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and Wales. But where a nation is merely disgraced, not crushed, it keeps silence, and waits for a better day. For more than thirty years after the loss of the French provinces, England was distracted and weakened by the civil wars of the Roses. This also was a time unfavourable to poetry, the makers of which then and long afterwards depended on the patronage of the noble and wealthy,—a patronage which, in that time of fierce passions, alternate suffering, and universal disquietude, was not likely to be steadily maintained. Why the fifty years which followed the victory of Bosworth should have been so utterly barren of good poetry, it is less easy to see. All that can be said is, that this was an age of preparation, in which men disentombed and learned to appreciate old treasures, judging that they were much better employed than in attempting to produce new matter, with imperfect means and models. Towards the close of the reign of Henry VIII. were produced the Songs and Sonnettes of the friends Lord Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyat; and Sackville wrote the Induction to the Mirrour for Magistrates in the last year of Mary.
Scotland seems to have been about a century later than England in arriving at the stage of literary culture which Chaucer and his contemporaries illustrate. Several poets of no mean order arose in that country during the period now in question. Of some of these, namely, Dunbar, Gawain Douglas, Lyndsay, and Henryson, we shall presently have to make particular mention.
Stephen Hawes, groom of the chamber to Henry VII., wrote, among other poems, the Pastime of Pleasure, a narrative allegory like the Romance of the Rose, the Vision of Piers Plowman, and so many other favourite poems of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This work is in the seven-line stanza so much employed by Chaucer. The versification has little of the smoothness and music of the great master; it is rough and untunable, like that of Lydgate. An extract from this work will be found in Percy's
Reliques. Hawes must have died after the year 1509, since we have among his poems a Coronation ode cele- • brating the accession of Henry VIII. John Skelton, a secular priest, studied at both universities, and had a high reputation for scholarship in the early part of the sixteenth century. It is certain that his Latin verses are much superior to his serious attempts in English. A long rambling elegy in the seven-line stanza on Henry, fourth Earl of Northumberland, murdered in 1489, will be found in Percy. The versification is even worse than that of Hawes. In Skelton's satires there is a naturalness and a humour, which make them still readable. Several of these contained vigorous attacks on Cardinal Wolsey, to escape from whose wrath Skelton had to take sanctuary at Westminster, and afterwards was protected by Bishop Islip till his death in 1529. Alexander Barclay, a monk, first of Ely, afterwards of Canterbury, is known as the translator, with additions, of Sebastian Brandt's German poem of the Ship of Fools, a satire upon society in general.
Far above these barbarous rhymers rose the poetic genius of Surrey. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, son of the victor of Flodden, was born about the year 1516. At the age of sixteen he was contracted in marriage to the Lady Frances Vere. His Geraldine, to whom so many of his sonnets are addressed, was a daughter of the Earl of Kildare. She slighted his passion; and the rejected lover carried the fiery ardour of his spirit into the scenes of war and diplomacy. Having committed some errors in the conduct of the campaign in France in 1546, he was thrown into prison by order of the "jealous ruthless tyrant,' "*who then sat on the throne, brought to
*Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel, Canto vi.
"Thou jealous ruthless tyrant! Heaven repay
On thee, and on thy children's latest line,
The wild caprice of thy despotic sway,
The murdered Surrey's blood, the tears of Geraldine.”
trial on a trumpery charge of high treason, and beheaded in January 1547, a few days before Henry's death. His Songes and Sonnettes, together with those of Wyat, were first published in 1557. His translation of the second and fourth books of the Æneid is the earliest specimen of blank verse in the language.
Sir Thomas Wyat the elder, a native of Kent, was much employed by Henry VIII. on diplomatic missions, and overexertion in one of these occasioned his early death in 1541. The improvement in grace and polish of style which distinguishes Surrey and Wyat in comparison with their predecessors was unquestionably due to Italian influences. The very term "sonnet," by them first introduced, is taken from the Italian "sonetto." Puttenham, in his Art of Poesie (1589), says of them, that "having travelled into Italie, and there tasted the sweet and stately measures and style of the Italian poesie, as novises newly crept out of the school of Dante, Ariosto, and Petrarch, they greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie from that it had been before, and for that cause may justly be sayd the first · reformers of our English metre and style." He reputes them for "the chief lanternes of light" to all subsequent English poets. "Their conceits were lofty, their style stately, their conveyance cleanly, their termes proper, their metre sweet and well-proportioned: in all imitating very naturally and studiously their master, Francis Petrarch."
John Heywood, called the Epigrammatist, to distinguish him from the dramatist of the same name who flourished in the Elizabethan period, was a favourite at the court both of Henry VIII. and of Mary. He introduced a species of dramatic entertainment, called Interludes, bearing a considerable resemblance to our modern farces. These pieces, as the name implies, were short one-act plays, exhibited between the acts of regular tragedies or comedies. One of the most famous of them is called The Four Ps, in
which a Pardoner, a Poticary (or apothecary), a Palmer, and a Pedlar, are brought upon the stage together.
The earliest mention of a poet laureate, eo nomine, occurs in the reign of Edward IV., by whom John Kaye was appointed to that office. We read of a king's versifier (versificator) as far back as 1251. The change of title admits of a probable explanation. The solemn crowning of Petrarch on the Capitol, in the year 1341, made a profound sensation through all literary circles in Europe. Chaucer, as we have seen, distinguishes Petrarch as "the laureat poete." In the next century we find the dignity of poeta laureatus forming one of the recognized degrees at our universities, and conferred upon proof being given by the candidate of proficiency in grammar, rhetoric, and versification. It is impossible not to connect this practice of laureation with the world-famous tribute rendered by the Romans to the genius of Petrarch. After the institution of the degree, it is easy to understand that the king would select his poet among the poetæ laureati, and that the modest title of versificator would be dropped.
Scottish Poets:-Henryson; Dunbar; Gawain Douglas ;
The present work does not pretend to trace the history of the Scottish poetry; but, in the dearth of genius in England during this period, the rise of several admirable poets in the sister country demands our attention. The earliest of these, Robert Henryson, appears to have died about the end of the fifteenth century. His longest poem, the Testament of Faire Creseyde, a sort of supplement to Chaucer's Troilus and Creseyde, was printed by Urry in his edition of that poet. The pastoral, called Robin and Makyne, is given in Percy's Reliques. The pith of the
*Hazlitt's Johnson's Lives, article Kaye.
story is exactly that which we find in Burns' Duncan Gray, only that in Henryson's poem the parts are reversed; it is the lady who first makes love in vain, and then growing indifferent, is vainly wooed by the shepherd who has repented of his coldness. The Abbey Walk is a beautiful poem of reflexion, the moral of which is, the duty and wisdom of submitting humbly to the will of God in all things.
William Dunbar, the greatest of the old Scottish poets, was a native of East Lothian, and born about the middle of the fifteenth century. He studied at the university of St. Andrew's, perhaps also at Oxford. In early life he entered the novitiate of the Franciscan order, but does not appear to have taken the vows. James IV. attached him by many favours to his person and court, where we have certain evidence of his having lived from 1500 to 1513, the date of Flodden. After that fatal day, on which his royal patron perished, his name vanishes from the Scottish records, and it is merely a loose conjecture which assigns his death to about the year 1520.
Dunbar's most perfect poem is the Thistle and the Rose, written in 1503 to commemorate the nuptials of James IV. and Margaret, daughter of Henry VII. The metre is the Chaucerian heptastich, or seven-line stanza, invented by Chaucer, and employed by all his successors down to Spenser inclusive. The versification is most musical,superior to that of any poet before Spenser except Chaucer, and better than much of his. The influence, both direct and indirect, of the father of our poetry, is visible, not in this poem alone, but throughout the works of the school of writers now under consideration. The poet, according to the approved mediæval usage, falls asleep and has a dream, in which May-the "faire frische May" in which Chaucer so delighted,-appears to him, and commands. him to attend her into a garden and do homage to the flowers, the birds, and the sun. Nature is then introduced,