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Art. 20, Quant voy la revenue d’yver: Introduction

ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

A Goliard’s Feast is a comic monologue by a glutton who feasts and drinks with gusto through the winter months, savoring especially the gourmand delights of Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Despite its scant manuscript record, it probably had lively oral currency, for a version exists in Old French as well. R. Dean calls it a “Tavern Song” (ANL 150). Both versions have highly irregular stanzas, suggesting the changes, line displacements, and ad libs that would have occurred in performance.

If the original poem had stanzas of uniform length, they appear to have been of ten lines with three rhymes aaaabbacca, allowing for a 4-rhyme variant, abbaccadda. The basic 3-rhyme pattern is found in the French poem, lines 1–10, and in Harley’s Anglo-Norman version, lines 29–38, 57–66, with traces of it detectable elsewhere. There are also hints of an interruptive 8-line stanza used to list delectable foods, in the form aabbccdd in short, mostly 4-syllable lines. It seems loosely preserved at lines 67–74 (edible birds) and lines 95–100 (baked goods and more birds). Dove, too, detects stanzas of variable length (2000, pp. 330–31).

The stanza was probably too challenging to be well sustained in actual minstrel practice. The Ludlow scribe copies the piece evidently from a performance script or from memory, omitting line breaks and filling a full recto page. The stanza breaks that are detectable by rhyme and content usually correspond to the scribe’s paraphs and capitals. For another performance piece with unusual metrics, compare the English poem Maximian (art. 68). Elsewhere the same scribe preserves numerous items of comic monologue in English (e.g., arts. 40, 81) and comic dialogue in French (e.g., arts. 37, 75). For commentary on this poem and its French analogue, see Revard 2005b, and 2007, p. 107.

[Fol. 55ra–b. ANL 150. Vising §242. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 6. Meter: Though what is here preserved is quite irregular, the original meter was probably aaaabbacca, with four to six syllables per line; see explanatory note to lines 57–66. Stanzas of eight 4-syllable lines, aabbccdd, seem sometimes to intervene between 10-line stanzas. Layout: Double columns. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 13–18 (no. 2); Revard 2005b, pp. 858–67. Other MSS: None. Old French Version: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, cod. 354, fols. 112v–114r (ed. and trans. Revard 2005b, pp. 858–67). Translation: Revard 2005b, pp. 858–67.]

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