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The Shaping of English Poetry – Volume IV

Essays on 'The Battle of Maldon', Chrétien de Troyes, Dante, 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and Chaucer

Gerald Morgan

This fourth volume of essays under the title The Shaping of English Poetry consolidates the work of the previous three volumes on the great subjects of English literature in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. The Norman Conquest of England built upon the rich foundation of Anglo-Saxon England but did not destroy it; thus the present volume begins with the commemoration of English heroism in The Battle of Maldon. In the late twelfth century we encounter in Chrétien de Troyes's seminal romance Le Chevalier de la Charrete a new kind of hero in Lancelot, abject and obedient before his mistress, although Chrétien himself is not an uncritical admirer of the sanctity of adulterous love. Hence the importance of Dante's exposition of love in Purgatorio, XVIII, which forms a background to the essays here on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Parliament of Fowls. The volume concludes with essays on Chaucer's Knight's, Monk's and Nun's Priest's Tales, which form part of a long-term project to interpret the Canterbury Tales as a unified whole and not merely a series of fragments awaiting revision on Chaucer's death.


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3 The Movement of Love in the Interior Sensesand in the Intellect:An Explanation ofPurgatorio, XVIII.22–24


3 The Movement of Love in the Interior Senses and in the In tellect: An Explanation of Purgatorio, XVIII.22–24 I. The first part of Virgil’s exposition of love on the thre shold of the ter- race of sloth in Purgatorio, XVIII.16–39 is framed by the sage’s expression of his intention to reveal an error (XVIII.16–18) and of his claim to have succeeded in doing so (XVIII.34–39). The argument of the intervening five tercets (XVIII.19–33) is set out with the structural clarity and linguistic precision that is required by such a purpose. Virgil expounds in due order natural love (XVIII.19–21), sensitive love (XVIII.22–27) and rational love (XVIII.28–33) as they are formally identified and distin guished in Scholastic philosophy. Natural love is the di vinely implanted instinct to love which is the source of all loving. Sensitive love is a movement of the soul in the light of an internal source of knowledge, and accord ingly the exposition of sensitive love is based upon the distinction between sensitive cognition (XVIII.22–24) and sensitive appetition (XVIII.25–27). Sensitive love operates through a bodily organ in the body/soul compound, whereas rational love operates without a bodily organ in the soul alone; The move- ment of the former is a material or natural movement (XVIII.26) and of the latter immaterial or spiri tual (XVIII.31–32). All these matters I have attempted to explain at greater length in a previous article,1 and it is my intention here...

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