Title Background

Put the Load Right on Me’: Langland on The Incarnation (With Apologies to the Band)

Put the Load Right on Me’: Langland on The Incarnation (With Apologies to the Band)

Hanna comments on a possible source for PPl B. 1, 153-56, originally suggested by Anne Middleton. Scholars have often considered these lines particularly ethereal, and even mysterious. Middleton traces this section to a commonplace textbook for schoolboys, the Ecloga Theoduli. Considering this a helpful insight, Hanna remarks how easily we forget these everyday sources, texts and traditions that carry little weight or prestige in modern critical discourse. He further notes that one can find echoes of L’s lines in a well-documented sermon by the fourteenth-century Augustinian friar and Oxford theologian, John Waldeby. In doing so, Hanna clarifies that he is not merely interested in providing a possible genealogy for this part of the poem; rather, he takes the opportunity to comment on the habits of reading PPl so many medievalists have developed. Following Morton W. Bloomfield in seeing the poem as a commentary on some unknown mystery, critics seek out literary sources. Medievalists, trained by tracing Chaucer’s allusions to Boccaccio, Jean de Meun, and other medieval literati, miss the ways in which so much of PPl has its basis in commonplaces and truisms endemic to the later middle ages. This work thus seems so mysterious, in part, because its references to various common traditions, texts, and even school exercises remain unexplored. Responding to Galloway, Hanna suggests that, to truly learn to read L’s poem, we must be open to these sources, rather than obsessed with tracking down high-culture analogues. In this sense, PPl offers critics an opportunity to practice a new mode of source criticism, one geared at reading schoolrooms and sermons rather than canonical texts. (CP)


Notes and Queries, 66.2 (2019): 197–201


Hanna, Ralph