« PreviousContinue »
This sterre in beautie passith Pleiades,
And dryeth up the bytter terys wete
Now fayré sterre, O sterre of sterrys all !
The antiquaries, who magnify their favourites beyond all reasonable bounds, have been less than just to this clever, facile, and often elegant poet. The exact period of Lydgate's death is not known, It is placed about the year 1460.
From the decease of Lydgate, till near the splendid period of the reign of Elizabeth, there is a dreary void in English poetry, illumined only by those distant northern lights that streamed from Scotland. The first of these, in point of precedence and cultivation, if not of genius, is James I.,
(a) Sphere. (b) Affright; remove.
(d) Burnished with gold.
(c) Float ; drop. (e) Prologue.
who was born in 1395,-a few years before the death of Chaucer. His history and adventures are well known. He was made prisoner at sea, when a boy of ten years old, on his way to France to be educated at the court of Charles VI., and remained the captive of Henry IV. for twenty years, a period which he sedulously employed in the cul. tivation of his naturally happy genius, and in açquiring the accomplishments suited to his age and rank. Besides that skill in polite letters, of which his poetry leaves unquestionable proof, he excelled in all martial and knightly exercises, in music, wrestling, archery ; but, above all, he, as Sir Da. vid Lyndsay afterwards counselled one of his suc. cessors, " learned to be a king.” James returned to his native kingdom not only the most accomplished prince, but the wisest sovereign in Europe ; and in his short reign of twelve years did more to improve the condition of his subjects than had been done for ages before. Unhappily for his country, this illustrious prince was assassinated at Perth in the prime of his life, and before he had been able to carry into effect the excellent plans which his enlightened judgment suggested, and which his in. flexible justice and energy of character would soon have accomplished. During his long captivity at Windsor, James saw and loved the Lady Jane Beaufort, the grand-daughter of John of Gaunt. This passion was his inspiration ; and his poem of the King's Quair celebrates his mistress, records his own story, and laments his captivity and prospects. Love repaid this devotion ; and James obtained the Lady Jane, was restored to his liberty, and gained his throne, in consequence of an union which was supposed to attach him through his Queen to the interests of England, and to separate him from those of France, the natural ally of the Scottish monarchy. Romance never ended better than this tale of real life.
The King sees the Lady Jane from his prison window at Windsor, walking in a garden with her ladies at a very early hour :
The longe dayes and the nightis eke
I would bewail my fortune in this wise; For which, against distress comfort to seek,
My custom was on mornis for to rise
Early as day : 0 happy exercise !
Despaired of all joy and remedy,
Unto the window gan I walk in hie,
To see the world and folk that went forby; As, for the time, (though I of mirthis food Might have no more) to look it did me good.
A garden fair; and in the corners set
Railed about, and so with treeis set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet 3 That life was none [a] walking there forby, That might within scarce any wight espie.
The little sweete nightingale, and sung
Of lovis use, now soft, now loud among,
That all the gardens and the wallis rung Right of their song; and on the couple next
Of their sweet harmony: and lo the text.
XV. “ Worshippe ye that lovers be this May,
“ For of your bliss the calends are begun : “ And sing with us, away! winter away!
“Come summer, come ! the sweet season and sun !
“ Awake, for shame! that have your heavens won ! “ And amorously lift up your headis all ; « Thank love, that list you to his mercy call!"
They stent (b) awhile, and therewith unafraid,
From bough to bough they hipped (c) and they play'd,
And freshyl, in their birdis kind, array'd Their feathers new, and frit (d) them in the sun, And thanked love that had their makis (e) won.
Whereas I saw, walking under the tow'r,
The fairest or the freshest younge flow'r
That ever I saw, methought, before that hour;
(a) A little time. (6) Stopped. (c) Hopped. (d) Pecked. (e) Mates. () This seems to mean complain ; but should it not rather be playen, to play or sport? (g) Started back.
And though I stood abased tho a lite, (a)
No wonder was; for why? my wittis all Were so overcome with pleasance and delight,
Only through letting of mine eyen fall,
That suddenly my heart became her thrall
And (then) eft-soons I lean’d it out again :
With no wight mo but only women twain.
Then gan I study with myself, and sayn, “ Ah sweet, are ye a worldly creature, “ Or heavenly thing in likeness of nature ?
“ Or are ye god Cupidis own princèss ;
“ And comen are to loose me out of band? “ Or are ye very Nature the goddess, “ That have depainted with your heavenly hand
“ This garden full of flowers as they stand ? “ What shall I think, alas ! what reverence “ Shall I mester unto your excellence ?
XXV. “ Giff ye a goddess be, and that ye like
“ To do me pain, I may it not astart; “ Giff ye be worldly wight, that doth me sike,
“ Why list God make you so, my dearest heart,
“ To do a silly prisoner thus smart, “ That loves you all, and wots of nought but wo: “ And, therefore, mercy sweet ! sen it is so."
(a) A little.