Middle English literature

The Early Period

Several poems in early Middle English are extant. The Orrmulum (c.1200), a verse translation of parts of the Gospels, is of linguistic and prosodic rather than literary interest. The Owl and the Nightingale, of approximately the same date, is the first example in English of the débat, a popular continental form; in the poem, the owl, strictly monastic and didactic, and the nightingale, a free and amorous secular spirit, charmingly debate the virtues of their respective ways of life.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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