Topics covered range from the privileges of women, and pro-Eve polemic, to the social and moral strengths attributed to women, and to the powerful models frequently disruptive of patriarchal complacency presented by Old and New Testament women. The contribution made by these emphases which are not to be confused with feminism in a modern sense to medieval constructions of gender is throughout critically assessed. This is a major reassessment of the relation between the medieval French chansons de geste and the romance genre. Critics have traditionally seen romance as a superior development of the chanson de Critics have traditionally seen romance as a superior development of the chanson de geste.
In particular, the author contends that romance brings with it new forms of sexism and patriarchy — forms much closer to those of the present — and that these need to be read against the politics of sexual difference inscribed in chansons de geste. This book breaks important new ground in the study of Chaucer's various engagements with Italian literary culture, taking a more dynamic approach to Chaucer's Italian sources than has previously been This book breaks important new ground in the study of Chaucer's various engagements with Italian literary culture, taking a more dynamic approach to Chaucer's Italian sources than has previously been available.
Most treatments of such influences do not take sufficient account of the material contexts in which these sources were available to Chaucer and his contemporaries. Manuscripts of the major works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch circulated in a variety of formats, and often the margins of their texts were loci for extensive commentary and glossing. These traditions of glossing and commentary represent one of the most striking features of fourteenth-century Italian literary culture. Not only that, but the authors themselves were responsible for some of this commentary material, from Dante's own prosimetra Vita nova and Convivio, to the extensive commentary accompanying Boccaccio's Teseida.
The startling example of Francesco d'Amaretto Mannelli's glosses in his copy of the Decameron, copied in , is discussed in detail for the first time. His refiguring of Griselda offers an important perspective on the reception of this story that is exactly contemporary with Chaucer. This book offers a new perspective on Chaucer and Italy by highlighting the materiality of his sources, reconstructing his textual, codicological horizon of expectation.
It provides new ways of thinking about Chaucer's access to, and use of, these Italian sources, stimulating, in turn, new ways of reading his work. This attention to the materiality of Chaucer's sources is further explored and developed by reading the Tales through their early fourteenth-century manuscripts, taking account not just of the text but also of the numerous marginal glosses.
Within this context, then, the question of Chaucer's authorship of some of these glosses is considered. Not only that, but the authors themselves were responsible for some of this commentary material, from Dante's own prosimetra Vita nova and Convivio , to the extensive commentary accompanying Boccaccio's Teseida. The startling example of Francesco d'Amaretto Mannelli's glosses in his copy of the Decameron , copied in , is discussed in detail for the first time.
For the Middle Ages, the study of human behaviour was quintessentially moral. It was not It was not gender neutral: certain virtues and certain failings were explicitly or implicitly gender-specific. Focus on such concepts and on the networks of thought in which they are embedded yields insights both into specific interpretative issues in individual Tales, and into the concept that informs the work as a whole. As for the whole poem, a nuanced appraisal of ideals of fellowship and friendship is shown to be fundamental to its structure.
Focus on such concepts and on the networks of thought in which they are embedded yields insights both into specific interpretative issues in individual Tales , and into the concept that informs the work as a whole. This book explores the textual environment of London in the s and s, revealing a language of betrayal, surveillance, slander, treason, rebellion, flawed idealism, and corrupted compaignyes.
Taking a strongly interdisciplinary approach, it examines how discourses about social antagonism work across different kinds of texts written at this time, including Geoffrey Chaucer's House of Fame, Troilus and Criseyde, and Canterbury Tales, and other literary texts such as St. These were tumultuous decades in London: some of the conflicts and problems discussed include the Peasants' Revolt, the mayoral rivalries of the s, the Merciless Parliament, slander legislation, and contemporary suspicion of urban associations.
While contemporary texts try to hold out hope for the future, or imagine an earlier Golden Age, Chaucer's texts foreground social conflict and antagonism. Though most critics have promoted an idea of Chaucer's texts as essentially socially optimistic and congenial, this book argues that Chaucer presents a vision of a society that is inevitably divided and destructive.
Taking a strongly interdisciplinary approach, it examines how discourses about social antagonism work across different kinds of texts written at this time, including Geoffrey Chaucer's House of Fame , Troilus and Criseyde , and Canterbury Tales , and other literary texts such as St. By focusing on the dialogue Cycles and sequels invariably raise questions about how stories are joined and how they end, what makes a whole, and what changes in meaning emerge across their continuities and discontinuities.
In the context of medieval invention and manuscript culture, what is the nature of collective authorship? This book provides a detailed account of one of the central personified figures in William Langland's Piers Plowman. Previous critical accounts of Conscience either focus on discussions of the Previous critical accounts of Conscience either focus on discussions of the faculty conscience in scholastic discourse, or eschew personification allegory as a useful category in order to argue for the figure's development or education as a character during the poem.
But Conscience only appears to develop as he is re-presented in the course of Piers Plowman within a series of different literary modes. And he changes not only during the composition of the various episodes in different modes that make up the single version, but also during the composition of the poem as a series of three different versions. The versions of Piers Plowman form, this book argues, a single continuous narrative or argument, in which revisions to Conscience's role in one version are predicated upon his cumulative 'experiences' in the earlier versions.
Drawing on a variety of materials in both Middle English and Latin, this book illustrates the wide range of contemporary discourses Langland employed as he composed Conscience in the three versions of the poem. By showing how Langland transformed Conscience as he composed the A, B, and C texts, the book offers a new approach to reading the serial versions of the poem. While the versions of Piers Plowman customarily have been presented and read in parallel-text formats, the book shows that Langland's revisions are newly comprehensible if the three versions are read as a single, coherent compositional sequence, from end to end.
This book brings to the most grandiose of Dante's messages in the Divine Comedy critical viewpoints whose originality would, at any time, constitute an important addition to Dante scholarship. However, this book is also notable for an approach which during the course of its composition spontaneously evolved as pragmatic and historical, particularly when seen against much contemporary Dante criticism. It explores Dante's breathtaking ambition to convince Europe's rulers and their subjects to create and embrace a universal peace, guaranteed by the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor, which might afford serenity for mankind fully to develop its wonderful potentialities.
In that context, a group of scholars, internationally known for their expertise not only in Dante studies but also in medieval literature and history, was invited to Oxford to discuss the poet's objectives. Each chose to argue a case from a close reading of Dante's own texts, using clear and jargon-free language.
Project MUSE - Studies in the Age of Chaucer-Volume 31,
Those deliberations created a well-focused and coherent group of chapters on a variety of subjects, ranging from an aesthetic appreciation of Dante's depiction of free-will and moral responsibility, to a feminist perception of his attitude to the role of women in 14th-century Florentine public life. Responses by individual authors and in certain periods have been studied before, but Much of the evidence is drawn from previously unpublished material in for example letters, journals, annotations, and inventories and derives from archives in the UK and across the world, from Milan to Mumbai and from Berlin to Cape Town.
Part of his work was translation of the Bible, and in this, and in his theory of translation, he is more enlightened than any translator before Tyndale. The fault of Bible versions generally was that they kept too close to the original. Instead of translating like free men they construed word for word, like the illiterate in all ages. Ulphilas, who is supposed by some to have written Gothic prose, is really a slave to the Greek text, and his Gothic is hardly a human language.
Wycliffe treats his Latin original in the same way, and does not think what language he is supposed to be writing. Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature had many things in common. The educational work of King Alfred was continued all through the Middle Ages. The same authors are read and adapted. Many of the literary interests of the Plantagenet times are found already among the Anglo-Saxons.
The Legends of the Saints are inexhaustible subjects of poetical treatment in the earlier as well as the later days. The great difference between the two ages is made by the disappearance of the old English poetry. There is nothing in the Plantagenet reigns like Beowulf or  the Maldon poem; there is nothing like the Fall of the Angels and the dramatic eloquence of Satan.
The pathos of the later Middle Ages is expressed in a different way from the Wanderer and the Ruin. The later religious poetry has little in it to recall the finished art of Cynewulf. Anglo-Saxon poetry, whether derived from heathendom or from the Church, has ideas and manners of its own; it comes to perfection, and then it dies away.
The gravity and thought of the heroic poetry, as well as the finer work of the religious poets, are unlike the strength, unlike the graces, of the later time. Anglo-Saxon poetry grows to a rich maturity, and past it; then, with the new forms of language and under new influences, the poetical education has to start again. Unfortunately for the historian, there are scarcely any literary things remaining to show the progress of the transition. For a long time before and after there is a great scarcity of English productions. It is not till about that Middle English literature begins to be at all fully represented.
This scantiness is partly due, no doubt, to an actual disuse of English composition.
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But many written things must have perished, and in poetry there was certainly a large amount of verse current orally, whether it was ever written down or not. This is the inference drawn from the passages in the historian William of Malmesbury to which Macaulay refers in his preface to the Lays of Ancient Rome , and which Freeman has studied in his essay on The Mythical and Romantic Elements in Early English History.
The story of Hereward the Wake is extant in Latin; the story of  Havelock the Dane and others were probably composed in English verse much earlier than the thirteenth century, and in much older forms than those which have come down to us. There is a gap in the record of alliterative poetry which shows plainly that much has been lost.
It is a curious history. Before the Norman conquest the old English verse had begun to go to pieces, in spite of such excellent late examples as the Maldon poem. About the alliterative verse, though it has still something of its original character, is terribly broken down.
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Then suddenly, as late as the middle of the fourteenth century, there begins a procession of magnificent alliterative poems, in regular verse— Sir Gawayne , the Morte Arthure , Piers Plowman ; in regular verse, not exactly with the same rule as Beowulf , but with so much of the old rule as seemed to have been hopelessly lost for a century or two. What is the explanation of this revival, and this sudden great vogue of alliterative poetry?
It cannot have been a new invention, or a reconstruction; it would not in that case have copied, as it sometimes does, the rhythm of the old English verse in a way which is unlike the ordinary rhythms of the fourteenth century. The only reasonable explanation is that somewhere in England there was a tradition of alliterative verse, keeping in the main to the old rules of rhythm as it kept something of the old vocabulary, and escaping the disease which affected the old verse elsewhere. In the Middle Ages, early and late, there was very free communication all over Christendom between people of different languages.
Languages seem to have given much less trouble than they do nowadays. The general use of Latin, of course, made things easy for those who could speak it; but without Latin, people of different nations appear to have travelled over the world picking up foreign languages as they went along, and showing more interest in the poetry and stories of foreign countries than is generally found among modern tourists. Luther said of the people of Flanders that if you took a Fleming in a sack and carried him over France or Italy, he would manage to learn the tongues.
This gift was useful to commercial travellers, and perhaps the Flemings had more of it than other people. But in all the nations there seems to have been something like this readiness, and in all it was used to translate the stories and adapt the poetry of other tongues. Between these two languages, in the North and the South of what is now France, there was in the Middle Ages a kind of division of labour.
In the earlier Middle Ages, before , as in the later, the common language is Latin. Between the Latin authors of the earlier time—Gregory the Great, or Bede—and those of the later—Anselm, or Thomas Aquinas—there may be great differences, but there is no line of separation.
In the literature of the native tongues there is a line of division about more definite than any later epoch; it is made by the appearance of French poetry, bringing along with it an intellectual unity of Christendom which has never been shaken since. The importance of this is that it meant a mutual understanding among the laity of Europe, equal to that which had so long obtained among the clergy, the learned men. The year , in which all Christendom is united, if not thoroughly and actively in all places, for the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre, at any rate ideally by the thought of this common enterprise, is also a year from which may be dated the beginning of the common lay intelligence of Europe, that sympathy of understanding by which ideas of different sorts are taken up and diffused, outside of the professionally learned bodies.
He is the first poet of modern Europe who definitely helps to set a fashion of poetry not only for his own people but for the imitation of foreigners. The triumph of French poetry in the twelfth century was the end of the old Teutonic world—an end which had been long preparing, though it came suddenly at last. Before that time there had been the sympathy and informal union among the Germanic nations out of which the old heroic poems had come; such community of ideas as allowed the Nibelung story to be treated in all the Germanic tongues from Austria to Iceland, and even in Greenland, the furthest outpost of the Northmen.
But after the eleventh century there was nothing new to be got out of this. Here and there may be found a gleaner, like Saxo Grammaticus, getting together all that he can save out of the ancient heathendom, or like the Norwegian traveller about fifty years later, who collected North German ballads of Theodoric and other champions, and paraphrased them in Norwegian prose.
The really great achievement of the older world in its last days was in the prose histories of Iceland, which had virtue enough in them to change the whole world, if they had only been known and understood; but they were written for domestic circulation, and even their own people scarcely knew how good they were. Germania was falling to pieces, the separate nations growing more and more stupid and drowsy.
The Italian and Spanish dialects had to wait for the great French outburst before they could produce  anything. But after that date there is such profusion that it is clear there had been a long time of experiment and preparation.
The Comic Mode in English Literature
Long before there must have been a common literary taste in France, fashions of poetry well understood and appreciated, a career open for youthful poets. In the twelfth century the social success of poetry in France was extended in different degrees over all Europe. In Italy and Spain the fashions were taken up; in Germany they conquered even more quickly and thoroughly; the Danes and Swedes and Norwegians learned their ballad measures from the French; even the Icelanders, the only Northern nation with a classical literature and with minds of their own, were caught in the same way.
Thus French poetry wakened up the sleepy countries, and gave new ideas to the wakeful; it brought the Teutonic and Romance nations to agree and, what was much more important, to produce new works of their own which might be original in all sorts of ways while still keeping within the limits of the French tradition.
Compared with this, all later literary revolutions are secondary and partial changes. The most widely influential writers of later ages—e. Petrarch and Voltaire—had the ground prepared for them in this medieval epoch, and do nothing to alter the general conditions which were then established—the intercommunication  among the whole laity of Europe with regard to questions of taste.
It seems probable that the Normans had a good deal to do as agents in this revolution. They were in relation with many different people. They had Bretons on their borders in Normandy; they conquered England, and then they touched upon the Welsh; they were fond of pilgrimages; they settled in Apulia and Sicily, where they had dealings with Greeks and Saracens as well as Italians. It is a curious thing that early in the twelfth century names are found in Italy which certainly come from the romances of King Arthur—the name Galvano, e.
However it was brought there, this name may be taken for a sign of the process that was going on everywhere—the conversion of Europe to fashions which were prescribed in France. The narrative poetry in which the French excelled was of different kinds. The matter of Rome is not only Roman history, but the whole of classical antiquity. The story of Troy, of course, is rightly part of Roman history, and so is the Romance of Eneas. But under Rome the Great there fall other stories which have much slighter connexion with Rome—such as the story of Thebes, or of Alexander.
Many of those subjects were of course well known and popular before the French poets took them up. But it was not till the French poets turned the story of Alexander into verse that it really made much impression outside of France. The tale of Troy was widely read, in various authors—Ovid and Virgil, and an abstract of the Iliad , and in the apocryphal prose books of Dares the Phrygian and Dictys the Cretan, who were supposed to have been at the seat of war, and therefore to be better witnesses than Homer. These were used and translated some times apart from any French suggestion.
There are exceptions; the British history of Geoffrey of Monmouth was written in Latin. The poems about Charlemagne and his peers, and others of the same sort, are sometimes called the old French epics; the French name for them is chansons de geste. Those epics have not only a different matter but a different form from the French Arthurian romances and the French Roman de Troie.
What is of more importance for English poetry, there is generally a different tone and sentiment. They are long love-stories, and their motive chiefly is to represent the fortunes, and, above all, the sentiments of true lovers. It was from an English version, in the thirteenth century, that part of the long Norwegian prose history of Charlemagne was taken; a fact worth remembering, to illustrate the way in which the exportation of stories was carried on.
Of course, the story of Charlemagne was not the same sort of thing in England or Norway that it was in France. The devotion to France which is so intense in the song of Roland was never meant to be shared by any foreigner. But Roland as a champion against the infidels was a hero everywhere. There are statues of him in Bremen and in Verona; and it is in Italy that the story is told of the simple man who was found weeping in the market-place; a professional story-teller had just come to the death of Roland and the poor man heard the news for the first time.
A traveller in the Faroe Islands not long ago, asking in the bookshop at Thorshavn for some things in the Faroese language, was offered a ballad of Roncesvalles. The favourite story everywhere was Sir Ferabras , because the centre of the plot is the encounter between Oliver the Paladin and Ferabras the Paynim champion. Every one could understand this, and in all countries the story became popular as a sound religious romance.
Naturally, the stories of action and adventure went further and were more widely appreciated than the cultivated sentimental romance. The English in the reign of Edward I or Edward III had often much difficulty in understanding what the French romantic school was driving at—particularly when it seemed to be driving round and round, spinning long monologues of afflicted damsels, or elegant conversations full of phrases between the knight and his lady.
The difficulty was not unreasonable. If the French authors had been content to write about nothing but sentimental conversations and languishing lovers, then one would have known what to do. The man who is looking at the railway bookstall for a good detective story knows at once what to say when he is offered the Diary of a Soul.
But the successful French novelists of the twelfth century appealed to both tastes, and dealt equally in sensation and sentiment; they did not often limit themselves to what was always their chief interest, the moods of lovers. They worked these into plots of adventure, mystery, fairy magic; the adventures were too good to be lost; so the less refined English readers, who were puzzled or wearied by sentimental conversations, were not able to do without the elegant romances.
They read them; and they skipped. The skipping was done for them, generally, when the romances were translated into English; the English  versions are shorter than the French in most cases where comparison is possible. As a general rule, the English took the adventurous sensational part of the French romances, and let the language of the heart alone. To this there are exceptions. In the first place it is not always true that the French romances are adventurous. Some of them are almost purely love-stories—sentiment from beginning to end. Further, it is proved that one of these, Amadas et Ydoine —a French romance written in England—was much liked in England by many whose proper language was English; there is no English version of it extant, and perhaps there never was one, but it was certainly well known outside the limited refined society for which it was composed.
An example of this effort is the alliterative romance of William and the Werwolf , a work which does not fulfil the promise of its title in any satisfactory way. It spends enormous trouble over the sentimental passages of the original, turning them into the form worst suited to them, viz. Part of the success of Chaucer and almost all the beauty of Gower may be said to be their mastery of French polite literature, and their power of expressing in English everything that could be said in French,  with no loss of effect and no inferiority in manner.
Gower ought to receive his due alongside of Chaucer as having accomplished what many English writers had attempted for two hundred years before him—the perfect adoption in English verse of everything remarkable in the style of French poetry.
The history of narrative poetry is generally easier than the history of lyric, partly because the subjects are more distinct and more easily traceable. But it is not difficult to recognize the enormous difference between the English songs of the fourteenth century and anything known to us in Anglo-Saxon verse, while the likeness of English to French lyrical measures in the later period is unquestionable.
The difficulty is that the history of early French lyric poetry is itself obscure and much more complicated than the history of narrative. Lyric poetry flourished at popular assemblies and festivals, and was kept alive in oral tradition much more easily than narrative poetry was. Less of it, in proportion, was written down, until it was taken up by ambitious poets and composed in a more elaborate way.
The distinction between popular and cultivated lyric is not always easy to make out, as any one may recognize who thinks of the songs of Burns and attempts to distinguish what is popular in them from what is consciously artistic. But the distinction is a sound one, and especially necessary in the history of medieval literature—all the more because the two kinds often pass into one another.
A good example is the earliest English song, as it is sometimes called, which is very far from the earliest—. It sounds like a popular song; an anonymous poem from the heart of the people, in simple, natural, spontaneous verse. But look at the original copy. The song is written, of course, for music.
And the Cuckoo song is said by the historians of music to be remarkable and novel; it is the first example of a canon; it is not an improvisation, but the newest kind of art, one of the most ingenious things of its time. Further, the words that belong to it are Latin words, a Latin hymn; the Cuckoo song, which appears so natural and free, is the result of deliberate study; syllable for syllable, it corresponds to the Latin, and to the notes of the music. Is it then not to be called a popular song? Perhaps the answer is that all popular poetry, in Europe at any rate for the last thousand years, is derived from poetry more or less learned in character, or, like the Cuckoo song, from more or less learned music.
The first popular songs of the modern world were the hymns of St. Ambrose, and the oldest fashion of popular tunes is derived from the music of the Church. The learned origin of popular lyric may be illustrated from any of the old-fashioned broadsheets of the street ballad-singers: for example The Kerry Recruit —. It may be remembered that a country poet wrote the beautiful song on Yarrow from which Wordsworth took the verse of his own Yarrow poems—.
Then comes the imitation of it in different languages as in English by Orm and others of his day about It was very much in favour then, and was used often irregularly, with a varying number of syllables. Minstrel Burne is as regular as the Ormulum , and so, or very nearly as much, is the anonymous Irish poet of The Kerry Recruit.
What happened in the case of the Ormulum verse is an example of the whole history of modern lyric poetry in its earlier period. Learned men like St.
Ambrose and St. Augustine wrote hymns for the common people in Latin which the common people of that time could understand. Then, in different countries, the native languages were used to copy the Latin measures and fit in to the same tunes—just as the English Cuckoo song corresponds to the Latin words for the same melody.
Thus there were provided for the new languages, as we may call them, a number of poetical forms or patterns which could be applied in all sorts of ways. These became common and well understood, in the same manner as common forms of music are understood, e. Many strange things happened while the new rhyming sort of lyric poetry was being acclimatized in England, and a study of early English lyrics is a good introduction to all the rest of English poetry, because in those days—in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries—may be found the origin of the most enduring poetical influences in later times.
One of the strange things was that the French lyrical examples affected the English in two opposite ways. As foreign verse, and as belonging especially to those who were acquainted with courts and good society, it had the attraction which fashionable and stylish things generally have for those who are a little behind the fashion. It was the newest and most brilliant thing;  the English did all they could to make it their own whether by composing in French themselves or by copying the French style in English words.
But besides this fashionable and courtly value of French poetry, there was another mode in which it appealed to the English. Much of it was closely related not to the courts but to popular country festivals which were frequent also in towns, like the games and dances to celebrate the coming of May. French poetry was associated with games of that sort, and along with games of that sort it came to England. The English were hit on both sides.
French poetry was more genteel in some things, more popular and jovial in others, than anything then current in England. Thus the same foreign mode of composition which gave a new courtly ideal to the English helped also very greatly to quicken their popular life. While the distinction between courtly and popular is nowhere more important than in medieval literature, it is often very hard to make it definite in particular cases, just for this reason.
It is not as if there were a popular native layer, English in character and origin, with a courtly foreign French layer above it. What is popular in Middle English literature is just as much French as English; while, on the other hand, what is native, like the alliterative verse, is as often as not used for ambitious works. The great manifestation of French influence in the common life of the Middle Ages was through the fashion of the dance which generally went by the name of Carole. The carole —music, verse and dance altogether—spread as a fashion all over Europe in the twelfth century; and there is nothing which so effectively marks the change from the earlier to the later Middle Ages.
It is in fact a great part of the change, with all that is implied in it; which may be explained in the following way. The carole was a dance accompanied by a song, the song being divided between a leader and the rest of the chorus; the leader sang the successive new lines, while the rest of the dancers holding hands in a ring all joined in the refrain. Now this was the fashion most in favour in all gentle houses through the Middle Ages, and it was largely through this that the French type of lyric was transported to so many countries and languages.
French lyric poetry was part of a graceful diversion for winter evenings in a castle or for summer afternoons in the castle garden. But it was also thoroughly and immediately available for all the parish.
In its origin it was popular in the widest sense—not restricted to any one rank or class; and though it was adopted and elaborated in the stately homes of England and other countries it could not lose its original character. Every one could understand it and enjoy it; so it became the favourite thing at popular festivals, as well as at the Christmas entertainments in the great hall.
There are many stories to show how they were discouraged by the clergy, and how deplorable was their vanity: but those moral examples also prove how well established the custom was; some of them also from their date show how quickly it had spread. In his Gemma Ecclesiastica he has a chapter against the custom of using churches and churchyards for songs and dances. Giraldus wrote in the twelfth century, in the reign of Henry II, and it is plain from what he tells that the French fashion was already in full swing and as thoroughly naturalized among the English as the Waltz or the Lancers in the nineteenth century.
The same sort of evidence comes from Denmark about the same time as Giraldus; ring-dances were equally a trouble and vexation to religious teachers there—for, strangely, the dances seem everywhere  to have been drawn to churches and monasteries, through the custom of keeping religious wakes in a cheerful manner. Europe was held together in this common vanity, and it was through the caroles and similar amusements that the poetical art of France came to be dominant all over the North, affecting the popular and unpretending poets no less than those of greater ambition and conceit.
This period, from about to , closes in the full attainment of the desired end. The history of the carole is an example of this difficulty. The carole flourishes among the gentry and it is a favourite amusement as well among the common people. The most attentive listener and the most critical among the Canterbury Pilgrims is the Host of the Tabard. It implies the chivalrous ideal—the self-conscious withdrawal and separation of the gentle folk from all the rest, not merely through birth and rank and the fashion of their armour, but through their ways of thinking, and especially through their theory of love.
The devotion of the true knight to his lady—the motive of all the books of chivalry—began to be the favourite subject in the twelfth century; it was studied and meditated in all manner of ways, and it is this that gives its character to all the most original, as well as to the most artificial, poetry of the later Middle Ages.
The spirit and the poetical art of the different nations may be estimated according to the mode in which they appropriated those ideas. For the ideas of this religion of chivalrous love were literary and artistic ideas; they went along with poetical ambitions and fresh poetical invention—they led to the poetry of Dante, Petrarch and Spenser, not as ideas and inspirations simply, but through their employment of definite poetical forms of expression, which were developed by successive generations of poets.
Stories of true love do not belong peculiarly to the age of chivalrous romance. The greatest of them all, the story of Sigurd and Brynhild, has come down from an older world. The early books of the Danish  History of Saxo Grammaticus are full of romantic themes. A great part of medieval romance is nothing but a translation into medieval forms, into French couplets, of the passion of Medea or of Dido. But it was a fresh discovery, for all that, a new mode of thought, whatever its source might be.
The devotion of Dante to Beatrice, of Petrarch to Laura, is different from anything in classical poetry, or in the earlier Middle Ages. Those ideas can be expressed in lyric poetry; not so well in narrative. They are too vague for narrative, and too general; they are the utterance of any true  lover, his pride and his humility, his belief that all the joy and grace of the world, and of Heaven also, are included in the worshipful lady.
There is also along with this religion a firm belief that it is not intended for the vulgar; and as the ideas and motives are noble so must the poetry be, in every respect. The refinement of the idea requires a corresponding beauty of form; and the lyric poets of Provence and their imitators in Germany, the Minnesingers, were great inventors of new stanzas and, it should be remembered, of the tunes that accompanied them. The new spirit of devotion in love-poetry produced an enormous variety of lyrical measures, which are still musical, and some of them still current, to this day.
It was an artificial kind of poetry, in different senses of the term. It was consciously artistic, and ambitious; based upon science—the science of music—and deliberately planned so as to make the best effect. The fiction was well understood, and was highly appreciated as an honour, when the poetry was successful. For example, the following may be taken from the Lives of the Troubadours—.
She was gentle and fair, and gay and gracious, and very desirous of praise and honour; daughter of Jeffrey Rudel, prince of Blaye. And when she knew that he loved her, she made him fair semblance of love, so that he got hardihood to plead his suit to her. And she with gracious countenance of love treasured his praise of her, and accepted and listened, as a lady who had good will of a poet to make verses about her.
And he took great delight in finding similitudes of beasts and birds and men in his poetry, and of the sun and the stars, so as to give new arguments such as no poet had found before him. Long time he sang to her; but it was never believed that she yielded to his suit. It had great indirect influence, through the French. But this took a long time. Besides all  this, he needs the reward and approbation of success in poetical art; he cannot thrive as an anonymous poet. Besides the idealist love-poetry there were other kinds available—simple songs of lament, or of satire—comic songs—lyrics with a scene in them, such as the very beautiful one about the girl whose lover has gone on the Crusade.
The French excelled in narrative poetry. There  seems to have been a regular exchange in poetry between the South and the North of France. The French narrative poetry, though it also is affected by ideas from the South, is properly French in origin and style. It is by means of narrative that the French ideal of courtesy and chivalry is made known, to the French themselves as well as to other nations. Some of them survive to this day in roughly printed editions, like the Reali di Francia , which is an Italian prose paraphrase of old French epics, and which seems to have a good sale in the markets of Italy still, as The Seven Champions of Christendom used to have in England, and The Four Sons of Aymon in France.
The decline of the old epics began in the twelfth century through the competition of more brilliant new romances. The new romantic school wanted new subjects, and by preference foreign subjects. In form of verse the new romances generally differed from the chansons de geste , but this again is not an exact distinction. Apart from other considerations, the distinction fails because the octosyllabic rhyming measure, the short couplet, which was the ordinary form for fashionable romances, was also at the same time the ordinary form for everything else—for history, for moral and didactic poetry, and for comic stories like Reynard the Fox.
The character of that school must be sought much more in its treatment of motives, and particularly in its use of sentiment. It is romantic in its fondness for strange adventures; but this taste is nothing new. The real novelty and the secret of its greatest success was its command of pathos, more especially in the pathetic monologues and dialogues of lovers. It is greatly indebted for this, as has been already remarked, to the Latin poets. From Virgil and Ovid the medieval authors got the suggestion of passionate eloquence, and learned how to manage a love-story in a dramatic way—allowing the characters free scope to express themselves fully.
The idea of the lover as the servant of his mistress was also taken first of all from the Latin amatory poets. And the success of the new romantic school was gained by the working together of those ideas and examples, the new creation of chivalrous and courteous love out of those elements. The ideas are the same in the lyric as in the narrative poetry; and it is allowable to describe a large part of the French romantic poems as being the expression in narrative of the ideas which had been lyrically uttered in the poetry of Provence—. The importance of all this for the history of Europe can scarcely be over-estimated.
It was the beginning of a classical renaissance through the successful appropriation of classical ideas in modern languages and modern forms. There is ambition in it, and the ambition is of the same sort as has produced all the finer sentimental fiction since. If it is possible anywhere to trace the pedigree of fashions in literature, it is here. All modern novelists are descended from this French romantic poetry of the twelfth century, and therefore from the classical poets to whom so much of the life of the French romances can be traced. The great poets of the Renaissance carry on in their own way the processes of adaptation which were begun in the twelfth century, and, besides that, many of them are directly indebted—Ariosto and Spenser, for example—to medieval romance.
Further, all the chivalrous ideals of the modern world are derived from the twelfth century. Alliterative poetry was not unknown in London and the southeast, but it penetrated those areas in a modified form and in poems that dealt with different subject matter. If what he tells about himself in the poem is true and there is no other source of information , he later lived obscurely in London as an unbeneficed cleric. Langland wrote in the unrhymed alliterative mode, but he modified it in such a way as to make it more accessible to a wider audience by treating the metre more loosely and avoiding the arcane diction of the provincial poets.
The poem takes the form of a series of dream visions dealing with the social and spiritual predicament of late 14th-century England against a sombre apocalyptic backdrop. Passages of involuted theological reasoning mingle with scatological satire, and moments of sublime religious feeling appear alongside forthright political comment. This makes it a work of the utmost difficulty, defiant of categorization, but at the same time Langland never fails to convince the reader of the passionate integrity of his writing.
His bitter attacks on political and ecclesiastical corruption especially among the friars quickly struck chords with his contemporaries. Among minor poems in the same vein are Mum and the Sothsegger c. In the 16th century, Piers Plowman was issued as a printed book and was used for apologetic purposes by the early Protestants. Apart from a few late and minor reappearances in Scotland and the northwest of England, the alliterative movement was over before the first quarter of the 15th century had passed.
The other major strand in the development of English poetry from roughly proved much more durable. The cultivation and refinement of human sentiment with respect to love, already present in earlier 14th-century writings such as the Harley Lyrics, took firm root in English court culture during the reign of Richard II — English began to displace Anglo-Norman as the language spoken at court and in aristocratic circles, and signs of royal and noble patronage for English vernacular writers became evident. English literature. Article Media.
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