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Purity 1118 þaz hym not derrest be
demed to dele for penies.
Gowain 78-9 be best gemmes, Dat
mygt be preued of prys
wyth penyes to bye. 2101 be best fowre. 1403 Wyzez be wale wyn wezed
to hem oft.
1244 be welgest fourre.
wyne. Cf. 1508, and
The following phrases pointed out by Trautmann (pp. 28-9) should be added : 1065 If bou wyl dele drwrye. 2449 for ho hatz dalt drwry.
273 Dose wern men mebelez. 2106 For he is a mon methles. Pat, 489. lansed (Gollancz, 2124 & lance neuer tale.
laused) a speche.
The test by means of stylistic mannerisms is more difficult to apply to the Gawain-poet, for the simple reason that he is too good an artist to clutter his lines with formal or meaningless tags. The frequent repetition the same or similar second half-lines is so marked a characteristic of William of Palerne, Morte Arthur, and The Destruction of Troy that a comparison of the favorite formal phrases used in each makes diversity of authorship of such poems absolutely certain. The employment and the repetition of such conventional tags is so frequent in most poets of the alliterative school, that their very absence in the poems of the Gawain-group might be considered an indication of common authorship.
One stylistic trick of the Gawain-poet, however, is so peculiar that Kniggel rightly called attention to it as dis
Die Sprache, p. 6. Knigge uses it as an argument for considering Erkenwald one of the group, but his only example is the phrase ‘be prince þat paradis weldes' (195), and this may possibly have been taken over from the Gawain-poet by the author of Erkenwald, just as it was by the author of Death and Life (see p. xxvi, and
tinctive. It is the poet's habit of paraphrasing 'God' or 'Lord' by means of a relative clause, either with the pronoun 'he that i or with some such common word for 'man' as wyz, tolke, as in Pur. 5, 'be Wy3 þat wrozt alle þinges. In the entire body of alliterative poetry no such expressions can be found outside the Gawain-poet, with the exception of two phrases which are plainly imitated from him. The examples given below are divided into groups, in order to bring out the striking similarities of phraseology?; those noted by Trautmann are indicated by (T.) and those given by Knigge by (K.):
(a) Pur. 5 be Wy3 þat wrozt alle hinges. (K.)
280 be Wyg þat al wrogt.
206 þat Wyze I worchyp, iwysse, þat wrozt alle þynges. Gaw. 2441-2
be Wyze hit yow zelde,
Pat. 261 bat Syre þat syttes so hize. (K.) Cf. Pat. 93.
þat vp-haldez be heuen, & on hy3 sittez.
196 n., where the slight variation of this phrase in Winner and Waster is also cited).
*Cf. p. xvi, n. I for the one phrase, and p. xxvi (Alex. C. 4518) for the other.
? Naturally the examples are more numerous in the Biblical paraphrases than in Gawain. References to God are, of course, common in all the alliterative romances, but though they employ commonly such simple expressions as 'bi him þat vs wrougt,' Wm. of Palerne 3133; 'he þat vs bouzt,' ibid. 5004; ‘Crist þat al weldes,' ibid. 3753, they nowhere employ such elaborate periphrases as these that are characteristic of the Gawain-poet. The closest parallels that I have been able to find (with the exception of those in Alex. C., for which see p. 28) are such examples as 'his lufe, that heghe in heuen sittez, Morte Arthur 1261, which slightly resembles the examples in (b), and a few other periphrases in Morte Arthur (11. 1303, 2196, 2319), not important enough to quote here.
(c) Pur. 212 þat Lorde þat þe lyft made. (T.) 1493 be Lorde bat be lyfte zemes. Cf. Lorde of be
lyfte, 435, 1356, 1448. (T.) Gaw. 1256 bat ilk Lorde þat þe lyfte haldez. (d) Pur. 510–1 to hym even þat al spedez and spyllez.
Gaw. 1292 he þat spedez vche spech. (e) Pur. 31 he þat flemes uch fylpe fer fro his hert.
1340 hym þat in heven wonies. Cf. 1807.
1528 hym þat alle goudes gives. Cf. 1598, 1627. Pat. 176 he þat rules be rak. Gaw. 2410 & he zelde hit zow zare, bat zarkkes al menskes.' Under the heading of style may be added what is really a syntactical peculiarity hitherto unnoticed, and not found, I believe, outside the works of the Gawain-poet in any of the alliterative poems except the late Death and Life, whose author is in this as in other respects plainly imitating the poet of Purity. This is the use of an absolute construction attached to the sentence by means of and, somewhat as in modern Irish:
Pur. 1219 And he be faynest freke þat he his fo hade. Cf. 1573.
Finally, under this head may be included the argument brought forward by Miss Thomas, based on the poet's mannerism of grouping similes in clusters of two or more. The validity of this test seems to me indisputable. In The
* For the sake of completeness I add a list of lines from Pat. and Pur. only, containing more similar expressions: Pur. 17, 195, 498, 644, 748; Pat. 129, 225. Cf. also such a phrase as 'welder of wyt' (Pat. 129) with 'worcher of his worlde' (Pur. 1501), and the peculiar expression ‘so gaynlych a God' (Pur. 728), which recurs in 'gaynlych God' (Pat. 83).
Sir Gawayne, P. 12. Another point made by Miss Thomas (pp. 10-1) may be mentioned here, although it does not apply particularly to Purity: the fact that in Patience, The Pearl, and Gawain, is employed the device of closing the poem with approximately the same words with which it is begun.
Pearl 15 out of 35 comparisons occur in groups; in Purity 14 out of 24; in Patience 3 out of 7; in Gawain 6 out of 19.
Resemblances so minute and peculiarities so distinctive as these cannot be explained in any other way than by assuming that the author of Purity, Patience, and The Pearl also wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, different in kind though it be. And it must be remembered that there is no good reason why this particular homilist should not have been at the same time a great writer of romance.1 The preacher could not altogether hide himself in the romancer. Ten Brink says of Gawain,2 ‘all this art is in the service of moral ideas. It may be objected that our poet obtrudes the Hæc fabula docet altogether too plainly.' And conversely, the brilliance of coloring, the vivid descriptions of nature, and the picturesque and dramatic presentation of life, appear not only in the romance, but in the homilies. Jonah's adventurous voyage and the splendid scene of Belshazzar's banquet are related, to be sure, for the purpose of commending virtue, but seldom has a homilist enforced his moral by such excellent story-telling.
III. THE ALLITERATIVE SCHOOL AND THE
POET OF PURITY
The author of Purity is only one of many poets who are found writing alliterative verse in the latter half of the fourteenth century. The earliest poems of this new alliterative school, the two shorter Alexander fragments, Joseph of Arimathie, and William of Palerne, appear in the
Some of the ideas common to Gawain and Purity will be touched on in the sections of the Introduction entitled Date and Literary Art. Cf. also Bateson, Patience, pp. xxii-iii.
* Early Engl. Lit. I. 347.
3 On Middle English works in long alliterative lines, see Wells' Manual, pp. 240-1, and passim.
West Midland about the year 1350, three hundred years after the last of the Old English alliterative poems. In spite of this blank of three centuries after the Norman Conquest, the alliterative poetry of the Middle English period can hardly be considered a revival of an obsolete form of verse, a deliberate attempt to imitate directly the alliterative line of Old English poetry. For though the principles of the alliterative verse of the later school are still fundamentally the same as in Old English poetry, the differences in the employment of the various types of line and in the general structure are too great to be explicable in any other way than by the assumption of the continued use of the long alliterative line, and its gradual transformation in that period from which no examples have come down to us. Alliteration itself, to be sure, was common in this period, not only in other forms of verse, such as that of Layamon and the lyrics of MS. Harley 2253 (c. 1310), but also in religious prose. Some slight evidence that the long alliterative line was employed, at least in popular verse, exists in two fragmentary prophecies, the text of which is very corrupt; these form the only connecting links in the long interregnum in the tradition of alliterative verse.
The relations of the Middle English alliterative poems to one another, a matter obscure enough in itself, has been unnecessarily complicated and confused by the reckless assignment to a single poet of all those poems which have a number of alliterative phrases in common. Such an easy method, partly excusable in the early days when many of the alliterative poems had not been edited or investigated, is still persisted in by a few writers whose patriotism
· The best discussion of the development of the Middle English alliterative line from the Old English is Deutschbein's Zur Entwicklung des Englischen Alliterationsverses, Halle, 1902.
* Luick, in Paul's Grundriss der Germanischen Philologie, 2d ed., 2. 2. 160.