ESSAY TOPIC PASSAGES
1. From Dream of the Rood: “Wonderful was the triumph-tree, and I stained
with sins, wounded with wrongdoings. I saw the tree of glory shine
splendidly, adorned with garments, decked with gold: jewels had worthily
covered the Lord’s tree. Yet through that tree I might perceive ancient agony
of wretches, for now it began to bleed on the right side. I was all afflicted
with sorrows, I was afraid for that fair sight. I saw that bright beacon change
in clothing and color: now it was wet with moisture, drenched with flowing
of blood, now adorned with treasure”
2. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 2429-39.
3. Miller’s Prologue, lines 50-58.
4. Second Shepherd’s Play, lines 1023-48.
When I thought of my family, my friends, my countrymen, or human race in
general, I considered them as they really were, Yahoos in shape and
disposition, perhaps a little more civilized, and qualified with the gift of
speech….When I happened to behold the reflection of my own form in a lake
or fountain, I turned away my face with horror and detestation of myself, and
could better endure the sight of a common Yahoo than of my own person
“who would have seiz’d on me with the same View, as I did of a Goat, or a Turtle; and
have thought it no more a Crime to kill and devour me, than I did of a Pigeon, or a
The Rape of the Lock ends by invoking the themes of transience and mortality :
For, after all the murders of your eye,
When, after millions slain, yourself shall die:
When those fair suns shall set, as set they must,
And all those tresses shall be laid in dust,
This Lock the Muse shall consecrate to fame,
And ‘midst the stars inscribe Belinda’s name.
Marie De France: From Prologue to Lais 1. Whoever has received knowledge
and eloquence in speech from God
should not be silent or secretive
but demonstrate it willingly.
The custom among the ancients
was to speak quite obscurely
in the books they wrote,
so that those who were to come after
and study them
might gloss the letter
and supply its significance from their own wisdom.
2. Philosophers knew this,
they understood among themselves
that the more time they spent,
the more subtle their minds would become
and the better they would know how to keep themselves
from whatever was to be avoided
That’s why I began to think
about composing some good stories
and translating from Latin to Romance;
but that was not to bring me fame:
too many others had done it.
then I thought of the lais I’d heard…
Chaucer Tale of Sir Thopas
What man artow? quod he;
“Thou lookest as thou woldest fynde an hare,
For evere upon he ground I se thee stare.
He in the waast is shape as wel as I;
This were a popet in an arm t’enbrace
For any womman, smal and fair of face.
He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce,
For unto no wight dooth he daliaunce.”
Chaucer Man of Laws Tale
I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn
That Chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly
On metres and on rymyng craftily,
Hath seyd hem in swich Englissh as he kan, Of olde tyme, and knoweth many a man;
And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother
In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
Chacuer Prologue to the Reeves Tale
Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
Of Absolon and hende Nicholas
Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde.
Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,
But it were oonly Osewold the Reve.
Dream of the Rood
Then I saw the Lord of mankind hasten with stout heart, for he would climb upon
me. I dared not bow or break against God's word when I saw earth's surface tremble
I might have felled all foes, but I stood fast. Then the young Hero stripped himself--
that was God almighty--strong and stouthearted. He climbed on the high gallows,
bold in the sight of many.
Shelley, A Defense of Poetry, 1821
Milton's Devil as a moral being is as far superior to his God, as one who perseveres
in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent in spite of adversity and
torture is to one who in the cold security of undoubted triumph inflicts the most
horrible revenge upon his enemy, not from any mistaken notion of inducing him to
repent of a perseverance in enmity, but with the alleged design of exasperating him
to deserve new torments. Milton has so far violated the popular creed (if this shall
be judged to be a violation) as to have alleged no superiority of moral virtue to his
God over his Devil.”
“Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which they appeared,
were called in the earlier epochs of the world legislators or prophets [vates]: a poet
essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds
intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present
things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his
thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of latest time” (840).
“The secret strength of things/ Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome/ Of
heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!” Mont Blanc ll. 139-41).
[Poets’] language is vitally metaphorical; that is, it marks the before unapprehended
relations of things, and perpetuates their apprehension (839). “…to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which
exists in the relation, subsisting, first between existence and perception, and
secondly between perception and expression” (840).
Milton, Paradise Lost
With opal tow’rs and battlements adorned
Of living sapphire, once his native seat;
And fast by hanging in a golden chain
This pendent world, in bigness as a star
Of smallest magnitude close by the moon.
Thither full fraught with mischievous revenge,
Accursed, and in a cursèd hour, he hies.
…lifted up so high
I s’dained subjection, and thought one step higher
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burthensome still paying, still to owe;
Forgetful what from him I still received,
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharged; what burden then?
God made thee perfect, not immutable;
And good he made thee, but to persevere
He left it in thy power, ordained thy will
By nature free, not overruled by fate
Inextricable, or strict necessity;
Our voluntary service he requires,
Not our necessitated, such with him
Finds no acceptance, nor can find, for how
Can hearts, not free, be tried whether they serve
Willing or no, who will but what they must
By destiny, and can no other choose?
At first I thought that liberty and Heav’n
To heav’nly souls had been all one; but now
I see that most through sloth had rather serve,
Minist’ring Spirits, trained up in feast and song;
Such hast thou armed, the minstrelsy of Heav’n
Servility with freedom to contend… (PL 5, 164-69)
God and nature bid the same,
When he who rules is worthiest, and excels
Them whom he governs. This is servitude, To serve th’unwise, or him who hath rebelled
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled… (PL 6, 176-81)
But neither here seek I, no nor in Heav’n
To dwell, unless by mastering Heav’n’s Supreme;
Nor hope to be myself less miserable
By what I seek, but others to make such
As I, though thereby worse to me redound:
For only in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts; and him destroyed,
Or won to what may work his utter loss,
For whom all this was made, all this will soon
Follow, as to him linked in weal or woe:
In woe then; that destruction wide may range:
To me shall be the glory sole among
The infernal Powers, in one day to have marred
What he Almighty styled, six nights and days
Continued making… PL 9, 124-38
Herrick, To His Saviour. The New Years Gift
THAT little pretty bleeding part
Of foreskin send to me :
And I'll return a bleeding heart,
For New-Year's gift to Thee.
Rich is the gem that Thou did'st send,
Mine's faulty too and small ;
But yet this gift Thou wilt commend
Because I send Thee all.
John Dryden, “To My Lord Chancellor” (1662), ll. 17-24
When our great monarch into exile went,
Wit and religion suffered banishment;
Thus once when Troy was wrapped in fire and smoke,
The helpless gods their burning shrines forsook;
They with the vanquished prince and party go,
And leave their temples empty to the foe:
At length the Muses stand restored again
To that great charge which Nature did ordain
Donne, The Anniversary ALL kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun it self, which makes time, as they pass,
Is elder by a year now than it was
When thou and I first one another saw.
All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath no decay ;
This no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday ;
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.
"The wise warrior must consider how ghostly it will be when all the wealth of this
world stands waste, just as here and there through this middle-earth wind-blown
walls stand covered with frost-fall, storm-beaten dwellings"
Chevrefoil, Marie de France
"This was the way with them: they were/ Like honeysuckle which you
see/Wrapped around a hazel tree..."
Caedmon’s Hymn, Caedmon
"He remembered everything that he was able to learn by listening, and turning it
over in his mind like a clean beast that chews the cud, he converted it into sweetest
song, which sounded so delightful that he made his teachers, in their turn, his
Dream of the Rood
"He climbed on the high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free
mankind. I trembled when the Warrior embraced me, yet I dared not bow to earth,
fall to the ground's surface; but I must stand fast."
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
For one may keep a deed dark, but undo it no whit,
For where a fault is made fast, it is fixed evermore"
Chaucer Cantebury Tales
At mete wel ytaught was she withalle;
She leet no morsel from her lippes falle, Ne wette hir fingres in hir sauce deepe;
Well coude she carye a morsel, and wel keepe
That no drope ne fille upon hir brest.
In curteisye was set ful muchel hir lest.
What sholde he studye and make himselven wood
Upon a book in cloistre alway to poure,
Or swinke with his handes and laboure,
As Austin bit? How shal the world be served?
But first I praye you of youre curteisye
That ye n'arette it nought my vilainye
Though that I plainly speke in this matere
To telle you hir wordes and hir cheere,
Ne though I speke hir wordes properly
She was ful more blisful on to see
Than is the new perejonette tree,
And softer than the wolle is of a wether;
And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether,
Tasseled with silk and perled with latoun.
Out of the Gospel he tho wordes caughte
And this figure he added eek therto:
That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder if a lewed man to rust.
And shame it is, if a preest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Sidney, Defence of Poesy
"Her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden"
"I am not I; pity the tale of me."
Sir Thomas Wyatt
They flee from me, that sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
Henry Howard "The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings"
Milton, Paradise Lost
Ingrate, he had of me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall
The one seemed woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a sealy fold
Voluminous and vast, a serpent armed
With mortal sting: about her middle round
A cry of hellhounds never ceasing barked
with wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal...
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation, with the sound