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of the earliest improvers of the language, and as almost the first Englishman who devoted his talents to refine and elevate the manners of his coun. trymen, afterwards composed a Metrical Chronicle of England, in which romances of all kinds are pressed into the service. In this chronicle is given the origin of the custom of Wassaille, in the old traditionary story of Vortigern, king of the Britons, meeting at a banquet Rowena, the daughter of the Saxon, Hengist. This may serve as a specimen of Robert de Brunne :

Of chamber Rouwen so gent,
Before the king in halle she went;
A cup of wyne she had in hand,
And her atire was well-farand;(a)
Before the king one kne sett,
And in her language she him grete :
“ Lauerid (6) king, wassaille," said she,

The king asked what should be; and it is explained by his Latimer, or interpreter, that such is the custom when the Saxons are at the ale or feast, the pledge being wassaille, the response drinkhaille ; and that when the pledger has drunk, he kisses him who pledged him. Vortigern, quickly apprehending his lesson, cries drinkhaille, when the whole ceremony is gone through. Of this institution of the Saxon social pledge De Brunne says,

Of that wassaille men told grete tale,
And wassaille when they were at ale;

(a) Very becoming.

(b) Lord.

And drinkhaille to them that drank;
Thus was wassaille tane to thank.

And then returns to the Saxon princess,

Fell sithes(a) that maiden ying
Wassailled and kist the king.

It is conjectured by some antiquaries, that De Brunne wrote the English Romance of Cæur de Lion, though there seems to be no foundation for the supposition.

Among the earliest productions of the English muse, is an Elegy on the Death of Edward the First, which marks the gradual progress of the language,

and shows the rudiments of the elegiac ballad, of which so many fine specimens afterwards enriched the national poetry. Edward, disappointed of going to Palestine a second time as he had vowed, directed his heart to be borne to the Holy Land by fourscore knights. The flow of the verse is free and even musical in this elegy. The panegyric of the Pope on the soldier of the Cross is one of the most striking parts of it. When the death of the chivalrous prince is announced to his Holiness,

Alas! he said, is Edward dead ?

Of Christendom he ber the flower ;
The pope is to his chaumbre wende

For dole he mihte ne speke na more;
Ant aftur cardinales he sende

(a) Sithes, often.

That muche couthen of Cristes lore.
Both the lasse (a) ant eke the more
Bed hem both red ant synge :




The pope of Peyters stod at is masse

With ful gret solempnete,
Ther me con (b) the soulè blisse :

“ Kyng Edward, honoured thou be :
“ God love thi sone come after the,

“ Bringe to ende that thou hast bygonne, « The holy crois ymade of tre

“ So fain thou woldest hit have ywonne.

“ Jerusalem, thou hast ilore

“ The flourè of al chivalrie,
“ Now kyng Edward liveth na more,

“ Alas, that he yet shuldè deye !
“ He wolde ha rered up ful heyge

“ Our baners that bueth broht to grounde : “ Wel longe we may clepe (c) and crie,

“ Er we such a kyng have yfounde!"





Thah mi tonge were mad of stel

Ant min herte yzote of bras
The godness myht y never telle

That with kyng Edward was.
Kyng as thou art cleped conquerour
In vch battaile thou heedest

Gode bringe thi soule to the honeur

That ever was and ever ys.

In this reign, English, though still a rugged and disjointed language, began to be generally cultivated, and gradually to become more refined and

(a) Less.

(b) Began.

(c) Call.

copious; and the fictions of romance and chivalry, by this time interwoven with the Arabesque ornaments and wild fantasies introduced by the Crusaders, gradually displaced in general favour the dull versified chronicles and homilies of an earlier period.

The reign of the Second Edward was distinguished by an English poet of greater pretensions than any of his predecessors, if the claim of Adam Davie to the authorship of the Life of Alexander the Great is allowed. This early writer describes himself as the Marshal of Stratford le Bow, near London. His first production was a sort of pious and loyal vision, so complimentary to Edward, that the Mar. shal probably expected to be something yet greater. So completely did the manners of chivalry pervade men's minds at this time, that this author, in a poem entitled the Battle of Jerusalem, makes Pi. late challenge our Saviour to single combat !

The procession of Olympias, in the Life of Alexander, whoever be its author, may serve as a specimen of the splendour of the early metrical romance, which now became generally known in England. The power of these compositions is nearly altogether descriptive. They show no ca. pacity of moral discrimination, and few touches of pathos. One chief is distinguished from another by the colour of his steed, or by his hair being yalewe or jete ; for all ride and joust about equally well ; and, save some prodigious favourite, as Cæur




de Lion, Arthur, or Tristrem, kill about equal numbers at any odds.

A mule, all so white as milk,
With saddle of gold, sambuc (a) of silk,
Was y-brought to the queen,
And many bell of silver sheen,
Y-fastened on orfraies of mound (b)
That hangen near down to ground.
Forth she fared mid her rout;
A thousand ladies of rich suit.
A sparrow-hawk that was honest
So sat on the lady's fist.
Four trumps tofore her blew;

All the town be-hanged was,
Against the lady Olympias.
Orgues, chymbes, each manner glee, (c)
Was drynan (d) ayen (e) that lady free.
Withouten the town's murey (f)
Was mered (g) each manner play.
There was knights tornaying,
* *

also wrestling
Of lions' chace, and bear-baiting,
A bay of boar, of bull slayting.
All the city was behung
With rich samyts (h) and pelles (i) long.
Dame Olympias, mid this press
Single rode, all mantle-less.
Her yellow hair was fair-attired,
Mid rich string of gold, wired ;
It helid (j) her abouten all
To her gentil middle small :



(a) A saddle-cloth, or housing. Fr.
(6) Orfrais, aurifrigium, is gold embroidery.
(c) Organs, cymbals, and all sorts of music.
(d) Ringing. (e) Against ; in the presence of.
(S) Walls.

(8) Seen; gazed at. (1) Satins.
(1) Palls, or perhaps furs.

(1) Hid,

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