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Professor Gerould's interesting paper on the Passio S. Margaritæ suggested to me that it might be of advantage to render accessible another Latin version of the same Passio which has existed up till the present time in manuscript form only. This version came under my notice in the course of an examination of the Latin sources of the Legend of St. Margaret, made in connection with a study of the interdependence of the Anglo-Norman versions. It is clearly the source of two XIIIth century French poems, and appears also to have been drawn upon by compilers who took the bulk of their material from other versions. It was used by the Norman chronicler Wace, by the anonymous author of a third XIIIth century French poem (Brit. Mus. MS. Addit. 38664), by the author of the “Scotch version” and by the author of the prose account in Mirk's Festial.
Let me tell an old British tale in my own plain way; for I am unversed in ornaments of style. This is all that the Franklin's prologue means on its surface. The connotation beneath is inviting. Are “aventures,” “layes,” “rymeyed,” “instruments” intended precisely? How much grasp they suggest of early medieval poetic is perhaps beyond our determination. But the term “colours of rethoryk” occurs also in the Hous of Fame. The interlude before the Clerk's Tale has a sarcasm of the Host against these same “colours” in the same connection. The Squire's disclaimer has the same significant terms as the Franklin's, and the same point as the Clerk's reply to the Host. The satire in the Tale of the Nun's Priest on Geoffrey of Vinsauf confirms the suspicion that in all these passages Chaucer implies specific criticism of a certain later medieval poetic, the poetic current in the Latin manuals entitled poetria. For the language of the Franklin's prologue, in spite of his disclaimer, is literary. Chaucer knew as well as Shakspere that he who announces “a plain, unvarnished tale” may command a better art than the rhetoric that he disclaims. It is worth while to explore, therefore, the mention of rhetoric in connection with story-telling, the conjunction of Cicero and Parnassus. As Sir Thopas parodies not only the conventional motives of romance, but also particular faults in its conventional technic, so Chaucer's references to “colours of rethoryk,” instead of being taken as general disparagement of grandiloquence, may well be sounded for their particular significance. In any age, indeed, the man of letters contemplating the rules of his art laid down by the pedagogues is moved to sarcasm; but Chaucer's sarcasms may suggest specifically wherein the pedagogues that he knew went wide of the narrative art that he came to comprehend as artist and as critic. His reference in the House of Fame merely glances at “prolixitee.” The passages in the four Canterbury tales, ampler and more specific, together suggest that the application of “colours of rethoryk” to narrative is a perversion, that Cicero is out of place on Parnassus.
Metrical interpretation of the important group of Middle English alliterative poems, of which Piers Plowman may be considered the type, has long been a subject of controversy. The present study aims, too hopefully perhaps, not at an entirely new hypothesis, but at harmonizing the two old theories in the light of recent general study of English metrics. As with so many efforts at peace-making, this may result merely in a three-cornered fight in place of a duel, so that the end may be only confusion worse confounded. We can, however, but try.
Any attempt to interpret an allegorical pastoral which was written three hundred years ago is a stimulating but precarious undertaking. Particularly is this true when the author deliberately exercises his ingenuity to make his allegory difficult of interpretation even by his contemporaries. This generalization is especially applicable to Drayton's pastoral allegory, The Shepheards Sirena. Any number of hypotheses may be erected; none, I think, can be completely and satisfactorily substantiated. Replying to my former article, Professor J. William Hebel recognizes this limitation of our knowledge when he remarks: “Possibly we are too far away from The Shepheards Sirena, and have too little information, to arrive at a completely satisfactory interpretation of the dark conceit of the poem.”
One of the points always brought out in a study of the prosody of Milton's later poems is the manner in which he breaks away from the end-stopped lines, and moulds his verse into long majestic periods, like the paragraphs of prose. But while this aspect of his poetry has often been admired, the prosodical devices by which it is made noticeable and effective have never been studied. Accurate knowledge of these devices depends: first, on an analysis of Milton's punctuation, as the number and position of the full stops determine the extent and effect of the verse paragraphs; and second, on an analysis of the rhythms immediately following the full stops, that is, at the opening of the succeeding sentences.
In spite of Henry Vaughan's widely recognized significance as an early poet of nature, discussion of his nature poetry has almost always been incidental to a general consideration of the man and his work. The feeling that a more systematic examination of his nature poetry would be of value has prompted the present study.
Since 1893, when Churton Collins published his biography of Swift, the question as to whether or not Swift was married to Stella has been practically closed. Collins disposed of the matter in the following definitive fashion:
The evidence on which Monck-Berkeley chiefly relied was not that of Mrs. Hearne. “I was,” he says, “informed by the relict of Bishop Berkeley that her husband had assured her of the truth of Swift's marriage, as the Bishop of Clogher who had performed the ceremony had himself communicated the circumstance to him.” If this could be depended upon, it would, of course, settle the question; but unfortunately for Monck-Berkeley, and for Monck-Berkeley's adherents, it can be conclusively proved that no such communication could have taken place. In 1715, a year before the supposed marriage was solemnized, Berkeley was in Italy, where he remained till 1721. Between 1716 and 1717 it is certain that the Bishop of Clogher never left Ireland, and at the end of 1717 he died.1
Between the years 1761 and 1764, Charles Churchill was the leading figure in English controversial literature; his poems occasioned multitudes of replies, many of them anonymous, most of them of third-rate literary merit. Had these replies come from distinguished writers, it is probable that Churchill would not today be an almost unknown figure in the history of English literature.
Although Bulwer-Lytton, in the preface to Richelieu and in various footnotes, acknowledges certain sources for his drama, notably two French novels, he nowhere records any obligation to French dramas. At the same time he remarks that in handling historical data he has availed himself of that “license with dates and details which poetry permits and which the highest authorities in the Drama of France herself have sanctioned.” This statement in his preface raises a two-fold question: Who were the “highest authorities” whom Bulwer had in mind, and to what extent was he indebted to them? In such an inquiry no less than three French dramatists offer material for consideration.
In Recalling a story told by Turgenieff at one of Flaubert's Sunday gatherings, Maupassant writes:
Personne plus que le grand romancier russe ne sut faire passer dans l'âme ce frisson de l'inconnu voilé, et, dans la demi-lumière d'un conte étrange, laisser entrevoir tout un monde de choses inquiétantes, incertaines, menaçantes. Avec lui, on la sent bien, la peur de l'Invisible, la peur de l'inconnu qui est derrière le mur, derrière la porte, derrière la vie apparente. . . . . On croit sentir, avec lui, un fil imperceptible qui nous guide d'une façon mystérieuse à travers la vie, comme à travers un rêve nébuleux dont le sens nous échappe sans cesse. Il n'entre point hardiment dans le surnaturel, comme Edgar Poë ou Hoffmann, il raconte des histoires simples où se mêle seulement quelque chose d'un peu troublant.1
Although the present-day popular views of grammar do not, in medieval fashion, find “divine inspiration in the eight parts of speech” and veiled references to the Trinity in “the three persons of verbal conjugation” yet they do look upon the rules of the common school grammars as the infallible measure of correct language, and the one defence against the forces of corruption that continually beset it. “Grammatici unus finis est recté loqui” still expresses the attitude of the ordinary public, of most school teachers, and of many men of letters. Even a hundred years of the historical method in linguistic scholarship has failed to affect in any marked degree the common grammatical ideas and ideals of the general public.
In his recently published Philosophy of Grammar, Professor Otto Jespersen devotes Chapter XIII to the discussion of “Case.” And, as in every former work from his pen, in this latest he is highly interesting and instructive. And yet I find myself unable to agree with several positions taken therein, especially in the chapter on Case.