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

XV. Pearl, Cleanness, Patience and Sir Gawayne

§ 7. Ralph Strode

It is, indeed, remarkable that no tradition has been handed down concerning the authorship of these poems; and many attempts have been made to identify the author with one or other of the known writers belonging to the end of the fourteenth century. Perhaps the most attractive of these theories is that which would associate the poems with Ralph Strode, Chaucer’s “philosophical Strode,” to whom (together with “the moral Gower”) was dedicated Troilus and Criseyde. According to a Latin entry in the old catalogue of Merton College, drawn up in the early years of the fifteenth century, Strode is described as “a noble poet and author of an elegiac work Phantasma Radulphi.” Ralph Strode of Merton is certainly to be identified with the famous philosopher of the name, one of the chief logicians of the age. It is as poet and philosopher that he seems to be singled out by Chaucer. Phantasma Radulphi might, possibly, apply to Pearl; while Gawayne and the Grene Knight might well be placed in juxtaposition to Troilus. An Itinerary of the Holy Land, by Strode, appears to have been known to Nicholas Brigham; further, there is a tradition that he left his native land, journeyed to France, Germany and Italy, and visited Syria and the Holy Land. His name as a Fellow of Merton is said to occur for the last time in 1361. Strode and Wyclif were contemporaries at Oxford, as may be inferred from an unprinted MS. in the Imperial library in Vienna, containing Wyclif’s reply to Strode’s arguments against certain of the reformer’s views. The present writer is of opinion that the philosopher is identical with the common serjeant of the city of London of the same name, who held office between 1375 and 1385, and who died in 1387. But, fascinating as is the theory, no link has, as yet been discovered which may incontestably connect Strode with the author of Pearl, nor has it yet been discovered that Strode came of a family belonging to the west midland or northern district. The fiction that Strode was a monk of Dryburgh abbey has now been exploded.