A Medieval Romance of Friendship: Eger and Grime

A Medieval Romance of Friendship: Eger and Grime

A Medieval Romance of Friendship: Eger and Grime

A Medieval Romance of Friendship: Eger and Grime

Excerpt

Among Middle English romances Eger and Grime is notable for many reasons. Its plot displays unusual symmetry and coherence; its style is natural and comparatively free of clichés. It has received the praise of Bishop Percy and Lowell. Particularly remarkable is the fact that we can discover so much about its history and even its prehistory.

It is unique among the English romances in that we have a record of its performance before royalty, and we know that it was not merely recited, but sung, and the tune became famous. Perhaps it was accompanied on the fiddle. The two surviving versions (one of them in Percy's famous Folio) differ widely in some parts, but accord closely in others, thus revealing a patchwork of oral tradition and of independent composition to fill the gaps in memory.

Behind these divergent oral versions which have been preserved to us there must have been an original literary composition; and it is in the dissection of its elements and in tracing them to their sources that Professor Van Duzee has done an astute piece of literary detective work. A few details of nomenclature suggest that the author of the original poem was influenced by the fashion for things Bohemian which was current in England after the marriage of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia in 1381. Though there is no mention of Arthur and his knights in the poem, it has long been recognized that certain elements in the plot showed a marked affinity to the "Matter of Britain."

Professor Van Duzee has gone much more fully into this field of investigation than earlier scholars, and has shown parallels in Diu Crone, the Didot Perceval, De Ortu Walwanii. Particularly significant is the relation to Chrétien de Troyes's . . .

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