Reference > Cambridge History > From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance > Early Transition English > Hortatory Verse and Prose
  Genesis and Exodus The Bestiary; An Bispel; Sawles Warde  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

XI. Early Transition English.

§ 6. Hortatory Verse and Prose.


The corresponding section of hortatory writings is of mixed character. It comprises both verse and prose, and its effects are produced in divers manners. Sometimes it is by satire in which prevailing vices are specifically arraigned, elsewhere by stock devices for terrifying evil-doers; or again, the method may be the less aggressive one of allegorical teaching. All these writings have but one aim, that of inculcating holier living. Beginning with the satires, we have in Hwon holy chireche is under note a short poem in septenars, in which the evils of simony within the church, and the general hatred of the church without are lamented. Sinners Beware, a more ambitious effort in six-line stanzas (aabaab), is directed against the age generally, though worldly priests, a rapacious soldiery, cheating chapmen and haughty ladies are the types directly aimed at. And, again, in a Lutel Soth Sermun—a poem in septenars—bad brewers and bakers, priests’ wives and illicit lovers like Malkin and Jankin are railed against. While thus assailing the vice of certain types and classes the writers frequently follow up their indictment with the argument of terror, after the fashion of the Poema Morale.. Material for thundering of this sort lay ready to hand in medieval compositions connected with the subjects of doomsday, death and hell, such as the Old English Be Domes Daege, The Address of the Soul to the Body and The Vision of St. Paul.. In the poem called Doomsday and in the work On Serving Christ the first of these themes is logically pursued. The clearest use of The Address motive appears in the poem Death, the sequence of ideas observed in The Address being here preserved, 12  while, in addition, the theme is slightly developed. Other reminiscences of the same motive also appear in the fragmentary Signs of Death and in Sinners Beware (11. 331 ff.). Of The Vision of St. Paul traces are clearly seen in The XI Pains of Hell.. The depicting of hell was a favourite medieval exercise, and The Vision is found in several languages. The archangel Michael is represented as conducting St. Paul into the gloomy abode, and Dante’s journey under Vergil’s guidance is merely a variation of this theme. The Vision can be traced in the twelfth century homily In Diebus Dominicis, where sabbath-breakers are warned. In The XI Pains of Hell—a poem in riming couplets—the treatment is modified by the addition of the popular Address element. A lost soul describes the place of torment for St. Paul’s benefit, whereas in The Vision the description proceeds from the apostle himself.   13

Note 12Mod. Lang. Notes (1890), p. 193. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Genesis and Exodus The Bestiary; An Bispel; Sawles Warde  
 
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