Sir Thomas Wyatt (ca. 1535) Never published in Sir Thomas Wyatt's lifetime, this poem is preserved in one manuscript, a poetic miscellany of the coterie around Anne Boleyn, which dates it to around the mid-1530s. This manuscript's verse shows a group of authors not only interested in writing pleasing courtly love poetry but also commenting on the poetic form. Wyatt's poem is critical of the subject position of the speaking, courtly lover, as he places himself abjectly before the object of his desire.
The traditional servant-mistress relationship is established in the initial line, with the object of desire as the active party and the speaker appearing passive, offering only a weak protest: [. . .] "Blame / Of all my greffe and grame" (ll. 3-4). When the opening question is repeated at the end of the stanza, the speaker offers a response on the part of the silent and occluded mistress: "Say nay, Say nay!" (l. 6). This question and suggested response is repeated throughout the other stanzas with the effect of the speaker appearing more and more abject each time it is repeated.
The second and third stanzas focus the attention of the poem on the speaker's actions and emotional state. in the second stanza, the speaker emphatically declares that his love has been faithful "In welthe and woo" (l.
9), and in the third stanza, he reinforces his steadfastness, as he would not leave "Nother for payn nor smart" (l. 16). These descriptions increase the undignified, self-piteous subject positioning of the speaker, and both conclude with the question and suggested response for the silent mistress. There is no attempt at psychological introspection here—no justification for the love of the mistress—only a helpless servant-speaker in the face of his mistress.
The fourth stanza refocuses the poem's attention on the mistress and her lack of pity for the abject lover. The cruel mistress is given all the power, while the speaker places himself in a position of utter impotence, again offering the refused suggested response of "Say nay, Say nay!" (l. 24). Introspectively, Wyatt has established the utter undesirability of being the courtly lover.
See also "They Flee from Me."
ANGLO-NORMAN Anglo-Norman is the French dialect that took root among the cultured classes in England after the Norman Conquest and lasted in various forms until the mid-15th century. The term is also used to describe texts written in French during the same period for English patrons or by authors in England. In 1066, William the Conqueror— then duke of Normandy—invaded England and successfully claimed its throne. As Normans increasingly replaced Anglo-Saxons in powerful institutional positions, French became the language of politics and of the elite. Over time, Anglo-Norman steadily replaced Latin for legal, clerical, commercial, and administrative purposes. It was also spoken at the royal court. Consequently, cultured English people sought to learn the language because of its newfound prestige and practicality.
There is some debate about the extent to which Anglo-Norman was spoken or understood by the general public, but the current scholarly consensus holds that most of the population during these years spoke only English. Nevertheless, since the French dialect was considered far more refined than English, Anglo-
Norman quickly became the preferred vernacular of poets and clerics. The new dialect was embraced as a literary language and produced a significant and lasting impact. By the late 14th century, English had absorbed about 10,000 French words into the language, many of which endure.
After a few centuries of use, Anglo-Norman lost linguistic ground in England. In 1337, the English king Edward III (reigned 1327-77) attempted to claim the recently vacated French throne and provoked the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The diplomacy engendered by the conflict bolstered the prestige of continental French, which began to take the place of the less standardized Anglo-Norman. As a literary language, however, Anglo-Norman was almost entirely replaced by English by the end of the 14th century. Henry IV (reigned 1399-1413), the first of the Lancastrian kings, became the first monarch in over 300 years to make English the predominant language at court. By the middle of the 15 th century, most of the upper echelons of English society had rejected the French dialect. Anglo-Norman eventually disappeared from England altogether, but it left permanent traces in the English language. See also Anglo-Norman poetry.
Calin, William. The French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Crane, Susan. "Anglo-Norman Cultures in England." In The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, edited by David Wallace, 35-60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
ANGLO-NORMAN POETRY After the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror filled his court with advisers from home, and the French dialect Anglo-Norman became the court, administrative, and literary language of England. Critics have suggested that many of the highborn Normans who immigrated to England over the next three centuries may have felt the need to distinguish themselves from their Norman siblings still living on the continent, and that, as a consequence of their patronage, chronicles, romances, and hagiographies (see hagiography)—all of which tend to ennoble the present by linking it to an illustrious past—became the first popular genres of Anglo-Norman literature in England. The increasing demand for literary production inspired many writers to become bilingual, and they borrowed freely from French texts. This trend continued well into the 15 th century, when the court of Henry IV (reigned 1399-1413) increased its use of English, which had begun to emerge as a poetic language in its own right. On the whole, aristocratic patronage is credited with having produced much of the Anglo-Norman poetry that still survives today.
The earliest extant Anglo-Norman poem dates to the first part of the 12th century, when William's son Henry I (reigned 1100-35) was in power. The Voyage of St. Brendan (ca. 1106) recounts legendary episodes from the life of St. Brendan and tells of a fantastic voyage filled with great adventure. The poem was likely commissioned by Henry's first wife and composed by a Benedictine monk. It appears to be the oldest surviving example of a poem written in rhyming couplets with eight syllables to a line. This structure is significant because later romances adopted the same form; the Anglo-Norman romance Tristan, for example, follows this format. Tristan (ca. 1170), one of the most famous romances, was written by Thomas d'Anglettere during the rule of Henry II (1154-89).
Many 12th-century poets writing in Anglo-Norman name female patrons. Wace's famous Roman de Brut (1155), which narrates a legendary history of the founding of Britain, dates to Henry II's rule, and the author may have given the work as a gift to Henry's queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Women authors, too, composed notable poetry from this period. The Life of St. Catherine (ca. 1175), for example, was written by the nun Clemence of Barking, and Marie de France is famous for her 12 short stories (lais [see lay]) composed in Anglo-Norman verse. Her lais (ca. 1170) were so popular that two of them were later translated into Middle English.
critics have pointed out that Anglo-Norman occupied a unique linguistic position throughout its life in England: It was both a cultured language of privilege and an appropriate medium for women writers, for whom a romance vernacular was considered more suitable than the more learned Latin.
The early 13th century saw a dramatic increase in the production of Anglo-Norman spiritual writings. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), which established the requirement of Christian confession once a year, had a particularly significant impact. Manuals and treatises— designed to edify both the laity and the clerics who would be hearing their confessions—proliferated. It was not until the later part of the 14th century however, that the last great achievement of Anglo-Norman poetry appeared. John Gower, whose literary career spanned the rule of three monarchs—Edward III (1327-77), Richard II (1377-99), and Henry IV (1399-1413)— addressed the problem of human sin in the Mirour de l'Omme (ca. 1376-79), which he wrote in octosyllabic stanzas of 12 lines each. Mirour was the last significant work in French verse to be written by an English author. Though the dialect persisted into the 15th century, after the rule of Henry Iv, it was used almost exclusively as an administrative language, rather than a poetic one.
Calin, William. The French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Crane, Susan. "Anglo-Norman Cultures in England." In The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, edited by David Wallace. 35-60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Legge, M. Dominica. Anglo-Norman Literature & Its Background. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
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