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“ Which say but as he sayd*
for footh and noe other.
his biding place had ;
have yearded theire longe,
that brought us forth of BALE,
or heard my TALE.” The village of Bagily or Baguleigh is in Chespire, of which county the author appears to have been from other pasages in the body of the poem, particularly from the pains he takes to wipe off a stain from the Cheshire-men, who it seems ran away in that battle, and from his encomiums on the Stanleys earls of Derby, who usually headed that county.
He laments the death of James Stanley bishop of Ely, és what had recently bappened when this poem was written : which serves to ascertain its date, for that prelate died March 22. 1514-5.
Thus have we traced the alliterative measure fo low as the fixteenth century. It is remarkable that all such poets as used this kind of metre, retained along with it many peculiar Saxon idioms, particularly fuch as were appropriated to poetry : this deserves the attention of those, who are desirous to recover the laws of the ancient Saxon poesy, usually given up as inexplicable : I am of opinion that they will find what they seek in the metre of Pierce Plowman f.
About the beginning of the sixteenth century this kind of versification began to change its form; the author of SCOTTISH Field, we fee, concludes his poem with a couplet of rhymes ; this was an innovation, that did but prepare the way for
• Probally corrupted for-says but as he saw.'
the general admission of that more modish ornament. rhyme began to be fuperadded, all the niceties of alliteration were at first retained with it: the song of Little John NOBODY exhibits this union very clearly. It may also be traced, tho' not so perfeetly, in an older poem by no means inelegant, intitled A DYALOGUE (between a falcon and pye] DEFENSYVE FOR WOMEN AGAYNST MALICY OUS DE
The author's name ROBERT VAGHANE is prefixed to a few epiloguizing fonnets at the end of the bock, which thus concludes Chus endeth tbe fawcon and the mpe. Amo D’ni. 1542. Impronted by me Hob. Wprt for Bicharde sankes, &c. If this diljertation were not ale reuuy too prolix I could give icone pleasing extracts from this foem.
To proceed; the old uncouth verse of the ancient writers vould no longer go down without the more fashionable orna. ment of rhyme, and therefore rhyme was superadded. This correlpondence of final founds engrolling the whole attention of the poet and fully satisfying the reader, the internal imbellijs wront of alliteration was no longer studied, and thus was this kind of metre at length swallowed up and lost in our commer. burlesque alexandrine *, now never used but in fongs and pieces of low humour, as in the following ballad, and that wellKnoten doosrel,
• nt is here called the burlesque alexandrine (to distinguish it from the other alexandrines of 12 and 14 syllables, the parents of 0:#r lyric measure : jee examples p. 152. &c.) was early applied by Robert of Gloucester to serious fubjcts. That writer's metre, like this of Langlund's, is formed on the Saxon models, (each verse en his containing o. Saxou distich) only inftead of the internal alliierations adopted by Langland, be rather chose final rhymes, as the French focts have done fince. Take a specimen,
" The Saxons tho in ther power, thothii were so rive, “ Seve kingdoms made in Engelonde, and futbe but vive : • The king of Nortbomberland, and of Enjiangle also,
Of Kent, and of Westfex, and of the March therto."
" A cobler there
and he lived in a stall.”
But altho’this kind of measure hath with us been thus degraded, it still retains among the French its ancient dignity: the French heroic verse is the same genuine offspring of the old alliterative metre of the ancient Gothic and Francic poets, stript like our doggrell of its alliteration and fettered with rhyme. But, lefs restrained than ours, it fill exercises its ancient power of augmenting and contracting the number of its Jyllables, its harmony wholly depending on the difpoal of the pause, and adjustment of the cadence. It is remarkable that while the heroic verse of the English, Italian, and Spanish poets is invariably limited to ten Jyllables *, that of the French, a loose rambling kind of measure, is confined to no certain number, but admits of such variety that a verse of eleven syllables shall not unfrequently be coupled to another of fourteen. This freedom better fits it for the loose numbers of fitage, than for the more stately measure of Epic poetry. The Visions of Pierce Plowman and other pieces in the alliterative metre, exhibit the same variety, with a cadence fo exactly resembling the heroic measure of the French poets, that no peculiarity of their versification can be produced, which cannot be exaetly matched in the alliterative metre. Take a few instances both in single and double rhymes, confronted with part of the description of death, in the old allegorical poem abovementioned. In these I shall denote the pause by a perpendicular line, and the cadence by the marks of the Latin prosody +.
* Or eleven, when terminated zvith a double rhyme. I beliez'e both the Spanish and English poets borrowed their heroic vere of ten Jyllables from the Italian, or perhaps Provençal Bardi.
f The French verse properly confifts of four Anapefis [*] tho to vary the cadence they are often intermingled with Spondees, lambics, Trochees, &c.
Lě súccēs fūt toŭjoūrs ůněnfant de l'audace :
Catalina act 30
Boil. Sat, Il.
To conclude; the metre of Pierce Plowman's Visions bas no kind of relation with what is commonly called blank verse, yet bas it a fort of harmony of its own, proceeding not la much from its alliteration, as from the artful disposal of its cadence, and the contrivance of its pause. So that when the car is a little accustomed to it, it' is by no means unpleafing, but claims all the merit of the French heroic numbers, only somewhat less polished; being sweetened, instead of their final rhymes, with the internal recurrence of similar sounds.
S I walked of late by an wood fide,
To God for to meditate was mine entent ;
This made me muse, and much • to' defire
I stept to him ftraight, and did him require
My name, quoth he, is the cause of my care,
Then straightway he turnd him, and prayd me fit downe, And I will, faith he, declare my whole greefe ; 16 My, name is called, Conscience : wheratt he did
frowre, He repined to repeate it, and grinded his teethe, · Thoughe now, filly wretche, I'm denyed all releefe,'
• Yet' while I was young, and tender of yeeres,
There was none in the court that lived in such fame,
For how-e'er the lawes went in Westminster-hall,
No incomes at all the landlords wold take,
For nothing ere passed betweene foe and friend,