Medieval Latin Lyrics

Medieval Latin Lyrics

Medieval Latin Lyrics

Medieval Latin Lyrics

Excerpt

One of the main achievements of the nineteenth century was the elaboration and universal application of the principle of continuity. And yet I must confess myself sympathetic with any honest attempt to destroy this conception, particularly in my chosen field of literary history.

Originally urged by only a few scholars, as the lamented Hulme tells us in his Speculations , this arbitrary principle of continuity has spread--implicit in the popular conception of evolution--until it has attained the status of a category. We now absorb it unconsciously from an environment completely soaked in it. So we regard it, not as a principle in the light of which certain regions of fact can be conveniently ordered, but as an inevitable constituent of reality itself. And when any fact seems to contradict this conception, we are inclined to deny that the fact really exists. Thus we constantly tend to think that the discontinuities in nature are only apparent, and believe that a fuller investigation would reveal the underlying continuity.

Such shrinking from a gap or jump in nature, Hulme warns us, has developed to a degree which paralyzes any objective perception and prejudices our seeing things as they really are. For an objective view of reality we should make use both of the categories of continuity and discontinuity. Our principal concern at the present moment should be the re-establishment of that temper or disposition of mind which can look at a gap or chasm without shuddering.

Thomas Carlyle--the first great critic to write an intelligent English essay on medieval German poetry--was no believer in the theory of continuity as applied to literary expression. He did not believe that the medieval lyric grew by a series of pendu-

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