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from the old Teutonic poems, such as Beowulf, in which life is pictured as a struggle with fate and the powers of evil, and where the world is bleak and gloomy. Here we read of spring and flowers, of harping, love, and chivalry, of knights and fair ladies. By some sudden enchantment we pass to the land of faërie, where lofty castles with crystal walls and pillars of gold are dazzling to the eyes. The heroes of romance ride abroad in quest of adventure and renown, seeking by knightly deeds to prove their valor or to win the love of ladies. Graceful sentiment, gentleness, and courtesy, and often, in the love stories, a genuine and absorbing passion, are mingled with a love of the cheerful aspects of Nature and a sense of manly strength and honor. Such ar the elements of this romantic atmosphere, which is essentially a Celtic contribution to literature. The Celtic genius, taking some of the stories from the old mythologies, some facts of history and traditions of heroes, has transformed them in its own way, and, combining them with tales from Irish fairy-lore, has woven a tissue of romance that has charmed and entertained the world from that time to this.
French models were also a stimulating influence in the writing of didactic poems
poems written for the purpose of teaching a moral --- such as The Owl and the Nightingale (about 1220), in which two birds dispute over the merits of their different ways of living. Thus, the nightingale represents the lover of pleasure, who gives himself up to the joys of the moment, and who glories in the pride and pomp of life. The owl praises self-restraint, and the earnest seeking after higher and more lasting pleasures than those of the flesh. The contrast between the lives of the two birds is that between man's æsthetic sense and his moral sense,
between the pleasure-loving nations of the south and the more austere and religious peoples of the north.
Songs. The English songs, too, some of which have a wonderful grace and melody, certainly owe much to French and foreign influences. Some of these are religious; hymns to the Virgin full of a warmth of adoration which is not English but southern. Some are warsongs; others, again, are songs of love and springtime, so true and beautiful, that we, reading them after six hundred years, can still feel the quick pulse of youth and gladness beat in them. Perhaps the most beautiful of these love-songs is the one to Alysoun:
“Between soft March and April showers,
To light on Alysoun.” These lines have a delicate and dreamy beauty, a grace and sentiment, which we cannot but feel has been learned from England's foreign masters. But on the other hand we must not conclude that all these English songs were but echoes of the French. There are occasional touches of description, and here and there a strain of melody, that seem to have been taken from the poetry of the people. In one of the thirteenth-century lovesongs, for instance, there is a refrain not easily forgotten, - superior in grace and melody to all the rest
of the poem:
“Blow, Northern wind,
The famous Cuckoo Song (about 1250), which is full of the homely, wholesome life of farmyard and pasture, is thought to echo the refrain of a popular dance-song:
“Summer is a-coming in,
Ewe bleateth after lamb,
All these poems
songs, romances, debates, and histories — prepared the way for a still greater development of English literature in the fourteenth century, whch culminated in the works of the greatest of Middle English writers, GEOFFREY CHAUCER. Thus, in the period immediately following the Norman Conquest, English poetry was enriched with new verse-forms; and English literature absorbed a mass of legend, myth, and romance from Wales, from Brittany and France. Literature in the English language revived. A larger and ever-increasing audience was raised for the writers of the future, and the final triumph of the English language and of English literature over the Norman-French in England was almost assured.
Battle of Hastings (or Senlac)
1066 WILLIAM I, or William the Conqueror
1066–1087 Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury
1070 Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury
1093 The Crusades...
1096-1270 Florence of Worcester
died 1118 Latin Chroniclers William of Malmesbury
died 1143 Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain ...... 1147 Rise of Oxford University
about 1133–1186 HENRY II, first of the Plantagenet or Angevin Kings 1154-1189 Murder of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury 1170 RICHARD I (Richard Cour de Lion)
1189–1199 KING JOHN (John Lackland)
1199-1216 England loses Normandy ...
1204 Layamon's Brut, first long poem in English after the Norman Conquest
.about 1205 The Great Charter of Liberties (Magna Charta)
1215 The Owl and the Nightingale, an English debate poem .. about 1220 The Cuckoo Song, first important English song after the Norman Conquest
. about 1250 Peterhouse College, Cambridge, founded
1257 Matthew Paris, a later Latin chronicler
died 1259 Commons first represented in Parliament
1265 Havelok the Dane
about 1270-1280 English romances Guy of Warwick
St. Francis of Assisi
THE AGE OF CHAUCER
“Forget six counties overhung with smoke,
While nigh the thronged wharf Geoffrey Chaucer's pen
WILLIAM MORRIS, Prologue to the Earthly Paradise.
ENGLAND IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY To get near to Chaucer, to read his poetry with entire sympathy and delight, one must forget our modern world for the time and go back in imagination into that other world of the fourteenth century, in the midst of which he lived and worked. There was much in that world to fire the imagination and to quicken the energies of a great poet. It was a brilliant, stirring, and ambitious time, when life was full of violent and dramatic contrasts. It was peculiarly a time of change. Europe was already restive under the leaven of new ideas. Here and there men were beginning to grow impatient of the old restraints and conventions, and to rebel against long established institutions or accepted modes of thought. The old order indeed yet remained; but as we look back to the fourteenth century and interpret it by our knowledge of the centuries that followed,