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Influence of Tyndale's Bible

It Colors all Subsequent English Prose

of God. Opposition only fanned the flames; soon nothing could stay their headlong fury.

Tyndale's Bible, aside from its influence upon the nation's spiritual life, is still one of the most notable books in the whole range of English literature. Wyclif's translation was from the Vulgate, and it was not printed until our own century; Tyndale made his translation of the New Testament from the Greek text of Erasmus, thus making the first English version from the original. From the very first it was circulated over all England in countless editions.

Tyndale's translation of the New Testament [says Marsh in an oft-quoted passage) is the most important philological monument of the first half of the sixteenth century, perhaps I should say of the whole period between Chaucer and Shakespeare, both as a historical relic and as having more than anything else contributed to shape and fix the sacred dialect, and establish the form which the Bible must permanently assume in an English dress. The best features of the translation of 1611 are derived from the version of Tyndale, and thus that remarkable work has exerted, directly and indirectly, a more powerful influence on the English language than any other single production between the ages of Richard II. and Queen Elizabeth.

And Edmund Gosse well declares that

the introduction into every English household of the Bible, translated into prose of this fluid, vivid period, is, after all, by far the most important literary fact of the reign of Henry VIII. It colored the entire complexion of subsequent English prose, and set up a kind of typical harmony in the construction and arrangement of sentences. To show how closely the King James version followed the earlier translation, let us examine Tyndale's rendering of the Lord's Prayer:

Oure Father which arte in heven, halowed be thy name. Let thy kingdom come. Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in erth, as hit ys in heven. Geve

Hugh Latimer

His Originality and Popularity

vs this daye oure dayly breade. And forgeve vs oure treaspases, even as we forgeve them which treaspas vs. Leede vs not into temptacion, but delyvre vs from yvell. Amen.

While Tyndale was thus struggling in exile and danger to make a Bible for his people, other reformers were laboring as earnestly at home, and the most eloquent and fearless of them all was HUGH LATIMER, a man who had struggled from the little farm where his father “ had walk for a hundred shepe, and his mother mylked xxx kyne,” to the position of Bishop of Worcester and preacher to the king. His success had come from his fearlessness that hesitated not a moment to speak all that was in his heart, were it even to the king himself; and from his brilliant though homely style of preaching. He was as quick and witty as Thomas More himself; he saw the humor of things, and he dared to draw illustrations from the homely life about him. He was startlingly original: there is a constant element of surprise in his words. “Who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England,” he demanded in one of his sermons before King Edward, “ that passeth all the rest in doing his office ? I can tell you, for I know him who it is; I know him well. It is the Devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all other; he is never out of his diocese; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied; call for him when you will, he is ever at home.” Such preaching caught the multitude; the manly, courageous tone of the speaker, his intense earnestness, and his solemn message straight from the heart made a most powerful impression.

Much of the prose of the era was thus simple and strong. Its writers were terribly in earnest.

Earnestness of the Prose Writers

Progress of English Prose

They are entirely occupied [says Crofts] with what they are going to say: they are filled with ideas that are new and striking to them, and which they pour out garrulously and diffusely : they have no conception of the selection and arrangement of thought with a view to bringing out a point : still less have they the idea of studying the proportion of thoughts and the harmony of words with a view to style. Only very faintly can be perceived in their works the beginnings of that self-control and self-criticism in thought and style which mark the great thinker and artist. This is one of the last gifts of culture. The Renaissance had to give first an impetus to thought by stimulating interest in the ideas of others, before it could influence in the direction of study of expression, and could lastly encourage that harmony of thought and expression which makes art. The works of the new learning mark the first phase, the works of the Euphuists and the courtly Makers the second, and the last includes the productions of the most glorious Elizabethan period, its poems, its dramas, its beginnings of fine prose writing in the works of Hooker and Bacon.

REQUIRED READING. Tyndale's Eighth Chapter of Matthew, in Marsh, Origin and History of the English Language; selections from Tyndale in Craik, English Prose ; Latimer, The Ploughers, Arber's Edition; selections from Latimer in Craik, English Prose.








HE first-fruits of the Renaissance in Italy had been a

quick awakening of the spirit of art, a new birth in painting and poetry, in architecture and sculpture, in the domain of mere beauty. The English Renaissance had worked along far different lines. The message from the East, which the quick Latin mind had received at a flash, came slowly to the Teuton. He must measure it by the standards of practical value, and he must look carefully to its bearings upon his religion. In both respects it brought to him new light, and he stopped to question it no more. Grocyn and Linacre and Colet could live for months and years in the glorious Italy of Lorenzo the Magnificent, of Raphael and Michel Angelo, of Tasso and Ariosto, and go home without a thought of art, of poetry, of beauty-radiant only with the dream of a new religion, of a new method of Scripture interpretation; and the new learning could voice itself only in prose,-a new prose it is true, enlarged, enriched, revivified, but yet prose. English poetry still droned on as it had done during all the years since Chaucer laid down his pen; a touch of true poetry there was in the homes of the peas

English Poetry Drones On

A Sudden Change

ants, where the homely old ballads, survivals of the AngloSaxon minstrelsy, were still making, but in court and hall mediæval tradition held full sway.

As one wanders through the dreary verse of the era, all of it modeled after obsolete French forms or after the ancient Chaucer,-for two centuries the only English classic; as one drives himself through the great mass of “droning narratives and worn-out rhymes"; through the two volumes of Skelton,-wild and erratic, a startling variation and yet but a variation; through the “inane repetition of Hawes," and the more original settings of the Scottish poets, he comes to a time when sud. denly without warning the whole chorus changes. Instead of the mediæval epic of six thousand lines, there comes all at once the lyric of passion, short and intense; instead of the threadbare verse-forms,—the Chaucerian measures or the Skeltonian variations,—there comes as by magic a flood of Italian and French forms: the sonnet, terza rima, the rondeau, and blank verse. It seems like a revolution. From the moment that Wyatt and Surrey struck the new key, all the gay ones of England were tripping to the Italian music: the era of modern lyric poetry had opened in England.

The Reasons for the Sudden Change rest largely on conjecture. The new education, the rise of the grammar schools, had stirred up all classes. Noblemen became anxious about the education of their sons, and the fashion of sending them abroad for the finishing touches was revived. It became the custom for all university graduates who could afford the expense to complete their education on the continent. It is certain that before the middle of the century many educated Englishmen were wandering

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