135. Early English Metre.


A remarkable rhyme occurs in the metrical Romance of Octouian Imperator.

Whan they were seght alle yn same,
And Florence herde Florentyne’s name,
Sche swore her oth be Seynt Jame
Al so prest,
So hyght my sone that was take fre me
In that forest

254Mr. Weber observes upon the passage, that “this singular rhyme strongly supports the opinion of Wallis and of Tyrwhitt in his Essay on the versification of Chaucer, that the final e which is at present mute, was anciently pronounced obscurely like the e feminine of the French.”

Mr. Weber is so faithful and accurate an editor, that I doubt not the words fra me are divided as he has printed them in the manuscript which he has followed; but I find among my memoranda made in perusing Gower some years ago, some passages marked which lead to a contrary inference. In Berthelette’s edition, 1554, this couplet occurs.

For love is ever fast byme
Which taketh none hede of due tyme.

ff 81.

And again,

So that the more me mervaileth
“What thyng it is my lady aileth,
That all myn herte, and all my tyme
She hath? and do no better byme.

ff 108.

255In both places the words by me are thus contracted into one. This must have been because they were pronounced so in the printer’s days;— whether they were so in the poet’s might be determined by a manuscript, if there be any existing of his own age. The first stanza of Troilus and Creseide contains another instance of contraction.

The double sorow of Troilus to tellen
That was King Priamus sonne of Troy.
In loving how his aventuris fellen
From wo to wele, and after out of joy,
My purpose is, er that I part froy.


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