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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Spring Song: "somer Is I Cumen In" (thirteenth Cent-
Ury) .......... Frontispiece

Middle1English and Latin texts, with music, from a manuscript in the British
Museum

PAGE

Geoffrey Chaucer 38

From the Occleve manuscript

Sir Philip Sidney 74

From the miniature by Isaac Oliver, in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle

Edmund Spenser 80

From an original picture in the possession of the Earl of Kinnoull

William Shakespeare 107

From the Chandos portrait

Sir Francis Bacon 132

From an engraving by I. Houbraken

John Milton 140

From an engraving by Humphreys after the Faithorne portrait

John Dryden 164

Joseph Addison 182

From a painting by G. Kneller, S. R.

Alexander Pope . . . . .,189

From a painting by A. Pond

Dr. Samuel Johnson 194

From a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Oliver Goldsmith 198

After a painting by a pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds

FAGS

Robert Burns 231

From a painting by Nasmyth

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 245

From a painting by Washington Allston

William Wordsworth 251

From a painting by W. Boxall

Lord Byron 261

From a painting by J. Phillips, R. A.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 267

From a painting by Geo. Clint, R..A.

John Keats 275

From a painting by Joseph Severn

Thomas Carlyle 297

From a painting by Whistler

Alfred, Lord Tennyson 305

After a painting by G. F. Watts

Robert Browning 313

From a painting by G. F. Watts

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 321

From a drawing by Field Talfourd, Rome, March, 1859

Sir Walter Scott 339

From a painting by C. R. Leslie, R. A.

Charles Dickens 347

William Makepeace Thackeray 351

From a drawing by George T. Tobin

George Eliot 359

From a drawing by F. W. Burton

A FIRST VIEW OF
ENGLISH LITERATURE

CHAPTER I

OLD-ENGLISH PERIOD: ANGLO-SAXON LITERATURE ON THE CONTINENT

I. THE EARLIEST HOME OF THE ENGLISH.

The Anglo-Saxon Tribes.—To find the beginnings of English literature we must go back to a time when the ancestors of the English people lived on the continent of Europe, and spoke a tongue which, though related in its roots to modern English, is unintelligible to us without special study. Anglo- Saxon, or Old English, belongs to the Low-German family of languages, of which Dutch is the best modern representative; and the men who spoke it lived, when history first discovers them, along the German ocean from the mouth of the Rhine to the peninsula of Jutland. They were divided into three principal branches: the Saxons, dwelling near the mouth of the Elbe; the Angles, inhabiting the southwest part of Denmark; and the Jutes, whose territory extended north of the Angles into modern Jutland.

Anglo-Saxon War and Seafaring.—How extensive these tribes were, and how far into the interior their territories reached, we do not know. That portion of them which concerns us, dwelt along the sea. Their early poetry gives glimpses of little tribal or family settlements, bounded on one side by wild moors and dense forests, where dwelt monstrous creatures of mist and darkness, and on the other by the stormy northern ocean, filled likewise with shapes of shadowy fear. As soon as spring had unlocked the harbors, their boats would push out in search of booty and adventure: sometimes to wreak blood1feud on a neighboring tribe, sometimes to plunder a monastery on the seaboard of Roman Gaul, or to coast along the white cliffs of England, their future home. This seafaring life, full of danger and change, was the fruitful source of early poetry. Whenever an Anglo1Saxon poet mentions the sea his lines kindle; it is the "swan1road," the "sealbath," the "path of the whales." The ship is the "sea1steed," the "wave1house of warriors"; its keel is "wreathed with foam like the neck of a swan." The darker aspects of the sea are given with the same fervor. It is characteristic of the grim nature of the Anglo1 Saxon that he should fill with terror and gloom the element which he most loved to inhabit.

Anglo-Saxon Religion.—The poetry which has come down to us from this early period has been worked over by later hands and given a Christian coloring. But from other sources we know who were the primitive gods of the race: Tiu, a mysterious and dreadful deity of war; Woden, father of the later dynasty of gods, and patron of seers and travellers; Thor, the god of thunder; Frea, mother of the gods and giver of fruitfulness. These are commemorated in our names for the days of the week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The rites of Eostre, a mysterious goddess of the dawn, survive, though strangely altered, in the Christian festival of Easter. In studying the early poetry, we must put out of our minds, as far as we can, all those ideals of life and conduct which come from Christianity, and remember that we have to do with men whose gods were only magnified images of their own wild natures: men who delighted in bloodshed and in plunder, and were much given to deep drinking in the mead1hall; but who nevertheless were sensitive to blame and praise, were full of rude chivalry and dignity, and were alert to the poetry of life, to its mystery and its pathos.

Anglo-Saxon Love of Fame.—Our Anglo1Saxon ancestors had in an eminent degree also that passion which gives the first impulse to literature among a primitive people —love of glory. When the first recorded hero of the race, Beowulf, has met his death, and his followers are recalling his noble nature, they say as their last word that "he was of all world-kings the most desirous of praise." It was not enough for such men as he that they should spend their lives in glorious adventures; they desired to see their names and their deeds spread among distant peoples and handed down to unborn generations. Hence the poet, who alone could insure this fame, was held in high esteem.

The Gleeman and the Scdp.—Two classes of singers were recognized, first the gleeman (gledman), who did not create his own songs, but merely chanted what he had learned from others; and second the scop, the poet proper, who took the crude material of history and legend which lay about him, and shaped it into song. Sometimes the scdp was permanently attached to the court of an aetheling, or lord, was granted land and treasure, and was raised by virtue of his poet-craft to the same position of honor which the other followers of the aetheling held by virtue of their prowess in battle. Sometimes he wandered from court to court, depending for a hospitable reception upon the curiosity of his host concerning the stories he had to chant. Two very ancient bits of poetry tell of the fortunes of the scop. One of them deals with the wandering and the other with the stationary singer.

"Widsith."—The first is the fragment known as "Widsith," or "The Far-wanderer." The poem opens,—" Widsith spake, unlocked his word-hoard; he who many a tribe had met on earth, who had travelled through many a folk." Then follows a list of famous princes of the past, an enumeration of the various peoples and countries which the bard has visited, and praises of those princes who have entertained him generously. He declares that he has been "with Caesar,* who had sway over the joyous cities," and even with the Israelites, the Egyptians, and the Indians. The poem ends with a general description of the wandering singer's life, touched at ihe close with the melancholy which occurs so often in Anglo1Saxon povetry;—"Thus roving, with song1deices wan1* "Caesar" was a general name for the Roman emperors; compare the German "Kaiser."

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