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A H I ST O RY O F

E N G LI SH LI T E R A T U RE

W ILLIAM V A U GH N M O O D Y
A SSIS TA N T P R O F ESS OR O F E NGLIS H L I T ER AT URE I N T HE

U N I VE RSI T Y O F C H I C A GO

A ND

R O B E RT M O R SS LO VE TT
AS SIS T A N T P RO F E SS O R OF E N GLIS H E RSI TY
I N T H E UN I V

O F C HI C A G O

NE W YO RK

C H A R L E S S C R I B N E R S SO N S

1 906
34 .

COPYRIGHT. 1 902 , BY

I
SCR B NER S SONS

P REF A CE

SE V E RAL dangers lie writer of an elementary


b efore the
h ist o ry of lite ratur e He may conc e iv e his task too am bi
.

t i ou sly and in his z eal for thorough ne ss m ay los e th at


,

cl e a rn es s and si m plicity of pl an which is i n di sp ensabl e i n

t he first pre sent ation of a l arge subj e ct He m ay on the .


,

o th e r h an d b e t e m pt e d to si m pli f y his matte r artifici ally


, ,

a nd in so doi ng may fail to giv e the stud e nt any saf e su b

str u cture upon which to build in l ater study Again in .


,

strivi ng to b e sci en ti fi c he m ay b e only dry ; or in a


,

wh o l esom e d esire to b e entertai ning he may b e only gos ,

sipy or n ebulous T he presen t volu me wh e th e r or not it


.
,

a v o ids th e se dange rs has b e en pr ep ared with f ull co nscious


,

n e s s of th em . An atte mpt has h e re b ee n mad e to pre sen t


the histo ry of E nglish lite rature f ro m the earli est ti m e s to
our own day in a historical sch e m e si mple enough to b e
,

appre h end e d by you ng stud ents ye t a ccur a t


, e an d sub
s ta n tial e n ough to s e rve as a p e rmanen t b asis f or study ,

ho we v e r f ar the subj e ct is pursu e d But within the li m its


.

o f this fo r mal sch e me the fact has b e en h eld const antly in


,

m i n d th at lite rature b e ing th e vi tal and fl u id thi ng it is


, ,

m u s t b e taught if at all m ore by suggestion an d by sti m


, , ,

u l a ti on of the stud e nt s own i nsti n ctive m ental li fe th an by



,

do gm a tic assertion More th an any oth e r bran ch of stu dy


.
,

li te ra ture d emands on the part of the t each er an attitud e


o f res p e ct toward th e i nt ellige n c e of the stud ent n d if
; a

a t an y poi nt the authors of this book ma see m to h v


y a e

V
PRE F A C E

tak en too much al e rtness of m in d for grante d th e ir de ,

fe nce m ust b e th at only by ch all enge and i nvita tio n can


an y p e rm anen t r e sult in the way of i n tell e ct u al growth

b e accomplish ed T he h istori an of E nglish lite rature d e al s


.

with the m ost fasci nating of stori es the story of the i magi
,

nativ e care e r of a gi fte d rac e ; he is in duty bou n d not to

ch eap en or t o dull his th eme but so far as in him lie s to


, , ,

giv e those whom he addresses a realizing sense of the mag


n i tu de of our co mm on h e rit age in l e tte rs T o do this he . ,

m ust w ork in the lite rary spirit and with f reedo m of ap


,

p eal to all the l atent cap abiliti e s of his read e r s m i nd ’


.

T he proportion s of this book h av e b een carefu lly con


side re d. A full h al f of the sp ac e has b e en given to the
last two c en turie s and m uch m ore to the n i ne teenth cen
,

t u ry th an to the e ighteenth T he se and oth e r app o rti on


.

m e n ts of sp ace hav e b e en mad e not on absolute grou nds


, ,

but with the de sign of throwi ng in to prom i ne nce what i s


m ost i mportant for a st u d ent to l earn upo n h is first ap
proach to the subj e ct The ch ief figures in each e ra hav e
.

be en se t in reli ef and the m i nor figure s hav e be en groupe d


,

ab out th e m in an e nd eavor thus to sugge st th e ir re l ativ e


,

significance A full w orki ng bibliography i ncludi ng te xts


. , ,

biography and criticis m has been a dded in the hop e th a t


, , ,

it m ay b e of assistan c e no t o nly in the current work of the


classroom but also as a guid e for later study
, .

The th anks of the authors are du e to P ro f ess or F N . .

Robi ns on of H arvard Univ e rsity f or his kindness in criti


, ,

cising the contents of the early ch apte rs .


C O N TE N T S

T H E AN GLO S AXON PE R I O D
-

II . T H E N OR MAN F RE N CH P E R I O D
-

III . T H E A G E O F C HA UCE R

IV . T H E R E NAISSAN CE : N O N DR A MAT I C LIT E R AT UR E


-

To T H E D E A TH O F SP E NSE R

T H E RE NAISSAN CE : T H E DR A M A BE FOR E S H AK E
SP E AR E
T H E RE NAISSANCE : S H AK E SP E AR E

S E V E NT E E N T H C E NTUR Y S H AK E SP E AR E

VI I . THE : S

C ONTE MP OR AR I E S AN D S UCC E SSOR S IN TH E

D R AM A

V I II . T HE S E V E NT E E NT H C E N TUR Y : N O N D R A MA T I C
LIT E R AT UR E BE FOR E T HE R E STO R A TI O N

IX . T HE S E V E N T E E NT H C E N TUR Y : T HE R E STO R A

T ION

T HE E I G H T E E NT H C E N T UR Y : T HE R E IGN OF

C LASSIC ISM

XI . T H E E IG H TE E NT H C E N TUR Y : T H E N OV E L

X II . T H E E IG H T E E NT H C E N T UR Y : T H E R E V I VA L O F

RO M ANT IC ISM
CO N TE N TS
C HA PT ER E
P AG

X II I . T H E N IN E T E E NT H C E NT UR Y : T H E T R I UM P H O F
ROM ANT I CI SM
X IV . T HE N IN E T E E NTH C E N T UR Y : THE VI CT OR I AN
E RA

XV . T H E N I N E T E E N T H C E N TUR Y : T HE N OVE L

R E A D I NG G UI D E

IN D E X
A H I ST O RY O F
E N G LI SH LI T E R A T U R E

CHA PTER I

TH E A N G LO S AXO N
-
PERI OD

T o fi nd the b egi nni ngs of English literature we must go


b ack to a time wh en the anc estors of the English p eopl e
liv e d on the conti nent of Europ e and spoke a tongu e which
, ,

though rel ated in its roots to m odern English is u nintelli ,

i b le to us without sp e ci al study A nglo Saxo n or O ld


g
-
.
,

E nglish b elongs to the low Ge rm an family of langu age s of


,
-
,

which Dutch is the b est mod e rn repre sen tative ; and the
m en who sp ok e it lived wh en history first discove rs th em
, ,

a lon g the Ger man oc ean fro m the m outh of the The
a “
R hi ne to the p eni nsul a of J utland T hey w e re
.

divide d i nto thre e princip al branch es : the Saxons dwelli ng ,

n ea r th e m outh of the E lb e ; the Angl e s i nhabiting the


,

so uth west part of Denmark and the J utes e xtending ,

n orth of the Angl e s i n to m od e rn J utl an d .

H o w e xtensive th e se trib e s w ere and how far i nto the


,

i n te rior th eir territori es reach e d we do not know Th at


, .

p ortion of them which co ncern s us dwelt along The“ Home


,

the sea ; th eir early po e try giv e s gli m ps e s of W ar a nd Sea ?

littl e tribal or fam ily settl ements bou nd e d on


,

o ne sid e by wild m o ors and d ens e f or e sts wh e re dw elt ,

mons tro u s creatures of m ist and d arkne ss and on the oth er


,
TH E A N GLo SA o -
P ER IO D 3

Christi anity, and remem b e r th at we h av e to do with me n


wh o se gods w ere only magn i fi e d i mages of th e ir own wild
na tu r e s : m e n who d e lighte d i n bloodsh e d and in plu nd e r ,

an d w e re m uch given to d e e p dri n ki ng in th e m ead h all


;
-

bu t who n e ve rth el ess w e re sensitive to bl ame and praise ,

w e re f ull of rude chiv alry and dign ity and w ere al ert to ,

th e poe try of li fe to its m yst e ry an d its p ath os


, .

O u r Anglo S axon an cestors h ad in an e m i nent d eg ree


-

also that p assion which giv e s the first i m pulse to lit e ra tur e

am on g a pri m itiv e p e opl e — lov e of glory Wh en the firs t .

r e corde d h ero of the rac e Be ow u lf has me t his d eath and


, , ,

his f ollow e rs are re calling his nobl e nature they say as ,



th e ir l as t word th at he was of all world ki ngs the m ost -


d e sirous of praise . It was n ot e nough for such m en as he
th at th e y should sp en d th e ir liv e s in gl orious adv enture s
t h ey desire d to see th e ir name s and th e ir d eeds spre ad
am o n g distan t p e opl e s and h and e d down to u nborn ge n e r

a t ion s . H enc e the po e t who alone could i nsure this fam e


, ,

was held in high e ste e m T wo classe s of si ng


.
The“
8 mm “
e rs we re r e co gn iz e d first the gleema n ( gleéma n)
, ,

w h o did not create his own songs but m e rely (lik e the ,

G ree k rhapsodist ) ch ant e d wh at he had l e arne d f ro m oth


e rs ; an d s e co n d the the poe t prop e r who t ook the ,

c rud e mate ri al of hist ory and l eg en d which lay ab o ut hi m ,

a n d sh ap e d it i nto song . S ome tim e s the 8 061) was p erm a


u e n tly attach e d to t he court of an ae th e li ng o r lo rd was , ,

g ra n te d l an d an d tr e a sur e an d was rai se d by virtu e of his


,

oe t craf t to the s am e positio n of h on or which the oth e r


p
-

f ollow e rs of the ae th eli ng h e ld by virtu e of th eir prow e ss in


b attl e . Some tim e s he w and e re d f ro m c ourt to court de ,

e n di n g f or a hospit abl e r ec e ptio n upon the curiosity of


p
his host concerning the stori e s he had to ch ant .

T wo ve ry an ci e nt bits of po e try one of th e m prob ably


,

the old e st i n our lit e ratur e t e ll of the fortu ne s of th e


,

scOp . O ne of th e m d eals with the wand e ri ng and the


oth er with the stationary si nger .
4 A HI STO RY OF E N G L ISH LI TERATURE

The firs t is the fragment known as Widsith or Th e ,


Far wand ere r


-

The po e m opens
. Widsi th spak e u n , ,

loc ked his word hoard ; he who many a tribe had


Wldd tll
me t on ea rth who had trav ell ed through many a
.

,

f ol k
. Th en f ollows a list of famous pri nc es of the past an ,

e nu m eratio n of the v a rious pe opl e s and cou ntri es the hard

has vi site d and praises of th ose princes who have entertaine d


,

hi m ge ne rously He d ecl ares th at he has b een with Owsar


.
,

who had sway ov e r the j oyous citi es and ev en wit h th e ,

Israe lites the Egyp ti ans and the Ind ians The poe m end s
, , .

with a general d escriptio n of the wand e ring si nge r s l ife ’


,

tou ch ed at the cl ose with the stoic mel ancholy whi ch o ccu rs
so of te n in Anglo Saxon p oe try -
T hus rovi ng wit h ,

so ng d evi ces wand er the gl ee men through many lands


- .

E ve r north or south th ey fi nd one kn o wi ng i n


so ngs and libe ral of gif ts who before his court will e xal t
,

his grand eur and show his earl shi p ; u nti l all d e parts light -
,

and lif e toge th e r This f ragmen t has been h eld by so me
.

scholars to date in part at l east fro m the fourth ce ntury


, , .

If so it is the old est bit of v e rse in any mod e rn langu age ,



and wi th it E nglish lite rat ure u nlocks its word hoard -
.

T he se co nd of th es e poe ms d ealing with the fortu nes of


°

the 8061) is prob ably not nearly so old I t is called Deor s .


mom L ament

and aga in the soap hi mself sp eak s
, H i s .

“M ‘ skill has been e clipsed by ano the r singe r Heor ,

re a ds and his lord has tak en aw ay f ro m him his land righ t


,
-

and his pl ace at court in ord e r to b estow th e m upo n the su c


,

cessfu l rival T he poe t co mforts hi mself by rec alling oth e r


.

mi sfort u nes which men and wo men in pas t ti me h av e live d


to ov erco me and ends each rud e stroph e wi th the refrai n
, ,

T ha t he en dured th is also may I , T he p e rso nal natu re .

of the th em e the pl ai ntive sadne ss of the to ne and a bov e


, ,

all the re frai n give the poe m e xtraordi nary inte re st


, It .

has been call ed the fi rst E nglish lyric —with j usti ce if we , ,

take both the word English and the wo rd lyric in the b road
es t 3 61186.
TH E AN G LO SAXON
-
PERI OD

Bu t by far the most importan t work which remai ns to


us f ro m the p agan p e riod of Anglo S axo n po e try is the -

long poe m e ntitle d fro m its h ero B eowu lf It


, , .

is so m e thi ng ove r thr ee th o usan d li ne s in l ength ,

and though the man uscript is brok en h e re and th ere th es e


, ,

breaks are not su ffi ci en t to mar the e ff e ct of artistic com


p le te ne ss It .p e rh aps e xist e d at first i n th e f orm of sh o rt
songs which we re su ng am ong the Angl e s and J ute s
, ,

inhabiting what is now Denm ark and amo ng the Goths , ,

in south e rn Swe d en Prob ably as early as the sixth ce n


.
( C4 4

tu ry th e s e l ays had begu n to coal esce but j ust wh en the ,

o m too k its pr n t f o rm we do n ot k now " T h story r


p e ese e .

of the po e m is as follows

Hrothgar king of the We st Dane s has built for hi msel f


,
-
,

near the se a a g reat h all nam e d He orot wh e re h e m ay sit


( 1 0 ? 1
, ,

with his th ane s at the m ead dri nki ng and list e n to the -
,

chan ti n g of the gl e em e n For a whil e he liv e s in h appi


.

ness and is k now n far an d wid e as a sple ndid and libe ral
,

prin ce But one night th ere com es fro m the moth“


.
,

wild m arch land the hau nt of all u nearthly and


-
,
and G ° nd ° l f °

mali gn creature s a te rrible m onste r nam e d Grend e l


, En .

teri ng the mead h all he slays thirty of the sl eepi ng Dane s


-
,

and carri e s th eir corpse s away to his l air The ne xt night .

the sam e thi ng is r ep e ate d N o mortal powe r s ee m s


.

able to cop e with the gigantic f o e In the wi nte r nights .

Grendel couch e s in the spl e ndid h all de fi ling all its b right ,

orname n ts For tw e lve wi nt e rs this scourge afiiicts the


.

West Danes u n til Hrothgar s spirit is brok en


-
,

.

At l ast the story of Gre nd el s d ee ds crosse s the sea to


Gothland whe re you ng B eowul f dwells at the c ourt of his


,

uncl e K i ng Hygelac He de term i ne s to go to Hrothgar s ’


.
,

assistanc e With fifteen companions he em barks


. De .

p a r ted t he n ov er th e w a v y se a th e f o a m y n e ck e d fl oa t e r -
,

In all pro b ab ility the d e v e lopme nt o f B eowulf into a co mpl e te poe m


took place la rge ly on Enghsh s oil, and was comple te d by the e nd of the
eighth ce ntu rV .
6 A HISTO RY ? E
or N G LI SH LI T E RA T URE

mos t li k e to a bird At dawn of the second da y the voy


.

ag ers ca tch si ght of the pro m o ntori e s of Hro thga r s l an d


m om a n d soo n f ro m t he top o f t,
he cli ff s th e y b e h o ld ,

W
in the val e be neath th e m the f am ous h all
'
rich ,

and gold vari ega te d m ost glori ous of dw e llin gs u nd e r the


-
,

fi rma me nt ”
T he you ng h e ro e s in th e ir shi n i ng war byr
.


and wi th th e ir spe ars l ik e a gre y ashwood ab o ve
” “
th e ir h eads are u sh e re d into the h all wh e re Hr o thgar
,

si ts old and h airl ess am i d his b and of ea rls
, , B eowu lf .

craves pe rmiss ion to cl e anse Heorot o f its p e st and H ro th ,

co s ts h t oths sh ll bid m

g ar n e n t a th e G a a e G re n d e l s c o i n g i n ,

the hall th at night M eanwhil e u n ti l da rk ne ss d raws on


.
, ,

the thanes of Hrothg ar and the f oll owe rs of Be ow u l f s it


“ ”
dri nki ng mead the bright swee t li q uor an d listeni ng to
, ,

the songs of the gl ee ma n T he fea st draws to a close wh e n


.

Weal theo w Hrothgar s qu ee n af te r sole m nly h andi ng the


,

,

mead cup to he r lord and to B eowul f and biddi ng th e m


-
,

be blith e a t the be e r dri nki ng go es through the h al l -
,

d is tributi ng gi fts amo ng the th ane s T he k i ng q u een . , ,

and th e ir foll ow e rs th e n withdra w to anoth e r buildi ng f o r

the night whil e B eow u lf and his m en lie down each wit h
, ,

his armor hu ng o n the nail above his h ead to w ait f or the ,

co ming of Gre nd el Al l fall as l ee p e xce pt B e owulf who


.
,
“ ”
awaits in angry mood the b attl e m ee ti ng - .

The co mi ng of the mo ns te r is d es cribe d with gr e wso me


force . T h e n ca me fro m the moors u nde r t he m i s ty ,

T h. g hills G r e n d e l st a lki,ng Str a ightw a y h e .

“ u“ rush ed on the doo r fas t with fire h ard e ne d -


,

bands . O n the v ari e ga te d floor the fi end trod ; he


w ent wrath of m ood fro m h is eyes stood a horrid light lik e
,

fla me . H e saw in the hall many warriors sl ee pi ng a ,



kindred band T h en his heart l augh e d
. IIe se iz e s .


o ne of the w arriors bite s hi s bo ne casi ngs dri nks the
,
-
,

blood fro m his v ei ns and gree d ily d e vou rs him e ve n to ,

the hands and fee t Ne xt he mak es for B eowulf but th e


.
,

Corse l e ts of ma il .
TH E A N GLo- SA o PE RI OD 7

hero, who has in


his h ands the strength of thirty m en ,

seiz es the f i end with such a m ighty h and grip th at he is -

terror stricken and turns to fl ee Be owulf ke e ps his grip


-
.
,

and a f e ar f ul struggl e b e gi n s The warrio rs awak ene d .


,

by th e co m ba t and the h orrid lay sung by God s d e ni e r ’


,

try to bri ng h elp with th e ir swords but no mortal w eap on ,

can wou nd Gr e nd el At last the m o nste r wre nch e s his


.

own a rm f ro m its s o ck e t and fl ee s to his lair to die l eavi ng ,

Be owulf to nail the ghastly trophy in triu mph abo ve


the door of He orot .

In the m o rni ng th e re is great r ej oici ng T he ki ng .


,

with the qu een and he r co m p any of maid ens com e through ,

the m e adows to gaz e in wo nd e r on the huge arm and claw


nail e d b e nea th the gold ro of of the h all Wh en the e ven .

i ng fe as t begi ns B e owulf sits b e t we e n the two so ns of the


,


ki n g and re ceive s the pre cious gi f ts j e wels ri ngs and a
, , , ,

gold e n n e cklac e — which the q u ee n pre sents to him But


, .

a t n ight fall wh en the w arriors hav e agai n l ai n dow n to


-
,

sl e e p in the hall Grendel s m oth e r c om es to tak e vengeance


,

f or he r son She se iz e s one of Hrothgar s nobl e s Aes



.
,

ch e re and bears him aw ay to her wate ry den


, .

B e o wulf vows to see k the new foe at the bottom of he r


fe n pool and the re grapple with he r
-
, With Hrothgar and .

a b an d of f ollow e rs he goe s alo ng the cli ff s


T he “ ht _

an d wi n dy p ro m o ntori e s which bou nd the m o o r b enea t he

o n th e seaw ard sid e u n til he co m e s to Grendel s



,

l a ir It is a sea pool shut in by precipito us rocks and


.
-
, ,

o v e rhu ng by the sh aggy tru n ks and age d writh e n boughs



of a j oyle ss woo d T re mbli ng passe rs by h av e s ee n fi re
.
-

fl e e ting on the wa v e s at night and the h art w eari ed by the ,

h o u n ds will lie down and die on th ese banks rath e r th an


pl u nge i nto the u nholy w ate rs T he pool is so d eep that it .


is a day s space before Be owulf reache s the b otto m Snak e s .

a n d b e asts of the shi ni ng d e e p mak e war on hi m as h e de

s ce nds A t last he finds hi m sel f in a sub m ari ne cave wh e re


.

t he me re wife is lurki ng and a gh astly struggl e b egi ns


-
, .
8 A H I SToRY o r E N G L ISH LITERATU RE

O n ce the gi ant ess throws Beowul f to the grou nd and ,

sitti ng astrid e his body draws out her broad sh ort k ni fe to


d esp atch him but with a sup erhu man eff ort hc stru ggl es
up agai n throws away his brok en sword and se iz e s f rom a
,

h eap of arm s a magic bl ad e f o rged by giants of old ti me ,

with it he h e ws off the head of Grendel s mo the r and th e n ’


,

th at of Grend el wh o se d ead body he fi nds lyi ng in the


,

cave So p oison ous is the blood of Grend el th at it m elts


.

the me tal of the bl ad e l eaving o nly the cur ve d hilt in


,

Be owul f s h and Wh e n he reapp ears with his trophi e s at



.

t he surfac e of the wate r a ll h av e given hi m up for d ead , .

Great is the jubil atio n wh en the h e ro app ears with his


th ane s and throws up on the floor of the m ead h all the two
,
-

gigantic h eads which four m en api e ce can h ardly carry


, .

T he se con d grea t e piso d e o f the po e m is B e owul f s fight


with the D ragon of the Gold ho ard B e o wul f has b een -


.

re igni ng as ki ng for fif ty years and is now an


old m an wh e n cal am ity comes upo n him and
,

his pe opl e in the sh ape of a mo nste r of the


se r pe nt ki nd which fli e s by nigh t envelop ed in fi re ; and
-
,

which in rev enge for the th e ft of a gold cup fro m its p re


,

cio u s hoard burns the ki ng s h all O ld as he is B eowul f



.
, ,

fi ghts the dragon si ngl e h and ed He sl ays the m o nst e r i n


-
.

its lair but hi mself re ce ives his mortal hurt


, .

T he d eath of the old ki ng is picture squ e an d touchi ng .


He bids his th ane b ri ng out fro m the dragon s de n

the
mat], of B oo gold tr easur
. e the j e w e ls
-
th e curious , g e m s i n , ,

ord er that d eath may b e softe r to him seei ng ,

t he wealth he has g ai ned for his p e opl e Wiglaf enteri ng .


,


the cave of the old twilight fl ier sees dish e s stan d -
,

ing vessels of m en of y o re f ootle ss th e ir ornam e nts fall en


, , ,

aw ay ; th er e was m a ny a h el m old and rusty and m an y ,



ar m l e ts cu nni ngly faste ne d and ov e r the ho ard droops a ,

“ ”
m agic banne r al l gold e n l o ck e d by arts of so n g
, , f ro m ,

which a light is sh ed ove r the treasure B e o wul f gaz es .

with dyi ng ey e s upon the pre cious thi ngs ; th en he asks


10 A HIS TO RY or E N G LISH LI T E RATU RE

WHI LE the h ave just d escribed was be gi nn ing


lite ra ture we
to tak e form in the m oth e rl and of the Anglo Saxo n pe opl e -
,

mm M . th e ir f u t u re isl an d ho m e w as be
-
ing m ad e i n to a

fi hfim m m rl i

provi n c e o f t he R o an E pi re T he v e ry ea .

m ‘ m n" es t inha bitants o f B ritai n th at myste ri ous race


,

which may ha ve raised the huge circle of mo noliths a t


n , a —
S toneh e ge had give n w y how ea rly we do not kno w
- to a Celtic sp eaki ng pe opl e Be fore the Ro man co n
-
.

qu es t this p eopl e spread ov e r F rance Spai n and all the , ,

British isl ands T he Ce lts we re of an i m pe tuous ch aracte r


.
,

i m agi nati ve curious and quick to l ea rn T he Ro man


, , .

hi sto rians te ll us of th e ir eage r ne ss for ne ws of th e ir de ,

light in cle ver spee ch and quick re tort Th e ir ea rly lite r .

ature sh o ws a d e lica te fa ncy a ki nd o f wild grac e and a


,

l o ve o f be auty f or its o wn sak e stri k i ngly in co ntrast wi th


,

the s ter n po e try of the Angl o Saxon s e ep -


But this ve ry .

q uickness of sy mp athy and of i ntelligence p roved fatal to


th eir na tional e xi stence Wh en the Ro man l egi ons crosse d
.

f ro m Gaul th e re was a short s pac e of fi erce resistanc e an d ,

th e n the Cel ts acce pted from curiosity as much as f ro m


,

co mpulsi on the i m p osing Ro man civi l iz ation So me o f


, .

t he more s tubbo rn fl e d to t he fastn esse s of Wale s an d


Sco tl and and th e re co nti nu e d e ve n to our o wn da y th e ir
,

C e l ti c trad i tions ; b u t the grea te r pa rt see m to ha ve su b


m itted to the Ro man as if by a k i nd of fasci natio n e ve n
, ,

givi ng up th e ir l angu age to l ea rn tha t of their co nqu e ro rs .

The Ro mans lik e the E nglish of our own d ay ca rri e d


, ,

w he rev e r th ey we nt the ir spl e ndid but so me wh at ri gid ci v


ilizati on and by the e nd of the f ourth c e ntury E ngl an d
,

was d otted with town s and villas wh e re am id pillare d po r ,

ti coca m osaic pave me nts ma rbl e ba ths foru ms and hi p


, , ,

odro mes a Ro man e m p e ror could find hi m se l f a t ho me


p , .

Th i s was the s ta te o f E ngland wh e n th e re be gan th a t


remar kable se ri es o f move me nts on the pa r t of the wil d
T H E A N GLo-SA x O N PE RI OD 11

G e rm an i c tribes which we k now as the


,
migration .

A bo ut the end of the f ourth c e ntury urge d by a comm o n ,

i m pul se tribe af te r tribe sw ept southward some by sea to


, ,

h arry t he coasts of Gaul and Britai n some ove r the Alps ,

a nd t he Pyr ene e s to b atte r at the gat e s of Rome to plu n d e r


, ,

t he rich islands of the Medit erranean and to fou nd a ki ng ,

d o m i n Af rica . T he Ro man l e gions w ere r ec alled f ro m


B ritai n to gu ard the i mp e ri al city and the Celtic
,
T he u gh»
i nh abi tants weakened by three centuri es Of civil
$3
,
In a 11 v

i zed li f e w e re l ef t to struggl e u naid e d agai nst


,

t he pirate bands of J ut e s Saxo ns and Angle s which ap


, , ,

p e are d e v e ry spri ng in i n cr e as i ng n u m b e rs upo n th e ir co as t .

T he Ce l ts did not yi e ld to th e se savage invad e rs so re adily


a s th e y had do ne to the poli sh e d Ro m an s Fro m the ti m e
.

w h e n the first b and of J ute s l and e d on the isl e of T h ane t


t o t he ti me wh en the i nv ad e rs had subj ugat ed the isl an d
a n d se t up the Anglo S axon ki ngdo m s a c entury and a
-
,

h al f e l aps ed during which all the m o nu me nts which Ro m e


,

h ad l e f t w e re rui ned if not oblite rated During th e se .

y e a rs o f struggl e th e r e b e ga n to grow up about th e, p e rso n

o f a n obscur e Celtic l ead e r th at cycl e of stori e s which was


,

t o prov e so f ruitful of poe try both i n F rance and England ,

— the legends of Arthur f ou nde r of the Rou nd Tabl e


, ,

a n d d e fe n d e r of the w e st e rn Brito n s against the w eak en i ng

o w e r of Rome and the growi ng f ury of the b arbari an s


p .

M an y Celts fl ed as in the ti me s of the Ro man in vasion


, ,

i n to Wal e s and Scotl and ; many w e re kill ed ; but a gre at


n u m b e r w er e u ndoubt e dly ab sorb e d by the i nvadi ng rac e .

T h e y comm u nicate d to that race its fi rst l eave n th ey


m ad e it m ore sensitive and re cepti ve and gav e it a touch ,

o f e xtra vagan ce and gaye ty which af te r b e i ng re i nf orce d


, ,

b y si m il ar e leme nts in the tem pe ram en t of the N orm an


F re n ch i nvad e rs was to blossom in the swee t hu m or of
,

C h a uc e r i n the ri ch fancy of Sp en se r and in the broad hu


, ,

m an ity of Shake sp eare . B u t this e ff e ct was not to b e m an


ifes t for a long ti me to com e .T he literature which arose
12 A HISTO RY or E NGLISH LI TERA T URE

in E ngl and t r the S axon co nqu e st shows littl e trace of


af e ,

it T he i mm edi a te i nflu ence was a religi ous one and the


.
,

poetry we sh all now co nsid e r is nearly all d ee ply colo re d


with re ligious th ou ght and feeli ng .

T he Christian teachi ng came in to E ngland in two d iff e r


e nt stre am s ,one f r om Ro me o ne f ro m Ir e l and which
, ,

cou n try had beenwon from h eath enism se ve ral


T he cum
c enturi es before T he first st ream b egan late
.

in the s ixth cen tury with the c om i ng of A u ,

gu s ti ne . Littl e by littl e afte r the adv e nt of this grea t


,

m issionary am ong the S axo ns in the south of E ngland the ,

n e w cre e d drov e o u t the old wi nn i ng its way by virtu e ,

of its gre at e r id eality and the auth o rity with which it


,

spoke of m an s e xiste nc e b e yond the grave T his str eam



.

of re li gious i nflu e nc e which c ame f rom Ro m e c entre d ,

chi efly in so u th and central Engl and i n the ki ngdo m of ,

We sse x It produc ed som e schools of learni ng but al most


.
,

n o lit e ratur e .It is to the north and east to the ki ng ,

d om of N orthu mb ria which f e lt the i nflu en c e of the Irish


,

m onks th at we m ust l oo k f or the first blossom i ngs of


,

Ch risti an po etry in E ngland .

O f all the m o nast eri e s which sprang u p in N orthu m bri a ,

i n the trai n of the Ce ltic m issi onari e s f ro m Ire l and two ,

are m ost fam ous b e caus e of th e ir co nne cti on with lite ra

ture— J arrow and Whitby At J arrow liv e d and d i e d


.


Baed a k nown as the V ene rabl e B ed e a ge n
, ,
B ed e
tle l aborious schol ar in whom all the l earn i ng
.

of N orth u m b ria was su mm e d up He wrote m any books .


,

ne arly a ll in Lati n the m ost notabl e b e i ng the E ccles za s


,

ti ca l H i s tory of the E ngli sh P eop le ( Histori a E ccl e si astica


Ge ntis Angloru m) It is from a p assage in this book th a t
.

we know the story of Cae d mo n a cowh e rd of ,


Caed mon
Whitby the first po e t of Christi an E ngl and
.

.
,

B ed e t ells u s th at wh en the i nm ate s of the m o naste ry w e re


gath e red t oge the r at the e veni ng feast and the h a rp was ,

p assed round for each to si ng in turn Caed m on would rise ,


TH E AN G LO S AXON -
P ERI OD 15

and d e part , for he wasu nl ette red m an and k ne w noth


an

ing of the gl eeman s art So it was for many ye ars u ntil



.
,

he was no lo nge r you ng O ne n ight whe n he had thus l e ft


.
,

the ch ee rf ul co m pany and gone to the stabl e s to te nd the


cattl e he f e ll asl ee p and had a wo nd e rf ul dream
, T he .

shi n i ng figure of the Lord app eare d b e fore him sayi ng , ,



Cae d m o n si ng to me
, Caed m on answ e r ed
. B eh old I , ,

kno w n ot how to si ng and th e re for e I le f t the feast to


,

night

.
,

Still si ng now to m e the Lord said What
, .

” “
th e n sh al l I si ng ? aske d Cae d m o n Si ng the begi n .


ni ng of c rea te d thi ngs was the ans we r Th e n i n his dream
, .

Cae d m on f ramed so me v e rs e s of the Creation which in the ,

morn i ng he wrote dow n addi ng oth e rs to the m , N e ws of .

the wo nd e r f ul gi ft which had b e e n vouchsaf e d to the nu


school e d m an was c arri e d to Hild the abbe ss of the fo u nd a ,

tion and she co m mand e d porti ons of the Scripture to be


,

read to hi m th at he m ight p ara phrase th em i nto ve rs e


, .

So it was do ne ; and f ro m this ti m e on Caed mon s li fe


was give n to his h eav en appoi nte d tas k of turni ng the O ld


-

Te stame nt narrative i nto song .

The poe ms which h av e co m e dow n to us u nd e r Cae d


mon s nam e co nsist of paraphras e s of Gene sis of E xodus

, ,

and a p art of Dani e l A n i n te re sti ng f rag me nt c alle d


.

Ju d i th is some ti m e s i ncl u d e d in the work of the school


'


of Cae dmo n In plac e s esp eci ally i n d eali ng with a war
.
,

like e pisode the poet e xp ands his m atter freely stam pi ng


, ,

it with the i mpress of his own mi nd In E xodu s for .


,

instan ce all the i ntere st is c e ntre d on the ove rwh el m i ng


,

of P h a ra oh s host in the Re d Se a

T he Egypti an and the .

Israelitish arm i es are d escribed with a h eath en scOp s de ’

light i n the pomp and circu m stance of war and the disas ,

te r which ove rtak e s the Egypti an hosts is su ng with savage


force and z est In J u di th the p agan d e light in b attle an d
.

in blood r e venge is e ven m o re m arke d


-
F irst ki ng Hol o .
,

The pie ce s trad iti onal ly ascrib e d to Cae dmon are for the most part
not acce pted by mode rn scholarshi p as his work .
14 A HI STO RY or E N G LI S H LI T E RA T U RE

fe r nes is shown li ke a rud e viki ng bois te rous and wassail ~


, ,

i ng in his m ead ha ll Wh en J udi th co mes to him in his


-
.

dru nk en sl ee p and h ews ofi his h ea d with a swo rd the ,

poe t canno t res trai n his e xultatio n an d the flight of the


a rmy of Holo fe rne s b e fore the me n of Israe l is d e scribe d

with gre wso m e vivid ne ss .

If we k now littl e of Caed m o n s lif e we know still l ess o f



,

Cyn e wu lf the p oe t who succee d ed him and who was p ro b


, ,

ably the grea te st of th e Angl o Saxon p oe t s i f -


,

we ex ce pt the u nk now n b ard who g av e B e owul f


its pre se nt form O u t of v e ry i nsubstanti al mate ri als a
.

picturesq ue s tory has bee n mad e for him He is said to .

h ave b ee n in his youth a w and eri ng si nge r l ea di ng a wild ,

li fe by sea and shore as he pli ed his gl ee man s craft now in


,

,

the h alls of ae the lings now in the huts o f sh e ph e rds an d,

o n the vil l age gr e e n now on the d e ck of N o rthu m b ri an


,

coas ting ships In the m idst of this fre e e x iste nce he sud
~
.

de nly u nd erw en t so m e d ee p religious e xpe ri en c e which , ,

toge the r with the public disas te rs th en ove rtak i ng N or


thu mbri a co mpl e tely ch ange d the te mp er of his m i nd
, .

He ga ve up the h al f p agan nature poe try which up to this


- -

tim e he had writte n and turned to write religious poe ms


, .

We ha ve signed with his name in r unes t wo live s o f


, ,

saints and an e pic d eali ng with Christ s incarnati o n and


,

asce ns io n and with the Day of J udg me n t


, O th e r poe ms .

have b ee n as cribed to him with varyi ng d egrees of probab i l


ity : A ndreas a v ery live ly and nai ve story of a sai n t s
,

ma rtyrdom and fi nal triu mph ove r his e ne mi es the P IM


u iz a ric hly color ed d e sc ripti o n of the myt hic b ird and i ts
,

dwe ll ing pl ace wi th a religious inte rpre tation and finally


-
,

a n u m be r of R iddles ve ry curious co m positi ons so me of


, ,

which are full of fine im aginati o n and fresh obse rvatio n of


na ture .

T h ese last are no thing m ore nor l ess than co nu ndru m s ,

in which so me obj e ct or ph e no me no n is d e scri be d sugge st


ively and the read e r is lef t to gu ess the meani ng
, I n the .
TH I AN GLO -
SA x O N PERI OD 15

hands me re ve rsi fie r this would b e the dreari es t


of a

o f f or m s , but Cy ne wul f (o r whoe v e r is i nd eed the autho r


)
n o t s e ldo m e nte rs with so m uch sy m p athy and T h,
drama tic i m agi nation i nto the life of the thi ng m m “

d e scribed th at he li f ts the subj e ct i nto po e try T he ne w


, .

m o o n is a you ng viki ng saili ng th rough the skie s i n his


,

pira te ship lad en with spoils of battl e to build a burg for


, ,

hi m s elf i n high est Heav en but the su n a greater warrio r , ,

d riv e s him away and se iz e s his land u ntil the night con ,

qu e rs the su n in turn The iceb e rg shouts and laughs as


.

it pl u n ge s through the wi ntry sea e age r to crush the fl ee t ,

o f hostil e ships The sword in its scabb ard is a m aile d


.

fighte r who go es e xulti ngly i n to the battl e pl ay and th en


,
-
,

is sad be cause wo men upbraid him for the Sl aughter he has


d one T he swan and the beave r are d e scribed with an in
.

sight and sy mp athy which rem i nds us in a far off way of ,


-
,

Wordsw o rth and the m od e rn natu re poe ts Altoge the r -


.

the s e riddl es are remarkabl e compositions and it is pleas ,

ant e v e n i f not quit e sci e ntific to thi nk of th e m as the


, ,

you th f ul work Of Cyne wu lf si nce his is the only p oe t s,


nam e th at has survive d f ro m thos e obscure and troubl e d

ti m e s .

T he P hoeni x d e riv e s a sp e ci al i nte re st f rom the fact


th a t it is the o nly Anglo Saxon poem of any length which
-

shows a d e light in the sof t and radi an t m oods of T h,


“ a m"
Natu re as oppos ed t o he r fi e rc e and gri m as
,

p ec ts I
. n t h e l an d wh e re th e P h oen ix dw e lls t h e gr o v e s

are all b e hu ng with blosso m s the bou ghs up o n


the tre e s are e v e r l ad e n the f ruit is aye r ene we d th ro u g h
,

all e t e rn ity ? T h e m u sic o f th e wo n d e rf ul bird as it ,
” ’
g oe s a lo f t to m e e t th a t gl ads o m e g e m G od s c andl e is, ,

swe e te r and m ore b eau teou s than any craft of song .

T he Phaanix and many of the Riddle s are b ased u pon Latin orig

innls .

{ T h e q u ota tio ns f rom the P h oenix a re f ro m Goll a ncz s tra nsl ati on,

Exete r B ook, E arly E ngli sh T e x t Socie ty s pu b licati ons, 1 895



.

16 A H I STO RY OF E N G LISH LI T ERATU RE '

When the thousand years its li fe are do ne it fli e s far


of ,

aw ay to a lo nely Syri an wood builds i ts own hol oca ust o f ,

f ragran t h erbs which the Su n ki ndl es


, O u t of the b all of .

ashe s a ne w Pho enix is born richly dight with plu m age


, ,

as it was at first radi antly ad o rned and fli e s back to
, ,

its h ome in the e nch an ted land of s u mme r A t the e nd .


,

t he whol e po em is made i nto a Christi an all egory of the


de ath and re surrectio n of Christ and of his ascent to h eav e n ,

a m id the m i niste ri ng c o m p any of sai nts The po e m has a .

fe rvor and e nthusi as m l acki ng to the Lati n origi nal and ,

wh e the r we may or m ay n ot ascribe it to Cy ne wul f it is the ,

wo rk of a good poe t Sc holars h ave poi nted out th at the


.

d e scriptio n of the bird s dwelli ng pl a c e is i nfl u e nce d by the



-

old Ce ltic fancy of the Land of E te rnal Youth and ce r


tai nly it is no t di ffi cult to see in the brigh t colors an d ,

h appy fancy of the p oem the worki ng of the Celtic i magi


,

na tio n as w ell as the transfor m i ng touch of hop e which


,

had b ee n bro u ght i nto m e n s live s by Christi anity



.

Be sid e s the poe try attrib u te d to Cae d m o n and his sch oo l ,

and to Cy ne wul f an d his school th e re e xist a fe w short ,

Sho t p oem,
r po e m s lyrics , or dr a m atic lyrics
,

of the g re a t ,

e st i nte re st O ne of th e se c all ed T he Wi fe s
.
,

La m en t give s us a gli m pse of one of the h arsh custo m s of


,

o u r anc e stors . A wife accused of faithle ssne ss has be en


, ,

banished f ro m her native village and co mpell ed to live ,

al o ne i n the f ore st f ro m he r pla ce of e xil e she pours ou t


a m o an to the husband who has b ee n e strange d f ro m he r

by false sland erers The Love r s Message is a ki nd of


co m panio n pi e c e to this T he sp eak e r in the little po e m


.

is the tablet of wood u po n which an absent l ov e r has


carved a mess age to se nd to his b eloved It te lls he r th at .

he has now a ho me for he r in the south and bids he r as , ,

soon as she h ears the cuckoo chanti ng of his sorro w in the


c o pse wood to take sail ov er the ocean pathway to he r lord
, ,

who waits and lo ngs for he r With th ese two littl e po em s .

be gi ns the lov e poe try of England


-
.
18 A HISTO RY or E N GLI SH LITE RAT U RE

f orce th e ir attacks The ve ry monaste ry of J arrow i n


of .
,

which B ae d a had writte n hi s Eccl esi asti cal His tory was ,

plu nd ered and i ts i nhabita n ts put to the swo rd T he mo n


, .

as te ry o f Whitby wh e re Cae d m o n had had his visio n was


, ,

o nly te mporaril y sa v ed by t he fi e rc e resistanc e o f the m onks .

By the m iddl e of the nin t h ce ntury the Danes had m ad e


th em se lves maste rs of N orth u mb ria T h ey we re su ch m e n .

as the Angl es J u te s and S a x ons had be e n thre e hu nd re d


, ,


y ea rs be fore worshippe rs of the old gods ruthl ess u proo t ,

e rs of a re ligio n lite ra ture and soci e ty which th ey did no t


, ,

un d e rstand In Wesse x the h e rois m of K i ng A lfre d


.
,

tur ned back the tid e of barba ria n i nvas io n ; and f rom this
ti me u ntil the N orman co nqu est t wo ce nturi e s l ate r t he , ,

o nly lite rature which remai ns to us was prod uced in Wes


se x . It is almost en tire ly a lite r ature of pro se ; the bes t
of it was the work o f K i ng Al fre d hi m se l f or prod u ce d
'

u nd er hi s i mmedi a te e ncourag em e nt .

A s a child Ki ng Al f re d h ad see n Ro me and had liv ed ,

for a ti me at the great court of Ch arl es the Bald in Franc e


and the sp ectacl e of th e se o ld e r and ri ch e r civil
Ki ng Alfred .

iza tions had fi ll ed him with a d es ire to give to


his rud e subj ects so m e thin g o f the h e ri tage of the pas t .

Whe n af te r a despe ra te struggl e he had won p eace f ro m


, ,

the Danes he call e d about him l ea rn e d m o nks f ro m the


,

Sh e lte re d m onas te ri e s of Ir e lan d and Wal es and mad e we l ,

com e at his court all strange rs who could br ing him a


manuscript or si ng to him a n old s ong It was proba bly .

duri ng his re ign th at the poe ms of Caed mon and Cy ne wu l f ,

as w ell as the old e r p ag an po e ms w e r e brough t so uthw a rd ,

out of N orthu m bri a and put in the West Sa xon form in -

which we now h ave th em He spurred on his pri ests and .

bishops to write He him se l f l earned a littl e La ti n i n


.
,

o rd e r th at he might transl ate ce rtai n books which b e


d ee me d would be m ost usef u l and in t e re sting to E nglish
men i nto the We st Saxo n to ngu e ; putti ng down the se nse
,
-
,

he says sometim es word for word so me times meaning for


, ,
T H E A N GLo - SAXON PE RI O D 19

m e an i ng, I had learned it fro m Plegm u nd my archbishop


as , ,

a n d A sse r m y bishop and Gri m b ald m y m ass pri e st


, , an d ,
-
,

J o h n m y m ass pri e st
,

He sel e ct e d for transl atio n a phil o
-
.

s o phi cal work the Cons ola ti ou s o


, f P h i los o h
p y of B o e t hi u s a

m anu al of history and ge ography by O rosi u s an d a re ligi ous



tr eatise the P a s tora l Ca re or Sh ep herd s B ook of Greg
,

o ry copi e s of which he se n t to all his bi shop s in ord e r th a t


,

t h ey m ight l ear n to b e b e tte r sh eph e rd s of th e ir flocks M o re .

i m p o rt ant still b e transl at e d B aeda s E ccl e si astical His


,

t o ry th u s giving a native E ngli sh dress to the first great pi e c e


,

o f historic al writi ng which had bee n d one i n E ngl an d Last .

l y h e cau sed the dry e n tri e s of th e d eath s of ki ngs an d the


,

i n stallations of bi shops which the monk s we re i n the h abit


,

o f m aki ng on the E ast e r roll s to b e e xp an d e d i n t o a cl ear ,

a n d pictur e sq u e narra t iv e the gre at e st sp ac e of c ou rs e


, , ,

b e i n g take n up wit h th e e v ents of his own re ign Thi s .


,

k now n as the Angl o S axo n Chron icl e is the old est m o nu


-
,

m e n t o f E nglish prose an d is with one e xc e pti on t he m ost


*
, , ,

v e n e rabl e pi e c e of e xte nd e d pr os e writi ng in E u rop e .

D e spite all his e ff orts h ow e v e r K i ng A l fr e d did n o t


, ,

s u cc e e d i n cre ati ng anythi ng lik e a vital n a tiv e lit e ra tur e

i n We sse x The l angu age was ch an gi ng and


.
,

t he lite rary spirit of the p e opl e was al m o st 2 332233


3

L t e tm i ra
d ead The serm on s or H omi li es of the great
'

a nd d e vote d Ael fric how e v e r h e r e an d th e r e ris e to the


, ,

ran k of lite r at u re by r easo n of the nai v e pictu re sq u en e ss


,

o f so m e r e ligio u s l egen d which th ey tr eat or by the fe rv or ,

o f th e ir pi e ty The Angl o S ax on Chronicl e als o whi ch


.
-

, ,

con ti n u e d to grow in the m o nast e ri e s of Pe t e rb orou g h ,

Wi n ch e ster and Ely h ere and th e re breaks ou t i nto sti r


, ,

ri ng ve rse O ne of the se poe tic e pisode s is know n as the


.

B a ttle of B ru na nbu rh and is e n te re d u n de r the ye ar 93 7


, .

H e re , a nd earlie r i n thi s chapte r, the w o rd E ngli sh i s u se d loo se ly ,


t o co v e r th e p rod u cti ons o f the A ngl o Sax on p eri od -
Stri ctly spe a king,
.

E ngli sh lite ratu re did not b e gi n u ntil a ce ntu ry and a hal f a f te r the

N orman co nq u e st.
20 A HI STO R Y OF E N GLI SH L IT E RA T U RE
A no th e r, the Dea th f
o B y rhtnoth, lso calle d the B a ttle of
a

M a ldou , bears date 991 ; it is the swan so ng of A nglo


-

S ax on p oe try .

T he tr u th is that Engl and at the e nd of the te nt h ce n


tury was in ne e d of ne w bl ood T he A nglo S axo n ge nius
.
-
,

wi th all its rugge d g rand e ur and fi ne p e rsiste nce was ,

lacki ng in m any e le m e nts ne c essary to m ake a g reat


n ati onal li f e ; an d A ngl o S axo n p oe try look e d at in the
-
,

large be trays a narrowne ss of th em e and m onoto ny of


,

to ne out of which a great lite rature could h ave e vo lv e d if


, ,

a t al l o nly sl o wly and with di fficulty


, So me ne w graft was
.

ne e d e d to giv e e lasticity gaye ty and range and thi s


, , ,

nee d was m e t wh e n i n 1 066 Willi am the Co n qu e ror l and e d


, ,

a t H asti ngs with his ar m y of N o r man F re n ch k n ights and


-
,

m arch e d to give battl e to the f orce s of Harold the l as t of ,

the S axo n ki ngs .


CHA PT ER II
TH E N O RM AN F RE N C H
-
PE RI OD

T HE N orm ans , or N o rth m e n y we re an e xtraordinary


-

p e opl e .A c e n tury an d a h al f b e f o re th e ir i n v asio n o f


E ngl an d, th e y had app ear e d O ff the c oast of
F ranc e ; a nd u nd e r th e i r l ead e r H rolf the ,

Gange r ( the Walke r th e y had p u sh ed up the S ei ne in


th e ir bl ack bo ats w as ti ng and bur ni ng to t he v ery gat e s of
,

Paris . T he F re nch won p e ac e by givi ng o v e r to th e m


b road and rich l ands in the n orthw e st k n ow n h e nc efo rth ,

as N o r mandy Unlik e the o th e r north e rn p e opl e s the y


.
,

s h ow e d a m arv e llo u s pow e r of a ssi m il ati ng the south e rn

c iviliz a tio n T he y m a rri e d with the F rench w om e n


.
,

a dopte d F r e nch m anne rs and the F re nch tong u e In a .

littl e ov e r a c e ntu ry th e y had grow n f ro m a barbaro u s


h ord e of sea robbe rs i nto the m ost p olish e d and brilli ant
-

p eo pl e o f E urop e whos e pow, e r was f e lt i n t h e M e d i te rra

n e an and the fa r E as t T h e y u n ite d in a si ng u l a r m an n e r


.

i m p e tu o us dari ng and co ol practical s ense Without l osi ng .

an ythi ng O f th e ir n orth e r n br av e ry i n war th e y manag ed ,

to ga th e r up al l the s o uth e rn su ppl ene ss and wit all the ,

so u th e rn l ove of spl e ndor and art When Willi am advanc e d


.

to m e e t K i ng H arold at H asti ngs a co u rt m i nstre l T aille


, ,

fe r rod e b ef ore the i n vadi ng ar m y t os si ng up his sw ord


, ,

an d c a tchi ng it lik e a j u ggl e r whil e he ch an t e d the S ong of


,

Rol an d He is a sy m bol of the N o r m an spi rit of its d ash


.
, ,

its buoyancy i ts i m agi native brilli ancy T he N ormans


,
.

bro u ght with th e m to E ngland not only the t e rror of the


sw o rd and the st rong h and of con qu e st b u t al so the Vi taliz ,

i ng bre ath of song t he fre sh an d y outh f ul spirit of r o m ance


, .

21
22 I
A H STO R Y OF E N GLI SH LIT E RA T U RE

No one c on qu e re d p e opl e h owe ve r coul d


am on g the , ,

th en have fore se e n th at the i nvasi on was to pro v e the great


e st of na ti onal b le ssi ngs for the ste rnness an d
e ne rgy with which the N orm an ki ng and h i s

n obl e se t about pl an ti ng th e ir o wn civiliz a ti o n


s
in the isl an d brought with it m u ch oppre ssi on and h ard
,

shi p O ve r the l e ngth and bre adth of England ro se th ose


.

strong castle s w hose gray and m assive wall s still frow n o ve r


the pl easan t E nglis h l andsc ap e Le ss fo rbiddi ng th an .

the s e but no l e ss sugge stive of the fore igne r spl end id


, ,

m i nste rs gradu ally took the pl ac e of the gl oo m y littl e Sax


on church e s Fore st l aws of te rribl e h ars hne ss pres e rved
.

“ “
the tall d e er whic h the ki ng loved as his li fe bu t
wh e n a man was fou nd m urd e re d if it c ould be p rov e d th a t ,

he was a S axo n n o f urth e r notic e was tak e n of the cri m e


, .


T he S axo n lang u age or Englisc as it had be gu n to b e
, ,

call e d in K i ng Alfred s ti me was the badge o f se rfdo m ;



,

and not o nly in the court and c am p and c astl e b u t als o in ,

Parli am e n t and on the justic e b e nch Fren ch al one was -


,

sp oke n With the one e xceptio n of the A ngl o S axon Chron


.
-

i cl e which was still c on ti nu e d E ngli sh


, d ive s u nd e r
,

gro u nd in 1 066 and d oe s not reapp ear for a centu ry and a


,

h al f If a p roph e t had aris en to te ll the Nor man nobility


.

o f the ele v e n th an d tw e l fth c e n tu ri e s th a t no t Fr e nch b u t , ,

E nglish was d e sti ne d to b e the sp ee ch of th e ir d e sc e nd an ts


, ,

he would h av e b e e n l augh e d at But this i ncre dib le thi ng


.

was to b e b e cau se of the dogge d p ersiste n cy of the A nglo


,

S axo n nature i n cli ngi ng to its own T hough no lo nge r .

writ te n the old to ngu e liv ed on the lips of the subj u gate d
,

rac e fro m fath e r to son A bout 1 200 it began to b e us e d


, .

agai n as a l an gu age O f books disp u ti ng wit h rud e and u n


,

ce rtai n acce nts a plac e by the sid e of the polish e d l angu age
of the co nqu e ro rs Wh e n it reapp eare d how e v e r it was a
.
, ,

ch ange d to ngu e It was no longe r Anglo S axo n but E ng


.
-
,

li sh In spite of m any words now obsol e te many stran ge


.
,

f orm s and sp elli ngs the E ngl ish of the early thirtee n th
,
TH E N O RMAN FRE NC H
-
PERI OD 23

ce n tury is i ndubi tably the sam e l angu age which we sp eak


t o d ay
-
.It had slough e d off its i nfl e ctio ns si mp lifi ed its ,

g r a m m a r a n d, r e quir e d o n ly to b e e n rich e d by F r e nch


e l e m e n ts a nd m a d e fl e xibl e by u se
, to b e ready for the
,

h an d of C h auc e r .

B ut to say tha t E nglish was e nrich ed by F rench e le


m e n ts is h ardly to c onvey an id ea of the ex ten t to which
t he fore ig n to ngu e e nte re d i nto the co m posi T he Me m e

t io n of the l angu age What real ly happ ene d


.

was th at E nglish absorb e d ne arly the wh ole body of the


F re nc h sp e e ch or rath e r t hat the two langu age s gradu ally
,

m e lte d toge the r and be cam e one T he S axo n howe v e r


.
, ,

con ti nu e d as the m arrow and bo ny structure o f the whol e .

T he words of F rench origi n in our vocabulary out nu m be r


t he S a xo n words three to on e ; but in o rdi nary sp e e ch ,

w h e re o nly the co m m o n words of d aily li fe and actio n are


u se d the Saxon words are greatly in prepond e rance The
, .

r e su lt of this f usio n was to i ncrease e no rmo us ly the powe r


o f the l angu age to e xp re ss th ought and fee li ng It has .

m a d e E nglis h the m ost spl e ndid po e tic langu age of the


w o rld with the possible e xc e ptio n of the Gree k alo ne T he
, .

f usio n was acco m plish e d in a pe riod of about a c entury and


a h al f . Wh e n English first app eared i n 1 200 af te r i ts , ,

lon g sle e p it con t ai ne d al most no French i ngre di e nts by


,

t he m iddle of the fourte e nth c e ntury the proc e ss of bl e nd


ing the two to ngu e s was b egi nni ng to draw to a close .

C hauc e r the po e t who was to co m ple te it and fix the


,

langu age in m uch the sh ape th at it wears to day was th en -


,

a b oy i n the str e e ts of Lo ndo n .

T he lite rature O f this c e ntury and a h al f of pre paratio n


is of d e e p i nte re st fro m t he historic al poi nt of Vi e w and ,

has n ot a little i ntri nsic ch arm A l arge pro T he Meme“


.

R°m °es
p o rtio n o f it co n sists o f e ff orts i n a n e w a n d °

f as ci na ti ng poe tic form i n troduc e d i nto Engl and by the


N orm an F re nch the m e trical r om anc e
-
, T he ty pic al ro
.

m ance was a ram bli ng tal e of adve nture in which e vi l ,


24 A HI STO RY OF E N GLISH L I T E RA T U RE
k nights robbers gi an ts S arac ens and oth e r in i m ical
, , , ,

p ers onages w e re ove rth rown by a wand ering ch e valie r in


, ,

t he i nte re st of s om e distr e sse d d am se l or o f holy church .

It d ealt in a rath e r d e su ltory and u nreal but highly e n te r ,

tai ni ng way with the three great i nte re sts of the M iddl e
,

Age s , knightly prowe ss chivalric l ove and rel igi on I t


-
, , .

gave scop e i n the d e scripti on of feast s and tou rnam e nts of


, ,

ar m o r dr e ss an d hu n ti ng e q u ip ag e f or the m e di aeva l l o v e
, , ,

of p agean try and gay c olor it m i n i s tere d to the m e di aev a l


cravi ng af te r the sup e rn atural the e xtrav agan t and the , ,

thrilli ng ; ab ove all it afford e d an o utl e t to the se nti m e n t


,

o f wo m an worship which t aki ng its ris e i n the cult of the


-
, ,

Virgi n Mary had th e n b e e n s e cul ariz e d by the p oe ts o f


,

P rov e n c e and b e co m e a vital part of the great cree d o f


,

fe ud al chiv alry .

T he trou v eres as the po e ts who co mpose d and re cited


,

th e se ro man ce s w e re c all ed borrowe d the m ate ri al of th e ir ,

T he"
richly v ari e ga te d t al e s wh e re v e r th ey c o uld fi n d

it A part of it cam e fro m Italy and the E ast


.
,

and o u t O f t h i s th e y mad e the T roy cycl e a n d the cycl e o f

A le x and e r the Great A p art of it th e y f o u nd n ea r a t


.

h and in the adv en ture s of Ch arl e magne and his tw e lv e


,

p e e rs But the rich e st store ho u se of romance which th ey


.
-

had to draw upon was i n the Celtic p arts of E ngl an d and


,

Brittany wh ere for gene rati on s pro bably for ce ntu ri e s


, , ,

th e re had bee n growi ng u p a m ass of l e ge nd c onn e cte d with


K i ng A rth u r A nu m be r of th e se Arth u ri an l ege nds w e re
.

gath e re d u p b efore the m i ddl e of the tw e l f th c entury i n a


, ,

great Lati n w ork call ed the H i stori a B retou u m by Ge of ,

fr e y of M on m outh a Welsh write r who also add e d s to , ,

ri e s of his o wn i n v e n ti on T his rath e r b ar e chro nicl e of .

Geoff rey s was s e iz e d U p o n by the trou v eres and out of i t



,

b egan to branch all m anne r of ro man tic e pisod e T he bo ok .

was transl at ed i nto F re nch v e rse by Wac e of J e rs ey and ,

th rough this ch an ne l c am e ab ou t the year 1 200 i nto the , ,

h ands of Layam on the first write r of rom ance in the crude


,
26 A HISTO RY or E NGLI SH LI TE RA T U RE

has just begu n But l e isurely as Layamon is he is s eldom


.
,

te di ou s the story lure s one on from p age to p age u ntil o ne ,

f orge ts or p ardo ns the e nor m ous l ength In treati ng the .

A rthur l ege nds Layam on is not co nte nt m e re ly to t ran


,

scribe his pre d e ce ssors His ho m e was near t he borde rs of


.

Wal es wh ere the se l ege nds w e re native and he ei the r


,

gat he re d up or f reely i nve nted s e veral addition s of the


u tm ost i m or ta nc e
p Th e m ost n o t a
.bl e o f th e s e a re his
st ory of the fou ndi ng of the Rou nd T abl e and his accou n t ,

of the fays who a re pre s e n t at A rthur s birth and who c a rry


him af ter his last b attle to the m ystic isl e of A valo n .

Af te r Layamon had show n t he way to ro manc e writi ng i n


th e na tive to ngu e oth e r po e ts in rapidly i ncr easi ng n u m
,

bers follow e d in his f ootsteps Rud e at first .


,

t h e ir e fforts gradu ally approach e d i n eas e an d ,

grace those of the ir N or man Fre nch teach e rs


,
-
,

though ne v e r qu ite riv alli ng the li mpid trou v er e


verse Al m ost all the E ngli sh ro manc e s of the thirtee nt h
.

and f ourte en th c e n turi e s are f r ee r e nd e ri n gs f rom F re n c h

o rigi nals T his is tru e not only of those whic h d eal with con
.

tine n tal h e ro e s lik e Ch arl e m ag ne and Al e xand e r or whic h


, ,

tell a tal e of co nti ne n tal origi n like A mi s a nd A mi lou n ,

and F lori s a nd B la nche fl ou r b u t also o f t h e A rthu r


stori e s whose sourc e was Briti sh and e ve n of the storie s
, ,

of pure ly E nglish h e r oe s B evi s of H a mp ton and Gu y of


, ,

Wa rwi ck T he raw m a te ri al had to b e refi ne d by the cu n


.

ni ng N or man F re n ch arti san s b e fo r e the l e ss Ski ll e d w ork


-

e rs i n the E nglis h t ongu e co u ld h andl e it B u t of all th e .

A rthuri an ro manc es i n E nglish of this p eriod su ch as Si r ,

Tri strem, A rthou r a nd M erli n M orte d A rthu re


,

, and T he
A wentgres ( dv e n tur e s) o
a f A r thu r a t the Ta r n Wa the li ng
( T arn Wad li ng i n C u m b e rl a nd ) the one which is of m ost ,

genui ne native E nglis h workm anshi p is the b e st of all an d ,

is one of the m ost ch arm i ng ro manc e s of the w orld T hi s .

is Si r Gawagne a nd the Green K night Its date is abo u t .

1 320 1 3 3 0
-
.
TH E N O RM A N F RE N C H -
P ER I OD 27

Wh en po e m O p e n s K i ng Arth u r and his c ou rt are


the ,

g a th e r e d i n t he h al l a t C a m e l o t t o c e l e br a t e t h e f e a st o f th e

N e w Ye ar T he ki ng
. so b u si e d hi m his
, ,

8 G
y o u n g bl o od a n d his wild br a i n

will n o t e a t, a iht ig dig i:
Kn ght i
u n til s om e adv e ntu re has b e fall e n A s the first .

course co m e s in with c racki ng of t ru m p e ts and the ,

n oi se of nak e rs ( dru m s) with n o bl e pip e s



, th e re sudd enly ,

ru sh e s in at the h all d oor a giganti c k n ight cl othe d e ntirely ,

i n gr e e n m o u n te d on a g ree n foal and b e ari ng in one h an d


, ,

a h o lly b ough i n the o th e r a gre at a x e


, H e rid es to the .

d ais and c hall e nge s any k nig ht to give h im a bl ow with his


,

ax e an d to abi d e on e in t u rn Gawayn e the ki ng s ne ph e w



.
, , ,

s m ite s off the h e ad of the Gre e n K night who qu i e tly picks ,

it u p by the hair and h olds it ou t toward Gawayne u n til


, ,

t he lip s sp eak givi ng him re nd e zv o us at th e Gre en Ch ap e l


,

o n the n e xt N e w Year s d ay

.

O n Al l h all ow s day Ga way ne s e ts ou t upo n h is hor se



-
,

Gri ngol e t an d j o u rne ys thro u g h N o rth Wal e s p ast H o ly


, ,

h ead i n to the wil de r ne ss of Wi rral s om e ti m es with



w orm s ( s e rp e nts ) he wars with w olve s and b ears with , ,

gi an ts and w ood s atyrs u n til at l ast on Christm as e v e he


-
,
-

co me s to a great f orest of h oar oaks H e calls u p on M ary .


,

m ild e st m oth e r so d ear to h e lp him , I m me di ately he .

se e s a f air castl e standi ng on a hill ; and aski ng sh elte r he ,

is cou rte ously r e c e ive d by the lord of the c astl e and his fair
you ng wi fe an d is assured t hat t he Green Ch ape l is near
,

a t h a nd .

Af t e r the Chri s t m as fe s tiviti e s are ov er his host p re pa re s ,

f o r a gr ea t h u nt to l ast th ree d ay s ; an d a j e sti ng com p act


,

is mad e b e tw ee n th e m th at at the e nd of e ach day th ey sh all

g i v e eac h o the r w h a t e v
'

er g oo d thi n g th e y h a v e w o n W hil e .

he r lord is ab se n t on the h u n t the l ady of t he c astl e t ri e s in ,

Va i n t o i n duc e Gawayn e to m ak e l ov e to he r and b e stows ,

u p on h im a kiss A n xi ou s to f u lfil his co m p act he i n


.
,

tu rn give s the ki ss to he r l ord e ac h night wh en t he hu nt


i s ove r and rec e iv es as a c ou n te r gi f t the spoils of the
,
-
28 A H ISTO RY OF E N GLISH LI T E RA T URE

ch ase A t th eir l ast m eeting the l ady p e rsu ad e s Gawayn e to


.

take as a gi f t a green l ace b elt which will pro te ct him f rom


m ortal h ar m T hi nki ng it .a j e we l for th e j eop ardy tha t
he is to ru n a t the Gre en Ch ap e l he k e eps the gif t a se cre t , ,

and th u s pr ov e s f als e to his c om p act .

O n Ne w Ye ar s m or n ing he s e ts out through a storm of



sno w p ast fore sts and cli ff s wh e re each hill had a ha t
, ,

and a m i st cl oak to fi nd the Green Ch ap el It prove s to
-
,
.

b e a grass c ov e re d holl o w m o u n d i n a d e se rt vall ey


-
th e , ,

“ ”
m os t cu rse d ki rk says Gawayne that e ve r I c am e in
, , .

T he Gre en K ni ght app e ars and d eal s a bl ow with his a x e ,

u p on Ga wa ne s b e n t n e ck B h o ly pi rc s h ski

y u t e n e e
. t e n ,

an d Gaway ne s e e i n g the blo od f all on the s now cl aps on


, ,

his h el m e t draw s h is sword and declare s the co m pact


, ,

f ulfill e d .T he Gre en K n ight th en dis clo se s the fact th a t


he is the l ord of the c astl e wh e re Gaway ne has just b e en
e n te rt a i n e d th at with h i m dwe lls the fairy wo m an M or
,
-

gai n who b ecau se of her ha tre d of Gui n e ve re has se nt hi m


, , ,

to f righte n he r at Ch ri st m as fe ast with the sight of a s e ve re d


h ead talki ng an d who has be e n tryi ng to l ead Gawayn e
,

i n to b ad faith and u ntru th f ul ness in ord e r th at her hus ,

band s axe m ay h ave p ower upo n h im By his purity an d



.

tru th Gawayne has b ee n s av e d e xce pt f or the slight wou nd ,

as p u ni sh m e n t f or co nc eali ng the gi f t of th e girdl e Ga .


wayne swears to w ear the l ovel ace in rem e m brance of his
w eak ne ss ; and e ver afte rward e ach k night of the Ro und
T abl e an d e v e ry l ady of Arthur s c o urt w ears a brigh t

, ,

gre en b el t for Gawayne s sak e ’


.

T he pictu r e sq u e and ne rv ous l angu age of the po e m ,

its bright hu m or an d fancy and the vivid b eauty of i ts ,

d escripti on s com bi ne with its m oral swe etne ss to m ak e


,

this the m ost d e lightful bl osso m of all pre Ch auc e rian -

rom ance Si r Ga way ne a nd the Green K night con tai ns fair


.

p rom i se not o nly of Chauc e r s K night s Ta le but e ven o f ’ ’


,

Spenser s F aeri e Qu eens .

Whil e the s hi mm e ri ng tape stry and clo th of gold of


TH E NO RM AN -
FR E NCH P E RI O D 29

th e se bright ro m an ce s was b e i ng wove n to b eguil e the


te diu m of castl e h alls a m ore som bre literary fabric gre w
,

u n d e r the p ati ent h ands of m onks and re lig Reh gie he

ious en thusi asts The Cu rsor M u ndi the au l sgg m ’

.
gg , r

th or of which is u nk now n d e serves p articular “ Mi "


,

comm en t T hough re ligi ou s in aim an d in m atte r it


.
,

shows a whol e so m e se cular d esire to b e entertai ni ng The .

author i n b egi n ni ng lam e nts the absorptio n of the r ead e rs


, ,

of his day in f riv ol ous ro m an c e an d p rop os e s to give th e m ,

in pl ac e of th e s e vai n tal e s of e arth ly l o ve a tal e of divi ne ,

lo v e which sh all b e e qu ally thrilli ng H e th en procee ds to .

te ll i n fl o wi ng v e rs e the story of God s d eali ngs with m an



,

fro m the Cre atio n to the fi nal r ed e mption foll owi ng in ge n ,

e ral the biblic a l narra tive but ador ni ng it with p opul ar ls


,

g e n d s, both s acr e d and s e cul a r an d wi t h all m a nn e r of qu


, a i n t
digre ssi ons T he ambitio n of the au thor has really b e e n
.


a cco m plish e d

his book is i ndee d a re ligi ous rom ance ,

an d m ust h a v e b e e n a r esp e ct abl e rival of its m o re w o rldly

broth e rs in catchi ng the ear of such read ers as w ere will


,

i ng to b e ed ifi ed at the sam e ti me th at th ey we re e nte r


ta i ned .

Of an othe r religious write r whose work rises to the dig


n ity of literature th e nam e and story h ave fortu nate ly
,

be e n pre se rv ed T his is Rich ard Roll e the Ri ha d R lls


.
, c r o

h e rm it of Hampol e in south e rn Yorkshire who “ 3 m m“


,

was born about 1 3 00 and di e d in 1 3 4 9 In his youth h e .

w e nt to O x ford th en at the h e ight of its f am e as a cen tre


,

o f schol as tic l ea rn i ng but the mysti ci sm and e rrati c ard o r


of his na ture m ad e hi m soo n re volt agai nst t he dry i n te ll e ct

u ality of th e schol astic te achi ng He l e ft c oll eg e m ad e him .


,

a h e r m it s shroud out of two of his sist e r s g ow n s a nd h is


’ ’

fa th e r s ho od an d b egan the life of a religi ous solitary and



,

m ystic .His ce ll at H am p ol e ne ar a Ciste rci an nu nnery , ,

was af te r his d e ath visite d as a m iracl e worki ng shri ne and -


,

c are d for by the n uns He wrote many canticl e s of divine


.

love so me of which are of u nusu al i nt ensity


, His longe s t .
30 A H ISTO RY OF E N GLI SH LI TE RA T URE

work is the P ri che


f which
o d Cons ci ence,
e a ls with t h e li fe

of man an d the t e rrors of the Last J udg m e nt .

B u t of all the re ligi ous writings of this p e riod by f ar the ,

m ost b eau ti ful are two p oem s one lyric t he o th e r na rra , ,

T he Le e
tiv e vwhich a ppr oa
, ch t he s u bj e ct o f divi n e lov e

$3};n f ro m th e p e rso na l sid e a n d tr ea t it with a n i n ti ,


m ate p e rso nal p athos T he fi rst is th e fam ou s .

Love Ru ne of T homas de H al es a m o nk o f the M i no r ,

F ri ars He te ll s us i n the first stanz a th at he was b e sought


.

by a m aid of Ch ri st to mak e he r a love song in ord e r -


,

that she m ight l earn th e re fro m how to choo se a worthy


and faith fu l lov e r T he m on kish poe t c ons e nts but goe s
.
,

on to te ll h e r h ow false and fl ee ti ng is all worldly love how


all e arthly lov e rs v anish and a re f o rgott en .

H we r is P a ri s and H e le y n e
Th a t we re n SO b ry gh t a nd fe y re on b le
Am ad a s , T ristra m , a nd D id e y ne ,
Yse u d e , a n d a l le th e ?
E cto r, w i th h i s ech arp e m e yne ,
An d C esa r ri ch of w o rld es fee ?
He s b eo th i gl y d e n u t of t he re y n e ,

SO th e sch e ft is of th e cl ee .

( Wh e re i s P a ri s H e le n t h a t w e re so b ri gh t a nd fa i r o f
an d ,

co u n te nan ce ? A m a d a s, T ri stram , D i d o I se u l t a n d a l l t h o se ,

H ecto r w i t h h i s sh a rp stre ngth , and C aesa r ri ch w i th t h e


w o rld fee !w l h ] ? T h e y b e gl i d e d ou t of th e rea l m , as th e

s ea t
sh af t i s fro m th e cle w !b o w st ri ng] -
.

But th ere is anoth er lov er the po e t con ti nu e s who is , ,

rich e r th an H e nry ou r K i ng and whos e dw elli ng is fair e r ,

th an S olo m on s house of j asp er and sapphire Choose Him



.
,

an d m ay God bri n g th ee to His brid e ch a mb e r i n H e ave n



-
.

T he p oe m is w ell nigh p e rf ect i n form and f or rich a n l


-
,
t

te n d e r m el ody b ears co m p aris on with the b e st lyric al wo rk


of Sh ak e sp ear e s age It shi ne s out lik e a gem f rom the

.

mass of ru de r song about it .


TH E N O R AN F RE N CH
M -
P ERI OD 31

The othe r religious p oe m which d ese rves to b e cl assed ,

with this by reaso n of i ts b eauty and hu m anity is m uch ,

lo nge r It is c all e d The P ea rl A fathe r falls


.
T he .

"
M L
asl e e p on th e grave of his l ost d aught er wh ose ,

n am e s ee m s to h av e b e e n M a rgare t ( i e the . .
,

I n a visio n he s ee s h er and b e holds the c e l e sti al c ou n ,

try wh e re sh e dw ells H e dream s th at he is transp ort


.

e d to a w ond e rf u l l and th rou gh which a m usical rive r ,

flows ov e r p early sand and s tone s that glitte r like stars ,

o n a wi nt e r n ight A rou n d h im are crystal cli ff s so


.

cl e ar of kind fore sts th at gl e am like silv e r and ri ng



,

with the m el ody of bright hu e d birds O n the oth er side -


.

o f the riv e r at the f oot of a gl eam i ng cli ff


,
he s e e s a ,

m aid sitti ng cloth ed in bright rai men t tri m m e d with


,

p e arls and in the m idst of he r breast a great p earl She


,
.

ris e s and co me s toward him T hen the fat he r tri es to cross .

o v e r but b e i ng u n
, abl e cri e s out to k now if sh e is i nd e e d
,


his p earl since the loss of which he has be e n a joyl ess je w
,

e ll e r .T he m aiden te lls hi m th at his p e arl is no t really
l o st ge ntly reprove s th e i m pati ence of his gri ef and ex
, ,

— —
p ou n ds a little too i geniously some of the mysteri es of
n

H ea v en wh e re she re igns as a qu een with M ary


, The .

f a th e r b egs to b e tak en to h er abidi ng pl ac e ; she t e lls -

h i m th at he m ay se e but canno t e nt e r th a t clean clois


, ,

te r. She bids hi m go alo ng the riv e r b an k u n til h e co me s -

t o a hill Arrive d at the top he see s afar off the c ele sti al
.
,

c ity , pitch e d upo n ge ms with its walls of j asp e r and ,

s tr ee ts of g old A t the wo nd e r of the sight he stands


.
,
” “
still as a daz e d qu ail a n d gazi ng s e e s right as , ,

t he m ighty m oo n gan rise the Virgi ns walki ng i n pro ,

ce ssio n with the La mb of God His d aught e r is one of .

t hem .

T he n sa w I th e re m y li ttl e q u e en
Lo rd i m u ch Of m i rth was th at sh e m ad e
Am o n g h e r ma te s .
32 A HISTO RY OF E N GLISH LI TE RATURE

He strive s in tran sport to cross ove r and b e with her ; but


it is not pleasing to God that he should com e and the ,

d ream e r awak es .

The P ea rl e xists in the s am e manuscript with two oth e r


re m ark abl e re ligious poe m s e n titl ed re spe ctive ly Glea nnes s
,

an d P a ti ence The fi rst p re ach es the doctr ine


.

ge o f pu rity of li f e an d e nf orc e s it with vivid


Panaa
,

t ransc ription s f ro m the Bible sto ri es of the d e


structio n of S odo m the s m iting of Belshazzar for pollu t
,

ing the sacre d vesse ls an d othe r lik e i ns tan c e s


, T he .

se cond ill u strate s the virt u e of pati en ce by the story of


o
J a n b —
, a littl e hu m o ro u sly to a m ode rn m i nd , T he .

d escriptio ns are som e of the m e xtraordi narily Vivid and ,

the language has the same n e rvous vigor and graphic pic t
u re sq u e ne ss which disti nguish e s tha t of Si r Ga wa y ne a n d the

Green K night T his i n de e d has co m e dow n to us i n the


.
, ,

same m anuscript wit h the P ea rl and Clea nness and P a


ti ence and m any scholars b e lie ve th at th e y are all four the
,

work of one man If so he was the m ost con sid e rabl e


.
,

poe t be twee n Cyn e wulf and Ch auce r .

T he flowi ng toge th e r of S axon and N orman F ren ch -

brought abo u t i mportan t re sults in the m e tre as well as i n


“ mm of the v oc abul ary of the n e w l angu age Saxon .

$ 333 2“ poe try d epende d for its rhyth m ical effe ct upon
w sy m m"
two d e vice s allite ratio n and accent Each
, .

Ve rs e l i n e n o m att e r how l ong co n tai ne d f O


-
, u r acc en ts
, an d

thre e (some ti m es four) of th e se accen ts had to fall on syl


lable s b egi n ni ng wi th the sam e conso nan t or with a vow e l .

T he n u m b e r of syllable s in any giv e n li ne c ou ld vary ln


d e finite ly and the accents co u ld fall anywh ere in the li ne ,

provide d two occu rred in the first h alf and one (or two) i n
the se co n d h al f The re s u lt was tha t the rhyth m of S axo n
.

ve rs e was ex cee dingly loose and pliabl e N orman F re nc h .


-

ve rse d epend ed upon two d e vic e s quit e d iffe re nt from


,

th e se rhyme an d regu l ar li ne l e ngth the m e trical sys
,
-

te m was th erefore v e ry d e fin ite and e xact .


A HISTO RY OF E NGLISH LI TERA T URE

The Engl an d which fin ds utterance in these songs is a


v e ry diffe re n t E ngl an d f rom th at which had sp ok e n i n

T he Wand e re r
” ”
and
, The B attl e of B ru nan b u rh It .

is n o lo nge r the fi e rce and gloo my asp ects of N ature bu t ,

her bright and l aug hi ng m oods th at are su ng , T he i mag


.

i nations of m en wor k now not in te r m s of war but o f


p eace ; m on o tonous and me lan ch oly grand e urs h a v e
given way to a bright and various hu manity .

T he N orm an i nvasi on has d one its work T he .

conq u e rors h ave ce as e d to be such f or fore ign


,

w ars and centu ri e s of d om e stic i nte rcourse h ave broke n


down the disti n cti on b e twe en m e n of N orman and men o f
S axon blo od T he ne w l angu age is formed a ne w an d
.
,

vigorous nati onal li fe is e verywh e re m ani fe st A ne w po e t


.

is ne ed ed great en ough to gath er up and m ak e i n te lligibl e


,

to itse lf this shi f ti ng m any colore d li fe ; and Ch auc e r is


,
-

at h and.
CHA PT E R III
TH E A GE O F C HA UC ER
I

GE OFF RE Y CH A U C E R was bo rn about 1 3 40 of a fam ily ,

of Lon d on m e rch ants His f ath e r a m e m be r of the Cor


.
,

p o ra t i o n o f V i n t ne rs h ad b ee n p u rv,e yor to Che h eem


K i ng E dw ard III It was probably this fam ily
.
E a" ? W e “

c o nne cti on with the c ou rt whic h m ad e it p ossibl e for


C h auc e r wh e n ab out s e v e nte en to b e co m e a p age i n the
, ,

h o u sehold of the K i ng s dau ghte r ln law the Duch ess of



- -
,

C l are n c e T wo ye ars l ate r he w e nt with the ki ng s ar m y



.

to F ran c e H ere he saw u nroll e d the brilli ant p ageant


.

of m e di a e val war as the F r en ch chr on icl e r F roissart has


,

picture d it at a ti me wh en chivalry an d k nighth ood


, ,

th ou gh th ey had l ost som ething of th e ir i nner m eani ng ,

w e re at th eir high est poi nt of o u tward spl end or He .

be h e ld the u nsucce ssful si e ge of the city of Rh e i m s ; was


ca ptur e d by the F r e nch and h e ld as a priso ne r of war u n til
, ,

ra n so m e d by his roy al m ast e r .

O n his r e turn to E ngl and he was mad e a S q uire o f the


K i ng s B edch am b e r and prob ably sp en t the n e xt te n

,

y ea rs at Edward s court th en the most brilli ant i n Eu rop e



, .

T he cou rt of E dward was still pr actic ally a Fr e nch cou rt


a n d Ch auce r altho u gh he se e m s to h ave d e cid e d v e ry early
,

t o u se his n ativ e to ngu e n ec e ssarily t u rn e d to F ran c e f or


,

h is lite rary m od els The first p e ri od of his poe tic life was
.

sp e n t in as si m il ati ng all th at the F rench trou v eres and


b allad write rs had to teach hi m c onc e rn i ng his ch ose n art
-
.

T he m ost fam o u s work which the sch ool of Fr ench trou v eres
had produc e d was the Roma n de la Rose an el aborate alle
, ,

35
36 A HIST O RY OF E N GLISH LI T ERA T U RE
gory of Love the rose growi ng in a mystic gard e n w arde d
, , ,

by sym bolic powe rs f ro m the lover s approach and p ro vok ’


,

ing e ndl e ss disquisitions s e rious or satirical such as th e , ,

late r Middle Age s l oved to sp end u pon the subtl e ti e s o f


sen ti m en t T he Roman de la Ros e was Ch auce r s first
.

trai ni ng school an d he t ook his trai ni ng with ch aracte r


,

i stic th o rough ne ss by transl ati ng the po e m i nto E nglish


Th meh eh
e
v e rs e T he F r e n ch poe t
. D es C h am ps con
P°fi °d°
gratulate s Ch auc e r ab ove all thi ngs on h avi n g , ,

pl ante d the rose tree in the isle of gi ants -
Le ss th a n .

two th ou san d li ne s of this tran sl atio n h av e survive d ;


ind e ed the whol e m ay ne v e r h av e b ee n co m pl e ted
,
Bu t .

the Roma n de la Rose l e f t a pr ofou nd i m pre ssio n upo n


C h auc e r s work and f or y ears he tho u ght and wrote in the

,

a tm osph e re which it created f or hi m Du ri ng th e se y ea rs .

of Fr en ch i n flu en c e he wrote for the k nights and l adi e s o f ,



K i ng E dw ard s court th ose ballad es rou nd e ls Vire lays

, , , ,


by which his fell ow poe t Gow er says th e l and fulfill e d -


was ov e r all T he m ost i m portan t work which re mai n s
.

to u s f rom his pure F re nch p e riod h ow eve r is the B ook of , ,

the D u chesse als o k now n as , The D ea th of B la u nche the



Du chess e writte n i n 1 3 69 to s ol ac e the b ereav em ent o f
, ,

he r husband J oh n of Gau n t the ki ng s third son



.
,

In 1 3 70 Chauce r was se n t to the Con ti n en t on roy al


,

busi ness T his was the first of many ofiicial m issio ns which
.

he e xe cute d for the ki ng duri ng the ne xt ten years i n ,

vari ous p arts of E urope T he opp o rtu nity afi orded by .

th es e jo u rne ys f or c onv erse with many typ es of m en an d ,

obs e rv ati on of wid e ly v aryi ng m anne rs was of the utm os t ,

i m portance in his p oe tic e d u cati on .


O n Ch auc e r s re tu r n to E ngl and aft e r his first Itali a n
m issio n his se rvic e s w e re r eward e d by the gi f t of the i m
,

p ortant p ost of con trolle r of the custo m s on wool ski ns , ,

a n d t anne d hid e s at th e p ort of Londo n ; to which was


,

add e d the c ompli m en tary gran t of a d aily pitch e r of wi n e

f ro m the ki ng s c el lars His o ffi ce as controller was an



.
TH E A GE O P C H AUC ER 37

a rduou s requiri ng his c onstant p ersonal att end ance


one, .

H e was by this ti m e m arri e d t o his wife Philipp a l ady in ,


-

w aiti ng to the c onsort of J oh n of Gau nt and lived in a ,

house o ve r one of the city gates near the T owe r We ge t .

f ro m his p oe m s v ari ous gli mp se s of his d aily


li fe e sp e ci ally of the eage rne ss for study which
, , ,
Pe i od r
af te r the d ay s wo rk was d one w ould s end hi m
.

,

“ ” “
ho me regardless of rest and ne we thinges to sit as
, ,

do m b as any st one o ve r his b ook u ntil his ey e s w ere daz ed , .

The u nq u en chabl e curiosity of the men of the Renaissanc e


was his m ore th an a c e n tury b e fo re the Renaissan ce r e ally
,

be gan in E ngl and His too was th eir thirst f or e xpr es


.
, ,

sio n The great b ook s he had c om e to k now in Italy gave


.

h i m no p eac e u ntil h e Sh ould e q u al or s u rp ass th e m


, In .

1 3 82 on the b e tr oth al o f the b oy ki ng Rich ard II to the


, ,
.
,

you ng p ri ncess Anne of B oh em i a Ch auc e r wrot e a we d ,

di n g p oe m f or the roy al pair the P a rlem ent of F ou les ,

( Birds ) T r oil
.u s a n d Gres ei de a n d t he H o u s e of F a m e

b e long also to thi s central or Itali an p e ri od of Ch au

c e r s lit e rary li fe In 1 385 he was all owed to di sch arge
.

his d u ti e s as custom s office r by d e puty T he fi rst resu lt .

o f his n e w f ou n d l e isur e was the Le end o Goode W m


f
-
g o

m e n d e dicate d to the you ng q u een


, In 1 386 he was .

e l e ct e d to Pa rli am e n t as m e m b e r f ro m K e n t T his P ar .

l i a m e n t was in O pp o sition to the ki ng and succ ee d e d i n ,

f orci ng up on hi m a c ou ncil one of the acti on s of which was ,

to dis m i ss Ch auc e r f ro m hi s o ffi ce as co n tr oll e r T hr e e .

y e ars l at e r Rich ard II agai n t ook aff airs i n t o his own h ands
.
,

a n d as a re ne we d Sign of the r oy al favor Ch au c e r was m ad e

c l e rk of the K i ng s w orks ( su p e rvisi ng archite ct ) at We st


m i n st er the T ow e r Wi nds or Castl e an d oth er pl ac es


, , ,
.

D uri ng th es e y ears his m ast e rpi e ce the Ca n ter


La te m
,

b u rg Ta les was gro wi ng u nde r his h and T o w


, Englis h Is ’

mm
.

a rd the e n d of Rich ard I I s re ign Ch auc e r fe ll



.

i n to p ov e rty from cau ses not we ll k nown b u t in 1 3 99 on


, ,

t he acc ession of H enry IV a b allad entitl e d The Com


.
38 A HISTO RY or E N G LI SH L I T ERATU RE

p l e in t Ch aucer to his E m pty Pu rs e brought him su b


of

s tan tia l ai d H e di e d i n 1 4 00, afte r signi ng a ni nety n i n e


.
-

y ear l ease of a house in St Pau l s Churchyard



. .

T he m ost i m portan t e v e n t i n Ch auc e r s li fe was his fir s t



visit to Italy, on the ki ng s busi ne ss, i n 1 3 72 Ita ly was .

th en at the z e nith of he r artistic e ne rgy, i n t h e


1 m m“ .

°on Cha n sple nd or of th at illu m i nation which h ad


f ull
225
f ollow e d the i n t e ll e ctu al twilight of the M i d

d le Age s and whic h we k now a s the Re naissanc e or N e w
, ,

Bi rth Each of her li ttl e city stat es was a c en tre of m a r
.
-

vel lou s a ctivity an d e v e rywh e re w e r e b ei ng prod u c e d th o s e


,

m ast e rpie c e s o f p ai nti ng sculpture and archite cture which


, , ,

s t ill m ak e Italy a plac e of pilgri m age f or all l ov ers of art .

T he lite rary activity was e q u ally great at l east i n T u sca n y , .

Dan te had b een d e ad f or h al f a c e ntury bu t his p oetry was ,

j ust begi nning to asse rt its el f as one of the w orld f orce s i n -

the real m of i m agi na ti on P e trarch the grave ae c o m.


, ,

l i shed schol ar and el egan t p oe t was passi ng his cl osi n g


p ,

years at his v illa of A rqu a ne ar Padu a ; Boccacci o p oe t , , ,

tale writer p ed ant and worldli ng was sp endi ng the a u


-
, , ,

tu m u of his li fe am ong the cypr ess and l aure l sl op e s O f


Fi e sol e abov e F lore nc e
,
T he world which lay op e n to
.

Chau ce r s ga z e wh en he cros sed the Alps was th e re fore o n e



,

calc u late d to fasci nate and sti m u l ate him in the high e st
d egre e Wh e th e r he saw Pe trarch or Boccacci o i n p e rson is
.

n ot k no w n but fr om thi s ti m e on his work was l arg e ly i n


, , ,

fl u e n ce d by th em as w ell as by Dante , T hrough all thr ee .

he c am e i n to close r c ontact with the gre at lit e ratu re of t h e


p ast and ac q uired a ne w re ve re nce f or the anci e nt m as te rs
, .

B o th the P a rlemen t of F ou les and t he Hou se of F a m e


are c olor e d wit h Itali an r e m i ni sc e nc e ; but the c hi ef f r u it

of Ch a uce r s Itali an j o urneys wa s the lo ng p oe m ad ap te d


r om Boccac ci o s P hi lostra to ( T he Love s tric ke n


T oi l u and
r s
f -

“m m“ O ne) e nti tl e d by Ch auce r Troi lu s a nd Cr es


,

ei de . T he story of the l ove of the you ng Troj an h e ro f o r


C re ssida and of he r d e se rti on of him f or the Gre e k
,
TH E A G E O F C HA UCER 39

Di o m e d e s, had grow n gradu ally th ro u gh the Middle Ages


u n til it reach e d B occ ac ci o s h and who gave it an ani m ate d ’
,

but o rnate treat m e n t in facil e ve rse Ch aucer th ough p re .


,

te ndi n g only to tran slate ch ange d the th e m e radically , .

In his h ands the love rs go be tw e e n Pand a r u s is trans



-
, , ,

f o rm e d f r om a gild e d y ou th of T roil u s s o wn age an d


tem p e ram e nt to a m id dl e aged m an pl au si ble go od


,
-
, ,

na tu re d f u ll of easy w o rldly wisd om and vulga r m at e ri al


,

isti c id e als a ch aract e r as tr u e to typ e an d as vitally aliv e


,
-

as if Sh ak esp e are had d raw n h im T he growth of the .

lov e p assio n in C re ssida s h eart is trace d throu gh its grad


-

u al stage s wi t h a psychol ogic al su btl e ty e n ti re ly ne w in

E nglish po e try The actio n di al ogue and


. stage setti ng , ,
-

of the p oe m are all giv e n with th e sa tisfyi ng touch of a

m as te r dram atist and with the m o st surprisi ng r ealis m


-
, .

T hough the sc ene is an ci e nt T r oy an d the c ostu m e s a re ,

th o se of m edi aeval k nights an d ladi e s we s eem i n m any , ,

p assage s of the poem to b e l ooki ng at a m od ern pl ay or


,

re adi n g fro m a m ode rn n ove l so h om ely and actu al d oe s it ,

a p pea r T o b e sure Ch auc e r has not ye t d eliv e re d hi m s e l f


.
,

f ro m the m e di aeval vic e of t e di ousn ess T roilus thi nks .

n othi ng of e xp ati ati ng to Pand arus u po n the l e ast of lov e s


wo es through a score of s e ve n li n e stanzas T he bre vity


,
-
.
,

dir ectn e ss and pregnancy of Ch auce r s l atest styl e we re


,

sti ll b ey ond his grasp .

The Legend of Goode Wommen is chi efly i n t e re sti ng


b e cause of its prologu e In the body of the p oe m Cl eo .
,

p a tra D ido Thisbe and oth e r type s of fem i ni ne d e v oti on


, , ,

i n love are giv en c el ebratio n in covert trib u te


, ,

to the wi fe ly vi rt u es of the y o u n g qu e e n wh ose 6 635;t


1

men 5 , 0

f a vor had pro ba bly s e c u r e d f or the p oe t r el ease


'

f ro m the dru dg e ry of the custo m s ofli ce T h e se sto ri e s are



.

ad apte d f ro m a Lati n w o rk of Bo cc acci o D e Cla r i s M u li ,

e ri bu s T he lo ng prologu e origi nal with Ch auc er is the


.
, ,

m ost wi nn i ng of his m any p assage s of p erso nal co nfession


a n d self re ve al me nt
-
.
40 A H IST O RY OF E N GLISH LITERA T URE
He repre sents hi m sel f as w and e ring in the fi elds on the
M y day the only season which can te m pt him f ro m
a
-
,

his books T he birds are si ngi ng to th e ir mate s th eir so ng


.

“ ”
of bl e sse d b e Sey nt Val entyn l and Ze phyrus and Flora , ,

“ ”
as
g o d a n d go d d e sse of th e fl o wr y m e d e h a v e spr e a d ,

the earth wi th f ragran t bloss om s But the poe t has ey e s .

only for one fl owe r the d ai sy the em perice ( e m pre ss)


, ,

and fl ou r of fl ou re s all e A ll d ay lo ng he l e an s an d pore s
.

upon the fl o we r ; and wh e n at last it has f old ed its l e a v e s


at the c om i ng of night he g oe s h om e to re st with t he
, ,

th ou ght of risi ng early to gaz e upon it o nce m ore H e .

m ak e s his c ouch ou t o f d oors in a littl e arbor ,


for d e yn te e ,

and h e re he has a wo n d e rf ul

o f the ne ws som e re s sa ke ,

drea m He dream s th at he is agai n in the fi elds kn e e li ng


.
,

by the d ai sy and s ee s approachi ng a proce ssi on of bright


,

f o rm s . First c om e s the y o u ng god of l o v e cl ad i n silk ,

e m br oid e re d with re d rose l eav e s and spr ays of gr ee n his


-
,

gilt h ai r cr ow ned with light i n his h and two fie ry d arts , ,

an d his wi ngs spr ea d ange l lik e H e l eads by the h an d a


-
.

qu ee n cl ad i n gre en an d crowned with a fill e t of d aisi e s


,

u nd e r a ban d of gold She is A lce stis typ e of nobl e st wif e ly


.
,

d e v oti on Behi nd he r c om e s an endl e ss trai n of wom e n


.

“ ”
who h av e b ee n tre we of l o ve Th e y k nee l in a circl e
.

ab ou t the p oe t and si ng with on e v oic e h onor to wo m a n s



,

truth and to the d aisy fl o we r the e m ble m of Al ce s tis T he


, , .

love god th e n gl owe rs angrily u p on Ch au ce r and upbra ids


-
,

hi m f or h aving d one d e spite to wo men in translati ng the ,

Roma n de la R ose with its satire upo n th e ir foibl e s a n d


,

i n writi ng the story of Cre ssid a so disho norabl e to t he ,

s teadfastne ss of the se x Al ce stis c om e s to his re scu e an d


.
,

agre e s to p a rdo n his m isd ee ds i f he will sp en d the re st o f

his li fe in m aki ng a glorio u s Leg end of Goode Wo m me n ”


,

and will s e n d it on he r be h al f
,
to the E nglish q u e e n , .

Ch au ce r prom is es sol e m nly and as soon as he w ake s be tak es


, ,

hi m self to his t ask .

It is probable that Chauce r did i n deed e nte r upo n t his


42 A HIST O RY OF E N GLISH LI TERA T U RE

a bout the se p arate stori e s of a c oll ectio n In his D ecamerone .

a c om p any of aristocra tic y o u ng p eopl e are r e pr e s e nt e d as

h avi ng take n refu ge f rom the plagu e ragi ng in F lo re nce ,

i n a vill a on the sl op e s of F i e s ol e T h e y w and e r through .

the vall eys of o l ean d e rs an d m yrtl e s o r sit be sid e th e fou n ,

tai ns of the Vill a gard ens and b eg u ile the ti me with tales
,

of sen ti m e n t an d i ntrig u e Ch auc e r whil e adopti ng a


.
,

si m il ar fram ew ork m ade his s e t ti ng m uch m ore na ti ona l


,

and r acy ; i ndividu aliz e d his ch ara cte rs so as to m ak e o f

th e m a gallery of livi ng portrai ts of his ti m e ; and vari e d


his T al e s so as to i nclude al m ost all the typ es of narra tiv e
k no wn to lite rature at the cl ose of the M iddle Age s .

H e re pre sen ts hi m s el f as alighti ng one spri ng e v e ni ng , ,

a t the T abard Inn i n S outhw ark a s u bu rb a t the so u th e r n


, ,

The p il gri m
e n d o f L o n d o n Bridg e wh e re af te rw a rd th e ,

a t t h °TaW d
fam ous Eliz ab e th an pl ayho u s e s Sh ake sp e are s
~ ’
,

a m ong th e m w e re to arise Sou thwark was the pl ace o f


,
.

d e parture and arrival for all S outh O f Engl and trave l an d - -


,

e sp e ci al ly fo r pilgri m ag e s to the world r e now n e d sh ri n e o f -

T h om as a B e ck e t at Cant e rb u ry
- -
,
A c o m p an y b e nt o n .

s u ch a pilgri mage Ch au ce r fi nds gath e red in the i nn ; h e


m ak es th eir acq u ai ntance and j o i ns hi m s el f wi th th e m f o r
,

the j ourn ey Cou n ti ng the p oe t th ey are thirty in al l


.
, .

T h e re is a K night l ately c om e f ro m the f oreign wa rs a ,

m an who has f ought in P r u ssi a and i n T u rk ey jouste d i n ,

T rasi m e ne and b een pr es e nt at the stor m i ng of Al e x a n


,

dri a — a high m i nd ed gentl e m anne red k n ightly adven t


,
-
,
-
,

u re r typ e of the chiv alry which was p assi ng rapidly a wa y


,
.

With him is his son a yo u ng Squ ire curly h aire d an d


, ,

his sh rt whit e sl e e v e d g ow n e m broid e re d lik e a m e a d


g y
a o -
, ,

wi th re d and white fl owe rs ; he is an epitom e of the gi f ts


a nd g rac e s o f brilli an t y outh T h e ir s e rvant is a Y e o
.

m an in c oat and h ood of gree n a sh eaf of p eacock


, ,

arrows u nd e r his b elt a m ighty b o w i n his h an d an d a


, ,

silv e r i m age of St Ch ristoph e r u p on his breast he is th e


.

typ e of that sturdy E nglish ye omanry which with its gra y ,


TH E A GE O F C H A U C ER 43

goose sh afts hu mbl e d the prid e of France at Crecy and


A gi n cou rt T h e re is a wh ol e group o f e ccl esi astic al fi g
.

u re s r epre s e n ti ng i n th e ir nu mb e rs and vari e ty the


,

i m m e n se gro wth of the m e di eaval Ch u rch Most of th e m .

a re sa tiric al portraits i n th e ir w o rldli ne ss a nd gross m at e


,

ri al ism o n ly too faith f u l re pre se n tative s of the c orr u pt

Ca tholicis m agai nst which Wy clif struggl ed F irst of all .

the re is a m onk who c ar e s on ly f or hu nti ng and g ood


,

ch e e r ; his b ald h ead shi ne s lik e gl ass his steep eye s ,

ro ll i n his h ead he rid e s a sl e ek brown p alfrey and has ,



m an y a d ai nty h orse i n his stabl e s ; his sl e e v es are
tri m m e d with fi ne fu r at the wrists his ho od is fastene d ,

u n d e r his chi n with a gold l ov e k not A s a co m p ani on -


.


fig u re to the hu nti ng mon k Ch au cer give s us Mad ame ,

E glan ty ne the pri or ess ; she is a teach e r of you ng l adi e s


, ,

sp e aks F rench afte r the sch ool of Stratford atte b owe - -
,

is e xquisite i n he r tabl e m anne rs c o u n te rfe iti ng as w e ll as


-
,

sh e ca n the state ly b e h avior of the court O th er e ccl esi as .

ti e s a re th e re h angers ou an d c at e rpill ars of the Church


,
-

t h e S u m m o ne r a r e pulsiv e p e r son wit h


,
fi re re d Ch e ru bi m -


fa c e the Pardo ner with his b ag fu ll of p ardo ns, c om e

f ro m Ro m e all hot and of bits of cl oth an d pig s b one s

-
,

wh ich he se lls as relics of the h oly sai nts Chaucer s .


tre atm e n t of th ese e vil ch u rchm e n is highly good na tured -

a n d t ol e ran t ; he ne v e r t ak e s the tone of m or al i n digna

tio n again st th e m B u t he d oe s b e tte r ; he sets b esid e


.

th e m as type of the tru e sh e ph e rd of the Church a p oor


, ,

p a rso n such
,

as u n d e r Wycli f
, s t e a chi n g h ad spr ead o v e r

,

E n gl and begi nni ng th at great m ov e m en t for the p u rifi


,

c a tio n of the Church which was to r e sult , m ore th an a ,

c e n tury l ate r i n the Reform ati on Ch auc er p ai n ts the


, .

c h a ra cte r of the Parson p oor in this w orld s goods but ’


.
,
“ ”
ric h of h oly thought and w o rk with lovi ng and re ve r ,

e n t t ouch T he Pars on s b roth e r travels with hi m— a



.

“ ”
P low m an a tru e swi nk e r and a good who h e lps his
, ,

o o r ne ighbors without hire and lov e s th em as hi ms elf h e


p
44 A H ISTO RY OF E NGLIS H L I T E RA T UR E

r e m i nds us of th at Pi e rs Pl owm an o f wh om Langl an d ,

Chau ce r s gr eat c o nte m p orary and anti type wr o t e i n



-
,

his Vi si on A cro wd of o th e r figu re s fill the c an v a s


. .

T h e re is a Ship m an f rom the w e st c ou n try a r epre se n ta -


,

tive of th ose adv e ntu ro u s seam e n h al f m erch an t sailo rs ,


-
,

h al f sm u ggl e rs and pi rat es who had already m ade E n g ,

land s nam e a t e rror on the se as and p ave d the way f o r



,

he r f u tur e na val su p re m acy T h e r e is a p oor Cl erk o f


.

O x f ord ridi ng a h orse a s l ean as a rak e and dre s se d i n


, ,

th readbare cl oak who sp end s all th at he can b eg or b o r


,

ro w u p on b ook s ; h e r e p re se n t s th at p assi on f or l e ar n i n g

which was al re ady astir e v e rywh e re i n E u rope and whi ch ,

was w ai ti ng only the m agic t o u ch of the ne w fou n d -

classical li te rat u re to bl oss om ou t i nto ge nu i ne t hought


a n d i m agi n a ti on T h e re i s a M e rch ant in a F l e m i s h
.
,

b eave r on a hig h h orse conc eali ng wi th the grave i m p o r


, , ,

tance of his ai r the f act t hat he is in d e bt T h e re i s a


, .

group of g u ild m e n in the liv e ry of th ei r guild all worthy


-
, ,

to b e ald e rm e n t oge th e r with the m e rch an t th ey re p ,

rese nt the m e rcantil e and m anu facturi ng activity wh ich


was li f ti ng E ngl an d rapidly to the ra nk of a grea t co m
m e rcial p ow e r T h e re is the Wi fe o f B ath a figure co n
.
,

ce i v e d with m aste rly h u m or an d re ali sm a p e rm ane n t ,


h u m an typ e ; she has had h u sbands fi ve at church
” ”
d oor and th ou gh som d el d e af e xpe c ts to live to we d
, , ,

s e v e ral oth ers ; s he rid e s on an am bl e r with sp u rs an d ,

sc arl e t h ose on he r f ee t an d on he r h ead a hat as broad as


,

a b u ckl e r T h e se an d a d o z en oth e rs are al l p ai nte d i n


.
, ,

V ivid c ol ors an d with a psych ol ogical tru th which r e m i n d


,

u s o f the p ort raits of the F l e m is h p ai n te r Va n Ey ck ,

Ch a u c e r s c onte m p ora ry T ak e n as a whol e th e y rep re



. ,

s e nt the e n tire range of English soci e ty in the fo urte e n t h


c en tu ry with the e xce pti on of the high est aristocracy a n d
,

t he l o we st o rd e r of vill e i ns o r s e rfs .

A t su pp e r thi s g oodly com pany h e ars f rom the host of


the T ab ard a prop ositio n th at on th e ir j our ney to Can t e r
TH E A GE O F C H A U CE R 45

b u ry , to b e guil e the tediu m of the rid e each of th em ,

s h a ll t e ll two tal e s and on th e h om e w ard j ourne y two


,

m ore .
*
H e agre e s to trave l with th em to act as m aster of ,
-

c e re m on i es and on th e ir re t u rn to re nd e r judgm en t as to
,

wh o has t old the b e st story the wi nn e r to b e giv en a su pp e r


,

a t t h e ge n e ral e xp e ns e So it is agree d . T he ne xt m orn i ng .

th e y se t ou t bright and early on th e ir j ou rney T he p il grim


°n t he Rm "
s o u t hw ard to the c ath ed ral city T h ey draw .

l o ts to d e te rm i ne who sh all t ell the fi rst tal e The l o t falls .

to t he K n ight who tells th e ch arm i ng chivalric st ory o f


,

Pa la m on and A rcit e Wh e n it is fi ni sh ed the Ho st calls


.

u p o n th e M onk to f ollow B u t the M ill er who is al re ady


.
,

d ru nk and q u arrelsom e insists on b e i ng h eard and l au nch e s


, ,

fo rthwith i n to a v e ry u nedi fyi ng tal e T h e Host ris e s in .

his stirrup s and calls on the Parson for a story by Goddes ,

d ignitee T he Parso n r e prov e s hi m f or sw eari ng ; wh e re



up o n the H ost cri e s th at he sm ells a Lollard f in the
wi n d and bids the co m p any p rep are for a s e rm o n T his
, .

is too m uch for the Ship m an who br eaks in i m p ati e ntly , .

Wh e n the Host calls up on the P ri ore ss he changes his ,

bl u ff m anne r to corresp ond with her rank and e xcessiv e


re fi ne m e n t sp eaki ng with p olite circu ml ocuti on
, as ,

co u rte ously as it had been a m aid T he Priore ss r e sp on ds.

gra ci o usly and tells the sto ry of H u gh of Li ncol n the lit


, ,

tl e m artyr who af te r his th roat had b e e n cut by the wick e d


,

J e ws an d his body thr ow n i nt o a pit still Si ngs with cl ear


, ,

y o u ng voice his A lma Redemp tori s to the gl ory of the V irgi n .

So the stori e s co nti nu e i n te rr u pt e d co nstantly by vivid


,

d i a l o g u e and action on the p art of the pilgri m s T wo of .

t h e m ost ch armi ng tale s are t old by t he Cl e rk an d the

C ou nting the Host and C a no n Ye om an (who j oin s the m



th e s

on th e ro ad ) the comp any co n s i ste d o f t hi rty


-
tw o pe rs ons , m aki ng a

t o ta l o f a hu nd re d a d
n t we nty
-
e i ght t a l e s t o b e told . Le ss than a fif th
of thi s n u m b e r we re actu ally writte n, a nd se v eral of the se were le ft
f ragm e nta ry .

t T he f ol l owe rs of Wy cli f we re calle d L ollards . See p 5 0 . .


46 A HISTO RY OF E N GLISH L I T ERA T URE
young S q uire The Cl erk af ter he has b een ralli ed by th e
. ,

Host u p on his still and th oughtful manner of riding agre e s ,


r l
to e a e a t st o ry which h e l e ar n e d a t P a du a o f F r a n cis
t
Pe ra c r h h
t e
,
l a ur ea t e p o e t wh o s e rh
,
e toric sw e e t e n l u

i
m ne d all It a ly o f p o e try It .is ”
t h e s tory o f P ati e n t
L

ri
G s e s l which
,
C h a uc e r b o r ro w e d f ro m P e tr a rch s a ti n v e r

sion T he Squ ire s tal e as b e fits his y ears and dispositi o n


.

, ,

is a bright tal e of l ov e adv ent u re an d m agic in which


, , ,

fi gur e a flyi ng h o rse of bras s and o th e r wo nde rs Ch a u .

ce r i n tr od u c es hi m se l f i n t o the s u cc e ssion of s tory t e ll


-

e rs wi t h ch ara ct e ristic m od e sty an d sly hu m or Sobe re d .

by the m iracu l o u s tal e of Hugh of Li ncol n the com p a n y ,

is ridi ng sil ently alo ng wh en the H ost to break the awe


, ,

str u ck m ood tu rns to Ch auce r an d begi ns to jok e h im


, ,

up on his shy abstracted air and his c orpul ency


wh a t man a rto w q u od he
T h o u l o o k e st as th o u w o u ld e s t fi n d an h are ,
F o re v e r u p o n th e gro u n d I se e th e e stare .

Ap p roa ch s n e a r, an d l o o k u p m e rri l y .

N o w w a re y o u sirs, a n d le t th i s m a n hav e p la ce ;
,

H e i n th e w a is t is sh a p e a s w e ll a s I
He s ee m e th e l v i sh b y h is cou n te n a n ce

For t
u n o no W i gh t d o e th h e d al li a n ce .

Ch aucer, thus ralli ed , b e gi n s one th os e dogge rel rhy m e s of

O f k n ightly adv e n t u re , to which th e r omanc e s of chiva lry


had in his day d egene rat e d T he Rhy me of Si r Thap as i s a
.

capit al burl e sq u e of a styl e of po e t ry which Ch a uc e r h i m

se lf had co me to suppl ant H e has n o t got f ar b efore t he


.

Host cri e s out up on the drasty rhym i ng and Ch au c e r ,

m eekly agr ees to contrib u t e i nst e ad a littl e thi ng i n

prose a m oral tal e


,
and he pro c e e ds with the story o f

Mel ib eu s and his wi f e Prud enc e a v ery dreary tal e i nd e e d , ,

mat ch ed f or t e di ous ness o n ly by the pr ose s e rm on put i n to


the m outh of the Pars on with which the Cante rbu ry ,

Tal e s i n the f ragmentary form in which th ey w ere le f t


'

, ,
TH E A GE O F C H AU C ER 47

c o n c l ud e .
It is curious to t no e h ow Ch auce r s styl

e be
co m e s awkw ard i nv olve d an d w earisom e as s oon as he de
, , ,

se rts his na tur l


a me di u m of v e rs e a n d ,
a tt e m pts t o writ e

i n p ros e .

In the sixt ee n th c en tury a n d l a t e r wh e n owi ,


n g t o th e ,

chan e g i n th e pr o n u n ci a ti o n o f w o rds ( e sp e ci a lly t h e l o ss


i fi

o f th e fi n al e) t he s e cre t o
,
f C h c rs
a u e v e rs c a Ch ee eh , e
.

m m” At r
ti on was l ost he was regard e d as a b arb arou s
,

wr e it r,
ig n o r a n t o f p r o sody an ,
d w it h n o e a r f o r t h e m e l
O dy of v e r se . T h e c o n tr ary o f this w a s t h e c a s e H e w as .

an a rtist in v e r s e e f
-
f e cts w
,
h o p a id c o n st a n t a n d d e lic a t e

h ee d to t h e n ic e ti e s o f rhyth m a n d t o n e col o r I n -
a h a l f .

humo r o us a ddr e ss to his scriv e n e r A d a m h e c a l ls d o w


, n

c u rs e s u p o n th a t u n w o rthy s e r v a n t f o r sp o ili,n g g oo d
v e rs e s by b ad c opyi ng , an d i n T roil u s h e b e se e ch e s his
“ ”
re ad e rs n ot to m is m e tre his b ook F rom his ve ry .

e a rl i e st po e m s , his work is in all f orm al d e tails fault


l e s s a n d as he p rog re sse d in skill his m u sic b e c am e con ,

s ta n tly m or e v ari e d an d fl e xibl e His e arly m anne r


.

rea ch e s its h e ight in the e xq u i sit e r on d e l i ntric ate i n ,

f o rm b u t h an dl e d with great Si m plicity of e ffe ct which ,

b ri ngs the P a rlement of F ou les to a m e l odi ous cl os e A .

od e x a m pl e of his l ate r m usic m ay b e f o u n d in the de


g o

s cripti on of the T e m pl e of Ve n u s in the K n ight s T al e ;


or as a study i n a grav er ke y i n the ball ad F lee fro the


, ,

P re ss , which m arks so i m pre ssiv ely the d ee pe ni ng se ri
o nene ss of Ch au cer s m i nd in his l ast years

.

Ch au c e r e m ploye d thr ee pri n cip al m e tre s : the e ight


syllabl e li ne rhym i ng in c ou pl e ts as in the B ook of the
, ,

D u chesse the te n syll abl e li n e al so rhym i ng in coupl e ts


-
, ,

as in th e P rol ogu e to th e Ca n te rb u ry T al e s and the sam e

li n e arrange d in se v en l ine stanz as ( k nown late r as


-

rhym e r oy al as in T r oil u s I n his short e r po em s he


.

m ad e how e ve r en dl ess m e trical e xp e ri men ts and show e d


, , ,

a maste ry of i n tric at e v e rse f orm s r e mark abl e e v en in an


-
,

Rhyming a, b, a. b, b, c, c,
48 I O Y
A H ST R OF E N GLI SH LI T ERA T URE

age wh e n the F r en ch had m ade ve rs e writi ng a m att e r of -

gy mnastic ski ll .

A s f or his m ate ri al Ch a uce r did not h e sitate to tak e


,

wh at suite d him wh e re ve r he fou nd it ; some ti m e s borrow


,

i ng wh ol e sal e wi th out ch ange of tene r ad apti ng


So rce s oi
u s ,

an d r e w orki ng his m atte r f re e ly Any suc h .


thing as origi n ality in the mod e rn sen se was u n dre am e d
, ,

of i n the M iddl e A ges the m ate rial of li te rature was com


m on prop e rty and the sam e stori e s w e re en dl essl y r ep eate d
, .

Wh oev e r wo u ld le arn the sou rces from which Ch auce r


d re w m u st ransack t he store h o u se of m e di aev al fiction


, ,

a nd e x am i n e no littl e of m e di aev al sci en ce an d phil o sophy .

Ch au c e r s was the on ly origi nality th en possibl e



— he i m ,

prov e d wh ate ve r he b orr ow e d and stamp e d it with his ,

i ndividu ality of th ought an d styl e T h at p art of his work .

which we valu e m os t how ev e r su ch as the prologu es to


, ,

the Le ge n d o f Goo d Wom en an d to the Cante rbury T ale s ,

was origi nal in e v e ry sen se .

C h auce r lived an d wrote in a world wh ere the lurid


lights an d grote sq u e Sh ad ows of the M iddl e Age s w e re
o n ly b egi nn i ng to b e p e n e trat e d by the cl ear d aw n light -

of m od e rn cultu re H e first of all m en in E n gl an d fe lt


.
, ,

the i nflu e nc e of th at n ew ill u m i na ti on as it sh on e f ro m ,

F ran ce and f ro m b e y on d the Alps ; an d he f ollow e d it


,

u n til it brou ght h i m ou t f rom am ong the abstr acti on s an d

the m on ot on ou s dre am s of the M iddl e Age s i nto a world


of livi ng r eality v ari e ty an d h u m o r
, In this he was f ar
, .
,

be yon d his age The f u ll forc e of his origi


Chaucew w
.

? wi th nal i ty is fe lt wh en he is c om p are d with J oh n


33323 —
Gow e r the m oral Go we r to who m he d edi
,

cate d his T roilus Ch auc e r i n his m atu r e work looks


.
, ,

f orw ard to the E ngl an d of the T ud ors Go wer is still hop e


l e ssly entangl e d in the abstractions and form le ss dre am s
of me di aevalis m .
50 A H IST O R Y OF E N GLISH LI TE RAT U RE

m idst which it was d e clare d a d e vil app eared and


of , ,

spoke . T he e x acti ons of the Ch u rch the e xtra vagan c e s ,

o f E dward III and the h e a vy c ost of his fo reign w ars


.
, ,

a dd e d to the bu rd e n b orn e by th e distra cte d p e asan try .

T he fearl e ssn e ss with which the O x ford r e for m e r J oh n ,

Wycli f attacke d the c orru p tions of the Chu rch and


, ,

qu e sti one d the f u nd am ental rights of prop erty was lik e ,

flam e to the f u el of discon ten t In 1 381 an i mm e nse .

u prisin g of the p eas an ts o cc u rre d u n d e r th e l e ad e rship of ,

Wat T yl e r J ack Straw and a soci alist prie st of K e n t


, , ,

n a m e d J oh n B all e T h e y m arch e d on Lon do n sa ck ed


.
,

the T ow e r an d the S a voy p al ac e and m urde re d an a rch ,

bi sh op ; it se e m e d as if the thro ne and the whol e s o cial


o rd e r w e re ab ou t to b e ov e rtu rne d It was this sta te of .

thi ngs w hich pr om pte d Gowe r to write his Vox Gla ma n ti s .

AS a lan d o wn e r i n K e n t he f elt the f ull bru n t of t he


-
,

distu rb anc e H e write s from the ari stocratic p oin t of


.

vi e w rep resen ting the c om m on peopl e as tu rne d i n to


,

b eas ts ox e n d ogs fli es and f rogs by the e vil m agic of the


, , , , ,

ti m e T he d u ll old p oe m k ee ps an i nte rest by virtu e of


.

the i n te n se fe e lin g which p e rvad e s it of h orror and dis m ay ,

at the soci al v olc an o which had op e ne d for a m o m e n t ,

threat en i ng to e ng u l f the n ati on .

J oh n Wycli f ( 1 3 2 0 ? the man who by his te a ch


i ng had h elp e d u n i ntenti onally to f o m ent the p e as a n t
, ,

rebe lli on was pri m arily a religi ous re fo r m er


,
Wy cl if
.

and th eol ogi an His c onn e cti on with En glish


.

literature is in a sen se accidental b u t it is neve rth e l e ss


, , ,

v e ry i m p ortan t H e attacke d the t e m poral p ower of the


.

ch u rch advocati ng p artly i n the i nte rests of the ove rb u r


, ,

de n e d p oor the appr opri ati on by the state of all church


,

p rop erty Whil e wagi ng a war of th e ory on this


.

an d oth e r e ccl e si as tic al q u e sti ons he pl ann e d ,

and c arri ed ou t a g reat pra ctic al m ov e m e nt ,

k nown as the Loll a rd m ov e m en t for arousing the co m m on ,

p eopl e to a more vital religious li fe He sent out si mple, .


TH E A GE O F C HAUC ER
de vote d men, to preach the gosp el in the native tongu e ,

a n d to bri ng ho m e to th e ir h e are rs the livi n g truths of re

ligio n whic h t he form alis m of the m e di aeval Church had


ob sc u re d T h e s e
. poor p ri e sts dre ss e d in coarse ru sse t
,

robe s and carryi ng st ave s t rav elle d throu gh the length


,

a n d br ea dth of the l and as We sl ey s pr ea ch e rs trav e ll e d



,

f ou r ce nturi e s l a te r c alli ng m e n back to the si mpl e fa it h


,

o f e arly apostolic ti m e s Wycli f and his Lollard pri e sts


.

b e ga n the great Prot estant app eal f ro m the d ogmas of


t h e C h u rch to the Bibl e which c u l m i nate d in the sixte e n th
, ,

ce n tu ry i n Luth e r and the Reform ati on


, I n ord e r t o .

m ak e this appe al e ffe ctiv e with the masse s Wycli f u nd er ,

t o ok to transl ate the whol e of the Bible i nt o w clif s ’

E nglish . With the as sistanc e of N ich olas of


H eref ord he c om pl e te d his g re at task b efore his d eath in
,

1 3 84 Wycli f s Bible was r e vi se d and some what si m pli


m
.

i n styl e a f e w y e ars l ate r by J ohn Pu rve y and r e c e ive d ,

i ts fi nal f orm som e ti me be fore the end of the ce ntury It .

i s the first gr e at m onu m e nt of p ros e styl e in E nglish By .

V irtu e of it and of the s e r m ons a nd tr acts which he w rot e


,

i n h om ely vigorou s s p ee ch f or the u nd erstan di n g of si m pl e


p e o pl e, W ycli f e a r ne d his titl e o f “
f a th e r of E nglish p ros e .

T he p e asan t re b e llion an d the Loll ard agitatio n giv e u s


gli m p ses of an E ngland which Chauce r in spite of the ,

m an ysi de dne ss of his work did n ot r ev eal , T he Can t e r .

bury T al e s con tai n only one refe rence to the pl agu e and ,

o nly o ne to Loll ard ry bo th of th ese refere n ce s are casu al


and h al f j e sti ng
-
Ch auce r w ro te for the c ou rt and the cu l ti
.

v a te d cl ass e s to wh om the su ff e ri ng s of the po or w er e e ith e r


,

u nk n own or acce pt e d as a p art of the n atu ral ord e r of


,

things H e is ofte n se rious som e ti m es n obly so but i nten se


.
,

moral i n dig nati on an d e xalte d spiritu al rapt u r e

m
Ch ce con au r
were foreIgn to M s artI stIc gay tol e ran t dIs
0

é
l vi th
, ,
finz
p o sitio n . I n his g rac e f u l w orldli ne ss his d e ,

light in the bright p ageantry of li fe he sh ows the N orman ,

French strai n ; the o th e r h al f o f the E nglish nature its ,


52 A HIST O RY OF E N GLI SH LI TERATURE
mystical , so mbre spi ritu ally stre nuous side f ou n d e x
, ,

pressio n in Willi am Lan glan d author of the B ook concern ,

i ng P i ers the P lowma n H e pr ocee ds f ro m th e Ge r m an ic


.

strain in the nation and is the re pre se ntativ e of th ose m o ral


,

an d spiritu al traits which af t e rwa rd c am e to b e k no wn a s

P uritan .

All th at we k no w of Langl and he has told us hi m se l f in ,

the bri e f autobiographic hi nts c on tai ne d i n P i ers the P lo w


ma n H e was b o rn p rob ably at Cole sb u ry M o r
Lan land
.

his !IQ nd a ti m e r near Malvern in Worce stershire n ot f ar


cm cte
, ,

f ro m the Wel sh b orde r


a r'
H e was of lo w bi rth .
,

though a f ree man He t ell s us t hat his fath er and f ri e n d s


.

put him to school and m ad e a cl e rk of him For a ti m e he


, .

“ ”
rom e d about rob e d i n russ e t in the manne r of a m e n di
,

cant driven by vagu e th ou ghts and d e sire s Goi ng up to


,
.


Londo n he got hi m a ch an t ry for souls on e of the m i n or
, ,

offic es of the m edimval Ch u rch ; his d u ty b ei ng to ch an t


at s tat e d i nt e rvals for the re l ease f rom purg atory of th e soul

of s om e d ead m a n who had l e f t a b e qu e st for th a t pu rpos e


, .

His p la cebo and his di rige and his se v en psal m s w e re the



t ool s he says with a sh ad e of s el f co ntempt by which he
,
-
,

gai ne d his bread His pove rty was e xtrem e With his wi fe
. .

K itt e and his d aughte r Cal ote he live d in Co rnhill wh e re , ,

his tal l gau n t figure cl o th e d in a so m bre pri e stly cloa k


, , ,

got h im the nicknam e of Long Will “ ”


A s he stalk e d .

thro u gh the cro wd e d Stran d he would refuse to b ow to ,

fi ne l ords and l adi e s cl ad in f u rs and silv e r and to cry ,


“ ”
God sav e you sir ! to se rge ant s of the law
, His con .

duct t o ward the rich and g reat so u nu su al in th at day got , ,

h im th e nam e of an e c ce n tric p e rs on so m ewh at touch e d i n ,

the b ra i n Hi nts of m e ntal st ruggl e s v ergi ng up on i n san ity


.

occu r in his co nfe ssi ons M y wit waxed and w ane d h e


.

,

says , u n til I was a fool A h al f fe rocious si nce rity a


.
-
,

fl am i ng i ndignation agai nst the pre te nce s and base co m


p l ac e n ci e s of th e w o rld c o m bi n e d with t h e
, abstr actio n an d
inward air of th e visio nary m ust h av e mad e hi m a pu zzli n ,
g
TH E A GE OF C HA U C E R 53

and discon c e rti ng p e rsonality to th ose who thought of him ,

as o nly o ne a m ong the lollare s idle rs ) an d le wd her


myte s of Lon do n T he l ast t rac e we ge t of hi m is i n
.

Bri stol wh e re in 1 3 99 he was writing R i cha rd the R ede


, , ,

less a p oe m of pro te st and w arn i ng addre sse d to K i ng Rich


,

ard II A pp ar e n tly n e ws reach e d him of the a ssassi natio n


.
,

of th e ki ng an d of the u s u rp a ti o n of the thro ne by H e nry

IV and he thre w the po e m by u n fi nish e d The d ate of his


. .

death is u nk n own .

His life work was his great p oem The Vi si on of Wi lli am


-
,

concer ni ng P i ers the P lowm a n I n to this he put all that .

he had to say upo n the qu e sti ons of the day and ,

upo n the g rea t qu e stio n s of h u m a n li fe He .

work e d u p on it f or at l east thi rty years con ,

stan tly re writi ng and e xp an di n g i t It e xis ts in th ree v er .

sio ns t he fi rst d a ti ng f ro m a b ou t 1 3 62 wh e n Langl an d was


, ,

thirty ye a rs old the seco nd f ro m a bout 1 3 7 7 the l as t com


, ,

l t d f t r 1 3 9 0 p rh ps l t 1 3 9 8— 99 I n th s
p e e a e e a as ,a e a s e e re .

writi n gs and re c asti ngs it gre w f r om e ight c an tos to tw e nty


thre e an d the co nc e p ti on of the chi ef ch aract e r P i e rs the ,

Pl o w m an gr e w constan tly m ore e x alt ed


, A t fi rst h e is .

mere ly an ho ne st si mpl e h e arte d f arme r full of Christi an


,
-
,

help f u l n e s s and practic al j u stic e But i n the later v e rsio ns .

he is r ai se d and glorifie d and is conc e iv ed of m ystic ally as


Je sus Christ i nc ar nate in the f orm of a lowly till e r of the
,

fields .

Although c all e d c oll e ctiv ely a Vision the p oe m re ally ,

co nsist s of a se ri e s o f vi si ons T he first the V i si on of the


.
,

Fi el d f u ll of Folk gives a vi e w of the corrupti on s of th e state


,

and o f th e soci al body O n a M ay m orni ng o n


v si on of t he
.
,
i
Malv e rn Hill s the p oe t ”
w e ary forw and ere d 1 4 1 fu ll of
12312
, , ,

lies d ow n to re st and dream s B e ne ath him in


, .
,

the gre a t pl ai n h e s e e s g ath e re d toge th e r a v ast cro wd of


,

p e o pl e r e p r
,e s e n ti n g th e m a n i f old li f e o f th e world A ll .

are busy but th e ir work is wit h fe w e xce ptio ns e vil or


, , ,

futile Som e are so wi ng or pl oughi ng but o nly th at idl ers


.
,
54 I O Y
A H ST R O F E N GL SH L I I TE RA T URE
m ay waste the fruit of the ir toil P ilgri m s are j ou rneyi n g .


to h oly sh ri nes th at th e y m ay l ie all th eir live s aft e r ;
,

mi nstre ls a nd rib ald st ory te ll e rs are plyi ng th e ir t ra d e ;


-

f ri a rs and p ard one rs are ab u si ng th e ir p ri e stly station f o r


th e i r own low e n d s Law se rg ea nts trad esm e n an d ta v
.
-
, ,

e rne rs m i x wi th t he ch an gi ng crowd an d c on t ribut e e ac h ,

his ch aracte ri stic ab u se T he ge nius of the cro wd t he


.
,

i n carnati on of the worldly spi rit i s Lady Meed ( B ribe ry ) , ,

a w on d e rf u l all e g o ri cal fig u re sy m b ol of th at s e lf s ee ki n g
,
-

a nd di shon e sty which Lan gl and e ve rywh e re sa w pois on i n g

the sp rings of s oci al an d p olitic al li fe .

I n the n e x t V isi o n th at of the S e ve n Deadly Sin s a nd o f


,

P i e rs the P l ow m an we are give n a gr ou p of th e s e al lego r


,

ical ab straction s p ai nte d h owe v e r with so m u c h


Vision of the , , ,

Seve n Deadl y reali sm and graphic d e tail th at lik e the a h , ,

stract fi gu res of P ilgri m s Progre ss th ey se e m ’


,

as ta ngibl e an d real as livi ng b e in gs with wh om i nd e e d , , ,

they m i ngle on e qu al t e r m s A m on g the m is P i e rs and to


.
,

h im th e y app e al to Sh ow th e m the way to Tru t h i e to , . .


,

God the Fath e r . Pi e rs k nows T ru th w e ll b u t re fu se s to go ,

u ntil h e has pl ou gh e d h is h al f acre All who co m e as ki ng -


.

f or guid anc e he se ts to w ork Many Shi rk th e ir tasks b u t


.
,

are d riv e n b ack by Hu ng e r A s the first V isi o n give s a


.

Vi e w of the corrupti on s of the stat e an d hi n ts a t th e ir ,

cau se and re m edy in the p e rson of Lady M ee d so the seco n d ,

sh o ws the i n divid u al si ns of m e n and preache s as p re , ,

p aratory to p ersonal salvati o n th e G o p e l o Work th e


s f ,
— ,

s am e gosp el whi ch Carlyl e who has m an y poi n ts of ,

re se m bl an c e to Lan gl an d was to pre ach fi ve c e n tu ri e s


,

af t e r wa r d
.

The l ate r V isi ons atte m pt to se t forth the tru e th e ory


of m oral actio n an d of the s pi ritu al li f e
,
T he p o e m .

reach e s its high es t p oi n t o f i m agi native i ntensity in th e


acc ou n t o f P i e r s e tri u m ph ov e r D e a th an d H ell H e co m e s

.

ridi ng b arefoot on an ass with ou t sp u rs o r sp e ar to his


, ,

j oust in J erusal e m ”
With the ne ws of his tri u mp h and
.
TH E A GE O F C H AU CER . 55

re su rr e cti on the dream e r awak es in e cstasy, the j oyous


,

Eas te r b ells p eali ng i n his ears .

T he nam e of Pie rs Pl ow m an was us e d as a rallyi ng cry


i n t he p eas ant uprisi ng ; and the p oe m prob ably had m uch
t o do with form i ng Wyclif s e v ange listic id e als i n his i n

,

p oor pri e sts Langl and s s en se of the

s ti t u ti on of the .

e q u a lity of all m e n b e fore Go d his h atr e d of h m e t


e m g, l .

la nd P°°m ’
s o ci a l falsiti e s an d hyp ocri si e s his b eli ef in s
,

t he dignity of l ab or g i ve a m od ern tone to his po e m


, ,

i n s pite of its arch aic m e tric al f orm and its m e di aeval ,

m ac hi ne ry of abstract fig u r e s His d ee p religi ous s ense and


.

the grand e ur of his m y stic al i m agi n ings are ne ith e r anci ent
n o r m od e rn but of all ti me
, .

T he m e trical form which Langl and ch ose agai n co ntrasts ,

hi m sh arply with C h auc e r Ch au c e r thre w in his lot f rom


.

th e fi rs t with the n e w v e rsi fi cation i m p orte d It, Metri c,“


Fm “
f ro m Fr an c e d e p e ndi ng up on r e gul ar acc ent
,

an d rhy m e ; and he d e ve lop e d this i n s u ch a way as to

bri n g ou t of it a rich and fi nish e d m u sic By his ch oice .

o f th e F r e nch syst e m h e put hi m s el f in li ne with the

f u tu re e volution of E ngli sh v e rs e Langl and e ith e r b e .


,

ca u se he k new th at his p opular au di enc e w ou ld b e m ore


d e e ply touch e d by the anci e n t and traditi onal rhyth m s
of t he rac e or b e c aus e th es e w e r e m o re natu ral to hi m sel f
, ,

a d o pt e d the old sy st e m of nativ e v e rsifi cation which d e ,

p e n d e d upo n allit e ratio n f o r or nam e n t an d a ll o w e d g re a t ,

irre g u larity both in the p osition of stre sse d syll abl e s and in
th e n u mb e r of syll abl e s i n the li ne The op e ni ng v e rs e s .

o f t h e poe m will se rv e as a sp eci m e n

In a s 6m e r sé so n . wh an soft was t h e s6nn e ,

I { ho p e m e i n sh ro u d e s . as I a sh e pe we re
In h a b i t as a n h e rm i t . u nh o ly o f w 6rk e s
We n t w id e i n th i s w o rld e . w 6n d re s t o h e re .

T he caesura, or he a v y p au s e in the m idd le o f e a ch li ne , i s m a rke d


by a d ot
. T he allite rati v e sy llab le s , of whi ch the re are u su ally two i n
56 A H IS TO RY OF E NGLISH LI TE RATU RE

T h is metre is to a m od er n ear so m e wh at m onotono u s


, ,

an d u nc ou th .It adapts itse lf mu ch be tter to re ci tatio n


th an to private re adi ng ; and it is highly probabl e tha t
Lan glan d w rote with the e xp ectati on th at his poe try
wo u ld be ch ante d by m i nstre ls in re citativ e Si nce the ,

lit erature of the audi e n ce he add resse d was chi efl y dis


se m inate d in th at way How e v e r we accoun t f or it th e
.
,

fact th at the Vi si on is w ritten in an an tiqu e an d r a pidly


dying v e rse form has t old se v e re ly agai nst i t F ro m
, .

Ch auc e r fl ows the wh ole stream of la te r v erse as f ro m a ,




Langl and s po em had n o

w ell of E nglish u n de fi le d .

lite rary off spri ng u nl e ss its e ff e ct may b e trace d in the


,

m iracl e and m orality pl ays of the early dram a Its nu .

cou thness m ore ov e r is n ot li m ite d to its me tre


, , As a .

w hol e it is c onf u se d in pl an b e wild e re d with d e tail f ull, ,

of br e aks an d rud e tran siti on s Its total efi ect is ma j e sty}.

b e cause of the force of im agi nation b ehi nd it bu t ap t ,

rt is t ie It l a cks the cl e a r fi rm o u tli ne and th e h armo


g r , ,

n iou s pr op ortio n which Ch au c e r s supr eme artistic s e nse



,

e nabl e d him to attai n in his l at e r ye ars .

T h at Ch a uc e r was far in advan c e of his ti me b e co me s ,

cl ear whe n we n ote how p e rsiste ntly his fifteenth ce n tury


s u cc e ssors t u rn e d b ack to him for in spir a tio n
m ““m of ,

Ch uce and
a r
as to then
Gower .

F a d e r d e re a nd m a i ste r re v ere n t ,

an d fou ndth e m selve s u nabl e to do more th an a wkw ardly


or p allidly i mit at e him The chi ef am on g th e s e i m ita
.

t ors was J o hn Lydgate a m onk of Bury St Ed m u nd s , .


,

wh o b egan m aki ng v e rse s b e fore C ha uce r s


Ly d gat e
d eath and di e d b efore the outbreak of the
,

Wars of the Roses His Story of Thebes based on B oc


.
,

caccio and Statius is told as one of the Can terbury T ale s ;


,

the po et in his prologu e fe ign s to have j oi ne d the p il

and one ( so me time s two) i n the se cond half , are stre sse d.

lly fou r stre sse s i n the line .


58 A HISTORY or ENGLI S H L ITERATU RE

in or iginal pow er, b u t fro m which neith er Gow er nor the


Chauc e ri an i mitators d eliv e re d th em s elve s It is sign i fi .

cant of the failure of th ese i m itators to p e rce ive the i m


mense origi n ality of Ch auce r s l ate r work, that th ey f re

qu ently put Gow e r on a l e v el wi th him In the E n v o y .


of the K i ng s Qu a i r, J am es

reco mmends his litel bok e ,

u akit of e l o qu e nc e,

U n t o th e y m p nes (h ym ns) O f m y m a is ters d ere,


Go were a nd C h a u ce re , th a t o n ste p p i s sa tt
O f rh e to ri ke wh i l th e y we re l y v and h ere ,
Su p e rl a t iv e as t
p e s
o l a u rea te ,

and he bri ngs the po em to a cl ose with a prayer th at th e i r


souls may t ogeth e r enj oy the bliss of h eav en Wh en i n .
,

1 4 24 th e pri n c e on the ev e of re l eas e f r om his lo ng cap


, ,

tiv i ty was ma rri e d to th e l ady who m he had c e le brate d i n


,

the K i ng s Qu a i r his re ve r ence f or Gowe r prom pt ed h i m



,

to h ave the w e ddi ng h eld in the church of St Savior s .



,

wh e re the old po e t lay b u ri e d .

This e xc e ssive re v ere n c e f or the po ets of a pre ce di ng age


is one Si gn amo ng many that the natural springs of p oe try
Decay of w e r e dry T he fi f te e n th. c e n t u ry is i n f a ct , ,
m a p e culi arly barr en one
afifi g Its m ost f a m ous po e.t ,

Gem"? Lydgate s eld o m or n e v e r ros e abov e me diocri ty ;


,

and the thi n stream of artifici al lov e po e try which flow e d -

down i n to the troubl e d ti me s of the Wars of the Ros es ,

gre w af ter Jame s I l ess and l ess u ntil it lost itself in the
, .
,

sands .

In prose how e ver the fi f teenth c e n tury produc ed one


, ,

work which has m uch of th e el evatio n and i magi na tive


spl dor f gr t p e try the M orte D A rthu r

Fi ft eenth e n o e a o ,
Cent y Prose
ur
8 “T hem e
of Sir :
T ho m as M alory M a lory w a s a k n ight.
,
W “? a g e ntl e man of an an ci en t hous e with its s ea t ,

at Ne wbold Re v ell Warwickshir e ,


*
As a you ng man he .

Who W as Sir T homas Malory by G L Kittre dge Re printed . . .

f rom V ol V . . of Studi e s and Note s i n Phil ology a nd Lite ra tu re .

B oston, 1 897 .
TH E A GE or C H AUC ER . 59

se rv e d in F rance in the m ilitary re ti nu e of Richard B eau


,

ch a m p E arl of Warwick a warri or in wh om lived agai n


, ,

t h e k n ightly ideal of a for me r age and who was kn ow n by ,



th e rom an tic titl e of Fath e r of Courte sy Such a li ne .

age an d tr a i n i ng fitte d Malory p e culi arly f or his task of

c o m bi ni ng in a great pros e poe m the legends of K i ng


-

A rth u r an d the Rou n d Tabl e which he gath e re d f ro m ,

Ge o ff r ey of Mon m ou th and the F re nch trou veres By .

go o d fortu ne he was m aster of a si mpl e flowi ng English ,

styl e pri m itive in struct u re but c apabl e of consid erable


, ,

fl e xibility and falli ng i n to pleasan t natural rhyth ms The .

o n ly e xa mpl e whic h he had for s u ch a u se as he m ad e of

th e ne w E nglish prose was in the f am ous Tra v e ls of Si r


,

J oh n M a ndev i lle com pil e d in F r en c h by J ean d e Bourgogne


, ,

a n d tran sl ate d i nto E nglis h la te in the f ourte en th c e n tury .

T h e tran sl ator of th e se fictitious T rav e ls is u nk no wn but ,

w h oe ve r he was he thre w his m arvellous tale s of giant


,

s h ee p hum an b e i ngs with d ogs fac e s



, an thropap hagi and , ,

m e n whose h eads do gro w b eneath th e ir sh ould ers i n to a ,

s i m pl e lucid pros e which whil e lacking the te rs e ne ss and


, , ,

e n e rgy of Wycli f s popular s e r m o ns was the b e st i nstru



,

m e nt ye t fou nd f or the j ourne y work of lit e rature - T his .

i n s tru me nt Malory took up but in re spons e to the s u p e rior


d i gnity and b eauty of his subj ect he rais ed it to a highe r ,

p o w e r T
. h e M ort e D arthu r is the one grea t o asis in t he

l i te ra ry de s e rt of the fi f te e nth It was fi nishe d


b y 1 4 70 but was not pri nt e d u n til
, wh en Caxto n ,

t h e first E nglish ri nte r publish e d i


,
an i n te r e sti ng

r e ace ro m his own h an d


p .
CHAPTER IV

TH E RE NA I SS ANC E : N O N D RA M ATI C LI TE RATURE


- TO T H E

D E AT H O F S PE N S ER

TH E lite rary de cli ne followi ng the d eath of Ch aucer was


d u e large ly to politic al caus es T he dispute in rega rd
.

to the throne which cul mi nated in the Wars of the Rose s


, ,

dis tracted the cou n try w asted its energy and fin ally
, ,

d e str oye d in l arge m easur e the n obl e fam ili es


Pe iod of
r
on whose p atro nage e arly l i t e ratur e and art
gfi ggga
fte r
r
we re d e p end ent T he acc essio n of H enry VII
. .

i n 1 4 85 brought about a p e riod of qui e t and re cove ry As .

its powe r i n crease d the cou ntry re su m ed its positio n in the


,

f a m ily of E urop e an nati ons and be gan through th em to


,

f e e l the sti m ulus of the m ov e m ent c all e d the Renaissan ce .

T he Re naissanc e was i n e sse nc e an i nte lle ctu al re birth .

It show e d itself in the e ff ort of the i ndividual to free him


s el f fro m the rigid i nstituti ons of the M iddle Ages feu ,

dalism and the Church and to a sse rt his right to live to ,

T he Renni e ,
thi nk ,a n d to e xpr e ss hi m s e l f as he pl ease d .

mm '
A s men gai ne d this f ree do m th ey felt less in
cli ne d to a ss en t to the me di ae val vi e w that this life sh o ul d

b e sa crific ed to the f u ture th ey tur ned m ore and m ore t o


t he pre se nt world to the probl e ms of gain i ng maste ry i n i t
,

through w ealth or state craf t of discove ri ng its se cre ts


,

through e xploratio n and sci e ntific e xp e ri ment of he igh t ,

e n ing its e nj oy me nts through art and lite ra ture .

O ne force of i mmense i m por tanc e in the Renai ssance was


the ne w k nowle dge of the world of antiquity which was ,

obtai ne d through the re cov e ry of the writi ngs and work s

of art of the classic al p er od The ide al p resented i n


i0 .
TH E RE NA ISS AN CE 61

th e lite rature s of Ath ens and Ro me of life which should ,

b e liv e d f or its pr ese nt opportu niti e s of hu m an d e v elop


m e n t c am e to h av e a strong i nfl u enc e on me n ,

—e u i nflu e nce denote d by the term H u mani sm of the cm


,
The Infl uence
,
ms '

w hich was appli e d to the study of the classics .

M ore ove r the e xampl e s of p e rf e ction of form given by


,

c l a ssi cal po e ts orators


,
sculptors and architects b e came
, , ,

m od els on which the new taste f or the b e autif u l form ed


i tse lf N aturally Italy as a seat of Roman civilizati on
.
, , ,

p o ss e ss e d withi n h e rs e l f a gr e at stor e o f the r e lics of th e

c l assic al age and was i n the b e st positio n to re c e ive m ore


,

f rom the East Wh en the T urks co nqu e re d the Easte rn


.

E m pire and c aptur ed i n 1153 m any Gr e ek ,

sc holars b e took th e m s elv e s to Italy with th e ir m anuscripts

a n d in this way Itali an citi e s b e cam e c e ntre s of Gr ee k

s t udy an d of the cl assic al cultur e or hu m anis m in which


,

t h e ne w i n tell ectu al i mpuls e was nourish ed .

With all th ese advantage s Italy be came the teach e r of


,

E u rope in philosophy in art and in cl assical scholarship


, , .

O th e r nations howe ve r suppli e d e l e me nts of the ne w w orld


, ,

w hich was b e i ng create d Spai n and P ortugal gav e the


.

r a ctic al ene rgy th at s e nt Colu m bus to A m e rica and Va sc o


p ,

d a Gama arou n d Af rica Ge rmany co n tribute d the inv e n


.
V -

t i on of pri n ti ng by which the ne w civiliz atio n was di ff us e d


,

a m o ng the p e opl e and Ge rm any also took the


El ement i n s
l e ad in the mov e ment which had f or its ob j e ct t h Renai e s
m ce
t h e em ancip atio n of the consci e nc e f ro m the
'

C hurch . A begi nni ng had b e e n m ad e i n this directi on by


W yclif ; but the great f orw ard ste p was t a k e n wh e n in , ,

m Luth e r nail ed to the church d oor in Witte nb erg ,

h is attack upo n the pow e r of the Pop e It is tru e this


.
,

Re f ormation as ti me w e n t on took the f orm of a m oral


, ,

r eactio n agai nst the worldly spiri t of the Renaiss an c e ;

b u t in its l arge st asp e ct it m ade not o nly f or the religi o u s


l ibe rty of the i ndividual , b u t als o f or general freed om of
th ou ght .
62 A H I STO RY or E N G LI SH LI T ERAT URE

I n the rly Renaissance we mus t thi nk of Engl and as


ea ,

l aggi ng som ewh at be hi nd the m ore precocious nations ,

Italy and F rance T he English Renaissance can scarcely be


.

said to begin u ntil the re ign of Henry VII and it did not .
,

com e to i ts f ull spl endor u ntil the l at te r days of Eli zab e th .

E ven bef ore the acc ession of He nry VIL ho we v e r we ca n , ,

discern signs of its co m i ng I n 1 4 76 Caxton set up his


.

printi ng pre ss in Lo ndon B efore this date one of the col


-
.

l eges at O xf ord had engage d a n Italian teach e r of Gree k ;


and i n the ne xt fe w y ears Willi am Grocyn and T ho m as

ILinacre w e nt to I taly to st u dy with the Itali an hu m an is ts .

T h ey r e turne d to give O xf ord an i nte rnational reputatio n as


the ho me of Gr eek studi e s so th at the greatest scholar of
,

the ti m e the D utch Eras mus c ame th e re to st u dy thi nk


, , ,

i ng it no lo nge r nec e ssary for young men to re sor t to


Italy .

T h es e m e n of the ne w l earni ng e sp e ci ally the you n ge r ,

generati on E ras mus and his fri ends J oh n Col e t and Tho m as
,

More ex e m pli fy in me morabl e fashio n the hop eful ness and


,

T he 0m m id e alis m th at a tt e n d e d the early pr ogre ss of th e

Re naissanc e All three w ere ref orm e rs


. Col e t .
,

who was afte r ward Dean of St Paul s se t a m od e l for the .



,

public scho ol system of Engl and in his fam ous St Paul s , .


School E ras m us sk e tche d the ch aracte r of the p erfect


.

rul er i n his I ns ti tu tes of a Chri sti an P ri nce ; and M ore


th at of a p e rfect soci ety in his Utop i a All three w ere in
, .

te reste d in th e re for m of the Church and though th e y did ,

not f oll ow He n ry VIII in his r evolt agai nst the P ope


.
,

th ey pre p ared the way f or the l ater allian ce be tw een the


u niversiti e s and the E nglish Refor mation .

Still more i mportant than the u niversiti es as a c entre of


Renaissance i nflu e nc e was the court
, Both He nry VII . .

a nd H enry VIII rul e d in the spirit of m od e r n sta tecraf t


. .

Both en courage d trade and m anu factures and i ncrease d the ,

w ealth of the cou ntry Both se t aside the relics of fe ud al


.

ism b y allowing men of low b irth to rise to distinction,


TH E RE NA ISS ANC E 63

throu gh p e rsonal service rend e re d to the sove reIgn Thu s


the c o u rt b ecame the field f or the displ ay of i nd ividu al


ambitio n He nry V III i nd e e d in his o wn ch aract er re
. .
, ,

sem ble d str ongly s om e of the Ital ian pri nc e s of


T h Ge m e , e
vm
the Re naiss an ce who m i ngl e d th e e nlighte n
,
'

me n t of the state sm an with the suspicious cru e lty of th e


de sp ot .The m e n who pl ay e d f or p owe r in his se rvic e had
ne e d of the ut m ost addre ss in a g am e wh e re the stak es
,

we re the high e st and d efe at was fa tal


, In his f ond ne ss f o r
.

art l ea r ni n g and m agnific e nc e H e nry e xhibit e d the tas te


, , ,
-

of the Re na issa nc e Duri ng his r e ig n Itali an ar chite cts


.

built Ham pton Court Pal ac e one of the b e s t e xampl es of ,

Engli sh Re naissanc e or T udo r archite cture ; the Ge rm an


pai n te r H ans Holb e i n came to E ngl and ; the court took
, ,

on a n asp e ct of spl e ndor i n its dre ss its en te r tai nm ents , ,

its m anne rs .

T he m ost attractiv e figu re b oth among the O xford re ,

form e rs and l at e r at t he court of H e n ry is Sir T h om as ,

Mo re ( 1 4 78 Although More Se p arate d f ro m his


early com p anio n s and thr e w hi m se l f i nt o practical aff airs ,

he ne ve r lost i nte re st in the i n t e ll e ct u al m ov e m e nt of t he


ti m e His fam ous Utop ia ( 1 5 1 5 1 5 1 6) is an accou nt of an
.
-

imagi n ary com m o nw eal th in which the soci al wrongs of


Engl an d u nd e r the T ud ors w e re righte d It is Th m .
e e

the h an dbo ok of a state s man and as such it is ,

corice rne d with probl e m s of th e pre s e n t b u t still m ore it


is a d ream of the fu tur e f u ll of h op e f u l ne ss and e nthu si
,

asm f or the i mprov e m e n t of a wh ol e na ti on an d of hu man

nature its el f .

Mo re s Utop i a repre sents the Re nai ss an c e i nt er e st i n th e


stat e as a work of art A s e co nd i n te re st no t l e ss ch ar


.
,

acte ris tic of th e ti m e was th at i n the i m pro v em e nt of


,

the i n dividu al by culture and e d u c a tio n which f or m s the ,

subj e ct of two e s says by Ro e r Asch a m ( 1 5 1 5 o n c


g e

the tutor of Q u ee n E liz ab e th T he first c all e d Tox op hi lu s


.
,

was oste nsibly wri tten in prais e of arch ery but it


64 A HISTO RY O P EN G LISH LI TE RATU RE

is really a defence of a generally sou nd hea l thy , ,

s nood lif e
. T he se co nd The Schoolmas ter
,

m
the id ea of educa tio n as a hu manizin
in which the pupil m us t work with th
Ascham was a scholar and in his styl e as in hi s
,

he mar ks the re ve r en c e for


lowed the r evival of lear ni ng His purpose .

choose E nglis h and to wri te si mply but he ,

wou ld h ave bee n easi er for hi m to wri te


vi e w of li fe however is thoro ughly Rugli
, ,

l earni ng not for its own sak e but ,

disciplin e for characte r and e xampl


hi m the aim of l if e is social
and the se rvi c e of the i ndi

hand . In ve ry d eed he says
, ,

up of children doth as m u ch se rv
vic e of God our Pr ince and our
, ,

one thing b e sid e .

Both More and Ascham are


the aristocracy . Popular li te rat u r e
chi e f mo ve m e nt of the ti me amon g
orma tion . The struggle fo r the emau c
fro m pri es tly co ntrol had be gu n in
ce nturi e s b efore with Wycli f
,

the spirit of the Loll ards had


H enry VIII This spirit str e
.
,

the German and Swi ss r e form e rs suppli e d


_ ,

which mad e H en ry s political separati on


1 5 3 4 on accou n t of hi s fi rst
The Engli sh ,

m m tu nity for a rea l ref ormati on


out thro u gh the cou ntry i n the se rm ons
the bold est among H enry s

powe rfu l p reach e r of the


and his wri ti ngs r eprese nt a d e vel op m e n t

lish pro se straightforward racy s imple as


, , ,

style shows the efl ect of the s trongest and


66 A HISTO RY or E N G LISH LITERATURE

tions and i mitations of forms ch aracteristic of Italian


po etry e sp eci ally the love sonnet of which Pe trarch in his
, ,

sonne ts to Laura had giv en the chi ef exampl es With .

Pe trarch s i m itators the so nne t had b eco me a me rely lit e r


ary e xe rcise d e vote d to the e xpr e ssion of a lov e which


,

m ight be entirely i magi nary or dire cte d toward an im ag ,

inary p e rso n Wyatt s sonne ts th erefore lik e thos e of


.

, ,

his Itali an masters need not b e regard ed as h avi ng strict


,

biographic al truth though attempts h ave b een m ade to


,

fi nd in th e m the history of a p e rso nal r el atio n an d so m e ,

hav e gu e ssed th at th ey were i nspired by H enry s s e c on d ’


qu e en Anne Bol eyn At all e vents Wyatt s poetry su g
, .

gests that e ven a conventional form was f or him the m e ans


for a sin ce re e xpre ssion of feeling ; e ven his transl atio n s
s eem ch arge d with his own t em pe rament and his rend e r ,

ing of the Penite nti al Psal ms is touch e d with p e rso n al


religious emotion Wyatt s eff ort to achie ve the regul arity
.

and fi nish of his It ali an m od e ls was not alw ays succ e ssf ul

he m ak e s bad rhym es he fails to h arm o niz e word a nd ,

ve rse acce n t he stu mbl es in scansio n Ye t such po e ms


, .

“ “ ”
as A w ak e my Lute an d F orge t not y et are e m i n e n t ,

e xam pl es of lyric al powe r .

Wyatt s comp anion poe t Surrey born i n 1 5 1 7 and



, , ,

be h ead e d in 1 5 4 7 was you nge r th an his m as te r both in


,

T he m m y ea rs an d i n spirit I n co n tr ast to W y a tt s .

Sm ” :

g r avity h e h as all th e e xub e ranc e of the a e a


g ,

p erp etu al ch arm of youth and promise as his brillian t fi g ,

u re p ass e s through the su nlight and sh adow of H en ry s


court movi ng gracefully and carel essly to the sc aff old


,

which awaite d him Lik e Wyatt he i mi tated the Itali an


.

am orous po e ts ; but m or e signific ant th an his lov e po e m s

are th os e of f ri e ndship the so nne ts to Cl e re and to Wy a tt


, ,

and the e l egy on the Duk e of Rich mo nd which are f ull ,

of feeli ng i nti mate p e rsonal si nce re O f ten as f or


, , , .
, ,

e xampl e in the youth f ul p oe m which b egi ns
, T he soo te

seaso n he shows an in te rest i n nature and a realism
, ,
TH E R E NAI SS ANC E 67

in picturin g it which are for the ti me quite extraordi


, , ,

nary.

Surre y howe ve r lik e Wyatt rendere d his chi ef service


, , ,

to E n glish lite ratur e by e nrichi ng its r esourc e s with for


,

eign f orm s a nd e sp e ci ally by his i ntroductio n of bl an k


,

ve rse in his tran sl ati on of two b ooks of the PE nei d


, Bl an k .

ve rs e had b e e n us e d i n Italy a f e w y ears b efore i n a tran s

lati o n of the sam e work so th at S u rrey did not origi nate,

the f or m ; but the h appy skill with which he ad apte d it ,

a n d thus discov e re d to E nglish p oe try its m ost po we rf ul

a nd ch aract e ristic ve rs e for m is worthy of all prais e , In .

d e e d Surrey s gre atne ss is th at of artistic com m on se nse



-
.
,

H e ha d wit to se e the valu e of fore ign f orm s which w ere


a pplicabl e to th e E nglish to ngu e In those which he chose .

h e m ad e such ch ange s as w e re ne ce ssary to ad apt th e m still


f u rth e r to E nglish r e quirem ents T he E nglish so nne t .

w hich S hak esp e ar e us e d co nsi sti ng of f our qu atr ai ns and a


,

c o upl e t was Surr e y s ad ap tatio n


,
H e did his w ork rapidly

.

a n d i nsti nctiv e ly ; he had n o ti m e for l ong l abors of e x

rim e nt f or wav e ri ng u nc e rta i n ty b e tw een th e m e rits of


p e ,

riv a l f or m s He was pri m arily n ot a man of l e tte rs but a


.
,

m a n of action a soldi e r , With si ngul a r free do m from hes


.

i tation or m isgivi ng with the h appy gu e ss of a m an accus


,

to med to succ ee d he pick e d ou t his we ap on f ro m the sc ore


,

which o ff e re d fitte d it to his hand and i n a fe w rapid


, ,

passe s sh owe d his followers its u se .

Po e try in the age of H e n ry V III was usu ally i n t end e d .

for priv ate circul ati on in m anuscript f orm By the m iddl e .

of th e c e n t u ry how e v e r th e r e had gro w n up a d e mand on


, ,

the p art of the readi ng pu blic which publi sh e rs atte mpt e d


to supply by volu m es of m iscel laneous v e rs e T ther .
e ,

The first of th e s e c oll e cti ons Tottel s M i s


“ im m y ” ’
,

cella ny , which contai ned the po e ms of Wyatt Surrey , ,

and s e v e ral of th e ir f oll o w e rs app e ar ed in 1 5 5 7 a d ate, ,

which marks the public b eginn i ng of mod e rn English


verse.
68

T hei nfl u enc e of the n ew poe try is


publish ed a f ew years af et r Tottel

s

W m The M i rror
f or Magi s trates .

gene ral ch aracte r l ooks back to an


be i ng a co ntinu ati on of Lydgate 8 F a ll of P ’

con tain s so me e xcell en t m od e rn poe try In the



a nd T he Co m pl ai nt o f
T he se we r e writt e n
af te rward Lord Buckhurst ,

ti o n with Tho m as N orto n th ,

Gorbodu c ( see p B o th .

Mirro r which are in Ch au



,

Gorbodu c whi ch is i n bl an
,

pris ing m as te ry of his form He has a su re ness .

and a f re ed o m f ro m te chn ical e rro rs which ,

beyond Surrey and Wyatt ; and his i magi native


sugge stive of the great poe ts who w e re to f ollow .

giv e s littl e prom ise of the outburst which was to


closi ng years of the c en tury Th at o utburst was
.

of a sudd e n ove rwh el m i ng e nthusi as m in which


,

na ti on shar ed T he acc essi on of Eliz ab e th in 1 5 5 8 dis


.
, ,

p e rse d th e thr e a te n i ng clouds of ci v il and re ligi o us war

T he m e: th a t h ad b e e n ga th e ri ng duri ng th e r e ign s of
m “ E dward and M ary The force of the Re nai s
.

sance which had be en ch e cked for a ti me by nati onal h esi


,

ta tion m anif este d itse lf ane w and more widel y


, Ma ny .

thi ngs co m bi ned to give individu al disti nctio n to ch aracter ,

and vari e ty and c olor to li fe The e nl arge d possibilitie s ed


.

th e world the ne w l an ds be yond the sea o ffe re d u nl i mi ted


, ,

o p po rtu n ity for actio n T he d iffusi on of knowl ed ge of the


.

pas t toge th e r with the freed om of th ought which the


,

Ref o rmatio n had brought about afford e d O ppo rtu ni ti es as


,

te mpti ng for s pe culativ e ente rprise and imagina ti ve fl o


TH E REN A I SSA N CE 69

ven ture Altogeth er the re app eared to men a new wid er


.
, ,

rich e r w o rld ; and with it came a cl eare r consciousne ss of


the i n dividu al pe rso nality which th at world se em e d m ad e to
satisf y .This disc o v ery of the new world and of m an as it ,

has be e n c all e d com i ng to the n atio n in the ti m e of j oyf ul


,

rea ctio n f ro m the u n c ert a i n ty an d p e ril of Mary s r e ign se t



,

the whole m ass i nto vibratio n ; but th e tend e n ci e s whi ch


mad e f or p u re ly p e rs onal aggrandiz e m e nt w e re b oth dir e cted
and k e pt i n ch e ck by the growth of na tio nal co nsci ousn e ss .

Eliz ab e th s re ign u n it e d the na ti on an d he r p e rs onal pre s



,

en c e g av e i t a visibl e sig n of u n ity U nd e r he r r u l e Engl and


.

p as s e d through an e xp e ri e n c e as dr am atic a s th a t o f A th e n s
a t M ara tho n ; af te r a long p e ri o d of susp e n s e the str ai n

was reli e ve d by the wo n d e r ful re pulse of the Sp ani sh


A r m a d a i n 1 5 88 T he n ati on al fe e li ng m ad e so i n te ns e
.
,

b y d ange r and victory shi ne s thr ough the literatur e of the


,

t im e . The e age r i nsti n ctiv e p atri oti sm of the p e opl e


,

f ou n d utte ranc e in the ch oru se s of Sh ak e sp e ar e s H enry


V T he m ore c onsci ou s p olitic al virtu e which touch e d


.
,

w ith som e thi ng of high purp ose the liv e s of Sid ne y o f ,

S a ck v ill e e v e n of E ss e x and Ra l e igh is r efl ect ed in Sp e u


, ,

s e r s F a eri e Q u eene

.

F or re ason s give n in the ne xt ch apte r the dram a was ,

t he m ost bro adl y popul ar and spon tane ous e xpre ssi on of
t h e m any sid e d li fe of the ti me
-
Co m p are d with this th e
.
,

n a tural l angu age of the E ngli sh p e opl e the oth e r f or m s ,

of lite rature s e e m u n vital Ye t it m ust b e Eli ab ethan


.
z

re m e m b ered th at m any of the i n t e re sts of the


Renaissanc e w e re not matters of dire ct popul ar fe e li ng but of ,

consciou s cultivatio n And again the drama was the only


.
,

form in which the E liz ab e than was at all sur e of his art .

In oth e r ki nds of writi ng h e was an e xp e ri men te r a ,

learne r . T o this fact we m ust attribute m uch of tha t


arti fi ci al ity which mak e s E liz ab e th an n on dr a m a tic lit e r -

atu re di ffi cult to r ead e sp e c ially th e pros e of Lyly Sid ney


, , ,

and th e ir followe rs .
70 A HISTORY or E N GLI SH LITE RATURE

J oh n Lyly ( 1 553ducated at Magdal e n COL


1 606
-
) was e

l ege O xford whe re he s ee m s to h ave gai ne d the reputation


, ,

o f b e i ng a t ifle
r r — “
the fiddlestick of O xf ord

,
J hn Ly ly
o
an en em y call e d hi m
.

His sup e rfici al cle ve rness


.
,

h owe ve r e nabl e d him to write a successful account of the


,

culture of the p e riod i n E up hu es or the A na tomy of Wi t


,

and its se q u el E up hu es a nd hi s E ngla nd


,

E up hu es is a work of fi ctio n i n which an e xc e e di n gly


slight plot se rve s to c onnect a succe ssion of con versati on s ,

l e tters and e ssays treati ng such subj e c ts as l ov e e duca


, , ,

tion religi on and m anne rs It ill u strate s the inte re st


, , .

of the ti m e in i n t e ll ectu al d e v e lop m e n t re strai ne d how , ,

e v e r by the fee li ng th a t
, v ain is all learni ng with o ut the

t aste of divi ne k nowl edge Still m ore i m por tant th an
.

its rel ation to private morals was its i nfl u e n ce ,


Euphues
as a m an u al of public a nd s oci al co nd uct It .

se t both a fashion of sp ee ch and a cod e of mann e rs ; a ,

dial e ct an d an e ti q u e t te for court usage Howe v er i n .

dire ct w astef ul and artifici al this fashi on now app ea rs


, , ,

it was i n its ti m e an evide nc e and a c aus e of re fi ne me n t .

O ne of the disti nguishi ng acco m plish me n t s of the Re na is


sance was the e l e vation of soci al life i nto a fi ne art ; and of
this result in E ngl and E up hu es was the chi ef sign .

T he artifici al langu age which E uphu e s and his f ri e nd s


u se d and which b ecame a lite rary fashi on is the ch arac
, ,

te ristic of th e b ook f or which it is r em e m b e re d to d ay -


.

A m ong Lyly s m anne ris m s the m ost r e markabl e is the


arr ang e m e nt of words in a n tith e sis the con ,


Euphui m s

.

trast b e ing mark e d by allite ration thus Al ,

tho u gh I h av e shri ned th ee i n my h eart for a tru s ty


f r i end I ,will s h u nne th e e h e reaf t e r as a tro thless f oe .

A noth e r p eculi arity is his l avish u se of si m il es drawn from


w hat p ass e d f or n atural history as The m ilk of the ,

T ygresse th at the more salt th e re is throw n i nto it the


,

f re sh e r it is E uph u is m was bu t on e f or m of a wid e ly
.

di ff u se d t end ency in Renais san ce lite rature an at te mpt to ,


THE RENA I SSA N C E 71

rov th r tistic v alu e of prose by givi ng it so me of the


p e e a

u aliti e s of po e try E arli e r write rs th an Lyly A sch am


q .
,

and C ran m e r had shown trac e s of it ; and E nglish pros e


,

did n o t e sc ap e fro m its influ enc e u ntil w ell on i n the ne xt


cen tury In Lyly s own g ene r atio n which was disti n

.
,

g u i sh e d f or its i n t e r e st i n a l l sorts of a rtistic e xp e ri m e n ts ,

oth e r f or m s of this t end e ncy app ear e d n otably that i ntro ,

du ce d by the m ost char m i ng and the m ost f orcefu l of the


lite rary dil ettant e s of the age Sir Philip Sid ney , .

P hilip Sid ney was bor n in 1 5 64 of one of the m ost dis


tingu i shed f am ili e s in E ngl and He was se nt to Shre ws


.

bury school an d to O xf ord ; and th en sp e nt so me ti m e


abr o ad , in Paris Vi enna and Italy wh en c e he ret u r ne d
, , ,

to E lizabe th s court ’
T he re he repre sente d the m ore
.

Spl e n did and e le v ate d politic al co nc e ptio ns of the ti m e .

H is u n cl e the Earl of Le ice st e r was the political chi e f


, ,

o f t h e P u ritan p arty which favor e d co m m itti ng E ngl an d


,

t o a d e fi nite all ian ce with the Prot e stant state s of Europ e


.

a n d in f urth e ranc e of this policy Sid n ey was s e n t on a

m i s s io n to Ge rmany in 1 5 77 He was also eagerly in~ .

te re s te d i n the d ev e lop m e n t of E nglish pow e r on the sea .

I n 1 5 83 he got a gran t of l an d in A m e rica and two years ,

la t e r he mad e an u nsucce ssful atte m pt to e scape Si p ump ,


Sl am ”
fr o m court and j oi n Sir F ran cis Drak e in one
of his h al f pira tical e xp editio n s agai n st the Sp ani ards
-
.

This sa me year he acco m p ani e d the E nglish arm y which


was se n t to h elp the Dutch P rot e s tants agai nst Spai n and
in 1 5 8 6 he fe ll in a Skir m ish at Z utph e n .

Sid n ey s n ame m ore th an any oth e r stands for the



, ,

g re a t n ess o f n a tio n a l a n d p e rso n al id e als which w e tr a di


ti on ally as soci ate with th e age of Eliz ab e th It is th e re .
,

fore so me wh at disappoi n ti ng to fi nd his writi ng l ess


,

em i ne n t th an his lif e It m ust b e re m emb e red howe v e r


.
, ,

th at Sid ney lik e m ost m en of positi on of his age wrote


, ,

not f or the public but for hi m s e l f and f or a few f ri e nds .

His works we re publish ed first in pirated editions the ,


72 A H I STO RY or E N GLI SH LITE RATURE
A rcadi a in 1 5 90, and A strop hel a nd Stella in 1 5 91 . T he
l atte r is a coll e ction of s ongs and sonnets e vid ently ad ,

dresse d to one p e rson Lady Pe nelope De v e re ux af te r


, ,

w ard Lady Rich Sid n y nd L d y P lop


Aw o he, e a a e n
. e e
and Ste
had b ee n b e troth ed wh e n the l at te r was a child .

F or so me re ason the match was b rok e n off and Lad y ,

Pe ne lop e m arri e d Lord Rich with who m she li ve d f or a ,

whil e most u nh appily Wh e the r Sid ney actu ally lo v e d


.

he r wh e n it was too lat e or wh e th er he wrote lov e sonn e ts


, ,

as a lite rary e x e rcis e ad d re ssi ng th e m to his old f ri e nd


,

out of co mpli ment and sy mp athy it is i mpossi ble to say , .

O n the one h and th e re is i n his so nne ts m uch of the con


ve nti onal m a t e ri al of the Itali an so nne tee rs but n the
; o

oth er th e re are touch es so apt to the situ atio n of a m an


who l o ve s too late th at o ne h e sitates to ascri be th em to
,

m e re dram atic Skil l In n o ne of the many so n ne t cycle s


.

of the age e xc ept Sh ak e sp e are s and Sp e ns e r s do we fi n d


’ ’
, ,

so much th at has the stam p of pe rsonal ity upon it ; su rely


i n n one e xc ept th es e so m uch th at has the acc en t of gre a t
,

po e try .

Sid ney s chi ef l iterary adventure was the A rca di a



,

which he b e gan in 1 5 80 wh en in consequ ence of a qu arre l


, ,

with the Earl of O xford he was in te mporary disgrace and


,

b anish m en t from court T he writi ng of the A rca di a was


.

m e rely a su m me r p as ti me u nd e rtak e n to pl e as e the C ou nt


,

e ss of Pe m br ok e Sid ne y s sist e r The fo rm of the work



.
,

was s u gge ste d by ro m anc e s popul ar i n Italy and in Sp ai n


, ,

“ i n which th e sc e ne s are l aid in a p astoral cou ntry


T he MW
am "
.
lik e the an ci e nt A rcadi a The prose tal e i s .

i nt errupted at i nte rvals by p assages of v erse or e clogu es , ,

in which the Sh eph erds si ng of lov e and the d e lights o f


ru ral life T his form of lit e rature had an i mmen se ch arm
.

f or cou n tri e s which we r e b e co m i ng a littl e w eary of th e


activity of the early Re naissanc e ; and Sid ney hi m se l f i n ,

his banish m ent from c ourt doubtl e ss fe lt the i nfl ue nce ,

of this m ood It was how e ve r a p assing one, for Sid


.
, ,
74 A HISTOR Y or E N G LISH LI TE RATURE
p amp hlet call ed The School of A bu se in which as a Puritan , , ,

he attack e d the art of the age esp e ci ally the dr ama, .

Sid ney re pli e d with his D ef ence of P oes i e i n 1 5 81 In .

this one of the e arli e st pi e ce s of E nglish criticism Sid ney


, ,

T he p m “, show e d his cl assicis m by his approval of pl ays


°f
built on the Lati n m odel ; b u t he de fe nd ed
E nglish po e try e v en of the nativ e ballad sort e xcl ai m
, ,

i ng ,
I ne ver h e ard the old song of Pe rcy and Douglas ’

th at I fo u nd not my h eart m ov e d more th an with a tru m


p e t .

T he style of The Def ence of P oesi e is m uch m ore work


m anlik e th an th at of the A rca di a, but it was the l atter
which be cam e an i nflu ence upon English prose Sid ney s.

A rca di a and Lyly s E up hu es we re the two popul ar books of


the ti m e and th e y w e re naturally the m od e ls for authors


,

who d e p e nd e d upo n the re adi ng public Apart f ro m the


.

writers who gath e red about t e court h — am ate urs lik e Sid
,

ney or thos e who lik e Sp ens e r look e d f or support to the


, , ,

T he p opular p a tro n ag e o f th e rich an d pr e f e r m e n t f ro m t h e


“ i tem u — th r pp r d i r i
'
liz
Q een e e,a e a e n t h e e gn o f E a

b e th a group of m en who liv ed directly on th eir lit e rary


e arni ngs T h ese l atte r w e re o f te n m e n of u niv e rsity ed u
.

c atio n who had lost caste A S a class th ey showe d the


, .

i n te nse d esire for sensu al enj oymen t the violence of pas ,

si on the i m p ati enc e of re strai nt soci al or m oral th at


, , ,

acc om p an i e d the as se rtion of i ndividu ality i n the Re nais

sanc e T he irregul arity of th eir lives which end e d o f ten


.
,

in m isery or disgrac e has mad e th em the h e ro e s of stories


,

f am ous am o ng the tragedi es of lite rature Marlowe was


.

stabb e d to d eath in a tav e rn b rawl Pee l e di ed of dissipa


tion ; Gre e ne as the story goes fro m surfeiti ng ; and N ash,
, ,

we are t old of sta rv ati o n


, .

Such me n turne d chi e fly to the th eatre as the most profi t ,

abl e m ark e t f or lite r ature but th ey have lef t also a l arge


b ody of m iscellaneous writi ngs fiction bi ography p am , , ,

p h l e ts T h e
. y w e re n o t e xp e ri m en t ers a n d i nn ov a to rs li k e
THE REN A I SS AN C E 75

Sidne y and his circl e, but the y w ere quick to te st any liter
ary th e ory or f orm by its ad aptability to popular taste .

Rob e rt Greene ( 1 5 60 1 5 92) b eg an his caree r by im ita ti ng


-

Lyly i n a n u mb e r of E uphuistic ro manc e s G eene Nash


, .
r
n““a“
, ,

Af t e r the A rcad i a had be gu n to circul ate in “

man uscript he wrote M enap hon


, a p astoral tal e in

which he cle arly i m i ta te d Sid ney s style



His m ost i ndi .

vid u a l work is i n the p artly autobiographic tal e s Greene s



,

Rep en ta nce and A Groa t s Worth of Wi t in which he



,

dre w f ro m his own life l essons of m orality possibly with ,

a vi e w to the i ncr easi ng i mportanc e of the Puritan p art of

h
t e r e adi n g public T. ho m a s N a sh ( 1 5 67— 1 600) wa s the

jou rnalist of the group His pam phl e ts repres ent the i nte r
.

e st of the pu blic i n qu e stio ns such as the authority of the

b i s hop s and in priv ate scand al such as gath e re d about the


,

l if e of his f ri en d Robe rt Gre ene His work was in the


.
,

m a i n e ph eme ral
, He is chi efly rem em be re d for his story
.

J a clc Wi lton in which the tricks and adventure s of an


,

E n glish boy on the conti ne nt are de scribe d with fictitiou s ,

r e f e r e nc e s to historic al e ve n ts and p e rson s Anoth er write r .

wh o f or som e years b elo nge d to the cre w of lit e rary adv en t


u re sr
, was T homas Lodg e ( 1 55 8 1 625 ) — his ro man ce ,

w h ich f ur ish d h story of A s You


Rosa lynde ( n e t e

Li ke I t) is the m ost p erf e ct bit of fictio n of the ti me .

In his sub titl e E up hu es Golden L egacy Lodge recogniz e d



-
,

his obligations to Lyly ; but his styl e is far less artifici al


th an th at of his prototype and the e xquisite p as toral se t
,

ting ( prese rve d by Sh ak esp eare in his F orest of Ard e n)


is to b e se t dow n rath e r to Sid ney s in flu e nce Lodge in ’
.
,

a gre ate r d egr ee th an Greene and N a sh had the lyric al gi f t ,

which fe w writers of the ti me w ere wholly without His .

high e st fame is as the write r of the e xquisite songs with


which he i nte rspersed his ro manc es Such lyrics as Love .

in my boso m lik e a b ee and Lik e to the cl ear i n high e st



sph e re , f ro m Rosa lynde Show both the native power of
,

the singer and the re fi nem en t of the artist .


76

loose ly cons tru


was to be ca rri
and to be co m e the

Be si d e the m ho w ,

sta nds for a saner m or ,

ary styl e Du ri ng the l a te


.

c o untry was d istrac ted by


the bis hops on the one ha n
p arty which de ni ed th eir authority T his d .

p a s s e d the bo u n ds o f lite rary co ntrov e rsy a nd


o f the Puri tans to a tte n d the se rvic e s of the

Engl and and the effo rts of the gove rnme nt


,

th e m mad e the
,

was irre p ara bl e ,

ity of the

B ooke r .

lished in 1 5 94 ,
a

uthor s d ea th .

grave and regu


cl assic styl e as oppose d to the wil ful ness
,

tionality of Sid ney s ro man tic m anner I



.

was at the e nd of the six tee nth ce ntury


, ,

a t the e nd of the se v e ntee n th a write r w ,

v e ry c ompe te nt form of E nglish prose to


i nte ll ec tual purpose U nlike Dryd en .
,

no t mak e his e xam pl e of d e cisive f orce i


practice of his successors .

T he de v elop ment o f a great prose


was re se rved f or a la te r ce ntury ;
E nglish Re naissan ce was its poe try The e xpe ri me nts and
.

studi es in foreig n form s mad e by Wyatt and Su rre y we re


, ,

t he pre parati on fo r a pe riod of won de rf ul poet ic achi e v e


me nt in which two nam es stand C l early fi rst
,
As in the .

drama th e r e ri se s abov e earli e r and l a te r pl ay wrights the


TH E RENA ISSA NC E 77

si ngle s u rp assing fi gure of Sh ak esp eare so in non dram atic ,


-

po e try stands p re emi nent E dm u nd Sp enser the poe t of


-
,

The F aeri e Qu eene .

Spen s e r was born in London in 1 5 5 2 He was sent to .

the M e rch an t Tailors School and th e n to Pembrok e Col



,

lege Cam bridge wh ere he took his master s de


, , Edm nd

u
s pen°° r°
g r e e in 1 5 76 H e th
. e n sp e n t so m e ti m e i n the

north of E ngl and In 1 5 78 how e ve r he was in Lo ndon


.
, , ,

in atte nd anc e on the E rl of Le ic e ste r seeki ng to e stab


a ,

lish hi m s el f through the i nflu e nc e of his f ri e nds at court .

Af te r the publ icatio n o f his Shep herd s Ca lenda r in 1 5 79



, ,

p re fe rmen t came to him in the shape of an appoint men t in


Ire lan d as secre tary to the d eputy Lord Grey de Wilton
, , .

In Ire land Sp e ns e r was given o ffice and was grant ed am ong , ,

oth e r e state s the Manor of K ilc ol man whith er Sir Walte r


, ,

Ral e igh came in 1 5 89 to visit him Ral eigh saw the first .

three books of The F a eri e Qu eens and u nder his advice


Spe n se r went to London in the f ollowi ng y ear to read ,

th e m to the Q u een and to publish th em T he success of .

the po e m was i mmedi at e but the re w ard f ro m the Q u e e n


, ,

in whos e honor it was writte n was disappoi nti ngly sm all , .

Soon af ter its publicatio n Sp ense r put f orth a volu m e of


poe ms style d Comp la i nts The circu mstances of his jour
.

ney to Lo ndon he rel ate d af te r his r e turn to Irel and in


, ,

Coli n Clou t s Come Home Aga i n in which he resu m e d the



,

pastoral styl e of 77m Shep herd s Ca lenda r In the ne xt ’


.

few years Spense r was busy with his courtship and mar
riage which are b eauti fully com m e m orated i n the s onne t
,

se rie s the Am ore tti and in his w eddi ng song or Ep i
, , ,

thalam ion . He w ent to Londo n agai n in 1 5 96 to publish


the se co nd thr ee boo k s of The F a eri e Q u eene Du rin g this .

visit he wrote the Hymn of H eav enly Lov e and ”


,

Hym n of Heavenly Bea uty to accom pany two earlie r ,

Hymn s in Honor of Love and Beauty ”


He also wrot e .

i n London the most e xquisite of his Shorter poe m s the ,



Prothalam ion Soon af te r his return to K ilcol m an
.
,
78 A HISTORY OE E N G LISH LITERATURE

th ere broke out one Of those fre qu en t i nsurrections which


marke d British rule in Ireland Sp ense r s castle which.

,

stood in the p ath of the storm was sacked and burned , .

H e fl ed with his family to Londo n whe re i n 1 5 99 he di ed , , ,

in pov e rty .

Sp ense r s life was sp en t chi e fly in three place s ea ch of



,

which left strong marks upon his ch aracte r and work ,

Cam bridge Lo ndo n and Irel and


, A t Cam bridge h e f ou nd
, .

the l ear ni ng O f the Re nais sanc e e sp e ci ally the philosophy ,

O f P lato which app ears cl ea rly i n The F aeri e Qu eene and


,

in the Hy m ns H ere also he came to k now the li te ra
.

ture of F rance and Italy ; his first publish e d work con


siste d O f transl ations fro m Pe trarch and the F rench po e t
spam , at
d u B e ll ay A t C a m bridg e.also h e c am e i n t o , ,
cm m m‘ '
co ntact with the lite rary th eori e s Of the ti me ;
one of which was the id e a put f orw ard by Sid ne y and his

f ri e nds th at English ve rs e should b e writte n accordi ng to


,

Lati n rul e s Of prosody T his subj e ct is discussed at l e n gth


.

i n the l e tte rs which p asse d b e tw ee n Sp enser af te r he ,

re mov ed to London an d his Cambridge fri end Gab ri e l


, ,

Harvey Sp e nse r was too gen ui ne a poe t to b e i nj ured by


.

su ch th e ori es but the i nflu ence Of the environm e nt wh e re


,

th ey were rife is seen in his scrupulous attentio n to the


tech nical req u irem ents O f his art .

O f this Cambridge p e riod the typical product is The


Shep herd s Ca lenda r a se ri es Of tw e lve p astoral poe m s or

e clogu e s T he e clogu e in general was a poe m


.

T he Shep
Calen of p as toral li fe i n which sh e ph e rds w e re the
,

sp eak ers rural nature and love the ir usu al


,

th em e s The poe t might i ntr oduce matter p e rsonal to him


.

sel f O r his f ri ends or might even discuss political afi airs but


, ,

he k ept the c on ventional f ram e work of the p astoral In .

Sp ens e r s fif th e clogu e for e xam ple Archbishop Grind al



, ,

figu re s as the good sh eph erd Algri nd T he poems of The .

Shep herd s Ca lenda r Show m uch vari e ty in me tro f or



,

Sp ense r was clearly p ractisi ng and e xp eri menting B u t .


THE R ENA ISSANC E 79

most re mark abl e am n o g th eir literary qu aliti es is the dic


tion which he el aborated for hi ms elf with the design of
,

givi ng a sugge stion of anti quity and rusticity to his writ


ing . This curious predil e ctio n f or obsole te or coi ne d
words is ch aracteristic Of the artifici al styl e affe ct e d by
the age .
It is carri e d so far i n The F a eri e Q u eene th at B e n

J o n so n could s a y o f Sp e n s e r th a t h e writ n o l an gu a g e.

In L n o do n Sp en s e r w as a t th e c e n tre O f the thrilli ng na


tional li fe O f Engl and . T hrough Le ic e s te r and Sid ney he
was i n trod u c e d to t h e two l e a di n g politic al co n c eptio n s of
the ti m e E ngl and s l ead ership of the P rotestan t cause i n

,

Eu rop e ag a i n st Sp a i n a n d R o m ,e a n d h e r e xp a n sio n b e yo n d
the s e as id eas th at we re the re sult p artly of fantastic chiv
al y
r a
, n d p artly of a bro a d vi e w o f worl d politics . F i nally ,

in Ir el a n d h e s a w th e E n glish r a c e i n passio nate s enee m


p r
conflict with O pp osIng f orce s The chronl cally
$13 :
. 11 and

dis turb e d state O f the cou ntry was agg ravate d by


the i n trigu e s of Philip of Sp ai n and the Pop e with the Irish
Chi e f tai n s provoki ng th os e r e vol ts which Lo rd Gre y stro ng
, ,

i n his b eli e f th at the Irish w e r e the fo e s Of God and O f civ


ili zation put d own with s av age f u ry Naturally Spenser s

.
, ,

resid ence in Irel and by bri ngi ng him i nto actu al co nflict
,

with e vil sti mulate d his m oral e n thusi as m O u t O f the


, .

con ce ption of the greatne ss Of Engl and s m issio n which ’


,

Sp en se r f ou nd in Lond on and struggl ed to realiz e in


Irelan d and out O f his chivalric d e v o tion to this id eal
, ,

and to the Q u e en who typifi e d it gr e w The F a eri e Q u eene


,
.

It is the brightest e xpre ssion O f the ideal m orality of the


tim e ; and in a sens e is the e pic of the English race at one
Of the gre at m o me nts of its hi story .

Spense r and his co nte m porari e s regard ed m oral purpose


as e sse n ti al to the great e st art and wi th Sp ens e r this pur

pose took the for m O f dealing with the Old probl em O f the
Re naissan c e — i ndividu al ch aracte r in rel ation to the state .

As he e xpl ai ns in his i ntroductory l e tte r to Ral e igh The ,

Faeri e Qu eens was to Show forth the ch aracte r of an ideal


80 A HISTO RY OF E NGL ISH LI TE RATURE

k night in tw elv e books e ach d evote d to one O f the tw elv e


, ,

qualiti es of p e rfect chivalry T his e xposition of private .

virtu e was to be f ollowe d by a se co nd poem which should ,

“ 9 3 m m ", portr ay th e virtu e s O f the id e al k night a s gov


ernor I n fact Sp ense r wrot e o nl y six books
.
, ,

each of twe lv e c antos and a f rag m e nt of a se v

cu th .The first is giv en to the Red Cross Knight who rep ,

re se n ts Holi ness ; the seco nd to Sir Guyo n or T em p e rance ; ,

the third to B ri tomarte or C h astity ; the fourth to Cam b el


,

and T riam ond or F ri e ndship , the fi f th to Sir A rtegall or ,

J ustic e the sixth to Sir Calid ore or Courtesy T h e se , .

k nights as we l earn from S pens e r s i ntrod u ctory l e tte r are


,

,

d e sp atch e d on th eir vario u s qu e sts by Gl ori ana Q u ee n of ,

F airyl and In the course of th e ir adventure s app e ars f ro m


.

ti me to ti me the p e rfe c t k night Arthur who is him s e lf in , ,

search O f the Fae rie Q u ee ne T he thread of the narrative .

is m u ch i nterr u pte d by e pi sod e s s om e O f whic h lik e the , ,

acc ou n t of the M arri age O f th e T h am e s and the M e dw a y ,

in Book IV are p erh aps i ns e rtions po ems whi ch we re


.
, , , ,

written sep arate ly and forced i nt o the sch e m e O f the great


work wh en Sp enser nee ded a canto to fill ou t his nu m be r .

T hus it app ear s th a t t he au thor to ok n o v e ry strict vi e w O f


the structure of his po e m Moreove r theA Hegory which
.
, ,

should gi ve u nity to the whol e is i nco nsiste nt and co mpli ,

cate d It tak es at ti m es a p olitical turn and the ch aracte rs


.
, ,

besid e s representing id eal qu aliti e s refe r dire ctly to actu al ,


p e rsons Sp ense r e xplai ne d
. In th at F ae ry Q u ee ns I
m eane glory i n m y gen erall i n te nti on but in m y particular ,

I co nce ive the m ost e xce lle nt and glorious p e rson O f our

sove rain e the Q u ee ne B e lphoeb e and B rito m arte al so
.

re pre sen t Elizab e th ; Arthur is Leicester ; the false lady


D u e ssa is Mary Q u ee n of Scots In the fi fth book the .

political state of Europ e is pres ente d at l ength with Lord ,

Grey as Artegall F ranc e as F lou rd elis H enry IV he B u r


, , .

b on H oll and as B elge and Philip II O f Sp ai n as Gran torto


, ,
. .

T his was but natural i n an age in which politics we re l arge ly


82 A HISTO RY OF E NGLISH LITERATURE

throughout its great l ength with v ery littl e effe ct O f


sameness .

F or the rest Sp enser has the great gi f t Of the poet the


, ,

pow er to create the illusio n of a diff erent world a world ,

of magic wh e re the i m agi natio n and the s en s e s are satisfie d .

With all his morality Sp enser sh are d in the rich se nsu ous
,

l if e which the Renaissance had thrown Op en to m e n T his .

s pam “
i m m e di ate r e li anc e upon the se ns e s is on e O f
m the el e m e nts of reality which giv e greatne ss to
his poem The F a eri e Q u eens is a lo ng procession O f fig
.

ures brilliant fantastic or terribl e which si ngly or i n


, , , ,

groups p ass across an e ver varyi ng e v er wond erful land ,

scap e And al m ost as m arke d as his fe eli ng for f orm and


.

color is his u se of sou nd His sen sitiveness Of ear is shown


,
.

by the m elody O f his ve rse so c onstant ye t so vari ed but


,

th ere are also many p ass ages in which he mak e s the m u m


of nature an el em e nt O f pl e asure in his p alac e O f art n ot ,

a bly in t he d e scription of the Bow e r of Bliss in Book II ,

Canto X II And m ore poignant se nsuous app e al is n ot


.

l acking A ltoge th er Sp ens e r has the resources O f the whole


.
,

w orld of sensation at co mmand and he neve r fails to ,

h eight en th em with the ill u si ons Of his art O f the color .


,

the sav or the m usic of life his po e m is f ull — o nly the


, , ,

color is brighte r the taste swee te r the m usic grand er th an


, , ,

any which it is giv e n to m ortal s e nse s to k n ow .

A nd this w orld of i m agi ne d spl e ndor is pre sen te d as the


b ackgrou nd of a steadily growi ng id e a of righteousne ss of ,

h e roic good ness The u ni on of the two elements sen suous


.
,

and m or al se e m s at ti m es to i nvolve a nai v e i ncon siste n cy


, .

But Sp ens e r b elon ged to an age wh en it seeme d not im


possibl e th at th er e should b e s ome co mmon grou nd be twee n
the spirit of the Reform ation and th at of hu m an is m He .

was p e rh aps a Puri tan but m ore f ort u nate


nls Morality
th an Milton he came b efore P u ritanism had
.

narrow ed its vi e w of li fe to the si ngl e issu e of salv atio n .

T h ere is i nde ed in Sp enser as in many O f his contem ,


TH E RENA ISS ANC E 83

p orari e s, a n ot e Of melancholy which s u ggests th at the


,

e te r nal co n trad iction O f the joy of the pr e se nt li fe by the

threa t of its h e reaf te r was not u nh eard The fl owe rs are


, .

alre ady lightly t o u ch e d by the f rost But this rem ind er


.

th at the ti me O f f ree d elight in the world of sense was so


short its su n shi ne SO threate ne d by the clouds of Puri
,

tanism m ak e s its m ost Sig nal prod u ct the m ore pre cious
, .

Sp e ns er s l aten t Pu ritani sm can b e trace d in the rese rve


with which he u su ally treats p as sio n A f ranke r m ore u h .


,

re stra i n e d ab an d on m en t to se ns u o us fe e li ng of e v e ry ki nd

marks such po e m s as Sh ak e sp e are s Venu s a nd A doni s



,

and M arlow e s H ero a nd Lea nder



in which the tid e of
,

the Re naissance i n E ngl an d reach e s i ts h e ight Marl o we .

di e d b efore he could co mpl e te the p oem which Gem , Chap , ,

w
was fi nish e d by Ge orge Ch ap man ( 1 5 5 9
Ch a p m an was one of the m ost c on sid e r abl e lite ra ry m en
O f the ti me . His app earance as a poe t was som e what late ,

his first i mportant work b ei ng O vid s B a nq u et of Sense ’


,

1 5 95 . T hree y ears l a te r he publ ish e d the l as t f our b ooks


O f H ero a nd Lea nder His fam ous translation of the I li ad
.

he co m pl e te d in 1 61 1 and the Ody ssey two years l ate r


, .

Long b efore this in 1 5 95 he had b eg u n to writ e for the


, ,

stage his grea t work be i ng a se ri e s of tragedi e s on sub


,

j e ct s dr aw n f ro m th e history o f F ran c e duri ng the ti m e of

Cath e ri ne de Medici s i nfl u e nc e

T h e se how ev e r in spite
.
, ,

O f th e ir dram atic fo rm are to b e r e g ard e d as po e m s rath e r


,

th an plays .

In his po e try both origi nal and transl at ed Chap m an is


, ,

rath e r a m an of the succeedi ng age th an an Eliz ab e th an In .

him the f u l ness and spl en d or of E lizab e th an p oe try which ,

had reach ed th e ir h e ight in Sp e nse r t e n d to el abor atio n , ,

conce it and obscurity fau lts which u nfortu nately m ar the


, ,

g r e a t e st O f his works th e tr,an sl atio n of Ho m e r F or t he .

Ili ad he chos e the O ld E nglish ball ad m e tre written in coup ,

lets O f which one li ne has Six f ee t and the ne xt se ven The


, .

sustaine d m ov e m e nt of this m easur e giv e s it a c e rtai n li ke


84 A HISTO RY OF E NGLISH LI TE RATURE

ne ss to Ho m er s h e xam ete rs ; b u t on the oth er h and its



, ,

facility and i nfor m ality te nd to prod u ce a jog trot fam il -

iarity in pl ace O f Ho mer s rapidity and nobility More



.

cmpm u ov e r C h ap m an is d e,lib e rat e ly i ndire ct and


“m " fanci f u l wh e r e Hom e r is dire ct and si mpl e
, .

Ne ve r th el ess it was a circu m s tanc e al m ost as fortu na te in


,

its way for the E nglish p e opl e as the s e ri es of h appy acci


d e nts by virtu e O f which the English Bibl e b e came great
l ite ratu re that the first translation of the noblest poe try
,

O f antiq u ity should h av e b ee n m ad e by one whO m in sp ite ,

o f all his faili ngs was a tru e poe t , .

Spe nce r s F a erie Q u ee ns and Marlowe s and Ch ap m an s


’ ’ ’
,

Hero a nd Lea nde r are p erhaps the o nl y l ong po e ms O f the


,

Elizabe than pe r iod whi ch are s till read F or the poe ts of .

that day kee nly i nte re s te d as the y we re i n artis tic prob


,

le ms failed to so lve the most ess e n tial O f the m they ne ve r


,

se parated the p rope r su bj ect ma tte r of poe try


m .

from that O f p rose T he y ga ve ve rse form n ot .

o nly to histo ry b u t also to poli t ics p hilosop hy ge ography


, , , ,

and scie nce Accord i ngly many of t he m i n sp i te o f ge n


.
,

u ine poe tic gi ft have al l b u t d isappeare d f ro m v ie w hope


, ,

le ssly d ista nce d in the race fo r i mmo rtality b y reason o f


the i r bu l k o f u npoe tical mat eria l O ne of the s e le via thans .

is Michae l Drayt on ( 15 63 He de vote d himself


largely to history , his m ost chara cte ri sti c work b eing his
Ra m a s Wa rs an accou nt of the dep ositi on of Ed ward

.

l l and the su bse q u ent fall of M orti me r


. Drayton was .

ca ab le o f gaining a genu ine inspi ra ti on f rom hi sto ry , as is


p
s how n b y his su erb
p B al lad o f th e rin i n
g g
me tre o f which is preserve d in Tennys on s Charge of the


Ligh t li rigad o E nfortnnatol v he is kn own n ot by th is
.

s p i ri te d l y ric b u t as the au thor of P oly olhion, a huge


.

p oe m i n Ale xand rinos descrip t i ve g g p y


. e o ra h
con ta ining a

o f England Like Drav ton Sam u el Dani el (1 5 62 1 61 9)


.
— .

s om od t he h is to rical m nso b u t he wrote al s o a m calle d


p oe .


N m op hvhss, or A ge neral de fence of a ll l earn ing .
TH E RE NA ISS ANC E 85

Am ong oth e r curiosi ti es of poe tic treatm ent are Willi am


Warn e r s A lbi on s E ngla nd ; Lord Brook e s P oems of
’ ’ ’

Mona rchy an d Trea ti s e on R eligion ; Sir J ohn Dav ie s s


N os cc Teip snm a po e m on the i m m ortality of the sou l and


, ,

Or ches tra a d e scription of the m otio ns of the u n ive rse


,

u n d e r th e figure of d anci ng .

It is not of th e se works howe v er th at we thi nk wh en


, ,

we Sp eak of the glory of E liz ab e th an ve rs e b u t of the ,

l yri c qu ality which i n nearly all the p oe ts of the ti m e flows


s o m e wh e re as a str eam of livi n g w at e r m aki ng gl ad e ve n ,

t he w aste pl ac e s of th eir greate r works Al m ost e v e ry .

po e t of n ote publish ed his cycl e of l ove songs and sonne ts


b e sid e s Sh ak e sp eare s Sp e ns er s and Sid ney s sonne ts th e re

,

,

,

Dani e l s D eli a B rayto n s I dea


’ ’
are C on sta bl e s D i a na

, , ,

Lodg e s P hy lli s T h e re w e re als o fr e q u e nt public atio ns



.

of coll e cti on s of so ngs by m i sc ell ane o u s write rs Sonnet, and ,

su ch as the P hoeni x N est E ngla nd s Heli con W m " ’


, ,

and t he P oeti ca l Rhap s ody The dramas of the p eri od


.

abou n d in lyrical i n te rlud e s and the stori e s are i nt e r


,

ru p te d by e clogu e s and songs Ind eed it ma y b e s aid th at


.

the writ e r wh e th e r of pr ose or ve rse who was alt og e t h e r


, ,

without the lyric al i m p u lse was an e xc e ption , .

Man y of the f ugitive lyrics of the pe riod are of doubtfu l


attributio n or altog e th e r ano ny m ous but of the s ongs th at ,

can b e as signe d to an y o ne write r a l a rg e sh are b el ongs to

T h om as Cam pio n ( 1 5 4 0 Cam pio n s v e rse is p rac


tically and h on estly ad apted to m usical re quire T homas


c an ?“
men ts for the Eliz ab eth an po e t m or e name
, ,

than his successors always conce ive d of a song as a thi ng


,

to b e su ng Lik e m any of his conte m porari es Cam pi on


.
,

was stirre d to rapture alik e by s acr e d and pr ofane lov e .

Inde e d one of the p e culi ariti e s of the Elizabe th an lyric


,

p o e ts is th e ir m i n gl i ng o f s e n su o u sn e ss an d pi e ty — th e ,

latte r n ot i nduce d by fear of d eath but by a trust in the ,

Crea to r as f rank and ho nest as was th e ir d e light in the


world which He had made .
86 A H I STO RY or E N G LISH LI TERA rU RE

How co mmo n was the lyrical gi ft in the las t years of


Eliz abe th s re ign is show n by the nu m be r of men of action

,

who w e re also po ets The group of lite ra ry courti e rs of


.
,

whom Sidney was the chi ef i nclud e d a name as fam ous ,

T he Courtly as his th a t of Sir,Wal t e r Ral e igh ( 1 5 5 2


Ral e igh s pl ace in lit e rature be longs to him

chi efly through his Hi story of the World one of the m on ,

u m ents of English pr os e in the ne xt c e n tury ; but th e f rag

m ent of a l ong p oem Cy nthi a the sonnet i n troductory


, ,

to The F a eri e Qu eens and various tags of ve rs e lik e the


,

reply to Marlow e s Co me live with me and be my Lov e


’ ”
,

and The Lie Show th at he poss ess ed
, in the words of ,

a critic of the ti m e a v e i n of poe try


,
m ost lof ty i n sol e n t , ,

and p assio na te The tone of his p oe try is on the whol e
.

si ngularly gl oom y and bitter His verses comm em o rate .


,

for the m ost p art ti m e s of r eaction and troubl e in h is


,

ch e ck ere d li fe wh en he was thrown b ack by failure on the


,

sc epticis m distrust and co ntem pt th at w ere f u nd am e ntal


, , ,

in his nature .

Ral eigh s rival both in gl ory and in m is fortu ne the E arl



,

of E ss e x the broth e r of Sid ne y s Stel la was hi msel f a po e t



, , .

Anoth e r m e m b e r of the gro u p of courtly po e ts was Sir


E dw ard Dy e r a fri end of Sid ney s who is reme m be r e d as

, ,

the write r of the li ne s “


My m i nd to me a K ingdom is
,

.

Still anoth er was the Earl of O xford Altoge th e r it m ay .

b e said that in courtly circl e s of the age lyric p oe try wa s ,

the natural lite rary e xp ression m uch as the drama was th e ,

typical form of popular literature .

The lyric and the drama m ust b e cou n te d as the grea t


literary form s of the p eri od for th ese two r epresente d ,

truth to feeling and truth to li fe U pon the re st of .

the lite rature of the Sixteenth century e v en i ncl u di ng ,

Sp ense r s w on d erfu l po em re sted a blight of artificial ity



, .

T he age was in the mai n one of co nsci ous l e arn i ng f ro m


masters cl assical and foreign of i m itatio n of u nce rta i n ty
, ,

as to the pri ncipl e s and the uses of lite rature The .


TH E RENA ISS A N CE 87

writers of the ti me were h amp ered by u ncritical sele ctio n


o f ma te rial , by the re quirem ents of conve n ti on s such as
,

t hat which pre scrib e d the p asto ral e ven by absurd th eori e s
,

s uch as th a t which tri e d to proscrib e rhym e O nly in two


.

d ire ctio ns the lyric and the dram a did th ey wi n comp l e te


, ,

f ree dom and in both th ey use d it grandly


, .
CHA PTER V

TH E REN A I SSA N CE : TH E D RA M A B EFO RE SH A K E SPE A RE

T HE drama as has just b een p oi n t ed out was the m ost


, ,

p op u l ar lite rary for m of the Re naiss ance as it was also the ,

m ost p ow e rfu l and sp on taneous It e xpresse d as no oth er


.
,
'

lit erary produ ct co u ld h ave done the m an i fold life of the


,

E liz ab e th an age . Its chi ef gl ory is of course Shake sp eare ;


, ,

b u t the scho ol of dramatists fr om whic h Sh ak e sp eare


p roc ee d e d was the r esul t of a steady growt h prolo nge d ,

t hrough nearly four c en turi e s To trace the English dram a


.

fro m the b egi nni ng we m ust go back as far as the N or m an


,

c onqu est .

O ne el em en t in the d e v elop m ent of the dr ama procee de d


fr om the N o rm an l o ve of sh ows and sp e ct acl e s Wh en .

the N or m an ki ngs w e re onc e firm ly se ated on


Sec lar
u
Sour ce of the th e En gli sh t hr one
s th ey gave full re ign to
,

th eir taste for spl e ndid p agean try If a royal .

w eddi ng was to b e c el e brate d or a victorious m o na rch


,

we lc om e d b ack f r om war Lo nd on was turned i n to a


,

plac e of f e stival At the e ntranc e gate of the city or at


.
,

fix e d pl ace s on the rout e to church or palace el aborate ,

st ru ctur e s w e r e buil t re pre sen ti ng s om e m ythical or


,

all e g oric al s ce ne — t he g od s g ro u p e d up on O ly m p u s
, an ,

a rme d St Geo rge givi ng c om b a t to a gold e n drago n


. or ,

ny m phs and s atyrs sporti ng in e n ch ant e d gard e ns So me .

t i m e s m usic was add e d an d the p e rso nators by dialogu e


, ,

and actio n gave w elco m e to the royal party


, T hese .

p ag ea n ts d e v e l op e d at th e R e n a iss an c e i n to a sp e ci a l f orm
of dram atic en te rta i n m en t the M asqu e
, Meanwhile by
.
,

sti mul ati ng in the p e op le a l ove of dram atic spe ctacle, th ey


p av e d the way for regular drama .

88
90 A HI STO RY or EN GLIS H LI TERArURE

the fi rst p ageant app ears a great box m oun te d o n fo u r ,

wh eels and drawn by app ren tic es of the mason s gu ild ’


,

whic h guild is ch arge d with prese n ti ng the Creatio n of


Eve and the Fall of Man T he curtai ns at th e f ro nt and
.

the Sid e of the great b o x are dr aw n r e v ealing an upp e r ,

compartment withi n whic h the m ai n action is to t ak e


,

pl ac e O n a rais e d pl atform sits enthrone d a m aj estic


.

p erson in a red rob e wit h gilt h air and b eard imperson at


, ,

ing the Creato r B efore him li e s A d am d re ssed in a cl ose


.
,

fi tting l ea th e r gar me nt p ai n t e d w h ite or fl esh c olo r T he -


.

Creat or af te r ann ou n ci ng his i nt en ti on of m aki ng f or


,

Ad am a h elp mee t d e sc ends a nd t ouch e s the sl e ep e r s Sid e



, .

T h ere u po n Ev e rise s th rough a trap door an d Ad am w ak e s -


,

rej oicing Agai n the Creat or asc ends to his throne a nd


.
,

A d am withdraws to a cor ner O f the p age an t l eavi ng E v e ,

to b e t empted by a gre at s erp e nt c u nn ingly c ontrive d of


green and gold cl oth in which an actor is conceal ed T his
, .

m onste r crawling u pon the st age fr om b elow h arangu e s


, ,

Ev e with l e ngthy eloqu ence T h en f oll ows the e a ti ng of .

the appl e an d the co m i ng O f God s ang el s with gilt h a ir



, , ,

scarl e t robe s and swords wav e d an d ri dge d like fi re to


, ,

drive the p air f ro m the garden i n to the wil de rness th at is , ,

into the low e r co mp artm e n t O f the p agean t whi ch is n ow ,

u ncove red to vi e w A tru mp e te r advan c e s b ef ore the car


.
,

and s ou nds a l on g n ote in t ok e n O f the co nclusio n of the

play T he pre ntic es har ne ss th e m s elv e s to the car ; and


.

it m ove s O ff to the ne xt statio n to b e repl ace d by oth e rs , .

Th es e repre s e nt in tu rn N oah s Fl ood give n by the guild



, ,

O f w a te r m e rchants ; the S acrific e of Isaac give n by the


-
,

b u tch ers g uil d ; the N a tivity the Crucifixi on and SO on



, ,

in l ong p roc e ssio n u n til the crown i ng Sp e ctacl e of the


,

Day of J udgm ent T he c h i ef f eature of sp ect acul ar i n


.

t e rest in this l ast is H e ll m o u th a gr eat d ragon s j aw



-
, ,

b elchi ng fl am e and sm ok e i nto which lost souls dre ssed , ,

in bl ack and yell ow particol or are toss e d by the De vi l , ,

—a most satisfactory character with a bright red beard ,


TH E R ENA ISS ANC E 91

a hairy body, a hideou s mask ho rns , , and a long f orked


tail .

Crude and e ven grote s q u e as m uch O f this s ee ms , the


miracle play was, to the me n of the Middl e Ages, a v e ry
impressive thing It not only app eal ed to th eir religious
.

r s and to th eir love O f sp e ctacl e ; it also i ntere ste d


natu e
them pr ofou ndly f ro m the hu m an Sid e F or the authors .

were fre e to e mb e lli sh the biblical story with e pisod e s draw n


from the co m mon lif e O f the ir o wn day E v e n wh en th e se .

added episod es took a bro adly farcical tur n n obody was


,

shocked an m o re th an by the i m ps an d m o nste rs which


y ,

g inned at the m f rom the sol e mn Shad ows O f th e ir cath e


r

drals In the play of N oah s Flood the p atri arch c ause s


.

,

first the ani mals to e nte r the A rk th en his s on s and dau h


g ,

ters in law but wh e n he co me s to his wi fe she Ge m a n”


- -
, r ,

Ob ects “ ar mam
j She doe s not reli sh b e i ng coop e d up
.

without her gossips and l eavi ng th ese am i abl e wo m e n to


,

drown Re mo nstran c es at l ast provi ng f ruitl e ss N oah


.
,

resorts to the argu m e nt of blows and driv e s his sc oldi n g


,

helpmee t i nto the A rk to the grea t d elight of the crowd


, .

Inthe pla y o f Abrah am and Isaac the yearn i ng love of the ,

Old man f or his littl e son an d the sw e e t trustful nature


, ,

Of the boy are brou ght ho me to us in such a wa to


, y as
illtensif the pathos of the m om e nt wh en A brah am mak e s
y
read h Lord s c mm d s ’
crific li which is
y at t e, o an to a e th e fe ,

dearest to hi m on e arth T he pl eadi ng of the b oy th e


.
,

gadual ov e r m aste ri ng of his fear of d eath by his pity for


r

his fathe r s anguish and his s olicitud e for his moth e r s


’ ’

gief are ren d e re d with touchi ng truth


r
, .

The rfor d o o o wr Lo rd e s b y d d i ng ,

And wan I am de d , th e n p ey
r fo r m e
B u t , good fad e r te l l y e
, m y m od er no -
th y ng,
Sa y th a t I a m in a no th er cu n thre d we lly n g .

In these e pisod es , and in many othe rs which m ight be


given, lie the ge rm s Of regular drama Such hu morou s
.
92 A H ISTO RY or EN GLI SH LITE RATURE
scenes as qu arrel O f Noah and his wife co nstitu te in
the ,

reality crude little comedi es out of wh ich regular co m e dy


could readily grow In such tragic scenes as the Sac
.

rifi ce O f Isaac the Sla ughte r O f the I nn oc en ts


, and the ,

Crucifixion the elem ents O f nob le tragedy were al re ady


,

present .

The m i racl e pl ays a ttem pte d to set forth only a p a rt o f


th e teaching ne c e ssary to man s s alvation nam ely th a t

,

part contai ned in the history of Ad am s Fall the red e m p ’


,

tion through Christ and the fi nal J udgmen t T hi s was


, .

al m os t en tirely th eo logic al it dealt with matters Of be li ef .

T o co m pl e te this teach i ng th ere was nee d e d so me e xpos i tio n


O f the e thic al Sid e of re ligio n which d eals with m att e rs O f
,

co nduct ; and it was this e thic al doctri n e which


T he Mommy
may “ the Morali ty pl ays tri e d to bring ho m e to
me n s m i nds

By means of such personifications or ah
.

s tractions as the World the Fl esh Manki nd Me rcy J u s


, , , ,

tice Peac e the Se ven Deadly Si ns Good and B ad Ange l s


, , , ,

Gl u ttony Cov e tousne ss O ld Age and Death the m o rality


, , , ,

pl ays att empted to repre sen t in a graphic way whi ch ,

w ould app eal to popular audi e nce s the co nflict b e twee n ,

sin and right e ousne ss for the posse ssion O f the hu ma n so u l .

The earl y Moraliti es h av e an earnestne ss O f purpose and a ,

l argen ess of th em e which m ak e th em no u nworthy su ppl e


,

m en t to the m ir acl e cycl e s Littl e by littl e how e ve r th e i r


.
, ,

ch aracter ch anged : the treat men t was narrowed so as to


i n clud e o nly a si ngl e asp ect O f m an s li fe ; the characte rs ’

be cam e l e ss and l ess abstract ; and farcical matte r was in tro


d u ce d to lighten the i n tol e r ably sol em n tone In th e se l a te r .

m oraliti e s the ch aracte r O f V ice pl ayed a great p art He .

was usu ally dressed in the costu me O f a cou rt fool and ,

carri ed a sword of l ath His fu ncti on was to attend upo n


.

the De vil and to worry trick and b el abor his master f or


, , ,

the a m use m ent of the crowd The Vic e s u rvived in the.

f ool of Sh ak e sp eare s plays though it is h ard to re cogn i ze



,

h im in the philosophic al T ouchstone of A s You Li ke I t ,


94 A H I STO R Y O E E NGL ISH LI TE RATURE
begi nni ng of the Re naissance It be came the fashi on in .

the fi f teenth c e ntury f or school mast ers to prese n t t he -

co me di es of T e renc e and Pl autus on the stages of gr am mar


scho ols wi th the stu d ents as a ctors B e for e 1 5 4 1 N icholas
,
.

U d all h e ad m aste r of E ton wrote f or his b uys


,
-
,

a pl ay m od ell e d af ter Pl au tus call ed Ra lp h


, ,

R oyster B oyster the first r egula r E ngli sh,

com edy T he i m portance of Ra lp h Rog/star B oys ter in


.
,

f u rnishi ng E ngli sh pl aywrights with an e xam pl e of ra pid


di al ogu e and cl ear constructi on of plot can h ardly be ,

ove r esti mate d The play is howe ver an artifici al pro


-
.
, ,

d u cti on wi th v ery little local color or truth to E nglish lif e


, , .

T his ob j e cti on c ann ot b e brought agai nst the ne xt nota bl e


c om e dy Gammer Gu rton s N eedle supposed to have bee n
,

,

writte n by J ohn Still an O x ford M aste r of arts ab out


,
- -
,

1 5 66 . H e re the Lati n mode l is still f oll owe d in f or m al


p articulars but the m ai n chara ct ers are mani festly stu d i ed
,

f rom real sixt eenth c e ntury p easants and the b ackg ro u nd ,

of E ngli sh vill age li fe is give n with m u ch vivid r e alis m .

Ga mmer Ga rl an s N eedle is a great land mark in the his


t ory of the d rama in Engl and for it Shows th at E nglish ,

co m edy had b een abl e to l earn f rom clas sical mod e ls the
l esson of cl ear co nst ruction and steady d e velop me n t of
,

pl o t without sacrifici ng th at broad and real istic co mi c


,

spi rit which had fou nd e xp re ssio n in the b y play of the -

m i racl e s and m oraliti es and which was shortly to co me to


,

fl ow e r in such m aste rpi e ces of pure E nglish h u m or as


D ekker s Shoema kers H oli day and the tav e r n sc enes in
’ ’
,

S hak e sp eare s H enry I V


U p on trage dy the classical i nflu enc e was e ven greate r


, ,

and the struggl e on the p art of the l earned l ay wrights of


p _

the U nive rsiti e s to i m p os e the cl assical f or m


,

up on E ngli sh tragedy was m ore sustai ned T he , .

cl as sic d ramatist s el ected for e m ulatio n was


S ene ca B e tween 1 5 60 and 1 5 8 1 ten trage die s of Se neca
.

w ere f reely translated Co mi ng into the hands of E ngl ish


.
TH E RE NA ISSAN C E 95

l wrig h t j u st wh en th ey w e re eage rly bu t blindly feel


p y a s ,

i ng th e ir way t o ward a natio nal typ e of drama th e se pl ays ,

c ould n o t fail to i mpre ss th e m m uch p e rh aps all the m ore ,


"

b e c aus e the S ene can trage dy was di re ctly opp os ed to th at


k i nd of drama to which the E nglish p e opl e na turally
i n cli n e d S ene ca s pl ays have v e ry li ttle stage acti on ;

.

i m portan t e v en ts i nst ead of b e i ng dir e ctly r epr e sen te d are


, ,

m e re ly re p o r te d on the stage by m e ssen ge rs or oth e rs The


, .

t en d e ncy of English trage dy on the oth e r h and was f ro m


, ,

t he first to pre s en t e ve rythi ng b odily on the stage e v e n ,

t he stor m i ng of citi e s or b attl e s b e tw ee n great arm i e s


, ,

w h ere the m eans at the disposal of the actors w e re laugh


a bly i nad e qu a t e to the d e man d Lati n dra ma agai n is
.
, ,

u s u ally c are fu l to pre s erve u nity of t i m e and plac e th at


i s to mak e all the action p ass in a given locality and to


, ,

c ove r no m ore th an the e ve nts of a si n gl e day E nglish .

p l a ywrights o n
, the co n tra ry h ad n o h e sit
, atio n i n shif t
i ng th e sce ne to h alf a doz en di ff e r e n t co u ntri e s in the
c o u rs e of a si ngl e pl ay ; and th e y tho u ght n o thi n g of i n

trod u cin g in the first act a chi ld who gre w to m anho od


in the s e co n d act and in the third di e d and h anded on
,

the s tory to b e acte d out by his so ns and grandso ns in


,

t he f ourth and fif th Cl assic dram a al so dre w a v e ry s harp


.

l ine b e twee n com edy and tragedy ad m itti ng no c om ic ,

el e m e n t i nto a s e ri ous pl ay T he E nglish dram a on the


.
,

contra ry f ro m the m iracl e pl ays dow n se t co m edy sid e


, ,

by Sid e wi th trage dy ; it mi ngl e d the farcical with the


august t he l augh abl e with the p ath e tic as th ey actu ally
, ,

are m i ngl e d in li fe .


The y o u ng U niv e rs i ty wits ( as m en of i ntelle ctu al
prete n sio ns w e re th e n call e d ) whil e they sh are d in the
,

natio n al e n thu s i as m f o r s tage pl ay s w e re m a ny of th e m


-
,

rep e ll e d by th e cr u diti es a nd ab su rditi e s of the nativ e

lram a e m ph a siz e d as th e se we re by the m eagre stage


,

etti ng . They wi she d th e re fo re to forc e the el e gan t but


, ,

>ld S e nec an m od e l up on the public T he y f o u nd a .


96 A HIST O RY or E NGLISH LITE RATURE

p o we rful champion in Sir Philip Sid ney who in his , ,

Defence qf P oesi e he ap e d u nsp ari ng ridicul e u po n the


,

na tiv e playwrights of his day In 1 5 61 two you ng gen tl e


.
,

me n of the I nn e r T e m pl e T ho m as N orto n and T hom as


,

Sackvill e pre sente d b e fore Q u e en Eliz abe th a play call ed


,

Gorbodu c or F errex a nd P orrex which was acc epte d as


, ,

a ki nd of man if e sto on the p art of the cl assicists and as an ,

e xam pl e of wh at could b e do n e in h andli ng a sub j e ct fr om

British legend on the lines laid down by S eneca Gorba


, .

da c has a chorus mad e up of f our old m en of Brita i n ;


,

m e ssengers to re port the acti on al m ost all of which ta k e s


,

pl ace 011 the stage ; and lo ng epic and lyric p as sage s



wh at the French cal l ti ra des to tak e the pl ac e of stag e
action . It is a stately production and d e serve s vene ra ,

tion as the first regular tragedy written in English T h at ,

it had a great i nflu enc e upon the native drama j ust


o
,

stru ggli ng i nto consciousness of itself is evidenc ed by ,

the c on ti nu al effor ts mad e by the playwrights of th e


n e xt tw en ty or thirty years to forc e th e ir stubborn ov e r
, ,

grown material into som e sem blance of the neat clas sic
f orm.

In the end the nativ e for m won the day


, I t had on its .

side not only long trad ition bu t the ove rwh el mi ng w e ight
,
"

of popul ar tas te It was i nfinitely b e tte r suite d to the


.

rob u st i magi nation of the men of the E nglish Re naissan ce ,

eage r for e xcite ment an d cravi ng stro ng se nsatio ns .

N e ve rth el ess the appr entic eship of E nglish pl aywrights


,

to a fore ign m aster b ri ef and i nco m pl e te


m m of the ,

Classi cal l n though it was was i nvalu abl e


, It tau ght .

n ance
u
th e m to Im pose som e re strai nt upon the n ot of
.

th eir fancy ; i t showe d th em the beauty and artistic


ne c e ssity of good structur e ; in a word it brough t f or m ,

out of ch aos N or d id the i nflu ence wh olly die e ve n wh en


.
,

the b attl e had gon e o nc e for all in favor of the ro m antic


drama Marl owe whos e genius was i ntensely ro man tic
.
, ,

Shows abu nd ant trac es of it and the Cho rus of K i ng


98 A HIST O RY OF E NGLISH LIT ERATURE

any , delighte d to cloth e th e ir thought Lyly s E up hu es .


( se e p a ge 7 0 ) h a d a m a rk e d i n flu e nc e upo n the e a rly

E liz ab e th an drama both for g ood and e vi l


, T he tas te .

for artificial l ang u age which it r e fle cte d and foste re d fill e d ,

the early dram a with p assage s which are i n tol e rably m an


ne red ; b u t on the oth e r h and it re fi ne d poe tic dicti on
, , ,

and sa v e d the drama f ro m the r u d e ne ss by which a f or m

of art so popul ar in i ts app eal and SO hu mble in its origi n ,

was naturally thre ate ne d .

AS a dramatist Lyly occupi e s a p e c u liar positio n am ong


Sh ak esp ea re s pred ec e ssors

He wr ote not for the re gul ar
.
,

dr ama tic co mp an i e s but for co mp an i e s of ch il d


,
Ly l y nd
a

actors Th e se w e re choIr boys on e co m p any


£332
14 .
-
,

Paul s Cath e dral and k now n



attach e d to St .


Children of Paul s the othe r attach e d to the

as the ,

Q u ee n

s ch ap e l a t W hit e h all and k n ow n as the C hildr e n

of the Chap e l Royal . T o th e se child co m p ani e s Lyly s ’

t one a nd matter were ad m irably ad apte d His pl ays a re .

for the m os t p ar t grac ef ul ad apta ti on s of cl assic m y ths so ,

tu rne d as to h ave a b eari ng up on so me co ntemporary hap


p e ni ng at co u rt ye t m ovi ng al ways i n an at m osph e re of
,

qu ai nt and dreamlik e u nreality E ndy mi on is an el abora te .

co m pli m en t to Q u ee n E liz ab e th who app ears i n the pla y ,

i n the ch aracte r of Cy nthi a the virgi n hu ntre ss , The .

Woma n i n the M oon is a ve il e d satire upo n wom en in ge n


e ral an d Eliz ab e th i n p articul ar wri t te n aft e r Lyly had
, ,

be e n s oure d by years of fr u itl e ss s ee ki ng af te r cé u rt fa vor .

T hr ough the pl ays are sc a t te re d d elightf ul lyrics which ,

Lyly was p e rh aps e spe ci ally t e mpt ed to i ns er t by the cl e ar ,

v oic e s of the child p l ay e rs .

T he child actors for who m Lyly wrote play ed al m ost


, ,

“ 0 0011 1" e xclusiv e ly i n priv a te — at court or i n th e,


" “
233 m ,
hous e s o f th e n o bili ty But th e r
. e gula r c o m
p a n ie s h a d a lr e ad y b e gu n to e sta blish th e m
s elv e s in the su burbs of Londo n and to e rect pe rmanent ,

theatres . The firs t of th es e play hou ses k now n si m ply as -


,
TH E R E NA ISSAN C E 99

The T h eatre, was built in Fi n sbu ry F i e lds, to the no rth


of the city by , J am e s Burb age , in 1 5 76 It was at this .

play h ou se th at Shak esp e are first f ou nd e m pl oym ent


-
.

Bu rbage s co m p any on the d e st ructi on of T he T h e atre



, ,

buil t the Gl ob e on the sou th bank of the T ham e s ; and


,

he re on the Bank sid e oth e r place s of th e atrical en tertai n


, ,

me n t rapidly sprang up Af te r a ti m e the actors be c a m e


.

bold e no ugh to pu sh i nto the city itsel f Burbage b u ilt .

the Bl ac kfri ars as a wi nt e r th ea tre , A rival co m p any .

built the F ortu ne also in the city li m its By the end of


, .

the ce n tury el e ve n th ea tre s e xi s te d i n the city an d in the


,


free lands or lib e r tie s adjoi ni ng .

P e rf o rm ance s took pl ace usu al ly at t hre e in the after


noon an d w e re annou n c e d by the h angi ng out of a fl a
,
g
and t he blowi ng of t ru m p e ts T he th eat re s we re r o u nd or .

oc ta g o nal str u ct u re s u n roofe d e xc e pt fo r a sh e d or c an o py


,

ove r the stag e The wi nte r th e a tres such as the B lackf ri


.
,

ars w e r e e ntir ely roof e d in


,
T he stage e x te n d e d o u t i nto the .

body of the hous e was O p e n o n thre e s id e s and was s u fli


, ,

cien tly e l e va te d so th at the m ai n bulk of the audi e n c e st an d ,

ing on th e b a re grou n d w hi ch fo rm e d the fl oor or pit of the


theatre could h ave a fair vi e w Pe rso ns who c ou ld aff ord to
,
.


p y
a a high e r p ric e th an th e gr o u n dli ngs t ook ad va n tage ,

Of the b oxe s built rou n d the pit and y ou ng g all an ts f o r ,

an e xtra fee c ould h av e s e ats u p on the stag e i tsel f w he re


, ,

th ey s m ok e d th eir pip es p ee l e d oranges c rack e d n uts and , , ,

Of te n in tet fe re d wi th t he p e rf orman c e by ch afii ng a p oor

actor or by flirti ng osten t ati ously with th e fair o cc u p a n t


,

Of a n e ig hbori ng box In ac cord an c e with the luxu ri ous


.

taste of the age in dr ess the c ostu m e s o f the actors w e re ,

Ofte n ve ry rich All w om e n s p arts w e re pl aye d by b oys



.

actre ss e s w e re n o t s ee n i n E ngl and u n til af te r the Re s tora

tion T he s tage s e tti ng was O f the si m pl e st a ch ange O f


.
-
,

sce ne be i ng i ndic a te d of te n m e rely by a pl aca rd o r at m ost ,

by a roughly p ai nte d pi ece of paste b oard and a fe w stage -

ro rti s A tr e e and a be nch di d d u t f ard e n


p p e e .
y or a
g a
1 00 A HISTO RY OF E NGL ISH LI TE RATURE

wooden cannon and a p ast e b oard towe r i ndicate d a Si ege


-
.

This m eagrene ss of stage se ttin g so far from b e i ng a m is


-
,

fortu ne was in no small m e asu re re sp onsibl e for th e lite r


,

ary gre atness of the E liz ab e than dram a for it thre w the
dramatist back up on v ivid po e tic ex pressio n as the o nly ,

m eans of sti m u l a ti ng the i m agi nation of his audi en ce and


of pr e s e rvi ng the dr amatic illusio n .

While Lyly was at the h eight O f his vogu e duri ng th e ,

late e ighti es of the Sixte en th c entury a gro u p of you n g ,

dram atists w ere com i ng to the front whos e app eal was n ot ,

to the court but to the p e opl e and wh ose pl ays were writ
,

ten f or the p opul ar th eatre s just d escrib e d T he mo st im .

p or tan t of th e se dram atists w e re Chri stoph e r Marlowe ,

Rob e rt Gree ne and Ge orge Pe el e with Marl ow e an u ndis


, ,

u te d l ead e r T h e non dram atic work of th e se m e n has


p
-
.

already b e en menti on e d ( se e p age s 75 and Gree ne was


by natural gif t a prose rom ance r Peel e a lyric po e t an d
, ,

a t l ea st h al f of Marlowe s g en ius was of an e pic k i nd



B ut .

the t e nd ency of the age was SO ov e rwh e l m i ngly in f avor of


d ram a th at all three in c om m on with m any of th eir fel
, ,

l ow s were div e rte d i nto the ch annel of dramatic e xpre s


,

si on and Marl o we achie v ed in this not wholly symp ath e ti c


m e di u m all but the high e s t disti nction .

Christoph e r Marlow e on e of the m ost striking figur e s of


,

the E nglish Ren aissanc e is the tru e fou n d e r of the p op u


,

lar E nglish drama though he was hi m se l f an


,

outgrowth of the l ong p eriod O f preparation


which we h av e b e en trave rsi ng He was b orn in 1 5 64 two
.
,

m on ths b ef ore Sh ak esp eare in the old cath edral t o w n of


,

Can terbury His fathe r was a Shoem ak e r ; the boy was


.

sent to Cam bridge by a patron who had notic ed his quick


,

p arts He gradu ate d at ni ne teen and four years l ate r


.

( 1 5 8 7) he a sto nish e d Lo n do n with his first pl ay Ta m bu r ,


.

la i ne which he brought out with the Lord A d m iral s Men



, ,

the rival co m p any to the Lord Ch amb e rl ai n s Men who m



,

Sh ake sp eare had joine d a Sh or t ti me b efore .


1 02 A HI STORY OE G S
E N LI H LITER T RE A U

high astou n di ng te rm s without which Elizabe th an


,

drama is now i nconceivabl e T his program m e he carri ed


.

out in the m ain with consisten cy .

Tam bu rlai ne is a pu re h e ro pl ay T he Scythi an


-
.

sh eph erd co n qu ers one af ter anoth e r the ki ngdo m s of th e


, ,

E ast f orci ng ki ngs to h arness th em s elv e s to his


,

ch ariot an d carryi ng with hi m a great cage in


,

which a captive e mp e ror is k e pt lik e a wild b east T he .

h u ge barbaric figure of T amburl ai ne is always b ef ore our


eye s ,an d the actio n of th e pl ay is o nl y a s e ri e s of his

triu mphs His ch aracte r h al f b esti al h al f godlik e in its


.
,
-
,
-

re m o rse l ess strength an d c on fid enc e do m i nate s th e i m agi ,

n ati on lik e an e l e me n tal f orc e of natur e and l e nds its e l f ,

ad m irably to thos e high astou ndi ng term s which fill ,

whol e p ages of the pl ay with thu nd erous m onol ogu e .

D octor F a u s tu s Marlowe s s e co n d work is als o a h e ro



, ,

pl ay and is cast on e v en larger li nes It is a d ram atiz e d


, .

story of the li fe and d eath of a m edi aeval schol ar who ,

s ells his soul to the de vil in re turn for a li fe of powe r an d


,

pl e asu re . It embodi ed in an oth er f orm the same aspira


, ,

ti o n afte r the u nattai nabl e which Tamburlai ne had typi


,

fi e d and the story i nvolve d l arge q u e stio ns of hu man will


and fat e such as an i m agi nation lik e M arlowe s lov e s to

,

g rapple with It can h ardly b e said that the poe t live d u p


.

to the p ossibiliti e s of his subj e ct T he pl ay as it h as


.
,

c om e d ow n to us is disfig u re d by co mic p assage s of a


,

coarse and tastel e ss sort th ose v e ry conce its of clown
,

g
a e

which M arlow e h ad f or m e rl y d e cl ar e d w ar agai nst .

But ev en wh e re the work m anship is poor th ere is always


so me thi ng i mposi ng i n the d esig n ; and c ertai n p as sag e s

h av e h ardly b een surp asse d for power and b eauty Whe n .

Me phistoph el e s raise s from the d ead the Spirit of He l en


O f T roy Faustus utte rs on e rapturous e xclamation
, ,

W as th i s th e face th a t l a u nch ed th o u san d shi p s


a

And b u rn t th e t o p less to wers o f Il i o n


THE RENA I SS AN C E 1 03

And on h is d e ath -
b e d he starts up with the cry ,

Lo , wh e re C hrist ’
s b lo o d t
s re a ms i n th e fi rma m e n t l

three li ne s which would al one serv e to stam p M arlowe as


of t he c om p an y of i m pe ri al p oe ts .

Marl ow e s third pl ay The J ew of M a lta is agai n a study



, ,

of th e lust of p ow e r — this ti m e the pow e r b e st ow e d by


,

grea t r ich es B arabbas the old J ewish m e rch an t of Malta


.
, ,

is th e first vig oro us Sk e tch of which Sh ak e sp eare was to ,

mak e in Shylock a fi nish e d maste rpi e c e The first two acts .

are co n c e iv e d on a l arge sc al e a nd car ef ully work e d ou t ; ,

bu t a fte r th es e M arlow e se e m s agai n to h ave f all e n from


his o wn id e al and to h av e w orke d h astily and i nsi n c e rely

.
,

Ra w h orrors accu m ul ate on h orror s h ead a nd the pl ay de



,

g en e r a t e s i nto m e l odr a m a o f th e go ri e st ki n d N e v e r th e .

less i t sh ows a r e m ark abl e advanc e ov e r Tambu r la i ne an d


Doctor F a u s tu s in the k nitti ng toge th er of c au se and
,
-

effe ct . Marl ow e s gr owt h i n dram atic te ch n iqu e is still


more striki ngly appare nt in his l ast pl ay E dwa rd II T his , .

is u n q u e stio nably his m aste rpi e c e so far as pl ay m aki ng ,


-

goes th ough for the ve ry re ason th a t it d iscards rh e torical


,

monol ogu e for the r apid d ram atic i n te rch ange of th ought ,

it c on tai ns fe we r quotabl e p assages of pure p oetry th an


any of the oth e rs .

M arl ow e was kill e d i n 1 5 93 at the age of tw e nty ni ne ,


-
.

Th e re is so m e thi ng in the m e te o r lik e sudd e nne ss of his ap -

p ea ra n c e i n t h e S ki e s o f p o e try a n d i n th e s wi f
, t fl a m i n g O f
his g enius thro u gh its c ou rs e th at see m s to m ak e i ne vi ,

tabl e his vi ol e nt en d He su m s u p fo r u s the Re naissan ce


.

p a ssio n f o r li f e sl ee pl
, e s s i n i ts s e arch a n d d a ri ng i n its gr asp
afte r t he i n fi nit e i n pow e r i n k nowl edge and i n pl e asur e
, , .

Rob e rt Gr eene was pr ob ably e nco u rage d to wri te for the


stage by M a rlow e s succ e ss with T a m b u rl ai ne

.

G eene r .

Green e s b e st pl ays are Fri a r B a con a nd F ri a r


B u nga y and J a mes I V T he fir st o f th e se has s o m e


.

cou ntry sc e ne s group e d ab o ut the ch ar act e r of Margar e t


, ,
1 04 A HI STO RY O F ENG LI SH LITE RATURE

the fair m aid of F re ssingfi el d, h ealthy which are in a fi ne


E nglish tone J a m es I V h as a cle a r and coh e r ent d e v el op
. .

m e nt u n usu al at this stage of the dram a ; one O f its m oti fs


, ,

th at O f the p ersecute d w om an who fl ees to the fore st in the


disguise of a p age was d e sti ne d to b eco me i mm en sely pop
,

ul ar in the l at er ro man tic dram a an d to b e u se d over ,

an d ov e r agai n with en d l e ss v ari atio ns by Sh ak e sp e a re and


, ,

F l e tch e r .

Ge orge Pee l e lik e Green e b egan his care e r by non d ra


, ,
-

m atic writi ng His m ost charact eristic early work con


.

sists of p oe m s writte n for c e r e m o ni al oc casi ons .

Peel e

.

O ne of th e se A F are well to the F am ous an d


,

F ortu nat e Ge ne rals of our E nglish F orc e s written on the ,

d ep a rture of Drak e and N orris on the e xp edition to Portu ,

g a l in 1 5 8 9 i s f ull of,t h e n e w n a ti onal spirit So m e of th e .

li nes h ave a sup erb ri ng of e xul tation and pri de


Yo u fi gh t fo r C h ri st and E n gl a n d

s p ee rle ss q u ee n ,
E l i za b e th th e w o n d e r of t h e w o rl d ,
O v e r w h o se th ro ne th e e ne m i e s o f Go d
H a v e th u nd e re d
O te n t im e s tre b l e h a p p y m e n , th a t fi gh t
U nd e r t h e cro ss o f C h ri st a n d E ngl a nd s q u ee n l

T his passage well ill u strat es Peele s p e cu li ar gi f t as a poe t ’


,

th at of m aki ng his li n es ki nd le as th ey go His b est pl ay .


,

D av i d a nd B ethsa be is c onsid e r ed m e rely as a pl a y p oor


, , ,

en o u gh b u t it is fu ll of p assage s u su ally only a f e w li nes ,

l ong wh ich s ee m to tak e fi re be fore a r ead e r s ey e s and



, ,

to burn wi th the s of test y e t m o st i n tense fl am e of the


i magination Dav id a n d B ethsa be m ay b e regarde d as a
.

l ate typ e of the m iracl e pl ay stripp e d of its sacre d sig


-
,

n ifi can ce an d satur at ed with the s en suous grac e an d ri ch


,

col or of t he Re nai ssan c e Anot her pl ay of Pe el e s The ’


.
,

O ld Wi v es Ta le is fam o u s as h avi ng f urn ish ed M ilton



,

with the grou nd w ork of Camu s It is a ve ry c rud e bu t a


-
.

ve ry charm i ng play ; a sort of dramatiz ed nurse ry tal e of


CHAPTER VI

TH E R E N A I SSA N C E 2 SH A K E SP E A RE

WI LLI A M SH A K E SP E A RE was
b orn on or about the 2 4 th Of
April 1 5 64 in the vill age of Stratford
, , H e was the third .

child of J oh n Sh ak e sp eare and Mary Ard e n His m oth er .

Shakespeare , w a s of g
. e n tl e blo o d an d was poss e ss ed of
, so m e
Ea“ ? me w e alth by i nh e ritan c e
'
His f ath er thou gh a .
,

m an of c onsid e rati o n in the vill age was of lowe r statio n a , ,

tanner and glo ve r by trad e U ntil the age of f ourteen .

the b oy atte nd e d the Stratf ord gramm ar school wh e re ,



he pic ke d up the s mall Lati n an d l ess Gree k to ,

whi ch his i m me nsely l earned fri en d B en J o nson rath e r


sc ornf ully r e fe rs T he b e tte r p art of his e ducation a
.
,

wond e rfu lly deep an d sur e i n sight i n to N ature and a ,

wide acqu ai ntanc e wi th the f olk l ore of his nativ e district -


,

he doubtl e ss b e ga n to acquir e i n b oyho od by r am bl e s ,

th ro u gh the m eadows and along the stre am s of Warwick


s hir e stoppi n g to ch at with old cr one s ov e r th e ir cottage
,

fi re s or to liste n to plough me n as th ey took th eir nooni ng


, .

O nl y a fe w m ile s a way was the picture squ e t own of Wa r


wick with its m agnific e nt c astl e to se t hi m dream i ng of
, ,

the p ast Withi n an easy day s w alk lay K enilworth Cas tl e


.

,

t he s eat of E liz ab eth s favorite Le ic e ste r ; and the historic



,

t ow n of Cove ntry wh e re one m ight still see m iracl e pl ays


,
-

p e rform ed on c e rtai n fe stiv al d ays T rav elli ng com pan i es .

o f a ct ors visited Stra tf ord two or th re e ti m e s a y ear and h ad ,

t o apply to Sh ak e sp e are s fath e r for l e av e to pl ay At th e ir



.

p e rf orm anc e s you ng Sh ak e sp eare was doubtl ess so m e ti m es


pre sen t dri nki ng i n his fi rst i m pressio ns of the f asci nati ng
,

w orld of the s tage In th e se and oth e r ways his m i nd


.

1 06
TH E RE NA ISS ANC E 1 07

found the f oo d it nee d ed and store d u p m any a brav e


i mage which it should afterward e vok e in the thick air
,

of a cr owd e d Londo n th e atre .

Ab o ut 1 5 78 the f ortu nes of his f ath e r b egan to d e cli ne ,

and Sh ak e sp e are was withdraw n f ro m sch ool I n spite of .

the rapidly faili ng prosp e rity O f the fam ily he was m arri e d ,

at e ight ee n to A nn H ath aw ay a you ng w om an e ight y e ars


,

his se n i or the daughte r of a p easant fam ily of Shotte ry


, ,

near Stratf ord T h a t the m arri age was h asty and u n fortu
.

nat e h as b e e n co nj e c tur e d f ro m the gen e ral cours e of S hak e

sp e ar e s li f e as w e ll as f ro m v ario u s p assage s i n the pl ays



, ,

which see m to h av e an autobi ographic color Ce rtain it is .

that so m e ti me b e t ween 1 5 85 and 1 5 87 he l ef t Stratford to ,

se e k his fortu ne in th e c apital an d th at u ntil the cl os e O f


,

his li fe he r e turne d to his nativ e town only at rare i nt erv als .

The i m m e d i ate c ause of his l e avi ng is said by doubtful


traditi on to have b een the anger of Sir T ho m as Lucy a ,

local m ag nate ove r a d eer ste ali ng prank i n which Sh ak e


,
-

spea re an d oth e r wild you ng bl ad e s of the vill age had e n

g ag e d .

O utside the w al ls of London to the north not far f ro m ,

wh e re the r oad f ro m Sh ak esp eare s cou n try ent e re d the


p urli e us o f th e c apit a l stood , th e O ld e st of t h e Shakespeare


m “mm
Lon d on pl ay house s c al l e d si mply The Th e atre
-
, .

It had at the h ead of its com p any the fam ous actor J am e s
Burb age . Wh eth er from acciden t or se t i nten tion Sh ak e ,

sp ea re soo n fou nd h i m s elf co nn e cte d with B u rb a e s com



g
p an y, wh e r e h e m ad e hi m s e l f i n disp e n s abl e a s a ctor an d ,

as r e to u ch e r O f old pl ays H e c on ti nu e d with B u rb age s


.

com p an y as ac tor pl aywright an d st ockh old e r wh e n The


, , , ,

Th ea tre was p u ll e d down and r eb u ilt as the Glob e on the


,

south b an k of the T h am e s .

O f th e e xte rnal f acts of Sh ake sp e are s li fe in Lo nd on we ’

know few and those fe w of sm all i m portanc e Early in


, .

his c aree r h e was attacked by Rob e rt Gre ene who in a , ,

deathbe d e xhortatio n to Marlow e Peel e and oth e rs , , ,


1 08 A HISTO RY OE E N G LISH LITE RATURE

c all e d him an u pstart crow beau tified with our feath e rs ,

that supp os es he is as w ell abl e to bo m b ast



out a bl ank v e rse as the r est of us The publishe r of
.

Gre ene s p am phl e t af te rward pr inte d a f orm al apol o gy



,

te sti fying to y ou ng Sh ak e speare s worth and am i ability’


.

We k now of his f riendship with Willi am H erbert E arl of ,

Pe m brok e and with the E arl of South ampton ; of his


,

f ri e n dly rivalry in art and talk w i th
, rare B en J ons o n
, ,

the s e c on d dram atist of the age of his c ar ef ul conduct of

his busi ness aff airs and of his popul arity as a playwrigh t
, .

E xc ept for th e se fe w gl eam s of light his e xte rnal li f e is ,

wrapp ed in mystery ; and the v e ry breadth and dram a tic


greatness of his pl ays pre vent us fro m drawing any b u t
the broad est i nfe renc es conce r ni ng his p e rsonal history .

The f ou nd atio n of Sh ak esp eare s mod est fortu n e is


th ought to have b een l aid by a gi f t fro m his fri end and


p atro n the you ng Earl of Southam pton to whom h e
, ,

d edicate d his youth fu l po ems Venu s a nd A doni s and ,

Lu crece but it was m ai nly by his earni ngs at the Gl o be


an d Bl ack f ri ars th e atr e s th a t he was abl e to r e i nstate h i s

p aren ts in th e ir old p osition of b u rghe rly co mfort and to ,

gai n for hi m self a p ate nt of gentility and the possessio n of ,

the b est home st ead in his na tive vill age with broad acres ,

of l an d to ad d to its di gn ity Hither at the .


,

age of fi f ty he r e tired to sp e nd the re mai n d e r


, ,

of his li fe in cou n try qui e tud e with his wi fe ,

a n d his u nm arr ie d d aught e r J udith H e di ed in 1 61 6 a t


.
,

the age of fif ty two and was buri ed i n the old church b y


-

the Av on wh e re thousands of pi l gri m s now go ea ch y ear


,

to re ad the words on his tomb beseechi ng men to le t his


dust l ie qui e t in its grav e .

Sh ak e sp eare b egan his dramatic w ork as has been said , ,

by re touching old pl ays of this early work the three p art s


of Henr V I r m i n n i n t e r e sti ng sp e ci me n of his fi rst
y e a . as a

app re n tic e e ff orts He soo n fell u n de r the fas cinatio n of


.

Marlow e s styl e and produc e d Ti tu s A ndroni cus in a ve i n



, ,
1 10 A HISTO RY OF E NG LI SH LI TERA TU RE

this firs t pe riod of his work to a Close wi th two m ore


e ffo r ts wh o lly d iff e re nt i n ki nd f ro m the pre ce di ng a nd
,

fro m eac h o the r T h e s e also are e xpe rim s ntal in the s e nse
.
,

that th ey en te r real ms be fore u nk nown to drama ; b u t


bo th in co nc e ption and e xe c u tion th ey are
m m fin ish ed ma ste rpi e ce s A M i ds u mmer N ight s
'

.

Drea m and Romeo a nd J u li et Show th a t i n se v e ra l d i rcc


tio ns Sh ak espe are had no w pa ssed beyond his app re n tice
state and had attai ned the rank O f maste r crafts man T he
,
- .

first of the s e pl ays is th ough t to h av e be e n writte n i n


1 5 93 the se co nd th ough it did not r e ce ive i ts fi nal f or m
,

u n til 1 5 96 or 1 5 97 was p ro bably prod u ced be fo re t he


,

p oe t s thirti e th y ear .

A M i ds u mmer N ight s Drea m is thought to ha ve be e n


writte n fo r so me nobl e man s ma rr iage fes tiv al to tak e the



-
,

pl ace o f the m as qu e or a l e go rical pageant trad i


t
ti onal upo n such occamo ns
l T h e se u s d u k e o f
gg gg
s .
" ,

A the ns an d his brid e H ippoly ta in whose l o ft y


, ,

fi gu res the n obl e bridal p air are pe rh aps shad owe d fo rth ,

re pre se nt the se nti me nt O f love in i ts se re ne an d l ofty m ood .

Abo u t this ce ntral p a ir re volve three oth e r gro up s re p re ,

se nti ng love in i ts fancif ul and burl e squ e as p e c ts T he .

fi rst gro up is mad e u p O f the Ath e ni an youths and ma id e n s


astray i n the m oo nlight woods lovi ng at cross p u r p ose s ,
-
,

and pl ayed upo n by P u ck wi th a ma gic li quor whic h add s ,

co n fusio n to c onf us io n in th e i r h earts T he moond grou p .

co ns is ts of the fa iry qu ee n T i tan i a and he r l o rd O be ro n


-

and h e re the trea t me n t of the l o v e th e me be c ome s d e li -

cio u sly sa tiric as it d e picts the p assi o n of the d ai nty qu ee n


,

fo r bully Bo tto m tran sforme d into an ass In the th ird .

group th at of the j ourn e y me n acto rs who prese n t th e


,

wd iou s bri ef sce ne of you ng Pyra mu s and his l o ve T his be



ve ry tragi ca l m ir th the l ov e th e me is m od ul a te d in to the
,
-

m ost a bsurd bu rle sq u e T h e n p o u re d ove r all h o lding


.
, ,

these div e rs e el e m en ts in u nity is the at mosp here of mi d


,

s umme r m oo nlight and the ae rial poe try Of the fairy world
, .
TH E R E NA ISS ANC E 1 11

A Mi ds u mmer N i ght s D rea m, lik e the pl ays which p re


ce d e d i t, t rea ts of l ov e i n a light and fanci f ul wa , n e v e r


y
m ore th an h al f in ea r ne s t and u su ally frankly trivial .

I n R omeo lo ve c eases to b e a m ere Romeo and


a nd J u li et
s e n ti m e t
n to b e pl y e d with
, a a n d j e ste d ov e r ; J li e t u ”

i t b e c om e s a pas si o n tragic al with t he issu e s of li fe and


,

d e ath . H e re f or the firs t ti me Sh ak e sp eare was really in


e a rn e st . T he two you ng live s are c aught in a fi e ry whirl
w i nd which sweeps th e m thr oug h the rapturous h ou rs of
,

t h e i r ne w l ove to th e ir d eath toge th er in the to mb of


,

J u lie t s an c e st ors T he acti on i nst ead of b ei ng spre ad



.
,

o v e r m onths as i n the p oe m fr om which Sh ak e sp e a re t ook


,

t h e pl ot is cr owd e d i n to fi v e d ays ; an d f rom the first


,

m ee ti ng o f the l ov e rs u ntil the e nd a s e ns e of hurry now , ,

e c s ta ti c now d e sp e rat e k e e ps the p assi on m ou n ti ng in a


, ,

s wi f t c re sc e nd o N ot o nly is the pl ay great as a


. tragedy

o f f at e i n the Gree k se n se but i n the d rawi ng of ch ar ,

a cte r the p oe t now f or the fi rst ti m e w orks with u ne r ri ng

d e f t ne s s and p ow e r T he v u lgar ki nd he arted n urs e the


.
,
-
,

w itty h air b ra i ne d Me rcuti o t he v acill a ti ng y e t stubb orn


,
-
,

C apul e t the lov e r s t he m selv e s so Sh a rply di ff e re n ti ate d in


, ,

t h e m anne r of th e ir l ov e all th e s e and a d o z en m i nor ,

fi gure s h av e the v e ry hu e an d ge st u re of lif e .

Sh ak e sp eare now at thirty ye ars of age turne d back to


, ,

th e ki nd of pl ay with which he had be gu n and proc e e d e d ,

to thro w i nto dram atic f orm the rough m ass es En lish a m


g
o f E ngli s h history which he f o u nd i n the chr on
“ n k“ fl u

i ol e s of H oli nsh ed l n Ri cha rd I I I agai n w orki ng u nd e r


. .
,

Marl ow e s i nflu e nc e he p roduc e d a p ortrai t of el e me ntal



,

e n e rgy and e vil p rid e whi ch the cre ator of T a m burl a i ne an d


,

Faustus m ight h av e m i s tak e n f o r his o wn h andiwork .

T hi s he foll o we d up wi th R i cha r d I] and K i ng J ohn th e .


,

lat te r fam ous for the te nd e rly draw n a nd tou chi ng figur e
of t he littl e p ri n c e A rthu r ; it has b ee n thought th at in
,

wri ti n g the m ovi ng p as sag e s wh e re A rthur b eg s f o r his li fe ,

Shak esp eare p e rh aps had i n m i nd his own s on, Hamne t .


1 12 A HISTO RY OF E N G LISH LITERATUR E

who had j ust di ed at the age of ele v en As Shak e sp eare .

w ent on he gai ne d steadily i n p o we r to h and le his m a


,

te rial .T he thr ee pl ays just m en ti one d are work manlik e


and vigo rous i n i ncre asi ng d egre e but not gre at T he , .

three plays which close the se ri es on the othe r h an d whil e , ,

n ot am o ng the poe t s supre m e m aste rpi e c e s co n ta i n s om e



,

of his m ost rem a rk a bl e work T he se are H enry I V (i n . .

two p arts) and H enry V .

In pl an ni ng H enry I V Sh ak e sp eare hit upon the adm i t


.

abl e n otio n of i n t e rsp e rsi ng the so m e wh a t dry his to ric

m atte r with sce ne s from the London tav e r n li fe


Hen N
of his own day — a li fe f ull of racy hu m ors fitte d
.

my ,

to aff ord the desired com ic reli e f As the geni u s .

loci of the t av e r n worl d he create d F al staff the f at O ld


, ,

k night who h elps Pri nc e Hal ( afte rward K i ng H en ry V ) to .

so w his wild o ats T he i mm ortal figure of Falsta ff h o ld s the


.

pri me place am ong the creations of Sh ak esp eare s hu m or ’


,
“ ”
as royally as H am l e t h olds his i nte lle ctu al throne In .

H enry V we see Shak esp eare in a ne w and v e ry engagi ng


.

light ; it is i nd eed h ardly a figure of Spe ech to say th at


, ,

we see t he —
po e t for in this pl ay as n owh e re else i n his
, ,

dramas d oe s he sp eak with the v oice of p e rs onal e nthu si


,

asm . T he m anly op en ch ara cte r of t he ki ng and his


, ,

Spl e ndid vict o ri e s o v e r the F re n ch m ad e h im a ki n d of ,

symbol of E ngland s greatness both i n ch aracte r an d in



,

achi e v em e n t T he p o e t transfe rs to the b attl e O f Agi n


.

c ourt the natio nal prid e which had b e en ki ndl ed by the


de feat of the Ar m ad a ; and m ake s his pl ay a great paaan of
praise for the isl and ki ngdo m In the choru s es i n tro .

d u ci ng the se v e ral acts and e ven in the Sp e e ch e s of the


,

characters th emselv e s he utters in lyric stroph es an ov e r


,

wh el m i ng p a triotic e m oti on .

T he schooli ng through which Shak esp eare put h i m se lf


i n w riti ng the English hist orical pl ays was a rduous He .

h ad to te ach to the populac e of his ti me th e history of


their cou ntry ; it was th e refor e i ncu mbe nt upon him to
1 14 A HISTO RY OE E NG LISH LITE RATURE

c omp any of d elightf u l figu re s B ene dict —


the marri e d “
,

m an tryi ng in v ai n to p arry the t hrusts of B eatric e s n i m


b le wit ; the phil osophic al T ouchst o ne sh aki ng his h e ad ,

ov e r the cou n try w ench A u dre y be caus e the gods h a ve not


-
,

m ad e he r po e tic al ; the m e dita tiv e J acqu es (a first f ai nt


sk e tch it has been said of H am l e t) with his m e l ancholy
, , ,

c om po u nd e d of many si mpl es Si r T oby B e lch ch am ,

pi on of the anci en t d octri ne of ca k e s a nd ale and gi nger ,

hot in the m ou th ; the u nsp eak able Sir An dre w A gu e


ch e ek ; the sol em n prig and eg otist M alv olio s m irki ng ,

and poi nti ng at his cross garte rs Maria -


you nge st wren ,

o f n i ne a nd the clow n F e st e wit h his ma rv e ll ous h a u n t


,

i ng so ngs Al l th e s e and doz e ns m o re m ov e h e re i n a


.

k al e idosc op e of i nte ns e li fe spiritu aliz e d by an inde scrib


,

abl e p oe tic radi anc e .

T h e s e thr ee c o m e di e s w e re writte n b e t we e n 1 5 98 and



1 601 th a t is b e tw e e n the p oe t s thi rty fourth and his thirty
,
-

Chu e mu",
s e v e n th y e ar T h e l a st o f
. th e m T we l
f th ,

N ight has b e en call e d his


, fare w e ll to m ir th .

“m e“ Wh at h appened to him a t this ti m e or wh e t h e r ,

a nythi ng e xt e rnal an d t angibl e h app en e d we sh al l n e v e r ,

k now Certai n it is howe v e r that in eight trage di e s f our


. , , ,

of th e m of tit an ic Siz e and in two SO c all e d co m e di e s al m os t


-
, ,

m ore bitte r and gl oo m y th an the trage di e s he sou nd e d ,

o ne aft e r an oth e r the d e pths of hu m an b a sene ss si n a nd , ,

su ff e ri ng T he o nly hint th at we h ave of the nature of that


.

vall e y and sh adow through which Sh ak e sp eare se e m s to hav e


p asse d is fou nd in his Sonnets These we re not pu blish ed
,
.

u ntil 1 609 af t e r this p e ri od was ov e r ; and we k n ow th at


,

s om e of th e m we re writ ten be fore 1 5 98 whe n the po e t s ,


spiritu al h arm ony as refl ect e d i n his pl ays was still u n dis
, ,

tu rb ed T h e r e is nothi ng h owe v e r i n e ith e r of th e s e


. , ,

f acts to disp rov e th e hypoth e sis th at thos e son ne ts i n which


we se e the m ost acut e su ff e ri ng e xpr e ss ed m ay mark the ,

begi nni ng and p rogress of the p eriod in qu estion T h ey .

are addr esse d to a man right fair and a wo man colored


TH E RE NA ISSANC E 115

ill. Wh at the e xact rel ation s we re b e tw een the three can


o nly b e gu e sse d at It has been pl ausibly conj e ctured th at
.

“ ”
the Dark Lady of the Sonnets was the e vil gen ius of
Shake sp eare s li fe and t hat to he r was chi e fly du e the ch ange

,

in his spirit and i n his art O f cours e it m ust b e ad m itte d


.

that no such p e rso nal e xplanati on of this ch ange is need ed .

The po e t s sy m p athy was so all e m braci ng and his outl ook



-
,

on li fe so br oad th a t th e d ark e r asp e cts of hu m an ch a rac


,

te r and d e sti ny had soone r or l ate r in th e n atural cou rse ,

Of thi n gs to abs orb his att en tio n


, Wh atev er m ay b e th e ir .

p e rs o n a l b e a ri ng how e v e r ,th e S onn e ts a re of in e xh austibl e


,

inte re s t for the sub tl e ty and d epth of th e ir th ought and for


, ,

the c u ri o us m ixtur e of o ddity an d a rtifi ciali ty with tran ,

sce n de nt b e au ty an d p o w e r i n th e ir e xp re ssi on , If Shak e .

speare had writte n no thin g but th e s e h e w ould stil l b e a ,

com m a n di ng figu re i n the lit e ratur e of the E nglish rac e .

T he pl ays of this p e riod fall i nto thr ee groups the


Rom an pl ays J u li u s Cwsa r A ntony a nd Cleop a tra and
, , ,

Cori ola nu s the SO call e d c om e di e s M ea s u re f or M ea su re


-
,

and Troi lu s a nd Cressi da a nd the trage di e s H am let , ,

Macbeth Othello and K i ng Lea r


, , Ti mon of A thens .

stan ds a s we Shall Se e s om e wh at ap art


, ,
.

I n J u li u s Caes a r the h e r o is in one se nse no t Caesar


, ,

bu t B ru t u s i n who m the p oe t saw a politic al id eali st and


,

g en e r o us d r e a m e r us e d a s a t,oo l by s e lfish m e n T he Rom ,

who bri ng ov erwh el m ing disast e r upon th e m ay ”

state by th e ir m urd e r of the on ly m an strong e nough to

sa ve it . In an oth e r s en se th e h e ro is C aesar s spirit afte r


,

death ” “
, rangi ng for re v enge an d l e tting Slip the d ogs ,

Of war to b ri ng the world to rui n In Cori ola n u s the .


,

seco n d Ro m an play Sh ak e sp e are poure d ou t h is co nte m pt


,

for the m ob the fickl e m an y h ead e d m ul titud e pl aye d
, ,
-
,

upon by d e m ag og u e s and w o rki n g its o wn d e st ru ctio n i n


,

its h atre d of th os e who refu se to fl atte r and am u se it In .

Antony a nd Cleop a tra he Sh owe d the ch aracte r o f a great


Roman ge ne ral cru mbli ng b efore the breath of E aste rn
,
116 A H IST O RY O F E NGLISH LITERATUR E

l u xury an d sensu ali ty p e rsonifi e d in Cl eop atra the


, ,

w or m of old N ile .

I n Mea su re f or M eas u re Shak e sp eare struck at the hy


c risy of a man high pl ace d in o ffice and posi ng as a se v ere
p o -

m or alist wh o ne ve rth e l e ss yi e lds to the ve ry sin


,
T he Dark
he pu ni sh e s m p st ruthl e ssly In oth e rs I n Trov .

lu s a nd Cressi da he dre w a p i cture of fai thle ss


n e ss in lov e a pi ctur e so cy nic al so fi e rc e in its bitt e rn es s
, , ,

th at it is al mos t i mpossibl e to thi nk of it as the wo rk of the


h and which dre w J u lie t Porti a and Rosali n d and at the
'

, ,

same ti me he d eform e d the h e roic figu re s of Ho me ric le


ge n d with s av ag e bu rl e sq u e .

In H aml e t the first of the f our great trag e die s which


,


fo rm th e capt ai n j e w els in the c arcane t of the m as t e r s

wo rk we h av e the sp ectacl e of a sensitive and highly i n


,

tell ectu al youth e n dowe d with all the gi f ts which m a k e


,

f or greatne ss o f livi ng sudd e nly c onfro n t


,
Haml et.

e d with the k n owl edg e th a t his f ath e r h a s

b een m urde re d and that his m oth e r has m arrie d th e


,

m u rd e re r . E ven b ef o re the re v e la ti on c om e s H am l e t ,

f ee ls hi m s e lf to b e livi ng i n an ali en m oral world ,

an d is h au nte d by d ark m isgivi ngs Wh en his fath e r s .


ghost app ears to him with its im pe rative i nju nctio n


,

to re v e nge H aml e t tak e s his re solutio n i nstan tly


, H is .

f e ig ne d m ad ne ss an e l em e n t of the drama re tai ne d by


,

Sh ake sp e are f rom the O ld st ory wh enc e he dre w the plot ,

is the fi rst d e vic e which H am le t hits up on to aid h im i n


his d ange rou s d u ty In spi te of the e ndless d eb ate con
. .

c erni ng the reality of H am l e t s mad ness th ere is no room



,

f or q u es tion in the m atte r N o t only is he p e rfe ctly sane


.
,

b u t his h andli ng of th e di ffi cult situ ati on in which he fi n ds


h i m se l f i s in all p oi nts swift and m aste rful H e give s up .

his l ov e for O ph eli a becau s e he cannot tak e her with him


i nto the d ark p ass whic h he is co m p elle d to ente r ; and the
scathi ng satire which he pou rs out up o n he r when he fan
ci es her in l e agu e with Polo ni u s an d the ki ng to play the
A HI STO RY O F E N GLI SH LITE RATU RE

o nly in the h ero s i maginati on i n ’


,

d e mon like Iago pouri ng drop by drop


-
, ,

i i n O th e llo is n ot by n ature jea lou


p c o .

answe r to E mili a s q u e stio n Is he not j ealous



,

Wh o . he 7 I t hi nk t he su n, w he re h e was

D re w a l l s u ch h u m ors fro m hi m ,


and be v ywh e re shows hi mse l f
e er o f an

u re , i ncap abl e of pe tty suspi cio n . But


i ng
th at
an h

si on . real centre of gravity i n the pl ay is


The
“ ”
hi s h one st manne rs his blu nt spee ch his , ,

m ate ri alistic philosophy his pl ausible z eal i n h ,

se rvi ce ; u nd e rnea th all which his real nature


like a s na ke waiti ng f or a chance to sting
, .

In M acbeth S hak e speare de pic ,

tio n wo rki ng in a nature morally


i ntense poe tic susce ptibility .

of

in attai ni ng the m or of a ruthl ess e nj oyme nt of th e m wh e n


attai ned By the murd e r of the kin g Macbe th is plu nge d
. ,

i nto a se ri e s of cri me s in which he pe rs ists with a ki nd of


,

fal te ri ng despe ratio n u ntil he falls be fore the accu m ul a te d


,

ve ngeance m ate ri al and gh ostly raise d up to pu nish h im


, , .

AS i n Anto ny and Cl eopa t ra we are shown the slo w d e ge n


, ,

cra ti o n of the h ero s c haracte r u nd e r the slave ry o f se nse so



,

h e re we behold the b reak u p of a soul u nd e r the tortu re of -

its own Si ck i magi nati on T he ghost of Banqn o shak ing .


,

i ts go ry looks at Macbe th f ro m its seat at the banq u e t ta ble ,

is a symbol O f the spiritu al dis te mper which res ults f rom


the w o rki ng of a tyr annous i ma gi nati on upon a na ture
m orally u np rovid ed The witch b ags who mee t Macbe th
.
-

on the h ea th are co ncre te e m bodi ments of the powers of


TH E RENA I SSANC E 119

ev l, summ
i oned f ro m the four corners of the air by affi nity
with the e vil h eart O f the sch e m e r Shak e sp e are did n ot
. ,

of course co nsciously striv e af t e r sym bolis m in th ese thi ngs .


,

It does n ot seem impossibl e i n dee d th at he b eli ev e d in


, ,

h
g osts an d witch e s as did the great m ass of m en in his
,

day from K i ng J am es down


, It is certai n th at he was i n
.

terested in his story h e r e and e lsewh e re as a pi ec e of li fe


, ,

rather th an as a m oral sy m b ol his work is f ull f typ s


; o e

and symb ols si mply b e caus e li fe itse lf is f ull of th e m .

Beside Macbe th Shak e speare has place d a wo man who pos


Bosses all th e m asculi ne q u aliti e s which the h e ro l acks but
,

Who is ne ve rth el ess i nt e ns ely fe m i ni ne in he r de voti on to he r


lord s intere st and in her i nability to endure the strai n of a

,

crim inal li fe afte r his supp ort has been withdrawn from her .

Her will though maj estic wh en in the prosp erous s e rv ice


,

Of her h u sb an d s ambitio n c oll aps e s in sudd en rui n w h e n



,

he fails to rise to the re sp on si biliti e s of th e ir gri m sit u atio n .

Macbeth s feebl e r m oral substanc e cru mbles pi e ce m eal ;


but the fi rm struct u re of his wi fe s spirit as so on as its



,

natural f ou nd atio n is d estroy e d falls by i nstan t ov e rthro w


, .

King Lea r is O fte n put at the ap e x of Sh ak e sp eare s ’

achieveme nt and by m an y judge s at the h e ad O f the dra


,

matic lite rature of the w orld T he story was


. “ Ki n
“ g
88 Old as Ge ofl re
y o f M o n m o u th ( se e p ag e a ” t

and like so m any of the th e m e s which Sh ak esp e ar e h an dl e d


, ,

had already b ee n made the subj e ct of a pl ay a crud e


,

effor
t by so me namel ess playwright d u ri ng the exp eri m ental
sta e
g of E liz ab e th an dr a m a H e.r e as w as his
, c o nst a n t
cllstom Sh k sp
, a e eare f ollow e d the m ai n li nes of the sto ry

given hi m and i ncorporat e d i nto his grand e dific e e v e ry


,

bit Of usable m ate ri al fr om the b u ildi ng of his pred e c ess or .

Here too as always in Sh ak espe are if we pi e rc e to the core


,

Of his m ean i ng the re al trage dy is a spiritu al one Lear is .


,

an i mpe rious natur e w ayw ard by t e m p e ram ent an d m ad e


, ,

more i n ca p abl e of s el f gov e rnm ent by lo ng i ndulgenc e of


-

its passion ate whi ms At the O p eni ng of the play we see


.
,
1 20 A HISTORY OE ENG LI S H LITERATURE

h im stri ving to fi nd a refu ge fro m h i ms elf by surren d er


i ng all his wealt h and powe r in e xch ange f or absolute love .

T he h eart of the old ki ng de mands lo v e lov e is the ele


m e nt up on which it sub si sts and age i nstead of ab ati ng , ,

this hu nger has m ade the craving m ore i mp erious He


, .

d emands l ove not on ly in the Spi rit bu t i n the l e tte r and ,

thr u sts his you nge st d au ghte r Cord e li a f ro m him with


cr u e l bru squ e ne ss wh e n She r e f us e s to u se the te rm s of
,

e xtr av agan t hyp e rbol e to d e scrib e h er aff e ction Sh ak e .

sp eare has m ad e this sam e brusqu e and hasty spirit of the


ki ng pre cipitate upo n his old head the e nm ity of his t e
m ai n i ng d aughte rs Go neril an d Regan ,
B efore h e has .

re co ve red from the Shock of Co rd el ia s defe cti on this a wf ul ’


,

p air of d au ght e rs lay bare littl e by little th eir m on strous


, ,

souls to th e ir fath e r s gaz e As in Othello the result of



.
,

the r e v e l atio n is to u n hi nge for the su ff er e r the v e ry ord e r


A S if in sy m p athy with the ch aos i n Le ar s

of n a tu re .

so u l the e l e me n ts b reak lo ose ; and in the p auses of the


,

blast we h ear the nois e of viol e nt cri m e s curse s h eart , ,

b rok e n j esti ng the ch atte r of idi ocy and the wan d e ri ng


, ,

tong ue of m ad ne ss T he se nti m entalist s phrase


. po e tic ’
,

j u stic e has no m ean i ng for Sh ak espeare
, T he rui n .

wro u ght in the O ld king s h eart and brai n is irrepar ’

abl e an d th e tor n ad o which whirls h i m to his doo m car


,

ri e s with it the j u st and the u njust The little gold e n .

p au se of p eace wh e n Lear and Cord eli a are u n i te d is


, ,

f oll o w e d by th e i n t ol e rably pi e rci ng sc ene in which he


bears he r d ead b ody out of th e prison m utteri ng th a t th ey ,

“ ”
h ave hange d his po or f ool T he co nse qu e nc es of rash .

acti on h e artl e ssly t ak en adv an tag e of w er e ne v e r f ollow ed


, ,

o u t to a gri m m e r e nd .

Ti mon of A thens the l ast pl ay of the p e riod we h av e


,

b e en tr av e rsi ng h as littl e of th e i n sigh t and


,
8 nd of Sh k e a
S eare s
p
’“
Pe p oe ti c spl en d or wh i ch we associ ate Wi th Sh ak e
ri od of Gl moo .

Sp e are s na m e It has no re li e v m g touch e s such



.

as sof te n and hu maniz e the trag e di es just discussed I t is a .


1 22 A HIST ORY or


pl u mme t sound O ne is te m pte d to i ndulge
.

parall e l still f urth e r and to t hink of A ri el


, ,

an d po te n t spri te who m Prosp e ro se ts f ree as ,

I magi nation no w re lease d fr om its long la bors i


,

te r s se rvice .

The co mmo n opi nio n th at Shak espeare was


a te d by his o wn g ene rati on is o nly p artly tru e , .

e vid e nc e we re la cking to prov e the

which he was h eld his mate rial ,

would b e
popu larity with the
wi tn ess th at his geni n

publi sh ed in 1 623 a e ulogy ,

passi ona te ad m ira tio n ; and af te rward


,

p assage of m ovi ng si n ce r ity I did lov ,



on this sid e idol a try as m uch as any , .

cant hint we h ave of his pe rsona l ch a rm is


which is co ns tantly appli e d to him by hi s frie

tle, a w ord also of te n us e d to d e scribe h is art ,

e vid e n tly to i ts hu man ity and poe tic gra ce .

T he a we in spir ed by the al m ost un earthly pow e r and


rich ne ss of Sh ak e speare s m i nd is ap t to be d ee pe ned by the

kn owl edge th at the n obl e plays to which English spe aki ng -

race s po int as th e ir grea te st Si ngl e achi e vem en t we re th ro wn ,

i nto the world carel e ssly and would ha ve pe r ,

m “M ished altoge th e r if the author of th em had had


'

his way . D uri ng his li fe ti me th ey w e re prin te d o n ly in


pira ted edi ti ons tak en do wn by shorth and f rom the li ps
,

O f the pl ay e rs or pa tch ed up f ro m p ro m pt e r s m an usc ripts



,

dish one stly acquired He d oes no t m e nti on his pla ys i n


.

his will . N ot u n til se v e n ye a rs aft e r his d ea th did a co l


lective edition app ea r (k nown as the F irst Folio) and th en ,
TH E RE NA ISSANC E 1 23

onl y b ecause of the pi e ty of two of his act or fri e nds T h ose


-
.

i
ill n spire d p ersons who w ould ascrib e the pl ays of Sh ak e

8Pe a l e to F r an ci s B ac o n m ak e this c ar e l e ssness of his fam e


,

01 1 t he po e t s p a rt
a chi e f s u pp ort of th e ir a rg u m e n t

. If
we were c om p ell ed to e xpl ai n Shak e sp e are s case on rac

p
ti c a l grou n ds it w ou ld b e e asy to do so The pri n ti ng of
, .

8
p l ay whil e it was still actabl e was disadvantage o u s to the
,

co I n an
p y whos e pr o p e rty it was an d Sh ak e sp e ar e ha d
P o bably m ad e ove r his plays to his co m p any as th ey w e re
r

P o du c ed
r . N otwithstan di ng wh en all this is tak e n i n to
,

Co n siderati on we are ye t fill e d with astonish me n t


, . We
se e in the w orki ng of the m as te r s spi rit n ot only the

V a s t lib e rality but the startli ng carel e ssness of N atu re


, ,

W h o seem s with i nfinite l ovi ng p ai ns to cre ate her m arv els ,

an d th en to tur n listl e ssly a way whil e th e y are giv e n ov e r

t o destructio n .
CHAPTE R VII

TH E SE V E N TE E N TH C E NTURY : SH A KE S PEARE S C O NTEH
P O RA R I E S A N D S U CC E SSO R S I N TH E D RA M A

I N the pre ce di ng ch apter we regard e d Shak espeare as


,

standi ng al one in orde r th at by is ola ti ng his work we


,

m ight b e tt er se e its abs olute qu aliti e s We m ust now .

t u rn to th ose pl ayw rights who w ork e d at the sam e ti me


a nd in m any cas e s sid e by sid e with him an d try to ge t ,

s om e noti on of the w on d e rf u l vari e ty of th e dram a during


i ts pe ri od o f full bl oom Af te r ward we m ust trace bri e fly
.

th e ste ps by whic h the dra m a d e cli ne d both by i nn e r de ,

cay an d o u tw ard opp osi ti on u ntil i n 1 64 2 at the b e gi n


, , ,

ni ng of th e g rea t Civil Wa r th e d oors O f the th eatre s w e re


,

cl o se d n ot to op e n agai n u ntil the Re stora tion e ighte e n


, ,

years l ate r .

T he m ost c om m an di ng figure in the group of Sh ak e


spe are s dram atic c onte mp orari e s is B en J onson ( 1 5 73

A lth oug h of hu m bl e birth the so n of a ,


B en Jon on
brickl ay e r h e was s e nt to We st mi nste r School
s .

an d p o s sibly to C am bridge an d he ulti mat ely b e cam e one

o f the m o st l e arn e d m e n of his ti m e AS a you ng m an


.

he se rv e d a cam p aign with the E ngli sh ar m y i n Flan d e rs ,

wh e re ( as he af te r ward b oasted ) he fought a du e l with a


c hampi on O f the e ne my in the sight of both arm ie s and ,

took fr o m him his ar m s in the cl assic m anner T he inci


, .

d e nt is highly ch aracteri stic of J o nson s rugge d and ’

d om i nee ri ng characte r As he se rve d the F le m ish soldi e r


.
,

he af te rward s e rv e d the l u ckl e ss p oe ts and poe tas te rs who


ch all e nge d hi m to a war of w ords .

A f te r re tu r ni n g to E ngl and he b e gan to work f or the


,

th eatres His first pl ay was E very Ma n in H is H u mou r


.

1 24
126

mer mov es in the pros e light o f e v e ry


e v e ryd ay Lo ndo n cha rac te rs i n a stra i

ical fashi on T he w ork O f the two


.

tragedy off e rs e ve n a stro nge r


,

d eali ng with an e poch of the


h and of the roman ticist ; e ve n wh e re
the ac tu al fac ts of his tory as in J u li ,

chi e fly to create bre athi ng men and


littl e troubl e to give a faithf ul picture
his torical pl ays O f J onso n on the oth ,

m e n ts o f l ea rn ing ; the y attem pt to b e


f u l i n histo rical d e ta ils to the pe riod
, ,

s ea r e and the ro
p
the m ost farcical nons e n se i ,

wi th J o nso n and his school


the d ignity of tragic ac tio n
A no th e r p eculi arity o f J o nso n a

ti tl e of his fi rs t pl ay E very M a n
,

“ ”
word hu mor was a
eq uival ent to whi m ’

upon the d e vic e of en


ch aracte rs with so me p articul ar
ludi crou s e xagge ra tio n of m ann
SO thru s ti ng fo rward this

m ight be lo st s ight of
“ ”
be in his hu m o r .

te nd e d afte rward i n his two gre at


The A lchemis t . In Volp one he studi ed no t ,

whi m but a mast er p assio n the pa ssion of


,
-
,

afl ects a whol e so ci al gr o up ; i n The A lchem

an el ab ora te s tu d y O f hu m an gu ll

l ess s ome thi ng m e ch anical in this me thod O f goi ng to w o rk


acc o rdi ng to a se t pr ogr a mm e Sh ak e speare also has
.

d e voted wh ol e pl ays to the study of a maste r passio n -


,

in O thello th at of j eal o usy in Ma cbeth that of am bi ti o n


, .

Note B ard olph ’


s u se o f the word in Henry I V . and Henry V
.
TH E SEVEN TE EN TH C ENTURY 1 27

B u t he does this in a v ery di ff e re nt way fro m J o nso n ; with


m u c h m ore vari ety, surpris e, and fre e pl ay of li fe J on son .

h a s , as it w e re, a th esis to illustrate , and holds up one


ch a racte r af te r anoth er, as a logici an pre s ents the various

t s f his argu me n t In oth e r w ords , he alw ays , or nearly


p a r o .

a l w a ys , l e ts us see the machi n e ry B u t whil e he thus l ose s


.

i n sp o ntane ity, he gai ns in i nte ll e ctu al u nity and i n m as


s i v e n e ss of purpose .

I n a t l east one re sp e ct the co me di e s O f B en J onson are


th e m ost in t e resti ng plays in the whol e E liz ab e th an rep e r
,

t o ry nam ely in the vivid pictu res th ey give
, O m
»
, h
“ l "m
of co n te m po rary London li fe O th er drama .
'

t i s t s to ok u p the noti o n l ate r and did a d m irabl e work of


,

Dekk e r i n his Shoema kers H oli day and M id



th e kin d .
, ,

d l e ton in his Roari ng Gi rl an d o th e r pl ays m irrore d f re shly ,

an d f aithf ully the soci e ty i mm e di ate ly about th e m ; b u t

J o n so n se e ms to h av e b ee n the pi onee r in this re sp e ct ,

E v ery M a n i n H i s H u mou r prob ably antedati ng e v en


H en ry I V Sh ak e sp eare s triu m ph an t e ssay in this f o rm

.

o f r ea lis m F ro m J onson s co m e di e s alo ne it w ou ld b e



.

p o ssibl e to reconstruct whol e ar eas of E lizab eth an soci e ty

a s tudy of th e m is i ndisp en sabl e i f one woul d k now the

b ril lia nt and amusi ng su rface of the m ost soci abl e e ra of


E n glish history At l e ast one of J onson s come di e s too

.
, ,

g i v e s this cl os e a nd r ealistic study o f m anne rs with a


g ya

e ty an d gr ac e fairly riv alli n g Sh ak e sp ear e ; the Si lent


Woma n is one of the most sp arkling co medi es e ve r wri t
te n f u ll of spl endid f u n and with a bright q uick m ov e
, , ,

m e nt‘ hich ne ve r flags .


J o n son s lyric gi ft for its d elicacy and swee tne ss was
, ,

co nspicu ous even in the E liz abe th an age wh e n al m os t ,

e v e ry write r was c apabl e of turni ng o ff a ch ar m


Hi s Ly i c Gift r
ing song T he b e st k nown of his lyrics are
.

Dri nk to m e only wit h thi ne e ye s a nd Se e the ch ari ot


,


at h and h e re o f love of b o t h th e se the O ld ti m e m usic -

has for tu natel y reac he d us J ons on was also a critic of


,
1 28 A HIS TO RY OF E N G LISH L ITERATURE

great sanity and f orce writi ng a perfe ctly Si m pl e and


,

u nadorned prose ve ry di ff ere nt f ro m the elaborate and fig


,

u rati ve pros e styl e practi se d by his c on t e m p o rari e s


-
His .

v olu m e of short re fle ctions up on li fe and art entitle d Ti m ,

ber shows in an attractive guise the solidity aggre ssiv e


, ,

ness and dow n right ho ne sty of his m i n d


, .

It was chi e fly th e se qu aliti es of aggre ssive d ecisio n and


rugge d hone sty whi ch e nable d him to hold f or a qu arte r of
a c en tury his po sitio n of lite rary dict ator and ,

lord of the tav e rn wits The tav e rn was f or


-
.

the s e ve n tee nth c e n tury wh at the coff ee ho u se -

was fo r the e ight eenth a rallyi ng pl ac e for lite rary m e n


,

a nd J o nso n is al m ost as typic al a tav e rn figur e as F al staff .


His m ou ntai n b elly and his rocky fa ce his ge ni al do m i , ,

nee ri ng p e rso nal ity rule d by royal right the boh e m ian
,

circle which gathere d at The Mermaid or The De vil ”


,

wh ere the you ng fell ows of the tribe O f B en h eard wo rds


80 n im b le a n d so fu l l o f su b t l e fl a me
As if th a t ev e ry o ne fro m whe n ce t he y ca me

H a d m ea n t to p u t hi s wh o le w i t in a jes t ,

And h a d re so l v ed to l i v e a foo l th e re st

O f hi s d u l l l i fe .

He re took pl ace those fam ous wit comb ats be tween J on son -

an d Sh ak e sp ea r e d e scribed by F ull e r u n d e r the si m il e of a


,


sea fi ght ; J o n so n sl o w of m o ve m e nt and
-
, high b uilt i n

le arn i ng be i ng like ne d to a grea t Spani sh gal le on Sh ak e
, ,

sp eare to an E ngli sh man o f war swi ft to strike and - -


,

da rt aw ay confou ndi ng the ene m y with agilitp and


,

adroit n ess .

T he qu aliti e s for which B e n J onson d e m an ds ad m ira tion


are ra th e r o f the s olid th an th e brilli ant ki nd In an age .

of i magi na ti v e lic en se he pre ac h e d t he n ee d of res tra i n t

i n an age of h ast y ca rel e ss w o rk m anship he preach ed the


,

need of So u nd c on s truc tio n an d go od fi n ish He was a safe .


Ve rse s e ntitl ed M aste r Francis B e aumont to B e n J onson.
1 30 A HISTO RY OF E NGLISH LI TERATU RE

i g to steal ov er E ngland presaging the storm


n n ,

of t he Civil War .

T homas H eywood is an oth er dram a tist whose


a l m ost a bl a n k H e was . proba bly bor n a bou t
ti m e as D ek k e r a nd see ms to h
n ow ,

W 1 648
'
His life th ere fore Sp ans
.

of the drama from Marlow e

m ense ly productiv e d e cl ari ng ,

whole h and or a main fin ge r in


pla ys . H e m ust in fairn ess be j
nalist in an age wh en the th ea
,

ne wsp ap e r and th e l ec ture h all

tha n as a dram ati st in the more


s e ns e . In one dire cti on how e ve r , ,

m aste ry namely i n the drama Of Si


, ,

H is most fa m ous pl ay o f thi s nature


wi th K i ndness H er e f o r
.

j e c t with n o bl e Si m plicity ,

wit h a truth and Sweet ness O f moral ton


Ch arl e s Lamb s say ing th at H e ywood is


sp eare In the dra m a o f d ome stic l if e
.

ve nture H e ywood is also su cc essful th o u


, ,

preme d e gree P erha ps .

p lay to b e fou nd amo ng his works is The F a i r M a i d of the


Wes t in which th e re are so me c api ta l vigne tte s of life in
,

an E ngli sh sea port town as w ell as so m e d el i h tq


, g y
b ree zy me l o dramatic sea fi ghting -
.

T ho m as M iddl e ton ( 1 5 70 1 62 7) was a man o f m uch -

l arge r calibre H e d e ve l op ed Slowly but his wo rk sh o ws


.
,

T hom , to th e v e ry l a st a ste ad y g a i n i n po w e r and


”m m
swee tne ss By his f rank co n tact with l if e as
.

it is and by his co n ti n u al effort to se e l ife in its pl ainn es s


,

and e nti re ty b e attai ne d at l ast to a grasp and i nsight


,

whi ch plac e him among the great names of the En glish


Stage .He had no u nive rsity tra i ni ng but was e n te red at ,

Gray s Inn i n 1 5 93 His l ife ab out the law c ou rts gav e him

.
TH E SE V E N TEE N TH C E NTURY 1 31

an i n ti mate k nowl edge of the shady sid e of the me tropolis ,

w hi c h was of great s e rvic e to hi m wh en he began about ,

1 607 to writ e re alistic come di e s


, O f th e se the b e st is p e r
.

h ap s A Tri o/c to Ca tch the Old One His transition f rom


.

c o m e dy to trage dy is m ark e d b th v ry i n t r sti n g pl y


y e e e e a ,

A F a i r Qu arrel in which the noble se ri ousn ess of c e r tai n


,

s c e n e s and the fi ne dr am atic ri ng of the v e rs e h e rald th e


, ,

a p p ro a ch of his co m p le t e m atu rity It was be tw ee n 1 620


.

a n d his d e a th in 1 62 7 th a t is wh e n ov e r fi f ty, ,
th at he ,

w ro t e the two pl ays The Cha ngeli ng an d TVomen B e wa r e


,

Wom en in which his sturdy powe rs sho w th em selves f ully


,

ri p e n e d .

B oth The Cha ngeli ng and Women B eware Women are


u n p l e a san t in plot and m arre d by the obtrusio n of crud e
,

h o r rors T h e y be long in f act to a p e culi ar typ e The


.
m “?
i
of d r a ma vastly r elish e d by E liz ab e th an e u
,
0 ‘

d i e n ce s but re p ell ent to m od e rn ta ste c all e d by lite rary ,



h i s tori ans the trage dy of blood T hom as K yd s Sp a nish ’
.
i /

Tr a gedy b egan the typ e Marlow e in the J ew of M a li a , ,

a n d Sh ak e spe are in Ti tu s A nd roni cu s co n ti nu e d it , In .


d ee d H amlet an d Lear are r eally i n plot
, trage di es of
b l oo d ,
though spiritu aliz e d out of all i nner rese m blanc e
As we sh all se e l ater J oh n Webste r s two

t o th e sp eci e s . ,

m as te rpi e c es are pure trage di e s of blood m aki ng u se ,

o f th e e l e m en t of physic al t error i n s easo n an d ou t of

s eas on Middl e ton was th e r efore the victi m of his age in


.

t hi s r e sp ec t as he was also in th e m oral viol enc e the s el e c


, ,

t i o n of strain e d an d p ai nf ul situ ation s which m ar the ,

t wo pl ays u nd e r co n sid e ration When th ey we re written


.
,

t h e d e cad enc e of the d ra m a had se t i n ; an d Middl e ton was


n ot gr eat en ough to h ol d his w o rk altoge th e r ab o v e th e
s w i f t d o wn w a rd tren d of the stage at the ti m e But both .

The Cha ngeli ng and Women B eware Women are studd e d ,

w i th fi ne p oe try fi ne i n feeling an d s u p re m ely fi ne in e x


,

p re ss i on M idd l
. e t o n l e ar n e d b e tt e r th an a
, n y o f Sh a k e

s peare s f el l ows the s ecret of the master s d icti on




, Wi th .
1 32 A HISTORY o r E N GLI SH L ITE RATURE

out i m itating the Sh ak esp eare an m anne r he handl es ,

l angu age at his b est with the same sup e rb confide nc e and
, ,

this is t ru e of his co m ic prose as w ell as of his se rious


bl ank v erse .

F ran cis B eau m on t an d J oh n Fl e tch e r are i n Low e ll s ,


ph ras e among the doubl e stars of the h eav ens of poe try
,

.

B ea mont and
u
F l e tch e r the e ld e r of the two was the son of a
, ,

Fl etch“ Bish op of Lond on th rough whom the you ng ,

d ram atist gai n e d an u n usu al i nsight i nt o c o u rt life N one .


of Fl e tch e r s f e ll ows k ne w so w e ll as b e how to p ai n t the

hollow insid e and the e xquisite o ute r fi n ish of courtly


, ,

m anne rs . A noth e r fact c on tributi ng to f orm his ge n ius ,

was th at the o ffi ci al re sid e nce of his fa th e r the e pisc o p al ,

p al ace at F ulh am lay am id b eautif u l rive r and f ore st sce n


,

e ry
. T o the c ou n t ry m e m ori e s gath e re d h e re in b oyhood
he gav e e xpr e ssion l ate r i n the p asto ral pl ay of The F a i th
f n l S h ep her d ess as w e ll
, as i n th e s o ngs with which his
dramas are richly i nt e rsp ersed .

A t the Me rm aid ta ve rn am ong those “ seale d of the


,

trib e of B en he m e t the m an who se na m e is i ns ep a r ably
,

li nk e d with his own F rancis B eau m o n t was .

T hei
r
s even y ears you nge r th an Fl e tch er b el ng abo ut
pggggphfi .
,

tw e nty on e at the tl m e of the l r m eetl ng Af t e r


-
.

th e ir p artne rship b egan traditi on s ays that th ey liv e d to


,

ge th er on th e B anksid e Sh ari ng e ve rythi ng ev en th e ir, ,

cl o thing in com m o n T his at least r epresen ts a m ore


,
.

e sse n ti al truth th at th ey en te re d i nto a si ngul arly e ff e c


,

tiv e i nte ll e ctu al p artnership one m in d supplyi ng wh a t


the oth e r l ack e d to produc e a r e s u lt of full and b al a nc e d
,

b e auty T he clos ene ss with which the w ork of the two


.

is i nte rtwi ned is sh o wn by the fact th at al th ough Fl e tch e r


,

o u tliv e d B eau m ont by ni ne y ears and the latte r had no ,

h and at all in forty of the fif ty odd plays th at go u nd e r -

th ei r c om m on n am e a tte m pts to i sol ate the genius of o ne


,

f ro m the o th e r by c o m p arison of the Fl e tch e r pl ays wit h


the B eau mo nt Fl e tch e r grou p h ave l ed eq u ally w ell
-
,
.
1 34 A HISTORY or E N G LISH T RATURE
LI E


ish and artificial As the O bviously strong Situ ations
.

began to b e worke d out dramatists m ad e e xcursion s i nto


,

the strai ne d and the e xc e ptio nal in ord e r to fi nd n ov el


,

m atte r . A se cond and m ore fa tal fl aw in B eau m o n t and


F le tch e r is the l axity O f the m oral atm osph e re p e rva di ng
m uch O f th e ir work T he m oral valu e s are not pre s e rv ed
.

with the absolute h eal th O f so u l which is Shak esp e are s ’

greate st glory but are ap t to b e blurre d or distort e d in


,

the e n d e av or after piqu an cy an d n o v elty .

T h es e d efe cts h ave b ee n dw elt up on b e cause th e y are


sy mpt om atic of the ch ange already beginning ; a ch an ge
d e sti ne d to de st roy the drama f ro m within e ven if it h ad ,

not b e en cr u sh e d by its Puri tan en e mi e s f ro m without .

But it would b e a great m istak e to conce ive O f B ea u m o nt


a nd F l e tch e r i n this m e re ly ne ga tiv e light without hold ,

ing in m i n d th e i r great positiv e qu alitie s T h ey are . ab

s olute lords O f a goodly real m O f romance and the pl ays

th at go u nd er the ir comm o n nam e for spl en dor and ch arm


,

are p e rh aps not to b e p ar all e l e d i n any si ngl e body of

Re naissan c e dram a outsid e O f th at of Sh ak e sp ear e him


,

s elf .

In J oh n Webste r we e ncou nt e r the ph enomeno n O f a


r —
really g eat po e t One who i n sh ee r power O f e xpre ssio n
,

comes neare st to Sh ak e sp ear e O f all the m en O f


John Web st e r.
th at ge ne rati on e xce pt M iddl eton — d e voti ng ,

hi ms elf to m elodrama of the m ost gory and u n restrai ne d d e


sc riptio n His two gre ate st pl ays The Whi te Devi l ( 1 61 2)
.
,

an d The D u chess of M a lfi (act e d push the de vic e s O f


physical h orro r to their farthe st li m it Th ey Show the
.


trage dy O f blo od in its most d e velop ed f orm and em ploy ,

all the grisly p ar aph e rnali a O f the m adhous e the grav ey a rd , ,

and the sh ambl es as w ell as the agenci e s of m oral te rror


, ,

to wri ng f ro m the dram a all the cr u d e e xcitem en t it is cs


p a b le O f givi n g T h
.e subj e ct m att e r O f W
-
e bst e r th e re f or e , ,

is as far as possibl e f ro m app eali ng to mod ern taste B u t .

his power of co nce ivi ng character and still m ore the sur
,
TH E SE V E NTEE NTH C E NTURY 1 35

prisi ng poetry now wild and storm y n ow tend e r and lyri


, ,

cal n o w pu n g e ntly e pigramm a tic which he puts i n to the


, ,

mouths O f his p e opl e h av e k e pt his fam e i n tact in spite O f


, ,

the re p ell en t f orm O f pl ay he ch ose to e xhibit th e se gi fts


upon O f the two pl ays n am e d ab ov e The D u ches s of M a lfi
.
,

is the fi ne r Web ste r no t only Sh o ws in it a m uch firm e r


.

stage craf t than in his earli e r eff ort b u t he al so re v eals pow


,

e rs O f gay e ty an d pl ay f ul ne s s an d an u n d e rstan di ng O f th e
,

h eart h ardly to b e l ook e d f or f rom one who v olu n tarily


,

el e cte d the trag e dy O f bl o od as his m e diu m A t l e ast two


.

O f th e ch a ract e rs th e Duch e ss O f Malfi and he r husb an d An


,

to nio are robust an d h ealthy fig u re s who e ven u nder the


, ,

stre ss O f torture k e ep th e ir broad qui e t h u m anity Th ey .

Show wh at We bste r m ight h av e don e if he had b e en bor n

unde r a l u cki e r st ar .

Ea rly in the history of the dram a a war b egan to b e


wage d b e tw een the actors and the Puritan s In 1 5 76 we .

hear O f strolli ng com pan i e s bei ng k ept ou t of


Wa b etw een r
London by Purit an law m ak e rs and wh e n the A to s nd
-
c r a

first th eatr e s w er e e re c te d th e y w e re pl ac e d in
“ ”
the suburbs to the n orth and in the , lib e rti es or e xem pt ,

lands across the T h ame s in Southwark U nd e r Q u een


, .

Eliz ab e th s pro te ction the actors gre w strong e nough to


en te r th e city and as l on g as he r strong h an d was at t he

hel m the Pu ritans did not assert th e m selve s ve ry vigor


,

onely But wh en J ame s I cam e to the throne with his


. .
,

lack O f p e rso nal dignity his bigote d dictu m O f the divi ne


,

right of ki ngs his i m moral court f ull O f greedy n obl e s from


,

Scotl an d an d Sp ain the Pu ritan p arty gain e d rapidly in


,

aggr e ssiv e ne ss . The thi ng which the Puritans h at e d m o st


u nd e r the su n after Cop es and cru cifi xe s was the th eatre
, , ,


be cau se it was in the theatre th at the lust O f the eye and
the pride O f li fe fou nd f ull est e xpre ssion N atu rally
.

therefore as the Puritan disapprov al gre w m ore se v e re the


, ,

dramatists dre w away from the Lon d on burgesses and ap ,

p ea l e d i n th e to n e an d m a tt e r O f th e ir pl a ys m or e an d m or e
136 A HISTORY OF E N G LISH LI TERATURE
to the corrupt taste O f the court — a fact to which the rapid
,

d ege ne ration of the drama was i n l arge p art du e .

It has bee n th ought f ro m ce rtain passage s in the pl ays of


Phillip Massi nge r ( 1 5 83 as w e ll as f ro m th e ir ge n

r l to n th t h w t h rt P u ritan n o t i n
p hi mp e a e a e , a s a ea a ,

“i ng”
the narro w politic al se n se but as the te r m ap ,

pli es to m en Of high m o ral id eals to wh o m the thi ngs th at


,

m ak e f or righte o u sness are the first co n ce r n and the sh ows ,

and p assio n s O f li fe by c om p aris on u nr eal


, By so m e iro nic
, .

fate Massi nge r was b orn a dram atic po e t at a ti m e wh e n the


,

stage to live at all had to appe al to the j ad ed taste O f a


, ,

court H e spin s his pl ots O f w orldly p assio n and am bitio n


.
,

th e refore but without real i n te re st i n th e m Wh en wick


, .

e d ness is r e qui re d he f orc e s hi s ch a ract e rs duly i nto wick e d

n e ss and i n the e ff o rt to ov e rco m e the bi as O f his m i n d


, ,

m ak e s th e m ve ry wick e d i nd ee d But it is whe n he has a


.

ch ance to tre at s om e th e me O f self sacrifice O f loyalty of -


, ,

g ratitud e O f u nworldly ren u n ci a ti on in the i nte re st O f an


,

id eal as in The Grea t Du lce of F lorence T he Vi rgi n M a rty r


, , ,

an d T he M a i d o H onou r th at he sh ows hi m s el f to b e a r eal


f ,

p oe t and h andl es his subj e ct wi th placid dignity and pow er


, .

H e al so achi e v e d at l east one g reat succe ss in co me dy i n his ,

N ew Way to P ay Old D ebts T he cha racte r O f the m ise r


.

an d e xtortio ne r in this pl ay Sir Gil e s O v e rr each holds a


, ,

p lac e among the classic fig u re s O f the English stage .


In J oh n F ord ( 5 8 6 1 64 0 the s earch af te r ab nor m a l sit
1
n atio n s re ach e d its h e ight o n the m o ral and spiritu al si de as ,

it had do ne in Webst er on the physical Sid e Ford was a m an .

of m e an s not co m p e ll e d to write h astily in ord e r to ga i n


,

an u n c e rt ai n live lih ood f ro m the sta ge His plays are good


.

i n f or m a nd his blank v ers e s e xc e ll e nt But whil e his .

w ork sh o ws no Sign O f d egenerati on in resp ect to f o rm ,

his d e lib e rate turni ng away f rom the h e althy and n or m al


i n hu m an li f e and the st range m orbid m e lancholy which
,

sh adows his work b e tray v ery plai nly tha t he is O f the


,

d ecad enc e .
1 38 A HISTORY OF E NGLISH I TERATURE
L

f ea r th at we should b e down too In S e pte m b e r of 1


a n o rdi nanc e O f both H ous e s O f Parli am en t clos e d the t

t re s throughout the kingdo m T h ey w e re not re op e


.

u ntil e ight een y ears l ate r when the re i ns Of powe r


,

f all en f ro m the d ead h an d O f Cr om w ell and Ch arl e s


,

asc e n d e d the thro ne f ro m which his fath er had b e en l e

the scaff old .


CHAPT E R VIII

THE SEVE N TE E N TH C E N TU R Y : N O N D RA M ATI C


-
LI TE RA

TU R E B EF O RE TH E RE STO RA TI O N

THE dram a as has b een show n d e cli ne s f rom Sh ak esp eare


, ,

by pla i nly m ark e d stage s ; as in its growth it was highly


organ ic SO in i ts d e c ay the bre ak u p O f the
,
-

"
But fifti ti itt
‘ ‘
organ is m progr e ss e d rapidly an d l ogic ally .

Pen w
with n on dram a tic li te ratur e b e tw ee n the d eath


Of E liz ab e th an d the Re st o ratio n 1 603 1 660 the c as e is , ,

di ffe re n t H e re we fi nd the greate st c onf usi on t he m ost


.
,

bewild e ri ng vari e ty O f m ood O f m ann e r and O f artistic


, ,

aim . T he r easo ns f or this c onf u s e d ch aract er O f s e v en


teen th c entury lite rature w e r e chi e fly two VI n th e fi rst .

l c th e w as n e O f gr e a t r e ligious e xcite m en t O f vio


p a e, e ag o ,

lent soci al and political ch ange T he cou ntry was t orn by .

warri ng factio ns one supp orti ng the e stablish e d church


, ,

the divi ne right O f ki ngs and all th e institutions O f th e


,

Old soci al ord e r ; the oth e r d e m an di ng a s e v e r an ce of the

church f ro m th e stat e and th e sub m issi on O f the ki ng to


,

parli am ent T he re sult O f this c onflict was the Civil War


.
,

which drench ed the c ou n try in blood u nse ttl e d all the ,

fou nd ation s O f soci e ty an d gav e to l it e r at u re the u n cer


,

tainty the fe ve rish gropi ng ch aracte ristic O f a transition


, ,

ti m e \/In the se c ond pl ac e literary critici sm had h ardly


.
,

begu n to e xi st and th ere was n othi ng to ch e ck the re ign O f


,

i ndividu al wh i m an d romanti c e xagge rati on whi ch the


Renaissan c e had i n stitute d Sidn ey it is tru e had do ne
.
, ,

some v alu abl e w ork in criticism and B e n J on so n c on ti n u e d,

through the first f orty years O f the ce ntury to e xert a


restrain ing i nflu ence u pon the l awl ess i m agi nations of his
1 39
1 40 A HISTORY OF E N G LISH LITE RATURE

ti m e ; b u t e ven J onson could do littl e to ch eck the pre


v aili ng anarchy O f f orm and thought T he typic al prose .

O f th e c en tury is ov e r c ol ore d e l ab orate wayw ard inat te n


-
, , ,

ti v e to f orm The typical p oe try is e xtravagant whi m


.
,

sical with s u dde n b eauti e s breaki ng f orth f r om O bscurity


,

an d m ann e ris m Y e t s u ch is the c ontradict ory ch aract e r of


.

the e ra th at it prod u c e d in H e rrick and the Cavali e r song


, ,

w rite rs so m e O f the m ost e xqu isite m i nor work men and


, ,

i n M ilt on the greate st f ormal m aste r am o ng E nglish


, ,

poe ts and i n Bac on and Bu nyan it gave to English prose


s u pre me e x am pl e s O f te rs e and si m pl e styl e F i nally the .
,

lite rature Of the wh ol e e ra is ch aracteriz e d by a m ood O f


d ee p Se rious ne ss or by s om e attem pt to escap e f ro m this
,

pre vaili ng m ood It is f ull O f bold sp e culation O f lof ty


.
,

an d O f te n m e l ancholy m e di t ati on upo n li f e an d de ath n at ,

u ral to an a e which e xp e ri en c e d prof o u n d r e ligious e m o


g
ti on at the sam e ti m e th at it saw the rise O f m odern sci
e n tifi c th ought .

F ran cis Bacon to who m the b egi nn i ngs O f mod e rn sci


,

e nc e are in gr e at p art du e was born in 1 5 61 , three y ears ,

b efore Sh ak e sp eare His fath e r was Lo rd


.

K e epe r of the Great Seal to Eliz abe th and his ,

u n cl e was Lord Burl e igh E liz abe th s pri me ,


m i n iste r . H e was th u s m ark e d out by birth for a public


c aree r and he thre w hi m sel f i nto the strife for pl ace with ,

the k ee n i n tell e ctu al z e st and the m oral ruthl e ssness ch ar


acte risti c O f the Re naissanc e c ou rti e r O wing to the .

O ppositi on O f his j e al ou s u n cl e he got li ttl e prefe r me nt


,

u n d e r th e q u e e n ; but u n d e r J am e s I he rose rapidly .

throu gh v ari ou s O ffi ce s to b e Lord Ch ance llor with the ,

titl e O f Viscou nt St Albans In this positi on he supporte d


. .

his digniti e s by a m agnific ence of livi ng al togeth e r ou t O f


prop orti on to his l egiti mate i nc om e In 1 62 1 he was .

i mpeach ed b efore the H ouse O f Lords for bribe taki ng -

and corr u ptio n i n O ffi c e f ou n d guilty and su bj e cted to


, ,

fi ne and i m prisonm ent He retire d a broken and ru ined


.
,
1 43 A HI STORY or E N GLISH LITE RATURE

it is Bacon s glory tha t he saw and e xpresse d the vital


n ee d O f ch ange be fo re the sci en t ifi c sp irit had y e t grow“


,

co nscious O f itse lf .

x l B aco n be li e v e d th a t L ati n w as th e o n ly m e d iu m to b e d e

p e nde d upo n for pre se rvi ng thought he th e refore wro te in


E nglish o nly i ncid e ntally and u nder pro te st: T he E s says , ,

T he by wh i ch h e h o lds hi s chi e f pl ac e i n E n glish


"
m u "
lite ra ture w ere a t first m ere j otti ngs dow n O f
,

d es ul tory id eas bri e f n ote book me m oran da As s uch


,
-
.

th ey w ere first publish ed ( th e n ten in nu m ber) in 1 5 97 in ,

t he a u th o r s thirty sixth y ea r F i f te e n y ea rs l a te r th e y

-
.

w e re issu e d agai n with additio ns and in 1 625 a yea r , ,

be fo re Bac on s d e ath th ey we re put fo rth i n fi nal fo rm th e



, ,

Essays n o w nu mbe ri ng fi f ty e ight the O ld ones r e vise d and -


,

e xp and ed It is clear th at th e ir ch arm gre w up o n B acon


.
,

and u rged hi m h al f agai nst his wi ll to put m ore and m o re


, ,

se rious e ffort i nto the manipul atio n Of a language for which


he had no grea t respe ct ye t O f which b e is one of the ,

g rea te st maste rs .

E ve n in th e i r fi ni sh ed sta te the E ssays are d esul tory and


sugge stive rathe r th an c oh e rent or e xh austi ve T h e y d eal
, .

with m any subj ec ts of public and pri va te co n


Tm S b u . ,

im m m
'
f
duct O f s tate craf t of the na ture and va lu e of
, ,

h u man p assio ns and h u m an rel ations and with th e se


grav e r th e mes are i nte rm i ngl ed oth e rs O f a ligh te r so rt o n ,

b uildi ng o n the p lanti ng O f gard e ns on the prope r m ou n t


, ,

i ng and acti ng of ma sq u es a nd o th e r sce nic di sp lays TO .

a m od e rn u nd e rs tandi ng th o se w hich d eal with the d ee p e r

ti o n s O f h u man na tu re are a t to seem s om e wha t sh al


q u e s
p
lo w and wo rl dly wis e We ge t f ro m th e m few la rge in
.

sights or g ene r ous poi nts O f vi e w ; e v e rywh e re we fi nd wi t ,

k ee n O bse rva ti on gra ve or cle ver m u nd ane j udgm en ts


, .

N o w an d again to be sure B acon sta rtl es us with an al to


, ,


ge th e r unworldly se nten ce such as this : Little d o m e n ,

pe rce ive what s olitud e is and how far it e xten de th ; fo r a ,

crowd is not co mpany and faces are but a gallery O f pi c t ,


TH E SEV E NTEE NT H C ENTURY 1 43

1 1res, and ti nkling cy m bal wh ere th e re is no


tal k but a ,

l ove . Som e O f the e ssays such as that e n titl e d Of Grea t
,

P lace Show an u n w orldly wisd om which if appli e d to


, ,

B acon s own lif e would h ave m ad e it a v ery di ff e ren t



,

thi ng Not seldo m too he lif ts the curtai n up on th at


.
, ,

i nne r p assio n O f his e xist en c e the thirs t f or i n t ell e ctu al


,

t ruth which m ad e him nobl e in spite O f the shortc om i ngs


,

O f his ch arac t e r : T ruth he says whi ch only doth
, ,

udg its l f is he sove re ign g ood O f hu m an n atur e
j e e , t .

B acon shows hi msel f in the E ssays to b e a c onsu mm ate


rh e torici an He m ad e for hi m sel f a styl e which though not
.
,

qu ite fl e xibl e an d m ode rn was u n match abl e for


,
T hei Sty l e r .

pith and pre gnancy i n the c onveyan ce of his


speci al ki nd O f thought T hough a de vote d Latinist and
.
,

u si ng a much Lati niz ed v ocabulary he saw the structural ,

diff e rence s O f the two langu age s so cl early th at wh en the ,

bulk O f E nglish prose was be i ng written in l oose se nt en ce s


Of e n or m ous le ngthv lie struck ou t at onc e a th oroughly

English typ e O f s e nten c e sh ort crisp and fir mly k nit


, , , .

He re j ecte d th e conce i tfu l ness and ov e r crowd e d i mag e ry -

Of th e E uphuists but k ne w ho w to light u p his thought


,

with w ell place d figure and to give to it an i m agi native


-
,

glow and ch ar m up on occasio n c ontrasting strongly with ,

the u nfi gu rati v e styl e O f B e n J ons on who r epre se n ts i n ,

his prose the e xtreme re vulsion f ro m E u ph u ism For the .

stud e n t O f e xpre ss i on Baco n s e ssays are O f e ndl e ss i n t ere st


and profit the m ore one r eads th e m the m ore r e m ark abl e
see m th eir co m p actne ss an d th e ir nervous vitality T h e y .

shock a sluggish attention i nto w ak efulness as if by an


el e ctric co ntact an d though th e y m ay so m e ti m e s fail to

nourish th ey can n e ve r a il to sti m u l at e


,
f
Bacon holds a commandi ng place in s e v enteen th century
.

thought but he can h ardly b e c all e d typical O f th e cen


,

tury He did not sh are its ch aracteristic m el an choly ; his


.

i magination is always subordinate d to thought wh ereas ,

the charact e ristic mood of the c entury is one of dreamy O r


1 44 A HISTORY or E NGLISH L I TE RATURE
m ystical con templ ation in which i magi nation al way s takes
,

the l ead of abstract th inki ng ; and fi nally he do e s not


pass as the typical se venteenth c entury write rs SO f req u en tly
,

do f ro m m oods Of ear thly p assi on to moods O f re ligi o us


,

e cst asy In all th e se r e sp e cts the spirit of the ti me is b ette r


.

repre sented by a m an whose youth fell lik e Bacon s in the ,



,

high tid e O f the E liz abe than era but who f rom the fir st , , ,

stood ap art proph esyi ng both in his matter and his m an


, ,

ner O f the age O f J ame s and Ch arl e s — J oh n Do nne ( 1 5 73


, ,

1 63 1 )
Do nne sp ent a wild and irregul ar yo uth at O x ford and
Cambridge in the Lo ndo n Inns O f Court and in the south
, ,

Dom , a, a O f E urop e B efor e th e. e nd O f th e si x t e e n th


m" c entury he produce d a body of lyric po etry O f
the utm ost si ngu l arity It is full O f strange i n te rrupte d
.
,

music and O f vivid pass ion which break s i n j e ts and fla sh es


,

through a veil of O bscure thought and torture d i mage ry .

In th es e m o m ents O f illu m i natio n i t b e come s won de rf ully ,

poignan t and dire ct h eart searchi ng i n i ts si m pl e hu man


,
-

acc e nts with an origi nality and f orce f or which we look i n


,

vai n am ong the cl ear and flu ent m elodi es O f E liz ab e than


lyrists U nfortu nately th e se m o m en ts are com p arative ly
.

rare Wh at is m ore i m m edi ately apparent in Do nn e s


.

poe try and wh at fasci nate d his discipl es is his u se O f


, ,

m, U“ o, c on c e it s i e f ar f e tch e d analogi e s and ov e r
, . .
,
-

i nge nious m e taphors which are so O dd th a t we ,

l ose sight O f th e thing to b e illustrated in the startli ng ,

natur e O f the illustration With him l ove is a spid e r .


, ,

which dropp e d i nto the wi ne O f li fe turns it to p ois on ;


, ,

night is an e b on b ox i nto which w eary m ortals are p u t
,

as disord e r ed clocks u ntil the su n give s th em ne w


wo rks T his c on c e itful for m O f writi ng was practise d
.

by Mari ni in It aly and by Gongora in Sp ai n si multane ous


, ,

illu stration is from one o f D onne f ollowers, Ge orge



T he s e cond s

Herb ert, b u t it is e nti re ly in the master s manner



.
1 46 A HISTO R Y or E NG LISH L I T ERATU RE

War . Hazl i tt says of the H oly Li v i ng a nd Holy Dy i ng,



I t is a divi ne p as toral H e wri tes to the fa i thf ul f ol.

l ow ers Of C hrist s hepherd pip es to his fl ock


as the .

He m akes lif e a proce ssi o n to the grave b u t crow ns i t wi th ,



l an ds and rains sa crifici al rose s on i ts pa th
g ar ,
.

In Sir T ho mas Brow ne ( 1 605 1 682) the se ventee nth -

“ ”
ce ntury ti me spiri t fo u nd curious but ve ry noble ex
-

ww pr e ssio n His m i n d was


. d ee ply ti ng e d wi th
mm “
m el anch oly and he sha re d the p re val en t te n
,

d ene y toward re ligious mys ticism But th ese q ua liti es .

are O ddly i nf use d with scep tic is m flow ing f ro m his aci s u

t ific s tudi e s a kin d of dream y ha lf c re d u lous sce p ticis m


, ,
-
,

v ery di ffe re nt f ro m B acon s cl ear cut rational vi e w O f ’


-

thi ngs but more ch aracte ristic O f an age in which m ed i


,
.

ze val a nd m od e rn w ays O f th o ught w e r e still close ly


m i ngled togeth e r Af te r studyi ng m e dici ne a t the fam o us
.

schools of Mo ntpe lli e r in Franc e and Pad u a i n Ita ly ,

Bro wne s e ttled as a physici an at N orwich in N orfolk a nd , ,

th e re pas se d his li fe I n 1 642 app ea red his first work


.
,

Rel igi o M ed i ci a co nf e ssio n of his o wn p e rso nal re l igious


,

creed It is in esse nce a mystical acce p tance O f Christi anity


. .


Me thi nks ”
he says , the re be not im possi bil i tie s
,

e n ough i n re ligi on fo r an active faith I love to


lose myse lf in a myste ry ; to pu rsu e my reaso n to an O

A lti tu do ! T his se ns e O f s ol e mn e x al ta ti o n thi s lo sing ,

o f hi ms el f i n a m yste ry and an O A tti tu de is


a “cm mam ,
b
“m m Bro wn e s m ost ch aracte ristic m ood H e l o v es

.

to sta nd be fo re the face O f the E te rnal and the Infi n ite


u ntil th e shows of li fe fad e away and he is fille d wi th a ,

passio nate qui e tud e and hu m ili ty We see i n h im h o w .

far the te m pe r o f m e n had d e pa rte d fro m the El iza be th an


z e st o f li fe fro m the Re naissance d e l ight in the st i r and
,


bustl e O f hu ma n a ctivity Me thi nk s ”
he sa ys
.

I , ,

begi n to b e weary O f the su n T he world to m e is .


William Hazlitt Lecture s on the Lite rature of the Age of W e
,
TH E SEVEN EE N T T H CE NTURY 147

bu t a dr eam and m ock -show, the re in but p anta


and we all
locu s an d an tics to m
y s e
, v e r er co n t e m pl atio n s ”
.

While the m ighty s truggl e which Lord Clarendon d epicts


In his H i s tor o the R ebelli on wa s sh aki ng the earth with
y f ,

i ts dru m s and tram plings Sir T ho mas Browne was ,


q ui e tly writi ng his lo nges t work Vu lga r E rrors , an


inq u iry half scientific an d h al f cre d u lous i nto various pop
,
- -
,

ular b eli efs and sup erstiti ons T we lv e y ears l at er he pub


.

li she d the Urn B u ri a l a short pi ec e sugg ested


, T he m, a

by the fi ndi ng Of som e an ci en t Rom an fu neral 3 m w


urns buri e d in the earth in the ne ighborhood Of N orwich .

The Urn B u ri a l is ostensibly an i nquiry into the various


historic m e thods Of disp osi ng Of the d ead but by i m plica ,

ti on it is a de sce nt upon the v an ity Of earthly am bition ,

e sp e ci ally in its attem pt to h an d on m or tal me m ory to

future age s .It is Brow ne s m ost ch aract eristic work and



,

con ta i ns p e rh aps the s u p rem e e xam pl e s O f his styl e .

T he grand eur and s ol em nity O f this styl e at its b e st is , ,

hard ly to b e p arall el e d in E nglish prose Lik e al m ost all .

the write rs O f his age B row ne is e xtre mely d e sultory a nd


,

u nev e n ; his purpl e p atch e s come u nex B mm ,
.

Stil l“
p e cte dl y but
, th e s e o cc a si onal p ass ag e s h av e

a p om p an d maj e sty which e v e n M ilton has not surp ass e d .

His E nglish is full O f m agn iloqu ent words and phrase s


coine d f ro m the Latin and the m usic Of his p eriods is
,

de ep stately and long drawn lik e th at Of an h eroic


, ,
-
,

fu ne r al m arch or the f u ll st op O f a cath edr al organ


-
T he .

open i ng O f the l ast section O f the Urn B u ri a l will se rv e


perhaps to m ak e th ese c om p aris ons cl ear : Now si n c e ,

the se d ead bone s h ave al ready outlaste d the livi ng o nes of


Meth u sale h and in a yard u n d e r ground and thin w alls
, ,

Of cl ay , outworn all the strong and sp ecious buildi ngs


abo v e it ; and q ui e tly re st e d u n d e r th e dru m s and tr am p

lings of three c onqu e sts : wh at pri n ce can prom ise such


diutu rn ity u n to his reliqu e s The way in which his i m
agination pl ays through his thought and fl ash e s a sudd e n
1 48 A HI ST ORY OF E NGLI SH LITE RATURE

illu m i nation of beau ty o ve r his p ages may b e suggested ,

by th ese wo rd s w ritten one night wh en he had sa t late at


,

his d e sk T O k e e p ou r e ye s O p e n l onge r w e re but to act


o u r An tip od e s T he hu ntsm e n are up in A meric a 1
.

A wid e sp rea d national m o od u su ally fin ds i ts analyst


-
.

The m e l an ch oly of the s e v e n teen th c en tury its cause s , ,

its m ani fe stati on s and its cu re w e re e xh austiv e ly tre ate d


, ,

by Rich ard B u rton ( 1 5 7 7 i n his A na tomy


B urton nd the
a
M a n choly
1
a bo o k In t o Wt h h g a th e r e d
£3 53 :n
1 o
f of,
e l , e

the ou t O f the way l earni ng and the dre amy


- - -

sp e c u l ati on of fi fty y ears O f re cluse li fe at Bras eno se Col


l ege O xford SO c u riou s a m ixtu re O f p ed an try i magi
,
.
,

nati on and q u i e t b roodi ng h u m o r


,
cove ri ng in a se nse ,

the wh ol e li fe an d th ought O f m an could ha rdl y h a ve ,

bee n p rod u ce d in any oth er era O f E nglish lite rature ; as ,



i nd e e d n o oth e r e ra w o u ld h ave suggeste d melancholy
,

as a th e m e f or e n cycl op aedic treatm e n t .

T he c h aract e r O f an age is b e traye d n o more b y the


dire ct e xp re ssi on O f its p re vai li ng m ood th an by the re ,

acti o n s which occ u r aga i n st th a t m o od and by the a tte m p ts ,

whi ch are m ad e to e scap e f ro m its d om in ation Suc h an .

a tt e m pt to e sc ap e f ro m th e i n t e ns e s e riousne ss O f th e ir a e
g
we m ay p e rh aps trac e i n the am at ory ve rse O f Ca r e w ,

Lov elac e n d Su ck ng who f ro m th e i r co n


T he Ca ali er
P t
oe fl
v
a h ,

n ectl on W l th Ch arl e s S court are k n own as t he


,

,
,

Cavali e r p oe t s O f th e thre e Ca re w ( 1 5 98
.
, was
t he si nc e re st p o e t His w ork is occasio nally ti ng e d with
.

lice n ti o u sne ss ; b u t mu ch O f it on the othe r h an d has , ,

ge nu i ne b eau ty and dignity H e felt the i nflu e nc e O f .

b th B J o so and Donne and such a po e m as “


o e n n n , TO
H is Mi stre ss in Ab se nc e has the sanity and finish O f the
o n e m i ngl e d with th e m agn e tic e l oqu e nc e O f the oth e r
, .

H e is be s t k now n by his lighte r e ff orts such as his Giv e me


m ore l ov e or m o re di sd ai n in which p oe m his f elicit and



, y
co u rtly add ress di spl ay th e mse lv e s at the ir h e ight He .

w rote also a striki ng co u rt mas qu e e ntitled Cwlu m B ri t


1 50 A HISTO RY OE E NGLISH LI TE RATUR E
’ ’
ethic al and re ligious thought Brown e s B ri tta n ia s .

P as tora ls give u s the ho m el y s ights and so u n ds O f De vo n


shire in a way which m ak es his page s charm in g in spite
,

O f th e ir se ntim e n tality th e ir fals e m ythology and th eir


, ,

stra in ed all egory With e r s M i s tress of P hi la rete is a


.

ce le brati on O f Virtu e who m the poe t pe rsonifi e s and


,

p ra ise s e xactly as if she w e r e some l ovely she ph e rd e s s of


the pl ain .A ki ndr ed spirit to th e se si mple h earte d p as -

tora l poe ts is f ou nd in I saac Walto n ( 1 5 93


“m m“ m H e w as a L o n d o n li n e n dr a pe r w h o -

m
Ki ns hi p wi t h ,

& sp e n t his w o rki ng da ys i n m ea suri n g cloth a nd

m gf
°u
s e rvi ng his cust ome rs o v e r the sh op cou n te r ;
°

but who passe d his h olidays in quite ano th e r


fashio n roam i ng with fis hi ng rod and ba sk e t alo ng the ba n ks
,
-

O f stre ams a nd gazi ng with u nsp o il e d e ye s at the u n sp o il e d


,

p eac e and gay e ty O f nature His Comp lete A ngler was .

prin te d in 1 65 3 am id the fi erce p oli tica l and re ligious


,

agi ta ti on s of the C o m m on w ealth ; but a sw ee te r or m or e

u ntrouble d boo k has ne v e r bee n writ te n Two oth e r m em .

be rs O f this group O f na ture p oe ts and c e l e brants O f co u n -

try li fe re ma i n to be me nti oned Robe rt H e rrick and ,

An dre w Marvell The bul k of th e ir work is i n the


.
,

broa d e r se nse p asto ral ; but th ey w e re both to u ch ed


,

d e eply at ti m es by religious e m o ti on and Marv ell re fl ects ,

in his l ate r poe try the stre nuous poli tica l lif e in w hich he
took p art .

Robe rt He r rick ( 1 5 91 —1 674 ) wa s app re n tice d in boyh ood


to his u ncl e a gold sm ith in Cheapsid e Af te r so m e tim e
, .

sp e nt a t Ca m bridg e he re turn ed to Lo n don in ,


Herrick
his thirti e th yea r and lived on his wi ts in the
.

li te rary boh e mi a of the Inns of Court In 1 629 having .


,

tak e n o rd e rs he was prese nte d by Ki ng Charles to the


,

vica rage O f Dea n Pri or in De vonshire Here wi th no , .


,

d u ti e s tO p e rf o rm sav e the re ad i ng of a w ee kly se rmo n to


,

a ha ndf ul of sl ee py p ari shi on e rs he had ample O ppo rtu ni ty , ,

dur ing the ne xt ni ne tee n y ears to dev el op his pecu l iar ,


TH E SEVE NTEE NT H C ENTURY 1 51

lyric al gif t His genius was Of the kin d which carv e s


.

che rry sto ne s not O f the ki n d which h e ws g reat figu re s


-
,

fro m the livi ng rock Lef t p erfe ctly to hi m se l f am id th e


.
,

flowe rs O f his Vicarage gard e n with the p re tty traditio nal ,

cerem oni e s and m e r ry m aki ngs O f c ou ntry li fe tO l ook at


-
,

he sp e n t his d ays c arvi ng ch e rry stone s i n d e e d b u t giving


-
, ,

to th e m the d elicate fi nish O f cam e os or O f goldsm ith s work ’


.

In p oe m af te r p oem he e n t ers with e xtrao rdi nary z e st and


folk fe e li ng i n to th e sm all j oys and p ag eants of rural li fe
-
,

—a brid al proc e ssio n a c u dg e l pl ay b e tw ee n two clow n s


,
-

on the g re e n a pupp e t show a t th e f a ir the h angi ng O f


,
-
,

holly and b ox at Can dl emas E ve Pe rh aps the m ost e x


.

q u i si te O f all is C o ri nn a goi n g a M ayi ng T his lit tl


-
e .

mast e rpi e c e is dren ch e d with the pu ngen t d e ws Of a spri ng



morn ing .AS the po e t c alls his swee t slug a b ed out of - -

doo rs and l e ad s he r through the village streets al ready


, ,

deck e d with white thorn t oward the fi elds and woods


-
,

wh e re the May day f estiviti e s are to b e enacte d we fe e l that


-
,

the po e try O f O l d E ngli sh li fe sp e aks through one who has


e xp e ri en c e d to the f ull its Si m pl e ch ar m E ven the note O f .

sad n e ss at the e nd the looki ng f orward to th at d ark ti m e


,

wh e n Cori nna h e rsel f and all her village mate s sh all lie “

drowne d in e ndl ess night has a p easan t like si nce rity Of
,
-

feeli ng .

Whe n the Parliam entary forc e s had gai ned the battl e
which th ey had bee n wagi ng with the K i ng s m en and ’
,

He rrick as a l oy alist was ej ecte d f ro m his livi ng he w en t ,

back to Lo ndo n The y ear O f his re tur n ( 1 64 8) he publish e d


.

his p oe m s u n d e r the titl e O f H esp eri des a nd


Noble N u mbers the l atte r h al f O f th e title re
,

ferri ng to the religiou s poe m s O f the coll e ct io n .

Th e re could b e no m ore striki ng Sign O f the i m m e ns e re


ligi ou s fe r m ent of the ti m e th an th e s e p oem s e m an ati ng ,

as th e y do f ro m an e picure an and p agan na tur e wh ose ,

philosophy O f li fe is su mm e d u p in his m ost fam ous so ng ,

Gath e r ye rose buds whil e y e m ay ”


In the wo nd erf ul .
1 52 A HISTOR Y O F EN G LISH LITERATU RE
poe m call ed The Litany the mast erpi e c e among Her ,

rick s religious p oem s we see how upon e ve n his gay and



,

se ns u ous nat u re th e re de scend ed at tim e s th at dark sh ado w


O f r e ligious te r ror which l ate r f ou nd i ts fi n al and app alli ng

e xp re ssi o n i n the Gra ce A bou ndi ng O f J oh n Bu ny an In .

H errick s case how eve r this is only a passing ph ase Of



, ,

fe e li ng .He is to be rem e mb ere d as the p oe t Of Cori nna



goi ng a Mayi ng the N igh t Pi e ce to J ulia and O f a
-
,

-
,

m yri ad oth e r littl e p oem s i n which he chron icl e s his d e


light in nature and in the e xquisite surface Of life as he
,

saw it .

An d re w Marve ll ( 1 62 1 1 678) was am o ng the fi rst O f Eng


-

lish poe ts to fe e l the ch ar m Of nature with ro m antic in


te nsity and at the same ti me with matter O f fact
,
- -

Marvell .

realism The bulk O f his nature po e try was


.
-

w ritte n be twee n his twenty n i nth and his thi rty fi rst years - -
,

whil e he was livi ng i n cou ntry s e clusion at N u napple ton ,

as tutor to th e y o u ng d aught e r of Lord Fa irfa x com ,

m and e r in chi ef O f the Parli am en tary f orc e s


- - T he prin .

e ip e l re c o rd O f th e s e two y ears O f po e tic li f e i s a lo ng po e m



e ntitl e d A ppl eton House besid e s this the m ost b eau ,
“ ”
ti ful of his cou ntry poem s are p erh aps The Gard en
T he Mow e r to the Glow wor m s

an d In th e se and -
.
,

in his d e lic ate little p ast o ral di alogu e s he li n ks h im ,

s e lf with the p as toral sch ool O f Sp en se r ; in o th e r pl ac e s ,



T o a Coy M istre ss

e sp e ci ally in the li ne s he sh ows the ,

i nfl u en ce O f Don ne In his la ter life Marv ell s erv e d f or


.

a ti m e as assi stan t to Mi l ton th en acting as Lati n s e cre ta ry ,

to Crom w el l s g ove rnm e n t H e h elp e d M ilton i n his



.

bl i nd ness aid e d hi m to escap e f rom his p u rsu ers at the


,

Re storati o n and w atch e d with m i ngl e d ad m iratio n and


,

a we the p rog re ss O f P aradise Lost which b egan about 1 65 8 ,

to t a ke sh ap e afte r tw e n ty y e ars de l ay In the no ble



, .

O de to C rom well Marv ell se t an e xam pl e worthy O f


, ,

Milton hi m sel f of si mpl e d ignity and classical re strai nt


,

i n the treat me nt O f a politic al the me .


1 54 A HISTORY OF E N G LISH LI TE RATURE
r tio n for a court care er and so me years O f disappoin ted
a a ,

w aiti ng f or court favors he ente red the Church O nc e ,


.

withi n the p al e O f the religious l ife he fe lt the full f orc e O f ,

th at spiritu al agi tatio n and awe which s o o ne r or


He be t
r r
l ate r ove r took all se rious mi nds i n the first h alf
.

O f the s e v e n t ee n th c e ntury Af te r two years O f d e vote d


.

l abor as a p arish pri est at B e m erton near Salisbury he , ,

was strick e n with a m ortal m al ady O n his d eathb e d b e .

h and e d tO N ichol as Ferrar a bu ndl e O f m anuscript aski ng ,

h im to r ead it and th en tO u se it or d e stroy it as s e e me d to


, ,

h im fi t The v olu m e was publish e d the ne xt year u n der


.

th e titl e O f The Temp le in allusio n tO the scriptural v e rse


, ,

In His t em pl e doth e v e ry m an sp eak in His ho n or



It .

is a curio u s picture O f the co nflict which H erbe rt w ent


th rou gh whil e subj ecti ng his will and his worldly am bition
,

to the s ervic e O f God .

He rb ert push e d e ven f urth er than Don ne the u se O f


co nce its Many O f his poe ms are m e re bu n dl es of th e se
.

O dditi e s O f m e taphor qu aint and crabbed to the l ast de


,

gre e But he m anage s by m ean s O f th em to e xpre ss


.
, ,

m any preg nan t and far reachi ng thoughts -


At ti m e s h e .

sho ws an un u su al powe r O f dire ct and fam ili ar phrasi ng .

By m eans O f sudd e n turns e m ph atic pauses lightni ng , ,



lik e stabs Of th ought he f orce s ho me hi s words ,

i nto the read er s me mory and mak e s his qu ai nt and dar



,

ing conce i tf u ln ess i nterpre t rathe r th an O bscur e his , ,

m e an i ng .

The p e rv ading atm osph er e O f He rbert s poe try is one O f


m oral earne stne ss an d si nc e re pi e ty rath er i nt ell e ctu al ,

th an i m p as sio ned H e is th e refore th e tru e .


, ,
C as ha w
r .

p oe t O f the Chu rch O f Engl and Rich ard .

a —
Cr sh a w ( 1 61 3 1 65 0 on the oth e r h and is the po e t O f ,

Catholicism H is attitude to w ard divi ne thi ngs is not


.

th at O f pi ous c on tem pl ation but O f e cstatic and m ystical ,

worship His re ligi ou s s ens e is s outh ern rath e r than


.

no rth e rn The Reform a tion as such did not afi ect him


.
, , .
TH E SEV E NTEEN TH C E NTURY 1 55

It se rv ed m e rely to ki ndl e i nto i ntense fl am e his d ev otion


to th e O ld e r Church . T his is the m o re c u ri ou s b e c aus e O f
the f a ct th a t C rashaw s y outh and early nu rture w e r e O f

an u ltra p ro te stan t s o rt
-
A t the coll ege O f Pe te rhous e i n
.

Cam bridge h ow e v e r he r e ad d e eply in the works O f the


, ,

early church fath e rs an d in th e liv e s of the sai n ts an d he ,

took p art in the fasts and vigils O f a r eligiou s broth e rhood


g a th e re d a b o ut N ich o l a s F e rr a r a t L ittl e Giddi n g j u st,o u t
sid e Ca m b ridge . A s the stru ggl e b e tw ee n the Chu rch O f
Engl and and the P u ritan dissen te rs gre w m ore and m ore
bitte r he fl e d for ref uge tO the arm s O f that vene rable
,

mo th e r church O f which his natu re had f ro m t he first


-

mad e h im a m e m b er .H e was e xil e d by Crom w ell s gov ’

ernm e n t ; a nd af te r a ti m e O f bitte r p o ve rty in Paris he ,

was b e f ri e nd e d by a broth e r p oe t A brah am Cowl e y and in


, ,

trod u ce d to Q u ee n H e n ri e tta Mari a wif e O f Ch arl e s I


, .
,

who had tak e n ref u ge at the court O f F ranc e f rom the


stor m s of civil war i n E n gl and . T hrough he r i nflu e nc e
with a Ro m an Cardi nal C rash aw was give n a pl ac e i n
,

the M onaste ry O f O u r Lady O f Lore tto in Italy ; and he ,

di ed shortly af ter from the e ff ect of a pilgri mage which he


,

mad e o n f oo t in the burn i ng h eat O f the Itali an su mmer ,

a fit e nd f or a po e t in wh om liv e d ag ai n the m ystical

religiou s fe rv or O f the Middl e Age s .

C rash aw s p oetry is e xc e ssively u ne v en It co ntain s



.

the m o st e xtravagant e x am pl e s O f f rigid con ce itfu lne ss to


be fou n d am o ng all the f ollow ers O f D onne ; yet sid e by
sid e with th e s e O f t en i n th e sam e poe m o ccu r p assag e s O f
, ,

nobl e disti nctio n .His two most characteristic po em s are



p e rh aps T h e F l a m i n g H e art a nd th e Hy m n to S ai n t
Th e re sa . He Si ngs the rapture s O f the soul visit e d by
divi ne love in t er m s as concre te and glowi ng as any hu man
,

lov e r has ever u se d to ce l ebrate an earthly p assion An .

eth e re a l m u sic ,and a ki n d O f lu m i no u s h aze both re


,

mindi n g u s of Sh ell ey s work are the disti nguishi ng



,

featu r e s O f his poe try at its be st At the close O f his


.
1 56 A HIST O RY OF E NGLISH LI TE RATURE

poem en titl e d Descriptio n Of a Rel igious House ,

fi nd the li ne s
Th e se l f- re m e m b erin g so u l sw ee tly re co v e rs

H e r k i n d re d w i th th e stars, a n d Ine d i ta te s h e r i mm o rt a l wa y
H o m e t o th e o ri gi na l so u rce O f l i gh t a n d i n te l lect u al d a y .

T his the k e y tO Crasha w s i m agi nativ e world


is H e is

.

lik e a m oth fl u tte ri ng i n the r adi anc e which strea m s fr o m



the source O f light and i nte ll e ct u al day .

H e nry Va u gh an ( 1 62 1 the third poe t O f this


group sp e nt his youth am ong the rom antic gl en s O f the
,

vall ey Of the U sk in north e rn Wal e s H e re was , .

Vaughan .
'

the l ege nd ary se a t of K i ng A rthu r s c o urt a n d


h e re traditi on say s S hak e sp eare h e ard f rom the lips O f t he


, ,

c ou ntry folk th e n am e and d o ings Of Puck before writi ng


-
,

A M i ds u mmer N ight s D ream Vaughan w en t up to O x



.

f ord in 1 63 8 just as the qu arre l b e tw e en the K i ng a nd the


,

Parli am e n t was drawi ng to a h e ad H e fought f or the .

K i ng s c aus e an d wh e n th at c a u se was lost re tir e d to his



, ,

na tiv e v all e y in Wal es to sp e nd th e re st O f his l o ng li f e as


,

an O bsc u r e c o u nt ry d o ct or T he death O f his wife an d his


.

own se ve re ill ne s s aw ak ene d his religious nature an d u n d e r ,

the i nflu en c e O f H erbe rt s Temp le he wrote and publish e d


( 1 65 0) th e fi rst p art O f Si lex Sc i n ti lla ns or Sp a rks f ro m a ,

F li n t stone th at is spa rks struck by divi ne grac e f ro m a


-
, ,

h ard and sinf u l h ea rt .


Vau gh an s p oe try lik e Cra shaw s is v e ry u ne ve n

, T he , .

re ad e r m u st s e a rch lo ng b e f ore fi ndi ng the thi ngs O f v a l u e ,

b u t wh en f ou nd th ey are w orth the s earch His be s t .

p oe m s su ch as T he World
,
“ ” “ ”
De p arted F ri e n d s a nd
, ,

T he Hidd e n Fl ow e r Show an e xtraordi nary i nsight i nto
,

the m y stic al life O f N ature and O f the h eart and a stra nge ,

n e ar ne ss to the u n see n w o rld N O E nglish poe t has touch ed


.

the d e e p e r m yst e ri e s with m ore child lik e si m plicity and -

u nc onscious ness nor wi th a m ore d e licate and e lusive


,

m usic .
1 58 A HISTORY or E NGLISH LIT E RATURE

J oh n Milto n, t r Sh ak e sp eare the greatest O f E nglish


af e

poe ts was b orn De cem be r 9 1 608 in Bread Stree t Lon


, , , ,

mm,“ d o n His f a.th e r was a scriv e n e r ( n ot a ry p u b


m "w e lie) who had e m brac ed the P uritan fa ith bu t
"
, ,

whos e P uri tanism was no t O f the h ard and forbiddi ng


typ e T he b oy gre w u p in a hom e whe re m usic lit e rat u re
. , ,

and the s oci al gra c e s gav e w a r m t h and color to an a t m os

p h e re O f s e re ne pi e ty D uri ng his boy hood Engl and was


.
,

still E liz abe than am ong the g reat body O f Pu ritans g e ni ,

ality and z e st O f li fe had no t ye t give n pl ac e tO t ha t h a rsh

strenuous ness which Pu ri tanis m afterward tO O k on M ilto n .

was taug ht m u sic and was allow ed to r ange a t wil l through


,

the E nglish p oe ts ; am o ng the se Spe nse r the p oe t O f pure ,

b eauty e x e rci se d ov e r him a c harm which was to l ea v e its


,

t races up on all the work O f his early manhood A t Ch rist s .


Coll ege Cambridge w hi th e r he proc ee d e d in his sixte e n th


, ,

y e a r h
, e b e g a n to p re p a r e hi m s e l f wit h e a r n e st n e ss a nd

c onsec rati on for the li fe O f p oe try He had alre ady d e


, .

te rm ined to b e a p oe t and th at tO O in no ordi na ry se n s e


, .

His m i nd was fixe d on lof ty th e m es and he beli e ve d th at ,

su ch th e me s co u ld b e fi tly treated o nly by one who had l e d


a l o fty and a u ste re li fe T he m agn ific e nt O de
.
O n th e ,

Mo rni ng o f Ch ris t s N ativity whic h d eals wit h the Sig ns



,

and p ort en ts filli ng the wo rld a t the Sa viou r s birth wa s



,

written at tw en ty one It Showe d cl early or m ight h a v e


-
.
,

Sh ow n to anyone who had e y e s to see th a t anoth e r m ighty ,

p oe t had b e en give n to E ngland .

T wo ye ars l at e r Milton l e ft Cam bridge and we nt to He r


ton a littl e vill age w e st O f Londo n whith e r his fat he r had
, ,

At Ho t on
r
r e tire d to sp e nd his d e cli ni ng d ays H e re i n .
,
.

a b eauti f ul c ou n try O f wo ods m eadows and , ,

b ri mmi ng stream s the you ng p oe t sp ent fi ve q ui e t ye ars


, .


T o the outw ard vi e w he was al l but idl e m e rely tu rn ,

ing ove r the Gre e k and Lati n cl assic s i n a lo ng holid ay .

Re ally he was h ard a t wo rk prep ari ng hi m sel f by m e dita ,

tio n by c omm u nion w ith nat u re and wi th the lof ty spirits


,
TH E S EV ENT EENT H C ENTURY 1 59

Of th e p ast for so m e achi ev e me nt in poe try which ( to u se


,


his o wn words) E ngl and would not willi ngly le t d ie .

Mea n whil e he was writi ng ve ry littl e but tha t litt le pe r ,

fee t thrice distill e d


, A s onne t se nt to h is f ri e nd o n his
.

twe n ty third birt hday s hows t hat he was d eeply d issatisfi ed


-

with wh at he had d o ne in ve rse b efore goi ng to Ho rto n


and i nd e ed if we e xce pt the N a tivity Hy m n he had rea
, ,

son tO b e diss atisfi e d T he oth e r p oe m s .


of his co ll e g e

period are disfig u re d by the vice s O f conce itf u lness e xag ,

ra t ion and tastel e ss i ng e n u ity p e culi a r to the se v e nt ee n t h


g e , ,

century T he Hy m n itsel f is m arre d by the sam e faults


.
,

and e v e n its b ea uti e s are so m e o f th e m pl ai nly i m itativ e .

But at Horton M ilton s taste grad u ally b e cam e su re r his ’

touch u po n the k eys O f his i ns tru me nt sup e rl atively fi rm


and d e lic ate H e w e nt b a ck to pure r m od e ls and l earne d
.
,

how to borrow without i m itati ng T he re s u l t was thre e .

long poe m s and se ve ral sh ort one s absolute ly fla wl e ss in ,

work m anship f ull O f ro m an tic beau ty curb ed and ch ast


,

ene d by a cl as sical s e nse of prop o rtion and fitne ss I t is .

in th e s e po em s th at we first see cl early wh at M ilt on sta nds


for in the po e tic art O f the ce ntury He is a child O f .

the Re naissanc e the l ast O f th at g re at ro m antic li ne O f


,

which Spe nse r Sid ney M arl o w e Sh ak e sp eare Donne and


, , , , ,

Fl e tch e r are scio ns ; but he has d ru nk d ee p e r th an the


oth e rs O f the spri ngs O f a n ti q u e art ; th e re is i n h i m a

more aust e re a rtistic i nsti nct li nk e d s om eh ow with his au ,

ste re r m oral natu r e T he spirit O f his art is r o man tic


.

its e xpr e ssi on is in the wid e st se nse cl as sic


, ,
.

T he fi rst prod u ct of M i lto n s H o rton p eri od the p oe m in



,

two parts L Alle gro ( the j oyous m an) and Il Pe ns e



,

rose
( t he m e dit a tiv e m a n) is i n it s n a tur e a ut o ,
L All o o ’

biographical T he two p arts O f the p oe m p ai nt and n sn


.

“m m ,

the two s id e s O f M il to n s o wn te m p e ram e nt : t he


one urgi ng ou tw a rd t ow a rd co m m u ni o n w ,
it h the brightness
NO notice i s he re ta ke n Of M i lto n s L ati n v e rse ,

the b u lk of which
date s from his colle ge pe ri od .
1 60 A HISTO RY or E N G LISH LI TERATURE

and vivid activity O f l ife ; the oth r dr wi g i w rd e a n n a , tow .

ard lo n e ly co n t e m pl a ti o n or m usi n,gs upo n t h e dr e am i e r ,

q ui et er as p e cts O f n a tur e a n d O f hu m a n e xis t e n c e T o re p r e .

th s two m o o ds h e i m agi n e s t wo typical you ths liv


s en t e e ,

throug h a d ay of typica l though ts and pursuits


ing each ,

m idst f surro u n di n g s h ar m o n ious wi th h is sp e ci a l


i n the O

taste s T ak e n o
.
t g e th e r t h e t w o li tt le po e m s g iv e a vi e w O f

the fe li which M ilto n l e d duri ng t h e fi v e h a ppy y ea rs O f h is

m
prep arati on for the p oe tic i istry wo d r ul y co pr s d,
n n e f l ,
m e s e

cl arifi e d and fix ed in p ermanen t sy m bols


,
.

T he n e xt two po e m s O f this p e riod w e re i n mas q u e f or m


one a f rag m e nt Arcades the o th e r a co m pl e t e m asqu e tak
, , ,

ing its titl e f ro m the chi ef ch aracte r Co m us , ,
Camus ”

god of rev elry (291mmg as wri t ten at the re


.

. .

st M il o s ri nd H e nr y Le w es a musici an who

q u e O f t n f e . ,

supplie d the m usic and playe d the p art O f the A tten d an t


,

Spirit wh en the m asqu e was presen ted ( 1 63 4 ) in the castl e O f


Lu dl o w o n the Wel sh b ord e r “ ”
, T he plot O f Cam u s is
.

Si m pl e and v e ry e ffective aff or di n g j u st a touch O f the


,

f an tastic m yth ol ogic al el e m e n t n e e d e d f or sc enic displ ay ,

y e t l e avi n g t h e m ai n i nt e r e st of the pi e c e tO c en tre up o n

the rich se ri ous po e try whi ch M ilt on puts i n to the m ouths


,

of his f e w ch aract e rs TW . I S an d a
M ’

a stra y ,

by n ight in the fore st b e com e separate d the girlf tdfien


,

captiv e by Com u s and is led tO the pl ac e wh ere he dw ell s


,

su rrou n d e d by strange h alf b esti al creatu re s who m he has -

tran sfo r m ed He att em pts to work upon he r the sam e


.

t ransf ormation She r esists him r efu si ng to yi eld to the


.
,

a llur e m en t s O f s e nse and is a t l e ngth r e scu e d by he r br o th


,

e rs an d an att e nd an t s i ri who takg fl l e gmseni thm


p
rd It was ch aracte ri stic O f M ilton th at he
.

t a se ri ou s m oral l e sson i nto a form of sp e c


ts cu lar an d lyric e nt e rtai n m e n t u su ally O f th e m ost frivolous
ki nd F ortu nately his p ow er as an artist was SO d e ve l op ed
.
,

t h at he c ould ch arg e the d elic at e te xtur e of his m as q u e


with e thical d octri ne with out at all m arri ng its airy b eauty
, .
1 62 A H S I T O RY O F EN GLISH LI TE RATURE

boldly id entifie s with the first f or to him the poe t a nd the


,

preach e r were o ne in spi ri tu al aim S till more boldly in .


,
the s trang e proc e ssi o n O f cl assic a nd pse udo c lassic divi i
n
-

ti e s who m h e su m m ons to m our n ov e r L


ycidas he i n ,
cl u d es S a in t Pe te r the be a re r O f th
, e k eys of the C hurch
;
a nd he pu ts in his m ou th words
O f sol e m n wr ath ag ai n st
those bl i nd mouth s thos e worldl church me n who

,
y ,

fo r th e i r b e lly ’
s sa k e
C ree p , a nd i ntru d e , a n d clim b i n to th e fo l d

c losi ng with a Sh adowy m e nace of the pu nish ment which


is soo n to ov e rtak e the e ccle si astical corruption of the age .

Ly ci da s gather s up all the irid e sc e nt color and v ari e d m u sic


O f M ilton s youth f u l v e rs e i nd ee d O f the wh ol e Sp e n s e ri a n

, ,

sc ho ol and at the sam e ti m e by virtu e of the m oral pas


,

si on which bu rn s in i t it l ooks forw ard to the p e ri o d O f


,

public co mba t i nto which the p oe t was about to pl u nge .

T he twe n ty y ears O f Milto n s li fe as a public dispu ta nt


we m u st pass ov e r hurri e dly T h e y w er e pre ce d e d by a


.

p eri od O f trave l abroad ( 1 63 8 chi efly in Italy duri ng ,

which h e m e t Galil e o was e nte rtai ne d by t he I tali an


,

lit e rary acad em ie s and p ond e red m uc h upon a proj e cted


,

e pic p oe m on the subj e ct of K i ng A rthu r s w ars a subj e c t



,

sugge sted tO h im by th e epics O f T ass o and A riosto His .

ret u rn was h astened by n ews O f K i ng Ch arl es s e xp e dition ’

ag ai n st the Sc ot s a st e p wh ose s e riou s n ess M ilton w e l l


,

k ne w O nc e back in Lon do n he was draw n i nto a p a m


.
,

phl e t war on the ve x e d qu estion of E piscop acy T h e n .

fo ll owe d his ill starred m arri age and the writi ng O f his
-
,

pamphl e ts o n div orc e th ese w e re rece iv ed with asto n ish


m e nt and e x e cratio n by his c ou n trym en who did not se e that ,

mm ” , M ilt o n w a s o n ly bri ngi n g to b e ar upo n o ne iss ue ,



gr iffi n O f d om e s tic li f e th a t f r
,e e spirit O f qu e stio n
wm mg" e v e rywh e re be i ng appli e d to public i nstituti o ns ,

and e ve rywh e r e s re ad i ng ch ange t hr ough the soci al f a bric


p
O f E ngl and A noth er signal illustratio n O f Milto n s r e vo

.
TH E S EVE NTEE NTH C ENTURY 1 63

l u tiona ry qu estion i ng foll ow ed in the sh ap e O f an attack


,

u po n th e c e n sorship O f the pre ss T he tim e h on or e d i nsti


.
-

tu ti e n O f the censorship he saw tO b e an i ntol e rabl e hi nd er


anc e t o f r e e d o m O f thought ; and in a p am phl e t e n titl e d

Areop agi ti ca he lau nch e d agai n st it all the thu nd ers an d


lightn i ngs O f his magnificen t rh e toric O n the e x e cuti on .

of th e K i ng ( 1 64 9) M ilt on was the fi rst to li ft up his voic e ,

am id the hush an d awe O f c onst e rnati o n i n d e fe nc e O f the ,

de e d. His p am p hl e t O n the Tenu re of K ings a nd M agi s


tra tes was O f su ch ti me ly se rvic e to t he Comm onwe alt h
rty th a t he was O ff e re d the p os itio n O f Lati n se cr e tary to
p a

Crom w e ll s gov e rnm en t his duti e s b e i ng to i n dite corre



,

spon de nce with for e ig n pow e rs and tO re ply to attacks by


,

fore ig n p am phl e te e rs O f i mp ortan c e In the m id st O f a


.

controv e rsy of this s o rt his e y e s fa il e d and in a short ti m e,

he wa s t otally bli nd . H e co n ti nu e d his duti e s wit h ,

A ndr e w M arve ll as his assistant u ntil he was dism is se d in


,

1 65 8 by Gen e ral M onk who was alre ady pl otti ng to re store


,

Ch arl e s s son to the thro ne as K i ng Ch arl e s II



, O n the .

king s re tu rn i n 1 660 Milton was forc ed to go i n to hidi ng



, ,

and h e b ar ely e sc ap e d p ayi ng with his li fe f or his f earl e ss sup

rt o f th e id e als and acti on s O f the Com monw e alth p arty


p o .

E v e r si nce his coll ege days M ilto n had b ee n l ooki ng for


ward tO u nd e rt a ki ng som e w ork of po e try l arge e n o ugh to
g iv e scop e t O a l l his p o w e r By 1. 6 4 2 h e h ad virtu ally
decid e d u po n the s u bj e ct O f t he fall O f A d am th o u g h he ,

at fi rst i nte n d ed to treat th e su bj e ct in the f orm O f a

dram a . Du ri ng the sixt ee n ye ars b e tw een 1 642 and


his dis m i ssal from the Latin s e cre taryship in 1 65 8 thi s ,

su bj e c t was s e ld o m l ong a bse n t f r om his m i nd In the .

midst O f the n ois e s and h oarse dispute s



i nto which he
had t h row n hi m sel f fo r p a t ri o tic s ervic e the only p oe tic ,

pr o d u cti o n which h e all o w e d hi m s e l f w as a s m a ll gr o up of

sonne ts w ritt e n at rare i n t e rv als an d d e ali ng fo r the m ost


,

p ar t with p assi ng e ve nts E xc ept for th e se he had hidd e n


.
,

that one tal e nt which is d eath to hid e but he mor e ,
1 64 A HISTORY OF E NGLISH LI TE RATUR E

than o nce turn ed asid e in his p amphl e ts to throw out a ,

proud hi nt conc e rni ng the work l aid upo n hi m by the


“ ”
great T ask maste r O f addi ng so me thi ng maj e stic a nd
,

mem orabl e tO the treasury o f E nglish ve rs e Me a nwhi le .

his chose n subj ect lay i n his m i nd gradu ally taki ng f o rm , ,

and gath e ri ng to its e l f th e rich e s O f lo ng study a nd re fl e c

tio n Wh en at l ast his d u ty as a p atriot was d o ne he


.
,

tu rned at o nce to his d efe rred task Forced to se e k s h e l .

Pa ad ise
r ter f ro m the st orm of the royalist reacti o n b e ,
“m y
carrie d with hi m i n to his hidi ng pl ac e the O p e n
ing book O f P a ra di se Los t be gu n two years earli e r , T he .

poe m was fi nishe d by 1 665 and was publish ed by an O h ,

scure pri nte r in 1 667 .

T he ce nt ral the me O f P a ra di se Los t namely the fa ll O f , ,

Adam f ro m a s ta te O f i nnoc e nce i n to a sta te of Si n o ccu pi e s ,

The v a n , “ a r el ative ly s mall sp ace i n the whol e sch e m e of


“m m m “ "
the poe m T he ac ti o n be gi ns i n h ea v e n be
.
,

fo re m an is c reated or the ea rth a nd i ts m i n iste ri ng


,

s p he res are hu ng out in spa ce The re be lli o n O f Luci fe r


.

ag ai ns t the o mni po te n t r u le r of H ea ve n the defea t O f t he ,

r be l a r mi es and th e ir ca s ti ng d o wn i nto the d rea ry ca ve r n


e

o f He ll whi ch has bee n ca rved o u t O f Ch aos to b e th e ir


.

r i so n h o u e : t he crea tio n O f t he te rres trial u n ive rse and


p s
-

t he se t t i ng o f man i n t he ga rd e n O f Ed e n tO ta k e t he p lace
o f t he a po s ta tc a ngel s in Go d s affect ion the e x pe d i ti o n O f
'

Lu cifcr fro m He l l to Eart h for t he pu rpose O f b e g u i li ng


t hc innoce nt pair the go i ng a nd co m i ng of Go d s m esse n

g e rs a nd sc n t i nc ls — a ll .t h i s co n s ti t u te s a v a s t d ra m a O f
u hic h t he act u al t e m t t i on and fall o f A d am i s o n l y a n
p a

c is o dc
p W . i t h t he e x ce p t i o n o f D a n t e no m o d e rn m i nd
ha m ncciv c d an action s o i m m e nse o r set a world d rama
s
.
-

o n a s ta e of su ch su b li m e di m e nsions
g .

l u t hc appr ov e d cpic ma nne r H ilto n . op ens his poe m in the m iddle


o f t hc a ct i o n. a f t e r t hc r chcl l i o ns a ng e ls hav e b e e n can d own i nto H e ll .

Thc c arl u r c \ cu rs arc ci‘ cu in m u m “ narra ti v e by t b e archange l


Raphacl a nd b} Adam .
A HI STO RY O F E NGLI SH LI TERA TURE

O r wh e th e r th o u , to ou r m oist vo ws de ni e d ,
Slee p st b y t he ta b le of B e lle ru s o ld ,

Wh e re the grea t Vi s i on o f t h e gu ard e d


Lo o ks to wa rd N a m a ncos a n d B a y o na s

Th ese li nes ta ke n in the ir prope r c o nn


,

th at sy nth esi s o f the maj estic a nd


we ca ll subli mity T h e y s how th a t
.

to Milton s m i nd But i t is highl y



.

th ose years of s te m re pre ssio n whe n hi s im ,

h eld back by his will gai ni ng mome nt um like


,

u p w a te rs of a st re am he would n e v e r h av e
,

pe culiar m ighti nes s of i mage ry and phrase


P a rad is e Los t to d ese rve as does pe ,

o f lite rature the e pi th e t subli me


, .

li mity Mil to n gai ned only at the e xp ense o f


o f his y o uth f u l work which we would fai n

ke e p .Grace lightne ss a iry ch arm


, th e se
, ,
-

h im forev e r wh e n he took up his a rt agai n



sile nce T he art of L Allegro and Co m
.

a nd si nu ous as the trace ry of d anc

v ase had giv en place to a n art as


,

the f re sc oe s o f Michae l An gelo d e picti ng the ,

of the crea ti o n a nd d e structio n o f the w o rld .

T he ch a nge in the qu ality of thought and


cours e a cc o m p ani ed by a change i n styl e
, .

M ilto n d elib e r ately


E ngli sh measur es ;
ce ed e d to buil d o u t

u n known ad mirably sui te d to the gran


,

T he chi e f pe culi a rity of this Mi lto nic


and i nvoluti o n of p e riod T he s ens e .

through many li nes whil e cla use afte r ,

e nrich t he m eani ng or to magni fy the

t hen the p eri od cl ose s and this s us pen d ,

ing falls upo n the mi nd l ik e the co m bi ng


o n the shore A se cond and scarcely l ess
.
TH E SE VE N TE E N TH C E NTURY 1 67

t e ri stic( though h ardly so n o v e l ) is th e e xtr e m e v ari e


, ty of
p au s e th e s e n s e c o m e s to a n e nd and the susp e n d e d ,

t h o ught fal ls at con stan t ly v aryi ng pl ac e s in the li n e a


, ,

d e vic e by which bl ank ve rse m on ot onous wh e n oth e rwise


,

t re a t e d b e co m e s the m ost dive rsifi e d of rhyth m s


, In th es e .

a n d o t he r w ays M ilto n m ad e f or hi m se lf a subli m e v e rs e

i n s tr u m en t to m atch his sub li m e i m age ry and th e me T he .

m u sic of the Horton p oe m s co m pared with t hat of P a ra


,

d i se Los t is lik e the me lody of the si ngi ng voic e b e sid e


,

t h e man i fold harm onics of an orc he stra or the rolli ng chant ,

o f a c a th e dral org an .

I n 1 672 f our ye ars af te r the publicatio n of P a radi se


,

L os t app eare d M i lto n s third v olu m e of v e r se



, ( T h e col .

l e g e and Horton p oe m s had b ee n publish e d i n It


c o n sist e d o f P a ra d i s e Rega i ned a suppl e m e n t to P a ra di se
,

L os t ; and of
w
Sa mson Agom s i es,

M —
a nn ark on an mu mm m w xch M in n had
t
P
h o u ght
a r a di se
of
W
R g d eals wrt Christ s tem pts
e a i ned

t i o n by S atan in th e Wi ld er ness
W
In his first e pic M ilt on
.

»

“gamed

h a d sh own how m anki nd i n the p erso n of A d am fal ls b e


, ,

f o re th e wile s of the T e m pte r a nd b eco m e s an outcast fro m


,

d i v i n e grace in his s ec ond he shows how m anki nd in the ,

p e r s o n o f J e sus wi n s r e
, ad m issio n to divi n e gr a c e by wit h
s ta n di ng the h e lli sh adve rs ary By ge ne ral con sent P a ra
.

d i s c R ega i ned is giv e n a m u ch l owe r pl ac e th an P a ra di se


L os t in spit e of p assage s th at ris e to an i m pre ssive h e ight
, .

T h e p oe t s w eari ne ss is m anifest ; his epic v e i n see m s e x


h a n s te d . Sams on Agoni s tes howe v e r a v e nt , Sams n , o

fi r e i n a n ew fi eld of po e try shows M ilton s



,

ius t its subtl s t and m aturest His d sir w t b i g


g e n a e e e a s o . r n

o v e r i n to E nglish the gravity and c al m d ign ity of the Gree k

t r age di es ; and avoidi ng the li f el e ss e ff e ct of pre vious e x


,

p e ri m e n t s o f t he sort to giv e
, to his g ra v e an d c al m tr ea t m e n t
t h e p assion the con victi on the ki n dli ng b re ath with o ut
, ,

w hich poe try cannot e xist Two circu m stances m ade this
.
1 68 A HISTORY or E N G LISH LI TERATURE
not only easy but al m ost i nevitable f or him In the first
, .

place his ch aracte r lof ty and ard ent to b egi n with had
, ,

now u n d e r m isf ort u ne an d s acrific e tak en on just th at

se re ne and m el anch oly gravity p e culiar to the g rea t tragic


poe ts of antiquity In the s e co nd place the sto ry of Sam
.
,

son was i n a se ns e his own story


, , Lik e S am son he h ad
.

f ought agai nst the Philisti n e s with th e strength of th i rty


m e n ; he had t ak e n a wi f e f ro m amo ng his e ne m i e s and
su ffe r e d bit te r loss a t h e r h an ds ; he sat now bli nd and dis ,

h onored am id the triu m ph of t he Cavali e rs as S a m son


, ,

am o ng the holid ay m aki ng P hilisti ne s


-
A S he wrote his
.
,

own p e rs o nal bitt e rn e ss f ou n d v e il e d e xpre ssio n ; an d t he

gra nd chorus es wi th th e ir d ark and s moth e red m usic pul


, ,

sate with p e rsonal feeli ng .

M il ton liv e d for th ree ye ars afte r the publicatio n o f his


l ast p oe m s M uch of his p atri m ony had disapp eare d i n the
.

mm,“ r e a djust m e n ts o f th e R e st o ra ti o n an d i n,the


La““m
g reat London fi re of 1 666 but h e was still abl e
to live in mo de st c o mf o rt The p ai nte r Rich ardson giv es
.

us a gli m pse of the poe t duri ng his l ast y ears as h e was ,

le d ab out the stree ts cl ad in a gray cam bl et co at or as he sa t ,

i n a gray co arse cl oth co at a t the door of his house near ,

B u nhill F i eld s to re c e iv e visitors


,
La t ely
. c ontin u es
,

Rich ardson , I had the g oo d f ortu ne to h ave an o th er
picture of him fro m an aged cl ergy m an i n Dorse tshire .

I n a s m all hous e u
p o n e p air o f st a irs which w as ,

hu ng with rusty gree n he fou nd J oh n Mi lto n Sitti ng in


, ,

a n e lb o w ch air black cloth es and ne at enou gh p a l e but


,

n ot c ad av e rous his h ands and fi ng e rs g outy an d with


,

ch alk s tones ”
. Wh en we co m pare the figure t hus sugge sted
with the portrait p ai nted in his twenty fi rst year we real -
,

ize how far and u n d e r wh at public and private stre ss Mil ,

ton h ad trave ll e d f rom the wo rl d of his youth In m ak i ng


.

hi mself ove r f rom Eliz ab e th an to Cro m welli an he had su f


fe red m uch and re nou n c e d m uch ; he had lost many of
those genial h u man q u aliti es which h ave won for less
1 70 A HISTO RY OF E N G LISH LIT E RATURE

on ly the origi nal Hebre w and Greek tex ts and the Latin ,

V ulgate b u t also the various English translatio ns f ro m


,

Wyclif dow n T h ey succee ded in bl endi ng toge th e r the


.

p eculiar e xc ell e ncie s of all the se with the re su l t th a t we ,

posse ss in the K i ng J am e s Bible a m o n u ment of E nglish


prose holdi ng of no particul ar age but gathe ri ng up i nto ,

itse lf the stre ngth and swee tness of all ages .

The i nfl u e nc e of this m ighty book upo n the lite rat u r e of


the s e v e nteen th ce n tury altho u gh great was restricte d by
, ,

o circu m st c s I t h first pl c h
“ r
i
g
an e n
in gay ?“ Ible was early m ono oh zed by the P u ri tan
e a e
.

t e ,

a m “the p
ce nt u y r '
party ; and biblical phraseology and i m agery
b e cam e associ ated with an ideal of li fe which at lea st in ,

the gri m and asc e tic form it assu m e d u nde r J am e s and


Ch arl e s was distastef u l to m ost of the mak e rs of lite ra
,

tu re In the se co nd pl ac e Lati n was still h eld in supe r


.
,

sti ti ou s re ve renc e am o ng cultivate d m en ; and write rs w e nt

to that l angu age for i nstructio n negle cti ng the rud e r but ,

m o re vital e xce ll e nci es abou ndi ng in the prose of the Bibl e .

Bu nyan howe ve r was at o nce a Puritan of the


, ,
Upon B ny an u .

P uritan s an i nsti nctive artist and an nu


, ,

l earne d man to who m Lati n was o nly a nam e H e nce the


,
.

gran de ur Si m plicity and force of biblic al prose ac ting


, , ,

witho u t any i nte rference upon his pas sio nate ly earnest
i magi natio n mad e him all u nknow n to hi m self a great
, , ,

w rite r .

J oh n Bu nyan ( 1 62 8 1 688) was born in the vill age of


-

E l stow B e d fordshi re
, His fath e r was a ti nke r a trad e
.
,

th e n co nsid e red little above vagabondage Af te r a Slight .

schooli ng and a Short e xp e ri en ce of soldi eri ng in the Civi l


,

War ( on which Sid e is u nk nown) b e marri e d a wi fe as poor ,



m Ra mon,
s a s hi m s el f a n d took up his
, fa th e r s tr a d e o f p o t
St e“
ag a n d k e ttl e m e n d e r B e for e
-
this how e v.e r th e re , ,
‘ m nd ‘ng
u
h ad begu n in him a spiritu al struggl e so te rrible
a nd SO vivid as we se e it i n the p ag e s of his Grace A bou nd
,

i ng to the Chi ef of Si nners ( pu bli shed t hat by


TH E S EV ENTEENT H C ENTURY 1 71

contrast the e v ents of his oute r life are pallid and u nreal

As he wre stl e d and playe d a t tip cat wit h his village m ate s -

on th e green or stood i n the towe r of the church to watch


,

the b ell ri n gi ng he was h au n te d by thoughts of sudden


-
,

death of the J udgm ent Day and of his soul s dam natio n
, ,

.

He sa w an aw ful Fac e looki ng dow n f rom the clouds and ,

heard a voice aski ng wh e th e r he w ould leave his si ns and


go to H eav en or have his si ns and go to He ll T he til es
, .

upo n the house roofs the puddle s i n the road spoke to


-
, ,

hi m with vo ic e s of te m ptatio n and m ock ery F ro m this .

re ligi ou s i nsanity he was rescue d by a Mr Gi ff ord a local .


,

prea ch er who gave him com fort and courage Soo n B u n


, .

y an hi m s e l f b eg an to preach an d a re vulsio n of fe e li ng
now li ft e d hi m to he ights of e cstatic joy in the m erci f ul

neSS of God and the b e auty of holi ne ss He saw Christ .

hi m se l f looki ng do wn at him through the tiles of the


hous e roof sayi ng My grace is su ffi ci ent for thee
-
, and

the se ns e of salvatio n cam e lik e a sudden noise o f wi nd



rushi ng in at the wi ndow but v ery pleasant , In all this .

we see i n its most i nte ns e for m the r eligious e xcitem e n t of


the s e ven te enth century and also the q u aliti e s of i magi
,

natio n and feeli ng which m ak e Bu ny an so powe rf ul a

write r .

At the Re storatio n p e rs e cutio n of the no nconf orm ist


,

se cts be gan Bu nyan was arre ste d f or holdi ng illegal re


.

ligiou s meetings and he Sp ent the ne xt tw e lv e


“te m “ :
years in confinem en t earni ng bread for his fam
,
g ggin g i

i ly by p u tti ng tags to Sh oe l ac e s and k ee pi ng -


,

his m ind awak e by writi ng wh at he was no lo nger at lib


erty to sp eak In the m idst of a sob e r c o ntrov e rsi al work
.
,

he h app ene d to e m ploy the trit e m e taphor of a journe y to ,

typi fy the Christi an li fe At o nce the figure began to grow


.

an d blosso m ; a throng of pictur e s and dram atic i ncide nts

starte d up bef ore his m i nd Al m ost before he kne w it the


.

metaphor had grow n i nto a book and The P i lgri m s P rog



,

ress one of the thre e gr eat all egori e s of the world s lit e ra

,
A H I ST O RY O F E N GLI SH

ture was w ritten Bu nyan seems to


,
‘ .

ast o nish e d at the ease w i th which the

littl e frightened a t the pl easure it gav e


sol e mn th e

1678 , Si x yea rs t r
af e his re l ea s e from pri so n .

cin a tions ov el the fairy tal e an d


of the n ,
-
,

adv en t u re T he no v el the gre a t li te rary


.
,

n e xt ce ntu ry a ppea rs h e r e i n its ge r m


, .

m Sub ject physica l world through which


m m“ neys fro m the

Wi ck e t ga te -

B e ul ah pictured wi th the
,

w ayfarers

p e ople are ,

stam p th e m
im po ssibl e for a rea d e r of P i ly
the j o urne y oth erwis e th a n as
And add e d to the ch ar m which the
its c har m as rom an ce If in one .
,

to ha ve u sh e red in the e ightee nth


o th e r it m ay be sai d to h a v e r e viv e d

i n which the h e ro was m ad e


na tural an d s u p e rna tural on ,

d e sires Gi an t De spair i n his gri m cas tl e t he obsce ne


.
,

d e vils cree pi ng and m utte ri ng i n the V all ey of the Sha dow ,

the d re ad ful e ne my Apollyo n the angels and archa ngels ,

who l ead the way with h arpi ngs and hosannas from the
, ,

“The othe rs all ud e d Spe nce r s Faeri e



ue ens and Da nte ’
to are Q s
CHAPTER IX
TH E SEVENTE EN TH C E N T URY : TH E RESTO RATIO N

TH E date 1 660 is one of the m ost signi fi cant in the history


of E n glish lite rature , as it is i n the history of En glish

politics In that year Ch arle s II was brough t to the


. .

throne f rom which his fath e r had been drive n The e x .

travagant joy with which the ki ng was re c e ive d on his


re tur n f rom e xil e Showe d how clos ely this ch ange of gov
,

e rnme nt f ro m co m m o n wealth to ki ngship corr e spon d e d

to a change in the m ood of the natio n The p ass i o nate .

T h e B em m a bsorptio n i n othe r worldli ness which was the


-
,
“m“ e sse nce of P uritanis m had as we h a ve s e en
, ,

ch eck e d the frank d elight i n this w


,

orld and inte re st i n the


,

probl em of livi ng succe ssfully there which were of the ,

Renaiss an c e . But the Puritan id eal by its ve ry na t u re


, ,

could app eal dire ctly to comp aratively few Indir e ctly .
,

i nd e ed by f orce of e xam ple it i nflu enced many ; b u t the


, ,

multitu d e at l ength gre w w eary of pl ayi ng a p art so e x


hau sting and so difii cnlt . D uri ng the l atte r y ears of the
Co m m on w ealth Signs of a re la x e d te mp e r on the p a r t o f
t he public w e re not l acki ng ; for e xampl e lic ense s w e re ,

given for op eras to b e p erforme d in Lon don Wh en at .

l ength the l eaders of the Com monwealth forsook th eir own


id eal and c onfe sse d its failure the mass of the na tio n