What would the lyric under those conditions look like? As language transmission shakes free again of the book, is Middle the new late?
“We do know, for example, that many of the earliest lyric poems [in Middle English], known from surviving fragments and references, were the words of popular songs and sayings of uneducated, unlettered people. The earliest fragments are quoted in such sources as sermons condemning the behavior that accompanied the songs—dancing, especially in churchyards; games and other enjoyments of pleasures of the flesh; non-Christian celebrations; and so on. When texts are numerous and complete enough to give some basis for comparison, it seems clear that many poems were perpetuated orally rather than in writing. There was, of course, no publication of texts. However, some texts apparently were composed in writing and propagated through copies or memorization of written versions…. Subsequently, among the preserved texts, the popular oral verse seems to disappear, and poems of poets, properly so called, remain as the principal texts of which we have record. This development suggests that the lyric verse of England has origins that are lowly, popular, and undisciplined (or noninstitutionalized) but tells us little that is more specific or substantial than that.
At the latter end of its history, the Middle English lyric form and its influence on later English poetry are difficult to trace. The rise to fashion of self-consciously educated poets, adopting modes, forms, themes, and techniques from foreign literatures, and experimenting a great deal, caused the earlier kind of verse to decline. So did the rise of conditions favoring individual authorship, reading, and, hence, fixed texts; printing is a major example…. A literate, self-conscious tradition of educated poets superseded the homely, religious, and unself-conscious tradition of the makers of Middle English lyric verse. In literature, the Renaissance displaced the Middle Ages.
—Robert D. Stevick, One Hundred Middle English Lyrics (Bobbs-Merrill, 1964)