I think that the book I am working on will become more and more focused on lesser-known poetic experiments in Middle English. Because these curious creatures don’t often fit into standard accounts, they have often been unduly overlooked. Scroll down for an extract (with a translation) of a real hidden gem, describing a lover’s thoughts on a cold winter’s night. This is from a poem often attributed to Lydgate (though it seems very unlike anything else he wrote) and is often called A Lover’s New Year’s Gift.
Pity our poor Finalists! Our third-year English Literature and Language students, sitting their Finals in a few weeks, have a two-hour Middle English commentary exam. They write one commentary on a short extract from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and another commentary on their choice of the remaining five set texts (extracts from Ancrene Wisse, Piers Plowman and Malory’s Morte Darthur, the whole of Pearl, or the whole of Henryson’s Moral Fables). It’s a lot of material to prepare, alongside four period papers and a Shakespeare paper. (Next year’s new syllabus is somewhat less daunting, with a single paper combining two essays on English Literature from 1350 to 1550 with a commentary on a Troilus and Criseyde extract).