Category Archives: mid fourteenth century


My last post explored stanza-linking or concatenation, the chaining of one stanza to another by the repetition of a word or phrase.  This post is about linking within the stanza, which I would prefer to call iteration to keep the two things separate.  Iteration means doing something over again, repeating or renewing something.  The poet repeats a word or a phrase at the same point within each stanza (meaning that the iteration is part of the verse-form rather than incidental repetition), and this repetition of the same word or phrase produces a point of linkage within the stanza.  Sometimes the link is not exact but rather a repetition of the same root word in a different tense or form, or a punning link where the same word appears in two different senses.  Here you can find iteration in lines 73 and 74 of Three Dead Kings:

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Love in Chains: Anadiplosis

Here’s another love poem, this time a short lover’s lament (DIMEV 3269) from London, British Library MS Harley 913.  Scroll down for a text and translation.  MS Harley 913 is a trilingual mid-fourteenth-century anthology of poetry and prose, copied by a Franciscan friar living in Waterford in the south of Ireland.  The poem narrates how love has brought the speaker into sinful thought, then to the absence of reason and reflection (which nonetheless proves futile as a means of escaping love), then into grief and anxiety, and then to despair.  It ends with his resolution to continue even without hope of his lady’s favour until death and the grave.

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The Sounds of Old Age

One of the delights of starting work on this book has been the search for particularly distinctive examples of Middle English poetics in practice.  In particular, I have been skim-reading lots of editions in a rough chronological survey looking for conscious poetic experiments.  London, British Library MS Harley 913 has provided a rich source of pre-Chaucerian stylistic innovation.  MS Harley 913 is a trilingual anthology of poetry and prose, copied by a Franciscan friar living in Waterford in the south of Ireland.  Parts of the manuscript can be dated  1338 to 1342 (See Alan J. Fletcher, ‘The Date Of London, British Library, Harley MS 913 (The “Kildare Poems”)’, Medium Ævum, 79:2 (2010), 306–10), though the volume as a whole may have been copied over a longer period.  Many of the pieces in the manuscript seem to have been chosen by a compiler interested in parody and wordplay.  (See Neil Cartlidge, ‘Festivity, Order, and Community in Fourteenth-Century Ireland: The Composition and Contexts of BL MS Harley 913’, Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003), 33–52).

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