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STEPHEN HAWES was born, it is conjectured, in Suffolk, in 1480. He was educated at Oxford. Having improved his mind by travel, and acquired an accurate knowledge of the Poetry of Italy and France, he was appointed Groom of the Chamber to King Henry the Seventh; by whom, according to Wood, he was “much esteemed for his facetious discourse and prodigious memory." The year of his death has not been ascertained; and the few facts we have stated contain all that is known of the personal history of the Poet.
He has been introduced into this volume, chiefly because he is the only strong link between Chaucer and his contemporaries, and the Poets who flourished during the reign of Henry the Eighth. Hawes had unquestionably studied the lore of the Provençals, and successfully exerted himself to release Poetry from the dull precincts of the cloister to which his more immediate predecessors had confined it: they were, for the most part, mere chroniclers or translators,—but Hawes, although he had neither the fire of the earlier bards, nor the fancy of those who succeeded him, deserves at least the praise of having dared to be original.
His most important production is the Pastime of Pleasure, originally printed by Wynkyn de Worde, in 1517, accompanied by wooden cuts, “to make the reader understand the story better." It was reprinted in 1554, and again by Tottel, in 1555, under the following title:-" The History of Graund Amoure and La bel Pucell, called the Pastime of Plesure, conteyning the knowledge of the seuen sciences, and the course of man's lyfe in this worlde.” It is now almost forgotten ; and long ago it was a lament of Anthony Wood, that “this book, which in the time of Henry the Seventh and Eighth was taken into the hands of all ingenious men, is now thought but worthy of a ballad-inonger's stall."
The Poem is one of pure allegory: the hero is Graund Amoure, True Gallantry: and the heroine La bell Pucell, Perfect Beauty; and the "knowledge" is conveyed "under a coloure."
"As was the guise, in olde antiquitge
of the Poetes olde," Graund Amoure receives from Fame a report of the Fayre Lady, La bell Pucell, to obtain whom he is directed to encounter and overcome all dangers and difficulties such as gyaunts with seven heads, monsters of seven mettailles; and, in especial, he is to win his way to favour by the acquirement of perfect knowledge in the seven sciences-Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Music, Geometry and Astronomy. In his attempts he is assisted by two greyhounds, Governaunce and Grace, and encouraged by Fortitude, Perseveraunce and Counsayle. In the end, the labours of Graund Amoure succeed in achieving a marriage with La bell Pucell, with whom he lives long and happy, until arrested by Age, who brings unto him Polycy and Avaryce. Death at length visits him, Remembrance makes his epytaphy, and Fame, Time and Eternity do honour to his name. - And then comes “the Excusation of the Aucthoure," who sends forth his "little boke," with the prayer, that God it save
" From misse metryng, by wrong impression
To make sneh bokes, I apply my busines." The general reader will perhaps be satisfied with the brief extract we have given from this long and tedious poem. It contains unquestionably some striking passages, displays considerable knowledge, and is entitled to rank high as an "inventive" work; but to read it through has been a labour scarcely inferior to that of the hero's encounter with the gyaunts: his dolorous disputations are dolorous in a double sense; and his seven sciences, although represented by seven beautiful ladies, are as uninviting as would have been their realities to the school-boy, who abhors Logyc, Gramar and Geometrye, as unconquerable obstacles to “the Pastime of Pleasure." Hawes speaks more than once in his lengthened poem of “his master, Lydgate"
" The most dolcet spryng
The chef originall of my learnyng "
So by I went unto a chamber bryght
You shall quod she, my scyence well learne
A frende from foe, and good from iniquitie
Who will take payne, to folowe the trace
Than above Logike, up we went a stayre
Her goodly chamber, was set all about
With humble eares, of parfite audience
SIR THOMAS WYAT was born at Allington Castle, Kent, in the year 1503. He received his education both at Cambridge and Oxford, and having been recommended by his personal accomplishments and "wittie jests," to the favour of Henry the Eighth, he was frequently employed by that monarch on foreign missions; improving and strengthening his taste and his mind by travel, and familiar intercourse with the learned of other lands. He lost the confidence of his master in consequence of a suspicion of undue intimacy with Queen Anne Boleyn, and was imprisoned on a charge of treasonable commerce with Cardinal Pole. He recovered, however, both his liberty and the favour of the king; but retired to Allington, and only occasionally visited the court-because that
" A clogge did yet hang at his heele." In one of his epistles, he has contrasted the pure enjoyments of a country life with the fawning and flattery of a court— “living thrall under the awe of lordly lookes" using "wyles for wit"-and making the crow in singing as the swan:*
** At home to hunt and hawke,
In lusty leas at liberty I walke."
Wyat is styled by Wood “the delight of the Muses and of mankind." The portrait of the man, and the character of the Poet, have been given by his friend the Earl of Surrey. " A visage sterne and milde" — "a tong whose courteous talke to vertue did inflame" -“ an eye whose piercing looke did represent a mynde with vertue fraught"
"A hart where dreade was never so imprest
To hyde the thought that might the trouth avaunce." This is however but one of the many panegyrics of his contemporaries; all of whom describe him, and generally with more of truth than poetry, as one of the most excellent, accomplished, and upright of human kind. The graces of his person were in keeping with those of his mind. His countenance was of manly beauty; he was tall, elegantly formed, and of a commanding presence.
His poems, chiefly consisting of "songes and sonettes,” were originally printed by Tottel in 1557, together with the works of Lord Surrey. Wyat has, with his friend Surrey, the merit of having " polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie;" -he was "one of the chief lanternes of light to all others that have since employed their pennes.” According to the quaint old author, Puttenham, “ their conceits were lofty, their styles stately, their conveyance cleanly, their terms proper, their meetre sweet and well proportioned.” If, however, Wyat did “ very naturally and studiously" imitate “his master, Francis Petrarch," he has been caught by the faults as well as the merits of the Italian Poet. The genius of Wyat was more didactic than fanciful. His love-verses abound in affectations; their meaning is frequently obscured by fantastic incongruities; and they have generally an artificial character, as if resulting from the studies of the courtier, rather than the impulse of the heart. His satiric epistles are his best productions; he is far less at home in “fabricating fine speeches" to an obdurate mistress, than in moralising on the felicities of retirement, or exposing the vices and vanities of a court. We love to find him
" in Kent and Christendome
Among the muses where I read and ryme." and give to him far more of our love and sympathy than when comparing lovers' lives with the Alpes-describing his restless state-excusing himself of woordes wherewith he was unjustly charged-mistrusting allurements - or even when by a kiss he found both life and death. Sir Thomas Wyat appears to have wooed an “unkinde and unpiteous" love, but, from the tenor of his verse, it is little likely that he took the matter much to heart ; -- he was rather " the lover who waxeth wyser, and will not dye for affection," than one who yields to despair, and will not be comforted even by the muse. It is to his praise that "the legacy of rhyme" he left posterity, is altogether free from impurities of word or thought.