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And set hell on fire
He is such a grim sire,
That he wold brake the brains
Of Lucifer in his chains,
And all out of season, &c.
Another of Skelton's satirical invectives, his Bouge of Court,' (that is, Bouche à Court, diet allowed at court), which is written in the common stanza of seven decasyllabic lines, and altogether with much more sobriety, has some strong allegorical painting, but in a hard and heavy style; and the force is also more conspicuous than the invention. Another of his productions is a drama, entitled 'Magnificence, a goodly interlude and a merry,' in rhyme, and running to nearly 2600 long lines, the characters being Felicity, Liberty, Measure, Counterfeit Countenance, Crafty Conveyance, Cloaked Collusion, Courtly Abusion, and other such shadowy personages. But Skelton's brightest, and in all respects happiest poetry, is surely what of it is neither allegorical nor satirical. The charm of his writing lies in its natural ease and freedom, its inexhaustible and untiring vivacity; and these qualities are found both in their greatest abundance and their greatest purity where his subject is suggestive of the simplest emotions and has most of a
Equivalent, I suppose, to legate."-Dyce.
universal interest. His Book of Philip Sparrow,' for instance, an elegy on the sparrow of fair Jane Scroop, slain by a cat in the nunnery of Carow, near Norwich, extending (with the "commendation" of the “ goodly maid") to nearly 1400 lines, is unrivalled in the language for elegant and elastic playfulness, and a spirit of whim that only kindles into the higher blaze the longer it is kept up. The second part, or "Commendation," in particular, is throughout animated and hilarious to a wonderful degree:-the refrain,
For this most goodly flower,
She flourisheth new and new
In beauty and virtue;
Hac claritate gemina,
O Gloriosa femina, &c.—
recurring often so suddenly and unexpectedly, yet always so naturally, has an effect like that of the harmonious evolutions of some lively and graceful dance. Have we not in this poem, by the bye, the true origin of Skelton's peculiar dancing verse? Is it not Anacreontic, as the spirit also of the best of his poetry undoubtedly is ?*
Along with Skelton, viewed as he commonly has been only as a satirist, is usually classed William Roy, a writer
* A most valuable and acceptable present has lately been made to the lovers of our old poetry, in a collected edition of Skelton's Poetical Works, 2 vols. 8vo. Lon. Rodd, 1843, by the Rev. Alexander Dyce, who has performed his difficult task with rare scholarship and ability, and in a manner to leave little or nothing further to be desired.
who assisted Tyndal in his translation of the New Testament, and who is asserted by Bale to be the author of a singular work entitled, 'Read me and be not wroth, for I say nothing but troth,' which is supposed to have been first printed abroad about 1525.* This is also a satire upon Wolsey and the clergy in general, and is as bitter as might be expected from the supposed author, who, having begun his life as a friar, spent the best part of it in the service of the Reformation, and finished it at the stake. Among the buffoonpoets of this age, is also to be reckoned John Heywood, styled the Epigrammatist, from the six centuries of Epigrams, or versified jokes, which form a remarkable portion of his works. Heywood's conversational jocularity has the equivocal credit of having been exceedingly consoling both to the old age of Henry VIII. and to his daughter Queen Mary; it must have been strong jesting that could move the sense of the ludicrous in either of these terrible personages. Besides a number of plays, which are the most important of his productions, Heywood also wrote a long burlesque allegory, which fills a thick quarto volume, on the dispute between the old and the new religions, under the title of A Parable of the Spider and the Fly;' where it appears that by the spider is intended the Protestant party, by the fly the Catholic, but in which, according to the judgment of old Harrison, "he dealeth so profoundly, and beyond all measure of skill, that neither he himself that made it, neither any one that readeth it, can reach unto the meaning thereof.+"
* Ritson's Bibliog. Poet., p. 318.
SCOTISH POETS.-GAWIN DOUGLAS; DUNBAR; LYNDSAY.
But, while in England the new life to which poetry had awakened had thus as yet produced so little except ribaldry and buffoonery, it is remarkable that in Scotland, where general social civilization was much less advanced, the art had continued to be cultivated in its highest departments with great success, and the language had already been enriched with some compositions worthy of any age. Perhaps the Scotish poetry of the earlier part of the sixteenth century, may be regarded as the same spring which had visited England in the latter part of the fourteenth, the impulse originally given by the poetry of Chaucer only now come to its height in that northern clime. Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, who flourished in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, and who is famous for his translation of the ' Eneid,' the first metrical version of any ancient classic that had yet appeared in the dialect of either kingdom, affects great anxiety to eschew "Southron," or English, and to write his native tongue in all its breadth and plainness; but it does not follow, from his avoidance of English words, that he may not have formed himself to a great extent on the study of English models. At the same time it may be admitted that neither in his translation nor in his original works of King Hart,' and the 'Palace of Honour,'-which are two long allegories, full, the latter especially, of passages of great descriptive beauty,—does Douglas convict himself of belonging to the school of Chaucer. He is rather, if not the founder, at least the chief representative, of a style of poetry which was attempted to be formed in Scotland by en
riching and elevating the simplicity of Barbour and his immediate followers with an infusion of something of what was deemed a classic manner, drawn in part directly from the Latin writers, but more from those of the worst than those of the best age, in part from the French poetry, which now began in like manner to aspire towards a classic tone. This preference, by the Scotish poets, of Latin and French to " Southron," as a source from which to supply the deficiencies of their native dialect, had probably no more reasonable origin than the political circumstances and feelings of the nation; the genius of the language itself was wholly opposed to it, and it therefore never could become more than a temporary fashion.* Yet it infected more or less all the writers of this age; and amongst the rest, to a considerable extent, by far the greatest of them all, William Dunbar. This admirable master, alike of serious and comic song, may justly be styled the Chaucer of Scotland, whether we look to the wide range of his genius, or to his eminence in every style over all the poets of his country who preceded and all who for ages came after him. That of Burns is certainly the only name among the Scotish poets that can yet be placed on the same line with that of Dunbar ; even the inspired ploughman, though the equal of Dunbar in comic power, and his superior in depth of passion, is not to be compared with the elder poet either in strength or in general fertility of imagination.† Finally,
*Douglas's Palace of Honour was reprinted for the Bannatyne Club, 4to. Edin. 1827; and two vols. of a new edition of his translation of the Eneid have also been produced by the same association, 4to. Edin. 1839.
† Portions of Dunbar's poetry had been previously published from the MSS. by Ramsay, Hailes, and Pinkerton;