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A new and comprehensive anthology of medieval lyrics and carols, in new editions, with introduction and commentary.
Lyrics and carols are two of the most important types of medieval literature. This anthology provides a generous and wide-ranging selection, beginning with the first lyrics in English to celebrate love as romantic devotion to a woman, and including all pre-Chaucerian love lyrics (other than a few brief snatches). Poems by Chaucer and his successors present the courtly game of love in its sophisticated later medieval form, while devotional lyrics portray the tenderness of the later medieval response to Christ as lover and beloved and to the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, Mary as sorrowing mother and as Queen of Heaven. Fully represented also are lyrics on characteristically medieval moral and penitential themes, alongside miscellaneous lyrics such as drinking and dancing songs, ballads, satires, poems of wit, humour and sexual innuendo, accounts of lecherous priests, minstrels mocking their audiences, and women vividly listing their lovers' inadequacies.
The texts are edited anew, accompanied with a textual apparatus detailing manuscript readings where emendations have been made to restore sense, metre and rhyme. The language of pre-Chaucerian poems has been normalised to accord with the dialect of late fourteenth-century London ("Chaucerian English"), and unfamiliar spellings in later lyrics have been regularized. Readability is further aided by line-by-line glosses. An extensive introduction offers an appraisal of the forms, themes and contexts of the lyrics and a full discussion of their language and metre, while a comprehensive commentary gives further essential information.
Thomas G. Duncan is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of English at St Andrews University.