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

Notes

TO COMMENTS ON THE POEMS
The alliterative renaissance (or "revival") took place in western England in the later fourteenth century. It involved a return to--perhaps an increased interest in--the prosody of Old English verse, wherein beat is signaled in pan by alliteration: "Forst sceal freosan, fyr wudu meltan. . . ." In Middle English alliterative verse the rules are much less formal than the rules of Old English verse: indeed, almost no two writers in Middle English use exactly the same rules. Professor Larry D. Benson has recently suggested (in Art and Tradition in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight [ New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1965], pp. 117-26) that the reason for the revival of the old native meter in fourteenth-century England was that it was an ideal vehicle for the then popular "high style" of the rhetoricians. His analysis of rhetorical devices in Sir Gawain is excellent and can enrich one's reading of the Morte Arthure, Winner and Waster, Parliament of the Three Ages, and Summer Sunday--even a reading of these poems in translation.

The principles of the medieval rhetoricians are important in all of the poems brought together here, especially for Morte Arthure and The Owl and the Nightingale. For a good brief discussion of the rhetorical tradition, see Robert O. Payne, The Key of Remembrance: A Study of Chaucer's Poetics ( New Haven: published for the University of Cincinnati by the Yale University Press, 1963), pp. 9-59, and for further reading on medieval rhetoric, see Payne bibliography, pp. 233-40.

See the reviews by John Finlayson in Medium Ævum, 32 ( 1963), pp. 74-77, and J. L. N. O'Loughlin, in Review of English studies n.s. 14 ( 1963), pp. 179-82.
Among the important books are G. L. Kittredge A Study of Gawain and the Green Knight ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1916); Benson's Art and Tradition in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, cited above, and Marie Borroff Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Stylistic and Metrical Study ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962).
The selective edition is John Finlayson Morte Arthure, in York Medieval Texts ( Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press 1967). The

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Erratum vi
  • Addendum vi
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • The Alliterative Morte Arthure 1
  • Winner and Waster 115
  • The Parliament of the Three Ages 131
  • Summer Sunday 153
  • The Debate of Body and Soul 159
  • The Thrush and the Nightingale 175
  • The Owl and the Nightingale 183
  • Comments on the Poems 235
  • Notes - To Comments on the Poems 275
  • Notes - To the Poems 281
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