My last post looked at Chaucer’s experiments with internal rhyme in Anelida’s Complaint. Though we think of it as an unfinished minor work, Anelida and Arcite survives in plenty of manuscripts and was printed by Caxton in 1477. Poets could thus easily borrow Chaucer’s technique of subdividing a pentameter into three units of 4, 4 and 2 syllables, with the first two units of four rhyming (i.e. ‘My swete foo, why do ye so, for shame?’).
In spare moments this week I’ve been rootling around in more “minor poetry”, more “shorter works”, looking at different verse forms. This time I’ve been reading the shorter works of Robert Henryson. Robert Henryson was a notary public and schoolmaster living in Dunfermline, born perhaps about 1430 and dead by 1500. The extracts below are from a poem called ‘The Thre Deid Pollis’. The poem is attributed to Henryson in one manuscript, but to Patrick Johnston, another notary public, in another manuscript.