The Owl and The Nightingale: as an Allegory

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      Allegory is often taken to be the proper and characteristic mood of thought and expression of the middle ages. And in Allegorical literature Mediaeval literature was found marvelously depicted the predominance of allegorical literature in the middle English period was however natural because of the influence of French literature. The Norman conquest brought along with political and administrative changes, a short of French culture, and French literacy taste. And gradually influenced by the French allegories English medieval literature also had incorporated this foreign literature culture.

      In middle English period, many celebrated allegorical poems are found, among them the most renowned allegorical text is 'The Owl and the Nightingale' is a poem belonging to the secular literature that sprang up after the Norman Conquest of England and which was inspired by French works of chivalry. It was written about 1220 and attributed to Nicholas de Guildford. It is cast in the form of a debate, a heated argument between the two birds. The origin of the form - 'Disputoisons' very popular with the French and Provencal poets may be traced back to the classical eclogue of Theocritus and Virgil, which sometimes portrays a contest of skill between two birds on the relative merit of their song. The Owl accuses the Nightingale of singing amatory songs and of enticing men and women to sin. The Nightingale retorts that the owl is a bird of ill omen, whose song is ever of sorrow and misfortune. In the end the birds set out to lay their case before the judge the owl says she can repeat every word from beginning to end but the poet disclaims knowledge of the outcome.

      The poem has been interpreted as symbolizing the conflict between pleasure and asceticism, gaiety and gravity, art and philosophy, the minstrel and the preacher Most recently it has been viewed as a conflict between the ideals of the newer love poetry of courtly origin and the religious, didactic poetry so prominent in medieval verse. There is however no necessity for seeing in the poem anything more than a lively altercation between two birds, with the poet's skill sufficiently revealed in the matching of wits. Written in regular octosyllabic couplets, the well-turned rhymes lend point to its thought, satire and irony.

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