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And for us don on rode.
That we sholde be gode.
Haven herene blisse.
That joye for to misse.
The devel for to shende;
In joye withoute ende. AMEN.
Another curtasye y wylle the teche,*
From the Latin Chronicle of GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH.
The island was then called Albion, and was inhabited by none but a few giants. Notwithstanding this, the pleasant situation of the places, the plenty of rivers abounding with fish, and the engaging prospect of its woods made Brutus and his company very desirous to fix their habitation in it. They therefore passed through all the provinces, forced the giants
* Some portions of the Boke of Curtasye, especially those passages enjoining more decent habits at table and elsewhere, give an insight into manuers grosser than a refined age can imagine.
to fly into the caves of the mountains, and divided the country among them according to the directions of their commander. After this they began to till the ground and build houses, so that in a little time the country looked like a place that had been long inhabited. At last Brutus called the island after his own name Britain, and his companions Britons, for by these means he desired to perpetuate the memory of his name. From whence, afterwards, the language of the nation, which at first bore the name of Trojan, or rough Greek, was called British. But Corineus, in imitation of his leader, called that part of the island which fell to his share Corinea, and his people Corineans, after his name; and though he had his choice of the provinces before all the rest, yet he preferred this country which is now called, in Latin, Cornubia, either from its being in the shape of a horn (in Latin cornu), or from the corruption of the said name.
There was no decided change in the language of the English for more than a century and a half after the Norman Conquest.
The twelfth century marks the first change.
Chivalry mitigated the cruelty of Feudalism, and was refining in its influences.
The Crusades opened up a communication between the East and West. Minstrels, Troubadours and Trouvéres exchanged songs and stories.
The Norman Conquest in some respects was an advantage to English culture.
Trouvéres were the poets of Normandy; Troubadours were the poets of Provence.
The Legends of King Arthur were discovered in Brittany in the twelfth century.
The three great subjects of Romance common through Europe were Arthur, Alexander, and Charlemagne.
Three literary works mark the transition stage of the language:-The works of Layamon, the Ancren Riwle, the Ormulum.
Layamon first told in English verse the story of Arthur.
The Rhyming Chroniclers were, Layamon, Robert of Gloucester, and Robert of Manning.
The English poems of this time were The Owl and the Nightingale, The Song of Summer, Horne Childe, The King of Tars (Tarsus), and Bablads of Robin Hood.
Thomas of Ercildoun was the first Scotch poet.
Richard Rolle and Laurence Minot were the last poets of this period. Minot was the first national song writer of England.
The first Drama was performed in England during this period (in 1119). The Philosophy of the Middle Ages was called Scholasticism.
Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste were the chief philosophers of this time.
The Chronicles were all written in Latin.
The chief chroniclers were Geoffrey of Monmouth, William of Malmsbury, Henry of Huntingdon.
Towards the close of the period the language of England was in a confused state; English, French, and Latin sometimes appearing in one composition.
JHE beginning of early modern English dates from the
. of the country, no doubt, hastened the fusion of the Norman and Anglo-Saxon tongues. During the reign of Edward III. (1327–1377) the long smouldering rivalry between England and France broke out in a series of wars, which brought victory to the English. These victories being in a great degree due to the bravery of the English yeomanry, the language of the people came to be more and more respected. In 1362, Edward III. passed a law enforcing the use of English in all judicial pleadings. Such uses of the language created an impetus in the culture of the long-neglected mother-tongue.
But the chief cause of the new life of the fourteenth century was the awakening of thought, the possibility shown of intellectual freedom, by throwing off the shackles of scholasticism. In England this new birth was rainly due to the preaching of John Wycliffe, “the Morning Star of the Reformation.”
This awakening was not confined to England. It was a period of intellectual regeneration throughout Europe. In Italy the first spark of returning life was seen ; and the fire of the old writers of the "Augustan Age” was revived in Dante. Thus the grave of the last writers of antiquity became the cradle of modern literature,
CHAUCER. Seven years after the death of Dante, GEOFFREY CHAUCER (1328–1400), the “Father of English Poetry," was born, and with him was ushered in the dawn of a new era,
Comparatively little is known of the life of Chaucer. He is supposed to have been born in London, in the year 1328. He was conspicuous in the court of Edward III. as a courtier and gentleman, and was frequently employed on embassies of trust to foreign nations. In his visits to Italy he probably met with Petrarch,* and read the stories of Boccaccio.† He married Philippa Pycard, maid of honor to the queen and sister to the wife of John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III. This prince bestowed upon Chaucer not only patronage, but the warmest friendship, so that the poet's fortunes rose and fell with the fortunes of the house of Lancaster. Both Chaucer and John of Gaunt were favorable to the opinions of Wycliffe, and Chaucer in his humorous satire was not sparing of the clergy and the abuses of the church.
Chaucer was presented by Edward III. and his queen Philippa with a house at Woodstock, where he spent some of the happiest portions of his life. Here he retired after the activity of public life, and at the age of sixty began to write The Canterbury Tales. A short time before his death he leased a residence in the garden of the priory of Westminster, and here, in the year 1400, he died. He was the first poet buried in Westminster Abbey.
We can see the gay and childlike character of Chaucer in his writings, the best known of which are the Canterbury Tales. These are a series of stories told by a company of pilgrims on their journey to the tomb of Thomas à Becket. I No better picture of the times could be presented than this scene affords.
Whatever the object of the journey, it was customary to travel in companies, as the highways were beset by robbers; so, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, we are introduced to
"Wel nyne and twenty in a companye of sondry folk,”
* An Italian poet, 1304–1374.
† An Italian romancer, 1313–1375. Archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of Henry II. He was assassinated in the Cathedral of Canterbury, 1171, and canonized three years afterwards,