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Literary Memoir of Dr. Percy, compositions of all times and dates, late Bishop of Drumore. from the ages prior to Chaucer, to
(Concluded from p. 8.) the conclusion of the reign of The work to which we refer ap- Charles I. This MS, was shewn peared in 1765, and was so well to several learned and ingenious received that a fourth edition was friends, who thought the contents published in 1794, which having too curions to be consigned to oblibeen long scarce, a fifth is in the vion, and importuned the possessor press. It is entitled, Reliques of to select some of them and give Ancient English Poetry, consisting them to the press. As most of the in of Old Heroic Ballads, Songs, and are of great simplicity, and seem other Pieces of our earlier Poets, to have been merely written for together with sume few of a later the people, he was long in doubt, date, 3 vols. 12mo. From his whether in the present state of im. Preface we subjoin Mr. Percy's proved literature, they could be account of the origin, design and deemed worthy the attention of arrangement of his work, and of the public. At length the im. the encouragement under which portunity of his friends prevailed, he first brought it before the and he could refuse nothing to public.
such judges as the author of the “ The reader is here presented Rambler and the late Mr. Shenwith select remains vf our antient stone.-. Accordingly such speciEnglish Bards and Minstrels, an mens of ancient poeiry have been order of men, who were once selected, as either shew the gra. greatly respected by our ancestors, dation of our language, exbibit ar.d contributed to soften the the progress of popular opinions, roughness of a martial and un. display the peculiar manners and lettered people, by their songs customs of former ages or throw and by their music. The greater light on our earlier classical poets. part of them are extracted from. They are bere distributed into an ancient folio manuscript, in Volumes, cach of wnica comains the Editor's possession, which coul, an independent Series of poems, tains near 200 Puems, Songs and arranged chiefly accrding to the Metrical Romances. This MS. order of time, and shewing the was written about the middle of the gradual improvements of the En. last (17th) century; but contains glish language and poetry from
the earliest ages down to the sacred; their attendance was 50. present. Each Volume or Series licited by kings, and they were is divided into three Bovhs, to af. every where loaded with honours ford so many pauses, or resting, and rewards.” (p. xxii.) It is places to the reader, and to assist then shewn how "The poet and the him in distinguishing between the Minstrel early with us became productions of the earlier, the two persons. Poetry was cultivated middle and the latter times. To by men of letters indiscriminately; atone for the rudeness of the more and many of the most popular obsolete poems, each volume con. rhimes, were composed amidst the cludes with a few modern attempts leisure and retirement of monas. in the same kind of writing; and irries. But the Minstrels conto take ofi From the tediousness of tinued a distinct order of men for the longer narratives, they are many ages after the Norman con. every where intermingled with little quest; and got their livelihood by elegant pieces of the lyric kind. singing verses 10 the harp at the Select ballads in the old Scoirish houses of the great.” (p. xxiii.) dialect, most of them of the first- The second part of this Essay is rate merit, are also interspersed employed “ to collect from his. among those of our ancient En. tory, such particular incidents as glish Minstrels; and the artiess occur on this subject-related by productions of these old rhapso. authors who lived too near the dists are occasionally confronted Saxon times, and had before them with specimens of the composi- too many monuments of the Anglo. tion of contemporary poets of a Saxon nation, not to know what higher class ; of those who had was conformable to the genius the advantages of learning in the and manners of that people ;” and times in which they lived, and who thus proving" at least the exislwrote for fame, and for posterity. ence of the customs and hatits Yet perhaps the palm will be fre. they attribute to their forefathers quently due to the old strolling before the conquest.” In this Minstrels, who composed their collection, Alfred's adventure in rhimes to be sung to their harps, the Danish camp is not forgotten; and who looked no farther than and it is fairly argued that " if for present applause and present, the Sasons had not been accus. subsistence.”-(Pref. pp. xiii. tomed to have minstrels of their xv. Edit. 4th.)
own, Alfred's assuming so new Prefixed to the first Volume, and unusual a character, would is An Essay on the Antient Min- have excited suspicions among strels in England, deducing their the Danes.” The Essayist adds, succession from the Bards who, that " the minstrel was a re. under different names, were ad. gular and stated officer in the mired and revered, from the ear. court of our Anglo-Saxon kings : liest ages, among the people of Gaul, for in Doomsday Book joculator Britain, Ireland and the North; regis, the king's minstrel, is ex. and indeed by almost all the first.pressly mentioned in Gloucester. inhabitants of Europe. -Their skill shire; in which county it should was considered as something di. seem, he had lands assigned him vine; their persons were deemed for his maintenance." (p. 25—27.)
The third part of this Essay is shews which in the dark ages, designed to shew, " that the Nors were usually exhibited on the man Conquest was rather likely 10 more solemn festivals," when favour the establishment of the the most mysterious subjects were minstrel profession in this kiny, frequently chosen, such as the jom, than to suppress it.” (P. 29.) incarnation, passion and resuwe In the fourth part are given various rection of Christ, these exhibitions instances of the consequence to acquired the general name of which "this order of men” at. mysteries." (P. 128.) As these tained; “ the Priory and llos. " frequently required the repre. pital of St. Bartholomew, in Smith. sintation of some allegorical per. field," being founded by " the sonage, such as Death, Sin, king's minstrel in 2102 And, Charity, Pai!h, and the like, by about a century after, another is degrees the rute poets of these celebrated as a favourite courier undertered ages began to form of Richa:d the First, whose place compleat draniatic pieces, conof captivity he discovered by sisting entirely of such personifimcans of ihe liberty of access cations. These they entitled allowed io his profession. Moral Plays, or Noralities. (P.,
The following parts bring down 130.) We subjoin, as a curiosity, the bistory of English-minstrelsy Mr. Percy's “ short analysis," 10 the age of Elizabeth, who " was of one of these moralities, “printentertained al Killingworth casile, ed early in the reign of Henry the by the Earl of Leicester, in 1575;" Eighth." when, among
devices 66 It is entitled EVERY MAN, and pageants," was contrived the The subject of this piece is the representation of " an antient summoning of man out of the minstrel; minutely described by world by death ; and its moral, a writer there present,” and since that nothing will then avail him reprinted in the 6 Collection of but a well.spent life and the come Queen Elizabeth's progresses." forts of religion. This subject The Essayist adds that “ towards and moral are opened in a mono. the end of the 16th century, this logue, spoken by the messenger class of men had lost all credit, (for that was the name generally and were sunk so low in the pub. given by our ancestors to the pro. lic opinion that, in1597, a statute logue on their rude stage). Theo was passed, by which minstrels God is represented ; (the second wandering abroad were included person of the trinity seems to be among rogues, vagabonds and meant) who, after some general sturdy beggars." (P. 51.) complaints on the degeneracy of
The second book of the first mankind, calls for death, and volume is devoted to “ Ballads orders him to bring before his that illustrate Shakespeare, in- tribunal Every-Man, for so is troduced by an Essay on the called the personage who repre-, Origin of the English stage.” sents the human race. EveryThis Essay displays a variety of Man appears, and receives the learned research, tracing “ the summons with all the marks of origin, or at least revival, of confusion and terror. When death dramatic poetry, to those religious is withdrawn, Every-Man applies
for relief in this distress to Fellon. With five words he can consecrate
And handleth his Maker between his
Thou ministers all the sacraments seven, ing him with bis lang neglect of Though we kiss'd thy feet, thou wert her, introduces him to her sister
worthy ; Knowledge, and she leads him to Thou are the surgeon that cureth six the holy man Confession, who ap. No remedy may we find under God points him penance; this he in.
But alone on priesthood. dicts upon himself on the stage, -uod gave priest that dignite, and then withdraws 10 receive the And lectech them in his stead among us sacraments of the priest. On
be, his return, he begins to wax faint, Thus bc ibey above angels in degree.
(ii. 114.) and after Strength, Beauty, Dis. cretion and five.Wits, (the five
In the second part of this Es. senses) have all taken their final say, the author describes the leave of hiin, gradually, expires matic exhibitions of this kind,”
fondness of our ancestors for dra. on the stage; Good.Decds stili accompanying him 10 the last. and shews from 66 the Northum. Then an aungel descends to sing that “ My Lordes vi Chapleyns in
berland Household Book, 1512," his requiem, and the epilogue is spoken by a person called Ductour, Household” were accustomed to who recapitulates the whole and play the Play of ihe Nativite delivers the moral.
upon cristymnes day," and " the This memorial men may have in mind, Play of the Resurrection upon Ye hearers, take it of worth, old and esturday in the mornynge, in my young,
lordis chapell befor his lordship, And forsake Pride, for he deceiveth you and for each had " in rewarde
in the end,
xxs." (i. 135.) “ The day origi-
first dramatic pieces were of a re.
(Pp. 130-131.) ligious cast. During a great part Mr. Percy, in another place, of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the remarks how the author of this playhouses were only licensed to Morality "takes occasion to in- be opened on that day.” (p. 151.) culcate great reverence for old
The editor of the Reliques," Mother Church and her super. was not content to gratify mere stitions," and instances “his high antiquarians. He appears to have encomiums on the priesthood.”. had a higher object, even 10 mark There is no emperor, king, duke, ne
of the mind in pur. baron,
suits the most important. Thus That of God hath commission,
the second book of his second A. hath the least priest in the world volume, commences with “A
Ballad of Luther, the Pope, a
prefaced by some remarks on“ the [Peter) ihe Plowman,”: published violent struggles between espiring about 1350. Also of " Pierce the Popery and growing Protestant. Plowman's Crede."
66 The auism," when the followers of the thor feigns bimself ignorant of his old and new profession (as they creed, to be instructed in which, were called) had their respective he applies to four religious orders. hallad-makers ; and every day -dilength he meets with Pierce, produced some popular sonnet for a poor ploughman, who resolves or agaitist the Reformation.” The his doubts." (P. 275.) The au. Editor adds, that " in this ballau, thor of the “ allegoric satire,” Luther is made to speak in a man- entitled “ The Complaint of Con. ner not unbecoming the spirit science,” is severe upon the lega! and courage of that vigorous Re- profession; and not unjustly, if former.” (ii. 114.) The following barristers then would lend them. lines comprize the pope's greeting selves to advocate any cause not from
legally infamous, and either to Doctor Martin Luther.
shield the accused from the ven. Thou antichrist, with thy three crowns, invoke their penalties on his head,
geance of sanguinary laws, or to Hast usurped kings' pow'rs, As having pow'r over rcalnis and towns, with no conscientious discrimina. Whom thou oughtest to serve, all hours: tion, but just as they happened to Thou thinkest by thy juggling colours receive a retainer. Conscience is Thou mayest likewise God's word op- complaining of bis unsuccessful
press ; As do the deceitful fowlers,
progress in search of a patron, When they their nets craftily dress. and thus describes his reception Thou flatterest every prince and lord, Threatening poor men with sword and among the sons of Themis :
Then Westminster-hall was no place for fire; All those that do follow God's word,
me ; To make them cleave to thy desire.
Good lord! how the lawyers began to Their bookes thou burnest in flaming And fearful they were, lest there I
should be! Cursing with book, bell and candle, Such as to read them have desire,
The silly poor clerkes began for to
tremble; Or wilh them are willing to meddle. Thy false power will I bring down,
I showed them my cause and did not disThou shali not reign many a year,
semble ; I shall drive thee from city and town,
So they gave me some money my Even with this pen, which thou seest But swore me on a book I must never
charges to bear, here :
(P. 292.) Thou fightest with sword, shield and
The third volume of the Rel. spear, But I will fight with God's word; iques, is " chiefly devoted to ro. Which is now su open and clear, mantic subjects,” in which King That it shall bring thec under the board, Arthur and St. George have no
inconsiderable place. Prefixed is The same subject of the Refor- an Essay " on ihe untient Metrical mation is continued by our editor, Romances; analyzing one “men. in his introduction io Book 3d tioned by Chaucer,"entitled Libine of this second volume, which be- Disconius, or The Fair Unknown, gins with “ The Complaint of and giving the titles and supposed Conscience.” We have here some date 5 of such old metrical ro. account of the Visions of Pierce, mances as are still extant, amount.