ABSTRACT

The last chapter, in its attempt to trace the fortunes of alliterative writing after the Conquest, had its eye frankly to the future, and the flowering of alliterative poetry in the fourteenth century. The stress was on the continued availability of the alliterative form, to a variety of writers and needs, rather than on the continuity of the Anglo-Saxon poetic tradition, which was, in its classical form, moribund by the time the extant poetry was written down and dead by the eleventh century. Laʒamon is obviously archaistic. Classical poetry, conceived and brought to perfection in the generous atmosphere of early Anglo-Saxon monastic culture, gave way to looser forms of alliterative writing, which accommodated the more didactic and practical needs of the late tenth and eleventh centuries. These looser forms, constituting what I have grown accustomed to calling a ‘continuum’, were available to writers after the Conquest, occasionally being wrought up, by an archaist like Laʒamon, or under the influence of other stylistic traditions such as that of Latin prose, into something memorable. It is not a part of this argument that the choice of such forms was in any way an act of patriotic self-assertion.