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ENGLISH OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY





 

Reign of Elizabeth, 1603 back to 1558.--Example written in 1592.

"As for the soule, it is no accidentarie qualitie, but a spirituall and inuisible essence or nature, subsisting by it selfe. Which plainely appeares in that the soules of men haue beeing and continuance as well forth of the bodies of men as in the same; and are as wel subiect to torments as the bodie is. And whereas we can and doe put in practise sundrie actions of life, sense, motion, vnderstanding, we doe it onely by the power and vertue of the soule. Hence ariseth the difference betweene the soules of men, and beasts. The soules of men are substances: but the soules of other creatures seeme not to be substances; because they haue no beeing out of the bodies in which they are."--WILLIAM PERKINS: Theol. Works, folio, p. 155.

Examples written about the beginning of Elizabeth's reign.--1558.

"Who can perswade, when treason is aboue reason; and mighte ruleth righte; and it is had for lawfull, whatsoever is lustfull; and commotioners are better than commissioners; and common woe is named common weale?"--SIR JOHN CHEKE. "If a yong jentleman will venture him selfe into the companie of ruffians, it is over great a jeopardie, lest their facions, maners, thoughts, taulke, and dedes, will verie sone be over like."--ROGER ASCHAM.

Reign of Mary the Bigot, 1558 to 1553.--Example written about 1555.

"And after that Philosophy had spoken these wordes the said companye of the musys poeticall beynge rebukyd and sad, caste downe their countenaunce to the grounde, and by blussyng confessed their shamefastnes, and went out of the dores. But I (that had my syght dull and blynd wyth wepyng, so that I knew not what woman this was hauyng soo great aucthoritie) was amasyd or astonyed, and lokyng downeward, towarde the ground, I began pryvyle to look what thyng she would save ferther."--COLVILLE: Version from Boethius: Johnson's Hist. of E. L., p. 29.

Example referred by Dr. Johnson to the year 1553.

"Pronunciation is an apte orderinge bothe of the voyce, countenaunce, and all the whole bodye, accordynge to the worthinea of such woordes and mater as by speache are declared. The vse hereof is suche for anye one that liketh to haue prayse for tellynge his tale in open assemblie, that hauing a good tongue, and a comelye countenaunce, he shal be thought to passe all other that haue not the like vtteraunce: thoughe they have muche better learning."--DR. WILSON: Johnson's Hist. E. L., p. 45.

Reign of Edward VI, 1553 to 1547.--Example written about 1550.

"Who that will followe the graces manyfolde Which are in vertue, shall finde auauncement: Wherefore ye fooles that in your sinne are bolde, Ensue ye wisdome, and leaue your lewde intent, Wisdome is the way of men most excellent: Therefore haue done, and shortly spede your pace, To quaynt your self and company with grace." ALEXANDER BARCLAY: Johnson's Hist. E. L., p. 44.

Reign of Henry VIII, 1547 to 1509.--Example dated 1541.

"Let hym that is angry euen at the fyrste consyder one of these thinges, that like as he is a man, so is also the other, with whom he is angry, and therefore it is as lefull for the other to be angry, as unto hym: and if he so be, than shall that anger be to hym displeasant, and stere hym more to be angrye."--SIR THOMAS ELLIOTT: Castel of Helthe.

Example of the earliest English Blank Verse; written about 1540.

The supposed author died in 1541, aged 38. The piece from which these lines are taken describes the death of Zoroas, an Egyptian astronomer, slain in Alexander's first battle with the Persians.



"The Persians waild such sapience to foregoe; And very sone the Macedonians wisht He would have lived; king Alexander selfe Demde him a man unmete to dye at all; Who wonne like praise for conquest of his yre, As for stoute men in field that day subdued, Who princes taught how to discerne a man, That in his head so rare a jewel beares; But over all those same Camenes,[49] those same Divine Camenes, whose honour he procurde, As tender parent doth his daughters weale, Lamented, and for thankes, all that they can, Do cherish hym deceast, and sett hym free, From dark oblivion of devouring death." Probably written by SIR THOMAS

WYAT.

A Letter written from prison, with a coal. The writer, Sir Thomas More, whose works, both in prose and verse, were considered models of pure and elegant style, had been Chancellor of England, and the familiar confidant of Henry VIII, by whose order he was beheaded in 1535.

"Myne own good doughter, our Lorde be thanked I am in good helthe of bodye, and in good quiet of minde: and of worldly thynges I no more desyer then I haue. I beseche hym make you all mery in the hope of heauen. And such thynges as I somewhat longed to talke with you all, concerning the worlde to come, our Lorde put theim into your myndes, as I truste he doth and better to by hys holy spirite: who blesse you and preserue you all. Written wyth a cole by your tender louing father, who in hys pore prayers forgetteth none of you all, nor your babes, nor your nources, nor your good husbandes, nor your good husbandes shrewde wyues, nor your fathers shrewde wyfe neither, nor our other frendes. And thus fare ye hartely well for lacke of paper. THOMAS MORE, knight."--Johnson's Hist. E. Lang., p. 42.

From More's Description of Richard III.--Probably written about 1520.

"Richarde the third sonne, of whom we nowe entreate, was in witte and courage egall with either of them, in bodye and prowesse farre vnder them bothe, little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard fauoured of visage, and such as is in states called warlye, in other menne otherwise, he was malicious, wrathfull, enuious, and from afore his birth euer frowarde. Hee was close and secrete, a deep dissimuler, lowlye of counteynaunce, arrogant of heart--dispitious and cruell, not for euill will alway, but after for ambicion, and either for the suretie and encrease of his estate. Frende and foo was muche what indifferent, where his aduauntage grew, he spared no mans deathe, whose life withstoode his purpose. He slew with his owne handes king Henry the sixt, being prisoner in the Tower.

From his description of Fortune, written about the year 1500.

"Fortune is stately, solemne, prowde, and hye: And rychesse geueth, to haue seruyce therefore. The nedy begger catcheth an half peny: Some manne a thousaude pounde, some lesse some more. But for all that she kepeth euer in store, From euery manne some parcell of his wyll, That he may pray therefore and serve her styll. Some manne hath good, but chyldren hath he none. Some manne hath both, but he can get none health. Some hath al thre, but vp to honours trone, Can he not crepe, by no maner of stelth. To some she sendeth chyldren, ryches, welthe, Honour, woorshyp, and reuerence all hys lyfe: But yet she pyncheth hym with a shrewde wife." SIR THOMAS MORE.

 





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