Page images
PDF
EPUB

of John of Salisbury are thoroughly analyzed in merit, and containing interesting allusions to conthe monograph of Dr. Schaarschmidt, Leipzig, 1862. temporary history. His overstrained lament for

5. Latin Poetry was cultivated as an elegant ac- Richard's death is satirized by Chaucer even while complishment by the men of learning, as Lawrence addressing him as of Durham, Henry of Huntingdon, John of Salis

“O Gaufride, dear maister soverain." bury, John de Hauteville, and others. But a more natural, though irregular school was formed under

One of the last and best examples of the regular the influence of the minstrels, the application of

Latin poetry is the work of JOSEPIUS ISCAXUS . whose accentual system of verse to Latin, in defiance

(Joseph of Exeter, d. about A. D. 1210) De Bello of quantity, gave rise to the Leonine Verse, which

Trojano, which was so popular as to be used in was used for epigrams, satires, and also for the

schools with the classic poets. He also wrote a hymns of the Church. The term Leonine describes

Latin poem entitled Antiocheïs, on Richard's ex

pedition to Palestine. But the whole style was specifically verses rhymed as well as accentual; but both forms are common. Leonine verse was natu

doomed to extinction before a more vigorous rival

than the Leonines -- the vernacular poetry which ralized in Europe by the end of the eleventh century.

sprang up in imitation of the French minstrelsy It was applied to hymnology by St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Innocent III.; and

and it had almost disappeared by the middle of the

thirteenth century. every one is familiar with some of the finest of these hymns, as the Dies Ire and Stabat Mater.

II. The ANGLO-NORMAN FRENCII LITERA(See the Hymni Ecclesiæ, Oxon. 1838. A curious

TURE was, as already observed, chiefly in poetry, instance of its use in England is furnished by the

and the production of laymen, whether the proepitaph on Bede, the first line of which

fessional minstrels, or knights and even kings, who

deemed it a gentlemanly accomplishment to sing as “Continet hæc theca Bedæ venerabilis ossa,"

well as act the deeds of chivalry. RICHARD CEUR was transformed by later ingenuity into

DE LION (d. A. D. 1199) was the type of the latter "Continet hæc fossa Bedæ venerabilis ossa."

class; and the style he cultivated and patronized

was that of the Troubadors (sec the text). Every A further stage of license is seen in the frivolous

one knows the legend of the discovery of the place Macaronic Poetry, which abounds not only in

of his captivity by his tenson with the minstrel Latin words of the strangest formation, but in mix

Blondel, and his sirvente against his barons, comtures of different languages, as in the following example, in Latin, French, and English, belonging

posed in prison, has come down to us with a few

other fragments.* (See the great work of Rayto the early part of Edward II.'s reign (Marsh,

nouard on Provençal Poetry). But the great mass p. 247):

of the poetry which the Normans brought in was " Quant honme deit parleir, videat quæ verba lo- that of the Trouveres. It may be arranged in four

quatur, Sen covent arer, ne stultior inveniatur.

classes :- (1.) Romances, relating chiefly to these Quando quis loquitur, bote resoun reste therynne, four cycles of legends: - Charlemagne and his

Derisum patitur, ant lutel 80 shall he wynne; - Paladins, of whom the Norman minstrel Taillefer and so on. “This confusion of tongues," adds Mr. is said to have sung at Hastings; † Arthur and his Marsh, “led very naturally to the corruption of Knights, founded on the legends of Wales and Britthem all, and consequently none of them were tany; Cour de Lion, his exploits and sufferings; written or spoken as correctly as at the period when and Alexander of Macedon, the chief poem of this they were kept distinct."

cycle (the Alexandreïs, A. D. 1184) giving its name But the Leonine, as indeed also the regular verse, to the Alexandrine Verse; - (2.) The Fubliaux, or was chicfly used for satire, especially by the secular Metrical Tales of Real Life, often derived from the clergy and by laymen against the regular clergy East; - (3.) Satires, of which the Esopian fable and the vices of the age. Here is one example: was a common form, as in that tale common to “Mille annis jam peractis

Europe, Reynard the Fox; and (4.) The Bletrical Nulla fides est in pactis;

Chronicles. Of these last a most important examMel in ore, verba lactis,

ple is the Brut d'Angleterre of WACE (d. after Fel in corde, fraus in factis."

A. D. 1171), who also wrote, in French, the Roman It was employed also for all manner of light and

de Rou (Romunce of Rollo). His Brut, borrowed popular pieces. The earliest known writer in this

from Geoffrey of Monmouth, became the source of style was HILARIUS, a disciple of Abelard, and the Brut of Layamon (see below). Though this probably an Englishman, who flourished about

French poetry is of great importance in our literaA. D. 1125. A mass of such poetry, probably by

ture, as it furnished both subjects and models for various writers, is ascribed to WALTER MAPES, or

later English poets, there are few of its writers MAP, Archdeacon of Oxford under Henry II.,

whose names require special mention. We have under the general title of Confessio Goliæ, - Golias

religious and moral poems in French of a very being the type of loose livers, especially among the

early date; and the universally accomplished Robclergy. Map also wrote in regular Latin verse, and

ERT GROSSETESTE, Bishop of Lir.coln, wrote in in prose De Nugis Curialium. He was an author,

this as well as other styles. GEOFFREY DE VINtoo, in Anglo-Norman poetry and prose, chiefly on

| SAUF composed metrical chronicles in French as the legends of Arthur. Altogether he seems to have

well as Latin; and he had a rival in BENOIT DE been one of the most active minds of the age.

The regular Latin writers were up in arms against * The sirvente was a piece for one performer, the the Leonines. GEOFFREY VINSAUF, already no

tenson a duet between two.

+ There is a question, however, whether his song ticed as a chronicler, addressed to Pope Innocent was of the Paladin Roland, or of Rollo, the founder III. a regular poem, De Nova Poetria, of great of the Norman line.

ST. MAUR (A. A. D. 1180), author of the Romance, such as the Song of Canute, as he rowed past Ely, of Troy and Chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy. recorded by the monk of Ely, who wrote about GEOFFREY GAIMAR (about A. D. 1148) wrote a A. D. 1166; the Hymn of ST. GODRIC (d. A. D. Chronicle of the Anglo-Saxon Kings. THOROLD 1170), and the Prophecy, said by various chroniwas the author of the Roman de Roland, and a clers to have been set up at llere (A. D. 1189). But Roman d'Alexandre is ascribed to THOMAS OF three chief works may be chosen as most characterKENT, who is variously placed in the twelfth and istic of the language of the Semi-Saxon period. fourteenth centuries. The Roman de la Rose, imi-1 (1.) LAYAMON'S Brut, or Chronicle of Britain, of

French work of which there are two texts, one much earlier than the thirteenth century. Other favorite romances the other. The title of "the English Ennius," forwere llavelok the Dane, the Gest of King Horn, merly applied to Robert of Gloucester, may now Bevis of llampton, and Guy of Warwick. Most of fairly be transferred to Layamon. He tells us that the authors of these works were native Englishmen, he was a priest of Ernley, near Redstone, on the though they wrote in French, which had become Severn (probably Lower Arley), and that he comalmost the sole vehicle of popular literature.

piled his work partly from a book in English by The Prose Versions of the Romances in Norman St. Bede, which can only mean the translation of the French were written chiefly by Englishmen. The Historia Ecclesiastica ascribed to Alfred, partly most important series was formed by those of from one in Latin by St. Albin and Austin, and Arthur, containing the Roman de St. Graal (or partly from one made by a French clerk, named Holy Cup), the Roman de Merlin, the Roman de Wace, and presented to Eleanor, queen of Henry Lancelot, the Quête du St. Graal, and the Roman II. He seems, however, to have followed only Bede de la Mort Arthus; with a sequel, in two parts, the in the story of Pope Gregory and the English slaves Roman de Tristan (or Tristrem). The chief writer | at Rome; his second authority appears to be but a was WALTER MAPES (already mentioned); but confused reference to the Latin text of the Historia the St. Graal, Merlin, and second part of Tristan, Ecclesiastica; and his work was really founded were by ROBERT DE BARRON, and the first part of upon the Brut of Wace, already noticed. This he the Tristan by LUCES DE GAST.

amplified from 15,300 lines to 32,250, partly by paraA digest of these romances, made by Sir Thos. phrasing, partly by inserting speeches and other Malory, who was alive under Edward IV., has been compositions, such as the Dream of Arthur, which edited by Mr. Wright, from the last black-letter show much imaginative power, and partly by the edition of 1631, under the title of “La Mort d'Ar- addition of mary legends, from Welsh and other thure. The History of King Arthur and the sources not used by Geoffrey of Monmouth. He Knights of the Round Table," London, 1858. makes several allusions to works in English which

Excepting some versions of portions of Scripture, are now lost. The date of the completion of the these are the only important works in Anglo-Nor work, usually assigned to the latter years of Henry man prose, till we come to the grand Chronicle of II., should probably be brought below A. D. 1200, SIRE JEAN FROISSART, the liveliest picture which after John's accession. The style of the work bears an imaginative historian ever drew of events wit-witness to Norman influence, both in the structure nessed for the most part by himself. Froissart was of the verse and the manner of the narrative, but born at Valenciennes about A. D. 1337, but his not nearly so much es might have been expected Chronicle extends over the whole reigns of Edward from the translator of a French original. The III. and Richard II. (A. D. 1326-1400). He was earlier text has not fifty words of French origin, also a great poet, and on his last visit to England and both texts only about nincty. “We find pre(1396) he presented his poetical works to King served," says Sir F. Madden," in many passages Richard II.

of Layamon's poem the spirit and style of the earlier

Anglo-Saxon writers. No one can read his deC. - SEMI-SAXON LITERATURE. scription of battles without being reminded of the A. D. 1150-1250.

Ode on Athelstan's victory at Brunanburgh." After The end of the Saxon Chronicle marks the close noticing resemblances in grammar and languages, of the old Anglo-Saxon Language, as well as Liter- he adds, “ A foreign scholar and poet (Grundtvig), ature; for the chronicler does not throw down his versed both in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian pen before he has begun to confuse his grammar literature, has found Layamon's beyond compar. and to corrupt his vocabulary with French words. ison the most lofty and animated in its style, at The language dies out in literature, to appear again every moment reminding the reader of the splendid as almost a new creation, the basis of our English, phraseology of Anglo-Saxon verse. It may also be but not at first in a finished form. The state of added, that the colloquial character of much of the transition occupies two centuries, from about the work renders it peculiarly valuable as a monument accession of Henry II. (1154) to the middle of the ofthe language, since it serves to convey to us, in all reign of Edward III. (1350), when Chaucer rose. probability, the current speech of the writer's time." The compositions of this age can hardly be divided (Preface, pp. xxiii., xxiv.) His verse also retains by any clear line of demarcation; but the first of the alliterative structure of the Anglo-Saxon poctry, the two centuries, to the middle of Henry III.'s mingled with the rhyming couplets of the French reign, may be conveniently assigned to the Semi- the former predominating. Besides alliteration, Saxon period, the second to the Old English. The which consists in the sameness of initial consonants, writers in both dialects were for the most part Layamon uses the kindred device of assonance, translators and imitators of the Norman poets; and that is, the concurrence of syllables containing the their works may be assigned to the same four heads. same vowel. The rhyming couplets are founded There are, however, a few more original fragments, I (as Dr. Guest has shown, History of English

Rhythms, vol. ii., pp. 114 foll.) on the Anglo-Saxon | Phillipps in 1838, and reprinted by Mr. Singer, in rhythms of four, five, six, or seven accents, those 1845; and the Legend of St. Catharine, cdited by of five and six being the most frequent. The im- Mr. Morton for the Abbotsford Club, in 1841. portant bearing of Layamon's dialect on the history of the formation of the English language is fully | D.-OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE. discussed by Sir F. Madden (Preface, pp. xxv.

A. D. 1250–1350. xxviii.), who concludes that “ the dialects of the By the middle of the reign of Henry III. the lanwestern, southern, and midland counties contrib-guage finally lost those inflectional and other pecuuted together to form the language of the twelfth liarities which distinguish the Anglo-Saxon from and thirteenth centuries, and consequently to lay the English; but it retains archaisms which sufthe foundation of modern English. To the histor- ficiently distinguish it from the language of the ical student the work is important as the last and present day to justify the title of Old English. fullest form of the old Celtic traditions concerning Some regard the short proclamation of Henry early British history. (Layamon's Brut, &c., with III., in A. D. 1258, as the earliest monument of Old a Literal Translation, Notes, and a Grammatical English, while others consider it as Semi-Saxon. Glossary. By Sir Frederick Madden, K. H. Pub- It is printed and fully discussed by Marsh (Origin lished by the Soc. of Ant., 3 vols., 1847.)

and Ilistory, &c., pp. 189, foll.). The Surtees Psalter (2.) The Ancren Riwle (the Rule of Female stands also on the line dividing the two periods, Anchorites, i.e. Nuns) a code of monastic precepts, being probably not later than A. D. 1250. drawn up in prose by an unknown author, about Among the chief literary works of this period is the end of the twelfth century or beginning of the the metrical Chronicle of ROBERT OF GLOUCESthirteenth, and edited for the Camden Society by | TER, from the legendary age of Brutus to the close the Rev. James Morton, 1853, is also most valuable of Henry III.'s reign. The latter part, at all events, for the history of our language. Its proportion of must have been written after A. D. 1297. The earFrench words is about four times that of Layamon; lier part closely follows Geoffrey of Monmouth; the English is rude and the spelling uncouth. but the old prose chronicler is more truly poetical

(3.) The Ormuilun is so called by its author after than his metrical imitator. The verse is the long his own name, ORM or ORMIN. It was a series of | line (or couplet) of fourteen syllables, divisible into homilies in verse on the Lessons from the New eight and six; its movement is rough and inharTestament in the Church Service, on an immense monious. The Chronicle was printed from incorscale. The extant portion contains nearly 10,000 rect MSS., by Hearne, 2 vols. 8vo., Oxon., 1724; and lines (or rather couplets) of fifteen syllables, only l this edition was reprinted in London, 1810. Short differing from the "common service metre" by works by Robert of Gloucester, on the Martyrdom ending with an unaccented syllable, and entirely of Thomas à Becket and the Life of St. Brandan, free from the Anglo-Saxon alliteration. Apart were printed by the Percy Society in 1845. A colfrom the peculiar system of spelling, to which the lection of Lives of the Saints is also attributed to author attaches great importance, and which de this author, whose works, though of small literary serves study, its language differs far less than Laya- | merit, are valuable for the light they throw on the mon's from the English of the present day. Written progress of the English language. in the east or north-east (perhaps near Peterborough) On a still larger scale is the metrical chronicle of the Ormulum occupies in the Anglian literature a ROBERT MANNYNG, or ROBERT OF BRUNNE, the place answering to that of the Brut in the Saxon; last considerable work of the Old English period. and it tends to prove that the former dialect was It is in two parts. The first, translated from the the first to throw off the old inflections. The work Brut of Wace, reaches to the death of Cadwallader; only exists in one MS. (in the Bodleian Library), the second, from the Anglo-Norman of Peter de which is thought to be the autograph; its hand- Langtoft, comes down to the death of Edward I. writing, ink, and material, seem to assign it to the (A. D. 1307). The second part only has been pubearlier part of the thirteenth century. The charac lished, with the editions of Robert of Gloucester ter of the language, and the regular rhythm of the mentioned above. The work is evidently an imitaverse, however, lead some to place it decidedly tion of Robert's, and of about equal literary merit. after the middle of the thirteenth century, and The language is a step nearer to modern English, therefore in the Old English period.

the most important changes being the use of s for The versification seems to be modelled on the th in the third person singular, and the introduction contemporary Latin poetry. The language has a of nearly the present forins of the feminine personal small admixture of Latin ecclesiastical words, with pronoun. The verse is smoother than that of Robscarcely a trace of Norman French. “I am much ert of Gloucester. The first part is in the eightdisposed to believe," says Mr. Marsh (Origin and syllable line of Wace; the second is partly in the History, &c., p. 179), “that the spelling of the same metre, and partly in the Alexandrine, the Onnulum constitutes as faithful a representation of heroic measure of the age. the oral English of its time as any one work could far more interesting in themselves are the popular be at a period of great confusion of speech." The poems of this age, translated or imitated for the work has been edited with Notes and a Glossary, by most part from the French, and belonging to the R. M. White, D. D., 2 vols., Oxf. 1852.

same classes of Romances, Fabliaux, and Satires. Other works in Semi-Saxon that have been But there are some ballads and songs of genuine printed are the Homily of St. Edmund, in Thorpe's native origin, as early as the middle of the thirAnalecta, the bestiary and Proverbs falsely ascribed teenth century. Such are the story of the Norfolk to King Alfred, in the Reliquiæ Antiquæ, the Ad-peasant-boy, Willy Grice; the song beginning dress of the Sou to the Body, printed by Sir Thoinas “Sumer is i-cumen in," the oldest to which the notes are added, and many of the pieces (including referred to the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth political ballads) printed by Warton, Percy, Ritson, their popularity, besides being divided with the and Wright.

prose romances, yielded, at least among the educated One of the most pleasing of these poems is the classes, to the regular poetry of Chaucer and his Owl and Nightingale, a dispute between the two school; but they only ceased to be generally written birds about their powers of song, consisting of after the beginning of the sixteenth. It was not till about 1800 verses in rhymed octosyllabic metre. three hundred years later that Sir Walter Scott re

The satirical poem, called the Land of Cockayne, vived the taste for a kind of poetry, similar in form, which Warton placed before the reign of Henry II., but appealing to very different sentiments. Among is at least as late as A. D. 1300, and is clearly traced the Minor Poems, other than Romances, are many to a French original. It is somewhat doubtfully imitations of the French Fabliaux, or Tales of ascribed, with other poems, to MICHAEL OF KIL-Common Life. The Satires, both political and DAPE, the first Irishman who wrote verses in Eng- ecclesiastical, undoubtedly helped the progress of lish. It is a satire upon the monks. That the freedom under Henry II. and his successors, and Metrical Romances should have been translated prepared the way for Wicklifte, if they do not from the French, is a natural result of the fact, that rather exhibit a state of popular feeling demanding French was the language of popular literature for such a teacher. some generations after the Conquest. Many of the The chief authorities for these four periods are legends were, indeed, British and Anglo-Saxon; Wright, Biographia Britannica Literaria. Vol. I. but this may be accounted for by the affinity of the The Anglo-Saxon Period, Lond. 1842; Vol. II. Britons and Armoricans, and the close connection The Anglo-Norman Period, Lond. 1846; Percy, between the Norman and the later Anglo-Saxon Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, first published kings. Nor is it probable that the Trouvères should in 1765; Warton, History of English Poetry, 1774, have missed many of these legends. Their poetry edited by Price, 3 vols. 8vo., Lond. 1840; Tyrat first amused the leisure and enlivened the ban-whitt, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with Preliminaquets of the conquerors; but, as the two races ry Essays, 1775; Pinkerton, Scottish Poems, 3 vols. became one, and as the Anglo-Saxon tongue died | 1792; Herbert, Robert the Devylle, 1798; Ritson, out, they began to be translated into the new- Ancient Songs, and other collections; Ellis, George, formed language of the English people. The most specimens of Early English Metrical Romances, popular of these, such as Havelok, Sir Tristram, 3 vols. 8vo. 1805; Wright, Political Songs of EngSir Gawaine, Kyng Horn, King Alesaunder, and land from John to Edward II., 1839; the publicaRichard Cour de Lion, may be referred to the tions of the Roxburghe Club, the Bannatyne, beginning of Edward I.'s reign. They are fol- Maitland, Abbotsford, and Camden Societies, the lowed by a series of poems by unknown authors, Society of Antiquaries, &c.; Chambers, Cyclopædia far too numerous to mention, down to and consid- of English Literature; Craik, History of English erably below the age of Chaucer, many of which Literature and the English Language, 2 vols., 1861; are printed in the collections mentioned below. Marsh, Origin and History of the English LanThe change, by which these English Metrical guage, 1862. Romances superseded the French originals, may be

CHAPTER II.

THE AGE OF CHAUCER.

A. D. 1350 — A. D. 1400.

$ 1. The fourteenth century a great period of transition - Chaucer, the type of

his age. 2. His literary predecessors, especially GOWER. $ 3. Influence of WICLIFFE. § 4. CHAUCER: his personal history, character, and appearance. § 5. Two periods in his literary career, corresponding to the Romantic and Renaissance tendencies. The religious element: his relations to Wicliffe. $ 6. Critical survey of his works. Of the Romantic type :-(i.) Romaunt of the Rose ; (ii.) Court of Love ; (iii.) Assembly of Fowls ; (iv.) Cuckow and Nightingale ; (v.) The Flower and the Leaf ; (vi.) Chaucer's Dream ; (vii.) Boke of the Duchesse ; (viii.) House of Fame. Of the Renaissance type : (ix.) The Legende of Good Women; (x.) Troilus and Cresseide. $ 7. The CANTERBURY TALES; the Prologue and Portrait Gallery. $ 8. Plan incomplete. The existing Tales; their arrangement, metrical forms, and sources. $ 9. Critical examination of the chief Tales, in their two classes, serious and humorous. The two prose Tales. § 10. Chaucer's services to the English language.

§ 1. The fourteenth century is the most important epoch in the intellectual history of Europe. It is the point of contact between two widely-differing eras in the social, religious, and political annals of our race; the slack water between the ebb of Feudalism and Chivalry, and the “ young flood” of the Revival of Letters and the great Protestant Reformation. As in the long bright nights of the Arctic summer, the glow of the setting sun melts imperceptibly into the redness of the dawning, so do the last brilliant splendors of the feudal institutions and the chivalric literature transfuse themselves, at this momentous period, into the glories of that great intellectual movement which has given birth to modern art, letters, and science. Of this great transformation the personal career, no less than the works, of the first great English poet, CHAUCER, will furnish us with the most exact type and expression; for, like all men of the highest order of genius, he at once followed and directed the intellectual tendencies of his age, and is himself the " abstract and brief chronicle” of the spirit of his time. Dante is not more emphatically the representative of the moral, religious, and political ideas of Italy, than Chaucer of English literature. He was, indeed, an epitome of the time in which he lived; a time when chivalry, about to perish forever as a political institution, was giving forth its last and most dazzling rays, “and, like the sun, looked larger at its setting;” when the magnificent court of Edward III. had carried the splendor of that system to the height of its development; and when the victories of Sluys, of Crécy, and Poitiers, by exciting the national pride, tended to consummate the fusion into one vigorous nationality of the two elements which formed the English people and the English language. It was these triumphs that gave to the English character its

« PreviousContinue »