English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, a Scottish poet, born about 1320:  wrote a poem concerning the deeds of King Robert I. in achieving the independence of Scotland.  It is called Broite or Brute, and in it, in imitation of the English, he traces the Scottish royal lineage to Brutus.  Although by no means equal to Chaucer, he is far superior to any other English poet of the time, and his language is more intelligible at the present day than that of Chaucer or Gower.  Sir Walter Scott has borrowed from Barbour’s poem in his “Lord of the Isles.”

Blind Harry—­name unknown:  wrote the adventures of Sir William Wallace, about 1460.

James I. of Scotland, assassinated at Perth, in 1437.  He wrote “The Kings Quhair,” (Quire or Book,) describing the progress of his attachment to the daughter of the Earl of Somerset, while a prisoner in England, during the reign of Henry IV.

Thomas Occleve, flourished about 1420.  His principal work is in Latin; De Regimine Principum, (concerning the government of princes.)

John Lydgate, flourished about 1430:  wrote Masks and Mummeries, and nine books of tragedies translated from Boccaccio.

Robert Henryson, flourished about 1430:  Robin and Makyne, a pastoral; and a continuation of Chaucer’s Troilus and Creseide, entitled “The Testament of Fair Creseide.”

William Dunbar, died about 1520:  the greatest of Scottish poets, called “The Chaucer of Scotland.”  He wrote “The Thistle and the Rose,” “The Dance,” and “The Golden Targe.”

CHAPTER X.

THE BARREN PERIOD BETWEEN CHAUCER AND SPENSER.

   Greek Literature.  Invention of Printing.  Caxton.  Contemporary History. 
   Skelton.  Wyatt.  Surrey.  Sir Thomas More.  Utopia, and other Works.  Other
   Writers.

THE STUDY OF GREEK LITERATURE.

Having thus mentioned the writers whom we regard as belonging to the period of Chaucer, although some of them, like Henryson and Dunbar, flourished at the close of the fifteenth century, we reach those of that literary epoch which may be regarded as the transition state between Chaucer and the age of Elizabeth:  an epoch which, while it produced no great literary work, and is irradiated by no great name, was, however, a time of preparation for the splendid advent of Spenser and Shakspeare.

Incident to the dangers which had so long beset the Eastern or Byzantine Empire, which culminated in the fall of Constantinople—­and to the gradual but steady progress of Western Europe in arts and letters, which made it a welcome refuge for the imperilled learning of the East—­Greek letters came like a fertilizing flood across the Continent into England.  The philosophy of Plato, the power of the Athenian drama, and the learning of the Stagyrite, were a new impulse to literature.  Before the close

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