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THE HISTORY

OF

ENGLISH POETRY.

SECTION XXVII.

THE subsequent reigns of Richard the Third, Edward thie Fifth, and Henry the Seventh, abounded in obscure versifiers.

A mutilated poem which occurs among the Cotton manuscripts in the British Museum, and principally contains a satire on the nuns, who, not less from the nature of their establishment than from the usual degeneracy which attends all institutions, had at length lost their original purity, seems to belong to this perioda. It is without wit, and almost without numbers. It was written by one Bertram Walton [Waton], whose name now first appears in the catalogue of English poets; and whose life I calmly resign to the researches of some more laborious and patient antiquary.

About the year 1480, or rather before, Benedict Burgh, a master of arts of Oxford, among other promotions in the church, archdeacon of Colchester, prebendary of saint Paul's, and canon of saint Stephen's chapel at Westminsterb, translated Cato's

Disadvantageous suspicions against dem, ut sic physice, si esset inter eas corthe chastity of the female religious were ruptela, experiretur.” Matt. Paris. Hist. pretended in earlier times. About the p. 789. Henricus iii. edit. Tig. 1589. year 1250, a bishop of Lincoln visited fol. An anecdote, which the historian the nunneries of his diocese : on which relates with indignation; not on account occasion, says the continuator of Mat- of the nuns, but of the bishop. thew Paris, “ad domos religiosarum See Newcourt, Repertor. i. 90. ii. veniens, fecit EXPRIMI MAMILLAS earun 517. The university sealed his letters

VOL. III.

B

Morals into the royal stanza, for the use of his pupil lord Bourchier son of the earl of Essex. Encouraged by the example and authority of so venerable an ecclesiastic, and tempted probally by the convenient opportunity of pilfering phraseology from a predecessor in the same arduous task, Caxton translated the same Latin work; but from the French version of a Latin paraphrase, and into English prose, which he printed in the year 1483. He calls, in his preface, the measure, used by Burgh, the Balad Royal. Caxton's translation, which superseded Burgh's work, and with which it is confounded, is divided into four books, which comprehend seventy-two heads.

I do not mean to affront my readers, when I inform them, without any apology, that the Latin original of this piece was testimonial, jul. 3. A.D. 1433. Registr. commonly signified the octave stanza. Univ. Oxon. supr. citat. T. f. 27. b. All those pieces in Chaucer, called CerHe died A.D. 1483.

taine Ballads, are in this measure. In (In the British Museum there is a Chaucer's LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN, poem entitled, “ A CRISTEMASSE GAME written in long versc, a song of three made by maister Bener howe God Almyghty octave stanzas is introduced ; beginning, "seyde to his aposteliys and echeon of them Hide Absolon thy gilte tressis clere. v. 249. were baptiste and none knew of othir.' p. 340. Urr. Afterwards, Cupid says, The piece consists of twelve stanzas, an V. 537. p. 342. apostle being assigned to each stanza.

- a ful grete negligence Probably maister Benet is Benedict

Was it to thee, that ilke time thou made, Burgh. MSS. HARL. 7599. This is

Hide Absolon thy tressis, IN BALADE. saint Paul's stanza,

In the British Museum there is a Ka. Doctour of gentiles, a perfite Paule,

landre in Englysshe, made in BALADE by By grace convertid from thy grete er

Dann John Lydgate monke of Bury.

That is, in this stanza. MSS. Harl. And cruelte, changed to Paule from 1706. 2. fol. 10. b. The reader will obSaule,

serve, that whether there are eight or Of fayth and trouth most perfyte prc seven lines, I have called it the octave choure,

stanza. Lydgate has, most commonly, Slayne at Rome undir thilke emperoure only seven lines. As in his poem on Guy Cursyd Nero, Paule syt down in thy earl of Warwick, MSS. Laud. D. 31. place

fol. 64. Here ginneth the lyff of Guy of To the ordayned by purveaunce of grace. Warwyk. [Pr. From Criste's birth com

ADDITIONS.

pleat nine 100 yere.] He is speaking [The Harl. MS. 1706. contains of Guy's combat with the Danish giant “ Aristotles A, B, C, made by [this] Colbrand, at Winchester. mayster Benet.”—Ritson.]

Without the gate remembered as I rede, Gascoigne says that “rithme royal The place callyd of antiquytye is a verse of ten syllables, and ten such In Inglysh tonge named hyde mede, verses make a statie,” &c. Instructions Or ellis denmarch nat far from the cyte: for verse, &c. Sign. D. i. ad calc. Meeting to gedre, there men myght see Workes, 1587. [See supra, p. 300. Terryble strokys, lyk the dent of thonNoteb.] Bu gh's stanza is here called der; balade royall : by which, I believe, is Sparklys owt of thar harnyss, &c.

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