Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Castleford Forum Museum: Bad poetry, hedgehogs and giants

Castleford’s new museum, due to open in Autumn 2013 will tell many stories about the area and its people.

One of the stories told will be about a medieval manuscript, written in 1327 by Thomas of Castleford. The Book of Brute or as it is more commonly known, the Castleford Chronicle, is one of only 7 chronicles written in English before 1600.

The manuscript, now kept in a library in Germany, tells the story of Britain from its discovery by a boat full of ship wrecked sisters (the Legend of Albina) to the imprisonment of Edward II.  With tales of giants and haircuts, hedgehogs and King Lear, love and being hit over the head with axes in between.
Detail of a miniature of Albina from a French or Netherlandish manuscript in the British Library
The chronicle, told in verse, would be unreadable to most of us; with its northern dialect Middle English, and not many people would read its 39437 lines! Those that have read it have also noted that Thomas of Castleford was a terrible poet.

The author’s longwinded, badly rhyming history of Britain can give all aspiring artists the hope that talent is not necessarily a vital ingredient of enduring legacy.
The Castleford Chronicle - kept in Germany - has no illustrations, but plenty of bad rhymes! Image courtesy of Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen

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