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Methought fresh May before my bed upstood,
In weed1 depaint of many divers hue,
Sober, benign, and full of mansuetude,
In bright attire of flowers forgéd new,
Heavenly of colour, white, red, brown, and blue,
Balméd in dew, and gilt with Phoebus' beams;
While all the house illuminéd of her leams.2

From a May Day Dream I am tempted to add a bright picture, with its graceful classical allusion, perhaps a little sentimentalised—

Full angel-like these birdés sang their hours 3
Within their curtains green, into their bowers
Apparell'd white and red with bloomés sweet;
Enamell'd was the field with all colours;
The pearly droppés shook in silver showers,
While all in balm did branch and leavés fleet : 4
To part from Phoebus did Aurora greet :
Her chrystal tears I saw hang on the flowers,
Which he, for love, all drank up with his heat.


Gawin Douglas (cir. 1475-1522), in the Prologues to his very remarkable version of the Aeneid (said to have been executed in 1513), went beyond any other poet of the age in his power of rendering a true landscape, in regard to wealth of detail, varied imagery, and singularly spirited execution. This early art, however, has not yet always mastered the sense of proportion or of wholeness: the details of a May scene in the country are here catalogued in words rather than arranged or selected. Hence, and even more from the extreme rudeness or obscurity of the dialect employed, it is difficult to give a fair notion of the poet's great merit. But I will quote a few

lines from a somewhat modernised version.

Douglas, it will be observed, reaches a new, a modern, manner in his accentuation of words and metrical rhythms.

3 Matins.

1 Garment.

4 Flow.

6 Early English Poetry, selected, with notes, by H. M. Fitzgibbon, 1887: a useful little volume.

2 Rays.

5 Weep.

The final e is now mute; but the words taken over from Latin preserve the original adjectival accent, e.g. nocturnál. We begin with sunrise—

As fresh Aurore, to mighty Tithon spouse,
Issued from her saffron bed and ivory house,
In crimson clad and grainéd violet,
With sanguine cape, the selvage purpurate,
Unshut the windows of her largé hall

Spread all with roses and full of balm royál;
And eke the heavenly portals chrystaline
Upwarpés1 broad, the world to illumine.
The twinkling streamers of the orient
Spread purple streaks with gold and azure ment,2
Piercing the sable rampart nocturnal

Beat down3 the skyé's cloudy mantle-wall.

Apollo himself, the great sun, now rises in his chariot

The aureate vanes 4 of his throne soverain
With glittering glance o'erspread the ocean,
The largé floodés gleaming all of light
But with one blink of his supernal sight.
For to behold it was a glor(y) to see
The stabled windés and the calméd sea,
The soft seasóun, the firmament serene,
The calm illumined air, and firth amene."

And lusty Flora did her bloomés spread
Under the feet of Phoebus' glittering steed,
The swarded soil embroider'd with strange hues,
Woods and forest odumbrat' with their boughs,
Where blissful branches, portray'd on the ground
With shadows sheen, shew rockés rubicund,
Towers, turrets, kirnals, pinnacles high
Of kirks, castles, and ilk fair city,

1 Throws open.

4 Wings.

7 Shaded.

2 Mixed. 5 Quieted.

8 Red in the early sunlight.

3 Dispersed the dark clouds. 6 The beautiful sea.

9 Battlements.

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Stood painted, every fyall,1 fane2 and stage,3
Upon the plain ground by their own umbrage.

In these last lines we seem to see a landscape as such, truly grasped, and brought clearly out by the light and shade of Nature.

As a contrast, take a passage from T. Warton's prose version of a winter scene

The kite, perched on an old tree, fast by my chamber, cried lamentably, a sign of the dawning day. I rose, and half-opening my window, perceived the morning, livid, wan, and hoary; the air overwhelmed with vapour and cloud; the ground stiff, gray, and rough; the branches rattling; the sides of the hills looking black and hard with the driving blasts; the dew-drops congealed on the stubble and rind of trees; the sharp hailstones, deadlycold, hopping on the thatch and the neighbouring causeway.

The landscapes through which we have here been moving are laid out much on the same model; children, fair and gay, of one family. They make no attempt to "moralise the "song"; they are frames for bright pictures of courteous Love: the gentilezza of early Italian songs and sonnets is in them. Yet we now clearly recognise a pleasure in describing the scenes, mostly found in the palaces and convents of the time, in which the poets personally delighted.

In this series, the rendering of Nature by Douglas marks a very distinct advance: the naïf beauty of mediaeval times which had become conventional through repetition is exchanged for a markedly broader and stronger treatment. And this, unconsciously no doubt, coincides with our arrival at one of the great crises of our literature. Already the preparations have been made for the Elizabethan poetry—the light of the Renaissance influence has risen above the horizon.

1 Dome.

2 I conjecture, vane.


3 Story.



THAT Wyatt (1503-1542) and Surrey (c. 1515-1547) are the direct ancestors of our modern poetry has been a truism from the Elizabethan time onwards. This high place they owe less to simple force and inspiration than to the style and matter of the Italian Renaissance, with some measure of its charm, which they were the first to naturalise in England: for Chaucer's brave attempt in that direction proved premature. They are Makers, to give them once more the old rightful name, by virtue of manner in a wide sense; by parting from mediaevalism, to speak generally, in metres, in choice of subject, and by a style less purely national. They are also modern in choice of words; no change in the language even approximately like those great changes during the four hundred years before their date the death of Saxon, the growth of the mixed English-having developed itself during the same period since the sixteenth began.

Wyatt, however, really adds nothing to our own subject. His was not a mind attuned to Nature, her sweet sights and roundelays. Surrey's soul, more gentle and more musical, has left us a charming sonnet, full of true if obvious natural fact : the title is, Description of Spring, wherein everything renews, save only the Lover

The soote1 season, that bud and bloom forth brings,
With green hath clad the hill, and eke the vale.

1 Sweet,

The nightingale with feathers new she sings ;
The turtle to her make1 hath told her tale.


Summer is come, for every spray now springs,
The hart hath hung his old head 2 on the pale ;
The buck in brake his winter coat he flings;
The fishes flete 3 with new repairéd scale;

The adder all her slough away she slings;
The swift swallow pursueth the flies smale ; 4
The busy bee her honey now she mings; 5
Winter is worn that was the flowers' bale."

And thus I see among these pleasant things
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs !

These lines, in their simple elegance, probably record Surrey's study of Petrarch. But he also justly claims a lyric in which the poetical advance, whereof he was our chief leader and protagonist, clearly and beautifully reveals itself. The sweet, spontaneous melody, the natural images not only varied but grouped as wholes, the life we are made to feel in the creatures of Nature, and how it is parallel while opposed to humanity— all these are new, and all are distinct advances. And the landscape is unconsciously classical also. It shows Nature, not in the allusive, allegorical style of the Middle Ages, but looked at and painted as she is; and in that sense truly follows the Italian poets of what might be termed the middle Renaissance, Lorenzo or Poliziano. This piece is named A Description of the restless State of the Lover when absent from the Mistress of his Heart: I quote the opening lines

1 Mate. 4 Small.

The Sun, when he hath spread his rays,
And show'd his face ten thousand ways;

2 Shed his horns.

5 Mingles.

7 It was printed by Tottel in the same rare book which, in 1557, first gave England the avowed poems by Wyatt and Surrey, but as by an Uncertain Author. After long hesitation, however, on comparison with the lyrics of that time, I cordially agree with those critics who ascribe it to Lord Surrey. Yet even without the name of Howard it would "smell as sweet."

3 Float.

6 Sorrow.

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