Page images

scarcely established on the throne when he was called up to London. He must have known quite well what he was wanted for; but he went up with a brave heart. Mary had resolved to unite the English Church again to Rome; and Latimer had been most earnest in striving to get the English Church purified from the evils and errors which had crept into the Church of Rome. Latimer was brought before the Council; but he steadily refused to sign the articles requiring him to profess faith in the Romish doctrines. Then the old man, now more than sixty years of age, was sent with Cranmer the Archbishop, and Ridley, Bishop of London, to the common gaol at Oxford. Here he remained for sixteen months, but at last was condemned to be burnt at the stake. On an autumn day, October 16, 1555, Latimer and Ridley were brought out of the prison and led to a spot near Baliol College. Here they were fastened to the stake, and the fagots heaped around them. Then some one brought a blazing fagot to set alight to the pile, and he threw this down just at Ridley's feet. Latimer saw this, and turning towards Ridley, he said, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put

ut.” He then cried out, “ O Father of Heaven, receive my soul ;” and bathing his hands a little, as it were in the fire, he soon died, as it appeared with very little pain, reminding one of what Cædmon had sung of the brave youths in the fiery furnace at Babylon


“Therein they unhurt
Walked as in shining of the summer sun,
When day breaks and the winds disperse the dew.”

Men who held Truth with such hearty faith and such loyal, tender love could not be moved by terror of such a death; but not only the great minds, the leaders in the struggle to find out the true and right, held the treasure as worth more than life itself, but unlearned men, who had received the Truth from the teaching of men like Latimer, clung to it with an instinctive trust and love as strong as that founded on conviction ; and during the five years of Mary's reign, more than three hundred persons suffered death for holding the doctrines of the Reformers. This shows us how widely indifference and self-interest had given place to earnestness and deep concern for the things of God and for a pure and true life. We must notice this, because we shall see, when we come to the time of Queen Elizabeth, how much it has to do with the story of our English Literature. Before passing on to that time, we must also notice the work of two poets who wrote towards the end of the reign of Henry VIII. These are Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey. We have seen in Italy the rise of a bright, imaginative literature, careful and artistic in its outward form, written for the delight of Lorenzo de Medici and his Court. Both Sir Thomas Wyatt and Surrey were students of the Italian literature; and Wyatt is considered to be the first English writer of sonnets. a form of poem specially used in Italian literature ever since the time of Petrarch. The sonnet contains fourteen lines, of which the rhymes generally fall as follows :

This was

[blocks in formation]

Thus it will be seen that in this, the perfect form of the sonnet, there are only four rhymes, though the sequence of these does not always correspond with that of the above model. The first eight lines are supposed to introduce the subject of the sonnet, which is described in the concluding six, in which much variety of arrangement is permitted. In the last line the subject should reach its climax.

Sonnets in Surrey's time were generally grouped around one individual. The poet would choose some one whom he knew, and make this person the hero or heroine of a number of sonnets. Thus the Earl of Surrey chose a young orphan girl named Elizabeth Fitzgerald for the heroine of his sonnets. She was of Italian race, her ancestors having come from Tuscany—from Florence—the very home of the sonnet. Her father was Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare ; and from her family name, Surrey calls her Geraldine in the poems.

When she was little child her father was imprisoned in the Tower for treason, where he afterwards died; and her mother, who was cousin to Henry VIII., being dead, she was brought to Court, and was taken care of by the Princess Mary. She was a beautiful little child, and became, no doubt, the pet and favourite of the Court. When Surrey began to make her the heroine of his sonnets she was only about eight or nine years

old. The Earl of Surrey, besides writing sonnets, was the first important writer in England of the kind of poetry called blank verse. This also he found in Italian literature. Blank verse has five feet in a line, each consisting of two syllables, and the accent generally falls on the second. The chief difference between it and the metre, used by Chaucer is that the last words do not rhyme. Thus Chaucer writes

“ Bě-fell | thăt in thăt sēa- | són on ă dāy,

În South- | wărk āt | thể Tā- | bărd ās | † lāy,
Read-ỹ | tỏ wẽnd | ăn ôn | mỹ pil- | grim-äge
To Cān- | těr-bůry | wìth fūll | dě-voūt | co-rāge."

The following, from a translation by Surrey, of the second and fourth books of Virgil's “Æneid,” are some of the first lines of blank verse in English literature

“Thěy whīst | ēd all | with six- | ěd fāce | in-tēnt,

Whěn Prince | Æ-nē. | ăs from / thị rõy | ăl seat
Thủs gān | tỏ speak, 10 Quēen | it is thğ will
I should | re-nēw | ă wõe | căn-nõt bě tõld.”

We have seen how that love of truth and deep, living earnestness, which was to be the soul of the Elizabethan literature, had already sprung into life; and now we find men like Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey bringing into England some of those artistic forms of the Italian literature which were to prepare a fair and graceful body, as it were, for the noble and heroic soul.




(1588—1599). We now pass on in the story of our English Literature to a period so full of works of every kind, that it will be impossible to do more than notice the chief; but while we give attention to these, we must keep in mind that the fulness of life is everywhere bursting forth like the buds and blossoms in a fruitful spring-time. The reign of Queen Elizabeth is like a garden in a very favourable season; while some flowers reach a wonderful degree of growth and beauty, and attract the eyes of all, there are an unusual number also of smaller blossoms, sweet and dainty, which pass unnoticed for the very reason of their profusion.

We may remember how through the dreary time which followed after Chaucer, Langland, and Gower, many forces were at work preparing for this fruitful season in our literature. Before we begin the story of the chief writers and greatest works of the Elizabethan time, we must try to understand a little more of those things which were at work among the people, and which helped to form the soul, as it were, of the literature, and which gave to it so much energy and richness of life. These were

1. A more wide-spread independence of thought.-We have seen how scholars and students were stirred by the new learning to search for truth in things, and to question whether all that had been taught them was true and right; and the freer spirit of Greek literature, its unrestrained thought and

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »