The Alliterative Morte Arthure: The Owl and the Nightingale, and Five Other Middle English Poems in a Modernized Version

By John Gardner | Go to book overview
Save to active project

PREFACE

THIS selection of Middle English poems is not meant to be representative of Middle English poetry in general. I have chosen poems (in most cases) which have real literary value and are so hard to read in the original that they are not as well known as they deserve to be. Another control on my selection is my object of presenting the poems as poetry. I do include one patently inferior poem, The Thrush and the Nightingale, because it throws light on The Owl and the Nightingale.

The poems brought together here do reflect a variety of medieval English ways of thinking and feeling. The neglected masterpiece Morte Arthure is the only "heroic romance" in Middle English -- in other words, it is a poem in (roughly) the same genre as the French Song of Roland. Winner and Waster and The Parliament of the Three Ages are fine examples of that favorite medieval mode, the elegant, stylized debate. The lyric Summer Sunday, with its intricate repetitions of words and phrases, its close rhyming, its handsome use of traditional images, is a gem among medieval lyrics. The darker strain of medieval thought, hellfire terror, is represented here by The Debate of Body and Soul. And the lighter side of life in the Middle Ages comes alive in The Owl and the Nightingale.

Since I have modernized these poems in verse, it should go without saying that I have occasionally sacrificed literalness to preserve aesthetic qualities. For instance, in Summer Sunday, a tightly alliterated poem, I translate the phrase I warp on my wedes as "I caught up my clothes," not "I put on my clothes," which would be accurate but prosaic. I translate to wode wold I wende as "I would go to the groves in haste" not "I planned to go to the woods," a more accurate rendering but one which loses both alliteration and the excitement of the poet's opening. I frequently modernize kene, here and in other alliterative poems, as "keen," not "bold," which would be more correct. Cer

-ix-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Alliterative Morte Arthure: The Owl and the Nightingale, and Five Other Middle English Poems in a Modernized Version
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 300

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?