صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

eo like short o: com, 1.4, woorde, l. 3, woorche, l. 11.

eo like long e in fête: i-beon, II. 3, 28, beo, ll. 4, 26, 28, bcoth, l. 19, i-seon, I. 18, seowen, I. 22, hcoveule, l. 27, scovene, l. 28, leovre, I. 29, freond, 1. 30.

u like ii or short i: dude, l. 2, unnut, l. 5, 2-gult, 1. 11, bath, l. 23, jor-put, 1. 25, uvele, l. 26, sulf, ll. 29, 40, sulfne, 1. 33, wulleth, 1. 34, wule, I. 39.

h like German ch: al, 1. 2.

sc like sh: scæl, 1. 21, sculen, I. 22, sccal, ll. 26, 35, scolde, l. 37.

sc like s: sclawen, l. 37.

ORRM

THE ORRMULUM

Pp. 4 f. The Orrmulum is interesting almost solely because the author was a theorist about English spelling. He devised a system of his own for representing the pronunciation as exactly as possible and carried it out with much skill and consistency throughout his long poem of 20,000 lines. As scholars are now greatly interested in learning how English was pronounced in early ages, Orrm's work is of the highest value. As ' literature, it hardly deserves consideration. It was not intended to be a poem in the modern sense. It was written in verse because verse then seemed the proper form for anything that aspired to be literature. The author merely wished to present to his countrymen an English version of the Gospels read in the services of the church throughout the year, accompanied by explanations which should make clear their whole meaning, figurative as well as literal.

It is perhaps the most tedious book in existence. This arises in large part from its excessive explicitness. Orrm is not content to express an idea simply and clearly once but must repeat it again and again; and in his anxiety that there shall be no mistake as to his meaning, instead of using pronouns to refer to matters already mentioned, he repeats at each recurrence of an object of an idea all that he has previously said about it. Although he was doubtless by nature a dull man, this peculiarity of his style seems intentional and due to his belief in the dulness of his readers; for the Dedication, addressed to his brother Walter, is free from this repetition and, though entirely lacking in charm, is simple and straightforward in style. Ilis poem seems not to have been altogether unprovoked, for it was written at the request of his brother Walter; but there is no evidence that it met with any appreciation, for the single copy that has been preserved seems to be

that written by the author himself. In spite of his dulness, however, the gentleness and amiability of Orrm and his real love of God and his fellowmen are manifest in all his work.

In his time the old system of spelling English was being abandonedl, partly because the language had changed so greatly that the spelling no longer fitted the pronunciation, and partly because most of the copyists had been trained in spelling French and had dilliculty in adapting the French system to English words. There must have been much discussion of spelling and more than one phonetic system was probably devised, but Orrm's is the only one of any individual character that has come down to us.

The verse of the Orrmulum is the septenarius, for the lines as printed are to be taken in pairs. It differs from the verse of the Poema Morale in having an iambic, or rising, rhythm and in being monotonously regular.

II. 7-10. Orrm tells us that both he and his brother Walter were Augustinian canons, that is, members of an order whose function it was to read the services of the Church. One or both of them may have been attached to the Cathedral of Lincoln; at any rate, the language of Orrm points to that district.

Pronunciation. In the Orrmulum every vowel followed by a doubled consonant in the same syllable is short; all other vowels are long; thus the first vowel in broper, l. 1, flashess, t. 2, Lernenn, 1. 20, is long; both vowels in affilerr, l. 2, Ennglissh, I. 19, wirrkenn, l. 24, are short. In & few instances there is a mark of length or of shortness (see H. 6, 7, 37, 44).

The symbol " " " has the sound of th in tkin, thank. The symbol “G” may be pronounced like y in yet, but it should be made rougher and stronger than that sound.

LAYAMON

THE BRUT

Pp. 5 ff. Layamon, the author of The Brut, was a man of much greater ability than Orrm, His work is a versified chronicle or history of Britain from the destruction of Troy to 689 A.D. It is based mainly upon a similar French poem, the Roman de Brui, by Wace; but Layamon added much from oral traditions known to him, especially about King Arthur. The merits of the poem at its best are those of a lively and picturesque narrative, rapid, simple, and vigorous, with much of the spirit of the older English epic. The versi1. 28621, Bruttes (pr. Brities), l. 28572, Brutten (pr. Britten), l. 28620; uthen (pr. to rhyme with Mod. Eng. heatheit), l. 28625.

THE ANCREN RIWLE

[ocr errors]

fication also, though not precisely that of the older epic, is thoroughly national. Rhyme occurs now and then, and may be due to French influence; but; as it is used, it gives rather the effect of the occasional rhymes in the later old English heroic poems, like the Battle of Maldon, and is probably a native development.

To us of the present day the most interesting parts of Layamon are those which deal with the story of King Lear, the coming of Hengist and Horsa, and, above all, the wars and death of King Arthur. The Brut contains about 30,000 lines and exists in two versions, one of about 1200 A.D., from which our selection is taken, and another of fifty years later, a sort of modernization made necessary by the rapid change of the language in those days.

Layamon's name is traditionally spelled with a y, but the sound originally was a voiced spirant guttural, more like g than y. Both a's are sounded like a in father. As the voiced spirant guttural does not occur in modern English, the name may be pronounced either “ La'-ga-mon" or “ La'ya-mon."

Layamon was a priest who lived at Arley on the Severn, about 20 miles west and a little south of Birmingham. His dialect was therefore very ditferent from that of Orrm.

The battle between Arthur and his traitorous son Modred is perhaps in modern times the most famous episode of Arthurian story. The exact location of this legendary battle cannot be determined. Layamon says it occurred in Cornwall at Camelford on the river Tambre. The river Tamar is still the boundary between Cornwall and Devonshire. A place called Camelford, identified with the Camelot of other forms of the Arthurian legend, still exists, but it is twenty miles from the river. It is, however, near Tintagel, which is famous in Arthurian story.

Ulker (1. 28609) is Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon. Argante is not mentioned elsewhere. Some other versions of the story tell of three queens who received Arthur; Malory gives their

P. 8. The Ancren Riwie, as its name indicates, is a treatise for the guidance and instruction of some nuns. We learn from the book itself that it was written, at their special request, for three young women of gentle birth, daughters of one father and one mother," who had forsaken the world for the life of religious contemplation and meditation.

There has been some discussion as to the author; he is thought by some to have been Richard Poore, or Le Poor, bishop successively of Chichester, Salisbury, and Durham, who was born at Tarrent, and whose heart was buried there after his death in 1237. But this view is probably incorrect, as the nunnery at Tarrent was a large one, while the women for whom this book was written lived alone. At any rate, the author was evidently a man in whom learning and no little knowledge of the world were combined with a singularly sweet simplicity, which has often been taken for naïveté. His learning appears abundantly in his familiarity with the writings of the great Church Fathers and the classical Latin authors who were known in his day; his knowledge of the world appears partly in his sagacious counsels as to the more serious temptations of a nun's life, and partly in his adaptation of courtly romantic motives to spiritual themes; while the sweet simplicity of his character is constantly and lovably revealed in the tone of all that he says - even in its sly and charming humor ---- and in his solicitude about infinite petty details, which are individually insignificant, to be sure, but mean much for the delicacy and peace of life. Of the eight parts or books into which the work is divided only two are devoted to external, material matters, the other six to the inner life; and this proportion is a true indication of the comparative values which the good counselor sets upon these things. The style, for all the learning displayed, is simple and direct, with few traces of Latin sentence structure or word order- a fact due perhaps to the nature and destination of the book no less than to the character of the author.

There are versions in French and Latin. The French seems to have been the original, and the English and Latin to have been translated from it. The impounding of stray cattle (1.9) is still practised in many country towns and villages.

names.

on

The story as told by Malory (p. 85) and by Tennyson (p. 528) should be read along with this.

Pronunciation. See the general notes pronunciation and the special remarks on Poema Morale. Note further scoort (pr. short), l. 28624, sceoven (pr. shoven), l. 28625; habbeoth (pr. hävěth), 1. 28607; sceone (pr. shayne), l. 28613, covste (pr. ayvstă), l. 28629; seotke (pr. sithihi), l. 28618; wulle (pr. willë), l. 28610, wunne (pr. winně),

KING HORN

Pp. 9 ff. This is one of the earliest and best of the metrical romances a kind of literature which then filled the place now occupied by the novel. Ancient romances, like early novels, usually begin at the beginning. In our first selection, this part of his subject has been treated with artistic brevity by the author and made essential to the story itself. The rest of the story tells how Horn and his companions were received by Ailmar, king of Westerness; how the king's daughter Rymenhild falls in love with Horn and woos him; how their love is betrayed by Fikenhild and Horn is banished; how, after seven years of adventure in Ireland, he returns just in time to rescue Rymenhild from a forced marriage, marries her himself, and immediately sets out for his own country, where he rescues his mother and avenges his father; how during this absence his old comrade Fikenhild seizes and carries off Rymenhild; and how Horn, with some of his followers, disguised as minstrels, enters the castle, kills the traitor and his men, and rewards his faithful followers.

Our second selection gives a part of the story of Rymenhild's wooing of Horn, whose royal descent is unknown to her. The return of Horn from Ireland is told in modified form in the ballad of Hind Horn (p. 83).

The narrative is full of incident, is well constructed, thoroughly motived, and told with rapidity and directness. The poem contains 1568 lines and, judging from the number of versions, was very popular.

My translation of this poem is very unsatisfactory. The original is in verses of three or four stresses; the lines of three stresses usually end in a weak syllable. It is very difficult, if not entirely impossible, to secure this effect in a long poem in modern English. In the case of this translation it could be done only by disregarding the matter and tone of the original and introducing ideas enlirely alien to the simple and almost baid narrative. But I have tried to retain the 3- or 4-stress movement throughout. The poem was not intended for reading but for recitation to a musical accompaniment. If the reader will kindly recall the manner in which he used to recite in sing-song with strong stresses,

Lit'-tle Tom'-my Tuck'-er

Sang' for his sup'-per, he will get the movement of the original and will perhaps be able to produce a passable rhythm in the lines of the translation.

NICHOLAS DE GUILDFORD (?) THE OWL AND THE NIGHTINGALE Pp. 14 ff. The Owl and the Nightingale is a work of very different character from any of the preceding. It is poetry in the modern sense of the term and deserves a very high rank when tested by the best standards of modern taste. The strife between the Owl and the Nightingale is in itself such a theme as existed by the hundred in mediaval literature. Strifes and debates, indeed, formed a special literary type, found in every language cultivated in Western Europe. There were strifes between Summer and Winter, between Youth and Age, between Water and Wine; debates as to whether a soldier or a scholar is the better lover, as to whether women are an evil or a good, as to any subject having, or seeming to have, two sides. Only a few of them rise to any considerable dignity or beauty or force. One, The Debate between the Body and the Soul, is among the most powerful religious poems of that age and is almost as impressive to-day as when it was first written, though some of its themes have since been worn threadbare. What especially distinguishes The Owl and the Nightingale is the astonishing dramatic sympathy of the author. The grief and indignation of the Owl at the failure of the world to recognize the beauty of his song are set forth with the same imaginative simplicity and candor as is the Nightingale's confidence in her own superiority. Such sympathetic imaginative power, such psychological subtlety, and such humor as are shown in this poem and in Chaucer are rare even in these days when machine-made sympathy and subtlety have been put within the reach of the least endowed. The author's name is unknown; it has been supposed to be Nicholas de Guildford, because towards the end of the poem the birds agree to leave the decision of the sirise between them to Master Nicholas of Guildford, who is described as very skilful in music. obviously Master Nicholas is more probably net the author, but some friend of his. The poer contains 1794 lines.

As King Alfred was famed for his wisdom it was natural that many proverbs should be ascribed to him. A collection of them (709 lines) is preserved from the beginning of the thirteenth century. Most of them are very good and some are picturesquely and even poetically expressed. They are published by Dr. R. Morris in An Old English Miscellany and reprinted in part, in Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English, Part I. This collection does not contain the proverb

Lat

quoted in 11. 351-352, but there may have been other collections.

poem (p. 23) and the Latin college song Ubi sunt qui ante nos In mundo fuere ?

Amadas and Idoyne (1. 67) were a pair of lovers almost as famous in the Middle Ages as Tristram and Iseult.

CURSOR MUNDI

SO

Pp. 17 f. Cursor Mundi is a versified account of biblical history from the Creation to the time of Solomon and from the birth of the Virgin Mary to her Assumption, ending with the Final Judgment. In subject-matter and in the organization of it, Cursor Mundi resembles the great dramatic cycles of the Middle Ages; much so, indeed, that it has been supposed to be the source of some of these plays. The poem is very long, about 25,000 lines, and seems to have been very widely read. The specimen given here exhibits its merits fairly and may serve to show us one of the most agreeable forms in which our ancestors received their knowledge of Bible history. The story here related is, of course, not from any of the canonical books of the Bible, but from the apocryphal gospel of Matthew.

MIDDLE ENGLISH LYRICS Pp. 21 ff. The three little Lyrics brought together here are among the best of the multitudinous lyrics of the age. Many of them have been preserved for us in manuscripts, many others are alluded to or quoted in snatches by chroniclers or writers of narrative poems, and many more must have perished entirely, either through loss of the manuscripts or because they were never written down. Enough remain to prove that the ancient fame of “Merrie England” for song was well deserved and to show that the poetical gifts of mediæval Englishmen are to be studied not in dull didactic poem or prosy rhymed chronicle, but in poems written in the spirit of free and joyous artistry. Better known than any of those given here is the charming Cuckoo-song, composed about 1250, of which the music as well as the words has come down to us. Of our selections the first and second are songs of springtime and love, and hardly require any comment, though it may be interesting to compare the second with the Earl of Surrey's treatment of the same theme on page 100. The third is an extract from a longer poem, but is a unit in itself and is one of the best lyrical expressions of a theme made famous to the Middle Ages by St. Bernard of Clairvaux and to all ages by François Villon (see Rossetti's translation of Villon's ballade, p. 629).

THOMAS DE HALES

A LUVE RON

THE AGE OF CHAUCER

Pp. 19 f. Thomas de Hales was a Franciscan friar, known to us by an affectionate message to him in a letter from the famous Adam de Marisco. It is therefore probable that the date ascribed to his poem should be about 1250. It is certain that he lived before the order of friars had been corrupted by the intrusion of designing and unscrupulous men, and while it still retained the purity and enthusiasm of its great founder. Thomas was a man of great learning, but the sweetness and passionate simplicity of this little poem are not unworthy of the fine spirit of St. Francis himself. The subject of the poem and the circumstances of its composition as given in the first stanza, it may be noted, indicate the nearness of the friars to the people, - that familiar and homely interest in all the affairs of old and young which gave them their tremendous opportunities for good and for evil in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

In the title of the poem, “Ron” (pronounced Roon) means a “charm or incantation”; it is derived from the name, rün, given to ancient Teutonic letters, which were used in magic.

The poem contains 25 stanzas. Those omitted are as good as those given here, but they develop the same theme and contain few new ideas.

With stanzas 9 and 10 compare the Ubi sunt

WILLIAM LANGLAND (?)

PIERS THE PLOWMAN

Pp. 24 ff. The poems which go under the name of Langland were, I think, the work of several distinct and very different men. One of these men wrote the Prologue and the first eight passus, or cantos, of the A-text (1800 lines) about 1362. The poem became very popular and was continued by another man who carried it on to about the middle of the twelfth passus and left it unfinished. A certain John But then finished it by a hasty and absurd account of the sudden death of the author. About 1377 another writer, equal to the first in

He sees

picturesqueness of phrasing and vividness of detail, but deficient in power of consecutive thought and constructive ability, revised the whole poem composed by the first two writers, neglecting the passus containing the death of the author. His method of revision was to leave practically unchanged what he found written but to make numerous insertions, expanding suggestions of the original, and numerous additions, developing themes untouched by the earlier writers. The work as he left it is called the B-text. Fifteen or twenty years later a man of greater learning than any of the others and of a more orderly and systematic habit of mind than the author of the B-text, but of much less poetic ability a pedant, in fact — revised the B-text, rearranging, inserting, and adding. The poem as he left it is called the C-text. The moral earnestness, the satirical power, the picturesque phrasing of the poem have long been recognized, but, until recently, when it was suggested that it was not all the work of one man, the poem was charged with vagueness, obscurity, formlessness. Now it appears that we ought to read and criticise the different parts separately; and if we do so, we find that the work of the first author (the first half of the A-text) is as clear as it is picturesque, that one need never be at a loss as to its meaning or the relation of its parts, and that its author was a man of remarkable constructive and organizing power. Confusion and uncertainty do not enter until his work has received the well-meant and powerful but. inartistic insertions and additions of others. His work may be seen in the first selection. That of the writer of the B-text is seen at its very best, and free from its usual defects, in the second selection, which constitutes his first insertion in the poem as he found it.

As a whole, the series of poems is divided into two main sections: the first called the Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman; and the second called Do-well, Do-better, and Do-best. Each section contains several visions. All are devoted to satire of the abuses reigning in all classes of society. The authors are not reformers in the sense of wishing to set forth new ideas or theories; they are conservatives, who hold that the evils of their time arise from neglect of the good ideals of the past, and who wish to restore the good conditions that existed in former times. Even the warnings addressed to the king betray no sense of conscious innovation. The figure of Piers the Plowman as the typical honest laborer the only aspect in which he appears in the A-text - made a great impression upon the minds of the

discontented peasants and their leaders, and his name and those of Do-well, Do-better, and Det best — which were emphasized later — became rallying cries for the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. In the sixteenth century Piers the Plowman was much read by the religious reformers and was regarded -- like the works of Chaucer and Widif as anti-Catholic. But the authors of the poems did not intend to attack the Church or Society, but only the abuses that had grown up in both.

The first selection (p. 24) presents a vision of “ a field full of folk," representative of the world in general with its diversified interests and occupations. It will be observed that the author does not depict the world as altogether given over to evil practices, as is sometimes stated. not only wasters but honest laborers, and not only lying and worthless palmers and pilgrims but also devout nuns and hermits, who observe the rules of religion and worship God sincerely.

The second selection (p. 28) is a fable, introduced into the Prologue abruptly and without motivation by the author of the B-text. As the whole thing is a dream, this may be artistically justified. At any rate, it is one of the most picturesque and effective pieces of writing in the whole group of poems. It is supposed to have been written in 1377 when the old king Edward III, who had fallen into the hands of evil and corrupt counsellors, was lying ill, and his successor to the throne was Richard, the eight-year old son of the Black Prince. The conservatism of the author is shown in the fact that although he shares the anger and disgust with which the Commons regard their once beloved and admired monarch, he fears the change that will come when the old cat dies and the kitten becomes ruler. It is possible, however, that the poem was written later, after the death of Edward, and that the “vld cat” is John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who was in actual control of the government for several years.

The verse of both selections is the Old English alliterative verse, modified somewhat by the changes which the language had undergone since the Conquest. For several reasons, it seems probable that the use of this verse in the fourteenth century was due, not to a revival of the old form, but to a continuation of it throughout the centuries. It is very unlikely that there was any one in the fourteenth century who could read Old English (Anglo-Saxon) verse. Popular verse of this form may have existed in the north and west of England during the preceding centuries with very little chance of being committed to writing

« السابقةمتابعة »