LONDON: Printed for, and sold by J. DODSLEY, Pall Mall; J. WALTER, Charing Cross; T. BECKET, Strand; J. ROBSON, New Bond-Street; G. ROBINSON, and J. BEW, Pater-noster-Row; and Messrs. FLETCHER, at Oxford. M. DCC. LXXIV.


By his Grace's most obliged, And most obedient Servant, THOMAS WARTON.


IN an age advanced to the highest degree of refinement, that species of curiosity commences, which is busied in contemplating the progress of social life, in displaying the gradations of science, and in tracing the transitions from barbarism to civility.

That these speculations should become the fa­vourite pursuits, and the fashionable topics, of such a period, is extremely natural. We look back on the savage condition of our ancestors with the triumph of superiority; we are pleased to mark the steps by which we have been raised from rudeness to elegance: and our reflections on this subject are accom­panied with a conscious pride, arising in great measure from a tacit comparison of the infinite disproportion between the feeble efforts of remote ages, and our present improvements in knowledge.

[Page ii] In the mean time, the manners, monuments, customs, practices, and opinions of antiquity, by forming so strong a contrast with those of our own times, and by exhibiting human nature and human inventions in new lights, in in unexpected appearances, and in various forms, are objects which forcibly strike a feeling imagination.

Nor does this spectacle afford nothing more than a fruitless gratification to the fancy. It teaches us to set a just estimation on our own acquisitions; and encourages us to cherish that cultivation, which is so closely connected with the existence and the exercise of every social virtue.

On these principles, to develop the dawnings of genius, and to pursue the progress of our national poetry, from a rude origin and obscure beginnings, to its perfection in a polished age, must prove an interesting and instructive investigation. But a his­tory of poetry, for another reason, yet on the same principles, must be more especially productive of en­tertainment and utility. I mean, as it is an art, whose object is human society: as it has the peculiar merit, in its operations on that object, of faithfully re­cording the features of the times, and of preserving [Page iii] the most picturesque and expressive repre­sentations of manners: and, because the first mo­numents of composition in every nation are those of the poet, as it possesses the additional advantage of transmitting to posterity genuine delineations of life in its simplest stages. Let me add, that anec­dotes of the rudiments of a favourite art will always be particularly pleasing. The more early speci­mens of poetry must ever amuse, in proportion to the pleasure which we receive from its finished productions.

Much however depends on the execution of such a design, and my readers are to decide in what degree I have done justice to so specious and promising a disquisition. Yet a few more words will not be perhaps improper, in vindication, or rather in explanation, of the manner in which my work has been conducted. I am sure I do not mean, nor can I pretend, to apologise for its defects.

I have chose to exhibit the history of our poetry in a chronological series: not distributing my mat­ter into detached articles, of periodical divisions, or of general heads. Yet I have not always adhered so scrupulously to the regularity of annals, but that I [Page iv] have often deviated into incidental digressions; and have sometimes stopped in the course of my career, for the sake of recapitulation, for the purpose of collecting scattered notices into a single and uniform point of view, for the more exact inspection of a topic which required a separate consideration, or for a comparative survey of the poetry of other nations.

A few years ago, Mr. MASON, with that liberality which ever accompanies true genius, gave me an authentic copy of Mr. POPE'S scheme of a History of English Poetry, in which our poets were classed under their supposed respective schools. The late lamented Mr. GRAY had also projected a work of this kind, and translated some Runic odes for its illustration, now published: but soon relinquishing the prosecution of a design, which would have de­tained him from his own noble inventions, he most obligingly condescended to favour me with the sub­stance of his plan, which I found to be that of Mr. POPE, considerably enlarged, extended, and improved.

It is vanity in me to have mentioned these com­munications. But I am apprehensive my vanity will justly be thought much greater, when it shall appear, that in giving the history of English poetry, [Page v] I have rejected the ideas of men who are its most distinguished ornaments. To confess the real truth, upon examination and experiment, I soon discovered their mode of treating my subject, plausible as it is, and brilliant in theory, to be attended with difficul­ties and inconveniencies, and productive of embarass­ment both to the reader and the writer. Like other ingenious systems, it sacrificed much useful intelli­gence to the observance of arrangement; and in the place of that satisfaction which results from a clearness and a fulness of information, seemed only to substi­tute the merit of disposition, and the praise of contri­vance. The constraint imposed by a mechanical atten­tion to this distribution, appeared to me to destroy that free exertion of research with which such a history ought to be executed, and not easily recon­cileable with that complication, variety, and extent of materials, which it ought to comprehend.

The method I have pursued, on one account at least, seems preferable to all others. My performance, in its present form, exhibits without transposition the gradual improvements of our poetry, at the same time that it uniformly represents the progression of our language.

[Page vi] Some perhaps will be of opinion, that these annals ought to have commenced with a view of the Saxon poetry. But besides that a legitimate illustration of that jejune and intricate subject would have almost doubled my labour, that the Saxon language is familiar only to a few learned antiquaries, that our Saxon poems are for the most part little more than religious rhapsodies, and that scarce any compositions remain marked with the native images of that people in their pagan state, every reader that reflects but for a mo­ment on our political establishment must perceive, that the Saxon poetry has no connection with the nature and purpose of my present undertaking. Be­fore the Norman accession, which succeeded to the Saxon government, we were an unformed and an unsettled race. That mighty revolution obliterated almost all relation to the former inhabitants of this island; and produced that signal change in our policy, constitution, and public manners, the effects of which have reached modern times. The begin­ning of these annals seems therefore to be most properly dated from that era, when our national character began to dawn.

It was recommended to me, by a person eminent in the republic of letters, totally to exclude from [Page vii] these volumes any mention of the English drama. I am very sensible that a just history of our Stage is alone sufficient to form an entire and extensive work; and this argument, which is by no means pre­cluded by the attempt here offered to the public, still remains separately to be discussed, at large, and in form. But as it was professedly my intention to comprise every species of English Poetry, this, among the rest, of course claimed a place in these annals, and necessarily fell into my general design. At the same time, as in this situation it could only become a subordinate object, it was impossible I should examine it with that critical preci­sion and particularity, which so large, so curious, and so important an article of our poetical literature demands and deserves. To have considered it in its full extent, would have produced the unwieldy excrescence of a disproportionate episode: not to have considered it at all, had been an omission, which must detract from the integrity of my intended plan. I flatter myself however, that from evidences hitherto unexplored, I have recovered hints which may facilitate the labours of those, who shall here­after be inclined to investigate the antient state of dramatic exhibition in this country, with due com­prehension and accuracy.

[Page viii] It will probably be remarked, that the citations in the first volume are numerous, and sometimes very prolix. But it should be remembered, that most of these are extracted from antient manuscript poems never before printed, and hitherto but little known. Nor was it easy to illustrate the darker and more distant periods of our poetry, without producing ample specimens. In the mean time, I hope to merit the thanks of the antiquarian, for enriching the stock of our early literature by these new accessions: and I trust I shall gratify the reader of taste, in having so fre­quently rescued from oblivion the rude inventions and irregular beauties of the heroic tale, or the romantic legend.

The design of the DISSERTATIONS is to prepare the reader, by considering apart, in a connected and comprehensive detail, some material points of a ge­neral and preliminary nature, and which could not either with equal propriety or convenience be intro­duced, at least not so formally discussed, in the body of the book; to establish certain fundamental princi­ples to which frequent appeals might occasionally be made, and to clear the way for various observations arising in the course of my future enquiries.


STATE of Language. Prevalence of the French language before and after the Norman conquest. Specimens of Norman-Saxon poems. Legends in verse. Earliest love-song. Alexan­drine verses. Satirical pieces. First English metrical romance.
Satirical ballad in the thirteenth century. The king's poet. Robert of Gloucester. Antient political ballads. Robert of Brunne. The Brut of England. Le Roman le Rou. Gests and jestours. Erceldoune and Kendale. Bishop Grosthead. Monks write for the Minstrels. Monastic libraries full of romances. Minstrels admitted into the monasteries. Regnorum Chronica and Mirabilia Mundi. Early European travellers into the east. Elegy on Edward the first.
Effects of the increase of tales of chivalry. Rise of chivalry. Crusades. Rise and improvements of Romance. View of the rise of metrical romances. Their currency about the end of the [Page ii] thirteenth century. French minstrels in England. Provencial poets. Popular romances. Dares Phrygius. Guido de Colonna. Fabulous histories of Alexander. Pilpay's Fables. Roman d'Alexandre. Alexandrines. Communications between the French and English minstrels. Use of the Provencial writers. Two sorts of troubadours.
Examination and specimens of the metrical romance of Richard the First. Greek fire. Military machines used in the crusades. Musical instruments of the Saracen armies. Ignorance of geography in the dark ages.
Specimens of other popular metrical romances which appeared about the end of the thirteenth century. Sir Guy. The Squier of Low Degree. Sir Degore. King Robert of Sicily. The King of Tars. Ippomedon. La Mort Arthure. Subjects of antient tapestry.
Adam Davie flourished in the beginning of the fourteenth century. Specimens of his poetry. His Life of Alexander. Robert Baston's comedies. Anecdotes of the early periods of the English, French, and Italian, drama.
Character of the reign of Edward the third. Hampole's Pricke of Conscience.
Pierce Plowman's Visions. Antient state and original institution of fairs. Donat explained. Antichrist.
[Page iii]SECTION IX.
Pierce the Plowman's Crede. Constitution and character of the four orders of mendicant friars. Wickliffe.
Various specimens of alliterative poetry. Antient alliterative hymn to the Virgin Mary.
John Barbour's History of Robert Bruce, and Blind Harry's Sir William Wallace. Historical romances of recent events com­mence about the close of the fourteenth century. Chiesly composed by heralds. Character and business of antient heralds. Narra­tives written by them. Froissart's History. His life and cha­racter. Retrospective view of manners.
General view of the character of Chaucer. Boccacio's Teseide. A Greek poem on that subject. Tournaments at Constantinople. Common practice of the Greek exiles to translate the popular Italian poems. Specimens both of the Greek and Italian Theseid. Critical examination of the Knight's Tale.
The subject of Chaucer continued. His Romaunt of the Rose. William of Lorris and John of Meun. Specimens of the French Le Roman de la Rose. Improved by Chaucer. William of Lorris excells in allegorical personages. Petrarch dislikes this poem.
Chaucer continued. His Troilus and Cresseide. Boccacio's Troilo. Sentimental and pathetic strokes in Chaucer's poem. House of Fame. A Provencial composition. Analysed. Improperly imitated by Pope.
[Page iv]SECTION XV.
Chaucer continued. The supposed occasion of his Canterbury Tales superior to that of Boccacio's Decameron. Squire's Tale, Chaucer's capital poem. Origin of its fictions. Story of Patient Grisilde. Its origin, popularity, and characteristic excellence. How conducted by Chaucer.
Chaucer continued. Tale of the Nun's Priest. Its origin and allusions. January and May. Its imitations. Licentiousness of Boccacio. Miller's Tale. Its singular humour and ridi­culous characters. Other Tales of the comic species. Their ori­gin, allusions, and respective merits. Rime of Sir Thopas. Its design and tendency.
Chaucer continued. General view of the Prologues to the Can­terbury Tales. The Prioresse. The Wife of Bath. The Frankelein. The Doctor of Physicke. State of medical erudition and practice. Medicine and astronomy blended. Chaucer's physician's library. Learning of the Spanish jews. The Sompnour. The Pardonere. The Monke. Qualifica­tions of an abbot. The Frere. The Parsoune. The Squire. English crusades into Lithuania. The Reeve. The Clarke of Oxenford. The Serjeaunt of Lawe. The Hoste. Supple­mental Tale, or History of Beryn. Analysed and examined.
Chaucer continued. State of French and Italian poetry: and their influence on Chaucer. Rise of allegorical composition in the dark ages. Love-courts, and Love-fraternities, in France. Tales of the troubadours. Dolopathos. Boccacio, Dante, and Petrarch. Decline of Provencial poetry. Succeeded in France by a new species. Froissart. The Floure and the Leafe. Floral games in France. Allegorical beings.


THAT peculiar and arbitrary species of Fiction which we commonly call Romantic, was entirely unknown to the writers of Greece and Rome. It appears to have been imported into Europe by a people, whose modes of thinking, and habits of invention, are not natural to that country. It is generally supposed to have been borrowed from the Arabians. But this origin has not been hitherto perhaps examined or ascertained with a sufficient degree of accuracy. It is my present design, by a more distinct and extended inquiry than has yet been applied to the subject, to trace the manner and the period of its introduction into the popular belief, the oral poetry, and the literature, of the Europeans.

It is an established maxim of modern criticism, that the fictions of Arabian imagination were communicated to the [Page] western world by means of the crusades. Undoubtedly those expeditions greatly contributed to propagate this mode of fabling in Europe. But it is evident, although a circum­stance which certainly makes no material difference as to the principles here established, that these fancies were intro­duced at a much earlier period. The Saracens, or Arabians, having been for some time seated on the northern coasts of Africa, entered Spain about the beginning of the eighth cen­tury a. Of this country they soon effected a complete con­quest: and imposing their religion, language, and customs, upon the inhabitants, erected a royal seat in the capital city of Cordoua.

That by means of this establishment they first revived the sciences of Greece in Europe, will be proved at large in another place b: and it is obvious to conclude, that at the same time they disseminated those extravagant inventions which were so peculiar to their romantic and creative genius. A manuscript cited by Du Cange acquaints us, that the Spaniards, soon after the irruption of the Saracens, entirely neglected the study of the Latin language; and captivated with the novelty of the oriental books imported by these strangers, suddenly adopted an unusual pomp of style, and an affected elevation of diction c. The ideal tales of these eastern invaders, recommended by a brilliancy of descrip­tion, a variety of imagery, and an exuberance of invention, hitherto unknown and unfamiliar to the cold and barren conceptions of a western climate, were eagerly caught up, and universally diffused. From Spain, by the communica­tions of a constant commercial intercourse through the ports of Toulon and Marseilles, they soon passed into France and Italy.

[Page] In France, no province, or district, seems to have given these fictions of the Arabians a more welcome or a more early reception, than the inhabitants of Armorica or Basse Bretagne, now Britany; for no part of France can boast so great a number of antient romances c. Many poems of high antiquity, composed by the Armorican bards, still re­main d, and are frequently cited by father Lobineau in his learned history of Basse Bretagne e. This territory was as it were newly peopled in the fourth century by a colony or army of the Welsh, who migrated thither under the con­duct of Maximus a Roman general in Britain f, and Conan [Page] lord of Meiriadoc or Denbigh-land g. The Armoric language now spoken in Britany is a dialect of the Welsh: and so strong a resemblance still subsists between the two languages, that in our late conquest of Belleisle, such of our soldiers as were natives of Wales were understood by the peasantry. Milton, whose imagination was much struck with the old British story, more than once alludes to the Welsh colony planted in Armorica by Maximus and the prince of Meiriadoc. ‘Et tandem ARMORICOS Britonum sub lege colonos h.’ And in the PARADISE LOST he mentions indiscriminately the knights of Wales and Armorica as the customary retinue of king Arthur.

—What resounds
In fable or romance, of Uther's son
Begirt with BRITISH and ARMORIC knights i.

This migration of the Welsh into Britany or Armorica, which during the distractions of the empire, in consequence of the numerous armies of barbarians with which Rome was surrounded on every side, had thrown off its dependence on the Romans, seems to have occasioned a close connection between the two countries for many centuries k. Nor will [Page] it prove less necessary to our purpose to observe, that the Cornish Britons, whose language was another dialect of the antient British, from the fourth or fifth century downwards, maintained a no less intimate correspondence with the natives of Armorica: intermarrying with them, and perpetually re­sorting thither for the education of their children, for ad­vice, for procuring troops against the Saxons, for the pur­poses of traffick, and various other occasions. This con­nection was so strongly kept up, that an ingenious French antiquary supposes, that the communications of the Armori­cans with the Cornish had chiefly contributed to give a roughness or rather hardness to the romance or French language in some of the provinces, towards the eleventh century, which was not before discernible l. And this inter­course will appear more natural, if we consider, that not only Armorica, a maritime province of Gaul, never much frequented by the Romans, and now totally deserted by them, was still in some measure a Celtic nation; but that also the inhabitants of Cornwall, together with those of Devonshire and of the adjoining parts of Somersetshire, intermixing in a very slight degree with the Romans, and having suffered fewer important alterations in their original constitution and customs from the imperial laws and police than any other province of this island, long preserved their genuine manners and British character: and forming a sort of separate princi­pality under the government of a succession of powerful chieftains, usually denominated princes or dukes of Corn­wall, remained partly in a state of independence during the Saxon heptarchy, and were not entirely reduced till the Nor­man conquest. Cornwall, in particular, retained its old Celtic dialect till the reign of Elizabeth m.

[Page] And here I digress a moment to remark, that in the circum­stance just mentioned about Wales, of its connection with Ar­morica, we perceive the solution of a difficulty which at first sight appears extremely problematical: I mean, not only that Wales should have been so constantly made the theatre of the old British chivalry, but that so many of the favorite fictions which occur in the early French romances, should also be literally found in the tales and chronicles of the elder Welsh bards n. It was owing to the perpetual com­munication kept up between the Welsh, and the people of Armorica who abounded in these fictions, and who na­turally took occasion to interweave them into the history of their friends and allies. Nor are we now at a loss to give the reason why Cornwall, in the same French romances, is made the scene and the subject of so many romantic adven­tures o. In the meantime we may observe, what indeed has been already implied, that a strict intercourse was upheld between Cornwall and Wales. Their languages, customs, and alliances, as I have hinted, were the same; and they were separated only by a strait of inconsiderable breadth. Cornwall is frequently styled West-Wales by the British writers. At the invasion of the Saxons, both countries became indiscriminately the receptacle of the fugitive Bri­tons. We find the Welsh and Cornish, as one people, often uniting themselves as in a national cause against the Saxons. They were frequently subject to the same prince p, who sometimes [Page] resided in Wales, and sometimes in Cornwall; and the kings or dukes of Cornwall were perpetually sung by the Welsh bards. Llygad Gwr, a Welsh bard, in his sublime and spirited ode to Llwellyn, son of Grunfludd, the last prince of Wales of the British line, has a wish, ‘"May the prints of the hoofs of my prince's steed be seen as far as CORNWALL q.’ Traditions about king Arthur, to mention no more instances, are as popular in Cornwall as in Wales: and most of the romantic castles, rocks, rivers, and caves, of both nations, are alike at this day distinguished by some noble atchievement, at least by the name, of that celebrated champion. But to return.

About the year 1100, Gualter, archdeacon of Oxford, a learned man, and a diligent collector of histories, travelling through France, procured in Armorica an antient chronicle written in the British or Armorican language, entitled, BRUT­Y-BRENHINED, or THE HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF BRI­TAIN r. This book he brought into England, and communi­cated it to Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Welsh Benedictine monk, an elegant writer of Latin, and admirably skilled in the British tongue. Geoffrey, at the request and recommen­dation of Gualter the archdeacon, translated this British chronicle into Latin s, executing the translation with a tole­rable degree of purity and great fidelity, yet not without [Page] some interpolations s. It was probably finished after the year 1138 t.

[Page] It is difficult to ascertain exactly the period at which our translator's original romance may probably be supposed to have been compiled. Yet this is a curious speculation, and will illustrate our argument. I am inclined to think that the work consists of fables thrown out by different rhap­sodists at different times, which afterwards were collected and digested into an entire history, and perhaps with new decorations of fancy added by the compiler, who most pro­bably was one of the professed bards, or rather a poetical historian, of Armorica or Basse Bretagne. In this state, and under this form, I suppose it to have fallen into the hands of Geoffrey of Monmouth. If the hypothesis hereafter ad­vanced concerning the particular species of fiction on which this narrative is founded, should be granted, it cannot, from what I have already proved, be more antient than the eighth century: and we may reasonably conclude, that it was composed much later, as some considerable length of time must have been necessary for the propagation and establish­ment of that species of fiction. The simple subject of this chronicle, divested of its romantic embellishments, is a de­duction of the Welsh princes from the Trojan Brutus to Cadwallader, who reigned in the seventh century u. It must [Page] be acknowledged, that many European nations were antiently fond of tracing their descent from Troy. Hunnibaldus Fran­cus, in his Latin history of France, written in the sixth cen­tury, beginning with the Trojan war, and ending with Clovis the first, ascribes the origin of the French nation to Francio a son of Priam w. So universal was this humour, and car­ried to such an absurd excess of extravagance, that under the reign of Justinian, even the Greeks were ambitious of being thought to be descended from the Trojans, their an­tient and notorious enemies. Unless we adopt the idea of those antiquaries, who contend that Europe was peopled from Phrygia, it will be hard to discover at what period, or from what source, so strange and improbable a notion could take its rise, especially among nations unacquainted with history, and overwhelmed in ignorance. The most rational mode of accounting for it, is to suppose, that the revival of Virgil's Eneid about the sixth or seventh century, which re­presented the Trojans as the founders of Rome, the capital of the supreme pontiff, and a city on various other accounts in the early ages of christianity highly reverenced and dis­tinguished, occasioned an emulation in many other European nations of claiming an alliance to the same respectable origi­nal. The monks and other ecclesiastics, the only readers and writers of the age, were likely to broach, and were in­terested in propagating, such an opinion. As the more bar­barous countries of Europe began to be tinctured with lite­rature, there was hardly one of them but fell into the fashion of deducing its original from some of the nations most cele­brated in the antient books. Those who did not aspire so [Page] high as king Priam, or who found that claim preoccupied, boasted to be descended from some of the generals of Alexander the Great, from Prusias king of Bithynia, from the Greeks or the Egyptians. It it not in the mean time quite impro­bable, that as most of the European nations were provincial to the Romans, those who fancied themselves to be of Trojan extraction might have imbibed this notion, at least have ac­quired a general knowledge of the Trojan story, from their conquerors: more especially the Britons, who continued so long under the yoke of Rome x. But as to the story of Brutus in particular, Geoffrey's hero, it may be presumed that his legend was not contrived, nor the history of his successors invented, till after the ninth century: for Nennius, who lived about the middle of that century, not only speaks of Brutus with great obscurity and inconsistency, but seems totally uninformed as to every circumstance of the British affairs which preceded Cesar's invasion. There are other proofs that this piece could not have existed before the ninth century. Alfred's Saxon translation of the Mercian law is mentioned y. Charlemagne's Twelve Peers, and by an ana­chronism not uncommon in romance, are said to be present at king Arthur's magnificent coronation in the city of Caer­leon z. It were easy to produce instances, that this chronicle was undoubtedly framed after the legend of saint Ursula, the acts of saint Lucius, and the historical writings of the venerable Bede, had undergone some degree of circulation in the world. At the same time it contains many passages which incline us to determine, that some parts of it at least were written after or about the eleventh century. I will not insist on that passage, in which the title of legate of the apostolic see is attributed to Dubricius in the character of primate of Britain; as it appears for obvious reasons to have been an artful interpolation of the translator, who was an ecclesiastic. But I will select other arguments. Canute's forest, or Cannock-wood [Page] in Staffordshire occurs; and Canute died in the year 1036 z. At the ideal coronation of king Arthur, just mentioned, a tournament is described as exhibited in its highest splendor. ‘"Many knights, says our Armoric fa­bler, famous for feats of chivalry, were present, with ap­parel and arms of the same colour and fashion. They formed a species of diversion, in imitation of a fight on horseback, and the ladies being placed on the walls of the castles, darted amorous glances on the combatants. None of these ladies esteemed any knight worthy of her love, but such as had given proof of his gallantry in three several encounters. Thus the valour of the men encou­raged chastity in the women, and the attention of the wo­men proved an incentive to the soldier's bravery a."’ Here is the practice of chivalry under the combined ideas of love and military prowess, as they seem to have subsisted after the feudal constitution had acquired greater degrees not only of stability but of splendor and refinement b. And although a species of tournament was exhibited in France at the recon­ciliation of the sons of Lewis the feeble, in the close of the ninth century, and at the beginning of the tenth, the co­ronation of the emperor Henry was solemnized with mar­tial entertainments, in which many parties were introduced fighting on horseback; yet it was long afterwards that these games were accompanied with the peculiar formalities, and ceremonious usages, here described c. In the mean time, we [Page] cannot answer for the innovations of a translator in such a description. The burial of Hengist, the Saxon chief, who is said to have been interred not after the pagan fashion, as Geoffrey renders the words of the original, but after the manner of the SOLDANS, is partly an argument that our ro­mance was composed about the time of the crusades. It was not till those memorable campaigns of mistaken devotion had infatuated the western world, that the soldans or sultans of Babylon, of Egypt, of Iconium, and other eastern kingdoms, became familiar in Europe. Not that the notion of this piece being written so late as the crusades in the least invalidates the doctrine delivered in this discourse. Not even if we sup­pose that Geoffrey of Monmouth was its original composer. That notion rather tends to confirm and establish my system. On the whole we may venture to affirm, that this chronicle, supposed to contain the ideas of the Welsh bards, entirely consists of Arabian inventions. And, in this view, no dif­ference is made whether it was compiled about the tenth century, at which time, if not before, the Arabians from their settlement in Spain must have communicated their ro­mantic fables to other parts of Europe, especially to the French; or whether it first appeared in the eleventh cen­tury, after the crusades had multiplied these fables to an ex­cessive degree, and made them universally popular. And al­though the general cast of the inventions contained in this romance is alone sufficient to point out the source from whence they were derived, yet I chuse to prove to a demon­stration what is here advanced, by producing and examining some particular passages.

The books of the Arabians and Persians abound with ex­travagant traditions about the giants Gog and Magog. These they call Jagiouge and Magiouge; and the Caucasian wall, [Page] said to be built by Alexander the Great from the Caspian to the Black Sea, in order to cover the frontiers of his domi­nion, and to prevent the incursions of the Sythians d, is cal­led by the orientals the WALL of GOG and MAGOG e. One of the most formidable giants, according to our Armorican romance, [Page] which opposed the landing of Brutus in Britain, was Goemagot. He was twelve cubits high, and would unroot an oak as easily as an hazel wand: but after a most obsti­nate encounter with Corineus, he was tumbled into the sea from the summit of a steep cliff on the rocky shores of Corn­wall, and dashed in pieces against the huge crags of the de­clivity. The place where he fell, adds our historian, taking its name from the giant's fall, is called LAM-GOEMAGOT, or GOEMAGOT'S LEAP, to this day f. A no less monstrous giant, whom king Arthur slew on Saint Michael's Mount in Corn­wall, is said by this fabler to have come from Spain. Here the origin of these stories is evidently betrayed g. The Ara­bians, or Saracens, as I have hinted above, had conquered Spain, and were settled there. Arthur having killed this redoubted giant, declares, that he had combated with none of equal strength and prowess, since he overcame the mighty giant Ritho, on the mountain Arabius, who had made himself a robe of the beards of the kings whom he had killed. This tale is in Spenser's Faerie Queene. A magician brought from Spain is called to the assistance of Edwin, a prince of Northumberland h, educated under Solomon king of the Armoricans i. In the prophecy of Merlin, delivered to Vorti­gern after the battle of the dragons, forged perhaps by the translator Geoffrey, yet apparently in the spirit and manner of the rest, we have the Arabians named, and their situa­tions in Spain and Africa. ‘"From Conau shall come forth a wild boar, whose tusks shall destroy the oaks of the fo­rests of France. The ARABIANS and AFRICANS shall dread him; and he shall continue his rapid course into the most distant parts of Spain k."’ This is king Arthur. In the same prophecy, mention is made of the ‘"Woods of [Page] Africa."’ In another place Gormund king of the Africans occurs l. In a battle which Arthur fights against the Ro­mans, some of the principal leaders in the Roman army are Alifantinam king of Spain, Pandrasus king of Egypt, Boccus king of the Medes, Evander king of Syria, Micipsa king of Babylon, and a duke of Phrygia m. It is obvious to suppose how these countries became so familiar to the bard of our chronicle. The old fictions about Stonehenge were derived from the same inexhaustible source of extravagant imagina­tion. We are told in this romance, that the giants con­veyed the stones which compose this miraculous monument from the farthest coasts of Africa. Every one of these stones is supposed to be mystical, and to contain a medicinal virtue: an idea drawn from the medical skill of the Arabians n, and more particularly from the Arabian doctrine of attri­buting healing qualities, and other occult properties, to stones o. Merlin's transformation of Uther into Gorlois, and of Ulfin into Bricel, by the power of some medical pre­paration, is a species of Arabian magic, which professed to work the most wonderful deceptions of this kind, and is men­tioned at large hereafter, in tracing the inventions of Chaucer's poetry. The attribution of prophetical language to birds was common among the orientals: and an eagle is supposed to speak at building the walls of the city of Paladur, now Shaftesbury p. The Arabians cultivated the study of philosophy, [Page] particularly astronomy, with amazing ardour o. Hence arose the tradition, reported by our historian, that in king Arthur's reign, there subsisted at Caer-leon in Glamorgan­shire a college of two hundred philosophers, who studied astronomy and other sciences; and who were particularly employed in watching the courses of the stars, and predicting events to the king from their observations p. Edwin's Spanish magician above-mentioned, by his knowledge of the flight of birds, and the courses of the stars, is said to foretell future disasters. In the same strain Merlin, prognosticates Uther's success in battle by the appearance of a comet q. The same enchanter's wonderful skill in mechanical powers, by which he removes the giant's Dance, or Stonehenge, from Ireland into England, and the notion that this stupendous structure was raised by a PROFOUND PHILOSOPHICAL KNOW­LEDGE OF THE MECHANICAL ARTS, are founded on the Arabic literature r. To which we may add king Bladud's magical operations s. Dragons are a sure mark of orientalism. One of these in our romance is a ‘"terrible dragon flying from the west, breathing fire, and illuminating all the country with the brightness of his eyes t."’ In another place we have a giant mounted on a winged dragon: the dragon erects his scaly tail, and wafts his rider to the clouds with great rapidity u.

Arthur and Charlemagne are the first and original heroes of romance. And as Geoffrey's history is the grand repository of the acts of Arthur, so a fabulous history ascribed to Turpin is the ground work of all the chimerical legends which have been related concerning the conquests of Charlemagne and his twelve peers. Its subject is the expulsion of the Saracens [Page] from Spain: and it is filled with fictions evidently cogenial with those which characterise Geoffrey's history w.

Some suppose, as I have hinted above, this romance to have been written by Turpin, a monk of the eighth century; who, for his knowledge of the Latin language, his sanctity, and gallant exploits against the Spanish Saracens, was pre­ferred to the archbishoprick of Rheims by Charlemagne. Others believe it to have been forged under archbishop Turpin's name about that time. Others very soon after­wards, in the reign of Charles the Bald x. That is, about the year 870 y.

Voltaire, a writer of much deeper research than is ima­gined, and the first who has displayed the literature and customs of the dark ages with any degree of penetration and comprehension, speaking of the fictitious tales concern­ing Charlemagne, has remarked, ‘"Ces fables qu'un moine ecrivit au onzieme siecle, sous le nom de l'archeveque Turpin z."’ And it might easily be shewn that just before the commencement of the thirteenth century, romantic stories about Charlemagne were more fashionable than ever among the French minstrels. That is, on the recent pub­lication of this fabulous history of Charlemagne. Historical evidence concurs with numerous internal arguments to prove, that it must have been compiled after the crusades. In the twentieth chapter, a pretended pilgrimage of Charlemagne to the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem is recorded: a forgery [Page] seemingly contrived with a design to give an importance to those wild expeditions, and which would easily be believed when thus authenticated by an archbishop a.

There is another strong internal proof that this romance was written long after the time of Charlemagne. Our his­torian is speaking of the numerous chiefs and kings who came with their armies to assist his hero: among the rest he mentions earl Oell, and adds, ‘"Of this man there is a song commonly sung among the minstrels even to this day b."’ Nor will I believe, that the European art of war, in the eighth century, could bring into the field such a prodigious parade of battering rams and wooden castles, as those with which Charlemagne is said to have besieged the city Agen­num c: the crusades seem to have made these huge military machines common in the European armies. However we may suspect it appeared before, yet not long before, Geof­frey's romance; who mentions Charlemagne's TWELVE PEERS, so lavishly celebrated in Turpin's book, as present at king Arthur's imaginary coronation at Caer-leon. Al­though the twelve peers of France occur in chronicles of the tenth century d; and they might besides have been sug­gested to Geoffrey's original author, from popular traditions and songs of minstrels. We are sure it was extant before the year 1122, for Calixtus the second in that year, by papal [Page] authority, pronounced this history to be genuine e. Mon­sieur Allard affirms, that it was written, and in the eleventh century, at Vienna by a monk of Saint Andrew's f. This monk was probably nothing more than some Latin tran­slator: but a learned French antiquary is of opinion, that it was originally composed in Latin; and moreover, that the most antient romances, even those of the Round Table, were originally written in that language g. Oienhart, and with the greatest probability, supposes it to be the work of a Spaniard. He quotes an authentic manuscript to prove, that it was brought out of Spain into France before the close of the twelfth century h; and that the miraculous exploits performed in Spain by Charlemagne and earl Roland, recorded in this romantic history, were unknown among the French before that period: except only that some few of them were obscurely and imperfectly sketched in the metrical tales of those who sung heroic adventures i. Oienhart's sup­position that this history was compiled in Spain, the centre of oriental fabling in Europe, at once accounts for the na­ture and extravagance of its fictions, and immediately points to their Arabian origin k. As to the French manuscript of [Page] this history, it is a translation from Turpin's Latin, made by Michel de Harnes in the year 1207 l. And, by the way, from the translator's declaration, that there was a great im­propriety in translating Latin prose into verse, we may con­clude, that at the commencement of the thirteenth century the French generally made their translations into verse.

In these two fabulous chronicles the foundations of romance seem to be laid. The principal characters, the leading sub­jects, and the fundamental fictions, which have supplied such ample matter to this singular species of composition, are here first displayed. And although the long continuance of the crusades imported innumerable inventions of a similar complexion, and substituted the atchievements of new cham­pions and the wonders of other countries, yet the tales of Arthur and of Charlemagne, diversified indeed, or enlarged with additional embellishments, still continued to prevail, and to be the favourite topics: and this, partly from their early popularity, partly from the quantity and the beauty of the fictions with which they were at first supported, and especially because the design of the crusades had made those subjects so fashionable in which christians fought with infi­dels. In a word, these volumes are the first specimens [Page] extant in this mode of writing. No European history before these has mentioned giants, enchanters, dragons, and the like monstrous and arbitrary fictions. And the reason is obvious: they were written at a time when a new and unnatural mode of thinking took place in Europe, intro­duced by our communication with the east.

Hitherto I have considered the Saracens either at their immigration into Spain about the ninth century, or at the time of the crusades, as the first authors of romantic fabling among the Europeans. But a late ingenious critic has advanced an hypothesis, which assigns a new source, and a much earlier date, to these fictions. I will cite his opinion of this matter in his own words. ‘"Our old romances of chivalry may be derived in a LINEAL DES­CENT from the antient historical songs of the Gothic bards and scalds.—Many of those songs are still preserved in the north, which exhibit all the seeds of chivalry before it became a solemn institution.—Even the com­mon arbitrary fictions of romance were most of them familiar to the antient scalds of the north, long before the time of the crusades. They believed the existence of giants and dwarfs, they had some notion of fairies, they were strongly possessed with the belief of spells and in­chantment, and were fond of inventing combats with dragons and monsters m."’ Monsieur Mallet, a very able and elegant inquirer into the genius and antiquities of the northern nations, mantains the same doctrine. He seems to think, that many of the opinions and practices of the Goths, however obsolete, still obscurely subsist. He adds, ‘"May we not rank among these, for example, that love and admiration for the profession of arms which prevailed among our ancestors even to fanaticism, and as it were through system, and brave from a point of honour?— [Page] Can we not explain from the Gothic religion, how judi­ciary combats, and proofs by the ordeal, to the astonish­ment of posterity, were admitted by the legislature of all Europe n: and how, even to the present age, the people are still infatuated with a belief of the power of magi­cians, witches, spirits, and genii, concealed under the earth or in the waters?—Do we not discover in these religious opinions, that source of the marvellous with which our ancestors filled their romances; in which we see dwarfs and giants, fairies and demons," &c o.’ And in another place. ‘"The fortresses of the Goths were only rude castles situated on the summits of rocks, and rendered inaccessible by thick misshapen walls. As these walls ran winding round the castles, they often called them by a name which signified SERPENTS or DRAGONS; and in these they usually secured the women and young virgins of distinction, who were seldom safe at a time when so many enterprising heroes were rambling up and down in search of adven­tures. It was this custom which gave occasion to antient romancers, who knew not how to describe any thing simply, to invent so many fables concerning princesses of great beauty guarded by dragons, and afterwards delivered by invincible champions p.’

[Page] I do not mean entirely to reject this hypothesis: but I will endeavour to shew how far I think it is true, and in what manner or degree it may be reconciled with the system delivered above.

A few years before the birth of Christ, soon after Mithri­dates had been overthrown by Pompey, a nation of Asiatic Goths, who possessed that region of Asia which is now called Georgia, and is connected on the south with Persia, alarmed at the progressive encroachments of the Roman armies, re­tired in vast multitudes under the conduct of their leader Odin, or Woden, into the northern parts of Europe, not subject to the Roman government, and settled in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and other districts of the Scandinavian terri­tory q. As they brought with them many useful arts, parti­cularly the knowledge of letters, which Odin is said to have invented r, they were hospitably received by the natives, [Page] and by degrees acquired a safe and peaceable establishment in the new country, which seems to have adopted their lan­guage, laws, and religion. Odin is said to have been stiled a god by the Scandinavians; an appellation which the supe­riour address and specious abilities of this Asiatic chief easily extorted from a more savage and uncivilised people.

This migration is confirmed by the concurrent testimo­nies of various historians: but there is no better evidence of it, than that conspicuous similarity subsisting at this day between several customs of the Georgians, as described by Chardin, and those of certain cantons of Norway and Swe­den, which have preserved their antient manners in the purest degree s. Not that other striking implicit and in­ternal proofs, which often carry more conviction than direct historical assertions, are wanting to point out this migration. The antient inhabitants of Denmark and Nor­way inscribed the exploits of their kings and heroes on rocks, in characters called Runic; and of this practice many marks are said still to remain in those countries t. This art or custom of writing on rocks is Asiatic u. Modern travel­lers report, that there are Runic inscriptions now existing in the deserts of Tartary x. The WRITTEN MOUNTAINS of the Jews are an instance that this fashion was oriental. Antiently, when one of these northern chiefs fell honourably in battle, his weapons, his war-horse, and his wife, were consumed with himself on the same funeral pile y. I need [Page] not remind my readers how religiously this horrible cere­mony of sacrificing the wife to the dead husband is at present observed in the east. There is a very remarkable corre­spondence, in numberless important and fundamental points, between the Druidical and the Persian superstitions: and notwithstanding the evidence of Cesar, who speaks only from popular report, and without precision, on a subject which he cared little about, it is the opinion of the learned Banier, that the Druids were formed on the model of the Magi z. In this hypothesis he is seconded by a modern anti­quary; who further supposes, that Odin's followers im­ported this establishment into Scandinavia, from the con­fines of Persia a. The Scandinavians attributed divine virtue to misletoe; it is mentioned in their EDDA, or system of religious doctrines, where it is said to grow on the west side of Val-hall, or Odin's elysium b. That Druidical rites existed among the Scandinavians we are informed from many antient Erse poems, which say that the British Druids, in the extremity of their affairs, sollicited and obtained aid from Scandinavia c. The Gothic hell exactly resembles that which we find in the religious systems of the Persians, the most abounding in superstition of all the eastern nations. One of the circumstances is, and an oriental idea, that it is full of scorpions and serpents d. The doctrines of Zeno, who borrowed most of his opinions from the Persian philo­sophers, are not uncommon in the EDDA. Lok, the evil [Page] deity of the Goths, is probably the Arimanius of the Per­sians. In some of the most antient Islandic chronicles, the Turks are mentioned as belonging to the jurisdiction of the Scandinavians. Mahomet, not so great an inventor as is imagined, adopted into his religion many favourite no­tions and superstitions from the bordering nations which were the offspring of the Scythians, and especially from the Turks. Accordingly, we find the Alcoran agreeing with the Runic theology in various instances. I will mention only one. It is one of the beatitudes of the Mahometan paradise, that blooming virgins shall administer the most luscious wines. Thus in Odin's Val-hall, or the Gothic elysium, the departed heroes received cups of the strongest mead and ale from the hands of the virgin-goddesses called Valkyres e. Alfred, in his Saxon account of the northern seas, taken from the mouth of Ohther, a Norwegian, who had been sent by that monarch to discover a north-east passage into the Indies, constantly calls these nations the ORIENTALS f. And as these eastern tribes brought with them into the north a certain degree of refinement, of luxury and splendor, which appeared singular and prodigious among barbarians; one of their early historians describes a person better dressed than usual, by saying, ‘"he was so well cloathed, that you might have taken him for one of the Asiatics g."’ Wor­mius mentions a Runic incantation, in which an Asiatic inchantress is invoked h. Various other instances might here [Page] be added, some of which will occasionally arise in the future course of our inquiries.

It is notorious, that many traces of oriental usages are found amongst all the European nations during their pagan state; and this phenomenon is rationally resolved, on the supposition that all Europe was originally peopled from the east. But as the resemblance which the pagan Scandina­vians bore to the eastern nations in manners, monu­ments, opinions, and practices, is so very perceptible and apparent, an inference arises, that their migration from the east must have happened at a period by many ages more recent, and therefore most probably about the time specified by their historians. In the mean time we must re­member, that a distinction is to be made between this expe­dition of Odin's Goths, who formed a settlement in Scandi­navia, and those innumerable armies of barbarous adventu­rers, who some centuries afterwards, distinguished by the same name, at different periods overwhelmed Europe, and at length extinguished the Roman empire.

When we consider the rapid conquests of the nations which may be comprehended under the common name of Scythians, and not only those conducted by Odin, but by Attila, Theodoric, and Genseric, we cannot ascribe such suc­cesses to brutal courage only. To say that some of these irresistible conquerors made war on a luxurious, effeminate, and enervated people, is a plausible and easy mode of ac­counting for their conquests: but this reason will not ope­rate with equal force in the histories of Genghizcan and [Page] Tamerlane, who destroyed mighty empires founded on arms and military discipline, and who baffled the efforts of the ablest leaders. Their science and genius in war, such as it then was, cannot therefore be doubted: that they were not deficient in the arts of peace, I have already hinted, and now proceed to produce more particular proofs. Innumerable and very fundamental errors have crept into our reasonings and systems about savage life, resulting merely from those strong and undistinguishing notions of barbarism, which our prejudices have hastily formed concerning the character of all rude nations i.

Among other arts which Odin's Goths planted in Scandi­navia, their skill in poetry, to which they were addicted in a peculiar manner, and which they cultivated with a won­derful enthusiasm, seems to be most worthy our regard, and especially in our present inquiry.

As the principal heroes of their expedition into the north were honourably distinguished from the Europeans, or ori­ginal Scandinavians, under the name of Asae, or Asiatics, so the verses, or language, of this people, were denominated ASAMAL, or ASIATIC speech k. Their poetry contained not only the praises of their heroes, but their popular traditions and their religious rites; and was filled with those fictions which the most exaggerated pagan superstition would natu­rally implant in the wild imaginations of an Asiatic people. And from this principle alone, I mean of their Asiatic origin, some critics would at once account for a certain capricious spirit of extravagance, and those bold eccentric conceptions, which so strongly distinguish the old northern poetry l. Nor [Page] is this fantastic imagery, the only mark of Asiaticism which appears in the Runic odes. They have a certain sublime and figurative cast of diction, which is indeed one of their pre­dominant characteristics m. I am very sensible that all rude nations are naturally apt to cloath their sentiments in this style. A propensity to this mode of expression is necessarily occasioned by the poverty of their language, which obliges them frequently to substitute similitudes and circumlocu­tions: it arises in great measure from feelings undisguised and unrestrained by custom or art, and from the genuine efforts of nature working more at large in uncultivated minds. In the infancy of society, the passions and the imagination are alike uncontrouled. But another cause seems to have con­curred in producing the effect here mentioned. When ob­vious terms and phrases evidently occurred, the Runic poets are fond of departing from the common and established dic­tion. They appear to use circumlocution and comparisons not as a matter of necessity, but of choice and skill: nor are these metaphorical colourings so much the result of want of words, as of warmth of fancy n.

[Page] Their warmth of fancy, however, if supposed to have proceeded from the principles above suggested, in a few ge­nerations after this migration into Scandinavia, must have lost much of its natural heat and genuine force. Yet ideas and sentiments, especially of this sort, once imbibed, are long remembered and retained, in savage life. Their reli­gion, among other causes, might have contributed to keep this spirit alive; and to preserve their original stock of images, and native mode of expression, unchanged and una­bated by climate or country. In the mean time we may suppose, that the new situation of these people in Scan­dinavia, might have added a darker shade and a more savage complexion to their former fictions and superstitions; and that the formidable objects of nature to which they became familiarised in those northern solitudes, the piny precipices, the frozen mountains, and the gloomy forests, acted on their imaginations, and gave a tincture of horror to their imagery.

A skill in poetry seems in some measure to have been a national science among the Scandinavians, and to have been familiar to almost every order and degree. Their kings and warriors partook of this epidemic enthusiasm, and on fre­quent occasions are represented as breaking forth into spon­taneous songs and verses o. But the exercise of the poetical [Page] talent was properly confined to a stated profession: and with their poetry the Goths imported into Europe a species of poets or singers, whom they called SCALDS or POLISHERS of LANGUAGE. This order of men, as we shall see more distinctly below, was held in the highest honour and vene­ration: they received the most liberal rewards for their verses, attended the festivals of heroic chiefs, accompanied them in battle, and celebrated their victories p.

These Scandinavian bards appear to have been esteemed and entertained in other countries besides their own, and by that means to have probably communicated their fictions to various parts of Europe. I will give my reasons for this supposition.

In the early ages of Europe, before many regular govern­ments took place, revolutions, emigrations, and invasions, were frequent and almost universal. Nations were alternately [Page] destroyed or formed; and the want of political security exposed the inhabitants of every country to a state of eternal fluctuation. That Britain was originally peopled from Gaul, a nation of the Celts, is allowed: but that many colonies from the northern parts of Europe were afterwards suc­cessively planted in Britain and the neighbouring islands, is an hypothesis equally rational, and not altogether destitute of historical evidence. Nor was any nation more likely than the Scandinavian Goths, I mean in their early periods, to make descents on Britain. They possessed the spirit of adventure in an eminent degree. They were habituated to dangerous enterprises. They were acquainted with distant coasts, exercised in navigation, and fond of making expe­ditions, in hopes of conquest, and in search of new acqui­sitions. As to Scotland and Ireland, there is the highest probability, that the Scutes, who conquered both those coun­tries, and possessed them under the names of Albin Scutes and Irin Scutes, were a people of Norway. The Caledo­nians are expressly called by many judicious antiquaries a Scandinavian colony. The names of places and persons, over all that part of Scotland which the Picts inhabited, are of Scandinavian extraction. A simple catalogue of them only, would immediately convince us, that they are not of Celtic, or British, origin. Flaherty reports it as a re­ceived opinion, and a general doctrine, that the Picts mi­grated into Britain and Ireland from Scandinavia q. I for­bear to accumulate a pedantic parade of authorities on this occasion: nor can it be expected that I should enter into a formal and exact examination of this obscure and complicated [Page] subject in its full extent, which is here only intro­duced incidentally. I will only add, that Scotland and Ire­land, as being situated more to the north, and probably less difficult of access than Britain, might have been objects on which our northern adventurers were invited to try some of their earliest excursions: and that the Orkney-islands remained long under the jurisdiction of the Norwegian potentates.

In these expeditions, the northern emigrants, as we shall prove more particularly below, were undoubtedly attended by their scalds or poets. Yet even in times of peace, and without the supposition of conquest or invasion, the Scan­dinavian scalds might have been well known in the British islands. Possessed of a specious and pleasing talent, they fre­quented the courts of the British, Scottish, and Irish chief­tains. They were itinerants by their institution, and made voyages, out of curiosity, or in quest of rewards, to those islands or coasts which lay within the circle of their mari­time knowledge. By these means, they established an in­terest, rendered their profession popular, propagated their art, and circulated their fictions, in other countries, and at a distance from home. Torfaeus asserts positively, that various Islandic odes now remain, which were sung by the Scandinavian bards before the kings of England and Ireland, and for which they received liberal gratuities r. They were more especially caressed and rewarded at the courts of those princes, who were distinguished for their warlike character, and their passion for military glory.

Olaus Wormius informs us, that great numbers of the northern scalds constantly resided in the courts of the kings of Sweden, Denmark, and England s. Hence the tradition in an antient Islandic Saga, or poetical history, may be ex­plained; which says, that Odin's language was originally [Page] used, not only in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, but even in England t. Indeed it may be naturally concluded from these suggestions, that the Scandinavian tongue became fami­liar in the British islands by the songs of the scalds: unless it be rather presumed, that a previous knowledge of that tongue in Britain was the means of facilitating the admission of those poets, and preparing the way for their reception.

And here it will be much to our present argument to observe, that some of the old Gothic and Scandinavian su­perstitions are to this day retained in the English language. MARA, from whence our Night-mare is derived, was in the Runic theology a spirit or spectre of the night, which seized men in their sleep, and suddenly deprived them of speech and motion u. NICKA was the Gothic demon who inha­bited the element of water, and who strangled persons that were drowning w. BOH was one of the most fierce and formidable of the Gothic generals x, and the son of Odin: the mention of whose name only was sufficient to spread an immediate panic among his enemies y.

[Page] The fictions of Odin and of his Scandinavians, must have taken still deeper root in the British islands, at least in England, from the Saxon and Danish invasions.

That the tales of the Scandinavian scalds flourished among the Saxons, who succeeded to the Britons, and became pos­sessors of England in the sixth century, may be justly pre­sumed z. The Saxons were originally seated in the Cimbric Chersonese, or those territories which have been since called Jutland, Angelen, and Holstein; and were fond of tracing the descent of their princes from Odin a. They were there­fore a part of the Scandinavian tribes. They imported with them into England the old Runic language and letters. This appears from inscriptions on coins b, stones c, and other monuments; [Page] and from some of their manuscripts d. It is well known that Runic inscriptions have been discovered in Cum­berland and Scotland: and that there is even extant a coin of king Offa, with a Runic legend e. But the conversion of the Saxons to christianity, which happened before the seventh century, entirely banished the common use of those cha­racters f, which were esteemed unhallowed and necromantic; and with their antient superstitions, which yet prevailed for some time in the popular belief, abolished in some measure their native and original vein of poetic fabling g. They sud­denly became a mild and polished people, addicted to the arts of peace, and the exercise of devotion; and the poems they have left us are chiefly moral rhapsodies, scriptural histories, or religious invocations h. Yet even in these pieces they have frequent allusions to the old scaldic fables and heroes. Thus, in an Anglo-Saxon poem on Judith, Holofernes is [Page] called BALDER, or leader and prince of warriors. And in a poetical paraphrase on Genesis, Abimelech has the same ap­pellation i. This Balder was a famous chieftain of the Asiatic Goths, the son of Odin, and supposed to inhabit a magnificent hall in the future place of rewards. The same Anglo-Saxon paraphrast, in his prosopopea of Satan ad­dressing his companions plunged in the infernal abyss, adopts many images and expressions used in the very sublime des­cription of the Eddic hell k: Henry of Huntingdon com­plains of certain extraneous words and uncommon figures of speech, in a Saxon ode on a victory of king Athelstan l. These were all scaldic expressions or allusions. But I will give a literal English translation of this poem, which can­not be well understood without premising its occasion. In the year 938, Anlaff, a pagan king of the Hybernians and the adjacent isles, invited by Constantine king of the Scots, en­tered the river Abi or Humber with a strong fleet. Our Saxon king Athelstan, and his brother Eadmund Clito, met them with a numerous army, near a place called Brunen­burgh; and after a most obstinate and bloody resistance, drove them back to their ships. The battle lasted from day­break till the evening. On the side of Anlaff were slain six petty kings, and seven chiefs or generals. ‘"King Adelstan, the glory of leaders, the giver of gold chains to his nobles, and his brother Eadmund, both shining with the bright­ness of a long train of ancestors, struck [the adversary] in war; at Brunenburgh, with the edge of the sword, they clove the wall of shields. The high banners fell. The earls of the departed Edward fell; for it was born within them, even from the loins of their kindred, to defend the treasures and the houses of their country, and [Page] their gifts, against the hatred of strangers. The nation of the Scots, and the fatal inhabitants of ships, fell. The hills resounded, and the armed men were covered with sweat. From the time the sun, the king of stars, the torch of the eternal one, rose chearful above the hills, till he returned to his habitation. There lay many of the northern men, pierced with lances; they lay wounded, with their shields pierced through: and also the Scots, the hateful harvest of battle. The chosen bands of the West-Saxons, going out to battle, pressed on the steps of the detested nations, and slew their flying rear with sharp and bloody swords. The soft effeminate men yielded up their spears. The Mercians did not fear or fly the rough game of the hand. There was no safety to them, who sought the land with Anlaff in the bosom of the ship, to die in fight. Five youthful kings fell in the place of fight, slain with swords; and seven captains of Anlaff, with the innumerable army of Scottish mariners: there the lord of the Normans [Northern-men] was chased; and their army, now made small, was driven to the prow of the ship. The ship sounded with the waves; and the king, marching into the yellow sea, escaped alive. And so it was, the wise northern king Constantine, a veteran chief, returning by flight to his own army, bowed down in the camp, left his own son worn out with wounds in the place of slaughter; in vain did he lament his earls, in vain his lost friends. Nor less did Anlaff, the yellow­haired leader, the battle-ax of slaughter, a youth in war, but an old man in understanding, boast himself a con­queror in fight, when the darts flew against Edward's earls, and their banners met. Then those northern sol­diers, covered with shame, the sad refuse of darts in the resounding whirlpool of Humber, departed in their ships with rudders, to seek through the deep the Irish city and their own land. While both the brothers, the [Page] king and Clito, lamenting even their own victory, toge­ther returned home; leaving behind them the flesh-de­vouring raven, the dark-blue toad greedy of slaughter, the black crow with horny bill, and the hoarse toad, the eagle a companion of battles with the devouring kite, and that brindled savage beast the wolf of the wood, to be glutted with the white food of the slain. Never was so great a slaughter in this island, since the Angles and Saxons, the fierce beginners of war, coming hither from the east, and seeking Britain through the wide sea, over­came the Britons excelling in honour, and gained pos­session of their land m."’

This piece, and many other Saxon odes and songs now remaining, are written in a metre much resembling that of the scaldic dialogue at the tomb of Angantyr, which has been beautifully translated into English, in the true spirit of the original, and in a genuine strain of poetry, by Gray. The extemporaneous effusions of the glowing bard seem na­turally to have fallen into this measure, and it was probably more easily suited to the voice or harp. Their versification for the most part seems to have been that of the Runic poetry.

As literature, the certain attendant, as it is the parent, of true religion and civility, gained ground among the Saxons, poetry no longer remained a separate science, and the profession of bard seems gradually to have declined among them: I mean the bard under those appropriated characteristics, and that peculiar appointment, which he sustained among the Scandinavian pagans. Yet their na­tional love of verse and music still so strongly predominated, that in the place of their old scalders a new rank of poets arose, called GLEEMEN or Harpers n. These probably gave [Page] rise to the order of English Minstrels, who flourished till the sixteenth century.

And here I stop to point out one of the principal reasons, why the Scandinavian bards have transmitted to modern times so much more of their native poetry, than the rest of their southern neighbours. It is true, that the inhabitants of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, whether or no from their Asiatic origin, from their poverty which compelled them to seek fortunes at foreign courts by the exercise of a popular art, from the success of their bards, the nature of their republican government, or their habits of unsettled life, were more given to verse than any other Gothic, or even Celtic, tribe. But this is not all: they re­mained pagans, and retained their original manners, much longer than any of their Gothic kindred. They were not completely converted to christianity till the tenth century o. Hence, under the concurrence however of some of the causes just mentioned, their scaldic profession acquired greater degrees of strength and of maturity: and from an uninterrupted pos­session through many ages of the most romantic religious superstitions, and the preservation of those rough manners which are so favourable to the poetical spirit, was enabled to produce, not only more genuine, but more numerous, compo­sitions. True religion would have checked the impetuosity of their passions, suppressed their wild exertions of fancy, and banished that striking train of imagery, which their [Page] poetry derived from a barbarous theology. This circum­stance also suggests to our consideration, those superior advantages and opportunities arising from leisure and length of time, which they enjoyed above others, of circulating their poetry far and wide, of giving a general currency to their mode of fabling, of rendering their skill in versifica­tion more universally and familiarly known, and a more conspicuous and popular object of admiration or imitation to the neighbouring countries. Hence too it has happened, that modern times have not only attained much fuller information concerning their historical transactions, but are so intimately acquainted with the peculiarities of their character.

It is probable, that the Danish invasions produced a con­siderable alteration in the manners of our Anglo-Saxon an­cestors. Although their connections with England were transient and interrupted, and on the whole scarcely lasted two hundred years, yet many of the Danish customs began to prevail among the inhabitants, which seem to have given a new turn to their temper and genius. The Danish fashion of excessive drinking, for instance, a vice almost natural to the northern nations, became so general among the Anglo-Saxons, that it was found necessary to restrain so pernicious and contagious a practice by a particular statute p. Hence it seems likely, that so popular an entertainment as their poetry gained ground; especially if we consider, that in their expeditions against England they were of course attended by many northern scalds, who constantly made a part of their military retinue, and whose language was understood by the Saxons. Rogwald, lord of the Orcades, who was also himself a poet, going on an expedition into Palestine, carried with him two Islandic bards q. The noble ode, called [Page] in the northern chronicles the ELOGIUM OF HACON r, king of Norway, was composed on a battle in which that prince, with eight of his brothers fell, by the scald Eyvynd; who for his superior skill in poetry was called the CROSS of POETS, and fought in the battle which he celebrated. Hacon earl of Norway was accompanied by five celebrated bards in the battle of Jomsburgh: and we are told, that each of them sung an ode to animate the soldiers before the en­gagement began s. They appear to have been regularly brought into action. Olave, a king of Norway, when his army was prepared for the onset, placed three scalds about [Page] him, and exclaimed aloud, ‘"You shall not only record in your verses what you have HEARD, but what you have SEEN."’ They each delivered an ode on the spot t. These northern chiefs appear to have so frequently hazarded their lives with such amazing intrepidity, merely in expecta­tion of meriting a panegyric from their poets, the judges, and the spectators of their gallant behaviour. That scalds were common in the Danish armies when they invaded England, appears from a stratagem of Alfred; who, availing himself of his skill in oral poetry and playing on the harp, entered the Danish camp habited in that character, and procured a hospitable reception. This was in the year 878 u. Anlaff, a Danish king, used the same disguise for re­connoitring the camp of our Saxon monarch Athelstan: tak­ing his station near Athelstan's pavilion, he entertained the king and his chiefs with his verses and music, and was dis­missed with an honourable reward w. As Anlaff's dialect must have discovered him to have been a Dane; here is a proof, of what I shall bring more, that the Saxons, even in the midst of mutual hostilities, treated the Danish scalds with favour and respect. That the Islandic bards were com­mon in England during the Danish invasions, there are numerous proofs. Egill, a celebrated Islandic poet, having murthered the son and many of the friends of Eric Blodoxe, king of Denmark or Norway, then residing in Northum­berland, and which he had just conquered, procured a pardon by singing before the king, at the command of his queen Gunhilde, an extemporaneous ode x. Egill compliments the king, who probably was his patron, with the appellation of the [Page] English chief. ‘"I offer my freight to the king. I owe a poem for my ransom. I present to the ENGLISH CHIEF the mead of Odin y."’ Afterwards he calls this Danish conqueror the commander of the Scottish fleet. ‘"The com­mander of the Scottish fleet fattened the ravenous birds. The sister of Nera [Death] trampled on the foe: she trampled on the evening food of the eagle."’ The Scots usually joined the Danish or Norwegian invaders in their attempts on the northern parts of Britain z: and from this circumstance a new argument arises, to shew the close com­munication and alliance which must have subsisted between Scotland and Scandinavia. Egill, although of the enemy's party, was a singular favourite of king Athelstan. Athelstan once asked Egill how he escaped due punishment from Eric Blodoxe, the king of Northumberland, for the very capital and enormous crime which I have just mentioned. On which Egill immediately related the whole of that transaction to the Saxon king, in a sublime ode still extant a. On another occasion Athelstan presented Egill with two rings, and two large cabinets filled with silver; promising at the same time, to grant him any gift or favour which he should chuse to request. Egill, struck with gratitude, immediately composed a panegyrical poem in the Norwegian language, then com­mon to both nations, on the virtues of Athelstan, which the latter as generously requited with two marcs of pure gold b. Here is likewise another argument that the Saxons had no small esteem for the scaldic poetry. It is highly rea­sonable to conjecture, that our Danish king Canute; a po­tentate of most extensive jurisdiction, and not only king of [Page] England, but of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, was not without the customary retinue of the northern courts, in which the scalds held so distinguished and important a sta­tion. Human nature, in a savage state, aspires to some species of merit; and in every stage of society is alike suscep­tible of flattery, when addressed to the reigning passion. The sole object of these northern princes was military glory. It is certain that Canute delighted in this mode of entertain­ment, which he patronised and liberally rewarded. It is related in KNYTLINGA-SAGA, or Canute's History, that he commanded the scald Loftunga to be put to death, for daring to comprehend his atchievements in too concise a poem. ‘"Nemo, said he, ante te, ausus est de me BREVES CANTILENAS componere."’ A curious picture of the tyrant, the patron, and the barbarian, united! But the bard extorted a speedy pardon, and with much address, by producing the next day before the king at dinner an ode of more than thirty strophes, for which Canute gave him fifty marcs of purified silver c. In the mean time, the Danish language began to grow perfectly familiar in England. It was eagerly learned by the Saxon clergy and nobility, from a principle of ingratiating themselves with Canute: and there are many manuscripts now remaining, by which it will appear, that the Danish runes were much studied among our Saxon ancestors, under the reign of that monarch d.

The songs of the Irish bards are by some conceived to be strongly marked with the traces of scaldic imagination; and these traces, which will be reconsidered, are believed still to survive among a species of poetical historians, whom they call TALE-TELLERS, supposed to be the descendants of the original Irish bards e. A writer of equal elegance and veracity [Page] city relates, ‘"that a gentleman of the north of Ireland has often told me of his own experience, that in his wolf­huntings there, when he used to be abroad in the moun­tains three or four days together, and laid very ill in the night, so as he could not well sleep, they would bring him one of these TALE-TELLERS, that when he lay down would begin a story of a KING, or a GIANT, a DWARF, and a DAMSEL f."’ These are topics in which the Runic poetry is said to have been greatly conversant.

Nor is it improbable that the Welsh bards g might have been acquainted with the Scandinavian scalds. I mean before [Page] their communications with Armorica, mentioned at large above. The prosody of the Welsh bards depended much on alliteration h. Hence they seem to have paid an at­tention to the scaldic versification. The Islandic poets are said to have carried alliteration to the highest pitch of exact­ness in their earliest periods: whereas the Welsh bards of the sixth century used it but sparingly, and in a very imper­fect degree. In this circumstance a proof of imitation, at least of emulation, is implied i. There are moreover, strong instances of conformity between the manners of the two nations; which, however, may be accounted for on general principles arising from our comparative observations on rude life. Yet it is remarkable that mead, the northern nectar, or favourite liquor of the Goths k, who seem to have stamped it with the character of a poetical drink, was no less cele­brated among the Welsh l. The songs of both nations abound [Page] with its praises: and it seems in both to have been alike the delight of the warrior and the bard. Taliessin, as Lhuyd informs us, wrote a panegyrical ode on this inspring beverage of the bee; or, as he translates it, De Mulsorum HYDROMELI k. In Hoel Dha's Welsh laws, translated by Wootton, we have, ‘"In omni convivio in quo MULSUM bibitur l."’ From which passage, it seems to have been served up only at high festivals. By the same constitutions, at every feast in the king's castle­hall, the prefect or marshal of the hall is to receive from the queen, by the hands of the steward, a HORN OF MEAD. It is also ordered, among the privileges annexed to the office of prefect of the royal hall, that the king's bard shall sing to him as often as he pleases m. One of the stated officers of the king's houshold is CONFECTOR MULSI: and this officer, together with the master of the horse n, the master of the hawks, the smith of the palace o, the royal bard p, the first [Page] musicianq, with some others, have a right to ber seated in the hall. We have already seen, that the Scandinavian scalds were well known in Ireland: and there is sufficient evidence to prove, that the Welsh bards were early connected with the Irish. Even so late as the eleventh century, the practice continued among the Welsh bards, of receiving instructions in the bardic profession from Ireland. The Welsh bards were reformed and regulated by Gryffyth ap Conan, king of Wales, in the year 1078. At the same time he brought over with him from Ireland many Irish bards, for the infor­mation and improvement of the Welsh s. Powell acquaints us, that this prince ‘"brought over with him from Ireland divers cunning musicians into Wales, who devised in a manner all the instrumental music that is now there used: as appeareth, as well by the bookes written of the same, [Page] as also by the names of the tunes and measures used among them to this daie t."’ In Ireland, to kill a bard was highly criminal: and to seize his estate, even for the public service and in time of national distress, was deemed an act of sacrilege u. Thus in the old Welsh laws, whoever even slightly injured a bard, was to be fined six cows and one hundred and twenty pence. The murtherer of a bard was to be fined one hundred and twenty-six cows w. Nor must I pass over, what reflects much light on this reasoning, that the establishment of the houshold of the old Irish chiefs, exactly resembles that of the Welsh kings. For, besides the bard, the musician, and the smith, they have both a physician, a huntsman, and other corresponding officers x. We must also remember, that an intercourse was necessarily produced between the Welsh and Scandinavians, from the piratical irruptions of the latter: their scalds, as I have already remarked, were respected and patronised in the courts of those princes, whose territories were the prin­cipal objects of the Danish invasions. Torfaeus expressly affirms this of the Anglo-Saxon and Irish kings; and it is [Page] at least probable, that they were entertained with equal re­gard by the Welsh princes, who so frequently concurred with the Danes in distressing the English. It may be added, that the Welsh, although living in a separate and detached situation, and so strongly prejudiced in favour of their own usages, yet from neighbourhood, and unavoidable communications of various kinds, might have imbibed the ideas of the Scandinavian bards from the Saxons and Danes, after those nations had occupied and overspread all the other parts of our island.

Many pieces of the Scottish bards are still remaining in the high-lands of Scotland. Of these a curious specimen, and which considered in a more extensive and general respect, is a valuable monument of the poetry of a rude period, has lately been given to the world, under the title of the WORKS OF OSSIAN. It is indeed very remarkable, that in these poems, the terrible graces, which so naturally characterise, and so generally constitute, the early poetry of a barbarous people, should so frequently give place to a gentler set of manners, to the social sensibilities of polished life, and a more civilised and elegant species of imagination. Nor is this circumstance, which disarranges all our established ideas concerning the savage stages of society, easily to be accounted for, unless we suppose, that the Celtic tribes, who were so strongly addicted to poetical composition, and who made it so much their study from the earliest times, might by de­grees have attained a higher vein of poetical refinement, than could at first sight or on common principles be expected among nations, whom we are accustomed to call barbarous; that some few instances of an elevated strain of friendship, of love, and other sentimental feelings, ex­isting in such nations, might lay the foundation for intro­ducing a set of manners among the bards, more refined and exalted than the real manners of the country: and that panegyrics on those virtues, transmitted with improvements [Page] from bard to bard, must at length have formed characters of ideal excellence, which might propagate among the peo­ple real manners bordering on the poetical. These poems, however, notwithstanding the difference between the Gothic and the Celtic rituals, contain many visible vestiges of Scan­dinavian superstition. The allusions in the songs of Ossian to spirits, who preside over the different parts and direct the various operations of nature, who send storms over the deep, and rejoice in the shrieks of the shipwrecked mariner, who call down lightning to blast the forest or cleave the rock, and diffuse irresistible pestilence among the people, beautifully conducted indeed, and heightened, under the skilful hand of a master bard, entirely correspond with the Runic system, and breathe the spirit of its poetry. One fiction in particular, the most EXTRAVAGANT in all Ossian's poems, is founded on an essential article of the Runic belief. It is where Fingal fights with the spirit of Loda. Nothing could aggrandise Fingal's heroism more highly than this marvellous encounter. It was esteemed among the antient Danes the most daring act of courage to engage with a ghost y. Had Ossian found it convenient, to have introduced religion into his compositions z, not only a new source had [Page] been opened to the sublime, in describing the rites of sacri­fice, the horrors of incantation, the solemn evocations of infernal beings, and the like dreadful superstitions, but pro­bably many stronger and more characteristical evidences would have appeared, of his knowledge of the imagery of the Scandinavian poets.

Nor must we forget, that the Scandinavians had con­quered many countries bordering upon France in the fourth century a. Hence the Franks must have been in some mea­sure used to their language, well acquainted with their man­ners, and conversant in their poetry. Charlemagne is said to have delighted in repeating the most antient and bar­barous odes, which celebrated the battles of antient kings b. [Page] But we are not informed whether these were Scandinavian, Celtic, or Teutonic poems.

About the beginning of the tenth century, France was invaded by the Normans, or NORTHERN-MEN, an army of adventurers from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. And although the conquerors, especially when their success does not solely depend on superiority of numbers, usually assume [Page] the manners of the conquered, yet these strangers must have still further familiarised in France many of their northern fictions.

From this general circulation in these and other countries, and from that popularity which it is natural to suppose they must have acquired, the scaldic inventions might have taken deep root in Europe c. At least they seem to have prepared the way for the more easy admission of the Arabian fabling about the ninth century, by which they were, however, in great measure, superseded. The Arabian fictions were of a more splendid nature, and better adapted to the increasing civility of the times. Less horrible and gross, they had a novelty, a variety, and a magnificence, which carried with them the charm of fascination. Yet it is probable, that many of the scaldic imaginations might have been blended with the Arabian. In the mean time, there is great reason to believe, that the Gothic scalds enriched their vein of fabling from this new and fruitful source of fiction, opened by the Arabians in Spain, and afterwards propagated by the crusades. It was in many respects cogenial with their own d: and the northern bards, who visited the countries [Page] where these new fancies were spreading, must have been naturally struck with such wonders, and were certainly fond of picking up fresh embellishments, and new strokes of the marvellous, for augmenting and improving their stock of poetry. The earliest scald now on record is not before the year 750. From which time the scalds flourished in the northern countries, till below the year 1157 e. The celebrated ode of Regner Lodbrog was composed about the end of the ninth century f.

And that this hypothesis is partly true, may be concluded from the subjects of some of the old Scandic romances, manuscripts of which now remain in the royal library at Stockholm. The titles of a few shall serve for a specimen; which I will make no apology for giving at large. ‘"SAGAN AF HIALMTER OC OLWER. The History of Hialmter king of Sweden, son of a Syrian princess, and of Olver Jarl. Containing their expeditions into Hunland, and Arabia, with their numerous encounters with the Vikings and the giants. Also their leagues with Alsola, daughter of Ringer king of Arabia, afterwards married to Hervor king of Hunland, &c.—SAGAN AF SIOD. The History of Siod, son of Ridgare king of England; who first was made king of England, afterwards of Babylon and Niniveh. [Page] Comprehending various occurrences in Saxland, Babylon, Greece, Africa, and especially in Eiriceg the region of the giants.—SAGAN AF ALEFLECK. The History of Alefleck, a king of England, and of his expeditions into India and Tartary.—SAGAN AF ERIK WIDFORLA. The History of Eric the traveller, who, with his companion Eric, a Danish prince, undertook a wonderful journey to Odin's Hall, or Oden's Aker, near the river Pison in India h."’ Here we see the circle of the Islandic poetry enlarged; and the names of countries and cities belonging to another quarter of the globe, Arabia, India, Tartary, Syria, Greece, Babylon, and Niniveh, intermixed with those of Hunland, Sweden, and England, and adopted into the northern romantic nar­ratives. Even Charlemagne and Arthur, whose histories, as we have already seen, had been so lavishly decorated by the Arabian fablers, did not escape the Scandinavian scalds i. Accordingly we find these subjects among their Sagas. ‘"SAGAN AF ERIK EINGLANDS KAPPE. The History of Eric, son of king Hiac, king Arthur's chief wrestler.—HISTORICAL RHYMES of king Arthur, containing his league with Charlemagne.—SAGAN AF IVENT. The History of Ivent, king Arthur's principal champion, containing his battles with the giants k.—SAGAN AF [Page] KARLAMAGNUSE OF HOPPUM HANS. The History of Charle­magne, of his champions, and captains. Containing all his actions in several parts. 1. Of his birth and coronation: and the combat of Carvetus king of Babylon, with Od­degir the Dane l. 2. Of Aglandus king of Africa, and of his son Jatmund, and their wars in Spain with Charle­magne. 3. Of Roland, and his combat with Villaline king of Spain. 4. Of Ottuel's conversion to christianity, and his marriage with Charlemagne's daughter. 5. Of Hugh king of Constantinople, and the memorable exploits of his champions. 6. Of the wars of Ferracute king of Spain. 7. Of Charlemagne's atchievements in Rounce­valles, and of his death m."’ In another of the Sagas, Jarl, a magician of Saxland, exhibits his feats of necro­mancy before Charlemagne. We learn from Olaus Magnus, that Roland's magical horn, of which archbishop Turpin relates such wonders, and among others that it might be heard at the distance of twenty miles, was frequently celebrated in the songs of the Islandic bards n. It is not likely that these pieces, to say no more, were composed till the Scandinavian tribes had been converted to christianity; that is, as I have before observed, about the close of the tenth century. These barbarians had an infinite and a national contempt for the christians, whose religion inculcated a spirit of peace, gen­tleness, and civility; qualities so dissimilar to those of their own [Page] ferocious and warlike disposition, and which they naturally interpreted to be the marks of cowardice and pusillanimity o. It has, however, been urged, that as the irruption of the Normans into France, under their leader Rollo, did not take place till towards the beginning of the tenth century, at which period the scaldic art was arrived to the highest perfection in Rollo's native country, we can easily trace the descent of the French and English romances of chivalry from the Northern Sagas. It is supposed, that Rollo carried with him many scalds from the north, who transmitted their skill to their children and successors: and that these, adopting the religion, opinions, and language, of the new country, substituted the heroes of christendom, instead of those of their pagan ancestors, and began to celebrate the feats of Charlemagne, Roland, and Oliver, whose true history they set off and embellished with the scaldic figments of dwarfs, giants, dragons, and inchantments p. There is, however, some reason to believe, that these fictions were current among the French long before; and, if the principles advanced in the former part of this dissertation be true, the fables adhering to Charlemagne's real history must be referred to another source.

Let me add, that the inchantments of the Runic poetry are very different from those in our romances of chivalry. The former chiefly deal in spells and charms, such as would preserve from poison, blunt the weapons of an enemy, pro­cure victory, allay a tempest, cure bodily diseases, or call the dead from their tombs: in uttering a form of mysterious words, or inscribing Runic characters. The magicians of romance are chiefly employed in forming and conducting a train of deceptions. There is an air of barbaric horror in the [Page] incantations of the scaldic fablers: the magicians of romance often present visions of pleasure and delight; and, although not without their alarming terrors, sometimes lead us through flowery forests, and raise up palaces glittering with gold and precious stones. The Runic magic is more like that of Canidia in Horace, the romantic resembles that of Armida in Tasso. The operations of the one are frequently but mere tricks, in comparison of that sublime solemnity of necromantic machinery which the other so awefully displays.

It is also remarkable, that in the earlier scaldic odes, we find but few dragons, giants, and fairies. These were intro­duced afterwards, and are the progeny of Arabian fancy. Nor indeed do these imaginary beings often occur in any of the compositions which preceded the introduction of that species of fabling. On this reasoning, the Irish tale-teller mentioned above, could not be a lineal descendant of the elder Irish bards. The absence of giants and dragons, and, let me add, of many other traces of that fantastic and bril­liant imagery which composes the system of Arabian ima­gination, from the poems of Ossian, are a striking proof of their antiquity. It has already been suggested, at what period, and from what origin, those fancies got footing in the Welsh poetry: we do not find them in the odes of Taliessin or Aneurin q. This reasoning explains an observation [Page] of an ingenious critic in this species of literature, and who has studied the works of the Welsh bards with much attention. ‘"There are not such extravagant FLIGHTS in any poetic compositions, except it be in the EASTERN; to which, as far as I can judge by the few translated speci­mens I have seen, they bear a near resemblance r."’ I will venture to say he does not meet with these flights in the elder Welsh bards. The beautiful romantic fiction, that king Arthur, after being wounded in the fatal battle of Cam­lan, was conveyed by an Elfin princess into the land of Faery, or spirits, to be healed of his wounds, that he reigns there still as a mighty potentate in all his pristine splendour, and will one day return to resume his throne in Britain, and restore the solemnities of his champions, often occurs in the antient Welsh bards s. But not in the most antient. It [Page] is found in the compositions of the Welsh bards only, who flourished after the native vein of British fabling had been tinctured by these FAIRY TALES, which the Arabians had propagated in Armorica, and which the Welsh had received from their connection with that province of Gaul. Such a fiction as this is entirely different from the cast and com­plection of the ideas of the original Welsh poets. It is easy to collect from the Welsh odes, written after the tenth century, many signatures of this EXOTIC imagery. Such as, ‘"Their assault was like strong lions. He is valourous as a lion, who can resist his lance? The dragon of Mona's sons were so brave in fight, that there was horrible con­sternation, and upon Tal Moelvre a thousand banners. Our lion has brought to Trallwng three armies. A dragon he was from the beginning, unterrified in battle. A dragon of Ovain. Thou art a prince firm in battle, like an elephant. Their assault was as of strong lions. The lion of Cemais fierce in the onset, when the army rusheth to be covered with red. He saw Llewellyn like a burning dragon in the strife of Arson. He is furious in fight like an outrageous dragon. Like the roaring of a furious lion, in the search of prey, is thy thirst of praise."’ Instead of producing more proofs from the multitude that might be mentioned, for the sake of illustration of our argument, I will contrast these with some of their natural unadulterated thoughts. ‘"Fetch the drinking horn, whose gloss is like the wave of the sea. Tudor is like a wolf rushing on his prey. They were all covered with blood when they re­turned, and the high hills and the dales enjoyed the sun equally t. O thou virgin, that shinest like the snow on the brows of Aran u: like the fine spiders webs on the grass on a summer's day. The army at Offa's dike panted [Page] for glory, the soldiers of Venedotia, and the men of Lon­don, were as the alternate motion of the waves on the sea­shore, where the sea-mew screams. The hovering crows were numberless: the ravens croaked, they were ready to suck the prostrate carcases. His enemies are scattered as leaves on the side of hills driven by hurricanes. He is a warrior, like a surge on the beach that covers the wild salmons. Her eye was piercing like that of the hawk w: her face shone like the pearly dew on Eryri x. Llewellyn is a hero who setteth castles on fire. I have watched all night on the beach, where the sea-gulls, whose plumes glitter, sport on the bed of billows; and where the herbage, growing in a solitary place, is of a deep green y."’ These images are all drawn from their own country, from their situation and circumstances; and, although highly poetical, are in general of a more sober and temperate colouring. In a word, not only that elevation of allusion, which many suppose to be peculiar to the poetry of Wales, but that fertility of fiction, and those marvellous fables recorded in Geoffrey of Monmouth, which the generality of readers, who do not sufficiently attend to the origin of that historian's ro­mantic materials, believe to be the genuine offspring of the Welsh poets, are of foreign growth. And, to return to the ground of this argument, there is the strongest reason to suspect, that even the Gothic EDDA, or system of poetic mythology of the northern nations, is enriched with those higher strokes of oriental imagination, which the Arabians had communicated to the Europeans. Into this extravagant tissue of unmeaning allegory, false philosophy, and false theology, it was easy to incorporate their most wild and romantic conceptions z.

[Page] It must be confessed, that the ideas of chivalry, the appen­dage and the subject of romance, subsisted among the Goths. But this must be understood under certain limitations. There is no peculiarity which more strongly discriminates the manners of the Greeks and Romans from those of modern times, than that small degree of attention and re­spect with which those nations treated the fair sex, and that inconsiderable share which they were permitted to take in conversation, and the general commerce of life. For the truth of this observation, we need only appeal to the classic writers: in which their women appear to have been devoted to a state of seclusion and obscurity. One is surprised that barbarians should be greater masters of complaisance than the most polished people that ever existed. No sooner was the Roman empire overthrown, and the Goths had over­powered Europe, than we find the female character assuming an unusual importance and authority, and distinguished with new privileges, in all the European governments established by the northern conquerors. Even amidst the confusions of savage war, and among the almost incredible enormities committed by the Goths at their invasion of the empire, they forbore to offer any violence to the women. This perhaps is one of the most striking features in the new state of manners, which took place about the seventh century: and it is to this period, and to this people, that we must refer the origin of gallantry in Europe. The Romans never intro­duced these sentiments into their European provinces.

[Page] The Goths believed some divine and prophetic quality to be inherent in their women; they admitted them into their coun­cils, and consulted them on the public business of the state. They were suffered to conduct the great events which they predicted. Ganna, a prophetic virgin of the Marcomanni, a German or Gaulish tribe, was sent by her nation to Rome, and admitted into the presence of Domitian, to treat con­cerning terms of peace y. Tacitus relates, that Velleda, another German prophetess, held frequent conferences with the Roman generals; and that on some occasions, on account of the sacredness of her person, she was placed at a great distance on a high tower, from whence, like an oracular divinity, she conveyed her answers by some chosen messenger z. She appears to have preserved the supreme rule over her own people and the neighbouring tribes a. And there are other instances, that the government among the antient Germans was sometimes vested in the women b. This practice also prevailed among the Sitones or Norwegians c. The Cimbri, a Scandinavian tribe, were accompanied at their assemblies by venerable and hoary-headed prophetesses, apparelled in long linen vestments of a splendid white d. Their matrons and daughters acquired a reverence from their skill in studying simples, and their knowledge of healing wounds, arts reputed mysterious. The wives frequently attended their husbands in the most perilous expeditions, and fought with great intre­pidity in the most bloody engagements e. These nations dreaded [Page] captivity, more on the account of their women, than on their own: and the Romans, availing themselves of this appre­hension, often demanded their noblest virgins for hostages f. From these circumstances, the women even claimed a sort of precedence, at least an equality subsisted between the sexes, in the Gothic constitutions.

But the deference paid to the fair sex, which produced the spirit of gallantry, is chiefly to be sought for in those strong and exaggerated ideas of female chastity which prevailed among the northern nations. Hence the lover's devotion to his mistress was encreased, his attentions to her service multiplied, his affection heightened, and his sollicitude ag­gravated, in proportion as the difficulty of obtaining her was enhanced: and the passion of love acquired a degree of delicacy, when controlled by the principles of honour and purity. The highest excellence of character then known was a superiority in arms; and that rival was most likely to gain his lady's regard, who was the bravest champion. Here we see valour inspired by love. In the mean time, the same heroic spirit which was the surest claim to the favour of the ladies, was often exerted in their protection: a protection much wanted in an age of rapine, of plunder, and piracy; when the weakness of the softer sex was exposed to conti­nual dangers and unexpected attacks g. It is easy to sup­pose the officious emulation and ardour of many a gallant young warrior, pressing forward to be foremost in this ho­nourable service, which flattered the most agreeable of all passions, and which gratified every enthusiasm of the times, [Page] especially the fashionable fondness for a wandering and mili­tary life. In the mean time, we may conceive the lady thus won, or thus defended, conscious of her own importance, affecting an air of stateliness: it was her pride to have pre­served her chastity inviolate, she could perceive no merit but that of invincible bravery, and could only be approached in terms of respect and submission.

Among the Scandinavians, a people so fond of cloathing adventures in verse, these gallantries must naturally become the subject of poetry, with its fictitious embellishments. Accordingly, we find their chivalry displayed in their odes; pieces, which at the same time greatly confirm these obser­vations. The famous ode of Regner Lodbrog, affords a striking instance; in which, being imprisoned in a loath­some dungeon, and condemned to be destroyed by venomous serpents, he solaces his desperate situation by recollecting and reciting the glorious exploits of his past life. One of these, and the first which he commemorates, was an at­chievement of chivalry. It was the delivery of a beautiful Swedish princess from an impregnable fortress, in which she was forcibly detained by one of her father's captains. Her father issued a proclamation, promising that whoever would rescue the lady, should have her in marriage. Regner suc­ceeded in the attempt, and married the fair captive. This was about the year 860 h. There are other strokes in Reg­ner's ode, which, although not belonging to this particular story, deserve to be pointed out here, as illustrative of our argument. Such as, ‘"It was like being placed near a beau­tiful virgin on a couch.—It was like kissing a young widow in the first seat at a feast. I made to struggle in the twilight that golden-haired chief, who passed his mornings among the young maidens, and loved to converse with [Page] widows.—He who aspires to the love of young virgins, ought always to be foremost in the din of arms i."’ It is worthy of remark, that these sentiments occur to Regner while he is in the midst of his tortures, and at the point of death. Thus many of the heroes in Froissart, in the greatest extremities of danger, recollect their amours, and die think­ing of their mistresses. And by the way, in the same strain, Boh, a Danish champion, having lost his chin, and one of his cheeks, by a single stroke from Thurstain Midlang, only re­flected how he should be received, when thus maimed and disfigured, by the Danish girls. He instantly exclaimed in a tone of savage gallantry, ‘"The Danish virgins will not now willingly or easily give me kisses, if I should perhaps return home k."’ But there is an ode, in the KNYTLINGA-SAGA, written by Harald the VALIANT, which is professedly a song of chivalry; and which; exclusive of its wild spirit of ad­venture, and its images of savage life, has the romantic air of a set of stanzas, composed by a Provencial troubadour. Harald, appears to have been one of the most eminent ad­venturers of his age. He had killed the king of Drontheim in a bloody engagement. He had traversed all the seas, and visited all the coasts, of the north; and had carried his pira­tical enterprises even as far as the Mediterranean, and the shores of Africa. He was at length taken prisoner, and de­tained for some time at Constantinople. He complains in this ode, that the reputation he had acquired by so many hazardous exploits, by his skill in single combat, riding, swimming, gliding along the ice, darting, rowing, and guiding a ship through the rocks, had not been able to make any impression on Elissiff, or Elisabeth, the beautiful daughter of Jarilas, king of Russia l.

Here, however, chivalry subsisted but in its rudiments. Under the feudal establishments, which were soon afterwards erected in Europe, it received new vigour, and was invested [Page] with the formalities of a regular institution. The nature and circumstances of that peculiar model of government, were highly favourable to this strange spirit of fantastic heroism; which, however unmeaning and ridiculous it may seem, had the most serious and salutary consequences in assisting the gene­ral growth of refinement, and the progression of civilisation, in forming the manners of Europe, in inculcating the prin­ciples of honour, and in teaching modes of decorum. The genius of the feudal policy was perfectly martial. A nu­merous nobility, formed into separate principalities, affecting independence, and mutually jealous of their privileges and honours, necessarily lived in a state of hostility. This situa­tion rendered personal strength and courage the most requi­site and essential accomplishments. And hence, even in time of peace, they had no conception of any diversions or public ceremonies, but such as were of the military kind. Yet, as the courts of these petty princes were thronged with ladies of the most eminent distinction and quality, the ruling passion for war was tempered with courtesy. The prize of contending champions was adjudged by the ladies; who did not think it inconsistent to be present or to preside at the bloody spectacles of the times; and who, themselves, seem to have contracted an unnatural and unbecoming ferocity, while they softened the manners of those valorous knights who fought for their approbation. The high notions of a noble descent, which arose from the condition of the feudal constitution, and the ambition of forming an alliance with powerful and opulent families, cherished this romantic system. It was hard to obtain the fair feudatary, who was the object of universal adoration. Not only the splendor of birth, but the magnificent castle surrounded with embattelled walls, guarded with massy towers, and crowned with lofty pinnacles, served to inflame the imagination, and to create an attachment to some illustrious heiress, whose point of honour it was to be chaste and inaccessible. And the difficulty [Page] of success on these occasions, seems in great measure to have given rise to that sentimental love of romance, which acquiesced in a distant respectful admiration, and did not aspire to possession. The want of an uniform administration of justice, the general disorder, and state of universal anarchy, which naturally sprung from the principles of the feudal policy, presented perpetual oppor­tunities of checking the oppressions of arbitrary lords, of delivering captives injuriously detained in the baronial castles, of punishing robbers, of succouring the distressed, and of avenging the impotent and the unarmed, who were every moment exposed to the most licentious insults and injuries. The violence and injustice of the times gave birth to valour and humanity. These acts conferred a lustre and an im­portance on the character of men professing arms, who made force the substitute of law. In the mean time, the crusades, so pregnant with enterprize, heightened the habits of this warlike fanaticism. And when these foreign expedi­tions were ended, in which the hermits and pilgrims of Palestine had been defended, nothing remained to employ the activity of adventurers but the protection of innocence at home. Chivalry by degrees was consecrated by religion, whose authority tinctured every passion, and was engrafted into every institution, of the superstitious ages; and at length composed that singular picture of manners, in which the love of a god and of the ladies were reconciled, the saint and the hero were blended, and charity and revenge, zeal and gallantry, devotion and valour, were united.

Those who think that chivalry started late, from the na­ture of the feudal constitution, confound an improved effect with a simple cause. Not having distinctly considered all the particularities belonging to the genius, manners, and usages of the Gothic tribes, and accustomed to contemplate nations under the general idea of barbarians, they cannot look for the seeds of elegance amongst men, distinguished [Page] only for their ignorance and their inhumanity. The rude origin of this heroic gallantry was quickly overwhelmed and extinguished, by the superior pomp which it necessarily adopted from the gradual diffusion of opulence and civility, and that blaze of splendor with which it was surrounded, amid the magnificence of the feudal solemnities. But above all, it was lost and forgotten in that higher degree of embel­lishment, which at length it began to receive from the repre­sentations of romance.

From the foregoing observations taken together, the following general and comprehensive conclusion seems to result.

Amid the gloom of superstition, in an age of the grossest ignorance and credulity, a taste for the wonders of oriental fiction was introduced by the Arabians into Europe, many countries of which were already seasoned to a reception of its extravagancies, by means of the poetry of the Gothic s [...]alds, who perhaps originally derived their ideas from the fame fruitful region of invention. These fictions, coinciding with the reigning manners, and perpetually kept up and improved in the tales of troubadours and minstrels, seem to have centered about the eleventh century in the ideal histories of Turpin and Geoffrey of Monmouth, which record the supposititious atchievements of Charlemagne and king Arthur, where they formed the ground-work of that species of fabulous narrative called romance. And from these be­ginnings or causes, afterwards enlarged and enriched by kindred fancies fetched from the crusades, that singular and capricious mode of imagination arose, which at length composed the marvellous machineries of the more sublime Italian poets, and of their disciple Spenser.


THE irruption of the northern nations into the western empire, about the beginning of the fourth century, forms one of the most interesting and im­portant periods of modern history. Europe, on this great event, suffered the most memorable revolutions in its govern­ment and manners; and from the most flourishing state of peace and civility, became on a sudden, and for the space of two centuries, the theatre of the most deplorable devastation and disorder. But among the disasters introduced by these irresistible barbarians, the most calamitous seems to have been the destruction of those arts which the Romans still conti­nued so successfully to cultivate in their capital, and which they had universally communicated to their conquered pro­vinces. Towards the close of the fifth century, very few traces of the Roman policy, jurisprudence, sciences, and literature, [Page] remained. Some faint sparks of knowledge were kept alive in the monasteries; and letters and the liberal arts were happily preserved from a total extinction during the confusions of the Gothic invaders, by that slender degree of culture and protection which they received from the prelates of the church, and the religious communities.

But notwithstanding the famous academy of Romea with other literary seminaries had been destroyed by Alaric in the fourth century; yet Theodoric the second, king of the Ostrogoths, a pious and humane prince, restored in some degree the study of letters in that city, and encouraged the pursuits of those scholars who survived this great and general desolation of learning b. He adopted into his service Boe­thius, the most learned and almost only Latin philosopher of that period. Cassiodorus, another eminent Roman scholar, was Theodoric's grand secretary: who retiring into a mo­nastery in Calabria, passed his old age in collecting books, and practising mechanical experiments c. He was the author of many valuable pieces which still remain d. He wrote with little elegance, but he was the first that ever digested a series of royal charts or instruments; a monument of singular utility to the historian, and which has served to throw the [Page] most authentic illustration on the public transactions and legal constitutions of those times. Theodoric's patronage of learning is applauded by Claudian, and Sidonius Apollinaris. Many other Gothic kings were equally attached to the works of peace; and are not less conspicuous for their justice, pru­dence, and temperance, than for their fortitude and magna­nimity. Some of them were diligent in collecting the scat­tered remains of the Roman institutes, and constructing a regular code of jurisprudence d. It is highly probable, that those Goths who became masters of Rome, sooner acquired ideas of civility, from the opportunity which that city above all others afforded them of seeing the felicities of polished life, of observing the conveniencies arising from political economy, of mixing with characters respectable for prudence and learning, and of employing in their counsels men of supe­rior wisdom, whose instruction and advice they found it their interest to follow. But perhaps these northern adventurers, at least their princes and leaders, were not even at their first migrations into the south, so totally savage and uncivilised as we are commonly apt to suppose. Their enemies have been their historians, who naturally painted these violent disturbers of the general repose in the warmest colours. It is not easy to conceive, that the success of their amazing en­terprizes was merely the effect of numbers and tumultuary depredation: nor can I be persuaded, that the lasting and flourishing governments which they established in various parts of Europe, could have been framed by brutal force alone, and the blind efforts of unreflecting savages. Superior strength and courage must have contributed in a consider­able degree to their rapid and extensive conquests; but at the same time, such mighty atchievements could not have been planned and executed without some extraordinary vigour of mind, uniform principles of conduct, and no common talents of political sagacity.

[Page] Although these commotions must have been particularly unfavourable to the more elegant literature, yet Latin poetry, from a concurrence of causes, had for some time begun to relapse into barbarism. From the growing encrease of christianity, it was deprived of its old fabulous embel­lishments, and chiefly employed in composing ecclesiastical hymns. Amid these impediments however, and the necessary degeneration of taste and style, a few poets supported the character of the Roman muse with tolerable dignity, during the decline of the Roman empire. These were Ausonius, Paulinus, Sidonius, Sedulius, Arator, Juvencus, Prosper, and Fortunatus. With the last, who flourished at the be­ginning of the sixth century, and was bishop of Poitiers, the Roman poetry is supposed to have expired.

In the sixth century Europe began to recover some degree of tranquillity. Many barbarous countries during this pe­riod, particularly the inhabitants of Germany, of Friesland, and other northern nations, were converted to the christian faith e. The religious controversies which at this time di­vided the Greek and Latin churches, roused the minds of men to literary enquiries. These disputes in some measure called forth abilities which otherwise would have been un­known and unemployed; and, together with the subtleties of argumentation, insensibly taught the graces of style, and the habits of composition. Many of the popes were persons of distinguished talents, and promoted useful knowledge no less by example than authority. Political union was by degrees established; and regular systems of government, which alone can ensure personal security, arose in the various provinces of Europe occupied by the Gothic tribes. The Saxons had taken possession of Britain, the Franks be­came masters of Gaul, the Huns of Pannonia, the Goths of [Page] Spain, and the Lombards of Italy. Hence leisure and re­pose diffused a mildness of manners, and introduced the arts of peace; and, awakening the human mind to a con­sciousness of its powers, directed its faculties to their proper objects.

In the mean time, no small obstruction to the propagation or rather revival of letters, was the paucity of valuable books. The libraries, particularly those of Italy, which abounded in numerous and inestimable treasures of literature, were every where destroyed by the precipitate rage and undistin­guishing violence of the northern armies. Towards the close of the seventh century, even in the papal library at Rome, the number of books was so inconsiderable, that pope Saint Martin requested Sanctamand bishop of Maestricht, if possible to supply this defect from the remotest parts of Ger­many g. In the year 855, Lupus, abbot of Ferrieres in France, sent two of his monks to pope Benedict the third, to beg a copy of CICERO DE ORATORE, and QUINTILIAN'S INSTITUTES h, and some other books: ‘"for, says the abbot, [Page] although we have part of th [...]se books, yet there is no whole or complete copy of them in all France i".’ Albert abbot of Gemblours, who with incredible labour and immense expence had collected an hundred volumes on theological and fifty on profane subjects, imagined he had formed a splendid library k. About the year 790, Charlemagne granted an unlimited right of hunting to the abbot and monks of Sithiu, for making their gloves and girdles of the skins of the deer they killed, and covers for their books l. We may imagine that these religious were more fond of hunting than reading. It is certain that they were obliged to hunt before they could read: and at least it is probable, that under these circumstances, and of such materials, they did not manufacture many volumes. At the beginning of the tenth century books were so scarce in Spain, that one and the same copy of the bible, Saint Jerom's Epistles, and some volumes of ecclesiastical offices and martyrologies, often served several different monasteries m. Among the constitutions given to the monks of England by archbishop Lanfranc, in the year 1072, the following injunction occurs. At the beginning of Lent, the librarian is ordered to deliver a book to each of the religious: a whole year was allowed for the perusal of this book: and at the returning Lent, those monks who had neglected to read the books they had respectively received, are commanded to prostrate themselves before the [Page] abbot, and to supplicate his indulgence n. This regulation was partly occasioned by the low state of literature which Lanfranc found in the English monasteries. But at the same time it was a matter of necessity, and is in great mea­sure to be referred to the scarcity of copies of useful and suitable authors. In an inventory of the goods of John de Pontissara, bishop of Winchester, contained in his capital palace of Wulvesey, all the books which appear are nothing more than "Septendecem pecie librorum de diversis Scienciis o."’ This was in the year 1294. The same prelate, in the year 1299, borrows of his cathedral convent of St. Swithin at Winchester, BIBLIAM BENE GLOSSATAM, that is, the Bible, with marginal Annotations, in two large folio volumes: but gives a bond for due return of the loan, drawn up with great solemnity p. This Bible had been bequeathed to the convent the same year by Pontissara's predecessor, bishop Ni­cholas de Ely: and in consideration of so important a bequest, that is, "pro bona Biblia dicti episcopi bene glosata," and one hundred marks in money, the monks founded a daily mass for the soul of the donor q. When a single book was bequeathed [Page] to a friend or relation, it was seldom without many restrictions and stipulations r. If any person gave a book to a religious house, he believed that so valuable a donation merited eternal salvation, and he offered it on the altar with great ceremony. The most formidable anathemas were pe­remptorily denounced against those who should dare to alien­ate a book presented to the cloister or library of a religious house. The prior and convent of Rochester declare, that they will every year pronounce the irrevocable sentence of damnation on him who shall purloin or conceal a Latin translation of Aristotle's PHYSICS, or even obliterate the title s. Sometimes a book was given to a monastery on con­dition that the donor should have the use of it during his life: and sometimes to a private person, with the reservation that he who receives it should pray for the soul of his benefactor. The gift of a book to Lincoln cathedral, by bishop Repingdon, in the year 1422, occurs in this form and under these curious circumstances. The memorial is written in Latin, with the bishop's own hand, which I will give in English, at the beginning of Peter's BREVIARY OF THE BIBLE. ‘"I Philip of Repyndon, late bishop of Lincoln, give this book called Peter de Aureolis to the new library to be built within the church of Lincoln: reserving the use and possession of it to Richard Trysely, clerk, canon and pre­bendary of Miltoun, in fee, and to the term of his life: and afterwards to be given up and restored to the said library, or the keepers of the same, for the time being, faithfully and without delay. Written with my own hand, A. D. 1422 t."’ When a book was bought, the [Page] affair was of so much importance, that it was customary to assemble persons of consequence and character, and to make a formal record that they were present on this occasion. Among the royal manuscripts, in the book of the SENTENCES of Peter Lombard, an archdeacon of Lincoln has left this entry u. ‘"This book of the SENTENCES belongs to master Robert, archdeacon of Lincoln, which he bought of Geof­frey the chaplain, brother of Henry vicar of Northelking­ton, in the presence of master Robert de Lee, master John of Lirling, Richard of Luda, clerk, Richard the al­moner, the said Henry the vicar and his clerk, and others: and the said archdeacon gave the said book to God and saint Oswald, and to Peter abbot of Barton, and the con­vent of Barden w."’ The disputed property of a book often occasioned the most violent altercations. Many claims appear to have been made to a manuscript of Matthew Paris, be­longing to the last-mentioned library: in which John Rus­sell, bishop of Lincoln, thus conditionally defends or explains his right of possession. ‘"If this book can be proved to be or to have been the property of the exempt monastery of saint Alban in the diocese of Lincoln, I declare this to be my mind, that, in that case, I use it at present as a loan under favour of those monks who belong to the said monastery. Otherwise, according to the condition under which this book came into my possession, I will that it shall belong to the college of the blessed Win­chester Mary at Oxford, of the foundation of William Wykham. Written with my own hand at Bukdane, 1 Jan. A. D. 1488. Jo. LINCOLN. Whoever shall obliterate or destroy this writing, let him be anathema x."’ About [Page] the year 1225, Roger de Insula, dean of York, gave se­veral Latin bibles to the university of Oxford, with a condition that the students who perused them should de­posit a cautionary pledge y. The library of that university, before the year 1300, consisted only of a few tracts, chained or kept in chests in the choir of St. Mary's church z. In the year 1327, the scholars and citizens of Oxford assaulted and entirely pillaged the opulent Benedictine abbey of the neighbouring town of Abingdon. Among the books they found there, were one hundred psalters, as many grayles, and forty missals, which undoubtedly belonged to the choir of the church: but besides these, there were only twenty­two CODICES, which I interpret books on common subjects a. [Page] And although the invention of paper, at the close of the ele­venth century, contributed to multiply manuscripts, and con­sequently to facilitate knowledge, yet even so late as the reign of our Henry the sixth, I have discovered the following re­markable instance of the inconveniencies and impediments to study, which must have been produced by a scarcity of books. It is in the statutes of St. Mary's college at Oxford, founded as a seminary to Oseney abbey in the year 1446. ‘"Let no scholar occupy a book in the library above one hour, or two hours at most; so that others shall be hin­dered from the use of the same b".’ The famous library established in the university of Oxford, by that munificent patron of literature Humphrey duke of Gloucester, contained only six hundred volumes c. About the commencement of the fourteenth century, there were only four classics in the royal library at Paris. These were one copy of Cicero, Ovid, Lucan, and Boethius. The rest were chiefly books of devo­tion, which included but few of the fathers: many treatises of astrology, geomancy, chiromancy, and medicine, originally written in Arabic, and translated into Latin or French: pandects, chronicles, and romances. This collection was principally made by Charles the fifth, who began his reign [Page] in 1365. This monarch was passionately fond of reading, and it was the fashion to send him presents of books from every part of the kingdom of France. These he ordered to be elegantly transcribed, and richly illuminated; and he placed them in a tower of the Louvre, from thence called, la toure de la libraire. The whole consisted of nine hundred volumes. They were deposited in three chambers; which, on this oc­casion, were wainscotted with Irish oak, and cieled with cypress curiously carved. The windows were of painted glass, fenced with iron bars and copper wire. The English became masters of Paris in the year 1425. On which event the duke of Bedford, regent of France, sent this whole li­brary, then consisting of only eight hundred and fifty-three volumes, and valued at two thousand two hundred and twenty­three livres, into England; where perhaps they became the ground-work of duke Humphrey's library just mentioned e. Even so late as the year 1471, when Louis the eleventh of France borrowed the works of the Arabian physician Rhasis, from the faculty of medicine at Paris, he not only deposited by way of pledge a quantity of valuable plate, but was obliged to procure a nobleman to join with him as surety in a deed f, by which he bound himself to return it under a considerable forfeiture g. The excessive prices of books in the middle ages, afford numerous and curious proofs. I will mention a few only. In the year 1174, Wal­ter prior of St. Swithin's at Winchester, afterwards elected abbot of Westminster, a writer in Latin of the lives of the bishops who were his patrons h, purchased of the monks of [Page] Dorchester in Oxfordshire, Bede's Homilies, and saint Austin's Psalter, for twelve measures of barley, and a pall on which was embroidered in silver the history of saint Birinus con­verting a Saxon king h. Among the royal manuscripts in the British museum there is COMESTOR'S SCHOLASTIC HIS­TORY in French; which, as it is recorded in a blank page at the beginning, was taken from the king of France at the battle of Poitiers; and being purchased by William Montague earl of Salisbury for one hundred mars, was ordered to be sold by the last will of his countess Elizabeth for forty livres i. About the year 1400, a copy of John of Meun's ROMAN DE LA ROSE, was sold before the palace­gate at Paris for forty crowns or thirty-three pounds six and six-pence k. But in pursuit of these anecdotes, I am [Page] imperceptibly seduced into later periods, or rather am deviating from my subject.

After the calamities which the state of literature sustained in consequence of the incursions of the northern nations, the first restorers of the antient philosophical sciences in Europe, the study of which, by opening the faculties and extending the views of mankind, gradually led the way to other parts of learning, were the Arabians. In the beginning of the eighth century, this wonderful people, equally fa­mous for their conquests and their love of letters, in ravaging the Asiatic provinces, found many Greek books, which they read with infinite avidity: and such was the gratification they received from this fortunate acquisition, and so power­fully their curiosity was excited to make further discoveries in this new field of knowledge, that they requested their ca­liphs to procure from the emperor at Constantinople the best Greek writers. These they carefully translated into Arabic k. But every part of the Grecian literature did not equally gratify their taste. The Greek poetry they rejected, because it inculcated polytheism and idolatry, which were inconsistent with their religion. Or perhaps it was too cold and too correct for their extravagant and romantic conceptions l. [Page] Of the Greek history they made no use, because it recorded events which preceded their prophet Mahomet. Accustomed to a despotic empire, they neglected the political systems of the Greeks, which taught republican freedom. For the same reasons they despised the eloquence of the Athenian orators. The Greek ethics were super [...]eded by their Alcoran, and on this account they did not study the works of Plato m. Therefore no other Greek books engaged their attention but those which treated of mathematical, metaphysical, and phy­sical knowledge. Mathematics coincided with their natural turn to astronomy and arithmetic. Metaphysics, or logic, suited their speculative genius, their love of tracing intricate and abstracted truths, and their ambition of being admired for difficult and remote researches. Physics, in which I in­clude medicine, assisted the chemical experiments to which they were so much addicted n: and medicine, while it was connected with chemistry and botany, was a practical art of immediate utility o. Hence they studied Aristotle, Galen, [Page] and Hippocrates, with unremitted ardour and assiduity: they translated their writings into the Arabic tongue p, and by degrees illustrated them with voluminous commentaries q. These Arabic translations of the Greek philosophers produced new treatises of their own, particularly in medicine and me­taphysics. They continued to extend their conquests, and their frequent incursions into Europe before and after the ninth century, and their absolute establishment in Spain, imported the rudiments of useful knowledge into nations in­volved in the grossest ignorance, and unpossessed of the [Page] means of instruction. They founded universities in many cities of Spain and Africa r. They brought with them thei [...] books, which Charlemagne, emperor of France and Ger­many, commanded to be translated from Arabic into Latin s: and which, by the care and encouragement of that liberal prince, being quickly disseminated over his extensive domi­nions, soon became familiar to the western world. Hence it is, that we find our early Latin authors of the dark ages chiefly employed in writing systems of the most abstruse sciences: and from these beginnings the Aristotelic philoso­phy acquired such establishment and authority, that from long prescription it remains to this day the sacred and un­controverted doctrine of our schools t. From this fountain the infatuations of astrology took possession of the middle ages, and were continued even to modern times. To the peculiar genius of this people it is owing, that chemistry became blended with so many extravagancies, obscured with unintelligible jargon, and filled with fantastic notions, mysterious [Page] pretensions, and superstitious operations. And it is easy to conceive, that among these visionary philosophers, so fertile in speculation, logic, and metaphysics, contracted much of that refinement and perplexity, which for so many centuries exercised the genius of profound reasoners and captious disputants, and so long obstructed the progress of true knowledge. It may perhaps be regretted, in the mean time, that this predilection of the Arabian scholars for phi­losophic enquiries, prevented them from importing into Europe a literature of another kind. But rude and barba­rous nations would not have been polished by the history, poetry, and oratory of the Greeks. Although capable of comprehending the solid truths of many parts of science, they are unprepared to be impressed with ideas of elegance, and to relish works of taste. Men must be instructed before they can be refined; and, in the gradations of knowledge, polite literature does not take place till some progress has first been made in philosophy. Yet it is at the same time probable, that the Arabians, among their literary stores, brought into Spain and Italy many Greek authors not of the scientific species u: [Page] and that the migration of this people into the western world, while it proved the fortunate instrument of introducing into Europe some of the Greek classics at a very early period, was moreover a means of preserving those genuine models of composition, and of transmitting them to the present gene­ration u. It is certain, that about the close of the ninth cen­tury, polite letters, together with the sciences, began in some degree to be studied in Italy, France, and Germany. Charlemagne, whose munificence and activity in propagating the Arabian literature has already been mentioned, founded the universities of Bononia, Pavia, Paris, and Osnaburgh. Charles the Bald seconded the salutary endeavours of Char­lemagne. Lothaire, the brother of the latter, erected schools in the eight principal cities of Italy w. The number of mo­nasteries and collegiate churches in those countries was daily encreasing x: in which the youth, as a preparation to the [Page] study of the sacred scriptures, were exercised in reading pro­fane authors, together with the antient doctors of the church, and habituated to a Latin style. The monks of Cassino in Italy were distinguished before the year 1000, not only for their knowledge of the sciences, but their attention to polite learning, and an acquaintance with the classics. Their learned abbot Desiderius collected the best of the Greek and Roman writers. This fraternity not only composed learned treatises in music, logic, aftronomy, and the Vitruvian architecture, but likewise employed a portion of their time in transcribing Tacitus y, Jornandes, Josephus, Ovid's Fasti, Cicero, Seneca, Donatus the grammarian, Virgil, Theocritus, and Homer z.

[Page] In the mean time England shared these improvements in knowledge: and literature, chiefly derived from the same sources, was communicated to our Saxon ancestors about the beginning of the eighth century c. The Anglo-Saxons were converted to christianity about the year 570. In consequence of this event, they soon acquired civility and learning. Hence they necessarily established a communication with Rome, and acquired a familiarity with the Latin language. During this period, it was the prevailing practice among the Saxons, not only of the clergy but of the better sort of laity, to make a voyage to Rome d. It is natural to imagine with what ardour the new converts visited the holy see, which at the same time was fortunately the capital of literature. While they gratified their devotion, undesignedly and im­perceptibly they became acquainted with useful science.

In return, Rome sent her emissaries into Britain. Theo­dore, a monk of Rome, originally a Greek priest, a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, was consecrated archbishop of Canter­bury, and sent into England by pope Vitellian, in the year 688 e. He was skilled in the metrical art, astronomy, arith­metic, church-music, and the Greek and Latin languages f. The new prelate brought with him a large library, as it was called and esteemed, consisting of numerous Greek and Latin authors; among which were Homer in a large volume, written on paper with most exquisite elegance, the homi­lies of saint Chrysostom on parchment, the psalter, and Jo­sephus's Hypomnesticon, all in Greek g. Theodore was accompanied [Page] into England by Adrian, a Neapolitan monk, and a native of Africa, who was equally skilled in sacred and profane learning, and at the same time appointed by the pope to the abbacy of saint Austin's at Canterbury. Bede informs us, that Adrian requested pope Vitellian to confer the arch­bishoprick on Theodore, and that the pope consented on condition that Adrian, ‘"who had been twice in France, and on that account was better acquainted with the nature and difficulties of so long a journey,"’ would conduct Theo­dore into Britain h. They were both escorted to the city of Canterbury by Benedict Biscop, a native of Northumber­land, and a monk, who had formerly been acquainted with them in a visit which he made to Rome i. Benedict seems at this time to have been one of the most distinguished of the Saxon ecclesiastics: availing himself of the arrival of these two learned strangers, under their direction and assistance, he procured workmen from France, and built the monastery of Weremouth in Northumberland. The church he con­structed of stone, after the manner of the Roman architec­ture; and adorned its walls and roof with pictures, which he purchased at Rome, representing among other sacred sub­jects the Virgin Mary, the twelve apostles, the evangelical history, and the visions of the Apocalypse k. The windows were glazed by artists brought from France. But I mention this foundation to introduce an anecdote much to our purpose. [Page] Benedict added to his monastery an ample library, which he stored with Greek and Latin volumes, imported by himself from Italy l. Bede has thought it a matter worthy to be recorded, that Ceolfrid, his successor in the government of Weremouth-abbey, augmented this collection with three volumes of pandects, and a book of cosmography wonderfully enriched with curious workmanship, and bought at Rome m. The example of the pious Benedict was imme­diately followed by Acca bishop of Hexham in the same pro­vince: who having finished his cathedral church by the help of architects, masons, and glasiers hired in Italy, adorned it, according to Leland, with a valuable library of Greek and Latin authors n. But Bede, Acca's cotemporary, relates, that this library was entirely composed of the histories of those apostles and martyrs to whose relics he had dedicated se­veral altars in his church, and other ecclesiastical treatises, which he had collected with infinite labour o. Bede however calls it a most copious and noble library p. Nor is it foreign to our purpose to add, that Acca invited from Kent into Northumberland, and retained in his service during the space of twelve years, a celebrated chantor named Maban: by the assistance of whose instructions and superintendance he not only regulated the church music of his diocese, but in­troduced the use of many Latin hymns hitherto unknown in the northern churches of England q. It appears that before [Page] the arrival of Theodore and Adrian, celebrated schools for educating youth in the sciences had been long established in Kent r. Literature, however, seems at this period to have flourished with equal reputation at the other extremity of the island, and even in our most northern provinces. Ecbert bishop of York, founded a library in his cathedral, which, like some of those already mentioned, is said to have been replenished with a variety of Latin and Greek books s. Alcuine, whom Ecbert appointed his first librarian, hints at this library in a Latin epistle to Charlemagne. ‘"Send me from France some learned treatises, of equal excellence with those which I preserve here in England under my custody, collected by the industry of my master Ecbert: and I will send to you some of my youths, who shall carry with them the flowers of Britain into France. So that there shall not only be an enclosed garden at York, but also at Tours some sprouts of Paradise t," &c.’ William of Malmesbury judged this library to be of sufficient im­portance not only to be mentioned in his history, but to be styled, ‘"Omnium liberalium artium armarium, nobilissimam bibliothecam u."’ This repository remained till the reign of king Stephen, when it was destroyed by fire, with great part of the city of York w. Its founder Ecbert died in the year 767 x. Before the end of the eighth century, the monasteries of Westminster, Saint Alban's, Worcester, Malmesbury, Glas­tonbury, with some others, were founded, and opulently en­dowed. That of Saint Alban's was filled with one hundred monks by king Offa y. Many new bishopricks were also established in England: all which institutions, by multiplying [Page] the number of ecclesiastics, turned the attention of many persons to letters.

The best writers among the Saxons flourished about the eighth century. These were Aldhelm, bishop of Shirburn, Ceolfrid, Alcuine, and Bede; with whom I must also join king Alfred. But in an enquiry of this nature, Alfred de­serves particular notice, not only as a writer, but as the illustrious rival of Charlemagne, in protecting and assisting the restoration of literature. He is said to have founded the university of Oxford; and it is highly probable, that in imi­tation of Charlemagne's similar institutions, he appointed learned persons to give public and gratuitous instructions in theology, but principally in the fashionable sciences of logic, astronomy, arithmetic, and geometry, at that place, which was then a considerable town, and conveniently situated in the neighbourhood of those royal seats at which Alfred chiefly resided. He suffered no priest that was illite­rate to be advanced to any ecclesiastical dignity y. He invited his nobility to educate their sons in learning, and requested those lords of his court who had no children, to send to school such of their younger servants as discovered a pro­mising capacity, and to breed them to the clerical profession z. Alfred, while a boy, had himself experienced the inconve­niencies arising from a want of scholars, and even of com­mon instructors, in his dominions: for he was twelve years of age, before he could procure in the western kingdom a master properly qualified to teach him the alphabet. But, while yet unable to read, he could repeat from memory a great variety of Saxon songs a. He was fond of cultivating [Page] his native tongue: and with a view of inviting the people in general to a love of reading, and to a knowledge of books which they could not otherwise have understood, he tran­slated many Latin authors into Saxon. These, among others, were Boethius OF THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSO­PHY, a manuscript of which of Alfred's age still remains a, Orosius's HISTORY OF THE PAGANS, saint Gregory's PASTORAL CARE, the venerable Bede's ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, and the SOLILOQUIES of saint Austin. Probably saint Austin was selected by Alfred, because he was the favorite author of Charlemagne b. Alfred died in the year 900, and was buried at Hyde abbey, in the suburbs of Winchester, under a sumptuous monument of porphyry c.

Aldhelm, nephew of Ina king of the West Saxons, fre­quently visited France and Italy. While a monk of Malmes­bury in Wiltshire, he went from his monastery to Canter­bury, in order to learn logic, rhetoric, and the Greek lan­guage, of archbishop Theodore, and of Albin abbot of saint Austin's d, the pupil of Adrian e. But he had before acquired [Page] some knowledge of Greek and Latin under Maidulf, an Hi­bernian or Scot, who had erected a small monastery or school at Malmesbury f. Camden affirms, that Aldhelm was the first of the Saxons who wrote in Latin, and that he taught his countrymen the art of Latin versification g. But a very intelligent antiquarian in this sort of literature, men­tions an anonymous Latin poet, who wrote the life of Char­lemagne in verse; and adds, that he was the first of the Saxons that attempted to write Latin verse h. It is however certain, that Aldhelm's Latin compositions, whether in verse or prose, as novelties were deemed extraordinary performan­ces, and excited the attention and admiration of scholars in other countries. A learned cotemporary, who lived in a remote province of a Frankish territory, in an epistle to Ald­helm has this remarkable expression, ‘"VESTRAE LATINITATIS PANEGYRICUS RUMOR has reached us even at this dis­tance i, &c."’ In reward of these uncommon merits he was made bishop of Shirburn in Dorsetshire in the year 705 k. His writings are chiefly theological: but he has likewise left in Latin verse a book of AENIGMATA, copied from a work of the same title under the name of Symposius l, a poem de VIRGINITATE hereafter cited, and treatises on arithmetic, astro­logv, rhetoric, and metre. The last treatise is a proof that the ornaments of composition now began to be studied. Leland mentions his CANTIONES SAXONICAE, one of which continued to be commonly sung in William of Malmesbury's time: and, as it was artfully interspersed with many allusions [Page] to passages of Scripture, was often sung by Aldhelm him­self to the populace in the streets, with a design of alluring the ignorant and idle, by so specious a mode of instruction, to a sense of duty, and a knowledge of religious subjects o. Malmesbury observes, that Aldhelm might be justly deemed ‘"ex acumine Graecum, ex nitore Romanum, et ex pompa Anglum p."’ It is evident, that Malmesbury, while he here characterises the Greeks by their acuteness, took his idea of them from their scientifical literature, which was then only known. After the revival of the Greek philoso­phy by the Saracens, Aristotle and Euclid were familiar in Europe long before Homer and Pindar. The character of Aldhelm is thus drawn by an antient chronicler, ‘"He was an excellent harper, a most eloquent Saxon and Latin poet, a most expert chantor or singer, a DOCTOR EGREGIUS, and admirably versed in the scriptures and the liberal sciences q."’

[Page] Alcuine, bishop Ecbert's librarian at York, was a cotem­porary pupil with Aldhelm under Theodore and Adrian at Canterbury q. During the present period, there seems to have been a close correspondence and intercourse between the French and Anglo-Saxons in matters of literature. Al­cuine was invited from England into France, to superintend the studies of Charlemagne, whom he instructed in logic, rhetoric, and astronomy r. He was also the master of Ra­banus Maurus, who became afterwards the governor and preceptor of the great abbey of Fulda in Germany, one of [Page] the most flourishing seminaries in Europe, founded by Charlemagne, and inhabited by two hundred and seventy monks s. Alcuine was likewise employed by Charlemagne to regulate the lectures and discipline of the universities t, which that prudent and magnificent potentate had newly constituted u. He is said to have joined to the Greek and Latin, an acquaintance with the Hebrew tongue, which perhaps in some degree was known sooner than we may suspect; for at Trinity college in Cambridge there is an He­brew Psalter, with a Normanno-Gallic interlinear version of great antiquity w. Homilies, lives of saints, commentaries on the bible, with the usual systems of logic, astronomy, rhetoric, and grammar, compose the formidable catalogue of Alcuine's numerous writings. Yet in his books of the sciences, he sometimes ventured to break through the pedantic formalities of a systematical teacher: he has thrown one of [Page] his treatises in logic, and I think, another in grammar, into a dialogue between the author and Charlemagne. He first advised Bede to write his ecclesiastical history of England; and was greatly instrumental in furnishing materials for that early and authentic record of our antiquities y.

In the mean time we must not form too magnificent ideas of these celebrated masters of science, who were thus invited into foreign countries to conduct the education of mighty monarchs, and to plan the rudiments of the most illustrious academies. Their merits are in great measure relative. Their circle of reading was contracted, their systems of phi­losophy jejune; and their lectures rather served to stop the growth of ignorance, than to produce any positive or im­portant improvements in knowledge. They were unable to make [...]xcursions from their circumscribed paths of scientific instruction, into the spacious and fruitful regions of liberal and manly study. Those of their hearers, who had passed through the course of the sciences with applause, and aspired to higher acquisitions, were exhorted to read Cassiodorus and Boethius; whose writings they placed at the summit of profane literature, and which they believed to be the great boundaries of human erudition.

I have already mentioned Ceolfrid's presents of books to Benedict's library at Weremouth abbey. He wrote an account of his travels into France and Italy. But his principal work, and I believe the only one preserved, is his diss [...]rtation con­cerning the clerical tonsure, and the rites of celebrating Easter z. This was written at the desire of Naiton, a Pictish king, who dispatched ambassadors to Ceolfrid for informa­tion concerning these important articles; requesting Ceolfrid at the same time to send him some skilful architects, who could build in his country a church of stone, after the [Page] fashion of the Romans a. Ceolfrid died on a journey to Rome, and was buried in a monastery of Navarre, in the year 706 b.

But Bede, whose name is so nearly and necessarily connected with every part of the literature of this pe­riod, and which has therefore been often already mentioned, emphatically styled the Venerable by his cotemporaries, was by far the most learned of the Saxon writers. He was of the northern school, if it may be so called; and was educated in the monastery of saint Peter at Weremouth, under the care of the abbots Ceolfrid and Biscop c. Bale affirms, that Bede learned physics and mathematics from the purest sources, the original Greek and Roman writers on these subjects d. But this hasty assertion, in part at least, may justly be doubted. His knowledge, if we consider his age, was extensive and profound: and it is amazing, in so rude a period, and during a life of no considerable length, he should have made so suc­cessful a progress, and such rapid improvements, in scientifical and philological studies, and have composed so many elabo­rate treatises on different subjects e. It is diverting to see the French critics censuring Bede for credulity: they might as well have accused him of superstition f. There is much [Page] perspicuity and facility in his Latin style. But it is void of elegance, and often of purity; it shews with what grace and propriety he would have written, had his mind been formed on better models. Whoever looks for digestion of mate­rials, disposition of parts, and accuracy of narration, in this writer's historical works, expects what could not exist at that time. He has recorded but few civil transactions: but besides that his history professedly considers ecclesiastical affairs, we should remember, that the building of a church, the preferment of an abbot, the canonisation of a martyr, and the importation into England of the shin-bone of an apostle, were necessarily matters of much more importance in Bede's conceptions than victories or revolutions. He is fond of minute description; but particularities are the fault and often the merit of early historians r. Bede wrote many [Page] pieces of Latin poetry. The following verses from his ME­DITATIO DE DIE JUDICII, a translation of which into Saxon verse is now preserved in the library of Bennet college at Cambridge s, are at least well turned and harmonious.

Inter florigeras foecundi cespitis herbas,
Flamine ventorum resonantibus undique ramis t.

Some of Aldhelm's verses are exactly in this cast, written on the Dedication of the abbey-church at Malmesbury to saint Peter and saint Paul.

Hic celebranda rudisu florescit gloria templi,
Limpida quae sacri celebrat vexilla triumphi.
Hic Petrus et Paulus, tenebrosi lumina mundi,
Praecipui patres populi qui frena gubernant,
Carminibus crebris alma celebrantur in aula.
Claviger o caeli, portam qui pandis in aethra,
Candida qui meritis recludis limina caeli,
Exaudi clemens populorum vota tuorum,
Marcida qui riguis humectant fletibus ora w.

The strict and superabundant attention of these Latin poets to prosodic rules, on which it was become fashionable to write didactic systems, made them accurate to excess in the metrical conformation of their hexameters, and produced a faultless and flowing monotony. Bede died in the monastery of Weremouth, which he never had once quitted, in the year 735 x.

[Page] I have already observed, and from good authorities, that many of these Saxon scholars were skilled in Greek. Yet scarce any considerable monuments have descended to modern times, to prove their familiarity with that language. I will, however, mention such as have occurred to me. Archbishop Parker, or rather his learned scribe Jocelin, affirms, that the copy of Homer, and of some of the other books im­ported into England by archbishop Theodore, as I have above related, remained in his time y. There is however no allusion to Homer, nor any mention made of his name, in the writings of the Saxons now existing z. In the Bodleian library are some extracts from the books of the Prophets in Greek and Latin: the Latin is in Saxon, and the Greek in Latino-greek capital characters. A Latino-greek alphabet is prefixed. In the same manuscript is a chapter of Deutero­nomy, Greek and Latin, but both are in Saxon characters a. In the curious and very valuable library of Bennet college in Cambridge, is a very antient copy of Aldhelm DE LAUDE VIRGINITATIS. In it is inserted a specimen of Saxon poetry full of Latin and Greek words, and at the end of the ma­nuscript some Runic letters occur b. I suspect that their Grecian literature was a matter of ostentation rather than use. William of Malmesbury, in his life of Aldhelm, cen­sures an affectation in the writers of this age; that they were fond of introducing in their Latin compositions a difficult and abstruse word latinised from the Greek c. There are many instances of this pedantry in the early charters of Dugdale's Monasticon. But it is no where more visible than in the LIFE of Saint WILFRID, archbishop of Canterbury, written by Fridegode a monk of Canterbury, in Latin [Page] heroics, about the year 960 d. Malmesbury observes of this author's style, ‘"Latinitatem perosus, Graecitatem amat, Grae­cula verba frequentat e."’ Probably to be able to read Greek at this time was esteemed a knowledge of that language. Eginhart relates, that Charlemagne could speak Latin as fluently as his native Frankish: but slightly passes over his accomplishment in Greek, by artfully saying, that he un­derstood it better than he could pronounce it f. Nor, by the way, was Charlemagne's boasted facility in the Latin so remarkable a prodigy. The Latin language was familiar to the Gauls when they were conquered by the Franks; for they were a province of the Roman empire till the year 485. It was the language of their religious offices, their laws, and public transactions. The Franks who conquered the Gauls at the period just mentioned, still continued this usage, imagining there was a superior dignity in the language of imperial Rome: although this incorporation of the Franks with the Gauls greatly corrupted the latinity of the latter, and had given it a strong tincture of barbarity before the reign of Charlemagne. But while we are bringing proofs which tend to extenuate the notion that Greek was now much known or cultivated, it must not be dissembled, that John Erigena, a native of Aire in Scotland, and one of king Alfred's first lecturers at Oxford g, translated into Latin from the Greek original four large treatises of Dionysius the Areopagite, about the year 860 h. This translation, which [Page] is dedicated to Charles the Bald, abounds with Greek phra­seology and is hardly intelligible to a mere Latin reader. He also translated into Latin the Scholia of saint Maximus on the difficult passages of Gregory Nazianzen i. He frequently visited his munificent patron Charles the Bald, and is said to have taken a long journey to Athens, and to have spent many years in studying not only the Greek but the Arabic and Chaldee languages k.

As to classic authors, it appears that not many of them were known or studied by our Saxon ancestors. Those with which they were most acquainted, either in prose or verse, seem to have been of the lower empire; writers who, in the declension of taste, had superseded the purer and more an­ti [...]nt Roman models, and had been therefore more recen [...]ly and frequently transcribed. I have mentioned Alfred's trans­lations of Boethius and Orosius. Prudentius was also per­haps one of their favorites. In the British Museum there is a manuscript copy of that poet's PSYCOMACHIA. It is illustrated with drawings of historical figures, each of which have an explanatory legend in Latin and Saxon letters; the Latin in large red characters, and the Saxon in black, of great anti­quity l. Prudentius is likewise in Bennet college library at Cambridge, transcribed in the time of Charles the Bald, with several Saxon words written into the text m. Sedulius's hymns are in the same repository in Saxon characters, in a volume containing other Saxon manuscripts n. Bede says, [Page] that Aldhelm wrote his book DE VIRGINITATE, which is both prose and verse, in imitation of the manner of Sedu­lius o. We learn from Gregory of Tours, what is not foreign to our purpose to remark, that king Chilperic, who began to reign in 562, wrote two books of Latin verses in imitation of Sedulius. But it was without any idea of the com­mon quantities p. A manuscript of this poet in the British Museum is bound up with Nennius and Felix's MIRACLES OF SAINT GUTHLAC, dedicated to Alfwold king of the East Angles, and written both in Latin and Saxon q. But these classics were most of them read as books of religion and mo­rality. Yet Aldhelm, in his tract de METRORUM GENERI­BUS, quotes two verses from the third book of Virgil's Georgics r: and in the Bodleian library we find a manuscript of the first book of Ovid's Art of Love, in very antient Saxon characters, accompanied with a British gloss s. And the venerable Bede, having first invoked the Trinity, thus begins a Latin panegyrical hymn on the miraculous virgi­nity of Ethildryde. ‘"Let Virgil sing of wars, I celebrate the gifts of peace. My verses are of chastity, not of the rape of the adulteress Helen. I will chant heavenly bles­sings, not the battles of miserable Troy t."’ These however are rare instances. It was the most abominable heresy to have any concern with the pagan fictions. The graces of composition were not their objects, and elegance found no place amidst their severer pursuits in philosophy and theology 317.

[Page] It is certain that literature was at its height among our Saxon ancestors about the eighth century. These happy be­ginnings were almost entirely owing to the attention of king Alfred, who encouraged learning by his own example, by founding [...]eminaries of instruction, and by rewarding the labours of scholars. But the efforts of this pious monarch were soon blasted by the supineness of his successors, the incursions of the Danes, and the distraction of national af­fairs. Bede, from the establishment of learned bishops in every diocese, and the universal tranquillity which reigned over all the provinces of England, when he finished his ec­clesiastical history, flatters his imagination in anticipating [Page] the most advantageous consequences, and triumphantly closes his narrative with this pleasing presentiment. The Picts, at this period, were at peace with the Saxons or English, and converted to christianity. The Scots lived contented within their own boundary. The Britons or Welsh, from a natural enmity, and a dislike to the catholic institution of keeping Easter, sometimes attempted to disturb the national repose; but they were in some measure subservient to the Saxons. Among the Northumbrians, both the nobility and private persons rather chose their children should receive the mo­nastic tonsure, than be trained to arms x.

But a long night of confusion and gross ignorance suc­ceeded. The principal productions of the most eminent monasteries for three centuries, were incredible legends which discovered no marks of invention, unedifying homilies, and trite expositions of the scriptures. Many bishops and abbots began to consider learning as pernicious to true piety, and confounded illiberal igno [...]ance with christian simplicity. Leland frequently laments the loss of libraries destroyed in the Danish invasions y. Some slight attempts were made for restoring literary pursuits, but with little success. In the tenth century, Oswald archbishop of Canterbury, finding the monasteries of his province extremely ignorant not only in the common elements of grammar, but even in the canonical rules of their respective orders, was obliged to send into France for competent masters, who might remedy these evils z. In the mean time, from perpetual commotions, the manners of the people had degenerated from that mildness which a short interval of peace and letters had introduced, [Page] and the national character had contracted an air of rudenes [...] and ferocity.

England at length, in the beginning of the eleventh cen­tury, received from the Normans the rudiments of that cultivation which it has preserved to the present times. The Normans were a people who had acquired ideas of splendor and refinement from their residence in France; and the gallantries of their f [...]udal system introduced new magni­ficence and elegance among our rough unpolished ancestors. The conqueror's army was composed of the flower of the Norman nobility; who sharing allotments of land in different parts of the new territory, diffused a general knowledge of various improvements entirely unknown in the most flou­rishing eras of the Saxon government, and gave a more libe­ral turn to the manners even of the provincial inhabita [...]ts. That they brought with them the arts, may yet be seen by the castles and churches which they built on a more extensive and stately plan a. Literature, in particular, the chief object of our present research, which had long been reduced to the most abject condition, appeared with new lustre in conse­quence of this important revolution.

Towards the close of the tenth century, an event took place, which gave a new and very fortunate turn to the state of letters in France and Italy. A little before that time, there were no schools in Europe but those whic [...] belonged to the monasteries or episcopal churches; and the monks were almost the only masters employed to educate the youth in the principles of sacred and profane erudition. But at the commencement of the eleventh century, many learned per­sons of the laity, as well as of the clergy, undertook in th [...] [Page] most capital cities of France and Italy this important charge. The Latin versions of the Greek philosophers from the Arabic, had now become so frequent and common, as to fall into the hands of the people; and many of these new preceptors having travelled into Spain with a design of studying in the Arabic schools b, and comprehending in their course of in­stitution, more numerous and useful branches of science than the monastic teachers were acquainted with, commu­nicated their knowledge in a better method, and taught in a much more full, perspicuous, solid, and rational manner. These and other beneficial effects, arising from this practice of admitting others besides ecclesiastics to the profession of letters, and the education of youth, were imported into Eng­land by means of the Norman conquest.

The conqueror himself patronised and loved letters. He filled the bishopricks and abbacies of England with the most learned of his countrymen, who had been educated at the university of Paris, at that time the most flourishing school in Europe. He placed Lanfranc, abbot of the monastery of Saint Stephen at Caen, in the see of Canterbury; an eminent master of logic, the subtleties of which he employed with great dexterity in a famous controversy concerning the real presence. Anselm, an acute metaphysician and theologist, his immediate successor in the same see, was called from the government of the abbey of Bec in Normandy. Herman, a Norman bishop of Salisbury, founded a noble library in the antient cathedral of that see c. Many of the Norman prelates [Page] preferred in England by the conqueror, were polite scholars. Godfrey, prior of Saint Swithin's at Winchester, a native of Cambray, was an elegant Latin epigrammatist, and wrote with the smartness and ease of Martial d. A circumstance, which by the way shews that the literature of the monks at this period was of a more liberal cast than that which we commonly annex to their character and profession. Geoffrey, a learned Norman, was invited from the university of Paris to superintend the direction of the school of the abbey of Dunstable; where he composed a play called the Play of SAINT CATHARINE e, which was acted by his scholars. This was perhaps the first spectacle of the kind that was ever at­tempted, and the first trace of theatrical representation which appeared, in England. Mathew Paris, who first records this anecdote, says, that Geoffrey borrowed copes from the sacrist of the neighbouring abbey of saint Alban's to dress his characters. He was afterwards elected abbot of that opulent monastery f.

[Page] The king himself gave no small countenance to th [...] clergy, in sending his son Henry Beauclerc to the abbey of Abingdon, where he was initiated in the sciences under the care of the abbot Grymbald, and Fa [...]ice a physician of Ox­ford. Robert d'Oilly, constable of Oxford castle, was ordered to pay for the board of the young prince in the convent, which the king himself frequently visited g. Nor was Wil­liam wanting in giving ample revenues to learning: he founded the magnificent abbies of Battel and Selby, wit [...] other smaller convents. His nobles and their successors co­operated with this liberal spirit in erecting many monaste­ries. Herbert de Losinga, a monk of Normandy, bishop of Thetford in Norfolk, instituted and endowed with large possessions a Benedictine abbey at Norwich, consisting of sixty monks. To mention no more instances, such great institutions of persons dedicated to religious and literary leisure, while they diffused an air of civility, and softened the manners of the people in their respective circles, must have afforded powerful invitations to studious pursuits, and have consequently added no small degree of stability to the interests of learning.

By these observations, and others which have occurred in the course of our enquiries, concerning the utility of monas­teries, I certainly do not mean to defend the monastic system. We are apt to pass a general and undistinguishing censure on the monks, and to suppose their foundations to have been the retreats of illiterate indolence at every period of time. B [...]t it should be remembered, that our universities about the time of the Norman conquest, were in a low condition: while the monasteries contained ample endowments and ac­commodations, and were the only respectable seminaries of literature. A few centuries afterwards, as our universities began to flourish, in consequence of the distinctions and [Page] [...]onours which they conferred on scholars, the establishment of colleges, the introduction of new systems of science, the universal ardour which prevailed of breeding almost all persons to letters, and the abolition of that exclusive right of teaching which the ecclesiastics had so long claimed; the monasteries of course grew inattentive to studies, which were more strongly encouraged, more commodiously pursued, and more successfully cultivated, in other places: they gradually became contemptible and unfashionable as nurseries of learn­ing, and their fraternities degenerated into sloth and igno­rance. The most eminent scholars which England produced, both in philosophy and humanity, before and even below the twelfth century, were educated in our religious houses. The encouragement given in the English monasteries for transcribing books, the scarcity of which in the middle ages we have before remarked, was very considerable. In every great abbey there was an apartment called the SCRIPTORIUM: where many writers were constantly busied in transcribing not only the service-books for the choir, but books for the library h. The Scriptorium of Saint Alban's abbey was built by abbot Paulin, a Norman, who ordered many vo­lumes to be written there, about the year 1080. Archbishop Lanfranc furnished the copies i. Estates were often granted for the support of the Scriptorium. That at Saintedmonsbury was endowed with two mills k. The tythes of a rectory were appropriated to the cathedral convent of saint Swithin at [Page] Winchester, ad libros transcribendos, in the year 1171 k. Many instances of this species of benefaction occur from the tenth century. Nigel, in the year 1160, gave the monks of Ely two churches, ad libros faciendos l. This employment appears to have been diligently practised at Croyland; for Ingulphus relates, that when the library of that convent was burnt in the year 1091, seven hundred volumes were consumed n. Fifty-eight volumes were transcribed at Glastonbury, during the government of one abbot, about the year 1300 o. And in the li­brary of this monastery, the richest in England, there were up­wards of four hundred volumes in the year 1248 p. More than eighty books were thus transcribed for saint Alban's abbey, by abbot Wethamstede, who died about 1440 q. Some of these instances are rather below our period; but they illustrate the subject, and are properly connected with those of more antient date. I find some of the classics written in the English monasteries very early. Henry, a Benedictine monk of Hyde-abbey near Winchester, transcribed in the year 1178, Terence, Boethius r, Suetonius s, and Claudian. Of these he formed one book, illuminating the initials, and [Page] forming the brazen bosses of the covers with his own handsu. But this abbot had more devotion than taste: for he exchanged this manuscript a few years afterwards for four missals, the Legend of saint Christopher, and saint Gregory's PASTORAL CARE, with the prior of the neighbour­ing cathedral conventw. Benedict, abbot of Peterborough, author of the Latin chronicle of king Henry the second, amongst a great variety of scholastic and theological treatises, transcribed Seneca's epistles and tragediesx, Terence, Martialy, and Claudian, to which I will add GESTA ALEXANDRIz, about the year 1180a. In a catalogue of theb books of the [Page] library of Glastonbury we find Livy b, Sallust c, Seneca, Tully DE SENECTUTE and AMICITIA d, Virgil, Persius, and Claudian, in the year 1248. Among the royal manuscripts of the British Museum, is one of the twelve books of Statius's Thebaid, supposed to have been written in the tenth century, which once belonged to the cathedral convent of Rochester e. And another of Virgil's Eneid, written in the thirteenth, which came from the library of saint Austin's at Canterbur [...] f. Wallingford, abbot of saint Alban's, gave or sold from the library of that monastery to Richard of Bury, bishop of Durham, author of the PHILOBIBLON, and a great collector of books, Terence, Virgil, Quintilian, and Jerom against Rufinus, together with thirty-two other volumes valued at fifty pounds of silver g. The scarcity of [Page] parchment undoubtedly prevented the transcription of many other books in these societies. About the year 1120, one master Hugh, being appointed by the convent of Saint­edmondsbury in Suffolk to write and illuminate a grand copy of the bible for their library, could procure no parch­ment for this purpose in England h.

In consequence of the taste for letters and liberal studies introduced by the Normans, many of the monks became almost as good critics as catholics; and not only in France but in England, a great variety of Latin writers, who studied the elegancies of style, and the arts of classical composition, appeared soon after the Norman conquest. A view of the writers of this class who flourished in England for the two [Page] subsequent centuries, till the restless spirit of novelty brought on an attention to other studies, necessarily follows from what has been advanced, and naturally forms the conclusion of our present investigation.

Soon after the accession of the conqueror, John commonly called Joannes Grammaticus, having studied polite literature at Paris, which not only from the Norman connection, but from the credit of its professors, became the fashionable university of our countrymen, was employed in educating the sons of the Norman and English nobility i. He wrote an explanation of Ovid's Metamorphoses k, and a treatise on the art of metre or versification l. Among the manuscripts of the library of New College in Oxford, I have seen a book of Latin poetry, and many pieces in Greek, attributed to this writer m. He flourished about the year 1070. In the reign of Henry the first, Laurence, prior of the church of Durham, wrote nine books of Latin elegies. But Leland, who had read all his works, prefers his compositions in oratory; and adds, that for an improvement in rhetoric and eloquence, he frequently exercised his talents in framing Latin defences on dubious cases which occurred among his friends. He likewise, amongst a variety of other elaborate pieces on saints, confes­sors, and holy virgins, in which he humoured the times and his profession, composed a critical treatise on the method of writing Epistles, which appears to have been a favourite [Page] subject n. He died in 1154 o. About the same time Robert Dunstable, a monk of Saint Alban's, wrote an elegant Latin poem in elegiac verse, containing two books p, on the life of saint Alban q. The first book is opened thus:

Albani celebrem caelo terrisque triumphum
Ruminat inculto carmine Clio rudis.

We are not to expect Leonine rhymes in these writers, which became fashionable some years afterwards r [...] Their [Page] verses are of a higher cast, and have a classical turn. The following line, which begins the second book, is remarkably flowing and harmonious, and much in the manner of Claudian.

Pieridum studiis claustri laxare rigorem.

Smoothness of versification was an excellence which, like their Saxon predecessors, they studied to a fault. Henry of Huntingdon, commonly known and celebrated as an histo­rian, was likewise a terse and polite Latin poet of this pe­riod. He was educated under Alcuine of Anjou, a canon of Lincoln cathedral. His principal patrons were Aldwin and Reginald, both Normans, and abbots of Ramsey. His turn for poetry did not hinder his arriving to the dignity of an archdeacon. Leland mentions eight books of his epi­grams, amatorial verses s, and poems on philosophical sub­jects t. The proem to his book DE HERBIS, has this elegant invocation.

Vatum magne parens, herbarum Phoebe repertor,
Vosque, quibus resonant Tempe jocosa, deae!
Si mihi serta prius hedera florente parastis,
Ecce meos flores, serta parate, fero.

[Page] But Leland appears to have been most pleased with Henry's poetical epistle to Elfleda, the daughter of Alfred u. In the Bodleian library, is a manuscript Latin poem of this writer, on the death of king Stephen, and the arrival of Henry the second in England, which is by no means contemptible w. He occurs as a witness to the charter of the monastery of Sautree in the year 1147 x. Geoffrey of Monmouth was bishop of Saint Asaph in the year 1152 y. He was indefa­tigable in his enquiries after British antiquity; and was patronised and assisted in this pursuit by Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, a diligent antiquarian, and Alexander, bishop of Lincoln y. His credulity as an historian has been deservedly censured: but fabulous histories were then the fashion, and he well knew the recommendation his work would receive from comprehending all the popular traditions z. His lati­nity rises far above mediocrity, and his Latin poem on Mer­lin is much applauded by Leland a.

We must not judge of the general state of society by the more ingenious and dignified churchmen of this period; who seem to have surpassed by the most disproportionate degrees in point of knowledge, all other members of the commu­nity. Thomas of Becket, who belongs to the twelfth cen­tury, and his friends, in their epistles, distinguish each other by the appellation of philosophers, in the course of their correspondence b. By the present diffusion of literature, even those who are illiterate are yet so intelligent as to stand more on a level with men of professed science and knowledge; but the learned ecclesiastics of those times, as is evident 372 [Page] from many passages in their writings, appear, and not without reason, to have considered the rest of the world as totally immersed in ignorance and barbarity. A most distinguished ornament of this age was John of Salisbury b. His style has a remarkable elegance and energy. His POLICRATICON is an extremely pleasant miscellany; replete with erudition, and a judgment of men and things, which properly belongs to a more sensible and reflecting period, His familiar ac­quaintance with the classics, appears not only from the happy facility of his language, but from the many citations of the purest Roman authors, with which his works are perpetually interspersed. Montfaucon asserts, that some parts of the supplement to Petronius, published as a genuine and valuable discovery a few years ago, but since supposed to be spurious, are quoted in the POLICRATICON c. He was an illustrious rival of Peter of Blois, and the friend of many learned foreigners d. I have not seen any specimens of his Latin poetry e; but an able judge has pronounced, that no­thing can be more easy, finished, and flowing than his verses f. He was promoted to high stations in the church by Henry the second, whose court was crouded with scho­lars, and almost equalled that of his cotemporary William king of Sicily, in the splendor which it derived from encou­raging erudition, and assembling the learned of various countries g. Eadmer was a monk of Canterbury, and endeared [Page] by the brilliancy of his genius, and the variety of his litera­ture, to Anselm, archbishop of that see h. He was an elegant writer of history, but exceeded in the artifices of composi­tion, and the choice of matter, by his cotemporary William of Malmesbury. The latter was a monk of Malmesbury, and it reflects no small honour on his fraternity that they elected him their librarian i. His merits as an historian have been justly displayed and recommended by lord Lyttelton k. But his abilities were not confined to prose. He wrote many pieces of Latin poetry; and it is remarkable, that almost all the professed writers in prose of this age made experiments in verse. His patron was Robert earl of Glo­cester; who, amidst the violent civil commotions which disquieted the reign of king Stephen, found leisure and opportunity to protect and promote literary merit l. Till Malmesbury's works appeared, Bede had been the chief and principal writer of English history. But a general spirit of writing history, owing to that curiosity which more polished manners introduce, to an acquaintance with the antient histo­rians, and to the improved knowledge of a language in which facts could be recorded with grace and dignity, was now pre­vailing. Besides those I have mentioned, Simeon of Dur­ham, Roger Hoveden, and Benedict abbot of Peterborough, are historians whose narratives have a liberal cast, and whose [Page] details rise far above the dull uninteresting precision of pa­tient annalists and regular chronologers. John Hanvill, a monk of Saint Alban's, about the year 1190, studied rhe­toric at Paris, and was distinguished for his taste even among the numerous and polite scholars of that flourishing semi­nary m. His ARCHITRENIUS is a learned, ingenious, and very entertaining performance. It is a long Latin poem in nine books, dedicated to Walter bishop of Rouen. The design of the work may be partly conjectured from its af­fected Greek title: but it is, on the whole, a mixture of satire and panegyric on public vice and virtue, with some historical digressions. In the exordium is the following ner­vous and spirited address.

Tu Cyrrhae latices nostrae, deus, implue menti;
Eloquii rorem siccis infunde lab [...]llis:
Distillaque favos, quos nondum pallidus auro
Scit Tagus, aut sitiens admotis Tantalus undis:
Dirige quae timide suscepit dextera, dextram
Audacem pavidamque juva: Tu mentis habenas
Fervoremque rege, &c.

In the fifth book the poet has the following allusions to the fables of Corineus, Brutus, king Arthur, and the popula­tion of Britain from Troy. He seems to have copied these traditions from Geoffrey of Monmouth n.

—Tamen Architrenius instat,
Et genus et gentem quaerit studiosius: illi
Tros genus, et gentem tribuit Lodonesia, nutrix
Praebuit irriguam morum Cornubia mammam,
Post odium fati, Phrygiis inventa: Smaraudus
Hanc domitor mundi Tyrinthius, alter Achilles,
[Page] Atridaeque timor Corinaeus, serra gygantum,
Clavaque monstrifera, sociae delegit alumnam
Omnigenam Trojae, pluvioque fluviflua lacte
Filius exilio fessae dedit ubera matri.
A quo dicta prius Corineia, dicitur aucto
Tempore corrupte Cornubia nominis haeres.
Ille gygantaeos attritis ossibus artus
Implicuit letho, Tyrrheni littoris hospes,
Indomita virtute gygas; non corpore mole
Ad medium pressa, nec membris densior aequo,
Sarcina terrifica tumuit Titania mente.
Ad Ligeris ripas Aquitanos fudit, et amnes
Francorum potuit lacrymis, et caede vadoque
Sanguinis ense ruens, satiavit rura, togaque
Punicea vestivit agros, populique verendi
Grandiloquos fregit animosa cuspide fastus.
Integra, nec dubio bellorum naufraga fluctu,
Nec vice suspecta titubanti saucia fato,
Indilata dedit subitam victoria laurum.
Inde dato cursu, Bruto comitatus Achate,
Gallorum spolio cumulatus, navibus aequor
Exarat, et superis auraque faventibus utens,
Litora felices intrat Tolonesia portus:
Promissumque soli gremium monstrante Diana,
Incolumi census loculum ferit Albion alno.
Haec eadem Bruto regnante Britannia nomen
Traxit in hoc tempus: solis Titanibus illa,
Sed paucis, habitata domus; quibus uda ferarum
Terga dabant vestes, cruor haustus pocula, trunci
Antra lares, dumeta toros, caenacula rupes,
Praeda cibos, raptus venerem, spectacula caedes,
Imperium vires, animum furor, impetus arma,
Mortem pugna, sepulchra rubus: monstrisque gemebat
Monticolis tellus: sed eorum plurima tractus
[Page] Pars erat occidui terror; majorque premebat
Te furor extremum zephyri, Cornubia, limen.
Hos avidum belli Corinaei robur Averno
Praecipites misit; cubitis ter quatuor altum
Gogmagog Herculea suspendit in aer [...] lucta,
Anthaeumque suum scopulo demisit in aequor [...]
Potavitque dato Thetis ebria sanguine fluctus,
Divisumque tulit mare corpus, Cerberus umbram.
Nobilis a Phrygiae tanto Cornubia gentem
Sanguine derivat, successio cujus Iulus
In generis partem recipit complexa Pelasgam
Anchisaeque domum: ramos hinc Pandrasus, inde
Sylvius extendit, socioque a sidere sidus
Plenius effundit triplicatae lampadis ignes.
Hoc trifido sola Corinaei postera mundum
Praeradiat pubes, quartique puerpera Phoebi
Pullulat Arthurum, facie dum falsus adulter
Tintagel irrumpit, nec amoris Pendragon aestu
Vincit, et omnificas Merlini consulit artes,
Mentiturque ducis habitus, et rege latente
Induit absentis praesentia Gorlois ora o.

There is a false glare of expression, and no great justness of sentiment, in these verses; but they are animated, and flow in a strain of poetry. They are pompous and sonorous; but these faults have been reckoned beauties even in polished ages. In the same book our author thus characterises the different merits of the satires of Horace and Persius.

Persius in Flacci pelago decurrit, et audet
Mendicasse stylum satyrae, serraque cruentus
Rodit, et ignorat polientem pectora limam p.

In the third book he describes the happy parsimony of the Cistercian monks.

O sancta, o felix, albis galeata cucullis,
Libera paupertas! Nudo jejunia pastu
Tracta diu solvens, nec corruptura palatum
Mollitie mensae. Bacchus convivia nullo
Murmure conturbat, nec sacra cubilia mentis
Inquinat adventu. Stomacho languénte ministrat
Solennes epulas ventris gravis hospita Thetis,
Et paleis armata Ceres. Si tertia mensae
Copia succedat, truncantur oluscula, quorum
Offendit macies oculos, pacemque meretur,
Deterretque famem pallenti sobria cultu q.

Among Digby's manuscripts in the Bodleian library, are Hanvill's Latin epigrams, epistles, and smaller poems, many of which have considerable merit r. They are followed by a metrical tract, entitled DE EPISTOLARUM COMPOSITIONE. But this piece is written in rhyme, and seems to be posterio [...] to the age, at least inferior to the genius, of Hanvill. He [Page] was buried in the abbey church of saint Alban's, soon after the year 1200 s. Gyraldus Cambrensis deserves particular regard for the universality of his works, many of which are written with some degree of elegance. He abounds with quotations of the best Latin poets. He was an historian, an antiquary, a topographer, a divine, a philosopher, and a poet. His love of science was so great, that he refused two bishopricks; and from the midst of public business, with which his political talents gave him a considerable connection in the court of Richard the first, he retired to Lincoln for seven years, with a design of pursuing theolo­gical studies t. He recited his book on the topography of Ireland in public at Oxford, for three days successively. On the first day of this recital he entertained all the poor of the city; on the second, all the doctors in the several faculties, and scholars of better note; and on the third, the whole body of students, with the citizens and soldiers of the gar­rison u. It is probable that this was a ceremony practised on the like occasion in the university of Paris w; where Giraldus [Page] had studied for twenty years, and where he had been elected professor of canon law in the year 1189 x. His ac­count of Wales was written in consequence of the observa­tions he made on that country, then almost unknown to the English, during his attendance on an archiepiscopal visitation. I cannot resist the pleasure of transcribing from this book his picture of the romantic situation of the abbey of Lantony in Monmouthshire. I will give it in English, as my meaning is merely to shew how great a master the author was of that selection of circumstances which forms an agreeable descrip­tion, and which could only flow from a cultivated mind. ‘"In the deep vale of Ewias, which is about a bowshot over, and enclosed on all sides with high mountains, stands the abbey church of saint John, a structure covered with lead, and not unhandsomely built for so lonesome a situation: on the very spot, where formerly stood a small chapel dedicated to saint David, which had no other ornaments than green moss and ivy. It is a situation fit for the exer­cise of religion; and a religious edifice was first founded in this sequestered retreat to the honour of a solitary life, by two hermits, remote from the noise of the world, upon the banks of the river Hondy, which winds through the midst of the valley.—The rains which mountainous countries usually produce, are here very frequent, the winds exceedingly tempestuous, and the winters almost [Page] continually dark. Yet the air of the valley is so happily tempered, as scarcely to be the cause of any diseases. The monks sitting in the cloisters of the abbey, when they chuse for a momentary refreshment to cast their eyes abroad, have on every side a pleasing prospect of moun­tains ascending to an immense height, with numerous herds of wild deer feeding aloft on the highest extremity of this lofty horizon. The body of the sun is not visible above the hills till after the meridian hour, even when the air is most clear."’ Giraldus adds, that Roger bishop of Salisbury, prime minister to Henry the first, having visited this place, on his return to court told the king, that all the treasure of his majesty's kingdom would not suffice to build such another cloister. The bishop explained him [...]elf by saying, that he meant the circular ridge of mountains with which the vale of Ewias was enclosed y. Alexander Neckham was the friend, the associate, and the correspondent of Peter of Blois already mentioned. He received the first part of his education in the abbey of saint Alban's, which he afterwards completed at Paris z. His compositions are va­rious, and croud the department of manuscripts in our public libraries. He has left n [...]merous treatises of divinity, philosophy, and morality: but he was likewise a poet, a philologist, and a grammarian. He wrote a tract on the mythology of the antient poets, Esopian fables, and a system of grammar and rhetoric. I have seen his elegiac poem on the monastic life a, which contains some finished lines. But his capital piece of Latin poetry is On the Praise of DIVINE WISDOM, which consists of seven books. In the introduc­tion h [...] commemorates the innocent and unreturning plea­sures of his early days, which he passed among the learned monks of saint Alban's, in these perspicuous and unaffected elegiacs.

Martyris Albani sit tibi tuta quies.
Hic locus aetatis nostrae primordia novit,
Annos felices, laetitiaeque dies.
Hic locus ingenuis pueriles imbuit annos
Artibus, et nostrae laudis origo fuit.
Hic locus insignes magnosque creavit alumnos,
Felix eximio martyre, gente, situ.
Militat hic Christo, noctuque dieque labori
Indulget sancto religiosa cohors b.

Neckham died abbot of Cirencester in the year 1217c. He was much attached to the studious repose of the monastic profession, yet he frequently travell [...]d into Italyd. Walter Mapes, archdeacon of Oxford, has been very happily styled the Anacreon of the eleventh centurye. He studied at Parisf. His vein was chiefly festive and satirical g: and as his wit was frequently levelled against the corruptions of the clergy, his poems often appeared under fictitious names, or have been ascribed to othersh. The celebrated drinking odei of this genial archdeacon has the regular returns of the monkish rhyme: but they are here applied with a characteristical propriety, are so happily invented, and so humourously in­troduced, that they not only suit the genius but heighten the spirit of the piece k. He boasts that good wine inspires [Page] him to sing verses equal to those of Ovid. In another Latin ode of the same kind, he attacks with great liveliness the new injunction of pope Innocent, concerning the celibacy of the clergy; and hopes that every married priest with his bride, will say a pater noster for the soul of one who had thus hazarded his salvation in their defence.

Ecce jam pro clericis multum allegavi,
Necnon pro presbyteris plura comprobavi:
PATER NOSTER nunc pro me, quoniam peccavi,
Dicat quisque Presbyter, cum sua Suavi l.

But a miracle of this age in classical composition was Joseph of Exeter, commonly called Josephus Iscanus. He wrote two epic poems in Latin heroics. The first is on the Trojan War; it is in six books, and dedicated to Baldwin archbishop of Canterbury m. The second is entitled ANTIOCHEIS, the [Page] War of Antioch, or the Crusade; in which his patron th [...] archbishop was an actor n. The poem of the Trojan war is founded on Dares Phrygius, a favorite fabulous historian of that time o. The diction of this poem is generally pure, the periods round, and the numbers harmonious: and on the whole, the structure of the versification approaches nearly to that of polished Latin poetry. The writer appears to have possessed no common command of poetical phraseology, and wanted nothing but a knowledge of the Virgilian chastity. His style is a mixture of Ovid, Statius, and Claudian, who seem then to have been the popular patterns p. But a few specimens will best illustrate this criticism. He thus, in a strain of much spirit and dignity, addresses king Henry the second, who was going to the holy war q, the intended subject of his ANTIOCHEIS.

—Tuque, oro, tuo da, maxime, vati
Ire iter inceptum, Trojamque aperire jacentem:
Te sacrae assument acies, divinaque bella,
Tunc dignum majore tuba; tunc pectore toto
Nitar, et immensum mecum spargere per orbem r,

The tomb or mausoleum of Teuthras is feigned with a brilliancy of imagination and expression; and our poet's [Page] classical ideas seem here to have been tinctured with the description of some magnificent oriental palace, which he had seen in the romances of his age.

Regia conspicuis moles inscripta figuris
Exceptura ducem, senis affulta columnis,
Tollitur: electro vernat basis, arduus auro
Ardet apex, radioque stylus candescit eburno.
—Gemmae quas littoris Indi
Dives arena tegit, aurum quod parturit Hermus,
In varias vivunt species, ditique decorum
Materie contendit opus: quod nobile ductor
Quod clarum gessit, ars explicat, ardua pandit
Moles, et totum reserat sculptura tyrannum r.

He thus describes Penthesilea and Pyrrhus.

Eminet, horrificas rapiens post terga secures,
Virginei regina chori: non provida cultus
Cura trahit, non forma juvat, frons aspera, vestis
Discolor, insertumque armis irascitur aurum.
Si visum, si verba notes, si lumina pendas,
Nil leve, nil fractum: latet omni foemina facto.
Obvius ultrices accendit in arma cohortes,
Myrmidonasque suos, curru praevectus anhelo,
Pyrrhus, &c.
—Meritosque offensus in hostes
Arma patris, nunc ultor, habet: sed tanta recusant
Pondera crescentes humeri, majoraque cassis
Colla petit, breviorque manus vix colligit hastam s.

Afterwards a Grecian leader, whose character is invective, insults Penthesilea, and her troop of heroines, with these reproaches.

Tunc sic increpitans, Pudeat, Mars inclyte, dixit:
En!, tua signa gerit, quin nostra effoeminat arma
Staminibus vix apta manus. Nunc stabitis hercle
Perjurae turres; calathos et pensa puellae
Plena rotant, sparguntque colos. Hoc milite Troja,
His fidit telis. At non patiemur Achivi:
Etsi turpe viris timidas calcare puellas,
Ibo tamen contra. Sic ille: At virgo l [...]quacem
Tarda sequi sexum, velox ad praelia, solo
Respondet jaculo r, &c.—

I will add one of his comparisons. The poet is speaking of the reluctant advances of the Trojans under their new leader Memnon, after the fall of Hector.

Qualiter Hyblaei mellita pericula reges,
Si signis iniere datis, labente tyranno
Alterutro, viduos dant agmina stridula questus;
Et, subitum vix nacta ducem, metuentia vibrant
Spicula, et imbelli remeant in praelia rostro s.

His ANTIOCHEIS was written in same strain, and had equal merit. All that remains of it is the following fragment t, in which the poet celebrates the heroes of Britain, and par­ticularly king Arthur.

—Inclyta fulsit
Posteritas ducibus tantis, tot dives alumnis,
Tot foecunda viris, premerent qui viribus orbem
[Page] Et fama veteres. Hinc Constantinus adeptus
Imperium, Roman tenuit, Byzantion auxit.
Hinc, Senonum ductor, captiva Brennius urbe u
Romuleas domuit flammis victricibus arces.
Hinc et Scaeva satus, pars non obscura tumultus
Civilis, Magnum solus qui mole soluta
Obsedit, meliorque stetit pro Caesare murus.
Hinc, celebri fato, felici floruit ortu,
Flos regum Arthurus w, cujus tamen acta stupori
Non micuere minus: totus quod in aure voluptas,
Et populo plaudente favor x. Quaecunquey priorum
Inspice: Pellaeum commendat fama tyrannum,
Pagina Caesareos loquitur Romana triumphos:
Alciden domitis attollit gloria monstris;
Sed nec pinetum coryli, nec sydera solem
Aequant. Annales Graios Latiosque revolve,
Prisca parem nescit, aequalem postera nullum
Exhibitura dies. Reges supereminet omnes:
Solus praeteritis melior, majorque futuris.

Camden asserts, that Joseph accompanied king Richard the first to the holy land z, and was an eye-witness of that he­roic monarch's exploits among the Saracens, which after­wards he celebrated in the ANTIOCHEIS. Leland mentions his love-verses and epigrams, which are long since perished a. Heb flourished in the year 1210 c.

[Page] There seems to have been a rival spirit of writing Latin heroic poems about this period. In France, Guillaume le Breton, or William of Bretagny, about the year 1230, wrote a Latin heroic poem on Philip Augustus king of France, about the commencement of the thirteenth century, in twelve books, entitled PHILIPPIS d. Barthius gives a prodi­gious character of this poem: and affirms that the author, a few gallicisms excepted, has expressed the facility of Ovid with singular happiness e. The versification much resembles that of Joseph Iscanus. He appears to have drawn a great part of his materials from Roger Hoveden's annals. But I am of opinion, that the PHILIPPID is greatly exceeded by the ALEXANDREID of Philip Gualtier de Chatillon, who flourished likewise in France, and was provost of the canons of Tournay, about the year 1200 f. This poem celebrates the actions of Alexander the Great, is founded on Quintus Curtius g, consists of ten books, and is dedicated to Guillerm archbishop of Rheims. To give the reader an opportunity of comparing Gualtier's style and manner with those of our countryman Josephus, I will transcribe a few specimens from a beautiful and antient manuscript of the ALEXANDREID in the Bodleian library h. This is the exordium.

Gesta ducis Macedum totum vulgata per orbem,
Quam late dispersit opes, quo milite Porum
Vicerit et Darium; quo principe Graecia victrix
[Page] Risit, et a Persis rediere tributa Corinthum,
Musa, refer h.

A beautiful rural scene is thus described.

—Patulis ubi frondea ramis
Laurus odoriferas celabat crinibus herbas:
Saepe sub hac memorat carmen sylvestre canentes
Nympharum vidisse choros, Satyrosque procaces.
Fons cadit a laeva, quem cespite gramen obumbrat
Purpureo, verisque latens sub veste locatur.
Rivulus at lento lavat inferiora meatu
Garrulus, et strepitu facit obsurdescere montes.
Hic mater Cybele Zephyrum tibi, Flora, maritans,
Pullulat, et vallem foecundat gratia fontis [...]
Qualiter Alpinis spumoso vortice saxis
Descendit Rhodanus, ubi Maximianus Eoos
Extinxit cuneos, dum sanguinis unda meatum
Fluminis adjuvit. i.—

He excells in similies. Alexander, when a stripling, is thus compared to a young lion.

Qualiter Hyrcanis cum forte leunculis arvis
Cornibus elatos videt ire ad pabula cervos,
Cui nondum totos descendit robur in artus,
Nec bene firmus adhuc, nec dentibus asper aduncis,
Palpitat, et vacuum ferit improba lingua palatum;
Effunditque prius animis quam dente cruorem k.

The ALEXANDREID soon became so popular, that Henry of Gaunt, archdeacon of Tournay, about the year 1330, complains that this poem was commonly taught in the [Page] rhetorical schools, instead of Lucanl and Virgil m. The learned Charpentier cites a passage from the manuscript statutes of the university of Tholouse, dated 1328, in which the professors of grammar are directed to read to their pupils ‘"De Historiis Alexandri n."’ Among which I include Gualtier's poem o. It is quoted as a familiar classic by Thomas Rod­burn, a monkish chronicler, who wrote about the year 1420 p. An anonymous Latin poet, seemingly of the thir­teenth century, who has left a poem on the life and miracles of saint Oswald, mentions Homer, Gualtier, and Lucan, as the three capital heroic poets. Homer, he says, has ce­lebrated Hercules, Gualtier the son of Philip, and Lucan has sung the praises of Cesar. But, adds he, these heroes much less deserve to be immortalised in verse, than the deeds of the holy confessor Oswald.

In nova fert animus antiquas vertere prosas
Carmina, &c.
[Page]Alciden hyperbolice commendat HOMERUS,
GUALTERUS pingit torvo Philippida vultu,
Caesareas late laudes LUCANUS adauget:
TRES illi famam meruerunt, tresque poetas
Auctores habuere suos, multo magis autem
Oswaldi regis debent insignia dici q.

I do not cite this writer as a proof of the elegant versifica­tion which had now become fashionable, but to shew the popularity of the ALEXANDREID, at least among scholars. About the year 1206, Gunther a German, and a Cistercian monk of the diocese of Basil, wrote an heroic poem in Latin verse entitled, LIGURINUS, which is scarce inferior to the PHILIPPID of Guillaum le Breton, or the ALEXANDREID of Gualtier: but not so polished and classical as the TROJAN WAR of our Josephus Iscanus. It is in ten books, and the subject is the war of the emperor Frederick Barbarossa against [Page] the Milanese in Liguria q. He had before written a Latin poem on the expedition of the emperor Conrade against the Saracens, and the recovery of the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bulloign, which he called SOLYMARIUM r. The subject is much like that of the ANTIOCHEIS; but which of the two pieces was written first it is difficult to ascertain.

While this spirit of classical Latin poetry was universally prevailing, our countryman Geoffrey de Vinesauf, an accom­plished scholar, and educated not only in the priory of saint Frideswide at Oxford, but in the universities of France and Italy, published while at Rome a critical didactic poem en­titled, DE NOVA POETRIA s. This book is dedicated to pope Innocent the third: and its intention was to recommend and illustrate the new and legitimate mode of versification which had lately begun to flourish in Europe, in opposition to the Leonine or barbarous species. This he compendiously styles, and by way of distinction, The NEW Poetry. We must not be surprised to find Horace's Art of Poetry entitled HORATII NOVA POETRIA, so late as the year 1389, in a catalogue of the library of a monastery at Dover t.

Even a knowledge of the Greek language imported from France, but chiefly from Italy, was now beginning to be diffused in England. I am inclined to think, that many [Page] Greek manuscripts found their way into Europe from Con­stantinople in the time of the crusades: and we might ob­serve that the Italians, who seem to have been the most po­lished and intelligent people of Europe during the barbarous ages, carried on communications with the Greek empire as early as the reign of Charlemagne. Robert Grosthead, bishop of Lincoln, an universal scholar, and no less conver­sant in polite letters than the most abstruse sciences, culti­vated and patronised the study of the Greek language. This illustrious prelate, who is said to have composed almost two hundred books, read lectures in the school of the Franciscan friars at Oxford about the year 1230 w. He translated Dio­nysius the Areopagite and Damascenus into Latin x. He greatly facilitated the knowledge of Greek by a translation of Suidas's Lexicon, a book in high repute among the lower Greeks, and at that time almost a recent compilation y. He promoted John of Basingstoke to the archdeaconry of Lei­cester; chiefly because he was a Greek scholar, and possessed many Greek manuscripts, which he is said to have brought from Athens into England z. He entertained, as a domestic [Page] in his palace, Nicholas chaplain of the abbot of saint Alban's, surnamed GRAECUS, from his uncommon proficiency in Greek; and by his assistance he translated from Greek into Latin the testaments of the twelve patriarchs a. Grosthead had almost incurred the censure of excommunication for preferring a complaint to the pope, that most of the opulent benefices in England were occupied by Italians b. But this practice, although notoriously founded on the monopolising and arbitrary spirit of papal imposition, and a manifest act of injustice to the English clergy, probably contributed to introduce many learned foreigners into England, and to propagate philological literature.

Bishop Grosthead is also said to have been profoundly skilled in the Hebrew language c. William the conqueror permitted great numbers of Jews to come over from Rouen, and to settle in England about the year 1087 d. Their mul­titude soon encreased, and they spread themselves in vast bodies throughout most of the cities and capital towns in England, where they built synagogues. There were fifteen hundred at York about the year 1189 e. At Bury in Suffolk [Page] is a very complete remain of a Jewish synagogue of stone in the Norman style, large and magnificent. Hence it was that many of the learned English ecclesiastics of these times be­came acquainted with their books and language. In the reign of William Rufus, at Oxford the Jews were remark­ably numerous, and had acquired a considerable property; and some of their Rabbis were permitted to open a school in the university, where they instructed not only their own people, but many christian students, in the Hebrew litera­ture, about the year 1054 f. Within two hundred years after their admission or establishment by the conqueror, they were banished the kingdom g. This circumstance was highly favourable to the circulation of their learning in England. The suddenness of their dismission obliged them for present subsistence, and other reasons, to sell their moveable goods of all kinds, among which were large quantities of Rab­binical books. The monks in various parts availed them­selves of the distribution of these treasures. At Huntingdon and Stamford there was a prodigious sale of their effects, containing immense stores of Hebrew manuscripts, which were immediately purchased by Gregory of H [...]ntingdon, prior of the abbey of Ramsey. Gregory speedily became an adept in the Hebrew, by means of these valuable acquisitions, which he bequeathed to his monastery about the year 1250 h. Other members of the same convent, in consequence of these advantages, are said to have been equal proficients in the same language, soon after the death of prior Gregory: among which were Robert Dodford, librarian of Ramsey, and Laurence Holbech, who compiled a Hebrew Lexicon i. [Page] At Oxford, great multitudes of their books fell into the hands of Roger Bacon, or were bought by his brethren the Franciscan friars of that university k.

But, to return to the leading point of our enquiry, this promising dawn of polite letters and rational know­ledge was soon obscured. The temporary gleam of light did not arrive to perfect day. The minds of scholars were diverted from these liberal studies in the rapidity of their career; and the arts of composition, and the ornaments of language were neglected, to make way for the barbarous and barren subtleties of scholastic divinity. The first teachers of this art, originally founded on that spirit of intricate and metaphysical enquiry which the Arabians had communicated to philosophy, and which now became almost absolutely necessary for defending the doctrines of Rome, were Peter Lombard archbishop of Paris, and the celebrated Abelard: men whose consummate abilities were rather qualified to re­form the church, and to restore useful science, than to cor­rupt both, by confounding the common sense of mankind with frivolous speculation l. These visionary theologists never explained or illustrated any scriptural topic: on the contrary, they perverted the simplest expressions of the sacred text, and embarrassed the most evident truths of the gospel by laboured distinctions and unintelligible solutions. From the universities of France, which were then filled with mul­titudes of English students, this admired species of sophistry was adopted in England, and encouraged by Lanfranc and Anselm, archbishops of Canterbury m. And so successful was its progress at Oxford, that before the reign of Edward the second, no foreign university could boast so conspicuous a catalogue of subtle and invincible doctors.

[Page] Nor was the profession of the civil and canonical laws a small impediment to the propagation of those letters which humanise the mind, and cultivate the manners. I do not mean to deny, that the accidental discovery of the imperial code in the twelfth century, contributed in a considerable degree to civilise Europe, by introducing, among other be­neficial consequences, more legitimate ideas concerning the nature of government and the administration of justice, by creating a necessity of transferring judicial decrees from an illiterate nobility to the cognisance of scholars, by lessening the attachment to the military profession, and by giving ho­nour and importance to civil employments: but to suggest, that the mode in which this invaluable system of jurispru­dence was studied, proved injurious to polite literature. It was no sooner revived, than it was received as a scholastic science, and taught by regular professors, in most of the universities of Europe. To be skilled in the theology of the schools was the chief and general ambition of scholars: but at the same time a knowledge of both the laws was become an indispensable requisite, at least an essential re­commendation, for obtaining the most opulent ecclesiastical dignities. Hence it was cultivated with universal avidity. It became so considerable a branch of study in the plan of academical discipline, that twenty scholars out of seventy were destined to the study of the civil and canon laws, in one of the most ample colleges at Oxford, founded in the year 1385. And it is easy to conceive the pedantry with which it was pursued in these seminaries during the middle ages. It was treated with the same spirit of idle speculation which had been carried into philosophy and theology, it was over­whelmed with endless commentaries which disclaimed all elegance of language, and served only to exercise genius, as it afforded materials for framing the flimsy labyrinths of casuistry.

[Page] It was not indeed probable, that these attempts in elegant literature which I have mentioned should have any per­manent effects. The change, like a sudden revolution in go­vernment, was too rapid for duration. It was moreover premature, and on that account not likely to be lasting. The habits of superstition and ignorance were as yet too powerful for a reformation of this kind to be effected by a few polite scholars. It was necessary that many circumstances and events, yet in the womb of time, should take place, before the minds of men could be so far enlightened as to receive these improvements.

But perhaps inventive poetry lost nothing by this relapse. Had classical taste and judgment been now established, ima­gination would have suffered, and too early a check would have been given to the beautiful extravagancies of romantic fabling. In a word, truth and reason would have chased before their time those spectres of illusive fancy, so pleasing to the imagination, which delight to hover in the gloom of ignorance and superstition, and which form so considerable a part of the poetry of the succeeding centuries.



THE Saxon language spoken in England, is distin­guished by three several epochs, and may therefore be divided into three dialects. The first of these is that which the Saxons used, from their entrance into this island, till the irruption of the Danes, for the space of three hundred and thirty years a. This has been called the British Saxon: and no monument of it remains, except a small me­trical fragment of the genuine Caedmon, inserted in Alfred's version of the Venerable Bede's ecclesiastical history b. The [Page 2] second is the Danish Saxon, which prevailed from the Danish to the Norman invasion c; and of which many con­siderable specimens, both in versed and prose, are still pre­served: particularly, two literal versions of the four gos­pels e, and the spurious Caedmon's beautiful poetical para­phrase of the Book of Genesis f, and the prophet Daniel. The third may be properly styled the Norman Saxon; which began about the time of the Norman accession, and con­tinued beyond the reign of Henry the second g.

The last of these three dialects, with which these Annals of English Poetry commence, formed a language extremely bar­barous, irregular, and intractable; and consequently pro­mises no very striking specimens in any species of composi­tion. Its substance was the Danish Saxon, adulterated with French. The Saxon indeed, a language subsisting on uni­form principles, and polished by poets and theologists, how­ever corrupted by the Danes, had much perspicuity, strength, and harmony: but the French imported by the Conqueror and his people, was a confused jargon of Teutonic, Gaulish, and vitiated Latin. In this fluctuating state of our national speech, the French predominated. Even before the conquest the Saxon language began to fall into contempt, and the French, or Frankish, to be substituted in its stead: a circum­stance, which at once facilitated and foretold the Norman accession. In the year 652, it was the common practice of [Page 3] the Anglo-Saxons, to send their youth to the monasteries of France for education h: and not only the language, but the manners of the French, were esteemed the most polite accom­plishments i. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, the resort of Normans to the English court was so frequent, that the affectation of imitating the Frankish customs became almost universal: and even the lower class of people were ambitious of catching the Frankish idiom. It was no difficult task for the Norman lords to banish that language, of which the na­tives began to be absurdly ashamed. The new invaders com­manded the laws to be administered in French k. Many char­ters of monasteries were forged in Latin by the Saxon monks, for the present security of their possessions, in consequence of that aversion which the Normans professed to the Saxon tongue l. Even children at school were forbidden to read in their native language, and instructed in a knowledge of the Norman only m. In the mean time we should have some re­gard to the general and political state of the nation. The natives were so universally reduced to the lowest condition of neglect and indigence, that the English name became a term of reproach: and several generations elapsed, before one family of Saxon pedigree was raised to any distinguished honours, or could so much as attain the rank of baronage n. Among [Page 4] other instances of that absolute and voluntary submission; with which our Saxon ancestors received a foreign yoke, it appears that they suffered their hand-writing to fall into dis­credit and disuse o; which by degrees became so difficult and obsolete, that few beside the oldest men could under­stand the characters p. In the year 1095, Wolstan, bishop of Worcester, was deposed by the arbitra [...]y Normans: it was objected against him, that he was ‘"a superannuated English idiot, who could not speak French q."’ It is true, that in some of the monasteries, particularly at Croyland and Tavis­tocke, founded by Saxon princes, there were regular precep­tors in the Saxon language: but this institution was suffered to remain after the conquest, as a matter only of interest and necessity. The religious could not otherwise have un­derstood their original charters. William's successor, Henry the first, gave an instrument of confirmation to William archbishop of Canterbury, which was written in the Saxon language and letters r. Yet this is almost a single example. That monarch's motive was perhaps political: and he seems to have practised this expedient with a view of obliging his queen, who was of Saxon lineage; or with a design of flat­tering his English subjects, and of securing his title already strengthened by a Saxon match, in consequence of so specious and popular an artifice. It was a common and indeed a very natural practice, for the transcribers of Saxon books, to change the Saxon orthography for the Norman, and to sub­stitute in the place of the original Saxon, Norman words and [Page 5] phrases. A remarkable instance of this liberty, which some­times perplexes and misleads the critics in Anglo-Saxon litera­ture, appears in a voluminous collection of Saxon homilies, preserved in the Bodleian library, and written about the time of Henry the second s. It was with the Saxon characters, as with the signature of the cross in public deeds; which were changed into the Norman mode of seals and subscrip­tions t. The Saxon was probably spoken in the country, yet not without various adulterations from the French: the courtly language was French, yet perhaps with some vestiges of the vernacular Saxon. But the nobles, in the reign of Henry the second, constantly sent their children into France, le [...]t they should contract habits of barbarism in their speech, which could not have been avoided in an English education u. Robert Holcot, a learned Dominican friar, confesses, that in the beginning of the reign of Edward the third, there was no institution of children in the old English: he complains, that they first learned the French, and from the French the Latin language. This he observes to have been a practice introduced by the Conqueror, and to have remained ever since w. There is a curious passage relating to this subject in Trevisa's translation of Hygden's Polychronicon 22. ‘"Chil­dren in scole, agenst the usage and manir of all other na­tions, beeth compelled for to leve hire owne langage, and for to construe hir lessons and hire thynges in Frenche; and so they haveth sethe Normans came first into Engelond. Also gentilmen children beeth taught to speke Frensche, from the tyme that they bith rokked in here cradell, and kunneth speke and play with a childes broche: and uplondissche [Page 6] y men will likne himself to gentylmen, and fondethz with greet besynesse for to speke Frensche to be told of. This maner was moche used to for first deth a, and is sith [...]ome dele changed. For John Cornewaile a maister of grammer, changed the lore in grammer scole, and con­struction of Frensche into Englische: and Richard Pen­criche lernede the manere techynge of him as other men of Pencriche. So that now, the yere of oure Lorde a thousand thre hundred and four score and five, and of the seconde Kyng Ri­chard after the conquest nyne, and [in] alle the grammere scoles of Engelond children lereth Frensche and construeth, and lerneth an Englische, &c."’ About the same time, or rather before, the students of our universities, were ordered to converse in French or Latin b. The latter was much af­fected by the Normans. All the Norman accompts were in Latin. The plan of the great royal revenue-rolls, now called the pipe-rolls, were of their construction, and in that language. But from the declension of the barons, and pre­valence of the commons, most of whom were of English ancestry, the native language of England gradually gained ground: till at length the interest of the commons [...]o far succeeded with Edward the third, that an act of parliament was passed, appointing all pleas and proceedings of law to be carried on in English c: although the same statute decrees, [Page 7] in the true Norman spirit, that all such pleas and proceedings should be enrolled in Latin d. Yet this change did not restore either the Saxon alphabet or language. It abolished a token of subjection and disgrace: and in some degree, contributed to prevent further French innovations in the language then used, which yet remained in a compound state, and retained a considerable mixture of foreign phraseo­logy. In the mean time, it must be remembered, that this corruption of the Saxon was not only owing to the admis­sion of new words, occasioned by the new alliance, but to changes of its own forms and terminations, arising from reasons which we cannot investigate or explain e.

Among the manuscripts of Digby in the Bodleian library at Oxford, we find a religious or moral Ode, consisting of one hundred and ninety-one stanzas, which the learned Hickes places just after the conquest f: but as it contains few Norman terms, I am inclined to think it of rather higher an­tiquity. In deference however to so great an authority, I am obliged to mention it here; and especially as it exhibits a regular lyric strophe of four lines, the second and fourth of which rhyme together. Although these four lines may be perhaps resolved into two Alexandrines; a measure concern­ing which more will be said hereafter, and of which it will be sufficient to remark at present, that it appears to have been used very early. For I cannot recollect any strophes of this sort in the elder Runic or Saxon poetry; nor in any of the old Frankish poems, particularly of Otfrid, a monk of Weissenburgh, who turned the evangelical history into Frankish verse about the ninth century, and has left several [Page 8] hymns in that language f, of Stricker who celebrated the atchievements of Charlemagne g, and of the anonymous au­thor of the metrical life of Anno, archbishop of Cologn. The following stanza is a specimen h.

i Sende God biforen him man
The while he may to hevene,
For betere is on elmesse biforen
Thanne ben after sevene k.

That is, ‘"Let a man send his good works before him to heaven while he can: for one alms-giving before death is of more value than seven afterwards."’ The verses perhaps might have been thus written as two Alexandrines.

Send God biforen him man the while he may to hevene,
For betere is on almesse biforen, than ben after sevene l.

Yet alternate rhyming, applied without regularity, and as rhymes accidentally presented themselves, was not uncommon in our early poetry, as will appear from other examples.

Hickes has printed a satire on the monastic profession; which clearly exemplifies the Saxon adulterated by the Nor­man, and was evidently written soon after the conquest, at [Page 9] least before the reign of Henry the second. The poet begins with describing the land of indolence or luxury.

Fur in see, bi west Spaynge,
Is a lond ihote Cokaygne:
Ther nis lond under hevenriche a
Of wel of godnis hit iliche.
Thoy paradis bi mirib and brigt
Cokaygn is of fairir sigt.
What is ther in paradis
Bot grass, and flure, and greneris?
Thoy ther be joy c, and gret dute d,
Ther nis met, bot frute.
Ther nis halle, bure e, no bench;
But watir manis thurst to quench, &c.

In the following lines there is a vein of satirical imagina­tion and some talent at description. The luxury of the monks is represented under the idea of a monastery construc­ted of various kinds of delicious and costly viands.

Ther is a wel fair abbei,
Of white monkes and of grei,
Ther beth boures and halles:
All of pasteus beth the walles,
Of fleis of fisse, and a rich met,
The likefullist that man mai et.
Fluren cakes beth the schinglesf alle,
Of church, cloister, bours, and halle.
The pinnesg beth fat podinges
Rich met to princes and to kinges.—
Ther is a cloyster fair and ligt,
Brod and lang of sembli sigt.
[Page 10] The pilers of that cloister alle
[...]eth iturned of cristale,
With harlas and capital
Of grene jaspe and red coral.
In the praer is a tree
Swithe likeful for to se,
The rote is gingeur and galingale,
The siouns beth al sed wale.
Trie maces beth the flure,
The rind canel of swete odure:
The frute gilofre of gode smakke,
Of cucubes ther nis no lakke.—
There beth iiii willish in the abbei
Of tracle and halwei,
Of baume and eke piement i,
Ever ernendk to rigt rent l;
Of thai stremis al the molde,
Stonis pretiusem and golde,
Ther is saphir, and uniune,
Carbuncle and astiune,
Smaragde, lugre, and prassiune,
Beril, onyx, toposiune,
Amethiste and crisolite,
Calcedun and epetite n.
Ther beth birddes mani and fale
Throstill, thruisse, and nigtingale,
Chalandre, and wodwale,
And othir briddes without tale,
That stinteth never bi her migt
Miri to sing dai and nigt.
[Nonnulla desunt.]
[Page 11] Yite I do yow mo to witte,
The gees irostid on the spitte,
Fleey to that abbai, god hit wot,
And gredith o, gees al hote al hote, &c.

Our author then makes a pertinent transition to a convent of nuns; which he supposes to be very commodiously situa­ted at no great distance, and in the same fortunate region of indolence, ease, and affluence.

An other abbai is ther bi
For soth a gret nunnerie;
Up a river of swet milk
Whar is plente grete of silk.
When the summeris dai is hote,
The yung nunnes takith a bote
And doth ham forth in that river
Both with oris and with stere:
Whan hi beth fur from the abbei
Hi makith him nakid for to plei,
And leith dune in to the brimme
And doth him sleilich for to swimme:
The yung monkes that hi seeth
Hi doth ham up and forth hi fleeth,
And comith to the nunnes anon,
And euch monk him takith on,
And snellichp berith forth har prei
To the mochill grei abbei q,
And techith the nonnes an oreisun
With jambleusr up and dun s.

[Page 12] This poem was designed to be sung at public festivals t: a practice, of which many instances occur in this work; and concerning which it may be sufficient to remark at present, that a JOCULATOR or bard, was an officer belonging to the court of William the Conqueror u.

Another Norman Saxon poem cited by the same indus­trious antiquary, is entitled THE LIFE OF SAINT MARGARET. The structure of its versification considerably differs from that in the last-mentioned piece, and is like the French Alexandrines. But I am of opinion, that a pause, or divi­sion, was intended in the middle of every verse: and in this respect, its versification resembles also that of ALBION'S ENG­LAND, or Drayton's POLYOLBION, which was a species very com­mon about the reign of queen Elisabeth w. The rhymes are also continued to every fourth line. It appears to have been written about the time of the crusades. It begins thus.

Olde antx yonge I priety ou, our folies for to lete,
Thinketh on god that yef ou wite, our sunnes to bete.
Here I mai tellen ou, wit wordes faire and swete,
The viez of one maiden was hotena Margarete.
Hire fader was a patriac, as ic ou tellen may,
In Auntioge wif echesb I in the false lay,
Deve godesc ant dombe, he servid nit and day,
So deden mony othere that singeth welaway.
[Page 13] Theodosius was is nome, on Criste ne levede he noutt,
He levede on the false godes, that weren with honden wroutt.
Tho that child sculde cristine ben it com well in thoutt,
Ebed wend it were ibore, to deth it were ibroutt, &c.

In the sequel, Olibrius, lord of Antioch, who is called a Saracen, falls in love with Margaret: but she being a chris­tian, and a candidate for canonization, rejects his sollicita­tions and is thrown into prison.

Meiden Margarete one nitt in prison lai
Ho com biforn Olibrius on that other dai.
Meiden Margarete, lef up upon my lay,
And Ihu that thou levest on, thou do him al awey.
Lef on me ant be my wife, ful wel the mai spede.
Auntioge and Asie scaltou han to mede:
Ciculautone and purpel pall scaltou have to wede:
With all the metes of my lond ful vel I scal the f fede.

This piece was printed by Hickes from a manuscript in Trinity college library at Cambridge. It seems to belong to the manuscript metrical LIVES OF THE SAINTS g, which form a very considerable volume, and were probably translated or para­phrased from Latin or French prose into English rhyme before [Page 14] the year 1200 h. We are sure that they were written after the year 1169, as they contain the LIFE of Saint Tho­mas of Becket i. In the Bodleian library are three manu­script copies of these LIVES OF THE SAINTS k, in which the LIFE of Saint Margaret constantly occurs; but it is not always exactly the same with this printed by Hickes. And on the whole, the Bodleian Lives seem inferior in point of anti­quity. I will here give some extracts never yet printed.

[Page 15] From the LIFE of Saint Swithin.

l Seint Swythan the confessour was her of Engelonde,
Bisyde Wynchestre he was ibore, as ich undirstonde:
Bi the kynges dei Egbert this goode was ibore,
That tho was kyng of Engelonde, and somedele eke bifore;
The eihtethe he was that com aftur Kinewolfe the kynge,
That seynt Berin dude to cristendome in Engelonde furst brynge:
Seynt Austen hedde bifore to cristendom i brouht
Athelbryt the goode kynge as al the londe nouht.
Al setthem hyt was that seynt Berin her bi west wende,
And tornede the kynge Kinewolfe as vr lord grace sende:
So that Egbert was kyng tho that Swythan was bore
The eighth was Kinewolfe that so long was bifore, &c.
Seynt Swythan his bushopricke to al goodnesse drough
The towne also of Wynchestre he amended inough,
Ffor he lette the stronge bruge withoute the toune arere
And fond therto lym and ston and the workmen that ther were n.

From the LIFE of Saint Wolstan.

Seynt Wolston bysscop of Wirceter was then in Ingelonde,
Swithe holyman was all his lyf as ich onderstonde:
The while he was a yonge childe good lyf hi ladde ynow,
Whenne other children orne play toward cherche hi drow.
Seint Edward was tho vr kyng, that now in hevene is,
And the bisscoppe of Wircester Brytthege is hette I wis, &c.
Bisscop hym made the holi man seynt Edward vre kynge
And undirfonge his dignite, and tok hym cros and ringe.
[Page 16] His bushopreke he wu [...]t wel, and eke his priorie,
And forcede him to serve wel god and Seinte Marie.
Ffour ȝer he hedde bisscop ibeo and not folliche fyve
Tho seynt Edward the holi kyng went out of this lyve.
To gret reuge to al Engelonde, so welaway the stounde,
Ffor strong men that come sithen and broughte Engelonde to grounde.
Harald was sithen kynge with tresun, allas!
The crowne he bare of England which while hit was.
As William bastard that was tho duyk of Normaundye
Thouhte to winne Englonde thorusg strength and felonye:
He lette hym greith foulke inouh and gret power with him nom,
With gret strengthe in the see he him dude and to Engelonde com:
He lette ordayne his ost wel and his baner up arerede,
And destruyed all that he fond and that londe sore aferde.
Harald hereof tell kynge of Engelonde
He let garke fast his oste agen hym for to stonde:
His baronage of Engelonde redi was ful sone
The kyng to helpe and [...]k [...] himself as riht was to done.
The warre was then in Engelonde dolefull and stronge inouh
And heore either of othures men al to grounde slouh:
The Normans and this Englisch men deiy of batayle nom
There as the abbeye is of the batayle a day togedre com,
To grounde thei smiit and slowe also, as god yaf the cas,
William Bastard was above and Harald bi n [...]othe was o.

From the LIFE of Saint Christopher.

p Seynt Cristofre was a Sarazin in the londe of Canaan,
In no stud bi him daye mi fond non so strong a man:
[Page 17] Ffour and twenti feete he was longe, and thikk and brod inouh,
Such a mon but he weore stronge methinketh hit weore wouh:
A la cuntre where he was for him wolde fleo,
Therfore hym ythoughte that no man ageynst him sculde beo.
He seide he wolde with no man beo but with on that were,
Hext lord of all men and undir hym non othir were.

Afterwards he is taken into the service of a king.

—Cristofre hym served longe;
The kynge loved melodye much of fitheleq and of songe:
So that his jogeler on a dai biforen him gon to pleye faste,
And in a tyme he nemped in his song the devil atte laste:
Anon so the kynge that I herde he blesed him anon, &c. r [...]

From the LIFE of Saint Patrick [...]

Seyn Pateryk com thoru godes grace to preche in Irelonde
To teche men ther ryt believe Jehu Cryste to understonde:
So ful of wormes that londe he founde that no man ni myghte gon,
In som stede for worms that he nas wenemyd anon;
Seynt Pateryk bade our lorde Cryst that the londe delyvered were,
Of thilke foul wormis that none ne com there s.

From the LIFE of Saint Thomas of Becket.

Ther was Gilbert Thomas fadir name the trewe man and gode
He loved God and holi cherche setthe he witte ondirstode t.
The cros to the holi cherche in his ȝouthe he nom,
. . . myd on Rychard that was his mon to Jerlem com,
[Page 18] Ther hy dede here pylgrimage in holi stedes fa [...]te
So that among Sarazyns hy wer nom at laste, &c. u

This legend of Saint Thomas of Becket is exactly in the style of all the others; and as Becket was martyred in the latter part of the reign of Henry the second from historical evidence, and as, from various internal marks, the language of these legends cannot be older than the twelfth century, I think we may fairly pronounce the LIVES OF THE SAINTS to have been written about the reign of Richard the first x.

These metrical narratives of christian faith and perse­verance seem to have been chiefly composed for the pious amusement, and perhaps edification, of the monks in their cloisters. The sumptuous volume of religious poems which I have mentioned above y, was undoubtedly chained in the cloister, or church, of some capital monastery. It is not improbable that the novices were exercised in reciting por­tions from these pieces. In the British Museumz there is a set of legendary tales in rhyme, which appear to have been [...]olemnly pronounced by the priest to the people on sundays and holidays. This sort of poetry a was also sung to the [Page 19] harp by the minstrels on sundays, instead of the romantic subjects usual at public entertainments b.

In that part of Vernon's manuscript intitled SOULEHELE, we have a translation of the Old and New Testament into verse; which I believe to have been made before the year 1200. The reader will observe the fondness of our ancestors for the Alexandrine: at least, I find the lines arranged in that measure.

Oure ladi and h [...]re sustur stoden under the roode,
And seint John and Marie Magdaleyn with wel sori moode:
Vr ladi bi heold hire swete son i brouht in gret pyne,
Ffor monnes gultes nouthen her and nothing for myne.
Marie weop wel sore and bitter teres leet,
The teres fullen uppon the ston doun at hire feet.
Alas, my son, for serwe wel off seide heo
Nabbe iche bote the one that hongust on the treo;
So ful icham of serwe, as any wommon may beo,
That ischal my deore child in all this pyne iseo:
How schal I sone deore, how hast i yougt liven withouten the,
Nusti nevere of serwe nought sone, what seyst you me?
Then spake Jhesus wordus gode to his modur dere,
Ther he heng uppon the roode here I the take a fere,
That trewliche schal serve ye, thin own cosin Jon,
The while that you alyve beo among all thi fon:
Ich the hote Jon, he seide, you wite hire both day and niht
That the Gywes hire fon ne don hire non un riht.
Seint John in the stude vr ladi in to the temple nom
God to serven he hire dude sone so he thider come,
Hole and seeke heo duden good that hes founden thore
Heo hire serveden to hond and foot, the lass and eke the more.
[Page 20] The pore folke feire heo fedde there, heo sege that hit was neode
And the seke heo brougte to bedde and met and drinke gon heom beode.
Wy at heore mihte yong and olde hire loveden bothe syke and fer
As hit was riht for alle and summe to hire servise hedden mester.
Jon hire was a trew feer, and nolde nougt from hire go,
He lokid hire as his ladi deore and what heo wolde hit was i do.
Now blowith this newe fruyt that lat bi gon to springe,
That to his kuynd heritage monkunne schal bringe,
This new fruyt of whom I speke is vre cristendome,
That late was on erthe isow and latir furth hit com,
So hard and luthur was the lond of whom hit scholde springe
That wel unnethe eny rote men mougte theron bring,
God hi was the gardener,c &c.

In the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth, among other Nor­man-Saxon homilies in prose, there is a homily or exhortation on the Lord's prayer in verse: which, as it was evidently transcribed rather before the reign of Richard the first, we may place with some degree of certainty before the year 1185.

Vre feder that in hevene is
That is al sothfull I wis.
Weo moten to theos weordes iseon
That to live and to saule gode beon.
That weo beon swa his sunes iborene
That he beo feder and we him icorene.
That we don alle his ibeden
And his wille for to reden, &c.
Lauerde God we biddeth thus
Mid edmode heorte gif hit us.
That vre soule beo to the icore
Noht for the flesce for lore.
[Page 21] Dole us to biwepen vre sunne
That we ne sternen noht therunne
And gif us, lauerd, that like gifte
Thet we hes ibeten thurh holie scrifte. AMEN d.

In the valuable library of Corpus Christi college in Cam­bridge, is a sort of poetical biblical history, extracted from the books of Genesis and Exodus. It was probably composed about the reign of Henry the second or Richard the first. But I am chiefly induced to cite this piece, as it proves the excessive attachment of our earliest poets to rhyme: they were fond of multiplying the same final sound to the most tedious monotony; and without producing any effect of [...]legance, strength, or harmony. It begins thus:

Man og to luuen that rimes ren.
The wissed wel the logede men.
Hu man may him wel loken
Thog he ne be lered on no boken.
Luuen god and serven him ay
For he it hem wel gelden may.
And to al cristenei men
Boren pais and luue by twem.
Than sal him almighti luuven.
Here by nethen and thund abuuven,
And given him blisse and soules r [...]ste.
That him sal eavermor lesten.
Ut of Latin this song is a dragen
On Engleis speche on soche sagen,
Cristene men ogen ben so fagen.
So fueles arn quan he it sen dagen.
Than man hem telled soche tale
Wid londes speche and wordes smale
Of blisses dune, of sorwes dale,
[Page 22] Quhu Lucifer that devel dwale
And held him sperred in helles male,
Til god him frid in manliched
Dede mankinde bote and red.
And unswered al the fendes sped
And halp thor he sag mikel ned
Biddi hie singen non other led.
Thog mad hic folgen idel hed.
Fader gode of al thinge,
Almightin louerd, hegest kinge,
Thu give me seli timinge
To thau men this werdes bigininge.
The lauerd god to wurthinge
Quether so hic rede or singe e.

We find this accumulation of identical rhymes in the Runic odes. Particularly in the ode of Egill cited above, entitled EGILL'S RANSOM. In the Cotton library a poem is preserved of the same age, on the subjects of death, judg­ment, and hell torments, where the rhymes are singular, and deserve our attention.

Non mai longe lives wene
Ac ofte him lieth the wrench.
Feir weither turneth ofte into reine
And thunderliche hit maketh his blench,
Tharfore mon thu the biwench
At schal falewi thi grene.
Weilawei! nis kin ne quene
That ne schal drincke of deathes drench,
Mon er thu falle of thi bench
Thine sunne thu aquench f.

[Page 23] To the same period of our poetry I refer a version of Saint Jerom's French psalter, which occurs in the library of Corpus Christi college at Cambridge. The hundredth psalm is thus translated.

Mirthes to god al erthe that es
Serves to louerd in faines.
In go yhe ai in his [...]iht,
In gladnes that is so briht.
Whites that louerd god is he thus
He us made and our self noht us,
His folk and shep of his fode:
In gos his yhates that are gode:
In schrift his worches believe,
In ympnes to him yhe schrive.
Heryhes his name for louerde is hende,
In all his merci do in strende and strande g.

In the Bodleian library there is a translation of the psalms, which much resembles in style and measure this just men­tioned. If not the same, it is of equal antiquity. The hand­writing is of the age of Edward the second: certainly not later than his successor. It also contains the Nicene creed h, and some church hymns, versified: but it is mutilated and imperfect. The nineteenth psalm runs thus.

Hevenes tellen godes blis
And wolken shewes hond werk his
Dai to dai word rise riht,
And wisdom shewes niht to niht,
Of whilke that noht is herde thar steven.
In al the world out yhode thar corde
And in ende of erthe of tham the worde.
[Page 24] . . . sunne he sette his telde to stande
And b. bridegroome a. he als of his lourd commande.
He gladen als den to renne the wai
Ffrem heighist heven hei outcoming ai,
And his gairenning tilheht sete,
Ne is qwilke mai him from his hete.
Lagh of louerd unwenned isse,
Turnand saules in to blisse:
Witness of lourd is ever trewe
Wisdom servand to littell newe:
Lourd's rihtwisnesse riht hertes famand,
But of lourd is liht eghen sighand,
Drede of lourde hit heli es
Domes of love ful sori sothe are ai
Rihted in thamsalve ar thai,
More to be beyorned over golde
Or ston derwurthi that is holde:
Wel swetter to mannes wombe
Ovir honi and to kombe i.

This is the beginning of the eighteenth psalm.

I sal love the Lourd of [...]lisse
And in mine Lourd festnes min esse,
And in fleming m [...]n als so
And in lesser out of wo k.

I will add another religious fragment on the crucifixion, in the shorter measure, evidently coeval, and intended to be sung to the harp.

Vyen i o the rode se
Jesu nayled to the tre,
Jesu mi lefman,94
[Page 25] Ibunder bloe and blodi,
An hys moder stant him bi,
Wepand, and Johan:
Hys bac wid scwrge iswungen,
Hys side depe istungen,
Ffor sinne and louve of man,
Weil anti sinne lete
An nek wit teres wete
Thif i of love can l.

In the library of Jesus college at Oxford, I have seen a Norman-Saxon poem of another cast, yet without much invention or poetry m. It is a contest between an owl and a nightingale, about superiority in voice and singing; the decision of which is left to the judgment of one John de Guldevord n. It is not later than Richard the first. The rhymes are multiplied, and remarkably interchanged.

Ich was in one sumere dale
In one snwe digele hale,
I herde ich hold grete tale,
An huleo and one nightingale.
[Page 26] That plait was stif I stare and strong,
Sum wile softe I lud among.
Another agen other sval
I let that wole mod ut al.
I either seide of otheres custe,
That alere worste that hi wuste
I hure and I hure of others songe
Hi hold plaidung suthe stronge p.

The earliest love-song which I can discover in our lan­guage, is among the Harleian manuscripts in the British Museum. I would place it before or about the year 1200. It is full of alliteration, and has a burthen or chorus.

Blow northerne wynd, sent
Thou me my suetynge; blow
Northerne wynd, blou, blou, blou.
Ich ot a burde in boure bryht
That fully semly is on syht,
Menskful maiden of myht,
Feire ant fre to fonde.
In al this wurhliche won,
A burde of blod and of bon,
Neverq ȝete y nuster non
Lussomore in Londe. Blow, &c.
With lokkess lefliche and longe,
With front ant face feir to fonde;
With murthes monie mote heo monge
That brid so breme in boure;
With lossum eie grete and gode,
Weth browen blissfoll undirhode,
He that rest him on the rode
That leflych lyf honoure. Blou, t &c.
[Page 27] Hire bire limmes liht,
Ase a lantern a nyht,
Hyr bleo blynkyth so bryht u.
So feore heo is ant fyn,
A suetly suyre heo hath to holde,
With armes, shuldre as mon wolde,
Ant fyngres feyre forte fold:
God wolde hue were myn.
Middel heo hath menskfull [...]mall,
Hire loveliche chere as cristal;
Theyes, legges, fit, and al,
Ywraught of the best;
A lussum ladi lasteless,
That sweting is and ever wes;
A betere burde never was
Yheryed with the heste,
Heo ys dere worthe in day,
Graciouse, stout, and gaye,
Gentil, joly, so the jay,
Workliche when she waketh,
Maiden murgestw of mouth
Bi est, bi west, bi north, bi south,
That nis ficle ne trouth,
That such murthes maketh.
Heo is corall of godnesse,
Heo is rubie of riche fulnesse,
Heo is cristal of clarnesse,
Ant baner of bealtie,
Heo is lilie of largesse,
Heo is parnenke pronesse,
Heo is salsecle of suetnesse,
Ant ladie of lealtie,
[Page 28] To lou that leflich ys in londe
Ytolde as hi as ych understonde, &c x.

From the same collection I have extracted a part of another amatorial ditty, of equal antiquity; which exhibits a stanza of no inelegant or unpleasing structure, and approaching to the octave rhyme. It is, like the last, formed on alliteration.

In a fryhte as y con fare framede
Y founde a wet feyr fenge to fere,
Heo glystenide ase gold when hit glemed,
Nes ner gom so gladly on gere,
Y wolde wyte in world who hire kenede
This burde bryht, ȝef hire wil were,
Heo me bed go my gates, lest hire gremede,
Ne kept heo non henynge here y.

In the following lines a lover compliments his mistress named Alysoun.

Bytween Mershe and Averile when spray beginneth to springe,
The lutel fowl hath hyre wyl on hyre lud to synge,
Ich libbem lonclonginge for semlokest of all thynge.
He may me blysse bringe icham in hire banndonn,
An hendy happe ichabbe yhent ichot from hevene it is me sent.
From all wymmen mi love is lent and lyht on Alisoun,
On hers here is fayre ynoh, hire browe bronne, hire eye blake,
With lossum chere he on me lok with middel smal and welymake,
Bote he me wolle to hire take, &c z.

The following song, containing a description of the spring, displays glimmerings of imagination, and exhibits some faint [Page 29] ideas of poetical expression. It is, like the three preceding, of the Norman Saxon school, and extracted from the same inexhaustible repository. I have transcribed the whole.

In May hit murgeth when hit dawes a [...]
In dounes with this dueres plawes b,
Ant lef is lyht on lynde;
Blosmes brideth on the bowes,
Al this wylde whytes vowes,
So wel ych under-fynde.
The thresteleuec hym threteth so,
Away is huere wynter do,
When woderove syngeth ferly fere,
And blyleth on huere wynter wele,
That al the wode ryngeth;
The rose rayleth hir rode,
The leves on the lyhte wode
Waxen all with will:
The mone mandeth hire bleo
The lilie is lossum to scho;
The fengle and the fille
Wowes this wilde drakes,
Miles huere makes.
As streme that still
Mody moneth so doth mo.
Ichott ycham on of tho
For love that likes ille,
The mone mandeth hire liht,
When briddes syngeth breme,
Deawes donneth the donnes
Deores with huere derne ronnes,
Domes forte deme,
Wormes woweth under cloude,
Wymmen waxith wondir proude,
[Page 30] So wel hyt wol him seme
Yef me shall wonte wille of on
This weale is wole forgon
Ant whyt in wode be fleme.

The following hexastic on a similar subject, is the product of the same rude period, although the context is rather more intelligible: but it otherwise deserves a recital, as it presents an early sketch of a favourite and fashionable stanza.

Lenten ys come with love to tonne,
With blosmen and with briddes ronne,
That al this blisse bryngeth:
Dayes ezes in this dales
Notes suete of nightingales,
Vch foul songe singeth e.

This specimen will not be improperly succeeded by the fol­lowing elegant lines, which a cotemporary poet appears to have made in a morning walk from Peterborough on the blessed Virgin: but whose genius seems better adapted to descriptive than religious subjects.

Now skruketh rose and lylie flour,
That whilen ber that suete savour
In somer, that suete tyde;
Ne is no quene so stark ne stour,
Ne no luedy so bryht in bour
That ded ne shal by glyde:
W [...]oso wol fleshye lust for-gon and hevene-blisse abyde
On Jhesu be is thoht anon, that tharled was ys side f.

To which we may add a song, probably written by the same author, on the five joys of the blessed Virgin.

[Page 31]
Ase y me rod this ender day,
By grene wode, to seche play;
Mid herte y thohte al on a May.
Sueteste of al thinge:
Lithe, and ich on tell may al of that suete thinge g.

In the same pastoral vein, a lover, perhaps of the reign of king John, thus addresses his mistress, whom he supposes to be the most beautiful girl, ‘"Bituene Lyncolne and Lyn­deseye, Northampton and Lounde h."’.

When the nytenhale singes the wodes waxen grene,
Lef, gras, and blosme, springes in Avril y wene.
Ant love is to myn harte gon with one spere so kene
Nyht and day my blod hit drynkes myn hart deth me tene i.

Nor are these verses unpleasing, in somewhat the same measure.

My deth y love, my lyf ich hate for a levedy shene,
Heo is brith so daies liht, that is on me wel sene.
Al y falewe so doth the lef in somir when hit is grene,
Ȝef mi thoht helpeth me noht to whom schal I me mene?
Ich have loved at this yere that y may love na more,
Ich have siked moni syh, lemon, for thin ore,
. . . my love never the ner and that me reweth sore;
Suete lemon, thenck on me ich have loved the sore,
Suete lemon, I preye the, of love one speche,
While y lyve in worlde so wyde other nill I seche k.

Another, in the following little poem, enigmatically com­pares his mistress, whose name seems to be Joan, to various gems and flowers. The writer is happy in his alliteration, and his verses are tolerably harmonious.

[Page 32]
Ic hot a burde in a bour, ase beryl so bryght,
Ase saphyr in selver semely on syht,
Ase jaspel the gentil that lemethm with lyht,
Ase gernetn in golde and rubye wel ryht,
Ase onycleo he is on y holden on hyht;
Ase diamand the dere in day when he is dyht:
He is coral yend with Cayser and knyght,
Ase emeraude a morewen this may haveth myht.
The myht of the margaryte haveth this mai mere,
Ffor charbocele iche hire chase bi chyn and bi chere,
Hire rede ys as rose that red ys on ryse p,
With lilye white leves lossum he ys,
The primros he passeth, the penenke of prys,
With alisaundre thareto ache and anys:
q Coynte as columbine such hirer cande ys,
Glad under gore in gro and in grys
Heo is blosme upon bleo brihtest under bis
With celydone ant sange as thou thi self sys,
From Weye he is wisist into Wyrhale,
Hire nome is in a note of the nyhtegale;
In a note is hire nome nempneth hit non
Who so ryht redeth ronne to Johon s.

The curious Harleian volume, to which we are so largely indebted, has preserved a moral tale, a Comparison between age and youth, where the stanza is remarkably constructed. The various sorts of versification which we have already seen, evidently prove, that much poetry had been written, and that the art had been greatly cultivated, before this period.

Herkne to my ron,
As ich ou tell con,
Of elde al hou yt ges.
[Page 33]
Of a mody mon,
Hihte Maximion,
Soth without les.
Clerc he was ful god,
So moni mon undirstod.
Nou herkne hou it wes t.

For the same reason, a sort of elegy on our Saviour's cru­cifixion should not be omitted. It begins thus:

I syke when y singe for sorewe that y se
When y with wypinge bihold upon the tre,
Ant se Jhesu the suete
Is hert blod for-lete,
For the love of me;
Ys woundes waxen wete,
Thei wepen, still and mete,
Marie reweth me u.

Nor an alliterative ode on heaven, death, judgement, &c.

Middel-erd for mon was mad,
Un-mihti aren is meste mede,
This hedy hath on honde yhad,
That hevene hem is haste to hede.
Ich erde a blisse budel us bade,
The dreri domesdai to drede,
Of sinful sauhting sone be sad,
That derne doth this derne dede,
This wrakefall werkes under wede,
In soule soteleth sone w.
That he ben derne done.

Many of these measures were adopted from the French chansons x. I will add one or two more specimens.

[Page 34] On our Saviour's Passion and Death.

Jesu for thi muchele might
Thou ȝef us of thi grace,
That we mowe day and nyht
Thenken of thi face.
In myn hert it doth me god,
When y thenke on Jhesu blod,
That ran down bi ys syde;
From is harte doune to ys fote,
For ous he spradde is harte blod [...]
His wondes were so wyde y.

On the same subject.

Lutel wot hit any mon
Hou love hym haveth y bounde,
That for us o the rode ron,
Ant boht us with is wonde;
The love of him us haveth ymaked [...]ound,
And y cast the grimly gost to ground:
Ever and oo, nyht and day, he haveth us in his thohte,
He nul nout leose that he so deore boht z.

The following are on love and gallantry. The poet, named Richard, professes himself to have been a great writer of love­songs.

Weping haveth myn wonges wet,
For wilked worke ant wone of wyt,
Unblithe y be til y ha bet,
Bruches broken ase bok byt:
Of levedis love that y ha let,
That lemeth al with luefly lyt,
Ofte in songe y have hem set,
That is unsemly ther hit syt.
[Page 35] Hit syt and semethe noht,
Ther hit ys seid in song
That y have of them wroht,
Y wis hit is all wrong a.

It was customary with the early scribes, when stanzas con­sisted of short lines, to throw them together like prose. As thus:

"A wayle whiyt as whalles bon | a grein in golde that godly shon | a tortle that min hart is on | in tonnes trewe | Hire gladship nes never gon | while y may glewe b."

Sometimes they wrote three or four verses together as one line.

With longynge y am lad | on molde y waxe mad | a maide marreth me,
Y grede y grone un glad | for [...]elden y am [...]ad | that semly for te see.
Levedi thou rewe me | to routhe thou havest me rad | be bote of that y bad | my lyf is long on the c.


Most i rydden by rybbes dale | widle wymmen for te wale | ant welde wreek ich wolde:
Founde were the feirest on | that ever was mad of blod ant bon | in boure best with bolde d.

This mode of writing is not uncommon in antient manu­scripts of French poetry. And some critics may be inclined to suspect, that the verses which we call Alexandrine, acci­dentally assumed their form merely from the practice of ab­surd transcribers, who frugally chose to fill their pages to the extremity, and violated the metrical structure for the sake [Page 36] of saving their vellum. It is certain, that the common stanza of four short lines may be reduced into two Alexandrines, and on the contrary. I have before observed, that the Saxon poem cited by Hickes, consisting of one hundred and ninety one stanzas, is written in stanzas in the Bodleian, and in Alexandrines in the Trinity manuscript at Cambridge. How it came originally from the poet I will not pretend to de­termine.

Our early poetry often appears in satirical pieces on the established and eminent professions. And the writers, as we have already seen, succeeded not amiss when they cloathed their satire in allegory. But nothing can be conceived more scurrilous and illiberal than their satires when they descend to mere invective. In the British Museum, among other ex­amples which I could mention, we have a satirical ballad on the lawyers e, and another on the clergy, or rather some par­ticular bishop. The latter begins thus:

Hyrd-men hatieth ant vch mones hyne,
For ever uch a parosshe heo polketh in pyne
Ant clastreth wyf heore celle:
Nou wol vch fol clerc that is fayly
Wend to the bysshop ant bugge bayly,
Nys no wyt in is nolle f.

The elder French poetry abounds in allegorical satire: and I doubt not that the author of the satire on the monastic profession, cited above, copied some French satire on the subject. Satire was one species of the poetry of the Proven­cial troubadours. Anselm Fayditt a troubadour of the ele­venth century, who will again be mentioned, wrote a sort of satirical drama called the HERESY of the FATHERS, HERE­GIA DEL PREYRES, a ridicule on the council which con­demned the Albigenses. The papal legates often fell under [Page 37] the lash of these poets; whose favour they were obliged to court, but in vain, by the promise of ample gratuities g. Hugues de Bercy, a French monk, wrote in the twelfth cen­tury a very lively and severe satire; in which no person, not even himself, was spared, and which he called the BIBLE, as containing nothing but truth h.

In the Harleian manuscripts I find an ancient French poem, yet respecting England, which is a humorous pane­gyric on a new religious order called LE ORDRE DE BEL EYSE. This is the exordium.

Qui vodra a moi entendre
Oyr purra e aprendre
L'estoyre de un ORDRE NOVEL
Qe mout est delitous bel.

The poet ingeniously feigns, that his new monastic order consists of the most eminent nobility and gentry of both sexes, who inhabit the monasteries assigned to it promiscu­ously; and that no person is excluded from this establish­ment who can support the rank of a gentleman. They are bound by their statutes to live in perpetual idleness and lux­ury: and the satyrist refers them for a pattern or rule of prac­tice in these important articles, to the monasteries of Sem­pringham in Lincolnshire, Beverley in Yorkshire, the Knights Hospitalers, and many other religious orders then flourish­ing in England i.

When we consider the feudal manners, and the magnifi­cence of our Norman ancestors, their love of military glory, the enthusiasm with which they engaged in the crusades, and the wonders to which they must have been familiarised from those eastern enterprises, we naturally suppose, what will hereafter be more particularly proved, that their retinues [Page 38] abounded with minstrels and harpers, and that their chief entertainment was to listen to the recital of romantic and martial adventures. But I have been much disappointed in my searches after the metrical tales which must have pre­vailed in their times. Most of those old heroic songs are perished, together with the stately castles in whose halls they were sung. Yet they are not so totally lost as we may be apt to imagine. Many of them still partly exist in the old English metrical romances, which will be mentioned in their proper places; yet divested of their original form, polished in their style, adorned with new incidents, successively mo­dernised by repeated transcription and recitation, and retain­ing little more than the outlines of the original composition. This has not been the case of the legendary and other reli­gious poems written soon after the conquest, manuscripts of which abound in our libraries. From the nature of their subject they were less popular and common; and being less frequently recited, became less liable to perpetual innovation or alteration.

The most antient English metrical romance which I can discover, is entitled the GESTE OF KING HORN. It was evi­dently written after the crusades had begun, is mentioned by Chaucer k, and probably still remains in its original state. I will first give the substance of the story, and afterwards add some specimens of the composition. But I must premise, that this story occurs in very old French metre in the manu­scripts of the British Museum l, so that probably it is a translation: a circumstance which will throw light on an argument pursued hereafter, proving that most of our me­trical romances are translated from the French.

Mury, king of the Saracens, lands in the kingdom of Sud­dene, where he kills the king named Allof. The queen, Godylt, escapes; but Mury seizes on her son Horne, a beautiful [Page 39] youth aged fi [...]teen years, and puts him into a galley, with two of his play-fellows, Achulph and Fykenyld: the vessel being driven on the coast of the kingdom of West­nesse, the young prince is found by Aylmar king of that country, brought to court, and delivered to Athelbrus his steward, to be educated in hawking, harping, tilting, and other courtly accomplishments. Here the princess Rymenild falls in love with him, declares her passion, and is betrothed. Horne, in consequence of this engagement, leaves the princess for seven years; to demonstrate, according to the ritual of chivalry, that by seeking and accomplishing dan­gerous enterprises he deserved her affection. He proves a most valorous and invincible knight: and at the end of seven years, having killed king Mury, recovered his father's king­dom, and atchieved many signal exploits, recovers the prin­cess Rymenild from the hands of his treacherous knight and companion Fykenyld; carries her in triumph to his own country, and there reigns with her in great splendor and prosperity. The poem itself begins and proceeds thus:

Alle heo ben blythe, that to my songe ylythe m:
A songe yet ulle ou singe of Alloff the god kynge,
Kynge he was by weste the whiles hit y leste;
And Godylt his gode quene, no feyrore myhte bene,
Ant huere sone hihte Horne, feyrore childe ne myhte be borne:
For reyne ne myhte by ryne ne sonne myhte shine
Feyror childe than he was, bryht so ever eny glas,
So whyte so eny lilye floure, so rose red was his colour;
He was feyre ant eke bold, and of fyfteene wynter old,
This non his yliche in none kinges ryche.
Tueye ferenn he hadde, that he with him ladde,
Al rychemenne sonne, and al suyth feyre gromes,
Weth hem forte pley anusteo he loved tueye,
[Page 40] That on was hoten Achulph child, and that other Ffykenild,
Aculph was the best, and Ffykenyld the werste,
Yt was upon a somersday also, as ich one telle may,
Allof the gode kynge rode upon his pleying,
Bi the se side, there he was woned to ride;
With him ne ryde bot tuo, at to felde hue were tho:
He fond bi the stronde, aryved on is lond,
Shipes systene of Sarazins kene:
He asked what hue sohten other on his lond brohten.

But I hasten to that part of the story where prince Horne appears at the court of the king of Westnesse.

The kyng com into hall, among his knyghtes alle,
Forth he cleped Athelbrus, his stewarde, him seyde thus:
"Steward tal thou here my fundling for to lere,
"Of some mystere of woode and of ryvere p,
"And toggen othe harpe with is nayles sharpe q,
"And teche at the listes that thou ever wistes,
"Byfore me to kerven, and of my course to serven r,
[Page 41] "Ant his feren devyse without other surmise;
"Horne-childe, thou understond, teche hym of harpe and songe."
Athelbrus gon leren Horne and hyse feren;
Horne mid herte laghte al that mon hym taghte,
Within court and withoute, and overall aboute,
Lovede men Horne-child, and most him loved Ymenild
The kinges owne dothter, for he was in hire thohte,
Hire loved him in hire mod, for he was faire and eke gode,
And that tyne ne dorste at worde and myd hem spek ner a worde,
Ne in the halle, amonge the knyhtes alle,
Hyre sorewe and hire payne nolde never fayne,
Bi daye ne bi nyhte for here speke ne myhte,
With Horne that was so feir and fre, tho hue ne myhte with him be;
In herte hue had care and wo, and thus hire bihote hire tho:
Hue sende hyre sonde Athelbrus to honde,
That he come here to, and also childe Horne do,
In to hire boure, for hue bigon to loure,
And the sonds sayde, that seek was the mayde,
And bed hym quyke for hue nis non blyke.
The stewarde was in huerte wo, for he wist whit he shulde do [...]
That Rymenyld bysohte gret wonder him thohte;
About Horne he yinge to boure forte bringe,
He thohte en his mode hit nes for none gode;
He toke with him another, Athulph Horne's brother t,
"Athulph, quoth he, ryht anon thou shalt with me to boure gon,
"To speke with Rymenyld stille, and to wyte hire wille,
"Thou art Horne's yliche, thou shalt hire by suyke,
"Sore me adrede that hire wil Horne mys rede."
Athelbrus and Athulf tho to hire boure both ygo,
[Page 42] Upon Athulf childe Rymenilde con wox wilde,
Hue wende Horne it were, that hue hadde there;
Hue setten adown stille, and seyden hire wille,
In her armes tweye Athulf she con leye,
"Horne, quoth heo, wellong I have lovede thee strong,
"Thou shalt thy truth plyht in myne honde with ryht,
"Me to spouse welde and iche the loverde to helde."
"So stille so hit were, Achulf seide in her ere,
"Ne tel thou no more speche may y the byseche
"Thi tale—thou linne, for Horne his nout his ynne, &c."

At length the princess finds she has been deceived, the steward is severely reprimanded, and prince Horne is brought to her chamber; when, says the poet,

Of is fayre syhte al that boure gan lyhte u.

It is the force of the story in these pieces that chiefly en­gages our attention. The minstrels had no idea of conduct­ing and describing a delicate situation. The general manners were gross, and the arts of writing unknown. Yet this simplicity sometimes pleases more than the most artificial touches. In the mean time, the pictures of antient manners presented by these early writers, strongly interest the ima­gination: especially as having the same uncommon merit with the pictures of manners in Homer, that of being founded in truth and reality, and actually painted from the life. To talk of the grossness and absurdity of such manners is little to the purpose; the poet is only concerned in the justness and faithfulness of the representation.


HITHERTO we have been engaged in examining the state of our poetry from the conquest to the year 1200, or rather afterwards. It will appear to have made no very rapid improvement from that period. Yet as we proceed, we shall find the language losing much of its antient barba­rism and obscurity, and approaching more nearly to the dialect of modern times.

In the latter end of the reign of Henry the third, a poem occurs, the date of which may be determined with some degree of certainty. It is a satirical song, or ballad, written by one of the adherents of Simon de Montfort earl of Lei­cester, a powerful baron, soon after the battle of Lewes, which was fought in the year 1264, and proved very fatal to the interests of the king. In this decisive action, Richard king of the Romans, his brother Henry the third, and prince Edward, with many others of the royal party, were taken prisoners.

Sitteth alle stille, ant herkeneth to me:
The kynge of Alemaigne a, bi mi leaute b,
Thritti thousent pound askede he
For te make the peesc in the countre d,
And so so he dude more.
Richard, thahe thou be ever tricchard f,
Tricthen shall thou never more.
Richard of Alemaigne, whil that he was kying,
He spende al is tresour opon swyvyng,
Haveth he nout of Walingford oferlyng g,
Let him habbe, ase he brew, bale to dryng h,
Maugre Wyndesore i.
Richard, thah thou, &c,
The kyng of Alemaigne wende do ful wel k,
He saisede the mulne for a castel l,
With harem sharpe [...]werdes he grounde the stel,
He wende that the sayles were mangonel n [...]
To help Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou, &c.
The kyng of Alemaigne gederedeo ys ost,
Makede hym a castel of a mulne post p,
[Page 45] Wende with is prude q, ant is muckele bost,
Brohte from Almayne mony sori gost r
To store Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou, &c.
By god that is aboven ous he dude muche synne,
That let passen over see the erl of Warynne s:
He hath robbed Engelond, the mores, ant the fenne,
The gold, ant the selver, and y-boren henne,
For love of Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou, &c.
Syre Simonde de Mountfort hath suore bi ys chyn,
Hevedet he nou here the erle of Waryn,
Shuld he never more come to is yn u,
Ne with shelde, ne with spere, ne with other gyn w,
To help of Wyndesore:
Richard, thah thou, &c.
Syre Simond de Montfort hath swore bi ys fot,
Hevede he nou here Sire Hue of de Bigot,
[Page 46] Al he shulde grante hen twelfemonth scot x [...]
Shulde he never more with his sot pot,
To help Wyndesore.
Richard thah thou, &c [...]

These popular rhymes had probably no small influence in encouraging Leicester's partisans, and diffusing his fc­tion. There is some humour in imagining that Richard supposed the windmill to which he retreated, to be a forti­fication; and that he believed the sails of it to be military engines. In the manuscript from which this specimen is tran­scribed, immediately follows a song in French, seemingly written by the same poet, on the battle of Evesham fought the following year; in which Leicester was killed, and his rebellious barons defeated y. Our poet looks upon his hero as a martyr: and particularly laments the loss of Henry his son, and Hugh le Despenser justici [...]ry of England. He concludes with an English stanza, much in the style and spirit of those just quoted.

A learned and ingenious writer, in a work which places the study of the law in a new light, and proves it to be an entertaining history of manners, has observed, that this ballad on Richard of Alemaigne probably occasioned a statute against libels in the year 1275, under the title, ‘"Against slanderous reports, or tales to cause discord betwixt king and people z."’ That this spirit was growing to an extra­vagance which deserved to be checked, we shall have occasion to bring further proofs.

I must not pass over the reign of Henry the third, who died in the year 1272, without observing, that this monarch [Page 47] entertained in his court a poet with a certain salary, whose name was Henry de Avranches a. And although this poet was a Frenchman, and most probably wrote in French, yet this first instance of an officer who was afterwards, yet with sufficient impropriety, denominated a poet laureate in the English court, deservedly claims particular notice in the course of these annals. He is called Master Henry the Versi­fier b: which appellation perhaps implies a different cha­racter from the royal Minstrel or Joculator. The king's treasurers are ordered to pay this Master Henry one hundred shillings, which I suppose to have been a year's stipend, in the year 1251 c. And again the same precept occurs under the year 1249 d. Our master Henry, it seems, had in some of his verses reflected on the rusticity of the Cornish men. This insult was resented in a Latin satire now remaining, written by Michael Blaunpayne, a native of Cornwall, and recited by the author in the presence of Hugh abbot of Westminster, Hugh de Mortimer o [...]icial of the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop elect of Winchester, and the bishop of Rochester e. While we are speaking of the Versifier [Page 48] of Henry the third, it will not be foreign to add, that in the thirty-sixth year of the same king, forty shillings and one pipe of wine were given to Richard the king's harper, and one pipe of wine to Beatrice his wife e. But why this gratuity of a pipe of wine should also be made to the wife, as well as to the husband, who from his profession was a genial cha­racter, appears problematical according to our present ideas.

The first poet whose name occurs in the reign of Edward the first, and indeed in these annals, is Robert of Glocester, a monk of the abbey of Glocester. He has left a poem o [...] considerable length, which is a history of England in verse, from Brutus to the reign of Edward the first. It was evi­dently written after the year 1278, as the poet mentions king Arthur's sumptuous tomb, erected in that year before the high altar of Glastenbury church f: and he declares him­self a living witness of the rema [...]kably dismal weather which distinguished the day on which the battle of Evesham above­mentioned was fought, in the year 1265 g. From these and other circumstances this piece appears to have been composed about the year 1280. It is exhibited in the manuscripts, is cited by many antiquaries, and printed by Hearne, in the Alexandrine measure: but with equal probability might have been written in four-lined stanzas. This rhyming chronicle is totally destitute of art or imagination. The author has cloathed the fables of Geoffrey of Monmouth in rhyme, which have often a more poetical air in Geoffrey's prose. The [Page 49] language is not much more easy or intelligible than that of many of the Norman Saxon poems quoted in the preceding sec­tion: it is full of Saxonisms, which indeed abound, more or less, in every writer before Gower and Chaucer. But this ob­scurity is perhaps owing to the western dialect, in which our monk of Glocester was educated. Provincial barbarisms are naturally the growth of extreme counties, and of such as are situated at a distance from the metropolis: and it is probable, that the Saxon heptarchy, which consisted of a cluster of seven independent states, contributed to produce as many different provincial dialects. In the mean time it is to be considered, that writers of all ages and languages have their affectations and singularities, which occasion in each a peculiar phraseology.

Robert of Gloucester thus describes the sports and solem­nities which followed king Arthur's coronation.

The kyng was to ys paleys, tho the servyse was y do g,
Ylad wyth his menye, and the quene to hire also.
Vor hii hulde the olde usages, that men wyth men were
By them sulve, and wymmen by hem sulve also there h.
Tho hii were echone ysett, as yt to her stat bycom,
Kay, king of Aungeo, a thousand knytes nome
Of noble men, yclothed in ermyne echone
Of on sywete, and servede at thys noble fest anon.
Bedwer the botyler, kyng of Normandye,
Nom also in ys half a vayr companye
Of one sywytei worto servy of the botelerye.
Byvore the quene yt was also of al suche cortesye,
Vorto telle al the noblye thet ther was ydo,
They my tonge were of stel, me ssolde noght dure therto.
[Page 50] Wymmen ne kepte of no kyngt as in druery k,
Bote he were in armys wel yproved, and atte leste thrye l.
That made, lo, the wymmen the chastore lyf lede,
And the kyngtes the stalwordore m, and the betere in her dede.
Sone after thys noble mete n, as ryght was of such tyde,
The kynghts atyled hem aboute in eche syde,
In feldys and in medys to prove her bachelerye o.
Somme wyth lance, some wyth suerd, wythoute vylenye,
Wyth pleyinge at tables, other atte chekere p,
Wyth castynge, other wyth ssettinge q, other in some ogyrt manere.
And wuch so of eny game adde the maystrye,
The kyng hem of ys gyfteth dyde large cortysye.
Upe the alurs of the castles the laydes thanne stode,
And byhulde thys noble game, and wyche kyngts were god.
All the thre hexte dawesr ylaste thys nobleye
In halles and in veldes, of mete and eke of pleye.
Thys men com the verthes day byvore the kynge there,
And he gef hem large gyftys, evere as hii werthe were.
Bisshopryches and cherches clerkes he gef somme,
And castles and townes kyngtes that were ycome t.

Many of these lines are literally translated from Geoffry of Monmouth. In king Arthur's battle with the giant at [Page 51] Barbesfleet, there are no marks of Gothic painting. But there is an effort at poetry in the description of the giant's fall.

Tho grislych yal the ssrewe tho, that grislych was his bere,
He vel doung as a gret ok, that bynethe ycorve were,
That it thogte that al hul myd the vallynge ssok u.

That is, ‘"This cruel giant yelled so horribly, and so vehe­ment was his fall, that he fell down like an oak cut through at the bottom, and all the hill shook while he fell."’ But this stroke is copied from Geoffry of Monmouth; who tells the same miraculous story, and in all the pomp with which it was perhaps dressed up by his favourite fablers. ‘"Exclamavit vero invisus ille; et velut quercus ventorum viribus eradi­cata, cum maximo sonitu corruit."’ It is difficult to determine which is most blameable, the poetical historian, or the pro­saic poet.

It was a tradition invented by the old fablers, that giants brought the stones of Stonehenge from the most sequestered deserts of Africa, and placed them in Ireland; that every stone was washed with juices of herbs, and con­tained a medical power; and that Merlin the magician, at the request of king Arthur, transported them from Ireland, and erected them in circles on the plain of Amesbury, as a sepulchral monument for the Britons treacherously slain by Hengist. This fable is thus delivered, without decoration, by Robert of Glocester.

"Sire kyng, quoth Merlin tho, suche thynges y wis
"Ne bethe for to schewe nogt, but wen gret nede ys,
"For gef iche seid in bismare, other bute it ned were,
"Sone from me he wold wende the gost, that doth me lere w:
[Page 52] The kyng, tho non other nas, bod hym som quoyntise
Bithinke about thilk cors that so noble were and wyse x.
"Sire kyng, quoth Merlin tho, gef thou wolt here caste
"In the honour of men, a worke that ever schal ylaste y,
"To the hul of Kylarz send in to Yrlond,
"Aftur the noble stones that ther habbeta lenge ystonde;
"That was the treche of giandes b, for a quoynte work ther ys
"Of stones al wyth art ymad, in the world such non ys.
"Ne ther nys nothing that me scholde myd strengthe adoune cast.
"Stode heo here, as heo doth there ever a wolde last c."
The kyng somdele to lyghe d, tho he herde this tale,
"How mygte, he seyde, suche stones so grete and so fale e,
"Be ybrogt of so fer lond? And get mist of were,
"Me wolde wene, that in this londe no ston to wonke nere,"
"Syre kyng, quoth Merlyn, ne make noght an ydel such lyghyng.
"For yt nys an ydel noght that ich tell this tythyng f.
"For in the farreste stude of Affric giands while fette g
"Thike stones for medycyne and in Yrlond hem sette,
"While heo wonenden in Yrlond to make here bathes there,
"Ther undir forto bathi wen thei syk were.
"For heo wuld the stones wasch and ther enne bathe ywis.
"For ys no ston ther among that of gret vertu nys h."
The kyng and ys conseil raddei the stones forto fette,
And with gret power of batail gef any more hem lette
[Page 53] Uter the kynges brother, that Ambrose hett also,
In another name ychose was therto,
And fifteene thousant men this dede for to do
And Merlyn for his quointise thider went also k.

If any thing engages our attention in this passage, it is the wildness of the fiction; in which however the poet had no share.

I will here add Arthur's intrigue with Ygerne.

At the fest of Estre tho kyng sende ys sonde,
That heo comen alle to London the hey men of this londe,
And the levedys al so god, to ys noble fest wyde,
For he schulde crowne here, for the hye tyde.
Alle the noble men of this lond to the noble fest come,
And heore wyves and heore dogtren with hem mony nome,
This fest was noble ynow, and nobliche y do;
For mony was the faire ledy, that y come was therto.
Ygerne, Gorloys wyf, was fairest of echon,
That was contasse of Cornewail, for so fair nas ther non.
The kyng by huld hire faste y now, and ys herte on hire caste,
And thogte, thay heo were wyf, to do folye atte last.
[Page 54] He made hire semblant fair y now, to non other so gret.
The erl nas not ther with y payed, tho he yt under get.
Aftur mete he nom ys wyfe myd stordy med y now,
And, with oute leve of the kyng, to ys contrei drow.
The kyng sende to hym tho, to by leve al nygt,
For he moste of gret consel habbe som insygt.
That was for nogt. Wolde he nogt the kyng sende get ys sonde.
That he by levede at ys parlemente, for nede of the londe.
The kyng was, tho he nolde nogt, anguyssous and wroth.
For despyte he wolde a wreke be he swor ys oth,
Bute he come to amendement. Ys power atte laste
He garkede, and wende forth to Cornewail faste.
Gorloys ys casteles a store al a boute.
In a strong castel he dude ys wyf, for of hire was al ys doute.
In another hym self he was, for he nolde nogt,
Gef cas come, that heo were bothe to dethe y brogt.
The castel, that the erl inne was, the kyng by segede faste,
For he mygte ys gynnes for schame to the oter caste.
Tho he was ther sene nygt, and he spedde nogt,
Igerne the contesse so muche was in ys thogt,
That he nuste nen other wyt, ne he ne mygte for schame
Telle yt bute a pryve knygt, Ulfyn was ys name,
That he truste mest to. And tho the knygt herde this,
"Syre, he seide, y ne can wyte, wat red here of ys,
"For the castel ys so strong, that the lady ys inne,
"For ich wene al the lond ne schulde yt myd strengthe wynne.
"For the se geth al aboute, but entre on ther nys,
"And that ys up on harde rockes, and so narw wei it ys,
"That ther may go bote on and on, that thre men with inne
"Mygte sle al the londe, er heo com ther inne.
"And nogt for than, gef Merlyn at thi conseil were,
"Gef any mygte, he couthe the best red the lere."
[Page 55] Merlyn was sone of send, pleid yt was hym sone,
That he schulde the beste red segge, wat were to done.
Merlyn was sory ynow for the kynge's folye,
And natheles, "Sire kyng, he seide, there mot to maistrie,
"The erl hath twey men hym nert, Brygthoel and Jordan.
"Ich wol make thi self gef thou wolt, thoru art that y can,
"Habbe al tho fourme of the erl, as thou were rygt he,
"And Olfyn as Jordan, and as Brithoel me."
This art was al clene y do, that al changet he were,
Heo thre in the otheres forme, the selve at yt were.
Ageyn even he wende forth, nuste nomon that cas,
To the castel heo come rygt as yt evene was.
The porter y se ys lord come, and ys moste privey twei,
With god herte he lette ys lord yn, and ys men beye.
The contas was glad y now, tho hire lord to hire com
And eyther other in here armes myd gret joye nom.
Tho heo to bedde com, that so longe a two were,
With hem was so gret delyt, that bitwene hem there
Bi gete was the beste body, that ever was in this londe,
Kyng Arthure the noble mon, that ever worthe understonde.
Tho the kynge's men nuste amorwe, wer he was bi come,
Heo ferde as wodemen, and wende he were ynome.
Heo a saileden the castel, as yt schulde a doun anon,
Heo that with inne were, garkede hem echon,
And smyte out in a fole wille, and fogte myd here fon:
So that the erl was y slave, and of ys men mony on,
And the castel was y nome, and the folk to sprad there,
Get, tho thei hadde al ydo, heo ne fonde not the kyng there.
The tything to the contas sone was y come,
That hi [...]e lord was y slawe, and the castel y nome.
Ac tho the messinger hym sey the erl, as hym thogte,
That he hadde so foule plow, ful sore hym of thogte,
The contasse made som del deol, for no sothnesse heo nuste.
The kyng, for to glade here, bi clupte hire and cust.
[Page 56] "Dame, he seide, no sixt thou wel, that les yt ys al this:
"Ne wost thou wel ich am olyue. Ich wole the segge how it ys.
"Out of the castel stille [...]iche ych wende al in privete,
"That none of myne men yt nuste, for to speke with the.
"And tho heo miste me to day, and nuste wer ich was,
"Heo ferden rigt as gydie men, myd wam no red nas,
"And fogte with the folk with oute, and habbeth in this manere
"Y lore th [...] castel and hem s [...]lue, ac wel thou wost y am here.
"Ac for my castel, that is ylore, sory ich am y now,
"And for myn men, that the kyng and ys power slog.
"Ac my power is now to lute, ther fore y drede sore,
"Leste the kyng us nyme here, and sorwe that we were more.
"Ther fore ich wole, how so yt be, wende agen the kynge,
"And make my pays with hym, ar he us to schame brynge."
Forth he wende, and het ys men that gef the kyng come,
That hei schulde hym the castel gelde, ar he with strengthe it nome.
So he come to [...]ard ys men, ys own forme he nom,
And levede the erle's fourme, and the kyng Uter by com.
Sore hym of thogte the erle's deth, ac in other half he fonde
Joye in hys herte, for the contasse of spoushed was unbonde,
Tho he hadde that he wolde, and paysed with ys son,
To the contasse he wende agen, me let hym in a non.
Wat halt it to talle longe: bute heo were seth at on,
In gret loue longe y now, wan yt nolde other gon;
And hadde to gedere this noble sone, that in the world ys pere nas,
The kyng Arture, and a dogter, Anne hire name was i.

In the latter end of the reign of Edward the first, many officers of the French king having extorted large sums of [Page 57] money from the citizens of Bruges in Flanders, were mur­thered: and an engagement succeeding, the French army, commanded by the count du Saint Pol, was defeated; upon which the king of France, who was Philip the Fair, sent a strong body of troops, under the conduct of the count de Artois, against the Flemings: he was killed, and the French were almost all cut to pieces. On this occasion the follow­ing ballad was made in the year 1301 m.

Lusteneth, lordinges, bothe ȝonge and olde,
Of the Freynshe men that were so proude ante bolde,
How the Flemmyshe men bohten hem ante solde,
Upon a Wednesday,
Betere hem were at home in huere londe,
Than force seche Flemishe bi the sea stronde
Whare rouch moni Frensh wyf wryngeth hire honde,
And syngeth welaway.
The kynge of Ffrance made statutes newe,
In the londe of Flaundres among false ant trewe,
That the communs of Bruges ful sore can arewe,
And seiden among hem,
Gedere we us to gedere hardilyche at ene,
Take we the bailifs by twenty and bi tene,
Clappe we of the hevedes an oven o the grene,
Ant cast we in the fen.
The webbes ant the fullaris assembled hem alle,
And makeden huere counsail in huere commune halle,
Token Peter conyng huere kynge to call
Ant be huere cheveteyne, &c n.

These verses shew the familiarity with which the affairs of France were known in England, and display the dispo­sition of the English towards the French, at this period. It [Page 58] It appears from this and previous instances, that political bal­lads, I mean such as were the vehicles of political satire, prevailed much among our early ancestors. About the pre­sent era, we meet with a ballad complaining of the exhor­bitant fees extorted, and the numerous taxes levied, by the king's officers o. There is a libel remaining, written indeed in French Alexandrines, on the commission of trayl-baston p, or the justices so denominated by Edward the first, during his absence in the French and Scotch wars, about the year 1306. The author names some of the justices or commis­sioners, now not easily discoverable: and says, that he served the king both in peace and war in Flanders, Gascony, and Scotland q. There is likewise a ballad against the Scots, trai­tors to Edward the first, and taken prisoners at the battles of Dunbar and Kykenclef, in 1305, and 1306 r. The licen­tiousness of their rude manners was perpetually breaking out in these popular pasquins, although this species of pe­tulance usually belongs to more polished times.

Nor were they less dexterous than daring in publishing their satires to advantage, although they did not enjoy the many conveniencies which modern improvements have afforded for the circulation of public abuse. In the reign of Henry the sixth, to pursue the topic a little lower, we find a ballad of this species stuck on the gates of the royal palace, severely reflecting on the king and his counsellors then sitting in par­liament. This piece is preserved in the Ashmolean museum, with the following Latin title prefixed. ‘"Copia scedul [...]e valvis domini regis existentis in parliamento suo tento apud Westmonas­terium mense marcii anno regni Henrici sexti vicesimo octavo."’ But the antient ballad was often applied to better purposes: and it appears from a valuable collection of these little pieces, [Page 59] lately published by my ingenious friend and fellow-labourer doctor Percy, in how much more ingenuous a strain they have transmitted to posterity the praises of knightly he­roism, the marvels of romantic fiction, and the complaints of love.

At the close of the reign of Edward the first, and in the year 1303, a poet occurs named Robert Mannyng, but more commonly called Robert de Brunne. He was a Gilbertine monk in the monastery of Brunne, or Bourne, near Depyng in Lincolnshire: but he had been before professed in the priory of Sixhille, a house of the same order, and in the same county. He was merely a translator. He translated into English metre, or rather paraphrased, a French book, written by Grosthead bishop of Lincoln, entitled, MANUEL PECHE, or MANUEL de PECHE, that is, the MANUAL OF SINS. This translation was never printed s. It is a long work, and treats of the decalogue, and the seven deadly sins, which are illustrated with many legendary stories. This is the title of the translator. ‘"Here bygynneth the boke that men clepyn in Frenshe MANUEL PECHE, the which boke made yn Frenshe Robert Groosteste byshop of Lyncoln."’ From the Prologue, among other circumstances, it appears that Robert de Brunne designed this performance to be sung to the harp at public entertainments, and that it was written or begun in the year 1303 t.

For lewedu men I undyrtoke,
In Englyshe tonge to make this boke:
For many beyn of suche manere
That talys and rymys wyle blethly w here,
[Page 60] In gamys and festys at the ale x
Love men to lestene trotonale y:
To all crystyn men undir sunne,
And to gode men of Brunne;
And specialli al bi name
The felaushipe of Symprynghame z,
Roberd of Brunne greteth yow,
In alle godenesse that may to prow a.
Of Brymwake yn Kestevene b
Syxe myle besyde Sympryngham evene,
Y dwelled in the priorye
Fyftene yere in cumpanye,
In the tyme of gode Dane Jone
Of Camelton that now is gone;
In hys tyme was I ther ten yeres
And knewe and herde of hys maneres;
Sythyn with Dan Jon of Clyntone
Fyve wyntyr wyth hym gan I wone,
Dan Felyp was maystyr in that tyme
That I began thys Englyssh ryme,
The yeres of grace fydc than to be
A thousand and thre hundred and thre.
In that tyme turned y thys
In Englysh tonge out of Frankys.

[Page 61] From the work itself I am chiefly induced to give the fol­lowing specimen; as it contains an anecdote relating to bishop Grosthead his author, who will again be mentioned, and on that account.

Y shall you tell as I have herd
Of the bysshop seynt Roberd,
Hys tonamed is Grosteste
Of Lyncolne, so seyth the geste.
He lovede moche to here the harpe,
For mans witte yt makyth sharpe.
Next hys chamber, besyde hys study,
Hys harper's chamber was fast the by.
Many tymes, by nightes and dayes,
He hadd solace of notes and layes,
One askede hem the resun why
He hadde delyte in mynstrelsy?
He answerde hym on thys manere
Why he helde the harpe so dere.
"The virtu of the harp, thurgh skyle and ryght,
"Wyll destrye the fendyse myght;
"And to the cros by gode skeyl
"Ys the harpe lykened weyl.—
"Thirefore, gode men, ye shall lere,
"When ye any glemanf here,
"To worshepe god at your power,
"And Davyd in the sauter g.
"Yn harpe and tabour and symphan gle h
"Worship God in trumpes ant sautre:
[Page 62] "Yn cordes, yn organes, and bells ringyng,
"Yn all these worship the hevene kyng, &c i."

But Robert de Brunne's largest work is a metrical chro­nicle of England k. The former part, from Aeneas to the death of Cadwallader, is translated from an old French poet called MAISTER WACE or GASSE, who manifestly copied Geof­fry of Monmouth l, in a poem commonly entitled ROMAN DE ROIS D'ANGLETERRE. It is esteemed one of the oldest of the French romances; and begun to be written by Eustace, sometimes called Eustache, Wistace, or Huistace, who finished his part under the title of BRUT D'ANGLETERRE, in the year 1155. Hence Robert de Brunne, somewhat in­accurately, calls it simply the BRUT m. This romance was [Page 63] soon afterwards continued to William Rufus, by Robert Wace or Vace, Gasse or Gace, a native of Jersey, educated at Caen, canon of Bayeux, and chaplain to Henry the second, under the title of LE ROMAN LE ROU ET LES VIES DES DUCS DE NORMANDIE, yet sometimes preserving its original one, in the year 1160 n. Thus both parts were blended, and became one work. Among the royal manuscripts in the British Museum it is thus entitled: ‘"LE BRUT, ke maistre Wace translata de Latin en Franceis de tutt les Reis de Brit­taigne o."’ That is, from the Latin prose history of Geoffry of Monmouth. And that master Wace aimed only at the merit of a translator, appears from his exordial verses.

Maistre Gasse l' a translatè
Que en conte le veritè.

Otherwise we might have suspected that the authors drew their materials from the old fabulous Armoric manuscript, which is said to have been Geoffry's original.

[Page 64] Al [...]hough this romance, in its antient and early manu­scripts, has constantly passed under the name of its finisher, Wace; yet the accurate Fauchett cites it by the name of its first author Eustace p. And at the same time it is extraor­dinary, that Robert de Brunne, in his Prologue, should not once mention the name of Eustace, as having any concern in it: so soon was the name of the beginner superseded by that of the continuator. An ingenious French antiquary very justly supposes, that Wace took many of his descrip­tions from that invaluable and singular monument the Tapestry of the Norman conquest, preserved in the treasury of the ca­thedral of Bayeux q, and lately engraved and explained in the learned doctor Du Carell's Anglo-Norman ANTIQUITIES. Lord Lyttleton has quoted this romance, and shewn that im­portant facts and curious illustrations of history may be drawn from such obsolete but authentic resources r.

The measure used by Robert de Brunne, in his translation of the former part of our French chronicle or romance, is exactly like that of his original. Thus the Prologue.

Lordynges that be now here,
If ye wille listene and lere,
All the story of Inglande,
Als Robert Mannyng wryten it fand,
And on Inglysch has it schewed,
Not for the lered but for the lewed;
For tho that on this lond wonn
That the Latin ne Frankys conn,
For to half solace and gamen
In felauschip when tha sitt samen
And it is wisdom forto wytten
The state of the land, and hef it wryten,
[Page 65] What manere of folk first it wan,
And of what kynde it first began.
And gude it is for many thynges,
For to here the dedis of kynges,
Whilk were foles, and whilk were wyse,
And whilk of tham couth most quantyse;
And whylk did wrong, and whilk ryght,
And whilk mayntened pes and fyght.
Of thare dedes sall be mi sawe,
In what tyme, and of what law,
I sholl yow from gre to gre,
Sen the tyme of Sir Noe:
From Noe unto Eneas,
And what betwixt tham was,
And fro Eneas till Brutus tyme,
That kynde he tells in this ryme.
For Brutus to Cadweladres,
The last Briton that this lande lees.
Alle that kynd and alle the frute
That come of Brutus that is the Brute;
And the ryght Brute is told no more
Than the Brytons tyme wore.
After the Bretons the Inglis camen,
The lordschip of this land thai namen;
South, and north, west, and east,
That call men now the Inglis gest.
When thai first among the Bretons,
That now ere Inglis than were Saxons,
Saxons Inglis hight all oliche.
Thai aryved up at Sandwyche,
In the kynges synce Vortogerne
That the lande wolde tham not werne, &c.
One mayster WACE the Frankes telles
The Brute all that the Latin spelles,
[Page 66] Fro Eneas to Cadwaladre, &c.
And ryght as mayster Wace says,
I telle myne Inglis the same ways, &c s.

The second part of Robert de Brunne's CHRONICLE, be­ginning from Cadwallader, and ending with Edward the first, is translated, in great measure, from the second part of a French metrical chronicle, written in five books, by Peter Langtoft, an Augustine canon of the monastery of Brid­lington in Yorkshire, who wrote not many years before his translator. This is mentioned in the Prologue preceding the second part.

Frankis spech is cald romance t,
So sais clerkes and men of France.
Pers of Langtoft, a chanon
Schaven in the house of Bridlyngton
On Frankis style this storie he wrote
Of Inglis kinges, &c u.

As Langtoft had written his French poem in Alexan­drines w, the translator, Robert de Brunne, has followed him, the Prologue excepted, in using the double distich for one line, after the manner of Robert of Gloucester. As in the first part he copied the metre of his author Wace. But I will exhibit a specimen from both parts. In the first, he gives [Page 67] us this dialogue between Merlin's mother and king Vortigern, from Master Wace.

Dame, said the kyng, welcom be thow:
Nedeli at the I mette witte how x
Who than gatey thi sone Merlyn
And on what maner was he thin?
His moder stode a throwez and thought
Are schoa to the kyng ansuerd ouht:
When scho had standen a litelle wight b,
Scho said, by Jhesu in Mari light,
That I ne saugh hym never ne knewe
That this knavec on me sewe d.
Ne I wist, ne I herd,
What maner schap with me so ferd e.
But this thing am I wole ograunt f,
That I was of elde avenaunt g:
One com to my bed I wist,
With force he me haisedh and kist:
Alsi a man I him felte,
Als a man he me welte k;
Als a man he spake to me.
Bot what he was, myght I not se l.

The following, extracted from the same part, is the speech of the Romans to the Britons, after the former had built a wall against the Picts, and were leaving Britain.

We haf closed ther most nede was;
And yf ye defend wele that pas
[Page 68] With archersm and with magnels n,
And kepe wele the kyrnels;
Ther may ye bothe schote and cast
Waxes bold and fend you fast.
Thinkes your faders wan franchise,
Be ye no more in other servise:
Bot frely lyf to your lyves end:
We fro you for ever wende o.

Vortigern king of the Britons, is thus described meeting the beautiful princess Rouwen, daughter of Hengist, the Rosamond [Page 69] of the Saxon ages, at a feast of wassaile. It is a cu­rious picture of the gallantry of the times.

Hengest that day did his might,
That alle were glad, king and knight,
And as thei were best in glading,
Andp wele cop schotin knight and king,
Of chambir Rouewen so gent,
Be fore the king in halle scho went.
A coupe with wyne sche had in hand,
And hirq hatire was weler farand.
Be fore the king on kne sett,
And on hir langage scho him grett.
"Lauerids king, Wassaille," seid sche.
The king asked, what suld be.
On that langage the kingt ne couthe.
A knightu ther langagew lerid in youthe.
Bregx hiht that knight born Bretoun,
That lerid the langage ofy Sessoun.
This Breg was the z latimer.
What scho said told Vortager.
[Page 70] "Sir, Breg seid, Rowen yow gretis,
"And king callis and lord yowa letis.
"This es ther custom and ther gest,
"Whan thei are atte the ale or fest.
"Ilk man that louis quare him think,
"Salle say Wosseille, and to him drink.
"He that bidis salle say, Wassaille,
"The tother salle say again, Drinkhaille.
"That sais Wosseille drinkis of the cop,
"Kissandb his felaw he gives it up.
"Drinkheille, he sais, and drinke ther of,
"Kissand him in bourd andc skof."
The king said, as the knight gand ken,
Drinkheille, smil [...]nd on Rouewen.
Rouwen drank as hire list,
And gave the king,e sine him kist.
There was the first wassaille in dede,
And that first of famef gede.
Of that wassaille men told grete tale,
And wassaille whan thei were at ale.
And drinkheille to tham that drank,
Thus was wassailleg tane to thank.
Feleh sithes that maidini ying,
Wassailed and kist the king.
Of bodi sche was rightk avenant,
Of fair colour, with swetel semblaunt.
[Page 71] Hirm hatire fulle wele it semed,
Mervelikn the king scheo quemid.
Oute of messure was he glad,
For of that maidin he wer alle mad.
Drunkenes the feend wroght,
Of thatp paen was al his thoght.
A meschaunche that time him led.
He asked that paen for to wed.
Hengistq wild not draw a lite,
Bot graunted him alle so tite.
And Hors his brother consentid sone.
Her frendis said, it were to done.
Thei asked the king to gife hir Kent,
In douary to take of rent.
O pon that maidin his hert so cast,
That thei askid the king made fast.
I wene the king toke her that day,
And wedded hirer on paiens lay.
Of prest was ther nos benison
No mes songen, no orison.
In seisine he had her that night.
Of Kent he gave Hengist the right.
The erelle that time, that Kent alle held,
Sir Goragon, that had the scheld,
Of that gift no thingt ne wist
Tou he was cast outew with Hengist x.

In the second part, copied from Peter Langtoft, the at­tack of Richard the first, on a castle held by the Saracens, is thus described.

[Page 72]
The dikes were fulle wide that closed the castle about,
And depe on ilka side, with bankis hie without.
Was ther non entre that to the castelle gan ligge x,
Bot a streiht kauce y; at the end a drauht brigge.
With grete duble cheynes drauhen over the gate,
And fifti armed suyenesz porters at that yate.
With slenges and magnelesa thei kastb to kyng Rychard
Our cristen by parcelles kasted ageynward c.
Ten sergeauns of the best his targe gan him bere
That egre were and prest to covere hym and to were d.
Himself as a geaunt the cheynes in tuo hew,
The targe was his warant e, that non tille him threw.
Right unto the gate with the targe thei yede
Fightand on a gate, undir him the slouh his stede,
Therfor ne wild he sesse f, alone into the castele
Thorgh tham all wild presse on fote faught he fulle wele.
And whan he was withinne, and fauht as a wilde leon,
He fondred the Sarazins otuynne g, and fauht as a dragon,
Without the cristen gan crie, allas! Richard is taken,
Tho Normans were sorie, of contenance gan blaken,
To slo downe and to stroye never wild thei stint
Thei left for dede no noye h, ne for no wound no dynt,
That in went alle their pres, maugre the Sarazins alle,
And fond Richard on des fightand, and wonne the halle i.

From these passages it appears, that Robert of Brunne has scarcely more poetry than Robert of Glocester. He has however taken care to acquaint his readers, that he avoided [Page 73] high description, and that sort of phraseology which was then used by the minstrels and harpers: that he rather aimed to give information than pleasure, and that he was more studious of truth than ornament. As he intended his chronicle to be sung, at least by parts, at public festivals, he found it expedient to apologise for these deficiencies in the prologue; as he had partly done before in his prologue to the MANUAL OF SINS.

I mad noght for no disours k
Ne for seggers no harpours,
Bot for the luf of symple men,
That strange Inglis cannot ken l:
For many it erem that strange Inglis
In ryme waten never what it is.
I made it not for to be praysed,
Bot at the lewed men were aysed o.

He next mentions several sorts of verse, or prosody; which were then fashionable among the minstrels, and have been long since unknown.

If it were made in ryme couwce,
Or in strangere or enterlacè, &c.

He adds, that the old stories of chivalry had been so disguised by foreign terms, by additions and alterations, that they [Page 74] were now become unintelligible to a common audience: and particularly, that the tale of SIR TRISTRAM, the noblest of all, was much changed from the original composition of its first author THOMAS.

I see in [...]ong in sedgeying tale p
Of Erceldoune, and Kendale,
Non tham says as thai tham wroght q,
Andr in ther saying it semes noght,
That may thou here in Sir Tristram s;
Over gestes t it has the steem u,
Over all that is or was,
If men yt sayd as made Thomas.—
[Page 75] Thai sayd in so quaynte Inglis
That manyonew wate not what it is.—
And forsooth I couth nought
So strange Inglis as thai wroght.

On this account, he says, he was persuaded by his friends to write his chronicle in a more popular and easy style, that would be better understood.

And men besought me many a time,
To turn it bot in light ryme.
Thai said if I in strange it turne
To here it manyon would skurne x,
For it are names fulle selcouthe y
That ere not used now in mouth.—
In the hous of Sixille I was a throwe z
Danz Robert of Meltone,a that ye knowe,
Did it wryte for felawes sake,
When thai wild solace make b.

Erceldoune and Kendale are mentioned, in some of these lines of Brunne, as old romances or popular tales. Of the latter I can discover no traces in our antient literature. As to the former, Thomas Erceldoun, or Ashelington, is said to have written Prophecies, like those of Merlin. Leland, from the Scalae Chronicon c, says, that ‘"William Banastre d, and [Page 76] Thomas Erceldoune, spoke words yn figure as were the prophecies of Merlin e."’ In the library of Lincoln cathe­dral, there is a metrical romance entitled, THOMAS OF ER­SELDOWN, which begins with the usual address, ‘Lordynges both great and small.’ In the Bodleian library, among the theological works of John Lawern, monk of Worcester, and student in theology at Oxford, about the year 1448, written with his own hand, a fragment of an English poem occurs, which begins thus:

Joly chepert [sheperd] of Askeldowne f.

In the British Museum a manuscript English poem occurs, with this French title prefixed, ‘"La Countesse de Dunbar, demanda a Thomas Essedoune quant la guere d' Escoce prendret fyn g."’ This was probably our prophesier Tho­mas of Erceldown. One of his predictions is mentioned in an antient Scots poem entitled, A NEW YEAR'S GIFT, writ­ten in the year 1562, by Alexander Scott h. One Thomas Leirmouth, or Rymer, was also a prophetic bard, and lived at Erslingtoun, sometimes perhaps pronounced Erseldoun. [Page 77] This is therefore probably the same person. One who per­sonates him, says,

In ERSLINGTOUN I dwell at hame,
THOMAS RYMER men call me.

He has left vaticinal rhymes, in which he predicted the union of Scotland with England, about the year 1279 i. For­dun mentions several of his prophecies concerning the future state of Scotland k.

Our author, Robert de Brunne, also translated into English rhymes the treatise of cardinal Bonaventura, his cotemporary l, De coena et passione domini et poenis S. Mariae Virginis, with the following title. ‘"Medytaciuns of the Soper of our Lorde Jhesu, and also of hys Passyun, and eke of the Peynes of hys swete Modyr mayden Marye, the whyche made yn Latyn Bonaventure Cardynall m."’ But I forbear to give further extracts from this writer, who appears to have pos­sessed much more industry than genius, and cannot at pre­sent be read with much pleasure. Yet it should be remem­bered, that even such a writer as Robert de Brunne, uncouth and unpleasing as he naturally seems, and chiefly employed in turning the theology of his age into rhyme, contributed to form a style, to teach expression, and to polish his native tongue. In the infancy of language and composition, no­thing is wanted but writers: at that period even the most artless have their use.

[Page 78] Robert Grosthead, bishop of Lincoln n, who died in 1253, is said in some verses of Robert de Brunne, quoted above, to have been fond of the metre and music of the minstrels. He was most attached to the French minstrels, in whose lan­guage he has left a poem, never printed, of some length. This was probably translated into English rhyme about the reign of Edward the first. Nor is it quite improbable, if the translation was made at this period, that the translator was Robert de Brunne; especially as he translated another of Grosthead's pieces. It is called by Leland Chateau d'Amour o. But in one of the Bodleian manuscripts of this book we have the following title, Romance par Mestre Robert Grosseteste p. In another it is called, Ce est la vie de D. Jhu de sa humanite fet a ordine de Saint Robert Grosseteste ke fut eveque de Nichole q. And in this copy, a very curious apology to the clergy is prefixed to the poem, for the language in which it is writ­ten r. ‘"Et quamvis lingua romana [romance] coram CLE­RICIS SAPOREM SUAVITATIS non habeat, tamen pro laicis qui minus intelligunt opusculum illud aptum est s."’ This piece professes to treat of the creation, the redemption, the day of judgment, the joys of heaven, and the torments of hell: but the whole is a religious allegory, and under the ideas of chivalry the fundamental articles of christian belief are represented. It has the air of a system of divinity written [Page 79] by a troubadour. The poet, in describing the advent of Christ, supposes that he entered into a magnificent castle, which is the body of the immaculate virgin. The structure of this castle is conceived with some imagination, and drawn with the pencil of romance. The poem begins with these lines.

Ki pense ben, ben peut dire:
Sanz penser ne poet suffise:
De nul bon oure commencer
Deu nos dont de li penser
De ki par ki, en ki, sont
Tos les biens ki font en el mond.

But I hasten to the translation, which is more immediately connected with our present subject, and has this title. ‘"Her bygenet a tretys that ys yclept CASTEL OF LOVE that biscop Grosteyzt made ywis for lewde mennes byhove t."’ Then follows the prologue or introduction.

That good thinketh good may do,
And God wol help him thar to:
Ffor nas never good work wrougt
With oute biginninge of good thougt.
Ne never was wrougt non vuelu thyng
That vuel thougt nas the biginnyng.
God ffuder, and sone and holigoste
That alle thing on eorthe sixtw and wost,
That one God art and thrillihod x,
And threo persones in one hod y,
Withouten end and bi ginninge,
To whom we ougten over alle thinge,
[Page 80] Worschepe him with trewe love,
That kineworthe king art us above,
In whom, of whom, thorw whom beoth,
Alle the good schipes that we hire i seoth,
He leve us thenche and worchen so,
That he us schylde from vre fo,
All we habbeth to help neode
That we ne beth all of one theode,
Ne i boren in one londe,
Ne one speche undirstonde,
Ne mowe we al Latin wite z
Ne Ebreu ne Grua that beth i write,
Ne Ffrench, ne this other spechen,
That me mihte in worlde sechen.
To herie god our derworthi drihte b,
As vch mon ougte with all his mihte;
Loft song syngen to god ȝerne c,
With such speche as he con lerne:
Ne monnes mouth ne be i dut
Ne his ledened i hud,
To serven his god that him wrougte,
And maade al the worlde of nougte.
Of Englische I shal nir resun schowen
Ffor hem that can not i knowen,
Nouther French ne Latyn
On Englisch I chulle tullen him.
Wherefor the world was i wroht,
Ther after how he was bi tauht,
[Page 81] Adam vre ffader to ben his,
With al the merthe o [...] paradys
To wonen and welden to such ende
Til that he scholde to hevene wende,
And hou sone he hit fu les
And seththen hou for bouht wes,
Thurw the heȝe kynges sone
That here in eorthe wolde come,
Ffor his sustren that were to boren,
And ffor a prison thas was for loren
And hou he made as ȝe schal heren
That heo i cust and sauht weren
And to wruche a castel he alihte, &c.

But the following are the most poetical passages of this poem.

God nolde a lihte in none manere,
But in feir studee and in clere,
In feir and clene siker hit wes,
Ther god almihti his in ches f [...]
In a CASTEL well comeliche,
Mucheg and ffeire, and loveliche,
That is the castell of alle floure,
Of solas and of socour,
In the mere he stont bi twene two,
Ne hath he forlak for no fo:
For the tourh is so wel with outen,
So depe i diched al abouten,
That non kunnes asayling,
Ne may him derven fer no thing;
He stont on heiȝ rocke and sound,
And is y planed to the ground,
[Page 82] That ther may won non vueli thing,
Ne derve ne gynnes castyng;
And thaug he be so lovliche,
He is so dredful and hatcliche,
To all thulke that ben his fon,
That heo flen him everichon;
Ffor smal toures that beth abouten,
To witen the heige toure withouten,
Sethek beoth thre bayles withalle l,
So feir i diht with strunge walle,
As heo beth here after I write,
Ne may no man them feirschipe i wite,
Ne may no tongue ne may hit telle,
Ne thougt thincke, ne mouthe spelle:
On trusti rocke heo stondeth fast,
And with depe diches bethe bi cast,
And the carnelsn so stondeth upright,
Wel I planed, and feir i dight:
Seven barbicanes ther beth i wrouht
With gret ginne al bi thouht o,
And evrichon hath gat and toure,
Ther never fayleth ne socoure.
Never schal fo him stonde with
That thider wold flen to sechen grith p.
This castel is siker fair abouten,
And is al depeynted withouten,
With threo heowes that wel beth sene q;
So is the foundement al grene,
[Page 83] That to the rock fast lith.
Wel is that ther murthe i sith,
Ffor the greneschip lasteth evere,
And his heuh ne leoseth nevere,
Sethen abouten that other heug
So is ynde so ys blu r.
That the midel heug we clepeth ariht
And schyneth so faire and so briht.
The thridde heug an ovemast
Over wrigeth al and so ys i cast
That withinnen and withouten,
The castel lihteth al abouten,
And is raddore than eny rose schal
That shunneth as hit barnds were t.
Withinne the castel is whit schinynge
Sou the snows that is snewynge,
And casteth that liht so wyde,
After long the tour and be syde,
That never cometh ther wo ne woug,
As swetnesse ther is ever i noug.
Amydde w the heige toure is springynge
A well that ever is eorninge x
With four stremes that striketh wel,
And erneth upon the gravel,
And fulleth the duches about the wal,
Much blisse ther is over al,
Ne dar he seeke non other leche
That mai riht of this water eleche.
[Page 84] In y thulke derworthi faire toure
Ther stont a trone with much honour,
Of whit yvori and feirore of liht
Than the someres day when heis briht,
With cumpas i throwen and with gin al i do
Seven steppes ther beoth therto, &c.
The ffoure smale toures abouten,
That with the heige tour withouten,
Ffour had thewes that about hire i seoth,
Ffoure vertus cardinals beoth, &c.
And z which beoth threo bayles get,
That with the carnels ben so wel i set,
And i cast with cumpas and walled abouten
That wileth the heihe tour with outen:
Bote the inmost bayle i wote
Bitokeneth hire holi maydenhode, &c.
The middle bayle that wite ge,
Bitokeneth hire holi chastite
And sethen the overmast bayle
Bitokeneth hire holi sposaile, &c.
The seven kernels abouten,
That with greot gin beon y wrought withouten,
And witeth this castel so well,
With arwe and with quarrel a,
That beoth the seven vertues with wunne
To overcum the seven deadly sinne, &c. b

[Page 85] It was undoubtedly a great impediment to the cultivation and progressive improvement of the English language at these early periods, that the best authors chose to write in French. Many of Robert Grosthead's pieces are indeed in Latin; yet where the subject was popular, and not imme­diately addressed to learned readers, he adopted the Romance or French language, in preference to his native English. Of this, as we have already seen, his MANUEL PECHE, and his CHATEAU D' AMOUR, are sufficient proofs, both in prose and verse: and his example and authority must have had consi­derable influence in encouraging this practice. Peter Lang­toft, our Augustine canon of Bridlington, not only compiled the large chronicle of England, above recited, in French; but even translated Herbert Boscam's Latin Life of Thomas of Beckett into French rhymes c. John Hoveden, a native of London, doctor of divinity, and chaplain to queen Elea­nor mother of Edward the first, wrote in French rhymes a book entitled, Rosarium de Nativitate, Passione, Ascensione, Jhesu Christi d. Various other proofs have before occurred. Lord Lyttelton quotes from the Lambeth library a manuscript poem in French or Norman verse on the subject of king Der­mod's expulsion from Ireland, and the recovery of his king­dom e. I could mention many others. Anonymous French [Page 86] pieces both in prose and verse, and written about this time, are innumerable in our manuscript repositories f. Yet this fashion proceeded rather from necessity and a principle of convenience, than from affectation. The vernacular English, as I have before remarked, was rough and unpolished: and al­though these writers possessed but few ideas of taste and ele­gance, they embraced a foreign tongue, almost equally familiar, and in which they could convey their sentiments with greater ease, grace, and propriety. It should also be considered, that our most eminent scholars received a part of their education at the university of Paris. Another, and a very material circ [...]m­stance, concurred to countenance this fashionable practice of composing in French. It procured them readers of rank and distinction. The English court, for more than two hundred years after the conquest, was totally French: and our kings, either from birth, kindred, or marriage, and from a perpe­tual intercourse, seem to have been more closely connected with France than with England. It was however fortunate that these French pieces were written, as some of them met [Page 87] with their translators: who perhaps unable to aspire to the praise of original writers, at least by this means contributed to adorn their native tongue: and who very probably would not have written at all, had not original writers, I mean their cotemporaries who wrote in French, furnished them with models and materials.

Hearne, to whose diligence even the poetical antiquarian is much obliged, but whose conjectures are generally wrong, imagines, that the old English metrical romance, called RY­CHARDE CUER DE LYON, was written by Robert de Brunne. It is at least probable, that the leisure of monastic life pro­duced many rhymers. From proofs here given we may fairly conclude, that the monks often wrote for the minstrels: and although our Gilbertine brother of Brunne chose to relate true stories in plain language, yet it is reasonable to suppose, that many of our antient tales in verse containing fictitious adventures, were written, although not invented, in the reli­gious houses. The romantic history of Guy earl of Warwick, is expressly said, on good authority, to have been written by Walter of Exeter, a Franciscan Friar of Carocus in Cornwall, about the year 1292 g. The libraries of the monasteries were full of romances. Bevis of Southampton, in French, was in the [Page 88] library of the abbey of Leicester h. In that of the abbey of Glastonbury, we find Liber de Excidio Trojae, Gesta Ricardi Regis, and Gesta Alexandri Regis, in the year 1247 i. These were some of the most favorite subjects of romance, as I shall shew here­after. In a catalogue of the library of the abbey of Peterborough are recited, Amys and Amelion k, Sir Tristram, Guy de Burgoyne, and Gesta Osuelis l, all in French: together with Merlin's Pro­phecies, Turpin's Charlemagne, and the Destruction of Troy m. Among the books given to Winchester college by the foun­der William of Wykeham, a prelate of high rank, about the year 1387, we have Chronicon Trojae n. In the library of Windsor college, in the reign of Henry the eighth, were discovered in the midst of missals, psalters, and homilies, Duo libri Gallici de Romances, de quibus unus liber de ROSE, et alius difficilis materiae o. This is the language of the king's commissioners, who searched the archives of the college: the first of these two French romances is perhaps John de Meun's Roman de la Rose. A friar, in Pierce Plowman's Vi­sions, is said to be much better acquainted with the Rimes of [Page 89] Robin Hood, and Randal of Chester, than with his Pater-noster p. The monks, who very naturally sought all opportunities of amusement in their retired and confined situations, were fond of admitting the minstrels to their festivals; and were hence familiarised to romantic stories. Seventy shillings were expended on minstrels, who accompanied their songs with the harp, at the feast of the installation of Ralph abbot of Saint Augustin's at Canterbury, in the year 1309. At this mag­nificent solemnity, six thousand guests were present in and about the hall of the abbey q. It was not deemed an occur­rence unworthy to be recorded, that when Adam de Orleton, bishop of Winchester, visited his cathedral priory of Saint Swithin in that city, a minstrel named Herbert was intro­duced, who sung the Song of Colbrond a Danish giant, and the tale of Queen Emma delivered from the plough-shares, in the hall of the prior Alexander de Herriard, in the year 1338. I will give this very curious article, as it appears in an an­tient register of the priory. ‘"Et cantabat Joculator quidam nomine Herebertus CANTICUM Colbrondi, necnon Gestum Emme regine a judicio ignis liberate, in aula prioris r."’ In an an­nual accompt-roll of the Augustine priory of Bicester in Oxfordshire, for the year 1431, the following entries relating to this subject occur, which I chuse to exhibit in the words of the original. ‘"DONA PRIORIS. Et in datis cuidam cithari­zatori in die sancti Jeronimi, viii. d.—Et in datis alt [...]ri citharizatori [Page 90] in ffesto Apostolorum Simonis et Jude cognomine Hendy, xii d.—Et in datis cuidam minstrallo domini le Talbot infra natale domini, xii. d.—Et in datis ministrallis domini le Straunge in die Epiphanie, xx. d.—Et in datis duobus mi­nistrallis domini Lovell in crastino S. Marci evangeliste, xvi. d.—Et in datis ministrallis ducis Glo [...]estrie in ffesto nativitatis beate Marie, iii s. iv d."’ I must add, as it likewise paints the manners of the monks, ‘"Et in datis cuidam Ursario, iiii d. s"’ In the prior's accounts of the Augustine canons of Maxtoke in Warwickshire, of various years in the reign of Henry the sixth, one of the styles, or general heads, is DE JOCULATORIBUS ET MIMIS. I will, without apology, produce some of the particular articles; not distinguishing between Mimi, Joculatores, Jocatores, Lusores, and Citharistae: who all seem alternately, and at different times, to have exercised the same arts of popular entertainment. ‘"Jocu­latori in septimana S. Michaelis, iv d.—Cithariste tempore na­talis domini et aliis jocatoribus, iv d.—Mimis de Solihull, vi d.—Mimis de Coventry, xx d.—Mimo domini Ferrers, vi d.—Lusoribus de Eton, viii d.—Lusoribus de Coventry, viii d.—Lusoribus de Daventry, xii d.—Mimis de Coventry, xii d.—Mimis domini de Asteley, xii d.—Item iiii. mimis domini de Warewyck, x d.—Mimo ceco, ii d.—Sex mimis domini de Clynton.—Duobus Mimis de Rugeby, x d.—Cuidam cithariste, vi d.—Mimis domini de Asteley, xx d.—Cuidam cithariste, vi d.—Cithariste de Coventry, vi. d.—Duobus citharistis de Coventry, viii d.—Mimis de Rugeby, viii d.—Mimis domini de Buckeridge, xx d.—Mimis domini de Stafford, ii s.—Lu­soribus de Coleshille, viii d. t"’ Here we may observe, that [Page 91] the minstrels of the nobility, in whose families they were constantly retained, travelled about the county to the neigh­bouring monasteries; and that they generally received better gratuities for these occasional performances than the others. Solihull, Rugby, Coleshill, Eton, or Nun-Eton, and Co­ventry, are all towns situated at no great distance from the priory u. Nor must I omit that two minstrels from Coven­try made part of the festivity at the consecration of John, prior of this convent, in the year 1432, viz. ‘"Dat. duobus mimis de Coventry in die consecrationis prioris, xii d. w"’ Nor is [Page 92] it improbable, that some of our greater monasteries kept minstrels of their own in regular pay. So early as the year 1180, in the reign of Henry the second, Jeffrey the harper received a corrody, or annuity, from the Benedictine abbey of Hide near Winchester x; undoubtedly on condition that he should serve the monks in the profession of a harper on public occasions. The abbies of Conway and Stratflur in Wales respectively maintained a bard y: and the Welsh mo­nasteries in general were the grand repositories of the poetry of the British bards z.

In the statutes of New-college at Oxford, given about the year 1380, the founder bishop William of Wykeham orders his scholars, for their recreation on festival days in the hall after dinner and supper, to entertain themselves with songs, and other diversions consistent with decency: and to recite poems, chronicles of kingdoms, the wonders of the world, together with the like compositions, not misbecoming the clerical character. I will transcribe his words. ‘"Quando ob dei reverentiam aut sue matris, vel alterius fancti cujus­cunque, tempore yemali, ignis in aula sociis ministratur; tunc scolaribus et sociis post tempus prandii aut cene, li­ceat gracia recreationis, in aula, in Cantilenis et aliis so­laciis honestis, moram facere condecentem; et Poemata, regnorum Chronicas, et mundi hujus Mirabilia, ac cetera [Page 93] que statum clericalem condecorant, seriosius pertractare a."’ The latter part of this injunction seems to be an explication of the former: and on the whole it appears, that the Canti­lenae which the scholars should sing on these occasions, were a sort of Poemata, or poetical Chronicles, containing general histories of kingdoms b. It is natural to conclude, that they preferred pieces of English history: and among Hearne's manuscripts I have discovered some fragments on vellum c, containing metrical chronicles of our kings; which, from the nature of the composition seem to have been used for this purpose, and answer our idea of these general Chronicae regnorum. Hearne supposed them to have been written about the time of Richard the first d: but I rather assign them to the reign of Edward the first, who died in the year 1307. But the reader shall judge. The following fragment begins abruptly with some rich presents which king Athel­stan received from Charles the third, king of France: a nail which pierced our Saviour's feet on the cross, a spear with which Charlemagne fought against the Saracens and which some supposed to be the spear which pierced our Saviour's side, a part of the holy cross enclosed in crystal, three of the thorns from the crown on our Saviour's head, and a crown formed entirely of precious stones, which wer [...] endued with a mystical power of reconciling enemies.

Ther in was closyd a nayle grete
That went thorw oure lordis fete.
[Page 94] Gyte he presentyd hym the spere
That Charles was wont to bere
Agens the Sarasyns in batayle;
Many swore and sayde saunfayle f,
That with that spere smerte g
Our lorde was stungen to the herte.
And a partyh of the holi crosse
In crystal done in a cloos.
And three of the thornes kene
That was in Cristes hede sene,
And a ryche crowne of golde
Non rycher kyng wer y scholde,
Y made within and withowt
With pretius stonys alle a bowte,
Of eche manir vertu thry i
The stonys hadde the maystry
To make frendes that evere were fone,
Such a crowne was never none,
To none erthelyche mon y wrogth
Syth God made the world of nogth.
Kyng Athelstune was glad and blythe,
And thankud the kynge of Ffraunce swythe,
Of gyfts nobul and ryche
In crystiante was no hym leche.
In his tyme, I understonde,
Was Guy of Warwyk yn Inglonde,
And ffor Englond dede batayle
With a mygti gyande, without fayle;
His name was hote Colbrond [...]
Gwy hym slough with his hond.
[Page 95] Seven yere kyng Athelston
Held this his kyngdome
In Inglond that ys so mury,
He dyedde and lythe at Malmesbury k.
After hym regned his brother Edmond
And was kyng of Ingelond,
And he ne regned here,
But unneth nine yere,
Sith hyt be falle at a feste
At Caunterburyl a cas unwrest m,
As the kyng at the mete sat
He behelde and under that
Of a theef that was desgyse
Amonge hys knyghtes god and wise;
The kyng was hesty and sterte uppe
And hent the thefe by the toppe n [...]
And cast hym doune on a ston:
The theefe brayde out a knyfe a non
And the kyng to the hert threste,
Or any of his knightes weste o:
The baronys sterte up anone,
And slough the theefe swythe sone,
But arstp he wounded many one,
Thrugh the fflesh and thrugh the bone:
[Page 96] To Glastenbury they bare the kynge,
And ther made his buryinge q.
After that Edmund was ded,
Reyned his brother Edred;
Edred reyned here
But unnethe thre yere, &c.
After hym reyned seynt Edgare,
A wyse kynge and a warre:
Thilke nyghte that he was bore,
Seynt Dunstan was glad ther fore;
Ffor herde that swete stevene
Of the angels of hevene:
In the songe thei songe bi ryme,
"Y blessed be that ylke tyme
"That Edgare y bore y was,
"Ffor in hys tyme schal be pas,
"Ever more in hys kyngdome r."
The while he liveth and seynt Dunston,
Ther was so meche grete foyson s,
Of all good in every tonne;
All wyle that last his lyve,
Ne lored he never fyght ne stryve.

* * *

The knyghtes of Wales, all and some
Han to swery and othes holde,
And trewe to be as y told,
To bring trynge hym trewaget yeare,
CCC. wolves eche ȝere;
[Page 97] And so they dyde trewliche
Three yere pleyneverlyche,
The ferthe yere myght they fynde non
So clene thay wer all a gon,

* * *

And the kyng hyt hem forgat
For he nolde hem greve,
Edgare was an holi man
That oure lorde, &c.

Although we have taken our leave of Robert de Brunne, yet as the subject is remarkable, and affords a striking por­traiture of antient manners, I am tempted to transcribe that chronicler's description of the presents received by king Athelstane from the king of France; especially as it contains some new circumstances, and supplies the defects of our fragment. It is from his version of Peter Langtoft's chro­nicle abovementioned.

At the feste of oure lady the A [...]umpcion,
Went the king fro London to Abindon.
Thider out of France, fro Charles kyng of fame,
Com the of Boloyn, Adulphus was his name,
And the duke of Burgoyn Edmonde sonne Reynere.
The brouht kynge Athelston present withouten pere:
Fro Charles kyng sanz faile thei brouht a gonfaynoun u
That saynt Morice in batayle before the legioun;
And scharp lance that thrilled Jhesu side;
And a suerd of golde, in the hilte did men hide
Tuo of tho nayles that war thorh Jhesu f [...]te;
Tachedw on the croys, the blode thei out lete;
And som of the thornes that don were on his heved,
And a fair pece that of the croys leved x,
That saynt Heleyn sonne at the batayle won
[Page 98] Of the soudan of Askalone his name was Madan.
Than blewe the trumpets full loud and full schille,
The kyng com in to the halle that hardy was of wille:
Than spak Reyner Edmunde sonne, for he was messengere,
"Athelstan, my lord the gretes, Charles that has no pere;
"He sends the this present, and sais, he wille hym bynde
"To the thorhy Ilde thi sistere, and tille alle thi kynde."
Befor the messengers was the maiden brouht,
Of body so gentill was non in erthe wrouht;
No non so faire of face, of spech so lusty,
Scho granted befor tham all to Charles hir body:
And so did the kyng, and alle the baronage,
Mikelle was the richesse thei purveied in hir passage z.

Another of these fragments, evidently of the same com­position, seems to have been an introduction to the whole. It begins with the martyrdom of saint Alban, and passes on to the introduction of Wassail, and to the names and division of England.

And now he ys alle so hole y fonde,
As whan he was y leyde on grounde.
And gyf ge wille nota trow me,
Goth to Westmynstere, and ye mow se.
In that tyme Seynt Albon,
For Goddys loveb tholed martirdome,
And xl. yere with schame andc schonde
Wasd drowen oute of Englond.
In that tymee weteth welle,
Cam ferst Wassayle and drynkehayl
[Page 99] In to this lond, with owtef wene,
Thurghe a maydeg brygh andh schene.
Sche wasi cleput mayde Ynge.
For hur many dothe rede and synge
Lordyngysk gent and free.
This lond hath y hadde namys thre.
Ferest hit was cleput Albyon,
And sythl for Brut Bretayne a non,
And now Ynglond cleput hit ys,
Aftir mayde Ynge y wysse.
Thilke Ynge fro Saxone was come,
And with here many a moder sonne.
For gret hungure y understonde
Ynge went oute of hure londe.
And thorow leue of oure kyng
In this land sche hadde restyng.
As meche lande of the kyng schem bade,
As with a hole hyden me mygth sprede.
The kyngo graunt he bonne.
A strong castel sche made sone,
And whan the castel was al made,
The kyng to the mete sche p bade.
The kyng graunted here a none.
He wyst not what thay wold done.

* * *

And sayde toq ham in this manere,
"The kyng to morow schal ete here.
"He and alle hys men,
"Everr one of us and one of them,
[Page 100] "To geder schal sitte at the mete.
"And when thay have al most y ete,
"I wole say wassayle to the kyng,
"And sle hym with oute anys leyng.
"And loke that ye in this manere
"Eche of gow sle hist fere."
And so sche dede thenne,
Slowe the kyng and alle hys men.
And thus, thorowgh hereu queyntyse,
This londe was wonne in this wyse.
Sythw a non sone anx swythe
Was Englondy deled on fyve,
To fyve kynggys trewelyche,
That were nobyl and swythe ryche.
That one hadde alle the londe of Kente,
That ys free and swythe gente.
And in hys lond bysshopus tweye.
Worthy menz where theye.
The archebysshop of Caunturbery,
And of Rochestore that ys mery.
The kyng of Essex oa renon
He hadde to his portion
Westschire, Barkschire,
Soussex, Southamptshire.
And ther to Dorsetshyre,
All Cornewalle and Devenshire.
All thys were of hysb anpyre.
The king hadde on his hond
Five bysshopes starke and strong,
Of Salussbury was that on.

As to the Mirabilia Mundi, mentioned in the statutes of New College at Oxford, in conjunction with these Poemata [Page 101] and Regnorum Chronicae, the immigrations of the Arabians into Europe and the crusades produced numberless accounts, partly true and partly fabulous, of the wonders seen in the eastern countries; which falling into the hands of the monks, grew into various treatises, under the title of Mira­bilia Mundi. There were also some professed travellers into the East in the dark ages, who surprised the western world with their marvellous narratives, which could they have been contradicted would have been believed c. At the court of the grand Khan, persons of all nations and religions, if they discovered any distinguished degree of abilities, were kindly entertained and often preferred..

In the Bodleian library we have a superb vellum manu­script, decorated with antient descriptive paintings and illu­minations, entitled, Histoire de Graunt Kaan et des MERVEILLES DU MONDE d. The same work is among the royal manu­scripts e. A Latin epistle, said to be translated from the Greek by Cornelius Nepos, is an extremely common manu­script, entitled, De situ et Mirabilibus Indiae f. It is from [Page 102] Alexander the Great to his preceptor Aristotle: and the Greek original was most probably drawn from some of the fabulous authors of Alexander's story.

There is a manuscript, containing La Chartre que Prestre Jehan maunda a Fredewik l' Empereur DE MERVAILLES DE SA TERRE g. This was Frederick Barbarossa, emperor of Ger­many, or his successor; both of whom were celebrated for their many successful enterprises in the holy land, before the year 1230. Prester John, a christian, was emperor of India. I find another tract, DE MIRABILIBUS Terrae Sanctae h. A book of Sir John Mandeville, a famous traveller into the East about the year 1340, is under the title of Mirabilia Mundi i. His Itinerary might indeed have the same title k. An English title in the Cotton library is, ‘"The Voiage and Travailes of Sir John Maundevile knight, which treateth of the way to Hierusaleme and of the MARVEYLES of Inde with other ilands and countryes."’ In the Cotton library there is a piece with the title, Sanctorum Loca, MIRA­BILIA MUNDI, &c l. Afterwards the wonders of other countries [Page 103] were added: and when this sort of reading began to grow fashionable, Gyraldus Cambrensis composed his book De MIRABILIBUS Hiberniae m. There is also another De MI­RABILIBUS Angliae n. At length the superstitious curiosity of the times was gratified with compilations under the compre­hensive title of MIRABILIA Hiberniae, Angliae, et Orientalis o. But enough has been said of these infatuations. Yet the history of human credulity is a necessary speculation to those who trace the gradations of human knowledge. Let me add, that a spirit of rational enquiry into the topographical state of foreign countries, the parent of commerce and of a thou­sand improvements, took its rise from these visions.

I close this section with an elegy on the death of king Ed­ward the first, who died in the year 1307.

Alle that beoth of huert trewe p
A stounde herkneth to my songe q,
Of duel that Dethe has dihte us newe.
That maketh me seke and sorewe amonge:
Of a knyht that wes so stronge
Of whom god hath done ys wille;
Methunchethr that Deth has don us wronge
That hes so sone shall ligge stille.
Al England ahtet forte knowe:
Of whom that song ys that ysynge,
Of Edward kynge that ys so bolde,
Gentu al this world is nome con springe:
Trewest mon of al thinge,
Ant in werre ware and wise;
For hym we ahte our hondenw wrynge,
Of cristendome he bare the pris.
Byfore that oure kynge was ded
He speke as mon that was in care
"Clerkes, knyhts, barrons, he sed
"Ycharge oux by oure sware y
"That ye be to Englonde trewe,
"Y deȝez y ne may lyven na more;
"Helpeth mi sone, ant crowneth him newe,
"For he isa nest to buen y-core.
"Iche biqueth myn hirte aryht,
"That hit be write at mi devys,
"Over the sea that Hueb be diht,
"With fourscore knyghtes al of pris,
"In werre that buen war aut wys,
"Agein the hethene for te fyhte,
"To wynne the croize that lowe lys,
"Myself ycholde gef thet y myhte.
Kyng of Fraunce! thou hevedest sunne c,
That thou the counsail woldest fonde,
To latted the wille of kyng Edward,
To wende to the holi londe;
Thet oure kynge hede take on honde,
All Engelond toe ȝeme and wysse f,
To wenden in to the holy londe
To wynnen us hevericheg blisse.
The messager to the pope com
And seyede that our kynge was dede h,
Ys i owne honde the lettre he nom k,
Ywis his herte wes ful gret:
The pope himself the lettre redde,
And spec a word of gret honour.
"Alas! he seid, is Edward ded?
"Of cristendome he ber the flour!"
The pope is to chaumbre wende
For dole ne mihte he speke na more;
Ant aftur cardinales he sende
That muche couthen of Cristes lore.
Both the lassel ant eke the more
Bed hem both red ant synge:
Gret deol men myhte se thore m,
Many mon is honde wrynge.
The pope of Peyters stod at is masse
With ful gret solempnete,
Ther me cono the soule blisse:
"Kyng Edward, honoured thou be:
"God love thi sone come after the,
"Bringe to [...]nde that thou hast bygonne,
"The holy crois ymade of tre
"So fain thou woldest hit have ywonne.
"Jerusalem, thou hast ilore
"The floure of al chivalrie,
"Now kyng Edward liveth na more,
"Alas, that he yet shulde deye!
"He wolde ha rered up ful heyge
"Our baners that bueth broht to grounde:
"Wel longe we may clepep and crie,
"Er we such a kyng have yfounde!"
Now is Edward of Carnarvan q,
Kyng of Engelond al aplyht r;
God lete hem ner be worse man
Then his fader ne lasse of myht,
To holden is pore man to ryht
And understende good counsail,
All Englond for to wysse and dyht
Of gode knightes darhs hym nout fail.
Thah mi tonge were mad of stel
Ant min herte yzote of bras
The godness myht y never telle
That with kyng Edward was.
Kyng as thou art cleped conquerour
In vch battaile thou heedest prys,
Gode bringe thi soule to the honeur
That ever was and ever ys t.

That the pope should here pronounce the funeral pane­gyric of Edward the first, is by no means surprising, if we consider the predominant ideas of the age. And in the true spirit of these ideas, the poet makes this illustrious monarch's atchievements in the holy land, his principal and leading topic. But there is a particular circumstance alluded to in [Page 108] these stanzas, relating to the crusading character of Edward, together with its consequences, which needs explanation. Edward, in the decline of life, had vowed a second expedi­tion to Jerusalem: but finding his end approach, in his last moments he devoted the prodigious sum of thirty thousand pounds to provide one hundred and forty knights u, who should carry his heart into Palestine. But this appointment of the dying king was never executed. Our elegist, and the chroniclers, impute the crime of witholding so pious a legacy to the advice of the king of France, whose daughter Isabel was married to the succeeding king. But it is more probable to suppose, that Edward the second, and his profligate mi­nion Piers Gaveston, dissipated the money in their luxurious and expensive pleasures.


WE have seen, in the preceding section, that the cha­racter of our poetical composition began to be changed about the reign of the first Edward: that either fictitious adventures were substituted by the minstrels in the place of historical and traditionary facts, or reality disguised by the misrepresentations of invention; and that a taste for ornamental and even exotic expression gradually prevailed over the rude simplicity of the native English phraseology. This change, which with our language affected our poetry, had been growing for some time; and among other causes was occasioned by the introduction and increase of the tales of chivalry.

The ideas of chivalry, in an imperfect degree, had been of old established among the Gothic tribes. The fashion of challenging to single combat, the pride of se [...]king dangerous adventures, and the spirit of avenging and protecting the fair sex, seem to have been peculiar to the northern nations in the most uncultivated state of Europe. All these customs were afterwards encouraged and confirmed by corresponding circumstances in the feudal constitution. At length the crusades excited a new spirit of enterprise, and introduced into the courts and ceremonies of European princes a higher degree of splendor and parade, caught from the riches and magnificence of eastern cities a. These oriental expeditions [Page 110] established a taste for hyperbolical description, and propagated an infinity of marvellous tales, which men returning from distant countries easily imposed on credulous and ignorant minds. The unparalleled emulation with which the nations of christendom universally embraced this holy cause, the pride with which emperors, kings, barons, earls, bishops, and knights strove to excel each other on this interesting occasion, not only in prowess and heroism, but in sumptuous equipages, gorgeous banners, armorial cognisances, splendid pavilions, and other expensive articles of a similar nature, diffused a love of war, and a fondness for military pomp. Hence their very diversions became warlike, and the martial enthusiasm of the times appeared in tilts and tournaments. These practices and opinions co-operated with the kindred superstitions of dragons b, dwarfs, fairies, giants, and en­chanters, which the traditions of the Gothic scalders had already planted; and produced that extraordinary species of composition which has been called ROMANCE.

Before these expeditions into the east became fashionable, the principal and leading subjects of the old fablers were the atchievements of king Arthur with his knights of the round table, and of Charlemagne with his twelve peers. But in the romances written after the holy war, a new set of champions, of conquests and of countries, were intro­duced. Trebizonde took place of Rouncevalles, and Godfrey of Bulloigne, Solyman, Nouraddin, the caliphs, the soul­dans, and the cities of Aegypt and Syria, became the favou­rite topics. The troubadours of Provence, an idle and un­settled race of men, took up arms, and followed their barons [Page 111] in prodigious multitudes to the conquest of Jerusalem. They made a considerable part of the houshold of the nobility of France. Louis the seventh, king of France, not only en­tertained them at his court very liberally, but commanded a considerable company of them into his retinue, when he took ship for Palestine, that they might solace him with their songs during the dangers and inconveniencies of so long a voyage c. The antient chronicles of France mention Legions de poetes as embarking in this wonderful enterprise d. Here a new and more copious source of fabling was opened: in these expeditions they picked up numberless extravagant stories, and at their return enriched romance with an infinite variety of oriental scenes and fictions. Thus these later wonders, in some measure, supplanted the former: they had the recommendation of novelty, and gained still more attention, as they came from a greater distance e.

In the mean time we should recollect, that the Saracens or Arabians, the same people which were the object of the crusades, had acquired an establishm [...]nt in Spain about the ninth century: and that by means of this earlier intercourse, many of their fictions and fables, together with their lite­rature, must have been known in Europe before the chris­tian armies invaded Asia. It is for this reason the elder Spanish romances have professedly more Arabian allusions than any other. Cervantes makes the imagined writer of [Page 112] Don Quixote's history an Arabian. Yet exclusive of their domestic and more immediate connection with this eastern people, the Spaniards from temper and constitution were extravagantly fond of chivalrous exercises. Some critics have supposed, that Spain having learned the art or fashion of romance-writing, from their naturalised guests the Ara­bians, communicated it, at an early period, to the rest of Europ [...] f.

It has b [...]en imagined that the first romances were compos­ed in metre, and sung to the harp by the poets of Provence at f [...]stival solemnities: but an ingenious Frenchman, who has made deep researches into this sort of literature, attempts to prove, that this mode of reciting romantic adventures was in high reputation among the natives of Normandy, above a century before the troubadours of Provence, who are ge­nerally supposed to have led the way to the poets of Italy, Spain, and France, commenced about the year 1162 g. If the critic means to insinuate, that the French troubadours acquired their art of versifying from these Norman bards, this reasoning will favour the system of those, who contend that metrical romances lineally took their rise from the historical odes of the Scandinavian scalds: for the Normans were a branch of the Scandinavian stock. But Fauchett, at the same time that he allows the Normans to have been fond of chanting the praises of their heroes in verse, expressly h [Page 113] pronounces that they borrowed this practice from the Franks or French.

It is not my business, nor is it of much consequence, to discuss this obscure point, which properly belongs to the French antiquaries. I therefore proceed to observe, that our Richard the first, who began his reign in the year 1189, a distinguished hero of the crusades, a most magnificent patron of chivalry, and a Provencial poet h, invited to his court many minstrels or troubadours from France, whom he loaded with honours and rewards i. These poets im­ported into England a great multitude of their tales and songs; which before or about the reign of Edward the se­cond became familiar and popular among our ancestors, who were sufficiently acquainted with the French language. The [Page 114] most early notice of a professed book of chivalry in England, as it should seem, appears under the reign of Henry the third; and is a curious and evident proof of the reputation and esteem in which this sort of composition was held at that period. In the revenue-roll of the twenty-first year of that king, there is an entry of the expence of silver clasps and studs for the king's great book of romances. This was in the year 1237. But I will give the article in its original dress. ‘"Et in firmaculis hapsis et clavis argenteis ad mag­num librum ROMANCIS regis k."’ That this superb volume was in French, may be partly collected from the title which they gave it: and it is highly probable, that it contained the Romance of Richard the first, on which I shall enlarge be­low. At least the victorious atchievements of that monarch were so famous in the reign of Henry the second, as to be made the subject of a picture in the royal palace of Claren­don near Salisbury. A circumstance which likewise appears from the same antient record, under the year 1246. ‘"Et in camera regis subtus capellam regis apud Clarendon lambruscanda, et muro ex transverso illius camerae amo­vendo et hystoria Antiochiae in eadem depingenda cum DUELLO REGIS RICARDI l."’ To these anecdotes we may add, that in the royal library at Paris there is, ‘"Lancelot du Lac mis en Francois par Robert de Borron, du commandement d' Henri roi de Angleterre avec figures m."’ And the same manuscript occurs twice again in that library in three volumes, and in four volumes of the largest folio n. Which of our [Page 115] Henrys it was who thus commanded the romance of LAN­CELOT DU LAC to be translated into French, is indeed uncer­tain: but most probably it was Henry the third just men­tioned, as the translator Robert Borron is placed soon after the year 1200 o.

But not only the pieces of the French minstrels, written in French, were circulated in England about this time; but translations of these pieces were made into English, which containing much of the French idiom, together with a sort of poetical phraseology before unknown, produced various innovations in our style. These translations, it is probable, were enlarged with additions, or improved with alterations of the story. Hence it was that Robert de Brunne, as we have already seen, complained of strange and quaint English, of the changes made in the story of SIR TRISTRAM, and of the liberties assumed by his cotemporary minstrels in altering facts and coining new phrases. Yet these circumstances en­riched our tongue, and extended the circle of our poetry. And for what reason these fables were so much admired and encouraged, in preference to the languid poetical chro­nicles of Robert of Gloucester and Robert of Brunne, it is obvious to conjecture. The gallantries of chivalry were ex­hibited with new splendour, and the times were growing more refined. The Norman fashions were adopted even in Wales. In the year 1176, a splendid carousal, after the manner of the Normans, was given by a Welsh prince. This was Rhees ap Gryffyth king of South Wales, who at Christmas made a great feast in the castle of Cardigan, then [Page 116] called Aberteivi, which he ordered to be proclaimed through­out all Britain; and to ‘"which came many strangers, who were honourably received and worthily entertained, so that no man departed discontented. And among deeds of arms and other shewes, Rhees caused all the poets of Walesp to come thither: and provided chairs for them to be set in his hall, where they should dispute together to try their cunning and gift in their several faculties, where great rewards and rich giftes were appointed for the overcomers q."’ [Page 117] Tilts and tournaments, after a long disuse [...] were revived with superiour lustre in the reign of Edward the first. Roger earl of Mortimer, a magnificent baron of that reign, erected in his stately castle of Kenelwo [...]th a Round Table, at which he restored the rites of king Arthur. He entertained in this castle the constant retinue of one hundred knights, and as many ladies; and invited thither adventurers in chivalry from every part of christendom r. These fables were there­fore an image of the manners, customs, mode of life, and favourite amusements, which now prevailed, not only in France but in England, accompanied with all the decora­tions which fancy could invent, and recommended by the graces of romantic fiction. They complimented the ruling passion of the times, and cherished in a high degree the fashionable sentiments of ideal honour, and fantastic fortitude.

Among Richard's French minstrels, the names only of three are recorded. I have already m [...]ntioned Blondell de Nesle. Fouqu [...]t of Marseilles, and Ans [...]lme Fayditt, many of whose compositions still remain, were also among the poets patronised and entertained in England by Richard. They are both celebrated and sometimes imitated by Dante and Petrarch. Fayditt, a native of Avignon, united the professions of music and verse; and the Provencials used to call his poetry de bon mots e de bon son. Petrarch is supposed to have copied, in his TRIUMFO DI AMORE, many strokes of high imagination, from a poem written by Fayditt on a similar subject: particularly in his description of the Palace of Love. But Petrarch has not left Fayditt without his due panegyric: he says that Fayditt's tongue was shield, helmet, sword, and spear s. He is likewise in Dante's Paradise. Fayditt was extremely profuse and voluptuous. On the [Page 118] death of king Richard, he travelled on foot for near twenty years, seeking his fortune; and during this long pilgrimage he married a nun of Aix in Provence, who was young and lively, and could accompany her husband's tales and sonnets with her voice. Fouquett de Marseilles had a beautiful person, a ready wit, and a talent for singing: these popular accomplishments recommended him to the courts of king Richard, Raymond count of Tholouse, and Beral de Baulx; where, as the French would say, il fit les delices de cour. He fell in love with Adelasia the wife of Beral, whom he cele­brated in his songs. One of his poems is entitled, Las com­planchas de Beral. On the death of all his lords, he received absolution for his sin of poetry, turned monk, and at length was made archbishop of Tholouse t. But among the many French minstrels invited into England by Richard, it is na­tural to suppose, that some of them made their magnificent and heroic patron a principal subject of their compositions u. And this subject, by means of the constant communication [Page 119] between both nations, probably became no less fashionable in France: especially if we take into the account the general popularity of Richard's character, his love of chivalry, his gallantry in the crusades, and the favours which he so libe­rally conferred on the minstrels of that country. We have a romance now remaining in English rhyme, which cele­brates the atchievements of this illustrious monarch. It is entitled RICHARD CUER DU LYON, and was probably trans­lated from the French about the period above-mentioned. That it was, at least, translated from the French, appears from the Prologue.

In Fraunce these rymes were wroht,
Every Englyshe ne knew it not.

From which also we may gather the popularity of his story, in these lines.

King Richard is the beste w
That is found in any geste x.

That this romance, either in French or English, existed before the year 1300, is evident from its being cited by Robert of Gloucester, in his relation of Richard's reign. ‘In Romance of him imade me it may finde iwrite z.’ This tale is also mentioned as a romance of some antiquity among other famous romances, in the prologue of a vo­luminous metrical translation of Guido de Colonna, attri­buted to Lidgate y. It is likewise frequently quoted by Robert [Page 120] de Brunne, who wrote much about the same time with Robert of Gloucester.

Whan Philip tille Acres cam litelle was his dede,
The ROMANCE sais gret sham who so that pasz wil rede.
The ROMANCER it sais Richard did make a pele a.—
The ROMANCE of Richard sais he wan the toun b.—
He tellis in the ROMANCE sen Acres wonnen was
How God gaf him fair chance at the bataile of Caifas c.—
Sithen at Japhet was slayn fanuelle his stede
The ROMANS tellis gret pas of his douhty dede d.—
Soudan so curteys never drank no wyne,
The same the ROMANS sais that is of Richardyn e.
In prisoun was he bounden, as the ROMANCE sais,
In cheynes and lede wonden that hevy was of peis f.—

I am not indeed quite certain, whether or no in some of these instances, Robert de Brunne may not mean his French original Peter Langtoft. But in the following lines he ma­ni [...]estly refers to our romance of RICHARD, between which and Langtoft's chronicle he expressly makes a distinction. And in the conclusion of the reign,

[Page 121]
I knowe no more to ryme of dedes of kyng Richard:
Who so wille his dedes all the sothe se,
The romance that men reden ther is propirte.
This that I have said it is Pers sawe g.
Als he in romanceh lad ther after gan I drawe i.

It is not improbable that both these rhyming chroniclers cite from the English translation: if so, we may fairly sup­pose that this romance was translated in the reign of Ed­ward the first, or his predecessor Henry the third. Perhaps earlier. This circumstance throws the French original to a still higher period.

In the royal library at Paris, there is ‘"Histoire de Richard Roi d'Angleterre et de Maquemore d'Irlande en rime k."’ Richard is the last of our monarchs whose atchievements were adorned with fiction and fable. If not a superstitious belief of the times, it was an hyperbolical invention started by the minstrels, which soon grew into a tradition, and is gravely recorded by the chroniclers, that Richard carried with him to the crusades king Arthur's celebrated sword CALIBURN, and that he presented it as a gift, or relic, of inestimable value to Tancred king of Sicily, in the year 1191 l. Robert of Brunne calls this sword a jewel m.

And Richard at that time gaf him a faire juelle,
The gude swerd CALIBURNE which Arthur luffed so well n.

[Page 122] Indeed the Arabian writer of the life of the sultan Saladin, mentions some exploits of Richard almost incredible. But, as lord Lyttelton justly observes, this historian is highly valuable on account of the knowledge he had of the facts which he relates. It is from this writer we learn, in the most authentic manner, the actions and negotiations of Richard in the course of the enterprise for the recovery of the holy land, and all the particulars of that memorable war o.

But before I produce a specimen of Richard's English ro­mance, I stand still to give some more extracts from its Prologues, which contain matter much to our present pur­pose: as they have very fortunately preserved the subjects of many romances, perhaps metrical, then fashionable both in France and England. And on these therefore, and their origin, I shall take this opportunity of offering some re­marks.

Many romayns men make newe
Of good knightes and of trewe:
Of ther dedes men make romauns,
Both in England and in Fraunce;
Of Rowland and of Olyvere,
And of everie Dosepere p,
Of Alysaundre and Charlemayne,
Of kyng Arthur and of Gawayne;
How they wer knyghtes good and courtoys,
Of Turpin and of Oger the Danois.
Of Troye men rede in ryme,
Of Hector and of Achilles,
What folk they slewe in pres, &c q.

And again in a second Prologue, after a pause has been made by the minstrel in the course of singing the poem.

[Page 123]
Herkene now how my tale gothe
Though I swere to you no othe
I wyll you rede romaynes none
Ne ofr Pertonape, ne of Ypomedon,
Ne of Alisaunder, ne of Charlemayne,
Ne of Arthur, ne of Gawayne,
Ne of Lancelot du Lake,
Ne of Bevis, ne of Guy of Sydrake s [...]
Ne of Ury, ne of Octavian,
Ne of Hector the strong man,
Ne of Jason, neither of Achilles,
Ne of Eneas, neither Hercules t.

[Page 124] Here, among others, some of the most capital and favou­rite stories of romance are mentioned, Arthur, Charlemagne, the Siege of Troy with its appendages, and Alexander the Great: and there are four authors of high esteem in the dark ages, Geoffry of Monmouth, Turpin, Guido of Co­lonna, and Callisthenes, whose books were the grand repo­sitories of these subjects, and contained most of the tradi­tionary fictions, whether of Arabian or classical origin, which constantly supplied materials to the writers of ro­mance. I shall speak of these authors, with their subjects, distinctly.

But I do not mean to repeat here what has been already observedu concerning the writings of Geoffry of Monmouth and Turpin. It will be sufficient to say at present, that these two fabulous historians recorded the atchievements of Char­lemagne and of Arthur: and that Turpin's history was artful­ly forged under the name of that archbishop about the year 1110, with a design of giving countenance to the crusades from the example of so high an authority as Charlemagne, whose pretended visit to the holy sepulchre is described in the twentieth chapter.

As to the Siege of Troy, it appears that both Homer's poems were unknown, at least not understood in Europe, from the abolition of literature by the Goths in the fourth cen­tury, to the fourteenth. Geoffry of Monmouth indeed, who wrote about the year 1160, a man of learning for that age, produces Homer in attestation of a fact asserted in his his­tory: but in such a manner, as shews that he knew little more than Homer's name, and was but imperfectly ac­quainted with Homer's subject. Geoffry says, that Brutus having ravaged the province of Acquitain with fire and sword, came to a place where the city of Tours now stands, as Homer testifies x. But the Trojan story was still kept alive [Page 125] in two Latin pieces, which passed under the names of Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis. Dares's history of the de­struction of Troy, as it was called, pretended to have been translated from the Greek of Dares Phrygius into Latin prose by Cornelius Nepos, is a wretched performance, and forged under those specious names in the decline of Latin literature y. Dictys Cretensis is a prose Latin history of the Trojan war, in six books, paraphrased about the reign of Dioclesian or Constantine by one Septimius, from some Grecian history on the same subject, said to be discovered under a sepulchre by means of an earthquake in the city of Cnossus, about the time of Nero, and to have been composed by Dictys, a Cretan, and a soldier in the Trojan war. The fraud of discovering copies of books in this extraordinary manner, in order to infer from thence their high and indu­bitable antiquity, so frequently practised, betrays itself. But that the present Latin Dictys had a Greek original, now lost, appears from the numerous grecisms with which it abounds: and from the literal correspondence of many pas­sages with the Greek fragments of one Dictys cited by antient authors. The Greek original was very probably forged under the name of Dictys, a traditionary writer on the subject, in the reign of Nero, who is said to have been fond of the Trojan story z. On the whole, the work appears to [Page 126] have been an arbitrary metaphrase of Homer, with many fabulous interpolations. At length Guido de Colonna, a native of Messina in Sicily, a learned civilian, and no con­temptible Italian poet, about the year 1260, engrafting on Dares and Dictys many new romantic inventions, which the taste of his age dictated, and which the connection between Grecian and Gothic fiction easily admitted; at the same time comprehending in his plan the Theban and Argonautic stories from Ovid, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus a, compiled a grand prose romance in Latin, containing fifteen books, and entitled in most manuscripts Historia de Bello Trojano b. It was written at the request of Mattheo de Porta, arch­bishop of Salerno. Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis seem to have been in some measure superseded by this improved and comprehensive history of the Grecian heroes: and from this period Achilles, Jason, and Hercules, were adopted into romance, and celebrated in common with Lancelot, Rowland, Gawain, Oliver, and other christian champions, whom they so nearly resembled in the extra­vagance of their adventures c. This work abounds with oriental imagery, of which the subject was extremely sus­ceptible. It has also some traites of Arabian literature. [Page 127] The Trojan horse is a horse of brass; and Hercules is taught astronomy, and the seven liberal sciences. But I forbear to enter at present into a more particular examination of this history, as it must often occasionally be cited hereafter. I shall here only further observe in general, that this work is the chief source from which Chaucer derived his ideas about the Trojan story; that it was professedly paraphrased by Lydgate, in the year 1420, into a prolix English poem, called the Boke of Troye d, at the command of king Henry the fifth; that it became the ground-work of a new compilation in French, on the same subject, written by Raoul le Feure chaplain to the duke of Burgundy, in the year 1464, and partly translated into English prose in the year 1471, by Caxton, under the title of the Recuyel of the histories of Troy, at the request of Margaret dutchess of Burgundy: and that from Caxton's book afterwards modernised, Shakespeare borrowed his drama of Troilus and Cressida e.

[Page 128] Proofs have been given, in the two prologues just cited, of the general popularity of Alexander's story, another branch of Grecian history famous in the dark ages. To these we may add the evidence of Chaucer.

Alisaundres storie is so commune,
That everie wight that hath discrecioune
Hath herde somewhat of or al of his fortune f.

And in the House of Fame, Alexander is placed with Her­cules g. I have already remarked, that he was celebrated in a Latin poem by Gualtier de Chatillon, in the year 1212 h. Other proofs will occur in their proper places i. The truth [Page 129] is, Alexander was the most eminent knight errant of Gre­cian antiquity. He could not therefore be long without his romance. Callisthenes, an Olinthian, educated under Aris­totle with Alexander, wrote an authentic life of Alexander k. This history, which is frequently referred to by antient writers, has been long since lost. But a Greek life of this hero, under the adopted name of Callisthenes, at present exists, and is no uncommon manuscript in good libraries l. It is entitled, [...]. That is, The Life and Actions of Alexander the Macedonian m. This piece was written in Greek, being a translation from the Persic, by Simeon Seth, styled Magister, and protovestiary or wardrobe keeper of the palace of Antiochus at Constanti­nople n, about the year 1070, under the emperor Michael Ducas o. [Page 130] It was most probably very soon afterwards translated from the Greek into Latin, and at length from thence into [Page 131] French, Italian, and German p. The Latin translation was printed Colon. Argentorat. A. D. 1489 q. Perhaps before. For among Hearne's books in the Bodleian library, there is an edition in quarto, without date, supposed to have been printed at Oxford by Frederick Corsellis, about the year 1468. It is said to have been made by one Aesopus, or by Julius Valerius r: supposititious names, which seem to have been forged by the artifice, or introduced through the igno­rance, of scribes and librarians. This Latin translation, however, is of high antiquity in the middle age of learn­ing: for it is quoted by Gyraldus Cambrensis, who flourished about the year 1190 s. About the year 1236, the substance [Page 132] of it was thrown into a long Latin poem, written in elegiac verse t, by Aretinus Quilichinus u. This fabulous narrative of Alexander's life and atchievements, is full of prodigies and extravagancies w. But we should remember its origin. The Arabian books abound with the most incredible fictions and traditions concerning Alexander the Great, which they probably borrowed and improved from the Persians. They call him Escander. If I recollect right, one of the miracles of this romance is our hero's horn. It is said, that Alexan­der gave the signal to his whole army by a wonderful horn of immense magnitude, which might be heard at the dis­tance of sixty miles, and that it was blown or sounded by sixty men at once x. This is the horn which Orlando won from the giant Jatmund, and which, as Turpin and the Islandic bards report, was endued with magical power, and might be heard at the distance of twenty miles. Cervantes says, that it was bigger than a massy beam y. Boyardo, [Page 133] Berni, and Ariosto have all such a horn: and the fiction is here traced to its original source. But in speaking of the books which furnished the story of Alexander, I must not forget that Quintus Curtius was an admired historian of the romantic ages. He is quoted in the POLICRATICON of John of Salisbury, who died in the year 1181 z. Eneas Syl­vius relates, that Alphonsus the ninth, king of Spain, in the thirteenth century, a great astronomer, endeavoured to re­lieve himself from a tedious malady by reading the bible over fourteen times, with all the glosses; but not meeting with the expected success, he was cured by the consolation he received from once reading Quintus Curtius a. Peter Ble­sensis, archdeacon of London, a student at Paris about the year 1150, mentioning the books most common in the schools, declares that he profited much by frequently looking into this author b. Vincentius Bellovacensis, cited above, a writer of the thirteenth century, often quotes Curtius in his Spe­culum Historiale c. He was also early translated into French. Among the royal manuscripts in the British Museum, there is a fine copy of a French translation of this classic, adorned with elegant old paintings and illuminations, entitled, Quinte Curse Ruf, des faiz d' Alexandre, ix liv. translate par Vasque de Lucene Portugalois. Escript par la main de Jehan du Chesne, a Lille d. It was made in 1468. But I believe the Latin translations of Simeon Seth's romance on this subject, were best known and most esteemed for some centuries.

The French, to resume the main tenour of our argument, had written metrical romances on most of these subjects, before or about the year 1200. Some of these seem to have [Page 134] been formed from prose histories, enlarged and improved with new adventures and embellishments from earlier and more simple tales in verse on the same subject. Chrestien of Troys wrote Le Romans du Graal, or the adventures of the San­grale, which included the deeds of king Arthur, Sir Tris­tram, Lancelot du Lake, and the rest of the knights of the round table, before 1191. There is a passage in a coeval romance, relating to Chrestien, which proves what I have just advanced, that some of these histories previously existed in prose.

Christians qui entent et paine
A rimoyer le meillor conte,
Par le commandement le Conte,
Qu'il soit contez in cort royal
Ce est li contes del Graal
Dont li quens li bailla le livre e.

Chrestien also wrote the romance of Sir Percival, which belongs to the same history f. Godfrey de Leigni, a cotemporary, [Page 135] finished a romance begun by Chrestien, entitled La Charette, containing the adventures of Launcelot. Fauchett affirms, that Chrestien abounds with beautiful inventions g. But no story is so common among the earliest French poets as Charlemagne and his Twelve peers. In the British Mu­seum we have an old French manuscript containing the history of Charlemagne, translated into prose from Turpin's Latin. The writer declares, that he preferred a sober prose translation of this authentic historian, as histories in rhyme, undoubtedly very numerous on this subject, looked so much like lies h. His title is extremely curious. ‘"Ci comence l' Estoire que Turpin le Ercevesque de Reins fit del bon roy Charlemayne, coment il conquist Espaigne, e delivera des Paens. Et pur ceo qe Estoire rimee semble mensunge, est ceste mis in prose, solun le Latin qe Turpin mesmes fist, tut ensi cume il le vist et vist i."’

Oddegir the Dane makes a part of Charlemagne's his­tory; and, I believe, is mentioned by archbishop Turpin. But his exploits have been recorded in verse by Adenez, an old French poet, not mentioned by Fauchett, author of the two metrical romances of Berlin and Cleomades, under the name of Ogier le Danois, in the year 1270. This author was master of the musicians, or, as others say, herald at arms, to the duke of Brabant. Among the royal manu­scripts in the Museum, we have a poem, Le Livre de Ogeir de Dannemarche k. The French have likewise illustrated this [Page 136] champion in Leonine rhyme. And I cannot help mentioning, that they have in verse Visions of Oddegir the Dane in the king­dom of Fairy, ‘"Visions d' Ogeir le Danois au Royaume de Faerie en vers Francois,"’ printed at Paris in 1548 l.

On the Trojan story, the French have an antient poem, at least not posterior to the thirteenth century, entitled Ro­man de Troye, written by Benoit de Sainct More. As this author appears not to have been known to the accurate Fauchett, nor la Croix du Maine; I will cite the exordium, especially as it records his name; and implies that the piece translated from the Latin, and that the subject was not then common in French.

Cette estoire n'est pas usée,
N'en gaires livres n'est trouvée:
La retraite ne fut encore
Mais Beneoit de sainte More,
L' a translatè, et fait et dit,
Et a sa main les mots ecrit.

He mentions his own name again in the body of the work, and at the end.

Je n'en fait plus ne plus en dit;
Beneoit qui c'est Roman fit m.

Du Cange enumerates a metrical manuscript romance on this subject by Jaques Millet, entitled De la Destruction de Troie n. Montfaucon, whose extensive enquiries nothing could escape, mentions Dares Phrigius translated into French verse, at Milan, about the twelfth century o. We find also, among the royal manuscripts at Paris, Dictys Cretensis, [Page 137] t [...]anslated into French verse p. To this subject, although almost equally belonging to that of Charlemagne, we may also refer a French romance in verse, written by Philipes Mousques, canon and chancellor of the church of Tournay. It is in fact, a chronicle of France: but the author, who does not chuse to begin quite so high as Adam and Eve, nor yet later than the Trojan war, opens his history with the rape of Helen, passes on to an ample description of the siege of Troy; and, through an exact detail of all the great events which succeeded, conducts his reader to the year 1240. This work comprehends all the fictions of Turpin's Char­lemagne, with a variety of other extravagant stories dispersed in many professed romances. But it preserves numberless cu­rious particulars, which throw considerable light on histo­rical facts. Du Cange has collected from it all that concerns the French emperors of Constantinople, which he has printed at the end of his entertaining history of that city.

It was indeed the fashion for the historians of these times, to form such a general plan as would admit all the absur­dities of popular tradition. Connection of parts, and uni­formity of subject, were as little studied as truth. Ages of ignorance and superstition are more affected by the marvel­lous than by plain facts; and believe what they find written, without discernment or examination. No man before the sixteenth century presumed to doubt that the Francs derived their o [...]igin from Francus, a son of Hector; that the Spa­niards were descended from Japhet, the Britons from Brutus, and the Scotch from Fergus. Vincent de Beauvais, who lived under Louis the ninth of France, and who, on account of his extraordinary erudition, was appointed preceptor to that king's sons, very gravely classes archbishop Turpin's Char­lemagne among the real histories, and places it on a level with Suetonius and Cesar. He was himself an historian, [Page 138] and has left a large history of the world, fraught with a variety of reading, and of high repute in the middle ages; but edifying and entertaining as this work might have been to his cotemporaries, at present it serves only to record their prejudices, and to characterise their credulity q.

Hercules and Jason, as I have before hinted, were involved in the Trojan story by Guido de Colonna, and hence became familiar to the romance writers r. The Hercules, the Theseus, and the Amazons of Boccacio, hereafter more particularly mentioned, came from this source. I do not at present re­collect any old French metrical romances on these subjects, but presume that there are many. Jason seems to have vied with Arthur and Charlemagne; and so popular was his expedition to Colchos, or rather so firmly believed, that in honour of so respectable an adventure, a duke of Burgundy instituted the order of the Golden Fleece, in the year 1468. At the same time his chaplain Raoul le Feure il­lustrated the story which gave rise to this magnificent insti­tution, in a prolix and elaborate history, afterwards trans­lated by Caxton s. But I must not forget, that among the royal manuscripts in the Museum, the French romance of Hercules occurs in two books, enriched with numerous an­tient paintings t. Pertonape and Ypomedon, in our Prologue, seem to be Parthenopeus and Hippomedon, belonging to the Theban story, and mentioned, I think, in Statius. An English romance in verse, called Childe Ippomedone, will be cited here­after, most probably translated from the French.

[Page 139] The conquests of Alexander the great were celebrated by one Simon, in old Pictavian or Limosin, about the twelfth century. This piece thus begins:

Chanson voil dis per ryme et per Leoin
Del fil Filippe lo roy de Macedoin u.

An Italian poem on Alexander, called Trionfo Magno, was presented to Leo the tenth, by Dominicho Falugi Anciseno, in the year 1521. Crescimbeni says it was copied from a Pro­vencial romance w. But one of the most valuable pieces of the old French poetry is on the subject of this victorious monarch, entitled, Roman d' Alexandre. It has been called the second poem now remaining in the French language, and was written about the year 1200. It was confessedly trans­lated from the Latin; but it bears a nearer resemblance to Simeon Seth's romance, than to Quintus Curtius. It was the confederated performance of four writers, who, as Fau­chett expresses himself, were associez en leur JONGLERIE x. Lambert li Cors, a learned civilian, began the poem; and it was continued and completed by Alexander de Paris, John le Nivelois, and Peter de Saint Clost y. The poem is closed with Alexander's will. This is no imagination of any of out three poets, although one of them was a civil lawyer. Alexander's will, in which he nominates successors to his provinces and kingdom, was a tradition commonly received, and is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, and Ammianus Marcellinus. [Page 140] z. I know not whether this work was ever printed. It is voluminous; and in the Bodleian library at Oxford is a vast folio manuscript of it on vellum, which is of great antiquity, richly decorated, and in high preservation a. The margins and initials exhibit, not only fantastic ornaments and illuminations exquisitely finished, but also pictures executed with singular elegance, expressing the incidents of the story, and displaying the fashion of buildings, armour, dress, mu­sical instruments b, and other particulars appropriated to the times. At the end we read this hexameter, which points out the name of the scribe.

Nomen scriptoris est THOMAS PLENUS AMORIS.

Then follows the date of the year in which the transcript was completed, viz. 1338. Afterwards there is the name and date of the illuminator, in the following colophon, writ­ten in golden letters. ‘"Che livre fu perfais de la enlumi­niere an xviiio. jour davryl par Jehan de grise l' an de grace m. ccc. xliii. c"’ Hence it may be concluded, that the illuminations and paintings of this superb manuscript, which were most probably begun as soon as the scribe had finished his part, took up six years: no long time, if we consider the attention of an artist to ornaments so numerous, so various, so minute, and so laboriously touched. It has been supposed, that before the appearance of this poem, the Romans, or those pieces which celebrated GESTS, were constantly com­posed in short verses of six or eight syllables: and that in this Roman d' Alexandre verses of twelve syllables were first used. It has therefore been imagined, that the verses called ALEXANDRINES, the present French heroic measure, took [Page 141] their rise from this poem; Alexander being the hero, and Alexander the chief of the four poets concerned in the work. That the name, some centuries afterwards, might take place in honour of this celebrated and early effort of French poetry, I think is very probable; but that verses of twelve syllables made their first appearance in this poem, is a doctrine which, to say no more, from examples already produced and examined, is at least ambiguous d. In this poem Gadifer, hereafter mentioned, of Arabian lineage, is a very conspicu­ous champion.

Gadifer fu moult preus, d'un Arrabi lignage.

A rubric or title of one of the chapters is, ‘"Comment Alexander fuit mys en un vesal de vooire pour veoir le merveiles, &c."’ This is a passage already quoted from Simeon Seth's romance, relating Alexander's expedition to the bottom of the ocean, in a vessel of glass, for the purpose of inspecting fishes and sea monsters. In another place, from the same romance, he turns astronomer, and soars to the moon by the help of four gryphons. The caliph is fre­quently mentioned in this piece; and Alexander, like Char­lemagne, has his twelve peers.

These were the four reigning stories of romance. On which perhaps English pieces, translated from the French, existed before or about the year 1300. But there are some other English romances mentioned in the prologue of RICHARD CUEUR DE LYON, which we likewise probably received from the French in that period, and on which I shall here also enlarge.

BEUVES de Hanton, or Sir Beavis of Southampton, is a French romance of considerable antiquity, although the hero is not older than the Norman conquest. It is alluded to in [Page 142] our English romance on this story, which will again be cited, and at large.

Forth thei yode so saith the boke e.

And again more expresly,

Under the bridge wer sixty belles,
Right as the Romans telles f.

The Romans is the French original. It is called the Romance of Beuves de Hanton, by Pere Labbe g. The very ingenious Monsieur de la Curne de sainte Palaye mentions an antient French romance in prose, entitled Beufres de Hanton h. Chau­cer mentions BEVIS, with other famous romanc [...]s, but whe­ther in French or English is uncertain i. Beuves of Hantonne was printed at Paris in 1502 k. Ascapart was one of his giants, a characterl in very old French romances. Bevis was a Saxon chieftain, who seems to have extended his dominion along the southern coasts of England, which he is said to have defended against the Norman invaders. He lived at Downton in Wiltshire. Near Southampton is an artificial hill called Bevis Mount, on which was probably a fortress m. It is pretended that he was earl of Southampton. His sword is shewn in Arundel castle. This piece was evi­dently written after the crusades; as Bevis is knighted by the king of Armenia, and is one of the generals at the siege of Damascus.

GUY EARL OF WARWICK is recited as a French romance by Labbe n. In the British Museum a metrical history in very old French appears, in which Felicia, or Felice, is called the [Page 143] daughter of an earl of Warwick, and Guido, or Guy of Warwick, is the son of Seguart the earl's steward. The manuscript is at present imperfect o. Montfaucon mentions among the royal manuscripts at Paris, Roman de Guy et Beuves de Hanton. The latter is the romance last mentioned. Again, Le Livre de Guy de Warwick et de Harold d' Ardenne p. This Harold d'Arden is a distinguished warriour of Guy's history, and therefore his atchievements sometimes form a separate romance: as in the royal manuscripts of the British Museum, where we find Le Romant de Herolt Dardenne q. In the English romance of Guy, mentioned at large in its proper place, this champion is called Syr Heraude of Arderne r. At length this favourite subject formed a large prose ro­mance, entitled Guy de Warwick Chevalier d'Angleterre et de la belle fille Felix samie, and printed at Paris in 1525 s. Chaucer mentions Guy's story among the Romaunces of Pris t: and it is alluded to in the Spanish romance of Tirante il Blanco, or Tirante the White, supposed to have been written not long after the year 1430 u. This romance was composed, or perhaps enlarged, after the crusades; as we find, that Guy's redoubted encounters with Colbrond the Danish giant, with the monster of Dunsmore heath, and the dragon of Nor­thumberland, are by no means equal to some of his at­chievements in the holy land, and the trophies which he won from the soldan under the command of the emperor Fre­derick.

The romance of SIDRAC, often entitled, Le Livere Sydrac le philosophe le quel hom appele le livere de le funtane de totes Sciences, appears to have been very popular, from the present frequency of its manuscripts. But it is rather a romance of Arabian philosophy than of chivalry. It is a system of natural knowledge, and particularly treats of the virtues of [Page 144] plants. Sidrac, the philosopher of this system, was astro­nomer to an eastern king. He lived eight hundred and forty­seven years after Noah, of whose book of astronomy he was possessed. He converts Bocchus, an idolatrous king of India, to the christian faith, by whom he is invited to build a mighty tower against the invasions of a rival king of India. But the history, no less than the subject of this piece, displays the state, nature, and migrations of literature in the dark ages. After the death of Bocchus, Sidrac's book fell into the hands of a Chaldean renowned for piety. It then successively becomes the property of king Madian, Namaan the Assyrian, and Grypho archbishop of Samaria. The latter had a priest named Demetrius, who brought it into Spain, and here it was translated from the Greek into Latin. This translation is said to be made at Toledo, by Roger de Palermo, a mino­rite friar, in the thirteenth century. A king of Spain then commanded it to be translated from Latin into Arabic, and sent it as a most valuable present to Emir Elmomenim, lord of Tunis. It was next given to Frederick the Second, em­peror of Germany, famous in the crusades. This work, which is of considerable length, was translated into English verse, and will be mentioned on that account again. Sidrac is recited as an eminent philosopher, with Seneca and king Solomon, in the Marchaunt's Second tale, ascribed to Chau­cer w.

It is natural to conclude, that most of these French ro­mances were current in England, either in the French ori­ginals, which were well understood at least by the more polite readers, or else by translation or imitation, as I have before hinted, when the romance of Richard Cuer de Lyon, in whose prologue they are recited, was translated into English. That the latter was the case as to some of them, [Page 145] at least, we shall soon produce actual proofs. A writer, who has considered these matters with much penetration and judg­ment, observes, that probably from the reign of our Richard the first, we are to date that remarkable intercommunica­tion and mutual exchange of compositions which we discover to have taken place at some early period between the French and English minstrels. The same set of phrases, the same species of characters, incidents, and adventures, and often the identical stories, being found in the metrical romances of both nations x. From close connection and constant in­tercourse, the traditions and the champions of one kingdom were equally known in the other: and although Bevis and Guy were English heroes, yet on these principles this cir­cumstance by no means destroys the supposition, that their atchievements, although perhaps already celebrated in rude English songs, might be first wrought into romance by the French y. And it seems probable, that we continued for some time this practice of borrowing from our neighbours. Even the titles of our oldest romances, such as Sir Blandamoure, [Page 146] Sir Triamoure, Sir Eglamoure, of Artoys z, La Mort d [...] Arthur, with many more, betray their French extraction. It is likewise a presumptive argument in favour of this asser­tion, that we find no prose romances in our language, before Caxton translated from the French the History of Troy, the Life of Charlemagne, the Histories of Jason, Paris, and Vy­enne a, the Death of King Arthur, and other prose pieces of chivalry: by which, as the profession of minstrelsy de­cayed and gradually gave way to a change of manners and customs, romances in metre were at length imperceptibly superseded, or at least grew less in use as a mode of enter­tainment at public festivities.

Various causes concurred, in the mean time, to multiply books of chivalry among the French, and to give them a superiority over the English, not only in the number but in the excellence of those compositions. Their barons lived in greater magnificence. Their feudal system flourished on a more sumptuous, extensive, and lasting establishment. Schools were instituted in their castles for initiating the young nobility in the rules and practice of chivalry. Their tilts and tournaments were celebrated with a higher degree of pomp; and their ideas of honour and gallantry were more exaggerated and refined.

[Page 147] We may add, what indeed has been before incidentally remarked, that their troubadours were the first writers of metrical romances. But by what has been here advanced, I do not mean to insinuate without any restrictions, that the French entirely led the way in these compositions. Un­doubtedly the Provencial bards contributed much to the progress of Italian literature. Raimond the fourth of Ar­ragon, count of Provence, about the year 1220, a lover and a judge of letters, invited to his court the most celebrated of the songsters who professed to polish and adorn the Pro­vencial language by various sorts of poetry b. Charles the first, his son-in-law, and the inheritor of his virtues and dignities, conquered Naples, and carried into Italy a taste for the Provencial literature. At Florence especially this taste prevailed, where he reigned many years with great splendour, and where his successors resided. Soon afterwards the Roman court was removed to Provence c. Hitherto the Latin language had only been in use. The Provencial writers established a common dialect: and their examples convinced other nations, that the modern languages were no less adapted to composition than those of antiquity d. They introduced a love of reading, and diffused a general and popular taste for poetry, by writing in a language intelligible to the ladies and the people. Their verses being conveyed in a familiar tongue, became the chief amusement of princes and feudal lords, whose courts had now begun to assume an air of [Page 148] greater brilliancy: a circumstance which necessarily gave great encouragement to their profession, and by rendering these arts of ingenious entertainment universally fashionable, imperceptibly laid the foundation of polite literature. From these beginnings it were easy to trace the progress of poetry to its perfection, through John de Meun in France, Dante in Italy, and Chaucer in England.

This praise must undoubtedly be granted to the Provencial poets. But in the mean time, to recur to our original ar­gument, we should be cautious of asserting in general and indiscriminating terms, that the Provencial poets were the first writers of metrical romance: at least we should ascer­tain, with rather more precision than has been commonly used on this subject, how far they may claim this merit. I am of opinion that there were two sorts of French trou­badours, who have not hitherto been sufficiently distin­guished. If we diligently examine their history, we shall find that the poetry of the first troubadours consisted in satires, moral fables, allegories, and sentimental sonnets. So early as the year 1180, a tribunal called the Court of Love, was instituted both in Provence and Picardy, at which ques­tions in gallantry were decided. This institution furnished eternal matter for the poets, who threw the claims and argu­ments of the different parties into verse, in a style that afterwards led the way to the spiritual conversations of Cyrus and Clelia e. Fontenelle does not scruple to acknowledge, that gallantry was the parent of French poetry f. But to sing romantic and chivalrous adventures was a very different task, and required very different talents. The troubadours therefore who composed metrical romances form a different species, and ought always to be considered separately. And [Page 149] this latter class seems to have commenced at a later period, not till after the crusades had effected a great change in the manners and ideas of the western world. In the mean time, I hazard a conjecture. Cinthio Giraldi supposes, that the art of the troubadours, commonly called the Gay Science, was first communicated from France to the Italians, and after­wards to the Spaniards g. This perhaps may be true: but at the same time it is highly probable, as the Spaniards had their JUGLARES or convivial bards very early, as from long connection they were immediately and intimately acquaint­ed with the fictions of the Ara [...]ians, and as they were naturally fond of chivalry, that the troubadours of Provence in great measure caught this turn of fabling from Spain. The communication, to mention no other obvious means of intercourse in an affair of this nature, was easy through the ports of Toulon and Marseilles, by which the two na­tions carried on from early times a constant commerce. Even the French critics themselves universally allow, that the Spaniards, having learned rhyme from the Arabians, through this very channel conveyed it to Provence. Tasso preferred Amadis de Gaul, a romance originally written in Spain, by Vasco Lobeyra, before the year 1300 h, to the most celebrated pieces of the Provencial poets i. But this is a subject which will perhaps receive illustration from a writer of great taste, talents, and industry, Monsieur de la Curne de Sainte Palaye, who will soon oblige the world with an ample history of Provencial poetry; and whose researches into a kindred subject, already published, have opened a new and extensive field of information concerning the manners, institutions, and literature of the feudal ages k.


VARIOUS matters suggested by the Prologue of RICHARD CUEUR DE LYON, cited in the last section, have betrayed us into a long digression, and interrupted the regularity of our annals. But I could not neglect so fair an opportunity of preparing the reader for those metrical tales, which having acquired a new cast of fiction from the cru­sades and a magnificence of manners from the encrease of chivalry, now began to be greatly multiplied, and as it were professedly to form a separate species of poetry. I now therefore resume the series, and proceed to give some speci­mens of the English metrical romances which appeared be­fore or about the reign of Edward the second: and although most of these pieces continued to be sung by the minstrels in the halls of our magnificent ancestors for some centuries afterwards, yet as their first appearance may most probably be dated at this period, they properly coincide in this place with the tenour of our history. In the mean time, it is natural to suppose, that by frequent repetition and successive changes of language during many generations, their original simplicity must have been in some degree corrupted. Yet some of the specimens are extracted from manuscripts writ­ten in the reign of Edward the third. Others indeed from printed copies, where the editors took great liberties in ac­commodating the language to the times. However in such as may be supposed to have suffered most from depravations of this sort, the substance of the ancient style still remains, and at least the structure of the story. On the whole, we mean to give the reader an idea of those popular heroic tales in verse, professedly written for the harp, which began to be multiplied among us about the beginning of the fourteenth [Page 151] century. We will begin with the romance of RICHARD CUEUR DE LYON, already mentioned.

The poem opens with the marriage of Richard's father, Henry the second, with the daughter of Carbarryne, a king of Antioch. But this is only a lady of romance. Henry mar­ried Eleanor the divorced queen of Louis of France. The minstrels could not conceive any thing less than an eastern princess to be the mother of this magnanimous hero.

—His barons him redde a
That they graunted hem a wyfe to wedde,
Hastily he sent his sonde
Into many a divers londe
The fayrest woman that was on lyve
They sholde bringe him to wyve.

The messengers or embassadors, in their voyage, meet a ship adorned like Cleopatra's galley.

Suche ne sawe they never none,
For it was so gay begone
Every nayle with gold ygrave
Of pure gold was his sklave b,
Her mast was of yvory,
Of samyte her sayle wytly,
Her ropes al of whyte sylke,
As whyte as ever was ony mylke.
The noble shyp was wythout
With clothes of gold spred about,
And her loftc and her wyndlace d
Al of gold depaynted was:
In the shyppe there were dyght
Knyghtes and lordes of myght,
[Page 152] And a lady therein was
Bryght as sonne thorowe the glas.
Her men abrode gon stonde
And becked them with her honde,
And prayed them for to dwell
And theyr aventures to tell.—
"To dyverse londes do we wende
"For kynge Harry hath us sende
"For to seche hym a quene,
"The fayrest that myght on [...]rthe bene."
Up arose a kynge of chayre
With that word, and spake fayre,
The chayre was of carbunkell stone,
Suche sawe they never none,
And other dukes hym besyde,
Noble men of moche pryde,
And welcomed the messengers every chone,
Into the shippe they gan gone.—
Clothes of sylke wer sprad on borde,
The kyng then anon badde,
As it is in ryme radde e,
That his doughter wer forthe fet
And in a chayre by hym set,
Trompettes bigan to blowe,
She was set in a throwe f
With xx knygtes her aboute
And double so many of ladyes stoute.—
Whan thei had done their mete
Of adventures they bygyn to speke.
The kyng them told in his reason,
How it cam hym in a vysyon,
In his lond that he came fro
In to Engelond for to go
[Page 153] And hys doughter that was hym der [...]
For to wende with hym in fere g,
And in this manner we bi dyght
Unto your londe to wende ryght.
Then answerede a messengere,
His name was cleped Barnagere,
"Ferther we will seeke nought
"To my lorde she shal be brought."

They soon arrive in England, and the lady is lodged in the tower of London, one of the royal castles.

The messengers the kyng have tolde
Of that lady fayre and bolde
There she lay in the toure
The lady that was whyt as floure;
Kyng Harry gan hym dyght
With erles, barons, and many a knyght,
Ayenst that ladye for to wende,
For he was courteys and hende:
The damosell to londe was ladde
Clothes of golde bifore her spradde,
The messengers on eche a syde,
And mynystrells of moche pryde.
Kyng Harry liked her seynge
That fayre lady, and her fader the kynge.—
To Westminstir they went in fere
Lordes, ladies, that ther were,
Trompettes bigan for to blowe
To meteh thei went in a throwe, &c i.

The first of our hero's atchievements in chivalry is at a splendid tournament held at Salisbury. Clarendon near Salisbury was one of the king's palaces k.

[Page 154]
Kynge Rychard gan hym dysguyse
In a full stronge queyntyse l:
He cam out of a valaye
For to se of theyr playe,
As a knyght avanturous
His atyre was orgulous m,
Al together cole blacke
Was his horse without lacke,
Upon his crest a raven stoode
That yanedn as he were wode.—
He bare a shafte that was grete and stronge
It was fourtene fote longe,
And it was gret and stoute,
One or two inches aboute:
The fyrst knyght that he ther mette
Full egerly he hym grette,
With a dint amyd the shelde
His hors he bare downe in the feld, &c o.

[Page 155] A battle-ax wh [...]ch Richard carried with him from Eng­land into the holy land is thus described.

Kyng Rycharde I understonde
Or he went out of Engelonde
Let him make an axep for the nones
To brake therewith the Sarasyns 634bones.
The heed was wroght right wele
Therein was twenti bounder of stele:
And when he com into Cyprys londe
The axe toke he in his honde
All that he hytte he all to frapped
The gryffonss away faste rapped.
And the pryson when he came to
With his axe he smote ryght tho
Dores, barres, and iron chaynes, &c. t

This formidable axe is again mentioned at the si [...]ge of Acon, or Acre, the antient Ptolemais.

Kyng Rycharde after anone ryght
Towarde Acrys gan hym dyght,
And as he sayled towarde Surrye u,
He was warned of a spye,
How the folke of the hethen law,
A gret chayne thei had i drawe
[Page 156] Over the haven of Acres [...]ers
Was fastened to two pyllers
That no shyppe sholde in wynne w.—
Therfore seven yers and more
All crysten kynges laye thore
And with hongre suffre payne
For lettyng of that same chayne.
Whan kyng Rycharde herde that tydinge
For joye his herte bigan to sprynge,
A swyfte strong galey he toke.
Trenchemere x, so saith the boke.—
The galey yede as swift
As ony fowle by the lyfte y,
And kynge Rycharde that was so goode,
With his axe afore the shippe stoode
And whan he came to the chayne,
With his axe he smote it a twayne z,
That all the barons verament
Sayd it was a noble dent,
And for joye of that dede
The cuppes faste aboute yede a,
With good wyne, pyment and clarè,
And sailed towards Acrys cityè.
Kynge Rycharde out of his galye
Let caste wilde fire into the skye.
His trompettes yede in his galye
Men might here it to the skye,
Trompettes, horne, and shalmys b,
The sea burnt al of fyre grekys c.

[Page 157] This fyre grekys, or Grecian fire, seems to be a composi­tion belonging to the Arabian chemistry. It is frequently mentioned by the Byzantine historians, and was very much used in the wars of the middle ages, both by sea and land. It was a sort of wild-fire, said to be inextinguishable by water, and chiefly used for burning ships, against which it was thrown in pots or phials by the hand. In land engagements it seems to have been discharged by machines constructed on purpose. The oriental Greeks pretended that this artificial fire was invented by Callinicus, an architect of Helio­polis, under Constantine; and that Constantine prohi­bited them from communicating the manner of making it to any foreign people. It was however in common use among the nations confederated with the Byzantines: and Anna Commena has given an account of its ingredients d, which were bitumen, sulphur, and naptha. It is called feu gregois in the French chronicles and romances. Our minstrell, I believe, is singular in saying that Richard scattered this fire on Saladin's ships: many monkish historians of the holy war, in describing the siege of Acon, relate that it was employed on that occasion, and many others, by the Saracens against the Christians e. Procopius, in his history of the Goths, calls it MEDEA'S OIL, as if it had been a preparation used in the sorceries of that enchantress f.

The quantity of huge battering rams and other military engines, now unknown, which Richard is said to have transported into the holy land, was prodigious. The names of some of them are given in another part of this romance g. [Page 158] It is an historical fact, that Richard was killed by the French from the shot of an arcubalist, a machine which he often worked skillfully with his own hands: and Guillaume le Briton, a Frenchman, in his Latin [...]poem called Philippeis, introduces Atropos making a decree, that Richard should die by no other means than by a wound from this destruc­tive instrument; the use of which, after it had been inter­dicted by the pope in the year 1139, he revived, and is supposed to have shewn the French in the crusades g.

Gynnesh he had of wonder wyse,
Mangenellesi of grete quyentyse k,
Arblast bowe made with gynne
The holy land therewith to wynne;
Over all other utterly
He had a mylel of grete maystry,
In the myddes of a shyppe to stonde
Suche ne sawe they never in no londe,
[Page 159] Foure sayles were therto all newe
Yelowe and grene rede and blewe,
With canvas i layde all aboute
Full costly within and withoute,
And all within ful of fyre
Of torches made of wexe clere,
Overth wart and endlonge,
With spryngellesm of fyre they dyde honde,
Grounde they neyther corne ne good,
But robbed as thei were wood;
Out of their eyen cam rede blode n:
Before the trough one ther stode
That all in blode was begone
Such another was never none
And hornes he had upon his hede
The Sarasyns of hym had grete drede o.

[Page 160] The last circumstance recalls a fiend-like appearance drawn by Shakespeare; in which, exclusive of the applica­tion, he has converted ideas of deformity into the true sub­lime, and rendered an image terrible, which in other hands would have probably been ridiculous.

—Methought his eyes
Were two full moons, he had a thousand noses,
Horns whelk'd and wav'd like the enridged sea.
It was some fiend p—.

At the touch of this powerful magician, to speak in Milton's language, ‘"The griesly terrror grows tenfold more dreadful and deform."’

The moving castles described by our minstrell, which seem to be so many fabrics of romance, but are founded in real history, afforded suitable materials for poets who deal in the marvellous. Accordingly they could not escape the fabling genius of Tasso, who has made them instruments of en­chantment, and accommodated them, with great propriety, to the operations of infernal spirits.

At the siege of Babylon, the soldan Saladin sends king Richard a [...]orse. The messenger says,

"Thou sayst thy God is full of myght:
"Wilt thou graunte with spere and shelde,
"To detryve the ryght in the felde,
"With helme, hauberke, and brondes bryght,
"On stronge stedes gode and lyght,
"Whether ben of more power,
"Thy God almight or Jupyter?
"And he sent me to saye this
"Yf thou wylt have an hors of his,
[Page 161] "In all the londes that thou hast gone
"Suche ne thou sawest never none:
"Favell of Sypres, ne Lyard of Prys q,
"Ben not at ned as he ys;
"And yf thou wylte, this same daye,
"He shall be brought the to assaye."
Rycharde answered, "thou sayest well
"Suche an horse, by saynt Myghell,
"I wolde have to ryde upon.—
"Bydde hym sende that hors to me,
"And I shall assaye what they be,
"Yf he be trusti, withoute fayle,
"I kepe none other to me in batayle."
The messengers tho home wente,
And told the sowdan in presente,
That Rycharde in the felde wolde come hym unto:
The ryche sowdan bade to com hym unto
A noble clerke that coulde wel conjoure,
That was a mayster nygromansoure r:
He commaunded, as I you telle,
Thorugh the fende's myght of helle,
Two strong fendes of the ayre
In lykenes of two stedes fayre
[Page 162] Both lyke in hewe and here,
As men sayd that ther were:
No man sawe never none syche
That was one was a mare iliche,
That other a colte, a noble stede,
Where that he wer in ony mede,
(Were the knyghts never so bolde,)
Whan the mare nyet wolde,
(That hym sholde holde ayenst his wylle,)
But soone he wolde go her tylle u,
And kneel downe and soukew his dame,
Therewhyle the sowdan with shame
Sholde kynge Rychard quelle,
All this an aungell gan him telle,
That to hym came aboute mydnyght,
"Awake, he sayd, goddis knyght:
"My lordex doth the to onderstonde
"That the shal com on hors to londe,
"Fayre it is, of body ipyght,
"To betray the if the sowdan myght;
"On hym to ryde have thou no drede
"For he the helpe shall at nede."

The angel then gives king Richard several directions about managing this infernal horse, and a general engagement ensuing, between the Christian and Saracen armies, y

He lepte on hors whan it was lyght;
Or he in his sadel did lepe
[Page 163] Of many thynges he toke kepe.—
His men brought hem that he ba [...],
A square tree of fourty fete,
Before his sadell anone he it sete
Faste that they should it brase, &c.
Hymself was richely begone,
From the creste ryght to the tone z,
He was covered wondersly wele
All with splentes of good stele,
And ther above an hauberke.
A shafte he had of trusty werke,
Upon his shoulders a shelde of stele,
With the lybardesa painted wele;
And helme he had of ryche entayle,
Trusty and trewe was his ventayle:
Upon his creste a dove whyte
Sygnyfycaune of the holy sprite,
Upon a cross the dove stode
Of gold iwroght ryche and gode,
Godb hymself Mary and Johon
As he was done the rode upon c,
In sygnyfycaunce for whom he faught,
The spere h [...]d forgat he nauht,
Upon his shaft he wolde it have
Goddis name theron was grave,
Now herken what othe he sware,
Or thay to the battayle went there:
"Yf it were so, that Rycharde myght
"Slee the sowdan in felde with fyght,
"At our wylle everychone
"He and his shold gone
[Page 164] "In to the cyte of Babylone;
"And the kynge of Masydoyne
"He sholde have under his honde;
"And yf the [...]owdan of that londe
"Myght slee Rycharde in the felde
"With swerde or spere under shelde,
"That Crysten men sholde go
"Out of that londe for ever mo,
"And the Sarasyns theyr wyll in wolde."
Quod kynge Rycharde, "Therto I holde,
"Therto my glove, as I am knyght."
They be armyd and redy dyght:
Kynge Rycharde to his sadell dyde lepe,
Certes, who that wolde take kepe
To se that fyght it were fayre;
Ther stedes ranne with grete ayre d,
Al so hard as thei myght dyre e,
After theyr fete sprange out fyre:
Tabours and trompettes gan blowe:
Ther men myght se in a throwe
How kynge Rycharde that noble man
Encountred with the sowdan,
The chefe was tolde of Damas f
His truste upon his mare was,
And tharfor, as the boke us telles g,
Hys crouper henge full of belles h,
[Page 165] And his peytrell i and hys arsowne k
Thre myle men myght here the sowne.
His mare nyghed, his belles dyd rynge,
For grete pryde, withoute lesynge,
A faucon brodel in honde he bare,
For he thoght he wolde thare
Have slayne Rycharde with treasowne
Whan his colte sholde knele downe
As a colte sholde souk his dame,
And he was ware of that shame,
His eresm with waxe were stopped faste,
Therefore Rycharde was not agaste,
He stroke the stede that under hym wente,
And gave the Sowdan his deth with a dente:
In his shelde verament
Was paynted a serpent,
Wyth the spere that Rycharde helde
He bare hym thorugh under hys shelde,
Non of hys armure myght hym laste,
Brydell and peytrell al to braste,
Hys gyrthes and hys steropes also
Hys mare to grounde wente tho;
Maugre her heed, he made her seche
The grounde, withoute more speche,
Hys feete towarde the fyrmament,
Bihynde hym the spere outwent
Ther he fell dede on the grene,
Rycharde smote the fende with sporesn kene,
[Page 166] And yn the name of the holi goost
He dryveth ynto the hethen hoost,
And as sone as he was come,
Asonder he brake the sheltron o,
And al that ever afore hym stode,
Hors and man to the grounde yode,
Twenti fote on either syde, &c.
Whan the kyng of Fraunce and hys men wyste
That the mastry had the Crysten,
They waxed bold, and gode herte toke
Stedes bestrode, and shaftes shoke p.

Richard arming himself is a curious Gothic picture. It is certainly a genuine picture, and drawn with some spirit; as is the shock of the two necromantic steeds, and other parts of this description. The combat of Richard and the Soldan, on the event of which the christian army got possession of the city of Babylon, is probably the DUEL OF KING RICHARD, painted on the walls of a chamber in the royal palace of Clarendon q. The soldan is represented as meeting Richard with a hawk on his fist, to shew indifference, or a contempt of his adversary; and that he came rather prepared for the chace, than the combat. Indeed in the feudal times, and long afterwards, no gentleman appeared on horseback, unless going to battle, without a hawk on his fist. In the Tapestry of the Norman conquest, Harold is exhibited on horseback, with a hawk on his fist, and his dogs running before him, going on an embassy from king Edward the Confessor to William Duke of Normandy r [...] [Page 167] Tabour, a drum, a common accompanyment of war, is mentioned as one of the instruments of martial music in this battle with characteristical propriety. It was imported into the European armies from the Saracens in the holy war. The word is constantly written tabour, not tambour, in Join­ville's HISTORY OF SAINT LOUIS, and all the elder French romances. Joinville describes a superb bark or galley be­longing to a Saracen chief, which he says was filled with cymbals, tabours, and Saracen horns s. Jean d'Orronville, an old French chronicler of the life of Louis duke of Bourbon, relates, that the king of France, the king of Thrasimere, and the king of Bugie landed in Africa, according to their custom, with cymbals, kettle drums, tabours t, and whistles u. Babylon, here said to be besieged by king Richard, and so frequently mentioned by the romance writers and the chro­niclers of the crusades, is Cairo or Bagdat. Cairo and Bagdat, ci [...]ies of recent foundation, were perpetually confounded with Babylon, which had been destroyed many centuries before, and was situated at a considerable distance from either. Not the least enquiry was made in the dark ages concerning the true situation of places, or the disposition of the country in Palestine, although the theatre of so important [Page 168] a war; and to this neglect were owing, in a great measure, the signal defeats and calamitous distresses of the christian adventurers, whose numerous armies, destitute of information, and cut off from every resource, perished amidst unknown mountains, and impracticable wastes. Geography at this time had been but little cultivated. It had been studied only from the antients: as if the face of the earth, and the political state of nations, had not, since the time of those writers, undergone any changes or revolutions.

So formidable a champion was king Richard against the infidels, and so terrible the remembrance of his valour in the holy war, that the Saracens and Turks used to quiet their froward children only by repeating his name. Joinville is the only writer who records this anecdote. He adds another of the same sort. When the Saracens were riding, and their horses started at any unusal object, ‘"ils disoient a leurs chevaulx en les picquent de l'esperon, [...]t cuides tu que ce soit le ROY RICHART w?"’ It is extraordi­nary, that these circumstances should have escaped Malmes­bury, Matthew Paris, Benedict, Langtoft, and the rest of our old historians, who have exaggerated the character of this redoubted hero, by relating many particulars more likely to be fabulous, and certainly less expressive of his prowess.


THE romance of SIR GUY, which is enumerated by Chaucer among the ‘"Romances of pris,"’ affords the following fiction, not uncommon indeed in pieces of this sort, conc [...]rning the redemption of a knight from a long capti­vity, whose prison was inaccessible, unknown, and enchanted a. His name is Amis of the Mountain.

Here besyde an Elfish knyhte b
Has taken my lorde in fyghte,
And hath him ledde with him away
In the Fayry c, Syr, permafay.
Was Amis, quoth Heraude, your husbond?
A doughtyer knygte was none in londe.
Then tolde Heraude to Raynborne,
How he loved his father Guyon:
Then sayd Raynburne, for thy sake,
To morrow I shall th [...] way take,
And nevermore come agayne,
Tyll I bring Amys of the Mountayne.
[Page 170] Raynborne rose on the morrow erly,
And armed hym full richely.—
Raynborne rode tyll it was noone,
Tyll he came to a rocke of stone;
Ther he founde a strong gate,
He blissed hym, and rode in thereat [...]
He rode half a myle the waie,
He saw no light that came of daie,
Then cam he to a watir brode,
Never man ovir suche a one rode.
Within he sawe a place greene
Suche one had he never erst seene.
Within that place there was a pallaice,
Closed with walles of heathenesse d:
The walles thereof were of cristall,
And the sommers of corall.
Raynborne had grete dout to passe,
The watir so depe and brode was:
And at the laste his steede leepe
Into the brode watir deepe.
Thyrty fadom he sanke adowne,
Then clepede he to god Raynborne.
God hym help, his steede was goode,
And bure hym ovir that hydious floode.
To the pallaice he yodef anone,
And lyghted downe of his steede full soone.
[Page 171] Through many a chamber yede Raynborne,
A knyghte he found in dongeon.
Raynborne grete hym as a knyght courtoise,
Who oweth, he said, this fayre Pallaice?
That knyght answered hym, yt is noght,
He oweth it that me hither broght.
Thou art, quod Raynburne, in feeble plight,
Tell me thy name, he sayd, syr knight:
That knyghte sayd to hym agayne,
My name is Amys of the Mountayne.
The lord is an Elvish man
That me into thys pryson wan.
Arte thou Amys, than sayde Raynborne,
Of the Mountaynes the bold barrone?
In grete perill I have gone,
To seke thee in this rocke of stone.
But blissed be God now have I thee
Thou shalt go home with me.
Let be, sayd Amys of the Mountayne,
Great wonder I have of thee certayne;
How that thou hythur wan:
For syth this world fyrst began
No man hyther come ne myghte,
Without leave of the Elvish knyghte.
Me with thee thou mayest not lede, &c. t

Afterwards, the knight of the mountain directs Raynburne to find a wonderful sword which hung in the hall of the palace. With this weapon Raynburne attacks and conquers the Elvish knight; who buys his life, on condition of con­ducting his conqueror over the perillous ford, or lake, above described, and of delivering all the captives confined in his secret and impregnable dungeon.

[Page 172] Guyon's expedition into the Souldan's camp, an idea fur­nished by the crusades, is drawn with great strength and sim­plicity.

Guy asked his armes anone,
Hosen of yron Guy did upon:
In hys hawberke Guy hym clad,
He drad no stroke whyle he it had.
Upon hys head hys helme he cast,
And hasted hym to ryde full fast.
A syrcleh of gold thereon stoode,
The emperarour had none so goode;
Aboute the syrcle for the nones
Were sett many precyous stones.
Above he had a coate armour wyde;
Hys sword he toke by hys syde:
And lept upon his stede anone,
Styrrope with foote touched he none.
Guy rode forth without boste,
Alone to the Soudan's hoste:
Guy saw all that countrie
Full of tentes and pavylyons bee:
On the pavylyon of the Soudone
Stoode a carbuncle-stone:
Guy wist therebie it was the Soudones
And drew hym thyther for the nones,
Alt the meetei he founde the Soudone,
And hys barrons everychone,
And tenne kynges aboute hym,
All they were stout and grymme:
Guy rode forth, and spake no worde,
Tyll he cam to the Soudan's borde k;
[Page 173] He ne rought l with whom he mette,
But on thys wyse the Soudan he grette.
"God's curse have thou and thyne
"And tho that levem on Apoline."
Than sayd the Soudan, "What art thou
"That thus prowdlie speakest now?
"Yet found I never man certayne
"That suche wordes durst me sayne."
Guy sayd, "So God me save from hell,
"My ryght nam I shall the tell,
"Guy of Warwicke my name is."
Than sayd the Sowdan ywis,
"Arte thou the bolde knyght Guyon,
"That art here in my pavylyon?
"Thou sluest my cosyn Coldran
"Of all Sarasyns the boldest man, &c n.

[Page 174] I will add Guy's combat with the Danish giant Colbrond, as it is touched with great spirit, and may serve to illustrate some preceding hints concerning this part of our hero's history.

Then came Colbronde forthe anone,
On foote, for horse could bare hym none.
For when he was in armure dight
Fower horse ne bare hym might.
A man had ynough to done
To bere hym hys wepon.
Then Guy rode to Colbronde,
On hys stede ful wele rennende o:
Colbronde smote Guy in the fielde
In the middest of Syr Guyes shelde;
Through Guyes hawberk that stroke went
And for no maner thyng it withstent p.
In two yt shareq Guyes stedes body
And fell to ground hastily.
Guy upstert as an eger lyoune,
And drue hys gode sworde browne:
To Colbronde he let it flye,
But he might not reche so hye.
On hys shoulder the stroke fell downe
Through all hys armure share Guyon r.
Into the bodie a wounde untyde
That the red blude gan oute glyde.
Colbronde was wroth of that rap,
He thought to give Guy a knap.
He smote Guy on the helme bryght
That out sprang the fyre lyght.
Guy smote Colbronde agayne,
Through shielde and armure certayne.
[Page 175] He made his swerde for to glyde
Into his bodie a wound ryht wyde.
So smart came Guyes bronde
That it braste in hys hond.

The romance of the SQUIRE OF LOW DEGREE, who loved the king's daughter of Hungary s, is alluded to by Chaucer in the Rime of Sir Topas t. The princess is thus represented in her closet, adorned with painted glass, listening to the squire's complaint u.

That ladi herde hys mournyng alle,
Ryght undir the chambre walle:
In her oryallw there she was,
Closyd well with royall glas,
Fulfyllyd yt was with ymagery,
Every windowe by and by
On eche syde had ther a gynne,
Sperdex with manie a dyvers pynne.
Anone that ladie fayre and fre
Undyd a pynne of yvere,
And wyd the wyndowes she open set,
The sunne shonne yn at hir closet.
In that arbre fayre and gaye
She saw where that sqyure lay, &c.

[Page 176] I am persuaded to transcribe the following passage, because it delineates in lively colours the fashionable diversions and usages of antient times. The king of Hungary endeavours to comfort his daughter with these promises, after she had fallen into a deep and incurable melancholy from the supposed loss of her paramour.

To morow ye shall yn huntyng fare;
And yede, my doughter, yn a chare,
Yt shal be coverd wyth velvette reede
And clothes of fyne golde al about your heede,
With damaske whyte and asure blewe
Well dyaperd y with lyllyes newe:
[Page 177] Your pomelles shalbe ended with golde,
Your chaynes enameled many a folde.
Your mantell of ryche degre
Purple palle and armyne fre.
Jennets of Spayne that ben so wyght
Trapped to the ground with velvet bryght.
Ye shall have harpe, sautry, and songe,
And other myrthes you amonge,
Ye shal have rumney, and malespine,
Both ypocrasse and vernage wyne;
Mountrese and wyne of Greke,
Both algrade and despice eke;
Antioche and bastarde,
Pyment z also, and garnarde;
[Page 178] Wine of Greke, and muscadell,
Both clare, pyment, and rochell,
The reed your stomake to defye
And pottes of osey sett you bye.
You shall have venyson ybake a,
The best wylde fowle that may be take:
A lese of harehoundb with you to streke,
And hart, and hynde, and other lyke,
Ye shalbe set at such a tryst
That hart and hynde sh [...]ll come to you fyst.
Your de [...]ease to dryve ye fro,
To here the bugles there yblowe.
[Page 179] Homward thus shall ye ryde,
On haukyng by the ryvers syde,
With goshauke and with gentil fawcon
With buglehorn and merlyon.
When you come home your menie amonge,
Ye shall have revell, daunces, and songe:
Lytle chyldren, great and smale,
Shall syng as doth the nyghtyngale,
Than shal ye go to your evensong,
With tenours and trebles among,
Threscore of copes of damask bryght
Full of perles they shalbe pyghte.—
Your sensours shalbe of golde
Endent with asure manie a folde:
Your quere nor organ songe shal want
With countre note and dyscaunt.
The other halfe on orgayns playing,
With yong chyldren ful fayn syngyng.
Than shal ye go to your suppere
And sytte in tentis in grene arbere,
With clothe of arras pyght to the grounde,
With saphyres set of dyamounde.—
A hundred knyghtes truly tolde
Shall plaie with bowles in alayes colde.
Your disease to dryve awaie,
To se the fisshes yn poles plai [...].
To a drawe brydge then shal ye,
Thone halfe of stone, thother of tre,
A barge shal meet you full ryht,
With xxiiii ores ful bryght,
With trompettes and with claryowne,
The fresshe watir to rowe up and downe.
Than shal you, doughter, aske the wyne
Wyth spises that be gode and fyne:
[Page 180] Gentyll pottes, with genger grene,
Wyth dates and deynties you betweene.
Fortie torches brenynge bright
At your brydges to bring you lyght.
Into youre chambre they shall you brynge
Wyth muche myrthe and more lykynge.
Your blankettes shal be of fustyane,
Your shetes shal be of cloths of rayne c:
Your head-shete shal be of pery pyght d,
Wyth dy [...]mondes set and rubys bryght.
Whan you are layd in bed so softe,
A cage of golde shal hange aloft,
Wythe longe peper fayre burning,
And cloves that be swete smellyng,
Frankinsense and olibanum,
That whan ye slepe the taste may come
And yf ye no rest can take
All nyght mynstrels for you shall wake e.

SYR DEGORE is a romance perhaps belonging to the same period f. After his education under a hermit, Sir Degore's first adventure is against a dragon. This horrible monster is marked with the hand of a master g.

[Page 181]
Degore went furth his waye,
Through a forest half a daye:
He [...]erd no man, nor sawe none,
Tyll yt past the hygh none,
Then herde he grete strokes falle,
That yt made grete noyse with alle,
Full sone he thoght that to se,
To wete what the strokes myght be:
There was an erle, both stout and gaye,
He was com ther that same daye,
For to hunt for a dere or a do,
But hys houndes were gone hym fro.
Then was ther a dragon grete and grymme,
Full of fyre and also venymme,
Wyth a wyde throte and tuskes grete,
Uppon that knygte fast gan he bete.
And as a lyon then was hys feete,
Hys tayle was long, and full unmeete:
Betwene hys head and hys tayle
Was xxii fote withouten fayle;
Hys body was lyke a wyne tonne,
He shone ful bryght agaynst the sunne:
Hys eyen were bright as any glasse,
His scales were hard as any brasse;
And therto he was necked lyke a horse,
He bare hys hed up wyth grete force:
The breth of hys mouth that did out blow
As yt had been a fyre on lowe.
He was to loke on, as I you telle,
As yt had bene a fiende of helle.
Many a man he had shent,
And many a horse he had rente.

As the minstrell profession became a science, and the au­dience grew more civilised, refinements began to be [Page 182] studied, and the romantic poet sought to gain new attention, and to recommend his story, by giving it the advantage of a plan. Most of the old metrical romances are, from their nature, supposed to be incoherent rhapsodies. Yet many of them have a regular integrity, in which every part contri­butes to produce an intended end. Through various obsta­cles and difficulties one point is kept in view, till the final and general catastrophe is brought about by a pleasing and unexpected surprise. As a specimen of the rest, and as it lies in a narrow compass, I will develope the plan of the fable now before us, which preserves at least a coincidence of events, and an uniformity of design.

A king's daughter of England, extremely beautiful, is sol­licited in marriage by numerous potentates of various king­doms. The king her father vows, that of all these suitors, that champion alone shall win his daughter who can unhorse him at a tournament. This they all attempt, but in vain. The king every year assisted at an anniversary mass for the soul of his deceased queen, who was interred in an abbey at some distance from his castle. In the journey thither, the princess strays from her damsels in a solitary forest: she is discovered by a knight in rich armour, who by many sollici­tations prevails over her chastity, and, at parting, gives her a sword without a point, which he charges her to keep safe; together with a pair of gloves, which will fit no hands but her own g. At length she finds the road to her father's castle, where, after some time, to avoid discovery, she is se­cretly delivered of a boy. Soon after the delivery, the princess having carefully placed the child in a cradle, with twenty pounds in gold, ten pounds in silver, the gloves given her by the strange knight, and a letter, consigns him to one [Page 183] of her maidens, who carries him by night, and leaves him in a wood, near a hermitage, which she discerned by the light of the moon. The hermit in the morning discovers the child; reads the letter, by which it appears that the gloves will fit no lady but the boy's mother, educates him till he is twenty years of age, and at parting gives him the gloves found with him in the cradle, telling him that they will fit no lady but his own mother. The youth, who is called Degore, sets forward to seek adventures, and saves an earl from a terrible dragon, which he kills. The earl in­vites him to his palace, dubs him a knight, gives him a horse and armour, and offers him half his territory. Sir Degore refuses to accept this offer, unless the gloves, which he had received from his foster-father the hermit, will fit any lady of his court. All the ladies of the earl's court are called before him, and among the rest the earl's daughter, but upon trial the gloves will fit none of them. He therefore takes leave of the earl, proceeds on his adventures, and meets with a large train of knights; he is informed that they were going to tourney with the king of England, who had promised his daughter to that knight who could conquer him in single combat. They tell him of the many barons and earls whom the king had foiled in several trials. Sir Degore, how­ever, enters the lists, overthrows the king, and obtains the princess. As the knight is a perfect stranger, she submits to her father's commands with much reluctance. He marries her; but in the midst of the solemnities which preceded the consummation, recollects the gloves which the hermit had given him, and proposes to make an experiment with them on the hands of his bride. The princess, on seeing the gloves, changed colour, claimed them for her own, and drew them on with the greatest ease. She declares to Sir Degore that she was his mother, and gives him an account of his birth: she told him that the knight his father gave her a pointless sword, which was to be delivered to no person but the son [Page 184] that should be born of their stolen embraces. Sir Degore draws the sword, and contemplates its breadth and length with wonder: is suddenly seized with a desire of finding out his father. He sets forward on this search, and on his way enters a castle, where he is entertained at supper by fifteen beautiful damsels. The lady of the castle invites him to her bed, but in vain; and he is lulled asleep by the sound of a harp. Various artifices are used to divert him from his pur­suit, and the lady even engages him to encounter a giant in her cause h. But Sir Degore rejects all her temptations, and pursues his journey. In a forest he meets a knight richly accoutred, who demands the reason why Sir Degore presumed to enter his forest without permission. A combat ensues. In the midst of the contest, the combatants being both un­horsed, the strange knight observing the sword of his ad­versary not only to be remarkably long and broad, but with­out a point, begs a truce for a moment. He fits the sword to a point which he had always kept, and which had for­merly broken off in an encounter with a giant; and by this circumstance discovers Sir Degore to be his son. They both return into England, and Sir Degore's father is married to the princess his mother.

The romance of KYNG ROBERT OF SICILY begins and pro­ceeds thus i.

Here is of kyng Robert of Cicyle,
Hou pride dude him beguile.
Princes proude that beth in pres,
I wol ou tell thing not lees.
[Page 185] In Cisyle was a noble kyng,
Faire and strong and sumdele ȝyng k;
He hadde a broder in greete Roome,
Pope of al cristendome;
Another he hadde in Alemayne,
An emperour that Sarazins wrougte payne.
The kynge was hetel kynge Robert,
Never mon ne wuste him ferte,
He was kyng of great honour
Ffor that he was conquerour:
In al the worlde nas his peer,
Kyng ne prince, far ne neer:
And, for he was of chivalrie flour,
His broder was made emperour:
His oder broder, godes vikere,
Pope of Rome, as I seide ere;
The pope was hote pope Urban,
He was goode to god and man:
The emperour was hote Valemounde,
A stronger warreoure nas non founde,
After his brother of Cisyle,
Of whom that I schal telle awhyle.
The kynge yhoughte he hadde no peer
In al the world, far no neer,
And in his yougt he hadde pryde
Ffor he was nounpere in uche syde.
At midsomer a seynt Jones niht,
The king to churche com ful riht,
Ffor to heren his even-song;
Him thouhte he dwelled ther ful long,
He thouhte more in worldes honour
Than in Crist our saveour:
[Page 186] In Magnificatm he herde a vers,
He made a clerke het him rehers,
In language of his own tonge,
In Latyn he nusten what heo songe;
The vers was this I tell ye,
"Deposuit potentes de sede
"Et exaltavit humiles,"
This was the vers withouten les
The clerke seide anone righte,
"Sire suche is godes mihte,
"That he make heyge lowe,
"And lowe heyge, in luytell throwe;
"God may do, withoute lyge o,
"His wil in twenkling of an eige p,
The kynge seide, with hert unstabl
"All yor song is fals and fable:
"What man hath such power
"Me to bringe lowe in daunger?
"I am floure of chivalrye,
"Myn enemys I may distruye:
"No man lyveth in no londe
"That may me withstonde.
"Then is this a song of noht."
This erreur he hadde in thought,
And in his thought a sleep him tok,
In his pulput r, as seith the boke.
Whan that evensong was al don,
A kyng i lyk hem out gon
And all men with hem wende,
Kyng Roberd lefte oute of mynde s.
[Page 187] The newet kyng was, as I yow telle,
Godes aungell his pruide to felle.
The aungell in hall joye made,
And all men of hym weore glade.
The kynge wakede that laye in churche,
His men he thouhte wo to werche;
Ffor he was left ther alon,
And dark niht hym fel upon.
He gan crie after his men,
Ther nas non that spak agen.
But the sextune atten ende
Of the churche him gan wende u,
And saide, "what dost thou nouth here,
"Thou fals thef, thou losenger?
"Thou art her with felenye
"Holy chirche to robby, &c."
The kyng bigon to renne out faste;
As a mon that was wood,
At his paleys gate he stood,
And hail the porter gadelyng w,
And bad him com in higing x:
The porter seide, "Who clepethy so?"
He answerde, "Anone tho,
"Thou schalt witen ar I go;
"Thi kyng I am thou schalt knowe:
"In prisoun thou schall ligge lowe,
"And ben an hanged and to drawe
"As a traytour bi the lawe,
"You schal wel witen I am kynge, &c."

When admitted, he is brought into the hall; where the angel, who had assumed his place, makes him the fool of the hall, and cloathes him in a fool's coat. He is then sent out [Page 188] to lie with the dogs; in which situation he envies the condi­tion of those dogs, which in great multitudes were permitted [...]o remain in the royal hall. At length the emperor Vale­mounde sends letters to his brother king Robert, inviting him to visit, with himself, their brother the pope at Rome. The angel, who personates king Robert, welcomes the mes­sengers, and cloathes them in the richest apparel, such as could not be made in the world.

The aungell welcomede the messagers,
And gaf them clothes riche of pers z,
Ffurred al with ermyne,
In crystendone is non so fyne;
And all was chouched midd [...] perre a,
Better was non in cristantè:
Such clothe, and hit werre to dihte,
Al cristendom hit make ne mihte,
Of that wondrede al that londe,
How that clothe was wrought with honde,
Where such cloth was to selle,
He ho hit made couthe no mon telle.
The messengers went with the kynge b [...]
To grete Rome, withoute lettynge;
The Fool Robert also went,
Clothed in lodlyc garnement,
With ffoxes tayles mony a boute d,
Men mihte him knowen in the route,
The aungel was clothed al in whyt
Was never seygee such samyt f:
And al was crouched on pe [...]les riche,
Never mon seighe non hem liche.
[Page 189] Al whit attyr was, and steede,
The steede was fair ther he yede g,
So feir a steede as he on rod
Was never mon that ever bi strod.
The aungel cam to Roome sone
Realh as fel a kyng to done.
So rech a kyng com never in Roome
All men wondrede whether he come.
His men weore reallichei dight
Heorek riches can seothe no wiht,
Of clothis, gurdles, and other thing,
Evriche sqyzerl thoughte a kyng;
And al ride of riche array,
Botem kyng Robert, as i ow say,
Al men on him gan pyke,
For he rod al other unlyke.
An ape rod of his clothing
In tokne that he was underling.
The pope and the emperour also,
And other lordes mony mo,
Welcommede the aungel as for kyng
And made joye of his comyng;
Theose three bredrene made cumfort,
The aungel was broder mad bi sort,
Wel was the pope and emperour
That hadden a broder of such honour.

Afterwards they return in the same pomp to Sicily, where the angel, after so long and ignominious a penance, restores king Robert to his royalty.

Sicily was conquered by the French in the eleventh cen­tury n, and this tale might have been originally got or [Page 190] written during their possession of that island, which conti­nued through many monarchies o. But Sicily, from its situation, became a familiar country to all the western con­tinent at the time of the crusades, and consequently soon found its way into romance, as did many others of the me­diterranean islands and coasts, for the same reason. Another of them, Cilicia, has accordingly given title to an antient tale called, the KING OF TARS; from which I shall give some extracts, touched with a rude but expressive pencil.

"Her bigenneth of the KYNG OF TARS, and of the Soudan of Dammias p, how the Soudan of Dammias was cristened thoru godis gras q."
Herkeneth now, bothe old and ȝyng,
Ffor Marie love, that swete thyng:
Howe a werre bi gan
Bi tweene a god cristene kyng,
And an hethene heih lordyng,
Of Damas the Soudan.
The kyng of Tars hadde a wyf,
The feireste that mihte bere lyf,
That eny mon telle can:
A doughter thei hadde ham bi tweene,
That heorer rihte heire scholde ben;
Whit sos father of swan:
[Page 191] Chaast heot was, and feir of chere,
With rodeu red so blosme on brere,
Eigenw stepe and gray,
Lowe schuldres, and whyt swere x;
Her to seoy was gret preyere
Of princes pert in play.
The wordez of hire spronge ful wyde
Ffeor and ner, bi vch a syde:
The Soudan herde say;
Him thougte his herte wolde broke on five
Bote he mihte have hire to wive,
That was so feire a may,
The Soudan ther he satte in halle;
He sent his messagers faste with alle,
To hire fader the kyng.
And seyde, hou so hit ever bi falle,
That mayde he wolde clothe in palle
And spousen hire with his ryng.
"And allesa I swere withouten fayle
"I chullb hire winnen in pleye battayle
"With mony an heih lordyng, &c."

The Soldan, on application to the king of Tarsus for his daughter, is refused; and the messengers return without success. The Soldan's anger is painted with great charac­teristical spirit.

The Soudan sate at his des,
I served of his furste mes;
Thei comen into the halle
To fore the prince proud in pres,
Heore tale thei tolde withouten les
And on heore knees gan falle:
[Page 192] And seide, "Sire the king of Tars
"Of wikked wordes nis not scars,
"Hethene hounde e he doth thef calle;
"And or his dogtur he give the tille g
Thyn herte blode he woll spille
"And thi barrons alle."
Whan the Soudan this i herde,
As a wod man he ferde,
His robe he rent adoune;
He tar the harh of hed and berde,
And seide he wold her wene with swerde,
Beo his lord seynt Mahoune.
The table adoune rihte he smote,
In to the the floore foote hot i,
He lokede as a wylde lyoun;
Alle that he hitte he smotte down riht
Both sergeaunt and kniht,
Erle and eke baroun.
So he ferde forsothe a plihte,
Al a day, al a nihte,
That no man mihte him chaste k:
A morwen when hit was day lihte,
He sent his messagers ful rihte,
After his barouns in haste:
"Lordynges, he seith, what to rede l,
"Me is done a grete mysdede,
"Of Taars the cristen kyng;
"I bad him both land and lede
"To have his doughter in worthli wede,
"And spousen hire with my ryng.
[Page 193] "And he seide, withouten fayle
"First he wolde me sle in batayle,
"And mony a grete lordynge.
"At sertesm he schal be forswore,
"Or to wrothele n that he was bore,
"Bote he hit thertoo bryng.
"Therefore lordynges, I have after ow sent
"Ffor to come to my parliment,
"To wite of ȝow counsayle."
And all onswerde with gode entent
Thei wolde be at his commaundement
Withouten any fayle.
And when thei were alle at his heste,
The Soudan made a well grete feste,
For love of his battayle;
The Soudan gedrede a hoste unryde p,
With Sarazyns of muchel pryde,
The kyng of Taars to assayle.
Whan the kyng hit herde that tyde
He sent about on vche syde,
All that he mihte off seende;
Grat werre tho bi gan to wrake
Ffor the marriage ne most be take
Of that same mayden heende q.
Battayle thei sette uppon a day,
With inne the thridde day of May,
Ne longer nolde thei leende r.
The Soudan com with grete power,
With helme briht, and feir banere,
Uppon that kyng to wende.
[Page 194] The Soudan ladde an huge ost,
And com with muche pruyde and cost,
With the kyng of Taars to fihte.
With him mony a Sarazyn feer s,
All the feolds feor and neer,
Of helmes leomede t lihte.
The kyng of Taars com also
The Soudan battayle for to do
With mony a cristene knihte;
Either ost gon othur assayle
Ther bi gon a strong batayle
That grisly che was of sihte.
Threo hethene agen twey cristene men,
And felde hem down in the fen,
With wepnes stif and goode:
The steorne Sarazyns in that fihte,
Slowe vr cristen men doun rihte,
Thei fouhte as heo weore woode.
The Souldan's oste in that stounde
Ffeolde the cristene to the grounde,
Mony a freoly foode;
The Sarazyns, with outen fayle,
The cristens culd u in that battayle,
Nas non that hem withstoode.
Whan the king of Taars saw the siht
Wood he was for wrathe w a pliht;
In honde he hent a spere,
And to the Soudan he rode ful riht,
With a dunt x of much miht,
Adoun he gon him bere:
The Souldan neigh he hadde islawe,
But thritti thousant of hethen lawe
Commen him for to were;
[Page 195] And brougten him agen upon his stede,
And holpe him wel in that nede,
That no mon miht him dere y.
When he was brouht uppon his stede,
He sprong as sparkle doth of glede z,
Ffor wrathe and for envye;
All that he hotte he made them blede,
He ferde as he wolde a wede a,
Mahoun help, he gan crye.
Mony an helm ther was unweved,
And mony a bacinet b to cleved,
And saddles mony emptye;
Men miht se uppon the felde
Moni a kniht ded under schelde,
Of the cristen cumpagnie.
Whon the kyng of Taars saug hem so ryde,
No longer then he nold abyde,
Bote fleyh c to his owne citè:
The Sarazyns, that ilke tyde,
Sloug a doun bi vche syde
Vr cristene folk so fre.
The Sarazyns that tyme, sauns fayl [...],
Slowe vre cristene in battayle,
That reuthe it was to se;
And on the morwe for heore d sake
Truwes thei gunne for to gidere take e,
A moneth and dayes thre.
As the kyng of Taars satte in his halle,
He made ful gret deol f withalle,
Ffor the folk that he hedde ilore g:
[Page 196] His douhter com in riche palle,
On kneos he h gan biforen hym falle,
And seide with sything sore:
"Ffather, he seide, let me bi his wyf
"That ther be no more stryf, &c."

To prevent future bloodshed, the princess voluntarily de­clares she is willing to be married to the Soldan, although a Pagan: and notwithstanding the king her father peremp­torily refuses his consent, and resolves to continue the war, with much difficulty she finds means to fly to the Soldan's court, in order to produce a speedy and lasting reconciliation by marrying him.

To the Souldan heo i is i fare;
He com with mony an heig lordyng,
Ffor to welcom that swete thyng,
Theor he com in hire chare k:
He cust l hire with mony a sithe
His joye couthe no man hithe m,
A wei was al hire care.
Into chambre heo was led,
With riche clothes heo was cled,
Hethene as thaug heo were n.
The Souldan ther he satte in halle,
He commaunded his knihtes alle
That mayden ffor to fette,
On cloth of riche purpil palle,
And on here hed a comli calle,
Bi the Souldan she was sette.
Unsemli was hit ffor to se
Heo that was so bright of ble
To habbe o so foule a mette p, &c.

[Page 197] They are then married, and the wedding is solemnised with a grand tournament, which they both view from a high tower. She is afterwards delivered of a son, which is so deformed as to be almost a monster. But at length she per­suades the Soldan to turn christian; and the young prince is baptised, after which ceremony he suddenly becomes a child of most extraordinary beauty. The Soldan next pro­ceeds to destroy his Saracen idols.

He hente a stof with herte grete,
And al his goddis he gan to bete,
And drough hem al adoun;
And leyde on til that he con swete,
With sterne strokes and with grete,
On Jovyn and Plotoun,
On Astrot and sire Jovyn
On Termagaunt and Apollin,
He brak them scul and croun;
On Termagaunt, that was heore brother,
He left no lym hol witte other,
Ne on his lorde seynt Mahoun, &c.

The Soldan then releases thirty thousand christians, whom he had long detained prisoners. As an apostate from the pagan religion, he is powerfully attacked by several neigh­bouring Saracen nations: but he sollicits the assistance of his father in law the king of Tars; and they both joining their armies, in a pitched battle, defeat five Saracen kings, Kenedoch, Lesyas king of Taborie, Merkel, Cleomadas, and Membrok. There is a warmth of description in some pas­sages of this poem, not unlike the manner of Chaucer. The reader must have already observed, that the stanza resembles that of Chaucer's RIME OF SIR TOPAS q.

[Page 198] IPOMEDON is mentioned among the romances in the Pro­logue of RICHARD CUER DE LYON; which, in an antient copy of the British museum, is called SYR IPOMYDON: a name borrowed from the Theban war, and transferred here to a tale of the feudal times r. This piece is evidently derived from a French original. Our hero Ippomedon is son of Ermones king of Apulia, and his mistress is the fair heiress of Calabria. About the year 1230, William Ferra­bras s, and his brethren, sons of Tancred the Norman, and well known in the romantic history of the Paladins, ac­quired the signories of Apulia and Calabria. But our English romance seems to be immediately translated from the French; for Ermones is called king of Poyle, or Apulia, which in French is Pouille. I have transcribed some of the most in­teresting passages t.

Ippomedon, although the son of a king, is introduced waiting in his father's hall, at a grand festival. This ser­vitude was so far from being dishonourable, that it was al­ways required as a preparatory step to knighthood u.

Everie yere the kyng weld
At Whytsuntyde a fest held
Of dukis, erlis, and barouns,
Mani ther com frome diverse tounes,
Ladyes, maydens, gentill and fre,
Come thedyr frome ferre countrè:
And grette lordis of ferre lond,
Thedyr were prayd by fore the hond w.
Whan all were com to gidyr than
Ther was joy of mani a man;
[Page 199] Ffull ryche I wene were there pryse,
Ffor better might no man devyse.
Ippomedon that day servyde in halle,
All spake of hym both grete and smalle,
Ladyes and mayden by helde hym on,
So goodly a youth they had sene non:
Hys feyre chere in halle theym smerte
That mony a lady son smote throw the herte.
And in theyr hartys they made mone
That there lordis ne were suche one.
After mete they went to pley,
All the peple, as I you say;
Some to chambre, and some to boure,
And some to the hye toure x;
And some on the halle stode
And spake what hem thoht gode:
Men that were of that cite y
Enquired of men of other cuntrè, &c.

Here a conversation commences concerning the heiress of Calabria: and the young prince Ippomedon immediately forms a resolution to visit and to win her. He sets out in disguise.

Now they furth go on their way,
Ippomedon to hys men gan say,
That thei be none of them alle,
So hardi by his name hym calle,
Whenso thei wend farre or neare,
Or over the straunge ryvere;
[Page 200] Ne no man telle what I am
Where I schall go, ne where I came.
All they graunted his commaundement,
And furthe thei went with one consent.
Ippomedon and Thelomew
Robys had on and mantills newe,
Of the richest that might be,
Ther nas ne suche in that cuntrèe:
Ffor many was the riche stone
That the mantills were uppon.
So long there waie they have nome z
That to Calabre they are come:
Thei come to the castell yate
The porter was redy there at,
The porter to them thei gan calle
And prayd him go into the halle
And say thy lady a gent and fre,
That commen are men of farre contrèe,
And yf yt please hir we will her pray,
That we might ete with hyr to day.
The porter seyd full cortessly
"Your errand to do I am redy."
The ladie to her mete was sette,
The porter cam and fayr her grette,
"Madame, he seyde, god yow save,
"At your gate gestis you have,
"Straunge men us for to se
"Thei aske mete for charytè."
The ladie commaundeth sone anone
That the gates wer undone,
[Page 201] "And brynge them alle bifore me
"Ffor welle at ese shall thei be."
Thei took heyr pagis hors and alle,
These two men went into the halle,
Ippomedon on knees hym sette,
And the ladye feyre he grette:
"I am a man of straunge countrè
"And prye yow of your will to be
"That I myght dwelle with you to gere
"Of your nourture for to lere b,
"I am com from farre lond;
"Ffor speche I here bi fore the hand
"That your nourture and your servyse,
"Ys holden of so grete empryse,
"I pray you that I may dwell here
"Some of your servyse to bere."
The ladye by held Ippomedon,
He semed wel a gentilmon,
She knew non suche in her lande,
So goodli a man and wel farrand c;
She sawe also bi his norture
He was a man of grete valure:
She cast ful sone in hire thoght
That for no servyse cum he noght;
But hit was worship her untoo
In feir servyse hym to do.
She sayd, "Syr, welcome ye be,
"And al that comyn be with the;
"Sithe ye have had so grete travayle,
"Of a servyse ye shall not fayle:
"In this cuntre ye may dwell here
"And al your will for to here,
[Page 202] "Of the cuppe ye shall serve me
"And all your men with you shal be,
"Ye may dwell here at your wille,
"Bote d your beryng be full ylle."
"Madame, he said, grantmercy,"
He thanked the ladye corteysly.
She commandith him to the mete,
But or he sette in ony sete,
He saluted theym greete and smalle,
As a gentillmon shuld in halle;
All thei said sone anon,
Thei saw nevir so godli a mon,
Ne so light, ne so glad,
Ne non that so ryche atire had:
There was none that sat nor yede e,
But thei had merveille of his dede f,
And seyd, he was no lytell syre
That myht showe soche atyre.
Whan thei had ete, and grace sayd,
And the tabyll awaye was layd;
Upp then aroos Ippomedon,
Ant to the bottery he went anon,
Ant hys mantyl hym a boute;
On hym lokyd all the route,
Ant everie mon seyd to other there,
"Will ye se the proude squeer
"Shall serve g my ladye of the wyne,
"In hys mantyll that is so fyne?"
That they hym scornyd wist he noght
On othyr thyng he had his thoght.
He toke the cuppe of the botelere,
And drewe a lace of sylke ful clere,
[Page 203] Adowne than felle hys mantylle by,
He preyed hym for hys curtesy,
That lytell gyfte h that he wold nome
Tell afte sum better come.
Up it toke the bottelere,
By fore the lady he gan it bere
Ant preyd the ladye hartely
To thanke hym of his curtessie,
Al that was tho in the halle
Grete honoure they spake hym alle.
And sayde he was no lytyll man
That such gyftis giffie kan.
There he dwelled moni a day,
And servyd the ladye wel to pay,
He bare hym on so fayre manere
To knightis, ladyes, and squyere,
All loved hym that com hym by,
Ffor he bare hym so cortessly.
The ladye had a cosyn that hight Jason,
Full well he loved Ippomedon;
When that he yed in or oute,
Jason went with hym aboute.
The lady lay, but she slept noght,
For of the squyerre she had grete thoght;
How he was feyre and shapè wele,
Body and armes, and everie dele:
Ther was non in al hir londe
So wel he semyd dougti of honde.
But she howde wele for no case,
Whence he came nor what he was,
Ne of no man could enquere
Other than of that squyere.
[Page 204] She hire bi thought of a quayntyse,
If she miht know in any wise,
To wete whereof he were come;
This was hyr thoght al their some
She thoght to wode hyr men to tame i
That she myght knowe hym by his game.
On the morow whan yt was day
To her men she gan to say,
"To morrowe whan it is day light,
"Lok ye be al redy dight,
"With your houndis more and lesse,
"In fforrest to take my gresse,
"And thare I will myself be
"Your game to by holde and se."
Ippomedon had houndis three
That he broght from his cuntree;
Whan thei were to the wode gone,
This ladye and her men ichone,
And with hem her houndis ladde,
All that any houndis hadde.
Syr Tholomew for gate he noght,
Hys maistres houndes thedyr he broght,
That many a day he had ronne ere,
Fful wel he thoght to note hem there.
When thei came to the launde on hight,
The quenes pavylyon thar was pight,
That she might see al the best,
All the game of the forrest,
And to the lady broght mani a best k,
Herte and hynd, buck and doo,
And othir bestis many mo.
The houndis that wer of gret prise,
Plucked down dere all atryse,
[Page 205] Ippomedon he with his hounds throo
Drew down both buck and doo,
More he took with houndes thre
Than al that othir cumpagnie,
Thare squyres undyd hyr dere
Eche man after his manere:
Ippomedon a dere gede unto,
That ful konningly gon he hit undo,
So feyre that venyson he gan to dight,
That both hym by held squyere and knight:
The ladye looked oute of her pavylyon,
And sawe hym dight the venyson.
There she had grete dainte
And so had all that dyd hym see:
She sawe all that he down droughe
Of huntynge she wist he coude ynoghe
And thoght in her hert then
That he was com of gentillmen:
She bade Jason hire men to calle
Home then passyd grete and smalle:
Home thei com son anon,
This ladye to hir met gan gon,
And of venery l had her fille
Ffor they had take game at wille.

He is afterwards knighted with great solemnity.

The heraudes gaff the childe m the gee,
And M pounde he had to fee,
Mynstrelles had giftes of gold
And fourty dayes thys fest was holde n.

The metrical romance entitled, LA MORT ARTHURE, pre­served in the same repository, is supposed by the learned and [Page 206] accurate Wanley, to be a translation from the French: who adds, that it is not perhaps older than the times of Henry the seventh o. But as it abounds with many Saxon words, and seems to be quoted in SYR BEVYS, I have given it a place here p. Notwithstanding the title, and the exordium which promises the history of Arthur and the Sangreal, the exploits of Sir Lancelot du Lake king of Benwike, his in­trigues with Arthur's queen Geneura, and his refusal of the beautiful daughter of the earl of Ascalot, form the greatest part of the poem. At the close, the repentance of Lancelot and Geneura, who both assume the habit of religion, is in­troduced. The writer mentions the Tower of London. The following is a description of a tournament performed by some of the knights of the Round Table q.

Tho to the castelle gon they fare,
To the ladye fayre and bryhte:
Blithe was the ladye thare,
That thei wold dwell with her that nyght.
Hastely was there soper yare r
Of mete and drinke richely dight;
On the morowe gan thei dine and fare
Both Lancellot and that othir knight.
Whan they come in to the felde
Myche ther was of game and play,
Awhile they lovid s and bi held
How Arthur's knightis rode that day,
t Galehodis party bigun to u held
On fote his knightis ar led away.
Launcellott stiffe was undyr schelde,
Thenkis to help yf that he may.
[Page 207] Besyde him come than syr Gawayne,
Breme w as eny wilde bore;
Lancellot springis hem agayne x,
In rede armys that he bore:
A dynte he gaff with mekill mayne,
Syr Ewayne was unhorsid thare,
That al men went y he had be [...] slayne
So was he woundyd wondyr sare z.
Syr Beorte thoughte no thinge good,
When Syr Ewaine unhorsyd was;
Fforth he springis, as he were wode,
To Launcelott withouten lese:
Launcellot [...] hitt hym on the hode,
The next way to grounde he chese:
Was non so stiffe agayne hym stode
Fful thin he made the thikkest prees a.
Syr Lyonell be gonne to tene b,
And hastely he made hym bowne c,
To Launcellott, with herte kene,
He rode with helme and sword browne;
Launcellott hytt hym as I wene,
Through the helme in to the crowne:
That eny aftir it was sene
Bothe horse and man ther yod adoune.
The knightis gadrede to gedre than
And gan with crafte, &c.

I could give many more ample specimens of the romantic poems of these nameless minstrells, who probably flourished before or about the reign of Edward the second d. But it [Page 208] is neither my inclination nor intention to write a catalogue, or compile a miscellany. It is not to be expected that this work should be a general repository of our antient poetry. I cannot however help observing, that English literature and [Page 209] English poetry suffer, while so many pieces of this kind still remain concealed and forgotten in our manuscript libraries. They contain in common with the prose-romances, to most of which indeed they gave rise, amusing images of antient customs and institutions, not elsewhere to be found, or at least not otherwise so strikingly delineated: and they preserve pure and unmixed, those fables of chivalry which formed the taste and awakened the imagination of our elder English classics. The antiquaries of former times overlooked or re­jected these valuable remains, which they despised as false and frivolous; and employed their industry in reviving ob­scure fragments of uninstructive morality or uninteresting history. But in the present age we are beginning to make ample amends: in which the curiosity of the antiquarian is connected with taste and genius, and his researches tend to display the progress of human manners, and to illustrate the history of society.

As a further illustration of the general subject, and many particulars, of this section and the three last, I will add a new proof of the reverence in which such stories were held, and of the familiarity with which they must have been known, by our ancestors. These fables were not only perpetually repeated at their festivals, but were the constant objects of their eyes. The very walls of their apartments were clothed with ro­mantic history. Tapestry was antiently the fashionable fur­niture of our houses, and it was chiefly filled with lively representations of this sort. The stories of the tapestry in the royal palaces of Henry the eighth are still preserved e; which I will here give without reserve, including other sub­jects as they happen to occur, equally descriptive of the times. In the tapestry of the tower of London, the original [Page 210] and most antient seat of our monarchs, there are recited Godfrey of Bulloign, the three kings of Cologn, the emperor Constantine, saint George, king Erkenwald f, the history of Hercules, Fame and Honour, the Triumph of Divinity, Esther and Ahasuerus, Jupiter and Juno, saint George, the eight Kings, the ten Kings of France, the Birth of our Lord, Duke Joshua, the riche history of king David, the seven Deadly Sins, the riche history of the Passion, the Stem of Jesse g, our Lady and Son, king Solomon, the Woman of Ca­nony, Meleager, and the dance of Maccabre h. At Durham­place we find the Citie of Ladies i, the tapestrie of Thebes and of Troy, the City of Peace, the Prodigal Son k, Esther, and other piec [...]s of scripture. At Windsor castle the siege of Jerusalem, Ahasuerus, Charlemagne, the siege of Troy, and [Page 211] hawking and hunting l. At Nottingham castle Amys and Amelion m. At Woodstock manor, the tapestri [...] of Charle­magne n. At the More, a palace in Hertfordshire, king Arthur, Hercules, Astyages and Cyrus. At Richmond, the arras of Sir Bevis, and Virtue and Vice fighting o. Many of these subjects are repeated at Westminster, Greenwich, Oate­lands, Bedington in Surry, and other royal seats, some of which are now unknown as such p. Among the rest we have also Hannibal, Holofernes, Romulus and Remus, Aeneas, and Susannah q. I have mentioned romances written on many of these subjects, and shall mention [...]thers. In the romance of SYR GUY, that hero's combat with the dragon in Northumberland is said to be represented in tapestry in War­wick castle.

In Warwike the truth shall ye see
In arras wrought ful craftely r.

This piece of tapestry appears to have been in Warwick castle before the year 1398. It was then so distinguished and valued a piece of furniture, that a special grant was made of it by king Richard the second in that year, conveying ‘"that suit of arras hangings in Warwick castle, which con­tained the story of the famous Guy earl of Warwick,"’ [Page 212] together with the castle of Warwick, and other possessions, to Thomas Holland, earl of Kent s. And in the restoration of forfeited property to this lord after his imprisonment, these hangings are particularly specified in the patent of king Henry the fourth, dated 1399. When Margaret, daughter of king Henry the seventh, was married to James king of Scotland, in the year 1503, Holyrood House at Edinburgh was [...]plendidly decorated on that occasion; and we are told in an antient record, that the ‘"hanginge of the queenes grett chammer represented the ystory of Troye t [...]une."’ Again, ‘"the king's grett chammer had one table, w [...]r was satt, hys chammerlayn, the grett sqyer, and many others, well served; the which chammer was haunged about with the story of Hercules, together with other ystorys t."’ And at the same solemnity, ‘"in the hall wher the qwene's company wer satt in lyke as in the other, an wich was haunged of the history of Hercules, &c. u"’ A stately chamber in the castle of Hesdin in Artois, was furnished by a duke of Burgundy with the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, about the year 1468 w. The affecting story of Coucy's Heart, which gave rise to an old metrical English romance entitled, the KNIGHT OF COURTESY, and the LADY OF FAGUEL, was woven in tapestry in Coucy castle in France x. I have seen an antient suite of arras, containing Ariosto's Orlando and Angelica, where, at every groupe, the story was all along illustrated with short rhymes in romance or old French. Spenser sometimes dresses the superb bowers of his fairy castles with this sort of historical drapery. [Page 213] In Hawes's Poem called the PASTIME OF PLEASURE, written in the reign of Henry the seventh, of which due notice will be taken in its proper place, the hero of the piece sees all his future adventures displayed at large in the sumptuous tapestry of the hall of a castle. I have before mentioned the most valuable and perhaps most antient work of this sort now existing, the entire series of duke William [...] descent on England, preserved in the church of Bayeux in Normandy, and intended as an ornament of the choir on high festivals. Bartholinus relates, that it was an art much cultivated among the antient Islanders, to weave the histories of their giants and champions in tapestry y. The same thing is re­corded of the old Persians; and this furniture is still in high request among many oriental nations, particularly in Japan and China z. It is well known, that to frame pictures of heroic adventures in needle-work, was a favourite practice of classical antiquity.


ALTHOUGH much poetry began to be written about the reign of Edward the second, yet I have found only one English poet of that reign whose name has de­scended to posterity a. This is Adam Davy or Davie. He may be placed about the year 1312. I can collect no cir­cumstances of his life, but that he was marshall of Strat­ford-le-bow near London b. He has left several poems never printed, which are almost as forgotten as his name. Only one manuscript of these pieces now remains, which seems to be coeval with it's author c. They are VISIONS, THE BAT­TELL OF JERUSALEM, THE LEGEND OF SAINT ALEXIUS, SCRIPTURE HISTORIES, OF FIFTEEN TOKNES BEFORE THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT, LAMENTATIONS OF SOULS, and THE LIFE OF ALEXANDER d.

In the VISIONS, which are of the religious kind, Adam Davie draws this picture of Edward the second standing be­fore the shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster abbey at his coronation. The lines have a stre [...]gth arising from simplicity.

To our Lorde Jeshu Crist in heven
Iche to day shawe myne sweven e,
[Page 215] That iche mottef in one nycht,
Of a knycht of mychel mycht:
His name isg yhote syr Edward the kyng,
Prince of Wales Engelonde the fair thynge;
Me mott that he was armid wele,
Bothe with yrne and with stele,
And on his helme that was of stel,
A coroune of gold bicom him wel.
Bifore the shryne of Seint Edward he stood,
Myd glad chere and myld of mood h.

Most of these Visions are compliments to the king. Our poet then proceeds thus:

Another suevene me mette on a twef [...]it i
Bifore the fest of Alhalewen of that ilke knigt,
His name is nempnedk hure bifore,
Blissed be the time that he was bore, &c.
Of Syr Edward oure derworthl kyng
Iche mette of him anothere faire metyng, &c.
Me thought he wod upon an asse,
And that ich take God to witnesse;
A wondur he was in a mantell gray,
Toward Rome he nomm his way,
Upon his hevede sate a gray hure,
It semed him wel a mesure;
He wood withouten hose and sho,
His wonen was not so to do;
His shankes semeden al bloodrede,
Myne herte wopn for grete drede;
As a pylgrym he rood to Rome,
And thider he com wel swithe sone.
[Page 216] The thrid suevene me mette a nigt
Rigt of that derworth knight:
On wednysday a nigt it was
Next the dai of seint Lucie bifore Christenmasse, &c.
Me thougth that ich was at Rome,
And thider iche come swithe sone,
The pope and syr Edward our kyng
Botheo hy hadde a new dublyng, &c.
Thus Crist ful of grace
Graunte our kyng in every place
Maistrie of his witherwines
And of al wicked Sarasynes.
Me met a suevene one worthigp a nigth
Of that ilche derworthi knigth,
God iche it shewe and to witnesse take
And so shilde me fro, &c.
Into a chapel I cum of vre lefdy q,
Jhe Crist her lever son stod by,
On rods he was an loveliche mon,
Al thilke that on rode was don
He unneledt his honden two, &c.
Adam the marchal of Strattford atte Bowe
Wel swithe wide his name is iknowe
He himself mette this metyng,
To witnesse he taketh Jhu hevene kynge,
On wedenyssdayw in clene leinte u
A voyce me bede I schulde nougt feinte,
Of the suevenes that her ben write
I shulde swithe donx my lord kyng to wite.
The thursday next the beryngy of our lefdy
Me thougth an aungel com syr Edward by, &c.
[Page 217] Iche tell you forsoth withoutten les z,
Als God of hevene maide Marie to moder ches a,
The aungell com to me Adam Davie and seide
Bot [...]thou Adam shewe this thee worthe wel yvel mede, &c.
Whoso wil speke myd me Adam the marchal
In Stretforde bowe he is yknown and over al,
Iche ne schewe nougt this for to have mede
Bot for God almigtties drede.

There is a very old prose romance, both in French and Italian, on the subject of the Destruction of Jerusalem b. It is translated from a Latin work, in five books, very popular in the middle ages, entitled, HEGESIPPI de Bello Judaico et Excidio Urbis Hierosolymitanae Libri quinque. This is a licen­tious paraphrase of a part of Josephus's Jewish history, made about the fourth century: and the name Hegesippus is most probably corrupted from Josephus, perhaps also called Josippus. The paraphrast is supposed to be Ambrose of Milan, who flourished in the reign of Theodosius c. On the subject of Vespasian's siege of Jerusalem, as related in this book, our poet Adam Davie has left a poem entitled the BATTELL OF JERUSALEM d. It begin thus.

[Page 218]
Listeneth all that beth alyve,
Both cristen men and wyve:
I wol you telle of a wondur cas,
How Jhesu Crist bihated was,
Of the Jewes felle and kene,
That was on him sithe ysene,
Gospelles I drawe to witnesse
Of this matter more or lesse,e &c.

In the course of the story, Pilate challenges our Lord to single combat. This subject will occur again.

Davie's LEGEND OF SAINT ALEXIUS THE CONFESSOR, SON OF EUPHEMIUS, is translated from Latin, and begins thus:

All that willen here in ryme,
Howe gode men in olde tyme,
Loveden God almigth;
That weren riche, of grete valoure,
Kynges sones and emperoure
Of bodies strong and ligth;
Ȝee habbeth yherde ofte in geste,
Of holi men maken feste
Both day and nigth,
For to have the joye in hevene
(With aungells song, and merry stevene,)
The which is brode and brigth:
To you all heige and lowe
The rigth sothe to biknowe
Ȝour soules for to save, &c f.

Our author's SCRIPTURE HISTORIES want the beginning. Here they begin with Joseph, and end with Daniel.

[Page 219]
Ffor thritti pensg thei sold that childe
The seller higth Judas,
h Itho Ruben com him and myssed him
Ffor ynow he was i.

His FIFTEEN TOKNESk BEFORE THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, are taken from the prophet Jeremiah.

The first signe thar ageins, as our lord hymselfe sede,
Hungere schal on erthe be, trecherie, and falshede,
Batteles, and littell love, sekenesse and haterede,
And the erthe schal quaken that vche man schal ydrede:
The mone schal turne to blood, the sunne to derkhede l, &c.

Another of Davie's poems may be called the LAMENTA­TION OF SOULS. But the subject is properly a congratulation of Christ's advent, and the lamentation, of the souls of the fathers remaining in limbo, for his delay.

Off joye and blisse is my song care to bileve m,
And to here hym among that altour soroug shal reve,
Ycome he is that swete dewe, that swete hony drope,
The kyng of alle kynges to whom is our hope:
Becom he is our brother, whar was he so long?
He it is and no other, that bougth us so strong:
Our brother we mowen hym clepe wel o, so seith hymself ilome p.

My readers will be perhaps surprised to find our language improve so slowly, and will probably think, that Adam Davie writes in a less intelligible phrase than many more antient bards already cited. His obscurity however arises in great [Page 220] measure from obsolete spelling, a mark of antiquity which I have here observed in exact conformity to a manuscript of the age of Edward the second; and which in the poetry of his predecessors, especially the minstrell-pieces, has been often effaced by multiplication of copies, and other causes. In the mean time it should be remarked, that the capricious peculiarities and even ignorance of transcribers, often oc­casion an obscurity, which is not to be imputed either to the author or his age q.

But Davie's capital poem is the LIFE OF ALEXANDER, which deserves to be published entire on many accounts. It seems to be founded chiefly on Simeon Seth's romance above­mentioned; but many passages are also copied from the French ROMAN D' ALEXANDRE, a poem in our author's age perhaps equally popular both in England and France. It is a work of considerable length r. I will first give some ex­tracts from the Prologue.

Divers in this myddel erde
To lewed men ands lered, &c.
Natheles wel fele and fulle
Bethe ifound in hart and skulle,
That hadden lever a rybaudye,
Then here of god either seint Marye;
Either to drynke a copful ale,
Than to heren any gode tale:
Swiche ich wolde weren out bishet
For certeynlich it were nett
For hy ne habbeth wilbe ich woot wel
Bot in the got and the barrel, &c. t

[Page 221] Adam Davie thus describes a splendid procession made by Olympias.

In thei tyme faire and jalyf u.
Olympias that fayre wyfe,
Wolden make a riche fest
Of knightes and lefdyesw honest,
Of burges and of jugelors
And of men of vch mesters x,
For mon seth by north and south y
Wymen .....
Mychalz she desireth to shewe hire body,
Her fayre hare, her face rody a,
To have leesb and al praising,
And al is folye by heven king.
She has marshales and knyttes
..... to ride and ryttes,
And levadyes and demosile
Which ham .... thousands fele,
In fayre attyre in dyvers ... c.
Many thar roodd in rich wise.
So dude the dame Olympias
Forto shawe hire gentyll face.
A mule also, whyte soe mylke,
With sadel of gold, sambuc of sylke,
Was ybrought to the quene
And mony bell of sylver shene,
Yfastened on orfreysf of mounde
That hangen nere downe to grounde:
[Page 222] Fourth she ferdg myd her route,
A thousand lefydes of rych soute h.
A sperweki that was honest k [...]
So sat on the lefdye's [...]yst:
Ffoure trompes tofornel hire blewe;
Many men that day hire knewe.
A hundred thousand, and eke moo,
Alle alontonm hire untoo.
All the towne bihongedn was
Agenso the lefdy Olympias p:
Orgues, chymbes, vche maner glee q,
Was drynan ayen that levady fre,
Wythoutin the tounis murey r
Was mered vche maner pley s,
Thar was knyttes tornaying,
Thar was maydens karoling,
Thar was champions skirmynge t,
..... also wrestlynge.
Of lyons chace, and bare bayting,
A bay of bore u, of bole slayting w.
Al the city was byhonge
With ryche samytesx and pellesy longe.
Dame Olympias, myd this prees z,
Sangle rooda al mantelless.—
[Page 223] Hire yalewe harb was fayre attired
Mid riche strenge of golde wyred,
It helydc hire abouten al
To hire gentil myddle smal.
Bryght and shine was hir face d
Everie fairehedee in hir was f.

Much in the same strain the marriage of Cleopatras is described.

There was many a blithe grome:
Of olive and of rugeg floures
Weren ystrewed halle and boures:
Wyth samytes and baudekyns
Weren curtayned the gardyns.
All the innes of the ton
Hadden litel foyson h,
That day that comin Cleopatras,
So michel people with hir was.
She rode on a mule white so mylke,
Her harneys were gold-beaten sylke:
[Page 224] The prince hir lad of Sandas,
And of Sydoyne Sir Jonachas.
Ten thousand barons hir come myde,
And to chirche with hir ryde.
Yspoused she is and sett on deys:
Nowe gynneth gestes of grete nobleys:
At the fest was harpyng
And pipyng and tabouryng i.

We have frequent opportunities of observing, how the poets of these times engraft the manners of chivalry on an­tient classical history. In the following lines Alexander's edu­cation is like that of Sir Tristram. He is taught tilting, hunting, and hawking.

Now can Alexander of skirmyng,
And of stedes derayning,
Upon stedes of justyng,
And witte swordes turneying,
Of assayling and defendyng:
In green wood and of huntyng:
And of ryver of haukyng k:
Of battaile and of alle thyng.

In another place Alexander is mounted on a steed of Nar­bone; and amid the solemnities of a great feast, rides through the hall to the high table. This was no uncommon practice in the ages of chivalry l.

[Page 225]
On a stede of Narabone,
He dassheth forth upon thi londe,
The ryche coroune on hys honde,
Of Nicholas that he wan:
Beside hym rydeth mony a gentil man,
To the paleys he comethe ryde,
And fyndeth this feste and all this pryde;
Fforth good Alisaundre sauns stable
Righth unto the hith table m.

His horse Bucephalus, who even in classical fiction is a horse of romance, is thus described.

An horne in the forehead armyd ward
That wolde perce a shelde hard.

To which these lines may be added.

Alisaunder arisen is,
And in his deys sitteth ywys:
His dukes and barons sauns doute
Stondeth and sitteth him aboute, &c n.

The two following extracts are in a softer strain, and not inelegant for the rude simplicity of the times.

Mery is the blast of the stynoure o,
Mery is the touchyng of the harpoure p:
[Page 226] Sweete is the smellynge of the flower,
Sweete it is in maydens bower:
Appel sweete beneth faire col [...]ure q.


In tyme of May the nightingale
In wood maketh mery gale,
So don the foules grete and smale,
Sum in hylles and sum in dale r.

Much the same vernal delights, cloathed in a similar style, with the addition of knights turneying and maidens dancing, invite king Philip on a progress; who is entertained on the road with hearing tales of antient heroes.

Mery tyme yt is in May
The foules syngeth her lay,
The knightes loveth to tournay;
Maydens do dauncen and they play,
The kyng ferth rydeth his journay,
Now hereth gests of grete noblay s.

Our author thus describes a battle t.

Alisaundre tofore is ryde,
And many gentill a knigth hym myde;
As for to gader his meigne free,
He abideth under a tree:
Ffourty thousande of chyvalerie
He taketh in his compaignye,
He dassheth hym than fast forthward,
And the other cometh afterward.
He seeth his knigttes in meschief,
He taketh it gretlich a greef,
[Page 227] He takes Bultyphalu by thi side,
So as a swalewe he gynneth forth glide,
A duke of Perce sone he mett
And with his launce he hym grett.
He perceth his breny, cleveth his sheldè,
The herte tokeneth the yrnè
The duke fel downe to the grounde,
And starf quickly in that stounde:
Alisaunder aloud than seide,
Other tol never ich ne paiede,
Ȝut ȝee schullen of myne paie,
Or ich gon mor assaie.
Another launce in honde he hent
Again the prince of Tyre he went
He .... hym thorow the brest and thare w
And out of sadel and crouthe hym bare,
And I sigge for soothe thyng
He braak his neck in the fallyng.
...... with mychell wonder,
Antiochus hadde hym under,
And with swerd wolde his heved
From his body habbe yreved:
He seig Alisaundre the gode gome,
Towardes hym swithe come,
He lete his pray, and flew on hors,
Ffor to save his owen cors:
Antiochus on stede lep,
Of none woundes ne tok he kep,
And eke he had foure forde
All ymade with speres ord x.
Tholomeus and alle his felawen y
Of this socour so weren welfawen,
[Page 228] Alysaunder made a cry hardy
"Ore tost aby aby."
Then the knigttes of Achaye
Justed with them of Arabye,
Thooz of Rome with hem of Mede
Many londe .....
Egipte justed with hem of Tyre,
Simple knigtts with riche syre:
Ther nas foregift ne forberyng
Bitwene vavasourea ne kyng;
To fore men migtten and by hynde
Cuntecke seke and cunteckeb fynde.
With Perciens fougtten the Gregeys953,
Ther wos cry and gret honteys d.
They kiddene that they weren mice
They broken speres alto slice.
Ther migth knigth fynde his pere,
Ther lesf many his destrere g:
Ther was quyk in litell thrawe h,
Many gentill knigth yslawe:
Many arme, many heved i
Some from the body reved:
Many gentill lavedy k
Ther les quyk her amy l.
Ther was many maym yled m,
Many fair pensel bibled n:
Ther was swerdes liklakyng o,
There was speres bathing p
Both kynges ther saunz doute
Beeth in dassht with al her route.
[Page 229] ..... speke
The other his harmes for to wreke.
Many londes neir and ferre
Lesen her lord in that werre.
..... quaked of her rydyng,
The wedarq thicked of her cryeyng:
The blode of hem that weren yslawe
Ran by floods to the lowe, &c.

I have already mentioned Alexander's miraculous horn.

He blewe in horne quyk sans doute,
His folk hym swither aboute:
And hem he said with voice clere
Iche bidde frendes that ge ine here
Alisaunder is comen in this londe
With strong knittes with migty honde, &c.

Alexander's adventures in the deserts among the Gymno­sophists, and in Inde, are not omitted. The authors whom he quotes for his vouchers, shew the reading and ideas of the times s.

Tho Alisaunder went thoroug desert,
Many wonders he seig apert t,
Whiche he dude wel descryve,
By gode clerkes in her lyve;
By Aristotle his maistr that was,
Beeter clerk sithen non nas;
He was with him, and sew and wroot,
All thise wondre god it woot:
Salomon that al the world thoroug yede
In soothe witnesse held hym myde.
[Page 230] Ysidreu also that was so wys
In his boke telleth this:
Maister Eustroge bereth hym witnesse,
Of the wondres more and lesse.
Seynt Jerome gu schullen ywyte
Them hath also in book ywryte:
And Magestene, the gode clerk,
Hath made therof mychel werk,
... that was of gode memorie
It sheweth al in his boke of storie:
And also Pompie w, of Rome lorde,
.... writen everie worde.
Bie heldeth me thareof no fynder x [...]
Her bokes ben my shewer:
And the Lyf of Alysaunder
Of whom fleig so riche sklaunder.
Gif gee willeth give listnyng,
Nowe gee shullen here gode thyng.
In somers tyde the daye is long,
Foules syngeth and maketh song:
Kyng Alysaunder ywent is,
With dukes, erles, and folk of pris,
With many knigths, and douty men,
Toward the city of Fa .... aen;
After kyng Porus, that floweny was
Into the citee of Bandas,
He woulde wende thorough desert
This wonders to sene apert,
Gromyes he nomez of the londe,
Ffyve thousand, I understonde,
[Page 231] That hem shulden lede ryth a
Thoroug deserts, by day and nyth.
The Sy .. res loveden the kyng nougth,
And wolden have him bicaugth.
Thii ledden hym therefore, als I fynde,
In the straungest peril of Ynde:
As so iche fynd in thi book
Thii weren asshreynt in her crook.
Now rideth Alysaunder with his oost,
With mychel pryde and mychel boost;
As ar hii comen to a castel .. ton.
I schullen speken another lesson.
Lordynges, also I fynde
At Mede so bigynneth Ynde,
Fforsothe ich woot it stretcheth ferrest
Of all the londes in the Est
And oth theb southhalf sikerlyk
To the see of Affryk,
And the north half to a mountayne
That is ycleped Caucasayne c:
Fforsothe ȝee shullen undirstonde,
Twyes is somer in that londe,
And nevermore wynter, ne chele d,
That lond is ful of all wele.
Twyes hii gaderen fruyt there
And wyne and corne in one yere.
In the londe also I fynd of Ynde
Bene cites fyve-thousynd,
Withouten ydles, and castelis,
And borugh tounnes swithe feles e.
In the londe of Ynde thou migth lere
Vyve thousand folk of selcouthf manere
[Page 232] That ther non is other ylyche
Bie holde thou it nougth ferlyche,
And bi that thou understa [...]de the gestes,
Both of men and of bestes, &c.

Edward the second is said to have carried with him to the siege of Stirling castle, in Scotland, a poet named Robert Baston. He was a Carmelite friar of Scarborough; and the king intended that Baston, being an eye-witness of the ex­pedition, should celebrate his conquest of Scotland in verse. Hollingshead, an historian not often remarkable for pene­tration, mentions this circumstance as a singular proof of Edward's presumption and confidence in his undertaking against Scotland: but a poet seems to have been a stated officer in the royal retinue when the king went to war g. Baston, however, appears to have been chiefly a Latin poet, and therefore does not properly fall into our series. At least his poem on the siege of Striveling castle is written in monkish Latin hexameters h: and our royal bard being taken prisoner in the expedition, was compelled by the Scotch to write a panegyric, for his ransom, on Robert Brus, which is composed in the same style and language i. Bale men­tions his Poemata, et Rhythmi, Tragaediae et Comoediae vul­gares k. Some of these indeed appear to have been written in English: but no English pieces of t [...]is author now re­main. In the mean time, the bare existence of dramatic compositions in England at this period, even if written in [Page 233] the Latin tongue, deserve notice in investigating the progress of our poetry. For the same reason I must not pass over a Latin piece, called a comedy, written in this reign, perhaps by Peter Babyon; who by Bale is styled an admirable rheto­rician and poet, and flourished about the year 1317. This comedy is thus entitled in the Bodleian manuscript, De Ba­bione et Croceo domino Babionis et Viola filias [...]ra Babionis quam Croceus duxit invito Babione, et Pecula uxore Babionis et Fodio suo, &c l. It is written in long and short Latin verses, without any appearance of dialogue. In what manner, if ever, this piece was represented theatrically, cannot easily be discovered or ascertained. Unless we suppose it to have been recited by one or more of the characters concerned, at some public entertainment. The story is in Gower's CON­FESSIO AMANTIS. Whether Gower had it from this per­formance I will not enquire. It appears at least that he took it from some previous book.

I find writte of Babio,
Which had a love at his menage,
Ther was no fairer of hir age,
And hight Viola by name, &c.
And had affaited to his hande
His servant, the which Spodius
Was hote, &c.
A fresh a free and friendly man, &c.
Which Croceus by name hight, &c m.

In the mean time it seems most probable, that this piece has been attributed to Peter Babyon, on account of the likeness of the name BABIO, especially as he is a ridiculous character. On the whole, there is nothing dramatic in the structure of this nominal comedy; and it has certainly no claim to that title, only as it contains a familiar and comic story carried [Page 234] on with much scurrilous satire intended to raise mirth. But it was not uncommon to call any short poem, not serious or tragic, a comedy. In the Bodleian manuscript, which com­prehends Babyon's poem just mentioned, there follows CO­MEDIA DE GETA: this is in Latin long and short verses n, and has no marks of dialogue o. In the library of Corpus Christi college at Cambridge, is a piece entitled, COMEDIA ad monasterium de Hulme ordinis S. Benedicti Dioces. Norwic. directa ad Reformationem sequentem, cujus data est primo die Sep­tembris sub anno Christi 1477, et a morte Joannis Fastolfe militis eorum benefactoris p precipui 17, in cujus monasterii ecclesia huma­tur q. This is nothing more than a satyrical ballad in Latin; yet some allegorical personages are introduced, which how­ever are in no respect accommodated to scenical representa­tion. About the reign of Edward the fourth, one Edward Watson, a scholar in grammar at Oxford, is permitted to proceed to a degree in that faculty, on condition that within two years he would write one hundred verses in praise of the university, and also compose a COMEDY r. The nature and subject of Dante's COMEDIES, as they are styled, is well known. The comedies ascribed to Chaucer are probably his Canterbury tales. We learn from Chaucer's own words, that tragic tales were called TRAGEDIES. In the Prologue to the MONKES TALE.

TRAGEDY is to tell a certaine story,
As old bokis makin ofte memory,
[Page 235] Of hem that stode in grete prosperite,
And be fallen out of her high degree, &c s.

Some of these, the Monke adds, were written in prose, others in metre. Afterwards follow many tragical narratives: of which he says,

TRAGIDIES [...]irst wol I tell
Of which I have an hundred in my cell.

Lidgate further confirms what is here said with regard to comedy as well as tragedy.

My maister Chaucer with fresh COMEDIES,
Is dead, alas! chief poet of Britaine:
That whilom made ful piteous TRAGEDIES t.

The stories in the MIRROR OF MAGISTRATES are called TRAGEDIES, so late as the sixteenth century u. Bale calls his play, or MYSTERY, of GOD'S PROMISES, a TRAGEDY, which appeared about the year 1538.

I must however observe here, that dramatic entertain­ments, representing the lives of saints and the most emi­nent scriptural stories, were known in England for more than two centuries before the reign of Edward the second. These spectacles they commonly styled MIRACLES. I have [Page 236] already mentioned the play of saint Catharine, acted at Dun­stable about the year 1110 x. William Fitz-Stephen, a wri­ter of the twelfth century, in his DESCRIPTION of LONDON, relates that, ‘"London, for its theatrical exhibitions, has holy plays, or the representation of miracles wrought by confessors, and of the sufferings of martyrs y."’ These pieces must have been in high vogue at our present period; for Matthew Paris, who wrote about the year 1240, says that they were such as ‘"MIRACULA VULGARITER APPELLA­MUS z."’ And we learn from Chaucer, that in his time PLAYS OF MIRACLES were the common resort of idle gossips in Lent.

Therefore made I my visitations,
To prechings eke and to pilgrimagis,
To PLAYS of MIRACLES, and mariagis, &c a.

This is the genial WIFE OF BATH, who amuses herself with these fashionable diversions, while her husband is ab­sent in London, during the holy season of Lent. And in PIERCE PLOWMAN'S CREDE, a piece perhaps prior to Chau­cer, a friar Minorite mentions these MIRACLES as not less frequented than markets or taverns.

We haunten no tavernes, ne hobelen abouten,
Att markets and MIRACLES we medeley us never b.

Among the plays usually represented by the guild of Cor­pus Christi at Cambridge, on that festival, LUDUS FILIORUM [Page 237] ISRAELIS was acted in the year 1355 c. Our drama seems hitherto to have been almost entirely confined to religious subjects, and these plays were nothing more than an ap­pendage to the specious and mechanical devotion of the times. I do not find expressly, that any play on a profane subject, either tragic or comic, had as yet been exhibited in England. Our very early ancestors scarce knew any other history than that of their religion. Even on such an occa­sion as the triumphant entry of a king or queen into the city of London, or other places, the pageants were almost entirely scriptural d. Yet I must observe, that an article in one of the pipe-rolls, perhaps of the reign of king John, and con­sequently about the year 1200, seems to place the rudiments of histrionic exhibition, I mean of general subjects, at a much higher period among us than is commonly imagined. It is in these words. ‘"Nicola uxor Gerardi de Canvill, reddit computum de centum marcis pro maritanda Matildi filia sua cuicunque voluerit, exceptis MIMICIS regis e." — "Ni­cola, wife of Gerard of Canville, accounts to the king for one hundred marks for the privilege of marrying his [Page 238] daughter Maud to whatever person she pleases, the king's MIMICS excepted."’ Whether or no MIMICI REGIS are here a sort of players kept in the king's houshold for diverting the court at stated seasons, at least with performances of mimicry and masquerade, or whether they may not strictly imply MINSTRELLS, I cannot indeed determine. Yet we may remark, that MIMICUS is never used for MIMUS, that cer­tain theatrical entertainments called mascarades, as we shall see below, were very antient among the French, and that these MIMICI appear, by the context of this article, to have been persons of no very respectable character f. I likewise find in the wardrobe-rolls of Edward the third, in the year 1348, an account of the dresses, ad faciendum LUDOS domini regis ad ffestum Natalis domini celebratos apud Guldeford, for fur­nishing the plays or sports of the king, held in the castle of Guildford at the feast of Christmas g. In these LUDI, says my record, were expended eighty tunics of buckram of various colours, forty-two visours of various similitudes, that is, fourteen of the faces of women, fourteen of the faces of men with beards, fourteen of heads of angels, made with silver; twenty-eight crests h, fourteen mantles embroidered with heads of dragons: fourteen white tunics wrought with heads and wings of peacocks, fourteen heads of swans with wings, fourteen tunics painted with eyes of peacocks, four­teen tunics of English linen painted, and as many tunics embroidered with stars of gold and silver i. In the rolls of [Page 239] the wardrobe of king Richard the second, in the year 1391, there is also an entry which seems to point out a sport of much the same nature. ‘"Pro xxi coifs de tela linea pro hominibus de lege contrafactis pro LUDO r [...]gis tempore na­talis domini anno xii k."’ That is, ‘"for twenty-one linen coifs for counterfeiting men of the law in the king's play at Christmas."’It will be sufficient to add here on the last record, that the serjeants at law at their creation, antiently wore a cap of linen, lawn, or silk, tied under the chin: this was to distinguish them from the clergy who had the tonsure. Whether in both these instances we are to understand a dumb shew, or a dramatic interlude with speeches, I leave to the examination of those who are professedly making enquiries into the [...]history of our stage from its rudest origin. But that plays on general subjects were no uncommon mode of entertainment in the royal palaces of England, at least at the commencement of the fifteenth century, may be collected from an old memoir of shews and ceremonies exhibited at Christmas, in the reign of Henry the seventh, in the palace of Westminster. It is in the year 1489. ‘"This cristmas I saw no disguysings, and but right few PLAYS. But ther was an abbot of Misrule, that made much sport, and did right well his office."’ And again, ‘"At nyght the kynge, the qweene, and my ladye the kynges moder, cam into the Whitehall, and ther hard a PLAY l."’

[Page 240] As to the religious dramas, it was customary to perform this species of play on holy festivals in or about the churches. In the register of William of Wykeham, bishop of Win­chester, under the year 1384, an episcopal injunction is re­cited, against the exhibition of SPECTACULA in the ce­metery of his cathedral m. Whether or no these were dra­matic SPECTACLES, I do not pretend to decide. In several of our old scriptural plays, we see some of the scenes di­rected to be represented cum cantu et organis, a common rubric in the missal. That is, because they were performed in a church where the choir assisted. There is a curious passage in Lambarde's Topographical Dictionary written about the year 1570, much to our purpose, which I am therefore tempted to transcribe n. ‘"In the dayes of ceremonial reli­gion, they used at Wytney (in Oxfordshire) to set fourthe yearly in maner of a shew, or interlude, the resurrection of our Lord, &c. For the which purposes, and the more lyvely heareby to exhibite to the eye the hole action of the resurrection, the priestes garnished out certain smalle puppettes, representing the persons of Christe, the watch­men, Marie, and others; amongest the which, one bare the parte of a wakinge watchman, who espiinge Christe to arise, made a continual noyce, like to the sound that is caused by the metynge of two styckes, and was thereof commonly called Jack Snacker of Wytney. The like toye I myself, beinge then a childe, once sawe in Poule's churche [Page 241] at London, at a feast of Whitsuntyde; wheare the comynge downe of the Holy Gost was set forthe by a white pigion, that was let to fly out of a hole that yet is to be sene in the mydst of the roofe of the greate ile, and by a longe censer which descendinge out of the same place almost to the verie grounde, was swinged up and downe at suche a lengthe, that it reached with thone swepe almost to the west-gate of the churche, and with the other to the quyre staires of the same; breathinge out over the whole churche and companie a most pleasant per­fume of such swete thinges as burned therein. With the like doome shewes also, they used everie where to furnish sondrye parts of their church service, as by their specta­cles of the nativitie, passion, and ascension, &c."’

This practice of acting plays in churches, was at last grown to such an enormity, and attended with such inconve­nient consequences, that in the reign of Henry the [...]ighth, Bonner, bishop of London, issued a proclamation to the clergy of his diocese, dated 1542, prohibiting ‘"all maner of common plays, games, or interludes to be played, set forth, or declared, within their churches, chapels, &c o."’ This fashion seems to have remained even after the Re­formation, and when perhaps profane stories had taken place of religious p. Archbishop Grindal, in the year 1563, re­monstrated against the danger of interludes: complaining that players ‘"did especially on holy days, set up bills in­viting to their play q."’ From this ecclesiastical source of the modern drama, plays continued to be acted on sundays so late as the reign of Elizabeth, and even till that of Charles [Page 242] the first, by the choristers or singing-boys of Saint Paul's cathedral in London, and of the royal chapel.

It is certain, that these MIRACLE-PLAYS were the first of our dramatic exhibitions. But as these pieces frequently re­quired the introduction of allegorical characters, such as Charity, Sin, Death, Hope, Faith, or the like, and as the common poetry of the times, especially among the French, began to deal much in allegory, at length plays were formed entirely consisting of such personifications. These were called MORALITIES. The miracle-plays, or MYSTERIES, were to­tally destitute of invention or plan: they tamely represented stories according to the letter of scripture, or the respective legend. But the MORALITIES indicate dawnings of the dra­matic art: they contain some rudiments of a plot, and even attempt to delineate characters, and to paint manners. From hence the gradual transition to real historical person­ages was natural and obvious. It may be also observed, that many licentious pleasantries were sometimes introduced in these religious representations. This might imperceptibly lead the way to subjects entirely profane, and to comedy, and perhaps earlier than is imagined. In ar Mystery of the MASSACRE OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS, part of the subject of a sacred drama given by the English fathers at the famous council of Constance, in the year 1417 s, a low buffoon of Herod's court is introduced, desiring of his lord to be dubbed a knight, that he might be properly qualified to go on the adventure of killing the mothers of the children of Bethle­hem. This tragical business is treated with the most ridi­culous levity. The good women of Bethlehem attack our [...]night-errant with their spinning-wheels, break his head with their distaffs, abuse him as a coward and a disgrace to chivalry, and send him home to Herod as a recreant cham­pion with much ignominy. It is in an enlightened age only [Page 243] that subjects of scripture history would be supported with proper dignity. But then an enlightened age would not have chosen such subjects for theatrical exhibition. It is certain that our ancestors intended no sort of impiety by these monstrous and unnatural mixtures. Neither the writers nor the spectators saw the impropriety, nor paid a separate attention to the comic and the srious part of these motley scenes; at least they were persuaded that the solemnity of the subject covered or excused all incongruities. They had no just idea of decorum, consequently but little sense of the ri­diculous: what appears to us to be the highest burlesque, on them would have made no sort of impression. We must not wonder at this, in an age when courage, devotion, and ignorance, composed the character of European manners; when the knight going to a tournament, first invoked his God, then his mistress, and afterwards proceeded with a safe conscience and great resolution to engage his antagonist. In these Mysteries I have sometimes seen gross and open ob­scenities. In a play of the Old and New Testament t, Adam and Eve are both exhibited on the stage naked, and conversing about [Page 244] their nakedness: this very pertinently introduces the next scene, in which they have coverings of fig-leaves. This extraor­dinary spectacle was beheld by a numerous assembly of both sexes with great composure: they had the authority of scrip­ture for such a representation, and they gave matters just as they found them in the third chapter of Genesis. It would have been absolute heresy to have departed from the sacred text in personating the primitive appearance of our first parents, whom the spectators so nearly resembled in sim­plicity: and if this had not been the case, the dramatists were ignorant what to reject and what to retain.

In the mean time, profane dramas seem to have been known in France at a much earlier period u. Du Cange gives the following picture of the king of France dining in pub­lic, before the year 1300. During this ceremony, a sort of farces or drolls seems to have been exhibited. All the great officers of the crown and the houshold, says he, were present. The company was entertained with the instrumental music of the minstrells, who played on the kettle-drum, the flagel­let w, the cornet, the Latin cittern, the Bohemian flute, [Page 245] the trumpet, the Moorish cittern, and the fiddle. Besides there were ‘"des FARCEURS, des jongleurs, et des plaisantins, qui divertisseoient les compagnies par leur faceties et par leur COMEDIES, pour l'entretien."’ He adds, that many noble families in France were entirely ruined by the prodi­gious expences lavished on those performers x. The annals of France very early mention buffoons among the minstrells at these solemnities; and more particularly that Louis le Debonnaire, who reigned about the year 830, never laughed aloud, not even when at the most magnificent festivals, players, buffoons, minstrels, singers, and harpers, attended his table y. In some constitutions given to a cathedral church in France, in the year 1280, the following clause occurs. ‘"Nullus SPECTACULIS aliquibus quae aut in Nup­tiis aut in Scenis exhibentur, intersit z."’ Where, by the way, the word Scenis seems to imply somewhat of a pro­fessed stage, although the establishment of the first French theatre is dated not before the year 1398. The play of ROBIN and MARIAN is said to have been performed by the school-boys of Angiers, according to annual custom, in the year 1392 a. A royal carousal given by Charles the fifth of France to the emperor Charles the fourth, in the year 1378, was closed with the theatrical representation of the Conquest of Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bulloign, which was [Page 246] exhibited in the hall of the royal palace b. This indeed was a subject of a religious tendency; but not long afterwards, in the year 1395, perhaps before, the interesting story of PATIENT GRISILDE appears to have been acted at Paris. This piece still remains, and is entitled, Le MYSTERE de Gri­sildis marquise de Saluce c. For all dramatic pieces were indiscri­minately called MYSTERIES, whether a martyr or a heathen god, whether saint Catharine or Hercules was the subject.

In France the religious MYSTERIES, often called PITEAUX, or PITOUX, were certainly very fashionable, and of high antiquity: yet from any written evidence, I do not find them more antient than those of the English. In the year 1384, the inhabitants of the village of Aunay, on the sun­day after the feast of saint John, played the MIRACLE of Theophilus, ‘"ou quel Jeu avoit un personnage de un qui devoit getter d'un canon d."’ In the year 1398, some citi­zens of Paris met at saint Maur to play the PASSION of CHRIST. The magistrates of Paris, alarmed at this novelty, published an ordonnance, prohibiting them to represent, ‘"aucuns jeux de personages soit de vie de saints ou autre­ment,"’ without the royal licence, which was soon after­wards obtained e. In the year 1486, at Anjou, ten pounds were paid towards supporting the charges of acting the PASSION of CHRIST, which was represented by masks, and, as I suppose, by persons hired for the purpose f. The chap­lains of Abbeville, in the year 1455, gave four pounds and [Page 247] ten shillings to the PLAYERS of the PASSION g. But the French MYSTERIES were chiefly performed by the religious communities, and some of their FETES almost entirely con­sisted of a dramatic or personated shew. At the FLAST of ASSES, instituted in honour of Baalam's Ass, the clergy walked on Christmas day in procession, habited to represent the prophets and others. Moses appeared in an alb and cope, with a long beard and rod. David had a green vestment. Baalam with an immense pair of spurs, rode on a wooden ass, which inclosed a speaker. There were also six Jews and six Gentiles. Among other characters the poet Virgil was introduced as a gentile prophet and a translator of the Sibylline oracles. They thus moved in procession, chanting versi­cles, and conversing in character on the nativity and king­dom of Christ, through the body of the church, till they came into the choir. Virgil speaks some Latin hexameters, during the ceremony, not out of his fourth eclogue, but wretched monkish lines in rhyme. This feast was, I believe, early suppressed h. In the year 1445, Charles the seventh of France ordered the masters in Theology at Paris to forbid the ministers of the collegiatei churches to celebrate at Christ­mas the FEAST of FOOLS in their churches, where the [...]lergy danced in masques and antic dresses, and exhibited plusieurs [Page 248] mocqueries spectacles publics, de leur corps deguisements, farces, rigmeries, with various enormities shocking to decency. In France as well as England it was customary to celebrate the feast of the boy-bishop. In all the collegiate churches of both nations, about the feast of Saint Nicholas, or the Holy Innocents, one of the children of the choir completely ap­parelled in the episcopal vestments, with a mitre and crosier, bore the title and state of a bishop, and exacted ceremonial obedience from his fellows, who were dressed like priests. They took possession of the church, and performed all the ceremonies and offices i, the mass excepted, which might have been celebrated by the bishop and his prebendaries k. In the statutes of the archiepiscopal cathedral of Tulles, given in the year 1497, it is said, that during the celebra­tion of the festival of the boy-bishop, ‘"MORALITIES were presented, and shews of MIRACLES, with farces and other sports, but compatible with decorum.—After dinner they exhibited, without their masks, but in proper dresses, such farces as they were masters of, in different parts of the city l."’ It is probable that the same entertainments at­tended the solemnisation of this ridiculous festival in Eng­land m: and from this supposition some critics may be inclined [Page 249] to deduce the practice of our plays being acted by the choir-boys of St. Paul's church, and the chapel royal, which continued, as I before observed, till Cromwell's usurpa­tion. The English and French stages mutually throw light on each other's history. But perhaps it will be thought, that in some of these instances I have exemplified in nothing more than farcical and gesticulatory representations. Yet even these traces should be attended to. In the mean time we may observe upon the whole, that the modern drama had its foundation in our religion, and that it was raised and supported by the clergy. The truth is, the members of the ecclesiastical societies were almost the only persons who could read, and their numbers easily furnished per­formers: they abounded in leisure, and their very relaxa­tions were religious.

I did not mean to touch upon the Italian stage. But as so able a judge as Riccoboni seems to allow, that Italy derived her theatre from those of France and England, by way of an additional illustration of the antiquity of the two last, I will here produce one or two MIRACLE-PLAYS, acted much earlier in Italy than any piece mentioned by that in­genious writer, or by Crescimbeni. In the year 1298, on ‘"the feast of Pentecost, and the two following holidays, the representation of the PLAY OF CHRIST, that is of his passion, resurrection, ascension, judgment, and the mis­sion of the holy ghost, was performed by the clergy of [Page 250] Civita Vecchia, in [...]uria domini patriarchae Austriae civitatis honorifice et laudabiliter n."’ And again, ‘"In 1304, the chapter of Civita Vecchia exhibited a Play of the creation of our first parents, the annunciation of the virgin Mary, the birth of Christ, and other passages of sacred scripture o."’ In the mean time, those critics who contend for the high antiquity of the Italian stage, may adopt these instances as new proofs in defence of that hypothesis.

In this transient view of the origin and progress of our drama, which was incidentally suggested by the mention of Baston's supposed Comedies, I have trespassed upon future periods. But I have chiefly done this for the sake of con­nection, and to prepare the mind of the reader for other anecdotes of the history of our stage, which will occur in the course of our researches, and are reserved for their res­pective places. I could have enlarged what is here loosely thrown together, with many other remarks and illustrations: but I was unwilling to transcribe from the colle [...]ions of those who have already treated this subject with great com­prehension and penetration, and especially from the author of the Supplement to the Translator's Preface of Jarvis's Don Quixote p. I claim no other merit from this digression, than that of having collected some new anecdotes relating to the early state of the English and French stages, the original of both which is intimately connected, from books and manu­scripts not easily found, nor often examined. These hints may perhaps prove of some service to those who have leisure and inclination to examine the subject with more precision.


EDWARD the third was an illustrious example and patron of chivalry. His court was the theatre of ro­mantic elegance. I have examined the annual rolls of his wardrobe, which record various articles of costly stuffs deli­vered occasionally for the celebration of his tournaments; such as standards, pennons, tunics, caparisons, with other splendid furniture of the same sort: and it appears that he commanded these solemnities to be kept, with a magnificence superior to that of former ages, at Litchfield, Bury, Guild­ford, Eltham, Canterbury, and twice at Windsor, in little more than the space of one year a. At his triumphant re­turn from Scotland, he was met by two hundred and thirty knights at Dunstable, who received their victorious monarch with a grand exhibition of these martial exercises. He established in the castle of Windsor a fraternity of twenty­four knights, for whom he erected a round table, with a round chamber still remaining, according to a similar institution [Page 252] of king Arthur b. Anstis treats the notion, that Edward in this establishment had any retrospect to king Arthur, as an idle and legendary tradition c. But the fame of Arthur was still kept alive, and continued to be an object of veneration long afterwards: and however idle and ridi­culous the fables of the round table may appear at present, they were then not only universally known, but firmly be­lieved. Nothing could be more natural to such a romantic monarch, in such an age, than the renovation of this most antient and revered institution of chivalry. It was a prelude to the renowned order of the garter, which he soon after­wards founded at Windsor, during the ceremonies of a magnificent feast, which had been proclaimed by his heralds in Germany, France, Scotland, Burgundy, Heynault, and Brabant, and lasted fifteen days d. We must not try the modes and notions of other ages, even if they have arrived to some degree of refinement, by those of our own. No­thing is more probable, than that this latter foundation of Edward the third, took its rise from the exploded story of the garter of the countess of Salisbury e. Such an origin is interwoven with the manners and ideas of the times. Their attention to the fair sex entered into every thing. It is by no means unreasonable to suppose, that the fantastic collar of Esses, worn by the knights of this Order, was an allusion to her name. Froissart, an eye-witness, and well acquainted [Page 253] with the intrigues of the court, relates at large the king's affection for the countess; and particularly describes a grand carousal which he gave in consequence of that attachment f. The first festival of this order was not only adorned by the bravest champions of christendom, but by the presence of queen Philippa, Edward's consort, accompanied with three hundred ladies of noble families g. The tournaments of this stately reign were constantly crouded with ladies of the first distinction; who sometimes attended them on horseback, armed with daggers, and dressed in a succinct soldier-like habit or uniform prepared for the purpose h. In a tour­nament exhibited at London, sixty ladies on palfries appeared, each leading a knight with a gold chain. In this manner they paraded from the tower to Smithfield i. Even Philippa, a queen of singular elegance of manners k, partook so much of the heroic spirit which was univer­sally diffused, that just before an engagement with the king of Scotland, she rode round the ranks of the English army encouraging the soldiers, and was with some diffi­culty persuaded or compelled to relinquish the field l. The countess of Montfort is another eminent instance of female heroism in this age. When the strong town of Hennebond, near Rennes, was besieged by the French, this redoubted [Page 254] amazon rode in complete armour from street to street, on a large courser, animating the garison m. Finding from a high tower that the whole French army was engaged in the as­sault, she issued, thus completely accoutred, through a con­venient postern at the head of three hundred chosen soldiers, and set fire to the French camp n. In the mean time riches and plenty, the effects of conquest, peace, and prosperity, were spread on every side; and new luxuries were imported in great abundance from the conquered countries. There were few families, even of a moderate condition, but had in their possession precious articles of dress or furniture; such as silks, fur, tapestry, embroidered beds, cups of gold, silver, porcelain, and crystal, bracelets, chains, and necklaces, brought from Caen, Calais, and other opulent foreign cities o. The encrease of rich furniture appears in a foregoing reign. In an act of Parliament of Edward the first p, are many regulations, directed to goldsmiths, not only in London, but in other towns, concerning the sterling allay of vessels and jewels of gold and silver, &c. And it is said, ‘"Gra­vers or cutters of stones and seals shall give every one their just weight of silver and gold."’ It should be [Page 255] remembered, that about this period Europe had opened a new commercial intercourse with the ports of India q. No less than eight sumptuary laws, which had the usual effect of not being observed, were enacted in one session of parliament during this reign r. Amid these growing elegancies and superfluities, foreign manners, especially of the French, were perpetually encreasing; and the native simplicity of the English people was perceptibly corrupted and effaced. It is not quite uncertain that masques had their beginning in this reign s. These shews, in which the greatest personages of the court often bore a part, and which arrived at their height in the reign of Henry the eighth, encou­raged the arts of address and decorum, [...]nd are [...]ym [...]t [...]ms of the rise of polished manners t.

In a reign like this, we shall not be surprised to fi [...]d such a poet as Chaucer: with whom a new era in English poetry begins, and on whose account many of th [...]se circumstances are mentioned, as they serve to prepare the reader for his character, on which they throw no inconsider [...]ble light.

But before we enter on so ample a field, it will be per­haps less embarrassing, at least more consistent with our prescribed method, if we previously display the merits of two or three poets, who appeared in the former part of the reign of Edward the third, with other incidental matters.

The first of these is Richard Hampole, an eremite of the order of saint Augustine. He was a doctor of divi [...]ity, and lived a solitary life near the nuns of Hampole, four miles from Doncaster in Yorkshire. The neighbourhood of this female society could not withdraw our recluse from his devotions [Page 256] and his studies. He flourished in the year 1349 u. His Latin theological tracts, both in prose and ve [...]se, are numerous; in which Leland justly thinks he has di [...]played more erudition than eloquence. His principal pieces of English rhyme are a Paraphrase of part of the book of Job, of the lord's prayer, of the seven penitential psalms, and the PRICKE OF CONSCIENCE. But our hermit's poetry, which indeed from these titles promises but little entertainment, has no tincture of sentiment, imagination, or elegance. The fol­lowing verses are extracted from the PRICKE OF CONSCIENCE, one of the most common manuscripts in our libraries, and I prophesy that I am its last transcriber. But I must ob­serve first, that this piece is divided into seven parts. I. Of man's nature. II. Of the world. III. Of death. IV. Of purgatory. V. Of the day of judgment. VI. Of the tor­ments of hell. VII. Of the joys of heaven w.

Monkynde is to godus wille
And alle his biddyngus to fulfille
Ffor of al his makyng more and les
Man most principal creature es
All that he made for man hit was done
As ye schal here aftir lone
God to monkynde had gret love
When he ordeyned to monnes behove
This world and heven hym to glade
There in myddulerd mon last he made
To his likenes in feire stature
To be most worthy creature
Beforen all creatures of kynde
He yef hym wit skile and mynde
[Page 257] Ffor too knowe bothe good and ille
And als he yaf him a fre wille
Fforto chese and forto holde
Good or yvel whedur he wolde
And as he ordeyned mon to dwelle
To lyve in erthe in flessch and fell
To knowe his workus and hym worshepe
And his comaundement to kepe
And yif he be to god buxome
To endeles blis aftir to come
And yif he wrongly here wende
To peyne of helle withouten ende
God made to his owne likenes
Eche mon lyving here more and les
To whom he hath gyven wit and skil
Ffor to knowe bothe good and il
And wille to these as they vouchsave
Good or evil whether thei wole have
He that his wille to good wole bowe
God wole hym with gret mede allowe
He that wukudnes wole and wo
Gret peyne shall he have also
That mon therfore holde is for wood
That chesuth the evel and leveth the good
God made mon of most dignite
Of all creatures most fre
And namely to his owne liknes
As bifore tolde hit es
And most hath gyven and yit gyveth
Than to any creature that lyveth
And more hath het hym yit therto
Hevene blis yif he wel do
And yit when he had don amys
And hadde lost that ilke blis
[Page 258] God tok monkynde for his sake
And for his love deth wolde take
And with his blod boughte hem ayene
To his blisse fro endeles peyne.
Thus gret love god to man kidde
And mony goode dedus to hym didde
Therefore eche mon lernd and lewed
Schulde thynke on love that he hem schewed
And these gode dedus holde in mynde
That he thus dide to monkynde
And love and thanke hym as he con
And ellus he is unkynde mon
Bot he serve hym day and nyght
And his yiftes usen hem right
To spende his wit in godus servyse [...]
Certainly ellus he is not wise
Bot he knowe kyndely what god es [...]
And what mon is that is les
Thou febul mon is soule and body
Thou strong god is and myghty
Thou mon greveth god that doth not welle
What mon is worthi therefore to fele
Thou mercyfull and gracious god is
And thou full of alle goodness
Thou right wis and thou sothfaste
What he hath done and shal atte laste
And eche day doth to monkynde
This schulde eche mon have in mynde
Ffor the rihte waye to that blis
That leduth mon thidur that is this
The waye of mekenes principally
To love and drede god almighty
[Page 259] This is the waye into wisdome
Into whuche waye non may come
Withouten knowing of god here
His myghtus and his workes sere
But ar he to that knowyng wynne
Hymself he mot knowe withynne
Ellus knowyng may not be
To wisdom way non entre
Some han wit to undurstonde
And yit thei are ful unknowonde
And some thing hath no knowyng
That myght them sture to good lyving
Tho men had nede to lerne eche day
Of men that con more then thay
That myhte to knowynge hem lede
In mekenes to love god and drede
Which is waye and goode wissyng
That may to heven blis men brynge
In gret pil [peril] of sowle is that mon
That hath wit mynde and no good con
And wole not lerne for to knawe
The workus of god and his lawe
He nyle do afturmest no lest
Bot lyveth lyke an unskilfull best
That nouther hath skil wit nor mynde
That mon lyveth ayeyn his kynde
Yit excuseth not his unknowyng
That his wit useth not in leryng
Namely in that him oweth to knowe
To meke his herte and make it lowe
The unknowyng schulde have wille
To lerne to know good and ille
He that ought con schulde lere more
To knowe al that nedeful wore
[Page 260] For the unknowyng by lerning
May brought be to understondyng
Of mony thyngus to knowe and se
That hath bin is and shal be
And so to mekenes sture his wille
To love and drede god and leve al ille
Mony ben glad triful to here
And vanitees woll gladly lere
Bisy they bin in word and thought
To lerne that soul helputh nought
Bot that that n [...]deful were to knowe
To here they are wondur-slowe
Therefore con thei nothing se
The pereles thei schulde drede and fle
And what weye thei schulde take
And whiche weye thei schulde forsake
No wondur is though thei go wronge
In derknes of unknowyng they gonge
Without light of undurstondynge
Of that that falluth to right knowynge
Therefore eche cristen mon and wommon
That wit and wisdom any con
That tou the righte weye not sen
Nor flie the periles that wise flen
Schulde buxom be and bisy
To heren and leren of hem namely
That undurstonden and knowen stil
Wheche weye is good and wheche is il
He that wole right weye of lyving loke
Shall thus bigynne seith the boke
To know first what hymself is
So may he come to mekenys
That ground of all virtues is last
On whiche all virtues may be stedefast
[Page 261] He that knoweth well and con se
What he is was and schal be
A wisere man may be told
Whethur he be young or old
Then he that con al other thing
And of hymself hath no knowyng
He may no good knowe ny fele
Bot he furst knowe hym selven wele
Therfore a m [...]n schulde furst lere
To knowe hymself propurly here
Ffor yif he knewe hymself kyndely
Then may he knowe god almighty
And on endyng thinke schulde he
And on the last day that schal be
Knowe schulde he what this worlde es
Full of pompe and lecherousnes
And lerne to knowe and thynke with alle
What schal aftir this lyf bifalle
Knowyng of this schulde hym lede
To mete with mekenes and with drede
So may he come to good lyvyng
And atte last to good endyng
And when he of this worlde schal wende
Be brought to blis withouten ende
The bigynnyng of this proces
Right knowyng of a mon hymself hit es
Bot somme mon han gret lettynge
That thei may have no right knowynge
Of hemselfe that thei schulde first knawe
That first to mekenes schulde hem draw
Ther of some thyngus I fynde
That monnes wit makuth ofte blynde
And knowyng of hymself hit lettuth
Wherefore he hymself foryetuth
[Page 262] To this witnes Bernard answers
And tho four are written in thes vers x, &c.

In the Bodleian library I find three copies of the PRICKE OF CONSCIENCE very different from that which I have just cited. In these this poem is given to Robert Grosthead bishop of Lincoln, above mentioned y. With what proba­bility, I will not stay to enquire; but hasten to give a speci­men. I will only premise, that the language and hand-writ­ing are of considerable antiquity, and that the lines are here much longer. The poet is describing the future rewards and punishments of mankind.

The goode soule schal have in his herynge
Gret joye in hevene and grete lykynge:
Ffor hi schulleth yhere the aungeles song,
And with hem hi schullethz synge ever among,
With delitable voys and swythe clere,
And also with that hi schullen have ire a [...]
All other maner of ech a melodye,
Off well lykyng noyse and menstralsye,
And of al maner tenesb of musike,
The whuche to mannes beorte migte like,
Withoute eni maner of travayle,
The whuche schal never cesse ne fayle:
And soc schil schal that noyse bi, and so swete [...]
And so delitable to smale and to grete,
That al the melodye of this worlde heer
That ever was yhuryd ferre or neer
Were thertod bote as sorwee and care
To the blisse that is in hevene well ȝare f.
Of the contrarie of that blisse.
Wel grete sorwe schal the synfolkeg bytyde,
Ffor he schullen yhere in ech a syde h,
Well gret noyse that the feondesi willen make,
As thei al the worlde scholde alto schake;
And alle the men lyvynge that migte hit yhure,
Scholde here witk loose, and no lengere alyvel dure.
Thanne him schulleth for sorwe here hondes wringe,
And ever weilaway hi schullethe be cryinge, &c.
The gode men schullethe have worschipes grete,
And eche of them schal be yset in a riche sete,
And ther as kynges be ycrownid fayre,
And digte with riche perrien and so ysetuno in a chayre,
And with stones of vertu and preciouse of choyse,
As David thy said to god with a mylde voyce,
Posuisti, domine, super caput eorum, &c.
"Lorde, he seyth, on his heved thou settest wel arigt
"A coronne of a pretious ston richeliche ydigt."
And so fayre a coronne nas never non ysene,
In this worlde on kynges hevede p, ne on quene;
Ffor this coronnc is the coronne of blisse,
And the ston is joye whereof hi schilleth never misse, &c.
The synfolke schulleth, as I have afore ytold,
[...]fele outrageous hete, and afterwards to muche colde;
Ffor nowe he schullethe freose, and now brenne q,
And so be ypyned that non schal other kenne r,
And also be ybyte with dragonnes felle and kene,
The whuche schulleth hem destrye outrigte and clene,
[Page 264] And with other vermyn and bestes felle,
The whiche beothe nougt but fendes of helle, &c.

We have then this description of the New Jerusalem.

This citie is yset on an hei hille,
That no synful man may therto tille s:
The whuche ich likne to beril clene,
And so fayr berel may non be ysene.
Thulke hyl is nougt elles to understondynge
Bote holi thugt, and desyr brennynge,
The whuche holi men hadde heer to that place,
Whiles hi hadde on eorthe here lyves space;
And i likne, as ymay ymagene in my thougt,
The walles of hevene, to walles that were ywrougt
Of all maner preciouse stones yset yfere t,
And ysemented with gold brigt and clere;
Bot so brigt gold, ne non so clene,
Was in this worlde never ysene, &c.
The wardes of the cite of hevene brigt
I likne to wardes that wel were ydygt,
And clenly ywrougt and sotely enteyled,
And on silver and gold clenly avamayled u, &c.
The torettesw of hevene grete and smale
I likne to the torrettes of clene cristale, &c.

I am not, in the mean time, quite convinced that any manuscript of the PRICKE OF CONSCIENCE in English belongs to Hampole. That this piece is a translation from the Latin appears from these verses.

Therefore this boke is in Englis drawe
Of felex matters that bene unknawe
[Page 265] To lewed men that are unkonande y
That con no latyn undirstonde z.

The Latin original in prose, entitled, STIMULUS CONSCIEN­T [...]AE a, was most probably writtten by Hampole: and it is not very likely that he should translate his own work. The author and translator were easily confounded. As to the copy of the English poem given to bishop Grosthead, he could not be the translator, to say nothing more, if Hampole wrote the Latin original. On the whole, whoever was the author of the two translations, at least we may pronounce with some certainty, that they belong to the reign of Ed­ward the third.


THE next poet in succession is one who deserves more attention on various accounts. This is Robert Long­lande, author of the poem called the VISION OF PIERCE PLOWMAN, a s [...]cular priest, and a fellow of Oriel college, in Oxford. He flourished about the year 1350 a. This poem contains a series of distinct visions, which the author imagines himself to have seen, while he was sleeping, after a long ramble on Malverne-hills in Worcestershire. It is a satire on the vices of almost every profession: but particu­larly on the corruptions of the clergy, and the absurdities of superstition. These are ridiculed with much humour and spirit, couched under a strong vein of allegorical invention. But instead of availing himself of the rising and rapid im­provements of the English language, Longland prefers and adopts the style of the Anglo-Saxon poets. Nor did he make these writers the models of his language only: he likewise imitates their alliterative versification, which con­sisted in using an aggregate of words beginning with the same letter. He has therefore rejected rhyme, in the place of which he thinks it sufficient to substitute a perpetual al­literation. But this imposed constraint of seeking identical initials, and the affectation of obsolete English, by demand­ing a constant and necessary departure from the natural and obvious forms of expression, while it circumscribed the powers of our author's genius, contributed also to render his [Page 267] manner extremely perplexed, and to disgust the reader with obscurities. The satire is conducted by the agency of several allegorical personages, such as Avarice, Bribery, Simony, Theology, Conscience, &c. There is much imagination in the following picture, which is intended to represent human life, and its various occupations.

Then gan I to meten a mervelouse sweven,
That I was in wildernes, I wyst never where:
As I beheld into theast, on highe to the sunne
I saw a tower on a loft, rychlych ymaked,
A depe dale beneth, a dungeon therein,
With depe diches and darcke, and dreadfull of syght:
A fayre felde ful of folke found I ther betwene,
Of all maner men, the meane and the riche,
Working and wandring, as the world asketh;
Some put hem to the plough [...], pleiden full selde,
In setting and sowing swonken full harde:
And some put hem to pryd b, &c.

The following extracts are not only striking specimens of our author's allegorical satire, but contain much sense and observation of life, with some strokes of poetry c.

Thus robed in russet, I romed aboute
All a somer season, for to seked DOWEL
And freynede full oft, of folke that I mette
If any wight wist, wher DOWELf was at inne,
And what man he might be, of many man I asked,
Was never wight as I went, that me wyshg could
[Page 268] Where this ladde lenged h, lesse or more,
Tyll it befell on a Fryday, two fryers I mette
Maisters of the minours i, men of greate wytte
I halsed hem hendelye k, as I had learned
And prayed hem for charitie, or they passed furthur
If they knewe any courte or countrye as they went
Where that DOWELL dwelleth, do me to wytte l
For they be men on this mould, that most wide walke
And knowe contries and courts, and many kinnesm places
Both princes palaces, and pore menes cotes
And DOWEL and DOEVIL, where they dwell both,
Amongest us quoth the minours, that man is dwellinge
And ever hath as I hope, and ever shall hereafter,
Contra quod I, as a clarke, and cumsed to disputen
And sayde hym sothelye, Septies in die cadit justus,
Sevenn sythes sayeth the boke, synneth the rightfull,
And who so synneth I say, doth evel as me thinketh,
And DOWEL and DOEVYL may not dwel togither,
Ergo he is not alway among you fryers
He is other whyle els where, to wyshen the people.
I shal say the my sonne, sayde the frier than
Howe seven sithes the saddeo man on a day synneth,
By a forvisnep quod the fryer, I shal the faire shewe
Let bryng a man in a bote, amyd the brode water
The winde and the water, and the bote waggyng
Make a man many time, to fall and to stande
For stand he never so stiffe, he stumbleth if he move
And yet is he safe and sounde, and so hym behoveth,
For if he ne arise the rather, and raght to the stere,
The wind would with the water the boote overthrow.
And than were his life lost through latchesq of himself.
And thus it falleth quod the frier, bi folk here on erth
[Page 269] The water is likned to the world, that waneth and wexeth
The goods of this world ar likened to the gret waves
That as winds and wethers, walken a bout.
The boote is likende to our body, that brytil is of kynd
That through the fleshe, and the frayle worlde
Synneth the sadde man, a day seven tymes
And deadly synne doeth he not, for DOWEL him kepeth
And that is CHARITIE the chapion, chiefe helpe agayne sinne,
For he strengtheth man to stand, and stirreth mans soule
And thoughe thy bodi bowe, as bote doth in water,
Aye is thy soule safe, but if thou wylt thy self
Do a deadlye sinne, and drenche so thy soule
God wyll suffer wel thy slouth, if thy selfe lyketh
For he gafe the two yeresgifts, to teme wel thy selfe
And that is witte and frewil, to every wight a portion
To flyinge fowles, to fishes, and to beastes
And man hath moste therof, and most is to blame
But if he worch wel therwith, as DOWEL hym teacheth.
I have no kind knowyng quoth I, to coceive all your wordes
And if I may live and loke, I shal go learne better
I bikenne the Christ, that on the crosse dyed
And I said the same, save you from mischaunce
And give you grace on this ground good me to worth.
And thus I went wide wher, walking mine one
By a wyde weldernes, and by a woddes syde,
Blisse of the birdes, brought me on slepe,
And under a lynder on a land, lened I a stounde s
To lyth the layes t, tho lovely fowles made,
Myrthe of her mouthes made me there to slepe
The marvelousest metelles, metteu me than
That ever dremed wyght, in world as I wente.
A much man as me thought, and like to my selfe,
Came and called me, by my kindew name
[Page 270] What art thou quod I tho, thou that my name knoweste
That thou wottest wel quod he, and no wight better
Wot I what thou art? THOUGHT sayd he than,
I have suedx the this seven yeres, se ye me no rather?
Art thou THOUGHT quoth I tho, thou couldest me wysshe
Wher that DOWEL dwelleth, and do me that to knowe
DOWEL and DOBETTER, and DOBEST the thirde quod he
Are thre fayre vertues, and be not farre to finde,
Who so is true of hys tonge, and of hys two handes
And through his labor or his lod, his livelod wineth y
And is trusty of hys taylyng z, taketh but his owne
And is no drunklewea ne dedigious, DOWEL him followeth
DOBET doth ryght thus, and he doth much more
He is as lowe as a lamb, and lovely of speache
And helpeth al men, after that hem nedeth
The bagges and the bigirdles, he hath to brokb hem al,
That the erle avarous helde and hys heyres
And thus to mamons mony he hath made him frendes
And is runne to religion, and hath rendredc the bible
And preached to the people, saynte Paules werdes.
Libenter suffertis insipientes cum sitis ipsi sapientes.
And suffereth the unwyse, wyth you for to lyve
And with glad wil doth he good, for so god you hoteth
DOBEST is above boeth, and beareth a bishops crosse
Is hoked on that one ende to halyed men from hell
A pyke is on the potente to pull downe the wyked
That wayten anye wykednes, DOWELL to tene
And DOWELL and DOBET, amongest hem have ordeyned
To crowne one to be kynge, to rule hem boeth
That if DOWELL and DOBET, arnef agaynste DOBESTE
Then shall the kynge com, and cast hem in yrons
And but if DOBEST byd for hem, they be there for ever
[Page 271] Thus DOWELL and DOBET, and DOBESTE the thyrd
Crouned one to be king, to kepen hem al
And to rule the realme, by herg thre wyttes
And none other wise, but as they thre assentyd.
I thanked THOUGHT tho, that he me thus taught
And yet savoreth me not thy suging, I covet to lerne,
How DOWEL DOBEST, and DOBETTER, done among the people
But WYT can wish theh quoth THOUGHT, wer thoi iii dwell
Els wot I none that can tell, that nowe is alyve.
THOUGHT and I thus, thre dayes we yeden k
Disputynge upon DOWELL, daye after other.
And ere we were ware, with WYT gan we mete
He was longe and leane, lyke to none other
Was no pryde on hys apparell, nor poverty nether
Sadde of hys semblaunce, and of soft chere
I durste not move no matter, to make hym to laughe,
But as I bade THOUGHT tho be meane betwene
And put forth some purpose, to prevent his wyts
What was DOWELL fro DOBET, and DOBEST fro hem both.
Than THOUGHT in that tyme, sayd these wordes
Whether DOWELL DOBET, and DOBEST ben in land
Here is wyl wold wyt, if WIT could teach him
And whether he be man or woman, this man fain wold espy
And worch as they thre wold, this is his enten,
Here DOWELL dwelleth quod WIT, not a day hence
In a castel that kindl made, of four kins things
Of earth and ayre is it made, mingled togithers
With wind and with water, witterlym enjoyned
KYNDE hath closed therin, craftely withall
A Lemmann that he loveth, like to him selfe
ANIMA she hyght, and Envye her hateth
[Page 272] A proude pricke [...] of Fraunce, princeps hujus mundi
And woulde wynne her away with wiles and h [...] myghte
And KIND knoweth thys well, and kepeth he the better.
And dothe her with sir DOWELL is duke of thys marches
DOBET is her damosell, sir DOWEL'S daughter
To serve this lady lelly o, both late and rathe p.
DOBEST is above both a byshops pere,
That he byd moote be dooq he ruleth them all
ANIMA that lady, is led by his lerning,
And the constable of the castell, that kepeth al the watche,
Is a wyse knight withall, sir Inwit he hight
And hath fyve fayre sonnes by his fyrst wyfe
Syr Seewel and Saywel, and Hearwell the end
Syr Worchwel with thy hand, a wight man of strength
And Syr Godfray Gowel, great lordes forsoth
These fyve bene set, to save this lady Anima
Tyl KIND com or send, to save her for ever
What kins thing is KIND quod I, canst thou me telle
Kynd quod Witte is a creator, of al kinnis thinges
Father and former of all, that ever was makyd
And that is the great god that ginning had never
Lord of lyfe and of light, of blys and of payne
Angels and al thing arne at his wyl,
And man is him most like, of marker and of shape,
For through the word that he spake, wexen forth bestes
And made Adam, likest to him selfe one
And Eve of his ribbe bone, without any meane
For he was singuler him selfe, and sayde faciamus
As who say more must hereto, then my worde one
My might must helpe now with my speche,
Even as a lord shuld make leters, and he lacked perchment
Though he could write never so wel, if he had no pen
The letters for al his lordship, I leve wer never imaked
[Page 273] And so it semeth by him, as the bible telleth,
There he sayde, Dixit et facta sunt.
He must worch with hys word, and his wit shewe
And in this maner was man made, by might of God al­mighty
With his word and his workmaship, and with life to last
And thus God gave him a goste s, of the godhed of heven
And of his great grace, graunted him blysse
And that is life that aye shal last, to al our linage after
And that is the castel that KINDE made, Caro it hight
And is as much to meane, as man with a soule
And that he wrought with work, and with word both
Through might of the majesty, man was imaked
Inwyt and Alwyts, closed bene therin
For love of the ladie Anima, that life is nempned t
Over al in mans body, she walketh and wandreth
And in the herte is hir home, and hir mostu rest
And Inwit is in the head, and to the herte loketh
What Anima is leef or loth w, he leadith hyr at his wil.—
Than had WIT a wife, was hote dame STUDY,
That leve was of lere, and of liche boeth.
She was wonderli wroght, Wit me so teched
And al staryng dame Study, sternely sayde.
Wel art you wise quoth she to Wyt, any wysdomes to tell
To flatterers or to foles, that frentyke be of wyttes
And blamed him and bannedx him, and bade him be styl
Wyth such wyse wordes, to wysh any sottes
And sayde, Noli mittere man, Margarite Pearles
Amonge hogges, that have hawes at wyll.
They do but drivel theron,y drafe were hem lever z,
Than al precious pearles that in paradice waxeth a.
I say it by such, quod she, that shew it by her works,
[Page 274] That hem were lever land b, and lordshyp on earth,
Or ryches or rentes, and rest at her wyll,
Than al the soth sawes, that Salomon sayde ever.
Wysedome and wytte, nowe is not worth a kerse c
But if it be carded with covetis d, as clothers kemb her woule
Whoso can contryve deceites, and conspyre wrongs
And lead forth a love daye e, to let wyth truth
He that such craftes can, is oft cleped to counsell,
They lead lords with leasinges, and belieth truth
Job the gentel in his gestes, greatly wytnesseth
That wicked men welden the wealth of this world
The psalter sayeth the same, by such as done evyl
Ecce ipsi peccatores habundantes in seculo obtinuerunt divitias.
Lo sayth holy lecture, which lords be these shrewes?
Thilke that god geveth most, lest good they dealeth
And most unkind be to that comen, that most catel weldeth f.
Que perfecisti destruxerunt, justus autem &c.
Harlots for her harlotrye, maye have of her goodes
And japers and judgelers g, and jangelers of jestes
And he that hath holy wryte, aye in his mouth
And can tell of Tobie, and of the twelve apostles
Or preache of the penauce, that Pilate falsely wrought
To Jesu the gentle, that Jewes to drawe:
Lyttle is he loved, that suche a lesson sheweth
Or daunten or drawe forth, I do it on god him selfe
But thoh that faine hem foles, and with faytingi liveth
Againe the lawe of our lorde, and lien on hem selfe
Spitten and spuen, and speake foule wordes
Drynken and drivelen, and do men for to gape
Lyken men, and lye on hem, and leneth hem no giftes
They cank no more minstrelsy ne musyke men to glad
[Page 275] Than Mundie the milner, of multa fecit deus.
Ne were hir vyle harlotry, have god my trouth
Shoulde never kynge ne knyght, ne canon of Poules
Gyve hem to her yeres gyfte, ne gyft of a grote,
And myrth and minstrelsy amongest men is nought
Lechery, losenchery l, and losels tales,
Glotony and greate othes, this mirthe they loveth,
And if thei carpenm of Christ, these clerkes and these lewed.
And they meet in her mirth, whan mynstrels ben styll
Whan telleth they of the trinitie, a tale or twaine
And bringeth forth a blade reason, and take Bernardn to witnes
And put forth a presumption to preve the soth
Thus they dreveil at her dayseo the deitie to scorn
And gnawen God to hyr gorgep whan hyr guts fallen
And the carfullq may crye, and carpen at the gate
Both a fyngerd and a furste, and for chelr quake
Is none to nymen hem nere, his noyes to amend
But hunten hym as a hounde, and hoten hym go hence,
Litle loveth he that lorde that lent hym all that blisse,
That thus parteth withe pore, a percel whan him nedeth
Ne were mercy in mean men, more than in rich
Mendynauntes meatles t, myght go to bedde.
God is much in the gorge of these greate maisters,
And amonges meane men, his mercy and hys worckes
And so sayeth the psalter, I have sene it oft.
Clarkes and other kinnes men, carpen of god fast
And have him much in the mouth, and meane men in hert
Friers and fayters, have founden such questions
To plese wyth the proud men, sith the pestilence time
And preachen at S. Paules, for pure envi of clarks
That folke is not firmed in the faythe, ne fre of her goodes
[Page 276] Ne sory for her synnes, so is pryde waxen,
In religion, and in al the realme, amongest rich and pore
That prayers have no pore, the pestilence to lette
And yet the wretches of this worlde, are none ware by other
Ne for dreade of the death, withdraw not her prid
Ne ben plentuous to the pore, as pure charitie wold
But in gaines and in glotony, forglote goods hem selfe
And breketh not to the begger, as the boke teacheth.
And the more he wynneth, and wexeth welthy in riches
And lordeth in landes, the lesse good he dealeth
Tobie telleth ye not so, takehede ye ryche
Howe the byble boke of hym beareth wytnes,
Who so hath much spend manly, so meaneth Tobit
And who so lytle weldeth, rule hym thereafter,
For we have no letter of our life, how long it shal endure
Suche lessons lordes, shoulde love to heare
And how he myght most meyny, manlych fynde
Not to fare as a fideler, or a frier to seke feastes,
Homely at other mens houses, and haten her owne.
Elengeu is the hal every day in the weke
There the lorde ne the lady lyketh not to sytte
Nowe hath eche ryche a rule w, to eaten by hem selfe
In a privie parler, for poore mens sake
Or in chambre wyth a chymney, and leave the chiefe hal
That was made for meales, men to eate in.—
And whan that Wytte was ware, what dame Studie told
He became so confuse he cunneth not loke
And as dombe as death, and drew him arere x
And for no carping I cold after, ne kneling to therth
I myght get no grayne, of his grete wyttis
But al laughynge he louted, and loked upon Study
In sygne that I shulde, besechen hyr of grace
[Page 277] And when I was war of his wil, to his wife I loutid
And sayde mercie madame, your man shal I worth
As longe as I live both late and earlie
For to worchen your wil, the whyle mi life endureth
With this that ye ken me kindlye, to know to what is DOWEL
For thi mekenes man quod she, and for thi milde spech
I shal ken the to my cosen, that Clergye is hoten y
He hath weddyd a wyfe, within these syx moneths
Is sybz to the seven artes, Scripture is hyr name
They two as I hope, after my teachinge
Shal wishen the Dowel, I dare under take.
Than was I as fayne a, as fouleb of fayr morow
And glader then the glemanc that gold [...] hath to gyfte
And asked hir the high way where that Clergied dwelt
And tellme some token quod I, for tyme is that I wend
Aske the hygh waye quod she, hence to suffer
Both wel and woo, if that thou wylt learne
And ryde forthe by riches, and rest thou not therin,
For if thou couplest ye therwith to clergie comest thou never,
And also the licores lande that lechery hight
Leav [...] it on thy left half, a large mile and more,
Tyll thou come to a courte, kepe well thy tonge
Fro leasinges and lyther speach e, and licorous drinckes
Than shalt thou se Sobrietie, and Simplicitie of speche
That ech might be in his wyll, hys wytte to shewe
And thus shalt ye come to Cleargye that can mani thinges
Saye hym thys signe, I sette him to schole
And that I grete wel his wife, for I wrot her many bokes
And set hir to Sapience, and to the psalter glose
Logike I learned her, and manye other lawes,
And all the unisons to musike, I made hir to know,
Plato the poete, I put hem firste to boke,
[Page 278] Aristotle and other moe, to argue I taught
Grammer for gyrles, I garde firste to wryte
And beat hem with a bales, but if they would learne
Of all kinnes craftes, I contrived tooles
Of carpentre of carvers, and compassed masons
And learned hem level and line, though I loke dimme
And Theologie hath tened me, seven score times,
The more I muse therin, the mistier it semeth
And the deper I devine, the darker me it thynketh.

The artifices and persuasions of the monks to procure donations to their convents, are thus humorously ridiculed, in a strain which seems to have given rise to Chaucer's SOMP­NOUR'S TALE.

Than he assoyled her sone, and sithen he sayde:
We have a windowe in working, wil set us ful high,
Woudst thou glase the gable, and grave therin thy name,
Scher shoulde thy soule be heven to have f, &c.

COVETISE or Covetousness, is thus drawn in the true co­lours of satirical painting.

[Page 279]
And then came COVETIS, can I him no discrive,
So hungerly and hollowe, so sternely he loked,
He was bittle-browed and baberlypped also;
Wyth two blered eyen as a blinde hagge,
And as a lethren purse lolled his chekes,
Well syder than his chyn they shevered for colde:
And as a bound man of his bacon his berd was bidrauled,
With a hode on his heade, and a lousy hatte above.
And in a tawny taberde g, of twelve winter age,
Alle torne and baudye, and full of lyce creepinge;
But that yf a louse could have lepen the better,
She had not walked on the welte, so was it thredbare.
I have been Covetise, quoth this catife,
For sometime I servid Symme at style,
And was hys prentice plight, his profyt to wate.
Fyrst I lernid to lye, a leef other twayne
Wychedly to way, was my first lesson:
To Wy and to Winchester h I went to the fayre
[Page 280] With mani manner merchandise, as mi master me hight.—
[Page 281] Than drave I me among drapers my doneti to lerne.
To drawe the lyfer along, the longer it semed
Among the rich rayes, &c k.

Our author, who probably could not get preferment, thus inveighs against the luxury and diversions of the prelates of his age.

[Page 282]
And now is religion a rider, a romer by the streete,
A leader of lovedayesl and a loudem b [...]ggar,
A prick [...]r on a palfrey from maner to maner,
An heape of hound [...]s at his arse as he a lord were n.
And yf but his knave knele, that shall hys cope bryng,
He loured on hym, and asked who taught hym curtesye o.

There is great picturesque humour in the following lines.

HUNGER in hest tho hent wastour by the maw,
And wrong him so by the wombe that both his eies watered:
[Page 283] He buffeted the breton about the chekes
That he loked lyke a lanterne al his life after p.

And in the following, where the Vices are represented as converted and coming to confession, among which is the figure of Envy.

Of a freres froke were the fore sleves,
And as a l [...]ke that hath lied long in the sunne
So looked he with leane chekes, lowering foule q.

It would be tedious to transcribe other strokes of humour with which this poem abounds. Before one of the Visions the poet falls asleep while he is bidding his beads. [...]n another he describes Antichrist, whose banner is borne by Pride, as welcomed into a monastery with ringing of bells, and a solemn congratulatory procession of all the monks march­ing out to meet and receive him r.

These images of mercy and truth are in a different strain.

Out of the west cost, a wenche as me thought,
Come walking in the way, to hevnward she loked;
Mercy hight that mayde, a meke thyng withall,
A full benigne byrde, and buxome of speech;
Hyr syster, as yt seemed, came worthily walking,
Even out of theste, and westward she loked,
A ful comely creature, Truth she hyght,
For the vertue that her folowed afered was she never.
When these maydens mette, Mercy and Truth,
Eyther asked other of this gret marvel,
Of the din and of the darknes, &c s.

[Page 284] The imagery of Nature, or KINDE, sending forth his diseases from the planets, at the command of CONSCIENCE, and of his attendants AGE and DEATH, is conceived with sublimity.

KYNDE CONSCIENCE then heard, and came out of the planetts,
And sent forth his forriours Fevers, and Fluxes,
Coughes, and Cardiacles, Crampes, and Toth-aches,
Reumes, and Radgondes, and raynous Scalles,
Byles, and Botches, and burnynge Agues,
Freneses and foule Evill, foragers of KYNDE!
Ther was "Harowe! and Helpe! here cometh KYNDE!
"With Death that is dreadfull, to undo us all!"
The lord that lyveth after lust tho aloud cried.—
Age the hoore, he was in the vaw-ward,
And bare the banner before Death: by ryght he it claimed.
KYNDE came after, with many kene sores,
As Pockes and Pestilences, and much people shent.
So KYNDE through corruptions, kylled full many:
DEATH came dryvyng after, and all to dust pashed
Kyngs and Kaysers, knightes and popes.
Many a lovely lady, and lemman of knightes,
Swoned and swelted for sorowe of DEATH'S dyntes.
CONSCIENCE, of his curtesye, to KYNDE he besoght
To cease and sufire, and se where they wolde
Leave Pride prively, and be perfite christen,
And KYNDE ceased tho, to see the people amende t.

These lines at least put us in mind of Milton's Lazar­house u.

..... Immediately a place
Before his eyes appeared, sad, noisome, dark:
A lazar-house it seem'd, wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseas'd: all maladies
[Page 285] Of gastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms
Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds,
Convulsions, epilepsies, fierce catarrhs,
Intestine stone, and ulcer, cholic pangs,
Demoniac phrenzy, moping melancholy,
And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy,
Marasmus, and wide-wasting Pestilence:
Dropsies and asthma, and joint-racking rheum.
Dire was the Tossing! Deep the groans! DESPAIR
Tended the sick, busy from couch to couch;
And over them triumphant DEATH his dart
Shook, but delay'd to strike, &c.

At length FORTUNE or PRIDE sends forth a numerous army led by LUST, to attack CONSCIENCE.

And gadered a greate hoste, all agayne CONSCIENCE:
This LECHERY led on, with a laughyng chere,
And with a privye speeche, and paynted wordes,
And armed him in idleness and in high bearyng.
He bare a bowe in his hand, and many bloudy arrowes,
Were fethered with faire behest, and many a false truth w.

Afterwards CONSCIENCE is besieged by Antichrist, and seven great giants, who are the seven capital or deadly sins: and the assault is made by SLOTH, who conducts an army of more than a thousand prelates.

It is not improbable, that Longland here had his eye on the old French ROMAN D' ANTECHRIST, a poem written by Huon de Meri, about the year 1228. The author of this piece supposes that Antichrist is on earth, that he visits every profession and order of life, and finds numerous par­tisans. The VICES arrange themselves under the banner of ANTECHRIST, and the VIRTUES under that of CHRIST. [Page 286] These two armies at length come to an engagement, and the battle ends to the honour of the Virtues, and th [...] total defeat of the Vices. The BANNER OF ANTICHRIST has before occurred in our quotations from Longland. The title of Huon de Meri's poem deserves notice. It is TUR­NOYEMENT DE L' ANTECHRIST. These are the concluding lines.

Par son droit nom a peau cet livre
Qui tresbien s' avorde a l' escrit
Le Tournoiement de l' Antechrist.

The author appears to have been a monk of St. Germain des Pres, near Paris. This allegory is much like that which we find in the old dramatic MORALITIES. The theology of the middle ages abounded with conjectures and controversies concerning Antichrist, who at a very early period was com­monly believed to be the Roman pontiff x.


TO the VISION OF PIERCE PLOWMAN has been commonly annexed a poem called PIERCE THE PLOWMAN'S CREDE, and which may properly be considered as its appendage a. It is professedly written in imitation of our VISION, but by a different hand. The author, in the character of a plain uninformed person, pretends to be ignorant of his creed; to be instructed in the articles of which, he applies by turns to the four orders of mendicant friers. This circumstance affords an obvious occasion of exposing in lively colours the tricks of those societies. After so unexpected a disappoint­ment, he meets one Pierce, or Peter, a plowman, who re­solves his doubts, and teaches him the principles of true religion. In a copy of the CREDE lately presented to me by the bishop of Gloucester, and once belonging to Mr. Pope, the latter in his own hand has inserted the following abstract of its plan. ‘"An ignorant plain man having learned his Pater-noster and Ave-mary, wants to learn his creed. He asks several religious men of the several orders to teach it him. First of a friar Minor, who bids him beware of the Carmelites, and assures him they can teach him no­thing, describing their faults, &c. But that the friars Minors shall save him, whether he learns his creed or not. [Page 288] He goes next to the friars Preachers, whose magnificent monastery he describes: there he meets a fat friar, who declaims against the Augustines. He is shocked at his pride, and goes to the Augustines. They rail at the Mi­norites. He goes to the Carmes; they abuse the Domini­cans, but promise him salvation, without the creed, for money. He leaves them with indignation, and finds an honest poor PLOWMAN in the field, and tells him how he was disappointed by the four orders. The plowman an­swers with a long invective against them."’

The language of the CREDE is less embarrassed and ob­scure than that of the VISION. But before I proceed to a specimen, it may not be perhaps improper to prepare the reader, by giving an outline of the constitution and cha­racter of the four orders of mendicant friars, the object of our poet's satire: an enquiry in many respects connected with the general purport of this history, and which, in this place at least, cannot be deemed a digression, as it will il­lustrate the main subject, and explain many particular pas­sages, of the PLOWMAN'S CREDE b.

Long before the thirteenth century, the monastic orders, as we have partly seen in the preceding poem, in consequence of their ample revenues, had degenerated from their primi­tive austerity, and were totally given up to luxury and indo­lence. Hence they became both unwilling and unable to execute the purposes of their establishment: to instruct the people, to check the growth of heresies, or to promote in any respect the true interests of the church. They forsook all their religious obligations, despised the authority of their superiors, and were abandoned without shame or remorse to every species of dissipation and licentiousness. About the beginning therefore of the thirteenth century, the condition and circumstances of the church rendered it absolutely necessary [Page 289] to remedy these evils, by introducing a new order of religious, who being destitute of fixed possessions, by the severity of their manners, a professed contempt of riches, and an unwearied perseverance in the duties of preaching and prayer, might restore respect to the monastic institution, and recover the honours of the church. These were the four orders of mendicant or begging friars, commonly deno­minated the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Carmelites, and the Augustines d.

These societies soon surpassed all the rest, not only in the purity of their lives, but in the number of their privileges, and the multitude of their members. Not to mention the success which attends all novelties, their reputation arose quickly to an amazing height. The popes, among other uncommon immunities, allowed them the liberty of travel­ling wherever they pleased, of conversing with persons of all ranks, of instructing the youth and the people in general, and of hearing confessions, without reserve or restriction: and as on these occasions, which gave them opportunities of appearing in public and conspicuous situations, they ex­hibited more striking marks of gravity and sanctity than were observable in the deportment and conduct of the mem­bers of other monasteries, they were regarded with the highest esteem and veneration throughout all the countries of Europe.

In the mean time they gained still greater respect, by cul­tivating the literature then in vogue, with the greatest assi­duity and success. Gianoni says, that most of the theological [Page 290] professors in the university of Naples, newly founded in the year 1220, were chosen from the mendicants e. They were the principal teachers of theology at Paris, the school where this science had received its origin f. At Oxford and Cambridge respectively, all the four orders had flourishing monasteries. The most learned scholars in the university of Oxford, at the close of the thirteenth century, were Franciscan friars: and long after this period, the Franciscans appear to have been the sole support and ornament of that university g. Hence it was that bishop Hugh de Balsham, founder of Peter-house at Cambridge, orders in his statutes given about the year 1280, that some of his scholars should annually repair to Oxford for improvement in the sciences h. That is, to study under the Franciscan readers. Such was the eminence of the Franciscan friary at Oxford, that the learned bishop Grosthead, in the year 1253, bequeathed all [Page 291] his books to that celebrated seminary i. This was the house in which the renowned Roger Bacon was educated; who revived, in the midst of barbarism, and brought to a consi­derable degree of perfection the knowledge of mathematics in England, and greatly facilitated many modern disco­veries in experimental philosophy k. The same fraternity is likewise said to have stored their valuable library with a multitude of Hebrew manuscrips, which they purchased of the Jews on their banishment from England l. Richard de Bury, bishop of Durham, author of PHILOBIBLON, and the founder of a library at Oxford, is prolix in his praises of the mendicants for their extraordinary diligence in col­lecting books m. Indeed it became difficult in the beginning of the fourteenth century to find any treatise in the arts, theology, or canon law, commonly exposed to sale: they were all universally bought up by the friars n. This is men­tioned by Richard Fitzralph, archbishop of Armagh, in his discourse before the pope at Avignon in 1357, their bitter and professed antagonist; who adds, without any intention of paying them a compliment, that all the mendicant con­vents were furnished with a ‘"grandis et nobilis libraria o."’ Sir Richard Whittington built the library of the Grey Friars in London, which was one hundred and twenty-nine [Page 292] feet long, and twelve broad, with twenty-eight desks p. About the year 1430, one hundred marks were paid for transcribing the profound Nicholas de Lyra, in two volumes, to be chained in this library q. Leland relates, that John Wallden, a learned Carmelite, bequeathed to the same library as many manuscripts of approved authors, written in capital roman characters, as were then estimated at more than two thou­sand pieces of gold r. He adds, that this library, even in his time, exceeded all others in London for multitude of books and antiquity of copies s. Among many other in­stances which might be given of the learning of the mendi­cants, there is one which greatly contributed to establish their literary character. In the eleventh century, Aristotle's philosophy had been condemned in the university of Paris as heretical. About a hundred years afterwards, these prejudices began to subside; and new translations of Aristotle's writings were published in Latin by our countryman Michael Scotus, and others, with more attention to the original Greek, at least without the pompous and perplexed circumlocutions which appeared in the Arabic versions hitherto used. In the mean time the mendicant orders sprung up: who hap­pily availing themselves of these new translations, and making them the constant subject of their scholastic lectures, were the first who revived the doctrines of this philosopher, and acquired the merit of having opened a new system of science t. The Dominicans of Spain were accomplished adepts in the [Page 293] learning and language of the Arabians; and were employed by the kings of Spain in the instruction and conversion of the numerous Jews and Saracens who resided in their domi­nions u.

The buildings of the mendicant monasteries, especially in England, were remarkably magnificent, and commonly much exceeded those of the endowed convents of the second mag­nitude. As these fraternities were professedly poor, and could not from their original institution receive estates, the munificence of their benefactors was employed in adorning their houses with stately refectories and churches: and for these and other purposes they did nor want address to pro­cure multitudes of patrons, which was facilitated by the notion of their superior sanctity. It was fashionable for persons of the highest rank to bequeath their bodies to be buried in the friary churches, which were consequently filled with sumptuous shrines and superb monuments w. In the [Page 294] noble church of the Grey friars in London, finished in the year 1325, but long since destroyed, four queens, besides upwards of six hundred persons of quality, were buried, whose beautiful tombs remained till the dissolution x. These interments imported considerable sums of money into the mendicant societies. It is probable that they derived more benefit from casual charity, than they would have gained from a regular endowment. The Franciscans indeed enjoyed from the popes the privilege of distributing indulgences, a valuable indemnification for their voluntary poverty y.

On the whole, two of these mendicant institutions, the Dominicans and the Franciscans, for the space of near three centuries, appear to have governed the European church and state with an absolute and universal sway: they filled, during that period, the most eminent ecclesiastical and civil stations, taught in the universities with an authority which silenced all opposition, and maintained the disputed prerogative of the Roman pontiff against the united influence of prelates and kings, with a vigour only to be paralleled by its success. The Dominicans and Franciscans were, before the Reforma­tion, exactly what the Jesuits have been since. They disre­garded their monastic character and profession, and were employed, not only in spiritual matters, but in temporal affairs of the greatest consequence; in composing the dif­ferences of princes, concluding treaties of peace, and con­certing alliances: they presided in cabinet councils, levied national subsidies, influenced courts, and managed the ma­chines of every important operation and event, both in the religious and political world.

From what has been here said it is natural to suppose, that the mendicants at length became universally odious. The high esteem in which they were held, and the transcendent degree of authority which they had assumed, only served to [Page 295] render them obnoxious to the clergy of every rank, to the monasteries of other orders, and to the universities. It was not from ignorance, but from a knowledge of mankind, that they were active in propagating superstitious notions, which they knew were calculated to captivate the multitude, and to strengthen the papal interest; yet at the same time, from the vanity of displaying an uncommon sagacity of thought, and a superior skill in theology, they affected no­velties in doctrine, which introduced dangerous errors, and tended to shake the pillars of orthodoxy. Their ambition was unbounded, and their arrogance intolerable. Their en­creasing numbers became, in many states, an enormous and unweildy burthen to the commonwealth. They had abused the powers and privileges which had been entrusted to them; and the common sense of mankind could not long be blinded or deluded by the palpable frauds and artifices, which these rapacious zealots so notoriously practised for en­riching their convents. In England, the university of Ox­ford resolutely resisted the perpetual encroachments of the Dominicans z; and many of our theologists attacked all the four orders with great vehemence and severity. Exclusive of the jealousies and animosities which naturally subsisted be­tween four rival institutions, their visionary refinements, and love of disputation, introduced among them the most violent dissensions. The Dominicans aimed at popularity, by an obstinate denial of the immaculate conception. Their pretended sanctity became at length a term of reproach, and their learning fell into discredit. As polite letters and ge­neral knowledge encreased, their speculative and pedantic divinity gave way to a more liberal turn of thinking, and a more perspicuous mode of writing. Bale, who was himself a Carmelite friar, says, that his order, which was eminently distinguished for scholastic erudition, began to lose their estimation about the year 1460. Some of them were imprudent [Page 296] enough to engage openly in political controversy; and the Augustines destroyed all their repute and authority in England by seditious sermons, in which they laboured [...]o supplant the progeny of Edward the fourth, and to establish the title of the usurper Richard a. About the year 1530, Leland visited the Franciscan friary at Oxford, big with the hopes of finding, in their celebrated library, if not many valuable books, at least those which had been bequeathed by the learned bishop Grosthead. The delays and difficulties with which he procured admittance into this venerable re­pository, heightened his curiosity and expectations. At length, after much ceremony, being permitted to enter, instead of an inestimable treasure, he saw little more than empty shelves covered with cobwebs and dust b.

After so prolix an introduction, I cannot but give a large quotation from our CREDE, the humour and tendency of which will now be easily understood: and especially as this poem is not only extremely scarce, and has almost the rarity of a manuscript, but as it is so curious and lively a picture of an order of men who once made so conspicuous a figure in the world.

For first I fraynedc the freres, and they me full tolden,
That al the fruyt of the fayth, was in her foure orders,
And the cofres of christendom, and the keie bothen
And the lock of byleve d, lyeth locken in her hondes
Then wennede e, I to wytte, and with a whight I mette
A Minoure in amorwetide, and to this man I saide,
[Page 297] Sir for greate godes love, the graithf thou me tell,
Of what myddel erde man myght I best lerne
My crede, for I can it nought, my care is the more,
And therfore for Christes love, thy counseyl I preie,
A Carmeg me hath ycovenant, ye nede me to teche.
But for thou knowest Carmes wel, thy counsaile I aske.
This Minour loked on me, and laughyng he sayde
Leve christen man, I leveh that thou madde.
Whough shuld thei teche the God, that con non hemselve?
They ben but jugulers, and japers of kynde,
Lorels and lechures, and lemans holden,
Neyther in order ne out but unneth lybbeth i,
And byjapeth the folk with gestesk of Rome.
It is but a faynt folke, yfounded up on japes,
They maketh hem Maries men l, and so thei men tellen.
And leieth on our lady many a long tale.
And that wicked folk wymmen betraieth,
And begileth hem of her good with glavering wordes.
And therm with holden her hous in harlotes warkes.
And so save me God I hold it great synne,
To gyven hem any good, swiche glotones to fynde
To maintaine swiche maner men the michel good destruieth
Yetn seyn they in her sutiltie, to sottes in townes
Thei comen out of Carmeli, Christ for to folwen.
And feyneth hem with holynesse, the yvele hem bisemeth.
Thei lyven more in lecherie, and lieth in her tales,
Than sueno any good liif, but lurken in her selles,
But wynnen werdlichep good, and wasten it in synne,
[Page 298] And gifq thei couthenr her crede other on Christ leveden
Thei weren nought so hardy, swyche harlotri usen,
Sikerli I can nought fynden who hem first founded,
But the foles foundeden hem self freres of the pye,
And maken hem mendyans, and marre the pule.
But what glut of the gomes may any good kachen,
He wil kepen it hem selfe, and cofrene it faste.
And thoigh his felawes fayle good, for bi he mai sterve
Her monei mai bi quest, and testament maken
And none obedience here, but don as hym luste.
And right as Robartes men raken aboute
At feyres and at full ales, and fyllen the cuppe s
And precheth al of pardon, to plesen the puple,
But patience is al pased, and put out to ferme
And pride is in her povertie, that litell is to preisen
And at the lullyng of our lady t, the wymmen to lyken
And miracles of mydwyves, and maken wymmen to wenen
That the lace of our lady smok lighteth hem of children.
Thei ne prechen nought of Powel u, ne penaunce for synne,
But al of merci and mensk w, that Marie may helpen.
With sterne staves and stronge, thei overlond straketh,
Thider as here lemans liggeth, and lurketh in townes.
Grey grete heded quenes, with gold by the eighe [...],
And seyne that her sustern thei ben that sojurneth about [...],
And thus abouten the gon and godes folke betrayeth,
It is the puple that Powel preched of in his tyme.
He seyde of swiche folke that so aboute wente
[Page 299] Wepyng, I warne you of walkers aboute,
It beth enemyes of the cros that Christ upon tholede.
Swiche slomreersx in slepe slaughtey is her end.
And glotonye is her god, with glopping of drink
And gladnesse in glees, and grete joye ymaked
In the shendingz of swiche shal mychel folk lauwghe.
Therfore frend for thy feith fond to don beter,
Leve nought on tho losels, but let hem forth pasen,
For thei ben fals in her faith, and feele mo other.
Alas frere, quath I tho, my purpos is yfailed,
Now is my comfort a cast, canst ou no bote,
Wher I might meten with a man that might me wyssen
For to conne my crede, Christ for to folwen.
Certeyn felawe, quath the frere, withouten any fayle
Of al men upon molda we Minorites most sheweth
The pure aposteles leif, with penance on erthe,
And suenb hem in sanctite, and sufferen wel harde.
We haunten not tavernes, ne hobelenc abouten
At marketes and miracles we medeley us never d.
We houldene no moneye, but moneliche faren f
And haven hunger at the mete, at ich a mel ones.
We haven forsaken the world, and in wo libbeth g
In penaunce and poverte, and prechethe the puple h [...]
By ensample of our liif, soules to helpen
And in poverte preien, for al oure part [...]neres
That gyveth us any good, God to honouren
Other bel other book, or bred to our foode,
Other catel other cloth, to coveren with oure bones i:
Money, other money worth, here mede is in hevene
For we buildeth a burugh k, a brod and a large,
[Page 300] A chirch and a chapitle l, with chaumbers a lofte.
With wide wyndowes ywrought, and walles wel heye
That mote ben portreid, and paint and pulched ful clene m.
With gay glitering glas, glowing as the sunne,
Andn mightestou amenden us with money of thyne owen,
Thou shouldest knely before Christ in compas of gold,
In the wyde windowe westward wel neigh in the middell