ALLETERATIVE POEM OR – ALLITERATIVE REVIVAL:
After the Norman Conquest under the French influence rhymed verse gained ascendancy. It is after the victories of king Edward-III in France a national self-consciousness as well as a new enthusiasm for the English tongue became prominent. In schools and colleges and law-courts English started to displace the French. In 1362 Parliament was opened in the Eng. Language. As the result of all these Old-English verse form (alliterative form) revives again in the Middle English period.
Roughly between the years 1350 and 1400 there appears a number of poems which bring an unbroken development of old Eng. Alliterative verse.
* In Cottonian Manuscript (known as Nero Ax) we get four remarkable poems written in West Midland dialect. They are – Pearl, Purity, Patience and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is supposed that these poems are written by the same poet.
v 1) Pearl:
* It is a poem of 1200 lines. The total poem is divided into 101 stanzas of 12 lines each.
* It is a kind of dream poem. The poet has lost his two-year old daughter Margaret. One August day the poet falls asleep on the grave and in dream he meets with his dead daughter dressed in white with ornaments of pearl. The poet wants to cross the river in order to unite with her but she says that since the fall of Adam the river only can be crossed after death. His daughter consoles him and asks her to surrender God. His dream breaks and the poet rises having a new spiritual realization.
* The poem is taken both as an allegory and as an elegy. It symbolizes the Christian faith and Eucharist as well as a typical elegy the poem treats the personal loss of the poet and his lamentation.
* To A.C.Rickett – “In its external loveliness and even more in its deeper spiritual beauty and truth lies sufficient reason for most patient and devoted study of Pearl, ‘The Vita Nuova’ of our language.”
v 2) Patience:
* It is poem of 531 lines.
* Basically it is a poetical paraphrase of the Book of Jonah, and the gourd in the Bible exalting the Virtue of patience.
v 3) Purity:
* It is a collection of Bible stories in which the poet shows the impossibility to approach God without purity.
* It shows ‘how greatly God is displeased at every kind of impurity and how sudden and severe is the punishment meted out for offence against the Divine Laws’.
v 4) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:
* It is a poem of 2530 lines. The poem basically belongs to Arthurian romance.
* The story of the poem opens with the appearance if a green knight riding a green horse to King Arthur’s court at Camelot. He challenges the knights to strike off his head with the blow of his great axe on condition to receive the similar blow after a year from him after finding him out. When hesitation is going on, Sir Gawain accepts the challenge and strikes his head of. The Green knight leaves the court picking up his severed head. After a year according to the promise Gawain sets out in search of the Green knight and after a long wandering through wilderness he reaches a castle and he learns that his goal is near hand. Each morning the lord of the castle goes off to hunt while the beautiful wife of the lord tries to tempt him but Gawain remains pure resisting all temptation. Finally he receives from her a green girdle. The Lord of the castle proves to be the Green knight and the blow from him only slightly cuts his shin. In shame Gawain throws the green girdle but Green knight presents it as a free gift and Gawain returns to Arthur’s Court and tells the knights the whole story.
* The poem is remarkable for several reasons-
1. This romance shows close acquaintance with the courtly life of the epic, and combined with a lyrical element (of Pearl.)
2. It is remarkable also for the deep and tender love of nature displayed throughout the poem, and some of its most delightful passages describe the charms of wild scenery.
3. It displays an intimate knowledge of mediaeval craftsmanship and art.
4. It shows literary power in its treatment of the story, avoiding monotony and repetition with great skill.
5. It is, in essence, didactic, being a study of chastity. Gawayne, beset by St. Anthony’s temptations, triumphs over them.