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translation, of which there is a copy in the British Museum*', and which was printed at Lyons in the year 1483 ', is the original of Lydgate's poem. This Laurence or Laurent, sometimes called Laurent de Premierfait, a village in the diocese of Troies, was an ecclesiastic, and a famous translator. He also translated into French Boccacio's DECAMERON, at the request of jane queen of Navarre: Cicero DE, AMICITIA and DE SENECTUTE; and Aristotle's Oeconomics, dedicated to Louis de Bourbon, the king's uncle. These versions appeared in the year 1414 and 1416'. Caxton's TULLIUS OF OLD AGE, or DE SENECTUTE, printed in 1481, is tranfiated from Laurence's French version. Caxton, in the postscript, calls him Laurence de primofacto.
Lydgate's poem consists of nine books, and is thus entitled in the earliest edition. " The TRAGEDlES gathered " by Jhon Boans of all such princes as fell from theyr " estates throughe the mutability of fortune since the CRE" ACION of ADAM until his time, &e. Translated into ' English by John Lidgate monke of Burye'." The best and most authentic manuscript of this piece is in the British Museum 3 probably written under the inspection of the author, and perhaps intended as a present to Humphrey duke of Glocester, at whose graciOus command the poem, as I have before hinted, was undertaken. It contains among
* MSS. Harl. See also ibid. MSS. Reg. 18 D. vii. And '6 G. v. And MSS. Bodl. F. to. 2. [2465.] He is said to have translated this work in 1409. MSS. Reg. ut supr. zo C. iv.
'1 In foho. Bayle says, that a French translation appeared at Paris, by Claudius Vitart, in 1578. Svo. Diction. BOCCACE. Note g. . _
L" He died in 1418. See Martene, Ampl. Collect. tom. ii. p. 1405. And Mem. de Litt. xvii. 759. 4to. Compare du Verdier, Biblioth. Fr. p 72. And Bibl. Rom. ii. 291. It is extraordinary that the piece besore us should not be mentioned by the
French antiquaries as one of Laurence's translations. Lydgate, in the Prologue above-cited, observes, that Laurence, who in tmzyng did exrel, undertook this translation at the request os some eminent personages in France, who had the interest of rlmori/s-e at heart. Ut supr. a. col. 2.
* Imprinted at London by John Wayland, without date, sol. He printed in the reign of Henry the eighth. There is a. small piece by Lydgate, not connected with this, entitled The Tragedy of primer
that were LECHEROUS. MSS.Ashmol..
numeroua ! MSS. Harl. 1766. fol. 5.
numerous miniatures illustrating the several histories, portraits of Lydgate, and of another monk habited in black, perhaps an abbot of Bury, kneeling before a prince, who seems to be saint Edmund, seated on a throne under a canopy, and grasping an arrow '.
The work is not improperly styled a set of tragedies. It is not merely a narrative of men eminent for their rank and misfortunes. The plan is perfectly dramatic, and partly suggested by the pageants of the times. Every personage is- supposed to appear before the poet, and to relate his respective sufferings: and the figures of these spectres are sometimes finely drawn. Hence a source is opened for moving compassion, and for a display of imagination. In some of the lives the author replies to the speaker, and a sort of dialogue is introduced for conducting 'the story. Brunchild, a queen of France, who murthered all her children, and was afterwards hewn in pieces, appears thus.
She came, arayed nothing like a quene,
Her hair untressed, Bochas toke good hede;
A more wofullcreature indede,
With weping eyne, to torne was al her wede:
Yet in some of these interesting interviews, our poet excites pity of another kind. When Adam appears, he familiarly accosts the author with the salutation of Co/jvz Bochas '.
Nor does our dramatist deal only in real characters and historical personages. Boccacio standing pensive in his library, is alarmed at the sudden en-trance of the giga-ntic and mon
U _ 'B. i. fol. i. a. col. 2. In the same style ' Lib. 1111. f. xx1. a. col. t. _ '
he calls lxion Juno's/Zcrrtarj. B. i. ch. xii. fol. xxi. b.col. 2.
strous image of FORTUNE, whose agency has so powerful and universal an influence in human affairs, and especially in effecting those vicisiitudes which are the subject of this work. There is a Gothic greatness in her figure, with some touches of the grotesque. An attribute of the early poetry of all nations, before ideas Of selection have taken place. I must add, that it was Boethius's admired allegory on the CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY, which introduced personification into the poetry of the middle ages.
Her hundred hands, her burning eyes, and disheveled tresses, are sublimely conceived. After a long silence, with a stern countenance she addresses Bochas, who is greatly terrified at her horrible appearance; and having made a long harangue on the revolutions and changes which it is her
Blacke was his wede, and his habyte also,
His heed unkempt, his lockEs hore and gray,
Which bare recorde of his deadly affray.-
She then teaches Bochas how to describe his life, and disappears.
In another place, Dante, " of Florence the laureate poete, " demure of loke fullfilled with patience," appears to Bochas 5 and commands him to write the tale of Gualter duke of Florence, whose days jbr his tz'ranny, lechery, and co-vety/e, ended in misehefe. Dante then vanishes, and only duke Gualter is left alone with the poet *.- Petrarch is also introduced for the same purpose '.
The following golden couplet, concerning the prodigies which preceded the civil wars between Cesar and Pompey, indicate dawnings of that poetical colouring of expression, and of that facility of versification, which mark the poetry of the present times.
Apollo, Diana, and Minerva, ioining the Roman army, when Rome was besieged by Brennus, are poctically touched.
P Ibid. fol. cxxxix. a. col. 2. ' B. viii. fol. l. Prol. a. b. He men-
\ ther place Dante's three books on heaven, 93. a. col. r.