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loyalty of liegemen is beautifully portrayed. A stern sense of honor prevails among the rude warriors:
“Death is more pleasant To every earlman than infamous life is."
Their courage is dauntless, and words count for less than actions. Beowulf thus states to the queen the object of his visit:
“I purposed in spirit when I mounted the ocean
» “ The
20. Other Poems. Other Anglo-Saxon poems that deserve mention are The Seafarer," “ Deor's Complaint," Fight at Maldon,” “ The Battle of Brunanburh," and " Judith.” The former deal with the hardships and sorrows of life; the latter breathe the martial spirit of the Teutonic race. Besides these and other secular poems, there is a cycle of religious poetry dating from the eighth or ninth centuries. It was stimulated by the work of Cædmon. “Others after him," says Bede, “ tried to make religious poems, but none could vie with him, for he did not learn the art of poetry from men, nor of men, but from God." This religious poetry is usually based on Scripture or on legends of saints. Cynewulf, a Northumbrian poet of the eighth century, was the author of several religious poems of acknowledged excellence, among which are the “ Passion of St. Juliana,” the Christ,” and “ Elene, or the Finding of the Cross."
21. The Father of English Prose.— Bede may be justly regarded as the father of English prose. From an interesting autobiographical sketch at the close of his “Ecclesiastical History,” we learn the leading events in his unpretentious lise. He was born in 673, near the monastery of Jarrow in northern England. As pupil, deacon, and priest, be passed his entire life in that monastic institution. The leisure that remained to him after the faithful performance of his various official duties, he assiduously devoted to learning; for he always took delight, as he tells us, “in learning, teaching, and writing.” He was an indefatigable worker, and wrote no less than forty-five separate treatises, including works on Scripture, history, hymnology, astronomy, grammar, and rhetoric, in which is embodied all the learning of his age.
His scholarship and aptness as a teacher gave celebrity to the monastic school at Jarrow, which was attended at one time by six hundred monks in addition to many secular students. His fame extended as far as Rome, whither he was invited by Pope Sergius, who wished the benefit of his counsel. He led an eminently simple, devout, and earnest life. He declined the dignity of abbot, lest the duties of the office might interfere with his studies. As a writer he was clear, succinct, and artless. His
His "Ecclesiastical History," which was composed in Latin, is our chief source of information in regard to the early Anglo-Saxon church.
22. Alfred the Great (849-901).— Not many sovereigns deserve a place in literature because of their own writings. But Alfred was as great with the pen as with the sword. He ascended the throne at the age of twenty-three, and spent, a considerable part of his subsequent life in conflict with the Danes, who in great numbers were making a descent upon the cultivated districts of England and France for the sake of pillage. When he came to the throne, the learning which a century before had furnished Europe with some of its most eminent scholars had fallen into decay. “To so low a depth has learning fallen among the English nation,” he says, there have been very few on this side of the Humber who were able to understand the English of their service, or to turn an epistle out of Latin into English; and I know that there were not many beyond the Humber who could do it."
23. Literary Labors. With admirable tact and wisdom he set about remedying the evil. He studied Latin himself that he might provide his people with useful books; he invited learned scholars from the Continent to his court; and he established in the royal palace a school for the instructiop of
“ that noble youth. His efforts were grandly successful; and in less than a generation England was again blessed with intelligence and prosperity. Among the books he translated into AngloSaxon were Bede's Ecclesiastical History”; Orosius's “Universal History," the leading textbook on that subject in the monastic schools for several centuries; and Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy," a popular book among thoughtful people during the Middle Ages. These translations were not always literal. Alfred rather performed the work of editor, paraphrasing, omitting, adding, as best served his purpose. In the work of Boethius he frequently departed from the text to introduce reflections of his own. To him belongs the honor of having furnished England with its first body of literature in the native tongue.
FOR FURTHER READING AND STUDY.
The following subjects may be assigned students for parallel study, essays, or reading in class. Other subjects and sources may be indicated according to the judgment of the teacher and the library facilities at his command. A select bibliography will be found in the appendix.
The Roman conquest of Britain, Tacitus, " Agricola” ('Bohn), Macaulay, “History of England,” ch. I, and Green, “History of the English People," ch. 1; The introduction of Christianity under Augustine, Bede, “ Ecclesiastical History," chaps. 25, 26 (Bohn), and Macaulay and Green; The death of Cædmon, Bede, “ Ecclesiastical History," ch. 24; Celtic literature, Morley, “English Writers," vol. I, ch. 3, and Matthew Arnold, Celtic Literature"; Voyage of Maeldune," based on an Irish legend about 700 A.D., Tennyson, “ Poems"; The circumstances of Bede's death, Cuthbert's Letter in the preface of Bede's “Ecclesiastical History' (Bohn); Teutonic character and customs as illustrated in “Beowulf,” Earle, “The Deeds of Beowulf,” a prose translation, and Hall, “Beowulf,” a metrical, alliterative version; The qualities of Anglo-Saxon poetry as exemplified in “The Seafarer,” “The
Wanderer," and “The Battle of Maldon,” Cook and Tinker, “ Select Transitions from Old English Poetry,” and Brooke, “Early Eng
Literature." * The Battle of Brunanburgh” is given in the selections of
MIDDLE ENGLISH OR FORMATIVE PERIOD.
HISTORY,—" Anglo Saxon Chronicle” (concluded 1154). (See Text.)
METRICAL CHRONICLES.— Layamon (twelfth century), “ Brut,” or Chronicles of Britain.
Robert of Gloucester († 1300), “Rhyming Chronicles of Britain."
Robert Manning († 1270), “Chronicles of England.” RELIGION.- John Wycliffe (1324-1384). Tracts, Sermons, Translation of the Bible. (See Text.)
Ormin (thirteenth century), “Ormulum." (See Text.) ✓Langland (fourteenth century), “Vision of Piers the Plowman." (See Text.)
MISCELLANEOUS POETRY.— John Gower ('1327–1408, Speculum Meditantis” (French), “Vox Clamantis” (Latin), “ Confessia Amantis (English), etc. (See Text.)
GREAT REPRESENTATIVE WRITER.