Purity, a Middle English poem

Purity,a Middle English poem

Mychosen text is Cleanness also referred to as Purity, a Middle Englishpoem, with introduction notes, and glossary by Robert J. Menner. Thepoem was publicized by Ann Arbor, in Michigan, at the MichiganUniversity Library in 2006. The poem ‘Purity’ print source isMenner, Robert. Purity,a Middle English poem, ed. with introduction, notes, and glossary byRobert J. Menner.New Haven: Yale University press 1920. Print.

Thepoem seems to have a biblical basis, and the poet seem to have hadbefore him some form of Vulgate text that acted as his main source.As such, quite a large number of difficulties in the poem can becleared by a careful study of Latin. In addition, the poet also usedcommentaries and bible versions as seen from his legendary andnon-biblical additions.

Thepoem was first published in 1864, in the first volume of EarlyEnglish Alliterative poems in the West Midland Dialect, of thefourteenth century, ed. by Richard Morris. Thereafter, it sawdifferent revisions of the same developed, thus, the current editionis the result of many years efforts in the poem. This has seen thepublication of Dr. Robert J. Menner’s edition under the title‘Purity’ Yale studies in English, 1920 appearing in page form. Inline with the scribed handwriting and execution of the illustrations,the manuscript dates back approximately 1400. An analysis of the poemshows that the poem must have been composed in the last half of the14thcentury since they are representative in language and style of thealliterative revival, which are a literary school of that period.Different linguistic studies have allocated the poem to a WestMidland dialect (Wogan-Browneand Ian 2).

Purity,the Middle English poem mainly utilizes Midlands’s dialects, whichhas a distinction between East and West. This is evident in maincharacteristics coming up dialects. For instance, “As renkez ofrelygioun þati reden and syngen, and aprochen to hys presens, andprestez arn called Thay teen unto his temmple and temen tohymselven,” (line 4-8). The most notable midlands dialect is theuse of hys by the use of –y to indicate past participle. Duringthis time there were no standardized spelling and thus, words mightlook like one thing and yet they mean another. In addition, the poemis full of metatheses or inverted letters that is characteristic ofthe West Midlands English 14thcentury poems. With regard to phonology, there is use of phonetics inthe works. Forexample, “Þer as he hevened aȝt happez, and hyȝt hem her medez”(line 24), the ȝ symbol is used to denote a voiced consonant africative and postalveolar.

Consideringthe time, which was marked by the growth of the church in England, itmust have influenced the poet into using biblical allegories, andthus homily cleanness must be considered first. The poet associatedifferent events with happenings in the Old Testament of the Bible,the biblical point of view promotes the virtue of fleshly purity. Thepoem recreates scenes of feasting and different social eventimitating the medieval country life and thus they are reflective of14thcentury as suggested by the dialect used in the poem. Therefore, itcan be concluded that the poem Cleanness Purity dates back to the14thcentury and runs in this times West Midland dialect as is evident inthe text of the poem. Purity,a Middle English poem, ed. with introduction, notes, and glossary byRobert J. Menner.New Haven: Yale University press, 1920. Print.


Menner,Robert. Purity,a Middle English poem, ed. with introduction, notes, and glossary.NewHaven: Yale University press 1920. Print.

Wogan-Browne,Jocelyn, and Ian Richard Johnson, eds.&nbspTheIdea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English LiteraryTheory, 1280-1520.Penn State Press, 1999. Print.