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The language of De Brunne is so loose and confused, that it might be attributed to either.
I see in song in sedgeyng tale,
That non were suylk as thei.' But, waving these considerations, the most important point for examination arises from the internal evidence to be found in the alleged romance of Sir Tristram; and upon which De Brunne has been so explicitly circumstantial.
Thai sayd it in so quainte Inglis,
To turne it bot in light ryme. It is true, the ingenious editor of “Sir Tristram" considers all these peculiarities to exist in the Auchinleck poem. He
1 In the Preface to Sir Tristram this they wrote for pride (fame), and for line is thus given : “ That were not suylk nobles, not such as these my ignorant as thei." This error has engendered a hearers." wrong interpretation of the passage :
conceives the “quaint Inglis” to consist in a peculiar structure of style, which he designates “the Gibbonism of romance;” the “strange ryme” to be manifested by the intricate arrangement of the stanza, with its repetition of the same assonances; and that even the inaccuracies of the “ seggers," mentioned in the preceding extract, are still to be traced in the omission of several couplets in various parts of the poem. But if there be meaning in language, or connexion in the narrative of De Brunne, his “quaint Inglis,” his “strange Inglis," and his “strange speche,” all resolve themselves into the employment of an unusual phraseology dependent upon his “strange ryme," and not into any peculiarity of style ;-into the use of terms above the comprehension of the vulgar, which time had rendered obsolete, or fashion had adopted from exotic sources. For he proceeds to observe:
Thai sayd if I in strange it turne,
Of these " selcouthe names” what traces do we find in the romance of Sir Tristram, which are not to be met with in equal abundance in the poems of De Brunne? If the former be a specimen of that“quaint Inglis," which could justify De Brunne in saying it contained“ names not used now in mouthe,” upon what principle can we allow this cloistered versifier to have avoided the same peculiarity in his own composition? His own poems are equally quaint and equally prolific of that same obsolete phraseology, which limited the popularity of his admired predecessors; for whoever will be at the trouble of analysing the language of both writers, will find their archaisms nearly corresponding in amount, though frequently differing in verbal
import. With this knowledge, we are either reduced to the necessity of concluding, that there is a strange contradiction between the intention and practice of De Brunne, or that the romance of Sir Tristram still extant is not the production to which he has alluded. There is, however, a passage in this early chronicler, which will relieve him of this apparent charge. of inconsistency, if we accept the only interpretation of which his language seems capable. He has stated of the seggours, who recited this romance:
Bot I here it no man so say
That of some copple som is away. The editor of Sir Tristram renders this: “he never heard it repeated, but what of some copple (i. e. stanza) part was omitted.” It does not appear upon what authority this explanation of “copple” is founded; and it would be difficult to point out any period in our language, when that expression implied more than the simple connexion of two distinct bodies. It is clearly equivalent to our modern "couplet;" and the examples brought from Sir Tristram (which is written in stanzas) to illustrate the censure of De Brunne, exhibit the suppression of whole copples, and not the omission of a part. In Anglo-Saxon verse, and its genuine descendant, the alliterative metre of early English poetry, the “copple” was as indispensable in the structure of a poem, as we now consider it to be in regular lambic
rymes; and it is among the commonest faults of every early transcriber, to commit the error noticed by De Brunne, and to give us a text, of which it may be truly said, “that of some copple som is away.” This negligence is frequent in Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon poems, to the great confusion of the narrative; and would indeed be a source of infinite perplexity, if the defective alliteration it occasions did not as clearly mark the hiatus as would be the case with an unconsorted
Of this practice the following example out of many may suffice. Them feower bearn, To him four bairns, forth gerimed,
numbered (rimed) forth,
in worold wocun,
in world awoke,
illustrious Scylfing, heals-gebedda,
bedded consort. Here the seventh line stands without the second member of the copple, an omission involving the history of Elan in some obscurity. Whether this inadvertency be equally chargeable against the transcribers of early English poetry in the same national metre, must be left to the decision of some more experienced antiquary. But that all who sought distinction in the composition of vernacular poetry, or were stimulated in their effusions by “pride and nobleye,” adopted this species of metre, is abundantly proved by the testimony of Giraldus Cambrensis. After speaking of Welsh poetry in general, the topographer of the principality proceeds to observe: “ Præ cunctis autem rhetoricis exornationibus annominatione magis utuntur, eaque precipue specie quæ primas dictionum literas vel syllabas convenientia jungit. Adeo igitur hoc verborum ornatu, duæ nationes Angli scil. et Cambri in omni sermone exquisito (faire saying] utuntur, ut nihil ab his eleganter dictum, nullum nisi rude et agreste (lewed] censeatur eloquium si non schematis hujus lima plene fuerit expolitum sicut Brittanice in hunc modum :
Digawn duw da y unic
.Wrth bob crybwylh parawd · Ed. Thorkelin, p. 7. From some subsequent details it appears that Elan was married to Ongenthiow, chief of the Scylfings; and we might perhaps restore the text by reading : Hyrde ic thet Blan cwen
Heard I that Elan queen (woman)
(illustrious Scylfing) heals-gebedda
bedded consort (heals, collum; gebedda,
God is together
Gammen and wisdome." In this it may be assumed that we have the key to the “strange ryme” of De Brunne: and if the reader should feel disposed to accept the preceding illustration of the dismembered copple, he will probably not refuse his assent to the belief, that the following extract from an old romance, more nearly resembles the other peculiarities noticed by our ancient writer, than the stanza of Sir Tristram.
And quen this Bretayn was bigged,
* Girald. Cambria Descript. pp. 889–90. ap. Camd. Anglica, Hibernica, &c. Francf. 1601.
| marvels. # most courteous.