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OF VOL. II.
CH A P. XVI.
HISTORICAL SKETCH, 8c.
Reign of Henry VIII.—John Skelton.
William Roy:--John Heywood.—Sir Da. vid Lindsay.- The Mourning Maiden.
HE accession of Henry VIII, could not fail to promote the progress of elegant literature in Enga land. His title to the crown was so undoubted that it left him no apprehension of a rival, and fully secured his subjects against the recurrence of those sanguinary civil wars which had so long desolated the country. He was young, handsome, accomplished, wealthy, and prodigal ; and the nobility, effectually humbled by the policy of his father, crowded round his person, with no higher ambition than that of gaining his favour and sharing his profusion, which was exhibited in free
quent tournaments, in masques, or entertainments consisting of music, dancing, gaming, banquetings, and the display of dresses at once grotesque and magnificent. All the pleasures and all the gallantry of the age were assembled at his court. The press, which had already produced complete and sumptuous editions of our best early poets, furnished an abundant supply of metrical romances, Christmas carols, and other popular compositions. Henry himself is known to have been a proficient in music, and was perhaps an occasional writer of poetry ; * and though his skill in the art be rather problematical, his taste for it is fully evinced by the almost universal practice of his courtiers. Accordingly, this reign forms a marked epocha in our poetical history.
Chaucer, as we have seen, had formed his taste upon the model of the Italian no less than of the French poets ; but the masculine beauties of Boccacio, in the Teseide and Filostrato, had excited
* The following lines are, in the Nugæ Antiqua, ascribed othis monarch; The eagle's force subdues each bird that flies.
What metal can resist the flaming fire? Doth not the sun dazzle the clearest eyes,
And melt the ice, and make the frost retire ? The hardest stones are pierced through with tools : The wisest are, with princes, made but fools.