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Middle English Lyrics (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – 1 Apr 1974

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (1 April 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393093387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393093384
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 336,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Richard L. Hoffman was Professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He was the author of Ovid and the Canterbury Tales and of many papers in medieval studies and co-author of A Companion to the Roots of Modern English. Maxwell S. Luria teaches English at Temple University and is the author of A Reader's Guide to the Roman de la Rose and articles on medieval English and French literature.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 4 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
I first picked up this book nearly twenty years ago, and it has remained a favourite of mine. Middle English poetry is relatively hard to come by, particularly in the 'original' version. Of course, this is a slightly modified original (modern typeface, a few spelling conventions that warrant attention), but for the most part, this is the lyric poetry as it was originally written. There are a few photographs of original manuscripts, some with musical notation added to the words, for comparison.
This collection includes all of the poetry from the Harley manuscript (a piece from the Middle Ages which is the sole surviving copy of a good number of Middle English poems), all the verses from the Brown XIV manuscript by Friar Herebert, and most of the poems in 'Secular Lyrics' the Oxford edition by R.H. Robbins. There are nearly 250 poems in all.
These poems are arranged thematically, and show the diversity of interests in the Middle English culture. This was a culture that was very much in transition, shifting from its historic Anglo-Saxon roots to one that was more in touch in a peaceable way with the continent, become more urban in many respects, and becoming a blended culture in many ways. There are influences of court and church, French, Germanic tongues, Celtic influences, rural pastoral settings and new town experiences. 'In their copiousness and variety, too, these poems - songs of love and death, God and nature, the pleasures of the table and the fears of damnation, the ebullience of youth and the melancholy of old age - form one of the great bodies of lyric verse in world literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 July 2004
Format: Paperback
This is probably the best edition of Middle English lyrics available in that it gives a sense of the full range of the Middle English lyric poet. In this it differs from other editions that concentrate solely on the religious lyric or tend to over-historicise the lyrics rather than appreciating their aesthetic status. The thematic arrangement of the poems makes the edition ideal for a reader wishing to browse and familiarise themselves with the poetry. It is also an excellent edition for those wishing to use it for academic purposes as it includes critical essays which examine classic views as well as modern reevaluations of the poems.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Myriad of Medieval Poetry 8 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am not a scholar, but here's my 2¢: It's difficult to find collections of Medieval English poetry; the most one can usually hope to find is a bit of Chaucer mixed with Renaissance poetry.This collection provides a welcome relief with 245 poems separated into several categories: Religious, worldly, love, Christmas, bawdy, and more. My personal favorite is a 15th poem which deals with racism. There are several essays, and all poems are dated and sourced. Why only 4 stars? The poems have been slightly modernized, with regards to capitalization, punctuation, thorns and other archaic letters.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Worldes blisse, have good day! 3 Oct. 2005
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first picked up this book nearly twenty years ago, and it has remained a favourite of mine. Middle English poetry is relatively hard to come by, particularly in the 'original' version. Of course, this is a slightly modified original (modern typeface, a few spelling conventions that warrant attention), but for the most part, this is the lyric poetry as it was originally written. There are a few photographs of original manuscripts, some with musical notation added to the words, for comparison.

This collection includes all of the poetry from the Harley manuscript (a piece from the Middle Ages which is the sole surviving copy of a good number of Middle English poems), all the verses from the Brown XIV manuscript by Friar Herebert, and most of the poems in 'Secular Lyrics' the Oxford edition by R.H. Robbins. There are nearly 250 poems in all.

These poems are arranged thematically, and show the diversity of interests in the Middle English culture. This was a culture that was very much in transition, shifting from its historic Anglo-Saxon roots to one that was more in touch in a peaceable way with the continent, become more urban in many respects, and becoming a blended culture in many ways. There are influences of court and church, French, Germanic tongues, Celtic influences, rural pastoral settings and new town experiences. 'In their copiousness and variety, too, these poems - songs of love and death, God and nature, the pleasures of the table and the fears of damnation, the ebullience of youth and the melancholy of old age - form one of the great bodies of lyric verse in world literature.'

Middle English encompasses a long time period and a variety of dialects; from the immediate post-Norman Conquest times when the language of Anglo-Saxons jostled with the language of the Normans, up to the generations succeeding Chaucer, when the Germanic and Latinate influences had blended together in a wonderful way.

The editors of this text, Maxwell Luria and Richard Hoffman, have departed from certain conventions, such as declining to contrive titles for lyrics; they also freely confess their difficulties with some of the poetry, like the Harley manuscript (they are far from the only ones to have this difficulty), and, because this text is intended primarily for students, have not spent a great deal of time trying to sort out all of these issues in this text.

This Norton edition also includes essays, divided into two sorts. There are four essays dealing with Critical and Historical Background (essays on style, content, performance, and cross-cultural connections), and several essays that focus upon six specific poems, including the very famous 'Sumer is icumen in'. Although these six poems are highlighted, many others are referenced and discusses within the broader framework of the essays.

This is a glorious collection of verse, lesser known but that which should be known. The essays are interesting and useful for helping understanding. There are bibliographies and an index of first lines useful for students doing research.
A Disapointment 12 Nov. 2014
By Tony Marquise Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To me, this book is a disapointment. I am not fluent in Middle English so iI find it difficult to enjoy reading these poems while I am trying to translate them at the same time. Some of the helper notes are at the bottom of the page and some in the margin of the same line as the poem. I found, by reading the back cover, that this book is made for the college student. Never taking a course in Middle English before, I can recommend this book ONLY to students who have studied Middle English before. The general reader will not be able to really enjoy these poems.
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