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


SECTION I. p. 1.
JOHN GOWER. His character and poems. His tomb. His Confessio Amantis. Its subject and plan. An unsuc­cessful imitation of the Roman de la Rose. Aristotle's Secre­tum Secretorum. Chronicles of the middle ages. Colonna. Romance of Lancelot. The Gesta Romanorum. Shakespeare's caskets. Authors quoted by Gower. Chronology of some of Gower's and Chaucer's poems. The Confessio Amantis pre­ceded the Canterbury Tales. Estimate of Gower's genius.
SECTION II. p. 32.
Boethius. Why, and how much, esteemed in the middle ages. Translated by Johannes Capellanus, the only poet of the reign of king Henry the fourth. Number of Harpers at the corona­tion-feast of Henry the fifth. A minstrel-piece on the Battayle of Agynkourte. Occleve. His poems. Egidius de Regi­mine Principum, and Jacobus of Casali De Ludo Scaccorum. Chaucer's picture. Humphrey duke of Gloucester. Sketch of his character as a patron of literature. Apology for the gallicisms of Chaucer, Gower, and Occleve.
[Page iv]SECTION III. p. 51.
Reign of Henry the sixth. Lydgate. His life and character. His Dance of Death. Macaber a German poet. Lydgate's poem in honour of Saint Edmund. Pre [...]ented to Henry the sixth, at Bury-abbey, in a most splendid manuscript, now remaining. His Lyf of our Lady. Elegance and harmony of his stile and ver [...]ification.
SECTION IV. p. 61.
Lydgate continued. His Fall of Princes, from Laurence Pre­mierfait's French parapbra [...]e of B [...]ccace on the same subject. Nature, plan, and specimens of that poem. Its sublime all­gorical figure of Fortune. Authors cited in the same. B [...]c­cace's opportunities of collecting many stories of Greek original, now not extant in any Greek writer. Lydgate's Storie of Thebes. An additional Canterbury Tale. Its plan, and originals. Martianus Capella. Happily imitated by Lydgate. Feudal manners applied to Greece. Specimen of Lydgate's force in description.
SECTION V. p. 81.
Lydgate's Troy-Boke. A paraphrase of Co [...]nna's Historia Trojana. Homer, when, and how, first known in Europe. Lydgate's powers in rural painting. Dares and Dictys. Feudal manners, and Arabian imagery, ingrafted on the Trojan story. Anecdotes of antient Gothic architecture displayed in the structure of Troy. An ideal theatre at Troy so described, as to prove that no regular stage now existed. Game of chess invented at the [...]i [...]ge of Troy. Lydgate's gallantry. His anachronisms. Hector's shrine and chantry. Specimens of another Troy-Boke, anonymous, and written in the reign of Henry the sixth.
[Page v]SECTION VI. p. 101.
Reign of Henry the sixth continued. Hugh Campeden translates the French romance of Sidrac. Thomas Chestre's Sir Launfale. Metrical romance of the Erle of Tholouse. Analysis of its Fable. Minstrels paid better than the clergy. Reign of Edward the fourth. Translation of the classics and other books into French. How it operated on English literature. Caxton. Anecdotes of English typography.
SECTION VII. p. 125.
Harding's Chronicle. First mention of the king's Poet Laureate occurs in the reign of Edward the fourth. History of that office. Scogan. Didactic poems on chemistry by Norton and Ripley.
Poems under the name of Thomas Rowlie. Supposed to be spurious.
SECTION IX. p. 165.
The reigns of Richard the third, and Henry the seventh, abound in obscure versifiers. Bertram Walton. Benedict Burgh translates Cato's Latin Di [...]tichs. History of that work. Julian Barnes. Abbesses fond of hunting and [...]awking. A religious poem by Wil­liam of Nassyngton. His Prologue explained. Minstrels and Gestours to be distinguished. Gest of the Three Kings of Co­logne sung in the arched chamber of the Prior at Winchester. The Gest of the Seven Sleepers. Originally a Greek Legend. Bradshaw's Life of Saint Werburgh. Metrical chronicles of the kings of England fashionable in this century. Ralph Higden proved to be the author of the Chester-plays. Specimen of Bradshaw's poem, from his description of the historical tapestry in the hall of Ely monastery when the princess Werburgh was ad­mitted to the [...]eil. Legends and legend-makers. Fabyan. Watson. [Page vi] Caxton a poet. Kalendar of Shepherds. Pageaunts. Transition to the drama. Histrionic profession. Mysteries [...] Nicodemus's Gospel. Use of Mysteries.
SECTION X. p. 210.
Reign of Henry the seventh. Hawes. His poems. Painting on the walls of chambers. Visions. Hawes's Pastyme of Plea­sure. The fable analysed. Walter. Medwall. Wade.
SECTION XI. p. 240.
Barklay's Ship of Fools. Its origin. Specimens. Barklay's Eclogues, and other pieces. Alcock bishop of Ely. Modern Bucolics.
SECTION XII. p. 257.
Digression to the Scotch poets. William Dunbar. His Thistle and Rose, and Golden Terge. Specimens. Dunbar's comic pieces. Estimate of his genius. Moralities fashionable among the Scotch in the fifteenth century.
Scotch poets continued. Gawen Douglass. His translation of the Eneid. His genius for descriptive poetry. His Palice of Honour, and other pieces.
SECTION XIV. p. 295.
Scotch poets continued. Sir David Lyndesay. His chief perfor­mances the Dreme, and Monarchie. His talents for description and imagery. His other poems examined. An anonymous Scotch poem, never printed, called Duncane Laider. Its humour and satire. Feudal robbers. Blind Harry reconsidered. A History of the Scotch poetry recommended.
[Page vii]SECTION XV. p. 336.
Skelton. His life. Patronised by Henry, fifth earl of Northum­berland. His character, and peculiarity of style. Critical examination of his poems. Macaronic poetry. Skelton's Mo­rality called the Nigramansir. Moralities at their height about the close of the seventh Henry's reign.
SECTION XVI. p. 366.
A digression on the origin of Mysteries. Various origins assigned. Religious dramas at Constantinople. Plays first acted in the monasteries. This ecclesiastical origin of the drama gives rise to the practice of performing plays in universities, colleges, and schools. Influence of this practice on the vernacular drama. On the same principle, plays acted by singing-boys in choirs. Boy­bishop. Fete de Foux. On the same principle, plays acted by the company of parish cle [...]ks. By the Law-societies in London. Temple-Masques.
Causes of the increase of vernacular composition in the fifteenth century. View of the revival of classical learning. In Italy. In France. In Germany. In Spain. In England.
The same subject continued. Reformation of religion. Its effects on literature in England. Application of this digression to the main subject.



IF Chaucer had not existed, the compositions of John Gower, the next poet in succession, would alone have been sufficient to rescue the reigns of Edward the third and Richard the second from the imputation of barbarism. His education was liberal and uncircumscribed, his course of reading extensive, and he tempered his severer studies with a knowledge of life. By a critical cultivation of his native language, he laboured to reform its irregularities, and to establish an English style a. In these respects he resembled his friend and cotemporary Chaucer b: but he participated no considerable portion of Chaucer's spirit, imagination, and [Page 2] elegance. His language is tolerably perspicuous, and his ver [...]i [...]ication often harmonious: but his poetry is of a grave and sententious turn. He has much good sense, solid re­flection, and useful observation. But he is serious and di­dactic on all occasions: he preserves the tone of the scholar and the moralist on the most lively topics. For this reason he seems to have been characterised by Chaucer with the appellation of the MORALL Gower c. But his talent is not confined to English verse only. He wrote also in Latin; and copi [...]d Ovid's elegiacs with some degree of purity, and with fewer false quantities and corrupt phrases, than any of our countrymen had yet exhibited since the twelfth century.

Gower's capital work, consisting of three parts, only the last of which properly furnishes matter for our present en­quiry, is entitled SPECULUM MEDITANTIS, VOX CLAMANTIS, CONFESSIO AMANTIS. It was finished, at least the third part, in the year 1393 d. The SPECULUM MEDITANTIS, or the Mirrour of Meditation, is written in French rhymes, in ten books e. This tract, which was never printed, displays the general nature of virtue and vice, enumerates the felicities of conjugal fidelity by examples selected from various authors, and describes the path which the reprobate ought to pursue for the recovery of the divine grace. The VOX CLAMANTIS, or the Voice of one crying in the Wilderness, which was also never printed, contains seven books of Latin elegiacs. This work is chiefly historical, and is little more than a metrical chro­nicle of the insurrection of the commons in the reign of king Richard the second. The best and most beautiful ma­nuscript of it is in the library of All Souls college at Oxford; with a dedication in Latin verse, addressed by the author, [Page 3] when he was old and blind, to archbishop Arundel f. The CONFESSIO AMANTIS, or the Lover's Confession, is an English poem, in eight books, first printed by Caxton, in the year 1483. It was written at the command of Richard the second; who meeting our poet Gower rowing on the Thames near London, invited him into the royal barge, and after much conversation requested him to book some new thing g.

This tripartite work is represented by three volumes on Gower's curious tomb in the conventual church of Saint Mary Overee in Southwark, now remaining in its antient state; and this circumstance furnishes me with an obvious opportunity of adding an anecdote relating to our poet's munificence and piety, which ought not to be omitted. Al­though a poet, he largely contributed to rebuild that church in its present elegant form, and to render it a beautiful pattern of the lighter Gothic architecture: at the same time he founded, at his tomb, a perpetual chantry.

It is on the last of these pieces, the CONFESSIO AMANTIS, that Gower's character and reputation as a poet are almost entirely founded. This poem, which bears no immediate reference to the other two divisions, is a dialogue between a lover and his confessor, who is a priest of Venus, and, like the mystagogue in the PICTURE of Cebes, is called Genius. Here, as if it had been impossible for a lover not to be a good catholic, the ritual of religion is applied to the tender passion, and Ovid's Art of Love is blended with the breviary. In the course of the confession, every evil affection of the human heart, which may tend to impede the progress or counteract the success of love, is scientifically subdivided; and its fatal effects exemplifi [...]d by a variety of apposite stories, extracted [Page 4] from classics and chronicles. The poet often introduces or recapitulates his matter in a few couplets of Latin long and short verses. This was in imitation of Boethius.

This poem is strongly tinctured with those pedantic af­fectations concerning the passion of love, which the French and Italian poets of the fourteenth century borrowed from the troubadours of Provence, and which I have above exa­mined at large. But the writer's particular model appears more immediately to have been John of Meun's celebrated ROMAUNT DE LA ROSE. He has, however, seldom attempted to imitate the picturesque imageries, and expressive personifi­cations, of that exquisite allegory. His most striking pour­traits, which yet are conceived with no powers of creation, nor delineated with any fertility of fancy, are IDLENESS, AVA­RICE, MICHERIE or Thieving, and NEGLIGENCE, the [...]ecretary of SLOTH h. Instead of boldly cloathing these qualities with corporeal attributes, aptly and poetically imagined, he coldly yet sensibly describes their operations, and enumerates their properties. What Gower wanted in invention, he supplied from his common-place book; which appears to have been stored with an inexhaustible fund of instructive maxims, pleasant narrations, and philosophical definitions. It seems to have been his object to croud all his erudition into this elaborate performance. Yet there is often some degree of contrivance and art in his manner of introducing and adapting subjects of a very distant nature, and which are totally foreign to his general design.

In the fourth book, our confessor turns chemist; and dis­coursing at large on the Hermetic science, developes its principles, and exposes its abuses, with great penetration i. He delivers the doctrines concerning the vegetable, mineral, [Page 5] and animal stones, to which Falstaffe alludes in Shakespeare k, with amazing accuracy and perspicuity l; although this doctrine was adopted from systems then in vogue, as we shall see below. In another place he applies the Argo­nautic expedition in search of the golden fleece, which he relates at length, to the same visionary philosophy m. Gower very probably conducted his associate Chaucer into these pro­found mysteries, which had been just opened to our country­men by the books of Roger Bacon n.

In the seventh book, the whole circle of the Aristotelic philosophy is explained; which our lover is desirous to learn, supposing that the importance and variety of its speculations might conduce to sooth his anxieties by diverting and en­gaging his attention. Such a discussion was not very likely to afford him much consolation: especially, as hardly a single ornamental digression is admitted, to decorate a field na­turally so destitute of flowers. Almost the only one is the following description of the chariot and crown of the sun; in which the Arabian ideas concerning precious stones are interwoven with Ovid's fictions and the classical mythology.

Of goldè glistrende o, spoke and whele,
The Sonne his Cartep hath, faire and wele;
In which he sit, and is croned
With bright stones environed:
Of which, if that I speke shall
There beq tofore, inspeciall r,
Set in the front of his corone,
Thre stones, which no persone
[Page 6] Hath upon erth: and the first is
By name cleped Leucachatis;
That other two cleped thus
Astroites and Ceraunus,
In his corone; and also byhynde,
By olde bokes, as I fynd,—
There ben of worthy stones three,
Set eche of hem in his degree;
Whereof a Cristelle is that one,
Which that corone is sett upon:
The second is an Adamant;
The third is noble and avenant s,
Which cleped is Idriades—
And over this yet natheless t,
Upon the sidis of the werke,
After the writynge of the clerke u,
There sitten five stones mo w;
The Smaragdine is one of tho x,
Jaspis, and Helitropius,
And Vandides, and Jacinctus.
Lo! thus the corone is beset,
Whereof it shineth wel the bet y.
And in such wise, his light to spreade,
Sit, with his diademe on heade,
The Sonne, shinende in his carte:
And for to lead him swithez and smarte,
After the bright daiès lawe,
There ben ordained for to drawe
Four hors his chare, and him withall,
Whereoff the names tell I shall:
Eritheus the first is hote a,
The whiche is redde, and shineth hote;
[Page 7] The second Acteos the bright,
Lampes the third courser hight,
And Philogeus is the ferth b,
That bringen light unto this erth
And gone so swift upon the heven, &c c.

Our author closes this course of the Aristotelic philosophy with a system of politics d: not taken from Aristotle's ge­nuine treatise on that subject, but from the first chapter of a spurious compilation entitled, SECRETUM SECRETORUM ARIS­TOTELIS e, addressed under the name of Aristotle to his pupil Alexander the Great, and printed at Bononia in the year 1516. A work, treated as genuine, and explained with a learned gloss, by Roger Bacon f: and of the highest reputation in Gower's age, as it was transcribed, and illustrated with a commentary, for the use of king Edward the third, by his chaplain Walter de Millemete, prebendary of the collegiate church of Glaseney in Cornwall g. Under this head, our au­thor takes an opportunity of giving advice to a weak yet amiable prince, his patron king Richard the second, on a subject of the most difficult and delicate nature, with much freedom and dignity. It might also be proved, that Gower, through this detail of the sciences, copied in many other articles the SECRETUM SECRETORUM; which is a sort of an abridgement of the Aristotelic philosophy, filled with many Arabian innovations and absurdities, and enriched with an appendix concerning the choice of wines, phlebotomy, justice, public notaries, tournaments, and physiognomy, rather than from the Latin translations of Aristotle. It is evident, that he copied from this work the doctrine of the three chemical [Page 8] stones, mentioned above h. That part of our author's astro­nomy, in which he speaks of the magician Nectabanus in­structing Alexander the Great, when a youth, in the know­ledge of the fifteen stars, and their respective plants and precious stones, appropriated to the operations of natural magic i, seems to be borrowed from Callisthenes, the fabulous writer of the life of Alexander k. Yet many wonderful in­ventions, which occur in this romance of Alexander, are also to be found in the SECRETUM SECRETORUM: particularly the fiction of Alexander's Stentorian horn, mentioned above, which was heard at the distance of sixty miles l, and of which Kircher has given a curious representation in his PHONURGIA, copied from an antient picture of this gigantic instrument, belonging to a manuscript of the SECRETUM SECRETORUM, preserved in the Vatican library m.

It is pretended by the mystic writers, that Aristotle in his old age reviewed his books, and digested his philosophy into one system or body, which he sent, in the form of an epistle, to Alexander. This is the supposititious tract of which I have been speaking; and it is thus described by Lydgate, who has translated a part of it.

Title of this boke LAPIS PHILOSOPHORUM,
[Page 9] The which booke direct to the kyng
Alysaundre, both in the werre and pees n,
Lykeo his request and royall commanding [...]
Fulle accomplishid by Aristotiles.
Feeble of age.—

Then follows a rubric ‘"How Aristotile declareth to kynge Alysandre of the stonys p."’ It was early translated into French prose q, and printed in English, ‘"The SECRET OF ARISTOTYLE, with the GOVERNALE OF PRINCES and every maner of estate, with rules for helth of body and soul, very gode to teche children to rede English, newly translated out of French, and emprented by Robert and William Copland, 1528 r."’ This work will occur again under Occleve and Lidgate. There is also another forgery conse­crated with the name of Aristotle, and often quoted by the astrologers, which Gower might have used: it is DE REGI­MINIBUS COELESTIBUS, which had been early translated from Arabic into Latin s.

Considered in a general view, the CONFESSIO AMANTI [...] may be pronounced to be no unpleasing miscellany of those shorter tales which delighted the readers of the middle age. Most of these are now forgotten, together with the volumi­nous chronicles in which they were recorded. The book which appears to have accommodated our author with the largest quantity of materials in this article, was probably a chronicle entitled PANTHEON, or MEMORIAE SECULORUM, [Page 10] compiled in Latin, partly in prose and partly in verse, by Godfrey of Viterbo, a chaplain and notary to three German emperours, who died in the year 1190 t. It commences, according to the established practice of the historians of this age, with the creation of the world, and is brought down to the year 1186. It was first printed at Basil, in the year 1569 u. The learned Muratori has not scrupled to insert the five last sections of this universal history in the seventh tome of his writers on Italy w. The subject of this work, to use the laborious compiler's own expressions, is the whole Old and New Testament; and all the emperours and kings, which have existed from the beginning of the world to his own times: of whom the origin, end, names, and atchievements, are commemorated x. The authors which our chronicler professes to have consulted for the gentile story, are only Josephus, Dion Cassius, Strabo, Orosius, Hegesippus y, Sue­tonius, Solinus, and Julius Africanus: among which, not one of the purer Roman historians occurs. Gower also seems to have used another chronicle written by the same Godfrey, never printed, called SPECULUM REGUM, or the MIRROUR OF KINGS, which is almost as multifarious as the last; contain­ing a genealogy of all the potentates, Trojan and German, from Noah's flood to the reign of the emperour Henry the sixth, according to the chronicles of the venerable Bede, Eusebius, and Ambrosius z. There are besides, two ancient [Page 11] collectors of marvellous and delectable occurrences to which our author is indebted, Cassiodorus and Isidorus. These are mentioned as two of the chroniclers which Caxton used in compiling his CRONICLES OF ENGLAND a. Cassiodorusb wrote, at the command of the Gothic king Theodoric, a work named CHRONICON BREVE, commencing with our first parents, and deduced to the year 519, chiefly deduced from Eusebius's ecclesiastic history, the chronicles of Prosper and Jerom, and Aurelius Victor's Origin of the Roman nation c. An Italian translation by Lodovico Dolce was printed in 1561 d. Isido­rus, called Hispalensis, cited by Davie and Chaucer e, in the seventh century, framed from the same author a CRONICON, from Adam to the time of the emperor Heraclius, first printed in the year 1477, and translated into Italian under the title of CRONICA D' ISIDORO, so soon after as the year 1480 f.

These comprehensive systems of all sacred and profane events, which in the middle ages multiplied to an excessive degree, superseded the use of the classics and other established authors, whose materials they gave in a commodious abridge­ment, and in whose place, by selecting those stories only which suited the taste of the times, they substituted a more agreeable kind of reading: nor was it by these means only, that they greatly contributed to retard the acquisition of those ornaments [Page 12] of style, and other arts of composition, which an attention to the genuine models would have afforded, but by being written without any ideas of elegance, and in the most barbarous phraseology. Yet productive as they were of these and other inconvenient consequences, they were not without their use in the rude periods of literature. By gradually weaning the minds of readers from monkish legends, they introduced a relish for real and rational history; and kindling an ardour of inquiring into the transactions of past ages, at length awakened a curiosity to obtain a more accurate and authentic knowledge of important events by searching the original authors. Nor are they to be entirely neglected in modern and more polished ages. For, besides that they contain curious pictures of the credulity and ignorance of our ancestors, they frequently preserve facts transcribed from books which have not descended to posterity. It is extremely probable, that the plan on which they are all constructed, that of deducing a perpetual history from the creation to the writer's age, was partly taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and partly from the Bible.

In the mean time there are three histories of a less general nature, which Gower seems more immediately to have fol­lowed in some of his tales. These are Colonna's Romance of Troy, the Romance of Sir Lancelot, and the GESTA ROMANORUM.

From Colonna's Romance, which he calls The Tale of Troie, The Boke of Troie g, and sometimes The Cronike h, he has taken [Page 13] all that relates to the Trojan and Grecian story, or, in Milton's language, THE TALE OF TROY DIVINE. This piece was first printed at Cologne in the year 1477 i. At Colonia an Italian translation appeared in the same year, and one at Venice in 1481. It was translated into Italian so early as 1324, by Philipp Ceffi a Florentine k. By some writers it is called the British as well as the Trojan story l; and there are manuscripts in which it is entitled the history of Medea and Jason m. In most of the Italian translations it is called LA STORIA DELLA GUERRA DI TROJA. This history is repeatedly called the TROIE BOKE by Lydgate, who translated it into English verse n.

As to the romance of sir Lancelot, our author, among others on the subject, refers to a volume of which he was the hero: perhaps that of Robert Borron, altered soon after­wards by Godefroy de Leigny, under the title of le ROMAN DE LA CHARETTE, and printed with additions at Paris by Antony Verard, in the year 1494.

[Page 14]
For if thou wilt the bokes rede
Of LAUNCELOT and other mo,
Then might thou seen how it was tho
Of armes, for this wolde atteine
To love, which, withouten peine
Maie not be gette of idleness:
And that I take to witnesse
An old Cronike in speciall
The which in to memoriall
Is write for his loves sake,
How that a Knight shall undertake o.

He alludes to a story about sir Tristram, which he supposes to be universally known, related in this romance.

In everie mans mouth it is
How Tristram was of love dronke
With Bele Isolde, whan this dronke
The drinke which Bragweine him betoke,
Er that kyng Marke, &c p.

And again, in the assembly of lovers.

Ther was Tristram which was beloved
With Bele Isolde, and Lancelot
Stood with Gonnor q, and Galahot
With his lady r.—

The oldest edition of the GESTA ROMANORUM, a manuscript of which I have seen in almost Saxon characters, I believe to be this. Incipiunt Hystorie NOTABILES, collecte ex GESTIS RO­MANORUM, et quibusdam aliis libris cum applicationibus eorundem s. [Page 15] It is without date or place, but supposed by the critics in typographical antiquities to have been printed before or about the year 1473. Then followed a second edition at Louvain by John de Westfalia, with this title: Ex GESTIS ROMANORUM HISTORIE NOTABILES de viciis virtutibusque trac­tantes cum applicationibus moralisatis et mysticis. At the end this colophon appears: GESTA ROMANORUM cum quibusdam aliis historiis eisdem annexis ad moralitates dilucide reducta hic finem habent. Quae diligenter, correctis aliorum viciis, impressit Joannes de Westfalia, alma in Univers. Louvaniensi t. This edition has twenty-nine chapters more than there are in the former: and the first of these additional chapters is the story of Antio­chus, related in our author. It is probably of the year 1473. Another followed soon afterwards, by GESTIS ROMANORUM HISTORIE NOTABILES moralizatae per Girardum Lieu. Goudae, 1480u. The nextw is at Louvain, GESTA ROMANORUM, cum applicationibus moralisatis ac mysticis.—At the end.—Ex GESTIS ROMANORUM cum pluribus applicatis HYSTORIIS de virtutibus et vitiis mistice ad intellectum transumptis recollectorii finis. Anno nostrae salutis 1494. In die sancti Adriani martyris x.

It was one of my reasons for giving these titles and colo­phons so much at large, that the reader might more fully comprehend the nature and design of a performance which operated so powerfully on the present state of our poetry. Servius says that the Eneis was sometimes called GESTA POPULI ROMANI y. Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote about the year 450, mentions a work called the GESTORUM VOLU­MEN, which according to custom, was solemnly recited to [Page 16] the emperour z. Here perhaps we may perceive the ground­work of the title.

In this mixture of moralisation and narrative, the GESTA ROMANORUM somewhat resembles the plan of Gower's poem. In the rubric of the story of Julius and the poor knight, our author alludes to this book in the expression, Hic secundum GESTA, &c a. When he speaks of the emperours of Rome paying reverence to a virgin, he says he found this custom mentioned, ‘"Of Rome among the GESTES olde b."’ Yet he adds, that the GESTES took it from Valerius Maximus. The story of Tarquin and his son Arrous is ushered in with this line, ‘"So as these olde GESTES seyne c."’ The tale of Antio­chus, as I have hinted, is in the GESTA ROMANORUM; al­though for some parts of it Gower was perhaps indebted to Godfrey's PANTHEON abovementioned d. The foundation of Shakespeare's story of the three casketts in the MERCHANT OF VENICE, is to be found in this favourite collection: this is likewise in our author, yet in a different form, who cites a Cronike e for his authority. I make no apology for giving the passage somewhat at large, as the source of this elegant little [Page 17] apologue, which seems to be of eastern invention, has lately so much employed the searches of the commentators on Shakespeare, and that the circumstances of the story, as it is told by Gower, may be compared with those with which it appears in other books.

The poet is speaking of a king whose officers and cour­tiers complained, that after a long attendance, they had not received adequate rewards, and preferments due to their ser­vices. The king, who was no stranger to their complaints, artfully contrives a scheme to prove whether this defect proceded from his own want of generosity, or their want of discernment.

Anone he lette two cofresf make,
Of one semblance, of one make,
So lyche g, that no life thilke throwe
That one maie fro that other knowe:
Thei were into his chambre brought,
But no man wote why they be brought,
And netheles the kynge hath bede,
That thei be sette in privie stede,
As he that was of wisdome sligh,
Whan he therto his tyme sigh h,
All privilyche i, that none it wiste,
His own hondes that one chist k
Of fine golde and of fine perie l,
(The which oute of his tresurie
Was take) anone he filde full;
That other cofre of strawe and mulle m,
With stones mened, he filde also:
Thus be thei full both tho.

[Page 18] The king assembles his courtiers, and shewing them the two chests, acquaints them, that one of these is filled with gold and jewels; that they should chuse which of the two they liked best, and that the contents should instantly be distri­buted among them all. A knight by common consent is appointed to chuse for them, who fixes upon the chest filled with straw and stones.

This kynge then in the same stede n,
Anone that other cofre undede,
Whereas thei sawen grete richesse
Wile more than thei couthen gesse.
"Lo, saith the kynge, now maie ye see
"That there is no default in mee:
"Forthy o, myself I will acquite,
"And beareth your own wite
"Of that fortune hath you refused p."

It must be confessed, that there is a much greater and a more beautiful variety of incidents in this story as it is related in the GESTA ROMANORUM, which Shakespeare has followed, than in Gower: and was it not demonstrable, that this com­pilation preceded our author's age by some centuries, one would be tempted to conclude, that Gower's story was the original fable in its simple unimproved state. Whatever was the case, it is almost certain that one story produced the other.

A translation into English of the GESTA ROMANORUM was printed by Wynkyn de Worde, without date. In the year 1577, one Richard Robinson published A Record of ancient Hystoryes, in Latin GESTA ROMANORUM, perused, corrected, and [Page 19] bettered, by R. Robinson, London, 1577 q. Of this translation there were six impressions before the year 1601 r. The later editions, both Latin and English, differ considerably from a manuscript belonging to the British Museum s, which contains not only the story of the CASKETTS in Shakespeare's MER­CHANT of VENICE, but that of the JEW'S BOND in the same play t. I cannot exactly ascertain the age of this piece, which has many fictitious and fabulous facts intermixed with true history; nor have I been able to discover the name of its compiler.

It appears to me to have been formed on the model of Valerius Maximus, the favourite classic of the monks. It is quoted and commended as a true history, among many historians [Page 20] of credit, such as Josephus, Orosius, Bede, and Euse­bius, by Herman Korner, a dominican friar of Lubec, who wrote a CHRONICA NOVELLA, or history of the world, in the year 1435 t.

In speaking of our author's sources, I must not omit a book translated by the unfortunate Antony Widville, first earl of Rivers, chiefly with a view of proving its early po­pularity. It is the Dictes or Sayings of Philosophres, which lord Rivers translated from the French of William de Thignon­ville, provost of the city of Paris about the year 1408, en­titled Les dictes moraux des philosophes, les dictes des sages et les secrets d' Aristote u. The English translation was printed by Caxton, in the year 1477. Gower refers to this tract, which first existed in Latin, more than once; and it is most pro­bable, that he consulted the Latin original w.

It is pleasant to observe the strange mistakes which Gower, a man of great learning, and the most general scholar of his age, has committed in this poem, concerning books which he never saw, his violent anachronisms, and misrepresentations of the most common facts and characters. He mentions the Greek poet Menander, as one of the first historians, or ‘"first enditours of the olde cronike,"’ together with Esdras, Solinus, Josephus, Claudius Salpicius, Termegis, Pandulfe, Frigidilles, Ephiloquorus, and Pandas. It is extraordinary that Moses should not here be mentioned, in preference to Esdras. Solinus is ranked so high, because he recorded nothing but wonders x; and Josephus, on account of his subject, had long been placed almost on a level with the bible. [Page 21] He is seated on the first pillar in Chaucer's HOUSE OF FAME. His Jewish history, translated into Latin by Ru [...]inus in the fourth century, had given rise to many old poems and ro­mances y: and his MACCABAICS, or history of the seven Maccabees martyred with their father Eleazar under the per­secution of Antiochus Epiphanes, a separate work, translated also by Rufinus, produced the JUDAS MACCABEE of Belle­perche in the year 1240, and at length enrolled the Macca­bees among the most illustrious heroes of romance z. On this account too, perhaps Esdras is here so respectably re­membered. I suppose Sulpicius is Sulpicius Severus, a petty annalist of the fifth century. Termegis is probably Trisme­gistus, the mystic philosopher, certainly not an historian, at least not an antient one. Pandulf seems to be Pandulph of Pisa, who wrote lives of the popes, and died in the year 1198 a. Frigidilles is perhaps Fregedaire, a Burgundian, who flourished about the year 641, and wrote a chronicon from Adam to his own times; often printed, and containing the best account of the Franks after Gregory of Tours b. Our author, who has partly suffered from ignorant transcribers and printers, by Ephiloquorus undoubtedly intended Eutro­pius. In the next paragraph indeed, he mentions Herodotus: [Page 22] yet not as an early historian, but as the first writer of a system of the metrical art, ‘"of metre, of ryme, and of cadence c."’ We smile, when Hector in Shakespeare quotes Aristotle: but Gower gravely informs his reader, that Ulysses was a clerke, accomplished with a knowledge of all the sciences, a great rhetorician and magician: that he learned rhetoric of Tully, magic of Zoroaster, astronomy of Ptolomy, philosophy of Plato, divination of the prophet Daniel, proverbial instruction of Solomon, botany of Macer, and medicine of Hippocrates d. And in the seventh book, Aristotle, or the philosophre, is introduced reciting to his scholar Alexander the great, a dis­putation between a Jew and a Pagan, who meet between Cairo and Babylon, concerning their respective religions: the end of the story is to shew the cunning, cruelty, and ingratitude of the Jew, which are at last deservedly pu­nished e. But I believe Gower's apology must be, that he took this narrative from some christian legend, which was feigned, for a religious purpose, at the expence of all proba­bility and propriety.

The only classic Roman writers which our author cites are Virgil, Ovid, Horace, and Tully. Among the Italian poets, one is surprised he should not quote Petrarch: he mentions Dante only, who in the rubric is called ‘"a certain poet of Italy named Dante,"’ quidam po [...]ta Italiae qui DANTE vocabatur f. He appears to have been well acquainted with the Homelies of pope Gregory the great g, which were translated into Italian, and printed at Milan, so early as the year 1479. I can hardly decypher, and must therefore be excused from transcribing, the names of all the renowned authors which our author has quoted in alchemy, astrology, magic, pal­mistry, geomancy, and other branches of the occult philosophy. [Page 23] Among the astrological writers, he mentions Noah, Abraham, and Moses. But he is not sure that Abraham was an author, having never seen any of that patriarch's works: and he prefers Trismegistus to Moses h. Cabalistical tracts were however extant, not only under the names of Abraham, Noah, and Moses, but of Adam, Abel, and Enoch i. He mentions, with particular regard, Ptolomy's ALMAGEST; the grand source of all the superstitious notions propagated by the Arabian philosophers concerning the science of di­vination by the stars k, These infatuations seem to have completed their triumph over human credulity in Gower's age, who probably was an ingenious adept in the false and frivolous speculations of this admired species of study.

Gower, amidst his graver literature, appears to have been a great reader of romances. The lover, in speaking of the gratification which his passion receives from the sense of hearing, says, that to hear his lady speak is more delicious, than to feast on all the dainties that could be compounded by a cook of Lombardy. They are not so restorative

As bin the wordes of hir mouth;
For as the wyndes of the South
Ben most of all debonaire,
So when hir lustl to speak faire,
The vertue of her goodly speche
Is verily myne hartes leche m.

These are elegant verses. To hear her sing is paradise [...] Then he adds,

[Page 24]
Full oft tyme it falleth so,
My eren with a good pitance
Is fed of redynge of romance
That whilom were in my cas;
And eke of other, many a score,
That loved long ere I was bore o:
For when I of herp loves rede,
Myn ere with the tale I fede;
And with the lust of her histoire,
Sometime I draw into memoire,
Howe sorrowe may not ever last,
And so hope comith in at last q.

The romance of IDOYNE and AMADAS is recited as a fa­vourite history among others, in the prologue to a collection of legends called CURSOR MUNDI, translated from the French r. I have already observed our poet's references to Sir LANCELOT'S romance.

Our author's account of the progress of the Latin lan­guage is extremely curious. He supposes that it was invented by the old Tuscan prophetess Carmens; that it was reduced to method, to composition, pronunciation, and prosody, by the grammarians Aristarchus, Donatus, and Didymus: adorned with the flowers of eloquence and rhetoric by Tully: then enriched by translations from the Chaldee, Arabic, and Greek languages, more especially by the version of the Hebrew bible into Latin by saint Jerom, in the fourth century: and that at length, after the labours of many celebrated writers, it received its final consummation in Ovid, the poet of lovers. At the mention of Ovid's name, the poet, with the dexterity and address of a true master of [Page 25] transition, seizes the critical moment of bringing back the dialogue to its proper argument s.

The CONFESSIO AMANTIS was most probably written after Chaucer's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA. At the close of the poem, we are presented with an assemblage of the most illustrious lovers t. Together with the renowned heroes and heroines of love, mentioned either in romantic or classical history, we have David and Bathsheba, Sampson and Dalila, and Solomon with all [...]is concubines. Virgil, also, Socrates, Plato, and Ovid, are enumerated as lovers. Nor must we be surprised to find Aristotle honoured with a place in this gallant groupe: for whom, says the poet, the queen of Greece made such a syllogism as destroyed all his logic. But, among the rest, Troilus and Cressida are introduced; seem­ingly with an intention of paying a compliment to Chaucer's poem on their story, which had been submitted to Gower's correction u. Although this famous pair had been also re­cently celebrated in Boccacio's FILOSTRATO v. And in ano­ther place, speaking of his absolute devotion to his lady's will, he declares himself ready to acquiesce in her choice, whatsoever she shall command: whether, if when tired of dancing and caroling, she should chuse to play at chess, or read TROILUS AND CRESSIDA. This is certainly Chaucer's poem.

That when her li [...]t on nights wake
In chambre, as to carol and daunce,
Methinke I maie me more avaunce,
If I may gone upon hir honde,
Than if I wynne a kynges londe.
For whan I maie her hand beclip w,
With such gladness I daunce and skip,
[Page 26] Methinketh I touch not the floore;
The roe which renneth on the moore
Is than nought so light as I.—
And whan it falleth other gate x,
So that hir liketh not to daunce,
But on the dyes to cast a chaunce,
Or aske of love some demaunde;
Or els that her list commaunde
To rede and here of TROILUS y.

That this poem was written after Chaucer's FLOURE AND LEAFE, may be partly collected from the following passage, which appears to be an imitation of Chaucer, and is no bad specimen of Gower's most poetical manner. Rosiphele, a beautiful princess, but setting love at defiance, the daughter of Herupus king of Armenia, is taught obedience to the laws of Cupid by seeing a vision of Ladies.

Whan come was the moneth of Maie,
She wolde walke upon a daie,
And that was er the son arist z,
Of women but a fewe it wist a;
And forth she went prively,
Unto a parke was faste by,
All softe walkende on the gras,
Tyll she came thereb the launde was
Through which ran a great rivere,
It thought her fayre; and said, here
I will abide under the shawe;
And bad hir women to withdrawe:
And ther she stood alone stille
To thinke what was in her wille.
[Page 27] She sighec the swete floures sprynge,
She herde glad fowles synge;
She sigh beastes in her kynde,
The buck, the doo, the hert, the hynde,
The males go with the femele:
And so began there a quarele d
Betwene love and her owne herte
Fro whiche she couthe not asterte.
And as she cast hir eie aboute,
She sigh, clad in one suit, a route
Of ladies where thei comen ride
Alonge under the wooddè side;
On fayree ambulende hors thei set,
That were al whyte, fayre, and gret;
And everichone ride on side f.
The sadels were of such a pride,
So riche sighe she never none;
With perles and golde so wel begone,
In kirtels and in copes riche
Thei were clothed all aliche g,
Departed even of white and blewe,
With all lustesh that she knewe
Thei wer embroudred over all:
Heri bodies weren longe and small,
The beautee of hir fayre face,
There mai none erthly thing deface:
Corownes on their heades thei bare,
As eche of hem a quene were.
That all the golde of Cresus hall
The least coronall of all
Might not have boughte, after the worth,
Thus comen thei ridend forthe.
[Page 28] The kynges doughter, whiche this sigh,
For pure abasshe drewe hir adrigh,
And helde hir close undir the bough.

At length she sees riding in the rear of this splendid troop, on a horse lean, galled, and lame, a beautiful lady in a tattered garment, her saddle mean and much worn, but her bridle richly studded with gold and jewels: and round her waist were more than an hundred halters. The princess asks the meaning of this strange procession; and is answered by the lady on the lean horse, that these are spectres of ladies, who, when living, were obedient and faithful votaries of love. ‘"As to myself, she adds, I am now receiving my annual penance for being a rebel to love."’

For I whilom no love had;
My horse is now feble and badde,
And al to torn is myn araie;
And everie year this freshe Mai [...]
These lustie ladies ride aboute,
And I must nedes sewk her route,
In this manner as ye nowe see,
And trusse her hallters forth with mee,
And am but her horse knave l.

The princess then asks her, why she wore the rich bridle, so inconsistent with the rest of her furniture, her dress, and horse? The lady answers, that it was a badge and reward for having loved a knight faithfully for the last fortnight of her life.

"Now have ye herde all mine answere;
"To god, madam, I you betake,
"And warneth all, for my sake,
[Page 29] "Of love, that thei be not idell,
"And bid hem thinke of my bridell."
And with that worde, all sodenly
She passeth, as it were a skie m,
All clean out of the ladies sight n.

My readers will easily conjecture the change which this spectacle must naturally produce in the obdurate heart of the princess of Armenia. There is a farther proof that the FLOURE AND LEAFE preceded the CONFESSIO AMANTIS. In the eighth book, our author's lovers are crowned with the Flower and Leaf.

Myn eie I caste all aboutes,
To knowe amonge hem who was who:
I sigh where lustie YOUTH tho,
As he which was a capitayne
Before all others on the playne,
Stode with his route wel begon:
Her heades kempt, and thereupon
Garlondes not of one colour,
Some of the lefe, some of the floure,
And some of grete perles were:
The new guise of Bemeo was there, &c p.

I believe on the whole, that Chaucer had published most of his poems before this piece of Gower appeared. Chaucer had not however at this time written his TESTAMENT OF LOVE: for Gower, in a sort of Epilogue to the CONFESSIO AMANTIS, is addressed by Venus, who commands him to greet Chaucer as her favourite poet and disciple, as one who had employed his youth in composing songs and ditties to her honour. She adds at the close,

[Page 30]
For thy, now in his daies olde,
Thou shalt hym tell this message,
That he upon his later age
To sette an ende of all his werke
As he, which is myne owne clerke,
As thou hast done thy SHRIFTE above:
So that my court it maie recorde q.

Chaucer at this time was sixty-five years of age. The Court of Love, one of the pedantries of French gallantry, occurs often. In an address to Venus, ‘"Madame, I am a man of thyne, that in thy COURTE hath served long r."’ The lover observes, that for want of patience, a man ought ‘"amonge the women alle, in LOVES COURTE, by judgement the name beare of paciant s."’ The confessor declares, that many persons are condemned for disclosing secrets, ‘"In LOVES COURTE, as it is said, that lette their tonges gone untide t."’ By Thy SHRIFTE, the author means his own poem now before us, the Lover's CONFESSION.

There are also many manifest evidences which lead us to conclude, that this poem preceded Chaucer's CANTERBURY'S TALES, undoubtedly some of that poet's latest compositions, and probably not begun till after the year 1382. The MAN OF LAWES TALE is circumstantially borrowed from Gower's CONSTANTIA u: and Chaucer, in that TALE, apparently censures Gower, for his manner of relating the stories of Canace and Apollonius in the third and eighth books of the CONFESSIO AMANTIS w. The WIFE OF BATHES TALE is founded [Page 31] on Gower's Florent, a knight of Rome, who delivers the king of Sicily's daughter from the incantations of her step­mother x. Although the GESTA ROMANORUM might have furnished both poets with this narrative. Chaucer, however, among other great improvements, has judiciously departed from the fable, in converting Sicily into the more popular court of king Arthur.

Perhaps, in estimating Gower's merit, I have pushed the notion too far, that because he shews so much learning he had no great share of natural abilities. But it should be considered, that when books began to grow fashionable, and the reputation of learning conferred the highest honour, poets became ambitious of being thought scholars; and sa­crificed their native powers of invention to the ostentation of displaying an extensive course of reading, an [...] to the pride of profound erudition. On this account, the minstrels of these times, who were totally uneducated, and poured forth spontaneous rhymes in obedience to the workings of nature, often exhibit more genuine strokes of passion and imagina­tion, than the professed poets. Chaucer is an exception to this observation: whose original feelings were too strong to be suppressed by books, and whose learning was overbalanced by genius.

This affectation of appearing learned, which yet was natural at the revival of literature, in our old poets, even in those who were altogether destitute of talents, has lost to posterity many a curious picture of manners, and many a romantic image. Some of our antient bards, however, aimed at no other merit, than that of being able to versify; and attempted nothing more, than to cloath in rhyme those sentiments, which would have appeared with equal propriety in prose.


ONE of the reasons which rendered the classic authors of the lower empire more popular than those of a purer age, was because they were christians. Among these, no Roman writer appears to have been more studied and esteemed, from the beginning to the close of the barbarous centuries, than Boethius. Yet it is certain, that his alle­gorical personifications and his visionary philosophy, founded on the abstractions of the Platonic school, greatly concurred to make him a favourite a. His CONSOLATION of PHILOSO­PHY was translated into the Saxon tongue by king Alfred, the father of learning and civility in the midst of a rude and intractable people; and illustrated with a commentary by Asser bishop of Saint David's, a prelate patronised by Alfred for his singular accomplishments in literature, about the year 890. Bishop Grosthead is said to have left annota­tions on this admired system of morality. There is a very ancient manuscript of it in the Laurentian library, with an inscription prefixed in Saxon characters b. There are few of those distinguished eccle [...]iastics, whose erudition illuminated the thickest gloom of ignorance and superstition with un­common lustre, but who either have cited this performance, [Page 33] or honoured it with a panegyric c. It has had many imita­tors. Eccard, a learned French Benedictine, wrote in imi­tation of this CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY, a work in verse and prose containing five books, entitled the CONSOLATION OF THE MONKS, about the year 1120 d. John Gerson also, a doctor and chancellor of the university of Paris, wrote the CONSOLATION OF THEOLOGY in four books, about the year 1420 e. It was the model of Chaucer's TESTAMENT OF LOVE. It was translated into Frenchf and English before the year 1350 g. Dante was an attentive reader of Boethius. In the PURGATORIO, Dante gives THEOLOGY the name of Bea­trix his mistress, the daughter of Fulco Portinari, who very gravely moralises in that character. Being ambitious of fol­lowing Virgil's steps in the descent of Eneas into hell, he introduces her, as a daughter of the empyreal heavens, bringing Virgil to guide him through that dark and dan­gerous region h. Leland, who lived when true literature began to be restored, says that the writings of Boethius still continued to retain that high estimation, which they had acquired in the most early periods. I had almost forgot to observe, that the CONSOLATION was translated into Greek by Maximus Planudes, the most learned and ingenious of the Constantinopolitan monks i.

[Page 34] I can assign only one poet to the reign of king Henry the fourth, and this a translator of Boethius k. He is called Johan­nes Capellanus, or John the Chaplain, and he translated into English verse the treatise DE CONSOLATIONE PHILOSOPHIAE in the year 1410. His name is John Walton. He was canon of Oseney, and died subdean of York. It appears probable, that he was patronised by Thomas Chaundler, among other prefer­ments, dean of the king's chapel and of Hereford cathedral, chancellor of Wells, and successively warden of Wykeham's two colleges at Winchester and Oxford; characterised by Antony Wood as an able critic in polite literature, and by Leland as a rare example of a doctor in theology who graced scholastic disputation with the flowers of a pure latinity l. In the British Museum there is a correct manuscript on parch­ment of Walton's translation of Boethius: and the ma [...]gin is filled throughout with the Latin text, written by Chaund­ler above-mentioned m. There is another less elegant manu­script in the same collection. But at the end is this note; Explicit liber Boecij de Consolatione Philosophie de Latino in Angli­cum translatus A. D. 1410. per Capellanum Joannem n. This is the beginning of the prologue, ‘"In suffisaunce of cunnyng and witte."’ And of the translation, ‘"Alas I wretch that whilom was in welth."’ I have seen a third copy in the library of Lincoln cathedral o, and a fourth in Baliol college p. This is the translation of Boethius printed in the mo­nastery of Tavistoke, in the year 1525. ‘"The BOKE of COMFORT, called in Latin Boecius de Consolatione Philosophie. [Page 35] Emprented in the exempt monastery of Tavestock in Den­shyre, by me Dan Thomas Rychard monke of the sayd monastry. To the instant desyre of the right worshipfull esquyre magister Robert Langdon. Anno Domini, MDXXV. Deo gracias."’ In octave rhyme p. This translation was made at the request of Elisabeth Berkeley. I forbear to load these pages with specimens not original, and which appear to have contributed no degree of improvement to our poetry or our phraseology. Henry the fourth died in the year 1399.

The coronation of king Henry the fifth, was celebrated in Westminster-hall with a solemnity proportioned to the lustre of those great atchievements which afterwards distinguished the annals of that victorious monarch. By way of preserving order, and to add to the splendor of the spectacle, many of the nobility were ranged along the sides of the tables on large war-horses, at this stately festival; which, says my chronicle, was a second feast of Ahasuerus q. But I mention this ceremony, to introduce a circumstance very pertinent to our purpose; which is, that the number of harpers in the hall was innumerable r, who undoubtedly accompanied their instruments with heroic rhymes. The king, however, was no great encourager of the popular minstrelsy, which seems at this time to have flourished in the highest degree of per­fection. When he entered the city of London in triumph after the battle of Agincourt, the gates and streets were hung with tapestry, representing the histories of ancient heroes; and children were placed in artificial turrets, singing verses s. But Henry, disgusted at these secular vanities, com­manded by a formal edict, that for the future no songs [Page 36] should be recited by the harpers, or others, in praise of the recent victory s. This prohibition had no other effect than that of displaying Henry's humility, perhaps its principal and real design. Among many others, a minstrel-piece soon appeared, evidently adapted to the harp, on the SEYGE of HARFLETT and the BATTALLYE of AGYNKOURTE. It was written about the year 1417. These are some of the most spirited lines.

Sent Jorge be fore our kyng they dyd se t,
They trompyd up full meryly,
The grete battell to gederes ȝed u;
Our archorysw theiy schot ful hartely,
They made the Frenche men faste to blede,
Her arrowys they went with full good spede.
Oure enemyes with them they gan down throwe
Thorow breste plats, habourgenys, and basnets x.
Eleven thousand was slayne on a rew y.
Denters of dethe men myȝt well deme,
So fercelly in ffelde theye gan fythe z.
The heve upon here helmyts schene a [...]
With axes and with swerdys bryȝt.
When oure arowys were at a flyȝt b
Amon the Frenche men was a wel sory schere c.
Ther was to bryng of gold bokylydd so bryȝt
That a man myȝt holde a strong armoure.
Owre gracyus kyng men myȝt knowe
That day foȝt with hys owene hond,
The erlys was dys comwityd up on a rowe e,
[Page 37] That he had slayne understond.
He theref schevyd oure other lordys of thys lond,
Forsothe that was a ful fayre daye.
Therefore all England maye this syng
LAWSg DEO we may well saye.
The Duke of Glocetor, that nys no nay,
That day full wordelyh he wroȝt,
On every side he made goode waye,
The Frenche men faste to grond they browȝt.
The erle of Hontynton sparyd noȝt,
The erle of Oxynforthei layd on all soo k,
The young erle of Devynschyre he ne rouȝt,
The Frenche men fast to grunde gan goo.
Our Englismen thei were ffoul sekes do
And ferce to fyȝt as any lyone.
Basnets bryȝt they crasyd a to l,
And bet the French banerys adoune;
As thonder-strokys ther was a scownde m,
Of axys and sperys ther they gan glyd.
The lordys of Franysen lost her renowne
With gresolyo wondys they gan abyde.
The Frensche men, for all here pryde,
They fell downe all at a flyȝt:
Ie me rende they cryde, on every syde,
Our Englys men they understod noȝt ariȝt p.
Their pollaxis owt of her hondys they twiȝt,
And layde ham along stryteq upon the grasse.
They sparyd nother deuke, erlle, ne knyght r.

[Page 38] These verses are much less intelligible than some of Gower' [...] and Chaucer's pieces, which were written fifty years before. In the mean time we must not mistake provincial for national barbarisms. Every piece now written is by no means a proof of the actual state of style. The improved dialect, which y [...]t is the estimate of a language, was confined only to a few writers, who lived more in the world and in polite life: and it was long, before a general change in the public phrase­ology was effected. Nor must we expect among the minstrels, who were equally careless and illiterate, those refinements of diction, which mark the compositions of men who professedly studied to embellish the English idiom.

Thomas Occleve is the first poet that occurs in the reign of Henry the fifth. I place him about the year 1420. Oc­cleve is a feeble writer, considered as a poet: and his chief merit seems to be, that his writings contributed to propagate and establish those improvements in our language which were now beginning to take place. He was educated in the mu­nicipal law s, as were both Chaucer and Gower; and it re­flects no small degree of honour on that very liberal pro­fession, that its students were some of the first who attempted to polish and adorn the English tongue.

The titles of Occleve's pieces, very few of which have b [...]en ever printed, indicate a coldness of genius; and on the whole promise no gratification to those who seek for inven­tion and fancy. Such as, The tale of Jonathas and of a wicked woman t. Fable of a certain emperess u. A prologue of the nine lessons that is read over Allhalow-day w. The most profitable and h [...]lsomest craft that is to cunne x, to lerne to dye y. Consolation offered [Page 39] by an old man z. Pentasthicon to the king. Mercy as defined by Saint Austin. Dialogue to a friend a. Dialogue between Oc­cleef and a beggar b. The letter of Cupid c. Verses to an empty purse d. But Occleve's most considerable poem is a piece called a translation of Egidius DE REGIMINE PRINCIPUM.

This is a sort of paraphrase of the first part of Aristotle's epistle to Alexander abovementioned, entitled SECRETUM SE­CRETORUM, of Egidius, and of Jacobus de Casulis, whom he calls Jacob de Cassolis. Egidius, a native of Ro [...]e, a pupil of Thomas Aquinas, eminent among the schoolmen by the name of Doctor Fundatissimus, and an archbishop, flourished about the year 1280. He wrote a Latin tract in three books DE REGIMINE PRINCIPUM, or the ART OF GOVERNMENT, for the use of Philip le Hardi, son of Louis king of France, a work highly esteemed in the middle ages, and translated early into Hebrew, French e, and Italian. In those days eccle­siastics and schoolmen presumed to dictate to kings, and to give rules for administering states, drawn from the narrow circle of speculation, and conceived amid the pedantries of a cloister. It was probably recommended to Occleve's notice, by having been translated into English by John Trevisa, a celebrated translator about the year 1390 f. The original was printed at Rome in 1482, and at Venice 1498, and, [Page 40] I think, again at the same place in 1598 h. The Italian translation was printed at Seville, in folio, 1494, ‘"Tran­sladar de Latin en romance don Bernardo Obispo de Osma: impresso por Meynardo Ungut Alemano et Stanislao Polono Companeros."’ The printed copies of the Latin are very rare, but the manuscripts innumerable. A third part of the third book, which treats of De Re Militari Veterum, was printed by Hahnius in 1722 i. One of Egidius's books, a commentary on Aristotle DE ANIMA, is dedicated to our Edward the first k.

Jacobus de Casulis, or of Casali in Italy, another of the writers copied in this performance by our poet Occleve, a French Dominican friar, about the year 1290, wrote in four parts a Latin treatise on chess, or, as it is entitled in some manuscripts, De moribus hominum et de officiis nobilium super LUDO LATRUNCULORUM sive SCACCORUM. In a parchment manuscript of the Harleian library, neatly illuminated, it is thus entitled, LIBER MORALIS DE LUDO SCACCORUM, ad ho­norem et solacium Nobilium et maxime ludencium, per fratrem JACOBUM D [...] CASSULIS ordinis fratrum Praedicatorum. At the conclusion, this work appears to be a translation l. Pits carelessly gives it to Robert Holcot, a celebrated English the­ologist, perhaps for no other reason than because Holcot was likewise a Dominican. It was printed at Milan in 1479. I believe it was as great a favourite as Egidius on GOVERN­MENT, for it was translated into French by John Ferron, and John Du Vignay, a monk hospitalar of Saint James du [Page 41] Haut-pag m, under the patronage of Jeanne dutchess of Bour­gogne, Caxton's patroness, about the year 1360, with the title of LE JEU DES ECHECS moralise, or Le traite des Nobles et de gens du peuple selon le JEU DES ECHECS. This was after­wards translated by Caxton, in 1474, who did not know that the French was a translation from the Latin, and called the GAME OF THE CHESS. It was also translated into Ger­man, both prose and verse, by Conrade von Almenhusen n. Bale absurdly supposes that Occleve made a separate and regular translation of this work o.

Occleve's poem was never printed. This is a part of the Prologue.

Aristotle, most famous philosofre p,
His epistles to Alisaunder sent q;
Whos sentence is wel bet then golde in cofre,
And more holsum, grounded in trewe entent,
Fore all that ever the Epistle ment
To sette us this worthi conqueroure,
In rewle howe to susteyne his honoure,
The tender love, and the fervent good chere,
That the worthi clerke aye to this king bere,
Thrusting sore his welth durable to be,
Unto his hert [...]lah and sate sovere,
That bi writing his counsel gaf he clere
[Page 42] Unto his lord to hope him from mischaunce,
As witnesseth his Boke of Governaunce r,
Of which, and of Giles his REGIMENT s
Of prince's plotmele, think I to translete, &c.
My dere mayster, god his soul quite t,
And fader Chaucer fayne would have me taught,
But I was dule u, and learned lyte or naught.
Alas my worthie maister honorable,
This londis verray tresour and richesse,
Deth by thy deth hathe harme irreparable
Unto us done: his vengeable duresse x
Dispoiled hath this lond of the sweetnesse
Of rhetoryke, for unto Tullius
Was never man so like amongest us.
Alas! who was herey in phylosophy
To Aristotle in owre tonge but thow?
The steppis of Virgile in poesie
Thou suedestz eke: men knowè well inowe
That combre-worlda that thou, my mayster, slowe b:
Wold I slaine were! Deth was too hastise
To renne on thee, and reve thee of thy life:
She might have tarried her vengeaunce awhile
To that some man had egal to thee be:
Nay, let that be: she knew well that this isle
May never man forth bryng like unto thee,
And her of offis nedis do mote she;
God bade her so, I trust for all the best,
O mayster, mayster, god thy soulè rest!

[Page 43] In another part of the Prologue we have these pathetic lines, which seem to flow warm from the heart, to the memory of the immortal Chaucer, who I believe was rather Occleve's model than his master, or perhaps the patron and encourager of his studies.

But weleawaye, so is myne hertè wo
That the honour of English tonge is dede,
Of which I wont was han counsel and rede!
O mayster dere, and fadir reverent,
My mayster Chaucer, floure of eloquence,
Mirrour of fructuous entendement,
O universal fadir in science,
Alas that thou thine excellent prudence
In thy bed mortel mighest not bequethe,
What eyledc Deth? Alas why would he sle' the!
O Deth that didist nought harm singulere
In slaughtre of him, but all the lond it smertith:
But nathelesse yit hastowed no powere
His name to sle. His hie vertue astertith
Unslayn from thee, which aye us lifely hertith
With boke of his ornatè enditing,
That is to all this lo [...]d enlumyning e.

Occleve seems to have written some of these verses imme­diately on Chaucer's death, and to have introduced them long afterwards into this Prologue.

It is in one of the royal manuscripts of this poem in the British Museum that Occleve has left a drawing of Chaucer f: [Page 44] according to which, Chaucer's portraiture was made on his monument, in the chapel of Saint Blase in Westminster­abbey, by the benefaction of Nicholas Brigham, in the year 1556 g. And from this drawing, in 1598, John Speed pro­cured the print of Chaucer prefixed to Speght's edition of his works; which has been since copied in a most finished engraving by Vertue h. Yet it must be remembered, that the same drawing occurs in an Harleian manuscript written about Occleve's age i, and in another of the Cottonian department k. Occleve himself mentions this drawing in his CONSOLATIO SERVILIS. It exactly resembles the curious picture on board of our venerable bard, preserved in the Bodleian gallery at Oxford. I have a very old picture of Chaucer on board, much like Occleve's, formerly kept in Chaucer's house, a quadrangular stone-mansion, at Woodstock in Oxfordshire; which commanded a prospect of the ancient magnificent royal palace, and of many beautiful scenes in the adjacent park: and whose last remains, chiefly consisting of what was called Chaucer's bed-chamber, with an old carved oaken roof, evidently original, were demolished about fifteen years ago. Among the ruins, they found an ancient gold coin of the city of Florence l. Before the grand rebellion, there was in the windows of the church of Woodstock, an escucheon in painted glass of the arms of sir Payne Rouet, a knight of Henault, whose daughter Chaucer married.

Occleve, in this poem, and in others, often celebrates Humphrey duke of Glocester m; who at the dawn of science [Page 45] was a singular promoter of literature, and, however unqua­lified for political intrigues, the common patron of the scholars of the times. A sketch of his character in that view, is therefore too closely connected with our subject to be censured as an unnecessary digression. About the year 1440, he gave to the university of Oxford a library containing six hundred volumes, only one hundred and twenty of which were valued at more than one thousand pounds. These books are called Novi Tractatus, or New Treatises, in the university­register n, and said to be admirandi apparatus o. They were the most splendid and costly copies that could be procured, finely written on vellum, and elegantly embellished with miniatures and illuminations. Among the rest was a trans­lation into French of Ovid's Metamorphoses p. Only a single specimen of these valuable volumes was suffered to remain: it is a beautiful manuscript in folio of Valerius Maximus, enriched with the most elegant decorations, and written in Duke Humphrey's age, evidently with a design of being placed in this sumptuous collection. All the rest of the books, which, like this, being highly ornamented, look­ed like missals, and conveyed ideas of popish superstition, were destroyed or removed by the pious visitors of the uni­versity in the reign of Edward the sixth, whose zeal was equalled only by their ignorance, or perhaps by their avarice. A great number of classics, in this grand work of reforma­tion, were condemned as antichristian q. In the library of Oriel college at Oxford, we find a manuscript Commentary on Gene [...]is, written by John Capgrave, a monk of saint Austin's monastery at Canterbury, a learned theologist of the four­teenth century. It is the author's autograph, and the work is dedicated to Humphrey duke of Glocester. In the superb [Page 46] initial letter of the dedicatory epistle is a curious illumina­tion of the author Capgrave, humbly presenting his book to his patron the duke, who is seated, and covered with a sort of hat. At the end is this entry, in the hand-writing of duke Humphrey. ‘"C' est livre est a moy Humfrey duc de Glou­cestre du don de frere Jehan Capgrave, quy le me fist presenter a mon manoyr de Pensherst le jour ... de l'an. MCCCXXXVIII. r."’ This is one of the books which Humphrey gave to his new library at Oxford, destroyed or dispersed by the active re­formers of the young Edward s. John Whethamstede, a learned abbot of saint Alban's, and a lover of scholars, but accused by his monks for neglecting their affairs, while he was too deeply engaged in studious employments and in pro­curing transcripts of useful books t, notwithstanding his un­wearied assiduity in beautifying and enriching their monas­tery u, was in high favour with this munificent prince x. The duke was fond of visiting this monastery, and employed [Page 47] abbot Whethamstede to collect valuable books for him y. Some of Whethamstede's tracts, manuscript copies of which often occur in our libraries, are dedicated to the duke z: who presented many of them, particularly a fine copy of Whethamstede's GRANARIUM a, an immense work, which Leland calls ingens volumen, to the new library b. The copy of Valerius Maximus, which I mentioned before, has a curious table or index made by Whethamstede c. Many other abbots paid their court to the duke by sending him presents of books, whose margins were adorned with the most exquisite paintings d. Gilbert Kymer, physician to king Henry the sixth, among other ecclesiastic promotions, dean of Salisbury, and chancellor of the university of Ox­ford e, inscribed to duke Humphrey his famous medical system Diaetarium de sanitatis custodia, in the year 1424 f. I do not mean to anticipate when I remark, that Lydgate, a poet mentioned hereafter, translated Boccacio's book de CASIBUS VIRORUM ILLUSTRIUM at the recommendation and command, and under the protection and superintendence, of duke Hum­phrey: whose condescension in conversing with learned eccle­siastics, and diligence in study, the translator displays at large, and in the strongest expressions of panegyric. He compares the duke to Julius Cesar, who amidst the weightiest cares of state, was not ashamed to enter the rhetorical school of [Page 48] Cicero at Rome g. Nor was his patronage confined only to English scholars. His favour was solicited by the most cele­brated writers of France and Italy, many of whom he boun­tifully rewarded h. Leonard Aretine, one of the first re­storers of the Greek tongue in Italy, which he learned of Emanuel Chrysoloras, and of polite literature in general, dedicates to this universal patron his elegant Latin translation of Aristotle's POLITICS. The copy presented to the duke by the translator, most elegantly illuminated, is now in the Bodleian library at Oxford i. To the same noble encourager of learning, Petrus Candidus, the friend of Laurentius Valla, and secretary to the great Cosmo duke of Milan, in­scribed by the advice of the archbishop of Milan, a Latin version of Plato's REPUBLIC k. An illuminated manuscript of this translation is in the British museum, perhaps the copy presented, with two epistles prefixed, from the duke to Petrus Candidus l. Petrus de Monte, another learned Italian, of Venice, in the dedication of his treatise DE VIRTUTUM ET VITIORUM DIFFERENTIA to the duke of Glocester, mentions [Page 49] the latter's ardent attachment to books of all kinds, and the singular avidity with which he pursued every species of literature m. A tract, entitled COMPARATIO STUDIORUM ET REI MILITARIS, written by Lapus de Castellione, a Florentine civilian, and a great translator into Latin of the Greek classics, is also inscribed to the duke, at the desire of Zeno archbishop of Bayeux. I must not forget, that our illustrious duke invited into England the learned Italian, Tito Livio of Foro-Juli, whom he naturali [...]ed, and constituted his poet and orator n. Humphrey also retained learned foreigners in his service, for the purpose of transcribing, and of translat­ing from Greek into Latin. One of these was Antonio de Beccaria, a Veronese, a translator into Latin prose of the Greek poem of Dionysius Afer DE SITU ORBIS o: whom the duke employed to translate into Latin six tracts of Atha­nasius. This translation, inscribed to the duke, is now among the royal manuscripts in the British Museum, and at the end, in his own hand-writing, is the following insertion: ‘"C'est livre est a moi Homphrey Duc le Gloucestre: le que [...] je fis translater de Grec en Latin par un de mes secretaires Antoyne de Beccara, nè de Verone p."’

An astronomical tract, entitled by Leland TABULAE DIREC­TIONUM, is falsely supposed to have been written by duke Humphrey q. But it was compiled at the duke's instance, and according to tables which himself had constructed, called by the anonymous author in his preface, Tabulas illustrissimi principis et nobilissimi domini mei Humfredi, &c r. In the library of Gre­sham college, however, there is a scheme of calculations in [Page 50] astronomy, which bear his name s. Astronomy was then a favourite science: nor is to be doubted, that he was inti­mately acquainted with the politer branches of knowledge, which now began to acquire estimation, and which his liberal and judicious attention greatly contributed to restore.

I close this section with an apology for Chaucer, Gower, and Occleve; who are supposed, by the severe [...] etymologists, to have corrupted the purity of the English language, by affecting to introduce so many foreign words and phrases. But if we attend only to the politics of the times, we shall find these poets, as also some of their successors, much less blameable in this respect, than the critics imagine. Our wars with France, which began in the reign of Edward the third, were of long continuance. The principal nobility of England, at this period, resided in France, with their fami­lies, for many years. John king of France kept his court in England; [...]o which, exclusive of these French lords who were his fellow-prisoners, or necessary attendants, the chief nobles of his kingdom must have occasionally resorted. Ed­ward the black prince made an expedition into Spain. John of Gaunt duke of Lancaster, and his brother the duke of York, were matched with the daughters of Don Pedro king of Castile. All these circumstances must have concurred to produce a perceptible change in the language of the court. It is rational therefore, and it is equitable to suppose, that instead of coining new words, they only complied with the common and fashionable modes of speech. Would Chaucer's poems have been the delight of those courts in which he lived, had they been filled with unintelligible pedantries? The cotemporaries of these poets never complained of their obscurity. But whether defensible on these principles or not, they much improved the vernacular style by the use of this exotic phraseology. It was thus that our primitive diction was enlarged and enriched. The English language owes its copiousness, elegance, and harmony, to these innovations.


I Consider Chaucer as a genial day in an English spring. A brilliant sun enlivens the face of nature with an unusual lustre: the sudden appearance of cloudless skies, and the unexpected warmth of a tepid atmosphere, after the gloom and the inclemencies of a tedious winter, fill our hearts with the visionary prospect of a speedy summer: and we fondly anticipate a long continuance of gentle gales and vernal serenity. But winter returns with redoubled horrors: the clouds condense more formidably than before; and those tender buds, and early blossoms, which were called forth by the transient gleam of a temporary sun-shine, are nipped by frosts, and torn by tempests.

Most of the poets that immediately succeeded Chaucer, seem rather relapsing into barbarism, than availing them­selves of those striking ornaments which his judgment and imagination had disclosed. They appear to have been in­sensible to his vigour of versification, and his flights of fancy. It was not indeed likely that a poet should soon arise equal to Chaucer: and it must be remembered, that the na­tional distractions which ensued, had no small share in ob­structing the exercise of those studies which delight in peace and repose. His successors, however, approach him in no degree of proportion. Among these, John Lydgate is the poet who follows him at the shortest interval.

I have placed Lydgate in the reign of Henry the sixth, and he seems to have arrived at his highest point of emi­nence about the year 1430 t. Many of his poems, however, [Page 52] appeared before. He was a monk of the Benedictine abbey of Bury in Suffolk, and an uncommon ornament of his pro­fession. Yet his genius was so lively, and his accomplish­ments so numerous, that I suspect the holy father saint Benedict would hardly have acknowledged him for a genuine disciple. After a short education at Oxford, he travelled into France and Italy u; and returned a complete master of the language and the literature of both countries. He chiefly studied the Italian and French poets, particularly Dante, Boccacio, and Alain Chartier; and became so distin­guished a proficient in polite learning, that he opened a school in his monastery, for teaching the sons of the nobility the arts of versification, and the elegancies of composition. Yet although philology was his object, he was not unfamiliar with the fashionable philosophy: he was not only a poet and a rhetorician, but a geometrician, an astronomer, a the­ologist, and a disputant. On the whole I am of opinion, that Lydgate made considerable additions to those amplifica­tions of our language, in which Chaucer, Gower, and Oc­cleve led the way: and that he is the first of our writers whose style is cloathed with that perspicuity, in which the English phraseology appears at this day to an English reader.

To enumerate Lydgate's pieces, would be to write the catalogue of a little library. No poet seems to have possessed a greater versatility of talents. He moves with equal ease in every mode of composition. His hymns, and his ballads, have the same degree of merit: and whether his subject be the life of a hermit or a hero, of saint Austin or Guy earl of Warwick, ludicrous or legendary, religious or romantic, a [Page 53] history or an allegory, he writes with facility. His transi­tions were rapid from works of the most serious and la­borious kind to sallies of levity and pieces of popular enter­tainment. His muse was of universal access; and he was not only the poet of his monastery, but of the world in general. If a disguising was intended by the company of goldsmiths, a mask before his majesty at Eltham, a may­game for the sheriffs and aldermen of London, a mumming before the lord mayor, a procession of pageants from the creation for the festival of Corpus Christi, or a carol for the coronation, Lydgate was consulted and gave the poetry x.

About the year 1430, Whethamstede the learned and liberal abbot of saint Albans, being desirous of familiarising the history of his patron saint to the monks of his convent, em­ployed Lydgate, as it should seem, then a monk of Bury, to translate the Latin legend of his life in English rhymes. The chronicler who records a part of this anecdote seems to consider Lydgate's translation, as a matter of mere manual mechanism; for he adds, that Whethamstede paid for the translation, the writing, and illuminations, one hundred shillings. It was placed before the altar of the saint, which Whethamstede afterwards adorned with much mag­nificence, in the abbey church y.

Our author's stanzas, called the DANCE OF DEATH, which he translated from the French, at the request of the chapter of saint Paul's, to be inscribed under the representation of DEATH leading all ranks of men about the cloister of their [Page 54] church in a curious series of paintings, are well known. But their history has not, I believe, yet appeared. These verses, founded on a sort of spiritual masquerade, anciently celebrated in churches z, were originally written by one Ma­caber in German rhymes, and were translated into Latin about the year 1460, by one who calls himself Petrus Desrey Orator. This Latin translation was published by Goldastus, at the end of the SPECULUM OMNIUM STATUUM TOTIUS ORBIS TERRARUM compiled by Rodericus Zamorensis, and printed at Hanau in the year 1613 b [...] But a French translation was made much earlier than the Latin, and written about the walls of saint Innocents cloister at Paris; from which Lyd­gate formed his English version c.

In the British Museum is a most splendid and elegant manuscript on vellum, undoubtedly a present to king Henry the sixth d. It contains a set of Lydgate's poems, in honour of saint Edmund the patron of his monastery at Bury. Be­sides the decoration of illuminated initials, and one hundred and twenty pictures of various sizes, representing the inci­dents related in the poetry, executed with the most delicate pencil, and exhibiting the habits, weapons, architecture, [Page 55] utensils, and many other curious particulars, belonging to the age of the ingenious illuminator, there are two exquisite portraits of the king, one of William Curteis abbot of Bury, and one of the poet Lydgate kneeling at saint Edmund's shrine e. In one of the king's pictures, he is represented on his throne, crowned, and receiving this volume from the abbot kneeling: in another he appears as a child prostrate on a carpet at saint Edmund's shrine, which is richly de­lineat [...]d, yet without any idea of perspective or proportion. The figures of a great number of monks, and attendants, are introduced. Among the rest, two noblemen, perhaps the king's uncles, with bonnets, or caps, of an uncommon shape. It appears that our pious monarch kept his Christmas at this magnificent monastery, and that he remained here, in a state of seclusion from the world, and of an exemption from public cares, till the following Easter: and that at his depar­ture he was created a brother of the chapter f. It is highly probable, that this sumptuous book, the poetry of which was undertaken by Lydgate at the command of abbot Cur­teis g, was previously prepared, and presented to his majesty during the royal visit, or very soon afterwards. The sub­stance of the whole work is the life or history of sain [...] Ed­mund, whom the poet calls the ‘"precious charbo [...] [...] martirs alle h."’ In some of the prefatory pictures, there is a [Page 56] description and a delineation of two banners, pretended to belong to saint Edmund i. One of these is most brilliantly displayed, and charged with Adam and Eve, the serpent with a human shape to the middle, the tree of life, the holy lamb, and a variety of symbolical ornaments. This banner our bard feigns to have been borne by his saint, who was a king of the east Angles, against the Danes: and he prophe­sies, that king Henry, with this ensign, would always return victorious k. The other banner, given also to saint Edmund, appears to be painted with the arms of our poet's monastery, and its blazoning is thus described.

The' other standard, ffeld sable, off colour ynde l,
In which of gold been notable crownys thre,
The first toknè: in cronycle men may fynde,
Grauntyd to hym for royal dignyte:
And the second for his virgynyte:
For martyrdam the thridde, in his suffring.
To these annexyd feyth, hope, and charyte,
In toknè he was martyr, mayd, and kyng.
These three crownysm kynge Edmund bar certeyn,
Whan he was sent by grace of goddis hand,
At Geynesburuhe for to sleyn kyng Sweyn.

A sort of office, or service to saint Edmund, consisting of an antiphone, versicle, response, and collect, is introduced with these verses.

To all men present, or in absence,
Whiche to seynt Edmund have devocion
With hool herte and dewe reverence,
Seynn this antephnè and this orison;
Two hundred days is grauntid of pardoun,
Writ and registred afforn his holy shryne,
Which for our feyth suffrede passioun,
Blyssyd Edmund, kyng, martyr, and virgyne.

This is our poet's l'envoye.

Go littel book, be ferfull, quaak for drede,
For to appere in so hyhe presence o.

Lydgate's poem called the LYFE OF OUR LADY, printed by Caxton p, is opened with these harmonious and elegant lines, which do not seem to be destitute of that eloquence which the author wishes to share with Tully, Petrarch, and Chaucer q. He compares the holy Virgin to a star.

O thoughtfull hertè, plonged in distresse
With slombre of slouth, this long wynter's night!
Out of the slepe of mortal hevinesse
Awake anon, and loke upon the light
Of thilkè sterre, that with her bemys bright,
And with the shynynge of her stremes meryè,
Is wont to glad all our hemisperie r!—
This sterre in beautie passith Pleiades,
Bothe of shynynge, and eke of stremes clere,
Bootes, and Arctur, and also Iades,
And Esperus, whan that it doth appere:
For this is Spica, with her brightè spere s,
[Page 58] That towarde evyn, at midnyght, and at morowe,
Downe from hevyn adawitht al our sorowe.—
And dryeth up the bytter terys wete
Of Aurora, after the morowe graye,
That she in wepying dothe on floures flete u,
In lusty Aprill, and in fresshè Maye:
And causeth Phebus, the bryght somers daye,
Wyth his wayne gold-yborned w, bryght and fayre,
To' enchase the mystès of our cloudy ayre.
Now fayrè sterre, O sterre of sterrys all!
Whose lyght to se the angels do delyte,
So let the gold-dewe of thy grace yfall
Into my breste, lyke scalys fayre and whyte,
Me to enspire x!—

Lydgate's manner is naturally verbose and diffuse. This circumstance contributed in no small degree to give a clearness and a fluency to his phraseology. For the same reason he is often tedious and languid. His chief excellence is in de­scription, especially where the subject admits a flowery diction. He is seldom pathetic, or animated.

In another part of this poem, where he collects arguments to convince unbelievers that Christ might be born of a pure virgin, he thus speaks of God's omnipotence.

And he that made the high and cristal heven,
The firmament, and also every sphere,
The golden ax-tre y, and the sterres seven,
Citherea, so lusty for to' appere,
[Page 59] And reddè Marse z, with his sternè here;
Myght he not eke onèly for our sake
Wythyn a mayde of man hisa kyndè take?
For he that doth the tender braunches sprynge,
And the fresshe flouris in the gretè mede,
That were in wynter dede and eke droupynge,
Of bawmè all yvoyd and lestyhede;
Myght he not make his grayne to growe and sede,
Within her brest, that was both mayd and wyfe,
Whereof is made the sothfastb breade of lyfe c?

We are surprised to find verses of so modern a cast as the following at such an early period; which in this sagacious age we should judge to be a forgery, was not their genuine­ness authenticated, and their antiquity confirmed, by the venerable types of Caxton, and a multitude of unquestion­able manuscripts.

Like as the dewe discendeth on the rose
With sylver drops d.—

Our Saviour's crucifixion is expressed by this remarkable metaphor.

Whan he of purple did his baner sprede
On Calvarye abroad upon the rode,
To save mankynde e. .—

Our author, in the course of his panegyric on the Virgin Mary, affirms, that she exceeded Hester in meekness, and Judith in wisdom; and in beauty, Helen, Polyxena, Lucretia, Dido, [Page 60] Bathsheba, and Rachel f. It is amazing, that in an age of the most superstitious devotion so little discrimination should have been made between sacred and profane characters and incidents. But the common sense of mankind had not yet attained a just estimate of things. Lydgate, in another piece, has versified the rubrics of the missal, which he ap­plies to the god Cupid: and declares, with how much de­light he frequently meditated on the holy legend of those constant martyrs, who were not afraid to suffer death for the faith of that omnipotent divinity g. There are instances, in which religion was even made the instrument of love. Arnaud Daniel, a celebrated troubadour of the thirteenth century, in a fit of amorous despair, promises to found a multitude of annual masses, and to dedicate perpetual tapers to the shrines of saints, for the important purpose of obtaining the affections of an obdurate mistress.


BUT Lydgate's principal poems are the FALL OF PRINCES, the SIEGE OF THEBES, and the DESTRUCTION OF TROY. Of all these I shall speak distinctly.

About the year 1360, Boccacio wrote a Latin history in ten books, entitled DE CASIBUS VIRORUM ET FEMINARUM ILLUSTRIUM. Like other chronicles of the times, it com­mences with Adam, and is brought down to the author' [...] age. Its last grand event is John king of France taken pri­soner by the English at the battle of Poitiers, in the year 1359 a. This book of Boccacio was soon afterwards tran­slated into French, by one of whom little more seems to be known, than that he was named Laurence; yet so para­phrastically, and with so many considerable additions, a [...] almost to be rendered a new work b. Laurence's French [Page 62] translation, of which there is a copy in the British Museum c, and which was printed at Lyons in the year 1483 d, is the original of Lydgate's poem. This Laurence or Laurent, sometimes called Laurent de Premierfait, a village in the diocese of Troies, was an ecclesiastic, and a famous tran­slator. He also translated into French Boccacio's DECAME­RON, at the request of Jane queen of Navarre: Cicero DE AMICITIA and DE SENECTUTE; and Aristotle's Oeconomics, dedicated to Louis de Bourbon, the king's uncle. These versions appeared in the year 1414 and 1416 e. Caxton's TULLIUS OF OLD AGE, or DE SENECTUTE, printed in 1481, is translated from Laurence's French version. Caxton, in the postscript, calls him Laurence de primo facto.

Lydgate's poem consists of nine books, and is thus en­titled in the earliest edition. ‘"The TRAGEDIES gathered by Jhon BOCHAS of all such princes as fell from theyr [...]states throughe the mutability of fortune since the CRE­ACION of ADAM until his time, &c. Translated into English by John Lidgate monke of Burye f."’ The best and most authentic manuscript of this piece is in the British Museum; probably written under the inspection of the author, and perhaps intended as a present to Humphrey duke of Glocester, at whose gracious command the poem, as I have before hinted, was undertaken. It contains among [Page 63] numerous miniatures illustrating the several histories, por­traits of Lydgate, and of another monk habited in black, perhaps an abbot of Bury, kneeling before a prince, who seems to be saint Edmund, seated on a throne under a canopy, and grasping an arrow g.

The work is not improperly styled a set of tragedies. It is not merely a narrative of men eminent for their rank and misfortunes. The plan is perfectly dramatic, and partly suggested by the pageants of the times. Every personage is supposed to appear before the poet, and to relate his re­spective sufferings: and the figures of these spectres are sometimes finely drawn. Hence a source is opened for moving compassion, and for a display of imagination. In some of the lives the author replies to the speaker, and a sort of dialogue is introduced for conducting the story. Brunchild, a queen of France, who murthered all her chil­dren, and was afterwards hewn in pieces, appears thus.

She came, arayed nothing like a quene,
Her hair untr [...]ssed, Bochas toke good hede;
In al his booke he had afore not sene
A morè wofull creature indede,
With weping eyne, to torne was al her wede:
Rebuking Bochas cause he' had left behynde
Her wretchednes for to put in mynde h.

Yet in some of these interesting interviews, our poet ex­cites pity of another kind. When Adam appears, he fa­miliarly accosts the author with the salutation of Cosyn Bochas i.

Nor does our dramatist deal only in real characters and historical personages. Boccacio standing pensive in his library, is alarmed at the sudden entrance of the gigantic and monstrous [Page 64] image of FORTUNE, whose agency has so powerful and universal an influence in human affairs, and especially in effecting those vicissitudes which are the subject of this work. There is a Gothic greatness in her figure, with some touches of the grotesque. An attribute of the early poetry of all nations, before ideas of selection have taken place. I must add, that it was Boethius's admired allegory on the CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY, which introduced personi­fication into the poetry of the middle ages.

Whyle Bochas pensyfe stode in his lybrarye,
Wyth chere oppressed, pale in hys vysage,
Somedeale abashed, alone and solitarye;
To hym appeared a monstruous ymage,
Parted in twayne of color and corage,
Her ryght syde ful of sommer floures,
The tother oppressed with winter stormy showres.
Bochas astonied, full fearfull to abrayde,
When he beheld the wonderfull fygure
Of FORTUNE, thus to hymself he sayde.
"What may this meane? Is this a crëature,
"Or a monstrè transfourmed agayne nature,
"Whose brenning eyen spercle of their lyght,
"As do the sterres the frosty wynter nyght?"
And of her cherè ful god hede he toke;
Her face semyng cruel and terrible,
And by disdaynè menacing of loke;
Her heare untrussd, harde, sharpe, and horyble,
Frowarde of shape, lothsome, and odible:
An hundred handes she had, of eche part k,
In sondrye wise her gyftes to departe l.
Some of her handès lyft up men alofte,
To hye estate of wordlye dignitè;
Another handè griped ful unsofte,
Which cast another in grete adversite,
Gave one richesse, another poverte, &c.—
Her habyte was of manyfolde colours,
Watchet blewè of fayned stedfastnesse,
Her gold allayd like sun in watry showres,
Meyntm with grene, for chaunge and doublenesse.—

Her hundred hands, her burning eyes, and disheveled tresses, are sublimely conceived. After a long silence, with a stern countenance she addresses Bochas, who is greatly terrified at her horrible appearance; and having made a long harangue on the revolutions and changes which it is her business to produce among men of the most prosperous condi­tion and the most elevated station, she calls up Caius Marius, and presents him to the poet.

Blacke was his wede, and his habyte also,
His heed unkempt, his lockès hore and gray,
His loke downe-cast in token of sorowe and wo;
On his chekès the saltè teares lay,
Which bare recorde of his deadly affray.—
His robè stayned was with Romayne blode,
His sworde aye redy whet to do vengeaunce;
Lyke a tyraunt most furyouse and wode n,
In slaughter and murdre set at his plesaunce o.

She then teaches Bochas how to describe his life, and disappears.

These wordès saydè, Fortune made an ende,
She bete her wynges, and toke her to flyght,
I can not sè what waye she did wende;
Save Bochas telleth, lyke an angell bryght,
At her departing she shewed a great lyght p.

In another place, Dante, ‘"of Florence the laureate poete, demure of loke fullfilled with patience,"’ appears to Bo­chas; and commands him to write the tale of Gualter duke of Florence, whose days for his tiranny, lechery, and covetyse, ended in mischefe. Dante then vanishes, and only duke Gualter is left alone with the poet q. Petrarch is also intro­duced for the same purpose r.

The following golden couplet, concerning the prodigies which preceded the civil wars between Cesar and Pompey, indica [...]e dawnings of that poetical colouring of expression, and of that facility of versification, which mark the poetry of the present times.

Serpents and adders, scaled sylver-bryght,
Were over Rome sene flying al the nyght s.

These verses, in which the poet describes the reign of S [...] ­turn, have much harmony, strength, and dignity.

Fortitude then stode stedfast in his might,
Defended wydowes, cherishd chastity;
Knyghtehood in prowes gave so clere a light,
Girte with his sworde of truthe and equity t.

Apollo, Diana, and Miner [...]a, joining the Roman army, when Rome was besieged by Bren [...]us, are poetically touched.

Appollo first yshewed his presence,
Fresshe, yonge, and lusty, as any sunnè shene,
Armd all with golde; and with great vyolence
Entred the feldè, as it was wel sene:
And Dianà came with her arowes kene:
And Mynervà in a bryght haberjoun;
Which in ther coming made a terrible soun u.

And the following lines are remarkable.

God hath a thousand handès to chastyse,
A thousand dartès of punicion,
A thousand bowès made in divers wyse,
A thousand arlblasts bent in his dongeon w.

Lydgate, in this poem, quotes Seneca's tragediesx for the story of Oedipus, Tully, Virgil and his commentator Servius, Ovid, Livy, Lucan, Lactantius, Justiny or ‘"prudent Justinus an old croniclere,"’ Josephus, Valerius Maximus, saint Jerom's chronicle, Boethius z, Plato on the immor­tality of the soul a, and Fulgentius the mythologist b. He mentions ‘"noble Persius,"’ Prosper's epigrams, Vegetius's book on Tactics, which was highly esteemed, as its subject coincided with the chivalry of the times, and which had been just translated into French by John of Meun and Christina of Pisa, and into English by John Trevisa c, ‘"the grene [Page 68] chaplet of Esop and Juvenal d,"’ Euripides ‘"in his tyme a great tragician, because he wrote many tragedies,"’ and another called Clarke Demosthenes e. For a catalogue of Tully's works, he refers to the SPECULUM HISTORIALE f, or Myrrour Hystori [...]ll, of Vyncentius Bellovacensis; and says, that he wrote twelve books of Orations, and several morall ditti [...]s g. Aristotle is introduced as teaching Alexander and Callis­thenes philosophy h. With regard to Homer, he observes, that ‘"Grete Omerus, in Isidore ye may see, founde amonge Grekes the crafte of eloquence i."’ By Isidore he means the ORIGINES, or ETYMOLOGIES of Isidore Hispalensis, in twenty books; a system of universal information, the encyclopede of the dark ages, and printed in Italy before the year 1472 k. In another place, he censures the singular partiality of the book called Omere, which places Achilles above Hector l. Again, speaking of the Greek writers, he tells us, that Bo­chas mentions a scriveyn, or scribe, who in a small scroll o [...] paper wrote the destruction of Troy, following Homer: a history much esteemed among the Greeks, on account of its brevity m. This was Dictys Cre [...]ensis, or Dares Phrygius. [Page 69] But for perpetuating the atchievements of the knights of the round table, he supposes that a clerk was appointed, and that he compiled a register from the poursuivants and he­ralds who attended their tournaments; and that thence the histories of those invincible champions were framed, which, whether read or sung, have afforded so much delight n. For the stories of Constantine and Arthur he brings as his vouchers, the chronicle or romance called BRUT or BRUTUS, and Geoffrey of Monmouth o. He concludes the legend of Constantine by telling us, that an equestrian statue in brass is still to be seen at Constantinople of that emperor; in which he appears armed with a prodigious sword, menacing the Turks p. In describing the Pantheon at Rome, he gives us some circumstances highly romantic. He relates that this magnificent fane was full of gigantic idols, placed on lofty stages: these images were the gods of all the nations con­quered by the Romans, and each turned his countenance to that province over which he presided. Every image held in his hand a bell framed by magic; and when any kingdom belonging to the Roman jurisdiction was meditating rebellion against the imperial city, the idol of that country gave, by some secret principle, a solemn warning of the distant treason by striking his bell, which never sounded on any other occasion q. Our author, following Boccacio who wrote the THESEID, supposes that Theseus founded the order of knight­hood at Athens r. He introduces, much in the manner of Boethius, a disputation between Fortune and Poverty; sup­posed to have been written by ANDALUS the blake, a doctor of astronomy at Naples, who was one of Bochas's preceptors.

At Naples whylom, as he dothe specifye,
In his youth when hes to schole went,
There was a doctour of astronomye.—
And he was called Andalus the blake t.

Lydgate appears to have been far advanced in years when he finished this poem: for at the beginning of the eighth book he complains of his trembling joints, and declares that age, having benumbed his faculties, has deprived him ‘"of all the subtylte of curious makyng in Englysshe to endyte u."’ Our author, in the structure and modulation of his style, seems to have been ambitious of rivalling Chaucer w: whose capital compositions he enumerates, and on whose poetry he bestows repeated encomiums.

I cannot quit this work without adding an observation re­lating to Boccacio, its original author, which perhaps may deserve attention. It is highly probable that Boccacio learn­ed many anecdotes of Grecian history and Grecian fable, not to be found in any Greek writer now extant, from his pre­ceptors Barlaam, Leontius, and others, who had lived at Constantinople while the Greek literature was yet flourish­ing. Some of these are perhaps scattered up and down in the composition before us, which contains a considerable part of the Grecian story; and especially in his treatise of the genealogies of the gods x. Boccacio himself calls his master Leontius an inexhaustible archive of Grecian tales and fables, although not equally conversant with those of [Page 71] the Latins y. He confesses that he took many things in his book of the genealogies of the gods from a vast work entitled COLLECTIVUM, now lost, written by his cotemporary Paulus Peru [...]inus, the materials of which had in great measure been furnished by Barlaam z. We are informed also, that Perusi­nus made use of some of these fugitive Greek scholars, es­pecially Barlaam, for collecting rare books in that language. Perusinus was librarian, about the year 1340, to Robert king of Jerusalem and Sicily: and was the most curious and inquisitive man of his age for searching after unknown or uncommon manuscripts, especially histories, and poetical compositions, and particularly such as were written in Greek. I will beg leave to cite the words of Boccacio, who records this anecdote. ‘"Et, si usquam CURIOSISSIMUS [...]uit homo in perquirendis, jussu etiam principis, PEREGRINIS undecunque libris, HISTORIIS et POETICIS operibus, iste fuit. Et ob id, singulari amicitiae Barlaae conjunctus, quae a Latinis habere non poterat EO MEDIO INNUMERA exhausit a GRAECIS a."’ By these HISTORIAE and POETICA OPERA, brought from Constantinople by Barlaam, undoubtedly works of entertainment, and perhaps chiefly of the romantic and fictitious species, I do not understand the classics. It is natural to suppose that Boccacio, both from his connections and his curiosity, was no stranger to these treasures: and that many of these pieces, thus imported into Italy by the dispersion of the Constantinopolitan exiles, are only known at present through the medium of his writings. It is cer­tain that many oriental fictions found their way into Europe by means of this communication.

Lydgate's STORIE OF THEBES was first printed by William Thinne, at the end of his edition of Chaucer's works, in [Page 72] 1561. The author introduces it as an additional Canterbury tale. After a severe sickness, having a design to visit the shrine of Thomas a Beckett at Canterbury, he arrives in that city while Chaucer's pilgrims were assembled there for the same purpose; and by mere accident, not suspecting to find so numerous and respectable a company, goes to their inn. There is some humour in our monk's travelling figure b.

In a cope of black, and not of grene,
On a palfray, slender, long, and lene,
With rusty bridle, made not for the sale,
My man toforne with a void male c.

He sees, standing in the hall of the inn, the convivial host of the tabard, full of his own importance; who without the least introduction or hesitation thus addresses our author, quite unprepared for such an abrupt salutation.

—Dan Pers,
Dan Dominike, Dan Godfray, or Clement,
Ye be welcome newl [...] into Kent;
Though your bridle have neither boss, ne bell d,
Beseching you that you will tell,
First of your name, &c.—
That looke so pale, all devoid of blood,
Upon your head a wonder thredbare hood e.—

Our host then invites him to supper, and promises that he shall have, made according to his own directions, a large pudding, a round hagis, a French moile, or a phrase of eggs: adding, that he looked extremely lean for a monk, and must certainly have been sick, or else belong to a poor monastery: [Page 73] that some nut-brown ale after supper will be of service, and that a quantity of the seed of annis, cummin, or coriander, taken before going to bed, will remove flatulencies. But above all, says the host, chearful company will be your best physician. You shall not only sup with me and my companions this evening, but return with us to-morrow to London; yet on condition, that you will submit to one of the indispensable rules of our society, which is to tell an entertaining story while we are travelling.

What, looke up, Monke! For byf cockes blood,
Thou shall be mery, whoso that say nay;
For to-morrowe, anone as it is day,
And that it ginne in the east to dawe g,
Thou shall be bound to a newe lawe,
At going out of Canterbury toun,
And lien aside thy professioun;
Thou shall not chese h, nor thyself withdrawe,
If any mirth be found in thy mawe,
Like the custom of this company;
For none so proude that dare me deny,
Knight, nor knave, chanon, priest, ne nonne,
To telle a tale plainely as they conne i,
When I assigne, and see time oportune;
And, for that we our purpose woll contune k,
We will homeward the same custome use l.

Our monk, unable to withstand this profusion of kind­ness and festivity, accepts the host's invitation, and sups with the pilgrims. The next morning, as they are all riding from Canterbury to Ospringe, the host reminds his friend DAN JOHN of what he had mentioned in the evening, and without farther ceremony calls for a story. Lydgate obeys [Page 74] his commands, and recites the tragical destruction of the city of Thebes m. As the story is very long, a pause is made in descending a very steep hill near the Thrope n of Broug [...]ton on the Blee; when our author, who was not furnished with that accommodation for knowing the time of the day, which modern improvements in science have given to the traveller, discovers by an accurate examination of his calendar, I sup­pose some sort of graduated scale, in which the sun's horary progress along the equator was marked, that it is nine in the morning o.

It has been said, but without any authority or probability, that Chaucer first wrote this story in a Latin narrative, which Lydgate afterwards translated into English verse. Our author's originals are Guido Colonna, Statius, and Seneca the tragedian p. Nicholas Trevet, an Englishman, a Domi­nican friar of London, who flourished about the year 1330, has left a commentary on Seneca's tragedies q: and he was so favorite a poet as to have been illustrated by Thomas Aquinas r. He was printed at Venice so early as the year 1482. Lydgate in this poem often refers to myne auctor, who, I suppose, is either Statius, or Colonna s. He some­times cites Boccacio's Latin tracts: particularly the GENEA­LOGIAE DEORUM, a work which at the restoration of learning greatly contributed to familiarise the classical stories, DE CASIBUS VIRORUM ILLUSTRIUM, the ground-work of the FALL OF PRINCES just mentioned, and DE CLARIS MULI­ERIBUS, in which pope Joan is one of the heroines t. From the first, he has taken the story of Amphion building the [Page 75] walls of Thebes by the help of Mercury's harp, and the interpretation of that fable, together with theu [...]ictions about Lycurgus king of Thracew. From the second, as I recollect, the accoutrements of Polymites x: and from the third, part of the tale of Isophile y. He also characterises Boccacio for a talent, by which he is not now so generally known, for his poetry; and styles him, ‘"among poetes in Itaile stalled z."’ But Boccacio's THESEID was yet in vogue. He says, that when Oedipus was married, none of the Muses were present, as they were at the wedding of SAPIENCE with ELOQUENCE, described by that poet whilom so sage, Matrician inamed de Capella. This is Marcianus Mineus Felix de Capella, who lived about the year 470, and whose Latin prosaico-metrical work, de Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, in two books, an introduction to his seven books, or system, of the SEVEN SCIENCES, I have mentioned before a: a writer highly extolled by Scotus Erigena b, Peter of Blois c, John of Salisbury, and other early authors in corrupt Latinity d; and of such eminent estimation in the dark centuries, as to be taught in the seminaries of philological education as a classic e. Among the royal manuscripts in the British mu­seum, a manuscript occurs written about the [...]venth cen­tury, which is a commentary on these nine books of Capella, [Page 76] compiled by Duncant an Irish bishop f, and given to his scholars in the monastery of saint Remigius g. They were early translated into Latin leonine rhymes, and are often imitated by Saxo Grammaticus h. Gregory of Tours has the vanity to hope, that no readers will think his Latinity barbarous: not even those, who have refined their taste, and enriched their understanding with a complete knowledge of every species of literature, by studying attentively this treatise of Marcianus i. Alexander Necham, a learned abbot of Ci­rencester, and a voluminous Latin writer about the year 1210, wrote annotations on Marcianus, which are yet pre­served k. He was first printed in the year 1499, and other editions appeared soon afterwards. This piece of Mar­cianus, dictated by the ideal philosophy of Plato, is supposed to have led the way to Boethius's celebrated CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY m.

The marriage of SAPIENCE and ELOQUENCE, or Mercury and Philology, as described by Marcianus, at which Clio and Calliope with all their sisters assisted, and from which [...]ISCORD and SEDITION, the great enemies of literature, we [...] excluded, is artfully introduced, and beautifully con­traste [...] w [...]h that of Oedipus and Jocasta, which was cele­brated by an assemblage of the most hideous beings.

Ne was there none of the Muses nine,—
By one accorde to maken melody:
For there sung not by heavenly harmony,
Neyther Clio nor Caliope,
None of the sistren in number thrise thre,
As they did, when PHILOLAIE n
Ascended up highe above the skie,
To be wedded, this lady virtuous,
Unto her lord the god Mercurius.—
But at this weddinge, plainly for to telle,
Was CERBERUS, chiefe porter of hell;
And HEREBUS, fader to Hatred,
Was there present with his holle kindred,
His WIFE alsoo with her browes blacke,
And her daughters, sorow for to make,
Hideously chered, and uglie for to see,
ALECTO eke: with LABOUR, and ENVIE,
And cruell DEATH in his rent wede p:
FEAR full pale, DRONKENESSE, croked AGE:
Cruell MARS, and many a tigre wood q,
Brenningr IRE, and UNKINDE BLOOD,
FRATERNALL HATE depe sett in the roote,
Sauf only death that there was no boote s:
ASSURED OTHES at fine untrew t,
All these folkes were at weddyng new;
To make the town desolate and bare,
As the story after shall declare u.

[Page 78] The bare conception of the attendance of this allegorical groupe on these incestuous espousals, is highly poetical: and although some of the personifications are not presented with the addition of any picturesque attributes, yet others are marked with the powerful pencil of Chaucer.

This poem is the THEBAID of a troubadour. The old classical tale of Thebes is here cloathed with feudal manners, enlarged with new fictions of the Gothic species, and fur­nished with the descriptions, circumstances, and machineries, appropriated to a romance of chivalry. The Sphinx is a ter­rible dragon, placed by a necromancer to guard a mountain, and to murther all travellers passing by w. Tydeus being wounded sees a castle on a rock, whose high towers and crested pinnacles of polished stone glitter by the light of the moon: he gains admittance, is laid in a sumptuous bed of cloth of gold, and healed of his wounds by a king's daugh­ter x. Tydeus and Polymite tilt at midnight for a lodging, before the gate of the palace of king Adrastus; who is awakened with the din of the strokes of their weapons, which shake all the palace, and descends into the court with a long train by torch-light: he orders the two combatants to be disarmed, and cloathed in rich mantles studded with pearls; and they are conducted to repose by many a stair to a stately tower, after being served with a refection of hy­pocras from golden goblets. The next day they are both espoused to the king's two daughters, and entertained with tournaments, feasting, revels, and masques y. After­wards Tydeus, having a message to deliver to Eteocles king of Thebes, enters the hall of the royal palace, completely armed and on horseback, in the midst of a magnificent festival z. This palace, like a Norman fortress, or feudal castle, is [Page 79] guarded with barbicans, portcullisses, chains, and fosses a. Adrastus wishes to close his old age in the repose of rural diversions, of hawking and hunting b.

The situation of Polymite, benighted in a solitary wilder­ness, is thus forcibly described.

Holding his way, of hertè nothing light,
Matec and weary, till it draweth to night:
And al the day beholding envirown,
He neither sawe ne castle, towre, ne town;
The which thing greveth him full sore,
And sodenly the see began to rore,
Winde and tempèst hidiously to arise,
The rain down beten in ful grisly wise;
That many à beast thereof was adrad,
And nigh for ferè gan to waxè mad,
As it seemed by the full wofull sownes
Of tigres, beres, of bores, and of liounes;
Which to refute, and himself for to save,
Evrich in haste draweth to his cave.
But Polymitè in this tempest huge
Alas the whilè findeth no refuge.
Ne, him to shrowde, saw no where no succour,
Till it was passed almost midnight hour d.

When Oedipus consults concerning his kindred the oracle of Apollo, whose image stood on a golden chariot with four wheels burned bright and sheen, animated with a fiend, the manner in which he receives his answer is touched with spirit and imagination.

And when Edipus by great devotion
Finished had fully his orison,
The fiend anon, within invisible,
With a voice dredefull and horrible,
[Page 80] Bade him in haste take his voyage
Towrds Thebes, &c e.—

In this poem, exclusive of that general one already men­tioned, there are some curious mixtures of manners, and of classics and scripture. The nativity of Oedipus at his birth is calculated by the most learned astronomers and physiciansf. Eteocles defends the walls of Thebes with great guns g. And the priesth Amphiorax, or Amphiaraus, is styled a bishop i, whose wife is also mentioned. At a council held at Thebes, concerning the right of succession to the throne, Esdras and Solomon are cited: and the history of Nehemiah rebuild­ing the walls of Jerusalem is introduced k. The moral in­tended by this calamitous tale consists in shewing the per­nicious effects of war: the diabolical nature of which our author still further illustrates by observing, that discord received its origin in hell, and that the first battle ever fought was that of Lucifer and his legion of rebel angels l. But that the argument may have the fullest confirmation, Saint Luke is then quoted to prove, that avarice, ambition, and envy, are the primary sources of contention; and that Christ came into the world to destroy these malignant prin­ciples, and to propagate universal charity.

At the close of the poem, the mediation of the holy virgin is invoked, to procure peace in this life, and salvation in the next. Yet it should be remembered, that this piece is written by a monk, and addressed to pilgrims m.


THE third of Lydgate's poems which I proposed to consider, is the TROY BOKE, or the DESTRUCTION OF TROY. It was first printed at the command of king Henry the eighth, in the year 1513, by Richard Pinson, with this title, ‘"THE HYSTORY SEGE AND DESTRUCCION OF TROYE. The table or rubrisshe of the content of the chapitres, &c. Here after foloweth the TROYE BOKE, otherwise called the SEGE OF TROYE. Translated by JOHN LYDGATE monke of Bury, and emprynted at the commaundement of oure souveraygne lorde the kynge Henry the eighth, by Richarde Pinson, &c. the yere of our lorde god a M. CCCCC. and XIII n."’ Another, and a much more correct edition followed, by Thomas Marshe, under the care of one John Braham, in the year 1555 o. It was begun in the year 1414, the last year of the reign of king Henry the fourth. It was written at that prince's [Page 82] command, and is dedicated to his successor. It was finished in the year 1420. In the Bodleian library there is a manu­script of this poem elegantly illuminated, with the picture of a monk presenting a book to a king p. From the splen­dour of the decorations, it appears to be the copy which Lydgate gave to Henry the fifth.

This poem is professedly a translation or paraphrase of Guido de Colonna's romance, entitled HISTORIA TROJANA q. But whether from Colonna's original Latin, or from a French versionr mentioned in Lygdate's Prologue, and which existed soon after the year 1300, I cannot ascertain s. I have before observed t, that Colonna formed his Trojan History from Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis u; who perpetually occur as authorities in Lydgate's translation. Homer is however referred to in this work; particularly in the cata­logue, or enumeration, of the ships which brought the [Page 83] several Grecian leaders with their forces to the Trojan coast. It begins thus, on the testimony of Colonna w.

Myne auctor telleth how Agamamnon,
The worthi kynge, an hundred shippis brought.

And is closed with these lines.

Full many shippès was in this navye,
More than GUIDO maketh rehersayle,
Towards Troyè with Grekès for to sayle:
For as HOMER in his discrypcion
Of Grekès shippès maketh mencion,
Shortly affyrminge the man was never born [...]
That such a nombre of shippes sawe to forne x.

In another place Homer, notwithstanding all his rhetoryke and sugred eloquence, his lusty songes and dytees swete, is blamed as a prejudiced writer, who favours the Greeks y: a censure, which flowed from the favorite and prevailing notion held by the western nations of their descent from the Trojans. Homer is also said to paint with colours of gold and azure z. A metaphor borrowed from the fashionable art of illumining. I do not however suppose, that Colonna, who flourished in the middle of the thirteenth century, had ever seen Homer's poems: he might have known these and many other par­ticulars, contained in the Iliad, from those factitious historian [...] [Page 84] whom he professes to follow. Yet it is not, in the mean time, impossible, that Lydgate might have seen the Iliad, at least in a Latin translation. Leontius Pilatus, already mentioned, one of the learned Constantinopolitan exiles, had translated the Iliad into Latin prose, with part of the Odyss [...]y, at the desire of Boccacio a, about the year 1360. This appears from Petrarch's Epistles to his friend Boccacio b: in which, among other curious circumstances, the former requests Boccacio to send him to Venice that part of Leon­tius's new Latin version of the Odyssey, in which Ulysses' [...] descent into hell, and the vestibule of Erebus, are described. He wishes also to see, how Homer, blind and an Asiatic, had described the lake of Averno and the mountain of Circe. In another part of these letters, he acknowledges the receipt of the Latin Homer; and mentions with how much satisfac­tion and joy the report of its arrival in the public library at Venice was received, by all the Greek and Latin scholars of that city c. The Iliad was also translated into French verse, by Jacques Milet, a licentiate of laws, about the year 1430 d. Yet I cannot believe that Lydgate had ever consulted these translations, although he had travelled in France and Italy. One may venture to pronounce peremptorily, that he did not understand, as he probably never had seen, the original. After the migration of the Roman emperors to Greece, Boc­cacio was the first European that could read Homer; nor was there perhaps a copy of either of Homer's poems exist­ing in Europe, till about the time the Greeks were driven [Page 85] by the Turks from Constantinople e. Long after Boccacio's time, the knowledge of the Greek tongue, and consequently of Homer, was confined only to a few scholars. Yet some ingenious French critics have insinuated, that Homer was familiar in France very early, and that Christina of Pisa, in a poem never printed, written in the year 1398, and entitled L'EPITRE D'OTHEA A HECTOR f, borrowed the word Othea, or WISDOM, from [...] in Homer, a formal appellation by which that poet often invocates Minerva g.

This poem is replete with descriptions of rural beauty, formed by a selection of very poetical and picturesque cir­cumstances, and cloathed in the most perspicuous and musical numbers. The colouring of our poet's h mornings is often remarkably rich and splendid.

When that the rowes h and the rayes redde
Eastward to us full early ginnen spredde,
Even at the twylyght in the dawneynge,
Whan that the larke of custom ginneth synge,
For to salüèi in her heavenly laye,
The lusty goddesse of the morowe graye,
I meane Aurora, which afore the sunne
Is wont t'k enchase the blackè skyès dunne,
And al the darknesse of the dimmy night:
And freshe Phebùs, with comforte of his light,
[Page 86] And with the brightnes of his bemès shene,
Hath overgylt the hugè hyllès grene;
And flourès eke, agayn the morowe-tide,
Upon their stalkes gan playnl their leavès wide m.

Again, among more pictures of the same subject.

When Aurorà the sylver droppè shene,
Her teares, had shed upon the freshè grene;
Complaynyng aye, in weping and in sorowe,
Her chyldren's death on every sommer-morowe:
That is to sayè, when the dewe so soote,
Embawmed hath the floure and eke roote
With lustie lycoùr in April and in Maye:
When that the larke, the messenger of daye,
Of custom aye Aurora doth salùe,
With sundry notes her sorowe ton transmuè o.

The spring is thus described, renewing the buds or blossoms of the groves, and the flowers of the meadows.

And them whom winter's blastes have shaken bare
With sotè blosomes freshly to repare;
And the meadòws of many a sundry hewe,
Tapitid ben with divers flourès newe
Of sundry motless p, lusty for to sene;
And holsome balm is shed among the grene.

Frequently in these florid landscapes we find the same idea differently expressed. Yet this circumstance, while it wea­kened the description, taught a copiousness of diction, and a variety of poetical phraseology. There is great softness and facility in the following delineation of a delicious retreat.

Tyll at the last, amonge the bowès glade,
Of adventure, I caught a plesaunt shade;
Ful smothe, and playn, and lusty for to sene,
And softe as velvette was the yongè grene:
Where from my hors I did alight as fast,
And on a bowe aloft his reynè cast.
So faynte and mate of werynesse I was,
That I me layd adowne upon the gras,
Upon a brinckè, shortly for to telle,
Besyde the river of a cristall welle;
And the watèr, as I rehersè can,
Like quickè-sylver in his streames yran,
Of which the gravell and the bryghtè stone,
As any golde, agaynst the sun yshone q.

The circumstance of the pebbles and gravel of a tran­sparent stream glittering against the sun, which is uncom­mon, has much of the brilliancy of the Italian poetry. It recalls to my memory a passage in Theocritus, which has been lately restored to its pristine beauty.

They found a perpetual spring, under a high rock,
Filled with pure water: but underneath
The pebbles sparkled as with crystal and silver
From the bottom r.—

There is much elegance of sentiment and expression in the portrait of Creseide weeping when she parts with Troilus.

And from her eyn the teare's round drops tryll,
That al fordewed have her blackè wede;
And eke untrussd her haire abrode gan sprede,
Lyke golden wyre, forrent and alto torn.—
And over this, her freshe and rosey hewe,
Whylom ymeynts with whitè lylyes newe,
Wyth wofull wepyng pyteously disteynd;
And lyke the herbes in April all bereynd,
Or floures freshè with the dewè swete,
Ryght so her chekès moystè were and wete t.

The following verses are worthy of attention in another style of writing, and have great strength and spirit. A knight brings a steed to Hector in the midst of the battle.

And brought to Hector. Sothly there he stoode
Among the Grekes, al bathed in their bloode:
The which in haste ful knightly he bestrode,
And them amonge like Mars himselfe he rode u.

The strokes on the helmets are thus expressed, striking fire amid the plumes.

But strokys felle, that men might herden rynge,
On bassenetts, the fieldès rounde aboute,
So cruelly, that the fyrè sprange oute
Amonge the tuftès brodè, bright and shene,
Of foyle of golde, of fethers white and grene w.

The touches of feudal manners, which our author affords, are innumerable: for the Trojan story, and with no great dif­ficulty, is here entirely accommodated to the ideas of romance. Hardly any adventure of the champions of the round table [Page 89] was more chimerical and unmeaning than this of our Grecian chiefs: and the cause of their expedition to Troy was quite in the spirit of chivalry, as it was occasioned by a lady. When Jason arrives at Cholcos, he is entertained by king Oetes in a Gothic castle. Amadis or Lancelot were never conducted to their fairy chambers with more ceremony and solemnity. He is led through many a hall and many a tower, by many a stair, to a sumptuous apartment, whose walls, richly painted with the histories of antient heroes, glit­tered with gold and azure.

Through many a halle, and many a riche toure,
By many a tourne, and many divers waye,
By many a greex ymade of marbyll graye.—
And in his chambre', englosed y bright and cleare,
That shone ful shene with gold and with asure,
Of many image that ther was in pictùre,
He hath commaunded to his offycers,
Only' in honoùr of them that were straungers,
Spyces and wyne z.—

The siege of Troy, the grand object of the poem, is not conducted according to the classical art of war. All the military machines, invented and used in the crusades, are assembled to demolish the bulwarks of that city, with the addition of great guns. Among other implements of de­struction borrowed from the holy war, the Greek fire, first discovered at Constantinople, with which the Saracens so greatly annoyed the Christian armies, is thrown from the walls of the besieged a.

[Page 90] Nor are we only presented in this piece with the habits of feudal life, and the practices of chivalry. The poem is en­riched with a multitude of oriental fictions, and Arabian traditions. Medea gives to Jason, when he is going to com­bat the brazen bulls, and to lull the dragon who guarded the golden fleece asleep, a marvellous ring; in which was a gem whose virtue could destroy the efficacy of poison, and render the wearer invisible. It was the same sort of pre­cious stone, adds our author, which Virgil celebrates, and which Venus sent her son Eneas that he might enter Car­thage unseen. Another of Medea's presents to Jason, to assist him in this perilous atchievement, is a silver image, or talisman, which defeated all the powers of incantation, and was framed according to principles of astronomy b. The hall of king Priam is illuminated at night by a prodigious carbuncle, placed among saphires, rubies, and pearls, on the crown of a golden statue of Jupiter, fifteen cubits high c. In the court of the palace, was a tree made by magic, whose trunk was twelve cubits high; the branches, which overshadowed distant plains, were alternately of solid gold and silver, blossomed with gems of various hues, which were renewed every day d. Most of these extravagancies, and a thousand more, are in Guido de Colonna, who lived when this mode of fabling was at its height. But in the fourth book, Dares e Phrigius is particularly cited for a description of Priam's palace, which seemed to be founded by FAYRIE, or enchantment; and was paved with crystal, built of dia­monds, saphires, and emeralds, and supported by ivory pillars, surmounted with golden images f. This is not, however, in Dares. The warriors who came to the assistance of the Trojans, afford an ample field for invention. One of them be [...]ongs to a region of forests; amid the gloom of which wander many monstrous beasts, not real, but appearances [Page 91] or illusive images, formed by the deceptions of necromancy, to terrify the traveller g. King Epistrophus brings from the land beyond the Amazons, a thousand knights; among which is a terrible archer, half man and half beast, who neighs like a horse, whose eyes sparkle like a furnace, and strike dead like lightening h. This is Shake­speare's DREADFUL SAGITTARY i. The Trojan horse, in the genuine spirit of Arabian philosophy, is formed of brass k [...] of such immense size, as to contain a thousand soldiers.

Colonna, I believe, gave the Trojan story its romantic additions. It had long before been falsified by Dictys and Dares; but those writers, misrepresenting or enlarging Homer, only invented plain and credible facts. They were the basis of Colonna: who first filled the faint outlines of their fabulous history with the colourings of eastern fancy, and adorned their scanty forgeries with the gorgeous trappings of Gothic chivalry. Or, as our author expresses himself in his Prologue, speaking of Colonna's improvements on his originals.

For he ENLUMINETH, by crafte and cadence,
This noble story with many a FRESHE COLOURE
Of rhetorike, and many a RYCHE FLOURE
Of eloquence, to make it sound the bett l.

Cloathed with these new inventions, this favourite tale descended to later times. Yet it appears, not only with these, but with an infinite variety of other embellish­ments, not fabricated by the fertile genius of Colonna, but [Page 92] adopted from French enlargements of Colonna, and incorpo­rated from romances on other subjects, in the French RE­CUYEL OF TROY, written by a French ecclesiastic, Rauol le Feure, about the year 1464, and translated by Caxton l.

The description of the city of Troy, as newly built by king Priam, is extremely curious; not for the capricious incredibilities and absurd inconsistencies which it exhibits m, but because it conveys anecdotes of antient architecture, and especially of that florid and improved species, which began to grow fashionable in Lydgate's age. Although much of this is in Colonna. He avoids to describe it geometrically, having never read Euclid. He says that Priam procured,

—Eche carver, and curious joyner,
To make knottes with many a queint floure
To sette on crestes within and eke without.—

That he sent for such as could ‘"grave, groupe, or carve, were sotyll in their fantasye, good devysours, marveylous of castinge, who could raise a wall with batayling and crestes marciall, every imageour in entayle n, and every portreyour who could paynt the work with fresh hewes, who could pullish alabaster, and make an ymage."’

And yf I shulde rehersen by and by,
The corvè knottes by craft of masonry;
[Page 93] The fresh embowingo with verges right as lynes,
And the housyng full of bachewines,
The ryche coynyng, the lusty tablemènts,
Vinettesp running in casemènts.—
Nor how they put, instedè of mortère,
In the joyntoures, coper gilt ful clere;
To make them joyne by levell and by lyne,
Among the marbell freshly for to shyne
Agaynst the sunne, whan that his shenè light
Smote on the goldè that was burned bright.

The sides of every street were covered with freshe alures q of marble, or cloisters, crowned with rich and lofty pin­nacles, and fronted with tabernacular or open work r, vaulted like the dormitory of a monastery, and called deambulatories, for the accommodation of the citizens in all weathers.

And every house ycovered was with lead;
And many a gargoyle, and many a hideous head,
With spoutès thorough, &c.—

And again, of Priam's palace.

And the walles, within and eke without,
Endilong were with knottes graven clere,
Depeynt with asure, golde, cinople', and grene.—
And al the wyndowes and eche fenestrall
Wrought were with beryll and of cler [...] crystall. 454.

[Page 94] With regard to the reality of the last circumstance, we are told, that in Studley castle in Shropshire, the windows, so late as the reign of Elizabeth, were of beryl t.

The account of the Trojan theatre must not be omitted, as it displays the imperfect ideas of the stage, at least of dramatic exhibition, which now prevailed; or rather, the absolute inexistence of this sort of spectacle. Our author supposes, that comedies and tragedies were first represented at Troy s. He defines a comedy to begin with complaint and to end with gladnesse: expressing the actions of those only who live in the lowest condition. But tragedy, he informs us, begins in prosperity, and ends in adversity: shewing the wonderful vicissitudes of fortune which have happened in the lives of kings and mighty conquerours. In the theatre of Troy, he adds, was a pulpit, in which stood a poet, who rehearsed the noble dedes that were historial of kynges, prynces, and worthy emperours; and, above all, related those fatal and sudden catastrophes, which they sometimes suffered by murther, poison, conspiracy, or other secret and unfore­seen machinations.

And this was tolde and redde by the poete.
And while that he in the pulpet stode
With deadlye facè all devoyd of blode,
Syngynge his dites with tresses al to rent;
Amydde the theatre, shrowded in a tent,
There came out men, gastfull of their cheres,
Disfygured their faces with vyseres,
[Page 95] Playing by signès in the people's syght
That the poete songe hathe on height u:
So that there was no maner discourdaunce,
Atween his ditees and their countenaunce.
For lyke as he aloftè dyd expresse
Wordes of joyè or of hevinesse,—
So craftely theyw could themx transfygure y.

It is added, that these plays, or rytes of tragedyes old, were acted at Troy, and in the theatre halowed and yholde, when the months of April and May returned.

In this detail of the dramatic exhibition which prevailed in the ideal theatre of Troy, a poet, placed on the stage in a pulpit, and characteristically habited, is said to have recited a series of tragical adventures; whose pathetic narrative was afterwards expressed, by the dumb gesticulations of a set of masqued actors. Some perhaps may be inclined to think, that this imperfect species of theatric representation, was the rude drama of Lydgate's age. But surely Lydgate would not have described at all, much less in a long and laboured digression, a public shew, which from its nature was familiar and notorious. On the contrary, he describes it as a thing obsolete, and existing only in remote times. Had a more perfect and legitimate stage now subsisted, he would not have deviated from his subject, to communicate unnecessary in­formation, and to deliver such minute definitions of tragedy and comedy. On the whole, this formal history of a theatre, conveys nothing more than an affected display of Lydgate's learning; and is collected, yet with apparent inaccuracy and confusion of circumstances, from what the antient gram­marians have left concerning the origin of the Greek tragedy. [Page 96] Or perhaps it might be borrowed by our author from some French paraphrastic version of Colonna's Latin romance.

Among the antient authors, beside those already mentioned, cited in this poem, are Lollius for the history of Troy, Ovid for the tale of Medea and Jason, Ulysses and Polyphemus, the Myrmidons and other stories, Statius for Polynices and Eteocles, the venerable Bede, Fulgentius the mythologist, Justinian with whose institutes Colonna as a civilian must have been well acquainted, Pliny, and Jacobus de Vitriaco. The last is produced to prove, that Philometer, a famous philo­sopher, invented the game of chess, to divert a tyrant from his cruel purposes, in Chaldea; and that from thence it was im­ported into Greece. But Colonna, or rather Lydgate, is of a different opinion; and contends, in opposition to his authority, that this game, so sotyll and so marvaylous, was discovered by pru­dent clerkes during the siege of Troy, and first practiced in that city.461 Jacobus de Vitriaco was a canon regular at Paris, and, among other dignities in the church, bishop of Ptole­mais in Palestine, about the year 1230. This tradition of the invention of chess is mentioned by Jacobus de Vitriaco in his ORIENTAL AND OCCIDENTAL HISTORY z. The anec­dote of Philometer is, I think, in Egidius Romanus on this subject, above-mentioned. Chaucer calls Athalus, that is Attalus Philometer, the same person, and who is often men­tioned in Pliny, the invento [...] of chess a.

I must not pass over an instance of Lydgate's gallantry, as it is the gallantry of a monk. Colonna takes all oppor­tunities of satirising the fair sex; and Lydgate with great politeness declares himself absolutely unwilling to translate those passages of this severe moralist, which contain such unjust and illiberal misrepresentations of the female cha­racter. Instead of which, to obviate these injurious reflec­tions, our translator enters upon a formal vindication of [Page 97] the ladies; not by a panegyric on their beauty, nor encomiums on those amiable accomplishments, by which they refine our sensibilities, and give elegance to life; but by a display of that religious fortitude with which some women have suf­fered martyrdom; or of that inflexible chastity, by means of which others have been snatched up alive into heaven, in a state of genuine virginity. Among other striking examples which the calendar affords, he mentions the transcendent grace of the eleven thousand virgins who were martyred at Cologne in Germany. In the mean time, female saints, as I suspect, in the barbarous ages were regarded with a greater degree of respect, on account of those exaggerated ideas of gallantry which chivalry inspired: and it is not improbable that the distinguished honours paid to the virgin Mary might have partly proceeded from this principle.

Among the anachronistic improprieties which this poem contains, some of which have been pointed out, the most conspicuous is the fiction of Hector's sepulchre, or tomb: which also merits our attention for another reason, as it affords us an opportunity of adding some other notices of the modes of antient architecture to those already men­tioned. The poet from Colonna supposes, that Hector was buried in the principal church of Troy, near the high altar, within a magnificent oratory, erected for that purpose, exactly resembling the Gothic shrines of our cathedrals, yet charged with many romantic decorations.

With crafty archys raysyd wonder clene,
Embowed over all the work to cure,
So marveylous was the celature:
That al the rofe, and closure envyrowne,
Was ofb fyne goldè plated up and downe,
With knottès gravè wonder curyous
Fret ful of stony's rich and precious, &c.

[Page 98] The structure is supported by angels of gold. The steps are of crystall. Within, is not only an image of Hector in solid gold; but his body embalmed, and exhibited to view with the resemblance of real life, by means of a precious liquor circulating through every part in golden tubes arti­ficially disposed, and operating on the principles of vegeta­tion. This is from the chemistry of the times. Before the body were four inextinguishible lamps in golden sockets. To complete the work, Priam founds a regular chantry of priests, whom he accommodates with mansions near the church, and endows with revenues, to sing in this oratory for the soul of his son Hector c.

In the Bodleian library, there is a prodigious folio manu­script on vellum, a translation of Colonna's TROJAN HISTORY into verse d; which has been confounded with Lydgate's TROYE-BOKE now before us. But it is an entirely different work, and is written in the short minstrel-metre. I have given a specimen of the Prologue, above e. It appears to me to be Lydgate's TROYE-BOKE divested of the octave stanza, and reduced into a measure which might more commodiously be sung to the harp f. It is not likely that Lydgate is its [Page 99] author: that he should either thus transform his own com­position, or write a new piece on the subject. That it was a poem in some considerable estimation, appears from the size and splendour of the manuscript: and this circumstance [Page 100] induces me to believe, that it was at a very early period ascribed to Lydgate. On the other hand, it is extraordinary that the name of the writer of so prolix and laborious a work, respectable and conspicuous at least on account of its length, should have never transpired. The language accords with Lydgate's age, and is of the reign of Henry the sixth: and to the same age I refer the hand-writing, which is exe­cuted with remarkable elegance and beauty.


TWO more poets remain to be mentioned under the reign of Henry the sixth, if mere translation merit that appellation. These are Hugh Campeden and Thomas Chester.

The first was a great traveller, and translated into English verse the French romance of SIDRAC g. This translation, a book of uncommon rarity, was printed with the following title, at the expence of Robert Saltwood, a monk of saint Austin's convent at Canterbury, in the year 1510. ‘"The Historie of king Boccus and SYDRACKE how he confoundyd his lerned men, and in the sight of them dronke stronge venyme in the name of the trinite and dyd him no hurt. Al [...]o his divynite that he lerned of the boke of Noe. Also his profesyes that he had by revelation of the angel. Also his aunsweris to the questyons of wysdom both morall and naturall with muche wysdom contayned in [the] noumber CCCLXV. Translated by Hugo of Caum­peden out of French into Englishe, &c h.’ There is no sort of elegance in the diction, nor harmony in the versifi­cation. It is in the minstrel-metre i.

[Page 102] Thomas Chestre appears also to have been a writer for the minstrels. No anecdote of his life is preserved. He has left a poem entitled Sir LAUNFALE, one of Arthur's knights [...] who is celebrated with other champions in a set of French metrical tales or romances, written by some Armorican bard, under the name of LANVAL k. They are in the British Museum l.

[Page 103] I think I have seen some evidence to prove, that Chestre was also the author of the metrical romance called the ERLE OF THOLOUSE m. This is one of the romances called LAIS by the poets of Britany, or Armorica: as appears from these lines,

In romance this gest
A LEYn of BRITAYN callyd I wys, &c.

And that it is a translation, appears from the reference to an original, ‘"The Romans telleth so."’ I will however give the outlines of the story, which is not uninteresting, nor inartificially constructed.

Dioclesian, a powerful emperour in Germany, has a rupture with Barnard earl of Tholouse, concerning boun­daries of territory. Contrary to the repeated persuasions of the empress, who is extremely beautiful, and famous for her conjugal fidelity, he meets the earl, with a numerous army, in a pitched battle, to decide the quarrel. The earl is victorious, and carries home a great multitude of pri­soners, the most respectable of which is sir Tralabas of Turky, whom he treats as his companion. In the midst of their festivities they talk of the beauties of the empress; the earl's curiosity is inflamed to see so matchless a lady, and he promises liberty to sir Tralabas, if he can be conducted un­known to the emperour's court, and obtain a sight of her without discovery. They both set forward, the earl dis­guised like a hermit. When they arrive at the emperour's court, sir Tralabas proves false: treacherously imparts the secret to the empress that he has brought with him the earl [Page 104] of Tholouse in disguise, who is enamoured of her celebrated beauty; and proposes to take advantage of so fair an oppor­tunity of killing the emperour's great and avowed enemy. She rejects the proposal with indignation, injoyns the knight not to communicate the secret any farther, and desires to see the earl next day in the chapel at mass. The next day the earl in his hermit's weeds is conveniently placed at mass. At leav­ing the chapel, he asks an alms of the empress; and she gives him forty florins and a ring. He receives the present of the ring with the highest satisfaction, and although obliged to return home, in point of prudence, and to avoid detection, comforts himself with this reflection.

Well is me, I have thy grace,
Of the to have thys thyng!
If ever I have grace of the,
That any love betweene us be,
This may be a TOKENYNG.

He then returns home. The emperour is called into some distant country; and leaves his consort in the custody of two knights, who attempting to gain her love without suc­cess, contrive a stratagem to defame her chastity. She is thrown into prison, and the emperour returns unexpectedly o, in consequence of a vision. The tale of the two treacherous knights is believed, and she is sentenced to the flames: yet under the restriction, that if a champion can be found who shall foil the two knights in battle, her honour shall be cleared, and her life saved. A challenge is published in all [Page 105] parts of the world; and the earl of Tholouse, notwithstand­ing the animosities which still subsist between him and the emperour, privately undertakes her quarrel. He appears at the emperour's court in the habit of a monk, and obtains permission to act as confessor to the empress, in her present critical situation. In the course of the confession, she pro­tests that she was always true to the emperour; yet owns that once she gave a ring to the earl of Tholouse. The supposed confessor pronounces her innocent of the charge brought against her; on which one of the traiterous knights affirms [...] that the monk was suborned to publish this confession, and that he deserved to be consumed in the same fire which was prepared for the lady. The monk pretending that the honour of his religion and character was affected by this insinuation, challenges both the knights to combat: they are conquered; and the empress, after this trial, is declared innocent. He then openly discovers himself to be the earl of Tholouse, the emperour's antient enemy. A solemn re­conciliation ensues. The earl is appointed seneschal of the emperour's domain. The emperour lives only three years, and the earl is married to the empress.

In the execution of this performance, our author was obliged to be concise, as the poem was intended to be sung to the harp. Yet, when he breaks through this restraint, in­stead of dwelling on some of the beautiful situations which [...]he story affords, he is diffuse in displaying trivial and un­important circumstances. These popular poets are never so happy, as when they are describing a battle or a feast.

It will not perhaps be deemed impertinent to observe, that about this period the minstrels were often more amply paid than the clergy. In this age, as in more enlightened times, the people loved better to be pleased than instructed. During many of the years of the reign of Henry the sixth, particularly in the year 1430, at the annual feast of the fraternity of the HOLIE CROSSE at Abingdon, a town in [Page 106] Berkshire, twelve priests each received four pence for sing­ing a dirge: and the same number of minstrels were re­warded each with two shillings and four pence, beside diet and horse-meat. Some of these minstrels came only from Maydenhithe, or Maidenhead, a town at no great distance in the same county p. In the year 1441, eight priests were hired from Coventry to assist in celebrating a yearly obit in the church of the neighbouring priory of Maxtoke; as were six minstrels, called MIMI, belonging to the family of [...]ord Clinton, who lived in the adjoining castle of Maxtoke, to sing, harp, and play, in the hall of the monastery, during the extraordinary refection allowed to the monks on that anniversary. Two shillings were given to the priests, and four to the minstrels q: and the latter are said to have supped in camera picta, or the painted chamber of the con­vent, with the subprior r, on which occasion the chamberlain furnished eight massy tapers of wax s. That the gratuities allowed to priests, even if learned, for their labours, in the same age of devotion, were extremely slender, may be col­lected from other expences of this priory t. In the same year, the prior gives only sixpenceu for a sermon, to a DOCTOR PRAEDICANS, or an itinerant doctor in theology of one of the mendicant orders, who went about preaching to the religious houses.

We are now arrived at the reign of king Edward the fourth, who acceded to the throne in the year 1461 w. But [Page 107] before I proceed in my series, I will employ the remainder of this section in fixing the reader's attention on an im­portant circumstance, now operating in its full extent, and therefore purposely reserved for this period, which greatly contributed to the improvement of our literature, and con­sequently of our poetry: I mean the many translations of Latin books, especially classics, which the French had been making for about the two last centuries, and were still con­tinuing to make, into their own language. In order to do this more effectually, I will collect into one view the most distinguished of these versions: not solicitous about those notices on this subject which have before occurred inciden­tally; nor scrupulous about the charge of anticipation, which, to prepare the reader, I shall perhaps incur by lengthening this enquiry, for the sake of comprehension, beyond the limits of the period just assigned. In the mean time it may be pertinent to premise, that from the close communication which formerly subsisted between England and France, manuscript copies of many of these translations, elegantly written, and often embellished with the most splendid illu­minations and curious miniatures, were presented by the translators or their patrons to the kings of England; and that they accordingly appear at present among the royal manuscripts in the British Museum. Some of these, how­ever, were transcribed, if not translated, by command of our kings; and others brought into England, and placed in the royal library, by John duke of Bedford, regent of France.

It is not consistent with my design, to enumerate the Latin legends, rituals, monastic rules, chronicles, and historical parts of the bible, such as the BOOK OF KINGS and the MACCABEES, which were looked upon as stories of chivalry x, translated by the French before the year 1200. These soon [Page 108] became obsolete: and are, besides, too deeply tinctured with the deplorable superstition and barbarity of their age, to bear a recitaly. I will therefore begin with the thirteenth cen­tury. In the year 1210, Peter Comestor'sz HISTORIA SCHO­LASTICA, a sort of breviary of the old and new testament, accompanied with elaborate expositions from Josephus and many pagan writers, a work compiled at Paris about the year 1175, and so popular, as not only to be taught in schools, but even to be publicly read in the churches with its glosses, was translated into French by Guiart des Moulins, a canon of Aire a. About the same time, some of the old translations into French made in the eleventh century by Thibaud de Vernon, canon of Rouen, were retouched: and the Latin legends of many lives of saints, particularly of saint George, of Thomas a Beckett, and the martyrdom of saint Hugh, a child murthered in 1206 by a Jew at Lincoln b, were reduced into French verse. These pieces, to which I must add a metrical version of the bible from Genesis to He­zekiah, by being written in rhyme, and easy to be sung, soon became popular, and produced the desired impression on the minds of the people c. They were soon followed by the version of AEGIDIUS DE REGIMINE PRINCIPUM d, by Henri de [Page 109] Gauchi. Dares Phrygius, The SEVEN SAGES OF ROME by Hebers e, Eutropius f, and Aristotle's SECRETUM SECRETORUM g, appeared about the same time in French. To say nothing of voluminous versions of PANDECTS and feudal COUTUMES h, Michael de Harnes translated Turpin's CHARLEMAGNE in the year 1207 i. It was into prose, in opposition to the prac­tice which had long prevailed of turning Latin prose into French rhymes. This piece, in compliance with an age ad­dicted to romantic fiction, our translator undoubtedly pre­ferred to the more rational and sober Latin historians of Charlemagne and of France, such as Gregory of Tours, Fre­degaire, and Eginhart. In the year 1245, the SPECULUM MUNDI, a system of theology, the seven sciences, geography, and natural philosophy k, was translated at the instance of the duke of Berry and Auvergne l. Among the royal manu­scripts, is a sort of system of pious tracts, partly of ritual offices, compiled in Latin by the confessors of Philip in 1279, tran­slated into French m; which translation queen Isabel ordered to be placed in the church of saint Innocents at Paris, for the use of the people.

The fourteenth century was much more fertile in French translation. The spirit of devotion, and indeed of this species of curiosity, raised by saint Louis, after a short in­termission, rekindled under king John and Charles the fifth. I pass over the prose and metrical translations of the Latin bible in the years 1343, and 1380, by Macè, and Raoul de [Page 110] Presles. Under those reigns, saint Austin, Cassianus, and Gregory the Great n, were translated into French; and they are the first of the fathers that appeared in a modern tongue. Saint Gregory's HOMELIES are by an anonymous translator o. His DIALOGUES were probably translated by an English ec­clesiastic p. Saint Austin's DE CIVITATE DEI was translated by Raoul de Presles, who acted professedly both as confessor and translator to Charles the fifth q, about the year 1374. During the work he received a yearly pension of six hundred livres from that liberal monarch, the first founder of a royal library in France, at whose command it was undertaken. It is accompanied with a prolix commentary, valuable only at present as preserving anecdotes of the opinions, manners, and literature, of the writer's age; and from which I am tempted to give the following specimen, as it strongly illus­trates the antient state of the French stage, and demonstrably proves that comedy and tragedy were now known only by name in France r. He observes, that Comedies are so denomi­nated from a room of entertainment, or from those places, in which banquets were accustomed to be closed with singing, called in Greek CONIAS: that they were like those jeux or plays, which the minstrel, le Chanteur, exhibits in halls or other public places, at a feast: and that they were properly styled INTERLUDIA, as being presented between the two courses. Tragedies, he adds, were spectacles, resembling those personages which at this day we see acting in the LIFE [Page 111] and PASSION of a matyr s. This shews that only the religious drama now subsisted in France. But to proceed, Cassianus's COLLATIONES PATRUM, or the CONFERENCES, was translated by John Goulain, a Carmelite monk, about 1363. Two translations of that theological romance Boethius's CON­SOLATION, one by the celebrated Jean de Meun, author of the ROMANCE OF THE ROSE, existed before the year 1340. Others of the early Latin christian writers were ordered to be turned into French by queen Jane, about 1332. But finding that the archbishop of Rouen, who was commissioned to execute this arduous task, did not understand Latin, she employed a mendicant friar. About the same period, and under the same patronage, the LEGENDA AUREA, written by James de Voragine, archbishop of Genoa, about the year 1260, that inexhaustible repository of religious fable t, was translated by Jehan de Vignay, a monk hospitalar u. The same translator gave also a version of a famous ritual en­titled SPECULUM ECCLESIAE, or the MIRROUR OF THE CHURCH, of CHESS MORALISED, written by Jacobus de Casulis w: and of Odoricus's VOYAGE INTO THE EAST x. Thomas Benoit, a prior of saint Genevieve gratified the religious with a tran­slation into a more intelligible language of some Latin liturgic pieces about the year 1330. But his chief per­formance was a translation into French verse of the RULE OF SAINT AUSTIN. This he undertook merely on a principle of affection and charity, for the edification of his pious brethren who did not understand Latin.

[Page 112]
Pour l'amour de vous, très chers freres,
En François ai traduit ce Latin.

And in the preface he says, ‘"Or sçai-je que plusieurs de vous n' entendent pas bien LATIN auquel il fut chose necessaire de la rieule [regle] entendre."’ Benoit's successour in the priorate of saint Genevieve was not equally attentive to the discipline and piety of his monks. Instead of translating monkish Latin, and enforcing the salutary regulations of saint Austin, he wrote a system of rules for BALLAD-WRIT­ING, L'ART DE DICTIER BALLADE ET RONDELS, the first Art of poetry that ever appeared in France.

Among the moral books now translated, I must not omit the SPIRITUELLE AMITIE of John of Meun, from the Latin of Aldred an English monk y. In the same style of mystic piety was the treatise of CONSOLATION, written in Latin, by Vincent de Beauvais, and sent to saint Louis, translated in the year 1374. In the year 1340, Henri de Suson, a Ger­man dominican and a mystic doctor, wrote a most compre­hensive treatise called HOROLOGIUM SAPIENTIAE. This was translated into French by a monk of saint François z. Even the officers of the court of Charles the fifth were seized with the ardour of translating religious pieces, no less than the ecclesiastics. The most elegant tract of moral Latinity tran­slated into French, was the celebrated book of our country­man John of Salisbury, DE NUGIS CURIALIUM. This version was made by Denis Soulechart, a learned Cordelier, about the year 1360. Notwithstanding the EPISTLES of Abelard and Eloisa, not only from the celebrity of Abelard as a Parisian theologist, but on account of the interesting history of that unfortunate pair, must have been as commonly known, and as likely to be read in the original, as any Latin [Page 113] book in France, they were translated into French in this century, by John of Meun; who prostituted his abilities when he relinquished his own noble inventions, to interpret the pedantries of monks, schoolmen, and proscribed classics. I think he also translated Vegetius, who will occur again a. In the library of saint Genevieve, there is, in a sort of sys­tem of religion, a piece called JERARCHIE, translated from Latin into French at the command of our queen Elinor in the year 1297, by a French friar b. I must not however forget, that amidst this profusion of treatises of religion and instruction, civil history found a place. That immense chaos of events real and fictitious, the HISTORICAL MIRROUR of Vincent de Beauvais, was translated by Jehan de Vignay above mentioned c. One is not surprised that the translator of the GOLDEN LEGEND should make no better choice.

The desolation produced in Franced by the victorious armies of the English, was instantly succeeded by a flourish­ing state of letters. King John, having indulged his de­votion, and satisfied his conscience, by procuring numerous versions of books written on sacred subjects, at length turn­ed his attention to the classics. His ignorance of Latin was a fortunate circumstance, as it produced a curiosity to know the treasures of Latin literature. He employed Peter Ber­cheur, prior of saint Eloi at Paris, an eminent theologist, to translate Livy into French e; notwithstanding that author [Page 114] had been anathematised by pope Gregory. But so judicious a choice was undoubtedly dictated by Petrarch, who regard­ed Livy with a degree of enthusiasm, who was now resident at the court of France, and who perhaps condescended to direct and superintend the translation. The translator in his Latin work called REPERTORIUM, a sort of general dictionary, in which all things are proved to be allegorical, and reduced to a moral meaning, under the word ROMA, records this great attempt in the following manner. ‘"TITUM LIVIUM, ad requisitionem domini Johannis inclyti Francorum regis, non sine labore et sudoribus, in linguam Gallicam transtuli f."’ To this translation we must join those of Sallust, Lucan, and Cesar: all which seem to have been finished before the year 1365. This revival of a taste for Roman history, most probably introduced and propagated by Petrarch during his short stay in the French court, immediately produced a Latin historical compilation called ROMULEON, by an anonymous gentleman of France; who soon found it necessary to tran­slate his work into the vernacular language. Valerius Maxi­mus could not remain long untranslated. A version of that favourite author, begun by Simon de Hesdin, a monk, in 1364, was finished by Nicolas de Gonesse, a master in the­ology, 1401 g. Under the last-mentioned reign, Ovid's Me­tamorphoses MORALISEDh were translated by Guillaume de Nangis: and the same poem was translated into French verse, at the request of Jane de Bourbonne, afterwards the consort [Page 115] of Charles the fifth, by Philip de Vitri, bishop of Meaux, Petrarch's friend, who was living in 1361 i. A bishop would not have undertaken this work, had he not perceived much moral doctrine couched under the pagan stories. Jean le Fevre, by command of Charles the fifth, translated the poem DE VETULA, falsly ascribed to Ovid k. Cicero's RHE­TORICA appeared in French by master John de Antioche, at the request of one friar W [...]lliam, in the year 1383. About the same time, some of Aristotle's pieces were translated from Latin; his PROBLEMS by Evrard de Conti, physician to Charles the fifth: and his ETHICS and POLITICS by Nicholas d'Oresme, while canon of Rouen. This was the most learn­ed man in France, and tutor to Charles the fifth; who, in consequence of his instructions, obtained a competent skill in Latin, and in the rules of the grammar l. Other Greek classics, which now began to be known by being translated into Latin, became still more familiarised, especially to ge­neral readers, by being turned into French. Thus Poggius Florentinus's recent Latin version of Xenophon's CYROPEDIA was translated into French by Vasque de Lucerie, 1370 m. The TACTICS of Vegetius, an author who frequently con­founds the military practices of his own age with those of antiquity, appeared under [...] the title of LIVRES DES FAIS D'ARMES ET DE CHEVALLERIE, by Christina of Pisa n. Petrarch [Page 116] DE REMEDIIS UTRIUSQUE FORTUNAE, a set of Latin dialogues, was translated, not only by Nicholas d'Oresme, but by two of the officers of the royal houshold o, in com­pliment to Petrarch at his leaving France p. Many philo­sophical pieces, particularly in astrology, of which Charles the fifth was remarkably fond, were translated before the [...]nd of the fourteenth century. Among these, I must not pass over the QUADRIPARTITUM of Ptolemy, by Nicholas d'Oresme; the AGRICULTURE q, or LIBRI RURALIUM COMMO­DORUM, of Peter de Crescentiis, a physician of Bononia, about the year 1285, by a nameless friar preacher r; and the book DE PROPRIETATIBUS RERUM of Bartholomew Anglicus, the Pliny of the monks, by John Corbichon, an Augustine monk s. I have seen a French manuscript of Guido de Co­lonna's Trojan romance [...] the hand-writing of which belongs to this century t.

In the fifteenth century it became fashionable among the [Page 117] French, to polish and reform their old rude translations made two hundred years before; and to reduce many of their metrical versions into prose. At the same time, the rage of translating ecclesiastical tracts began to decrease. The latter circumstance was partly owing to the introduction of better books, and partly to the invention of printing. Instead of procuring laborious and expensive translations of the antient fathers, the printers, who multiplied greatly to­wards the close of this century, found their advantage in publishing new translations of more agreeable books, or in giving antient versions in a modern dress u. Yet in this century some of the more recent doctors of the church were translated. Not to mention the epistles of saint Jerom, which Antoine Dufour, a Dominican frier, presented in French to Anne de Bretagne, consort to king Charles the eighth, we find saint Anselm's CUR DEUS HOMO w, The LA­MENTATIONS OF SAINT BERNARD, The SUM OF THEOLOGY of Albertus Magnus, The PRICK OF DIVINE LOVE xof saint Bonaventure a seraphic doctor y, with other pieces of the [Page 118] kind, exhibited in the French language before the year 1480, at the petition and under the patronage of many devout duchesses. Yet in the mean time, the lives of saints and sacred history gave way to a species of narrative more enter­taining and not less fabulous. Little more than Josephus, and a few MARTYRDOMS, were now translated from the Latin into French.

The truth is, the French translators of this century were chiefly employed on profane authors. At its commence­ment, a French abridgement of the three first decads of Livy was produced by Henri Romain a canon of Tournay. In the year 1416, Jean de Courci, a knight of Normandy, gave a translation of some Latin chronicle, a HISTORY OF THE GREEKS AND ROMANS, entitled BOUQUASSIERE. In 1403, Jean de Courteauisse, a doctor in theology at Paris, tran­slated Seneca on the FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES z. Under the reign of king Charles the seventh, Jean Cossa translated the CHRONOLOGY of Mattheus Palmerius a learned Florentine, and a writer of Italian poetry in imitation of Dante. In the dedication to Jane the third, queen of Jerusalem, and among other titles countess of Provence, the translator apologises for supposing her highness to be ignorant of Latin; when at the same time he is fully convinced, that a lady endowed with so much natural grace, must be perfectly acquainted with that language. ‘"Mais pour ce que le vulgar Françoys est plus commun, j' ai pris peine y translater ladite oeuvre."’ Two other translations were offered to Charles the seventh in the year 1445. One, of the FIRST PUNIC war of Leonard of Arezzo, an anonymous writer, who does not chuse to pub­lish his name a cause de sa petitesse; and the STRATAGEMS of [Page 119] Frontinus, often cited by John of Salisbury, and mentioned in the Epistles of Peter of Blois a, by Jean de Rouroy, a Parisian theologist. Under Louis the eleventh, Sebastian Mamerot of Soissons, in the year 1466, attempted a new translation of the ROMULEON: and he professes, that he un­dertook it solely with a view of improving or decorating the French language b.

Many French versions of classics appeared in this century. A translation of Quintus Curtius is dedicated to Charles duke of Burgundy, in 1468 c. Six years afterwards, the same liberal patron commanded Cesar's COMMENTARIES to be translated by Jean du Chesne d. Terence was made French by Guillaume Rippe, the king's secretary, in the year 1466. The following year a new translation of Ovid's METAMOR­PHOSES was executed by an ecclesiastic of Normandy e. But much earlier in the century, Laurence Premierfait, men­tioned above, translated, I suppose from the Latin, the OECONOMICS of Aristotle, and Tully's DE AMICITIA and DE SENECTUTE, before the year 1426 f. He is said also to have translated some pieces, perhaps the EPISTLES, of Seneca g. [Page 120] Encouraged by this example, Jean de Luxembourgh, Lau­rence's cotemporary, translated Tully's Oration against Verres. I must not forget, that Hippocrates and Galen were translated from Latin into French in the year 1429. The translator was Jean Tourtier, surgeon to the duke of Bed­ford, then regent of France; and he humbly supplicates Rauoul Palvin, confessor and physician to the duchess, and John Major, first physician to the duke, and graduate en l'estude d'Auxonford h, and master Roullan, physician and as­tronomer of the university of Paris, amicably to amend the faults of this translation, which is intended to place the science and practice of medicine on a new foundation. I presume it was from a Latin version that the ILIAD, about this period, was translated into French metre.

Among other pieces that might be enumerated in this century, in the year 1412, Guillaume de Tignonville, pro­vost of Paris, translated the DICTA PHILOSOPHORUM i: as did Jean Gallopes dean of the collegiate church of saint Louis, of Salsoye, in Normandy, the ITER VITAE HUMANAE of Guillaume prior of Chalis k. This version, entitled LE PE­LERINAGE DE LA VIE HUMAINE, is dedicated to Jean queen of Sicily, above mentioned; a duchess of Anjou and a coun­tess of Provence: who, without any sort of difficulty, could make a transition from the Life of sir Lancelot to that of saint Austin, and who sometimes quitted the tribunal of the COURT OF LOVE to confer with learned ecclesiastics, in an age when gallantry and religion were of equal importance. He also translated, from the same author, a composition of the same ideal and contemplative cast, called LE PELERIN DE L'AME, highly esteemed by those visionaries who preferred [Page 121] religious allegory to romance, which was dedicated to the duke of Bedford l. In Bennet college library at Cambridge, there is an elegant illuminated manuscript of Bonaventure's LIFE OF CHRIST, translated by Gallopes; containing a curious picture of the translator presenting his version to our Henry the fifth m. About the same time, but before 1427, Jean de Guerre translated a Latin compilation of all that was marvellous in Pliny, Solinus, and the OTIA IMPERIALIA, a book abounding in wonders, of our countryman Gervais of Tilbury n. The French romance, entitled L'ASSAILLANT, was now translated from the Latin chronicles of the kings of Cologne: and the Latin tract DE BONIS MORIBUS of Ja­cobus Magnus, confessor to Charles the seventh, about the year 1422, was made French o. Rather earlier, Jean de Pre­mierfait translated BOCCACIO DE CASIBUS VIRORUM ILLUS­TRIUM p. Nor shall I be thought to deviate too far from my detail, which is confined to Latin originals, when I mention here a book, the translation of which into French conduced in an eminent degree to circulate materials for poetry: this is Boccacio's DECAMERON, which Premierfait also tran­slated, at the command of queen Jane of Navarre, who seem [...] to have made no kind of conditions about suppressing the li­centious stories, in the year 1414 q.

I am not exactly informed, when the ENEID of Virgil was translated into a sort of metrical romance or history of Eneas, [Page 122] under the title of LIVRE D' ENEIDOS COMPILE PAR VIRGILE, by Guillaume de Roy. But that translation was printed at Lyons in 1483, and appears to have been finished not many years before. Among the translator's historical additions, are the description of the first foundation of Troy by Priam, and the succession of Ascanius and his descendants after the death of Turnus. He introduces a digression upon Boccacio, for giving in his FALL OF PRINCES an account of the death of Dido, different from that in the fourth book of the Eneid. Among his omissions, he passes over Eneas's descent into hell, as a tale manifestly forged, and not to be believed by any rational reader: as if many other parts of the tran­slator's story were not equally fictitious and incredible r.

The conclusion intended to be drawn from this long di­gression is obvious. By means of these French translations, our countrymen, who understood French much better than Latin, became acquainted with many useful books which they would not otherwise have known. With such assis­tances, a commodious access to the classics was opened, and the knowledge of antient literature facilitated and famili­arised in England, at a much earlier period than is imagined; and at a time, when little more than the productions of spe­culative monks, and irrefragrable doctors, could be obtained or were studied. Very few Englishmen, I will venture to pronounce, had read Livy before the translation of Ber­cheur was imported by the regent duke of Bedford. It is certain that many of the Roman poets and historians were now read in England, in the original. But the Latin lan­guage was for the most part confined to a few ecclesiastics. When these authors, therefore, appeared in a language almost as intelligible as the English, they fell into the hands of illiterate and common readers, and contributed to sow the seeds of a national erudition, and to form a popular taste. [Page 123] Even the French versions of the religious, philosophical, historical, and allegorical compositions of those more en­lightened Latin writers who flourished in the middle ages, had their use, till better books came into vogue: pregnant as they were with absurdities, they communicated instruc­tion on various and new subjects, enlarged the field of in­formation, and promoted the love of reading, by gratifying that growing literary curiosity which now began to want materials for the exercise of its operations. How greatly our poets in general availed themselves of these treasures, we may collect from this circumstance only: even such writers as Chaucer and Lydgate, men of education and learning, when they translate a Latin author, appear to exe­cute their work through the medium of a French version. It is needless to pursue this history of French translation any farther. I have given my reason for introducing it at all. In the next age, a great and universal revolution in literature ensued; and the English themselves began to turn their thoughts to translation.

These French versions enabled Caxton, our first printer, to enrich the state of letters in this country with many valuable publications. He found it no difficult task, either by himself, or the help of his friends, to turn a considerable number of these pieces into English, which he printed. Antient learning had as yet made too little progress among us, to encourage this enterprising and industrious artist to publish the Roman autho [...]s in their original language s: and had not the French furnished him with these materials, it is not likely, that Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, and many other good [Page 124] writers, would by the means of his press have been circu­lated in the English tongue, so early as the close of the fifteenth century .


THE first poet that occurs in the reign of king Edward the fourth is John Harding t. He was of northern [Page 126] extraction, and educated in the family of lord Henry Percy u: and, at twenty-five years of age, hazarded his fortunes as a volunteer at the decisive battle of Shrewsbury, fought against the Scots in the year 1403. He appears to have been inde­fatigable in [...]xamining original records, chiefly with a design of ascertaining the fealty due from the Scottish kings to the crown of England: and he carried many instruments from Scotland, for the elucidation of this important enquiry, at the hazard of his life, which he delivered at different times to the fifth and sixth Henry, and to Edward the fourth w. These investigations seem to have fixed his mind on the study of our national antiquities and history. At length he cloathed his researches in rhyme, which he dedi­cated under that form to king Edward the fourth, and with the title of The Chronicle of England unto the reigne of king Edward the fourth in verse x. The copy probably presented to the king, although it exhibits at the end the arms of Henry Percy earl of Northumberland, most elegantly transcribed on vellum, and adorned with superb illuminations, is preserved [Page 127] among Selden's manuscripts in the Bodleian library y. Our author is concise and compendious in his narrative of events from Brutus to the reign of king Henry the fourth: he is much more minute and diffuse in relating those affairs of which, for more than the space of sixty years, he was a living witness, and which occurred from that period to the reign of Edward the fourth. The poem seems to have been completed about the year 1470. In his final chapter he ex­horts the king, to recall his rival king Henry the sixth, and to restore the partisans of that unhappy prince.

This work is almost beneath criticism, and fit only for the attention of an antiquary. Harding may be pronounced to be the most impotent of our metrical historians, especially when we recollect the great improvements which English poetry had now received. I will not even except Robert of Gloucester, who lived in the infancy of taste and versifica­tion. The chronicle of this authentic and laborious annalist has hardly those more modest graces, which could properly recommend and adorn a detail of the British story in prose. He has left some pieces in prose: and Winstanly says, ‘"as his prose was very usefull, so was his poetry as much de­lightfull."’ I am of opinion, that both his prose and poetry are equally useful and delightful. What can be more frigid and unanimated than these lines?

Kyng Arthur then in Avalon so dyed,
Where he was buryed in a chapel fayre,
Whiche nowe is made, and fully edifyed,
The mynster church, this day of great repayre
Of Glastenbury, where nowe he hath his layre;
But then it was called the blacke chapell
Of our lady, as chronicles can tell.
[Page 128] Where Geryn earle of Chartres then abode
Besyde his tombe, for whole devocion,
Whither Lancelot de Lake came, as he rode
Upon the chase, with trompet and claryon;
And Geryn told hym, ther all up and downe
How Arthur was there layd in sepulture
For which with hym to abyde he hyght ful sure z.

Fuller affirms our author to have ‘"drunk as deep a draught of Helicon as any of his age."’ An assertion partly true: it is certain, however, that the diction and imagery of our poetic composition would have remained in just the same state had Harding never wrote.

In this reign, the first mention of the king's poet, under the appellation of LAUREATE, occurs. John Kay was ap­pointed poet laureate to Edward the fourth. It is extra­ordinary, that he should have left no pieces of poetry to prove his pretensions in some degree to this office, with which he is said to have been invested by the king, at his return from Italy. The only composition he has transmitted to posterity is a prose English translation of a Latin history of the Siege of Rhodes a: in the dedication addressed to king Edward, or rather in the title, he styles himself hys humble poete lau­reate. Although this our laureate furnishes us with no ma­terials as a poet, yet his office, which here occurs for the first time under this denomination, must not pass unnoticed [Page 129] in the annals of English poetry, and will produce a short digression.

Great confusion has entered into this subject, on account of the degrees in grammar, which included rhetoric and ver­sification b, antiently taken in our universities, particularly at Oxford: on which occasion, a wreath of laurel was pre­sented to the new graduate, who was afterwards usually styled poeta laureatus c. These scholastic laureations, however, seem to have given rise to the appellation in question. I will give some instances at Oxford, which at the same time will explain the nature of the studies for which our acca­demical philologists received their rewards. About the year 1470, one John Watson, a student in grammar, obtained a concession to be graduated and laureated in that science; on condition that he composed one hundred Latin verses in praise of the university, and a Latin comedy d. Another grammarian was distinguished with the same badge, after having stipulated, that, at the next public Act, he would affix the same number of hexameters on the great gates of saint Mary's church, that they might be seen by the whole uni­versity. This was at that period the most convenient mode of publication e. About the same time, one Maurice Byrchensaw, [Page 130] a scholar in rhetoric, supplicated to be admitted to read lectures, that is, to take a degree, in that faculty; and his petition was granted, with a provision, that he should write one hundred verses on the glory of the univer­sity, and not suffer Ovid's ART OF LOVE, and the Elegies of Pamphilus f, to be studied in his auditory g. Not long after­wards, one John Bulman, another rhetorician, having com­plied with the terms imposed, of explaining the first book of Tully's OFFICES, and likewise the first of his EPISTLES, without any pecuniary emolument, was graduated in rhe­toric; and a crown of laurel was publicly placed on his head by the hands of the chancellour of the university h. About the year 1489 i, Skelton was laureated at Oxford, and in the year 1493, was permitted to wear his laurel at Cambridge k. Robert Whittington affords the last instance of a rhetorical degree at Oxford. He was a secular priest, and eminent for his various treatises in grammar, and for his facility in Latin poetry: having exercised his art many years, and submitting to the customary demand of an hundred verses, he was honoured with the laurel in the year 1512 i. This title is [Page 131] prefixed to one of his grammatical systems. ‘"ROBERTI WHITTINTONI, Lichfeldiensis, Grammatices Magistri, PRO­TOVATIS Angliae, in florentissima Oxoniensi Achademia LAU­REATI, DE OCTO PARTIBUS ORATIONIS m."’ In his PANE­GYRIC to cardinal Wolsey, he mentions his laurel,

Suscipe LAURICOMI munuscula parva Roberti n.

With regard to the Poet laureate of the kings of England, an officer of the court remaining under that title to this day, he is undoubtedly the same that is styled the KING'S VER­SIFIER, and to whom one hundred shillings were paid as his annual stipend, in the year 1251 o. But when or how that title commenced, and whether this officer was ever solemnly crowned with laurel at his first investiture, I will not pre­tend to determine, after the [...]earches of the learned Selden on this question have proved unsuccessful. It seems most probable, that the barbarous and inglorious name of VER­SIFIER gradually gave way to an appellation of more ele­gance and dignity: or rather, that at length, those only were in general invited to this appointment, who had re­ceived accademical sanction, and had merited a crown of laurel in the universities for their abilities in Latin compo­sition, particularly Latin versification. Thus the king's Laureate was nothing more than ‘"a graduated rhetorician [Page 132] employed in the service of the king."’ That he originally wrote in Latin, appears from the antient title versificator: and may be moreover collected from the two Latin poems, which Baston and Gulielmus, who appear to have respectively acted in the capacity of royal poets to Richard the first and Ed­ward the second, officially composed on Richard's crusade, and Edward's [...]iege of Striveling castle p.

Andrew Bernard, successively poet laureate of Henry the seventh and the eighth, affords a still stronger proof that this officer was a Latin scholar. He was a native of Tho­louse, and an Augustine monk. He was not only the king's poet laureate q, as it is supposed, but his historiographer r, and preceptor in grammar to prince Arthur. He obtained many eccle [...]iastical preferments in England s. All the pieces now to be found, which he wrote in the character of poet laureate, are in Latin t. These are, an ADDRESS to Henry the [Page 133] eighth for the most auspicious beginning of the tenth year of his reign, with an EPITHALAMIUM on the marriage of Francis the Dauphin of France with the king's daughter u. A NEW YEAR'S­GIFT for the year 1515 w. And verses wishing prosperity to his majesty's thirteenth year x. He has left some Latin hymns y: and many of his Latin prose pieces, which he wrote in the quality of historiographer to both monarchs, are remaining z.

I am of opinion, that it was not customary for the royal laureate to write in English, till the reformation of religion had begun to diminish the veneration for the Latin language: or rather, till the love of novelty, and a better sense of things, had banished the narrow pedantries of monastic erudition, and taught us to cultivate our native tongue. In the mean time it is to be wished, that another change might at least be suffered to take place in the execution of this institution, which is confessedly Gothic, and unaccommodated to modern manners. I mean, that the more than annual return of a composition on a trite argument would be no longer re­quired. I am conscious I say this at a time, when the best of kings affords the most just and copious theme for pane­gyric: but I speak it at a time, when the department is honourably filled by a poet of taste and genius, which are idly wasted on the most splendid subjects, when imposed by constraint, and perpetually repeated.

To what is here incidentally collected on an article more [Page 134] curious than important, I add an observation, which shews that the practice of other nations in this respect altogether corresponded with that of our own. When we read of the laureated poets of Italy and Germany, we are to remember, that they most commonly received this honour from the state, or some university; seldom, at least not immediately, from the prince: and if we find any of these professedly em­ployed in the department of a court-poet, that they were not, in consequence of that peculiar situation, styled poets laureate. The distinction, at least in general, was previously conferred a.

John Scogan is commonly supposed to have been a co­temporary of Chaucer, but this is a mistake b. He was educated at Oriel college in Oxford: and being an excellent mimic, and of great pleasantry in conversation, became the favourite buffoon of the court of Edward the fourth, in which he passed the greatest part of his life. Bale inaccu­rately calls Scogan, the JOCULATOR of Edward the fourth: by which word he seems simply to understand the king's JOKER, for he certainly could not mean that Scogan was his majesty's MINSTREL c. Andrew Borde, a mad physician and [Page 135] a dull poet in the reign of Henry the eighth, published his JESTS, under the title of SCOGIN'S JESTS d, which are with­out humour or invention; and give us no very favourable idea of the delicacy of the king and courtiers, who could be exhilarated by the merriments of such a writer. A MORAL BALADE, printed in Chaucer's works, addressed to the dukes of Clarenc [...], Bedford, and Gloucester, and sent from a tavern in the Vintry at London, is attributed to Scogan e. But our jocular bard evidently mistakes his talents when he attempts to give advice. This piece is the dullest sermon that ever was written in the octave stanza. Bale mentions his CO­MEDIES f, which certainly mean nothing dramatic, and are perhaps only his JESTS above-mentioned. He seems to have flourished about the year 1480.

Two didactic poets on chemistry appeared in this reign, John Norton and George Ripley. Norton was a native of Bristol g, and the most skillful alchemist of his age h. His poem is called the ORDINAL, or a manual of the chemical art i. It was presented to Nevil archbishop of York, who was a great patron of the hermetic philosophers k; which were lately grown so numerous in England, as to occasion [Page 136] an act of parliament against the transmutation of metals. Norton's reason for treating his subject in English rhyme, was to circulate the principles of a science of the most con­summate utility among the unlearned l. This poem is totally void of every poetical elegance. The only wonder which it relates, belonging to an art, so fertile in striking inven­tions, and contributing to enrich the store-house of Arabian romance with so many magnificent imageries, is that of an alchemist, who projected a bridge of gold over the river Thames near London, crowned with pinnacles of gold, which being studded with carbuncles, diffused a blaze of light in the dark m. I will add a few lines only, as a specimen of his versification.

Wherefore he would set up in higth
That bridge, for a wonderfull sight,
With pinnacles guilt, shininge as goulde,
A glorious thing for men to behoulde.
Then he remembered of the newe,
Howe greater fame shulde him pursewe,
If he mought make that bridge so brighte,
That it mought shine alsoe by night:
And so continewe and not breake,
Then all the londe of him would speake, &c n.

Norton's heroes in the occult sciences are Bacon, Albertus Magnus, and Raymond Lully, to whose specious promises of supplying the coinage of England with inexhaustible mines of philosophical gold, king Edward the third became an illustrious dupe o.

George Ripley, Norton's cotemporary, was accomplished [Page 137] in many parts of erudition; and still maintains his reputa­tion as a learned chemist of the lower ages. He was a canon regular of the monastery of Bridlington in Yorkshire, a great traveller p, and studied both in France and Italy. At his return from abroad, pope Innocent the eighth absolved him from the observance of the rules of his order, that he might prosecute his studies with more convenience and freedom. But his convent not concurring with this very liberal indulgence, he turned Carmelite at saint Botolph's in Lincolnshire, and died an anachorite in that fraternity in th [...] year 1490 q. His chemical poems are nothing more than the doctrines of alchemy cloathed in plain language, and a very rugged versification. The capital performance is THE COMPOUND OF ALCHEMIE, written in the year 1471 r. It is in the octave metre, and dedicated to Edward the fourth s. Ripley has left a few other compositions on his favourite science, printed by Ashmole, who was an enthu­siast in this abused species of philosophy t. One of them, [Page 138] the MEDULLA, written in 1476, is dedicated to archbishop Nevil u. These pieces have no other merit, than that of serv­ing to develope the history of chemistry in England. They certainly contributed nothing to the state of our poetry w.


BUT a want of genius will be no longer imputed to this period of our poetical history, if the poems lately discovered at Bristol, and said to have been written by Thomas Rowlie, a secular priest of that place, about the year one thousand four hundred and seventy, are genuine.

It must be acknowledged, that there are some circumstances which incline us to suspect these pieces to be a modern forgery. On the other hand, as there is some degree of plausibility in the history of their discovery, as they possess considerable merit, and are held to be the real productions of Rowlie by many respectable critics; it is my duty to give them a place in this series of our poetry, if it was for no other reason than that the world might be furnished with an opportunity of examining their authenticity. By exhibiting therefore the most specious evidences, which I have been able to collect, concerning the manner in which they were brought to light a, and by producing such specimens, as in another re­spect cannot be deemed unacceptable; I will endeavour, not only to gratify the curiosity of the public on a subject that has long engaged the general attention, and has never yet been fairly or fully stated, but to supply the more inquisitive reader with every argument, both external and internal, for determining the merits of this interesting controversy. I shall take the liberty to add my own opinion, on a point at least doubtful: but with the greatest deference to decisions of much higher authority.

About the year 1470, William Cannynge, an opulent mer­chant and an alderman of Bristol, afterwards an ecclesiastic, [Page 140] and dean of Westbury college, erected the magnificent church of Saint Mary of Redcliffe, or Radcliff, near Bristol b. In a muniment-room over the northern portico of the church, the founder placed an iron chest, secured by six different locks c; which seems to have been principally intended to receive instruments relating to his new structure, and per­haps to his other charities d, inventories of vestments and ornaments e, accompts of church-wardens, and other paro­chial evidences. He is said to have directed, that this vene­rable chest should be annually visited and opened by the mayor and other chief magistrates of Bristol, attended by the vicar and church-wardens of the parish: and that a feast should be celebrated every year, on the day of visita­tion. But this order, that part at least which relates to the inspection of the chest, was soon neglected.

In the year 1768, when the present new bridge at Bristol was finished and opened for passengers, an account of the ceremonies observed on occasion of opening the old bridge, appeared in one of the Bristol Journals; taken, as it was declared, from an antient manuscript f. Curiosity was na­turally raised to know from whence it came. At length, after much enquiry concerning the person who sent this singular memoir to the news-paper, it was discovered that he [Page 141] was a youth about seventeen years old, whose name was Chatterton; and whose father had been sexton of Radcliffe church for many years, and also master of a writing-school in that parish, of which the church-wardens were trustees. The father however was now dead: and the son was at first unwilling to acknowledge, from whom, or by what means, he had procured so valuable an original. But after many pro­mises, and some threats, he confessed that he received a manuscript on parchment containing the narrative above­mentioned, together with many other manuscripts on parch­ment [...] from his father; who had found them in an iron chest, the same that I have mentioned, placed in a room situated over the northern entrance of the church.

It appears that the father became possessed of these manu­scripts in the year 1748. For in that year, he was permit­ted, by the church-wardens of Radcliffe-church, to take from this chest several written pieces of parchment, sup­posed to be illegible and useless, for the purpose of conver­ting them into covers for the writing-books of his scholars. It is impossible to ascertain, what, or how many, writings were destroyed, in consequence of this absurd and unwar­rantable indulgence. Our school-master, however, whose accomplishments were much above his station, and who was not totally destitute of a taste for poetry, found, as it is said, in this immense heap of obsolete manuscripts, many poems written by Thomas Rowlie abovementioned, priest of Saint John's church in Bristol, and the confessor of al­derman Cannynge, which he carefully preserved. These at his death, of course fell into the hands of his son.

Of the extraordinary talents of this young man more will be said hereafter. It will be sufficient to observe at pre­sent, that he saw the merit and value of these poems, which he diligently transcribed. In the year 1770, he went to Lon­don, carrying with him these transcripts, and many originals, in hopes of turning so in [...]stimable a treasure to his great [Page 142] advantage. But from these flattering expectations, falling into a dissipated course of life, which ill suited with his narrow circumstances, and finding that a writer of the most distin­guished taste and judgement, Mr. Walpole, had pronounced the poems to be suspicious, in a fit of despair, arising from distress and disappointment, he destroyed all his papers, and poisoned himself. Some of the poems however, both tran­scripts and originals, he had previously sold, either to Mr. Catcott, a merchant of Bristol, or to Mr. Barrett, an emi­nent surgeon of the same place, and an ingenious antiquary, with whom they now remain g. But it appears, that among these there were but very few of parchment: most of the poems which they purchased were copies in his own hand. He was always averse to give any distinct or satisfactory account of what he possessed: but from time to time, as his necessities required, he produced copies of his originals, which were bought by these gentlemen. The originals, one or two only excepted, he chose to retain in his own possession.

The chief of these poems are, The TRAGEDY of ELLA, The EXECUTION of sir CHARLES BAWDWIN, ODE to ELLA, The BATTLE of HASTINGS, The TOURNAMENT, one or two DIALOGUES, and a Description of CANNYNGE'S FEAST.

The TRAGEDY OF ELLA has six characters; one of which is a lady, named Birtha. It has a chorus consisting of minstrels, whose songs are often introduced. Ella was go­vernor of the castle of Bristol, and a puissant champion against the Danes, about the year 920. The story seems to be the poet's invention. The tragedy is opened with the following soliloquy.

CELMONDE atte Brystowe.
Before yonne roddie sonne has droove hys wayne
Through half hys joornie, dyghte yn gites of gowlde,
Mee, hapless mee, he wylle a wretch behowlde,
Myselfe, and alle thatts myne, bounde yn Myschaunche's chayne!
Ah Byrtha, whie dydde nature frame thee fayre,
Whie art thou alle that poyntelleh canne bewreene?
Whie art thou notte as coarse as odhers are?
Botte thenne thie soughlei woulde throwe thie vysage sheene,
Yattek shemresl onne thie comlie semlykeene m,
Or scarlette with waylde lynnen clothe n,
Lyke would thie spriteo [shine] upon thie vysage:
This daie brave Ella dothe thyne honde and harte
Clayme as hys owne to bee, whyche neep from hys moste parte.
And cann I lynne to see herre with anere q?
Ytte cannotte, must notte, naie ytte shall notte bee!
Thys nyght I'lle putt strong poysonne yn the beere,
And hymme, herre, and myselfe attonesr wylle slea.
Assyst, me helle, lette devylles rounde me tende,
To slea myselfe, my love, and eke my doughhtie friende!

The following beautiful descriptions of SPRING, AUTUM [...], and MORNING, are supposed to be sung in the tragedy, by the chorus of minstrels.

The boddyng flowrettes bloshes at the lyhte,
The mees be springedes with the yellowe hue,
Yn daiseyed mantells ys the monntayne dyghte,
The neshet younge cowslepe bendethe wythe the dewe;
[Page 144] The trees enleafede, into heaven straught u,
Whanne gentle wyndes doe blowe, to whestlynge dynne ysw brought.
The evenynge commes, and brynges the dewe alonge,
The rodie welkynne sheeneth toe the eyne,
Arounde the alestake x mynstrelles synge the songe,
Yonge ivie rounde the doore-post doth entwyne;
I laie mee on the grasse: yette to mie wylle,
Albeytte alle ys fayre, theere lackethe sommethynge stylle.
Whanne Autumne, blake, and sonne-brente doe appere,
Wythe hys goulde honde, guylteynge the falleynge lefe,
Bryngeynge oppe Wynterre to folfylle the yere,
Beereynge uponne hys backe the riped shefe;
Whanne alle the hylls wythe woddie seede is whyte,
Whanne levynne fyres, ande lemes, do mete fromme farr the syghte:
Whanne the fayre apple, rudde as even skie,
Doe bende the tree untoe the fructyle grounde,
Whanne joicie peres, and berryes of blacke die,
Doe daunce ynne ayre, and calle the eyne arounde:
Thanne, bee the even fowle, or even fayre,
Meethynckes mie hartys joie ys steyned withe somme care.
Bryghte sonne han ynne hys roddie robes byn dyghte,
Fro the redde easte hee flytted wythe hys trayne;
The howers drawe awaie the geete of nyghte,
Herre sable tapistrie was rente ynne twayne:
[Page 145] The dauncynge streakes bedeckedd heavenne's playne,
And onne the dewe dydd smyle wythe shemryngey eie,
Lyche gottesz of blodde whyche doe blacke armoure steyne,
Sheenynge uponne the borne whyche stondethe bye:—
The souldyerrs stoode uponne the hyllis syde,
Lyche yonge enlefed trees whych ynne a forreste byde a.

But the following ode, belonging to the same tragedy, has much more of the choral or lyric strain.

O! synge unto mie roundelaie,
O! drop the bryny tear with me,
Daunce ne moe atte hallie day,
Lyke a running river bee.
My love is dedde,
Gone to his death bedde,
Al under the willowe tree.
Blacke his cryneb as the wyntere night,
Whyte his rodec as summer snowe,
Rodde his face as morning lyght,
Cold he lies in the grave below.
My love is dedde, &c.
Swote his tounge as the throstle's note,
Quycke in daunce as thought can be,
Deft his tabor, codgelle stote,
Oh! he lies by the willowe tree.
My love is dedde, &c.
Hark! the raven flaps his wynge,
In the brier'd delle belowe;
Hark! the dethe owl loud doth sing
To the night mares as they go.
My love is dedde, &c.
See the white moon sheenes on hie!
Whyter is my true love's shrowde,
Whyter than the morning skie,
Whyter than the evening cloud.
My love is dedde, &c.
Here upon my true love's grave
Shall the garend fleurs be layde:
Ne one hallie saynte to save
Al the celness of a mayde.
My love is dedde, &c.
With my hondes I'll dentee the brieres,
Round his hallie corse to gre f,
Ouphanteg faeries, light your fyres,
Here my bodie still shall bee.
My love is dedde, &c.
Come with acorne-cup, and thorne,
Drain mie harty's blodde awaie:
Lyfe and all its goodes I scorne,
Daunce by night, or feast by day.
My love is dedde, &c.
Watere wytches crownde with reytes h,
Bere me to your lethale tyde;
I die—I come—My true love waytes!
Thos the damselle spake, and dy'd.

According to the date assigned to this tragedy, it is the first drama extant in our language. In an Epistle prefixed to his patron Cannynge, the author thus censures the MYS­TERIES, or religious interludes, which were the only plays then existing.

Plaies made from HALLIEi TALES I hold unmete;
Let some great story of a man be songe;
Whanne, as a man, we Godde and Jesus trete,
Ynne mie poore mynde we doe the godhead wronge.

The ODE TO ELLA is said to have been sent by Rowlie in the year 1468, as a specimen of his poetical abilities, to his intimate friend and cotemporary Lydgate, who had chal­lenged him to write verses. The subject is a victory ob­tained by Ella over the Danes, at Watchett near Bristol k. I will give this piece at length.


Oh! thou (orr whatt remaynes of thee)
EALLE the darlynge of futuritie!
Lette thys mie songe bolde as thie courage bee,
As everlastynge to posteritie!
Whanne Dacya's sonnes, whose hayres of bloude redde hue,
Lyche kynge cuppes brastynge wythe the mornynge due,
Arraung'd ynn dreare arraie,
Uppone the lethale daie,
Spredde farr and wyde onn Watchett's shore:
Thenn dyddst thou furyouse stonde,
And bie thie brondeous honde
Beesprengedd all the mees with gore.
Drawne bie thyne anlace felle l,
Downe to the depthe of helle,
Thousandes of Dacyanns wente;
Brystowannes menne of myghte,
Ydar'd the bloudie fyghte,
And actedd deedes full quente.
Oh! thou, where'er (thie bones att reste)
Thie spryte to haunt delyghteth beste,
Whytherr upponn the bloude-embrewedd pleyne [...]
Orr whare thou kennst fromme farre
The dysmalle crie of warre,
Orr seeste somme mountayne made of corse of sleyne:
Orr seeste the harnessd steede,
Yprauncynge o [...]er the meede,
And neighe to bee amonge the poynctedd speeres;
Orr ynn blacke armoure staulke arounde
Embattell'd Brystowe, once thie grounde,
And glowe ardorous onn the castell steeres:
Orr fierie rounde the mynsterm glare:
Lette Brystowe stylle bee made thie care,
Guarde ytte fromme foemenne and consumynge fyre [...]
Lyche Avone streme ensyrke ytt rounde;
Ne lett a flame enharme the grounde,
'Tyll ynne one flame all the whole worlde expyres.
The monastery. Now the cathedral.

The BATTLE OF HASTINGS is called a translation from the Saxon: and contains a minute description of the persons, arms, and characters of many of the chiefs, who fought in that important action. In this poem, Stonehenge is described as a Druidical temple.

The poem called the TOURNAMENT, is dramatically con­ducted, among others, by the characters of a herald, a knight, a minstrel, and a king, who are introduced speaking.

The following piece is a description of an alderman's feast at Bristol; or, as it is entitled, ACCOUNTE OF W. CANNYNGE'S FEAST.

Thorowe the hall the belle han sounde,
Byalccoylen doe the grave beseeme;
The ealdermenne doe sytte arounde,
And snoffelleo opp the cheorte steeme.
Lyke asses wylde in deserte waste
Swotely the morneynge doe taste,
Syke kene thei ate: the mynstrells plaie,
The dynne of angelles doe thei kepe:
Thei stylle p: the guestes ha ne to saie,
But nodde ther thankes, and falle asleepe.
Thos echeone daie bee I to deene q,
Gyffr Rowley, Ischamm, or Tybb Gorges, be ne seen.

But a dialogue between two ladies, whose knights, or husbands, served in the wars between York and Lancaster, and were now fighting at the battle of Saint Albans, will be more interesting to many readers. This battle happened in the reign of Edward the fifth, about the year 1471.


Anne Ruddebornef bank twa pynynge maydens sate,
Theire teares faste dryppeynge to the waterre cleere;
Echone bementynges for her absente mate,
Who atte Seyncte Albonns shouke the morthynget speare.
The nottebrowne Ellynor to Juga fayre,
Dydde speke acroole u, with languyshmente of eyne,
Lyke droppes of pearlie dewe, lemedw the quyvrynge brin [...].
O gentle Juga! hear mie derniex plainte,
To fyghte for Yorke mie love is dyghty in stele;
O mai ne sanguen steine the whyte rose peyncte,
Maie good Seyncte Cuthberte watch syrre Robynne wele!
Moke moe thanne death in phantasie I feelle;
See! see! upon the grounde he bleedynge lies!
Inhildz some joicea of life, or else my deare love dies.
Systers in sorrowe on thys daise ey'd banke,
Where melancholych broods, we wylle lamente:
Be wette with mornynge dewe and evene danke;
Lyche levyndeb okes in eche the oder bente:
Or lyke forlettenc halles of merriemente,
Whose gastlied nitches holde the traine of fryghte e,
Where lethalef ravens bark, and owlets wake the nyghte.
No mo the miskynetteg shalle wake the morne,
The minstrelle daunce, good cheere, and morryce plaie;
No mo the amblynge palfrie and the horne,
Shall from the lesselh rouȝe the foxe awaie:
Ill seke the foreste alle the lyve-longe daie:
Alle nete amenge the gravde cherchei glebe wyll goe,
And to the passante spryghtes lecturek mie tale of woe.
Whan mokiel cloudes do hange upon the leme
Of ledenm moon, ynn sylver mantels dyghte:
The tryppeynge faeries weve the golden dreme
[Page 152] Of selyness n, whyche flyethe with the nyghte;
Thenne (but the seynctes forbydde) gif to a spryghte
Syrre Rychardes forme is lyped; I'll holde dystraughte
Hys bledeynge clai-colde corse, and die eche daie yn thoughte.
Ah, woe-bementynge wordes; what wordes can showe!
Thou limedo river, on thie linchep mai bleede
Champyons, whose bloude wylle wythe thie waterres flowe,
And Rudborne streeme be rudborne streeme indeede!
Haste gentle Juga, trippe ytte o'ere the meade
To know or wheder wee muste waile agayne,
Or whythe oure fallen knyghte be menged onne the plain.
So saieing, lyke twa levyn-blasted trees,
Or twain of cloudes that holdeth stormie raine,
Theie moved gentle o'ere the dewe mees q;
To where Seyncte Albon's holie shrynes remayne.
There dyd theye finde that bothe their knyghtes were sleyne;
Distraughte r, theie wandered to swollen Rudborne's syde,
Yelled theyre leathalle knelle, sonke in the waves and dyde.
Rudborn, in Saxon, red-water, a river near Saint Albans.
Sad complaint.
Arrayed, or cased.
Deadly, or death-boding.
A small bagpipe.
In a confined sense, a bush or hedge, though sometimes used as a forest.
Church-yard, full of graves.
Happiness [...] Chaucer, TR. CRES. iii. 815.

In a DIALOGUE, or ECLOGUE, spoken by two ladies, are these lines.

Sprytes of the blaste, the pious Nygelle sedde,
Powre oute your pleasaunce on mie fadres hedde.
Richard of lyonn's harte to fyghte is gonne,
Uppon the broad sea doe the banners gleme;
The aminusedd natyons be astonn
To ken sykes large a flete, syke fyne, syke breme t:
[Page 153] The barkis heofods coupe the lymedu streme:
Oundesw synkyng oundes uppon the hard akex rise;
The waters slughornes wyth a swoty cleme
Contekey the dynningez ayre, and rechea the skies.
Sp [...]ytes of the blaste, on gouldenn trones astedde b,
Powre oute your pleasaunce on mie fadres hedde!

I am of opinion, that none of these pieces are genuine. The EXECUTION of SIR CHARLES BAUDWIN is now allowed to be modern, even by those who maintain all the other poems to be antient c. The ODE TO ELLA, and the EPIS­TLE to Lydgate, with his ANSWER, were written on one piece of parchment; and, as pretended, in Rowlie's own hand. This was shewn to an ingenious critic and intelli­gent antiquary of my acquaintance; who assure [...] me, that the writing was a gross and palpable forgery. It was not even skilfully counterfeited. The form of the letters, al­though artfully contrived to wear an antiquated appearance, differed very essentially from every one of our early alpha­bets. Nor were the characters uniform and consistent: part of the same manuscript exhibiting some letters shaped [Page 154] according to the present round hand, while others were traced in imitation of the antient court and text hands. The parchment was old; and that it might look still older, was stained on the outside with ochre, which was easily rubbed off with a linen cloth. Care had also been evidently taken to tincture the ink with a yellow cast. To communi­cate a stronger stamp of rude antiquity, the ODE was writ­ten like prose: no distinction, or termination, being made between the several verses. Lydgate's ANSWER, which makes a part of this manuscript, and is written by the same hand, I have already proved to be a manifest imposition. This parchment has since been unfortunately lost d. I have my­self carefully examined the original manuscript, as it is called, of the little piece entitled, ACCOUNTE OF W. CAN­NYNGE'S FEAST. It is likewise on parchment, and, I am sorry to say, that the writing betrays all the suspicious sig­natures which were observed in that of the ODE TO ELLA. I have repeatedly and diligently compared it with three or four authentic manuscripts of the time of Edward the fourth, to all which I have found it totally unlike. Among other smaller vestiges of forgery, which cannot be so easily described and explained here, at the bottom are added in ink two coats of arms, containing empalements of Cannynge and of his friends or relations, with family-names, appa­rently delineated by the same pen which wrote the verses. Even the style and drawing of the armorial bearings disco­ver the hand of a modern herald. This, I believe, is the only pretended original of the poetry of Rowlie, now remaining.

[Page 155] As to internal arguments, an unnatural affectation of antient spelling and of obsolete words, not belonging to the period assigned to the poems, strikes us at first sight. Of these old words combinations are frequently formed, which never yet existed in the unpolished state of the Eng­lish language: and sometimes the antiquated diction is most inartificially misapplied, by an improper contexture with the present modes of speech. The attentive reader will also discern, that our poet sometimes forgets his assumed cha­racter, and does not always act his part with consistency: for the chorus, or interlude, of the damsel who drowns herself, which I have cited at length from the TRAGEDY of ELLA, is much more intelligible, and free from uncouth expressions, than the general phraseology of these composi­tions. In the BATTLE OF HASTINGS, said to be translated from the Saxon, Stonehenge is called a Druidical temple. The battle of Hastings was fought in the year 1066. We will grant the Saxon original to have been written soon afterwards: about which time, no other notion prevailed concerning this miraculous monument, than the supposition which had been delivered down by long and constant tradi­tion, that it was erected in memory of Hengist's massacre. This was the established and uniform opinion of the Welsh and Armorican bards, who most probably received it from the Saxon minstrels: and that this was the popular belief at the time of the battle of Hastings, appears from the evidence of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote his history not more than eighty years after that memorable event. And in this doctrine Robert of Gloucester and all the mon­kish chroniclers agree. That the Druids constructed this stupendous pile for a place of worship, was a discovery re­served for the sagacity of a wiser age, and the laborious discussion of modern antiquaries. In the EPISTLE to Lyd­gate, prefixed to the TRAGEDY, our poet condemns the absurdity and impropriety of the religious dramas, and recommends [Page 156] SOME GREAT STORY OF HUMAN MANNERS, as most suitable for theatrical representation. But this idea is the result of that taste and discrimination, which could only belong to a more advanced period of society e.

But, above all, the cast of thought, the complexion of the sentiments, and the structure of the composition, evi­dently prove these pieces not antient. The ODE TO ELLA, for instance, has exactly the air of modern poetry; such, I mean, as is written at this day, only disguised with an­tique spelling and phraseology. That Rowlie was an ac­complished literary character, a scholar, an historian, and an antiquarian, if contended for, I will not deny f. Nor is it impossible that he might write English poetry. But that he is the writer of the poems which I have here cited, and [Page 157] which have been so confidently ascribed to him, I am not yet convinced.

On the whole, I am inclined to believe, that these poem [...] were composed by the son of the school-master before men­tioned; who inherited the inestimable treasures of Cannynge's chest in Radcliffe-church, as I have already related at large. This youth, who died at eighteen, was a prodigy of genius: and would have proved the first of English poets, had he reached a maturer age. From his childhood, he was fond of reading and writing verses: and some of his early com­positions, which he wrote without any design to deceive, have been judged to be most astonishing productions by the first critic of the present age. From his situation and con­nections, he became a skilful practitioner in various kinds of hand-writing. Availing himself therefore of his poetical talent, and his facility in the graphic art, to a miscellany of obscure and neglected parchments, which were commo­diously placed in his own possession, he was tempted to add others of a more interesting nature, and such as he was enabled to forge, under these circumstances, without the fear of detection. As to his knowledge of the old English literature, which is rarely the study of a young poet, a suf­ficient quantity of obsolete words and phrases were readily at­tainable from the glossary to Chaucer, and to Percy's Ballads. It is confessed, that this youth wrote the EXECUTION OF SIR CHARLES BAWDWIN: and he who could forge that poem, might easily forge all the rest.

In the mean time, we will allow, that some pieces of poetry written by Rowlie might have been preserved in Cannynge's chest: and that these were enlarged and improved by young Chatterton. But if this was the case, they were so much altered as to become entirely new compositions. The poem which bids the fairest to be one of these originals is CANNYNGE'S FEAST. But the parchment-manuscript of this little poem has already been proved to be a forgery. A circumstance [Page 158] which is perhaps alone sufficient to make us suspect that no originals ever existed.

It will be asked, for what end or purpose did he contrive such an imposture? I answer, from lucrative views; or perhaps from the pleasure of deceiving the world, a motive which, in many minds, operates more powerfully than the hopes of gain. He probably promised himself greater emo­luments from this indirect mode of exercising his abilities: or, he might have sacrificed even the vanity of appearing in the character of an applauded original author, to the private enjoyment of the success of his invention and dexterity.

I have observed above, that Cannynge ordered his iron chest in Radcliffe-church to be solemnly visited once in every year, and that an annual entertainment should be provided for the visitors. In the notices relating to this matter, which some of the chief patrons of Rowlie's poetry hav [...] lately sent me from Bristol, it is affirmed, that this order is contained in Cannynge's will: and that he specifies therein, that not only his manuscript evidences abovementioned, but that the POEMS of HIS CONFESSOR ROWLIE, which likewise he had deposited in the aforesaid iron chest, were also to be submitted to this annual inspection. This circumstance at first strongly inclined me to think favourably of the authen­ticity of these pieces. At least it proved, that Rowlie had left some performances in verse. But on examining Can­nynge's will, no such order appears. All his bequests re­lating to Radcliffe-church, of every kind, are the following. He leaves legacies to the vicar, and the three clerks, of the said church: to the two chantry-priests, or chaplains, of his foundation: to the keeper of the PYXIS OBLATIO­NUM, in the north-door: and to the fraternity Comme­moracionis martirum. Also vestments to the altars of saint Catharine, and saint George. He mentions his tomb built near the altar of saint Catharine, where his late wife is in­rerred. He gives augmentations to the endowment of his [Page 159] two chantries g, at the altars of saint Catharine and saint George, abovementioned. To the choir, he leaves two ser­vice-books, called Liggers, to be used there, on either side, by his two chantry-priests. He directs, that his funeral shall be celebrated in the said church with a month's mind, and the usual solemnities h.

Very few anecdotes of Rowlie's life have descended to posterity. The following MEMOIRS of his life are said to have been written by himself in the year 1460, and to have been discovered with his poetry: which perhaps to many readers will appear equally spurious.

I was fadre confessour to masteres Roberte and mastre William Cannings. Mastre Roberte was a man after his fadre's own harte, greedie of gaynes and sparying of alms deedes; but master William was mickle courteous, and gave me many marks in my needs. At the age of twenty-two years deceasd master Roberte, and by master William's desyre, [Page 160] bequeathd me one hundred marks; I went to thank master [...] William for his mickle courtesie, and to make tender of my selfe to him.—Fadre, quod he, I have a crotchett in my brayne that will need your aide. Master William, said I, if you command me I will go to Roome for you; not so farr distant, said he: I ken you for a mickle learnd priest, if you will leave the parysh of our ladie, and travel for mee, it shall be mickle to your profits.

I gave my hands, and he told mee I must goe to all the abbies and pryorys, and gather together auncient drawy­ings i, if of anie account at any price. Consented I to the same, and pursuant sett out the Mundaie following for the minster of our ladiek and Saint Goodwyne, where a draw­ing of a steeple, contryvd for the belles when runge to swaie out of the syde into the ayre, had I thence, it was done by syr Symon de Mambrie l, who in the troublesomme rayne of kyng Stephen devoted himselfe, and was shorne.

Hawkes showd me a manuscriptm in Saxonne, but I was onley to bargayne for drawyngs.—The next drawyings I metten with was a church to be reard, so as in form of a cross, the end standing in the ground, a long manuscript was annexd. Master Canning thought no workman culd be found handie enough to do it.—The tale of the drawers deserveth relation.—Thomas de Blunderville, a preeste, although [Page 161] the preeste had no allows, lovd a fair mayden, and on her begett a sonn. Thomas educated his soon; at six­teen years he went into the warrs, and neer did return for five years.—His mother was married to a knight, and bare a daughter, then sixteen, who was seen and lovd by Thomas, son of Thomas, and married to him unknown to her mo­ther, by Ralph de Mesching, of the Minster, who invited, as custom was, two of his brothers, Thomas de Blunderville and John Heschamme. Thomas nevertheless had not seen his sonn for five years, kenning him instauntly; and learning the name of the bryde, toke him asyde and disclosd to him that he was his sonn, and was weded to his own sistre.—Yoyng Thomas toke on so that he was shorne.

He drew manie fine drawyings on glass.

The abott of the minster of Peterburrow sold it me, he might have bargaynd twenty marks better, but master Wil­liam would not depart with it. The prior of Coventree did sell me a picture of great account, made by Badilian Y'al­lyanne, who did lyve in the rayne of kyng Henrie the first, a mann of fickle temper, havyng been tendred syx pounds of silver for it, to which he said naie, and afterwards did give it to the then abottn of Coventriee. In brief, I ga­thered together manie marks value of fine drawyings, all the works of mickle cunning.—Master William culld the most choise parts, but hearing of a drawying in Durham church hee did send me.

Fadree you have done mickle well, all the chatills are more worth than you gave; take this for your paynes: so saying, he did put into my hands a purse of two hundreds good pounds, and did say that I should note be in need, I did thank him most heartily.—The choise drawyng, when [Page 162] his fadre did dye, was begunn to be put up, and somme houses neer the old church erased; it was drawn by Aflema, preest of Saint Cutchburts, and offerd as a drawyng for Westminster, but cast asyde, being the tender did not speak French.

I had now mickle of ryches, and lyvd in a house on the hyll, often repayrings to mastere William, who was now lord of the house. I sent him my verses touching his church, for which he did send me mickle good things.

In the year kyng Edward came to Bristow, Master Can­nings send for me to avoid a marriage which the kyng was bent upon between him and a ladie he neer had seen, of the familee of the Winddivilles, the danger where nigh, unless avoided by one remidee, an holie one, which was, to be or­dained a sonn of holy church, beyng franke from the power of kynges in that cause, and can be wedded.—Mr. Cannings instauntly sent me to Carpenter, his good friend, bishop of Worcester, and the Fryday following was prepaird and or­daynd the next day, the daie of Saint Mathew, and on Sunday sung his first mass in the church of our ladie o, to the astonishing of kyng Edward, who was so furiously madd and ravyngs withall, that master Cannings was wyling to give him three thousand markes, which made him peace again, and he was admyted to the presence of the kyng, staid in Bristow, partook of all his pleasures and pastimes till he departed the next year p.

I gave master Cannings my Bristow tragedy q, for which he gave me in hands twentie pound, and did praise it more then I did think my self did deserve, for I can say in troth I was never proud of my verses since I did read master Chau­cer; and now haveing nought to do, and not wyling to be [Page 163] ydle, I went to the minster of our Ladie and Saint Good­win, and then did purchase the Saxon manuscripts, and sett my self diligently to translate and worde it in English metre, which in one year I performd and settled in the Battle of Hastyngs; master William did bargyin for one to be manuscript, and John Pelham, an esquire, of Ashley, for another.—Master William did praise it muckle greatly, but advisd me to tender it to no man, beying the mann whose name where therein mentioned would be offended. He gave me twenty markes, and I did goe to Ashley, to master Pelham, to be payd of him for the other one I left with him.

But his ladie being of the family of the Fiscamps r, of whom some things are said, he told me he had burnt it, and would have me burnt too if I did not avaunt. Dureing this dinn his wife did come out, and made a dinn to speake by a figure would have over sounded the bells of our Ladie of the Cliffe; I was fain content to gett away in a safe skin.

I wrote my Justice of Peace s, which master Cannings advisd me secrett to keep, which I did; and now being grown auncient I was seizd with great pains, which did cost me mickle of marks to be cured off.—Master William of­fered me a cannon's place in Westbury collige, which gladly had I accepted, but my pains made me to staie at home. After this mischance I livd in a house by the Tower, which has not been repaird since Robert Consull of Gloucester re­payrd the castle and wall; here I livd warm, but in my house on the hyll the ayre was mickle keen, some marks it cost me to put it in repair my new house, and brynging my chattles from the ould; it was a fine house, and I much marville it was untenanted. A person greedy of gains was the then possessour, and of him I did buy it at a very small rate, having lookd on the ground works and mayne supports, [Page 164] and fynding them staunch, and repayrs no need wanting, I did buy of the owner, Geoffry Coombe, on a repayring lease for ninety-nine years t, he thinkying it would fall down everie day; but with a few marks expence did put it up in a manner neat, and therein I lyvd.

It is with regret that I find myself obliged to pronounce Rowlie's poems to be spurious. Antient remains of English poetry, unexpectedly discovered, and fortunately rescued from a long oblivion, are contemplated with a degree of fond enthusiasm: exclusive of any real or intrinsic excellence, they afford those pleasures, arising from the idea of anti­quity, which deeply interest the imagination. With these pleasures we are unwilling to part. But there is a more solid satisfaction, resulting from the detection of artifice and imposture.


THE subsequent reigns of Richard the third, Edward the fifth, and Henry the seventh, abounded in obscure versifiers.

A mutilated poem which occurs among the Cotton ma­nuscripts in the British museum, and principally contains a satire on the nuns, who not less from the nature of their establishment, than from the usual degeneracy which attends all institutions, had at length lost their original purity, seems to belong to this period a. It is without wit, and almost without numbers. It was written by one Bertram Walton, whose name now first appears in the catalogue of English poets; and whose life I calmly resign to the researches of some more laborious and patient antiquary.

About the year 1480, or rather before, Benedict Burgh, a master of arts of Oxford, among other promotions in the church, archdeacon of Colchester, prebendary of saint Paul's, and canon of saint Stephen's chapel at Westminster b, tran­slated Cato's MORALS into the royal stanza, for the use of his pupil lord Bourchier son of the earl of Essex c. Encou­raged [Page 166] by the example and authority of so venerable an ec­clesiastic, and tempted probably by the convenient oppor­tunity of pilfering phraseology from a predecessor in the same arduous task, Caxton translated the same Latin work; but from the French version of a Latin paraphrase, and into English prose, which he printed in the year 1483. He calls, in his preface, the measure, used by Burgh, the BALAD ROYAL. Caxton's translation, which superseded Burgh's work, and with which it is confounded, is divided into four books, which comprehend seventy-two heads.

I do not mean to affront my readers, when I inform them, without any apology, that the Latin original of this piece was not written by Cato the censor, nor by Cato Uticensis d: al­though it is perfectly in the character of the former, and Aulus Gellius has quoted Cato's poem DE MORIBUS e. Nor have I the gravity of the learned Boxhornius, who in a prolix and elaborate dissertation has endeavoured to demon­strate, that these distichs are undoubtedly supposititious, and that they could not possibly be written by the very venerable Roman whose name they bear. The title is DISTICHA DE MORIBUS AD FILIUM, which are distributed into four books, under [...]he name of Dionysius Cato. But he is frequently called MAGNUS CATO.

This work has been absurdly attributed by some critics to [Page 167] Seneca, and by others to Ausonius f. It is, however, more antient than the time of the emperour Valentinian the third, who died in 455 g. On the other hand, it was written after the appearance of Lucan's PHARSALIA, as the author, at the beginning of the second book, commends Virgil, Macer h, Ovid, and Lucan. The name of Cato probably became pre­fixed to these distichs, in a lower age, by the officious ig­norance of transcribers, and from the acquiescence of readers equally ignorant, as Marcus Cato had written a set of moral distichs. Whoever was the author, this metrical system of ethics had attained the highest degree of estimation in the barbarous ages. Among Langbain's manuscripts bequeathed to the university of Oxford by Antony Wood, it is accompanied with a Saxon paraphrase i. John of Salisbury, in his POLY­CRATICON, mentions it as the favourite and established manual in the education of boys l. To enumerate no others, [Page 168] it is much applauded by Isidore the old etymologist m, Alcuine n, and Abelard o: and we must acknowledge, that the writer, [Page 169] exclusive of the utility of his precepts, possesses the merit of a nervous and elegant brevity. It is perpetually quoted by Chaucer. In the MILLER'S TALE, he reproaches the simple carpenter for having never read in Cato, that a man should marry his own likeness p: and in the MARCHAUNT'S TALE, having quoted Seneca to prove that no blessing is equal to an humble wife, he adds Cato's precept of prudently bearing a scolding wife with patience q. It was translated into Greek at Constantinople by Maximus Planudes, who has the merit of having familiarised to his countrymen many Latin classics of the lower empire, by metaphrastic versions r: and at the restoration of learning in Europe, illustrated with a com­mentary by Erasmus, which is much extolled by Luther s. There are two or three French translations t. That of Ma­thurine Corderoy is dedicated to Robert Stephens. In the British museum, there is a French translation by Helis de Guincestre, or Winchester; made, perhaps, at the time when our countrymen affected to write more in French than English u. Chaucer constantly calls this writer CATON or CATHON, which shews that he was more familiar in French than in Latin. Caxton in the preface to his aforesaid transla­tion affirms, that Poggius Florentinus, whose library was fur­nished with the most valuable authors, esteemed CATHON GLOSED, that is, Cato with notes, to be the best book in his collection w. The glossarist I take to be Philip de Pergamo, [Page 170] a prior at Padua; who wrote a most elaborate MORALISA­TION on Cato, under the title of SPECULUM REGIMINIS, so early as the year 1380 x. In the same preface, Caxton ob­serves, that it is the beste boke for to be taught to yonge children in scole. But he supposes the author to be Marcus Cato, whom he duly celebrates with the two Scipios and other noble Romaynes. A kind of supplement to this work, and often its companion, under the title of CATO PARVUS, or Facetus, or Urbanus, was written by Daniel Churche, or Ec­clesiensis, a domestic in the court of Henry the second, a learned prince and a patron of scholars, about the year 1180 y. This was also translated by Burghe; and in the British museum, both the CATOS of his version occur, as forming one and the same work, viz. Liber MINORIS Ca­tonis, et MAJORIS, translatus a Latino in Anglicum per Mag. Benet Borugh z. Burghe's performance is too jejune for [Page 171] transcription; and, I suspect, would not have afforded a single splendid extract, had even the Latin possessed any sparks of poetry. It is indeed true, that the only critical excellence of the original, which consists of a terse conciseness of sentences, although not always expressed in the purest latinity, will not easily bear to be transfused. Burghe, but without suf­ficient foundation, is said to have finished Lydgate's GO­VERNAUNCE OF PRINCIS a.

About the year 1481, Julian Barnes, more properly Ber­ners, sister of Richard lord Berners, and prioress of the nunnery of Sopewell, wrote three English tracts on Hawking, Hunting, and Armory, or Heraldry, which were soon afterwards printed in the neighbouringb monastery of saint Alban's c. [Page 172] From an abbess disposed to turn author, we might more reasonably have expected a manual of meditations for the closet, or select rules for making salves, or distilling strong waters. But the diversions of the field were not thought inconsistent with the character of a religious lady of this eminent rank, who resembled an abbot in respect of exer­cising an extensive manerial jurisdiction; and who hawked and hunted in common with other ladies of distinction d. This work, however, is here mentioned, because the second of these treatises is written in rhyme. It is spoken in her own person; in which, being otherwise a woman of au­thority, she assumes the title of dame. I suspect the whole to be a translation from the French and Latin e.

To this period I refer William of Nassyngton, a proctor or advocate in the ecclesiastical court at York. He tran­slated into English rhymes, as I conjecture, about the year 1480, a theological tract, entitled A treatise on the Trinity and Unity with a declaration of God's Works and of the Passion of Jesus Christ, written by John of Waldenby, an Augustine [Page 173] frier of Yorkshire, a student in the Augustine convent at Oxford, the provincial of his order in England, and a strenuous champion against the doctrines of Wiccliffe f. I once saw a manuscript of Nassyngton's translation in the library of Lincoln cathedral g; and was tempted to transcribe the few following lines from the prologue, as they convey an idea of our poet's character, record the titles of some old popular romances, and discover antient modes of public amusement.

I warne you firste at the begynnynge,
That I will make no vayne carpynge,
Of dedes of armes, ne of amou [...]s,
That maketh carpynge in many a place
And of many other GESTES,
And namely when they come to festes;
Ne of the lyf of BEVYS OF HAMPTOUNE,
That was a knyght of grete renoune:
Ne of syr GYE OF WARWYKE, &c.

Our translator in these verses formally declares his in­tention of giving his reader no entertainment; and disavows all concern with secular vanities, especially those unedifying tales of love and arms, which were the customary themes of other poets, and the delight of an idle age. The romances of OCTAVIAN, sir BEVIS, and sir GUY, have already been discussed at large. That of sir ISEMBRAS was familiar in the time of Chaucer, and occurs in the RIME of SIR THOPAS h. In Mr. Garrick's curious library of chivalry, which his friends share in common with himself, there is an edition [Page 174] by Copland, extremely different from the manuscript copies preserved at Cambridge i, and in the Cotton collection k. I believe it to be originally a French romance, yet not of very high antiquity. It is written in the stanza of Chaucer's sir THOPAS l. The incidents are for the most part those trite expedients, which almost constantly form the plan of these metrical narratives.

I take this opportunity of remarking, that the MIN­STRELS, who in this prologue of Nassyngton are named separately from the GESTOURS, or tale-tellers, were some­times distinguished from the harpers. In the year 1374, six Minstrels, accompanied with four Harpers, on the anni­versary of Alwyne the bishop, performed their minstrelsies, at dinner, in the hall of the convent of saint Swithin at Win­chester; and during supper, sung the same GEST, or tale, in the great arched chamber of the prior: on which solemn occasion, the said chamber was hung with the arras, or tapestry, of THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE m. These min­strels and harpers belonged, partly to the royal houshold in Winchester castle, and partly to the bishop of Winchester. [Page 175] There was an annual mass at the shrine or tomb of bishop Alwyne in the church, which was regularly followed by a feast in the convent. It is probable, that the GEST here specified was some poetical legend of the prelate, to whose memory this yearly festival was instituted, and who was a Saxon bishop of Winchester about the year 1040 n. Al­though songs of chivalry were equally common, and I be­lieve more welcome to the monks, at these solemnities. In an accompt-roll of the priory of Bicester, in Oxfordshire o, I find a parallel instance, under the year 1432. It is in this entry. ‘"Dat. sex Ministrallis de Bokyngham cantantibus in refectorio MARTYRIUM SEPTEM DORMIENTIUM in ffesto epiphanie, iv s."’ That is, the treasurer of the monastery gave four shillings to six minstrels from Buckingham, for singing in the refectory a legend called the MARTYRDOM OF THE SEVEN SLEEPERS p, on the feast of the Epiphany. In the Cotton library, there is a Norman poem in Saxon characters on this subject q; which was probably translated afterwards into English rhyme. The original is a Greek legend r, never [Page 176] printed; but which, in the dark ages, went about in a bar­barous Latin translation, by one Syrus s; or in a narrative framed from thence by Gregory of Tours t.

Henry Bradshaw has rather larger pretensions to poeti­cal fame than William of Nassington, although scarcely deserving the name of an original writer in any respect. He was a native of Chester, educated at Gloucester college in Oxford, and at length a Benedictine monk of saint Wer­burgh's abbey in his native place u. Before the year 1500, he wrote the LIFE OF SAINT WERBURGH, a daughter of a king of the Mercians, in English verse w. This poem, beside the devout deeds and passion of the poet's patroness saint, [Page 177] comprehends a variety of other subjects; as a description of the kingdom of the Mercians x, the lives of saint Etheldred and saint Sexburgh y, the foundation of the city of Chester z, and a chronicle of our kings a. It is collected from Bede, Alfred of Beverly, Malmesbury, Girardus Cambrensis, Hig­den's Polychronicon, and the passionaries of the female saints, Werburgh, Etheldred, and Sexburgh, which were kept for [Page 178] public edification in the choir of the church of our poet's monastery b. Bradshaw is not so fond of relating visions and miracles as his argument seems to promise. Although concerned with three saints, he deals more in plain facts than in the fictions of religious romance; and, on the whole, his performance is rather historical than legendary. This is remarkable, in an age, when it was the fashion to turn history into legend c. His fabulous origin of Chester is not [Page 179] so much to be imputed to his own want of veracity, as to the authority of his voucher Ranulph Higden, a celebrated chronicler, his countryman, and a monk of his own abbey d. He supposes that Chester, called by the antient Britons CAIR [Page 180] LLEON, or the city of Legions, was founded by Leon Gaur, a giant, corrupted from LEON VAUR, or the great legion.

The founder of this citie, as sayth Polychronicon,
Was Leon Gaur, a myghte stronge gyaunt,
Which buildid caves and dongeons manie a one,
No goodlie buildyng, ne proper, ne pleasant.

He adds, with an equal attention to etymology:

But kinge Leir a Britan fine and valiaunt,
Was founder of Chester by pleasaunt buildyng,
And was named Guar Leir by the kyng e.

But a greater degree of credulity would perhaps have af­forded him a better claim to the character of a poet: and, at least, we should have conceived a more advantageous opi­nion of his imagination, had he been less frugal of those traditionary fables, in which ignorance and superstition had cloathed every part of his argument. This piece was first printed by Pinson in the year 1521. ‘"Here begynneth the holy lyfe of SAYNT WERBURGE, very frutefull for all cristen people to rede f."’ He traces the genealogy of saint Werburg with much historical accuracy g.

[Page 181] The most splendid passage of this poem, is the following description of the feast made by king Ulpher in the hall of the abbey of Ely, when his daughter Werburgh was admit­ted to the veil in that monastery. Among other curious anecdotes of antient manners, the subjects of the tapestry, with which the hall was hung, and of the songs sung by the minstrels, on this solemn occasion, are given at large h.

Kynge Wulfer her father at this ghostly spousage
Prepared great tryumphes, and solempnyte;
Made a royall feest, as custome is of maryage,
Sende for his frendes, after good humanyte
Kepte a noble housholde, shewed great lyberalyte
Both to ryche and poore, that to this feest wolde come,
No man was denyed, every man was wellcome.
Her uncles and auntes, were present there all
Ethelred and Merwalde, and Mercelly also
Thre blessed kynges, whome sayntes we do call
Saint Keneswyd, saint Keneburg, their sisters both two
And of her noble lynage, many other mo
Were redy that season, with reverence and honour
At this noble tryumphe, to do all theyr devour.
Tho kynges mette them, with their company,
Egbryct kynge of Kent, brother to the quene;
The second was Aldulphe kynge of the east party,
Brother to saynt Audry, wyfe and mayde serene;
With divers of theyr progeny, and nobles as I wene,
Dukes, erles, barons, and lordes ferre and nere,
In theyr best array, were present all in fere i.
It were full tedyous, to make descrypcyon
Of the great tryumphes, and solempne royalte,
Belongynge to the feest, the honour and provysyon,
By playne declaracyon, upon every partye;
But the sothe to say, withouten ambyguyte,
All herbes and flowres, fragraunt, fayre and swete,
Were strawed in halles, and layd under theyr fete.
Clothes of golde and arras, were hanged in the hall
Depaynted with pyctures, and hystoryes manyfolde,
Well wroughte and craftely, with precious stones all
Glyterynge as Phebus, and the beten golde,
Lyke an erthly paradyse, pleasaunt to beholde:
As for the sayd moynes k, was not them amonge,
But prayenge in her cell, as done all novice yonge.
The story of Adam, there was goodly wrought
And of his wyfe Eve, bytwene them the serpent,
How they were deceyved, and to theyr peynes brought;
There was Cayn and Abell, offerynge theyr present,
The sacryfyce of Abell, accepte full evydent:
Tuball and Tubalcain, were purtrayed in that place
The inventours of musyke, and crafte by great grace.
Noe and his shyppe, was made there curyously
Sendynge forthe a raven, whiche never came again;
And how the dove returned, with a braunche hastely,
A token of comforte and peace, to man certayne:
Abraham there was, standing upon the mount playne
To offer in sacrifice, Isaac his dere sone,
And how the shepe for hym was offered in oblacyon.
The twelve sones of Jacob, there were in purtrayture
And how into Egypt, yonge Joseph was solde,
There was imprisoned, by a false conjectour,
After in all Egypte, was ruler (as is tolde).
There was in pycture, Moyses wyse and bolde,
Our Lorde apperynge, in bushe flammynge as fyre
And nothing thereof brent, lefe, tree, nor spyre l.
The ten plages of Egypt, were well embost
The chyldren of Israel, passyng the reed see,
Kynge Pharoo drowned, with all his proude hoost,
And how the two table, at the mounte Synaye
Were gyven to Moyses, and how soon to idolatry
The people were prone, and punyshed were therefore,
How Datan and Abyron, for pryde were full youre m.
Duke Josue was joyned, after them in pycture,
Ledynge the Isre [...]elytes to the land of promyssyon,
And how the said land was divided by mesure
To the people of God, by equall sundry porcyon:
The judges and bysshops were there everychone,
Theyr noble actes, and tryumphes marcyall,
Fresshly were browdred in these clothes royall.
Nexte to the greate lorde, appered fayre and bryght
Kynge Saull and David, and prudent Solomon,
Roboas succedynge, whiche soone lost his myght,
The good kynge Esechyas, and his generacyon,
And so to the Machabees, and dyvers other nacyon,
All these sayd storyes, so rychely done and wrought.
Belongyng to kyng Wulfer, agayn that tyme were brought n.
But over the hye desse o, in the pryncypall place
Where the sayd thre kynges sate crowned all,
The best hallyngep hanged, as reason was,
Whereon were wrought the ix. orders angelicall
Dyvyded in thre ierarchyses, not cessynge to call
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, blessed be the Trynite,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth, thre persons in one deyte.
Next in order suynge q, sette in goodly purtrayture
Was our blessed lady, flowre of femynyte,
With the twelve Apostles, echeone in his figure,
And the foure Evangelystes, wrought most curyously:
Also the Dyscyples of Christ in theyr degre
Prechynge and techynge, unto every nacyon,
The faythtesr of holy chyrche, for their salvacyon.
Martyrs than folowed, right manifolde:
The holy Innocentes, whom Herode had slayne,
Blessed Saynt Stephen, the prothomartyr truly,
Saynt Laurence, Saynt Vyncent, sufferynge great payne;
With many other mo, than here ben now certayne,
Of which sayd martyrs exsample we may take,
Pacyence to observe, in herte, for Chrystes sake.
Confessours approched, right convenient,
Fressely enbrodred in ryche tysshewe and fyne;
Saynt Nycholas, Saynt Benedycte, and his convent,
Saynt Jerom, Basylyus, and Saynt Augustine,
Gregory the great doctour, Ambrose and Saynt Martyne:
All these were sette in goodly purtrayture,
Them to beholde was a heavenly pleasure.
Vyrgyns them folowed, crowned with the lyly,
Among whome our lady chefe president was;
Some crowned with rooses for their great vyctory:
Saynt Kather [...]ne, Saynt Margerette, Saynt Agathas,
Saynt Cycyly, Saynt Agnes, and Saynt Charytas,
Saynt Lucye, Saynt Wenefryde, and Saynt Apolyn;
All these were brothered s, the clothes of golde within.
Upon the other syde of the hall sette were
Noble auncyent storyes, and how the stronge Sampson
Subdued his enemyes by his myghty power;
Of Hector of Troye, slayne by fals treason;
Of noble Arthur, kynge of this regyon:
With many other mo, which it is to longe
Playnly to expresse this tyme you amonge.
The tables were covered with clothes of dyaper,
Rychely enlarged with silver and with golde,
The cupborde with plate shynyng fayre and clere,
Marshalles theyr offyces fulfylled manyfolde:
Of myghty wyne plenty, both newe and olde,
All maner kynde of meetes delycate
(Whan grace was sayd) to them was preparate.
To this noble feest there was suche ordinaunce,
That nothynge wanted that goten myght be
On see and on lande, but there was habundance
Of all maner pleasures to be had for monye;
The bordes all charged full of meet plente,
And dyvers subtyltest prepared sothly were,
With cordyall and spyces, theyr guestes for to chere.
The joyfull wordes and sweet communycacyon
Spoken at the table, it were harde to tell;
Eche man at lyberte, without interrupcyon,
Bothe sadnes and myrthes, also pryve counsell,
Some adulacyon, some the truth dyd tell,
But the great astatesu spake of theyr regyons,
Knyghtes of theyr chyvalry, of craftes the comons.
Certayne at eche cours of service in the hall,
Trumpettes blewe up, shalmes and claryons,
Shewynge theyr melody, with toynesw musycall,
Dyvers other mynstrelles, in crafty proporcyons,
Mad swete concordaunce and lusty dyvysyons:
An hevenly pleasure, suche armony to here,
Rejoysynge the hertes of the audyence full clere.
A singuler Mynstrell, all other ferre passynge,
Toynedx his instrument in pleasaunte armony,
And sang moost swetely, the company gladynge,
Of myghty conquerours, the famous vyctory;
Wherwith was ravysshed theyr sprytes and memory:
Specyally he sange of the great Alexandere,
Of his tryumphes and honours endurynge xii yere.
Solemply he songe the scate of the Romans,
Ruled under kynges by policy and wysedome,
Of theyr hye justice and ryghtful ordinauns
Dayly encreasynge in worshyp and renowne,
Tyll Tarquyne the proude kynge, with that great confusion,
Oppressed dame Lucrece, the wyfe of Colatyne,
Kynges never reyned in Rome syth that tyme.
Also how the Romayns, under thre dyctatours,
Governed all regyons of the worlde ryght wysely,
Tyll Julyus Cesar, excellynge all conquerours,
Subdued Pompeius, and toke the hole monarchy
And the rule of Rome to hym selfe manfully;
But Cassius Brutus, the fals conspyratour,
Caused to be slayne the sayd noble emperour.
After the sayd Julius, succeded his syster sone,
Called Octavianus, in the imperyall see,
And by his precepte was made descrypcyon
To every regyon, lande, shyre y, and cytee,
A tribute to pay unto his dignyte:
That tyme was universal peas and honour,
In whiche tyme was borne our blessed Savyoure.
All these hystoryes, noble and auncyent,
Rejoysynge the audyence, he sange with pleasuer;
And many other mo of the Newe Testament,
Pleasaunt and profytable for their soules cure,
Whiche be omytted, now not put in ure z:
The mynysters were ready, theyr offyce to fullfyll,
To take up the tables at their lordes wyll.
Whan this noble feest and great solempnyte,
Dayly endurynge a longe tyme and space,
Was royally ended with honour and royalte,
Eche kynge at other lysence taken hace,
And so departed from thens to theyr place:
Kyng Wulfer retourned, with worshyp and renowne,
From the housea of Ely to his owne mansyon.

If there be any merit of imagination or invention, to which the poet has a claim in this description, it altogether consists in the application. The circumstances themselves are faithfully copied by Bradshaw, from what his own age actually presented. In this respect, I mean as a picture of antient life, the passage is interesting; and for no other reason. The versification is infinitely inferior to Lydgate's worst manner.

Bradshaw was buried in the cathedral church, to which his convent was annexed, in the year 1513 b. Bale, a violent reformer, observes, that our poet was a person remarkably pious for the times in which he flourished c. This is an in­ [...]irect satire on the monks, and on the period which pre­ceded the reformation. I believe it will readily be granted, [...] our author had more piety than poetry. His Pro­log [...] contains the following humble professions of his ina­bility [...]o treat lofty subjects, and to please light readers.

To descrybe hye hystoryes I dare not be so bolde,
Syth it is a matter for clerkes convenyent;
As of the seven ages, and of our parentes olde,
Or of the four empyres whilom most excellent;
Knowyng my lerning therto insuffycient:
As for baudy balades you shall have none of me,
To excyte lyght hertes to pleasure and vanity d.

[Page 189] A great translator of the lives of the Saxon saints, from the Saxon, in which language only they were then extant, into Latin, was Goscelinus, a monk of Saint Austin's at Canterbury, who passed from France into England, with Herman, bishop of Salisbury, about the year 1058 e. As the Saxon language was at this time but little understood, these translations opened a new and ample treasure of religious history: nor were they acquisitions only to the religion, but to the literature, of that era. Among the rest, were the Lives of saint Werburgh f, saint Etheldred g, and saint Sex­burgh h, most probably the legends, which were Bradshaw's originals. Usher observes, that Goscelinus also translated into Latin the antient Catalogue of the Saxon saints buried in England i. In the register of Ely it is recorded, that he was the most eloquent writer of his age; and that he circu­lated all over England, the lives, miracles, and GESTS, of the saints of both sexes, which he reduced into prose-histories k. The words of the Latin deserve our attention. ‘"In historiis in prosa dictando mutavit."’ Hence we may perhaps infer [...] that they were not before in prose, and that he took the [...] from old metrical legends: this is a presumptive proof, that the lives of the saints were at first extant in verse. In the same light we are to understand the words which i [...] ­diately follow. ‘"Hic scripsit Prosam sanctae Etheld [...]ae l."’ Where the Prose of saint Etheldred is opposed to her poetical legend m. By mutavit dictando, we are to understand, that he [Page 190] translated, or reformed, or, in the most general sense, wrote anew in Latin, these antiquated lives. His principal objects were the more recent saints, especially those of this island. Malmesbury says, ‘"Innumeras SANCTORUM VITAS RECEN­TIUM stylo extulit, veterum vel amissas, vel informiter editas, comptius renovavit n."’ In this respect, the labours of Gos­celin partly resembled those of Symeon Metaphrastes, a cele­brated Constantinopolitan writer of the tenth century: who obtained the distinguishing appellation of the METAPHRAST, [Page 191] because, at the command, and under the auspices of Con­stantine Porphyrogenitus, he modernised the more antient narratives of the miracles and martyrdoms of the most emi­nent eastern and western saints, for the use of the Greek church: or rather digested, from detached, imperfect, or obsolete books on the subject, a new and more commodious body of the sacred biography.

Among the many striking contrasts between the manners and characters of antient and modern life, which these annals present, we must not be surprised to find a mercer, a sheriff, and an alderman of London, descending from his impor­tant occupations, to write verses. This is Robert Fabyan, who yet is generally better known as an historian, than as a poet. He was esteemed, not only the most facetious, but the most learned, of all the mercers, sheriffs, and aldermen, of his time: and no layman of that age is said to have been better skilled in the Latin language. He flourished about the year 1494. In his CHRONICLE, or Concordance of histories, from Brutus to the year 1485, it is his usual practice, at the division of the books, to insert metrical prologues, and other pieces in verse. The best of his metres is the COM­PLAINT of king Edward the second; who, like the per­sonages in Boccacio's FALL OF PRINCES, is very dramatically introduced, reciting his own misfortunes o. But th [...] soli­loquy is nothing more than a translation from a short and a very poor Latin poem attributed to that monarch, but probably written by William of Wyrcester, which is pre­served among the manuscripts of the college of arms, and entitled, Lamentatio gloriosi regis Edvardi de Karnarvon quam edidit tempore suae incarcerationis. Our author's transitions [Page 192] from prose to verse, in the course of a prolix narrative, seem to be made with much ease; and, when he begins to versify, the historian disappears only by the addition of rhyme and stanza. In the first edition of his CHRONICLE, by way of epilogues to his seven books, he has given us The seven joys of the Blessed Virgin in English Rime. And under the year 1325, there is a poem to the virgin; and another on one Badby, a Lollard, under the year 1409 p. These are suppressed in the later editions. He has likewise left a panegyric on the city of London; but despairs of doing justice to so noble a subject for verse, even if he had the eloquence of Tully, the morality of Seneca, and the harmony of that faire Lady Calliope q. The reader will thank me for citing only one stanza from king Edward's COMPLAINT.

When Saturne, with his cold and isye face,
The ground, with his frostes, turneth grene to white;
The time winter, which treès doth deface,
And causeth all verdure to avoyde quite:
Then fortune, which sharpe was, with stormes not lite
Hath me assaulted with her froward wyll,
And me beclipped with daungers ryght yll r.

[Page 193] As an historian, our author is the dullest of compilers. He is equally attentive to the succession of the mayors of London, and of the monarchs of England: and seems to have thought the dinners at guildhall, and the pageantries of the city-companies, more interesting transactions, than our victories in France, and our struggles for public liberty at home. One of Fabyan's historical anecdotes, under the important reign of Henry the fifth, is, that a new weather­cock was placed on the cross of Saint Paul's steeple. It is said, that cardinal Wolsey commanded many copies of this chronicle to be committed to the flames, because it made too ample a discovery of the excessive revenues of the clergy. The earlier chapters of these childish annals faithfully record all those fabulous traditions, which generally supply the place of historic monuments in describing the origin of a great nation.

Another poet of this period is John Watson, a priest. He wrote a Latin theological tract entitled SPECULUM CHRISTIANI, which is a sort of paraphrase on the decalogue and the creed r. But it is interspersed with a great number of wretched English rhymes: among which, is the follow­ing hymn to the virgin Mary s.

Mary Moder, wel thou be;
Mary Moder thenke on mee:
Mayden and moder was never none
Togeder, lady, safe thou allone t.
Swete lady, mayden clene,
Schilde me fro ille, schame, and tene,
And out of dette, for charitee, &c. u.

Caxton, the celebrated printer, was likewise a poet; and beside the rhyming introductions and epilogues with which he frequently decorates his books, has left a poem of con­siderable length, entitled the WORKE OF SAPIENCE w. It comprehends, not only an allegorical fiction concerning the two courts of the castle of Sapience, in which there is no imagination, but a system of natural philosophy, grammar, logic, rhetoric, geometry, astronomy, theology, and other [Page 195] topics of the fashionable literature. Caxton appears to be the author, by the prologue: yet it is not improbable, that he might on this occasion employ some professed versifier, at least as an assistant, to prepare a new book of original poetry for his press. The writer's design, is to describe the effects of wisdom from the beginning of the world: and the work is a history of knowledge or learning. In a vision, he meets the goddess SAPIENCE in a delightful meadow; who conducts him to her castle, or mansion, and there displays all her miraculous operations. Caxton, in the poem, in­vokes the gylted goddess and moost facundyous lady Clio, apolo­gises to those makers who delight in termes gay, for the in­elegancies of language which as a foreigner he could not avoid, and modestly declares, that he neither means to rival or envy Gower and Chaucer.

Among the anonymous pieces of poetry belonging to this period, which are very numerous, the most conspicuous is the KALENDAR OF SHEPHERDS. It seems to have been trans­lated into English about the year 1480, from a French book entitled KALENDRIER DES BERGERS x. It was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in the year 1497 y. This piece was cal­culated for the purposes of a perpetual almanac; and seems to have been the universal magazine of every article of sa­lutary and useful knowledge. It is a medley of verse and prose; and contains, among many other curious particulars, the saints of the whole year, the moveable feasts, the signs of the zodiac, the properties of the twelve months, rules [Page 196] for blood-letting, a collection of proverbs, a system of ethics, politics, divinity, phisiognomy, medicine, astrology, and geography z. Among other authors, Cathon the great clarke a, Solomon, Ptolomeus the prince of astronomy, and Aristotle's Epistle to Alexander, are quoted b. Every month is intro­duced respectively speaking, in a stanza of balad royal, its own panegyric. This is the speech of May c.

Of all monthes in the yeare I am kinge,
Flourishing in beauty excèllently;
For, in my time, in vertue is all thinge,
Fieldes and medes sprede most beautiously,
And birdes singe with sweete harmony;
Rejoysing lovers with hot love endewed,
With fragrant flowers all about renewed [...]

In the theological part, the terrors and certainty of death are described, by the introduction of Death, seated on the pale horse of the Apocalypse, and speaking thus d.

Upon this horse, blacke and hideous
DEATH I am, that fiercely doth sitte:
[Page 197] There is no fairenesse, but sight tedious,
All gay colours I do hitte.
My horse runneth by dales and hilles,
And many he smiteth dead and killes.
In my trap I take some by every way,
By towns [and] castles I take my rent.
I will not respite one an houre of a daye,
Before me they must needes be present.
I slea all with my mortall knife,
And of duety I take the life.
HELL knoweth well my killing,
I sleepe never, but wake and warke;
Itd followeth me ever running,
With my darte I slea weake and starke:
A great number it hath of me,
Paradyse hath not the fourth parte, &c.

In the eighth chapter of our KALENDER are described the seven visions, or the punishments in hell of the seven deadly sins, which Lazarus saw between his death and resurrection. These punishments are imagined with great strength of fancy, and accompanied with wooden cuts boldly touched, and which the printer Wynkyn de Worde probably procured from some German engraver at the infancy of the art e. The PROUD are bound by hooks of iron to vast wheels, like mills, placed between craggy precipices, which are in­cessantly whirling with the most violent impetuosity, and sound like thunder. The ENVIOUS are plunged in a lake half frozen, from which as they attempt to emerge for ease, their naked limbs are instantly smote with a blast of such intolerable keenness, that they are compelled to dive again into the lake. To the WRATHFULL is assigned a gloomy cavern, in which their bodies are butchered, and their limbs mangled [Page 198] by demons with various weapons. The SLOTHFULL are tormented in a horrible hall dark and tenebrous, swarming with innum [...]rable flying serpents of various shapes and sizes, which sting to the heart. This, I think, is the Hell of the Gothic EDDA. The COVETOUS are dipped in cauldrons filled with boiling metals. The GLUTTONOUS are placed in a vale near a loathsome pool, abounding with venomous creatures, on whose banks tables are spread, from which they are per­petually crammed with toads by devils. CONCUPISCENCE is punished in a field full of immense pits or wells, overflowing with fire and sulphur. This visionary scene of the infernal punishments seems to be borrowed from a legend related by Matthew Paris, under the reign of king John: in which the soul of one Thurkhill, a native of Tidstude in Essex is con­veyed by saint Julian from his body, when laid asleep, into hell and heaven. In hell he has a sight of the torments of the damned, which are presented under the form and name of the INFERNAL PAGEANTS, and greatly resemble the fictions I have just described. Among the tormented, is a knight, who had passed his life in shedding much innocent blood at tilts and tournaments. He is introduced, com­pleatly armed, on horseback; and couches his lance against the demon, who is commissioned to seize and to drag him to his eternal destiny. There is likewise a priest who never said mass, and a baron of the exchequer who took bribes. Tur­kill is then conducted into the mansions of the blessed, which are painted with strong oriental colouring: and in Paradise, a garden replenished with the most delicious fruits, and the most exquisite variety of trees, plants, and flowers, he sees Adam, a personage of gigantic proportion, but the most beautiful symmetry, reclined on the side of a fountain which sent forth four streams of different water and colour, and under the shade of a tree of immense size and height, laden with fruits of every kind, and breathing the richest odours. Afterwards saint Julian conveys the soul of Turkhill back to [Page 199] his body; and when awakened, he relates this vision to his parish-priest f. There is a story of a similar cast in Bedeg, which I have mentioned before h.

As the ideas of magnificence and elegance were enlarged, the public pageants of this period were much improved: and beginning now to be celebrated with new splendour, received, among other advantages, the addition of SPEAKING PERSONAGES. These spectacles, thus furnished with speakers, characteristically habited, and accompanied with proper scenery, co-operated with the MYSTERIES, of whose nature they partook at first, in introducing the drama. It was customary to prepare these shews at the reception of a prince, or any other solemnity of a similar kind: and they were pre­sented on moveable theatres, or occasional stages, erected in the streets. The speeches were in verse; and as the pro­cession moved forward, the speakers, who constantly bore some allusion to the ceremony, either conversed together in the form of a dialogue, or addressed the noble person whose presence occasioned the celebrity. Speakers seem to have been admitted into our pageants about the reign of Henry the sixth.

[Page 200] In the year 1432, when Henry the sixth, after his coro­nation at Paris, made a triumphal entry into London, many stanzas, very probably written by Lydgate, were addressed to his majesty, amidst a series of the most splendid allegori­cal spectacles, by a giant representing religious fortitude, Enoch and Eli, the holy Trinity, two Judges and eight Ser­jeants of the coife, dame Clennesse, Mercy, Truth, and other personages of a like nature i.

In the year 1456, when Margaret wife of Henry the sixth, with her little son Edward, came to Coventy, on the feast of the exaltation of the holy cross, she was received with the [Page 201] presentation of pageants, in one of which king Edward the confessor, saint John the Evangelist, and saint Margaret, each speak to the queen and the prince in verse k. In the next reign in the year 1474, another prince Edward, son of Edward the fourth, visited Coventry, and was honoured with the same species of shew: he was first welcomed, in an octave stanza, by Edward the confessor; and afterwards addressed by saint George, completely armed: a king's daughter holding a lamb, and supplicating his assistance to protect her from a terrible dragon, the lady's father and mo­ther, standing in a tower above, the conduit on which the champion was placed, ‘"renning wine in four places, and minstralcy of organ playing l."’ Undoubtedly the Fran­ciscan friers of Coventry, whose sacred interludes, presented on Corpus Christi day, in that city, and at other places, make so conspicuous a figure in the history of the English drama m, were employed in the management of these devises: and that the Coventry men were famous for the arts of exhibition, appears from the share they took in the gallant entertainment of queen Elisabeth at Kenelworth-castle, be­fore whom they played their old storial show n.

At length, personages of another cast were added; and this species of spectacle, about the period with which we are [Page 202] concerned, was enlivened by the admission of new characters, drawn either from profane history, or from profane al­legory o, in the application of which, some degree of learn­ing and invention appeared.

I have observed in a former work, and it is a topic which will again be considered in its proper place, that the frequent and familiar use of allegoric personifications in the public pageants, I mean the general use of them, greatly contri­buted to form the school of Spenser p. But moreover from what is here said, it seems probable, that the PAGEAUNTS, which being shewn on civil occasions, derived great part of their decorations and actors from historical fact, and con­sequently made profane characters the subject of public ex­hibition, dictated ideas of a regular drama, much sooner than the MYSTERIES: which being confined to scripture stories, or rather the legendary miracles of sainted martyrs, and the no less ideal personifications of the christian virtues, were not calculated to make so quick and easy a transition to the representations of real life and rational action.

In the year 1501, when the princess Catharine of Spain came to London, to be married to prince Arthur, her pro­cession through the city was very magnificent. The pa­geants were numerous, and superbly furnished; in which the principal actors, or speakers, were not only God the father, saint Catharine, and saint Ursula, but king Alphonsus the astronomer and an ancestor of the princess, a Senator, an Angel, Job, Boethius, Nobility, and Virtue. These per­sonages sustained a sort of action, at least of dialogue. The [Page 203] lady was compared to Hesperus, and the prince to Arcturus; and Alphonsus, from his skill in the stars, was introduced to be the fortune-teller of the match q. These machineries were contrived and directed by an ecclesiastic of great eminence, bishop Fox; who, says Bacon, ‘"was not only a grave coun­sellor for war or peace, but also a good surveyor of works, and a good master of ceremonies, and any thing else that was fit for the active part, belonging to the service of court, or state of a great king."’ It is probable, that this prelate's dexterity and address in the conduct of a court­rareeshow procured him more interest, than the gravity of his counsels, and the depth of his political knowledge: at least his employment in this business presents a striking picture of the importance of those popular talents, which even in an age of blind devotion, and in the reign of a superstitious monarch, were instrumental in paving the way to the most opulent dignities of the church. ‘"Whosoever, adds the same pene­trating historian, had these toys in compiling, they were not altogether PEDANTICAL r."’ About the year 1487, Henry the seventh went a progress into the north; and at every place of distinction was received with a pageant; in which he was saluted, in a poetical oration, not always religious, as, at York by Ebranck, a British king and the founder of the city, as well as by the holy virgin, and king David: at Worcester by Henry the sixth his uncle: at Hereford by saint George, and king Ethelbert, at en­tering the cathedral there: at Bristol, by king Bremmius, Prudence, and Justice. The two latter characters were per­sonated by young girls s.

In the mean time it is to be granted, that profane cha­racters were personated in our pageants, before the close of the fourteenth century. Stowe relates, that in the year [Page 204] 1377, for the entertainment of the young prince Richard, son of Edward the black prince, one hundred and thirty citizens rode disguised from Newgate to Kennington where the court resided, attended with an innumerable multitude of waxen torches, and various instruments of music, in the evening of the Sunday preceding Candlemas-day. In the first rank were forty-eight, habited like esquires, with visors; and in the second the same number, in the character of knights. ‘"Then followed one richly arrayed like an EM­PEROR, and after him, at some distance, one stately-tyred like a POPE, whom followed twenty-four CARDINALLS, and after them eyght or tenne with blacke visors not amiable, as if they had been LEGATES from some forrain princes."’ But this parade was nothing more than a DUMB SHEW, unaccompanied with any kind of interlocution. This appears from what follows. For our chronicler adds, that when they entered the hall of the palace, they were met by the prince, the queen, and the lords; ‘"whom the said mum­mers did salute, shewing by a pair of dice their desire to play with the prince,"’ which they managed with so much com­plaisance and skill, that the prince won of them a bowl, a cup, and a ring of gold, and the queen and lords, each, a ring of gold. Afterwards, having been feasted with a sump­tuous banquet, they had the honour of dancing with the young prince and the nobility, and so the ceremony was concluded t. Matthew Paris informs us, that at the mag­nificent marriage of Henry the third with Eleanor of Pro­vence, in the year 1236, certain strange pageants, and won­derful devises, were displayed in the city of London; and that the number of HISTRIONES on this occasion was infinite u. [Page 205] But the word HISTRIO, in the Latin writers of the barbarous ages w, generally comprehends the numerous tribe [Page 206] of mimics, juglers, dancers, tumblers, musicians, minstrels, and the like public practitioners of the recreative arts, with which those ages abounded: nor do I recollect a single instance in which it precisely bears the restrained modern interpretation.

As our thoughts are here incidentally turned to the rudi­ments of the English stage x, I must not omit an anecdote, entirely new, with regard to the mode of playing the MYSTERIES at this period, which yet is perhaps of much higher antiquity. In the year 1487, while Henry the seventh kept his residence at the castle at Winchester, on occasion of the birth of prince Arthur, on a sunday, during the time of dinner, he was entertained with a religious drama called CHRISTI DESCENSUS AD INFEROS, or Christ's descent into hell y. It was represented by the PUERI ELEEMOSYNARII, or choir­boys, of Hyde abbey, and saint Swithin's priory, two large monasteries at Winchester. This is the only proof I have ever seen of choir-boys acting in the old MYSTERIES: nor [Page 207] do I recollect any other instance of a royal dinner, even on a festival, accompanied with this species of diversion z. The story of this interlude, in which the chief characters were Christ, Adam, Eve, Abraham, and John the Baptist, was not uncommon in the antient religious drama, and I believe made a part of what is called the LUDUS PASCHALIS, or Easter Play a. It occurs in the Coventry plays acted on Corpus Christi day b; and in the Whitsun-plays at Chester, where it is called the HARROWING OF HELL c. The repre­sentation is Christ entering hell triumphantly, delivering our first parents, and the most sacred characters of the old and new testaments, from the dominion of Satan, and con­veying them into Paradise. There is an ancient poem, per­haps an interlude, on the same subject, among the Harleian manuscripts; containing our saviour's dialogues in hell with Sathanas, the Janitor, or porter of hell, Adam, Eve, Ha­braham, David, Johan Baptist, and Moyses. It begins,

Alle herkneþ to me nou:
A strif wolle y tellen ou
Of Jhesu ant of Sathan
Þo Jhesus was to hell y-gan d.

[Page 208] The composers of the MYSTERIES did not think the plain and probable events of the new testament sufficiently marvellous for an audience who wanted only to be surprised. They frequent­ly selected their materials from books which had more of the air of romance. The subject of the MYSTERIES just-men­tioned was borrowed from the PSEUDO-EVANGELIUM, or the FABULOUS GOSPEL, ascribed to Nicodemus e: a book, which, together with the numerous apocryphal narratives, contain­ing infinite innovations of the evangelical history, and forged at Constantinople [...] the early writers of the Greek church, gave birth to an [...]ndless variety of legends concerning the life of Christ and his apostles f; and which, in the barbarous [Page 209] ages, was better esteemed than the genuine gospel, on ac­count of its improbabilities and absurdities.

But whatever was the source of these exhibitions, they were thought to contribute so much to the information and instruction of the people on the most important subjects of religion, that one of the popes granted a pardon of one thousand days to every person who resorted peaceably to the plays performed in the Whitsun week at Chester, beginning with the creation, and ending with the general judgment; and this indulgence was seconded by the bishop of the diocese, who granted forty days of pa [...]on: the pope at the same time denouncing the sentence of damnation on all those incorrigible sinners, who presumed to disturb or interrupt the due celebration of these pious sports f. It is certain that they had their use, not only in teaching the great truths of scripture to men who could not read the bible, but in abolish­ing the barbarous attachment to military games, and the bloody contentions of the tournament, which had so long prevailed as the sole species of popular amusement. Rude and even ridiculous as they were, they softened the manners of the people, by diverting the public attention to specta­cles in which the mind was concerned, and by creating a regard for other arts than those of bodily strength and savage valour.


THE only writer deserving the name of a poet in the reign of Henry the seventh, is Stephen Hawes. He was patronised by that monarch, who possessed some tinc­ture of literature, and is said by Bacon to have confuted a Lollard in a public disputation at Canterbury a.

Hawes flourished [...]out the close of the fifteenth century; and was a native of Suffolk b. After an academical education at Oxford, he travelled much in France; and became a com­plete master of the French and Italian poetry. His polite accomplishments quickly procured him an establishment in the houshold of the king; who struck with the liveliness of his conversation, and because he could repeat by memory most of the old English poets, especially Lydgate, made him groom of the privy chamber c. His facility in the French tongue was a qualification, which might strongly recommend him to the fa [...]our of Henry the seventh; who was fond of studying the best French books then in vogue d.

Hawes has left many poems, which are now but imper­fectly known, and scarcely remembered. These are, the TEMPLE OF GLASSE. The CONVERSION OF SWERERS e, in octave stanzas, with Latin lemmata, printed by de Worde in 1509 f. A JOYFULL MEDITATION OF ALL ENGLOND, OR [Page 211] THE CORONACYON TO OUR MOST NATURAL SOVEREIGN LORD KING HENRY THE EIGTH IN VERSE. By the same, and with­out date; but probably it was printed soon after the cere­mony which it celebrates. These coronation-carols were customary. There is one by Lydgate g. THE CONSOLATION OF LOVERS. THE EXEMPLAR OF VIRTUE. THE DELIGHT OF THE SOUL. OF THE PRINCE'S MARRIAGE. THE AL­PHABET OF BIRDS. Some of the five latter pieces, none of which I have seen, and which perhaps were never printed, are said by Wood to be written in Latin, and seem to be in prose.

The best of Hawes's poems, hitherto enumerated, is the TEMPLE OF GLASS h. On a comparison, it will be found to [Page 212] be a copy of the HOUSE OF FAME of CHAUCER, in which that poet sees in a vision a temple of glass, on the walls of which were engraved stories from Virgil's En [...]id and Ovid's Epistles. It also strongly resembles that part of Chaucer's ASSEMBLY OF FOULES, in which there is the fic­tion of a temple of brass, built on pillars of jasper, whose walls are painted with the stories of unfortunate lovers i. And in his ASSEMBLY of LADIES, in a chamber made of beryl and crystal, belonging to the sumptuous castle of Plea­saunt Regard, the walls are decorated with historical sculp­tures of the same kind k. The situation of Hawes's TEMPLE on a craggy rock of ice, is evidently taken from that of Chaucer's HOUSE OF FAME. In Chaucer's DREAME, the poet is transported into an island, where wall and yate was all of glasse l. These structures of glass have their origin in the chemistry of the dark ages. This is Hawes's exordium.

Me dyd oppresse a sodayne, dedely slepe:
Within the whichè, methought that I was
Ravyshed in spyrite into a TEMPLE OF GLAS,
I ne wyst howe ful ferre in wyldernesse,
That founded was, all by lyckelynesse,
Nat upon stele, but on a craggy roche
Lyke yse yfroze: and as I dyd approche,
Againe the sonne that shone, methought, so clere
As any cristall; and ever, nere and nere,
[Page 213] As I gan nyghe this grisely dredefull place,
I wext astonyed, the lyght so in my face
Began to smyte, so persyng ever in one,
On every partè where that I dyde gon,
That I ne mightè nothing as I wolde
Aboutè me consydre, and beholde,
The wondre esters m, for brightnesse of the sonne:
Tyll at the lastè, certayne skyes donne n
With wyndeo ychased, han their course ywent,
Before the stremes of Titan and iblent p [...]
So that I myght within and without,
Where so I wolde, behelden me about,
For to report the facyon and manere
Of all this placè, that was circuler,
In cumpace-wyse rounde by yntale ywrought:
And whan I had longe goòn, and well sought,
I founde a wicket, and entred yn as faste
Into the temple, and myne eyen caste
On every side, &c q.

The walls of this wonderful temple were richly pictured with the following historical portraitures; from Virgil, Ovid, king Arthur's romance, and Chaucer.

I sawe depeynted upon a wall r,
From est to west ful many a fayre ymage,
Of sondry lovers, lyke as they were of age
I set in ordre after they were true;
With lyfely colours, wonders fresshe of hewe,
And as methought I saw som syt and som stande,
And some knelyng, with byllesf in theyr hande,
[Page 214] An some with complaynt woful and pitious,
With dolefull chere, to put to Venus,
So as she sate fletynge in the see,
Upon theyr wo for to have pite.
And fyrst of all I sawe there of Cartage
Dido the quene, so goodly of visage,
That gan complayne her auenture and caas,
Howe she disceyued was of Aeneas,
For all his hestes and his othes sworne,
And sayd helas that she was borne,
Whan she sawe that dede she must be.
And next her I sawe the complaynt of Medee,
Howe that she was falsed of Jason.
And nygh by Venus sawe I syt Addon,
And all the maner howe the bore hym sloughe,
For whom she wepte and had pite inoughe.
There sawe I also howe Penelope,
For she so long ne myght her lorde se,
Was of colour both pale and grene.
And alder next was the fresshe quene;
I mean Alcest, the noble true wife,
And for Admete howe she lost her lyfe;
And for her trouthe, if I shall nat lye,
Howe she was turned into a daysye.
There was also Grisildis innocence,
And all hir mekenesse and hir pacience.
There was eke Y [...]aude, and many other mo,
And all the tourment and all the cruell wo
That she had for Tristram all her lyue;
And howe that Tysbe her hert dyd ryue
With thylke swerde of syr Pyramus.
And all maner, howe that Theseus
The minotaure slewe, amyd the hous
That was forwrynked by craft of Dedalus,
Whan that he was in prison shyt in Crete, &c.
And uppermore men depeinten might see,
Howe with her ring goodlie Canace
Of every foule the ledens and the song
Could understand, as she hem walkt among:
And how her brother so often holpen was
In his mischefe by the stede of brass t.

We must acknowledge, that all the picturesque invention which appears in this composition, entirely belongs to Chau­cer. Yet there was some merit in daring to depart from the dull taste of the times, and in chusing Chaucer for a model, after his sublime fancies had been so long forgotten, and had given place for almost a century, to legends, homilies, and chronicles in verse. In the mean time, there is reason to believe, that Chaucer himself copied these imageries from the romance of GUIGEMAR, one of the metrical TALES, or LAIS, of Bretagne u, translated from the Armorican original into French, by Marie, a French poetess, about the thir­teenth century: in which the walls of a chamber are painted with Venus, and the Art of love from Ovid v. Although, perhaps, Chaucer might not look further than the temples in Boccacio's THESEID for these ornaments. At the same time it is to be remembered, that the imagination of these old poets must have been assisted in this respect, from the mode which antiently prevailed, of entirely covering the walls of the more magnificent apartments, in castles and palaces, with stories from scripture, history, the classics, and romance. I have already given instances of this practice, and I will [Page 216] here add more w. In the year 1277, Otho, duke of Milan, having restored the peace of that city by a signal victory, built a noble castle, in which he ordered every particular circumstance of that victory to be painted. Paulus Jovius relates, that these paintings remained, in the great vaulted chamber of the castle, fresh and unimpaired, so late as the year 1547. ‘"Extantque adhuc in maximo testudinatoque con­clavi, incorruptae praeliorum cum veris ducum vultibus ima­gines, Latinis elegis singula rerum elogia indicantibus x."’ That the castles and palaces of England were thus orna­mented at a very early period, and in the most splendid style, appears from the following notices. Langton, bishop of Litchfield, commanded the coronation, marriages, wars, and funeral, of his patron king Edward the first, to be painted in the great hall of his episcopal palace, which he had newly built y. This must have been about the year 1312. The following anecdote relating to the old royal palace at West­minster, never yet was published. In the year 1322, one Symeon, a friar minor, and a doctor in theology, wrote an ITINERARY, in which is this curious passage. He is speaking of Westminster Abbey. ‘"Eidem monasterio quasi immediate conjungitur illud famosissimum palatium re­gium Anglorum, in quo illa VULGATA CAMERA, in cujus parietibus sunt omnes HISTORIAE BELLICAE TOTIUS BIBLIAE ineffabiliter depictae, atque in Gallico completissime et per­fectissime constanter conscriptae, in non modica intuen­tium admiratione, et maxima regali magnificentia z."’[Page 217] "Near this monastery stands the most famous royal palace of England; in which is that celebrated chamber, on whose walls all the warlike histories of the whole Bible are painted with inexpressible skill, and explained by a regular and complete series of texts, beautifully written in French over each battle, to the no small admiration of the beholder, and the increase of royal magnificence a."’ This ornament of a royal palace, while it conveys a curious history of the arts, admirably exemplifies the chivalry and the devotion of the times, united. That part of the Old Testament, indeed, which records the Jewish wars, was al­most regarded as a book of chivalry: and their chief he­roes, Joshua and David, the latter of whom killed a giant, are often recited among the champions of romance. In France, the battles of the kings of Israel with the Philistines and Assyrians, were wrought into a grand volume, under the title of ‘"Plusieurs Batailles des roys d'Israel en contre les Philistines et Assyriens b."’

[Page 218] With regard to the form of Hawes's poem, I am of opi­nion, that VISIONS, which are so common in the poetry of the middle ages, partly took their rise from Tully's SOM­NIUM SCIPIONIS. Had this composition descended to poste­rity among Tully's six books de REPUBLICA, to the last of which it originally belonged, perhaps it would have been overlooked and neglected c. But being preserved, and illus­trated with a prolix commentary, by Macrobius, it quickly attracted the attention of readers, who were fond of the marvellous, and with whom Macrobius was a more ad­mired classic than Tully. It was printed, subjoined to Tully's OFFICES, in the infancy of the typographic art d. It was translated into Greek by Maximus Planudes e; and is frequently quoted by Chaucer f. Particularly in the ASSEM­BLY OF FOULES, he supposes himself to fall asleep after reading the SOMNIUM SCIPIONIS, and that Scipio shewed him the beautiful vision which is the subject of that poem g. Nor is it improbable, that, not only the form, but the first [Page 219] idea of Dante's INFERNO, was suggested by this favourite apologue; which, in Chaucer's words, treats

—Of heaven, and hell,
And yearth, and souls, that therein dwell h.

Not to insist on Dante's subject, he uses the shade of Virgil for a mystagogue; as Tully supposes Scipio to have shewn the other world to his ancestor Africanus.

But Hawes's capital performance is a poem entitled, ‘"THE PASSETYME OF PLEASURE, or the HISTORIE OF GRAUNDE AMOURE and LA BAL PUCEL: contayning the knowledge of the seven sciences, and the course of man's lyfe in this worlde. Invented by Stephen Hawes, groome of kyng Henry the seventh hys chambre i."’ It is dedicated to the king, and was finished at the beginning of the year 1506.

If the poems of Rowlie are not genuine, the PASTIME OF PLEASURE is almost the only effort of imagination and invention which had yet appeared in our poetry since Chau­cer. This poem contains no common touches of romantic and allegoric fiction. The personifications are often happily sustained, and indicate the writer's familiarity with the Pro­vencial school. The model of his versification and phraseo­logy is that improved harmony of numbers, and facility of diction, with which his predecessor Lydgate adorned our octave stanza. But Hawes has added new graces to Lydgate's manner. Antony Wood, with the zeal of a true antiquary, laments, that ‘"such is the fate of poetry, that this book, which in the time of Henry the seventh and eighth was [Page 220] taken into the hands of all ingenious men, is now thought but worthy of a ballad-monger's stall!"’ The truth is, such is the good fortune of poetry, and such the improvement of taste, that much better books are become fashionable. It must indeed be acknowledged, that this poem has been unjustly neglected: and on that account, an apology will be less necessary for giving the reader a circum­stantial analysis of its substance and design.

GRAUNDE AMOURE, the hero of the poem, and who speaks in his own person k, is represented walking in a deli­cious meadow. Here he discovers a path which conducts him to a glorious image, both whose hands are stretched out and pointing to two highways; one of which is the path of CONTEMPLATION, the other of ACTIVE LIFE, leading to the Tower of Beauty. He chuses the last-mentioned path, yet is often tempted to turn aside into a variety of bye-paths, which seemed more pleasant: but proceeding directly for­ward, he sees afar off another image, on whose breast is written, ‘"This is the road to the Tower of DOCTRINE, he that would arrive there must avoid sloth, &c."’ The evening [Page 221] being far advanced, he sits down at the feet of the image, and falls into a profound sleep; when, towards the morning, he is suddenly awakened by the loud blast of a horn. He looks forward through a valley, and perceives a beautiful lady on a palfrey, swift as the wind, riding to­wards him, encircled with tongues of fire l. Her name was FAME, and with her ran two milk-white greyhounds, on whose golden collars were inscribed in diamond letters Grace and Governaunce m. Her palfrey is Pegasus; and the burn­ing tongues denote her office of consigning the names of [Page 222] illustrious personages to posterity; among which she men­tions a lady of matchless accomplishments, named LA BELL PUCELL, who lives within a tower seated in a delightful island; but which no person can enter, without surmount­ing many dangers. She then informs our hero, that before he engages in this enterprise, he must go to the Tower of DOCTRINE, in which he will see the Seven Sciences n; and that there, in the turret, or chamber, of Music, he will have the first sight of La Bell Pucell. FAME departs, but leaves with him her two greyhounds. Graunde Amoure now arrives at the Tower, or rather castle, of DOCTRINE, [Page 223] framed of fine copper, and situated on a craggy rock: it shone so bright, that he could distinctly discern the form of the building; till at length, the sky being covered with clouds, he more visibly perceives its walls deco­rated with figures of beasts in gold, and its lofty turrets crowned with golden images o. He is admitted by COUN­TENANCE the portress, who leads him into a court, where he drinks water of a most transcendent fragrance, from a magnificent fountain, whence flow four rivers, clearer than Nilus, Ganges, Tigris, or Euphrates p. He next enters the hall framed of jasper, its windows chrystal, and its roof overspread with a golden vine, whose grapes are represented by rubies q: the floor is paved with beryl, and the walls hung with rich tapestry, on which our hero's future expedition to the Tower of La Bell Pucell was gloriously wrought r. The [Page 224] marshall of this castle is REASON, the sewer OBSERVANCE, the cook TEMPERANCE, the high-steward LIBERALITY, &c. He then explains to DOCTRINE his name and intended adventure; and she entertains him at a solemn feast. He visits her seven daughters, who reside in the castle. First he is conducted to GRAMMAR, who delivers a learned ha­rangue on the utility of her science: next to LOGIC, who dismisses him with a grave exhortation: then to RHETORIC, who crowned with laurel, and seated in a stately chamber, strewed with flowers, and adorned with the clear mirrours of speculation, explains her five parts in a laboured oration. Graunde Amoure resolves to pursue their lessons with vigour; and animates himself, in this difficult task, with the ex­amples of Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate s, who are panegyrised [Page 225] with great propriety. He is afterwards admitted to ARITHMETIC, who wears a GOLDEN wede t: and, last of all, is led to the Tower of MUSIC u, which was composed of crystal, in eager expectation of obtaining a view of La Bell Pucell, according to FAME'S prediction. MUSIC was playing on an organ, before a solemn assembly; in the midst of which, at length he discovers La Bell Pucell, is instantly captivated with her beauty, and almost as soon tells her his name, and discloses his passion w. She is more beautiful than Helen, Proserpine, Cressida, queen Hyppolita, Medea, Dido, Polyxena, Alcmena, Menalippa, or even fair Rosamund. The solemnity being finished, MUSIC and La Bell Pucell go forth into a stately temple, whither they are followed by our hero. Here MUSIC seats herself amidst a concert of all kinds of in­struments x. She explains the principles of harmony. A [Page 226] dance is plaid y, and Graunde Amoure dances with La Bell Pucell. He retires, deeply in love. He is met by COUN­SELL, who consoles and conducts him to his repose in a stately chamber of the castle. In the morning, COUNSELL and our hero both together visit La Bell Pucell. At the gate of the garden of the castle they are informed by the portress CURTESY, that the lady was sitting alone in an ar­bour, weaving a garland of various flowers. The garden is described as very delicious, and they find the lady in the arbour near a stately fountain, among the floures of aro­matyke fume. After a long dialogue, in which for some time she seems to reject his suit, at last she resigns her heart; but withal acquaints her lover, that he has many monsters to encounter, and many dangers to conquer, before he can obtain her. He replies, that he is well acquainted with these difficulties; and declares, that, after having received instructions from ASTRONOMY, he will go to the Tower of CHIVALRY, in order to be more completely qualified to suc­ceed in this hazardous enterprise. They take leave with tears; and the lady is received into a ship, which is to carry her into the island where her Tower stood. COUNSELL con­soles Amoure z, and leaves him to attend other desponding [Page 227] lovers. Our hero bids adieu in pathetic terms to the Tower of MUSIC, where he first saw Pucell. Next he proceeds to the Tower of GEOMETRY, which is wonderfully built and adorned. From thence he seeks ASTRONOMY, who resides in a gorgeous pavilion pitched in a fragrant and flowery mea­dow: she delivers a prolix lecture on the several operations of the mind, and parts of the body a. He then, accom­panied with his greyhounds, enters an extensive plain over­spread with flowers; and looking forward, sees a flaming star over a tower. Going forward, he perceives that this tower stands on a rough precipice of steel, decorated with beasts of various figures. As he advances towards it, he comes to a mighty fortress, at the gate of which were hang­ing a shield and helmet, with a marvellous horn. He blows the horn with a blast that shook the tower, when a knight appears; who, asking his business, is answered, that his name is Graunde Amoure, and that he was just arrived from the tower of DOCTRINE. He is welcomed by the knight, and admitted. This is the castle of CHIVALRY. The next morning he is conducted by the porter STEDFAST­NESS into the base court, where stood a tower of prodigious height, made of jasper: on its summit were four images of armed knights on horses of steel, which, on moving a secret spring, could represent a turney. Near this tower was an antient temple of Mars: within it was his statue, or pic­ture, of gold, with the figure of FORTUNE on her wheel; and the walls were painted with the siege of Troy b. He [Page 228] supplicates Mars, that he may be enabled to subdue the monsters which obstruct his passage to the Tower of Pucell. Mars promises him assistance; but advises him first to in­voke Venus in her temple. FORTUNE reproves Mars for pre­suming to promise assistance; and declares, that all human glory is in the power of herself alone. Amoure is then ledc by Minerva to king Melyzus d, the inventor of tilts and tournaments, who dubs him a knight. He leaves the castle of CHIVALRY, and on the road meets a person, habited like a Fool, named Godfrey Gobilivee, who enters into a long dis­course on the falsehood of women f. They both go together [Page 229] into the temple of Venus, who was now holding a solemn assembly, or court, for the redress of lovers. Here he meets with SAPIENCE, who draws up a supplication for him, which he presents to Venus. Venus, after having exhorted him to be constant, writes a letter to Pucell, which she sends by Cupid. After offering a turtle, he departs with Godfrey Gobilive, who is overtaken by a lady on a palfrey, with a knotted whip in her hand, which she frequently ex­ercises on Godfrey g. Amoure asks her name, which, she answers, is CORRECTION; that she lived in the Tower of CHASTITY, and that he who assumed the name of Godfrey Gobilive was FALSE REPORT, who had just escaped from her prison, and disguised himself in a fool's coat. She in­vites Amoure to her Tower, where they are admitted by Dame MEASURE; and led into a hall with a golden roof, in the midst of which was a carbuncle of a prodigious size, which illuminated the room h. They are next introduced to [Page 230] a fair chamber; where they are welcomed by many famous women of antiquity, Helen, quene Proserpine, the lady Me­duse, Penthesilea, &c. The next morning, CORRECTION shews our hero a marvellous dungeon, of which SHAMFAS [...] ­NESSE is the keeper; and here FALSE REPORT is severely punished. He now continues his expedition, and near a fountain observes a shield and a horn hanging. On the shield was a lion rampant of gold in a silver field, with an inscrip­tion, importing, that this was the way to La Bell Pucell's habitation, and that whoever blows the horn will be as­saulted by a most formidable giant. He sounds the horn: when instantly the giant appeared, twelve feet high, armed in brass, with three heads, on each of which was a streamer, with the inscriptions Falsehood, Imagination, Perjury. After an obstinate combat, he cuts off the giant's three heads with his sword Claraprudence. He next meets three fair ladies, VANITY, GOOD-OPERATION, FIDELITY. They conduct him to their castle with music; where, being admitted by the portress OBSERVANCE, he is healed of his wounds by them. He proceeds and meets PERSEVERANCE, who acquaints him, that Pucell continued still to love: that, after she had read Venus's letter, STRANGENESS and DISDAIN came to her, to dissuade her from loving him; but that soon after, PEACE and MERCYi arrived, who soon undid all that DISDAIN and STRANGENESS had said, advising her to send PERSEVERANCE [Page 231] to him with a shield. This shield PERSEVERANCE now pre­sents, and invites him to repose that night with her cousin COMFORT, who lived in a moated manor-place under the side of a neighbouring wood k. Here he is ushered into a [Page 232] chamber precious, per [...]umed with the richest odours. Next morning, guided by PERSEVERANCE and COMFORT, he goes forward, and sees a castle, nobly [...]ortified, and walled with jet. Before it was a giant with seven heads, and upon the trees about him were hanging many shields of knights, whom [...]e had conquered. On his seven heads were seven h [...]lmets crowned with seven streamers, on which were in­scribed Dissimulation, Delay, Discomfort, Variance, Envy, De­traction, Doubleness. After a bloody battle, he kills the giant, and is saluted by the five ladies STEDFASTNESS, AMOROUS PUR­VEYANCE, JOY AFTER SORROW, PLEASAUNCE, GOOD REPORT, AMIT [...]E, CONTINUANCE, all riding from the castle on white pal­fries. These ladies inform Amoure, that they had been exiled from La Bell Pucell by DISDAINE, and besieged in this castle, for one whole year, by the giant whom he had just slain. They attend him on his journey, and travel through a dreary wilderness, full of wild beasts: at length they discern, at a vast distance, a glorious region, where stood a stately palace beyond a tempestuous ocean. ‘"That, says PERSEVERANCE, is the palace of Pucelle."’ They then discover, in the island before them, an horrible fiend, roaring like thunder, and breathing flame, which my author strongly paints,

The fyre was greet, it made the ylande lyght.

PERSEVERANCE tells our hero, that this monster was framed by the two witches STRANGENESS and DISDAINE, to punish La Bell Pucell for having banished them from her presence. His body was composed of the seven metals, and within it a demon was inclosed. They now enter a neighbouring temple of Pallas; who shews Amoure, in a trance, the secret formation of this monster, and gives him a box of wonderful ointment. They walk on the sea-shore, and espy two ladies rowing towards them; who land, and having told Amoure that they are sent by PATIENCE to enquire his [Page 233] name, receive him and his company into the ship PERFECT­NESS. They arrive in the island; and Amoure discovers the monster near a rock, whom he now examines more distinct­ly. The face of the monster resembled a virgin's, and was of gold; his neck of silver; his breast of steel; his fore­legs, armed with strong talons, of laten; his back of copper; his tail of lead, &c. Amoure, in imitation of Jason, anoints his sword and armour with the unguent of Pallas; which, at the first onset, preserves him from the voluminous tor­rent of fire and smoke issuing from the monster's mouth. At length he is killed; and from his body flew out a foule ethiope, or black spirit, accompanied with such a smoke that all the island was darkened, and loud thunder-claps ensued. When this spirit was entirely vanished, the air grew serene; and our hero now plainly beheld the magnificent castle of La Pucell, walled with silver, and many a story upon the wall enameled royally l. He rejoins his company; and entering the gate of the castle, is solemnly received by PEACE, MERCY, JUSTICE, REASON, GRACE, and MEMORY. He is then led by the portress COUNTENAUNCE into the base court; where, into a conduit of gold, dragons spouted water of the richest odour. The gravel of the court is like gold, and the hall and chambers are most superbly decorated. Amoure and La Pucell sit down and coverse together. Venus intervenes, attended by Cupid cloathed in a blue mantle embroidered with golden hearts pierced with arrows, which he throws [Page 234] about the lovers, declaring that they should soon be joined in marriage. A sudden transition is here made from the pagan to the christian theology. The next morning they are married, according to the catholic ritual, by LEX ECCLESIAE; and in the wooden print prefixed to this chapter, the lovers are represented as joining hands at the western portal of a great church, a part of the ceremonial of antient marriages m. A solemn feast is then held in honour of the nuptials n.

Here the poem should have ended. But the poet has thought it necessary to extend his allegory to the death and burial of his hero. Graund Amoure having lived in con­summate happiness with his amiable bride for many years, saw one morning an old man enter his chamber, carrying a staff, with which he strikes Amoure's breast, saying, Obey, &c. His name is OLD AGE. Not long after came POLICY or Cunning, and AVARICE. Amoure now begins to aban­don his triumphal shows and splendid carousals, and to be intent on amassing riches. At last arrived DEATH, who peremptorily denounces, that he must prepare to quit his wealth and the world. After this fatal admonition, came CONTRITION and CONSCIENCE, and he dies. His body is in­terred by MERCY and CHARITY; and while his epitaph is written by REMEMBRANCE, FAME appears; promising that [...]he will enroll his name with those of Hector, Joshua, [Page 235] Judas Maccabeus, king David o, Alexander the Great, Julius Cesar, Arthur p, Charlemagne q, and Godfrey of Bulloign r. [Page 236] Aftewards TIME, and ETERNITIE clothed in a white vestment and crowned with a triple diadem of gold, enter the temple, and pronounce an exhortation. Last follows an epilogue, in which the poet apologises for his hardiness in attempting to feign and devise this fable.

The reader readily perceives, that this poetical apologue is intended to shadow the education of a complete gentle­man; or rather, to point out those accomplishments which constitute the character of true gallantry, and most justly deserve the reward of beauty. It is not pretended, that the personifications display that force of colouring, and dis­tinctness of delineation, which animate the ideal portraits of John of Meun. But we must acknowledge, that Hawes has shewn no inconsiderable share of imagination, if not in inventing romantic action, at least in applying and enrich­ing the general incidents of the Gothic fable. In the crea­tion of allegoric imagery he has exceeded Lydgate. That he is greatly superior to many of his immediate predecessors and cotemporaries, in harmonious versification, and clear expression, will appear from the following stanza.

Besydes this gyaunt, upon every tree
I did see hanging many a goodly shielde
Of noble knygtes, that were of hie degree,
Whiche he had slayne and murdred in the fielde:
From farre this gyaunt I ryght well behelde;
And towarde hym as I rode on my way,
On his first heade I sawe a banner gay s.

To this poem a dedication of eight octave stanzas is pre­fixed, addressed to king Henry the seventh: in which our au­thor professes to follow the manner of his maister Lydgate.

To folowe the trace and all the perfytness
Of my maister Lydgate, with due exercise,
Such fayned tales I do fyndet and devyse:
For under coloure a truthe may aryse,
As was the guyse, in old antiquitie,
Of the poetes olde a tale to surmyse,
To cloake the truthe.—

In the course of the poem he complains, that since Lyd­gate, the most dulcet sprynge of famous rhetoryke, that species of poetry which deals in fiction and allegoric fable, had been entirely lost and neglected. He allows, that some of Lydgate's successors had been skilful versifiers in the balade royall or octave stanza, which Lydgate carried to such per­fection: but adds this remarkable restriction,

They fayne no fables pleasaunt and covert:
Makyng balades of fervent amytie,
As gestes and tryfles u.—

[Page 238] These lines, in a small compass, display the general state of poetry which now prevailed.

Coeval with Hawes was William Walter, a retainer to sir Henry Marney, chancellour of the duchy of Lancaster: an unknown and obscure writer whom I should not have named, but that he versified, in the octave stanza, Boccacio's story, so beautifully paraphrased by Dryden, of Sigismonda and Guiscard. This poem, I think, was printed by Wynkyn de Worde, and afterwards reprinted in the year 1597, under the title of THE STATELY TRAGEDY OF GUISCARD AND SI­GISMOND x. It is in two books. He also wrote a dialogue in verse, called the Spectacle of Lovers y, and the History of Titus and Gesippus, a translation from a Latin romance con­cerning the siege of Jerusalem.

About the year 1490, Henry Medwall, chaplain to Morton archbishop of Canterbury, composed an interlude, called NATURE, which was afterwards translated into Latin. It is not improbable, that it was played before the archbishop. It was the business of chaplains in great houses to compose in­terludes for the family. This piece was printed by Rastel, in 1538, and entitled, ‘"NATURE, a goodly interlude of na­ture, compylyd by mayster Henry Medwall, chaplayn to the right reverent father in God, Johan Morton, some­tyme cardynall, and archebyshop of Canterbury."’

In the year 1497, Laurence Wade, a Benedictine monk of Canterbury z, translated, into English rhymes, THE LIFE OF THOMAS A BECKETT, written about the year 1180, in [Page 239] Latin a, by Herbert Bosham b. The manuscript, which will not bear a citation, is preserved in Benet college in Cam­bridge c. The original had been translated into French verse by Peter Langtoft d. Bosham was Becket's secretary, and pre­sent at his martyrdom.


I Place Alexander Barklay within the year 1500, as his SHIP OF FOOLS appears to have been projected about that period. He was educated at Oriel college in Oxford d, ac­complished his academical studies by travelling, and was appointed one of the priests, or prebendaries, of the college of saint Mary Ottery in Devonshire e. Afterwards he became a Benedictine monk of Ely monastery f; and at length took the habit of the Franciscans at Canterbury g. He tempo­rised with the changes of religion; for he possessed some church-preferments in the reign of Edward the sixth h. He died, very old, at Croydon, in Surry i, in the year 1552.

[Page 241] Barklay's principal work is the SHIP OF FOOLES, above­mentioned. About the year 1494, Sebastian Brandt, a learned civilian of Basil, and an eminent philologist, pub­lished a satire in German with this title i. The design was to ridicule the reigning vices and follies of every rank and profession, under the allegory of a Ship freighted with Fools of all kinds, but without any variety of incident, or artifi­ciality of fable; yet although the poem is destitute of plot, and the voyage of adventures, a composition of such a nature be­came extremely popular. It was translated into French k; and, in the year 1497, into tolerable Latin verse, by James Locher, a German, and a scholar of the inventour Brandt l. From the original, and the two translations, Barklay formed a large English poem, in the balade or octave stanza, with considerable additions gleaned from the follies of his coun­trymen. It was printed by Pinson, in 1509, whose name occurs in the poem.

Howbeit the charge PINSON has on me layde
With many fooles our navy not to charge m.

It was finished in the year 1508, and in the college of saint Mary Ottery, as appears by this rubric, ‘"The SHYP OF FOLYS, translated in the colege of saynt Mary Otery, in the counte of Devonshyre, oute of Laten, Frenche, and Doch, into Englishe tonge, by Alexander Barclay, preste and chaplen in the sayd colledge, M.CCCCC.VIII n. "’Our author's [Page 242] stanza is verbose, prosaic, and tedious: and for many pages together, his poetry is little better than a trite homily in verse. The title promises much character and pleasantry: but we shall be disappointed, if we expect to find the foibles of the crew of our ship touched by the hand of the author of the CANTERBURY TALES, or exposed in the rough ye [...] strong [...]atire of Pierce Plowman. He sometimes has a stroke of humour: as in the following stanza, where he wishes to take on board the eight secondaries, or minor canons, of his college. ‘"Alexander Barclay ad FATUOS, ut dent locum OCTO SECUNDARIIS beatae Mariae de Ottery, qui quidem prima bujus ratis transtra merentur o."’

Softe, Foolis, softe, a litle slacke your pace,
Till I have space you to' order by degree;
I have eyght neyghbours, that first shall have a place
Within this my shyp, for they most worthy be:
They may their learning receyve costles and fre [...].
Their walles abutting and joining to the schooles p;
Nothing they can q, yet nought will they learn nor see,
Therefore shall they guide this one ship of fooles.

The ignorance of the English clergy is one of the chief ob­jects of his animadversion. He says r [...]

For if one can flatter, and beare a hawke on his fist,
He shalbe made parson of Honington or of Clift.

These were rich benefices in the neighbourhood of saint Mary Ottery. He disclaims the profane and petty tales of the times.

I write no jeste ne tale of Robin Hood s,
Nor sowe no sparkles, ne sede of viciousnes;
Wi [...]e men love vertue, wilde people wantonnes,
It longeth not my science nor cuning,
For Philip the sparrow the dirige to sing.

The last line is a ridicule on his cotemporary Skelton, who wrote a LITLE BOKE OF PHILIP SPARROW, or a Dirge,

For the soule of Philip Sparrow
That was late slaine at Carow, &c t.

And in another place, he thus censures the fashionable read­ing of his age: much in the tone of his predecessor Hawes.

For goodly scripture is not worth an hawe,
But tales are loved ground of ribaudry,
And many are so blinded with their foly,
That no scriptur thinke they so true nor god [...]
As is a foolish jest of Robin hode u.

As a specimen of his general manner, I insert his character of the Student, or Bookworm: whom he supposes to be th [...] First Fool in the vessel.

That w in this ship the chiefe place I govern [...],
By this wide sea with foolis wandering,
The cause is plaine and easy to discerne;
Still am I busy bookes assembling,
[Page 244] For to have plentie it is a pleasaunt thing,
In my conceyt, to have them ay in hand;
But what they meane do I not understande.
But yet I have them in great reverence
And honour, saving them from filth and ordure;
By often brusshing and much diligence,
Full goodly bounde in pleasaunt coverture
Of damas, sattin, or els of velvet pure x:
I keepe them sure fearing least they should be lost
For in them is the cunning wherein I me boast.
But if it fortune that any learned man
Within my house fall to disputation,
I drawe the curtaynes to shewe my bokes then,
That they of my cunning should make probation:
I love not to fall in alterication:
And while the commen, my bookes I turne and winde,
For all is in them, and nothing in my minde.
Ptolomeusy the riche caused, longe agone,
Over all the worlde good bookes to be sought,
[Page 245] Done was his commandement, &c.
Lo in likewise of bookès I have store,
But few I reade, and fewer understande;
I folowe not their doctrine, nor their lore,
It is enough to beare a booke in hande:
It were too much to be in such a lande;
For to be bounde to loke within the booke
I am content on the fayre coveryng to looke.—
Eche is not lettred that nowe is made a lorde,
Nor eche a clerke that hath a benefice;
They are not all lawyers that plees do recorde,
All that are promoted are not fully wise;
On suche chance now fortune throwes her dice:
That though one knowe but the yrishe game
Yet would he have a gentlemans name.
So in likewise, I am in such a case,
Though I nought can z, I would be called wise;
Also I may set another in my place
Which may for me my bookès exercise;
Or els I will ensue the common guise,
And say concedo to every argument
Lest by much speech my Latin should be spent a.

In one part of the poem, Prodicus's apologue, of Hercules meeting VIRTUE and PLEASURE, is introduced. In the speech of PLEASURE, our author changes his metre; and breaks forth into a lyrical strain, not totally void of elegance and delicacy, and in a rhythmical arrangement adopted by Gray.

All my vestùre is of golde pure,
My gay chaplèt with stonès set,
With couverture of fine asure,
In silver net my haire upknet,
Softe silke betwene, le [...]t it might fret;
My purple pall oercovereth all,
Cleare as cristàll, no thing egall.—
With harpe in hande, alway I stande,
Passing eche houre, in swete pleasoùr;
A wanton bande, of every lande,
Are in my towre, me to honoùr,
Some of valoùr, some bare and poore;
Kinges in their pride sit by my side:
Every freshe floure, of swete odourè,
To them I provide, that with me bide.—
Whoeer they be, that folowe me,
And gladly flee to my standàrde,
They shall be free, nor sicke, nor see
Adversitie, and paynès harde.
No poynt of payne shall he sustayne,
But joy soverayne, while he is here;
No frost ne rayne there shall distayne
His face by payne, ne hurt his chere.
He shall his hede cast to no drede
To get the medeb and lawde of warre;
Nor yet have nede, for to take hede,
How battayles spede, but stande afarre.
Nor yet be bounde to care the sounde
Of man or grounde, or trompet shrill;
Strokes that redound shall not confounde,
Nor his minde wounde, but if he will, &c c.

All antient satirical writings, even those of an inferior cast, have their merit, and deserve attention, as they transmit [Page 247] pictures of familiar manners, and preserve popular cus­toms. In this light; at least, Barklay's SHIP OF FOOLS, which is a general satire on the times, will be found enter­taining. Nor must it be denied, that his language is more cultivated than that of many of his cotemporaries, and that he contributed his share to the improvement of the English phraseology. His author, Sebastian Brandt, appears to have been a man of universal erudition; and his work, for the most part, is a tissue of citations from the ancient poets and historians.

Barklay's other pieces are the MIRROUR OF GOOD MANNERS, and five EGLOGES d.

The MIRROUR is a translation from a Latin [...]legiac poem, written in the year 1516, by Dominic Mancini DE QUATUOR VIRTUTIBUS. It is in the ballad-stanza e. Our translator, [Page 248] as appears by the address prefixed, had been requested by sir Giles Alyngton to abridge, or modernise, Gower's CONFESSIO AMANTIS. But the poet declined this undertaking, as un­suitable to his age, infirmities, and profession; and chose rather to oblige his patron with a grave system of ethics. It is certain that he made a prudent choice. The perfor­mance shews how little qualified he was to correct Gower.

Our author's EGLOGES, I believe, are the first that ap­peared in the English language f. They are, like Petrarch's and Mantuan's g, of the moral and satirical kind; and con­tain but few touches of rural description and bucolic image­ry. They seem to have been written about the year 1514 h. The three first are paraphrased, with very large additions, from the MISERIAE CURIALIUM of Eneas Sylvius i, and treat of the Miseryes of Courtiers and Courtes of all Princes in general. The fourth, in which is introduced a long poem in stanzas, called the Tower of Vertue and Honour k, of the behaviour of riche men agaynst poetes. The fifth, of the disputation of citizens and men of the country. These pastorals, if they deserve the name, contain many allusions to the times. The poet is [Page 249] prolix in his praises of Alcock bishop of Ely, and founder of Jesus college in Cambridge k.

Yes since his dayes a cocke was in the fen l,
I knowe his voyce among a thousand men:
He laught, he preached, he mended every wrong;
But, Coridon, alas no good thing bideth long!
He All was a Cock m, he wakened us from slepe,
And while we slumbered, he did our foldes kepe.
No cur, no foxes, nor butchers dogges wood,
Could hurte our fouldes, his watching was so good.
The hungry wolves, which that time did abounde,
What time he crowed n, abashed at the sounde.
This cocke was no more abashed of the foxe,
Than is a lion abashed of an oxe.
[Page 250] When he went, faded the floure of al the fen;
I boldly sweare this cocke trode never hen!

Alcock, while living, erected a beautiful sepulchral chapel in his cathedral, still remaining, but miserably defaced. To which the shepherd alludes in the lines that follow:

This was the father of thinges pastorall,
And that well sheweth his cathedrall.
There was I lately, aboute the midst of May:
Coridon, his church is twenty sith more gay
Then all the churches between the same and Kent;
There sawe I his tombe and chapel excellent.—
Our parishe church is but a dongeon
To that gay churche in comparison.—
When I sawe his figure lye in the chapel side, &c o.

In another place he thus represents the general lamentation for the death of this worthy prelate: and he rises above himself in describing the sympathy of the towers, arches, vaults, and images, of Ely monastery.

The prati [...] palace by him made in the fen p,
The maidès, widowes, the wives, and the men,
With deadly dolour were pearsed to the hearte,
When death constraynd this shepherd to departe.
Corne, grasse, and fieldes, mourned for wo and payne,
For oft his prayer for them obtayned rayne.
The pleasaunt floures for him faded eche one.—
The okès, elmè: every sorte of dere q
Shrunke under shadowes, abating all their chere.
[Page 251] The mightie walles of Ely monastery,
The stonès, rockes, and towrès semblably,
The marble pillours, and images ech [...] one,
Swete all for sorrowe, when this cocke was gone, &c r.

It should be remembered, that these pastorals were probably written while our poet was a monk of Ely: and although Alcock was then dead, yet the memory of his munificence and piety was recent in the mo [...]astery s.

Speaking of the dignity and antiquity of shepherds, and particularly of Christ at his birth being first seen by shep­herds, he seems to describe some large and splendid picture of the Nativity painted on the walls of Ely cathedral.

I sawe them myselfe well paynted on the wall,
Late gasing upon our churche cathedrall:
I saw great wethers, in picture, and small lambes,
Daunsing, some sleping, some sucking of their dams;
And some on the grounde, mesemed, lying still:
Then sawe I horsemen appendant of an hill;
And the three kings, with all their company,
Their crownes glistering bright and oriently,
With their presents and giftès misticall:
All this behelde I in picture on the wall t.

[Page 252] Virgil's poems are thus characterised, in some of the best turned lines we find in these pastorals:

He sunge of fieldes, and tilling of the grounde,
Of shepe and oxen, and battayle did he sounde;
So shrille he sounded in termes eloquent
I trowe his tunes went to the firmament u.

He gives us the following idea of the sports, spectacles, and pleasures, of his age.

Some men deliteth beholding men to fight,
Or goodly knightes in pleasaunt apparayle,
Or sturdie souldiers in bright harnes and male x.—
Some glad is to see these ladies beauteous,
Goodly appoynted in clothing sumpt [...]ous:
A number of people appoynted in like wise y
In costly clothing, after the newest gise;
Sportes, disgising z, fayre coursers mount and praunce,
Or goodly ladies and knightes sing and daunce:
To see fayre houses, and curious picture,
Or pleasaunt hanging a, or sumpteous vesture,
Of silke, of purpure, or golde moste orient,
And other clothing divers and excellent:
Hye curious buildinges, or palaces royall,
Or chapels, temples fayre and substanciall,
Images graven, or vaultes curious b;
Gardeyns, and meadowes, or placesc delicious,
Forests and parkes well furnished with dere,
Cold pleausant streames, or wellès fayre and clere,
Curious cundytes, &c d.

[Page 253] We have before seen, that our author and Skelton were rivals. He alludes to Skelton, who had been laureated at Oxford, in the following lines.

Then is he decked as poete laureate,
When stinking Thais made him her graduate:
If they have smelled the artes triviall,
They count them poets hye and heroicall c.

The TOWRE OF VERTUE AND HONOUR, introduced as a song of one of the shepherds into these pastorals, exhibits no very masterly strokes of a sublime and inventive fancy. It has much of the trite imagery usually applied in the fabrication of these ideal edifices. It, however, shews our author in a new walk of poetry. This magnificent tower, or castle, is built on inaccessible cliffs of flint: the walls are of gold, bright as the sun, and decorated with olde historyes and pictures manyfolde: the turrets are beautifully shaped. Among its heroic inhabitants are king Henry the eighth, Howard duke of Norfolk, and the earl of Shrewsbury. LABOUR is the porter at the gate, and VIRTUE governs the house. LABOUR is thus pictured, with some degree of spirit.

Fearfull is LABOUR, without favour at all,
Dreadfull of visage, a monster intractable;
Like Cerberus lying at gates infernall;
To some men his looke is halfe intollerable,
His shoulders large for burden strong and able,
His bodie bristled, his necke mightie and stiffe;
By sturdie sinewes his joynts strong and stable,
Like marble stones his handès be as stiffe.
[Page 255] Here must man vanquish the dragon of Cadmus,
Gainst the Chimere here stoutly must he fight;
Here must he vanquish the fearfull Pegasus,
For the golden flece here must he shewe his might:
If LABOUR gainsay, he can nothing be right:
This monster LABOUR oft changeth his figure,
Sometime an oxe, a bore, or lion wight,
Playnely he seemeth thus changeth his nature.
Like as Protheus ofte changeth his stature.
* * * * * * * * *
Under his browes he dreadfully doth lowre
With glistering eyes, and side-dependant beard,
For thirst and hunger alway his chere is soure,
His horned forehead doth make faynt hearts afeard.
Alway he drinketh, and yet alway is drye,
The sweat distilling with droppes abundant, &c.

966The poet adds, that when the noble Howard had long boldly contended with this hideous monster, had broken the bars and doors of the castle, had bound the porter, and was now preparing to ascend the tower of Virtue and Honour, FORTUNE and DEATH appeared, and interrupted his progress f.

The first modern Latin Bucolics are those of Petrarch, in number twelve, written about the year 1350 g. The Eclo­gues of Mantuan, our author's model, appeared about the year 1400, and were followed by many others. Their number multiplied so soon, that a collection of thirty-eight modern bucolic poets in Latin was printed at Basil, in the year 1546 h. These writers judged this indirect and disguised mode of dialogue, consisting of simple characters which spoke freely and plainly, the most safe and convenient vehicle for abusing [Page 256] the corruptions of the church. Mantuan became so popular, as to acquire the estimation of a classic, and to be taught in schools. Nothing better proves the reputation in which this writer was held, than a speech of Shakespeare's pedant, the pedagogue Holofernes. ‘"Fauste, precor, gelida quando pecus omne sub ulmo i, and so forth. Ah, good old MANTUAN! I may speak of thee, as the traveller doth of Venice, Vi­negia, Vinegia, chi non te v [...]di, ei non te pregia. Old MAN­TUAN! Old MANTUAN! Who understandeth thee not, loveth thee not k."’ But although Barklay copies Mantuan, the recent and separate publication in England of Virgil's bu­colics, by Wynkyn de Worde l, might partly suggest the new idea of this kind of poetry.

With what avidity the Italian and French poets, in their respective languages, entered into this species of composition, when the rage of Latin versification had subsided, and for the purposes above-mentioned, is an inquiry reserved for a future period. I shall only add here, that before the close of the fifteenth century, Virgil's bucolics were translated into Italian m, by Bernardo Pulci, Fossa de Cremona, Beni­vieni, and Fiorini Buoninsegni.


IT is not the plan of this work to comprehend the Scotch poetry. But when I consider the close and national con­nection between England and Scotland in the progress of manners and literature, I am sensible I should be guilty of a partial and defective representation of the poetry of the former, was I to omit in my series a few Scotch writers, who have adorned the present period, with a degree of sentiment and spirit, a command of phraseology, and a fertility of imagination, not to be found in any English poet since Chaucer and Lydgate: more especially as they have left striking specimens of allegorical invention, a species of com­position which appears to have been for some time almost totally extinguished in England.

The first I shall mention is William Dunbar, a native of Salton in East Lothian, about the year 1470. His most ce­lebrated poems are The THISTLE AND THE ROSE, and THE GOLDEN TERGE.

The THISTLE AND THE ROSE was occasioned by the mar­riage of James the fourth, king of Scotland, with Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry the seventh, king of England: an event, in which the whole future political state of both nations was vitally interested, and which ultimately produced the union of the two crowns and kingdoms. It was finished on the ninth day of May in the year 1503, nearly three months before the arrival of the queen in Scot­land: whose progress from Richmond to Edinburgh was attended with a greater magnificence of parade, processions, and spectacles, than I ever remember to have seen on any similar occasion a. It may be pertinent to premise, that Margaret [Page 258] was a singular patroness of the Scotch poetry, now be­ginning to flourish. Her bounty is thus celebrated by Stewart of Lorne, in a Scotch poem, called LERGES OF THIS NEW YEIR DAY, written in the year 1527.

Grit god reliefb MARGARET our quene!
For and scho war and scho has bene c
Scho wold be larger of lufray d
Than all the laif that I of mene e,
For lergesf of this new-yeir day g.

Dunbar's THISTLE AND ROSE is opened with the follow­ing stanzas, which are remarkable for their descriptive and picturesque beauties.

Quhenh Merche was with variand windis past,
And Apperyll had with her silver shouris
Tane leifi of Nature, with ane orient blast,
And lusty May, that muddirk is of flouris
Had maid the birdis to begyn thair houris l,
[Page 259] Amang the tendir odouris reid and quhyt,
Quhois harmony to heir it was delyt:
In bed at morrow sleiping as I lay,
Methoct Aurora, with her cristall ene
In at th [...] window lukitm by the day,
And halsitn me with visage pale and grene;
On quhois hand a lark sang, fro the splene o [...]
"Awak, luvaris p, out of your slemering q,
"Se how the lusty morrow doth upspring!"
Methoct freshe May befoir my bed upstude [...]
In weidr depaynt of mony diverse hew,
Sober, benygn, and full of mansuetude,
In bright atteir of flouris forgit new s,
Hevinly of color, quhyt, reid, brown, and blew,
Balmit in dew, and gilt with Phebus' bemys;
Quhil al the house illumynit of her lemys t.

MAY then rebukes the poet, for not rising early, accord­ing to his annual custom, to celebrate the approach of the spring; especially as the lark has now announced the dawn of day, and his heart in former years had always,

[Page 260]
—glaid and blissful bene
Sangisu to mak undir the levis grene x.

The poet replies, that the spring of the present year was un­promising and ungenial; unattended with the usual song of birds, and serenity of sky: and that storms and showers, and the loud blasts of the horn of lord Eolus, had usurped her mild dominion, and hitherto prevented him from wandering at leisure under the vernal branches. MAY rejects his ex­cuse, and with a smile of majesty commands him to arise, and to perform his annual homage to the flowers, the birds, and the sun. They both enter a delicious garden, filled with the richest colours and odours. The sun suddenly appears in all his glory, and is thus described in the luminous lan­guage of Lydgate.

The purpour sone, with tendir bemys reid,
In orient bricht as angell did appeir,
Thorow goldin skyis putting up his heid,
Quhois gilt tressis schone so wondir cleir,
That all the world take comfort far and neir y.

Immediately the birds, like the morning-stars, singing to­gether, hail the unusual appearance of the sun-shine.

And, as the blissful sone of cherarchy z,
The fowlis sung throw comfort of the licht;
The burddis did with oppin voices cry,
"O luvaris, fo away thow dully nicht,
"And welcum day that comfortis every wicht.
[Page 261] "Hail May, hail Flora, hail Aurora schene,
"Hail princes Nature, hail Venus luvis quene a.

NATURE is then introduced, issuing her interdict, that the progress of the spring should be no longer interupted, and that Neptune and Eolus should cease from disturbing the waters and air.

Dame Nature gaif an inhibitioun thair,
To fers Neptune, and Eolus the bauld b,
Nocht to perturb the wattir nor the air;
And that no schourisc nor blastis cawld
Effray suldd floris, nor fowlis on the fauld;
Scho bad eke Juno goddes of the sky
That scho the hevin suld amene and dry e.

This preparation and suspence are judicious and ingenious; as they give dignity to the subject of the poem, awaken our curio [...]ity, and introduce many poetical circumstances. NA­TURE immediately commands every bird, beast, and flower, to appear in her presence; and, as they had been used to do every May-morning, to acknowledge her universal sove­reignty. She sends the roe to bring the beasts, the swallow to collect the birds, and the yarrowf to summon the flowers. They are assembled before her in an instant. The lion ad­vances first, whose figure is drawn with great force and expression.

This awefull beist full terrible was of cheir,
Persing of luke, and stout of countenance,
Ryght strong of corps, of fassoun fair but feir g,
Lusty of shaip, lycht of deliverance,
Reid of his cullour as the ruby glance,
In field of gold he stude full mychtely
With floure de lucis sirculith lustely i.

This is an elegant and ingenious mode of blazoning the Scottish arms, which are a lion with a border, or tressure, adorned with flower de luces. We should remember, that heraldry was now a science of high importance and esteem. NATURE lifting up his cluvis cleir, or shining claws, and suffering him to rest on her knee, crowns him with a radiant diadem of precious stones, and creates him the king of beasts: at the same time she injoins him to exercise jus­tice with mercy, and not to suffer his subjects of the smallest size or degree, to be oppressed by those of superiour strength and dignity. This part of NATURE'S charge to the lion, is closed with the following beautiful stroke, which indicates the moral tenderness of the poet's heart.

And lat no bowgle with his busteousk hornis
The meik pluch oxl oppress for all hys pryd,
Bot in the yok go peciable him besyd m.

She next crowns the eagle king of fowls; and sharpening his talons like darts of steel, orders him to govern great and small, the wren or the peacock, with an uniform and equal impartiality. I need not point out to my reader the politi­cal lessons couched under these commands. NATURE now calls the flowers; and observing the thistle to be surrounded [Page 263] with a bush of spears, and therefore qualified for war, gives him a crown of rubies, and says, ‘"In field go forth and fend the laif n.’ The poet continues elegantly to picture other parts of the royal arms; in ordering th [...] thistle, who is now king of vegetables, to prefer all herbs, or flowers, of rare virtue, and rich odour: nor ever to permit the nettle to associate with the flour de lys, nor any ignoble weed to be ranked in competition with the lily. In the next stanza, where NATURE directs the thistle to honour the rose above all other flowers, exclusive of the heraldic meaning, our author with much address insinuates to king James the fourth an exhortation to conjugal fidelity, drawn from the high birth, beauty, and amiable accomplishments, of the royal bride the princess Margaret o.

Nor hald no udir flower in sic denty p
As the fresche ROSE, of cullour reid and quhyt;
For gif thou dois q, hurt is thyne honesty,
Considdering that no flour is so perfyt,
So full of vertew, pleasans, and delyt,
So ful of blissfull angelick bewty,
Imperial birth, honour, and dignite r.

NATURE then addresses the rose, whom she calls, ‘"O lusty daughter most benyng,"’ and whose lineage she exalts above that of the lily. This was a preference of Tudor to Valois. [Page 264] She crowns the rose with clarefied gems, the lustre of which illumines all the land. The rose is hailed queen by the flowers. Last, her praises are sung by the universal chorus of birds, the sound of which awakens the poet from his de­lightful dream. The fairy scene is vanished, and he calls to the muse to perpetuate in verse the wonders of the splendid vision.

Although much fine invention and sublime fabling are displayed in the allegorical visions of our old poets, yet this mode of composition, by dealing only in imaginary per­sonages, and by excluding real characters and human actions, necessarily fails in that chief source of entertainment which we seek in antient poetry, the representation of antient manners.

Another general observation, immediately resulting from the subject of this poem, may be here added, which illus­trates the present and future state of the Scotch poetry. The marriage of a princess of England with a king of Scotland, from the new communication and intercourse opened between the two courts and kingdoms by such a connection, must have greatly contributed to polish the rude manners, and to improve the language, literature, and arts, of Scotland.

The design of Dunbar's GOLDEN TERGE, is to shew the gradual and imperceptible influence of love, when too far indulged, over reason. The discerning reader will observe, that the cast of this poem is tinctured with the morality and imagery of the ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE, and the FLOURE AND LEAFE, of Chaucer.

The poet walks forth at the dawn of a bright day. The effects of the rising sun on a vernal landscape, with its ac­companiments, are thus delineated in the manner of Lyd­gate, yet with more strength, distinctness, and exuberance of ornament.

Richte as the starre of day began to schyne,
When gone to bed was Vesper and Lucyne,
I raise, and by a rosiers did me rest:
Upsprang the golden candle matutyne,
With cleir depuritt bemys chrystallyne,
Glading the mirry fowlis in thair nest:
Or Phebus was in purpour kaipu revest,
Upsprang the lark, the hevenis menstral syne w,
In May intill a morrow mirthfullest.
Full angelyk the birdis sang thair houris,
Within their courtingsx grene, within thair bouris
Apparrellit quhaite and reid with blumys sweit:
Ennamelit was the feild with all cullouris,
The perlit droppis schuke as in silver schouris y,
While al in balme did branche and levis fleit
Depairt from Phebus, did Aurora greit,
Hir chrystall teiris I saw hing on the flouris,
Quhilk he for lufe all drank up with his heit.
For mirth of May, with skippis and with hoppis,
The birdis sang upon the tendir croppis z,
With curious notes, as Venus' chapell-clarkes:
The rosis reid, now spreiding of their knoppis a,
Were powderitb bricht with heavenly beryl-droppis,
Throw bemys reid lemyng as ruby sparks;
The skyis rang with schoutyng of the larks,
The purpour hevin owreskalit in silver sloppis c
Owregilt the treis, branchis, levis and barks.
Down thruch the ryss d ane revir ran with stremis
So lustely upoun the lykande lemis,
That all the lake as lamp did leme of licht,
Quhilk shaddowit all about with twynklyng glemis f;
The bewisg baithit war in secound bemis,
Through the reflex of Phebus visage bricht
On every side the egè raise on hicht h:
The bank was grene, the son was ful of bemis,
The streimeirs cleir as starres in frostie nicht.
The crystall cleir, the sapheir firmament,
The ruby skyies of the reid orient,
Kesti beryl bemis on emerault bewis grene,
The rosy garth k, depaynt, and redolent,
With purpour, asure, gold, and gowlisl gent,
Arrayit was, by dame Flora the quene,
Sa nobilly, that joy was for to sene:
The rocke m, agane the river resplendent,
As low illuminate all the levis schene n.

[Page 267] Our author, lulled by the music of the birds, and the murmuring of the water, falls asleep on the flowers, which he calls Flora's mantill. In a vision, he sees a ship approach, whose sails are like the blossom upon the spray, and whose masts are of gold bright as the star of day o. She glides swiftly through a christal bay; and lands in the blooming meadows, among the green rushes and reeds, an hundred ladies clad in rich but loose attire. They are cloathed in green kirtles; their golden tresses, tied only with gl [...]ttering threads, flow to the ground; and their snowy bosoms are unveiled.

Als fresche as flours that in the May upspreids
In kirtills grene, withoutin kellp or bands
Their bricht hair hung glittering on the strand
In tresis cleir, wypitq with golden threidis;
With pawpysr whyt, and middills small as wands s.

In this brilliant assembly, the poet sees NATURE, dam [...] Venus quene, the fr [...]sche AURORA, May, lady Flora schene, Juno, Latona, Proserpine, Diana goddess of the chase and woodis grene, lady Clio, Minerva, Fortune, and Lucina. These michty quenes are crowned with diadems, glittering like the morning-star. They enter a garden. May, the queen of mirthful months, is supported between her sisters April and [Page 268] June: as she walks up and down the garden, the birds begin to sing, and NATURE gives her a gorgeous robe adorned with every colour under heaven.

Thair sawe I NATURE present tillt her a gown
Riche to beholde, and noble of renoune,
Of everie hew that undir the hevin has bene
Depaint and braidu by gud proportioun w.

The vegetable tribes then do their obeisance to NATURE, in these polished and elegant verses.

And every blome on branche, and eik on bank,
Opnit, and spred thair balmy levis dank,
Full law inclyneand to thair queen full cleir,
Whom for their noble nurissing thay thank x.

Immediately another court, or groupe, appears. Here Cupid the king presides:

—a bow in hand ay bent,
And dreadfull arrowis groundin scherp and squhair.
Thair sawe I Mars the god armipotent
Awefull and stirnè, strong and corpulent.
Thair sawe I crabity Saturne, auld and hair z,
His look was lyk for to perturb the air.
Thair was Mercurius, wi [...]e and eloquent,
Of retorik that funda the floris fair b.

These are attended with other pagan divinities, Janus, Pria­pus, Eolus, Bacchus the glader of the table, and Pluto. They are all arrayed in green; and singing amorous ditties to the [Page 269] harp and lute, invite the ladies to dance. The poet quits his ambush under the trees, and pressing forward to gain a more perfect view of this tempting spectacle, is espied by Venus. She bids her keen archers arrest the intruder. Her attendants, a groupe of fair ladies, instantly drop their green mantles, and each discovers a huge bow. They form them­selves in battle-array, and advance against the poet.

And first of all, with bow in hand ay bent,
Came dame BEAUTY, richt as scho wald me schent;
Syne followit all her damosalls in feir,
With many divers awfull instrument c:
Into the praiss FAIR HAVINGd with her went;
Than came RESSOUN, with Schield of gold so cleir,
In plait of mail, as Mars armipotent,
Defendit me that noblef chevellier g.

BEAUTY is assisted by tender YOUTH with her virgins ying, GREEN INNOCENCE, MODESTY, and OBEDIENCE: but their resistance was but feeble against the golden target of REASON. WOMANHOOD then leads on PATIENCE, DISCRETION, STED­FASTNESS, BENIGNE LOOK, MYLDE CHEIR, and HONEST BUSINESS.

Bot RESSOUN bare the Terge with sic constance,
Thair scharp essay might do me no deirance h,
For all thair praiss and awfulli ordinance k.

The attack is renewed by DIGNITY, RENOWN, RICHES, NO­BILITY, and HONOUR. These, after displaying their high banner, and shooting a cloud of arrows, are soon obliged to [Page 270] retreat. Venus, perceiving the rout, orders DISSEMBLANCE to make an attempt to pierce the Golden Shield. DISSEM­BLANCE, or DISSIMULATION, chuses for her archers, PRE­SENCE, FAIR CALLING, and CHERISHING. These bring back BEAUTY to the charge. A new and obstinate conflict ensues.

Thik was the schott of grindin arrowis kene,
Bot RESSOUN, with the Schield of Gold so schene,
Weirlyl defendit quhosoeir assayit:
The awfull schour he manly did sustene m.

At length PRESENCE, by whom the poet understands that irresistible incentive accruing to the passion of love by society, by being often admitted to the company of the beloved object, throws a magical powder into the eyes of REASON; who is suddenly deprived of all his powers, and reels like a drunken man. Immediately the poet receives a deadly wound, and is taken prisoner by BEAUTY; who now assumes a more engaging air, as the clear eye of REASON is growing dim by intoxication. DISSIMULATION then tries all her arts on the poet: FAIR CALLING smiles upon him: CHERISHING sooths him with soft speeches: NEW ACQUAINTANCE embraces him awhile, but soon takes her leave, and is never seen afterwards. At last DANGER delivers him to the custody of GRIEF.

By this time, ‘"God Eolus his bugle blew."’ The leaves are torn with the blast: in a moment the pageant disap­pears, and nothing remains but the forest, the birds, the banks, and the brook n. In the twinkling of an eye they return to the ship; and unfurling the sails, and stemming the sea with a rapid course, celebrate their triumph with a discharge of ordinance. This was now a new topic for poetical de­scription. The smoke rises to the firmament, and the roar is re [...]echoed by the rocks, with a sound as if the rain-bow had been broken.

And as I did awak of this swowning o,
The joyfull fowlis merrily did sing
For mirth of Phebus tendir bemis schene.
Sweit was the vapours, soft the morrowing,
Hailsum the vaillp depaynt with flours ying,
The air intemperit sober and amene;
In whit and red was al the erd besene,
Throw Naturis nobill fresch ennameling
In mirthfull May of every moneth quene q.

Our author then breaks out into a laboured encomium on Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate. This I chuse to recite at large, as it shews the peculiar distinction antiently paid to those fathers of verse; and the high ideas which now pre­vailed, even in Scotland, of the improvements introduced by their writings into the British poetry, language, and literature r [...]

O reverend CHAUSER, rose of rhetouris all,
As in our tonge and flours imperial
That raise in Britain ever, quha reidis richt t,
Tho beiris of makinu the triumphs royall,
The fresche enamilit termes celestiall:
This mater couth haif illuminit full bricht w;
Was thou nocht of our English all the licht,
Surmounting every toung terrestriall
As far as Mayis morrow dois midnycht.
O moral GOWER, and LYDGATE laureat,
Your suggaritx tonguis, andy lippis aureat [...]
[Page 272] Bene till ourz eris cause of gret delyte;
Your angelic mouth most mellifluate
Our [...]ude language has cleir illumynat,
And has owregilt our speiche, that imperfyte
Stude, or your goldin pennis schup to wryt a,
This yle befoir was bair and dissolat b
Of rhetorik, or lusty freschec indyte d.

This panegyric, and the poem, is closed with an apology, couched in elegant metaphors, for his own comparative hu­mility of style. He addresses the poem, which he calls a litill quair.

O know quhat thou of rhetoric has spent;
Of hir lusty rosis redolent
Is nane into thy garland sett on hicht e.
O schamef thairfor, and draw thè out of sicht!
Rude is thy weid g, destitute, bair, and rent,
Weill aucht thou be affeirit of the licht h!

Dunbar's DAUNCE has very great merit in the comic style of painting. It exhibits a groupe of figures touched with the capricious but spirited pencil of Callot. On the eve of Lent, a general day of confession, the poet in a dream sees a display of heaven and hell. Mahomet i, or the devil, com­mands a dance to be performed by a select party of fiends; particularly by those, who in the other world had never [Page 273] made confession to the priest, and had consequently never received absolution. Immediately the SEVEN DEADLY SINS appear; and present a mask, or mummery, with the newest gambols just imported from France k. The first is PRIDE, who properly takes place of all the rest, as by that SIN fell the angels. He is described in the fashionable and gallant dress of those times: in a bonnet and gown, his hair thrown back, his cap awry, and [...]his gown affectedly flowing to his feet in large folds.

Let se, quoth he l [...] now quha beginis?
With that the fowll Deadly Sinnis
Begouth to l [...]ip attanis m.
And first of all in dance [...]as PRYD,
With hair wyld bak, bonet on syde,
Lyk to make vaistie wanis;
And round about him as a quheill n,
Hang all in rumpilliso to the heill,
His kethatp for the nanis q.
Many proud trumpourr with him trippit,
Throw skaldans fyr ay as they skippit
They girnd with hyddoust granis v.

Several holy harlots follow, attended by monks, who make great sport for the devils w.

Heilie Harlottis in hawtain wyis x,
Come in with mony sindrie gyis y,
But yet luche nevirz Mahoun:
Quhill priestis cum with bair schevina nekks,
That all the feynds lewche b, and maid gekks c,
Black-belly, and Bawsy-brown.

Black-belly and Bawsy-brown are the names of popular spirits in Scotland. The latter is perhaps our ROBIN GOOD­FELLOW, known in Scotland by the name of BROWNIE.

ANGER is drawn with great force, and his accompaniments are boldly feigned. His hand is always upon his knife, and he is followed, in pairs, by boasters, threateners, and quar­relsome persons, all armed for battle, and perpetually wound­ing one another d.

Than YRE come in with sturte and stryfe;
His hand was ay upon his knyfe,
He brandeist lyk a beir:
Bostaris, braggarists, and barganeris,
Efter hym passit in pairis,
All bodin in feir of weir f:
In jakkis, stryppis, and bonnettis of steil g,
Thair leggis wer cheyned to the heill h,
Frawart was thair affeir i;
[Page 275] Sum upon uder with brands beft k,
Sum jagit utheris to the heft l
With knyvis that scheirp coud scheir m.

ENVY is equal to the rest. Under this SIN our author takes occasion to lament, with an honest indignation, that the courts of princes should still give admittance and encou­ragement to the whisperers of idle and injurious reports n.

Next in the dance followit INVY,
Fild full of feido and fellony,
Hid malyce and dispyte;
For pryvie hateritp that tratour trymlit q,
Him followit mony freik dissymlit r,
With feynit wordis quhyte.
And flattereris into mens facis,
And back-byttariss of sundry racis,
To leyt that had delyte.
With rownarisu of fals lesingis w:
Allace! that courtis of noble kingis
Of tham can nevir be quyte x!

AVARICE is ushered in by a troop of extortioners, and other miscreants, patronised by the magician Warloch, or the demon of the covetous; who vomit on each other tor­rents of melted gold, blazing like wild-fire: and as they are emptied at every discharge, the devils replenish their throats with fresh supplies of the same liquefied metal y.

[Page 276] SLOTH does not join the dance till he is called twice: and his companions are so slow of motion, that they cannot keep up with the rest, unless they are roused from their lethargy by being sometimes warmed with a glimpse of hell-fire z.

Syne SWIRNES, at the seccound bidding,
Come lyk a sow out of a midding a,
Full slepy was his grunyie b.
Mony sweir bumbard belly-huddroun c,
Mony slute daw and slepy duddroun d,
Him servit ay with sounyie e.
He drew tham forth intill a chenyie f,
And Belliall, with a brydill reynie g,
Evi [...] lascht on the lunyie h.
In daunce thay wer so slow of feit
Thay gaif tham in the fyre a heit
And maid tham quicker of conyie i.

LUST enters, neighing like a horse k, and is led by IDLE­NESS. When his associates mingle in the dance, their visages burn red like the turkis-stone l. The remainder of the stanza, although highly characteristical, is too obscene to be transcribed. But this gave no offence. Their manners were too indelicate to be shocked at any indecency. I do not mean that these manners had lost their delicacy, but that they had not yet acquired the sensibility arising from civili­sation. In one of the Scotch interludes of this age, written by a fashionable court-poet, among other ridiculous ob­scenities, the trying on of a Spanish padlock in public makes a part of theatrical representation.

[Page 277] GLUTTONY brings up the rear; whose insatiable rout are incessantly calling out for meat and drink, and although they are drenched by the devils with draughts of melted lead, they still ask for more.

Than the fowll monster GLUTTONY,
Of wamem unsasiable and gredy,
To daunce syn did him dress:
Him followit mony fowll drunckhart,
With can and collop, copn and quart,
In surfett and excess.
Full many a waistless wally-drag o,
With waimisp unweildable did furth wag,
In creischeq that did incress:
Drink, ay thay cryit with mony a gaip r,
The feynds gave them hait leid to lap s
Thair loveryt was na less u.

At this infernal dance no minstrels plaid. No GLEEMAN, or minstrel, ever went to hell; except one who committed murder, and was admitted to an inheritance in hell by brief of richt, that is, per breve de recto w. This circumstance seems an allusion to some real fact.

The concluding stanza is entirely a satire on the high­landers. Dunbar, as I have already observed, was born in Lothian, a county of the Saxons. The mutual antipathy between the Scottish Saxons and the Highlanders was exces­sive, and is not yet quite eradicated. Mahoun, or Mahomet, having a desire to see a highland pageant, a fiend is com­missioned to fetch Macfadyan; an unmeaning name, chosen for its harshness. As soon as the infernal messenger begins [Page 278] to publish his summons, he gathers about him a prodigious crowd of Ersche men; who soon took up great room in hell. These loquacious termagants began to chatter like rooks and ravens, in their own barbarous language: and the devil is so stunned with their horrid yell, that he throws them down to his deepest abyss, and smothers them with smoke.

Than cryd Mahoun for a heleand padyane,
Syn ran a feynd to fetch Makfadayne
Far northwart in a nuke x:
Be he the correnoth had done schout y,
Ersche men so gadderit him about,
In hell grit rume thay tuke:
Thae turmagantisz with tag and tatter
Full loud in Ersche begout to clatter,
And rowpa lyk revin and ruke.
The devil sa devitb wes with thair yell
That in the deepest pot of hell
He smorit them with smoke c.

I have been prolix in my citations and explanations of [...]his poem, because I am of opinion, that the imagination of [Page 279] Dunbar is not less suited to satirical than to sublime allegory: and that he is the first poet who has appeared with any de­gree of spirit in this way of writing since Pierce Plowman. His THISTLE AND ROSE, and GOLDEN TERGE, are generally and justly mentioned as his capital works: but the natural complexion of his genius is of the moral and didactic cast. The measure of this poem is partly that of Sir THOPAS in Chaucer: and hence we may gather by the way, that Sir THOPAS was antiently viewed in the light of a ludicrous composition. It is certain that the pageants and interludes of Dunbar's age must have quickened his invention to form those grotesque groupes. The exhibition of MORALITIES was now in high vogue among the Scotch. A Morality was played at the marriage of James the fourth and the princess Margaret d. Mummeries, which they call GYSARTS, com­posed of moral personifications, are still known in Scotland: and even till the beginning of this century, especially among the festivities of Christmas, itinerant maskers were admitted into the houses of the Scotch nobility.


ANother of the distinguished luminaries, that marked the restoration of letters in Scotland at the commence­ment of the sixteenth century, not only by a general emi­nence in elegant erudition, but by a cultivation of the ver­nacular poetry of his country, is Gawen Douglass. He was descended from a noble family, and born in the year 1475 e. According to the practice of that age, especially in Scotland, his education perhaps commenced in a grammar-school of one of the monasteries: there is undoubted proof, that it was finished at the university of Paris. It is probable, as he was intended for the sacred function, that he was sent to Paris for the purpose of studying the canon law: in consequence of a decree promulged by James the first, which tended in some degree to reform the illiteracy of the clergy, as it in­joined, that no ecclesiastic of Scotland should be preferred to a prebend of any value without a competent skill in that science f. Among other high promotions in the church, which his very singular accomplishments obtained, he was provost of the collegiate church of saint Giles at Edinburgh, abbot of the opulent convent of Abberbrothrock, and bi­shop of Dunkeld. He appears also to have been nominated by the queen regent to the archbishoprick, either of Glas­gow, or of saint Andrew's: but the appointment was re­pudiated by the pope g. In the year 1513, to avoid the per­secutions of the duke of Albany, he fled from Scotland into England, and was most graciously received by king Henry the eighth; who, in consideration of his literary merit, allowed [Page 281] him a liberal pension h. In England he contracted a friendship with Polydore Virgil, one of the classical scholars of Henry's court i. He died of the plague in London, and was buried in the Savoy church, in the year 1521 k.

In his early years he translated Ovid's ART OF LOVE, the favorite Latin system of the science of gallantry, into Scot­tish metre, which is now lost l. In the year 1513, and in the space of sixteen months m, he translated into Scotch heroics the Eneid of Virgil, with the additional thirteenth book by Mapheus Vegius, at the request of his noble patron Henry earl of Sinclair n. But it was projected [...]o early as the year 1501. For in one of his poems written that year o [...] he promises to Venus a translation of Virgil, in attonement for a ballad he had published against her court: and when the wo [...]k was finished, he tells Lord Sinclair, that he had now made his peace with Venus, by translating the poem which celebrated the actions of her son Eneas p. No me­trical version of a classic had yet appeared in English; except of Boethius, who scarcely deserves that appellation. Virgil was hitherto commonly known, only by Caxton's romance on the subject of the Eneid; which, our author says, no more resembles Virgil, than the devil is like saint Austin q.

This translation is executed with equal spirit and fidelity: and is a proof, that the lowland Scotch and English lan­guages were now nearly the same. I mean the style of composition [...] [Page 282] more especially in the glaring affectation of anglicising Latin words. The several books are introduced with metrical prologues, which are often highly poetical; and shew that Douglas's proper walk was original poetry. In the prologue to the sixth book, he wishes for the Sybill's golden bough, to [...]nable him to follow his master Virgil through the dark and dangerous labyrinth of the infernal regions r. But the most conspicuous of these prologues is a d [...]scription of May. The greater part of which I will insert s.

As fresche Aurore, to mychty Tithone spous,
Ischitt of her saffron bed, and euyru hous,
In crammesyw clad and granite violate,
With sanguyne cape, the selvagex purpurate;
Unschety the wyndois of hir large hall,
Spred all with rosis, and full of balme royall.
And eik the hevinly portis cristallyne
Upwarpis brade, the warlde till illumyne.
The twynkling stremourisz of the orient
Sched purpour sprayngis with gold and asure ment a [...]
Eous the stede, with ruby hammys rede,
Abouf the seyis liftis furth his hede
Of culloure sore, and somedele broun as bery,
For to alichtin and glad our emispery;
The flambe out brastin at the neis thirlis.—
Quhil schortlie, with the blesandb torche of day,
Abulȝeitc in his lemandd fresche array,
Furth of his palice ryall ischit Phebus,
With golden croun and visage glorious,
[Page 283] Crisp haris e, bricht as chrissolite or thopas;
For quhais hewf mycht nane behold his face:
The firie sparkis brasting from his ene,
To purge the air, and gilt the tender grene.—
The auriat phanisg of his trone soverane
With glitterand glance overspred the octiane h;
The largè fludis, lemand all of licht,
Bot with ane blenki of his supernal sicht,
For to behald, it was ane glore to se
The stabillytk wyndis, and the calmyt se;
The soft sessoun l, the firmament serene;
The loune illuminate arem, and firthn amene:
The silver-scalit fyschis on the grete o,
Ouer thowrtp clere stremes sprinkillandq for the hete,
With fynnys schinand broune as synopare r,
And chesal talis s, stourand here and there t:
The new cullour, alichtingu all the landis,
Forgane the stanryis schene w, and beriall strandis:
Quhil the reflex of the diurnal bemes
The bene bonkisx kest ful of variant glemes:
And lustie Flora did her blomes sprede
Under the fete of Phebus fulȝearty stede,
The swardit soyll enbrode with selkouth hewis z,
Wod and forest obumbrate with bewis a,
[Page 284] Quhais blysful branchis, porturateb on the ground,
With schaddois schene schew rocchis rubicund:
Towris, turrettis, kirnallis c, and pynnakillis hie,
Of kirkis, castellis, and ilk faire citie,
Stude payntit, every fane, phioll d, and stage e,
Apoun the playn grounde by thaire awn umbrage f.
Of Eolus north blastis havandg no drede,
The sulȝe spred hir brad bosum on brede h.—
The cornis croppis, and the bere new-brerde i,
With gladsum garment revesting the erde k.—
The variant vesture of the venust vale
Schrowdis the scherand fur l, and every fale m
Ouerfrettn with fulȝeis o, and fyguris ful dyuers,
The prayp bysprent with spryngand sproutis dyspers,
For callour humours on the dewy nycht,
Rendryng sum place the gyrs pylis thare licht,
Als fer as catal the lang somerys day
Had in thare pasture ete and gnyp away:
And blyssful blossomys in the blomyt ȝard
Submittis thare hedys in the ȝoung sonnys safgard:
Iue leiusq rank ouerspred the barmkynr wall,
The blomit hauthorne cled his pykis all,
[Page 285] Furth of fresche burgeounss the wyne grapist ȝing
Endlang the traȝileysu dyd on twistis hing,
The loukitw buttouns on the gemyt treis
Ouerspredand leuis of naturis tapestryis.
Soft gresy verdoure eftir balmy schouris,
On curland stalkis smyland to thare flowris:
Behaldand thame sa mony divers hew
Sum piers x, sum pale, sum burnet, and sum blew,
Sum gres, sum gowlis, sum purpure, sum sanguane,
Blanchit or broun, fauch ȝallow mony ane,
Sum heuinly colourit in celestial gre,
Sumy watty hewit as the haw wallyz se,
And sum departe in freklis rede and quhyte,
Sum bricht as gold with aureate leuis lyte.
The dasy did ona brede hir crownel smale,
And euery flour unlappit in the dale,
In battil gersb burgeouns, the ban wart wyld,
The clauir, catcluke, and the cammomylde;
The flourdelyce furth sprede his heuynly hew,
Floure damas, and columbe blak and blew,
Sere downis smal on dentiliounc sprang [...]
The ȝoung grened blomit strabery leus amang [...]
Gimp jereflourise thareon leuis unschet,
[...]resche prymrois, and the pourpour violet,
The rois knoppis, tetand furth thare hede,
Gan chyp, and kyth thare vernale lippis rede,
Crysp skarlet leuis sum scheddand baith at attanis,
Kestf fragrant smel amyd fra goldin granis g,
[Page 286] Heuinlie lyllyis, with lokkerand toppis quhyte,
Opynnit and schew thare creistis redemyte h,
The balmy vapour from thare sylkyn croppis
Distilland halesum sugurat hony droppis,
And sylver schakerisi gan fra leuis hing,
With chrystal sprayngis on the verdure ȝing:
The plane pouderit with semelie seitis sound,
Bedyit ful of dewy peirlys round;
So that ilk burgeon, syon, herbe, or floure,
Wox all enbalmit of the fresche liquour,
And baithit hait did in dulce humouris flete,
Quhareof the beis wrocht thare hony swete.—
Swannis k souchis throw o [...]t the respandl redis,
Ouer all the lochism and the fludis gray,
Sersand by kynd ane place quhare they suld lay;
Phebus rede foule his curale creist can stere,
Oft strekand furth his hekkil crawand clere
Amyd the wortis, and the rutis gent,
Pickland hys mete in alayis quhare he went,
His wyffis Toppa and Partolet hym by,
As bird al tyme that hantis bygamy;
[Page 287] The payntit pownen paysand with plumys gym,
Kest up his tale ane proud plesand quhile rym o,
Ischrowdit in his fedderane bricht and schene,
Schapand the prent of Argois hundreth ene;
Amang the bronysp of the olyue twistis,
Sere smale floulis, wirkand crafty nestis,
Endlang the hedgeis thik, and on rank akis q
Ilk bird reiosand with thare mirthful makis:
In corneris and clere fenesteris of glas
Full besely Arachne weuand was,
To knyt hyr nettis and hyr wobbis sle,
Tharewith to cauch the litil miger or fle:
Under the bewis bene in lufely valis,
Within fermance and parkis clois of palis,
The bustuous bukkis rakis furth on raw,
Heirdis of hertis throw the thyck wod schaw,
The ȝoung fownys followand the dun days s,
Kiddis skippand throw ronnys eftir rais t,
In lesurisu and on leyis litill lammes
Full tait and trig socht bletand to thare dammes [...]
On salt stremes wolk Dorida and Thetis,
By rynnand strandis, nymphs and naiades,
Sic as we clepe wenschis and damyssellis,
In gersy grauis wanderand by spring wellis,
Of blomed branchis and flouris quhyte and rede
Plettand their lusty chaplettis for thare hede:
Sum sang ring sangis, ledis, and roundis,
With vocis schil, quhil all the dale resoundis.—
Dame naturis menstralis on that uthyr parte,
Thare blissful bay intonyng euery arte,
[Page 288] To bete thare amouris of thare nychtis bale,
The merle, the mauys, and the nychtingale,
With mirry notis myrthfully furth brist,
Enforsing thaym quha micht do clink it best:
The kowschotw croudis and pykkis on the ryse,
The stirling changis diuers steuynnys nyse x,
The sparrow chirmis in the wallis clyft,
Goldspink and lintquhite fordynnand the lyft y,
The gukkow galis z, and so quhitteris the quale,
Quhil ryveris reirdit a, schawis, and euery dale,
And tendir twistis trymblit on the treis,
For birdis sang, and bemyng of the beis,
In werblis dulce of heuinlie armonyis,
The larkis loude releischandb in the skyis,
Louis thare legec with tonys curious;
Bayth to dame Natur, and the fresche Venus,
Rendring hie laudis in thare obseruance,
Quhais suggourit throttisd made glade hartis dance,
And al smal foulis singis on the spray;
Welcum the lord of licht, and lampe of day,
Welcum fosterare of tendir herbis grene,
Welcum quhikkynnar of flurist flouris schene,
Welcum support of euery rute and vane,
Welcum confort of al kind frute and grane,
Welcum the birdis beilde apoun the brere,
Welcum maister and reulare of the ȝere,
Welcum welefare of husbandis at the plewis f,
Welcum reparare of woddis, treis, and bewis,
[Page 289] Welcum depaynter of the blomyt medis,
Welcum the lyffe of euery thing that spredis,
Welcum storareg of all kynd bestial,
Welcum be thy bricht bemes gladand al.

The poetical beauties of this specimen will be relished by every reader who is fond of lively touches of fancy, and rural imagery. But the verses will have another merit with those critics who love to contemplate the progress of com­position, and to mark the original workings of genuine na­ture; as they are the effusion of a mind not overlaid by the descriptions of other poets, but operating, by its own force and bias, in the delineation of a vernal landscape, on such objects as really occurred. On this account, they deserve to be better understood: and I have therefore translated them into plain modern English prose. In the mean time, this experiment will serve to prove their native excellence. Di­vested of poetic numbers and expression, they still retain their poetry; and, to use the comparison of an elegant writer on a like occasion, appear like Ulysses, still a king and conqueror, although disguised like a peasant, and lodged in the cottage of the herdsman Eumaeus.

"Fresh Aurora, the wife of Tithonus, issued from her saffron bed, and ivory house. She was cloathed in a robe of crimson and violet-colour; the cape vermilion, and the border purple: she opened the windows of her ample hall, overspread with roses, and filled with balm, or nard. At the same time, the crystal gates of heaven were thrown open, to illumine the world. The glittering streamers of the orient diffused purple streaks mingled with gold and azure.—The steeds of the sun, in red harness of rubies, of colour brown as the berry, lifted their heads above th [...] sea, to glad our hemisphere: the flames burst f [...]om their [Page 290] nostrils:—While shortly, apparelled in his luminous array, Phebus, bearing the blazing torch of day, issued from his royal palace; with a golden crown, glorious visage, curled locks bright as the chrysolite or topaz, and with a radiance intolerable.—The fiery [...]parks, bursting from his eyes, purged the air, and gilded the new ver­dure.—The golden vanes of his throne covered the ocean with a glittering glance, and the broad waters were all in a blaze, at the first glimpse of his appearance. It was glorious to see the winds appeased, the sea becalmed, the soft season, the serene firmament, the still air, and the beauty of the watery scene. The silver-scaled fishes, on the gravel, gliding hastily, as it were from the heat or sun, through clear streams, with fins shining brown as cinna­bar, and chissel-tails, darted here and there. The new lustre, enlightening all the land, beamed on the small pebbles on the sides of rivers, and on the strands, which looked like beryl: while the reflection of the rays played on the banks in variegated gleams; and Flora threw forth her blooms und [...]r the feet of the sun's brilliant horses. The bladed soil was embroidered with various hues. Both wood and forest were darkened with boughs; which, re­flected from the ground, gave a shadowy lustre to the red rocks. Towers, turrets, battlements, and high pinnacles, of churches, castles, and every fair city, seemed to be painted; and, together with every bastion and story, ex­pressed their own shape on the plains. The glebe, fearless of the northern blasts, spread her broad bosom.—The corn-crops, and the new-sprung barley, recloathed the earth with a gladsome garment.—The variegated vesture of the valley covered the cloven furrow; and the barley­lands were diversified with flowery weeds. The meadow was besprinkled with rivulets: and the fresh moisture of the dewy night restored the herbage which the cattle had cropped in the day. The blossoms in the blowing garden [Page 291] trusted their heads to the protection of the young sun. Rank ivy-leaves overspread the wall of the rampart. The blooming hawthorn cloathed all his thorns in flowers. The budding clusters of the tender grapes hung end-long, by their tendrils, from the trellises. The gems of the trees unlocking, expanded themselves into the foliage of Na­ture's tapestry. There was a soft verdure after balmy showers. The flowers smiled in various colours on the bending stalks. Some red, &c. Others, watchet, like the blue and wavy sea; speckled with red and white; or, bright as gold. The daisy unbraided her little coronet. The grass stood embattelled, with banewort, &c. The seeded down flew from the dandelion. Young weeds ap­peared among the leaves of the strawberries. Gay gilli­flowers, &c. The rose buds, putting forth, offered their red vernal lips to be kissed; and diffused fragrance from the crisp scarlet that surrounded their golden seeds. Lilies, with white curling tops, shewed their crests open. The odorous vapour moistened the silver webs that hung from the leaves. The plain was powdered with round dewy pearls. From every bud, scyon, herb, and flower, bathed in liquid fragrance, the bee sucked sweet honey.—The swans clamoured amid the rustling reeds; and search­ed all the lakes and gray rivers where to build their nests. The red bird of the sun lifted his coral crest, crowing clear among the plants and rutis gent, picking his food from every path, and attended by his wives Toppa and Partlet. The painted peacock with gaudy plumes, un­folded his tail like a bright wheel, inshrouded in his shining feathers, resembling the marks of the hundred eyes of Argus. Among the boughs of the twisted olive, the small birds framed their artful nests, or along the thick hedges, or rejoiced with their merry mates on the tall oaks. In the secret nook, or in the clear windows of glass, the spider full busily wove her sly net, to ensnare [Page 292] the little gnat or fly. Under the boughs that screen the valley, or within the pale-inclosed park, the nimble deer trooped in ranks, the harts wandered through the thick woody shaws, and the young fawns followed the dap­pled does. Kids skipped through the briers after the roes; and in the pastures and leas, the lambs, full tight and trig, bleated to their dams. Doris and Thetis walked on the salt ocean; and Nymphs and Naiads, wandering by spring­wells in the grassy groves, plaited lusty chapl [...]ts for their hair, of blooming branches, or of flowers red and white. They sung, and danced, &c.—Meantime, dame Nature's minstrels raise their amorous notes, the ring-dove coo [...] and pitches on the tall copse, the starling whistles her varied descant, the sparrow chirps in the clefted wall; the goldfinch and linnet filled the skies, the cuckow cried, the quail twittered; while rivers, shaws, and every dale re­sounded; and the tender branches trembled on the trees, at the song of the birds, and the buzzing of the bees, &c."

This Landscape may be finely contrasted with a description of WINTER, from the Prologue to the seventh book h, a part of which I will give in literal prose.

"The fern withered on the miry fallows: the brown moors assumed a barren mossy hue: banks, sides of hills, and bottoms, grew white and bare: the cattle looked hoary from the dank weather: the wind made the red weed waver on the dike: From crags and the foreheads of the yellow rocks hung great icicles, in length like a spear [...] the soil was dusky and gray, bereft of flowers, herbs, and grass: in every holt and forest, the woods were stripped of their array. Boreas blew his bugle horn so loud, that the solitary deer withdrew to the dales: the small birds flocked to the thick briers, shunning the tempestuous blast, and changing their loud notes to chirping: the cataracts [Page 293] roared, and every linden-tree whistled and brayed to the sounding of the wind. The poor labourers went we [...] and weary, draggled in the fen. The sheep and shepherds lurked under the hanging banks, or wild broom.—Warm from the chimney-side, and refreshed with generous cheer, I stole to my bed, and laid down to sleep; when I saw the moon, shed through the windows her twinkling glances, and watery light: I heard the horned bird, the night­owl, shrieking horribly with crook [...]d bill from her cavern: I heard the wild [...]geese, with screaming cries, fly over the city through the silent night. I was soon lulled asleep; till the cock clapping his wings crowed thric [...], and the day peeped. I waked and saw the moon disappear, and heard the jack-daws cackle on the roof of the house. The cranes, prognosticating tempests, in a firm phalanx, pierced the air with voices sounding like a trumpet. The kite, perched on an old tree, fast by my chamber, cried lamentably, a sign of the dawning day. I rose, and half­opening my window, perceived the morning, livid, wan, and hoary; the air overwhelmed with vapour and cloud; the ground stiff, gray, and rough; the branches rattling; the sides of the hills looking black and hard with the driving blasts; the dew-drops congealed on the stubble and rind of trees; the sharp hail-stones, deadly-cold, hop­ping on the thatch and the neighbouring causeway, &c."

Bale, whose titles of English books are often obscured by being put into Latin, recites among Gawin Douglass's po­etical works, his Narration [...]s aureae, and Comoediae aliquot sa [...]rae i Of his NARRATIONES AUREAE, our author seems to speak in the EPILOGUE to VIRGIL, addressed to his patron lord Sinclair k.

I have also a strange command [comment] compyld,
To expone strange hystoryes and termes wild.

[Page 294] Perhaps these tales were the fictions of antient mythology. Whether the COMOEDIAE were sacred interludes, or MYSTE­RIES, for the stage, or only sacred narratives, I cannot de­termine. Another of his original poems is the PALICE OF HONOUR, a moral vision, written in the year 1501, planned on the design of the TABLET of Cebes, and imitated in the elegant Latin dialogue De Tranquillitate Animi of his country­man Florence Wilson, or Florentius Volusenus l. It was first printed at London, in 1553 m. The object of this alle­gory, is to shew the instability and insufficiency of worldly pomp; and to prove, that a constant and undeviating habit of virtue is the only way to true Honour and Happiness, who reside in a magnificent palace, situated on the summit of a high and inaccessible mountain. The allegory is illustrated by a variety of examples of illustrious personages; not only of those, who by a regular perseverance in honourable deeds gained admittance into this splendid habitation, but of those, who were excluded from it, by debasing the dignity of their eminent stations with a vicious and unmanly behaviour. It is addressed, as an apologue for the conduct of a king, to James the fourth; is adorned with many pleasing incidents and adventures, and abounds with genius and learning.


WITH Dunbar and Douglass I join Sir David Lyndesay, although perhaps in strictness he should not be placed so early as the close of the fifteenth century. He appears to have been employed in several offices about the person of James the fifth, from the infancy of that monarch, by whom be was much beloved; and at length, on account of his singular skill in heraldry, a science then in high estimation and among the most polite accomplishments, he was knight­ed and appointed Lion king of arms of the kingdom of Scotland. Notwithstanding these situations, he was an ex­cellent scholar n.

Lyndesay's principal performances are The DREME, and The MONARCHIE. In the address to James the fifth, prefixed to the DREME, he thus, with much tenderness and elegance, speaks of the attention he paid to his majesty when a child.

When thou wes young, I bare thee in myne arme
Full tenderlie, till thow begouth to gang o;
And in thy bed oft lappit thee full warme
With lute in hand, synep sweitlie to thee sang.

He adds, that he often entertained the young prince with various dances and gesticulations, and by dressing himself in [...]igned characters, as in an interlude q. A new proof that theatrical diversions were now common in Scotland.

[Page 296]
Sumtyme in dansing feirelie I flang,
And sumtyme playand fairsisr on the [...]lure:
And sumtyme lyke ane feinds trans [...]igurate,
And sumtyme lyke the gries [...]e gaist of Gy t,
In divers formis oftymes dis [...]igurate,
And sumtyme dissagist full plesandlie u.

In the PROLOGUE to the DREME, our author discovers strong talents for high description and rich imagery. In a [Page 297] morning of the month of January, the poet quits the copse and the bank, now destitute of verdure and flowers, and walks towards the sea-beach. The dawn of day is express­ed by a beautiful and brilliant metaphor.

By this, fair Titan with his lemis licht
Oer all the land had spred his banner bricht.

In his walk, musing on the desolations of the winter, and the distance of spring, he meets Flora disguised in a sable robe w.

I met dame Flora in dule weid dissgysit x,
Quhilk into May was dulce and delectabill,
With stalwarty storms hir sweitness war supprist,
Her hevinlie hewis war turnid into sabill,
Quhilk umquihlez war to luffaris amiabill.
Fled from the frost the tender flouris I saw
Under dame NATURIS mantill lurking law a.

The birds are then represented, [...]locking round NATURE, complaining of the severity of the season, and calling for the genial warmth of summer. The expostulation of the lark with Aurora, the sun, and the months, is conceived and conducted in the true spirit of poetry.

"Allace, AURORE, the syllie lark gan cry,
"Quhare has thou left thy balmy liquour sweit,
"That us rejoysit, mounting in the skye?
"Thy sylver dropps are turnit into sleit!
"O fair Phebus, where is thy holsum heit?
"Quhair art thou, MAY, with JUNE thy sister schene,
"Weill bordourit with dasyis of delyte?
"And gentill JULIE, with thy mantill grene
"Enamilit with rosis reid and quhyte?

The poet ascends the cliffs on the sea-shore, and entering a cavern, high in the crags, sits down to register in rhyme some mery mater of antiquitie. He compares the fluctuation of the sea with the instability of human affairs; and at length, be­ing comfortably shrouded from the falling sleet by the close­ness of his cavern, is lulled asleep by the whistling of the winds among the rocks, and the beating of the tide. He then has the following vision.

He sees a lady of great beauty, and benignity of aspect; who says, she comes to sooth his melancholy by shewing him some new spectacles. Her name is REMEMBRANCE. Instantaneously she carries him into the center of the earth. Hell is here laid open b; which is filled with popes, cardinals, abbots, archbishops in their pontifical attire, and ecclesiastics of every degree. In explaining the causes of their punish­ments, a long satire on the clergy ensues. With these are joined bishop Caiphas, bishop Annas, the traitor Judas, Ma­homet, Chorah, Dathan, and Abiram. Among the tyrants, or unjust kings, are Nero, Pharaoh, and Herod. Pontius Pilate is hung up by the heels. He sees also many duchesses and countesses, who suffer for pride and adultery. She then gives the poet a view of purgatory c.

A litle above that dolorous dungeon,
We enterit in ane countre full of cair;
Quhare that we saw mony one legioun
Gretand and grouland with mony ruthfull rair d.
Quhat place is this, quod I, of blis so bair?
Scho answerit and said, Purgatorie,
Qhuilk purgis saulis or they cum to glorie e.

After some theological reasonings on the absurdity of this intermediate state, and having viewed the dungeon of un­baptized babes, and the limbus of the souls of men who died before Christ, which is placed in a vault above the region of torment, they reascend through the bowels of the earth. In passing, they survey the secret riches of the earth, mines of gold, silver, and precious stones. They mount, through the ocean, which is supposed to environ the earth: then travel through the air, and next through the fire. Having passed the three elements, they bend towards heaven, but first visit the seven planets f. They enter the sphere of the moon, who is elegantly styled,

[Page 300]
Quene of the sea, and beautie of the nicht.

The sun is then described, with great force.

Than past we to the spheir of Phebus bricht,
That lusty lamp and lanterne of the hevin;
And glader of the sterris with his licht;
And principal of all the planets sevin,
And sate in myddis of thame all full evin:
As royg royall rolling in his sphair
Full plesandlie into his goldin chair.—
For to discryve his diademe royall,
Bordourit about with stonis schyning bricht,
His goldin car, or throne imperiall,
The four stedis that drawith it full richt, &c h.

They now arrive at that part of heaven which is called the CHRYSTALLINE i, and are admitted to the Empyreal, or heaven of heavens. Here they view the throne of God, sur­rounded by the nine orders of angels, singing with ineffable harmony k. Next the throne is the Virgin Mary, the queen of [Page 301] queens, ‘"well cumpanyit with ladyis of delyte."’ An ex­terior circle is formed by patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, apostles, conquerors in the three battles of the world, of the flesh, and of the devil, martyrs, confessors, and doctours in di­vinitie, under the command of saint Peter, who is repre­sented as their lieutenant-general l.

Milton, who feigns the same visionary route with very different ideas, has these admirable verses, written in his nineteenth year, yet marked with that characteristical great manner, which distinguishes the poetry of his maturer age. He is addressing his native language.

Yet I had rather, if I were to chuse,
Thy service in some graver subject use;
Such as may make thee search thy coffers round,
Before thou clothe my fancy in fit sound:
[Page 302] Such, where the deep-transported mind may soar
Above the wheeling poles; and at Heaven's door
Look in, and see each blissfull deitie
How he before the thunderous throne doth lie,
Listening to what unshorn Apollo sings
To th' touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings
Immortal nectar to her kingly sire.
Then passing through the sphears of watchfull fire,
And mistie regions of wide air next under,
And hills of snow, and lofts of piled thunder,
May tell at length how green-eyed Neptune raves,
In heaven's defiance mustering all his waves m.

REMEMBRANCE and the poet, leaving heaven, now con­template the earth, which is divided into three parts. To have mentioned America, recently discovered, would have been heresy in the science of cosmography; as that quarter of the globe did not occur in Pliny and Ptolemy n. The most famous cities are here enumerated. The poet next desires a view of Paradise; that glorious garth, or garden, of every flower. It is represented as elevated in the middle region of the air, in a climate of perpetual serenity o. From a fair fountain, springing in the midst of this ambrosial garden, descend four rivers, which water all the east. It is inclosed with walls of fire, and guarded by an angel.

The cuntre closit is about full richt,
With wallis hie of hote and birnyng fyre,
And straitly kepit by an angell bricht p.

From Paradise a very rapid transition is made to Scotland. Here the poet takes occasion to lament, that in a country so fertile, and filled with inhabitants so ingenious and active, universal poverty, and every national disorder, should a­bound. It is very probable, that the poem was written solely with a view of introducing this complaint. After an en­quiry into the causes of these infelicities, which are referred to political mismanagement, and the defective administration of justice, the COMMONWEALTH OF SCOTLAND appears, whose figure is thus delineated.

We saw a busteous berneq cum oer the bent r,
Buts hors on fute, als fast as he micht go;
Quhose rayment was all raggit, rewin t, and rent,
With visage leyne, as he had fastit Lent:
And fordwart fast his wayis he did advance,
With ane richt melancholious countenance:
With scrip on hip, and pyikstaff in his hand,
As he had bene purposit to pas fra hame.
Quod I, gude man, I wald fane understand,
Geve that ye pleisit u, to witw quhat wer your name?
Quod he, my sone, of that I think greit schame.
Bot sen thow wald of my name have ane feill,
Forswith they call mex Johne the Comoun weill y.

[Page 304] The reply of SYR COMMONWEALTH to our poet's question, is a long and general satire on the corrupt state of Scotland. The spiritual plelates, he says, have sent away Devotion to the mendicant friars: and are more fond of describing the dishes at a feast, than of explaining the nature of their own establishment.

Sensual Pleasure has banished Chastity.

Liberality, Loyalty, and Knightly Valour, are fled,

And Cowardice with lords is laureate.

From this sketch of Scotland, here given by Lyndesay, under the reign of James the fifth, who acted as a viceroy to France, a Scotch historian might collect many striking fea­tures of the state of his country during that interesting period, drawn from the life.

The poet then supposes, that REMEMBRANCE conducts him back to the cave on the sea-shore, in which he fell asleep. He is awakened by a ship firing a broadside z. He returns home, and entering his oratory, commits his vision to verse. To this is added an exhortation of ten stanzas to king James the fifth: in which he gives his majesty advice, and censures his numerous instances of misconduct, with incredible boldness and asperity. Most of the addresses to James the fifth, by the Scotch poets, are satires instead of panegyrics.

[Page 305] I have not at present either leisure or inclination, to enter into a minute enquiry, how far our author is indebted in his DREME to Tully's DREAM OF SCIPIO, and the HELL, PUR­GATORY, and HEAVEN, of Dante a.

Lyndesay's poem, called the MONARCHIE, is an account of the most famous monarchies that have flourished in the world: but, like all the Gothic prose-histories, or chronicles, on the same favorite subject, it begins with the creation of the world, and ends with the day of judgment b. There is much learning in this poem. It is a dialogue between EX­PERIENCE and a courtier. This mode of conducting a nar­rative by means of an imaginary mystagogue, is adopted from Boethius. A descriptive prologue, consisting of octave stanzas, opens the poem, in which the poet enters a de­lightful park c. The sun clad in his embroidered mantle, brighter than gold or precious stones, extinguishes the horned queen of night, who hides her visage in a misty veil. Imme­diately Flora began to expand,

—hir tapistry
Wrocht by dame NATURE queynt and curiouslie,
Depaynt with many hundreth hevinlie hewis.

[Page 306] Meanwhile, Eolus and Neptune restrain their fury, that no rude [...]ounds might mar the melody of the birds which echoe [...] among the rocks d.

In the park our poet, under the character of a courtier, meets EXPERIENCE, reposing under the shade of a holly. This pourtrait is touched with uncommon elegance and expression.

Into that park I saw appeir
One agit man, quhilk drew me neir;
Quhose berd was weil thre quarters lang,
His hair doun oer his schulders hang,
The qhylke as ony snawe was whyte,
Quhome to beholde I thocht delyte.
His habit angellyke of hew,
Of colour lyke the sapheir blew:
Under an holyne he reposit.—
To sit down he requestit me
Under the schaddow of that tre,
To saif me from the sonnis heit,
Amanges the flouris soft and sweit f.

[Page 307] In the midst of an edifying conversation concerning the fall of man and the origin of human misery, our author, before he proceeds to his main subject, thinks it necessary to deliver a formal apology for writing in the vulgar tongue. He de­clares that his intention is to instruct and to be understood, and that he writes to the people g. Moses, he says, did not give the Judaic law on mount Sinai in Greek or Latin. Aristotle and Plato did not communicate their philosophy in Dutch or Italian. Virgil and Cicero did not write in Chal­dee or Hebrew. Saint Jerom, it is true, translated the bible into Latin, his own natural language; but had saint Jerom been born in Argyleshire, he would have translated it into Erse. King David wrote the psalter in Hebrew, because he was a Jew. Hence he very sensibly takes occasion to recom­mend the propriety and necessity of publishing the scriptures and the missal, and of composing all books intended for common use, in the respective vernacular language of every country. This objection being answered, which shews the ideas of the times, our author thus describes the creation of the world and of Adam.

Quhen god had made the hevinnis bricht,
The sone, and mone, for to gyf licht,
The starry hevin, and cristalline;
And, by his sapience divine,
The planerts, in their circles round
Quhirlyng about with merie sound:—
He clad the erth with herbs and treis;
All kynd of fischis in the seis,
All kynd of best he did prepair,
With foulis fleting in the air.—
[Page 308] When hevin, and erth, and thare contents,
Were endit, with thare ornaments,
Than, last of all, the lord began
Of most vile erth to make the man:
Not of the lillie or the rose,
Nor cyper-tre, as I suppose,
Nether of gold, nor precious stonis,
Of earth he made flesche, blude, and bonis;
To that intent he made him thus,
That man shuld nocht be glorious,
And in himself no thinge shulde se
But matter of humilite h.

Some of these nervous, terse, and polished lines, need only to be reduced to modern and English orthography, to please a reader accustomed solely to relish the tone of our present versification.

To these may be added the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's temple.

Prince Titus with his chivalrie
With sound of trumpe triumphantlie,
He enterit in that greit citie, &c.
Thare was nocht ells but tak and slay,
For thence might no man win his way i.
The stramis of blude ran thruch the streit,
Of deid folk tramplit under feit;
Auld wydowis in the preis were smorit k,
Young virgins schamefullie deflorit.
The tempill greit of Solamone,
With mony a curious carvit stone,
With perfyt pinnakles on hicht,
Quhilks wer richt bewtifull and wicht l,
[Page 309] Quharein riche jowells did abound,
Thay ruscheitm rudely to the ground;
And set, in tyll their furious ire n,
Sanctum Sanctorum into fire o.

The appearance of Christ coming to judgement is poeti­cally painted, and in a style of correctness and harmony, of which few specimens were now seen.

As fire flaucht hastily glansing p,
Discend shall the most hevinly king;
As Phebus in the orient
Lichinisq in haist to occident,
So plesandlie he shall appeir
Among the hevinlie cloudis cleir.—
The angellis of the ordours nyne
Inviron shall his throne divyne.—
In his presence thare salbe borne
The signisr of cros, and croun of thorne [...]
Pillar, nailis, scurgis, and speir,
With everilk thing that did hym deir s,
The tyme of his grym passioun:
And, for our consolatioun,
Appeir sall, in his hands and feit,
And in his syde the print compleit
Of his fyve woundis precious
Schyning lyke rubies radious.

When Christ is seated at the tribunal of judging the world, he adds,

[Page 310]
Thare sall ane angell blawe a blast
Quhilk sall make all the warld agast t.

Among the monarchies, our author describes the papal see: whose innovations, impostures, and errors, he attacks with much good sense, solid argument, and satirical humour; and whose imperceptible increase, from simple and humble beginnings to an enormity of spiritual tyranny, he traces through a gradation of various corruptions and abuses, with great penetration, and knowledge of history u.

Among antient peculiar customs now lost, he mentions a superstitious idol annually carried about the streets of Edinburgh.

Of Edingburgh the great idolatrie,
And manifest abominatioun!
On thare feist day, all creature may see,
Thay beir ane ald stok-imagew throw the toun,
With talbrone x, trumpet, shalme, and clarioun,
Quhilk has bene usit mony one yeir bigone,
With priestis, and freris, into processioun,
Siclykey as Bal was borne through Babilon z.

He also speaks of the people flocking to be cured of various infirmities, to the auld rude, or cross, of Kerrail a.

[Page 311] Our poet's principal vouchers and authorities in the MO­NARCHIE, are Livy, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, Diodorus Siculus, Avicen the Arabic physician, Orosius, saint Jerom, Polydore Virgil, Cario's chronicle, the FASCICULUS TEMPO­RUM, and the CHRONICA CHRONICARUM. The FASCICULUS TEMPORUM is a Latin chronicle, written at the close of the fifteenth century by Wernerus Rolewinck, a Westphalian, and a Carthusian monk of Cologne; a most venerable volume, closed with this colophon. ‘"FASCICULUS TEMPO­RUM, a Carthusiense compilatum in formam cronicis figu­ratum usque in annum 1478, a me Nicolao Gatz de Seltz­tat impressum b."’ The CHRONICA CRONICARUM or CHRO­NICON MUNDI, written by Hartmannus Schedelius, a phy­sician at Nuremburgh, and from which our author evi­dently took his philosophy in his DREME, was printed at Nuremburgh in 1493 c. This was a most popular compi­lation, and is at present a great curiosity to those who are fond of history in the Gothic style, consisting of wonders conveyed in the black letter and wooden cuts. Cario's chronicle is a much more rational and elegant work: it was originally composed, about the beginning of the sixteenth century, by Ludovicus Cario, an eminent mathematician, and improved or written anew by Melancthon. Of Orosius, a wretched but admired christian historian, who compiled in Latin a series of universal annals from the creation to the fifth century, he cites a translation.

The translatour of Orosius
In his cronicle wryttis thus d.

I know of no English translation of Orosius, [...]nless th [...] Anglo-saxon version by king Alfred, and which would perhaps [Page 312] have been much more difficult to Lyndesay than the Latin original, may be called such: yet Orosius was early translated into Frenche and Italian f. For the story of Alex­ander the Great, our author seems to refer to Adam Davie's poem on that subject, written in the reign of Edward the second g: a work, which I never remember to have seen cited before, and of which, although deserving to be print­ed, only two public manuscripts now remain, the one in the library of Lincoln's inn, and the other in the Bodleian library at Oxford.

Alexander the conqueror,
Geve thou at lenth wald reid his ring h,
And of his cruell conquessing,
At lenth his LYFE thare thow may luke i.

He acquaints us, yet not from his own knowledge, but on the testimony of other writers, that Homer and Hesiod were the inventors in Greece, of poetry, medicine, music, and astronomy k.

EXPERIENCE departs from the poet, and the dialogue is ended, at the approach of the evening; which is described with these circumstances.

Behald, quhow Phebus downwart dois discend,
Toward his palice in the occident!—
[Page 313] The dew now donkisl the rosis redolent:
The mariguldis, that all day wer rejoysit
Of Phebus heit, now craftily ar closit m.—
The cornecraick in the croft, I heir hir cry;
The bat, the howlatt n, feebill of thare eis,
For thare pastyme, now in the evinning flies.
The nichtingaill with myrthfull melody
Her naturall notis, peirsit throuch the sky o.

Many other passages in Lyndesay's poems deserve attention. Magdalene of France, married to James the fifth of Scot­land p, did not live to see the magnificent preparations made for her public entry into Edinburgh. In a poem, called the DEITH OF QUENE MAGDALENE, our author, by a most strik­ing and lively prosopopeia, an expostulation with DEATH, describes the whole order of the procession. I will give a few of the stanzas.

THEIEF, saw thou not the greit preparativis
Of Edinburgh, the nobill famous toun?
Thow sawe the peple labouring for thare livis,
To make tryumph with trumpe and clarioun!—
Thow sawe makandq rycht costly scaffolding,
Depayntyt weill with golde and asure fyne,
Reddie preparit for the upsetting,
With fountanis flowing water cleir and wyne:
Disagysitr folkis, lyke creaturis divyne,
[Page 314] On ilk scaffold to play ane sundrie storie s:
Bot all in greittingt turnit thow that glorie.
Thow saw mony ane lustie fresche galland
Weill ordourit for resaiving of thair quene,
Ilk craftisman with bent bowe in his hand,
Ful galȝeartlie in schort clothing of grene, &c.—
Syne next in ordour passing throw the toun,
Thou suld have herd the din of instrumentis,
Of tabrone, trumpet, schalme, and clarioun,
With reirdu reboundand throw the elementis;
The heraulds with thare awfull vestimentis,
With maserisw upon ather of thare handis,
To rewle the prois, with burneist silver wandis.
Thow shuld have hardx the ornate oratouris,
Makand hir hienes salutatioun,
Boith of the clergy toun and counsalouris,
With mony notable narratioun.
Thow suld have sene her coronation,
In the fair abbay of the holie rude,
In presence of ane myrthfull multitude.
Sic banketting, sic awfull tournamentis
On hors and fute, that tyme quhilk suld have bene,
Sic chapell royall with sic instrumentis,
And craftie musick, &c y.—

Exclusive of this artificial and very poetical mode of in­troducing a description of these splendid spectacles, instead [Page 315] of saying plainly that the queen's death prevented the superb ceremonies which would have attended her coronation, these stanzas have another merit, that of transmitting the ideas of the times in the exhibition of a royal entertainment z.

Our author's COMPLAYNT contains a curious picture, like that in his DREME, of the miserable policy by which Scot­land was governed under James the fifth. But he diversifies and enlivens the subject, by supposing the public felicity which would take place, if all corrupt ministers and evil counsellors were removed from the throne. This is de­scribed by striking and picturesque personifications.

Justice holds her swerd on hie,
With her ballànce of equitie.—
Dame Prudence has the by the heid,
And Temperance dois thy brydill leid.
I see dame Force mak assistance,
Beirand thy targe of assurance:
And lusty lady Chastitie
Has bannischit Sensualitie.
Dame Riches takes on the sic cure,
I pray God that she long indure!
That Poverte dar nocht be sene
Into thy hous, for baith her ene:
But fra thy grace fled mony mylis
Amangis the hunteris in the ylis a.1333

[Page 316] I know not whether it be worth observing, that playing at cards is mentioned in this poem, among the diversions, or games, of the court.

Thar was no play but CARTIS and dice c.

And it is mentioned as an accomplishment in the character of a bishop.

Bot geve thay can play at the CAIRTIS d.

Thus, in the year 1503, James the fourth of Scotland, at an interview with the princess Margaret in the castle of Newbattle, finds her playing at cards. ‘"The kynge came prively to the said castell, and entred within the chammer [chamber] with a small cumpany [...] whare he founde the quene playing at the CARDES e."’

[Page 317] Prophesies of apparent impossibilities were common in Scotland: such as the removal of one place to another. Under this popular prophetic formulary, may be ranked the prediction in Shakespeare's MACBETH, where the APPARI­TION says, that Birnam-wood shall go to Dusinane. In the same strain, peculiar to his country, says our author,

Quhen the Bas and the isle of May
Beis set upon the mount Sinay,
Quhen the Lowmound besyde Falkland
Beis liftit to Northumberland.

But he happily avails himself of the form, to introduce a stroke of satire.

Quhen Kirkman ȝairnisf no dignite,
Nor wyffis no soveranite g.

The minority of James the fifth was dissipated in plea­sures, and his education most industriously neglected. He [Page 318] was flattered, not instructed, by his preceptors. His un­guarded youth was artfully exposed to the most alluring temptations h. It was in this reign, that the nobility of Scotland began to frequent the court; which soon became the theatre of all those idle amusements which were calcu­lated to solicit the attention of a young king. All these abuses are painted in this poem with an honest unreserved indignation. It must not in the mean time be forgotten, that James possessed eminent abilities, and a love of litera­ture: nor is it beside our present purpose to observe, that he was the author of the celebrated ballad called CHRIST'S KIRK ON THE GREEN i.

The COMPLAYNT OF THE PAPINGO is a piece of the like tendency. In the Prologue, there is a curious and critical catalogue of the Scotch poets who flourished about the four­teenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. As the names and works of many of them seem to be totally forgotten, and as it may contribute to throw some new lights on the neglected history of the Scotch poetry, I shall not scruple to give the passage at large, with a few illustrations. Our author declares, that the poets of his own age dare not aspire to the praise of the three English poets, Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate. He then, under the same idea, makes a transition to the most distinguished poets, who formerly flourished in Scotland.

Or quho can now the workis contrefait k
Of KENNEDIE l, with termis aureait?
Or of DUNBAR, quha language had at large,
As may be sene intyll his GOLDIN TARGE m?
Thocht thay be deid, thair libellis bene livand t,
Quhilk to reheirs makis redaris to rejoise.
Allace for one quhilk lamp was of this land,
Of eloquence the flowand balmy strand u,
And in our Inglis rhetorick the rose,
As of rubeis the carbuncle bene chose,
[Page 320] And as Phebus dois Cynthie precell;
So GAWIN DOWGLAS, bischop of Dunkell,
Had, quhen he was into this land on lyve,
Above vulgar poetis prorogatyve,
Both in practick and speculatioun.
I say no more: gude redaris may discryve
His worthy workis, in noumer mo than fyve.
And speciallie the trew translatioun
Of Virgill, quhilk bene consolatioun
To cunnyng men to knawe his greit ingyne,
As weill in science naturall as devyne.
And in the court bene present in their dayis,
That ballatis brevisw lustally and layis,
Quhilkis to our princis daylie thay do present.
Qho can say more than schir JAMES INGLIS sayis
In ballatis, farsis, and in plesand playis x?
Bot CULTROSE has his pen maid impotent,
Kid in cunnyngy and practick richt prudent.
And STEWART quhilk desireth one statlie style
Full ornate workis daylis dois compyle.
STEWART of Lorne will carp richt curiouslie z,
GALBRAITH, KYNLOICH a, quhen thay tham lyst applie
Into that art, ar craftie of ingyne.
[Page 321] Bot now of late is start up haistelie,
One cunnyng clarke, quhilk wrytith craftelie:
One plant of poets callit BALLENDYNE b;
Quhose ornate workis my wit can nocht defyne:
Get he into the court auctorite,
He will precell Quintyn and Kennedie c.

The Scotch, from that philosophical and speculative cast which characterises their national genius, were more zealous and early friends to a reformation of religion than their neighbours in England. The pomp and elegance of the ca­tholic worship made no impression on a people, whose de­votion sought only for solid edification; and who had no notion that the interposition of the senses could with any propriety be admitted to cooperate in an exercise of such a nature, which appealed to reason alone, and seemed to ex­clude all aids of the imagination. It was natural that such a people, in their system of spiritual refinement, should warmly prefer the severe and rigid plan of Calvin: and it is from this principle, that we find most of their writers, at the restoration of learning, taking all occasions of censuring [Page 322] the absurdities of popery with an unusual degree of ab­horrence and asperity.

In the course of the poem before us, an allegory on the corruptions of the church is introduced, not destitute of in­vention, humour, and elegance: but founded on one of the weak theories of Wickliffe, who not considering religion as reduced to a civil establishment, and because Christ and his apostles were poor, imagined that secular possessions were in­consistent with the simplicity of the gospel.

In the primitive and pure ages of christianity, the poet supposes, that the Church married Poverty, whose children were Chastity and Devotion. The emperour Constantine soon afterwards divorced this sober and decent couple; and without obtaining or asking a dispensation, married the Church with great solemnity to Property. Pope Silvester ratified the marriage: and Devotion retired to a hermitage. They had two daughters, Riches and Sensuality; who were very beautiful, and soon attracted such great and universal regard, that they acquired the chief ascendancy in all spiri­tual affairs. Such was the influence of Sensuality in parti­cular, that Chastity, the daughter of the Church by Poverty, was exiled: she tried, but in vain, to gain protection in Italy and France. Her success was equally bad in England. She strove to take refuge in the court of Scotland: but they drove her from the court to the clergy. The bishops were alarmed at her appearance, and protested they would harbour no rebel to the See of Rome. They sent her to the nuns, who received her in form, with processions and other honours. But news being immediately dispatched to Sensuality and Riches, of her friendly reception among the nuns, she was again compelled to turn fugitive. She next fled to the mendi­cant friers, who declared they could not take charge of ladies. At last she was found secreted in the nunnery of the Burrow­moor near Edinburgh, where she had met her mother Po­verty and her sister Devotion. Sensuality attempts to besiege [Page 323] this religious house, but without effect. The pious sisters were armed at all points, and kept an irresistible piece of ar­tillery, called Domine custodi nos.

Within quhose schot, thare dar no enemies
Approche their places for dread of dyntis dour d;
Boith nicht and day thay work lyke besie beis e,
For thar defence reddie to stand in stour:
And keip sic watchis on their utter tour,
That dame Sensuall with seige dar not assaile,
Nor cum within the schot of thare artaile f.

I know not whether this chaste sisterhood had the delicacy to observe strictly the injunctions prescribed to a society of nuns in England; who, to preserve a cool habit, were or­dered to be regularly blooded three times every year, but not by a secular person, and the priests who performed the ope­ration were never suffered to be strangers g.

I must not dismiss this poem, without pointing out a beautiful valediction to the royal palace of Snowdon; which is not only highly sentimental and expressive of poetical feelings, but strongly impresses on the mind an image of the romantic magnificence of antient times, so remote from the state of modern manners.

Adew fair Snawdoune, with thy touris hie,
Thy chapell royall, park, and tabill rounde h!
May, June, and July, wald I dwell in the,
War I one man, to heir the birdis sound
Quhilk doth againe thy royal roche rebound i!

[Page 324] Our author's poem, To the Kingis grace in contemptioun of syde taillis, that is, a censure on the affectation of long trains worn by the ladies, has more humour than decency k. He allows a tail to the queen, but thinks it an affront to the royal dignity and prerogative that,

Every lady of the land
Should have hir taill so syde trailland l.—
Quhare ever thay go it may be sene
How kirk and calsay they suepe clene m.—
Kittok that clekkit was yestrene n,
The morne wyll counterfute the quene.
Ane murelando Mag that milkid the ȝowis
Claggitp with clay above the howis,
In barn, nor byir, scho woll nocht byde
Without her kyrtill taill besyde.—
They waist more claith [cloth] within few yeiris
Than wald claith fyftie score of freris q.

In a statute of James the second of Scotland r, about the year 1460, it was ordered, that no woman should come to church or to market with her face mussaled, that is muzzled, or covered. Notwithstanding this seasonable interposition of the legislature, the ladies of Scotland continued muzzled during three reigns s. The enormous excrescence of female [Page 325] tails was prohibited in the same statute, ‘"That na woman wear tails unfit in length."’ The legitimate length of these tails is not, however, determined in this statute; a circum­stance which we may collect from a mandate issued by a papal legate in Germany, in the fourteenth century. ‘"It is decreed, that the apparel of women, which ought to be consistent with modesty, but now, through their foolish­ness, is degenerated into wantonness and extravagance, more particularly the immoderate length of their petti­coats, with which they sweep the ground, be restrained to a moderate fashion, agreeably to the decency of the sex, under pain of the sentence of excommunication t."’ The orthodoxy of petticoats is not precisely ascertained in thi [...] salutary edict: but as it excommunicates those female tails, which, in our author's phrase, keep the kirk and causey clean, and allows such a moderate standard to the petticoat, as is compatible with female delicacy, it may be concluded, that, the ladies who covered their feet were looked upon as very laudable conformists: an inch or two less would have been avowed immodesty; an inch or two more an affectation bor­dering upon heresy u. What good effects followed from this ecclesiastical censure, I do not find: it is, however, evident [...] that the Scottish act of parliament against long tails was as little observed, as that against muzzling. Probably the force of the poet's satire effected a more speedy reformation of such abuses, than the menaces of the church, or the laws of the land. But these capricious vanities were not confined to Scotland alone. In England, as we are informed by several an­tiquaries, the women of quality first wore trains in the reign of Richard the second: a novelty which induced a well [Page 326] meaning divine, of those times, to write a tract Contra cau­das dominarum, against the Tails of the Ladies w. Whether or no this remonstrance operated so far, as to occasion the contrary extreme, and even to have been the distant cause of producing the short petticoats of the present age, I cannot say. As an apology, however, for the English ladies, in adopting this fashion, we should in justice remember, as was the case of the Scotch, that it was countenanced by Anne, Richard's queen: a lady not less enterprising than successful in her attacks on established forms; and whose authority and example were so powerful, as to abolish, even in defiance of France, the [...]afe, commodious, and natural mode of riding on horseback, hitherto practiced by the women of England, and to introduce side-saddles x.

An anonymous Scotch poem has lately been communicated to me, belonging to this period: of which, as it was never printed, and as it contains capital touches of satirical hu­mour, not inferior to those of Dunbar and Lyndesay, I am tempted to transcribe a few stanzas y. It appears to have been written soon after the death of James the fifth z. The poet mentions the death of James the fourth, who was kill­ed in the battle of Flodden-field, fought in the year 1513 a. It is entitled DUNCANE LAIDER, or MAKGREGOR'S TES­TAMENT b. The Scotch poets were fond of conveying in­vective, under the form of an assumed character writing a will c. In the poem before us, the writer exposes the ruinous [Page 327] policy, and the general corruption of public manners, pre­vailing in Scotland, under the personage of the STRONG MAN d, that is, tyranny or oppression. Yet there are some circumstances which seem to point out a particular feudal lord, famous for his exactions and insolence, and who at length was outlawed. Our testator introduces himself to the reader's acquaintance, by describing his own character and way of life, in the following expressive allegories.

My maister houshold was heiche Oppressioun,
Reiff my stewart, that cairit of na wrang g;
Murthure, Slauchtir h, aye of ane professioun,
My cubicularisi has bene thir yearis lang:
Recept, that oft tuik in mony ane fang k,
Was porter to the yettis l, to oppin wyde;
And Covatice was chamberlane at all tyde m.
Conspiracie, Invy, and False Report,
Were my prime counsalouris, leven and dear [...];
Then Robberie, the peepill to extort,
And common Thifto tuke on tham [...]a the steir p [...]
That Treuth in my presince durst not appeir,
For Falsheid had him ay at mortal feid q,
And Thift brocht Lautie finallie to deid r [...]
Oppressioun clikit Gude Reules be the hair,
And suddainlie in ane preesount him flang;
And Crueltie cast Piti [...] our the stair u,
[Page 328] Qhuill Innocence was murthurit in that thrang w.
Than Falsheid said, he maid my house richt strang,
And furnist weill with meikill wrangus geir x,
And bad me neither god nor man to feir y.

At length, in consequence of repeated enormities and vio­lations of justice, Duncane supposes himself to be impri­soned, and about to suffer the extreme sentence of the law. He therefore very providently makes his last will, which contains the following witty bequests.

To my CURAT Negligence I resigne,
Thairwith his parochinarisz to teche;
Ane ather gift I leif him als condigne a,
Slouth and Ignorance sendillb for to preche:
The saullis he committis for to bleiche c
In purgatorie, quhilld thaie be waschin clene,
Pure religion thairbie to sustene.
To the VICAR I leif Diligence and Care
To tak the upmost claith and the kirk kow e,
Mair norf to put the corps in sepulture:
Have pouir wad six gryis and ane sow g,
He will have ane to fill his bellie fowe h:
[Page 329] His thocht is mair upon the pasche fynis,
Nor the saullis in purgatorie that pynis i.
Oppressioun the PERSONE I leif untill k,
Pouir mens corne to hald upon the rig l,
Quhill he get the teynd [...]lhail at his will m:
Suppois the barins thair bread suld go thig n,
His purpois is na kirkis for to big o;
Sa fair an barne-tymep god has him sendin,
This seven years the queir will ly unmendin q [...]
I leif unto the DEAN Dignite, bot faill r,
With Greit Attendence quilk he sall not miss,
Fra adulteraris [to] tack the buttock-maill s;
Gif ane man to ane madin gif ane kiss t,
Get he not geir, thai sall not come to bliss u:
His winnyngw is maist throw fornicatioun,
Spending it shur with siclikex occupatioun.
I leif unto the PRIOURE, for his part,
Gluttony, him and his monkis to feid,
With far better will to drink ane quart y,
Nor an the bible ane chaptourez to reid;
Yit ar thai wyis and subtile into deid a,
Fenȝeis thame pouir b, and has gret sufficence,
And takith wolth away with gret patience.
I leif the ABBOT Pride and Arrogance,
With trappit mules in the court to ryde c,
Not in the closter to make residence;
It is na honoure thair for him to byde d,
But ever for ane bischoprik provyde e:
For weill ye wat ane pouir benefice,
Of ten thousand markisf may not him suffice.
To the BISCHOP his Free will I allege g,
Becaus thair [is] na man him [dares] to blame;
Fra secular men he will him replege h,
[Page 331] And weill ye wat the pape is fur fra hame i:
To preich the gospell he thinkis schame,
(Supposis sum tym it was his professioun,)
Rather nor for to sit upon the sessioun k.
I leif my Flatterie, and Fals Dissembling,
Unto the FRERIS, thai sa weill can fleitche l,
With mair profit throwe ane marriage-making
Nor all the lentranem in the kirk to preiche n.
Thai gloisso the scripture, ever quhen thai teache,
Moer in intent the auditouris to pleiss,
Nor the trew worde of god for to appeiss p.
Thirq gifts that dame Nature has me lent
I have disponitr heir, as ye may see:
It nevir was, nor yit is, my intent,
That trew kirkmen get acht belongis to me s:
But that haulist Huredome and Harlottrie,
Gluttony, Invy, Covatice, and Pryde,
My executouris I mak tham at this tyde.
Adew all friends, quhillu after that we meit,
I cannot tell yow quhair, nor in quhat place;
But as the lord dispousis for my spreit,
[Page 332] Quher is the well of mercie and of grace,
That I may [stand] befoirr his godlie face:
Unto the devill I leif my synnisw all,
Fra him thai came, to him agane thei fall x.

Some readers may perhaps be of opinion, that Makgregor was one of those Scottish lairds, who lived professedly by rapine and pillage: a practice greatly facilitated, and even supported, by the feudal system. Of this sort was Edom o'Gordon, whose attack on the castle of Dunse is recorded by the Scotch minstrels, in a pathetic ballad, which begins thus.

It fell about the Martinmas,
Qhen the wind blew schril and cauld,
Said Edom o'Gordon to his men,
We maun draw to a hauld:
And quhat a hauld sall we draw to,
My mirry men and me?
We wul gae to the house o' the Rhodes,
To see that fair ladie y.

Other parts of Europe, from the same situations in life, afford instances of the same practice. Froissart has left a long narrative of an eminent robber, one Amergot Marcell; who became at length so formidable and powerful, as to claim a place in the history of France. About the year 1380, he had occupied a strong castle for the space of ten years, in the province of Auvergne, in which he lived with the splendor and dominion of a petty sovereign [...] having amassed, by pillaging the neighbouring country, one hun­dred thousand francs. His depredations brought in an annual revenue of twenty thousand floreins. Afterwards he [Page 333] is tempted imprudently to sell his castle to one of the gene­rals of the king for a considerable sum. Froissart introduces Marcell, after having sold his fortress, uttering the following lamentation, which strongly paints his system of depredation, the feudal anarchy, and the trade and travelling of those days. ‘"What a joy was it when we rode forthe at adventure, and somtyme found by the way a ryche priour, or mar­chaunt, or a route of mulettes, of Montpellyer, of Nar­bone, of Lymons, of Fongans, of Tholous, or of Car­cassone, laden with clothe of Brusselles, or peltre ware comynge from the fayres, or laden with spycery from Bruges, from Damas, or from Alysaunder! What­soever we met, all was ours, or els raunsomed at our pleasures. Dayly we gate newe money; and the vyl­laynes of Auvergne and of Lymosyn dayly provyded, and brought to our castell, whete mele, breed [bread] ready baken, otes for our horses and lytter, good wynes, beffes, and fatte mottons, pullayne, and wylde foule. We were ever furnyshed, as though we had been kings. Whan we rode forthe, all the country trembled for feare. All was oures, goynge or comynge. Howe toke we Carlaste, I and the Bourge of Companye! and I and Perot of Bernoys toke Caluset. How dyd we scale with lytell ayde the stronge castell of Marquell pertayninge to the erle Dol­phyn! I kept it not past fyve dayes, but I receyved for it, on a fayre table, fyve thousand frankes; and forgave one thousand, for the love of the erle Dolphyn's chyldren. By my faithe, this was a fayre and goodlie life! &c z."’

But on the whole I am inclined to think, that our testator Makgregor, although a robber, was a personage of high rank, whose power and authority were such, as to require this in­direct and artificial mode of abuse. For the same reason, I believe the name to be fictitious.

[Page 334] I take this opportunity of observing, that the old Scotch poet Blind Harry belongs to this period; and, at the same time, of correcting the mistake, which, in conformity to the common opinion, and on the evidence of Dempster and Mackenzie, I have committed, in placing him towards the close of the fourteenth century a. John Major the Scotch historian, who was born about the year 1470, remembered Blind Harry to have been living, and to have published a poem on the achievements of Sir William Wallace, when he was a boy. He adds, that he cannot vouch for the credibility of those tales which the bards were accustomed to sing for hire in the castles of the nobility b. I will give his own words. ‘"Integrum librum Gulielmi Wallacei Henricus, a nativitate luminibus captus, meae infantiae tempore cudit: et quae vulgo dicebantur carmine vulgari, in quo peritus erat, conscripsit. Ego autem talibus scriptis solum in parte fidem impertior; quippe qui HISTORIARUM RECITATIONE CORAM PRINCIPIBUS victum et vestitum, quo dignus erat, nactus est c."’ And that, in this poem, Blind Harry has intermixed much fable with true history, will appear from some proofs collected by sir David Dalrymple, in his judicious and accurate annals of Scotland, lately published d.

I cannot return to the English poets without a hint, that a well-executed history of the Scotch poetry from the thirteenth century, would be a valuable accession to the general literary history of Britain. The subject is pregnant with much curious and instructive information, is highly deserving of a minute and regular research, has never yet been uniformly examined in its full extent, and the materials are both accessible and ample. Even the bare lives of the vernacular poets of Scotland [Page 335] have never yet been written with tolerable care; and at present are only known from the meagre outlines of Dempster and Mackenzie. The Scotch appear to have had an early propensity to theatrical representations; and it is probable, that in the prosecution of such a design, among several other interesting and unexpected discoveries, many anecdotes, con­ducing to illustrate the rise and progress of our ancient drama, might be drawn from obscurity.


MOST of the poems of John Skelton were written in the reign of king Henry the eighth. But as he was laureated at Oxford about the year 1489 e, I consider him as belonging to the fifteenth century.

Skelton, having studied in both our universities, was pro­moted to the rectory of Diss in Norfolk f. But for his buf­fooneries in the pulpit, and his satirical ballads against the [Page 337] mendicants g, he was severely censured, and perhaps sus­pended by Nykke his diocesan, a rigid bishop of Norwich, from exercising the duties of the sacerdotal function. Wood says, he was also punished by the bishop for ‘"having been guilty of certain crimes, AS MOST POETS are h."’ But these persecutions only served to quicken his ludicrous dis­position, and to exasperate the acrimony of his satire. As his sermons could be no longer a vehicle for his abuse, he vented his ridicule in rhyming libels. At length, daring to attack the dignity of cardinal Wolsey, he was closely pur­sued by the officers of that powerful minister; and, taking shelter in the sanctuary of Westminster abbey, was kindly [Page 338] entertained and protected by abbot Islip i, to the day of his death. He died, and was buried in the neighbouring church of saint Margaret, in the year 1529.

Skelton was patronised by Henry Algernoon Percy, the fifth earl of Northumberland, who deserves particular notice here; as he loved literature at a time when many of the nobility of England could hardly read or write their names, and was the general patron of such genius as his age pro­duced. He encouraged Skelton, almost the only professed poet of the reign of Henry the seventh, to write an elegy on the death of his father, which is yet extant. But still stronger proofs of his literary turn, especially of his singular passion for poetry, may be collected from a very splendid manuscript, which formerly belonged to this very distin­guished peer, and is at present preserved in the British Mu­seum k. It contains a large collection of English poems, elegantly engrossed on vellum, and superbly illuminated, which had been thus sumptuously transcribed for his use. The pieces are chiefly those of Lydgate, after which follow the aforesaid Elegy of Skelton, and some smaller composi­tions. Among the latter are a metrical history of the family of Percy, presented to him by one of his own chaplains; and a prolix series of poetical inscriptions, which he caused to be written on the walls and ceilings of the principal apartments of his castles of Lekinfield and Wressil l. His [Page 339] cultivation of the arts of external elegance appears, from the s [...]ately sepulchral monuments which he erected in the min­ster, or collegiate church, of Beverly in Yorkshire, to the memory of his father and mother; which are executed in [Page 340] the richest style of the florid Gothic architecture, and remain to this day, the conspicuous and striking evidences of his taste and magnificence. In the year 1520, he founded an annual stipend of ten marcs for three years, for a preceptor, or professor, to teach grammar and philosophy in the mo­nastery of Alnewick, contiguous to another of his magnifi­cent castles m. A further instance of his attention to letters and studious employments, occurs in his HOUSHOLD-BOOK, dated 1512, yet remaining; in which the LIBRARIES of this earl and of his lady are specified n: and in the same curious monument of antient manners it is ordered, that one of his chaplains should be a MAKER OF INTERLUDES o. With so much boldness did this liberal nobleman abandon the ex­ample of his brother peers, whose principal occupations were hawking and tilting; and who despised learning, as an ig­noble and petty accomplishment, fit only for the purposes of laborious and indigent ecclesiastics. Nor was he totally given up to the pursuits of leisure and peace: he was, in the [Page 341] year 1497, one of the leaders who commanded at the battle of Blackheath against lord Audley and his partisans; and was often engaged, from his early years, in other public services of trust and honour. But Skelton hardly deserved such a patronage p.

It is in vain to apologise for the coarseness, obscenity, and scurrility of Skelton, by saying that his poetry is tinctured with the manners of his age. Skelton would have been a writer without decorum at any period. The manners of Chaucer's age were undoubtedly more rough and unpolished than those of the reign of Henry the seventh. Yet Chaucer, a poet abounding in humour, and often employed in describ­ing the vices and follies of the world, writes with a degree of delicacy, when compared with Skelton. That Skelton's manner is gross and illiberal, was the opinion of his cotem­poraries; at least of those critics who lived but a few years afterwards, and while his poems yet continued in vogue. Puttenham, the author of the ARTE OF ENGLISH POESIE, published in the year 1589, speaking of the species of short metre used in the minstrel-romances, for the convenience of being sung to the harp at feasts, and in CAROLS and ROUNDS, ‘"and such other light or lascivious poems which are com­monly more commodiously uttered by those buffoons or Vices in playes than by any other person,"’ and in which the sudden return of the rhyme fatigues the ear, immediately subjoins: ‘"Such were the rimes of Skelton, being indeed but a rude rayling rimer, and all his doings ridiculous; he used both short distaunces and short measures, pleasing only the popular care o."’ And Meres, in his PALLADIS [Page 342] TAMIA, or WIT'S TREASURY, published in 1598. ‘"Skelton applied his wit to skurilities and ridiculous matters: such among the Greekes were called pantomimi, with us buffoons q."’

[...]kelton's characteristic vein of humour is capricious and grotesque. If his whimsical extravagancies ever move our laughter, at the same time they shock our sensibility. His festive levities are not only vulgar and indelicate, but fre­quently want truth and propriety. His subjects are often as ridiculous as his metre: but he sometimes debases his matter by his versification. On the whole, his genius seems better suited to low burlesque, than to liberal and manly satire. It is supposed by Caxton, that he improved our language; but he sometimes affects obscurity, and sometimes adopts the most familiar phraseology of the common people.

He thus describes, in the BOKE OF COLIN CLOUTE, the pompous houses of the clergy.

Building royally
Their mancyons, curiously
With turrettes, and with toures,
With halles, and with boures,
Streching to the starres;
With glasse windowes and barres:
Hangyng about the walles
Clothes of golde and palles;
Arras of ryche arraye,
Freshe as floures in Maye:
With dame Dyana naked;
Howe lystye Venus quaked,
And howe Cupide shaked
His darte, and bente his bowe,
For to shote a crowe
At her tyrly tyrlowe:
And how Paris of Troye
Daunced a l [...]ge de moy,
Made lustye sporte and toye
With dame Helyn the queene:
With suche storyes by deen r,
Their chambres wel be seene.
With triumphes of Cesar, &c.—
Nows all the world stares
How they ryde in goodly chares,
Conveyed by olyphantes
With lauriat garlantes;
And by unycornes
With their semely hornes;
Upon these beastes riding
Naked boyes striding,
With wanton wenches winkyng.—
[Page 344] For prelates of estate
Their courage to abate;
From wordly wantonnes,
Their chambers thus to dres
With such parfytness,
And all such holynes,
How beit they lett down fall
Their churches cathedrall t.

These lines are in the best manner of his petty measure: which is made still more disgusting by the repetition of the rhymes. We should observe, that the satire is here pointed at the subject of these tapestries. The graver ecclesiastics, who did not follow the levities of the world, were contented with religious subjects, or such as were merely historical. Rosse of Warwick, who wrote about the year 1460, relates, that he saw in the abbat's hall at saint Alban's abbey a suite of arras, containing a long train of incidents belonging to a most romantic and pathetic story in the life of the Saxon king Offa, which that historian recites at large u.

[Page 345] In the poem, WHY COME YE NOT TO THE COURT, he thus satirises cardinal Wolsey, not without some tincture of humour.

He is set so hye
In his ierarchye w,
Of frantike frenesy,
And folish fantasy,
That in chambre of stars x
Al maters ther he mars,
Clapping his rod on the borde,
No man dare speake a worde;
For he hath al the saying
Without any renaying,
He rolleth in his Recordes:
He saith, "how say ye my lordes?
[Page 346] "Is not my reason good?
"Good!—even good—Robin-hood!
Borne up on every syde
With pompe and with pryde,
With trump up alleluya y,
For dame Philargyria z
Hath so his hart in hold, &c.—
Adew Philosophia!
Adew Theologia!
Welcome dame Simonia a,
With dame Castimergia b,
To drynke and for to eate
Swete ipocras, and swete meate c:
[Page 347] To kepe his fleshe chaste,
In Lente, for his repaste
He eateth capons stewed,
Fesaunt and partriche mewed:—
Spareth neyther mayd ne wife,
This is a postel's life d!

The poem called the BOUGE OF COURT, or the Rewards of a Court, is in the manner of a pageaunt, consisting of seven personifications. Here our author, in adopting the more grave and stately movement of the seven lined stanza e, has shewn himself not always incapable of exhibiting allegorical imagery with spirit and dignity. But his comic vein pre­dominates.

[Page 348] RYOTT is thus forcibly and humourously pictured.

With that came RYOTTE rushing al at ones,
A rustie galande f, to ragged and to rente g;
And on the borde he whirled a paire of bones h,
Quater treye dews he clattered as he went:
Nowe have at all by saint Thomas of Kente i,
And ever he threwe, and kystk I wote nere what:
His here was growen thorowe out of his hat.
Than I behylde how he dysgysed was;
His hedd was heavy for watchinge over night,
His eyen blered, his face shone like a glas;
His gowne so shorte, that it ne cover myght
His rompe, he went so all for somer light;
His hose was gardyd with a lyste of grene l,
Yet at the knee they broken were I ween.
His cote was checkerd with patches rede and blewe,
Of Kyrkbye Kendallm was his short demye n;
And aye he sange in fayth decon thou crewe:
His elbowe bare, he ware his gere so nye o [...]
His nose droppinge, his lippès were full drye:
And by his syde his whynarde, and his pouche,
The devyll myght dance therin for any crouche p [...]

[Page 349] There is also merit in the delineation of DISSIMULATION, in the same poem q: and it is not unlike Ariosto's manner in imagining these allegorical personages.

Than in his hode I sawe there faces tweyne;
That one was lene and lyke a pyned ghost,
That other loked as he wolde me have slayne:
And to me ward as he gan for to coost,
Whan that he was even at me almoost,
I sawe a knyfe hid in his one sleve,
Whereon was wryten this worde MISCHEVE.
And in his other sleve methought I sawe
A spone of goldè, full of hony swete,
To feed a fole, and for to prey a dawe r, &c.

The same may be observed of the figure of DISDAYNE.

He looked hawtie, he sette eche man at nought;
His gawdy garment with scornes was al wrought,
With indignacyon lyned was his hode;
He frowned as he wolde swere by cockes blode s.
He botet the lyppe, he loked passynge coye;
His face was belymmed, as bees had hym stounge:
It was no tyme with hym to jape nor toye,
Envye hath wasted his lyver and his lounge;
Hatred by the herte so had hym wrounge,
That he loked pale as asshes to my syghte:
DISDAYNE, I wene, this comberous crab is hyghte.—
Forthwith he made on me a proude assawte,
With scornfull lokè movyd all in mode u;
He wente about to take me in a fawte,
He fround, he stared, he stamped where he stoode:
I loked on hym, I wendew he had be woode x:
He set the arme proudly under the syde,
And in this wyse he gan with me chyde y.

In the CROWNE OF LAWRELL our author attempts the higher poetry: but he cannot long support the tone of solemn description. These are some of the most ornamented and poetical stanzas. He is describing a garden belonging to the superb palace of FAME.

In an herberz I sawe brought where I was;
The byrdes on the brere sange on every syde,
With aleys ensandyd about in compas,
The bankes enturfed with singular solas a,
Enrailed with rosers b, and vines engraped;
It was a new comfort of sorowes escaped.
In the middes a cundite, that curiously was cast
With pypes of golde, engushing out streames
Of cristall, the clerenes these waters far past,
Enswimminge with roches, barbilles, and breames,
Whose skales ensilvred again the son beames
Englisterd .....
Where I sawe growyng a goodly laurell tre,
Enverdured with leave, continually grene;
Above in the top a byrde of Araby,
Men call a Phenix: her wynges bytwene
She bet up a fyre with the sparkes full kene,
With braunches and bowes of the swete olyve,
Whose fragraunt flower was chefe preservative
Ageynst all infections with rancour enflamed:
* * * * * * * * * *
It passed all baumes that ever were named,
Or gummes of Saby, so derely that be solde:
There blewe in that garden a soft piplynge colde,
Enbrething of Zephirus, with his pleasaunt wynde;
Al frutes and flowers grew there in their kynde.
Dryades there daunsed upon that goodly soile,
With the nyne Muses, Pierides by name;
Phillis and Testelis, there tresses with oyle
Were newly enbibed: And, round about the same
Grene tre of laurell, moche solacious game
They made, with chaplettes and garlandes grene;
And formost of al dame Flora the quene;
Of somer so formally she foted the daunce:
There Cinthius sat, twinklyng upon his harpestringes:
And Jopas his instrument dyd avaunce,
The poemes and stories auncyent in bringes
Of Atlas astrology, &c c.—

Our author supposes, that in the wall surrounding the palace of FAME were a thousand gates, new and old, for the entrance and egress of all nations. One of the gates is [Page 352] called ANGLIA, on which stood a leopard d. There is som [...] boldness and animation in the figure and attitude of this ferocious animal.

The buyldyng thereof was passing commendable;
Wheron stode a lybbard crowned with gold and stones,
Terrible of countinaunce and passing formidable,
As quicklye touched as it were fleshe and bones,
As gastly that glaris f, as grimly that grones,
As fiersly frownyng as he had ben fyghtynge,
And with firme fote he shoke forthe his writynge.

Skelton, in the course of his allegory, supposes that the poets laureate, or learned men, of all nations, were assembled before Pallas. This groupe shews the authors, both antient and modern, then in vogue. Some of them are quaintly characterised. They are, first,—Olde Quintilian, not with his Institutes of eloquence, but with his Declamations: The­ocritus, with his bucolicall relacions: Hesiod, the Icononucar g: Homer, the freshe historiar: The prince of eloquence, Cicero: Sallust, who wrote both the history of Catiline and Jugurth: Ovid, enshryned with the Musys nyne: Lucan h: Statius, writer [Page 353] of Achilleidos: Persius, with problems dif [...]use: Virgil, Juve­nal, Livy: Ennius, who wrote of marciall warre: Aulus Gellius, that noble historiar: Horace, with his N [...]w Po [...]try i: Maister Terence, the famous comicar, with Plautus: Sen [...]ca, the tragedian: Boethius: Maximian, with his madde diti [...]s how dotyng age wolde jape with young foly k: Boccacio, with hi [...] volumes grete: Quintus Curtius: Macrobius, who treated o [...] Scipion's dr [...]ame: Poggius Florentinus, with many a mad tale l: a friar of France syr Gaguine, who frowned on me full angrily m: Plutarch and Petrarch, two famous clarkes: Lu­cilius, Valerius Maximus, Propertius, Pisander n, and Vin­centius Bellovacensis, who wrote the SPECULUM HISTORIALE. The catalogue is closed by Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate, who first adorned the English language o: in allusion to which part of their characters, their apparel is said to shine [Page 354] beyond the power of description, and their tabards to be studded with diamonds and rubies p. That only these three English poets are here mentioned, may be con [...]idered as a proof, that only these three were yet thought to deserve the name.

No writer is more unequal than Skelton. In the midst of a page of the most wretched ribaldry, we sometimes are sur­prized with three or four nervous and manly lines, like these.

Ryot and Revell be in your court roules,
Mayntenaunce and Mischefe these be men of myght,
Extorcyon is counted with you for a knyght q.

Skelton's modulation in the octave stanza is rough and inharmonious. The following are the smoothest lines in the poem before us; which yet do not equal the liquid melody of Lydgate, whom he here manifestly attempts to imitate r.

Lyke as the larke upon the fomers daye,
When Titan radiant burnisheth his bemes bright,
Mounteth on hye, with her melodious laye,
Of the son shyne engladed with the light.

The following little ode deserves notice; at least as a specimen of the structure and phraseology of a love-sonnet about the close of the fifteenth century.


With margerain s gentill,
The flowre of goodly hede t,
Enbrawdered the mantill
Is of your maydenhede u.
[Page 355] Plainly I can not glose w;
Ye be, as I devine x,
The praty primèrose,
The goodly columbyne.
With margerain gentill, &c.
Benyne, courteis, and meke,
With wordès well devised;
In you, who lyst to seke,
Bey vertues well comprysed z.
With margerain gentill,
The flowre of goodly hede,
Enbrawdered the mantill
Is of your maydenhede.

For the same reason this stanza in a sonnet to Maistress Margaret Hussey deserves notice.

Mirry Margaret
As Midsomer flowre,
Gentyll as faucon,
Or hawke of the towre a.

As do the following flowery lyrics, in a sonnet addressed to Maistress Isabell Pennel.

—Your colowre
Is lyke the daisy flowre,
After the April showre,
[Page 356] Sterre of the morowe graye!
The blossome on the spraye,
The fresh [...]st flowre of Maye!
Madenly demure,
Of woma [...]hede the lure! &c b.

But Skelton most commonly appears to have mistaken his genius, and to write in a forced character, exc [...]pt when he is indulging his native vein of satire and jocularity, in the short minstrel-metre abovementioned: which he mars by a multiplied repetition of rhymes, arbitrary abbreviations of the verse, cant expressions, hard and sounding words newly­coined, and patches of Latin and French. This anomalous and motley mode of versification is, I believe, supposed to be peculiar to our author c. I am not, however, quite cer­tain that it originated with Skelton.

About the year 1512, Martin Coccaie of Mantua, whose true name was Theophilo Folengio, a Benedictine monk of Casino in Italy, wrote a poem entitled PHANTASIAE MACA­RONICAE, divided into twenty-five parts. This is a bur­lesque Latin poem, in heroic metre, checquered with Italian and Tuscan words, and those of the plebeian character, yet not destitute of prosodical harmony. It is totally satirical, and has some degree of drollery; but the ridicule is too fre­quently founded on obscene or vulgar ideas. Prefixed is a similar burlesque poem called ZANITONELLA, or the Amours of Tonellus and Zanina e: and a piece is subjoined, with the title of MOSCHEA, or the War with the Flies and the Ants. The author died in 1544 d, but these poems, with [Page 357] the addition of s [...]me epistles and epigrams, in the same style, did not, I believe, appear in print before the year 1554 e. Coccaie is often cited by Rabelais, a writer of a cogenial cast f. The three last books, containing a description of hell, are a parody on part of Dante's INFERNO. In the pre­face, or APOLOGETICA, our author gives an account of this new species of poetry, since called the MACARONIC, which I must give in his own words. ‘"Ars ista poetica nuncupatur Ars MACARONICA, a Macaronibus derivata: qui Macarones sunt quoddam pulmentum, farina, caseo, butyro compa­ginatum, grossum, rude, et rusticanum. Ideo MACA­RONICA nil nisi grossedinem, ruditatem, et VOCABULAZZOS, debet in se continere g."’ Vavassor observes, that Coccaie in Italy, and Antonius de Arena in France, were the two first, at least the chief, authors of the semi-latin burlesque poetry h. As to Antonius de Arena, he was a civilian of Avignon; and wrote, in the year 1519, a Latin poem in elegiac verses, ridiculously interlarded with French words and phrases. It is addressed to his fellow-students, or, in his own words, ‘"Ad suos compagnones studiantes, qui sunt de persona friantes, bassas dansas, in galanti stilo bisognatas, cum guerra Romana, totum ad longum sine require, et cum guerra Neapolitana, et cum revoluta Genuensi, et guerra Avenionensi, et epistola ad falotissimam garsam pro passando lo tempos i."’ I have gone out of my way, to mention these two obscure writersk with so much particularity, in order to observe, [Page 358] that Skelton, their cotemporary, probably copied their man­ner: at least to shew, that this singular mode of versification was at this time fashionable, not only in England, but also in France and Italy. Nor did it cease to be remembered in England, and as a species of poetry thought to be founded by Skelton, till even so late as the close of queen Elizabeth's reign. As appears from the following poem on the SPANISH ARMADA, which is filled with Latin words.

A SKELTONICALL salutation,
Or condigne gratulation,
And just vexation,
Of the Spanish nation;
That in a bravado
Spent many a crusado,
In setting forth the armado
England to envado, &c l.

But I must not here forget, that Dunbar, a Scotch poet of Skelton's own age, already mentioned, wrote in this way. His TESTAMENT OF MAISTER ANDRO KENNEDY, which re­presents the character of an idle dissolute scholar, and ridi­cules the funeral ceremonies of the Romish communion, has [Page 359] almost every alternate line composed of the formularies of a Latin Will, and shreds of the breviary, mixed with what the French call Latin de cuisine l. There is some humour, arising from these burlesque applications, in the following stanzas m.

In die meae sepulturae,
I will have nane but our awin gang n,
Et duos rusticos de rure,
Berand ane barrell on a stang o;
Drinkand and playand cap out, even
Sicut egomet solebam;
Singand and greitand with the stevin p,
Potum meum cum fletu miscebam.
I will no priestis for me sing,
Dies ille, dies irae q;
Nar yet no bellis for me ring
Sicut semper solet fieri;
But a bag-pyp to play a spring,
Et unum ale-wisp ante me,
Instead of torchis, for to bring,
Quatuor lag [...]nas cervisiae
Within the graif to sett, fit thing,
In modum crucis juxta me,
To fle the feyndis r, then hardly sing
De terra plasmasti me s.

[Page 360] We must, however, acknowledge, that Skelton, notwith­standing his scurrility, was a classical scholar; and in that ca­pacity, he was tutor to prince Henry, afterwards king Henry the eighth: at whose accession to the throne, he was appoint­ed the royal orator. He is styled by Erasmus, ‘"Britanni­carum literarum decus et lumen u.’ His Latin elegiacs are pure, and often unmixed with the monastic phraseology; and they prove, that if his natural propensity to the ri­diculous had not more frequently seduced him to follow the whimsies of Walter Mapes and Golias w, than to copy the elegancies of Ovid, he would have appeared among the first writers of Latin poetry in England at the general restoration of literature. Skelton could not avoid acting as a buffoon in any language, or any character.

I cannot quit Skelton, of whom I yet fear too much has been already said, without restoring to the public notice a play, or MORALITY, written by him, not recited in any catalogue of his works, or annals of English typography; and, I believe, at present totally unknown to the antiquarians in this sort of literature. It is, The NIGRAMANSIR, a morall ENTERLUDE and a pithie written by Maister SKELTON [Page 361] laureate and plaid before the king and other estatys at Woodstoke on Palme Sunday. It was printed by Wynkin de Worde in a thin quarto, in the year 1504 x. It must have been presented before king Henry the seventh, at the royal manor or palace, at Woodstock in Oxfordshire, now destroyed. The cha­racters are a Necromancer, or conjurer, the devil, a notary public, Simonie y, and Philargyria z, or Avarice. It is partly a satire on some abuses in the church; yet not without a due regard to decency, and an apparent respect for the dignity of the audience. The story, or plot, is the tryal of SIMONY and AVARICE: the devil is the judge, and the notary public acts as an assessor or scribe. The prisoners, as we may sup­pose, are found guilty, and ordered into hell immediately. There is no sort of propriety in calling this play the Necromancer: [Page 362] for the only business and use of this character, is to open the subject in a long prologue, to evoke the devil, and summon the court. The devil kicks the necromancer, for waking him so soon in the morning: a proof, that this drama was performed in the morning, perhaps in the chapel of the palace. A variety of measures, with shreds of Latin and French, is used: but the devil speaks in the octave stanza. One of the stage-directions is, Enter Balsebub with a Berde. To make him both frightful and ridiculous, the devil was most commonly introduced on the stage, wearing a visard with an immense beard a. Philargyria quotes Seneca and saint [Page 363] Austin: and Simony offers the devil a bribe. The devil rejects her offer with much indignation: and swears by the foule Eume­nides, and the hoary beard of Charon, that she shall be well fried and roasted in the unfathomable sulphur of Cocytus, to­gether with Mahomet, Pontius Pilate, the traitor Judas, and king Herod. The last scene is closed with a view of hell, and a dance between the devil and the necromancer. The dance ended, the devil trips up the necromancer's heels, and disappears in fire and smoke b. Great must have been the edification and entertainment which king Henry the seventh and his court derived from the exhibition of so elegant and rational a drama! The royal taste for dramatic repres [...]ta­tion seems to have suffered a very rapid transition: for in the year 1520, a goodlie comedie of Plautus was played before king Henry the eighth at Greenwich c. I have before mentioned Skelton's play of MAGNIFICENCE d.

[Page 364] MORALITIES seem have arrived at their heighth about the close of the seventh Henry's reign e. This sort of spectacle was now so fashionable, that John Rastall, a learned typographer, brother in law to sir Thomas More, extended its province, which had hitherto been confined, either to moral allegory, or to religion blended with buffoonery, and conceived a design of making it the vehicle of science and philosophy. With this view he published, A new INTERLUDE and a mery, of the nature of the iiii Elements, declaringe many proper points of phy­losophy naturall and dyvers straunge landys, &c f. In the cosmo­graphical part of the play, in which the poet professes to treat of dyvers straunge regyons, and of the new founde landys, the tracts of America recently discovered, and the manners of the natives, are described. The characters are, a Mes­senger who speaks the prologue, Nature, Humanity, Stu­dious Desire, Sensual Appetite, a Taverner, Experience, and Ignorance g.

[Page 365] I have before observed, that the frequent and public ex­hibition of personifications in the PAGEAUNTS, which an­tiently accompanied every high festivity, greatly contributed to cherish the spirit of allegorical poetry, and even to enrich the imagination of Spenser h. The MORALITIES, which now began to acquire new celebrity, and in which the same groupes of the impersonated vices and virtues appeared, must have concurred in producing this effect. And hence, at the same time, we are led to account for the national relish for allegorical poetry, which so long prevailed among our an­cestors. By means of these spectacles, ideal beings became common and popular objects: and emblematic imagery, which at present is only contemplated by a few retired readers in the obsolete pages of our elder poets, grew fa­miliar to the general eye.


IN a work of this general and comprehensive nature, in which the fluctuations of genius are surveyed, and the dawnings or declensions of taste must alike be noticed, it is impossible that every part of the subject can prove equally splendid and interesting. We have, I fear, been toiling for some time through materials, not perhaps of the most agree­able and edifying nature. But as the mention of that very rude species of our drama, called the MORALITY, has inci­dentally diverted our attention to the early state of the Eng­lish stage, I cannot omit so fortunate and seasonable an op­portunity of endeavouring to relieve the weariness of my reader, by introducing an obvious digression on the probable causes of the rise of the MYSTERIES, which, as I have before remarked, preceded, and at length produced, these allegorical fables. In this respect I shall imitate those map-makers mentioned by Swift, who

—O'er inhospitable downs,
Place elephants for want of towns.

Nor shall I perhaps fail of being pardoned by my reader, if, on the same principle, I should attempt to throw new light on the history of our theatre, by pursuing this enquiry through those deductions which it will naturally and more immediately suggest g.

About the eighth century, trade was principally carried on by means of fairs, which lasted [...]everal days. Charle­magne established many great marts of this sort in France; as did William the conqueror, and his Norman successors, in [Page 367] England h. The merchants, who frequented these fairs in numerous caravans or companies, employed every art to draw the people together. They were therefore accompanied by juglers, minstrels, and buffoons; who were no less in­terested in giving their attendance, and exerting all their skill, on these occasions. As now but few large towns ex­isted, no public spectacles or popular amusements were esta­blished; and as the sedentary pleasures of domestic life and private society were yet unknown, the fair-time was the season for diversion. In proportion as these shews were at­tended and encouraged, they began to be set off with new decorations and improvements: and the arts of buffoonery being rendered still more attractive by extending their circle of exhibition, acquired an importance in the eyes of the people. By degrees the clergy, observing that the entertain­ments of dancing, music, and mimicry, exhibited at these protracted annual celebrities, made the people less religious, by promoting idleness and a love of festivity, proscribed these sports, and excommunicated the performers. But find­ing that no regard was paid to their censures, they changed their plan, and determined to take these recreations into their own hands. They turned actors; and instead of pro [...]ane mummeries, presented stories taken from legends or the bible. This was the origin of sacred comedy. The death of saint Catharine, acted by the monks of saint Dennis, rivalled the popularity of the professed players. Music was admitted into the churches, which served as theatres for the represen­tion of holy farces. The festivals among the French, called LA FETE DE FOUX, DE L'ANE i, and DES INNOCENS, at length [Page 368] became greater favorites, as they certainly were more c [...] ­pricious and absurd, than the interludes of the buffoons at the fairs. These are the ideas of a judicious French writer, now living, who has investigated the history of human man­ners with great comprehension and sagacity.

Voltaire's theory on this subject is also very ingenious, and quite new. Religious plays, he supposes, came originally from Constantinople; where the old Grecian stage continued to flourish in some degree, and the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were represented, till the fourth century. About that period, Gregory Nazianzen, an archbishop, a poet, and one of the fathers of the church, banished pagan plays from the stage at Constantinople, and introduced select stories from the old and new Testament. As the antient Greek tragedy was a religious spectacle, a transition was made on the same plan; and the chorusses were turned into Christian hymns l. Gregory wrote many sacred dramas for this purpose, which have not survived those inimitable com­positions over which they triumphed for a time: one, how­ever, his tragedy called [...], or CHRIST'S PASSION, is still extant m. In the prologue it is said to be in imitation of Euripides, and that this is the first time the Virgin Mary has been produced on the stage. The fashion of acting [Page 369] spiritual dramas, in which at first a due degree of method and decorum was preserved, was at length adopted from Constantinople by the Italians; who framed, in the depth of the dark ages, on this foundation, that barbarous species of theatrical representation called MYSTERIES, or sacred come­dies, and which were soon afterwards received in France n. This opinion will acquire probability, if we consider the early commercial intercouse between Italy and Con­stantinople: and although the Italians, at the time when they may be supposed to have imported plays of this nature, did not understand the Greek language, yet they could un­derstand, and consequently could imitate, what they saw.

In defence of Voltaire's hypothesis it may be further observed, that the FEAST OF FOOLS and of the Ass, with other religious farces of that sort, so common in Europe, originated at Constantinople. They were instituted, although perhaps under other names, in the Greek church, about the year 990, by Theophylact, patriarch of Constantinople, pro­bably with a better design than is imagined by the ecclesias­tical annalists; that of weaning the minds of the people from the pagan ceremonies, particularly the Bacchanalian and calendary solemnities, by the substitution of christian spectacles, partaking of the same spirit of licentiousness. The fact is, however, recorded by Cedrenus, one of the By­zantine historians, who flourished about the year 1050, in the following words. ‘" [...] [Page 370] [...]. "’ That is, ‘"Theophylact introduced the prac­tice, which prevails even to this day, of scandalising god and the memory of his saints, on the most splendid and popular festivals, by indecent and ridiculous songs, and enormous shoutings, even in the midst of those sacred hymns, which we ought to offer to the divine grace with compunction of heart, for the salvation of our souls. But he, having collected a company of base fellows, and placing over them one Euthymius, surnamed Casnes, whom he also appointed the superintendant of his church, ad­mitted into the sacred service, diabolical dances, exclama­tions of ribaldry, and ballads borrowed from the streets and brothels o."’ This practice was subsisting in the Greek church two hundred years afterwards: for Balsamon, pa­triarch of Antioch, complains of the gross abominations committed by the priests at Christmas and other festivals, even in the great church at Constantinople; and that the clergy, on certain holidays, personated a variety of feigned characters, and even entered the choir in a military habit, and other enormous disguises p.

I must however observe here, what perhaps did not imme­diately occur to our lively philosopher on this occasion, that in the fourth century it was customary to make christian parodies and imitations in Greek, of the best Greek classics, for the use of the christian schools. This practice prevailed much under the emperor Julian, who forbad the pagan poets, orators, and philosophers, to be taught in the christian seminaries [...] [Page 371] Apollinaris bishop of Laodicea, abovementioned, wrote Greek tragedies, adapted to the stage, on most of the grand events recorded in the old Testament, after the manner of Euripides. On some of the familiar and domestic stories of scripture, he composed comedies in imitation of Menander. He wrote christian odes on the plan of Pindar. In imitation of Homer, he wrote an heroic poem on the history of the bible, as far as the reign of Saul, in twenty-four books q. Sozomen says, that these compositions, now lost, rivalled their great originals in genius, expression, and conduct. His son, a bishop also of Laodicea, reduced the four gospels and all the apostolical books into Greek dialogues, resembling those of Plato r.

But I must not omit a much earlier and more singular specimen of a theatrical representation of sacred history, than this mentioned by Voltaire. Some fragments of an antient Jewish play on the EXODUS, or the Departure of the Israelites from Egypt under their leader and prophet Moses, are yet preserved in Greek iambics s. The principal characters of this drama are Moses, Sapphora, and God from the Bush, or God speaking from the burning bush. Moses delivers the prologue, or introduction, in a speech of sixty lines, and his rod is turned into a serpent on the stage. The author [Page 372] of this piece is Ezekiel, a Jew, who is called [...], or the tragic poet of the Jews t. The learned Huetius endeavours to prove, that Ezekiel wrote at least before the christian era u. Some suppose that he was one of the seventy, or septuagint, interpreters of the bible under the reign of Ptolomy Philadelphus. I am of opinion, that Ezekiel composed this play after the destruction of Jerusalem, and even in the time of Barocbas, as a political spectacle, with a view to animate his dejected countrymen with the hopes of a future deliverance from their captivity under the conduct of a new Moses, like that from the Egyp­tian servitude w. Whether a theatre subsisted among the Jews, who by their peculiar situation and circumstances were prevented from keeping pace with their neighbours in the culture of the social and elegant arts, is a curious speculation. It seems most probable, on the whole, that this drama was composed in imitation of the Grecian stage, at the close of the second century, after the Jews had been dispersed, and intermixed with other nations.

Boileau seems to think, that the antient PILGRIMAGES introduced these sacred exhibitions into France.

Chez nos devots ayeux le theátre abhorré
Fut long-tems dans la France une plaisir ignoré.
De PELERINS, dit on, une troupe grossiere
En public à Paris y monta la prémiere;
Et sotement zélee en sa simplicité,
Iöua les SAINTS [...] la VIERGE, et DIEU, par piété.
Le Savoir, a la fin, dissipant l'Ignorance,
Fit voir de ce projet la devote imprudence:
On chassa ces docteurs préchant sans mission,
On vit renaitre Hector, Andromaque, Ilion x.

[Page 373] The authority to which Boileau alludes in these nervous and elegant verses is Menest [...]ier, an intelligent French anti­quary y. The pilgrims who returned from Jerusalem, saint James of Compostella, saint Baume of Provence, saint Reine, Mount saint Michael, Notre dame du Puy, and other places esteemed holy, composed songs on their adventures; inter­mixing recitals of passages in the life of Christ, descriptions of his crucifixion, of the day of judgement, of miracles, and martyrdoms. To these tales, which were recommended by a pathetic chant and a variety of gesticulations, the cre­dulity of the multitude gave the name of Visions. These pious itinerants travelled in companies; and taking their stations in the most public streets, and singing with their staves in their hands, and their hats and mantles fantastically adorned with shells and emblems painted in various colours, formed a sort of theatrical spectacle. At length their per­formances excited the charity and compassion of some citi­zens of Paris; who erected a theatre, in which they might exhibit their religious stories in a more commodious and advantageous manner, with the addition of scenery and other decorations. At length professed practitioners in the histrionic art were hired to perform these solemn mockeries of religion, which soon became the principal public amusement of a devout but undiscerning people.

To those who are accustomed to contemplate the great picture of human follies, which the unpolished ages of Eu­rope hold up to our view, it will not appear surprising, that the people, who were forbidden to read the events of the sacred history in the bible, in which they were faithfully and beautifully related, should at the same time be permitted to see them represented on the stage, disgraced with the grossest improprieties, corrupted with inventions and additions of [Page 374] the most ridiculous kind, sullied with impurities, and ex­pressed in the language and gesticulations of the lowest farce.

On the whole, the MYSTERIES appear to have originated among the ecclesiastics; and were most probably first acted, at least with any degree of form, by the monks. This was certainly the case in the English monasteries z. I have al­ready mentioned the play of saint Catharine, performed at Dunstable abbey by the novices in the eleventh century, under the superintendence of Geoffry a Parisian ecclesiastic: and the exhibition of the PASSION, by the mendicant friers of Coventry and other places. Instances have been given of the like practice among the French a. The only persons who could read were in the religious societies: and various other circumstances, peculiarly arising from their situation, pro­fession, and institution, enabled the monks to be the sole performers of these representations.

As learning encreased, and was more widely disseminated from the monasteries, by a natural and easy transition, the practice migrated to schools and universities, which were formed on the monastic plan, and in many respects resembled the ecclesiastical bodies. Hence a passage in Shakespeare's HAMLET is to be explained; where Hamlet says to Polonius, ‘"My lord, you played once in the UNIVERSITY, you say."’ Polonius answers, ‘"That I did, my Lord, and was account­ed a good actor.—I did enact Julius Cesar, I was killed i' th' capitol b."’ Boulay observes, that it was a custom, not only still subsisting, but of very high antiquity, vetustissima [Page 375] consuetudo, to act tragedies and comedies in the university of Paris c. He cites a statute of the college of Navarre at Paris, dated in the year 1315, prohibiting the scholars to perform any immodest play on the festivals of saint Nicholas and saint Catharine. ‘"In festis sancti Nicolai et beatae Catharinae nullum ludum inhonestum faciant d."’ Reuchlin, one of the German classics at the restoration of antient literature, was the first writer and actor of Latin plays in the academies of Germany. He is said to have opened a theatre at Heidel­berg; in which he brought ingenuous yo [...]ths or boys on the stage, in the year 1498 e. In the prologue to one of his comedies, written in trimeter iambics, and printed in 1516 [...] are the following lines.

Optans poeta placere paucis versibus,
Sat esse adeptum gloriae arbitratus est,
Si autore se Germaniae SCHOLA luserit
Graecanicis et Romuleis LUSIBUS.

The first of Reuchlin's Latin plays, seems to be one entitled, SERGIUS, SEU CAPITIS CAPUT, COMOEDIA, a satire on bad kings or bad ministers, and printed in 1508 f. He calls it his primiciae. It consists of three acts, and is professedly written in imitation of Terence. But the author promises, if this attempt should please, that he will write INTEGRAS [Page 376] COMEDIAS, that is comedies of five acts g. I give a few lines from the Prologue h.

Si unquam tulistis ad jocum vestros pedes,
Aut si rei aures praebuistis ludicrae,
In hac nova, obsecro, poetae fabula,
Dignemini attentiores esse quam antea;
Non hic erit lasciviae aut libidini
Meretriciae, aut tristi senum curae locus,
Sed histrionum exercitus et scommata.

For Reuch [...]in's other pieces of a like nature, the curious reader is referred to a very rare volume in quarto, PRO­GYMNASMATA SCENICA, seu LUDICRA PRAEEXERCITAMENTA varii generis. Per Joannem Bergman de Olpe, 1498. An old biographer affirms, that Conradus Celtes was the first who introduced into Germany the fashion of acting tragedies and comedies in public halls, after the manner of the antients. ‘"Primus comaedias et tragaedias in publicis aulis veterum more egit i."’ Not to enter into a controversy concerning the priority of these two obscure theatrical authors, which may be sufficiently decided for our present satisfaction by observ­ing, that they were certainly cotemporaries; about the year 1500, Celtes wrote a play, or masque, called the PLAY OF DIANA, presented by a literary society, or seminary of scho­lars, before the emperor Maximilian and his court. It was printed in 1502, at Nuremberg, with this title, ‘"Incipit LUDUS DYANAE, coram Maximiliano rege, per Sodalitate [...] Litt [...]rariam Damulianam in Linzi [...] k."’ It consists of the [Page 377] iambic, hexameter, and elegiac measures; and has five acts, but is contained in eight quarto pages. The plot, if any, is entirely a compliment to the emperor; and the personages, twenty-four in number, among which was the poet, are Mercury, Diana, Bacchus, Silenus drunk on his ass, Satyrs, Nymphs, and Bacchanalians. Mercury, sent by Diana, speaks the Prologue. In the middle of the third act, the emperor places a crown of laurel on the poet's head: at the conclusion of which ceremony, the chorus sings a panegyric in verse to the emperor. At the close of the fourth act, in the true spirit of a German shew, the imperial butlers re­fresh the performers with wine out of golden goblets, with a symphony of horns and drums: and at the end of the play, they are invited by his majesty to a sumptuous banquet l.

It is more generally known, that the practice of acting Latin plays in the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, con­tinued to Cromwell's usurpation. The oldest notice I can recover of this sort of spectacle in an English university, is in the fragment of an antient accompt-roll of the dissolved college of Michael-house in Cambridge: in which, under the year 1386, the following expence is entered. ‘"Pro ly pallio brusdato et pro sex larvis et barbis in comedia."’ That is, for an embroidered pall, or cloak, and six visors and six beards, for the comedy m. In the year 1544, a Latin comedy, called PAM­MACHIUS, was acted at Christ's college in Cambridge: which was laid before the privy council by bishop Gardiner, chan­cellor of the university, as a dangerous libel, containing [Page 378] many offensive reflections on the papistic ceremonies yet un­abolished n. The comedy of GAMMAR GURTON'S NEEDLE was acted in the same society about the year 1552. In an original draught of the statutes of Trinity college at Cam­bridge, founded in 1546, one of the chapters is entitled, De Proefecto Ludorum qui IMPERATOR dicitur, under whose direction and authority, Latin comedies and tragedies are to be exhibited in the hall at Christmas; as also Sex SPECTA­CULA, or as many DIALOGUES. Another title to this statute, which seems to be substituted by another and a more modern hand, is, De Comediis ludisque in natali Christi exhibendis. With regard to the peculiar business and office of IMPERATOR, it is ordered, that one of the masters of arts shall be placed over the juniors, every Christmas, for the regulation of their games and diversions at that season of festivity. At the same time, he is to govern the whole society in the hall and chapel, as a republic committed to his special charge, by a set of laws, which he is to frame in Latin or Greek verse. His sovereignty is to last during the twelve days of Christmas, and he is to exercise the same power on Candlemas-day. During this period, he is to see that six SPECTACLES or DIA­LOGUES be presented. His fee is forty shillings o. Probably [Page 379] the constitution of this officer, in other words, a Master of the Revels, gave a latitude to some licentious enormities, incompatible with the decorum of a house of learning and religion; and it was found necessary to restrain these Christ­mas celebrities to a more rational and sober plan. The SPEC­TACULA also, and DIALOGUES, originally appointed, were growing obsolete when the substitution was made, and were giving way to more regular representations. I believe these statutes were reformed by queen Elizabeth's visitors of the university of Cambridge, under the conduct of archbishop Parker, in the year 1573. John Dee, the famous occult philosopher, one of the first fellows of this noble society, acquaints us, that by his advice and endeavours, both here, and in other colleges at Cambridge, this master of the Christmas plays was first named and confirmed and EMPEROR. ‘"The first was Mr. John Dun, a very goodly man of person [...] habit, and complexion, and well learned also p."’ He also further informs us, little thinking how important his boyish attempts and exploits scholastical would appear to future ages, that in the refectory of the college, in the character of Greek lecturer, he exhibited, before the whole university, the [...], or PAX, of Aristophanes, accompanied with a piece of machinery, for which he was taken for a conjuror: ‘"with the performance of the scarabeus his flying up to Jupiter's palace, with a man, and his basket of victuals, on her back: whereat was great wondering, and many vai [...] reports spread abroad, of the means how that was effected q."’ The tragedy of Jepthah, from the eleventh chapter of the book of JUDGES, written both in Latin and Greek, and de­dicated to king Henry the eighth, about the year 1546, by a very grave and learned divine, John Christopherson, another [Page 380] of the first fellows of Trinity college in Cambridge, after­wards master, dean of Norwich, and bishop of Chichester, was most probably composed as a Christmas-play for the same society. It is to be noted, that this play is on a religious subject r. Roger Ascham, while on his travels in Flanders, says in one of his Epistles, written about 1550, that the city of Antwerp as much exceeds all other cities, as the refectory of saint John's college in Cambridge exceeds itself, when fur­nished at Christmas with its theatrical apparatus for acting plays s. Or, in his own words, ‘"Quemadmodum aula Jo­hannis, theatrali more ornata, seipsam post Natalem supe­rat t."’ In an audit-book of Trinity college in Oxford, I think for the year 1559, I find the following disbursements relating to this subject. ‘"Pro apparatu in comoedia Andria, vii l. ix s. iv d. Pro prandio Principis NATALICII eodem tem­por [...], xiii s. ix d. Pro refectione proefectorum et doctorum magis illustrium cum Bursariis prandentium tempore comoedioe, iv l. vii d."’ That is, For dresses and scenes in acting Terence's ANDRIA, for the dinner of the CHRISTMAS PRINCE, and for the entertainment of the heads of the colleges and the most eminent doctors dining with the bursars or treasurers, at the time of acting the comedy, twelve pounds, three shillings, and eight pence. A CHRISTMAS PRINCE, or LORD OF MIS­RULE, corresponding to the IMPERATOR at Cambridge just mentioned, was a common temporary magistrate in the col­leges at Oxford: but at Cambridge, they were censured in the sermons of the puritans, in the reign of James the first, [Page 381] as a relic of the pagan ritual u. The last article of this dis­ [...]ursement shews, that the most respectable company in the university were invited on these occasions. At length our universities adopted the representation of plays, in which the scholars by frequent exercise had undoubtedly attained a considerable degree of skill and address, as a part of the entertainment at the reception of princes and other eminent personages. In the year 1566, queen Elizabeth visited the university of Oxford. In the magnificent hall of the college of Christ Church, she was entertained with a Latin comedy [Page 382] called MARC [...]S GEMINUS, the Latin tragedy of PROGNE, and an English comedy on the story of Chaucer's PALAMON AND ARCITE, all acted by the students of the university. The queen's observations on the persons of the last men­tioned piece, deserve notice: as they are at once a curious picture of the romantic pedantry of the times, and of the characteristical turn and predominant propensities of the queen's mind. When the play was over, she summoned the poet into her presence, whom she loaded with thanks and compliments: and at the same time turning to her levee, remarked, that Palamon was so justly drawn as a lover, that he certainly must have been in love indeed: that Arcite was a right martial knight, having a swart and manly countenance, yet with the aspect of a Venus clad in armour: that the lovely Emilia was a virgin of uncorrupted purity and unblemished simplicity, and that although she sung so sweetly, and ga­thered flowers alone in the garden, she preserved her chastity undeflowered. The part of Emilia, the only female part in the play, was acted by a boy of fourteen years of age, a son of the dean of Christ-Church, habited like a young princess; whose performance so captivated her majesty, that she gave him a present of eight guineas w. During the exhibition a cry of hounds, belonging to Theseus, was counterfeited without, in the great square of the college: the young students thought it a real chace, and were seized with a sudden transport to join the hunters: at which the queen cried out from her box, ‘"O excellent! These boys, in very troth, are ready to leap out of the windows to follow the [Page 383] hounds x!"’ In the year 1564, queen Elizabeth honoured the university of Cambridge with a royal visit y. Here she was present at the exhibition of the AULULARIA of Plautus, and the tragedies of DIDO, and of HEZEKIAH, in English: which were played in the body, or nave, of the chapel of King's college, on a stage extended from side to side, by a select company of scholars, chosen from different colleges at the discretion of five doctors, ‘"especially appointed to set forth such plays as should be exhibited before her grace z."’ The chapel, on this occasion, was lighted by the royal guards; each of whom bore a staff-torch in his hand a. Her majesty's patience was so fatigued by the sumptuous parade of shews and speeches, with which every moment was oc­cupied, that she could not stay to see the AJAX of Sophocles, in Latin, which was prepared. Having been praised both in Latin and Greek, and in prose and verse, for her learning and her chastity, and having received more compliments than are paid to any of the pastoral princesses in Sydney's ARCADIA, she was happy to return to the houses of some of her nobility in the neighbourhood. In the year 1583, Al­bertus de Alasco, a Polish prince Palatine, arrived at Oxford b. In the midst of a medley of pithy orations, tedious sermons, degrees, dinners, disputations, philosophy, and fire-works, he was invited to the comedy of the RIVALES c, and the [Page 384] tragedy of DIDO, which were presented in Christ-Church hall by some of the scholars of that society, and of saint John's college. In the latter play, Dido's supper, and the destruction of Troy, were represented in a marchpane, or rich cake: and the tempest which drove Dido and Eneas to the same cave, was counterfeited by a snow of sugar, a hail­storm of comfits, and a shower of rose-water d. In the year 1605, king James the first gratified his pedantry by a visit to the same university e. He was present at three plays in Christ-Church hall: which he seems to have regarded as childish amusements, in comparison of the more solid de­lights of scholastic argumentation. Indeed, if we consider this monarch's insatiable thirst of profound erudition, we shall not be surprised to find, that he slept at these theatrical performances, and that he sate four hours every morning and afternoon with infinite satisfaction, to hear syllogisms in jurisprudence and theology. The first play, during this solemnity, was a pastoral comedy called ALBA: in which five men, almost naked, appearing on the stage as part of the representation, gave great offence to the queen and the maids of honour: while the king, whose delicacy was not easily shocked at other times, concurred with the ladies, and availing himself of this lucky circumstance, peevishly ex­pressed his wishes to depart, before the piece was half finish­ed f. The second play was VERTUMNUS, which although learnedly penned in Latin, and by a doctor in divinity, could not keep the king awake, who was wearied in consequence of having executed the office of moderator all that day at [Page 385] the disputations in saint Mary's church g. The third drama was the AJAX of Sophocles, in Latin, at which the stage was varied three times h. ‘"The king was very wearie before he came thither, but much more wearied by it, and spoke many words of dislike i."’ But I must not omit, that as the king entered the city from Woodstock, he was saluted at the gate of saint John's college with a short interlude, which probably suggested a hint to Shakespeare to write a tragedy on the subject of Macbeth. Three youths of the college, habited like witches, advancing towards the king, declared they were the same who once met the two chiefs of Scotland, Macbeth and Bancho; prophesying a kingdom to the one, and to the other a generation of monarchs: that they now appeared, a second time, to his majesty, who was descended from the stock of Bancho, to shew the confirmation of that prediction k. Immediately afterwards, ‘"Three young youths, in habit and attire like Nymphs, confronted him, repre­senting England, Scotland, and Ireland; and talking dia­logue wise, each to the other, of their state, at last con­cluded, yielding themselves up to his gracious government l."’

[Page 386] It would be unnecessary to trace this practice in our uni­versities to later periods. The position advanced is best illus­trated by proofs most remote in point of time; which, on that account, are also less obvious, and more curious. I could have added other antient proofs; but I chose to select those which seemed, from concomitant circumstances, most likely to amuse.

Many instances of this practice in schools, or in seminaries of an inferior nature, may be enumerated. I have before mentioned the play of ROBIN and MARIAN, performed, ac­cording to an annual custom, by the school-boys of Angiers in France, in the year 1392 m. But I do not mean to go abroad for illustrations of this part of our present inquiry. Among the writings of Udal, a celebrated master of Eton, about the year 1540, are recited Plures Comediae, and a tragedy de Papatu, on the papacy: written probably to be acted by his scholars. An extract from one of his comedies may be seen in Wilson's LOGIKE n. In the antient CONSUETUDINARY, as it is called, of Eton-School, the following passage occurs. ‘"Circa festum divi Andreae, ludimagister eligere solet, pro suo arbitrio, SCENICAS FABULAS optimas et accommoda­tissimas, quas Pueri feriis Natalitiis subsequentibus, non sine LUDORUM ELEGANTIA, populo spectante, publice ali­quando peragant.—Interdum etiam exhibet Anglico ser­mone contextas fabulas, siquae habeant acumen et lepo­rem o."’ That is, about the feast of saint Andrew, the thirtieth day of November, the master is accustomed to chuse, according to his own discretion, such Latin stage-plays as are most excellent and convenient; which the boys are to act in the following Christmas holidays, before a public au­dience, and with all the elegance of scenery and ornaments [Page 387] usual at the performance of a play. Yet he may sometimes order English plays; such, at least, as are smart and witty. In the year 1538, Ralph Radcliffe, a polite scholar, and a lover of graceful elocution, opening a school at Hitchin in Hertfordshire, obtained a grant of the dissolved friery of the Carmelites in that town: and converting the refectory into a theatre, wrote several plays, both in Latin and English, which were exhibited by his pupils. Among his comedies were Dives and Lazarus, Boccacio's Patient Grisilde, Titus and Gesippus p, and Chaucer's Melibeus: his tragedies were, the Delivery of Susannah, the Burning of John Huss, Job's Sufferings, the Burning of Sodom, Jonas, and the Fortitude of Judith. These pieces were seen by the biographer Bale in the author's library, but are now lost q. It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that this very liberal exercise is yet preserved, and in the spirit of true classical purity, at the college of West­minster r. I believe, the frequency of these school-plays suggested to Shakespeare the names of Seneca and Plautus as [Page 388] dramatic authors; where Hamlet, speaking of a variety of theatrical performances, says, ‘"Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light s."’ Jonson, in his comedy of THE STAPLE OF NEWES, has a satirical allusion to this practice, yet ironically applied: where CENSURE says, ‘"For my part, I beleeve it, and there were no wiser than I, I would have neer a cunning schoole-master in England: I mean a Cun­ning-man a schoole-master; that is, a conjurour, or a poet, or that had any acquaintance with a poet. They make all their schollers Play-boyes! Is't not a fine sight to see all our children made Enterluders? Doe we pay our money for this? Wee send them to learne their grammar and their Terence, and they learne their play­bookes. Well, they talk we shall have no more parlia­ments, god blesse us! But an wee have, I hope Zeale of the Land Buzzy, and my gossip Rabby Trouble-truth, will start up, and see we have painfull good ministers to keepe schoole, and catechise our youth; and not teach em to speake Playes, and act fables of false newes, &c t.’

In tracing the history of our stage, this early practice of performing plays in schools and universities has never been considered, as a circumstance instrumental to the growth and improvement of the drama. While the people were amused with Skelton's TRIAL OF SIMONY, Bale's GOD'S PROMISES, and CHRIST'S DESCENT INTO HELL, the scholars of the times were composing and acting plays on historical subjects, and in imitation of Plautus and Terence. Hence ideas of a legitimate fable must have been imperceptibly derived to the popular and vernacular drama. And we may add, while no settled or public theatres were known, and plays were chiefly acted by itinerant minstrels in the halls of the nobility at Christmas, these literary societies supported some idea of a [Page 389] stage: they afforded the best accommodations for theatrical exhibition, and were almost the only, certainly the most rational, companies of players that existed.

But I mean yet to trespass on my reader's patience, by pur­suing this inquiry still further; which, for the sake of com­prehension and connection, has already exceeded the limits of a digression.

It is perhaps on this principle, that we are to account for plays being acted by singing-boys: although they perhaps acquired a turn for theatrical representation and the specta­cular arts, from their annual exhibition of the ceremonies of the boy-bishop; which seem to have been common in almost every religious community that was capable of sup­porting a choir u. I have before given an instance of the singing-boys of Hyde abbey and saint Swithin's priory at [Page 390] Winchester, performing a MORALITY before king Henry the seventh at Winchester castle, on a Sunday, in the year 1487. In the accompts of Maxtoke priory near Coventry, in the year 1430, it appears, that the eleemosinary boys, or choris­ters, of that monastery, acted a play, perhaps every year, on the feast of the Purification, in the hall of the neighbouring castle belonging to lord Clinton: and it is specified, that the cellarer took no money for their attendance, because his lordship's minstrels had often assisted this year at several festivals in the refectory of the convent, and in the hall of the prior, without fee or gratuity. I will give the article, [Page 391] which is very circumstantial, at length, ‘"Pro jentaculis puerorum eleemosynae exeuntium ad aulam in castro ut ibi LUDUM peragerent in die Purificationis, xiv d. Unde nihil a domini [Clinton] thesaurario, quia saepius hoc anno ministralli castri fecerunt ministralsiam in aula conventus et Prioris ad festa plu­rima sine ullo regardo w."’ That is, For the extraordinary breakfast of the children of the almonry, or singing-boys of the convent, when they went to the hall in the castle, to perform the PLAY on the feast of the Purification, fourteen­pence. In consideration of which performance, we received nothing in return from the treasurer of the lord Clinton, because the minstrels of the castle had often this year plaid at many festivals, both in the hall of the convent and in the prior's hall, without reward. So early as the year 1378, the scholars, or choristers, of saint Paul's cathedral in London, presented a petition to king Richard the second, that his majesty would prohibit some ignorant and unex­perienced persons from acting the HISTORY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, to the great prejudice of the clergy of the church, who had expended considerable sums for preparing a public presentation of that play at the ensuing Christmas x. From MYSTERIES this young fraternity proceeded to more regular dramas: and at the commencement of a theatre, were the best and almost only comedians. They became at length so favorite a set of players, as often to act at court: and, on par­ticular occasions of festivity, were frequently removed from London, for this purpose only, to the royal houses at some distance from town. This is a circumstance in their dramatic history, not commonly known. In the year 1554, while the princess Elizabeth resided at Hatfield-house in Hertfordshire, under the custody of sir Thomas Pope, she was visited by queen Mary. The next morning, after mass, they were entertained with a grand exhibition of bear-baiting, with [Page 392] which their highnesses were right well content. In the evening, the great chamber was adorned with a sumptuous suit of tapestry, called The Hanginge [...] of Antioch: and after supper, a play was presented by the children of Paul's y. After the play, and the next morning, one of the children, named Maxi­milian Poines, sung to the princess, while she plaid at the virginalls z. Strype, perhaps from the same manuscript chro­nicle, thus describes a magnificent entertainment given to queen Elizabeth, in the year 1559, at Nonsuch in Surry, by lord Arundel, her majesty's housekeeper, or superintendant, at that palace, now destroyed. I chuse to give the description in the words of this simple but picturesque compiler. ‘"There the queen had great entertainment, with banquets, especially on Sunday night, made by the said earl: together with a Mask, and the warlike sounds of drums and flutes, and all kinds of musick, till midnight. On Monday, was a great supper made for her: but before night, she stood at her standing in the further park, and there she saw a Course. At night was a Play by the Children of Paul's, and their [music] master Sebastian. After that, a costly banquet, accompanied with drums and flutes. This en­tertainment lasted till three in the morning. And the earl presented her majesty a cupboard of plate a."’ In the year 1 [...]62, when the society of parish clerks in London celebrated [Page 393] one of their annual feasts, after morning service in Guild­hall chapel, they retired to their hall; where, after dinner, a goodly play was performed by the choristers of Westminster abbey, with waits, and regals, and singing b. The children of the chapel-royal were also famous actors; and were formed into a company of players by queen Elizabeth, under the conduct of Richard Edwards, a musician, and a writer of Interludes, already mentioned, and of whom more will be said hereafter. All Lilly's plays, and many of Shakespeare's and Jonson's, were originally performed by these boys c: and it seems probable, that the title given by Jonson to one of his comedies, called CYNTHIA'S REVELS, first acted in 1605 ‘"by the children of her majesties chapel, with the allowance of the Master of the Revels,"’ was an allusion to this esta­blishment of queen Elizabeth, one of whose romantic names was CYNTHIA d. The general reputation which they gained, and the particular encouragement and countenance which they received from the queen, excited the jealousy of the grown actors at the theatres: and Shakespeare, in HAMLET, endeavours to extenuate the applause which was idly indulged to their performance, perhaps not always very just, in the [Page 394] following speeches of Rosencrantz and Hamlet.—‘"There is an aiery of little children, little eyases e, that cry out on the top of the question, and are most tyrannically clapped for't: these are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stages, so they call them, that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills, and dare scarce come thither.—Ham. What, are they children? Who maintains them? How are they escoted f? Will they pursue the Quality no longer than they can sing, &c g."’ This was about the year 1599. The latter clause means, ‘"Will they follow the profession of players, no longer than they keep the voices of boys, and sing in the choir?"’ So Hamlet afterwards says to the player, ‘"Come, give us a taste of your quality: come, a passionate speech h."’ Some of these, however, were distinguished for their propriety of action, and became admirable comedians at the theatre of Black-friers i. Among the children of queen Elizabeth's chapel, was one Salvadore Pavy, who acted in Jonson's POETASTER, and CYNTHIA'S [Page 395] REVELS, and was inimitable in his representation of the character of an old man. He died about thirteen years of age, and is thus elegantly celebrated in one of Jonson's epigrams.

An Epitaph on S. P. a child of queene Elizabeth's chapell.
Weep with me, all you that read
This little story!
And know, for whom a teare you shed
DEATH'S selfe is sorry.
Twas a child, that so did thrive
In grace and feature,
As HEAVEN and NATURE seem'd to strive
Which own'd the creature.
Yeares he numbred scarce thirteene,
When Fates turn'd cruell;
Yet three fill'd zodiackes had he beene
The Stage's Jewell:
And did acte, what now we moane,
Old men so duely;
As, sooth, the PARCAE thought him one,
He plaid so truely.
So, by errour, to his fate
They all consented;
But viewing him since, alas! too late,
They have repent [...]d:
And have sought, to give new birthe,
In bathes to steep him:
But, being so much too good for earthe,
HEAVEN vowes to keep him k.

To this ecclesiastical origin of the drama, we must refer the plays acted by the society of the parish-clerks of London, [Page 396] for eight days successively, at Clerkenwell, which thenc [...] took its name, in the presence of most of the nobility and gentry of the kingdom, in the years 1390, and 1409. In the ignorant ages, the parish-clerks of London might justly be considered as a literary society. It was an essential part of their profession, not only to sing but to read; an accom­plishment almost solely confined to the clergy: and, on the whole, they seem to come under the character of a religious fraternity. They were incorporated into a guild, or fellow­ship, by king Henry the third about the year 1240, under the patronage of saint Nicholas. It was antiently customary for men and women of the first quality, ecclesiastics, and others, who were lovers of church-music, to be admitted into this corporation: and they gave large gratuities for the support, or education, of many persons in the practice of that science. Their public feasts, which I have already mentioned, were frequent, and celebrated with singing and music; most commonly at Guildhall chapel or college l. Be­fore the reformation, this society was constantly hired to assist as a choir, at the magnificent funerals of the nobility, or other distinguished personages, which were celebrated within the city of London, or in its neighbourhood. The splendid ceremonies of their anniversary procession and mass, in the year 1554, are thus related by Strype, from an old chronicle. ‘"May the sixth, was a goodly evensong at Guild­hall college, by the Masters of the CLARKS and their Fel­lowship, with singing and playing; and the morrow after, was a great mass, at the same place, and by the same fraternity: when every clark offered an halfpenny. The mass was sung by diverse of the queen's [Mary's] chapel and children. And after mass done, every clark went their procession, two and two together; each having on, a sur­plice and a rich cope, and a garland. And then, fourscore [Page 397] standards, streamers, and banners; and each one that bare them had an albe or a surplice. Then came in order the waits playing: and then, thirty clarkes, sing­ing FESTA DIES. There were four of these choirs. Then came a canopy, borne over the Sacrament by four of the masters of the clarkes, with staffe torches burning, &c m."’ Their profession, employment, and character, naturally dictated to this spiritual brotherhood the representation of plays, especially those of the scriptural kind: and their con­stant practice in shews, processions, and vocal music, easily accounts for their address in detaining the best company which England afforded in the fourteenth century, at a re­ligious farce, for more than a week.

Before I conclude this inquiry, a great part of which has been taken up in endeavouring to shew the connection be­tween places of education and the stage, it ought to be re­marked, that the antient fashion of acting plays in the inns of court, which may be ranked among seminaries of in­struction, although for a separate profession, is deducible from this source. The first representation of this sort which occurs on record, and is mentioned with any particular cir­cumstances, was at Gray's-inn. John Roos, or Roo, student at Gray's-inn, and created a serjeant at law in the year 1511, wrote a comedy which was acted at Christmas in the hall of that society, in the year 1527. This piece, which probably contained some free reflections on the pomp of the clergy, gave such offence to cardinal Wolsey, that the author was degraded and imprisoned n. In the year 1550, under the reign of Edward the sixth, an order was made in the same society, that no comedies, commonly called Interludes, should be acted in the refectory in the intervals of vacation, except at the celebration of Christmas: and that then, the whole body of students should jointly contribute towards the dresses, [Page 398] scenes, and decorations o. In the year 1561, Sackville's and Norton's tragedy of FERREX AND PORREX was presented before queen Elizabeth at Whitehall, by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple p. In the year 1566, the SUPPOSES, a comedy, was acted at Gray's-inn, written by Gascoigne, one of the students. Dekker, in his satire against Jonson above cited, accuses Jonson for having stolen some jokes from the Christmas plays of the lawyers. ‘"You shall sweare not to bumbast out a new play with the old lyning of jestes stolne from the Temple-revells q."’ It the year 1632 it was ordered, in the Inner Temple, that no play should be continued after twelve at night, not even on Christ­mas-eve r.

But these societies seem to have shone most in the repre­sentation of Masques, a branch of the old drama. So early as the year 1431, it was ordered, that the society of Lin­coln's inn should celebrate four revels s, on four grand festivals, every year, which I conceive to have consisted in [Page 399] great measure of this species of impersonation. In the year 1613, they presented at Whitehall a masque before king James the first, in honour of the marriage of his daughter the princess Elizabeth with the prince Elector Palatine of the Rhine, at the cost of more than one thousand and eighty pounds t. The poetry was by Chapman, and the machinery by Jones u. But the most splendid and sumptuous perfor­mance of this kind, plaid by these societies, was the masque which they exhibited at Candlemas-day, in the year 1633, at the expence of two thousand pounds, before king Charles the first; which so pleased the king, and probably the queen, that he invited one hundred and twenty gentlemen of the law to a similar entertainment at Whitehall on Shrove Tues­day following w. It was called the TRIUMPH OF PEACE, and written by Shirley, then a student of Gray's-inn. The scenery was the invention of Jones, and the music was com­posed by William Lawes and Simon Ives x. Some curious [Page 400] anecdotes of this exhibition are preserved by a cotemporary, a diligent and critical observer of those seemingly insignifi­cant occurrences, which acquire importance in the eyes of posterity, and are often of more value than events of greater dignity. ‘"On Monday after Candlemas-day, the gentlemen of the inns of court performed their MASQUE at Court. They were sixteen in number, who rode through the streets y, in four chariots, and two others to carry their pages and musicians; attended by an hundred gentle­men on great horses, as well clad as every I saw any [...] They far exceeded in bravery [splendor] any Masque that had formerly been presented by those societies, and per­formed the dancing part with much applause. In their company, was one Mr. Read of Gray's-inn; whom all the women, and some men, cried up for as handsome a man as the duke of Buckingham. They were well used at court by the king and queen. No disgust given them, only this one accident fell: Mr. May, of Gray's-inn, a fine poet, he who translated Lucan, came athwart my lord chamberlain in the banquetting-house z, and he broke his staff over his shoulders, not knowing who he was; the king present, who knew him, for he calls him HIS POET, and told the chamberlain of it, who sent for him the next morning, and fairly excused himself to him, and gave him fifty pounds in pieces.—This riding-shew took so well, that both king and queen desired to see it again, so that they invited themselves to supper to my lord mayor's within a week after; and the Masquers came in a more glorious show with all the riders, which were increased twenty, to Merchant-taylor's Hall, and there performed again a."’ But it was not only by the parade of processions, [Page 401] and the decorations of scenery, that these spectacles were re­commended. Some of them, in point of poetical composi­tion, were eminently beautiful and elegant. Among these may be mentioned a masque on the story of Circe and Ulysses, called the INNER TEMPLE MASQUE, written by Wil­liam [Page 402] Brown, a student of that society, about the year 1620 b [...] From this piece, as a specimen of the temple-masques in this view, I make no apology for my anticipation in tran­scribing the following ode, which Circe sings as a charm to drive away sleep from Ulysses, who is discovered reposing under a large tree. It is addressed to Sleep.

Sonne of Erebus and Nighte!
Hye away, and aime thy flighte,
Where consorte none other fowle
Than the batte and sullen owle:
Where, upon the lymber gras,
Poppy and mandragoras,
With like simples not a fewe,
Hange for ever droppes of dewe:
Where flowes Lethe, without coyle,
Softly like a streame of oyle.
Hye thee thither, gentle Sleepe!
With this Greeke no longer keepe.
[Page 403] Thrice I charge thee by my wand,
Thrice with moly from my hand
Doe I touch Ulysses' eyes,
And with th' iaspis. Then arise
Sagest Greeke c!

In praise of this song it will be sufficient to say, that it re­minds us of some favorite touches in Milton's COMUS, to which it perhaps gave birth. Indeed one cannot help ob­serving here in general, although the observation more pro­perly belongs to another place, that a masque thus recently exhibited on the story of Circe, which there is reason to think had acquired some popularity, suggested to Milton the hint of a masque on the story of Comus. It would be superfluous to point out minutely the absolute similarity of the two cha­racters: they both deal in incantations conducted by the same mode of operation, and producing effects exactly parallel.

From this practice of performing interludes in the inns of court, we may explain a passage in Shakespeare: but the present establishment of the context embarrasses that expla­nation, as it perplexes the sentence in other respects. In the SECOND PART OF HENRY THE FOURTH, Shallow is boast­ing to his cousin Silence of his heroic exploits when he studied the law at Clement's-inn. ‘"I was once of Clement's inn, where I think they will talk of mad Shallow yet. Sil. You were called lusty Shallow then, cousin. Shal. I was called any thing, and I would have done any thing, indeed too, and roundly too. There was I, and little John Doit of Staffordshire, &c. You had not four such swinge-bucklers in the inns of court again. We knew where all the Bona Roba's were, &c.—Oh, the mad days that I have spent d!"’ Falstaffe then enters, and is recognised by Shallow, as his brother-student at Clement'sinn; [Page 404] on which, he takes occasion to resume the topic of his juvenile frolics exhibited in London fifty years ago. ‘"She's old, and had Robin Night work, before I came to Cle­ment's inn.—Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst That that this knight and I have seen! Hah, Sir John, &c."’ Fal­staffe's recruits are next brought forward to be inrolled. One of them is ordered to handle his arms: when Shallow says, still dwelling on the old favorite theme of Clement's­inn, ‘"He is not his craft-master, he doth not do it right. I remember at Mile-End Green, when I lay at Clement's-inn, I was then Sir Dagonet in ARTHUR'S SHOW, there was a little quiver fellow, and he would manage you his piece thus, &c."’ Does he mean, that he acted sir Dagonet at Mile-end Green, or at Clement's-inn? By the application of a parenthesis only, the passage will be cleared from ambiguity, and the sense I would assign will appear to be just. ‘"I re­member at Mile-end Green, (when I lay at Clement's-inn, I was then Sir Dagonet in ARTHUR'S SHOW,) there was a little quiver fellow, &c."’ That is, ‘"I remember, when I was a very young man at Clement's-inn, and not fit to act any higher part than Sir Dagonet in the interludes which we used to play in the society, that among the soldiers who were exercised in Mile-end Green, there was one remark­able fellow, &c e."’ The performance of this part of Sir Dagonet was another of Shallow's feats at Clement's-inn, on which he delights to expatiate: a circumstance, in the mean time, quite foreign to the purpose of what he is saying, but introduced, on that account, to heighten the ridicule of his character. Just as he had told Silence, a little before, that he saw Schoggan's head broke by [...]alstaffe at the court-gate, [Page 405] "and the very same day, I did fight with one Sampson Stock­fish, a fruiterer, behind Gray's-inn."’ Not to mention the satire implied in making Shallow act Sir Dagonet, who was King Arthur's Fool. ARTHUR'S SHOW, here supposed to have been presented at Clement's-inn, was probably an in­terlude, or masque, which actually existed, and was very popular, in Shakespeare's age: and seems to have been com­piled from Mallory's MORTE ARTHUR, or the history of king Arthur, then recently published, and the favorite and most fashionable romance f.

When the societies of the law performed these shews within their own respective refectories, at Christmas, or any other festival, a Christmas-prince, or revel-master, was con­stantly appointed. At a Christmas celebrated in the hall of the Middle-temple, in the year 1635, the jurisdiction, pri­vileges, and parade, of this mock-monarch, are thus cir­cumstantially described g. He was attended by his lord keeper, lord treasurer, with eight white staves, a captain of his band of pensioners and of his guard; and with two chaplains, who were so seriously impressed with an idea of his regal dignity, that when they preached before him on the preceding Sunday in the Temple church, on ascending the pulpit, they saluted him with three low bows. He dined, both in the hall, and in his privy-chamber, under a cloth of estate. The pole-axes for his gentlemen pensioners were borrowed of lord Salisbury. Lord Holland, his temporary Justice in Eyre, supplied him with venison, on demand: and the lord mayor and sheriffs of London, with wine. On twelfth-day, at going to church, he received many petitions, [Page 406] which he gave to his master of requests: And, like other kings, he had a favorite, whom, with others, gentlemen of high quality, he knighted at returning from church. His expences, all from his own purse, amounted to two thou­sand pounds h. We are also told, that in the year 1635, ‘"On Shrovetide at night, the lady Hatton feasted the king, queen, and princes, at her house in Holborn. The Wed­nesday before, the PRINCE OF THE TEMPLE invited the prince Elector and his brother to a Masque at the Temple i, which was very compleatly fitted for the variety of the scenes, and excellently well performed. Thither came the queen with three of her ladies disguised, all clad in the attire of citizens.—This done, the PRINCE was deposed, but since the king knighted him at Whitehall k."’

But these spectacles and entertainments in our law-societies, not so much because they were romantic and ridiculous in their mode of exhibition, as that they were institutions celebrated for the purposes of merriment and festivity, were suppressed or suspended under the false and illiberal ideas of reformation and religion, which prevailed in the fanatical court of Cromwell. The countenance afforded by a polite court to such entertainments, became the leading topic of animadversion and abuse in the miserable declamations of the puritan theologists; who attempted the business of national reformation without any knowledge of the nature of society, and whose censures proceeded not so much from principles of a purer morality, as from a narrowness of mind, and from that ignorance of human affairs which necessarily ac­companies the operations of enthusiasm.


WE are now arrived at the commencement of the six­teenth century. But before I proceed to a formal and particular examination of the poetry of that century, and of those that follow, some preliminary considerations of a more general nature, and which will have a reference to all the remaining part of our history, for the purpose of preparing the reader, and facilitating our future inquiries, appear to be necessary.

On a retrospect of the fifteenth century, we find much poetry written during the latter part of that period. It is certain, that the recent introduction into England of the art of typography, to which our countrymen afforded the most liberal encouragement, and which for many years was almost solely confined to the impression of English books, the fashion of translating the classics from French versions, the growing improvements of the English language, and the diffusion of learning among the laity, greatly contributed to multiply English composition, both in prose and verse. These causes, however, were yet immature; nor had they gathered a sufficient degree of power and stability, to ope­rate on our literature with any vigorous effects.

But there is a circumstance, which, among some others already suggested, impeded that progression in our poetry, which might yet have been expected under all these advan­tages. A revolution, the most fortunate and important in most other respects, and the most interesting that occur [...] in the history of the migration of letters, now began to take place; which, by diverting the attention of ingenious men to new modes of thinking, and the culture of new lan­guages, introduced a new course of study, and gave a temporary [Page 408] check to vernacular composition. This was the re­vival of classical learning.

In the course of these annals we must have frequently re­marked, from time to time, striking symptoms of a restless disposition in the human mind to rouse from its lethargic state, and to break the bonds of barbarism. After many imperfect and interrupted efforts, this mighty deliverance, in which the mouldering Gothic fabrics of false religion and false philosophy fell together, was not effectually completed till the close of the fifteenth century. An event, almost for­tuitous and unexpected, gave a direction to that spirit of curiosity and discovery, which had not yet appeared in its full force and extent, for want of an object. About the year 1453, the dispersion of the Greeks, after Constantinople had been occupied by the Turks, became the means of gratifying that natural love of novelty, which has so fre­quently led the way to the noblest improvements, by the introduction of a new language and new books [...] and totally changed the state of letters in Europe l.

This great change commenced in Italy; a country, from many circumstances, above all others peculiarly qualified and prepared to adopt such a deviation. Italy, during the darkest periods of monastic ignorance, had always maintained a greater degree of refinement and knowledge than any other European country. In the thirteenth century, when the manners of Europe appear to have been overwhelmed with every species of absurdity, its luxuries were less savage, and its public spectacles more rational, than those of France, [Page 409] England, and Germany. Its inhabitants were not only en­riched, but enlightened, by that flourishing state of com­merce, which its commodious situation, aided by the com­bination of other concomitant advantages, contributed to support. Even from the time of the irruptions of the nor­thern barbarians, some glimmerings of the antient erudition still remained in this country; and in the midst of supersti­tion and false philosophy, repeated efforts were made in Italy to restore the Roman classics. To mention no other in­stances, Alberti Mussatom of Padua, and a commander in the Paduan army against the Veronese, wrote two Latin tragedies, ECERRINIS n, or the fate of the tyrant Ecerinus of Verona, and ACHILLEIS, on the plan of the Greek drama, and in imitation of Seneca, befor [...] the year 1320. The many monuments of legitimate sculpture and architecture preserved in Italy, had there kept alive ideas of elegance and grace; and the Italians, from their familiarity with those precious remains of antiquity, so early as the close of the fourteenth century, had laid the rudiments of their per­fection in the antient arts. Another circumstance which had a considerable share in cl [...]aring the way for this change, and which deserves particular attention, was the innovation introduced into the Italian poetry by Petrarch: who, inspired with the most elegant of passions, and cloathing his exalted feelings on that delicate subject in the most melodious and brilliant Italian versification, had totally eclipsed the barbarous [Page 410] beauties of the Provencial troubadours; and by this new and powerful magic, had in an eminent degree contributed to reclaim, at least for a time, the public taste, from a love of Gothic manners and romantic imagery.

In this country, so happily calculated for their favourable reception, the learned [...]ugitives of Greece, when their empire was now destroyed, found shelter and protection. Hither they imported, and here they interpreted, their antient writers, which had been preserved entire at Constantinople. These being eagerly studied by the best Italian scholars, com­municated a taste for the graces of genuine poetry and elo­quence; and at the same time were instrumental in propa­gating a more just and general relish for the Roman poets, orators, and historians. In the mean time a more elegant and sublime philosophy was adopted: a philosophy more friendly to works of taste and imagination, and more agree­able to the sort of reading which was now gaining ground. The scholastic subtleties, and the captious logic of Aristotle, were abolished for the mild and divine wisdom of Plato.

It was a circumstance, which gave the greatest splendour and importance to this new mode of erudition, that it was encouraged by the popes: who, considering the encourage­ment of literature as a new expedient to establish their au­thority over the minds of men, and enjoying an opulent and peaceable dominion in the voluptuous region of Italy, extended their patronage on this occasion with a liberality so generous and unreserved, that the court of Rome on a sudden lost its austere character, and became the seat of ele­gance and urbanity. Nicholas the fifth, about the year 1440, established public rewards at Rome for composition in the learned languages, appointed p [...]ofessors in humanity, and employed intelligent persons to traverse all parts of Europe in search of classic manuscripts buried in the monasteries o. [Page 411] It was by means of the munificent support of pope Nicholas, that Cyriac of Ancona, who may be considered as the first antiquary in Europe, was enabled to introduce a taste for gems, medals, inscriptions, and other curious remains of classical antiquity, which he collected with indefatigable labour in various parts of Italy and Greece p. He allowed Francis Philelphus, an elegant Latin poet of Italy, about 1450, a stipend for translating Homer into Latin q. Leo the tenth, not less conspicuous for his munificence in re­storing letters, descended so far from his apostolical dignity, as to be a spectator of the POENULUS of Plautus; which was performed in a temporary theatre in the court of the capitol, by the flower of the Roman youth, with the addi­tion of the most costly decorations r: and Leo, while he was pouring the thunder of his anathemas against the h [...]retical doctrines of Martin Luther, published a bulle of excom­munication against all those who should dare to censure the poems of Ariosto. It was under the pontificate of Leo, that a perpetual indulgence was granted for rebuilding the church of a monastery, which possessed a manuscript of Tacitus s. [Page 412] It is obvious to observe, how little conformable, this just taste, these elegant arts, and these new amusements, proved in their consequences to the spirit of the papal system: and it is remarkable, that the court of Rome, whose sole design and interest it had been for so many centuries, to enslave the minds of men, should be the first to restore the religious and intellectual liberties of Europe. The apostolical fathers, aiming at a fatal and ill-timed popularity, did not reflect, that they were shaking the throne, which they thus adorned.

Among those who distinguished themselves in the exercise of these studies, the first and most numerous were the Italian ecclesiastics. If not from principles of inclination, and a natural impulse to follow the passion of the times, it was at least their interest, to concur in forwarding those improvements, which were commended, countenanced, and authorised, by their spiritual sovereign: they abandoned the pedantries of a barbarous theology, and cultivated the purest models of antiquity. The cardinals and bishops of Italy composed Latin verses, and with a success attained by none in more recent times, in imitation of Lucretius, Catullus, and Virgil. Nor would the encouragement of any other European potentate have availed so much, in this great work of restoring literature: as no other patronage could have operated with so powerful and immediate an influence on that order of men, who, from the nature of their education and profession, must always be the principal instruments in supporting every species of liberal erudition.

And here we cannot but observe the necessary connection between literary composition and the arts of design. No sooner had Italy banished the Gothic style in eloquence and poetry, than painting, sculpture, and architecture, at the same time, and in the same country, arrived at maturity, and appeared in all their original splendour. The beautiful or sublime ideas which the Italian artists had conceived from the contemplation of antient statues and antient temples, [Page 413] were invigorated by the descriptions of Homer and Sopho­cles. Petrarch was crowned in the capitol, and Raphael was promoted to the dignity of a cardinal.

These improvements were soon received in other countries. Lascaris, one of the most learned of the Constantinopolitan exiles, was invited into France by Lewis the twelfth, and Francis the first: and it was under the latter of these mo­narch that he was employed to form a library at Fontain­bleau, and to introduce Greek professors into the university of Paris t. Yet we find Gregory Typhernas teaching Greek at Paris, so early as the year 1472 x. About the same time, Anto­nius Eparchus of Corsica sold one hundred Greek books to the emperour Charles the fifth and Francis the first y, those great rivals, who agreed in nothing, but in promoting the cause of literature. Francis the first maintained even a Greek secretary, the learned Angelus Vergerius, to whom he as­signed, in the year 1541, a pension of four hundred livres from his exchequer z. He employed Julius Camillus to teach him to speak fluently the language of Cicero and Demosthe­ [...]es, in the space of a month: but so chimerical an attempt necessarily proved abortive, yet it shewed his passion for let­ters a. In the year 1474, the parliament of Paris, who, like other public bodies, eminent for their wisdom, could proceed on no other foundation than that of ancient forms and customs, and were alarmed at the appearance of an innova­tion, commanded a cargo of books, some of the first speci­mens of typography, which were imported into Paris by a factor of the city of Mentz, to be seized and destroyed. [Page 414] Francis the first would not suffer so great a dishonour to remain on the French nation; and although he interposed his authority too late for a revocation of the decree, he or­dered the full price to be paid for the books. This was the same parliament that opposed the reformation of the calen­dar, and the admission of any other philosophy than that of Aristotle. Such was Francis's sollicitude to encourage the graces of a classical style, that he abolished the Latin tongue from all public acts of justice, because the first president of the parliament of [...] Paris had used a barbarous term in pro­nouncing sentence b: and because the Latin code and judicial processes, hitherto adopted in France, familiarised the people to a base Latinity. At the same time, he ordered these for­mularies to be turned, not into good Latin, which would have been absurd or impossible, but into pure French c: a reformation which promoted the culture of the vernacular tongue. He was the first of the kings of France, that en­couraged brilliant assemblies of ladies to frequent the French court: a circumstance, which not only introduced new splendour and refinement into the parties and carousals of the court of that monarchy, but gave a new turn to the manners of the French ecclesiastics, who of course attended the king, and destroyed much of their monkish pedantry d.

When we mention the share which Germany took in the res­titution of letters, she needs no greater panegyric, than that her mechanical genius added, at a lucky moment, to all these fortunate contingencies in favour of science, an admirable invention, which was of the most singular utility in fa­cilitating the diffusion of the antient writers over every part of Europe: I mean the art of printing. By this observation, I do not mean to insinuate that Germany kept no pace with [Page 415] her neighbours in the production of philological scholars. Rodolphus Langius, a canon of Munster, and a tolerable Latin poet, after many struggles with the inveterate preju­dices and authoritative threats of German bishops, and Ger­man universities, opened a school of humanity at Munster: which supplied his countrymen with every species of elegant learning, till it was overthrown by the fury of fanaticism, and the revolutions introduced by the barbarous reformations of the anabaptistic zealots, in the year 1534 u. Reuchlin, otherwise called Capnio, cooperated with the laudable endea­vours of Langius by professing Greek, before the year 1490, at Basil w. Soon afterwards he translated Homer, Aristophanes, Plato, Xenophon, Aeschines, and Lucian, into Latin, and Demosthenes into German. At Heidel­berg he founded a library, which he stored with the choicest Greek manuscripts. It is worthy to remark, that the first public institution in any European university for promoting polite literature, by which I understand these improvements in erudition, appears to have been established at Vienna. In the year 1501, Maximilian the first, who, like Julius Cesar, had composed a commentary on his own illustrious military achievements, founded in the univer­sity of Vienna a COLLEGE of POETRY. This society con­sisted of four professors: one for poetry, a second for ora­tory, and two others for mathematics. The professor of poetry was so styled, because he presided over all the rest: and the first person appointed to this office was Conradus Celtes, one of the restorers of the Greek language in Ger­many, an elegant Latin poet, a critic on the art of Latin versification, the first poet laureate of his country, and the first who introduced the practice of acting Latin tragedies and [Page 416] comedies in public, after the manner of Terence e. It was the business of this professor, to examine candidates in philology; and to reward those who appeared to have made a distinguished proficiency in classical studies with a crown of laurel. Maximilian's chief and general design in this institution, was to restore the languages and the elo­quence of Greece and Rome f.

Among the chief restorers of literature in Spain, about 1490, was Antonio de Lebrixa, one of the professors in the university of Alacala, founded by the magnificent cardinal Ximenes, archbishop of Toledo. It was to the patronage of Ximenes that Lebrixa owed his celebrity g. Profoundly versed in every species of sacred and profane learning, and appointed to the respectable office of royal historian, he chose to be distinguished only by the name of the grammarian h; that is, a teacher of polite letters. In this department, he enriched the seminaries of Spain with new systems of grammar, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; and, with a view to reduce his native tongue under some critical laws, he wrote comparative lexicons, in the Latin, Castilian, and Spanish languages. These, at this time, were [Page 417] plans of a most extraordinary nature in Spain; and placed the literature of his country, which, from the phlegmatic temper of the inhabitants was tenacious of antient forms, on a much wider basis than before. To these he added a manual of rhetoric, compiled from Aristotle, Tully, and Quintilian: together with commentaries on Terence, Virgil, Juvenal, Persius, and other classics. He was deputed by Ximenes, with other learned linguists, to superintend the grand Complutensian edition of the bible: and in the con­duct of that laborious work, he did not escape the censure of heretical impiety for exercising his critical skill on the sacred text, according to the ideas of the holy inquisition, with too great a degree of precision and accuracy i.

Even Hungary, a country by no means unifo [...]mly ad­vanced with other parts of Europe in the common arts of civilisation, was illuminated with the distant dawning of science. Mattheo Corvini, king of Hungary and Bohemia, in the fifteenth century, and who died in 1490, was a lover and a guardian of literature k. He purchased innumerable volumes of Greek and Hebrew writers at Constantinople and other Grecian cities, when they were sacked by the Turks: and, as the operations of typography were now but imper­fect, employed at Florence many learned librarians to mul­tiply copies of classics, both Greek and Latin, which he could not procure in Greece l. These, to the number of fifty thousand, he placed in a tower, which he had erected in the metropolis of Buda m: and in this library he establish­ed thirty amanuenses, skilled in painting, illuminating, and writing: who, under the conduct of Felix Ragusinus, a [Page 418] Dalmatian, consummately learned in the Greek, Chaldaic, and Arabic languages, and an elegant designer and painter of ornaments on vellum, attended incessantly to the business of transcription and decoration n. The librarian was Bartholo­mew Fontius, a learned Florentine, the writer of many phi­lological works o, and a professor of Greek and oratory at Florence. When Buda was taken by the Turks in the year 1526, cardinal Bozmanni offered for the redemption of this inestimable collection, two hundred thousand pieces of the Imperial money: yet without effect, for the barbarous be­siegers defaced or destroyed most of the books, in the violence of seizing the splendid covers and the silver bosses and clasps with which they were enriched p. The learned Obsopaeus re­lates, that a book was brought him by an Hungarian soldier, which he had picked up, with many others, in the pillage of king Corvino's library, and had preserved as a prize, merely because the covering retained some marks of gold and rich workmanship. This proved to be a manuscript of the ETHIOPICS of Heliodorus; from which, in the year 1534, Obsopaeus printed at Basil the first edition of that elegant Greek romance q.

But as this incidental sketch of the history of the revival of modern learning, is intended to be applied to the general subject of my work, I hasten to give a detail of the rise and [Page 419] progress of these improvements in England: nor shall I scruple, for the sake of producing a full and uniform view, to extend the enquiry to a distant period.

Efforts were made in our English universities for the re­vival of critical studies, much sooner than is commonly imagined. So early as the year 1439, William Byngham, rector of Saint John Zachary in London, petitioned king Henry the sixth, in favour of his grammar scholars, for whom he had erected a commodious mansion at Cambridge, called GOD'S HOUSE, and which he had given to the college of Clare-hall: to the end, that twenty-four youths, under the direction and government of a learned priest, might be there perpetually educated, and be from thence transmitted, in a constant succession, into different parts of England, to those places where grammar schools had fallen into a state of desolation r. In the year 1498, Alcock bishop of Ely founded Jesus College in Cambridge, partly for a certain number of scholars to be educated in grammar s. Yet there is reason to apprehend, that these academical pupils in grammar, with which the art of rhetoric was commonly [Page 420] joined, instead of studying the real models of style, were chiefly trained in systematic manuals of these sciences, filled with unprofitable definitions and unnecessary distinctions: and that in learning the arts of elegance, they acquired the barbarous improprieties of diction which those arts were intended to remove and reform. That the foundations I have mentioned did not produce any lasting beneficial effects, and that the technical phraseology of metaphysics and ca­suistry still continued to prevail at Cambridge, appears from the following anecdote. In the reign of Henry the seventh, that university was so destitute of skill in latinity, that it was obliged to hire an Italian, one Caius Auberinus, for composing the public orations and epistles, whose fee was at the rate of twenty-pence for an epistle t. The same per­son was employed to explain Terence in the public schools u. Undoubtedly the same attention to a futile philosophy, to unintelligible elucidations of Scotus and Aquinas, notwith­standing the accessions accruing to science from the esta­blishment of the Humfredian library, had given the same tincture to the ordinary course of studies at Oxford. For, about the year 1468, the university of Oxford complimented Chadworth bi [...]hop of Lincoln, for his care and endeavours in restoring grammatical literature, which, as they represent, had long decayed and been forgotten in that seminary w.

[Page 421] But although these gleams of science long struggled with the scholastic cloud which inveloped our universities, we find the culture of the classics embraced in England much sooner than is supposed. Before the year 1490, many of our coun­trymen appear to have turned their thoughts to the revival of the study of classics: yet, chiefly in consequence of their communications with Italy, and, as most of them were clergymen, of the encouragements they received from the liberality of the Roman pontiffs x. Millyng, abbot of West­minster, about the year 1480, understood the Greek lan­guage: which yet is mentioned as a singular accomplish­ment, in one, although a prelate, of the monastic profession y. Robert Flemmyng studied the Greek and Latin languages under Baptista Guarini at Ferrara; and at his return into England, was preferred to the deanery of Lincoln about the [Page 422] year 1450 z. During the reign of Edward the fourth, he was at Rome; where he wrote an elegant Latin poem in heroic verse, entitled LUCUBRATIONES TIBURTINAE, which he inscribed to pope Sixtus his singular patron a. It has these three chaste and strong hexameters, in which he de­scribes the person of that illustrious pontiff.

Sane, quisquis in hunc oculos converterit acr [...]is,
In facie vultuque viri sublime videbit
Elucere aliquid, majestatemque verendam.

Leland assures us, that he saw in the libraries of Oxford a Greco-Latin lexicon, compiled by Flemmyng, which has escaped my searches. He left many volumes, beauti [...]ully written and richly illuminated, to Lincoln college in Oxford, where he had received his academical education b. About the same period, John Gunthorpe, afterwards, among other numerous and eminent promotions, dean of Wells, keeper of the privy seal, and master of King's hall in Cambridge, attended also the philological lectures of Guarini: and for the polished latinity with which he wrote EPISTLES and ORATIONS, compositions at that time much in use and re­quest, was appointed by king Edward the fourth Latin se­cretary to queen Anne, in the year 1487 c. The manuscripts [Page 423] collected in Italy, which he gave to both the universities of England, were of much more real value, than the sumptuous silver image of the virgin Mary, weighing one hundred and forty-three ounces, which he presented to his cathedral of Wells d. William Gray imbibed under the same preceptors a knowledge of the best Greek and Roman writers: and in the year 1454, was advanced by pope Nicholas the fifth, equally a judge and a protector of scholars, to the bishoprick of Ely e. This prelate employed at Venice and Florence many scribes and illuminators f, in preparing copies of the classics and other useful books, which he gave to the library of Baliol college in Oxford g, at that time esteemed the best in the university. John Phrea, or Free, an ecclesiastic of Bristol, receiving information from the Italian merchants who trafficked at Bristol, that multitudes of strangers were constantly crouding to the capitals of Italy for instruction in the learned languages, passed over to Ferrara; where he became a fellow-student with the prelate last mentioned, by whose patronage and assistance his studies were supported h. He translated Diodorus Siculus, and many pieces of Xeno­phon, into Latin i. On account of the former work, he was nominated bishop of Bath and Wells by pope Paul the second, [Page 424] but died before consecration in the year 1464 k. His Latin Epistles, five of which are addressed to his patron the bishop of Ely, discover an uncommon terseness and facility of ex­pression. It was no inconsiderable testimony of Phrea's taste, that he was requested by some of his elegant Italian friends, to compose a new epitaph in Latin elegiacs for Petrarch's tomb: the original inscription in monkish rhymes, not agreeing with the new and improved ideas of Latin versifi­cation l. William Sellynge, a fellow of All Souls college in Oxford, disgusted with the barren and contracted circle of philosophy taught by the irrefragable professors of that ample seminary, acquired a familiarity with the most excel­lent antient authors, and cultivated the conversation of Po­litian at Bononia m, to whom he introduced the learned Li­nacer n. About the year 1460, he returned into England; and being elected prior of Christ-Church at Canterbury, enriched the library of that fraternity with an inestimable collection of Greek and Roman manuscripts, which he had amassed in Italy o. It has been said, that among these books, which were all soon afterwards accidentally consumed by fire, there was a complete copy of Cicero's Platonic system of politics DE REPUBLICA p. King Henry the seventh sent Sellynge in [Page 425] the quality of an envoy to the king of France: before whom he spoke a most elegant Latin oration p. It is mentioned on his monument, now remaining in Canterbury cathedral, that he understood Greek.

Doctor theologus Selling, GRAECA atque Latina
Lingua perdoctus.—

This is an uncommon topic of praise in an abbot's epitaph. William Grocyn, a fellow of New college at Oxford, pur­sued the same path about the year 1488: and having perfect­ed his knowledge of the Greek tongue, with which he had been before tinctured, at Florence under Demetrius Chal­condylas and Politian, and at Rome under Hermolaus Bar­barus, became the first voluntary lecturer of that language at Oxford, before the year 1490 q. Yet Polydore Virgil, perhaps only from a natural partiality to his county, affirms, that Cornelius Vitellus, an Italian of noble birth, and of the most accomplished learning, was the first who taught the Greek and Roman classics at Oxford r. Nor must I for­get to mention John Tiptoft, the unfortunate earl of Wor­cester; who, in the reign of Henry the sixth, rivalled the most learned ecclesiastics of his age, in the diligence and felicity with which he prosecuted the politer studies. At Padua, his singular skill in refined Latinity endeared him to [Page 426] pope Pius the second, and to the most capital ornaments of the Italian school s. His Latin Letters still remain, and abundantly prove his abilities and connections t. He tran­slated Cicero's dialogue on FRIENDSHIP into English u. He was the common patron of all his ingenious countrymen, who about this period were making rapid advances in a more rational and ample plan of study; and, among other in­stances of his unwearied liberality to true literature, he prepared a present of chosen manuscript books, valued at five hundred marcs, for the encrease of the Humphredian library at Oxford, then recently instituted w. These books appear to have been purchased in Italy; at that time the grand and general mart of antient authors, especially the Greek classics x. For the Turkish emperors, now seated at [Page 427] Constantinople, particularly Bajazet the second, freely im­parted these treasures to the Italian emissaries, who availing themselves of the fashionable enthusiasm, traded in the cities of Greece for the purpose of purchasing books, which they [Page 428] sold in Italy: and it was chiefly by means of this literary t [...]affic, that Cosmo and Laurence of Medici, and their mu­nificent successors the dukes of Florence, composed the fa­mous Florentine library y.

It is obvious to remark the popularity which must have accrued to these politer studies, while they thus paved the way to the most opulent and honourable promotions in the church: and the authority and estimation with which they must have been surrounded, in being thus cultivated by the most venerable ecclesiastics. It is indeed true, that the dig­nified clergy of the early and darker ages were learned be­yond the level of the people z. Peter de Blois, successively [Page 429] archdeacon of Bath and London, about the year 1160, ac­quaints us, that the palace of Becket, archbishop of Canter­bury, was perpetually filled with bishops highly accomplished in literature: who passed their time there, in reading, dis­puting, and deciding important questions of the state. He adds, that these prelates, although men of the world, were [Page 430] a society of scholars: yet very different from those who fre­quented the universities, in which nothing was taught but words and syllables, unprofitable subtleties, elementary spe­culations, and trifling distinctions a. De Blois was himself eminently learned, and one of the most distinguished orna­ments of Becket's attendants. He tells us, that in his youth, when he learned the ARS VERSIFICATORIA, that is, philo­logical literature, he was habituated to an urbanity of style and expression: and that he was instituted, not in idle fables and legendary tales, but in Livy, Quintus Curtius, Suetonius, Josephus, Trogus Pompeius, Tacitus, and other classical historians b. At the same time he censures with a just in­dignation, the absurdity of training boys in the frivolous intricacies of logic and geometry, and other parts of the scholastic philosophy; which, to use his own emphatical words, ‘"Nec domi, nec militiae, nec in foro, nec in claustro, nec in ecclesia, nec in curia, nec alicubi prosunt alicui c."’ The [Page 431] Latin Epistles of De Blois, from which these anecdotes are taken, are full of good sense, observations on life, ele­gant turns, and ingenious allusions to the classics. He tells Jocelyne, bishop of Salisbury, that he had long wished to see the bishop's two nephews, according to promise: but that he feared he expected them as the Britons expected king Arthur, or the Jews the Messiah d. He describes, with a liveliness by no means belonging to the archdeacons of the twelfth cen­tury, the difficulties, disappointments, and inconveniencies, of paying attendance at court e. In the course of his corre­spondence, he quotes Quintilian, Cicero, Livy, Sallust, Seneca, Virgil, Quintus Curtius, Ovid, Statius, Suetonius, Juvenal, and Horace, more frequently and familiarly than the fathers f. Horace seems his favorite. In one of the letters, he quotes a passage concerning Pompey the Great, from the Roman History of Sallust, in six books, now lost, and which appears at present only in part among the frag­ments of that valuable historian g. In the NUGAE CURIA­LIUM of MAPES, or some other manuscript Latin tract writ­ten by one of the scholars of the twelfth century, I remem­ber to have seen a curious and striking anecdote, which in a [Page 432] short compass shews Becket's private ideas concerning the bigottries and superstitious absurdities of his religion. The writer gives an account of a dinner in Becket's palace; at which was present, among many other prelates, a Cistercian abbot. This abbot engrossed almost the whole conversation, in relating the miracles performed by Robert, the founder of his order. Becket heard him for some time with a patient contempt; and at length could not help breaking out with no small degree of indignation, And these are your miracles!

We must however view the liberal ideas of these enligh­tened dignitaries of the twelfth century under some restric­tions. It must be acknowledged, that their literature was clogged with pedantry, and depressed by the narrow notions of the times. Their writings shew, that they knew not how to imitate the beauties of the antient classics. Exulting in an exclusive privilege, the certainly did not see the solid and popular use of these studies: at least they did not chuse, or would not venture, to communicate them to the people, who on the other hand were not prepared to receive them. Any attempts of that kind, for want of assistances which did not then exist, must have been premature; and these lights were too feeble to dissipate the universal darkness. The writers who first appeared after Rome was ravaged by the Goths, such as Boethius, Prudentius, Orosius, Fortu­natius, and Sedulius, and who naturally, from that circum­stance, and because they were Christians, came into vogue at that period, still continued in the hands of common readers, and superseded the great originals. In the early ages of Christianity a strange opinion prevailed, in conformity to which Arnobius composed his celebrated book against the gentile superstitions, that pagan authors were calculated to corrupt the pure theology of the gospel. The prejudice however remained, when even the suspicions of the danger were removed. But I return to the progress of modern letters in the fifteenth century.


SOON after the year 1500, Lillye, the famous gram­marian, who had learned Greek at Rhodes, and had afterwards acquired a polished Latinity at Rome, under Jo­hannes Sulpicius and Pomponius Sabinus, became the first teacher of Greek at any public school in England. This was at saint Paul's school in London, then newly established by dean Colet, and celebrated by Erasmus; and of which Lillye, as one of the most exact and accomplished scholars of his age, was appointed the first master h. And that an­tient prejudices were now gradually wearing off, and a national taste for critical studies and the graces of compo­sition began to be diffused, appears from this circumstance alone: that from the year one thousand five hundred and three to the reformation, there were more grammar schools, most of which at present are perhaps of little use and im­portance, founded and endowed in England, than had been for three hundred years before. The practice of educating our youth in the monasteries growing into disuse, near twenty new grammar schools were established within this period: and among these, Wolsey's school at Ipswich, which soon fell a sacrifice to the resentment or the avari [...]e of Henry the eighth, deserves particular notice, as it rivalled those of Winchester and Eton. To give splendor to the institution [...] [Page 434] beside the scholars, it consisted of a dean, twelve canons, and a numerous choir i. So attached was Wolsey to the new modes of instruction, that he did not think it inconsistent with his high office and rank, to publish a general address to the schoolmasters of England, in which he orders them to institute their youth in the most elegant literature k. It is to be wished that all his edicts had been employed to so liberal and useful a purpose. There is an anecdote on record, which strongly marks Wolsey's character in this point of view. Notwithstanding his habits of pomp, he once condescended to be a spectator of a Latin tragedy of DIDO, from Virgil, acted by the scholars of saint Paul's school, and written by John Rightwise, the master, an eminent grammarian l. But Wolsey might have pleaded the authority of pope Leo the tenth, who more than once had been present at one of these classical spectacles.

It does not however appear, that the cardinal's liberal sen­timents were in general adopted by his brother prelates. At the foundation of saint Paul's school above-mentioned, one of the bishops, eminent for his wisdom and gravity, at a public assembly, severely censured Colet the founder for suffering the Latin poets to be taught in the new structure, which he ther [...]fore styled a house of pagan idolatry m.

In the year 1517, Fox, bishop of Winchester, founded a college at Oxford, in which he constituted, with competent stipends, two professors for the Greek and Latin languages n. Although some slight idea of a classical lecture had already appeared at Cambridge in the system of collegiate discipline o, [Page 435] this philological establishment may justly be looked upon, as the first conspicuous instance of an attempt to depart from the narrow plan of education, which had hitherto been held sacred in the universities of England. The course of the Latin professor, who is expressly directed to extirpate BAR­BARISM from the new society p, is not confined to the private limits of the college, but open to the students of Oxford in general. The Greek lecturer is ordered to explain the best Greek classics: and the poets, historians, and orators, in that language, which the judicious founder, who seems of have consulted the most intelligent scholars of the times, re­commends by name on this occasion, are the purest, and such as are most esteemed even in the present improved state of antient learning. And it is at the same time worthy of remark, that this liberal prelate, in forming his plan of study, does not appoint a philosophy-lecturer in his college, as had been the constant practice in most of the previous foundations: perhaps suspecting, that such an endowment would not have coincided with his new course of erudition, and would have only served to encourage that species of doctrine, which had so long choaked the paths of science, and obstructed the progress of useful knowledge [...]

These happy beginnings in favour of new and a rational system of academical education, were seconded by the aus­picious munificence of cardinal Wolsey. About the year 1519, he founded a public chair at Oxford, for rhetoric and humanity, and soon afterwards another for teaching the Greek language; endowing both with ample salaries q. About [Page 436] the year 1524, king Henry the eighth, who destroyed or ad­vanced literary institutions from caprice, called Robert Wakefield, originally a student of Cambridge, but now a professor of humanity at Tubingen in Germany, into Eng­land, that one of his own subjects, a linguist of so much celebrity, might no longer teach the Greek and oriental lan­guages abroad: and when Wakefield appeared before the king, his majesty lamented, in the strongest expressions of concern, the total ignorance of his clergy and the univer­sities in the learned tongues; and immediately assigned him a competent stipend for opening a lecture at Cambridge, in this necessary and neglected department of letters r. Wake­field was afterwards a preserver of many copies of the Greek classics, in the havock of the religious houses. It is record­ed by Fox, the martyrologist, as a memorable occurrence s, and very deservedly, that about the same time, Robert Barnes, prior of the Augustines at Cambridge, and educated at Lou­vain, with the assistance of his scholar Thomas Parnell, ex­plained within the walls of his own monastery, Plautus, Terence, and Cicero, to those academics who saw the utility of philology, and were desirous of deserting the Gothic phi­losophy. It may seem at first surprising, that Fox, a weak and prejudiced writer, should allow any merit to a catholic: but Barnes afterwards appears to have been one of Fox's martyrs, and was executed at the stake in Smithfield for a defence of Lutheranism.

But these innovations in the system of study were greatly discouraged and opposed by the friends of the old scholastic circle of sciences, and the bigotted partisans of the catholic communion, who stigmatised the Greek language by the name of heresy. Even bishop Fox, when he founded the [Page 437] Greek lecture abovementioned, that he might not appear to countenance a dangerous novelty, was obliged to cover his excellent institution under the venerable mantle of the au­thority of the church. For as a seeming apology for what he had done, he refers to a canonical decree of pope Clement the fifth, promulged in the year 1311, at Vienne in Dau­phine, which enjoined, that professors of Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic, should be instituted in the universities of Ox­ford, Paris, Bononia, Salamanca, and in the cout of Rome t. It was under the force of this ecclesiastical constitution, that Gregory Typhernas, one of the learned Greek exiles, had the address to claim a stipend for teaching Greek in the uni­versity of Paris u. We cannot but wonder at the strange disagreement in human affairs between cause and effect, when we consider, that this edict of pope Clement, which origi­nated from a superstitious reverence annexed to two of these languages, because they composed part of the superscription on the cross of Christ, should have so strongly counteracted its own principles, and proved an instrument in the refor­mation of religion.

The university of Oxford was rent into factions on ac­count of these bold attempts; and the advocates of the recent improvements, when the gentler weapons of persuasion could not prevail, often proceeded to blows with the rigid champions of the schools. But the facetious disposition of [Page 438] sir Thomas More had no small share in deciding this sin­gular controversy, which he treated with much ingenious ridicule w. Erasmus, about the same time, was engaged in attempting these reformations at Cambridge: in which, not­withstanding the mildness of his temper and conduct, and the general lustre of his literary character, he met with the most obstinate opposition. He expounded the Greek gram­mar of Chrys [...]loras in the public schools without an au­dience x: and having, with a view to present the Grecian literature in the most specious and agreeable form by a piece of pleasantry, translated Lucian's lively dialogue called ICA­ROMENIPPUS, he could find no student in the university capable of transcribing the Greek with the Latin y. His edition of the Greek testament, the most commodious that had yet appeared, was absolutely proscribed at Cambridge: and a programma was issued in one of the most ample col­leges, threatening a severe fine to any member of the so­ciety, who should be detected in having so fantastic and impious a book in his possession z. One Henry Standish, a doctor in divinity and a mendicant frier, afterwards bishop of saint Asaph, was a vehement adversary of Erasmus in the promotion of this heretical literature; whom he called in a declamation, by way of reproach, Graeculus ist [...], which soon became a synonymous appellation for an heretic a. Yet it should be remembered, that many English prelates patronised Erasmus; and that one of our archbishops was at this time ambi [...]ious of learning Greek b.

[Page 439] Even the public diversions of the court took a tincture from this growing attention to the languages, and assumed a classical air. We have before seen, that a comedy of Plau­tus was acted at the royal palace of Greenwich in the year 1520. And when the French ambassadors with a most splendid suite of the French nobility were in England for the ratification of peace in the year 1514, amid the most magnificent banquets, tournaments, and masques, exhibited at the same palace, they were entertained with a Latin in­terlude; or, to use the words of a cotemporary writer, with such an ‘"excellent Interlude made in Latin, that I never heard the like; the actors apparel being so gorgious, and of such strange devices, that it passes my capacitie to relate them c."’

Nor was the protection of king Henry the eighth, who notwithstanding he had attacked the opinions of Luther, yet, from his natural liveliness of temper and a love of novelty, thought favourably of the new improvements, of inconsider­able influence in supporting the restoration of the Greek language. In 1519, a preacher at the public church of the university of Oxford, harangued with much violence, and in the true spirit of the antient orthodoxy, against the doc­trines inculcated by the new professors: and his arguments were canvassed among the students with the greatest ani­mosity. But Henry, being resident at the neighbouring royal manor of Woodstock, and having received a just detail of the merits of this dispute from Pace and More, interposed his uncontrovertible authority; and transmitting a royal mandate to the university, commanded that the study of the scriptures in their original languages should not only be permitted for the future, but received as a branch of the academical institution d. Soon afterwards, one of the king's [Page 440] chaplains preaching at court, took an opportunity to cen­sure the genuine interpretations of the scriptures, which the Grecian learning had introduced. The king, when the ser­mon was ended, to which he had listened with a smile of contempt, ordered a solemn disputation to be held, in his own presence: at which the unfortunate preacher opposed, and sir Thomas More, with his usual dexterity, defended, the utility and excellence of the Greek language. The divine, who at least was a good courtier, instead of vindi­cating his opinion, instantly fell on his knees, and begged pardon for having given any offence in the pulpit before his majesty. However, after some slight altercation, the preacher, by way of making some sort of concession in form, ingenu­ously declared, that he was now better reconciled to the Greek tongue, because it was derived from the Hebrew. The king, astonished at his ridiculous ignorance, dismissed the chaplain, with a charge, that he should never again presume to preach at court e. In the grammatical schools established in all the new cathedral foundations of this king, a master is appointed, with the uncommon qualification of a compe­tent skill in both the learned languages f. In the year 1523, Ludovicus Viv [...]s, having dedicated his commentary on Austin's DE CIVITATE DEI to Henry the eighth, was invited into England, and read lectures at Oxford in jurisprudence and humanity; which were countenanced by the presence, not only of Henry, but of queen Catharine and some of the principal nobility g. At length antient absurdities universally gave way to these encouragements. Even the vernacular language [Page 441] began to be cultivated by the more ingenious clergy. Colet, dean of saint Paul's, a divine of profound learning, with a view to adorn and improve the style of his discourses, and to acquire the graces of an elegant preacher, employed much time in reading Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate, and other English poets, whose compositions had embellished the popular diction h. The practice of frequenting Italy, for the purpose of acquiring the last polish to a Latin style both in eloquence and poetry, still continued in vogue; and was greatly promoted by the connections, authority, and good taste, of cardinal Pole, who constantly resided at the court of Rome in a high character. At Oxford, in particular, these united endeavours for establishing a new course of liberal and manly science, were finally consummated in the magnificent foundation of Wolsey's college, to which all the accomplished scholars of every country in Europe were in­vited; and for whose library, transcripts of all the valuable manuscripts which now fill the Vatican, were designed i.

But the progress of these prosperous beginnings was soon obstructed. The first obstacle I shall mention, was, indeed, but of short duration. It was however an unfavourable cir­cumstance, that in the midst of this career of science, Henry, who had ever been accustomed to gratify his passions at any rate, sued for a divorce against his queen Catharine. The legality of this violent measure being agitated with much deliberation and solemnity, wholly engrossed the at­tention of many able philologists, whose genius and acqui­sitions were destined to a much nobler employment; and tended to revive for a time the frivolous subtleties of casuistry and theology.

But another cause which suspended the progression of these letters, of much more importance and extent, ultimately most [Page 442] happy in its consequences, remains to be mentioned. The en­larged conceptions acquired by the study of the Greek and Roman writers seem to have restored to the human mind a free exertion of its native operations, and to have communicated a certain spirit of enterprise in examining every subject: and at length to have released the intellectual capacity of man­kind from that habitual subjection, and that servility to system, which had hitherto prevented it from advancing any new principle, or adopting any new opinion. Hence, under the concurrent assistance of a preparation of circumstances, all centering in the same period, arose the reformation of religion. But this defection from the catholic communion, alienated the thoughts of the learned from those pursuits by which it was produced; and diverted the studies of the most accom­plished scholars, to inquiries into the practices and maxims of the primitive ages, the nature of civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the authority of scripture and tradition, of popes, councils, and schoolmen: topics, which men were not yet qualified to treat with any degree of penetration, and on which the ideas of the times unenlightened by phi­losophy, or warped by prejudice and passion, were not cal­culated to throw just and rational illustrations. When the bonds of spiritual unity were once broken, this separation from an established faith ended in a variety of subordinate sects, each of which called forth its respective champions into the field of religious contention. The several princes of christendom were politically concerned in these disputes; and the courts in which poets and orators had been recently caressed and rewarded, were now filled with that most de­plorable species of philosophers, polemical metaphysicians. The public entry of Luther into Worms, when he had been summoned before the diet of that city, was equally splendid with that of the emperor Charles the fifth k. Rome in return, [Page 443] roused from her deep repose of ten centuries, was compelled to vindicate her insulted doctrines with reasoning and argument. The profound investigations of Aquinas once more triumphed over the graces of the Ciceronian urbanity; and endless volumes were written on the expediency of auricular confession, and the existence of purgatory. Thus the cause of polite literature was for awhile abandoned; while the noblest abilities of Europe were wasted in theological specu­lation, and absorbed in the abyss of controversy. Yet it must not be forgotten, that wit and raillery, drawn from the sources of elegant erudition, were sometimes applied, and with the greatest success, in this important dispute. The lively colloquies of Erasmus, which exposed the super­stitious practices of the papists, with much humour, and in pure Latinity, made more protestants than the ten tomes of John Calvin. A work of ridicule was now a new attempt: and it should be here observed, to the honour of Erasmus, that he was the first of the literary reformers who tried that species of composition, at least with any degree of po­pularity. The polite scholars of Italy had no notion that the German theologists were capable of making their readers laugh: they were now convinced of their mistake, and soon found that the German pleasantry prepared the way for a revolution, which proved of the most serious consequence to Italy.

Another great temporary che [...]k given to the general state of letters in England at this period, was the dissolution of the monasteries. Many of the abuses in civil society are attended with some advantages. In the beginnings of refor­mation, the loss of these advantages is always felt very sensibly: while the benefit arising from the change is the slow effect of time, and not immediately perceived or en­joyed. Scarce any institution can be imagined less favorable to the interests of mankind than the monastic. Yet these seminaries, although they were in a general view the nurseries [Page 444] of illiterate indolence, and undoubtedly deserved to be [...]uppressed under proper restrictions, contained invitations and opportunities to studious leisure and literary pursuits. On this event therefore, a visible revolution and decline in the national state of learning succeeded. Most of the youth of the kingdom betook themselves to mechanical or other illiberal employments, the profession of letters being now supposed to be without support and reward. By the aboli­tion of the religious houses, many towns and their adjacent villages were utterly deprived of their only means of in­struction. At the beginning of the reign of queen Eliza­beth, Williams, speaker of the house of commons, com­plained to her majestry, that more than an hundred flourish­ing schools were destroyed in the demolition of the mo­nasteries, and that ignorance had prevailed ever since l. Provincial ignorance, at least, became universal, in conse­quence of this hasty measure of a rapacious and arbitrary prince. What was taught in the monasteries, was not always perhaps of the greatest importance, but still it served to keep up a certain degree of necessary knowledge m. Nor should it be forgot, that many of the abbots were learned, [Page 445] and patrons of literature; men of public spirit, and liberal views. By their connections with parliament, and the fre­quent embassies to foreign courts in which they were em­ployed, they became acquainted with the world, and the improvements of lif [...]: and, knowing where to chuse proper objects, and having no other use for the superfluities of their vast revenues, encouraged in their respective circles many learned young men. It appears to have been customary for the governors of the most considerable convents, especially those that were honoured with the mitre, to receive into their own private lodgings the sons of the principal families of the neighbourhood for education. About the year 1450, Thomas Bromele, abbot of the mitred monastery of Hyde near Winchester, entertained in his own abbatial house within that monastery, eight young gentlemen, or gentiles pueri, who were placed there for the purpose of literary in­struction, and constantly dined at the abbot's table. I will not scruple to give the original words, which are more par­ticular and expressive, of the obscure record which preserves this curious anecdote of monastic life. ‘"Pro octo gentilibus pueris apud dominum abbatem studii causa perhendinan­tibus, et ad mensam domini victitantibus, cum garcioni­bus suis ipsos comitantibus, hoc anno, xvii l. ix s. Capi­endo pro ... n"’ This, by the way, was more extra­ordinary, as William of Wykeham's celebrated seminary was so near [...] And this seems to have been an established practice of the abbot of Glastonbury: ‘"whose apartment in the abbey was a kind of well-disciplined court, where the sons of noblemen and young gentlemen were wont to be sent for virtuous education, who returned thence home excellently accomplished o."’ Richard Whiting, the last [Page 446] abbot of Glastonbury, who was cruelly executed by the king, during the course of his government, educated near three hundred ingenuous youths, who constituted a part of his family: b [...]side many others whom he liberally supported at the universities p. Whitgift, the most excellent and learn­ed archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of queen Eliza­beth, was educated under Robert Whitgift his uncle, abbot of the Augustine monastery of black canons at Wellhow in Lincolnshire: who, ‘"says Strype, had several other young gentlemen under his care for education q."’ That, at the restoration of literature, many of these dignitaries were emi­nently learned, and even zealous promoters of the new im­provements, I could bring various instances. Hugh Far­ringdon, the last abbot of Reading, was a polite scholar, as his Latin epistles addressed to the university of Oxford abun­dantly testify r. Nor was he less a patron of critical studies. Leonard Coxe, a popular philological writer in the reign of Henry the eighth, both in Latin and English, and a great traveller, highly celebrated by the judicious Leland for his elegant accomplishments in letters, and honoured with the affectionate correspondence of Erasmus, dedicates to this abbot, his ARTE OR CRAFTE OF RHETORICKE, printed in the year 1524, at that time a work of an unusual nature s. Wakefield abovementioned, a very capital Greek and oriental scholar, in his DISCOURSE ON THE EXCELLENCY AND UTILITY OF THE THREE LANGUAGES, written in the year 1524, cele­brates William Fryssell, prior of the cathedral Benedictine convent at Rochester, as a distinguished judge and encou­rager of critical literature t. Robert Shirwoode, an Eng­lishman, but a professor of Greek and Hebrew at Louvaine, [Page 447] published a new Latin translation of ECCLESIASTES, with critical annotations on the Hebrew text, printed at Antwerp in 1523 u. This, in an elegant Latin epistle, he dedicates to John Webbe, prior of the Benedictine cathedral convent at Coventry; whom he styles, for his singular learning, and attention to the general cause of letters, MONACHORUM DECUS. John Batmanson, prior of the Carthusians in London, controverted Erasmus's [...] commentary on the new Testament with a degee of spirit and erudition, which was unhappily misapplied, and would have done honour to the cause of his antagonist w. He wrote many other pieces; and was patronised by Lee, a learned archbishop of York, who opposed Erasmus, but allowed Ascham a pension x. Keder­minster, abbot of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, a tra­veller to Rome, and a celebrated preacher before king Henry the eighth, established regular lectures in his monastery, for explaining both scriptures in their original languages; which were so generally frequented, that his little cloister acquired the name and reputation of a new university y. He was master of a terse and perspicuous Latin style, as appears from a fragment of the HISTORY OF WYNCHCOMB ABBEY [...] written by himself z. His erudition is attested in an epistle from the university to king Henry the eighth a. Longland, bishop of Lincoln, the most eloquent preacher of his time, [Page 448] in the dedication to Kederminster, of five quadragesimal ser­mons, delivered at court, and printed by Pinson in the year 1517, insists largely on his SINGULARIS ERUDITIO, and other shining qualifications.

Before we quit the reign of Henry the eighth, in this re­view of the rise of modern letters, let us turn our eyes once more on the universities; which yet do not always give the tone to the learning of a nation b. In the year 1531, the learned Simon Grynaeus visited Oxford. By the interest of Claymund, [Page 449] president of Corpus Christi college, an admirable scholar, a critical writer, and the general friend and corre­spondent of the literary reformers, he was admitted to all the libraries of the university; which, he says, were about twenty in number, and amply furnished with the books of antiquity. Among these he found numerous manuscripts of Proclus on Plato, many of which he was easily permitted to carry abroad by the governors of the colleges, who did not know the value of these treasures c. In the year 1535, the king ordered lectures in humanity, institutions which have their use for a time, and while the novelty lasts, to be founded in those colleges of the university, where they were yet wanting: and these injunctions were so warmly approved by the scholars in the largest societies, that they seized on the venerable volumes of Duns Scotus and other irrefragable logicians, in which they had so long toiled without the at­tainment of knowledge, and tearing them in pieces, dis­persed them in great triumph about their quadrangles, or gave them away as useless lumber d. The king himself also established some public lectures with large endowments e. Notwithstanding, the number of students at Oxford daily decreased: insomuch, that in 1546, not because a general cultivation of the new species of literature was increased, there were only ten inceptors in arts, and three in theology and jurisprudence f.

As all novelties are pursued to excess, and the most bene­ficial improvements often introduce new inconveniencies, so this universal attention to polite literature destroyed philosophy. [Page 450] The old philosophy was abolished, but a new one was not adopted in its stead. At Cambridge we now how­ever find the antient scientific learning in some degree re­formed, by the admission of better systems.

In the injunctions given by Henry to that university in the year 1535, for the reformation of study, the dialectics of Rodolphus Agricola, the great favorite of Erasmus, and the genuine logic