History of English Literature: Part-2

the most noteworthy English document of the eleventh and twelfth centuries was the continuation of the anglo-saxon chronicle copies of these annals differing somewhat among themselves have been kept at the monasteries in Winchester Abingdon Worcester and elsewhere the yearly entries were mostly brief dry records of passing events though occasionally they became full and animated the Fenn country of Cambridge and Lincolnshire was a region of monasteries here with a great Abbey’s of Peterborough and croix Island and le Minster one of the earliest English songs tells how the savage heart of the Danish King Canute was softened by the singing of the monks in le Marius only Monica’s spin in le duc note henan rio thereby Rohith knitted Kinesis nor the lund and here with this Munich his son it was among the dikes and marches of the spend country that the bold outlaw hero bud the last of the English held out for some years against the Conqueror and it was here in the rich Abbey of birth or Peterborough the ancient mid is Hampstead meadow homestead that the chronicle was continued for nearly a century after the conquest breaking off abruptly in 1154 the date of King Stephens death Peterborough had received the new norman abbot torold a very stern man and the entry in the Chronicle for 1170 tells how Harry Vardon is gang with his Danish backers thereupon plundered the abbey of its treasures which were first removed to Le and then carried off by the Danish fleet and sunk lost or squandered the English in the later portions of this Peterborough chronicle becomes gradually more modern and Falls away more and more from the strict grammatical standards of the classic anglo-saxon it is a most valuable historical document and some passages of it are written with great vividness notably the sketch of William the Conqueror put down in the year of his death 1086 by one who had looked upon him and at another time dwelt in his court Hugh was before a rich King and Lord of many a land he had not then of all his land but a piece of seven feet likewise he was a very stark man and a terrible so that one Durst do nothing against his will among other things is not to be forgotten the good piece that he made in his land so that a man might fare over his kingdom with his bosom full of gold unhurt he set up a great deer Preserve and he laid laws there with that whoso should slay heart or hind he should be blinded as greatly did he love the tall deer as if he were their father with the discontinuance of the Peterborough annals English history written in English prose ceased for 300 years the thread of the nation’s story was kept up in Latin chronicles compiled by writers partly of English and partly of Norman descent the earliest of these such as orderic vitalis simeon of durham henry of huntington and william of malmesbury were contemporary with the later entries of the saxon chronicle the last of them Matthew of Westminster finished his work in 1273 about 1300 a monk of Gloucester composed a chronicle in English verse following in the main the authority of the Latin chronicles and he was succeeded by other rhyming chroniclers in the 14th century in the hands of these the true history of the Saxon times was overlaid with an ever increasing mass of fable and legend all real knowledge of the period dwindled away until in cap graves chronicle of England written in prose in 14 63 to 64 hardly anything of it is left in history as in literature the English had forgotten their past and had turned to foreign sources it is noteworthy that Shakespeare who borrowed his subjects and his heroes sometimes from the authentic English history sometimes from the legendary history of ancient Britain Denmark and Scotland as in Lear Hamlet and Macbeth ignores the Saxon period altogether and Spencer who gives in his second book of The Faerie Queene a resume of the reigns of fabulous British Kings the supposed ancestors of Queen Elizabeth his royal patron has nothing to say of the real kings of early England so completely had the true record faded away that it made no appeal to the imaginations of our most patriotic poets the Saxon Alfred had been dethroned by the British Arthur and the conquered Welsh had imposed their fictitious genealogies upon the dynasty of the conquerors in the home under whom a verse chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy written by the Norman ways it is related that at the Battle of Hastings the French jungler ty fare spurred out before the van of William’s army tossing his Lance in the air and chanting of Shalom Anya and of Rowland of Oliver and the peers who died at hozeva this incident is prophetic of the victory which Norman song no less than Norman arms was to win over England the lines which tie Fair sang were from the shell Sandow rollin the oldest and best of the French hero sagas the heathen north men who had ravaged the coasts of France in the 10th century had become in the course of 150 years completely identified with the French they had accepted Christianity intermarried with the native women and forgotten their own Norse tongue the race of us formed was the most brilliant in Europe the warlike adventurous spirit of the Vikings mingled in its blood with the French nimbleness of wit and fondness for display the Normans were a nation of Knights errant with a passion for prowess and for courtesy their architecture was at once strong and graceful their women were skilled in embroidery a splendid sample of which is preserved in the famous Bayeux Tapestry in which the conquerors wife Matilda and the ladies of her court wrought the history of the conquest this national taste for decoration expressed itself not only in the ceremonious pomp of feast and chase and tourney but likewise in literature the most characteristic contribution of the Normans to English poetry were the metrical romances or chivalry tales these were sung or recited by the minstrels who were among the retainers of every great feudal baron or by the junglers who wandered from court to castle there is a whole literature of these home on Devon – in the anglo-norman dialect of French many of them are very long often 30 40 or 50 thousand lines written sometimes in a strophic form sometimes in long alexandra’s but commonly in the short eight syllable rhyming couplet numbers of them were turned into English verbs in the 13th 14th and 15th centuries the translations were usually inferior to the originals the French Juvia finder or poet told in his story in a straightforward prosaic fashion omitting no details in the action and unrolling endless descriptions of dresses trap gardens etc he invented plots and situations full of fine possibilities by which later poets have profited but his own handling of them was feeble and prolix yet there was a simplicity about the old French language and a certain elegance and delicacy in the diction of the Truvia which the rude unformed english failed to catch the heroes of these romances were of various climes Guy of Warwick and Richard the Lionheart of England have a lock the Dame sir toyless of Troy Charlemagne an Alexander but strangely enough the favorite hero of English romance was that mythical Arthur of Britain whom Welsh legend had celebrated as the most formidable enemy of the Sasana invaders and their victor in twelve great battles the language and literature of the Ancients similar or Welsh had made no impression on their anglo-saxon conquerors there were a few Welsh borrowings in the English speech such as bard and druid but in the old anglo-saxon literature there are no more traces of British song and story than if the two races had been sundered by the ocean instead of being Borderers for over 600 years but the Welsh had their own national traditions and after the Norman conquest these were set free from the isolation of their Celtic tongue and in an indirect form entered into the general literature of Europe the French came into contact with the old British literature in two places in the Welsh Marches in England and in the province of Brittany and France where the population is of cymraeg race and spoke and still to some extent speaks a Simek dialect akin to the Welsh


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