« ZurückWeiter »
Gloucester wrote near the close of the thirteenth century.
And reigned sixty years well through everything,
For she was best and fairest, and to haughtiness drew least.” The poem contains ten thousand lines. It will be noted, in examining the original, that rhyme and metre, in imitation of the French, has been fully adopted.
The last of the metrical chroniclers was Robert Manning, who translated from a French original. His work dates from about 1330, and, as will be seen, the language has made considerable progress toward the modern form.
“Lordynges that be now here,
If ye will listene and lere 2
1 “ Aftur Kyng Bathulf, Leir ys sone was kyng,
And regned sixti yer wel thoru alle thing,
(Cir. 1275.) 2 Learn.
The chronicle professes to give the history of England from “the tyme of Sir Noe” to the last of the Celtic kings. Religion has a prominent place in literature.
As one of the great interests of our race, it has given rise, directly and indirectly, to a vast body of writings. This is particularly true of the English people, whose history and character have led them to give much thought to ecclesiastical and religious truth. The religious condition of England during the Middle English Period is reflected in several noteworthy works. The people of England were beginning to emancipate themselves from ecclesiastical tutelage; and while holding earnestly to religion, they were not slow in recognizing errors of doctrine and immorality of life on the part of representatives of the church.
Wycliffe, who has been called the morning star of the Reformation, was connected with the University of Oxford, where his learning, ability, and integrity gave him great influence. He was strongly anti-papal in his feeling, and denied the right of the pope to interfere in temporal matters. He maintained the preeminent authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith and duty. He promulgated his doctrines in tracts, and through an itinerant ministry, whom he organized and instructed. His principal claim, however, to a place in English literature, rests upon his translation of the Bible, which was completed
MIDDLE ENGLISH OR FORMATIVE PERIOD. ·
about 1380. It is regarded as the earliest Middle English classic, and Marsh calls it “the golden book of Old English philology.” The following extract will illustrate its style: “And he spak to hem this parable, and seide, What man of you that hath an hundrith scheep, and if he hath lost oon of hem, whethir he leeueth not nynti and nyne in desert, and goith to it that perischide, til he fynde it? And whanne he hath foundun it, he ioieth, and leyith it on his schuldris; and he cometh hoom, and clepith togidir hise freendis and neighboris, and seith to hem, Be ye glad with me, for I have founde my scheep, that hadde perischid. And I seie to you, so ioye shal be in heuene on o synful man doynge penaunce, more than on nynti and nyne iuste, that have no nede to penaunce."
Wycliffe's innovating and reformatory labors were not to pass unchallenged. He was summoned before different ecclesiastical courts, and condemned in several papal bulls; but he escaped punishment through the patronage of powerful friends, who sympathized with his teachings. He died in 1384. But his body was not permitted to rest in peace. His doctrines having been condemned by the Council of Constance, his body was exhumed and burned, and the ashes scattered on the Avon. His fate has been celebrated by Wordsworth in one of his ecclesiastical sonnets :
« This deed accurst,
An important work philologically is “ Ormulum," a metrical paraphrase of those portions of the New Testament
appointed to be read in the daily service of the church, accompanied by a homily. It is named from its author, who was
“ Orrmin bi name nemmnedd."
The orthography of the poem is peculiar, as Ormin made it a rule to double the consonant after each short vowel. Its date may be fixed approximately at 1200.
In the form in which it has come down to us, it comprises about twenty thousand lines. The following passage from the dedication will serve for illustration :
“Nu, brotherr Wallterr, brotherr min
Affterr the flaeshess kinde;
Still more important, for its historical and literary value, is Langland's “The Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman,” a poem of some twenty-five hundred lines, retaining the old Saxon alliteration. It sets forth in seven
1 Through baptism.
8 Holy lore.
passus or cantos a series of visions, in which the condition of the State and the Church is clearly reflected. “ It was,” says Marsh, “a calm, allegorical exposition of the corruptions of the State, of the Church, and of social life, designed, not to rouse the people to violent resistance or bloody vengeance, but to reveal to them the true causes of the evils under which they were suffering, and to secure the reformation of those grievous abuses by a united exertion of the moral influence which generally accompanies the possession of superior physical strength." written about 1362, and attained a wide popularity, no fewer than forty-five manuscripts being still extant. The opening lines are as follows:
“In a somer seson whan soft was the sonne,
I slombred in a slepyng it sweyved' so merye.” John Gower, a contemporary and friend of Chaucer, was of noble family. In dedicating a book to him, Chaucer styled him the “moral Gower,” a term which has since adhered to his name and which indicates the prevailing purpose of his poetry. He wrote three principal poems, the “Speculum Meditantis " in French, which has been lost,
4 Wonder of enchantment.