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That muche couthen of Cristes lore.
The pope of Peyters stod at is masse
With ful gret solempnete,
“ Kyng Edward, honoured thou be :
“ Bringe to ende that thou hast bygonne, “ The holy crois ymade of tre
« So fain thou woldest hit have ywonne.
“ Jerusalem, thou hast ilore
“ The flourè of al chivalrie,
“ Alas, that he yet shuldè deye!
“ Our baners that bueth broht to grounde : “ Wel longe we may clepe (c) and crie,
“ Er we such a kyng have yfounde!"
In this reign, English, though still a rugged and disjointed language, began to be generally cul. tivated, and gradually to become more refined and
copious; and the fictions of romance and chivalry, by this time interwoven with the Arabesque ornaments and wild fantasies introduced by the Crusaders, gradually displaced in general favour the dull versified chronicles and homilies of an earlier period.
The reign of the Second Edward was distinguished by an English poet of greater pretensions than any of his predecessors, if the claim of Adam Davie to the authorship of the Life of Alexander the Great is allowed. This early writer describes himself as the Marshal of Stratford le Bow, near London. His first production was a sort of pious and loyal vision, so complimentary to Edward, that the Marshal probably expected to be something yet greater. So completely did the manners of chivalry pervade men's minds at this time, that this author, in a poem entitled the Battle of Jerusalem, makes Pi. late challenge our Saviour to single combat !
The procession of Olympias, in the Life of Alexander, whoever be its author, may serve as a specimen of the splendour of the early metrical romance, which now became generally known in England. The power of these compositions is nearly altogether descriptive. They show no capacity of moral discrimination, and few touches of pathos. One chief is distinguished from another by the colour of his steed, or by his hair being yalewe or jete ; for all ride and joust about equally well ; and, save some prodigious favourite, as Cæur
de Lion, Arthur, or Tristrem, kill about equal numbers at any odds.
A mule, all so white as milk,
* also wrestling.
(a) A saddle-cloth, or housing. Fr.
Bright and sheen was her face;
In this same old romance, in which the manners of chivalry are constantly ingrafted on classical his. tory, is found the well-known couplet in its true reading :
Merry swithe it is in halle,
Among the poets of the Second Edward's reign was Robert Barton, a Carmelite friar, who accompanied the king into Scotland, to sing his anticipated triumph over the Scots, and who, according to a well-known tradition, being made prisoner, was ransomed by celebrating the victory of Robert de Bruce ; thus, like Balaam, constrained to bless those whom he had come to curse.
The adventures of the Scottish hero sung by Barbour, archdeacon of Aberdeen, and those of Wallace, commemorated by a nameless minstrel known as Blind Harry, prove, that in the early part of the fourteenth century, and prior to the period of Chaucer, poetry was at least as diligently and successfully cultivated in Scotland as in the adjoining country. It is thus the old archdeacon describes the return of Summer :
This was in the midst of May,
And fieldis strewed are with flowers,
The following description of Wallace's bivouac, though not in the boldest style of the Blind Bard, may challenge comparison with any composition of his age; the spelling has been considerably mod. ernised : Into a vale, by a small river fair, On either side where wild deer made repair, Set watches out that wisely could them keep, To supper went, and timeously they sleep. Of meat and sleep they cease with suffisaunce. The night was mirk; overdrave the darksome chance ; The merry day sprang from the orient With beamis bright illuminate the occident.