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Brevity

I looked around my acumulated medieval texts and realized that nearly all the medieval poems I know, and especially of which I have copies, are rather long.

I'd never really thought about length as a determining genre element. I have many short poems by Shakespeare or Donne or later poets, but only a very few Anglo-Saxon exemplars, and a few fifteenth-century contributions by "Unknown" grace my shelves from the medieval period. Is this an idiosyncracy of the sort of material I work with, or is there really a paucity of short poetry surviving from the Middle Ages?

And if there is plenty of shorter poetry, where would I go looking for it? I can think of the Carmina Burana. Perhaps collections of marginalia. Any other particular instances of fairly short poetry from the period (one or two pages or less)?

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
owlfish
Oct. 21st, 2004 03:09 pm (UTC)
Most of the short poems I have are conducive to song, but the long ones are a rather different kettle of fish. When I say "long", I mean that they are the length of a goodly-sized novel. At the moment, "short" would encompass anything under 10 pages, since, now that I'm writing to you, it occurs to me that I have at least a few things in the 15-20 page range.

Your suggestion is a good one. All of the examples I have of shorter poems are good for singing; good too because they are easy to memorize because the wordplay is more intense.
cliosfolly
Oct. 21st, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC)
Some of Robert Henryson's poems are pretty short, as are a couple of Hoccleve's and maybe Dunbar's. I think some of Lydgate's are short, though I can't think of a particular title off the top of my head.

Carols and other songs would definitely be an alternative source of shorter texts, I agree.
owlfish
Oct. 22nd, 2004 08:35 am (UTC)
I was hoping you in particular might have some good ideas on this subject. Thank you!
pockawida
Oct. 22nd, 2004 12:33 pm (UTC)
think some of Lydgate's are short

Short's relative--most are multi-stanza, with the shortest ones being 2-3 pp in length.

That being said, you get multi multi bonus points from me (and then the dubious distinction of being added to my reading list) for mentioning my boy Lyddyboy in LJ land. Hope you don't mind ;)
ballincollig
Oct. 21st, 2004 04:42 pm (UTC)
I remember a short poem in Irish called "Pangur Ban," that a monk wrote about his cat, the "ban" referring to the light colour of the kitty's fur. It's from the 9th c., if my memory serves.
owlfish
Oct. 21st, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC)
You intuit well! I had "Pangur Ban" in mind when I mentioned poems in marginalia as places to look, since just earlier this week medievalist posted it on her LJ. Of course, she posted it in the original, and it's been ages since I've seen an English translation, so I don't actually remember the text well. I'll have to go looking.
ballincollig
Oct. 22nd, 2004 06:59 am (UTC)
Pangur Ban
I dug through my bookcases and found an English translation for you by Robin Flower in the appendix of a book I forgot I had *headdesk*.

I'll bring it on Saturday!
owlfish
Oct. 22nd, 2004 08:37 am (UTC)
Re: Pangur Ban
I look forward to it!
(Deleted comment)
owlfish
Oct. 22nd, 2004 08:37 am (UTC)
Thank you for the helpful suggestions!
piratehead
Oct. 21st, 2004 11:04 pm (UTC)
Waddell is good. For a less idiosyncratic and more 'representative' sample of medieval shorter verse (though in some ways less charming collection), see the Cambridge Anthology of the Medieval Latin Lyric (not sure if that title is exact.)
owlfish
Oct. 22nd, 2004 08:36 am (UTC)
Thank you. The random compilation of a history of English verse I have include a number of late Medieval/Middle English poems, but they are ALL excerpted from much longer works. It's good to know where to look for more constructive answers.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:51 am (UTC)
jasper fforde in toronto
i came across your site doing google searches for jasper fforde, i noticed you're a fan, i also noticed you're in toronto.

are you aware he's going to be here at the "25th annual international festival of authors"? he's doing a reading from "something rotten" on monday 25 october and being interviewed on the following wednesday at harbourfront!

http://www.readings.org/2004_IFOA/authorCard.php?id=fforde_jasper

tickets are $15 each

[ps. i commented on this story because i figured if i posted a comment to an older entry you might not read it, i.e. there was a better chance of you reading a comment to a more recent entry than to an older one]
owlfish
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:54 am (UTC)
Re: jasper fforde in toronto
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had no idea, which just goes to show I don't follow my favorite authors closely enough. I'll book tickets right away in the hopes that there are still some left.
pockawida
Oct. 22nd, 2004 12:18 pm (UTC)
Oooh--can't resist. I'm *really* interested in religious lyric & in its fortleben in 16th/17th c. That was the dissertation I wanted to write and was advised against--too religious :-/

On the vernacular front, I use the Oxford UP/Carleton Brown collections (13th, 14th, 15th c.) a fair bit--religious and secular lyric--because IMO they help to gauge a moral culture. Pretty much everything from those and other collections is on LION , which I'm assuming U of T has. I get them using text searches a lot, and I use them accordingly.

Lydgate wrote tons of short lyrics, picking up from Chaucer. These are mostly edited, but again, I use LION like every two minutes to find citations within his vast repertoire. The lyrics are often moral or religious (lots of fodder for the *mesure* mill there), and I use them writing about *Fall of Princes* because I think they're defensible evidence for his moral theory what he's trying to teach princes.

As a matter of fact, this is a big question for me as I feel my way toward genre issues: if Lydgate's lyrics fulfill the function of moral teaching, why write a work of epic quality (*Fall of Princes*) that basically teaches the same thing? What does that say about a conception of genre--which again I think is fluid and highly distinct from ours??

I think lyrico-narrative theory (take Sylvia Huot or my own teacher, Maureen Boulton) is highly interesting. There's definitely something to it when you think about the *Vita Nuova* or Machaut (obviously!), but I think you can carry it out to other kinds of texts.

Late secular lyrics ARE just high-class songs, fwiw. And anon. religious lyrics are proximate to carols--though when you get to Lydgate's lyrics they're highly formal, highly not settable to music.

Not writing very well this aft, sorry ;)

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