Alliterative Meter after 1450: The Vision of William Banastre
This essay provides a first critical edition and metrical contextualization of a previously unremarked late fifteenth-century alliterative verse prophecy. NIMEV 1967.8 is extant in two fifteenth- and sixteenth-century manuscripts. The Vision of William Banastre, as Weiskott titles it, has received no critical attention and has never been edited. The poem combines the tradition of vatic, anti-Saxon prophecy inherited from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Brittaniae (c. 1138) with oblique references to early fourteenth- and mid-fifteenth-century politics. The work offers at least one first-rate literary effect, an extended simile comparing a hopeless siege to sailing upwind with no rudder (ll. 7–9). The organization of prophetic language into an interview with God, conducted by Sir William Banastre, has its own pleasures. The Vision, Weiskott argues, furnishes important evidence of the circulation of alliterative verse and the development of alliterative metre in the sparsely documented period after 1450. The metre of the Vision also testifies to the continuity of the alliterative tradition across the Old English/Middle English divide. After introducing the manuscript texts of the Vision and presenting a critical edition of the poem with textual notes, Weiskott contextualizes the metrical form of the poem in terms of the durable poetic tradition to which it belongs.