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has a popular purpose ;—it is ‘not for the lered (learned) but for the lowed (unlearned), and made
'- for the luf (lore] of symple menne
That strange Inglis canne not kenne [know).' Under the title of Handlyng Synne, he also produced, in 1303, a free paraphrase of the Manuel des Péchiez of a certain William of Wadington, enlivening it with numerous anecdotes frequently illus. trative of monkish morality. An extraet from Brunne's Chronicle will be found in Appendix A.* .
Other writers in English are Dan Michel of Northgate, author of a prose translation from the French, entitled the Ayenbite of Inwyt (Remorse of Conscience), 1340; Richard Rolle, styled the Hermit of Hampole (d. 1349), author of a dull Pricke of Conscience, 1340, in the Northumbrian dialect, which drags its slow length to nearly ten thousand lines; and Laurence Minot (1308-1352), to whom belongs the credit of having quitted the beaten track of translation and adaptation to follow the bent of his invention. From Minot we have eleven military ballads celebrating the victories of Edward III., from Halidon Hill (1333) to the Battle of Guisnes (1352).
The Ancren Riwle, or rule of Female Anchorites, a pious prose treatise possibly compiled (c. 1210) by Richard Poor (d. 1237), is one of several works of unknown authorship. Another, the metrical Genesis and Exodus (ante 1300), is a humble attempt to follow in the wake of Cædmon (p. 10); while in the lengthy Cursor Mundi (c. 1320) the whole history of the world is passed in review, from the Creation onward. This, therefore, has a distinct relation to our cycles of Miracle Plays. The skilful and artistic Owl and the Nightingale (c. 1250) narrates in dialogue a contest between the two birds as to their vocal merits, which they refer to Nicholas of Gullford, sometimes doubtfully held to be the author. Examples of early fabliaux (see p. 19) are found in Dame Siriz (temp. Hy. III.), which shows signs of Indian origin; in The Fox and the Wolf, our earliest 'animal' poem, prophetic of Chaucer's delightful Nun's Priest's Tale ; while the Land of Cockaygne is an allegorical satire on the luxury of the church, couched under the description of an imaginary paradise '1—that of Kitchen-land'! Many English versions of the French Metrical Romances also
# See Appendix A, Extract VIII.
belong to this period. Such translation began under Henry III., and under Edward I. and his successors it assumed vast proportions : *The English seized at random the rich treasures of French poetry, bringing forth what was valuable or worthless, ancient or modern, popular or courtly, in order to adapt it for the home public.'* The popular Arthurian cycle was extended by poems like Sir Tristrem, formerly attributed to Thomas of Erceldoune (Earlston in Kirkudbright, on the Scotch Border), called “the Rhymer;' by Ywaine and Gawin, and the later Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight. The Alexander saga, of which we saw faint indications even before the Conquest (see p. 15), now became popular in England as it was throughout Europe, and our oldest version, like that of Sir Tristrem, dates from the reign of Edward I, Of the Charlemagne cycle we have about ten romances. Richard Cour de Lion indicates a tendency to apply the extravagant romance treatment to a more .national' hero; Floris and Blanchefleur (temp. Henry III.) shows a late Greek and oriental influence due largely to the Crusades. Other poems are distinctly English or Anglo-Danish in origin, although the stories only survive in translations from the French. Such are Havelock and King Horn; while the popular Guy of Warwick, of which we have several translations, has its scene laid in the days of King Athelstan, and Bevis of Hampton in those of King Edgar. Both the latter arose early in the fourteenth century. Most of these romances are in rhyming octosyllabic metre, but that French influence did not wholly destroy the taste for our older alliterative verse is seen in two Alexander fragments, in William of Palerne or William the Werwolf (1355), as well as in the poem by Langland which is dealt with in the next chapter.
One fourteenth century poem stands apart from these AngloFrench romances. It is a rather fanciful medieval • In Memoriam,' a difficult but interesting lament of a father over the death of his two-year-old child. First edited thirty years ago by Dr. Morris, it was called by him the Pearl ; and its poetic value may be judged from the lines written by Lord Tennyson for a more recent edition:
•We lost you—for bow long a time-
# Ten Brink. Early Eng. Literature, i. p. 234-5.
+ That oi Mr. I. Golancz, 1891, published by Mr. Nutt, by whose joint permis. Riou the lines are reproduced. Mr. Golancz has added a modern rendering.
FROM CHAUCER TO SURREY.
15. PROGRESS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.-16. LANGLAND, GOWER, BARBOUR,
-17, CHAUCER, -18, MANDEVILLE, WICLIF, TREVISA.-19. OCCLEVE, LYDGATE.-20. JAMES OF SCOTLAND, -21. PECOCK, FORTESCUE. -22, THB
PASTON LETTERS.'-23. THE INTRODUCTION OF PRINTING.-24. HAWES, BARKLAY, SKELTON.-25. THE SCOTCH POETS.-26. TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE.-27. BERNERS, MORE.-28. ELYOT, LATIMER, CHEKE.-29. WYATT, SURREY.-30. EARLY DRAMATIC WRITERS.-31. BALLAD POETRY.
15. Progress of the English Language. In the preceding chapter (see p. 17, s. 9) the progress of the written vernacular tongue was traced from the Norman Conquest to the middle of the fourteenth century. During that period it had undergone what has been styled its First Great Revolution, i.e. the change of its structure by its conversion from an inflected into an un-inflected language ; and commenced its Second Great Revolution: i.e. the change of its substance by the admission into its rocabulary of numberless Norman-French words. During the period embraced in the present chapter—from the middle of the fourteenth to the middle of the sixteenth century-this second revolution proceeded with accelerated vigour. It will be remembered that a prominent cause of the further alteration in the language was the gradual disuse of French. To this a new motive was now given by the Gallic wars of Edward III. By 1350 English had taken the place of French as a medium for teaching Latin in schools; and, in 1362, it was enacted that all trials at law should henceforth be conducted in English, upon the plea that French was become unknown in the realm (est trop desconue en le dit rcalme). As the supremacy of Norman-French declined, the reviving English made amends for its long period of suppression and stagnation by recruiting and increasing its powers from the very language which, in its servitude, it bad persistently declined to assimilate. Simplified in its gram, mar, enriched in its vocabulary, it becomes henceforth more vigorous, more plastic, more fluent, and better fitted in every respect for expressing the varieties of a literary style.
That part of the second Great Revolution included in the foregoing chapter extends half way through the Middle English' period, 1200-1500. The present chapter takes us to the beginning of Modern English,' which Mr. Sweet (cf. p. 3, 1.) would place as early as 1500, while others prefer the date 1550. It embraces, we may remark, the whole of the time occupied by the growth and progress of the great English Protestant Reformation, and by another movement of no small importance to the advancement of our national literature,—the introduction into and establishment in England of the art of printing, to which, in its chronological order, a reference will hereafter be made.
16. Langland, Gower, Barbour.--As the earlier works of Chaucer belong to the latter half of the reign of Edward III., he might fairly precede the writers of this period. But before giving any account of the Father of English Poetry' (as Dryden calls him), it will be convenient to deal with the three chief poets of his dayLangland, Gower, and Barbour. This arrangement is the more justifiable in that the writings of none of them, Gower, perhaps, excepted, can be said to have been vitally influenced by the works of Chaucer. The first on the list, William Langley or Langland (1332- 1400 ?), conjectured to have been a secular priest, and a native of Cleobury Mortimer, in Shropshire, passes for the author of a remarkable allegorical poem entitled, The Vision of William concerning Fiers the Plowman, in alliteratire unrhymed metre. From internal eridence the earliest form of this poom is beliered to belong to the year 1362, and to have been partly composed by its author while wandering about the Malrern Hills. Subsequently he appears to have come to London, to a minute knowledge of which he testifies by numberless allusions. About 1377 and again about 1393, he is supposed to have re-written or re-cast his work, so that its composition extends over a number of years. It consists of several passus or sections describing a series of visions. One prologue and the first seven of these possus only refer to the vision of Piers the Plowman--the typical honest man (at times identified with the human nature of Christ), after whom the entire collection has been named. The remaining thirteen of the twenty passus deal successively with the visions of William' concerning certain abstractions or virtues named respectively Do-well, Do-bet [ter), and
Do-best.* A detailed analysis of the book is impossible in this place. But the following quotation will conrey some idea of its character and intention:- The Vision has little unity of plan, and indeed considered as a satire against many individual and not obviously connected abuses in church and state-it needed none. But its aim and purpose are one. . . It was [is] a calm, allegorical exposition of the corruptions of the state, of the church, and of social life, designed, not to rouse the people to violent resistance or bloody vengeance, but to reveal to them the true causes of the evils under which they were suffering, and to secure the reformation of those grievous abuses, by a united exertion of the moral influence which generally accompanies the possession of superior physical strength.' + The popularity of Langland's satire gave rise, about 1394, to a shorter poom (with which it is sometimes confused) levelled against the friars, and entitled Pierce the Ploughman's Crede. Nothing is known of its autbor beyond the fact that he says he wrote the Plowman's Tale, sometimes printed as Chaucer's.
The next great poetical contemporary of Chaucer, faintly (but perhaps discriminately) commended by him as 'the morall Gower,' was a poet of a different and less original stamp than the author of Piers the Plowman. Like Langland, John Gower (1325 ? 1408) also had a purpose; but its expression was impaired by the diffuseness of his style, and overpowered by his unmanageable erudition. The senior and survivor of Chaucer, he was of a knightly family in Kent, where he possessed considerable estates. Ho was well educated, where we know not, lived much in London, in close relations with the court, married at an advanced age, and was buried in St. Saviour's, Southwark, to which church, says his epitaph, he was 'a distinguished benefactor. His principal works are Balades, love-poems in the Provençal manner, preserved in a copy presented by the author to Henry IV.; the Speculum Meditantis, or Mirror of Man, written in French; the Vox Clamantis, in Latin elegiacs, and the Confessio Amantis, 1393, in English octosyllabic metre. Of the second of these, which is described by a contemporary I as seeking to teach •by a right path, the way whereby a trans. gressed sinner ought to return to the knowledge of his Creator,' no MS. is known to exist. The Vox Clamantis, to which was after.
* The Crowley' or B. text of 1377 is here referred to
† Marsh, quoted hy Skeat, Piers Plowman, II. xlix. 1886. See Morley's Eng. Writers, iv. 1889, for an analysis of the whole; also Miss K, M. Warren's prose rendering, 1895; J. J. Jusserand's study of the mystical' side of the poera, 1894; and Appendix A, Extract XI.
i Quoted in Morley, English Writers, vol. IV. p. 171, ed. 1889.