« PredošláPokračovať »
and 1399. Four visitations of the Black Death, sweeping off 2,500,000 people, one half of the population of England, 1348–9, 1361-2, 1369, and 1375–6. Population of London in Chaucer's time about 35,000 (now 4,000,000). First royal proclamation in the English language, 1258. Pleadings in law-courts required to be in English by act of Parliament, 1362. Instruction in the schools was in English after 1349. The eight Crusades for the recovery of Jerusalem between 1095 and 1272. The Norman Conquest (1) stripped the native speech of grammatical inflections, (2) abolished a large number of its formative suffixes and prefixes, (3) destroyed its power of forming self-explaining compounds, (4) caused the loss of vast numbers of its words—from one third to one half of all it possessed, (5) brought in a multitude of French words and opened the door for the Latin (the two now forming three tenths of our vocabulary), added (6) prefixes and suffixes and (7) the comparison of adjectives by the use of adverbs, (8) generalized the use of s as a plural termination of nouus, (9) introduced the custom of indicating the possessive relation by a preposition, of, and (10) helped to bring in or to extend the use of to before the infinitive. In the admixture of races, humor, lightness, imagination, and sensibility to beauty were added to the plain and solid, but obtuse, Saxon mind.
LESSON 7. GENERAL OUTLINE. “ The invasion of Britain by the English made the island, its speech, and its literature English. The invasion of England by the Danes left the speech and literature still English. The Danes were of same stock and tongue as the people invaded, and were absorbed by them. The invasion of England by the Normans seemed likely to crush the English people, to root out their literature, and even to threaten their speech. But that which happened to the Danes happened to the Normans also, and for the same reason. They were originally of like blood with the English, and of like speech; and, though during their settlement in Normandy they had become French in manner and language, and their literature French, yet the old blood prevailed in the end. The Norman felt his kindred with the English tongue and spirit, became an Englishman, and left the French
tongue to speak and write in English. He, too, was absorbed, and into English literature and speech were taken some French elements he had brought with him.
It was a process slower in literature than it was in the political history, but it began from the political struggle. Up to the time of Henry II. the Norman troubled himself but little about the English tongue. But when French foreigners came pouring into the land in the train of Henry and his sons, the Norman allied himself with the Englishman against these foreigners, and the English tongue began to rise into importance. Its literature grew slowly, but as quickly as most of the literatures of Europe, and it never ceased to grow. There are English sermons of the same century, and now, early in the next century, at the central time of this struggle, after the death of Richard the First, the Brut of Layamon and the Ormulum come forth within ten years of each other to prove the continuity, the survival, and the victory of the English tongue. When the patriotic struggle closed in the reign of Edward I., English literature had risen again through the song, the sermon, and the poem, into importance, and was written by a people made up of Norman and Englishman welded into one by the fight against the foreigner. But, though the foreigner was driven out, his literature influenced and continued to influence the new English poetry. The poetry, we say, for in this revival the literature was only poetical. All prose, with the exception of a few sermons and some religious works from the French, was written in Latin.
RELIGIOUS POETRY AND STORY-TELLING POETRY.—These are the two main streams into which this poetical literature divides itself. The religious poetry is entirely English in spirit and a poetry of the people, from the Ormulum of Ormin, 1215, to the
Vision of Piers the Plowman, in which poem the distinctly English poetry reached its truest expression in 1362. The storytelling poetry is English at its beginning but becomes more and more influenced by the romantic poetry of France, and in
the end grows in Chaucer's hands into a poetry of the court and of high society, a literary in contrast with a popular, poetry. But even in this the spirit of the poetry is English, though the manner is French. Chaucer becomes less French and even less Italian, till at last we find him entirely national in the Canterbury Tales, the best example of English story-telling we possess.
The struggle, then, of England, against the foreigner, to become and remain England finds its parallel in the struggle of English poetry, against the influence of foreign poetry, to become and remain English. Both struggles were long and wearisome, but in both England was triumphant. She became a nation, and she won a national literature. is the steps of this struggle we have now to trace along the two lines already laid down-the poetry of religion and the poetry of story-telling; but to do so we must begin in both instances with the Norman Conquest.
THE RELIGIOUS POETRY.-The religious revival of the 11th century was strongly felt in Normandy, and both the knights and the Churchmen who came to England with William the Conqueror and during his son's reign were founders of abbeys whence the country was civilized. In Henry I.'s reign the religion of England was further quickened by missionary monks sent by Bernard of Clairvaux. London was stirred to rebuild St. Paul's, and abbeys rose in all the well-watered valleys of the North. The English citizens of London and the English peasants in the country received a new religious life from the foreign noble and the foreign monk, and both were drawn together through a common worship. When this took place, a desire arose for religious hand-books in the English tongue. ORMIN's Ormulum is a type of these. We may date it, though not precisely, at 1215, the date of the Great Char
It is entirely English, not five French words are to be found in it. It is a metrical version of the service of each day with the addition of a sermon in verse. The book was called Ormulum, 'for this that Orm it wrought,' Orm being a con
traction for Ormin. It marks the rise of English religious literature, and its religion is simple and rustic. Orm's ideal monk is to be a very pure man, and altogether without property, except that he shall be found in simple meat and clothes.' He will have a hard and stiff and rough and heavy life to lead. All his heart and desire ought to be aye toward heaven, and his Master well to serve.' This was English religion in the country at this date.
LITERATURE AND THE FRIARS. — There was little religion in the towns, but this was soon changed. In 1221 the Mendicant Friars came to England, and they chose the towns for their work. Their influence was great, and they drew Norman and English more closely together on the ground of religion. In 1303 ROBERT OF BRUNNE translated a French poem, the Manual of Sins (written thirty years earlier by William of Waddington), under the title of Handlung Sinne. WILLIAM OF SHOREHAM translated the whole of the Psalter into English prose about 1327, and wrote religious poems. The Cursor Mundi, written about 1320, and thought the best book of all’ by men of that time, was a metrical version of the Old and the New Testament, interspersed, as was the Handlung Sinne, with legends of saints. Some scattered Sermons, and in 1340 the Ayenbite of Inwyt (Remorse of Conscience), translated from the French, mark how English prose was rising through religion. About the same year RICHARD ROLLE OF HAMPOLE wrote in Latin, and in Northumbrian English for the unlearned,' a poem called the Pricke of Conscience, and some prose treatises. The poem marks the close of the religious influence of the Friars.
In the Vision of Piers the Plowman, the protest its writer makes for purity of life is also a protest against the foul life and the hypocrisy of the Friars. In this poem, the whole of the popular English religion of the time of Chaucer is repre
In it also the natural, unliterary, country English is best represented. Its author, WILLIAM LANGLAND, though we
are not certain of his Christian name, was born about 1332, at Cleobury Mortimer, in Shropshire. His Vision begins with a description of his sleeping on the Malvern Hills, and the first text of it was probably written in the country in 1362. the accession of Richard II., 1377, he was in London. The great popularity of his poem made him in that year, and again in the year 1393, send forth two more texts of his poem. In these texts he added to the original Vision the poems of Do Wel, Do Bet, and Do Best. In 1399 he wrote at Bristol his last poem, The Deposition of Richard II., and then died, probably in 1400.
He paints his portrait as he was when he lived in Cornhill, a tall, gaunt figure, whom men called Long Will; clothed in the black robes in which he sung for a few pence, at the funerals of the rich; hating to take his cap off his shaven head to bow to the lords and ladies that rode by in silver and furs as he stalked in observant moodiness along the Strand. It is this figure which in indignant sorrow walks through the
HIS VISION.—The dream of the 'field full of folk,' with which it begins, brings together nearly as many typical characters as the Tales of Chaucer do. In the first part, the Truth sought for is righteous dealing in Church and Law and State. In the second part, the Truth sought for is that of righteous life. None of those who wish to find Truth know the way till Piers the Plowman, who at last enters the poem, directs them aright. The search for a righteous life is a search to Do Well, to Do Better, to Do Best, the three titles of the poems which were added afterwards. In a series of dreams and a highly-wrought allegory, Do Well, Do Better, and Do Best are identified with Jesus Christ, who appears at last as Love, in the dress of Piers the Plowman. The second of these poems describes Christ's death, his struggle with sin, his resurrection, and the victory over Death and the Devil. And the dreamer wakes in a transport of joy, with the Easter