This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1909
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

name being made of Greek words meaning Cunning Babbler. nearly all the names of the towns, river, and people of whom Hythlodaye tells were also made from Greek words and have some meaning. For instance, Achoriens means people-who-have-no-place-on-earth, Amaurote a-phantom-city, and so on.

More takes a great deal of trouble to keep up the mystery of this strange land. It was not wonderful that he should, for under the pretense of a story he said hard things about the laws and ill- government of England, things which it was treason to whisper. In those days treason was a terrible word covering a great deal, and death and torture were like to be the fate of any one who spoke his mind too freely.

But More knew that it would be a hard matter to make things better in England. As he makes Hythlodaye say, it is no use trying to improve things in a blundering fashion. It is of no use trying by fear to drive into people’s heads things they have no mind to learn. Neither must you “forsake the ship in a tempest, because you cannot rule and keep down the winds.” But “you must with a crafty wile and subtile train, study and endeavour yourself, as much as in you lieth, to handle the matter wittily and handsomely for the purpose. And that which you cannot turn to good, so to order it that it be not very bad. For it is not possible for all things to be well, unless all men were good: which I think will not be yet in these good many years.”

The Utopia is divided into two books. The first and shorter gives us what we might call the machinery of the tale. It tells of the meeting with Hythlodaye and More’s first talk with him. It is not until the beginning of the second book that we really hear about Utopia. And I think if you read the book soon, I would advise you to begin with the second part, which More wrote first. In the second book we have most of the story, but the first book helps us to understand More’s own times and explains what he was trying to do in writing his tale.

At the beginning of this book I told you that we should have to talk of many books which for the present, at least, you could not hope to like, but which you must be content to be told are good and worth reading. I may be wrong, but I think Utopia is one of these. Yet as Cresacre More, More’s great-grandson, speaking of his great-grandfather’s writing, says, he “seasoned always the troublesomeness of the matter with some merry jests or pleasant tales, as it were sugar, whereby we drink up the more willingly these wholesome drugs . . . which kind of writing he hath used in all his works, so that none can ever by weary to read them, though they be never so long.”

And even if you like the book now, you will both like and understand it much better when you know a little about politics. You will then see, too, how difficult it is to know when More is in earnest and when he is merely poking fun, for More loved to jest. Yet as his grandson, who wrote a life of him, tells us, “Whatsoever jest he brought forth, he never laughed at any himself, but spoke always so sadly, that few could see by his look whether he spoke in earnest or in jest.”

It would take too long to tell all about the wonderful island of Utopia and its people, but I must tell you a little of it and how they regarded money. All men in this land were equal. No man was idle, neither was any man over-burdened with labor, for every one had to work six hours a day. No man was rich, no man was poor, for “though no man have anything, yet every man is rich,” for the State gave him everything that he needed. So money was hardly of any use, and gold and silver and precious jewels were despised.

“In the meantime gold and silver, whereof money is made, they do so use, as none of them doth more esteem it, than the very nature of the thing deserveth. And then who doth not plainly see how far it is under iron? As without the which men can no better live than without fire and water; whereas to gold and silver nature hath given no use that we may not well lack, if that the folly of men had not set it in higher estimation for the rareness sake. But, of the contrary part, Nature, as a most tender and loving mother, hath placed the best and most necessary things open abroad; as the air, the water, and the earth itself; and hath removed and hid farthest from us vain and unprofitable things.”

Yet as other countries still prized money, gold and silver was sometimes needed by the Utopians. But, thought the wise King and his counselors, if we lock it up in towers and take great care of it, the people may begin to think that gold is of value for itself, they will begin to think that we are keeping something precious from them. So to set this right they fell upon a plan. It was this. “For whereas they eat and drink in earthen and glass vessels, which indeed be curiously and properly made, and yet be of very small value; of gold and silver they make other vessels that serve for most vile uses, not only in their common halls, but in every man’s private house. Furthermore of the same metals they make great chains and fetters and gyves, wherein they tie their bondmen. Finally, whosoever for any offense be infamed, by their ears hang rings of gold, upon their fingers they wear rings of gold, and about their necks chains of gold; and in conclusion their heads be tied about with gold.

“Thus, by all means that may be, they procure to have gold and silver among them in reproach and infamy. And therefore these metals, which other nations do as grievously and sorrowfully forego, as in a manner from their own lives, if they should altogether at once be taken from the Utopians, no man there would think that he had lost the worth of a farthing.

“They gather also pearls by the seaside, and diamonds and carbuncles upon certain rocks. Yet they seek not for them, but by chance finding them they cut and polish them. And therewith they deck their young infants. Which, like as in the first years of their childhood they make much and be fond and proud of such ornaments, so when they be a little more grown in years and discretion, perceiving that none but children do wear such toys and trifles, they lay them away even of their own shamefastness, without any bidding of their parents, even as our children when they wax big, do caste away nuts, brooches and dolls. Therefore these laws and customs, which be so far different from all other nations, how divers fancies also and minds they do cause, did I never so plainly perceive, as in the Ambassadors of the Anemolians.

“These Ambassadors came to Amaurote whiles I was there. And because they came to entreat of great and weighty matters, three citizens a piece out of every city (of Utopia) were come thither before them. But all the Ambassadors of the next countries, which had been there before, and knew the fashions and manners of the Utopians, among whom they perceived no honour given to sumptuous and costly apparel, silks to be contemned, gold also to be infamed and reproachful, were wont to come thither in very homely and simple apparel. But the Anemolians, because they dwell far thence, and had very little acquaintance with them, hearing that they were all apparelled alike, and that very rudely and homely, thinking them not to have the things which they did not wear, being therefore more proud than wise, determined in the gorgeousness of their apparel to represent very gods, and with the bright shining and glistening of their gay clothing to dazzle the eyes of the silly poor Utopians.

“So there came in three Ambassadors with a hundred servants all apparelled in changeable colours; the most of them in silks; the Ambassadors themselves (for at home in their own country they were noble men) in cloth of gold, with great chains of gold, with gold hanging at their ears, with gold rings upon their fingers, with brooches and aglettes* of gold upon their caps, which glistered full of pearls and precious stones; to be short, trimmed and adorned with all those things, which among the Utopians were either the punishment of bondmen, or the reproach of infamed persons, or else trifles for young children to play withall.

*Hanging ornaments.

“Therefore it would have done a man good at his heart to have seen how proudly they displayed their peacocks’ feathers; how much they made of their painted sheathes; and how loftily they set forth and advanced themselves, when they compared their gallant apparel with the poor raiment of the Utopians. For all the people were swarmed forth into the streets.

“And on the other side it was no less pleasure to consider how much they were deceived, and how far they missed their purpose; being contrary ways taken than they thought they should have been. For to the eyes of all the Utopians, except very few, which had been in other countries for some reasonable cause, all that gorgeousness of apparel seemed shameful and reproachful; in so much that they most reverently saluted the vilest and most abject of them for lords; passing over the Ambassadors themselves without any honour; judging them by their wearing of golden chains to be bondmen.

“Yea, you should have seen children also that had cast away their pearls and precious stones, when they saw the like sticking upon the Ambassadors’ caps, dig and push their mothers under the sides, saying thus to them: ‘Look, mother, how great a lubber doth yet wear pearls and precious stones, as though he were a little child still.’

“But the mother, yea, and that also in good earnest: ‘Peace, son,’ saith she, ‘I think he be some of the Ambassadors’ fools.’

“Some found fault with their golden chains, as to no use nor purpose; being so small and weak, that a bondman might easily break them; and again so wide and large that, when it pleased him, he might cast them off, and run away at liberty whither he would.

“But when the Ambassadors had been there a day or two, and saw so great abundance of gold so lightly esteemed, yea, in no less reproach than it was with them in honour; and, besides that, more gold in the chains and gyves of one fugitive bondman, than all the costly ornaments of their three was worth; then began a-bate their courage, and for very shame laid away all that gorgeous array whereof they were so proud; and especially when they had talked familiarly with the Utopians, and had learned all their fashions and opinions. For they marvel that any man be so foolish as to have delight and pleasure in the glistering of a little trifling stone, which may behold any of the stars, or else the sun itself; or that any man is so mad as to count himself the nobler for the smaller or finer thread of wool, which self-same wool (be it now in never so fine a spun thread) did once a sheep wear, and yet was she all that time no other thing than a sheep.”


THERE is much that is quaint, much that is deeply wise, in More’s Utopia, still no one is likely to agree with all he says, or to think that we could all be happy in a world such as he describes. For one thing, to those of us who love color it would seem a dull world indeed were we all forced to dress in coarse-spun, undyed sheep’s wool, and if jewels and gold with all their lovely lights and gleamings were but the signs of degradation. Each one who reads it may find something in the Utopia that he would rather have otherwise. But each one, too, will find something to make him think.

More was not the first to write about a happy land where every one lived in peace and where only justice reigned. And if he got some of his ideas of the island from the discoveries of the New World, he got many more from the New Learning. For long before, Plato, a Greek writer, had told of a land very like Utopia in his book called the Republic. And the New Learning had made that book known to the people of England.

We think of the Utopia as English Literature, yet we must remember that More wrote it in Latin, and it was not translated into English until several years after his death. The first English translation was made by Ralph Robinson, and although since then there have been other translation which in some ways are more correct, there has never been one with more charm. For Robinson’s quaint English keeps for us something of the spirit of More’s time and of More’s self in a way no modern and more perfect translation can.

The Utopia was not written for one time or for one people. Even before it was translated into English it had been translated into Dutch, Italian, German, and French and was largely read all over the Continent. It is still read to-day by all who are interested in the life of the people, by all who think that in “this best of all possible worlds” things might still be made better.

More wrote many other books both in English and in Latin and besides being a busy author he led a busy life. For blustering, burly, selfish King Henry loved the gentle witty lawyer, and again and again made use of his wits. “And so from time to time was he by the King advanced, continuing in his singular favour and trusty service twenty years and above.”*

*W. Roper.

It was not only for his business cleverness that King Henry loved Sir Thomas. It was for his merry, witty talk. When business was done and supper-time came, the King and Queen would call for him “to be merry with them.” Thus it came about that Sir Thomas could hardly ever get home to his wife and children, where he most longed to be. Then he began to pretend to be less clever than he was, so that the King might not want so much of his company. But Henry would sometimes follow More to his home at Chelsea, where he had built a beautiful house. Sometimes he came quite unexpectedly to dinner. Once he came, “and after dinner, in a fair garden of his, walked with him by the space of an hour, holding his arm about his neck.” As soon as the King was gone, More’s son-in-law said to him that he should be happy seeing the King was so friendly with him, for with no other man was he so familiar, not even with Wolsey.

“I thank our Lord,” answered More, “I find in his Grace a very good lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as any subject within the realm. Howbeit, son Roper, I may tell thee, I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head would win him a castle in France it should not fail to go.”

And Sir Thomas was not wrong. Meanwhile, however, the King heaped favor upon him. He became Treasurer of the Exchequer, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and last of all Lord Chancellor of England. This was a very great honor. And as More was a layman the honor was for him greater than usual. For he was the first layman to be made Chancellor. Until then the Chancellor had always been some powerful Churchman.

More was not eager for these honors. He would much rather have lived a simple family life, but bluff King Hal was no easy master to serve. If he chose to honor a man and set him high, that man could but submit. So, as Erasmus says, More was dragged into public life and honor, and being thus dragged in troubles were not slow to follow.

Henry grew tired of his wife, Queen Catherine, but the Pope would not allow him to divorce her so that he might marry another. Then Henry quarreled with the Pope. The Pope, he said, should no longer have power in England. He should no longer be head of the Church, but the people must henceforth look to the King as such. This More could not do. He tried to keep out of the quarrel. He was true to his King as king, but he felt that he must be true to his religion too. To him the Pope was the representative of Christ on earth, and he could look to no other as head of the Church. When first More had come into the King’s service, Henry bade him “first look unto God, and after God unto him.” Of this his Chancellor now reminded him, and laying down his seal of office he went home, hoping to live the rest of his days in peace.

But that was not to be. “It is perilous striving with princes,” said a friend. ” I would wish you somewhat to incline to the King’s pleasure. The anger of princes is death.”

“Is that all?” replied More calmly; “then in good faith the difference between you and me is but this, that I shall die to- day and you to-morrow.”

So it fell out. There came a day when messengers came to More’s happy home, and the beloved father was led away to imprisonment and death.

For fifteen months he was kept in the Tower. During all that time his cheerful steadfastness did not waver. He wrote long letters to his children, and chiefly to Meg, his best-loved daughter. When pen and ink were taken away from him, he still wrote with coal. In these months he became an old man, bent and crippled with disease. But though his body was feeble his mind was clear, his spirit bright as ever. No threats or promises could shake his purpose. He could not and would not own Henry as head of the Church.

At last the end came. In Westminster Hall More was tried for treason and found guilty. From Westminster through the thronging streets he was led back again to the Tower. In front of the prisoner an ax was carried, the edge being turned towards him. That was the sign to all who saw that he was to die.

As the sad procession reached the Tower Wharf there was a pause. A young and beautiful woman darted from the crowd, and caring not for the soldiers who surrounded him, unafraid of their swords and halberds, she reached the old man’s side, and threw herself sobbing on his breast. In was Margaret, More’s beloved daughter, who, fearing that never again she might see her father, thus came in the open street to say farewell. She clung to him and kissed him in sight of all again and again, but no word could she say save, “Oh, my father! oh, my father!”

Then Sir Thomas, holding her tenderly, comforted and blessed her, and at last she took her arms from about his neck and he passed on. But Margaret could not yet leave him. Scarcely had she gone ten steps than suddenly she turned back. Once more breaking through the guard she threw her arms about him. Not a word did Sir Thomas say, but as he held her there the tears fell fast from his eyes, while from the crowd around broke the sound of weeping. Even the guards wept for pity. But at last, with full and heavy hearts, father and daughter parted.

“Dear Meg,” Sir Thomas wrote for the last time, “I never liked your manner better towards me than when you kissed me last. For I like when daughterly love and dear charity hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy.”

Next day he died cheerfully as he had lived. To the last he jested in his quaint fashion. The scaffold was so badly built that it was ready to fall, so Sir Thomas, jesting, turned to the lieutenant. “I pray you, Master Lieutenant,” he said, “see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” He desired the people to pray for him, and having kissed the executioner in token of forgiveness, he laid his head upon the block. “So passed Sir Thomas More out of the world to God.” His death was mourned by many far and near. “Had we been master of such a servant,” said the Emperor Charles when he heard of it, “we would rather have lost the best city of our dominions than have lost such a worthy counselor.”

More died for his faith, that of the Catholic Church. He, as others, saw with grief that there was much within the Church that needed to be made better, but he trusted it would be made better. To break away from the Church, to doubt the headship of the Pope, seemed to him such wickedness that he hated the Reformers and wrote against them. And although in Utopia he allowed his happy people to have full freedom in matters of religion, in real life he treated sternly and even cruelly those Protestants with whom he had to deal.

Yet the Reformation was stirring all the world, and while Sir Thomas More cheerfully and steadfastly died for the Catholic faith, there were others in England who as cheerfully lived, worked, and died for the Protestant faith. We have little to do with these Reformers in this book, except in so far as they touch our literature, and it is to them that we owe our present Bible.

First William Tyndale, amid difficulties and trials, translated afresh the New and part of the Old Testament, and died the death of a martyr in 1536.

Miles Coverdale followed him with a complete translation in happier times. For Henry VIII, for his own purposes, wished to spread a knowledge of the Bible, and commanded that a copy of Coverdale’s Bible should be placed in every parish church. And although Coverdale was not so great a scholar as Tyndale, his language was fine and stately, with a musical ring about the words, and to this day we still keep his version of the Psalms in the Prayer Book.

Other versions of the Bible followed these, until in 1611, in the reign of James I and VI, the translation which we use to-day was at length published. That has stood and still stands the test of time. And, had we no other reason to treasure it, we would still for its simple musical language look upon it as one of the fine things in our literature.


Life of Sir Thomas More (King’s Classics, modern English), by W. Roper (his son-in-law). Utopia (King’s Classics, modern English), translated by R. Robinson. Utopia (old English), edited by Churton Collins.


UPON a January day in 1527 two gaily decked barges met upon the Thames. In the one sat a man of forty. His fair hair and beard were already touched with gray. His face was grave and thoughtful, and his eyes gave to it a curious expression, for the right was dull and sightless, while with the left he looked about him sharply. This was Sir John Russell, gentleman of the Privy Chamber, soldier, ambassador, and favorite of King Henry VIII. Fighting in the King’s French wars he had lost the sight of his right eye. Since then he had led a busy life in court and camp, passing through many perilous adventures in the service of his master, and now once again by the King’s commands he was about to set forth for Italy.

As the other barge drew near Russell saw that in it there sat Thomas Wyatt, a young poet and courtier of twenty-three. He was tall and handsome, and his thick dark hair framed a pale, clever face which now looked listless. But as his dreamy poet’s eyes met those of Sir John they lighted up. The two men greeted each other familiarly. “Whither away,” cried Wyatt, for he saw that Russell was prepared for a journey.

“To Italy, sent by the King.”

To Italy, the land of Poetry! The idea fired the poet’s soul.

“And I,” at once he answered, “will, if you please, ask leave, get money, and go with you.”

“No man more welcome,” answered the ambassador, and so it was settled between them. The money and the leave were both forthcoming, and Thomas Wyatt passed to Italy. This chance meeting and this visit to Italy are of importance to our literature, because they led to a new kind of poem being written in English. This was the Sonnet.

The Sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines, and is perhaps the most difficult kind of poem to write. It is divided into two parts. The first part has eight lines and ought only to have two rimes. That is, supposing we take words riming with love and king for our rimes, four lines must rime with love and four with king. The rimes, too, must come in a certain order. The first, fourth, fifth and eighth lines must rime, and the second, third, sixth, and seventh. This first part is called the octave, from the Latin word octo, eight. The second part contains six lines, and is therefore called the sextet, from the Latin word sex, meaning six. The sextet may have either two or three rimes, and these may be arranged in almost any order. But a correct sonnet ought not to end with a couplet, that is two riming lines. However, very many good writers in English do so end their sonnets.

As the sonnet is so bound about with rules, it often makes the thought which it expresses sound a little unreal. And for that very reason it suited the times in which Wyatt lived. In those far-off days every knight had a lady whom he vowed to serve and love. He took her side in every quarrel, and if he were a poet, or even if he were not, he wrote verses in her honor, and sighed and died for her. The lady was not supposed to do anything in return; she might at most smile upon her knight or drop her glove, that he might be made happy by picking it up. In fact, the more disdainful the lady might be the better it was, for then the poet could write the more passionate verses. For all this love and service was make-believe. It was merely a fashion and not meant to be taken seriously. A man might have a wife whom he loved dearly, and yet write poems in honor of another lady without thought of wrong. The sonnet, having something very artificial in it, just suited this make-believe love.

Petrarch, the great Italian poet, from whom you remember Chaucer had learned much, and whom perhaps he had once met, made use of this kind of poem. In his sonnets he told his love of a fair lady, Laura, and made her famous for all time.

Of course, when Wyatt came to Italy Petrarch had long been dead. But his poems were as living as in the days of Chaucer, and it was from Petrarch’s works that Wyatt learned this new kind of poem, and it was he who first made use of it in English. He, too, like Petrarch, addressed his sonnets to a lady, and the lady he took for his love was Queen Anne Boleyn. As he is the first, he is perhaps one of the roughest of our sonnet writers, but into his sonnets he wrought something of manly strength. He does not sigh so much as other poets of the age. He says, in fact, “If I serve my lady faithfully I deserve reward.” Here is one of his sonnets, which he calls “The lover compareth his state to a ship in perilous storm tossed by the sea.”

“My galléy charged with forgetfulness, Through sharpe seas in winter’s night doth pass, ‘Tween rock and rock; and eke my foe (alas) That is my lord, steereth with cruelness: And every oar a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case. An endless wind doth tear the sail apace, Of forcéd sighs and trusty fearfulness; A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain, Have done the wearied cords great hinderance: Wreathéd with error and with ignorance; The stars be his, that lead me to this pain; Drownéd is reason that should me comfort, And I remain, despairing of the port.”

It is not perfect, it is not even Wyatt’s best sonnet, but it is one of the most simple. To make it run smoothly we must sound the ed in those words ending in ed as a separate syllable, and we must put a final e to sharp in the second line and sound that. Then you see the rimes are not very good. To begin with, the first eight all have sounds of s. Then “alas” and “pass” do not rime with “case” and “apace,” nor do “comfort” and “port.” I point these things out, so that later on you may see for yourselves how much more polished and elegant a thing the sonnet becomes.

Although Wyatt was our first sonnet writer, some of his poems which are not sonnets are much more musical, especially some he wrote for music. Perhaps best of all you will like his satire Of the mean and sure estate. A satire is a poem which holds up to scorn and ridicule wickedness, folly, or stupidity. It is the sword of literature, and often its edge was keen, its point sharp.

“My mother’s maids when they do sew and spin, They sing a song made of the fieldish mouse; That for because her livelod* was but thin Would needs go see her townish sister’s house.

. . . . . . .
‘My sister,’ quoth she, ‘hath a living good, And hence from me she dwelleth not a mile, In cold and storm she lieth warm and dry In bed of down. The dirt doth not defile Her tender foot; she labours not as I. Richly she feeds, and at the rich man’s cost; And for her meat she need not crave nor cry. By sea, by land, of delicates* the most, Her caterer seeks, and spareth for no peril. She feeds on boil meat, bake meat and roast, And hath, therefore, no whit of charge or travail.’

. . . . . . .
So forth she goes, trusting of all this wealth With her sister her part so for to shape, That if she might there keep herself in health, To live a Lady, while her life do last. And to the door now is she come by stealth, And with her foot anon she scrapes full fast. Th’ other for fear durst not well scarce appear, Of every noise so was the wretch aghast. At last she askéd softly who was there; And in her language as well as she could, ‘Peep,’ quoth the other, ‘sister, I am here.’ ‘Peace,’ quoth the town mouse, ‘why speaketh thou so loud?’ But by the hand she took her fair and well. ‘Welcome,’ quoth she, ‘my sister by the Rood.’ She feasted her that joy it was to tell The fare they had, they drank the wine so clear; And as to purpose now and then it fell, So cheered her with, ‘How, sister, what cheer.’ Amid this joy befell a sorry chance,
That welladay, the stranger bought full dear The fare she had. For as she looked ascance, Under a stool she spied two flaming eyes, In a round head, with sharp ears. In France Was never mouse so feared, for the unwise Had not ere seen such beast before.
Yet had nature taught her after her guise To know her foe, and dread him evermore. The town mouse fled, she knew whither to go; The other had no shift, but wonders sore, Fear’d of her life! At home she wished her tho’; And to the door, alas! as she did skip (The heaven it would, lo, and eke her chance was so) At the threshold her sill foot did trip; And ere she might recover it again,
The traitor Cat had caught her by the hip And made her there against her will remain, That had forgot her poor surety and rest, For seeming wealth, wherein she thought to reign.”

That is not the end of the poem. Wyatt points the moral. “Alas,” he says, “how men do seek the best and find the worst.” “Although thy head were hooped with gold,” thou canst not rid thyself of care. Content thyself, then, with what is allotted thee and use it well.

This satire Wyatt wrote while living quietly in the country, having barely escaped with his life from the King’s wrath. But although he escaped the scaffold, he died soon after in his King’s service. Riding on the King’s business in the autumn of 1542 he became overheated, fell into a fever, and died. He was buried at Sherborne. No stone marks his resting-place, but his friend and fellow-poet, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, wrote a noble elegy:–

“A hea, where Wisdom mysteries did frame; Whose hammers beat still, in that lively brain, As on a stithy* where that some work of fame Was daily wrought, to turn to Britain’s gain.

. . . . . . .
A hand, that taught what might be said in rhyme, That Chaucer reft the glory of his wit. A mark, the which (unperfected for time) Some may approach; but never none shall hit!”


Early Sixteenth-Century Lyrics (Belle Lettres Series), edited by F. M. Padelford (original spelling).


THE poet with whose verses the last chapter ended was named Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. The son of a noble and ancient house, Surrey lived a gay life in court and camp. Proud, hot-headed, quick-tempered, he was often in trouble, more than once in prison. In youth he was called “the most foolish proud boy in England,” and at the age of thirty, still young and gay and full of life, he died upon the scaffold. Accused of treason, yet innocent, he fell a victim to “the wrath of princes,” the wrath of that hot-headed King Henry VIII. Surrey lived at the same time as Wyatt and, although he was fourteen years younger, was his friend. Together they are the forerunners of our modern poetry. They are nearly always spoken of together–Wyatt and Surrey–Surrey and Wyatt. Like Wyatt, Surrey followed the Italian poets. Like Wyatt he wrote sonnets; but whereas Wyatt’s are rough, Surrey’s are smooth and musical, although he does not keep the rules about rime endings. One who wrote not long after the time of Wyatt and Surrey says of them, “Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, and Henry, Earl of Surrey, were the two chieftains, who, having travelled in Italy, and there tasted the sweet and stately measures and style of the Italian poesie . . . greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie from that it had been before, and for that cause may justly be said the first reformers of our English metre and syle. . . . I repute them for the two chief lanterns of light to all others that have since employed their pens on English poesie.”*

*G. Puttenham, Art of English Poesie.

A later writer* has called Surrey the “first refiner” of our language. And just as there comes a time in our own lives when we begin to care not only for the story, but for the words in which a story is told and for the way in which those words are used, so, too, there comes such a time in the life of a nation, and this time for England we may perhaps date from Wyatt and Surrey. Before then there were men who tried to use the best words in the best way, but they did it unknowingly, as birds might sing. The language, too, in which they wrote was still a growing thing. When Surrey wrote it had nearly reached its finished state, and he helped to finish and polish it.

*W. J. Courthope.

As the fashion was, Surrey chose a lady to whom to address his verses. She was the little Lady Elizabeth Fitz-Gerald, whose father had died a broken-hearted prisoner in the Tower. She was only ten when Surrey made her famous in song, under the name of Geraldine. Here is a sonnet in which he, seeing the joy of all nature at the coming of Spring, mourns that his lady is still unkind:

“The sweet season, that bud and bloom forth brings, With green hath clad the hill, and eke the vale, The nightingale with feathers new she sings: The turtle to her mate hath told her tale. Summer is come, for every spray now springs, The hart hath hung his old head on the pale, The buck in haste his winter coat he flings; The fishes float with new repaired scale, The adder all her slough away she lings; The swift swallow pursueth the flies small; The busy-bee her honey now she mings;* Winter is worn that was the flowers’ bale. And thus I see among these pleasant things Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.”


Besides following Wyatt in making the sonnet known to English readers, Surrey was the first to write in blank verse, that is in long ten-syllabled lines which do not rime. This is a kind of poetry in which some of the grandest poems in our language are written, and we should remember Surrey as the first maker of it. For with very little change the rules which Surrey laid down have been followed by our best poets ever since, so from the sixteenth century till now there has been far less change in our poetry than in the five centuries before. You can see this for yourself if you compare Surrey’s poetry with Layamon’s or Langland’s, and then with some of the blank verse near the end of this book.

It was in translating part of Virgil’s Aeneid that Surrey used blank verse. Virgil was an ancient Roman poet, born 70 B. C., who in his book called the Aeneid told of the wanderings and adventures of Aeneas, and part of this poem Surrey translated into English.

This is how he tells of the way in which Aeneas saved his old father by carrying him on his shoulders out of the burning town of Troy when “The crackling flame was heard throughout the walls, and more and more the burning heat drew near.”

“My shoulders broad,
And layéd neck with garments ‘gan I spread, And thereon cast a yellow lion’s skin; And thereupon my burden I receive.
Young Iulus clasped in my right hand, Followeth me fast, with unequal pace,
And at my back my wife. Thus did we pass By places shadowed most with the night, And me, whom late the dart which enemies threw, Nor press of Argive routs could make amaz’d, Each whisp’ring wind hath power now to fray, And every sound to move my doubtful mind. So much I dread my burden and my fere.* And now we ‘gan draw near unto the gate, Right well escap’d the danger, as me thought, When that at hand a sound of feet we heard. My father then, gazing throughout the dark, Cried on me, ‘Flee, son! they are at hand.’ With that, bright shields, and shene** armours I saw But then, I know not what unfriendly god My troubled with from me bereft for fear. For while I ran by the most secret streets, Eschewing still the common haunted track, From me, catif, alas! bereavéd was
Creusa then, my spouse; I wot not how, Whether by fate, or missing of the way, Or that she was by weariness retain’d; But never sith these eyes might her behold. Nor did I yet perceive that she was lost, Nor never backward turnéd I my mind;
Till we came to the hill whereon there stood The old temple dedicated to Ceres.
And when that we were there assembled all, She was only away deceiving us,
Her spouse, her son, and all her company. What god or man did I not then accuse, Near wode *** for ire? or what more cruel chance Did hap to me in all Troy’s overthrow?”



WHEN Henry signed Surrey’s death-warrant he himself was near death, and not many weeks later the proud and violent king met his end. Then followed for England changeful times. After Protestant Edward came for a tragic few days Lady Jane. Then followed the short, sad reign of Catholic Mary, who, dying, left the throne free for her brilliant sister Elizabeth. Those years, from the death of King Henry VIII to the end of the first twenty years of Elizabeth’s reign, were years of action rather than of production. They were years of struggle, during which England was swayed to and fro in the fight of religions. They were years during which the fury of the storm of the Reformation worked itself out. But although they were such unquiet years they were also years of growth, and at the end of that time there blossomed forth one of the fairest seasons of our literature.

We call the whole group of authors who sprang up at this time the Elizabethans, after the name of the Queen in whose reign they lived and wrote. And to those of us who know even a very little of the time, the word calls up a brilliant vision. Great names come crowding to our minds, names of poets, dramatists, historians, philosophers, divines. It would be impossible to tell of all in this book, so we must choose the greatest from the noble array. And foremost among them comes Edmund Spenser, for “the glory of the new literature broke in England with Edmund Spenser.”*

*J. R. Green, History of English People.

If we could stand aside, as it were, and take a wide view of all our early literature, it would seem as if the names of Chaucer and Spenser stood out above all others like great mountains. The others are valleys between. They are pleasant fields in which to wander, in which to gather flowers, not landmarks for all the world like Chaucer and Spenser. And although it is easier and safer for children to wander in the meadows and gather meadow flowers, they still may look up to the mountains and hope to climb them some day.

Edmund Spenser was born in London in 1552, and was the son of a poor clothworker or tailor. He went to school at the Merchant Taylors’ School, which had then been newly founded. That his father was very poor we know, for Edmund Spenser’s name appears among “certain poor scholars of the schools about London” who received money and clothes from a fund left by a rich man to help poor children at school.

When he was about seventeen Edmund went to Cambridge, receiving for his journey a sum of ten shillings from the fund from which he had already received help at school. He entered college as a sizar, that is, in return for doing the work of a servant he received free board and lodging in his college. A sizar’s life was not always a happy one, for many of the other scholars or gentlemen commoners looked down upon them because of their poverty. And this poverty they could not hide, for the sizars were obliged to wear a different cap and gown from that of the gentlemen commoners.

But of how Spenser fared at college we know nothing, except that he was often ill and that he made two lifelong friends. That he loved his university, however, we learn from his poems, when he tenderly speaks of “my mother Cambridge.”* When he left college Spenser was twenty-three. He was poor and, it would seem, ill, so he did not return to London, but went to live with relatives in the country in Lancashire. And there about “the wasteful woods and forest wide”** he wandered, gathering new life and strength, taking all a poet’s joy in the beauty and the freedom of a country life, “for ylike to me was liberty and life,”** he says. And here among the pleasant woods he met a fair lady named Rosalind, “the widow’s daughter of the glen.”***

*Faery Queen, book IV canto xi.
**Shepherd’s Calendar, December
***The same, April.

Who Rosalind really was no one knows. She would never have been heard of had not Spenser taken her for his lady and made songs to her. Spenser’s love for Rosalind was, however, more real than the fashionable poet’s passion. He truly loved Rosalind, but she did not love him, and she soon married some one else. Then all his joy in the summer and the sunshine was made dark.

“Thus is my summer worn away and wasted, Thus is my harvest hastened all too rathe;* The ear that budded fair is burnt and blasted, And all my hopéd gain it turned to scathe: Of all the seed, that in my youth was sown, Was naught but brakes and brambles to be mown.”**

**Shepherd’s Calendar, December.

At twenty-four life seemed ended, for “Love is a cureless sorrow.”*

*Shepherd’s Calendar, August.

“Winter is come, that blows the baleful breath, And after Winter cometh timely death.”*

*Shepherd’s Calendar, December.

And now, when he was feeling miserable, lonely, desolate an old college friend wrote to him begging him to come to London. Spenser went, and through his friend he came to know Sir Philip Sidney, a true gentleman and a poet like himself, who in turn made him known to the great Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth’s favorite.

Spenser thought his heart had been broken and that his life was done. But hearts do not break easily. Life is not done at twenty-four. After a time Spenser found that there was still much to live for. The great Earl became the poet’s friend and patron, and gave him a post as secretary in his house. For in those days no man could live by writing alone. Poetry was still a graceful toy for the rich. If a poor man wished to toy with it, he must either starve or find a rich friend to be his patron, to give him work to do that would leave him time to write also. Such a friend Spenser found in Leicester. In the Earl’s house the poor tailor’s son met many of the greatest men of the court of Queen Elizabeth. On the Earl’s business he went to Ireland and to the Continent, seeing new sights, meeting the men and women of the great world, so that a new and brilliant life seemed opening for him.

Yet when, a few years later, Spenser published his first great poem, it did not tell of courts or courtiers, but of simple country sights and sounds. This book is called the Shepherd’s Calendar, as it contains twelve poems, one for every month of the year.

In it Spenser sings of his fair lost lady Rosalind, and he himself appears under the name of Colin Clout. The name is taken, as you will remember, from John Skelton’s poem.

Spenser called his poems Aeclogues, from a Greek word meaning Goatherds’ Tales, “Though indeed few goatherds have to do herein.” He dedicated them to Sir Philip Sidney as “the president of noblesse and of chivalrie.”

“Go, little book: Thy self present, As child whose parent is unkent,
To him that is the president
Of Noblesse and of Chivalrie;
And if that Envy bark at thee,
As sure it will, for succour flee Under the shadow of his wing;
And, asked who thee forth did bring; A shepherd’s swain, say, did thee sing, All as his straying flock he fed;
And when his honour hath thee read Crave pardon for my hardyhood.
But, if that any ask thy name,
Say, ‘thou wert basebegot with blame.’ For thy thereof thou takest shame,
And, when thou art past jeopardy, Come tell me what was said of mee,
And I will send more after thee.”

The Shepherd’s Calendar made the new poet famous. Spenser was advanced at court, and soon after went to Ireland in the train of the Lord-Deputy as Secretary of State. At that time Ireland was filled with storm and anger, with revolt against English rule, with strife among the Irish nobles themselves. Spain also was eagerly looking to Ireland as a point from which to strike at England. War, misery, poverty were abroad in all the land. Yet amid the horrid sights and sounds of battle Spenser found time to write.

After eight years spent in the north of Ireland, Spenser was given a post which took him south. His new home was the old castle of Kilcolman in Cork. It was surrounded by fair wooded country, but to Spenser it seemed a desert. He had gone to Ireland as to exile, hoping that it was merely a stepping-stone to some great appointment in England, whither he longed to return. Now after eight years he found himself still in exile. He had no love for Ireland, and felt himself lonely and forsaken there. But soon there came another great Elizabethan to share his loneliness. This was Sir Walter Raleigh, who, being out of favor with his Queen, took refuge in his Irish estates until her anger should pass.

The two great men, thus alone among the wild Irish, made friends, and they had many a talk together. There within the gray stone walls of the old ivy-covered castle Spenser read the first part of his book, the Faery Queen, to Raleigh. Spenser had long been at work upon this great poem. It was divided into parts, and each part was called a book. Three books were now finished, and Raleigh, loud in his praises of them, persuaded the poet to bring them over to England to have them published.

In a poem called Colin Clout’s come home again, which Spenser wrote a few years later, he tells in his own poetic way of these meetings and talks, and of how Raleigh persuaded him to go to England, there to publish his poem. In Colin Clout Spenser calls both himself and Raleigh shepherds. For just as at one time it was the fashion to write poems in the form of a dream, so in Spenser’s day it was the fashion to write poems called pastorals, in which the authors made believe that all their characters were shepherds and shepherdesses.

“One day, quoth he, I sat (as was my trade) Under the foot of Mole, that mountain hoare, Keeping my sheep amongst the cooly shade, Of the green alders by the Mulla’s* shore: There a strange shepherd chanst to find me out, Whether alluréd by my pipe’s delight,
Whose pleasing sound y-shrilléd far about, Or thither led by chance, I know not right: Whom when I askéd from what place he came, And how he hight, himself he did y-clep, The Shepherd of the Ocean by name,
And said he came far from the main sea deep. He sitting me beside in that same shade, Provokéd me to play some pleasant fit;** And, when he heard the music that I made, He found himself full greatly pleased at it.”

*River Awbeg.

Spenser tells then how the “other shepherd” sang:–

“His song was all a lamentable lay, Of great unkindness, and of usage hard, Of Cynthia, the Lady of the Sea,
That from her presence faultless him debarred. . . . . . . .
When thus our pipes we both had wearied well, And each an end of singing made,
He gan to cast great liking to my lore, And great disliking to my luckless lot, That banished had myself, like wight forlore, Into that waste, where I was quite forgot: The which to leave henceforth he counselled me, Unmeet for man in whom was ought regardful, And wend with him his Cynthia to see,
Whose grace was great, and bounty most rewardful. . . . . . . .
So what with hope of good, and hate of ill He me persuaded forth with him to fare.”

Queen Elizabeth received Spenser kindly, and was so delighted with the Faery Queen that she ordered Lord Burleigh to pay the poet 100 pounds a year.

“What!” grumbled the Lord Treasurer, “it is not in reason. So much for a mere song!”

“Then give him,” said the Queen, “what is reason,” to which he consented.

But, says an old writer, “he was so busied, belike about matters of higher concernment, that Spenser received no reward.”* In the long-run, however, he did receive 50 pounds a year, as much as 400 pounds would be now. But it did not seem to Spenser to be enough to allow him to give up his post in Ireland and live in England. So back to Ireland he went once more, with a grudge in his heart against Lord Burleigh.

*Thomas Fuller.


SPENSER’S plan for the Faery Queen was a very great one. He meant to write a poem in twelve books, each book containing the adventures of a knight who was to show forth one virtue. And if these were well received he purposed to write twelve more. Only the first three books were as yet published, but they made him far more famous than the Shepherd’s Calendar had done. For never since Chaucer had such poetry been written. In the Faery Queen Spenser has, as he says, changed his “oaten reed” for “trumpets stern,” and sings no longer now of shepherds and their loves, but of “knights and ladies gentle deeds” of “fierce wars and faithful loves.”

The first three books tell the adventures of the Red Cross Knight St. George, or Holiness; of Sir Guyon, or Temperance; and of the Lady Britomartis, or Chastity. The whole poem is an allegory. Everywhere we are meant to see a hidden meaning. But sometimes the allegory is very confused and hard to follow. So at first, in any case, it is best to enjoy the story and the beautiful poetry, and not trouble about the second meaning. Spenser plunges us at once into the very middle of the story. He begins:

“A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain, Yelad in mighty arms and silver shield, Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain, The cruel marks of many a bloody field; Yet arms till that time did he never wield. His angry steed did chide his foaming bit, As much disdaining to the curb to yield: Full jolly knight he seem’d, and fair did sit, As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit.

But on his breast a bloody cross he bore, The dear remembrance of his dying Lord, For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore, And dead as living ever him ador’d;
Upon his shield the like was also scor’d.”

And by the side of this Knight rode a lovely Lady upon a snow- white ass. Her dress, too, was snow-white, but over it she wore a black cloak, “as one that inly mourned,” and it “seemed in her heart some hidden care she had.”

So the story begins; but why these two, the grave and gallant Knight and the sad and lovely Lady, are riding forth together we should not know until the middle of the seventh canto, were it not for a letter which Spenser wrote to Raleigh and printed in the beginning of his book. In it he tells us not only who these two are, but also his whole great design. He writes this letter, he says, “knowing how doubtfully all allegories may be construed,” and this book of his “being a continued allegory, or dark conceit,” he thought it good to explain. Having told how he means to write of twenty-four knights who shall represent twenty- four virtues, he goes on to tell us that the Faery Queen kept her yearly feast twelve days, upon which twelve days the occasions of the first twelve adventures happened, which, being undertaken by twelve knights, are told of in these twelve books.

The first was this. At the beginning of the feast a tall, clownish young man knelt before the Queen of the Fairies asking as a boon that to him might be given the first adventure that might befall. “That being granted he rested him on the floor, unfit through his rusticity for a better place.

“Soon after entered a fair Lady in mourning weeds, riding on a white ass with a Dwarf behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the arms of a knight, and his spear in the Dwarf’s hand.

“She, falling before the Queen of Fairies, complained that her Father and Mother, an ancient King and Queen had been by a huge Dragon many years shut up in a brasen Castle, who thence suffered them not to issue.” And therefore she prayed the Fairy Queen to give her a knight who would slay the Dragon.

Then the “clownish person” started up and demanded the adventure. The Queen was astonished, the maid unwilling, yet he begged so hard that the Queen consented. The Lady, however, told him that unless the armor she had brought would serve him he could not succeed. But when he put the armor on “he seemed the goodliest man in all that company, and was well liked of that Lady. And eftsoons taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that strange courser, he went forth with her on that adventure, where beginneth the first book, viz.:

“‘A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain,’ etc.”

The story goes on to tell how the Knight, who is the Red Cross Knight St. George, and the Lady, who is called Una, rode on followed by the Dwarf. At length in the wide forest they lost their way and came upon the lair of a terrible She-Dragon. “Fly, fly,” quoth then the fearful Dwarf, “this is no place for living men.”

“But full of fire and greedy hardiment, The youthful Knight could not for ought be stayed; But forth unto the darksome hole he went, And lookéd in: his glistering armour made A little glooming light, much like a shade, By which he saw the ugly monster plain, Half like a serpent horribly displayed, But th’other half did woman’s shape retain, Most loathsome, filthy, foul, and full of vile disdain.”

There was a fearful fight between the Knight and the Dragon, whose name is Error, but at length the Knight conquered. The terrible beast lay dead “reft of her baleful head,” and the Knight, mounting upon his charger, once more rode onwards with his Lady.

“At length they chanced to meet upon the way An aged sire, in long black weeds yelad, His feet all bare, his beard all hoary grey, And by his belt his book he hanging had, Sober he seemed, and very sagely sad,
And to the ground his eyes were lowly bent, Simple in show, and void of malice bad, And all the way he prayéd, as he went, And often knocked his breast, as one that did repent.”

The Knight and this aged man greeted each other fair and courteously, and as evening was now fallen the godly father bade the travelers come to his Hermitage for the night. This the Knight and Lady gladly did, and soon were peacefully sleeping beneath the humble roof.

But the seeming godly father was a wicked magician. While his guests slept he wove evil spells about them, and calling a wicked dream he bade it sit at the Knight’s head and whisper lies to him. This the wicked dream did till that it made the Knight believe his Lady to be bad and false. Then early in the morning the Red Cross Knight rose and, believing his Lady to be unworthy, he rode sadly away, leaving her alone.

Soon, as he rode along, he met a Saracen whose name was Sansfoy, or without faith, “full large of limb and every joint he was, and cared not for God or man a point.”

“He had a fair companion of his way, A goodly Lady clad in scarlet red,
Purfled with gold and pearl of rich assay, And like a Persian mitre on her head
She wore, with crowns and riches garnishéd, The which her lavish lovers to her gave; Her wanton palfrey all was overspread
With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave, Whose bridle rang with golden bells and bosses brave.”

The Red Cross Knight fought and conquered Sansfoy. Then he rode onward with the dead giant’s companion, the lady Duessa, whom he believed to be good because he was “too simple and too true” to know her wicked.

Meanwhile Una, forsaken and woeful, wandered far and wide seeking her lost Knight. But nowhere could she hear tidings of him. At length one day, weary of her quest, she got off her ass and lay down to rest in the thick wood, where “her angel’s face made a sunshine in the shady place.”

Then out of the thickest of the wood a ramping lion rushed suddenly.

“It fortuned out of the thickest wood A ramping Lion rushed suddenly,
Hunting full greedy after savage blood. Soon as the royal virgin he did spy,
With gaping mouth at her ran greedily To have at once devoured her tender corse.”

But as he came near the sleeping Lady the Lion’s rage suddenly melted. Instead of killing Una, he licked her weary feet and white hands with fawning tongue. From being her enemy he became her guardian. And so for many a day the Lion stayed with Una, guarding her from all harm. But in her wanderings she at length met with Sansloy, the brother of Sansfoy, who killed the Lion and carried Una off into the darksome wood.

But here in her direst need Una found new friends in a troupe of fauns and satyrs who were playing in the forest.

“Whom when the raging Saracen espied, A rude, misshapen, monstrous rabblement, Whose like he never saw, he durst not bide, But got his ready steed, and fast away gan ride.”

Then the fauns and satyrs gathered round the Lady, wondering at her beauty, pitying her “fair blubbered face.”

But Una shook with fear. These terrible shapes, half goat, half human, struck her dumb with horror: “Ne word to peak, ne joint to move she had.”

“The savage nation feel her secret smart And read her sorrow in her count’nance sad; Their frowning foreheads with rough horns yelad, And rustic horror all aside do lay,
And gently grinning shew a semblance glad To comfort her, and feat to put away.”

They kneel upon the ground, they kiss her feet, and at last, sure that they mean her no harm, Una rises and goes with them.

Rejoicing, singing songs, honoring her as their Queen, waving branches, scattering flowers beneath her feet, they lead her to their chief Sylvanus. He, too, receives her kindly, and in the wood she lives with these wild creatures until there she finds a new knight named Satyrane, with whom she once more sets forth to seek the Red Cross Knight.

Meanwhile Duessa had led the Red Cross Knight to the house of Pride.

“A stately Palace built of squaréd brick, Which cunningly was without mortar laid, Whose walls were high, but nothing strong, nor thick, And golden foil all over them displayed, That purest sky with brightness they dismayed. High lifted up were many lofty towers
And goodly galleries far overlaid, Full of fair windows, and delightful bowers, And on the top a dial told the timely hours.

It was a goodly heap for to behold, And spake the praises of the workman’s wit, But full great pity, that so fair a mould Did on so weak foundation ever sit;
For on a sandy hill, that still did flit, And fall away, it mounted was full high, And every breath of heaven shakéd it;
And all the hinder parts, that few could spy, Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.”

Here the Knight met Sansjoy, the third of the Saracen brothers, and another fearful fight took place.

“The Saracen was stout, and wondrous strong, And heapéd blows like iron hammers great: For after blood and vengeance he did long. The Knight was fierce, and full of youthly heat, And doubled strokes like dreaded thunder’s threat, For all for praise and honour he did fight. Both striken strike, and beaten both do beat That from their shields forth flyeth fiery light, And helmets hewen deep, show marks of either’s might.”

At last a charmed cloud hid the Saracen from the Knight’s sight. So the fight ended, and the Knight, sorely wounded, was “laid in sumptuous bed, where many skilful leeches him abide.”

But as he lay there weak and ill the Dwarf came to warn him, for he had spied

“Where, in a dungeon deep, huge numbers lay Of caitiff wretched thralls, that wailéd night and day, . . . . . . .
Whose case when as the careful Dwarf had told, And made ensample of their mournful sight Unto his master, he no longer would
There dwell in peril of like painful plight, But early rose, and ere that dawning light Discovered had the world to heaven wide, He by a privy postern took his flight, That of no envious eyes he might be spied, For doubtless death ensued, if any him descried.”

When the false Duessa discovered that the Red Cross Knight had fled, she followed him and found him resting beside a fountain. Not knowing that the water was enchanted, he drank of it, and at once all his manly strength ebbed away, and he became faint and feeble. Then, when he was too weak to hold a sword or spear, he saw a fearful sight:–

“With sturdy steps came stalking in his sight, An hideous Giant horrible and high,
That with his tallness seemed to threat the sky, The ground eke groanéd under him for dread; His living like saw never living eye,
Nor durst behold; his stature did exceed The height of three the tallest sons of mortal seed.”

Towards the Knight, so weak that he could scarcely hold his sword, this Giant came stalking. Weak as he was, the Knight made ready to fight. But
“The Giant strake so mainly merciless, That could have overthrown a stony tower; And were not heavenly grace that did him bless, He had been powdered all as thin as flour.”

As the Giant struck at him, the Knight leapt aside and the blow fell harmless. But so mighty was it that the wind of it threw him to the ground, where he lay senseless. And ere he woke out of his swoon the Giant took him up, and

“Him to his castle brought with hasty force And in a dungeon deep him threw without remorse.”

Duessa then became the Giant’s lady. “He gave her gold and purple pall to wear,” and set a triple crown upon her head. For steed he gave her a fearsome dragon with fiery eyes and seven heads, so that all who saw her went in dread and awe.

The Dwarf, seeing his master thus overthrown and made prisoner, gathered his armor and set forth to tell his evil tidings and find help. He had not gone far before he met the Lady Una. To her he told his sad news, and she with grief in her heart turned with him to find the dark dungeon in which her Knight lay. On her way she met another knight. This was Prince Arthur. And he, learning of her sorrow, went with her promising aid. Guided by the Dwarf they reached the castle of the Giant, and here a fearful fight took place in which Prince Arthur conquered Duessa’s Dragon and killed the Giant. Then he entered the castle.

“Where living creature none he did espy. Then gan he loudly through the house to call; But no man cared to answer to his cry; There reigned a solemn silence over all, Nor voice was heard, nor wight was seen in bower or hall.

At last, with creeping crooked pace forth came An old, old man with beard as white as snow; That on a staff his feeble steps did frame, And guide his weary gate both to and fro, For his eyesight him failéd long ago;
And on his arm a bunch of keys he bore, The which unuséd rust did overgrow;
Those were the keys of every inner door, But he could not them use, but kept them still in store.”

And what was strange and terrible about this old man was that his head was twisted upon his shoulders, so that although he walked towards the knight his face looked backward.

Seeing his gray hairs and venerable look Prince Arthur asked him gently where all the folk of the castle were.

“I cannot tell,” answered the old man. And to every question he replied, “I cannot tell,” until the knight, impatient of delay, seized the keys from his arm. Door after door the Prince Arthur opened, seeing many strange, sad sights. But nowhere could he find the captive Knight.

“At last he came unto an iron door, That fast was locked, but key found not at all, Amongst that bunch to open it withal.”

But there was a little grating in the door through which Prince Arthur called. A hollow, dreary, murmuring voice replied. It was the voice of the Red Cross Knight, which, when the champion heard, “with furious force and indignation fell” he rent that iron door and entered in.

Once more the Red Cross Knight was free and reunited to his Lady, while the false Duessa was unmasked and shown to be a bad old witch, who fled away “to the wasteful wilderness apace.”

But the Red Cross Knight was still so weak and feeble that Despair almost persuaded him to kill himself. Seeing this, Una led him to the house of Holiness, where he stayed until once more he was strong and well. Here he learned that he was St. George. “Thou,” he is told,

“Shalt be a saint, and thine own nation’s friend And patron. Thou St. George shalt calléd be, St. George of merry England, the sign of victory.”

Once more strong of arm, full of new courage, the Knight set forth with Una, and soon they reached her home, where the dreadful Dragon raged.

Here the most fierce fight of all takes place. Three days it is renewed, and on the third day the Dragon is conquered.

“So down he fell, and forth his life did breathe That vanished into smoke and clouds swift; So down he fell, that th’ earth him underneath Did groan, as feeble so great load to lift; So down he fell, as an huge rocky clift Whose false foundation waves have washed away, With dreadful poise is from the mainland rift And rolling down, great Neptune doth dismay, So down he fell, and like an heapéd mountain lay.”

Thus all ends happily. The aged King and Queen are rescued from the brazen tower in which the Dragon had imprisoned them, and Una and the Knight are married.

That is the story of the first book of the Faery Queen. In it Spenser has made great use of the legend of St. George and the Dragon. The Red Cross of his Knight, “the dear remembrance of his dying Lord,” was in those days the flag of England, and is still the Red Cross of our Union Jack. And besides the allegory the poem has something of history in it. The great people of Spenser’s day play their parts there. Thus Duessa, sad to say, is meant to be the fair, unhappy Queen of Scots, the wicked magician is the Pope, and so on. But we need scarcely trouble about all that. I repeat that meantime it is enough for you to enjoy the story and the poetry.


THERE are so many books now published which tell the stories of the Faery Queen, and tell them well, that you may think I hardly need have told one here. But few of these books give the poet’s own words, and I have told the story here giving quotations from the poem in the hope that you will read them and learn from them to love Spenser’s own words. I hope that long after you have forgotten my words you will remember Spenser’s, that they will remain in your mind as glowing word-pictures, and make you anxious to read more of the poem from which they are taken.

Spenser has been called the poet’s poet,* he might also be called the painter’s poet, for on every page almost we find a word- picture, rich in color, rich in detail. Each person as he comes upon the scene is described for us so that we may see him with our mind’s eye. The whole poem blazes with color, it glows and gleams with the glamor of fairyland. Spenser more than any other poet has the old Celtic love of beauty, yet so far as we know there was in him no drop of Celtic blood. He loved neither the Irishman nor Ireland. To him his life there was an exile, yet perhaps even in spite of himself he breathed in the land of fairies and of “little people” something of their magic: his fingers, unwittingly perhaps, touched the golden and ivory gate so that he entered in and saw.

*Charles Lamb.

That it is a fairyland and no real world which Spenser opens to us is the great difference between Chaucer and him. Chaucer gives us real men and women who love and hate, who sin and sorrow. He is humorous, he is coarse, and he is real. Spenser has humor too, but we seldom see him smile. There are, we may be glad, few coarse lines in Spenser, but he is artificial. He took the tone of his time–the tone of pretense. It was the fashion to make-believe, yet, underneath all the make-believe, men were still men, not wholly good nor wholly bad. But underneath the brilliant trappings of Spenser’s knights and ladies, shepherds and shepherdesses, there seldom beats a human heart. He takes us to dreamland, and when we lay down the book we wake up to real life. Beauty first and last is what holds us in Spenser’s poems- -beauty of description, beauty of thought, beauty of sound. As it has been said, “‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever,’ and that is the secret of the enduring life of the Faery Queen.”*

*Courthorpe, History of English Poetry.

Spenser invented for himself a new stanza of nine lines and made it famous, so that we call it after him, the Spenserian Stanza. It was like Chaucer’s stanza of seven lines, called the Rhyme Royal, with two lines more added.

Spenser admired Chaucer above all poets. He called him “The Well of English undefiled,”* and after many hundred years we still feel the truth of the description. He uses many of Chaucer’s words, which even then had grown old-fashioned and were little used. So much is this so that a glossary written by a friend of Spenser, in which old words were explained, was published with the Shepherd’s Calendar. But whether old or new, Spenser’s power of using words and of weaving them together was wonderful.

*Faery Queen, book VI, canto ii.

He weaves his wonderful words in such wonderful fashion that they sound like what he describes. Is there anything more drowsy than his description of the abode of sleep:

“And more, to lull him in his slumber soft, A trickling stream from high rock tumbling down, And ever drizzling rain upon the loft
Mix’d with a murmuring wind, much like the sound Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swound,* No other noise nor peoples’ troublous cries, As still are wont t’ annoy the walled town, Might there be heard; but careless quiet lies Wrapt in eternal silence, far from enemies.”


So all through the poem we are enchanted or lulled by the glamor of words.

The Faery Queen made Spenser as a poet famous, but, as we know, it did not bring him enough to live on in England. It did not bring him the fame he sought nor make him great among the statesmen of the land. Among the courtiers of Queen Elizabeth he counted for little. So he returned to Ireland a disappointed man. It was now he wrote Colin Clout’s come home again, from which I have already given you some quotations. He published also another book of poems and then he fell in love. He forgot his beautiful Rosalind, who had been so hard-hearted, and gave his love to another lady who in her turn loved him, and to whom he was happily married. This lady, too, he made famous in his verse. As the fashion was, he wrote to her a series of sonnets, in one of which we learn that her name was Elizabeth. He writes to the three Elizabeths, his mother, his Queen, and

“The third, my love, my life’s last ornament, By whom my spirit out of dust was raised.”

But more famous still than the sonnets is the Epithalamion or wedding hymn which he wrote in his lady’s honor, and which ever since has been looked on as the most glorious love-song in the English language, so full is it of exultant, worshipful happiness.

It was now, too, that Spenser wrote Astrophel, a sadly beautiful dirge for the death of his friend and fellow-poet, Sir Philip Sidney. He gave his verses as “fittest flowers to deck his mournful hearse.”

Just before his marriage Spenser finished three more books of the Faery Queen, and the following year he took them to London to publish them. The three books were on Friendship, on Justice, and on Courtesy. They were received as joyfully as the first three. The poet remained for nearly a year in London still writing busily. Then he returned to Ireland. There he passed a few more years, and then came the end.

Ireland, which had always been unquiet, always restless, under the oppressive hand of England, now broke out into wild rebellion. The maddened Irish had no love or respect for the English poet. Kilcolman Castle was sacked and burned, and Spenser fled with his wife and children to Cork, homeless and wellnigh ruined. A little later Spenser himself went on to London, hoping perhaps to better his fortunes, and there in a Westminster inn, disappointed, ill, shattered in hopes and health, he lay down to die.

As men count years, he was still young, for he was only forty- seven. He had dreamed that he had still time before him to make life a success. For as men counted success in those days, Spenser was a failure. He had failed to make a name among the statesmen of the age. He failed to make a fortune, he lived poor and he died poor. As a poet he was a sublime success. He dedicated the Faery Queen to Elizabeth “to live with the eternity of her fame,” and it is not too much to believe that even should the deeds of Elizabeth be forgotten the fame of Spenser will endure. And the poets of Spenser’s own day knew that in him they had lost a master, and they mourned for him as such. They buried him in Westminster not far from Chaucer. His bier was carried by poets, who, as they stood beside his grave, threw into it poems in which they told of his glory and their own grief. And so they left “The Prince of Poets in his tyme, whose divine spirit needs no other witnesse than the workes which he left behind him.”*

*The first epitaph engraved on Spenser’s tomb.


Tales from Spenser (Told to Children Series). Una and the Red Cross Knight, by N. G. Royde Smith (has many quotations). Tales from the Faerie Queene, by C. L. Thomson (prose). The Faerie Queene (verse, sixteenth century spelling). Faerie Queene, book I, by Professor W. H. Hudson. Complete Works (Globe Edition), edited by R. Morris. Britomart, edited by May E. Litchfield, is the story of Britomart taken from scattered portions in books III, IV, and V in original poetry, spelling modernized.


IN the beginnings of our literature there were two men who, we might say, were the fountain-heads. These were the gay minstrel abroad in the world singing in hall and market-place, and the patient monk at work in cell or cloister. And as year by year our literature grew, strengthened and broadened, we might say it flowed on in two streams. It flowed in two streams which were ever joining, mingling, separating again, for the monk and the minstrel spoke to man each in his own way. The monk made his appeal to the eye as with patient care he copied, painted and made his manuscript beautiful with gold and colors. The minstrel made his appeal to the ear with music and with song. Then after a time the streams seemed to join, and the monk when he played the miracle-plays seemed to be taking the minstrel’s part. Here was an appeal to both the eye and ear. Instead of illuminating the silent parchment he made living pictures illustrate spoken words. Then followed a time when the streams once more divided and church and stage parted. The strolling players and the trade guilds took the place both of the minstrel and of the monkish actors, the monk went back once more to his quiet cell, and the minstrel gradually disappeared.

So year after year went on. By slow degrees times changed, and our literature changed with the times. But looking backward we can see that the poet is the development of the minstrel, the prose writer the development of the monkish chronicler and copyist. Prose at first was only used for grave matters, for history, for religious works, for dry treatises which were hardly literature, which were not meant for enjoyment but only for use and for teaching. But by degrees people began to use prose for story-telling, for enjoyment. More and more prose began to be written for amusement until at last it has quite taken the place of poetry. Nowadays many people are not at all fond of poetry. They are rather apt to think that a poetry book is but dull reading, and they much prefer plain prose. It may amuse those who feel like that to remember that hundreds of years ago it was just the other way round. Then it was prose that was considered dull–hence we have the word prosy.

All poetry was at first written to be sung, sung too perhaps with some gesture, so that the hearers might the better understand the story. Then by degrees poets got further and further away from that, until poets like Spenser wrote with no such idea. But while poets like Spenser wrote their stories to be read, another class of poets was growing up who intended their poems to be spoken and acted. These were the dramatists.

So you see that the minstrel stream divided into two. There was now the poet who wrote his poems to be read in quiet and the poet who wrote his, if not to be sung, at least to be spoken aloud. But there had been, as we have seen, a time when the minstrel and the monkish stream had touched, a time when the monk, using the minstrel’s art, had taught the people through ear and eye together. For the idea of the Miracle and Morality plays was, you remember, to teach. So, long after the monks had ceased to act, those who wrote poems to be acted felt that they must teach something. Thus after the Miracle plays came the Moralities, which sometimes were very long and dull. They were followed by Interludes which were much the same as Moralities but were shorter, and as their name shows were meant to come in the middle of something else, for the word comes from two Latin words, “inter” between and “ludus” a play. An Interlude may have been first used, perhaps, as a kind of break in a long feast.

The Miracle plays had only been acted once a year, first by the monks and later by the trade guilds. But the taste for plays grew, and soon bands of players strolled about the country acting in towns and villages. These strolling players often made a good deal of money. But though the people crowded willingly to see and hear, the magistrates did not love these players, and they were looked upon as little better than rogues and vagabonds. Then it became the fashion for great lords to have their own company of players, and they, when their masters did not need them, also traveled about to the surrounding villages acting wherever they went. This taste for acting grew strong in the people of England. And if in the life of the Middle Ages there was always room for story-telling, in the life of Tudor England there was always room for acting and shows.

These shows were called by various names, Pageants, Masques, Interludes, Mummings or Disguisings, and on every great or little occasion there was sure to be something of the sort. If the King or Queen went on a journey he or she was entertained by pageants on the way. If a royal visitor came to the court of England there were pageants in his honor. A birthday, a christening, a wedding or a victory would all be celebrated by pageants, and in these plays people of all classes took part. School-children acted, University students acted, the learned lawyers or Inns of Court acted, great lords and ladies acted, and even at times the King and Queen themselves took part. And although many of these shows, especially the pageants, were merely shows, without any words, many, on the other hand, had words. Thus with so much acting and love of acting it was not wonderful that a crowd of dramatists sprang up.

Then, too, plays began to be divided into tragedies and comedies. A tragedy is a play which shows the sad side of life and which has a mournful ending. The word really means a goat-song, and comes from two Greek words, “tragos” a goat and “ode” a song. It was so called either because the oldest tragedies were acted while a goat was sacrificed, or because the actors themselves wore clothes made of goat-skins. A comedy is a play which shows the merry side of life and has a happy ending. This word too comes from two Greek words, “komos,” a revel, and “ode,” a song. The Greek word for village is also “komo,” so a comedy may at first have meant a village revel or a merry-making. “Tragedy,” it has been said, “is poetry in its deepest earnest; comedy is poetry in unlimited jest.”* But the old Moralities were neither the one nor the other, neither tragedy nor comedy. They did not touch life keenly enough to awaken horror or pain. They were often sad, but not with that sadness which we have come to call tragic, they were often indeed merely dull, and although there was always a funny character to make laughter, it was by no means unlimited jest. The Interludes came next, after the Moralities, with a little more human interest and a little more fun, and from them it was easy to pass to real comedies.


A play named Ralph Roister Doister is generally looked upon as the first real English comedy. It was written by Nicholas Udall, headmaster first of Eton and then of Westminster, for the boys of one or other school. It was probably for those of Westminster that it was written, and may have been acted about 1552. The hero, if one may call him so, who gives his name to the play, is a vain, silly swaggerer. He thinks every woman who sees him is in love with him. So he makes up his mind to marry a rich and beautiful widow named Christian Custance.

Not being a very good scholar, Ralph gets some one else to write a love-letter for him, but when he copies it he puts all the stops in the wrong places, which makes the sense quite different from what he had intended, and instead of being full of pretty things the letter is full of insults.

Dame Custance will have nothing to say to such a stupid lover, “I will not be served with a fool in no wise. When I choose a husband I hope to take a man,” she says. In revenge for her scorn Ralph Roister Doister threatens to burn the dame’s house down, and sets off to attack it with his servants. The widow, however, meets him with her handmaidens. There is a free fight (which, no doubt, the schoolboy actors enjoyed), but the widow gets the best of it, and Ralph is driven off.

Our first real tragedy was not written until ten years after our first comedy. This first tragedy was written by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset. It was acted by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple “before the Queen’s most excellent Majestie in her highness’ Court of Whitehall the 18th day of January, 1561.”

Chaucer tells us that a tragedy is a story

“Of him that stood in great prosperitie, And is yfallen out of high degree
Into miserie, and endeth wretchedly.”*

*Prologue to the “Monk’s Tale,” Canterbury Tales.

So our early tragedies were all taken from sad stories in the old Chronicle histories. And this first tragedy, written by Norton and Sackville, is called Gorboduc, and is founded upon the legend of Gorboduc, King of Britain. The story is told, though not quite in the same way, by Geoffrey of Monmouth, our old friend, by Matthew of Westminster, and by others of the old chroniclers. For in writing a poem or play it is not necessary to keep strictly to history. As Sir Philip Sidney, Spenser’s friend, says: “Do they not know that a tragedy is tied to the laws of Poesie and not of History, not bound to follow the story, but, having liberty, either to fain a quite new matter, or to frame the history to the most tragical convenience?”*

*Sidney, Apologie for Poetrie.

The story goes that Gorboduc, King of Britain, divided his realm during his lifetime between his sons Ferrex and Porrex. But the brothers quarreled, and the younger killed the elder. The mother, who loved her eldest son most, then killed the younger in revenge. Next the people, angry at such cruelty, rose in rebellion and killed both father and mother. The nobles then gathered and defeated the rebels. And lastly, for want of an heir to the throne, “they fell to civil war,” and the land for a long time was desolate and miserable.

In the play none of these fearful murders happen on the stage. They are only reported by messengers. There is also a chorus of old sage men of Britain who, at the end of each act, chant of what has happened. When you come to read Greek plays you will see that this is more like Greek than English tragedy, and it thus shows the influence of the New Learning upon our literature. But, on the other hand, in a Greek drama there was never more than one scene, and all the action was supposed to take place on one day. This was called preserving the unities of time and place, and no Greek drama which did not observe them would have been thought good. In Gorboduc there are several scenes, and the action, although we are not told how long, must last over several months at least. So that although Gorboduc owed something to the New Learning, which had made men study Greek, it owed as much to the old English Miracle plays. Later on when you come to read more about the history of our drama you will learn a great deal about what we owe to the Greeks, but here I will not trouble you with it.

You remember that in the Morality plays there was no scenery. And still, although in the new plays which were now being written the scene was supposed to change from place to place, there was no attempt to make the stage look like these places. The stage was merely a plain platform, and when the scene changed a board was hung up with “This is a Palace” or “This is a Street” and the imagination of the audience had to do the rest.

That some people felt the absurdity of this we learn from a book by Sir Philip Sidney. In it he says, “You shall have Asia of the one side, and Affrick of the other, and so many other under kingdoms, that the Player, when he cometh in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now you shall have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to be a garden. By and by, we hear news of shipwreck in the same place, and then we are to blame if we accept it not for a Rock. Upon the back of that, comes out a hideous Monster, with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave. While in the meantime two Armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field!”*

*An Apologie for Poetrie, published 1595.

If the actors of the Elizabethan time had no scenery they made up for the lack of it by splendid and gorgeous dressing. But it was the dressing of the day. The play might be supposed to take place in Greece or Rome or Ancient Britain, it mattered not. The actors dressed after the fashion of their own day. And neither actors nor audience saw anything funny in it. To them it was not funny that an ancient British king should wear doublet and hose, nor that his soldiers should discharge firearms in a scene supposed to take place hundreds of years before gunpowder had been invented. But we must remember that in those days dress meant much more than it does now. Dress helped to tell the story. Men then might not dress according to their likes and dislikes, they were obliged to dress according to their rank. Therefore it helped the Elizabethan onlooker to understand the play when he saw a king, a courtier, or a butcher come on to the stage dressed as he knew a king, a courtier, or a butcher dressed. Had he seen a man of the sixth century dressed as a man of the sixth century he would not have known to what class he belonged and would not have understood the play nearly so well.

But besides having no scenery, the people of England had at first no theaters. Plays were acted in halls, in the dining-halls of the great or in the guild halls belonging to the various trades. It was not until 1575 that the first theater was built in London. This first theater was so successful that soon another was built and still another, until in or near London there were no fewer than twelve. But these theaters were very unlike the theaters we know now. They were really more like the places where people went to see cock-fights and bear-baiting. They were round, and except over the stage there was no roof. The rich onlookers who could afford to pay well sat in “boxes” on the stage itself, and the other onlookers sat or stood in the uncovered parts. Part of a theater is still called the pit, which helps to remind us that the first theaters may have served as “cock-pits” or “bear-pits” too as well as theaters. For a long time, too, the theater was a man’s amusement just as bear-baiting or cock-fighting had been. There were no actresses, the women’s parts were taken by boys, and at first ladies when they came to look on wore masks so that they might not be known, as they were rather ashamed of being seen at a theater.

And now that the love of plays and shows had grown so great that it had been found worth while to build special places in which to act, you may be sure that there was no lack of play-writers. There were indeed many of whom I should like to tell you, but in this book there is no room to tell of all. To show you how many dramatists arose in this great acting age I will give you a list of the greatest, all of whom were born between 1552 and 1585. After Nicholas Udall and Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, the writers of our first comedy and first tragedy, there came:–

George Peel. Francis Beaumont. John Lyly. John Fletcher.
Thomas Kyd. John Webster. Robert Greene. Philip Massinger. Christopher Marlowe. John Ford.
William Shakespeare. Thomas Heywood. Ben Jonson.

It would be impossible to tell you of all these, so I shall choose only two, and first I shall tell you of the greatest of them–Shakespeare. He shines out from among the others like a bright star in a clear sky. He is, however, not a lonely star, for all around him cluster others. They are bright, too, and if he were not there we might think some of them even very bright, yet he outshines them all. He forces our eyes to turn to him, and not only our eyes but the eyes of the whole world. For all over the world, wherever poetry is read and plays are played, the name of William Shakespeare is known and reverenced.


ONE April morning nearly three hundred and fifty years ago there was a stir and bustle in a goodly house in the little country town of Stratford-on-Avon. The neighbors went in and out with nods and smiles and mysterious whisperings. Then there was a sound of clinking of glasses and of laughter, for it became known that to John and Mary Shakespeare a son had been born, and presently there was brought to be shown to the company “The infant mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.” It was a great event for the father and mother, something of an event for Stratford-on-Avon, for John Shakespeare was a man of importance. He was a well-to-do merchant, an alderman of the little town. He seems to have done business in several ways, for we are told that he was a glover, a butcher, and a corn and wool dealer. No doubt he grew his own corn, and reared and killed his own sheep, making gloves from the skins, and selling the wool and flesh. His wife, too, came of a good yeoman family who farmed their own land, and no doubt John Shakespeare did business with his kinsfolk in both corn and sheep. And although he could perhaps not read, and could not write even his own name, he was a lucky business man and prosperous. So he was well considered by his neighbors and had a comfortable house in Henley Street, built of rough plastered stone and dark strong wood work.

And now this April morning John Shakespeare’s heart was glad. Already he had had two children, two little girls, but they had both died. Now he had a son who would surely live to grow strong and great, to be a comfort in his old age and carry on his business when he could no longer work. It was a great day for John Shakespeare. How little he knew that it was a great day for all the world and for all time.

Three days after he was born the tiny baby was christened. And the name his father and mother gave him was William. After this three months passed happily. Then one of the fearful plagues which used to sweep over the land, when people lived in dark and dirty houses in dark and dirty streets, attacked Stratford-on- Avon. Jolly John Shakespeare and Mary, his wife, must have been anxious of heart, fearful lest the plague should visit their home. John did what he could to stay it. He helped the stricken people with money and goods, and presently the plague passed away, and the life of the dearly loved little son was safe.

Years passed on, and the house in Henley Street grew ever more noisy with chattering tongues and pattering feet, until little Will had two sisters and two brothers to keep him company.

Then, although his father and mother could neither of them write themselves, they decided that their children should be taught, so William was sent to the Grammar School. He was, I think, fonder of the blue sky and the slow-flowing river and the deep dark woods that grew about his home that of the low-roofed schoolroom. He went perhaps

“A whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school.”

But we do not know. And whether he liked school or not, at least we know that later, when he came to write plays, he made fun of schoolmasters. He knew “little Latin and less Greek,”* said a friend in after life, but then that friend was very learned and might think “little” that which we might take for “a good deal.” Indeed, another old writer says “he understood Latin pretty well.”**

*Ben Jonson.
**John Aubrey.

We know little either of Shakespeare’s school hours or play hours, but once or twice at least he may have seen a play or pageant. His father went on prospering and was made chief bailiff of the town, and while in that office he entertained