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Song and Legend from the Middle Ages   By: (1873-1939)

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By WILLIAM D. MCCLINTOCK Assistant Professor of English Literature, University Of Chicago AND PORTER LANDER McCLINTOCK

Chautauqua Reading Circle Literature 1893



READING LIST. Owing to the necessarily fragmentary character of the readings of this volume, it has seemed well to the editors to indicate a list of books for those who wish a wider reading In Mediaeval Literature. These books are all available and cheap.

1. French Literature. (1) Longfellow's "Poets and Poetry of Europe". (2) O'Hagan's "The Song of Roland". (3) Rourdillon's "Aucassin and Nicolette". (4) Malory's "Morte Darthur". (5) Chaucer's "Romance of the Rose". (6) Caxton's "Reynard the Fox". (7) Saintsbury's "Short History of French Literature". 2. Spanish Literature. (1) Longfellow, as above. (2) Ormsby's "The Cid". (3) Lockhart's "Ancient Spanish Ballads". 3. Scandinavian Literature. (1) Longfellow, as above. (2) Anderson's "Norse Mythology". 4. German Literature. (1) Longfellow, as above. (2) Lettsom's "Niebelungenlied". (3) Scherer's "History of German Literature". 5. Italian Literature. (1) Longfellow, as above. (2) Rossetti's "Dante and his Circle". (3) Cary's "The Divine Comedy". (4) Norton's "The Divine Comedy". (5) Campbell's "The Sonnets and Poems of Petrarch".


The aim of this little book is to give general readers some idea of the subject and spirit of European Continental literature in the later and culminating period of the Middle Ages the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries.

It goes without saying that translations and selections are, in general, inadequate to the satisfactory representation of any literature. No piece of writing, of course, especially no piece of poetry, can be perfectly rendered into another tongue; no piece of writing can be fairly represented by detached portions. But to the general English reader Continental Mediaeval literature, so long as it remains in the original tongues, is inaccessible; and translations of many entire works are not within easy reach.

What translation and selection can do in this case, is to put into the hands of the ordinary student of the Middle Ages sufficient material for forming an estimate of the subjects that interested the mediaeval mind and the spirit in which they were treated. And this is what the general reader desires. Matters of form and expression the points that translation cannot reproduce belong, of course, to the specialist.

The claim that so slender a volume of selections can represent even the subject and spirit of so vast a body of literature, is saved from being unreasonable or presumptuous by a consideration of the fact that, from causes easy to trace, the national literatures of Continental Europe had many common characteristics: the range of subjects was not unlimited; the spirit is the same in all.

No English is included for two reasons: Mediaeval English literature is easily accessible to those readers for whom this book is prepared; during the special period in which the best mediaeval literature was developed, England was comparatively unproductive.

The constant aim has been to put before the reader the literature itself, with comment barely sufficient to make an intelligible setting for the selections. Criticism of all kinds has been avoided, so that the reader may come to his material with judgment entirely unbiased. The translations used have been selected largely with a view to their accessibility, so that readers who desire to enlarge the scope of their reading may easily find the books they need. Caxton's "Reynard the Fox", and "The Romance of the Rose", attributed to Chaucer, were chosen because they convey an impression of the quaint flavor of the original, which is lost in a modern version... Continue reading book >>

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