Sunday, September 09, 2007

London Lickpenny

I'm currently reading Michael Schmidt's Lives of the Poets - a fascinating account of the development of English-language poetry that is providing my first real encounter with medieval literature. Some of the poems I've been introduced to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck in the same way as they did when I first heard Junior Walker play "Roadrunner". Haunting images and modern political sentiments are hidden behind the archaic spellings, and seem more powerful for having to sweat a bit trying to understand them, as with "Merciles Beaute" (usually attributed to Chaucer):

Your yen two wol slee me sodenly;
I may the beautee of hem not sustene,
So woundeth hit throughout my herte kene.

(see: full text on Representative Poetry Online)

A brief mention of "London Lickpenny" made me want to find our more about this poem which is usually attributed to John Lydgate. An account of the impossibility of obtaining justice in London. The full-text is available as part of the online version of James M Dean's Medieval English Political Writings (Print edition, 1996).

One particularly useful site is provided by Southampton University as part of its : Wessex Parallel WebTexts programme - a project that provides scholarly but accessible electronic editions as an on-line learning resource.

Its website offers an "anthology of edited Middle English lyrics (concentrating particularly on the 'Harley Lyrics'), translations of some longer Middle English works, and background resources for use in teaching."
Wessex Parallel WebTexts:

Lastly I just want to mention to the beautiful illuminations from the 15th-century Bréviaire de Marie de Savoie (1430) courtesy of Allison Muri's Headless Chicken.