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on the literary device that this was a real pilgrimage; and it thereby enables Chaucer to shift responsibility for the improper tales from himself to the characters - who are of course in reality his own creations.
P. 69. This roundel is sung by the birds of Chaucer's Parlement of Foules (Assembly of Birds) just before they fly away with the mates they have chosen for the ensuing year. The roundel is an elaborate form of light verse (vers de société) which originated in France and was much cultivated in the Middle Ages. It and the other forms similar to it died out in the fifteenth century but were revived in the nineteenth. Compare the structure of this roundel with that of the three by Swinburne, p. 643.
great landholders. An interesting account of all this is given in Carlyle's Past and Present. The rule of St. Benedict, the founder of the order (Seint Beneit, l. 173), was revised often; once by St. Maurus (1. 173), who lived some fifty years later and introduced the Benedictine order into France. The Austin of II. 187-8 was probably that St. Augustine who in 596 brought Christianity from Rome to England; he was a Benedictine monk. He should not be confused with St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (fourth century), or with the founder of the Augustinian order of friars (see footnote on l. 210). The worldliness of the monks was supposed to be shown by their fondness for sports. Pricking (1. 191) means tracking a hare by its footprints.
11. 208 ff. The orders of friars were established in the thirteenth century to carry religion among the common people, as the Salvation Army of our own day was, and the methods of work of the two organizations have a few points of resemblance. To prevent such worldliness as had grown up among the monks, it was ordered that neither the individual friar nor the house to which he belonged could hold property. They were to be like the disciples who went out to convert the world after the death of Christ. They did a great work, and became iniluential. Then ambitious men entered the order and used it to advance their personal interests, with the result that in Chaucer's day need was felt within the Church for reforming the worldliness of the friars.
P. 62. 11. 285 ff. In the Middle Ages education was the best means for an able man who lacked wealth and social influence to attain eminence and power. The Church allorded great opportunities for many, and many entered the service of the government or of powerful nobles. All educated men were called clerks, whether they went into the service of the Church or not. The Clerk of this poem is a type of the devout scholar; he was devoted to the Church and to the philosophy of Aristotle.
P. 63. ll. 331 ff. A franklin is a landholder of free, but not of noble birth. This Franklin was rich and hospitable, but not a man of education or culture.
11. 388 ff. The Shipman, though able sailor, was, like most of his craft at that time, rather disreputable — dishonest and little better than a pirate.
P. 67. Il. 725 ff. Chaucer's excuse for some of the improper stories he tells is one of the earliest bits of social or moral criticism of literature in English. It serves here two purposes: it carries
BALADE DE BON CONSEYL The balade is also a conventional form of verse with much the same history as the roundel. There should always be three stanzas (or a multiple of three) with the same rhymes in the same order, and each stanza should close with the same line, called the "refrain." Usually there is an additional stanza, called "l'envoi” or "the envoy”), which contains an address to the person for whom it was written. Chaucer's balades have a different structure from those of most later writers; cf. Rossetti's translation of Villon's Balade of Dead Ladies, p. 629.
THE COMPLEINT OF CHAUCER TO HIS
EMPTY PURSE This is also in form a balade with an envoy, It was addressed to Henry IV a few days after his accession to the throne and was immediately successful in procuring a pension for the aged poet. How serious was Chaucer's need it is hard to say, in view of the humorous tone of his Complaint.
Note the three claims which Henry has to the throne, as expressed in II. 22, 23.
A TREATISE ON THE ASTROLABE P. 70. An astrolabe (or astrolabie) is a simple instrument for taking rough observations of the positions of the heavenly bodies. Chaucer, who was much interested in astronomy and astrology, compiled a treatise on the use of this instrument for little Lcuis, who had shown ability and interest in mathematics. The Prologue to this treatise is the only bit of prose we have from Chaucer except certain translations.
JOHN DE TREVISA
P. 71. About the middle of the fourteenth century, Ralph Higden, a monk of the city of Chester, wrote in Latin a history of the world, with special regard to England, entitled Polychronicon. Thirty-five or forty years later John de Trevisa, of Cornwall, wishing to make this book accessible to those who could not read Latin, translated it into English. He included comments and additions of his own and to them he prefixed his name.
The section here given is a brief extract from the remarks of Higden and Trevisa on the languages spoken in England. These remarks show that although there was no scientific study of languages in the fourteenth century, educated men thought about the linguistic situation and had very sensible ideas concerning it. Trevisa's statements in regard to the change that occurred about the end of the first half of the century are very important for the history of literature in English (see above, p. 677). The two reformers of teaching whom Trevisa mentions seem from their names to have been Cornishmen.
nunciation, it sounded to them as rough and uncertain as their own.
There must have been very great and sudden changes in the pronunciation of English during Chaucer's lifetime, especially in regard to sounding final e. He and Gower apparently spoke and wrote the more conservative speech of the upper classes. The younger generation, to which Hoccleve and Lydgate belonged, apparently spoke very dilferently. This may have been due to the sudden rise in social position of a vast multitude of people in consequence of the general political and social movements of the age. Such people would naturally try to acquire the pronunciation of the new class into which they had risen, but because of the multitude of them their own earlier habits of speech could not fail to exercise some influence upon standard English.
But it is clear also that neither Hoccleve nor Lydgate was possessed of much intellectual fineness or artistic sensibility. Neither of them understood the spirit and aims of Chaucer's work. To them, and, sad to relate, to most men for a century to come, Chaucer's merits were not those of a great artist, a true poet, but merely those of a voluminous writer of interesting stories and songs. Doubtless they enjoyed his work more than they did Gower's, but he and Gower seemed to them to belong essentially to the same class of writers. It is not strange, therefore, that Hawes and Skelton and other writers of the age of Henry VII and Henry VIII praised Chaucer and Gower and Lydgate in the same breath and with the same note of praise. The matter was all they could understand or appreciate; and Gower and Lydgate had as much material as Chaucer, if not
In our own day the sudden addition to the reading public of a multitude of readers of uncultivated minds and undeveloped taste has resulted in a somewhat similar state of allairs. The success of a book --- that is, of one of “the best sellers”
THE END OF THE MIDDLE
depends not upon its artistic qualities or its power and beauty of thought, but solely upon its presentation of the sort of material liked by the general public. Now, as in the fifteenth century, it is not even necessary that the material should be novel; the public swallows with avidity to-day absolutely the same story that it swallowed yesterday, provided the names of the hero and the heroine are changed. A century or two hence critics will find it as hard to account for the great vogue of some of our popular novels as we find it to account for the failure of the men of the fifteenth century to distinguish Chaucer from Gower and Lydgate.
HOCCLEVE AND LYDGATE
Pp. 72 ff. Hoccleve (p. 72) and Lydgate (p. 73) are of historical interest only. Each professed himself a follower and devoted pupil of Chaucer's, and there can be no doubt of their affection and admiration, but both singularly failed to reproduce any of his characteristic qualities. Neither seems to have understood his versification or to have had the ability to adapt it to the language of their time. Chaucer's verse, as everybody now knows, is as smooth and musical as the best verse of any age, if the final vowels which were pronounced in his speech are sounded in his verse. Hoccleve and Lydgate knew that final e was sometimes sounded, but in their own speech apparently sounded it much less often than Chaucer, and consequently, when they read his verse with their own pro
DE REGIMINE PRINCIPUM
Pp. 72 f. Hoccleve's De Regimine Principum is a treatise on the duties of princes, addressed to Prince Henry, Shakespeare's Prince Hal. It has a Prologue of 2016 lines, telling how he came to write the poem, and an Address to the Prince of 147 lines (1l. 2017–2163). The Prologue contains much information about Hoccleve's misspent youth and his poverty, and incidentally throws much light on the life of the time. For nearly twenty-four years, he tells us, he had been a writer in one of the government offices, that of the Privy Seal. Now his back is bent and he has pains in “every vein and place of his body” from so much writing; he is married and his income is only four pounds a year, besides an annuity of twenty marks (£13 6s. 8d.), which is hardly ever paid. An old and wise beggar, who professes to be able to help him, advises him to write a book and present it to the Prince in the hope of getting a more lucrative position. The dialogue between Hoccleve and the beggar, which forms the greater part of the Prologue, is very interesting, as has just been said.
Hoccleve's devotion to Chaucer cannot be doubted; he neglects no opportunity to praise him. The first of the three passages given in our selection (II. 1961-1974) is from the Prologue; the second (ll. 2077-2107), from the Address to the Prince. In both cases Hoccleve is lamenting his own lack of skill as a writer, and this naturally suggests to him the mention of his beloved master, the “flower of eloquence.” The third passage (11. 4978-4998) occurs in the treatise itself, when the author has just urged Prince Henry not to hold councils on holy days. Lines 4992–4998 refer to the portrait of Chaucer which Hoccleve caused to be inserted in the Manuscript at this point. We are not told who the artist was, but the likeness was probably a good one. It is reproduced in many modern books: see especially Garnett and Gosse, Engl. Lit. (ill. ed.), Vol. I, p. 140 (in color); Skeat's Oxford Chaucer, Vol. I, front.; Green's Short Hist. of the Engl. People, Vol. I, p. 419; Saunders, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, etc.
THE STORY OF THEBES
and ride home with them the next day. He accepts the invitation, and the next morning, before they have gone a bow-shot from the city, the Host calls upon him for a tale. The story of the Siege of Thebes is the story he tells. As Lydgate was only thirty years old when Chaucer died, and as he gives his age as "nigh fifty" when he meets the Canterbury pilgrims, it is obvious that we have here, not the account of a real meeting, but merely a literary device to introduce his story.
The story itself is more than twice as long as the Knight's Tale. It is concerned with the strife between Eteocles and Polynices (Polymyte is the form in Lydgate), the sons of (Edipus and Jocasta, for the kingdom of Thebes - the subject of Æschylus’great tragedy, The Seven against Thebes; but Lydgate's poem is not derived from the Greek play, which of course was unknown to him, but from an Old French prose romance.
The situation in our selection is as follows: Tydeus, the friend of Polynices, has come to Thcbes with a message to Eteocles from Polynices demanding that he fulfil his promise of giving up the kingdom to Polynices after reigning for one year. Eteocles has refused, and Tydeus, after declaring that God will punish him for his unfaithfulness, has left Thebes alone on his journey back to Polynices at Argos. He has scarcely left the palace when Etcocles, in furious wrath, orders his Chief Constable with fifty chosen knights to pursue him and slay him. They steal out secretly and lie in ambush for him, as our selection tells.
In l. 1165, squar seems irreconcilable with round; I presume that it either is a mistake for swar (heavy) or has, by confusion, taken on the meaning of that word.
Pp. 74 ff. The Ballads here given are specimens of a kind of literature which has attracted a great deal of attention and aroused a great deal of controversy in modern times. Composed during the Middle Ages for the common people, they attracted scarcely any attention from cultivated men and played little part in literature until the second half of the eighteenth century. Sir Philip Sidney knew and loved “the old song of Percy and Douglas," Shakespeare and some of the other dramatists quoted brief snatches of them in certain of their plays, and Addison devoted a critique in the Spectator to one of the best of them; but they had no general literary standing until some men of the eighteenth century, sick of the
Pp. 73 f. In the Prologue to the Story of The Lydgate represents himself as having made a pilgrimage alone to Canterbury in gratitude for his recovery from illness. Upon reaching the inn, he finds there all Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims and is invited by the Host to join them
many of them are given in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time.
THE BATTLE OF OTTERBURN
conventionalities and prettinesses of the poetry of their day, turned for relief to the rude vigor and simplicity of these old poems. The book most influential in this introduction of them to modern readers was Bishop Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765.
But, although obscure until the time of the Romantic Movement, the ballads, as has been said, were composed centuries before that time. Even approximate dates of composition can be set for very few of them, for they were not written down but only preserved in memory and transmitted orally through the centuries, and consequently in most cases no certain conclusions as to their dates can be drawn from the forms of the language in which they are expressed. But we know that some of those that have come down to us belong to the fifteenth, the fourteenth, and the thirteenth century.
Perhaps the earliest of those printed here is St. Stephen and Herod (p. 84), one of the most remarkable for a vivid simplicity which no art could improve. This and Sir Patrick Spens, by some curious chance, have precisely the artistic qualities which we look for in the best modern verse; the excellences of some of the others, such as the Battle of Otterburn and Caplain Car, though perhaps as great in their way, belong to an ideal of art entirely different from that of the modern individualistic, conscious artist.
Pp. 77 ff. The words of Sir Philip Sidney, who knew both good fighting and good poetry, have been quoted a hundred times, but must be quoted again : "Certainly I must confess my own barbarousness. I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet; and yet it is sung by some blind crowder (fiddler), with no rougher voice than rude style: which being so evil apparreled in the dust and cobwebs of that uncivil age, what would it work trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindar!” Sidney's praise is justified, whether he had in mind The Hunting of the Cheviot or the older poem, The Battle of Otterburn.
Both of these famous ballads are founded on an actual historical event, the battle of Otterburn, which was fought between the English and the Scots on Wednesday, August 19, 1388. A detailed and admiring account of the real battle was given by the French chronicler Froissart and may be read either in Johnes's translation, Vol. III, Chaps. 126-128, or in the older translation of Lord Berners, Globe ed., pp. 370-380. Neither of the ballads is accurate historically, and curiously enough each entirely neglects the picturesque motive which was the real occasion of the battle, that is, Percy's vow to recover his pennon, which Douglas had captured a few days earlier in a combat before Newcastle. As we are studying the ballad not as history but as poetry, we need not discuss the history or the geography, further than to note that events are thoroughly distorted to the advantage of the English. Douglas really had only 300 lancers and 2000 other soldiers; Percy had 600 lancers and 8000 foot soldiers. Both Percy and Douglas were young men. “The chivalrous trait in st. 17 and that in the characteristic passage stt. 36-44,” says Professor Child, “are peculiar to this transcendently heroic ballad.” On stt. 43 and 49, he remarks that archers really had no part in this fight.
ROBIN HOOD AND GUY OF GISBORNE
Pp. 74 ff. Between 1. 8 and 1. 9 a number of verses have been lost. Apparently they told that Robin had a dream in which he was bound and beaten by two yeomen, who also took away his bow. From the later development of the story we learn that these are the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne.
It does not appear from anything in the ballad that Robin recognized his foes, but he has at least been warned that there are two of them and he vows vengeance upon them. The story is told in the vivid, disconnected way characteristic of ballads and much is left to the imagination of the hearer. Thus we are not told how Robin knows that Little John has been captured by the Sherifi. He goes to Barnesdale to see how his men are faring (st. 45); perhaps he sees Little John bound and recognizes him at a distance.
Ballads were sung (usually to the accompaniment of a fiddle or other stringed instrument); see the quotation from Sir Philip Sidney in the notes on The Battle of Otterburn. The tunes of
SIR PATRICK SPENS
Pp. 80 f. Whether this tragic ballad had any historical event as its basis is unknown and unimportant. It is one of the finest examples of Scottish balladry; and if its suppressions of details be due to accident, this is one case in
ST. STEPHEN AND HEROD
which the half of the story is, as Professor Child says, better than the whole.
CAPTAIN CAR, OR EDOM O GORDON Pp. 81 f. The reason for the double title of this ballad is that in some versions the villain is not Captain Car but Edom o Gordon (that is, Adam of Gordon). There was, in fact, in Scotland in the days of Mary Queen of Scots an able and gallant soldier Adam Gordon, whose fame is said to have been destroyed by the infamous deed of his man, Captain Ker. He sent his soldiers under the leadership of Captain Ker to the castle of Towie, demanding the surrender of the castle in the queen's name. In the absence of her lord, the lady of the castle refused, and “the soldiers being impatient, by command of their leader, Captain Ker, fire was put to the house, wherein she and the number of twenty-seven persons were cruelly burnt to the death.” According to another account, nearly contemporary, Gordon himself was the inhuman leader. At all events, whether for his own deed or for failing to punish Ker, he was denounced and execrated by his contemporaries.
Lines 5-8 are a chorus or refrain. The tune of this ballad is given in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, old ed., p. 226, new ed., I, 74.
P. 82. Stanza 20 is not in this version of the ballad, but it is traditional. John Hamelton, of st. 22, is a servant, as l. 90 indicates.
P. 84. This is of course a traditional distortion of the story of St. Stephen, for which there is no warrant in sacred or secular history. But a somewhat similar story is told of Judas in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and the incident of the crowing of the cock is found in tales in many languages The picturesque ignorance of the Bible involved in placing the stoning of Stephen on the day after the birth of Christ is characteristic of the common folk of the Middle Ages. All that they knew was that in the Church calendar St. Stephen's day is the next after Christmas.
1. 2. befalle, befits; subjunctive for indicative.
1. 3. boris hed, the Christmas dish of old England, brought into the hall in procession with the singing of carols.
SIR THOMAS MALORY
LORD RANDAL P. 83. This is not an historical ballad. Its origin lies in folk lore. Stories and ballads on this theme are very ancient and almost worldwide in their distribution, and versions of the ballad itself are still sung in parts of the United States. The eels of st. 3 are of course snakes.
MORTE DARTHUR Pp. 84 ff. The Morte Darthur of Sir Thomas Malory has long been famous, not only as the source of most of the modern poems about King Arthur and his Knights, but also as one of the most interesting books in any language. It has recently been shown by Professor Kittredge that Sir Thomas was not, as some have supposed, a priest, but, as the colophon of his book tells us, a soldier, with just such a career as one would wish for the compiler of such a volume. He was attached to the train of the famous Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and perhaps was brought up in his service. As Professor Kittredge says, “No better school for the future author of the Morte Darthur can be imagined than a personal acquaintance with that Englishman whom all Europe recognized as embodying the knightly ideal of the age.” The Emperor Sigismund, we are informed on excellent authority, said to Henry V, “that no prince Cristen for wisdom, norture, and manhode, hadde such another knyght as he had of therle Warrewyk; addyng thereto that if al curtesye were lost, yet myght hit be founde ageyn in hym; and so ever after by the emperours auctorite he was called the ‘Fadre of Curteisy.'"
Sir Thomas derived his materials from old romances, principally in French, which he attempted to condense and reduce to order. His style, though it may have been affected to some extent by his originals, is essentially his own. Its most striking excellence is its diction, which is
HIND HORN Pp. 83 f. This ballad is not derived from the romance of King Horn (p. 9), but is a variant of the same story. The refrain, which is sung between the lines, is very different in the other versions of this ballad, of which there are many. Most refrains are, like this, entirely meaningless; one of the most interesting is a Scottish version: Near Edinburgh was a young son born,
Hey lilelu an a how low lan
An it's hey down down deedle airo.