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His principal poems are the “Golden Targe," the target being Reason as a protection against the assaults of Desire, and his “Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins,” a poem which, in its will, reckless spirit, may be compared to the “ Jolly Beggars” of Burns. The poetry of Dunbar has been described by Irving in his “Lives of the Scottish Poets” with something of a Scotchman's partiality to his countryman. “In the poetry of Dunbar," he says, we recognise the emanations of a mind adequate to splendid and varied exertion—a mind equally capable of soaring into the higher regions of fiction, and of descending into the humble walk of the familiar and ludicrous. He was endowed with a vigorous and well-regulated imagination, and to it was superadded that conformation of the intel·lectual faculties which constitutes the quality of good sense. In his allegorical poems we discover originality and even sublimity of invention, while those of a satirical kind present us with striking images of real life and manners. descriptive poet he has received superlative praise. In the mechanism of poetry he evinces a wonderful degree of skill, He has employed a great variety of metres; and his versification, when opposed to that of his most eminent contemporaries, will appear highly ornamental and varied.” The date of Dunbar's death is uncertain, but is supposed to have occurred about 1520. The “Golden Targe” was printed in 1508.
Gawain Douglas (1475-1522), Bishop of Dunkeld, is memorable as having been the author of the first metrical translation into English of a Latin author. He translated, with spirit and felicity, but with great diffuseness, the “ Æneid” of Vergil in 1513. To each book he prefixed a prologue, and these prologues are commonly considered the inost favourable specimens of his genius. His chief original poem is the “ Palace of Honour," an allegory in which he maintains the theses that virtue is the only true chivalry. Like all the old Scottish poets, Douglas was permeated with a love for nature, which constitutes one of the great sources of his inspiration.
The last of the old school of Scottish poets was Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount, whose name is familiar to many who know nothing of his works by the ringing lines about him in Scott's “ Marnion :')
He was a man of middle age;
As on king's errand come ;
Expression found its home;
And broke the keys of Rome.
Still is thy name in high account,
And still thy verse hath charms,
Lord Lion King-at-arms."
Lyndsay of the Mount (his family estate in Scotland) was no less a man of action than a poet: indeed it is mainly because he devoted his poetical talent to practical ends that his verses attained the wide popularity they long enjoyed among his countrymen. He was born in 1490, and rose to high office in the court of James V., with whom he was a great favourite. He had acted as gentleman-usher to that King in his youthful days, and the relations between master and pupil seem to have been unusually affectionate. Three of his poems, the “Dream," the “ Complaint to the King," and the “Testament of the King's Papyngo," have for their purpose the exposure of abuses prevalent in church and state. Most of his works to a greater or less degree point in the same direction. His “Satire of the Three Estates," which was represented before the King at Linlithgow in 1539, having been first acted in 1535, is a morality play, having for its motif the fall of Cardinal Beaton, and stigmatising the crimes which led to that fall. In his last work, the “Monarchie” (1553), he continued in a graver tone than had been adopted in his earlier performances to protest against the abuses which had crept into the state. Different though their characters were, Lyndsay shares with Knox the
honour of being one of the leaders of the Reformation. A clear-sighted, practical man, with considerable humour and much satirical power, he had great influence in stirring up the people to a sense of the wrongs which they endured and in bringing these wrongs under the attention of those in authority.
We now tum to our early prose writers. Prose is a much more artificial and mechanical mode of literary expression than verse: the poet's song (if it be a genuine song) is the outpouring of his heart in the metrical form which seems to him best adapted to the subject with which he deals: “he sings but as the linnets do,” from the uncontrollable force of his genius. The prose writer, who has to handle all sorts of themes, uses, indeed, a much more commonplace instrumentfor we all talk in prose—but before that instrument is adapted for literary purposes many refinements have to be adopted, and many expedients tried. The talk of an uneducated person, with its repetitions, its wanderings from the point, its innumerable accessory circumstances heedlessly thrown in at the most unsuitable places, its linking together of the most incongruous subjects, its want of clearness and precision, conveys a good idea of the style of our early prose-writers, who wrote before the language was fully formed and before the pathway to the art of English prose composition had been trodden smooth by the steps of innumerable wayfarers. With regard to the merely mechanical part of style, literary genius has not much to do: it may, in great measure, be acquired as grammar is acquired. A schoolboy would be ashamed of himself who could not express his meaning in a form less awkward and cumbrous than that used by Milton in his prose works.
The first writer of formed English” is commonly said to have been Sir John Mandeville (1300-1371), and though the general opinion of experts now is that he was not the author of the English translation of the book of “ Travels” which bears his name, thac book, whoever translated it, is the first English prose composition which deserves to be called literature. Of his own life, he says: “I, John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that was born in Englond, in the Town of Seynt Albones, passed the See in the Zeer of qur Lord Jesu Crist MCCCXXII., in the day of Seynt Michelle; and hidre to have ben longe tyme over the See, and have seyn and gon thorghe manye dyverse Londes, and many Provynces and Kingdomes, and Iles, and have passed thorghe Lybye, Caldee, and a gret partie of Tartarye, Percye, Ermonye the litylle and the grete; thorghe Ethiope ; thorghe Amazoyne, Inde the lasse and the more, a gret partie; and thorghe out many othere Iles, that ben abouten Inde; where dwellen many dyverse Folkes, and of dyverse Maneres and Lawes, and of dyverse Schappes of Men." Mandeville's “ Travels” is believed to have been translated into English in 1356, and its popularity is proved by the fact that many copies of it circulated in manuscript. It is a strange and amusing book. A good deal of what he relates, is somewhat of the Baron Munchausen order; but it is fair to say that the most extraordinary things told by the old traveller are given by him as having been stated by some one else, and not as the results of his own observation. Distant countries were then nearly as much a terra incognita to Englishmen as the mountains of the moon are to us; and ready credence was given to the most outrageous fables.
The great reformer John Wiclif (1324-1384), the stirring narrative of whose active life belongs more properly to the political than to the literary history of England, was, if tradition may be credited, a very extensive author. But it is now generally believed that his name was often made use of by other writers as a means of attracting attention to what they had to say. “Half the English religious tracts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have been assigned to him in the absence of all external, and in defiance of all internal evidence.” It is as the translator of the Bible into English that we mention Wiclif here. His version, which was finished in 1380, is a remarkable one from a literary point of view, and justifies his being called the first writer of later English prose, as Chaucer was the first writer of later English poetry. Wiclif is believed to have received some assistance in the translation
Translations of the Bible.
43 of the Old Testament; but the translation of the New Testament is thought to have been entirely the work of his own hand. His translation of the New Testament was eclipsed by that of William Tyndale (1484-1536), which is the parent of all succeeding versions. It was first published at Antwerp in 1526. “Tyndale's translation of the New Testament," says Marsh, “is the most important philological monument of the first half of the sixteenth century, perhaps I should say of the whole period between Chaucer and Shakespeare, both as an historical relic and as having more than anything else contributed to shape and fix the sacred dialect, and establish the form which the Bible must permanently assume in an English dress. The best features of the translation of 1611 are derived from the version of Tyndale, and thus thai remarkable work has exerted, directly and indirectly, a more powerful influence on the English language than any other single production between the ages of Richard II. and Queen Elizabeth." Besides the New Testament, Tyndale translated the Pentateuch, and published it in 1530. In 1536 he was martyred at Antwerp, on account of his heresy; and in the same year his version of the New Testament was for the first time published in England. The next English Bible was that issued by Miles Coverdale, who followed Tyndale closely in his translation of the New Testament published in 1535. It is from this version that the Psalms still used in the Book of Common Prayer are taken. A second edition, with the royal imprimatur, was published in 1537. Another translation, commonly called “ Matthew's Bible,” founded chiefly on the labours of Tyndale and Coverdale, appeared in the same year. It was the work of John Rogers, memorable otherwise as having been the first victim of the savage persecution of Protestants in the reign of Mary. Cranmer's Bible, the “Great Bible” as it was called, which is substantially the same as “ Mat. thew's," was published in 1539. Then came, in 1611, the “Authorised Version,” the intluence of which, even looked at from a purely literary point of view, has been incalculable. Whether the “Revised Version” issued in 1881 is destined to