History of English Literature: Part-8

in 1453 Constantinople was taken by the Turks and many Greek scholars with their manuscripts fled into Italy where they began teaching their language and literature and especially the philosophy of Plato there had been little or no knowledge of Greek in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and only a very imperfect knowledge of the Latin classics Ovid and statius were widely read and so was the late latin poet Boethius whose de consul etzioni philosophy a had been translated into english by King Alfred and by Chaucer little was known of Virgil at first hand and he was popularly supposed to have been a mighty wizard who made sundry works of enchantment at Rome such as a magic mirror and statue Caxton’s so-called translation of the Aeneid was in reality nothing but a version of a French romance based on Virgil’s epic of the Roman historians orders and moralist such as Livy Casa de Caesar Cicero and Seneca there was an almost entire ignorant as also of poets like Horace Lucretius juvenile and Catullus the gradual rediscovery of the remains of ancient art and literature which took place in the 15th century and largely in Italy worked an immense revolution in the mind of Europe manuscripts were brought out of their hiding places edited by scholars and spread abroad by means of the printing press statues were dug up and placed in museums and men became acquainted with a civilization far more mature than that of the middle age and with models of perfect workmanship in letters and the fine arts in the latter years of the 15th century a number of Englishmen learned Greek in Italy and brought it back with them to England William grossen and Thomas Lineker who would study that Florence under the refugee demetrius chowk in Dilys began teaching Greek at Oxford the former as early as 1491 a little later John Colette Dean of st. Paul’s in the founder of st. Paul’s School and his friend William Lily the grammarian and first master of st. Paul’s 1500 also studied Greek abroad Colette in Italy and Lily at Rhodes and in the city of Rome Thomas More afterwards the famous Chancellor of Henry the eighth was among the pupils of grossen and linnĂ©a at Oxford there also in 1497 came in search of the new knowledge the Dutchman Erasmus who became the foremost scholar of his time from Oxford the study spread to the sister University where the first English Grecian of his day Sir John’s in cheek who taught Cambridge and King Edward Greek became the incumbent of the new professorship founded about 1540 among his pupils were Roger Ascham already mentioned in his time st. John’s College Cambridge was the chief seat of the new learning of which Thomas Nash testifies that it was in university within itself having more candles light in it every winter morning before four of the clock than the four of the clock Bell gave strokes Greek was not introduced at the universities without violent opposition from the conservative element who were nicknamed Trojans the opposition came in part from the priests who feared that the new study would sow seeds of heresy yet many of the most devout churchmen were friends of a more liberal culture among them Thomas More whose Catholicism was undoubted and who went to the block for his religion Cardinal Wolsey who more succeeded as Chancellor was also a munificent patron of learning and founded Christchurch College at Oxford popular education at once felt the impulse of the new studies and over 20 endowed grammar schools were established in England in the first twenty years of the sixteenth century Greek became a passion even with the English ladies Asham in his schoolmaster a treatise on education published in 1570 says that Queen Elizabeth read us here now a twins are more Greek every day than some Previn dairy of this church doth read Latin in a whole week and in the same book he tells how calling once upon Lady Jane Grey at broad gate in life stitcher he found her in her chamber reading Phaeton Plutonian Greek and that with as much delight as some gentlemen would read a merry tale in bow case and when he asked her why she had not gone hunting with the rest she answered I Wis all their little sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato a sham schoolmaster as well as his earlier book talks of Phyllis a platonic dialogue and archery with quotations from the Greek and Latin classics and with that perpetual reference to the authority of antiquity on every topic that he touches which remained the fashion in all serious prose down to the time of Dryden one speedy result of the new learning was fresh translations of the scriptures into English out of the original tongues in 1525 William Tyndale printed at Cologne and worms his version of the New Testament from the Greek ten years later Miles Coverdale made at Zurich a translation of the whole Bible from the German and the Latin these were the basis of numerous later translations and the strong beautiful English of Tindall’s Testament is preserved for the most part in our authorized version at first it was not safe to make or distribute these early translations in England numbers of copies were brought into the country however and did much to promote the cause of the Reformation after Henry the eighth’s had broken with the Pope the new English Bible circulated freely among the people Tyndall and Sir Thomas More carried on a vigorous controversy in English upon some of the questions at issue between the church and the Protestants other important contributions to the literature of the Reformation where the homily sermons preached at Westminster and at Paul’s cross by Bishop Hugh Latimer who was burned at Oxford in the reign of Bloody Mary the English Book of Common Prayer was compiled in 1549 252 Moore was perhaps the best representative of a group of scholars who wished to enlighten and reform the church from inside but who refused to follow Henry the eighth’s in his breach with Rome Dean collet and John Fisher Bishop of Rochester belonged to the same company and Fisher was beheaded in the same year with more and for the same offense namely refusing to take the oath to maintain the act confirming the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage with Anne Boleyn Morris philosophy is best reflected in his utopia the description of an ideal Commonwealth modeled on Plato’s Republic and printed in 1516 the name signifies no place Otto posed and has furnished an adjective to the language the utopia was in Latin but mores history of Edward v and Richard the third written in 1513 though not till 1557 was in english it is the first example in the tongue of a history as distinguished from a chronicle that is it is a reason and artistic presentation of an historic period and not a mere chronological narrative of events the first three quarters of the sixteenth century produced no great original work of literature in England it was a season of preparation of Education the storms of the Reformation interrupted and delayed the literary Renaissance through the reigns of Henry the eighth’s Edward the 6th and Queen Mary when Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 a more settled order of things began and a period of great national prosperity and glory meanwhile the English mind had slowly been assimilating the new classical culture which was extended to all classes of readers by the numerous translations of Greek and Latin authors afresh poetic impulse came from Italy in 1557 appeared toddles miscellany containing songs and sonnets by a new company of courtly makers most of the pieces in the volume had been written years before by gentlemen of Henry the eighth’s court and circulated in manuscript the two chief contributors were Sir Thomas Wyatt at one time English ambassador to Spain and that brilliant noble Henry Howard the Earl of Surrey who was beheaded in 1547 for quartering the Kings arms with his own both of them were dead long before their work was printed the pieces entitled miscellany show very clearly the influence of Italian poetry we have seen that Chaucer took subjects and something more from boccaccio and Petrarch but the sonnet which Petrarch had brought to great perfection was first introduced into England by Wyatt there was a great revival of sonnet earing in Italy in the 16th century and a number of Wyatt’s poems were adaptations of the sonnets and Ken Soni of Petrarch and later poets others were imitations of Horace’s satires and epistles Suri introduced the Italian blank verse into English in his translation of two books of the Aeneid the love poetry of toddles miscellany is polished and artificial like the models which followed Dante’s Beatrice was a child and so was Petrarch flora following their example Suri dressed his love complaints by way of compliment to a little girl of the noble Irish family of Geraldine the Emirates or love sonnet ears dwelt on the metaphysics of the passion with a tedious mind Newton as’ and the conventional nature of their size and complaints may often be guessed by an experienced reader from the titles of their poems description of the Restless state of a lover would suit to his lady to Rouen his dying heart hell torment if not the damned ghost so sore as unkindness the lover the lover Prayuth not to be disdained refused mistrusted nor forsaken etc the most genuine utterance of Surrey was his poem written while imprisoned in Windsor a cage where so many a songbird has grown vocal and why it’s little piece of eight lines of his return from Spain is worth reams of his amatory affections nevertheless the writers in paddles miscellany were real reformers of english poetry they introduced new models of style and new metrical forms and they broke away from the medieval traditions which had hitherto obtained the language had undergone some changes since Jaws time which made his scansion obsolete the accent of many words of French origin like nature courage virtue matterr had shifted to the first syllable and the e of the final syllables s and E D and s had largely disappeared but the language of poetry tends to keep up RK isms of this kind and in Stephen Hawes who wrote a century after Chaucer we still find such lines as these but he maestro cos might write well endure he was so great and huge of Hassan’s pauses practices variable in this respect and so is his contemporary skeletons but in Wyatt and Surrey who wrote only a few years later the reader first feels sure that he is reading verse pronounced quite in the modern fashion but Chaucer’s example still continued potent Spencer revived many of his obsolete words both in past roles and in his fairy queen thereby imparting an antique remoteness to his diction but incurring Ben Jonson censure that he written no language a poem that stands midway between Spencer and late medieval work of Chaucer’s school such as Hawes pastime of pleasure was the induction contributed by Thomas Sackville Lord buck Hearst in 1563 to a collection of narrative poems called the mirror for magistrates the whole series was the work of many hands modeled upon lid gates falls of princes taken from Boccaccio and was designed as a warning to great men of the fickleness of fortune the induction is the only noteworthy part of it it was an allegory written in Chaucer seven line stanza and described with a somber imaginative power the figure of sorrow her abode in the Greasley Lake of a furnace and her attendants remorse dread old age etc Sackville was the author of the first regular English tragedy garbage oak and it was at his request that a sham wrote the schoolmaster you

 

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