Transcribed from the 1889 Cassell and Company edition by David Price, firstname.lastname@example.org
THE VISIONS OF ENGLAND: LYRICS OF LEADING MEN AND EVENTS IN ENGLISH HISTORY
BY FRANCIS T. PALGRAVE Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford Late Fellow of Exeter College
TANTA RES EST, UT PAENE VITIO MENTIS TANTUM OPUS INGRESSUS MIHI VIDEAR
CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED: LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK & MELBOURNE 1889
By the same Author
THE VISIONS OF ENGLAND: Seventy Lyrics on leading Men and Events in English History: 8vo. 7/6
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Poetry edited by the same
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To be published presently
THE TREASURY OF SACRED SONG, selected from the English Lyrical Poetry of Four Centuries, with Notes Explanatory and Biographical
CLARENDON PRESS, OXFORD Aug. 1889
Again, on behalf of readers of this NATIONAL LIBRARY, I have to thank a poet of our day—in this case the Oxford Professor of Poetry—for joining his voice to the voices of the past through which our better life is quickened for the duties of to-day. Not for his own verse only, but for his fine sense also of what is truest in the poets who have gone before, the name of Francis Turner Palgrave is familiar to us all. Many a home has been made the richer for his gathering of voices of the past into a dainty "Golden Treasury of English Songs." Of this work of his own I may cite what was said of it in Macmillan's Magazine for October, 1882, by a writer of high authority in English Literature, Professor A. W. Ward, of Owens College. "A very eminent authority," said Professor Ward, "has accorded to Mr. Palgrave's historical insight, praise by the side of which all words of mine must be valueless," Canon [now Bishop] Stubbs writes:—"I do not think that there is one of the Visions which does not carry my thorough consent and sympathy all through."
Here, then, Mr. Palgrave re-issues, for the help of many thousands more, his own songs of the memories of the Nation, addressed to a Nation that has not yet forfeited the praise of Milton. Milton said of the Englishman, "If we look at his native towardliness in the roughcast, without breeding, some nation or other may haply be better composed to a natural civility and right judgment than he. But if he get the benefit once of a wise and well-rectified nurture, I suppose that wherever mention is made of countries, manners, or men, the English people, among the first that shall be praised, may deserve to be accounted a right pious, right honest, and right hardy nation." So much is shown by the various utterances in this NATIONAL LIBRARY. So much is shown, in the present volume of it, by a poet's vision of the England that has been till now, and is what she has been.
TO THE NAMES OF HENRY HALLAM AND FRANCIS PALGRAVE FRIENDS AND FELLOW-LABOURERS IN ENGLISH HISTORY FOR FORTY YEARS, WHO, DIFFERING OFTEN IN JUDGMENT, WERE AT ONE THROUGHOUT LIFE IN DEVOTED LOVE OF JUSTICE, TRUTH, AND ENGLAND, IN AFFECTIONATE AND REVERENT REMEMBRANCE THIS BOOK IS INSCRIBED AND DEDICATED
As the scheme which the Author has here endeavoured to execute has not, so far as he knows, the advantage of any near precedent in any literature, he hopes that a few explanatory words may be offered without incurring censure for egotism.
Our history is so eminently rich and varied, and at the same time, by the fact of our insular position, so stamped with unity, that from days very remote it has supplied matter for song. This, among Celts and Angles, at first was lyrical. But poetry, for many centuries after the Conquest, mainly took the annalistic form, and, despite the ability often shown, was hence predoomed to failure. For a nation's history cannot but present many dull or confused periods, many men and things intractable by poetry, though, perhaps, politically effective and important, which cannot be excluded from any narrative aiming at consecutiveness; and, by the natural laws of art, these passages, when rendered in verse, in their effect become more prosaic than they would be in a prose rendering.
My attempt has therefore been to revert to the earlier and more natural conditions of poetry, and to offer,—not a continuous narrative; not poems on every critical moment or conspicuous man in our long annals,—but single lyrical pictures of such leading or typical characters and scenes in English history, and only such, as have seemed amenable to a strictly poetical treatment. Poetry, not History, has, hence, been my first and last aim; or, perhaps I might define it, History for Poetry's sake. At the same time, I have striven to keep throughout as closely to absolute historical truth in the design and colouring of the pieces as the exigencies of poetry permit:—the result aimed at being to unite the actual tone and spirit of the time concerned, with the best estimate which has been reached by the research and genius of modern investigators. Our island story, freed from the 'falsehood of extremes,'—exorcised, above all, from the seducing demon of party-spirit, I have thus here done my best to set forth. And as this line of endeavour has conducted and constrained me, especially when the seventeenth century is concerned, to judgments—supported indeed by historians conspicuous for research, ability, and fairness, but often remote from the views popularized by the writers of our own day,—upon these points a few justificatory notes have been added.
A double aim has hence governed and limited both the selection and the treatment of my subjects. The choice has necessarily fallen, often, not on simply picturesque incident or unfamiliar character, but on the men and things that we think of first, when thinking of the long chronicle of England,—or upon such as represent and symbolize the main current of it. Themes, however, on which able or popular song is already extant,—notably in case of Scotland,—I have in general avoided. In the rendering, my desire has been always to rest the poetry of each Vision on its own intrinsic interest; to write with a straightforward eye to the object alone; not studious of ornament for ornament's sake; allowing the least possible overt intrusion of the writer's personality; and, in accordance with lyrical law, seeking, as a rule, to fix upon some factual picture for each poem.
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To define, thus, the scope of what this book attempts, is, in itself, a confession of presumptuousness,—the writer's own sense of which is but feebly and imperfectly expressed in the words from Vergil's letter to Augustus prefixed as my motto. In truth, so rich and so wide are the materials, that to scheme a lyrical series which should really paint the Gesta Anglorum in their fulness might almost argue 'lack of wit,' vitium mentis, in much greater powers than mine. No criticism, however severe, can add to my own consciousness how far the execution of the work, in regard to each of its aims, falls below the plan. Yet I would allow myself the hope, great as the deficiencies may be, that the love of truth and the love of England are mine by inheritance in a degree sufficient to exempt this book, (the labour of several years), from infidelity to either:—that the intrinsic worth and weight of my subject may commend these songs, both at home, and in the many Englands beyond sea, to those who, (despite the inevitably more engrossing attractions of the Present, and the emphatic bias of modern culture towards the immediate and the tangible), maintain that high and soul-inspiring interest which, identifying us with our magnificent Past, and all its varied lessons of defeat and victory, offers at the same time,—under the guidance from above,—our sole secure guarantee for prosperous and healthy progress in the Future.
The world has cycles in its course, when all That once has been, is acted o'er again;
and only the nation which, at each moment of political or social evolution, looks lovingly backward to its own painfully-earned experience—Respiciens, Prospiciens, as Tennyson's own chosen device expresses it—has solid reason to hope, that its movement is true Advance—that its course is Upward.
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It remains only to add, that the book has been carefully revised and corrected, and that nineteen pieces published in the original volume of 1881 are not reprinted in the present issue.
F. T. P. July, 1889
THE VISIONS OF ENGLAND
CAESAR TO EGBERT
England, fair England! Empress isle of isles! —Round whom the loving-envious ocean plays, Girdling thy feet with silver and with smiles, Whilst all the nations crowd thy liberal bays; With rushing wheel and heart of fire they come, Or glide and glance like white-wing'd doves that know And seek their proper home:— England! not England yet! but fair as now, When first the chalky strand was stirr'd by Roman prow.
On thy dear countenance, great mother-land, Age after age thy sons have set their sign, Moulding the features with successive hand Not always sedulous of beauty's line:— Yet here Man's art in one harmonious aim With Nature's gentle moulding, oft has work'd The perfect whole to frame: Nor does earth's labour'd face elsewhere, like thee, Give back her children's heart with such full sympathy
—On marshland rough and self-sprung forest gazed The imperial Roman of the eagle-eye; Log-splinter'd forts on green hill-summits raised, Earth huts and rings that dot the chalk-downs high:— Dark rites of hidden faith in grove and moor; Idols of monstrous build; wheel'd scythes of war; Rock tombs and pillars hoar: Strange races, Finn, Iberian, Belgae, Celt; While in the wolds huge bulls and antler'd giants dwelt.
—Another age!—The spell of Rome has past Transforming all our Britain; Ruthless plough, Which plough'd the world, yet o'er the nations cast The seed of arts, and law, and all that now Has ripen'd into commonwealths:—Her hand With network mile-paths binding plain and hill Arterialized the land: The thicket yields: the soil for use is clear; Peace with her plastic touch,—field, farm, and grange are here.
Lo, flintwall'd cities, castles stark and square Bastion'd with rocks that rival Nature's own; Red-furnaced baths, trim gardens planted fair With tree and flower the North ne'er yet had known; Long temple-roofs and statues poised on high With golden wings outstretch'd for tiptoe flight, Quivering in summer sky:— The land had rest, while those stern legions lay By northern ramparts camp'd, and held the Pict at bay.
Imperious Empire! Thrice-majestic Rome! No later age, as earth's slow centuries glide, Can raze the footprints stamp'd where thou hast come, The ne'er-repeated grandeur of thy stride! —Though now so dense a darkness takes the land, Law, peace, wealth, letters, faith,—all lights are quench'd By violent heathen hand:— Vague warrior kings; names writ in fire and wrong; Aurelius, Urien, Ida;—shades of ancient song.
And Thou—O whether born of flame and wave, Or Gorlois' son, or Uther's, blameless lord, True knight, who died for those thou couldst not save When the Round Table brake their plighted word,— The lord of song hath set thee in thy grace And glory, rescued from the phantom world, Before us face to face; No more Avilion bowers the King detain; The mystic child returns; the Arthur reigns again!
—Now, as some cloud that hides a mountain bulk Thins to white smoke, and mounts in lighten'd air, And through the veil the gray enormous hulk Burns, and the summit, last, is keen and bare,— From wasted Britain so the gloaming clears; Another birth of time breaks eager out, And England fair appears:— Imperial youth sign'd on her golden brow, While the prophetic eyes with hope and promise glow.
Then from the wasted places of the land, Charr'd skeletons of cities, circling walls Of Roman might, and towers that shatter'd stand Of that lost world survivors, forth she calls Her new creation:—O'er the land is wrought The happy villagedom by English tribes From Elbe and Baltic brought; Red kine light up with life the ravaged plain; The forest glooms are pierced; the plough-land laughs again.
Each from its little croft the homesteads peep, Green apple-garths around, and hedgeless meads, Smooth-shaven lawns of ever-shifting sheep, Wolds where his dappled crew the swineherd feeds:— Pale gold round pure pale foreheads, and their eyes More dewy blue than speedwell by the brook When Spring's fresh current flies, The free fair maids come barefoot to the fount, Or poppy-crown'd with fire, the car of harvest mount.
On the salt stream that rings us, ness and bay, The nation's old sea-soul beats blithe and strong; The black foam-breasters taste Biscayan spray, And where 'neath Polar dawns the narwhals throng:— Free hands, free hearts, for labour and for glee, Or village-moot, when thane with churl unites Beneath the sacred tree; While wisdom tempers force, and bravery leads, Till spears beat Aye! on shields, and words at once are deeds.
Again with life the ruin'd cities smile, Again from mother-Rome their sacred fire Knowledge and Faith rekindle through the isle, Nigh quench'd by barbarous war and heathen ire:— —No more on Balder's grave let Anglia weep When winter storms entomb the golden year Sunk in Adonis-sleep; Another God has risen, and not in vain! The Woden-ash is low, the Cross asserts her reign.
—Land of the most law-loving,—the most free! My dear, dear England! sweet and green as now The flower-illumined garden of the sea, And Nature least impair'd by axe and plough! A laughing land!—Thou seest not in the north How the black Dane and vulture Norseman wait The sign of coming forth, The foul Landeyda flap its raven plume, And all the realms once more eclipsed in pagan gloom!
—O race, of many races well compact! As some rich stream that runs in silver down From the White Mount:—his baby steps untrack'd Where clouds and emerald cliffs of crystal frown; Now, alien founts bring tributary flood, Or kindred waters blend their native hue, Some darkening as with blood; These fraught with iron strength and freshening brine, And these with lustral waves, to sweeten and refine.
Now calm as strong, and clear as summer air, Blessing and blest of earth and sky, he glides: Now on some rock-ridge rends his bosom fair, And foams with cloudy wrath and hissing tides: Then with full flood of level-gliding force, His discord-blended melody murmurs low Down the long seaward course:— So through Time's mead, great River, greatly glide: Whither, thou may'st not know:—but He, who knows, will guide.
St. 3 Sketches Prehistoric England. St. 4 Mile-paths; old English name for Roman roads. St. 5 Tree and flower; such are reported to have been naturalized in England by the Romans.—Northern ramparts; that of Agricola and Lollius Urbicus from Forth to Clyde, and the greater work of Hadrian and Severus between Tyne and Solway. St. 6, 7 The Arthurian legends,—now revivified for us by Tennyson's magnificent Idylls of the King,—form the visionary links in our history between the decline of the Roman power and the earlier days of the Saxon conquest. St. 9 Villagedom; Angles and Saxons seem at first to have burned the larger towns of the Romanized Britons and left them deserted, in favour of village-life. St. 11 Village-moot: Held on a little hill or round a sacred tree: 'the ealdermen spoke, groups of freemen stood round, clashing shields in applause, settling matters by loud shouts of Aye or Nay.' (J. R. Green, History of the English People). St. 12 Balder, the God of Light, like Adonis in the old Greek story, is a nature-myth, figuring the Sun, yearly dying in winter, and yearly restored to life. St. 13 Landeyda; Name of Danish banner: 'the desolation of the land.'
For further details upon points briefly noticed in this Prelude, readers are referred to Mr. J. R. Green's History, and to Mr. T. Wright's The Celt, The Roman, and The Saxon, as sources readily accessible.
THE FIRST AND LAST LAND
Thrice-blest, alone with Nature!—here, where gray Belerium fronts the spray Smiting the bastion'd crags through centuries flown, While, 'neath the hissing surge, Ocean sends up a deep, deep undertone,
As though his heavy chariot-wheels went round: Nor is there other sound Save from the abyss of air, a plaintive note, The seabirds' calling cry, As 'gainst the wind with well-poised weight they float,
Or on some white-fringed reef set up their post, And sentinel the coast:— Whilst, round each jutting cape, in pillar'd file, The lichen-bearded rocks Like hoary giants guard the sacred Isle.
—Happy, alone with Nature thus!—Yet here Dim, primal man is near;— The hawk-eyed eager traders, who of yore Through long Biscayan waves Star-steer'd adventurous from the Iberic shore
Or the Sidonian, with their fragrant freight Oil-olive, fig, and date; Jars of dark sunburnt wine, flax-woven robes, Or Tyrian azure glass Wavy with gold, and agate-banded globes:—
Changing for amber-knobs their Eastern ware Or tin-sand silvery fair, To temper brazen swords, or rim the shield Of heroes, arm'd for fight:— While the rough miners, wondering, gladly yield
The treasured ore; nor Alexander's name Know, nor fair Helen's shame; Or in his tent how Peleus' wrathful son Looks toward the sea, nor heeds The towers of still-unconquer'd Ilion.
Belerium; The name given to the Land's End by Diodorus, the Greek historical compiler. He describes the natives as hospitable and civilized. They mined tin, which was bought by traders and carried through Gaul to the south-east, and may, as suggested here, have been used in their armour by the warriors during the Homeric Siege of Troy.
PAULINUS AND EDWIN
The black-hair'd gaunt Paulinus By ruddy Edwin stood:— 'Bow down, O King of Deira, Before the holy Rood! Cast forth thy demon idols, And worship Christ our Lord!' —But Edwin look'd and ponder'd, And answer'd not a word.
Again the gaunt Paulinus To ruddy Edwin spake: 'God offers life immortal For His dear Son's own sake! Wilt thou not hear his message Who bears the Keys and Sword?' —But Edwin look'd and ponder'd, And answer'd not a word.
Rose then a sage old warrior; Was five-score winters old; Whose beard from chin to girdle Like one long snow-wreath roll'd:— 'At Yule-time in our chamber We sit in warmth and light, While cavern-black around us Lies the grim mouth of Night.
'Athwart the room a sparrow Darts from the open door: Within the happy hearth-light One red flash,—and no more! We see it born from darkness, And into darkness go:— So is our life, King Edwin! Ah, that it should be so!
'But if this pale Paulinus Have somewhat more to tell; Some news of whence and whither, And where the Soul may dwell:— If on that outer darkness The sun of Hope may shine;— He makes life worth the living! I take his God for mine!'
So spake the wise old warrior; And all about him cried 'Paulinus' God hath conquer'd! And he shall he our guide:— For he makes life worth living, Who brings this message plain,— When our brief days are over, That we shall live again.'
Paulinus was one of the four missionaries sent form Rome by Gregory the Great in 601. The marriage of Edwin, King of Northumbria, with Ethelburga, sister to Eadbald of Kent, opened Paulinus' way to northern England. Bede, born less than fifty years after, has given an admirable narrative of Edwin's conversion: which is very completely told in Bright's Early English Church History, B. IV.
Deira, (from old-Welsh deifr, waters), then comprised Eastern Yorkshire from Tees to Humber. Goodmanham, where the meeting described was held, is some 23 miles from York.
ALFRED THE GREAT
The fair-hair'd boy is at his mother's knee, A many-colour'd page before them spread, Gay summer harvest-field of gold and red, With lines and staves of ancient minstrelsy. But through her eyes alone the child can see, From her sweet lips partake the words of song, And looks as one who feels a hidden wrong, Or gazes on some feat of gramarye. 'When thou canst use it, thine the book!' she cried: He blush'd, and clasp'd it to his breast with pride:— 'Unkingly task!' his comrades cry; In vain; All work ennobles nobleness, all art, He sees; Head governs hand; and in his heart All knowledge for his province he has ta'en.
Few the bright days, and brief the fruitful rest, As summer-clouds that o'er the valley flit:— To other tasks his genius he must fit; The Dane is in the land, uneasy guest! —O sacred Athelney, from pagan quest Secure, sole haven for the faithful boy Waiting God's issue with heroic joy And unrelaxing purpose in the breast! The Dragon and the Raven, inch by inch, For England fight; nor Dane nor Saxon flinch; Then Alfred strikes his blow; the realm is free:— He, changing at the font his foe to friend, Yields for the time, to gain the far-off end, By moderation doubling victory.
O much-vex'd life, for us too short, too dear! The laggard body lame behind the soul; Pain, that ne'er marr'd the mind's serene control; Breathing on earth heaven's aether atmosphere, God with thee, and the love that casts out fear! A soul in life's salt ocean guarding sure The freshness of youth's fountain sweet and pure, And to all natural impulse crystal-clear: To service or command, to low and high Equal at once in magnanimity, The Great by right divine thou only art! Fair star, that crowns the front of England's morn, Royal with Nature's royalty inborn, And English to the very heart of heart!
The fair-hair'd boy: There is a singular unanimity among historians in regard to this 'darling of the English,' whose life has been vividly sketched by Freeman (Conquest, ch. ii); by Green (English People, B. I: ch. iii); and, earlier, by my Father in his short History of the Anglo-Saxons, ch. vi-viii.
Changing at the font: Alfred was godfather to Guthrun the Dane, when baptized after his defeat at Ethandune in 878.
A DANISH BARROW
ON THE EAST DEVON COAST
Lie still, old Dane, below thy heap! —A sturdy-back and sturdy-limb, Whoe'er he was, I warrant him Upon whose mound the single sheep Browses and tinkles in the sun, Within the narrow vale alone.
Lie still, old Dane! This restful scene Suits well thy centuries of sleep: The soft brown roots above thee creep, The lotus flaunts his ruddy sheen, And,—vain memento of the spot,— The turquoise-eyed forget-me-not.
Lie still!—Thy mother-land herself Would know thee not again: no more The Raven from the northern shore Hails the bold crew to push for pelf, Through fire and blood and slaughter'd kings, 'Neath the black terror of his wings.
And thou,—thy very name is lost! The peasant only knows that here Bold Alfred scoop'd thy flinty bier, And pray'd a foeman's prayer, and tost His auburn, head, and said 'One more Of England's foes guards England's shore,'
And turn'd and pass'd to other feats, And left thee in thine iron robe, To circle with the circling globe, While Time's corrosive dewdrop eats The giant warrior to a crust Of earth in earth, and rust in rust.
So lie: and let the children play And sit like flowers upon thy grave, And crown with flowers,—that hardly have A briefer blooming-tide than they;— By hurrying years borne on to rest, As thou, within the Mother's breast.
October 14: 1066
'Gyrth, is it dawn in the sky that I see? or is all the sky blood? Heavy and sore was the fight in the North: yet we fought for the good. O but—Brother 'gainst brother!—'twas hard!—Now I come with a will To baste the false bastard of France, the hide of the tanyard and mill! Now on the razor-edge lies England the priceless, the prize! God aiding, the Raven at Stamford we smote; One stroke more for the land here I strike and devote!'
Red with fresh breath on her lips came the dawn; and Harold uprose; Kneels as man before God; then takes his long pole-axe, and goes Where round their woven wall, tough ash-palisado, they crowd; Mightily cleaves and binds, to his comrades crying aloud 'Englishmen stalwart and true, But one word has Harold for you! When from the field the false foreigners run, Stand firm in your castle, and all will be won!
'Now, with God o'er us, and Holy Rood, arm!'—And he ran for his spear: But Gyrth held him back, 'mong his brothers Gyrth the most honour'd, most dear: 'Go not, Harold! thine oath is against thee! the Saints look askance: I am not king; let me lead them, me only: mine be the chance!' —'No! The leader must lead! Better that Harold should bleed! To the souls I appeal, not the dust of the tomb:— King chosen of Edward and England, I come!'
Over Heathland surge banners and lances, three armies; William the last, Clenching his mace; Rome's gonfanon round him Rome's majesty cast: O'er his Bretons Fergant, o'er the hireling squadrons Montgomery lords, Jerkin'd archers, and mail-clads, and horsemen with pennons and swords:— —England, in threefold array, Anchor, and hold them at bay, Firm set in your own wooden walls! and the wave Of high-crested Frenchmen will break on their grave.
So to the palisade on! There, Harold and Leofwine and Gyrth Stand like a triple Thor, true brethren in arms as in birth: And above the fierce standards strain at their poles as they flare on the gale; One, the old Dragon of Wessex, and one, a Warrior in mail. 'God Almighty!' they cry! 'Haro!' the Northmen reply:— As when eagles are gather'd and loud o'er the prey, Shout! for 'tis England the prize of the fray!
And as when two lightning-clouds tilt, between them an arrowy sleet Hisses and darts; till the challenging thunders are heard, and they meet; Across fly javelins and serpents of flame: green earth and blue sky Blurr'd in the blind tornado:—so now the battle goes high. Shearing through helmet and limb Glaive-steel and battle-axe grim: As the flash of the reaper in summer's high wheat, King Harold mows horseman and horse at his feet.
O vainly the whirlwind of France up the turf to the palisade swept: Shoulder to shoulder the Englishmen stand, and the shield-wall is kept:— As, in a summer to be, when England and she yet again Strove for the sovranty, firm stood our squares, through the pitiless rain Death rain'd o'er them all day; —Happier, not braver than they Who on Senlac e'en yet their still garrison keep, Sleeping a long Marathonian sleep!
'Madmen, why turn?' cried the Duke,—for the horsemen recoil from the slope; 'Behold me! I live!'—and he lifted the ventayle; 'before you is hope: Death, not safety, behind!'—and he spurs to the centre once more, Lion-like leaps on the standard and Harold: but Gyrth is before! 'Down! He is down!' is the shout: 'On with the axes! Out, Out!' —He rises again; the mace circles its stroke; Then falls as the thunderbolt falls on the oak.
—Gyrth is crush'd, and Leofwine is crush'd; yet the shields hold their wall: 'Edith alone of my dear ones is left me, and dearest of all! Edith has said she would seek me to-day when the battle is done; Her love more precious alone than kingdoms and victory won; O for the sweetness of home! O for the kindness to come!' Then around him again the wild war-dragons roar, And he drinks the red wine-cup of battle once more.
—'Anyhow from their rampart to lure them, to shatter the bucklers and wall, Acting a flight,' in his craft thought William, and sign'd to recall His left battle:—O countrymen! slow to be roused! roused, always, as then, Reckless of life or death, bent only to quit you like men!— As bolts from the bow-string they go, Whirl them and hurl them below, Where the deep foss yawns for the foe in his course, Piled up and brimming with horseman and horse.
As when October's sun, long caught in a curtain of gray, With a flood of impatient crimson breaks out, at the dying of day, And trees and green fields, the hills and the skies, are all steep'd in the stain;— So o'er the English one hope flamed forth, one moment,—in vain! As hail when the corn-fields are deep, Down the fierce arrow-points sweep: Now the basnets of France o'er the palisade frown; The shield-fort is shatter'd; the Dragon is down.
O then there was dashing and dinting of axe and of broad-sword and spear: Blood crying out to blood: and Hatred that casteth out fear! Loud where the fight is the loudest, the slaughter-breath hot in the air, O what a cry was that!—the cry of a nation's despair! —Hew down the best of the land! Down them with mace and with brand! The fell foreign arrow has crash'd to the brain; England with Harold the Englishman slain!
Yet they fought on for their England! of ineffaceable fame Worthy, and stood to the death, though the greedy sword, like a flame, Bit and bit yet again in the solid ranks, and the dead Heap where they die, and hills of foemen about them are spread:— —Hew down the heart of the land, There, to a man, where they stand! Till night with her blackness uncrimsons the stain, And the merciful shroud overshadows our slain.
Heroes unburied, unwept!—But a wan gray thing in the night Like a marsh-wisp flits to and fro through the blood-lake, the steam of the fight; Turning the bodies, exploring the features with delicate touch; Stumbling as one that finds nothing: but now!—as one finding too much: Love through mid-midnight will see: Edith the fair! It is he! Clasp him once more, the heroic, the dear! Harold was England: and Harold lies here.
The hide of the tanyard; See the story of Arlette or Herleva, the tanner's daughter, mother to William 'the Bastard.'
At Stamford; At Stamford Bridge, over the Derwent, Harold defeated his brother Tostig and Harold Hardrada, Sep 25, 1066.
Your castle; Harold's triple palisade upon the hill of battle is so described by the chronicler, Henry of Huntingdon.
Rome's gonfanon; The consecrated banner, sent to William from Rome.
The fierce standards; These were planted on the spot chosen by the Conqueror for the high-altar of the Abbey of Battle. The Warrior was Harold's 'personal ensign.'
In a summer to be; June 18, 1815.
The ventayle; Used here for the nasale or nose-piece shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.
DEATH IN THE FOREST
August 2: 1100
Where the greenwood is greenest At gloaming of day, Where the twelve-antler'd stag Faces boldest at bay; Where the solitude deepens, Till almost you hear The blood-beat of the heart As the quarry slips near; His comrades outridden With scorn in the race, The Red King is hallooing His bounds to the chase.
What though the Wild Hunt Like a whirlwind of hell Yestereve ran the forest, With baying and yell:— In his cups the Red heathen Mocks God to the face; —'In the devil's name, shoot; Tyrrell, ho!—to the chase!'
—Now with worms for his courtiers He lies in the narrow Cold couch of the chancel! —But whence was the arrow?
The dread vision of Serlo That call'd him to die, The weird sacrilege terror Of sleep, have gone by. The blood of young Richard Cries on him in vain, In the heart of the Lindwood By arbalest slain. And he plunges alone In the Serpent-glade gloom, As one whom the Furies Hound headlong to doom.
His sin goes before him, The lust and the pride; And the curses of England Breathe hot at his side. And the desecrate walls Of the Evil-wood shrine Lo, he passes—unheeding Dark vision and sign:—
—Now with worms for his courtiers He lies in the narrow Cold couch of the chancel: —But whence was the arrow?
Then a shudder of death Flicker'd fast through the wood:— And they found the Red King Red-gilt in his blood. What wells up in his throat? Is it cursing, or prayer? Was it Henry, or Tyrrell, Or demon, who there Has dyed the fell tyrant Twice crimson in gore, While the soul disincarnate Hunts on to hell-door?
—Ah! friendless in death! Rude forest-hands fling On the charcoaler's wain What but now was the king! And through the long Minster The carcass they bear, And huddle it down Without priest, without prayer:—
Now with worms for his courtiers He lies in the narrow Cold couch of the chancel: —But whence was the arrow?
In his cups; Rufus, it is said, was 'fey,' as the old phrase has it, on the day of his death. He feasted long and high, and then chose out two cross-bow shafts, presenting them to Tyrrell with the exclamation given above.
Serlo; He was Abbot of Gloucester, and had sent to Rufus the narrative of an ominous dream, reported in the Monastery.
The true dreams; On his last night Rufus 'laid himself down to sleep, but not in peace; the attendants were startled by the King's voice—a bitter cry—a cry for help—a cry for deliverance—he had been suddenly awakened by a dreadful dream, as of exquisite anguish befalling him in that ruined church, at the foot of the Malwood rampart.' Palgrave: Hist. of Normandy and of England, B. IV: ch. xii.
Young Richard; Son to Robert Courthose, and hunting, as his uncle's guest, in the New Forest in May 1100, was mysteriously slain by a heavy bolt from a Norman Arbalest.
The Evil-wood walls; 'Amongst the sixty churches which had been 'ruined,' my Father remarks, in his notice of the New Forest, 'the sanctuary below the mystic Malwood was peculiarly remarkable. . . . You reach the Malwood easily from the Leafy Lodge in the favourite deer-walk, the Lind-hurst, the Dragon's wood.'
Through the long Minster; Winchester. Rufus, with much hesitation, was buried in the chancel as a king; but no religious service or ceremonial was celebrated:—'All men thought that prayers were hopeless.'
EDITH OF ENGLAND
Through sapling shades of summer green, By glade and height and hollow, Where Rufus rode the stag to bay, King Henry spurs a jocund way, Another chase to follow. But when he came to Romsey gate The doors are open'd free, And through the gate like sunshine streams A maiden company:— One girdled with the vervain-red, And three in sendal gray, And touch the trembling rebeck-strings To their soft roundelay;—
—The bravest knight may fail in fight; The red rust edge the sword; The king his crown in dust lay down; But Love is always Lord!
King Henry at her feet flings down, His helmet ringing loudly:— His kisses worship Edith's hand; 'Wilt thou be Queen of all the land?' —O red she blush'd and proudly! Red as the crimson girdle bound Beneath her gracious breast; Red as the silken scarf that flames Above his lion-crest. She lifts and casts the cloister-veil All on the cloister-floor:— The novice maids of Romsey smile, And think of love once more.
'Well, well, to blush!' the Abbess cried, 'The veil and vow deriding That rescued thee, in baby days, From insolence of Norman gaze, In pure and holy hiding. —O royal child of South and North, Malcolm and Margaret, The promised bride of Heaven art thou, And Heaven will not forget! What recks it, if an alien King Encoronet thy brow, Or if the false Italian priest Pretend to loose the vow?'
O then to white the red rose went On Edith's cheek abiding! With even glance she answer'd meek 'I leave the life I did not seek, In holy Church confiding':— Then Love smiled true on Henry's face, And Anselm join'd the hands That in one race two races bound By everlasting bands. So Love is Lord, and Alfred's blood Returns the land to sway; And all her joyous maidens join In their soft roundelay:
—For though the knight may fail in fight, The red rust edge the sword, The king his crown in dust lay down, Yet Love is always Lord!
Edith, (who, after marriage, took the name Matilda in compliment to Henry's mother), daughter to Malcolm King of Scotland by Margaret, granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, had been brought up by her aunt Christina, and placed in Romsey Abbey for security against Norman violence. But she had always refused to take the vows, and was hence, in opposition to her aunt's wish, declared canonically free to marry by Anselm; called here an Italian priest, as born at Aosta. Henry had been long attached to the Princess, and married her shortly after his accession.
A CRUSADER'S TOMB
Unnamed, unknown:—his hands across his breast Set in sepulchral rest, In yon low cave-like niche the warrior lies, —A shrine within a shrine,— Full of gray peace, while day to darkness dies.
Then the forgotten dead at midnight come And throng their chieftain's tomb, Murmuring the toils o'er which they toil'd, alive, The feats of sword and love; And all the air thrills like a summer hive.
—How so, thou say'st!—This is the poet's right! He looks with larger sight Than they who hedge their view by present things, The small, parochial world Of sight and touch: and what he sees, he sings.
The steel-shell'd host, that, gleaming as it turns, Like autumn lightning burns, A moment's azure, the fresh flags that glance As cornflowers o'er the corn, Till war's stern step show like a gala dance,
He also sees; and pierces to the heart, Scanning the genuine part Each Red-Cross pilgrim plays: Some, gold-enticed; By love or lust or fame Urged; or who yearn to kiss the grave of Christ
And find their own, life-wearied:—Motley band! O! ere they quit the Land How maim'd, how marr'd, how changed from all that pride In which so late they left Orwell or Thames, with sails out-swelling wide
And music tuneable with the timing oar Clear heard from shore to shore; All Europe streaming to the mystic East! —Now on their sun-smit ranks The dusky squadrons close in vulture-feast,
And that fierce Day-star's blazing ball their sight Sears with excess of light; Or through dun sand-clouds the blue scimitar's edge Slopes down like fire from heaven, Mowing them as the thatcher mows the sedge.
Then many a heart remember'd, as the skies Grew dark on dying eyes, Sweet England; her fresh fields and gardens trim; Her tree-embower'd halls; And the one face that was the world to him.
—And one who fought his fight and held his way, Through life's long latter day Moving among the green, green English meads, Ere in this niche he took His rest, oft 'mid his kinsfolk told the deeds
Of that gay passage through the Midland sea; Cyprus and Sicily; And how the Lion-Heart o'er the Moslem host Triumph'd in Ascalon Or Acre, by the tideless Tyrian coast,
Yet never saw the vast Imperial dome, Nor the thrice-holy Tomb:— —As that great vision of the hidden Grail By bravest knights of old Unseen:—seen only of pure Parcivale.
The 'Thud Crusade,' 1189-1193, is the subject of this poem. Richard Coeur de Lion carried his followers by way of Sicily and Cyprus: making a transient conquest of the latter. In the Holy Land the siege of Acre consumed the time and strength of the Crusaders. They suffered terribly in the wilderness of Mount Carmel, and when at last preparing to march on Jerusalem (1192) were recalled to Ascalon. Richard now advanced to Bethany, but was unable to reach the Holy City. The tale is that while riding with a party of knights one of them called out, 'This way, my lord, and you will see Jerusalem.' But Richard hid his face and said, 'Alas!—they who are not worthy to win the Holy City are not worthy to behold it.'
The vast Imperial dome; The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by the Emperor Constantine; A.D. 326-335.
The hidden Grail; This vision forms the subject of one of Tennyson's noblest Idylls.
A BALLAD OF EVESHAM
August 4: 1265
Earl Simon on the Abbey tower In summer sunshine stood, While helm and lance o'er Greenhill heights Come glinting through the wood. 'My son!' he cried, 'I know his flag Amongst a thousand glancing':— Fond father! no!—'tis Edward stern In royal strength advancing.
The Prince fell on him like a hawk At Al'ster yester-eve, And flaunts his captured banner now And flaunts but to deceive:— —Look round! for Mortimer is by, And guards the rearward river:— The hour that parted sire and son Has parted them for ever!
'Young Simon's dead,' he thinks, and look'd Upon his living son: 'Now God have mercy on our souls, Our bodies are undone! But, Hugh and Henry, ye can fly Before their bowmen smite us— They come on well! But 'tis from me They learn'd the skill to fight us.'
—'For England's cause, and England's laws, With you we fight and fall!' —'Together, then, and die like men, And Heaven has room for all!' —Then, face to face, and limb to limb, And sword with sword inwoven, That stubborn courage of the race On Evesham field was proven
O happy hills! O summer sky Above the valley bent! Your peacefulness rebukes the rage Of blood on blood intent! No thought was then for death or life Through that long dreadful hour, While Simon 'mid his faithful few Stood like an iron tower,
'Gainst which the winds and waves are hurl'd In vain, unmoved, foursquare; And round him raged the insatiate swords Of Edward and De Clare: And round him in the narrow combe His white-cross comrades rally, While ghastly gashings, cloud the beck And crimson all the valley,
And triple sword-thrusts meet his sword, And thrice the charge he foils, Though now in threefold flood the foe Round those devoted boils: And still the light of England's cause And England's love was o'er him, Until he saw his gallant boy Go down in blood before him:—
He hove his huge two-handed blade, He cried ''Tis time to die!' And smote around him like a flail, And clear'd a space to lie:— 'Thank God!'—no more;—nor now could life From loved and lost divide him:— And night fell o'er De Montfort dead, And England wept beside him.
In the words given here to Simon (and, indeed, in the bulk of my narrative) I have almost literally followed Prothero's Life. The struggle, like other critical conflicts in the days of unprofessional war, was very brief.
THE DIRGE OF LLYWELYN
December 10: 1282
Llanyis on Irfon, thine oaks in the drear Red eve of December are wind-swept and sere, Where a king by the stream in his agony lies, And the life of a land ebbs away as he dies.
Caradoc, thy sceptre for centuries kept, Shall it pass like the ripple, unhonour'd, unwept: Unknowing the lance, and the victim unknown, Far from Aberffraw's halls and Eryri the lone!
O dark day of winter and Cambria's shame, To the treason of Builth when from Gwynedd he came, And Walwyn and Frankton and Mortimer fell Closed round unawares by the fold in the dell!
—As who, where the shadow beneath him is thrown, By some well in Saharan high noontide alone Sits under the palm-tree, nor hears the low breath Of the russet-maned foe panting hot for his death;
So Llywelyn,—unarm'd, unaware:—Is it she, Bright star of his morning, when Gwynedd was free, Fair bride, the long sought, taken early, goes by? In the heart of the breeze the lost Eleanor's sigh?
Or the one little daughter's sweet face with a gleam Of glamour looks out, as the dream in a dream? Or for childhood's first sunshine and calm does he yearn, As the days of Maesmynan in memory return?
Or,—dear to the heart's-blood as first-love or wife,— The mountains whose freedom was one with his life, Gray farms and green vales of that ancient domain, The thousand-years' kingdom, he dreams of again?
Or is it the rage of stark Edward; the base Unkingly revenge on a kinglier race; The wrong idly wrought on the patriot dead; The dark castle of doom; the scorn-diadem'd head?
—Lo, where Rhodri and Owain await thee!—The foe Slips nearing in silence: one flash—and one blow! And the ripple that passes wafts down to the Wye The last prayer of Llywelyn, the nation's last sigh.
But Llanynis yet sees the white rivulet gleam, And the leaf of December fall sere on the stream; While Irfon his dirge whispers on through the combe, And the purple-topt hills gather round in their gloom.
Where a king; The war in which Llywelyn fell was the inevitable result of the growing power of England under Edward I; and, considering the vast preponderance of weight against the Welsh Prince it could not have ended but in the conquest of Wales. Yet its issue, as told here, was determined as if by chance.
Aberffraw; in Anglesea: the residence of the royal line of Gywnedd from the time of Rhodri Mawr onwards.
Eryri; the Eagle's rock is a name for Snowdon. The bird has been seen in the neighbourhood within late years.
Is it she; Eleanor, daughter to Simon de Montfort. After some years of betrothal and impediment arising from the jealousy of Edward I, she and Llywelyn were married in 1278. But after only two years of happiness, Eleanor died, leaving one child, Catharine or Gwenllian.
Maesmynan; by Caerwys in Flintshire; where Llywelyn lived retiredly in youth.
The thousand-years' kingdom; The descent of the royal house of North Wales is legendarily traced from Caradoc-Caractacus. But the accepted genealogy of the Princes of Gwynedd begins with Cunedda Wledig (Paramount) cir. 400: ending in 1282 with Llywelyn son of Gruffydd.
The scorn-diadem'd head; On finding whom he had slain, Frankton carried Llywelyn's head to Edward at Rhuddlan, who, with a barbarity unworthy of himself, set it over the Tower of London, wreathed in mockery of a prediction (ascribed to Merlin) upon the coronation of a Welsh Prince in London.
Rhodri and Owain; Rhodri Mawr, (843), who united under his supremacy the other Welsh principalities, Powys and Dinefawr; Owain Gwynedd, (1137),—are among the most conspicuous of Llywelyn's royal predecessors.
THE REJOICING OF THE LAND
So the land had rest! and the cloud of that heart-sore struggle and pain Rose from her ancient hills, and peace shone o'er her again, Sunlike chasing the plagues wherewith the land was defiled; And the leprosy fled, and her flesh came again, as the flesh of a child. —They were stern and stark, the three children of Rolf, the first from Anjou: For their own sake loving the land, mayhap, but loving her true; France the wife, and England the handmaid; yet over the realm Their eyes were in every place, their hands gripp'd firm on the helm. Villein and earl, the cowl and the plume, they were bridled alike; One law for all, but arm'd law,—not swifter to aid than to strike. Lo, in the twilight transept, the holy places of God, Not with sunset the steps of the altar are dyed, but with scarlet of blood! Clang of iron-shod feet, and sheep for their shepherd who cry; Curses and swords that flash, and the victim proffer'd to die! —Bare thy own back to the smiter, O king, at the shrine of the dead: Thy friend thou hast slain in thy folly; the blood of the Saint on thy head: Proud and priestly, thou say'st;—yet tender and faithful and pure; True man, and so, true saint;—the crown of his martyrdom sure:— As friend with his friend, he could brave thee and warn; thou hast silenced the voice, Ne'er to be heard again:—nor again will Henry rejoice! Green Erin may yield her, fair Scotland submit; but his sunshine is o'er; The tooth of the serpent, the child of his bosom, has smote him so sore:— Like a wolf from the hounds he dragg'd off to his lair, not turning to bay:— Crying 'shame on a conquer'd king!'—the grim ghost fled sullen away. —Then, as in gray Autumn the heavens are pour'd on the rifted hillside, When the Rain-stars mistily gleam, and torrents leap white in their pride, And the valley is all one lake, and the late, unharvested shocks Are rapt to the sea, the dwellings of man, the red kine and the flocks,— O'er England the ramparts of law, the old landmarks of liberty fell, As the brothers in blood and in lust, twin horror begotten of hell, Suck'd all the life of the land to themselves, like Lofoden in flood, One in his pride, in his subtlety one, mocking England and God. Then tyranny's draught—once only—we drank to the dregs!—and the stain Went crimson and black through the soul of the land, for all time, not in vain! We bore the bluff many-wived king, rough rival and victor of Rome; We bore the stern despot-protector, whose dawning and sunset were gloom; For they temper'd the self of the tyrant with love of the land, Some touch of the heart, some remorse, refraining the grip of the hand. But John's was blackness of darkness, a day of vileness and shame; Shrieks of the tortured, and silence, and outrage the mouth cannot name. —O that cry of the helpless, the weak that writhe under the foe, Wrong man-wrought upon man, dumb unwritten annals of woe! Cry that goes upward from earth as she rolls through the peace of the skies 'How long? Hast thou forgotten, O God!' . . . and silence replies! Silence:—and then was the answer;—the light o'er Windsor that broke, The Meadow of Law—true Avalon where the true Arthur awoke! —Not thou, whose name, as a seed o'er the world, plume-wafted on air, Britons on each side sea,—Caerlleon and Cumbria,—share, Joy of a downtrod race, dear hope of freedom to-be, Dream of poetic hearts, whom the vision only can see! . . . For thine were the fairy knights, fair ideals of beauty and song; But ours, in the ways of men, walk'd sober, and stumbling, and strong;— Stumbling as who in peril and twilight their pathway trace out, Hard to trace, and untried, and the foe above and about; For the Charter of Freedom, the voice of the land in her Council secure All doing, all daring,—and, e'en when defeated, of victory sure! Langton, our Galahad, first, stamp'd Leader by Rome unaware, Pembroke and Mowbray, Fitzwarine, Fitzalan, Fitzwalter, De Clare:— —O fair temple of Freedom and Law!—the foundations ye laid:— But again came the storm, and the might of darkness and wrong was array'd, A warfare of years; and the battle raged, and new heroes arose From a soil that is fertile in manhood's men, and scatter'd the foes, And set in their place the bright pillars of Order, Liberty's shrine, O'er the land far-seen, as o'er Athens the home of Athena divine. —So the land had rest:—and the cloud of that heart-sore struggle and pain Sped from her ancient hills, and peace shone o'er her again, Sunlike chasing the plagues wherewith the land was defiled: And the leprosy fled, and her flesh came again, as the flesh of a child. For lo! the crown'd Statesman of Law, Justinian himself of his realm, Edward, since Alfred our wisest of all who have watch'd by the helm! He who yet preaches in silence his life-word, the light of his way, From his marble unadorn'd chest, in the heart of the West Minster gray, Keep thy Faith . . . In the great town-twilight, this city of gloom, —O how unlike that blithe London he look'd on!—I look on his tomb, In the circle of kings, round the shrine, where the air is heavy with fame, Dust of our moulder'd chieftains, and splendour shrunk to a name. Silent synod august, ye that tried the delight and the pain, Trials and snares of a throne, was the legend written in vain? Speak, for ye know, crown'd shadows! who down each narrow and strait As ye might, once guided,—a perilous passage,—the keel of the State, Fourth Henry, fourth Edward, Elizabeth, Charles,—now ye rest from your toil, Was it best, when by truth and compass ye steer'd, or by statecraft and guile? Or is it so hard, that steering of States, that as men who throw in With party their life, honour soils his own ermine, a lie is no sin? . . . —Not so, great Edward, with thee,—not so!—For he learn'd in his youth The step straightforward and sure, the proud, bright bearing of truth:— Arm'd against Simon at Evesham, yet not less, striking for Law,— Ages of temperate freedom, a vision of order, he saw!— —Vision of opulent years, a murmur of welfare and peace: Orchard golden-globed, plain waving in golden increase; Hopfields fairer than vineyards, green laughing tendrils and bine; Woodland misty in sunlight, and meadow sunny with kine;— Havens of heaving blue, where the keels of Guienne and the Hanse Jostle and creak by the quay, and the mast goes up like a lance, Gay with the pennons of peace, and, blazon'd with Adria's dyes, Purple and orange, the sails like a sunset burn in the skies. Bloodless conquests of commerce, that nation with nation unite! Hand clasp'd frankly in hand, not steel-clad buffets in fight: On the deck strange accents and shouting; rough furcowl'd men of the north, Genoa's brown-neck'd sons, and whom swarthy Smyrna sends forth: Freights of the south; drugs potent o'er death from the basilisk won, Odorous Phoenix-nest, and spice of a sunnier sun:— Butts of Malvasian nectar, Messene's vintage of old, Cyprian webs, damask of Arabia mazy with gold: Sendal and Samite and Tarsien, and sardstones ruddy as wine, Graved by Athenian diamond with forms of beauty divine. To the quay from the gabled alleys, the huddled ravines of the town, Twilights of jutting lattice and beam, the Guild-merchants come down, Cheapening the gifts of the south, the sea-borne alien bales, For the snow-bright fleeces of Leom'ster, the wealth of Devonian vales; While above them, the cavernous gates, on which knight-robbers have gazed Hopeless, in peace look down, their harrows of iron upraised; And Dustyfoot enters at will with his gay Autolycus load, And the maidens are flocking as doves when they fling the light grain on the road. Low on the riverain mead, where the dull clay-cottages cling To the tall town-ward and the towers, as nests of the martin in spring, Where the year-long fever lurks, and gray leprosy burrows secure, Are the wattled huts of the Friars, the long, white Church of the poor: —Haven of wearied eyelids; of hearts that care not to live; Shadow and silence of prayer; the peace which the world cannot give! Tapers hazily gloaming through fragrance the censers outpour; Chant ever rising and rippling in sweetness, as waves on the shore; Casements of woven stone, with more than the rainbow bedyed; Beauty of holiness! Spell yet unbroken by riches and pride! —Ah! could it be so for ever!—the good aye better'd by Time:— First-Faith, first-Wisdom, first-Love,—to the end be true to their prime! . . Far rises the storm o'er horizons unseen, that will lay them in dust, Crashings of plunder'd cloisters, and royal insatiate lust:— Far, unseen, unheard!—Meanwhile the great Minster on high Like a stream of music, aspiring, harmonious, springs to the sky:— Story on story ascending their buttress'd beauty unfold, Till the highest height is attain'd, and the Cross shines star-like in gold, Set as a meteor in heaven; a sign of health and release:— And the land rejoices below, and the heart-song of England is Peace.
This date has been chosen as representing at once the culminating point in the reign of Edward, and of Mediaevalism in England. The sound, the fascinating elements of that period rapidly decline after the thirteenth century in Church and State, in art and in learning.
'In the person of the great Edward,' says Freeman, 'the work of reconciliation is completed. Norman and Englishman have become one under the best and greatest of our later Kings, the first who, since the Norman entered our land, . . . followed a purely English policy.'
The three children; William I and II, and Henry I.
The transept; of Canterbury Cathedral, after Becket's death named the 'Martyrdom.'
Nor again; See the Early Plantagenets, by Bishop Stubbs: one of the very few masterpieces among the shoal of little books on great subjects in which a declining literature is fertile.
Britons on each side sea; Armorica and Cornwall, Wales and Strathclyde, all share in the great Arthurian legend.
Justinian; 'Edward,' says Dr. Stubbs, 'is the great lawgiver, the great politician, the great organiser of the mediaeval English polity:' (Early Plantagenets).
Keep thy Faith; 'Pactum serva' may be still seen inscribed on the huge stone coffin of Edward I.
The keels of Guienne . . . Adria's dyes; The ships of Gascony, of the Hanse Towns, of Genoa, of Venice, are enumerated amongst those which now traded with England.
Malvasian nectar; 'Malvoisie,' the sweet wine of the Southern Morea, gained its name from Monemvasia, or Napoli di Malvasia, its port of shipment.
Sendal; A thin rich silk. Samite; A very rich stuff, sometimes wholly of silk, often crimson, interwoven with gold and silver thread, and embroidered. Tarsien; Silken stuff from Tartary.
Athenian diamond; A few very fine early gems ascribed to Athens, are executed wholly with diamond-point.
The snow-bright fleeces; Those of Leominster were very long famous.
Devonian vales; The ancient mining region west of Tavistock.
Dustyfoot; Old name for pedlar.
August 26: 1346
At Crecy by Somme in Ponthieu High up on a windy hill A mill stands out like a tower; King Edward stands on the mill. The plain is seething below As Vesuvius seethes with flame, But O! not with fire, but gore, Earth incarnadined o'er, Crimson with shame and with fame!— To the King run the messengers, crying 'Thy Son is hard-press'd to the dying!' —'Let alone: for to-day will be written in story To the great world's end, and for ever: So let the boy have the glory.'
Erin and Gwalia there With England are one against France; Outfacing the oriflamme red The red dragons of Merlin advance:— As harvest in autumn renew'd The lances bend o'er the fields; Snow-thick our arrow-heads white Level the foe as they light; Knighthood to yeomanry yields:— Proud heart, the King watches, as higher Goes the blaze of the battle, and nigher:— 'To-day is a day will be written in story To the great world's end, and for ever! Let the boy alone have the glory.'
Harold at Senlac-on-Sea By Norman arrow laid low,— When the shield-wall was breach'd by the shaft, —Thou art avenged by the bow! Chivalry! name of romance! Thou art henceforth but a name! Weapon that none can withstand, Yew in the Englishman's hand, Flight-shaft unerring in aim! As a lightning-struck forest the foemen Shiver down to the stroke of the bowmen:— —'O to-day is a day will be written in story To the great world's end, and for ever! So, let the boy have the glory.'
Pride of Liguria's shore Genoa wrestles in vain; Vainly Bohemia's King Kinglike is laid with the slain. The Blood-lake is wiped-out in blood, The shame of the centuries o'er; Where the pride of the Norman had sway The lions lord over the fray, The legions of France are no more:— —The Prince to his father kneels lowly; —'His is the battle! his wholly! For to-day is a day will be written in story To the great world's end, and for ever:— So, let him have the spurs, and the glory!'
Erin and Gwalia; Half of Edward's army consisted of light armed footmen from Ireland and Wales—the latter under their old Dragon-flag.
Chivalry; The feudal idea of an army, resting 'on the superiority of the horseman to the footman, of the mounted noble to the unmounted churl,' may be said to have been ruined by this battle: (Green, B. IV: ch. iii).
Liguria; 15,000 cross-bowmen from Genoa were in Philip's army.
The Blood-lake; Senlac; Hastings.
THE BLACK SEATS
Blue and ever more blue The sky of that summer's spring: No cloud from dawning to night: The lidless eyeball of light Glared: nor could e'en in darkness the dew Her pearls on the meadow-grass string. As a face of a hundred years, Mummied and scarr'd, for the heart Is long dry at the fountain of tears, Green earth lay brown-faced and torn, Scarr'd and hard and forlorn. And as that foul monster of Lerna Whom Heracles slew in his might, But this one slaying, not slain, From the marshes, poisonous, white, Crawl'd out a plague-mist and sheeted the plain, A hydra of hell and of night. —Whence upon men has that horror past? From Cathaya westward it stole to Byzance,— The City of Flowers,—the vineyards of France;— O'er the salt-sea ramparts of England, last, Reeking and rank, a serpent's breath:— What is this, men cry in their fear, what is this that cometh? 'Tis the Black Death, they whisper: The black black Death!
The heart of man at the name To a ball of ice shrinks in, With hope, surrendering life:— The husband looks on the wife, Reading the tokens of doom in the frame, The pest-boil hid in the skin, And flees and leaves her to die. Fear-sick, the mother beholds In her child's pure crystalline eye A dull shining, a sign of despair. Lo, the heavens are poison, not air; And they fall as when lambs in the pasture With a moan that is hardly a moan, Drop, whole flocks, where they stand; And the mother lays her, alone, Slain by the touch of her nursing hand, Where the household before her is strown. —Earth, Earth, open and cover thy dead! For they are smitten and fall who bear The corpse to the grave with a prayerless prayer, And thousands are crush'd in the common bed:— —Is it Hell that breathes with an adder's breath? Is it the day of doom, men cry, the Judge that cometh? —'Tis the Black Death, God help us! The black black Death.
Maid Alice and maid Margaret In the fields have built them a bower Of reedmace and rushes fine, Fenced with sharp albespyne; Pretty maids hid in the nest; and yet Yours is one death, and one hour! Priest and peasant and lord By the swift, soft stroke of the air, By a silent invisible sword, In plough-field or banquet, fall: The watchers are flat on the wall:— Through city and village and valley The sweet-voiced herald of prayer Is dumb in the towers; the throng To the shrine pace barefoot; and where Blazed out from the choir a glory of song, God's altar is lightless and bare. Is there no pity in earth or sky? The burden of England, who shall say? Half the giant oak is riven away, And the green leaves yearn for the leaves that die. Will the whole world drink of the dragon's breath? It is the cup, men cry, the cup of God's fury that cometh! 'Tis the Black Death, Lord help us! The black black Death.
In England is heard a moan, A bitter lament and a sore, Rachel lamenting her dead, And will not be comforted For the little faces for ever gone, The feet from the silent floor. And a cry goes up from the land, Take from us in mercy, O God, Take from us the weight of Thy hand, The cup and the wormwood of woe! 'Neath the terrible barbs of Thy bow This England, this once Thy beloved, Is water'd with life-blood for rain; The bones of her children are white, As flints on the Golgotha plain; Not slain as warriors by warriors in fight, By the arrows of Heaven slain. We have sinn'd: we lift up our souls to Thee, O Lord God eternal on high: Thou who gavest Thyself to die, Saviour, save! to Thy feet we flee:— Snatch from the hell and the Enemy's breath, From the Prince of the Air, from the terror by night that cometh:— From the Black Death, Christ save us! The black black Death!
That foul monster; The Lernaean Hydra of Greek legend.
From the marshes; The drought which preceded the plague in England, and may have predisposed to its reception, was followed by mist, in which the people fancied they saw the disease palpably advancing.
From Cathaya; The plague was heard of in Central Asia in 1333; it reached Constantinople in 1347.
The City of Flowers; Florence, where the ravages of the plague were immortalized in the Decamerone of Boccaccio.
The pest boil; Seems to have been the enlarged and discharging gland by which the specific blood-poison of the plague relieved itself. A 'muddy glistening' of the eye is noticed as one of the symptoms.
The common bed; More than 50,000 are said to have been buried on the site of the Charter House.
Half the giant oak; 'Of the three or four millions who then formed the population of England, more than one-half were swept away': (Green, B. IV: ch. iii).
THE PILGRIM AND THE PLOUGHMAN
It is a dream, I know:—Yet on the past Of this dear England if in thought we gaze, About her seems a constant sunshine cast; In summer calm we see and golden haze The little London of Plantagenet days; Quaint labyrinthine knot of toppling lanes, And thorny spires aflame with starlike vanes.
Our silver Thames all yet unspoil'd and clear; The many-buttress'd bridge that stems the tide; Black-timber'd wharves; arcaded walls, that rear Long, golden-crested roofs of civic pride:— While flaunting galliots by the gardens glide, And on Spring's frolic air the May-song swells, Mix'd with the music of a thousand bells.
Beyond the bridge a mazy forest swims, Great spars and sails and flame-tongued flags on high, Wedged round the quay, a-throng with ruddy limbs And faces bronzed beneath another sky: And 'mid the press sits one with aspect shy And downcast eyes of watching, and, the while, The deep observance of an inward smile.
In hooded mantle gray he smiled and sate, With ink-horn at his knees and scroll and pen. And took the toll and register'd the freight, 'Mid noise of clattering cranes and strife of men: And all that moved and spoke was in his ken, With lines and hues like Nature's own design'd Deep in the magic mirror of his mind.
Thence oft, returning homeward, on the book,— His of Certaldo, or the bard whose lays Were lost to love in Scythia,—he would look Till his fix'd eyes the dancing letters daze: Then forth to the near fields, and feed his gaze On one fair flower in starry myriads spread, And in her graciousness be comforted:—
Then, joyous with a poet's joy, to draw With genial touch, and strokes of patient skill, The very image of each thing he saw:— He limn'd the man all round, for good or ill, Having both sighs and laughter at his will; Life as it went he grasp'd in vision true, Yet stood outside the scene his pencil drew.
—Man's inner passions in their conscience-strife, The conflicts of the heart against the heart, The mother yearning o'er the infant's life, The maiden wrong'd by wealth and lecherous art, The leper's loathsome cell from man apart, War's hell of lust and fire, the village-woe, The tinsel chivalry veiling shame below,—
Not his to draw,—to see, perhaps:—Our eyes Hold bias with our humour:—His, to paint With Nature's freshness, what before him lies: The knave, the fool; the frolicsome, the quaint: His the broad jest, the laugh without restraint, The ready tears, the spirit lightly moved; Loving the world, and by the world beloved.
So forth fared Chaucer on his pilgrimage Through England's humours; in immortal song Bodying the form and pressure of his age, Tints gay as pure, and delicate as strong; Still to the Tabard the blithe travellers throng, Seen in his mind so vividly, that we Know them more clearly than the men we see.
Fair France, bright Italy, those numbers train'd; First in his pages Nature wedding Art Of all our sons of song; yet he remain'd True English of the English at his heart:— He stood between two worlds, yet had no part In that new order of the dawning day Which swept the masque of chivalry away.
O Poet of romance and courtly glee And downcast eager glance that shuns the sky, Above, about, are signs thou canst not see, Portents in heaven and earth!—And one goes by With other than thy prosperous, laughing eye, Framing the rough web of his rueful lays, The sorrow and the sin—with bitter gaze
As down the Strand he stalks, a sable shade Of death, while, jingling like the elfin train, In silver samite knight and dame and maid Ride to the tourney on the barrier'd plain; And he must bow in humble mute disdain, And that worst woe of baffled souls endure, To see the evil that they may not cure.
For on sweet Malvern Hill one morn he lay, Drowsed by the music of the constant stream:— Loud sang the cuckoo, cuckoo!—for the May Breathed summer: summer floating like a dream From the far fields of childhood, with a gleam Of alien freshness on her forehead fair, And Heaven itself within the common air.
Then on the mead in vision Langland saw A pilgrim-throng; not missal-bright as those Whom Chaucer's hand surpass'd itself to draw, Gay as the lark, and brilliant as the rose;— But such as dungeon foul or spital shows, Or the serf's fever-den, or field of fight, When festering sunbeams on the wounded smite.
No sainted shrine the motley wanderers seek, Pilgrims of life upon the field of scorn, Mocking and mock'd; with plague and hunger weak, And haggard faces bleach'd as those who mourn, And footsteps redden'd with the trodden thorn; Blind stretching hands that grope for truth in vain, Across a twilight demon-haunted plain.
A land whose children toil and rot like beasts, Robbers and robb'd by turns, the dreamer sees:— Land of poor-grinding lords and faithless priests, Where wisdom starves and folly thrones at ease 'Mid lavishness and lusts and knaveries; Times out of joint, a universe of lies, Till Love divine appear in Ploughman's guise
To burn the gilded tares and save the land, Risen from the grave and walking earth again:— —And as he dream'd and kiss'd the nail-pierced hand, A hundred towers their Easter voices rain In silver showers o'er hill and vale and plain, And the air throbb'd with sweetness, and he woke And all the dream in light and music broke.
—He look'd around, and saw the world he left When to that visionary realm of song His spirit fled from bonds of flesh bereft; And on the vision he lay musing long, As o'er his soul rude minstrel-echoes throng, Old measures half-disused; and grasp'd his pen, And drew his cottage-Christ for homely men.
Thus Langland also took his pilgrimage; Rough lone knight-errant on uncourtly ways, And wrong and woe were charter'd on his page, With some horizon-glimpse of sweeter days. And on the land the message of his lays Smote like the strong North-wind, and cleansed the sky With wholesome blast and bitter clarion-cry,
Summoning the people in the Ploughman's name. —So fought his fight, and pass'd unknown away; Seeking no other praise, no sculptured fame Nor laureate honours for his artless lay, Nor in the Minster laid with high array;— But where the May-thorn gleams, the grasses wave, And the wind sighs o'er a forgotten grave.
Langland, whom I have put here in contrast with Chaucer, is said to have lived between 1332 and 1400. His Vision of Piers the Plowman (who is partially identified with our blessed Saviour), with some added poems, forms an allegory on life in England, in Church and State, as it appeared to him during the dislocated and corrupt age which followed the superficial glories of Edward the Third's earlier years.
Took the toll; Amongst other official employments, Chaucer was Comptroller of the Customs in the Port of London. See his House of Fame; and the beautiful picture of his walks at dawning in the daisy- meadows: Prologue to the Legend of Good Women.
His of Certaldo, . . . in Scythia; Boccaccio:—and Ovid, who died in exile at Tomi:—to both of whom Chaucer is greatly indebted for the substance of his tales.
Picture-like; 'It is chiefly as a comic poet, and a minute observer of manners and circumstances, that Chaucer excels. In serious and moral poetry he is frequently languid and diffuse, but he springs like Antaeus from the earth when his subject changes to coarse satire or merry narrative' (Hallam, Mid. Ages: Ch. IX: Pt. iii).
The Tabard; Inn in Southwark whence the pilgrims to Canterbury start.
Down the Strand; It is thus that Langland describes himself and his feelings of dissatisfaction with the world.
That worst woe; Literature, even ancient literature, has no phrase more deeply felt and pathetic than the words which the Persian nobleman at the feast in Thebes before Plataea addressed to Thersander of Orchomenus:—[Greek text]: (Herodotus, IX: xvi).
One morn he lay; The Vision opens with a picture of the poet asleep on Malvern Hill: the last of the added poems closing as he wakes with the Easter chimes.
Old measures; Langland's metre 'is more uncouth than that of his predecessors' (Hallam, Mid. Ag. Ch. IX: Pt. iii).
In the Minster; Chaucer was buried at the entrance of S. Benet's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
So many stars in heaven,— Flowers in the meadow that shine; —This little one of Domremy, What special grace is thine? By the fairy beech and the fountain What but a child with thy brothers? Among the maids of the valley Art more than one among others?
Chosen darling of Heaven, Yet at heart wast only a child! And for thee the wild things of Nature Sot aside their nature wild:— The brown-eyed fawn of the forest Came silently glancing upon thee; The squirrel slipp'd down from the fir, And nestled his gentleness on thee.
Angelus bell and Ave, Like voices they follow the maid As she follows her sheep in the valley From the dawn to the folding shade:— For the world that we cannot see Is the world of her earthly seeing; From the air of the hills of God She draws her breath and her being.
Dances by beech tree and fountain, They know her no longer:—apart Sitting with thought and with vision In the silent shrine of the heart. And a voice henceforth and for ever Within, without her, is sighing 'Pity for France, O pity, France the beloved, the dying!'
—Now between church-wall and cottage What comes in the blinding light, —Rainbow plumes and armour, Face as the sun in his height . . . 'Angel that pierced the red dragon, Pity for France, O pity! Holy one, thou shalt save her, Vineyard and village and city!'
Poor sweet child of Domremy, In thine innocence only strong, Thou seest not the treason before thee, The gibe and the curse of the throng,— The furnace-pile in the market That licks out its flames to take thee;— For He who loves thee in heaven On earth will not forsake thee!
Poor sweet maid of Domremy, In thine innocence secure, Heed not what men say of thee, The buffoon and his jest impure! Nor care if thy name, young martyr, Be the star of thy country's story:— Mid the white-robed host of the heavens Thou hast more than glory!
Angel that pierced; 'She had pity, to use the phrase for ever on her lip, on the fair realm of France. She saw visions; St. Michael appeared to her in a flood of blinding light': (Green, B. IV: ch. vi).
The buffoon; Voltaire.
Palm Sunday: 1461
Love, Who from the throne above Cam'st to teach the law of love, Who Thy peaceful triumph hast Led o'er palms before Thee cast, E'en in highest heaven Thine eyes Turn from this day's sacrifice! Slaughter whence no victor host Can the palms of triumph boast; Blood on blood in rivers spilt,— English blood by English guilt!
From the gracious Minster-towers Of York the priests behold afar The field of Towton shimmer like a star With light of lance and helm; while both the powers Misnamed from the fair rose, with one fell blow, —In snow-dazed, blinding air Mass'd on the burnside bare,— Each army, as one man, drove at the opposing foe.
Ne'er since then, and ne'er before, On England's fields with English hands Have met for death such myriad myriad bands, Such wolf-like fury, and such greed of gore:— No natural kindly touch, no check of shame: And no such bestial rage Blots our long story's page; Such lewd remorseless swords, such selfishness of aim
—Gracious Prince of Peace! Yet Thou May'st look and bless with lenient eyes When trodden races 'gainst their tyrant rise, And the bent back no more will deign to bow: Or when they crush some old anarchic feud, And found the throne anew On Law to Freedom true, Cleansing the land they love from guilt of blood by blood.
Nor did Heaven unmoved behold When Hellas, for her birthright free Dappling with gore the dark Saronian sea, The Persian wave back, past Abydos, roll'd:— But in this murderous match of chief 'gainst chief No chivalry had part, No impulse of the heart; Nor any sigh for Right triumphant breathes relief.
—Midday comes: and no release, No carnage-pause to blow on blow! While through the choir the palm-wreathed children go, And gay hosannas hail the Prince of Peace:— And evening falls, and from the Minster height They see the wan Ouse stream Blood-dark with slaughter gleam, And hear the demon-struggle shrieking through the night.
Love, o'er palms in triumph strown Passing, through the crowd alone,— Silent 'mid the exulting cry,— At Jerusalem to die: Thou, foreknowing all, didst know How Thy blood in vain would flow! How our madness oft would prove Recreant to the law of love: Wrongs that men from men endure Doing Thee to death once more!
'On the 29th of March 1461 the two armies encountered one another at Towton Field, near Tadcaster. In the numbers engaged, as well as in the terrible obstinacy of the struggle, no such battle had been seen in England since the field of Senlac. The two armies together numbered nearly 120,000 men': (Green, B. IV: ch. vi).
Saronian sea; Scene of the battle of Salamis, B.C. 480.
They see the wan Ouse stream; Mr. R. Wilton, of Londesborough, has kindly pointed out to me that Wharfe, which from a brook received the bloodshed of Towton, does not discharge into Ouse until about ten miles south of York. The gleam is, therefore, visionary: (1889).
GROCYN AT OXFORD
THE ENGLISH RENAISSANCE
As she who in some village-child unknown, With rustic grace and fantasy bedeck'd And in her simple loveliness alone, A sister finds;—and the long years' neglect Effaces with warm love and nursing care, And takes her heart to heart, And in her treasured treasures bids her freely share,
And robes with radiance new, new strength and grace:— Hellas and England! thus it was with ye! Though distanced far by centuries and by space, Sisters in soul by Nature's own decree. And if on Athens in her glory-day The younger might not look, Her living soul came back, and reinfused our clay.
—It was not wholly lost, that better light, Not in the darkest darkness of our day; From cell to cell, e'en through the Danish night, The torch ran on its firefly fitful way; And blazed anew with him who in the vale Of fair Aosta saw The careless reaper-bands, and pass'd the heavens' high pale,
And supp'd with God, in vision! Or with him, Earliest and greatest of his name, who gave His life to Nature, in her caverns dim Tracking her soul, through poverty to the grave, And left his Great Work to the barbarous age That, in its folly-love, With wizard-fame defamed his and sweet Vergil's page.
But systems have their day, and die, or change Transform'd to new: Not now from cloister-cell And desk-bow'd priest, breathes out that impulse strange 'Neath which the world of feudal Europe fell:— Throes of new birth, new life; while men despair'd Or triumph'd in their pride, As in their eyes the torch of learning fiercely flared.
For now the cry of Homer's clarion first And Plato's golden tongue on English ears And souls aflame for that new doctrine burst, As Grocyn taught, when, after studious years, He came from Arno to the liberal walls That welcomed me in youth, And nursed in Grecian lore, long native to her halls.
O voice that spann'd the gulf of vanish'd years, Evoking shapes of old from night to light, Lo at thy spell a long-lost world appears, Where Rome and Hellas break upon our sight:— The Gothic gloom divides; a glory burns Behind the clouds of Time, And all that wonder-past in beauty's glow returns.
—For when the Northern floods that lash'd and curl'd Around the granite fragments of great Rome Outspread Colossus-like athwart the world, Foam'd down, and the new nations found their home, That earlier Europe, law and arts and arms, Fell into far-off shade, Or lay like some fair maid sleep-sunk in magic charms.
And as in lands once flourishing, now forlorn, And desolate capitals, the traveller sees Wild tribes, in ruins from the ruins torn Hutted like beasts 'mid marble palaces, Unknowing what those relics mean, and whose The goblets gold-enchased And images of the gods the broken vaults disclose;
So in the Mid-age from the Past of Man The Present was disparted; and they stood As on some island, sever'd from the plan Of the great world, and the sea's twilight flood Around them, and the monsters of the unknown; Blind fancy mix'd with fact; Faith in the things unseen sustaining them alone.
Age of extremes and contrasts!—where the good Was more than human in its tenderness Of chivalry;—Beauty's self the prize of blood, And evil raging round with wild excess Of more than brutal:—A disjointed time! Doubt with Hypocrisy pair'd, And purest Faith by folly, childlike, led to crime.
O Florentine, O Master, who alone From thy loved Vergil till our Shakespeare came Didst climb the long steps to the imperial throne, With what immortal dyes of angry flame Hast blazon'd out the vileness of the day! What tints of perfect love Rosier than summer rose, etherealize thy lay!
—Now, as in some new land when night is deep The pilgrim halts, nor knows what round him lies And wakes with dawn, and finds him on the steep, While plains beneath and unguess'd summits rise, And stately rivers widening to the sea, Cities of men and towers, Abash'd for very joy, and gazing fearfully;—
New worlds, new wisdom, a new birth of things On Europe shine, and men know where they stand: The sea his western portal open flings, And bold Sebastian strikes the flowery land: Soon, heaven its secret yields; the golden sun Enthrones him in the midst, And round his throne man and the planets humbly run.
New learning all! yet fresh from fountains old, Hellenic inspiration, pure and deep: Strange treasures of Byzantine hoards unroll'd, And mouldering volumes from monastic sleep, Reclad with life by more than magic art: Till that old world renew'd His youth, and in the past the present own'd its part.
—O vision that ye saw, and hardly saw, Ye who in Alfred's path at Oxford trod, Or in our London train'd by studious law The little-ones of Christ to Him and God, Colet and Grocyn!—Though the world forget The labours of your love, In loving hearts your names live in their fragrance yet.
O vision that our happier eyes have seen! For not till peace came with Elizabeth Did those fair maids of holy Hippocrene Cross the wan waves and draw a northern breath: Though some far-echoed strain on Tuscan lyres Our Chaucer caught, and sang Like her who sings ere dawn has lit his Eastern fires;—
Herald of that first splendour, when the sky Was topaz-clear with hope, and life-blood-red With thoughts of mighty poets, lavishly Round all the fifty years' horizon shed:— Now in our glades the Aglaian Graces gleam, Around our fountains throng, And change Ilissus' banks for Thames and Avon stream.
Daughters of Zeus and bright Eurynome, She whose blue waters pave the Aegaean plain, Children of all surrounding sky and sea, A larger ocean claims you, not in vain! Ye who to Helicon from Thessalia wide Wander'd when earth was young, Come from Libethrion, come; our love, our joy, our pride!
Ah! since your gray Pierian ilex-groves Felt the despoiling tread of barbarous feet, This land, o'er all, the Delian leader loves; Here is your favourite home, your genuine seat:— In these green western isles renew the throne Where Grace by Wisdom shines; —We welcome with full hearts, and claim you for our own!
If, looking at England, one point may be singled out in that long movement, generalized under the name of the Renaissance, as critical, it is the introduction of the Greek and Latin literature:—which has remained ever since conspicuously the most powerful and enlarging element, the most effectively educational, among all blanches of human study.
In the vale Of fair Aosta; See Anselm's youthful vision of the gleaners and the palace of heaven (Green: History, B. II: ch. ii).
His Great Work; Roger Bacon's so-named Opus Majus: 'At once,' says Whewell, 'the Encyclopaedia and the Novum Organum of the thirteenth century.' Like Vergil, Bacon passed at one time for a magician.
That new doctrine; Grocyn was perhaps the first Englishman who studied Greek under Chalcondylas the Byzantine at Florence; certainly the first who lectured on Greek in England. This was in the Hall of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1491. To him Erasmus (1499) came to study the language.—See the brilliant account of the revival of learning in Green, Hist. B. V: ch. ii.
Master, who alone; See The Poet's Euthanasia.
Sebastian; Cabot, who, in 1497, sailed from Bristol, and reached Florida.
The golden sun; Refers to Copernicus; whose solar system was, however, not published till 1543.
The little-ones; Colet, Dean of S. Paul's, founded the school in 1510. 'The bent of its founder's mind was shown by the image of the Child Jesus over the master's chair, with the words Hear ye Him graven beneath it' (Green: B. V: ch. iv).
Fifty years; Between 1570 and 1620 lies almost all the glorious production of our so-called Elizabethan period.
From Libethrion;—Nymphae, noster amor, Libethrides! . . . What a music is there in the least little fragment of Vergil's exquisite art!
Love who art above us all, Guard the treasure on her way, Flower of England, fair and tall, Maiden-wise and maiden-gay, As her northward path she goes; Daughter of the double rose.
Look with twofold grace on her Who from twofold root has grown, Flower of York and Lancaster, Now to grace another throne, Rose in Scotland's garden set,— Britain's only Margaret.
Exile-child from childhood's bower, Pledge and bond of Henry's faith, James, take home our English flower, Guard from touch of scorn and skaith; Bearing, in her slender hands, Palms of peace to hostile lands.
Safe by southern smiling shires, Many a city, many a shrine; By the newly kindled fires Of the black Northumbrian mine; Border clans in ambush set; Carry thou fair Margaret.
—Land of heath and hill and linn, Land of mountain-freedom wild, She in heart to thee is kin, Tudor's daughter, Gwynedd's child! In her lively lifeblood share Gwenllian and Angharad fair.
East and West, from Dee to Yare, Now in equal bonds are wed: Peace her new-found flower shall wear, Rose that dapples white with red; North and South, dissever'd yet, Join in this fair Margaret!
Ocean round our Britain roll'd, Sapphire ring without a flaw, When wilt thou one realm enfold, One in freedom, one in law? Will that ancient feud be sped, Brothers' blood by brothers shed?
—Land with freedom's struggle sore, Land to whom thy children cling With a lover's love and more, Take the gentle gift we bring! Pearl in thy crown royal set; Scotland's other Margaret.
Margaret Tudor, daughter to Henry VII, married in 1502 to James IV, and afterwards to Lord Angus, was thus great-grandmother on both sides to James I of England.
Gwynedd's child; The Tudors intermarried with the old royal family of North Wales, in whose pedigree occur the girl-names Gwenllian and Angharad.
Other Margaret; Sister to Edgar the Etheling, and wife to Malcolm. Her life and character are in contrast to the unhappy and unsatisfactory career of Margaret Tudor, whom I have here only treated as at once representing and uniting England, Scotland, and Wales.
July 6: 1535
The midnight moaning stream Draws down its glassy surface through the bridge That o'er the current casts a tower'd ridge, Dark sky-line forms fantastic as a dream; And cresset watch-lights on the bridge-gate gleam, Where 'neath the star-lit dome gaunt masts upbuoy No flag of festive joy, But blanching spectral heads;—their heads, who died Victims to tyrant-pride, Martyrs of Faith and Freedom in the day Of shame and flame and brutal selfish sway.
And one in black array Veiling her Rizpah-misery, to the gate Comes, and with gold and moving speech sedate Buys down the thing aloft, and bears away Snatch'd from the withering wind and ravens' prey: And as a mother's eyes, joy-soften'd, shed Tears o'er her young child's head, Golden and sweet, from evil saved; so she O'er this, sad-smilingly, Mangled and gray, unwarm'd by human breath, Clasping death's relic with love passing death.
So clasping now! and so When death clasps her in turn! e'en in the grave Nursing the precious head she could not save, Tho' through each drop her life-blood yearn'd to flow If but for him she might to scaffold go:— And O! as from that Hall, with innocent gore Sacred from roof to floor, To that grim other place of blood he went— What cry of agony rent The twilight,—cry as of an Angel's pain,— My father, O my father! . . . and in vain!
Then, as on those who lie Cast out from bliss, the days of joy come back, And all the soul with wormwood sweetness rack, So in that trance of dreadful ecstasy The vision of her girlhood glinted by:— And how the father through their garden stray'd, And, child with children, play'd, And teased the rabbit-hutch, and fed the dove Before him from above Alighting,—in his visitation sweet, Led on by little hands, and eager feet.
Hence among those he stands, Elect ones, ever in whose ears the word He that offends these little ones . . . is heard, With love and kisses smiling-out commands, And all the tender hearts within his hands; Seeing, in every child that goes, a flower From Eden's nursery bower, A little stray from Heaven, for reverence here Sent down, and comfort dear: All care well paid-for by one pure caress, And life made happy in their happiness.
He too, in deeper lore Than woman's in those early days, or yet,— Train'd step by step his youthful Margaret; The wonders of that amaranthine store Which Hellas and Hesperia evermore Lavish, to strengthen and refine the race:— For, in his large embrace, The light of faith with that new light combined To purify the mind:— A crystal soul, a heart without disguise, All wisdom's lover, and through love, all-wise.
—O face she ne'er will see,— Gray eyes, and careless hair, and mobile lips From which the shaft of kindly satire slips Healing its wound with human sympathy; The heart-deep smile; the tear-concealing glee! O well-known furrows of the reverend brow! Familiar voice, that now She will not hear nor answer any more,— Till on the better shore Where love completes the love in life begun, And smooths and knits our ravell'd skein in one!
Blest soul, who through life's course Didst keep the young child's heart unstain'd and whole, To find again the cradle at the goal, Like some fair stream returning to its source;— Ill fall'n on days of falsehood, greed, and force! Base days, that win the plaudits of the base, Writ to their own disgrace, With casuist sneer o'erglossing works of blood, Miscalling evil, good; Before some despot-hero falsely named Grovelling in shameful worship unashamed.
—But they of the great race Look equably, not caring much, on foe And fame and misesteem of man below; And with forgiving radiance on their face, And eyes that aim beyond the bourn of space, Seeing the invisible, glory-clad, go up And drink the absinthine cup, Fill'd nectar-deep by the dear love of Him Slain at Jerusalem To free them from a tyrant worse than this, Changing brief anguish for the heart of bliss.
—O moaning stream of Time, Heavy with hate and sin and wrong and woe As ocean-ward dost go, Thou also hast thy treasures!—Life, sublime In its own sweet simplicity:—life for love: Heroic martyr-death:— Man sees them not: but they are seen above.
One in black array; Sir T. More's daughter, Margaret Roper.
That Hall; Westminster, where More was tried: That other place; Tower Hill.
The vision of her girlhood; More taught his own children, and was like a child with them. He 'would take grave scholars and statesmen into the garden to see his girls' rabbit-hutches. . . . I have given you kisses enough, he wrote to his little ones, but stripes hardly ever': (Green, B. V: ch. ii).
The wonders; See first note to Grocyn at Oxford.
In his large embrace; More may be said to have represented the highest aim and effort of the 'new learning' in England. He is the flower of our Renaissance in genius, wisdom, and beauty of nature. 'When ever,' says Erasmus in a famous passage, 'did Nature mould a character more gentle, endearing, and happy, than Thomas More's?'
Blest hour, as on green happy slopes I lie, Gray walls around and high, While long-ranged arches lessen on the view, And one high gracious curve Of shaftless window frames the limpid blue.
—God's altar erst, where wind-set rowan now Waves its green-finger'd bough, And the brown tiny creeper mounts the bole With curious eye alert, And beak that tries each insect-haunted hole,
And lives her gentle life from nest to nest, And dies undispossess'd: Whilst all the air is quick with noise of birds Where once the chant went up; Now musical with a song more sweet than words.
Sky-roof'd and bare and deep in dewy sod, Still 'tis the house of God! Beauty by desolation unsubdued:— And all the past is here, Thronging with thought this holy solitude.
I see the taper-stars, the altars gay; And those who crouch and pray; The white-robed crowd in close monastic stole, Who hither fled the world To find the world again within the soul.
Yet here the pang of Love's defeat, the pride Of life unsatisfied, Might win repose or anodyne; here the weak, Armour'd against themselves, Exchange true guiding for obedience meek.
Through day, through night, here, in the fragrant air, Their hours are struck by prayer; Freed from the bonds of freedom, the distress Of choice, on life's storm-sea They gaze unharm'd, and know their happiness.