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O my swete mother, before all other
For you I have most drede :
Where fortune doth me lede.
The day cometh fast upon;
I love but you alone.
The great and final trial follows, when the man says he has a mistress in the wood whom he loves far better than the Nut-Brown Maid, and that, as jealous quarrels might arise to disturb his quiet, he cannot suffer her to follow him. Even against this last shock her love is proof :
Ye had a paramour,
But that I wyll be your :
And courteys every hour;
Commaunde me to my power :
“Of them I wolde be one;"
I love but you alone.
The denouement of this little drama is happy. The lover, melted by this excess of tenderness, unfolds his rank and his purpose in this sharp trial; and the Nut-Brown Maid is an earl's bride,
instead of the paramour of an outlawed murderer, whom she was happy to follow into exile, and whose affections she was content to share with an. other.
A splendid epoch in European history was evolved by the almost contemporary reigns of the Emperor Charles V., Francis I. of France, and Henry VIII. of England. Cruel, fickle, and brutally tyrannical as Henry was by nature, and monster as he became when corrupted by power, and a long course of unrestrained and vindictive indulgence, there were in early and middle life scattered traits in his character not unfavourable to the encouragement of letters. Literature has now outgrown royal or noble patronage; but even the savage smiles of Henry were of importance to the infant muse. If his education was not judicious, it was more regular and learned than had been usual with former princes. He wrote verses-royally indeed—and he cultivated music as a science with a success that, had he been destined for a happy or a good man, might have entitled him to the place of organist in some obscure village of his kingdom. He had as much taste and accomplishment as gave zest and variety to the disguisings, mummings, masques, and pageants of his magnificent, though semi-barbarous court; and his handsome person, ostentation, and splendour, attracted the nobility, and especially the female nobility, to court in greater numbers than
had ever before been known. To the ladies, indeed, as is observed by Warton, Henry's politeness would have remained unimpeached had he not murdered his wives ! Many accomplished foreigners were also attracted to his court. The intercourse with France became frequent and close ; and, low and gross as were his individual tastes, Henry possessed in abundance that valorous ostentation which determines not to be outshone in outward show, and had a noble ambition to match or outvie in splendour those sovereigns whom he could not equal in policy or in elegance. The frequency of great and stirring events in the sovereign's family must have kept imagination alive. No year passed without a royal progress, a marriage, the murder of one wife, and the coronation of another. Nor was his revengeful and brutal selfishness of that indolent and sordid kind which, if not quite so detestable in the individual, is even more corrupting and debasing in its influence. The frightful crimes and furious passions of Henry shocked and disgusted his courtiers. Many of them were high-minded men ; and if some were base, subservient villains, few were parasites. His brutality was unlike the easy careless profligacy of Charles II., which enervated and seduced those around him. · But other favourable circumstances were at work.
The art of printing, now generally practised, and the revival of classical learning, began about this time to form the great states of Europe in many lead. ing points into one grand commonwealth of let. ters. The increase of wealth, and the diffusion of education among the inferior orders, the extension of commerce, and the growth of peaceful enterprise, were silently working out mighty effects. The intercourse of young Englishmen of the higher ranks with Italy, and their cultivation of Italian literature-which, under the fostering patronage of the family of Medici, had flourished, while that of France and England stood still, if it did not retrograde-were important circumstances; and, lastly, came the Reformation to rouse the dormant energies of national genius, and to excite in the mass of the nation that intellectual struggle which produced effects as glorious in literature as in the civil and religious condition of the people.
Besides Surrey, whose fine natural genius, and 6 noble, courtly, and lustrous English”-as it is styled by an ancient critic-did so much to widen the verge, and refine and harmonize the national poetry, England boasted at this time of several elegant versifiers, who, if they have left few poeti. cal trophies, assisted powerfully in giving scope and variety to the language, and in diffusing a taste for polite learning. Of these was Sir Thomas Wyatt, differing in the character of his genius, but not much inferior to his friend Surrey. Another of this early constellation was Lord Thomas Vaux, whose few remaining productions possess an energy of thought, and a high though severe tone of reflection, which more than atone for their sombrous character and occasional harshness
* * * Harsh, 'tis true;
To Lord Rochford, the unfortunate brother of Anne Boleyn, the universal favourite, and the grace and ornament of the court during his sister's shortlived elevation, some remaining verses are attributed, which, with a high degree of elegance, possess a pathos more heart-reaching than the most pas. sionate strains of the gallant Surrey.
If poets are to be reckoned by the extent of their productions, Stephen Hawes, the valet of Henry VII., and John Skelton, the tutor of Henry VIII., must not be forgotten. The master was in this latter case in all respects worthy of the pupil. Skelton, though in the church, lived in a state of perpetual and envenomed hostility with his fellow-men. His rhymes are as coarse and rugged as his compositions were vulgar and scurrilous. A modern critic has said, “Oaths and nicknames are a species of rhetoric and poetry” which please the vulgar. If so, Skelton the laureate and royal tutor was in this style the most eminent poet and rhetorician England had yet seen. Rude satirists, and humorous exposers of follies and vices, had frequently arisen, but Skelton is the great prototype of those who carry personal scurrility and an ungenerous and vindictive hostility into their writings. Personal hatred of Wolsey, not untinctured with envy of the domineering and haughty prelate, and with the la. tent rancour of the man's nature, came to be the go