Whan the Sampnitees to him brouht
A somme of golde, and hym by souht
To done hem fauoure in the lawe,
Towarde the golde he gan hym drawe:
Whereof in alle mennes loke,
A part in to his honde he tooke,
Wich to his mouthe in alle haste
He put hit for to smelle and taste,
And to his ihe and to his ere,
Bot he ne fonde no comfort there:
And thanne he be gan it to despise,
And tolde vnto hem in this wise:
“I not what is with golde to thryve
Whan none of alle my, wittes fyve
Fynt savour ne delite ther inne
So is it bot a nyce sinne
Of golde to ben to coveitous,
Bot he is riche an glorious
Wich hath in his subieccion
The men wich in possession
Ben riche of golde, and by this skille,
For he may alday whan he wille,
Or be him leef or be him loth,
Justice don vppon hem bothe.”
Lo thus he seide and with that worde
He threwe to fore hem on the borde
The golde oute of his honde anon,
And seide hem that he wolde none,
So that he kepte his liberte
To do justice and equite.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

His poor

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 of 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


65 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 private 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. I


Cast I down mine eyes again,
Where as I saw, walking under the Tower,
Full secretly, new comen here to plain,
The fairest or the freshest young flower
That ever I saw, methought, before that hour,
For which sudden abate, anon astart, [went and caine
The blood of all my body to my heart.


Of her array the form if I shall write,
Towards her golden hair and rich attire,
In fretwise couchit with pearlis white,

And great balas leaming as the fire, ş gems of a certain
With mony ane emeraut and fair sapphire; 1 kindshining
And on her head a chaplet fresh of hue,
Of plumis parted red, and white, and blue.

Full of quaking spangis bright as gold,
Forged of shape like to the amorets,
So new, so fresh, so pleasant to behold,
The plumis eke like to the flower jonets,
And other of shape, like to the flower jonets ;


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

POETS. 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 Halidon 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

« ElőzőTovább »