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rhetoric, lyric poetry, bilingual poems, trilingual poems


The rhetorical formulae that permeate the poetry of the Middle Ages are not always used in a conventional or consistent manner. On the fringes of the main literary movements are works that raise doubts as to the very nature of medieval poetics. Some texts challenge accepted criteria with respect to genre, tone, or interpretation; others appear unfamiliar and heterogeneous in comparison with accepted poetic concepts; still others use the language and imagery of established poetics as a polemic strategy. Such problematic texts are found among the lyric poems composed in England during the Anglo-Norman era, particularly among the macaronics. These bilingual and occasionally trilingual poems are intrinsically different from verse composed wholly in Latin or in either of the vernaculars (Anglo-Norman or Middle English) current in England after the conquest. Though they may be formally harmonious, with the languages integrated as regards their syntax, versification, and rhyme scheme, their underlying unity is questionable. Whereas the unilingual poem is anchored in a single culture, the macaronic is linguistically heterogeneous. Since each language evokes a different context, milieu, or culture, the macaronic compositino is less easy to define. Thus it is not surprising to find marginal poems or even contre-textes (to use Pierre Bec's term) among the bilingual and trilingual poems of medieval England.