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of either fiction or history were at liberty to use any matter that came to their hands.

Furthermore, in many cases the writers probably drew more largely from folk-tales current in all lands than from any written story. A possible example of this sort of procedure is the account of a hero's boyhood, of which the most famous


Where King Arthur was said to have been buried.

is the story of Perceval, one of Arthur's knights. This is
told in romances extant in English, French, German, and
Welsh; and in the opinion of most scholars it is impossible
to determine whether any one of the four is the "original."
The same sort of story, moreover, is told in folk-tales of al-
one of Finn,
most every country, and of numerous heroes,
in an Irish manuscript dating probably from the tenth century.

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of the romances in English is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a story belonging to the Arthurian cycle and dating in its extant form from the latter part of the fourteenth century. In this romance, as in many, two stories originally separate are brought together. The second deals with the testing of Gawain's purity. The first, regarding the origin and development of which a vigorous controversy between scholars has raged for years, deals with the testing of his bravery, and runs as follows:

On New Year's Day, when Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are just beginning a feast, a huge knight clad all in green and riding a horse of that color rides into the hall and demands a boon. In his hand he carries a huge axe; and he desires that some knight give him a blow with the axe, and promise to seek the Green Knight a year from that time and take without resistance a similar blow. Gawain, Arthur's nephew and the most courteous of the Round Table, accepts the challenge. After the blow is given, the Green Knight takes up his head and rides out, the head calling upon Gawain to keep his appointment next New Year's Day at the Green Chapel. Faithful to his word, Gawain reaches the chapel on the appointed day, and finds his antagonist awaiting him. The Green Knight makes only a feint of slaying Gawain, and then explains that the whole performance was planned merely to try "the most faultless knight that ever walked the earth."

Religious Works. Side by side with the romances appeared from about the year 1200 numerous religious works, most of which can be called literature only by exercise of great courtesy. Of these the most famous are the Poema Morale, or Moral Ode; Ormulum, a series of sermons in verse; Ancren Riwle (pronounce Riwle as if written "Rula "), or Rule for Nuns, written for the guidance of three noble women who belonged to no order; Cursor Mundi, relating in rhyme the whole course of the world" from creation to

doomsday, and adding many legends to the Bible narrative. With the exception of Ormulum, which was so named "because Orm composed it," we can attach no author's name to these works.

From the great mass of religious writing, however, the names of two writers stand out prominently; one by reason of his great influence, the other as producer of perhaps the most famous piece of "vision" literature in English. These writers are John Wiclif and William Langland.

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Wiclif. Although satisfactory evidence regarding many events in Wiclif's life is lacking, we are reasonably sure that


he was born from fifteen to twenty years before Chaucer; and we know that he died in 1384 - about the time that Chaucer was maturing the plan for The Canterbury Tales. He was educated at Oxford, and in 1360 was master (that is, president) of one of the colleges there, Balliol (Bālyol). On becoming rector of a neighboring church not long after, he gave up his college position; and to the end of his life he was a zealous preacher and laborer for the good of the common people. Eight years before


his death he had been summoned before an ecclesiastical

court to give account of his preaching; and only the force of

popular feeling in his favor prevented his being arrested on an order from the Pope.

Wiclif's Bible. Wiclif's offences in the eyes of the church were his objection to various dogmas, and his unsparing criticism of a self-indulgent priesthood. His contribution to literature was a direct result of the first of these: he brought about the translation into English of the entire Bible, that the people might read and interpret for themselves, and that each individual might work out a rule of life for himself. Addressed chiefly to the uneducated, Wiclif's Bible is characterized by the simplicity and directness of style, and by the preference for homely, everyday language that characterized its great successor, the King James, or "Authorized" Version. The reformer had many able assistants, and it is not certain just how much of the translation was done by Wiclif himself, and how much under his direction. Nearly the whole of the New Testament, however, is believed to be his.

Langland. - We have named William Langland as the second great name connected with religious writing of this period. This name is given to the author of a work called the Vision of Piers the Plowman, written about 1362, and subsequently revised and extended. For a number of years a controversy has raged over the authorship of the Vision, some scholars believing that as many as five authors had a hand in writing it. From the point of view of the average student this question is of little or no consequence. Piers the Plowman makes an appeal to all interested in the life of the Middle Ages, in the history of religious thought, or in allegorical and vision literature.

1 See Manly, in Cambridge History, vol. II, chap. I.

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"Piers Plowman.' In the "Prologue" the author represents himself as falling asleep, one May morning, on a hill, and having a marvelous dream. In this dream he saw a fair field of folk," - folk of all social classes, all occupations, all shades of character. There were farm-laborers, merchants, representatives of various religious orders, jesters and jugglers (“ Judas children "), lawyers and beggars, butchers and barons. "All this I saw sleeping, and seven times more." The people, almost without exception, are engaged in occupations which are either positively harmful or else useless. Besides the persons named from their employments there are numerous personified abstractions - Truth, Falsehood, Guile, Duplicity, Meed, Theology, Conscience; and in the very complicated allegory of the poem the abuses of the day are attacked and the people are exhorted to better living.

On the formal side Piers Plowman is important because it was written in the alliterative, unrhymed metre of AngloSaxon verse. No English poem was written subsequently in this form modern English poetry has followed Chaucer, who adopted and modified the French form, characterized by end-rhyme and a regularly recurring accent or stress.

Mandeville's "Travels." Another work of the fourteenth century of interest to modern as well as mediæval readers is a curious one known as the Travels of Sir John Mandeville. This book "had been a household work in eleven languages and for five centuries before it was ascertained that Sir John never lived, that his travels never took place, and that his personal experiences, long the test of others' veracity, were compiled out of every possible authority, going back to Pliny, if not further." 1

1 Cambridge History, II, 90.

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