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Title: English Literature for Boys and Girls
Author: Marshall, H. E. (Henrietta Elizabeth)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "English Literature for Boys and Girls" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

H.E. Marshall

English Literature

Chapter I           IN THE LISTENING TIME
Chapter V           THE STORY OF FINGAL
Chapter IX          "THE PASSING OF ARTHUR"
Chapter XI          THE STORY OF BEOWULF
Chapter XX          "PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN" -- continued
Chapter L           RALEIGH--"THE REVENGE"
Chapter LX          DRYDEN--THE NEW POETRY



HAS there ever been a time when no stories were told?  Has there
ever been a people who did not care to listen?  I think not.

When we were little, before we could read for ourselves, did we
not gather eagerly round father or mother, friend or nurse, at
the promise of a story?  When we grew older, what happy hours did
we not spend with our books.  How the printed words made us
forget the world in which we live, and carried us away to a

    "Where waters gushed and fruit trees grew
    And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
    And everything was strange and new;
    The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
    And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
    And honey bees had lost their stings,
    And horses were born with eagles' wings."*

    *Robert Browning.

And as it is with us, so it is with a nation, with a people.

In the dim, far-off times when our forefathers were wild, naked
savages, they had no books.  Like ourselves, when we were tiny,
they could neither read nor write.  But do you think that they
had no stories?  Oh, yes!  We may be sure that when the day's
work was done, when the fight or the chase was over, they
gathered round the wood fire and listened to the tales of the

These stories were all of war.  They told of terrible combats
with men or with fierce strange beasts, they told of passion, of
revenge.  In them there was no beauty, no tenderness, no love.
For the life of man in those far-off days was wild and rough; it
was one long struggle against foes, a struggle which left little
room for what was beautiful or tender.

But as time went on, as life became more easy, in one way or
another the savage learned to become less savage.  Then as he
changed, the tales he listened to changed too.  They were no
longer all of war, of revenge; they told of love also.  And
later, when the story of Christ had come to soften men's hearts
and brighten men's lives, the stories told of faith and purity
and gentleness.

At last a time came when minstrels wandered from town to town,
from castle to castle, singing their lays.  And the minstrel who
had a good tale to tell was ever sure of a welcome, and for his
pains he was rewarded with money, jewels, and even land.  That
was the true listening time of the world.

It was no easy thing to be a minstrel, and a man often spent ten
or twelve years in learning to be one.  There were certain tales
which all minstrels had to know, and the best among them could
tell three hundred and fifty.  Of these stories the minstrels
used to learn only the outline, and each told the story in his
own way, filling it in according to his own fancy.  So as time
went on these well-known tales came to be told in many different
ways, changing as the times changed.

At length, after many years had passed, men began to write down
these tales, so that they might not be forgotten.  These first
books we call Manuscripts, from the Latin words manus, a hand,
and scribere, to write, for they were all written by hand.  Even
after they were written down there were many changes made in the
tales, for those who wrote or copied them would sometimes miss
lines or alter others.  Yet they were less changed than they had
been when told only by word of mouth.

These stories then form the beginnings of what is called our
Literature.  Literature really means letters, for it comes from a
Latin word littera, meaning a letter of the alphabet.  Words are
made by letters of the alphabet being set together, and our
literature again by words being set together; hence the name.

As on and on time went, every year more stories were told and
sung and written down.  The first stories which our forefathers
told in the days long, long ago, and which were never written
down, are lost forever.  Even many of those stories which were
written are lost too, but a few still remain, and from them we
can learn much of the life and the history of the people who
lived in our land ten and twelve hundred years ago, or more.

For a long time books were all written by hand.  They were very
scarce and dear, and only the wealthy could afford to have them,
and few could read them.  Even great knights and nobles could not
read, for they spent all their time in fighting and hunting, and
had little time in which to learn.  So it came about that the
monks who lived a quiet and peaceful life became the learned men.
In the monasteries it was that books were written and copied.
There too they were kept, and the monasteries became not only the
schools, but the libraries of the country.

As a nation grows and changes, its literature grows and changes
with it.  At first it asks only for stories, then it asks for
history for its own sake, and for poetry for its own sake;
history, I mean, for the knowledge it gives us of the past;
poetry for joy in the beautiful words, and not merely for the
stories they tell.  Then, as a nation's needs and knowledge grow,
it demands ever more and more books on all kinds of subjects.

And we ourselves grow and change just as a nation does.  When we
are very young, there are many books which seem to us dull and
stupid.  But as we grow older and learn more, we begin to like
more and more kinds of books.  We may still love the stories that
we loved as children, but we love others too.  And at last,
perhaps, there comes a time when those books which seemed to us
most dull and stupid delight us the most.

At first, too, we care only for the story itself.  We do not mind
very much in what words it is told so long as it is a story.  But
later we begin to care very much indeed what words the story-
teller uses, and how he uses them.  It is only, perhaps, when we
have learned to hear with our eyes that we know the true joy of
books.  Yes, hear with our eyes, for it is joy in the sound of
the words that makes our breath come fast, which brings smiles to
our lips or tears to our eyes.  Yet we do not need to read the
words aloud, the sight of the black letters on the white page is

In this book I am going to tell you about a few of our greatest
story-tellers and their books.  Many of these books you will not
care to read for yourselves for a long time to come.  You must be
content to be told about them.  You must be content to know that
there are rooms in the fairy palace of our Literature into which
you cannot enter yet.  But every year, as your knowledge grows,
you will find that new keys have been put into your hands with
which you may unlock the doors which are now closed.  And with
every door that you unlock, you will become aware of others and
still others that are yet shut fast, until at last you learn with
something of pain, that the great palace of our Literature is so
vast that you can never hope to open all the doors even to peep


OUR earliest literature was history and poetry.  Indeed, we might
say poetry only, for in those far-off times history was always
poetry, it being only through the songs of the bards and
minstrels that history was known.  And when I say history I do
not mean history as we know it.  It was then merely the gallant
tale of some hero's deeds listened to because it was a gallant

Now the people who lived in the British Isles long ago were not
English.  It will be simplest for us to call them all Celts and
to divide them into two families, the Gaels and the Cymry.  The
Gaels lived in Ireland and in Scotland, and the Cymry in England
and Wales.

It is to Ireland that we must go for the very beginnings of our
Literature, for the Roman conquest did not touch Ireland, and the
English, who later conquered and took possession of Britain,
hardly troubled the Green Isle.  So for centuries the Gaels of
Ireland told their tales and handed them on from father to son
undisturbed, and in Ireland a great many old writings have been
kept which tell of far-off times.  These old Irish manuscripts
are perhaps none of them older than the eleventh century, but the
stories are far, far older.  They were, we may believe, passed on
by word of mouth for many generations before they were written
down, and they have kept the feeling of those far-off times.

It was from Ireland that the Scots came to Scotland, and when
they came they brought with them many tales.  So it comes about
that in old Scottish and in old Irish manuscripts we find the
same stories.

Many of the manuscripts which are kept in Ireland have never been
translated out of the old Irish in which they were written, so
they are closed books to all but a few scholars, and we need not
talk about them.  But of one of the great treasures of old Irish
literature we will talk.  This is the Leabhar Na h-Uidhre, or
Book of the Dun Cow.  It is called so because the stories in it
were first written down by St. Ciaran in a book made from the
skin of a favorite cow of a dun color.  That book has long been
lost, and this copy of it was made in the eleventh century.

The name of this old book helps us to remember that long ago
there was no paper, and that books were written on vellum made
from calf-skin and upon parchment made from sheep-skin.  It was
not until the twelfth century that paper began to be made in some
parts of Europe, and it was not until the fifteenth century that
paper books became common in England.

In the Book of the Dun Cow, and in another old book called the
Book of Leinster, there is written the great Irish legend called
the Tain Bo Chuailgne or the Cattle Raid of Cooley.

This is a very old tale of the time soon after the birth of
Christ.  In the book we are told how this story had been written
down long, long ago in a book called the Great Book Written on
Skins.  But a learned man carried away that book to the East.
Then, when many years had passed, people began to forget the
story of the Cattle Raid.  So the Chief minstrel called all the
other minstrels together to ask if any of them knew the tale.
But none of them could remember more than a few verses of it.
Therefore the chief minstrel asked all his pupils to travel into
far countries to search for the rest which was lost.

What followed is told differently in different books, but all
agree in this, that a great chief called Fergus came back from
the dead in order to tell the tale, which was again written down.

The story is one of the beautiful Queen Meav of Connaught.  For
many years she had lived happily with her husband and her
children.  But one day the Queen and her husband began to argue
as to which of them was the richer.  As they could not agree,
they ordered all their treasures to be brought before them that
they might be compared.

So first all their wooden and metal vessels were brought.  But
they were both alike.

Then all their jewels, their rings and bracelets, necklets and
crowns were brought, but they, too, were equal.

Then all their robes were brought, crimson and blue, green,
yellow, checked and striped, black and white.  They, too, were

Next from the fields and pastures great herds of sheep were
brought.  They, too, were equal.

Then from the green plains fleet horses, champing steeds came.
Great herds of swine from forest and glen were brought.  They,
too, were equal.

Lastly, droves and droves of cattle were brought.  In the King's
herd there was a young bull named White-horned.  When a calf, he
had belonged to Meav's herd, but being very proud, and thinking
it little honor to be under the rule of a woman, he had left
Meav's herd and joined himself to the King's.  This bull was very
beautiful.  His head and horns and hoofs were white, and all the
rest of him was red.  He was so great and splendid that in all
the Queen's herd there was none to match him.

Then Meav's sorrow was bitter, and calling a messenger, she asked
if he knew where might be found a young bull to match with White-

The messenger replied that he knew of a much finer bull called
Donn Chuailgne, or Brown Bull of Cooley, which belonged to Dawra,
the chief of Ulster.

"Go then,' said Meav, "and ask Dawra to lend me the Bull for a
year.  Tell him that he shall be well repaid, that he shall
receive fifty heifers and Brown Bull back again at the end of
that time.  And if Dawra should seem unwilling to lend Brown
Bull, tell him that he may come with it himself, and that he
shall receive here land equal to his own, a chariot worth thirty-
six cows, and he shall have my friendship ever after."

So taking with him nine others, the messenger set out and soon
arrived at Cooley.  And when Dawra heard why the messengers had
come, he received them kindly, and said at once that they should
have Brown Bull.

Then the messengers began to speak and boast among themselves.
"It was well," said one, "that Dawra granted us the Bull
willingly, otherwise we had taken it by force."

As he spoke, a servant of Dawra came with food and drink for the
strangers, and hearing how they spoke among themselves, he
hastily and in wrath dashed the food upon the table, and
returning to his master repeated to him the words of the

Then was Dawra very wrathful.  And when, in the morning, the
messengers came before him asking that he should fulfill his
promise, he refused them.

So, empty-handed, the messengers returned to Queen Meav.  And
she, full of anger, decided to make good the boastful words of
her messenger and take Brown Bull by force.

Then began a mighty war between the men of Ulster and the men of
Connaught.  And after many fights there was a great battle in
which Meav was defeated.  Yet was she triumphant, for she had
gained possession of the Brown Bull.

But the Queen had little cause for triumph, for when Brown Bull
and White-horned met there was a fearful combat between them.
The whole land echoed with their bellowing.  The earth shook
beneath their feet and the sky grew dark with flying sods of
earth and with flecks of foam.  After long fighting Brown Bull
conquered, and goring White-horned to death, ran off with him
impaled upon his horns, shaking his shattered body to pieces as
he ran.

But Brown Bull, too, was wounded to death.  Mad with pain and
wounds, he turned to his own land, and there

                    "He lay down
    Against the hill, and his great heart broke there,
    And sent a stream of blood down all the slope;
    And thus, when all the war and Tain had ended,
    In his own land, 'midst his own hills, he died."*

    *The Tain, by Mary A. Hutton.

The Cattle Raid of Cooley is a strange wild tale, yet from it we
can learn a great deal about the life of these old, far-away
times.  We can learn from it something of what the people did and
thought, and how they lived, and even of what they wore.  Here is
a description of a driver and his war chariot, translated, of
course, into English prose.  "It is then that the charioteer
arose, and he put on his hero's dress of charioteering.  This was
the hero's dress of charioteering that he put on:  his soft tunic
of deer skin, so that it did not restrain the movement of his
hands outside.  He put on his black upper cloak over it outside.
. . . The charioteer took first then his helm, ridged like a
board, four-cornered. . . . This was well measured to him, and it
was not an over weight.  His hand brought the circlet of red-
yellow, as though it were a plate of red gold, of refined gold
smelted over the edge of the anvil, to his brow as a sign of his
charioteering, as a distinction to his master.

"He took the goads to his horses, and his whip inlaid in his
right hand.  He took the reins to hold back his horses in his
left hand.  Then he put the iron inlaid breast-plate on his
horses, so that they were covered from forehead to fore-foot with
spears, and points, and lances, and hard points, so that every
motion in this chariot was war-near, so that every corner, and
every point, and every end, and every front of this chariot was a
way of tearing."*

*The Cattle Raid of Cualnge, by L. W. Faraday.

We can almost see that wild charioteer and his horses, sheathed
in bristling armor with "every front a way of tearing," as they
dash amid the foe.  And all through we come on lines like these
full of color and detail, which tell us of the life of those folk
of long ago.


The Tain gives us vivid pictures of people and things, but it is
not full of beauty and of tender imagination like many of the
Gaelic stories.  Among the most beautiful and best known of these
are perhaps the Three Sorrows of Story-Telling.  These three
stories are called:  The Tragedy of the Children of Lir; The
Tragedy of the Children of Tuireann; and Deirdre and the Sons of
Usnach.  Of the three the last is perhaps the most interesting,
because the story happened partly in Scotland and partly in
Ireland, and it is found both in old Irish and in old Scottish

The story is told in many old books, and in many ways both in
prose and in verse.  The oldest and shortest version is in the
Book of Leinster, the same book in which is found The Tain.

The tale goes that one day King Conor and his nobles feasted at
the house of Felim, his chief story-teller.  And while they
feasted a daughter was born to Felim the story-teller.  Then
Cathbad the Druid, who was also at the feast, became exceeding
sad.  He foretold that great sorrow and evil should come upon the
land because of this child, and so he called her Deirdre, which
means trouble or alarm.

When the nobles heard that, they wished to slay the new-born
babe.  But Conor spoke.

"Let it not be so done," he said.  "It were an ill thing to shed
the blood of an innocent child.  I myself shall care for her.
She shall be housed in a safe place so that none may come nigh to
her, and when she is grown she shall be my one true wife."

So it was done as King Conor said.  Deirdre was placed in a safe
and lonely castle, where she was seen of none save her tutor and
her nurse, Lavarcam.  There, as the years passed, she grew tall
and fair as a slender lily, and more beautiful than the sunshine.

Now when fourteen years had passed, it happened one snowy day
that Deirdre's tutor killed a calf to provide food for their
little company.  And as the calf's blood was spilled upon the
snow, a raven came to drink of it.  When Deirdre saw that, she
sighed and said, "Would that I had a husband whose hair was as
the color of the raven, his cheeks as blood, and his skin as

"There is such a one," said Lavarcam, "he is Naisi the son of

After that here was no rest for Deirdre until she had seen Naisi.
And when they met they loved each other so that Naisi took her
and fled with her to Scotland far from Conor the King.  For they
knew that when the King learned that fair Deirdre had been stolen
from him, he would be exceeding wrathful.

There, in Scotland, Deirdre and Naisi lived for many years
happily.  With them were Ainle and Ardan, Naisi's two brothers,
who also loved their sister Deirdre well.

But Conor never forgot his anger at the escape of Deirdre.  He
longed still to have her as his Queen, and at last he sent a
messenger to lure the fair lady and the three brave brothers back
to Ireland.

"Naisi and Deirdre were seated together one day, and between them
Conor's chess board, they playing upon it.

"Naisi heard a cry and said, 'I hear the call of a man of Erin.'

"'That was not the call of a man of Erin,' says Deirdre, 'but the
call of a man of Alba.'

"Deirdre knew the first cry of Fergus, but she concealed it.
Fergus uttered the second cry.

"'That is the cry of a man of Erin,' says Naisi.

"'It is not indeed,' says Deirdre, 'and let us play on.'

"Fergus sent forth the third cry, and the sons of Usnach knew it
was Fergus that sent for the cry.  And Naisi ordered Ardan to go
to meet Fergus.  Then Deirdre declared she knew the first call
sent forth by Fergus.

"'Why didst thou conceal it, then, my Queen?' says Naisi.

"'A vision I saw last night,' says Deirdre, 'namely that three
birds came unto us having three sups of honey in their beaks, and
that they left them with us, and that they took three sups of our
blood with them.'

"'What determination hast thou of that, O Princess?' says Naisi.

"'It is,' says Deirdre, 'that Fergus comes unto us with a message
of peace from Conor, for more sweet is not honey than the message
of peace of the false man.'

"'Let that be,' says Naisi.  'Fergus is long in the port; and go,
Ardan, to meet him and bring him with thee.'"*

*Theophilus O'Flanagan

And when Fergus came there were kindly greetings between the
friends who had been long parted.  Then Fergus told the three
brothers that Conor had forgiven them, and that he longed to see
them back again in the land of Erin.

So although the heart of Deirdre was sad and heavy with
foreboding of evil, they set sail for the land of Erin.  But
Deirdre looked behind her as the shore faded from sight and sang
a mournful song: -

    "O eastern land I leave, I loved you well,
    Home of my heart, I love and loved you well,
    I ne'er had left you had not Naisi left."*

*Douglas Hyde

And so they fared on their journey and came at last to Conor's
palace.  And the story tells how the boding sorrow that Deirdre
felt fulfilled itself, and how they were betrayed, and how the
brothers fought and died, and how Deirdre mourned until

            "Her heart-strings snapt,
    And death had overmastered her.  She fell
    Into the grave where Naisi lay and slept.
    There at his side the child of Felim fell,
    The fair-haired daughter of a hundred smiles.
    Men piled their grave and reared their stone on high,
    And wrote their names in Ogham.*  So they lay
    All four united in the dream of death."**

    * Ancient Gaelic writing.
    ** Douglas Hyde

Such in a few words is the story of Deirdre.  But you must read
the tale itself to find out how beautiful it is.  That you can
easily do, for it has been translated many times out of the old
Gaelic in which it was first written and it has been told so
simply that even those of you who are quite young can read it for

In both The Tain and in Deirdre we find the love of fighting, the
brave joy of the strong man when he finds a gallant foe.  The
Tain is such history as those far-off times afforded, but it is
history touched with fancy, wrought with poetry.  In the Three
Sorrows we have Romance.  They are what we might call the novels
of the time.  It is in stories like these that we find the keen
sense of what is beautiful in nature, the sense of "man's
brotherhood with bird and beast, star and flower," which has
become the mark of "Celtic" literature.  We cannot put it into
words, perhaps, for it is something mystic and strange, something
that takes us nearer fairyland and makes us see that land of
dreams with clearer eyes.


The Celtic Wonder World, by C. L. Thomson.  The Enchanted Land
(for version of Deirdre), by L Chisholm.  Three Sorrows (verse),
by Douglas Hyde.


WHO wrote the stories which are found in the old Gaelic
manuscripts we do not know, yet the names of some of the old
Gaelic poets have come down to us.  The best known of all is
perhaps that of Ossian.  But as Ossian, if he ever lived, lived
in the third century, as it is not probable that his poems were
written down at the time, and as the oldest books that we have
containing any of his poetry were written in the twelfth century,
it is very difficult to be sure that he really made the poems
called by his name.

Ossian was a warrior and chief as well as a poet, and as a poet
he is claimed both by Scotland and by Ireland.  But perhaps his
name has become more nearly linked to Scotland because of the
story that I am going to tell you now.  It belongs really to a
time much later than that of which we have been speaking, but
because it has to do with this old Gaelic poet Ossian, I think
you will like to hear it now.

In a lonely Highland village more than a hundred and fifty years
ago there lived a little boy called James Macpherson.  His father
and mother were poor farmer people, and James ran about
barefooted and wild among the hills and glens.  When he was about
seven years old the quiet of his Highland home was broken by the
sounds of war, for the Highland folk had risen in rebellion
against King George II., and were fighting for Prince Charlie,
hoping to have a Stewart king once more.  This was the rebellion
called the '45, for it was fought in 1745.

Now little James watched the red coats of the southern soldiers
as, with bayonets gleaming in the sun, they wound through the
glens.  He heard the Highland battle-cry and the clash of steel
on steel, for fighting came near his home, and his own people
joined the standard of the Pretender.  Little James never forgot
these things, and long afterwards, when he grew to be a man and
wrote poetry, it was full of the sounds of battle, full, too, of
love for mountain and glen and their rolling mists.

The Macphersons were poor, but they saw that their son was
clever, and they determined that he should be well taught.  So
when he left school they sent him to college, first to Aberdeen
and then to Edinburgh.

Before he was twenty James had left college and become master of
the school in his own native village.  He did not, however, like
that very much, and soon gave it up to become tutor in a family.

By this time James Macpherson had begun to write poetry.  He had
also gathered together some pieces of old Gaelic poetry which he
had found among the Highland folk.  These he showed to some other
poets and writers whom he met, and they thought them so beautiful
that he published them in a book.

The book was a great success.  All who read it were delighted
with the poems, and said that if there was any more such poetry
in the Highlands, it should be gathered together and printed
before it was lost and forgotten for ever.  For since the '45 the
English had done everything to make the Highlanders forget their
old language and customs.  They were forbidden to wear the kilt
or the tartan, and everything was done to make them speak English
and forget Gaelic.

So now people begged Macpherson to travel through the Highlands
and gather together as much of the old poetry of the people as he
could.  Macpherson was at first unwilling to go.  For one thing,
he quite frankly owned that he was not a good Gaelic scholar.
But at length he consented and set out.

For four months Macpherson wandered about the Highlands and
Islands of Scotland, listening to the tales of the people and
writing them down.  Sometimes, too, he came across old
manuscripts with ancient tales in them.  When he had gathered all
he could, he returned to Edinburgh and set to work to translate
the stories into English.

When this new book of Gaelic poetry came out, it again was a
great success.  It was greeted with delight by the greatest poets
of France, Germany, and Italy, and was soon translated into many
languages.  Macpherson was no longer a poor Highland laddie, but
a man of world-wide fame.  Yet it was not because of his own
poetry that he was famous, but because he had found (so he said)
some poems of a man who lived fifteen hundred years before, and
translated them into English.  And although Macpherson's book is
called The Poems of Ossian, it is written in prose.  But it is a
prose which is often far more beautiful and poetical than much
that is called poetry.

Although at first Macpherson's book was received with great
delight, soon people began to doubt about it.  The Irish first of
all were jealous, for they said that Ossian was an Irish poet,
that the heroes of the poems were Irish, and that Macpherson was
stealing their national heroes from them.

Then in England people began to say that there never had been an
Ossian at all, and that Macpherson had invented both the poems
and all the people that they were about.  For the English knew
little of the Highlanders and their customs.  Even after the '15
and the '45 people in the south knew little about the north and
those who lived there.  They thought of it as a land of wild
mountains and glens, a land of mists and cloud, a land where wild
chieftains ruled over still wilder clans, who, in their lonely
valleys and sea-girt islands, were for ever warring against each
other.  How could such a people, they asked, a people of savages,
make beautiful poetry?

Dr. Samuel Johnson, a great writer of whom we shall hear more
later, was the man of his day whose opinion about books was most
thought of.  He hated Scotland and the Scottish folk, and did not
believe that any good thing could come from them.  He read the
poems and said that they were rubbish, such as any child could
write, and that Macpherson had made them all up.

So a quarrel, which has become famous, began between the two men.
And as Dr. Johnson was far better known than Macpherson, most
people agreed with him and believed that Macpherson had told a
"literary lie," and that he had made up all the stories.

There is no harm in making up stories.  Nearly every one who
writes does that.  But it is wrong to make up stories and then
pretend that they were written by some one else more famous than

Dr. Johnson and Macpherson were very angry with and rude to each
other.  Still that did not settle the question as to who had
written the stories; indeed it has never been settled.  And what
most men believe now is that Macpherson did really gather from
among the people of the Highlands many scraps of ancient poetry
and tales, but that he added to them and put them together in
such a way as to make them beautiful and touching.  To do even
that, however, a true poet was needed, so people have, for the
most part, given up arguing about whether Macpherson wrote Ossian
or not, and are glad that such a beautiful book has been written
by some one.

I do not think that you will want to read Ossian for yourself for
a long time to come, for the stories are not always easy to
follow.  They are, too, often clumsy, wandering, and badly put
together.  But in spite of that there is much beauty in them, and
some day I hope you will read them.

In the next chapter you will find one of the stories of Ossian
called Fingal.  Fingal was a great warrior and the father of
Ossian, and the story takes place in Ireland.  It is told partly
in Macpherson's words.


"CATHULLIN sat by TURA's wall, by the tree of the rustling sound.
His spear leaned against a rock.  His shield lay on grass, by his
side.  And as he thus sat deep in thought a scout came running in
all haste and cried, 'Arise!  Cathullin, arise!  I see the ships
of the north.  Many, chief of men, are the foe!  Many the heroes
of the sea-born Swaran!'

"Then to the scout the blue-eyed chief replied, 'Thou ever
tremblest.  Thy fears have increased the foe.  It is Fingal King
of deserts who comes with aid to green Erin of streams.'

"'Nay, I beheld their chief,' replied the scout, 'tall as a
glittering rock.  His spear is a blasted pine.  His shield the
rising moon.  He bade me say to thee, "Let dark Cathullin

"'No,' replied the blue-eyed chief, 'I never yield to mortal man.
Dark Cathullin shall be great or dead.'"

Then Cathullin bade the scout summon his warriors to council.
And when they were gathered there was much talk, for some would
give battle at once and some delay until Fingal, the King of
Morven, should come to aid them.  But Cathullin himself was eager
to fight, so forward they marched to meet the foe.  And the sound
of their going was "as the rushing of a stream of foam when the
thunder is traveling above, and dark-brown night sits on half the
hill."  To the camp of Swaran was the sound carried, so that he
sent a messenger to view the foe.

"He went.  He trembling, swift returned.  His eyes rolled wildly
round.  His heart beat high against his side.  His words were
faltering, broken, slow.  'Arise, son of ocean! arise, chief of
the dark brown shields!  I see the dark, the mountain stream of
battle.  Fly, King of ocean!  Fly!'

"'When did I fly?' replied the King.  'When fled Swaran from the
battle of spears?  When did I shrink from danger, chief of the
little soul?  Shall Swaran fly from a hero?  Were Fingal himself
before me my soul should not darken in fear.  Arise, to battle my
thousands! pour round me like the echoing main.  Gather round the
bright steel of your King; strong as the rocks of my land, that
meet the storm with joy, and stretch their dark pines to the

"Like autumn's dark storms, pouring from two echoing hills,
towards each other approached the heroes.  Like two deep streams
from high rocks meeting, mixing, roaring on the plain; loud,
rough and dark in battle meet Lochlin and Innis-fail.  chief
mixes his strokes with chief, and man with man; steel clanging
sounds on steel.  Helmets are cleft on high.  Blood bursts and
smokes around.  Strings murmur on the polished yews.  Darts rush
along the sky, spears fall like the circles of light which gild
the face of night.  As the noise of the troubled ocean when roll
the waves on high, as the last peal of thunder in heaven, such is
the din of war.  Though Cormac's hundred bards were there to give
the fight to song, feeble was the voice of a hundred bards to
send the deaths to future times.  For many were the deaths of
heroes; wide poured the blood of the brave."

Then above the clang and clamor of dreadful battle we hear the
mournful dirge of minstrels wailing o'er the dead.

"Mourn, ye sons of song, mourn!  Weep on the rocks of roaring
winds, O mad of Inistore!  Bend thy fair head over the waves,
thou lovelier than the ghost of the hills, when it moves, in a
sunbeam at noon, over the silence of Morven.  He is fallen! thy
youth is low! pale beneath the sword of Cathullin.  No more shall
valor raise thy love to match the blood of kings.  His gray dogs
are howling at home, they see his passing ghost.  His bow is in
the hall unstrung.  No sound is on the hill of his hinds."

Then once again, the louder for the mourning pause, we hear the
din of battle.

"As roll a thousand waves to the rocks, so Swaran's host came on.
As meets a rock a thousand waves, so Erin met Swaran of spears.
Death raises all his voices around, and mixes with the sounds of
shields.  Each hero is a pillar of darkness; the sword a beam of
fire in his hand.  The field echoes from wing to wing, as a
hundred hammers that rise by turn, on the red son of the

But now the day is waning.  To the noise and horror of battle the
mystery of darkness is added.  Friend and foe are wrapped in the
dimness of twilight.

But the fight was not ended, for neither Cathullin nor Swaran had
gained the victory, and ere gray morning broke the battle was

And in this second day's fight Swaran was the victor, but while
the battle still raged white-sailed ships appeared upon the sea.
It was Fingal who came, and Swaran had to fight a second foe.

"Now from the gray mists of the ocean, the white-sailed ships of
Fingal appeared.  High is the grove of their masts, as they nod
by turns on the rolling wave."

Swaran saw them from the hill on which he fought, and turning
from the pursuit of the men of Erin, he marched to meet Fingal.
But Cathullin, beaten and ashamed, fled to hide himself:
"bending, weeping, sad and slow, and dragging his long spear
behind, Cathullin sank in Cromla's wood, and mourned his fallen
friends.  He feared the face of Fingal, who was wont to greet him
from the fields of renown."

But although Cathullin fled, between Fingal and Swaran battle was
renewed till darkness fell.  A second day dawned, and again and
again the hosts closed in deadly combat until at length Fingal
and Swaran met face to face.

"There was a clang of arms! their every blow like the hundred
hammers of the furnace.  Terrible is the battle of the kings;
dreadful the look of their eyes.  Their dark brown shields are
cleft in twain.  Their steel flies, broken from their helms.

"They fling their weapons down.  Each rushes to his hero's grasp.
Their sinewy arms bend round each other:  they turn from side to
side, and strain and stretch their large and spreading limbs
below.  But when the pride of their strength arose they shook the
hills with their heels.  Rocks tumble from their places on high;
the green-headed bushes are overturned.  At length the strength
of Swaran fell; the king of the groves is bound."

The warriors of Swaran fled then, pursued by the sons of Fingal,
till the hero bade the fighting cease, and darkness once more
fell over the dreadful field.

"The clouds of night come rolling down.  Darkness rests on the
steeps of Cromla.  The stars of the north arise over the rolling
of Erin's waves:  they shew their heads of fire, through the
flying mist of heaven.  A distant wind roars in the wood.  Silent
and dark is the plain of death."

Then through the darkness is heard the sad song of minstrels
mourning for the dead.  But soon the scene changes and mourning
is forgotten.

"The heroes gathered to the feast.  A thousand aged oaks are
burning to the wind.  The souls of warriors brighten with joy.
But the king of Lochlin (Swaran) is silent.  Sorrow reddens in
his eyes of pride.  He remembered that he fell.

"Fingal leaned on the shield of his fathers.  His gray locks
slowly waved on the wind, and glittered to the beam of night.  He
saw the grief of Swaran, and spoke to the first of the bards.

"'Raise, Ullin, raise the song of peace.  O soothe my soul from
war.  Let mine ear forget in the sound the dismal noise of arms.
Let a hundred harps be near to gladden the king of Lochlin.  He
must depart from us with joy.  None ever went sad from Fingal.
The lightening of my sword is against the strong in fight.
Peaceful it lies by my side when warriors yield in war.'"

So at the bidding of Fingal the minstrel sang, and soothed the
grief of Swaran.  And when the music ceased Fingal spoke once

"'King of Lochlin, let thy face brighten with gladness, and thine
ear delight in the harp.  Dreadful as the storm of thine ocean
thou hast poured thy valor forth; thy voice has been like the
voice of thousands when they engage in war.

"'Raise, to-morrow, raise thy white sails to the wind.  Or dost
thou choose the fight? that thou mayest depart renowned like the
sun setting in the west.'"

Then Swaran chose to depart in peace.  He had no more will to
fight against Fingal, so the two heroes swore friendship
together.  Then once again Fingal called for the song of

"A hundred voices at once arose, a hundred harps were strung.
They sang of other times; the mighty chiefs of other years."  And
so the night passed till "morning trembles with the beam of the
east; it glimmers on Cromla's side.  Over Lena is heard the horn
of Swaran.  The sons of the ocean gather around.  Silent and sad
they rise on the wave.  The blast of Erin is behind their sails.
White as the mist of Morven they float along the sea."

Thus Swaran and his warriors departed, and Fingal, calling his
men together, set forth to hunt.  And as he hunted far in the
woods he met Cathullin, still hiding, sad and ashamed.  But
Fingal comforted the beaten hero, reminding him of past
victories.  Together they returned to Fingal's camp, and there
the heroes sang and feasted until "the soul of Cathullin rose.
The strength of his arm returned.  Gladness brightened along his
face.  Thus the night passed away in song.  We brought back the
morning with joy.

"Fingal arose on the heath and shook his glittering spear.  He
moved first towards the plain of Lena.  We followed in all our

"'Spread the sail,' said the King, 'seize the winds as they pour
from Lena.'

"We rose on the wave with songs.  We rushed with joy through the
foam of the deep."

Thus the hero returned to his own land.

NOTE.--There is no book of Ossian specially edited for children.
Later they may like to read the Century Edition of Macpherson's
Ossian, edited by William Sharpe.  Stories about Ossian will be
found among the many books of Celtic tales now published.


YOU remember that the Celtic family was divided into two
branches, the Gaelic and the Cymric.  So far we have only spoken
about the Gaels, but the Cymry had their poets and historians
too.  The Cymry, however, do not claim such great age for their
first known poets as do the Gaels.  Ossian, you remember, was
supposed to live in the third century, but the oldest Cymric
poets whose names we know were supposed to live in the sixth
century.  As, however, the oldest Welsh manuscripts are of the
twelfth century, it is again very difficult to prove that any of
the poems were really written by those old poets.

But this is very certain, that the Cymry, like the Gaels, had
their bards and minstrels who sang of the famous deeds of heroes
in the halls of the chieftains, or in the market-places for the

From the time that the Romans left Britain to the time when the
Saxons or English were at length firmly settled in the land, many
fierce struggles, many stirring events must have taken place.
That time must have been full of brave deeds such as the
minstrels loved to sing.  But that part of our history is very
dark.  Much that is written of it is little more than a fairy
tale, for it was not until long afterwards that anything about
this time was written down.

The great hero of the struggle between the Britons and the Saxons
was King Arthur, but it was not until many many years after the
time in which he lived that all the splendid stories of his
knights, of his Round Table, and of his great conquests began to
take the form in which we know them.  Indeed, in the earliest
Welsh tales the name of Arthur is hardly known at all.  When he
is mentioned it is merely as a warrior among other warriors
equally great, and not as the mighty emperor that we know.  The
Arthur that we love is the Arthur of literature, not the Arthur
of history.  And I think you may like to follow the story of the
Arthur of literature, and see how, from very little, it has grown
so great that now it is known all the world over.  I should like
you to remember, too, that the Arthur story is not the only one
which repeats itself again and again throughout our Literature.
There are others which have caught the fancy of great masters and
have been told by them in varying ways throughout the ages.  But
of them all, the Arthur story is perhaps the best example.

Of the old Welsh poets it may, perhaps, be interesting to
remember two.  These are Taliesin, or "Shining Forehead," and

Merlin is interesting because he is Arthur's great bard and
magician.  Taliesin is interesting because in a book called The
Mabinogion, which is a translation of some of the oldest Welsh
stories, we have the tale of his wonderful birth and life.

Mabinogion really means tales for the young.  Except the History
of Taliesin, all the stories in this book are translated from a
very old manuscript called the Red Book of Hergest..  This Red
Book belongs to the fourteenth century, but many of the stories
are far far older, having, it is thought, been told in some form
or other for hundreds of years before they were written down at
all.  Unlike many old tales, too, they are written in prose, not
in poetry.

One of the stories in The Mabinogion, the story of King Ludd,
takes us back a long way.  King Ludd was a king in Britain, and
in another book we learn that he was a brother of Cassevelaunis,
who fought against Julius Caesar, so from that we can judge of
the time in which he reigned.

"King Ludd," we are told in The Mabinogion, "ruled prosperously
and rebuilt the walls of London, and encompassed it about with
numberless towers.  And after that he bade the citizens build
houses therein, such as no houses in the kingdom could equal.
And, moreover, he was a mighty warrior, and generous and liberal
in giving meat and drink to all that sought them.  And though he
had many castles and cities, this one loved he more than any.
And he dwelt therein most part of the year, and therefore was it
called Caer Ludd, and at last Caer London.  And after the strange
race came there, it was called London."  It is interesting to
remember that there is still a street in London called Ludgate.
Caer is the Celtic word for Castle, and is still to be found in
many Welsh names, such as Carnarvon, Caerleon, and so on.

Now, although Ludd was such a wise king, three plagues fell upon
the island of Britain.  "The first was a certain race that came
and was called Coranians, and so great was their knowledge that
there was no discourse upon the face of the island, however low
it might be spoken, but what, if the wind met it, it was known to

"The second plague was a shriek which came on every May-eve over
every hearth in the island of Britain.  And this went through
peoples' hearts and frightened them out of their senses.

"The third plague was, however much of provision and food might
be prepared in the king's courts, were there even so much as a
year's provision of meat and drink, none of it could ever be
found, except what was consumed upon the first night."

The story goes on to tell how good King Ludd freed the island of
Britain from all three plagues and lived in peace all the days of
his life.

In five of the stories of The Mabinogion, King Arthur appears.
And, although these were all written in Welsh, it has been
thought that some may have been brought to Wales from France.

This seems strange, but it comes about in this way.  Part of
France is called Brittany, as you know.  Now, long long ago,
before the Romans came to Britain, some of the people who lived
in that part of France sailed across the sea and settled in
Britain.  These may have been the ancient Britons whom Caesar
fought when he first came to our shore.

Later, when the Romans left our island and the Picts and Scots
oppressed the Britons, many of them fled back over the sea to
Brittany or Armorica, as it used to be called.  Later still, when
the Saxons came, the Britons were driven by degrees into the
mountains of Wales and the wilds of Cornwall, while others fled
again across the sea to Brittany.  These took with them the
stories which their minstrels told, and told them in their new
home.  So it came about that the stories which were told in Wales
and in Cornwall were told in Brittany also.

And how were these stories brought back again to England?

Another part of France is called Normandy.  The Normans and the
Bretons were very different peoples, as different as the Britons
and the English.  But the Normans conquered part of Brittany, and
a close relationship grew up between the two peoples.  Conan,
Duke of Brittany, and William, Duke of Normandy, were related to
each other, and in a manner the Bretons owned the Duke of
Normandy as overlord.

Now you know that in 1066 the great Duke William came sailing
over the sea to conquer England, and with him came more soldiers
from Brittany than from any other land.  Perhaps the songs of the
minstrels had kept alive in the hearts of the Bretons a memory of
their island home.  Perhaps that made them glad to come to help
to drive out the hated Saxons.  At any rate come they did, and
brought with them their minstrel tales.

And soon through all the land the Norman power spread.  And
whether they first heard them in Armorica or in wild Wales, the
Norman minstrels took the old Welsh stories and made them their
own.  And the best of all the tales were told of Arthur and his

Doubtless the Normans added much to these stories.  For although
they were not good at inventing anything, they were very good at
taking what others had invented and making it better.  And the
English, too, as Norman power grew, clung more and more to the
memory of the past.  They forgot the difference between British
and English, and in their thoughts Arthur grew to be a national
hero, a hero who had loved his country, and who was not Norman.

The Normans, then, brought tales of Arthur with them when they
came to England.  They heard there still other tales and improved
them, and Arthur thus began to grow into a great hero.  I will
now go on to show how he became still greater.

In the reign of Henry I. (the third Norman king who ruled our
land) there lived a monk called Geoffrey of Monmouth.  He was
filled with the love of his land, and he made up his mind to
write a history of the kings of Britain.

Geoffrey wrote his book in Latin, because at this time it was the
language which most people could understand.  For a long time
after the Normans came to England, they spoke Norman French.  The
English still spoke English, and the British Welsh or Cymric.
But every one almost who could read at all could read Latin.  So
Geoffrey chose to write in Latin.  He said he translated all that
he wrote from an old British book which had been brought from
Brittany and given to him.  But that old British book has never
been seen by any one, and it is generally thought that Geoffrey
took old Welsh tales and fables for a foundation, invented a good
deal more, and so made his history, and that the "old British
Book" never existed at all.  His book may not be very good
history - indeed, other historians were very angry and said that
Geoffrey "lied saucily and shamelessly" - but it is very
delightful to read.

Geoffrey's chief hero is Arthur, and we may say that it is from
this time that Arthur became a great hero of Romance.  For
Geoffrey told his stories so well that they soon became famous,
and they were read not only in England, but all over the
Continent.  Soon story-tellers and poets in other lands began to
write stories about Arthur too, and from then till now there has
never been a time when they have not been read.  So to the Welsh
must be given the honor of having sown a seed from which has
grown the wide-spreading tree we call the Arthurian Legend.

Geoffrey begins his story long before the time of Arthur.  He
begins with the coming of Brutus, the ancient hero who conquered
Albion and changed its name to Britain, and he continues to about
two hundred years after the death of Arthur.  But Arthur is his
real hero, so he tells the story in very few words after his

Geoffrey tells of many battles and of how the British fought, not
only with the Saxons, but among themselves.  And at last he says:
"As barbarism crept in they were no longer called Britons, but
Welsh, a word derived either from Gualo, one of their dukes, or
from Guales, their Queen, or else from their being barbarians.
But the Saxons did wiselier, kept peace and concord amongst
themselves, tilling their fields and building anew their cities
and castles. . . . But the Welsh degenerating from the nobility
of the Britons, never after recovered the sovereignty of the
island, but on the contrary quarreling at one time amongst
themselves, and at another with the Saxons, never ceased to have
bloodshed on hand either in public or private feud."

Geoffrey then says that he hands over the matter of writing about
the later Welsh and Saxon kings to others, "Whom I bid be silent
as to the kings of the Britons, seeing that they have not that
book in the British speech which Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford,
did convey hither out of Brittany, the which I have in this wise
been at the pains of translating into the Latin speech."


    The Mabinogion, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest.
Everyman's Library.  Geoffrey of Monmouth's Histories, translated
by Sebastian Evans.


GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH had written his stories so well, that
although he warned people not to write about the British kings,
they paid no heed to his warning.  Soon many more people began to
write about them, and especially about Arthur.

In 1155 Geoffrey died, and that year a Frenchman, or Jerseyman
rather, named Robert Wace, finished a long poem which he called
Li Romans de Brut or the Romances of Brutus.  This poem was
founded upon Geoffrey's history and tells much the same story, to
which Wace has added something of his own.  Besides Wace, many
writers told the tale in French.  For French, you must remember,
was still the language of the rulers of our land.  It is to these
French writers, and chiefly to Walter Map, perhaps, that we owe
something new which was now added to the Arthur story.

Walter Map, like so many of the writers of this early time, was a
priest.  He was chaplain to Henry II., and was still alive when
John, the bad king, sat upon the throne.

The first writers of the Arthur story had made a great deal of
manly strength:  it was often little more than a tale of hard
knocks given and taken.  Later it became softened by the thought
of courtesy, with the idea that knights might give and take these
hard knocks for the sake of a lady they loved, and in the cause
of all women.

Now something full of mystery was added to the tale.  This was
the Quest of the Holy Grail.

The Holy Grail was said to be a dish used by Christ at the Last
Supper.  It was also said to have been used to hold the sacred
blood which, when Christ hung upon the cross, flowed from his
wounds.  The Holy Grail came into the possession of Joseph of
Arimathea, and by him was brought to Britain.  But after a time
the vessel was lost, and the story of it even forgotten, or only
remembered in some dim way.

And this is the story which the poet-priest, Walter Map, used to
give new life and new glory to the tales of Arthur.  He makes the
knights of the round table set forth to search for the Grail.
They ride far away over hill and dale, through dim forests and
dark waters.  They fight with men and fiends, alone and in
tournaments.  They help fair ladies in distress, they are tempted
to sin, they struggle and repent, for only the pure in heart may
find the holy vessel.

It is a wonderful and beautiful story, and these old story-
tellers meant it to be something more than a fairy tale.  They
saw around them many wicked things.  They saw men fighting for
the mere love of fighting.  They saw men following pleasure for
the mere love of pleasure.  They saw men who were strong oppress
the weak and grind down the poor, and so they told the story of
the Quest of the Holy Grail to try to make them a little better.

With every new writer the story of Arthur grew.  It seemed to
draw all the beauty and wonder of the time to itself, and many
stories which at first had been told apart from it came to be
joined to it.  We have seen how it has been told in Welsh, in
Latin, and in French, and, last of all, we have it in English.

The first great English writer of the stories of Arthur was named
Layamon.  He, too, was a priest, and, like Wace, he wrote in

Like Wace, Layamon called his book the Brut, because it is the
story of the Britons, who took their name from Brutus, and of
Arthur the great British hero.  This book is known, therefore, as
Layamon's Brut.  Layamon took Wace's book for a foundation, but
he added a great deal to it, and there are many stories in
Layamon not to be found in Wace.  It is probable that Layamon did
not make up these stories, but that many of them are old tales he
heard from the people among whom he lived.

Layamon finished his book towards the end of the twelfth century
or the beginning of the thirteenth.  Perhaps he sat quietly
writing it in his cell when the angry barons were forcing King
John to sign the Magna Charta.  At least he wrote it when all
England was stirring to new life again.  The fact that he wrote
in English shows that, for Layamon's Brut is the first book
written in English after the Conquest.  This book proves how
little hold the French language had upon the English people, for
although our land had been ruled by Frenchmen for a hundred and
fifty years, there are very few words in Layamon that are French
or that are even made from French.

But although Layamon wrote his book in English, it was not the
English that we speak to-day.  It was what is called Early
English or even sometimes Semi-Saxon.  If you opened a book of
Layamon's Brut you would, I fear, not be able to read it.

We know very little of Layamon; all that we do know he tells us
himself in the beginning of his poem.  "A priest was in the
land," he says:

                "Layamon was he called.
    He was Leouenathe's son,    the Lord to him be gracious.
    He lived at Ernleye         at a noble church
    Upon Severn's bank.         Good there to him it seemed
    Fast by Radestone,          where he books read.
    It came to him in mind,     and in his first thoughts,
    That he would of England    the noble deeds tell,
    What they were named        and whence they came,
    The English land            who first possessed
    After the flood             which from the Lord came.

    Layamon began to journey,   far he went over the land
    And won the noble books,    which he for pattern took.
    He told the English book    that Saint Beda made.
    Another he took in Latin    which Saint Albin made,
    And the fair Austin         who baptism brought hither.
    Book the third he took      laid it in the midst
    That the French clerk made. Wace he was called,
    He well could write.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Layamon laid these books down   and the leaves turned.
    He them lovingly beheld,        the Lord to him be merciful!
    Pen he took in fingers          and wrote upon a book skin,
    And the true words              set together,
    And the three books             pressed to one."

That, in words such as we use now, is how Layamon begins his
poem.  But this is how the words looked as Layamon wrote them: -

    "An preost wes on leoden:     lazamon wes ihoten.
     he wes Leouenaóes sone:      lióe him beo drihte."

You can see that it would not be very easy to read that kind of
English.  Nor does it seem very like poetry in either the old
words or the modern.  But you must remember that old English
poetry was not like ours.  It did not have rhyming words at the
end of the lines.

Anglo-Saxon poetry depended for its pleasantness to the ear, not
on rhyme as does ours, but on accent and alliteration.
Alliteration means the repeating of a letter.  Accent means that
you rest longer on some syllables, and say them louder than
others.  For instance, if you take the line "the way was long,
the wind was cold," way, long, wind, and cold are accented.  So
there are four accents in that line.

Now, in Anglo-Saxon poetry the lines were divided into two half-
lines.  And in each half there had to be two or more accented
syllables.  But there might also be as many unaccented syllables
as the poet liked.  So in this way the lines were often very
unequal, some being quite short and others long.  Three of the
accented syllables, generally two in the first half and one in
the second half of the line, were alliterative.  That is, they
began with the same letter.  In translating, of course, the
alliteration is very often lost.  But sometimes the Semi-Saxon
words and the English words are very like each other, and the
alliteration can be kept.  So that even in translation we can get
a little idea of what the poetry sounded like.  For instance, the
line "wat heo ihoten weoren:  and wonene heo comen," the
alliteration is on w, and may be translated "what they called
were, and whence they came," still keeping the alliteration.

Upon these rules of accent and alliteration the strict form of
Anglo-Saxon verse was based.  But when the Normans came they
brought a new form of poetry, and gradually rhymes began to take
the place of alliteration.  Layamon wrote his Brut more than a
hundred years after the coming of the Normans, and although his
poem is in the main alliterative, sometimes he has rhyming lines
such as "mochel dal heo iwesten:  mid harmen pen mesten," that

    "Great part they laid waste:
    With harm the most."

Sometimes even in translation the rhyme may be kept, as:--

    "And faer forh nu to niht:
    In to Norewaieze forh riht."

which can be translated:--

    "And fare forth now to-night
    Into Norway forth right."

At times, too, Layamon has neither rhyme nor alliteration in his
lines, sometimes he has both, so that his poem is a link between
the old poetry and the new.

I hope that you are not tired with this long explanation, for I
think if you take the trouble to understand it, it may make the
rest of this chapter more interesting.  Now I will tell you a
little more of the poem itself.

Layamon tells many wonderful stories of Arthur, from the time he
was born to his last great battle in which he was killed,
fighting against the rebel Modred.

This is how Layamon tells the story of Arthur's death, or rather
of his "passing":

    "Arthur went to Cornwall        with a great army.
    Modred heard that               and he against him came
    With unnumbered folk.           There were many of them fated.
    Upon the Tambre                 they came together,
    The place was called Camelford, evermore has that name lasted.
    And at Camelford were gathered  sixty thousand
    And more thousands thereto.     Modred was their chief.
    Then hitherward gan ride        Arthur the mighty
    With numberless folk            fated though they were.
    Upon the Tambre                 they came together,
    Drew their long swords,         smote on the helmets,
    So that fire sprang forth.      Spears were splintered,
    Shields gan shatter,            shafts to break.
    They fought all together        folk unnumbered.
    Tambre was in flood             with unmeasured blood.
    No man in the fight might       any warrior know,
    Nor who did worse nor who did better     so was the conflict mingled,
    For each slew downright         were he swain were he knight.
    There was Modred slain          and robbed of his life day.
                    In the fight
    There were slain                all the brave
    Arthur's warriors               noble.
    And the Britons all             of Arthur's board,
    And all his lieges              of many a kingdom.
    And Arthur sore wounded         with war spear broad.
    Fifteen he had                  fearful wounds.
    One might in the least          two gloves thrust.
    Then was there no more          in the fight on life
    Of two hundred thousand men     that there lay hewed in
    But Arthur the king alone,      and of his knights twain.
    But Arthur was sore wounded     wonderously much.
    Then to him came a knave        who was of his kindred.
    He was Cador's son              the earl of Cornwall.
    Constantine hight the knave.    He was to the king dear.
    Arthur him looked on            where he lay on the field,
    And these words said            with sorrowful heart.
    Constantine thou art welcome    thou wert Cador's son,
    I give thee here                my kingdom.
    Guard thou my Britons           so long as thou livest,
    And hold them all the laws      that have in my days stood
    And all the good laws           that in Uther's days stood.
    And I will fare to Avelon       to the fairest of all maidens
    To Argente their Queen,         an elf very fair,
    And she shall my wounds         make all sound
    All whole me make               with healing draughts,
    And afterwards I will come again     to my kingdom
    And dwell with the Britons      with mickle joy.
    Even with the words             that came upon the sea
    A short boat sailing,           moving amid the waves
    And two women were therein      wounderously clad.
    And they took Arthur anon       and bare him quickly
    And softly him adown laid       and to glide forth gan they.
    Then was it come                what Merlin said whilom
    That unmeasured sorrow should be    at Arthur's forth faring.
    Britons believe yet             that he is still in life
    And dwelleth in Avelon          with the fairest of all elves,
    And every Briton looketh still  when Arthur shall return.
    Was never the man born          nor never the lady chosen
    Who knoweth of the sooth        of Arthur to say more.
    But erstwhile there was a wizard     Merlin called.
    He boded with words             the which were sooth
    That an Arthur should yet       come the English to help."

    You see by this last line that Layamon has forgotten the
difference between Briton and English.  He has forgotten that in
his lifetime Arthur fought against the English.  To him Arthur
has become an English hero.  And perhaps he wrote these last
words with the hope in his heart that some day some one would
arise who would deliver his dear land from the rule of the
stranger Normans.  This, we know, happened.  Not, indeed, by the
might of one man, but by the might of the English spirit, the
strong spirit which had never died, and which Layamon himself
showed was still alive when he wrote his book in English.


WE are now going on two hundred years to speak of another book
about Arthur.  This is Morte d'Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory.

Up to this time all books had to be written by hand.  But in the
fifteenth century printing was discovered.  This was one of the
greatest things which ever happened for literature, for books
then became much more plentiful and were not nearly so dear as
they had been, and so many more people could afford to buy them.
And thus learning spread.

It is not quite known who first discovered the art of printing,
but William Caxton was the first man who set up a printing-press
in England.  He was an English wool merchant who had gone to live
in Bruges, but he was very fond of books, and after a time he
gave up his wool business, came back to England, and began to
write and print books.  One of the first books he printed was
Malory's Morte d'Arthur.

In the preface Caxton tells us how, after he had printed some
other books, many gentlemen came to him to ask him why he did not
print a history of King Arthur, "which ought most to be
remembered among us Englishmen afore all the Christian kings; to
whom I answered that diverse men hold opinion that there was no
such Arthur, and all such books as be made of him be but fained
matters and fables."

But the gentlemen persuaded Caxton until at last he undertook to
"imprint a book of the noble histories of the said King Arthur
and of certaine of his knights, after a copy unto me delivered,
which copy Sir Thomas Malory tooke out of certaine bookes in the
Frenche, and reduced it into English."

It is a book, Caxton says, "wherein ye shall find many joyous and
pleasant histories, and noble and renowned acts. . . . Doe after
the good and leave the ill, and it shall bring you unto good fame
and renowne.  And for to pass the time this booke shall be
pleasant to read in."

In 1485, when Morte d'Arthur was first printed, people indeed
found it a book "pleasant to read in," and we find it so still.
It is written in English not unlike the English of to-day, and
although it has a quaint, old-world sound, we can readily
understand it.

Morte d'Arthur really means the death of Arthur, but the book
tells not only of his death, but of his birth and life, and of
the wonderful deeds of many of his knights.  This is how Malory
tells of the manner in which Arthur came to be king.

But first let me tell you that Uther Pendragon, the King, had
died, and although Arthur was his son and should succeed to him,
men knew it not.  For after Arthur was born he was given to the
wizard Merlin, who took the little baby to Sir Ector, a gallant
knight, and charged him to care for him.  And Sir Ector, knowing
nothing of the child, brought him up as his own son.

Thus, after the death of the King, "the realm stood in great
jeopardy a long while, for every lord that was mighty of men made
him strong, and many weened to have been King.

"Then Merlin went to the Archbishop of Canterbury and counselled
him for to send for all the lords of the realm, and all the
gentlemen of arms, that they should come to London afore
Christmas upon pain of cursing, and for this cause, that as Jesus
was born on that night, that he would of his great mercy show
some miracle, as he was come to be king of all mankind, for to
show some miracle who should be right wise king of this realm.
So the Archbishop by the advice of Merlin, sent for all the lords
and gentlemen of arms that they should come by Christmas even
unto London. . . . So in the greatest church of London, whether
it were Paul's or not the French book maketh no mention, all the
estates were long or* day in the church for to pray.  And when
matins and the first mass were done, there was seen in the
churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone foursquare,
like unto a marble stone, and in the midst thereof was like an
anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword
naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about
the sword that said thus:-- 'Whoso pulleth out this sword of the
stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England.'


"Then the people marvelled and told it to the Archbishop. . . .
So when all masses were done, all the lords went to behold the
stone and the sword.  And when they saw the scripture, some
essayed; such as would have been king.  But none might stir the
sword nor move it.

"'He is not here,' said the Archbishop, 'that shall achieve the
sword, but doubt not God will make him known.  But this is my
counsel,' said the Archbishop, 'that we let purvey ten knights,
men of good fame, and they to keep the sword.'

"So it was ordained, and then there was made a cry, that every
man should essay that would, for to win the sword. . . .

"Now upon New Year's Day, when the service was done, the barons
rode unto the field, some to joust, and some to tourney, and so
it happened that Sir Ector rode unto the  jousts, and with him
rode Sir Kay his son, and young Arthur that was his nourished
brother.  So as they rode to the jousts-ward, Sir Kay had lost
his sword for he had left it at his father's lodging, and so he
prayed young Arthur for to ride for his sword.

"'I will well,' said Arthur, and rode fast after the sword, and
when he came home, the lady and all were out to see the jousting.
Then was Arthur wroth and said to himself, 'I will ride to the
churchyard, and take the sword with me that sticketh in the
stone, for my brother Sir Kay shall not be without a sword this
day.'  So when he came to the churchyard Sir Arthur alit and tied
his horse to the stile, and so he went to the tent and found no
knights there, for they were at the jousting, and so he handled
the sword by the handles, and lightly and fiercely pulled it out
of the stone, and took his horse and rode his way until he came
to his brother Sir Kay, and delivered him the sword.

"And as soon as Sir Kay saw the sword he wist well it was the
sword of the stone, and he rode to his father Sir Ector and said:
'Sir, lo here is the sword of the stone, wherefore I must be king
of this land.'

"When Sir Ector beheld the sword he returned again and came to
the church, and there they alit all three, and went into the
church.  And anon he made Sir Kay to swear upon a book how he
came to that sword.

"'Sir,' said Sir Kay, 'by my brother Arthur, for he brought it to

"'How got ye this sword?' said Sir Ector to Arthur.

"'Sir, I will tell you.  When I came home for my brother's sword,
I found no body at home to deliver me his sword, and so I thought
my brother Sir Kay should not go swordless, and so I came hither
eagerly and pulled it out of the stone without any pain.'

"'Found ye any knights about the sword?' said Sir Ector.

"'Nay,' said Arthur.

"'Now,' said Sir Ector to Arthur, 'I understand ye must be king
of this land.'

"'Wherefore I,' said Arthur, 'and for what cause?'

"'Sir,' said Ector, 'for God will have it so, for there should
never man have drawn out this sword, but he that should be
rightwise king of this land.  Now let me see if ye can put the
sword there as it was and pull it out again.'

"'That is no mastery,' said Arthur.  And so he put it in the
stone.  Therewithall Sir Ector essayed to pull out the sword and

"'Now essay,' said Sir Ector unto Sir Kay.  And anon he pulled at
the sword with all his might, but it would not be.

"'Now shall ye essay," said Sir Ector unto Arthur.

"'I will well,' said Arthur, and pulled it out easily.

"And therewithall Sir Ector knelt down to the earth, and Sir

And so Arthur was acknowledged king.  "And so anon was the
coronation made," Malory goes on to tell us, "and there was
Arthur sworn unto his lords and to the commons for to be a true
king, to stand with true justice from henceforth the days of his

For the rest of all the wonderful stories of King Arthur and his
knights you must go to Morte d'Arthur itself.  For the language
is so simple and clear that it is a book that you can easily
read, though there are some parts that you will not understand or
like and which you need not read yet.

But of all the books of which we have spoken this is the first
which you could read in the very words in which it was written
down.  I do not mean that you could read it as it was first
printed, for the oldest kind of printing was not unlike the
writing used in manuscripts and so seems hard to read now.
Besides which, although nearly all the words Malory uses are
words we still use, the spelling is a little different, and that
makes it more difficult to read.

The old lettering looked like this: -

    "With that Sir Arthur turned with his knights,
            and smote behind and before, and
    ever Sir Arthur was in the foremost press
            till his horse was slain under him."

That looks difficult.  but here it is again in our own

    "With that Sir Arthur turned with his knights, and smote
behind and before, and ever Sir Arthur was in the foremost
press till his horse was slain under him."

That is quite easy to read, and there is not a word in it that
you cannot understand.  For since printing came our language has
changed very much less than it did before.  And when printing
came, the listening time of the world was done and the reading
time had begun.  As books increased, less and less did people
gather to hear others read aloud or tell tales, and more and more
people learned to read for themselves, until now there is hardly
a boy or girl in all the land who cannot read a little.

It is perhaps because Morte d'Arthur is easily read that it has
become a storehouse, a treasure-book, to which other writers have
gone and from which they have taken stories and woven them afresh
and given them new life.  Since Caxton's time Morte d'Arthur has
been printed many times, and it is through it perhaps, more than
through the earlier books, that the stories of Arthur still live
for us.  Yet it is not perfect - it has indeed been called "a
most pleasant jumble."*  Malory made up none of the stories; as
he himself tells us, he took them from French books, and in some
of these French books the stories are told much better.  But what
we have to remember and thank Malory for is that he kept alive
the stories of Arthur.  He did this more than any other writer in
that he wrote in English such as all English-speaking people must
love to read.

*J. Furnivell


    Stories of King Arthur's Knights, by Mary Macgregor.
Stories from Morte d'Arthur, by C. L. Thomson.  Morte d'Arthur,
Globe Edition.


FOUR hundred years after Malory wrote his book, another English
writer told the tales of Arthur anew.  This was the poet Alfred,
Lord Tennyson.  He told them in poetry.

Tennyson calls his poems the Idylls of the King.  Idyll means a
short poem about some simple and beautiful subject.  The king
that Tennyson sings of is the great King Arthur.

Tennyson takes his stories, some from The Mabinogion, some from
Malory, some from other books.  He has told them in very
beautiful English, and it is the English such as we speak to-day.
He has smoothed away much that strikes us as rough and coarse in
the old stories, and his poems are as different from the old
stories as a polished diamond is different from the stone newly
brought out of the mine.  Yet we miss something of strength and
vigor.  The Arthur of the Idylls is not the Arthur of The
Mabinogion nor of Malory.  Indeed, Tennyson makes him "almost too
good to be true":  he is "Ideal manhood closed in real man,
rather than that gray king" of old.

And now I will give you part of the last of the Arthur poems, The
Passing of Arthur, so that you may read it along with Layamon's
account of the hero's death, and see for yourselves the
difference between the two.  The Passing of Arthur is written in
blank verse, that is verse which does not rhyme, and which
depends like the old English verse on the accent.  Yet they are
not alike.

    "So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
    Among the mountains by the winter sea;
    Until King Arthur's Table, man by man,
    Had fall'n in Lyonnesse about their lord,
    King Arthur.  Then, because his wound was deep,
    The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
    And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
    A broken chancel by a broken cross,
    That stood in a dark strait of barren land:
    On one side lay the Ocean, and on one
    Lay a great water, and the moon was full."

Then the King bids Sir Bedivere take his sword Excalibur,

    "And fling him far into the middle mere:
    Watch what thou seest, and lightly bring me word."

Sir Bedivere takes the sword, and,

            "From the ruin'd shrine he stept
    And in the moon athwart the place of tombs,
    Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men,
    Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang
    Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam.  He, stepping down
    By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock,
    Came on the shining levels of the lake."

But when Sir Bedivere drew Excalibur and saw the jewels of the
hilt shine in the wintry moonlight, he could not find it in his
heart to cast anything so beautiful and precious from him.  So,
hiding it among the reeds by the water's edge, he returned to his

    "Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
    'Hast thou perform'd my mission which I gave?
    What is it thou hast seen?  or what hast heard?'
    And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
    'I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,
    And the wild water lapping on the crag.'"

But King Arthur well knew that Sir Bedivere had not obeyed him.
"This is a shameful thing for men to lie," he said, and once more
sent the knight to do his bidding.

Again Sir Bedivere went, but again he could not make up his mind
to cast away the sword.  "The King is sick, and knows not what he
does," he said to himself.  So a second time he hid the sword and

    "Then spake King Arthur, breathing heavily:
    'What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?'

    And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
    'I heard the water lapping on the crag,
    And the long ripple washing in the reeds.'

    To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath:
    'Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue,
    Unknightly, traitor-hearted!  Woe is me!
    Authority forgets a dying king.'"

Then, sorrowful and abashed before the anger of the dying King,
Sir Bedivere turned, and running quickly lest his courage should
fail him, he reached the water's edge and flung the sword far
into the lake.

    "But ere he dip the surface, rose an arm
    Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
    And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
    Three times, and drew him under in the mere."

Then Sir Bedivere, in wonder, returned to the King, who, when he
saw him come, cried:-

    "'Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
    Speak out:  what is it thou hast heard, or seen?'"

So Sir Bedivere told the King how truly this time he had cast
away the sword, and how an arm "clothed in white samite, mystic,
wonderful," had caught it and drawn it under the mere.  Then at
the King's bidding Sir Bedivere raised Arthur and bore him to the
water's edge.

    "Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
    Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,
    Beneath them; and descending they were ware
    That all the decks were dense with stately forms,
    Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream - by these
    Three Queens with crowns of gold:  and from them rose
    A cry that shiver'd to the tingling start,
    And, as it were one voice, an agony
    Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
    All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
    Or hath come, since the making of the world.

    Then, murmur'd Arthur, 'Place me in the barge.'
    So to the barge they came.  There those three Queens
    Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept."

Then slowly from the shore the barge moved.  And Sir Bedivere, as
he saw his master go, was filled with grief and loneliness, for
he only of all the brave King's knights was left.  And so he
cried in mourning:-

    "'Ah! my Lord Arthur, wither shall I go?
    Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
    For now I see the true old times are dead.
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    And I, the last, go forth companionless,
    And the days darken round me, and the years,
    Among new men, strange faces, other minds."

Mournfully from the barge Arthur answered and bade him pray, for
"More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of," and
so he said farewell,

            "and the barge with oar and sail
    Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan."

Long stood Sir Bedivere thinking of all that had come and gone,
watching the barge as it glided silently away, and listening to
the wailing voices,

                    "till the hull
    Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn,
    And on the mere the wailing died away."

Sir Bedivere turned then and climbed,

    "Ev'n to the highest he could climb, and saw,
    Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
    Or thought he saw, the speck that bore the King,
    Down that long water opening on the deep
    Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
    From less to less and vanish into light.
    And the new sun rose bringing the new year."

The poem moves along with mournful stately measures, yet it
closes, like Layamon's farewell to Arthur, on a note of hope.
Layamon recalls Merlin's words, "the which were sooth, that an
Arthur should yet come the English to help."  The hope of
Tennyson is different, not that the old will return, but that the
new will take its place, for "the old order changeth yielding
place to new, and God fulfils himself in many ways."  The old
sorrows vanish "into light," and the new sun ever rises bringing
in the new year.


    Idylls of the King, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, (Macmillan).


THE story of Arthur has led us a long way.  We have almost
forgotten that it began with the old Cymric stories, the stories
of the people who lived in Britain before the coming of the
Romans.  We have followed it before the coming of the Romans.  We
have followed it down through many forms:  Welsh, in the stories
of The Mabinogion; Latin, in the stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth;
French, in the stories of Wace and Map; Semi-Saxon, in the
stories of Layamon; Middle English, in the stories of Malory; and
at last English as we now speak it, in the stories of Tennyson.
Now we must go back and see why it is that our Literature is
English, and why it is that we speak English, and not Gaelic, or
Cymric, or Latin, or French.  And then from its beginnings we
will follow our English Literature through the ages.

Since historical times the land we now call England has been
conquered three times, for we need hardly count the Danish
Invasion.  It was conquered by the Romans, it was conquered by
the English, and it was conquered by the Normans.  It was only
England that felt the full weight of these conquests.  Scotland,
Ireland, and, in part, Wales were left almost untouched.  And of
the three it was only the English conquest that had lasting

In 55 B.C. the Romans landed in Britain, and for nearly four
hundred years after that they kept coming and going.  All South
Britain became a Roman province, and the people paid tribute or
taxes to the Roman Emperor.  But they did not become Romans.
They still kept their own language, their own customs and

It will help you to understand the state of Britain in those old
days if you think of India to-day.  India forms part of the
British Empire, but the people who live there are not British.
They are still Indians who speak their own languages, and have
their own customs and religions.  The rulers only are British.

It was in much the same way that Britain was a Roman province.
And so our literature was never Latin.  There was, indeed, a time
when nearly all our books were written in Latin.  But that was
later, and not because Latin was the language of the people, but
because it was the language of the learned and of the monks, who
were the chief people who wrote books.

When, then, after nearly four hundred years the Romans went away,
the people of Britain were still British.  But soon another
people came.  These were the Anglo-Saxons, the English, who came
from over the sea.  And little by little they took possession of
Britain.  They drove the old dwellers out until it was only in
the north, in Wales and in Cornwall, that they were to be found.
Then Britain became Angleland or England, and the language was no
longer Celtic, but English.  And although there are a few words
in our language which can be traced to the old Celtic, these are
very few.  It is thus from Anglo-Saxon, and not from Gaelic or
Cymric, that the language we speak to-day comes.

Yet our Celtic forefathers have given something to our literature
which perhaps we could never have had from English alone.  The
Celtic literature is full of wonder, it is full of a tender magic
and makes us feel the fairy charm of nature, although it has not
the strength, the downrightness, we might say, of the English.
It has been said that every poet has somewhere in him a Celtic
strain. That is, perhaps, too much to believe.  But it is,
perhaps, the Celtic love of beauty, together with the Saxon love
of strength and right, to which we owe much of our great
literature.  The Celtic languages are dying out, but they have
left us something which will last so long as our literature

And now, having talked in the beginning of this book of the
stories which we owe to our Celtic forefathers, let us see what
the Saxons brought us from over the sea.

Almost the oldest Anglo-Saxon book that we have is called
Beowulf.  Wise men tell us that, like the tales of Arthur, like
the tales of Ossian, this book was not at first the work of one
man, but that it has been gradually put together out of many
minstrel songs.  That may be so, but what is sure is that these
tales are very old, and that they were sung and told for many
years in the old homes of the English across the sea before they
came to Britain and named it Angleland.

Yet, as with the old Gaelic and Cymric tales, we have no very old
copy of this tale.  But unlike these old tales, we do not find
Beowulf told in different ways in different manuscripts.  There
is only one copy of Beowulf, and that was probably written in the
tenth or eleventh century, long years after the English were
firmly settled in the land.

As Beowulf is one of our great book treasures, you may like to
hear something of its story.

Long ago, in the time when Queen Elizabeth, James I., and Charles
I. sat upon the throne, there lived a learned gentleman called
Sir Robert Bruce Cotton.  He was an antiquary.  That is, he loved
old things, and he gathered together old books, coins,
manuscripts and other articles, which are of interest because
they help to make us understand the history of bygone days.

Sir Robert Cotton loved books especially, and like many other
book lovers, he was greedy of them.  It was said, indeed, that he
often found it hard to return books which had been lent to him,
and that, among others, he had books which really ought to have
belonged to the King.

Sir Robert's library soon became famous, and many scholars came
to read there, for Sir Robert was very kind in allowing other
people to use his books.  But twice his library was taken from
him, because it was said that it contained things which were
dangerous for people to know, and that he allowed the enemies of
the King to use it.  That was in the days of Charles I., and
those were troublous times.

The second time that his library was taken from him, Sir Robert
died, but it was given back to his son, and many years later his
great-great-grandson gave it to the nation.

In 1731 the house in which the library was took fire, and more
than a hundred books were burned, some being partly and some
quite destroyed.  Among those that were partly destroyed was
Beowulf.  But no one cared very much, for no one had read the
book or knew anything about it.

Where Sir Robert found Beowulf, or what he thought about it, we
shall never know.  Very likely it had remained in some quiet
monastery library for hundreds of years until Henry VIII.
scattered the monks and their books.  Many books were then lost,
but some were saved, and after many adventures found safe
resting-places.  Among those was Beowulf.

Some years after the fire the Cotton Library, as it is now
called, was removed to the British Museum, where it now remains.
And there a Danish gentleman who was looking for books about his
own land found Beowulf, and made a copy of it.  Its adventures,
however, were not over.  Just when the printed copies were ready
to be published, the British bombarded Copenhagen.  The house in
which the copies were was set on fire and they were all burned.
The Danish gentleman, however, was not daunted.  He set to work
again, and at last Beowulf was published.

Even after it was published in Denmark, no Englishman thought of
making a translation of the book, and it was not until fifty
years more had come and gone that an English translation

When the Danish gentleman made his copy of Beowulf, he found the
edges of the book so charred by fire that they broke away with
the slightest touch.  No one thought of mending the leaves, and
as years went on they fell to pieces more and more.  But at last
some one woke up to the fact that this half-burned book was a
great treasure.  Then it was carefully mended, and thus kept from
wasting more.

So now, after all its adventures, having been found, we shall
never know where, by a gentleman in the days of Queen Elizabeth,
having lain on his bookshelves unknown and unread for a hundred
years and more, having been nearly destroyed by fire, having been
still further destroyed by neglect, Beowulf at last came to its
own, and is now carefully treasured in a glass case in the
British Museum, where any one who cared about it may go to look
at it.

And although it is perhaps not much to look at, it is a very
great treasure.  For it is not only the oldest epic poem in the
Anglo-Saxon language, it is history too.  By that I do not mean
that the story is all true, but that by reading it carefully we
can find out much about the daily lives of our forefathers in
their homes across the seas.  And besides this, some of the
people mentioned in the poem are mentioned in history too, and it
is thought that Beowulf, the hero himself, really lived.

And now, having spoken about the book and its adventures, let us
in the next chapter speak about the story.  As usual, I will give
part of it in the words of the original, translated, of course,
into modern English.  You can always tell what is from the
original by the quotation marks, if by nothing else.


HROTHGAR, King of the Spear Danes, was a mighty man in war, and
when he had fought and conquered much, he bethought him that he
would build a great and splendid hall, wherein he might feast and
be glad with his people.

And so it was done.  And when the hall was built, there night by
night the thanes gathered and rejoiced with their King; and
there, when the feast was over, they lay them down to sleep.

Within the hall all was gladness, but without on the lone
moorland there stalked a grim monster, named Grendel, whose dark
heart was filled with anger and hate.  To him the sound of song
and laughter was deep pain, and he was fain to end it.

"He, the Grendel, set off then after night was come to seek the
lofty house, to see how the Ring Danes had ordered it after the
service of beer.  He found them therein, a troup of nobles
sleeping after the feast.  They knew not sorrow, the wretchedness
of men, they knew not aught of misfortune.

"The grim and greedy one was soon prepared, savage and fierce,
and in sleep he seized upon thirty of the thanes, and thence he
again departed exulting in his prey, to go home with the carcases
of the slain, to reach his own dwelling.

"Then was in the morning twilight, at the breaking of day,
Grendel's war-craft revealed to men.  Then was lamentation
upraised after the feast, a great noise in the morning.

"The mighty prince, a noble of old goodness, sat unblithe; the
strong in armies suffered, the thanes endured sorrow, after they
beheld the track of the hated one, the accursed spirit."

But in spite of all their grief and horror, when night came the
thanes again lay down to rest in the great hall.  And there again
the monster returned and slew yet more thanes, so that in horror
all forsook the hall, and for twelve long years none abode in it
after the setting of the sun.

And now far across the sea a brave man of the Goths, Beowulf by
name, heard of the doings of Grendel, and he made up his mind to
come to the aid of King Hrothgar.

"He commanded to make ready for him a good ship; quoth he, he
would seek the war-king over the swan's path; the renowned prince
since he had need of men.

"The good chieftain had chosen warriors of the Geátish people,
the bravest of those who he could find.  With fifteen men he
sought the sea-wood.  A warrior, a man crafty in lakes, pointed
out the boundaries of the land.

"The time passed on, the ship was on the waves, the boat beneath
a mountain, the ready warriors stept upon the prow.  The men bore
into the bosom of the bark bright ornaments, their ready warlike

"The men shoved forth the bounden wood, the men upon the journey
they desired.

"The likest to a bird the foam-necked ship, propelled by the
wind, started over the deep waves of the sea, till that about one
hour of the second day, the wreathed prowed ship had sailed over,
so that the traveller saw the land.

"Then quickly the people of the Westerns stepped upon the plain.
They tied the sea-wood, they let down their shirts of mail, their
war-weeds.  They thanked God because that the waves had been easy
to them."

And now these new-come warriors were led to King Hrothgar.  He
greeted them with joy, and after feasting and song the Danes and
their King departed and left the Goths to guard the hall.
Quietly they lay down to rest, knowing that ere morning stern
battle would be theirs.

"Then under veils of mist came Grendel from the moor; he bare
God's anger.  The criminal meant to entrap some one of the race
of men in the high hall.  He went under the welkin, until he saw
most clearly the wine hall, the treasure house of men, variegated
with vessels.  That was not the first time that he had sought
Hrothgar's home.  Never he, in all his life before or since found
bolder men keepers of the hall.

"Angry of mood he went, from his eyes, likest to fire, stood out
a hideous light.  He saw within the house many a warrior
sleeping, a peaceful band together.  Then his mood laughed.  The
foul wretch meant to divide, ere day came, the life of each from
his body."

Quickly then he seized a warrior and as quickly devoured him.
But as he stretched forth his hand to seize another, Beowulf
gripped him in his awful grasp.

Then began a terrible combat.  The hall echoed with cries and
sounds of clashing steel.  The Goths awoke, joining in the fight,
but all their swords were of no avail against the ogre.  With his
bare hands alone Beowulf fought, and thought to kill the monster.
But Grendel escaped, though wounded to death indeed, and leaving
his hand, arm, and shoulder behind in Beowulf's grip.

When morning came there was much rejoicing.  Hrothgar made a
great feast, at which he gave rich gifts to Beowulf and his
friends.  The evening passed in song and laughter, and when
darkness fell the Danes lay down to rest in the hall as of old.

But the evil was not over.  Grendel indeed was slain, but his
mother, an ogre almost as fierce as he, was ready to avenge him.
So when night fell she hastened to the hall, and carried off
Hrothgar's best loved thane.

"Then was there a cry in Heorot.  Then was the prudent king, the
hoary warrior, sad of mood, when he learned that his princely
thane, the dearest to him, no longer lived.  Quickly was Beowulf
fetched to the bower, the man happy in victory, at break of day."

And when Beowulf heard the mournful tale he comforted the King
with brave and kindly words, and quickly he set forth to the
dreadful mere, the dwelling of the water-witch, Grendel's mother.
And here he plunged in ready to fight.

"Soon did she, who thirsting for gore, grim and greedy, for a
hundred years had held the circuit of the waves, discover that
some one of men, some strange being, was trying from above the
land.  She grappled then towards him, she seized the warrior in
her foul claws."

Then beneath the waves was there a fierce struggle, but Beowulf
in the end conquered.  The water-witch was slain, and rejoicing,
the hero returned to Hrothgar.

Now indeed had peace come to the Danes, and loaded with thanks
and rewards, Beowulf returned homeward.

Many years passed.  Beowulf himself became king in his own land,
and for fifty years he ruled well, and kept his folk in peace.
Then it fell that a fearful Fire-Dragon wasted all the land, and
Beowulf, mindful of his deeds of old, set forth to slay him.

Yet ere he fought, he bade farewell to all his thanes, for he
knew well that this should be his last fight.

"Then greeted he every one of the men, the bold helm bearer
greeted his dear comrades for the last time.  I would not bear
sword or weapon against the worm if I knew how else I might
proudly grapple with the wretch, as I of old with Grendel did.
But I ween this war fire is hot, fierce and poisonous; therefore
have I on me shield and byrnie. . . . Then did the famous warrior
arise beside his shield, hard under helmet he bare the sword-
shirt, under the cliffs of stone, he trusted in the strength of
one man; nor is such an expedition for a coward."

Fiercely then did the battle rage between hero and dragon.  But
Beowulf's sword failed him in his need, and it was like to go ill
with him.  Then, when his thanes who watched saw that, fear fell
upon them, and they fled.  One only, Wiglaf was his name, would
not forsake his liege lord.  Seizing his shield and drawing his
sword, he cried, "Come, let us go to him, let us help our
chieftain, although the grim terror of fire be hot."

But none would follow him, so alone he went:  "through the fatal
smoke he bare his war helmet to the assistance of his lord."

Fierce was the fight and long.  But at length the dragon lay
dead.  Beowulf had conquered, but in conquering he had received
his death wound.  And there, by the wild seashore, he died.  And
there a sorrowing people buried him.

"For him, then did the people of the Geáts prepare upon the earth
a funeral pile, strong, hung round with helmets, with war boards
and bright byrnies as he had requested.  Weeping, the heroes laid
down in the midst their dear lord.

"Then began the warriors to awake upon the hill the mightiest of
bale-fires.  The wood smoke rose aloft, dark from the foe of
wood.  Noisily it went mingled with weeping. . . .

"The people of the Westerns wrought then a mound over the sea:
it was high and broad, easy to behold by the sailors over the
waves, and during ten days they built up the beacon of the war-
renowned, the mightiest of fires. . . . Then round the mound rode
a troupe of beasts of war, of nobles, twelve in all.  They would
speak about their King, they would call him to mind.  They
praised his valor, and his deeds of bravery they judged with
praise, even as it is fitting that a man should extol his
friendly lord, should love him in his soul, when he must depart
from the body to become of naught.

"Thus the people of the Geáts, his hearth comrades, mourned their
dear lord.  They said that he was of the kings of the world, the
mildest and gentlest of men, the most gracious to his people, and
the most jealous of glory."


Stories of Beowulf, by H. E. Marshall.  Beowulf, translated by W.


ALTHOUGH there are lines of Beowulf which seem to show that the
writer of the poem was a Christian, they must have been added by
some one who copied or retold the story long after the Saxons had
come to Britain, for the poet who first told the tale must have
been a heathen, as all the Saxons were.

The Britons were Christian, for they had learned the story of
Christ from the Romans.  But when the Saxons conquered the land
they robbed and ruined the churches, the Christian priests were
slain or driven forth, and once more the land became heathen.

Then, after many years had passed, the story of Christ was again
brought to England.  This time it came from Ireland.  It was
brought from there by St. Columba, who built a church and founded
a monastery on the island of Iona.  And from there his eager,
wandering priests carried the story far and wide, northward to
the fortress of the Pictish kings, and southward to the wild
Saxons who dwelt amid the hills and uplands of Northumbria.

To this story of love and gentleness the wild heathen listened in
wonder.  To help the weak, to love and forgive their enemies, was
something unthought of by these fierce sea-rovers.  Yet they
listened and believed.  Once again churches were built, priests
came to live among the people, and the sound of Christian prayer
and praise rose night and morning from castle and from hut.

For thirty years and more St. Columba, the passionate and tender,
taught and labored.  Many monasteries were founded which became,
as it were, the lighthouses of learning and religion.  There the
monks and priests lived, and from them as centers they traveled
out in all directions teaching the heathen.  And when at last St.
Columba closed his tired eyes and folded his weary hands, there
were many more to carry on his work.

Then, also, from Rome, as once before, the story of Christ was
brought.  In 597, the year in which St. Columba died, St.
Augustine landed with his forty followers.  They, too, in time
reached Northumbria; so, side by side, Roman and Celt spoke the
message of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

The wild Saxon listened to this message, it is true.  He took
Christianity for his religion, but it was rather as if he had put
on an outer dress.  His new religion made little difference to
his life.  He still loved fighting and war, and his songs were
still all of war.  He worshiped Christ as he had worshiped Woden,
and looked upon Him as a hero, only a little more powerful than
the heroes of whom the minstrels sang.  It was difficult to teach
the Saxons the Bible lessons which we know so well, for in those
far-off days there were no Bibles.  There were indeed few books
of any kind, and these few belonged to the monks and priests.
They were in Latin, and in some of them parts of the Bible had
been translated into Latin.  But hardly any of the men and women
of England could read or understand these books.  Indeed, few
people could read at all, for it was still the listening time.
They learned the history of their country from the songs of the
minstrels, and it was in this way, too, that they came to learn
the Bible stories, for these stories were made into poetry.  And
it was among the rugged hills of Northumbria, by the rocky shore
where the sounding waves beat and beat all day long, that the
first Christian songs in English were sung.  For here it was that
Caedmon, the "Father of English Song," lived and died.

At Whitby there was a monastery ruled over by the Abbess Hilda.
This was a post of great importance, for, as you know, the
monasteries were the schools and libraries of the country, and
they were the inns too, so all the true life of the land ebbed
and flowed through the monasteries.  Here priest and soldier,
student and minstrel, prince and beggar came and went.  Here in
the great hall, when work was done and the evening meal over,
were gathered all the monks and their guests.  Here, too, would
gather the simple folk of the countryside, the fishermen and
farmers, the lay brothers and helpers who shared the work of the
monastery.  When the meal was done the minstrels sang, while
proud and humble alike listened eagerly.  Or perhaps "it was
agreed for the sake of mirth that all present should sing in
their turn."

But when, at the monastery of Whitby, it was agreed that all
should sing in turn, there was one among the circle around the
fire who silently left his place and crept away, hanging his head
in shame.

This man was called Caedmon.  He could not sing, and although he
loved to listen to the songs of others, "whenever he saw the harp
come near him," we are told, "he arose out of shame from the
feast and went home to his house."  Away from the bright
firelight out into the lonely dark he crept with bent head and
lagging steps.  Perhaps he would stand a moment outside the door
beneath the starlight and listen to the thunder of the waves and
the shriek of the winds.  And as he felt in his heart all the
beauty and wonder of the world, the glory and the might of the
sea and sky, he would ask in dumb pain why, when he could feel it
touch his heart, he could not also sing of the beauty and wonder,
glory and might. [68]

One night Caedmon crept away as usual, and went "out of the house
where the entertainment was, to the stable, where he had to take
care of the horses that night.  He there composed himself to
rest.  A person appeared to him then in a dream and, calling him
by name, said, 'Caedmon, sing some song to me.'

"He answered, 'I cannot sing; for that was the reason why I left
the entertainment and retired to this place, because I cannot

"The other who talked to him replied, 'However, you shall sing.'

"'What shall I sing?' rejoined he.

"'Sing the beginning of created things,' said the other.

"Whereupon he presently began to sing verses to the praise of
God, which he had never heard, the purport whereof was thus:--

    'Now must we praise the guardian of heaven's kingdom,
    The creator's might and his mind's thought;
    Glorious father of men! as of every wonder he,
    Lord eternal, formed the beginning.
    He first framed for the children of earth
    The heaven as a roof; holy Creator!
    Then mid-earth, the Guardian of mankind,
    The eternal Lord, afterwards produced;
    The earth for men, Lord almighty.'

"This," says the old historian, who tells the story in Latin, "is
the sense, but not the words in order as he sang them in his
sleep.  For verses, though never so well composed, cannot be
literally (that is word for word) translated out of one language
into another without losing much of their beauty and loftiness."*

*Bede, Ecclesiastical History.

Awakening from his sleep, Caedmon remembered all that he had sung
in his dream.  And the dream did not fade away as most dreams do.
For he found that not only could he sing these verses, but he who
had before been dumb and ashamed when the harp was put into his
hand, could now make and sing more beautifully than could others.
And all that he sang was to God's glory.

In the morning, full of his wonderful new gift, Caedmon went to
the steward who was set over him, and told him of the vision that
he had had during the night.  And the steward, greatly marveling,
led Caedmon to the Abbess.

The Abbess listened to the strange tale.  Then she commanded
Caedmon, "in the presence of many learned men, to tell his dream
and repeat the verses that they might all give their judgment
what it was and whence his verse came."

So the simple farm laborer, who had no learning of any kind, sang
while the learned and grave men listened.  And he who was wont to
creep away in dumb shame, fearing the laughter of his fellows,
sang now with such beauty and sweetness that they were all of one
mind, saying that the Lord Himself had, of His heavenly grace,
given to Caedmon this new power.

Then these learned men repeated to Caedmon some part of the
Bible, explained the meaning of it, and asked him to tell it
again in poetry.  This Caedmon undertook to do, and when he fully
understood the words, he went away.  Next morning he returned and
repeated all that he had been told, but now it was in beautiful

Then the Abbess saw that, indeed, the grace of God had come upon
the man.  She made him at once give up the life of a servant
which he had been leading, and bade him become a monk.  Caedmon
gladly did her bidding, and when he had been received among them,
his brother monks taught to him all the Bible stories.

But Caedmon could neither read nor write, nor is it at all likely
that he ever learned to do either even after he became a monk,
for we are told that "he was well advanced in years" before his
great gift of song came to him.  It is quite certain that he
could not read Latin, so that all that he put into verse had to
be taught to him by some more learned brother.  And some one,
too, must have written down the verses which Caedmon sang.

We can imagine the pious, humble monk listening while another
read and translated to him out of some Latin missal.  He would
sit with clasped hands and earnest eyes, intent on understanding.
Then, when he had filled his mind with the sacred story, he would
go away by himself and weave it into song.  Perhaps he would walk
about beneath the glowing stars or by the sounding sea, and thank
God that he was no longer dumb, and that at last he could say
forth all that before had been shut within his heart in an agony
of silence. "And," we are told, "his songs and his verse were so
winsome to hear, that his teachers themselves wrote and learned
from his mouth."

"Thus Caedmon, keeping in mind all he heard, and, as it were,
chewing the cud, converted the same into most harmonious verse;
and sweetly repeating the same, made his masters in their turn
his hearers.

"He sang the creation of the world, the origin of man, and all
the history of Genesis; and made many verses on the departure of
the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their entering into the
land of promise, with many other histories from holy writ."

As has been said, there are lines in Beowulf which seem to have
been written by a Christian.  But all that is Christian in it is
merely of the outside; it could easily be taken away, and the
poem would remain perfect.  The whole feeling of the poem is not
Christian, but pagan.  So it would seem that what is Christian in
it has been added long after the poem was first made, yet added
before the people had forgotten their pagan ways.

For very long after they became Christian the Saxons kept their
old pagan ways of thought, and Caedmon, when he came to sing of
holy things, sang as a minstrel might.  To him Abraham and Moses,
and all the holy men of old, were like the warrior chieftains
whom he knew and of whom the minstrels sang.  And God to him was
but the greatest of these warriors.  He is "Heaven's Chief," "the
Great Prince."  The clash and clang of sword and trumpet calls
are heard "amid the grim clash of helms."  War filled the
greatest half of life.  All history, all poetry were bound up in
it.  Caedmon sang of what he saw, of what he knew.  He was
Christian, he had learned the lesson of peace on earth, but he
lived amid the clash of arms and sang them.


ONE  of Caedmon's poems is call The Genesis.  In this the poet
begins by telling of how Satan, in his pride, rebelled against
God, and of how he was cast forth from heaven with all those who
had joined with him in rebelling.

This story of the war in heaven and of the angels' fall is not in
the Bible.  It is not to be found either in any of the Latin
books which the monks of Whitby may have had.  The story did not
come from Rome, but from the East.  How, then, did Caedmon hear

Whitby, we must remember, was founded by Celtic, and not by Roman
monks.  It was founded by monks who came from Ireland to Iona,
and from thence to Northumbria.  To them the teaching of Christ
had come from Jerusalem and the East rather than from Rome.  So
here again, perhaps, we can see the effect of the Celts on our
literature.  It was from Celtic monks that Caedmon heard the
story of the war in heaven.

After telling of this war, Caedmon goes on to relate how the
wicked angels "into darkness urged them their darksome way."

    "They might not loudly laugh,
    But they in hell-torments,
    Dwelt accursed.
    And woe they knew
    Pain and sorrow,
    Torment endured
    With darkness decked,
    Hard retribution,
    For that they had devised
    Against God to war."

Then after all the fierce clash of battle come a few lines which
seem like peace after war, quiet after storm.

    "Then was after as before
    Peace in heaven,
    Fair-loving thanes,
    The Lord dear to all."

Then God grieved at the empty spaces in heaven from whence the
wicked angels had been driven forth.  And that they might at last
be filled again, he made the world and placed a man and woman
there.  This to the chief of the fallen angels was grief and
pain, and his heart boiled within him in anger.

"Heaven is lost to us," he cried; "but now that we may not have
it, let us so act that it shall be lost to them also.  Let us
make them disobey God,
    "Then with them will he be wroth of mind,
    Will cast them from his favor,
    Then shall they seek this hell
    And these grim depths,
    Then may we have them to ourselves as vassals,
    The children of men in this fast durance."

Then Satan asks who will help him to tempt mankind to do wrong.
"If to any followers I princely treasure gave of old while we in
that good realm happy sate," let him my gift repay, let him now
aid me.

So one of Satan's followers made himself ready.  "On his head the
chief his helmet set," and he, "wheeled up from thence, departed
through the doors of hell lionlike in air, in hostile mood,
dashed the fire aside, with a fiend's power."

Caedmon next tells how the fiend tempted first the man and then
the woman with guileful lies to eat of the fruit which had been
forbidden to them, and how Eve yielded to him.  And having eaten
of the forbidden fruit, Eve urged Adam too to eat, for it seemed
to her that a fair new life was open to her.  "I see God's
angels," she said,

    "Encompass him
    With feathery wings
    Of all folk greatest,
    Of bands most joyous.
    I can hear from far
    And so widely see,
    Through the whole world,
    Over the broad creation.
    I can the joy of the firmament
    Hear in heaven.
    It became light to me in mind
    From without and within
    After the fruit I tasted."

And thus, urged by Eve, Adam too ate of the forbidden fruit, and
the man and woman were driven out of the Happy Garden, and the
curse fell upon them because of their disobedience.

So they went forth "into a narrower life."  Yet there was left to
them "the roof adorned with holy stars, and earth to them her
ample riches gave."

In many places this poem is only a paraphrase of the Bible.  A
paraphrase means the same thing said in other words.  But in
other places the poet seems to forget his model and sings out of
his own heart.  Then his song is best.  Perhaps some of the most
beautiful lines are those which tell of the dove that Noah sent
forth from the ark.

    "Then after seven nights
    He from the ark let forth
    A palid dove
    To fly after the swart raven,
    Over the deep water,
    To quest whether the foaming sea
    Had of the green earth
    Yet any part laid bare.
    Wide she flew seeking her own will,
    Far she flew yet found no rest.
    Because of the flood
    With her feet she might not perch on land,
    Nor on the tree leaves light.
    For the steep mountain tops
    Were whelmed in waters.
    Then the wild bird went
    At eventide the ark to seek.
    Over the darling wave she flew
    Weary, to sink hungry
    To the hands of the holy man."

A second time the dove is sent forth, and this is how the poet
tells of it:--

            "Far and wide she flew
    Glad in flying free, till she found a place
    On a gentle tree.  Gay of mood she was and glad
    Since she sorely tired, now could settle down,
    On the branches of the tree, on its beamy mast.
    Then she fluttered feathers, went a flying off again,
    With her booty flew, brought it to the sailor,
    From an olive tree a twig, right into his hands
    Brought the blade of green.

"Then the chief of seamen knew that gladness was at hand, and he
sent forth after three weeks the wild dove who came not back
again; for she saw the land of the greening trees.  The happy
creature, all rejoicing, would no longer of the ark, for she
needed it no more."*

*Stopford Brooke

Besides Genesis many other poems were thought at one time to have
been made by Caedmon.  The chief of these are Exodus and Daniel.
They are all in an old book, called the Junian MS., from the name
of the man, Francis Dujon, who first published them.  The MS. was
found among some other old books in Trinity College, Dublin, and
given to Francis Dujon.  He published the poems in 1655, and it
is from that time that we date our knowledge of Caedmon.

Wise men tell us that Caedmon could not have made any of these
poems, not even the Genesis of which you have been reading.  But
if Caedmon did not make these very poems, he made others like
them which have been lost.  It was he who first showed the way,
and other poets followed.

We need not wonder, perhaps, that our poetry is a splendor of the
world when we remember that it is rooted in these grand old
tales, and that it awoke to life through the singing of a strong
son of the soil, a herdsman and a poet.  We know very little of
this first of English poets, but what we do know makes us love
him.  He must have been a gentle, humble, kindly man, tender of
heart and pure of mind.  Of his birth we know nothing; of his
life little except the story which has been told.  And when death
came to him, he met it cheerfully as he had lived.

For some days he had been ill, but able still to walk and talk.
But one night, feeling that the end of life for him was near, he
asked the brothers to give to him for the last time the
Eucharist, or sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

"They answered, 'What need of the Eucharist? for you are not
likely to die, since you talk so merrily with us, as if you were
in perfect health.'

"'However,' said he, 'bring me the Eucharist.'

"Having received the same into his hand, he asked whether they
were all in charity with him, and without any enmity or rancour.

"They answered that they were all in perfect charity and free
from anger; and in their turn asked him whether he was in the
same mind towards them.

"He answered, 'I am in charity, my children, with all the
servants of God.'

"Then, strengthening himself with the heavenly viaticum,* he
prepared for the entrance into another life, and asked how near
the time was when the brothers were to be awakened to sing the
nocturnal praises of our Lord.

*The Eucharist given to the dying.

"They answered, 'It is not far off.'

"Then he said, 'Well, let us wait that hour.'  And signing
himself with the sign of the cross, he laid his head on the
pillow, and falling into a slumber ended his life so in silence."

Thus his life, which had been begun in silence, ended also in
silence, with just a few singing years between.

"Thus it came to pass, that as he had served God with a simple
and pure mind, and undisturbed devotion, so he now departed to
His presence, leaving the world by a quiet death.  And that
tongue which had composed so many holy words in praise of the
Creator, uttered its last words while he was in the act of
signing himself with a cross, and recommending himself into His

*Bede, Ecclesiastical History

At Whitby still the ruins of a monastery stand.  It is not the
monastery over which the Abbess Hilda ruled or in which Caedmon
sang, for in the ninth century that was plundered and destroyed
by the fierce hordes of Danes who swept our shores.  But in the
twelfth century the house was rebuilt, and parts of that building
are still to be seen.


WHILE Caedmon was still singing at Whitby, in another
Northumbrian village named Jarrow a boy was born.  This boy we
know as Bede, and when he was seven years old his friends gave
him into the keeping of the Abbot of Wearmouth.  Under this Abbot
there were two monasteries, the one at Jarrow and the other at
Wearmouth, a few miles distant.  And in these two monasteries
Bede spent all the rest of his life.

When Bede was eight years old Caedmon died.  And although the
little boy had never met the great, but humble poet, he must have
heard of him, and it is from Bede's history that we learn all
that we know of Caedmon.

There is almost as little to tell of Bede's life as of Caedmon's.
He passed it peacefully, reading, writing, and teaching within
the walls of his beloved monastery.  But without the walls wars
often raged, for England was at this time still divided into
several kingdoms, whose kings often fought against each other.

Bede loved to learn even when he was a boy.  We know this, for
long afterward another learned man told his pupils to take Bede
for an example, and not spend their time "digging out foxes and
coursing hares."*  And when he became a man he was one of the
most learned of his time, and wrote books on nearly every subject
that was then thought worth writing about.

*C. Plummer.

Once, when Bede was still a boy, a fearful plague swept the land,
"killing and destroying a great multitude of men."  In the
monastery of Jarrow all who could read, or preach, or sing were
killed by it.  Only the Abbot himself and a little lad were left.
The Abbot loved services and the praises of the church.  His
heart was heavy with grief and mourning for the loss of his
friends; it was heavy, too, with the thought that the services of
his church could no longer be made beautiful with song.

For a few days the Abbot read the services all alone, but at the
end of a week he could no longer bear the lack of singing, so
calling the little lad he bade him to help him and to chant the

The story calls up to us a strange picture.  There stands the
great monastery, all its rooms empty.  Along its stone-flagged
passages the footsteps of the man and boy echo strangely.  They
reach the chapel vast and dim, and there, before the great altar
with its gleaming lights, the Abbot in his robes chants the
services, but where the voices of choir and people were wont to
join, there sounds only the clear high voice of one little boy.

That little boy was Bede.

And thus night and morning the sound of prayer and praise rose
from the deserted chapel until the force of the plague had spent
itself, and it was once more possible to find men to take the
places of those singers who had died.

So the years passed on until, when Bede was thirty years of age,
he became a priest.  He might have been made an abbot had he
wished.  But he refused to be taken away from his beloved books.
"The office," he said, "demands household care, and household
care brings with it distraction of mind, hindering the pursuit of

*H. Morley, English Writers.

Bede wrote many books, but it is by his Ecclesiastical History
(that is Church history) that we remember him best.  As Caedmon
is called the Father of English Poetry, Bede is called the Father
of English History.  But it is well to remember that Caedmon
wrote in Anglo-Saxon and Bede in Latin.

There were others who wrote history before Bede, but he was
perhaps the first who wrote history in the right spirit.  He did
not write in order to make a good minstrel's tale.  He tried to
tell the truth.  He was careful as to where he got his facts, and
careful how he used them.  So those who came after him could
trust him.  Bede's History, you remember, was one of the books
which Layamon used when he wrote his Brut, and in it we find many
of the stories of early British history which have grown familiar
to us.

It is in this book that we find the story of how Gregory saw the
pretty children in the Roman slave market, and of how, for love
of their fair faces, he sent Augustine to teach the heathen
Saxons about Christ.  There are, too, many stories in it of how
the Saxons became Christian.  One of the most interesting,
perhaps, is about Edwin, King of Northumbria.  Edwin had married
a Christian princess, Ethelberga, sister of Eadbald, King of
Kent.  Eadbald was, at first, unwilling that his sister should
marry a pagan king.  But Edwin promised that he would not try to
turn her from her religion, and that she and all who came with
her should be allowed to worship what god they chose.

So the Princess Ethelberga came to be Queen of Northumbria, and
with her she brought Paulinus, "a man beloved of God," as priest.
He came to help her to keep faithful among a heathen people, and
in the hope, too, that he might be able to turn the pagan king
and his folk to the true faith.

And in this hope he was not disappointed.  By degrees King Edwin
began to think much about the Christian faith.  He gave up
worshipping idols, and although he did not at once become
Christian, "he often sat alone with silent lips, while in his
inmost heart he argued much with himself, considering what was
best to do and what religion he should hold to."  At last the
King decided to call a council of his wise men, and to ask each
one what he thought of this new teaching.  And when they were all
gathered Coifi, the chief priest, spoke.

"'O King,' he said, 'consider what this is which is now preached
to us; for I verily declare to you, that the religion which we
have hitherto professed has, as far as I can learn, no virtue in
it.  For none of your people has applied himself more diligently
to the worship of our gods than I.  And yet there are many who
receive greater favors from you, and are more preferred than I,
and are more prosperous in their undertakings.  Now if the gods
were good for anything, they would rather forward me, who have
been more careful to serve them.  It remains, therefore, that if
upon examination you find those new doctrines, which are now
preached to us, better and more efficacious, we immediately
receive them without delay.'

"Another of the King's chief men, approving of his words and
exhortations, presently added:  'The present life of man, O King,
seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us,
like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein
you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers,
and a good fire in the midst, while the storms of rain and snow
prevail abroad.  The sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and
immediately out at another, whilst he is within is safe from the
wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he
immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from
whence he had emerged.  So this life of man appears for a short
space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are
utterly ignorant.  If, therefore, this new doctrine contains
something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be

Others of the King's wise men and counselors spoke, and they all
spoke to the same end.  Coifi then said that he would hear yet
more of what Paulinus had to tell.  So Paulinus rose from his
place and told the people more of the story of Christ.  And after
listening attentively for some time Coifi again cried out, "'I
advise, O King, that we instantly abjure and set fire to those
temples and altars which we have consecrated without reaping any
benefit from them.'

"In short, the King publicly gave his license to Paulinus to
preach the Gospel, and renouncing idolatry, declared that he
received the faith of Christ.  And when he inquired of the high
priest who should first profane the altars and temples of their
idols with the enclosures that were about them, Coifi answered,
'I; for who can more properly than myself destroy those things
which I worshiped through ignorance, for an example to all others
through the wisdom which has been given me by the true God?'

"Then immediately, in contempt of his former superstitions, he
desired the King to furnish him with arms and a stallion.  And
mounting the same he set out to destroy the idols.  For it was
not lawful before for the high priest either to carry arms or to
ride upon any but a mare.

"Having, therefore, girt a sword about him, with a spear in his
hand, he mounted the King's stallion and proceeded to the idols.
The multitude, beholding it, concluded he was distracted.  But he
lost no time, for as soon as he drew near the temple he profaned
the same, casting into it the spear which he held.  And rejoicing
in the knowledge of the worship of the true God, he commanded his
companions to destroy the temple, with all its enclosures, by

*Dr. Giles's translation of Ecclesiastical History.

One of the reasons why I have chosen this story out of Bede's
History is because it contains the picture of the sparrow
flitting through the firelit room.  Out of the dark and cold it
comes into the light and warmth for a moment, and then vanishes
into the dark and cold once more.

The Saxon who more than thirteen hundred years ago made that
word-picture was a poet.  He did not know it, perhaps, he was
only speaking of what he had often seen, telling in simple words
of something that happened almost every day, and yet he has given
us a picture which we cannot forget, and has made our literature
by so much the richer.  He has told us of something, too, which
helps us to realize the rough life our forefathers lived.  Even
in the king's palace the windows were without glass, the doors
stood open to let out the smoke from "the good fire in the
midst," for there were no chimneys, or at best but a hole in the
roof to serve as one.  The doors stood open, even though "the
storms of snow and rain prevailed abroad," and in spite of the
good fire, it must have been comfortless enough.  Yet many a
stray bird might well be drawn thither by the light and warmth.

Bede lived a peaceful, busy life, and when he came to die his end
was peaceful too, and his work ceased only with his death.  One
of his pupils, writing to a friend, tells of these last hours.*

*Extracts are from a letter of Cuthbert, afterwards Abbot of
Wearmouth and Jarrow, to his friend Cuthwin.

For some weeks in the bright springtime of 735 Bede had been ill,
yet "cheerful and rejoicing, giving thanks to almighty God every
day and night, yea every hour."  Daily, too, he continued to give
lessons to his pupils, and the rest of the time he spent in
singing psalms.  "I can with truth declare that I never saw with
my eyes, or heard with my ears, any one return thanks so
unceasingly to the living God," says the letter.  "During these
days he labored to compose two works well worthy to be remembered
besides the lessons we had from him, and singing of psalms:  that
is, he translated the Gospel of St. John as far as the words,
'But what are these among so many,' into our own tongue for the
benefit of the church, and some collections out of the Book of
Notes of Bishop Isidor.

"When the Tuesday before the Ascension of our Lord came, he began
to suffer still more in his health.  But he passed all that day
and dictated cheerfully, and now and then among other things
said, 'Go on quickly, I know not how long I shall hold out, and
whether my maker will not soon take me away.'

"But to us he seemed very well to know the time of his departure.
And so he spent the night awake in thanksgiving.  And when the
morning appeared, that is Wednesday, he ordered us to write with
all speed what he had begun. . . .

"There was one of us with him who said to him, 'Most dear Master,
there is still one chapter wanting.  Do you think it troublesome
to be asked any more questions?'

"He answered, 'It is no trouble.  Take your pen and make ready
and write fast. . . .'

"Then the same boy said once more, 'Dear Master, there is yet one
sentence not written.'

"And he said, 'Well, then write it.'

"And after a little space the boy said, 'Now it is finished.'

"And he answered, 'Well, thou hast spoken truth, it is finished.
Receive my head into your hands, for it is a great satisfaction
to me to sit facing my holy place, where I was wont to pray, that
I may also, sitting, call upon my Father.'"

And sitting upon the pavement of his little cell, he sang, "Glory
be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost."  "When
he had named the Holy Ghost he breathed his last, and departed to
the heavenly kingdom."

So died Bede, surnamed the Venerable.

We have come to think of Venerable as meaning very old.  But Bede
was only sixty-two when he died, and Venerable here means rather
"Greatly to be honored."

There are two or three stories about how Bede came to be given
his surname.  One tells how a young monk was set to write some
lines of poetry to be put upon the tomb where his master was
buried.  He tried hard, but the verse would not come right.  He
could not get the proper number of syllables in his lines.

    "In this grave lie the bones of

he wrote.  But he could not find an adjective that would make the
line the right length, try how he might.  At last, wearied out,
he fell asleep over his task.

Then, as he slept, an angel bent down, and taking the pen from
the monk's tired fingers, wrote the words, "the Venerable," so
that the line ran, "In this grave lie the bones of the Venerable
Bede."  And thus, for all time, our first great historian is
known as The Venerable Bede.


    The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, by Bede,
translated by Dr. Giles.


WHILE Caedmon sang his English lays and Bede wrote his Latin
books, Northumbria had grown into a center, not only of English
learning, but of learning for western Europe.  The abbots of
Jarrow and Wearmouth made journeys to Rome and brought back with
them precious MSS. for the monastery libraries.  Scholars from
all parts of Europe came to visit the Northumbrian monasteries,
or sent thither for teachers.

But before many years had passed all that was changed.  Times of
war and trouble were not yet over for England.  Once again
heathen hordes fell upon our shores.  The Danes, fierce and
lawless, carrying sword and firebrand wherever they passed,
leaving death and ruin in their track, surged over the land.  The
monasteries were ruined, the scholars were scattered.  A life of
peaceful study was no longer possible, the learning of two
hundred years was swept away, the lamp of knowledge lit by the
monks grew dim and flickered out.

But when sixty years or more had passed, a king arose who crushed
the Danish power, and who once more lit that lamp.  This king was
Alfred the Great.

History tells us how he fought the Danes, how he despaired, and
how he took heart again, and how he at last conquered his enemies
and brought peace to his people.

Alfred was great in war.  He was no less great in peace. As he
fought the Danes with the sword, so he fought ignorance with his
pen.  He loved books, and he longed to bring back to England
something of the learning which had been lost.  Nor did he want
to keep learning for a few only.  He wanted all his people to get
the good of it.  And so, as most good books were written in
Latin, which only a few could read, he began to translate some of
them into English.

In the beginning of one of them Alfred says, "There are only a
few on this side of the Humber who can understand the Divine
Service, or even explain a Latin epistle in English, and I
believe not many on the other side of the Humber either.  But
they are so few that indeed I cannot remember one south of the
Thames when I began to reign."

By "this side of the Humber" Alfred means the south side, for now
the center of learning was no longer Northumbria, but Wessex.

Alfred translated many books.  He translated books of geography,
history and religion, and it is from Alfred that our English
prose dates, just as English poetry dates from Caedmon.  For you
must remember that although we call Bede the Father of English
History, he wrote in Latin for the most part, and what he wrote
in English has been lost.

Besides writing himself, Alfred encouraged his people to write.
He also caused a national Chronicle to be written.

A chronicle is the simplest form of history.  The old chronicles
did not weave their history into stories, they simply put down a
date and something that happened on that date.  They gave no
reasons for things, they expressed no feelings, no thoughts.  So
the chronicles can hardly be called literature.  They were not
meant to be looked upon as literature.  The writers of them used
them rather as keys to memory.  They kept all the stories in
their memories, and the sight of the name of a king or of a
battle was enough to unlock their store of words.  And as they
told their tales, if they forgot a part they made something up,
just as the minstrels did.

Alfred caused the Chronicle to be written up from such books and
records as he had from the coming of the Romans until the time in
which he himself reigned.  And from then onwards to the time of
the death of King Stephen the Saxon Chronicle was kept.  It is
now one of the most useful books from which we can learn the
history of those times.

Sometimes, especially at the beginning, the record is very scant.
As a rule, there is not more than one short sentence for a year,
sometimes not even that, but merely a date.  It is like this:--

"Year 189.  In this year Severus succeeded to the empire and
reigned seventeen winters.  He begirt Britain with a dike from
sea to sea.

"Year 190.

"Year 199.

"Year 200.  In this year was found the Holy Rood."

And so on it goes, and every now and again, among entries which
seem to us of little or no importance, we learn something that
throws great light on our past history.  And when we come to the
time of Alfred's reign the entries are much more full.  From the
Chronicle we learn a great deal about his wars with the Danes,
and of how he fought them both by land and by sea.

The Saxon Chronicle, as it extended over many hundred years, was
of course written by many different people, and so parts of it
are written much better than other parts.  Sometimes we find a
writer who does more than merely set down facts, who seems to
have a feeling for how he tells his story, and who tries to make
the thing he writes about living.  Sometimes a writer even breaks
into song.

Besides causing the Chronicle to be written, Alfred translated
Bede's History into English.  And so that all might learn the
history of their land, he rebuilt the ruined monasteries and
opened schools in them once more.  There he ordered that "Every
free-born youth in the Kingdom, who has the means, shall attend
to his book, so long as he have no other business, till he can
read English perfectly."*

*Preface to Boethius' Pastoral Care, translated into English by

Alfred died after having reigned for nearly thirty years.  Much
that he had done seemed to die with him, for once again the Danes
descended upon our coasts.  Once again they conquered, and Canute
the Dane became King of England.  But the English spirit was
strong, and the Danish invasion has left scarcely a trace upon
our language.  Nor did the Danish power last long, for in 1042 we
had in Edward the Confessor an English king once more.  But he
was English only in name.  In truth he was more than half French,
and under him French forces began already to work on our
literature.  A few years later that French force became
overwhelming, for in 1066 William of Normandy came to our shores,
and with his coming it seemed for a time as if the life of
English literature was to be crushed out forever.  Only by the
Chronicle were both prose and poetry kept alive in the English
tongue.  And it is to Alfred the Great that we owe this slender
thread which binds our English literature of to-day with the
literature of a thousand years ago.


    "William came o'er the sea,
    With bloody sword came he.
    Cold heart and bloody sword hand
    Now rule the English land."
            The Heimskringla

WILLIAM THE NORMAN ruled England.  Norman knights and nobles
filled all the posts of honor at court, all the great places in
the land.  Norman bishops and abbots ruled in church and
monastery.  The Norman tongue was alone the speech in court and
hall, Latin alone was the speech of the learned.  Only among the
lowly, the unlearned, and the poor was English heard.

It seemed as if the English tongue was doomed to vanish before
the conquering Norman, even as the ancient British tongue had
vanished before the conquering English.  And, in truth, for two
hundred years it might have been thought that English prose was
dead, "put to sleep by the sword."  But it was not so.  It slept,
indeed, but to awake again.  For England conquered the conqueror.
And when English Literature awoke once more, it was the richer
through the gifts which the Norman had brought.

One thing the Normans had brought was a liking for history, and
soon there sprang up a whole race of chroniclers.  They, like
Bede, were monks and priests.  They lived in monasteries, and
wrote in Latin.  One after another they wrote, and when one laid
down his pen, another took it up.  Some of these chroniclers were
mere painstaking men who noted facts and dates with care.  But
others were true writers of literature, who told their tales in
vivid, stirring words, so that they make these times live again
for us.  The names of some of the best of these chroniclers are
Eadmer, Orderic Vitalis, and William of Malmesbury.

By degrees these Norman and Anglo-Norman monks became filled with
the spirit of England.  They wrote of England as of their home,
they were proud to call themselves English, and they began to
desire that England should stand high among the nations.  It is,
you remember, from one of these chroniclers, Geoffrey of Monmout
(see chapter vi.), that we date the reawakening of story-telling
in England.

As a writer of history Geoffrey is bad.  Another chronicler* says
of him, "Therefore as in all things we trust Bede, whose wisdom
and truth are not to be doubted:  so that fabler with his fables
shall be forthwith spat out by us all."

*William of Newbury.

But if Geoffrey was a bad writer of history, he was good as "a
fabler," and, as we have seen in chapter vii., it was to his book
that we owe the first long poem written in English after the

The Norman came with sword in hand, bringing in his train the
Latin-writing chroniclers.  But he did not bring these alone.  He
brought minstrels also.  Besides the quiet monks who sat in their
little cells, or in the pleasant cloisters, writing the history
of the times, there were the light-hearted minstrels who roamed
the land with harp and song.

The man who struck the first blow at Hastings was a minstrel who,
as he rode against the English, sang.  And the song he sang was
of Roland, the great champion of Charlemagne.  The Roland story
is to France what the Arthur story is to us.  And it shows,
perhaps, the strength of English patriotic spirit that that story
never took hold of English minds.  Some few tales there are told
of Roland in English, but they are few indeed, in comparison with
the many that are told of Arthur.

The Norman, however, who did not readily invent new tales, was
very good at taking and making his own the tales of others.  So,
even as he conquered England by the sword, he conquered our
literature too.  For the stories of Arthur were told in French
before they came back to us in English.  It was the same with
other tales, and many of our old stories have come down to us,
not through their English originals, but through the French.  For
the years after the Conquest are the poorest in English

From the Conquest until Layamon wrote his Brut, there was no
English literature worthy of the name.  Had we not already spoken
of Layamon out of true order in following the story of Arthur, it
is here that we should speak of him and of his book, The Brut.
So, perhaps, it would be well to go back and read chapter vii.,
and then we must go on to the Metrical Romances.

The three hundred years from 1200 to 1500 were the years of the
Metrical Romances.  Metrical means written in verse.  Romance
meant at first the languages made from the Latin tongue, such as
French or Spanish.  After a time the word Romance was used to
mean a story told in any Romance language.  But now we use it to
mean any story of strange and wonderful adventures, especially
when the most thrilling adventures happen to the hero and

The Norman minstrels, then, took English tales and made them into
romances.  But when the English began once more to write, they
turned these romances back again into English.  We still call
them romances, although they are now written in English.

Some of these tales came to us, no doubt, from the Danes.  They
were brought from over the sea by the fierce Northmen, who were,
after all, akin to the Normans.  The Normans made them into
French stories, and the English turned them back into English.

Perhaps one of the most interesting of these Metrical Romances is
that of Havelok the Dane.

The poem begins with a few lines which seem meant to call the
people together to listen:--

    "Hearken to me, good men,
    Wives, maidens, and all men,
    To a tale that I will tell to
    Who so will hear and list thereto."

We can imagine the minstrel as he stands in some market-place, or
in some firelit hall, touching his harp lightly as he sings the
words.  With a quick movement he throws back his long green
cloak, and shows his gay dress beneath.  Upon his head he wears a
jaunty cap, and his hair is long and curled.  He sings the
opening lines perhaps more than once, in order to gather the
people round him.  Then, when the eager crowd sit or stand about
him, he begins his lay.  It is most probably in a market-place
that the minstrel stands and sings.  For Havelok the Dane was
written for the people and not for the great folk, who still
spoke only French.

    "There was a king in byegone days
    That in his time wrought good laws,
    He did them make and full well hold,
    Him loved young, him loved old,
    Earl and baron, strong man and thane,
    Knight, bondman and swain,
    Widows, maidens, priests and clerks
    And all for his good works."

If you will compare this poetry with that of Layamon, you will
see that there is something in it quite different from his.  This
no longer rests, as that does, upon accent and alliteration, but
upon rhyme.  The English, too, in which it is written, is much
more like the English of to-day.  For Havelok was written perhaps
a hundred years after Layamon's Brut.  These are the first lines
as they are in the MS.:--

    "Herknet to me gode men
    Wiues maydnes and alle men
    Of a tale pat ich you wile telle
    Wo so it wile here and yerto dwelle."

That, you see, except for curious spelling, is not very unlike
our English of to-day, although it is fair to tell you that all
the lines are not so easy to understand as these are.


THE good king of whom we read in the last chapter was called
Athelwold, and the poet tells us that there were happy days in
England while he reigned.  But at length he became sick unto
death.  Then was he sore grieved, because he had no child to sit
upon the throne after him save a maiden very fair.  But so young
was she that she could neither "go on foot nor speak with mouth."
So, in this grief and trouble, the King wrote to all his nobles,
"from Roxburgh all unto Dover," bidding them come to him.

And all who had the writings came to the King, where he lay at
Winchester.  Then, when they were all come, Athelwold prayed them
to be faithful to the young Princess, and to choose one of
themselves to guard her until she was of age to rule.

So Godrich, Earl of Cornwall, was chosen to guard the Princess.
For he was a true man, wise in council, wise in deed, and he
swore to protect his lady until she was of such age as no longer
to have need of him.  Then he would wed her, he swore, to the
best man in all the land.

So, happy in thought that his daughter should reign after him in
peace, the King died, and there was great sorrow and mourning
throughout the land.  But the people remained at peace, for the
Earl ruled well and wisely.

    "From Dover to Roxburgh
    All England of him stood in awe,
    All England was of him adread."

Meanwhile the Princess Goldboru grew daily more and more fair.
And when Earl Godrich saw how fair and noble she became, he
sighed and asked himself:--

        "Whether she should be
    Queen and lady over me.
    Whether she should all England,
    And me, and mine, have in her hand.
    Nay, he said,
    'I have a son, a full fair knave,
    He shall England all have,
    He shall be king, he shall be sire.'"

Then, full of his evil purpose, Godrich thought no more of his
oath to the dead king, but cast Goldboru into a darksome prison,
where she was poorly clad and ill-fed.

Now it befell that at this time there was a right good king in
Denmark.  He had a son named Havelok and two fair daughters.  And
feeling death come upon him, he left his children in the care of
his dear friend Godard, and so died.

But no sooner was the King in his grave than the false Godard
took Havelok and his two sisters and thrust them into a dungeon.

    "And in the castle did he them do
    Where no man might come them to,
    Of their kin.  There they prison'd were,
    There they wept oft sort,
    Both for hunger and for cold,
    Ere they were three winters old.
    Scantily he gave them clothes,
    And cared not a nut for his oaths,
    He them nor clothed right, nor fed,
    Nor them richly gave to bed.
    Thane Godard was most sickerly
    Under God the most traitorly
    That ever in earth shapen was
    Except the wicked Judas."

After a time the traitor went to the tower where the children
were, and there he slew the two little girls.  But the boy
Havelok he spared.

    "For the lad that little was,
    He kneeled before that Judas
    And said, 'Lord, mercy now!
    Homage, Lord, to you I vow!
    All Denmark I to you will give
    If that now you let me live.'"

So the wicked Earl spared the lad for the time.  But he did not
mean that he should live.  Anon he called a fisherman to him and

    "Grim, thou wist thou art my thral,
    Wilt thou do my will all
    That I will bid thee?
    To-morrow I shall make thee free,
    And give thee goods, and rich thee make,
    If that thou wilt this child take
    And lead him with thee, to-night,
    When thou seest it is moonlight,
    Unto the sea, and do him in!
    And I will take on me the sin."

Grim, the fisherman, rejoiced at the thought of being free and
rich.  So he took the boy, and wound him in an old cloth, and
stuffed an old coat into his mouth, so that he might not cry
aloud.  Then he thrust him into a sack, and thus carried him home
to his cottage.

But when the moon rose, and Grim made ready to drown the child,
his wife saw a great light come from the sack.  And opening it,
they found therein the prince.  Then they resolved, instead of
drowning him, to save and nourish him as their own child.  But
they resolved also to hide the truth from the Earl.

At break of day, therefore, Grim set forth to tell Godard that
his will was done.  But instead of the thanks and reward promised
to him, he got only evil words.  So, speeding homeward from that
traitor, he made ready his boat, and with his wife and three sons
and two daughters and Havelok, they set sail upon the high sea,
fleeing for their lives.

Presently a great wind arose which blew them to the coast of
England.  And when they were safely come to land, Grim drew up
his boat upon the shore, and there he build him a hut, and there
he lived, and to this day men call the place Grimsby.

Years passed.  Havelok lived with the fisherman, and grew great
and fair and strong.  And as Grim was poor, the Prince thought it
no dishonor to work for his living, and he became in time a
cook's scullion.

Havelok had to work hard.  But although he worked hard he was
always cheerful and merry.  He was so strong that at running,
jumping, or throwing a stone no one could beat him.  Yet he was
so gentle that all the children of the place loved him and played
with him.

    "Him loved all, quiet or bold,
    Knight, children, young and old,
    All him loved that him saw,
    Both high men and low,
    Of him full wide the word sprang
    How he was meek, how he was strong."

At last even the wicked Godrich in his palace heard of Havelok in
the kitchen.  "Now truly this is the best man in England," he
said, with a sneer.  And thinking to bring shame on Goldboru, and
wed her with a kitchen knave, he sent for Havelok.

"Master, wilt wed?" he asked, when the scullion was brought
before him.

"Nay," quoth Havelok, "by my life what should I do with a wife?
I could not feed her, nor clothe her, nor shoe her.  Whither
should I bring a woman?  I have no cot, I have no stick nor twig.
I have neither bread nor sauce, and no clothes but one old coat.
These clothes even that I wear are the cook's, and I am his

At that Godrich shook with wrath.  Up he sprang and began to beat
Havelok without mercy.

    "And said, 'Unless thou her take,
    That I well ween thee to make,
    I shall hangen thee full high
    Or I shall thrusten out thine eye.'"

Then seeing that there was no help for it, and that he must
either be wedded or hanged, Havelok consented to marry Goldboru.
So the Princess was brought, "the fairest woman under the moon."
And she, sore afraid at the anger and threats of Godrich, durst
not do aught to oppose the wedding.  So were they "espoused fair
and well" by the Archbishop of York, and Havelok took his bride
home to Grimsby.

You may be sure that Havelok, who was so strong and yet so
gentle, was kind to his beautiful young wife.  But Goldboru was
unhappy, for she could not forget the disgrace that had come upon
her.  She could not forget that she was a princess, and that she
had been forced to wed a low-born kitchen knave.  But one night,
as she lay in bed weeping, an angel appeared to her and bade her
sorrow no more, for it was no scullion that she had wed, but a
king's son.  So Goldboru was comforted.

And of all that afterward befell Havelok and Goldboru, of how
they went to Denmark and overcame the traitor there, and received
the kingdom; and of how they returned again to England, and of
how Godrich was punished, you must read for yourselves in the
book of Havelok the Dane.  But this one thing more I will tell
you, that Havelok and Goldboru lived happily together until they
died.  They loved each other so tenderly that they were never
angry with each other.  They had fifteen children, and all the
sons became kings and all the daughters became queens.

I should like to tell you many more of these early English
metrical romances.  I should like to tell you of Guy of Warwick,
of King Horn, of William and the Werewolf, and of many others.
But, indeed, if I told all the stories I should like to tell this
book would have no end.  So we must leave them and pass on.


    The Story of Havelok the Dane, rendered into later English
by Emily Hickey.  The Lay of Havelok the Dane, edited by W. W.
Skeat in the original English.


BESIDES the metrical romances, we may date another kind of story
from this time.  I mean the ballads.

Ballad was an old French word spelt balade.  It really means a
dance-song.  For ballads were at first written to be sung to
dances--slow, shuffling, balancing dances such as one may still
see in out-of-the-way places in Brittany.

These ballads often had a chorus or refrain in which every one
joined.  But by degrees the refrain was dropped and the dancing
too.  Now we think of a ballad as a simple story told in verse.
Sometimes it is merry, but more often it is sad.

The ballads were not made for grand folk.  They were not made to
be sung in courts and halls.  They were made for the common
people, and sometimes at least they were made by them.  They were
meant to be sung, and sung out of doors.  For in those days the
houses of all but the great were very comfortless.  They were
small and dark and full of smoke.  It was little wonder, then,
that people lived out of doors as much as they could, and that
all their amusements were out of doors.  And so it comes about
that many of the ballads have an out-of-door feeling about them.

A ballad is much shorter than a romance, and therefore much more
easily learned and remembered.  So many people learned and
repeated the ballads, and for three hundred years they were the
chief literature of the people.  In those days men sang far more
and read and thought far less than nowadays.  Now, if we read
poetry, some of us like to be quietly by ourselves.  Then all
poetry was made to be read or sung aloud, and that in company.

I do not mean you to think that we have any ballads remaining to
us as old as the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth
century, which was the time in which Havelok was written.  But
what I want you to understand is that the ballad-making days went
on for hundreds of years.  The people for whom the ballads were
made could not read and could not write; so it was of little use
to write them down, and for a long time they were not written
down.  "They were made for singing, an' no for reading," said an
old lady to Sir Walter Scott, who in his day made a collection of
ballads.  "They were made for singing an' no for reading; but ye
hae broken the charm now, an' they'll never be sung mair."

And so true is this, that ballads which have never been written
down, but which are heard only in out-of-the-way places, sung or
said by people who have never learned to read, have really more
of the old-time feeling about them than many of those which we
find in books.

We cannot say who made the ballads.  Nowadays a poet makes a
poem, and it is printed with his name upon the title-page.  The
poem belongs to him, and is known by his name.  We say, for
instance, Gray's Elegy, or Shakespeare's Sonnets.  But many
people helped to make the ballads.  I do not mean that twenty or
thirty people sat down together and said, "Let us make a ballad."
That would not have been possible.  But, perhaps, one man heard a
story and put it into verse.  Another then heard it and added
something to it.  Still another and another heard, repeated,
added to, or altered it in one way or another.  Sometimes the
story was made better by the process, sometimes it was spoiled.
But who those men were who made and altered the ballads, we do
not know.  They were simply "the people."

One whole group of ballads tells of the wonderful deeds of Robin
Hood.  Who Robin Hood was we do not certainly know, nor does it
matter much.  Legend has made him a man of gentle birth who had
lost his lands and money, and who had fled to the woods as an
outlaw.  Stories gradually gathered round his name as they had
gathered round the name of Arthur, and he came to be looked upon
as the champion of the people against the Norman tyrants.

Robin was a robber, but a robber as courtly as any knight.  His
enemies were the rich and great, his friends were the poor and

    "For I never yet hurt any man
        That honest is and true;
    But those that give their minds to live
        Upon other men's due.

    I never hurt the husbandmen
        That used to till the ground;
    Nor spill their blood that range the wood
        To follow hawk or hound.

    My chiefest spite to clergy is
        Who in those days bear a great sway;
    With friars and monks with their fine sprunks
        I make my chiefest prey."

The last time we heard of monks and priests they were the friends
of the people, doing their best to teach them and make them
happy.  Now we find that they are looked upon as enemies.  And
the monasteries, which at the beginning had been like lamps of
light set in a dark country, had themselves become centers of
darkness and idleness.

But although Robin fought against the clergy, the friars and
monks who did wrong, he did not fight against religion.

    "A good manner then had Robin;
        In land where that he were,
    Every day ere he would dine,
        Three masses would he hear.

    The one in worship of the Father,
        And another of the Holy Ghost,
    The third of Our Dear Lady,
        That he loved all the most.

    Robin loved Our Dear Lady,
        For doubt of deadly sin,
    Would he never do company harm
        That any woman was in."

    And Robin himself tells his followers:--

    "But look ye do not husbandman harm
        That tilleth with his plough.

    No more ye shall no good yeoman
        That walketh by green wood shaw,
    Nor no knight nor no squire
        That will be good fellow.

    These bishops and these archbishops,
        Ye shall them beat and bind,
    The high sheriff of Nottingham,
        Him hold ye in your mind."

The great idea of the Robin Hood ballads is the victory of the
poor and oppressed over the rich and powerful, the triumph of the
lawless over the law-givers.  Because of this, and because we
like Robin much better than the Sheriff of Nottingham, his chief
enemy, we are not to think that the poor were always right and
the rulers always wrong.  There were many good men among the
despised monks and friars, bishops and archbishops.  But there
were, too, many evils in the land, and some of the laws pressed
sorely on the people.  Yet they were never without a voice.

The Robin Hood ballads are full of humor; they are full, too, of
English outdoor life, of hunting and fighting.

Of quite another style is the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens.  That
takes us away from the green, leafy woods and dells of England to
the wild, rocky coast of Scotland.  It takes us from the singing
of birds to the roar of the waves.  The story goes that the King
wanted a good sailor to sail across the sea.  Then an old knight
says to him that the best sailor that ever sailed the sea is Sir
Patrick Spens.

So the King writes a letter bidding Sir Patrick make ready.  At
first he is pleased to get a letter from the King, but when he
has read what is in it his face grows sad and angry too.

"Who has done me this evil deed?" he cries, "to send me out to
sea in such weather?"

Sir Patrick is very unwilling to go.  But the King has commanded,
so he and his men set forth.  A great storm comes upon them and
the ship is wrecked.  All the men are drowned, and the ladies who
sit at home waiting their husbands' return wait in vain.

There are many versions of this ballad, but I give you here one
of the shortest and perhaps the most beautiful.
    "The king sits in Dumferling toune
        Drinking the blude reid wine:
    'O whar will I get a guid sailor,
        To sail this schip of mine?'

    Up and spak an eldern knicht,
        Sat at the king's richt kne:
    'Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor
        That sails upon the se.'

    The king has written a braid letter,
        And signed it wi his hand,
    And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence,
        Was walking on the sand.

    The first line that Sir Patrick red,
        A loud lauch lauched he;
    The next line that Sir Patrick red,
        The teir blinded his ee.

    'O wha is this has done this deed,
        This ill deed don to me,
    To send me out this time o' the yeir,
        To sail upon the se?

    'Mak hast, mak hast, my merry men all,
        Our guid schip sails the morne.'
    'Oh, say na sae, my master deir,
        For I feir a deadlie storme.

    'Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone,
        Wi the auld moone in her arme,
    And I feir, I feir, my deir master,
        That we will cum to harme.'

    O, our Scots nobles wer richt laith
        To weet their cork-heild schoone;
    Bot lang owre a' the play wer played
        Thair hats they swam aboone.

    O lang, lang, may their ladies sit,
        Wi their fans into their hand,
    Or eir they see Sir Patrick Spence
        Cum sailing to the land.

    O lang, lang, may the ladies stand,
        Wi their gold kaims in their hair,
    Waiting for their ain deir lords,
        For they'll see them na mair.

    Haf ower, haf ower to Aberdour,
        It's fiftie fadom deip,
    And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spence.
        Wi the Scots lords at his feit."
And now, just to end this chapter, let me give you one more poem.
It is the earliest English song that is known.  It is a spring
song, and it is so full of the sunny green of fresh young leaves,
and of all the sights and sounds of early summer, that I think
you will like it.

    "Summer is a-coming in,
    Loud sing cuckoo;
    Groweth seed and bloweth mead,
    And springeth the wood new,
        Sing cuckoo!

    Ewe bleateth after lamb,
    Loweth after calf the cow;
    Bullock starteth, buck verteth,*
        Merry sing cuckoo.

    Cuckoo, cuckoo, well singeth thou cuckoo,
    Thou art never silent now.
    Sing cuckoo, now, sing cuckoo,
        Sing cuckoo, sing cuckoo, now!"

    *Turns to the green fern or "vert."  Vert is French for

Is that not pretty?  Can you not hear the cuckoo call, even
though the lamps may be lit and the winter wind be shrill

But I think it is prettier still in its thirteenth-century
English.  Perhaps you may be able to read it in that, so here it

    "Sumer is ycumen in,
    Lhude sing cuccu;
    Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
    And springth the wde nu,
        Sing cuccu!

    Awe bleteth after lomb,
    Lhouth after calve cu;
    Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth,
        Murie sing cuccu.

    Cuccu, cuccu, well singes thu cuccu,
    Ne swike thu naver nu.
    Sing cuccu, nu, sing cuccu,
        Sing cuccu, sing cuccu, nu!"*

    *Ritson's Ancient Songs.


    Stories of Robin Hood, by H. E. Marshall.  Stories of the
Ballads, by Mary Macgregor.  A Book of Ballads, by C. L. Thomson.
Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (Everyman's Library).


DURING the long years after the Norman Conquest when English was
a despised language, it became broken up into many dialects.  But
as time went on and English became once more the language of the
educated as well as of the uneducated, there arose a cultured
English, which became the language which we speak to-day.

In the time of Edward III England was England again, and the
rulers were English both in heart and in name.  But England was
no longer a country apart, she was no longer a lonely sea-girt
island, but had taken her place among the great countries of
Europe.  For the reign of Edward III was a brilliant one.  The
knightly, chivalrous King set his country high among the
countries of Europe.  Men made songs and sang of his victories,
of Creçy and of Calais, and France bowed the knee to England.
But the wars and triumphs of the King pressed hardly on the
people of England, and ere his reign was over misery, pestilence,
and famine filled the land.

So many men had been killed in Edward's French and Scottish wars
that there were too few left to till the land.  Then came a
terrible disease called the Black Death, slaying young and old,
rich and poor, until nearly half the people in the land were

Then fewer still were left to do the work of the farms.  Cattle
and sheep strayed where they would, for there were none to tend
them.  Corn ripened and rotted in the fields, for there were none
to gather it.  Food grew dear as workers grew scarce.  Then the
field laborers who were left began to demand larger wages.  Many
of these laborers were little more than slaves, and their masters
refused to pay them better.  Then some left their homes and went
away to seek  new masters who would be willing to pay more, while
others took to a life of wandering beggary.

The owners of the land had thought that they should be ruined did
they pay the great wages demanded of them.  Now they saw that
they should be ruined quite as much if they could find no one at
all to do the work.  So laws were made forcing men to work for
the same wages they had received before the plague, and
forbidding them to leave the towns and villages in which they had
been used to live.  If they disobeyed they were imprisoned and

Yet these new laws were broken again and again, because bread had
now become so dear that it was impossible for men to live on as
little as they had done before.  Still many masters tried to
enforce the law, and the land was soon filled not only with
hunger and misery, but with a fierce class hatred between master
and man.  It was the beginning of a long and bitter struggle, and
as the cry of the poor grew louder and louder, the hatred and
spirit of revolt grew fiercer.

But the great of the land seemed little touched by the sorrows of
the people.  While they starved and died, the King, surrounded by
a glittering court, gave splendid feasts and tournaments.  He
built fair palaces and chapels, founded a new round table, and
thought to make the glorious days of Arthur live again.

And the great among the clergy cared as little for the poor as
did the great among the nobles.  Many of them had become selfish
and worldly, some of them wicked, though of course there were
many good men left among them too.

The Church was wealthy but the powerful priests kept that wealth
in their own hands, and many of the country clergy were almost as
miserably poor as the people whom they taught.  And it was
through one of these poor priests, named William Langland, that
the sorrows of the people found a voice.

We know very little about Langland.  So little do we know that we
are not sure if his name was really William or not.  But in his
poem called The Vision of Piers the Ploughman he says, "I have
lived in the land, quoth I, my name is long Will."  It is chiefly
from his poem that we learn to know the man.  When we have read
it, we seem to see him, tall and thin, with lean earnest face,
out of which shine great eyes, the eyes that see visions.  His
head is shaven like a monk's; he wears a shabby long gown which
flaps in the breeze as he strides along.

Langland was born in the country, perhaps in Oxfordshire, perhaps
in Shropshire, and he went to school at Great Malvern.  He loved
school, for he says:--

    "For if heaven be on earth, and ease to any soul,
    It is in cloister or in school.  Be many reasons I find
    For in the cloister cometh no man, to chide nor to fight,
    But all is obedience here and books, to read and to learn."

Perhaps Langland's friends saw that he was clever, and hoped that
he might become one of the great ones in the Church.  In those
days (the Middle Ages they were called) there was no sharp line
dividing the priests from the people.  The one shaded off into
the other, as it were.  There were many who wore long gowns and
shaved their heads, who yet were not priests.  They were called
clerks, and for a sum of money, often very small, they helped to
sing masses for the souls of the dead, and performed other
offices in connection with the services of the Church.  They were
bound by no vows and were allowed to marry, but of course could
never hope to be powerful.  Such was Langland; he married and
always remained a poor "clerk."

But if Langland did not rise high in the Church, he made himself
famous in another way, for he wrote Piers the Ploughman.  This is
a great book.  There is no other written during the fourteenth
century, in which we see so clearly the life of the people of the

There are several versions of Piers, and it is thought by some
that Langland himself wrote and re-wrote his poem, trying always
to make it better.  But others think that some one else wrote the
later versions.

The poem is divided into parts.  The first part is The Vision of
Piers the Ploughman, the second is The Vision Concerning Do Well,
Do Bet, Do Best.

In the beginning of Piers the Ploughman Langland tells us how

    "In a summer season when soft was the sun,
    I wrapped myself in a cloak as if I were a shepherd
    In the habit of a hermit unholy of works,
    Abroad I wandered in this world wonders to hear.
    But on a May morning on Malvern Hills
    Me befell a wonder, a strange thing.  Methought,
    I was weary of wandering, and went me to rest
    Under a broad bank by a burn side.
    And as I lay, and leaned, and looked on the waters
    I slumbered in a sleeping it sounded so merry."

If you will look back you will see that this poetry is very much
more like Layamon's than like the poetry of Havelok the Dane.
Although people had, for many years, been writing rhyming verse,
Langland has, you see, gone back to the old alliterative poetry.
Perhaps it was that, living far away in the country, Langland had
written his poem before he had heard of the new kind of rhyming
verses, for news traveled slowly in those days.

Two hundred years later, when The Vision of Piers the Ploughman
was first printed, the printer in his preface explained
alliterative verse very well.  "Langland wrote altogether in
metre," he says, "but not after the manner of our rimers that
write nowadays (for his verses end not alike), but the nature of
his metre is to have three words, at the least, in every verse
which begin with some one letter.  As for example the first two
verses of the book run upon 's,' as thus:

    'In a somer season whan sette was the sunne
    I shope me into shrobbes as I a shepe were.'

The next runneth upon 'h,' as thus:

    'In habite as an Hermite unholy of workes.'

This thing being noted, the metre shall be very pleasant to read.
The English is according to the time it was written in, and the
sense somewhat dark, but not so hard but that it may be
understood of such as will not stick to break the shell of the
nut for the kernel's sake."

This printer also says in his preface that the book was first
written in the time of King Edward III, "In whose time it pleased
God to open the eyes of many to see his truth, giving them
boldness of heart to open their mouths and cry out against the
works of darkness. . . . There is no manner of vice that reigneth
in any estate of man which this writer hath not godly, learnedly,
and wittily rebuked."*

*R. Crowley is his preface to Piers Ploughman, printed in 1550.

I hope that you will be among those who will not "stick to break
the shell of the nut for the kernel's sake," and that although
the "sense be somewhat dark" you will some day read the book for
yourselves.  Meantime in the next chapter I will tell you a
little more about it.

Chapter XX "PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN" -- continued

WHEN Langland fell asleep upon the Malvern Hills he dreamed a
wondrous dream.  He thought that he saw a "fair field full of
folk," where was gathered "all the wealth of the world and the
woe both."

    "Working and wondering as the world asketh,
    Some put them to the plough and played them full seldom,
    In eareing and sowing laboured full hard."

But some are gluttons and others think only of fine clothes.
Some pray and others jest.  There are rogues and knaves here,
friars and priests, barons and burgesses, bakers and butchers,
tailors and tanners, masons and miners, and folk of many other
crafts.  Indeed, the field is the world.  It lies between a tower
and a dungeon.  The tower is God, the dungeon is the dwelling of
the Evil One.

Then, as Langland looked on all this, he saw

    "A lady lovely in face, in linnen i-clothed,
    Come adown from the cliff and spake me fair,
    And said, 'Son, sleepest thou?  Seest thou this people
    All how busy they be about the maze?'"

Langland was "afeard of her face though she was fair."  But the
lovely lady, who is Holy Church, speaks gently to the dreamer.
She tells him that the tower is the dwelling of Truth, who is the
lord of all and who gives to each as he hath need.  The dungeon
is the castle of Care.

    "Therein liveth a wight that Wrong is called,
    The Father of Falseness."

Love alone, said the lady, leads to Heaven,

    "Therefore I warn ye, the rich, have ruth on the poor.
    Though ye be mighty in councils, be meek in your works,
    For the same measure ye meet, amiss or otherwise,
    Ye shall be weighed therewith when ye wend hence."

"Truth is best in all things," she said at length.  "I have told
thee now what Truth is, and may no longer linger."  And so she
made ready to go.  But the dreamer kneeled on his knees and
prayed her stay yet a while to teach him to know Falsehood also,
as well as Truth.

And the lady answered:--

    "'Look on thy left hand and see where he standeth,
    Both False and Flattery and all his train.'
    I looked on the left hand as the Lady me taught.
    Then was I ware of a woman wondrously clothéd,
    Purfled with fur, the richest on earth.
    Crowned with a crown.  The King hath no better.
    All her five fingers were fretted with rings
    Of the most precious stones that a prince ever wore;
    In red scarlet she rode, beribboned with gold,
    There is no queen alive that is more adorned."

This was Lady Meed or Bribery.  "To-morrow," said Holy Church,
"she shall wed with False."  And so the lovely Lady departed.

Left alone the dreamer watched the preparations for the wedding.
The Earldom of Envy, the Kingdom of Covetousness, the Isle of
Usury were granted as marriage gifts to the pair.  But Theology
was angry.  He would not permit the wedding to take place.  "Ere
this wedding be wrought, woe betide thee," he cried.  "Meed is
wealthy; I know it.  God grant us to give her unto whom Truth
wills.  But thou hast bound her fast to Falseness.  Meed is
gently born.  Lead her therefore to London, and there see if the
law allows this wedding."

So, listening to the advice of Theology, all the company rode off
to London, Guile leading the way.

But Soothness pricked on his palfrey and passed them all and came
to the King's court, where he told Conscience all about the
matter, and Conscience told the King.

Then quoth the King, "If I might catch False and Flattery or any
of their masters, I would avenge me on the wretches that work so
ill, and would hang them by the neck and all that them abet."

So he told the Constable to seize False and to cut off Guile's
head, "and let not Liar escape."  But Dread was at the door and
heard the doom.  He warned the others, so that they all fled away
save Meed the maiden.

    "Save Meed the maiden no man durst abide,
    And truly to tell she trembled for fear,
    And she wept and wrung her hands when she was taken."

But the King called a Clerk and told him to comfort Meed.  So
Justice soon hurried to her bower to comfort her kindly, and many
others followed him.  Meed thanked them all and "gave them cups
of clean gold and pieces of silver, rings with rubies and riches
enough."  And pretending to be sorry for all that she had done
amiss, Meed confessed her sins and was forgiven.

The King then, believing that she was really sorry, wished to
marry her to Conscience.  But Conscience would not have her, for
he knew that she was wicked.  He tells of all the evil things she
does, by which Langland means to show what wicked things men will
do if tempted by bribery and the hope of gain.

"Then mourned Meed and plained her to the King."  If men did
great and noble deeds, she said, they deserved praise and thanks
and rewards.
    "'Nay,' quoth Conscience to the King, and kneeled to the
    'There be two manner of Meeds, my Lord, by thy life,
    That one the good God giveth by His grace, giveth in His
    To them that will work while that they are here.'"

What a laborer received, he said, was not Meed but just Wages.
Bribery, on the other hand, was ever wicked, and he would have
none of her.

In spite of all the talk, however, no one could settle the
question.  So at length Conscience set forth to bring Reason to

When Reason heard that he was wanted, he saddled his horse
Suffer-till-I-see-my-time and came to court with Wit and Wisdom
in his train.

The King received him kindly, and they talked together.  But
while they talked Peace came complaining that Wrong had stolen
his goods and ill-treated him in many ways.

Wrong well knew that the complaint was just, but with the help of
Meed he won Wit and Wisdom to his side.  But Reason stood out
against him.

    "'Counsel me not,' quoth Reason, 'ruth to have
    Till lords and ladies all love truth
    And their sumptuous garments be put into chests,
    Till spoiled children be chastened with rods,
    Till clerks and knights be courteous with their tongues,
    Till priests themselves practise their preaching
    And their deeds be such as may draw us to goodness.'"

The King acknowledged that Reason was right, and begged him to
stay with him always and help him to rule.  "I am ready," quoth
Reason, "to rest with thee ever so that Conscience be our

To that the King agreed, and he and his courtiers all went to
church.  Here suddenly the dream ends.  Langland cries:--

    "Then waked I of my sleep.  I was woe withal
    That I had not slept more soundly and seen much more."

The dreamer arose and continued his wandering.  But he had only
gone a few steps when once again he sank upon the grass and fell
asleep and dreamed.  Again he saw the field full of folk , and to
them now Conscience was preaching, and at his words many began to
repent them of their evil deeds.  Pride, Envy, Sloth and others
confessed their sins and received forgiveness.

Then all these penitent folk set forth in search of Saint Truth,
some riding, some walking.  "But there were few there so wise as
to know the way thither, and they went all amiss."  No man could
tell them where Saint Truth lived.  And now appears at last Piers
Ploughman, who gives his name to the whole poem.

    "Quoth a ploughman and put forth his head,
    'I know him as well as a clerk know his books.
    Clear Conscience and Wit showed me his place
    And did engage me since to serve him ever.
    Both in sowing and setting, which I labour,
    I have been his man this fifteen winters.'"

Piers described to the pilgrims all the long way that they must
go in order to find Truth.  He told them that they must go
through Meekness; that they must cross the ford Honor-your-father
and turn aside from the brook Bear-no-false-witness, and so on
and on until they come at last to Saint Truth.

"It were a hard road unless we had a guide that might go with us
afoot until we got there," said the pilgrims.  So Piers offered,
if they would wait until he had plowed his field, to go with them
and show them the way.

"That would be a long time to wait," said a lady.  "What could we
women do meantime?"

And Piers answered:--

    "Some should sew sacks to hold wheat.
    And you who have wool weave it fast,
    Spin it speedily, spare not your fingers
    Unless it be a holy day or holy eve.
    Look out your linen and work on it quickly,
    The needy and the naked take care how they live,
    And cast on them clothes for the cold, for so Truth desires."

Then many of the pilgrims began to help Piers with his work.
Each man did what he could, "and some to please Piers picked up
the weeds."

    "But some of them sat and sang at ale
    And helped him to plough with 'Hy-trolly-lolly.'"

To these idle ones Piers went in anger.  "If ye do not run
quickly to your work," he cried, "you will receive no wage; and
if ye die of hunger, who will care."

Then these idle ones began to pretend that they were blind or
lame and could not work.  They made great moan, but Piers took no
heed and called for Hunger.  Then Hunger seized the idle ones and
beat and buffeted them until they were glad to work.

At last Truth heard of Piers and of all the good that he was
doing among the pilgrims, and sent him a pardon for all his sins.
In those days people who had done wrong used to pay money to a
priest and think that they were forgiven by God.  Against that
belief Langland preaches, and his pardon is something different.
It is only

    "Do well and have well, and God shall have thy soul.
    And do evil and have evil, hope none other
    That after thy death day thou shalt turn to the Evil One."

And over this pardon a priest and Piers began so loudly to
dispute that the dreamer awoke,

    "And saw the sun that time towards the south,
    And I meatless and moneyless upon the Malvern Hills."

That is a little of the story of the first part of Piers
Ploughman.  It is an allegory, and in writing it Langland wished
to hold up to scorn all the wickedness that he saw around him,
and sharply to point out many causes of misery.  There is
laughter in his poem, but it is the terrible and harsh laughter
of contempt.  His most bitter words, perhaps, are for the idle
rich, but the idle poor do not escape.  Those who beg without
shame, who cheat and steal, who are greedy and drunken have a
share of his wrath.  Yet Langland is not all harshness.  His
great word is Duty, but he speaks of Love too.  "Learn to love,
quoth King, and leave off all other."  The poem is rambling and
disconnected.  Characters come on the scene and vanish again
without cause.  Stories begin and do not end.  It is all wild and
improbable like a dream, yet it is full of interest.

But perhaps the chief interest and value of Piers Ploughman is
that it is history.  It tells us much of what the people thought
and of how they lived in those days.  It shows us the first
mutterings of the storm that was to rend the world.  This was the
storm of the Reformation which was to divide the world into
Protestant and Catholic.  But Langland himself was not a
Protestant.  Although he speaks bitter words against the evil
deeds of priest and monk, he does not attack the Church.  To him
she is still Holy Church, a radiant and lovely lady.


    The Vision of Piers Ploughman, by W. Langland


IN all the land there is perhaps no book so common as the Bible.
In homes where there are no other books we find at least a Bible,
and the Bible stories are almost the first that we learn to know.

But in the fourteenth century there were no English Bibles.  The
priests and clergy and a few great people perhaps had Latin
Bibles.  And although Caedmon's songs had long been forgotten, at
different times some parts of the Bible had been translated into
English, so that the common people sometimes heard a Bible story.
But an English Bible as a whole did not exist; and if to-day it
is the commonest and cheapest book in all the land, it is to John
Wyclif in the first place that we owe it.

John Wyclif was born, it is thought, about 1324 in a little
Yorkshire village.  Not much is known of his early days except
that he went to school and to Oxford University.  In time he
became one of the most learned men of his day, and was made Head,
or Master, of Balliol College.

This is the first time in this book that we have heard of a
university.  The monasteries had, until now, been the centers of
learning.  But now the two great universities of Oxford and
Cambridge were taking their place.  Men no longer went to the
monasteries to learn, but to the universities; and this was one
reason, perhaps, why the land had become filled with so many idle
monks.  Their profession of teaching had been taken from them,
and they had found nothing else with which to fill their time.

But at first the universities were very like monasteries.  The
clerks, as the students were called, often took some kind of
vow,--they wore a gown and shaved their heads in some fashion or
other.  The colleges, too, were built very much after the style
of monasteries, as may be seen in some of the old college
buildings of Oxford or Cambridge to this day.  The life in every
way was like the life in a monastery.  It was only by slow
degrees that the life and the teaching grew away from the old

While Wyclif grew to be a man, England had fallen on troublous
times.  Edward III, worn out by his French wars, had become old
and feeble, and the power was in the hands of his son, John of
Gaunt.  The French wars and the Black Death had slain many of the
people, and those who remained were miserably poor.  Yet poor
though they were, much money was gathered from them every year
and sent to the Pope, who at that time still ruled the Church in
England as elsewhere.

But now the people of England became very unwilling to pay so
much money to the Pope, especially as at this time he was a
Frenchman ruling, not from Rome, but from Avignon.  It was folly,
Englishmen said, to pay money into the hands of a Frenchman, the
enemy of their country, who would use it against their country.
And while many people were feeling like this, the Pope claimed
still more.  He now claimed a tribute which King John had
promised long before, but which had not for more than thirty
years been paid.

John of Gaunt made up his mind to resist this claim, and John
Wyclif, who had already begun to preach against the power of the
Pope, helped him.  They were strange companions, and while John
of Gaunt fought only for more power, Wyclif fought for freedom
both in religion and in life.  God alone was lord of all the
world, he said, and to God alone each man must answer for his
soul, and to no man beside.  The money belonging to the Church of
England belonged to God and to the people of England, and ought
to be used for the good of the people, and not be sent abroad to
the Pope.  In those days it needed a bold man to use such words,
and Wyclif was soon called upon to answer for his boldness before
the Archbishop of Canterbury and all his bishops.

The council was held in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.  Wyclif
was fearless, and he obeyed the Archbishop's command.  But as he
walked up the long aisle to the chapel where the bishops were
gathered, John of Gaunt marched by his side, and Lord Percy, Earl
Marshal of England, cleared a way for him through the throng of
people that filled the church. The press was great, and Earl
Percy drove a way through the crowd with so much haughtiness and
violence that the Bishop of London cried out at him in wrath.

"Had I known what masteries you would use in my church," he said,
"I had kept you from coming there."

"At which words the Duke, disdaining not a little, answered the
Bishop and said that he would keep such mastery there though he
said 'Nay.'"*  Thus, after much struggling, Wyclif and his
companions arrived at the chapel.  There Wyclif stood humbly
enough before his Bishop.  But Earl Percy bade him be seated, for
as he had much to answer he had need of a soft seat.

*Foxe, Acts and Monuments.

Thereat the Bishop of London was angry again, and cried out
saying that it was not the custom for those who had come to
answer for their misdeeds to sit.

"Upon these words a fire began to heat and kindle between them;
insomuch that they began to rate and revile one the other, that
the whole multitude therewith disquieted began to be set on a

*Foxe, Acts and Monuments.

The Duke, too, joined in, threatening at last to drag the Bishop
out of the church by the hair of his head.  But the Londoners,
when they heard that, were very wrathful, for they hated the
Duke.  They cried out they would not suffer their Bishop to be
ill-used, and the uproar became so great that the council broke
up without there being any trial at all.

But soon after this no fewer than five Bulls, or letters from the
Pope, were sent against Wyclif.  In one the University of Oxford
was ordered to imprison him; in others Wyclif was ordered to
appear before the Pope; in still another the English bishops were
ordered to arrest him and try him themselves.  But little was
done, for the English would not imprison an English subject at
the bidding of a French Pope, lest they should seem to give him
royal power in England.

At length, however, Wyclif was once more brought before a court
of bishops in London.  By this time Edward III had died, and
Richard, the young son of the Black Prince, had come to the
throne.  His mother, the Princess of Wales, was Wyclif's friend,
and she now sent a message to the bishops bidding them let him
alone.  This time, too, the people of London were on his side;
they had learned to understand that he was their friend.  So they
burst into the council-room eager to defend the man whose only
crime was that of trying to protect England from being robbed.
And thus the second trial came to an end as the first had done.

Wyclif now began to preach more boldly than before.  He preached
many things that were very different from the teaching of the
Church of Rome, and as he was one of the most learned men of his
time, people crowded to Oxford to hear him.  John of Gaunt, now
no longer his friend, ordered him to be silent.  But Wyclif still
spoke.  The University was ordered to crush the heretic.  But the
University stood by him until the King added his orders to those
of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Then Wyclif was expelled from
the University, but still not silenced, for he went into the
country and there wrote and taught.

Soon his followers grew in numbers.  They were called Poor
Priests, and clad in long brown robes they wandered on foot
through the towns and villages teaching and preaching.  Wyclif
trusted that they would do all the good that the old friars had
done, and that they would be kept from falling into the evil ways
of the later friars.  But Churchmen were angry, and called his
followers Lollards or idle babblers.

Wyclif, however, cared no longer for the great, he trusted no
more in them.  It was to the people now that he appealed.  He
wrote many books, and at first he wrote in Latin.  But by degrees
he saw that if he wanted to reach the hearts of the people, he
must preach and teach in English.  And so he began to write
English books.  But above all the things that he wrote we
remember him chiefly for his translation of the Bible.  He
himself translated the New Testament, and others helped him with
the Old Testament, and so for the first time the people of
England had the whole Bible in their own tongue.  They had it,
too, in fine scholarly language, and this was a great service to
our literature.  For naturally the Bible was a book which every
one wished to know, and the people of England, through it, became
accustomed to use fine stately language.

To his life's end Wyclif went on teaching and writing, although
many attempts were made to silence him.  At last in 1384 the Pope
summoned him to Rome.  Wyclif did not obey, for he answered
another call.  One day, as he heard mass in his own church, he
fell forward speechless.  He never spoke again, but died three
days later.

After Wyclif's death his followers were gradually crushed out,
and the Lollards disappear from our history.  But his teaching
never quite died, for by giving the English people the Bible
Wyclif left a lasting mark on England; and although the
Reformation did not come until two hundred years later, he may be
looked upon as its forerunner.

It is hard to explain all that William Langland and John Wyclif
stand for in English literature and in English history.  It was
the evil that they saw around them that made them write and speak
as they did, and it was their speaking and writing, perhaps, that
gave the people courage to rise against oppression.  Thus their
teaching and writing mark the beginning of new life to the great
mass of the people of England.  For in June, 1381, while John
Wyclif still lived and wrote, Wat Tyler led his men to Blackheath
in a rebellion which proved to be the beginning of freedom for
the workers of England.  And although at first sight there seems
to be no connection between the two, it was the same spirit
working in John Wyclif and Wat Tyler that made the one speak and
the other fight as he did.


TO-DAY, as we walk about the streets and watch the people hurry
to and fro, we cannot tell from the dress they wear to what class
they belong.  We cannot tell among the men who pass us, all clad
alike in dull, sad-colored clothes, who is a knight and who is a
merchant, who is a shoemaker and who is a baker.  If we see them
in their shops we can still tell, perhaps, for we know that a
butcher always wears a blue apron, and a baker a white hat.
These are but the remains of a time long ago when every one
dressed according to his calling, whether at work or not.  It was
easy then to tell by the cut and texture of his clothes to what
rank in life a man belonged, for each dressed accordingly, and
only the great might wear silk and velvet and golden ornaments.

And in the time of which we have been reading, in the England
where Edward III and Richard II ruled, where Langland sadly
dreamed and Wyclif boldly wrote and preached, there lived a man
who has left for us a clear and truthful picture of those times.
He has left a picture so vivid that as we read his words the
people of England of the fourteenth century still seem to us to
live.  This man was Geoffrey Chaucer.  Chaucer was a poet, and is
generally looked upon as the first great English poet.  Like
Caedmon he is called the "Father of English Poetry," and each has
a right to the name.  For if Caedmon was the first great poet of
the English people in their new home of England, the language he
used was Anglo-Saxon.  The language which Chaucer used was
English, though still not quite the English which we use to-day.

But although Chaucer was a great poet, we know very little about
his life.  What we do know has nothing to do with his poems or of
how he wrote them.  For in those days, and for long after, a
writer was not expected to live by his writing; but in return for
giving to the world beautiful thoughts, beautiful songs, the King
or some great noble would reward him by giving him a post at
court.  About this public life of Chaucer we have a few facts.
But it is difficult at times to fit the man of camp, and court,
and counting-house to the poet and story-teller who possessed a
wealth of words and a knowledge of how to use them greater than
any Englishman who had lived before him.  And it is rather
through his works than through the scanty facts of his life that
we learn to know the real man, full of shrewd knowledge of the
world, of humor, kindliness, and cheerful courage.

Chaucer was a man of the middle class.  His father, John Chaucer,
was a London wine merchant.  The family very likely came at first
from France, and the name may mean shoemaker, from an old Norman
word chaucier or chaussier, a shoemaker.  And although the French
word for shoemaker is different now, there is still a slang word
chausseur, meaning a cobbler.

We know nothing at all of Chaucer as a boy, nothing of where he
went to school, nor do we know if he ever went to college.  The
first thing we hear of him is that he was a page in the house of
the Princess Elizabeth, the wife of Prince Lionel, who was the
third son of Edward III.  So, although Chaucer belonged to the
middle class, he must have had some powerful friend able to get
him a place in a great household.

In those days a boy became a page in a great household very much
as he might now become an office-boy in a large merchant's
office.  A page had many duties.  He had to wait at table, hold
candles, go messages, and do many other little household
services.  Such a post seems strange to us now, yet it was
perhaps quite as interesting as sitting all day long on an office
stool.  In time of war it was certainly more exciting, for a page
had often to follow his master to the battlefield.  And as a war
with France was begun in 1359, Geoffrey went across the Channel
with his prince.

Of what befell Chaucer in France we know nothing, except that he
was taken prisoner, and that the King, Edward III, himself gave
16 pounds towards his ransom.  That sounds a small sum, but it meant
as much as 240 pounds would now.  So it would seem that, boy though
he was, Geoffrey Chaucer had already become important.  Perhaps he
was already known as a poet and a good story-teller whom the King
was loath to lose.  But again for seven years after this we hear
nothing more about him.  And when next we do hear of him, he is
valet de chambre in the household of Edward III.  Then a few
years later he married one of Queen Philippa's maids-in-waiting.

Of Chaucer's life with his wife and family again we know nothing
except that he had at least one son, named Lewis.  We know this
because he wrote a book, called A Treatise on the Astrolabe, for
this little son.  An astrolabe was an instrument used in
astronomy to find out the distance of stars from the earth, the
position of the sun and moon, the length of days, and many other
things about the heavens and their bodies.

Chaucer calls his book A Treatise on the Astrolabe, Bread and
Milk for Children.  "Little Lewis, my son," he says in the
beginning, "I have perceived well by certain evidences thine
ability to learn science touching numbers and proportions; and as
well consider I thy busy prayer in special to learn the treatise
of the astrolabe."  But although there were many books written on
the subject, some were unknown in England, and some were not to
be trusted.  "And some of them be too hard to thy tender age of
ten years.  This treatise then will I show thee under few light
rules and naked words in English; for Latin canst thou yet but
small, my little son. . . .

"Now will I pray meekly every discreet person that readeth or
heareth this little treatise, to have my rude inditing for
excused, and my superfluity of words, for two causes.  The first
cause is for that curious inditing and hard sentence is full
heavy at one and the same time for a child to learn.  And the
second cause is this, that soothly me seemeth better to write
unto a child twice a good sentence than he forget it once.  And
Lewis, if so be I shew you in my easy English as true conclusions
as be shewn in Latin, grant me the more thank, and pray God save
the King, who is lord of this English."

So we see from this that more than five hundred years ago a
kindly father saw the need of making simple books on difficult
subjects for children.  You may never want to read this book
itself, indeed few people read it now, but I think that we should
all be sorry to lose the preface, although it has in it some long
words which perhaps a boy of ten in our day would still find
"full heavy."

It is interesting, too, to notice in this preface that here
Chaucer calls his King "Lord of this English."  We now often
speak of the "King's English," so once again we see how an
everyday phrase links us with the past.


CHAUCER rose in the King's service.  He became an esquire, and
was sent on business for the King to France and to Italy.  To
Italy he went at least twice, and it is well to remember this, as
it had an effect on his most famous poems.  He must have done his
business well, for we find him receiving now a pension for life
worth about 200 pounds in our money, now a grant of a daily pitcher
of wine besides a salary of "71/2d. a day and two robes yearly."

Chaucer's wife, too, had a pension, so the poet was well off.  He
had powerful friends also, among them John of Gaunt.  And when
the Duke's wife died Chaucer wrote a lament which is called the
Dethe of Blaunche the Duchess, or sometimes the Book of the
Duchess.  This is one of the earliest known poems of Chaucer, and
although it is not so good as some which are later, there are
many beautiful lines in it.

The poet led a busy life.  He was a good business man, and soon
we find him in the civil service, as we would call it now.  He
was made Comptroller of Customs, and in this post he had to work
hard, for one of the conditions was that he must write out the
accounts with his own hand, and always be in the office himself.
If we may take some lines he wrote to be about himself, he was so
busy all day long that he had not time to hear what was happening
abroad, or even what was happening among his friends and

    "Not only from far countree,
    That there no tidings cometh to thee;
    Not of thy very neighbours,
    That dwellen almost at thy doors,
    Thou hearest neither that nor this."

Yet after his hard office work was done he loved nothing better
than to go back to his books, for he goes on to say:

    "For when thy labour done all is
    And hast y-made thy reckonings,
    Instead of rest and newë things
    Thou goest home to thy house anon,
    And all so dumb as any stone,
    Thou sittest at another book,
    Till fully dazéd is thy look,
    And livest thus as a hermite
    Although thine abstinence is light."

But if Chaucer loved books he loved people too, and we may
believe that he readily made friends, for there was a kingly
humor about him that must have drawn people to him.  And that he
knew men and their ways we learn from his poetry, for it is full
of knowledge of men and women.

For many years Chaucer was well off and comfortable.  But he did
not always remain so.  There came a time when his friend and
patron, John of Gaunt, fell from power, and Chaucer lost his
appointments.  Soon after that his wife died, and with her life
her pension ceased.  So for a year or two the poet knew something
of poverty--poverty at least compared to what he had been used
to.  But if he lost his money he did not lose his sunny temper,
and in all his writings we find little that is bitter.

After a time John of Gaunt returned to power, and again Chaucer
had a post given to him, and so until he died he suffered ups and
downs.  Born when Edward III was in his highest glory, Chaucer
lived to see him hated by his people.  He lived through the reign
of Edward's grandson, Richard II, and knew him from the time when
as a gallant yellow-haired boy he had faced Wat Tyler and his
rioters, till as a worn and broken prisoner he yielded the crown
to Henry of Lancaster, the son of John of Gaunt.  But before the
broken King died in his darksome prison Chaucer lay taking his
last rest in St. Benet's Chapel in Westminster.  He was the first
great poet to be laid there, but since then there have gathered
round him so many bearing the greatest names in English
literature that we call it now the "Poet's Corner."

But although Chaucer lived in stirring times, although he was a
soldier and a courtier, he does not, in the book by which we know
him best, write of battles and of pomp, of kings and of princes.
In this book we find plain, everyday people, people of the great
middle class of merchants and tradesmen and others of like
calling, to which Chaucer himself belonged.  It was a class which
year by year had been growing more and more strong in England,
and which year by year had been making its strength more and more
felt.  But it was a class which no one had thought of writing
about in plain fashion.  And it is in the Canterbury Tales that
we have, for the first time in the English language, pictures of
real men, and what is more wonderful, of real women.  They are
not giants or dwarfs, they are not fairy princes or knights in
shining armor.  They do no wondrous deeds of strength or skill.
They are not queens of marvelous beauty or enchanted princesses.
They are simply plain, middle-class English people, and yet they
are very interesting.

In Chaucer's time, books, although still copied by hand, had
become more plentiful than ever before.  And as more and more
people learned to read, the singing time began to draw to a
close.  Stories were now not all written in rhyme, and poetry was
not all written to be sung.  Yet the listening time was not quite
over, for these were still the days of talk and story-telling.
Life went at leisure pace.  There was no hurry, there was no
machinery.  All sewing was done by hand, so when the ladies of a
great household gathered to their handiwork, it was no unusual
thing for one among them to lighten the long hours with tales
read or told.  Houses were badly lighted, and there was little to
do indoors in the long winter evenings, so the men gathered
together and listened while one among them told of love and
battle.  Indeed, through all the life of the Middle Ages there
was room for story-telling.

So now, although Chaucer meant his tales to be read, he made
believe that they were told by a company of people on a journey
from London to Canterbury.  He thus made a framework for them of
the life he knew, and gave a reason for them all being told in
one book.

But a reason had to be given for the journey, for in those days
people did not travel about from place to place for the mere
pleasure of seeing another town, as we do now.  Few people
thought of going for a change of air, nobody perhaps ever thought
about going to the seaside for the summer.  In short, people
always had a special object in taking a journey.

One reason for this was that traveling was slow and often
dangerous.  The roads were bad, and people nearly all traveled on
horseback and in company, for robbers lurked by the way ready to
attack and kill, for the sake of their money, any who rode alone
and unprotected.  So when a man had to travel he tried to arrange
to go in company with others.

In olden days the most usual reason for a journey, next to
business, was a pilgrimage.  Sometimes this was simply an act of
religion or devotion.  Clad in a simple gown, and perhaps with
bare feet, the pilgrim set out.  Carrying a staff in his hand,
and begging for food and shelter by the road, he took his way to
the shrine of some saint.  There he knelt and prayed and felt
himself blessed in the deed.  Sometimes it was an act of penance
for some great sin done; sometimes of thanksgiving for some great
good received, some great danger passed.

But as time went on these pilgrimages lost their old meaning.
People no longer trudged along barefoot, wearing a pilgrim's
garb.  They began to look upon a pilgrimage more as a summer
outing, and dressed in their best they rode comfortably on
horseback.  And it is a company of pilgrims such as this that
Chaucer paints for us.  He describes himself as being of the
company, and it is quite likely that Chaucer really did at one
time go upon this pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, for it
was a very favorite one.  Not only was the shrine of St. Thomas
at Canterbury very beautiful in those days, but it was also
within easy distance of London.  Neither costing much nor lasting
long, it was a journey which well-to-do merchantmen and others
like them could well afford.

Chaucer tells us that it was when the first sunshiny days of
April came that people began to think of such pilgrimages:--

    "When that April with his showers sweet,
    The drought of March hath pierced to the root,"

when the soft wind "with his sweet breath inspired hath in every
holt and heath the tender crops"; when the little birds make new
songs, then "longen folk to go on pilgrimages, and palmers for to
seeken strange lands, and especially from every shire's end of
England, to Canterbury they wend."

So one day in April a company of pilgrims gathered at the Tabard
Inn on the south side of the Thames, not far from London Bridge.
A tabard, or coat without sleeves, was the sign of the inn; hence
its name.  In those days such a coat would often be worn by
workmen for ease in working, but it has come down to us only as
the gayly colored coat worn by heralds.

At the Tabard Inn twenty-nine "of sundry folk," besides Chaucer
himself, were gathered.  They were all strangers to each other,
but they were all bound on the same errand.  Every one was
willing to be friendly with his neighbor, and Chaucer in his
cheery way had soon made friends with them all.

    "And shortly when the sun was to rest,
    So had I spoke with them every one."

And having made their acquaintance, Chaucer begins to describe
them all so that we may know them too.  He describes them so well
that he makes them all living to us.  Some we grow to love; some
we smile upon and have a kindly feeling for, for although they
are not fine folk, they are so very human we cannot help but like
them; and some we do not like at all, for they are rude and
rough, as the poet meant them to be.


CHAUCER begins his description of the people who were gathered at
the Tabard Inn with the knight, who was the highest in rank among

    "A knight there was, and that a worthy man,
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    And though he was worthy he was wise,
    And of his port as meek as any maid.
    He never yet no villainy ne'er said
    In all his life unto no manner wight;
    He was a very perfect, gentle knight."

Yet he was no knight of romance or fairy tale, but a good honest
English gentleman who had fought for his King.  His coat was of
fustian and was stained with rust from his armor, for he had just
come back from fighting, and was still clad in his war-worn
clothes.  "His horse was good, but he ne was gay."

With the knight was his son, a young squire of twenty years.  He
was gay and handsome, with curling hair and comely face.  His
clothes were in the latest fashion, gayly embroidered.  He sat
his horse well and guided it with ease.  He was merry and
careless and clever too, for he could joust and dance, sing and
play, read and write, and indeed do everything as a young squire
should.  Yet with it all "courteous he was, lowly and

With these two came their servant, a yeoman, clad in hood of
green, and carrying besides many other weapons a "mighty bow."

As was natural in a gathering such as this, monks and friars and
their like figured largely.  There was a monk, a worldly man,
fond of dress, fond of hunting, fond of a good dinner; and a
friar even more worldly and pleasure-loving.  There was a
pardoner, a man who sold pardons to those who had done wrong, and
a sumpnour or summoner, who was so ugly and vile that children
were afraid of him.  A summoner was a person who went to summon
or call people to appear before the Church courts when they had
done wrong.  He was a much-hated person, and both he and the
pardoner were great rogues and cheats and had no love for each
other.  There was also a poor parson.

All these, except the poor parson, Chaucer holds up to scorn
because he had met many such in real life who, under the pretense
of religion, lived bad lives.  But that it was not the Church
that he scorned or any who were truly good he shows by his
picture of the poor parson.  He was poor in worldly goods:--

    "But rich he was in holy thought and work,
    He was also a learned man, a clerk
    That Christ's gospel truly would preach,
    His parishioners devoutly would he teach;
    Benign he was and wonder diligent,
    And in adversity full patient.
    .   .   .   .   .
    Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder,
    But he left naught for rain nor thunder
    In sickness nor in mischief to visit
    The farthest of his parish, great or lite*
    Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
    The noble ensample to his sheep he gave,
    That first he wrought, and afterward he taught."


    There was no better parson anywhere.  He taught his people
to walk in Christ's way.  But first he followed it himself.

Chaucer gives this good man a brother who is a plowman.

    "A true worker and a good was he,
    Living in peace and perfect charity."

He could dig, and he could thresh, and everything to which he put
his hand he did with a will.

Besides all the other religious folk there were a prioress and a
nun.  In those days the convents were the only schools for fine
ladies, and the prioress perhaps spent her days teaching them.
Chaucer makes her very prim and precise.

    "At meat well taught was she withal,
    She let no morsel from her lips fall,
    Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep.
    Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep
    That no drop might fall upon her breast.*

    In courtesy was set full mickle her lest.**
    Her over lip wiped she so clean,
    That in her cup there was no morsel seen
    Of grease, when she drunken had her draught."

    *It should be remembered that in those days forks were
unknown, and people used their fingers.

And she was so tender hearted!  She would cry if she saw a mouse
caught in a trap, and she fed her little dog on the best of
everything.  In her dress she was very dainty and particular.
And yet with all her fine ways we feel that she was no true lady,
and that ever so gently Chaucer is making fun of her.

Besides the prioress and the nun there was only one other woman
in the company.  This was the vulgar, bouncing Wife of Bath.  She
dressed in rich and gaudy clothes, she liked to go about to see
and be seen and have a good time.  She had been married five
times, and though she was getting old and rather deaf, she was
quite ready to marry again, if the husband she had should die
before her.

Chaucer describes nearly every one in the company, and last of
all he pictures for us the host of the Tabard Inn.

    "A seemly man our host was withal
    For to have been a marshal in a hall.
    A large man he was with eyen stepe,*
    A fairer burgesse was there none in Chepe,**
    Bold was his speech, and wise and well y-taught,
    And of manhood him lacked right naught,
    Eke thereto he was right a merry man."

    **Cheapside, a street in London.

The host's name was Harry Baily, a big man and jolly fellow who
dearly loved a joke.  After supper was over he spoke to all the
company gathered there.  He told them how glad he was to see
them, and that he had not had so merry a company that year.  Then
he told them that he had thought of something to amuse them on
the long way to Canterbury.  It was this:--

    "That each of you to shorten of your way
    In this voyage shall tell tales tway*--
    To Canterbury-ward I mean it so,
    And homeward ye shall tellen other two;--
    Of adventures which whilom have befallen.
    And which of you the beareth you best of all,
    That is to say, that telleth in this case
    Tales of best sentence, and most solace,
    Shall have a supper at all our cost,
    Here in this place, sitting at this post,
    When that we come again fro Canterbury.
    And for to make you the more merry
    I will myself gladly with you ride,
    Right at mine own cost, and be your guide."


To this every one willingly agreed, and next morning they waked
very early and set off.  And having ridden a little way they cast
lots as to who should tell the first tale.  The lot fell upon the
knight, who accordingly began.

All that I have told you so far forms the first part of the book
and is called the prologue, which means really "before word" or
explanation.  It is perhaps the most interesting part of the
book, for it is entirely Chaucer's own and it is truly English.

It is said that Chaucer borrowed the form of his famous tales
from a book called The Decameron, written by an Italian poet
named Boccaccio.  Decameron comes from two Greek words deka, ten,
and hemera, a day, the book being so called because the stories
in it were supposed to be told in ten days.  During a time of
plague in Florence seven ladies and three gentlemen fled and took
refuge in a house surrounded by a garden far from the town.
There they remained for ten days, and to amuse themselves each
told a tale every day, so that there are a hundred tales in all
in The Decameron.

It is very likely that in one of his journeys to Italy Chaucer
saw this book.  Perhaps he even met Boccaccio, and it is more
than likely that he met Petrarch, another great Italian poet who
also retold one of the tales of The Decameron.  Several of the
tales which Chaucer makes his people tell are founded on these
tales.  Indeed, nearly all his poems are founded on old French,
Italian, or Latin tales.  But although Chaucer takes his material
from others, he tells the stories in his own way, and so makes
them his own; and he never wrote anything more truly English in
spirit than the prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

Some of these stories you will like to read, but others are too
coarse and rude to give you any pleasure.  Even the roughness of
these tales, however, helps us to picture the England of those
far-off days.  We see from them how hard and rough the life must
have been when people found humor and fun in jokes in which we
can feel only disgust.

But even in Chaucer's day there were those who found such stories
coarse.  "Precious fold," Chaucer calls them.  He himself perhaps
did not care for them, indeed he explains in the tales why he
tells them.  Here is a company of common, everyday people, he
said, and if I am to make you see these people, if they are to be
living and real to you, I must make them act and speak as such
common people would act and speak.  They are churls, and they
must speak like churls and not like fine folk, and if you don't
like the tale, turn over the leaf and choose another.

    "What should I more say but this miller
    He would his words for no man forbear,
    But told his churls tale in his manner.
    Me thinketh that I shall rehearse it here;
    And therefore every gently wight I pray,
    For Goddes love deem not that I say
    Of evil intent, but for I might rehearse
    Their tales all, be they better or worse,
    Or else falsen some of my matter:
    And therefore, who so listeth it not to hear,
    Turn over the leaf and choose another tale;
    For he shall find enow, both great and small,
    In storial thing that toucheth gentlesse,
    And eke morality and holiness,--
    Blame not me if that ye choose amiss.
    This miller is a churl ye know well,
    So was the Reeve, and many more,
    And wickedness they tolden both two.
    Advise you, put me out of blame;
    And eke men shall not make earnest of game."

If Chaucer had written all the tales that he meant to write,
there would have been one hundred and twenty-four in all.  But
the poet died long before his work was done, and as it is there
are only twenty-four.  Two of these are not finished; one,
indeed, is only begun.  Thus, you see, many of the pilgrims tell
no story at all, and we do not know who got the prize, nor do we
hear anything of the grand supper at the end of the journey.

Chaucer is the first of our poets who had a perfect sense of
sound.  He delights us not only with his stories, but with the
beauty of the words he uses.  We lose a great deal of that beauty
when his poetry is put into modern English, as are all the
quotations which I have given you.  It is only when we can read
the poems in the quaint English of Chaucer's time that we can see
truly how fine it is.  So, although you may begin to love Chaucer
now, you must look forward to a time when you will be able to
read his stories as he wrote them.  Then you will love them much

Chaucer wrote many other books beside the Canterbury Tales,
although not so many as was at one time thought.  But the
Canterbury Tales are the most famous, and I will not trouble you
with the names even of the others.  But when the grown-up time
comes, I hope that you will want to read some of his other books
as well as the Canterbury Tales.

And now, just to end this long chapter, I will give you a little
poem by Chaucer, written as he wrote it, with modern English
words underneath so that you may see the difference.

This poem was written when Chaucer was very poor.  It was sent to
King Henry IV, who had just taken the throne from Richard II.
Henry's answer was a pension of twenty marks, so that once more
Chaucer lived in comfort.  He died, however, a year later.


    To yow my purse, and to noon other wight
    To you my purse, and to no other wight
    Complayne I, for ye by my lady dere;
    Complain I, for ye be my lady dear;
    I am so sorry now that ye been lyght,
    I am so sorry now that ye be light,
    For certes, but yf ye make me hevy chere
    For certainly, but if ye make me heavy cheer
    Me were as leef be layde upon my bere;
    I would as soon be laid upon my bier;
    For which unto your mercy thus I crye,
    For which unto your mercy thus I cry,
    Beeth hevy ageyne, or elles mote I dye.
    Be heavy again, or else must I die.

    Now voucheth-sauf this day or hyt by nyght
    Now vouchsafe this day before it be night
    That I of you the blisful sovne may here,
    That I of you the blissful sound may hear,
    Or see your colour lyke the sonne bryght,
    Or see your colour like the sun bright,
    That of yelownesse hadde neuer pere.
    That of yellowness had never peer.
    Ye be my lyfe, ye be myn hertys stere,
    Ye be my life, ye be my heart's guide,
    Quene of comfort, and of good companye,
    Queen of comfort, and of good company,
    Beth heuy ageyne, or elles moote I dye.
    Be heavy again, or else must I die.

    Now purse that ben to me my lyves lyght
    Now purse that art to me my life's light
    And saveour as down in this worlde here,
    And saviour as down in this world here,
    Oute of this tovne helpe me thrugh your myght,
    Out of this town help me through your might,
    Syn that ye wole nat bene my tresorere,
    Since that ye will not be my treasurer,
    For I am shave as nye as is a ffrere;
    For I am shaven as close as is a friar;
    But yet I pray vnto your curtesye,
    But yet I pray unto your courtesy,
    Bethe hevy agen or elles moote I dye.
    Be heavy again or else must I die.


    O conquerour of Brutes albyon,
    O conqueror of Brutus' Albion
    Whiche that by lygne and free leccion
    Who that by line and free election
    Been verray kynge, this song to yow I sende;
    Art very king, this song to you I send;
    And ye that mowen alle myn harme amende,
    And ye that art able all my harm amend,
    Haue mynde vpon my supplicacion.
    Have mind upon my supplication.

    *This is from a French word, meaning "to send," and is
still often used for the last verse of a poem.  It is,  as it
were, a "sending off."

In reading this you must sound the final "e" in each word except
when the next word begins with an "h" or with another vowel.  You
will then find it read easily and smoothly.


    Stories from Chaucer (prose), by J. H. Kelman.  Tales from
Chaucer (prose), by C. L. Thomson.  Prologue to the Canterbury
Tales and Minor Poems (poetry), done into Modern English by W. W.
Skeat.  Canterbury Tales (poetry), edited by A. W. Pollard (in
Chaucer's English, suitable only for grown-up readers).

    NOTE.-- As there are so many books now published containing
stories from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, I feel it unnecessary to
give any here in outline.


AND now, lest you should say, "What, still more poetry!"  I shall
give you next a chapter about a great story-teller who wrote in
prose.  We use story-teller in two senses, and when we speak of
Sir John Mandeville we use it in both.  He was a great story-

But before saying anything about his stories, I must first tell
you that after having been believed in as a real person for five
hundred years and more, Sir John has at last been found out.  He
never lived at all, and the travels about which he tells us so
finely never took place.

"Sir John," too, used to be called the "Father of English Prose,"
but even that honor cannot be left to him, for his travels were
not written first in English, but in French, and were afterwards
translated into English.

But although we know Sir John Mandeville was not English, that he
never saw the places he describes, that indeed he never lived at
all, we will still call him by that name.  For we must call him
something, and as no one really knows who wrote the book which is
known as The Voyages and Travels of Sir John Mandeville, we may
as well call the author by the name he chose as by another.

Sir John, then, tells us that he was born in St. Albans, that he
was a knight, and that in 1322 he set out on his travels.  He
traveled about for more than twenty years, but at last, although
in the course of them he had drunk of the well of everlasting
youth, he became so crippled with gout that he could travel no
longer.  He settled down, therefore, at Liege in Belgium.  There
he wrote his book, and there he died and was buried.  At any
rate, many years afterwards his tomb was shown there.  It was
also shown at St. Albans, where the people were very proud of it.

Sir John's great book was a guide-book.  In those days, as we
know, it was a very common thing for people to go on pilgrimages.
And among the long pilgrimages the one to the Holy Land was the
most common.  So Sir John wrote his book to help people on their
way, just as Mr. Baedeker and Mr. Murray do now.

It is perhaps the earliest, and certainly one of the most
delightful, guide-books ever written, although really it was
chiefly made up of bits out of books by other people.

Sir John tells of many different ways of getting to Palestine,
and relates wonderful stories about the places to be passed
through.  He wrote in French.  "I know that I ought to write in
Latin," he says, "but because more people understand French I
have written in French, so that every one may understand it."
Afterwards it was translated into Latin, later into English, and
still later into almost every European language, so much did
people like the stories.

When these stories appeared it was something quite new in
Literature, for until this time stories were always written in
poetry.  It was only great and learned books, or books that were
meant to teach something, that were written in prose.

Here is one of Sir John Mandeville's tales.

After telling about the tomb of St. John at Ephesus, Sir John
goes on:  "And then men pass through the isles of Cophos and
Lango, of the which isles Ipocras was lord.  And some say that in
the isle of Lango is Ipocras's daughter in form of a Dragon.  It
is a hundred foot long, so men say.  But I have not seen it.  And
they say the people of the isles call her the lady of the
country, and she lieth in an old castle and sheweth herself
thrice a year.  And she doeth no man harm.  And she is thus
changed from a lady to a Dragon through a goddess whom men call

"And men say that she shall dwell so until the time that a knight
come that is so hardy as to go to her and kiss her mouth.  And
then shall she turn again to her own kind and be a woman.  And
after that she shall not live long.

"And it is not long since a knight of the island of Rhodes that
was hardy and valiant said that he would kiss her.  But when the
Dragon began to lift up her head, and he saw it was so hideous,
he fled away.  Then the Dragon in her anger bare the knight to a
rock and cast him into the sea, and so he was lost.

"Also a young man that wist not of the Dragon went out of a ship
and went through the isle till he came to a castle.  Then came he
into the cave and went on till he found a chamber.  And there he
saw a lady combing her hair, and looking in a mirror.  And she
had much treasure about her.  He bowed to the lady, and the lady
saw the shadow of him in the mirror.  Then she turned towards him
and asked him what he would.  And he answered he would be her

"Then she asked him if he were a knight, and he said 'Nay.'  She
said then he might not be her lover.  But she bade him go again
to his fellows and make him knight, and come again on the morrow.
Then she would come out of the cave and he should kiss her on the
mouth.  And she bade him have no dread, for she would do him no
harm.  Although she seemed hideous to him she said it was done by
enchantment, for, she said, she was really such as he saw her
then.  She said, too, that if he kissed her he should have all
the treasure, and be her lord, and lord of all these isles.

"Then he departed from her and went to his fellows in the ship,
and made him knight, and came again on the morrow for to kiss the
damsel.  But when he saw her come out of the cave in the form of
a Dragon, he had so great dread that he fled to the ship.  She
followed him, and when she saw that he turned not again she began
to cry as a thing that had much sorrow, and turned back again.

"Soon after the knight died, and since, hitherto, might no knight
see her but he died anon.  But when a knight cometh that is so
hardy to kiss her, he shall not die, but he shall turn that
damsel into her right shape and shall be lord of the country

When Sir John reaches Palestine he has very much to say of the
wonders to be seen there.  At Bethlehem he tells a story of how
roses first came into the world.  Here it is:

"Bethlehem is but a little city, long and narrow, and well walled
and enclosed with a great ditch, and it was wont to be called
Ephrata, as Holy Writ sayeth, 'Lo, we heard it at Ephrata.'  And
toward the end of the city toward the East, is a right fair
church and a gracious.  And it hath many towers, pinnacles and
turrets full strongly made.  And within that church are forty-
four great pillars of marble, and between the church the Field
Flowered as ye shall hear.

"The cause is, for as much as a fair maiden was blamed with
wrong, for the which cause she was deemed to die, and to be burnt
in that place, to the which she was led.

"And as the wood began to burn about her, she made her prayer to
our Lord as she was not guilty of that thing, that He would help
her that her innocence might be known to all men.

"And when she had this said she entered the fire.  And anon the
fire went out, and those branches that were burning became red
roses, and those branches that were not kindled became white
roses.  And those were the first roses and rose-trees that any
man saw.  And so was the maiden saved through the grace of God,
and therefore is that field called the Field of God Flowered, for
it was full of roses."

Although Sir John begins his book as a guide to Palestine, he
tells of many other lands also, and of the wonder there.  Of
Ethiopia, he tells us:  "On the other side of Chaldea toward the
South is Ethiopia, a great land.  In this land in the South are
the people right black.  In that side is a well that in the day
the water is so cold that no man may drink thereof, and in the
night it is so hot that no man may suffer to put his hand in it.
In this land the rivers and all the waters are troublous, and
some deal salt, for the great heat.  And men of that land are
easily made drunken and have little appetite for meat.  They have
commonly great illness of body and live not long.  In Ethiopia
are such men as have one foot, and they walk so fast that it is a
great marvel.  And that is a large foot that the shadow thereof
covereth the body from sun and rain when they lie upon their

Sir John tells us, too, of a wonderful group of islands, "and in
one of these isles are men that have one eye, and that in the
midst of their forehead.  And they eat not flesh or fish all raw.

"And in another isle dwell men that have no heads, and their eyes
are in their shoulders and their mouth is in their breast. . . .

"And in another isle are men that have flat faces without nose
and without eyes, but they have two small round holes instead of
eyes and they have a flat mouth without lips. . . .

"And in another isle are men that have the lips about their mouth
so great that when they sleep in the sun they cover all their
face with the lip."

But I must not tell all the "lying wonders of our English
knight."* for you must read the book for yourselves.  And when
you do you will find that it is written with such an easy air of
truth that you will half believe in Sir John's marvels.  Every
now and again, too, he puts in a bit of real information which
helps to make his marvels seem true, so that sometimes we cannot
be sure what is truth and what is fable.

*Colonel Sir Henry Yule, The Book of Sir Marco Polo.

Sir John wandered far and long, but at last his journeyings
ended.  "I have passed through many lands and isles and
countries," he says, "and now am come to rest against my will."
And so to find comfort in his "wretched rest" he wrote his book.
"But," he says, "there are many other divers countries, and many
other marvels beyond that I have not seen.  Also in countries
where I have been there are many marvels that I speak not of, for
it were too long a tale."  And also, he thought, it was as well
to leave something untold "so that other men that go thither may
find enough for to say that I have not told," which was very kind
of him.

Sir John tells us then how he took his book to the holy father
the Pope, and how he caused it to be read, and "the Pope hath
ratified and affirmed my book in all points.  And I pray to all
those that read this book, that they will pray for me, and I
shall pray for them."


    The Voyages and Travels of Sir John Mandeville, edited


WHILE Chaucer was making for us pictures of English life, in the
sister kingdom across the rugged Cheviots another poet was
singing to a ruder people.  This poet was John Barbour,
Archdeacon of Aberdeen.  An older man than Chaucer, born perhaps
twenty years before the English poet, he died only five years
earlier.  So that for many years these two lived and wrote at the
same time.

But the book by which Barbour is remembered best is very
different from that by which we remember Chaucer.  Barbour's
best-known book is called The Bruce, and in it, instead of the
quiet tales of middle-class people, we hear throughout the clash
and clang of battle.  Here once again we have the hero of
romance.  Here once again history and story are mingled, and
Robert the Bruce swings his battle-ax and wings his faultless
arrow, saving his people from the English yoke.

The music of The Bruce cannot compare with the music of the
Tales, but the spirit throughout is one of manliness, of delight
in noble deeds and noble thoughts.  Barbour's way of telling his
stories is simple and straightforward.  It is full of stern
battle, yet there are lines of tender beauty, but nowhere do we
find anything like the quiet laughter and humor of Chaucer.  And
that is not wonderful, for those were stern times in Scotland,
and The Bruce is as much an outcome of those times as were the
Tales or Piers Ploughman an outcome of the times in England.

But if to Chaucer belongs the title of "Father of English
Poetry," to Barbour belongs that of "Father of Scottish Poetry
and Scottish History."  He, indeed, calls the language he wrote
in "Inglis," but it is a different English from that of Chaucer.
They were both founded on Anglo-Saxon, but instead of growing
into modern English, Barbour's tongue grew into what was known
later as "braid Scots."  All the quotations that I am going to
give you from the poem I have turned into modern English, for,
although they lose a great deal in beauty, it makes them easier
for every one to understand.  For even to the Scots boys and
girls who read this book there are many words in the original
that would need translating, although they are words still used
by every one who speaks Scots to this day.  In one page of
twenty-seven lines taken at random we find sixteen such words.
They are, micht, nicht, lickt, weel, gane, ane, nane, stane,
rowit, mirk, nocht, brocht, mair, sperit at, sair, hert.  For
those who are Scots it is interesting to know how little the
language of the people has changed in five hundred years.

As of many another of our early poets, we know little of
Barbour's life.  He was Archdeacon of Aberdeen, as already said,
and in 1357 he received a safe-conduct from Edward III to allow
him to travel to Oxford with three companions.  In those days
there was not as yet any university in Scotland.  The monasteries
still held their place as centers of learning.  But already the
fame of Oxford had reached the northern kingdom, and Barbour was
anxious to share in the treasures of learning to be found there.
At the moment there was peace between the two countries, but hate
was not dead, it only slumbered.  So a safe-conduct or passport
was necessary for any Scotsman who would travel through England
in safety.  "Edward the King unto his lieges greeting," it ran.
"Know ye that we have taken under our protection (at the request
of David de Bruce) John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, with the
scholars in his company, in coming into our kingdom of England,
in order to study in the university of Oxford, and perform his
scholastic exercises, and in remaining there and in returning to
his own country of Scotland.  And we hereby grant him our safe-
conduct, which is to continue in force for one year."

Barbour was given two other safe-conducts, one to allow him again
to visit Oxford, and another to allow him to pass through England
on his way to France.  Besides this, we know that Barbour
received a pension from the King of Scotland, and that he held
his archdeaconry until his death; and that is almost all that we
know certainly of his life.

The Bruce is the great national poem, Robert the Bruce the great
national hero of Scotland.  But although The Bruce concerns
Scotland in the first place, it is of interest to every one, for
it is full of thrilling stories of knightly deeds, many of which
are true.  "The fine poem deserves to be better known," says one
of its editors.*  "It is a proud thing for a country to have
given a subject for such an Odyssey, and to have had so early in
its literature a poet worthy to celebrate it."  And it is little
wonder that Barbour wrote so stirringly of his hero, for he lived
not many years after the events took place, and when he was a
schoolboy Robert the Bruce was still reigning over Scotland.

*Cosmo Innes.

In the beginning of his book Barbour says:--

    "Stories to read are delightful,
    Supposing even they be naught but fable;
    Then should stories that true were,
    And that were said in good manner,
    Have double pleasantness in hearing.
    The first pleasantness is the telling
    And the other is the truthfulness
    That shows the thing right as it was.
    And such things that are likand
    To man's hearing are pleasant;
    Therefore I would fain set my will,
    If my wit may suffice thereto,
    To put in writ a truthful story,
    That it last aye forth in memory,
    So that no time of length it let,
    Nor gar it wholly be forgot."

So he will, he says, tell the tale of "stalwart folk that lived
erst while," of "King Robert of Scotland that hardy was of heart
and hand," and of "Sir James of Douglas that in his time so
worthy was," that his fame reached into far lands.  Then he ends
this preface with a prayer that God will give him grace, "so that
I say naught but soothfast thing."

The story begins with describing the state of Scotland after the
death of Alexander III, when Edward I ruled in England.
Alexander had been a good king, but at his death the heir to the
throne was a little girl, the Maid of Norway.  She was not even
in Scotland, but was far across the sea.  And as this child-queen
came sailing to her kingdom she died on board ship, and so never
saw the land over which she ruled.

Then came a sad time for Scotland.  "The land six year and more
i-faith lay desolate," for there was no other near heir to the
throne, and thirteen nobles claimed it.  At last, as they could
not agree which had the best right, they asked King Edward of
England to decide for them.

As you know, it had been the dream of every King of England to be
King of Scotland too.  And now Edward I saw his chance to make
that dream come true.  He chose as King the man who had, perhaps,
the greatest right to the throne, John Balliol.  But he made him
promise to hold the crown as a vassal to the King of England.

This, however, the Scots would not suffer.  Freedom they had ever
loved, and freedom they would have.  No man, they said, whether
he were chosen King or no, had power to make them thralls of

    "Oh!  Freedom is a noble thing!
    Freedom makes a man to have liking,
    Freedom all solace to man gives,
    He lives at ease that freely lives.
    A noble heart may have no ease,
    Nor nothing else that may him please,
    If freedom faileth; for free delight
    Is desired before all other thing.
    Nor he that aye has livéd free
    May not know well the quality,
    The anger, nor the wretched doom
    That joinéd is to foul thraldom."

So sang Barbour, and so the passionate hearts of the Scots cried
through all the wretched years that followed the crowning of John
Balliol.  And when at last they had greatest need, a leader arose
to show them the way to freedom.  Robert the Bruce, throwing off
his sloth and forgetfulness of his country, became their King and
hero.  He was crowned and received the homage of his barons, but
well he knew that was but the beginning.

    "To maintain what he had begun
    He wist, ere all the land was won,
    He should find full hard bargaining
    With him that was of England King,
    For there was none in life so fell,
    So stubborn, nor so cruel."

Then began a long struggle between two gallant men, Robert of
Scotland and Edward of England.  At first things went ill with
the Bruce.  He lost many men in battle, others forsook him, and
for a time he lived a hunted outlaw among the hills.

    "He durst not to the plains y-go
    For all the commons went him fro,
    That for their lives were full fain
    To pass to the English peace again."

But in all his struggles Bruce kept a good heart and comforted
his men.

    "'For discomfort,' as then said he,
    'Is the worst thing that may be;
    For through mickle discomforting
    Men fall oft into despairing.
    And if a man despairing be,
    Then truly vanquished is he.'"

Yet even while Bruce comforted his men he bade them be brave, and

    "And if that them were set a choice,
    To die, or to live cowardly,
    They should ever die chivalrously."

He told them stories, too, of the heroes of olden times who,
after much suffering, had in the end won the victory over their
enemies.  Thus the days passed, and winter settled down on the
bleak mountains.  Then the case of Robert and his men grew worse
and worse, and they almost lost hope.  But at length, with many
adventures, the winter came to an end.  Spring returned again,
and with spring hope.


    "'Twas in spring, when winter tide
    With his blasts, terrible to bide
    Was overcome; and birdies small,
    As throstle and the nightingale,
    Began right merrily to sing,
    And to make in their singing
    Sundrie notes, and varied sounds,
    And melody pleasant to hear,
    And the trees began to blow
    With buds, and bright blossom also,
    To win the covering of their heads
    Which wicked winter had them riven,
    And every grove began to spring."

It was in spring that Bruce and his men gathered to the island of
Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, and there Bruce made up
his mind to make another fight for the crown.  A messenger was
therefore sent over to the mainland, and it was arranged that if
he found friends there, if he thought it was safe for the King to
come, he should, at a certain place, light a great fire as a
signal.  Anxiously Bruce watched for the light, and at last he
saw it.  Then joyfully the men launched their boat, and the King
and his few faithful followers set out.

    "They rowéd fast with all their might,
    Till that upon them fell the night,
    That it wox mirk* in great manner
    So that they wist not where they were,
    For they no needle had, nor stone,
    But rowéd always in one way,
    Steering always upon the fire
    That they saw burning bright and clear.
    It was but adventure that them led,
    And they in short time so them sped
    That at the fire arrived they,
    And went to land but** mair delay."


On shore the messenger was eagerly and anxiously awaiting them,
and with a "sare hert" he told the King that the fire was none of
his.  Far from there being friends around, the English, he said,
swarmed in all the land.

    "Were in the castle there beside,
    Full filléd of despite and pride."

There was no hope of success.

    "Then said the King in full great ire,
    'Traitor, why made thou on the fire?'
    'Ah sire,' he said, 'so God me see
    That fire was never made on for me.
    No ere this night I wist it not
    But when I wist it weel* I thoecht
    That you and all your company
    In haste would put you to the sea.
    For this I come to meet you here,
    To tell the perils that may appear.'"


The King, vexed and disappointed, turned to his followers for
advice.  What was best to do, he asked.  Edward Bruce, the King's
brave brother, was the first to answer.

    "And said, 'I say you sickerly,
    There shall no perils that may be
    Drive me eftsoons into the sea;
    Mine adventure here take will I
    Whether it be easeful or angry.'
    'Brother,' he said, 'since you will so
    It is good that we together take
    Disease and ease, or pain or play
    After as God will us purvey.'"

And so, taking courage, they set out in the darkness, and
attacked the town, and took it with great slaughter.

    "In such afray they bode that night
    Till in the morn, that day was bright,
    And then ceaséd partly
    The noise, the slaughter, and the cry."

Thus once again the fierce struggle was begun.  But this time the
Bruce was successful.  From town after town, from castle after
castle the enemy was driven out, till only Stirling was left to
the English.  It was near this town, on the field of Bannockburn,
that the last great struggle took place.  Brave King Edward I was
dead by this time, but his son, Edward II, led the army.  It was
the greatest army that had ever entered Scotland, but the Scots
won the day and won freedom at the same time.  I cannot tell you
of this great battle, nor of all the adventures which led up to
it.  These you must read in other books, one day, I hope, in
Barbour's Bruce itself.

From the day of Bannockburn, Barbour tells us, Robert the Bruce
grew great.

    "His men were rich, and his country
    Abounded well with corn and cattle,
    And of all kind other richness;
    Mirth, solace, and eke blithness
    Was in the land all commonly,
    For ilk man blith was and jolly."

And here Barbour ends the first part of his poem.  In the second
part he goes on to tell us of how the Bruces carried war into
Ireland, of how they overran Northumberland, and of how at length
true peace was made.  Then King Robert's little son David, who
was but five, was married to Joan, the seven-year-old sister of
King Edward III.  Thus, after war, came rest and ease to both

But King Robert did not live long to enjoy his well-earned rest.
He died, and all the land was filled with mourning and sorrow.

    "'All our defense,' they said, 'alas!
    And he that all our comfort was,
    Our wit and all our governing,
    Is brought, alas, here to ending;
    .   .   .   .   .
    Alas! what shall we do or say?
    For in life while he lasted, aye
    By all our foes dred were we,
    And in many a far country
    Of our worship ran the renown,
    And that was all for his person.'"

Barbour ends his book by telling of how the Douglas set out to
carry the heart of the Bruce to Palestine, and of how he fell
fighting in Spain, and of how his dead body and the King's heart
were brought back to Scotland.

Barbour was born about six years after the battle of Bannockburn.
As a boy he must have heard many stories of these stirring times
from those who had taken part in them.  He must have known many a
woman who had lost husband or father in the great struggle.  He
may even have met King Robert himself.  And as a boy he must have
shared in the sorrow that fell upon the land when its hero died.
He must have remembered, when he grew up, how the people mourned
when the dead body of the Douglas and the heart of the gallant
Bruce were brought home from Spain.  But in spite of Barbour's
prayer to be kept from saying "ought but soothfast thing," we
must not take The Bruce too seriously.  If King Robert was a true
King he was also a true hero of romance.  We must not take all
The Bruce as serious history, but while allowing for the truth of
much, we must also allow something for the poet's worship of his
hero, a hero, too, who lived so near the time in which he wrote.
We must allow something for the feelings of a poet who so
passionately loved the freedom for which that hero fought.


There is, so far as I know, no modernized version of The Bruce,
but there are many books illustrative of the text.  In this
connection may be read Robert the Bruce (Children's heroes
Series), by Jeannie Lang; Chapters XXIV to XLIV.  Scotland's
Story, by H. E. Marshall; The Lord of the Isles, by Sir Walter
Scott; Castle Dangerous, by Sir Walter Scott; "The Heart of the
Bruce" in Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers, by Aytoun.  The most
available version of  The Bruce in old "Inglis," edited by W. M.


The Bruce is a book which is the outcome of the history of the
times.  It is the outcome of the quarrels between England and
Scotland, and of Scotland's struggle for freedom.  Now we come to
another poet, and another poem which was the outcome of the
quarrels between England and Scotland.  For although Scotland's
freedom was never again in danger, the quarrels between the two
countries were, unhappily, not over.

In 1399, as we know, Henry IV wrested the crown of England from
Richard II.  The new King proved no friend to Scotland, for he
desired, as those before him had desired, to rule both countries.
Henry lost no chance, therefore, by which he might gain his end.
So when in 1405 the King of Scotland sent his little son James to
be educated in France, the English attacked the ship in which he
sailed and took him prisoner.  Instead, then, of going as a guest
to the court of France, the Prince was carried as a prisoner to
the court of England.  When the old King heard the sad news he
died, and James, captive though he was, became King of Scotland.

Those were again troublous times in Scotland.  The captive King's
uncle was chosen as Regent to rule in his absence.  But he,
wishing to rule himself, had no desire that his nephew should be
set free.  So through the reigns of Henry IV and of Henry V James
remained a prisoner.  But although a prisoner he was not harshly
treated, and the Kings of England took care that he should
receive an education worthy of a prince.  James was taught to
read and write English, French, and Latin.  He was taught to
fence and wrestle, and indeed to do everything as a knight
should.  Prince James was a willing pupil; he loved his books,
and looked forward to the coming of his teachers, who lightened
the loneliness of his prison.

"But," says a Frenchman who has written a beautiful little book
about this captive King, "'stone walls do not a prison make, nor
iron bars a cage': the soul of the child, who grew to be a youth,
was never a prisoner.  Behind the thick walls of the Tower, built
long ago by the Conqueror, he studied.  Guards watched over him,
but his spirit was far away voyaging in the realms of poetry.
And in these thought journeys, sitting at his little window, with
a big book upon his knee, he visited the famous places which the
Gesta Romanorum unrolled before him. . . . The 'noble senator'
Boece taught him resignation.  William de Lorris took him by the
hand and led him to the garden of the Rose.  The illustrious
Chaucer invited him to follow the gay troop of pilgrims along the
highroad to Canterbury.  The grave Gower, announcing in advance a
sermon of several hours, begged him to be seated, and to the
murmur of his wise talk, his head leaning on the window frame,
the child slept peacefully.

"Thus passed the years, and the chief change that they brought
was a change of prison.  After the Tower it was the Castle of
Nottingham, another citadel of the Norman time, then Evesham,
then again the Tower when Henry V came to the throne; and at
last, and this was by contrast almost liberty, the Castle of

*J. J. Jusserand, Le Roman d'un Roi d'Ecosse
And thus for eighteen years the Prince lived a life half-real,
half-dream.  The gray days followed each other without change,
without adventure.  But the brilliant throng of kings and queens,
of knights and ladies, of pilgrims and lovers, and all the make-
believe people of storyland stood out all the brighter for the
grayness of the background.  And perhaps to the Prince in his
quiet tower the storied people were more real than the living,
who only now and again came to visit him.  For the storied people
were with him always, while the living came and went again and
were lost to him in the great world without, of which he knew
scarce anything.  But at last across this twilight life, which
was more than half a dream, there struck one day a flash of
sunshine.  Then to the patient, studious prisoner all was
changed.  Life was no longer a twilight dream, but real.  He knew
how deep joy might be, how sharp sorrow.  Life was worth living,
he learned, freedom worth having, and at length freedom came, and
the Prince returned to his country a free King and a happy lover.

How all this happened King James has told us himself in a book
called The King's Quair, which means the King's little book,
which he wrote while he was still a prisoner in England.

King James tells us how one night he could not sleep, try as he
might.  He lay tossing and tumbling, "but sleep for craft on
earth might I no more."  So at last, "knowing no better wile," he
took a book hoping "to borrow a sleep" by reading.  But instead
of bringing sleep, the book only made him more and more wide
awake.  At length he says:--

    "Mine eyen gan to smart for studying,
    My book I shut, and at my head it laid,
    And down I lay but* any tarrying."


Again he lay thinking and tossing upon his bed until he was

    "Then I listened suddenly,
    And soon I heard the bell to matins ring,
    And up I rose, no longer would I lie.
    But now, how trow ye? such a fantasy
    Fell me to mind, that aye methought the bell
    Said to me, 'Tell on man what thee befell.'

    Thought I tho' to myself, 'What may this be?
    This is mine own imagining,
    It is no life* that speaketh unto me;
    It is a bell, or that impression
    Of my thought causeth this illusion,
    That maketh me think so nicely in this wise';
    And so befell as I shall you devise."

    *Living person.

Prince James says he had already wasted much ink and paper on
writing, yet at the bidding of the bell he decided to write some
new thing.  So up he rose,

    "And forth-with-all my pen in hand I took,
    And made a + and thus began my book."

Prince James then tells of his past life, of how, when he was a
lad, his father sent him across the sea in a ship, and of how he
was taken prisoner and found himself in "Straight ward and strong
prison" "without comfort in sorrow."  And there full often he
bemoaned his fate, asking what crime was his that he should be
shut up within four walls when other men were free.

    "Bewailing in my chamber thus alone,
    Despairing of all joy and remedy,
    Out wearied with my thought and woe begone,
    Unto the window gan I walk in haste,
    To see the world and folk that went forbye,
    As for the time though I of mirths food
    Might have no more, to look it did me good."

Beneath the tower in which the Prince was imprisoned lay a
beautiful garden.  It was set about with hawthorn hedges and
juniper bushes, and on the small, green branches sat a little
nightingale, which sang so loud and clear "that all the garden
and the walls rang right with the song."  Prince James leaned
from his window listening to the song of the birds, and watching
them as they hopped from branch to branch, preening themselves in
the early sunshine and twittering to their mates.  And as he
watched he envied the birds, and wondered why he should be a
thrall while they were free.

    "And therewith cast I down mine eyes again,
    Whereas I saw, walking under the tower
    Full secretly, new coming her to play,
    The fairest and the freshest young flower
    That ever I saw methought, before that hour,
    For which sudden abate, anon astart,
    The blood of all my body to my heart."

A lovely lady was walking in the garden, a lady more lovely than
he had dreamed any one might be.  Her hair was golden, and
wreathed with flowers.  Her dress was rich, and jewels sparkled
on her white throat.  Spellbound, he stood a while watching the
lovely lady.  He could do nothing but gaze.

    "No wonder was; for why my wits all
    Were so overcome with pleasance and delight,
    Only through letting of mine eyes down fall,
    That suddenly my heart became her thrall,
    For ever of free will."

Thus, from the first moment in which he saw her, James loved the
beautiful lady.  After a few minutes he drew in his head lest she
might see him and be angry with him for watching her.  But soon
he leaned out again, for while she was in the garden he felt he
must watch and see her walk "so womanly."

So he stood still at the window, and although the lady was far
off in the garden, and could not hear him, he whispered to her,
telling of his love.  "O sweet," he said, "are you an earthly
creature, or are you a goddess?  How shall I do reverence to you
enough, for I love you?  And you, if you will not love me too,
why, then have you come?  Have you but come to add to the misery
of a poor prisoner?"

Prince James looked, and longed, and sighed, and envied the
little dog with which the lovely lady played.  Then he scolded
the little birds because they sang no more.  "Where are the songs
you chanted this morning?" he asked.  "Why do you not sing now?
Do you not see that the most beautiful lady in all the world is
come into your garden?"  Then to the nightingale he cried, "Lift
up thine heart and sing with good intent.  If thou would sing
well ever in thy life, here is i-faith the time--here is the time
or else never."

Then it seemed to the Prince as if, in answer to his words, all
the birds sang more sweetly than ever before.  And what they sang
was a love-song to his lady.  And she, walking under the tender
green of the May trees, looked upward, and listened to their
sweet songs, while James watched her and loved her more and more.

    "And when she walkéd had a little while
    Under the sweet green boughs bent,
    Her fair fresh face as white as any snow,
    She turnéd has, and forth her ways went;
    But then began my sickness and torment
    To see her go, and follow I not might,
    Methought the day was turnéd into night."

Then, indeed, the day was dark for the Prince.  The beautiful
lady in going had left him more lonely than before.  Now he truly
knew what it was to be a prisoner.  All day long he knelt at the
window, watching, and longing, and not knowing by what means he
might see his lady again.  At last night came, and worn out in
heart and mind he leaned his head #against the cold rough stone
and slept.


AS Prince James slept he dreamed that a sudden great light shone
into his prison, making bright all the room.  A voice cried, "I
bring thee comfort and healing, be not afraid."  Then the light
passed as suddenly as it had come and the Prince went forth from
his prison, no man saying him nay.

    "And hastily by both the arms twain
    I was araiséd up into the air,
    Caught in a cloud of crystal clear and fair."

And so through "air and water and hot fire" he was carried,
seeing and hearing many wonders, till he awoke to find himself
still kneeling by his window.

Was it all a dream, Prince James asked himself, even the vision
of the lovely lady in the garden?  At that thought his heart grew
heavy.  Then, as if to comfort him, a dove flew in at his window
carrying in her mouth a sprig of gilliflowers.  Upon the stalk in
golden letters were written the words, "Awake!  Awake! lover, I
bring thee glad news."

And so the story had a happy ending, for Prince James knew that
the lovely lady of the garden loved him.  "And if you think," he
says, "that I have written a great deal about a very little
thing, I say this to you:--

    "Who that from hell hath creepéd once to heaven
    Would after one thank for joy not make six or seven,
    And every wight his own sweet or sore
    Has most in mind:  I can say you no more."

Then, in an outburst of joy, he thanks and blesses everything
that has led up to this happy day, which has brought him under
"Love's yoke which easy is and sure."  Even his exile and his
prison he thanks.

    "And thankéd be the fair castle wall
    Whereas I whilcome looked forth and leant."

The King's Quair reminds us very much of Chaucer's work.  All
through it there are lines which might have been written by
Chaucer, and in the last verse James speaks of Gower and Chaucer
as his "masters dear."  Of Gower I have said nothing in this
book, because there is not room to tell of every one, and he is
not so important as some or so interesting as others.  So I leave
you to learn about him later.  It is to Chaucer, too, much more
than to Gower that James owes his music.  And if he is grave like
Gower rather than merry like Chaucer, we must remember that for
nineteen years he had lived a captive, so that it was natural his
verse should be somber as his life had been.  And though there is
no laughter in this poem, it shows a power of feeling joy as well
as sorrow, which makes us sad when we remember how long the poet
was shut away from common human life.
The King's Quair  is written in verses of seven lines.  Chaucer
used this kind of verse, but because King James used it too, and
used it so well, it came to be called the Rhyme Royal.

King James's story had a happy ending.  A story with a happy
ending must end of course with a wedding, and so did this one.
The King of England, now Henry VI, was only a child.  But those
who ruled for him were quite pleased when they heard that Prince
James had fallen in love with the beautiful lady of the garden,
for she was the King's cousin, Lady Jane Beaufort.  They set
James free and willingly consented that he should marry his lady,
for in this way they hoped to bind England and Scotland together,
and put an end to wars between the two countries.  So there was a
very grand wedding in London when the lovely lady of the garden
became Queen of Scotland.  And then these two, a King and Queen,
yet happy as any simple lovers journeyed northward to their

They were received with great rejoicing and crowned at Scone.
But the new King soon found, that during the long years he had
been kept a prisoner in England his kingdom had fallen into wild
disorder.  Sternly he set himself to bring order out of disorder,
and the wilfull, lawless nobles soon found to their surprise that
the gentle poet had a will of iron and a hand of steel, and that
he could wield a sword and scepter as skillfully as his pen.

James I righted much that was wrong.  In doing it he made for
himself many enemies.  But of all that he did or tried to do in
the twelve years that he ruled you will read in history books.
Here I will only tell you of his sad death.

In 1436 James decided to spend Christmas at Perth, a town he
loved.  As he neared the river Forth, which he had to cross on
his way, an aged woman came to him crying in a loud voice, "My
Lord King, if ye cross this water ye shall never return again in

Now the King had read a prophecy in which it was said that a King
of Scotland should be slain that same year.  So wondering what
this woman might mean, he sent a knight to speak with the woman.
But the knight could make nothing of her, and returning to the
King he said, "Sir, take no heed of yon woman's words, for she is
old and foolish, and wots not what she sayeth."  So the King rode

Christmas went by quietly and peacefully, and the New Year came,
and still the King lingered in Perth.  The winter days passed
pleasantly in reading, walking, and tennis-playing; the evenings
in chess-playing, music, and story-telling.

But one night, as James was chatting and laughing with the Queen
and her ladies before going to bed, a great noise was heard.  The
sound of many feet, the clatter of armor mingled with wild cries
was borne to the quiet room, and through the high windows flashed
the light of many torches.

At once the King guessed that he was betrayed.  The Queen and her
ladies ran hastily to the door to shut it.  But the locks had
been broken and the bolts carried away, so that it could not be

In vain James looked round.  Way of escape there was none.
Alone, unarmed, he could neither guard the ladies nor save
himself.  Crying to them to keep fast the door as best they
might, he sprang to the window, hoping by his great strength to
wrench the iron bars from their places and escape that way.  But,
alas, they were so strongly set in the stone that he could not
move them, "for which cause the King was ugly astonied."*

*The Dethe of the Kynge of Scottis.

Then turning to the fire James seized the tongs, "and under his
feet he mightily brast up a blank of the chamber,"* and leaping
down into the vault beneath he let the plank fall again into its
place.  By this vault the King might have escaped, for until
three days before there had been a hole leading from it to the
open air.  But as he played tennis his balls often rolled into
this hole and were lost.  So he had ordered it to be built up.

*The same.

There was nothing, then, for the King to do but wait.  Meanwhile
the noise grew louder and louder, the traitors came nearer and
nearer.  One brave lady named Catherine Douglas, hoping to keep
them out, and so save the King, thrust her arm through the iron
loops on the door where the great bolt should have been.  But
against the savage force without, her frail, white arm was
useless.  The door was burst open.  Wounded and bleeding,
Catherine Douglas was thrown aside and the wild horde stormed
into the room.

It was not long ere the King's hiding-place was found, and one of
the traitors leaped down beside him with a great knife in his
hand.  "And the King, doubting him for his life, caught him
mightily by the shoulders, and with full great violence cast him
under his feet.  For the King was of his person and stature a man
right manly strong."*

*The same.

Seeing this, another traitor leaped down to help his fellow.
"And the King caught him manly by the neck, both under him that
all a long month after men might see how strongly the King had
holden them by the throats."*

*The same.

Fiercely the King struggled with his enemies, trying to wrench
their knives from them so that he might defend himself.  But it
was in vain.  Seeing him grow weary a third traitor, the King's
greatest enemy, Robert Grahame, leaped down too into the vault,
"with a horrible and mortal weapon in his hand, and therewithal
he smote him through the body, and therewithal the good King fell

*The same.

And thus the poet King died with sixteen wounds in his brave
heart and many more in his body.  So at the long last our story
has a sad ending.  But we have to remember that for twelve years
King James had a happy life, and that as he had loved his lady at
the first so he loved her to the end, and was true to her.

Besides The King's Quair, there are a few other short poems which
some people think King James wrote.  They are very different from
the Quair, being more like the ballads of the people, and most
people think now that James did not write them.  But because they
are different is no real reason for thinking that they are not
his.  For James was quite clever enough, we may believe, to write
in more than one way.

Besides these doubtful poems, there is one other poem of three
verses about which no one has any doubt.  I will give you one
verse here, for it seems in tune with the King's own life and
sudden death.

    "Be not our proud in thy prosperite,
    Be not o'er proud in thy prosperity,
    For as it cumis, sa will it pass away;
    For as it comes, so will it pass away;
    Thy tym to compt is short, thou may weille se
    Thy time to count is short, thou mayst well see
    For of green gres soyn cumis walowit hay,
    For of green grass soon cometh withered hay,
    Labour is trewth, quhill licht is of the day.
    Labour in truth, while light is of the day.
    Trust maist in God, for he best gyd thee can,
    Trust most in God, for he best guide thee can,
    And for ilk inch he wil thee quyt a span."
    And for each inch he will thee requite a span.


An illustration of this chapter may be read in The Fair Maid of
Perth, by Sir Walter Scott; The King's Tragedy (poetry), by D. G.
Rossetti in his Poetical Works.  The best version of The King's
Quair in the ancient text is by W. W. Skeat.


THE fifteenth century, the century in which King James I reigned
and died, has been called the "Golden Age of Scottish Poetry,"
because of the number of poets who lived and wrote then.  And so,
although I am only going to speak of one other Scottish poet at
present, you must remember that there were at this time many
more.  But of them all William Dunbar is counted the greatest.
And although I do not think you will care to read his poems for a
very long time to come, I write about him here both because he
was a great poet and because with one of his poems, The Thistle
and the Rose, he takes us back, as it were, over the Border into
England once more.

William Dunbar was perhaps born in 1460 and began his life when
James III began his reign.  He was of noble family, but there is
little to know about his life, and as with Chaucer, what we learn
about the man himself we learn chiefly from his writing.  We
know, however, that he went to the University of St. Andrews, and
that it was intended that he should go into the Church.  In those
days in Scotland there were only two things a gentleman might be
- either he must be a soldier or a priest.  Dunbar's friends,
perhaps seeing that he was fond of books, thought it best to make
him a priest.  But indeed he had made a better soldier.  For a
time, however, although he was quite unsuited for such a life, he
became a friar.  As a preaching friar he wandered far.

    "For in every town and place
    Of all England from Berwick to Calais,
    I have in my habit made good cheer.
    In friar's weed full fairly have I fleichet,*
    In it have I in pulpit gone and preached,
    In Dernton kirk and eke in Canterbury,
    In it I passed at Dover o'er the ferry
    Through Picardy, and there the people teached."


Dunbar himself knew that he had no calling to be a friar or
preacher.  He confesses that

    "As long as I did bear the friar's style
    In me, God wot, was many wrink and wile,
    In me was falseness every wight to flatter,
    Which might be banished by no holy water;
    I was aye ready all men to beguile."

So after a time we find him no longer a friar, but a courtier.
Soon we find him, like Chaucer, being sent on business to the
Continent for his King, James IV.  Like Chaucer he receives
pensions; like Chaucer, too, he knows sometimes what it is to be
poor, and he has left more than one poem in which he prays the
King to remember his old and faithful servant and not leave him
in want.  We find him also begging the King for a Church living,
for although he had no mind to be a friar, he wanted a living,
perhaps merely that he might be sure of a home in his old age.
But for some reason the King never gave him what he asked.
We have nearly ninety poems of Dunbar, none of them very long.
But although he is a far better poet than Barbour, or even
perhaps than James I, he is not for you so interesting in the
meantime.  First, his language is very hard to understand.  One
reason for this is that he knows so many words and uses them all.
"He language had at large," says one of his fellow poets and
countrymen.*  And so, although his thought is always clear, it is
not always easy to follow it through his strange words.  Second,
his charm as a poet lies not so much in what he tells, not so
much in his story, as in the way that he tells it.  And so, even
if you are already beginning to care for words and the way in
which they are used, you may not yet care so much that you can
enjoy poetry written in a tongue which, to us is almost a foreign
tongue.  But if some day you care enough about it to master this
old-world poet, you will find that there is a wonderful variety
in his poems.  He can be glad and sad, tender and fierce.
Sometimes he seems to smile gently upon the sins and sorrows of
his day, at other times he pours forth upon them words of savage
scorn, grim and terrible.  But when we take all his work
together, we find that we have such a picture of the times in
which he lived as perhaps only Chaucer besides has given us.

*Sir David Lyndsay.

For us the most interesting poem is The Thistle and the Rose.
This was written when Margaret, the daughter of King Henry VII of
England, came to be the wife of King James IV of Scotland.
Dunbar was the "Rhymer of Scotland," that is the poet-laureate of
his day, and so, as was natural, he made a poem upon this great
event.  For a poet-laureate is the King's poet, and it is his
duty to make poems on all the great things that may happen to the
King.  For this he receives a certain amount of money and a cask
of wine every year.  But it is the honor and not the reward which
is now prized.

Dunbar begins by telling us that he lay dreaming one May morning.
You will find when you come to read much of the poetry of those
days, that poets were very fond of making use of a dream by which
to tell a story.  It was then a May morning when Dunbar lay

    "When March was with varying winds past,
    And April had, with her silver showers,
    Tane leave of nature with an orient blast;
    And pleasant May, that mother is of flowers,
    Had made the birds to begin their hours*
    Among the tender arbours red white,
    Whose harmony to hear it was delight."

    *Orisons - morning prayers.

Then it seemed that May, in the form of a beautiful lady, stood
beside his bed.  She called to him, "Sluggard, awake anon for
shame, and in mine honor go write something."

    "'What,' quoth I, ' shall I wuprise at morrow?'
    For in this May few birdies heard I sing.
    'They have more cause to weep and plain their sorrow,
    Thy air it is not wholesome or benign!'"

"Nevertheless rise," said May.  And so the lazy poet rose and
followed the lady into a lovely garden.  Here he saw many
wonderful and beautiful sights.  He saw all the birds, and
beasts, and flowers in the world pass before Dame Nature.

    "Then calléd she all flowers that grew in field,
    Discerning all their fashions and properties;
    Upon the awful Thistle she beheld,
    And saw him keepéd* by a bush of spears;
    Considering him so able for the wars,
    A radiant crown of rubies she him gave,
    And said, 'In field go forth, and fend the lave.**

    And, since thou art a king, be thou discreet,
    Herb without virtue hold thou not of such price
    As herb of virtue and of odour sweet;
    And let no nettle vile, and full of vice,
    Mate him to the goodly fleur-de-lis,
    Nor let no wild weed full of churlishness
    Compare her to the lily's nobleness.

    Nor hold thou no other flower in such dainty
    As the fresh Rose, of colour red and white;
    For if thou dost, hurt is thine honesty
    Considering that no flower is so perfect,
    So full of virtue, pleasance and delight,
    So full of blissful angelic beauty,
    Imperial birth, honour and dignity.'"

    **Rest = others.

By the Thistle, of course, Dunbar means James IV, and by the Rose
the Princess Margaret.

Then to the Rose Dame Nature spoke, and crowned her with "a
costly crown with shining rubies bright."  When that was done all
the flowers rejoiced, crying out, "Hail be thou, richest Rose."
Then all the birds - the thrush, the lark, the nightingale--cried
"Hail," and "the common voice uprose of birdies small" till all
the garden rang with joy.

    "Then all the birdies sang with such a shout,
    That I anon awoke where that I lay,
    And with a start I turnéd me about
    To see this court:  but all were went away:
    Then up I leanéd, half yet in fear,
    And thus I wrote, as ye have heard to forrow,*
    Of lusty May upon the nineth morrow."

    *Before = already.

Thus did Dunbar sing of the wedding of the Thistle and the Rose.
It was a marriage by which the two peoples hoped once more to
bring a lasting peace between the two countries.  And although
the hope was not at once fulfilled, it was a hundred years later.
For upon the death of Elizabeth, James VI of Scotland, the great-
grandson of Margaret Tudor and James Stuart, received the crown
of England also, thus joining the two rival countries.  Then came
the true marriage of the Thistle and the Rose.

Meanwhile, as long as Henry VII remained upon the throne, there
was peace between the two peoples.  But when Henry VIII began to
rule, his brother-in-law of Scotland soon found cause to quarrel
with him.  Then once again the Thistle and the Rose met, not in
peace, but in war.  On the red field of Flodden once again the
blood of a Scottish King stained the grass.  Once again Scotland
was plunged in tears.

After "that most dolent day"* we hear no more of Dunbar.  It is
thought by some that he, as many another knight, courtier and
priest, laid down his life fighting for his King, and that he
fell on Flodden field.  By others it is thought that he lived to
return to Scotland, and that the Queen gave to him one of the now
many vacant Church livings, and that there he spent his last days
in quietness and peace.

*Sir David Lyndsay.

This may have been so.  For although Dunbar makes no mention of
Flodden in his poems, it is possible that he may have done so in
some that are lost.  But where this great poet lies taking his
last rest we do not know.  It may be he was laid in some quiet
country churchyard.  It may be he met death suddenly amid the din
and horror of battle.


In illustration of this chapter may be read "Edinburgh after
Flodden" in Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers, by W. E. Aytoun.  The
best edition of the Poems of Dunbar in the original is edited by
J. Small.


IF the fifteenth century has been called the Golden Age of
Scottish poetry, it was also the dullest age in English
literature.  During the fifteenth century few books were written
in England.  One reason for this was that in England it was a
time of foreign and of civil war.  The century opened in war with
Wales, it continued in war with France.  Then for thirty years
the wars of the Roses laid desolate the land.  They ended at
length in 1485 with Bosworth field, by which Henry VII became

But in spite of all the wars and strife, the making of books did
not quite cease.  And if only a few books were written, it was
because it was a time of rebirth and new life as well as a time
of war and death.  For it was in the fifteenth century that
printing was discovered.  Then it was that the listening time was
really done.  Men began to use their eyes rather than their ears.
They saw as they had never before seen.

Books began to grow many and cheap.  More and more people learned
to read, and this helped to settle our language into a form that
was to last.  French still, although it was no longer the
language of the court or of the people, had an influence on our
speech.  People traveled little, and in different parts of the
country different dialects, which were almost like different
languages, were spoken.  We have seen that the "Inglis" of
Scotland differed from Chaucer's English, and the language of the
north of England differed from it just as much.  But when printed
books increased in number quickly, when every man could see for
himself what the printed words looked like, these differences
began to die out.  Then our English, as a literary language, was

It was Caxton, you remember, who was the first English printer.
We have already heard of him when following the Arthur story as
the printer of Malory's Morte d'Arthur.  But Caxton was not only
a printer, he was author, editor, printer, publisher and
bookseller all in one.

William Caxton, as he himself tells us, was born in Kent in the
Weald.  But exactly where or when we do not know, although it may
have been about the year 1420.  Neither do we know who or what
his father was.  Some people think that he may have been a mercer
or cloth merchant, because later Caxton was apprenticed to one of
the richest cloth merchants of London.  In those days no man was
allowed to begin business for himself until he had served for a
number of years as an apprentice.  When he had served his time,
and then only, was he admitted into the company and allowed to
trade for himself.  As the Mercers' Company was one of the
wealthiest and most powerful of the merchant companies, they were
very careful of whom they admitted as apprentices.  Therefore it
would seem that really Caxton's family was "of great repute of
old, and genteel-like," as an old manuscript says.*

*Harleian MS., 5910.

Caxton's master died before he had finished his apprenticeship,
so he had to find a new master, and very soon he left England and
went to Bruges.  There he remained for thirty-five years.
In those days there was much trade between England and Flanders
(Belgium we now call the country) in wool and cloth, and there
was a little colony of English merchants in Bruges.  There Caxton
steadily rose in importance until he became "Governor of the
English Nation beyond the seas."  As Governor he had great power,
and ruled over his merchant adventurers as if he had been a king.

But even with all his other work, with his trading and ruling to
attend to, Caxton found time to read and write, and he began to
translate from the French a book of stories called the Recuyell*
of the Histories of Troy.  This is a book full of the stories of
Greek heroes and of the ancient town of Troy.

*Collection, from the French word recueillir, to gather.

Caxton was not very well pleased with his work, however--he "fell
into despair of it," he says--and for two years he put it aside
and wrote no more.

In 1468 Princess Margaret, the sister of King Edward IV, married
the Duke of Burgundy and came to live in Flanders, for in those
days Flanders was under the rule of the Dukes of Burgundy.
Princess Margaret soon heard of the Englishman William Caxton who
had made his home in Bruges.  She liked him and encouraged him to
go on with his writing, and after a time he gave up his post of
Governor of the English and entered the service of the Princess.
We do not know what post Caxton held in the household of the
Princess, but it was one of honor we may feel sure.

It was at the bidding of the Princess, whose "dreadful command I
durst in no wise disobey," that Caxton finished the translation
of his book of stories.  And as at this time there were no
stories written in English prose (poetry only being still used
for stories), the book was a great success.  The Duchess was
delighted and rewarded Caxton well, and besides that so many
other people wished to read it that he soon grew tired of making
copies.  It was then that he decided to learn the new and
wonderful art of printing, which was already known in Flanders.
So it came about that the first book ever printed in English was
not printed in England, but somewhere on the continent.  It was
printed some time before 1477, perhaps in 1474.

If in manuscript the book had been a success, it was now much
more of one.  And we may believe that it was this success that
made Caxton leave Bruges and go home to England in order to begin
life anew as a printer there.

Many a time, as Governor of the English Nation over the seas, he
had sent forth richly laden vessels.  But had he known it, none
was so richly laden as that which now sailed homeward bearing a

At Westminster, within the precincts of the Abbey, Caxton found a
house and set up his printing-press.  And there, not far from the
great west door of the Abbey he, already an elderly man, began
his new busy life.  His house came to be known as the house of
the Red Pale from the sign that he set up.  It was probably a
shield with a red line down the middle of it, called in heraldry
a pale.  And from here Caxton sent out the first printed
advertisement known in England.  "If it please any man spiritual
or temporal," he says, to buy a certain book, "let him come to
Westminster in to the Almonry at the Red Pale and he shall have
them good cheap."  The advertisement ended with some Latin words
which we might translate, "Please do not pull down the

The first book that Caxton is known to have printed in England
was called The Dictes* and Sayings of the Philosophers.  This was
also a translation from French, not, however, of Caxton's own
writing.  It was translated by Earl Rivers, who asked Caxton to
revise it, which he did, adding a chapter and writing a prologue.

*Another word for sayings, from the French dire, to say.

To the people of Caxton's day printing seemed a marvelous thing.
So marvelous did it seem that some of them thought it could only
be done by the help of evil spirits.  It is strange to think that
in those days, when anything new and wonderful was discovered,
people at once thought that it must be the work of evil spirits.
That it might be the work of good spirits never seemed to occur
to them.

Printing, indeed, was a wonderful thing.  For now, instead of
taking weeks and months to make one copy of a book, a man could
make dozens or even hundreds at once.  And this made books so
cheap that many more people could buy them, and so people were
encouraged both to read and write.  Instead of gathering together
to hear one man read out of a book, each man could buy a copy for
himself.  At the end of one of his books Caxton begs folk to
notice "that it is not written with pen and ink as other books
be, to the end that every man may have them at once.  For all the
books of this story, called the Recuyell of the Histories of Troy
thus imprinted as ye see here were begun on one day and also
finished in one day."  We who live in a world of books can hardly
grasp what that meant to the people of Caxton's time.

For fourteen years Caxton lived a busy life, translating,
editing, and printing.  Besides that he must have led a busy
social life, for he was a favorite with Edward IV, and with his
successors Richard III and Henry VII too.  Great nobles visited
his workshop, sent him gifts, and eagerly bought and read his
books.  The wealthy merchants, his old companions in trade, were
glad still to claim him as a friend.  Great ladies courted,
flattered, and encouraged him.  He married, too, and had
children, though we known nothing of his home life.  Altogether
his days were full and busy, and we may believe that he was

But at length Caxton's useful, busy life came to an end.  On the
last day of it he was still translating a book from French.  He
finished it only a few hours before he died.  We know this,
although we do not know the exact date of his death.  For his
pupil and follower, who carried on his work afterwards, says on
the title-page of this book that it was "finished at the last day
of his life."

Caxton was buried in the church near which he had worked--St.
Margaret's, Westminster.  He was laid to rest with some ceremony
as a man of importance, for in the account-books of the parish we
find these entries:--

    "At burying of William Caxton for four torches 6s. 8d.
    For the bell at same burying 6d."

This was much more than was usually spent at the burial of
ordinary people in those days.

Among the many books which Caxton printed we must not forget Sir
Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, which we spoke of out of its
place in following the story of Arthur in Chapter VIII.  Perhaps
you would like to turn back and read it over again now.

As we have said, Caxton was not merely a printer.  He was an
author too.  But although he translated books both from French
and Dutch, it is perhaps to his delightful prefaces more than to
anything else that he owes his title of author.  Yet it must be
owned that sometimes they are not all quite his own, but parts
are taken wholesale from other men's works or are translated from
the French.  We are apt to look upon a preface as something dull
which may be left unread.  But when you come to read Caxton's
books, you may perhaps like his prefaces as much as anything else
about them.  In one he tells of his difficulties about the
language, because different people spoke it so differently.  He
tells how once he began to translate a book, but "when I saw the
fair and strange terms therein, I doubted that it should not
please some gentlemen which late blamed me, saying that in my
translation I had over curious terms, which could not be
understood by common people, and desired me to use old and homely
terms in my translations.  And fain would I satisfy every man.
And so to do I took an old book and read therein, and certainly
the English was so rude and broad that I could not well
understand it. . . . And certainly our language now used varieth
far from that which was used and spoken when I was born. . . .
And that common English that is spoken in one shire varyeth from
another.  In-so-much that in my days it happened that certain
merchants were in a ship in Thames, for to have sailed over the
sea into Zealand.  For lack of wind they tarried at Foreland, and
went to land for to refresh them.

"And one of them, named Sheffield, a mercer, came into a house
and asked for meat.  And especially he asked for eggs.  And the
good wife answered that she could speak no French.  And the
merchant was angry, for he also could speak no French, but would
have had eggs, and she understood him not.

"And then at last another said that he would have eyren.  Then
the good wife said that she understood him well.  So what should
a man in these days now write, eggs or eyren?  Certainly it is
hard to please every man by cause of diversity and change of
language. . . .

"And some honest and great clerks have been with me, and desired
me to write the most curious terms that I could find.  And thus
between plain, rude, and curious I stand abashed.  But in my
judgement the common terms that be daily used, be lighter to be
understood than the old and ancient English."

In another book Caxton tells us that he knows his own "simpleness
and unperfectness" in both French and English.  "For in France
was I never, and was born and learned my English in Kent, in the
Weald, where I doubt not is spoken as broad and rude English as
in any place in England."

So you see our English was by no means yet settled.  But
printing, perhaps, did more than anything else to settle it.

We know that Caxton printed at least one hundred and two editions
of books.  And you will be surprised to hear that of all these
only two or three were books of poetry.  Here we have a sure sign
that the singing time was nearly over.  I do not mean that we are
to have no more singers, for most of our greatest are still to
come.  But from this time prose had shaken off its fetters.  It
was no longer to be used only for sermons, for prayers, for
teaching.  It was to take its place beside poetry as a means of
enjoyment - as literature.  Literature, then, was no longer the
affair of the market-place and the banqueting-hall, but of a
man's own fireside and quiet study.  It was no longer the affair
of the crowd, but of each man to himself alone.

The chief poems which Caxton printed were Chaucer's.  In one
place he calls Chaucer "The worshipful father and first founder
and embellisher of ornate eloquence in our English."  Here, I
think, he shows that he was trying to follow the advice of "those
honest and great clerks" who told him he should write "the most
curious terms" that he could find.  But certainly he admired
Chaucer very greatly.  In the preface to his second edition of
the Canterbury Tales he says, "Great thank, laud and honour ought
to be given unto the clerks, poets" and others who have written
"noble books."  "Among whom especially before all others, we
ought to give a singular laud unto that noble and great
philosopher, Geoffrey Chaucer."  Then Caxton goes on to tell us
how hard he had found it to get a correct copy of Chaucer's
poems, "For I find many of the said books which writers have
abridged it, and many things left out:  and in some places have
set verses that he never made nor set in his book."

This shows us how quickly stories became changed in the days when
everything was copied by hand.  When Caxton wrote these words
Chaucer had not been dead more than about eighty years, yet
already it was not easy to find a good copy of his works.

And if stories changed, the language changed just as quickly.
Caxton tells us that the language was changing so fast that he
found it hard to read books written at the time he was born.  His
own language is very Frenchy, perhaps because he translated so
many of his books from French.  He not only uses words which are
almost French, but arranges his sentences in a French manner.  He
often, too drops the e in the, just as in French the e or a in le
and la is dropped before a vowel.  This you will often find in
old English books.  "The abbey" becomes thabbay, "The English"
thenglish.  Caxton writes, too, thensygnementys  for "the
teaching."  Here we have the dropped e and also the French word
enseignement used instead of "teaching."  But these were only
last struggles of a foreign tongue.  The triumphant English we
now possess was already taking form.

But it was not by printing alone that in the fifteenth century
men's eyes were opened to new wonder.  They were also opened to
the wonder of a new world far over the sea.  For the fifteenth
century was the age of discovery, and of all the world's first
great sailors.  It was the time when America and the western
isles were discovered, when the Cape of Good Hope was first
rounded, and the new way to India found.  So with the whole world
urged to action by the knowledge of these new lands, with
imagination wakened by the tales of marvels to be seen there,
with a new desire to see and do stirring in men's minds, it was
not wonderful that there should be little new writing.  The
fifteenth century was the age of new action and new worlds.  The
new thought was to follow.



MANY of you have, no doubt, been to the theater.  You have seen
pantomimes and Peter Pan, perhaps; perhaps, too, a play of
Shakespeare, - a comedy, it may be, which made you laugh, or even
a tragedy which made you want to cry, or at least left you sad.
Some of you, too, have been to "Pageants," and some may even have
been to an oratorio, which last may have been sung in a church.

But did you ever wonder how plays and theaters came to be?  Did
you ever think that there was a time when in all the length and
breadth of the land there was no theater, when there were no
plays either merry or sad?  Yet it was so.  But at a very early
time the people of England began to act.  And, strange as it may
seem to us now, the earliest plays were acted by monks and took
place in church.  And it is from these very early monkish plays
that the theater with its different kinds of plays, that pageants
and even oratorios have sprung.

In this chapter I am going to talk about these beginnings of the
English theater and of its literature.  All plays taken together
are called the drama, and the writers of them are called
dramatists, from a Greek word dran, to act or do.  For dramas are
written not to be read merely, but also to be acted.

To trace the English drama from its beginnings we must go a long
way back from the reigns of Henry VII and of Henry VIII, down to
which the life of Dunbar has brought us.  We must go back to the
days when the priests were the only learned people in the land,
when the monasteries were the only schools.

If we would picture to ourselves what these first English plays
were like, we must not think of a brilliantly lighted theater
pranked out and fine with red and gold and white such as we know.
We must think rather of some dim old church.  Stately pillars
rise around us, and the outline of the arches is lost in the high
twilight of the roof.  Behind the quaintly dressed players gleams
the great crucifix with its strange, sad figure and outstretched
arms which, under the flickering light of the high altar candles,
seems to stir to life.  And beyond the circle of light, in the
soft darkness of the nave, the silent people kneel or stand to

It was in such solemn surroundings that our first plays were
played.  And the stories that were acted were Bible stories.
There was no thought of irreverence in such acting.  On the
contrary, these plays were performed "to exort the mindes of
common people to good devotion and holesome doctrine."

You remember when Caedmon sang, he made his songs of the stories
of Genesis and Exodus.  And in this way, in those bookless days,
the people were taught the Bible stories.  But you know that what
we learn by our ears is much harder to remember than what we
learn by our eyes.  If we are only told a thing we may easily
forget it.  But if we have seen it, or seen a picture of it, we
remember it much more easily.  In those far-off days, however,
there were as few pictures as there were books in England.  And
so the priests and monks fell upon the plan of acting the Bible
stories and the stories of the saints, so that the people might
see and better understand.

These plays which the monks made were called Mystery or Miracle
plays.  I cannot tell you the exact date of our first Miracle
plays, but the earliest that we know of certainly was acted at
the end of the eleventh or beginning of the twelfth century.  It
is not unreasonable to suppose, however, that there had been
still earlier plays of which we know nothing.  For the Miracle
plays did not spring all at once to life, they began gradually,
and the beginnings can be traced as far back as the ninth
century.  In an old book of rules for Winchester Cathedral,
written about 959, there are directions given for showing the
death and resurrection of Christ in dumb show chiefly, with just
a few Latin sentences to explain it.  By degrees these plays grew
longer and fuller, until in them the whole story of man from the
Creation to the Day of Judgment was acted in what was called a
cycle or circle of short acts or plays.

But although these plays were looked upon as an act of religion,
they were not all solemn.  At times, above the grave tones of the
monks or the solemn chanting of the choir, laughter rang out.
For some of the characters were meant to be funny, and the
watching crowd knew and greeted them as such even before they
spoke, just as we know and greet the jester or the clown.

The demons were generally funny, and Noah's wife, who argued
about going into the ark.  The shepherds, also, watching their
flocks by night, were almost sure to make the people laugh.

But there were solemn moments, too, when the people reverently
listened to the grave words of God the Father, or to those,
tender and loving, of Mary, the Virgin Mother.  And when the
shepherds neared the manger where lay the wondrous Babe, all
jesting ceased.  Here there was nothing but tender, if simple and
unlearned, adoration.

In those early days Latin was the tongue of the Church, and the
Miracle plays were at first said in Latin.  But as the common
folk could not understand what was said, the plays were chiefly
shown in dumb show.  Soon, however, Latin was given up, and the
plays were acted in English.  Then by degrees the churches grew
too small to hold the great crowds of people who wished to see
the plays, and so they were acted outside the church door in the
churchyard, on a stage built level with the steps.  The church,
then, could be made to represent heaven, where God and the angels
dwelt.  The stage itself was the world, and below it was hell,
from out of which came smoke and sometimes flames, and whence
might be heard groans and cries and the clanking of chains.

But the playing of Mysteries and Miracles at the church doors had
soon to be given up.  For the people, in their excitement, forgot
the respect due to the dead.  They trampled upon the graves and
destroyed the tombs in their eagerness to see.  And when the play
was over the graveyard was a sorry sight with trodden grass and
broken headstones.  So by degrees it came about that these plays
lost their connection with the churches, and were no more played
in or near them.  They were, instead, played in some open space
about the town, such as the market-place.  Then, too, the players
ceased to be monks and priests, and the acting was taken up by
the people themselves.  It was then that the playing came into
the hands of the trade guilds.

Nowadays we hear a great deal about "trades unions."  But in
those far-off days such things were unknown.  Each trade,
however, had its own guild by which the members of it were bound
together.  Each guild had its patron saint, and after a time the
members of a guild began to act a play on their saint's day in
his honor.  Later still the guilds all worked together, and all
acted their plays on one day.  This was Corpus Christi Day, a
feast founded by Pope Urban IV in 1264.  As this feast was in
summer, it was a very good time to act the plays, for the weather
was warm and the days were long.  The plays often began very
early in the morning as soon as it was light, and lasted all day.

The Miracles were now acted on a movable stage.  This stage was
called a pageant, and the play which was acted on it was also in
time called a pageant.  The stage was made in two stories.  The
upper part was open all round, and upon this the acting took
place.  The under part was curtained all round, and here the
actors dressed.  From here, too, they came out, and when they had
finished their parts they went back again within the curtains.

The movable stages were, of course, not very large, so sometimes
more than one was needed for a play.  At other times the players
overflowed, as it were, into the audience.  "Here Herod rages on
the pageant and in the street also" is one stage direction.  The
devils, too, often ran among the people, partly to amuse them and
partly to frighten and show them what might happen if they
remained wicked.  At the Creation, animals of all kinds which had
been kept chained up were let loose suddenly, and ran among the
people, while pigeons set free from cages flew over their heads.
Indeed, everything seems to have been done to make the people
feel the plays as real as possible.

The pageants were on wheels, and as soon as a play was over at
the first appointed place, the stage was dragged by men to the
next place and the play again began.  In an old MS. we are told,
"The places where they played them was in every streete.  They
begane first at the abay gates, and when the first pagiante was
played, it was wheeled to the highe crosse befor the mayor, and
soe to every streete.  And soe every streete had a pagiant
playinge before them at one time, till all the pagiantes for the
daye appoynted weare played.  And when one pagiante was neare
ended worde was broughte from streete to streete, that soe they
mighte come in place thereof, exceedinge orderly.  And all the
streetes have theire pagiantes afore them all at one time
playinge togeather."*

*Harleian MS., 1948.

Thus, if a man kept his place all a long summer's day, he might
see pass before him pageant after pageant until he had seen the
whole story of the world, from the Creation to the Day of

In time nearly every town of any size in England had its own
cycle of plays, but only four of these have come down to us.
These are the York, the Chester, the Wakefield, and the Coventry
cycles.  Perhaps the most interesting of them all are the
Wakefield plays.  They are also called the Townley plays, from
the name of the family who possessed the manuscript for a long

Year after year the same guild acted the same play.  And it
really seemed as if the pageant was in many cases chosen to suit
the trade of the players.  The water-drawers of Chester, for
instance, acted the Flood.  In York the shipwrights acted the
building of the ark, the fishmongers the Flood, and the gold-
beaters and money-workers the three Kings out of the East.

The members of each guild tried to make their pageant as fine as
they could.  Indeed, they were expected to do so, for in 1394 we
find the Mayor of York ordering the craftsmen "to bring forth
their pageants in order and course by good players, well arrayed
and openly speaking, upon pain of losing of 100 shillings, to be
paid to the chamber without any pardon."*

*Thomas Sharp, Dissertation on the Pageants.

So, in order to supply everything that was needful, each member
of a guild paid what was called "pageant silver."  Accounts of
how this money was spent were carefully kept.  A few of these
have come down to us, and some of the items and prices paid sound
very funny now.

    "Paid for setting the world of fire 5d.
    For making and mending of the black souls hose 6d.
    For a pair of new hose and mending of the old for the white souls 18d.
    Paid for mending Pilate's hat 4d."

The actors, too, were paid.  Here are some of the prices:--

    "To Fawson for hanging Judas 4d.
    Paid to Fawson for cock crowing 4d.

Some got much more than others.  Pilate, for instance, who was an
important character, got 4s., while two angels only got 8d.
between them.  But while the rehearsing and acting were going on
the players received their food, and when it was all over they
wound up with a great supper.


IN this chapter I am going to give you a part of one of the
Townley plays to show you what the beginnings of our drama were

Although our forefathers tried to make the pageants as real as
possible, they had, of course, no scenery, but acted on a little
bare platform.  They never thought either that the stories they
acted had taken place long ago and in lands far away, where dress
and manners and even climate were all very different from what
they were in England.

For instance, in the Shepherd's play, of which I am going to
tell, the first shepherd comes in shivering with cold.  For
though he is acting in summer he must make believe that it is
Christmas-time, for on Christmas Day Christ was born.  And
Christmas-time in England, he knows, is cold.  What it may be in
far-off Palestine he neither knows nor cares.

    "Lord, what these weathers are cold! and I am ill happed;
    I am near hand dulled so long have I napped;
    My legs they fold, my fingers are chapped,
    It is not as I would, for I am all lapped
            In sorrow.
    In storm and tempest,
    Now in the east, now in the west,
    Woe is him has never rest
        Mid-day or morrow."

In this strain the shepherd grumbles until the second comes.  He,
too, complains of the cold.

    "The frost so hideous, they water mine een,
            No lie!
    Now is dry, now is wet,
    Now is snow, now is sleet,
    When my shoon freeze to my feet,
        It is not all easy."

So they talk until the third shepherd comes.  He, too, grumbles.

    "Was never syne Noah's floods such floods seen;
    Winds and rains so rude, and storms so keen."

The first two ask the third shepherd where the sheep are.  "Sir,"
he replies,

    "This same day at morn
    I left them i the corn
        When they rang lauds.
    They had pasture good they cannot go wrong."

That is all right, say the others, and so they settle to sing a
song, when a neighbor named Mak comes along.  They greet the
newcomer with jests.  But the second shepherd is suspicious of

    "Thus late as thou goes,
    What will men suppose?
    And thou hast no ill nose
        For stealing of sheep."

"I am true as steel," says Mak.  "All men wot it.  But a sickness
I feel that holds me full hot," and so, he says, he is obliged to
walk about at night for coolness.

The shepherds are all very weary and want to sleep.  But just to
make things quite safe, they bid Mak lie down between them so
that he cannot move without awaking them.  Mak lies down as he is
bid, but he does not sleep, and as soon as the others are all
snoring he softly rises and "borrows" a sheep.

Quickly he goes home with it and knocks at his cottage door.
"How, Gill, art thou in?  Get us a light."

"Who makes such din this time of night?"  answers his wife from

When she hears that it is Mak she unbars the door, but when she
sees what her husband brings she is afraid.

"By the naked neck thou art like to hang," she says.

"I have often escaped before," replies Mak.

"But so long goes the pot to the water, men say, at last comes it
home broken," cries Gill.

But the question is, now that they have the sheep, how is it to
be his from the shepherds.  For Mak feels sure that they will
suspect him when they find out that a sheep is missing.

Gill has a plan.  She will swaddle the sheep like a new-born baby
and lay it in the cradle.  This being done, Mak returns to the
shepherds, whom he finds still sleeping, and lies down again
beside them.  Presently they all awake and rouse Mak, who still
pretends to sleep.  He, after some talk, goes home, and the
shepherds go off to seek and count their sheep, agreeing to meet
again at the "crooked thorn."

Soon the shepherds find that one sheep is missing, and suspecting
Mak of having stolen it they follow him home.  They find him
sitting by the cradle singing a lullaby to the new-born baby,
while Gill lies in bed groaning and pretending to be very ill.
Mak greets the shepherds in a friendly way, but bids them speak
softly and not walk about, as his wife is ill and the baby

But the shepherds will not be put off with words.  They search
the house, but can find nothing.

    "All work we in vain as well may we go.
            Bother it!
    I can find no flesh
    Hard or nesh,*
    Salt or fresh,
        But two toom** platters."


Meanwhile, Gill from her bed cries out at them, calling them
thieves.  "Ye come to rob us.  I swear if ever I you beguiled,
that I eat this child that lies in this cradle."

The shepherds at length begin to be sorry that they have been so
unjust as to suspect Mak.  They wish to make friends again.  But
Mak will not be friends.  "Farewell, all three, and glad I am to
see you go," he cries.

So the shepherds go a little sadly.  "Fair winds may there be,
but love there is none this year," says one.

"Gave ye the child anything?" says another.

"I trow not a farthing."

"Then back will I go," says the third shepherd, "abide ye there."

And back he goes full of his kindly thought.  "Mak," he says,
"with your leave let me give your bairn but sixpence."

But Mak still pretends to be sulky, and will not let him come
near the child.  By this time all the shepherds have come back.
One wants to kiss the baby, and bends over the cradle.  Suddenly
he starts back.  What a nose!  The deceit is found out and the
shepherds are very angry.  Yet even in their anger they can
hardly help laughing.  Mak and Gill, however, are ready of wit.
They will not own to the theft.  It is a changeling child, they

    "He was taken with an elf,
    I saw it myself,
    When the clock struck twelve was he foreshapen,"

says Gill.

But the shepherds will not be deceived a second time.  They
resolve to punish Mak, but let him off after having tossed him in
a blanket until they are tired and he is sore and sorry for

This sheepstealing scene shows how those who wrote the play tried
to catch the interest of the people.  For every one who saw this
scene could understand it.  Sheepstealing was a very common crime
in England in those days, and was often punished by death.
Probably every one who saw the play knew of such cases, and the
writers used this scene as a link between the everyday life,
which was near at hand and easy to understand, and the story of
the birth of Christ, which was so far off and hard to understand.

And it is now, when the shepherds are resting from their hard
work of beating Mak, that they hear the angels sing "Glory to God
in the highest."  From this point on all the jesting ceases, and
in its rough way the play is reverent and loving.

The angel speaks.

    "Rise, herdmen, quickly, for now is he born
    That shall take from the fiend what Adam was lorn;
    That demon to spoil this night is he born,
    God is made your friend now at this morn.
        He behests
    At Bethlehem go see,
    There lies that fre*
    In a crib full poorly
        Betwixt two beasties."


The shepherds hear the words of the angel, and looking upward see
the guiding star.  Wondering at the music, talking of the
prophecies of David and Isaiah, they hasten to Bethlehem and find
the lowly stable.  Here, with a mixture of awe and tenderness,
the shepherds greet the Holy Child.  It is half as if they spoke
to the God they feared, half as if they played with some little
helpless baby who was their very own.  They mingle simple things
of everyday life with their awe.  They give him gifts, but their
simple minds can imagine no other than those they might give to
their own children.

The first shepherd greets the child with words:--

    "Hail, comely and clean!  Hail, young child!
    Hail, maker as methinks of a maiden so mild.
    Thou hast warred, I ween, the demon so wild."

Then he gives as his gift a bob of cherries.

The second shepherd speaks:--

    "Hail! sovereign saviour! for thee have we sought.
    Hail, noble child and flower that all thing hast wrought.
    Hail, full of favour, that made all of nought.
    Hail!  I kneel and I cower!  A bird have I brought
        To my bairn.
    Hail, little tiny mop,
    Of our creed thou art crop,*
    I would drink to thy health,
        Little Day Star!"

The third shepherd speaks:--

    Hail! darling dear full of Godhead!
    I pray thee be near when that I have need!
    Hail! sweet is thy cheer!  My heart would bleed
    To see thee sit here in so poor weed
        With no pennies.
    Hail! put forth thy dall.*
    I bring thee but a ball:
    Have and play thee with all
        And go to the tennis."


And so the pageant of the shepherds comes to an end, and they
return home rejoicing.

This play gives us a good idea of how the Miracles wound
themselves about the lives of the people.  It gives us a good
idea of the rudeness of the times when such jesting with what we
hold as sacred seemed not amiss.  It gives, too, the first gleam
of what we might call true comedy in English.


A LITTLE later than the Miracle and Mystery plays came another
sort of play called the Moralities.  In these, instead or
representing real people, the actors represented thoughts,
feelings and deeds, good and bad.  Truth, for instance, would be
shown as a beautiful lady; Lying as an ugly old man, and so on.
These plays were meant to teach just as the Miracles were meant
to teach.  But instead of teaching the Bible stories, they were
made to show men the ugliness of sin and the beauty of goodness.
When we go to the theater now we only think of being amused, and
it is strange to remember that all acting was at first meant to

The very first of our Moralities seems to have been a play of the
Lord's Prayer.  It was acted in the reign of Edward III or some
time after 1327.  But that has long been lost, and we know
nothing of it but its name.  There are several other Moralities,
however, which have come down to us of a later date, the earliest
being of the fifteenth century, and of them perhaps the most
interesting is Everyman.

But we cannot claim Everyman altogether as English literature,
for it is translated from, or at least founded upon, a Dutch
play.  Yet it is the best of all the Moralities which have come
down to us, and may have been translated into English about 1480.
In its own time it must have been thought well of, or no one
would have troubled to translate it.  But, however popular it was
long ago, for hundreds of years it had lain almost forgotten,
unread except by a very few, and never acted at all, until some
one drew it from its dark hiding-place and once more put it upon
the stage.  Since then, during the last few years, it has been
acted often.  And as, happily, the actors have tried to perform
it in the simple fashion in which it must have been done long
ago, we can get from it a very good idea of the plays which
pleased our forefathers.  On the title-page of Everyman we read:
"Here beginneth a treatise how the high Father of heaven sendeth
Death to summon every creature to come to give a count of their
lives in this world, and is in the manner of a moral play."  So
in the play we learn how Death comes to Everyman and bids him
follow him.

But Everyman is gay and young.  He loves life, he has many
friends, the world to him is beautiful, he cannot leave it.  So
he prays Death to let him stay, offers him gold and riches if he
will but put off the matter until another day.

But Death is stern.  "Thee availeth not to cry, weep and pray,"
he says, "but haste thee lightly that thou wert gone the

Then seeing that go he must, Everyman thinks that at least he
will have company on the journey.  So he turns to his friends.
But, alas, none will go with him.  One by one they leave him.
Then Everyman cries in despair:--

    "O to whom shall I make my moan
    For to go with me in that heavy journey?
    First Fellowship said he would with me gone;
    His words were very pleasant and gay,
    But afterward he left me alone.
    Then spake I to my kinsmen all in despair,
    And also they gave me words fair;
    They lacked no fair speaking,
    But all forsake me in the ending."

So at last Everyman turns him to his Good Deeds--his Good Deeds,
whom he had almost forgotten and who lies bound and in prison by
reason of his sins.  And Good Deeds consents to go with him on
the dread journey.  With him come others, too, among them
Knowledge and Strength.  But at the last these, too, turn back.
Only Good Deeds is true, only Good Deeds stands by him to the end
with comforting words.  And so the play ends; the body of
Everyman is laid in the grave, but we know that his soul goes
home to God.

This play is meant to picture the life of every man or woman, and
to show how unhappy we may be in the end if we have not tried to
be good in this world.

    "This moral men may have in mind,
    The hearers take it of worth old and young,
    And forsake Pride, for he deceiveth you in the end,
    And remember Beauty, Five Wits, Strength, and Discretion,
    They all at the last do Everyman forsake,
    Save his Good Deeds; these doth he take.
    And beware, - an they be small,
    Before God he hath no help at all.
    None excuse may be there for Everyman."


Everyman:  A Morality (Everyman's Library).


PERHAPS the best Morality of which we know the author's name is
Magnificence, by John Skelton.  But, especially after Everyman,
it is dull reading for little people, and it is not in order to
speak of this play that I write about Skelton.

John Skelton lived in the stormy times of Henry VIII, and he is
called sometimes our first poet-laureate.  But he was not poet-
laureate as we now understand it, he was not the King's poet.
The title only meant that he had taken a degree in grammar and
Latin verse, and had been given a laurel wreath by the university
which gave the degree.  It was in this way that Skelton was made
laureate, first by Oxford, then by Louvain in Belgium, and
thirdly by Cambridge, so that in his day he was considered a
learned man and a great poet.  He was a friend of Caxton and
helped him with one of his books.  "I pray, maister Skelton, late
created poet-laureate in the university of Oxenford," says
Caxton, "to oversee and correct this said book."

John Skelton, like so many other literary men of those days, was
a priest.  He studied, perhaps, both at Oxford and at Cambridge,
and became tutor to Prince, afterwards King, Henry VIII.  We do
not know if he had an easy time with his royal pupil or not, but
in one of his poems he tells us that "The honour of England I
learned to spell" and "acquainted him with the Muses nine."

The days of Henry VIII were troublous times for thinking people.
The King was a tyrant, and the people of England were finding it
harder than ever to bow to a tyrant while the world was awakening
to new thought, and new desires for freedom, both in religion and
in life.

The Reformation had begun.  The teaching of Piers Ploughman, the
preaching of Wyclif, had long since almost been forgotten, but it
had never altogether died out.  The evils in the Church and in
high places were as bad as ever, and Skelton, himself a priest,
preached against them.  He attacked other, even though he himself
sinned against the laws of priesthood.  For he was married, and
in those days marriage was forbidden to clergymen, and his life
was not so fair as it might have been.

At first Wolsey, the great Cardinal and friend of Henry VIII, was
Skelton's friend too.  But Skelton's tongue was mocking and
bitter.  "He was a sharp satirist, but with more railing and
scoffery than became a poet-laureate,"* said one.  The Cardinal
became an enemy, and the railing tongue was turned against him.
In a poem called Colin Cloute Skelton pointed out the evils of
his day and at the same time pointed the finger of scorn at
Wolsey.  Colin Cloute, like Piers Ploughman, was meant to mean
the simple good Englishman.

*George Puttenham.

    "Thus I Colin Cloute,
    As I go about,

    And wandering as I walk,
    There the people talk.
    Men say, for silver and gold
    Mitres are bought and sold."

And again:--

    "Laymen say indeed,
    How they (the priests) take no heed
    Their silly sheep to feed,
    But pluck away and pull
    The fleeces of their wool."

But he adds:--

    "Of no good bishop speak I,
    Nor good priest I decry,
    Good friar, nor good chanon,*
    Good nun, nor good canon,
    Good monk, nor good clerk,
    Nor yet no good work:
    But my recounting is
    Of them that do amiss."

    *Same as canon.

Yet, although Skelton said he would not decry any good man or any
good work, his spirit was a mocking one.  He was fond of harsh
jests and rude laughter, and no person or thing was too high or
too holy to escape his sharp wit.  "He was doubtless a pleasant
conceited fellow, and of a very sharp wit," says a writer about
sixty years later, "exceeding bold, and would nip to the very
quick when he once set hold."*

*William Webbe.

And being bold as bitter, and having set hold with hatred upon
Wolsey, he in another poem called Why come ye not to Court? and
in still another called Speake, Parrot, wrote directly against
the Cardinal.  Yet although Skelton railed against the Cardinal
and against the evils in the Church, he was no Protestant.  He
believed in the Church of Rome, and would have been sorry to
think that he had helped the "heretics."

Wolsey was still powerful, and he made up his mind to silence his
enemy, so Skelton found himself more than once in prison, and at
last to escape the Cardinal's anger he was forced to take
sanctuary in Westminster.  There he remained until he died a few
months before his great enemy fell from power.

As many of Skelton's poems were thus about quarrels over religion
and politics, much of the interest in them has died.  Yet, as he
himself says,

    "For although my rhyme is ragged,
    Tattered and jagged,
    Rudely rain-beaten,
    Rust and moth eaten,
    If ye take well therewith,
    It hath in it some pith."

And it is well to remember the name of Colin Cloute at least,
because a later and much greater poet borrowed that name for one
of his own poems, as you shall hear.

But the poem which keeps most interest for us is one which
perhaps at the time it was written was thought least important.
It is called The Book of Philip Sparrow.  And this poem shows us
that Skelton was not always bitter and biting.  For it is neither
bitter nor coarse, but is a dainty and tender lament written for
a schoolgirl whose sparrow had been killed by a cat.  It is
written in the same short lines as Colin Cloute and others of
Skelton's poems--"Breathless rhymes"* they have been called.
These short lines remind us somewhat of the old Anglo-Saxon short
half-lines, except that they rime.  They are called after their
author "Skeltonical."

*Bishop Hall.

What chiefly makes The Book of Philip Sparrow interesting is that
it is the original of our nursery rime Who Killed Cock Robin?  It
is written in the form of a dirge, and many people were shocked
at that, for they said that it was but another form of mockery
that this jesting priest had chosen with which to divert himself.
But I think that little Jane Scoupe at school in the nunnery at
Carowe would dry her eyes and smile when she read it.  She must
have been pleased that the famous poet, who had been the King's
tutor and friend and who had been both the friend and enemy of
the great Cardinal, should trouble to write such a long poem all
about her sparrow.

Here are a few quotations from it:--

    "Pla ce bo,*
    Who is there who?
    Di le sci,
    Dame Margery;
    Fa re my my,
    Wherefore and why why?
    For the soul of Philip Sparrow
    That was late slain at Carowe
    Among the nuns black,
    For that sweet soul's sake,
    And for all sparrows' souls,
    Set in our bead rolls,
    Pater Noster qui,
    With an Ave Mari,
    And with the corner of a creed,
    The more shall be your need.

    *Placebo is the first word of the first chant in the
service for the dead.  Skelton has here made it into three
    words.  The chant is called the Placebo from the first
    .   .   .   .
    I wept and I wailed,
    The tears down hailed,
    But nothing it availed
    To call Philip again,
    That Gib our cat hath slain.
        Gib, I say, our cat
    Worried her on that
    Which I loved best.
    It cannot be expressed
    My sorrowful heaviness
    And all without redress.
    .   .   .   .
    It had a velvet cap,
    And would sit upon my lap,
    And seek after small worms,
    And sometimes white bread-crumbs.
    .   .   .   .
    Sometimes he would gasp
    When he saw a wasp,
    A fly or a gnat
    He would fly at that;
    And prettily he would pant
    When he saw an ant;
    Lord, how he would fly
    After the butterfly.
    And when I said Phip, Phip
    Then he would leap and skip,
    And take me by the lip.
    Alas it will me slo,*
    That Philip is gone me fro.

    .   .   .   .
    For it would come and go,
    And fly so to and fro;
    And on me it would leap
    When I was asleep,
    And his feathers shake,
    Wherewith he would make
    Me often for to wake.
    .   .   .   .
    That vengeance I ask and cry,
    By way of  exclamation,
    On all the whole nation
    Of cats wild and tame.
    God send them sorrow and shame!
    That cat especially
    That slew so cruelly
    My little pretty sparrow
    That I brought up at Carowe.
        O cat of churlish kind,
    The fiend was in thy mind,
    When thou my bird untwined.*
    I would thou hadst been blind.
    The leopards savage,
    The lions in their rage,
    Might catch thee in their paws
    And gnaw thee in their jaws.

    *Tore to pieces.
    .   .   .   .
    These villainous false cats,
    Were made for mice and rats,
    And not for birdies small.
    .   .   .   .
    Alas, mine heart is slayeth
    My Philip's doleful death,
    When I remember it,
    How prettily it would sit,
    Many times and oft,
    Upon my finger aloft.
    .   .   .   .
    To weep with me, look that ye come,
    All manner of birds of your kind;
    So none be left behind,
    To mourning look that ye fall
    With dolorous songs funeral,
    Some to sing, and some to say,
    Some to weep, and some to pray,
    Every bird in his lay.
    The goldfinch and the wagtail;
    The gangling jay to rail,
    The flecked pie to chatter
    Of the dolorous matter;
    The robin redbreast,
    He shall be the priest,
    The requiem mass to sing,
    Softly warbling,
    With help of the red sparrow,
    And the chattering swallow,
    This hearse for to hallow;
    The lark with his lung too,
    The chaffinch and the martinet also;
    .   .   .   .
    The lusty chanting nightingale,
    The popinjay to tell her tale,
    That peepeth oft in the glass,
    Shall read the Gospel at mass;
    The mavis with her whistle
    Shall read there the Epistle,
    But with a large and a long
    To keep just plain song.
    .   .   .   .
    The peacock so proud,
    Because his voice is loud,
    And hath a glorious tail
    He shall sing the grayle;*

    The owl that is so foul
    Must help us to howl.

    *Gradual = the part of the mass between Epistle and Gospel.
    .   .   .   .
        At the Placebo
    We may not forgo
    The chanting of the daw
    The stork also,
    That maketh her nest
    In chimnies to rest.
    .   .   .   .
    The ostrich that will eat
    A horseshoe so great,
    In the stead of meat,
    Such fervent heat
    His stomach doth gnaw.
    He cannot well fly
    Nor sing tunably.
    .   .   .   .
    The best that we can
    To make him our bellman,
    And let him ring the bells,
    He can do nothing else.
        Chanticlere our cock
    Must tell what is of the clock
    By the astrology
    That he hath naturally
    Conceived and caught,
    And was never taught.
    .   .   .   .
        To Jupiter I call
    Of heaven imperial
    That Philip may fly
    Above the starry sky
    To greet the pretty wren
    That is our Lady's hen,
    Amen, amen, amen.


RENAISSANCE means rebirth, and to make you understand something
of what the word means in our literature I must take you a long
way.  You have been told that the fifteenth century was a dull
time in English literature, but that it was also a time of new
action and new life, for the discovery of new worlds and the
discovery of printing had opened men's eyes and minds to new
wonders.  There was a third event which added to this new life by
bringing new thought and new learning to England.  That was the
taking of Constantinople by the Turks.

It seems difficult to understand how the taking of Constantinople
could have any effect on our literature.  I will try to explain,
but in order to do so clearly I must go back to the time of the

All of you have read English history, and there you read of the
Romans.  You know what a clever and conquering people they were,
and how they subdued all the wild tribes who lived in the
countries around them.  Besides conquering all the barbarians
around them, the Romans conquered another people who were not
barbarians, but who were in some ways more civilized than
themselves.  These were the Greeks.  They had a great literature,
they were more learned and quite as skilled in the arts of peace
as the Romans.  Yet in 146 B.C., long before the Romans came to
our little island, Greece became a Roman province.

Nearly five hundred years later there sat upon the throne an
Emperor named Constantine.  And he, although Rome was still
pagan, became a Christian.  He was, besides, a great and powerful
ruler.  His court was brilliant, glittering with all the golden
splendor of those far-off times.  But although Rome was still
pagan, Greece, a Roman province, had become Christian.  And in
this Christian province Constantine made up his mind to build a
New Rome.

In those days the boundaries of Greece stretched far further than
they do now, and it was upon the shores of the Bosphorus that
Constantine built his new capital.  There was already an ancient
town there named Byzantium, but he transformed it into a new and
splendid city.  The Emperor willed it to be called New Rome, but
instead the people called it the city of Constantine, and we know
it now as Constantinople.

When Constantinople was founded it was a Roman city.  All the
rulers were Roman, all the high posts were filled by Romans, and
Latin was the speech of the people.  But in Constantinople it
happened as it had happened in England after the Conquest.  In
England, for a time after the Conquest, the rulers were French
and the language was French, but gradually all that passed away,
and the language and the rulers became English once more.  So it
was in Constantinople.  By degrees it became a Greek city, the
rulers became Greek, and Greek was the language spoken.

In building a second capital Constantine had weakened his Empire.
Soon it was split in two, and there arose a western and an
eastern Empire.  As time went on the Western Empire with Rome at
its head declined and fell, while the Eastern Empire with
Constantinople as its capital grew great.  But it grew into a
Greek Empire.  Even very clever people cannot tell the exact date
at which the Roman Empire came to an end and the Greek or
Byzantine Empire, as it is called, began.  So we need not trouble
about that.  All that is needful for us to understand now it that
Constantinople was a Christian city, a Greek city, and a
treasure-house of Greek learning and literature.

Thus Constantinople was the Christian outpost of Europe.  For
hundred of year the Byzantine Empire stood as a barrier against
the Saracen hosts of Asia.  It might have stood still longer, but
sad to say, this barrier was first broken down by the Christians
themselves.  For in 1204 the armies of the fourth Crusade, which
had gathered to fight the heathen, turned their swords, to their
shame be it said, against the Christian people of the Greek
Empire.  Constantinople was taken, plundered, and destroyed by
these "pious brigands,"* and the last of the Byzantine Emperors
was first blinded and then flung from a high tower, so that his
body fell shattered to pieces on the paving-stones of his own

*George Finlay, History of Greece.

Baldwin, Count of Flanders, one of the great leaders of the
Crusade, was then crowned by his followers and acknowledged
Emperor of the East.  But the once great Empire was now broken
up, and out of it three lesser Empires, as well as many smaller
states, were formed.

Baldwin did not long rule as Emperor of the East, and the Greeks
after a time succeeded in regaining Constantinople from the
western Christians.  But although for nearly two hundred years
longer they kept it, the Empire was dying and lifeless.  And by
degrees, as the power of Greece grew less, the power of Turkey
grew greater.  At length in 1453 the Sultan Mohammed II attacked
Constantinople.  Then the Cross, which for a thousand years and
more had stood upon the ramparts of Christendom, went down before
the Crescent.

Constantine XI, the last of the Greek Emperors, knelt in the
great church of St. Sophia to receive for the last time the Holy
Sacrament.  Then mounting his horse he rode forth to battle.
Fighting for his kingdom and his faith he fell, and over his dead
body the young Sultan and his soldiers rode into the ruined city.
Then in the church, where but a few hours before the fallen
Emperor had knelt and prayed to Christ, the Sultan bowed himself
in thanks and praise to Allah and Mohammed.

And now we come to the point where the taking of Constantinople
and the fall of the Greek Empire touches our literature.

In Constantinople the ancient learning and literature of the
Greeks had lived on year after year.  The city was full of
scholars who knew, and loved, and studied the Greek authors.  But
now, before the terror of the Turk, driven forth by the fear of
slavery and disgrace, these Greek scholars fled.  They fled to
Italy.  And although in their flight they had to leave goods and
wealth behind, the came laden with precious manuscripts from the
libraries of Constantinople.

These fugitive Greeks brought to the Italians a learning which
was to them new and strange.  Soon all over Europe the news of
the New Learning spread.  Then across the Alps scholars thronged
from every country in Europe to listen and to learn.

I do not think I can quite make you understand what this New
Learning was.  It was indeed but the old learning of Greece.  Yet
there was in it something that can never grow old, for it was
human.  It made men turn away from idle dreaming and begin to
learn that the world we live in is real.  They began to realize
that there was something more than a past and a future.  There
was the present.  So, instead of giving all their time to vague
wonderings of what might be, of what never had been, and what
never could be, they began to take an interest in life as it was
and in man as he was.  They began to see that human life with all
its joys and sorrows was, after all, the most interesting thing
to man.

It was a New Birth, and men called it so.  For that is the
meaning of Renaissance.  Many things besides the fall of
Constantinople helped towards this New Birth.  The discovery of
new worlds by daring sailors like Columbus and Cabot, and the
discovery of printing were among them.  But the touchstone of the
New Learning was the knowledge of Greek, which had been to the
greater part of Europe a lost tongue.  On this side of the Alps
there was not a school or college in which it could be learned.
So to Italy, where the Greek scholars had found a refuge, those
who wished to learn flocked.

Among them were some Oxford scholars.  Chief of these were three,
whose names you will learn to know well when you come to read
more about this time.  They were William Grocyn, "the most
upright and best of all Britons,"* Thomas Linacre, and John
Colet.  These men, returning from Italy full of the New Learning,
began to teach Greek at Oxford.  And it is strange now to think
that there were many then who were bitterly against such
teaching.  The students even formed themselves into two parties,
for and against.  They were called Greeks and Trojans, and
between these two parties man a fierce fight took place, for the
quarrel did not end in words, but often in blows.


The New Learning, however, conquered.  And so keenly did men feel
the human interests of such things as were now taught, that we
have come to call grammar, rhetoric, poetry, Greek and Latin the
Humanities, and the professor who teaches these thing the
professor of Humanity.


WHILE the New Learning was stirring England, and Greek was being
for the first time taught in Oxford, a young student of fourteen
came to the University there.  This student was named Thomas
More.  He was the son of a lawyer who became a judge, and as a
little boy he had been a page in the household of Morton, the
Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop was quick to see that the boy was clever.  "This
child here waiting at the table, whoever will live to see it,
will prove a marvellous man,"* he would say.  And so he persuaded
More's father to send the boy to Oxford to study law.

*William Roper, The Mirrour of Virtue.

Thomas remained only two years at Oxford, for old Sir John,
fearing he was learning too much Greek and literature and not
enough law, called his son home and sent him to study law in
London.  It must have been a disappointment to the boy to be
taken from the clever friends he had made in Oxford, and from the
books and studies that he loved, to be set instead to read dry
law-books.  But Thomas More was most sunny-tempered.  Nothing
made him sulky or cross.  So now he settled down quietly to his
new life, and in a very short time became a famous and learned

In was after More left Oxford that he met the man who became his
dearest friend.  This was Desiderius Erasmus, a learned Dutchman.
He was eleven years older than More and he could speak no
English, but that did not prevent them becoming friends, as they
both could speak Latin easily and well.  They had much in common.
Erasmus was of the same lively, merry wit as More, they both
loved literature and the Greek learning, and so the two became
fast friends.  And it helps us to understand the power which
Latin still held over our literature, and indeed over all the
literature of Europe, when we remember that these two friends
spoke to each other and wrote and jested in Latin as easily as
they might have done in English.  Erasmus was one of the most
famous men of his time.  He was one who did much in his day to
free men's minds, one who helped men to think for themselves.  So
although he had directly perhaps little to do with English
literature, it is well to remember him as the friend of More.
"My affection for the man is so great," wrote Erasmus once, "that
if he bade me dance a hornpipe, I should do at once what he bid

Although More was so merry and witty, religion got a strong hold
upon him, and at one time he thought of becoming a monk.  But his
friends persuaded him to give up that idea, and after a time he
decided to marry.  He chose his wife in a somewhat quaint manner.
Among his friends there was a gentleman who had three daughters.
More liked the second one best, "for that he thought her the
fairest and best favoured."*  But he married the eldest because
it seemed to him "that it would be both great grief and some
shame also to the oldest to see her younger sister preferred
before her in marriage.  He then, of a certain pity, framed his
fancy toward her, and soon after married her."*

*W. Roper.

Although he chose his wife so quaintly More's home was a very
happy one.  He loved nothing better than to live a simple family
life with his wife and children round him.  After six years his
wife died, but he quickly married again.  And although his second
wife was "a simple ignorant woman and somewhat worldly too," with
a sharp tongue and short temper, she was kind to her step-
children and the home was still a happy one.

More was a great public man, but he was first a father and head
of his own house.  He says:  "While I spend almost all the day
abroad amongst others, and the residue at home among mine own, I
leave to myself, I mean to my book, no time.  For when I come
home, I must commen with my wife, chatter with my children, and
talk with my servants.  All the which things I reckon and account
among business, forasmuch as they must of necessity be done, and
done must they needs be unless a man will be stranger in his own
home.  And in any wise a man must so fashion and order his
conditions and so appoint and dispose himself, that he be merry,
jocund and pleasant among them, whom either Nature hath provided
or chance hath made, or he himself hath chosen to be the fellows
and companions of his life, so that with too much gentle
behaviour and familiarity he do not mar them, and by too much
sufferance of his servants make them his masters."

At a time, too, when education was thought little necessary for
girls, More taught his daughters as carefully as his sons.  His
eldest daughter Margaret (Mog, as he loved to call her) was so
clever that learned men praised and rewarded her.  When his
children married they did not leave home, but came with their
husbands and wives to live at Chelsea in the beautiful home More
had built there.  So the family was never divided, and More
gathered a "school" of children and grandchildren round him.

More soon became a great man.  Henry VII, indeed, did not love
him, so More did not rise to power while he lived.  But Henry VII
died and his son Henry VIII ruled.  The great Chancellor,
Cardinal Wolsey, became More's friend, and presently he was sent
on business for the King to Bruges.

It was while More was about the King's business in Belgium that
he wrote the greater part of the book by which he is best
remembered.  This book is called Utopia.  The name means
"nowhere," from two Greek words, "ou," no, and "topos," a place.

The Utopia, like so many other books of which we have read, was
the outcome of the times in which the writer lived.  When More
looked round upon the England that he knew he saw many things
that were wrong.  He was a man loyal to his King, yet he could
not pretend to think that the King ruled only for the good of his
people and not for his own pleasure.  There was evil, misery, and
suffering in all the land.  More longed to make people see that
things were wrong; he longed to set the wrong right.  So to teach
men how to do this he invented a land of Nowhere in which there
was no evil or injustice, in which every one was happy and good.
He wrote so well about that make-believe land that from then till
now every one who read Utopia sees the beauty of More's idea.
But every one, too, thinks that this land where everything is
right is an impossible land.  Thus More gave a new word to our
language, and when we think some idea beautiful but impossible we
call it "Utopian."

As it was the times that made More write his book, so it was the
times that gave him the form of it.

In those days, as you know, men's minds were stirred by the
discovery of new lands and chiefly by the discovery of America.
And although it was Columbus who first discovered America, he did
not give his name to the new country.  It was, instead, named
after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.  Amerigo wrote a
book about his voyages, and it was from this book that More got
some of his ideas for the Utopia.

More makes believe that one day in Antwerp he saw a man "well
stricken in age, with a black sun-burned face, a long beard, and
a cloak cast homely about his shoulders, whom by his favour and
apparel forthwith I judged to be a mariner."

This man was called Raphael Hythlodaye and had been with Amerigo
Vespucci in the three last of his voyages, "saving that in the
last voyage he came not home again with him."  For on that voyage
Hythlodaye asked to be left behind.  And after Amerigo had gone
home he, with five friends, set forth upon a further voyage of
discovery.  In their travels they saw many marvelous and fearful
things, and at length came to the wonderful land of Nowhere.
"But what he told us that he saw, in every country where he came,
it were very long to declare."

More asked many questions of this great traveler.  "But as for
monsters, because they be no news, of them we were nothing
inquisitive. . . .. But to find citizens ruled by good and
wholesome laws, that is an exceeding rare and hard thing!"

The whole story of the Utopia is told in the form of talks
between Hythlodaye, More, and his friend Peter Giles.  And More
mixes what is real and what is imaginary so quaintly that it is
not wonderful that many of the people of his own day thought that
Utopia was a real place.  Peter Giles, for instance, was a real
man and a friend of More, while Hythlodaye was imaginary, his
name being made of Greek words meaning Cunning Babbler.  nearly
all the names of the towns, river, and people of whom Hythlodaye
tells were also made from Greek words and have some meaning.  For
instance, Achoriens means people-who-have-no-place-on-earth,
Amaurote a-phantom-city, and so on.

More takes a great deal of trouble to keep up the mystery of this
strange land.  It was not wonderful that he should, for under the
pretense of a story he said hard things about the laws and ill-
government of England, things which it was treason to whisper.
In those days treason was a terrible word covering a great deal,
and death and torture were like to be the fate of any one who
spoke his mind too freely.

But More knew that it would be a hard matter to make things
better in England.  As he makes Hythlodaye say, it is no use
trying to improve things in a blundering fashion.  It is of no
use trying by fear to drive into people's heads things they have
no mind to learn.  Neither must you "forsake the ship in a
tempest, because you cannot rule and keep down the winds."  But
"you must with a crafty wile and subtile train, study and
endeavour yourself, as much as in you lieth, to handle the matter
wittily and handsomely for the purpose.  And that which you
cannot turn to good, so to order it that it be not very bad.  For
it is not possible for all things to be well, unless all men were
good:  which I think will not be yet in these good many years."

The Utopia is divided into two books.  The first and shorter
gives us what we might call the machinery of the tale.  It tells
of the meeting with Hythlodaye and More's first talk with him.
It is not until the beginning of the second book that we really
hear about Utopia.  And I think if you read the book soon, I
would advise you to begin with the second part, which More wrote
first.  In the second book we have most of the story, but the
first book helps us to understand More's own times and explains
what he was trying to do in writing his tale.

At the beginning of this book I told you that we should have to
talk of many books which for the present, at least, you could not
hope to like, but which you must be content to be told are good
and worth reading.  I may be wrong, but I think Utopia is one of
these.  Yet as Cresacre More, More's great-grandson, speaking of
his great-grandfather's writing, says, he "seasoned always the
troublesomeness of the matter with some merry jests or pleasant
tales, as it were sugar, whereby we drink up the more willingly
these wholesome drugs . . . which kind of writing he hath used in
all his works, so that none can ever by weary to read them,
though they be never so long."

And even if you like the book now, you will both like and
understand it much better when you know a little about politics.
You will then see, too, how difficult it is to know when More is
in earnest and when he is merely poking fun, for More loved to
jest.  Yet as his grandson, who wrote a life of him, tells us,
"Whatsoever jest he brought forth, he never laughed at any
himself, but spoke always so sadly, that few could see by his
look whether he spoke in earnest or in jest."

It would take too long to tell all about the wonderful island of
Utopia and its people, but I must tell you a little of it and how
they regarded money.  All men in this land were equal.  No man
was idle, neither was any man over-burdened with labor, for every
one had to work six hours a day.  No man was rich, no man was
poor, for "though no man have anything, yet every man is rich,"
for the State gave him everything that he needed.  So money was
hardly of any use, and gold and silver and precious jewels were

"In the meantime gold and silver, whereof money is made, they do
so use, as none of them doth more esteem it, than the very nature
of the thing deserveth.  And then who doth not plainly see how
far it is under iron?  As without the which men can no better
live than without fire and water; whereas to gold and silver
nature hath given no use that we may not well lack, if that the
folly of men had not set it in higher estimation for the rareness
sake.  But, of the contrary part, Nature, as a most tender and
loving mother, hath placed the best and most necessary things
open abroad; as the air, the water, and the earth itself; and
hath removed and hid farthest from us vain and unprofitable

Yet as other countries still prized money, gold and silver was
sometimes needed by the Utopians.  But, thought the wise King and
his counselors, if we lock it up in towers and take great care of
it, the people may begin to think that gold is of value for
itself, they will begin to think that we are keeping something
precious from them.  So to set this right they fell upon a plan.
It was this.  "For whereas they eat and drink in earthen and
glass vessels, which indeed be curiously and properly made, and
yet be of very small value; of gold and silver they make other
vessels that serve for most vile uses, not only in their common
halls, but in every man's private house.  Furthermore of the same
metals they make great chains and fetters and gyves, wherein they
tie their bondmen.  Finally, whosoever for any offense be
infamed, by their ears hang rings of gold, upon their fingers
they wear rings of gold, and about their necks chains of gold;
and in conclusion their heads be tied about with gold.

"Thus, by all means that may be, they procure to have gold and
silver among them in reproach and infamy.  And therefore these
metals, which other nations do as grievously and sorrowfully
forego, as in a manner from their own lives, if they should
altogether at once be taken from the Utopians, no man there would
think that he had lost the worth of a farthing.

"They gather also pearls by the seaside, and diamonds and
carbuncles upon certain rocks.  Yet they seek not for them, but
by chance finding them they cut and polish them.  And therewith
they deck their young infants.  Which, like as in the first years
of their childhood they make much and be fond and proud of such
ornaments, so when they be a little more grown in years and
discretion, perceiving that none but children do wear such toys
and trifles, they lay them away even of their own shamefastness,
without any bidding of their parents, even as our children when
they wax big, do caste away nuts, brooches and dolls.  Therefore
these laws and customs, which be so far different from all other
nations, how divers fancies also and minds they do cause, did I
never so plainly perceive, as in the Ambassadors of the

"These Ambassadors came to Amaurote whiles I was there.  And
because they came to entreat of great and weighty matters, three
citizens a piece out of every city (of Utopia) were come thither
before them.  But all the Ambassadors of the next countries,
which had been there before, and knew the fashions and manners of
the Utopians, among whom they perceived no honour given to
sumptuous and costly apparel, silks to be contemned, gold also to
be infamed and reproachful, were wont to come thither in very
homely and simple apparel.  But the Anemolians, because they
dwell far thence, and had very little acquaintance with them,
hearing that they were all apparelled alike, and that very rudely
and homely, thinking them not to have the things which they did
not wear, being therefore more proud than wise, determined in the
gorgeousness of their apparel to represent very gods, and with
the bright shining and glistening of their gay clothing to dazzle
the eyes of the silly poor Utopians.

"So there came in three Ambassadors with a hundred servants all
apparelled in changeable colours; the most of them in silks; the
Ambassadors themselves (for at home in their own country they
were noble men) in cloth of gold, with great chains of gold, with
gold hanging at their ears, with gold rings upon their fingers,
with brooches and aglettes* of gold upon their caps, which
glistered full of pearls and precious stones; to be short,
trimmed and adorned with all those things, which among the
Utopians were either the punishment of bondmen, or the reproach
of infamed persons, or else trifles for young children to play

*Hanging ornaments.

"Therefore it would have done a man good at his heart to have
seen how proudly they displayed their peacocks' feathers; how
much they made of their painted sheathes; and how loftily they
set forth and advanced themselves, when they compared their
gallant apparel with the poor raiment of the Utopians.  For all
the people were swarmed forth into the streets.

"And on the other side it was no less pleasure to consider how
much they were deceived, and how far they missed their purpose;
being contrary ways taken than they thought they should have
been.  For to the eyes of all the Utopians, except very few,
which had been in other countries for some reasonable cause, all
that gorgeousness of apparel seemed shameful and reproachful; in
so much that they most reverently saluted the vilest and most
abject of them for lords; passing over the Ambassadors themselves
without any honour; judging them by their wearing of golden
chains to be bondmen.

"Yea, you should have seen children also that had cast away their
pearls and precious stones, when they saw the like sticking upon
the Ambassadors' caps, dig and push their mothers under the
sides, saying thus to them:  'Look, mother, how great a lubber
doth yet wear pearls and precious stones, as though he were a
little child still.'

"But the mother, yea, and that also in good earnest:  'Peace,
son,' saith she, 'I think he be some of the Ambassadors' fools.'

"Some found fault with their golden chains, as to no use nor
purpose; being so small and weak, that a bondman might easily
break them; and again so wide and large that, when it pleased
him, he might cast them off, and run away at liberty whither he

"But when the Ambassadors had been there a day or two, and saw so
great abundance of gold so lightly esteemed, yea, in no less
reproach than it was with them in honour; and, besides that, more
gold in the chains and gyves of one fugitive bondman, than all
the costly ornaments of their three was worth; then began a-bate
their courage, and for very shame laid away all that gorgeous
array whereof they were so proud; and especially when they had
talked familiarly with the Utopians, and had learned all their
fashions and opinions.  For they marvel that any man be so
foolish as to have delight and pleasure in the glistering of a
little trifling stone, which may behold any of the stars, or else
the sun itself; or that any man is so mad as to count himself the
nobler for the smaller or finer thread of wool, which self-same
wool (be it now in never so fine a spun thread) did once a sheep
wear, and yet was she all that time no other thing than a sheep."


THERE is much that is quaint, much that is deeply wise, in More's
Utopia, still no one is likely to agree with all he says, or to
think that we could all be happy in a world such as he describes.
For one thing, to those of us who love color it would seem a dull
world indeed were we all forced to dress in coarse-spun, undyed
sheep's wool, and if jewels and gold with all their lovely lights
and gleamings were but the signs of degradation.  Each one who
reads it may find something in the Utopia that he would rather
have otherwise.  But each one, too, will find something to make
him think.

More was not the first to write about a happy land where every
one lived in peace and where only justice reigned.  And if he got
some of his ideas of the island from the discoveries of the New
World, he got many more from the New Learning.  For long before,
Plato, a Greek writer, had told of a land very like Utopia in his
book called the Republic.  And the New Learning had made that
book known to the people of England.

We think of the Utopia as English Literature, yet we must
remember that More wrote it in Latin, and it was not translated
into English until several years after his death.  The first
English translation was made by Ralph Robinson, and although
since then there have been other translation which in some ways
are more correct, there has never been one with more charm.  For
Robinson's quaint English keeps for us something of the spirit of
More's time and of More's self in a way no modern and more
perfect translation can.

The Utopia was not written for one time or for one people.  Even
before it was translated into English it had been translated into
Dutch, Italian, German, and French and was largely read all over
the Continent.  It is still read to-day by all who are interested
in the life of the people, by all who think that in "this best of
all possible worlds" things might still be made better.

More wrote many other books both in English and in Latin and
besides being a busy author he led a busy life.  For blustering,
burly, selfish King Henry loved the gentle witty lawyer, and
again and again made use of his wits.  "And so from time to time
was he by the King advanced, continuing in his singular favour
and trusty service twenty years and above."*

*W. Roper.

It was not only for his business cleverness that King Henry loved
Sir Thomas.  It was for his merry, witty talk.  When business was
done and supper-time came, the King and Queen would call for him
"to be merry with them."  Thus it came about that Sir Thomas
could hardly ever get home to his wife and children, where he
most longed to be.  Then he began to pretend to be less clever
than he was, so that the King might not want so much of his
company.  But Henry would sometimes follow More to his home at
Chelsea, where he had built a beautiful house.  Sometimes he came
quite unexpectedly to dinner.  Once he came, "and after dinner,
in a fair garden of his, walked with him by the space of an hour,
holding his arm about his neck."  As soon as the King was gone,
More's son-in-law said to him that he should be happy seeing the
King was so friendly with him, for with no other man was he so
familiar, not even with Wolsey.

"I thank our Lord," answered More, "I find in his Grace a very
good lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favour me
as any subject within the realm.  Howbeit, son Roper, I may tell
thee, I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head would
win him a castle in France it should not fail to go."

And Sir Thomas was not wrong.  Meanwhile, however, the King
heaped favor upon him.  He became Treasurer of the Exchequer,
Speaker of the House of Commons, Chancellor of the Duchy of
Lancaster, and last of all Lord Chancellor of England.  This was
a very great honor.  And as More was a layman the honor was for
him greater than usual.  For he was the first layman to be made
Chancellor.  Until then the Chancellor had always been some
powerful Churchman.

More was not eager for these honors.  He would much rather have
lived a simple family life, but bluff King Hal was no easy master
to serve.  If he chose to honor a man and set him high, that man
could but submit.  So, as Erasmus says, More was dragged into
public life and honor, and being thus dragged in troubles were
not slow to follow.

Henry grew tired of his wife, Queen Catherine, but the Pope would
not allow him to divorce her so that he might marry another.
Then Henry quarreled with the Pope.  The Pope, he said, should no
longer have power in England.  He should no longer be head of the
Church, but the people must henceforth look to the King as such.
This More could not do.  He tried to keep out of the quarrel.  He
was true to his King as king, but he felt that he must be true to
his religion too.  To him the Pope was the representative of
Christ on earth, and he could look to no other as head of the
Church.  When first More had come into the King's service, Henry
bade him "first look unto God, and after God unto him."  Of this
his Chancellor now reminded him, and laying down his seal of
office he went home, hoping to live the rest of his days in

But that was not to be.  "It is perilous striving with princes,"
said a friend.  " I would wish you somewhat to incline to the
King's pleasure.  The anger of princes is death."

"Is that all?"  replied More calmly; "then in good faith the
difference between you and me is but this, that I shall die to-
day and you to-morrow."

So it fell out.  There came a day when messengers came to More's
happy home, and the beloved father was led away to imprisonment
and death.

For fifteen months he was kept in the Tower.  During all that
time his cheerful steadfastness did not waver.  He wrote long
letters to his children, and chiefly to Meg, his best-loved
daughter.  When pen and ink were taken away from him, he still
wrote with coal.  In these months he became an old man, bent and
crippled with disease.  But though his body was feeble his mind
was clear, his spirit bright as ever.  No threats or promises
could shake his purpose.  He could not and would not own Henry as
head of the Church.

At last the end came.  In Westminster Hall More was tried for
treason and found guilty.  From Westminster through the thronging
streets he was led back again to the Tower.  In front of the
prisoner an ax was carried, the edge being turned towards him.
That was the sign to all who saw that he was to die.

As the sad procession reached the Tower Wharf there was a pause.
A young and beautiful woman darted from the crowd, and caring not
for the soldiers who surrounded him, unafraid of their swords and
halberds, she reached the old man's side, and threw herself
sobbing on his breast.  In was Margaret, More's beloved daughter,
who, fearing that never again she might see her father, thus came
in the open street to say farewell.  She clung to him and kissed
him in sight of all again and again, but no word could she say
save, "Oh, my father! oh, my father!"

Then Sir Thomas, holding her tenderly, comforted and blessed her,
and at last she took her arms from about his neck and he passed
on.  But Margaret could not yet leave him.  Scarcely had she gone
ten steps than suddenly she turned back.  Once more breaking
through the guard she threw her arms about him.  Not a word did
Sir Thomas say, but as he held her there the tears fell fast from
his eyes, while from the crowd around broke the sound of weeping.
Even the guards wept for pity.  But at last, with full and heavy
hearts, father and daughter parted.

"Dear Meg," Sir Thomas wrote for the last time, "I never liked
your manner better towards me than when you kissed me last.  For
I like when daughterly love and dear charity hath no leisure to
look to worldly courtesy."

Next day he died cheerfully as he had lived.  To the last he
jested in his quaint fashion.  The scaffold was so badly built
that it was ready to fall, so Sir Thomas, jesting, turned to the
lieutenant.  "I pray you, Master Lieutenant," he said, "see me
safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself."  He
desired the people to pray for him, and having kissed the
executioner in token of forgiveness, he laid his head upon the
block.  "So passed Sir Thomas More out of the world to God."  His
death was mourned by many far and near.  "Had we been master of
such a servant," said the Emperor Charles when he heard of it,
"we would rather have lost the best city of our dominions than
have lost such a worthy counselor."

More died for his faith, that of the Catholic Church.  He, as
others, saw with grief that there was much within the Church that
needed to be made better, but he trusted it would be made better.
To break away from the Church, to doubt the headship of the Pope,
seemed to him such wickedness that he hated the Reformers and
wrote against them.  And although in Utopia he allowed his happy
people to have full freedom in matters of religion, in real life
he treated sternly and even cruelly those Protestants with whom
he had to deal.

Yet the Reformation was stirring all the world, and while Sir
Thomas More cheerfully and steadfastly  died for the Catholic
faith, there were others in England who as cheerfully lived,
worked, and died for the Protestant faith.  We have little to do
with these Reformers in this book, except in so far as they touch
our literature, and it is to them that we owe our present Bible.

First William Tyndale, amid difficulties and trials, translated
afresh the New and part of the Old Testament, and died the death
of a martyr in 1536.

Miles Coverdale followed him with a complete translation in
happier times.  For Henry VIII, for his own purposes, wished to
spread a knowledge of the Bible, and commanded that a copy of
Coverdale's Bible should be placed in every parish church.  And
although Coverdale was not so great a scholar as Tyndale, his
language was fine and stately, with a musical ring about the
words, and to this day we still keep his version of the Psalms in
the Prayer Book.

Other versions of the Bible followed these, until in 1611, in the
reign of James I and VI, the translation which we use to-day was
at length published.  That has stood and still stands the test of
time.  And, had we no other reason to treasure it, we would still
for its simple musical language look upon it as one of the fine
things in our literature.


Life of Sir Thomas More (King's Classics, modern English), by W.
Roper (his son-in-law).  Utopia (King's Classics, modern
English), translated by R. Robinson.  Utopia (old English),
edited by Churton Collins.


UPON a January day in 1527 two gaily decked barges met upon the
Thames.  In the one sat a man of forty.  His fair hair and beard
were already touched with gray.  His face was grave and
thoughtful, and his eyes gave to it a curious expression, for the
right was dull and sightless, while with the left he looked about
him sharply.  This was Sir John Russell, gentleman of the Privy
Chamber, soldier, ambassador, and favorite of King Henry VIII.
Fighting in the King's French wars he had lost the sight of his
right eye.  Since then he had led a busy life in court and camp,
passing through many perilous adventures in the service of his
master, and now once again by the King's commands he was about to
set forth for Italy.

As the other barge drew near Russell saw that in it there sat
Thomas Wyatt, a young poet and courtier of twenty-three.  He was
tall and handsome, and his thick dark hair framed a pale, clever
face which now looked listless.  But as his dreamy poet's eyes
met those of Sir John they lighted up.  The two men greeted each
other familiarly.  "Whither away," cried Wyatt, for he saw that
Russell was prepared for a journey.

"To Italy, sent by the King."

To Italy, the land of Poetry!  The idea fired the poet's soul.

"And I," at once he answered, "will, if you please, ask leave,
get money, and go with you."

"No man more welcome," answered the ambassador, and so it was
settled between them.  The money and the leave were both
forthcoming, and Thomas Wyatt passed to Italy.  This chance
meeting and this visit to Italy are of importance to our
literature, because they led to a new kind of poem being written
in English.  This was the Sonnet.

The Sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines, and is perhaps the most
difficult kind of poem to write.  It is divided into two parts.
The first part has eight lines and ought only to have two rimes.
That is, supposing we take words riming with love and king for
our rimes, four lines must rime with love and four with king.
The rimes, too, must come in a certain order.  The first, fourth,
fifth and eighth lines must rime, and the second, third, sixth,
and seventh.  This first part is called the octave, from the
Latin word octo, eight.  The second part contains six lines, and
is therefore called the sextet, from the Latin word sex, meaning
six.  The sextet may have either two or three rimes, and these
may be arranged in almost any order.  But a correct sonnet ought
not to end with a couplet, that is two riming lines.  However,
very many good writers in English do so end their sonnets.

As the sonnet is so bound about with rules, it often makes the
thought which it expresses sound a little unreal.  And for that
very reason it suited the times in which Wyatt lived.  In those
far-off days every knight had a lady whom he vowed to serve and
love.  He took her side in every quarrel, and if he were a poet,
or even if he were not, he wrote verses in her honor, and sighed
and died for her.  The lady was not supposed to do anything in
return; she might at most smile upon her knight or drop her
glove, that he might be made happy by picking it up.  In fact,
the more disdainful the lady might be the better it was, for then
the poet could write the more passionate verses.  For all this
love and service was make-believe.  It was merely a fashion and
not meant to be taken seriously.  A man might have a wife whom he
loved dearly, and yet write poems in honor of another lady
without thought of wrong.  The sonnet, having something very
artificial in it, just suited this make-believe love.

Petrarch, the great Italian poet, from whom you remember Chaucer
had learned much, and whom perhaps he had once met, made use of
this kind of poem.  In his sonnets he told his love of a fair
lady, Laura, and made her famous for all time.

Of course, when Wyatt came to Italy Petrarch had long been dead.
But his poems were as living as in the days of Chaucer, and it
was from Petrarch's works that Wyatt learned this new kind of
poem, and it was he who first made use of it in English.  He,
too, like Petrarch, addressed his sonnets to a lady, and the lady
he took for his love was Queen Anne Boleyn.  As he is the first,
he is perhaps one of the roughest of our sonnet writers, but into
his sonnets he wrought something of manly strength.  He does not
sigh so much as other poets of the age.  He says, in fact, "If I
serve my lady faithfully I deserve reward."  Here is one of his
sonnets, which he calls "The lover compareth his state to a ship
in perilous storm tossed by the sea."

    "My galléy charged with forgetfulness,
    Through sharpe seas in winter's night doth pass,
    'Tween rock and rock; and eke my foe (alas)
    That is my lord, steereth with cruelness:
    And every oar a thought in readiness,
    As though that death were light in such a case.
    An endless wind doth tear the sail apace,
    Of forcéd sighs and trusty fearfulness;
    A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
    Have done the wearied cords great hinderance:
    Wreathéd with error and with ignorance;
    The stars be his, that lead me to this pain;
    Drownéd is reason that should me comfort,
    And I remain, despairing of the port."

It is not perfect, it is not even Wyatt's best sonnet, but it is
one of the most simple.  To make it run smoothly we must sound
the ed in those words ending in ed as a separate syllable, and we
must put a final e to sharp in the second line and sound that.
Then you see the rimes are not very good.  To begin with, the
first eight all have sounds of s.  Then "alas" and "pass" do not
rime with "case" and "apace," nor do "comfort" and "port."  I
point these things out, so that later on you may see for
yourselves how much more polished and elegant a thing the sonnet

Although Wyatt was our first sonnet writer, some of his poems
which are not sonnets are much more musical, especially some he
wrote for music.  Perhaps best of all you will like his satire Of
the mean and sure estate.  A satire is a poem which holds up to
scorn and ridicule wickedness, folly, or stupidity.  It is the
sword of literature, and often its edge was keen, its point

    "My mother's maids when they do sew and spin,
    They sing a song made of the fieldish mouse;
    That for because her livelod* was but thin
    Would needs go see her townish sister's house.

    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    'My sister,' quoth she, 'hath a living good,
    And hence from me she dwelleth not a mile,
    In cold and storm she lieth warm and dry
    In bed of down.  The dirt doth not defile
    Her tender foot; she labours not as I.
    Richly she feeds, and at the rich man's cost;
    And for her meat she need not crave nor cry.
    By sea, by land, of delicates* the most,
    Her caterer seeks, and spareth for no peril.
    She feeds on boil meat, bake meat and roast,
    And hath, therefore, no whit of charge or travail.'

    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    So forth she goes,  trusting of all this wealth
    With her sister her part so for to shape,
    That if she might there keep herself in health,
    To live a Lady, while her life do last.
    And to the door now is she come by stealth,
    And with her foot anon she scrapes full fast.
    Th' other for fear durst not well scarce appear,
    Of every noise so was the wretch aghast.
    At last she askéd softly who was there;
    And in her language as well as she could,
    'Peep,' quoth the other, 'sister, I am here.'
    'Peace,' quoth the town mouse, 'why speaketh thou so loud?'
    But by the hand she took her fair and well.
    'Welcome,' quoth she, 'my sister by the Rood.'
    She feasted her that joy it was to tell
    The fare they had, they drank the wine so clear;
    And as to purpose now and then it fell,
    So cheered her with, 'How, sister, what cheer.'
    Amid this joy befell a sorry chance,
    That welladay, the stranger bought full dear
    The fare she had.  For as she looked ascance,
    Under a stool she spied two flaming eyes,
    In a round head, with sharp ears.  In France
    Was never mouse so feared, for the unwise
    Had not ere seen such beast before.
    Yet had nature taught her after her guise
    To know her foe, and dread him evermore.
    The town mouse fled, she knew whither to go;
    The other had no shift, but wonders sore,
    Fear'd of her life!  At home she wished her tho';
    And to the door, alas! as she did skip
    (The heaven it would, lo, and eke her chance was so)
    At the threshold her sill foot did trip;
    And ere she might recover it again,
    The traitor Cat had caught her by the hip
    And made her there against her will remain,
    That had forgot her poor surety and rest,
    For seeming wealth, wherein she thought to reign."

That is not the end of the poem.  Wyatt points the moral.
"Alas," he says, "how men do seek the best and find the worst."
"Although thy head were hooped with gold," thou canst not rid
thyself of care.  Content thyself, then, with what is allotted
thee and use it well.

This satire Wyatt wrote while living quietly in the country,
having barely escaped with his life from the King's wrath.  But
although he escaped the scaffold, he died soon after in his
King's service.  Riding on the King's business in the autumn of
1542 he became overheated, fell into a fever, and died.  He was
buried at Sherborne.  No stone marks his resting-place, but his
friend and fellow-poet, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, wrote a
noble elegy:--

    "A hea, where Wisdom mysteries did frame;
    Whose hammers beat still, in that lively brain,
    As on a stithy* where that some work of fame
    Was daily wrought, to turn to Britain's gain.

    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    A hand, that taught what might be said in rhyme,
    That Chaucer reft the glory of his wit.
    A mark, the which (unperfected for time)
    Some may approach; but never none shall hit!"


Early Sixteenth-Century Lyrics (Belle Lettres Series), edited by
F. M. Padelford (original spelling).


THE poet with whose verses the last chapter ended was named Henry
Howard, Earl of Surrey.  The son of a noble and ancient house,
Surrey lived a gay life in court and camp.  Proud, hot-headed,
quick-tempered, he was often in trouble, more than once in
prison.  In youth he was called "the most foolish proud boy in
England," and at the age of thirty, still young and gay and full
of life, he died upon the scaffold.  Accused of treason, yet
innocent, he fell a victim to "the wrath of princes," the wrath
of that hot-headed King Henry VIII.  Surrey lived at the same
time as Wyatt and, although he was fourteen years younger, was
his friend.  Together they are the forerunners of our modern
poetry.  They are nearly always spoken of together--Wyatt and
Surrey--Surrey and Wyatt.  Like Wyatt, Surrey followed the
Italian poets.  Like Wyatt he wrote sonnets; but whereas Wyatt's
are rough, Surrey's are smooth and musical, although he does not
keep the rules about rime endings.  One who wrote not long after
the time of Wyatt and Surrey says of them, "Sir Thomas Wyatt, the
elder, and Henry, Earl of Surrey, were the two chieftains, who,
having travelled in Italy, and there tasted the sweet and stately
measures and style of the Italian poesie . . . greatly polished
our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie from that it had been
before, and for that cause may justly be said the first reformers
of our English metre and syle. . . . I repute them for the two
chief lanterns of light to all others that have since employed
their pens on English poesie."*

*G. Puttenham, Art of English Poesie.

A later writer* has called Surrey the "first refiner" of our
language. And just as there comes a time in our own lives when we
begin to care not only for the story, but for the words in which
a story is told and for the way in which those words are used,
so, too, there comes such a time in the life of a nation, and
this time for England we may perhaps date from Wyatt and Surrey.
Before then there were men who tried to use the best words in the
best way, but they did it unknowingly, as birds might sing.  The
language, too, in which they wrote was still a growing thing.
When Surrey wrote it had nearly reached its finished state, and
he helped to finish and polish it.

*W. J. Courthope.

As the fashion was, Surrey chose a lady to whom to address his
verses.  She was the little Lady Elizabeth Fitz-Gerald, whose
father had died a broken-hearted prisoner in the Tower.  She was
only ten when Surrey made her famous in song, under the name of
Geraldine.  Here is a sonnet in which he, seeing the joy of all
nature at the coming of Spring, mourns that his lady is still

    "The sweet season, that bud and bloom forth brings,
    With green hath clad the hill, and eke the vale,
    The nightingale with feathers new she sings:
    The turtle to her mate hath told her tale.
    Summer is come, for every spray now springs,
    The hart hath hung his old head on the pale,
    The buck in haste his winter coat he flings;
    The fishes float with new repaired scale,
    The adder all her slough away she lings;
    The swift swallow pursueth the flies small;
    The busy-bee her honey now she mings;*
    Winter is worn that was the flowers' bale.
    And thus I see among these pleasant things
    Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs."


Besides following Wyatt in making the sonnet known to English
readers, Surrey was the first to write in blank verse, that is in
long ten-syllabled lines which do not rime.  This is a kind of
poetry in which some of the grandest poems in our language are
written, and we should remember Surrey as the first maker of it.
For with very little change the rules which Surrey laid down have
been followed by our best poets ever since, so from the sixteenth
century till now there has been far less change in our poetry
than in the five centuries before.  You can see this for yourself
if you compare Surrey's poetry with Layamon's or Langland's, and
then with some of the blank verse near the end of this book.

It was in translating part of Virgil's Aeneid that Surrey used
blank verse.  Virgil was an ancient Roman poet, born 70 B. C.,
who in his book called the Aeneid told of the wanderings and
adventures of Aeneas, and part of this poem Surrey translated into

This is how he tells of the way in which Aeneas saved his old
father by carrying him on his shoulders out of the burning town
of Troy when "The crackling flame was heard throughout the walls,
and more and more the burning heat drew near."

            "My shoulders broad,
    And layéd neck with garments 'gan I spread,
    And thereon cast a yellow lion's skin;
    And thereupon my burden I receive.
    Young Iulus clasped in my right hand,
    Followeth me fast, with unequal pace,
    And at my back my wife.  Thus did we pass
    By places shadowed most with the night,
    And me, whom late the dart which enemies threw,
    Nor press of Argive routs could make amaz'd,
    Each whisp'ring wind hath power now to fray,
    And every sound to move my doubtful mind.
    So much I dread my burden and my fere.*
        And now we 'gan draw near unto the gate,
    Right well escap'd the danger, as me thought,
    When that at hand a sound of feet we heard.
    My father then, gazing throughout the dark,
    Cried on me, 'Flee, son! they are at hand.'
    With that, bright shields, and shene** armours I saw
    But then, I know not what unfriendly god
    My troubled with from me bereft for fear.
    For while I ran by the most secret streets,
    Eschewing still the common haunted track,
    From me, catif, alas! bereavéd was
    Creusa then, my spouse; I wot not how,
    Whether by fate, or missing of the way,
    Or that she was by weariness retain'd;
    But never sith these eyes might her behold.
    Nor did I yet perceive that she was lost,
    Nor never backward turnéd I my mind;
    Till we came to the hill whereon there stood
    The old temple dedicated to Ceres.
        And when that we were there assembled all,
    She was only away deceiving us,
    Her spouse, her son, and all her company.
    What god or man did I not then accuse,
    Near wode *** for ire? or what more cruel chance
    Did hap to me in all Troy's overthrow?"



WHEN Henry signed Surrey's death-warrant he himself was near
death, and not many weeks later the proud and violent king met
his end.  Then followed for England changeful times.  After
Protestant Edward came for a tragic few days Lady Jane.  Then
followed the short, sad reign of Catholic Mary, who, dying, left
the throne free for her brilliant sister Elizabeth.  Those years,
from the death of King Henry VIII to the end of the first twenty
years of Elizabeth's reign, were years of action rather than of
production.  They were years of struggle, during which England
was swayed to and fro in the fight of religions.  They were years
during which the fury of the storm of the Reformation worked
itself out.  But although they were such unquiet years they were
also years of growth, and at the end of that time there blossomed
forth one of the fairest seasons of our literature.

We call the whole group of authors who sprang up at this time the
Elizabethans, after the name of the Queen in whose reign they
lived and wrote.  And to those of us who know even a very little
of the time, the word calls up a brilliant vision.  Great names
come crowding to our minds, names of poets, dramatists,
historians, philosophers, divines.  It would be impossible to
tell of all in this book, so we must choose the greatest from the
noble array.  And foremost among them comes Edmund Spenser, for
"the glory of the new literature broke in England with Edmund

*J. R. Green, History of English People.

If we could stand aside, as it were, and take a wide view of all
our early literature, it would seem as if the names of Chaucer
and Spenser stood out above all others like great mountains.  The
others are valleys between.  They are pleasant fields in which to
wander, in which to gather flowers, not landmarks for all the
world like Chaucer and Spenser.  And although it is easier and
safer for children to wander in the meadows and gather meadow
flowers, they still may look up to the mountains and hope to
climb them some day.

Edmund Spenser was born in London in 1552, and was the son of a
poor clothworker or tailor.  He went to school at the Merchant
Taylors' School, which had then been newly founded.  That his
father was very poor we know, for Edmund Spenser's name appears
among "certain poor scholars of the schools about London" who
received money and clothes from a fund left by a rich man to help
poor children at school.

When he was about seventeen Edmund went to Cambridge, receiving
for his journey a sum of ten shillings from the fund from which
he had already received help at school.  He entered college as a
sizar, that is, in return for doing the work of a servant he
received free board and lodging in his college.  A sizar's life
was not always a happy one, for many of the other scholars or
gentlemen commoners looked down upon them because of their
poverty.  And this poverty they could not hide, for the sizars
were obliged to wear a different cap and gown from that of the
gentlemen commoners.

But of how Spenser fared at college we know nothing, except that
he was often ill and that he made two lifelong friends.  That he
loved his university, however, we learn from his poems, when he
tenderly speaks of "my mother Cambridge."*  When he left college
Spenser was twenty-three.  He was poor and, it would seem, ill,
so he did not return to London, but went to live with relatives
in the country in Lancashire.  And there about "the wasteful
woods and forest wide"** he wandered, gathering new life and
strength, taking all a poet's joy in the beauty and the freedom
of a country life, "for ylike to me was liberty and life,"** he
says.  And here among the pleasant woods he met a fair lady named
Rosalind, "the widow's daughter of the glen."***

*Faery Queen, book IV canto xi.
**Shepherd's Calendar, December
***The same, April.

Who Rosalind really was no one knows.  She would never have been
heard of had not Spenser taken her for his lady and made songs to
her.  Spenser's love for Rosalind was, however, more real than
the fashionable poet's passion.  He truly loved Rosalind, but she
did not love him, and she soon married some one else.  Then all
his joy in the summer and the sunshine was made dark.

    "Thus is my summer worn away and wasted,
    Thus is my harvest hastened all too rathe;*
    The ear that budded fair is burnt and blasted,
    And all my hopéd gain it turned to scathe:
        Of all the seed, that in my youth was sown,
        Was naught but brakes and brambles to be mown."**

    **Shepherd's Calendar, December.

At twenty-four life seemed ended, for "Love is a cureless

*Shepherd's Calendar, August.

    "Winter is come, that blows the baleful breath,
    And after Winter cometh timely death."*

    *Shepherd's Calendar, December.

And now, when he was feeling miserable, lonely, desolate an old
college friend wrote to him begging him to come to London.
Spenser went, and through his friend he came to know Sir Philip
Sidney, a true gentleman and a poet like himself, who in turn
made him known to the great Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth's

Spenser thought his heart had been broken and that his life was
done.  But hearts do not break easily.  Life is not done at
twenty-four.  After a time Spenser found that there was still
much to live for.  The great Earl became the poet's friend and
patron, and gave him a  post as secretary in his house.  For in
those days no man could live by writing alone.  Poetry was still
a graceful toy for the rich.  If a poor man wished to toy with
it, he must either starve or find a rich friend to be his patron,
to give him work to do that would leave him time to write also.
Such a friend Spenser found in Leicester.  In the Earl's house
the poor tailor's son met many of the greatest men of the court
of Queen Elizabeth.  On the Earl's business he went to Ireland
and to the Continent, seeing new sights, meeting the men and
women of the great world, so that a new and brilliant life seemed
opening for him.

Yet when, a few years later, Spenser published his first great
poem, it did not tell of courts or courtiers, but of simple
country sights and sounds.  This book is called the Shepherd's
Calendar, as it contains twelve poems, one for every month of the

In it Spenser sings of his fair lost lady Rosalind, and he
himself appears under the name of Colin Clout.  The name is
taken, as you will remember, from John Skelton's poem.

Spenser called his poems Aeclogues, from a Greek word meaning
Goatherds' Tales, "Though indeed few goatherds have to do
herein."  He dedicated them to Sir Philip Sidney as "the
president of noblesse and of chivalrie."

    "Go, little book:  Thy self present,
    As child whose parent is unkent,
    To him that is the president
    Of Noblesse and of Chivalrie;
    And if that Envy bark at thee,
    As sure it will, for succour flee
    Under the shadow of his wing;
    And, asked who thee forth did bring;
    A shepherd's swain, say, did thee sing,
    All as his straying flock he fed;
    And when his honour hath thee read
    Crave pardon for my hardyhood.
    But, if that any ask thy name,
    Say, 'thou wert basebegot with blame.'
    For thy thereof thou takest shame,
    And, when thou art past jeopardy,
    Come tell me what was said of mee,
    And I will send more after thee."

The Shepherd's Calendar made the new poet famous.  Spenser was
advanced at court, and soon after went to Ireland in the train of
the Lord-Deputy as Secretary of State.  At that time Ireland was
filled with storm and anger, with revolt against English rule,
with strife among the Irish nobles themselves.  Spain also was
eagerly looking to Ireland as a point from which to strike at
England.  War, misery, poverty were abroad in all the land.  Yet
amid the horrid sights and sounds of battle Spenser found time to

After eight years spent in the north of Ireland, Spenser was
given a post which took him south.  His new home was the old
castle of Kilcolman in Cork.  It was surrounded by fair wooded
country, but to Spenser it seemed a desert.  He had gone to
Ireland as to exile, hoping that it was merely a stepping-stone
to some great appointment in England, whither he longed to
return.  Now after eight years he found himself still in exile.
He had no love for Ireland, and felt himself lonely and forsaken
there.  But soon there came another great Elizabethan to share
his loneliness.  This was Sir Walter Raleigh, who, being out of
favor with his Queen, took refuge in his Irish estates until her
anger should pass.

The two great men, thus alone among the wild Irish, made friends,
and they had many a talk together.  There within the gray stone
walls of the old ivy-covered castle Spenser read the first part
of his book, the Faery Queen, to Raleigh.  Spenser had long been
at work upon this great poem.  It was divided into parts, and
each part was called a book.  Three books were now finished, and
Raleigh, loud in his praises of them, persuaded the poet to bring
them over to England to have them published.

In a poem called Colin Clout's come home again, which Spenser
wrote a few years later, he tells in his own poetic way of these
meetings and talks, and of how Raleigh persuaded him to go to
England, there to publish his poem.  In Colin Clout Spenser calls
both himself and Raleigh shepherds.  For just as at one time it
was the fashion to write poems in the form of a dream, so in
Spenser's day it was the fashion to write poems called pastorals,
in which the authors made believe that all their characters were
shepherds and shepherdesses.

    "One day, quoth he, I sat (as was my trade)
    Under the foot of Mole, that mountain hoare,
    Keeping my sheep amongst the cooly shade,
    Of the green alders by the Mulla's* shore:
    There a strange shepherd chanst to find me out,
    Whether alluréd by my pipe's delight,
    Whose pleasing sound y-shrilléd far about,
    Or thither led by chance, I know not right:
    Whom when I askéd from what place he came,
    And how he hight, himself he did y-clep,
    The Shepherd of the Ocean by name,
    And said he came far from the main sea deep.
    He sitting me beside in that same shade,
    Provokéd me to play some pleasant fit;**
    And, when he heard the music that I made,
    He found himself full greatly pleased at it."

    *River Awbeg.

Spenser tells then how the "other shepherd" sang:--

    "His song was all a lamentable lay,
    Of great unkindness, and of usage hard,
    Of Cynthia, the Lady of the Sea,
    That from her presence faultless him debarred.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    When thus our pipes we both had wearied well,
    And each an end of singing made,
    He gan to cast great liking to my lore,
    And great disliking to my luckless lot,
    That banished had myself, like wight forlore,
    Into that waste, where I was quite forgot:
    The which to leave henceforth he counselled me,
    Unmeet for man in whom was ought regardful,
    And wend with him his Cynthia to see,
    Whose grace was great, and bounty most rewardful.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    So what with hope of good, and hate of ill
    He me persuaded forth with him to fare."

Queen Elizabeth received Spenser kindly, and was so delighted
with the Faery Queen that she ordered Lord Burleigh to pay the
poet 100 pounds a year.

"What!" grumbled the Lord Treasurer, "it is not in reason.  So
much for a mere song!"

"Then give him," said the Queen, "what is reason," to which he

But, says an old writer, "he was so busied, belike about matters
of higher concernment, that Spenser received no reward."*  In the
long-run, however, he did receive 50 pounds a year, as much as
400 pounds would be now.  But it did not seem to Spenser to be
enough to allow him to give up his post in Ireland and live in
England.  So back to Ireland he went once more, with a grudge
in his heart against Lord Burleigh.

*Thomas Fuller.


SPENSER'S plan for the Faery Queen was a very great one.  He
meant to write a poem in twelve books, each book containing the
adventures of a knight who was to show forth one virtue.  And if
these were well received he purposed to write twelve more.  Only
the first three books were as yet published, but they made him
far more famous than the Shepherd's Calendar had done.  For never
since Chaucer had such poetry been written.  In the Faery Queen
Spenser has, as he says, changed his "oaten reed" for "trumpets
stern," and sings no longer now of shepherds and their loves, but
of "knights and ladies gentle deeds" of "fierce wars and faithful

The first three books tell the adventures of the Red Cross Knight
St. George, or Holiness; of Sir Guyon, or Temperance; and of the
Lady Britomartis, or Chastity.  The whole poem is an allegory.
Everywhere we are meant to see a hidden meaning.  But sometimes
the allegory is very confused and hard to follow.  So at first,
in any case, it is best to enjoy the story and the beautiful
poetry, and not trouble about the second meaning.  Spenser
plunges us at once into the very middle of the story.  He begins:

    "A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain,
    Yelad in mighty arms and silver shield,
    Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain,
    The cruel marks of many a bloody field;
    Yet arms till that time did he never wield.
    His angry steed did chide his foaming bit,
    As much disdaining to the curb to yield:
    Full jolly knight he seem'd, and fair did sit,
    As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit.

    But on his breast a bloody cross he bore,
    The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
    For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore,
    And dead as living ever him ador'd;
    Upon his shield the like was also scor'd."

And by the side of this Knight rode a lovely Lady upon a snow-
white ass.  Her dress, too, was snow-white, but over it she wore
a black cloak, "as one that inly mourned," and it "seemed in her
heart some hidden care she had."

So the story begins; but why these two, the grave and gallant
Knight and the sad and lovely Lady, are riding forth together we
should not know until the middle of the seventh canto, were it
not for a letter which Spenser wrote to Raleigh and printed in
the beginning of his book.  In it he tells us not only who these
two are, but also his whole great design.  He writes this letter,
he says, "knowing how doubtfully all allegories may be
construed," and this book of his "being a continued allegory, or
dark conceit," he thought it good to explain.  Having told how he
means to write of twenty-four knights who shall represent twenty-
four virtues, he goes on to tell us that the Faery Queen kept her
yearly feast twelve days, upon which twelve days the occasions of
the first twelve adventures happened, which, being undertaken by
twelve knights, are told of in these twelve books.

The first was this.  At the beginning of the feast a tall,
clownish young man knelt before the Queen of the Fairies asking
as a boon that to him might be given the first adventure that
might befall.  "That being granted he rested him on the floor,
unfit through his rusticity for a better place.

"Soon after entered a fair Lady in mourning weeds, riding on a
white ass with a Dwarf behind her leading a warlike steed, that
bore the arms of a knight, and his spear in the Dwarf's hand.

"She, falling before the Queen of Fairies, complained that her
Father and Mother, an ancient King and Queen had been by a huge
Dragon many years shut up in a brasen Castle, who thence suffered
them not to issue."  And therefore she prayed the Fairy Queen to
give her a knight who would slay the Dragon.

Then the "clownish person" started up and demanded the adventure.
The Queen was astonished, the maid unwilling, yet he begged so
hard that the Queen consented.  The Lady, however, told him that
unless the armor she had brought would serve him he could not
succeed.  But when he put the armor on "he seemed the goodliest
man in all that company, and was well liked of that Lady.  And
eftsoons taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that strange
courser, he went forth with her on that adventure, where
beginneth the first book, viz.:

    "'A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain,' etc."

The story goes on to tell how the Knight, who is the Red Cross
Knight St. George, and the Lady, who is called Una, rode on
followed by the Dwarf.  At length in the wide forest they lost
their way and came upon the lair of a terrible She-Dragon.  "Fly,
fly," quoth then the fearful Dwarf, "this is no place for living

    "But full of fire and greedy hardiment,
    The youthful Knight could not for ought be stayed;
    But forth unto the darksome hole he went,
    And lookéd in:  his glistering armour made
    A little glooming light, much like a shade,
    By which he saw the ugly monster plain,
    Half like a serpent horribly displayed,
    But th'other half did woman's shape retain,
    Most loathsome, filthy, foul, and full of vile disdain."

There was a fearful fight between the Knight and the Dragon,
whose name is Error, but at length the Knight conquered.  The
terrible beast lay dead "reft of her baleful head," and the
Knight, mounting upon his charger, once more rode onwards with
his Lady.

    "At length they chanced to meet upon the way
    An aged sire, in long black weeds yelad,
    His feet all bare, his beard all hoary grey,
    And by his belt his book he hanging had,
    Sober he seemed, and very sagely sad,
    And to the ground his eyes were lowly bent,
    Simple in show, and void of malice bad,
    And all the way he prayéd, as he went,
    And often knocked his breast, as one that did repent."

The Knight and this aged man greeted each other fair and
courteously, and as evening was now fallen the godly father bade
the travelers come to his Hermitage for the night.  This the
Knight and Lady gladly did, and soon were peacefully sleeping
beneath the humble roof.

But the seeming godly father was a wicked magician.  While his
guests slept he wove evil spells about them, and calling a wicked
dream he bade it sit at the Knight's head and whisper lies to
him.  This the wicked dream did till that it made the Knight
believe his Lady to be bad and false.  Then early in the morning
the Red Cross Knight rose and, believing his Lady to be unworthy,
he rode sadly away, leaving her alone.

Soon, as he rode along, he met a Saracen whose name was Sansfoy,
or without faith, "full large of limb and every joint he was, and
cared not for God or man a point."

    "He had a fair companion of his way,
    A goodly Lady clad in scarlet red,
    Purfled with gold and pearl of rich assay,
    And like a Persian mitre on her head
    She wore, with crowns and riches garnishéd,
    The which her lavish lovers to her gave;
    Her wanton palfrey all was overspread
    With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave,
    Whose bridle rang with golden bells and bosses brave."

The Red Cross Knight fought and conquered Sansfoy.  Then he rode
onward with the dead giant's companion, the lady Duessa, whom he
believed to be good because he was "too simple and too true" to
know her wicked.

Meanwhile Una, forsaken and woeful, wandered far and wide seeking
her lost Knight.  But nowhere could she hear tidings of him.  At
length one day, weary of her quest, she got off her ass and lay
down to rest in the thick wood, where "her angel's face made a
sunshine in the shady place."

Then out of the thickest of the wood a ramping lion rushed

    "It fortuned out of the thickest wood
    A ramping Lion rushed suddenly,
    Hunting full greedy after savage blood.
    Soon as the royal virgin he did spy,
    With gaping mouth at her ran greedily
    To have at once devoured her tender corse."

But as he came near the sleeping Lady the Lion's rage suddenly
melted.  Instead of killing Una, he licked her weary feet and
white hands with fawning tongue.  From being her enemy he became
her guardian.  And so for many a day the Lion stayed with Una,
guarding her from all harm.  But in her wanderings she at length
met with Sansloy, the brother of Sansfoy, who killed the Lion and
carried Una off into the darksome wood.

But here in her direst need Una found new friends in a troupe of
fauns and satyrs who were playing in the forest.

    "Whom when the raging Saracen espied,
    A rude, misshapen, monstrous rabblement,
    Whose like he never saw, he durst not bide,
    But got his ready steed, and fast away gan ride."

Then the fauns and satyrs gathered round the Lady, wondering at
her beauty, pitying her "fair blubbered face."

But Una shook with fear.  These terrible shapes, half goat, half
human, struck her dumb with horror:  "Ne word to peak, ne joint
to move she had."

    "The savage nation feel her secret smart
    And read her sorrow in her count'nance sad;
    Their frowning foreheads with rough horns yelad,
    And rustic horror all aside do lay,
    And gently grinning shew a semblance glad
    To comfort her, and feat to put away."

They kneel upon the ground, they kiss her feet, and at last, sure
that they mean her no harm, Una rises and goes with them.

Rejoicing, singing songs, honoring her as their Queen, waving
branches, scattering flowers beneath her feet, they lead her to
their chief Sylvanus.  He, too, receives her kindly, and in the
wood she lives with these wild creatures until there she finds a
new knight named Satyrane, with whom she once more sets forth to
seek the Red Cross Knight.

Meanwhile Duessa had led the Red Cross Knight to the house of

    "A stately Palace built of squaréd brick,
    Which cunningly was without mortar laid,
    Whose walls were high, but nothing strong, nor thick,
    And golden foil all over them displayed,
    That purest sky with brightness they dismayed.
    High lifted up were many lofty towers
    And goodly galleries far overlaid,
    Full of fair windows, and delightful bowers,
    And on the top a dial told the timely hours.

    It was a goodly heap for to behold,
    And spake the praises of the workman's wit,
    But full great pity, that so fair a mould
    Did on so weak foundation ever sit;
    For on a sandy hill, that still did flit,
    And fall away, it mounted was full high,
    And every breath of heaven shakéd it;
    And all the hinder parts, that few could spy,
    Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly."

Here the Knight met Sansjoy, the third of the Saracen brothers,
and another fearful fight took place.

    "The Saracen was stout, and wondrous strong,
    And heapéd blows like iron hammers great:
    For after blood and vengeance he did long.
    The Knight was fierce, and full of youthly heat,
    And doubled strokes like dreaded thunder's threat,
    For all for praise and honour he did fight.
    Both striken strike, and beaten both do beat
    That from their shields forth flyeth fiery light,
    And helmets hewen deep, show marks of either's might."

At last a charmed cloud hid the Saracen from the Knight's sight.
So the fight ended, and the Knight, sorely wounded, was "laid in
sumptuous bed, where many skilful leeches him abide."

But as he lay there weak and ill the Dwarf came to warn him, for
he had spied

    "Where, in a dungeon deep, huge numbers lay
    Of caitiff wretched thralls, that wailéd night and day,
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    Whose case when as the careful Dwarf had told,
    And made ensample of their mournful sight
    Unto his master, he no longer would
    There dwell in peril of like painful plight,
    But early rose, and ere that dawning light
    Discovered had the world to heaven wide,
    He by a privy postern took his flight,
    That of no envious eyes he might be spied,
    For doubtless death ensued, if any him descried."

When the false Duessa discovered that the Red Cross Knight had
fled, she followed him and found him resting beside a fountain.
Not knowing that the water was enchanted, he drank of it, and at
once all his manly strength ebbed away, and he became faint and
feeble.  Then, when he was too weak to hold a sword or spear, he
saw a fearful sight:--

    "With sturdy steps came stalking in his sight,
    An hideous Giant horrible and high,
    That with his tallness seemed to threat the sky,
    The ground eke groanéd under him for dread;
    His living like saw never living eye,
    Nor durst behold; his stature did exceed
    The height of three the tallest sons of mortal seed."

Towards the Knight, so weak that he could scarcely hold his
sword, this Giant came stalking.  Weak as he was, the Knight made
ready to fight.  But
    "The Giant strake so mainly merciless,
    That could have overthrown a stony tower;
    And were not heavenly grace that did him bless,
    He had been powdered all as thin as flour."

As the Giant struck at him, the Knight leapt aside and the blow
fell harmless.  But so mighty was it that the wind of it threw
him to the ground, where he lay senseless.  And ere he woke out
of his swoon the Giant took him up, and

    "Him to his castle brought with hasty force
    And in a dungeon deep him threw without remorse."

Duessa then became the Giant's lady.  "He gave her gold and
purple pall to wear," and set a triple crown upon her head.  For
steed he gave her a fearsome dragon with fiery eyes and seven
heads, so that all who saw her went in dread and awe.

The Dwarf, seeing his master thus overthrown and made prisoner,
gathered his armor and set forth to tell his evil tidings and
find help.  He had not gone far before he met the Lady Una.  To
her he told his sad news, and she with grief in her heart turned
with him to find the dark dungeon in which her Knight lay.  On
her way she met another knight.  This was Prince Arthur.  And he,
learning of her sorrow, went with her promising aid.  Guided by
the Dwarf they reached the castle of the Giant, and here a
fearful fight took place in which Prince Arthur conquered
Duessa's Dragon and killed the Giant.  Then he entered the

    "Where living creature none he did espy.
    Then gan he loudly through the house to call;
    But no man cared to answer to his cry;
    There reigned a solemn silence over all,
    Nor voice was heard, nor wight was seen in bower or hall.

    At last, with creeping crooked pace forth came
    An old, old man with beard as white as snow;
    That on a staff his feeble steps did frame,
    And guide his weary gate both to and fro,
    For his eyesight him failéd long ago;
    And on his arm a bunch of keys he bore,
    The which unuséd rust did overgrow;
    Those were the keys of every inner door,
    But he could not them use, but kept them still in store."

And what was strange and terrible about this old man was that his
head was twisted upon his shoulders, so that although he walked
towards the knight his face looked backward.

Seeing his gray hairs and venerable look Prince Arthur asked him
gently where all the folk of the castle were.

"I cannot tell," answered the old man.  And to every question he
replied, "I cannot tell," until the knight, impatient of delay,
seized the keys from his arm.  Door after door the Prince Arthur
opened, seeing many strange, sad sights.  But nowhere could he
find the captive Knight.

    "At last he came unto an iron door,
    That fast was locked, but key found not at all,
    Amongst that bunch to open it withal."

But there was a little grating in the door through which Prince
Arthur called.  A hollow, dreary, murmuring voice replied.  It
was the voice of the Red Cross Knight, which, when the champion
heard, "with furious force and indignation fell" he rent that
iron door and entered in.

Once more the Red Cross Knight was free and reunited to his Lady,
while the false Duessa was unmasked and shown to be a bad old
witch, who fled away "to the wasteful wilderness apace."

But the Red Cross Knight was still so weak and feeble that
Despair almost persuaded him to kill himself.  Seeing this, Una
led him to the house of Holiness, where he stayed until once more
he was strong and well.  Here he learned that he was St. George.
"Thou," he is told,

    "Shalt be a saint, and thine own nation's friend
    And patron.  Thou St. George shalt calléd be,
    St. George of merry England, the sign of victory."

Once more strong of arm, full of new courage, the Knight set
forth with Una, and soon they reached her home, where the
dreadful Dragon raged.

Here the most fierce fight of all takes place.  Three days it is
renewed, and on the third day the Dragon is conquered.

    "So down he fell, and forth his life did breathe
    That vanished into smoke and clouds swift;
    So down he fell, that th' earth him underneath
    Did groan, as feeble so great load to lift;
    So down he fell, as an huge rocky clift
    Whose false foundation waves have washed away,
    With dreadful poise is from the mainland rift
    And rolling down, great Neptune doth dismay,
    So down he fell, and like an heapéd mountain lay."

Thus all ends happily.  The aged King and Queen are rescued from
the brazen tower in which the Dragon had imprisoned them, and Una
and the Knight are married.

That is the story of the first book of the Faery Queen.  In it
Spenser has made great use of the legend of St. George and the
Dragon.  The Red Cross of his Knight, "the dear remembrance of
his dying Lord," was in those days the flag of England, and is
still the Red Cross of our Union Jack.  And besides the allegory
the poem has something of history in it.  The great people of
Spenser's day play their parts there.  Thus Duessa, sad to say,
is meant to be the fair, unhappy Queen of Scots, the wicked
magician is the Pope, and so on.  But we need scarcely trouble
about all that.  I repeat that meantime it is enough for you to
enjoy the story and the poetry.


THERE are so many books now published which tell the stories of
the Faery Queen, and tell them well, that you may think I hardly
need have told one here.  But few of these books give the poet's
own words, and I have told the story here giving quotations from
the poem in the hope that you will read them and learn from them
to love Spenser's own words.  I hope that long after you have
forgotten my words you will remember Spenser's, that they will
remain in your mind as glowing word-pictures, and make you
anxious to read more of the poem from which they are taken.

Spenser has been called the poet's poet,* he might also be called
the painter's poet, for on every page almost we find a word-
picture, rich in color, rich in detail.  Each person as he comes
upon the scene is described for us so that we may see him with
our mind's eye.  The whole poem blazes with color, it glows and
gleams with the glamor of fairyland.  Spenser more than any other
poet has the old Celtic love of beauty, yet so far as we know
there was in him no drop of Celtic blood.  He loved neither the
Irishman nor Ireland.  To him his life there was an exile, yet
perhaps even in spite of himself he breathed in the land of
fairies and of "little people" something of their magic:  his
fingers, unwittingly perhaps, touched the golden and ivory gate
so that he entered in and saw.

*Charles Lamb.

That it is a fairyland and no real world which Spenser opens to
us is the great difference between Chaucer and him.  Chaucer
gives us real men and women who love and hate, who sin and
sorrow.  He is humorous, he is coarse, and he is real.  Spenser
has humor too, but we seldom see him smile.  There are, we may be
glad, few coarse lines in Spenser, but he is artificial.  He took
the tone of his time--the tone of pretense.  It was the fashion
to make-believe, yet, underneath all the make-believe, men were
still men, not wholly good nor wholly bad.  But underneath the
brilliant trappings of Spenser's knights and ladies, shepherds
and shepherdesses, there seldom beats a human heart.  He takes us
to dreamland, and when we lay down the book we wake up to real
life.  Beauty first and last is what holds us in Spenser's poems-
-beauty of description, beauty of thought, beauty of sound.  As
it has been said, "'A thing of beauty is a joy forever,' and that
is the secret of the enduring life of the Faery Queen."*

*Courthorpe, History of English Poetry.

Spenser invented for himself a new stanza of nine lines and made
it famous, so that we call it after him, the Spenserian Stanza.
It was like Chaucer's stanza of seven lines, called the Rhyme
Royal, with two lines more added.

Spenser admired Chaucer above all poets.  He called him "The Well
of English undefiled,"* and after many hundred years we still
feel the truth of the description.  He uses many of Chaucer's
words, which even then had grown old-fashioned and were little
used.  So much is this so that a glossary written by a friend of
Spenser, in which old words were explained, was published with
the Shepherd's Calendar.  But whether old or new, Spenser's power
of using words and of weaving them together was wonderful.

*Faery Queen, book VI, canto ii.

He weaves his wonderful words in such wonderful fashion that they
sound like what he describes.  Is there anything more drowsy than
his description of the abode of sleep:

    "And more, to lull him in his slumber soft,
    A trickling stream from high rock tumbling down,
    And ever drizzling rain upon the loft
    Mix'd with a murmuring wind, much like the sound
    Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swound,*
    No other noise nor peoples' troublous cries,
    As still are wont t' annoy the walled town,
    Might there be heard; but careless quiet lies
    Wrapt in eternal silence, far from enemies."


So all through the poem we are enchanted or lulled by the glamor
of words.

The Faery Queen made Spenser as a poet famous, but, as we know,
it did not bring him enough to live on in England.  It did not
bring him the fame he sought nor make him great among the
statesmen of the land.  Among the courtiers of Queen Elizabeth he
counted for little.  So he returned to Ireland a disappointed
man.  It was now he wrote Colin Clout's come home again, from
which I have already given you some quotations.  He published
also another book of poems and then he fell in love.  He forgot
his beautiful Rosalind, who had been so hard-hearted, and gave
his love to another lady who in her turn loved him, and to whom
he was happily married.  This lady, too, he made famous in his
verse.  As the fashion was, he wrote to her a series of sonnets,
in one of which we learn that her name was Elizabeth.  He writes
to the three Elizabeths, his mother, his Queen, and

    "The third, my love, my life's last ornament,
    By whom my spirit out of dust was raised."

But more famous still than the sonnets is the Epithalamion or
wedding hymn which he wrote in his lady's honor, and which ever
since has been looked on as the most glorious love-song in the
English language, so full is it of exultant, worshipful

It was now, too, that Spenser wrote Astrophel, a sadly beautiful
dirge for the death of his friend and fellow-poet, Sir Philip
Sidney.  He gave his verses as "fittest flowers to deck his
mournful hearse."

Just before his marriage Spenser finished three more books of the
Faery Queen, and the following year he took them to London to
publish them.  The three books were on Friendship, on Justice,
and on Courtesy.  They were received as joyfully as the first
three.  The poet remained for nearly a year in London still
writing busily.  Then he returned to Ireland.  There he passed a
few more years, and then came the end.

Ireland, which had always been unquiet, always restless, under
the oppressive hand of England, now broke out into wild
rebellion.  The maddened Irish had no love or respect for the
English poet.  Kilcolman Castle was sacked and burned, and
Spenser fled with his wife and children to Cork, homeless and
wellnigh ruined.  A little later Spenser himself went on to
London, hoping perhaps to better his fortunes, and there in a
Westminster inn, disappointed, ill, shattered in hopes and
health, he lay down to die.

As men count years, he was still young, for he was only forty-
seven.  He had dreamed that he had still time before him to make
life a success.  For as men counted success in those days,
Spenser was a failure.  He had failed to make a name among the
statesmen of the age.  He failed to make a fortune, he lived poor
and he died poor.  As a poet he was a sublime success.  He
dedicated the Faery Queen to Elizabeth "to live with the eternity
of her fame," and it is not too much to believe that even should
the deeds of Elizabeth be forgotten the fame of Spenser will
endure.  And the poets of Spenser's own day knew that in him they
had lost a master, and they mourned for him as such.  They buried
him in Westminster not far from Chaucer.  His bier was carried by
poets, who, as they stood beside his grave, threw into it poems
in which they told of his glory and their own grief.  And so they
left "The Prince of Poets in his tyme, whose divine spirit needs
no other witnesse than the workes which he left behind him."*

*The first epitaph engraved on Spenser's tomb.


Tales from Spenser (Told to Children Series).  Una and the Red
Cross Knight, by N. G. Royde Smith (has many quotations).  Tales
from the Faerie Queene, by C. L. Thomson (prose).  The Faerie
Queene (verse, sixteenth century spelling).  Faerie Queene, book
I, by Professor W. H. Hudson.  Complete Works (Globe Edition),
edited by R. Morris.  Britomart, edited by May E. Litchfield, is
the story of Britomart taken from scattered portions in books
III, IV, and V in original poetry, spelling modernized.


IN the beginnings of our literature there were two men who, we
might say, were the fountain-heads.  These were the gay minstrel
abroad in the world singing in hall and market-place, and the
patient monk at work in cell or cloister.  And as year by year
our literature grew, strengthened and broadened, we might say it
flowed on in two streams.  It flowed in two streams which were
ever joining, mingling, separating again, for the monk and the
minstrel spoke to man each in his own way.  The monk made his
appeal to the eye as with patient care he copied, painted and
made his manuscript beautiful with gold and colors.  The minstrel
made his appeal to the ear with music and with song.  Then after
a time the streams seemed to join, and the monk when he played
the miracle-plays seemed to be taking the minstrel's part.  Here
was an appeal to both the eye and ear.  Instead of illuminating
the silent parchment he made living pictures illustrate spoken
words.  Then followed a time when the streams once more divided
and church and stage parted.  The strolling players and the trade
guilds took the place both of the minstrel and of the monkish
actors, the monk went back once more to his quiet cell, and the
minstrel gradually disappeared.

So year after year went on.  By slow degrees times changed, and
our literature changed with the times.  But looking backward we
can see that the poet is the development of the minstrel, the
prose writer the development of the monkish chronicler and
copyist.  Prose at first was only used for grave matters, for
history, for religious works, for dry treatises which were hardly
literature, which were not meant for enjoyment but only for use
and for teaching.  But by degrees people began to use prose for
story-telling, for enjoyment.  More and more prose began to be
written for amusement until at last it has quite taken the place
of poetry.  Nowadays many people are not at all fond of poetry.
They are rather apt to think that a poetry book is but dull
reading, and they much prefer plain prose.  It may amuse those
who feel like that to remember that hundreds of years ago it was
just the other way round.  Then it was prose that was considered
dull--hence we have the word prosy.

All poetry was at first written to be sung, sung too perhaps with
some gesture, so that the hearers might the better understand the
story.  Then by degrees poets got further and further away from
that, until poets like Spenser wrote with no such idea.  But
while poets like Spenser wrote their stories to be read, another
class of poets was growing up who intended their poems to be
spoken and acted.  These were the dramatists.

So you see that the minstrel stream divided into two.  There was
now the poet who wrote his poems to be read in quiet and the poet
who wrote his, if not to be sung, at least to be spoken aloud.
But there had been, as we have seen, a time when the minstrel and
the monkish stream had touched, a time when the monk, using the
minstrel's art, had taught the people through ear and eye
together.  For the idea of the Miracle and Morality plays was,
you remember, to teach.  So, long after the monks had ceased to
act, those who wrote poems to be acted felt that they must teach
something.  Thus after the Miracle plays came the Moralities,
which sometimes were very long and dull.  They were followed by
Interludes which were much the same as Moralities but were
shorter, and as their name shows were meant to come in the middle
of something else, for the word comes from two Latin words,
"inter" between and "ludus" a play.  An Interlude may have been
first used, perhaps, as a kind of break in a long feast.

The Miracle plays had only been acted once a year, first by the
monks and later by the trade guilds.  But the taste for plays
grew, and soon bands of players strolled about the country acting
in towns and villages.  These strolling players often made a good
deal of money.  But though the people crowded willingly to see
and hear, the magistrates did not love these players, and they
were looked upon as little better than rogues and vagabonds.
Then it became the fashion for great lords to have their own
company of players, and they, when their masters did not need
them, also traveled about to the surrounding villages acting
wherever they went.  This taste for acting grew strong in the
people of England.  And if in the life of the Middle Ages there
was always room for story-telling, in the life of Tudor England
there was always room for acting and shows.

These shows were called by various names, Pageants, Masques,
Interludes, Mummings or Disguisings, and on every great or little
occasion there was sure to be something of the sort.  If the King
or Queen went on a journey he or she was entertained by pageants
on the way.  If a royal visitor came to the court of England
there were pageants in his honor.  A birthday, a christening, a
wedding or a victory would all be celebrated by pageants, and in
these plays people of all classes took part.  School-children
acted, University students acted, the learned lawyers or Inns of
Court acted, great lords and ladies acted, and even at times the
King and Queen themselves took part.  And although many of these
shows, especially the pageants, were merely shows, without any
words, many, on the other hand, had words.  Thus with so much
acting and love of acting it was not wonderful that a crowd of
dramatists sprang up.

Then, too, plays began to be divided into tragedies and comedies.
A tragedy is a play which shows the sad side of life and which
has a mournful ending.  The word really means a goat-song, and
comes from two Greek words, "tragos" a goat and "ode" a song.  It
was so called either because the oldest tragedies were acted
while a goat was sacrificed, or because the actors themselves
wore clothes made of goat-skins.  A comedy is a play which shows
the merry side of life and has a happy ending.  This word too
comes from two Greek words, "komos," a revel, and "ode," a song.
The Greek word for village is also "komo," so a comedy may at
first have meant a village revel or a merry-making.  "Tragedy,"
it has been said, "is poetry in its deepest earnest; comedy is
poetry in unlimited jest."*  But the old Moralities were neither
the one nor the other, neither tragedy nor comedy.  They did not
touch life keenly enough to awaken horror or pain.  They were
often sad, but not with that sadness which we have come to call
tragic, they were often indeed merely dull, and although there
was always a funny character to make laughter, it was by no means
unlimited jest.  The Interludes came next, after the Moralities,
with a little more human interest and a little more fun, and from
them it was easy to pass to real comedies.


A play named Ralph Roister Doister is generally looked upon as
the first real English comedy.  It was written by Nicholas Udall,
headmaster first of Eton and then of Westminster, for the boys of
one or other school.  It was probably for those of Westminster
that it was written, and may have been acted about 1552.
The hero, if one may call him so, who gives his name to the play,
is a vain, silly swaggerer.  He thinks every woman who sees him
is in love with him.  So he makes up his mind to marry a rich and
beautiful widow named Christian Custance.

Not being a very good scholar, Ralph gets some one else to write
a love-letter for him, but when he copies it he puts all the
stops in the wrong places, which makes the sense quite different
from what he had intended, and instead of being full of pretty
things the letter is full of insults.

Dame Custance will have nothing to say to such a stupid lover, "I
will not be served with a fool in no wise.  When I choose a
husband I hope to take a man," she says.  In revenge for her
scorn Ralph Roister Doister threatens to burn the dame's house
down, and sets off to attack it with his servants.  The widow,
however, meets him with her handmaidens.  There is a free fight
(which, no doubt, the schoolboy actors enjoyed), but the widow
gets the best of it, and Ralph is driven off.

Our first real tragedy was not written until ten years after our
first comedy.  This first tragedy was written by Thomas Norton
and Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset.  It was acted by the
gentlemen of the Inner Temple "before the Queen's most excellent
Majestie in her highness' Court of Whitehall the 18th day of
January, 1561."

Chaucer tells us that a tragedy is a story

    "Of him that stood in great prosperitie,
    And is yfallen out of high degree
    Into miserie, and endeth wretchedly."*

    *Prologue to the "Monk's Tale," Canterbury Tales.

So our early tragedies were all taken from sad stories in the old
Chronicle histories.  And this first tragedy, written by Norton
and Sackville, is called Gorboduc, and is founded upon the legend
of Gorboduc, King of Britain.  The story is told, though not
quite in the same way, by Geoffrey of Monmouth, our old friend,
by Matthew of Westminster, and by others of the old chroniclers.
For in writing a poem or play it is not necessary to keep
strictly to history.  As Sir Philip Sidney, Spenser's friend,
says:  "Do they not know that a tragedy is tied to the laws of
Poesie and not of History, not bound to follow the story, but,
having liberty, either to fain a quite new matter, or to frame
the history to the most tragical convenience?"*

*Sidney, Apologie for Poetrie.

The story goes that Gorboduc, King of Britain, divided his realm
during his lifetime between his sons Ferrex and Porrex.  But the
brothers quarreled, and the younger killed the elder.  The
mother, who loved her eldest son most, then killed the younger in
revenge.  Next the people, angry at such cruelty, rose in
rebellion and killed both father and mother.  The nobles then
gathered and defeated the rebels.  And lastly, for want of an
heir to the throne, "they fell to civil war," and the land for a
long time was desolate and miserable.

In the play none of these fearful murders happen on the stage.
They are only reported by messengers.  There is also a chorus of
old sage men of Britain who, at the end of each act, chant of
what has happened.  When you come to read Greek plays you will
see that this is more like Greek than English tragedy, and it
thus shows the influence of the New Learning upon our literature.
But, on the other hand, in a Greek drama there was never more
than one scene, and all the action was supposed to take place on
one day.  This was called preserving the unities of time and
place, and no Greek drama which did not observe them would have
been thought good.  In Gorboduc there are several scenes, and the
action, although we are not told how long, must last over several
months at least.  So that although Gorboduc owed something to the
New Learning, which had made men study Greek, it owed as much to
the old English Miracle plays.  Later on when you come to read
more about the history of our drama you will learn a great deal
about what we owe to the Greeks, but here I will not trouble you
with it.

You remember that in the Morality plays there was no scenery.
And still, although in the new plays which were now being written
the scene was supposed to change from place to place, there was
no attempt to make the stage look like these places.  The stage
was merely a plain platform, and when the scene changed a board
was hung up with "This is a Palace" or "This is a Street" and the
imagination of the audience had to do the rest.

That some people felt the absurdity of this we learn from a book
by Sir Philip Sidney.  In it he says, "You shall have Asia of the
one side, and Affrick of the other, and so many other under
kingdoms, that the Player, when he cometh in, must ever begin
with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived.
Now you shall have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then
we must believe the stage to be a garden.  By and by, we hear
news of shipwreck in the same place, and then we are to blame if
we accept it not for a Rock.  Upon the back of that, comes out a
hideous Monster, with fire and smoke, and then the miserable
beholders are bound to take it for a cave.  While in the meantime
two Armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and
then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field!"*

*An Apologie for Poetrie, published 1595.

If the actors of the Elizabethan time had no scenery they made up
for the lack of it by splendid and gorgeous dressing.  But it was
the dressing of the day.  The play might be supposed to take
place in Greece or Rome or Ancient Britain, it mattered not.  The
actors dressed after the fashion of their own day.  And neither
actors nor audience saw anything funny in it.  To them it was not
funny that an ancient British king should wear doublet and hose,
nor that his soldiers should discharge firearms in a scene
supposed to take place hundreds of years before gunpowder had
been invented.  But we must remember that in those days dress
meant much more than it does now.  Dress helped to tell the
story.  Men then might not dress according to their likes and
dislikes, they were obliged to dress according to their rank.
Therefore it helped the Elizabethan onlooker to understand the
play when he saw a king, a courtier, or a butcher come on to the
stage dressed as he knew a king, a courtier, or a butcher
dressed.  Had he seen a man of the sixth century dressed as a man
of the sixth century he would not have known to what class he
belonged and would not have understood the play nearly so well.

But besides having no scenery, the people of England had at first
no theaters.  Plays were acted in halls, in the dining-halls of
the great or in the guild halls belonging to the various trades.
It was not until 1575 that the first theater was built in London.
This first theater was so successful that soon another was built
and still another, until in or near London there were no fewer
than twelve.  But these theaters were very unlike the theaters we
know now.  They were really more like the places where people
went to see cock-fights and bear-baiting.  They were round, and
except over the stage there was no roof.  The rich onlookers who
could afford to pay well sat in "boxes" on the stage itself, and
the other onlookers sat or stood in the uncovered parts.  Part of
a theater is still called the pit, which helps to remind us that
the first theaters may have served as "cock-pits" or "bear-pits"
too as well as theaters.  For a long time, too, the theater was a
man's amusement just as bear-baiting or cock-fighting had been.
There were no actresses, the women's parts were taken by boys,
and at first ladies when they came to look on wore masks so that
they might not be known, as they were rather ashamed of being
seen at a theater.

And now that the love of plays and shows had grown so great that
it had been found worth while to build special places in which to
act, you may be sure that there was no lack of play-writers.
There were indeed many of whom I should like to tell you, but in
this book there is no room to tell of all.  To show you how many
dramatists arose in this great acting age I will give you a list
of the greatest, all of whom were born between 1552 and 1585.
After Nicholas Udall and Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, the
writers of our first comedy and first tragedy, there came:--

    George Peel.                Francis Beaumont.
    John Lyly.                  John Fletcher.
    Thomas Kyd.                 John Webster.
    Robert Greene.              Philip Massinger.
    Christopher Marlowe.        John Ford.
    William Shakespeare.        Thomas Heywood.
    Ben Jonson.

It would be impossible to tell you of all these, so I shall
choose only two, and first I shall tell you of the greatest of
them--Shakespeare.  He shines out from among the others like a
bright star in a clear sky.  He is, however, not a lonely star,
for all around him cluster others.  They are bright, too, and if
he were not there we might think some of them even very bright,
yet he outshines them all.  He forces our eyes to turn to him,
and not only our eyes but the eyes of the whole world.  For all
over the world, wherever poetry is read and plays are played, the
name of William Shakespeare is known and reverenced.


ONE April morning nearly three hundred and fifty years ago there
was a stir and bustle in a goodly house in the little country
town of Stratford-on-Avon.  The neighbors went in and out with
nods and smiles and mysterious whisperings.  Then there was a
sound of clinking of glasses and of laughter, for it became known
that to John and Mary Shakespeare a son had been born, and
presently there was brought to be shown to the company "The
infant mewling and puking in the nurse's arms."  It was a great
event for the father and mother, something of an event for
Stratford-on-Avon, for John Shakespeare was a man of importance.
He was a well-to-do merchant, an alderman of the little town.  He
seems to have done business in several ways, for we are told that
he was a glover, a butcher, and a corn and wool dealer.  No doubt
he grew his own corn, and reared and killed his own sheep, making
gloves from the skins, and selling the wool and flesh.  His wife,
too, came of a good yeoman family who farmed their own land, and
no doubt John Shakespeare did business with his kinsfolk in both
corn and sheep.  And although he could perhaps not read, and
could not write even his own name, he was a lucky business man
and prosperous.  So he was well considered by his neighbors and
had a comfortable house in Henley Street, built of rough
plastered stone and dark strong wood work.

And now this April morning John Shakespeare's heart was glad.
Already he had had two children, two little girls, but they had
both died.  Now he had a son who would surely live to grow strong
and great, to be a comfort in his old age and carry on his
business when he could no longer work.  It was a great day for
John Shakespeare.  How little he knew that it was a great day for
all the world and for all time.

Three days after he was born the tiny baby was christened.  And
the name his father and mother gave him was William.  After this
three months passed happily.  Then one of the fearful plagues
which used to sweep over the land, when people lived in dark and
dirty houses in dark and dirty streets, attacked Stratford-on-
Avon.  Jolly John Shakespeare and Mary, his wife, must have been
anxious of heart, fearful lest the plague should visit their
home.  John did what he could to stay it.  He helped the stricken
people with money and goods, and presently the plague passed
away, and the life of the dearly loved little son was safe.

Years passed on, and the house in Henley Street grew ever more
noisy with chattering tongues and pattering feet, until little
Will had two sisters and two brothers to keep him company.

Then, although his father and mother could neither of them write
themselves, they decided that their children should be taught, so
William was sent to the Grammar School.  He was, I think, fonder
of the blue sky and the slow-flowing river and the deep dark
woods that grew about his home that of the low-roofed schoolroom.
He went perhaps

        "A whining schoolboy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school."

But we do not know.  And whether he liked school or not, at least
we know that later, when he came to write plays, he made fun of
schoolmasters.  He knew "little Latin and less Greek,"* said a
friend in after life, but then that friend was very learned and
might think "little" that which we might take for "a good deal."
Indeed, another old writer says "he understood Latin pretty

*Ben Jonson.
**John Aubrey.

We know little either of Shakespeare's school hours or play
hours, but once or twice at least he may have seen a play or
pageant.  His father went on prospering and was made chief
bailiff of the town, and while in that office he entertained
twice at least troups of strolling players, the Queen's Company
and the Earl of Worcester's Company.  It is very likely that
little Will was taken to see the plays they acted.  Then when he
was eleven years old there was great excitement in the country
town, for Queen Elizabeth came to visit the great Earl of
Leicester at his castle of Kenilworth, not sixteen miles away.
There were great doings then, and the Queen was received with all
the magnificence and pomp that money could procure and
imagination invent.  Some of these grand shows Shakespeare must
have seen.

Long afterwards he remembered perhaps how one evening he had
stood among the crowd tiptoeing and eager to catch a glimpse of
the great Queen as she sat enthroned on a golden chair.  Her red-
gold hair gleamed and glittered with jewels under the flickering
torchlight.  Around her stood a crowd of nobles and ladies only
less brilliant that she.  Then, as William gazed and gazed, his
eyes aching with the dazzling lights, there was a movement in the
surging crowd, a murmur of "ohs" and "ahs."  And, turning, the
boy saw another lady, another Queen, appear from out the dark
shadow of the trees.  Stately and slowly she moved across the
grass.  Then following her came a winged boy with golden bow and
arrows.  This was the god of Love, who roamed the world shooting
his love arrows at the hearts of men and women, making them love
each other.  He aimed, he shot, the arrow flew, but the god
missed his aim and the lady passed on, beautiful, cold, free, as
before.  Love could not touch her, he followed her but in vain.

It was with such pageants, such allegories, that her people
flattered Queen Elizabeth, for many men laid their hearts at her
feet, but she in return never gave her own.  She was the woman
above all others to be loved, to be worshiped, but herself
remained in "maiden meditation fancy-free."  The memory of those
brilliant days stayed with the poet-child.  They were sun-gilt,
as childish memories are, and in after years he wrote:

    "That very time I saw (but thou couldst not)
    Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
    Cupid all arm'd.  A certain aim he took
    At a fair vestal, throned by the West,
    And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
    As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
    But I might see young cupid's fiery shaft
    Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
    And the imperial votaress passed on,
    In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
    Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
    It fell upon a little western flower;
    Before, milk-white; now, purple with love's wound,
    And maidens call it love-in-idleness."*

    *Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II Scene i.

Some time after John Shakespeare became chief bailiff his
fortunes turned.  From being rich he became poor.  Bit by bit he
was obliged to sell his own and his wife's property.  So little
Will was taken away from school at the age of thirteen, and set
to earn his own living as a butcher--his father's trade, we are
told.  But if he ever was a butcher he was, nevertheless, an
actor and a poet, "and when he killed a calf he would do it in a
high style and make a speech."*  How Shakespeare fared in this
new work we do not know, but we may fancy him when work was done
wandering along the pretty country lanes or losing himself in the
forest of Arden, which lay not far from his home, "the poet's eye
in a fine frenzy rolling," and singing to himself:

    "Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,
        And merrily hent the stile-a;
    A merry heart goes all the day,
        Your sad tires in a mile-a."*

    *Winter's Tale, Act IV Scene ii.

*John Aubrey.

He knew the lore of fields and woods, of trees and flowers, and
birds and beasts.  He sang of

    "The ousel-cock so black of hue,
        With orange-tawny bill,
    The throstle with his note so true,
        The wren with little quill.
    The finch, the sparrow, and the lark,
        The plain-song cuckoo gray,
    Whose note full many a man doth mark,
        And dares not answer nay."*

    *Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III Scene i.

He remembered, perhaps, in after years his rambles by the slow-
flowing Avon, when he wrote:

    "He makes sweet music with th' enamell'd stones,
    Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge
    He overtaketh in his pilgrimage;
    And so by many winding nooks he strays,
    With willing sport, to the wide ocean."*

    *Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II Scene vii.

He knew the times of the flowers.  In spring he marked

            "the daffodils,
    That come before the swallow dares, and take
    The winds of March with beauty."*

    *Winter's Tale.

Of summer flowers he tells us

    "Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
    The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun,
    And with him rises weeping; these are flowers
    Of middle summer."*

    *Winter's Tale.

He knew that "a lapwing runs close by the ground," that choughs
are "russet-pated."  He knew all the beauty that is to be found
throughout the country year.

Sometimes in his country wanderings Shakespeare got into mischief
too.  He had a daring spirit, and on quiet dark nights he could
creep silently about the woods snaring rabbits or hunting deer.
But we are told "he was given to all unluckiness in stealing
venison and rabbits."*  He was often caught, sometimes got a good
beating, and sometimes was sent to prison.

*Archdeacon Davies.

So the years passed on, and we know little of what happened in
them.  Some people like to think that Shakespeare was a
schoolmaster for a time, others that he was a clerk in a lawyer's
office.  He may have been one or other, but we do not know.  What
we do know is that when he was eighteen he took a great step.  He
married.  We can imagine him making love-songs then.  Perhaps he

    "O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
    O, stay and hear; your true-love's coming,
        That can sing both high and low:
    Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
    Journeys end in lovers' meeting;
        Every wise man's son doth know.

    What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
    Present mirth hath present laughter;
        What's to come is still unsure:
    In delay there lies no plenty;
    Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty,
        Youth's a stuff will not endure."*

    *Twelfth Night.

The lady whom Shakespeare married was named Anne Hathaway.  She
came of farmer folk like Shakespeare's own mother.  She was eight
years older than her boyish lover, but beyond that we know little
of Anne Hathaway, for Shakespeare never anywhere mentions his
A little while after their marriage a daughter was born to Anne
and William Shakespeare.  Nearly two years later a little boy and
girl came to them.  The boy died when he was about eleven, and
only the two little girls, Judith and Susanna, lived to grow up.

In spite of the fact that Shakespeare had now a wife and children
to look after, he had not settled down.  He was still wild, and
being caught once more in stealing game he left Stratford and
went to London.


WHEN Shakespeare first went to London he had a hard life.  He
found no better work to do than that of holding horses outside
the theater doors.  In those days the plays took place in the
afternoon, and as many of the fine folk who came to watch them
rode on horseback, some one was needed to look after the horses
until the play was over.  But poor though this work was,
Shakespeare seems to have done it well, and he became such a
favorite that he had several boys under him who were long known
as "Shakespeare's boys."  Their master, however, soon left work
outside the theater for work inside.  And now began the busiest
years of his life, for he both acted and wrote.  At first it may
be he only altered and improved the plays of others.  But soon he
began to write plays that were all his own.  Yet Shakespeare,
like Chaucer, never invented any of his own stories.  There is
only one play of his, called Love's Labor's Lost, the story of
which is not to be found in some earlier book.  That, too, may
have been founded on another story which is now lost.

When you come to know Shakespeare's plays well you will find it
very interesting to follow his stories to their sources.  That of
King Lear, which is one of Shakespeare's great romantic
historical plays, is, for instance, to be found in Geoffrey of
Monmouth, in Wace's Brut, and in Layamon's Brut.  But it was from
none of these that Shakespeare took the story, but from the
chronicle of a man named Holinshed who lived and wrote in the
time of Queen Elizabeth, he in his turn having taken it from some
one of the earlier sources.

For, after all, in spite of the thousands of books that have been
written since the world began, there are only a certain number of
stories which great writers have told again and again in varying
ways.  One instance of this we saw when in the beginning of this
book we followed the story of Arthur.

But although Shakespeare borrowed his plots from others, when he
had borrowed them he made them all his own.  He made his people
so vivid and so true that he makes us forget that they are not
real people.  We can hardly realize that they never lived, that
they never walked and talked, and cried and laughed, loved and
hated, in this world just as we do.  And this is so because the
stage to him is life and life a stage.  "All the world's a
stage," he says,

    "And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances:
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages."*

    *As You Like It.

And again he tells us:

    "Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more."*


It is from Shakespeare's works that we get the clearest picture
of Elizabethan times.  And yet, although we learn from him so
much of what people did in those days, of how they talked and
even of how they thought, the chief thing that we feel about
Shakespeare's characters is, not that they are Elizabethan, but
that they are human, that they are like ourselves, that they
think, and say, and do, things which we ourselves might think,
and say, and do.

There are many books we read which we think of as very pretty,
very quaint, very interesting--but old-fashioned.  But
Shakespeare can never be old-fashioned, because, although he is
the outcome of his own times, and gives us all the flavor of his
own times, he gives us much more.  He understood human nature, he
saw beneath the outward dress, and painted for us real men and
women.  And although fashion in dress and modes of living may
change, human nature does not change.  "He was not of an age but
for all time," it was said of him about seven years after his
death, and now that nearly three hundred years have come and gone
we still acknowledge the truth of those words.

Shakespeare's men and women speak and act and feel in the main as
we might now.  Many of his people we feel are our brothers and
sisters.  And to this human interest he adds something more, for
he leads us too through "unpathed waters" to "the undreamed
shores" of fairyland.

Shakespeare's writing time was short.  Before he left Stratford
he wrote nothing unless it may have been a few scoffing verses
against the Justice of the Peace who punished him for poaching.
But these, if they were ever written, are lost.  In the last few
years of his life he wrote little or nothing.  Thus the number of
his writing years was not more than twenty to twenty-five, but in
that time he wrote thirty-seven plays, two long poems, and a
hundred and fifty-six sonnets.  At one time he must have written
two plays every year.  And when you come to know these plays well
you will wonder at the greatness of the task.

Shakespeare writes his plays sometimes in rime, sometimes in
blank verse, sometimes in prose, at times using all these in one
play.  In this he showed how free he was from rules.  For, until
he wrote, plays had been written in rime or blank verse only.

For the sake of convenience Shakespeare's plays have been divided
into histories, tragedies and comedies.  But it is not always
easy to draw the line and decide to which class a play belongs.
They are like life.  Life is not all laughter, nor is it all
tears.  Neither are Shakespeare's comedies all laughter, and some
of his tragedies would seem at times to be too deep for tears,
full only of fierce, dark sorrow--and yet there is laughter in
them too.

Besides being divided into histories, tragedies and comedies they
have been divided in another way, into three periods of time.
The first was when Shakespeare was trying his hand, when he was
brimming over with the joy of the new full life of London.  The
second was when some dark sorrow lay over his life, we know not
what, when the pain and mystery and the irony of living seems to
strike him hard.  Then he wrote his great tragedies.  The third
was when he had gained peace again, when life seemed to flow
calmly and smoothly, and this period lasted until the end.

We know very little of Shakespeare's life in London.  As an actor
he never made a great name, never acted the chief character in a
play.  But he acted sometimes in his own plays and took the part,
we are told, of a ghost in one, and of a servant in another,
neither of them great parts.  He acted, too, in plays written by
other people.  But it was as a writer that he made a name, and
that so quickly that others grew jealous of him.  One called him
"an upstart Crow, beautified in our feathers . . . in his own
conceit the only Shake-scene in the country."*  But for the most
part Shakespeare made friends even of rival authors, and many of
them loved him well.  He was good-tempered, merry, witty, and
kindly, a most lovable man.  "He was a handsome, well-shaped man,
very good company, and a very ready and pleasant smooth wit,"**
said one.  "I loved the man and do honor to his memory, on this
side of idolatry as much as any.  He was indeed honest and of an
open and free nature,"*** said another.  Others still called him
a good fellow, gentle Shakespeare, sweet Master Shakespeare.  I
should like to think, too, that Spenser called him "our pleasant
Willy." But wise folk tell us that these words were not spoken of
Shakespeare but of some one else whose name was not William at

*Robert Greene, A groatsworth of Wit bought with a million of
**John Aubrey.
***Ben Jonson.

And so although outside his work we get only glimpses of the man,
these glimpses taken together with his writings show us Will
Shakespeare as a big-hearted man, a man who understood all and
forgave all.  He understood the little joys and sorrows that make
up life.  He understood the struggle to be good, and would not
scorn people too greatly when they were bad.  "Children, we feel
sure," says one of the latest writers about him, "did not stop
their talk when he came near them, but continued in the happy
assurance that it was only Master Shakespeare."*  And so if
children find his plays hard to read yet a while they may at
least learn to know his stories and learn to love his name--it is
only Master Shakespeare.  But they must remember that learning to
know Shakespeare's stories through the words of other people is
only half a joy.  The full joy of Shakespeare can only come when
we are able to read his plays in his very own words.  But that
will come all the more easily and quickly to us if we first know
his stories well.

*Prof. Raleigh.

There are parts in some of Shakespeare's plays that many people
find coarse.  But Shakespeare is not really coarse.  We remember
the vision sent to St. Peter which taught him that there was
nothing common or unclean.  Shakespeare had seen that vision.  In
life there is nothing common or unclean, if we only look at it in
the right way.  And Shakespeare speaks of everything that touches
life most nearly.  He uses words that we do not use now; he
speaks of things we do not speak of now; but it was the fashion
of his day to be more open and plain spoken than we are.  And if
we remember that, there is very little in Shakespeare that need
hurt us even if there is a great deal which we cannot understand.
And when you come to read some of the writers of Shakespeare's
age and see that in them the laughter is often brutal, the horror
of tragedy often coarse and crude, you will wonder more than ever
how Shakespeare made his laughter so sweet and sunny, and how,
instead of revolting us, he touches our hearts with his horror
and pain.

About eleven years passed after Shakespeare left Stratford before
he returned there again.  But once having returned, he often paid
visits to his old home.  And he came now no more as a poor wild
lad given to poaching.  He came as a man of wealth and fame.  He
bought the best house in Stratford, called New Place, as well as
a good deal of land.  So before John Shakespeare died he saw his
family once more important in the town.

Then as the years went on Shakespeare gave up all connection with
London and the theater and settled down to a quiet country life.
He planted trees, managed his estate, and showed that though he
was the world's master-poet he was a good business man too.
Everything prospered with him, his two daughters married well,
and comfortably, and when not more than forty-three he held his
first grandchild in his arms.  It may be he looked forward to
many happy peaceful years when death took him.  He died of fever,
brought on, no doubt, by the evil smells and bad air by which
people lived surrounded in those days before they had learned to
be clean in house and street.

Shakespeare was only fifty-two when he died.  It was in the
springtime of 1616 that he died, breathing his last upon

    "The uncertain glory of an April day
    Which now shows all the beauty of the sun
    And by and by a cloud takes all away."*

    *Two Gentlemen of Verona.

He was buried in Stratford Parish Church, and on his grave was
placed a bust of the poet.  That bust and an engraving in the
beginning of the first great edition of his works are the only
two real portraits of Shakespeare.  Both were done after his
death, and yet perhaps there is no face more well known to us
than that of the greatest of all poets.

Beneath the bust are written these lines:

    "Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
    Read, if thou-canst, whom envious Death hath plast
    Within this monument; Shakespeare with whome
    Quick nature dide:  whose name doth deck ys tombe,
    Far more than cost, sith all yt he hath writt,
    Leaves living art but page to serve his witt."

Upon a slab over the grave is carved:

    "Good frend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare;
    Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
    And curst be he yt moves my bones."

And so our greatest poet lies not beneath the great arch of
Westminster but in the quiet church of the little country town in
which he was born.


IN this chapter I am going to tell you in a few words the story
of one of Shakespeare's plays called The Merchant of Venice.  It
is founded on an Italian story, one of a collection made by Ser
Giovanni Fiorentino.

The merchant of Venice was a rich young man called Antonio.  When
the story opens he had ventured all his money in trading
expeditions to the East and other lands.  In two months' time he
expects the return of his ships and hopes then to make a great
deal of money.  But meantime he has none to spare, and when his
great friend Bassanio comes to borrow of him he cannot give him

Bassanio's need is urgent, for he loves the beautiful lady Portia
and desires to marry her.  This lady was so lovely and so rich
that her fame had spread over all the world till "the four winds
blow in from every coast renowned suitors."  Bassanio would be
among these suitors, but alas he has no money, not even enough to
pay for the journey to Belmont where the lovely lady lived.  Yet
if he wait two months until Antonio's ships return it may be too
late, and Portia may be married to another.  So to supply his
friend's need Antonio decides to borrow the money, and soon a Jew
named Shylock is found who is willing to lend it.  For Shylock
was a money-lender.  He lent money to people who had need of it
and charged them interest.  That is, besides having to pay back
the full sum they had borrowed they had also to pay some extra
money in return for the loan.

In those days Jews were ill-treated and despised, and there was
great hatred between them and Christians.  And Shylock especially
hated Antonio, because not only did he rail against Jews and
insult them, but he also lent money without demanding interest,
thereby spoiling Shylock's trade.  So now the Jew lays a trap for
Antonio, hoping to catch him and be revenged upon his enemy.  He
will lend the money, he says, and he will charge no interest, but
if the loan be not repaid in three months Antonio must pay as
forfeit a pound of his own flesh, which Shylock may cut from any
part of his body that he chooses.

To this strange bargain Antonio consents.  It is but a jest, he

    "Content in faith, I'll seal to such a bond,
    And say, there is much kindness in the Jew."

But Bassanio is uneasy.  "I like not fair terms," he says, "and a
villain mind.  You shall not seal to such a bond for me."  But
Antonio insists and the bond is sealed.

All being settled, Bassanio receives the money, and before he
sets off to woo his lady he gives a supper to all his friends, to
which he also invites Shylock.  Shylock goes to this supper
although to his daughter Jessica he says,

            "But wherefore should I go?
    I am not bid for love; they flatter me:
    But yet I'll go in hate, to feed upon
    The prodigal Christian."

But Jessica does not join her father in his hatred of all
Christians.  She indeed has given her heart to one of the hated
race, and well knowing that her father will never allow her to
marry him, she, that night while he is at supper with Bassanio,
dresses herself in boy's clothes and steals away, taking with her
a great quantity of jewels and money.

When Shylock discovers his loss he is mad with grief and rage.
He runs about the streets crying for justice.

    "Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!
    A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats,
    Of double ducats stol'n from me by my daughter!"

And all the wild boys in Venice follow after him mocking him and
crying, "His stones, his daughter and his ducats!"

So finding nowhere love or sympathy but everywhere only mockery
and cruel laughter, Shylock vows vengeance.  The world has
treated him ill, and he will repay the world with ill, and
chiefly against Antonio does his anger grow bitter.

Then Antonio's friends shake their heads and say, "Let him beware
the hatred of the Jew."  They look gravely at each other, for it
is whispered abroad that "Antonio hath a ship of rich lading
wreck'd on the narrow seas."

Then let Antonio beware.

"Thou wilt not take his flesh," says one of the young merchant's
friends to Shylock.  "What's that good for?"

"To bait fish withal," snarls the Jew.  "If it will feed nothing
else it will feed my revenge.  He hath disgraced me, and hindered
me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains,
scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends,
heated mine enemies; and what's his reason?  I am a Jew.  Hath
not a Jew eyes?  Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions?  Fed with the same food, hurt with
the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the
same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a
Christian is?  If you prick us, do we not bleed?  If you tickle
us, do we not laugh?  If you poison us, do we not die?  If you
wrong us, shall we not revenge?  If we are like you in the rest,
we will resemble you in that.  If a Jew wrong a Christian, what
is his humility?  Revenge.  If a Christian wrong a Jew, what
should his sufferance be by Christian example?  Why, revenge.
The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard
but I will better the instruction."

Then let Antonio beware.

Meantime in Belmont many lovers come to woo fair Portia.  With
high hope they come, with anger and disappointment they go away.
None can win the lady's hand.  For there is a riddle here of
which none know the meaning.

When a suitor presents himself and asks for the lady's hand in
marriage, he is shown three caskets, one of gold, one of silver,
and one of lead.  Upon the golden one is written the words, "Who
chooseth me, shall gain what many men desire"; upon the silver
casket are the words, "Who chooseth me, shall get as much as he
deserves"; and upon the leaden one, "Who chooseth me, must give
and hazard all he hath."  And only whoso chooseth aright, each
suitor is told, can win the lady.

This trial of all suitors had been ordered by Portia's father ere
he died, so that only a worthy and true man might win his
daughter.  Some suitors choose the gold, some the silver casket,
but all, princes, barons, counts, and dukes, alike choose wrong.

At length Bassanio comes.  Already he loves Portia and she loves
him.  There is no need of any trail of the caskets.  Yet it must
be.  Her father's will must be obeyed.  But what if he choose
wrong.  That is Portia's fear.

    "I pray you, tarry; pause a day or two
    Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong,
    I lose your company,"

she says.

But Bassanio cannot wait:--

            "Let me choose;
    For, as I am, I live upon the rack."

And so he stands before the caskets, longing to make a choice,
yet fearful.  The gold he rejects, the silver too, and lays his
hand upon the leaden casket.  He opens it.  Oh, joy! within is a
portrait of his lady.  He has chosen aright.  yet he can scarce
believe his happiness.

"I am," he says,

    "Like one of two contending in a prize,
    That thinks he hath done well in people's eyes,
    Hearing applause, and universal shout,
    Giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt
    Whether those pearls of praise be his or no;
    So, thrice fair lady, stand I, even so;
    As doubtful whether what I see be true,
    Until confirm'd, sign'd, ratifi'd by you."

And Portia, happy, triumphant, humble, no longer the great lady
with untold wealth, with lands and palaces and radiant beauty,
but merely a woman who has given her love, answers:--

    "You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand,
    Such as I am:  though, for myself alone,
    I would not be ambitious in my wish,
    To wish myself much better; yet, for you,
    I would be trebled twenty times myself;
    A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times
    More rich;
    That only to stand high on your account,
    I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends,
    Exceed account:  but the full sum of me
    Is sum of something:  which, to term in gross,
    Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractis'd,
    Happy in this, she is not yet so old
    But she may learn; happier than this,
    She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
    Happiest of all, is, that her gentle spirit
    Commite itself to yours to be directed,
    As from her lord, her governor, her king.
    Myself, and what is mine, to you, and yours
    Is now converted; but now I was the lord
    Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
    Queen o'er myself; and even now, but now,
    This house, these servants, and this same myself,
    Are yours, my lord."

Then as a pledge of all her love Portia gives to Bassanio a ring,
and bids him never part from it so long as he shall live.  And
Bassanio taking it, gladly swears to keep it forever.

                "But when this ring
    Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence;
    O, then be bold to say, Bassanio's dead."

And then as if to make the joy complete, it is discovered that
Portia's lady in waiting, Nerissa, and Bassanio's friend,
Gratiano, also love each other, and they all agree to be married
on the same day.

In the midst of this happiness the runaway couple, Lorenzo and
Jessica, arrive from Venice with another of Antonio's friends who
brings a letter to Bassanio.  As Bassanio reads the letter all
the gladness fades from his face.  He grows pale and trembles.
Anxiously Portia asks what troubles him.

            "I am half yourself,
    And I must freely have the half of anything
    That this same paper brings you."

And Bassanio answers:--

                "O sweet Portia,
    Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
    That ever blotted paper!  Gentle lady,
    When I did first impart my love to you,
    I freely told you, all the wealth I had
    Ran in my veins, I was a gentleman;
    And then I told you true:  and yet, dear lady,
    Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
    How much I was a braggart:  when I told you
    My state was nothing, I should then have told you
    That I was worse than nothing."

He is worse than nothing, for he is in debt to his friend, and
that friend for him is now in danger of his life.  For the three
months allowed by Shylock for the payment of the debt are over,
and as not one of Antonio's ships has returned, he cannot pay the
money.  Many friends have offered to pay for him, but Shylock
will have none of their gold.  He does not want it.  What he
wants is revenge.  He wants Antonio's life, and well he knows if
a pound of flesh be cut from this poor merchant's breast he must

And all for three thousand ducats!  "Oh," cries Portia when she
hears, "what a paltry sum!  Pay the Jew ten times the money and
tear up the bond, rather than that Antonio shall lose a single
hair through Bassanio's fault."

"It is no use," she is told, "Shylock will have his bond, and
nothing but his bond."

If that be so, then must Bassanio hasten to his friend to comfort
him at least.  So the wedding is hurried on, and immediately
after it Bassanio and Gratiano hasten away, leaving their new
wives behind them.

But Portia has no mind to sit at home and do nothing while her
husband's friend is in danger of his life.  As soon as Bassanio
has gone, she gives her house into the keeping of Lorenzo and
sets out for Venice.  From her cousin, the great lawyer Bellario,
she borrows lawyer's robes for herself, and those of a lawyer's
clerk for Nerissa.  And thus disguised, they reach Venice safely.

This part of the story has brought us to the fourth act of the
play, and when the curtain rises on this act we see the Court of
Justice in Venice.  The Duke and all his courtiers are present,
the prisoner Antonio, with Bassanio, and many others of his
friends.  Shylock is called in.  The Duke tries to soften the
Jew's heart and make him turn to mercy, in vain.  Bassanio also
tries in vain, and still Bellario, to whom the Duke has sent for
aid, comes not.

At this moment Nerissa, dressed as a lawyer's clerk, enters,
bearing a letter.  The letter is from Bellario recommending a
young lawyer named Balthazar to plead Antonio's cause.  This is,
of course, none other than Portia.  She is admitted, and at once
begins the case.  "You stand within his danger, do you not?" she
says to Antonio.

"ANTONIO.  I do.

PORTIA.  Then must the Jew be merciful.

SHYLOCK.  On what compulsion must I?  Tell me that.

PORTIA.  The quality of mercy is not strained;
    It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;
    It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:
    'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
    The thronéd monarch better than his crown;
    His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptr'd sway,
    It is enthronéd in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God's
    When mercy seasons justice.  Therefore, Jew,
    Though justice be thy plea, consider this--
    That in the course of justice, none of us
    Shall see salvation:  we do pray for mercy;
    And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
    The deeds of mercy.  I have spoke thus much,
    To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
    Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
    Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

SHYLOCK.  My deeds upon my head!  I crave the law,
    The penalty and forfeit of my bond.

PORTIA.  Is he not able to discharge the money?

BASSANIO.  Yes, here I tender it for him in the court;
    Yea, twice the sum:  if that will not suffice,
    I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er,
    On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart:
    If this will not suffice, it must appear
    That malice bears down truth.  And I beseech you
    Wrest once the law to your authority:
    To do a great right, do a little wrong;
    And curb this cruel devil of his will.

PORTIA.  It must not be; there is no power in Venice
    Can alter a decree established:
    'Twill be recorded for a precedent;
    And many an error, by the same example,
    Will rush into the state; it cannot be.

SHYLOCK.  A Daniel come to judgement! yea, a Daniel!
    O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!

PORTIA.  I pray you, let me look upon the bond.

SHYLOCK.  Here 'tis, most reverend doctor, here it is.

PORTIA.  Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee.

SHYLOCK.  An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven:
    Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
    No, not for Venice.

PORTIA.     Why, this bond is forfeit:
    And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
    A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
    Nearest the merchant's heart.  Be merciful;
    Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.

SHYLOCK.  When it is paid according to the tenour.
    It doth appear you are a worthy judge;
    You know the law, your exposition
    Hath been most sound; I charge you by the law,
    Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar,
    Proceed to judgment:  by my soul I swear,
    There is no power in the tongue of man
    To alter me:  I stay here on my bond.

ANTONIO.  Most heartily I do beseech the court
    To give the judgement.

PORTIA.         Why then, thus it is.
    You must prepare your bosom for his knife.

SHYLOCK.  O noble judge!  O excellent young man!

PORTIA.  For the intent and purpose of the law
    Hath full relation to the penalty,
    Which here appeareth due upon the bond.

SHYLOCK.  'Tis very true:  O wise and upright judge!
    How much more elder art thou than thy looks!

PORTIA.  Therefore, lay bare your bosom.

SHYLOCK.        Ay, his breast:
    So says the bond;--Doth it not, noble judge?
    Nearest his heart, those are the very words.

PORTIA.  It is so.  Are there balance here, to weigh
    The flesh?

SHYLOCK.  I have them ready.

PORTIA.  Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,
    To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.

SHYLOCK.  Is it so nominated in the bond?

PORTIA.  It is not so express'd.  But what of that?
    'Twere good you do so much for charity.

SHYLOCK.  I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.

PORTIA.  Come, merchant, have you anything to say?"

Antonio answers, "But little."  He is prepared for death, and
takes leave of Bassanio.  But Shylock is impatient.  "We trifle
time," he cries; "I pray thee, pursue sentence."

"PORTIA.   A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine;
    The court awards it, and the law doth give it.

SHYLOCK.  Most rightful judge!

PORTIA.  And you must cut this flesh from off his breast;
    The law allows it; and the court awards it.

SHYLOCK.  Most learned judge!--A sentence; come, prepare.

PORTIA.  Tarry a little;--there is something else.
    This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
    The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:
    But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
    One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
    Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
    Unto the state of Venice.

GRATIANO.  O upright judge!--Mark, Jew;--O learned judge!

SHYLOCK.  Is that the law?

PORTIA.     Thyself shall see the act;
    For, as thou urgest justice, be assur'd,
    Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir'st.

GRATIANO.  O learned judge,--Mark, Jew;--a learned judge!

SHYLOCK.  I take this offer then,--pay the bond thrice,
    And let the Christian go.

BASSANIO.       Here is the money.

PORTIA.  Soft;
    The Jew shall have all justice;--soft;--no haste;--
    He shall have nothing but the penalty.

GRATIANO.  O Jew!  An upright judge, a learned judge!

PORTIA.  Therefore, prepare thee to cut off the flesh.
    Shed thou no blood; nor cut thou less, nor more,
    But just a pound of flesh:  if thou tak'st more,
    Or less, than a just pound,--be it but so much
    As makes it light, or heavy, in the substance,
    Or the division of the twentieth part
    Of one poor scruple,--nay, if the scale do turn
    But in the estimation of a hair,--
    Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.

GRATIANO.  A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew!
    Now, infidel, I have thee on the hip.

PORTIA.  Why doth the Jew pause?  Take thy forfeiture.

SHYLOCK.  Give me my principal, and let me go.

BASSANIO.  I have it ready for thee; here it is.

PORTIA.  He hath refus'd it in the open court;
    He shall have merely justice, and his bond.

GRATIANO.  A Daniel, still say I; a second Daniel!
    I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.

SHYLOCK.  Shall I not have barely my principal?

PORTIA.  Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture,
    To be so taken at thy peril, Jew."

So, seeing himself beaten on all points, the Jew would leave the
court.  But not yet is he allowed to go.  Not until he has been
fined for attempting to take the life of a Venetian citizen, not
until he is humiliated, and so heaped with disgrace and insult
that we are sorry for him, is he allowed to creep away.

The learned lawyer is loaded with thanks, and Bassanio wishes to
pay him nobly for his pains.  But he will take nothing; nothing,
that is, but the ring which glitters on Bassanio's finger.  That
Bassanio cannot give--it is his wife's present and he has
promised never to part with it.  At that the lawyer pretends
anger.  "I see, sir," he says:--

            "You are liberal in offers:
    You taught me first to beg; and now, methinks,
    You teach me how a beggar should be answered."

Hardly have they parted than Bassanio repents his seemingly
churlish action.  Has not this young man saved his friend from
death, and himself from disgrace?  Portia will surely understand
that his request could not be refused, and so he sends Gratiano
after him with the ring.  Gratiano gives the ring to the lawyer,
and the seeming clerk begs Gratiano for his ring, which he,
following his friend's example, gives.

In the last act of the play all the friends are gathered again at
Belmont.  After some merry teasing upon the subject of the rings
the truth is told, and Bassanio and Gratiano learn that the
skillful lawyer and his clerk were none other than their young
and clever wives.


Among the best books of Shakespeare's stories are:  Stories from
Shakespeare, by Jeanie Lang.  The Shakespeare Story-Book, by Mary
M'Leod.  Tales from Shakespeare (Everyman's Library), by C. and
M. Lamb.


Histories.  - Henry VI (three parts); Richard III; Richard II;
King John; Henry IV (two parts); Henry V; Henry VIII (doubtful if

Tragedies. - Titus Andronicus; Romeo and Juliet; Julius Caesar;
Hamlet; King Lear; Macbeth; Timon of Athens; Antony and
Cleopatra; Coriolanus.

Comedies. - Love's Labour's Lost; Two Gentlemen of Verona; Comedy
of Errors; Merchant of Venice; Taming of the Shrew; A Midsummer
Night's Dream; All's Well that Ends Well; Merry Wives of Windsor;
Much Ado About Nothing; As You Like It; Twelfth Night; Troilus
and Cressida; Measure for Measure; Pericles; Cymbeline; The
Tempest; A Winter's Tale.


OF all the dramatists who were Shakespeare's friends, of those
who wrote before him, with him, and just after him, we have
little room to tell.  But there is one who stands almost as far
above them all as Shakespeare stands above him.  This is Ben
Jonson, and of him we must speak.

Ben Jonson's life began in poverty, his father dying before he
was born, and leaving his widow poorly provided for.  When Ben
was about two years old his mother married again, and this second
husband was a bricklayer.  Ben, however, tells us that his own
father was a gentleman, belonging to a good old Scottish Border
family, and that he had lost all his estates in the reign of
Queen Mary.  But about the truth of this we do not know, for Ben
was a bragger and a swaggerer.  He may not have belonged to this
Scottish family, and he may have had no estates to lose.  Ben
first went to a little school at St. Martin's-in-the-fields in
London.  There, somehow, the second master of Westminster School
came to know of him, became his friend, and took him to
Westminster, where he paid for his schooling.  But when Ben left
school he had to earn a living in some way, so he became a
bricklayer like his step-father, when "having a trowell in his
hand he had a book in his pocket."*


He did not long remain a bricklayer, however, for he could not
endure the life, and next we find him a soldier in the
Netherlands.  We know very little of what he did as a soldier,
and soon he was home again in England.  Here he married.  His
wife was a good woman, but with a sharp tongue, and the marriage
does not seem to have been very happy.  And although they had
several children, all of them died young.

And now, like Shakespeare, Jonson became an actor.  Like
Shakespeare too, he wrote plays.  His first play is that by which
he is best known, called Every Man in His Humour.  By a man's
humor, Jonson means his chief characteristic, one man, for
instance, showing himself jealous, another boastful, and so on.

It will be a long time before you will care to read Every Man in
His Humour, for there is a great deal in it that you would
neither understand nor like.  It is a play of the manners and
customs of Elizabethan times which are so unlike ours that we
have little sympathy with them.  And that is the difference
between Ben Jonson and Shakespeare.  Shakespeare, although he
wrote of his own time, wrote for all time; Jonson wrote of his
own time for his own time.  Yet, in Every Man in His Humour there
is at least one character worthy to live beside Shakespeare's,
and that is the blustering, boastful Captain Bobadill.  He talks
very grandly, but when it comes to fighting, he thinks it best to
run away and live to fight another day.  If only to know Captain
Bobadill it will repay you to read Every Man in His Humour when
you grow up.

Here is a scene in which he shows his "humor" delightfully:--

"BOBADILL.  I am a gentleman, and live here obscure, and to
myself. But were I known to Her Majesty and the Lords-- observe
me--I would undertake, upon this poor head and life, for the
public benefit of the State, not only to spare the entire lives of
her subjects in general, but to save the one half, nay, three
parts, of her yearly charge in holding war, and against what enemy
soever. And how would I do it, think you?

EDWARD KNOWELL.  Nay, I know not, nor can I conceive.

BOBADILL.   Why thus, sir.  I would select nineteen more, to
myself, throughout the land. Gentlemen, they should be of good
spirit, strong and able constitution. I would choose them by an
instinct, a character that I have. And I would teach these
nineteen the special rules, as your punto,* your reverso, your
stoccata, your imbroccata, your passada, your montanto; till they
could all play very near, or altogether, as well as myself. This
done, say the enemy were forty thousand strong, we twenty would
come into the field the tenth of March, or thereabouts, and we
would challenge twenty of the enemy. They could not in their
honour refuse us. Well, we would kill them. Challenge twenty more,
kill them; twenty more, kill them; twenty more, kill them too. And
thus would we kill every man his twenty a day. That's twenty
score. Twenty score, that's two hundred. Two hundred a day, five
days a thousand. Forty thousand; forty times five, five times
forty; two hundred days kills them all up by computation. And this
will I venture by poor gentleman-like carcase to perform, provided
there be no treason practised upon us, by fair and discreet
manhood; that is, civilly by the sword.

EDWARD KNOWELL.  Why! are you so sure of your hand, Captain, at
all times?

BOBADILL.  Tut! never miss thrust, upon my reputation with you.

EDWARD KNOWELL.  I would not stand in Downright's state then, an
you meet him, for the wealth of any one street in London."

    *This and the following are names of various passes and
thrusts used in fencing.  Punto is a direct hit, 	reverso a
backward blow, and so on.

(Knowell says this because Bobadill and Downright have had a
quarrel, and Downright wishes to fight the Captain.)

"BOBADILL.  Why, sir, you mistake me.  If he were here now, by
this welkin, I would not draw my weapon on him. Let this gentleman
do his mind; but I will bastinado him, by the bright sun, wherever
I meet him.

MATTHEW.  Faith, and I'll have a fling at him, at my distance.

EDWARD KNOWELL.  Ods so, look where he is! yonder he goes.
    				[DOWNRIGHT crosses the stage.

DOWNRIGHT.  What peevish luck have I, I cannot meet with these
bragging rascals?

BOBADILL.  It is not he, is it?

EDWARD KNOWELL.  Yes, faith, it is he.

MATTHEW.  I'll be hanged then if that were he.

EDWARD KNOWELL.  Sir, keep your hanging good for some greater
matter, for I assure you that was he.

STEPHEN.  Upon my reputation, it was he.

BOBADILL.  Had I thought it had been he, he must not have gone
so.  But I can hardly be induced to believe it 	was he yet.

EDWARD KNOWELL.  That I think, sir-- 	[Re-enter DOWNRIGHT.
    				But see, he is come again.

DOWNRIGHT.  O, Pharaoh's foot, have I found you?  Come, draw, to
your tools.  Draw, gipsy, or I'll thrash you.

BOBADILL.  Gentlemen of valour, I do believe in thee.  Hear me--

DOWNRIGHT.  Draw your weapon then.

BOBADILL.  Tall man, I never thought on it till now--  Body of
me, I had a warrant of the peace served on me, 	even now as I
came along, by a water-bearer.  This gentleman saw it, Master

DOWNRIGHT.  'Sdeath! you will not draw!
    				[DOWNRIGHT disarms BOBADILL and beats him.

    					MATTHEW runs away.
BOBADILL.  Hold! hold! under thy favour forbear.

DOWNRIGHT.  Prate again, as you like this, you foist* you.  Your
consort is gone.  Had he staid he had shared 	with you, sir.
    				[Exit DOWNRIGHT.

BOBADILL.  Well, gentlemen, bear witness, I was bound to the
peace, by this good day.

EDWARD KNOWELL.  No, fait, it's an ill day, Captain, never reckon
it other. But, say you were bound to the peace, the law allows you
to defend yourself. That will prove but a poor excuse.

BOBADILL.  I cannot tell, sir.  I desire good construction in fair
sort. I never sustained the like disgrace, by heaven! Sure I was
struck with a planet thence, for I had no power to touch my

EDWARD KNOWELL.  Ay, like enough, I have heard of many that have
been beaten under a planet. Go, get you to a surgeon! 'Slid! and
these be your tricks, your passadoes, and your montantos, I'll
none of them."


When Every Man in His Humour was acted, Shakespeare took a part
in it.  He and Jonson must have met each other often, must have
known each other well.  At the Mermaid Tavern all the wits used
to gather.  For there was a kind of club founded by Sir Walter
Raleigh, and here the clever men of the day met to smoke and
talk, and drink not a little.  And among all the clever men
Jonson soon came to be acknowledged as the king and leader.  We
have a pleasant picture of these friendly meetings by a man who
lived then.  "Many were the wit-combats," he says, "betwixt
Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish
great gallion and an English Man of War:  Master Jonson (like the
former) was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his
performances.  Shakespeare, with the English Man of War, lesser
in bulk but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack
about, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his
wit and invention."*

*Thomas Fuller, Worthies.

Another writer says in a letter to Ben,

    "What things have we seen,
    Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
    So nimble, and so full of subtile flame
    As if that every one from whence they came
    Had meant to pit his whole wit in a jest."*

    *F. Beaumont, Letter to Ben Jonson.

And so we get a picture of Ben lording it in taverns.  A great
good fellow, a stout fellow, he rolls his huge bulk about laying
down the law.

So the years went on.  Big Ben wrote and fought, quarreled and
made friends, drank and talked, living always on the verge of
poverty.  At length, in 1603, the great Queen Elizabeth died, and
James of Scotland came to the English throne.  All the way as he
journeyed he was greeted with rejoicing.  There were everywhere
plays and feasts given in his honor, and soon after he arrived in
London a Masque written by Jonson was played before him.  The new
king was fond of such entertainments.  He smiled upon Master Ben
Jonson, and life became for him easier and brighter.

But shortly after this, Jonson, with two others, wrote a play in
which some things were said against the Scots.  With a Scottish
king surrounded by Scottish lords, that was dangerous.  All three
soon found themselves in prison and came near losing their noses
and ears.  This was not the first time that Ben had been in
prison, for soon after Every Man in His Humour was acted, he
quarreled for some unknown reason with another actor.  In the
foolish fashion of the day they fought a duel over it, and Ben
killed the other man.  For this he was seized and put in prison,
and just escaped being hanged.  He was left off only with the
loss of all his goods and a brand on the left thumb.

Now once more Jonson escaped.  When he was set free, his friends
gave a great feast to show their joy.  But Ben had not learned
his lesson, and at least once again he found himself in prison
because of something he had written.

But in spite of these things the King continued to smile upon Ben
Jonson.  He gave him a pension and made him poet laureate, and it
was now that he began to write the Masques for which he became
famous.  These Masques were dainty poetic little plays written
for the court and often acted by the Queen and her ladies.  There
was much singing and dancing in them, and the dresses of the
actors were gorgeous beyond description.  And besides this, while
the ordinary stage was still without any scenery, Inigo Jones,
the greatest architect in the land, joined Ben Jonson in making
his plays splendid by inventing scenery for them.  This scenery
was beautiful and elaborate, and was sometimes changed two or
three times during the play.  One of these plays called The
Masque of Blackness was acted by the Queen and her ladies in
1605, and when we read the description of the scenery it makes us
wonder and smile too at the remembrance of Wall and the Man in
the Moon of which Shakespeare made such fun a few years earlier,
and of which you will read in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Besides his Masques, Jonson wrote two tragedies, and a number of
comedies, as well as other poems.  But for a great part of his
life, the part that must have been the easiest and brightest, he
wrote Masques for the King and court and not for the ordinary
stage.  He knew his own power in this kind of writing well, and
he was not modest.  "Next himself," he said, "only Fletcher and
Chapman could make a mask."*  He found, too, good friends among
the nobles.  With one he lived for five years, another gave him
money to buy books, and his library became his great joy and

*Conversation of Ben Jonson with Drummond of Hawthornden.

Ben Jonson traveled too.  For a time he traveled in France with
Sir Walter Raleigh's son, while Sir Walter himself was shut up in
the Tower.  But Jonson's most famous journey is his walk to
Scotland.  He liked to believe that he belonged to a famous
Border family, and wished to visit the land of his forefathers.
So in the mid-summer of 1618 he set out.  We do not know how long
he took to make his lengthy walk, but in September he was
comfortably settled in Leith, being "worthily entertained" by all
the greatest and most learned men of the day.  He had money
enough for all his wants, for he was able to give a gold piece
and two and twenty shillings to another poet less well off than
himself.  He was given the freedom of the city of Edinburgh and
more than 200 pounds was spent on a great feast in his honor.
About Christmas he went to pay a visit to a well-known Scottish
poet, William Drummond, who lived in a beautiful house called
Hawthornden, a few miles from Edinburgh.  There he stayed two or
three weeks, during which time he and his host had many a long
talk together, discussing men and books.  Drummond wrote down all
that he could remember of these talks, and it is from them that
we learn a good deal of what we know about our poet, a good deal,
perhaps, not to his credit.  We learn from them that he was vain
and boastful, a loud talker and a deep drinker.  Yet there is
something about this big blustering Ben that we cannot help but

In January sometime, Jonson set his face homeward, and reached
London in April or May, having taken nearly a year to pay his
visit.  He must have been pleased with his journey, for on his
return he wrote a poem about Scotland.  Nothing of it has come
down to us, however, except one line in which he calls Edinburgh
"The heart of Scotland, Britain's other eye."

The years passed for Jonson, if not in wealth, at least in such
comfort as his way of life allowed.  For we cannot ever think of
him as happy in his own home by his own fireside.  He is rather a
king in Clubland spending his all freely and taking no thought
for the morrow.  But in 1625 King James died, and although the
new King Charles still continued the poet's pension, his tastes
were different from those of his father, and Jonson found himself
and his Masques neglected.  His health began to fail too, and his
library, which he dearly loved, was burned, together with many of
his unpublished manuscripts, and so he fell on evil days.

Forgotten at court, Jonson began once more to write for the
stage.  But now that he had to write for bread, it almost seemed
as if his pen had lost its charm.  The plays he wrote added
nothing to his fame.  They were badly received.  And so at last,
in trouble for to-morrow's bread, without wife or child to
comfort him, he died on 8th August, 1637.

He was buried in Westminster, and it was intended to raise a fine
tomb over his grave.  But times were growing troublous, and the
monument was still lacking, when a lover of the poet, Sir John
Young of Great Milton, in Oxfordshire, came to do honor to his
tomb.  Finding it unmarked, he paid a workman 1s. 6d. to carve
above the poet's resting-place the words, "O rare Ben Jonson."
And perhaps these simple words have done more to keep alive the
memory of the poet than any splendid monument could have done.


ALTHOUGH Ben Jonson's days ended sadly, although his later plays
showed failing powers, he left behind him unfinished a Masque
called The Sad Shepherd which is perhaps more beautiful and more
full of music than anything he ever wrote.  For Ben's charm did
not lie in the music of his words but in the strength of his
drawing of character.  As another poet has said of him, "Ben as a
rule--a rule which is proved by the exception--was one of the
singers who could not sing; though, like Dryden, he could intone
most admirably."*


The Sad Shepherd is a tale of Robin Hood.  Here once more we find
an old story being used again, for we have already heard of Robin
Hood in the ballads.  Robin Hood makes a great fest to all the
shepherds and shepherdesses round about.  All are glad to come,
save one Aeglamon, the Sad Shepherd, whose love, Earine, has, he
believes, been drowned.  But later in the play we learn that
Earine is not dead, but that a wicked witch, Mother Maudlin, has
enchanted her, and shut her up in a tree.  She had done this in
order to force Earine to give up Aeglamon, her true lover, and
marry her own wretched son Lorel.

When the play begins, Aeglamon passes over the stage mourning for
his lost love.

    "Here she was wont to go! and here! and here!
    Just where those daisies, pinks, and violets grow,
    The world may find the spring by following her,
    For other print her airy steps ne'er left.
    Her treading would not bend a blade of grass,
    Or shake the downy blow-ball from his stalk!
    But like the soft west wind she shot along,
    And where she went the flowers took thickest root--
    As she had sowed them with her odorous foot."

Robin Hood has left Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Little John, and all
his merry men to hunt the deer and make ready the feast.  And
Tuck says:

    "And I, the chaplain, here am left to be
    Steward to-day, and charge you all in fee,
    To don your liveries, see the bower dressed,
    And fit the fine devices for the feast."

So some make ready the bower, the tables and the seats, while
Maid Marian, Little John and others set out to hunt.  Presently
they return successful, having killed a fine stag.  Robin, too,
comes home, and after loving greetings, listens to the tale of
the hunt.  Then Marian tells how, when the huntsmen cut up the
stag, they threw the bone called the raven's bone to one that sat
and croaked for it.

            "Now o'er head sat a raven,
    On a sere bough, a grown great bird, and hoarse!
    Who, all the while the deer was breaking up
    So croaked and cried for it, as all the huntsmen,
    Especially old Scathlock, thought it ominous;
    Swore it was Mother Maudlin, whom he met
    At the day-dawn, just as he roused the deer
    Out of his lair."

Mother Maudlin was a retched old witch, and Scathlock says he is
yet more sure that the raven was she, because in her own form he
has just seen her broiling the raven's bone by the fire, sitting
"In the chimley-nuik within."  While the talk went on Maid Marian
had gone away.  Now she returns and begins to quarrel with Robin
Hood.  Venison is much too good for such folk as he and his men,
she says; "A starved mutton carcase would better fit their
palates," and she orders Scathlock to take the venison to Mother
Maudlin.  Those around can scarce believe their ears, for

    "Robin and his Marian are the sum and talk
    Of all that breathe here in the green-wood walk."

Such is their love for each other.  They are "The turtles of the
wood," "The billing pair."  No one is more astonished than Robin
Hood, as he cries:

    "I dare not trust the faith of mine own senses,
    I fear mine eyes and ears:  this is not Marian!
    Nor am I Robin Hood!  I pray you ask her,
    Ask her, good shepherds, ask her all for me:
    Or rather ask yourselves, if she be she,
    Or I be I."

But Maid Marian only scolds the more, and at last goes away
leaving the others in sad bewilderment.  Of course this was not
Maid Marian at all, but Mother Maudlin, the old witch, who had
taken her form in order to make mischief.

Meanwhile the real Maid Marian discovers that the venison has
been sent away to Mother Maudlin's.  With tears in her eyes she
declares that she gave no such orders, and Scathlock is sent to
bring it back.

When Mother Maudlin comes to thank Maid Marian for her present,
she is told that no such present was ever intended, and so she in
anger curses the cook, casting spells upon him:

    "The spit stand still, no broches turn
    Before the fire, but let it burn.
    Both sides and haunches, till the whole
    Converted be into one coal.
    The pain we call St. Anton's fire,
    The gout, or what we can desire,
    To cramp a cook in every limb,
    Before they dine yet, seize on him."

Soon Friar Tuck comes in.  "Hear you how," he says,
    "Poor Tom the cook is taken! all his joints
    Do crack, as if his limbs were tied with points.
    His whole frame slackens; and a kind of rack,
    Runs down along the spindils of his back;
    A gout, or cramp, now seizeth on his head,
    Then falls into his feet; his knees are lead;
    And he can stir his either hand no more
    Than a dead stump, to his office, as before."

He is bewitched, that is certain.  And certain too it is that
Mother Maudlin has done it.  So Robin and his men set out to hunt
for her, while Friar Tuck and Much the Miller's son stay to look
after the dinner in the poor cook's stead.  Robin soon meets
Mother Maudlin who has again taken the form of Maid Marian.  But
this time Robin suspects her.  He seizes the witch by her
enchanted belt.  It breaks, and she comes back to her own shape,
and Robin goes off, leaving her cursing.

Mother Maudlin then calls for Puck-hairy, her goblin.  He
appears, crying:

            "At your beck, madam."
    "O Puck my goblin!  I have lost my belt,
    The strong thief, Robin Outlaw, forced it from me,"

wails Mother Maudlin.  But Puck-hairy pays little attention to
her complaints.

    "They are other clouds and blacker threat you, dame;
    You must be wary, and pull in your sails,
    And yield unto the weather of the tempest.
    You think your power's infinite as your malice,
    And would do all your anger prompts you to;
    But you must wait occasions, and obey them:
    Sail in an egg-shell, make a straw your mast,
    A cobweb all your cloth, and pass unseen,
    Till you have 'scaped the rocks that are about you.

MAUDLIN.  What rocks about me?

PUCK.   I do love, madam,
    To show you all your dangers--when you're past them!
    Come, follow me, I'll once more be your pilot,
    And you shall thank me.

MAUDLIN.  Lucky, my loved Goblin!"

And here the play breaks off suddenly, for Jonson died and left
it so.  It was finished by another writer* later on, but with
none of Jonson's skill, and reading the continuation we feel that
all the interest is gone.  However, you will be glad to know that
everything comes right.  The good people get happily married and
all the bad people become good, even the wicked old witch, Mother

*F. G. Waldron.


SOME of you may have seen a picture of a brown-faced sailor
sitting by the seashore, telling stories of travel and adventure
to two boy.  The one boy lies upon the sand with his chin in his
hands listening but carelessly, the other with his hands clasped
about his knees listens eagerly.  His face is rapt, his eyes the
eyes of a poet and a dreamer.  This picture is called The Boyhood
of Raleigh, and was painted by one of our great painters, Sir
John Millais.  In it he pictures a scene that we should like to
believe was common in Sir Walter Raleigh's boyhood, but we cannot
tell if it were really so or not.  Beyond the fact that he was
born in a white-walled thatched-roofed farmhouse, near Budleigh
Salterton in Devonshire, about the year 1552, we know nothing of
Raleigh's childhood.  But from the rising ground near Hayes
Barton, the house in which he was born, we catch sight of the
sea.  It seems not too much to believe that many a time Walter
and his brother Carew, wandered through the woods and over the
common the two and a half miles to the bay.  So that from his
earliest days Walter Raleigh breathed in a love and knowledge of
the sea.  We like to think these things, but we can only make
believe to ourselves as Millais did when he went to Budleigh
Salterton and painted that picture.

When still quite a boy, Walter Raleigh went to Oriel College,
Oxford, but we know nothing of what he did there, and the next we
hear of him is that he is fighting for the Huguenots in France.
How long he remained in France, and what he did there beyond this
fighting, we do not know.  But this we know, that when he went to
France he was a mere boy, with no knowledge of fighting, no
knowledge of the world.  When he left he was a man and a tried
soldier, a captain and leader of men.

When next we hear of Raleigh he is in Ireland fighting the
rebels.  There he did some brave deeds, some cruel deeds, there
he lived to the full the life of a soldier as it was in those
rough times, making all Ireland ring with his name.  But although
Raleigh had won for himself a name among soldiers, he was as yet
unknown to the Queen; his fortune was still unmade.

You have all heard the story of how Raleigh first met the Queen.
The first notice we have of this story is in a book from which I
have already quoted more than once--The Worthies of England.

"This Captain Raleigh," says Fuller, "coming out of Ireland to
the English Court in good habit (his clothes being then a
considerable part of his estate), found the Queen walking, till,
meeting with a splashy place, she seemed to scruple going
thereon.  Presently Raleigh cast and spread his new plush cloak
on the ground, whereon the Queen trod gently, rewarding him
afterwards with many suits for his so free and seasonable tender
of so fair a foot cloth."

Thomas Fuller, who wrote the book in which this story is found,
was only a boy of ten when Raleigh died, so he could not have
known the great man himself, but he must have heard many stories
about him from those who had, and we need not disbelieve this
one.  It is one of those things which might very well have
happened even if it did not.

And whether Raleigh first came into Queen Elizabeth's notice in
this manner or not, after he did become known to her, he soon
rose in her favor.  He rose so quickly that he almost feared the
giddy height to which he rose.  According to another story of
Fuller's, "This made him write in a glasse window, obvious to the
Queen's eye,

    'Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall.'

"Her Majesty, either espying or being shown it, did underwrite:

    'If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all.'

"However he at last climbed up by the stairs of his own desert."

Honors and favors were heaped upon Raleigh, and from being a poor
soldier and country gentleman he became rich and powerful, the
lord of lands in five counties, and Captain of the Queen's Own
Body-Guard.  Haughty of manner, splendid in dress, loving jewels
more than even a woman does, Raleigh became as fine a courtier as
he was a brave soldier.  But soldier though Raleigh was, courtier
though he was, loving ease and wealth and fine clothes, he was at
heart a sailor and adventurer, and the sea he had loved as a boy
called to him.

Like many another of his age Raleigh, hearing the call of the
waves ever in his ears, felt the desire to explore tug at his
heart-strings.  For in those days America had been discovered,
and the quest for the famous North-West passage had begun.  And
Raleigh longed to set forth with other men to conquer new worlds,
to find new paths across the waves.  But above all he longed to
fight the Spaniards, who were the great sea kings of those days.
Raleigh however could not be a courtier and a sailor at one and
the same time.  He was meanwhile high in the Queen's favor, and
she would not let him go from her.  So all that Raleigh could do,
was to venture his money, and fit out a ship to which he gave his
own name.  This he sent to sail along with others under the
command of his step-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who was setting
out upon a voyage of discovery.  It was on this voyage that Sir
Humphrey found and claimed Newfoundland as an English possession,
setting up there "the Arms of England ingraven in lead and
infixed upon a pillar of wood."*  But the expedition was
unfortunate, most of the men and ships were lost, Sir Humphrey
himself being drowned on his way home.  He was brave and fearless
to the last.  "We are as near to Heaven by sea as by land," he
said, a short time before his ship went down.  One vessel only
"in great torment of weather and peril of drowning"* reached home
safely, "all the men tired with the tediousness of so
unprofitable a voyage to their seeming."  Yet though they knew it
not they had helped to lay the foundation of Greater Britain.

*Hakluyt's Voyages.

Nothing daunted by this loss, six months later Raleigh sent out
another expedition.  This time it was to the land south of
Newfoundland that the ships took their way.  There they set up
the arms of England, and named the new possession Virginia in
honor of the virgin Queen.  This expedition was little more
successful than Sir Humphrey Gilbert's, but nothing seemed to
discourage Raleigh.  He was bent on founding a colony, and again
and yet again he sent out ships and men, spending all the wealth
which the Queen heaped upon him in trying to extend her dominions
beyond the seas.  Hope was strong within him.  "I shall yet live
to see it an English nation," he said.

And while Raleigh's captains tried to found a new England in the
New World, Raleigh himself worked at home to bring order into the
vast estates the Queen had given to him in Ireland.  This land
had belonged to the rebel Earl of Desmond.  At one time no doubt
it had been fertile, but rebellion and war had laid it waste.
"The land was so barren both of man and beast that whosoever did
travel from one end of all Munster . . . . he should not meet
man, woman, or child, saving in cities or towns, nor yet see any
beast, save foxes, wolves, or the ravening beasts."  And barren
and desolate as it was when Raleigh received it, it soon became
known as the best tilled land in all the country-side.  For he
brought workers and tenants from his old Devon home to take the
place of the beggared or slain Irish.  He introduced new and
better ways of tilling, and also he brought to Ireland a strange
new root.  For it is interesting to remember that it was in
Raleigh's Irish estates that potatoes were first grown in our

Raleigh took a great interest in these estates, so perhaps it was
not altogether a hardship to him, finding himself out of favor
with his Queen, to go to Ireland for a time.  And although they
had known each other before, it was then that his friendship with
Spenser began.  Spenser read his Faery Queen to Raleigh, and
perhaps Raleigh read to Spenser his poem Cynthia written in honor
of Queen Elizabeth.  But of that poem nearly all has been lost.
Elizabeth was not as yet very angry with Raleigh, still he felt
the loss of her favor, for Spenser tells us:--

    "His song was all a lamentable lay,
    Of great unkindness and of usage hard,
    Of Cynthia, the Lady of the Sea,
    Which from her presence faultless him debarred.
    And ever and anon with singults* rife,
    He criéd out, to make his undersong,
    'Ah! my love's Queen, and goddess of my life,
    Who shall me pity when thou doest me wrong?'"**

    **"Colin Clout's come home again."

But Raleigh soon decided to return to court, and persuaded

    "To wend with him his Cynthia to see,
    Whose grace was great and bounty most rewardful"*

    *Colin Clout.

You know how Spenser was received and how he fared.  But Raleigh
himself after he had introduced his friend did not stay long at
court.  Quarrels with his rivals soon drove him forth again.

It was soon after this that he published the first writing which
gives him a claim to the name of author.  This was an account of
the fight between a little ship called the Revenge and a Spanish
Although with the destruction of the Invincible Armada the sea
power of Spain had been crippled, it had not been utterly broken,
and still whenever Spanish and English ships met on the seas,
there was sure to be battle.  It being known that a fleet of
Spanish treasure-ships would pass the Azores, islands in the mid-
Atlantic, a fleet of English ships under Lord Thomas Howard was
sent to attack them.  But the English ships had to wait so long
at the Azores for the coming of the Spanish fleet that the news
of the intended attack reached Spain, and the Spaniards sent a
strong fleet to help and protect their treasure-ships.  The
English in turn hearing of this sent a swift little boat to warn
Lord Thomas.  The warning arrived almost too late.  Many of the
Englishmen were sick and ashore, and before all could be gathered
the fleet of fifty-three great Spanish ships was upon them.
Still Lord Thomas managed to slip away.  Only the last ship, the
Revenge, commanded by the Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Grenville,
lost the wind and was caught between two great squadrons of the
Spanish.  Whereupon Sir Richard "was persuaded," Sir Walter says,
"by the Master and others to cut his main-sail, and cast about,
and to trust to the sailing of the ship. . . . But Sir Richard
utterly refused to turn from the enemy, alleging that he would
rather choose to die, than to dishonour himself, his country, and
her Majesty's ship, persuading his company that he would pass
through the two squadrons, in despite of them."

For a little time it seemed as if Sir Richard's daring might
succeed.  But a great ship, the San Philip, came between him and
the wind "and coming towards him, becalmed his sails in such
sort, as the ship could neither make way, nor feel the helm:  so
huge and high-carged* was the Spanish ship. . . . The fight thus
beginning at three of the clock of the afternoon continued very
terrible all that evening.  But the great San Philip having
received the lower tier of the Revenge, discharged with cross-bar
shot, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides, utterly
misliking her first entertainment. . . . The Spanish ships were
filled with companies of soldiers, in some two hundred, besides
the mariners; in some five, in other eight hundred.  In ours
there were none at all beside the mariners, but the servants of
the commanders and some few voluntary gentlemen only."  And yet
the Spaniards "were still repulsed, again and again, and at all
times beaten back into their own ships, or into the seas."

*The meaning of the word is uncertain.  It may be high-charged.

In the beginning of the fight one little store ship of the
English fleet hovered near.  It was small and of no use in
fighting.  Now it came close to the Revenge and the Captain asked
Sir Richard what he should do, and "Sir Richard bid him save
himself, and leave him to his fortune."  So the gallant Revenge
was left to fight alone.  For fifteen hours the battle lasted,
Sir Richard himself was sorely wounded, and when far into the
night the fighting ceased, two of the Spanish vessels were sunk
"and in many other of the Spanish ships great slaughter was
made."  "But the Spanish ships which attempted to board the
Revenge, as they were wounded and beaten off, so always others
came in their places, she having never less than two might
galleons by her sides and aboard her.  So that ere the morning,
from three of the clock the day before, there had fifteen several
Armadas* assailed her.  And all so ill approved their
entertainment, as they were, by the break of day, far more
willing to hearken to a composition** than hastily to make any
more assaults or entries.

*Armada here means merely a Spanish ship of war.

**An arrangement to cease fighting on both sides.

"But as the day increased so our men decreased.  And as the light
grew more and more, by so much more grew our discomforts.  For
none appeared in sight but enemies, saving one small ship called
the Pilgrim, commanded by Jacob Whiddon, who hovered all night to
see the success.  But in the morning bearing with the Revenge,
she was hunted like a hare amongst many ravenous hounds, but

"All the powder of the Revenge to the last barrel was now spent,
all her pikes broken, forty of her best men slain, and the most
part of the rest hurt.  In the beginning of the fight she had but
one hundred free from sickness and four score and ten sick, laid
in hold upon the ballast.  A small troop to man such a ship, and
a weak garrison to resist so mighty an army.  By those hundred
all was sustained, the volleys, boarding and enterings of fifteen
ships of war, besides those which beat her at large.

"On the contrary, the Spanish were always supplied with soldiers
brought from every squadron; all manner of arms and power at
will.  Unto ours there remained no comfort at all, no hope, no
supply either of ships, men, or weapons; the masts all beaten
overboard, all her tackle cut asunder, her upper work altogether
razed, and in effect evened she was with the water, but the very
foundation of a ship, nothing being left overhead for flight or

"Sir Richard finding himself in this distress and unable any
longer to make resistance, having endured in this fifteen hours'
fight the assault of fifteen several Armadas, all by turns aboard
him, and by estimation eight hundred shot of great artillery
besides many assaults and entries; and (seeing) that himself and
the ship must needs be possessed of the enemy who were now all
cast in a ring round about him, the Revenge not able to move one
way or another, but as she was moved by the waves and billow of
the sea, commanded the Master Gunner, whom he knew to be a most
resolute man, to split and sink the ship, that thereby nothing
might remain of glory or victory to the Spaniards:  seeing in so
many hours' fight, and with so great a navy, they were not able
to take her, having had fifteen hours' time, above ten thousand
men, and fifty and three sail of men of war to perform it withal.
And (he) persuaded the company, or as many as he could induce, to
yield themselves unto God, and to the mercy of none else, but as
they had, like valiant resolute men, repulsed so many enemies,
they should not now shorten the honour of their nation, by
prolonging their own lives by a few hours, or a few days.  The
Master Gunner readily condescended and divers others.  But the
Captain and the Master were of another opinion, and besought Sir
Richard to have care of them, alleging that the Spaniard would be
as ready to entertain a composition as they were willing to offer
the same.  And (they said) that there being divers sufficient and
valiant men yet living, and whose wounds were not mortal, they
might do their country and their Prince acceptable service
hereafter.  And whereas Sir Richard alleged that the Spaniards
should never glory to have taken one ship of her Majesty, seeing
they had so long and so notably defended themselves; they
answered that the ship had six foot water in hold, three shot
under water, which were so weakly stopped as with the first
working of the sea, she must needs sink, and was besides so
crushed and bruised, as she could never be removed out of the

"And as the matter was thus in dispute, and Sir Richard refusing
to hearken to any of those reasons, the Master of the Revenge
(while the Captain won unto him the greater party) was convoyed
aboard the General Don Alfonso Bacan.  Who (finding none
overhasty to enter the Revenge again, doubting lest Sir Richard
would have blown them up and himself, and perceiving by the
report of the Master of the Revenge his dangerous disposition)
yielded that all their lives should be saved, the company sent
for England, and the better sort to pay such reasonable ransom as
their estate would bear, and in the mean season to be free from
galley or imprisonment.  To this he so much the better
condescended as well, as I have said, for fear of further loss
and mischief to themselves, as also for the desire he had to
recover Sir Richard Grenville, whom for his notable valour he
seemed greatly to honour and admire.

"When this answer was returned, and that safety of life was
promised, the common sort being now at the end of their peril the
most drew back from Sir Richard and the Master Gunner, (it) being
no hard matter to dissuade men from death to life.  The Master
Gunner finding himself and Sir Richard thus prevented and
mastered by the greater number, would have slain himself with a
sword, had he not been by force with-held and locked into his
cabin.  Then the General sent many boats aboard the Revenge, and
divers of our men fearing Sir Richard's disposition, stole away
aboard the General and other ships.  Sir Richard thus over-
matched was sent unto by Alfonso Bacan to remove out of the
Revenge, the ship being marvellous unsavoury, filled with blood
and bodies of dead, and wounded men, like a slaughterhouse.

"Sir Richard answered he might do with his body what he list, for
he esteemed it not.  And as he was carried out of the ship he
swooned, and reviving again desired the company to pray for him.

"The General used Sir Richard with all humanity, and left nothing
unattempted that tended to his recovery, highly commending his
valour and worthiness, and greatly bewailing the danger in which
he was, being unto them a rare spectacle, and a resolution seldom
approved, to see one ship turn toward so many enemies, to endure
the charge and boarding of so many huge Armadas, and to resist
and repel the assaults and entries of so many soldiers.

"There were slain and drowned in this fight well near one
thousand of the enemies, and two special commanders. . . .
besides divers others of special account.

"Sir Richard died as it is said, the second or third day aboard
the General and was by them greatly bewailed.  What became of his
body, whether it were buried in the sea or on the land, we known
not.  The comfort that remaineth to his friends is, that he hath
ended his life honourably in respect of the reputation won to his
nation and country and of the same to his posterity, and that
being dead, he hath not outlived his own honour."

This gallant fight of the little Revenge against the huge navy of
Spain is one of the great things in the story of the sea; that is
why I have chosen it out of all that Sir Walter wrote to give you
as a specimen of English prose in Queen Elizabeth's time.  As
long as brave deeds are remembered, it will be told how Sir
Richard Grenville "walled round with wooden castles on the wave"
bid defiance to the might and pride of Spain, "hoping the
splendour of some lucky star."*  The fight was a hopeless one
from the very beginning, but it was as gallant a one as ever took
place.  Even his foes were forced to admire Sir Richard's
dauntless courage, for when he was carried aboard Don Alfonso's
ship "the captain and gentlemen went to visit him, and to comfort
him in his hard fortune, wondering at his courageous stout heart
for that he showed not any sign of faintness nor changing of
colour.  But feeling the hour of death to approach, he spake
these words in Spanish and said, 'Here die I, Richard Grenville,
with a joyful and quiet mind, for that I have ended my life as a
true soldier ought to do, and hath fought for his country, Queen,
religion, and honour, whereby my soul most joyfully departeth out
of this body, and shall always leave behind it an everlasting
fame of a valiant and true soldier that hath done his duty as he
was bound to do.'  When he had finished these or other like words
he gave up the Ghost, with great and stout courage, and no man
could perceive any true signs of heaviness in him."**

*Gervase Markham.
**Linschoten's Large Testimony in Hakluyt's Voyages.

Poets of the time made ballads of this fight.  Raleigh wrote of
it as you have just read, and in our own day the great laureate
Lord Tennyson made the story live again in his poem The Revenge.
Tennyson tells how after the fight a great storm arose:

    "And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew
    And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earthquake grew,
    Till it smote on their hulls and their sails
         and their masts and their flags,
    And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shatter'd navy of Spain.
    And the little Revenge herself went down by the island crags
    To be lost evermore in the main."

So neither the gallant captain nor his little ship were led home
to the triumph of Spain.

It is interesting to remember that had it not been for the
caprice of the Queen, Raleigh himself would have been in Sir
Richard Grenville's place.  For he had orders to go on this
voyage, but at the last moment he was recalled, and Sir Richard
was sent instead.


SOON after the fight with the Revenge, the King of Spain made
ready more ships to attack England.  Raleigh then persuaded Queen
Elizabeth that it would be well to be before hand with the
Spaniards and attack their ships at Panama.  So to this end a
fleet was gathered together.  But the Queen sent only two ships,
various gentlemen provided others, and Raleigh spent every penny
of his own that he could gather in fitting out the remainder.  He
was himself chosen Admiral of the Fleet.  So at length he started
on an expedition after his own heart.

But he had not gone far, when a swift messenger was sent to him
ordering him to return.  Unwillingly he obeyed, and when he
reached home he was at once sent to the Tower a prisoner.  This
time the Queen was really angry with him; in her eyes Raleigh's
crime was a deep one, for he had fallen in love with one of her
own maids of honor, Mistress Elizabeth Throgmorton, and the Queen
had discovered it.  Elizabeth allowed none of her favorites to
love any one but herself, so she punished Raleigh by sending him
to the Tower.

Mistress Throgmorton was also made a prisoner.  After a time,
however, both prisoners were set free, though they were banished
from court.  They married and went to live at Sherborne where
Raleigh busied himself improving his beautiful house and laying
out the garden.  For though set free Raleigh was still in
disgrace.  But we may believe that he found some recompense for
his Queen's anger in his wife's love.

In his wife Raleigh found a life-long comrade.  Through all good
and evil fortune she stood by him, she shared his hopes and
desires, she sold her lands to give him money for his voyages,
she shared imprisonment with him when it came again, and after
his death she never ceased to mourn his loss.  How Raleigh loved
her in return we learn from the few letters written to her which
have come down to us.  She is "Sweetheart" "Dearest Bess," and he
tells to her his troubles and his hopes as to a staunch and true

We cannot follow Raleigh through all his restless life, it was so
full and varied that the story of it would fill a long book.  He
loved fighting and adventure, he loved books too, and soon we
find him back in London meeting Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, and
all the great writers of the age at the Mermaid Club.  For
Raleigh knew all the great men of his day, among them Sir Robert
Bruce Cotton of whom you heard in connection with the adventures
of the Beowulf Manuscript.

But soon, in spite of his love for his wife, in spite of his
interest in his beautiful home, in spite of his many friends,
Raleigh's restless spirit again drove him to the sea, and he set
out on a voyage of discovery and adventure.  This time he sailed
to Guiana in South America, in search of Eldorado, the fabled
city of gold.  And this time he was not called back by the Queen,
but although he reached South America and sailed up the Orinoco
and the Caroni he "returned a beggar and withered"* without
having found the fabled city.  Yet his belief in it was as strong
as ever.  He had not found the fabled city but he believed it was
to be found, and when he came home he wrote an account of his
journey because some of his enemies said that he had never been
to Guiana at all but had been hiding in Cornwall all the time.
In this book he said that he was ready again to "lie hard, to
fare worse, to be subjected to perils, to diseases, to ill
savours, to be parched and withered"* if in the end he might

*Raleigh's Discovery of Guiana.

Raleigh was ready to set off again at once to discover more of
Guiana.  But instead he joined the Fleet and went to fight the
Spanish, who were once more threatening England, and of all
enemies Raleigh considered the Spaniards the greatest.

Once again the English won a splendid victory over Spain.  Before
the town of Cadiz eight English ships captured or destroyed
thirty Spanish great and little.  They took the town of Cadiz and
razed its fortifications to the ground.  Raleigh bore himself
well in this fight, so well, indeed, that even his rival, Essex,
was bound to confess "that which he did in the sea-service could
not be bettered."

And now after five years' banishment from the Queen's favor,
Raleigh was once more received at court.  But we cannot follow
all the ups and downs of his court life, for we are told "Sir
Walter Raleigh was in and out at court, so often that he was
commonly called the tennis ball of fortune."  And so the years
went on.  Raleigh became a Member of Parliament, and was made
Governor of Jersey.  He fought and traveled, attended to his
estates in Ireland, to his business in Cornwall, to his
governorship in Jersey.  He led a stirring, busy life, fulfilling
his many duties, fighting his enemies, until in 1603 the great
Queen, whose smile or frown had meant so much to him, died.

Then soon after the new king came to the throne, it was seen that
Raleigh's day at court was indeed at an end.  For James had been
told that Sir Walter was among those who were unwilling to
receive him as king.  Therefore he was little disposed to look
graciously on the handsome daring soldier-sailor.

One by one Raleigh's posts of honor were taken from him.  He was
accused of treason and once more found himself a prisoner in the
Tower.  He was tried, and in spite of the fact that nothing was
proved against him, he was condemned to die.  The sentence was
changed, however, to imprisonment for life.

Raleigh was not left quite lonely in the Tower.  His wife and
children, whom he dearly loved, were allowed to come to live
beside him.  The governor was kind to him and allowed his
renowned prisoner to use his garden.  And there in a little hen-
house Raleigh amused himself by making experiments in chemistry,
and discovering among other things how to distill fresh water
from salt water.  He found new friends too in the Queen and in
her young son Henry, Prince of Wales.  It was a strange
friendship and a warm one that grew between the gallant boy-
prince of ten and the tried man of fifty.  Prince Henry loved to
visit Raleigh in the Tower and listen to the tales of his brave
doings by sea and land in the days when he was free.  Raleigh
helped Prince Henry to build a model ship, and the Prince asked
Raleigh's advice and talked over with him all his troubles.  His
generous young heart grieved at the though of his friend's
misfortunes.  "Who but my father would keep such a bird in such a
cage," he said with boyish indignation.
And it was for this boy friend that Raleigh began the book by
which we know him best, his History of the World.  Never has such
a great work been attempted by a captive.  To write the history
of even one country must mean much labor, much reading, much
thought.  To write a history of the world still more.  And I have
told you about Raleigh because with him begins an interest in
history beyond the bounds of our own island.  Before him our
historians had only written of England.

It gives us some idea of the large courage of Raleigh's mind when
we remember that he was over fifty when he began this tremendous
piece of work for the sake of a boy he loved.  Raleigh labored at
this book for seven years or more.  He was allowed to have his
own books in prison.  Sir Robert Cotton lent him others, and
learned friends came to talk over his book with him and help him.
And so the pile of written sheets grew.  But the book was never
finished, for long before the first volume was ready the brave
young prince for whom it was written died.

To Raleigh, this was the cruelest blow fate ever dealt him, for
with the death of Prince Henry died his hope of freedom.  In
spite of his long imprisonment, Raleigh had never lost hope of
one day regaining his freedom.  Prince Henry just before his
death had wrung an unwilling promise from the King his father
that Raleigh should be set free.  But when the Prince died the
King forgot his promise.

"O eloquent, just and mighty death!"  Raleigh says in the last
lines of his book, "Whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded,
what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath
flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised;
thou hast drawn together all the far stretching greatness, all
the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over
with these two narrow words Hic Jacet.

"Lastly, whereas this book by the title it hath, calls itself,
the first part of The General History of the World, implying a
second and third volume, which I also intended and have hewn out,
besides many other discouragements, persuading my silence, it
hath pleased God to take that glorious prince out of the world,
to whom they were directed; whose unspeakable and never enough
lamented loss hath taught me to say with Job, my heart is turned
to mourning and my organ into the voice of them that weep."

Raleigh begins his great book with the Creation and brings it
down to the third Macedonian war, which ended in 168 B.C.  So you
see he did not get far.  But although when he began he had
intended to write much more, he never meant to bring his history
down to his own time.  "I know that it will be said by many," he
writes in his preface, "that I might have been more pleasing to
the reader if I had written the story of mine own times, having
been permitted to draw water as near the well-head as another.
To this I answer that whosoever in writing a modern history,
shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out
his teeth."

Raleigh feels it much safer to write "of the elder times."  But
even so, he says there may be people who will think "that in
speaking of the past I point at the present," and that under the
names of those long dead he is showing the vices of people who
are alive.  "But this I cannot help though innocent," he says.
Raleigh's fears were not without ground and at one time his
history was forbidden by King James "for being too saucy in
censuring princes.  He took it much to heart, for he thought he
had won his spurs and pleased the King extraordinarily,"  He had
hoped to please the King and win freedom again, but his hopes
were shattered.

At last, however, the door of his prison was opened.  It was a
golden key that opened it.  For Raleigh promised, if he were set
free, to seek once more the fabled Golden City, and this time he
swore to find it and bring home treasure untold to his master the

So once more the imprisoned sea-bird was free, and gathering men
and ships he set forth on his last voyage.  He set forth bearing
with him all his hopes, all his fortune.  For both Raleigh and
his wife almost beggared themselves to get money to fit out the
fleet, and with him as captain sailed his young son Walter.

A year later Raleigh returned.  But he returned without his son,
with hopes broken, fortune lost.  Many fights and storms had he
endured, many hardships suffered, but he had not found the Golden
City.  His money was spent, his ships shattered, his men in
mutiny, and hardest of all to bear, his young son Walter lay dead
in far Guiana, slain in a fight with Spaniards.  How Raleigh
grieved we learn from his letter to his wife, "I was loath to
write," he says, "because I knew not how to comfort you; and, God
knows, I never knew what sorrow meant till now. . . . Comfort
your heart, dearest Bess, I shall sorrow for us both, I shall
sorrow less because I have not long to sorrow, because not long
to live. . . . I have written but that letter, for my brains are
broken, and it is a torment for me to write, and especially of
misery. . . . The Lord bless and comfort you that you may bear
patiently the death of your most valiant son."

Raleigh came home a sad and ruined man, and had the pity of the
King been as easily aroused as his fear of the Spaniards he had
surely been allowed to live out the rest of his life in peaceful
quiet.  But James, who shuddered at the sight of a drawn sword,
feared the Spaniards and had patched up an imaginary peace with
them.  And now when the Spanish Ambassador rushed into the King's
Chamber crying "Pirates!  Pirates!"  Raleigh's fate was sealed.

Raleigh had broken the peace in land belonging to "our dear
brother the King of Spain" said James, therefore he must die.

Thus once again, Raleigh found himself lodged in the Tower.  But
so clearly did he show that he had broken no peace where no peace
was, that it was found impossible to put him to death because of
what he had done in Guiana.  He was condemned to death,
therefore, on the old charge of treason passed upon him nearly
fifteen years before.  He met death bravely and smiling.  Clad in
splendid clothes such as he loved, he mounted the scaffold and
made his farewell speech to those around.

"'Tis a sharp medicine, but it is a sound cure for all diseases,"
he said smiling to the Sheriff as he felt the edge of the ax.
Then he laid his head upon the block.

"Thus," says the first writer of Raleigh's life, "have we seen
how Sir Walter Raleigh who had been one of the greatest scourges
of Spain, was made a sacrifice to it."

"So may we say to the memory of this worthy knight," says Fuller,
"'Repose yourself in this our Catalogue under what topic you
please, statesman, seaman, soldier, learned writer or what not.'
His worth unlocks our cabinets and proves both room and welcome
to entertain him . . . so dexterous was he in all his
undertakings in Court, in camp, by sea, by land, with sword, with

*Fuller's Worthies.


Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley may be read in illustration of
this chapter.


WHEN we are little, there are many things we cannot understand;
we puzzle about them a good deal perhaps, and then we ask
questions.  And sometimes the grown-ups answer our question and
make the puzzling things clear to us, sometimes they answer yet
do not make the puzzling things any clearer to us, and sometimes
they tell us not to trouble, that we will understand when we grow
older.  Then we wish we could grow older quick, for it seems such
a long time to wait for an answer.  But worst of all, sometimes
the grown-ups tell us not to talk so much and not to ask so many

The fact is, though perhaps I ought not to tell you, grown-ups
don't know everything.  That is not any disgrace either, for of
course no one can know everything, not even father or mother.
And just as there are things which puzzle little folks, there are
things which puzzle big folks.  And just as among little folks
there are some who ask more questions and who "want to know" more
than others, so among grown-ups there are some who more than
others seek for the answer to those puzzling question.  These
people we call philosophers.  The word comes from two Greek
words, philos loving, sophos wise, and means loving wisdom.  In
this chapter I am going to tell you about Francis Bacon, the
great philosopher who lived in the times of Elizabeth and James.
I do not think that I can quite make you understand what
philosophy really means, or what his learned books were about,
nor do I think you will care to read them for a long time to
come.  But you will find the life of Francis Bacon very
interesting.  It is well, too, to know about Bacon, for with him
began a new kind of search for wisdom.  The old searchers after
truth had tried to settle the questions which puzzled them by
turning to imaginary things, and by mere thinking.  Bacon said
that we must answer these questions by studying not what was
imaginary, but what was real--by studying nature.  So Bacon was
not only a lover of truth but was also the first of our
scientists of to-day.  Scientist comes from the Latin word scio
to know, and Science means that which we know by watching things
and trying things,--by making experiments.  And although Bacon
did not himself find out anything new and useful to man, he
pointed out the road upon which others were to travel.

It was upon a cold day in January in 1560 that Francis Bacon
"came crying into the world."*  He was born in a fine house and
was the child of great people, his father being Sir Nicholas
Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.  But although his father
was one of the most important men in the kingdom, we know little
about Francis as a boy.  We know that he met the Queen and that
he must have been a clever little boy, for she would playfully
call him her "young Lord Keeper."  Once too when she asked him
how old he was, he answered, "Two years younger than your
Majesty's happy reign."  So if you know when Elizabeth began to
reign you will easily remember when Bacon was born.

*James Spedding.

Francis was the youngest of a big family, and when he was little
more than twelve years old he went to Trinity College, Cambridge.
Even in those days, when people went to college early, this was

For three years Bacon remained at college and then he went to
France with the English ambassador.  While he was in France his
father died and Bacon returned home.  At eighteen he thus found
himself a poor lad with his future to make and only his father's
great name and his own wits to help him.  He made up his mind to
take Law as his profession.  So he set himself quietly to study.

He worked hard, for from the very beginning he meant to get on,
he meant to be rich and powerful.  So he bowed low before the
great, he wrote letters to them full of flattery, he begged and

Bacon is like a man with two faces.  We look at one and we see a
kindly face full of pity and sorrow for all wrong and pain that
men must suffer, we see there a longing to help man, to be his
friend.  We look at the other face and there we see the greed of
gain, the desire for power and place.  Yet it may be that Bacon
only strove to be great so that he might have more power and
freedom to be pitiful.  In spite of Bacon's hard work, in spite
of his flattery and begging, he did not rise fast.  After five
years we find him indeed a barrister and a Member of Parliament,
but among the many great men of his age he was still of little
account.  He had not made his mark, in spite of the fact that the
great Lord Burleigh was his uncle, in spite of the fact that
Elizabeth had liked him as a boy.  Post after post for which he
begged was given to other men.  He was, he said himself, "like a
child following a bird, which when he is nearest flieth away and
lighteth a little before, and then the child after it again, and
so in infinitum.  I am weary of it."

But one friend at court he found in the Earl of Essex, the
favorite of Elizabeth, the rival of Raleigh.  Essex, however, who
could win so much favor for himself, could win none for Francis
Bacon.  Being able to win nothing from the Queen, on his own
account Essex gave his friend an estate worth about 1800 pounds.
But although that may have been some comfort to Bacon, it did not
win for him greatness in the eyes of the world, the only greatness
for which he longed.  As to the Queen, she made use of him when
it pleased her, but she had no love for him.  "Though she cheered
him much with the bounty of her countenance," says an early
writer of Bacon's life, his friend and chaplain,* "yet she never
cheered him with the bounty of her hand."  It was, alas, that
bounty of the hand that Bacon begged for and stooped for all
through his life.  Yet he cared nothing for money for its own
sake, for what he had, he spent carelessly.  He loved to keep
high state, he loved grandeur, and was always in debt.

* William Rawley.

Essex through all his brilliant years when the Queen smiled upon
him stuck by his friend, for him he spent his "power, might,
authority and amity" in vain.  When the dark hours came and Essex
fell into disgrace, it was Bacon who forgot his friendship.

You will read in history-books of how Essex, against the Queen's
orders, left Ireland, and coming to London, burst into her
presence one morning before she was dressed.  You will read of
how he was disgraced and imprisoned.  At first Bacon did what he
could for his friend, and it was through his help that Essex was
set free.  But even then, Bacon wrote to the Earl, "I confess I
love some things much better than I love your lordship, as the
Queen's service, her quiet and contentment, her honour, her
favour, the good of my country, and the like.  Yet I love few
persons better than yourself, both for gratitude's sake, and for
your own virtues."

Set free, Essex rushed into passionate, futile rebellion.  Again
he was made prisoner and tried for high treason.  It was then
that Bacon had to choose between friend and Queen.  He chose his
Queen and appeared in court against his friend.  To do anything
else, Bacon told himself, had been utterly useless.  Essex was
now of no more use to him, he was too surely fallen.  To cling to
him could do not good, but would only bring the Queen's anger
upon himself also.  And yet he had written:  "It is friendship
when a man can say to himself, I love this man without respect of
utility. . . . I make him a portion of my own wishes."

He wrote that as a young man, later he saw nothing in friendship
beyond use.

The trial of Essex must have been a brilliant scene.  The Earl
himself, young, fair of face, splendidly clad, stood at the bar.
He showed no fear, his bearing was as proud and bold as ever,
"but whether his courage were borrowed and put on for the time or
natural, it were hard to judge."*  The Lord Treasurer, the Lord
High Steward, too were there and twenty-five peers, nine earls,
and sixteen barons to try the case.  Among the learned counsel
sat Bacon, a disappointed man of forty.  There was nothing to
single him out from his fellows save that he was the Earl's
friend, and as such might be looked upon to do his best to save

*John Chamberlain.

As the trial went on, however, Bacon spoke, not to save, but to
condemn.  Did no memory of past kindliness cross his mind as he
likened his friend to "Cain, that first murderer," as he
complained to the court that too much favor was shown to the
prisoner, that he had never before heard "so ill a defense of
such great and notorious treasons."  The Earl answered in his own
defense again and yet again.  But at length he was silent.  His
case was hopeless, and he was condemned to death.  He was
executed on 25th February, 1601.

Perhaps Bacon could not have saved his friend from death, but had
he used his wit to try at least to save instead of helping to
condemn, he would have kept his own name from a dark blot.  But a
greater betrayal of friendship was yet to follow.  Though Essex
had been wild and foolish the people loved him, and now they
murmured against the Queen for causing his death.  Then it was
thought well, that they should know all the blackness of his
misdeeds, and it was Bacon who was called upon to write the story
of them.

Even from this he did not shrink, for he hoped for great rewards.
But, as before, the Queen used him, and withheld "the bounty of
her hand"; from her he received no State appointment.  He did
indeed receive 1200 pounds in money.  It was scarcely as much as
Essex had once given him out of friendship.  To Bacon it seemed
too small a reward for his betrayal of his friend, even although
it had seemed to mean loyalty to his Queen.  "The Queen hath done
somewhat for me," he wrote, "though not in the proportion I
hoped."  And so in debt and with a blotted name, Bacon lived on
until Queen Elizabeth died.  But with the new King his fortunes
began to rise.  First he was made Sir Francis Bacon, then from
one honor to another he rose until he became at last Lord High
Chancellor of England, the highest judge in the land.  A few
months later, he was made a peer with the title of Baron Verulam.
A few years later at the age of sixty he went still one step
higher and became Viscount St. Albans.

Bacon chose the name of Baron Verulam from the name of the old
Roman city Verulamium which was afterwards called St. Albans.  It
was near St. Albans that Bacon had built himself a splendid
house, laid out a beautiful garden, and planted fine trees, and
there he kept as great state as the King himself.

He had now reached his highest power.  He had published his great
work called the Novum Organum or New Instrument in which he
taught men a new way of wisdom.  He was the greatest judge in the
land and a peer of the realm.  He had married too, but he never
had any children, and we know little of his home life.

It seemed as if at last he had all he could wish for, as if his
life would end in a blaze of glory.  But instead of that in a few
short weeks after he became Viscount St. Albans, he was a
disgraced and fallen man.

He had always loved splendor and pomp, he had always spent more
than he could afford.  Now he was accused of taking bribes, that
is, he was accused of taking money from people and, instead of
judging fairly, of judging in favor of those who had given him
most money.  He was accused, in fact, of selling justice.  That
he should sell justice is the blackest charge that can be brought
against a judge.  At first Bacon could not believe that any one
would dare to attack him.  But when he heard that it was true, he
sank beneath the disgrace, he made no resistance.  His health
gave way.  On his sick-bed he owned that he had taken presents,
yet to the end he protested that he had judged justly.  He had
taken the bribes indeed, but they had made no difference to his
judgments.  He had not sold justice.

He made his confession and stood to it.  "My lords," he said, "it
is my act, my hand, my heart.  I beseech your lordships be
merciful to a broken reed."

Bacon was condemned to pay a fine of 40,000 pounds, to be
imprisoned during the King's pleasure, never more to have
office of any kind, never to sit in Parliament, "nor come
within the verge of the Court."

"I was the justest judge that was in England these fifty years,"
said Bacon afterwards.  "But it was the justest censure in
Parliament that was these two hundred years."

Bacon's punishment was not as heavy as at first sight  it seems,
for the fine was forgiven him, and "the king's pleasure," made
his imprisonment in the Tower only a matter of a few days.

And now that his life was shipwrecked, though he never ceased to
long to return to his old greatness, he gave all his time to
writing and to science.  He spent many peaceful hours in the
garden that he loved.  "His lordship," we are told, "was a very
contemplative person, and was wont to contemplate in his
delicious walks."  He was generally accompanied by one of the
gentlemen of his household "that attended him with ink and paper
ready to set down presently his thoughts."*

*J. Aubrey.

He was not soured or bitter.  "Though his fortunes may have
changed," says one of his household,* "yet I never saw any change
in his mien, his words, or his deeds, towards any man.  But he
was always the same both in sorrow and joy, as a philosopher
ought to be."

*Peter Boerner, his apothecary and secretary.

Bacon was now shut out from honorable work in the world, but he
had no desire to be idle.  "I have read in books," he wrote,
"that it is accounted a great bliss to have Leisure with Honour.
That was never my fortune.  For time was I had Honour without
Leisure; and now I have Leisure without Honour.  But my desire is
now to have Leisure without Loitering."  So now he lived as he
himself said "a long cleansing week of five years."  Then the end

It was Bacon's thirst for knowledge that caused his death.  One
winter day when the snow lay on the ground he drove out in his
coach.  Suddenly as he drove along looking at the white-covered
fields and roads around, the thought came to him that food might
be kept good by means of snow as easily as by salt.  He resolved
to try, so, stopping his coach, he went into a poor woman's
cottage and bought a hen.  The woman killed and made ready the
hen, but Bacon was so eager about his experiment that he stuffed
it himself with snow.  In doing this he was so chilled by the
cold that he became suddenly ill, too ill to return home.  He was
taken to a house near "where they put him into a good bed warmed
with a pan"* and there after a few days he died.

*J. Aubrey.

This little story of how Bacon came by his death gives a good
idea of how he tried to make use of his philosophy.  He was not
content with thinking and speculating, that is, looking at ideas.
Speculate comes from the Latin speculari, to spy out.  He wanted
to experiment too.  And although in those days no one had thought
about it, we now know that Bacon was quite right and that meat
can be kept by freezing it.  And it is pleasant to know that
before Bacon died he was able to write that the experiment had
succeeded "excellently well."

In his will Bacon left his name and memory "to men's charitable
speeches, to foreign nations and to the next ages," and he was
right to do so, for in spite of all the dark shadows that hang
about his name men still call him great.  We remember him as a
great man among great men; we remember him as the fore-runner of
modern science; we remember him for the splendid English in which
he wrote.

And yet, although Bacon's English is clear, strong, and fine,
although Elizabethan English perhaps reached in him its highest
point, he himself despised English.  He did not believe that it
was a language that would live.  And as he wanted his books to be
read by people all over the world and in all time to come, he
wrote his greatest books in Latin.  He grieved that he had wasted
time in writing English, and he had much that he wrote in English
translated into Latin during his lifetime.

It seems strange to us now that in an age when Spenser and
Shakespeare had show the world what the English tongue had power
to do that any man should have been able to disbelieve in its
greatness.  But so it was, and Bacon translated his books into
Latin so that they might live when English books "were not."

I will not weary you with a list of all the books Bacon wrote.
Although it is not considered his greatest work, that by which
most people know him is his Book of Essays.  By an essay, Bacon
meant a testing or proving.  In the short chapters of his essays
he tries and proves many things such as Friendship, Study, Honor;
and when you come to read these essays you will be surprised to
find how many of the sentences are known to you already.  They
have become "household words," and without knowing it we repeat
Bacon's wisdom.  But we miss in them something of human
kindliness.  Bacon's wisdom is cool, calm, and calculating, and
we long sometimes for a little warmth, a little passion, and not
so much "use."

The essays are best known, but the New Atlantis is the book that
you will best like to read, for it is something of a story, and
of it I will tell you a little in the next chapter.


ATLANTIS was a fabled island of the Greeks which lay somewhere in
the Western Sea.  That island, it was pretended, sank beneath the
waves and was lost, and Bacon makes believe that he finds another
island something like it in the Pacific Ocean and calls it the
New Atlantis.  Here, as in More's Utopia, the people living under
just and wise laws, are happy and good.  Perhaps some day you
will be interested enough to read these two books together and
compare them.  Then one great difference will strike you at once.
In the Utopia all is dull and gray, only children are pleased
with jewels, only prisoners are loaded with golden chains.  In
the New Atlantis jewels and gold gleam and flash, the love of
splendor and color shows itself almost in every page.

Bacon wastes no time in explanation but launches right into the
middle of his story.  "We sailed from Peru," he says, "(where we
had continued by the space of one whole year) for China and
Japan, by the South Sea, taking with us victuals for twelve
months."  And through all the story we are not told who the "we"
were or what their names or business.  There were, we learn,
fifty-one persons in all on board the ship.  After some month's
good sailing they met with storms of wind.  They were driven
about now here, now there.  Their food began to fail, and finding
themselves in the midst of the greatest wilderness of waters in
the world, they gave themselves us as lost.  But presently one
evening they saw upon one hand what seemed like darker clouds,
but which in the end proved to be land.

"And after an hour and a half's sailing, we entered into a good
haven, being the port of a fair city, not great indeed, but well
built, and that gave a pleasant view from the sea.

"And we, thinking every minute long till we were on land, came
close to the shore, and offered to land.  But straightways we saw
divers of the people, with bastons in their hands, as it were
forbidding us to land; yet without any cries or fierceness, but
only as warning us off by signs that they made.  Whereupon being
not a little discomforted, we were advising with ourselves what
we should do.  During which time there made forth to us a small
boat, with about eight persons in it; whereof one of them had in
his hand a tipstaff* of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with
blue, who came aboard our ship, without any show of distrust at
all.  And when he saw one of our number present himself somewhat
before the rest, he drew forth a little scroll of parchment
(somewhat yellower than our parchment, and shining like the
leaves of writing-tables, but otherwise soft and flexible), and
delivered it to our foremost man.  In which scroll were written
in ancient Hebrew, and in ancient Greek, and in good Latin of the
School, and in Spanish, these words:  'Land ye not, none of you.
And provide to be gone from this coast within sixteen days,
except ye have further time given you.  Meanwhile, if ye want
fresh water, or victual, or help for your sick, or that your ship
needeth repair, write down your wants, and ye shall have that
which belongeth to mercy.'

*Staff of office.

"This scroll was signed with a stamp of Cherubim's wings, not
spread but hanging downwards, and by them a cross.

"This being delivered, the officer returned, and left only a
servant with us to receive our answer.  Consulting thereupon
among ourselves, we were much perplexed.  The denial of landing
and hasty warning us away troubled us much.  On the other side,
to find that the people had languages and were so full of
humanity, did comfort us not a little.  And above all, the sign
of the cross to that instrument was to us a great rejoicing, and
as it were a certain presage of good.

"Our answer was in the Spanish tongue:  'That for our ship, it
was well; for we had rather met with calms and contrary winds
than any tempests.  For our sick, they were many, and in very ill
case, so that if they were not permitted to land, they ran danger
of their lives.'

"Our other wants we set down in particular; adding, 'that we had
some little store of merchandise, which if it pleased them to
deal for, it might supply our wants without being chargeable unto

"We offered some reward in pistolets unto the servant, and a
piece of crimson velvet to be presented to the officer.  But the
servant took them not, nor would scarce look upon them; and so
left us, and went back in another little boat which was sent for

About three hours after the answer had been sent, the ship was
visited by another great man from the island.  "He had on him a
gown with wide sleeves, of a kind of water chamelot of an
excellent azure colour, far more glossy than ours.  His under
apparel was green, and so was his hat, being in the form of a
turban, daintily made, and not so huge as the Turkish turbans.
And the locks of his hair came down below the brims of it.  A
reverend man was he to behold.

"He came in a boat, gilt in some part of it, with four persons
more only in that boat, and was followed by another boat, wherein
were some twenty.  When he was come within a flight shot of our
ship, signs were made to us that we should send forth some to
meet him upon the water; which we presently did in our shipboat,
sending the principal man amongst us save one, and four of our
number with him.

"When we were come within six yards of their boat they called to
us to stay, and not to approach further, which we did.  And
thereupon the man whom I before described stood up, and with a
loud voice in Spanish, asked 'Are ye Christians?'

"We answered, 'We were'; fearing the less, because of the cross
we had seen in the subscription.

"At which answer the said person lifted up his right hand towards
heaven, and drew it softly to his mouth (which is the gesture
they use when they thank God) and then said:  'If ye will swear
(all of you) by the merits of the Saviour that ye are not
pirates, nor have shed blood lawfully or unlawfully within forty
days past, you may have licence to come on land.'

"We said, 'We were all ready to take that oath.'

"Whereupon one of those that were with him, being (as it seemed)
a notary, made an entry of this act.  Which done, another of the
attendants of the great person, which was with him in the same
boat, after his lord had spoken a little to him, said aloud:  'My
lord would have you know, that it is not of pride or greatness
that he cometh out aboard your ship; but for that in your answer
you declare that you have many sick amongst you, he was warned by
the Conservator of Health of the city that he should keep a

"We bowed ourselves towards him, and answered, 'We were his
humble servants; and accounted for great honour and singular
humanity towards us that which was already done; but hoped well
that the nature of the sickness of our men was not infectious.'

"So he returned; and a while after came the notary to us aboard
our ship, holding in his hand a fruit of that country, like an
orange, but of colour between orange-tawny and scarlet, which
cast a most excellent odour.  He used it (as it seemeth) for a
preservative against infection.

"He gave us our oath; 'By the name of Jesus and of his merits,'
and after told us that the next day by six of the clock in the
morning we should be sent to, and brought to the Strangers' House
(so he called it), where we should be accommodated of things both
for our whole and for our sick.

"So he left us.  And when we offered him some pistolets he
smiling said, 'He must not be twice paid for one labour,'
meaning, as I take it, that he had salary sufficient of the State
for his service.  For (as I after leaned) they call an officer
that taketh rewards, twice paid."

So next morning the people landed from the ship, and Bacon goes
on to tell us of the wonderful things they saw and learned in the
island.  The most wonderful thing was a place called Solomon's
House.  In describing it Bacon was describing such a house as he
hoped one day to see in England.  It was a great establishment in
which everything that might be of use to mankind was studied and
taught.  And Bacon speaks of many things which were only guessed
at in his time.  He speaks of high towers wherein people watched
"winds, rain, snow, hail and some of the fiery meteors also."
To-day we have observatories.  He speaks of "help for the sight
far above spectacles and glasses," also "glasses and means to see
small and minute bodies perfectly and distinctly, as the shapes
and colours of small flies and worms, grains and flaws in gems,
which cannot otherwise be seen."  To-day we have the microscope.
He says "we have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes,
in strange lines and distances," yet in those days no one had
dreamed of a telephone.  "We imitate also flights of birds; we
have some degrees of flying in the air.  We have ships and boats
for going under water," yet in those days stories of flying-ships
or torpedoes would have been treated as fairy tales.

Bacon did not finish The New Atlantis.  "The rest was not
perfected" are the last words in the book and it was not
published until after his death.  These words might almost have
been written of Bacon himself.  A great writer, a great man,--but
"The rest was not perfected."  He put his trust in princes and he
fell.  Yet into the land of knowledge--

    "Bacon, like Moses, led us forth at last;
    The barren wilderness he passed,
    Did on the very border stand
    Of the blest promised land,
    And from the mountain's top of his exalted wit
    Saw it himself and shew'd us it.
    But life did never to one man allow
    Time to discover worlds and conquer too;
    Nor can so short a line sufficient be,
    To fathom the vast depths of nature's sea.
    The work he did we ought t'admire,
    And were unjust if we should more require
    From his few years, divided twixt th' excess
    Of low affliction and high happiness.
    For who on things remote can fix his sight
    That's always in a triumph or a fight."*

    *Abraham Cowley, To the Royal Society.

You will like to know, that less than forty years after Bacon's
death a society called The Royal Society was founded.  This is a
Society which interests itself in scientific study and research,
and is the oldest of its kind in Great Britain.  It was Bacon's
fancy of Solomon's House which led men to found this Society.
Bacon was the great man whose "true imagination"* set it on foot,
and although many years have passed since then, the Royal Society
still keeps its place in the forefront of Science.

*Thomas Sprat, History of Royal Society, 1667.


The New Atlantis, edited by G. D. W. Bevan, modern spelling (for
schools).  The New Atlantis, edited by G. C. Moore Smith, in old
spelling (for schools).


BEFORE either Ben Jonson or Bacon died, a second Stuart king sat
on the throne of England.  This was Charles I the son of James VI
and I.  The spacious days of Queen Elizabeth were over and gone,
and the temper of the people was changing.  Elizabeth had been a
tyrant but the people of England had yielded to her tyranny.
James, too, was a tyrant, but the people struggled with him, and
in the struggle they grew stronger.  In the days of Elizabeth the
religion of England was still unsettled.  James decided that the
religion of England must be Episcopal, but as the reign of James
went on, England became more and more Puritan and the breach
between King and people grew wide, for James was no Puritan nor
was Charles after him.

As the temper of the people changed, the literature changed too.
As England grew Puritan, the people began to look askance at the
theater, for the Puritans had always been its enemies.  Puritan
ideas drew the great mass of thinking people.

For one reason or another the plays that were written became by
degrees poorer and poorer.  They were coarse too, many of them so
much so that we do not care to read them now.  But people wrote
such stories as the play-goers of those days liked, and from them
we can judge how low the taste of England had fallen.  However,
there were people in England in those days who revolted against
this taste, and in 1642, when the great struggle between King
Parliament had begun, all theaters were closed by order of
Parliament.  So for a time the life of English drama paused.

But while dramatic poetry declined, lyric poetry flourished.
Lyric comes from the Greek word lura, a lyre, and all lyric
poetry was at one time meant to be sung.  Now we use the word for
any short poem whether meant to be sung or not.  In the times of
James and Charles there were many lyric poets.  Especially in the
time of Charles it was natural that poets should write lyrics
rather than longer poems.  For a time of strong action, of fierce
struggle was beginning, and amid the clash of arms men had no
leisure to sit in the study and ponder long and quietly.  But
life brought with it many sharp and quick moments, and these
could be best expressed in lyric poetry.  And as was natural when
religion was more and more being mixed with politics, when life
was forcing people to think about religion whether they would or
not, many of these lyric poets were religious poets.  Indeed this
is the great time of English religious poetry.  So these lyric
poets were divided into two classes, the religious poets and the
court poets, gay cavaliers these last who sang love-songs, love-
songs, too, in which we often seem to hear the clash of swords.
For if these brave and careless cavaliers loved gayly, they
fought and died as gayly as they loved.

Later on when you come to read more in English literature, you
will learn to know many of these poets.  In this book we have not
room to tell about them or even to mention their names.  Their
stories are bound up with the stories of the times, and many of
them fought and suffered for their king.  But I will give you one
or two poems which may make you want to know more about the
writers of them.

Here are two written by Richard Lovelace, the very model of a gay
cavalier.  While he was at Oxford, King Charles saw him and made
him M.A. or Master of Arts, not for his learning, but because of
his beautiful face.  He went to court and made love and sang
songs gayly.  He went to battle and fought and sang as gayly, he
went to prison and still sang.  To the cause of his King he clung
through all, and when Charles was dead and Cromwell ruled with
his stern hand, and song was hushed in England, he died miserably
in a poor London alley.

The first of these songs was written by Lovelace while he was in
prison for having presented a petition to the House of Commons
asking that King Charles might be restored to the throne.


    "When love with unconfinéd wings
        Hovers within my gates,
    And my divine Althea brings
        To whisper at the grates;
    When I lye tangled in her haire,
        And fettered to her eye,
    The gods, that wanton in the aire,
        Know no such liberty.
    .   .   .   .   .
    "When (like committed linnets) I
        With shriller throat shall sing
    The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
        And glories of my King.
    When I shall voyce aloud, how good
        He is, how great should be,
    Enlargéd winds, that curle the flood,
        Know no such liberty.

    "Stone walls do not a prison make,
        Nor iron bars a cage;
    Mindes innocent and quiet take
        That for an hermitage;
    If I have freedome in my love,
        And in my soule am free,
    Angels alone that soar above
        Enjoy such liberty."


    "Tell me not (sweet) I am unkinde,
        That from the nunnerie
    Of thy chaste heart and quiet minde
        To warre and armes I flie.

    "True:  a new Mistresse now I chase,
        The first foe in the field,
    And with a stronger faith embrace
        A sword, a horse, a shield.

    "Yet this inconstancy is such
        As you, too, shall adore;
    I could not love thee, dear, so much,
        Lov'd I not Honour more."

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, was another cavalier poet
whose fine, sad story you will read in history.  He loved his
King and fought and suffered for him, and when he heard that he
was dead he drew his sword and wrote a poem with its point:

    "Great, Good, and Just, could I but rate
    My grief, and thy too rigid fate,
    I'd weep the world in such a strain
    As it should deluge once again:
    But since thy loud-tongued blood demands supplies
    More from Briareus' hands than Argus' eyes,
    I'll sing thy obsequies with trumpet sounds
    And write thine epitaph in blood and wounds."

He wrote, too, a famous song known as Montrose's Love-song.  Here
it is:--

    "My dear and only love, I pray
        This noble world of thee,
    Be governed by no other sway
        But purest monarchie.

    "For if confusion have a part
        Which vertuous souls abhore,
    And hold a synod in thy heart,
        I'll never love thee more.

    "Like Alexander I will reign,
        And I will reign alone,
    My thoughts shall evermore disdain
        A rival on my throne.

    "He either fears his fate too much
        Or his deserts are small,
    That puts it not unto the touch,
        To win or lose it all.

    "But I must rule and govern still,
        And always give the law,
    And have each subject at my will,
        And all to stand in awe.

    "But 'gainst my battery if I find
        Thou shun'st the prize so sore,
    As that thou set'st me up a blind
        I'll never love thee more.

    "If in the Empire of thy heart,
        Where I should solely be,
    Another do pretend a part,
        And dares to vie with me:

    "Or if committees thou erect,
        And goes on such a score,
    I'll sing and laugh at thy neglect,
        and never love thee more.

    "But if thou wilt be constant then,
        And faithful to thy word,
    I'll make thee glorious with my pen
        And famous by my sword.

    "I'll serve thee in such noble ways
        Was never heard before,
    I'll crown and deck thee all with bays
        And love thee more and more."

In these few cavalier songs we can see the spirit of the times.
There is gay carelessness of death, strong courage in misfortune,
passionate loyalty.  There is, too, the proud spirit of the
tyrant, which is gentle and loving when obeyed, harsh and cruel
if disobeyed.

There is another song by a cavalier poet which I should like to
give you.  It is a love-song, too, but it does not tell of these
stormy times, or ring with the noise of battle.  Rather it takes
us away to a peaceful summer morning before the sun is up, when
everything is still, when the dew trembles on every blade of
grass, and the air is fresh and cool, and sweet with summer
scents.  And in this cool freshness we hear the song of the lark:

    "The lark now leaves his wat'ry nest,
    And, climbing, shakes his dewy wings;
    He takes this window for the east;
    And to implore your light, he sings;
    'Awake, awake! the Morn will never rise,
    Till she can dress her beauty at your eyes.'

    "The merchant bow unto the seaman's star,
    The ploughman from the Sun his season takes;
    But still the lover wonders what they are,
    Who look for day before his mistress wakes.
    'Awake, awake! break thro' your veils of lawn!
    Then draw your curtains, and begin the dawn.'"

That was written by William Davenant, poet-laureate.  It is one
our most beautiful songs, and he is remembered by it far more
than by his long epic poem called Gondibert which few people now
read.  But I think you will agree with me that his name is worthy
of being remembered for that one song alone.


HAVING told you a little about the songs of the cavaliers I must
now tell you something about the religious poets who were a
feature of the age.  Of all our religious poets, of this time at
least, George Herbert is the greatest.  He was born in 1593 near
the town of Montgomery, and was the son of a noble family, but
his father died when he was little more than three, leaving his
mother to bring up George with his nine brothers and sisters.

George Herbert's mother was a good and beautiful woman, and she
loved her children so well that the poet said afterwards she had
been twice a mother to him.

At twelve he was sent to Westminster school where we are told
"the beauties of his pretty behaviour shined" so that he seemed
"to become the care of Heaven and of a particular good angel to
guard and guide him."*

*Izaak Walton.

At fifteen he went to Trinity College, Cambridge.  And now,
although separated from his "dear and careful Mother"* he did not
forget her or all that she had taught him.  Already he was a
poet.  We find him sending verses as a New Year gift to his
mother and writing to her that "my poor abilities in poetry shall
be all and ever consecrated to God's glory."

*The same.

As the years went on Herbert worked hard and became a gently
good, as well as a learned man, and in time he was given the post
of Public Orator at the University.  This post brought him into
touch with the court and with the King.  Of this George Herbert
was glad, for although he was a good and saintly man, he longed
to be a courtier.  Often now he went to court hoping for some
great post.  But James I died in 1625 and with him died George
Herbert's hope of rising to be great in the world.

For a time, then, he left court and went into the country, and
there he passed through a great struggle with himself.  The
question he had to settle was "whether he should return to the
painted pleasure of a court life" or become a priest.

In the end he decided to become a priest, and when a friend tried
to dissuade him from the calling as one too much below his birth,
he answered:  "It hath been judged formerly, that the domestic
servants of the King of Heaven should be one of the noblest
families on earth.  And though the iniquity of late times have
made clergymen meanly valued, and the sacred name of priest
contemptible, yet I will labor to make it honorable. . . . And I
will labor to be like my Saviour, by making humility lovely in
the eyes of all men, and by following the merciful and meek
example of my dear Jesus."

But before Herbert was fully ordained a great change came into
his life.  The Church of England was now Protestant and priests
were allowed to marry, and George Herbert married.  The story of
how he met his wife is pretty.

Herbert was such a cheerful and good man that he had many
friends.  It was said, indeed, that he had no enemy.  Among his
many friends was one named Danvers, who loved him so much that he
said nothing would make him so happy as that George should marry
one of his nine daughters.  But specially he wished him to marry
his daughter Jane, for he loved her best, and would think of no
more happy fate for her than to be the wife of such a man as
George Herbert.  He talked of George so much to Jane that she
loved him without having seen him.  George too heard of Jane and
wished to meet her.  And at last after a long time they met.
Each had heard so much about the other that they seemed to know
one another already, and like the prince and princess in a fairy
tale, they loved at once, and three days later they were married.

Soon after this, George Herbert was offered the living of
Bemerton near Salisbury.  But although he had already made up his
mind to become a priest he was as yet only a deacon.  This sudden
offer made him fearful.  He began again to question himself and
wonder if he was good enough for such a high calling.  For a
month he fasted and prayed over it.  But in the end Laud, Bishop
of London, assured him "that the refusal of it was a sin."  So
Herbert put off his sword and gay silken clothes, and putting on
the long dark robe of a priest turned his back for ever to
thoughts of a court life.  "I now look back upon my aspiring
thoughts,"  he said, "and think myself more happy than if I had
attained what I so ambitiously thirsted for.  I can now behold
the court with an impartial eye, and see plainly that it is made
up of fraud and titles and flattery, and many other such empty,
imaginary, painted pleasures."  And having turned his back on all
gayety, he began the life which earned for him the name of
"saintly George Herbert."  He taught his people, preached to
them, and prayed with them so lovingly that they loved him in
return.  "Some of the meaner sort of his parish did so love and
reverence Mr. Herbert that they would let their plough rest when
Mr. Herbert's saint's bell rang to prayers, that they might also
offer their devotions to God with him; and would then return back
to their plough.  And his most holy life was such, that it begot
such reverence to God and to him, that they thought themselves
the happier when they carried Mr. Herbert's blessing back with
them to their labour."*


But he did not only preach, he practised too.  I must tell you
just one story to show you how he practiced.  Herbert was very
fond of music; he sang, and played too, upon the lute and viol.
One day as he was walking into Salisbury to play with some
friends "he saw a poor man with a poorer horse, which was fallen
under his load.  They were both in distress and needed present
help.  This Mr. Herbert perceiving put off his canonical coat,
and helped the poor man to unload, and after to load his horse.
The poor man blest him for it, and he blest the poor man, and was
so like the Good Samaritan that he gave him money to refresh both
himself and his horse, and told him, that if he loved himself, he
should be merciful to his beast.  Thus he left the poor man.

"And at his coming to his musical friends at Salisbury, they
began to wonder that Mr. George Herbert, which used to be so trim
and clean, came into that company so soiled and discomposed.  But
he told them the occasion.  And when one of the company told him,
he had disparaged himself by so dirty an employment, his answer
was:  that the thought of what he had done would prove music to
him at midnight, and the omission of it would have upbraided and
made discord in his conscience whensoever he should pass by that
place.  'For if I be bound to pray for all that be in distress, I
am sure that I am bound, so far as it is in my power, to practice
what I pray for.  And though I do not wish for the like occasion
every day, yet let me tell you, I would not willingly pass one
day of my life without comforting a sad soul or shewing mercy.
And I praise God for this occasion.

"'And now let's tune our instruments.'"*


This story reminds us that besides being a parson Herbert was a
courtier and a fine gentleman.  His courtly friends were
surprised that he should lower himself by helping a poor man with
his own hands.  But that is just one thing that we have to
remember about Herbert, he had nothing of the puritan in him, he
was a cavalier, a courtier, yet he showed the world that it was
possible to be these and still be a good man.  He did not believe
that any honest work was a "dirty employment."  In one of his
poems he says:

    "Teach me my God and King,
    In all things Thee to see,
    And what I do in anything
    To do it as for Thee.
    .   .   .   .   .
    "All may of Thee Partake:
    Nothing can be so mean
    Which with his tincture (for Thy sake)
    Will not grow bright and clean.

    "A Servant with this clause
    Makes drudgery divine;
    Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws
    Makes that and th' action fine.

    "This is the famous stone
    That turneth all to gold;
    For that which God doth touch and own
    Cannot for less be told."*


I have told you the story about Herbert and the poor man in the
words of Izaak Walton, the first writer of a life of George
Herbert.  I hope some day you will read that life and also the
other books Walton wrote, for although we have not room for him
in this book, his books are one of the delights of our literature
which await you.

In all Herbert's work among his people, his wife was his
companion and help, and the people loved her as much as they
loved their parson.  "Love followed her," says Walton, "in all
places as inseparably as shadows follow substances in sunshine."

Besides living thus for his people Herbert almost rebuilt the
church and rectory both of which he found very ruined.  And when
he had made an end of rebuilding he carved these words upon the
chimney in the hall of the Rectory:

    "If thou chance for to find
    A new house to thy mind,
    And built without thy cost;
    Be good to the poor,
    As God gives thee Store
    And then my labor's not lost."

His life, one would think, was busy enough, and full enough, yet
amid it all he found time to write.  Besides many poems he wrote
for his own guidance a book called The Country Parson.  It is a
book, says Walton, "so full of plain, prudent, and useful rules
that that country parson that can spare 12d. and yet wants it is
scarce excusable."

But Herbert's happy, useful days at Bemerton were all too short.
In 1632, before he had held his living three years, he died, and
was buried by his sorrowing people beneath the altar of his own
little church.

It was not until after his death that his poems were published.
On his death-bed he left the book in which he had written them to
a friend.  "Desire him to read it," he said, "and if he can think
it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul, let it be
made public.  If not let him burn it."

The book was published under the name of The Temple.  All the
poems are short except the first, called The Church Porch.  From
that I will quote a few lines.  It begins:

    "Thou whose sweet youth and early hopes enchance
    Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure,
    Hearken unto a Verser, who may chance
    Ryme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure.
        A verse may find him who a sermon flies,
        And turn delight into a sacrifice.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "Lie not, but let thy heart be true to God,
    Thy mouth to it, thy actions to them both:
    Cowards tell lies, and those that fear the rod;
    The stormy-working soul spits lies and froth
        Dare to be true:  nothing can need a lie;
        A fault which needs it most, grows two thereby.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "Art thou a magistrate? then be severe:
    If studious, copy fair what Time hath blurr'd,
    Redeem truth from his jaws:  if soldier,
    Chase brave employment with a naked sword
        Throughout the world.  Fool not; for all may have,
        If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "Do all things like a man, not sneakingly;
    Think the King sees thee still; for his King does.
    Simpring is but a lay-hypocrisy;
    Give it a corner and the clue undoes.
        Who fears to do ill set himself to task,
        Who fears to do well sure should wear a mask."

There is all the strong courage in these lines of the courtier-
parson.  They make us remember that before he put on his priest's
robe he wore a sword.  They are full of the fearless goodness
that was the mark of his gentle soul.  And now, to end the
chapter, I will give you another little poem full of beauty and
tenderness.  It is called The Pulley.  Herbert often gave quaint
names to his poems, names which at first sight seem to have
little meaning.  Perhaps you may be able to find out why this is
called The Pulley.

        "When God at first made man,
    Having a glass of blessings standing by,
    'Let us,' said He, 'pour on him all we can;
    Let the world's riches which disperséd lie,
        Contract into a span.'

        "So strength first made way,
    Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure;
    When almost all was out, God made a stay,
    Perceiving that, alone of all His treasure,
        Rest in the bottom lay.

        "'For if I should,' said He,
    'Bestow this jewel on My creature,
    He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
    And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
        So both should losers be.

        "'Yet let him keep the rest,
    But keep them with repining restlessness;
    Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
    If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
        May toss him to my breast.'"


ANOTHER poet of this age, Robert Herrick, in himself joined the
two styles of poetry of which we have been speaking, for he was
both a love poet and a religious poet.

He was born in 1591 and was the son of an old, well-to-do family,
his father being a London goldsmith.  But, like Herbert, he lost
his father when he was but a tiny child.  Like Herbert again he
went to Westminster School and later Cambridge.  But before he
went to Cambridge he was apprenticed to his uncle, who was a
goldsmith, as his brother, Herrick's father, had been.  Robert,
however, never finished his apprenticeship.  He found out, we may
suppose, that he had no liking for the jeweler's craft, that his
hand was meant to create jewels of another kind.  So he left his
uncle's workshop and went to Cambridge, although he was already
much beyond the usual age at which boys then went to college.
Like Herbert he went to college meaning to study for the Church.
But according to our present-day ideas he seems little fitted to
have been a priest.  For although we know little more than a few
bare facts about Herrick's life, when we have read his poems and
looked at his portrait we can draw for ourselves a clear picture
of the man, and the picture will not fit in with our ideas of

In some ways therefore, as we have seen, though there was an
outward likeness between the lives of Herbert and of Herrick, it
was only an outwards likeness.  Herbert was tender and kindly,
the very model of a Christian gentleman.  Herrick was a jolly old
Pagan, full of a rollicking joy in life.  Even in appearance
these two poets were different.  Herbert was tall and thin with a
quiet face and eyes which were truly "homes of silent prayer."
In Herrick's face is something gross, his great Roman nose and
thick curly hair seem to suit his pleasure-loving nature.  There
is nothing spiritual about him.

After Herrick left college we know little of his life for eight
or nine years.  He lived in London, met Ben Jonson and all the
other poets and writers who flocked about great Ben.  He went to
court no doubt, and all the time he wrote poems.  It was a gay
and cheerful life which, when at length he was given the living
of Dean Prior in Devonshire, he found it hard to leave.

It was then that he wrote his farewell to poetry.  He says:--

    "I, my desires screw from thee, and direct
    Them and my thought to that sublim'd respect
    And conscience unto priesthood."

It was hard to go.  But yet he pretends at least to be resigned,
and he ends by saying:--

    "The crown of duty is our duty:  Well--
    Doing's the fruit of doing well.  Farewell."

For eighteen years Herrick lived in his Devonshire home, and we
know little of these years.  But he thought sadly at times of the
gay days that were gone.  "Ah, Ben!" he writes to Jonson,
        "Say how, or when
        Shall we thy guests
    Meet at those lyric feasts
        Made at the Sun,
    The Dog, the Triple Tun?
        Where we such clusters had,
    As made us nobly wild, not mad;
        And yet each verse of thine
    Out-did the meat, out-did the frolic wine."

Yet he was not without comforts and companions in his country
parsonage.  His good and faithful servant Prue kept house for
him, and he surrounded himself with pets.  He had a pet lamb, a
dog, a cat, and even a pet pig which he taught to drink out of a

        "Though Clock,
    To tell how night draws hence, I've none,
        A Cock
    I have, to sing how day draws on.
        I have
    A maid (my Prue) by good luck sent,
        To save
    That little, Fates me gave or lent.
        A Hen
    I keep, which, creeking* day by day,
        Tells when
    She goes her long white egg to lay.
        A Goose
    I have, which, with a jealous ear,
        Lets loose
    Her tongue, to tell what danger's near.
        A Lamb
    I keep, tame, with my morsels fed,
        Whose Dam
    An orphan left him, lately dead.
        A Cat
    I keep, that plays about my house,
        Grown fat
    With eating many a miching** mouse.
        To these
    A Tracy*** I do keep, whereby
        I please
    The more my rural privacy,
        Which are
    But toys to give my heart some ease;
        Where care
    None is, slight things do lightly please."

    ***His spaniel.

But Herrick did not love his country home and parish or his
people.  We are told that the gentry round about loved him "for
his florid and witty discourses."  But his people do not seem to
have loved these same discourses, for we are also told that one
day in anger he threw his sermon from the pulpit at them because
they did not listen attentively.  He says:--

    "More discontents I never had,
        Since I was born, than here,
    Where I have been, and still am sad,
        In this dull Devonshire."

Yet though Herrick hated Devonshire, or at least said so, it was
this same wild country that called forth some of his finest
poems.  He himself knew that, for in the next lines he goes on to

    "Yet justly, too, I must confess
        I ne'er invented such
    Ennobled numbers for the press,
        Than where I loathed so much."

Yet it is not the ruggedness of the Devon land we feel in
Herrick's poems.  We feel rather the beauty of flowers, the
warmth of sun, the softness of spring winds, and see the greening
trees, the morning dews, the soft rains.  It is as if he had not
let his eyes wander over the wild Devonshire moorlands, but had
confined them to his own lovely garden and orchard meadow, for he
speaks of the "dew-bespangled herb and tree," the "damasked
meadows," the "silver shedding brooks."  Hardly any English poet
has written so tenderly of flowers as Herrick.  One of the best
known of these flower poems is To Daffodils.

    "Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
        You haste away so soon;
    As yet the early-rising sun
        Has not attain'd his noon.
            Stay, stay,
        Until the hasting day
            Has run
        But to the Even-song;
    And, having pray'd together, we
        Will go with you along.

    We have short time to stay, as you,
        We have as short a spring;
    As quick a growth to meet decay,
        As you, or anything.
            We die
        As your hours do, and dry
        Like to the summer's rain;
    Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
        Ne'er to be found again."

And here is part of a song for May morning:--

    "Get up, get up for shame, the blooming morn
    Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.

        See how Aurora throws her fair
        Fresh-quilted colours through the air:
        Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
        The dew bespangling herb and tree,
    Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the east
    Above an hour since; yet you not dress'd;
        Nay! not so much as out of bed?
        When all the birds have matins said
        And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,
        Nay, profanation to keep in,
    Whenas a thousand virgins on this day
    Spring, sooner than the lark to fetch in May.

    Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen
    To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and green
        And sweet as Flora.  Take no care
        For jewels for your gown or hair;
        Fear not; the leaves will strew
        Gems in abundance upon you:
    Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
    Against you come, some orient pearls unwept;
        Come and receive them while the light
        Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
        And Titan on the eastern hill
        Retires himself, or else stands still
    Till you come forth.  Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
    Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying."

Another well-known poem of Herrick's is:--

    "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
        Old Time is still a-flying:
    And this same flower that smiles to-day,
        To-morrow will be dying.

    The glorious lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
        The higher he's a-getting,
    The sooner will his race be run,
        And nearer he's to setting.

    That age is best, which is the first,
        When Youth and Blood are warmer:
    But being spent, the worse, and worst
        Times still succeed the former.

    Then be not coy, but use your time,
        And while ye may, go marry;
    For having lost but once your prime,
        You may for ever tarry."

Herrick only published one book.  He called it The Hesperides, or
the works both Human and Divine.  The "divine" part although
published in the same book, has a separate name, being called his
Noble Numbers.  The Hesperides, from whom he took the name of his
book, were lovely maidens who dwelt in a beautiful garden far
away on the verge of the ocean.  The maidens sang beautifully, so
Herrick took their name for his book, for it might well be that
the songs they sang were such as his.  This garden of the
Hesperides was sometimes thought to be the same as the fabled
island of Atlantis of which we have already heard.  And it was
here that, guarded by a dreadful dragon, grew the golden apples
which Earth gave to Hera on her marriage with Zeus.

The Hesperides is a collection of more than a thousand short
poems, a few of which you have already read in this chapter.
They are not connected with each other, but tell of all manner of

Herrick was a religious poet too, and here is something that he
wrote for children in his Noble Numbers.  It is called To his
Saviour, a Child:  A Present by a Child.

    "Go, pretty child, and bear this flower
    Unto thy little Saviour;
    And tell him, by that bud now blown,
    He is the Rose of Sharon known.
    When thou hast said so, stick it there
    Upon his bib or stomacher;
    And tell Him, for good hansel too,
    That thou hast brought a whistle new,
    Made of a clear, straight oaten reed,
    To charm his cries at time of need.
    Tell Him, for coral, thou hast none,
    But if thou hadst, He should have one;
    But poor thou art, and known to be
    Even as moneyless as He.
    Lastly, if thou canst win a kiss
    From those mellifluous lips of His;
    Then never take a second one,
    To spoil the first impression."

Herrick wrote also several graces for children.  Here is one:--

    "What God gives, and what we take
    'Tis a gift for Christ His sake:
    Be the meal of beans and peas,
    God be thanked for those and these:
    Have we flesh, or have we fish,
    All are fragments from His dish.
    He His Church save, and the king;
    And our peace here, like a Spring,
    Make it ever flourishing."

While Herrick lived his quiet, dull life and wrote poetry in the
depths of Devonshire, the country was being torn asunder and
tossed from horror to horror by the great Civil War.  Men took
sides and fought for Parliament or for King.  Year by year the
quarrel grew.  What was begun at Edgehill ended at Naseby where
the King's cause was utterly lost.  Then, although Herrick took
no part in the fighting, he suffered with the vanquished, for he
was a Royalist at heart.  He was turned out of his living to make
room for a Parliament man.  He left this parish without regret.
    "Deanbourne, farewell; I never look to see
    Deane, or thy warty incivility.
    Thy rocky bottom, that doth tear thy streams,
    And makes them frantic, ev'n to all extremes;
    To my content, I never should behold,
    Were thy streams silver, or thy rocks all gold.
    Rocky thou art, and rocky we discover
    Thy men: and rocky are thy ways all over.
    O men, O manners, now and ever known
    To be a rocky generation:
    A people currish; churlish as the seas;
    And rude, almost, as rudest savages:
    With whom I did, and may re-sojourn when
    Rocks turn to rivers, rivers turn to men."

Hastening to London, he threw off his sober priest's robe, and
once more putting on the gay dress worn by the gentlemen of his
day he forgot the troubles and the duties of a country parson.

Rejoicing in his freedom he cried:--

    "London my home is:  though by hard fate sent
    Into a long and irksome banishment;
    Yet since called back; henceforward let me be,
    O native country, repossess'd by thee."

He had no money, but he had many wealthy friends, so he lived, we
may believe, merrily enough for the next fifteen years.  It was
during these years that the Hesperides was first published,
although for a long time before many people had known his poems,
for they had been handed about among his friends in manuscript.

So the years passed for Herrick we hardly know how.  In the great
world Cromwell died and Charles II returned to England to claim
the throne of his fathers.  Then it would seem that Herrick had
not found all the joy he had hoped for in London, for two years
later, although rocks had not turned to rivers, nor rivers to
men, he went back to his "loathed Devonshire."

After that, all that we know of him is that at Dean Prior "Robert
Herrick vicker was buried ye 15th day of October 1674."  Thus in
twilight ends the life of the greatest lyric poet of the
seventeenth century.

All the lyric poets of whom I have told you were Royalists, but
the Puritans too had their poets, and before ending this chapter
I would like to tell you a little of Andrew Marvell, a
Parliamentary poet.

If Herrick was a lover of flowers, Marvell was a lover of
gardens, woods and meadows.  The garden poet he has been called.
He felt himself in touch with Nature:--

    "Thus I, easy philosopher,
    Among the birds and trees confer,

    And little now to make me wants,
    Or of the fowls or of the plants:
    Give me but wings as they, and I
    Straight floating in the air shall fly;
    Or turn me but, and you shall see
    I was but an inverted tree."*

    *Appleton House, to the Lord Fairfax.

Yet although Marvell loved Nature, he did not live, like Herrick,
far from the stir of war, but took his part in the strife of the
times.  He was an important man in his day.  He was known to
Cromwell and was a friend of Milton, a poet much greater than
himself.  He was a member of Parliament, and wrote much prose,
but the quarrels in the cause of which it was written are matters
of bygone days, and although some of it is still interesting, it
is for his poetry rather that we remember and love him.  Although
Marvell was a Parliamentarian, he did not love Cromwell blindly,
and he could admire what was fine in King Charles.  He could say
of Cromwell:--

    "Though his Government did a tyrant resemble,
    He made England great, and his enemies tremble."*

    *A dialogue between two Horses.

And no one perhaps wrote with more grave sorrow of the death of
Charles than did Marvell, and that too in a poem which, strangely
enough, was written in honor of Cromwell.

    "He nothing common did, or mean,
    Upon that memorable scene,
        But with his keener eye
        The axe's edge did try:
    Nor called the gods with vulgar spite
    To vindicate his helpless right,
        But bowed his comely head,
        Down, as upon a bed."*

    *An Horatian ode upon Cromwell's return from Ireland.

At Cromwell's death he wrote:--

    "Thee, many ages hence, in martial verse
    Shall the English soldier, ere he charge, rehearse;
    Singing of thee, inflame himself to fight
    And, with the name of Cromwell, armies fright."*

    *Upon the Death of the Lord Protector.

But all Marvell's writings were not political, and one of his
prettiest poems was written about a girl mourning for a lost pet.

    "The wanton troopers riding by
    Have shot my fawn, and it will die.

    Ungentle men! they cannot thrive
    who killed thee.  Thou ne'er didst alive
    Them any harm:  alas! nor could
    Thy death yet do them any good.
    .   .   .   .   .
    With sweetest milk and sugar, first
    I it at my own fingers nurs'd;
    And as it grew, so every day
    It wax'd more sweet and white than they.
    It had so sweet a breath!  And oft
    I blushed to see its foot so soft,
    And white (shall I say than my hand?)
    Nay, any lady's of the land.
        It is a wondrous thing how fleet
    'Twas on those little silver feet;
    With what a pretty skipping grace
    It oft would challenge me to race;
    And when 't had left me far away,
    'Twould stay, and run again, and stay;
    For it was nimbler much than hinds,
    And trod as if on the four winds.
        I have a garden of my own,
    But so with roses overgrown
    And lilies, that you would it guess
    To be a little wilderness;
    And all the spring-time of the year
    It only loved to be there.
    Among the lilies, I
    Have sought it oft, where it should lie
    Yet could not, till itself would rise,
    Find it, although before mine eyes;
    For in the flaxen lilies' shade,
    It like a bank of lilies laid.
    Upon the roses it would feed,
    Until its lips even seemed to bleed;
    And then to me 'twould boldly trip
    And plant those roses on my lip.
    .   .   .   .   .
    Now my sweet fawn in vanish'd to
    Whither the swans and turtles go;
    In fair Elysium to endure,
    With milk-white lambs and ermines pure,
    O do not run too fast: for I
    Will but bespeak thy grave, and die."

After the Restoration Marvell wrote satires, a kind of poem of
which you had an early and mild example in the fable of the two
mice by Surrey, a kind of poem of which we will soon hear much
more.  In these satires Marvell poured out all the wrath of a
Puritan upon the evils of his day.  Marvell's satires were so
witty and so outspoken that once or twice he was in danger of
punishment because of them.  But once at least the King himself
saved a book of his from being destroyed, for by every one "from
the King down to the tradesman his books were read with great
pleasure."*  Yet he had many enemies, and when he died suddenly
in August, 1678, many people though that he had been poisoned.
He was the last, we may say, of the seventeenth-century lyric


Besides the lyric writers there were many prose writers in the
seventeenth century who are among the men to be remembered.  But
their books, although some day you will love them, would not
interest you yet.  They tell no story, they are long, they have
not, like poetry, a lilt or rhythm to carry one on.  It would be
an effort to read them.  If I tried to explain to you wherein the
charm of them lies I fear the charm would fly, for it is
impossible to imprison the sunbeam or find the foundations of the
rainbow.  It is better therefore to leave these books until the
years to come in which it will be no effort to read them, but a


"THERE is but one Milton,"* there is, too, but one Shakespeare,
yet John Milton, far more than William Shakespeare, stands a
lonely figure in our literature.  Shakespeare was a dramatist
among dramatists.  We can see how there were those who led up to
him, and others again who led away from him.  From each he
differs in being greater, he outshines them all.  Shakespeare was
a man among men.  He loved and sinned with men, he was homely and
kindly, and we can take him to our hearts.  Milton both in his
life and work was cold and lonely.  He was a master without
scholars, a leader without followers.  Him we can admire, but
cannot love with an understanding love.  Yet although we love
Shakespeare we can find throughout all his works hardly a line
upon which we can place a finger and say here Shakespeare speaks
of himself, here he shows what he himself thought and felt.
Shakespeare understood human nature so well that he could see
through another's eyes and so forget himself.  But over and over
again in Milton's work we see himself.  Over and over again we
can say here Milton speaks of himself, here he shows us his own
heart, his own pain.  He is one of the most self-ful of all
poets.  He has none of the dramatic power of Shakespeare, he
cannot look through another's eyes, so he sees things only from
one standpoint and that his own.  He stands far apart from us,
and is almost inhumanly cold.  That is the reason why so many of
us find him hard to love.

*Professor Raleigh.

When, on a bleak December day in 1606, more than three hundred
years ago, Milton was born, Elizabeth was dead, and James of
Scotland sat upon the throne, but many of the great Elizabethans
still lived.  Shakespeare was still writing, still acting,
although he had become a man of wealth and importance and the
owner of New Place.  Ben Jonson was at the very height of his
fame, the favorite alike of Court and Commons.  Bacon was just
rising to power and greatness, his Novum Organum still to come.
Raleigh, in prison, was eating his heart out in the desire for
freedom, trying to while away the dreary hours with chemical
experiments, his great history not yet begun.  Of the crowd of
lyric writers some were boys at college, some but children in the
nursery, and some still unborn.  Yet in spite of the many writers
who lived at or about the same time, Milton stands alone in our

John Milton was the son of a London scrivener, that is, a kind of
lawyer.  He was well-to-do and a Puritan.  Milton's home,
however, must have been brighter than many a Puritan home, for
his father loved music, and not only played well, but also
composed.  He taught his son to play too, and all through his
life Milton loved music.

John was a pretty little boy with long golden brown hair, a fair
face and dark gray eyes.  But to many a strict Puritan, beauty
was an abomination, and we are told that one of Milton's
schoolmasters "was a Puritan in Essex who cut his hair short."
No doubt to him a boy with long hair was unseemly.  John was the
eldest and much beloved son of his father, who perhaps petted and
spoiled him.  He was clever as well as pretty, and already at the
age of ten he was looked upon by his family as a poet.  He was
very studious, for besides going to St. Paul's School he had a
private tutor.  Even with that he was not satisfied, but studied
alone far into the night.  "When he went to schoole, when he was
very young," we are told, "he studied hard and sate up very late:
commonly till twelve or one at night.  And his father ordered the
mayde to sitt up for him.  And in those years he composed many
copies of verses, which might well become a riper age."*  We can
imagine to ourselves the silence of the house, when all the
Puritan household had been long abed.  We can picture the warm
quiet room where sits the little fair-haired boy poring over his
books by the light of flickering candles, while in the shadow a
stern-faced white-capped Puritan woman waits.  She sits very
straight in her chair, her worn hands are folded, her eyes heavy
with sleep.  Sometimes she nods.  Then with a start she shakes
herself wide awake again, murmuring softly that it is no hour for
any Christian body to be out o' bed, wondering that her master
should allow so young a child to keep so long over his books.
Still she has her orders, so with a patient sigh she folds her
hands again and waits.  Thus early did Milton begin to shape his
own course and to live a life apart from others.


At sixteen Milton went to Christ's College, Cambridge.  And here
he earned for himself the name of the Lady of Christ's, both
because of his beautiful face and slender figure, and because he
stood haughtily aloof from amusements which seemed to him coarse
or bad.  In going to Cambridge, Milton had meant to study for the
Church.  But all through life he stood for liberty.  "He thought
that man was made only for rebellion," said a later writer.*  As
a child he had gone his own way, and as he grew older he found it
harder and harder to agree with all that the Church taught--"till
coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had
invaded in the Church, that he who would take orders must
subscribe slaves, and take an oath withal. . . . I thought it
better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of
speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing."  Thus
was he, he says, "church-outed by the Prelates."*  Milton could
not, with a free conscience, become a clergyman, so having taken
his degree he went home to his father, who now lived in the
country at Horton.  He left Cambridge without regrets.  No thrill
of pleasure seemed to have warmed his heart in after days when he
looked back upon the young years spent beside the Cam.

*The Reason of Church Government, book II.

Milton went home to his father's house without any settled plan
of life.  He had not made up his mind what he was to be, he was
only sure that he could not be a clergyman.  His father was well
off, but not wealthy.  He had no great estates to manage, and he
must have wished his eldest son to do and be something in the
world, yet he did not urge it upon him.  Milton himself, however,
was not quite at rest, as his sonnet On his being arrived to the
age of twenty-three shows:--

    "How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
    Stolen on his wing my three-and-twentieth year:
    My hasting days fly on with full career,
    But my late Spring no bud or blossom show'th.
    Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
    That I to manhood am arriv'd so near,
    And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
    That some more timely happy spirits endu'th.
    Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
    It shall be still in strictest measure even
    To that same lot, however mean, or high,
    Toward which Time leads me; and the Will of Heaven;
    All is, if I have grace to use it so,
    As ever in my great Task-Master's eye."

Yet dissatisfied as he sometimes was, he was very sure of
himself, and for five years he let his wings grow, as he himself
said.  But these years were not altogether lost, for if both day
and night Milton roamed the meadows about his home in seeming
idleness, he was drinking in all the beauty of earth and sky,
flower and field, storing his memory with sights and sounds that
were to be a treasure to him in after days.  He studied hard,
too, ranging at will through Greek and Latin literature.  "No
delay, no rest, no care or thought almost of anything holds me
aside until I reach the end I am making for, and round off, as it
were, some great period of my studies," he says to a friend.  And
as the outcome of these five fallow years Milton has left us some
of his most beautiful poems.  They have not the stately grandeur
of his later works, but they are natural and easy, and at times
full of a joyousness which we never find in him again.  And
before we can admire his great poem which he wrote later, we may
love the beauty of L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, which he
wrote now.

L'Allegro and Il Penseroso are two poems which picture two moods
in which the poet looks at life.  They are two moods which come
to every one, the mirthful and the sad.  L'Allegro pictures the
happy mood.  Here the man "who has, in his heart, cause for
contentment" sings.  And the poem fairly dances with delight of
being as it follows the day from dawn till evening shadows fall.
It begins by bidding "loathed Melancholy" begone "'Mongst horrid
shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy," and by bidding come
"heart-easing Mirth."

    "Haste, thee, nymph, and bring with thee
    Jest and youthful Jollity,
    Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,
    Nods and becks, and wretchéd smiles.
    Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
    And love to live in dimple sleek;
    Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
    And Laughter holding both his sides.
    Come, and trip it as ye go
    On the light fantastic toe.
    .   .   .   .   .
    To hear the lark begin his flight,
    And singing startle the dull night,
    From his watch-tower in the skies,
    Till the dappled dawn doth rise."

These are a few lines from the opening of the poem which you must
read for yourselves, for if I quoted all that is beautiful in it
I should quote the whole.

Il Penseroso pictures the thoughtful mood, or mood of gentle
Melancholy.  Here Mirth is banished, "Hence fair deluding joys,
the brood of Folly, and hail divinest Melancholy."  The poem
moves with more stately measure, "with even step, and musing
gait," from evening through the moonlit night till morn.  It ends
with the poet's desire to live a peaceful studious life.

    "But let my due feet never fail
    To walk the studious cloisters pale;
    And love the high embowéd roof,
    With antique pillars massy proof,
    And storied windows richly dight,
    Casting a dim religious light.
    There let the pealing organ blow
    To the full-voic'd choir below,
    In service high, and anthem clear,
    As may with sweetness through mine ear,
    Dissolve me into ecstacies,
    And bring all Heaven before mine eyes."

In Lycidas Milton mourns the death of a friend who was drowned
while crossing the Irish Channel.  He took the name from an
Italian poem, which told of the sad death of another Lycidas.
The verse moves with even more stately measure than Il Penseroso.

    "Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
    Compels me to disturb your season due:
    For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
    Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
    Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
    Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise,
    (That last infirmity of noble minds)
    To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
    But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
    And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
    Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorréd shears,
    And slits the thin-spun life."

It was during these early years spent at Horton, too, that Milton
wrote his masque of Comus.  It is strange to find a Puritan poet
writing a masque, for Puritans looked darkly on all acting.  It
is strange to find that, in spite of the Puritan dislike to
acting, the last and, perhaps, the best masque in our language
should be written by a Puritan, and that not ten years before all
the theaters in the land were closed by Puritan orders.  But
although, in many ways, Milton was sternly Puritan, these were
only the better ways.  He had no hatred of beauty, "God has
instilled into me a vehement love of the beautiful," he says.

The masque of Comus was written for a great entertainment given
by the Earl of Bridgewater, at Ludlow Castle, and three of his
children took part in it.  In a darksome wood, so the story runs,
the enchanter, Comus, lived with his rabble rout, half brute,
half man.  For to all who passed through the wood Comus offered a
glass from which, if any drank, --

        "Their human countenance,
    Th' express resemblance of the gods, is changed
    Into some brutish form of wolf, or bear,
    Or ounce, or tiger, hog, or bearded goat,
    All other parts remaining as they were."

And they, forgetting their home and friends, henceforth live
riotously with Comus.

Through this wood a Lady and her two brothers pass, and on the
way the Lady is separated from her brothers and loses her way.
As she wanders about she is discovered by Comus who, disguising
himself as a shepherd, offers her shelter in his "low but loyal
cottage."  The Lady, innocent and trusting, follows him.  But
instead of leading her to a cottage he leads her to his palace.
There the Lady is placed in an enchanted chair from which she
cannot rise, and Comus tempts her to drink from his magic glass.
The Lady refuses, and with his magic wand Comus turns her to
seeming stone.

Meanwhile the brothers have met a Guardian Spirit, also disguised
as a shepherd, and he warns them of their sister's danger.
Guided by him they set out to find her.  Reaching the palace,
they rush in, sword in hand.  They dash the magic glass to the
ground and break it in pieces and put Comus and his rabble to
flight.  But though the Lady is thus saved she remains motionless
and stony in her chair.

"What, have ye let the false enchanter scape?" the Guardian
Spirit cries.  "Oh, ye mistook, ye should have snatched his wand
and bound him fast."  Without his rod reversed and backward-
muttered incantation they cannot free the Lady.  Yet there is
another means.  Sabrina, the nymph of the Severn, may save her.
So the Spirit calls upon her for aid.

        "Sabrina fair,
    Listen where thou art sitting
    Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
    In twisted braids of lilies knitting
    The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
    Listen for dear honour's sake,
    Goddess of the silver lake,
            Listen and save."

Sabrina comes, and sprinkling water on the Lady, breaks the

    "Brightest Lady, look on me;
    Thus I sprinkle on thy breast
    Drops that from my fountain pure
    I have kept of precious cure,
    Thrice upon thy fingers' tip,
    Thrice upon thy rubied lip;
    Next this marble venomed seat,
    Smeared with gums of glutinous heat,
    I touch with chaste palms moist and cold:
    Now the spell hath lost its hold."

The Lady is free and, greatly rejoicing, the Guardian Spirit
leads her, with her brothers, safe to their father's home.

All these poems of which I have told you, Milton wrote during the
quiet years spent at Horton.  But at length these days came to an
end.  He began to feel his life in the country cramped and
narrow.  He longed to go out into the great wide world and see
something of all the beauties and wonder of it.  Italy, which had
called so many of our poets, called him.  Once more his kindly
father let him do as he would.  He gave him money, provided him
with a servant, and sent him forth on his travels.  For more than
a year Milton wandered, chiefly among the sunny cities of Italy.
He meant to stray still further to Sicily and Greece, but news
from home called him back, "The sad news of Civil War." "I
thought it base," he said, "that while my fellow-countrymen were
fighting at home for liberty, I should be traveling abroad at

When Milton returned home he did not go back to Horton, but set
up house in London.  Here he began to teach his two nephews, his
sister's children, who were boys of nine and ten.  Their father
had died, their mother married again, and Milton not only taught
the boys, but took them to live with him.  He found pleasure, it
would seem, in teaching, for soon his little class grew, and he
began to teach other boys, the sons of friends.

Milton was a good master, but a severe one.  The boys were kept
long hours at their lessons, and we are told that in a year's
time they could read a Latin author at sight, and within three
years they went through the best Latin and Greek poets.  But "as
he was severe on one hand, so he was most familiar and free in
his conversation to those to whom most sour in his way of
education."  He himself showed the example of "hard study and
spare diet,"** for besides teaching the boys he worked and wrote
steadily, study being ever the "grand affair of his life."**
Only now and again he went to see "young sparks" of his
acquaintance, "and now and then to keep a gawdy-day."**  It is
scarce to be imagined that a gawdy-day in which John Milton took
part could have been very riotous.


Then after Milton had been leading this severe quiet life for
about four years, a strange thing happened.  One day he set off
on a journey.  He told no one why he went.  Every one thought it
was but a pleasure jaunt.  He was away about a month, then "home
he returns a married man that went out a bachelor."*  We can
imagine how surprised the little boys would be to find that their
grave teacher of thirty-four had brought home a wife, a wife,
too, who was little more than a girl a few years older than
themselves.  And as it was a surprise to them it is still a
surprise to all who read and write about Milton's life to this
day.  With the new wife came several of her friends, and so the
quiet house was made gay with feasting and merriment for a few
days; for strange to say, Milton, the stern Puritan, had married
a Royalist lady, the daughter of a cavalier.  After these few
merry days the gay friends left, and the young bride remained
behind with her grave and learned husband, in her new quiet home.
But to poor little Mary Milton, used to a great house and much
merry coming and going, the life she now led seemed dull beyond
bearing.  She was not clever; indeed, she was rather stupid, so
after having led a "philosophical life" for about a month, she
begged to be allowed to go back to her mother.


Milton let he go on the understanding that she should return to
him in a month or two.  But the time appointed came and went
without any sign of a returning wife.  Milton wrote to her and
got no answer.  Several times he wrote, and still no answer.
Then he sent a messenger.  But the messenger returned without an
answer, or at least without a pleasing one.  He had indeed been
"dismissed with some sort of contempt."

It would seem the cavalier family regretted having given a
daughter in marriage to the Puritan poet.  The poet, on his side,
now resolved to cast out forever from his heart and home his
truant wife.  He set himself harder than before to the task of
writing and teaching.  He hid his aching heart and hurt pride as
best he might beneath a calm and stern bearing.  But life had
changed for him.  Up to this time all had gone as he wished.
Ever since, when a boy of twelve, he had sat till midnight over
his books with a patient waiting-maid beside him, those around
had smoothed his path in life for him.  His will had been law
until a girl of seventeen defied him.

Time went on, the King's cause was all but hopeless.  Many a
cavalier had lost all in his defense, among them those of Mary
Milton's family.  Driven from their home, knowing hardly where to
turn for shelter, they bethought them of Mary's slighted husband.
He was on the winning side, and a man of growing importance.
Beneath his roof Mary at least would be safe.

The poor little runaway wife, we may believe, was afraid to face
her angry husband.  But helped both by his friends and her own a
meeting was arranged.  Milton had a friend to whose house he
often went, and in this house his wife was hid one day when the
poet came to pay a visit.  While Milton waited for his friend he
was surprised, for when the door opened there came from the
adjoining room, not his friend, but "one whom he thought to have
never seen more."  Mary his wife came to him, and sinking upon
her knees before him begged to be forgiven.  Long after, in his
great poem, Milton seems to describe the scene when he makes Adam
cry out to Eve after the Fall, "Out of my sight, thou serpent!
That name best befits thee."

                "But Eve,
    Not so repulsed, with tears that ceased not flowing,
    And tresses all disordered, at his feet
    Fell humble, and, embracing them, besought
    His peace; and thus proceeded in her plaint:
        'Forsake me not thus, Adam!  Witness, Heaven,
    What love sincere, and reverence in my heart
    I bear thee, and unweeting have offended,
    Unhappily deceived!  Thy suppliant
    I beg, and clasp thy knees.  Bereave me not,
    Whereon I live, thy gentle looks, thy aid,
    Thy counsel in this uttermost distress,
    My only strength and stay.  Forlorn of thee,
    Whither shall I betake me? where subsist?
    While yet we live, scarce one short hour perhaps,
    Between us two let there be peace.'
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    She ended weeping; and her lowly plight,
    Immovable till peace obtained from fault
    Acknowledged and deplored, in Adam wrought
    Commiseration.  Soon his heart relented
    Towards her, his life so late and sole delight,
    Now at his feet submissive in distress,
    Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking,
    His counsel, whom she had displeased, his aid;
    As one disarmed, his anger all he lost,
    And thus with peaceful words upraised her soon."

Milton thus took back to his home his wandering wife and not her
only, but also her father, mother, and homeless brothers and
sisters.  So although he had moved to a larger house, it was now
full to overflowing, for besides all this Royalist family he had
living with him his pupils and his own old father.


AND now for twenty years the pen of Milton was used, not for
poetry, but for prose.  The poet became a politician.  Victory
was still uncertain, and Milton poured out book after book in
support of the Puritan cause.  These books are full of wrath and
scorn and all the bitter passion of the time.  They have hardly a
place in true literature, so we may pass them over glad that
Milton found it possible to spend his bitterness in prose and
leave his poetry what it is.

One only of his prose works is still remembered and still read
for its splendid English.  That is Areopagitica, a passionate
appeal for a free press.  Milton desired that a man should have
not only freedom of thought, but freedom to write down and print
and publish these thoughts.  But the rulers of England, ever
since printing had been introduced, had thought otherwise, and by
law no book could be printed until it had been licensed, and no
man might set up a printing press without permission from
Government.  To Milton this was tyranny.  "As good almost kill a
man as kill a good book," he said, and again "Give me the liberty
to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience
above all liberties."  He held the licensing law in contempt, and
to show his contempt he published Areopagitica without a license
and without giving the printer's or bookseller's name.  It was
not the first time Milton had done this, and his enemies tried to
use it against him to bring him into trouble.  But he had become
by this time too important a man, and nothing came of it.

Time went on, the bitter struggle between King and people came to
an end.  The people triumphed, and the King laid his head upon
the block.  Britain was without ruler other than Parliament.  It
was then, one March day in 1649, that a few grave-faced, somber-
clad men knocked at the door of Milton's house.  We can imagine
them tramping into the poet's low-roofed study, their heavy shoes
resounding on the bare floor, their sad faces shaded with their
tall black hats.  And there, in sing-song voices, they tell the
astonished man that they come from Parliament to ask him to be
Secretary for Foreign Tongues.

Milton was astonished, but he accepted the post.  And now his
life became a very busy one.  It had been decided that all
letters to foreign powers should be written in Latin, but many
Governments wrote to England in their own languages.  Milton had
to translate these letters, answer them in Latin, and also write
little books or pamphlets in answer to those which were written
against the Government.

It was while he was busy with this, while he was pouring out
bitter abuse upon his enemies or upon the enemies of his party,
that his great misfortune fell upon him.  He became blind.  He
had had many warnings.  He had been told to be careful of his
eyes, for the sight of one had long been gone.  But in spite of
all warnings he still worked on, and at length became quite

His enemies jeered at him, and said it was a judgment upon him
for his wicked writing.  But never for a moment did Milton's
spirit quail.  He had always been sure of himself, sure of his
mission in life, sufficient for himself.  And now that the horror
of darkness shut him off from others, shut him still more into
himself, his heart did not fail him.  Blind at forty-three, he

    "When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide,
    Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest He, returning, chide;
    'Doth God exact day labour, light denied?'
    I fondly ask:  but Patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies, 'God doth not need
    Either man's work, or His own gifts; who best
    Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best:  His state
    Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed,
    And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait.'"

Milton meant to take up this new burden patiently, but at forty-
three, with all the vigor of life still stirring in him, he could
not meekly fold his hands to stand and wait.  Indeed, his
greatest work was still to come.  Blind though he was, he did not
give up his post of Latin Secretary.  He still remained Chief
Secretary, and others worked under him, among them Andrew
Marvell, the poet.  He still gave all his brain and learning to
the service of his country, while others supplied his lacking
eyesight.  But now in the same year Fate dealt him another blow.
His wife died.  Perhaps there had never been any great love or
understanding between these two, for Milton's understanding of
all women was unhappy.  But now, when he had most need of a
woman's kindly help and sympathy, she went from him leaving to
his blind care three motherless girls, the eldest of whom was
only six years old.

We know little of Milton's home life during the next years.  But
it cannot have been a happy one.  His children ran wild.  He
tried to teach them in some sort.  He was dependent now on others
to read to him, and he made his daughters take their share of
this.  He succeeded in teaching them to read in several
languages, but they understood not a word of what they read, so
it was no wonder that they looked upon it as a wearisome task.
They grew up with neither love for nor understanding of their
stern blind father.  To them he was not the great poet whose name
should be one of the triumphs of English Literature.  He was
merely a severe father and hard taskmaster.

Four years after his first wife died Milton married again.  This
lady he never saw, but she was gentle and kind, and he loved her.
For fifteen months she wrought peace and order in his home, then
she too died, leaving her husband more lonely than before.  He
mourned her loss in poetic words.  He dreamed she came to him one

    "Came vested all in white, pure as her mind;
    Her face was veil'd; yet to my fancied sight
    Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
    So clear, as in no face with more delight.
    But O, as to embrace me she inclin'd,
    I wak'd; she fled; and day brought back my night."

With this sonnet (for those lines are part of the last sonnet
Milton ever wrote) it would seem as if a new period began with
Milton, his second period of poetry writing.  Who knows but that
it was the sharp sorrow of his loss which sent him back to
poetry.  For throughout Milton's life we can see that it was
always something outside himself which made him write poetry.  He
did not sing like the birds because he must, but because he was
asked to sing by some person, or made to sing by some

However that may be, it was now that Milton began his greatest
work, Paradise Lost.  Twenty years before the thought had come to
him that he would write a grand epic.  We have scarcely spoken of
an epic since that first of all our epics, the Story of Beowulf.
And although others had written epics, Milton is to be remembered
as the writer of the great English epic.  At first he thought of
taking Arthur for his hero, but as more and more he saw what a
mass of fable had gathered round Arthur, as more and more he saw
how plain a hero Arthur seemed, stripped of that fable, his mind
turned from the subject.  And when, at last, after twenty years
of almost unbroken silence as a poet, he once more let his organ
voice be heard, it was not a man he spoke of, but Man.  He told
the story which Caedmon a thousand years before had told of the
war in heaven, of the temptation and fall of man, and of how Adam
and Eve were driven out of the happy garden.

    "Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
    Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
    Sing, Heavenly Muse."

You will remember, or if you look back to Chapter XIII you can
read again about the old poet Caedmon and what he wrote.  It was
in 1655 that Junius published the so-called Caedmon Manuscript,
and Milton, who was so great a student, no doubt heard of it and
found some one to read it to him.  And perhaps these poems helped
to decide him in his choice, although many years before he had
thought of writing on the subject.

Perhaps when you are older it may interest you to read the poems
of Milton and the poems of Caedmon together.  Then you will see
how far ahead of the old poet Milton is in smooth beauty of
verse, how far behind him sometimes in tender knowledge of man
and woman.  But I do not think you can hope to read Paradise Lost
with true pleasure yet a while.  It is a long poem in blank
verse, much of it will seem dull to you, and you will find it
hard to be interested in Adam and Eve.  For Milton set himself a
task of enormous difficulty when he tried to interest common men
and women in people who were without sin, who knew not good nor
evil.  Yet if conceit, if self-assurance, if the want of the
larger charity which helps us to understand another's faults, are
sins, then Adam sinned long before he left Milton's Paradise.  In
fact, Adam is often a bore, and at times he proves himself no
gentleman in the highest and best meaning of the word.

But in spite of Adam, in spite of everything that can be said
against it, Paradise Lost remains a splendid poem.  Never,
perhaps, has the English language been used more nobly, never has
blank verse taken on such stately measure.  Milton does not make
pictures for us, like some poets, like Spenser, for instance; he
sings to us.  He sings to us, not like the gay minstrel with his
lute, but in stately measured tones, which remind us most of
solemn organ chords.  His voice comes to us, too, out of a poet's
country through which, if we would find our way, we must put our
hand in his and let him guide us while he sings.  And only when
we come to love "the best words in the best order" can we truly
enjoy Milton's Paradise Lost.

Milton fails at times to interest us in Adam, but he does
interest us in the Bad Angel Satan, and it has been said over and
over again that Satan is his true hero.  And with such a man as
Milton this was hardly to be wondered at.  All his life had been
a cry for liberty--liberty even when it bordered on rebellion.
And so he could not fail to make his arch rebel grand, and even
in his last degradation we somehow pity him, while feeling that
he is almost too high for pity.  Listen to Satan's cry of sorrow
and defiance when he finds himself cast out from Heaven:--

    "'Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,'
    Said then the lost Archangel, 'this the seat
    That we must change for heaven?--this mournful gloom
    For that celestial light?  Be it so, since he
    Who now is sovran can dispose and bid
    What shall be right; farthest from his is best,
    Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
    Above his equals.  Farewell, happy fields,
    Where joy for ever dwells!  Hail, horrors! hail,
    Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell
    Receive thy new possessor--one who brings
    A mind not to be changed by place or time,
    The mind is its own place, and in itself
    Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
    What matter where, if I be still the same,
    And what I should be, all but less than he
    Whom thunder hath made greater?  Here at least
    We shall be free the Almighty hath not built
    Here for his envy, will not drive us hence;
    Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
    To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
    Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.'"

Then in contrast to this outburst of regal defiance, read the
last beautiful lines of the poem and see in what softened mood of
submission Milton pictures our first parents as they leave the
Happy Garden:--

    "In either hand the hastening Angel caught
    Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
    Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
    To the subjected plain--then disappeared.
    They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
    Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
    Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
    With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
    Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
    The world was all before them, where to choose
    Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
    They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
    Through Eden took their solitary way."

Milton worked slowly at this grand poem.  Being blind he had now
to depend on others to write out what poetry he made in his own
mind, so it was written "in a parcel of ten, twenty, or thirty
verses at a time by whatever hand came next."  We are told that
when he was dictating sometimes he sat leaning back sideways in
an easy-chair, with his leg flung over the arm.  Sometimes he
dictated from his bed, and if in the middle of the night lines
came to him, whatever time it was he would ring for one of his
daughters to write them down for him, lest the thought should be
lost ere morning.

We are told, too, that he wrote very little in summer.  For he
said himself that it was in winter and spring that his poetic
fancy seemed to come best to him, and that what he wrote at other
times did not please him.  "So that in all the years he was about
this poem, he may be said to have spent but half his time


But now, while Milton's mind was full of splendid images, while
in spite of the discomfort and lonliness of his misruled home, he
was adding line to line of splendid sounding English, great
changes came over the land.

Oliver Cromwell died.  To him succeeded his son Richard.  But his
weak hands could not hold the scepter.  He could not bind
together a rebel people as great Oliver had done.  In a few
months he gave up the task, and little more than a year later the
people who had wept at the death of the great Protector, were
madly rejoicing at the return of a despot.

With a Stuart king upon the throne, there was no safety for the
rebel poet who had used all the power of his wit and learning
against the Royal cause.  Pity for his blindness might not save
him.  So listening to the warnings of his friends, he fled into
hiding somewhere in the city of London, "a place of retirement
and abscondence."

But after a time the danger passed, and Milton crept forth from
his hiding-place.  It was perhaps pity for his blind
helplessness, perhaps contempt for his powerlessness, that saved
him, who can tell?  His books were burned by the common hangman,
and he found himself in prison for a short time, but he was soon
released.  While others were dying for their cause, the blind
poet whose trumpet call had been Liberty! Liberty! was
contemptuously allowed to live.

Now indeed had Milton fallen on dark and evil days.  He had
escaped with his life and was free.  But all that he had worked
for during the past twenty years he saw shattered as at one blow.
He saw his friends suffering imprisonment and death, himself
forsaken and beggared.  He found no sympathy at home.  His
daughters, who had not loved their father in his days of wealth
and ease, loved him still less in poverty.  They sold his books,
cheated him with the housekeeping money, and in every way added
to his unhappiness.  At length, as a way out of the misery and
confusion of his home, Milton married for the third time.

The new wife was a placid, kindly woman.  She managed the house,
managed too the wild, unruly girls as no one had managed them
before.  She saw the folly of keeping them, wholly untamed and
half-educated as they were, at home, and persuaded her husband to
let them learn something by which they might earn a living.  So
they went out into the world "to learn some curious and ingenious
sorts of manufacture, that are proper for women to learn,
particularly embroideries in gold and silver."

Thus for the last few years of his life Milton was surrounded by
peace and content such as he had never before known.  All through
life he had never had any one to love him deeply except his
father and his mother, whose love for him was perhaps not all
wise.  Those who had loved him in part had feared him too, and
the fear outdid the love.  But now in the evening of his days, if
no perfect love came to him, he found at least kindly
understanding.  His wife admired him and cared for him.  She had
a fair face and pretty voice, and it is pleasant to picture the
gray-haired poet sitting at his organ playing while his wife
sings.  He cannot see the sun gleam and play in her golden hair,
or the quick color come and go in her fair face, but at least he
can take joy in the sound of her sweet fresh voice.

It was soon after this third marriage that Paradise Lost was
finished and published.  And even in those wild Restoration days,
when laughter and pleasure alone were sought, men acknowledged
the beauty and grandeur of this grave poem.  "This man cuts us
all out, and the ancients too," said Dryden, another and younger

People now came to visit the author of Paradise Lost, as before
they had come to visit great Cromwell's secretary.  We have a
pleasant picture of him sitting in his garden at the door of his
house on sunny days to enjoy the fresh air, for of the many
houses in which Milton lived not one was without a garden.
There, even when the sun did not shine, wrapt in a great coat of
coarse gray cloth, he received his visitors.  Or when the weather
was colder he sat in an upstairs room hung with rusty green.  He
wore no sword, as it was the fashion in those days to do, and his
clothes were black.  His long, light gray hair fell in waves
round his pale but not colorless face, and the sad gray eyes with
which he seemed to look upon his visitors were still clear and

Life had now come for Milton to a peaceful evening time, but his
work was not yet finished.  He had two great poems still to

One was Paradise Regained.  In this he shows how man's lost
happiness was found again in Christ.  Here is a second
temptation, the temptation in the wilderness, but this time Satan
is defeated, Christ is victorious.

The second poem was Samson Agonistes, which tells the tragic
story of Samson in his blindness.  And no one reading it can fail
to see that it is the story too of Milton in his blindness.  It
is Milton himself who speaks when he makes Samson exclaim:--

    "O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
    Blind among enemies:  O worse than chains,
    Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
    Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
    And all her various objects of delight
    Annulled, which might in part my grief have eased.
    Inferior to the vilest now become
    Of man or worm:  the vilest here excel me,
    They creep, yet see; I, dark in light, exposed
    To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
    Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
    In power of others, never in my own;--
    O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
    Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
    Without all hope of day!"

This was Milton's last poem.  He lived still four years longer
and still wrote.  But his singing days were over, and what he now
wrote was in prose.  His life's work was done, and one dark
November evening in 1674 he peacefully died.

    "Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
    So didst thou travel on life's common way."*



THE second great Puritan writer of England was John Bunyan.  He
was born in 1628, more than twenty years after Milton.  His
father was a tinker.  A tinker!  The word makes us think of
ragged, weather-worn men and women who wander about the
countryside.  They carry bundles of old umbrellas, and sometimes
a battered kettle or two.  They live, who knows how? they sleep,
who knows where?  Sometimes in our walks we come across a charred
round patch upon the grass in some quiet nook by the roadside,
and we know the tinkers have been there, and can imagine all
sorts of stories about them.  Or sometimes, better still, we find
them really there by the roadside boiling a mysterious three-
legged black kettle over a fire of sticks.

But John Bunyan's father was not this kind of tinker.  He did not
wander about the countryside, but lived at the little village of
Elstow, about a mile from the town of Bedford, as his father had
before him.  He was a poor and honest workman who mended his
neighbors' kettles and pans, and did his best to keep his family
in decent comfort.

One thing which shows this is that little John was sent to
school.  In those days learning, even learning to read and write,
was not the just due of every one.  It was only for the well-to-
do.  "But yet," says Bunyan himself, "notwithstanding the
meanness and inconsiderableness of my parents, it pleased God to
put it into their hearts to put me to school, to learn me both to
read and write."

Bunyan was born when the struggle between King and people was
beginning to be felt, and was a great boy of fourteen when at
last the armies of King and Parliament met on the battlefield of
Edgehill.  To many this struggle was a struggle for freedom in
religion.  From end to end of our island the question of religion
was the burning question of the day.  Religion had wrought itself
into the lives of people.  In those days of few books the Bible
was the one book which might be found in almost every house.  The
people carried it in their hands, and its words were ever on
their lips.  But the religion which came to be the religion of
more than half the people of England was a stern one.  They
forgot the Testament of Love, they remembered only the Testament
of Wrath.  They made the narrow way narrower, and they believed
that any who strayed from it would be punished terribly and
eternally.  It was into this stern world that little John Bunyan
was born, and just as a stern religious struggle was going on in
England so a stern religious struggle went on within his little
heart.  He heard people round him talk of sins and death, of a
dreadful day of judgment, of wrath to come.  These things laid
hold of his childish mind and he began to believe that in the
sight of God he must be a desperate sinner.  Dreadful dreams came
to him at night.  He dreamed that the Evil One was trying to
carry him off to a darksome place there to be "bound down with
the chains and bonds of darkness, unto the judgment of the great
day."  Such dreams made night terrible to him.

Bunyan tells us that he swore and told lies and that he was the
ringleader in all the wickedness of the village.  But perhaps he
was not so bad as he would have us believe, for he was always
very severe in his judgments of himself.  Perhaps he was not
worse than many other boys who did not feel that they had sinned
beyond all forgiveness.  And in spite of his awful thoughts and
terrifying dreams Bunyan still went on being a naughty boy; he
still told lies and swore.

At length he left school and became a tinker like his father.
But all England was being drawn into war, and so Bunyan, when
about seventeen, became a soldier.

Strange to say we do not know upon which side he fought.  Some
people think that because his father belonged to the Church of
England that he must have fought on the King's side.  But that is
nothing to go by, for many people belonged to that Church for old
custom's sake who had no opinions one way or another, and who
took no side until forced by the war to do so.  It seems much
more likely that Bunyan, so Puritan in all his ways of thought,
should fight for the Puritan side.  But we do not know.  He was
not long a soldier, we do not know quite how long, it was perhaps
only a few months.  But during these few months his life was
saved by, what seemed to him afterwards to have been a miracle.

"When I was a soldier," he says, "I, with others, were drawn out
to go to such a place to besiege it.  But when I was just ready
to go one of the company desired to go in my room.  To which,
when I had consented, he took my place.  And coming to the siege,
as he stood sentinel, he was shot in the head with a musket
bullet, and died.

"Here, as I said, were judgments and mercy, but neither of them
did awaken my soul to righteousness.  Wherefore I sinned still,
and grew more and more rebellious against God."

So whether Bunyan served in the Royal army, where he might have
heard oaths, or in the Parliamentarian, where he might have heard
godly songs and prayers, he still went on his way as before.

Some time after Bunyan left the army, and while he was still very
young, he married.  Both he and his wife were, he says, "as poor
as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or
a spoon betwixt us both.  Yet this she had for her part, The
Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven and The Practice of Piety, which
her father had left her when he died."

These two books Bunyan read with his wife, picking up again the
art of reading, which he had been taught at school, and which he
had since almost forgotten.  He began now to go a great deal to
church, and one of his chief pleasures was helping to ring the
bells.  To him the services were a joy.  He loved the singing,
the altar with its candles, the rich robes, the white surplices,
and everything that made the service beautiful.  Yet the terrible
struggle between good and evil in his soul went on.  He seemed to
hear voices in the air, good voices and bad voices, voices that
accused him, voices that tempted.  He was a most miserable man,
and seemed to himself to be one of the most wicked, and yet
perhaps the worst thing he could accuse himself of doing was
playing games on Sunday, and pleasing himself by bell-ringing.
He gave up his bell-ringing because it was a temptation to
vanity.  "Yet my mind hankered, therefore I would go to the
steeple house and look on, though I durst not ring."  One by one
he gave up all the things he loved, things that even if we think
them wrong do not seem to us to merit everlasting punishment.
But at last the long struggle ended and his tortured mind found
rest in the love of Christ.

Bunyan himself tells us the story of this long fight in a book
called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.  As we read we
cannot help but see that Bunyan was never a very wicked man, but
merely a man with a very tender conscience.  Things which seemed
to other men trifles were to him deadly sins; and although he was
so stern to himself, to others he shows a fatherly tenderness
which makes us feel that this rough tinker was no narrow Puritan,
but a broad-minded, large-hearted Christian.  And now that Bunyan
had found peace he became a Baptist, and joined the church of a
man whom he calls "the holy Mr. Gifford."  Gifford had been an
officer in the Royal army.  He had been wild and drunken, but
repenting of his evil ways had become a preacher.  Now, until he
died some years later, he was Bunyan's fast friend.

In the same year as Bunyan lost his friend his wife too died, and
he was left alone with four children, two of them little girls,
one of whom was blind.  She was, because of that, all the more
dear to him.  "She lay nearer to my heart than all beside," he

And now Bunyan's friends found out his great gift of speech.
They begged him to preach, but he was so humble and modest that
at first he refused.  At length, however, he was over-persuaded.
He began his career as a minister and soon became famous.  People
came from long distances to hear him, and he preached not only in
Elstow and Bedford but in all the country round.  He preached,
not only in churches, but in barns and in fields, by the roadside
or in the market-place, anywhere, in fact, where he could gather
an audience.

It was while Cromwell ruled that Bunyan began this ministry.  But
in spite of all the battles that had been fought for religious
freedom, there was as yet no real religious freedom in England.
Each part, as it became powerful, tried to tyrannize over every
other party, and no one was allowed to preach without a license.
The Presbyterians were now in power; Bunyan was a Baptist, and
some of the Presbyterians would gladly have silenced him.  Yet
during Cromwell's lifetime he went his way in peace.  Then the
Restoration came.  A few months later Bunyan was arrested for
preaching without a license.  Those who now ruled "were angry
with the tinker because he strove to mend souls as well as
kettles and pans."*  Before he was taken prisoner Bunyan was
warned of his danger, and if he had "been minded to have played
the coward" he might have escaped.  But he would not try to save
himself.  "If I should now run to make an escape," he said, "it
will be a very ill savour in the country.  For what will my weak
and newly-converted brethren think of it but that I was not so
strong in deed as I was in word."

*Henry Deane.

So Bunyan was taken prisoner.  Even then he might have been at
once set free would he have promised not to preach.  But to all
persuasions he replied, "I durst not leave off that work which
God has called me to."

Thus Bunyan's long imprisonment of twelve years began.  He had
married again by this time, and the parting with his wife and
children was hard for him, and harder still for the young wife
left behind "all smayed at the news."  But although she was
dismayed she was brave of heart, and she at once set about
eagerly doing all she could to free her husband.  She went to
London, she ventured into the House of Lords, and there pleaded
for him.  Touched by her earnestness and her helplessness the
Lords treated her kindly.  But they told her they could do
nothing for her and that she must plead her case before the
ordinary judges.

So back to Bedford she went, and with beating heart and trembling
limbs sought out the judges.  Again she was kindly received, but
again her petition was of no avail.  The law was the law.  Bunyan
had broken the law and must suffer.  He would not promise to
cease from preaching, she would as little promise for him.  "My
lord," she said, "he dares not leave off preaching as long as he
can speak."

So it was all useless labor, neither side could or would give way
one inch.  Bursting into tears the poor young wife turned away.
But she wept "not so much because they were so hard-hearted
against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such
poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when
they shall then answer for all things whatsoever they have done
in the body, whether it be good, or whether it be bad."

Seeing there was no help for it, Bunyan set himself bravely to
endure his imprisonment.  And, in truth, this was not very
severe.  Strangely enough he was allowed to preach to his fellow-
prisoners, he was even at one time allowed to go to church.  But
the great thing for us is that he wrote books.  Already, before
his imprisonment, he had written several books, and now he wrote
that for which he is most famous, the Pilgrim's Progress.

It is a book so well known and so well loved that I think I need
say little about it.  In the form of a dream Bunyan tells, as you
know, the story of Christian who set out on his long and
difficult pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the City of
the Blest.  He tells of all Christian's trials and adventures on
the way, of how he encounters giants and lion, of how he fights
with a great demon, and of how at length he arrives at his
journey's end in safety.  A great writer has said, "There is no
book in our literature on which we would so readily stake the
fame of the old unpolluted English language, no book which shows
so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and
how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed."*


For the power of imagination this writer places Bunyan by the
side of Milton.  Although there were many clever men in England
towards the end of the seventeenth century, there were only two
minds which had great powers of imagination.  "One of those minds
produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim's Progress."
That is very great praise, and yet although Milton and Bunyan are
thus placed side by side no two writers are more widely apart.
Milton's writing is full of the proofs of his leaning, his
English is fine and stately, but it is full of words made from
Latin words.  As an early writer on him said "Milton's language
is English, but it is Milton's English."*


On the other hand, Bunyan's writing is most simple.  He uses
strong, plain, purely English words.  There is hardly one word in
all his writing which a man who knows his Bible cannot easily
understand.  And it was from the Bible that Bunyan gathered
nearly all his learning.  He knew it from end to end, and the
poetry and grandeur of its language filled his soul.  But he read
other books, too, among them, we feel sure, the Faery Queen.
Some day you may like to compare the adventures of the Red Cross
Knight with the adventures of Christian.  And perhaps in all the
Faery Queen you will find nothing so real and exciting as
Christian's fight with Apollyon.  Apollyon comes from a Greek
word meaning the destroyer.  This is how Bunyan tells of the

"But now in this Valley of Humiliation poor Christian was hard
put to it.  For he had gone but a little way before he espied a
Foul Fiend coming over the field to meet him.  His name is
Apollyon.  Then did Christian begin to be afraid and to cast in
his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground.  But he
considered again, that he had no armour for his back, and
therefore thought that to turn the back to him might give him
greater advantage, with ease, to pierce him with his darts.
Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground.  For, he
thought, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life,
'twould be the best way to stand.

"So he went on, and Apollyon met him.  Now the Monster was
hideous to behold.  He was clothed with scales like a fish, and
they are his pride.  He had wings like a dragon, feet like a
bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke.  And his mouth
was as the mouth of a lion.  When he came up to Christian he
beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to
question him.

"APOLLYON.  When came you? and whither are you bound?

"CHRISTIAN.  I am come from the City of Destruction, which is the
place of all evil, and am going to the City of Zion."

After this Apollyon argued with Christian, trying to persuade him
to give up his pilgrimage and return to his evil ways.  But
Christian would listen to nothing that Apollyon could say.

"Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the Way
and said, 'I am void of fear in this matter.  Prepare thyself to
die, for I swear by my Infernal Den that thou shalt go no
further.  Here will I spill thy soul!'

"And with that he threw a flaming dart at his heart.  But
Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and
so prevented the danger of that.

"Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him,
and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as
hail, by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do
to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and
foot.  This made Christian give a little back.  Apollyon
therefore followed his work amain, and Christian again took
courage and resisted as manfully as he could.  This sore combat
lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite
spent.  For you must know that Christian, by reason of his
wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

"Then Apollyon espying his opportunity began to gather up close
to Christian, and wrestling with him gave him a dreadful fall.
And with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand.  Then said
Apollyon, 'I am sure of thee now.'  And with that he had almost
pressed him to death so that Christian began to despair of life.
But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last
blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian
nimbly reached out his hand for his sword and caught it, saying,
'Rejoice not against me, O mine Enemy! when I fall I shall
arise!' and with that gave him a deadly thrust which made him
give back, as one that had received his mortal wound.

"Christian perceiving that made at him again, saying 'Nay in all
these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved
us.'  And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings and
sped him away, and Christian saw him no more."

Bunyan wrote a second part or sequel to the Pilgrim's Progress,
in which he tells of the adventures of Christian's wife and
children on their way to Zion.  But the story does not interest
us as the story of Christian does.  Because we love Christian we
are glad to know that his wife and children escaped destruction,
but except that they belong to him we do not really care about

Bunyan wrote several other books.  The best known are The Holy
War and Grace Abounding.  The Holy War might be called a Paradise
Lost and Regained in homely prose.  It tells much the same story,
the story of the struggle between Good and Evil for the
possession of man's soul.

In Grace Abounding Bunyan tells of his own struggle with evil,
and it is from that book that we learn much of what we know of
his life.

He also wrote the Life and Death of Mr. Badman.  Instead of
telling how a good man struggles with evil and at last wins rest,
it tells of how a bad man yields always to evil and comes at last
to a sad end.  It is not a pretty story, and is one, I think,
which you will not care to read.

Bunyan, too, wrote a good deal of rime, but for the most part it
can hardly be called poetry.  It is for his prose that we
remember him.  Yet who would willingly part with the song of the
shepherd-boy in the second part of the Pilgrim's Progress:--

    "He that is down needs fear no fall;
        He that is low, no pride:
    He that is humble, ever shall
        Have God to be his guide.

    I am content with what I have,
        Little be it or much:
    And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
        Because thou savest such.

    Fullness to such a burden is
        That go on pilgrimage:
    Here little, and hereafter bliss,
        Is best from age to age."

When Bunyan had been in prison for six years he was set free, but
as he at once began to preach he was immediately seized and
reimprisoned.  He remained shut up for six years longer.  Then
King Charles II passed an Act called the Declaration of
Indulgence.  By this Act all the severe laws against those who
did not conform to the Church of England were done away with,
and, in consequence, Bunyan was set free.  Charles passed this
Act, not because he was sorry for the Nonconformists--as all who
would not conform to the Church of England were called--but
because he wished to free the Roman Catholics, and he could not
do that without freeing the Nonconformists too.  Two years later
Bunyan was again imprisoned because "in contempt of his Majesty's
good laws he preached or teached in other manner than according
to the Liturgy or practice of the Church of England."  But this
time his imprisonment lasted only six months.  And I must tell
you that many people now think that it was during this later
short imprisonment that Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress, and
not during the earlier and longer.

The rest of Bunyan's life passed peacefully and happily.  But we
know few details of it, for "he seems to have been too busy to
keep any records of his busy life."*  We know at least that it
was busy.  He was now a licensed preacher, and if the people had
flocked to hear him before his imprisonment they flocked in far
greater numbers now.  Even learned men came to hear him.  "I
marvel," said King Charles to one, "that a learned man such as
you can sit and listen to an unlearned tinker."


"May it please your Majesty," replied he, "I would gladly give up
all my learning if I could preach like that tinker."

Bunyan became the head of the Baptist Church.  Near and far he
traveled, preaching and teaching, honored and beloved wherever he
went.  And his word had such power, his commands had such weight,
that people playfully called him Bishop Bunyan.  Yet he was "not
puffed up in prosperity, nor shaken in adversity, always holding
the golden mean."*

*Charles Doe.

Death found Bunyan still busy, still kindly.  A young man who
lived at Reading had offended his father so greatly that the
father cast him off.  In his trouble the young man came to
Bunyan.  He at once mounted his horse and rode off to Reading.
There he saw the angry father, and persuaded him to make peace
with his repentant son.

Glad at his success, Bunyan rode on to London, where he meant to
preach.  But the weather was bad, the roads were heavy with mud,
he was overtaken by a storm of rain, and ere he could find
shelter he was soaked to the skin.  He arrived at length at a
friend's house wet and weary and shaking with fever.  He went to
bed never to rise again.  The time had come when, like Christian,
he must cross the river which all must cross "where there is no
bridge to go over and the river very deep."  But Bunyan, like
Christian, was held up by Hope.  He well knew the words, "When
thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through
the rivers they shall not overflow thee."  And so he crossed

And may we not believe that Bunyan, when he reached the other
side, heard again, as he had once before heard in his immortal
dream, "all the bells in the city ring again with joy," and that
it was said unto him, "Enter ye into the joy of our Lord"?



"THE life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the
literature of England, and its changes, during nearly half a
century."  With these words Sir Walter Scott, himself a great
writer, began his life of John Dryden.  Yet although Dryden
stands for so much in the story of our literature, as a man we
know little of him.  As a writer his influence on the age in
which he lived was tremendous.  As a man he is more shadowy than
almost any other greater writer.  We seem to know Chaucer, and
Spenser, and Milton, and even Shakespeare a little, but to know
Dryden in himself seems impossible.  We can only know him through
his works, and through his age.  And in him we find the
expression of his age.

With Milton ended the great romantic school of poetry.  He was
indeed as one born out of time, a lonely giant.  He died and left
no follower.  With Dryden began a new school of poetry, which was
to be the type of English poetry for a hundred and fifty years to
come.  This is called the classical school, and the rime which
the classical poets used is called the heroic couplet.  It is a
long ten-syllabled line, and rimes in couplets, as, for

    "He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
    Would stem too nigh the sands, to boast his wit,
    Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
    And thin partitions do their bounds divide."*

    *Absalom and Achitophel.

Dryden did not invent the heroic couplet, but it was he who first
made it famous.  "It was he," says Scott, "who first showed that
the English language was capable of uniting smoothness and
strength."  But when you come to read Dryden's poems you may
perhaps feel that in gaining the smoothness of Art they have lost
something of the beauty of Nature.  The perfect lines with their
regular sounding rimes almost weary us at length, and we are glad
to turn to the rougher beauty of some earlier poet.

But before speaking more of what Dryden did let me tell you a
little of what we know of his life.

John Dryden was the son of a Northamptonshire gentleman who had a
small estate and a large family, for John was the eldest of
fourteen children.  The family was a Puritan one, although in
1631, when John was born, the Civil War had not yet begun.

When John Dryden left school he went, like nearly all the poets,
to Cambridge.  Of what he did at college we know very little.  He
may have been wild, for more than once he got into trouble, and
once he was "rebuked on the head" for speaking scornfully of some
nobleman.  He was seven years at Cambridge, but he looked back on
these years with no joy.  He had no love for his University, and
even wrote:--

    "Oxford to him a dearer name shall be,
    Than his own Mother University."

Already at college Dryden had begun to write poetry, but his poem
on the death of Cromwell is perhaps the first that is worth

    "Swift and relentless through the land he past,
    Like that bold Greek, who did the East subdue;
    And made to battles of such heroic haste
    As if on wings of victory he flew.

    He fought secure of fortune as of fame,
    Till by new maps the island might be shown
    Of conquests, which he strewed where'er he came,
    This as the galaxy with stars is sown.

    Nor was he like those stars which only shine,
    When to pale mariners they storms portend,
    He had a calmer influence, and his mien
    Did love and majesty together blend.

    Nor died he when his ebbing fame went less,
    But when fresh laurels courted him to live:
    He seemed but to prevent some new success,
    As if above what triumphs earth could give.

    His ashes in a peaceful urn shall rest;
    His name a great example stands, to show,
    How strangely high endeavours may be blessed,
    Where piety and valour jointly go."

So wrote Dryden.  But after the death of Cromwell came the
Restoration.  Dryden had been able to admire Cromwell, but
although he came of a Puritan family he could never have been a
Puritan at heart.  What we learn of him in his writings show us
that.  He was not of the stern stuff which makes martyrs and
heroes.  There was no reason why he should suffer for a cause in
which he did not whole-heartedly believe.  So Dryden turned
Royalist, and the very next poem he wrote was On the Happy
Restoration and Return of His Majesty Charles the Second.

    "How easy 'tis when destiny proves kind,
    With full spread sails to run before the wind!"*

    *Astroe Redux.

So Dryden ran before the wind.

About three years after the Restoration Dryden married an earl's
daughter, Lady Elizabeth Howard.  We know very little about their
life together, but they had three children of whom they were very

With the Restoration came the re-opening of the theaters, and for
fourteen years Dryden was known as a dramatic poet.  There is
little need to tell you anything about his plays, for you would
not like to read them.  During the reign of Puritanism in England
the people had been forbidden even innocent pleasures.  The
Maypole dances had been banished, games and laughter were frowned
upon.  Now that these too stern laws had been taken away, people
plunged madly into pleasure:  laughter became coarse, merriment
became riotous.  Puritan England had lost the sense of where
innocent pleasure ends and wickedness begins.  In another way
Restoration England did the same.  The people of the Restoration
saw fun and laughter in plays which seem to us now simply vulgar
and coarse as well as dull.  The coarseness, too, is not the
coarseness of an ignorant people who know no better, but rather
of a people who do know better and who yet prefer to be coarse.
I do not mean to say that there are no well-drawn characters, no
beautiful lines, in Dryden's plays for that would not be true.
Many of them are clever, the songs in them are often beautiful,
but nearly all are unpleasant to read.  The taste of the
Restoration times condemned Dryden to write in a way unworthy of
himself for money.  "Neither money nor honour--that in two words
was the position of writers after the Restoration."*

*Beljame, Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres in Angleterre.

    "And Dryden, in immortal strain,
    Had raised the table-round again
    But that a ribald King and Court
    Bade him toil on to make them sport,
    Demanding for their niggard pay,
    Fit for their souls, a loser lay."*

    *Walter Scott, Marmion.

Had Dryden written nothing but plays we should not remember him
as one of our great poets.  Yet it was during this time of play-
writing that Dryden was made Poet Laureate and Historiographer
Royal with the salary of 200 pounds a year and a butt of sack.
It was after he became Poet Laureate that Dryden began to write
his satires, the poems for which he is most famous.  Although a
satire is a poem which holds wickedness up to scorn, sometimes it
was used, not against the wicked and the foolish, but against
those who merely differed from the writer in politics or religion
or any other way of life or thought.  Such was Dryden's best
satire--thought by some people the best in the English language.
It is called Absalom and Achitophel.  To understand it we must
know and understand the history of the times.  Here in the guise
of the old Bible story Dryden seeks to hold Lord Shaftesbury up
to scorn because he tried to have a law passed which would
prevent the King's brother James from succeeding to the throne,
and which would instead place the Duke of Monmouth there.  When
the poem was published Shaftesbury was in the Tower awaiting his
trial for high treason.  The poem had a great effect, but
Shaftesbury was nevertheless set free.

In spite of the fine sounding lines you will perhaps never care
to read Absalom and Achitophel save as a footnote to history.
But Dryden's was the age of satire.  Those he wrote called forth
others.  He was surrounded and followed by many imitators, and it
is well to remember Dryden as the greatest of them all.  His
satires were so powerful, too, that the people against whom they
were directed felt them keenly, and no wonder.  "There are
passages in Dryden's satires in which every couplet has not only
the force but the sound of a slap in the face," says a recent


Among the younger writers Dryden took the place Ben Jonson used
hold.  He kinged it in the coffee-house, then the fashionable
place at which the wits gathered, as Jonson had in the tavern.
He was given the most honored seat, in summer by the window, in
winter by the fire.  And although he was not a great talker like
Jonson, the young wits crowded around him, eager for the honor of
a word or a pinch from the great man's snuff-box.

Besides his plays and satires Dryden wrote a poem in support of
the English Church called Religio Laici.  Then a few years later,
when Charles II died and James II came to the throne, Dryden
turned Roman Catholic and wrote a poem called The Hind and the
Panther in praise of the Church of Rome.

But the reign of James II was short.  The "Glorious Revolution"
came, and with a Protestant King and Queen upon the throne, the
Catholic Poet Laureate lost his post and pension and all his
other appointments.  Dryden was now nearly sixty; and although he
had made what was then a good deal of money by his plays and
other poems he had spent it freely, and always seemed in need.
Now he had to face want and poverty.  But he faced them bravely.
Dryden all his life had been a flatterer; he had always sailed
with the wind.  Now, whether he could not or would not, he
changed no more, he flattered no more.  A kind friend, it is
said, still continued to pay him the two hundred pounds he had
received as Poet Laureate, and he now wrote more plays which
brought him money.  Then, thus late in life, he began the work
which for you at present will have the greatest interest.  Dryden
was a great poet, but he could create nothing, he had to have
given him ideas upon which to work.  Now he began translations
from Latin poets, and for those who cannot read them in the
original they are still a great pleasure and delight.

True, Dryden did not translate literally, that is word for word.
He paraphrased rather, and in doing so he Drydenized the
originals, often adding whole lines of his own.  Among his
translations was Virgil's Aeneid, which long before, you remember,
Surrey had begun in blank verse.  But blank verse was not what
the age in which Dryden lived desired, and he knew it.  So he
wrote in rimed couplets.  Long before this he had turned Milton's
Paradise Lost into rimed couplets, making it into an opera, which
he called The State of Innocence.  An opera is a play set to
music, but this opera was never set to music, and never sung or
acted.  Dryden, we know, admired Milton's poetry greatly.  "This
man cuts us all out," he had said.  Yet he thought he could make
the poem still better, and asked Milton's leave to turn it into
rime.  "Ay, you may tag my verses if you will," replied the great
blind man.

It is interesting to compare the two poems, and when you come to
read The State of Innocence you will find that not all the verses
are "tagged."  So that in places you can compare Milton's blank
verse with Dryden's.  And although Dryden must have thought he
was improving Milton's poem, he says himself:  "Truly I should be
sorry, for my own sake, that any one should take the pains to
compare them (the poems) together, the original being,
undoubtedly, one of the greatest, most noble, and most sublime
poems which either this age or nation has produced."

Dryden begins his poem with the speech of Satan, Lucifer he calls
him, on finding himself cast out from heaven:--

    "Is this the seat our conqueror has given?
    And this the climate we must change for heaven?
    These regions and this realm my wars have got;
    This mournful empire is the loser's lot;
    In liquid burnings, or on dry, to dwell,
    Is all the sad variety of hell."

If you turn back to page 401 you can compare this with Milton's
own version.

Besides translating some Latin and a few Greek poems Dryden
translated stories from Boccaccio, Chaucer's old friend, and last
of all he translated Chaucer himself into Drydenese.  For in
Dryden's day Chaucer's language had already become so old-
fashioned that few people troubled to read him.  "It is so
obsolete," says Dryden, "that his sense is scarce to be
understood."  "I find some people are offended that I have turned
these tales into modern English, because they think them unworthy
of my pains, and look on Chaucer as a dry, old-fashioned wit not
worthy reviving."

Again he says:  "But there are other judges, who think I ought
not to have translated Chaucer into English, out of a quite
contrary notion.  They suppose there is a certain veneration due
to his old language, and that it is little less than profanation
and sacrilege to alter it.  They are further of opinion that
somewhat of his good sense will suffer in this transfusion, and
much of the beauty of his thoughts will infallibly be lost, which
appear with more grace in their old habit."  I think all of us
who can read Chaucer in his own language must agree with these
judges.  But Dryden goes on to say he does not write for such,
but for those who cannot read Chaucer's English.  Are they who
can understand Chaucer to deprive the greater part of their
countrymen of the same advantage, and hoard him up, as misers do
their gold, only to look on it themselves and hinder others from
making use of it? he asks.

This is very good reasoning, and all that can be said against it
is that when Dryden has done with Chaucer, although he tells the
same tales, they are no longer Chaucer's but Dryden's.  The
spirit is changed.  But that you will be able to feel only when
you grow older and are able to read the two and balance them one
against the other.  Dryden translated only a few of the
Canterbury Tales, and the one he liked best was the knight's tale
of Palamon and Arcite.  He published it in a book which he called
Fables, and it is, I think, as a narrative or story-telling poet
in these fables, and in his translations, that he keeps most
interest for the young people of to-day.

You have by this time, I hope, read the story of Palamon and
Arcite at least in Tales from Chaucer, and here I will give you a
few lines first from Dryden and then from Chaucer, so that you
can judge for yourselves of the difference.  In them the poets
describe Emelia as she appeared on that May morning when Palamon
first looked forth from his prison and saw her walk in the

    "Thus year by year they pass, and day by day,
    Till once,--'twas on the morn of cheerful May,--
    The young Emila, fairer to be seen
    Than the fair lily on the flowery green,
    More flesh than May herself in blossoms new,
    For with the rosy colour strove her hue,
    Waked, as her custom was, before the day,
    To do the observance due to sprightly May;
    For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
    The vigils of her night, and breaks their sluggard sleep;
    Each gentle breast with kindly warmth she moves;
    Inspires new flames, revives extinguished loves.
    In this remembrance, Emily, ere day,
    Arose, and dressed herself in rich array;
    Fresh as the month, and as the morning fair,
    Adown her shoulders fell her length of hair;
    A ribbon did the braided tresses bind,
    The rest was loose, and wantoned in the wind:
    Aurora had but newly chased the night,
    And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light,
    When to the garden walk she took her way,
    To sport and trip along in cool of day,
    And offer maiden vows in honour of the May.
        At every turn she made a little stand,
    And thrust among the thorns her lily hand
    To draw the rose, and every rose she drew,
    She shook the stalk, and brushed away the dew;
    Then party-coloured flowers of white and red
    She wove, to make a garland for her head.
    This done, she sang and carolled out so clear,
    That men and angels might rejoice to hear;
    Even wondering Philomel forgot to sing,
    And learned from her to welcome in the Spring."

That is Dryden's, and this is how Chaucer tells of the same May

    "This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day,
    Till it fel oones in a morwe of May
    That Emelie, that farier was to seene
    Than is the lilie on his stalke grene,
    And fressher than the May with floures newe--
    For with the rose colour strof hire hewe,
    I not which was the fairer of hem two--
    Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
    She was arisen and al redy dight.
    For May wol have no sloggardy anight.
    The seson priketh every gentil herte,
    And maketh him out of his sleep to sterte,
    And seith, 'Arise and do thin observance'.
    This makéd Emelye have remembraunce
    To don honour to May, and for to rise.
    I-clothed was she fressh for to devise,
    Hir yelowe heer was broyded in a tresse,
    Behinde hir bak, a yerde long I gesse;
    And in the gardyn at the sunne upriste
    She walketh up and doun, and as hir liste

    She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
    To make a subtil garland for hir hede,
    And as an angel hevenly she song."

In this quotation from Chaucer I have not changed the old
spelling into modern as I did in the chapter on Chaucer, so that
you may see the difference between the two styles more clearly.

If you can see the difference between these two quotations you
can see the difference between the poetry of Dryden's age and all
that went before him.  It is the difference between art and
nature.  Chaucer sings like a bird, Dryden like a trained concert
singer who knows that people are listening to him.  There is room
for both in life.  We want and need both.

If you can feel the difference between Chaucer and Dryden you
will understand in part what I meant by saying that Dryden was
the expression of his time.  For in Restoration times the taste
was for art rather than for natural beauty.  The taste was for
what was clever, witty, and polished rather than for the simple,
stately grandeur of what was real and true.  Poetry was utterly
changed.  It no longer went to the heart but to the brain.
Dryden's poetry does not make the tears start to our eye or the
blood come to our cheek, but it flatters our ear with its
smoothness and elegance; it tickles our fancy with its wit.

You will understand still better what the feeling of the times
was when I tell you that Dryden, with the help of another poet,
re-wrote Shakespeare's Tempest and made it to suit the fashion of
the day.  In doing so they utterly spoiled it.  As literature it
is worthless; as helping us to understand the history of those
times it is useful.  But although The Tempest, as re-written by
Dryden, is bad, one of the best of his plays is founded upon
another of Shakespeare's.  This play is called All for Love or
the World Well Lost, and is founded upon Shakespeare's Antony and
Cleopatra.  It is not written in Dryden's favorite heroic couplet
but in blank verse.  "In my style," he says, "I have professed to
imitate the divine Shakespeare, which, that I might perform more
freely, I have disencumbered myself from rhyme.  Not that I
condemn my former way, but that this is more proper to my present
purpose."  And when you come to read this play you will find
that, master as Dryden was of the heroic couplet, he could write,
too, when he chose, fine blank verse.

Perhaps the best-known of all Dryden's shorter poems is the ode
called Alexander's Feast.  It was written for a London musical
society, which gave a concert each year on St. Cecilia's day,
when an original ode was sung in her honor.  Dryden in this ode,
which was sung in 1697, pictures Timotheus, the famous Greek
musician and poet, singing before Alexander, at a great feast
which was held after the conquest of Persia.  Alexander listens

    "The lovely Thais, by his side,
    Sate like a blooming Eastern Bride,
    In flower of youth and beauty's pride.
        Happy, happy, happy pair!
            None but the brave,
            None but the brave,
    None but the brave deserves the fair!"

As Timotheus sings he stirs at will his hearers' hearts to love,
to pity, or to revenge.

    "Timotheus, to his breathing flute
            And sounding lyre,
    Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire."

But those were heathen times.  In Christian times came St.
Cecilia and she

        "Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
        And added length to solemn sounds,
    With nature's Mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
        Let old Timotheus yield the prize.
            Or both divide the crown:
        He raised a mortal to the skies
            She drew an angel down."

Dryden was a great poet, and he dominated his own age and the age
to come.  But besides being a poet he was a great prose-writer.
His prose is clear and fine and almost modern.  We do not have to
follow him through sentences so long that we lose the sense
before we come to the end.  "He found English of brick and left
it marble," says a late writer, and when we read his prose we
almost believe that saying to be true.  He was the first of
modern critics, that is he was able to judge the works of others
surely and well.  And many of his criticisms of men were so true
that we accept them now even as they were accepted then.  Here is
what he says of Chaucer in his preface to The Fables:--

"He [Chaucer] must have been a man of a most wonderful
comprehensive nature, because as it has been truly observed of
him, he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales the
various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the whole
English nation, in his age.  Not a single character has escaped
him.  All his pilgrims are severally distinguished from each
other; and not only in their inclinations, but in their very
physiognomies persons. . . . The matter and manner of their
tales, and of their telling are so suited to their different
educations, humours, and callings, that each of them would be
improper in any other mouth.  Even the grave and serious
characters are distinguished by their several sorts of gravity.
Their discourses are such as belong to their age, their calling,
and their breeding; such as are becoming to them and to them
only.  Some of his persons are vicious, and some virtuous; some
are unlearned, or (as Chaucer calls them) lewd, and some are
learned.  Even the ribaldry of the low characters is different:
the Reeve, the Miller, and the Cook are several men, and
distinguished from each other as much as the mincing Lady-
Prioress and the broad-speaking, gap-toothed Wife of Bath. . . .
It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is
God's plenty.  We have our forefathers and great-grand-dames all
before us, as they were in Chaucer's days.  Their general
characters are still remaining in mankind, and even in England,
though they are called by other names than those of monks, and
friars, and canons, and lady abbesses, and nuns; for mankind is
ever the same, and nothing lost out of nature though everything
is altered."

The Fables was the last book Dryden wrote.  He was growing to be
an old man, and a few months after it was published he became
very ill.  "John Dryden, Esq., the famous poet, lies a-dying,"
said the newspapers on the 30th April, 1700.  One May morning he
closed his eyes for ever, just as

    "Aurora had but newly chased the night,
    And purpled o'er the sky with blushing light."


TO almost every house in the land, as regular as the milk man,
more regular than the postman, there comes each morning the
newspaper boy.  To most of us breakfast means, as well as things
to eat, mother pouring out the tea and father reading the
newspaper.  As mother passes father's tea she says, "Anything in
the paper, John?"  And how often he answers, "Nothing, nothing

Although father says there is nothing in the paper there is a
great deal of reading in it, that we can see.  And now comes the
question, Who writes it all?  Who writes this thin, flat book of
six or eight great pages which every morning we buy for a penny
or a halfpenny?  But perhaps you think it does not matter who
writes the newspapers, for the newspaper is not literature.
Literature means real books with covers--dear possessions to be
loved and taken care of, to be read and read again.  But a
newspaper is hardly read at all when it is crumpled up and used
to light the fire.  And no one minds, for who could love a
newspaper, who cares to treasure it, and read it again and yet

We do not want even to read yesterday's newspapers, for
newspapers seem to hold for us only the interest of the day.  The
very name by which they used to be called, journal, seems to tell
us that, for it comes from the French word "jour," meaning "a
day."  Newspapers give us the news of the day for the day.  Yet
in them we find the history of our own times, and we are
constantly kept in mind of how important they are in our everyday
life by such phrases as "the freedom of the Press," "the opinion
of the Press," the Press meaning all the newspapers, journals and
magazines and the people who write for them.

So we come back again to our question, Who writes for the
newspapers?  The answer is, the journalists.  A newspaper is not
all the work of one man, but of many whose names we seldom know,
but who work together so that each morning we may have our paper.
And in this chapter I want to tell you about one of our first
real journalists, Daniel Defoe.  Of course you know of him
already, for he wrote Robinson Crusoe, and he is perhaps your
favorite author.  But before he was an author he was a
journalist, and as I say one of our first.

For there was a time when there were no newspapers, nothing for
father to read at breakfast-time, and no old newspapers to
crumple up and light fires with.  The first real printed English
newspaper was called the Weekly News.  It was published in 1622,
while King Charles I was still upon the throne.

But this first paper and others that came after it were very
small.  The whole paper was not so large as a page of one of our
present halfpenny papers.  The news was told baldly without any
remarks upon it, and when there was not enough news it was the
fashion to fill up the space with chapters from the Bible.
Sometimes, too, a space was left blank on purpose, so that those
who bought the paper in town might write in their own little bit
of news before sending it off to country friends.

Defoe was one of the first to change this, to write articles and
comments upon the news.  Gradually newspapers became plentiful.
And when Government by party became the settled form of our
Government, each party had its own newspaper and used it to help
on its own side and abuse the other.

Milton and Dryden were really journalists; Milton when he wrote
his political pamphlets, and Dryden when he wrote Absalom and
Achitophel and other poems of that kind.  But they were poets
first, journalists by accident.  Defoe was a journalist first,
though by nature ever a story-teller.

Daniel Defoe, born in 1661, was the son of a London butcher names
James Foe.  Why Daniel, who prided himself on being a true-born
Englishman, Frenchified his name by adding a "De" to it we do not
know, and he was over forty before he changed plain Foe into

Daniel's father and mother were Puritans, and he was sent to
school with the idea that he should become a Nonconformist
minister.  But Defoe did not become a minister; perhaps he felt
he was unsuited for such solemn duty.  "The pulpit," he says
later, "is none of my office.  It was my disaster first to be set
apart for, and then to be set apart from the honor of that sacred

Defoe never went to college, and because of this many a time in
later days his enemies taunted him with being ignorant and
unlearned.  He felt these taunts bitterly, and again and again
answered them in his writings.  "I have been in my time pretty
well master of five languages," he says in one place.  "I have
also, illiterate though I am, made a little progress in science.
I have read Euclid's Elements. . . . I have read logic. . . . I
went some length in physics. . . . I thought myself master of
geography and to possess sufficient skill in astronomy."  Yet he
says I am "no scholar."

When Defoe left school he went into the office of a merchant
hosier.  It was while he was in this office that King Charles II
died and King James II came to the throne.  Almost at once there
followed the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion.  The Duke was a
Protestant and James was a Catholic.  There were many in the land
who feared a Catholic King, and who believed too that the Duke
had more right to the throne than James, so they joined the
rebellion.  Among them was Daniel.  But the Rebellion came to
nothing.  In a few weeks the Duke's army was scattered in flight,
and he himself a wretched prisoner in the Tower.

Happier than many of his comrades, Defoe succeeded in escaping
death or even punishment.  Secretly and safely he returned to
London and there quietly again took up his trade of merchant
hosier.  But he did not lose his interest in the affairs of his
country.  And when the glorious Revolution came he was one of
those who rode out to meet and welcome William the Deliverer.

But perhaps he allowed politics to take up too much of his time
and thought, for although he was a good business man he failed
and had to hide from those to whom he owed money.  But soon we
find him setting to work again to mend his fortunes.  He became
first secretary to and then part owner of a tile and brick
factory, and in a few years made enough money to pay off all his
old debts.

By this time Defoe had begun to write, and was already known as a
clever author.  Now some one wrote a book accusing William among
many other "crimes" of being a foreigner.  Defoe says, "this
filled me with a kind of rage"; and he replied with a poem called
The True-born Englishman.  It became popular at once, thousands
of copies being sold in the first few months.  Every one read it
from the King in his palace to the workman in his hut, and long
afterwards Defoe was content to sign his books "By the author of
'The True-born Englishman.'"  It made Defoe known to the King.
"This poem," he said, "was the occasion of my being known to his
Majesty."  He was received and employed by him and "above the
capacity of my deserving, rewarded."  He was given a small
appointment in the Civil Service.  All his life after Defoe loved
King William and was his staunch friend, using all the power of
his clever pen to make the unloved Dutch King better understood
of his people.  But when King William died and Queen Anne ruled
in his stead Defoe fell on evil times.

In those days the quarrels about religion were not yet over.
There was a party in the Church which would very willingly have
seen the Nonconformists or Dissenters persecuted.  Dissenters
were like to have an evil time.  To show how wrong persecution
was, Defoe wrote a little pamphlet which he called The Shortest
Way with the Dissenters.  He wrote as if he were very angry
indeed with the Dissenters.  He said they had been far too kindly
treated and that if he had his way he would make a law that
"whoever was found at a conventicle should be banished the nation
and the preacher be hanged.  We should soon see an end of the
tale--they would all come to Church, and one age would make us
all one again."

Defoe meant this for satire.  A satire is, you remember, a work
which holds up folly or wickedness to ridicule.  He meant to show
the High Churchmen how absurd and wicked was their desire to
punish the Dissenters for worshiping God in their own way.  He
meant to make the world laugh at them.  But at first the High
Churchmen did not see that it was meant to ridicule them.  They
greeted the author of this pamphlet as a friend and ally.  The
Dissenters did not see the satire either, and found in the writer
a new and most bitter enemy.

But when at last Defoe's meaning became plain the High Church
party was very angry, and resolved to punish him.  Defoe fled
into hiding.  But a reward of fifty pounds was offered for his
discovery, and, "rather than others should be ruined by his
mistake," Defoe gave himself up.

For having written "a scandalous and seditious pamphlet" Defoe
was condemned to pay a large fine, to stand three times in the
pillory, and to be imprisoned during the Queen's pleasure.  Thus
quickly did Fortune's wheel turn round.  "I have seen the rough
side of the world as well as the smooth," he said long after.  "I
have, in less than half a year, tasted the difference between the
closet of a King, and the dungeon of Newgate."

The pillory was a terrible punishment.  In a public place, raised
on a platform, in full view of the passing crowd, the victim
stood.  Round his neck was a heavy collar of wood, and in this
collar his hands were also confined.  Thus he stood helpless,
unable to protect himself either from the sun or rain or from the
insults of the crowd.  For a man in the pillory was a fitting
object for laughter and rude jests.  To be jeered at, to have mud
thrown at him, was part of his punishment.

But for Defoe it was a triumph rather than a punishment.  To the
common people he was already a hero.  So they formed a guard
round him to protect him from the mud and rotten eggs his enemies
would now thrown.  They themselves threw flowers, they wreathed
the pillory with roses and with laurel till it seemed a place of
honor rather than of disgrace.  They sang songs in his praise and
drank to his health and wished those who had sent him there stood
in his place.  Thus through all the long, hot July hours Defoe
was upheld and comforted in his disgrace.  And to show that his
spirit was untouched by his sentence he wrote A Hymn to the
Pillory.  This was bought and read and shouted in the ears of his
enemies by thousands of the people.  It was a more daring satire
than even The Shortest Way.  In the end of it Defoe calls upon
the Pillory, "Thou Bugbear of the Law," to speak and say why he
stands there:--

    "Tell them, it was, because he was too bold,
    And told those truths which should not have been told!
    Extol the justice of the land,
    Who punish what they will not understand!

    Tell them, he stands exalted there
    For speaking what we would not hear:
    And yet he might have been secure,
    Had he said less, or would he have said more!

    Tell them the men that placed him here
    Are scandals to the Times!
    Are at a loss to find his guilt,
    And can't commit his crimes!"

But although Defoe's friends could take the sting out of the
terrible hours during which he stood as an object for mockery
they could do little else for him.  So he went back to prison to
remain there during the Queen's pleasure.

This, of course, meant ruin to him.  For himself he could bear
it, but he had a wife and children, and to know that they were in
poverty and bitter want was his hardest punishment.

From prison Defoe could not manage his factory.  He had to let
that go, losing with it thousands of pounds.  For the second time
he saw himself ruined.  But he had still left to him his pen and
his undaunted courage.  So, besides writing many pamphlets in
prison, Defoe started a paper called the Review.  It appeared at
first once, then twice, and at last three times a week.  Unlike
our papers of to-day, which are written by many hands, Defoe
wrote the whole of the Review himself, and continued to do so for
years.  It contained very little news and many articles, and when
we turn these worn and yellowing pages we find much that,
interesting in those days, has lost interest for us.  But we also
find articles which, worded in clear, strong, truly English
English, seem to us as fresh and full of life as when they were
written more than two hundred years ago.  We find as well much
that is of keen historical interest, and we gain some idea of the
undaunted courage of the author when we remember that the first
numbers of the Review at least were penned in a loathsome prison
where highwaymen, pirates, cut-throats, and common thieves were
his chief companions.


FOR more than a year and a half Defoe remained in prison; then he
was set free.

A new Government had come into power.  It was pointed out to the
Queen that it was a mistake to make an enemy of so clever an
author as Defoe.  Then he was set at liberty, but on condition
that he should use his pen to support the Government.  So
although Defoe was now free to all seeming, this was really the
beginning of bondage.  He was no longer free in mind, and by
degrees he became a mere hanger-on of Government, selling the
support of his pen to whichever party was in power.

We cannot follow him through all the twists and turns of his
politics, nor through all his ups and downs in life, nor mention
all the two hundred and fifty books and pamphlets that he wrote.
It was an adventurous life he led, full of dark and shadowy
passages which we cannot understand and so perhaps cannot pardon.
But whether he sold his pen or no we are bound to confess that
Defoe's desire was towards the good, towards peace, union, and

One thing he fought for with all his buoyant strength was the
Union between England and Scotland.  It had been the desire of
William III ere he died, it had now become the still stronger
desire of Queen Anne and her ministers.  So Defoe took "a long
winter, a chargeable, and, as it proved, hazardous journey" to
Scotland.  There he threw himself into the struggle, doing all he
could for the Union.  He has left for us a history of that
struggle,* which perhaps better than any other makes us realize
the unrest of the Scottish people, the anger, the fear, the
indecision, with which they were filled.  "People went up and
down wondering and amazed, expecting every day strange events,
afraid of peace, afraid of war.  Many knew not which way to fix
their resolution.  They could not be clear for the Union, yet
they saw death at the door in its breaking off--death to their
liberty, to their religion, and to their country."  Better than
any other he gives a picture of the "infinite struggles, clamor,
railing, and tumult of party."  Let me give, in his own words, a
description of a riot in the streets of Edinburgh:--

*History of the Union of Great Britain.

"The rabble by shouting and noise having increased their numbers
to several thousands, they began with Sir Patrick Johnston, who
was one of the treaters, and the year before had been Lord
Provost.  First they assaulted his lodging with stones and
sticks, and curses not a few.  But his windows being too high
they came up the stairs to his door, and fell to work at it with
sledges or great hammers.  And had they broke it open in their
first fury, he had, without doubt, been torn to pieces without
mercy; and this only because he was a treater in the Commission
to England, for, before that, no man was so well beloved as he,
over the whole city.

"His lady, in the utmost despair with this fright, came to the
window, with two candles in her hand, that she might be known;
and cried out, for God's sake to call the guards.  An honest
Apothecary in the town, who knew her voice, and saw the distress
she was in, and to whom the family, under God, is obliged for
their deliverance, ran immediately down to the town guard.  But
they would not stir without the Lord Provost's order.  But that
being soon obtained, one Captain Richardson, who commanded,
taking about thirty men with him, marched bravely up to them; and
making his way with great resolution through the crowd, they
flying, but throwing stones and hallooing at him, and his men.
He seized the foot of the stair case; and then boldly went up,
cleared the stair, and took six of the rabble in the very act,
and so delivered the gentleman and his family.

"But this did not put a stop to the general tumult, though it
delivered this particular family.  For the rabble, by this time,
were prodigiously increased, and went roving up and down the
town, breaking the windows of the Members of Parliament and
insulting them in their coaches in the streets.  They put out all
the lights that they might not be discovered.  And the author of
this had one great stone thrown at him for but looking out of a
window.  For they suffered nobody to look out, especially with
any lights, lest they should know faces, and inform against them

"By this time it was about eight or nine o'clock at night, and
now they were absolute masters of the city.  And it was reported
they were going to shut up all the ports.*  The Lord Commissioner
being informed of that, sent a party of the foot guards, and took
possession of the Netherbow, which is a gate in the middle of the
High Street, as Temple Bar between the City of London and the

*Gates in the City Wall.

"The city was now in a terrible fright, and everybody was under
concern for their friends.  The rabble went raving about the
streets till midnight, frequently beating drums, raising more
people.  When my Lord Commissioner being informed, there were a
thousand of the seamen and rabble come up from Leith; and
apprehending if it were suffered to go on, it might come to a
dangerous head, and be out of his power to suppress, he sent for
the Lord Provost, and demanded that the guards should march into
the city.

"The Lord Provost, after some difficulty, yielded; though it was
alleged, that it was what never was known in Edinburgh before.
About one o'clock in the morning a battalion of the guards
entered the town, marched up to the Parliament Close, and took
post in all the avenues of the city, which prevented the
resolutions taken to insult the houses of the rest of the
treaters.  The rabble were entirely reduced by this, and
gradually dispersed, and so the tumult ended."

Although Defoe did all he could to bring the Union about he felt
for and with the poor distracted people.  He saw that amid the
strife of parties, proud, ignorant, mistaken, it may be, the
people were still swayed by love of country, love of freedom.

Even after the Union was accomplished Defoe remained in Scotland.
He still wrote his Review every week, and filled it so full of
Union matters that his readers began to think he could speak of
nothing else and that he was grown dull.  In his Review he

"Nothing but Union, Union, says one now that wants diversion; I
am quite tired of it, and we hope, 'tis as good as over now.
Prithee, good Mr. Review, let's have now and then a touch of
something else to make us merry."  But Defoe assures his readers
he means to go on writing about the Union until he can see some
prospect of calm among the men who are trying to make dispeace.
"Then I shall be the first that shall cease calling upon them to

The years went on, Defoe always living a stormy life amid the
clash of party politics, always writing, writing.  More than once
his noisy, journalistic pen brought him to prison.  But he was
never a prisoner long, never long silenced.  Yet although Defoe
wrote so much and lived at a time when England was full of witty
writers he was outside the charmed circle of wits who pretended
not to know of his existence.  "One of these authors," says
another writer, "(the fellow that was pilloried, I have forgotten
his name), is indeed so grave, sententious, dogmatical a rogue
that there is no enduring him."*

*Johnathan Swift.

At length when Defoe was nearly sixty years old he wrote the book
which has brought him world-wide and enduring fame.  Need I tell
you of that book?  Surely not.  For who does not know Robinson
Crusoe, or, as the first title ran, "The Life and Strange
Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, who
lived eight-and-twenty years all alone in an uninhabited Island
on the Coast of America near the Mouth of the great River
Oroonoque, having been cast on shore by shipwreck, wherein all
the men perished but himself.  With an account how he was at last
strangely delivered by Pirates.  Written by himself."  In those
days, you see, they were not afraid of long titles.  The book,
too, is long.  "Yet," as another great writer says,* "was there
ever anything written by mere man that was wished longer by its
readers, except Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and the Pilgrim's

*Samuel Johnson.

The book was a tremendous success.  It pleased the men and women
and children of two hundred years ago as much as it pleases them
to-day.  Within a few months four editions had been sold.  Since
then, till now, there has never been a time when Robinson Crusoe
has not been read.  The editions of it have been countless.  It
has been edited and re-edited, it has been translated and
abridged, turned into shorthand and into poetry, and published in
every form imaginable, and at every price, from one penny to many

Defoe got the idea of his story from the adventures of a Scots
sailor named Alexander Selkirk.  This sailor quarreled with his
captain, and was set ashore upon an uninhabited island where he
remained alone for more than four years.  At the end of that time
he was rescued by a passing ship and brought home to England.
Out of this slender tale Defoe made his fascinating story so full
of adventure.

What holds us in the story is its seeming truth.  As we read it
we forget altogether that it is only a story, we feel sure that
Crusoe really lived, that all his adventures really happened.
And if you ever read any more of Defoe's books you will find that
this feeling runs through them all.  Defoe was, in fact, a born
story-teller--like Sir John Mandeville.  With an amazing show of
truth he was continually deceiving people.  "He was a great, a
truly great liar, perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived."*

*William Minto.

Finding that Robinson Crusoe was such a success, Defoe began to
write other stories.  He wrote of thieves, pirates and rogues.
These stories have the same show of truth as Robinson Crusoe.
Defoe, no doubt, got the ideas for them from the stories of the
rogues with whom he mixed in prison.  But they have nearly all
been forgotten, for although they are clever the heroes and
heroines are coarse and the story of their adventures is
unpleasant reading.  Yet as history, showing us the state of the
people in the days of Queen Anne and of George I, they are

Defoe was now well off.  He had built himself a handsome house
surrounded by a pleasant garden.  He had carriages and horses and
lived in good style with his wife and beautiful daughters.  There
seemed to be no reason why he should not live happily and at ease
for the rest of his life.  But suddenly one day, for some unknown
reason, he fled from his comfortable home into hiding.  Why he
did this no one can tell.  For two years he lived a homeless,
skulking fugitive.  Then in 1731 he died, if not in poverty at
least in loneliness and distress of mind.


Robinson Crusoe, abridged by John Lang.  Robinson Crusoe, retold
by Edith Robarts, illustrated by J. Hassall, R. I.  Robinson
Crusoe (Everyman's Library).


WE all know what it is to feel hurt and angry, to feel that we
are misunderstood, that no one loves us.  At such times it may be
we want to hurt ourselves so that in some mysterious way we may
hurt those who do not love us.  We long to die so that they may
be sorry.  But these feelings do not come often and they soon
pass.  We cry ourselves to sleep perhaps and wake up to find the
evil thoughts are gone.  We forget all about them, or if we
remember them we remember to smile at our own foolishness, for we
know that after all we are understood, we are loved.  And when we
grow old enough to look back upon those times, although we may
remember the pain of them, we can see that sometimes they came
from our own fault, it was not that we were misunderstood so much
as that we were misunderstanding.  Yet whether it be our own
fault or not, when such times do come, the world seems very dark
and life seems full of pain.  Then think of what a whole life
filled with these evil thoughts must be.  Think of a whole life
made terrible with bitter feelings.  That would be misery indeed.

Yet when we read the sad story of the life of Jonathan Swift who
has in Gulliver's Travels given to countless children, and grown-
up people too, countless hours of pleasure, we are forced to
believe that so he passed a great part of his life.  Swift was
misunderstood and misunderstanding.  It was not that he had no
love given to him, for all his life through he found women to
love him.  But it was his unhappiness that he took that love only
to turn it to bitterness in his heart, that he took that love so
as to leave a stain on him and it ever after.  He had friendship
too.  But in the hands stretched out to help him in his need he
saw only insult.  In the kindness that was given to him he saw
only a grudging charity, and yet he was angry with the world and
with man that he did not receive more.

In the life of Jonathan Swift there are things which puzzle even
the wisest.  Children would find those things still harder to
understand, so I will not try to explain them, but will tell you
a little that you will readily follow about the life of this
lonely man with the biting pen and aching heart.

Jonathan Swift's father and mother were very poor, so poor indeed
that their friends said it was folly for them to marry.  And when
after about two years of married life the husband died, he left
his young wife burdened with debts and with a little baby girl to
keep.  It was not until a few months after his father's death
that Jonathan was born.

His mother was a brave-hearted, cheerful woman, and although her
little son came to her in the midst of such sorrow she no doubt
loved him, and his nurse loved him too.  Little Jonathan's father
and mother were English, but because he was born in Dublin, and
because he spent a great deal of his life there, he has sometimes
been looked upon as an Irishman.

Jonathan's nurse was also an Englishwoman, and when he was about
a year old she was called home to England to a dying friend.  She
saw that she must go to her friend, but she loved her baby-charge
so much that she could not bear to part from him.  He had been a
sickly child, often ill, but that seemed only to make him dearer
to her.  She held him in her arms thinking how empty they would
fell without their dear burden.  She kissed him, jealous at the
thought that he might learn to know and love another nurse, and
she felt that she could not part with him.  Making up her mind
that she would not, she wrapped him up warmly and slipped quietly
from the house carrying the baby in her arms.  She then ran
quickly to the boat, crept on board, and was well out on the
Irish Sea before it was discovered that she had stolen little
Jonathan from his mother.  Mrs. Swift was poor, Jonathan was not
strong so the fond and daring nurse was allowed by the mother to
keep her little charge until he was nearly four.  Thus for three
years little Jonathan lived with his nurse at Whitehaven, growing
strong and brown in the sea air.  She looked after him lovingly,
and besides feeding and clothing him, taught him so well that
Swift tells us himself, though it seems a little hard to believe,
that he could spell and could read any chapter in the Bible
before he was three.

After Jonathan's return to Ireland his uncle, Godwin Swift, seems
to have taken charge of him, and when he was six to have sent him
to a good school.  His mother, meanwhile, went home to her own
people in England, and although mother and son loved each other
they were little together all through life.  At fourteen Godwin
Swift sent his nephew from school to Trinity College, Dublin.
But Swift was by this time old enough to know that he was living
on the charity of his uncle and the knowledge was bitter to his
proud spirit.  Instead of spurring him on the knowledge weighed
him down.  He became gloomy, idle, and wild.  He afterwards said
he was a dunce at college and "was stopped of his degree for
dulness and insufficiency."  But although at first the examiners
refused to pass him, he was later, for some reason, given a
special degree, granted by favor rather than gained by desert "in
a manner little to his credit," says bitter Swift.  Jonathan gave
his uncle neither love nor thanks for his schooling.  "He gave me
the education of a dog," was how he spoke of it years after.  Yet
he had been sent to the best school in Ireland and to college
later.  But perhaps it was not so much the gift as the manner of
giving which Swift scorned.  We cannot tell.

Soon after Jonathan left college he went to live in the house of
Sir William Temple.  Temple was a great man in his day.  He had
been an Ambassador, the friend of kings and princes, and he
considered himself something of a scholar.  To him Swift acted as
a kind of secretary.  To a proud man the post of secretary or
chaplain in a great house was, in those days, no happy one.  It
was a position something between that of a servant and a friend,
and in it Swift's haughty soul suffered torments.  Sir William,
no doubt, meant to be kind, but he was cold and condescending,
and not a little pompous and conceited.  Swift's fierce pride was
ready to fancy insults where none were meant, he resented being
"treated like a schoolboy," and during the years he passed in Sir
William's house he gathered a store of bitterness against the
world in his heart.

But in spite of all his miseries real or imaginary, Swift had at
least one pleasure.  Among the many people making up the great
household there was a little girl of seven named Esther Johnson.
She was a delicate little girl with large eyes and black hair.
She and Swift soon grew to be friends, and he spent his happiest
hours teaching her to read and write.  It is pleasant to think of
the gloomy, untrained genius throwing off his gloom and bending
all his talents to the task of teaching and amusing this little
delicate child of seven.

With intervals between, Swift remained in Sir William's household
for about five years.  Here he began to write poetry, but when he
showed his poems to Dryden, who was a distant kinsman, he got
little encouragement.  "Cousin Swift," said the great man, "you
will never be a poet."  Here was another blow from a hostile
world which Swift could never either forget or forgive.

As the years went on Swift found his position grow more and more
irksome.  At last he began to think of entering the Church as a
means of earning an independent livelihood and becoming his own
master.  And one day, having a quarrel with Sir William, he left
his house in a passion and went back to Ireland.  Here after some
trouble he was made a priest and received a little seaside parish
worth about a hundred pounds a year.

Swift was now his own master, but he found it dull.  He had so
few parishioners that it is said he used to go down to the
seashore and skiff stones in order to gather a congregation.  For
he thought if the people would not come to hear sermons they
would come at least to stare at the mad clergyman, and for years
he was remembered as the "mad clergyman."  And now because he
found his freedom dull, and for various other reasons, when Sir
William asked him to come back he gladly came.  This time he was
much happier as a member of Sir William's household than he had
been before.

It was now that Swift wrote the two little books which first made
him famous.  These were The Battle of the Books and A Tale of a
Tub.  The Battle of the Books rose out of a silly quarrel in
which Sir William Temple had taken part as to whether the ancient
or the modern writers were the best.  Swift took Temple's side
and wrote to prove that the ancient writers were best.  But, as
it has been said, he wrote so cleverly that he proved the
opposite against his will, for nowhere in the writings of the
ancients is there anything so full or humor and satire as The
Battle of the Books.

Swift imagines a real battle to have taken place among the books
in the King's library at St. James's Palace.  The books leave the
shelves, some on horseback, some on foot, and armed with sword
and spear throw themselves into the fray, but we are left quite
uncertain as to who gained the victory.  This little book is a
satire, and, like all Swift's famous satires, is in prose not in
poetry.  In the preface he says, "Satire is a sort of glass,
wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but
their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it
meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with
it."  It is not a book that you will care to read for a long
time, for to find it interesting you must know both a good deal
about Swift's own times and about the books that fight the

You will not care either for A Tale of a Tub.  And yet it is the
book above all others which one must read, and read with
understanding, if one would get even a little knowledge of
Swift's special genius.  It was the book, nevertheless, which
more than any other stood in his way in after life.

A Tale of a Tub like The Battle of the Books is a satire, and
Swift wrote it to show up the abuses of the Church.  He tells the
story of three brothers, Peter, Martin and Jack.  Peter
represents the Roman Catholic, Martin the Anglican, and Jack the
Presbyterian Church.  He meant, he says, to turn the laugh only
against Peter and Jack.  That may be so, but his treatment of
Martin cannot be called reverent.  Indeed, reverence was
impossible to Swift.  There is much good to be said of him.
There was a fierce righteousness about his spirit which made him
a better parish priest than many a more pious man.  He hated
shams, he hated cant, he hated bondage.  "Dr. Swift," it was
said, "hated all fanatics:  all fanatics hated Dr. Swift."*  But
with all his uprightness and breadth he was neither devout nor

*Lord Orrery.

When Sir William Temple died Swift went back to Ireland, and
after a little time he once more received a Church living there.
But here, as before, his parish was very small, so that sometimes
he had only his clerk as congregation.  Then he would begin the
service with "Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture moveth you and
me," instead of "Dearly beloved brethren," as the Prayer Book has

Sir William had left Swift some money; he had also left some to
Esther Johnson, the little girl Swift used to teach.  She had
grown into a beautiful and witty woman and now she too, with a
friend, went to Ireland, and for the rest of her life lived there
near Swift.

The strange friendship between these two, between Esther Johnson
and Swift, is one of the puzzles in Swift's life.  That they
loved each other, that they were life-long friends, every one
knows.  But were they ever married?  Were they man and wife?
That question remains unanswered.

Esther is the Persian word for star; Stella the Latin.  Swift
called his girl-friend Stella, and as Stella she has become
famous in our literature.  For when Swift was away from home he
wrote letters to her which we now have under the name of the
Journal to Stella.  Here we see the great man in another light.
Here he is no longer armed with lightning, his pen is no longer
dipped in poison, but in friendly, simple fashion he tells all
that happens to him day by day.  He tells what he thinks and what
he feels, where and when he dines, when he gets up, and when he
goes to bed, all the gossiping details interesting to one who
loves us and whom we love.  And with it all we get a picture of
the times in which he lived, of the politics of the day, of the
great men he moved among.  Swift always addresses both Stella and
her companion Mistress Dingley, and the letters are everywhere
full of tender, childish nonsense.  He invented what he called a
"little language," using all sorts of quaint and babyish words
and strange strings of capital letters, M. D., for instance,
meaning my dears, M. E., Madam Elderly, or D. D., Dear Dingley,
and so on.  Throughout, too, we come on little bits of doggerel
rimes, bad puns, simple jokes, mixed up with scraps of politics,
with threatenings of war, with party quarrels, with all kinds of
stray fragments of news which bring the life of the times vividly
before us.  The letters were never meant for any one but Stella
and Mistress Dingley to see, and sometimes when we are reading
the affectionate nonsense we feel as if no one ought to have seen
it but these two.  And yet it gives us one whole side of Swift
that we should never have known but for it.  It is not easy to
give an idea of this book, it must be read to be understood, but
I will give you a few extracts from it:--

"Pshaw, I must be writing to those dear saucy brats every night,
whether I will or no, let me have what business I will, or come
home ever so late, or be ever so sleepy; but an old saying and a
true one,

    'Be you lords, or be you earls,
    You must write to saucy girls.'

"I was to-day at Court and saw Raymond among the beefeaters,
staying to see the Queen; so I put him in a better station, made
two or three dozen of bows, and went to Church, and then to Court
again to pick up a dinner, as I did with Sir John Stanley, and
then we went to visit Lord Mountjoy, and just now left him, and
'tis near eleven at night, young women."

Or again:--

"The Queen was abroad to-day in order to hunt, but finding it
disposed to rain she kept in her coach; she hunts in a chaise
with one horse, which she drives herself, and drives furiously,
like Jehu, and is a mighty hunter, like Nimrod.  Dingley has
heard of Nimrod, but not Stella, for it is in the Bible. . . .
The Queen and I were going to take the air this afternoon, but
not together:  and were both hindered by a sudden rain.  Her
coaches and chaises all went back, and the guards too; and I
scoured into the marketplace for shelter."

Another day he writes:--

"Pish, sirrahs, put a date always at the bottom of your letter,
as well as the top, that I may know when you send it; your last
is of November 3, yet I had others at the same time, written a
fortnight after. . . . Pray let us have no more bussiness,
busyness.  Take me if I know how to spell it!  Your wrong
spelling, Madam Stella, has put me out:  it does not look right;
let me see, bussiness, busyness, business, bisyness, bisness,
bysness; faith, I known not which is right, I think the second; I
believe I never writ the word in my life before; yes, sure I
must, though; business, busyness, bisyness.-- I have perplexed
myself, and can't do it.  Prithee ask Walls.  Business, I fancy
that's right.  Yes it is; I looked in my own pamphlet, and found
it twice in ten lines, to convince you that I never writ it
before.  O, now I see it as plain as can be; so yours is only an
s too much."


DURING the years in which Swift found time to write these playful
letters to Stella he was growing into a man of power.  Like Defoe
he was a journalist, but one of far more authority.  The power of
his pen was such that he was courted by his friends, feared by
his enemies.  He threw himself into the struggle of party, first
as a Whig, then as a Tory; but as a friend said of him later, "He
was neither Whig nor Tory, neither Jacobite nor Republican.  He
was Dr. Swift."*  He was now, he says:--

*Lord Orrery.

    "Grown old in politicks and wit,
    Caress'd by ministers of State,
    Of half mankind the dread and hate."*

    *Cadenus and Vanessa.

And he felt that he deserved reward for what he had done for his
party.  He thought that he should have been made a bishop.  But
even in those days, when little thought was given to the fitness
of a man for such a position, the Queen steadily refused to make
the author of A Tale of a Tub a bishop.

Again Swift felt that he was unjustly treated, and even when he
was at length made Dean of St. Patrick's that consoled him
little.  He longed for power, and owned that he was never so
happy as when treated like a lord.  He longed for wealth, for
"wealth," he said, "is liberty, and liberty is a blessing fittest
for a philosopher."  And if Swift was displeased at being made
only a Dean, the Irish people were equally displeased with him as
their Dean.  As he rode through the streets of Dublin to take
possession of his Deanery, the people threw stones and mud at him
and hooted him as he passed.  The clergy, too, made his work as
Dean as hard as possible.  But Swift set himself to conquer them,
and soon he had his own way even in trifles.

We cannot follow Swift through all his political adventures and
writings.  In those days the misgovernment of Ireland was
terrible, and Swift, although he loved neither Ireland nor the
Irish, fought for their rights until, from being hated by them,
he became the idol of the people, and those who had thrown mud
and stones now cheered him as he passed.  Wherever he went he was
received with honor, his birthday was kept as a day of rejoicing
by Irishmen with gratitude.  But even in his hour of triumph
Swift was a lonely and discontented man as we may learn from his

It was now that he published the book upon which his fame most
surely rests--Gulliver's Travels.  It is a book which has given
pleasure to numberless people ever since.  Yet Swift said
himself:  "The chief end I propose to myself in all my labours is
to vex the world rather than divert it, and if I could compass
that design without hurting my own person or fortune, I would be
the most indefatigable writer you have ever seen. . . . I hate
and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John,
Peter, Thomas, and so forth. . . . Upon this great foundation of
misanthropy, the whole building of my Travels is erected."

But whether Swift at the time vexed the world with Gulliver or
not, ever since he has succeeded in diverting it.  Gulliver's
Travels is an allegory and a satire, but there is no need now to
do more than enjoy it as a story.

The story is divided into four parts.  In the first Captain
Lemuel Gulliver being wrecked finds himself upon an island where
all the people are so small that he can pick them up in his thumb
and finger, and it requires six hundred of their beds to make one
for him.

In the second part Gulliver comes to a country where the people
are giants.  They are so large that they in their turn can lift
Gulliver up between thumb and finger.

In the third voyage Gulliver is taken by pirates and at last
lands upon a flying island, and from there he passes on to other
wonderful places.

In the fourth his men mutiny and put him ashore on an unknown
land.  There he finds that horses are the rulers, and a terrible
kind of degraded human being their slaves and servants.

In the last part the satire is too bitter, the degradation of man
too terribly insisted upon to make it pleasant reading, and
altogether the first two stories are the most interesting.

Here is how Swift tells us of Gulliver's arrival in Lilliput, the
country of the tiny folk.  After the shipwreck and a long battle
with the waves he has at length reached land:--

"I lay down on the grass, which was very short and soft, where I
slept sounder than ever I remember to have done in my life, and,
as I reckoned, about nine hours; for when I awaked, it was just
daylight.  I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir:  for as
I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were
strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which
was long and thick, tied down in the same manner.

"I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the
light offended my eyes.  I heard a confused noise about me, but
in the posture I lay, could see nothing except the sky.  In a
little time I felt something alive moving on my left leg, which
advancing gently forward over my breast, came almost up to my
chin; when bending my eyes downwards as much as I could, I
perceived it to be a human creature not six inches high, with a
bow and arrow in his hands, and a quiver at his back.

"In the meantime, I felt at least fifty more of the same kind (as
I conjectured) following the first.  I was in the utmost
astonishment, and roared so loud, that they all ran back in a
fright; and some of them, as I was afterwards told, were hurt
with the falls they got by leaping from my sides upon the ground.
However, they soon returned, and one of them, who ventured so far
as to get a full sight of my face, lifting up his hands and eyes
by way of admiration, cried out in a shrill, but distinct voice,
Hekinah degul:  the others repeated the same words several times,
but then I knew not what they meant.

"I lay all this while, as the reader may believe, in great
uneasiness:  at length, struggling to get loose, I had the
fortune to break the strings, and wrench out the pegs that
fastened my left arm to the ground; for, by lifting it up to my
face, I discovered the methods they had taken to bind me, and at
the same time with a violent pull, which game me excessive pain,
I a little loosened the strings that tied down my hair on the
left side, so that I was just able to turn my head about two

"But the creatures ran off a second time, before I could seize
them; whereupon there was a great shout in a very shrill accent,
and after it ceased, I heard one of them cry aloud Tolgo phonac;
when in an instant I felt above an hundred arrows discharged on
my left hand, which pricked me like so many needles; and besides,
they shot another flight into the air, as we do bombs in Europe,
whereof many, I suppose, fell on my body (though I felt them not)
and some on my face, which I immediately covered with my left

"When this shower of arrows was over, I fell a-groaning with
grief and pain, and then striving again to get loose, they
discharged another volley larger than the first, and some of them
attempted with spears to stick me in the sides, but, by good
luck, I had on a buff jerkin, which they could not pierce."

Gulliver decided that the best thing he could do was to lie still
until night came and then, having his left hand already loose, he
would soon be able to free himself.  However, he did not need to
wait so long, for very soon, by orders of a mannikin, who seemed
to have great authority over the others, his head was set free.
The little man then made a long speech, not a word of which
Gulliver understood, but he replied meekly, showing by signs that
he had no wicked intentions against the tiny folk and that he was
also very hungry.

"The Hurgo (for so they call a great lord, as I afterwards
learnt) understood me very well.  He commanded that several
ladders should be applied to my sides, on which above an hundred
of the inhabitants mounted and walked towards my mouth, laden
with baskets full of meat, which had been provided and sent
thither by the King's orders, upon the first intelligence he
received of me.  I observed there was the flesh of several
animals, but could not distinguish them by the taste.  There were
shoulders, legs, and loins, shaped like those of mutton, and very
well dressed, but smaller than the wings of a lark.  I ate them
by two or three at a mouthful, and took three loaves at a time,
about the bigness of musket bullets.  They supplied me as fast as
they could, showing a thousand marks of wonder and astonishment
at my bulk and appetite.  I then made another sign that I wanted
to drink.  They found by my eating, that a small quantity would
not suffice me; and being a most ingenious people, they slung up
with great dexterity one of their largest hogsheads, then rolled
it towards my hand, and beat out the top; I drank it off at a
draught, which I might well do, for it did not hold half a pint,
and tasted like a small wine of Burgundy, but much more
delicious.  They brought me a second hogshead, which I drank in
the same manner, and made signs for more, but they had none to
give me.  When I had performed these wonders, they shouted for
joy, and danced upon my breast, repeating several times as they
did at first Hekinah degul."

And now having introduced you and Gulliver to the Lilliputians, I
must leave you to hear about his further adventures among them
from the book itself.  There you will learn how Gulliver received
his freedom, and how he lived happily among the little people
until at length Swift falls upon the quaint idea of having him
impeached for treason.  Gulliver then, hearing of this danger,
escapes, and after a few more adventures arrives at home.

As a contrast to what you have just read you may like to hear of
Gulliver's first adventures in Brobdingnag, the land of giants.
Gulliver had been found by a farmer and carried home.  When the
farmer's wife first saw him "she screamed and ran back, as women
in England do at the sight of a toad or a spider."  However, when
she saw that he was only a tiny man, she soon grew fond of him.

"It was about twelve at noon, and a servant brought in dinner.
It was only one substantial dish of meat (fit for the plain
condition of a husbandman) in a dish of about four-and-twenty
foot diameter.  The company were the farmer and his wife, three
children, and an old grand-mother.  When they were sat down, the
farmer placed me at some distance from him on the table, which
was thirty foot high from the floor.  I was in a terrible fright,
and kept as far as I could from the edge for fear of falling.
The wife minced a bit of meat, then crumbled some bread on a
trencher, and placed it before me.  I made her a low bow, took
out my knife and fork, and fell to eat, which gave them exceeding
delight.  The mistress sent her maid for a small dram cup, which
held about two gallons, and filled it with drink.  I took up the
vessel with much difficulty in both hands, and in a most
respectful manner drank to her ladyship's health, expressing the
words as loud as I could in English, which made the company laugh
so heartily, that I was almost deafened with the noise. . . .

"In the midst of dinner, my mistress's favourite cat leapt into
her lap.  I heard a noise behind me like that of a dozen
stocking-weavers at work; and turning my head, I found it
proceeded from the purring of this animal, who seemed to be three
times larger than an ox, as I computed by the view of her head,
and one of her paws, while her mistress was feeding and stroking
her.  The fierceness of this creature's countenance altogether
discomposed me; though I stood at the further end of the table,
above fifty foot off; and although my mistress held her fast for
fear she might give a spring, and seize me in her talons.  But it
happened there was no danger; for the cat took not the least
notice of me when my master placed me within three yards of her.
And as I have been always told, and found true by experience in
my travels, that flying, or discovering fear before a fierce
animal, is a certain way to make it pursue or attack you, so I
resolved in this dangerous juncture to show no manner of concern.
I walked with intrepidity five or six times before the very head
of the cat, and came within half a yard of her; whereupon she
drew herself back, as if she were more afraid of me."

When it was published Gulliver's Travels was at once a great
success.  Ten days after it appeared, two poets wrote to Swift
that "the whole town, men, women, and children are quite full of

For nearly twenty years longer Swift lived, then sad to say the
life of the man who wrote for us these fascinating tales closed
in gloom without relief.  Stella, his life-long friend, died.
That left him forlorn and desolate.  Then, as the years passed,
darker and darker gloom settled upon his spirit.  Disease crept
over both mind and body, he was tortured by pain, and when at
length the pain left him he sank into torpor.  It was not madness
that had come upon him, but a dumb stupor.  For more than two
years he lived, but it was a living death.  Without memory,
without hope, the great genius had become the voiceless ruin of a
man.  But at length a merciful end came.  On an October day in
1745 Swift died.  He who had torn his own heard with restless
bitterness, who had suffered and caused others to suffer, had at
last found rest.

He was buried at dead of night in his own cathedral and laid by
Stella's side, and over his grave were carved words chosen by
himself which told the wayfarer that Jonathan Swift had gone
"Where savage indignation can no longer tear at his heart.  Go,
wayfarer, and imitate, if thou canst, a man who did all a man may
do as a valiant champion of liberty."


Stories of Gulliver, by J. Lang.  Gulliver's Travels.  Gulliver's
Travels (Everyman's Library).

NOTE:--These two last are both the same text and are illustrated
by A. Rackham.  It is the edition in Temple Classics for Young
People that is recommended, not that in the Temple Classics.


SWIFT'S wit makes us laugh, but it leaves us on the whole,
perhaps, a little sad.  Now we come to a satirist of quite
another spirit whose wit, it has been said, "makes us laugh and
leaves us good and happy."*


Joseph Addison was the son of a Dean.  He was born in 1672 in the
quaint little thatched parsonage of Milston, a Wiltshire village,
not far from that strange monument of ancient days, Stonehenge.
When he was old enough Joseph was sent first to schools near his
home, and then a little later to the famous Charterhouse in
London.  Of his schooldays we know little, but we can guess, for
one story that has come down to us, that he was a shy, nervous
boy.  It is said that once, having done something a little wrong,
he was so afraid of what punishment might follow that he ran
away.  He hid in a wood, sleeping in a hollow tree and feeding on
wild berries until he was found and taken home to his parents.

At Charterhouse Joseph met another boy named Dick Steele, and
these two became fast friends although they were very different
from each other.  For Dick was merry, noisy, and fun-loving, and
although Joseph loved fun too it was in a quiet, shy way.  Dick,
who was a few weeks older than Joseph, was the son of a well-to-
do lawyer.  He was born in Ireland, but did not remain there
long.  For, as both his father and mother died when he was still
a little boy, he was brought to England to be taken care of by an

From Charterhouse Joseph and Dick both went to Oxford, but to
different Colleges.  Dick left the University without taking his
degree and became a soldier, while Joseph stayed many years and
became a man of learning.

Joseph Addison had gone to College with the idea of becoming a
clergyman like his father, but after a time he gave up that idea,
and turned his thoughts to politics.  The politicians of the day
were always on the lookout for clever men, who, by their
writings, would help to sway the people to their way of thinking.
Already at college Addison had become known by his Latin poetry,
and three Whig statesmen thought so highly of it that they
offered him a pension of 300 pounds a year to allow him to travel
on the Continent and learn French and so add to his learning as to
be able to help their side by his writing.  Addison accepted the
pension and set out on his travels.  For four years he wandered
about the Continent, adding to his store of knowledge of men and
books, meeting many of the foremost men of letters of his day.
But long before he returned home his friends had fallen from
power and his pension was stopped.  So back in London we find him
cheerfully betaking himself to a poor lodging up three flights of
stairs, hoping for something to turn up.

These were the days of the War of the Spanish Succession and of
the brilliant victories of Marlborough of which you have read in
the history of the time of Anne.  Blenheim had been fought.  All
England was ringing with the praises of the great General in
prose and verse.  But the verse was poor, and it seemed to those
in power that this great victory ought to be celebrated more
worthily, so the Lord Treasurer looked about him for some one who
could sing of it in fitting fashion.  The right person, however,
seemed hard to find, and the laureate of the day, an honest
gentleman named Nahum Tate, who could hardly be called a poet,
was quite unable for the task.  To help the Lord Treasurer out of
his difficulty one of the great men who had already befriended
Addison suggested him as a suitable writer.  And so one morning
Addison was surprised in his little garret by a visit from no
less a person than the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

A shy boy at school, Addison had grown into a shy, retiring man,
and no doubt he was not a little taken aback at a visit from so
great a personage.  The Chancellor, however, soon put him at his
ease, told him what he had come about, and begged him to
undertake the work.  "In short, the Chancellor said so many
obliging things, and in so graceful a manner, as gave Mr. Addison
the utmost spirit and encouragement to begin that poem, which he
afterwards published and entitled The Campaign."*

*Budgell, Memories of the Boyles.

The poem was a great success, and besides being paid for the
work, Addison received a Government post, so once more life ran
smoothly for him.  He had now both money and leisure.  His
Government duties left him time to write, and in the next few
years he published a delightful book of his travels, and an

Shy, humorous, courteous, Addison steadily grew popular.
Everything went well with him.  "If he had a mind to be chosen
king he would hardly be refused," said Swift.  He, however, only
became a member of Parliament.  But he was too shy ever to make a
speech, and presently he went to Ireland as Secretary of State.
Swift and Addison already knew each other, and Addison had sent a
copy of his travels to Swift as "to the most agreeable companion,
the truest friend, and the greatest genius of his age."  Now in
Ireland they saw much of each other, and although they were, as
Swift himself says, as different as black and white, they became
fast friends.  And even later, in those days of bitter party
feeling, when Swift left his own side and became a Tory, though
their friendship cooled, they never became enemies.  Swift's
bitter pen was never turned against his old friend.  Addison with
all his humor and his satire never attacked any man personally,
so their relations continued friendly and courteous to the end.

In the Journal to Stella we find many entries about this
difficulty between the friends, "Mr. Addison and I are as
different as black and white, and I believe our friendship will
go off by this business of party.  But I love him still as much
as ever, though we seldom meet."  "All our friendship and
dearness are off.  We are civil acquaintance, talk words of
course, of when we shall meet, and that's all.  Is it not odd?"
Then later the first bitterness of difference seems to pass, and
Swift tells how he went to Addison's for supper.  "We were very
good company, and I yet know no man half so agreeable to me as he

It was while Addison was in Ireland that Richard Steele started a
paper called the Tatler.  When Addison found out that it was his
old friend Dick who had started the Tatler he offered to help.
And he helped to such good purpose that Steele says, "I fared
like a distressed prince who calls in a powerful neighbour to his
aid.  I was undone by my own auxiliary; when I had once called
him in, I could not subsist without dependence on him."

This was the beginning of a long literary partnership that has
become famous.  Never perhaps were two friends more different in
character.  Yet, says Steele, long after, speaking of himself and
Addison, "There never was a more strict friendship than between
those gentlemen, nor had they ever any difference but what
proceeded from their different way of pursuing the same thing.
The one with patience, foresight, and temperate address, always
waited and stemmed the torrent; while the other often plunged
himself into it, and was as often taken out by the temper of him
who stood weeping on the brink for his safety, whom he could not
dissuade from leaping into it. . . . When they met they were as
unreserved as boys, and talked of the greatest affairs, upon
which they saw where they differed, without pressing (what they
knew impossible) to convert each other."*

*Steele in the Theatre, 12.

The Tatler, like Defoe's Review, was a leaflet of two or three
pages, published three times a week.  The Review and other papers
of the same kind no doubt prepared the way for the Tatler.  But
the latter was written with far greater genius, and while the
Review is almost forgotten the Tatler is still remembered and
still read.

In the first number Steele announced that:--"All accounts of
gallantry, pleasure and entertainment, shall be under the article
of White's Chocolate-House; Poetry under that of Wills' Coffee-
House; learning under the title of Grecian; foreign and domestic
news you will have from Saint James's Coffee-House; and what else
I have to offer on any other subject shall be dated from my own

The coffee-houses and chocolate-houses were the clubs of the day.
It was there the wits gathered together to talk, just as in the
days of Ben Jonson they gathered at the Mermaid Tavern.  And in
these still nearly newspaperless days it was in the coffee-houses
that the latest news, whether of politics or literature or sheer
gossip, was heard and discussed.  At one coffee-house chiefly
statesmen and politicians would gather, at another poets and
wits, and so on.  So Steele dated each article from the coffee-
house at which the subject of it would most naturally be

Steele meant the Tatler to be a newspaper in which one might find
all the news of the day, but he also meant it to be something

You have heard that, after the Restoration, many of the books
that were written, and plays that were acted, were coarse and
wicked, and the people who read these books and watched these
plays led coarse and wicked lives.  And now a rollicking soldier,
noisy, good-hearted Dick Steele, "a rake among scholars, and a
scholar among rakes"* made up his mind to try to make things
better and give people something sweet and clean to read daily.
The Tatler, especially after Addison joined with Steele in
producing it, was a great success.  But, as time went on,
although it continued to be a newspaper, gradually more room was
given to fiction than to fact, and to essays on all manner of
subjects than to the news of the day.  For Addison is among the
greatest of our essayists.  But although these essays were often
meant to teach something, neither Steele nor Addison are always
trying to be moral or enforce a lesson.  At times the papers
fairly bubble with fun.  One of the best humorous articles in the
Tatler is one in which Addison gives a pretended newly found
story by our friend Sir John Mandeville.  It is perhaps as
delightful a lying tale as any that "learned and worthy knight"
ever invented.  Here is a part of it:--


"We were separated by a storm in the latitude of 73, insomuch
that only the ship which I was in, with a Dutch and French
vessel, got safe into a creek of Nova Zembla.  We landed, in
order to refit our vessels, and store ourselves with provisions.
The crew of each vessel made themselves a cabin of turf and wood,
at some distance from each other, to fence themselves against the
inclemencies of the weather, which was severe beyond imagination.

"We soon observed, that in talking to one another we lost several
of our words, and could not hear one another at above two yards'
distance, and that too when we sat very near the fire.  After
much perplexity, I found that our words froze in the air before
they could reach the ears of the persons to whom they were
spoken.  I was soon confirmed in this conjecture, when, upon the
increase of the cold, the whole company grew dumb, or rather
deaf.  For every man was sensible, as we afterwards found, that
he spoke as well as ever, but the sounds no sooner took air than
they were condensed and lost.

"It was now a miserable spectacle to see us nodding and gaping at
one another, every man talking, and no man heard.  One might
observe a seaman that could hail a ship at a league distance,
beckoning with his hands, straining his lungs, and tearing his
throat, but all in vain.

"We continued here three weeks in this dismal plight.  At length,
upon a turn of wind, the air about us began to thaw.  Our cabin
was immediately filled with a dry clattering sound, which I
afterwards found to be the crackling of consonants that broke
above our heads, and were often mixed with a gentle hissing,
which I imputed to the letter S, that occurs so frequently in the
English tongue.

"I soon after felt a breeze of whispers rushing by my ear; for
those, being of a soft and gentle substance, immediately
liquified in the warm wind that blew across our cabin.  These
were soon followed by syllables and short words, and at length by
entire sentences, that melted sooner or later, as they were more
or less congealed; so that we now heard everything that had been
spoken during the whole three weeks that we had been silent; if I
may use that expression.

"It was now very early in the morning, and yet, to my surprise, I
heard somebody say, 'Sir John, it is midnight, and time for the
ship's crew to go to bed.'  This I knew to be the pilot's voice,
and upon recollecting myself I concluded that he had spoken these
words to me some days before, though I could not hear them before
the present thaw.  My reader will easily imagine how the whole
crew was amazed to hear every man talking, and seeing no man
opening his mouth."

When the confusion of voices was pretty well over Sir John
proposed a visit to the Dutch cabin, and so they set out.  "At
about half a mile's distance from our cabin, we heard the
groanings of a bear, which at first startled us.  But upon
inquiry we were informed by some of our company, that he was
dead, and now lay in salt, having been killed upon that very spot
about a fortnight before, in the time of the frost."

Having reached the Dutch cabin the company was almost stunned by
the confusion of sounds, and could not make out a word for about
half an hour.  This, Sir John thinks, was because the Dutch
language being so much harsher than ours it "wanted more time
than ours to melt and become audible."

Next they visited the French cabin and here Sir John says, "I was
convinced of an error into which I had before fallen.  For I had
fancied, that for the freezing of the sound, it was necessary for
it to be wrapped up, and, as it were, preserved in breath.  But I
found my mistake, when I heard the sound of a kit playing a
minuet over our heads."

The kit was a small violin to the sound of which the Frenchmen
had danced to amuse themselves while they were deaf or dumb.  How
it was that the kit could be heard during the frost and yet still
be heard in the thaw we are not told.  Sir John gave very good
reasons, says Addison, but as they are somewhat long "I pass over
them in silence."*

*Tatler, 254.

Addison and Steele carried on the Tatler for two years, then it
was stopped to make way for a far more famous paper called the
Spectator.  But meanwhile the Whigs fell from power and Addison
lost his Government post.  In twelve months, he said to a friend,
he lost a place worth two thousand pounds a year, an estate in
the Indies, and, worst of all, his lady-love.  Who the lady-love
was is not known, but doubtless she was some great lady ready
enough to marry a Secretary of State, but not a poor scribbler.

As Addison had now no Government post, it left him all the more
time for writing, and his essays in the Spectator are what we
chiefly remember him by.

The Spectator was still further from the ordinary newspaper than
the Tatler.  It was more perhaps what our modern magazines are
meant to be, but, instead of being published once a week or once
a month, it was published every morning.

In order to give interest to the paper, instead of dating the
articles from various coffee-houses, as had been done in the
Tatler, Addison and Steele between them imagined a club.  And it
is the doings of these members, their characters, and their
lives, which supply subjects for many of the articles.  In the
first numbers of the Spectator these members are described to us.

First of all there is the Spectator himself.  He is the editor of
the paper.  It is he who with kindly humorous smile and grave
twinkle in his eye is to be seen everywhere.  He is seen, and he
sees and listens, but seldom opens his lips.  "In short," he
says, "I have acted in all the parts of my life as a looker-on."
And that is the meaning of Spectator--the looker-on.  This on-
looker, there can be little doubt, was meant to be a picture of
Addison himself.  In a later paper he tells us that "he was a man
of a very short face, extremely addicted to silence. . . . and
was a great humorist in all parts of his life."*  And when you
come to know Mr. Spectator well, I think you will love this grave

*Spectator, 101.

After Mr. Spectator, the chief member of the Club was Sir Roger
de Coverley.  "His great-grandfather was inventor of that famous
country dance which is called after him.  All who know that shire
(in which he lives), are very well acquainted with the parts and
merits of Sir Roger.  He is a gentleman that is very singular in
his behaviour, but his singularities proceed from his good sense,
and are contradictions to the manners of the world, only as he
thinks the world is in the wrong."  He was careless of fashion in
dress, and wore a coat and doublet which, he used laughingly to
say, had been in and out twelve times since he first wore it.
"He is now in his fifty-sixth year, cheerful, gay, and hearty;
keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of
mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that
he is rather beloved than esteemed.  His tenants grow rich, his
servants look satisfied.  All the young women profess love to him
and the young men are glad of his company.  When he comes into a
house he calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way
upstairs to a visit."

Next came a lawyer of the Inner Temple, who had become a lawyer
not because he wanted to be one, but because he wanted to please
his old father.  He had been sent to London to study the laws of
the land, but he liked much better to study those of the stage.
"He is an excellent critic, and the time of the play is his hour
of business.  Exactly at five he passes through New Inn, crosses
through Russel Court, and takes a turn at Wills' till the play
begins.  He has his shoes rubbed and his periwig powdered at the
barber's as you go into the Rose."

Next comes Sir Andrew Freeport, "a merchant of great eminence in
the City of London."  "He abounds in several frugal maxims,
amongst which the greatest favorite is, 'A penny saved is a penny

"Next to Sir Andrew in the Club room sits Captain Sentry, a
gentleman of great courage, good understanding, but invincible
modesty.  He was some years a captain, and behaved himself with
great gallantry in several engagements and at several sieges.
But having a small estate of his own, and being next heir to Sir
Roger, he has quitted a way of life in which no man can rise
suitably to his merit, who is not something of a courtier as well
as a soldier.  The military part of his life has furnished him
with many adventures, in the relation of which he is very
agreeable to the company, for he is never overbearing, though
accustomed to command men in the utmost degree below him, nor
ever too obsequious, from an habit of obeying men highly above

"But that our society may not appear a set of humorists,
unacquainted with the gallantries and pleasures of the age, we
have among us the gallant Will Honeycomb, a gentleman who,
according to his years, should be in the decline of his life.
But having ever been very careful of his person, and always had a
very easy fortune, time has made but very little impression,
either by wrinkles on his forehead, or traces in his brain.  His
person is well turned, of a good height.  He is very ready at
that sort of discourse with which men usually entertain women.
He has all his life dressed very well, and remembers habits as
other do men.  He can smile when one speaks to him, and laugh
easily."  He is in fact an old beau, a regular man about town, "a
well-bred, fine gentleman," yet no great scholar, "he spelt like
a gentleman and not like a scholar,"* he says.

*Spectator, 105.

Last of all there is a clergyman, a man of "general learning,
great sanctity of life, and the most exact breeding."  He seldom
comes to the Club, "but when he does it adds to every man else a
new enjoyment of himself."

This setting forth of the characters in the story will remind you
a little perhaps of Chaucer in his Prologue to the Canterbury
Tales.  As he there gives us a clear picture of England in the
time of Edward III, so Addison gives us a clear picture of
England in the time of Anne.  And although the essays are in the
main unconnected, the slight story of these characters runs
through them, weaving them into a whole.  You may pick up a
volume of the Spectator and read an essay here or there at will
with enjoyment, or you may read the whole six hundred one after
the other and find in them a slight but interesting story.

You know that the books many of your grown-up friends read most
are called novels.  But in the days when Joseph Addison and
Richard Steele wrote the Spectator, there were no novels.  Even
Defoe's stories had not yet appeared, and it was therefore a new
delight for our forefathers to have the adventures of the
Spectator Club each day with their morning cup of tea or
chocolate.  "Mr. Spectator," writes one lady, "your paper is part
of my tea equipage, and my servant knows my humour so well, that
calling for my breakfast this morning (it being past my usual
hour) she answered, the Spectator was not yet come in, but that
the tea-kettle boiled, and she expected it every moment."

Thus the Spectator had then become part of everyday life just as
our morning newspapers have now, and there must have been many
regrets among the readers when one member of the supposed Club
died, another married and settled down, and so on until at length
the Club was entirely dispersed and the Spectator ceased to
appear.  It may interest you to know that the paper we now call
the Spectator was not begun until more than a hundred years after
its great namesake ceased to appear, the first number being
published in 1828.

It was after the Spectator ceased that Addison published his
tragedy called Cato.  Cato was a great Roman who rebelled against
the authority of Caesar and in the end killed himself.  His is a
story out of which a good tragedy might be made.  But Addison's
genius is not dramatic, and the play does not touch our hearts as
Shakespeare's tragedies do.  Yet, although we cannot look upon
Addison's Cato as a really great tragedy, there are lines in it
which every one remembers and quotes, although they may not know
where they come from.  Such are, for instance, "Who deliberates
is lost," and

    "'Tis not in mortals to command success,
    But we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it."

But although Cato is not really great, the writer was perhaps the
most popular man of his day, and so his tragedy was a tremendous
success.  With Cato Addison reached the highest point of his fame
as an author in his own day, but now we remember him much more as
a writer of delightful essays, and as the creator or at least the
perfecter of Sir Roger, for to Steele is due the first invention
of the worthy knight.

Fortune still smiled on Addison.  When George I came to the
throne, the Whigs once more returned to power, and Addison again
became Secretary for Ireland.  He still wrote, both on behalf of
his Government and to please himself.

And now, in 1716, when he was already a man of forty-four,
Addison married.  His wife was the Dowager Countess of Warwick,
and perhaps she was that great lady whom he had lost a few years
before when he lost his post of Secretary of State.  Of all
Addison's pleasant prosperous life these last years ought to have
been most pleasant and most prosperous.  But it has been said
that his marriage was not happy, and that plain Mr. Addison was
glad at times to escape from the stately grandeur of his own home
and from the great lady, his wife, to drink and smoke with his
friends and "subjects" at his favorite coffee-house.  For Addison
held sway and was surrounded by his little court of literary
admirers, as Dryden and Ben Jonson before him.

But whether Addison was happy in his married life or not, one
sorrow he did have.  Between his old friend, Dick Steele, and
himself a coldness grew up.  They disagreed over politics.
Steele thought himself ill-used by his party.  His impatient,
impetuous temper was hurt at the cool balance of his friend's,
and so they quarreled.  "I ask no favour of Mr. Secretary
Addison," writes Steele angrily.  During life the quarrel was
never made up, but after Addison died Steele spoke of his friend
in his old generous manner.  Under his new honors and labours
Addison's health soon gave way.  He suffered much from asthma,
and in 1718 gave up his Government post.  A little more than a
year later he died.

He met his end cheerfully and peacefully.  "See how a Christian
can die," he said to his wild stepson, the Earl of Warwick, who
came to say farewell to his stepfather.

The funeral took place at dead of night in Westminster Abbey.
Whig and Tory alike joined in mourning, and as the torchlight
procession wound slowly through the dim isles, the organ played
and the choir sang a funeral hymn.

    "How silent did his old companions tread,
    By midnight lamps, the mansions of the dead,
    Thro' breathing statues, then unheeded things,
    Thro' rows of warriors, and thro' walks of Kings!
    What awe did the slow solemn knell inspire,
    The pealing organ, and the pausing choir;
    The duties by the lawn-robed prelate paid,
    And the last words, that dust to dust conveyed!

    While speechless o'er thy closing grave we bend,
    Accept these tears, thou dear departed Friend!"*

    *T. Tickell.

So our great essayist was laid to rest, but it was not until many
years had come and gone that a statue in his honor was placed in
the Poets' Corner.  This, says Lord Macaulay, himself a great
writer, was "a mark of national respect due to the unsullied
statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the master of pure
English eloquence, to the consummate painter of life and manners.
It was due, above all, to the great satirist, who alone knew how
to use ridicule without abusing it, who, without inflicting a
wound, effected a great social reform, and who reconciled wit
with virtue, after a long and disastrous separation, during which
wit had been lead astray by profligacy, and virtue by


Sir Roger de Coverley.  The Coverley Papers, edited by O. M.


YOU have heard a little about Dick Steele in connection with
Joseph Addison.  Steele is always overshadowed by his great
friend, for whom he had such a generous admiration that he was
glad to be so overshadowed.  But in this chapter I mean to tell
you a little more about him.

He was born, you know, in Dublin in 1671, and early lost his
father.  About this he tells us himself in one of the Tatlers:

"The first sense of sorrow I ever knew was upon the death of my
father, at which time I was not quite five years of age.  But was
rather amazed at what all the house meant, than possessed with a
real understanding, why nobody was willing to play with me.  I
remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother
sat weeping alone by it.  I had my battledore in my hand, and
fell abeating the coffin, and calling 'Papa,' for, I know not
how, I had some light idea that he was locked up there.  My
mother catched me in her arms, and, transported beyond all
patience of the silent grief she was before in, she almost
smothered me in her embrace, and told me, in a flood of tears,
Pap could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they
were going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to
us again."*

*Tatler, 181.

Steele's sad, beautiful mother died soon after her husband, and
little Dick was left more lonely than ever.  His uncle took
charge of him, and sent him to Charterhouse, where he met
Addison.  From there he went to Oxford, but left without taking a
degree.  "A drum passing by," he says, "being a lover of music, I
listed myself for a soldier."*  "He mounted a war horse, with a
great sword in his hand, and planted himself behind King William
the Third against Lewis the Fourteenth."  But he says when he
cocked his hat, and put on a broad sword, jack boots, and
shoulder belt, he did not know his own powers as a writer, he did
not know then that he should ever be able to "demolish a
fortified town with a goosequill."**  So Steele became a
"wretched common trooper," or, to put it more politely, a
gentleman volunteer.  But he was not long in becoming an ensign,
and about five years later he got his commission as captain.

*Tatler, 89.
**Theatre, 11.

In those days the life of a soldier was wild and rough.  Drinking
and swearing were perhaps the least among the follies and
wickedness they were given to, and Dick Steele was as ready as
any other to join in all the wildness going.  But in spite of his
faults and failings his heart was kind and tender.  He had no
love of wickedness though he could not resist temptation.  So the
dashing soldier astonished his companions by publishing a little
book called the Christian Hero.  It was a little book written to
show that no man could be truly great who was not religious.  He
wrote it at odd minutes when his day's work was over, when his
mind had time "in the silent watch of the night to run over the
busy dream of the day."  He wrote it at first for his own use,
"to make him ashamed of understanding and seeming to feel what
was virtuous and yet living so quite contrary a life."
Afterwards he resolved to publish it for the good of others.

But among Steele's gay companions the book had little effect
except to make them laugh at him and draw comparisons between the
lightness of his words and actions, and the seriousness of the
ideas set forth in his Christian Hero.  He found himself slighted
instead of encouraged, and "from being thought no undelightful
companion, was soon reckoned a disagreeable fellow."*  So he took
to writing plays, for "nothing can make the town so fond of a man
as a successful play."

*Apology for himself and his Writings.

The plays of the Restoration had been very coarse.  Those of
Steele show the beginning of a taste for better things, "Tho'
full of incidents that move laughter, virtue and vice appear just
as they ought to do," he says of his first comedy.  But although
we may still find Steele's plays rather amusing, it is not as a
dramatist that we remember him, but as an essayist.

Steele led a happy-go-lucky life, nearly always cheerful and in
debt.  His plays brought him in some money, he received a
Government appointment which brought him more, and when he was
about thirty-three he married a rich widow.  Still he was always
in debt, always in want of money.

In about a year Steele's wife died, and he was shortly married to
another well-off lady.  About this time he left the army, it is
thought, although we do not know quite surely, and for long
afterwards he was called Captain Steele.

Steele wrote a great many letters to his second wife, both before
and after his marriage.  She kept them all, and from them we can
learn a good deal of this warm-hearted, week-willed, harum-scarum
husband.  She is "Dearest Creature," "Dear Wife," "Dear Prue"
(her name, by the way, was Mary), and sometimes "Ruler,"
"Absolute Governess," and he "Your devoted obedient Husband,"
"Your faithful, tender Husband."  Many of the letters are about
money troubles.  We gather from them that Dick Steele loved his
wife, but as he was a gay and careless spendthrift and she was a
proud beauty, a "scornful lady," for neither of them was life
always easy.

It was about two years after this second marriage that Steele
suddenly began the Tatler.  He did not write under his own name,
but under that of Isaac Bickerstaff, a name which Swift had made
use of in writing one of his satires.  As has been said, the
genius of Steele has been overshadowed by that of Addison, for
Steele had such a whole-hearted admiration for his friend that he
was ready to give him all the praise.  And yet it is nearly
always to Steele that we owe the ideas which were later worked
out and perfected by Addison.

It is Steele, too, that we owe the first pictures of English
family life.  It has been said that he "was the first of our
writers who really seemed to admire and respect women,"* and if
we add "after the Restoration" we come very near the truth.
Steele had a tender heart towards children too, and in more than
one paper his love of them shows itself.  Indeed, as we read we
cannot help believing that in real life Captain Dick had many
child-friends.  Here is how he tells of a visit to a friend's

"I am, as it were, at home at that house, and every member of it
knows me for their well-wisher.  I cannot indeed express the
pleasure it is, to be met by the children with so much joy as I
am when I go thither.  The boys and girls strive who shall come
first, when they think it is I that am knocking at the door.  And
that child which loses the race to me, runs back again to tell
the father it is Mr. Bickerstaff.

"This day I was led in by a pretty girl, that we all thought must
have forgot me, for the family has been out of town these two
years.  Her knowing me again was a mighty subject with us, and
took up our discourse at the first entrance.  After which they
began to rally me upon a thousand little stories they heard in
the country about my marriage to one of my neighbor's daughters.
Upon which the gentleman, my friend, said 'Nay, if Mr.
Bickerstaff marries a child of any of his old companions, I hope
mine shall have the preference.  There's Mistress Mary is now
sixteen, and would make him as fine a widow as the best of

After dinner the mother and children leave the two friends
together.  The father speaks of his love for his wife, and his
fears for her health.

"'Ah, you little understand, you that have lived a bachelor, how
great a pleasure there is in being really beloved.  Her face is
to me more beautiful than when I first saw it.  In her
examination of her household affairs she show a certain
fearfulness to find a fault, which makes her servants obey her
like children, and the meanest we have has an ingenuous shame for
an offence, not always to be seen in children in other families.
I speak freely to you, my old friend.  Ever since her sickness,
things that gave me the quickest joy before, turn now to a
certain anxiety.  As the children play in the next room, I know
the poor things by their steps, and am considering what they must
do, should they lose their mother in their tender years.  The
pleasure I used to take in telling my boy stories of the battles,
and asking my girl questions about the disposal of her baby, and
the gossiping of it, is turned into inward reflection and
melancholy.'  The poor gentleman would have gone on much longer
with his sad forebodings, but his wife returning, and seeing by
his grave face what he had been talking about, said, with a
smile, 'Mr. Bickerstaff, don't believe a word of what he tells
you.  I shall still live to have you for my second, as I have
often promised you, unless he takes more care of himself than he
has done since his coming to town.  You must know, he tells me,
that he finds London is a much more healthy place than the
country, for he sees several of his old acquaintance and school-
fellows are here, young fellows with fair, full-bottomed
periwigs.  I could scarce keep him this morning from going out
open-breasted.'"  And so they sat and chatted pleasantly until,
"on a sudden, we were alarmed with the noise of a drum, and
immediately entered my little godson to give me a point of war.*
His mother, between laughing and chiding, would have put him out
of the room, but I would not part with him so.  I found, upon
conversation with him, though he was a little noisy in his mirth,
that the child had excellent parts, and was a great master of all
the learning on the other side of eight years old.  I perceived
him to be a very great historian in Aesop's Fables; but he frankly
declared to me his mind, that he did not delight in that
learning, because he did not believe they were true.  For which
reason I found he had very much turned his studies, for about a
twelve-month past, into the lives and adventures of Don Bellianis
of Greece, Guy of Warwick, the Seven Champions, and other
historians of that age.

*A strain of war-like music.

"I could not but observe the satisfaction the father took in the
forwardness of his son, and that these diversions might turn to
some profit, I found the boy had made remarks which might be of
service to him during the course of his whole life.  He would
tell you the mismanagements of John Hickathrift, find fault with
the passionate temper of Bevis of Southampton, and loved St.
George for being the champion of England; and by this means had
his thoughts insensibly moulded into the notions of discretion,
virtue, and honour.

"I was extolling his accomplishments, when the mother told me
that the little girl who led me in this morning was, in her way,
a better scholar than he.  'Betty,' says she, 'deals chiefly in
fairies and sprites, and sometimes, in a winter night, will
terrify the maids with her accounts, till they are afraid to go
up to bed.'

"I sat with them till it was very late, sometimes in merry,
sometimes in serious discourse, with this particular pleasure
which gives the only true relish to all conversation, a sense
that every one of us liked each other.  I went home considering
the different conditions of a married life and that of a
bachelor.  And I must confess it struck me with a secret concern
to reflect that, whenever I go off, I shall leave no traces
behind me.  In this pensive mood I returned to my family, that is
to say, to my maid, my dog, and my cat, who only can be the
better or worse for what happens to me."*

*Tatler, 96.

You will be sorry to know that, a few Tatlers further on, the
kind mother of this happy family dies.  But Steele was himself so
much touched by the thought of all the misery he was bringing
upon the others by giving such a sad ending to his story, that he
could not go on with the paper, and Addison had to finish it for

The Spectator, you know, succeeded the Tatler, and it was while
writing for the Spectator that Steele took seriously to politics.
He became a member of Parliament and wrote hot political
articles.  He and Swift crossed swords more than once, and from
being friends became enemies.  But Steele's temper was too hot,
his pen too hasty.  The Tories were in power, and he was a Whig,
and he presently found himself expelled from the House of Commons
for "uttering seditious libels."  Shut out from politics, Steele
turned once more to essay-writing, and published, one after the
other, several papers of the same style as the Spectator, but
none of them lived long.

Better days, however, were coming.  Queen Anne died, and King
George became a king in 1714, the Whigs returned to power, Steele
again received a Government post, again he sat in Parliament, and
a few months later he was knighted, and became Sir Richard
Steele.  We cannot follow him through all his projects,
adventures, and writings.  He was made one of the commissioners
for the forfeited estates of the Scottish lords who had taken
part in the '15, and upon this business he went several times to
Scotland.  The first time he went was in the autumn of 1717.  But
before that Lady Steele had gone to Wales to look after her
estates there.  While she was there Dick wrote many letters to
her, some of which are full of tenderness for his children.  They
show us something too of the happy-go-lucky household in the
absence of the careful mistress.  In one he says:--

"Your son at the present writing is mighty well employed in
tumbling on the floor of the room, and sweeping the sand with a
feather.  He grows a most delightful child, and very full of play
and spirit.  He is also a very great scholar.  He can read his
primer, and I have brought down my Virgil.  He makes most shrewd
remarks about the pictures.  We are very intimate friends and
play-fellows.  He begins to be very ragged, and I hope I shall be
pardoned if I equip him with new clothes and frocks."  Or again:-
- "The brats, my girls, stand on each side of the table, and
Molly says what I am writing now is about her new coat.  Bess is
with me till she has new clothes.  Miss Moll has taken upon her
to hold the sand-box,* and is so impertinent in her office that I
cannot write more.  But you are to take this letter as from your
three best friends, Bess, Moll, and their Father.

*In those days there was no blotting-paper, and sand was used to
dry the ink.

"Moll bids me let you know that she fell down just now and did
not hurt herself."

Soon after this Steele set out for Scotland, and although the
business which brought him could not have been welcome to many a
Scottish gentleman, he himself was well received.  They forgot
the Whig official in the famous writer.  In Edinburgh he was
feasted and feted.  "You cannot imagine," wrote Steele, "the
civilities and honours I had done me there.  I never lay better,
ate or drank better, or conversed with men of better sense than
there."  Poets and authors greeted him in verse, he was "Kind
Richy Spec, the friend to a' distressed," "Dear Spec," and many
stories are told of his doings among these new-found friends.  He
paid several later visits to Scotland, but about a year after his
return from this first short visit Steele had a great sorrow.
His wife died.  "This is to let you know," he writes to a cousin,
"that my dear and honoured wife departed this life last night."

And now that his children were motherless, Steele, when he was
away from them, wrote to them, always tender, often funny,
letters.  It is Betty, the eldest, he addresses, she is "Dear
Child," "My dear Daughter," "My good Girlie."  He bids them be
good and grow like their mother.  "I have observed that your
sister," he says in one letter, "has for the first time written
the initial or first letters of her name.  Tell her I am highly
delighted to see her subscription in such fair letters.  And how
many fine things those two letters stand for when she writes
them.  M. S. is Milk and Sugar, Mirth and Safety, Music and
Songs, Meat and Sauce, as well as Molly and Spot, and Mary and
Steele."  I think the children must have loved their kind father
who wrote such pretty nonsense to them.

So with ups and downs the years passed.  However much money
Steele got he never seemed to have any, and in spite of all his
carelessness and jovialness, there is something sad in those last
years of his life.  He quarreled with, and then for ever lost his
life-long friend, Joseph Addison.  His two sons died, and at
length, broken in health, troubled about money, he went to spend
his last days in Carmarthen in Wales.  Here we have a last
pleasant picture of him being carried out on a summer's evening
to watch the country lads and lasses dance.  And with his own
hand, paralyzed though it was, he would write an order for a new
gown to be given to the best dancer.  And here in Carmarthen, in
1729, he died and was buried in the Church of St. Peter.


Essays of Richard Steele, selected and edited by L. E. Steele.
Steele Selections from the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian,
edited by Austin Dobson.


AS you have already guessed by the number of prose writers you
have been reading about, this age, the age of the last Stuarts
and the first Georges, was not a poetic one.  It was an age of
art and posturing.  It was an age of fierce and passionate party
strife--strife between Whig and Tory which almost amounted to
civil war, but instead of using swords and guns the men who took
part in the strife used pen and ink.  They played the game
without any rules of fair play.  No weapon was too vile or mean
to be used if by it the enemy might be injured.

You have often been told that it is rude to make personal
remarks, but the age of Anne was the age of personal remarks, and
they were not considered rude.  The more cruel and pointed they
were, the more clever they were thought to be.  To be stupid or
ugly are not sins.  They ought not to be causes of scorn and
laughter, but in the age of Anne they were accepted as such.  And
if the enemy was worsted in the fight he took his revenge by
holding up to ridicule the person of his victor.  To raise the
unkind laughter of the world against an enemy was the great thing
to be aimed at.  Added to this, too, the age was one of common
sense.  All this does not make for poetry, yet in this age there
was one poet, who, although he does not rank among our greatest
poets, was still great, and perhaps had he lived in a less
artificial age he might have been greater still.

This poet was Alexander Pope, the son of a well-to-do Catholic
linen-draper.  He was born in London in 1688, but soon afterwards
his father retired from business, and went to live in a little
village not far from Windsor.

Alexander was an only son.  He had one step-sister, but she was a
good many years older than he, and he seems never to have had any
child companions or real childhood.  He must always have been
delicate, yet as a child his face was "round, plump, pretty, and
of a fresh complexion."*  He is said, too, to have been very
sweet tempered, but his father and mother spoilt him not a
little, and when he grew up he lost that sweetness of temper.
Yet, unlike many spoilt children, Pope never forgot the reverence
due to father and mother.  He repaid their love with love as
warm, and in their old age he tended and cared for them fondly.

*Spence, Anecdotes.

As Pope was a delicate boy he got little regular schooling.  He
learned to write by copying the printed letters in books, and was
first taught to read by an aunt, and later by a priest, but still
at home.  After a time he was at school for a few years, but he
went from one school to another, never staying long at any, and
so never learning much.  He says indeed that he unlearned at two
of his schools all that he had learned at another.  By the time
he was twelve he was once more at home reading what he liked and
learning what he liked, and he read and studied so greedily that
he made himself ill.

Pope loved the stories of the Greek and Roman heroes, but he did
not care for the hard work needed to learn to read them in the
original with ease, and contented himself with translations.  He
was so fond of these stories that while still a little boy he
made a play from the Iliad which was acted by the boys of one of
his schools.

Very early Pope began to write poetry.  He read a great deal, and
two of his favorite poets were Spenser and Dryden.  His great
idea was to become a poet also, and in this his father encouraged
him.  Although no poet himself he would set his little son to
make verses upon different subjects.  "He was pretty difficult in
being pleased," says Pope's mother, "and used often to send him
back to new turn them; 'These are not good rhymes,' he would

There is a story told that Pope admired Dryden's poetry so much
that he persuaded a friend to take him one day to London, to the
coffee-house where Dryden used to hold his little court.  There
he saw the great man, who spoke to him and gave him a shilling
for some verses he wrote.  But the story is a very doubtful one,
as Dryden died when Pope was twelve years old, and for some time
before that he had been too ill to go to coffee-houses.  But that
Pope's admiration for Dryden was very sincere and very great we
know, for he chose him as his model.  Like Dryden, Pope wrote in
the heroic couplet, and in his hands it became much more neat and
polished than ever it did in the hands of the older poet.

Pope saw Dryden only once, even if the story is true; but with
another old poet, a dramatist, he struck up a great friendship.
This poet was named Wycherley, but by the time that Pope came to
know him Wycherley had grown old and feeble, all his best work
was done, and people were perhaps beginning to forget him.  So he
was pleased with the admiration of the boy poet fifty years
younger than himself, and glad to accept his help.  At first this
flattered Pope's vanity, but after a little he quarreled with his
old friend and left him.  This was the first of Pope's literary
quarrels, of which he had many.

Already, as a boy, Pope was becoming known.  He had published a
few short poems, and others were handed about in manuscript among
his friends.  "That young fellow will either be a madman or make
a very great poet,"* said one man after meeting him when he was
about fourteen.  All the praise and attention which Pope received
pleased him much.  But he took it only as his due, and his great
ambition was to make people believe that he had been a
wonderfully clever child, and that he had begun to write when he
was very young.  He says of himself with something of
pompousness, "I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came."

*Edmund Smith.

Pope's keenest desire was to be a poet, and few poets have rushed
so quickly into fame.  He received few of the buffets which young
authors have as a rule to bear.  Instead, many a kindly helping
hand was stretched out to him by the great men of the day, for
there was much in this young genius to draw out the pity of
others.  He was fragile and sickly.  As a full grown man he stood
only four feet six inches high.  His body was bent and deformed,
and so frail that he had to be strapped in canvas to give him
some support.  His fine face was lined by pain, for he suffered
from racking headaches, and indeed his life was one long disease.
Yet in spite of constant pain this little crooked boy, with his
"little, tender, crazy carcass," as Wycherley called it, wrote
the most astonishing poetry in a style which in his own day was
considered the finest that could be written.

It is not surprising then that his poems were greeted with kindly
wonder, mixed it may be with a little envy.  Unhappily Pope saw
only the envy and overlooked the kindliness.  Perhaps it was that
his crooked little body had warped the great mind it held, but
certain it is, as Pope grew to manhood his thirst for praise and
glory increased, and with it his distrust and envy of others.
And many of the ways he took to add to his own fame, and take
away from that of others, were mean and tortuous to the last
degree.  Deceit and crooked ways seemed necessary to him.  It has
been said that he hardly drank tea without a stratagem, and that
he played the politician about cabbages and turnips.*

*Lady Bolingbroke.

He begged his own letters back from the friends to whom they were
written.  He altered them, changed the dates, and published them.
Then he raised a great outcry pretending that they had been
stolen from him and published without his knowledge.  Such ways
led to quarrels and strife while he was alive, and since his
death they have puzzled every one who has tried to write about
him.  All his life through he was hardly ever without a literary
quarrel of some sort, some of his poems indeed being called forth
merely by these quarrels.

But though many of Pope's poems led to quarrels, and some were
written with the desire to provoke them, one of his most famous
poems was, on the other hand, written to bring peace between two
angry families.  This poem is called the Rape of the Lock--rape
meaning theft, and the lock not the lock of a door, but a lock of

A gay young lord had stolen a lock of a beautiful young lady's
hair, and she was so angry about it that there was a coolness
between the two families.  A friend then came to Pope to ask him
if he could not do something to appease the angry lady.  So Pope
took up his pen and wrote a mock-heroic poem making friendly fun
of the whole matter.  But although Pope's intention was kindly
his success was not complete.  The families did not entirely see
the joke, and Pope writes to a friend, "The celebrated lady
herself is offended, and, what is stranger, not at herself, but

But the poem remains one of the most delightful of airy trifles
in our language.  And that it should be so airy is a triumph of
Pope's genius, for it is written in the heroic couplet, one of
the most mechanical forms of English verse.

Addison called it "a delicious little thing" and the very salt of

Another and later writer says of it--"It is the most exquisite
specimen of filigree work ever invented.  It is made of gauze and
silver spangles. . . . Airs, languid airs, breathe around, the
atmosphere is perfumed with affectation.  A toilet is described
with the solemnity of an altar raised to the goddess of vanity,
and the history of a silver bodkin is given with all the pomp of
heraldry.  No pains are spared, no profusion of ornament, no
splendour of poetic diction to set off the meanest things. . . .
It is the perfection of the mock-heroic."*


Pope begins the poem by describing Belinda, the heroine, awaking
from sleep.  He tells how her guardian sylph brings a morning
dream to warn her of coming danger.  In the dream she is told
that all around her unnumbered fairy spirits fly guarding her
from evil--

    "Of these am I, who thy protection claim,
    A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name.
    Late, as I ranged the crystal wilds of air,
    In the clear mirror of thy ruling star
    I saw, alas! some dread event impend,
    Ere to the main this morning sun descend.
    But heaven reveals not what, or how, or where:
    Warned by the sylph, oh pious maid, beware!
    This to disclose is all thy guardian can:
    Beware of all, but most beware of Man!"

Then Shock, Belinda's dog,

        "Who thought she slept too long,
    Leaped up, and waked his mistress with his tongue."

So Belinda rises and is dressed.  While her maid seems to do the

    "The busy sylphs surround their darling care,
    These set the head, and those divide the hair,
    Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown'
    And Betty's praised for labours not her own."

Next Belinda set out upon the Thames to go by boat to Hampton
Court, and as she sat in her gayly decorated boat she looked so
beautiful that every eye was turned to gaze upon her--

    "On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
    Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore."

She was so beautiful and graceful that it seemed as if she could
have no faults, or--

    "If to her share some female errors fall,
    Look in her face, and you'll forget them all.
    This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
    Nourished two locks, which graceful hung behind
    In equal curls, and well conspired to deck,
    With shining ringlets, the smoothe iv'ry neck.
    Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains,
    And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.
    With hairy springes we the birds betray,
    Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey,
    Fair tresses man's imperial race insnare,
    And beauty draws us with a single hair."

The "Adventurous Baron" next appears upon the scene.  He, greatly
admiring Belinda's shining locks, longs to possess one, and makes
up his mind that he will.  And, as the painted vessel glided down
the Thames, Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay, only Ariel
alone was sad and disturbed, for he felt some evil, he knew not
what, was hanging over his mistress.  So he gathered all his
company and bade them watch more warily than before over their
charge.  Some must guard the watch, some the fan, "And thou
Crispissa, tend her fav'rite lock," he says.  And woe betide that
sprite who shall be careless or neglectful!

    "Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
    His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
    Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins,
    Be stopped in vials, or transfixed with pins,
    Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie,
    Or wedged, whole ages in a bodkin's eye."

So the watchful sprites flew off to their places--

    "Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend;
    Some thrid* the mazy ringlets of her hair,
    Some hang upon the pendants of her ear."

    *Slipped through.

The day went on, Belinda sat down to play cards.  After the game
coffee was brought, and "while frequent cups prolong the rich
repast," Belinda unthinkingly gave the Baron a pair of scissors.
Then indeed the hour of fate struck.  The Baron standing behind
Belinda found the temptation too great.  He opened the scissors
and drew near--

    "Swift to the lock a thousand sprites repair,
    A thousand wings by turns blow back the hair;
    And thrice they twitched the diamond in her ear;
    Thrice she looked back, and thrice the foe drew near."

But at last "the fatal engine" closed upon the lock.  Even to the
last, one wretched sylph struggling to save the lock clung to it.
It was in vain, "Fate urged the shears, and cut the sylph in
twain."  Then, while Belinda cried aloud in anger, the Baron
shouted in triumph and rejoiced over his spoil.

The poem goes on to tell how Umbriel, a dusky melancholy sprite,
in order to make the quarrel worse, flew off to the witch Spleen,
and returned with a bag full of "sighs, sobs, and passions, and
the war of tongues," "soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing
tears," and emptied it over Belinda's head.  She--

        "Then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
    And bids her beau demand the precious hairs.
    Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
    And the nice conduct of a clouded case,
    With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face,
    He first the snuff-box opened, then the case."

Sir Plume, not famous for brains, put on a very bold, determined
air, and fiercely attacked the Baron--"My Lord," he cried, "why,
what! you must return the lock!  You must be civil.  Plague on
't! 'tis past a jest--nay prithee, give her the hair."  And as he
spoke he tapped his snuff-box daintily.

But in spite of this valiant champion of fair ladies in distress,
the Baron would not return the lock.  So a deadly battle followed
in which the ladies fought against the gentlemen, and in which
the sprites also took part.  The weapons were only frowns and
angry glances--

    "A beau and witling perished in the throng,
    One died in metaphor, and one in song.
    .   .   .   .   .
    A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast,
    'Those eyes were made so killing,' was his last."

Belinda, however, at length disarmed the Baron with a pinch of
snuff, and threatened his life with a hair pin.  And so the
battle ends.  But alas!--

    "The lock, obtained with guilt and kept with pain,
    In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain."

During the fight it has been caught up to the skies--

    "A sudden star, it shot through liquid air,
    And drew behind a radiant trail of hair."

Thus, says the poet, Belinda has no longer need to mourn her lost
lock, for it will be famous to the end of time as a bright star
among the stars--

    "Then cease, bright nymph! to mourn thy ravished hair,
    Which adds new glory to the starry sphere!
    Not all the tresses that fair head can boast,
    Shall draw such envy as the lock you lost.
    For after all the murders of your eye,
    When, after millions slain, yourself shall die;
    When those fair suns shall set, as set they must,
    And all those tresses shall be laid in dust,
    This lock the Muse shall consecrate to fame,
    And midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name."

When Pope first published this poem there was nothing about
fairies in it.  Afterwards he thought of the fairies, but Addison
advised him not to alter the poem, as it was so delightful as it
was.  Pope, however, did not take the advice, but added the fairy
part, thereby greatly improving the poem.  This caused a quarrel
with Addison, for Pope thought he had given him bad advice
through jealousy.  A little later this quarrel was made much
worse.  Pope translated and published a version of the Iliad, and
at the same time a friend of Addison did so too.  This made Pope
bitterly angry, for he believed that the translation was
Addison's own and that he had published it to injure the sale of
his.  From this you see how easily Pope's anger and jealousy were
aroused, and will not wonder that his life was a long record of

Pope need not have been jealous of Addison's friend, for his own
translation of Homer was a great success, and people soon forgot
the other.  He translated not only the Iliad, but with the help
of two lesser poets the Odyssey also.  Both poems were done in
the fashionable heroic couplet, and Pope made so much money by
them that he was able to live in comfort ever after.  And it is
interesting to remember that Pope was the first poet who was able
to live in comfort entirely on what he made by his writing.

Pope now took a house at Twickenham, and there he spent many
happy hours planning and laying out his garden, and building a
grotto with shells and stones and bits of looking-glass.  The
house has long ago been pulled down and the garden altered, but
the grotto still remains, a sight for the curious.

It has been said that to write in the heroic couplet "is an art
as mechanical as that of mending a kettle or shoeing a horse, and
may be learned by any human being who has sense enough to learn
anything."*  And although this is not all true, it is so far true
that it is almost impossible to tell which books of the Odyssey
were written by Pope, and which by the men who helped him.  But,
taken as a whole, the Odyssey is not so good as the Iliad.
Scholars tell us that in neither the one nor the other is the
feeling of the original poetry kept.  Pope did not know enough
Greek to enter into the spirit of it, and he worked mostly from
translation.  Even had he been able to enter into the true spirit
he would have found it hard to keep that spirit in his
translation, using as he did the artificial heroic couplet.  For
Homer's poetry is not artificial, but simple and natural like our
own early poetry.  "A pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not
call it Homer," said a friend** when he read it, and his judgment
is still for the most part the judgment of to-day.


It was after he had finished the Odyssey that Pope wrote his most
famous satire, called the Dunciad.  In this he insulted and held
up to ridicule all stupid or dull authors, all dunces, and all
those whom he considered his enemies.  It is very clever, but a
poem full of malice and hatred does not make very pleasant
reading.  For most of us, too, the interest it had has vanished,
as many of the people at whom Pope levied his malice are
forgotten, or only remembered because he made them famous by
adding their names to his roll of dunces.  But in Pope's own day
the Dunciad called forth cries of anger and revenge from the
victims, and involved the author in still more quarrels.

Pope wrote many more poems, the chief being the Essay on
Criticism and the Essay on Man.  But his translations of Homer
and the Rape of the Lock are those you will like best in the
meantime.  As a whole Pope is perhaps not much read now, yet many
of his lines have become household words, and when you come to
read him you will be surprised to find how many familiar
quotations are taken from his poems.  Perhaps no one of our poets
except Shakespeare is more quoted.  And yet he seldom says
anything which touches the heart.  When we enjoy his poetry we
enjoy it with the brain.  It gives us pleasure rather as the
glitter of a diamond than as the perfume of a rose.

In spite of his crooked, sickly little body Pope lived to be
fifty-six, and one evening in May 1744 he died peacefully in his
home at Twickenham, and was buried in the church there, near the
monument which he had put up to the memory of his father and

There is so much disagreeable and mean in Pope that we are apt to
lose sight of what was good in him altogether.  We have to remind
ourselves that he was a good and affectionate son, and that he
was loving to the friends with whom he did not quarrel.  Yet
these can hardly be counted as great merits.  Perhaps his
greatest merit is that he kept his independence in an age when
writers fawned upon patrons or accepted bribes from Whig or Tory.
Pope held on his own way, looking for favors neither from one
side nor from the other.  And when we think of his frail little
body, this sturdy independence of mind is all the more wonderful.
From Pope we date the beginning of the time when a writer could
live honorable by his pen, and had not need to flatter a patron,
or sell his genius to politics or party.  But Pope stood alone in
this independence, and he never had to fight for it.  A happy
chance, we might say, made him free.  For while his brother
writers all around him were still held in the chains of
patronage, Pope having more money than some did not need to bow
to it, and having less greed than others did not choose to bow to
it, in order to add to his wealth.  And in the following chapter
we come to another man who in the next generation fought for
freedom, won it, and thereby helped to free others.  This man was
the famous Dr. Samuel Johnson.


Pope's Iliad, edited by A. J. Church.  Pope's Odyssey, edited by
A. J. Church.

NOTE.--As an introduction to Pope's Homer the following books may
be read:--

Stories from the Iliad, by Jeanie Lang.  Stories from the
Odyssey, by Jeannie Lang.  The Children's Iliad, by A. J. Church.
The Children's Odyssey, by A. J. Church.


SAMUEL JOHNSON was the son of a country bookseller, and he was
born at Lichfield in 1709.  He was a big, strong boy, but he
suffered from a dreadful disease, known then as the King's Evil.
It left scars upon his good-looking face, and nearly robbed him
of his eyesight.  In those days people still believed that this
dreadful disease would be cured if the person suffering from it
was touched by a royal hand.  So when he was two, little Samuel
was taken to London by his father and mother, and there he was
"touched" by Queen Anne.  Samuel had a wonderful memory, and
although he had been so young at the time, all his life after he
kept a kind of awed remembrance of a stately lady who wore a long
black hood and sparkling diamonds.  The touch of the Queen's soft
white hand did the poor little sick child no good, and it is
quaint to remember that the great learned doctor thought it might
be because he had been touched by the wrong royal hand.  He might
have been cured perhaps had he been taken to Rome and touched by
the hand of a Stuart.  For Johnson was a Tory, and all his life
he remained at heart a Jacobite.

At school Samuel learned easily and read greedily all kinds of
books.  He loved poetry most, and read Shakespeare when he was so
young that he was frightened at finding himself alone while
reading about the ghost in Hamlet.  Yet he was idle at his tasks
and had not altogether an easy time, for when asked long years
after how he became such a splendid Latin scholar, he replied,
"My master whipt me very well, without that, sir, I should have
done nothing."

Samuel learned so easily that, though he was idle, he knew more
than any of the other boys.  He ruled them too.  Three of them
used to come every morning to carry their stout comrade to
school.  Johnson mounted on the back of one, and the other two
supported him, one on each side.  In winter when he was too lazy
to skate or slide himself they pulled him about on the ice by a
garter tied round his waist.  Thus early did Johnson show his
power over his fellows.

At sixteen Samuel left school, and for two years idled about his
father's shop, reading everything that came in his way.  He
devoured books.  He did not read them carefully, but quickly,
tearing the heart out of them.  He cared for nothing else but
reading, and once when his father was ill and unable to attend to
his bookstall, he asked his son to do it for him.  Samuel
refused.  But the memory of his disobedience and unkindliness
stayed with him, and more than fifty years after, as an old and
worn man, he stood bare-headed in the wind and rain for an hour
in the market-place, upon the spot where his father's stall had
stood.  This he did as a penance for that one act of

Johnson's father was a bookworm, like his son, rather than a
tradesman.  He knew and loved his books, but he made little money
by them.  A student himself, he was proud of his studious boy,
and wanted to send him to college.  But he was miserably poor and
could not afford it.  A well-off friend, however, offered to
help, and so at eighteen Samuel went to Oxford.

Here he remained three years.  Those years were not altogether
happy ones, for Johnson's huge ungainly figure, and shabby,
patched clothes were matters for laughter among his fellow-
students.  He became a sloven in his dress.  His gown was
tattered and his linen dirty, and his toes showed through his
boots.  Yet when some one, meaning no doubt to be kind, placed a
new pair at his door, he kicked them away in anger.  He would not
stoop to accept charity.  But in spite of his poverty and shabby
clothes, he was a leader at college as he had been at school, and
might often be seen at his college gates with a crowd of young
men round him, "entertaining them with wit and keeping them from
their studies."*


After remaining about three years at college, Johnson left
without taking a degree.  Perhaps poverty had something to do
with that.  At any rate, with a great deal of strange, unordered
learning and no degree, and with his fortune still to make,
Samuel returned to his poverty-stricken home.  There in a few
months the father died, leaving to his son an inheritance of
forty pounds.

With forty pounds not much is to be done, and Samuel became an
usher, or under-master in a school.  He was little fitted to
teach, and the months which followed were to him a torture, and
all his life after he looked back on them with something of

After a few months, he left the school where he had been so
unhappy, and went to Birmingham to be near an old schoolfellow.
Here he managed to live somehow, doing odd bits of writing, and
here he met the lady who became his wife.

Johnson was now twenty-five and a strange-looking figure.  He was
tall and lank, and his huge bones seemed to start out of his lean
body.  His face was deeply marked with scars, and although he was
very near-sighted, his gray eyes were bright and wild, so wild at
times that they frightened those upon whom they were turned.  He
wore his own hair, which was coarse and straight, and in an age
when every man wore a wig this made him look absurd.  He had a
trick of making queer gestures with hands and feet.  He would
shake his head and roll himself about, and would mutter to
himself until strangers though that he was an idiot.

And this queer genius fell in love with a widow lady more than
twenty years older than himself.  She, we are told, was coarse,
fat, and unlovely, but she was not without brains, for she saw
beneath the strange outside of her young lover.  "This is the
most sensible man that I ever saw in my life," she said, after
talking with him.  So this strange couple married.  "Sir," said
Johnson afterwards, "It was a love-marriage on both sides."  And
there can be no doubt that Samuel loved his wife devotedly while
she lived, and treasured her memory tenderly after her death.

Mrs. Johnson had a little money, and so Samuel returned to his
native town and there opened a school.  An advertisement appeared
in the papers, "At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young
gentlemen are boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages,
by Samuel Johnson."  But Johnson was quite unfitted to be a
teacher, and the school did not prosper.  "His schoolroom," says
another writer, "must have resembled an ogre's den," and only two
or three boys came to it.  Among them was David Garrick, who
afterwards became a famous actor and amused the world by
imitating his friend and old schoolmaster, the great Sam, as well
as his elderly wife.

After struggling with his school for more than a year, Johnson
resolved to give it up and go to London, there to seek his
fortune.  Leaving his wife at Lichfield, he set off with his
friend and pupil David Garrick, as he afterwards said, "With
twopence halfpenny in my pocket, and thou, Davy, with three
halfpence in thine."

The days of the later Stuarts and the first of the Georges were
the great days of patronage.  When a writer of genius appeared,
noblemen and others, who were powerful and wealthy, were eager to
become his patron, and have his books dedicated to them.  So
although the dunces among writers remained terribly poor, almost
every man of genius was sure of a comfortable life.  But although
he gained this by his writing, it was not because the people
liked his books, but because one man liked them or was eager to
have his name upon them, and therefore became his patron.  The
patron, then, either himself helped his pet writer, or got for
him some government employment.  After a time this fashion
ceased, and instead of taking his book to a patron, a writer took
it to a bookseller, and sold it to him for as much money as he
could.  And so began the modern way of publishing books.

But when Johnson came to London to try his fortune as a writer,
it was just the time between.  The patron had not quite vanished,
the bookseller had not yet taken his place.  Never had writing
been more badly paid, never had it been more difficult to make a
living by it.  "The trade of author was at about one of its
lowest ebbs when Johnson embarked on it."*


Johnson had brought with him to London a tragedy more than half
written, but when he took it to the booksellers they showed no
eagerness to publish it, or indeed anything else that he might
write.  Looking at him they saw no genius, but only a huge and
uncouth country youth.  One bookseller, seeing his great body,
advised him rather to try his luck as a porter than as a writer.
But, in spite of rebuffs and disappointments, Johnson would not
give in.  When he had money enough he lived in mean lodgings,
when he had none, hungry, ragged, and cold, he roamed about the
streets, making friends with other strange, forlorn men of
genius, and sharing their miseries.

But if Johnson starved he never cringed, and once when a
bookseller spoke rudely to him he knocked him down with one of
his own books.  A beggar or not, Johnson demanded the respect due
to a man.  At school and college he had dominated his fellows, he
dominated now.  But the need of fighting for respect made him
rough.  And ever after his manner with friend and foe alike was
rude and brusque.

The misery of this time was such that long years after Johnson
burst into tears at the memory of it.  But it did not conquer
him, he conquered it.  He got work to do at last, and became one
of the first newspaper reporters.

Nowadays, during the debates in Parliament there are numbers of
newspaper reporters who take down all that is said in shorthand,
and who afterwards write out the debates for their various
newspapers.  In Johnson's day no such thing had been thought of.
He did not hear the debates, but wrote his accounts of them from
a few notes given to him by some one who had heard them.  The
speeches which appeared in the paper were thus really Johnson's,
and had very little resemblance to what had been said in the
House.  And being a Tory, Johnson took good care, as he
afterwards confessed, "that the Whig dogs should not have the
best of it."  After a time, however, Johnson began to think this
so-called reporting was not quite honest, and gave it up.  He
found other literary work to do, and soon, although he was still
poor, he had enough money to make it possible for his wife to
join him in London.

Among other things he wrote one or two poems and the life of
Richard Savage, a strange, wild genius with whom he had wandered
the streets in the days of his worst poverty.  The tragedy called
Irene which Johnson had brought with him to London was at length
after twelve years produced by Garrick, who had by that time
become a famous actor.  Johnson had, however, no dramatic genius.
"When Johnson writes tragedy," said Garrick, "'declamation roars
and passion sleeps':*  when Shakespeare wrote, he dipped the pen
in his own heart."  Garrick did what he could with the play, but
it was a failure, and although Johnson continued to believe that
it was good, he wrote no more tragedies.

*Garrick is here quoting from one of Johnson's own poems in which
he describes the decline of the drama at the Restoration.

The story of Irene is one of the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
After Mahomet had taken Constantinople he fell in love with a
fair Greek maiden whose name was Irene.  The Sultan begged her to
become a Mohammedan so that he might marry her.  To this Irene
consented, but when his soldiers heard of it they were so angry
that they formed a conspiracy to dethrone their ruler.

Hearing of this Mahomet resolved to make an end of the conspiracy
and rescue his throne from danger.  Calling all his nobles
together he bade Irene appear before him.  Then catching her by
the hair with one hand and drawing his sword with the other he at
one blow struck off her head.  This deed filled all who saw it
with terror and wonder.  But turning to his nobles Mahomet cried,
"Now by this, judge if your Emperor is able to bridle his
affections or not."

It seems as if there were here a story which might be made to
stir our hearts, but Johnson makes it merely dull.  In his long
words and fine-sounding sentences we catch no thrill of real
life.  The play is artificial and cold, and moves us neither to
wonder nor sorrow.

Johnson's play was a failure, but by that time he had begun the
great work which was to name him and single him out from the rest
of the world as Dictionary Johnson.  To make a complete
dictionary of a language is a tremendous work.  Johnson thought
that it would take three years.  It took, instead, seven.

But during these seven years he also wrote other things and
steadily added to his fame.  He started a paper after the model
of the Spectator, called the Rambler.  This paper was continued
for about two years, Johnson writing all but five of the essays.
After that he wrote many essays in a paper called the Adventurer,
and, later still, for two years he wrote for another paper a
series of articles called the Idler.

But none of these can we compare with the Spectator.  Johnson
never for a moment loses sight of "a grand moral end."  There is
in his essays much sound common sense, but they are lumbering and
heavy.  We get from them no such picture of the times as we get
from the Spectator, and, although they are not altogether without
humor, it is a humor that not seldom reminds us of the dancing of
an elephant.  This is partly because, as Johnson said himself, he
is inclined to "use too big words and too many of them."

In the days when Johnson wrote, this style was greatly admired,
but now we have come back to thinking that the simplest words are
best, or, at least, that we must suit our words to our subject.
And if we tell a fairy tale (as Johnson once did) we must not use
words of five syllables when words of two will better give the
feeling of the tale.  Yet there are many pleasant half-hours to
be spent in dipping here and there into the volumes of the
Rambler or the Idler.  I will give you in the next chapter, as a
specimen of Johnson's prose, part of one of the essays from the
Idler.  It is the story of a man who sets forth upon a very
ordinary journey and who makes as great a tale of it as he had
been upon a voyage of discovery in some untraveled land.


"I SUPPED three nights ago with my friend Will Marvel.  His
affairs obliged him lately to take a journey into Devonshire,
from which he has just returned.  He knows me to be a very
patient hearer, and was glad of my company, as it gave him an
opportunity of disburdening himself, by a minute relation of the
casualties of his expedition.

"Will is not one of those who go out and return with nothing to
tell.  He has a story of his travels, which will strike a home-
bred citizen with horror, and has in ten days suffered so often
the extremes of terror and joy, that he is in doubt whether he
shall ever again expose either his body or his mind to such
danger and fatigue.

"When he left London the morning was bright, and a fair day was
promised.  But Will is born to struggle with difficulties.  That
happened to him, which has sometimes, perhaps, happened to
others.  Before he had gone more than ten miles, it began to
rain.  What course was to be taken?  His soul disdained to turn
back.  He did what the King of Prussia might have done; he
flapped his hat, buttoned up his cape, and went forwards,
fortifying his mind by the stoical consolation, that whatever is
violent will be short."

So, with such adventures, the first day passes, and reaching his
inn, after a good supper, Will Marvel goes to bed and sleeps
soundly.  But during the night he is wakened "by a shower beating
against his windows with such violence as to threaten the
dissolution of nature."  Thus he knows that the next day will
have its troubles.  "He joined himself, however, to a company
that was travelling the same way, and came safely to the place of
dinner, though every step of his horse dashed the mud in the

In the afternoon he went on alone, passing "collections of
water," puddles doubtless, the depth of which it was impossible
to guess, and looking back upon the ride he marvels at his rash
daring.  "But what a man undertakes he must perform, and Marvel
hates a coward at his heart.

"Few that lie warm in their beds think what others undergo, who
have, perhaps, been as tenderly educated, and have as acute
sensations as themselves.  My friend was now to lodge the second
night almost fifty miles from home, in a house which he never had
seen before, among people to whom he was totally a stranger, not
knowing whether the next man he should meet would prove good or
bad; but seeing an inn of a good appearance, he rode resolutely
into the yard; and knowing that respect is often paid in
proportion as it is claimed, delivered his injunctions to the
ostler with spirit, and, entering the house, called vigorously
about him.

"On the third day up rose the sun and Mr. Marvel.  His troubles
and dangers were now such as he wishes no other man ever to
encounter."  The way was lonely, often for two miles together he
met not a single soul with whom he could speak, and, looking at
the bleak fields and naked trees, he wished himself safe home
again.  His only consolation was that he suffered these terrors
of the way alone.  Had, for instance, his friend the "Idler" been
there he could have done nothing but lie down and die.

"At last the sun set and all the horrors of darkness came upon
him. . . . Yet he went forward along a path which he could no
longer see, sometimes rushing suddenly into water, and sometimes
encumbered with stiff clay, ignorant whither he was going, and
uncertain whether his next step might not be the last.

"In this dismal gloom of nocturnal peregrination his horse
unexpectedly stood still.  Marvel had heard many relations of the
instinct of horses, and was in doubt what danger might be at
hand.  Sometimes he fancied that he was on the bank of a river
still and deep, and sometimes that a dead body lay across the
track.  He sat still awhile to recollect his thoughts; and as he
was about to alight and explore the darkness, out stepped a man
with a lantern, and opened the turnpike.  He hired a guide to the
town, arrived in safety, and slept in quiet.

"The rest of his journey was nothing but danger.  He climbed and
descended precipices on which vulgar mortals tremble to look; he
passed marshes like the Serbonian bog,* where armies whole have
sunk; he forded rivers where the current roared like the Egre or
the Severn; or ventured himself on bridges that trembled under
him, from which he looked down on foaming whirlpools, or dreadful
abysses; he wandered over houseless heaths, amidst all the rage
of the elements, with the snow driving in his face, and the
tempest howling in his ears.

*Lake Serbonis in Egypt.  Sand being blown over it by the winds
gave it the appearance of solid ground, whereas it was a bog.

    "A gulf profound as the Serbonian bog. . . .
    Where armies whole have sunk." -- MILTON.

"Such are the colours in which Marvel paints his adventures.  He
has accustomed himself to sounding words and hyperbolical images,
till he has lost the power of true description.  In a road,
through which the heaviest carriages pass without difficulty, and
the post-boy every day and night goes and returns, he meets with
hardships like those which are endured in Siberian deserts, and
missed nothing of romantic danger but a giant and a dragon.  When
his dreadful story is told in proper terms, it is only that the
way was dirty in winter, and that he experienced the common
vicissitudes of rain and sunshine."

I am afraid you will find a good many "too big" words in that.
But if I changed them to others more simple you would get no idea
of the way in which Johnson wrote, and I hope those you do not
understand you will look up in the dictionary.  It will not be
Johnson's own dictionary, however, for that has grown old-
fashioned, and its place has been taken by later ones.  For some
of Johnson's meanings were not correct, and when these mistakes
were pointed out to him he was not in the least ashamed.  Once a
lady asked him how he came to say that the pastern was the knee
of a horse, and he calmly replied, "Ignorance, madam, pure
ignorance."  "Dictionaries are like watches," he said, "the worst
is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite

With some words, instead of giving the original meaning, he gave
a personal meaning, that is he allowed his own sense of humor,
feelings or politics, to color the meaning.  For instance, he
disliked the Scots, so for the meaning of Oats he gave, "A grain
which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland
supports the people."  He disliked the Excise duty, so he called
it "A hateful tax levied by wretches hired by those to whom
excise is paid."  For this last meaning he came very near being
punished for libel.

When Johnson thought of beginning the dictionary he wrote about
it to Lord Chesterfield, a great man and fine gentleman of the
day.  As the fashion was, Johnson had chosen this great man for
his patron.  But Lord Chesterfield, although his vanity was
flattered at the idea of having a book dedicated to him, was too
delicate a fine gentleman to wish to have anything to do with a
man he considered poor.  "He throws anywhere but down his
throat," he said, "whatever he means to drink, and mangles what
he means to carve. . . . The utmost I can do for him is to
consider him a respectable Hottentot."  So, when Johnson had
called several times and been told that his lordship was not at
home, or had been kept waiting for hours before he was received,
he grew angry, and marched away never to return, vowing that he
had done with patrons for ever.

The years went on, and Johnson saw nothing of his patron.  When,
however, the dictionary was nearly done, Lord Chesterfield let it
be known that he would be pleased to have it dedicated to him.
But Johnson would have none of it.  He wrote a letter which was
the "Blast of Doom, proclaiming into the ear of Lord
Chesterfield, and, through him, of the listening world, that
patronage would be no more!"*


"Seven years, my Lord, have now passed," wrote Johnson, "since I
waited in your outward rooms and was repulsed from your door;
during which time I have been pushing on my work through
difficulties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought
it at last to the verge of publication without one act of
assistance, one word of encouragement, and one smile of favour.
Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
. . .

"Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man
struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached the
ground cumbers him with help?  The notice which you have been
pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind;
but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy
it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known,
and do not want it."

There was an end of patronage so far as Johnson was concerned,
and it was the beginning of the end of it with others.  Great Sam
had roared, he had asserted himself, and with the publication of
his dictionary he became "The Great Cham* of literature."**

*A Tartar word for prince or chief.

He had by this time founded a club of literary men which met at
"a famous beef-steak house," and here he lorded it over his
fellows as his bulky namesake had done more than a hundred years
before.  In many ways there was a great likeness between these
two.  They were both big and stout (for Sam was now stout).  They
were loud-voiced and dictatorial.  They both drank a great deal,
but Ben, alas, drank wine overmuch, as was common in his day,
while Sam drank endless cups of tea, seventeen or eighteen it
might be at a sitting, indeed he called himself a hardened and
shameless tea-drinker.  But, above all, their likeness lies in
the fact that they both dominated the literary men of their
period; they were kings and rulers.   They laid down the law and
settled who was great and who little among the writers of the
day.  And it was not merely the friends around Johnson who heard
him talk, who listened to his judgments about books and writers.
The world outside listened, too, to what he had to say, and you
will remember that it was he who utterly condemned Macpherson's
pretended poems of Ossian, "that pious three-quarters fraud"* of
which you have already read in chapter IV.

*A. Lang.

Johnson had always spent much of his time in taverns, and was now
more than ever free to do so.  For while he was still working at
his dictionary he suffered a great grief in the death of his
wife.  He had loved her truly and never ceased to mourn her loss.
But though he had lost his wife, he did not remain solitary in
his home, for he opened his doors to a queer collection of waifs
and strays--three women and a man, upon whom he took pity because
no one else would.  They were ungrateful and undeserving, and
quarreled constantly among themselves, so that his home could
have been no peaceful spot.  "Williams hates everybody," he
writes; "Levett hates Desmoulins and does not love Williams;
Desmoulins hates them both; Poll loves none of them."  It does
not sound peaceful or happy.

Some years after the death of Johnson's wife his mother died at
the age of ninety, and although he had not been with her for many
years, that too was a grief.  The poor lady had had very little
to live on, and she left some debts.  Johnson himself was still
struggling with poverty.  He had no money, so to pay his mother's
few debts, and also the expenses of her funeral, he sat down to
write a story.  In a week he had finished Rasselas, Prince of

The story of Rasselas is that of a prince who is shut up in the
Happy Valley until the time shall come for him to ascent the
throne of his father.  Everything was done to make life in the
Happy Valley peaceful and joyful, but Rasselas grew weary of it;
to him it became but a prison of pleasure, and at last, with his
favorite sister, he escaped out into the world.  The story tells
then of their search for happiness.  But perfect happiness they
cannot find, and discovering this, they decide to return to the
Happy Valley.

There is a vein of sadness throughout the book.  It ends as it
were with a big question mark, with a "conclusion in which
nothing is concluded."  For the position of the prince and his
sister was unchanged, and they had not found what they sought.
Is it to be found at all?  The story is a revelation of Johnson
himself.  He never saw life joyously, and at times he had fits of
deep melancholy which he fought against as against a madness.  "I
inherited," he said, "a vile melancholy from my father, which has
made me mad all my life, at least not sober," and his long
struggle with poverty helped to deepen this melancholy.

But a year or two after Rasselas was written, a great change came
in Johnson's life, which gave him comfort and security for the
rest of his days.  George III had come to the throne.  He thought
that he would like to do something for literature, and offered
Johnson a pension of three hundred pounds a year.

Johnson was now a man of fifty-four.  He was acknowledged as the
greatest man of letters of his day, yet he was still poor.  Three
hundred pounds seemed to him wealth, but he hesitated to accept
it.  He was an ardent Tory and hated the House of Hanover.  In
his dictionary he had called a pension "an allowance made to any
one without an equivalent.  In England it is generally understood
to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his
country."  A pensioner he had said was "A slave of state hired by
a stipend to obey his master."  Was he then to become a traitor
to his country and a slave of state?

But after a little persuasion Johnson yielded, as the pension
would be given to him, he was told, not for anything that he
would do, but for what he had done.  "It is true," he said
afterwards, with a smile, "that I cannot now curse the House of
Hanover; nor would it be decent for me to drink King James's
health in the wine that King George gives me money to pay for.
But, sir, I think that the pleasure of cursing the House of
Hanover, and drinking King James's health, are amply overbalanced
by three hundred pounds a year."

Johnson had always been indolent.  It was perhaps only poverty
that had forced him to write, and now that he was comfortably
provided for he became more indolent still.  He reproached
himself, made good resolutions, and prayed over this fault, but
still he remained slothful and idle.  He would lie abed till two
o'clock, and sit up half the night talking, and an edition of
Shakespeare which he had promised years before got no further on.
An edition of another man's works often means a great deal of
labor in making notes and comments.  This is especially so if
hundreds of years have passed since the book was first written
and the language has had time to change, and Johnson felt little
inclined for this labor.  But at length he was goaded into
working upon his Shakespeare by some spiteful verses on his
idleness, written by a political enemy, and after long delay it

Just a little before this a young Scotsman named James Boswell
got to know the great man.  He worshiped Johnson and spent as
much time with him as he could.  It was a strange friendship
which grew up between these two.  The great man bullied and
insulted yet loved the little man, and the little man accepted
all the insults gladly, happy to be allowed to be near his hero
on any conditions whatever.  He treasured every word that Johnson
spoke and noted his every action.  Nothing was too small or
trivial for his loving observation.  He asked Johnson questions
and made remarks, foolish or otherwise, in order to draw him out
and make him talk, and afterwards he set down everything in a

And when Johnson was dead Boswell wrote his life.  It is one of
the most wonderful lives ever written--perhaps the most
wonderful.  And when we have read it we seem to know Johnson as
well as if we had lived with him.  We see and know him in all his
greatness and all his littleness, in all his weakness and all his

It was with Boswell that Johnson made his most famous journey,
his tour to Scotland.  For, like his namesake, Ben, he too
visited Scotland.  But he traveled in a more comfortable manner,
and his journey was a much longer one, for he went as far as the
Hebrides.  It was a wonderful expedition for a man of sixty-four,
especially in those days when there were no trains and little
ease in the way of traveling, and when much of it had to be done
on rough ponies or in open boats.

On his return Johnson wrote an account of this journey which did
not altogether please some of the Scots.  But indeed, although
Johnson did not love the Scots, there is little in his book at
which to take offense.

Johnson's last work was a series of short lives of some of the
English poets from the seventeenth century onwards.  It is
generally looked upon as his best.  And although some of the
poets of whom he wrote are almost forgotten, and although we may
think that he was wrong in his criticisms of many of the others,
this is the book of Johnson's which is still most read.  For it
must be owned that the great Sam is not much read now, although
he is such an important figure in the history of our literature.
It is as a person that we remember him, not as a writer.  He
stamped his personality, as it is called, upon his age.  Boswell
caught that personality and preserved it for us, so that, for
generation after generation, Johnson lives as no other character
in English literature lives.  Boswell gave a new meaning to the
word biographer, that is the writer of a life, and now when a
great man has had no one to write his life well, we say "He lacks
a Boswell."

Boswell after a time joined the famous club at which Johnson and
his friends met together and talked.  Johnson loved to argue, and
he made a point of always getting the best of an argument.  If he
could not do so by reason, he simply roared his opponent down and
silenced him by sheer rudeness.  "There is no arguing with
Johnson," said one of his friends, Oliver Goldsmith, "for when
his pistol misses fire he knocks you down with the butt end of
it."  And perhaps Goldy, as Johnson called him, had to suffer
more rudeness from him than any of his friends to save Bozzy.
Yet the three were often to be found together, and it was
Goldsmith who said of Johnson, "No man alive has a more tender
heart.  He has nothing of the bear but his skin."

And indeed in Johnson's outward appearance there was much of the
bear.  He was a sloven in dress.  His clothes were shabby and
thrown on anyhow.  "I have no passion for clean linen," he said
himself.  At table he made strange noises and ate greedily, yet
in spite of all that, added to his noted temper and rude manners,
men loved him and sought his company more than that of any other
writer of his day, for "within that shaggy exterior of his there
beat a heart warm as a mother's, soft as a little child's."*


After Johnson received his pension we may look upon him as a
lumbering vessel which has weathered many a strong sea and has
now safely come to port.  His life was henceforth easy.  He
received honorary degrees, first from Dublin and then from
Oxford, so that he became Dr. Johnson.  For two-and-twenty years
he enjoyed his pension, his freedom and his honors; then, in
1784, surrounded by his friends, he died in London, and was
buried in Westminster Abbey.


Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.  A Journey to the Western Islands
of Scotland.


THE kind of book which is most written and read nowadays is
called a novel.  But we have not yet spoken much about this kind
of book for until now there were no novels in our meaning of the
word.  There were romances such as Havelok the Dane and Morte
d'Arthur, later still tales such as those of Defoe, and the
modern novel is the outcome of such tales and romances.  But it
is usually supposed to be more like real life than a romance.  In
a romance we may have giants and fairies, things beyond nature
and above nature.  A novel is supposed to tell only of what could
happen, without the help of anything outside everyday life.  This
is a kind of writing in which the English have become very
clever, and now, as I said, more novels than any other kinds of
book are written.  But only a few of these are good enough to
take a place in our literature, and very many are not worth
reading or remembering at all.

The first real novel in the modern sense was written by Samuel
Richardson, and published in 1740.  Quickly after that there
arose several other novel writers whose books became famous.
These still stand high in the literature of our land, but as
nothing in them would be interesting to you for many years to
come we need not trouble about them now.  There is, however, one
novel of this early time which I feel sure you would like, and of
it and its author I shall tell you something.  The book I mean is
called The Vicar of Wakefield, and it was written by Oliver

Oliver Goldsmith was born in 1728 in Pallas, a little out-of-the-
way Irish village.  His father was a clergyman and farmer, with a
large family and very little money.  He was a dear, simple,
kindly man.

    "A man he was to all the country dear,
    And passing rich with forty pounds a year."

Two years after Oliver was born his father moved to Lissoy,
another and better parish.  Little Oliver began to learn very
early, but his first teacher thought him stupid:  "Never was
there such a dull boy," she said.  She managed, however, to teach
him the alphabet, and at six he went to the village school of
Lissoy.  Paddy Byrne, the master there, was an old soldier.  He
had fought under Marlborough, he had wandered the world seeking
and finding adventures.  His head was full of tales of wild
exploits, of battles, of ghosts and fairies too, for he was an
Irishman and knew and loved the Celtic lore.  Besides all this he
wrote poetry.

To his schoolmaster's stories little Oliver listened eagerly.  He
listened, too, to the ballads sung by Peggy, the dairymaid, and
to the wild music of the blind harper, Turlogh O'Carolan, the
last Irish minstrel.  All these things sank into the heart of the
shy, little, ugly boy who seemed so stupid to his schoolfellows.
He learned to read, and devoured all the romances and tales of
adventure upon which he could lay hands, and in imitation of his
schoolmaster he began to write poetry.

For three years Oliver remained under the care of his vagabond
teacher.  He looked up to him with a kind of awed wonder, and
many years afterwards he drew a picture of him in his poem The
Deserted Village.

    "There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,
    The village master taught his little school.
    A man severe he was, and stern to view;
    I knew him well, and every truant knew:
    Well had the boding tremblers learn'd to trace
    The day's disasters in his morning face;
    Full well they laugh'd, with counterfeited glee
    At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
    Full well the busy whisper circlin round
    Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd.
    Yet he was kind, or, if severe in aught,
    The love he bore to learning was in fault;
    The village all declared how much he knew:
    'Twas certain he could write, and cypher too;
    Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
    And ev'n the story ran--that he could gauge:
    In arguing, too, the parson own'd his skill;
    For ev'n though vanquish'd, he could argue still;
    While words of learned length and thund'ring sound,
    Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
    And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
    That one small head should carry all he knew."

But after three years of school under wonderful Paddy Byrne,
Goldsmith became very ill with smallpox.  He nearly died of it,
and when he grew better he was plainer than ever, for his face
was scarred and pitted by the disease.  Goldsmith had been shy
before his illness, and now when people laughed at his pock-
marked face he grew more shy and sensitive still.  For the next
seven years he was moved about from school to school, always
looked upon by his fellows as dull of wit, but good at games, and
always in the forefront in mischief.

At length, when Goldsmith was nearly seventeen, he went to
Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar.  As you know, in those days
sizars had to wear a different dress from the commoners.
Oliver's elder brother had gone as a commoner and Oliver had
hoped to do the same.  But as his father could not afford the
money he was obliged, much against his will, to go as a sizar.
Indeed had it not been for the kindness of an uncle he could not
have gone to college at all.

Awkward and shy, keen to feel insults whether intended or not,
Goldsmith hated his position as sizar.  He did not like his tutor
either, who was a coarse, rough man, so his life at college was
not altogether happy.  He was constantly in want of money, for
when he had any his purse was always open to others.  At times
when he was much in need he wrote street ballads for five
shillings each, and would steal out at night to have the joy of
hearing them sung in the street.

Goldsmith was idle and wild, and at the end of two years he
quarreled with his tutor, sold his books, and ran away to Cork.
He meant to go on board a ship, and sail away for ever from a
land where he had been so unhappy.  But he had little money, and
what he had was soon spent, and at last, almost starving, having
lived for three days on a shilling, he turned homewards again.
Peace was made with his tutor, and Goldsmith went back to
college, and stayed there until two years later when he took his

His father was now dead and it was necessary for Oliver to earn
his own living.  All his family wished him to be a clergyman, but
he "did not deem himself good enough for it."  However, he
yielded to their persuasions, and presented himself to his
bishop.  But the bishop would not ordain him--why is not known,
but it was said that he was offended with Goldsmith for coming to
be ordained dressed in scarlet breeches.

After this failure Oliver tried teaching and became a tutor, but
in a very short time he gave that up.  Next his uncle, thinking
that he would make a lawyer of him, gave him 50 pounds and sent
him off to London to study law there.  Goldsmith lost the money
in Dublin, and came home penniless.  Some time after this a
gentleman remarked that he would make an excellent medical man,
and again his uncle gave him money and sent him off to Edinburgh,
this time as a medical student.  So he said his last good-by to
home and Ireland and set out.

In Scotland Goldsmith lived for a year and a half traveling
about, enjoying life, and, it may be, studying.  Then, in his
happy-go-lucky way, he decided it would be well to go to Holland
to finish his medical studies there.  Off he started with little
money in his pocket, and many debts behind him.  After not a few
adventures he arrived at length in Leyden.  Here passing a
florist's shop he saw some bulbs which he knew his uncle wanted.
So in he ran to the shop, bought them, and sent them off to
Ireland.  The money with which he bought the bulbs was borrowed,
and now he left Leyden to make the tour of Europe burdened
already with debt, with one guinea in his pocket, and one clean
shirt and a flute as his luggage.

Thus on foot he wandered through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland,
Italy, and France.  In the villages he played upon his flute to
pay for his food and his night's lodging.

    "Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,
    And dance, forgetful of the noon-tide hour.
    Alike all ages.  Dames of ancient days
    Have led their children through the mirthful maze,
    And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
    Has frisk'd beneath the burthen of threescore."*

    *The Traveller.

In the towns where no one listened to his flute, and in Italy
where almost every peasant played better than he, he entered the
colleges and disputed.  For in those days many of the colleges
and monasteries on the Continent kept certain days for arguments
upon subjects of philosophy "for which, if the champion opposes
with any dexterity, he can gain a gratuity in money, a dinner,
and a bed for one night."

Thus, from town to town, from village to village, Goldsmith
wandered, until at the end of a year he found himself back among
his countrymen, penniless and alone in London streets.

Here we have glimpses of him, a sorry figure in rusty black and
tarnished gold, his pockets stuffed with papers, now assisting in
a chemist's shop, now practicing as a doctor among those as poor
as himself, now struggling to get a footing in the realm of
literature, now passing his days miserably as an usher in a
school.  At length he gained more or less constant work in
writing magazine articles, reviews, and children's books.  By
slow degrees his name became known.  He met Johnson and became a
member of his famous club.  It is said that the first time those
two great men met Johnson took special care in dressing himself.
He put on a new suit of clothes and a newly powdered wig.  When
asked by a friend why he was so particular he replied, "Why, sir,
I hear that Goldsmith is a very great sloven, and justifies his
disregard for cleanliness and decency by quoting my example.  I
wish this night to show him a better example."  But although
Goldsmith was now beginning to be well known, he still lived in
poor lodgings.  He had only one chair, and when a visitor came he
was given the chair while Oliver sat on the window ledge.  When
he had money he led an idle, easy life until it was spent.  He
was always generous.  His hand was always open to help others,
but he often forgot to pay his just debts.  At length one day his
landlady, finding he could not pay his rent, arrested him for

In great distress Goldsmith wrote to Johnson begging him to come
to his aid.  Johnson sent him a guinea, promising to come to him
as soon as possible.  When Johnson arrived at Goldsmith's
lodging, "I perceived," he says, "that he had already changed my
guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him.
I put the cork into the bottle, desired him to be calm, and began
to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated.  He
then told me that he had a novel ready for the press, which he
produced to me.  I looked into it, and saw its merits, told the
landlady I should soon return, and having gone to a bookseller
sold it for sixty pounds.  I brought Goldsmith the money, and he
discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in high tone
for having used him so ill."

The novel which thus set Goldsmith free for the moment was the
famous Vicar of Wakefield.  "There are an hundred faults in this
thing," says Goldsmith himself, and if we agree with him there we
also agree with him when he goes on to say, "and an hundred
things might be said to prove them beauties.  But it is needless.
A book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may be very
dull without a single absurdity.  The hero of this piece unites
in himself the three greatest characters upon earth:  he is a
priest, an husbandman, and the father of a family.  He is drawn
as ready to teach, and ready to obey:  as simple in affluence,
and majestic in adversity."  When we have made the acquaintance
of the Vicar we find ourselves the richer for a lifelong friend.
His gentle dignity, his simple faith, his sly and tender humor,
all make us love him.

In the Vicar of Wakefield Goldsmith drew for us a picture of
quiet, fireside family life such as no one before, or perhaps
since, has drawn.  Yet  he himself was a homeless man.  Since a
boy of sixteen he had been a wanderer, a lonely vagabond,
dwelling beneath strange roofs.  But it was the memory of his
childish days that made it possible for him to write such a book,
and in learning to know and love gentle Dr. Primrose we learn to
know Oliver's father, Charles Goldsmith.


"I CHOSE my wife," says Dr. Primrose in the beginning of the
book, "as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine, glossy
surface, but such qualities as would wear well.  To do her
justice, she was a good-natured, notable woman; and as for
breeding, there were few county ladies who could show more.  She
could read any English book without much spelling; but for
pickling, preserving, and cooking, none could excel her.  She
prided herself also upon being an excellent contriver in
housekeeping; though I could never find that we grew richer with
her contrivances."

Of his children he says, "Our eldest son was named George, after
his uncle, who left us ten thousand pounds.  Our second child, a
girl, I intended to call, after her aunt, Grissel; but my wife,
who had been reading romances, insisted upon her being called
Olivia.  In less than another year we had another daughter, and
now I was determined that Grissel should be her name; but a rich
relation taking a fancy to stand god-mother, the girl was by her
direction called Sophia; so that we had two romantic names in the
family; but I solemnly protest I had no hand in it.  Moses was
our next; and, after an interval of twelve years, we had two sons
more."  These two youngest boys were called Dick and Bill.

This is the family we learn to know in the "Vicar."  When the
story opens Olivia is just eighteen, Sophia seventeen, and they
are both very beautiful girls.  At first Dr. Primrose is well off
and lives comfortably in a fine house, but before the story goes
far he loses all his money, and is obliged to go with his family
to a poor living in another part of the country.  Here, instead
of their handsome house, they have a tiny four-roomed cottage,
with whitewashed walls and thatched roof, for a home.  It is a
very quiet country life which they have now to live, and yet when
you come to read the book you will find that quite a number of
exciting things happen to them.

The dear doctor soon settles down to his changed life, but his
wife and her beautiful daughters try hard to be as fine as they
were before, and as grand, if not grander, than their neighbors.
This desire leads to not a few of their adventures.  Among other
things they decide to have their portraits painted.  This is how
Dr. Primrose tells of it:  "My wife and daughters happening to
return a visit to neighbour Flamborough's, found that family had
lately got their pictures drawn by a limner, who travelled the
country, and took likenesses for fifteen shillings a-head.  As
this family and ours had long a sort of rivalry in point of
taste, our spirit took the alarm at this stolen march upon us;
and, notwithstanding all I could say, and I said much, it was
resolved that we should have our pictures done too.

"Having therefore engaged the limner (for what could I do?) our
next deliberation was, to show the superiority of our taste in
the attitudes.  As for our neighbour's family, there were seven
of them; and they were drawn with seven oranges, a thing quite
out of taste, no variety in life, no composition in the world.
We desired to have something in a higher style, and after many
debates, at length came to a unanimous resolution, of being drawn
together, in one large historical familypiece.  This would be
cheaper, since one frame would serve for all, and it would be
infinitely more genteel; for all families of any taste were now
drawn in the same manner.

"As we did not immediately recollect an historical subject to hit
us, we were contented each with being drawn as independent
historical figures.  My wife desired to be represented as Venus,
and the painter was instructed not to be too frugal of his
diamonds in her stomacher and hair.  Her two little ones were to
be as cupids by her side; while I in my gown and band, was to
present her with my books on the Whistonian controversy.  Olivia
would be drawn as an amazon, sitting upon a bank of flowers,
dressed in a green Joseph,* richly laced with gold, and a whip in
her hand.  Sophia was to be a shepherdess, with as many sheep as
the painter could put in for nothing; and Moses was to be dressed
out with a hat and white feather.

*A coat with capes worn by ladies in the eighteenth century for

"Our taste so much pleased the Squire that he insisted on being
put in as one of the family, in the character of Alexander the
Great, at Olivia's feet.  This was considered by us all as an
indication of his desire to be introduced into the family; nor
could we refuse his request.  The painter was therefore set to
work; and as he wrought with assiduity and expedition, in less
than four days the whole was completed.  The piece was large; and
it must be owned he did not spare his colours; for which my wife
gave him great encomiums.

"We were all perfectly satisfied with his performance; but an
unfortunate circumstance had not occurred until the picture was
finished, which now struck us with dismay.  It was so very large,
that we had no place in the house to fix it.  How we all came to
disregard so material a point is inconceivable; but certain it
is, we had been all greatly remiss.  The picture, therefore,
instead of gratifying our vanity, as we hoped, leaned, in a most
mortifying manner, against the kitchen wall, where the canvas was
stretched and painted, much too large to be got through any of
the doors, and the jest of all our neighbours.  One compared it
to Robinson Crusoe's long-boat, too large to be removed; another
thought it more resembled a reel in a bottle; some wondered how
it could be got out, but still more were amazed how it ever got

For the rest of the troubles and adventures of the good Vicar and
his family you must go to the book itself.  In the end all comes
right, and we leave the Vicar surrounded by his family with Dick
and Bill sitting on his knee.  "I had nothing now this side the
grave to wait for," he says; "all my cares were over; my pleasure
was unspeakable."  Even if you do not at first understand all of
this book I think it will repay you to read it, for on almost
every page you will find touches of gentle humor.  We feel that
no one but a man of simple childlike heart could have written
such a book, and when we have closed it we feel better and
happier for having read it.

But delightful though we find the Vicar of Wakefield, the
bookseller who bought it did not think highly enough of it to
publish it at once.  Meanwhile Goldsmith published a poem called
The Traveller.  His own wanderings on the Continent gave him the
subject for this poem, for Goldsmith, like Milton, put something
of himself into all his best works.  The Traveller was such a
success that the bookseller though it worth while to publish the
Vicar of Wakefield.

Goldsmith was now famous, but he was still poor.  He lived in a
miserable garret doing all manner of literary work for bread.
Among the things he wrote was a play called The Good Natured Man.
It was a success, and brought him in 500 pounds.

Goldsmith now left his garret, took a fine set of rooms,
furnished them grandly, and gave dinner-parties and card-parties
to his friends.  These were the days of Goldy's splendor.  He no
longer footed it in the great world in rust black and tarnished
gold, but in blue silk breeches, and coat with silken linings and
golden buttons.  He dined with great people; he strutted in
innocent vanity, delighted to shine in the world, to see and be
seen, although in Johnson's company he could never really shine.
Sam was a great talker, and it was said Goldsmith "wrote like an
angel and spoke like poor Poll."  His friends called him Doctor,
although where he took his medical degree no one knows, and he
certainly had no other degree given to him as an honor as Johnson
had.  So Johnson was Dr. major, Goldsmith only Dr. minor.

But soon these days of wealth were over; soon Goldsmith's money
was all spent, and once again he had to sit down to grinding
work.  He wrote many things, but the next great work he published
was another poem, The Deserted Village.

The Deserted Village, like The Traveller, is written in the
heroic couplet which, since the days of Dryden, had held its
ground as the best form of English poetry.  In these poems the
couplet has reached its very highest level, for although his
rimes are smooth and polished Goldsmith has wrought into them
something of tender grace and pathos which sets them above the
diamond-like glitter of Pope's lines.  His couplets are
transformed by the Celtic touch.

The poem tells the story of a village which had once been happy
and flourishing, but which is now quite deserted and fallen to
ruins.  The village is thought by some people to have been
Lissoy, where Oliver had lived as a boy, but others think this
cannot be, for they say no Irish village was ever so peaceful and
industrious as Goldsmith pictures his village to have been.  But
we must remember that the poet had not seen his home since
childhood, and that he looked back upon it through the golden
haze of memory.  It is in this poem that we have the picture of
Oliver's old schoolmaster which I have already given you.  Here,
too, we have a picture of the kindly village parson who may be
taken both from Oliver's father and from his brother Henry.
Probably he had his brother most in mind, for Henry Goldsmith had
but lately died, "and I loved him better than most other men,"
said the poet sadly in the dedication of this poem--

    "Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
    And still where many a garden flower grows wild;
    There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
    The village preacher's modest mansion rose.
    A man he was to all the country dear,
    And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
    Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
    Nor e'er had changed, nor wish'd to change, his place:
    Unpractis'd he to fawn, or seek for power,
    By doctrines fashion'd to the varying hour;
    Far other aims his heart had learn'd to prize,
    More skill'd to raise the wretched than to rise.
    His house was known to all the vagrant train;
    He chid their wand'rings, but relieved their pain:
    The long-remember'd beggar was his guest,
    Whose beard descending swept his aged breast;
    The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud,
    Claim'd kindred there, and had his claims allow'd;
    The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
    Sat by his fire, and talk'd the night away,
    Wept o'er his wounds, or, tales of sorrow done,
    Shoulder'd his crutch, and shoed how fields were won.
    Pleased with his guests, the good man learn'd to glow,
    And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
    Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
    His pity gave ere charity began.
    Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
    And ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side;
    But in his duty prompt, at every call,
    He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt for all;
    At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
    His looks adorn'd the venerable place;
    Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway,
    And fools, who came to scoff, remain'd to pray.
    The service past, around the pious man,
    With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
    Ev'n children followed with endearing wile,
    And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile.
    His ready smile a parent's warmth exprest;
    Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distrest:
    To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
    But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
    As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
    Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
    Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
    Eternal sunshine settles on its head."

Goldsmith's last great work was a comedy named She Stoops to
Conquer.  It is said that the idea for this play was given to him
by something which happened to himself when a boy.

The last time that Goldsmith returned home from school he made
his journey on horseback.  The horse was borrowed or hired, but
he had a guinea in his pocket, and he felt very grown up and
grand.  He had to spend one night on the way, and as evening came
on he asked a passing stranger to direct him to the best house,
meaning the best in the neighborhood.  The stranger happened to
be the village wag, and seeing the schoolboy swagger, and the
manly airs of sixteen, he, in fun, directed him to the squire's
house.  There the boy arrived, handed over his horse with a
lordly air to a groom, marched into the house and ordered supper
and a bottle of wine.  In the manner of the times in drinking his
wine he invited his landlord to join him as a real grown-up man
might have done.  The squire saw the joke and fell in with it,
and not until next morning did the boy discover his mistake.  The
comedy founded on this adventure was a great success, and no
wonder, for it bubbles over with fun and laughter.  Some day you
will read the play, perhaps too, you may see it acted, for it is
still sometimes acted.  In any case it makes very good reading.

But Goldsmith did not long enjoy the new fame this comedy brought
him.  In the spring of 1774, less than a year after it appeared,
the kindly spendthrift author lay dead.  He was only forty-five.

The beginning of Goldsmith's life had been a struggle with
poverty; the end was a struggle with debt.  By his writing he
made what was in those days a good deal of money, but he could
not keep it.  To give him money was like pouring water into a
sieve.  "Is your mind at ease," asked his doctor as he lay dying.
"No, it is not," answered Goldsmith.  Those were his last words.

"Of poor dear Dr. Goldsmith," wrote Johnson, "there is little to
be told more than the papers have made public.  He died of a
fever, made, I am afraid, more violent by uneasiness of mind.
His debts began to be heavy, and all his resources were
exhausted.  Sir Joshua* is of opinion that he owed not less than
two thousand pounds.  Was ever poet so trusted before?"

*Sir Joshua Reynolds, the famous painter.

Goldsmith was buried in the graveyard of the Temple church, but
his tomb is unmarked, and where he lies no one knows.  His
sorrowing friends, however, placed a tablet to his memory in
Westminster, so that his name at least is recorded upon the roll
of the great dead who lie gathered there.


The Vicar of Wakefield (Everyman's Library).


    SHOULD auld acquaintance be forgot,
        And never brought to min'?
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
        And days o' lang syne?

            For auld lang syne, my dear,
                For auld lang syne,
            We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
                For auld lang syne.

    We twa hae run about the braes,
        And pu'd the gowans fine;
    But we've wander'd mony a weary foot,
        Sin auld lang syne.

            For auld lang syne, etc.

    We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,
        Frae mornin' sun til dine:*
    But seas between us braid hae roar'd,
        Sin auld lang syne.

            For auld lang syne, etc.

    And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,**
        And gie's a hand o' thine;
    And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,***
        For auld lang syne.

            For auld lang syne, etc.

    And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,****
        And surely I'll be mine;
    And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
        For auld lang syne.

            For auld lang syne, my dear,
                For auld lang syne,
            We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
                For auld lang syne.


NO song, perhaps, is so familiar to English-speaking people as
that with which this chapter begins.  In the back woods of
Canada, in far Australia, on the wide South African veldt,
wherever English-speaking people meet and gather, they join hands
to sing that song.  To the merriest gathering it comes as a
fitting close.  It is the hymn of home, of treasured friendships,
and of old memories, just as "God save the King" is the hymn of
loyalty, and yet it is written in Scots, which English tongues
can hardly pronounce, and many words of which to English ears
hardly carry a meaning.  But the plaintive melody and the
pathetic force of the rhythm grip the heart.  There is no need to
understand every word of this "glad kind greeting"* any more than
there is need to understand what some great musician means by
every note which his violin sings forth.


The writer of that song was, like Caedmon long ago, a son of the
soil, he, too, was a "heaven-taught ploughman."*

*Henry Mackenzie.

While Goldsmith lay a-dying in London, in the breezy Scottish
Lowlands a big rough lad of fifteen called Robert Burns was
following his father's plow by day, poring over Shakespeare, the
Spectator, and Pope's Homer, of nights, not knowing that in years
to come he was to be remembered as our greatest song writer.
Robert was the son of a small farmer.  The Burns had been farmer
folk for generations, but William Burns had fallen on evil days.
From his northern home he drifted to Ayrshire, and settled down
in the village of Alloway as a gardener.  Here with his own hands
he built himself a mud cottage.  It consisted only of a "room"
and  a kitchen, whitewashed within and without.  In the kitchen
there was a fireplace, a bed, and a small cupboard, and little
else beyond the table and chairs.

And in this poor cottage, in the wild January weather of 1759,
wee Robert was born.  Scarcely a week later, one windy night, a
gable of his frail home was blown in.  So fierce was the gale
that it seemed as if the whole wall might fall, so, through the
darkness, and the storm, the baby and his mother were carried to
a neighbor's house.  There they remained for a week until their
own cottage was again made fit to live in.  It was a rough entry
into the world for the wee lad.

For some time William Burns went on working as a gardener, then
when Robert was about seven he took a small farm called Mount
Oliphant, and removed there with his wife and family.

He had a hard struggle to make his farm pay, to feed and clothe
little Robert and his brothers and sisters, who were growing up
fast about him.  But, poor though he was, William Burns made up
his mind that his children should be well taught.  At six Robert
went daily to school, and when the master was sent away somewhere
else, and the village of Alloway was left without any teacher,
William Burns and four neighbors joined together to pay for one.
But as they could not pay enough to give him a house in which to
live, he used to stay with each family in turn for a few weeks at
a time.

Robert in those days was a grave-faced, serious, small boy, and
he and his brother Gilbert were the cleverest scholars in the
little school.  Chief among their school books was the Bible and
a collection of English prose and verse.  It was from the last
that Burns first came to know Addison's works for in this book he
found the "Vision of Mirza" and other Spectator tales, and loved

Robert had a splendid memory.  In school hours he stored his mind
with the grand grave tales of the Bible, and with the stately
English of Addison; out of school hours he listened to the tales
and songs of an old woman who sang to him, or told him stories of
fairies and brownies, of witches and warlocks, of giants,
enchanted towns, dragons, and what not.  The first books he read
out of school were a Life of Hannibal, the great Carthagenian
general, and a Life of Wallace, the great Scottish hero; this
last being lent him by the blacksmith.  These books excited
little Robert so much that if ever a recruiting sergeant came to
his village, he would strut up and down in raptures after the
drum and bagpipe, and long to be tall enough to be a soldier.
The story of Wallace, too, awoke in his heart a love of Scotland
and all things Scottish, which remained with him his whole life
through.  At times he would steal away by himself to read the
brave, sad story, and weep over the hard fate of his hero.  And
as he was in the Wallace country he wandered near and far
exploring every spot where his hero might have been.

After a year of two the second schoolmaster went away as the
other had done.  Then all the schooling the Burns children had
was from their father in the long winter evenings after the farm
work for the day was over.

And so the years went on, the family at Mount Oliphant living a
hard and sparing life.  For years they never knew what it was to
have meat for dinner, yet when Robert was thirteen his father
managed to send him and Gilbert week about to a school two or
three miles away.  He could not send them both together, for he
could neither afford to pay two fees, nor could he spare both
boys at once, as already the children helped with the farm work.

At fifteen Robert was his father's chief laborer.  He was a very
good plowman, and no one in all the countryside could wield the
scythe or the threshing-flail with so much skill and vigor.  He
worked hard, yet he found time to read, borrowing books from
whoever would lend them.  Thus, before he was fifteen, he had
read Shakespeare, and Pope, and the Spectator, besides a good
many other books which would seem to most boys of to-day very
dull indeed.  But the book he liked best was a collection of
songs.  He carried it about with him.  "I pored over them," he
says, "driving in my cart, or walking to labour, song by song,
verse by verse."

Thus the years passed, as Burns himself says, in the "cheerless
gloom of a hermit, with the unceasing toil of a galley-slave."
Then when Robert was about nineteen his father made another move
to the farm of Lochlea, about ten miles off.  It was a larger and
better farm, and for three or four years the family lived in
comfort.  In one of Burns's own poems, The Cotter's Saturday
Night, we get some idea of the simple home life these kindly God-
fearing peasants led--

    "November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh;*
        The short'ning winter-day is near a close;
    The miry bests retreating frae the pleugh;
        The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose;
        The toil-worn Cotter Frae his labour goes,

    This night his weekly moil is at an end,
        Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
    Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
    And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.

    *Whistling sound.

    "At length his lonely cot appears in view,
        Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
    Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher* through
        To meet their dad, wi' flichterin** noise and glee.
        His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnily,
    His clean hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie's smile,
        The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
    Does a' his weary carking care beguile,
    An' makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.

    **To run with outspread arms.

    Belyve,* the elder bairns come drapping in,
        At service out, amang the farmers roun';
    Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie** rin
        A cannie*** errand to a neebor town:
        Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown,
    In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e
        Comes hame, perhaps, to show a braw new gown,
    Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee,****
    To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.

    *In a little.
    ***Not difficult.
    ****Wages paid in money.

    "With joy unfeign'd, brothers and sisters meet,
        An' each for other's weelfare kindly spiers:*
    The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnotic'd, fleet;
        Each tells the uncos** that he sees or hears;
        The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years;
    Anticipation forward points the view.
        The mother, wi' her needle and her sheers,
    Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new:***
    The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.

    *Asks after.
    **Strange things.
    ***Makes old clothes look almost as good as new.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "The cheerfu' supper done,, wi' serious face,
        They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
    The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace,
        The big ha'-Bible, ance his father's pride:
        His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside,
    His layart haffets* wearing thin an' bare;
        Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
    He wales** a portion with judicious care;
    And "Let us worship God!" he says, with solemn air.

    *The gray hair on his temples.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "Then homeward all take off their sev'ral way;
        The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
    The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
        And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,
        That He who stills the raven's clam'rous nest,
    And decks the lily fair in flow'ry pride,
        Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,
    For them and for their little ones provide;
    But, chiefly, in their hearts with grace divine preside."

As Robert grew to be a man the changes in his somber life were
few.  But once he spent a summer on the coast learning how to
measure and survey land.  In this he made good progress.  "But,"
he says, "I made a greater progress in the knowledge of mankind."
For it was a smuggling district.  Robert came to know the men who
carried on the unlawful trade, and so was present at many a wild
and riotous scene, and saw men in new lights.  He had already
begun to write poetry, now he began to write letters too.  He did
not write with the idea alone of giving his friends news of him.
He wrote to improve his power of language.  He came across a book
of letters of  the wits of Queen Anne's reign, and these he pored
over, eager to make his own style good.

When Robert was twenty-two he again left home.  This time he went
to the little seaport town of Irvine to learn flax dressing.  For
on the farm the father and brothers had begun to grow flax, and
it was thought well that one of them should know how to prepare
it for spinning.

Here Robert got into evil company and trouble.  He sinned and
repented and sinned again.  We find him writing to his father,
"As for this world, I despair of ever making a figure in it.  I
am not formed for the bustle of the busy, nor the flutter of the
gay.  I shall never again be capable of entering into such
scenes."  Burns knew himself to be a man of faults.  The
knowledge of his own weakness, perhaps, made him kindly to other.
In one of his poems he wrote--

    "Then gently scan your brother man,
        Still gentler sister woman;
    Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,*
        To step aside is human:
    One point must still be greatly dark,
        The moving why they do it;
    And just as lamely can ye mark
        How far perhaps they rue it.

    *A very little wrong.

    "Who made the heart, 'tis He alone
        Decidedly can try us:
    He knows each chord, its various tone,
        Each spring its various bias:
    Then at the balance let's be mute,
        We never can adjust it;
    What's done we partly may compute,
        But know not what's resisted."

Bad fortune, too, followed Burns.  The shop in which he was
engaged was set on fire, and he was left "like a true poet, not
worth a sixpence."

So leaving the troubles and temptations of Irvine behind, he
carried home a smirched name to his father's house.

Here, too, troubles were gathering.  Bad harvests were followed
by money difficulties, and, weighed down with all his cares,
William Burns died.  The brothers had already taken another farm
named Mossgiel.  Soon after the father's death the whole family
went to live there.

Robert meant to settle down and be a regular farmer.  "Come, go
to, I will be wise," he said.  He read farming books and bought a
little diary in which he meant to write down farming notes.  But
the farming notes often turned out to be scraps of poetry.

The next four years of Burns's life were eventful years, for
though he worked hard as he guided the plow or swung the scythe,
he wove songs in his head.  And as he followed his trade year in
year out, from summer to winter, from winter to summer, he
learned all the secrets of the earth and sky, of the hedgerow and
the field.

How everything that was beautiful and tender and helpless in
nature appealed to him we know from his poems.  There is the
field mouse--the "wee sleekit,* cow'rin', tim'rous beastie,"
whose nest he turned up and destroyed in his November plowing.
"Poor little mouse, I would not hurt you," he says--


    "Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin;
    Its silly wa's the win's are strewin'!"

And thou poor mousie art turned out into the cold, bleak, winter

    "But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
    In providing foresight may be vain;
            Gang aft agley,*
    An' lea'e us nought but grief and pain
            For promised joy."

    *Go often wrong.

It goes to his heart to destroy the early daisies with the plow--

    "Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow'r,
    Thou's met me in an evil hour;
    For I maun crush amang the stoure
            Thy slender stem.
    To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
            Thou bonnie gem.

    "Alas! it's no thy neebor sweet,
    The bonnie lark, companion meet,
    Bending thee 'mang the dewy weet,
            Wi' spreckl'd breast,
    When upward springing, blythe, to greet
            The purpling east.

    "Cauld blew the bitter-biting North
    Upon thy early, humble birth;
    Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
            Amid the storm,
    Scarce rear'd above the parent earth
            Thy tender form.

    "The flaunting flow'rs our gardens yield,
    High shelt'ring woods and wa's maun shield;
    But thou, beneath the random bield*
            O' clod or stane,
    Adorns the histie stibble-field,**
            Unseen, alane.

    "There, in thy scanty mantle cauld,
    Thy snawie bosom sunward spread,
    Thou lifts thy unassuming head
            In humble guise;
    But now the share uptears thy bed,
            And low thou lies!"

    **Bare stubble field.

Burns wrote love songs too, for he was constantly in love--often
to his discredit, and at length he married Jean Armour, Scots
fashion, by writing a paper saying that they were man and wife
and giving it to her.  This was enough in those days to make a
marriage.  But Burns had no money; the brothers' farm had not
prospered, and Jean's father, a stern old Scotsman, would have
nothing to say to Robert, who was in his opinion a bad man, and a
wild, unstable, penniless rimester.  He made his daughter burn
her "lines," thus in his idea putting an end to the marriage.

Robert at this was both hurt and angry, and made up his mind to
leave Scotland for ever and never see his wife and children more.
He got a post as overseer on an estate in Jamaica, but money to
pay for his passage he had none.  In order to get money some
friends proposed that he should publish his poems.  This he did,
and the book was such a success that instead of going to Jamaica
as an unknown exile Burns went to Edinburgh to be entertained,
fêted, and flattered by the greatest men of the day.

All the fine ladies and gentlemen were eager to see the plowman
poet.  The fuss they made over him was enough to turn the head of
a lesser man.  But in spite of all the flattery, Burns, though
pleased and glad, remained as simple as before.  He moved among
the grand people in their silks and velvets clad in homespun
clothes "like a farmer dressed in his best to dine with the
laird"* as easily as he had moved among his humble friends.  He
held himself with that proud independence which later made him


    "Is there for honest poverty
        That hangs his head, and a' that?
    The coward slave, we pass him by,
        We dare to be poor for a' that!
    For a' that, and a' that,
        Our toils obscure, and a' that,
    The rank is but the guinea stamp,
        The man's the gowd for a' that.

    "What though on hamely fare we dine,
        Wear hodden grey, and a' that;
    Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
        A man's a man for a' that:
    For a' that and a' that,
        Their tinsel show, and a' that;
    The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
        Is king o' men for a' that."

After spending a brilliant winter in Edinburgh, Burns set off on
several tours through his native land, visiting many of the
places famous in Scottish history.  But, as the months went on,
he began to be restless in his seeming idleness.  The smiles of
the great world would not keep hunger from the door; he feared
that his fame might be only a nine days' wonder, so he decided to
return to his farming.  He took a farm a few miles from Dumfries,
and although since he had been parted from his Jean he had
forgotten her time and again and made love to many another, he
and she were now married, this time in good truth.  From now
onward it was that Burns wrote some of his most beautiful songs,
and it is for his songs that we remember him.  Some of them are
his own entirely, and some are founded upon old songs that had
been handed on for generations by the people from father to son,
but had never been written down until Burns heard them and saved
them from being forgotten.  But in every case he left the song a
far more beautiful thing than he found it.  None of them perhaps
is more beautiful than that he now wrote to his Jean--

    "Of a' the airts* the wind can blaw,
        I dearly like the wet,
    For there the bonnie lassie lives,
        The lassie I lo'e best:
    The wild-woods grow and rivers row,**
        And mony a hill between;
    But day and night my fancy's flight
        Is ever wi' my Jean.

    "I see her in the dewy flowers,
        I see her sweet and fair:
    I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
        I hear her charm the air;
    There's not a bonnie flower that springs
        By fountain, shaw,*** or green,
    There's not a bonnie bird that sings
        But minds me o' my Jean."


But farming and song-making did not seem to go together, and on
his new farm Burns succeeded little better than on any that he
had tried before.  He thought to add to his livelihood by turning
an excise man, that is, an officer whose work is to put down
smuggling, to collect the duty on whisky, and to see that none
upon which duty has not been paid is sold.  One of his fine
Edinburgh friends got an appointment for him, and he began his
duties, and it would seem fulfilled them well.  But this mode of
life was for Burns a failure.  In discharge of his duties he had
to ride hundreds of miles in all kinds of weathers.  He became
worn out by the fatigue of it, and it brought him into the
temptation of drinking too much.  Things went with him from bad
to worse, and at length he died at the age of thirty-six, worn
out by toil and sin and suffering.

In many ways his was a misspent life "at once unfinished and a
ruin."*  His was the poet's soul bound in the body of clay.  He
was an unhappy man, and we cannot but pity him, and yet remember
him with gratitude for the beautiful songs he gave us.  In his
own words we may say--


    "Is there a man, whose judgment clear,
    Can others teach the course to steer,
    Yet runs, himself, life's mad career,
            Wild as the wave?
    Here pause--and, through  the starting tear,
            Survey this grave."

Burns was a true son of the soil.  There is no art in his songs
but only nature.  Apart form his melody what strikes us most is
his truth; he sang of what he saw, of what he felt and knew.  He
knew the Scottish peasant through and through.  Grave and
humorous, simple and cunning, honest and hypocritical, proud and
independent--every phase of him is to be found in Burns's poems.
He knew love too; and in every phase--happy and unhappy, worthy
and unworthy--he sings of it.  But it is of love in truth that he
sings.  Here we have no more the make-believe of the Elizabethan
age, no longer the stilted measure of the Georgian.  The day of
the heroic couplet is done; with Burns we come back to nature.


Selected Works of Robert Burns, edited by R. Sutherland.  (This
is probably the best selection for juvenile readers.)


WHILE Burns was weaving his wonderful songs among the Lowland
hills of Scotland, another lover of nature was telling of placid
English life, of simple everyday doings, in a quiet little
country town in England.  This man was William Cowper.

Cowper was the son of a clergyman.  He was born in 1731 and
became a barrister, but it seemed a profession for which he was
little fitted.  He was shy and morbidly religious, and he also
liked literature much better than law.  Still he continued his
way of life until, when he was thirty-two, he was offered a post
as Clerk of the Journals of the House of Lords.  He wished to
accept the post, but was told he must stand an examination at the
bar of the House of Lords.

This was more than his nervous sensitive nature could bear.
Rather than face the trial he decided to die.  Three times he
tried to kill himself.  Three times he failed.  Then the darkness
of madness closed in upon him.  Religious terrors seized him, and
for many months he suffered agonies of mind.  But at length his
tortured brain found rest, and he became once more a sane man.

Then he made up his mind to leave London, and all the excitements
of a life for which he was not fit, and after a few changes here
and there he settled down to a peaceful life with a clergyman and
his wife, named Unwin.  And when after two years Mr. Unwin died,
Cowper still lived with his widow.  With her he moved to Olney in
Buckinghamshire.  It was here that, together with the curate,
John Newton, Cowper wrote the Olney hymns, many of which are
still well loved to-day.  Perhaps one of the best is that

    "God moves in a mysterious way,
        His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea,
        And rides upon the storm."

It was written when Cowper felt again the darkness of insanity
closing in upon him.  Once again he tried to end his life, but
again the storm passed.

Cowper was already a man of nearly fifty when these hymns first
appeared.  Shortly afterwards he published another volume of
poems in the style of Pope.

It was after this that Cowper found another friend who brought
some brightness into his life.  Lady Austen, a widow, took a
house near Cowper and Mrs. Unwin, and became a third in their
friendship.  It was she who told Cowper the story of John Gilpin.
The story tickled his fancy so that he woke in the night with
laughter over it.  He decided to make a ballad of the story, and
the next day the ballad was finished.  I think I need hardly give
you any quotation here.  You all know that--

    "John Gilpin was a citizen
        Of credit and reknown,
    A train-band captain eke was he
        Of famous London town."

And you have heard his adventures on the anniversary of his
wedding day.

John Gilpin was first published in a magazine, and there it was
seen by an actor famous in his day, who took it for a recitation.
It at once became a success, and thousands of copies were sold.

It was Lady Austen, too, who urged Cowper to his greatest work,
The Task.  She wanted him to try blank verse, but he objected
that he had nothing to write about.  "You can write upon any
subject," replied Lady Austen, "write upon the sofa."

So Cowper accepted the task thus set for him, and began to write.
The first book of The Task is called The Sofa, and through all
the six books we follow the course of his simple country life.
It is the epic of simplicity, at once pathetic and playful.  Its
tuneful, easy blank verse never rises to the grandeur of
Milton's, yet there are fine passages in it.  Though Cowper lived
a retired and uneventful life, the great questions of his day
found an echo in his heart.  Canada had been won and the American
States lost when he wrote--

    "England, with all thy faults, I love thee still--
    My Country! and, while yet a nook is left
    Where English minds and manners may be found,
    Shall be constrained to love thee.
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    Time was when it was praise and boast enough
    In every clime, and travel where we might,
    That we were born her children; praise enough
    To fill the ambition of a private man,
    That Chatham's language was his mother tongue,
    And Wolfe's great name compatriot with his own.
    Farewell those honours, and farewell with them
    The hope of such hereafter! they have fallen
    Each in his field of glory:  one in arms,
    And one in council--Wolfe upon the lap
    Of smiling Victory that moment won,
    And Chatham heart-sick of his country's shame
    They made us many soldiers.  Chatham, still
    Consulting England's happiness at home,
    Secured it by an unforgiving frown,
    If any wronged her.  Wolfe, where'er he fought,
    Put so much of his heart into his act,
    That his example had a magnet's force,
    And all were swift to follow where all loved."

These lines are from the second book of The Task called The
Timepiece.  The third is called The Garden, the fourth The Winter
Evening.  There we have the well-known picture of a quiet evening
by the cozy fireside.  The post boy has come "with spattered
boots, strapped waist, and frozen locks."  He has brought letters
and the newspaper--

    "Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
    Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
    And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
    Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
    That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
    So let us welcome peaceful evening in."

The poem ends with two books called The Winter Morning Walk and
The Winter Walk at Noon.  Though not grand, The Task is worth
reading.  It is, too, an easily read, and easily understood poem,
and through it all we feel the love of nature, the return to
romance and simplicity.  In the last book we see Cowper's love of
animals.  There he sings, "If not the virtues, yet the worth, of

Cowper loved animals tenderly and understood them in a wonderful
manner.  He tamed some hares and made them famous in his verse.
And when he felt madness coming upon him he often found relief in
his interest in these pets.  One of his poems tells how Cowper
scolded his spaniel Beau for killing a little baby bird "not
because you were hungry," says the poet, "but out of
naughtiness."  Here is Beau's reply--

    "Sir, when I flew to seize the bird
        In spite of your command,
    A louder voice than yours I heard,
        And harder to withstand.

    "You cried 'Forbear!;--but in my breast
        A mightier cried 'Proceed!'--
    'Twas nature, sir, whose strong behest
        Impelled me to the deed.

    "Yet much as nature I respect,
        I ventured once to break
    (As you perhaps may recollect)
        Her precept for your sake;

    "And when your linnet on a day,
        Passing his prison door,
    Had fluttered all his strength away
        And panting pressed the floor,

    "Well knowing him a sacred thing
        Not destined to my tooth,
    I only kissed his ruffled wing
        And licked the feathers smooth.

    "Let my obedience then excuse
        My disobedience now,
    Nor some reproof yourself refuse
        From your aggrieved Bow-wow;

    "If killing birds be such a crime
        (Which I can hardly see),

    What think you, sir, of killing Time
        With verse addressed to me?"

As Cowper's life went on, the terrible lapses into insanity
became more frequent, but his sweet and kindly temper won him
many friends, and he still wrote a great deal.  And among the
many things he wrote, his letters to his friends were not the
least interesting.  They are among the best letters in our

Perhaps Cowper's greatest accomplishment, though not his greatest
work, was a translation of Homer.  He had never considered Pope's
Homer good, and he wished to leave to the world a better.
Cowper's version was published in 1791, and he fondly believed
that it would take the place of Pope's.  But although Cowper's
may be more correct, it is plain and dry, and while Pope's is
still read and remembered, Cowper's is forgotten.

Indeed, that Cowper is remembered at all is due more to his
shorter poems such as Boadicea and The Wreck of the Royal George,
and chiefly, perhaps, to John Gilpin, which in its own way is a
treasure that we would not be without.  Other of his shorter
poems are full of a simple pathos and gentle humor.  The last he
wrote was called The Castaway, and the verse with which it ends
describes not unfittingly the close of his own life.  For his
mind sank ever deeper into the shadow of madness until he died in
April 1800--

    "No voice divine the storm allayed,
        No light propitious shone;
    When, snatched from all effectual aid,
        We perished, each alone:
    But I beneath a rougher sea,
    And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he."

Cowper was never a power in our literature, but he was a
forerunner, "the forerunner of the great Restoration of our
literature."*  And unlike most forerunners he was popular in his
own day.  And although it is faint, like the scent of forgotten
rose leaves, his poetry still keeps a charm and sweetness for
those who will look for it.



COWPER  was as a straw blown along the path; he had no force in
himself, he showed the direction of the wind.  Now we come to one
who was not only a far greater poet, but who was a force in our
literature.  This man was William Wordsworth.  He was the apostle
of simplicity, the prophet of nature.  He sang of the simplest
things, of the common happenings of everyday life, and that too a
simple life.

His desire was to choose words only which were really used by men
in everyday talk, "and, at the same time, to throw over them a
certain colouring of the imagination."

He chose to sing of humble life because there men's thoughts and
feelings were more free from art and restraint, there they spoke
a plainer, more forceful language, there they were in touch with
all that was lasting and true in Nature.  Here then, you will
say, is the poet for us, the poet who tells of simple things in
simple words, such as we can understand.  And yet, perhaps,
strange as it may seem, there is no poet who makes less appeal to
young minds than does Wordsworth.

In reading poetry, though we may not always understand every word
of it, we want to feel the thrill and glamour of it.  And when
Wordsworth remembers his own rules and keeps to them there is no
glamour, and his simplicity is apt to seem to us mere silliness.

When we are very young we cannot walk alone, and are glad of a
kindly helping hand to guide our footsteps.  In learning to read,
as in learning to walk, it is at first well to trust to a guiding
hand.  And in learning to read poetry it is at first well to use
selections chosen for us by those wiser than ourselves.  Later,
when we can go alone, we take a man's whole work, and choose for
ourselves what we will most love in it.  And it is only by making
use of this power of choice that we can really enjoy what is
best.  But of all our great writers Wordsworth is perhaps the
last in the reading of whose works we willingly go alone.  He is
perhaps the writer who gains most by being read in selections.
Indeed, for some of us there never comes a time when we care to
read his whole works.

For if we take his whole works, at times we plow through pages of
dry-as-dust argument where there is never a glimmer of that
beauty which makes poetry a joy, till we grow weary of it.  Then
suddenly there springs to our eye a line of truest beauty which
sets our senses atingle with delight, and all our labor is more
than paid.  And if our great poets were to be judged by single
lines or single stanzas we may safely say that Wordsworth would
be placed high among them.  He is so placed, but it is rather by
the love of the few than by the voice of the many.

I am not trying to make you afraid of reading Wordsworth, I am
only warning you that you must not go to him expecting to gather
flowers.  You must go expecting to and willing to dig for gold.
Yet although Wordsworth gives us broad deserts of prose in his
poetry, he himself knew the joy of words in lovely sequence.

He tells us that when he was ten years old, or less, already his

    "With conscious pleasure opened to the charm
    Of words in tuneful order, found them sweet
    For their own sakes, a passion, and a power;
    And phrases pleased me chosen for delight,
    For pomp, or love."*

    *Prelude, book v.

When Wordsworth first published his poems they were received with
scorn, and he was treated with neglect greater even than most
great poets have had to endure.  But in time the tide turned and
people came at last to acknowledge that Wordsworth was not only a
poet, but a great one.  He showed men a new way of poetry; he
proved to them that nightingale was as poetical a word as
Philomel, that it was possible to speak of the sun and the moon
as the sun and the moon, and not as Phoebus and Diana.  Phoebus,
Diana, and Philomel are, with the thoughts they convey, beautiful
in their right places, but so are the sun, moon, and nightingale.

Wordsworth tried to make men see with new eyes the little
everyday things that they had looked upon week by week and year
by year until they had grown common.  He tried to make them see
these things again with "the glory and the freshness of a

*Ode, Intimations of Immortality.

Wordsworth fought the battle of the simple word, and phrase, and
thought, and won it.  And the poets who came after him, and not
the poets only, but the prose writer too, whether they
acknowledged it or not, whether they knew it or now, entered as
by right into the possession of the kingdom which he had won for

And now let me tell you a little of the life of this nature poet.

William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth in Cumberland in 1770.
He was the second son of John Wordsworth, a lawyer, and law agent
for the Earl of Lonsdale.  William's mother died when he was
still a very small boy, and he remembered little about her.  He
remembered dimly that one day as he was going to church, she
pinned some flowers into his coat.  He remembered seeing her once
lying in an easy chair when she was ill, and that was nearly all.

Before Wordsworth lost his mother he had a happy out-door
childhood.  He spent long days playing about in garden and
orchard, or on the banks of the Derwent, with his friends and
brothers and his sister Dorothy.  In one of his long poems called
The Prelude, which is a history of his own young life, he tells
of these happy childish hours.  In other of his poems he tells of
the love and comradeship that there was between himself and his
sister, though she was two years younger--

    "Oh! pleasant, pleasant were the days,
    The time, when, in our childish plays,
    My sister Emmeline and I
    Together chased the butterfly!

    A very hunter did I rush
    Upon the prey:--with leaps and springs
    I followed on from brake to bush;
    But she, God love her! feared to brush
    The dust from off its wings."*

    *To a Butterfly.

Together they spied out the sparrows' nests and watched the tiny
nestlings as they grew, the big rough boy learning much from his
tender-hearted, gentle sister.  In after years he said--

    "She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
    And humble cares, and delicate fears;
    A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
    And love, and thought, and joy."*

    *The Sparrow's Nest.

When the mother died these happy days for brother and sister
together were done, for Willie went to school at Hawkshead with
his brothers, and Dorothy was sent to live with her grandfather
at Penrith.

But Wordsworth's school-time was happy too.  Hawkshead was among
the beautiful lake and mountain scenery that he loved.  He had a
great deal of freedom, and out of school hours could take long
rambles, day and night too.  When moon and stars were shining he
would wander among the hills until the spirit of the place laid
hold of him, and he says--

    "I heard among the solitary hills
    Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
    Of undistinguishable motion, steps
    Almost as silent as the turf they trod."*

    *Prelude, book i.

Wordsworth fished and bird-nested, climbing perilous crags and
slippery rocks to find rare eggs.  In summer he and his
companions rowed upon the lake, in winter they skated.

    "And in the frosty season, when the sun
    Was set, and visible for many a mile
    The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom,
    I heeded not their summons:  happy time
    It was indeed for all of us--for me
    A time of rapture!  Clear and loud
    The village clock tolled six,--I wheeled about,
    Proud and exulting like an untired horse
    That cares not for his home.  All shod with steel,
    We hissed along the polished ice in games.
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    We were a noisy crew; the sun in heaven
    Beheld not vales more beautiful than ours;
    Nor saw a band in happiness and joy
    Richer, or worthier of the ground they trod."*

    *Prelude, book i.

Yet among all this noisy boyish fun and laughter, Wordsworth's
strange, keen love of nature took root and grew.  At times he

            "Even then I felt
    Gleams like the flashing of a shield:--the earth
    And common face of nature spake to me
    Rememberable things."*

    *Prelude, book i.

He read, too, what he liked, spending many happy hours over
Gulliver's Travels, and the Tale of a Tub, Don Quixote, and the
Arabian Nights.

While Wordsworth was still at school his father died.  His uncles
then took charge of him, and after he left school sent him to
Cambridge.  Wordsworth did nothing great at college.  He took his
degree without honors, and left Cambridge still undecided what
his career in life was to be.  He did not feel himself good
enough for the Church.  He did not care for law, but rather liked
the idea of being a soldier.  That idea, however, he also gave
up, and for a time he drifted.

In those days one of the world's great dramas was being enacted.
The French Revolution had begun.  With the great struggle the
poet's heart was stirred, his imagination fired.  It seemed to
him that a new dawn of freedom and joy and peace was breaking on
the world, and "France lured him forth."  He crossed the Channel,
and for two years he lived through all the storm and stress of
the Revolution.  He might have ended his life in the fearful
Reign of Terror which was coming on, had not his friends in
England called him home.  He left France full of pity, and
sorrow, and disappointment, for no reign of peace had come, and
the desire for Liberty had been swallowed up in the desire for

In spite of his years of travel, in spite of the fact that it was
necessary for him to earn his living, Wordsworth was still
unsettled as to what his work in life was to be, when a friend
dying left him nine hundred pounds.  With Wordworth's simple
tastes this sum was enough to live upon for several years, so he
asked his dearly loved sister Dorothy to make her home with him,
and together they settled down to a simple cottage life in
Dorsetshire.  It was a happy thing for Wordsworth that he found
such a comrade in his sister.  From first to last she was his
friend and helper, cheering and soothing him when need be--

    "Her voice was like a hidden bird that sang,
    The thought of her was like a flash of light,
    Or an unseen companionship, a breath
    Of fragrance independent of the wind."

Another poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whom William and Dorothy
Wordsworth now met, calls her "Wordsworth's exquisite sister."
"She is a woman indeed, in mind I mean, and in heart. . . . In
every motion her innocent soul out-beams so brightly that who saw
her would say 'Guilt was a thing impossible with her.'"


AFTER Coleridge and Wordsworth once met they soon became fast
friends, and in order to be near Coleridge the Wordsworths moved
to another house near Nether Stowey in Somersetshire.

Coleridge was two years or more younger than Wordsworth, having
been born in 1772.  He was the thirteenth child of his father,
who was a clergyman.  As a boy he was sensitive and lonely,
liking better to day-dream by himself than to play with his
fellows.  While still a mere child he loved books.  Before he was
five he had read the Arabian Nights, and he peopled his day
dreams with giants and genii, slaves and fair princesses.  When
he was ten he went to school at Christ's Hospital, the Bluecoat
School.  Here he met Charles Lamb, who also became a writer, and
whose Essays and Tales from Shakespeare I hope you will soon

At school even his fellows saw how clever Coleridge was.  He read
greedily and talked with any one who would listen and answer.  In
his lonely wanderings about London on "leave days" he was
delighted if he could induce any stray passer-by to talk,
especially, he says, if he was dressed in black.  No subject came
amiss to him, religion, philosophy, science, or poetry.  From
school Coleridge went to Cambridge, but after a time, getting
into trouble and debt, he ran away and enlisted in a cavalry
regiment under the name of Silas Tomkyn Comberback.

In a few months, however, he was discovered, and his brothers
bought him out.  He then went back to Cambridge, but left again
at the end of the same year without taking a degree.

Meantime, while on a visit to Oxford, he had met Southey, another
poet who was at this time a student there.

Robert Southey was born in 1774, and was the son of a Bristol
Linen draper, but he was brought up chiefly by an aunt in Bath.
At fourteen he went to school at Westminster, and later to
Balliol College, Oxford.  When Coleridge met him he was just
twenty, and Coleridge twenty-two.  Like Wordsworth, they were
both fired with enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and they
soon became friends.

With some others of like mind they formed a little society, which
they called the Pantisocracy, from Greek words meaning all-equal-
rule.  They decided that they should all marry and then emigrate
to the banks of the Susquehanna (chosen, it has been said,
because of its beautiful name), and there form a little Utopia.
Property was to be in common, each man laboring on the land two
hours a day in order to provide food for the company.  But the
fine scheme came to nothing, for meanwhile none of the company
had enough money to pay for his passage to the banks of the
beautiful-sounding river.  Coleridge and Southey, however,
carried out part of the program.  They both married, their wives
being sisters.

Coleridge, about the same time as he married, published a volume
of poems.  But as this did not bring him wealth he then tried
various other ways of making a living.  He began a weekly paper
which ceased after a few numbers, he lectured on history, and
preached in various Unitarian chapels.  Then after a time he
settled at Nether Stowey, where he was living when he met

The two poets, as has been said, at once became friends,
Coleridge having a deep and whole-hearted admiration for
Wordworth's genius.  "I speak with heartfelt sincerity," he says,
"and I think unblinded judgment, when I tell you that I feel a
little man by his side."

The two friends had many walks and talks together, shaping their
ideas of what poetry should be.  They at length decided to
publish a book together to be called Lyrical Ballads.

In this book there was published the poem which of all that
Coleridge write is the best known, The Ancient Mariner.  It tells
how this old old sailor stops a guest who is going to a wedding,
and bids him hear a tale.  The wedding guest does not wish to
stay, but the old man holds him with his skinny hand--

    "He holds him with his glittering eye--
        The Wedding Guest stood still,
    And listens like three years' child:
        The Mariner hath his will."

He hath his will, and tells how the ship sailed forth gayly, and
how it met after a time with storms, and cold, and fog, until at
last it was all beset with ice.  Then when to the sailors all
hope seemed lost, an albatross came sailing through the fog.
With joy they hailed it, the only living thing in that wilderness
of ice.  They fed it with delight--

    "It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
        And round and round it flew:
    The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
        The helmsman steered us through!"

Then on they gladly sailed, the albatross following, until one
day the Ancient Mariner, in a mad moment, shot the beautiful
bird.  In punishment for this deed terrible disasters fell upon
that ship and its crew.  Under a blazing sun, in a hot and slimy
sea filled with creeping, crawling things, they were becalmed--

    "Day after day, day after day,
        We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
    As idle as a painted ship
        Upon a painted ocean."

Then plague and death came, and every man died except the guilty

    "Alone, alone, all, all alone,
        Alone on a wide, wide sea;
    And never a saint took pity on
        My soul in agony.
    .   .   .   .   .

    "I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
        But or ever a prayer had gush'd,
    A wicked whisper came, and made
        My heart as dry as dust."

But one day as the Mariner watched the water snakes, the only
living things in all that dreadful waste, he blessed them
unaware, merely because they were alive.  That self-same moment,
he found that he could pray, and the albatross, which his fellows
in their anger had hung about his neck, dropped from it, and fell
like lead into the sea.  Then, relieved from his terrible agony
of soul, the Mariner slept, and when he woke he found that the
dreadful drought was over, and that it was raining.  Oh, blessed
relief!  But more terrors still he had to endure until at last
the ship drifted homeward--

    "Oh, dream of joy! is this indeed
        The lighthouse top I see?
    Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
        Is this mine own countree?

    "We drifted o'er the Harbour-bar,
        And I with sobs did pray--
    'O let me be awake, my God!
        Or let me sleep alway.'"

The shop had indeed reached home, but in the harbor it suddenly
sank like lead.  Only the Mariner was saved.

When once more he came to land, he told his tale to a holy hermit
and was shriven, but ever and anon afterward an agony comes upon
him and forces him to tell the tale again, even as he has just
done to the wedding guest.  And thus he ends his story--

    "He prayeth best, who loveth best
        All things both great and small;
    For the dear God, who loveth us,
        He made and loveth all."

Then he goes, leaving the wondering wedding guest alone.

    "The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
        Whose beard with age is hoar,
    Is gone; and now the Wedding Guest
        Turned from the Bridegroom's door.

    "He went, like one that hath been stunned,
        And is of sense forlorn:
    A sadder and a wiser man
        He rose the morrow morn."

Among the poems which Wordsworth wrote for the book of Lyrical
Ballads, was one which every one knows, We are Seven.  In
another, called Lines written in Early Spring, he gives as it
were the text of all his nature poems, and his creed, for here he
tells us that he believes that all things in Nature, bird and
flower alike, feel.

    "I heard a thousand blended notes,
        While in a grove I sate reclined,
    In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
        Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

    "In her fair works did Nature link
        The human soul that through me ran;
    And much it griev'd my heart to think
        What man has made of man.

    "Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
        The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
    And 'tis my faith that every flower
        Enjoys the air it breathes.

    "The birds around me hopp'd and play'd,
        Their thoughts I cannot measure:--
    But the least motion that they made,
        It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

    "The budding twigs spread out their fan,
        To catch the breezy air;
    And I must think, do all I can,
        That there was pleasure there.

    "If this belief from heaven be sent,
        If such be Nature's holy plan,
    Have I not reason to lament
        What man has made of man?"

The book was not a success.  People did not understand The
Ancient Mariner, and they laughed at Wordsworth's simple lyrics,
although the last poem in the book, Tintern Abbey, has since
become famous, and is acknowledged as one of the treasures of our

And now, as this new book was not a success, and as he did not
seem able to make enough money as a poet, Coleridge seriously
began to think of becoming a Unitarian preacher altogether.  But,
the Wedgwoods, the famous potters, wealthy men with cultured
minds and kindly hearts, offered him one hundred and fifty pounds
a year if he would give himself up to poetry and philosophy.
After some hesitation, Coleridge consented, and that winter he
set off for a visit to Germany with the Wordsworths.

It was on their return from this visit that Wordsworth again
changed his home and went to live at Dove Cottage, near Grasmere,
in the Lake District, which as a boy he had known and loved.  And
here, among the hills, he made his home for the rest of his life.

The days at Grasmere flowed along peacefully and almost without
an event.  Wordsworth published a second volume of lyrical
ballads, and then went on writing and working steadily at his
long poem The Prelude, in which he told the story of his early

Coleridge soon followed his friend, and settled at Greta Hall,
Keswick, and there was much coming and going between Dove Cottage
and Greta Hall.  At Greta Hall there were two houses under one
roof, and soon Southey took the second house and came to live
beside his brother-in-law, Coleridge.  And so these three poets,
having thus drifted together, came to be called the Lake Poets,
although Southey's poetry had little in common with that of
either Wordsworth or Coleridge.

It seemed hardly to break the peaceful flow of life at Dove
Cottage, when, in 1802, Wordsworth married his old playmate and
schoolfellow, Mary Hutchinson.  They had known each other all
their lives, and marriage was a natural and lovely ending to
their friendship.  Of her Wordsworth wrote--

    "She was a Phantom of delight
    When first she gleamed upon my sight;
    A lovely Apparition, sent
    To be a moment's ornament;
    Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
    Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
    But all things else about her drawn
    From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
    A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
    to haunt, to startle, and waylay.

    "I saw her upon nearer view,
    A Spirit, yet a woman too!
    Her household motions light and free,
    And steps of virgin-liberty;
    A countenance in which did meet
    Sweet records, promises as sweet;
    A Creature not too bright and good
    For human nature's daily food;
    For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
    Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

    "And now I see with eye serene
    The very pulse of the machine;
    A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
    A Traveller between life and death;
    The reason firm, the temperate will,
    Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
    A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
    To warn, to comfort, and command;
    And yet a Spirit still, and bright
    With something of angelic light."

The years passed in quiet fashion, with friendly coming and
goings, with journeys here and there, now to Scotland, now to the

Children were born, friends died, and once or twice the
Wordsworths changed their house until they finally settled at
Rydal Mount, and there the poet remained for the rest of his long
life.  And all the time, for more than fifty years, Wordsworth
steadily wrote, but it is not too much to say that all his best
work was done in the twenty years between 1798 and 1818.

Besides The Prelude, of which we have already spoken,
Wordsworth's other long poems are The Excursion and The White Doe
of Rylstone.  The White Doe is a story of the days of Queen
Elizabeth, of the days when England was still in the midst of
religious struggle.  There was a rebellion in Yorkshire, in which
the old lord of Rylstone fought vainly if gallantly for the Old
Religion, and he and his sons died the death of rebels.  Of all
the family only the gentle Emily remained "doomed to be the last
leaf on a blasted tree."  About the country-side she wandered
alone accompanied only by a white doe.  In time she, too, died,
then for many years the doe was seen alone.  It was often to be
seen in the churchyard during service, and after service it would
go away with the rest of the congregation.

The Excursion, though a long poem, is only part of what
Wordsworth meant to write.  He meant in three books to give his
opinions on Man, Nature, and Society, and the whole was to be
called The Recluse.  To this great work The Prelude was to be the
introduction, hence its name.  But Wordsworth never finished his
great design and The Excursion remains a fragment.  Much of The
Excursion cannot be called poetry at all.  Yet, as one of
Wordsworth's great admirers has said:  "In deserts of preaching
we find delightful oases of poetry."*  There is little action in
The Excursion, and much of it is merely dull descriptions and
conversations.  So I would not advise you to read it for a long
time to come.  But to try rather to understand some of
Wordworth's shorter poems, although at times their names may seem
less inviting.


One of the most beautiful of all his poems Wordsworth calls by
the cumbrous name of Intimations of Immorality from recollections
of Early Childhood.  This is his way of saying that when we are
small we are nearer the wonder-world than when we grow up, and
that when we first open our eyes on this world they have not
quite forgotten the wonderful sights they saw in that eternity
whence we came, for the soul has no beginning, therefore no
ending.  I will give you here one verse of this poem:--

    "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,
            And cometh from afar;
        Not in entire forgetfulness,
        And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
            From God, who is our home:
    Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
    Shades of the prison-house begin to close
            Upon the growing Boy,
    But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
            He sees it in his joy;
    The Youth, who daily further from the east
        Must travel , still is Nature's Priest,
        And by the vision splendid
        Is on his way attended;
    At length the Man perceives it die away,
    And fade into the light of common day."

Wordsworth, for the times in which he lived, traveled a good
deal, and in his comings and goings he made many new friends and
met all the great literary men of his day.  And by slow degrees
his poetry won its way, and the younger men looked up to him as
to a master.  The great, too, came to see in him a power.  Since
1813 Southey had been Laureate, and when in 1843 he died, the
honor was given to Wordsworth.  He was now an old man of seventy-
three, and although he still wrote a few poems, he wrote nothing
as Laureate, except an ode in honor of the Prince Consort when he
became Chancellor of Cambridge University.  Now, as he grew old,
one by one death bade his friends to leave him--

    "Like clouds that rake the mountain summits,
    Or waves that own no curbing hand,
    How fast has brother followed brother,
    From sunshine to the sunless land!

    "Yet I whose lids from infant slumber
    Were earlier raised, remain to hear
    A timid voice, that asks in whispers
    'Who next will drop and disappear?'"*

    *Upon the Death of James Hogg.

At length in 1850, at the age of eighty, he too closed his eyes,
and went "From sunshine to the sunless land."

    "But where will Europe's latter hour
    Again find Wordsworth's healing power?
    Others will teach us how to dare,
    And against fear our breast to steel;
    Others will strengthen us to bear--
    But who, ah! who, will make us feel?"*



Poems of Wordsworth, selected by C. L. Thomson.  Selections, by
Matthew Arnold.


LONG before Wordsworth closed his eyes on this world, Coleridge,
in some ways a greater poet than his friend, had gone to his last
rest.  Wordsworth had a happy, loving understanding of the little
things of real life.  He had an "exquisite regard for common
things," but his words have seldom the glamour, the something
which we cannot put into words which makes us see beyond things
seen.  This Coleridge had.  It is not only his magic of words, it
is this trembling touch upon the unknown, the unearthly beauty
and sadness of which he makes us conscious in his poems that
marks him as great.

And yet all that Coleridge has left us which reaches the very
highest is very little.  But as has been said, "No English poet
can be put above Coleridge when only quality and not quantity is
demanded."*  Of The Ancient Mariner I have already told you,
although perhaps it is too full of fearsomeness for you to read
yet.  Next to it stands Christabel, which is unfinished.  It is
too full of mysterious glamour to translate into mere prose, so I
will not try to tell the story, but here are a few lines which
are very often quoted--


    "Alas! they had been friends in youth;
    But whispering tongues can poison truth;
    And Constancy lives in realms above;
    And Life is thorny; and Youth is vain;
    And to be wroth with one we love,
    Doth work like madness in the brain.
    And thus it chanced, as I divine,
    With Roland and Sir Leoline.
    Each spake words of high disdain
    And insult to his heart's best brother:
    They parted--ne'er to meet again!
    But never either found another
     To free the hollow heart from paining;
    They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
    Like cliff's which had been rent asunder;
    A dreary sea now flows between;--
    But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
    Shall wholly do away, I ween,
    The marks of that which once had been."

Coleridge's singing time was short.  All his best poetry had been
written before he went to live at Keswick.  There his health,
which had never been good, gave way.  Unhappy in his home, and
racked with bodily pain, he at length began to use opium in order
to find relief.  The habit to which he soon became a slave made
shipwreck of his life.  He had always been unstable of purpose
and weak of will, never keeping to one course long.  He had tried
journalism, he tried lecturing, he planned books which were never
written.  His life was a record of beginnings.  As each new plan
failed he yielded easily to the temptation of living on his
friends.  He had always been restless in mind.  He left his home,
and after wanderings now here now there, he at length found a
home in London with kind, understanding friends.  Of him here we
have a pathetic picture drawn by another great man.*  "The good
man--he was now getting old, towards sixty perhaps, and gave you
the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings; a life
heavy-laden, half-vanquished, still swimming painfully in seas of
manifold physical and other bewilderment.  Brow and head were
round and of massive weight, but the face was flabby and
irresolute.  The deep eyes, of a light hazel, were as full of
sorrow as of inspiration, confused pain looked mildly from them,
as in a kind of mild astonishment.  The whole figure and air,
good and amiable otherwise, might be called flabby and
irresolute, expressive of weakness under possibility of
strength . . . a heavy-laden, high-aspiring, and surely much
suffering man."


And yet to this broken-down giant men crowded eagerly to hear him
talk.  Never, perhaps, since the great Sam had held his court had
such a talker been heard.  And although there was no Boswell near
to make these conversations live again, the poet's nephew, Henry
Nelson Coleridge, gathered some of his sayings together into a
book which he called Table Talk.  With his good friends Coleridge
spent all his remaining life from 1816 till 1834, when he died.

Meanwhile his children and his home were left to the care of
others.  And when Coleridge threw off his home ties and duties it
was upon Southey that the burden chiefly fell.  And Southey,
kindly and generous, loving his own children fondly, loved and
cared for his nephews and nieces too.  We cannot regard Southey
as one of our great poets, but when we read his letters, we must
love him as a man.  He wrote several long poems, the two best
known perhaps are The Curse of Kehama and Thalaba, the one a
Hindoo, the other a Mahometan story, but he is better remembered
by his short poems, such as The Battle of Blenheim and The
Inchcape Rock.

For forty years Southey lived at Greta Hall, and from his letters
we get the pleasantest picture of the home-loving, nonsense-
loving "comical papa" who had kept the heart of a boy, even when
his hair grew gray--

    "A man he is by nature merry,
    Somewhat Tom-foolish, and comical very;
    Who has gone through the world, not mindful of self,
    Upon easy terms, thank Heaven, with himself."

He loved his books and he loved the little curly-headed children
that gathered about him with pattering feet and chattering
tongues, and never wished to be absent from them.  "Oh dear, oh
dear," he says, "there is such a comfort in one's old coat and
old shoes, one's armchair and own fireside, one's own writing-
desk and own library--with a little girl climbing up my neck, and
saying, 'Don't go to London, papa--you must stay with Edith'; and
a little boy, whom I have taught to speak the language of cats,
dogs, cuckoos, and jackasses, etc., before he can articulate a
word of his own; there is such a comfort in all these things, the
transportation to London for four or five weeks seems a heavier
punishment than any sins of mine deserve."

And so we see him spending long hours, long years, among his
books, hoping for lasting fame from his poems, and meantime
earning with his prose food for hungry little mouths, shoes for
nimble little feet, with just a trifle over for books, and still
more books.  For Southey loved books, and his big library was
lined with them.  There were thousands there, many in beautiful
bindings, glowing in soft coloring, gleaming with pale gold, for
he loved to clothe his treasures in fitting garments.  When a new
box of books comes he rejoices.  "I shall be happier," he says,
"than if his Majesty King George IV were to give orders that I
should be clothed in purple, and sleep upon gold, and have a
chain about my neck, and sit next him because of my wisdom and be
called his cousin."

We think of Southey first as a poet, but it is perhaps as a prose
writer that his fame will last longest, and above all as a
biographer, that is a writer of people's lives.  During the busy
years at Greta Hall he wrote about a hundred books, several of
them biographies--among them a life of Nelson, which is one of
the best short lives ever written.  Some day I hope you will read
it, both for the sake of Southey's clear, simple style, and for
the sake of the brave man of whom he writes.  You might also, I
think, like his lives of Bunyan and Cowper, both of whom you have
heard of in this book.

Another book which Southey wrote is called The Doctor.  This is a
whimsical, rambling jumble, which can hardly be called a story; a
mixture of quotations and original work, of nonsense and earnest.
And in the middle of it what do you think you come upon?  Why our
old nursery friend, The Three Bears.  Southey trusts that this
book will suit every one, "that the lamb may wade in it, though
the elephant may swim, and also that it will be found 'very
entertaining to the ladies.'"  Indeed he flatters himself that it
will  be found profitable for "old and young, for men and for
women, the married and the single, the idle and the studious, the
merry and the sad; and that it may sometimes inspire the
thoughtless with thought, and sometimes beguile the careful of
their cares."  But if it is to be quite perfect it must have a
chapter for children--

    "Prick up your ears then,
    My good little women and men;

And ye who are neither so little nor no good, favete linguis,*
for here follows the story of the Three Bears."  So there it is.
"One of them was a Little, Small, Wee Bear; and one was a Middle-
sized Bear, and the other was a Great, Huge Bear"--and from the
way it is told, I think we may be sure that Uncle Robert or
comical papa often told stories with a circle of eager, bright
faces round him.  For he says--

*Be silent.

    "And 'twas in my vocation
    For their recreation
    That so I should sing;
    Because I was Laureate
    To them and the King."

As the years went on Southey received other honors besides the
Laureateship.  He was offered a baronetcy which he refused.  He
wall "ell-ell-deed" by Oxford, as he quaintly puts it in his
letters to his children.  And when he tells them about it he
says, "Little girls, you know it might be proper for me now to
wear a large wig, and to be called Doctor Southey and to become
very severe, and leave off being a comical papa . . . . However,
I shall not come home in my wig, neither shall I wear my robes at

It is sad to think that this kindly heard had to bear the
buffetings of ill fortune.  Two of his dearly loved children
died, then he was parted from his wife by worse than death, for
she became insane and remained so until she died.  Eight years
later Robert Southey was laid beside her in the churchyard under
the shadow of Skiddaw.  "I hope his life will not be forgotten,"
says Macaulay, "for it is sublime in its simplicity, its energy,
its honour, its affection. . . . His letter are worth piles of
epics, and are sure to last among us, as long as kind hearts like
to sympathise with goodness and purity and love and upright


Southey:  Poems, chosen by E. Dowden.  Life of Nelson (Everyman's
Coleridge:  Lyrical Poems, Chosen by A. T. Quiller-Couch.



THE 15th of August 1771 was a lucky day for all the boys and
girls and grown-up people too of the English-speaking race, for
on that day Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh.  Literature had
already begun to shake off its fetters of art.  Romance had begun
to stir in her long sleep, for six years before sturdy baby
Walter was born, Bishop Percy had published a book called
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.  In this book he had gathered
together many old ballads and songs, such as those of Robin Hood
and Patrick Spens.  They had almost been forgotten, and yet they
are poems which stir the heart with their plaintive notes,
telling as they do--

    "Of old, unhappy, far-off things,
    And battles long ago;
    Or is it some more humble lay,
    Familiar matter of to-day?
    Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
    That has been, and may be again!"*


Bishop Percy, like a knight of old, laid his lance in rest and
tilted against the prickly briar hedge that had grown up around
the Sleeping Beauty, Romance.  But he could not win through and
wake the princess.  And although Burns and Wordsworth, Coleridge
and Southey, all knowing it or not, fought on his side, it was
left for another knight to break through the hedge and make us
free of the Enchanted Land.  And that knight's name was Walter--
Sir Walter, too--for, like a true knight, he won his title in the
service of his lady.

Little Walter's father was a kindly Scots lawyer, but he came of
a good old Border family, "A hardy race who never shrunk from
war."*  Among his forbears had been wild moss-troopers and
cattle-reivers, lairds of their own lands, as powerful as kings
in their own countryside.  There were stories enough of their
bold and daring deeds to fill many books, so that we feel that
Walter had been born into a heritage of Romance.


Walter was a strong, healthy child, but when he was about
eighteen months old he had an illness which left him lame in his
right leg.  Everything was done that could be done to restore the
lost power, and although it was partly regained, Scott walked
with a limp to the end of his days.  Meanwhile he had a by no
means unhappy childhood.  He spent a great deal of time at the
farm belonging to his grandfather.  Little Wat was a winsome
laddie, and the whole household loved him.  On fine days he was
carried out and laid down among the crags and rocks, beside an
old shepherd who tended his sheep and little Walter too, telling
him strange tales the while--

    "Of forayers, who, with headlong force,
    Down from that strength had spurr'd their horse,

    Their southern rapine to renew,
    Far in the distant Cheviots blue,
    And, home returning, fill'd the hall
    With revel, wassel-rout, and brawl."*


At other times Walter listened to the stories of his grandmother,
hearing all about the wild doings of his forbears, or the brave
deeds of Bruce and Wallace.  He was taken to the seaside, to
Bath, and to London, and at length, grown into a sturdy little
boy, though still lame, he went back to his father's house in
Edinburgh.  Here he says he soon felt the change from being a
single indulged brat, to becoming the member of a large family.

He now went to school, but did not show himself to be very
clever.  He was not a dunce, but an "incorrigibly idle imp," and
in spite of his lameness he was better at games than at lessons.
In some ways, owing to his idleness, he was behind his fellows,
on the other hand he had read far more than they.  And now he
read everything he could, in season and out of season.  Pope's
Homer, Shakespeare, Ossian, and especially Spenser were among his
favorites.  Then one happy day he came upon a volume of Percy's
Reliques.  All one summer day he read and read, forgetting the
world, forgetting even to be hungry.  After that he was for ever
entertaining his schoolfellows with scraps of tragic ballads, and
as soon as he could scrape enough money together, he bought a
copy of the book for himself.

So the years passed, Walter left school, went to Edinburgh
University, and began to study law.  It was at this time, as a
boy of sixteen, that for the first and only time he met Robert
Burns, who had just come to Edinburgh, and was delighted at
receiving a kind word and look from the poet.  He still found
time to read a great deal, to ride, and to take long, rambling
walks, for, in spite of his limp, he was a great walker and could
go twenty or thirty miles.  Indeed he used to tramp the
countryside so far and so long that his father would say he
feared his son was born to be nothing better than a wandering

After a time it was decided that Walter should be a barrister,
or, as it is called in Scotland, an advocate, and in 1792 he was
called to the Bar.  His work as an advocate was at first not very
constant, and it left him plenty of time for long, rambling
excursions or raids, as he used to call them, in different parts
of Scotland and in the north of England.  He traveled about,
listening to the ballads of the country folk, gathering tales,
storing his mind with memories of people and places.  "He was
making himself a' the time," said a friend who went with him,
"but he didna ken maybe what he was about till years had passed.
At first he thought o' little, I daresay, but the queerness and
the fun."

It was in an expedition to the English Lakes with his brother and
a friend that Scott met his wife.  One day while out riding he
saw a lady also riding.  She had raven black hair and deep brown
eyes, which found a way at once to the poet's heart.  In true
poet fashion he loved her.  That night there was a ball, and
though Walter Scott could not dance, he went to the ball and met
his lady love.   She was Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, the
daughter of a Frenchman who had taken refuge in England from the
fury of the Revolution.  Walter was able to win his lady's heart,
and before the end of the year had married her and carried her
off to Scotland.

Two or three years after his marriage, Scott published a book of
Border Ballads.  It was the outcome of his wanderings in the
Border country.  In it Scott had gathered together many ballads
which he heard from the country folk, but he altered and bettered
them as he thought fit, and among them were new ballads by
himself and some of his friends.

The book was only a moderate success, but in it we may find the
germ of all Scott's later triumphs.  For it was the spirit of
these ballads with which his mind was so full which made it
possible for him to write the Metrical Romances that made him

It is now many chapters since we spoke of Metrical Romances.
They were, you remember, the chief literature from the twelfth to
the fifteenth century, which time was also the time of the early
ballads.  And now that people had begun again to see the beauty
of ballads, they were ready also to turn again to the simplicity
of Metrical Romances.  These rime stories which Scott now began
to write, burst on our Island with the splendor of something new,
and yet it was simply the old-time spirit in which Scott had
steeped himself, which found a new birth--a Renascence.  Scott
was a stalwart Border chieftain born out of time.  But as another
writer says, instead of harrying cattle and cracking crowns, this
Border chief was appointed to be the song-singer and pleasant
tale-teller to Britain and to Europe.  "It was the time for such
a new literature; and this Walter Scott was the man for it."*


    "The mightiest chiefs of British song
    Scorn'd not such legends to prolong:
    They gleam through Spenser's elfin dream,
    And mix in Milton's heavenly theme."*


The first of Scott's song stories was called The Lay of the Last
Minstrel.  In it he pictures an old minstrel, the last of all his
race, wandering neglected and despised about the countryside.
But at Newark Castle, the seat of the Duchess of Buccleuch, he
receives kindly entertainment.

    "When kindness had his wants supplied,
    And the old man was gratified,
    Began to rise his minstrel pride:
    And he began to talk anon,
    Of good Earl Francis, dead and gone,
    And of Earl Walter, rest him, God!
    A braver ne'er to battle rode;
    And how full many a tale he knew,
    Of the old warriors of Buccleuch;
    And, would the noble Duchess deign
    To listen to an old man's strain,
    Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
    He though even yet, the sooth to speak,

    That, if she loved the harp to hear,
    He could make music to her ear."

This humble boon was granted.  The minstrel was led to the room
of state where sat the noble-hearted Duchess with her ladies, and
there began his lay.  You must read The Lay itself to learn about
William of Deloraine, the Goblin Page, the Lady Margaret, and
Lord Canstoun, and all the rest.  The meter in which Scott wrote
was taken from Coleridge's Christabel.  For, though it was not
yet published, it had long been in manuscript, and Scott had
heard part of it repeated by a friend.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel was a success.  From henceforth
Scott was an author.  But he had no need to write for money, as
money came to him in other ways.  So none of the struggles of a
rising author fell to his lot.  His career was simply a
triumphant march.  And good-natured, courteous, happy-hearted
Scott took his triumphs joyously.

Other poems followed The Lay, the best being Marmion and The Lady
of the Lake.  Scott's son-in-law says, "The Lay is, I should say,
generally considered as the most natural and original, Marmion as
the most powerful and splendid, The Lady of the Lake as the most
interesting, romantic, picturesque, and graceful of his great
poems."  Fame and money poured in upon Scott, and not upon him
only, but upon Scotland.  For the new poet had sung the beauties
of the rugged country so well that hundreds of English flocked to
see it for themselves.  Scotland became the fashion, and has
remained so ever since.

In 1799 Scott had been appointed Sheriff-deputy of Selkirkshire,
and as this obliged him to live part of the year at least in the
district, he rented a house not far from Selkirk.  But now that
he saw himself becoming wealthy, he bought an estate in his
beloved Border country and began to build the house of
Abbotsford.  To this house he and his family removed in May 1812.
Here, amid the noise of carpenters and masons, with only one room
fit to sit in, and that shared by chattering children, he went on
with his work.  To a friend he writes, "As for the house and the
poem, there are twelve masons hammering at the one, and one poor
noddle at the other--so they are both in progress."

It was at Abbotsford that Scott made his home for the rest of his
life.  Here he put off the gown and wig of a barrister, and
played the part of a country gentleman.  He rode about
accompanied by his children and his friends, and followed by his
dogs.  He fished, and walked, and learned to know every one
around, high and low.  He was beloved by all the countryside, for
he was kindly and courteous to all, and was "aye the gentleman."
He would sit and talk with a poor man in his cottage, listening
to his tales of long ago, with the same ease and friendliness as
he would entertain the great in his own beautiful house.  And
that house was always thronged with visitors, invited and
uninvited, with friends who came out of love of the genial host,
with strangers who came out of curiosity to see the great
novelist.  For great as Scott's fame as a poet, it was nothing to
the fame he earned as a story-teller.

The first story he published was called Waverley, or 'Tis Sixty
Years Since.  He had begun to write this tale years before, but
had put it aside as some of his friends did not think well of it.
One day he came upon the manuscript by accident, thought himself
that the story was worth something, and resolved to publish it.
Finishing the writing in three weeks he published the novel
without putting his name upon the title-page.  He did this, he
said, because he thought it was not quite dignified for a grave
advocate and Sheriff of the county to write novels.  The book was
a wild success, everybody read it, everybody was eager to know
who the author was.  Many people guessed that it was Scott, but,
for more than ten years, he would not own it.  At public dinners
when the health of the author of Waverley was drunk, people would
look meaningly at Scott, but he would appear quite unconcerned,
and drink the health and cheer with the rest.  To keep the
mystery up he even reviewed his own books.  And so curiosity
grew.  Who was this Great Unknown, this Wizard of the North?

Waverley is a story of the Jacobite times, of the rebellion of
'45.  The hero, Edward Waverley, who is no such great hero
either, his author calling him indeed "a sneaking piece of
imbecility," gives his name to the book.  He meets Bonnie Prince
Charlie, is present at the famous ball at Holyrood, fights at the
battle of Prestonpans, and marches with the rebel army into

Thus we have the beginning of the historical novel.  Scott takes
real people, and real incidents, and with them he interweaves the
story of the fortunes of make-believe people and make-believe
incidents.  Scott does not always keep quite strictly to fact.
He is of the same mind as the old poet Davenant who thought it
folly to take away the liberty of a poet and fetter his feet in
the shackles of an historian.  Why, he asked, should a poet not
make and mend a story and frame it more delightfully, merely
because austere historians have entered into a bond to truth.  So
Scott takes liberties with history, but he always gives us the
spirit of the times of which he writes.  Thus in one sense he is
true to history.  And perhaps from Waverley we get the better
idea of the state of Scotland, at the time of the last Jacobite
rebellion, than from any number of histories.  In the next
chapter Scott himself shall give you an account of the battle of


"THE army, moving by its right from off the ground on which they
had rested, soon entered the path through the morass, conducting
their march with astonishing silence and great rapidity.  The
mist had not risen to the higher grounds, so that for some time
they had the advantage of starlight.  But this was lost as the
stars faded before approaching day, and the head of the marching
column, continuing its descent, plunged as it were into the heavy
ocean of fog, which rolled its white waves over the whole plain,
and over the sea by which it was bounded.  Some difficulties were
now to be encountered, inseparable from darkness, a narrow,
broken, and marshy path, and the necessity of preserving union in
the march.  These, however, were less inconvenient to
Highlanders, from their habits of life, than they would have been
to any other troops, and they continued a steady and swift
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    .   .
"The clan of Fergus had now gained the firm plain, which had
lately borne a large crop of corn.  But the harvest was gathered
in, and the expanse was unbroken by trees, bush, or interruption
of any kind.  The rest of the army were following fast, when they
heard the drums of the enemy beat the general.  Surprise,
however, had made no part of their plan, so they were not
disconcerted by this intimation that the foe was upon his guard
and prepared to receive them.  It only hastened their
dispositions for the combat, which were very simple.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    .   .
"'Down with your plaid, Waverley,' cried Fergus, throwing off his
own; 'we'll win silks for our tartans before the sun is above the

"The clansmen on every side stripped their plaids, prepared their
arms, and there was an awful pause of about three minutes, during
which the men, pulling off their bonnets, raised their faces to
heaven, and uttered a short prayer; then pulled their bonnets
over their brows and began to move forward at first slowly.
Waverley felt his heart at that moment throb as it would have
burst his bosom.  It was not fear, it was not ardour--it was a
compound of both, a new and deeply energetic impulse, that with
its first emotion chilled and astounded, then fevered and
maddened his mind.  The sounds around him combined to exalt his
enthusiasm; the pipes played, and the clans rushed forward, each
in its own dark column.  As they advanced they mended their pace,
and the muttering sounds of the men to each other began to swell
into a wild cry.  At this moment, the sun, which was not risen
above the horizon, dispelled the mist.  The vapours rose like a
curtain, and showed the two armies in the act of closing.  The
line of the regulars was formed directly fronting the attack of
the Highlanders; it glittered with the appointments of a complete
army, and was flanked by cavalry and artillery.  But the sight
impressed no terror on the assailants.

"'Forward, sons of Ivor,' cried their chief, 'or the Camerons
will draw the first blood!'  They rushed on with a tremendous

"The rest is well known.  The horses, who were commanded to
charge the advancing Highlanders in the flank, received an
irregular fire from their fusees as they ran on,  and, seized
with a disgraceful panic, wavered, halted, disbanded, and
galloped from the field.  The artillerymen, deserted by the
cavalry, fled after discharging their pieces, and the
Highlanders, who dropped their guns when fired, and drew their
broadswords, rushed with headlong fury against the infantry.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    .   .
"The English infantry, trained in the wars in Flanders, stood
their ground with great courage.  But their extended files were
pierced and broken in many places by the close masses of the
clans; and in the personal struggle which ensued, the nature of
the Highlanders' weapons, and their extraordinary fierceness and
activity, gave them a decided superiority over those who had been
accustomed to trust much to their array and discipline, and felt
that the one was broken and the other useless.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    .   .
"Loud shouts now echoed over the whole field.  The battle was
fought and won, and the whole baggage, artillery, and military
stores of the regular army remained a possession of the victors.
Never was a victory more complete."

Such is Scott's picture of the battle of Prestonpans.  And
throughout the whole book we have wonderful pictures of Scottish
life as it then was--pictures of robbers' caves, and chieftains'
halls, of the chiefs themselves, and their followers, of
mountain, loch, and glen, all drawn with such a true and living
touch that we cannot forget them.

After Waverley other novels followed fast, each one adding to the
reputation of the unknown author, and now, from the name of the
first, we call them all the Waverley Novels.

Scott's was one of the most wonderful successes--perhaps the most
wonderful--that has ever been known in our literature.  "As long
as Sir Walter Scott wrote poetry," said a friend, "there was
neither man nor woman ever thought of either reading or writing
anything but poetry.  But the instant that he gave over writing
poetry, there was neither man nor woman ever read it more!  All
turned to tales and novels."*

*James Hogg.

Everybody read The Novels, from the King to the shepherd.
Friends, money, and fame came tumbling in upon the author.  He
had refused to be made Poet Laureate, and passed the honor on to
Southey, but he accepted a baronetcy.  He added wing after wing
to his beautiful house, and acre after acre to his land, and
rejoiced in being laird of Abbotsford.

The speed with which Scott wrote was marvelous.  His house was
always full of visitors, yet he always had time to entertain
them.  He was never known to refuse to see a friend, gentle or
simple, and was courteous even to the bores who daily invaded his
home.  He had unbounded energy.  He rose early in the morning,
and before the rest of the family was astir had finished more
than half of his daily task of writing.  Thus by twelve o'clock
he was free to entertain his guests.

If ever man was happy and successful, Scott seemed to be that
man.  But suddenly all his fair prospects were darkened over.
Sir Walter was in some degree a partner in the business both of
his publisher and his printer.  Now both publisher and printer
failed, and Scott found himself ruined with them.  At fifty-five
he was not only a ruined man, but loaded with a terrible debt of
117,000 pounds.

It was a staggering blow, and most men would have been utterly
crushed by it.  Not so Scott.  He was proud, proud of his old
name and of his new-founded baronial hall.  He was stout of heart
too.  At fifty-five he began life again, determined with his pen
to wipe out the debt.  Many were the hands stretched out to help
him; rich men offered their thousands, poor men their scanty
savings, but Scott refused help from both rich and poor.  His own
hand must wipe out the debt, he said.  Time was all he asked.  So
with splendid courage and determination, the like of which has
perhaps never been known, he set to work.

But evil days had begun for Sir Walter.  Scarcely four months
after the crash, his wife died, and so he lost a companion of
nearly thirty years.  "I think my heart will break," he cries in
the first bitterness of sorrow.  "Lonely, aged, deprived of my
family, an impoverished, an embarrassed man."  But dogged courage
comes to him again.  "Well, that is over, and if it cannot be
forgotten must be remembered with patience."  So day after day he
bent to his work.  Every morning saw his appointed task done.
Besides novels and articles he wrote a History of Napoleon, a
marvelous book, considering it was written in eighteen months.

Then Scott began the book which will be the first of all his
books to interest you, The Tales of a Grandfather.  This is a
history of Scotland, and it was written for his grandson John
Hugh Lockhard, or Hugh Littlejohn as he is called in The Tales.
"I will make," said Scott, "if possible, a book that a child
shall understand, yet a man shall feel some temptation to peruse
should he chance to take it up."

Hugh Littlejohn was a delicate boy, indeed he had not long to
live, but many a happy day he spent, this summer (1827), riding
about the woods of Abbotsford with his kind grandfather,
listening to the tales he told.  For Scott, too, the rides were a
joy, and helped to make him forget his troubles.  When he had
told his tale in such a simple way that Littlejohn understood, he
returned home and wrote it down.

In the December of the same year the first part of The  Tales was
published, and at once was a tremendous success, a success as
great almost as any of the novels.  Hugh Littlejohn liked The
Tales too.  "Dear Grandpapa," he writes, "I thank you for the
books.  I like my own picture and the Scottish chief:  I am going
to read them as fast as I can."

Two more volumes of Tales followed.  Then there was no need to
write more for the dearly loved grandson, as a year or two later,
when he was only eleven, poor Littlejohn died.  But already the
kind grandfather was near his end also, the tremendous effort
which he made to force himself to work beyond his strength could
not be kept up.  His health broke down under it.  Still he
struggled on, but at last, yielding to his friends' entreaties,
he went to Italy in search of health and strength.  It gives us
some idea of the high place Sir Walter had won for himself in the
hearts of the people, when we learn that his health seemed a
national concern, and that a warship was sent to take him on his
journey.  But the journey was of no avail.  Among the great hills
and blue lakes of Italy Scott longed for the lesser hills and
grayer lochs of Scotland.  So he turned homewards.  And at home,
in his beloved Abbotsford, in the still splendor of an autumn
day, with the meadow-scented air he loved fanning his face, and
the sound of rippling Tweed in his ears, he closed his eyes for
ever.  In the grass-grown ruin of Dryburgh Abbey, not far from
his home, he was laid to rest, while the whole countryside
mourned Sir Walter.

Before he died Scott had paid 70,000 pounds of his debt, an
enormous sum for one man to make by his pen in six years.  He
died in the happy belief that all was paid, as indeed it all was.
For after the author's death, his books still brought in a great
deal of money, so that in fifteen years the debt was wiped out.

I have not told you any of Scott's stories here, because, unlike
many of the books we have spoken of, they are easily to be had.
And the time will soon come, if it has not come already, when you
can read Sir Walter's books, just as he wrote them.  It is best,
I think, that you should read them so, for Sir Walter Scott is
perhaps the first of all our great writers nearly the whole of
whose books a child can read without help.  You will find many
long descriptions in them, but do not let them frighten you.  You
need not read them all the first time, and very likely you will
want to read them the second time.

But perhaps before you read his novels you will like to read his
Metrical Romances.  For when we are children--big children
perhaps, but still children--is the time to read them.  Long ago
in the twelfth century, when the people of England were simple
and unlearned, they loved Metrical Romances, and we when we are
simple and unlearned may love them too.  Many of these old
romances, however, are hard to get, and they are written in a
language hard for many of us to understand.  But Sir Walter
Scott, in the nineteenth century, has recreated for us all the
charm of those old tales.  For this then, let us thank and
remember him.

    "His legendary song could tell
    Of ancient deeds, so long forgot;
    Of feuds, whose memory was not;
    Of forests, now laid waste and bare;
    Of towers, which harbour now the hare;
    Of manners, long since chang'd and gone;
    Of chiefs, who under their grey stone
    So long had slept, that fickle Fame
    Had blotted from her rolls their name,
    And twin'd round some new minion's head
    The fading wreath for which they bled."*

    *Lay of the Last Minstrel.


WHEN Sir Walter Scott ceased to write Metrical Romances, he said
it was because Byron had beaten him.  But the metrical romances
of these two poets are widely different.  With Sir Walter we are
up among the hills, out on the wide moorland.  With him we tramp
the heather, and ford the rushing streams; his poems are full of
healthy, generous life.  With Byron we seem rather to be in the
close air of a theater.  His poems do not tell of a rough and
vigorous life, but of luxury and softness; of tyrants and slaves,
of beautiful houris and dreadful villains.  And in the villains
we always seem to see Byron himself, who tries to impress us with
the fact that he is indeed a very "bold, bad man."  In his poetry
there is something artificial, which takes us backward to the
time of Pope, rather than forward with the nature poets.

The boyhood of George Gordon Byron was a sad one.  He came of an
ancient and noble family, but one which in its later generations
had become feeble almost to madness.  His father, who was called
Mad Jack, was wild and worthless, his mother was a wealthy woman,
but weak and passionate, and in a short time after her marriage
her husband spent nearly all her money.  Mrs. Byron then took her
little baby and went to live quietly in Aberdeen on what was left
of her fortune.

She was a weak and passionate woman, and sometimes she petted and
spoiled her little boy, sometimes she treated him cruelly,
calling him "a lame brat," than which nothing could hurt him
more, for poor little George was born lame, and all his life long
he felt sore and angry about it.  To him too had been given the
passionate temper of both father and mother, and when he was
angry he would fall into "silent rages," bite pieces out of
saucers, or tear his pinafores to bits.

Meanwhile, while in Aberdeen Mrs. Byron struggled to live on 130
pounds a year, in Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, there lived a
queer, half-mad, old grand-uncle, who had earned for himself the
name of "the wicked lord."  He knew well enough that when he died
the little boy in Aberdeen, with the pretty face and lame foot,
would become Lord Byron.  He might have taken some interest in his
nephew, and seen at least that he was sent to school, and given
an education to fit him for his future place in the world.  But
that was not "the wicked lord's" way.  He paid no attention to
the little boy in Aberdeen.  Indeed, it is said that he hated
him, and that he cut down his trees and despoiled Newstead as
much as he could, in order to leave his heir as poor a heritage
as possible.

But when George was ten this old uncle died.  Then mother and son
said good-by to Aberdeen, and at length traveled southwards to
take possession of their great house and broad lands.  But the
heritage was not so great as at first sight would appear, for the
house was so ruinous that it was scarcely fit to live in, and the
wicked lord had sold some of the land.  However, as the sale was
unlawful, after much trouble the land was recovered.

Byron had now to take his place among boys of his own class, and
when he was thirteen he was sent to school at Harrow.  But he
hated school.  He was shy as "a wild mountain colt" and somewhat
snobbish, and at first was most unpopular.

As he says himself, however, he "fought his way very fairly" and
he formed some friendships, passionately, as he did everything.
In spite of his lameness, he was good at sports, especially at
swimming.  He was brave, and even if his snobbishness earned for
him the nickname of the "Old English Baron," his comrades admired
his spirit, and in the end, instead of being unpopular, he led--
often to mischief.  "I was," he says, "always cricketing--
rebelling--fighting, rowing (from row, not boat-rowing, a
different practice), and in all manner of mischiefs."  Yet, wild
though he was, of his headmaster he ever kept a kindly
remembrance.  "Dr. Drury," he says, "whom I plagued sufficiently
too, was the best, the kindest friend I ever had."

Byron hated Harrow until his last year and a half there; then he
liked it.  And when he knew he must leave and go to Cambridge, he
was so unhappy that he counted the days that remained, not with
joy at the thought of leaving, but with sorrow.

At Cambridge he felt himself lonely and miserable at first, as he
had at school.  But there too he soon made friends.  He found
plenty of time for games, he rode and shot, rejoiced in feats of
swimming and diving.  He wrote poetry also, which he afterwards
published under the name of Hours of Idleness.  It was a good
name for the book, for indeed he was so idle in his proper
studies, that the wonder is that he was able to take his degree.

It was in 1807, at the age of nineteen, that Lord Byron published
his Hours of Idleness, with a rather pompous preface.  The poems
were not great, some of them indeed were nothing less than
mawkish, but perhaps they did not deserve the slashing review
which appeared in the Edinburgh Review.  The Edinburgh Review was
a magazine given at this time to criticising authors very
severely, and Byron had to suffer no more than other and greater
poets.  But he trembled with indignation, and his anger called
forth his first really good poem, called English Bards and Scotch
Reviewers.  It is a satire after the style of Pope, and in it
Byron lashes not only his reviewers, but also other writers of
his day.  His criticisms are, many of them, quite wrong, and in
after years when he came to know the men he now decried, he
regretted this poem, and declared it should never be printed
again.  But it is still included in his works.  Perhaps having
just read about Sir Walter Scott, it may amuse you to read what
Byron has to say of him.

    "Thus Lays of Minstrels--may they be the last!--
    On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast.
    While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
    That dames may listen to the sound at nights;
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan,
    The golden-crested haughty Marmion,
    Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,
    Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,
    The gibbet or the field prepared to grace;
    A mighty mixture of the great and base.
    And think'st thou, Scott! by vain conceit perchance,
    On public taste to foist thy stale romance."

Then after a sneer at Scott for making money by his poems, Byron
concludes with this passage:--
    "These are the themes that claim our plaudits now;
    These are the bards to whom the muse must bow;
    While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot,
    Resign their hallowed bays to Walter Scott."

When people read this satire, they realized that a new poet had
appeared.  But it was not until Byron published his first long
poem, called Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, that he became famous.
Then his success was sudden and amazing.  "I woke up one morning
and found myself famous," he says.  "His fame," says another poet
and friend who wrote his life,* "seemed to spring up like the
palace of a fairy tale, in a night."  He was praised and lauded
by high and low.  Every one was eager to known him, and for a
time he became the spoiled darling of society.


Childe Harold is a long poem of four cantos, but now only two
cantos were published.  The third was added in 1816, the fourth
in 1818.  It is written in the Spenserian stanza, with here and
there songs and ballads in other meters, and in the first few
verses there is even an affectation of Spenserian wording.  But
the poet soon grew tired of that, and returned to his own
English.  Childe is used in the ancient sense of knight, and the
poem tells of the wanderings of a gloomy, vicious, world-worn

There is very little story in Childe Harold.  The poem is more a
series of descriptions and a record of the thoughts that are
called forth by the places through which the traveler passes.  It
is indeed a poetic diary.  The pilgrim visits many famous spots,
among them the field of Waterloo, where but a few months before
the fate of Europe had been decided.  To us the battle of
Waterloo is a long way off.  To Byron it was still a deed of
yesterday.  As he approaches the field he feels that he is on
sacred ground.

    "Stop!--for thy tread is on an Empire's dust!
    An Earthquake's spoil is sepulchred below!
    Is the spot marked with no colossal bust?
    Nor column trophied for triumphal show?
    None; but the moral's truth tells simpler so,
    As the ground was before, thus let is be;--
    How that red rain hath made the harvest grow!
    And is this all the world has gain'd by thee,
    Thou first and last of field! kingmaking victory?"

Then in thought Byron goes over all that took place that fateful

    "There was a sound of revelry by night,
    And Belgium's capital had gather'd then
    Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
    The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men;
    A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
    Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
    Soft eyes look'd love to eyes which spake again,
    And all went merry as a marriage bell;
    But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes a rising knell!

    Did ye not hear it?--No; 'twas but the wind,
    Or the car rattling o'er the stony street;
    On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
    No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
    To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
    But hark!--that heavy sound breaks in once more,
    As if the clouds its echo would repeat;
    And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before!
    Arm! arm! it is--it is--the cannon's opening roar!
    .   .   .   .   .   .
    "Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
    And gathering tears and tremblings of distress,
    And cheeks all pale, which but an hour ago
    Blush'd at the praise of their own loveliness;
    And there were sudden parting, such as press
    The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs
    Which ne'er might be repeated; who could guess
    If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,
    Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise!

    "And there was mounting in hot haste; the steed,
    The mustering squadron, and the clattering car,
    Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,
    And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;
    And the deep thunder peal on peal afar;
    And near, the beat of the alarming drum
    Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;
    While throng'd the citizens with terror dumb,
    Or whispering, with white lips--'The foe! they come! they

And then thinking of the battle lost by the great conqueror of
Europe, the poet mourns for him--

    "Conqueror and captive of the earth art thou!
    She trembles at thee still, and thy wild name
    Was ne'er more bruited in men's minds than now
    That thou are nothing, save the jest of Fame,
    Who woo'd thee once, thy vassal, and became
    The flatterer of thy fierceness, till thou wert
    A god unto thyself; nor less the same
    To thee astounded kingdoms all inert,
    Who deem'd thee for a time whate'er thou didst assert.

    "Oh, more or less than man--in high or low,
    Battling with nations, flying from the field;
    Now making monarchs' necks thy footstool, now
    More than thy meanest soldier taught to yield;
    An empire thou couldst crush, command, rebuild,
    But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,
    However deeply in men's spirits skill'd,
    Look through thine own, nor curb the lust of war,
    Nor learn that tempted Fate will eave the loftiest Star."

These are a few verses from one of the best known parts of Childe
Harold.  There are many other verses equally well known.  They
have become the possession of almost every schoolboy.  Some of
them you will read in school books, and when you are grown up and
able to distinguish between what is vulgar and what is good and
beautiful in it, I hope you will read the whole poem.

For two years Byron was as popular as man might be.  Then came a
change.  From the time that he was a child he had always been in
love, first with one and then with another.  His heart was
tinder, ever ready to take fire.  Now he married.  At first all
went well.  One little baby girl was born.  Then troubles came,
troubles which have never been explained, and for which we need
not seek an explanation now, and one day Lady Byron left her
husband never to return.

The world which had petted and spoiled the poet now turned from
the man.  He was abused and decried; instead of being courted he
was shunned.  So in anger and disgust, Byron left the country
where he found no sympathy.  He never returned to it, the rest of
his life being spent as a wanderer upon the Continent.

It was to a great extent a misspent life, and yet, while Byron
wasted himself in unworthy ways, he wrote constantly and rapidly,
pouring out volumes of poetry at a speed equaled only by Scott.
He wrote tragedies, metrical romances, lyrics, and everything
that he wrote was read--not only at home, but on the Continent.
And one thing that we must remember Byron for is that he made
English literature Continental.  "Before he came," says an
Italian patriot and writer,* "all that was known of English
literature was the French translation of Shakespeare.  It is
since Byron that we Continentalists have learned to study
Shakespeare and other English writers.  From him dates the
sympathy of all the true-hearted amongst us for this land of
liberty.  He led the genius of Britain on a pilgrimage throughout
all Europe."


Much that Byron wrote was almost worthless.  He has none of the
haunting sense of the beauty of words in perfect order that marks
the greatest poets.  He has no passion for the correct use of
words, and often his song seems tuneless and sometimes vulgar.
For in Byron's undisciplined, turgid soul there is a strain of
coarseness and vulgarity which not seldom shows itself in his
poetry, spoiling some of his most beautiful lines.  His poetry is
egotistical too, that is, it is full of himself.  And again and
again it has been said that Byron was always his own hero.  "He
never had more than a singe subject--himself.  No man has ever
pushed egotism further than he."*  In all his dark and gloomy
heroes we see Lord Byron, and it is not only himself which he
gives to the world's gaze, but his wrongs and his sorrows.  Yet
in spite of all its faults, there is enough that is purely
beautiful in his work to give Byron rank as a poet.  He has been
placed on a level with Wordsworth.  One cultured writer whose
judgment on literature we listen to with respect has said:
"Wordsworth and Byron stand out by themselves.  When the year
1900 is turned, and our nation comes to recount her poetic
glories of the century which has then just ended, the first names
with her will be these."**  But there are many who will deny him
this high rank.  "He can only claim to be acknowledged as a poet
of the third class," says another great poet,*** "who now and
then rises into the second, but speedily relapses into the lower
element where he was born."  And yet another has said that his
poetry fills the great space through which our literature has
moved from the time of Johnson to the time of Wordsworth.  "It
touches the Essay of Man**** at the one extremity, and The
Excursion at the other."*****  So you see Byron's place in our
literature is hardly settled yet.

****By Pope.

When Byron left England he fled from the contempt of his fellows.
His life on the Continent did little to lessen that contempt.
But before he died he redeemed his name from the scorner.

Long ago, you remember, at the time of the Renaissance, Greece
had been conquered by the Turks.  Hundreds of years passed, and
Greece remained in a state of slavery.  But by degrees new life
began to stir among the people, and in 1821 a war of independence
broke out.  At first the other countries of Europe stood aloof,
but gradually their sympathies were drawn to the little nation
making so gallant a fight for freedom.

And this struggle woke all that was generous in the heart of
Byron, the worn man of the world.  Like his own Childe Harold,
"With pleasure drugg'd he almost long'd for woe."  So to Greece
he went, and the last nine months of his life were spent to such
good purpose that when he died the whole Greek nation mourned.
He had hoped to die sword in hand, but that was not to be.  His
body was worn with reckless living, and could ill bear any
strain.  One day, when out for a long ride, he became heated, and
then soaked by a shower of rain.  Rheumatic fever followed, and
ten days later he lay dead.  He was only thirty-six.

All Greece mourned for the loss of such a generous friend.
Cities vied with each other for the honor of his tomb.  And when
his friends decided that his body should be carried home to
England, homage as to a prince was paid to it as it passed
through the streets on its last journey.

    "The sword, the banner, and the field,
    Glory and Greece, around me see!
    The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
            Was not more free.

    "Awake! (not Greece--she is awake!)
    Awake! my spirit!  Think through whom
    Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
            And then strike home!

    "Tread those reviving passions down,
    Unworthy manhood! unto thee
    Indifferent should the smile or frown
            Of Beauty be.

    "If thou regrett'st thy youth, why live?
    The land of honourable death
    Is here:--up to the field, and give
            Away thy breath!

    "Seek out--less often sought than found--
    A soldier's grave, for thee the best;
    Then look around, and choose thy ground
            And take thy rest."

These lines are from Byron's last poem, written on his thirty-
sixth birthday.


WHEN Byron wandered upon the Continent he met and made friends
with another poet, a greater than himself.  This poet was called
Percy Bysshe Shelley, and of him I am going to tell you something
in this chapter.

On the 4th of August, 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at
Field Place, near the village of Warnham, in Sussex.  His father,
"a well-meaning, ill-doing, wrong-headed man," was of a good
family, and heir to a baronetcy.  His mother was a beautiful

Of the early childhood of Bysshe we know nothing, except that at
the age of six he was daily taught Latin by a clergyman.

When we next hear of him he is a big boy, the hero of the nursery
with four little sisters, and a wee, toddling, baby brother, to
all of whom he loved to play big brother.  His sisters would
often sit on his knee and listen to the wonderful tales he told.
There were stories of the Great Tortoise which lived in a pond
near.  True, the Great Tortoise was never seen, but that made it
all the more mysterious and wonderful, and any unusual noise was
put down to the Great Tortoise.  There were other stories about
the Great Old Snake which lived in the garden.  This really was
seen, and perhaps it was the same serpent which two hundred years
before had been known to lurk about the countryside.  "He could
jut out his neck an ell," it was said, "and cast his venom about
four rods; a serpent of countenance very proud, at the sight or
hearing of men or cattle, raising his head seeming to listen and
look about with great arrogancy."  But if it was this same
serpent it had lost its venom, and in the days when Bysshe and
his sisters played about the garden, they looked upon it as a
friend.  One day, however, a gardener killed it by mistake, when
he was cutting the grass with a scythe.  So there was an end of
the Great Old Snake.  But the Tortoise and the Snake were not the
only wonderful things about Field Place.  There was a big garret
which was never used, with beneath it a secret room, the only
entrance to which was through a plank in the garret floor.  This,
according to the big brother, was the dwelling-place of an
alchemist "old and grey with a long beard."  Here with his lamp
and magic books he wrought his wonders, and "Some day" the eager
children were promised a visit to him.  Meanwhile Bysshe himself
played the alchemist, and with his sisters dressed up in strange
costumes to represent fiends or spirits he ran about with liquid
fire until this dangerous play was stopped.  Then he made an
electric battery and amused himself by giving his sisters
"shocks" to the secret terror of at least one of them whose heart
would sink with fear when she saw her brother appear with a roll
of brown paper, a bit of wire, and a bottle.  But one day she
could not hide her terror any longer, and after that the kind big
brother never worried her any more to have shocks.

Sometimes, too, their games took them further afield, and led by
Bysshe the children went on long rambles through woods and
meadows, climbing walls and scrambling through hedges, and coming
home tired and muddy.  Bysshe was so happy with his sisters and
little brother that he decided to buy a little girl and bring her
up as his own.  One day a little gypsy girl came to the back
door, and he though she would do very well.  His father and
mother, however, thought otherwise, so the little girl was not

But the boy who was so lively with his sisters, at times was
quiet and thoughtful.  Sometimes he would slip out of the house
on moonlight nights.  His anxious parents would then send an old
servant after him, who would return to say that "Master Bysshe
only took a walk, and came back again."  A very strange form of
amusement it must have seemed to his plain matter-of-fact father.

But now these careless happy days came to an end, or only
returned during holiday times, for when Bysshe was ten years old
he was sent to school.

Shelley went first to a private school, and after a year or two
to Eton, but at neither was he happy.  And although he had been
so merry at home, at school he was looked upon as a strange
unsociable creature.  He refused to fag for the bigger boys.  He
never joined in the ordinary school games, and would wander about
by himself reading, or watching the clouds and the birds.  He
read all kinds of books, liking best those which told of haunted
castles, robbers, giants, murderers, and other eerie subjects.
He liked chemistry too, and was more than once brought into
trouble by the daring experiments he made.  Shelley was very
brave and never afraid of anything except what was base and low.
To the few who loved him he was gentle, but most of his
schoolfellows took delight in tormenting him.  And when goaded
into wrath he showed that he could be fierce.

Shelley soon began to write, and while still at school, at the
age of sixteen, he published a novel for which he received 40
pounds.  A little later he and one of his sisters published a
book of poems together.

From Eton Shelley went to Oxford.  Here he remained for a few
months reading hard.  "He was to be found, book in hand, at all
hours; reading in season and out of season; at table, in bed, and
especially during a walk."  But he read more what pleased himself
than what pleased the college authorities.  He wrote too, and
among the things he wrote was a little leaflet of a few pages
which seemed to the fellows of his college a dangerous attack
upon religion.  They summoned Shelley to appear before them, and
as he refused to answer their questions he was expelled.  Shelley
had given himself the name of Atheist.  It is a very ugly name,
meaning one who denies the existence of God.  Looking back now we
can see that it was too harsh and ugly a name for Shelley.  The
paper for which he was expelled, even if it was wicked, was the
work of a rash, impetuous boy, not the reasoned wickedness of a
grown man.  But the deed was done, and Shelley was thrown out
into the world, for his father, sorely vexed and troubled, not
knowing how to control his wild colt of a son, refused to allow
him to return home.  So Shelley remained in London.  Here he went
often to visit his sisters at school, and came to known one of
their school friends, Harriet Westbrook.  She was a pretty, good-
tempered girl of sixteen with "hair like a poet's dream."*
Shelley thought that she too was oppressed and ill-used as he had
been.  She loved him, he liked her, so they decided to get
married, and ran away to Scotland and were married in Edinburgh.
Shelley was nineteen and his little bride sixteen.


This boy and girl marriage was a terrible mistake, and three
years later husband and wife separated.

I can tell you very little more of Shelley's life, some of it was
wrong, much of it was sad, as it could hardly fail to be
following on this wrong beginning.  When you grow older you will
be able to read it with charity and understanding.  Meantime keep
the picture of the kindly big brother, and imagine him growing
into a lovable and brave man, into a poet who wins our hearts
almost unawares by the beauty of his poetry, his poetry which has
been called "a beautiful dream of the future."  Of some of it I
shall now tell you a little.

Very early Shelley began to publish poetry, but most of it was
not worthy of a truly great poet.  His first really fine poem is
Alastor.  It is written in blank verse, and represents a poet
seeking in vain for his ideal of what is truly lovely and
beautiful.  Being unable to find that which he seeks, he dies.
The poem is full of beautiful description, but it is sad, and in
the picture of the poet we seem to see Shelley himself.  Other
long poems followed, poems which are both terrible and beautiful,
but many years must pass before you try to read them.  For
Shelley's poetry is more vague, his meaning more elusive, than
that of almost any other poet of whom we have spoken.  It is
rather for Shelley's shorter poems, his lyrics, that I would try
to gain your love at present, for although he wrote The Cenci,
the best tragedy of his time, a tragedy which by its terror and
pain links him with Shakespeare, it is as a lyric poet that we
love Shelley.  "Here," says another poet,* "Shelley forgets that
he is anything but a poet, forgets sometimes that he is anything
but a child. . . .  He plays truant from earth, slips through the
wicket of fancy into heaven's meadow, and goes gathering stars."
And of all our poets, Shelley is the least earthly, the most
spiritual.  But he loved the beautiful world, the sea and sky,
and when we have heard him sing of the clouds and the skylark, of
the wind and the waves of--

*Francis Thompson.

    "The fresh Earth in new leaves drest,
        And the starry night;
    Autumn evening, and the morn
    When the golden mists are born,"*


when we have heard him sing of these, and have understood with
our heart, they have an added meaning for us.  We love and
understand the song of the skylark better for having heard
Shelley sing of it.

    "Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
        Bird thou never wert,
    That from heaven, or near it,
        Pourest thy full heart
    In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

    "Higher still and higher,
        From the earth thou springest
    Like a cloud of fire;
        The deep blue thou wingest,
    And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

    "In the golden lightening
        Of the sunken sun,
    O'er which clouds are brightening,
        Thou dost float and run;
    Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

    "The pale purple even
        Melts around thy flight;
    Like a star of heaven,
        In the broad daylight,
    Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "All the earth and air
        With thy voice is loud,
    As, when night is bare,
        From one lonely cloud
    The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.

    "What thou art we know not;
        What is most like thee?
    From rainbow clouds there flow not
        Drops so bright to see,
    As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

    "Like a poet hidden
        In the light of thought,
    Singing hymns unbidden,
        Till the world is wrought
    In sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

    "Like a high-born maiden
        In a palace tower,
    Soothing her love-laden
        Soul a secret hour
    With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "Teach us, sprite or bird,
        What sweet thoughts are thine;
    I have never heard
        Praise of love or wine
    That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "We look before and after,
        And pine for what is not:
    Our sincerest laughter
        With some pain is fraught;
    The sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

    "Yet if we could scorn
        Hate, and pride, and fear;
    If we were things born
        Not to shed a tear,
    I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

    "Better than all measures
        Of delightful sound,
    Better than all treasures
        That in books are found,
    Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

    "Teach me half the gladness
        That thy brain must know;
    Such harmonious madness
        From my lips would flow,
    The world would listen then, as I am listening now!"

As we listen to the lark singing we look upward and see the light
summer clouds driving over the blue sky.  They, too, have a song
which once the listening poet heard.

    "I bring fresh showers for the thirsty flowers,
        From the seas and the streams;
    I bear light shades for the leaves when laid
        In their noonday dreams.
    From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
        The sweet buds every one,
    When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
        As she dances about the sun.
    I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
        And whiten the green plains under,
    And then again I dissolve it in rain,
        And laugh as I pass in thunder.

    I sift the snow on the mountains below,
        And their great pines groan aghast,
    And all the night 'tis my pillow white,
        While asleep in the arms of the blast.
    Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
        Lightning my pilot sits,
    In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
        It struggles and howls at fits;
    Over earth and ocean with gentle motion
        This pilot is guiding me,
    Lured by the love of the genii that move
        In the depths of the purple sea;
    Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
        Over the lakes and the plains,
    Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
        The spirit he love remains;
    And I all the while bask in heaven's blue smile,
        Whilst he is dissolving in rains.
    .   .   .   .   .   .   .
    "I bind the sun's throne with the burning zone,
        And the moon's with a girdle of pearl:
    The volcanoes are dim, and the starts reel and swim
        When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl
    From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
        Over a torrent sea,
    Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
        The mountains its columns be.
    The triumphal arch through which I march,
        With hurricane, fire, and snow,
    When the powers of the air are chained to my chair,
        In the million-coloured bow;
    The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
        While the moist earth was laughing below.

    "I am the daughter of earth and water,
        And the nursling of the sky:
    I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
        I change, but I cannot die.
    For after the rain, when with never a stain,
        The pavilion of heaven is bare,
    And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams,
        Build up the blue dome of air,
    I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
        And out of the caverns of rain,
    Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
        I arise and unbuild it again."

That is one of Shelley's happiest poems.  For most of his poems
have at least a tone of sadness, even the joyous song of the
skylark leaves us with a sigh on our lips, "our sincerest
laughter with some pain is fraught."  But The Cloud is full only
of joy and movement, and of the laughter  of innocent mischief.
It is as if we saw the boy Shelley again.

We find his sadness, too, in his Ode to the West Wind, but it
ends on a note of hope.  Here are the last verses--

    "Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
    What if my leaves are falling like its own!
    The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

    "Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,
    Sweet though in sadness.  Be thou, spirit fierce,
    My spirit!  Be thou me, impetuous one!

    "Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
    Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth;
    And by the incantation of this verse,

    "Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
    Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
    Be through my lips to unawakened earth

    "The trumpet of a prophecy!  O wind,
    If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Shelley sang of Love as well as of the beauty of all things.
Here is a little poem, some lines of which are often quoted--

    "One word is too often profa