Изображения страниц

how ye shulen behave you in gathering of your riches, and in what manner ye shulen usen 'em.

First, ye shulen geten 'em withouten great desire, by good leisure, sokingly, and not over hastily, for a man that is too desiring to get riches abandoneth him first to theft and to all other evils; and therefore saith Solomon, He that hasteth him too busily to wax rich, he shall be non innocent: he saith also, that the riches that hastily cometh to a man, soon and lightly goeth and passeth from a man, but that riches that cometh little and little, waxeth alway and multiplieth. And, sir, ye shulen get riches by your wit and by your travail, unto your profit, and that withouten wrong or harm doing to any other person; for the law saith, There maketh no man himself rich, if he do harm to another wight; that is to say, that Nature defendeth and forbiddeth by right, that no man make himself rich unto the harm of another person. And Tullius saith, That no sorrow, ne no dread of death, ne nothing that may fall unto a man, is so muckle agains nature as a man to increase his own profit to harm of another man. And though the great men and the mighty men geten riches more lightly than thou, yet shalt thou not ben idle ne slow to do thy profit, for thou shalt in all wise flee idleness; for Solomon saith, That idleness teacheth a man to do many evils; and the same Solomon saith, That he that travaileth and busieth himself to tillen his lond, shall eat bread, but he that is idle, and casteth him to no business ne ocsim-cupation, shall fall into poverty, and die for hunger. And he that is idle and slow can never find covenable time for to do his profit; for there is a versifier saith, that the idle man excuseth him in winter because of the great cold, and in summer then by encheson of the heat. For these causes, saith Caton, waketh and inclineth you not over muckle to sleep, for over muckle rest nourisheth and causeth many vices; and therefore saith St Jerome, Doeth some good deeds, that the devil, which is our enemy, ne find you not unoccupied, for the devil he taketh not lightly unto his werking such as he findeth occupied in good works.

Then thus in getting riches ye musten flee idleness; and afterward ye shulen usen the riches which ye han geten by your wit and by your travail, in such manner, than men hold you not too scarce, ne too sparing, ne fool-large, that is to say, over large a spender; for right as men blamen an avaritious man because of his scarcity and chinchery, in the same wise he is to blame that spendeth over largely; and therefore saith Caton, use (he saith) the riches that thou hast ygeten in such manner, that men have no matter ne cause to call thee nother wretch ne chinch, for it is a great shame to a man to have a poor heart and a rich purse: he saith also, The goods that thou hast ygeten, use 'em by measure, that is to sayen, spend measureably, for they that solily wasten and despenden the goods that they han, when they han no more proper of 'eir own, that they shapen 'em to take the goods of another man. I say, then, that ye shulen flee avarice, using your riches in such manner, that men sayen not that your riches ben yburied, but that ye have 'em in your might and in your wielding; for a wise man reproveth the avaritious man, and saith thus in two verse, Whereto and why burieth a man his goods by his great avarice, and knoweth well that needs must he die, for death is the end of every man as in this present life! And for what cause or encheson joineth he him, or knitteth he him so fast unto his goods, that all his wits mowen not disseveren him or departen him fro his goods, and knoweth well, or ought to know, that when he is dead he shall nothing bear with him out of this world and therefore saith St Augustine, that the avaritious man is likened unto hell, that the more it swalloweth the more desire it hath to swallow and devour. And as well as ye wold eschew to be

were so many, and the bodies all whole withouten rotting. But I trow that fiends made them seem to be so whole, withouten rotting. But that might not be to my avys, that so many should have entered so newly, ne so many newly slain, without stinking and rotting. And many of them were in habit of Christian men but I trowe well, that it were of such that went in for covetyse2 of the treasure that was there, and had overmuch feebleness in faith; so that their hearts ne might not endure in the belief for dread. And therefore were we the more devout a great deal; and yet we were cast down, and beaten down many times to the hard earth, by winds and thunders, and tempests; but evermere, God, of his grace, helped us. And so we passed that perilous vale, without peril, and without incumbrance. Thanked be Almighty God.


CHAUCER, though eminent chiefly as a poet, deserves to be mentioned also as a prose writer. His longest unversified production is an allegorical and meditative work called The Testament of Love, written chiefly for the purpose of defending his character against certain imputations which had been cast upon it. Two of the Canterbury Tales are in prose; and from the first, entitled the Tale of Melibeus, is extracted the following passage, not less remarkable for the great amount of ancient wisdom which it contains, than for the clearness and plicity of the diction:

[On Riches.]

When Prudence had heard her husband araunt himself of his riches and of his money, dispreising the power of his adversaries, she spake and said in this wise: Certes, dear sir, I grant you that ye ben rich and mighty, and that riches ben good to 'em that han well ygetten 'em, and that well can usen 'em; for, right as the body of a man may not liven withouten soul, no more may it liven withouten temporal goods, and by riches may a man get him great friends; and therefore saith Pamphilus, If a neatherd's daughter be rich, she may chese of a thousand men which she wol take to her husband; for of a thousand men one wol not forsaken her ne refusen her. And this Pamphilus saith also, If thou be right happy, that is to sayn, if thou be right rich, thou shalt find a great number of fellows and friends; and if thy fortune change, that thou wax poor, farewell friendship and fellowship, for thou shalt be all alone withouten any company, but if it be the company of poor folk. And yet saith this Pamphilus, moreover, that they that ben bond and thrall of liniage shuln be made worthy and noble by riches. And right so as by riches there comen many goods, right so by poverty come there many harms and evils; and therefore clepeth Cassiodore, poverty the mother of ruin, that is to sayn, the mother of overthrowing or falling down; and therefore saith Piers Alfonse, One of the greatest adversities of the world is when a free man by kind, or of birth, is constrained by poverty to eaten the alms of his enemy. And the same saith Innocent in one of his books; he saith that sorrowful and mishappy is the condition of a poor beggar, for if he ax not his meat he dieth of hunger, and if he ax he dieth for shame; and algates necessity constraineth him to ax; and therefore saith Solomon, That better it is to die than for to have such poverty; and, as the same Solomon saith, Better it is to die of bitter death, than for to liven in such wise. By these reasons that I have said unto you, and by many other reasons that I could say, I grant you that riches ben good to 'em that well geten 'em, and to him that well usen tho' riches; and therefore wol I show you Except.

1 Advice, understanding.

3 Covetousness.


Wickliffe's translation of the New Testament has been twice printed, by Mr Lewis in 1731, and Mr Baber in 1810. His version of the Old Testament still remains in manuscript; I

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


FROM 1400

cree of the Council of Constance, his bones were disinterred and burnt, and the ashes thrown into a brook. "This brook,' says Fuller, the church historian, in a passage which brings quaintness to the borders of sublimity, hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean: and thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which is now dispersed all the world over.'

As a specimen of the language of Wickliffe, his translation of that portion of Scripture which contains the Magnificat, may be presented

[The Magnificat.]

And Marye seyde, My soul magnifieth the Lord.
And my spiryt hath gladid in God myn helthe.

[blocks in formation]

Second Period.

FROM 1400 TO 1558.

walking in the adjacent garden. This lady, a daughter of the Earl of Somerset, was afterwards married HILE such to the young king, whom she accompanied to Scotminds as Chaucer's take shape, in

some meas


ure, from the
state of learn-
ing and civili-
sation which
may prevail in
their time, it
is very clear
that they are
never altoge-

ther created or brought into exercise by such cir-
cumstances. The rise of such men is the accident
of nature, and whole ages may pass without produc-
ing them. From the death of Chaucer in 1400,
nearly two hundred years elapsed in England, before
any poet comparable to him arose, and yet those
two centuries were more enlightened than the times
of Chaucer. This long period, however, produced
several poets not destitute of merit.


Among these was JAMES I. of Scotland, whose mind and its productions, notwithstanding his being a native of that country, must be considered as of English growth. James had been taken prisoner in his boyhood by Henry IV. of England, and spent the nineteen years preceding 1424 in that country, where he was instructed in all the learning and polite accomplishments of the age, and appears, in particular, to have carefully studied the writings of Chaucer. The only certain production of this young sovereign is a long poem, called The King's Quhair, or Book, in which he describes the circumstances of an attachment which he formed, while a prisoner in Windsor Castle, to a young English princess whom he saw

James I. of Scotland.

land. While in possession of his kingdom, he is said to have written several poems descriptive of humorous rustic scenes; but these cannot be certainly traced to him. He was assassinated at Perth in the year 1437, aged forty-two.

The King's Quhair contains poetry superior to

any besides that of Chaucer, produced in England | Of her array the form if I shall write,
before the reign of Elizabeth-as will be testified by Towards her golden hair and rich attire,
the following verses :-
In fretwise couchit! with pearlis white
And great balas leaming as the fire,
With mony ane emeraut and fair sapphire;
And on her head a chaplet fresh of hue,
Of plumis parted red, and white, and blue.

[James I., a Prisoner in Windsor, first sees Lady Jane Beaufort, who afterwards was his Queen.]

Bewailing in my chamber, thus alone,
Despaired of all joy and remedy,
For-tired of my thought, and woe-begone,
And to the window gan I walk in hyl

To see the world and folk that went forbye, 2
As, for the time, though I of mirthis food
Might have no more, to look it did me good.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Full of quaking spangis bright as gold,
Forged of shape like to the amorets,
So new, so fresh, so pleasant to behold,
The plumis eke like to the flower jonets,4
And other of shape, like to the flower jonets;
And above all this, there was, well I wot,
Beauty enough to make a world to doat.

About her neck, white as the fire amail,5
A goodly chain of small orfevory,6
Whereby there hung a ruby, without fail,
Like to ane heart shapen verily,
That as a spark of low,7 so wantonly
Seemed burning upon her white throat,
Now if there was good party,8 God it wot.
And for to walk that fresh May's morrow,
Ane hook she had upon her tissue white,
That goodlier had not been seen to-forow,9
As I suppose; and girt she was alite,10
Thus halflings loose for haste, to such delight
It was to see her youth in goodlihede,
That for rudeness to speak thereof I dread.

[blocks in formation]


JOHN THE CHAPLAIN, THOMAS OCCLEVE, a lawyer, and JOHN LYDGATE, were the chief immediate followers of Chaucer and Gower. The performances of the two first are of little account. Lydgate, who was a monk of Bury, flourished about the year 1430. His poetical compositions range over a great variety of styles. His muse,' says Warton, was of universal access; and he was not only the poet of the monastery, but of the world in general. If a disguising was intended by the company of goldsmiths, a mask before his majesty at Eltham, a Maygame for the sheriffs and aldermen of London, a mumming before the Lord Mayor, a procession of pageants from the Creation for the festival of Corpus Christi, or a carol for the Coronation, Lydgate was consulted, and gave the poetry.' The principal works of this versatile writer are entitled, The History of Thebes, The Fall of Princes, and The Destruction of Troy. He had travelled in France and Italy, and studied the poetry of those countries; and though his own writ

[blocks in formation]

One bade me buy a hood to cover my head;
But, for want of money, I might not be sped.
Then I hied me unto East-Cheap,

ings contain only a few good passages, he is allowed
to have improved the poetical language of the coun-
try. He at one time kept a school in his monastery,
for the instruction of young persons of the upper
ranks in the art of versification; a fact which proves
that poetry had become a favourite study among the
few who acquired any tincture of letters in that age.

One cries ribs of beef, and many a pie ;
Pewter pots they clattered on a heap;

There was harp, pipe, and minstrelsy;
Yea by cock! nay by cock! some began cry;

In the words of Mr Warton, "there is great soft-Some sung of Jenkin and Julian for their meed;
ness and facility" in the following passage of Lyd- But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
gate's Destruction of Troy :-
Then into Cornhill anon I yode,

Where was much stolen gear among ;
I saw where hung mine owne hood,
That I had lost among the throng;
To buy my own hood I thought it wrong:
I knew it well, as I did my creed;
But, for lack of money, I could not speed.
The taverner took me by the sleeve,

'Sir,' saith he,' will you our wine assay?"
I answered, That can not much me grieve,
A penny can do no more than it may;
I drank a pint, and for it did pay;
Yet, sore a-hungered from thence I yede,
And, wanting money, I could not speed, &c.

[Description of a Sylvan Retreat.]

Till at the last, among the bowes glade,
Of adventure, I caught a pleasant shade;
Full smooth, and plain, and lusty for to seen,
And soft as velvet was the yonge green:
Where from my horse I did alight as fast,
And on the bow aloft his reine cast.
So faint and mate of weariness I was,
That I me laid adown upon the grass,
Upon a brinke, shortly for to tell,
Beside the river of a crystal well;
And the water, as I reherse can,
Like quicke silver in his streams y-ran,
Of which the gravel and the brighte stone,
As any gold, against the sun y-shone.

A fugitive poem of Lydgate, called the London Lyckpenny, is curious for the particulars it gives respecting the city of London in the early part of the fifteenth century. The poet has come to town in search of legal redress for some wrong, and visits, in succession, the King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, the Court of Chancery, and Westminster Hall.

The London Lyckpenny. Within the hall, neither rich, nor yet poor

Would do for me ought, although I should die :
Which seeing, I gat me out of the door,

Where Flemings began on me for to cry,
'Master, what will you copen' or buy?
Fine felt hats? or spectacles to read?
Lay down your silver, and here you may speed.'
Then to Westminster gate I presently went,
When the sun was at high prime:
Cooks to me they took good intent, 2

And proffered me bread, with ale, and wine,
Ribs of beef, both fat and full fine;
A fair cloth they gan for to spread,
But, wanting money, I might not be sped.
Then unto London I did me hie,

Of all the land it beareth the price; 'Hot peascods!' one began to cry,

'Strawberry ripe, and cherries in the rise !'3
One bade me come near and buy some spice;
Pepper, and saffron they gan me beed 4
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Then to the Cheap I gan me drawn,

Where much people I saw for to stand;
One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn,

Another he taketh me by the hand,
'Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land!'
I never was used to such things, indeed;
And, wanting money, I might not speed.
Then went I forth by London Stone,5
Throughout all Canwick Street:
Drapers much cloth me offered anon;

Then comes me one cried hot sheep's feet;'
One cried mackerel, rushes green, another gan greet,6

The reigns of Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VIL, extending between the years 1461 and 1509, were barren of true poetry, though there was no lack of obscure versifiers. It is remarkable, that this period produced in Scotland a race of genuine poets, who, in the words of Mr Warton, 'displayed a degree of sentiment and spirit, a command of phraseology, and a fertility of imagination, not to be found in any English poet since Chaucer and Lydgate.' Perhaps the explanation of this seeming mystery is, that the influences which operated upon Chaucer a century before, were only now coming with their full force upon the less favourably situated nation which dwelt north of the Tweed. Overlooking some obscurer names, those of Henryson, Dunbar, and Douglas, are to be mentioned with peculiar respect.


Of this poet there are no personal memorials, except that he was a schoolmaster at Dunfermline, and died some time before 1508. His principal poem is The Testament of Cresseid, being a sequel to Chaucer's romantic poem, Troylus and Cresseide. He wrote a series of fables, thirteen in number, and some miscellaneous poems, chiefly of a moral character. One of his fables is the common story of the Town Mouse and Country Mouse, which he treats with much humour and characteristic description, and concludes with a beautifully expressed moral.



[Dinner given by the Town Mouse to the Country Mouse.]
their harboury was tane
Intill a spence, where victual was plenty,
Baith cheese and butter on lang shelves richt hie,
With fish and flesh enough, baith fresh and salt,
And pockis full of groats, baith meal and malt.
After, when they disposit were to dine,
Withouten grace they wuish' and went to meat,
On every dish that cookmen can divine,
Mutton and beef stricken out in telyies grit ;
Ane lordis fare thus can they counterfeit,
Except ane thing-they drank the water clear
Instead of wine, but yet they made gude cheer.
With blyth upcast and merry countenance,
The elder sister then spier'd at her guest,
Gif that sho thoucht reason difference
Betwixt that chalmer and her sairy? nest.


Yea, dame,' quoth sho, but how lang will this last?"

1 Koopen, (Flem.) is to buy. 2 Took notice; paid attention. 4 Offer. On the twig. 5 A fragment of London stone is still preserved in Cannon Street, formerly 6 Cry. called Canwick, or Candlewick Street.

1 Washed.

9 Sorry.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »