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.
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