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The romantic story of this royal poet is well known. father, Robert III., whose heart had been well-nigh broken by the murder of his darling son Rothesay, put his only remaining son, James, on board a ship bound for France, that the boy might be safe from the wiles of Albany. The ship being seized off the Norfolk coast, the prince was led a captive to the English Court -an event which brought his father's grey head in sorrow to the grave. This happened in 1405, when young James was only eleven years
age. From that time, until his release in 1424, he remained in England, living chiefly at Windsor and receiving an education befitting his royal birth. He seems to have excelled in every study and every sport; but the music of the harp and the making of verses were his chief delights. Chaucer's poetry and Gower's were studied eagerly by the captive king, and “from admiration to imitation there is but a step.” But a power greater than delight in Chaucer's verse was at work in the poet's breast. He fell in love ; and, while all life was bright with the rosy
hue of a new-blown passion, he sang
his sweetest song. Early one morning, looking from a window in the Round Tower of Windsor out upon a garden thick with May leaves, and musical with the liquid song of nightingales, he saw walking below a lady, young, lovely, richly dressed and jewelled. This was Joan Beaufort, daughter of the Duke of Somerset. His love for her, speedily kindled, inspired his greatest work, The King's Quhair (quire or book). The poem, written in one hundred and ninety-seven
DEATH OF KING JAMES I.
stanzas of seven lines each, contains many particulars of the poet's life, the most admired passage being that in which he describes his first glimpse of his future wife walking in the leafy garden. The polish of many stanzas is exquisite.
Although King James ranks so high as a pathetic and amatory poet, he seems equally at home in a broad comic vein of description. Two poems of this class,—Christis Kirk on the Grene and Peblis to the Play,—are ascribed to him rather than to James V. The former is in the Aberdeenshire dialect, the latter in that of Tweeddale, and both humorously describe certain old Scottish country merry-makings.
Ruling not wisely (for himself at least), but too well, this cleverest of the royal Stuarts was stabbed to death in the Monastery of the Dominicans at Perth early in the year 1437. The murderers, chief among them Sir Robert Graham, burst late at night into his ivate room, found him, where he had hidden, in a vault below the flooring, and after a fearful struggle cut him almost to pieces with their swords and knives.
VERSES SELECTED FROM "THE KING'S QUHAIR."
Cast I down mine eyes again,
Of her array the form if I shall write,
Full of quaking spangis bright as gold,
And for to walk that fresh May's morrow,
LAURENCE MINOT.—This writer, who flourished under Edward III., is called by Dr. Craik the earliest writer of English verse, who deserves the name of a poet. We have his ten poems, describing the martial achievements of Edward, such as the battles of Ialidon Hill, and Nevil's Cross, The Sieges of Tournay and Calais, and The Taking of Guisnes, written, no doubt, between the years 1333 and 1353, and thrown off under the fresh impression of the great events they record. They have all the fine warlike ring of the older minstrelsy, combined with a polish to which the balladsingers of former days were strangers.
ROBERT or WILLIAM LONGLANDE.—The author of the Vision of Piers (Peter) Ploughman was born in Shropshire about 1300. A secular priest and a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, he had many opportunities of knowing thoroughly those abuses which he lashes with an unsparing hand. The time was indeed a terrible one,—the nobles and the clergy were alike corrupt to the very
The poet supposes himself to have fallen • asleep after a long ramble over the Malvern Hills on a May morning. As he sleeps, he dreams a series of twenty dreams. The general subject of the poem has been described as similar to that of “The Pilgrim's Progress." The gaudy, changeful scenes of "Vanity Fair," are much the same, in spirit at least, on the canvas of Longlande as in the later pictures of Bunyan and of Thackeray. Losing no
"THE BRUCE” OF BARBOUR.
opportunity of tearing the cloak from the ignorant and vicious churchmen of his day, this old poet may be said to have struck the first great blow in the battle of the English Reformation.
“Piers Ploughman” is unrhymed, having, as its distinctive feature, a kind of alliteration; probably borrowed, as Dr. Percy shows in his “Reliques," from the Icelandic. The following lines will show the nature of this alliteration :
Ac on a May Morwening
On Malvern hills
Of Fairy me thought.
And Went me to rest
By a Burn's side;
And Looked on the waters,
It Swayed so mury.
[wonder worn out with wandering
JOAN BARBOUR.—Two dates, 1316 and 1330, are assigned for the birth of Barbour, and Aberdeen is named as his native place. He was made Archdeacon of Aberdeen in 1356. Next year we find him acting as one of the commissioners that met at Edinburgh to deliberate upon the ransom of the king, and also receiving a passport from Edward III. that he might visit Oxford for purposes of study. Three other passports were also granted to him by the English king at various times.
Barbour's great poem is The Bruce, an epic, written probably about 1376, in that eight-syllabled verse which Scott has made so famous. The work embraces the events of about forty years, from the death of the Maid of Norway in 1290 to the death of Lord James Douglas in 1330; and though styled by the poet himself a Romaunt, its main narrative has been accepted as true history by all the leading writers upon Scottish affairs. Another
poem, called The Stewart, is said to have been written by Barbour ; but it has been lost. Two pensions, one of £10 Scots, the other of 20 shillings, were granted to the poet, both pro