Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose

By Kenneth Sisam | Go to book overview

XV
MISCELLANEOUS PIECES IN VERSE

Under this head are grouped a number of short poems, representing forms of composition that survive only by fortunate chance.

A is a curious little song, which has been printed from Hale MS. 135 in Modern Language Review, vol. iv, p. 236, and reconstructed by Skeat at vol. v, p. 105. For a related French poem see H. E. Sandison, The Chanson d' Aventure in M.E., 1913, p. 47.

B and C are the best-known lyrics of the important collection edited by Böddeker, Altenglische Dichtungen des MS. Harley 2253. Berlin 1878. They are literary and rather artificial in form.

D and E are minstrels' songs found, among other popular snatches, on a fly-leaf of Bodleian MS. Rawlinson D. 913, and edited by Heuser in Anglia, vol. xxx, p. 173. In E ll. 14-16 and ll. 17-19 are to be expanded on the model of ll. 7-13. For a Latin Nativity poem to this tune see R. L. Greene, Speculum, xxvii ( 1952), pp. 504 ff.

All these songs are early, and have a lightness and gaiety that become rare as the fourteenth century advances.

F is one of several English scraps (ed. Furnivall in Political,
Religious, and Love Poems
, E.E.T.S., pp. 249 ff.) that are found
scattered through the Latin text of MS. Harley 7322. Most of
the English pieces are without poetical merit, but in this one poem
the writer has attained a perfect simplicity.

G, printed in Wright and Halliwell Reliquiae Antiquae, 1845, vol. i, p. 144, has been recognized as the first of the English ballads. It is the only example before 1400 of the swift and dramatic movement, the sudden transitions, and the restrained expression, characteristic of the ballad style.

H, first printed in Reliquiae Antiquae, vol. i, p. 240, is the latest of the short pieces. With onomatopoeic effects it gives a vivid if unfriendly picture of a blacksmith's forge on a busy night.

I is a charm edited by Furnivall at p. 43 of the E.E.T.S. volume in which F appears.

-162-

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Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • The Texts xlv
  • Select Bibliography xlvi
  • I - Robert Mannyng of Brunne's Handlyng Synne Begun 1303 1
  • II - Sir Orfeo 13
  • III - Michael of Northgate's Ayenbyte of Inwyt 32
  • IV - Richard Rolle of Hampole 36
  • V - Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight About 1350-75. 43
  • VI - The Pearl 57
  • VII - The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy 68
  • VIII - Piers Plowman (1362-1400) 76
  • IX - Mandeville's Travels 94
  • Epilogue. 104
  • X - The Bruce Written in 1375 by John Barbour. 107
  • XI - John Wiclif 115
  • XII - John Gower D. 1408. 129
  • XIII - John of Trevisa's Translation of Higden's Polychronicon 1387. 145
  • XIV - Political Pieces 151
  • XV - Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse 162
  • XVI - The York Play 'Harrowing of Hell' 171
  • Xvii the Towneley Play of Noah 185
  • Notes 204
  • Appendix the English Language in the Fourteenth Century 265
  • A Middle English Vocabulary 293
  • Glossary 297
  • Index of Names. 455
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