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[The Siege of Antioch.]
Tho wend forth this company, with mony a noble
And won Tars with strength, and syth Toxan.
And the Christian wend again, mid the prey that they
In the month of Feverer the Saracens eftsoon Yarked them a great host (as they were y-wont to done),
And went toward Antioch, to help their kind blood,
Of the thrid the good Raymond; the ferth the good man
And as stalwart men to-gather fast set,
The Duke Godfrey all so good on the shouldren smote
1 Thence. ♦ Six parties. 7 Fresh.
And forclave him all that body to the saddle anon.
In beginning of Lent this battle was y-do,
Ac the Christians cried all on God, and good earnest
And, thorough the grace of Jesus Christ, the Paynims they overcome,
And slew to ground here and there, and the other flew anon,
So that at a narrow brig there adrent1 mony one.
Tho the Saracens it i-see, they were some deal in fear, And held them all overcome. The Christians anon
And this town up this luther men as for nought nome,
soonBy the uprising of God, Robelin, me shall i-see, Curthose my young son stalward knight shall be.' For he was some deal short, he cleped him Curthose, And he ne might never eft afterward thilk name lose. Other lack had he nought, but he was not well long; He was quaint of counsel and of speech, and of body strong.
[Description of Robert Curthose.]
He was William's son bastard, as I have i-said ere i-lome,3
And well i-wox4 ere his father to Englond come. Thick man he was enow, but he nas well long, Quarry5 he was and well i-made for to be strong. Therefore his father in a time i-see his sturdy deed,6 The while he was young, and byhuld, and these words said,
Never yet man ne might, in Christendom, ne in Paynim,
In battle him bring adown of his horse none time.
In the list of Rhyming Chroniclers, Robert of Gloucester is succeeded by ROBERT MANNING, a Gilbertine canon in the monastery of Brunne or Bourne, in Lincolnshire (therefore usually called Robert de Brunne), who flourished in the latter part of the reign of Edward I., and throughout that of Edward II. He translated, under the name of a Handling of Sins, a French book, entitled Manuel des Pêches, the composition of William de Wadington, in which the seven deadly sins are illustrated by legendary stories. He afterwards translated a French chronicle of England, which had been written by Peter de Langtoft, a contemporary of his own, and an Augustine canon of Bridlington in Yorkshire. Manning has been characterised as an industrious, and, for the time, an elegant writer, possessing, in particular, a great command of rhymes. The verse adopted in his chronicle is shorter than that of the Gloucester monk, making an approach to the octosyllabic stanza of modern times. The following is one of the most spirited passages, in reduced spelling:
The interview of Vortigern with Rowen, the beautiful
Hengist that day did his might,
That all were glad, king and knight.
And gave the king, syne him kissed.
[Fabulous Account of the first Highways in
Belin well held his honour,
10 Went. 18 Pagan.
1 Well advanced in convivialities.
s of good appearance. This phrase is still used in Scotland.
5 Had no knowledge.
8 Taught him.
11 Many times.
14 According to Pagan law.
He loved peace at his might;
HE rise of Romantic Fiction in Europe has been traced to the most opposite quarters; namely, to the Arabians and to the Scandinavians. It has also been disputed, whether a politer kind of poetical literature was first cultivated in Normandy or in Provence. Without entering into these perplexing questions, it may be enough to state, that romantic fiction appears to have been cultivated from the eleventh century downwards, both by the troubadours of Provençe and by the Norman poets, of whom some account has already been given. As also already hinted, a class of persons had arisen, named Joculators, Jongleurs, or Minstrels, whose business it was to wander about from one mansion to another, recitEngland.]ing either their own compositions, or those of other persons, with the accompaniment of the harp. The histories and chronicles, already spoken of, partook largely of the character of these romantic tales, and were hawked about in the same manner. Brutus, the supposed son of Æneas of Troy, and who is described in those histories as the founder of the English state, was as much a hero of romance 1 Went. 2 Breadthways. 8 Broke, destroyed. 6 Delight. • Family.
[Praise of Good Women.]
ENGLISH METRICAL ROMANCES.
as of history. Even where a really historical person was adopted as a subject, such as Rollo of Normandy, or Charlemagne, his life was so amplified with romantic adventure, that it became properly a work of fiction. This, it must be remembered, was an age remarkable for a fantastic military spirit: it was the age of chivalry and of the crusades, when men saw such deeds of heroism and self-devotion daily performed before their eyes, that nothing which could be imagined of the past was too extravagant to appear destitute of the feasibility demanded in fiction. As might be expected from the ignorance of the age, no attempt was made to surround the heroes with the circumstances proper to their time or country. Alexander the Great, Arthur, and Roland, were all alike depicted as knights of the time of the poet | himself. The basis of many of these metrical tales is supposed to have been certain collections of stories and histories compiled by the monks of the middle ages. Materials for the superstructure were readily found in an age when anecdotes and apologues were thought very necessary even to discourses from the pulpit, and when all the fables that could be gleaned from ancient writings, or from the relations of travellers, were collected into story books, and preserved by the learned for that purpose.'*
It was not till the English language had risen into some consideration, that it became a vehicle for romantic metrical tales. One composition of the kind, entitled Sir Tristrem, published by Sir Walter Scott in 1804, was believed by him, upon what he thought tolerable evidence, to be the composition of Thomas of Ercildoun, identical with a person noted in Scottish tradition under the appellation of Thomas the Rhymer, who lived at Earlston in Berwickshire, and died shortly before 1299. If this had been the case, Sir Tristrem must have been considered a production of the middle or latter part of the thirteenth century. But the soundness of Sir Walter's theory is now generally denied. Another English romance, the Life of Alexander the Great, was attributed by Mr Warton to Adam Davie, marshall of Stratfordle-Bow, who lived about 1312; but this, also, has been controverted. One only, King Horn, can be assigned with certainty to the latter part of the thirteenth century. Mr Warton has placed some others under that period, but by conjecture alone; and in fact dates and the names of authors are alike wanting at the beginning of the history of this class of compositions. As far as probability goes, the reign of Edward II. (1307-27) may be set down as the era of the earlier English metrical romances, or rather of the earlier English versions of such works from the French, for they were, almost without exception, of that nature.
Sir Guy, the Squire of Low Degree, Sir Degore, King Robert of Sicily, the King of Tars, Impomedon, and La Mort Artur, are the names of some from which Mr Warton gives copious extracts. Others, probably of later date, or which at least were long after popular, are entitled Sir Thopas, Sir Isenbras, Gawan and Gologras, and Sir Bevis. In an Essay on the Ancient Metrical Romances, in the second volume of Dr Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, the names of many more, with an account of some of them, and a prose abstract of one entitled Sir Libius, are given. Mr Ellis has also, in his Metrical Romances, given prose abstracts of many, with some of the more agreeable passages. The metrical romances flourished till the close of the fifteenth century, and their spirit affected English literature till a still later period. Many of the ballads handed down amongst the common people are supposed to have been derived from them.
[Extract from the King of Tars.]
[The Soudan of Damascus, having asked the daughter of the
king of Tarsus in marriage, receives a refusal. The extract intelligence, and some of the subsequent transactions language of this romance greatly resembles that of Robert of
describes his conduct on the return of the messengers with this The
Gloucester, and it may therefore be safely referred to the beginning of the fourteenth century.]
The Soudan sat at his dess,1
They comen into the hall
Heathen hound he doth thee call;
When the Soudan this y-heard, As a wood2 man he fared,3
His robe he rent adown; He tare the hair of head and beard, And said he would her win with swerd, By his lord St Mahoun.
The table adown right he smote, Into the floor foot hot,4
He looked as a wild lion. All that he hit he smote downright, Both sergeant and knight, Earl and eke baron.
So he fared forsooth aplight,
That no man might him chast :5
And said to 'em in haste: 'Lordings,' he said, 'what to rede ?8 Me is done a great misdeed,
Of Tars the Christian king;
And he said, withouten fail,
And when they were all at his hest,12 The Soudan made a well-great feast, For love of his batail.
1 High seat at table. 2 Mad. 3 Became. Did hit. He struck the floor with his foot. 5 Chasten or check. Both little and great. 7 Proud.
8 What do you advise.
10 But assuredly. was born.
9 First. 11 It shall be ill-fortune to him that he 18 Order.
The Soudan gathered a host unride,1
All that he might of send;
Battle they set upon a day,
Ne longer nold they lend. The Soudan come with great power, With helm bright, and fair banner, Upon that king to wend.
The Soudan led an huge host,
Of helms leamed light.3
The king of Tars came also, The Soudan battle for to do,
With mony a Christian knight. Either host gan other assail, There began a strong batail,
That grisly was of sight, Three heathen again two Christian men, And felled them down in the fen, With weapons stiff and good. The stern Saracens in that fight, Slew our Christian men downright,
They fought as they were wood.
When the king of Tars saw that sight, Wood he was for wrath aplight,
In hand he hent4 a spear, And to the Soudan he rode full right, With a dunts of much might, Adown he 'gan him bear.
The Soudan nigh he had y-slaw,
That no man might him der.7
'Mahoun help!' he 'gan cry.
But fleeth to his own city.
Our Christian men so free.
And on the morrow for their sake,
For the folk that he had i-lore.1
And said, with sighing sore: 'Father,' she said, 'let me be his wife, That there be no more strife,' &c.
[Extract from the Squire of Low Degree.]
[The daughter of the king of Hungary having fallen into melancholy, in consequence of the loss of her lover, the squire of low degree, her father thus endeavours to console her. The passage is valuable, because,' says Warton, 'it delineates, in lively colours, the fashionable diversions and usages of ancient times.']
To-morrow ye shall in hunting fare;
And cloths of fine gold all about your head,
Well diapered with lilies new.
Your pommels shall be ended with gold,
With cloth of arras pight to the ground,
That when ye sleep the taste may come ;
And if ye no rest can take,
all night minstrels for you shall wake.
Jerusalem, thou hast i-lore 2
The flour of all chivalerie,
Our baners that bueth broht to grounde;
Er we such a kyng han y-founde !
The first name that occurs in this department of our literature is that of LAWRENCE MINOT, who, about 1350, composed a series of short poems on the victories of Edward III., beginning with the battle of Halidon Hill, and ending with the siege of Guines Castle. His works were in a great measure unknown until the beginning of the present century, when they were published by Ritson, who praised them for the ease, variety, and harmony of the versification. About the same time flourished RICHARD ROLLE, a hermit of the order of St Augustine, and doctor of divinity, who lived a solitary life near the
'Inlaid with pearls.
Edward had intended to go on a crusade to the Holy Land. a High. 4 Call.
* Mr Thomas Wright's Political Songs and Specimens of Lyric Poetry composed in England in the reign of Edward I. Reliquiæ Antiqua, 2 vols.
nunnery of Hampole, four miles from Doncaster. Ile wrote metrical paraphrases of certain parts of Scripture, and an original poem of a moral and religious nature, entitled The Priche of Conscience; but of the latter work it is not certainly known that he composed it in English, there being some reason for believing that, in its present form, it is a translation from a Latin original written by him. One agreeable passage (in the original spelling) of this generally dull work is subjoined :—
[What is in Heaven.]
IMMEDIATE PREDECESSORS OF CHAUCER,
Hitherto, we have seen English poetry only in the forms of the chronicle and the romance: of its many other forms, so familiar now, in which it is employed to point a moral lesson, to describe natural scenery, The Vision of Pierce Ploughman, a satirical poem to convey satiric reflections, and give expression to of the same period, ascribed to ROBERT LONGLANDE, refined sentiment, not a trace has as yet engaged our a secular priest, also shows very expressively the attention. The dawn of miscellaneous poetry, as these forms may be comprehensively called, is to be progress which was made, about the middle of the faintly discovered about the middle of the thirteenth fourteenth century, towards a literary style. This century, when Henry III. sat on the English throne, poem, in many points of view, is one of the most and Alexander II. on that of Scotland. A consider-important works that appeared in England previous to the invention of printing. It is the popular representative of the doctrines which were silently bringing about the Reformation, and it is a peculiarly national poem, not only as being a much purer specimen of the English language than Chaucer, but as exhibiting the revival of the same system of alliteration which characterised the Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is, in fact, both in this pe. uliarity and in its political character, characteristic of a great literary and political revolution, in which the language as well as the independence of the AngloSaxons had at last gained the ascendency over those of the Normans.* Pierce is represented as falling asleep on the Malvern hills, and as seeing, in his sleep, a series of visions; in describing these, he exposes the corruptions of society, but particularly the dissolute lives of the religious orders, with much bitterness.
able variety of examples will be found in the volumes of which the titles are given below. The earliest that can be said to possess literary merit is an elegy on the death of Edward I. (1307), written in musical and energetic stanzas, of which one is subjoined :
Ther is lyf withoute ony deth,
And ther is youthe without ony elde ;1
And ther is nevere wynter in that countrie :-
And ther is alle manner frendshipe that may be,
[Extracts from Pierce Plowman.]
2 Burd, i. e. a maiden.
* A popular edition of this poem has been recently published by Mr Wright. The lines are there divided, as we believe in strictness they ought to be, in the middle, where a pause is naturally made.