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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

VIII. The English Chaucerians

§ 8. Osbern Bokenam

Great as was the attraction of rime royal, it was not likely quite to oust the older favourite, the octosyllabic couplet, which, it has to be remembered, could also boast the repeated, if not the final, patronage of Chaucer, and that (which was almost as influential) of Lydgate, while the third great influence, Gower, was wholly for it. No practitioner of this time, however, attained the ease and fluency of Confessio Amantis as a whole or came anywhere near the occasional vigour of its best parts, while the slip-shod insignificance of the measure at its worst found constant victims. The so-called romance (really a didactic poem) of Boctus and Sidrac by Hugh de Campden, who is supposed to represent the first half of the century, may stand as a representative of this, while the Legends of the Saints by Osbern Bokenam, copied by, or for, a certain Thomas (not Benet) Burgh, in 1447, are written entirely in Chaucerian decasyllabic verse, differently arranged as regards line group, but fairly regular in the line itself—much more so, indeed, than the average verse of the time. This regularity, however, is compensated by an extraordinary failure to attain even the slightest tincture of poetic style and sentiment. Bokenam, a Suffolk man, and using some dialectal forms, was an Augustinian friar. But there is little doubt that he must have been a pretty constant student of Chaucer himself, as we know he was of his contemporary and countryman Lydgate.

Though there may seem to be “nothing but low and little” in this account of the known or, at least, named writers in southern English verse during the fifteenth century, yet some satisfaction is, no doubt, to be extracted by a true, and not impatient or ignorant, lover of English poetry, in every part and period of its long and important development. But there is probably no period in the last seven hundred years which yields to such a lover so little satisfaction as this. In comparison with it, the period preceding Chaucer is a very “Paradise of Dainty Devices.” It ought not to be neglected, because it is necessary to the understanding of the whole story, and is, perhaps, the most remarkable illustration in that story of the French proverb about falling back to make a better spring. But its attractions are almost wholly the attractions of instruction; and the instruction is seldom that which the writers desired to give, pedagogic as they often were.