Piers Plowman and the Durable Alliterative Tradition
This essay draws on new research in alliterative metrics in order to locate L’s verse techniques in metrical history and cultural history. The first section summarizes progress in the study of Middle English alliterative metre, with emphasis on the observable metrical development that justifies reference to a durable alliterative tradition spanning the seventh through the sixteenth centuries. The second section compares the metre of PPl with the emergent metrical model, identifying major similarities and minor differences between PPl and other fourteenth-century alliterative poems. The third section explores the cultural implications of the similarities and differences, thereby situating L’s formal choices in the metrical landscape of late fourteenth-century London. Ultimately, Weiskott argues that the metre of PPl reflects the interaction of a major diachronic and a major synchronic force, the durable alliterative tradition and L’s metrical landscape.