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period--one from the Travels and Voyages of Sir John Mandeville, written about 1370 ;-the second from the Poly-chronicon of Trevisa;—and the third from a Romance entitled Morte Arthur, translated and published by Caxton about 1475.
The following extract from Mandeville, gives us some knowledge of the philosophy of his times:
“ Ye have heard me say, that Jerusalem is in the midst of the world; and that may men prove and shew there, by a sphere, that pighte* in to the earth, upon the hour of mid-day, when it is so equinoctial, that sheweth no shadow on no sides. And that it should be in the midst of the world, David witnesseth in the Psalter, where he saith, Deus operatus est salutem in medio terræ. Then they that part from the parts of the west to go towards Jerusalem, as many journeys as hey go upward for to go thither, in as many journeys may they go from Jerusalem unto other confines of the superficiality of the earth beyond. And when men go beyond thot journeys towards Ind, and to the foreign isles, all is envyronynget the rounduess of the earth and the sea, under our country on this half. And therefore hath it befallen many times of a thing, that I have heard counted, when I was young; how a worthy inan departed sometime from our countries for to go search the world. And so he passed Ind, and the isles beyond Ind, where ben mo than 5000 isles ; and so long he went by sea and land, and so environed the world by many seasons that he found an isle, where he heard speak his own language, calling on oxen in the plongh such words, as men speak to beasts in his own country; whereof he had great marvel ; for he knew not how it might be. But I say, that he had gone so long by land and by sea, that he had environed all the earth, that he was coine again environing, that is to say, going about unto his own marches, if he would have passed forth, till he had found his country and his own knowledge. But he turned again from thence, from whence he was come fro; and so he lost much painful labour, as himself said, a great while after, that he was come home. But how it seemeth to simple men unlearned, that men ne may not go under the earth, and also that men should fall toward the heaven from under. But that may not be, unless that we may fall toward heaven from the earth, where we be. For from what part of the earth, where men dwell, either above or beneath, it seemeth alway to them that dwell, that they go more right
I passing round,
than any other folk. And right as it seemeth to us, that they are under us, right so it seeineth to them, that we be under them. For if a man might fall from the earth into the firmament; by greater reason the earth and the sea, that ben so heavy, should fall to the firmament; but that may not be; and therefore saith our Lord God, Non timeas me, qui suspendi terram ex nihilo.
The following passage from Trevisa, relates to the different languages of the inhabitants of Britain
“ As it is kuowen how many manner people ben in this island, there ben also many languages. Netheless, Welshmen, and Scots that ben not medled* with other nations, keep nigh yet their first language and speech; but yet tho Scots that were sometime confederate, and dwelt with Picts draw somewhat after their speech. But the Flemmings that dwell in the west side of Wales, have left their strange speech, and speaken like the Saxons. Also Englishmen, tho they had from the beginning three manner speeches, southern, northern, and middle speech, in the middle of the land, as they come of three manner people of Germania, netheless by commixyont and medling $ first with Danes, and afterwards with Normans, in many things the country language is appayred. This appayring of the language cometh of two things; one is by cause that children that go to school, learn to speak first English, and then ben compelled to construe their lessons in French; and that have ben used syn the Normans came into England. Also gentlemen's children ben learned from their youth to speak French; and uplandish men will counterfeit and liken themselves unto gentlemen, and are besy || to speak French, for to be more set by. Wherefore, it is said by a common proverb, “Jack would be a gentleman if he could speak French.'»
The following passage from Morte Arthur, has been often quoted, as the perfect character of a knight-errant:-
“ And now I dare say, that Sir Lancelot, there thou liest that were never matched of none earthly knight's hands. And thou were the curtiest knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrode horse; and thou were the truest lover of a sinful man, that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever stroke with sword. And thou were the
yoodliest person that ever came among prece* of knights. And thou were the meekest man, and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in rest.”
FROM THE REVIVAL OF LETTERS TO THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH.
Several causes conspired, during this period, to the progress of society and the advancement of English literature. The zeal, with which the study of the Latin and Greek classics was pursued, led to a familiarity with these models of good taste, which could not fail to enrich and ameliorate the language and improve the style. It was also the era of the Reformation-a time of great intellectual activity and power, and when writers, deeply interested in the subjects which they discussed, wrote with directness and simplicity. There appeared also in connexion with these great events, several individuals of learning and of superior minds, who thought with clearness and power. Such men were Sir Thomas More, Bishop Latimer, Sir John Cheke, and Bishop Fischer. It should be further mentioned, that the Translations of the Bible, made during this period by Tyndale and Coverdale, especially the latter, which bears a near resemblance to that now in use, contributed much to the permanency of the language, and the simplicity of style.
From these, and perhaps other causes, there are found partially developed some of the more valuable traits of style. There is a degree of simplicity, strength, and directness, which not only makes the writings of this period intelligible, but likewise renders them grateful to the taste of the present age.
Still these excellences are found united with many striking defects, and looking at them, as connected with the history of English
style, they are rather to be regarded as favourable indications, than as established traits of style.
Sir Thomas More, who was a strenuous papist, thus discourses on the writings of Luther :
“But the very cause why his books be not suffered to be read is, because his heresies be so many and so abominable, and the proofs wherewith he pretendeth to make them probable, be so far from reason and truth, and so far against the right understanding of holy scripture, whereof, under colour of great zeal and affection, he laboureth to destroy the credence and good use, and finally so far stretcheth all things against good manner and virtue, provoking the world to wrong opinions of God, and boldness in sin and wretchedness, that there can be no good, but much harm, grow by the reading. For if there were the substance good, and of error and oversight some cockle among the corn, which might be sifted out, and the remnant stand instead, men would have been content therewith, as they be with such other. But now is his not besprent with a few spots, but with more than half venom poisoned the whole wine, and that right rotten of itself. And this done of purpose and malice, not without an evil spirit in such wise walking with his words, that the contagion thereof were likely to infect a feeble soul, as the savour of a sickness sore infecteth a whole body. Nor the truth is not to be learned of every man's mouth; for as Christ was not content that the devil should call him God's son, though it were true, so is he not content a devil's limb, as Luther is, or Tyndale, should teach his flock the truth, for infecting them with their false devilish heresies besides."
From the sermons of Bishop Latimer much might be extracted to interest and amuse. The following passage is an example of his peculiar manner of writing :
“We be many preachers here in England, and we preach many long sermons, yet the people will not repent nor convert. This was the fruit, the effect, and the good, that Jonas's sermon did, that all the whole city at his preaching converted, and amended their evil loose living, and did penance in sackcloth. And yet here in this se mon of Jonas is no great curiousness, no great clerkliness, no great affectation of words, nor painted eloquence; it was none other but adhuc quadraginta dies et Nineve subvertetur ; Yet forty days, Nineve subvertetur, and Ninevy shall be destroyed; it was no more. This was no great curious sermon, but it was a nipping sermon, a
pinching sermon, a biting sermon; it had a full bite, it was a nipping sermon, a rough sermon, and a sharp biting sermon. Do you not here marvel that these Ninevites cast not Jonas in prison, that they did not revile him nor rebuke him? They did not revile him nor rebuke him. But God gave them grace to hear him, and to convert and amend at his preaching. A strange matter so noble a city to give place to one man's sermon. Now, England cannot abide this gear, * they cannot be content to hear God's minister, and his threatening for their sins, though the sermon be never so good, tho it be never so true. It is a naughty fellow, a seditious fellow; he maketh trouble and rebellion in the realm, he lacketh discretion.”
Little remains to us of the writings of Sir John Cheke. He is principally known from his zeal in the cause of ancient classical learning, and the influence of his familiarity with these writers is evidently seen in his style. The following passage is from an address to certain seditious persons, who disturbed the peace of England in 1549:
“ Ye rise for religion. What religion taught you that? If ye were offered persecution for religion, ye ought to flee. So Christ teacheth you, and yet you intend to fight. If you would stand in the truth, ye ought to suffer like martyrs; and ye would slay like tyrants. This for religion, ye keep no religion, and neither will follow the council of Christ, nor the constancy of martyrs. Why rise ye for religion ? Have ye any thing contrary to God's book ? Yea, have yé not all things agreeable to God's word? But the new (religion) is different from the old; and therefore ye will have the old. If ye measure the old by truth, ye have the oldest. If ye measure the old by fancy, then it is hard, because men's fancies change, to give that is old. Ye will have the old style. Will ye have any older than that as Christ left, and his apostles taught, and the first church did use? Ye will have that the canons do establish? Why that is a great deal younger than that ye have of latter time, and newlier invented; yet that is it that ye desire. And do ye prefer the bishops of Rome afore Christ? Men's inventions afore God's law? The newer sort of worship before the older? Ye seek no religion; ye be deceived; ye seek traditions. They that teach you, blind you ; that so instruct you, deceive you. If ye seek what the old doctors say, yet look what Christ, the oldest of all, saith. For he saith,' Before Abraham was made 1 am. If