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With humble duty and officious haste,
That she, of all mankind, could love but him alone! What degree of credit this poem maintained among our earlier ancestors, I cannot determine. I suspect the sentiment was too refined for the general taste. Yet it is enumerated among the popular tales and ballads by Laneham, in his narrative of queen Elisabeth's entertainment at Kenilworth-castle in 1575f. I have never seen it in manuscript. I believe it was never reprinted from Arnolde's Chronicle, where it first appeared in 1521, till so late as the year 1707. It was that year revived in a collection called the Monthly MISCELLANY*, or MEMOIRS FOR THE Curious, and prefaced with a little essay on our antient poets and poetry, in which it is said to have been three hundred years old. Fortunately for modern poetry, this republication suggested it to the notice of Prior, who
perhaps from the same source might have adopted or confirmed his hypothesis, that it was coeval with the commencement of the fifteenth century.
Whoever was the original inventor of this little dramatic dialogue, he has shewn no common skill in contriving a plan,
See Reliques of Engl. Poetry, ii. 27.* (Read the Muses Mercury for Park.] June 1707, according to Dr. Percy.
f Fol. 34.
which powerfully detains our attention, and interests the
passions, by a constant succession of suspense and pleasure, of anxiety and satisfaction. Betwixt hopes perpetually disappointed, and solicitude perpetually relieved, we know not how to determine the event of a debate, in which new difficulties still continue to be raised, and are almost as soon removed. In the midst of this vicissitude of feelings, a striking contrast of character is artfully formed, and uniformly supported, between the seeming unkindness and ingratitude of the man, and the unconquerable attachment and fidelity of the woman, whose amiable compliance unexpectedly defeats every objection, and continually furnishes new matter for our love and compassion. At length, our fears subside in the triumph of suffering innocence and patient sincerity. The Man, whose hard speeches had given us so much pain, suddenly surprises us with a change of sentiment, and becomes equally an object of our admiration and esteem. In the disentanglement of this distressful tale, we are happy to find, that all his cruelty was tenderness, and his inconstancy the most invariable truth; his levity an ingenious artifice, and his perversity the friendly disguise of the firmest affection. He is no longer an unfortunate exile, the profligate companion of the thieves and ruffians of the forest, but an opulent earl of Westmoreland; and promises, that the lady, who is a baron's daughter, and whose constancy he had proved by such a series of embarrassing proposals, shall instantly be made the partner of his riches and honours. Nor should we forget to commend the invention of the poet, in imagining the modes of trying the lady's patience, and in feigning so many new situations: which, at the same time, open a way to description, and to a variety of new scenes and images.
I cannot help observing here, by the way, that Prior has misconceived and essentially marred his poet's design, by softening the sternness of the Man, which could not be intended to admit of any degree of relaxation. Henry's hypocrisy is not characteristically nor consistently sustained. He frequently talks in too respectful and complaisant a style. Sometimes he
calls Emma my tender maid, and my beauteous Emma; he fondly dwells on the ambrosial plenty of her flowing ringlets gracefully wreathed with variegated ribbands, and expatiates with rapture on the charms of her snowy bosom, her slender waist, and harmony of shape. In the antient poem, the concealed lover never abates his affectation of rigour and reserve, nor ever drops an expression which may tend to betray any traces of tenderness. He retains his severity to the last, in order to give force to the conclusion of the piece, and to heighten the effect of the final declaration of his love. Thus, by diminishing the opposition of interests, and by giving too great a degree of uniformity to both characters, the distress is in some measure destroyed by Prior. For this reason, Henry, during the course of the dialogue, is less an object of our aversion, and Emma of our pity. But these are the unavoidable consequences of Prior's plan, who presupposes a long connection between the lovers, which is attended with the warmest professions of a reciprocal passion. Yet this very plan suggested another reason, why Prior should have more closely copied the cast of his original. After so many mutual promises and protestations, to have made Henry more obdurate, would have enhanced the sufferings and the sincerity of the amiable Emma.
It is highly probable, that the metrical romances of RICHARD CUER DE Lyon, GUY EARL OF WARWICK, and syR BEVys OF SOUTHAMPTON, were modernised in this reign from more antient and simple narrations *. The first was printed by
[These three romances were pro- by different hands. This is the case nounced by Ritson to be extant in MSS. with respect to Sir Guy: there are two above 300 years old; and one of them, distinct translations, both very old, one at least, (Sir Bevis) excepting the typo- of which is line for line the same with graphical incorrectness of the old printed the printed copy: but it will not be copy, differs no otherwise from it than found that the phraseology or stile is in its orthography and the slight varia- more polished, or the story more amplitions inseparable from repeated tran- fied or intricate, in the editions than they scription. The ancient MS. copy of are in the MS. Simplicity, indeed, Richard Cuer de Lion is as long at least is a fault of which few people will have as the old editions. But some MS. reason to complain in the perusal of an copies are so totally different from each old metrical romance, let its antiquity other, as not to have two lines in com- be what it may. Ritson's Obs. p. 35.mon; being translations from the French Park.]
Wynkyn de Worde, in 1528h. The second without date, but about the same time, by William Copland. I mean that which begins thus,
[S]Ithen the tyme that God was borne,
And crystendome was set and sworne. With this colophon. “Here endeth the booke of the most victoryous prynce Guy earle of Warwyk. Imprinted at London in Lothbury, over against saynt Margaret's church by Wyllyam Coplandi.” Richard Pinson printed sir Beves without date. Many quarto prose romances were printed between the years 1510 and 1540k. Of these, KYNGE APPOLYN OF THYRE is not one of the worst.
In the year 1542, as it seems, Robert Wyer printed, “ Here begynneth a lytell boke named the Scole Howse, wherein every man may rede a goodly Prayer of the condycyons of women *.”
Within the leaf is a border of naked women. This is a satire against the female sex. The writer was wise enough to suppress his name, as we may judge from the following passage.
Trewly some men there be,
That lyve alwaye in greate horroure:
To hange or wed, bothe hath one houre:
And whether it be, I am well sure,
Sooner done, and shorter payne.
h In quarto. See supr. vol. i. p. 162. -Park.] [It has also been reprinted seq.
among the Select Pieces of Early Pa In 4to.
pular Poetry.-Epir. See supr. p. 342.
For many small miscellaneous pieces [Thomas Petyt printed another edi- under the reign of Henry VIII., the tion in 1541 or 1561, for the title and more inquisitive reader is referred to colophon bear different dates : and a MSS. Cott. VESP. A. 25. third was printed by John Kyng in 1560.
carolles newly imprinted at London in the Flete-strete at the sygne of the sonne by Wynkyn de Worde. The yere of our Lorde, M.D. xxi.m” These were festal chansons for enlivening the merriments of the Christmas celebrity: and not such religious songs as are current at this day with the common people under the same title, and which were substituted by those enemies of innocent and useful mirth the puritans. The boar's head soused, was antiently the first dish on Christmas day, and was carried up to the principal table in the Hall with great state and solemnity. Hollinshed says, that in the year 1170, upon the day of the young prince's coronation, king Henry the First 6 served his sonne at the table as sewer, bringing up the BORES HEAD with trumpets before it according to the manner.” For this indispensable ceremony, as also for others of that season, there was a Carol, which Wynkyn de Worde has given us in the miscellany just mentioned, as it was sung in his time, with the title, “A Caroll bringyng in the Bores heed.”
Caput Apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.
Qui estis in convivio.
The Bore's head, I understande,
Servite cum cantico.
Be gladde lordes, bothe more and lasse”,
For this hath ordeyned our stewarde
The Bore's head with mustarde.
* In quarto. (See Ritson's Ancient Songs, p. 126.-Park.]
* Chron. iii. 76. See also Polyd. Virg. Hist. p. 212. 10. ed. 1534.
that is, the chief dish served at a feast.
great and small.