Slike strani

places are incessantly enlivened by some stroke of picturesque description, some vivid piece of natural painting, some simple outburst of heroism, or some convincing touch of pathos. The most famous of these works, and among the oldest, are the ballads of The Battle of Otterburne, Chevy Chase, and The Death of Douglas, which all commemorate some battle, foray, or military exploit of the Border. The class to which these admirable specimens belong bears the evident mark, in its subjects and its pervading dialect, of a Northern, Scottish, or at least Border origin. It would, at the same time, be unjust not to mention that there exist large numbers of ballads, often of very high merit, which are distinctly of English-that is to say, South British, parentage. This class includes the immense cycle.of popular poems describing the adventures of the famous outlaw of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, and his merry men. Whether Robin Hood ever

Ballads of

Robin Hood. existed, or whether he was merely a popular myth, is a question beyond the utmost pains of research; but the numerous pieces dealing with his exploits form a very perfect and valuable repertory of national tradition and national traits of character, and Robin Hood himself becomes almost a type of the national spirit. For in these purely English ballads we trace the resistance of the oppressed yeoman class to the tyranny of Norman feudalism—the nation against the invader. Scott turned this point to admirable account in Ivanhoe, in the scenes of which Robin Hood, under the name of Locksley, is the hero. Such ballads are sure signs of the opposition of popular to exclusively aristocratic feeling. In them Signifi. we see the germs of the democratic spirit : they the ballad. commemorate the hostility of the English people against the Norman tyrant ; and the bold, joyous, popular sentiment which prevails in them stands in acute contrast to the lofty, exclusive, and cultured tone of the Trouvére's legends.


in age,

A.-MINOR POETS. Chaucer of any contemporary writer

I am acquainted with. His choice (1.) The Followers of Chaucer. of expression and the smoothness

of his verse far surpass both Gower After the death of Gower the and Hoccleve. He wanted not art in flickering light of allegorical and raising the more tender emotions epic poetry went out, and only the of the mind.". This may be ; but ghosts of the real thing remained. to prefer Lydgate to Gower and Nevertheless, two poets demand | Hoccleve is merely to say that he is a mention who, close to one another shade less dull ; and it must be con

were in no sense great i fessed that these poets act, generally writers, but remained closely faith speaking, but as foils to the great ful to the Chaucerian traditions. genius of Chaucer. Lydgate's work

JOHN LYDGATE (circ. 1370-circ. is, of course, interesting to students 1451) was a native of Suffolk and a of language and metre, but to the monk of Bury St. Edmunds. He general reader its usual lack of travelled, probably in Italy, where originality and imagination is a he is said to have studied at Padua, serious drawback for which occaand certainly in France; and was sional touches of real poetical feelwell acquainted with foreign litera- | ing hardly compensate. ture. He was Prior of Hatfield Thomas HOCCLEVE (1368 or 69Broad Oak from 1423 to about 1430, circ. 1450) was, as his name show's, a and, returning to Bury in 1434, spent native of Hockliffe in Bedfordshire, his last years there. Most of his and from 1388 to 1425 was a clerk work was done as a commission in the Privy Seal Office. He was a from princes of the blood and great poor poet, but his income from his noblemen, who kept him hard at position probably made him inwork ; and most of it is translation dependent of patronage, and his or adaptation of foreign epics. The poems—La Male Regle (1400) and chief of these are The Troy Book, Hoccleve's Complaint and Dialogue finished in 1420, and translated at (circ. 1421)--give us a very interest. Henry V's command from an Italian ing glimpse of his personal life and epic by Guido delle Colonne; The habits. He wrote a rambling alle. Story of Thebes, an abbreviation gorical poem, De Regimine Princi. of Statius' Thebais; and a colossal pum (1411-12), to counsel the unstaid translation, through a French me- youth of Henry V. He knew Chaucer dium, of Boccaccio's De Casibus and professed himself his disciple in Illustrium Virorum, which Lydgate the art of metre ; but this, it must called The Falls of Princes. This be confessed, does not say much for task was undertaken by order of Chaucer's teaching. the unfortunate Humphrey, Duke One point that should be noticed of Gloucester-who perished mys- with regard to these soi-disant fol. teriously at Lydgate's own town of lowers of Chaucer is that their atti. Bury—and was finished in 1438. | tude differs entirely from his as reThese epics, heroic and moral, with gards their own times. Lydgate and many other narrative works, belong Hoccleve mark no progress in English to his maturity. Of his earlier verse : they are reactionaries. By works, which were all allegorical, nature they were both incapable of the chief is The Temple of Glass, a writing English as though it were legend in the common tortured vein their own language. Both monk of love-allegory. Gray had a very and lawyer would have found them. high opinion of Lydgate, and reck- selves more at home in Latin or oned that "he came

[ocr errors]

to Norman-French. Lydgate's work


eventually resolved itself into trans. | century, when compared with Eng. lation. Hoccleve began his career lish, and of the chief poets of the by adapting, without acknowledg. school. The transference, if one ment, in his Epistle to Cupid (1402), may call it so, of the Chaucerian Christine de Pisan's L'Epitre au spirit to Scotland is no doubt exDieu d' Amours. Both, again, aban- plained by the historical fact of don the worldly-wise tone about James I's long captivity in England. love and chivalry which Jehan de Its characteristics were vigorously Meung adopted in his part of the maintained by Dunbar and Bishop Roman de la Rose, and go back, in Douglas. The dialect of Scottish their allegories, to the stereotyped poetry is, of course, local, and in fact notions of the feudal period, which, the common patois of the North in Chaucer's work, are conspieu- of England. Sir DAVID LYNDSAY ous by their absence. And while (1490-1555), Lord Lyon King at Chaucer had satirised the abuses of Arms, who was an intimate friend of the Church and magnified the virtues James V, is the poet who, in Scotland, of the Wycliffites, Lydgate and Hoc- inarks the transition from medieval cleve show all that fervent orthodoxy poetry to the poetry of the sixteenth which returned with the accession of century. Lyndsay was a pupil, like the the House of Lancaster.

A great

other Scottish allegorists, of Chaucer. deal of this reactionary spirit may Like all the Chaucerian school, he be put down to the circumstances of shows a strong propensity for imitathese poets; but the whole tone of tion of Boccaccio, and there is no their work is a natural ultra-conserva- trace in his work of that appreciation tism. Their admiration of Chaucer of form which, during his lifetime, was doubtless unfeigned ; their Surrey and Wyatt were deriving failure to imitate his methods arose from the study of Petrarch. His from their incapacity to comprehend | work is still Gothic and angular, and his spirit. Their position sufficiently this provoked Hallam's criticism that explains the deadness of English “in his ordinary versification he literature in the fifteenth century. seems not to rise much above the Most of their successors in the epic prosaic and tedious rhymers of the school were men like JOHN HARD- hifteenth century." But his poetry is YNG (1378-1465?), who wrote a not ugly or even dull, like Lydgate's; metrical Chronicle of England, com- it has its human interest. Lyndsay ing down to the reign of Edward IV | contributed by his poems, as well as and dedicated to that king. The by active support, to the Reformapoetry is wretched and deserves the tion in Scotland. His Dream (1528) attention only of the antiquary. In and his Complaynt of the Papyngo the allegorical school their chief suc- i.e. parrot-1530) are satires on cessor was Stephen Hawes, who has Court life and bitter meditations on been mentioned in the text.

No one

the state of his country; and there can say that his work is better than

was no more powerful factor in the theirs ; if he has more command of work of the Reformation in Scotland phrase, and if his art is less strained, than his interlude of The Three he is at all events not a conspicuous | Estates, which was probably first step in the path of progress. The acted in 1540. We come closer to real awakening of the Renaissance his theological position in The Tracame late to England. Chaucer was gedy of the Late Cardinal, a hostile the false dawn before light.

elegy on Cardinal Beaton (1547).

which, like Chaucer's Monk's Tale (2.) Scottish Poetry.

and Lydgate's interminable Falls of

Princes, was inspired by Boccaccio's While Chaucer's influence was De Casibus. His last and longest thus represented, badly and inade. poem is The Monarchy (1554), a far quately, in England, Scottish poetry from lively dialogue between a cour showed more signs of progress. We tier and Experience. Squire Mel. have spoken in the text of the bril- drum (1550) is a spirited chivalrous liancy of Scottish verse in the fifteenth / romance. If, in the matter of form,



Lyndsay makes no decided advance, work, he naturally fell into difficulhé is, of all Chaucer's school, intel- ties in Mary's reign, but is said to lectually the most forward, and we have recanted in prison. Grimald shall see how the grave and reverend was primarily a classical scholar, and authors of The Mirror for Magis no doubt his classical essays and his trates used his work and ideas. translation of Cicero de Oficiis (1553).

dedicated Thomas Thirlby, (3.) The Companions of Surrey

Bishop of Ely, occupied most of and Wyatt.

his time. His poetical work is full

of the classical spirit; it is learned A note is necessary on the collec. and neat in phrase, and is written, tion called Tottel's Miscellany, in for the most part, in heroic couplets. which, it has been said, the poems

We should not forget THOMAS of Wyatt and Surrey first appeared. TUSSER (1527-1580), although his In this, the first printed poetical work is not, strictly speaking, very miscellany in English, we find the memorable. He was born at Riven. influence, not of Chaucer, but of the hall in Essex, was educated at Italian poets, the sonneteers and Cambridge, and passed two years song-writers as distinct from the at Court under the patronage of narrative and epic poets, and prin William, Lord Paget. He after cipally of the great fountain of Re- wards settled as a farmer at Cattinaissance learning, Petrarch. This wade in Suffolk, where he wrote his book, published in June 1557, is the didactic poem, The Hundred Good first-born of the English Renais. Points of Husbandry (1557). He

Apart from Surrey and practised farming in other parts of Wyatt, the names of the authors are the country, was a singing man in left to conjecture. SIR FRANCIS Norwich Cathedral, and died poor BRYAN_(d.' 1550), the nephew of in London. His work, after going Lord Berners, the translator of through four editions, was published Froissart, and GEORGE BOLEYN, in an enlarged form (1577), under Viscount ROCHFORD, brother of the title of Five Hundred Points of Anne Boleyn, beheaded, two days Good Husbandry, united to as many before his sister, in 1536, are sup- of Good Huswifery. It is written in posed to have had a share in it. familiar verse, and is, says Warton, More certainty is attached to the “ valuable as a genuine picture of part taken by Thomas LORD VAUX the agriculture, the rural arts, and (1510-1556), Captain of the Isle of the domestic economy and customs Jersey under Henry VIII. His lyric, of our industrious ancestors. It “I lothe that I did love," was adapted is scarcely valuable for any other by Shakespeare for the grave-dig- reason. ger's song in Hamlet, and some of his poems are printed in the B.-MINOR PROSE WRITERS. collection called The Paradise of Dainty Devices (see p. 108). Putten- If the gap in poetry after Chaucer's ham, in his Art of Poesy, describes death is considerable, the history of Lord Vaux as a man of much prose after Wycliffe is even more facilitie in vulgar makings." The desultory. Wycliffe's prose, it should chief of the band, however, if we are not be forgotten, is by no means to to judge by the initials N. G. ap- be compared, for literary imporpended to several songs in the Mis- tance, with Chaucer's poetry : apart cellany, was NICHOLAS GRIMALD from its moral influence, its chief or GRIMOALD (1519-1562), a Hunt significance its place in the forma. ingdonshire man, who was first at tion of the vernacular. It is homely Christ's College, Cambridge, and and direct-plain language for plain afterwards, proceeding to his Master's people : it has none of the art of degree at Oxford, became a senior prose-writing about it, and natur. student of Christ Church. As chap- ally the modern reader studies it lain to Bishop Ridley, for whom he with an interest which is almost did some theological translation entirely antiquarian and grammati.


cal. Consequently, while its influ. , of course in these respects considerence on the language is very great ably behind that of the contemporary indeed, its influence on literature is poetical writers. Thus, while these small. The natural language of latter authors, as well as some of Wycliffe, as a Schoolman, carlier date, employ the objective Latin ; and the ecclesiastical writers plural pronoun them, and the plural of the Lancastrian period reverted possessive pronoun their, Pecock to Latin as the language of the always writes hem for the personal, Church. Italian prose, which be- and her for the possessive pronoun. came, in the hands of Boccaccio. These pronominal forms soon fell so delicate an instrument, and all into disuse, and they are hardly to through the fifteenth century went be met with in any English writer of on increasing in power and subtle later date than Pecock.

With reart, touched no responsive note in spect to one of them, however-the the England of Wycliffe's day. objective hem for themit may be English prose, in short, during the remarked that it has not become fifteenth and early sixteenth cen- obsolete in colloquial speech to the turies, is, wherever it occurs, an in- present day; for in such phrases as dividual attempt, not to create a I saw 'em, I told 'em, and the like, literary language, but to use the the pronoun em (or 'em) is not, as is spoken vernacular for private pur- popularly supposed, a vulgar corposes. The real impetus to prose- ruption of the full pronoun them, writing as an art was given by the which alone is found in modern Tudor translators of the classics and books, but it is the true Anglo. of the Italian novelists. It was the Saxon and old English objective accumulated heap of translations, plural, which, in our spoken dialect, those fine sonorous pieces of work has remained unchanged for a thouwhich showed how the Elizabethan sand years." mind could appropriate the rhythm Sir THOMAS MALORY, who lived and sound of the ancient authors, in the reign of Edward IV, is the which prepared the way for the exception who proves the general prose of Hooker and the three great rule with regard to the prose of the Caroline masters, Milton, Browne, late Plantagenet era. As a matter and Jeremy Taylor.

of fact, he is the first of the transIn the meantime we may select lators. His Morte Arthur, printed from the heterogeneous employers of by Caxton in 1485, is a compilation spoken English, REGINALD Pecock and translation of the various legends (1395?-1460 ?), Bishop of St. Asaph which, during the Middle Ages, had from 1444 to 1450, and of Chichester sprung round the heroic name of from 1450 to 1457. Although he King Arthur. The Britons who had wrote against the Lollards, his own fled before the Saxon invasions into theological views were very hetero- Armorica, men like the historian dox; he was obliged to recant, was de- | Gildas, had taken with them the prived of his bishopric, and passed memory of the great king, and had the rest of his life in prison at Thor- built up round it the Arthurian cycle ney Abbey. His principal work, The of epic traditions, which had found Repressor of Over-much Blaming of its way back into Britain and had the Clergy, was written in 1449 and proved so fruitful a mine for the published about 1455. There is an Norman chroniclers to draw from. excellent edition of this book by Pro- | In the difficult task of welding this fessor Churchill Babington (1863). confused mass of myths together With respect to its language, we Malory proved himself a master. may quote Marsh.

'Although, in His story is, naturally enough, ramdiction and arrangement of sen. bling and disconnected in detail, tences, the Repressor is much in but its episodes hang together well advance of the chronicles of Pecock's enough to show that Malory had a age, the grammar, both accidence considerable sense of form ; and the and syntax, is in many points nearly general impression which it leaves is where Wycliffe had left it ; and it is that of a chronicle with a logical


« PrejšnjaNaprej »