Slike strani
PDF
ePub

sion of much confusion on this subject; and has led some writers too hastily to suppose persons to have been invested with this office, who, in truth, had no kind of claim to it. A wreath of laurel being presented to the new graduate on taking his degree, he was afterwards frequently styled poeta laureatus; and this scholastick laureation certainly gave rise to the appellation by which the Court Poet was distinguished. The King's Poet Laureate therefore, strictly speaking, (as the same elegant writer has observed,) is only "a graduated rhetorician employed in the service of the King."

So early as the middle of the twelfth century, Henry de Avranches, a Frenchman, (Henricus Abrincensis,) was entertained by our King Henry the Third, as a poet attached to his court; and under the title of "Master Henry, the Versifier," received from that monarch an annual stipend, which seems to have been ten pounds a year; for on one occasion we find that sum paid to him as King's Poet, and on another the sum of one hundred shillings, as the arrears of his salary.? In the

The form of laureation by the Chancellor of the University of Strasburgh in 1621, was as follows: "I create you, being placed in a chair of state, crowned with laurel and ivy, and wearing a ring of gold, and the same do pronounce and constitute, POET LAUREATE, in the name of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. Ubi supr. p. 134. n.

9 Liberat. 35 Hen. III. m. 6. Mag. Rot. 35. in rot. compotor. m. 1. a. See Madox's Hist. of the Exchequer, pp. 268, 674.

36th year of the same King's reign, (1252,) forty shillings a year and a pipe of wine were given to Richard, the King's harper;' which perhaps gave rise at a subsequent period to a similar bounty to the officer now under our consideration. Gulielmus Peregrinus, who composed a poem on the crusade of Richard the First, appears to have been the royal poet of that time; and Robert Baston, whom Bale calls poeta Oxonii laureatus, and whom Edward the Second is said to have carried with him to the siege of Striveling Castle, to record his Scottish exploits in verse, may be considered as exercising the same office under that monarch. Of these versifiers, as they were then called, the composi

I HIST. OF ENG. POET. i. 48.

2 Bale. Cent. iii. 45. Tanner's Bibl. p. 591. Pits. p. 266. He sung Richard's achievements in the Holy Land, in an heroick Latin Poem, entitled ODOEPORICON REGIS.

[ocr errors]

3 Baston's poem, in monkish Latin hexameters, DE STRIVELINENSI OBSIDIONE, is extant in Forduni SCOTICHRON. 1. 12. c. xxiii. Being taken by the Scotch in 1314, he was compelled by Robert Brus to purchase his ransom by writing a panegyrick' on him. Jussu Roberti Brusii, tormentis compulsus erat, ut contrarium scriberet, quasi Scoti de Anglis triumphassent." Pits, p. 319. But finding (says A. Wood, HIST. ET ANTIQ. UNIVER. OXON. p. 101,) that he performed his task very reluctantly, et quasi invitâ Minervâ, they dismissed him. See also Bale. Cent. iii. 369, and MSS. Harl. 1819. -85. Several of this poet's works are preserved in the Cotton Library. According to Bale and Pits, he composed a volume of tragedies and comedies in English.

tions produced in their character of Poets Laureate, were in Latin. Chaucer, perhaps, in the time of Edward the Third and Richard the Second, as a poet, and as receiving a royal pension,+ not without a due allowance of sack, and in the time of Henry the Fourth, Henry Scogan, Master of Arts, (who, if we may credit Ben Jonson," "made disguises for the King's sons, and wrote in fine tinkling rhyme and flowand verse, with now and then some sense,) with sufficient propriety may be enrolled in the same tuneful and honourable band; yet neither these poets, nor Gower, though two of them are enumerated in Dryden's patent, as having worn the laurel, were ever regularly and expressly appointed to this office: nor does the title of POET LAUREATE OCcur earlier than the time of Edward the Fourth, to whom John Kay, about the year 1470, dedicating a prose translation of a Latin history of

4 Pat. 41 and 48 Ed. III.-1 and 17 Ric. II.-It must be acknowledged, however, that it does not appear that any of the royal grants to Chaucer was made on account of his poetical merits. Skelton, describing Chaucer and Lydgate very particularly, mentions that they wanted nothing but the laurel. I have therefore said above,—perhaps.

5 Pat. 48 Ed. III. 22 Ric. II.

6.1 Masque of the Fortunate Isles," Jonson's Works, fol. vol. ii. p. 135. The same writer adds, that "he was paid for't; regarded and rewarded." Bale and Tanner have confounded this Henry Scogan with John Scogan, a Jester in the court of King Edward the Fourth, about the year 1480. The compositions which they have ascribed to John, are known to have been written by Henry Scogan.

the Siege of Rhodes, styles himself hys humble Poete Laureate. None of his poetry, however, either in Latin or English, is known to be extant. Andrew Bernard, a Frenchman and an Augustine monk, who was blind, (as appears from a muniment in the Chief Remembrancer's office, from which I have given an extract in a former work,) was successively Poet Laureate and Historiographer to Henry the Seventh and Henry the Eighth ; and

[ocr errors]

7 Selden's TITLES OF HONOUR, p. 466. edit. 1726. Kay's translation was formerly extant entire in the Cotton Library, Vitel. D. xii. and some fragments of it still remain; but so damaged by the fire which consumed part of that library in 1731, as to be illegible.

8 Shakspeare's PLAYS AND POEMS, vol. i. p. ii. p. 33. 9 Henry the Seventh, in the second year of his reign, (21 Nov. 1485) by bill under his sign manual, directed to the Bishop of Exeter, Keeper of his Privy Seal, granted to Andrew Bernard a pension of ten marks a year until he should be otherwise provided for. See Rymer's Manuscript Collections in the Museum, (in Ayscough's Catalogue, 4617).-" Breve Hen. vii. A° 2. N° 12. Per Regem.-Reverende in Christo pater, nobis quamplurimum dilecte, Salutem. Vobis mandamus quod sub privato sigillo nostro in custodia vestra existente literas nostras cancellario nostro Angliæ dirigendas fieri faciatis, mandantes eidem quod sub magno sigillo nostro in custodia sua existente literas nostras patentes fieri faciat, in forma sequenti. Omnibus ad quos, &c. salutem. Sciatis quod nos, consideratione virtutis, scientiæ, incrementique, quod non nullis per doctrinam Bernardi Andreæ, POETÆ LAUREATI, tam in Universitate nostra Oxoniensi quam in aliis locis non paucis multipliciter profuerit, de gratia nostra speciali con

was living in 1522. In 1489, John Skelton was laureated as a rhetorician at Oxford, and a few years afterwards was permitted to wear the laurel publickly at Cambridge; previously to which he had been honoured by Henry the Seventh with a grant to wear either some peculiar dress, or some additional ornament on his ordinary apparel. That he was Poet Laureate to Henry the Eighth, may be presumed from the titles of some of his works." I have not, however, met with any proof of his

cessimus et per presentes concedimus eidem Bernardo quandam annuitatem decem marcarum per annum," &c. Seven days afterwards, as appears from an instrument in the Pells-Office, a precept was directed by the same King to the Treasurer and Chamberlains of the Exchequer, to pay him the arrears of his salary from the preceding Easter. Rymer. FOED. vol. xii. p. 317.—In this instrument it is expressly said, that a patent in favour of Bernard had passed under the Great Seal; but no such patent is now extant in the Chapel of the Rolls.

POETÆ LAUREATI may, however, as Mr. Warton has observed, here mean, either the laureated poet, as above illustrated, or POET LAUREATE.

Some of Andrew Bernard's compositions, which seem to have been written in his character of Poet Laureate, are yet extant. They are in Latin. "A New Year's Gift" for 1515, is preserved in the archives of New College, Oxford (287); and the presentation copy of his "Verses wishing prosperity to Henry the Eighth's thirteenth year," is in the Museum. MSS. Reg. 12 A. 10. Neither Bale, nor Pits, nor Tanner, has mentioned Bernard.

• Some of Skelton's Latin poems, as Mr. Warton has remarked, seem to be written in the character of Roya!

[blocks in formation]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »