Medieval Literature. Texts and Interpretation by Tim William Machan (ed.)

By Tim William Machan (ed.)

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By Tim William Machan (ed.)

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Example text

He finds, from his reading of the Old French ten-syllabled line, that there were sixteen possible varieties of the line, allowing for the addition of an extra unstressed syllable at the caesura or line-end, the omission of the unstressed syllable at the line-beginning or caesura, and the permissible permutations of these four kinds of license. He considers that Chaucer "freely accepted" the principle of adding a syllable at the caesura or lineend (the so-called feminine ending), that he "allowed himself to accept" the principle of dropping the unstressed syllable at the line-beginning (the "headless" line), but that he "disliked" all four types of line in which the unstressed syllable at the caesura was omitted (the "Lydgate" or "broken-backed" line).

But, of course, the traditional presentation oi Piers Plowman suggests a rationale for printing F and Gg in parallel— as one indication of the author's continuing poetic concerns. This example reveals, I think, confusions about the degree to which editors of Chaucer feel they should seek an author's authority. The two texts appear as an unargued act of conflation; or the revision does not appear because the poet can't or shouldn't have meant it. 27," in Douglas Gray and E. G. Stanley, eds.. Middle English Studies Presented to Norman Davis (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 39-58.

My third example is deceptively simpler, a case of minor variation in "General Prologue" 217. Of the Friar Chaucer says: Fill wcl biloved and famulier was he With frankeleyns over al in his contree, And eek with worthy wommen of the toun. " Here El's "for" produces a hendecasyllabic; the Hg version begins as if "headless," but at mid-line where I cite the text of italicized has juxtaposed stresses, a "Lydgatian," "broken-back," or "fifteenthcentury heroic" verse. An editor here encounters difficulty because, whipsawed between two conflicting imperatives, s/he must and must not make a choice: editors do get paid to print A Text.

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