Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1557) This poem, along with all of Surrey's surviving lyric poetry, was published posthumously in the collection Songes and Sonnettes (Tottel's Miscellany) in 1557 under the title "A Complaint by Night of the Lover Not Beloved." It is unusual among Surrey's SONNETs for the simplicity of its rhyme scheme: abab, abab, abab, cc. It is an adaptation of PETRARCH's Sonnet 164, and for the first half, it follows the original quite closely. The first quatrain and line encompass a loose translation of lines 522 and following of book 4 of The Aeneid, wherein Dido, queen of Carthage, laments Aeneas, a Trojan warrior. This is accomplished through syntax and rooted in the early modern translation tradition. Though the poem is an adaptation of Petrarch, its originality comes from its psychological investigation of the desiring subject following line 6. Using Petrarch as a starting point, Surrey investigates the absence of the beloved's image as the cause of the subject's suffering.
Line 1 sets up the thematic dialectic between the first and last words of the line, in accordance with classical rhetorical precepts, and is dominated by the ellipsis following "Alas." Lines 3, 4, and 5 all invert the syntax, sometimes placing the verb at the end of the phrase "the stars about doth bring" (l. 4); sometimes creating intentionally artificial constructions—the air singing in line 3, for example; and sometimes using CHIASMUS and onomatopoeia to indicate the serenity of the scene (l. 5).
Only in line 6 does the poem turn to the interior turmoil of the desiring subject as contrasting the peaceful exterior world. That the sonnet's volta occurs in line 6, signaled by the second "alas!," is not extraordinary as the conventions of the English sonnet were still being created, and the Petrarchan original also changes at this point. The volta signals an investigation of the ways in which love "doth wring" the subject to extremes of emotion—"I weep and sing / In joy and woe." Love presents to the desiring subject the object of his desire "before my face" (l. 7), but it is not until the final couplet that we learn the cause of the subject's despair. Though he is presented with images of the object of his desire, he must "live and lack the thing should rid my pain" (l. 14).
See also Surrey, Henry Howard, earl of.
ALBA The term alba, or "dawn song," comes from the Occitan regions of southern France. The verse form varies, but the subject matter involves lovers who have spent the night together reluctantly having to part at dawn. The tone resembles a lament, the lovers wishing the night would continue forever. Some poems involve an appeal to the lover to awaken, and many incorporate a warning from a watchman who has guarded the lovers from spies and other interruptions during the night. The origins of the alba can be traced to the late 10th century, although classical precedents exist, but the first surviving Occitan text is Guiraut de Bornelh's "Reis glorios" (Glorious sun) from the late 12th century. In Folc de Marseilla (d. 1231), the form is even adapted to a religious purpose in "Vers Dieus, el vostre nom et de Sancta Maria." Though technically the alba is a subset to the aubade, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Dronke, Peter. The Medieval Lyric. 3rd ed. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1996.
Van Vleck, Amelia E. "The Lyric Texts." In A Handbook of the Troubadours, edited by F. R. P. Akehurst and Judith M. Davis, 21-60. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
ALDHELM (640?-ca. 709) Very little is known about Aldhelm except that he studied at Canterbury under Archbishop Theodore and the abbot Hadrian and later served as abbot at Malmesbury and bishop of Sherborne. However, many of Aldhelm's works still exist, and they provide important evidence for studying the beginnings of recorded poetry and prose in England. Aldhelm wrote in a complicated linguistic style called hermeneutical Latin, though many speculate he also wrote Old English poetry that has been lost.
Aldhelm wrote many different kinds of texts, including riddles, treatises on the art of metrics, religious lyric poems, letters, charters, and poetic and prosaic versions of a text called the De virginitate (On Virginity). Aldhelm's riddles were perhaps the most popular of his writings. Covering numerous topics from cats to women giving birth, they are composed in Anglo-Latin hexameters. Stylistically, the texts are short and mysterious. His writings on metrics, particularly De metris (On Meters) and De pedum regulis (On the Rules of Feet), outline in great detail the proper ways for poets to construct their verse and demonstrate the study of metrics to be both an art and a science. All of these works—the riddles and the two metrical treatises—are found in a lengthy letter from Aldhelm to Acircius, which can be dated sometime between 685 and 705.
See also Anglo-Saxon riddles, Exeter Book.
Lapidge, Michael, and James L. Rosier, trans. Aldhelm: The Poetic Works. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1985.
Orchard, Andy. The Poetic Art of Aldhelm. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
ALEXANDRINE A 12-syllable line of verse written in iambic hexameter, in which each line of six feet has two syllables with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. An alternate pattern features a short syllable followed by a long syllable. The form originated in French heroic verse. A prominent English example is found in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, in which eight lines of iambic pentameter are followed by an alexandrine.
ALFRED THE GREAT (AELFRED THE GREAT) (849-899) The fifth and youngest son of Ethelwulf of Wessex and his wife Osburga of the Jutes, Alfred assumed the throne in 871 after the death of his brother, Aethelred. He had spent his youth in Kent, learning literature and philosophy alongside the warrior arts.
Alfred's first action was to buy peace from the Vikings. This peace was short-lived, and he spent the next several years engaged in guerilla-style battles, finally retaking London in 886, upon which he declared himself "King of the English." Alfred also forged the Danelaw (common boundary) with his former enemy, Guthrum. Politically astute, he reformed the legal code, established both standing and reserve units of the army, and created the first English navy. By 897, he had established a system of burhs (boroughs) across Wessex and halted the Viking advance.
Alfred was also an accomplished scholar. He helped reestablish monasteries demolished by the Vikings and founded a court school to educate noble children. He vigorously promoted the use of the vernacular, making English the official language of the court. He also personally translated a number of works from their Latin original into Old English, including Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and Pope Gregory the Great's Dialogues and Pastoral Care (for which he also wrote a metrical preface). He also authorized the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the late 9th century, requiring that many copies be made and distributed.
Alfred died at Wantage on October 26, 899. He was buried at Hyde Abbey, where his remains stayed until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
See also Meters of Boethius, metrical preface to the Pastoral Care.
Turk, Milton Haight, ed. The Legal Code of Alfred the Great.
1893. Reprint, Clark, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2004.
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