Lapas attēli

formal imitation of a poor classical model far behind, but Ferrex and Porrex was creditable, nevertheless, as a first attempt, and it was especially important because it set the fashion of using blank verse in plays, a fashion which the coming dramatists were to follow with great results.

Ferrex and Porrex marks a step forward in the progress of the English drama, but Sackville's contributions to a long poem called The Mirror for Magistrates, have a distinct merit quite apart from their effect on the history of English poetry. This work (which Sackville is supposed to have planned about 1557) was intended to be a mirror in which magistrates, that is the great in this world, could see by the example of those who had fallen from power how insecure worldly prosperity is, and how those in high places are brought low. Sackville's contribution to the poem consisted of a general preface, or Induction, and the Complaint of Henry, Duke of Buckingham (the adherent of Richard III). In the Complaint, the spirit of Buckingham relates the story of the Duke's ambitious life and its violent end, as a warning to others. The opening stanzas of the Induction will give some notion of Sackville's descriptive style:

“The wrathful winter 'proaching on a-pace,
With blust'ring blasts had all y-bared the treen, (trees)
And old Saturnus with his frosty face
With chilling cold had pierced the tender green;
The mantles rent, wherein enwrappèd been
The gladsome groves that now lay overthrown,
The tappets' torn, and every bloom down blowen.

Hawthorn had lost his motley livery,
The naked twigs were shivering all for cold;
And dropping down the tears abundantly;

1 Tapestry-hangings.

Each thing (me thought) with weeping eye me told
The cruel season, bidding me withhold
Myself within, for I was gotten out
Into the fields whereas I walked about."

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Sackville's poetry is on a higher level than that of Wyatt or Surrey. His verse moves smoothly, his tone is serious, dignified, and noble.

On the whole we may safely say that Sackville wrote the best poetry produced in England between the death of Chaucer and the coming of Edmund Spenser. This seems the more remarkable when we remember that Sackville gave but a fraction of his life to literature. Poetry was but the occasional recreation of his young manhood; but while his best years were spent as courtier and statesman, it is chiefly by his work as a poet that he is remembered. His Mirror for Magistrates is a connecting link between the poetry of Lydgate, the disciple of Chaucer, and the greater glories of Spenser, the poet of the Faërie Queen.




1509–1547 Dean Colet founds St. Paul's School

1512 Cardinal Wolsey in power

about 1515–1529 Tyndale's translation of the New Testament

about 1525 Acts of Supremacy and Succession

1534 Destruction of the Monasteries

1536-1539 WYATT AND SURREY, the chief Court poets of Henry VIII's

reign. Wyatt introduced the Italian sonnet, and Surrey
blank verse. These poems were first published in Tor-
TEL's Miscellany

1557 JOHN HEYWOOD (attached to Henry VIII's Court, and author of various INTERLUDES)

1497?-1580? ROGER AscHAM

1515-1568 Ascham's Toxophilus



Book of Common Prayer

1549 Growth of PROTESTANTISM, and foundation of numerous GRAM

MAR SCHOOLS were among the features of this reign MARY

. 1553-1558 Persecution of Protestants begins


1558-1603 Elizabeth restores Royal Supremacy over the Church of

England and reëstablishes the use of the English Prayer

SACKVILLE writes (with Norton) Gorboduc, or Ferrex and
Porrex, the first regular English tragedy, acted

1561 and portions of The Mirror for Magistrates

1563 FoxE's Book of Martyrs


written about 1540 NICHOLAS UDALL's Ralph Roister Doister


1566 GEORGE GASCOIGNE writes comedies (about 1566) and The Glass


1576 Drake sails for the Pacific

1577 HOLINSHED's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1577 NORTH's translation of Plutarch's Lives



In Europe this was the period of LUTHER (d. 1546), CALVIN (d. 1564), and the REFORMATION. In the fine arts, the RENAISSANCE IN ITALY reached its height in the works of RAPHAEL (d. 1520), MICHAEL ANGELO (d. 1564), and TITIAN (d. 1576); and in poetry, in ARIOSTO (d. 1533), and Tasso (d. 1595). In France literature was influenced by classical models. The ships of MAGELLAN made the first voyage around the world, 1519–1522. COPERNICUS published his discovery of the revolution of the earth round the sun, 1543.



The fact that by one cause or another the coming of the Renaissance to England was delayed was in no way detrimental to the development of English literature. On the contrary, it rather aided it. The new knowledge and enthusiasm, coming as they did in their full power and maturity, combined with the strong moral impulse of the Reformation, gave birth in the latter part of the sixteenth century to one of the most illustrious periods of literature in human history, the great age of Elizabeth. For more than a hundred and fifty years after the death of Chaucer, the English mind had produced but little. Great events had happened in that time, which were later to contribute to the splendid national energy that marked the England of Elizabeth; but in a state of unrest and political disturbance, the nation had directed its mental energies chiefly to other ends than literature. The Wars of the Roses had been followed by the political and religious quarrels of Henry VIII's time, and these, in turn, by the persecutions that marred the reign of Queen Mary. The early years under Elizabeth were years of uncertainty, of promise rather than fulfilment. The young Queen and her counselors were busy putting their house in order; religious dissensions were still rife, and England's future was clouded by the threatening power of Spain. The work of Wyatt and Surrey, of Sackville and Gascoigne,

was that of experiment, – the dawn and promise of the coming day. But with the advent of Spenser, the earliest of the great Elizabethan writers, we pass into a period of the most lavish and amazing creative energy. Spenser is the first master poet of the sixteenth century in England. With him begins a succession of great men in whose works the Renaissance finds full and adequate expression.

To account for this sudden and splendid outburst of literature after so many years of comparative barrenness, we must know something of the social, political, and educational conditions of the time. The Renaissance, though composed of so many forces, will not alone explain it. No one influence was the cause of this change; it was the result of the fortunate conjunction of many causes within England as well as without.

Unity of the Nation. -- Never before in the history of England had the nation been so united as it was during the latter part of the sixteenth century. The spirit of patriotism, of national pride in England's greatness, which had been growing steadily since the close of the civil wars, was intense among all classes. The Tudor sovereigns, Henry VII and Henry VIII, had ruled with a strong hand, it is true, and had increased the power of the crown, but at the same time they had given England an efficient government. Henry VIII's daring stand against the Pope had roused among the people a sense of national independence and strength; in defiance of the papal authority he had made himself the head of the Church in England, and England had stood by him. Moreover, when Elizabeth came to the throne at the end of Queen Mary's reign, with its bitterness, its confusions, and martyrdoms, she did much to soften the violence of party strife. By her patience and toler

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »