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minds, in contemplating the talents and labours of Alfred and Chaucer. We cannot take leave of the latter, without quoting from the merited eulogy of Dryden, as well as his poems themselves. Dryden remarks, “ As he was the father of Eng. lish poetry, so I hold him, in the same degree of veneration, as the Grecians held Homer, or the Romans, Virgil. He has a perpetual fountain of good sense, learned in all sciences, and therefore speaks properly on all subjects, as he knew what to say, so he knew also when to leave off,—a continence which is practised by few writers, and scarcely by any of the Ancients, excepting Virgil and Homer. Chaucer followed nature every where, but was never so bold as to go beyond her; and there is as great a difference between being poëta et nimis poëta, if we may believe Catullus, as there is between a modest behaviour and affectation. The verse of Chaucer, I confess, is not harmonious to us, but it is like the eloquence of one whom Tacitus commends, auribus istius temporis accommodata. They who lived with him, and sometime after him, thought it musical, and it continues so, even in our judgment, if compared with the numbers of Lydgate and Gower, his
contemporaries. There is the rude-sweetness of a Scotch tune in it, which is natural and pleasing, but not perfect.'
“The Canterbury Tales," his greatest work, although doubtless suggested by the Decameron of Boccace, possess much originality, and display more judgment. It is to be regretted they were left unfinished. The plan of them may be learned from the prologue.
A company of pilgrims of dissimilar habits and employments meet at an inn in Southwark on their pilgrimage to Canterbury; and, to beguile the toil of the journey, agree that each shall tell, in going and returning, two tales, and that the best story should be rewarded by a good supper at the common cost. The concluding lines of the prologue are here subjoined. Let it be remembered, the heroic measure in which it is written, was introduced to our language by him. The joy manifested by the company, on the determination, who should tell the first tale, is said, by one of his editors *, to remind him of “a similar gratification to the secret wishes of the Grecian army, when the lot of fighting with Hector falls on Ajax, though there is not the least probability that Chaucer had ever read the Iliad, even in a translation."
“This is the point, to speke it plat and plain,
• Mr. Tyrwhitt. VOL. I. PART II.
Of aventures that whilomí hau befalle.
that bereth him best of alle,
This thing was granted, and our others swore
A morwe, whan the day began to spring,
and morwe song accord,
for alle that by the way is spent. Now draweth cutte, or that
forther twinne, He which that hath the shortest shal beginne
Sire knight (quod he) my maister and my lord,
Anon to drawen every wight began,
If even song
The sothe is this, the cutte felle on the knight,
His Tale anon, and saide as ye shal here." From this period to the reign of Henry VI., the diffusion of knowledge, and the improvement of the national taste, were considerable, and the advancement of the language necessarily proportionate; as may be seen in the papers preserved by Rymer and others, written during this interval. The writings of Sir John Fortescue, the faithful friend of the unfortunate Henry, distinguished the succeeding reign, and indicated the approach of the true English style.
Itappily, under succeeding monarchs, the language continued to advance; and, as the art of printing was invented, a powerful engine was set up, which could not fail to be employed for its cultivation. It was not possible that a reign so remarkable as that of Henry VIII, should not contribute to its growth. Whatever may be our opinions of the merits and demerits of that extraordinary prince; however we may be shocked at his cruelties, and exasperated at his tyranny; scarcely could any other man have effected such results with such ease and rapidity. They were perilous and eventful times; but it was the commencement of the downfal of a deep-rooted superstition, and the disturbance of its roots was widely felt. Henry, amid the contrarieties of his character, valued himself on his literary reputation, and is certainly much to be praised for the asylum and encouragement he afforded to learned men : at the effects on our language we rapidly glanced in an introductory paper*. This particular notice of the reign of Henry VIII. is taken, because its effects on the national character were powerful and permanent, although not immediate. The love of liberty was excited, the right and power of thinking were discovered; and the language, ever the index of the national mind and character, shared the benefits, as succeeding reigns display. Passing to the reign of Elizabeth, it has been well remarked, that “the language had acquired such copiousness, dignity, force, and melody, as perhaps, in the eye of very distant posterity, moderns may be supposed never to have exceeded; what is gained in eloquence being generally lost in power.” It would be needless to enumerate the literary men who blessed and adorned this period of our history; they are still read, and will be valued, as long as the English language possesses its characteristic strength and energy. But it would be unpardonable to pass over, for it is impossible to forget, the matchless effusions of that immortal genius, of whom any nation, in any age, would have been proud. Shakspeare was the great master of the human mind, possessing, in perfection, all its wondrous powers; an exception to the rule, if that rule be general, that a brilliant imagination, and a correct judgment, are not found in the same individual. He thoroughly understood the operation of the varied passions which agitate and transport the soul; and, therefore, in all the vast variety of character, could trace every action to its impelling motive. Equally familiar with tragic and comic feeling, his descriptions could not be otherwise than correct, nor his style otherwise than natural, adorned moreover with all the enchantments of fancy, and breathing the inspiration of genius.
* Sce Part I. p. 27, of this Journal.
If the former reign yielded a triumphant proof of the capa. bilities of the language, of all the requirements of poetry, the succeeding reign still more illustriously demonstrated its adaptation to the sublimer prose; witness the common translation of the Holy Bible, the finest specimen of genuine English
And here it may be interesting to mark the progress of the language, by comparing a passage of the transsation, just referred to, with that of Wickliffe, in 1380.
Part of Paul's Defence before King Agrippa : “Whereupon, as I went to Damascus, with authority and commission from the chief priests, at mid-day, O King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me, and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying, in the Hebrew tougue, . Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' And I said, “Who art thou, Lord ?' And he said, 'I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for tbis purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctitied by faith that is in nie.'
" Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the
heavenly vision. But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes, the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having, therefore, obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did
say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”-ACTS, 26.
“In whiche the while I wenten to Damask, with power and suffryng of priuces, of preestis, at myddai, in the weie, I sigh, Sir Kyng, that fro beune light schynyde aboute me, passynge the schynyng of sunne, and about hem that weren togidre with me; and whanne we alle hadden falle doun into the erthe, I berde a vois seiynge to Ebrew tunge, Saul, Saul, what pursuest thou me? It is hard to thee to kike aghens the pricke.' And I seide, • Who art thou, Lord ? And the Lord seide, “I am Jhesu, whom thou pursuest: but rise up, and stonde on thi feet; for whi to this thing I apperide to thee, that I ordeyne thee mynystre and witnesse of tho thingis that thou hast seyn, and of tho in whiche I schal schewe to thee. And I schal delyuere thee fro peplis and folkis to whiche now I sende thee, to opene the igben of hem, that thei be conuertid fro darknesse to light, and fro power of Sathanas to God, that thei take remyssioun of synnes, and part among seintis bi feith that is in me.'
Wherfor, Sir Kyng Agrippa, I was not unbileeful to the heuenli visioun, but I told to hem that ben at Damask firste, and at Jerusalem, and bi al the cuntree of Judee, and to hethene men, that thei schulden do penaunce, and be conuertid to God, and do worthi werkis of penaunce. For this cause, Jewis tooken me whanne I was in the temple to sle me. But I was holpun bi the help of God into this dai, and stonde witnesyng to lesse and to more. And I seie no thing ellis than wbiche thingis the profetis and Moises spaken that schulen come, if Christ is to suffre, if he is the firste of aghienrysyng of deede men that schal schewe light to the peple, and to hethene men." -DEDIS, 26.
An uncivilized state, in emerging from its barbarism, must be indebted to more polished nations in its acquisitions of knowledge and improvement in the arts; and it necessarily follows, that, being unfurnished with terms of which it has not previously had need, it will borrow those of its benefactors, when its attention is called to the new subjects of inquiry. It was so with England. Our obligations to France for a multitude of terms,--that country being then before us in intellectual advancement,- have already been hinted at. Italy, long distinguished as the land of the fine arts, furnished the harmonious terms employed in musical science. The Flemish and Dutch, from their very situation, were impelled to coni