Poetry Unit Continued… The Middle English Period 1066-1485
Vocabulary Words: Norman Conquest Vassal Divine Right Serf Feudal system Fief Code of Chivalry Lyrics-religious and secular Popular Ballad
Think back to the Anglo-Saxon period… Alfred the Great united all of England under one ruler around 886. He supported Christianity, encouraged education, etc. He died in 899. For over a hundred years after his death, England was in a weakened state…
The Norman Conquest of1066 - invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Ended the Anglo-Saxons’ control over country. Divided the conquered land among Normans, forcing most Anglo-Saxons to become serfs. Ended Anglo-Saxon as the “official” language. Norman French became the language of the aristocracy. Latin was the language of the Church (Holy Roman Catholic) The weak gets taken…
William dies…and who takes the throne? There were lots of kings within 400 years…and lots of upheavals! William II Henry I Stephen Henry II Richard I (Richard the Lion-Hearted) John (think Robin Hood!) Magna Carta Henry III Edward I 1272 (proclaimed himself king of Scotland, but not for long…the Scots claimed their independence in the Battle of Bannockburn 1314) Edward II Edward III 1327 (Hundred Years’ War began) Great advances in literature and education during The Hundred Years’ War: English poetry became important for the first time Geoffrey Chaucer/ William Langland
Richard II 1377 (Peasant’s Revolt) Henry IV Henry V 1413 Henry VI 1422 (House of Lancaster) Nobles from the House of York wanted to overthrow him. Resulted in The Wars of the Roses. Edward IV (York - 1461) Henry VI (Lancaster -1470) Edward IV (York -1471) Edward V Richard III (self-proclaimed king) 1483-1485 Middle English Period ends in 1485, with the ascension of Henry VII to the throne of England, thereby ending The Wars of the Roses.
Society of the Middle Ages Society was organized into a social pyramid based on a feudal system (which was imported from France). A feudal society is a world where oaths and obligations, vows and promises, and established expectations and customs provide the only stability possible. Loyalty to others and fulfilling one's oaths are the most important values in a feudal society. If these ties break down - then anarchy is possible. Feudalism reached its height between the 800s-1200s. It disappeared in the 1400s.
Social Structure –King –Lords –Vassals –Knights –Merchant class –Serfs –Slaves
King Somewhat of a “figurehead ruler.” Kings ruled by divine right- people believed God had chosen them to be king. The theory claimed that kings were answerable only to God and it was sinful for their subjects to resist them. That, however, did not stop all of the rebellions! If a king was a strong leader, he could control the barons. If he was weak or indecisive, the barons would control him! *Magna Carta 1215- Nobles trying to control the unlimited power of the king. Kings used lords to control parts of the country.
Swore loyalty to the king. Gave wealth and support to their vassals: money, land, or whatever treasure or goods were taken in battle. Were responsible for protecting the family of any vassal who was killed. The children were protected as wards of the feudal lord until they married (if a daughter) or became a vassal (if a son). Widows, and their property, were also protected by the feudal lord. In essence, the vassal achieved a kind of insurance for his family by entering the service of a feudal lord. Lords
Vassals Had to swear an oath of loyalty to the king. Had to provide soldiers (knights) to fight so many days per year. Had to pay homage to their lord - promising to always defend him/his lands. After paying homage, the vassal received his fief. Fiefs were estates granted by the lord (including the land, the buildings on it, and the peasants who worked it.) He only received possession of the fief, not ownership.
The vassal could: receive what the land produced collect taxes hold court & execute sentences obtain labor as needed on the castle, other buildings and roads of the fief (estate.)
Knights Were granted land from their lord for their military service. At first the knights lived with the lords & were fed, clothed & armed by them. Later, some knights were given fiefs from the lord- vassal’s own fief estates. Followed the Code of Chivalry. (see handout)
Code of Chivalry To fear God and maintain His Church To serve the liege lord in valor and faith To protect the weak and defenseless To give succor to widows and orphans To refrain from the wanton giving of offence To live by honor and for glory To despise pecuniary reward To fight for the welfare of all To obey those placed in authority To guard the honor of fellow knights To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit To keep faith At all times to speak the truth To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun To respect the honor of women Never to refuse a challenge from an equal Never to turn the back upon a foe
The knights promised to defend the weak, be courteous to all women, be loyal to their king, and serve God at all times. HOWEVER… The code of chivalry did not always extend to the peasants. The "weak" was widely interpreted as "noble women and children." The knights were often brutal to common folk. They could sometimes even rape young peasant women without fear of reprisal, all because they were part of the upper class. The code of chivalry stated that knights must give mercy to a vanquished enemy. However, the very fact that knights were trained as men of war belied this code. They often plundered villages or cities that they captured, often defiling and destroying churches and other property.
Merchant class By 1250, the steady growth of trade and industry led to a rising middle class-the merchants. Merchant guilds Craft guilds
Peasants Worked the lord/vassal’s land and received a place to stay and some of the food they produced. Half of the work week was spent on working the land belonging to the lord and the church: maintenance, wood cutting, land clearing, road building, etc. The rest of the time they could work on their own land. Sundays and saints’ days were holidays. Had to give 1/10 of everything they produced to the church (crops, eggs, animals)…There were lots of rich bishops! Huts were shared with livestock.
Serfs Not technically a slave, but bound to a lord for life. Couldn’t own property. Needed the lord’s permission to marry. Couldn’t leave the land without the lord’s permission. If a serf ran to a town and managed to stay for 1 year + a day, he was a free man. Worked just as hard as a peasant, but had no days off/received no payment of crops, etc.
The Church and State Medieval society was dominated by two great institutions: feudalism and religion. The idea of your social and legal obligations to your lord pervaded all aspects of daily life for all the lower levels of society. The idea of the afterlife, and where you would be spending it, pervaded all aspects of society (and was used to manipulate all levels of society.) Literature of the period can be grouped around these two institutions.
The Church King Pope Cardinals Archbishops Bishops Monsignors Priests The people
What was the net impact of all of this on our language? Many new words, literary forms, and social attitudes had entered England from France, and the whole character of English language and literature had been altered. The net effect was to enrich (rather than to impoverish) English language and literature. Latin (the language of the church and of scholars) influenced our language. Church controlled education Oxford and Cambridge universities were established during this time period.
French was the official language of England and the language of the aristocracy. English vocabulary greatly enlarged; more than 10,000 French words were added to the English language. “English in the barn, French in the kitchen.” Words relating to culture, gov’t and “polite” terms generally have French or Latin roots, while the “little words of house and home” derive from Anglo Saxon roots. cow, sheep, pig (Old English) beef, veal, mutton, pork, bacon (French)
It wasn’t until the 14 th century that English again emerged as a literary and political language. Partly due to the war with France, the English began to take a nationalistic pride in their country and their culture. English (instead of French) began to be taught regularly in schools.
Principal Differences between Old and Middle English: Grammar was simplified. In the year 1000 the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer were written in Old English: Faeder ure thu eart on heafunum, si thin nama gehaigod… In Wycliffe’s Bible (1389) it begins: Our fadir that aart in hevenes, halwid be thi name… English thus made a giant stride from its Germanic heritage toward the language we speak today.
AS vs. ME literature Vocab. & language seems foreign to us Language is more recognizable to us Northern, Scandinavian influences-vigorous, virile, stirring, but rather stark, humorless and forbidding Southern influences- stressing love and tenderness as much as strength and courage; possesses a gaiety and delicacy Hero of the old epic was the warrior Hero of the new romance was the Knight
Warrior vs. Knight Warrior –Brave –Male –Physically strong Knowledgeable offensive Codes they lived by… loyalty to tribal king personal commitment Boasting was acceptable Knight –Brave –Male –Physically strong Knowledgeable defensive Codes they lived by… feudalism code of chivalry Knights were expected to be humble before others; boasting was not acceptable.
Poetry Four types of poems were popular during the Middle Ages: Religious lyric Secular lyric Ubi sunt lyric Popular ballad
Lyrics The introduction of Latin hymns and the songs from the French troubadours (after the Norman Conquest) provided the English lyric with a new style an a new subject-matter: Instead of alliteration—poems started to rhyme. The new subject-matter: courtly love and nature description, although religion continued to be the chief subject.
Religious Lyrics Religious lyrics basically glorified the Virgin, a saint, or Jesus Christ.
Not all literature of the period was Christian in inspiration. Some secular lyrics included topics about: courtly love life’s transitoriness natural scenery or earthly love. Secular Lyrics
Secular Lyric ~ Courtly Love Courtly love was a concept that originated in the Middle Ages in Europe. There were certain assumptions associated with the idea of courtly love: 1. The characters involved must be of a higher social class- must be from the Court. 2. There must be a certain amount of "ritual" associated with their relationship: a. the man must suffer, and it must show in the form of physical manifestations-i.e. lack of sleep, pallor, loss of appetite, etc. b. the woman must present herself as indifferent to his grief- at least in the beginning c. there must be a rival for the woman's affections
d. there must be an element of secrecy involved in their relationship-it may be caused by politics, other relationships, social differences, etc. e. there may not be any physical expression of love f. it is unlikely the characters involved will marry (marriage was for political, monetary or social benefit) 3. The love object was all the virtues personified- not a "real" person, but rather the embodiment of all the elements that make the “ideal” woman.
Secular Lyric-Nature/Earthly Love The nature lyric describes nature…duh! The Cuckoo Song was sung as a round. Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu! Groweþ sed and bloweþ med And springþ þe wode nu, Sing cuccu! Awe bleteth after lomb, Lhouth after calve cu. Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth, Murie sing cuccu! Cuccu, cuccu, wel sings thu cuccu. Ne swik thu naver nu. Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!
Summer has come in, Loudly sing, Cuckoo! The seed grows and the meadow blooms And the wood springs anew, Sing, Cuckoo! The ewe bleats after the lamb The cow lows after the calf. The bullock stirs, the stag farts, Merrily sing, Cuckoo! Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo; Don't you ever stop now, Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo. Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now! "bucke uerteþ" means "the stag farts", a gesture of virility indicating the stag's potential for creating new life, echoing the rebirth of Nature from the barren period of winter.
Secular Lyric ~ Ubi Sunt Ubi Sunt poems lamented the transitoriness of human life. Used to convey sadness about the temporary nature of life and beauty. Ubi sunt literally means where are…?
Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt? Where beth they beforen us weren, Houndes ladden and havekes beren,...? They beren hem well swithe heye, And, in a twinkling of an eye, Hoere soules weren forloren. --Anon (later 13th century)
Where are they, who were before us, led hounds and bore hawks...? They bore themselves very loftily, and in the twinkling of an eye, their souls were lost.
Popular Ballads Popular ballads-are songs that tell a story. They relate violent or pathetic events of everyday experiences in a simple, memorable, repetitive style. Their subject matter usually includes: love, battles, jealousy and/or revenge. Most are written about upper-class individuals or families. The material is drawn from history or from folklore.
Popular ballads/traditional ballads have unknown authors. Most were passed down orally. Ballads are unlike lyrics because they are objective poems, and the attention is on the characters and events of the story rather than on the personal views or feelings of the narrator. They are usually composed of rhyming couplets or the ballad stanza.
Rhyming couplet: two lines that rhyme. There were three ravens that sat on a tree, They were as blacke as they might be. Ballad stanza: a stanza of 4 lines. Lines 2 & 4 almost always rhyme Lines 1 and 3 sometimes rhyme. “Late late yestreen I saw the new moone, Wi the auld moone in hir arme, And I feir, I feir, my deir master, That we will cum to harme.”
There were three ravens sat on a tree, downe a downe, hay downe, hay downe, There were three rauens sat on a tree, with a downe, There were three ravens sat on a tree, They were as black as they might be. With a downe, derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe. The one of them said to his mate, Where shall we our breakfast take? Down in yonder green field, There lies a Knight slain under his shield, His hounds they lie down at his feet,
So well they can their Master keep, His hawks they fly so eagerly, There's no fowl dare him come nie. Down there comes a fallow doe, As great with young as she might go. She lift up his bloody head, And kissed his wounds that were so red, She got him up upon her back, And carried him to earthen lake, She buried him before the prime, She was dead her self ere evening-song time. God send every gentleman, Such hawks, such hounds, and such a Leman.
The Three Ravens…Interpreted Look at your notes about the Popular Ballad. Which characteristics of the Popular Ballad are portrayed in this poem? What is this poem about?
The ballad takes the form of three scavenger birds conversing about where and what they should eat. One mentions a recently slain knight, but they find he is guarded by his loyal hawk and hound. A doe (often interpreted as the knight's mistress in supernatural form) comes upon him, cleans his wounds, bears him away, and buries him, leaving the ravens without an apparent meal. The narrator, however, gradually departs from the ravens' point of view, ending with “God send euery gentleman/Such haukes, such hounds, and such a Leman”.
The Twa Corbies An Drasda from the 1999 Atlanta Celtic Festival.
The Twa Corbies What characteristics of the Popular Ballad are apparent in this poem? What is this poem about? What are the similarities and differences between this poem and The Three Ravens?
The Three Ravens and The Twa Corbies There are only two scavengers in “Twa Corbies”, but this is the least of the differences between the songs, although they do begin the same. Rather than commenting on the loyalty of the knight's beasts, the crows mention that the hawk and the hound have abandoned their master, and are off chasing other game, while his mistress has already taken another lover.
These ravens are guaranteed an undisturbed meal, as no one else knows where the man lies, or even that he's dead. They discuss in some gruesome detail the meal they will make out of him, plucking out his eye and using his hair for their nests. Some themes believed to be portrayed in "Twa Corbies" are: the fragility of life, the idea that life goes on after death, and a more pessimistic viewpoint on life.
Your consent to our cookies if you continue to use this website.