Slike strani
PDF
ePub

to

a Roman d'Alexandre is ascribed to which an imaginative historian ever THOMAS OF KENT, who is variously drew of events witnessed for the placed in the twelfth and fourteenth most part by himself. Froissart centuries. A lady Trouvère, MARIE was born at Valenciennes about DE FRANCE, flourished at the Court 1337, but his Chronicle extends over of Henry III and wrote love-songs the whole reigns of Edward III and and romances which are of con- Richard II (1326-1400). He was siderable literary importance. The also a poet, and on his last visit to Roman de la Rose, imitated by England (1396) presented his poetiChaucer, is the earliest French work cal works to Richard II. of the thirteenth century and may be said definitely to have inaugurated the allegorical spirit which fastened C.--SEMI-SAXON LITERA. itself upon English poetry during

TURE. the next three centuries. It was the work of two Trouvères from the

A.D. 1150-1250. banks of the Loire, Guillaume de The end of the Saxon Chronicle Lorris and Jehan de Meung. Other marks the close of the old Anglofavourite romances were Havelock Saxon language as well as literathe Dane, the Gest of King Horn, ture ; for the chronicler does not Bevis of Hampton, and Guy of War- throw down his pen before he has wick. Most of the authors of these begun to confuse his grammar and works were native Englishmen, al- corrupt his vocabulary with though they wrote in French, which French words. The language dies had become almost the sole vehicle out in literature, to appear again as of popular literature,

almost a new creation, the basis of The prose versions of the Ro. our English, but not at first in a mances in Norman-French were finished form. The state of tranwritten chiefly by Englishmen. The sition occupies about two centuries, most important series was formed from a time near the accession of by those of Arthur, containing the Henry II (1154) to the middle of the Roman du Saint Graal (the Holy reign of Edward III (1350), when Chalice of the Last Supper), the Chaucer rose. The compositions of Roman de Merlin, the Roman de this age can hardly be divided by Lancelot, the Quête du Saint Graal, any clear line of demarcation ; but and the Roman de la Mort Artus, the first of the two centuries, to the with a sequel in two parts, the middle of Henry IIl's reign, may Roman de Tristan (or Tristram). be conveniently assigned to the The chief writer was Walter Map Semi-Saxon period, the second to (already mentioned); but the Roman the Old English. The writers in du Saint Graal and the Roman de both dialects were for the most part Herlin were written by ROBERT DE translators and imitators of the BORRON, the Tristan by a fictitious Norman poets; and their works LUCAS DE GAST, and the continua- may be assigned to the four heads tion of the Tristan, known as Gyron under which we have classed Norle Courtois, by HELIE DE BORRON. man work. There are, however, a

These Romances were collected few more original fragments, such and digested by the excellent knight as the Song of Canute, as he rowed SIR THOMAS MALORY, who lived past Ely, recorded by the monk of during the reign of Edward IV, in Ely, who wrote about 1166, or the the popular romance of Le Morte Hymn of St. GODRIC (d. 1970). Arthur, now so easily accessible to But three chief works may be chosen all readers.

as most characteristic of the lanExcepting some versions of por- guage of the Semi-Saxon period. tions of Holy Scripture, these are (1.) LAYAMON'S Brut or Chron. the only important works in Anglo- icle of Britain, of which there are Norman prose, until we come to the two texts, one much earlier than the grand Chronicle of Sire JEHAN other. The title of the “ English FROISSART, the liveliest picture | Ennius," formerly applied to Robert ENG. LIT.

D

uses

of Gloucester, may now be fairly | Layamon's verse beyond comparison transferred to Layamon. He tells the most lofty and animated in its us that he was a priest of Ernley, style, at every moment reminding the near Redstone, on the Severn (cer. | reader of the splendid phraseology tainly Areley Regis, near Bewdley), of Anglo-Saxon verse. It may also and that he compiled his work partly be added that the colloquial char. from a book in English by St. Bede-acter of much of the work renders it which can only mean Alfred's trans- peculiarly valuable as a monument lation of the Historia Ecclesiastica, of the language, since it serves to partly from one in Latin by Saints convey to us, in all probability, the Albin and Austin, and partly from current speech of the writer's time." one made by a French clerk named His verse also retains the alliterative Wace, and presented to Eleanor, structure of the Anglo-Saxon poetry, queen of Henry II. He seems, mingled with and predominating however, to have followed Bede only over the rhymed couplets of the in the story of St. Gregory and the French. Besides alliteration, which English slaves at Rome ; his second consists in the sameness of initial authority appears to be but a con- consonants, Layamon

the fused reference to the Latin text of kindred device of assonance, that the Historia Ecclesiastica ; and his is, the concurrence of syllables work was really founded upon the containing the same vowel. The Brut of Wace, which has been rhyming couplets are founded (as already noticed. This he amplified | Dr. Guest has shown in his History from 15.300 lines to 32,250, partly of English Rhythms) on the Angloby paraphrasing, partly by inserting Saxon rhythms of 4, 5, 6, or 7 speeches and other compositions, accents, those of 5 and 6 being the such as the Dream of Arthur, which most frequent. Sir F. Madden, show much imaginative power, and in his edition of the Brut (Society partly by the addition of many le- of Antiquaries, 3 vols., 1847), fully gends, from Welsh and other sources, discusses the important bearing of not used by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Layamon's dialect on the history and He makes several allusions to works formation of the English language. in English which are now lost. He concludes that “the dialects of The date of the completion of the the western, southern, and midland work, usually assigned to the latter counties contributed together to years of Henry II, should probably form the language of the twelfth be brought down to a date after and thirteenth centuries, and conse1200, subsequent to the accession of quently to lay the foundation of John. The style of the work bears modern English." To the historical witness to Norman influence, both student the Brut is important as the in the structure of the verse and in last and fullest form of the old Celtic the manner of the narrative, but not traditions concerning early British nearly so much as might have been history. expected from the translator of a (2.) The Ancren Riwle (the Rule French original. The earlier text of Female Anchorites, i.e. Nuns), a has not fifty words of French origin, code of precepts for the nuns of and both texts only about ninety. Tarrant Keynes in Dorset, drawn up "We find preserved," says Sir É. in prose by an unknown author about Madden, “in Layamon's poem the the end of the twelfth century or the spirit and style of the earlier Anglo- beginning of the thirteenth, and Saxon writers. No one can read | edited for the Camden Society by his description of battles without the Rev. Jas. Morton (1853), is being reminded of the Ode on also most valuable for the history Athelstan's victory at Brunanburh." of our language. Its proportion of After noticing resemblances in gram- French words is about four times mar and language, he adds, “A that of Layamon; the English is foreign scholar and poet (Grundtvig), rude, and the spelling uncouth. versed both in Anglo-Saxon and (3.) The Ormulum is so called Scandinavian literature, has found | by the author after his own name, ORM or ORMIN. It was a series | Address of the Soul to the Body, an of homilies in verse on the lessons early work, found both in the Exeter from the New Testament in the and in the Vercelli Book, printed by Church Service, and was on an im- Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1838, and mense scale. The extant portion reprinted by Mr. Singer in 1845 ; contains neary 10,000 lines (or, rather, and the Legend of si. Katharine, couplets) of fifteen syllables, differing edited by Mr. Morton for the from the "common service metre Abbotsford Club (1841). only in ending with an unaccented syllable, and entirely free from the Anglo-Saxon alliteration Apart D.-OLD ENGLISH LITERA. from the peculiar system of spelling,

TURE. treated by the author with great im

A.D. 1250-1350. portance and thoroughly deserving study, its language differs far less By the middle of the reign of than Layamon's from that of the Henry III the language finally lost present day. Its author was an those inflectional and other peculi. Augustinian canon living in the east arities which distinguish the Angloor north-east of England, and it Saxon from the English ; but it retherefore occupies a place in the tains archaisms which sufficiently Anglian literature answering to that distinguish it from the language of of the Brut in the Saxon. The infer- the present day to justify the tide of ence is that the Anglian dialect was Old English. the first to throw off the old inflec- Some regard the short proclamations. The work exists only in one tion of Henry III (1258) as the Ms. (in the Bodleian Library), which earliest monument of Old English, is thought to be the autograph ; its while others consider it Semi-Saxon, handwriting, ink, and material, seem The Surtees Psalter stands also on to assign it to the earlier part of the the line dividing the two periods, thirteenth century. The character being probably not later than 1250. of the language and the regular Among the chief literary works of rhythm of the verse, however, lead this period is the metrical Chronicle some to place it decidedly after the of ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER, from middle of the thirteenth century, and the legendary age of Brutus to the therefore in the Old English period. close of Henry III's reign. The

The versification seems to be date, is unknown, but it is certain modelled on the contemporary Latin that Robert_must have been alive poetry. The language has a small during the Barons' Wars, and the admixture of Latin ecclesiastical latter part of the chronicle is supwords, with scarcely a trace of posed to have been written after Norman-French. Mr. Marsh was 1297. The earlier part closely fol. "much disposed to believe that the lows Geoffrey of Monmouth ; but spelling of the Ormulum constitutes the old prose chronicler was far as faithful a representation of the more of a poet than his metrical oral English of its time as any one | imitator. The verse is the long line work could be at a period of great (or couplet) of fourteen syllables, confusion of speech." The work divisible into eight and six ; its was edited with Notes and a Glos movement is rough and inharmonisary by Dr. R. M. White (2 vols. ; ous. The Chronicle was printed from Oxford, 1852), and the chief features incorrect Mss. by Thomas Hearne of his edition have been retained by (2 vols. ; Oxford, 1724), and this Mr. Holt in his more modern edition edition was reprinted in London, (Clarendon Press, 1878; 2 vols.) 1810. A more modern edition is

Among other works in Semi-Saxon that of Mr. Aldis Wright (in Rolls that have been printed are the Series ; 2 vols. 1887). Short works Homily of St. Edmund, in Thorpe's attributed to Robert of Gloucester, Analecta ; the Bestiary and Pro- on the Martyrdom of St. Thomas d verbs, falsely ascribed to King Alfred, Becket and the Life of St. Brandan, in the Reliquia Antiquæ ; the were printed by the Percy Society in 1845. A collection of Lives of the two birds as to their powers of song: Saints is also attributed to this It consists of about 1800 verses in author, whose works, although of rhymed octosyllabic metre. small literary merit, are valuable for The satirical poem called The Land the light they throw on the progress of Cockayne, which Warton placed of the English language.

before Henry II's reign, is at least On a still larger scale is the metri. as late as 1300 and has been traced cal chronicle of Robert MANNYNG, to a French original. It is someor ROBERT OF BRUNNE (fl. 1288- what doubtfully ascribed, with other 1338), the last considerable work of poems, to MICHAEL OF KILDARE, the Old English period. It is in the first Irishman who wrote verses two parts. The first, adapted from in English. That the metrical RoWace's Brut, reaches to the death mances should have been translated of Cadwallader ; the second, copied from the French is a natural result from the Anglo-Norman of Peter de of the fact that French was, for some Langtoft, comes down to the death generations after the Conquest, the of Edward I (1307). The work is language of popular literature. Many evidently an imitation of Robert's of the legends were, indeed, British and is of about equal literary merit. and Anglo-Saxon; but this may be The language is a step nearer to accounted for by the affinity of the modern English, the most important Britons and Armoricans and the changes being the use of s for th close connection between kings like in the third person singular and the Edward the Confessor and their closer approach to the present forms Norman neighbours. Nor is it of the feminine personal pronoun. probable that the Trouvères would The verse is smoother than Robert have missed many of these legends. of Gloucester's. The first part is in Their poetry at first amused the the eight-syllable line of Wace; the leisure and enlivened the banquets second is partly in the same metre, of the conquerors ; but, as the two and partly in the Alexandrine, the races became one, and as the Angloheroic measure of the age. Mann- Saxon tongue died out, these lays yng was a canon of the exclusively began to be translated into the English order of Gilbertines and new-formed language of the English was a member of their chief house people. The most popular of these, at Sempringham near Bourn (or such as Havelock, Sir Tristram, Brunne, as it was then spelt). . He Sir Gawayne, William of Palerne, also wrote a moral allegory called Amis and Amiloun, Kynge Horne, Handlyng Synne, which is of great Kynge Alisaundre, and Richard literary importance.

Caur de Lion-some metrical, others Far more interesting in themselves alliterative--may be referred to the are the popular poems of this age, beginning of Edward I's reign. They which were, for the most part, trans- are followed by a series of poems lated or imitated from the French, by unknown authors, far too nuand belong to the same classes of merous to mention, down to and Romances, Fabliaux, and Satires. considerably later than the age of But there are some ballads and songs Chaucer, many of which are printed of genuine native origin as early as in the collections mentioned below, the middle of the thirteenth century. The change by which these English Such are the story of the Norfolk metrical Romances superseded the peasant-boy, Willy Grice ; the song French originals may be referred to beginning " Sumer is i-cumen in the fourteenth century. In the fif. (the oldest song to which the notes teenth their popularity, besides being are added), and many of the pieces divided with the prose Romances, (including political ballads) printed yielded, at least among the educated by Warton, Percy, Ritson, and classes, to the regular poetry of Wright.

Chaucer and his school ; but they One of the most important of ceased to be written generally only these poems is the Owl and the after the beginning of the sixteenth. Nightingale, a dispute between the l It was not until 300 years later that Sir Walter Scott revived the taste of the Roxburghe Club, the Surtees, for a kind of poetry, similar in Bannatyne, Maitland, Abbotsford, form, but appealing to very different and Camden Societies, the Society of sentiments. Among the minor Antiquaries, etc. ; Chambers, Cyclopoems, other than Romances, are pædia of English Literature ; Craik, many imitations of the French Fab. History of English Literature and liaux or Tales of Common Life. the English Language, 2 vols., 1861; The Satires, both political and eccle- Marsh, Origin and History of the siastical, undoubtedly helped the English Language, 1862. Since then progress of freedom under Henry III sources of information, especially and his successors and prepared with regard to the earlier periods, the way for Wycliffe, if they do not are become more abundant, and the rather exhibit a state of popular publications of the Early English feeling demanding such a teacher. Text Society, together with the cheap

The chief authorities for these four editions of old texts issued by the periods are : Wright, Biographia Clarendon Press, make the study of Britannica Literaria. Vol. 1.- our early literature a comparatively The Anglo-Saxon Period. London, easy task. Students will find Mr. 1842. Vol. II.The Anglo-Norman Stopford Brooke's Early English Period. London, 1846, Percy, Re- Literature up to the Days of Alfred liques of Ancient English Poetry, first (2 vols.), and his smaller book, published in 1765: Warton, History English Literature from the Begin. of English Poetry, 1774, edited by ning to the Norman Conquest (1898), W. C. Hazlitt, London, 1871; _Tyr. very valuable. Professor Ten Brink's whitt, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, History of Early English Literature with preliminary essays, 1775, also (translation published by Mr. G. Dr. Skeat's edition, 1894-7 ; Pink. | Bell, 3 vols.)

is a standard work on erton, Scottish Poems, 3 vols., 1792 ; the subject. For the medieval period, Herbert, Robert the Devylle. 1798 ; Professor Courthope's History of Ritson, Ancient Songs, 1783, and English Poetry, vol. i. (1895), is Ancient English Metrical Romances, the latest authority; and, for the 1802; George Ellis. Specimens of philosophy of the schools, Mr. RashEarly English Metrical Romances, dall's monumental Universities of 3 vols., 1805; Wright, Political Europe in the Middle Ages (2 vols. Songs of England from John to in 3; Oxford, 1895) should be con. Edward II, 1839; the publications sulted. .

« PrejšnjaNaprej »