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more wonderful that the spark of literature and Lydgate were the nearest s
# Vide p.
15 of these Selections. He tr tyranny was not yet at an end ; and to judge, from the French and Latin.
His prin not by the gross buffoons, but by the few minds "The fall of Princes,” “The siege of The entitled to be called poetical, which appear in
Destruction of Troy." The first of these i
French version of Boccaccio's book “ De the earlier part of the sixteenth century, we
et feminarum illustrium." His " Siege of may say that the English Muse had still a diffi
was intended as an additional Canterbury dent aspect and a faltering tone.
introduction to which he feigns himself i
“ the host of the Tabard and the Pilgrin There is a species of talent, however, which
from Guido Colonna, Statius, and Seneca. may continue to endite what is called poetry, tion of Troy” is from the work of Guido « without having its sensibilities deeply affected
curious, for the minute picture of the m by the circumstances of society; and of lumi
it exhibits, in the fifteerth century. naries of this description our fifteenth century Lydgate's humour may be seen in his tale was not destitute.
Ritson has enumerated and her three Wooers," which Mr. Jamie about seventy of them t. Of these, Occleve
his “Popular Ballads and Songs" (vol. i. had transcribed it from a manuscript
Museum (Harl. MS. 78), thinking that it † In his Bibliographia Poetica.
but found that Mr. Jamieson had anticipa
a French translation of it. Ilis « Londor
wards. d, at a or and akened of reliindig
* Earl of Worcester.
End of the tifteenth
I know not if Ilardynge*, who belonged to false ornament, and alliteration. The rest of the reign of Edward IV., be worth mentioning, them, when they meant to be most eloquent, as one of the obscure luminaries of this be- tore up words from the Latin, which never nighted age. He left a Chronicle of the His took root in the language, like children making tory of England, which possesses an incidental a mock garden with flowers and branches stuck interest from his having been himself a witness in the ground, which speedily wither. to some of the scenes which he records ; for he From Lydgate down to Wyat and Surrey, lived in the family of the Percys, and fought there seem to be no southern writers deserving under the banners of Hotspur ; but from the attention, unless for the purposes of the antistyle of his versified Chronicle, his head would quary, excepting Ilawes, Barklay, and Skelappear to have been much better furnished for ton; and even their names might perhaps be sustaining the blows of the battle, than for omitted, without treason to the cause of taste. contriving its poetical celebration.
Stephen llawes $, who was groom of the The Scottish poets of the fifteenth, and of a chamber to Henry VII., is said to have been part of the sixteenth century, would also justly accomplished in the literature of France and
demand a place in any history of our Italy, and to have travelled into those counand heyin. poetry that meant to be copious and tries. His most important production is the since the minute ; as the northern “makers,” “Pastyme of Pleasure ll," an allegorical ro
notwithstanding the difference of dia mance, the hero of which is Grandamour or lect, generally denominate their language Gallantry, and the heroine La Belle Pucelle, “Inglis.” Scotland produced an entire poetical or Perfect Beauty. In this work the personiversion of the Æneid, before Lord Surrey had fied characters have all the capriciousness and translated a single book of it ; indeed before vague moral meaning of the old French allethere was an English version of any classic, gorical romance ; but the puerility of the school excepting Boëthius, if he can be called a clas- remains, while the zest of its novelty is gone. sic. Virgil was only known in the English | There is also in his foolish personage of Godlanguage through a romance on the Siege of frey Gobelive, something of the burlesque of Troy, published by Caxton, which, as Bishop | the worst taste of Italian poetry. It is cerDouglas observes, in the prologue to his Scot- tainly very tiresome to follow Hawes's hero, tish Æneid, is no more like Virgil, than the Grandamour, through all his adventures, studevil is like St. Austin t. Perhaps the resem dying grammar, rhetoric, and arithmetic, in the blance may not even be so great. But the tower of Doctrine ; afterwards slaughtering Scottish poets, after all that has been said of giants, who have each two or three emblematic them, form nothing like a brilliant revival of heads ; sacrificing to heathen gods; then marpoetry. They are on the whole superior, in- rying according to the Catholic rites; and, deed, in spirit and originality to their English finally, relating his own death and burial, to cotemporaries, which is not saying much ; but which he is so obliging as to add his epitaph. their style is, for the most part, cast, if possi- Yet, as the story seems to be of Hawes's inble, in a worse taste. The prevailing fault of vention, it ranks him above the mere chroniEnglish diction, in the fifteenth century, is clers and translators of the age. Warton redundant ornament, and an affectation of an
# To the reign of Henry VI. belongs Henry Lonelich, glicising Latin words. In this pedantry and
who plied the unpoetical trade of a skinner, and who use of “aureate terms,” the Scottish versifiers translated the French romance of St. Graal ; Thomas went even beyond their brethren of the south. Chestre, who made a free and enlarged version of the Lai
de Lanval, of the French poetess Marie ; and Robert Some exceptions to the remark, I am aware,
Thornton, who versified the “ Morte Arthur" in the may be found in Dunbar, who sometimes ex alliterative measure of Langlande. hibits simplicity and lyrical terseness ; but even [$ A bad imitator of Lydgate, ten times more tedious his style has frequent deformities of quaintness,
than his original.—SIR WALTER SCOTT, Misc. Pr. Works,
vol. xvii. p. 13.] (* A kind of Robert of Gloucester redivivus.--SiR WALTER SCOTT, Misc. Pr. Works, vol. xvii. p. 13.]
I He also wrote the “Temple of Glass," the substance [t Warton, vol. iii. p. 112. Douglas is said to have
of which is taken from Chaucer's "House of Fame." (The written his translation in the short space of sixteen
Temple of Glass is now, as Mr. Hallam observes, by genemonths, and to have finished it in 1613.—This was before
ral consent restored to Lydgate.--Lit. Hist. vol. i. p. 432 ; Surrey was born!]
and Price's Warlon, vol. iii. p. 46—7.]
praises him for improving on the style of Lyd- aspect, more resembling the caricat gate*. His language may be somewhat more land in Churchill's “Prophecy of Fa modern, but in vigour or harmony, I am at a anything which we can imagine to loss to perceive in it any superiority. The in been the general condition of Engli dulgent historian of our poetry has, however, The speakers, in one of his eclogues quoted one fine line from him, describing the among straw, for want of a fire to fiery breath of a dragon, which guarded the selves warm; and one of them expr island of beauty:
that the milk for dinner may be “The fire was great ; it made the island light." save them the consumption of bre Every romantic poem in his own language is writer's object was not to make likely to have interested Spenser ; and if there esteem the rustic lot, this picture were many such glimpses of magnificence in poverty can only be accounted for b Hawes, we might suppose the author of “The it to have been drawn from partial Fairy Queen” to have cherished his youthful or the result of a bad taste, that n genius by contemplating them ; but his beau- lighted in squalid subjects of descri ties are too few and faint to have afforded any klay, indeed, though he has some st inspiring example to Spenser.
might be quoted for their strength Alexander Barklay was a priest of St. Mary and felicity of expression, is, upor Otterburne, in Devonshire, and died at a great the least ambitious of all writers age at Croydon, in the year 1552. His princi- conceptions of familiar life with ei pal work was a free translation of Sebastian or beauty. An amusing instance o Brandt's † “ Navis Stultifera,” enlarged with in one of his moral apologues : Ad some satirical strictures of his own upon the us in verse, was one day abroad at manners of his English cotemporaries. His Eve was at the door of the hou
Ship of Fools” has been as often quoted as children playing about her; some most obsolete English poems; but if it were
was “kembing,” says the poet, P not obsolete it would not be quoted. He also other participle not of the most d wrote Eclogues, which are curious as the to describe the usefulness of the earliest pieces of that kind in our language.
Maker having deigned to pay her From their title we might be led to expect
was ashamed to be found with some interesting delineations of English rural dressed children about her, and customs at that period. But Barklay intended stow a number of them out of sig to be a moralist, and not a painter of nature ;
them she concealed under hay and the chief, though insipid, moral which he others she put up the chimney, an inculcates is, that it is better to be a clown
into a “tub of draff.” Having pre than a courtier 1. The few scenes of country ever, the best looking and best dre life which he exhibits for that purpose are sin she was delighted to hear their D gularly ill fitted to illustrate his doctrine, and bless them, and destine some of present rustic existence under a miserable kings and emperors, some dukes
and others sheriffs, mayors, an (* Hist. vol. iii. p. 54.
" Hawes has added new graces to Lydgate's manner."]
Unwilling that any of her family s + Sebastian Brandt was a civilian of Basil. blessings whilst they were going Barklay gives some sketches of manners; but they diately drew out the remainde are those of the town, not the country. Warton is partial concealment ; but when they can to his black-letter eclogues, because they contain allusions to the customs of the age. They certainly inform us at
were so covered with dust and what hour our ancestors usually dined, supped, and went had so many bits of chaff and str: to bed; that they were fond of good eating; and that it
their hair, that instead of receiwas advisable, in the poet's opinion, for any one who
tions and promotion, they wer attempted to help himself to a favourite dish at their banquets to wear a gauntlet of mail. Quin the player, vocations of toil and poverty, su who probably never had heard of Barklay, delivered at a
dirty appearance. much later period a similar observation on city feasts;
John Skelton, who was the r namely, that the candidate for a good dish of turtle ought never to be without a basket-hilted knife and fork.
temporary of Barklay, was la
University of Oxford, and tutor to the prince, whole, we might regard the poetical feeling afterwards Henry VIII. Erasmus must have and genius of England as almost extinct at the been a bad judge of English poetry, or must end of the fifteenth century, if the beautiful have alluded only to the learning of Skelton, ballad of the “ Nut-brown Maid ” were not to when in one of his letters he pronounces hin be referred to that period 1. $ It is said to have “ Britannicarum literarum lumen et decus.” been translated from the German ; but even There is certainly a vehemence and vivacity considered as a translation, it meets us as a in Skelton, which was worthy of being guided surprising flower amidst the winter-solstice of by a better taste; and the objects of his satire our poetry. bespeak some degree of public spirit *. But The literary character of England was not his eccentricity attempts at humour is at established till near the end of the sixteenth once vulgar and flippant; and his style is almost
Sixteenth century. At the beginning of that a texture of slang phrases, patched with shreds century. century, immediately anterior to Lord of French and Latin. We are told, indeed, in Surrey, we find Barklay and Skelton popular a periodical work the present day, that his candidates for the foremost honours of English manner is to be excused, because it was as poetry. They are but poor names. Yet slowly sumed for “the nonce,” and was suited to the as the improvement of our poetry seems to taste of his contemporaries. But it is surely a proceed in the early part of the sixteenth cenpoor apology for the satirist of any age, to say tury, the circumstances which subsequently that he stooped to humour its vilest taste, and fostered the national genius to its maturity and could not ridicule vice and folly without de magnitude, begin to be distinctly visible even grading himself to buffoonery +. Upon the before the year 1500. The accession of Henry * He was the determined enemy of the mendicant friars
VII., by fixing the monarchy and the prospect and of Cardinal Wolsey. The courtiers of Henry VIII., of its regular succession, forms a great era of whilst obliged to flatter a minister whom they detested, commencing civilisation. The art of printing, could not but be gratified with Skelton's boldness in singly daring to attack him. In his picture of Wolsey at the
which had been introduced in a former period Council Board, he thus describes the imperious minister : of discord, promised to diffuse its light in a "-in chamber of Stars
steadier and calmer atmosphere. The great All matters there he mars;
discoveries of navigation, by quickening the Clapping his rod on the board, No man daro speak a word;
intercourse of European nations, extended For he hath all the saying,
their influence to England. In the short porWithout any renaying,
tion of the fifteenth century during which Ile rolleth in his Records, He sayeth, Ilow say ye, my lords,
printing was known in this country, the press Is not my reason good ?
exhibits our literature at a lower ebb than even Good even, good Robin Hood.
that of France; but before that century was Some say yes, and some Sit still, as they were dumb."
concluded, the tide of classical learning had These lines are a remarkable anticipation * of the very fairly set in. England had received Erasmus, words in the fifteenth article of the charges preferred against Wolsey by the Parliament of 1529. * That the
can easily discover that he was no ordinary man. Why
Warton and the writers of his school rail at him vehesaid Lord Cardinal, sitting among the Lords and other of your Majesty's most honourable Council, used himself so,
mently I know not; he was perhaps the best scholar of his that if any man would show his mind according to his
day, and displays on many occasions strong powers of duty, he would so take him up with his accustomable
description, and a vein of poetry that shines through all words, that they were better to hold their peace than to
the rubbish which ignorance has spread over it. Ile flew
at high game, and therefore occasionally called in the aid speak, so that he would hear no more speak, but one or two great personages, so that he would have all the words
of vulgar ribaldry to mask the direct attack of his satire. himself, and consumed much time without fair tale."
-GIFFORD, Jonson, vol. viii. p. 77. His ridicule drew down the wrath of Wolsey, who ordered
The power, the strangeness, the volubility of his lan. him to be apprehended. But Skelton fled to the sanctuary
guage, the intrepidity of his satire, and the perfect origi
nality of his manner, render Skelton one of the most of Westminster Abbey, where he was protected ; and died
extraordinary poets of any age or country.-SOUTHEY, in the same year in which Wolsey's prosecutors drew up
Specimens and Quar. Rev. vol. xi. p. 485. the article of impeachment, so similar to the satire of
Mr. Hallam is not so kind; but till Mr. Dyce gives us his
long promised Edition of Skelton, we know the old rough, (t I know Skelton only by the modern edition of his
ready-witted writer very imperfectly.] works, dated 1736. But from this stupid publication I
# Warton places it about the year 1500. [It was in print • Neve's Cursory Remarks on the English Poets. in 1521, if not a little earlier.)
& There is indeed Gern-in ballad
and had produced Sir Thomas More. The of true philosophy was not indeed : English poetry of the last of these great men the Reformation itself produced, is indeed of trifling consequence, in compari- ing to retard that progress of lit son with the general impulse which his other intelligence, which had sprung v writings must have given to the age in which first auspices. Still, with partial in he lived. But everything that excites the the culture of classical literature i dormant intellect of a nation must be regarded the sixteenth century ; and, amic as contributing to its future poetry. It is pos- ture, it is difficult to conceive that sible, that in thus adverting to the diffusion Greek philosophy more poetical of knowledge (especially classical knowledge) tle's, was without its influence on which preceded our golden age of originality, spirit—namely, that of Plato. T we may be challenged by the question, how possessed a distinct school of Plat much the greatest of all our poets was indebted phy in the sixteenth century, cann to learning. We are apt to compare such ge- | be affirmed t, but we hear of the ] niuses as Shakspeare to comets in the moral | dies of Sir Philip Sydney; and t universe, which baffle all calculations as to the tonism are sometimes beautifully causes which accelerate or retard their appear- | poetry of Surrey and of Spenser f. ance, or from which we can predict their re
men, were a mass of metaphysics establis! turn. But those phenomena of poetical inspi- first by Arabic commentators, and afterwi ration are, in fact, still dependent on the laws
doctors; among the latter of whom, many and light of the system which they visit. Poets philosophy of the Stagyrite without u
word of the original language in which hi may be indebted to the learning and philosophy written. Some Platonic opinions had also of their age, without being themselves men of metaphysics of the schoulmen. Aristotle
their main authority; though it is prol erudition, or philosophers. When the fine
had come to life, he would not have fa spirit of truth has gone abroad, it passes in the philosophy which rested on his nam sensibly from mind to mind, independent of
reformers threw off scholastic divinity
authority at once; but others, while te its direct transmission from books; and it
schoolmen, adhered to the Peripatetic s comes home in a more welcome shape to the until the revival of letters, Aristotle co poet, when caught from his social intercourse with regard to the modern world, to be eiwith his species, than from solitary study. by his own works, or fairly tried by
Though ultimately overthrown by Bac Shakspeare's genius was certainly indebted to
and his name, in the age immediately the intelligence and moral principles which had ceased to be a mere stalking-horse te
and he was found to contain heresies wl existed in his age, and to that intelligence and
metaphysicians had little suspected. to those moral principles, the revival of clas
Enfield mentions no English scho sical literature undoubtedly contributed. So before the time of Gale and Cudwo also did the revival of pulpit eloquence, and the equally silent.}
# In one of Spenser's hymns on Lov restoration of the Scriptures to the people in
breathes this Platonic doctrine, their native tongue. The dethronement of
Every spirit, as it is most p scholastic philosophy, and of the supposed in
And hath in it the more of heaven
So it the fairer body doth procure fallibility of Aristotle's authority, an authority
To habit in, and it more fairly digi at one time almost paramount to that of the With cheerful grace and amiables Scriptures themselves, was another good con For of the soul the body form doti nected with the Reformation ; for though the
For soul is form, and doth the bod logic of Aristotle long continued to be formally
So, also, Surrey to his fair Geraldine.
The golden gift that Nature did ti taught, scholastic theology was no longer shel
To fasten friends, and feed them tered beneath his name. Bible divinity super With form and favour, taught mseded the glosses of the schoolmen, and the
How thou art made to show her 9 writings of Duns Scotus were consigued at
This last thought was probably suge Oxford to proclaimed contempt*. The reign
Petrarch, which express a doctrine of
respecting the idea or origin of beauty * Namely in the year 1535. The decline of Aristotle's “ In qual parte del ciel', in qual authority, and that of scholastic divinity, though to a cer
Era l'esempio onde Natura to tain degree connected, are not, however, to be identified.
Quel bel viso leggiadro, in ch What were called the doctrines of Aristotle by the school
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