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and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues; the princes and cities trooping apace to the new-erected banner of salvation; the martyrs, with the unresistible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon.
Those who, in reading the lives of the reformers, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, and Knox, hold that Cranmer was less consistent than these, would do well to remember that Henry VIII. was a very different potentate to any other the reformers had to contend with — a tyrant with sufficient learning to make him subtle and dangerous. His idea of a reformation was putting down the pope and setting up himself. He was for the people reading the Scriptures if that led them to ignore the pope's supremacy, and to despise monkery; but if that same reading led them to perceive that king Henry's life was wrong, why then he took the Bible from them, as a dangerous book, unfit for their perusal. He devised doctrinal works for the people that were to supersede the Bible. One of these was entitled, “ Articles devised by the King's Highness to stablish Quietness and Unity, and to avoid contentious Opinions ;” another, “ A necessary Doctrine and Erudicion for any Christian Man, set forth by the King's Majesty of England.”
“ Henry the Eight by the grace of God Kynge of Englande, France, and Irelande, Defendour of the Faythe, and in earthe of the churche of Englande, and also of Irelande, supreme head; unto all his faythfull and lovyng subiectes sendeth greetyng.” Then follows a preface of six pages, because the humble and holy Harry “perceivyng that in the tyme of knowledge, the devyll (who ceasseth not in all tymes to vexe the worlde) hath attented to return ageyn, (as the parable in the gospel shewith) into the hous purged and clensed, accompanied with seven worse spirites, and hypocrisie and superstition beinge excluded and put away, we fynd entered into some of our peoples hartes an inclination to sinister under standynge of scripture, presumption, arrogancye, carnall libertie, and contention; we be therefore constrained for the reformation of theym in tyme, and for advoiding of such diversitie in opinions as by the said evill spirites might be ingendred to set furth with thadvise of our clergie such a doctrine and declaration of the true knowlage of God and his worde, with the principall articles of our relygion, as wherby all men may uniformely be ledde and taught the true understandyng of that, which is necessary for every christen man to know, for the orderyng of himselfe in this lyfe agreeably to the will and plesure of Almighty God.”
Meanwhile we know that books and tracts, explaining the principles of the reformers, got into circulation. Poor Anne Bullen, as yet a merry
maiden in her father's house --Hever Castle, was
fond of reading them. Anne Askew, as we have
. before stated, in her happy studious girlhood, at Kelsay, in Lincolnshire, with a deeper feeling of their truth, was engaged in a similar perusal. And in Kent there was another young girl, Joan Boucher, who was an inquirer after religious truth; and if she did not succeed very clearly in explaining to others what her sentiments really were, yet evidently she trusted in Christ and not in priests; and if she could not learnedly dispute for her religion, she was willing to die for it;which she did, three years after the martyrdom of Anne Askew. No facts are more significant of the spread of a spirit of inquiry, than that, in the castle of the nobleman, and the remote house of the country gentleman, the young female members of the household should be seeking diligently after books, and studying the writings of the learned men of the time.
The pulpit in many places helped this spirit of inquiry. The voice of Latimer had sounded in the ears of thousands —nay more, had carried truth into the inmost recesses of many
hearts. The persecuting spirit of Henry is manifest not only in reference to those who differed from him in religion, but to all who aroused his suspicion or his envy. Hence the fate of the accomplished Earl of Surrey will add, if any thing can add, to
the opprobrium of his name. This young nobleman, disliking, probably, the polemics of the times, and with an ardent love of poetry and the fine arts, visited the land where he could most successfully gratify his taste — Italy. His residence there was an annoyance to the king, who detested the Italians; and when, on his return to his native land, he brought some Italians with him, the king believed they came as spies, employed by his enemy, Cardinal Pole. The earl's relationship to Catherine Howard, the king's frail wife, was another offence; and probably the accomplishments which made Surrey the idol of the young and gay stimulated Henry's dislike. He pretended that Surrey aspired to the hand of the Princess Mary, and on that and other frivolous charges, brought this gifted young nobleman to the block.
The Earl of Surrey introduced blank verse into our poetic literature; though he most admired the sonnet, and transplanted that graceful exotic from Italy to our comparatively rugged clime. The Italians have a passionate admiration of this little poem, that requires a thought to be expressed in fourteen lines. But it was long considered that a sonnet on the Italian model was unsuited to the genius of our language. Even Shakspeare seemed to feel the difficulty of the numerous rhymes, and his sonnets are constructed on the plan of three four-line verses of alternate rhymes, ending with a couplet. Milton's sonnets are perfect in structure.
The modern poets, male and female, have carried this kind of composition to a very high degree of perfection.
A romantic history attaches to the Earl of Surrey. He was called the English Petrarch, chiefly because he celebrated the fair Geraldine in his sonnets, as Petrarch had celebrated his Laura. There was an air of mystery, however, thrown over this attachment; but modern research has discovered that the fair Geraldine was the Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, afterwards the wife of the Earl of Lincoln.
Besides his sonnets, the Earl of Surrey translated the second book of Virgil's Æneid into blank verse, and gave a version of the Ecclesiastes.
His poetical paraphrase of the 73rd Psalm is interesting as being one of the earliest specimens of metrical rendering of the Scriptures : we subjoin a few stanzas.
Quam bonus Israel, Deus. - Psalm lxxii.
Thoughe, Lord, to Israell
Thy graces plenteous be,
As fix their trust in The;
That shold have been my guyde,