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ter of a writing-school in that parish, of which the churchwardens were trustees. The father however was now dead and the son was at first unwilling to acknowledge, from whom or by what means, he had procured so valuable an original. But after many promises, and some threats, he confessed that he received a manuscript on parchment containing the narrative above mentioned, together with many other manuscripts on parchment, from his father; who had found them in an iron chest, the same that I have mentioned, placed in a room, situated over the northern trance of the church.
It appears that the father became possessed of these manuscripts in the year 1748. For in that year, he was permitted, by the church-wardens of Radcliffe church, to take from this chest several written pieces of parchment, supposed to be illegible and useless, for the purpose of converting them into covers for the writing-books of his scholars. It is impossible to ascertain, what, or how many, writings were destroyed, in consequence of this absurd and unwarrantable indulgence. Our school-master, however, whose accomplishments were much above his station, and who was not totally destitute of a taste for poetry, found, as it is said, in this immense heap of obsolete manuscripts, many poems written by Thomas Rowlie, above mentioned, priest of Saint John's church in Bristol, and the confessor of alderman Cannynge, which he carefully preserved. These, at his death, of course fell into the hands of
Of the extraordinary talents of this young man more will be said hereafter. It will be sufficient to observe at present, that he saw the merit and value of these poems, which he diligently transcribed. In the year 1770, he went to London, carrying with him these transcripts, and many originals, in hopes of turning so inestimable a treasure to his great advantage. But from these flattering expectations, falling into a dissipated course of life, which ill suited with his narrow circumstances, and finding that a writer of the most distinguished taste and judgment, Mr. Walpole, had pronounced the poems to be suspicious, in
a fit of despair, arising from distress and disappointment, he destroyed all his papers, and poisoned himself. Some of the poems however, both transcripts and originals, he had previously sold, either to Mr. Catcott, a merchant of Bristol, or to Mr. Barrett, an eminent surgeon of the same place, and an ingenious antiquary, with whom they now remain. But it appears, that among these there were but very few of parchment: most of the poems which they purchased were copies in his own hand. He was always averse to give any distinct or satisfactory account of what he possessed: but from time to time, as his necessities required, he produced copies of his originals, which were bought by these gentlemen. The originals, one or two only excepted, he chose to retain in his own possession.
The chief of these poems are, The TRAGEDY OF ELLA, The EXECUTION of sir CHARLES BAWDWIN, ODE to Ella, The BATTLE of HASTINGS, The TOURNAMENT, one or two DIALOGUES, and a Description of CANNYNGE's FEAST.
The TRAGEDY OF ELLA has six characters; one of which is a lady, named Birtha. It has a chorus consisting of minstrells, whose songs are often introduced. Ella was governor of the castle of Bristol, and a puissant champion against the Danes, about the year 920. The story seems to be the poet's invention. The tragedy is opened with the following soliloquy.
CELMONDE atte Brystowe.
Mee, hapless mee, he wylle a wretch behowlde,
• Mr. Barrett, to whom I am greatly gaged in writing the ANTIQUITIES of obliged for his unreserved and liberal BRISTOL. information on this subject, is now en pencil.
Botte thenne thie soughlei woulde throwe thie vysage sheene,
This daie brave Ella dothe thyne honde and harte
And cann I lynne to see herre with anerea ?
Assyst me helle, lette devylles rounde me tende,
The following beautiful descriptions of SPRING, AUTUMN, and Morning, are supposed to be sung in the tragedy by the chorus of minstrels.
The trees enleafede, into heaven straught",
I laie mee on the grasse: yette to mie wylle,
* A sign-post before an ale-house. In glimmers. m seemliness ; beauty. Chaucer, the Hoste says, Perhaps we should read,
Here at this alehouse-stake, Or scarlette vailed with a linnen clothe. I wol both drinke, and etin of a cake.
WORDES Host. V. 1835. Urr. p. 131. 9 another.
And in the SHIP OF FOOLES, fol. 9. a. The meadows are sprinkled, &c.
edit. 1570 i ter
"stretching; stretched. By the ale-stako knowe we the alebouse, W i. e. are.
And everie inne is knowen by the signe.
AUTUMN. Whanne Autumne, blake, and sonne-brente doe appere, Wythe. hys goulde honde, guylteynge the falleynge lefe, Bryngeynge oppe Wynterre to folfylle the yere, Beereynge uponne hys backe the riped shefe ;
Whanne alle the hylls wythe woddie seede is whyte, Whanne levynne fyres, ande lemes, do mete fromme farr the
Thanne, bee the even fowle, or even fayre,
The souldyerrs stoode uponne the hyllis syde,
Swift fleis the hower that will bryngę z drops.
oute the daie, * There is a description of morning in The softe dewe falleth onne the greeynge another part of the tragedy.
The shepster mayden dyghtynge her arThe mornynge gynes alonge the east to
Scante sees her vysage ynne the wavie Darkling the lyghte does on the waters
glasse : plaie;
By the fulle daylight wee scalle ELLA The feynte rodde beam slowe creepethe
see, over the leene,
Or Bristowe's walled towne. DamoyTo chase the morkynesse of nyghte selle followe meer
But the following ode, belonging to the same tragedy, has much more of the choral or lyric strain.
My love is dedde,
Blacke his cryne as the wyntere night,
My love is dedde, &c.
Swote his tounge as the throstle's note,
My love is dedde, &c.
Hark! the raven flaps his wynge,