England's Antiphon

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By a way wandering as I went,

Well sore I sorrowed, for sighing sad;

Of hard haps that I had hent

Mourning me made almost mad;[37]

Till a letter all one me lad[38],

That well was written on a wall,

A blissful word that on I rad[39],

That alway said, 'Thank God for[40] all.'

And yet I read furthermore[41]--

Full good intent I took there till[42]:

Christ may well your state restore;
Nought is to strive against his will; it is useless.
He may us spare and also spill:
Think right well we be his thrall. slaves.
What sorrow we suffer, loud or still,
Alway thank God for all.

Though thou be both blind and lame,

Or any sickness be on thee set,  
Thou think right well it is no shame--
The grace of God it hath thee gret[43].
think thou.
In sorrow or care though ye be knit, snared.
And worldés weal be from thee fall, fallen.
I cannot say thou mayst do bet,
But alway thank God for all.

Though thou wield this world's good,

And royally lead thy life in rest,

Well shaped of bone and blood,

None the like by east nor west;
Think God thee sent as him lest; as it pleased him.
Riches turneth as a ball;
In all manner it is the best in every condition.
Alway to thank God for all.

If thy good beginneth to pass,

And thou wax a poor man,

Take good comfort and bear good face,  
And think on him that all good wan; did win.

Christ himself forsooth began--

He may renew both bower and hall:
No better counsel I ne kan am capable of.
But alway thank God for all.

Think on Job that was so rich;

He waxed poor from day to day;

His beastés died in each ditch;

His cattle vanished all away;

He was put in poor array,

Neither in purple nor in pall,
But in simple weed, as clerkes say, clothes: learned men.
And alway he thanked God for all.

For Christés love so do we;[44]

He may both give and take;
In what mischief that we in be, _whatever trouble we
He is mighty enough our sorrow to slake. [be in._
Full good amends he will us make,
And we to him cry or call: if.
What grief or woe that do thee thrall,[45]
Yet alway thank God for all.

Though thou be in prison cast,
Or any distress men do thee bede, offer.
For Christés love yet be steadfast,
And ever have mind on thy creed;
Think he faileth us never at need,
The dearworth duke that deem us shall;[46]

When thou art sorry, thereof take heed,[47]

And alway thank God for all.

Though thy friendes from thee fail,

And death by rene hend[48] their life,

Why shouldest thou then weep or wail?  
It is nought against God to strive: it is useless.
Himself maked both man and wife -  
To his bliss he bring us all:   may he bring.
However thou thole or thrive,
Alway thank God for all.

What diverse sonde[49] that God thee send, Here or in any other place,
Take it with good intent;

The sooner God will send his grace.
Though thy body be brought full base, low.
Let not thy heart adown fall,
But think that God is where he was,
And alway thank God for all.

Though thy neighbour have world at will,

And thou far'st not so well as he,
Be not so mad to think him ill, wish. (?)
For his wealth envious to be:
The king of heaven himself can see
Who takes his sonde,[50] great or small;
Thus each man in his degree,
I rede thanké God for all. counsel.

For Cristés love, be not so wild, But rule thee by reason within and without;

And take in good heart and mind  
The sonde that God sent all about;
Then dare I say withouten doubt,
the gospel. (?)
That in heaven is made thy stall. place, seat, room.
Rich and poor that low will lowte,
Alway thank God for all.

I cannot say there is much poetry in this, but there is much truth and wisdom. There is the finest poetry, however, too, in the line--I give it now letter for letter:--

But think that God ys ther he was.

There is poetry too in the line, if I interpret it rightly as intending the gospel--

The sonde that God sent al abowte.

I shall now make a few extracts from poems of the same century whose authors are unknown.[51] A good many such are extant. With regard to the similarity of those I choose, I would remark, that not only will the poems of the same period necessarily resemble each other, but, where the preservation of any has depended upon the choice and transcription of one person, these will in all probability resemble each other yet more. Here are a few verses from a hymn headed The Sweetness of Jesus:--

If I for kindness should love my kin, _for natural reasons.
Then me thinketh in my thought [Kind is nature,_
By kindly skill I should begin
At him that hath me made of nought;
His likeness he set my soul within,
And all this world for me hath wrought;
by natural judgment.
As father he fondid my love to win,
For to heaven he hath me brought.
set about.
Our brother and sister he is by skill, reason.
For he so said, and lerid us that lore,
That whoso wrought his Father's will,
Brethren and sisters to him they wore. were.
My kind also he took ther-tille; _my nature also he took
Full truly trust I him therefore [for that purpose._
That he will never let me spill,
But with his mercy salve my sore.
With lovely lore his works to fill, fulfil.
Well ought I, wretch, if I were kind--
Night and day to work his will,
And ever have that Lord in mind.
But ghostly foes grieve me ill,
And my frail flesh maketh me blind;
Therefore his mercy I take me till, betake me to.
For better bote can I none find. aid.

In my choice of stanzas I have to keep in view some measure of completeness in the result. These poems, however, are mostly very loose in structure. This, while it renders choice easy, renders closeness of unity impossible.

From a poem headed--again from the last line of each stanza--_Be my comfort, Christ Jesus,_ I choose the following four, each possessing some remarkable flavour, tone, or single touch. Note the alliteration in the lovely line, beginning "Bairn y-born." The whole of the stanza in which we find it, sounds so strangely fresh in the midst of its antiquated tones, that we can hardly help asking whether it can be only the quaintness of the expression that makes the feeling appear more real, or whether in very truth men were not in those days nearer in heart, as well as in time, to the marvel of the Nativity.

In the next stanza, how oddly the writer forgets that Jesus himself was a Jew, when, embodying the detestation of Christian centuries in one line, he says,

And tormented with many a Jew!

In the third stanza, I consider the middle quatrain, that is, the four lines beginning "Out of this world," perfectly grand.

The oddness of the last line but one of the fourth stanza is redeemed by the wonderful reality it gives to the faith of the speaker: "See my sorrow, and say Ho!" stopping it as one would call after a man and stop him.

Jesus, thou art wisdom of wit, understanding.
Of thy Father full of might!
Man's soul--to save it,
In poor apparel thou wert pight. _pitched, placed,
Jesus, thou wert in cradle knit, [dressed._
In weed wrapped both day and night; originally, _dress of
In Bethlehem born, as the gospel writ, [any kind._
With angels' song, and heaven-light.
Bairn y-born of a beerde bright,[52]
Full courteous was thy comely cus: kiss.
Through virtue of that sweet light,
So be my comfort, Christ Jesus.

Jesus, that wert of yearis young,

Fair and fresh of hide and hue,
When thou wert in thraldom throng, driven.
And tormented with many a Jew,
When blood and water were out-wrung,
For beating was thy body blue;
As a clot of clay thou wert for-clong, shrunk.
So dead in trough then men thee threw. coffin.
But grace from thy grave grew:
Thou rose up quick comfort to us. living.
For her love that this counsel knew,
So be my comfort, Christ Jesus.

Jesus, soothfast God and man,

Two kinds knit in one person,

The wonder-work that thou began

Thou hast fulfilled in flesh and bone.

Out of this world wightly thou wan, _thou didst win, or make
Lifting up thyself alone; [thy way, powerfully._
For mightily thou rose and ran
Straight unto thy Father on throne.
Now dare man make no more moan--
For man it is thou wroughtest thus,

And God with man is made at one;

So be my comfort, Christ Jesus.

Jesu, my sovereign Saviour,
Almighty God, there ben no mo: _there are no more--thou
Christ, thou be my governor; [art all in all.(?)_
Thy faith let me not fallen fro. from
Jesu, my joy and my succour,
In my body and soul also,
God, thou be my strongest food, the rhyme fails here.
And wisse thou me when me is woe. think on me.
Lord, thou makest friend of foe,
Let me not live in languor thus,
But see my sorrow, and say now "Ho,"
And be my comfort, Christ Jesus.

Of fourteen stanzas called Richard de Castre's Prayer to Jesus, I choose five from the latter half, where the prayer passes from his own spiritual necessities, very tenderly embodied, to those of others. It does our hearts good to see the clouded sun of prayer for oneself break forth in the gladness of blessed entreaty for all men, for them that make Him angry, for saints in trouble, for the country torn by war, for the whole body of Christ and its unity. After the stanza--

Jesus, for the deadly tears

That thou sheddest for my guilt,

Hear and speed my prayérs

And spare me that I be not spilt;

the best that is in the suppliant shines out thus

Jesu, for them I thee beseech

That wrathen thee in any wise;

Withhold from them thy hand of wreche, vengeance.

And let them live in thy service.

Jesu, most comfort for to see

Of thy saintis every one,

Comfort them that careful be,

And help them that be woe-begone.

Jesu, keep them that be good,

And amend them that have grieved thee;

And send them fruits of earthly food,

As each man needeth in his degree.

Jesu, that art, withouten lees, lies.
Almighty God in trinity,
Cease these wars, and send us peace,
With lasting love and charity.

Jesu, that art the ghostly stone spiritual.
Of all holy church in middle-erde, the world.
Bring thy folds and flocks in one,
And rule them rightly with one herd.

We now approach the second revival of literature, preceded in England by the arrival of the art of printing; after which we find ourselves walking in a morning twilight, knowing something of the authors as well as of their work.

I have little more to offer from this century. There are a few religious poems by John Skelton, who was tutor to Henry VIII. But such poetry, though he was a clergyman, was not much in Skelton's manner of mind. We have far better of a similar sort already.

A new sort of dramatic representation had by this time greatly encroached upon the old Miracle Plays. The fresh growth was called Morals or Moral Plays. In them we see the losing victory of invention over the imagination that works with given facts. No doubt in the Moral Plays there is more exercise of intellect as well as of ingenuity; for they consist of metaphysical facts turned into individual existences by personification, and their relations then dramatized by allegory. But their poetry is greatly inferior both in character and execution to that of the Miracles. They have a religious tendency, as everything moral must have, and sometimes they go even farther, as in one, for instance, called The Castle of Perseverance, in which we have all the cardinal virtues and all the cardinal sins contending for the possession of Humanum Genus, the Human Race being presented as a new-born child, who grows old and dies in the course of the play; but it was a great stride in art when human nature and human history began again to be exemplified after a simple human fashion, in the story, that is, of real men and women, instead of by allegorical personifications of the analysed and abstracted constituents of them. Allegory has her place, and a lofty one, in literature; but when her plants cover the garden and run to seed, Allegory herself is ashamed of her children: the loveliest among them are despised for the general obtrusiveness of the family. Imitation not only brings the thing imitated into disrepute, but tends to destroy what original faculty the imitator may have possessed.

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