of Unknown Authorship
ANGLO-SAXON poetry is predominantly rugged, heroic, and sometimes epical, but, although a refrain or a lyric outcry occasionally breaks through, it is not lyrical. After the Norman Conquest a fresh impulse is apparent; under French influence echoes of the troubadours and jongleurs are heard in English poetry. A new mood as well as a new music stirs in the amatory and courtly songs. It is heard even in the religious lyrics, in which the spirit of asceticism is strangely crossed with a sensuous movement and a fervor which is too direct to be wholly devout. Even the unforgettable early poem to Mary (I SING OF A MAIDEN THAT IS MAKELES) is as much a tribute to the grace of woman as it is to the mother of God.
Gallantry appears for the first time in Middle English poetry; nature itself becomes romantic as the stern northern spirit is softened by the South. THE KINGIS QUAIR (literally "The King's Book"), written about 1423 by James I of Scotland, while he was a prisoner in England, is significant of the change in manner:
Worshipe, ye that lovers been, this May,
For of your bliss the kalends are begun;
And sing with us, "Away, Winter, away!
Come, Summer, come, the sweet season and sun!"
Awake, for shame! that have your heavens won,
And amorously lift up your heades all;
Thank Love, that list you to his mercy call.