The Ormulum: Religious Poetry - Summary and Analysis

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      The Ormulum is a specimen of the religious poetry of the Middle English period. It is the work of the monk Orm, written about 1200. It is a paraphrase of the gospels, somewhat after the manner of Caedmon's paraphrase. The author tells us that he has attempted with little wit that the Lord has lent him to explain to ignorant folk most of the gospels that are read in the mass throughout the year. From the list of Latin texts drawn up at the beginning as a kind of table of contents it is apparent that he went beyond the gospels and included also a number of excerpts from the Acts of the Apostles. His method is to begin with a paraphrase of the biblical passage and then to explain it in an extended exposition.

The Ormulum

Critical Analysis

      The literary value of the Ormulum is very little. It does not have the fire and originality of Caedmon's paraphrase. It is very tedious. He explains the obvious at painful length. He repeats himself without so much as varying the phrase. Yet, the Ormulum is not without interest. It shows the literary taste of the humble classes. It is also interesting as a revelation of human personality. The meter is unrhymed with a redundant feminine ending.

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