Halleck's New English Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 629 pages of information about Halleck's New English Literature.

Of his translation, Brooke says:  “It was this Bible which, revised by Coverdale, and edited and reedited as Cromwell’s Bible, 1539, and again as Cranmer’s Bible, 1540, was set up in every parish church in England.  It got north into Scotland and made the Lowland English more like the London English.  It passed over into the Protestant settlements in Ireland.  After its revival in 1611 it went with the Puritan Fathers to New England and fixed the standard of English in America.  Many millions of people now speak the English of Tyndale’s Bible, and there is no other book which has had, through the Authorized Version, so great an influence on the style of English literature and on the standard of English prose.”

[Illustration:  WILLIAM TYNDALE. From an old print.]

The following verses from Tyndale’s version show its simplicity directness, and similarity to the present version:—­

  “Jesus sayde unto her, Thy brother shall ryse agayne.

  “Martha sayde unto hym, I knowe wele, he shall ryse agayne in the
  resurreccion att the last day.

  “Jesus sayde unto her, I am the resurreccion and lyfe; whosoever
  beleveth on me, ye, though he were deed, yet shall he lyve.”

Italian Influence:  Wyatt and Surrey.—­During the reign of Henry VIII. (1509-1547), the influence of Italian poetry made itself distinctly felt.  The roots of Elizabethan poetry were watered by many fountains, one of the chief of which flowed from Italian soil.  To Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and to the Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) belongs the credit of introducing from Italian sources new influences, which helped to remodel English poetry and give it a distinctly modern cast.

These poets were the first to introduce the sonnet, which Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth employed with such power in after times.  Blank verse was first used in England by the Earl of Surrey, who translated a portion of Vergil’s AEneid into that measure.  When Shakespeare took up his pen, he found that vehicle of poetic expression ready for his use.

[Illustration:  SIR THOMAS WYATT._After Holbein_.]

Wyatt and Surrey adopted Italian subject matter as well as form.  They introduced the poetry of the amorists, that is, verse which tells of the woes and joys of a lover.  We find Shakespeare in his Sonnets turning to this subject, which he made as broad and deep as life.  In 1557, the year before Elizabeth’s accession, the poems of Wyatt and Surrey appeared in Tottel’s Miscellany, one of the earliest printed collections of modern English poetry.


The first part of the century and a half following the death of Chaucer saw war with France and the Wars of the Roses, in which most of the nobles were killed.  The reign of Henry VII. and his successors in the Tudor line shows the increased influence of the crown, freed from the restraint of the powerful lords.  The period witnessed the passing of serfdom and the extension of trade and manufactures.

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Halleck's New English Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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