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from his court in the month of May. | manner, on the same veilum. Love and moralities, that is, abstrac- only point which rises above the tions and affectation, were the taste of average, at least in the first poem, is the time; and so, in the time of Le- the idea of Fortune,* and the violent brur, of Esménard, at the close of vicissitudes of human life. If there contemporaneous French literature, was a philosophy at this time, this was they produced collections of didactic it. They willingly narrated horrible poems, and odes to Chloris. As for and tragic histories; gather them the monk Lydgate, he had some talent, from antiquity down to their own day Some imagination, especially in high- they were far from the trusting and toned descriptions: it was the last passionate piety which felt the hand flicker of a dying literature; gold re- of God in the government of the world; ceived a golden coating, precious stones they saw that the world went blunder were placed upon diamonds, ornaments ing here and there like a drunken man multiplied and made fantastic; as in A sad and gloomy world, amused by their dress and buildings, so in their eternal pleasures, oppressed with a style. I Look at the costumes of dull misery, which suffered and feared Henry IV. and Henry V., monstrous without consolation or hope, isolated heart-shaped or horn-shaped head- between the ancient spirit in which it dresses, long sleeves covered with ridic- had no living hope, and the modern ulous designs, the plumes, and again the spirit whose active science it ignored. oratories, armorial tombs, little gaudy Fortune, like a black smoke, hovers chapels, like conspicuous flowers under over all, and shuts out the sight of the naves of the Gothic perpendicular. heaven. They picture it as follows:When we can no more speak to the soul, we try to speak to the eyes. This is what "Her face semyng cruel and terrible And by disdayne menacing of loke, Lydgate does, nothing more. Pageants An hundred handes she had, of eche part or shows are required of him, "dis- Some of her handès lyft up men alofte, guisings" for the Company of gold- To hye estate of worldlye dignitè ; smiths; a mask before the king, a Another handè griped ful unsofte, Which cast another in grete adversite." ↑ May-entertainment for the sheriffs of London, a drama of the creation for They look upon the great unhappy the festival of Corpus Christi, a mas- ones, a captive king, a dethroned querade, a Christmas show; he gives queen, assassinated princes, noble citthe plan and furnishes the verses. In ies destroyed,‡ lamentable spectacles this matter he never runs dry; two as exhibited in Germany and France, hundred and fifty-one poems are attri- and of which there will be plenty in buted to him. Poetry thus conceived England; and they can only regard becomes a manufacture; it is composed them with a harsh resignation. Lydby the yard. Such was the judgment gate ends by reciting a commonplace of the Abbot of St. Albans, who, having of mechanical piety, by way of consogot him to translate a legend in verse, lation. The reader makes the sign of pays a hundred shillings for the whole, the cross, yawns, and goes away. In verse, writing, and illuminations, plac- fact, poetry and religion are no longer ing the three works on a level. In capable of suggesting a genuine senti fact, no more thought was required for ment. Authors copy, and copy again the one than for the others. His three Hawes § copies the House of Fame of great works, The Fall of Princes, The Chaucer, and a sort of allegorical amor. Destruction of Troy, and The Siege of ous poem, after the Roman de la Rose. Thebes, are only translations or para Barclay || translates the Mirror of Good phrases, verbose, erudite, descriptive, a kind of chivalrous processions, colored for the twentieth time, in the same
This is the title Froissart (1397) gave to his collection when presenting it to Richard II. ↑ Lebrun, 1729-1807; Esménard, 1770-1812. Lydgate, The Destruction of Troy-description of Hector's chapel. Especially read the Pageants or Solemn Entries.
* See the Vision of Fortune, a gigantic fig ure. In this painting he shows both feeling and
Manners and the Ship of Fools. Continually we meet with dull abstractions, used up and barren; it is the scholastic phase of poetry. If anywhere there is an accent of greater originality, it is in this Ship of Fools, and in Lydgate's Dance of Death, bitter buffooneries, sad gayeties, which, in the hands of artists and poets, were having their run throughout Europe. They mock at each other, grotesquely and gloomily; poor, dull, and vulgar figures, shut up in a ship, or made to dance on their tomb to the sound of a fiddle, played by a grinning skeleton. At the end of all this mouldy talk, and amid the disgust which they have conceived for each other, a clown, a tavern Triboulet,* composer of little jeering and macaronic verses, Skelton,† makes his appearance, a virulent pamphleteer, who. jumbling together French, Eng• The court fool in Victor Hugo's drama of
Le Roi s'amuse.-TR.
† Died 1529; Poet-Laureate 1489. His Beuge of Court, his Crown of Laurel, his Elegy on the Death of the Earl of Northum berland, are well written, and belong to offmal poetry.
lish, Latin phrases, with slang, and fashionable words, invented words, in termingled with short rhymes, fabri cates a sort of literary mud, with whicr he bespatters Wolsey and the bishops. Style, metre, rhyme, language, art of every kind, is at an end; beneath the vain parade of official style there is only a heap of rubbish. Yet, as he says,
"Though my rhyme be ragged,
Yf ye take welle therewithe,
It is full of political animus, sensua liveliness, English and popular instincts; it lives. It is a coarse life, still elementary, swarming with ignoble vermin, like that which appears in a great decomposing body. It is life, nevertheless, with its two great features which it is destined to display: the hatred of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is the Reformation; the return to the senses and to natural life, which is the Renaissance.
HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.
The Pagan Renaissance.
I MANNERS OF THE TIME.
FOR seventeer. centuries a deep and sad thought had weighed upon the spirit of man, first to overwhelm it, then to exalt and to weaken it, never loosing its hold throughout this long space of time. It was the idea of the weakness and decay of the human race. Greek corruption, Roman oppression, and the dissolution of the ancient world, had given rise to it; it, in its turn, had produced a stoical resignation, an epicurean indifference, Alexandrian mysticism, and the Christian hope in the kingdom of God. "The world is evil and lost, let us escape by insensibility, amazement, ecstasy.' Thus spoke the philosophers; and religion, coming after, announced, that the end was near: "Prepare, for the kingdom of God is at hand." For a thousand years universal ruin incessantly drove still deeper into their hearts this gloomy thought; and when man in the feudal state raised himself, by sheer force of courage and muscles, from the depths of final imber ility and general
misery, he discovered his thought a his work fettered by the crushing idea which, forbidding a life of nature and worldly hopes, erected into ideals the obedience of the monk and the dreams of fanatics.
It grew ever worse and worse. the natural result of such a conception, as of the miseries which engender it, and the discouragement which it gives rise to, is to do away with personal action, and to replace originality by submission. From the fourth century, gradually the dead letter was substituted for the living faith. Christians resigned themselves into the hands of the clergy, they into the hands of the Pope. Christian opinions were subor. dinated to theologians, and theologians to the Fathers. Christian faith was reduced to the accomplishment of works, ard works to the accomplishment of ceremonies. Religion, fluid during the first centuries, was now congealed into a hard crystal, and the coarse contact of the barbarians had deposited upon its surface a layer of idolatry: theocracy and the Inquisition, the monopoly of the clergy and the prohibition of the Scriptures, the worship of relics and the sale of indulgences began to appear. In place of Christianity, the church; in place or a free creed, enforced orthodoxy is
place of moral fervor, fixed religious | warmth of soul, a superabundant and practices; in place of the heart and stir- splendid imagination, reveries, visions, ring thought, outward and mechanical artists, believers, founders, creators, discipline: such are the characteristics-that is what such a form of intellect of the middle ages. Under this constraint produces; for to create we must have, thinking society had ceased to think; as had Luther and Loyola, Miche1 philosophy was turned into a text-book, Angelo and Shakspeare, an idea, not and poetry into dotage; and mankind, abstract, partial, and dry, but well deslothful and crouching, delivering up fined, finished, sensible,--a true creation their conscience and their conduct into which acts inwardly, and struggles to the hands of their priests, seemed but appear to the light. This was Europe's as puppets, fit only tor reciting a cat- grand age, and the most notable epoch echism and mumbling over beads.* of human growth. To this day we live from its sap, we only carry on its pres. sure and efforts.
At last invention makes another start; and it makes it by the efforts of the lay society, which rejected theocracy, kept the State free, and which presently discovered, or re-discovered, one after another, the industries, sciences, and arts. "All was renewed; America and the Indies were added to
the map of the world; the shape of the earth was ascertained, the system of the universe propounded, modern philology was inaugurated, the experimental sciences set on foot, art and literature shot forth like a harvest, religion was transformed: there was no province of human intelligence and action which was not refreshed and fertilized by this universal effort. It was so great, that it passed from the innovators to the laggards, and reformed Catholicism in the face of
Protestantism which it formed. It
seems as though men had suddenly opened their eyes and seen. In fact, they attain a new and superior kind of intelligence. It is the proper feature of this age, that men no longer make themselves masters of objects by bits, or isolated, or through scholastic or mechanical classifications, but as a
whole, in general and complete views, with the eager grasp of a sympathetic spirit, which being placed before a vast object, penetrates it in all its parts, tries it in all its relations, appropriates and assimilates it, impresses upon itself its living and potent image, so life-like and sc powerful, that it is fain to translate it into externals through a work of art or an action. An extraordinary
See, at Bruges, the pictures of Hemling fifteenth century). No paintings enable us to understand so well the ecclesiastical piety of the middle age, which was altogether like that of the Buddhists.
When human power is manifested so clearly and in such great works, it is no wonder if the ideal changes, It recurs, bringing with it the worship and the old pagan idea reappears. of beauty and vigor, first in Italy; for this of all other countries in Europe, is the most pagan, and the nearest France and Spain, and Flanders,* and land. How is it propagated? What even in Germany; and finally in Engrevolution of manners reunited mankind at this time, everywhere under a sentiment which they had forgotten that their condition had improved, and for fifteen hundred years? Merely the actual situation, and the creatures they felt it. The idea ever expresses of the imagination, like the concep tions of the mind, only manifest the the state of society and the degree of its welfare; there is a fixed connection between what man admires and what he is. While misery overwhelms him, while the decadence is visible, and hope shut out, he is inclined to curse his life on earth, and seek consolation in another sphere. As soon as his sufferings are alleviated, his power made manifest, his prospects brightened, he begins once more to love the present life, to be self-confident, to love and praise energy, genius, all the effective faculties which labor to procure him happiness About the twentieth year of Elizabeth's reign, the nobles gave up shield and two-handed sword for
to the ancient civilization; thence in
*Van Orley, Michel Coxcie, Franz Floris the de Vos', the Sadelers, Crispin de Pass, and the artists of Nuremberg.