« AnteriorContinuar »
the moral is the same. David forswears himself for Jonathan, and is punished with leprosy. In return, Jonathan, warned by an angel, sacrifices his own children, and heals David with their blood. Such love is indeed wonderful, passing the love of women.
Xor, as "sensation," is Amis and Amiloun in any way unique. In Sir Degare (tigar£) the hero, born of an erring princess, and bred by a hermit, has the misfortune, in sheer ignorance, to marry his mother, though the mistake is discovered in time. From such CEdipean horrors it is a relief to turn to Floriz and Blancheflur, apparently the first English version of one of the most widely known of French romances, dealing with a youthful pair whose innocent love so moves the heart of the fierce Sultan that he not only spares their lives, but actually becomes a Christian.
Before going further it will be well to say something as to the metres in which these romances were written.
Until late in the reign of Edward III. the short couplet maintained its position as the prevailing form of the romance, but even under Edward L another form had appeared whose rivalry grew more and more formidable. In the religious lyric of the last-named period we light on a strophe evolved from the versus tripertiter caudaii of the Latin sequences, but the metre, instead of being trochaic, is iambic. This ryme couee, as it was called, perhaps first became popular in the North, and usually took the shape of a sixor twelve-lined stanza. This latter consists of four triplets. In each triplet the two first lines contain eight syllables, the third six, and the short lines keep the same rhyme throughout.
The transition from the short couplet to the twelvelined stanza may perhaps have taken place in this way. In reciting French romances in English the "seggers" employed the stanza for their proems, and for single passages especially appealing to their fancy or that of their audience. Gradually the custom spread over England, and a number of romances originally translated in rhymed couplets were wholly or partially recast in ryme couee.
A good deal is implied in the metre—much more than the satisfaction of the ear. The short couplet lent itself to the old artistic handling, the gradual unfolding of the theme in its causal and psychological bearings. The stanza, on the other hand, tends to resolve itself into a single picture in which only the results are shown, just as in modern hymn-tunes there is a straining after vivid effects in harmony to the exclusion of the flowing counterpoint which conferred such grace and dignity on the old chorale. In other words, the narrative is disjointed, inconsequent, abrupt. For more select circles the short couplet appears to have kept its charm until in Chaucer's time the twelve-lined stanza had become the sole property of the ballad-singers.
The revival of national feeling was marked by a curious phenomenon—namely, a return to the alliter
Amerative ative verse of pre-Norman times. This
vme. fashion, which set in about the middle of the fourteenth century, especially in Northern and 'West Midland districts, at first strikes us as a deliberate assertion of independence, and, in view of the growing ascendancy of rhyme during many previous decades, as altogether novel. Probably, however, alliterative composition had never wholly died out,— the patriotism referred to above no doubt consciously or unconsciously favoured what seemed national,— and, as for independence, it is confined to rhythm and language. The colour, the atmosphere, of the alliterative epic is still chivalrous and romantic. Its ideas and inspirations are those, not of Beowulf, but of Chrestien de Troyes.
With regard to the language, it is distinctly, and no doubt deliberately, archaic, and includes a rather larger proportion of Germanic terms than average contemporary rhymed verse. On the other hand, the principles of Anglo-Saxon alliteration are obeyed only imperfectly. To be correct, a line, should consist of two parts, of which the first should have two words, and the second one, commencing with the same letter; and the words thus alliterated should be those on which, in reading, the accent would properly fall. In the later academic examples a tendency is shown to alliterate unaccented syllables, sometimes in lieu, more generally in excess, of the accented ones. Moreover, the rhythm is burdened by groups of three or four " feminine" syllables, and by minor or secondary accents interposed between the so-called " loud " syllables. The most important, as well as best known, work in this style of alliteration is, of course, Piers the Plowman, but there are also a number of alliterative romances,
some of which exhibit a blending of alliteration and rhyme, and most a decided stanza arrangement. The normal type of the alliterative rhymed stanza is that of the Adventures of Arthur at the Tarn Watheling. As will be seen by the annexed example, it consists of nine full lines, followed by four half lines—
"In King Arthure tyme ane awntir by-tide.
By the Tern Wathelyne, als the buke telles,
Als he to Carelele was commene, that conqueroure kyde,
With dukes, and with duchiperes, that with that dere duellys,
For to hunt at the herdys, that lange hase bene hyde;
And one a daye they tham dighte to the depe dellis
To felle of the femmales, in foreste wele fryde,
Faire in the fernysome tyme, by frythis and fellis.
Thus to the wode are thay wente, the wlonkeste in wedys.
Both the kynge and the qwene
And alle the doghety by-dene;
Sir Gawan, gayeste one grene,
Dame Gayenoure he ledis."
In Sir Gawayne anal the Green Knight the full or long lines are alliterative, but unrhymed. The concluding short lines are introduced by a link similar to that in Sir Tristrem, and are always four in number. No limit is prescribed to the number of long lines. In the Pearl — a tender allegorical poem on a dead infant—the stanza consists of twelve lines each with four accents, and the rhyme-scheme is: ababababbcbc.
The masterpiece among English romances, whether sir Gawayne ^iterative or in rhyme, is by general adand the mission Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight. reen ight. ^ftiorlgk founded on Perceval, the English poem shows considerable independence, and the story is told with excellent skill and address. The romance is divided into four "fyttes," representing as many acts of the drama, which opens with a Yuletide scene in King Arthur's days at Camelot. Just ere the feast begins, the company are surprised by the entrance of a portentous knight in green, and he proffers a request not less portentous than his aspect. It is that a Knight of the Eound Table shall do him the favour to cut off his head—only, if any consent thereto, he must abide a like stroke at the Green Knight's hands in a year and a day. Nobody being in a hurry to take up this challenge, the stranger falls to jibing, as though the glory of the Eound Table had departed. The king, unable to brook such insult, leaps from his seat, but his nephew, Sir Gawayne, craves the privilege of the blow. Thereupon, at one swoop, the devoted head sinks to the ground, but not its owner, who unconcernedly picks up his belonging, and merely reminding his opponent of the compact, goes his way. In due time Gawayne sets out on his travel to the place of meeting—a certain Green Chapel in the north. It is dismal travel, combined with foul weather, rough roads, robbers, and giants, but at length the knight arrives at a castle. The lord of the castle, who is elderly, treats him kindly, and the lady, young and fair, is more than kind. And now host and guest make a strange bargain. The old knight is to go a-hunting, while the young knight stays at home with the ladies. At the close of each day, each is to "swap" with the other the day's gains. The young dame kisses Gawayne more than hospitality requires,