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  Legends of the Holy Rood Quasi-scientific works  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

VII. From Alfred to the Conquest.

§ 9. Legends of the East.


In addition to other legends of a sacred character there are others of a more worldly nature, the most remarkable being the (suppositious) Letter from Alexander to Aristotle,  39 The Wonders of the East 40  and the story of Apollonius of Tyre.  41  The first two are closely connected with the eastern legend of Alexander the Great, which had taken shape before the Christian era in a work known as the pseudo-Kallisthenes, which was translated into Latin before 340 by the so-called Julius Valerius. The two Alexander legends, as we have them, are very faithful translations from Latin originals, each chapter of The Wonders of the East being preceded by a copy of the text on which it is founded. They are important in the history of literature as proving the interest taken by the educated clergy of the eleventh century in the Latin legend cycles. Rather later than these two works, and also of eastern origin, is the Old English version of Apollonius of Tyre, of which only half is extant, a version of the same theme as that treated in the 153rd chapter of the Gesta Romanorum. It tells of the wooing of the king of Antioch’s daughter by Apollonius of Tyre, and how her father, to prevent her marriage, required her suitors to solve a riddle or to be beheaded. The early appearance of this legend in the vernacular is especially interesting, since Gower’s version of the story in his Confessio Amantis provided the theme for Pericles of Tyre. The presence of these legends in Old English is peculiarly significant as indicating the oncoming flood of foreign literature. Hitherto, the priest had been the story-teller, after the heroic minstrelsy of earlier days had passed away; henceforth, the lighter touch of the deliberate tale-teller was to be heard in English.   72

Note 39. MS. Vitell. A. XV. [ back ]
Note 40. Cott. Tib. B. v. [ back ]
Note 41. C.C.C.C. S. 18. [ back ]

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  Legends of the Holy Rood Quasi-scientific works  
 
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