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Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric

Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric

Siegfried Wenzel
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    Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric
    Book Description:

    The Middle English lyric is intimately related to late medieval preaching, not only because many lyrical poems have been preserved in sermon manuscripts, but also because preaching furnished a unique opportunity to create and utilize poems. Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric explores this relationship in detail.

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5414-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 Preachers and Poets
    (pp. 3-20)

    Despite the massive study of preaching in medieval England by G. R. Owst—whose second book was subtitledA Neglected Chapter in the History of English Letters and of the English People—it is fair to say that the relations of Middle English literature to contemporary preaching are far from exhaustively studied and known. Owst’s own interests were limited to showing that such large features of late medieval “letters” as realism, social satire and criticism, and the use of allegory were fully paralleled in contemporary sermons, rather than pointing to specific verbal material or structural elements which Chaucer, Langland, Gower,...

  2. 2 The Medieval Hymn Tradition
    (pp. 21-60)

    When preaching verses were first written down in sermon manuscripts, roughly in the third quarter of the thirteenth century, religious lyrics in Middle English had already been produced for at least a generation. These earlier poems had been translated and developed from Latin hymns and sequences, with which they formed a rich and diversified tradition. In order to examine the poetic achievements that characterize this tradition, I have selected a sequence attributed to the erudite paralytic monk Hermann of Reichenau (1013-1054).¹ Though it apparently did not directly influence the early English lyric and in fact seems not to have been...

  3. 3 The Sermon as an Art Form
    (pp. 61-100)

    The rhetorical and literary context in which preachers’ verses were used and for which they were created is the peculiar form of sermon which, throughout Western Europe, came into being in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century.¹ It is now known by various names, none of which is, for different reasons, wholly satisfactory. The label “modern sermon” echoes medieval usage itself, yet medieval writ ers who employed it drew the line between old and modern at different points.² The term “university sermon” reflects the historical fact that the new type of preaching apparently originated at the major universities, Paris...

  4. 4 The Oeuvre of Friar John of Grimestone
    (pp. 101-134)

    In order to build the kind of verbal structure analyzed in the preceding chapter, individual preachers needed expert guidance as well as handy depositories of the materials from which sermons could be composed. This need was supplied by a wide variety of preaching tools.¹Artes praedicandi,formal treatises on sermon construction, would teach the organization and structural principles of the scholastic sermon and indicate ways in which its parts could be generated and developed.² Collections of fully developed sermons would furnish models which a preacher might imitate or freely plunder. Briefer sermonschematawould provide outlines, perhaps with more detailed...

  5. 5 Grimestone the Lyricist
    (pp. 135-173)

    Our discussion of Grimestone’s English poems has so far excluded items that are longer and of far greater lyric power; these are in fact frequently anthologized with the best Middle English poetry. They not only deserve but demand separate treatment, with a twofold view toward their poetic quality and to their appearance in a collection of preaching material. A fine example comes from the section on Christ’s Passion:

    Lu[u]eli ter of loueli ey3e, qui dostu me so wo?

    Sorful ter of sorful ey3e, þu brekst myn herte a-to.

    þu sikest sore,

    þi sorwe is more

    þan mannis muth may telle;...

  6. 6 Complaint Verses and Oral Traditions
    (pp. 174-208)

    The preceding discussion of Grimestone’s preaching verses has paid no attention to a class of verses that may be referred to as “complaint verses” or “political poems” or, less accurately, “historical poems.” Grimestone’s collection includes at least three items of this kind. One of them (60) translates four Latin lines beginningMultis annis iam transactis:

    Manie 3eres ben iwent

    Sifþen treuthe out3 of londe is lent.

    Faire wordis and wikke dede

    Begilen man in al is nede.

    Another states that “now” (modo) the seven deadly sins have become acceptable or have even gained the status of virtues:

    Gula is samel[es];...

  7. 7 Love Sacred and Profane
    (pp. 209-242)

    Like complaint verses, secular love poems found in sermons open another window on the backgrounds of the early English lyric and provide its historian with fascinating if fragmentary material. From the later thirteenth into the fifteenth century preachers were evidently quite willing to enliven their discourse with well-known songs or snatches of worldly love. Mostly quoted as single lines or at best as a short stanza, such snatches have been eagerly gathered as so many precious remnants from the otherwise lost literature of medieval England. Thus, popular sermons form an extensive quarry that has preserved some precious shards which testify,...

  8. 8 Preachers or Poets
    (pp. 243-256)

    The preceding two chapters have already carried us briefly into the poetic world ofKing Lear.In concluding our explorations, it would be appropriate to ask what, if any, influence preachers’ verses had on the major poets in their own period, such as Chaucer, Langland, or Lydgate.¹ As stated, the question is hard, perhaps even impossible to answer. That the great poets writing in the period during which sermon verses flourished owed a deep and manifold debt to the homiletic tradition in general and to specific aspects of sermon-making in particular is beyond question. Chaucer, Langland, and Gower can certainly...

  9. Index of Manuscripts Cited
    (pp. 257-259)