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S E C TI ON XLIII.
I KNOW not if sir Thomas More may properly be considered as an English poet. He has, however, left a few obsolete poems, which although without any striking merit, yet, as productions of the restorer of literature in England, seem to claim some notice here. One of these is, A MERY JEST how a SERGEANT would learne to play the FREERE. Written by Maister Thomas More in hys youth". The story is too dull and too long to be told here. But I will cite two or three of the prefatory stanzas.
He that hath lafteb the Hosier's crafte,
And falleth to making shone";
His thrift is well nigh done.
To goe to writyng scole,
I wene shall prove a fole.
Nothyng but kysse the cup,
Till she have soused hym up.
The wayes to bye and sell,
I praye God spede hym well!
By all the meanes he may,
His money cleane away;
Pletyng the lawe for every strawe,
Shall prove a thrifty man,
I cannot tell you whan.
In these lines, which are intended to illustrate, by familiar examples, the absurdity of a serjeant at law assuming the business of a friar, perhaps the reader perceives but little of that festivity, which is supposed to have marked the character and the conversation of sir Thomas More. The last two stanzas deserve to be transcribed, as they prove, that this tale was designed to be sung to music by a minstrel, for the entertainment of company.
Now Masters all, here now I shall
Ende there as I began;
And counsayle every man,
all newe refuse,
And welcome everych one.
This piece is mentioned, among other popular story-books in 1575, by Laneham, in his ENTERTAINMENT AT KillingWORTH Castle in the reign of queen Elisabeth
In CERTAIN METERS, written also in his youth, as a prologue for his Boke oF FORTUNE, and forming a poem of considerable length, are these stanzas, which are an attempt at personification and imagery. Fortune is represented sitting on a lofty throne, smiling on all mankind, who are gathered around her eagerly expecting a distribution of her favours.
Then, as a bayte, she bryngeth forth her ware,
Flattery, Dysceyt, Mischiefe, and Tiranny. Another of sir Thomas More's juvenile poems is, A RUFUL LAMENTACION on the death of queen Elisabeth, wife of Henry the Seventh, and mother of Henry the Eighth, who died in childbed, in 1503. It is evidently formed on the tragical soliloquies, which compose Lydgate's paraphrase of Boccace's book DE CASIBUS VIRORUM ILLUSTRIUM, and which gave
birth to the Mirror For MagistRATES, the origin of our historic dramas. These stanzas are part of the queen's complaint at the approach of death.
Where are our castels now, where are our towers?
That ye should go where we should seldome mete,
fore the queen died. 8 the palace of Richmond.
i Married in 1508 to James the + King Henry the Seventh's chapel, Fourth, king of Scotland. begun in the year 1502. The year beVOL. III.
Now I am gone and have left you behynde.
Thy mother never know, for lo now here I ly.p In the fourth stanza, she reproaches the astrologers for their falsity in having predicted, that this should be the happiest and most fortunate year of her whole life. This, while it is a natural reflection in the speaker, is a proof of More's contempt of a futile and frivolous science, then so much in esteem. I have been prolix in my citation from this forgotten poem: but I am of opinion, that some of the stanzas have strokes of nature and pathos, and deserved to be rescued from total oblivion.
More, when a young man, contrived in an apartment of his father's house a goodly hangyng of fyne paynted clothe, exhibiting nine pageants, or allegoric representations, of the stages of man's life, together with the figures of Death, Fame, Time,
* Margaret countess of Richmond. • The queen died within a few days
1 Catharine of Spain, wife of her son after she was delivered of this infant, the prince Arthur, now dead.
princess Catharine, who did not long Afterwards king Henry the Eighth survive her mother's death. * Afterwards queen of France. Remar
P WORKES, ut supr. ried to Charles Brandon,duke of Suffolk.
and Eternity. Under each picture he wrote a stanza. The first is under CHILDHODE, expressed by a boy whipping a top.
I am called Childhod, in play is all my mynde,
Which lyfe God sende me to myne endyng day. Next was pictured ManHOD, a comely young man mounted on a fleet horse, with a hawk on his fist, and followed by two greyhounds, with this stanza affixed.
Manho I am, therefore I me delyght
But what, no force, his reason is no better.
Tapestry, with metrical legends illustrating the subject, was common in this age: and the public pageants in the streets were often exhibited with explanatory verses. I am of opinion, that the Com@DIOLÆ, or little interludes, which More is said to have written and acted in his father's house, were only these nine pageants'.
Another juvenile exercise of More in the English stanza, is annexed to his prose translation of the Life of John Picus Mirandula, and entitled, TWELVE RULES OF JOHN Picus EARLE OF MIRANDULA, partely exciting, partely directing a man
• WORKES, Sign. C. iii. * a stick for throwing at a cock. STELE * See supr. p. 214, note". is handle, Sar.