Billeder på siden

metrical, whether accidentally or purposely: but neither in the language of poetry nor in the modulation of it, nor in the choice of images, is he to be placed in competition with Surrey; nor has he any great claims of superiority over his poetical predecessors.

His poems consist of sonnets, odes, songs, and epigrams, a versification of the seven penitential psalms, and some satires. The few forms in which they have hitherto appeared may be considered as an argument against their popularity in any age. Most of the poems printed in the present edition have been given from early MSS., from which sources many bare been added that had never before appeared in print; and the text of the others has been considerably amended. The most important of these MSS. was one that was known by the name of its possessor Dr. Harington of Bath, now deceased; the history of which is curious.

"The MS. came early into the possession of the Harington family. They have had it certainly from the time of Queen Elizabeth, as is proved by the hand-writing of Sir John Harington, which occurs frequently in it. Its condition is not as good as might have been reasonably expected. Many leaves have been torn away, particularly the title-page, of which enough remains to make us regret that the whole was not preserved. Nor is this the only injury the MS. has sustained. It was made a waste-paper book by Mr. Harington, who in the time of the rebellion was much attached to the republican party. Mr. Harington was a pious man and a biblical scholar: he had moreover a turn for mathematics. Unfortunately, he was likewise a lawyer, a justice of the peace, and a rigid economist. To make room therefore for his diagrams, and family receipts; his abstracts of sermons heard, his notices of justice meetings attended, and his “heads of charges to be delivered at sessions,” he has not only written unmercifully over whole pages of Wyatt's poetry, without the least regard to rhyme or reason; but has in many instances studiously crossed out the lines, that they might not obtrude themselves upon profounder speculations. Luckily Wyatt's ink was better than Mr. Harington's; and therefore the original writing may yet be traced through the dim veil thrown over it, by the laborious and thrifty justice.'

The two of next importance are in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire and Lord Calthorpe. From the former manuscript, several pieces have been taken, which had not previously been published, but which have many arguments in favour of their true filiation ; though some of them are much more harmonious (and clearly metrical) than the majority of those which have been long recognized as Sir T. Wyatt's productions. D d 4

« The


[ocr errors]

The Lover's Lute cannot be blamed though it sing of his Lady's

• Blame not my lute! for he must sound

Of this or that as liketh me;
For lack of wit the lute is bound

To give such tunes as pleaseth me;
Though my songs be somewhat strange
And speak such words as touch thy change,

Blame not my

lute !
My lute! alas ! doth not offend,

Though that perforce he must agree
To sound such tunes as I intend,

To sing to them that heareth me;
Then though my song be somewhat plain,
And toucheth some that use to feign,

Blame not my lute!
My lute and strings may not deny,

But as I strike they must obey;
Break not them then so wrongfully,

But wreak thyself some other way ;
And though the songs which I indite,
Do quit thy change with rightful spite,

Blame not my lute!
• Spite asketh spite, and changing change,

And falsed faith must needs be known;
The faults so great, the case so strange ;

Of right it must abroad be blown :
Then since that by thine own desert
My songs do tell how true thou art,


Blame not my lute!
Blame but thyself that hast misdone,

And well deserved to have blame;
Change thou thy way, so evil begone,

And then my lute shall sound that same :
But if 'till then my fingers play,
By thy desert their wonted way;

Blame not my lute!
• Farewell! unknown; for though thou break

My strings in spite with great disdain,
Yet have I found out for thy sake,

Strings for to string my lute again :
And if perchance this sely rhyme,
Do make thee blush, at any time,

lute ! This is one of the most favourable specimens, and in many parts it undoubtedly approaches very near to the manner and versification of Surrey. It was probably, in company with

Blame not my


some others, written at a time when that nobleman had begun to have some influence over the taste of the


Yet it must be allowed that Wyatt generally has more metrical lines than Chaucer. Of the lighter pieces, we select the Riddle of a Gift given by a Lady:" but we confess that it is somewhat abstruse;

and we beg to observe that we will not trouble oar readers to forward their solutions to us.

A Riddle of a Gift given by a Lady,
• A lady gave me a gift she had not ;
And I received her gift I took not;
She gave it me willingly, and yet she would not ;
And I received it, albeit I could not.
If she give it me, I force not;
And if she take it again, she cares not ;
Construe what this is, and tell not;

For I am fast sworn, I may not.' Altogether, the satires have, perhaps, the most merit, though their claims to originality are but scanty; at which we are the more surprized, when we recollect that a very keen observation of men and manners was one of the most prominent faculties of the author's mind. They are also deficient in harmony: but the succession of images is natural and pleasing

Whatever may be the comparative merits of Sir Thomas Wyatt as a poet, he claims a decïded superiority as a prosewriter over most of his cotemporaries. His official correspondence, on which we have already made some cursory remarks, presents a lively picture of the penetrating mind of the writer, as well as of the general politics of the age in which he lived; and it contains much matter for the biographer of princes, and for the general historian of the early half of the sixteenth century. Two letters of parental advice to his son, at the age of fifteen, are preserved; which are not, perhaps, sufficiently minute in point of precept for a youth of those years: but, as compositions full of sound sense, delivered in plain yet frequently dignified language, they challenge no inconsiderable degree of praise, and have much less quaintness of expression than we might have very naturally expected. * Read oft this my letter,' says he to his son, and it shall be as though I had often written to you; and think that I have herein printed a fatherly affection to you. If I may see that I have not lost my pain, mine shall be the contentation and yours the profit: and upon condition that you follow my advertisement, I send you God's blessing and mine, as well to come to honesty, as to increase of years.'

His • Oration,' spoken before the judges, after his indictment and the evidence had been produced against him, adds to the common merits of his style the praise of close reasoning and eloquent appeal: but it is too much connected in its several parts to admit of any insulated passage being cited with effect. The succeeding extract paints its writer to the life, as well in his mode of discharging the duties of his public capacity as in his general shrewdness in conversation; and, in point of simplicity and perspicuity, it might form no bad model for the rounders of periods in modern diplomacy. The letter from which it is taken is addressed to Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, and details the circumstances of an interview with the Emperor, Charles V. Sir Thomas Wyatt relates the execution of some other commissions, and then proceeds thus:

' After this, shewing countenance of willing to take my leave, asking if his Majesty would command me any other thing, and whether there were any thing of his news that he would participate with the King his brother, he said there was none other, bus that he had sent offer and parties to the most Christian King, whereunto he had made him answer, and that so it seemeth the things go in long. This was something after the manner, moving his head ; and by cause I perceived I should have of him but such generality, I spake not with him in that matter. “ And of the things of Cleves, Sir," quoth I. “ As ye see, Mons. Embassadeur,” quoth he. " By my truth, Sir," quoth I, “ for that in those matters I never had word from the King my Master since I wrote him your answer, I take it that he takes himself for resolutely answered in that request; but I would have wished that he might have found more facility in your Majesty; and I suppose ye should have found him as meet a man for your purpose as any other both for his friendship with you and alliance with him. And although I doubt not that he would be glad that betwixt you and his brother in law there should be good conclusion; yet when he shall know that, that is commonly spoken here, that in that means other are put in trust and he refused, it may minister unto him matter of evil interpretation.” “ I promise you,” quoth he, “ Mons. l’Embassadeur, I never used any means in the matter, nor never made other answer to any man but such as I made unto you.

It is true that my brother hath spoken unto me therein, and the Duke of Brunswick, that would needs go unto him; but I assure you there is no other mean but that likewise I would the King your master should have persuaded him to do as he ought to do, and he shall find me bis good neighbour, Cousin, and his good Emperor, for he is subject to the empire. I have forborne much time, and now the year is well forward, to see if he would come to reason."

“Sir," quoth I,“ I understand that he hath alway offered to stand in justice." " Who shall be,” quoth he, “ the justice, Mons. l'Embassadeur ? it is I that must be in that case. it be so, Sir," quoth I; "yet what particularly mean you by that,


[ocr errors]

6 Let

- Yes

Ye would have him do as he ought to do? It must be by order of law to try his title.” He wagged his head, “ No, no," quoth he, " there is no title.” " At least, Sir," quoth I," he pretendeth a title which he offereth to put at trial.” “ What," quoth he, " and usurp the possession ? let him therein do the law as he ought to do, and relinquish the possession which yet is no possession." Sir,” quoth I, “I know not the law.”

marry do ye," quoth he, and laughed. “ Nay, in good faith, Sir," quoth I, . I am no legist.” “ Well,” quoth he, “ I have learned so far." “ But me thinketh, Sir,” quoth I, “ that Mons. de Cleves, if he should have no more confidence in your equity than in his own power, should be but evil councelled to relinquish his possession." He must look," quoth he, “ at his superior hands for justice by order of law and not by constraint."

“ Sir," quoth I, " in this purpose I have no commission, nor will not detain your Majesty in pleading of that I cannot skill of.” Thus with good and gentle passions we parted friends.'

With this quotation we take leave of Sir Thomas Wyatt. To the editor we consider ourselves as under very great obligations : but more, perhaps, for the insight which he has given us into the literary character of the reign of Henry VIII. than for the republication of the poems of either Surrey or Wyatt. We suspect that these, even in their present inviting form, will still be sparingly read, and those of Wyatt very little indeed: but we trust that the information, which has been applied to illustrate them, will long remain entertaining and instructive in perusal, and highly useful in reference.

It is not that the path trodden by Dr. Nott has hitherto been either unknown or overlooked; for others have also improved the access to it: but it would be difficult to mention


labourer in it who has cleared away more of the obstructions than the present editor,

It never would have occurred to us to have objected to any person in holy orders, that he had a passion for polite literature or poetry; or that his editorial labours in those walks of human taste and learning were incompatible with the duties of his profession, serious as the latter undoubtedly are. Yet some such objections, from whatever quarter, seem to have been anticipated by Dr. Nott; or we can assign no reason for a laboured justification of such pursuits in clergymen, which appears in the preface to this second volume. The warmth with which the Doctor eulogizes the exertions of churchmen in the concerns of general literature, and in departments wholly unconnected with their professional studies, has, perhaps, in one instance led him rather beyond the bounds of moderation. When he speaks of the higher degree of purity in our literature, compared with that of the other nations in


« ForrigeFortsæt »