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SPECIMENS OF SURREY'S VERSE.
FROM SURREY'S TRANSLATION OF VIRGIL.
SONNET ON SPRING.
POETS. ROBERT HENRYSON was chief schoolmaster at Dunfermline about the end of the fifteenth century. His longest poem is the Testament of Fair Creseide, in which Chaucer's tale of “Troilus and Creseide” is continued. The fine ballad of Robin and Makyne, which may be found in Percy's “Reliques," is ascribed to this accomplished man. The Moral Fables of Æsop, and The Garment of Gude Ladyes, are his chief remaining works. He is said to have died some time before 1508.
WILLIAM DUNBAR, placed by Sir Walter Scott at the head of Scottish poets, and perhaps, therefore, deserving more prominence than he receives here, is thought to have been a native of East Lothian, and to have been closely allied to the noble house of March. This Chaucer of the North graduated at St. Andrews as M.A. in 1479. Then, assuming the grey robe of the Franciscans, he travelled for some years in Britain and France, preaching and begging, according to the custom of the friars; and he afterwards visited the English and some of the Continental courts, as an attaché to certain Scottish embassies. The many-coloured life he thus spent is clearly reflected in his works, which show remarkable knowledge of human nature and society. Pensions, rising
THE DANCE OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS."
at last to £80, rewarded the public services of the poet. Spending his last days in the irksome bondage of a court life, and pining for a chance of escape from his gilded cage, he died about 1520, having reached the age of sixty years.
Dunbar's leading poems are three-The Thistle and the Rose ; The Golden Terge; and, finest of all, The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins.
The first-named commemorates the marriage of King James IV. with the English princess Margaret in 1503,-an historical event which paved the way for the close union of two sister lands.
In the poem of “The Golden Terge," the sleeping bard is attacked by Venus and her train. Reason, holding over him a golden shield, repels all assailants, until blinded by a powder which Presence flings in his eyes. The poor poet then becomes the captive of Lady Beauty, and is much tormented until the scene vanishes with a clap of thunder, and he awakes amid the song of birds and the perfume of bright May flowers.
“The Dance” describes a vision, beheld during a trance into which the poet fell on a winter night. In presence of Mahoun (that is, Mahomet, or the Devil, for these were often interchangeable terms about the days of the Crusades) Pride leads on the other deadly sins in a fearful dance. Each sin is represented by a distinct personification, painted in horror's darkest hues, and lighted in the dance by the lurid flames through which he leaps.
GAVIN DOUGLAS was a younger son of the fifth Earl of Angus, well known in Scottish story as Archibald Bell-the-Cat. He was born about 1474. Having finished his education at Paris, he rose by many minor steps to be Abbot of Aberbrothock, and was afterwards consecrated Bishop of Dunkeld. But for the Pope's refusal to sanction his appointment, he would have become Archbishop of St. Andrews.
The work for which Douglas is most celebrated, is his poetical translation of Virgil's “ Æneid" into the Scottish dialect ; remarkable as being the first rendering of a Latin classic into our native tongue. Two long allegories—King Hart, and The Palace of
06 POETRY OF GAVIN DOUGLAS.
Honour—were also written by this poet-priest. The distinctive feature of his language is the abundant use of words from the Latin,-an innovation by which the foreign-bred scholar strove to lift the diction of his poems above the homely level of Dunbar and other earlier bards. Original prologues stand before each book, bright with pictures of nature; to which, no doubt, the lovely wooded hills, among which the Tay winds at Dunkeld, contributed not a little of their exquisite colouring. Flodden was a fatal day for the house of Douglas. The Master of Angus and his brother William wet the Cheviot heather with their life-blood. The old earl, whose wise caution had been rudely repelled by the wilful king before the dark day of battle, retired to Galloway to die. And the gentler scholar, Gavin, had soon to flee to the English Court, and in 1521 or 1522 died in London of the plague. ALEXANDER BARCLAY, who died in 1522, flourished in the reigns of Henry VII. and his son. He is remembered as the writer of a poem, The Ship of Fools, of which the name shows it to be a satirical allegory. It was founded on the German of Brandt. STEPHEN HAWEs, writer of the Pastime of Pleasure, and groom of the chamber to Henry VII, was a Suffolkman. His skill in versifying, combined with his knowledge of French and Italian, made him a great favourite at court. John SKELTON, a coarse, bold satirist, was in his prime in the latter days of Henry VII., and the earlier days of Henry VIII. In a short-lined poem, called Colin Clout, he belabours the clergy unmercifully with cudgel-words, making no choice of weapons, but striking with the first that came to hand. He is one of that useful band of satirists, among whom we reckon also Longlande and Heywood, whose trenchant lines cut deep into the foul growths of monkish ignorance and lust. So vigorous was the assault of Skelton, that even the magnificent Wolsey found it necessary to turn on the strong-voiced poet, who was forced to shelter himself in the sanctuary of Westminster. There he died in 1529.
THE FIRST ENGLISH COMEDY.
JCIN HEYWOOD, styled the Epigrammatist, who flourished during the reign of Henry VIII., was remarkable for his Interludes, or short satirical plays, in which, as in “Colin Clout,” the clergy suffer tremendously.
SIR THOMAS WYATT was born in 1503 in Kent, and was educated at Cambridge. His elegant scholarship and quick wit, added to a fine person and remarkable skill with lance and rapier, speedily won for him a brilliant reputation. But his life was not all sunshine: he was named as one of the lovers of Anne Boleyn, whose praise he had sung in his verses; and for this and other reasons he was cast into prison. He was afterwards restored to royal favour, and being employed on some mission by the king, he overheated himself in riding on a summer day, took fever, and died at Sherbourne in Dorsetshire in 1541. He aided his friend Surrey in raising the tone of English poetry.
SIR DAVID LYNDSAY of the Mount, born about 1490, was page of honour to young James V., by whom he was knighted. He was employed as envoy to Holland and Denmark, and was for two years member of Parliament for his native shire of Fife. He died in that county in 1557 at his seat, the Mount. His chief work is the Play of the Three Estates, a dramatic satire on the king, lords, and commons, which was acted in 1535 at Cupar-Fife and Edinburgh. His Squire Meldrum, last of the metrical romances, is lively but licentious. The Monarchie, opening with the Creation and closing with the Day of Judgment, is valuable for its spirited account of Scotland. A smaller piece, full of pungent satire upon the court, is called the Complaynt of the King's Papingo (peacock or parrot).
NICHOLAS UDALL, author of the earliest existing English comedy, was born in Hampshire about 1506, and was educated at Oxford. Udall was master of Eton, where his cruel floggings won for him a more dubious kind of renown than his learning or his wit. His comedy of Ralph Royster Doyster, in five acts, is thought to have been written some time before 1551, for the Christmas performance at Eton Udall died in 1557.