« PreviousContinue »
cree of the Council of Constance, his bones were For he hath behulden the mekenesse of his handdisinterred and burnt, and the ashes thrown into a mayden: for lo for this alle generatiouns schulen seye brook. •This brook,' says Fuller, the church his- that I ain blessid. torian, in a passage which brings quaintuess to the For he that is mighti hath don to nie grete thingis, borders of sublimity, hath conveyed his ashes into and his name is holy. Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow And his mercy is fro kyndrede into kyndredis to seas, they into the main ocean: and thus the ashes men that dreden him. of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which He hath made myght in his arm, he scatteride is now dispersed all the world over.'
proude men with the thoughte of his herte. As a specimen of the language of Wickliffe, his He sette doun myghty men fro seete, and enhauntranslation of that portion of Scripture which con- side meke men. He hath fulfillid hungry men with tains the Magnificat, may be presented
goodis, and he has left riche men voide.
He heuynge mynde of his mercy took up Israel [The Magnificat.)
his child. And Marye seyde, My soul magnifieth the Lord. As he hath spokun to oure fadris, to Abraham, and And my spiryt hath gladid in God myn helthe. to his seed into worlds.
FROM 1400 TO 1558.
walking in the adjacent garden. This lady, a daugh
ter of the Earl of Somerset, was afterwards married ZHILE such to the young king, whom she accompanied to Scotminds as Chaucer's
take shape, in some measure, from the state of learn
ing and civilisation which may prevail in their time, it is very clear that they are
never altogether created or brought into exercise by such circumstances. The rise of such men is the accident of nature, and whole ages may pass without producing them. From the death of Chaucer in 1400, nearly two hundred years elapsed in England, before any poet comparable to him arose, and yet those two centuries were more enlightened than the times of Chaucer. This long period, however, produced several poets not destitute of merit.
JAMES I. OF SCOTLAND. Among these was JAMES I. of Scotland, whose mind and its productions, notwithstanding his being a native of that country, must be considered as of English growth. James had been taken prisoner in his boyhood by Henry IV. of England, and spent the nineteen years preceding 1424 in that country, where he was instructed in all the learning and polite ac
James I of Scotland. complishments of the age, and appears, in particular, to have carefully st.died the writings of Chaucer. land. While in possession of his kingdom, he is The only certain pr duction of this young sovereign said to have written several poems descriptive of is a long poem, called The King's Quhair, or Book, humorous rustic scenes ; but these cannot be cerin which he describes the circumstances of an attach- tainly traced to him. He was assassinated at Perth ment which he forned, while a prisoner in Windsor in the year 1437, aged forty-two. Castle, to a young English princess whom he saw The King's Quhair contains poetry superior to
any besides that of Chaucer, produced in England Of her array the form if I shall write, before the reign of Elizabeth—as will be testified by Towards her golden hair and rich attire, the following verses :
In fretwise couchitl with pearlis white
And great balasa leaming as the fire, [James I., a Prisoner in Windsor, first secs Lady Jane With mony ane emeraut and fair sapphire; Beaufort, who afterwards was his Queen.]
And on her head a chaplet fresh of hue,
Of plumis parted red, and white, and blue.
Full of quaking spangis bright as gold,
Forged of shape like to the amorets,
So new, so fresh, so pleasant to behold,
The plumis eke like to the flower jonets,4 As, for the time, though I of mirthis food
And other of shape, like to the flower jonets ;
And above all this, there was, well I wot,
About her neck, white as the fire amail,5
A goodly chain of small orferory,6 Railed about, and so with trees set
Whereby there hung a ruby, without fail, Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet,
Like to ane heart shapen verily, That lyf was none walking there forbye,
That as a spark of low, so wantonly That might within scarce any wight espy
Seemed burning upon her white throat, So thick the boughis and the leavis green
Now if there was good party, God it wot. Beshaded all the alleys that there were,
And for to walk that fresh May's morrow, And mids of every arbour might be seen
Ane hook she had upon her tissue white,
That goodlier had not been seen to-forow,9
As I suppose ; and girt she was alite, lo
Thus halflings loose for haste, to such delight
It was to see her youth in goodlihede, And on the smalle greene twistis3 sat,
That for rudeness to speak thereof I dread. The Little sweete nightingale, and sung
In her was youth, beauty, with humble aport, So loud and clear, the hymnis consecrat
Bounty, richess, and womanly feature, Of loris use, now soft, now loud among,
God better wot than my pen can report : That all the gardens and the wallis rung
Wisdon, largess, estate, and cunningll sure,
In every point so guided her measure,
In word, in deed, in shape, in countenance,
That nature might no more her child avance !
And when she walked had a little thraw
Her fair fresh face, as white as any snaw, The blood of all my body to my heart.
She turned has, and furth her wayis went ;
But tho began mine aches and torment, And though I stood abasit tho a lite,
To see her part and follow I na might;
Methought the day was turned into night.
JOHN THE CHAPLAIN, THOMAS OCCLEVE, a lawyer, There was no token in her sweete face.
and John LYDGATE, were the chief inmediate folAnd in my head I drew right hastily,
lowers of Chaucer and Gower. The performances And eftesoons I leant it out again,
of the two first are of little account. Lydgate, who And saw her walk that very womanly,
was a monk of Bury, flourished about the year 1430. With no wight mo', but only women twain.
His poetical compositions range over a great variety Then gan I study in myself, and sayn,6
of styles. His muse,' says Warton, was of uni• Ah, sweet ! are ye a worldly creature,
versal access; and he was not only the poet of the Or heavenly thing in likeness of nature ?
monastery, but of the world in general. If a dis
guising was intended by the company of guldsmiths, Or are ye god Cupidis own princess,
à mask before his majesty at Eltham, a Maygame And comin are to loose me out of band ?
for the sheriffs and aldermen of London, a mumming Or are ye very Nature the goddess,
before the Lord Mayor, a procession of pageants That have depainted with your heavenly hand,
from the Creation for the festival of Corpus Christi, This garden full of flowers as they stand ?
or a carol for the Coronation, Lydgate was consulted, What shall I think, alas ! what reverence
and gave the poetry. The principal works of this Shall I mister 7 unto your excellence ?
versatile writer are entitled, The History of Thebes, If ye a goddess be, and that ye like
The Fall of Princes, and The Destruction of Troy. He To do me pain, I may it not astart :8
had travelled in France and Italy, and studied the If ye be warldly wight, that doth me sike, 9
poetry of those countries; and though his own writWhy list 10 God make you so, my dearest heart, To do a seely 1 prisoner this smart,
1 Inlaid like fretwork. ? A kind of precious stone. That loves you all, and wot of nought but wo ?
4 A kind of lily. It is conjectured thal And therefore mercy, sweet ! sin' it is so.'
the royal poet may here allude covertly to the name of his mis
tress, which, in the diminutive, was Janet or Jonet.—Thom1 Haste. ? Past. 3 Twigs
4 Went and came. son's Edition of King's Quhair. Ayr, 1824. $ Confounded for a little while.
6 Enamel 6 Gold work. 7 Flame. 8 Match. 9 Makes me sigh. 10 Pleased. 11 Wretched. 9 Before.
ings contain only a few good passages, he is allowed One bade me buy a hood to cover my head ;
There was harp, pipe, and minstrelsy ; few who acquired any tincture of letters in that age.
Yea by cock ! nay by cock ! some began cry; In the words of Mr Warton, “ there is great soft- Soine sung of Jenkin and Julian for their meed; ness and facility” in the following passage of Lyd- But, for lack of money, I might not speed. gate's Destruction of Troy :
Then into Cornhill anon I yode, [Description of a Sylvan Retreat.]
Where was much stolen gear among ; Till at the last, among the bowes glade,
I saw where hung mine owne hood, Of adventure, I caught a pleasant shade ;
That I had lost among the throng ; Full smooth, and plain, and lusty for to seen,
To buy my own hood I thought it wrong : And soft as velvet was the yonge green :
I knew it well, as I did my creed ; Where from my horse I did alight as fast,
But, for lack of money, I could not speed. And on the bow aloft his reine cast.
The taverner took me by the sleeve, So faint and mate of weariness I was,
"Sir,' saith he,' will you our wine assay ! That I me laid adown upon the grass,
I answered, “That can not much me grieve, Upon a brinke, shortly for to tell,
A penny can do no more than it may ;' Beside the river of a crystal well;
I drank a pint, and for it did pay ;
Yet, sore a-hungered from thence I yede,
The reigns of Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry
VII., extending between the years 1461 and 1509, A fugitive poem of Lydgate, called the London Lyck- were barren of true poetry, though there was no penny, is curious for the particulars it gives respect- lack of obscure versifiers. It is remarkable, that ing the city of London in the early part of the this period produced in Scotland a race of genuine fifteenth century. The poet has come to town in poets, who, in the words of Mr Warton, displayed search of legal redress for some wrong, and visits, in a degree of sentiment and spirit, a command of phrasuccession, the King's Bench, the Court of Common seology, and a fertility of imagination, not to be Pleas, the Court of Chancery, and Westminster found in any English poet since Chaucer and LydHall.
gate.' Perhaps the explanation of this seeming The London Lyckpenny.
mystery is, that the influences which operated upon
Chaucer a century before, were only now coming Within the hall, neither rich, nor yet poor
with their full force upon the less favourably situWould do for me ought, although I should die : ated nation which dwelt north of the Tweed. OverWhich seeing, I gat me out of the door,
looking some obscurer names, those of Henryson, Where Flemings began on me for to cry,
Dunbar, and Douglas, are to be mentioned with • Master, what will you copen' or buy?
peculiar respect. Fine felt hats ? or spectacles to read ? Lay down your silver, and here you may speed.'
ROBERT HENRYSON. Then to Westminster gate I presently went,
Of this poet there are no personal memorials, When the sun was at high prime :
except that he was a schoolmaster at Dunfermline, Cooks to me they took good intent, 2
and died some time before 1508. His principal poem And proffered me bread, with ale, and wine, is The Testament of Cresseid, being a sequel to Ribs of beef, both fat and full fine ;
Chaucer's romantic poem, Troylics and Cresseide. A fair cloth they gan for to spread,
He wrote a series of fables, thirteen in number, and But, wanting money, I might not be sped.
some miscellaneous poems, chiefly of a moral cha
racter. One of his fables is the common story of Then unto London I did me hie, Of all the land it beareth the price ;
the Town Mouse and Country Mouse, which he treats
with much humour and characteristic description, ‘Hot peascods ! one began to cry, Strawberry ripe, and cherries in the rise !'3
and concludes with a beautifully expressed moral. One bade me come near and buy some spice ; [Dinner given by the Town Mouse to the Country Mouse.] Pepper, and saffron they gan me beed ;4
their harboury was tane But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Intill a spence, where victual was plenty, Then to the Cheap I gan me drawn,
Baith cheese and butter on lang shelves richt hie, Where much people I saw for to stand ;
With fish and flesh enough, baith fresh and salt, One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn,
And pockis full of groats, baith meal and malt. Another he taketh me by the hand,
After, when they disposit were to dine, • Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land !
Withouten grace they wuish? and went to meat, I never was used to such things, indeed ;
On every dish that cookmen can divine, And, wanting money, I might not speed.
Mutton and beef stricken out in telyies grit ; Then went I forth by London Stone,
Ane lordis fare thus can they counterfeit, Throughout all Canwick Street :
Except ane thing-they drank the water clear Drapers much cloth me offered anon ;
Instead of wine, but yet they made gude cheer. Then comes me one cried hot sheep's feet;' With blyth upcast and merry countenance, One cried mackerel, rushes green, another gan greet, The elder sister then spier'd at her guest,
Gif that sho thoucht by reason difference 1 Koopen, (Flem.) is to buy. 2 Took notice ; paid attention.
Betwixt that chalmer and her sairy? nest. 8 On the twig. 4 Offer. 6 A fragment of
* Yea, dame,' quoth sho, 'but how lang will this last ! London stone is still preserved in Cannon Street, formerly
1 Washed. raMed Canwick, or Candlewick Street.
'For erermair, I wait, and langer too ;
Furiage full fine sho broucht instead of jeil, "! A white candle out of a coffer staw,
Instead of spice, to creish their teeth witha'.
The Spenser had nae leisure for to bide,
But on he went and cast the door up-wide.
How, fair sister, cry peep, where'er thou be.'
• Suppose. ? A set of twenty-four.
Of my defence now frae yon cruel beast ;
[From the Moral.]
The Garment of Good Ladies.
And work after my will,
Gar make her body till.
Upon her head to wear,
Na deeming should her deir.
Of chastity so white :
The same should be perfyte.
Lacit with lesum5 love ;
For never to remove.
Well ribbon'd with renown ;
Furrit with fine fashioùn.
About her middle meet ;
To thole 9 both wind and weit. 10
And her tippet of truth;
Her hals-ribbon of ruth.12
To keep her fra despair :
To hide her fingers fair.
In sign that she not slide ;
I should for her provide. 1 Cause to be made to her shape. 2 No opinion should injure her.
3 Shift. 4 Perfect. 5 Lawful. 6 Eyelet-holes for lacing her kirtle. 7 Parfilé (French), fringed, or bordered. 8 Each. I Endure.
10 Wet 11 Thinking. 12 Her neck ribbon of pity.
Would she put on this garment gay,
allegorical poems are the Thistle and the Rose (a I durst swear by my seill,
triumphant nuptial song for the union of James and That she wore never green nor gray
the Princess Margaret), the Dance, and the Golden That seta her half so weel.
Terge ; but allegory abounds in many others, which do not strictly fall within this class. Perhaps the most remarkable of all his poems is one of those
here enumerated, the Dance. It describes a procesWILLIAM DUNBAR, a poet,' says Sir Walter Scott,
sion of the seven deadly sins in the infernal regions, unrivalled by any that Scotland has ever produced, flourished at the court of James IV., at and for strength and vividness of painting, would the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the six-stand a comparison with any poem in the language. teenth centuries. His works, with the exception of The most
solemn and impressive of the more ex
clusively moral poems of Dunbar, is one in which he one or two pieces, were confined, for above two centuries, to an obscure manuscript, from which they sides in a debate on earthly and spiritual affections,
represents a thrush and nightingale taking opposite were only rescued when their language had become the thrush ending every speech or stanza with a so antiquated, as to render the world insensible in a recommendation of a lústy life in Love's service,' great measure to their many excellencies. To no other and the nightingale with the more melodious declacircumstance can we attribute the little justice that ration, All Love is lost but upon God alone.' is done by popular fame to this highly-gifted poet, There is, however, something more touching to comwho was alike master of every kind of verse, the solemn, the descriptive, the sublime, the comic, and mon feelings in the less laboured verses in which he the satirical. Having received his education at the moralises on the brevity of existence, the shoriness university of St Andrews, where, in 1479, he took and uncertainty of all ordinary enjoyments, and the the degree of master of arts, Dunbar became a friar wickedness and woes of mankind. of the Franciscan order (Grey Friars), in which ca
This wavering warld's wretchedness pacity he travelled for some years not only in Scot
The failing and fruitless business, land, but also in England and France, preaching, as The misspent time, the service vain, was the custom of the order, and living by the alms
For to consider is ane pain. of the pious, a mode of life which he himself acknowledges to have involved a constant exercise of false The sliding joy, the gladness short, hood, deceit, and flattery. In time, he had the grace, The feigned love, the false comfort, or was enabled by circumstances, to renounce this The sweir abade, the slightful train, sordid profession. It is supposed, from various al
For to consider is ane pain. lusions in his writings, that, from about the year
The suggared mouths, with minds therefra, 1491 to 1500, he was occasionally employed by the
The figured speech, with faces tway ; king (James IV.) in some subordinate, but not un
The pleasing tongues, with hearts unplain, important capacity, in connexion with various fo
For to consider is ane pain. reign embassies, and that he thus visited Germany, Italy, Spain, and France, besides England and Ire- Or, in another poemland. He could not, in such a life, fail to acquire
Evermair unto this warld's joy, much of that knowledge of mankind which forms so
As nearest heir, succeeds annoy; important a part of the education of the poet. In
Therefore when joy may not remain, 1500, he received from the king a pension of ten pounds, afterwards increased to twenty, and finally
His very heir, succeedés Pain, to eighty. He is supposed to have been employed He is, at the same time, by no means disposed habituby James in some of the negotiations preparatory to ally to take gloomy or desponding views of life. He his marriage with the Princess Margaret, daughter has one poem, of which each stanza ends with ‘For of Henry VII., which took place in 1503. For some
to be blyth methink it best.' In another, he advises, years ensuing, he seems to have lived at court, re- since life is so uncertain, that the good things of this galing his royal master with his poetical composi- world should be rationally enjoyed while it is yet tions, and probably also his conversation, the charms possible. Thine awn gude spend,' says he, while of which, judging from his writings, must have been thou has space. There is yet another, in which very great. It is sad to relate of one who possessed these Horatian maxims are still more pointedly so buoyant and mirthful a spirit, that his life was enforced, and from this we shall select a few not, as far as we can judge, a happy one. He ap- stanzas :pears to have repined greatly at the servile courtlife which he was condemned to lead, and to have Be merry, man, and tak not sair in mind longed anxiously for some independent source of in The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow; come. Amongst his poems, are many containing To God be humble, to thy friend be kind, nothing but expressions of solicitude on this subject. And with thy neighbours gladly lend and borrow; He survived the year 1517, and is supposed to have His chance to-night, it may be thine to-morrow; died about 1520, at the age of sixty; but whether Be blyth in hearte for my aventure, he ultimately succeeded in obtaining preferment, is For oft with wise men it has been said aforow, not known. His writings, with scarcely any excep- Without Gladness availes no Treasure. tion, remained in the obscurity of manuscript till the beginning of the last century; but his fame has Make thee gude cheer of it that God thee sends, been gradually rising since then, and it was at
For warld's wrak but welfare3 nought avails; length, in 1834, so great as to justify a complete Nae gude is thine save only that thou spends, edition of his works, by Mr David Laing..
Remanant all thou bruikes but with bails ;The poems of Dunbar may be said to be of three
Seek to solace when sadness thee assails; classes, the Allegorical, the Moral, and the Comic; In dolour lang thy life may not endure, besides which there is a vast number of productions
Wherefore of comfort set up all thy sails; composed on occasions affecting himself, and which Without Gladness availes no Treasure. may therefore be called personal poems. His chief
2 Snare. 3 World's trash without health * Injuries.
1 Salyı tion.