Historical Background of the Middle English Period

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There was one more poet whose name is unknown. Four poems found in a single manuscript of the 14th c. Peasl, Patience, Cleanness, and Sir Gawaineand the Green Knight have been attributed to the same author. Incidentally, the latter poet belongs to the popular Arthurian cycle of Knightly romances, though the episodes narrated as well as the form are entirely original. The poems are a blending of collaborate alliteration, in line with the OE tradition, and new rhymed verse, with a variety of difficult rhyme schemes.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) was by far the most outstanding figure of the time. A hundred years later William Caxon, the first English printer, called him the worshipful father and fist founder and embellisher of ornate eloquence in our language. In many books on the history of English literature and the history of English Chaucer is described as the founder of the literary language.

His carried works more of less imitative if other authors Latin, French or Italian though they bear abundant evidence of his skill. He never wrote in any other language than English. The culmination of Chaucer s work as a poet ; his great unfinished collection of stories The Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer wrote in a dialect which in the main coincided with that used in documents produced in London shortly before his time and for a long time after. Although he did not really create the literary language, as a poet of outstanding talent he made better use if it than contemporaries and set up 2 pattern to be followed in the 15th c. His poems were copied so many times that over sixty manuscripts of The Cantervary Tales have survived to this day. No books were among the first to be printed, a hundred years after their Compositon.

Chausers literary language, based in the mixed (lavgely East Midland) London dialect is known as classical M.E. In the 15th and 16th c. it became the basis of the national literary English language.

The 15th c. could produce nothing worthy to rank with Chaucer. The two prominent poets, Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate, were chicfly translators and imitators. The style of Caucers successors is believed to have drawn farther away from everyday speech; it was highly effected in character, abounding in abstact words and strongly influenced by Latin rhetoric (it is termed aureate language).

Whereas in English literature the decline after Chaucer is apparent, the literature of Scotland forms a Northern dialect of English flourished from the 13th until the 16th c. The Bruce , written by John Barbour between 1373 and 1378 is a national epic, which describes the real history of Rolert Bruce a hero and military chief who defeated the army of Edward 2 at Bannockburn in 1314 and secured the independence of Scotland. This poem was followed by others, composed by prominent 15th c. poets: e.g. Wallace attributed to Henry the Minstel; Kinds Quhair (Kings Book) by King James of Scotland.

Bibliography

Iliyish B. History of the English Language, Leningrad, 1983, 351p.

Rastorgueva T.A. A History of English, Moscow, 1983, 347p.

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: 7/05/2009