Page images

called an avaritious man or an chinch, as well should ye keep you and govern you in such wise, that men call you not fool-large; therefore, saith Tullius, The goods of thine house ne should not ben hid ne kept so close, but that they might ben opened by pity and debonnairety, that is to sayen, to give 'em part that han great need; ne they goods shoulden not ben so open to be every man's goods.

Afterward, in getting of your riches, and in using of 'em, ye shulen alway have three things in your heart, that is to say, our Lord God, conscience, and good name. First ye shulen have God in your heart, and for no riches ye shulen do nothing which may in any manner displease God that is your creator and maker; for, after the word of Solomon, it is better to have a little good, with love of God, than to have muckle good and lese the love of his Lord God; and the prophet saith, that better it is to ben a good man and have little good and treasure, than to be holden a shrew and have great riches. And yet I say furthermore, that ye shulden always do your business to get your riches, so that ye get 'em with a good conscience. And the apostle saith, that there nis thing in this world, of which we shulden have so great joy, as when our conscience beareth us good witness; and the wise man saith, The substance of a man is full good when sin is not in a man's conscience. Afterward, in getting of your riches and in using of 'em, ye must have great business and great diligence that your good name be alway kept and conserved; for Solomon saith, that better it is and more it availeth a man to have a good name than for to have great riches; and therefore he saith in another place, Do great diligence (saith he) in keeping of thy friends and of thy good name, for it shall longer abide with thee than any treasure, be it never so precious; and certainly he should not be called a gentleman that, after God and good conscience all things left, ne doth his diligence and business to keepen his good name; and Cassiodore saith, that it is a sign of a gentle heart, when a man loveth and desireth to have a good And he that trusteth him so muckle in his good conscience, that he despiseth or setteth at nought his good name or los, and recketh not though he kept not his good name, nis but a cruel churl.

* *




JOHN WICKLIFFE [1324-1384] was a learned ecclesiastic and professor of theology in Baliol College, Oxford, where, soon after the year 1372, he began to challenge certain doctrines and practices of the Romish church, which for ages had held unquestioned sway in England. The mental capacity and vigour requisite for this purpose, must have been of a very uncommon kind; and Wickliffe will ever, accordingly, be considered as one of the greatest names in our history. In contending against the Romish doctrines and the papal power, and in defending himself against the vengeance of the ecclesiastical courts, he produced many controversial works, some of which were in English. But his greatest work, and that which was qualified to be most effectual in reforming the faith of his countrymen, was a translation of the Old and New Testaments, which he executed in his latter years, with the assistance of a few friends, and which, though taken from the Latin medium, instead of the original Hebrew and Greek, and though performed in a timid spirit with regard to idioms, is a valuable relic of the age, both in a literary and theological view. Wickliffe was several times cited for heresy,

[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small][graphic]

Chair of Wickliffe.

to retract some of his reputed heresies. Upwards of forty years after his death, in consequence of a debut the announcement has been made, that Mr Forshall and Mr Madden, both of the British Museum, are now engaged in preparing an edition, which is to issue from the University press of Oxford. Mr Baber, after much research, has come to the conclusion, that no English translation of the entire Bible preceded that of Wickliffe. (See Historical Account of the Saxon and English versions of the Scriptures previous to the opening of the fifteenth century,' prefixed by Mr Baber to his edition of the New Testament, p. lxviii.) Portions of it

Wickliffe's translation of the New Testament has been twice printed, by Mr Lewis in 1731, and Mr Baber in 1810. His version of the Old Testament still remains in manuscript; I had, however, been translated at various times.

cree of the Council of Constance, his bones were disinterred and burnt, and the ashes thrown into a brook. This brook,' says Fuller, the church historian, in a passage which brings quaintness to the borders of sublimity, hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean: and thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which is now dispersed all the world over.'

As a specimen of the language of Wickliffe, his translation of that portion of Scripture which contains the Magnificat, may be presented

[The Magnificat.]

And Marye seyde, My soul magnifieth the Lord.
And my spiryt hath gladid in God myn helthe.

[blocks in formation]

his child.

As he hath spokun to oure fadris, to Abraham, and to his seed into worlds.

Second Period.

FROM 1400 TO 1558.


walking in the adjacent garden. This lady, a daughter of the Earl of Somerset, was afterwards married to the young king, whom she accompanied to Scot


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 accomplishments of the age, and appears, in particular, to have carefully studied the writings of Chaucer. The only certain production 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 formed, while a prisoner in Windsor in the year 1437, aged forty-two.

James I. of Scotland.

land. While in possession of his kingdom, he is

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 couchit with pearlis white
With mony ane emeraut and fair sapphire;
And great balas? leaming as the fire,
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
And other of shape, like to the flower jonets;
And above all this, there was, well I wot,
Beauty enough to make a world to doat.

[James I., a Prisoner in Windsor, first sees Lady Jane Beaufort, who afterwards was his Queen.]

Bewailing in my chamber, thus alone,
Despaired of all joy and remedy,
For-tired of my thought, and woe-begone,
And to the window gan I walk in hyl
To see the world and folk that went forbye, 2
As, for the time, though I of mirthis food
Might have no more, to look it did me good.

Now was there made, fast by the towris wall,
A garden fair; and in the corners set
Ane arbour green, with wandis long and small
Railed about, and so with trees set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet,
That lyf was none walking there forbye,
That might within scarce any wight espy

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

About her neck, white as the fire amail,5
A goodly chain of small orfevory,6
Whereby there hung a ruby, without fail,
Like to ane heart shapen verily,
That as a spark of low,7 so wantonly
Seemed burning upon her white throat,
Now if there was good party," God it wot.
And for to walk that fresh May's morrow,
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,10
Thus halflings loose for haste, to such delight
It was to see her youth in goodlihede,
That for rudeness to speak thereof I dread.

[blocks in formation]


JOHN THE CHAPLAIN, THOMAS OCCLEVE, a lawyer, and JOHN LYDGATE, were the chief inmediate followers of Chaucer and Gower. The performances of the two first are of little account. Lydgate, who was a monk of Bury, flourished about the year 1430. His poetical compositions range over a great variety of styles. His muse,' says Warton, was of universal access; and he was not only the poet of the monastery, but of the world in general. If a disguising was intended by the company of goldsmiths, a mask before his majesty at Eltham, a Maygame for the sheriffs and aldermen of London, a mumming before the Lord Mayor, a procession of pageants from the Creation for the festival of Corpus Christi, or a carol for the Coronation, Lydgate was consulted, and gave the poetry.' The principal works of this versatile writer are entitled, The History of Thebes, The Fall of Princes, and The Destruction of Troy. He had travelled in France and Italy, and studied the poetry of those countries; and though his own writ

1 Inlaid like fretwork.
A kind of precious stone.
3 Glittering.
4 A kind of lily. It is conjectured that
the royal poet may here allude covertly to the name of his mis-
tress, which, in the diminutive, was Janet or Jonet.-Thom-
son's Edition of King's Quhair. Ayr, 1824.

8 Match.

5 Enamel.
9 Before.

6 Gold work.
10 Slightly.

7 Flame.
11 Knowledge.

One bade me buy a hood to cover my head;
But, for want of money, I might not be sped.
Then I hied me unto East-Cheap,

ings contain only a few good passages, he is allowed
to have improved the poetical language of the coun-
try. He at one time kept a school in his monastery,
for the instruction of young persons of the upper
ranks in the art of versification; a fact which proves
that poetry had become a favourite study among the
few who acquired any tincture of letters in that age.

Pewter pots they clattered on a heap;
One cries ribs of beef, and many a pie ;

There was harp, pipe, and minstrelsy;
Yea by cock! nay by cock! some began cry;

In the words of Mr Warton, "there is great soft-Some sung of Jenkin and Julian for their meed; ness and facility" 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.]

Till at the last, among the bowes glade,
Of adventure, I caught a pleasant shade;
Full smooth, and plain, and lusty for to seen,
And soft as velvet was the yonge green:
Where from my horse I did alight as fast,
And on the bow aloft his reine cast.
So faint and mate of weariness I was,
That I me laid adown upon the grass,
Upon a brinke, shortly for to tell,
Beside the river of a crystal well;
And the water, as I reherse can,
Like quicke silver in his streams y-ran,
Of which the gravel and the brighte stone,
As any gold, against the sun y-shone.

A fugitive poem of Lydgate, called the London Lyckpenny, is curious for the particulars it gives respecting the city of London in the early part of the fifteenth century. The poet has come to town in search of legal redress for some wrong, and visits, in succession, the King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, the Court of Chancery, and Westminster Hall.

The London Lyckpenny. Within the hall, neither rich, nor yet poor

Would do for me ought, although I should die :
Which seeing, I gat me out of the door,

Where Flemings began on me for to cry,
'Master, what will you copen' or buy?
Fine felt hats? or spectacles to read?
Lay down your silver, and here you may speed.'
Then to Westminster gate I presently went,
When the sun was at high prime :
Cooks to me they took good intent, 2

And proffered me bread, with ale, and wine,
Ribs of beef, both fat and full fine;
A fair cloth they gan for to spread,
But, wanting money, I might not be sped.
Then unto London I did me hie,

Of all the land it beareth the price; 'Hot peascods!' one began to cry,

'Strawberry ripe, and cherries in the rise !'3
One bade me come near and buy some spice;
Pepper, and saffron they gan me beed 4
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Then to the Cheap I gan me drawn,

Where much people I saw for to stand;
One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn,

Another he taketh me by the hand,
'Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land!'
I never was used to such things, indeed;
And, wanting money, I might not speed.
Then went I forth by London Stone,5
Throughout all Canwick Street:
Drapers much cloth me offered anon;

Then comes me one cried 'hot sheep's feet;'
One cried mackerel, rushes green, another gan greet,

1 Koopen, (Flem.) is to buy. Took notice; paid attention. 8 On the twig. 4 Offer. 5 A fragment of London stone is still preserved in Cannon Street, formerly ralled Canwick, or Candlewick Street. в Сгу.

[ocr errors]

Where was much stolen gear among;
I saw where hung mine owne hood,
That I had lost among the throng;
To buy my own hood I thought it wrong:
I knew it well, as I did my creed;
But, for lack of money, I could not speed.

[blocks in formation]



The reigns of Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VII., extending between the years 1461 and 1509, were barren of true poetry, though there was no lack of obscure versifiers. It is remarkable, that this period produced in Scotland a race of genuine poets, who, in the words of Mr Warton, displayed a degree of sentiment and spirit, a command of phraseology, and a fertility of imagination, not to be found in any English poet since Chaucer and Lydgate.' Perhaps the explanation of this seeming mystery is, that the influences which operated upon Chaucer a century before, were only now coming with their full force upon the less favourably situated nation which dwelt north of the Tweed. Overlooking some obscurer names, those of Henryson, Dunbar, and Douglas, are to be mentioned with peculiar respect.


Of this poet there are no personal memorials, except that he was a schoolmaster at Dunfermline, and died some time before 1508. His principal poem is The Testament of Cresseid, being a sequel to Chaucer's romantic poem, Troylus and Cresseide. He wrote a series of fables, thirteen in number, and some miscellaneous poems, chiefly of a moral character. One of his fables is the common story of the Town Mouse and Country Mouse, which he treats with much humour and characteristic description, and concludes with a beautifully expressed moral. [Dinner given by the Town Mouse to the Country Mouse.] their harboury was tane Intill a spence, where victual was plenty, Baith cheese and butter on lang shelves richt hie, With fish and flesh enough, baith fresh and salt, And pockis full of groats, baith meal and malt. After, when they disposit were to dine, Withouten grace they wuish and went to meat, On every dish that cookmen can divine, Mutton and beef stricken out in telyies grit ; Ane lordis fare thus can they counterfeit, Except ane thing-they drank the water clear Instead of wine, but yet they made gude cheer. With blyth upcast and merry countenance, The elder sister then spier'd at her guest, Gif that sho thoucht by reason difference Betwixt that chalmer and her sairy2 nest.


Yea, dame,' quoth sho, but how lang will this last 1

1 Washed.

2 Sorry.

[ocr errors]

'For evermair, I wait, and langer too;'
'Gif that be true, ye are at ease,' quoth sho.
To eik the cheer, in plenty furth they broucht
A plate of groatis and a dish of meal,

A threif of cakes, I trow sho spared them noucht,
Abundantly about her for to deal.

Furmage full fine sho broucht instead of jeil, A white candle out of a coffer staw,

Instead of spice, to creish their teeth witha'.

Thus made they merry, while they micht nae mair,

And, Hail Yule, hail!' they cryit up on hie;

But after joy aftentimes comes care,

And trouble after grit prosperity.
Thus as they sat in all their solity,
The Spenser cam with keyis in his hand,
Opened the door, and them at dinner fand.
They tarried not to wash, as I suppose,
But on to gae, wha micht the foremost win;
The burgess had a hole and in sho goes,
Her sister had nae place to hide her in;
To see that silly mouse it was great sin,
Sae desolate and wild of all gude rede,
For very fear sho fell in swoon, near dead.
Then as God wald it fell in happy case,
The Spenser had nae leisure for to bide,
Nowther to force, to seek, nor scare, nor chase,
But on he went and cast the door up-wide.
This burgess mouse his passage weel has spied.
Out of her hole sho cam and cried on hie,
'How, fair sister, cry peep, where'er thou be.'
The rural mouse lay flatlings on the ground,
And for the deid sho was full dreadand,3
For till her heart strake mony waeful stound,
As in a fever trembling foot and hand;
And when her sister in sic plight her fand,
For very pity sho began to greet,
Syne comfort gave, with words as honey sweet.
'Why lie ye thus? Rise up, my sister dear,
Come to your meat, this peril is o'erpast.'
The other answered with a heavy cheer,
I may nought eat, sae sair I am aghast.
Lever I had this forty dayis fast,
With water kail, and green beans and peas.
Then all your feast with this dread and disease.

[ocr errors]

With fair 'treaty, yet gart she her rise;
To board they went, and on together sat,
But scantly had they drunken anes or twice,
When in cam Gib Hunter, our jolly cat,
And bade God speed. The burgess up then gat,
And till her hole she fled as fire of flint;
Bawdrons the other by the back has hent.
Frae foot to foot he cast her to and frae,
While up, while down, as cant as only kid;
While wald he let her run under the strae
While wald he wink and play with her buik-hid;
Thus to the silly mouse great harm he did;
While at the last, through fair fortune and hap,
Betwixt the dresser and the wall she crap.
Syne up in haste behind the paneling,

Sae hie sho clam, that Gilbert might not get her,
And by the cluiks craftily can hing,
Till he was gane, her cheer was all the better:
Syne down sho lap, when there was nane to let her;
Then on the burgess mouth loud couth sho cry,
'Fareweel sister, here I thy feast defy.

[blocks in formation]

Of my defence now frae yon cruel beast; Almighty God, keep me fra sic a feast!

Were I into the place that I cam frae,
For weel nor wae I should ne'er come again.'
With that sho took her leave, and forth can gae,
While through the corn, while through the plain.
When she was furth and free she was right fain,
And merrily linkit unto the muir,

I cannot tell how afterward sho fure.

But I heard syne she passit to her den,
As warm as woo', suppose it was not grit,
Full beinly stuffit was baith butt and ben,
With peas and nuts, and beans, and rye and wheat;
Whene'er sho liked, sho had enough of meat,
In quiet and ease, withouten [ony] dread,
But till her sister's feast nae mair sho gaed.

[From the Moral.]

Blissed be simple life, withouten dreid;
Blissed be sober feast in quieté ;
Wha has eneuch of no more has he neid,
Though it be little into quantity.
Grit abundance, and blind prosperity,
Oft timis make ane evil conclusion;
The sweetest life, theirfor, in this country,
Is of sickerness, with small possession.

The Garment of Good Ladies. Would my good lady love me best, And work after my will,

I should a garment goodliest
Gar make her body till.1

Of high honoùr should be her hood, Upon her head to wear, Garnish'd with governance, so good Na deeming should her deir.

Her sark3 should be her body next,
Of chastity so white:

With shame and dread together mixt,
The same should be perfyte.4

Her kirtle should be of clean constance,
Lacit with lesum5 love;

The mailies of continuance,
For never to remove.

Her gown should be of goodliness,
Well ribbon'd with renown;

Purfill'd7 with pleasure in ilk place,
Furrit with fine fashioùn.

Her belt should be of benignity,
About her middle meet;
Her mantle of humility,

To thole 9 both wind and weit. 10

Her hat should be of fair having,
And her tippet of truth;
Her patelet of good pansing,11

Her hals-ribbon of ruth.12

Her sleeves should be of esperance,
To keep her fra despair:

Her glovis of good governance,
To hide her fingers fair.

Her shoen should be of sickerness,
In sign that she not slide;
Her hose of honesty, I guess,
I should for her provide.

1 Cause to be made to her shape. 2 No opinion should injure her. 3 Shift. 5 Lawful. 4 Perfect. 6 Eyelet-holes for lacing her kirtle. 7 Parfilé (French), 8 Each. 9 Endure. 10 Wet. fringed, or bordered. 11 Thinking. 12 Her neck ribbon of pity.

« PreviousContinue »