Or, for anybody and everybody, rhymed verses will preserventhe proverbs and wise sayings that guide conduct:nDrah thyn bond sone ayen,nyf men the doth a wycke theyn,nther thyn ahte ys lond.nSo that child with draweth is bondnFrom the fur & the brond,nthat hath byfore hue brend.n”Brend child fur dredeth,”nQuoth Hendyng.n(Draw back thy hand quickly againnIf a man doeth thee some wicked thing,nWhen thine own is lent.nSo doth the child withdraw his handnFrom the fire and from the brand.n”Burnt child fire dreadeth,”nQuoth Hendyng.)nToday we speak of Chaucer’s “poems.” Chaucer himselfnspeaks of writing “tales,” or, at the end of “The Parson’snTale,” in his famous “Retraction,” he refers to his “translacionsnand enditynges of worldly vanitees” and — afternlisting his various works — he includes (not his “lyrics”) butn”many a song and many a leccherous lay.” He does notnlabor to distinguish between “poetry” and “prose.” Thendistinction for him is between prose and rhyme. “Poesie” fornChaucer — if the “epilogue” to Troilus and Criseyde can bentaken as good authority for his view—meant poetry in itsnlarger dimensions: epic, romance, dream-vision, or elsenliterature in its dramatic and fictional aspects as contrastednwith history and philosophy. This is what he seems to bensaying when he prays that his “litel bok” —nBut subgit be to alle poesye;nAnd kis the steppes, where as thow seest pacenVirgile, Ovide, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.nThus Chaucer is drawing away from, and even “outside,”nthe oral tradition in the sense that he is composing both hisnnarrative poems and his small and less distinguished groupnof lyrics in the “new” and more literary manner ofnGuillaume de Machaut and other contemporaries on thenContinent. Still Chaucer had an “audience” — as poets innlater bookish times have not had — a true audience thatncould hear his poems read aloud — and possibly even sung,nalthough we have no medieval settings of any of Chaucer’sn”lyrics.” And there was also for him an “audience” in thenmodern figurative sense: the quite small “audience” of silentnreaders who might be wealthy enough to own manuscriptncopies or lucky enough to get access to them in other ways.nChaucer himself—again in the “Epilogue” to Troilus andnCriseyde — speaks of this long poem as being “read … ornelse sung.” Professor Arthur K. Moore, in his valuablendiscussion of these alternatives, so puzzling to the modernnstudent, suggests that Chaucer may here be reflecting thenpreference advanced by Eustache Deschamps in his L’Artnde dictier (1392) for musique naturele (recitation in thennatural speaking voice) over musique artificiele (the singingnvoice, no doubt with instrumental accompaniment). Mostnlikely Troilus and Criseyde was intended to be read aloudnand was a “song” only in a metaphorical sense. The readingnmust have been for a social group, large or small, like thatnindicated by Chaucer himself when he depicts Pandarus asncoming on a May morning “unto his niece’s place”:nAnd fond two othere ladys sete, and she,inWithinne a paved parlour, and they threnHarden a mayden reden hem the gestenOf the siege of Thebes, while hem leste.nBut the inescapable influence of the oral tradition isnmore obvious in the familiar example of The CanterburynTales. Chaucer must pretend that the Pilgrims actuallyntold their tales — in his excellent verse, too — and that allnlistened while the lengthy procession took the road to thenshrine of the “holy, blissful martyr,” amidst clopping ofnhoofs and jingling of bridles, at a little better than a footpace.nIncredible, to a modern! How could the tale-teller be heard?nHow could the Pilgrims comment back and forth? Possiblynthe big-mouthed Miller or the obnoxious Summoner couldnbe heard from one end of the column to the other, thoughneven they would have to shout somewhat in the manner ofnthe old-fashioned cavalry captain to his troop. But what ofnthe gentle Prioress or the stately Knight? Yet in many bits ofndramatic by-play Chaucer insists on the actuality as well asnthe dramatic realism of the tale-telling, with all its variedninterruptions. Such, then, was the power of the oralntradition.nIt is safe to conclude that the lyric of tradition flourishesnunder — and indeed requires — much the same culturalnmilieu that our modern scholars visualize as favorable to thenballad of tradition. It is by no means a “primitive” milieu,nthough it may retain, as even our supposedly distilled andnpasteurized modern society does, many remnants of itsnancient and prehistoric experience. In England it is thenculturally stable feudal society of the Middle Ages that wenare concerned with — a society that, being Christian, sharednin the basic convictions about God, man, and nature thatnmade Christendom a reality in those times.nA good deal of what is now being said about the ballad ofntradition and about folk song applies to the lyric of tradition.nIf the ballad is a story told in song, the lyric of tradition is anpoem of non-story character, descriptive, meditative, oftennbut not invariably concentrated and dramatic, which like thenballad uses the combination of verse with music, but can alsonresort to declamation alone. At the popular level the lyricnoften circulates in oral tradition, as does the ballad. If it isn”popular in origin,” it can be thought of as “folk song.” Itsnanonymity of authorship and its impersonal nature temptnmodern readers to make that kind of classification. Butnorigins are too often mere conjecture. They lead intonlabyrinths of speculation where one may wander forever.nThe lyric of tradition may often with much greater securitynbe identified as “popular by destination,” as Richard LeightonnGreene in his Early English Carols argues many carolsnto be. In such case it is not “folk song” exactly, or is andiff^erent order of “folk song” from the other kind.nWhatever its origin, it depends upon individual memorynand social acceptance for its diffusion and ultimate survival,nif it circulates at the popular level. At that level its chancesnfor being written down are relatively slight — slighter evennthan the chances of the ballad, since it does not generallynnnDECEMBER 1989/21n