depended l~l'gel}l em the maintenance of E~g,hsh ,sea-power, and the revival of French might by land and sea was more than a military question. ,Amid this general discontent the Peasants' Revolt breke out in 1381. Change was in the ail:,alTld to a conlemporary it might well have seemed to be decay. Chivalry had beeomea farce. Every kimd of magrnIioence was to be seen in the state of the small. mmority wlla wielded. the power, while disease and mise'ry prevai.led througho:ut the eountryside. The State bad grown lopSided. When the Black: Prince tool;: Limoges in 13700lJe massacred a.ll the citizens, including, hundreds of WOMen and ehtldren, yet he treatedithe few knights "..,11.0 were in the town with exaggerated, kindness and eeurtesy. In 1317 the, Black Prince died, but the spirit exemplified in his action of 137(1 prevailed now more than ever. The pl".tcuce of knighthood bad degenerated into a stupid pageantry: the old order was breaking up, withe all the usual symptoms produced by the workm,g of 1JJDJreoogD1ized forces ...And, m the. Church, too, corruption was I;eaping; an unpleasant harvest. WycliI was a portentons symbol, and ~heoC)nneerson of the priest John BaH with the rebdHollS' peasants, however much Wydif may have disapproved, was no accident. Against such 11 backgruund the characters of the Knight, the Parson, and the Plowmanseem like Ilostalgicidealizatiolls, and perhaps Chaucer meant them as such. For foe rest, ,he takes men as he Hulls them, obtaining that kind of amusement in theirunic yet srm.-. pathetiC ebservatloa of his fellows which yields itselif only to the a.rtist's vlsion. The social and econornic bac~ground. wilh its confusions and upheavals, is transmuted through human character into individual examples of se']f-interest OJ: rascality, portrayed! wi~h that relish for huma:n behavior and human weakness that we find so often in Shakespeare. But 'We must net, as some crities have tended to do, play down Chaucer's iron}", A highproportiolil of his pilgrimS me rascals. and Chaucer knows that they are. Nor can we ignore h~s dear attack 00 corruptien in the Church, though here agam the attaek is done obliquely through tbe presentation ofinclividlllal eharaeters. The Monk and the Friar arid the Summoner are amusing enough characters as Chaucer describes them. but the behavior oJ the latter two, hriltiantly presented andmagnrficently comic though it is, Is the

110

CHAUCER,

GOWER,

PIERS

PLOWMAN

C.HAUC.!:R, COWEll,

PIERS

PLOWMAN

111

behavior of petty blackguards, while the Pardoner, perhaps Chaucer's greatest masterpiece of character dr:nvil1g, implies a whole world of moral hypocrisy . Chaucer's point of view is secular tht"oughout-ja spite OI evidence of his genuine religious feeling and of the Iamous "Retraction" which follows the Parson's Tale in the manuscnpts--and he is intrigued rather than shocked by the weaknesses of human nature, But irony always has moral implications, and Chaucer in The Ct1l1terbtny Toles was not enIronist for nothing. Attemrts have been made 10 i.dentiEy some of the pllg;rims wilh htstonca characters, but even if this could be done it adds nathang to mJT view of Chaucer's achievement. He gives us a collection 1)( individuals who also represent the different social and prefessional strata of the England of his day. The Church, with its many representattves (for the Church was the dominant profession in the Middle Ages); the Knight and his son the Squire representing the upper classes (but no( the high aristocracy); the Merehantrepresents the well-to-do middle classes. and the five members of trade g1l1ilds,also middle class; the Franklin, a nonaristocratic landowner; the Yooman, independent cut lower down in the social scale; professions I men such as the Sergeam oJ the Law and the Doctor of PhYSiC: eseeotive 01" rnunagerial characters such as the Manciple (who pm:cba.sed frovisions {o~ an inn of court) and the Reeve (asslstant manager 0 an estate); and so on down to the Plowman. Almost all have more characteristics than their representative capacities demand. The tales they tell, and the incidents in which they become involved, are for the most part suited to both their occupations and their characters, though Chaucer did not have lime to fit all the tales to suitable tellers, These tales together ~ive an almost complete conspectus of medieval literary forms, including the courtly romance (Knight's Tale), the fab.lit1u (MjJJer's and Reeve'. Tales), the Breton lay (Frank.lm's Tale). the saint's legend {the Second Nun's and Prioress' Tales), the preacher's exemplum [Pardoner's Tale), the beast fable {Nun's Priest's Tale), the sermon (Parron.'s Tale), and. so on. "he Knight's Tale is a shorter and more rapidly moving version of Boecaceio's Teseide, one of the stories quarried by the Middle Ages out of the material about Thebes found. in Stat ius' Thebaid and the Roman de Thebes. In this tale of Pal amon and Arcite and their jOint love for Emily, Chaucer'snarrative art IS seen w.urking with supreme efflciency. The rhymed decasyllabic couplets move smoothly and llIexibly forward; incident is handled with vigor and vividness; highly colored picturesque deralls are brought in to provide appropriate pames ill the narrative; an undertone of gravity is properly subdued to tbe surface polish 0·£ the tale; glimpses of irony peep out eccaslen-

ally to, lig:hten a potentiaLly lr.agic inCident; and, altogether, the world of the chivalric romance lives here with a brightness and a charm rarely found in other examples of the species. The characters are not highly indiVidualized, for the world of chivalric action and courtly 1001,e does l'iot demand suehJndlvtduallzatjcn, but everybody has Ihe characteristics necessary to take bim through bis assigned part with dignity and spirit. The Knight's Tale has Ilot the depth or the modemity 'of the Tmilus: it is a formal and gra.ceful exercise rn ,8 medieval mode. perfectly executed. The formal eeurtesy and gravity of the ending of the Knight's TaleTh.l!ISendeth Palamon and. Emelye; And Cod save 81 th is' Iaire oompaignyd-

Is [ollewed by the drunken Miller's insistence on telling his tale next. This is Chaucer at his liveliest and most characteristic:
Our Hoosre ~.ogh thai he was dronke 'of ale, And reyde, '''Ahyd, Robyn, my leeve brother; Sllm bettre man shal telle U5 firsl aaother. Abyd, and I'll: us werken thriftily. '" "By Goddeli soule," qaod he, "that wei nat I; For I \Vol speke, or elles go my wey,~
Oure Hooste answerde, "Tel on,;I devil we)'! Thou art a.fool; thy wit is overeome." *Now herkneth.;· quad the Millete. "alle and some. Bot first] make II protestacioun That I am dronke, I knowe it by my SOUll; And therfore if that I mysspe!ce or sere, Wyte It the ale of Southwerk, I you prey,e.

Far .1 wol telJ~ a l~gende ftm~ :0 .1)11 Bath o! a earpenter and of his wvf,
fIlow that a clerk hal.n set the wrigh.tes cappe,"

The Reeve (whose duties apparently also involved carpentering) too\( offence, and protested Violently at the It.tiller's "lewed dronken harlotrye: "
It is a synne and eek a greet fol)le To apeyren any man, or hym defame. And eek to bryngen wyv~s in swich fame. Thou mayst ynogb of others tbynges scyn.· [injun!!

Bet the Miller persists, and tells hi!i coarse and rollieling fah/jall about a credulous carpenter and his pretty wife, who cuckolded him 1o'rrii:h an ingenious and personable young clerk The company laugh,

HZ

CHA:'UCER, COWER,

PIERS

PLOWMAN

CI:(A'UCEft, COWEIR, PIERS

PLOWMAN

US,

and "Osewold the Reeve" who "was of carpenteris crait" felt somewhat annoyed. He couldrequire the MiHer with a bawdy story of <1:Jleryng of 3 proud mil1eres ye," but he is getting old, and his days ![If play are over. With a sudden yet wholly appropraate ebsnge of mood Chaucer has the Reeve burst into an eloquent seU-p,itymg account of his growing old, lIsing the images appropriate to his da:ilywork:
•.. 'For sikerly, "",han I was bore, anon Deeth drough the tappe of lyE and leet it gon; ADd ever sllihe hath so the mppe yronne Til that almoort al empty is the tonne, . , •

But he finds the energy to requite the Miller with another coarse tale of the fabltau variety, of how a crooked miller had his wife and daughter seduced by a couple of Cambridge students, His conclusion shows his satisfaction:
And Cod, that sitteth .heighe in magestee, Save al fhis compaignye, grete end smalel Thus have 1 qu)'1 the MLliere in my tale.

~er talk,. present a. character at once highly Individualized and the first. ~f a type that has had many successors jn English fiction. hi spite of her appeal to "experience" rather than "auctoritee." she quote au~horities.wHh the best, For the antif,eminist arg'U~ents which the Wife puts inle the mouth of one of her former husbands, as weEI as for aspects of the Wife's own character, Chaucer drew on a great. variety of sources, including the second part of The Romance of . the Rqse~ ~eschamps' Miwir de, ~1Q~age, Jerome's, Ep.is:tola I\dveTsus }OI.lIHltmUrn and Walter Map S Epr.stofn Valerii ad Rufilttun ~e non I?u(xmda UXOf'e (Valerius' Letter to fiupnus about not Mm'ryIng a Wile): seldom has such a variety of material-which includes the most important antifeminist literature known to the Middle Ages -been so .perfeC'tly ~elded Into a splendid 'oriigina1 character portrait. T~e Wlf~ of Bath IS concerned not only to defend the active lise of sex in marna ge-

"<Ill.

J <vo!bistl)'llle the BOllr of s;~'myn In the actes and l" Fruyt of mariage-

"se

The Reeve's tale sends the Cook into roars of laughter, and he begins ,,,-ale oE his own, evidently in similar vein, as far as we can tell (rom t the sidy lines of it that alone are e.:<tant, The Man of Law's Tale comes in the manuscripts after the unfinished Cook's Tale, preceded by "the wordes of the Hoost to the compaignye" and followed by further talk; it is clearly a separate fragment of the whole work, This tale is: in quite different vein from that of the Miller's or the Reeve's. Told in rhyme royal, it is a sym· bolic story of the manifold misfortunes of Constance, daughter of a Roman Emperor, ~J1d her final delivery from woe alter a series of tribulations sufficient (as in the case of patient Oriselda of the Clerk's Tale) to drive most people out of their minds. The whole thing has the dream quality of so much medieval pseudo-history (its source is. Nicholas Trivet's Afl{;(o.Nonnarl Clmmic1e), and may well be an earlier work, The characters are figures in a tapestry, and while the lale has a certain formal beauty itlacks complexity and life. Another fragment contains the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, the Friar·s Talc, and the Summoner's Tale. The VViFe~f Bath's Prologue is one of the high points of The Can!erbury T,uies. The eharacler creates herself as she talks, strong-\l'illed, opinionated, highly sexed, frank, humorous. and masterful. Her account of her five husbands, her defense of human frailty and argument!; against chastity as a practicable ideal, the gusto and vigor and. uninhibited relish of

but also to insLs~. b~t ma~ried happiness is only possible ff the hust band y~.eldsthe, m!i.l.>trye to the wife, and her tale'. based On a story fo~nd In .both literary and folk traditien, ls designed to prove her pomt. U IS. the story of the 'loathJy lady" who turns out to 'be young a~d beauh!ul wh.en the husband, whom she has acqueed by.doing 111m a_ service wElI~~ he has promised to repay III ally way she asks, ?rolflISieS to p~t himself under her "wise govemal!lce.~ The tale, told m ~ecasyUab,c couplets, combines magic with touches of shrewd realism, al,ld Ii. tone of romantic delicacy emerges at the end. This is perfectly IQ character, for the Wilfe Bath believed in love and romance, though On her own terms, .The Wife o~ Bath's Tale is the first of Ii.. series of stories which deal with ~he qLl~tion of "maistrye ill marriage. The theme IS not pursued Immediately, for the Friar and the Summoner, who have been s~oi]ing ~or a q_uarrel since they interrupted the Wife of Bath's autobIOf!;T:lphlcaID,discourse with ~utlJaUy offensive remarks, proceed to tell their stones at each other s expense as soon as the Wife's tale has be~e~ cOlldud~, Both stories are little masterpieces and show a bnU,anl handJlIflg ~etail The Friar tens of a rascally Summoner who meets t~e devil JrI the disguise of a yeoman and whose dishom~51 hehavtoe finally puts him into the devd's power, so' that he is C"all'ne,d t.o Hell, The Snmmoner replies with a coarse story Qf a off ,::rasp~n~ Friur ~hose rapacity Iands him in a comically htlmi]iatin~ situation. The picture given in this tale of the Friar's visit to a sick man, his hypocritical words of comfort and advtce, his infllristingly

or

0:

f~_

,)

IVI

CHAUCER.

COWER,

PlEBS

PLOWMAN

CHAUCE:R,

COWER,

:PIElliS PLOWMAN

us

p3lt))Onizillg sententiousness, ~s one 01 the finest pieces of realistic elching Chencer ever did. Tbe dramatic exchanges betwee~ the F:riar and tbe Summoaer before and beeween the tares provIde a setting and a "human interest" thalt make the whole episode a work of art in itself. The Clerk's Tale, which begins another fragment. takes up the maniage question a~ain. He tells of patient Griselda. a tapestry tale like the Man of Law's, presented in rhyme royal, based (as the Clerk ackno,wledges) on a Latin story by Petrarch, which.is Itself a ,reodp.ring of a story from Boccacclo's Decamer01I. This picture of Wifely meekness and obedience carried to an outrageous extreme is too much for Chaucer himself, who intervenes at. the end with his OWDI comment:
Cri.sildeds deed, and

promise. The young man, when the lady presents herself to him and tells him in blttergriei that she is pmpared to gOl through with it, releases her from her promise. and he in turn, who is indebted to a learned man for the means of having the lady put in his power, is released from payment o£ the large sum which he was to be char~ed fOI the service. Courtesy and "franchise" prevail. and "maistrye' gives way to "gentilesse:· Tbis is the Enal answer 1:0 thee problem of who is to have the "malstrye" in marriage:
Love wol uat been oonstreyaed by.maistrye. Whan maistrie comth, the Cod of Love anon Beteth h.is wynges. and [arewel, he is gool

,eek bire

I'acience,

And bethe atones 'buried ill Yl.aille: For which I erie in open audience, No wedded man so hardy be, t'ass:aille His wyve5 pacience in trust to fynde Crlsildis, for in cerlei,n be 5bal fa.'lle. Lat
D noble wyves, h.ll of heigh pru.dem:e, noDO humylitee youre tcnge 11a.illa, Ne mat no clerk have cause or dili.gence To write of yow II storie of swich meIvaiEle

Tlse husband, the lover, and the "clerk" in the end all vie with each other in courteous and "free" behavinr, and the Franklin ceocludes by asking his audience: "Which was the mooste Ire, as thynketh yow?~ Another fragment begins with the Fhysician's Tale, the doleful story of Appius and Virginia, in which the daughter is killed by her father rather than be yielded to the lust of a oormpt judge. It is probably an earlier story of Chaucer and does not read like his maturer work. The Host is upset by the story and-thinking he knows his man-turns to the Pardoner for a merry tale:
" .•• Thou beel nmy, thou Pardoner," he saycle, "Telle us some rnyethe or j:lpl:s Tiglll anon."

.kJ of Crislldi.s paclent aad kynde. • . .

The Merchant follows with tile story o£ Jalluary aad May-of an old husband and a young wife, who hooowInks him with her young lover, A curious but effective mixture of antifeminist satire Aiild magic, the story, told. in decasyllabic couplets, makes skillful use of a great variety of !literary sources, 'file Merchant's Tale ends this fra.gm.ent, and anoth. er fragment begins with, th: Squire:s lale, an 1I11lllnished story of wonder and romance, set 10 . Sarray, m the land of Tartarye," It has the naive enjoyment of wonders appr'opr"iate to the young squire, and its Arabian Nights atmosphere still has a certaw appeal. Milton referred to it in his "L' Allegro" as the
Story zyj" ajnbuscan C
hnlf told bold,

Toe Franklia's Tale, which follows in this fragment, continues the marriage debate. It is a gentle and charming tale of a loving wHe who, through no Iault of her own, becomes involved in a promise to yield herself to another lover. Her husband, recoglllizIng that promiSiRS must be kept, advises, his wil,e, ill tears, that she must ,fulfill her

The Pardoner demands a drink fi'5t, and then=somewhat the worse for liqnor, for he has had more than one drink of "corny ale" that day-he begins. What he says eonstirutes perhaps the most brilliant single passage in all of Chaucer's work Somewhat affronted by the Host's assumption that he is capable only of "8 myrie tale." he begins by t:elHng hisaudience of his skill and virtuosity as a Pardoner. But he is sa anxious to displ3)' his cleverness (and his natural caution has been dissipated by drink) that he reveals himself as an unscrupulous trickster who uses false relics and every kind of dishonest cunning to wring money out of even the pomesf people. He tells how he preaches, how he blackmails the congregation into giving him money, how he impresses, bullies, frightens, and overwhelms his hearers. It is a picture of extraordinary virluosity, whose motive is whoUy evil. Havmg thus vindicated his cleverness at the expense of his character he proceeds to his story-which is 0.0,1 a merry t"le, but another example of his professional skiml,an e:remplum, a story wnh a moral to move and impress his heaters. His lale of the three rioters who set out to lilld Death and lind him unknowingly in a, heap of

us

CHAUCER.

COWER,

PIERS PLOWMA.N

CHAUCER,

cOWE.R, I'I]E,RS PL'OWMAN

treasure--For sole possession of which eacb heachewu.sly kilJls the otnerS-Lfi per£eclly done. Beginning with overt moralizmg. which rises to an eloquent attack 011 drunkenness, he proceeds t.o paint a vivid picture of the riotous, blasphemous, and avaricious yaung men at the tavern. The story then moves with somber speed to its violent canelusion, I t is a professional performance of the very llighest ql.laUjiy. Having completed the story. the Pardoner, either led by the momentum of his own eloquence 'Ordeceiving himsel.£ into believing that his eloquence and narrative skin have eHaced tile effect of his earlier self-reoelarion, o~ers to sell the company pardons;
l'!lraventure ther may f.allen 000 or two [)OUD of his hers, and breke lIis nekke ama. Locke which a seuretee is i! to you aile

117

The Host then turns to Challcer 'hiimself,


And sayde thus, "What man mow?" quod he; "ThOD lookest as tbOIl woldest fynd.e an hare, For evere upon the gD'Gl!l00 see' thee stare. • __ I

"Cheer up." says the Host to the timid and humble Chaucer of "elvyssh coatenaunce,"
"Tells us 9 tale of myrthe Il.lld that anon." "Hooste," quod I, "ne beth nat yvele a.pard. For oother tale eertes kan I noon, But of 8, rym W femed longe agoon,"

Thai I ann in YOllre iellawesbipeyhlle. That I may assoin~ yow, bothe moore' and Iasse, \!"Jilan tlIw.l the &aule s:IHdfro the boa)' puse. Lrede !hal cure Hoost heere shal bigynne. 1':or he is moost enveloped i.1'I sy:nne. Com forth, sire Hoost, and olhe RrsE anon,
.ADd thou $Mlt kisse the reltkes everyehon, 'fe. for a grate! Ullbo!cele lin on tllly pUT'S.

This invitation to kiss (for a lee) relics which he has already confessed are pigs' bones naturally outrages the Host, who repHes with eloquent coarseness, The pr'Ofessional virtuosity of his tale clearly was not enough to pull the wool over the eye.c; of a tough-miinded character like Harry Bailly. The Pardoner is enraged by his Teply to his s~ggestion, and the Knight has to intervene to restore order. Another fragmeliltbegins with the Shipman's Tale, all amusing fobliau with a folk source: there is some evidence 'that it was originally intended lor the Wife of Balll and was transferred! to the Sbipmall after Chaucer had decided to give the Wife another story j1;lstead, Itt is another tale of the. wife and her lover fooli~g the husband. The Prioress' Tale, which follows, is a "miracle of OUlI" Lady," the storv of little Saint Hugh of Lincoln murdered. by "cursed Jewes for singing a bymn. to the Virgin as be walked Ihrougb the Jews' quader. It would of course be unrealistic and anaehrcmstlc to imagine that Chaucer or any of his centempoearies would have seen the fantastic and cruel Iibel perpetrated by such as!ory; there were no Jews in England in Chaucer's day, and tlley were knowa to Englishmen of the >ime soJely in terms of anti-Semltsc fotklore. If we forget the implications, the story' has a na.i've charm which reflects s>omelhing of the character of its teller. It is told. in rhyme' royal, and represents one of Chaucer's most assured ha.ndlings of this stanza.
n

So the ~uthor The Can.terbury Tale3, rep,resenting himself as the least s,kd:!edof all the narrators (this lind of humor was characteristic of him: we remember his respectf.',d monosyllables before. llie eagle in The Hoose Fame), embavks on "Sir Thopas," that briJliant parody of the metrical romance, In the steady plod of the meter, in Ithe TJ1echanicaEpih~g UP. of detail, in t~e long cat3!ogues of obiects,~ll the. lall,guage,'~lt~atll)n. and tone, ~ir Thopas blJIlesq~es all ~e main eharaetenstlcs of .run-of-the·mill popular romance in Engbsll verse. We have quoted from it in Chapter 2, but two more stanzas, illustrating the catalogue of tt.e knight's physical attrilmtes will giv,e some idea of the burlesque element: •

ru:

c:t

SiTe Thopas wu a doght,. swaj'1ll,; Whit was IUs face es a payndema}'lll, Hie lippets red.as rose, His rode .is lyk scarlet in gwaro, And.l yow telle in gQOd ce:N]'JI, He hadde a seme]y nose, His heee, his herd was 1)11;; saliroum,
Tha_t to his grrdel ra.ughte adoun; Hi.!ishoon of oordewane. Of llrugges were hi$ hosen broun,

His ·rGM was of syli:latooo, That coste m... ny II jane.

The Host shuts him up after some thirty stanzas:


NNamoo're 01 tiJis, For Coddes dig:nitee, ~ Quod oure Hooste •.Nfor thou makest me So wel)' of ,thy vemly lewed nesse Tht, also wisly Goo lI"Iy soule blesse, Myne eres aken of thy drasty speehe. Now swich a rym the devel I bttechel

Thismay wei he rym.d.oge:re1,~ quod he.

U8

CHAUCER,

'GI)WER,PIEI!:S

PLOWMAN

CHAUCER,

COlVER.

PIE'I\S

PLOWMAN

Chaucer then offers· to teU "3]ReI 'lhyl1g ira prose," which. turns out to be the long, tedious moralizing tale of Melibee, translated from I:he French. Whether Chaucer meant d:U:s to sound as it. does to modem ears: is aot quite clear: he may n~t have been aware of bow lacking in artistry his prose was, compared to. his; verse. At allY rate, the Host approved of the tale, and expressed the wish that his wife had the patience advocated and practiced by Melibeus' wifePrudeuce, The Host then calls on the MOllk to leLl a, tale, assuming-as he had done witb the Pardoner-ahat this secular-minded cleric will tell something livd.y. He addresses Ihe 'Monk ill a tone 'of cheerful agl"ooment with his ass!m1ecl opmien that clerical celtbacywas a bad~hillg. But the Mllnk'S professional dignity is offended, and he tells <Ii series of trngedies-"De Casihus Vim:nJim Illustrium." 'Tragedy" to the medieval mind was a st.ory of reversal of fortune hom high to low. As the Monk says:
Traged.ie is 10 seyn Q. certeyn storie, As olde bookes mllken us mernorle, Of h~ t:h~1 5100d In greet prosperitee, And is yfallen out of heigh degree ]1'110 myserie, and e'ade1la wreeehedly.

This is presumably an earlier work of Chaucer's, It: tells, in eight~ined stanzas rhyming Ilbabhcbc, of the fa.!ls of Lacller, Adam, Samson, Hercules, "Nabugodonosor," Balthasar, Cenobia, P,ooro, king of Castille. Peter, king of C)'plfl.lS, lBernabo Visconti. Ugolillc (see Dante's inferno, Canto XXHI.· which was presumably Chaucer's source), Nero, Holofernes, Antioehus, Alexander, julius Caesar, and Croesus. before he is interrupted by the Knighl, who can stand: no more .of these dr.eal'Y stories:
"Hool" quod the Knyght, "goad sire,llamOOI£ That )'e han s:eyd is righ't ynQ1Jgh.ywi~. AI1.dmuchel moore; lor lite! luwynesse Is righl Yl100gh 10 muehe folk, I ge~e" of lhisl

"Sire Mcmk, namoore 01 thts, so C:ocl yow blessel Youre tn le anoyeth al this compaignye."

He asks the Monlt for a. 5iOI"},ofhul1tiTIIg, but the Man! replies sullenly tbat he doesn't want 10 play. TIle Nun's Priest is now called upon The Nun's Priest's Tale of Chaun'tecleer and Pertelote is perhaps the best known of all Chaucer's 'Works, and. jmlly S,tl, fo!' it repre-

sents Chaucel" at ahsolute!), the lop of his form. The quiet. realistie opening describing the poor widow and. her way of life, the account of the rock and the hen with its superb satire Oil human marital relationships,. the use of leamil1g in . the discussion of the causes and mellf'L'ing of dreams with the deFtly drawn differences of approach between Chaunteeleer and Pertelote, !he irenic elect achieved by the application of hillman psychology to the behavior (If the birds-all this has been discussed and praised often enough. Drawing 0[1 material from the medieval beast epic and on medieval notions of medicine. astwlogy, and psyChology, Chaucer has produced a. siory so aerated. with wi'l, so cunnimlgly wr.Qught at all polnts, 5.0 artfully blended of mockery and sympatby, of imny and understanding, that the traditional nature of the materials is lost sight of in the brilli,mt:linish of the perfonnance. But there ls much of medieval thoug'bl and attitude in the tale, which in bet rnekes one of the handiest windcws onto lfIe Middle AgesfoT anybody who wishes to enter directly into that world. Yet the' story is permanently modern, 'kept alive by artistry, wit, and insigh~ into human (presented as animal) weakness. J\rnother fragmellt begins with the Second N1JJl's Prologue and Tale, These are conventional religiOUS performances, pmbaMy written by Chaucer considerably earlier. The Prologue contains an mvoeation to ~he Virgin I'.lary, drawing on a variety of source.') induding the Paradiso and several Latin hymns, and: the tale itself is an account in rh)'me royal of t~e life and martyrdom of Saint Cecilia" The company are ~hen enlil!ened by the appearance of a Canon and his Yeoman, who join them. after hard. riding. The Canon is, an alchemist, and the Yeoman tells the complJny something of his master's methods fa:r tricking people out of their n:mney. which so enrages and shames (he Canon that he tides off again. The Yeoman then tells his tale, which d.i(fersfrom aI'ltite others in. that. it is represented as 80mething in which he was recently involved. It is the story of an elaborare plot 'on his master's part to obtain money halldwendy from credulous people· who illlagilledi that :his, alchemy could cbtatn riches for them. The theme was, common. enough in Chaucer's time, but it is told here with an immediacy and a freshness that eorrespond perfectly to the sltuation out of which it is made to arise. Another fragment contains the Mancip'le's PHI,logue and Tale. The Prologue contains a lively quarrel between the Manciple and the Cook. the latter o:f whom is dnrak. The Manciple's brief tale is of the telltale crow who tells thehusband of his wife's infidelity: it was a story eommon illl one Ierm Or another throughout E1!ll'O~eand 'the Orient. Fmally, tihere is in another fragment the Parson s; Pro-

120

CHAUCER,

COWER,

PIERS

PLOWMAN

CHA UCER,COWER,

PIERS

PLOWM.AN

121

logue and Tale .• which follows direct1)' after the Mam:ip,le'SoTale, for it begins with a reference to its baving just ended. The Host asks the Parson for a story, and the Parson replies tbathe will tell DO story but a sermon. Why sholde I sowen draf out o.fmy rest,
Whao 1 may sowen whele. iF thaI' me lest? , ' . Buttrysteth wel, I am a. S[JiI~hren man, I kanul geeste 'rum, ram, ref, 'l::!y lettre, N e, God Wool, tyro holde J but mel bell:re; • . .

He does Dot hold with the aliliter3ltive poetr), of the North, or with rhyme. He will ~el~his tale in prose, "to knytte up al this Ieeste, and make an ende. He then deliv,ers a long sermon on. penitence, which includes a treatise on the seven deadly sins. The prose is somewhat featureless, and rhe work is more iDteresting to students of medieval prea.ching than to the literary critic. After it, in all the manuscripts which contain !:he complete tale, is Chaucer's "Retraction," a conventionally pious renrmciation of his works "of worldly vaniteas," Illcluding the T1'oilm, Tile H811se of Fame, The Legend of Good WOm£rt, TJLe Par!ialnenl 01 FoWls, and those of The Canterbury Tales "that SOW1leDJ. into synne," Neo-mt:hodoxy llails this as a commendable turning from this world 10' eternity, but it is difficult to be satis'ed with a point of view which so bHthely renounces wtiat bas made a man immortal. The conclusion is self-evident, With Chaucer, the English language and English literature grew at a bound to full maturity, No other Middle Eng~ish writer has his sl<m, his range, his complexity, his ~arge humane outlook. Unfortunately, the English !language (as Chau~r .foresaw in a stanza. at Ilhe end of Troilus and Criseyde) was still in the process of rapid change, and major shifts in pronunciation and aeeeetuatios were to occur in the following century and~ half. This meant that Chaucer's achievement in es:tablishmg English as- a fully developed literary language could nOit be adequatelyexploiled by his immedlate successors. It was; Dot long before r~aders were unable to scan him properly. This fact helps to ernphasize Chaucer's loneliness. His followers lode bothhis technical brilliance and !lis breadth of vision, leaving him the one undisputed master in medieval English literature'. Not until Shakespeare fs there an !English wrrter with Chaucer's combination of technique and insight and his ability to put each at the 'service of the other, and Shakespeare's genius, which was the greater, ran in diHe£ent channels. But no other EngHsh narrative poet is his equal, The large canvas ort which The Can.ferbury Tales are painted, ttJ.e ""aned view of humanity in action which Chaucer gives us, were

later to. become characteristic qualities of Englisb literature, liepresented III both the drama and, later, the novel. The often quoted phrase of Dryden's, "Here is Cod's plenty," referring to The Canterb;~r!l T'ales, can be applied to. much in Shakespeare, Fielding. and DI.ck~ns, to name only a few. However much attention is ps. id to the ~nDclpal chara.cter or ch.,aractel"'S .m the 1000cgrmmd.English dramstl~ts and novelists ba~e had a fondness for filling ill the background w:tth a large rauge oJ characters diminishing in subtlety, but not in life, the furthe·c ill the background they are. Men tend to be seen ~g~iTlsl the co~orfulJHlltern of a stratified sex:. ely I"13lthe.fOHm onl.'I. in i intimate relanon With the select few in contact with whom their destiny is determined. This is not, of ('(IUJse, always true, and less true of tragedies than oJ other kinds of work (compare Othello with Henry lV, for example or jonson's Rartllolomeu; Fair with his Sejanus), but on 'the whole the crowded canvas, with the eharaeters shading off from fully realized ~ndividua1s to types and oddities, seems to be a preference of the English literary gen:ius. Chaucer, however. does not go in ror JOllsonian "humours" (tJ-.o'llghhe knows a~d uses the psycholOgical theory behilld them) or Dickensian eecentncs, H.is vision, if ironic, is central; his tone, if often comic, is never merely funny; and each of his characters represents some essential troth abouf men. If Chaucer's work helped to make the lEast Midl;md dialed of Middl,e English into the English literary lallguage. we are reminded by the work of his contemporary, John Gower (died 1408). who wrote in French and! in Latin as well as in English, that the claims of the other two languages were stiU .stl--ong.French, however, was rap,idly giving w~y !O English, and it is Significant that of hts three malar works-Mu--Oif de fRomme, Vox Clanumtis. and COllle,~$i() ~lI1a:ruis-t~e fint is in. French (in its Anglo--Norman variety) and tffi1elast, ,:,",Tltte~ towar~ the end a~ his career with Chaucer's example before h;m, 'g,s In Engb5h. Gowem- reputation has been eclipsed by s ~hauc~er s, but he was. popular in !lis awn day and was still read by the Elizabethans, He IS III moretypteal representative of his a~e and class than Chaucer could! claim to be: conservative. morabsttc, draWing with considerable technical skill but without allY great o~jgina]jty 'Gf per()eption or liveliness ol imagination on the tradihonal materials that were available to him. His long French poem is a manual of sins and sinners, a detailed and glOOl'llyaccount of the prevalence of vice springing from man's corrupt nature. Repentance is, ~f course, t~e remedy. The ,Vtn: Clamnntis, a dream allegory Jn Latin, de~1s WIth t~e Peasants Revol~ of 1381. giving a sQ'If,agely gloomy ,pacture of VLOJ,eIlCC and! disorder and of the general oon-up--

122

CHAUCER,

COWER,

'PIERS

l"LOW)'1:it,N

CHAUCEl'I,

GOWEEI,

,1'1:E'RS

PLOWMAN

123

t~on of th'e age ..The Con!,!!s~iO Amantis is a collection oftales in EJlglish octosyllabic couplets Imked! by a riot very helpful framework. The poet announces, with a certain reluctance, that he will leave morality for love, for readers prefer the latter. He then descrfbes the coaventiunal May morning. wilh himself going eut into a wood and meeting Venus, the Queenl or Love, who advises him to make his eoufessionto Genius, her priest. Genius considers it necessary to discuss the seven deadJy s~ns,with tile numerous sub-sins in each category, and he proceeds to illustrate each one by a stm:y; it is these stories which make up the m<l!iR material of the poem. The relation between the story and the siu i~ is rneant to illustrate is oft.el1 foreed and sometimes preposterous, and it would have been bette!' if Gower had rid hoos,el£ allogether (JFthis cumbrous machinery. But the 12lles themselves are told with a quiet skill. Gower lacks aHogether Chaucer's vivacity mild hum.or: he tends to be merely Iluent. Here, for example. is part o~ his de..5c~i~<t[ol1l the eave ?f. sleep from .his tale of of Ceyx: and .AlcHme (which Chaucer told In The B,ook of the

D!Jche~.$):

Under anhell !here :is 8, eave, [hill) Which (Jf the sonne mal nogbt have, So that nomsn mai knowe ariht The: poin~ between the dai and nyht; Ther is nc' Iyr, there isno sparke, Their is IIO dore, whic.h mai ma~ke. [creak] Whereof all yheseholde unsehette, [an eyssh.ould open] So that inward, there is no lette, . • .

The stories are interspersed with digressions on a gred varlety of subiects. His views are always the coovennonel views of :iris:a.ge. 'There is: DO !lriginii.lity in his imagination orin his ideas. The' constant moralizing wearies, and though many of the tales hold themterest, the smaoth flow of over thirty thousand .Iines becomes iminitely tiresome. "Moral Cower," as Chaucer called him in the dedication of the Tro.uus. is one of the most interesting examples in medieval English lilerature of verse craftsmanship without genills; he is an excellent mirror of bis age; he is more disturbed by the upheavals in. ecnbemporary society than Chaucer ever ,shows himself 10 be; but he is a dull fellow, lacking the ~JUe spark, and we cannot read him for any length of time with.out making historlJ::'.alallowances, MO'ral in a more passionate and personal way aad more deeply cancerned with the religious, social, and economic problems of his time is the ,author of P':i.ersPlownwn. an impressive allegorieal :poem (or series of related poems) written in the old alliterative meteriD tlu~

IRtter part of the fourteenth century, The author is traditionally taken to be William L.·mgl:md,and he certainly refers to himself as Will in tlrie poem; but. the attribution is uncertain, and in anycllIse it is possible that the Intel' Iw,o of the three m~in versions of the peem ..,.hich exist represent revisions and alterntlons by one or more other writers. The !Pmlog:ue deseribes h.ow the author fell asleep ona May moming on the Mahtem Hills and saw in :rt dream "at fail"e felde ful of Iolke," with plDuglllTilell, wasters, hermjts, merchants, ,iesters, beggars,. pi]grirns, and friars, each going about his business; the lis!: closes with a pardoner with his pnpa! bulls oAering to "assotl" the people. and neglectful prlests deserting ""lIeir Boch foli' an easy Ilme in London. A king appeaH', and! an angelic voice admonishes him run Latin to follow [ustice and mercy; then-with that dream klglC where one scene suddenly transforms itself into another=we find a group of nils and mice deciding to put a hell on the cat se that they can hall,e warning 01 his npprcaeh, then finding none of them willing to tie the hell 011 to the cat, and. Iln3Hy being warned tbat t]mt ls not hc,w 10 handle the problem of a dangerous ruler. The Prologue ends with another crowded picture of the social scene, with barons, ~Imrgesse:s. tradesmen, and artisans of differenl kinds, laborers, and ,ffinnkee,pers cryi ng "H ot piesl" af the doors of their taverns, We can see at onee that this is; a new use of the dream allegory. The g,ellile movement of the traditiollal variety of love vision, generally told in rhymed couplets, has here given way to the more vigornus rhythms of the oldle,r alliterative line, obviously handled by someone who had !ong been Iamtliar with it There is a rap!dity and a bustling quality about toe verse, 3. sense of men at work. tha~ is neteasily pnalle~ed in medie'val E'Dglish Hterature.
A fo.ire fe!de (1:1]0:1 !:olks Ionde I: !:here bytwene., or alle rnaner 01 men the mane and the riehe, W~m:hyil:lg and w;)todryng as 'Ihe world'e ,!lSlr:etlJ. Some putten hem 00 'the plow pleyed lui sel de. In ~lI!ttyingand in sOW)ll'lg s..... onken Iul harde, And wormen thSlI W;)~tClU'S with gtotlJ.m),s destruyeth, AmI some putten hem ro, pru.ycIe, a,p<l,ml~edhemthereafter,
In ecnrenaunce of d(l-thyng comer. djsgked. In prayers and in. P€lloUl.ce putlen hem manye,

Al !-or loueaf OWe.' lorde lyueclen!u l ~treyt'e. In hope fort~ ha)ue heueneriehe Mine .... There p..eched a. Pardon ere as he a prest were, 'Brougbte forrh <I 'bulle with btshopes seles, AE'J,dseid !hat hym-se!f mygh!e ,a:ssoile:n hem aile Of JIl.Islled of fastyng 'Ill vowes ybro1ren..

124

CHAUCER,

GOWE;,IR,

PIER!! PLOWMAN

CRA'ueER,

'COWER, PIEIl!

PLOWMAN

125

The vision then develops into an allegorioa] interpretation of life, The ,first "passus" (the name given to the divisions of the poem) intraduced Hoty Church. a fair lady who expounds the way of salvation to the dreamer. In the second, Lady Merle (reward, bribery) appears, richly dressed, and is to be married to Falsehood; but Theology objects and the various characters: proceed to London to have the rnattee decided by the King. The Kil1g threatens punishment to Falsehood and the other figures sarroundlng Lady Merle (Flattery, Cuile), who run off and leave Merle alone to face the court .. In the third passu:., Mede tries her tricks on the justices. Sine confesses to a friar and is shriven, and makes a good impression by promisiog to pay for new windows in a church (which leads the author to utter a warning against those who hope to attain heaven by having their names engraved as benefactors on church windows; that is not the way to salvation). She recommends the acceptance of bribes to mayors and justices. The King, is fooled, and propose. s a. marriage between Mede and Conscience. but Conscience objects and delivers; a fo·rmida.bl,e indictment of the lady. Some lively al'gument follows, in the course of wluiCh.Ccnscienee gives an eloquent account of a time ,coming when
Shal na mere Made Ae 'love and lowenesse Thise shal be malstres be maistre, as she is nouthe,
and Ie....te log.ede:res"
()l!I

garthian realism: Gluttony's fellow drinkers are not perwnifications. but rea] people:
Cesse the souteresse
WEIHe the warner

sat on the benche,

[female shoemaker)

and h}'! wyf bothe, Tymme the tynkere and tw\eyme of his prends,

HEkkethe Ilal:eneymlln aod hughe the nedeler, Clarice of cokkeslaaeand the ci:e£keof the eherehe, Dawe tlJe dykere aad a doocine other. . . .

[ditches]

The level o,EUJe aUegrny is not consistent. GluUooy [s 3 gluttonous person, who does DOt repent until he has made himself drunk and awakes two days later w-ith a hangover" Sloth appears to be a selfindulgent and lazy priest who prefers to read "rymes Df Robyn hood" to'performing nis priestly duties, The repentant ,company then determine to journey in search of Truth, but 'they do not know the way. It is at this pOLnt that Plers Plowman first appears on the scene. The company have vainly in'1uirea of a returned pilgrim if he knows where a.samt called Truth is to be .found. Then
"Peter]" quod 8. plowman Sindput forth his bed, ".1 kn owe hyrn as kynd!ely ,~5 clerke doth his bokes, CoI1$ci.el!lceand kynde witre ken ned me to his place. ~
[kynde

(mow]
[lo)'al1)') [,elll1h]

molde

treuthe to

SQYe.

= nalum]]

Passus IV develops the a.rgmnent, with Wit, Wisdom, Peace, Reason, and Wliong taking part: die King is oonvmeed by Reason in the end, and asks him to stay with him! always. In Passus V the poet awakes briefly, then falls asleep agai.n "and thanne saw I moche more," He sees tbe same field Full of EoMk, and! describes first Reason preaching 1:0 the people tha~ recent plagues and tempests were pUiuishment Ior sin. T],e Seven. Deadly Sins hear Reason's call to repentance" and are moved 10 repent. This introduces one of the lfvellestand mostinterestiog sections of the Jloe-m. Pride, Lunny. Envy, Wrath, Ava.rlce, Gllllttooy. and Sloth, each perS'Onii'ied,give accounts of themselves before their repentance, and some of these accounts, taken together with the author's description, amount to brilllianUy drawn portraits. There is of course no more individualization tlJan is necessary to make the particular vice clear and to illuminate the behavior which it implies, but within these limits the eharacter drawing is vivid lind skim!!\. The most a~tJealing is the picture of Gluttony in the tavern, wbere he stops on his: way to. ehueeh, The lotenO.r of a mediev:a1 tavern is described with HG-

Pters takes over tile moral leadership of the company and te.11s them the way to Truth in Bunyanesque allego.ricaI geography. This passus ends with a pardoner deciding that he cannot go without his papa. bulls and [etters ofindUllgence. and a eommon woman telling Piers sirn ply that she will follow him, Passus VI ccnttoues the story ..Piers says he will act as guide to the ~ompaOJyafter he has ploughed Hs half-acre. He gives further moral advice to IDe company, ill pa.;:ticllIlar t.O a knight, who recognizes his duty to protect the, chuseb and the ,commOD people,Piers directs everybody to hard work, and those who shirk are diSciplined by Hunger. .A discussion of labor, wages, and similar economic factors, which fllustrates the author's conservative view of such matters (he is ]ooking bade to an ideal stability before the present discontents) concludes this passus. In Passus VII, Truth sends Piers a pardon intended fo:r all (though ~awyers and. merchants are eligible only with reservations), and a priest argues against its validity. Tile priest says that he can find no pardon there, but {July a statemens that those who dO' well shall find salva!ion and these wl10 do ,evil shall not. The ensuing argument awakens the dreamer, and the pasSlIS con-

126

CHAUCER,

COWEll,

PI!E'RS P["OWMAN

'CHAUCER, GOWEll, Pl.EIIS PLOWMAN

121

dudes with the poet's passionate remarks on the superiority of good works to indulgences and papal bulls as means of pardon. The remainder of Pie,.~ Plowman-most of it ex.isling onty in the two later versions=centains the vision uf Dowel (Do WeH). Dober (Do Belter), and Dobest. It is difficult to follow the somewhat rambling eourse of the prologlles and ten passlJs of this extension of the poem; the author seems to be al.lowing IUs mora] views and his religiolJlsemotioll to ddect the poem at Hny p{llrrt, and lively contempomry references, grand moments of religiollS passion, and flat didactic -passages jostle each other. The author does not seem to have be,en able to subdue his material to an adequate literary form. But the main design is nevertheless visible. Underlying al] the digres,sions, outbursts, symbolic inddents, moral indignation, prophecies, preaching. and visions is the notion of the que.st. the search for the good life. for salvation, for truth. and fOT God. This search can be conducted on dilferent levels and described from different points of view. and almost anything that men can do or think or Ieel 01' imagine isrelevant to it. As the pot>m. proceeds and the lives of Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest unfold with ill the digressions and excursions, we gel a picture of the 6ght agaw, st evil carried on simultaneously em different planes: the fight for the spirit against the dead letter, the ..6.gh~ agajmt corruptiou in the Ch!llren. the fight against false relIgIOn. ·F.aith, hope, and cha.rity constitute the way; they ~ol]ow from one another, culminating in charity. as Dober follows Dowel to culminate in Dobest, The account of Dowel concludes with a triwnphant description of the vic'tory of Life over Death. of Light over Darkness. the meeting of Truth and Mercy. of Peace and Righteousness. with Christ's descent into Hell and his vict.ory over Satan. The poet wakes to hear the joyous peating ~ Eas~er bells. But in the ~s~ting account of Dobest we see Antichnst tal.allg control aller Christ s departure. and II sad picture of corruption and decay on the earth succeeds. Pi.el"SPlowman now reappears, as a symbol of Christ bimself, o.fGoo qll8S11 homo and of Coo's grace vouchsafed to aIDl men. With a pictme '(If a hard fought psycilOmachio, the vices pressing the virtues hard. and wilh Conscience finally [,ousing h.imseH to seek in pilgrimage for Piers Plowman m his new symbolic meaning, the dream concludes, and the poet awakes in tears. Though i.t lacks artistic unity and the author shows oilly sporadic control over his material, PIers Plowman is a remarkable work. with its alternation. of bitter satire and tenderness, of vivid description of contemporary Me and the strin.ging together of Latin tags, of social realism and religious vision, And the hal1dling of the atliterauve line is always easy and confident. There is none of Chaucer's relish, of

the humanscene as a human scene" nor of his joy in his verbal artistry; .l:'iers Plowrnan is the work of a :religious idealist who is genuinejy distressed by the social and moral ermdition of England and who is endeavoring to create a large and cumulative vision of what is wrong and where we must look for improvement. Ii the two later versions represent the work of other vlrriters, then it seems clear that the original author succeeded in ereatlng a traditioe, B. vehicle for carrying both a satirical and a religiOUS. content, which was exploited by those similarly troubled. There is something of the popular imagination as well as of the individual vlsioa in Piers Plowman; even in its: most visionary moments it is never private; the author is always thinking of the people •.and in Piers himself he creates a symbol who eventually united the ideal of the common man with the ideal of God made man. Like Chaucer, the author of Piers Plowman made use of traditional material, and they both draw on the facts of contemporary society: but what diHerent pictures they present! The diJIerence is one of attitude, both peTS'.Onal nd social. and it is a a salutary check to hasty genera~iz.ations about the spirit of an age to consider that the same age produced Piers Plowman and The Canterbury Tales'.

END OF THE. MIDDLE

AGES

C H .A PTE

1\

FIVE

The End of the M£ddle Agles


THE ENGLJ'SH LITEft.ARY SCEl'o'E after the dead of Chaucer Is not ~spi:dng. The H£feenth century, though it saw a: significant increase 11'1 lay literacy and marked a~ important stage in the rise (If the middle class" suffered from the confusions and demmalizatiol1. of the long reign 'of Henry VI and ofthe Wars of the Roses whk:h followed it Sig:nifi:cantnew forces were indeed working in the nationa] culture, the victory of Englisll over French. was now clea:r and complele, a !lew dass of readers .... slowly developing, the new move'as ment.of Humanism was beg~m]lng to a.walkell English interest, and social and economle changes were bringing about 1the transformation of the feudal system into a freer society based en.a money reoonomy: but it 'was some time before these changes were reflected in any important new movement of the mind or Ute spirit . .At the be'g:lnllmg of the fifteenth century it was clear that none of Chaucer's rollowers had.Jhjs technical brillianee, his tmagmatio[l, or his understanding of men, and there was none who could combine theoourtly and the bourgeOis tradition as Chaucer had diolle. Ftfteenth-eentury courtly poet.vy 'sometimes uses the old modes witll a certain fresbness: The Flowel"tilnd the Leaf" long wrongly attributed to Chaucer, uses b',aditio[lal materialwith charm. giving a new twist to the handling of tapestry £,gures 'of allegorical sigru:ficaneeby havh~g the narratora woman and by havimg the hwl opposing sets 'Of characters (worshipers of the flower and of the. leaf, the idle and the faithful) :rea.t. each other wi~ gentlefri~dlinessi an~ other works oj the CbucerApocrypha have their OVfl:l! appeal, though none is as fresll as: rue FlOwer ,and the Leaf, The Cucko(l and the Nightingale lsa debat using fam.iliar properties; .La BeUe Dame .mIlS Mere! (which gave Keats a title) has a love. pleading in vam with a lady whosematte:r-of-fact .indiHerenc~ to his love abnost 'breaks: out of the whole ~n:Jrtly.l~lIe t:radiU?n; The Assembly of Ladies tells in heavy a1Iegoncal detail of pleadings before the Lady Loyalty. We see here

Thomas Hocc1eve aad [ohn Lydgate are fue best bOWD of Chaucer's followers in England; their lives overlapped Chaucer's, and Hoccleve ,aP:l?arel1:dy knew tmel1llastel"pe:rsonally, yet they' seem to. J:elong 110 a d.iffer'ellt. age '. Hoccleve wrote less. than Lydg;at,e, but he 15 the more mterestmg', for, though there is liule choose between the two on grounds of poetjc merit (or lade of il:), theee are real.i:s!~can~ autobiographical to~hes ~n,Hceeleve's work th.al help to enliven It fOJ" us. He was a mmorclvll servant, a connoisseur of LoD~O:tli might life and a tavern bunter, perpetually in need of menej, s'eekmg noble patrons and Wiiting them beggmg, verse letters. His Mille Regle teUs the story of his misspent life and ends with an sppeal~o the Lord Treasurer to pay Irimh1s overdue ·pension. There are some fa.iTly vivid touches: .

~o

Wher was !I grel:'!er maisler eek (bam y 0. bel aqueynlicl al'We:stmynslre ),!lle Among the t:o;vemeres 'l:Lli.mely . And cooltesi' \N'hEin I rem. ee.rly or la.te. [ p:)'Ilchld oat. ~t hem ill mym 8CE!te., WherlOle I was the welcomer a]g,ate

[espec;iall}i [pll!lrchasingl

Am:! Ie1"B. 'veJT:llYgenii] 'man yholdc.

Alld. there is tl!:Iewell-kaown

Line

E.l:oes.s.e at bc~de' hath leyd his klly1 'with me.

His lo:o~er works are mechanical and tedious. Theyindllde many translations, among them the flege.m;ellt of Princes, eesnptled from a variety of sources, His re!!igious and didactic works have little \!'alu~ as ilterature. though they seem to reflect B genuine' piety" for all b15 love of taverns. Technically, rus verse is ertraordinari'ly unac('ompl:ished.: he is content. if he produces the requisite number of syllables in the line, playing mo attention to how they are stressed (wbil.e Lydgate, om tile other hand, is happy if he has the requisite lTIumber of stresses and does not seem. ~o care how .many or wbat land of unstressed syllables he has). He had !Ii g,enuine admjratton for Chaucer, and. mtrodueed into the Regemen~ 01 l'tincesstanzas, in praise of him:

o mayster
MinOl!E

deer and fad.tt reverent, My 'PlaysleT Chaucer lIm1r of eloquence,

o lUaiV'Sr.;eI
Ehewhere he halls him as
The
:G11!i1:e

of Irudu01iJS endendement, fader in st:ienee • • .

a tradition working itself out.

fll<tillldereo1 oW"e fake langage,

128

130

END OF TIn;

MIDDLE'. ACES

E!l:D' OF THE "'IDO,LE

ACES

131

Chaucer, it is dear, became a leg'end SOOI1 nfter his death; but this does not mean that any of his English admirers had the ability to follow in his footsteps. Lydgate is, alrnost universally written off as a bore, and though he has occasional felicitous touches there is !ittle reason to disagree witt. this verdict. Unlike Hoccleve, Lydgate led a cloistered [ile as a monk, mostly at Bury St. Edmunds" and 'hough this did not prevent him (rom managing to see a good deal of men and aHairs-::md cert:linly did not prevent bim from reading widely, for the library at the Benedictine Abbey at Bury was one of the best.st~ked ill Eng!andhe had nothing of Chaucer's gift of turnil~g OOt.hhis reading and his experience to li.... account in his awn writing- Over one hundred ely Eorlv-f:jve t1JOU5;tl'ld lines of his verse survive, including: the mammoth Fair of Princes (from a French prose version of Boeeaccio's De Casibus lllustrium Vjrorom). the almost equally Iengthy Troy-Boak (from Ciudo delle Colonne's Historia TrnitllW). several lives of saints (done for diHerellt patrons), severa I 'translations from the French, lind many miscellaneous shorter poems, both secular and religio\.ls ill SlIbject. There is a deadening lameness in his versilieation, together with a syntacticallooscness. which makes the reading of his longer didactic worksa severe fenance. Lydgate's were the routine didactic interests or the unadventureus spirits of his time, and we can ,a~ least console ourselves with the thought that his work illustrates the early Bfteenth-eentury English mind. He contributed something. too, both to the themes of English literatnre and to the vocabulary of English. His Fall 01 Princes is the first lull-dress collection of "tragedies" (in the medieval sense of stories of falls from high to low estate) of the many that were to influence English thought arid literature up to Shakespeare's Richard HI. His Dance Macabre introduced. to Englund (hom the French) a theme of greaf sign.i6c3nce in medieval thought and art of the period: Death the leveller. who addresses in turn all classes of men, Pope, Emperor, cardinal, king, and so 011 dOWTI the seale to laborer, frlnr, child, clerk, and hermit, points the grim moral oE a common mo:rtality which is found so often stressed in the fifteenth century .. Lyd:gate added many new words to the English vocabulary, though he rarely employed them with much s.ensitivity or poetic force; they are mostly polysyllabic words from Latin OT French, such as "inexcusable," "credulity," "tolerance," and "ado!escence." But what the reader is most eonselous of ls his frequent use of rag pt.rases"sothly 10 telle," "ther nis namor to, say," "as to myn intent;' "yiff I shall not lye," et cetera. Lydgale is at his best in his shorter poems, and in those where 'he demands of the narrative compel him to some liveliness of detail (and

it might be added that hls feeling for small children has been noted in Ilis favor). A good example is [lis tale, "The Clmrl and the Bird," rendered .from the French, The churl has caught the bird. and put it in "a F,raty lite] cage"; the bird speaks:
. . , And though my cage forged were of gold And the penaeles of byral ced cri<;tal, I rernernbre a pmverbe said of aide, Who I:esi!h h;s fredorne in !ai!h 'he les:itb al, For J h~d lever upan ~ brnnche smal Merely to sing arnonge the wades gune Theone in a cage of stlvee bright and shene, Songe and prison, han !l00,1I aecerdaunee; Trowest thou I wolsynge in prisoun? Songe procedith of ioye and of pleasaunoe And prisQn causlth deth and dlstructioun .•

But even emotion seeks, in Lydgate, to express itself ill dldactic or proverbial form, The professions of literary incompetence made by so mally of these 'IHteellth-cenllJry' poets represent doubtless a mere fashion; but they spoke more truly than they knew. Among the little .!!iUl"vhri.ng vers~ of Be~e~ct ~lJTgh is a short poem of com~liment to Lydgate whlch begies ID,llilS cornmen self-deprecatory verne
Nat dremyd J in the mown! of :PemBISD. ne dranlce r nevar at Pegsses welle, the pale Pirus saw' I never also ne wist J neverwhere the muses dwelle

.•

JohnWa]ton, whose translation of Boethius into Englis:hver.se shows better metrical control than most of his, 6fteenth-ceI'ltury eontempcrari es, begins ,his pro 10gue in similar strain:
CUlllll.l'llg & (If wy!, Defaut a! langage & of eloquence, Thes work fro me schuld have wilhholden}'it

Insuffisha\lnoe

or

•..

The anonymous author 0'( The Court of Sapience (he ma.y have been. Stephen Hawes), a long allegorical, didactic poem in two parts, the first dealing with the dispute 'between Mercy, Peace, :Righteousness, and Truth conce'ming the fate of man and the second a conducted ~Otl~ of. m,edievllilJeaming, 'II~rjes .~he formula somewhat and speaks In livelier accents. He asks alO to forge my tonge to glad myn audytoW'S," f,rofes5ing his own deIi.de~cies:

132

END Of' T:t,E MiDDLE

ACES

:I:N.I) OF THE MJDD'LE AGES

133

1 kncwe my scU meost naked .irI :II artes, My eomune vulgare eke moos! internpte, And I eonversaunte &. borne in the partes WlDer m)' m.'ty{ hmgll.ge is mocst eorrupt, And wytn must wndl")' longcs myxt '" .ruptc

.•

Tile Court of Sapicl1c,~ dates from about H70~ It is more vigorous in expression and competent in metries ,than alll)'thillg by Lydgate. ?ut In theme il represents the uninspired development or the allegoncal didactic tradition. It seems as though the simple story rcmance, so popular with an earlier gCllerlltiol1i of Englishmen, had been pushed out by allegory and didacticism. And, ~~'ith '~hedecay of feudalism find the slow but ~teady rise of a realistic al'ld iconoclastic bourgeoisie, there was no new source of idealism to rEvivify the increasingly uninspired and conventional didactic a'!lesory, But Ily a fm:itful coind~ellC'e. the lasl are-LIp of ch.ivalry. in the courts 0.I Europe. a last Indian slIx;nmer 0'( knightly ideals In the earlier rnnnner, occurred at the: sa.~e lI~e th~1 printing came m. Caxton, who had been in Burgundy witnessing tins revival at the French-speaking court of the Duke of Burgundy, brought with him (born the ~w a:lU~lhics) t~e art of prin.ting 00 his return [0 England. The revival of Interest m the duvalnc story romance which accompanied chivalry's final Ding was just in time to take advantage of Caxtcn'simpcrted art; which accounts f?r t~e hct that some oi the fi,'st works printed in England were ehfvslne stories of the older kind. This revival of interest in romance, though influential, was brief; it was killed in the sixteenth century partly by the new movement of Humanism, which in England in its early phase took a narrow view of romantic tales and, with Roger Asch~m. proleste~ ag~inst idle stories ~f ~hi",:nlry. and p,artly by the growmg !bourgeoIs taste for a more realistic, picaresque kind of story. . The attenuated courtly tradition; satirical, topical, and political verse of little litemry merit but of considerable historical interes:t; didactic, moralistic, and rellgious wriling: these were the three mam categories of fifteenth-century E:nglish litera lure, and the third is the largest. The' religiolls lyriC, following the types discussed in Chapter 3. nouris~cd c1lHin~ the period; indeed, most or what has been said of the Fourteenth-century lyric applies to the fjfte~nth century also, though new themes and attitudes begin to make their appe~l'" anee as the centmy advanced. and will bediscussed later. That the fifl.eenl.h century was :I period 01 transilioon in England is obvious enough 10 the poliLic:11 and economic historten. The Wars of the Roses. "..here the nobility destroyed each other and the nnddle class rose steadily; William Casten's introdllction of pr~oting into
fl.

England (Caxtoo's translation of Raoul de Fevre's Le Receui[ des Histoires de Troye, printed by him as Recuyel of the Iii.storie, 01 Tmye at Bruges in 1474, was the fiirst print,ed oookpubHs'bed ill English" and his return to London in 1475 was foUowed by his: printing in 1477 of Dicte» arId Say,irlgs of th!ePhilosophl1rs, the first book printed in England); the gradual impact on English thoug'ht of the Humanism or the Renaissance; the establishment of the Tudor monarchy in 1485-these are obvious and s,ignificant marks of cbllillge. In the literature 'Of the period, however, we see for the most part Simply the progressive eshaustion of earlier medieval modes. Yet IDllICh that. appears at Gut. sight merely to exhibit tbis exhaustirm can be seen Oil a closer view to be illJhlenced in some degree by new ways of lhinkinp:. Stephen Hawes' alJegorical romance, Tlte Pas!irl'le of P,!e&(Ire., dedicated to Henry VU in 1506. continues the lame versification and the mechanical allegoriZing of Lydgate, 'With even Iess 'Dation of the true nature of allegory than his, immediate predecessors:
The light or truoth, I Iacke (."lnmyrag 10 cloke, To drawe a curtayne, I dare not to presuiRe
Nor hyde ffiYll1atter, w:ith a oriSI)' smoke My rudenes cunnyng. clothe SO sore eensume Yet as I may, I shan blowe out a fume To hyde my mynde, undemeth II fable By covert eoloure, well and pccmble.

It is a curious view indeed that thefunction of allegory is to obscure Yet this "smokey," didactic, allegorical remance, telling (in .first pe[son narrative) of the pursuit and eventual attail1ment by the hero, Craunde Amour, of La Ben Pucell shows some interesting new featul'es. The hero, encouraged by Fame (a lady) and. accompanied by Covemannee and Grace (rwo greyhounds), receives an elaborate education in the Tower of Doctnne before engaging on the knightly adventures which culminate in his marriage to La Bell PuceJlJ. Here we have the union of the active life and the contemplative life, which had hitherto been sharply distinguished in medieval tllOugbt, followillg St. Augustine's ini![uentiaJi statement in nrc Cfly of God that "the study of wisdom is either concerning action or conremplation, and thence assumes two several names, active and! eentemplauve, the active consisting in t$}epractice of morality in one's life, and the contemplative in penetrating into the al'lstruse causes of nature, and the nature of divil'lity." Tbe knight and the clerk are united in Graullde Amour. representing 2J new ideal of la~ educatmn: further, the hero's love for La Bell Pucell rus chaste and Christian and leads to marriage-something quite impossible in the earlier courtly I01o'e tratruth,

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clition. The interese-cae might say the obsession-with education ls characteristic of the age; the ccmbination ·of the didactic romance with the romance of knjghtly adventure in a context ofeducation l-ooks forward to Spenser's Faerie QlJeel1e". And at the end, after the hero has married and lived bappily ever alter, he addresses the reader from the gralle in the one mernora ble sta nza of the poem:
o mortall folk, yw mil)" beholde and se .How.llye here, somtyme 8J rnyght)' knyg):lt. Tille ende of JDye ,HI d: BJI prosperire Is dethe at lasl throug,h his COlU5e and. m}'ght; A£ter the day there cometh the derke !l)'ght, For tbough !:he day be never 51) lon.ge AI. !3 st the belles ryngetk to ef'VI!Il5c,l!lge..

o master L),dgate, the most dulcet spryng Of famous reLlmryke, wyth b.dlade rDyall,
The chefs original! (If my ~e;;tm:mg, WI"ll .... '1},leth it, on you for no call Me for 1(1ayde, ncwein especial], Sythen your llodye is now wrapte in chest. .1 rr~)' Coo 10 gi ve ),Olli' soule good tel t.

The Sellen. Deadly Sins, and Fame, Time, and Eternity, all play their pad in the final pageant, which shows a certain grandeur of COIlception in spite iOf the technical madequaey of the verse. How dismal-to the point o.f being positivetycomk-Ihe verse can become is illtlstrate& by the f~llowiDg passage, describing the hero's • education in grammar at the nan(lls' of Dame Doctrine:
•.• To whom sheanswered, ngbl gently agayne, SJ;iyng alwaye, thet II. nowne snhstantyve M j,gb.1stande wlthout helpe ~I iUl .eldject}'ve. The la,tyne woroe. whiche that is referred Unto a thing. whiehe is substantlall For a nowne suhstantlve is well a.ven:ed, lI..nd with II gender is deelmall.
So all the ,ergh,! pa:!1t·es generaJ] in Are Iatyn wordes, annesed ptoprelye 1"0 every speaehe, fm: to speake :Iormally.

Hawes' other allegorical-didactie romance, Tr~e EX12lrtple of Virtue, is short-er and less interesting" and few other late medieval exercises in this mode have any special appeal. William Nevill's Ca~e1l oj PlcI1st1re {ISIS) is worth mentioning only because its printer, Robert. Copland, himself (like Caxtcn) a translator and dabbler rn letters, introduces a dialogue between the printer and the author at the beginning of the poem, and because, in its mechanical use of the allegiJrica~ formulas, it sinks to probably record deplhs nf dullness. Nowhere is the popular medieval ubi stint theme handled so Rally:
Where k~ToU)', whiche In.. cl pI)'m."yp:l]yte OIiU all oratour s in parl)'l,e retho ryke? Where be aU the foure [loa-lotus of 0 yvynytei' \'l'here lS Arystotyll fg.r all Ms ph)'lo~opnJl 5: Iogykel'

Thismtolerable doggerel is representative of Siwhole area of late: medieval Ellglish didactic verse. Ye~not omly does The Pastime of Ple,!l$I.lrehave its moments of perception and even of eloquence; it ~Si also a work of conslderablehtsrortcel lmportanee ill that n ilhistrates an attitude toward love, education, and the relation of the aetrve 'to the oontemplative lile which foreshadows both the courtesy books of the Renaissance and the' use or romance !Dade by Spenser . .Hawes saw himself, however, as a follo~er rather ,tban as iii pioneer, ~.Eldlie mentions Cower, Chaucer, and Lydgate (m that order) as 1:1:15 maste:r.s,listing the major works of the latter tWD. He seems utterly UIlaware of Chaucer's superiority to' the other two, and Lydgate is, especially praised [or.his elcquenee:

Alexam:ller Barclay (ca. 1475-1552) is a ttansi.lional li.gure of some impartance. Hls Ship of Foals (1500) provlded a new metaphor [or English satire. Jt is: a rendering of the Nt:lrrenscbitf of the German Seba .stian Brant through the Latin translation of Locher, aJ Swi:S:S, but Barclay's own comments expand the poem to manlY times the length oE his original. Satire, of course, was not unknown in the earlierMi.ddle Ages; the ft:lblillU tradition, as we have seen, is hugely satirical, and Jean de Meun, Chaucer. and Langland have each his own satirical vein, The conception of the important people of tile world as. a collection of fools-caurHers, eeclesiastjcs, scholars, and merchants alike-seems !o have become popular in the later Middl,e Ages, and Brant's idea oi p\cltt~ng them all in a ooats:ailing off to Narragonia gave a new liveliness to the whole conception .. It is .a development of the older handliTllg of the seven deadly sins, and the shift of a!ter;ltiDIl [rom moral evil to intellectual folly is si~nifkant of a new temper in European civilization, The Ship of Fools looks forward to Erasmus' fraise of Fo!.!y as much 35 it looks backward to the theme of the seven deadly sins. Its interest is morein the contemporary social scene than with moral types, and! this again marks all important development. Barclay's rhyme royal stanzas SITepedestrian enough.in movement, but the self-cberacteeizanoa of the representatives of dill"erent kinds of .folly provides some vivid glimpses of the

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society of the hme. Satire, so. long directed a.gainst eeelesiastical abuses" is begillning, to. turn to widerlhemes, including life at Court (increasingly important with the establishment of the new national state with lis: centralized monarchy) and intellectual fashions. The satiric stream widcna and deepens after Barclay, with Skelton's Bowge {)f Cou:rt and Speak, Parrot concentrating all the contemporary scene, The changes which Benaissance Court life and the ,fir:5~ ,efifects of Renaissance Humanism hroul!;ht \\11111 Ihem stimulated conservabve minds to angry satire, and whi.!e the attack on foUy is itself ,3 Hnrnanist theme, attacks on Humanism. as well as on, other novelties are made by angry conservatlves, Indeed, :al1gry conservatives have always produced the gl·,eatest satire, Irorn Artstephanes to Swift, and while neither Barclay nor Skelton can be regarded as a great satirist they do share the great, satirist's sense of nutrage at
what contemporary man is making of hi:mseH.

The pastoral also becomes at this time a vehicle for satire in English; it cernes to rer!ace the dream as the commonest kind of rnachinery for satirical as well as many other purposes" Barclay produced five eclogues, three translated (with man)' expansio.ns) from • the Mis:erae Curialium of Pope Pim II (Aeneas Sylvius Picenlorniui) and! hro horn the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Italian poet, Baptista Mantuanns, known as MantlJan in England where he was much admired for his Latin pastorals: in fhe :!l.lx.teenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus a new breath hom classical literature comes, thongh indirectly, into English llterature, the first of very maTlY such, The useof the pastoral for satire of Court life, urban lile, ecclesiastical corruption, and other abuses of the time, as wen as to discuss literary questions. established itself early in the Reaatssanee; l3a:rday is the first English writer to use a device. already common in Italy, whic,", was to be developed signjficantly by succeeding generations .of English poets.jrotably by Spenser in his Shepherd's: Calendar, And as The Shepherd'S Galendal', 3S we shan see, is in some sense both the manifesto anti the first-fnlit. of the "new" English poetry, the pastoral tradition is clearly of prime importance in Englis'll ltteralure; we shall have to look at it more closely later. John Skelton (ca. 1460-l529) is the most interesting and. original of all the, transitional poets who, while ecnsldering themselves in the lraditiol1 of Chaucer, Cower, and Lydgate. are in fact [anus-faced, looking both toward the rnedieval past and to the Renaissance fuhue. As a satirist. Skelton attacks the abuses of cOlUtIy Me, new fashlens in thought,religion and beh.a"Vior,pel"sonalene~ies, Soots, and aspects of the contemporary scene which he f01UlLdi annoying. The Brnvge of Court is a.satire of Court life in the b:adWonallFhyme royal stanaa, combining traditional mecliev,a'iallegorical figures: with the

ship of fools diev.ice, the characters being sometimes allegorical persOllage,s,an.d semetlmes lively representatives of the oo:n.tempormry scene, Less tmdilionai in 101m and con'en!, ls Speak, Parrot, a bubbling saurieal pieee mostly in rhyme royal but with some paris in atber meters; the poet speaks thrcngh the birrl in <I characteristic mixture of bitterness and downing. But Coli.11 Clolft and Why come ye Rol to Court reeresent his most characteristic and original satlrical vein. The verse here is that short two-beat line which has become 'known as "Skeltenics"; the poems move with breathless abandon f roll'! point to polat, highly personal in tone, deliberately discursive in pJ1ogression, millgling fierce abuse. clowning humor. andbltter lmny, Latin tagsandl even whole passages in rhymed Latin couplets, echoes Dr parodies of the Church litmg,v or of ~llfr arguments of the schoolmen, are sprinkled he-ely among the wild find whirling verses, T.he Hfe, the abandon, the hi.gh 5pirit~, the r~ckle5~ '1jl~Hty of these plooes make them uUerly unlike anythmgthat Eng!lsb llteratnre had yet produced. In The Book of Phiflp Sparrow he uses iii similar technique to lament the loss: of a young gmri's pel sp:rtrrow: the lament is put into the mouth of the girl, and ends with Skelton's own tribute to the girl's charm and beauty. Mrspa:rody of the Office for the Dead and other aspects of 'the Latin liturgy of the Church is done with a cheerful recklessness reruiniscent of Ille ~oliflrdi'c literAture of Ihe Middle Ages. The verse itself is crudely accentuab-whether it derives frorn the breakup of a I()n~er line or from medieval Latin poetry or from another source cannot ~e p!'ecisely determined=but it moves wItb extraordinary speed and vi,gor:
Sam etyrne he wolde gaspe Wh;'lnhe snwe 1'1 W;l~pe; A. fly 'lr it gnal',

Hewolde 8~'eLIt I.hat


And prytely he wold pallLl Whan he saw an ant:

Lorde, how he wolde pry Ahf'r the bll uerlly! Lo,-de, how he ....Ollle bop ' AHer the gressopl And whan I sayd, Phyp, Phyp, 'Than be wold lepe aad skyp. And IIIk8 me by Ihelyp. AI:IS. it "",),11 me 5] o, That Phillyp is gone me rrol
Si I,..• ~-qlij-h'l·!e.s .•

Alas, ] was evyU lit easel .De p1'Q-fr,Hl-dis c!1I-mlil·vf, Whan I sawe my spsI'f.E}we dye!

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The calor and life of Sk('llol1's most ch:uad·el'islic verse is perhaps best seen in The Tunning' of EliJiorRumming, a remarkable description of all alewife and the gOings-on in her alehouse:
Come who so ",),11 To EIYl1ou[ 01'1 the hyll,

'vigGT which Ile infused into his rOl1g'l1l3:ccentual erse, his ambiguous v relation With the courts of Henry VII and Henry VlIl, bis attacks

Wylh, Fyll the c:up.lyll. And sy! there by S!~'lI,


Erlv find bte;. Th~'lhe r comet h Kate,

C}'~ly. nd Sare, a
With t.heyr l..gges bare. And also tkeyr fete HlIrdely lull unswete: W),th theyr heles dagged,

Theyr kyrtelies alllo.iugged,


Thcyr smeckes .,,11 to.ragged. \l\lyll1 I}'Ue<r5 am! hillers, B!)·nge dvsshes tmt! rl:II'!t'rs. \Vylk al] theYT myght nHlnynge To Elynour Rummynge. To have of her tunn.\'Ilge: She leneth them 01 tbE' same, And thus 'begynneth the g"me.

His Garla'ld of Laure! is an elaborate set piece in praise of himselL Fame and Pallas discuss his qualifications; Cower, Chaucer, and Lydgate hail him; a group ,~f n~b1e ladjes. mak~ a lanrelwreath with which to crown him. The incidental lyrics addressed to these ladies are in a new vein of lyrical tenderness, notably that addressed to Mar,gery Wentworth:
With mllrge ..ain jenlyli,

The Oowre' of gOO<l,lyhede,


Enbrowdred the ma n tilJ Is of your m:l),denhede ...

Magn,ificence is a morality play with aUegorica] ~arndeTS. showing how Mngl1lHic-ence deceived and undone by vices, conquered is by Adversily. and finall)ll"edeemed by Goodhop~. an~ Perseverance. It is aimed at Wo~sey. but also has i·ts general applicatiOn. Skelton moved in a Humanist atmosphere without funy realizing it: his attire was conservative in intention but in fact revoluttonary n unconscious implication. H.is fiercely ll.ldividntJaltemperament, the
1 TunniIli:

pulling 01 bees

j,ntll

casks,

both on Church abuses and on radical reformers like Wyclif and Luther, Ilis bitter feuds with so many of his contemporaries, his strange mtxtures of .anger and tenderness, of self-conceit and moral indignatiol'l, of prophetic elevation and low abuse, show a highly individual temperament coping in a strongly mdividua] way with some of 'he bewildering crosscurrents in the civilization of his day. His lively and unpolished verse and his violently personal manner attracted English poets in the 1..92.o's and 1930's who were looking for a style in which to express similar reactions, and Pope's verdict of "beastly Skelton" has in rl:'(:t'llt times been enthusiastically reversed, Meanwhile, the revival o( interest in feudal ideals which, paradoxi. cally but understandably, accompanied the final decay of feudalism in England, produced ill the prose Arlhmian tales of Sir Thomas Malory the greatest of all its monuments. Malor}" who appears to have been a rmd-Bfteenth-century kni~ht of lawless behavior who wrote his stories in prison, turned, first the English alliterative romance known as Morte ArI'imre, and then B. variety of French romances: about Arthur's knights. into a series of tales of Arthur and his knights in which the ideals of practical chivalry replaced the sentimental and doctrinal elements which fig;l1re SiO prominently in ililis'French sources. He cut his way through the tangle of complexly interw~ven tales, fitted together in pieces like a Chinese puzale, with which his Originals 50 often presented him. and. to use Caxton's term, "reduced" his materia! to a coherent group of related stories in which incidents followed each other with less interruption and the empha.sis was on action and motive rather than On sentiment or doctrine. Caxtoa published the work in l48.S. gi\lin~ it a false unity by applying the title of the last group of stories-"Tlle Morte Arthme Sauuz Gwerdon" -to the whole collection, The discovery in 19.34of the Winchester MS of Malory's stories makes it clear that "Le Morte Darthur" is Cadon's title for the whole, not ~bloTy's. MaJory's work is in eight tales or groups of tales, each grollp or:ig.ina[Jywritten separately as an independent work, except for the sixtb and seventh, which are explicitly linked .in Malory's colophon to tile sixth. The first (tboug,h apparently the second in order of writing) is the comprehensive "Tale of Xing Arthur": it begins with the death of Uther Pendragon and A.rthur's accesslon, and tells of Artbur's victoriolls wars against rebels and hosti.le neigl:JboTS, the stories of Ba]in, Gawain, Torre and Pe]]}'I'I0r, much about Merlin. the plottings of

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Morgan Ie Fay, Arthur's hal!f sister, and a group of adveDtllre~ engaged in by Gawain, Ywain, and Madla~t. The sec?TI.d! group, The Tale of the Noble King Arthur that was Emperour Himself thr~ugh the Digl!1ity [J,r hts Hands," was apparently the ~rst ,t? be wJltte~ and derives from the alliterative Mane Arrthtm~; It I,ells of Arthur:; st,uggle agains,t the claims of Rome, ,~hebattle betwe~-n Arthur and Lucius, Arthur s triumph and coronation as Emperor ..m Rome, 1'~,e third '''][he Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake, turns for Its hero' from i\,lhul" to Sir Laneelet, who appears here, not as the lover of Guinevere, but as, an active and gallant knight who IJr~:ceeds from adventure to adventure before returning to King Arlhur s court where the knights: whom he bas overcome testify to his prowess, '"The Tal,e of Sir Gareth of Orkney" follC)w,s; it i.s.a char~cterislic storv from an unknown French source, of a questmg kmght who ("h:t~pions a scornful lady, Lynet, who la,fer comes to a~mire him. hut too late to prevent h1!, .marry!~g h,er.Slst~r L~onesse, The Boo~, of Sir Tnstram tie Lyflnes 1'5 the lifth; It IS a .'i'lm,rliEied n~d reduced, version of the French prose Romllnce oj Tristan. With the Grall material omitted, the love of Tristram (Tr~stan) and bode (msold~) treated with emotional gusts and with no sense of doom, Tristram s adventures and achie ... rnents as a K[iight of the Round Table e emphasiz.ed. and the lovers l.eH at the end happily in Joy nus Card. E..'en so. Malorv's "Book of Sir Tristram" is far from being a single tnl~; It is made "P of man.y separate adventures, ~nd is divided into seventeen parts-easilr, the longe;;t of Ma]o:r~. ~ven books, "The Tale ot the Sankgreal is Malory s firtb boo!:;: It IS translated from the French QI{csle del Saini' Gmil', but e~phasiz,es what might be called chivalric humanism as the uJli~erl)lU"~gthiea] pate tern, at the expense the reli~iot's. Lnneelnt IS less ~he repentant sinner of the French original than the Fermer hero of the R.oulld Table whose ehlvalric ideels are neve)" made to appear as baslcaIDly inimiea] to the truly religiou.s life, Malory plays down the basic dichotomy between Carbuuee and Camelot, so Important ill the Q.~este, t.hough of course something of it does come th~ugh fr.?~, his original "The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere IS partly l:D'Bsedn the French Mod Arlu. tbe final branch of the prose o Arthurian Cycle. This goes together with the 611a~,book, "The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur Saunz Gwerdon (based partly 00 the Mort Artl' and partly on the EngHsh stanzaic MoTte Arthur). and the two books again show Malory's ehaTacteri5ticmlni~iz.ing ,of ~e religiOUSin favor of the chivair~'c m~l'a1. La~ceiot l~ve5 l1oth.his DlJ:5tress and his king; these two caivahic loyalries are Incompatible, and ill the end they destroy him. It is D{Jt the clash between courtly love

and heavenly love so much 1'115 the dash between courtly love and feudal loyally that interests Malory. Here, indeed. the sense of doom rises; Lancelot becomes involved in battle against those he loves; and in the end, with the Round Table destroyed, Arthur "burt to the death" in the linal battle in wlueh the treaeberous Mordred is slain. and Guinevere retired tc a nunnery, Lancelot decides to forsake the world too, oul of love and despair rather than from a. rdigious impulse. Guinevere dies repeIIDtant;Lanoelot follows soon after, and Sir Ector speaks his obituary,:
~A. Launceloti" he sayd, "thou were hede of aJ Crynen Imyghtes'! An.d now I dare say: sayd syr Ector, "thou sir Launcelot, there tho .. Iyest, that thoo were never mill:t':hed of erthe1y kl1J1ghtrs hande, Ane! thou were !:IJe curtest byght Ihl\l ever bare sheldel And thou were the truest Irende to thy lover Iha! eve" bestrade hers, and thou were the trewest lover of a ,s),nfut man that ever loved woman, and thou wete the kvndest man that ever strake w\·th swerde. And thou were th e godelyesl persolle tJllll ever cam amol1ge prees knyght:es'. and thou was the mekest man and the jenty]lest thai ever ete in halle amange ladyes. amid thou were the sternes I kn)'ght II) thy mortal foo Un.l ever put spere in the reeste,"

of

or

It ends .in desolation, with no comfort but memory 'I'lf knightly deeds once done. Malory's prose style, which, moves w ith a simple cogency always perfectly adapted tu the narrative line which he is developing, IS nOf easily placed in the history of English prose. He is outside the tradition of English devotional prose which continues from .o\JlgloSaxon times to the Tudor and Elizabethan translations of the Bible. He begins by capturing something of the rhythms. and using same of the alliterative devices, of MiddIe Englisb alliterative verse as rrepresented by the verse romance l'o-1ort·cArtlw.re; he Simplifies. tightens up. adds weight and precision and, at the same time, a conversational flow, He learns as he writes, and the later books show a fine ease in dialogue together with a dignity and eloquence which derive at least iEl part from the heroic element in the Morte ArthlJre, The now is simple enough. marked by such conjunctions as "and," "Ior," "but," "then," and "therefore." The underlying rhythms provide a quiet emotional ground swell to the narrative, the dia.kDgue Is lively and often captures the individual quality of a character; the accounts of action rise and Iall with a restrained epic movement which has quiet gravity without magniJ~uence, 'The result of it all is an impressive summing lip of the "Matter 01 Britain" as seen through the perspective of the Indian summer of the Age of Chivalry; excessive sentiment, the pure devotional note, and over-abundant narrative cnmplicatlon are equally pruned away, and Ma]ory gives us the

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Arlhurian stories set to an uucomplieated chivalric morality. But the epic [late does not really belong to' these nostalgic stories of a lost way of life; the defects of the code are manifest in the actions which are based on it, and in the end the heroic key is modulated into elegy. It is paradoxical that William Caxton, who brought the aft of printing to England, should have been so interested in chivalry and old romance, But the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century was a transitional period iM1 whic&l all sorts of paradoxteal !lUngs were likely to happen. The work of Barclay and Hawes showed both old medieval modes and! new Humanist influences. Humanism ilseU was one element in that complex movement we call the Renaissance, a movement. whose reality has recently been questioned but which certainly was real, thollgh its rnansfestatiens were not as sudden nOI" its causes as Simple as was once 'thought The world of med.ieval Christendom, set against the militant Moslem. world, wnich bounded it on the south and east, bad a YgrDilicant religiOUS and cultural unlIormity; its intellectual and imaghrative boundaries were limited, the scholar moving within the limits of "Latinitas," the philosopher and the scientist 'working deductively 011 truths taken from authority, ~he poet rendering his vision of Fast and present through notions of order-and sigllificance eornmon to the whole of medieval Europe, The Holy Boman Empire, we know, was. never more than an ideal, but the ideal represented a view of history and of society that lay behind most (If the sU!f!er:6dally diHering attitudes which intelligent men in the Middle Ages expressed. The shift Erom the view of the Roman Empire as wvine:iy ordained machinery fQr the Christianizing of the Western world ~o a view 'Of the pagan culture of Greece and Rome as something more civilized, more splendid, more fully Ilhrstratrve of what man can make of himself by cultivation of the arts andsciences than any subsequent phase of history. represented a real revolution in thought.. And wruJe it woeld be WIr'Qng see this to shift as simply the rapidresuk of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, with the consequent emigraHolll of Greek-speaki:ng Chrisbarrs hom the Eastern Empire 10 Italy-for it was a slow process that bad been going 'On since long before 1453-it would be ridleulous to assert that because the movement was gradual it did not take place. The writing of history is impossible without making generalizations, and it is unposstble tomake generalizations uuress one deliberately cultivates the proper perspective. A. cause is known as a cause by its effect; if looked at by itsdf it Is simply an Isolatedphenomenon, and if looked at with reference to pret:eding events it becomes itself an effect. Histery is continuous: "movements" are a.rbitrary categories of thelllfs!orian; but signmcant changes do oe-

cur, attitudes do alter radically, the old order does give place to the ~e~1o'. And tlrle Renaissance is not a fictioTl of the histol"ian·s imaginatIOn. Medieval Christendom established itself in 'the chaos that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire; it look Over what it could from the Roman wod~, ,oomp~()mise,dwhere it had to with both old pagan and new barbarian, and achieved a synthesiS in which the thought and ins~auti()ms of the classical world played a certajn limited part. Humanism, that movement which represented the desire to' recover the purest ideals of Greek and Latin expression and to assimilate the most civiHzed aspects of classical thought, was essennally an attempt 'to get behind the medieval synthesis. to approach the clTi,gil'lal sources 0.£ elassteal culture directly, not through the medium of clerical "Latentas." Haly had known this movement since the fourteenth century, and long before it reached England it had exertedjts influence on Italian literature. North o~ the Alps the Humanist movement bec~~e more dire?ti~ involved i~ religious and moral question..s. The ambitious and ubiquitous machmery of the medieval Church was ceasing to Iuncrlon effectively; satire of clerical abuses, amusedly til"Onical nChaucer, soon swelled to an angry and bitter chorus, and B this in turn encouraged the Ilvant gatde to tum to the secular thought of the classical world for guidance and ,enlightenment. That secular thought. touched with the moral earnestness of Christian ~r~t~tagainsta~llses o,f ~hristian il1s.titutions, ~roduced a school of Christlan Humamsts which was to include reformers who remamed within the Roman Catholic fold as well as Protestants It must be remembered, too, that l:he"New Leamtng," as it was often called in the sixteenth century, encouraged the study of Hebrew as well as of Latin and Creek, and that the great GennanHumanist Reuchlm was even more important for the development of Hehrew studies in Europe than the gr,eat Dutch Humanist Erasmus was for the study of Greek. Hebrew and Greek, the language.s of the Old and New Testaments respectively. were essential tools in any new approach to the Bible. If pre-Protestant I"efarming thougbt demanded vemacU!larBihle translation, it was the new scholarship of the Humanists that eventually made that translation possible from the original SOurces. Thus Humanism in spite of itself was drawn into new religiousmovemenlS. We hII'Ve already noted the changes in tile economic bases of SOciety that were bringing about the end of feudalism. In the towns. a new upper class of merchants and professional men jOined .hands with the landowners in the country, where a prospering "gentry" were en.c1osing common land in the interests of sbeep b.rmfug. to.

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END OF THE M1DDLE A,GES

145

the distress of the peasants who were thus deprived of the oppor-' tlIDity of tilliDg the and forced to roam the countrysid.e in search of work, Indi\lidu;a~ism asserted itself in economte as in lither areas, The political genius of Henry VII, whose accession to the throne in 1485 after his victory over Richard III brought to an end the Wars of the Boses and ushered in the new Tudor despotism, enabled him to win the loyalty ~!m~rchant,. ~rofessi?~~l n:an~ gentry, and ~obi~ty alike and so tomsmtam ,3 pohttcsl stabIlity In the conntry o~ ":,,illCh it was in desperate need, and at his death to leave a secure throne to his SOD. Henry VII thought of himself as at medieval ]JI}oJlarcn, re-establishing a medieval monarchy. and did not see the implications of his own reign. He was no friend to Humanists. But with the accession of He1l1)' VIII in 1500. the Humanists in England had thelr chance,and the early years of his reign were years of promise and e~citement for English culture, The scene chamged in the latter part IOf Henry's reign, when Henry's insistence on divorce from Cath~e of Aragon, his break with Rome, his suppression of Ute monastenes and the consequent destruction ,of so many English art treasures, and his assumption of the supreme headship lJ,f the English Church lost him the approva] 01 such 2M moderate CatboHc Humanist as Sir Thomas Morc, whose ex:ecnlion for high treason in 1535 marks the end of Henry's al!Uance with the most attractive elements of contemporary Humanism and arrested the Humanist .movement. .~ England for a generatioo. More, scholar. statesman, dlp1omat, political theorist (the idea] commonwealth described in his Latin work Utopia represeots a Humanist rather than a Christian conception of the state), and patron of !:he arts,l",eprescnted all that was best in the new Ideal of culture. His piety led him to seek to purify, rather than radicaliJy to reorg;mize, the Church, and he remained devoted to papal supremacy; like Erasmus, he wished to remove corruption withollt chaDg~ng theo~ogica] doctrine or ecclesiastical structure, :but unlike the Dutch Humanist he became iovolv,ed in practtcel af.£aU-s to his own undOing. He remains the glory and the tragedy of Henry YIIl's reign. The "New Learning" had made itseH lett in England! as early as the fifteenth century, but these early manlfestahens left no penn3nent mark. John Tiptoh. Earl of Worcester, W:illiam. Grey (later lliShop of E]y). John Free of llal1iol College, Oxford, and J ohn ~unthorpe (later Dean of Wells) all visited Italy in th.e latter part ot tl:Je fifteenth century and returned with Latin manuscripts which they left to Oxford college Iibranes. But it was not until the intraducHon. of Greek leamillig .into England that a more perma.ne~t enthusiasm fllr classiea] scholarship was aroused. Tbomas Ltaacre, William

roil

Groeyn (who. returned from Italy In 14S()ito teach Greek at Osford), and Wi!liat1ll Latimer, pul Greek studies on a firm foatJ;ng at Oxford, wllile at Cambridge the teaching of Greek by Erasmus from 1510 to 1513 gave a great impetus to Creek studies. john Colet, who had studied in Paris and Italy and was a friend of Erasmus, lectured on the New Testament at Oxford at 'the tum of the century and in 15:llO, then Dean of Sf. Paul's, endowed the Cathedral school of St. Paul's 10. bring the "New Learrung" into, secondary education. Richard Croke,. who had studied Greek at Oxford with Groc)'n and then studied at Paris and Jectured at several eonttnental universities, returned to Cambridge in 1518, where, the following ycar, he was appolnted reader in Greek. He was succeeded by Slr Thomas Smith, and in 1540, when five new regius chairswere founded by HeliH)'. Smith got 'that of civfllaw, while Sir John Cbeke became professor of Greek. Cheke (bailed by Mihan in one of his sonnets as' naving "taught Cambridge and King Edward Creek") 13ter became tll~or to the young King Edward VI: he dld more than any other stngle person to make Greek studies popular in England. The history of scholarship becomes important for the history of literature at this time because the new classical scholarshipmeant tile establishment of direct contact. with the achievements or dassi·cal cultare and thi.s in turn meant not only new ideals in literary style but new concepts of civilization and a sense that the Middle Ages had represented a vast deflect jon of progress ol the arts and sciences oil their true COurse. Further, the recovery of Creek seience-cwhreh was one of the grea! achievements of Humanism, far too litt1e realized=rneant that Renaissance science could! begin where Greek science had left off. Astronomy. physics, and medicine profited by this renewed contact with Greek thought: the scientific discoveries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were made possible by the work of the fifteenth-eeliltllll)' Humanists. In the Middle Ages, Greek science (and, indeed, muc~ Creek philo/sophy) was o~~y aV8ilabl~ in fmgmenlary and often distorted form through Latin translations from the Arabic, for the Modem world were earlier heirs of Greek thought; !lOW it became freely and directly available. No wonder that Renaissance thinkers carne to regard the Middle Ages simply as an obstacle standing between them and the pllre knowledge of the classical world. The ages of "Gothic superstition," which was all the seventeenth and, sun more, the early and middle eighteenth century could see in the Middle Ages, were so regarded because they blocked the light of classical culture. But this survey has taken IlS well beyond the transitional period, In the ne.'Ctchapter we shall examine. in some detail, the new movernent and its cOT:nseqnences for literature.

THE

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141

CHAPTER

SIX

The Eat'l) Tudor Scene


TUE
HISTDmAN of

influential in England; it was in the air, and people were touched. by it and had ~oreckon with it. The inOuence of the new geographical djscoYcries on men's imag'inations (though it developed later than ollie might have expected) is one of the more obvsous paints to be noted. Spenser can speak for that when, justifying in the prologue to the second book of The Faerie Queene his setting the scene in "that happy land of Faery," he observes:
Bu] 11l1' that man ""ith better sense advise, Tbat 01 the world least part 'III !IS is read: And d3jly how through lIardy enferpds.e, Many great regions are discovered, Whic;h to Ilite age were never mentioned, Who ever heard of th" Indian Peruf Orwho in venturous vessel measured The Ama:7.0fl,'shuge river now found In.ei' O~·fmlt1ulest Virginia who did ever view?
Vet all these were, when no man did them 'know; Yet have I.om wisest age~ hid den been: And 1(lle:r times things man, uniknown shan show .•.•

lind himself devoting all 1115 space to chmtLlIg the different ways in
which that vast complex of movements which we call. the Renalssance affected men's minds and imllginatiom_ But in a history of literature one must resist the temptation to dwell at too great length on the intellectual background. important and fascinating, though it is, and let the works of literature tell their own story. \IVe have already said something of the new Interest d isplayed by the Humanists in the cultural monuments of Creece and Rome. Humanism had many aspects: the scholarly, concerned with the recovery 01 reconstitution of accurate texis of the classics; the stylistic, concerned with elassieal shetoric and iiter:uy criticism and their application to an improved vernacular literature; the ethical, concerned with the highest ideals of Greek and Roman Ihollght (v,,'hich could be combined with or modlfied by Christian teaching); and what might be called the positively secular, the replacement of a theocentric universe by one based on. man and his potentialities, the acceptance of human 1He and human values as of permanent Significance if 01'dered and controlled by a sense of proporlion, Interpreted in the light of the best thought of antiquity, and enriched and illuminated by the arts. It would be difficult to find a writer who was influenced by all these aspects of Humanism slmultaneously, many of the most active Humanists were pedantic and! narrow in their view of classical "purity" and ill their exaltation of Ciceronian Latin; but the sixteenthcentury French. essayist Mcntaigne=secular-mmded, but not antireligiOUS; curious about ami tolerant of human foibles and attitudes: continually fascinated by the problems posed both by his (l1N11 psychological and physical self and by the external world-could perhaps be taken as a typical representative of the humanist attitude in the broadest sense of that term, It was an attitude which Iound no such. ,single 'typical representative m England, yet the attitude was 146

sixteenth-centure

English culture is liable tI"

Ailld [ohn Donne addresses his mistress with

o my America!

my new-found-land, .. _ How blest am ( in thus discovering thee!

It was Donne" too'. who, in chen-quoted lines, expressed die effed on manymen's minds ofthe new astronomy:
A.nd new pbjlosaphy ealls all. in doubt, The element of Ii.re ,is quite put out;
The 5U.11l i.s lost, and I);' earth, and no man's wil Can well direct &:fIJI where to look. For it.

The new astronomy was made necessary by tlre na.vigational needs of Ih.e voyagers; and the voyagers them.selves began by seelHl'Ig.for a new route to the spices of the East ;tfter the land route had been blocked by the fall of Constantinople; and spices were necessary in order to preserve tile cattle killed in the wmter, and the cattle were killed in ~he winter because no winte.r cattle-feed was yet knOWD_ So the complex chain of cause ami effect keeps on expanding. Further, the new astronomy dependecll on the work of the Humanists. The nonon that the earth is a planet :revolYing round the Sun had been put forward by the Greek astronomer Anstarchus of Sames ill the third centmy a.c .. and Cnpernicus was fn:rstled to eonsider such

148

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TflEEAIILY

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149

a view by reading in ~ work attributed to Phitareh that the Pythago· reans had taught it. The ,editing find translating (into Latin) of Greek ~cienti.l.c works provides the bridge between Humanism and science Illl the Renaissance. New geographical, astronomical, philosophical, and religiQus notions boil up and mingle in the most d.ivers€ ways throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The new concept of the natioual state was helping 1.0 alter the medieval view of Clnistendom, Ollihe accession of Henry VlII ill 1509, the Court became the center of Inshion and culture, and after the suppression of the monasteries the greal country houses, which were so often built with their wealth and even fwnl tllt'i.r ruins, took over the patronage of the arts. Wilh the art of printing flollTishing. Looks proliferated and reached! an ever wider public. Religious and pohtical questions were debated in multitudes or polemical pamphlets, so that it might be said that printing made the [Jew ideas socially important at a speed unprecedented in earlier history. The religions controversies that raged ',·hrollgllOut Europe were hastened and exaeerbated by the printing press. Other new ideas reached less far down the social seale, The new ideal of the gentleman, combining the alternative medieval choices of the life of action and the life of contemplation, wasreHec!ed in the Italian "courtesy books" (of which the most infliuential, Castiglione's 11 Cortegiano, was translated by Sir Thomas Hoby in .1.561)and other works of education that appeared all over Europe '10 teach-in the words of Mllton's vpamphlet on education-Zall the' arts, both public and private, of peace and war," The Baconlan view of 'the Function of knowledge as "the relief of mail's estate," as control over nature rcther than abstract metaphysical insight, was even more limited in its influence, bot it was nevertheless part of the in tellectu a) climate . And with the establishment ,~ Queen Elizabeth's court, with its mystique of the Virgin Que,en, its patriotic selfconfidence culminating III 1588 with the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and 'the grm.... sense of pride in the vemaeular and its illg potentlallties, the scene was set for a remarkabla efflorescence of nationel culture. All this, of course, Is te S-implify. The literary pattern to. be set against this background call be traced more adequately if we go back and iuquire about the state of pcetrym the reign of Henry VIII, George Puttenlsam, the Elizabethan critic whose Art of ErigUsh Poesie appeared in l589, tells us ill that work that in the latter part of Henry VIn's reign (1509-47) "spung up a new company of courtly makers [poets]. of whom Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder and Henry Earl of Suney were the two chieftains, who having travelled

into Italy ~nd Iher~ tasted ~e sweet and stately measuresand style of the Italian poes;le as novices newly ,crept out of the schools of Dante, Ariosto and Petrarch, they greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesle from that it had been before, and for that cause may jl.lstly be said the first reformers of Our English metre and style,D Wyatt (also spelled Wyat and Wiat) was the older of the two, living from 1503 to 1542, and in one sense it can be said that with him modem English poetry begins. He and Ule "courtly makers" who followed him exercised the language by translating from foreign models and experimenting with a great variety of lyric measures, to restore to Englisb me tries the combination of fleXibility and :r'eguhuity which they had lost in the century follOWing Chaucer, a century during w h ieh the ra ptd shift from that stage of the Imguage we call Middle English to the stage we call Modem EngHsl:I had wrought havoc with the polished and controlled Chaucerian line, They were thus essentially craftsmen, treating a conventional subject matter over and over again in their attempts to hammer out a disciplined yet Bedble poetic style, They bOHOWOO, imitated, and translated hom Italian and French poets as well as from one another, and had they Dot clone so their ultimate achievement would. have been less. They cireulated their 'WorKin manuscript (publication during the poet's lifetime was not atthis time common) and engag,ed in mutual encol.uagement and criticism, III 1557 (after the deaeh of both Wyatt and Surrey) Ole printer Richard Tottel put Ollt a colleetion of poetry by the "courtly makerswttbthe title SOAges and. Sonnettes, written by the ryght honorable Lorde H.enry Howard' late EarlE 01 Surrey, and other, generally known as Toueis Miscellany, which was a s?mewbat belated ~anifesto of the new poetry. 1l.11~ny m~te ~ollectlons of songs and poems followed in Qlleen mlzabetl::i s re~gn (1558-16{J3), beaTing such attractive fitles as Th.e Paradise of Dainty Devices, A Gorgeol.l$ Gallery of Gallant IAoontlo,RS. A Hlmdfur of Pleasant Delights, A BORqlle! of Dainty Conceits, TIle Arbor of Amorous Deuices, England's Helicon,and ~ngltmas Pamassus. Many of the poems in these collections are little more than esercises: some are over-ingenious, some crude and mechanical, but by and ]arge they demonstrate the immense success with which the earlier poets of the century had flexed the muscles of tb; English language to make it suitable for graceful poetic expresston. Some I)f Wyatt's most inleresting-Ihough not his most successful -po.ems .ar~ his sonnets. Like Chaucer, he had been sent Oil diplomahc mISSlOllS abroad, and had visited Italy among other countries, to OODl.e (as so many poets in Italy and France bad already done) .

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1Sl

under the spel] of the fourteenth-century Italian poet, Francesco Petrarca (Petrarcb). the great master of the sonnet of idealized love" The sonnet" one of the most popular verse forms not only of Elizabethan literature in England but of Benaiss .. ce European literatnre m a 5 a whole, developed first in Ita~y in the twelfth century before passing into France and then into England. Wyatt, fac'ing the problem of restoring gravity and cogency of utterance to English ..erse after a period of linguistic change during which pronunciarion had altered and metrical patterns had g()l1e to pieces, turned to the Italian sonnet for help. Here was a highly conventional verse Iorm, a form \lVhich demanded discipline and craftsmanship on the poet's part, a form which challenged the poet to mold his thought with wit and aptness to the precise shape of those fourteen balanced Jines. The scnnet was not simply a stanza, of fourteen lines with a cerlain rhyme scheme: the lines were deftJybaJam:ed, the links and pallses between them creating a movement which, in most Itahan sonnets, was in Iour parts=two of four lines each (qullirains) and two of three lines each (tcreels). There were other ways of balancing the sonnet-such as Shakespeare's; he balanced it on a final couplet of rhyming ~ines-but the paUem most common in Italy employed two quatrains with a single pair of' rhymes, a b b a, a b b 0, the first and. fourth rhyming and the two middle iint':s rhyming (as in Tennyson's In, M.emori.om), followed by 'two tercets in anyone of a variety of arrangemcnts-c d c, cdc; or cdc, d c d; c d e, c d e; or other r,roUpillgS. In such a scheme the four parts of the sonnet really resolve themselves into two. the first collsistin.g of r.. o pairs of four v lines (the octave:) and the second of two pairs of three lines (the sestet). There were many other ways of paUeminJ!; 'the fourteen lines. but the pattern jnstdeserfbed was thatmost frequently used. by Petrarch. whose sonnets celebrllting his ideal love of Laura were immensely inAnemtlal and represent the most important s.ingJ.e influence on Iater love sonnets throughont Europe. There are periods in the history of any literature when what poets need most is a formal c:onvcn!ion which will enable them to study the demands of the medium quite objectively, with a,craftsman's eye, and prevent them from merely splashing about in language that has not been tempered to meet the precise curve of ,he meaning. The sonnet form met this need fOl English poets in the sixteenth century, and Wyatt's sonnets represent one of the most interesfing movements toward metrical dtscrpline to be ~ound in English literary his tory, Wyatt's problem was to handle the tell-syllabled iambic Iine with gravity in the individual line and at the same time to achieve a Significant unity in the poem as a whole, The metrical tradition

established by Chaucer had lost its usefulness because of changes In the bnguage, While these changes (which bl'Ought with them a certain flexjbility in accentuation during a transitional period) made it possible for Wyatt to experiment freely and effectively iu numerous short-line stanzas where the sustained gra\·ity of regular metrical utterance throughout a series of long lines was not required, they seriouslvhandicapped him in wriling the heavier liind of line de- _ mandecl by the sonnet. As a result, his sonnets are less good than his lighter lyrics: he is not always quite sure where tI,e accent falls in a given word. nor is be always able to keep before the reader's ear the basic swell of the metrical design. so necessary in this kind of formal utterance. In the lighter lyrical measures he was also helped by the rhythm of Jute music. It was mot oaly the sonnet form that later poets got from Petrareh, the whole nature of the. relation between the poet and his beloved became conventionalized in terms of an idealized courtly-love attitude which Petrarch manifested toward Laura in his love sonnets. This notion of the love, as the humble servant of the often cruel frur" wounded by a gHanoe of her eye, tempest-tossed in seas of despair when his love is rejected, changing 'in mood according to tile presence or absence of his beloved, is derived from the medieval view of courtly love which we have discussed in an earlier chapter, Petrareh moved this courtly love to a high, ideal plane of his own, and subsequent sonneteers Ior the most par-t kept it there, The Petrarchan sonnet thus provided the English poet with both a conventional fonn and eenventfenal sentiments. (It should be added that innumerable Italian and French snnneteers after Petrarch had helped to conventionalize both form and content by tile time the English sonneteers beg:m wrilil1g.) The difficulties Wyatt found in handling the iambic pentameter line in the sonnet can be Illustrated by the opening line of the foUo\ll'ing sonnet (from Petrarch]:
Ever my" happe is slack and slo in ,e:-ommyng, Desir enereslng, my" hope uneertaia, That leve in or wayt il deeth me like pain, And Tigre-llke, as swift it is in parting_ it is often to prejudge the question of pronunciation. The third llne here has ten syllables but in no other way resembles an iambic

Wyatt's

own speJlillg has been retained,

because

to modernize

pentameter line. "Uncertain" in the second line is accented 011 the Bnal syllable; the verbal "..ing" ending is apparently accented at the end of the first and fourth Jines. WyaU's ;hyming of verbal end-

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endings such as "-ness" and "oaunre" is a common habit, and mows much awkwardness. In a line such as
Which holdeth the divine parle of nature it is uncertaln whether "nature" 1.5 accented on the first syUabl~, as

ings such as ~.ing" and "·eth" and

THE

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SCENE

This SCIIDS regumarly u we pronounce the "eO> "kyndely" and (which in Wyatt surely did not do) in "knowe." But Tottel, printing the poem in 1557, emended these lines to
'Out, since that I unkindly 50 111mserved: How nke ylIU this, what hath she now desenrroi'

153

it certamly was by Shakespeare's Ume, or on the second syllable, as Chatlcer pronounced it. The rbyming of "nature" with "master» ~ll.rd.Iy helps us to decide. Or the operung of another s;oDlle~&om Petl'3J"chThe lODge love, tbat in my tbought docthharba:;-

shows how fa.r from the iambic 'beat Wyatt could get. Or is this line meant to be scanned as an iambic pentameterf One is tempted to scan it
The llinge love, that in my 11u6ught d(E'!h harbar

with perhaps the "e" of '1onge" pronounced.


The lling love, 1:&:1.1 in my Iboughl,

But did Wyau: mean

doth harMr?

Or something between these two? Either way, "deeth" is a monosyl1able, though it is apparently disyllabic in ot!1er poems. The rllyming of "harbar" with "baner' (banner) leaves the accentuation of both words still in doubt. And what are we to make of such a quatrain as this (from the same sonnet)?
She thar me lemeth to love and suffre,
Al'Id willes that my trust and lustes negHgence Be rayned by reSIH1, shame ;lR1d reverence, With !:lishardines taketh disV~e:JSur.

Tilis is neat and regular. But more than metrical changes have taken place. In the twenty or thirty yea!":; since Wyatt wrote, not only had it become impO'5Sible to pronounce ~kyndelyn as three syllables, it had also beccmeimpossible to construe "so kyndely" ill the sense that Wyatt had iotended, meaning "'In such lIJ fashion,'" and Tonel had to change it to "unkindly," thus gi'lling a quite diff,erent force to the line. Sometimes we &d In Wyatt remarkable effects of metrical subtlety achieved through cunning irregularity: but we can never be sere whether the irregularity really is the product of CUIJning or whether the effect was nol intended-or whether, indeed, WyaU scanned the passage as we do. These difficulties, which are so apparent when Wya.tt wrote the iambic pentameter line, seem tc have largely disappeared when he wrote in lighter lyric meters, 'IIlIitb{presumably) the help of musical accompaniment. There is nothing tentative or awkward about this (one can safely modernize the spelling 1iI0W):
Forget nol )tet the tried rnle:Jllt Of StIch Ii truth as I have meant, My gn:at travai], so gladly spellt, F,orget not yet.

F'orget nDt yet wlilen first began The we-ary Me ye know. since wh3in The suit. the service none lell CIlI'l, Forget M!yel ••. ' . Fo~get no! "el', Jerget not this. How long ago b:llh beea, aad is, The mind IIml neve; meant a_s, Forget not yet,
Fcrget oot, then, thine OW1IIa.pproved', The which 50 lang hath thee 51) loved, W'hose steadfnst faith. yet never moved, Forget not thts.

"Reason" is appan~r:Jt1y pronounced like the modem "reason," not like the Chaneerian "resoun," tbOllgh no doubt Wyatt could pro· nounce it in the Chaucerian way if it suited the line .. "Displeasur" is accente,di on the second sylla hie. one assumes, rhyming (if it can be called a rhyme) with "sulfre," yet it mighl jllst as easily he pro· nounced with the accent on the final syllable. The: pronllnciation of English was changing even as WyaU wrote. At the end of the remarkable poem beginlling "The}' fIe from me that sometyme did me seke" occur the lines:
But syns tnat I so kyndfJly arne served, I woold f,ain knowe whal she hath deserved,

The same serene control ean be, seen in such lyrics as "Marvel ne more" and "My lute. awake!"
Labour

My lute, awake] perform It~e last tlil<:I~ thou and ,I shall waste,

154

THE

EARLY

'rUDOR

SC£'Ni£

THB EARLY TUDOR SCENE

155

And. end that I have .now begun;

For when this son.g is sung and past, My lute be $till, .EorL heve done, .••

The refrain seems to help Wyatt. and his best songs are those balanced on the concluding short-line refrain. "Iorget mot yet," "Blame not my lute." "Say nay, sa)' nay!" Yet these poems do Dot represent any startling new development in the Engrjshmyric: their verse-forms and rhyme-schemes are often to be found in medieval l.aNI1j!Kletry and in .Middlle English lyrical poetry 'too. The Middle English lyrical tradition :Bowsdirectly into the Tudor song tradition, and the reader who comes from fourteenth- and fiftee'nth-century myrics, to the songs of Wyatt is conscious of no break. A flfteenthcentury manuscript. for example, has the rallowing poem:
Wimmell beth bothe goud and schene, 00 handes, fele. and rOice elene: Wimmeo mfl)' no beter bene. [sehene: beautiful]

erate abandonment of metrical polish in favor of a wug,h. if ellectiv,e, accentual measure, but while Skelton wrote, aaenymous smgers were keeping a smnother kind. of 'VeI:5'e alive so that. it could be transmitted to later gene.rations. Wyatt's mostperfect poems are not, then, his most original in form. III subject matter, he' is as a rule even less original, content to ~ppeaJ in the eenventional guise as the hopeless lover of a, cruel mistress. Yet every no .....and again he handles the heavier line with a force and splendor that mark him as a jJioneering original poet of extraordinary strength. Only a complete poem can illustrate tIDS:
They !lee Irom me thai sometime did me seek. Wilh naked Ioot slalldng in my chamber, I have seen Ihem gentle. tame and meek, That Il;OW are wild" and do no! remem ber That some-lime they have put themselves ill dange.r To take bread at my hand; and now they range, BUSily seeking with a, eonttnual change. Than ked be lortnne it hath been atherwise, Twenty times better; bul:once ill special. In tbin army, after a pleasantgutse, When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall, And she me caught to her arms i.ong and small. The revrith 0]1 sweetely did me kiss, And 50flly said, "Dear heart, ho .... like you thisr

Witnesse on Marie. W.im:men betfu gentel. on her lour; A ""'.!n11lDEIlII bare O1JJ;e Savioll~; Of ail thb world Mmmao is :Oour.
'Vime5iSe
011

Made.

....

This is the exact stanza form of "Forget not yet" The lively movementand metrical assurance IOf "The Nutbrown Maid" (Ihst printed about 150.2) shows aU the. virtuosity of ~ater Tudor poetry; its interna] rhyming is handled with great artfulness:
Se U right, I)J' wrong. these men among em. women do co:mpla.ine, AlIerming this, how that it is Ii. Is how- spent in valne, To, love them wele, fOE' never II dele They Iofe a 1nQ,1lI. agaiJle; For let It man do what he can" Ther ravour to 8Ua~oe, Yet £f a newe to them pursue, Ther fllltrst trew lover than Laboureth for Ilought, and from hes- th01llght .ne is.a banlsshed mllin'. • • •

II was no dream, l lay br?ad waking: But atl is fur!led. I:htlrou.gh my genllclless. Into a sbange fashion 01 iorst:lking; And J have leave to gd; of her geodness,
And she also fl) Il.Sellewfll ngleness. But since that I so kin,del}' am served, 1 would [aiD know what she hath deserved.t

This .!Ipirited dialogue between "Squire" and "Puella" (lIns IOn for thirty li.... stanzas, each concluding with the phrase "banlsshed ely man." It seems clear that the sung Iync was not alIected b)' the changes in the language that seems to have caused the iambic decasyllabic line to disjlltegrate, "Skehomcs" may represent 8. delib-

The variations from the I'egulu iambic line. here are strangely moving. and the whole poem has the air of having caught, and rendered into impressive art. the very essence of an emeriona] situation. Wyatt occasionally doesthis ellen in those sonnets where the handling of the meter seems to be a hit-or-miss affair. SUlTey never achieves the streJlgtn and subtlety of Wyatt at his best. Wyatt's three "sanres," thollgh derived from Horace (two) and the Itallaa poel Alamaorli (one), have a freshness and a conversationa] tone which please in a dffferentway, The fir.stbegins
'From this pcint en, no.... Inal. we are iii toe period 01 "modem" English. the !peliing "f quototion.s is mr>demizeQ e)(cepl ....hen the origin'" JpeUing Is necessary icr' reasons 0.1 meIer cr 01 poetic SU!!:geslj~n"'~.

156

nIB

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TilE

EARLY '[ODOR SCENE

151

Mime I.IWn Jolm Balru, &iDeeya deJjght. to know The cause why tbat bomewud I me ruliW. And Dee tbe press or courts where so they go, Rather than to live thrail, under the awe o.r lordly looks, wrappid within my cloak, . • •

and, the second


My motJileJi"s maids, whe'l'lIh'6}l' d.td sew and spin They &allg ,!iQtnelooes D song or the 11e!d mouse, ,. . .

The saole s:eason that bud end bloom .forth briog,s With g;reen hath clad tl!Je hill and eke the Yale, The rughfuJg:dewitbfeatheB new she $ing., [make; mare] The turtle to her make hath told bel tale: Summer is rome, for every spro)' DOW springs. The hart bath bung his old head en tbe pale, The buck. in brake his wiote:!; coathe flings. The fishes float with new repaired scale,
The adder all her slough away she sli[l~,

His version of the seven penltentia] rsahs (deriving from Aretiuo's prose paraphrase) has Its impressive moments; the prol(lgu~ are in ottal)(J.rima and the psalms themselves in terza r~ma. both of which forms Wyatt handles with some skiU, though unevenly. But on the whole Wyatt's Psalms can be classed among the Tudor exercisings of the vernacular. His most consistently good poems are his song lyrics; his few really remarkaMe pioneering poems in heavier meters flas'h o~1 from a mass of uncertainly 'handled traditional material. And even where his sonnets are not. successful, they de represent tile :first English aUempt (D·f the age at this verse Iorm, Hemy Howard, Earl 0.£ Surrey. the only one of the "courtly makers" whose name appeared oa Totters: title page, was some fourteen years younger than Wya.tt. whose poetic disciple he was. His execution in 1.547, wben he was barely thirty, ona trumped 1.Ip charge of treason, put am end to one of the most spirited and promising careers of the time: Surrey was born into. one of the nobles! families of England and educated, .at both the English and French courts, In a consciously aristocratic tradition. Like Wyatt, he was sensitive to the literary fashions tha.'t had invaded much of Europe from Italy. and like him he endeavored to. exercise and enlarg,e the English poetic tongue in translations and adaptations from Italian and Latin and in varla~ions on conventional themes. The 51'Stthirty-sill: poems in Totters Mi.<!celltmy are by Surrey. and Iour more are inCluded later in the book The difference between Wyatt and Surrey call be summed up ill a phrase: Surrey has Iess strength and more poolish. He is more consistently successful than Wyatt in Ilttjng the metrical accent to the normal accentuation of the word and stress of the spoken ~anguage, but he lacks Wyatt's moving and surprising touches. Wyatt is a grearerpoet, wieldinz a Jess perfect instrument, Surre,- is the competent and grac,eful craftsman; his sonnets run with greater metrical smoothness than Wyau's, The metrical ccntrol is clear in llie follOWing:

TIle swift swll1low purmeth !:be' Illes smale, The bU5)' bee her hon'llf nllW ;he mings, Winter is worn Illa.t was the How.en' bale. An.d thus I gee iIDIong these pleasant thing! Each. care detays. and )let my sorrow springs.

[smale: sma1Il1 [mmgs : mingles]

This is a rendering of a sonnet of Petrarca's:


,Zeliro toma, e 1bel tempe rlmena, . _ .

but Suney's nature imagery is livelier and more English than Petrareb's finely stylized picture, amll, unlike Petrareh, be prolongs the description of spring for twelve lines, to turnsuddenly en 8.. bal couplet: This IJaDdling of the sennet form wI1h the lines rhyming ,obab abah abab IJ6 is unusual in having only tworhymes,butit5 grouping of three quatTains and a final couplet is char.acterist.lc of Surrey and was to become a mark of the English form of the sonnet. Surrey also uses the forms abab obob a'bah ee, abba cddc effe gg. and sbab cdcd efef gg. This last is the "Sbakespearean" form, and SlIrrey seems to have settled on it asthe most convenient. It relieves fue poet From the necessity of running the same rhymes right through {which i:s easier in ltalililn than in English) and se gives him .more freedom ..Wyatt, like Petrareh, preferred five rhymes to the "Shakespearesn" sevenj he, too, ended Iris sonnets with a. couplet. the majority of them beillg m. the ferm abba abba cddc ee. Mlich of Surrey's verse handles the traditianal Petrarehan theme of love. More interesting are his autobiographical pieces, such as the poem, in alternately rhyming iambic pentameter lines, which he :-wore on his .tempora~y imprisonment in Windsor in 1545. The poet IS remembenng his happy boyhood. at Windsor with the kings iJ)egifimate son, the Duke of Richmolild:
So cruel prisOia how could betide, ahs, As proud Wlfldsor? WI1 ere T in lust and joy Wilh a kfng's son my childtsh years did pass In greater !ea.sllhan Priam's sons of Troy;

ISS

THE EARLY TUDOR SCEN,B \Vbe,e each sweet. place returns


3

THE EARL.Y TUDOR S,CENE

159

taste full soun


10

The large green courts wJiaerewe were wont

hove

With eyes cas' up Into the maidens' tower, And easy sfgils, SIiCr. CIS f(l~k draw jn love; The s,tah~l)' seats, the Indies bright ,of hue, The dances short, 1~(j)lIg tales of great delight; With words nnd looks that ti,gers could but rue,

Wb.!."reeach c.£ uscdid plead the other's right •..•

Among the verse forms with which Surrey experimented was the so-called, "Poulter's Measure," a curious jog-trot which bec3m~ very popular in the sixteenth century: it consists of lines of twelve and fourteen syllables alternating:
Sucll wa yWlud ways hath love, tlila! most put in disrord', Our wjlls do stand, whereby oar hearts bUI seldom doth aeeord. Deceit Is his de.light. ami to beguile and mock The Simple hearts which he doth stril;e with froward, divers stroke, He causeth hearts to rage with golden bumilng dart, And doth allll)' with leaden cold again the tether's heart ...•

teenth-eentury Scottish poet, Surrey"s translation, published by Tottel as a separate book in 1557, bas been praised for its speed and Vlgor, but the end-stopped lines soon prove wearisome anill f:he ';/~rse on the. wh~le h~s a wooden quality, Here is clearly a case where the historical Importance outweighs the intrinsic worth, The only other author named in Tottel tS Nicholas Gdmald: after thirty-six P?ems Surrer and ninety-one by Wyatt., Tottel prints fortyby Gnmald, in a vanety of styles and on iii, variety ,of subjects. The first is a love poem in Poulter's Measure:

br

What sweet rellel the showers to thirsty plants we see, 'Mat dear delight the brooms to bees, my' true love is to me ..•

Surrey was partial to this measure, and rendered passage's from Ecclesiastes and some of the Psalms in It. These renderings.....:which are adaptations. infused often withpersonal feeling-bave their own kind of eloquence. He usedterze rima, sometimes HI pentameter lmes and once il1 cctosyllables, and a variety oE short stanzas. He could be didactic, moralistic, reminiscent, satirical, and epigram~ matte as wellas cenventienally amorous. All in all, Surrey Wf\S al~ accomplished versifier whose responsiveness to the cultural movements of his time, togetheT with his aristocratic ldeahsm of mind. his quickness of wit, and his technical curiosity about his craft enabled him 011 occasion to write poetry of grace and eloquence. And to wm-iteEnglish poetry of grace and eloquencela the SIst half of the sisteenth century was a. historically important achievement, and one which had great inBuence on the subsequent course of English poetry. Perhaps the most obvious pioneering achievement of Sun,e), was hils use of blank verse In his traasletion of the second and Iourth books c,f Vi rgil's A erlGid. This, trans laticn was apparell tl. y su.ggested to him by an Italian version of book lour which appeared in 1534, and by the Itallan version of the filjrstsix books which appeared in 1540: lie presumably thought of blank verse {IS his medium because that ~as the English eq~iv,a$ent of his Ital~an models. Surrer w~s also lnfluenced by the important translation of the A,enetd (~II rhymed couplets} by Gavin Douglas, the late fifteenth- and early six-

There a.re.other love poems in iambic pentameter couplets, poems of cempliments i.Q seven-foot Iambic couplets, poems translated hom the Latin of the sixteenth-century French Calvinist theologian Theodore Beza, as well as from other sources, SOme of which are in b1all~ verse and some brief epigrams. GrimaJd's poems are followed by mnery-four attributed to "uncertain authors," among whom !h0~as, Lord Vaux, has been identified, ~hough most of Vaux' Identdiable work appeared 1m a larger miscellany. The Paradise of nain~!J D~vice~, 1.576. Other authors who have been probably or certal~ly ~deiilLllied are: J. Canand, Sir John Cheke, William Gray, John Harmg~on, John Heywood, Thomas Norton, Sir Anthony St. Leger. and an unknown D. Sand. Oddly enough, among t!he poems by uncertain authors is included at short lyric by Chaucer (beginning, as Tottel prirrts .it, "Flee from the pr:ese and dwel~ with sothfastnes") pr~bably taken from one of the slxteenth-centuryedltiens printed by William Thynne, Sir Thomas Bryan and Thomas CllUrd:lyard are a~ong the poets whose names have been associated with Tottel's M13ceUany but whose poems have not been identilied. These uncertain a~thors play variations on the themes set by Wyatt and Surrey. 1'.here are love poems, elegies, moralizing pooms, poel:mS ofcc:m:,phment, ~d poems of proverbial philosophy, The verse forms include couplets. both octosyllabic and decasyllabic, iambic hexameters, ottaoo rima, a variety of stanza forms. and nine sonnets. There are no outstanding poems in this seetien, which is interesting only as ~n exercising :gJDund fol' Tudor poetry. ~ouel's ~ilJl ,~s indicated in his introductory note to Ihe reader whioh begms. That. to have well written, yeaand in small parcels, deserveth great praise, the works of divers Latins, Italians, and other, do prove sufficiently_ That our tongue is able in that kind to do as praise\\ll'orthy as the rest, the honorable style of the noble Earl of Suney, and the weightiness' of the deepwitted Sir Thomas

100

TB'E

J£A'I'lLY' TU[)OB

SCENE

TO:E EA'RLY

TIJDOB, seEN']!;

161

WyaU the Elder"s verse, with sever~} ,graces in sundry ;goo,~Elldish writers, dO' s.hQW abundantly... The work was pub~shed: as TO't1!e1 oes on to say" "to' the honor 0.£ the English tongue and for g :pro6t of the studious of English eloquence," Nat-irmal pride in the vernacular" and the desire 't'o improve it to' the point where it eould oompet,ewith or surpass Italian or evea a.pprDadl the classical tongues of ancient Greece aIDa Rome, were im.portant motives in shleffllUt-centwyEngtish poetry, which helped to [DIm the ambition.s of Spenser and, later stil~ of Miltoo. Mndeed, the words with which in .1..627theyQullg Millon broke off from a Latin vacatiO'n exercmse to dedicate himself to' writing poetry in Elliglisb CQuld :BttiD:g~y speak fDt' these Tudor experimenters:
Hall native Langllage,
.Didsl move

my

that by sinews

weak
to

:!irst: endellV"llll1JiIl,g

lon.gue

speak,

Amd mad'~II:mperfecl words with childi~h I:nip~ Half unpronounc't, sllde thr,mgh my infant lip~, Driving dum.b silence lrom the pori'll door, Where he h.ad mutely sat two Jlears before: Here I :salute thee. . • .

.A.riwto :a.mdl.:i:l:he earliest: extantoomedy in Etligffiish. prose, and ms bLmlk verse tragedy Jo.casta, hanslated hom the Italian of Ludovieo Dolce's Giooastll, with the coU".ooratiO'IlIJ of Franeis iKlnwelmerrsh. was also prese£lted in 1566. (Dolce's. play was an adaptation of the P#Wenisaae Df Emipides.) His blank verse satire The Sh?e~ G.L:u! (lS76) preseets a picture of the failures of the different orders of society with '['hat medieval sense of hierarchy and function in SOciety· which was carried undrmmed into 'the Ren8liss:a.nce: ~e versi1icatioll is: dogged rather lha1ll elfecti.'Ve, but. It provided Iiurtberrexet'CMs:e for the developilllg EnglIsh form Il£ blw verse, which Gascoigne at least uses rarher more Hexibly than Surrey. Among his, varied other 'i'i'ork are Cen:!J1fi Notes: of lr:wtn.lctlo-n Coocemilllg the Making of VetB(3 o:r Rhyme in English (1575), apio'lleer cribcal essay en English pmsody, primitiv,e enougbbnt sbowiilg, remarkable good sense; morelisticprose pamphlets; SI collection of meditative poems, or elegies, and. .1. number of a'tl:Jac!cive lyrics Df wbi,cl\ the best known '(eitberbecallse or in sp~te of most readers' lacll: of' awareness, '001 its sexual theme) is ~Gascoigne's Luli1aby":
Sin.g luUllby. as women do, Wbe.tewith they bring their babes 10 rest, And lullab}'Clull ring 100 As womanly as can IDe best.. Wilih l.ullabJ they,sbill the ch.i!d, Afld if I be mIt much begu]led!,

TQtte!'s ,Mi8ce,llIIIn!f went intolline editions between 1557 and 1581, later, editions introdud!lg new poems., This ,is sufficient evidence of the popularily of 'the "eourtly makers," 'While the miscellanies that followed Tottel's (of which The' Pamaise of .Dainty DelJices, 1576, was the mose popular) test:i6.ed equally to the IIllterest in. tile handling of the variDIl!S lyric and other measures with which the poets of ~he time experimented. There w~asno real progress in the latter part of Henry VIII's reigD and in the short reigns of his successors, Edward VI and Ma.ry, ~ut the versifying went on, with a great deal of mecbanical jingling and milch use of the jog.trotPouJter's Measure. l\'~etrical reg,u~arity. once achieved, was apt to fall intO' the wearisome cadence of l'epetitio1Jsand. in:flexible arithmetical correctness. Of individual poets, who were WTiting in the mid"si:deenth century. Thomas Churchyard (ca. 15ZO-l<OO4) and George Ga S"coigne (ca. lS2&-77). deserve mention. Chu r.chy:!. rd, who began writing in the reign of Edward VI (1541-5:l) if (Jot of Henry ViII" produced a great many poems ill the styles of the day, most Df them little more than mechanical exercises, but there is, an oecasionaj happy lyric in his eollection called Churchyard's ChipR {m575).Chw-chy,ard,'s lDnge'vity :lind ver:S3:liHty won him some reputation by the end of the century: Spenser referred to him in 1591 as "o!d falemon ... that sung so lang until quite hoarse he gf,ew.~ Gascoigne is; a more rote.resting poet. Hi.'>play The Supposes, acted al: Gray's bn in 1566, was a prose tmnsla.tion of a comedy by

Full mOOlYwanton babes have ] Which must be stilled wit:b lullaby ....

The Epitaphs, Epigf'IJlI1s, Song.!'; and SOllne-1s (1567) O'f George Turbep/ille 'coRtains some pieres of genuine lyrical gra,ce, 8.J:'Idif his translations from O~id and. Maatuan we of less mterest as poetry they at least show him helping to exercise the language by translation. George Whetstone (ca. 1544-81), a fdend of Gascoigne's and usually coupled with Cffilu:rcbyard, wrote a eonslderable amount ef miscellaneous verse m the styles O'f the time, but is remembered .ehieBy for his unaeted play l,·n two parts, PnTm08 a,nd Cass:andri!>l, in crude enough verse which, tDgether with a prose verston of the same story, provided the plot for Shakespeare's i'tfeawre tor Me"lISUre. Frna[]y, we must mention Edward de V,ere, Earl of Oxford (155()...1004), whose poems :ka Tfie P:!u:adise of Dainty Deoices and :in (}t~erEl.izahethaTi eolleettens show the easller Tudor lyricaltrad.itiolim carried successfully into Elizabethn court poerry: contemporaries placed. him at the head of tile courtly poets of his day, but to 'the retrespecdve ey,e of lite historian he seems rather

162

TFUl: 'EARLV TUDOR SCENE

TU.E EA RL \' TUDOR

SCENE

163

to constitute a bridge between Tottel's courtly makers and such Elizabethan poet-courtiers as Sidney, Ralegh, and Fulke Greville, who. are discussed in a later chapter. " The most ambitious single poetic achievement of the mid-sixteenth century was not, however, the work of those who "wrote well in small parcels," It was _, .Minror for Magistr:ates, a eomposite didactic work intended orlginnUy as a continuation of Lydgate's Falls of Princes (itself derived from. Boccaccto's De Casibus Virorum ll!a&trium). The printer J. Wayland suggested such a sequel to William Ba!r.lw:in, who had already turned the biblical Song of Songs into EI'I~lish verse and written a prose Treafise 0/ MOTlIl Philosophy. Baldwin sought collaborators, and between them they produced set..en new stories from English history, in the {ann of imaginary monologues spoke ... by the ghosts of eminent men who had! suRered drastic reversals of fortune. These seven stories, originally published as a supplement to an edition of Tile Falls of Princes, were expanded to nineteen and published separately in 1559. Later editions included new stories and other changes, the most actable addition. to the edition of 1563 befog Thomas Sackville's "Complaint of Henry Duke. of B1!lclcingharn"preceded! by an "Iaductlon' which remains the best known part of the Mirror', Thomas Churchyard's "Shore's Wife" also appeared in the 1:}63 edition. Other editions appeared in 1578 and I5S? Besides Baldwin, SackviJIe and Churchyard, the authors (who have Dot all been identified) included George Ferrets, Thomas Chaloner, Thomas Phaer (who translated the Aeneid), John Dolman, and Francis Seager. A Mirto! fOT Magistrates contains monologues written in rhyme with varying degrees of metrical facility and different kinds of rhythmic movement, from the Impressive elegiac cadences of Sackville's "Induction" to reminiscences of the old alliterative measure and V&T10US kinds of jog.trot. The poetic quality of much of the work is low indeed. hut Sackville possesses a Vir~iHan p;ravity and handles imagery with a fine original [lower, and Churchyard effectively lntmduces the note of passion in his account of Jane Shore, The stories are linked by prose discussions among the authors, in which they exchange views about the significance of the stories tirley ten, the ethical and political ideas underlying them, and the most effective ways of presenting them, thus showing themselves concerned both with the technical problems of ~heir craft and with the Intellectual curren Is of their time. For A Mirror for Magistrates is not merely .3 series of medieval "tragedies~ after Lydgate, even though it was begun as a sequel to Lydgate, who remained popular

in Ithe sixteenth century. It embodies the Renaissance interest iI!iI the didactic aspect of history, in a study of the past as the proper education of a prince, teaching him by example what to follow and what to avoid. The' authors are concerned with the nature of order and of justice, with the reasons: for human suffering, with the ways in which divine retribution overtakes human crimes, and with cause, 311delfect in human affairs. Tbey are concerned with the proper behavior of a prince and the proper relation between ruler and! ruled. In taking characters rram English history from the time of Richard 11 to that of Henry vm and making them speak of their fortunes, Ihe authors were seeking t.OI project the moral and educational meaning of history. Tille notion of history as the great teacher was common in the Benaissanee and is to be found again and again in Sixteenth-century European literature. And the idea of selected episodes of history constituting a mirror in which the consequences of good and bad government can be seen, for the proper instruction o( those who govern, was a commonplace in Elizabethan England. The title A Mtrror for Magi.stratc.s emphasizes the political didacticlsm of the work; and this concern with political didacticism arose hom the concern of the age with the whole question of the education Df the prince as weU as from the specifically English interest in the moral of the Wan of the Roses and the possibilities of malntaining a unified and stable government with(Jut reverting to the bad old days, still vividly iH men's minds. of civil war. Queen Elisabeth's being unmarried and thus hav.ing '00 direct heir increased English preoccupation with the problem of government, succession. and order. Writers of the age looked to history and biography to help them show, as in a mirror, the truth about human affairs with special reference to the relationship between power and virtue and between crime and suffering. A .kiirTor for Magistrates thus reinterpreted the medieval concept of the whee] of fortune and unpredictahle fate to show the political and etbical hackground of those spectacular falls· from high estate which tile Middle Ages saw as "tragedy." The Tudor historians from whom Shakespeare drew the material fOT his history plays shared, in dofferin!t degrees {Edward Hall had it mueh more than Baphael Hclinshed), this Renaissance view of the erlucatiOllal function of history: the most eloquent expression of this view in English is to be found in Sir Walter Ralegh's preface to his History of the Wmlll (l614). In moralizing history, dIe Renaissance made it moraamenable not only to treatment by philosopher'S hut also to handling hy poets and dramatists. An understanding of the true relation of history

1M

THE EA.RLY TUDO!!. seE·NE

,to politics and morality will help aprtnee Ito govern wisely and m subj'ect to realtze his duty; but when we begin to look for the working out ofbis.torical laws on the fate of individuals we are brol!1ght into the realm of psychology, and in the triple conjunction ofpolJtks, IDorahty, and psycho'log)' the dramattst can find unhmil:edlscope. Shakespeare's CorioumTJs, no less than his R~chard lIt and. Henry IV. YI'aS the. frmt of that coajunctica.

GII.AFTER

Spenser and His Time


LOOKING BACK on the poetry of the sixteenth century wit~ the hlstortan's perspective, we can see clearly enough !hait the endeavor to establish English as a poetic language at least the equal oE Italian and French prompted much of the experimentatlon and exercising that went on in Tudor verse, It is true that a.mong the prodaotlon of poets between WyaH and Spenser we. do find some accom· plisbed lyrics and an occasional sueeess in longer and graver kinds of verse; but am ail' of uncertalnty still hung over everything, and the poet who could! tum out a clef!:song at one mOlllen~ might very well fall, em another occasion, into the crudest jog-trot or tile most wooden kil"ld o.f labored reglll,uity. England awai~€d the poet who ~ould pull tcg,ether the di,verse elements that. had been ?~era.Hng ~n Tudor verse; who could profit by Henaissanee Lattaists, by Italian and French developments in !:be vernacular, by new ideas aboutthe function and prestige of the pOd, by classical example, by new currents in religious and phaosoph[cal thought, as well as by the ,exercising of the EIil.glisb language that. had been gO,i~g Oil; who could at the sasae time look back to Chaucer and, while absorbing and benefiting from all the new currents, re-establish contact with the great medieval master of English verse; and who would he slrnultanecusly Elizahethan and European, d!',a'\Ying mspirution both fron] rile national excitement of his own time and country and from the larger movements 'Of the mind and the i.m.a,gination which were agitating the whole of 'Wes~em. dviliZ<'lti011 Classical, rnedteval, and HUITIrmist; inspired equally by the new Puritan ideaiismaml by the reawakened interest in Platonic fhougM; moved both by the new Protestant gravity and hy the Cnthollc sense of the unity 'Of Western culture; supr,erne craftsman with a great :synthesizin!"t imaginatioll-such was tile poet the limes nnw required if the full riches of Elizabethan Ellgkmd were to finu adequate expresslon ill poetry. The greatest genIlIs that Eng-

165

166

SJ"iENSE,i\ AND HJS TIME

land produced at this-and at any-time did not tum direetly to ~is s~lbesizin~ task ~lIlt used aU this material with careless brilliance III the dramatic exploration of the relation between the moral and emoticnal aspects of man: Shakespeare was not the New Poet the Elizabethans were looking for; his genius was too large and too unself-conscious for him to see himself as contributing to any spec~6c historical end. It was Edmund Spenser (155'2.-99) who saw himself, as he was seen by his contemporaries, in t~e role of the New' Poet who was tc draw the threads together and mark both a culmination and a new beginning in English poetry. Spenser was the gr,eat synthesizer for whom English uondrama.tic poetry was ,,,,alting. The publication of Tile S/lepherd's Calendar in 1579 marked Spenser 5 £'ormal entry as the New Poet. An unpretentious and. uneven work to modem eyes, not milch read. today except by specialists and students, The ShepheTli's Care1'ldaris the perfect example of a work of greater historical importan.'Ce than of permanent and intrinsic poetic interest. The title, ill Spenser's (or his printer's) spelling is worth recording: 'The Shepheardes Calendar, COllteyning twelve Aeglogues proportionab,le to the T, welve monethes, Entitled to the Noble and Vertuous Gentleman most worthy of all titles both of learning and ehevalrie M. Philip Sidney." The eclogee, or pastoral dialogue (spelled "aeglogue" by Spenser and many of his contemporaries because of a false derivation from the Creek word. for goatherd) has its origin ill Sicilian folk song and comes first into literature in the work of Tbeoerims, Bion, and Moschus, Greek Sicilian poets of the third century B.C. It was a form widely used in the Renaissance, deriving more often from the eclogues of Virgil thalli directly from the Greel pastoralists. By the time Spenser was writing there were eclogues in Italian and French as well as in Re[laissanceLatill, and pastoral poetl}' (i.e., poetry dealing with shepherds, or ideal shepherds) was established as an accepted poetic form, rallking below epic OT heroic poetry, which was al the top of the poetic 1adder in Renaissance 'c~iticism. and below tragedy,but laudable nevertheless and especlaUy appropriate for a poet beginning his poetic career; Virgi~ had started with eclogues and moved on at last to his great epic: the proper eeurse for all ambitious l1ew poet was clear. Not only was the pastoral well estah]ished in Benaissanee poetry by Spenser's time; it had also been h,equendy used in an allegorical manner' for moral and satirical purposes. Pastoral anegory was thus an establi.shed. note. Almost any aspect. of human life could be presented tbro!!!lgh the elemeeta] activities of shepherds. Rural wo()tkhas: al-

SPENSER AND

ms

TIME

167

of aU hU,man en,deavOI, being", as , w,e:e, the primal human activity. And the work of the shepherd is not only an obvious example of rustic labor, it also includes the el~~nt of guardianship,'l"hich makes it easy to discuss etther political rulers Or spi.itua~ leaders in pastoral terms. Toe elemental. backgro.und of _pastoral activity also. makes pastoral poetry an appreprtate vehicle for the presentatiolll of tlle more elemental Im~an emotions, such as love or grief. The Renaissance poets, excited at, the potentialities of the literary use of the pastoral exploited it to the point of exhaustion, with the result that it i~ now lieg~nmed as one of the most faded of literary forms. But for Spenser It was a richly promising medium, and au obvious one for a maoifestc of the new poetry. Linking IDS eclogues together in a calendar, Spenser found a. h~~py way of combining unity with diversity" as well as of comblJlmg'ilie simple and rustic with the elaborate and sophisticated. By varying the degree tp which his shepherds were allegorical, be could vary the tone from the nnively pastoral to the elaborately ~ormaI. And by mak~J'Dg his shepherds compete in singing matches, In a formula that goes back to the Greek pastornlists, he was enabled to i~troduce into his pastoral framework a diversity of lyri~ cal poems 11] different styles. The poet wbo inlluenced him most in his a~legorjcal use of the pastoral was the G:fteenth·century Italian, Baptista Spanuolj, known in literature as Mantuanus or Mantuan, whose tell Latin eclogues on moral and 'religious themes were used a~ 3J. ,sclloolb.ookthroughout EU,rope.. But Spenser also ~ew Theoeritus and Blon (and fnere were Latin and French IjI',erSIOI:lS if he ne~ded help with the original), the Latin eclogues offetTarch: Boccacelo, and Jaoopo Sannazaro, and the two French eclogues of Clement Marot, which he imitated in his November and December poe£?~, 10 short, Spenser was working oon.fidemtly in a. European tradlt.lOn, both classical and Humanist. Spenser sent The ShephcTd's Calendar int,o, the world with all introduc~on and commentary by "E. K.," wbo was probably Edw~rd KirK,e, who had been a fellow student iQf Spenser's at Cambndge, and who certainly bad been briefed carefully by Spenser about his intentions in producing the poem .. One L!l reminded of Stuart Gilbert's commentary On James Joyce's Ulysses, wnich was also an explanation of a new kind of workby someone wbo had had the benefit of talks with the author about its meaning and purpose. E. K. could make claims for Spenser thd the poet was too modest to make himse!£ but which nevertheless must bave [airly represented Spenser s own view of Ins fUDction and asnbittons, E. K's
Jt

~ays been an ?b'liousprototype

168

SPENSER

A.ND HIS. TIME

SPENSER

AND' HIS TIME

169

introdudiGn, addressed to Spenser's friend, 'the scholar and man _of letters Gabriel Harvey. makes all the points necessary to empbanze the importance of the work. He begins with a quotation (o( rather, mlsquotalio,n) from Chaucer, and Li;nks Spenser both with Chaucer and with Vir,giID. goes on to refer to Spenser's "wittiness in devi~ He lng. his pithiness in uttering. his complaints of love so lovely, hllS diSCOUrSes of pleasure so pleasantly, !lis pastoral rudeness, his moral wiseness, his due observing of decorum everywhere, in perS(lna~es, [0 seasons, in matter, in speech, and gen.erally in all seemly sanplicj,ty of handling his matter and framing his words. the which of many Ith,ings which in MOIl be strange, I know will seem the stranges,t, the words themselves being SQ ancient. the knitting of them so short and intricate. and the whole period and compass of speech so delig,htsome for the roundness and so gl",ave for the strangen.ess." The emphasis all decorum is Significant: decorum meant propriety and Btness of tone and dlction and verse form, the suiting of the style to the matter. the deliberate avoidence of anything disproportionate orincongruous. It W;1S an important R~naj~sance estl1etic Ideal, and in showing htmsell concerned with It Spenser is not only exhibi~il1lg a debt to the critical thought of his. age but also s,howing his awareness, of II prime need of EngHsh poetry at this time. Decorum was conspicuously lackirJg in th,e majority of the earlier Tudor poets. Biblical paraphrase in Poulter s Measnre, for example, such as we find more than once in Tot,te'fs Miscellt.my. is a clear violation of decorum:
Kn ock nnd it ~lJaII be heard, but, ask Ilnd gJovel1 it is, And alllh;)t: like to keep this eourse or merey shan not miss, For .... en I CHIIo mind how the one w:tnclenng sheep h t Did bring more lOYwith his return Ihan all 'the Rock did keep. It yields rull hope and trust my strayed and wandering gbo~t ShaLl be received 81lcl held more dear than those were never l051.

their rightful heritage, such good and natural English words as have been long tim.e out of use and almost dean disherited," Pride ill the vernacular eomes Ollt strongly in E. K:sremaI~:s Of!. the' English language and its potentialities. He praises Spenser both for his c.hoice of words and for. .h. is "kni.tting of sentences. . . . and for all the ,compass of the speech," which lie calls "round without wughness and learned! without hardness." He classes him with the great classical and R,enaissance poets, sugg,estillg that 'The Shepherd's Calendar is the p'ionee.r work of a new English poet worthy 10 be ranked with them; "So [t.e., In eclogues) new Theocritus, as you may percei .... he was all ready full fledged. So new Virgil. as not )'f't e wen feeling lis wings. So £lew Mantuan, as being not full somd.' So' Petrareh. 80 Boceaccle. So Marot, Sanazarus, and also divers otner excellent both Italian and Frenchpeers, whose footing this author everywhere followeth, yet so' as few, but they be well scented, can trace him out. So, finally IDeth this our new Poet, as ::I bird. whose principals be scarce groWil1out. but yet as that i.m time shall be able to keep wing with the best." Though the modern reader may feel a certain anticlimax in coming from !his enthusiastic preface to the poems themselves. he eannot fail, i:f he comes to The Shepheras C1.l!.e1~,d(lr from earlier Tudor poetry. to be struck by the control and the assurance of Spenser's verse. ]1'1 the January eclogue. the shepherd Colin Clout. who is Spenser himself (die name comes from an anticlerical satue of Skehan's), is comp~aining of his unrequited love for Rosalmd. Spenser thuS' adapts a Petrarcbsn mood to ,8 pastoral ~etting. The stanza. has six lines. rhymed ababcc:
A shepherd's boy (no better do him caU) When winter's wasteful spile was almost spent All in a sunshine day. as did befall. Led fO.lltn his .BDCk. Inat had becnlong ypent. So f'Binl theywoxe.lI11d feeble lnthe Fold. Thnt now Ul1illethes their reet could tbem uphold.
All as the sheep, such was the shepherd's look. For pale and wan he was (alas the while); May seem he ~O¥erl. or else some care he took; W.ell COGlh he rune iris pipe nnd frame hls style, Then to. a hlU his i::..inUng~ockhe led, And thus him plained, the whj:le his sheep there fed.

Spenser put all end to this sort of thing. E. K. refers with contempt to' the Tudor versifiers as "the rakehelly rout of our ragged rhymers {for so themselves use to hunt the Jetter [Le., pra,etice nUHer.ltion which Wilhout learning boast, without judgment jan~le. without reason, rage and foam. as if some instinct of poetical spirit had newly ravished them above tile meanness of common capacitv." That is poetry without decorum, which Milton was later to call "the chief masterpiece to he observed." E. K. praises Spenser for preservinj; the continuity of Endish poetry hy using a certain number of older words, and U5ing them appropriately. Spenser, he says. "hath laboured to restore. as 10

"'Vegods of love, thnt pity lovers" pain (If 30Y gods the pain of lovers pity),
~ Full oomd:
I'.

falrone~'s !mII, ltI~ntng full Hedged.

170

Ij·P·ENSIE:·!I. ... ·N:D HIS

11'IME

SPENSER

"ND

HIS

'TIME

.J!..ndbew yOOJ' €'.:m unto my doleful ditt},. Aru:l Pan, thou shepherttb' Cod, that once didst love, Pity the pains·lha.1 thou thyself dldsl plOye ... ,"

Look· ham. above, where yat!. i:n Joys remaln,

We see here the deliberate archaisms that Spenser was 'to e>lperiment with much more before be settled on the dictffiodl .Fot" The Faerie Queell.e. Spenser is trying to combine rw;.tidty with fornna)jty. The February eclogue, whieh tells, the slory of the eak and the briar, is· .... 'Tittel] in a rougher aeeentual measure, wbil'll Spens:er seems to have considered 3 genuine English verse-form and one s1iIitabie for the handling 01' more deliberately rustte themes. Whether this looser meter represents how Spenser and his eontemporaries read Chaucer, not tmdersland:ing the pmI:l1,:mciation of the final e, or whether Spenser was trying to do some·thing resembling what Coleridge did ln Cit:ri'$tabef, is not clear; but It is dear that. Spenser used this accentual verse deliberately. 35 a style appropriate 10 the subject of this eclogue, He used it again ill the May and! Sept,ember eclogues. '[he March eclogue gives the dial.ogue of two shepherds in the old romance stanza that Cheueer had wed S!Q mockingly in Sir Thopa.s: Thomalin tells Willy ho,w he saw Cupid in a bush, and they exchanged shots, bu:~the naturalistic pastoral setting makes the in~ident sound rather incol'lg:ruOl.ls: we expect 3. grouse ora par, tndg,e rather .than "the liUle goo. The April eclogue, after an introductory dialogue between Thellot and Hobbinol ill .Be.lIible decasyllabic quatmiIls, introduces a forma.1 song In praise of Elizabeth. The v~~s:efo.nn.' t~ough~rha~s ,5'ugges'!~by Ho:nsard and his group.Ia Pleiade, lS an mtereshng onglnal experiment:
n

ful. and: worldlyHigh Cburc!:. d,ergy, whose fondness for elaborate ritual offended Spenser's Protestant idealism. June hrillgs another complaint, in an eight.line stanza. rhyming aba.bbaba. CoHn COUllplains not only of his lack of success ill love. but ,of his lack of suecess in. his poetry and his generally unsettled condition. The slowmoving verse rises and fans. in a linepla.ng,ent cadence. The July eclogue :is another Protestant satire, made, as E. K:s "argument" tells us, "In the honour and commendation of good shepherds, and to the shame and dispraise of proud and ambitious pastors." 'The proud shepherd, M.orrell (probably denoting John Elmer, the High Church bishop of l..ondon),argues with the 'bumble and conscientious Thomalm, who concludes by pl1lising Algrilll (i..e., Edmund Cnndal, Archbishop of Canterbury and Puritan sympath.izer) as aha tYIJc of the good shepherd. The verse form hl; alternately rhyming eight-syllabled and si~,syUabled lines, handled. witb. ease and
assurance,

August gives a singing match, with a clumning roundelayby Perigo~ and Willy followed !by 8 much more formal sestina by Cuddfe, The rouadelayis beshand artfu]}y artless:
'Perigo!,
Willy:
Per, ]I

wn,

£1"11UpOIl a boll' eve, hey no holid<ty, When .l:io!ylathero w01'I1

Ie

!IbnI've}

wu
Per. Wil. I'er. Pel. Wil.

Per.

mow gi:nnelh this roundelay, Si ItiU'lg UJXlT1 a hill so ·iJ.'.gh,

hey he the high hUl. TIle while: my Il~k did Jeed thereby, the wI! LIethe shepherdself di.d splll,
I S;lW I:be boDncing BeJHOOrie"

Ye dainty nymphs, th:lot im Ihis blessed broo.k de bathe y(mr breast, Fo·rsake your 'Watery ~!'S and hither look, ill my request; And eke )Iou virgill5 Ina.1 on Pamasse d.v.re-ll, Wh.ence 'Howeth Bel icon, the learned well, He~ p rne 1.0 blaze' Her worthy praise

wu

hi!Y l'Lo bonibl'll,


Tripping over the dale alone, she can I:rj p it very we~l. . . .

I!.V'hichIn hev sex doth all excell.

T~ere is a careful chiming of vowels thmugh the song (which has I:Imteen, stanzas) and cunning variations of tempo, Foreshadowing Spenser slater acblevernents 1'0sound and movement. The May edo~1Je- is a dialogue between two shepherds in which, through the obvIOUS pastoral disguise, Spenser attacks idle, deceit-

the popu'lat tradition, but embodies more skill than The chiming repetitions and roodi.flcatio:ns of wmy'~liaes are handled with efliecli.... variety, The sestina, an e elaborate verse-form from Petrareh, is 11. slow movilllg six-line stanza, with eaeb stanza u.sing the same words to end the lines, but in a dil£eren~ order. It opens:
01)

This draws

may be at. firsl' apparent.

Yeo....IISIe-Iulwoods. bear wifness of my woe '


'\Vhtrein my plaints did oftenlimes resound; '["e careless brrds are privy to my cries, Whi eh In yaur songs were went to mEilee B. pad.

172

SPEN:SEIt

.AND HIS

TIME

SPENSER AND HIS T1ME

]73

!h.e:

of the ~~:~'d ,~t~nza ~~"d, resr,ecuvely. with "~\I~rent~'" woes, resound, enes, part, sleep. Those of the tlW:d stanza end "sleep," "augment,." "woe." "resound." "cries, ", "part." '['hose of the fourth. with "',apart," ..sleep ..... ·augment..~ ..wO'e,""'·soum:ld".. "cries." And S10 'On. Ebborate though this is, it. is, less elabo:r:a~e ~ban the Petrarehan sestina. Spenser is bere perlonning a. deliberate toU'r de force: it is CDlin's (i,e., Spenser's) poem that Cuddie recites, and Pe:r:igot provides the applause afterward:
o Colin, CoI.il'l,the shepherds'
How [ admire

~e.~

Thou pleasant sprimg hast Iulled m~!D,ft asleep ''Nh'l:lsestreems my liricl:l:i:nll tears di.1i o£~,augment.

Th.ere may thy Muse display JH~r e:....Iltering wing. AmI sl:retch herself at large from East to West; . • •

And agaEn, Piers breaks out decline of poetry:

011.

hearing Cuddie lament the present

j,oy.
..•

peerless poesie, w'neue is In.en thy placei' I.E nor in Princes palace thou do s:it (And yel: is Prince's palace the mostfitl Ne breast of baser birth doth thee €'uibrnee. Then·make t:heewiogs of thine aspiring. wit, And!, w!nen.ce thou eamest; tl:y back to heaven apaee,

each I'llming .of thy verse,

The September eclogue is a dialogue between Hobbi"llo] and DiggorJ Davie. The latter is "a shepherd. that in hope lof more gain drove Ilis sheep into a far country, 'The abuses whereof, and loose living 0'[ Popish prelates,. by .occasion of Hobbinol's demand, be disooursethat large.~' S'penser takes many suggestions here f.rom Mantuan, but the Protestant <lo.ntentis:his OWIll .. The October eclogue is in many ways the most important DEan, for it voices,. for the first time in Engljsfu, the hi.gh Renaissance ideal of poetry. "In Cuddie is set out the perfect pattern of a poet," runs the argmlment, and though the presentationof this: perfeet pattern is accompanied by Guddie's complaints that the age of great poetry ,is dead, the exhortations .of his friend Pi.CIS sound the louder note. The IIrgument reads like a swnmary o:~ Sidney's "Defence of' Poetry." Cuddie
... eernplaineth of the contempt ,of poetry. lind the causes therecf; specially hllvi ng been [I] a'll ages, and even alDongst the most barbarous, always of siin.gL:llaraccount and hoaoer, and being lndeedso worthy and. ~mml!nd;]ble an .aTt: or !..tiler 00 art, but a. dLvine :gift ~I'ld beavenly instinct .'1'101' be ,go lien toO by I~bour and leanl~l1g, btl! adorned With ooth; and pour,ed Inl.o 'Ine "'~I bl'B certafn ivillcOOlOlJJ11", and celestial iospiro tion, as the auiliof hereof else "",hev·e; a! ~llrg,ediseourseth .. _

The strain 'Of lament here 'is co[![ventional; tlte note (If fa.ith in poetry's mgh iJestin y li"ings out clearly above it. The November eclogue i~a lament fDr "iIlJ.e death ,of some malden of great blood, whom he calleth Dido,," It is based! O[UJ a similar poem by Marot. Tbe lament is introduced as Ili SOlllg sung for pleasure rather than an expression of personal grief: the eclogue opens with Thenot askil1gColin:
Cotnl] my dear, when s"halll! please thee :si!llg.,

As thou. were 111'001, .. ~ongs

or some

jovU.s:allcei"

And Colin replies tffilat a joyfu] SOong is not seasonable in "sad Winter," when the "mournful Ml.Ise is rnoreappropriete. Like the poem in Fn.ise of Elizabeth in the April ,ecl'Ogue, the lament which Colin proceeds to singi£ an exercise .ill the handling of vow·el.musie and variations in fempo:
H

The versehas a gravity suited to the sllbject~


Aba.rndon 'them the 'base and viler clown, Lift up IhyseU Ollt of the iow~y dusl, And sing of bloody Mars, 0'1 wars, of jousts .. Tilm t·h.eeto these thai wield the a'Wfu~crown,
T~ d~ubl,ed k.n·[ghts whose' woundless 11 rmour rusts, And helms unbrulsed wa~en dai.!)" brown. [doubted: fedoubted]

'W"hy do we longer live (,alh.whJl live we so!ongi'j WhDlie better d~ys death ha th shut lip llll woe? The fairest flower our ,gi.!ond all among Is fi!lclled quite andinto dust ygoe. Sing nOW',ye sh epherds" dElugh;~ers, sing 110 moe "l"ne songs that Colilll made you II1 her rrni!re, But into weeping tum )lour wanton Jla.ys, o ,heavy hearse, Now b time to die. Nay, time was long ygoe.

o careful

verse,

[careful:

sO.1To,wfull]

TIle sh'Ol"f lines "0 hea.vy hearse" and~O 'careful verse" are repeated

as a refrain at the end of each staaza, The December eclogue ts an imitation of Marofs

Eclogfll~

au

174

SPENSER

.... D IllS N

TIME

SP:ENSER

jI,,'ND JUS

THj,.{'\S

115

Roy, in which liIepoet tools: back over hi's poetic career. It is suited to the time of the year, the foetreviewing Ithe change From the SJl'ringtime of his days 1.0 the pJlesell11. Wne:
SO [lOW my Y!!,fl.rdra ....s 'to h.is mtter term, <, My spritlg is spent, my summer bum! up qwlre, M.y harvest hastes to stir up winter stem, And bids him claim with rigl'JoTOttS rage Jini5 right. So nE)W he storms lVitli ma~y a sturdy steur, Sonow his blustring blast each roast doth scour.

So ends this vll.J"iedcollectian of eclogues in ","'hi,ell Spenser tried out his genius and presented himself to the public as England's New Poet. Techmcally, they are of the very grea'test interest: thel11irte,en diHel'e~t verse forms whi~h Spemer includes in the twelve ec.logue.s (tw,G of them new to Enghsh verse and five Spenser's own invenuon) sbow what English verse craftsmanship was capable of ill 1579, and they abo pOint Iorward to later developments. But besides their importance far the craft of English verse, ~hey are important for drawing wgethe'r traditions from the golden ag,e of medieval English poetry, horn the Latin and Greek classics, and from the Henaissance literature of Italy :and France, andl domiciling them happily in English poetry, whe'fe they were to remain fer three centuries. We see here, tao, Spenser's frotestant idealism, something 'af his neoPla.tcmic philosophy; and his high. claims fOorpoetry. All of these elements were to combine later more richly and subtly in The Faerie Q!~ene. It is appropriate, and not merely a matter of hi storiea I 'convenience, ~o see all Spenser's earlier work ill the perspective provided by The Faerie Qlleefl!l, which is the cnlmination toward which Spenser was ,a1w:ays moving and the great synthesis. of themes and inOuel1ce.s which the Ellzabetban ag:e had been awaiting. Spenser was well. fiUed, both by temperemera and education, to absorb and to handle creatively the moral and intelleciuRI currents aIMs time. At the Merchant Taylors school, then presided over by Richard Mulcaster, a scholar with all the Renais:5ance enthusiasm for edneaH{m and for the new ideal of theperfeet gentleman, and at Cambridge, where he fG~ed a lasting hiendship with the sehelar and critic Gabriel Harvey, who was both Puritan and Humanist, he carne intll contact with the kind of scholarshlp and enthusiasms towhieh his,owll high idealism responded immediately. Spenser's combinancn of italian nee-Platonism with English Prn,testanlism, his imaginative ~umdlillg ,of his OWIl very considerable scholarship, his responsiveness to the ehallengaand e!!;citement of his age, rdlect

the interaction of.his education and envirenrnent with his temperam~nt. H~ was neve!" the eomplete courtier, .for place-seeking at Elizabeth s, court was hardly in aecordaneewtth his' OWJl concept of the perfect Christian gentleman, and besides, his Puritanism led him to oppo,se aspects of Elizabeth's compromise between the eztremes of Pretestantism and Cathohcism; his fai]ure to S~ a higher government position than !:hat of a: civil servant in Ireland, where he ,spent most of his Me from 1580 until his death ill 1599, or a more substantial govemmelll:al recognition '0£ his clahns than a pension of fifty pounds a yea!", is not surprising, But he 'became a friend and admirer of Sir Philip Sidney, whom, together with S'O many of his contemporaries, he regarded as the' beau ideal of knigllthood~I1d court,esy, a;ad wa;>an active participant in the most significant literary discussions of his time. And much (If his "occasienal" writing deals, either directly or indirectly, with the contempcrary scene. Indeed, henever withdrew hom 0Olltempornry religious and political controversies into an: unreal world of the imagination: he was always concerned with the problems ofhis day, as well aswitn broader issues, and The Faerie Queene itself is an allegorical eornmenta!")' on the reHgiolis. political" and social seene as well as a more general poetic exploratlon of the nature of virtue. Spenser's confident entry as the New Poet with The Shepherd's ,Calendar was not immediately followed up by anything spectacular. The nrst three books or The Flleri.e Qlle~me were not published until 1590, and books four 10 six appeared in 1500, liJut in the Interval he had written a variety 'Of other verse of varying de'grees of high seriousness .. A volume of marlin poems appeared in 1591, entitled Complaints: Containing $tI:n:dr~$1!lall Poeln$ of the W,tlri{fs VGI'li.ly. This contains "The Rliins of Time," all ,elegiac poem written ill slowmoving rhyme royal: its structure is borrowed hom du Bellay's "Antiquites de Rome," and its theme combines: the general medieval ubi sm1-l motif with re'Oections on the deaths of the Earl of Leicester Si. Philip Sidlley, and Sir Francis WaJ:singham: there .is also t\1~ notion fhat poeh-y can confer imrnort.a]it:y. "The Rllins of Time" is an lInevenpoem, which 'shows signs of b~..-iDg been put together in haste; but. the verse is never out of eontrel, and there are passages of richly musical elegy. "The Tears o,f the Muses" is the seclllll:ll of the CClIllp!lIinfS! written in a stanza rhyming ababcc, it is mere satirica.l than elegiac in terre and laments the decay of thearts and other abuses of the lime in a rather rnechanieal manner, Each of the. nine Muses speaks her complatnt, and the whole apparatus: is somewhat old-fashioned for a New Poet: it probably repr,eselll:iS fairly ea.r1y wOlk" More' int.eresting is the third poem in the collection,

176
"'Vtrgil's Gnat," a llvelYFe:mdermgm ottaoa rima: of the Latin "'Cukt," ,all epyllion or little epic attributed. te Virgil. But by far the most ~nteres~ingpoem inli.be book i.s "Mother Hubbard's Tale," a skillful and spirited saUre all cem-temporary ai"airs in tbefonn of a beast fable. Chaucerjan in tene, with the rhymed eoaplets mo,Yi:lIlg En a deliberately eenversattceal cadence, this vigorou5 attack on abWle5 in economic, ecclesiastical, cow:f, and. goverm:nent .d.ms, shows what Spenser cou:ld do when he kept his eye sharply on the confempor,ary English scene. Here is a very diMerellt. poet from the aillhorof f'he Faerie Que.efle:
B1J1 iI thee Jist un~o the Court to thro!lg, Ami: there to hUllt aJ!ter the hoped prey, Thea musttheu thee dispose another way. For th.e'l'Je thou needs must learn 10 laugh, to Iie, l'Q face, to forge, to seoll, to company. To crouch 1:0 please, 10 be a beet!e stoek Ollhy great master's wil], to 800m or ·!'IIO~."i:; SO mlly'5! thou chance mock out a Bene6ce. 'Unless tEiOl) canst one tOnjw:e by device;
(I. CII!5't a ligwre for a bishopric,

SPENSER

AND .BIS TI.M£

117

And if one could, It were but a school-tnck,

This links the accents of Chaucer \l.rlt:hthese Iound in the satires of Dryden and Pope. The Complaints volume also contains some translations from Marot and du BeUay of IlOI great interest in themselves, and the channwg and sprightly ~Mtljopotomos, (If The F'ale of the BetterBy," a mnck-herole aceuunt in o~taoo rima of the capture and destruction of II! beautiful Imtterlly by a baleful spider; it may 01'" net have an a[jegorical meaning. The same' year, Spenser published Daphn.aida: An ElegyupoTJ the Death of the Noble and VirtuQl.l!S DO'lJgtas JbJward, Doughtegr and Heir of Henry Lord Howard, Viscoun~ BYl1don. and 'Wife of Arthur Gorges, Esquire', iii formal piece in a stanza which chimes: LI11erestingly in a rhyme scheme ababcbc.. The model ..ppears to have, been Chaucer's Book of .!he Duchess, but Spenser's style is more: rhetorleal and his verse more highly wroUl~,ht. Co!fn C!ou,'s Come .Home Aglli'n, published fa 1595, is one of the: freshest, most personal, and most ateractive of Spenser'.>, eceasional poems. It lells, ~hTOugh aJ simple and easily penetrated pastoral aUego1lY, of Sir Waller Raleg~'s v.isi.tto Spenser in Ireland nnd Spenser's Sll bsequent visit to London with Halegh; there he was graciously received by Queen Elizabet:I1, but realized that court life was nut for him, and he returned to Ireland. The poem is decasyllubie quatrains with alternating thymes; occasionally the rhymes are

'repeated or otherwise .Iinked in, successive ,quatrains. with a bighly musical effeet, The ease and Row ,of the style, trbe eembination of the autobiographical and. the fomud. 'the wholly successful mbeture of the pastoral with the courtly, the rustie witlL the artiliicial, constitute Qilieof Spenser's; 'happiest atMemp~sat synt.hesis. The premature death of Sir Philip Sidney at the battle of Zutphen im 1586 called forth the usual spate, 0.£ elegies, and Spenser's eentributton was a pastoral el,egy entitled "A:strophel,H an uninspired performance im.stanzes rhyming tlbabcc, modeled Or;E B~o['l's lament for Aclonls. That the death of so cherished a friend should have jillspired su.ch a highly con~nfiornal piece 0·£ work. Is am il1terestjng commentary O~ the place of eonvention iin Eli'zabethan art, while the fact that the poem is; dedicated to Sidney's widow '"",Me refen-ing, m some detail to Sidney's love for "Stella," traditionally identified with Penelope Devereux, Lady !Rich, who did. mat return Sidney's love, poses a problem trl the relation between art and life that the modem mmd fUnds hard to solve. Thep,roblem reminds us of how purely formal the notion as well as the ha~dling (If courtly love could be in Elizabethan times (andpresumabiy earlier) and warns us against interpreting Spenser's allegO'Iiz.ing habit too naively. A more interesting example of Spenser's handling of a. eonventiore of his time is provided byhis Amoretti, love sonnets in the Petrarehan mode so dear ro jhe Elizabethans. To, what extent these sonnets celebrate bis lovefor Elizabeth Boyle, his marriage to whom. he celebrated in his "Epithalamtcn," is all ullpro£table question: they tell the slory oi the poet's wooing of a mistress who at 6rst rebulJedhim, then relented and' returned his love, and 6nal1y, as a result of some! unhappy incident, turned against him again. If the "Epithalamion" represenrs the true end ,of this story, then we must StlpPl)!se that the lady changed her mind yet agam, and permanently this time. But again we must remem bet the place of the sonnet seqllence in Elizabethan poetry and the place of eoeventlon fn Elizabethan art. Spenser's sonnets may well have been ,:1 ,graceEul Petrarehan exercise with a constantly shifting relationship to Ms personal experiETlee. Just as in The Faerie Q!leene the allegory keeps shl£ting in perspective, as it were, atone paint logically worked out in every detsil and in another yieldiTlg to the p~ydlOlogi,c:al realism of the characters, who are given emotions and actions beyol'ld their aUegorical role, so in 'Other phases or his work Spenser 'Was in the habit of ... rying the relation of his art 10 his life. A SOli net sequen.ce a was a formal handling of language which tested the skill and creftsmanshipcl the poet, and iI was to, be appreciated fo.r the poetic life kindled within it, not for its autobiog:raphic.al revelations. ~Sincerjt}'~ in art does not mean autobtographlca] accuracy, but a fuU

178
creates

SPENSER

....ND .I:I[S T[ME

119

and subtle exploitation of the artist's medium so that tbe poem as it I])DVeSits own world ef experience. Thatworld, of course, does have reference to and does: illurnlnate the real world of human experience, but not necessarily through a direct projection of the poet's autobiography. We. should bear these obvious plJi1its in mind when we read the Elizabethan sonnet sequences, whether Spenser's, SIdney's, Daniel's, Drayton's, or Shakespeare's .. The eighty-nine sonnets thai make up the Amorett/. move with a limpid flow and show a remarkably consistent level of craftsmanship. though they never rise to some overwhelming moment like Drayton's famous "Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part," Sidney's "Leave me, 0 love which reaehest but to dust," or some of Shakespeare's. There are, naturally, many echoes of Petrareh, and some of Tasso, Bonsard, Desportes, and others. The usual, though not invariable, rhyme-scheme is ababbcbccdcdee, with the first twelve lines deftly linked by rhyme and movement and separated from the final couplet. The best known of the sonnets of (he AtnorcW is a fair sample of the controlled How Spenser achieves i:n. these poems:
ODe day! wrote her name upon !:be mand. But came the waves" and washed it away, Again I wrote It witb II second hand •• But came tl1e tide and made my pains his prey. \fain man, said she. I_hat-do.sf tn vain assay A mortal thing sO to immortalize, For I myseH slil:8Ulike to this decay, And el!.e my name be wi~. out likewise, Not so, (quoth .11let base; things devise To die in dust, but ~'Ou shall Jive by ~,a.rne; My versa you r virtues nile shan eternize, And In th e heavens wri te your glonccs name. 1NJlere, wheuaa dealn she 11al1 tile world SIl bdue, Om love shall live, and lLlter llferenew.

happily, and most originally when he came to express one of the supreme moments of his own life .. The elaborate verse paragraph derives from the Italian Cl.l1IWne, but the handling of the melody, the use of the retrain, the adaptation of a lyrical poem to a narrative structure, the blending of descriptive details with tile celebratory mood, the mingling of elements from Catullus, from Chaucer's Parlwment of Fowls, from Irish ~etting, English fondore'. and hom classical traditio!), shows original poetic genius in ecntrol of its richly diversified materials to a degree that English poetry had not y.et seen. The architectonic quality both of the individual stanza and of the poem as a whole is remarkable, and the dliming refrain subtly varied yet sufficiently the same to bind the poem 'together with its Incantatory repetition is something to marvel at. Here Is the New Poetry reaching to heights of complex I}'rical expression that were not before possible in English. The narrative basis is Simply the story of the wedding day: fir.st the poet's announcement 01 his; subject, then an account of the preparation for the wedding and the bidding of the gUESts, then a summons h) I:he nymphs of the local woods, streams, and mountalns to bring garlru:lds for the bride and s!ng her praise, then dawn and the awakening of the bride. With the bride's appenance the verse takes on a new richness and a new excitement: her progress is described in Language that echoes the Psalms:
Lo where she comes along with portly pace, UII.e Phoebe from her chamber of the East.• lI.rising forth 10 run her mighty race, Clad all in white, Ihal 'seems R virgin best. So well i~her beseems ~hat ye 'Iwuldl ween Som.e Olll,gel she had been. Her long Joose ye 110wleeks like goldenw~e, Sprinkled with pearl. and pearling tlc.wen atween, Do like EI golden rnande her attire, And, being crown&! wilh a glrland green, Seem like some maiden Queen. Her modest eves, abashed 10 behold So many gaze:.-s as on her do stare, Upon the low'l)' ground n£lhed are. Ne dare lifl up her couruenanee 100 bold. But bllllsh to hear neT praises sung so loud. Sofa.r from being proud. Nnthless do ye still loud her prnises sing. Thai all the woods m.1Y answer and your echoring.

The "Epiilialamim:t is an ahogether more remarkable piece of work, and one of Spenser's highest achievements. This celebration of his own wedding (which took place in Ireland. probabl), in 1594) roused all Spenser's genius for enriching and trans.llguring bare fact by p.oetic imagina.tion and by the appropriate use of imagery and of rhythms. Convention and personal feeling here findtheill' perfect meeting, and it is testimony to the way In which the whole tradmon of European poetry had become part of Spenser's very personality that he should exploit that tradition most fully, mast

180

SPENSER AND

ms

TIME

SPENSER AND H[S TUfB

lSI

The' bride's beauty, both. physical and spiritual" is now prats-ed, and by this, time tile weddrng precession has reached the church" and the bride enters to the sound !If the organ:
Open the temple gales unto my love, Open them wide that she may emte. in, .

0'1' )'oW' lcve's

Deth lead 'unto y09l' lo"el"S·blissful bower, Jo)' m8JYYOIli have a 00 gende heart's conteut
couplement,

A11d leI, faiT Venus, 1:h3't is queen of Jove, With her bend-q u:el,lmg 5'01'1, upon yO\l smile.
Whore smile, they

say,

~a'th vil1t:ue: tl) remove

There follow the ceremony. the homecoming, the end of day-

t~e poet longing for

AlIlO1'e's dislike, and friendship's .Faulty guile


Fat' ever to' assoil, Let endless 'peace yGU~'sle'lldrasl hearts aeeerd, Ami blessed plenly wait upon)"Om board, A!!Idlet )'Sur bed with p'leaswres chaste abound. That f:nuitfml issue may 10' you .ilfford, Wh i~hrn'Ely )I'C\I:r foes 'C>I!Infaund. And ma,ke your joys redound, Upon your bridal day. wbieb is I'IOt long:

AM Wlbfltl will this lung we~ryd:ly have end,


And letid me leave 10 ceraeunte my IDve? How s!owly do the hours !heir numbers spend! How slawly does sad 'lime his !eathefli rnovel Haste Ih~, 0 fairest planet; to thy home, Within the Western loom ..•.

Sweet, Thames.mn

.so£tiy, till I end my,s;.ong.

The bnde'sattendants are dismissed" nigbt descends, and the poet invokes pea:ce and blessing O~I Ills bride'. The moon ri!l:s :and looks ~ a~ ~I'he window, and she 100 is. invoked '10 bless the marriage; ]Lmo and Ceniusare asked to g:u,nt the blessing of fruitftllness, and the po~m ends on a note of calm yet eloquent benediction, with a seven-line coda in which the poet commends Ilis: so'ng to his love. This' is poetic celebration carried as far as It can ~o:it is Spenser a~ the ... ry height of its genius. Only quotatfon 0.£ the whole poem e could demonstrate to those who are not familiar with it its' extraordinary artistry, for each pad gaIns immensely by contributing tOI the tot~1 movement, Not quite so rich, but equally bI"iIlialll in imagery and movement, is the "Prothalarmoo," a wedding poem written for the double wedding or Lady Elizabeth and Lady Cntherme Somer. set, daughters of the Earl of Worcester, 10 Hemy Cuilfurd and Wi,l· linrn Petre ill 159ft Here again we have the massrve and musical stanza with its concluding refrain CSweet Thames" run softly" till I end! my liong"), the adroitly varied Iine lellg1bs, the movement f:om a hushed pictu.re of early morning by the Thames to the ceremomous entry of the two swans who symbolize the two bri,degrooms. The "Prcthalamjon" is more deliberately styli.zed thall the "Epithalamion"; it has a tapestry quality, an almost heraldic lorne; yet the per· sonal note is effectively blended with ~his, and, tnH~ poet himself is the ...i....idly presented observer of the ceremonious sc:ene~The benedic!ioTI prononnced all the 5!NilIJ1IS by one of the nymphs has R. grave stateliness unsurpassed in English poehy:
Ye g,enlie bmls, tlJe ",mid's £a.irornament, And heaven's glory, whom thi~ h:lp'P1 huur

In 15'96 Spenser pubHsbed his F01'lr Hymm, the .fhst two, in honor of Love aed of Beauty. being early works, and the laner hila., in honor DE Heavenly Love and of Heavenly Beauty, be'ing written much later. These hymns have been a favorite study of those interested in tile Illfiuence of Platontsm en Spenser, for they reflect that in:$LiIence more e'Kplicitly and consistently thal1l any other of, his shorter p!)ems; ~hey are nat otherwise of any great mrerest, for, while displaying Spenser's usual control over his medium a:ndrisil1p; occasionaHy to a Bne rhetorical eloquence, they do not exhibit allY new powers or outstanding poeticqu:dities. The renewed il1len'st ill Plato during ~he Beaaissance fs a eommonplace of nlntellectu""l history; Spenser had met it fit Cambridge find he had met it, too, in the works of the Italian neo-Platorusrs, in Ciordano Bruno's treatise Oil love, Degli Heroici Furori,in Marsilio Ficino's Latin tTa!lsi.sHnn of Plato, his treatise on Plato's doetnne of immortality" and his commentary on Plato's Symposilllll, in Casli'g~.ione's essay on the perfect eenrtier, J1 Cortegicmo, translatedintQ En~lish by Sir Thomas Hoby in ]561, and in many other works, The' Platnnlc doerrtne that one ascends Irem a sped'fie emhodirnent of heallty to a eontemplatlen ,of the ldea of beauty as an end in itseU, this idea !being divine and I[S eontemplation beil'lg 81"eligiolls activity, was elahorated by the Italian Platonists in a 'variety of ways. It was also often graft.ed on to the medieval notien of courtly love fio \'I'hich at First Sight it appears so antithetical (for 110 medieval courtly lo v er would have considered it proper to move from contemplation of his rnistTess,'~ beauty to contemplation af beauty in others and then cf beauty m the abstract). Medieval courtly love, Platonism, and Cbrlstiani.ty were blended .in

182

SPENSER AND IItS T1M'E

SPENSER

AND HIS TIME

183

many interesting ways by Renaissance writers, and Spenser's combination of Protestant idealism, Platonism, and native amorousness represented hi$ own version of a synthesis common enougb in)lls day. In the "Hymn in Honour of Love" Spenser takes numerous ideas f!'Om the SympoS'iurn, the PhaedTlJs, and from the Italian nee-Platonists to present an account of the importance and significance of love, Its loftiness and exalting capacity, the difference between true love and mere lust, and the necessarily IOrlgand arduous road to the enjoyment of true love. Similarly, in the "Hymn in Honour of Beauty" he celebrates true beauty, which is more than surface appearance, hu~ the physical reflection of something much more profound and universal, In !:heIormer poem. be declares:
For Love is lard of truth and layalty, Lifting himself out of the lowly dust On golden plumes up 10 the purest 5ky Above the reach loathly, sini'ullu.st Whose base affect through cowardly dis!rust Of his weak wings date not to heaven fly, But like a moldwarp in the earth doth lie.

fest by the career on earth of Christ, and of the beauty and wis:dom of God which illifinitdy transcends anything visible on earth. Calvin's institutes and the Hebrew Wis<llom literature are influences here alongside more obvious Christian sources and the' Italian nee-Plato'!'lists, and the tone is far ham Platonic ill spite of Platonic echoes. These poems illustrate how literary and intellectual fashions aHected Spenser's style and subject matter, bu! Spenser's genius was not for explicitly philooopbicalpoetry, and the hymns are of more interest to the student of Renaissance thought than 10 the historian of Eng-

lish poetry.

or

And in the latter:


So every sp!l:it, as it is mcst pure, And n:ll:h in it the moreef heavenly light, So it the Fa.irer doth prOC'LDre To habit in" and it more fairly dight With cheerful gmceand amiable sight. For 01 the 5,oU] the body IOmJ dnth take: For rou~ is form and doth the body make,

¥r

Of Spenser's toying with the idea 0'£ writing English verse in classical quanlita.lh'e measure instead oJ in tradittenal English metrical forms, all that need be said is that this interest iill the possibilities of wrihflg classical verse in English was an inevitable part of Humanist enthusiasm for the classics and for imitating tbe achievements of classical literature; Spenser's letters to Gabriel Harvey show the two writers e1(chal1ging views and experiments which had no effect on Spenser's poetic achievement. The sllsp'icion of rhyme as a barbarous nonclassical invention was another phase of the same Humanist anitude, ..... hieh had more fmitfLlI results than the interest ln classlcs] measures for it led to blank verse and, in particular, led Milton to choose blank verse fOI his Paradise Lost. But Spenser needed rhyme, which he handled more richly and musically than any other English poet, and hLS classiciz.ing was a brief and transient phase oJ Ws poetic
career.

Beside. this we mi~,ht put the foHowing passage from Hoby's translalion of Castiglione:
say that benuty .cometh of God and is like a circle, the. goodness whereof Ihe centre. And therefore, as there can be no circle without a centre, no more can be~oty he without goodness. Whereupon doth very seldom an ill soul ilwe~1 in a beautiful 00i1:-,. Ami therefore is the' outwaril beaut)' Q true .slgn of the inward gooc:lnes~, and in bodies this eomeliness is imprinlted more or less, as it were. Ior a. mark or t.lle soul. wherebv she is outwardlv known: as in trees, in which the beauty of the buds giveth a ielitimony of !he goodness the huiL
IS

.r

or

In the hymns of Heavenly Love and Heavenly implicitly repudiates the Platonic notion of the regret for his earlier celebrations of earthly love speaks in a. specifical1y Christian. manner of divine

Beauty, Spenser [ad dec, expresses and beauty, and love made manl-

AU Spenser's earlier poetry is in a sense but preparation and exercise for his unfinished epic, The Faerie Qu.eel1e, one of tile few great inclusive atlempts made by an English poet to bring ~ogerher in one rich pattern all the various strands or civilization with which he was acquainted. Drawing on the medieval allegorical tradition in both its secularand relig.iol!Jsforms, on medieval romance, classical epic, Aristotelian ethics, Plato and Italian neo-Platonism, Renaissance Humanism. Protestant idealism, Malory. the Ualiao epic, English tory, geography and folklore, Elizabethan patriotism and political thougbt, and almost every current of European thought and expression aad convention which had reached the sixteenth century, he constructed his comprehensive poetic vision of la condition Jmmaine as it was, in a context of ideal suggestion olf what it should be. His immediate. model was }\riosto's Orumd.o Furies-a, which, as be told Cabriel Harvey, be hoped to "avergo," though llis tone is quite diJferen.t hom Ariosto's and he lacks the Italian's comic exuberance and 9stonishiOig fertility of ]jve~y invention. The Italian epic provided the m.l'lhlJnto which he callid pour his serious and complex vision: i

rus-

L-

1.84

SPENSER, AND HIS TlME

SPENSIER AND IUS TIME

185

the vision itself was Spenser's own" for all his use of older traditions. Sm?en.ser rote a letter to Sir Walter Ralegh (pli'dixedw the edition w of 1590) "expounding his whole illl~ention in the course (If this work," in which he declaFed that "the general end . . . of the book is to fashion a gentleman or noble peursoll in virtuous a.nd gentle discipline." He pointed out that he had le,amed from Homer, Virgil, Ariosto, and Tasso, "by example of which excellent Poets J !abou~ to [portray In Arthum-, before he was King. the image of iii brave 1m, ight, perfected in the twelve private mOJal virtues, as Aristotle hath devised, the which is the ptupose cE these Ilirsl twelve books, which i,1I find to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encouraged to frame the other part of politic virtues in his person, after that he carne to the kjng." The letter continued:

an

In that Faery Queen I mean glory tn my general intention, but in my par· fiC'UlarJ conceive the most excenent and g,lorious person of our soveraine the Queen, and her kingd.om ill Faery land. And yet in some places else I do otherwise shadow lI.er. For oonsiaenng she bearetn two rpe.nons, the one of a mBSt 1i'O)'ill Uleen or Empress, the other 00: a most virtuous and beautiful Lady. this Q Jailer pact in some pla~ I do express ill Belpheebe, . _ So in the pel"5,o1l of Prince NithlU I sEit forth m:agnilirell,re (!he Alistoletian megillopsychiil> maglWolmi1a.a; greatness of scull in pameulali', which virtue .for thaI (lI~rilin~ ~ Aristotle and the rest) it Is the perfection of a.Uthe rest, and oo:ntamel~ In! It Ilbem ill, therefore in the whole course I mention the deeds Il:f Arthur IIPFb~able 10 tLal ,<i.rtue which If write or in that book. But of the xu other virtues I make :Ii.! other knigbls the patrons, for the more variety of the history, 01 which these 'three hooks [i.e., the first three books, published in J!590J contain Ihree. the firsl of the knight of ~e Redcross, in whom I express;Holiness; the SIlCo'nd Sir Cuyon, in whom J set forth Temperance; the third of Britomartis, of a lady knight, runwhom. picture Chastity.

six. The first three were published in 1500, and books four. five, and six in 1596_ In 1609, ten years after Spenser's death, a folio edition was published containing the Eirst six books and at bagment of book VII entitled "Two Cantos of Mutability." The Faerie Queene is thus very far from complete, a mere fragment of an epic. And in a work. of such complex design incompleteness Is bound to present difficulties of 1I1lderstaildillg and interpretadon, Nevertheless, (he work as we have it is noble and i:mpressive, more than long enough to enable us to assess its quality and Significance-long ,enough, indeed, to have frightened off geoerattcns of readers who have been content to judge the work by brief exrracts or merely by replltation. It remains one of the great poems of tbe English language; but its greatness is of a rather special kind_ The notion that The Faerie Queene consists of an endless series of pictorial stanzas, each slow moving and musrcal, with an optional alleg.p.rica~ signrn.ca.nce which aI] readers since Spenser's time have preferred to ignore, is still common enough to require ~orrectjng. The surface of the epic consists, as Professor C. S. UWlS has well put it, of "Interlocked stories of cbivalrous adventure in a world of marvels," and it is this surface whieh it shares 'N'ith the Italian epic, The background is an indeterminate world of plains, woods, castles, dens, islands, and shores. a deliberate dream world through which we watch the characters moveAnd faIth th,ey pass, with pleasure forward led. ' . • So lo,riththey passed, and alllhe way they spent Discoursing of her d:readIullate distress •. _ . So forth he Eared,
3S

now befell, on root, .•. pair, •.•

He goes 00 to explain that he begins It! medias res in proper epic fashion, and since only theee books are here presented he had better explain what. has happened before· the events there narrated. (an C'![,-' pllll'latiom whleh be intended, again in pf«}per epie fashion, to uno' fold in at suitable retrospect in a later book). ''The beginning. ,• of my .l'iistory, if it were to be told by an Historiographer, should be the twelfth book, which is the last, where I devtse that the Faery Queen kept her annual feast xiI days, upon which xii several days the occasions of the xii several adventures happened. which beillg undertaken by. xii severalh. ights are in these xii books severally handled and discoursed," And 'he goes 011 to give a. brief account of how the adventures of the Redcross KlIlight. of Sir Guyon, and of ,BrltOO1art first started. Alld "ll19.JllIy oilier adventures are intermeddled, but rather as accidents than intendments." Of' !he total plan 01 twenty-foul books" Spenser on[y completed

SQ forth they pus. a weD consorted

So Iereh they row&i, amd !bat Ferryman

Witb h,is.sti£l! oars djd brush !:hesea so 5 trang. • . •


So as they travelled, 10 lhey gao e.spy An :url'lllooJcmghl toward them gallop fast, . . ..

Thus as she hel" recornfcrted, she spied Where Iar away one all in armour bright
With hasty gallop towards her did ride; ...

'We wa~ch, as it were in a trance, as characters approach and recede across this magic landscape. The very opening of the first canto of Book Lstrikes the note of 0 bserved adve IIIture:
A Celli tle Knigh! was pricking Or! the plain. :Y'-cI:1d in mighty a,rm; and silver shield,

mB6

S.PENSER

AND HIS TIME

SPENSER

"'NO IUS TIME

187

Whereim oM dints af deep wounds did remain, The cruel, marks of mnny a bloody field; Yet nrms till that 'time never did he wield. His angry steed did chide his foaming M, As much disdaining to the curb to yield. Full }olly kllighl he, seemed, "nil fair did sit, As one for knightl)' jousts and Beree enecunters Jit.

Ye!: the poem is not a sequence of pictorial scenes, each, with its moral and religious and political allegorical signjDc8llce. The sllifts, in tone and tempo, the range from homely realism ~o liturgical solemnity or spiritual exaltation, the deliberate alterations ill perspective and in levels of prllbability, and above all the flexibility of the allef!.ory which mutates from simple pem-sonillcation to oblique suggestion in accordance with the needs of the narrative, the interest of the characters and the degree to which the poet is approaching or OIIovmg away from a climactic moment in the unfolding of his complex ethieo-religious meaning-all this gives the poem variety and liveliness and! preveots that aimless drowsiness which somehow so many people have come to associate "",jth Spenser. Thus in Book I the Bedcross Knight, who is Holiness, accompanied by Una. who is Truth, becomes rnvolved in Il. series of adventures which suggest (a.t a variety G'f levels) how man's pursuit of hoI mess can be hindered hy error, hypocrfsy, false devotion, and so on .. At the same time the Redcross Knight ls also Everyman, facing the ordinary temptations of this world, and needing the help of Grace (Prince Arthur) as well as Truth in order to lead the good life and attain holiness. The Redcross Knight both represents a quality (hohness) and represents man in search of that quality, (Spenseris also talk~ng about religtous conditioru in England, puttin~ the Protestant against the Catholic view of the good life. and bril1gIng ill many centemporary references. But this is unimportant.) The adventures, as well as having me'aning on these levels, also have their owninterest and toek O'WJII ethical sugg,esUveness, just as the incidental characters mayor may not have human qualities which enrich the story psychologically and etbically as well as their more formal allegorical significance, whic" agaiml may vary in its degree of 'literalness. The monster Error, which the Hedcross Knight slays. is described as "most loathsome, filthy, Foul an.d full of vile disdain," prolific of her poisoeeus young, and, ~n t.he midst of the 'ght, vomiting forth books and papers together WIth lumps of foul fleshand "loathly frogs and loads." The description is vigorous, skillful, and thoroughly "Spenserian" in the popular sense: the allegory is simple 00 the pOint of childishness. Then Spenser goes 0111 to describe how the knigJ;t was harassed by the monster's "cursed spawn~:

The same so sore 31l1i0yM has the IlIlIight. That wellnigh choked with the deadly stink His forces fil.il. he can no longer 6ght. Whose courage ..... the flene! perceived, to shrink hen, She pounld forth out III her I1rl.lis'h sink Her fru!tful eu ~d spawn of serpen Is smaU, DerormM rnonscers, foul and black as ink, Which SW'anning all about his legs djd crawl, And him encumbered sere, but CO'Uldnot hurt at a]l.

This is vigorous and effective; both Ule literal and the allegorical meanings are perfectly clear. But the next stanza changes the tone:
As gentle Shepherd in sweet eventide When ruddy Phoebus gins 10 welk in west, High on an hill, his Sock 10 viewen wide, Marks which do bite their has!), supper best. A cloud of cumbrous gnats do him molest, striving to jn£ix theiT I":e-eblestings, Th",t from their lloyamce he nowhere can rest, But wilEDhis d"wnisb hands their tender wing5 He brusherh oft. and ort doth mar their mcrmurings.

[welk. 'ilJde]

An

The background of pastoral lire introduced here ill the simile is remmiscent of some of Milt-on's similes in Paradise Lost, wherehe provides relief from the acrid atmosphere of he~1by a simile which invokes one of the simpler and more elemental activities of men in the £elds 011' on the sea. The sudden and brief metamorphosis of the Redcross Knight battli.llg with a cursed spawn of serpents lntoa shepherd brusbing off the Innocent but annoying ~at.s: brings: ill a more normal human world and establishes, as it were, a middle term bet,ween the world of ,c'hiva'!:ric action on the one hand and the world of ethical and religious ideals on the other. Because it is introduced as a simile it does not interrupt Oli spoil the Force of the i.ncident; but it humanizes it, and reminds us of the everyday WQ;!d in which our ethical problems are to be encountered and solved, This is 3. fairly obvious example of a shift. in tone in The Faerie Queene. Spenser can shift tluough a much wider range of tones, SHU conflningourselves to Book I, we call pick out ill a short space iii great variety of kinds of expression. There is the note of romantic adveature pme and simple:
At Ingl:h Ilhey chaoced 10 meet upon l:heir wily A.D aged Sire, i~ long black weelh ydad.

.SPENs:lU\

AND H:JS1"lMS

SPENSER

AND

ars

T1MlI!:

189

There is the pastoral: A ImJ!e 10..... Hermnage. it was, ly Downtn a dale, hud by a forest's side. There is the popular satirical:
He told of Sain'!:s and Pares, and evermore He strewed an A'De Mary after and before.

WlilO<Slenlse fO'LInd"tion f
With dreadful

Wave5

ha'll£WMbed away,

poise is from ll1e mainland dft And. roll ing down, &weill. Neptune do!:h dismay, So down he' fen, and !.ike a,tI hl'lIped meuntain lay.

This is formal and stylized. But after this eemss:


And after, al the rascal ""any ran, HeapM logetheI i'lll rude rabblement,

There is the mythQlogical-romantic~


There Tethys. his wet: bed
Doth ever wash, and Cyn~bia still dmh sleep

In s~lverdew his ever-drooping head, While sad Night. over him her nillinlle Mac:k ,dalb, 5p:L'ead.

To see the faee oE that victorious 1!I1!3f.1, Whom all admired, ;1$ from heaven sent, And glUed! upon Mlb ~piJ'lg w~nd~imt. But when Ihey C1Ime Whe'ftllbat dead Dlago~ lay, Stretehed 011 the gTlHIll.d in monstrous large utent, The sight with idle Iear did them dism a,y, Ne dU1"$1' approach him Ti~gh. 10 touch, or once assay. Scm e feared and Red; some feared HIla wen illeign.ed. One thGI would wiser seem than illlthe rest W:.roed him not touch, ror yet perhaps remafned

There Is the homely proverbial:


A dram of sweet is worth a POiWlOof sour,

There is the mOOllli.ziflg, religiolls note:


Ay me, how many perils do enfold The righteous; m&l1!l,to make him dally fam Were not" l:n(.l h e.avellly grlloe doth 'him uphold, r i!. nd steadfast trurll acquit .him aul all,

or

SGrn e ~'Dng:eriJ1g within. his bellow breast, Or in his womb might: 1\iI.~kome hidden IIest s Of many Dr.;IgQnets:, his fru ilful seed. A norher 53 [d thaJt illl h is eyes did rest Ylet spark]i ng lire., end bad thereof take heed: Allolbe.r sa:id, he S,"W hirQ, move his eyes indeed.
O[le mother,

me

There is the poetie-proverbial (but it is worth remembering that these lines are spoken to entrap the Bedcress Kmight into despair and suieide):
Sleep after toil, port ,Elffer sl.orm), seas, Ease aI!e!: war, death alter life does gJready please.

Did come

100 near

There Is the lofty chivalrie:


o goodl), golden chain, wherewith yfere The virtues Ii,mlt~ EIlte in lovely wise. Awdn®ble minds of )'u:re IIllied were

Bnlf dead And 10 her "How can Yet scratch SQ diversly White some, more bold, 10 measure him 'nigh smnd 'To pl'Ol'e how mClnyacres he did spread of laad.

when as her foolhar,dy child lind with his 'talons play. through lear be'lf l.ittl~ babe reviled ga~sipiS gao in counsel say: I tell but that his !a.lm;asmay my son or rene! his lender hand]" themselves in v.rm they fray,

In breve pursuit

or ehlvalrous

empnse,

Perhaps the most effeetive display of Spenser's range is f01.l.lld hnvard the end of Book I, when. fue is; describing the Redcross I{IlJight"s slaying Glf the dragon:
.so dllwWI he fell, Bondforth his lire did hlen'!he, That ·v '!I>nished hllo smoke and eloudes swift; So downhe fell, tbat th."earth Illin underneath
Did ,groan, ItS feebl.e so greal: load '10liFt;. So down he: .f.e1l, as sa huge l"CJd;::y eHrt,

11.1isis shrewd comic realism, very different indeed from Spenser's nigh remaatic strain, Onecould multiply examples of Spenser's, djfferenr styles indefinitely, The sudden que!>tioning with whicn. he opens the eightb canto of Book II, lor example, startles by its dilerenee hom what bas gone before:
And is there care in heave~? And i.~there love In heavenly spitils 10 these creatures base, That mll.YCtllmpassion of their evils move~ There is: else much mare wretched. were the CIlSe Of men, than beasts.