« הקודםהמשך »
Note A.-(Referred to in page 101.) This conjecture of Mr. Tyrwhitt's is supported by the title of Dr. Whitaker's manuscript : Hic incipit visio Will’ de Peirs Plouhman. Mr. Ritson was rather disposed to reject it, from a belief that this rubric had originated in a mistake; and was founded on an erroneous interpretation of the following, and other similar passages :
Than Thought in that time sayde these wordes,
Here is Wyl wolde witte, if Witte could teche hym. Yet he speaks with considerable hesitation : “ Now unless the word Wille be, as there is some reason to believe, no more than a personification of the mental faculty, and have consequently been misapprehended by the writer of that title, it would follow that the author's name is WILLIAM, and that his surname and quality are totally unknown.” On a first perusal of the poem, there are few perhaps who have not been inclined to unite with Mr. Ritson, in this opinion of the Dreamer's character. His constant association with persons confessedly allegorical, the promptitude with which he recognises their several appellations and attributes, the familiarity of his address, at what otherwise must have been a first encounter, and the common interest these airy phantoms appear to take in the spiritual welfare of the wanderer,--seem to speak for a community of origin, and something like an identity of family. And perhaps there is no passage in the Visions more strongly corroborative of such a belief than this:
A muche man, me thouhte, lyke to my selve
Mr. Ritson, “a personification of the mental faculty,”) has been introduced on another occasion, and that in no very exalted capacity. It is a name given to the horse of Reason.
And sette my sadell uppon SOFFRE, till ich see my tyme;
In a subsequent part of the poem, Free Will, or Liberum Arbitrium, is exhibited as the collective idea of the mental faculty," or (to speak with Dr. Whitaker,) is used in a sense which seems
coextensive with all the faculties of the soul;" and in the catalogue of its attributes we find the modern acceptation of Will distinctly specified.
And the wyle ich quyke the cours, cald am ich Anima;
tarie; And when ich wol do other nat do goode dedes other ille, Then am ich Liberum Arbitrium, as lettrede men tellen; And when ich love leelly oure Lord and alle othere, Then is Leel Love my name, in Latyn that is Amor; And when ich flee fro the body, and feye leve the caroygne, Then am ich a spirit specheles, and Spiritus thenne ich hote.
But the objection most conclusive against Mr. Ritson's doctrine, will be found in the circumstance, that with one or two exceptions, (such as the colloquy between Will and Reason,
THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH POETRY.
Passus 6), all the imaginary beings of the poem are avowedly the creatures of a dreamer's fancy, the visions of his sleeping moments; while to mark the distinction between the narrator's person, and the fictitious creations with which he has peopled his allegory, he expressly alludes in his waking intervals to his residence on Cornhill, and to his wife and daughter, Kitty and Kalot. Whatever diversity of opinion may have been excited by the ambiguous appellation bestowed upon the dreamer, there can be no doubt of the substantial character intended to be conveyed of his family; and there is too much propriety observed in the allegorical combinations detailed in the poem, to suppose for a moment that the author would have united his imaginary wanderer with a consort “of middle-earth.” To complete the proof, it may be observed, that in a manuscript noticed hereafter (Harl. No. 875) we find: “That made William to wepe.” Where the present text reads: “ That made Wille to wepe.”—Whether this be the author's name, as inferred by Mr. Tyrwhitt, it is now impossible to decide. The same motives which might induce him to avoid any mention of his character, parentage, or occupation, would be sufficient to account for the assumption of a feigned Christian name.-In the subsequent pages the name of Langland has been retained, to avoid a tedious circumlocution.—Edit.]
[See page 102, Note C.]
THE following extracts from Dr. Whitaker's edition of the 6 Visions of Peirs Plouhman" have been collated with two manuscripts in the British Museum : Vespasian B. xvi. and Harleian MS. No. 2376. Both these manuscripts are said to have been written in the fourteenth century; and they only vary from Dr. Whitaker's text, in their occasional use of a different orthography, and a few verbal discrepancies common to most copies of the same work. The Cotton manuscript from its antiquity, its strict observance of the alliteration, and the general correctness of its language, may be placed in the same rank of excellence with Dr. Whitaker's manuscript. Though equally provincial in its language-assuming Chaucer's poems as a standard of polished English,—it is written in a different dialect, and may have been transcribed in some western county, since it does not materially vary from the style of Robert of Gloucester. The Harleian manuscript, apparently some years younger, is not so conspicuous for its fidelity in minor particulars, though in the general outline of the narrative, and even in the tenor of almost every line, it may be said to accord with Dr. Whitaker's text and the Cotton copy. Its chief defects are a general neglect of the alliteration, and the repeated introduction of new glosses without a due attention to the context. Hence the sense is not unfrequently obscure, and occasionally both contradictory and absurd. But this is in some degree compensated for, by the retention of many Anglo-Saxon archaisms and several valuable examples of early grammatical
inflection; and it will always prove a useful assistant in forming a future text of these « Visions."
It is among the remarks contained in Dr. Whitaker's preface, that the variations between his own manuscript and Crowley's text are so material, as to warrant a belief that the original writer had at some time chosen to remould his work, and that both versions have come down to us. This conclusion is strongly borne out by the amplifications of the Oxford manuscript, which, while they support the integrity of the early printed copies, clearly show that these variations are too important to have been the result of a common transcriber's caprice, or to have emanated, as Mr. Tyrwhitt believed, from the ignorance, negligence, or wilful interpolation of Crowley. But the inference which Dr. Whitaker has coupled with this remark,--that his own manuscript exhibits the poem in its original state, and that Crowley's text affords a specimen of the more recent rifacimento,-is not to be admitted without considerable hesitation. Among the Harley MSS. there is a fragment of this poem written upon vellum, (No. 875.) of an equally early date with Vespasian B. xvi. and in a character nearly resembling it. Unhappily this fragment only extends to the 151st line of the 8th passus, nor is it free from lacunæ even thus far. Our loss is however in some measure repaired-perhaps wholly so-by the preservation of a transcript on paper, in the same collection (No. 6041), which, though considerably younger, and somewhat modernized in its orthography, exhibits a much more correct and intelligible text. From this manuscript it is evident, that another and a third version was once in circulation; and if the first draught of the poem be still in existence, it is here perhaps that we must look for it. For in this the narrative is considerably shortened, many passages of a decidedly episodic cast—such as the tale of the cat and the ratons, and the character of Wrath—are wholly omitted; others, which in the later versions are given with considerable detail of circumstance, are here but slightly sketched; and though evidently the text book of Dr. Whitaker's and Crowley's ver