, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 131-144

First online:

The Rime of King William and its Analogues

  • Stefan JurasinskiAffiliated withIndiana University

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Since the nineteenth century it has been customary to assume that the author of the Peterborough Chronicle's 1087 entry (a eulogy of William the Conqueror) drew its end-rhymed passage from one or more illiterate ballads expressing the indignation of the English people at the introduction of the Norman forest law. The tendency of scholars to view the rhyming passage as a remnant of an otherwise unattested tradition of popular end-rhymed verse in Old English inhibited any inquiries into the poem's possible relations with other post-Conquest texts. This essay is the first to catalogue the poem's numerous analogues in twelfth century literature, and demonstrates that there were few reasons for earlier scholarship to assume that the Rime was not composed by the author of the 1087 entry. When the Rime is seen in light of other twelfth-century texts, its place at the head of a tradition of anti-Forest polemics becomes clear.