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d. bef. 1461.

the epoch of the Revival of Classical Learning, was not with us a time either of erudition or of original invention.

The fifteenth century has transmitted to us a large number of Poetical Compositions ; but most of them are quite valueless, unless as instructive specimens of the rapidity with which the language was undergoing the latest of the changes, that developed it into modern English. Although, likewise, we know the names of many of the authors, two of these only call for notice. {

John Lydgate, a Benedictine monk of Bury Saint Ed

munds, beginning to write before Chaucer's death, appears to have laboured for more than half a century, producing an immense number of compositions, many of which were of a tempo • rary kind. His most ambitious works were three. The Fall of Princes is versified from the Latin prose of Boccaccio; the Storie of Thebes is an additional Canterbury Tale, borrowing a great deal from Statius and other classical sources, but investing the unhappy sons of Edipus in chivalrous drapery, not without much spirit and picturesqueness; and, in the Troy Book, the fall of Ilium is similarly dealt with, and adorned with many striking descriptions.

Some features in the Storie of Thebes are thus described by the earliest historian of our old poetry.

“ This poem is the Thebaid of a Troubadour. The old classical Tale of Thebes is here clothed with feudal manners, enlarged with new fictions of the Gothic species, and furnished with the description, circumstances, and machineries, appropriated to a romance of chivalry. The Sphinx is a terrible dragon, placed by a necromancer to guard a mountain, and to murder all travellers passing by. Tydeus, being wounded, sees a castle on a rock, whose high towers and crested pinnacles of polished stone glitter by the light of the moon : he gains admittance, is laid in a sumptuous bed of cloth of gold, and healed of his wounds by a king's daughter. Tydeus and Polymite tilt at midnight for a lodging, before the gate of the palace of King Adrastus; who is awakened by the din of the strokes of their weapons, and descends into the court with a long train by torch-light. He orders the two combatants to be disarmed, and clothed in rich mantles studded with pearls; and they are conducted to repose, by many a stair, to a stately tower, after being served with a refection of hippocras from golden goblets. The next day they are both espoused to the king's two daughters, and entertained with tournaments, feasting, revels, and masques. Afterwards, Tydeus, having a message to deliver to Eteocles, king of Thebes, enters the hall of the royal palace, completely armed and on horseback, in the midst of a


magnificent festival. This palace, like a Norman fortress or feudal castle, is guarded with barbicans, portcullises, chains and fos

Adrastus wishes to close his old age in the repose of rural diversions, of hawking and hunting." *

2. Lydgate is justly charged with diffuseness. He accumulates, to wearisomeness, both thoughts and words. But he has an earnestness which often rises into enthusiasm, and which gives a very impressive air to the religious pieces that make up a majority of his minor poems. Although his originality of invention is small

, he sometimes works up borrowed ideas into exceedingly striking combinations. His descriptions of scenery are often excellent.

Some of his smaller compositions illustrate, very instructively, both the literary and the theological character of his time. The survey which we have now nearly completed of the literature of the middle ages, has furnished frequent examples of a fact learned by us in the commencement of our present studies; namely, that almost all the literary productions of those times fall into groups, each of them designed and fitted only for a limited audience. Neither comprehensive observation of society at large, nor a wish to instruct or please a wide and diversified circle of readers, has shown itself in any of the periods we have examined, till we reached the time of Chaucer. He, indeed, was truly a national poet; the shrewd observer of all facts which were poetically available, the active and enlightened teacher of all classes of men who were susceptible of literary instruction. In passing from his works to those of Lydgate, we feel as if we were turning aside from the open highway into the dark and echoing cloisters

. The monk of Bury is thoroughly the monk : he is guided by the monastic spirit, and has the monastic blindness to every thing that happens beyond the convent gate. He, an ecclesiastic living in the generation after Wycliffe, is as strongly imbued with superstitious belief and priestly prejudice, as if he had just returned from the crusades, or had sat at the feet of Saint Dominic. If he was Chaucer's pupil in manner and style, his masters in opinion and sentiment were the compilers of the “Gesta Romanorum.”

By marking carefully, and familiarizing to ourselves by one or two examples, some of the characteristics of Lydgate, the best and most popular of our English poets in the fifteenth century, we shall be prepared to hail with more lively satisfaction those great revolutions which, some generations afterwards, impressed a new and purer stamp alike on the literature and on the religion of the nation.

* Warton : History of English Poetry.

Dan John, like his fellow-monks of earlier times, is fond of satire, and sometimes not unsuccessful in it. In his “ London Lickpenny" he scourges all persons engaged in active business, particularly the lawyers, a class of men towards whom the clergy entertained a heavy grudge, for having gradually wrested from them their old monopoly of public employment. In other pieces he repeats, with great zest, the threadbare jokes on the vices and frailties of the female sex. Several hymns and other devotional pieces are very fine, both in feeling and in diction. A few stories, borrowed from the Latin collections, the French fabliaux, and unknown authorities, are used for inculcating precepts moral and religious, and for enforcing the duties of the laity to the Church. One of the apologues we shall use in part, by and by, as a specimen of the English written in his day. Some of the others are instances of the superstitious tendency lately alluded to; while they are told with a solemn awfulness of tone, which, notwithstanding the frequent intrusion of fantastic levity, gives them no small poetical merit.

One of these recommends the duty of praying for the dead. Wulfric, a priest in Wiltshire, had “ a great devotion” for chanting requiems. He died about midnight; and, soon afterwards, a brother-priest went into the church to chant the first service of the day. He sees, rising from the graves in the pavement, figures like children, clad in white : they are departed souls for whom Wulfric has said mass, and who, after prayer for his repose, return into their sepulchres. This short story is well told by the poet. There is yet greater force, with a singularly striking air of ghostly wildness, in a much longer piece, a legend of Saint Augustin, the apostle of the Saxons in England. Students in foreign literature will be interested in observing that, in the seventeenth century, the Spanish poet Calderon founded one of his most famous dramas on a similar story. The poem begins with a tedious history of tithes from Melchisedec downwards, summed up with a warning which the tale is intended to make more emphatic. Visiting a village called Compton, Austin endeavours in vain to make the lord of the manor abandon a resolution he had long acted on, of refusing to pay tithe. The saint, on beginning to say mass in the church, sternly commands that every man who is not in a state of grace shall depart from the holy place. Suddenly a tomb is rent asunder; and there issues from it a terrific figure, which crosses the churchyard and stands trembling at the gate. But the bold priest continues the service amidst universal consternation. At its close he questions the spectre, who tells him that he had formerly been lord of the ma

goes to his rest.

nor, had refused to pay tithes, and had died excommunicated Austin asks him to point out the grave of the priest who had ex communicated him; and, this being done, he summons the dead priest to arise and absolve the repentant sinner. The second ghost appears, and obeys the order; and the first one quietly

The living lord of the manor, of course, offers instant payment; and then, abandoning all his possessions, he follows the saint in his mission through the land. Meanwhile, the resuscitated priest is disposed of, in some very impressive stanzas, after a fashion which the poet himself justly calls strange. Austin, by virtue of his miraculous powers, gives him his choice of returning to his grave, or of accompanying him in his preaching of the gospel. The dead man, after moralizing on the miseries of life, prefers to die again ; and the saint approves his resolution.

3. Stephen Hawes, writing in the reign of Henry the Seventh, might be referred either to the fifteenth century or the next. He is remembered as the author of “The Pastime of Pleasure,” a long allegorical poem, in the same taste as the Romance of the Rose. It is whimsical and tedious, but graced, in its personifications, with much more of invention than any other English work near its time; and it exhibits the language as having now assumed, in all essentials, the form in which it was used by the great poets of the Elizabethan age. The prince Graunde Amour, or Great Love, relates in it the history of his own life and death. Inspired, by the report of Fame, with affection for La Bel Pucell, (the Fair Maiden, he is required to make himself worthy of her, by accepting instruction in the Tower of Doctrine. He is there received and taught by the Lady Grammar, and by her sisters Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, and Music; the poet kindly allowing the reader to partake fully in the lessons. Music introduces him to La Bel Pucell, from whom he is then separated, to learn yet more in the Tower of Geometry; and he has afterwards to visit the Tower of Chivalry, and there to be made a knight. He thence goes out on adventures, worships in the temples of Venus and Pallas, is deceived by the dwarf False Report, and kills a giant who has three heads, entitled Imagination, Falsehood, and Perjury. Afterwards he is married to his lady, and lives happily with her; till he is made prisoner by Age, who gives him Policy and Avarice for companions. At length he is slain by Death, buried by Dame Mercy, and has his epitaph engraved by Remembrance.

The embleinatical incidents and characters which have thus been sketched, recall to us the allegorical school of poetry which


was so widely spread throughout the middle ages, and in which Chaucer did not disdain to study. The recollection of them, again, will be useful, when, in becoming acquainted with the Elizabethan masterpieces, we shall see the same turn of thought prevailing in Spenser's immortal Faerie Queene. 4. In quitting this period, we bid adieu to the Metrical Ro

The introduction of these into our tongue had begun, as we have learned, in the latter half of the thirteenth century; and they continued to be composed frequently until about the middle of the fifteenth. They were, to the last, almost always translations or imitations ; but some of the later specimens both show much improvement in literary art, and embrace an increasing variety of topics. The chivalrous stories next began to be usually related in Prose. The most famous of the romances in this shape is also one of the best specimens of our old language, and, with hardly an exception, the most delightful of all repositories of romantic fictions. It is the “Mort Arthur," in which, in the reign of Edward the Fourth, Sir Thomas Mallory, a priest, probably using French compilations in prose, combined into one narrative the leading adventures of the Round Table. As the Romances ceased to be produced, the Ballads may

be said to have gradually taken their place. Indeed, many of these are just fragments of the metrical romances; and many

others are abridgments of them. . Our oldest ballad poetry arose, perhaps, out of attempts to communicate to a popular audience, possessed of little leisure and less patience, the same kind of amusement and excitement which the recital of the romances had been designed to produce among the nobles.

The best of our extant ballads, both Scottish and English, belong, with few exceptions, to the time of Mary Queen of Scots and her English kinswoman and jailer. But the latter half of the fifteenth century appears to have been very fertile both in minstrels and in minstrelsy.

All of us know the famous old chant of which Sir Philip Sidney said, that he could not hear it without feeling himself roused as if by- the blast of a trumpet. “Chevy Chase seems to be the most ancient of those ballads that has been preserved. It may possibly have been written while Henry the Sixth was on the throne. The style is often fiery, like the old war-songs, and much above the feeble, though natural and touching, manner of the later ballads. One of the most remarkable circumstances about this celebrated lay is, that it relates a totally fictitious event with all historical particularity, and with real names.

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