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keen satire upon chivalry; and the burgher poet, evidently enjoys the unfair and mean tricks which his hero plays off against his more valiant foeman. Reynard, eventually gains the victory, but as may be supposed, by most unfair means, and the king conferring knighthood upon him, creates him chancellor, in reward of his successful villainies. It was surely therefore in a vein of bitter irony, that the concluding lines of this 'delectable history' were written.
• Good Gentles! heark’neth what I say ;
Your Christmas hearth, for many a year !'-p. ccli. Thus ends the story of 'Reynard the Fox.' "That unholy bible of the world,' as it has been forcibly, but perhaps almost too severely called. The fate of the hero, certainly sets at naught every notion alike of poetical and common justice, for the proper reward of Reynard, was undoubtedly a halter. But then, the satire, keen and bitter, upon the world's ways,-on the triumph of fraud, even more than of might over right, the success of the wicked at the expense of the innocent, the present ascendancy of evil over good, that deep and vexing mystery to the merely worldly man, would have all lost their force, and the gall in which the satirist dipt his shafts, its significance.
In looking over this curious and valuable monument of an age which has never received an hundredth part of the attention its importance deserves, we have been greatly struck with its general similarity to another great work of a rather later period, our own noble vision of Piers Ploughman. And well, after contemplating the wondrous life-like creations of each great poet-satirist, may we exclaim with the fervent Görres · What a marvellous period is this middle age! How strong were then the people, shooting and unfolding like vigorous buds, all fresh and full of sap. Then, with energetic, truthful, life-reality, idealizing, spiritualizing poetry, stood in intimate union. Yes, it is strange to those who look at the middle age period, as a dreary, misty, almost lifeless interval, between the stir and
commotion of the irruptions of the northern tribes, and the deeper stir, and more intense commotion at the period of the revival of letters, to find in the very midst of these dark ages, two satires, unexampled in the history of any other period, two satirical epics !
And how wide is the sphere of these two poems-human nature in all its weaknesses and in all its crimes; how extended the pictures,-classes of men, not insulated individuals; and above all, what bold enunciation of truths, which even in the present day, have yet a struggle to maintain their hold. Indeed, more surprising to the reader, unacquainted with the real character of the middle ages, than aught else, is the bold assertion of free principles, which characterizes alike · Reynard the Fox,' and our own Piers Ploughman. Much respect have each for the divine right of king or priest; and it is a proof to how wide an extent the feeling of contempt for the established priesthood, and of very moderate respect for monarchs prevailed, when we find the Flemish minstrel of the twelfth century, and the recluse of Malvern in the fourteenth, holding the self-same views and expressing them with the self-same earnestness.
There is indeed a ruder spirit, a more scoffing, Mephistophiles character, speaking out in the earlier work, as though the Flemish bard who had seen his rights trampled under foot alike by a crushing native aristocracy and a foreign monarch, could give no quarter to king or noble; and as though he believed not only the priesthood, but religion itself, might perhaps after all be little more than a thing to conjure with ; while a more gentle, and in consequence a more enlightened spirit, and a far deeper moral feeling, pervades the allegory of the Monk of Malvern. Still in the grand principles—that all government is for the benefit of the many, not for the gain of the few, and that the clergy form no class professing exclusive rights, but that they are to be judged of just as other men—the two satirical epics of the middle age wholly coincide.
At the present time, the works to which we refer possess a great historical importance. Those reverend gentlemen who are now so persistingly demanding from the public a homage which it is perhaps wise in them to claim, on some mysterious grounds, since obvious reasons there are none,-are always pointing us to these 'dim ages of faith,' as the period when the holy priest walked the earth, the gazed at, and admired of all beholders. Alas! for them—how does 'Reynard the Fox,' the very handbook of the people, loudly laugh down their claims. But in France and Flanders, a scoffing, an infidel, spirit prevailed, it may be said ; so no wonder the holy priest was an object of ridicule. Well then, turn to moral and religious England, -we speak not scoffingly, for again and again, when comparing the early literature of England with that of France and Flanders, have we been proud to mark the superior moral feeling of our early writers, but as though on this very account, the feeling against the established clergy developes itself with increased bitterness.
It may be well to give an insulated passage from a chronicle, proving how some feeble old baron humbly did penance at the command of his confessor; how some dying usurer, fearful of purgatorial retribution for his ill-gotten wealth, joyfully gave up, not merely his tithes, but all he possessed, to the priesthood; or, even how some weak-minded princess might constitute her favorite chaplain keeper of her conscience, and far more gratifying,-of her purse also; but what was the general feeling in 'those ages of faith'?—the public, the popular opinion, for there was a public opinion then, although there were no newspapers to set it forth. Shall we discover much reverence for holy church in the persons of her ministers,' in the scoffing ballads of the de Montfort-rising ; in the nick-names bestowed upon the bishops of Hereford and Winchester, or the abuse, how awful ! heaped upon the venerable Boniface, primate of all England? Or will these reverend gentlemen, turning with scorn, from the sayings and doings' of rebels, as they would call the followers of de Montfort, point us to the following century. Why then things were worse, for the respect in which prelacy was held was rather curiously exemplified by the Londoners when they publicly beheaded one of Bishop Philpots's predecessors, Walter de Stapleton, on plea that he was an enemy to the liberties of the land.
But this execution, it may be said, took place during a period of great excitement. It did so, but had the mass of the people held the clergy in that mysterious respect which their successors claim, they would never have dared to drag a bishop to the scaffold. Men possessed discrimination in the middle ages, and where the clergy were respectable, and consequently respected, they were safe in times of wildest commotion. The rude mob of Wat Tyler, burnt down the palace of the bishop of London, but though encamped in Smithfield, laid not a hand on the plate or money belonging to the priory of St. Bartholomew the Great, that refuge for the sick and destitute ; nor, although they burnt and spoiled the Commandery of St. John of Jerusalem, did they touch the convent of the nuns of Clerkenwell. It was against the lordly, the wealthy, the overbearing clergy, that the hostility of the middle ages was directed
But then, the burgher spirit,' we may be told, has always been insubordinate and insolent; and the dwellers in cities, from the time of the rise of the German free burghs, to the days of the psalm-singing weavers of Norwich and Taunton, and the lecture-loving apprentices of London, have always been dis. tinguished for resistance, 'to the mild rule of holy church. No, it is not to London, or to the other cities, where the enterprising spirit of England first found a home that we should look, but to the fair villages, and pastoral glens of 'merry England in the olden times.
Well, look there; and bitter abuse of the clergy, and fierce denunciations of the exactions of the spiritual courts, meet us, as the earliest expression of rustic feeling.* But, merry England' has a hero, who serves as an exemplar to the peasantry, just as King Arthur and Sir Launcelot, serve as exemplars to the higher orders. And who is he? and what are his characteristics-reverence for church and state,'humble submission to the spiritual powers that be? Bold Robin Hood, how does thy laugh ring through the merry greenwood! The pursy cellarer of St. Mary's abbey is a prisoner in his hands, and Robin thinks he does holy church good service by mulcting her servant well, and bestowing the spoil on the poor knight from whom it had been taken. The bishop himself rides through the forest with well appointed ménye, he is seized, and compelled to sing mass in a tree, as the price of his liberation. In the name of common sense, what reverence for the clergy could there be in days when ballads like these were sung in every market-place, and echoed on every village green? Where was respect for the servants of holy church? Echo might well answer - where.'
We cannot conclude without expressing our admiration of the masterly style in which Mr. Naylor has 're-produced this curious and valuable ‘brute epic.' We must also remark, how tastefully correct is the whole 'getting up.' Familiar as we have been with many of the most beautiful manuscripts of the 12th century, we were astonished at the close resemblance of the title page, and headings of the chapters, to the choicest specimens of the middle-age calligrapher. The binding, even to the spirited little vignettes on the sides, is in perfect keeping; and the book, while it forms an important addition to the scholar's library, would be an ornament for the drawing room table.
* Vide ‘Political Songs,' edited by Wright.
Art. IV. The History of Sweden, translated from the Original of Anders Fryrell. Edited by Mary Howitt. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley.
This translation is extremely well timed. It is an auspicious feature of the present day, that it has turned a portion of its vast activity towards a better acquaintance with those northern nations of Europe from whom we derive so much of our language, our customs, our national spirit, and our blood. The neglect of almost all endeavour to make this acquaintance, till recently, is an extraordinary circumstance, when we consider the knowledge of our own history, and the history of the origin and growth of our institutions and language, of which those regions are the great storehouse; and perhaps can only be accounted for by the fact of our always talking and writing of the savage Danes as the enemies of our Saxon ancestors, and of our looking to Germany as to our great original fatherland. But the fact is, that it is far more to these northern nations than to Germany as a nation, that we owe our speech and customs. This speech and these customs were derived chiefly from the tribes of the eastern shores of Germany, and those whom we are accustomed to class under our vague name of Anglo-Saxons, were that great tribe or section of the Teutonic family which stretched itself along the whole north-eastern shores of Europe, from Lapland to France. These were origimally but one people, and their languages at the present day remain but so many dialects of the same primitive tongue. The Plat Deutsch, or low German, spoken in Holstein, is far more distinct from the German, than from the Danish or the Belgian ; and so much greater is the affinity of this language to our own tongue than the modern German is, that some of our English dialects are but slight variations of this language. Hence, he who instead of confining his study to modern German or to ancient Anglo-Saxon, applies it to any one of the branches of this extensive language, soon finds that he has a key to all the tongues of this far-stretching region, and that in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holstein, Holland and Belgium, he hears at the present hour but modifications, and those very intelligible ones, of the sounds that were heard on our hills and plains, when Dane and Saxon contended for the mastery of this fair isle. It is evident, therefore, what a flood of light remains yet to be poured from this vast and ancient source on many matters of the liveliest national interest to us. In the department of derivative philology alone, the study of these languages is indis