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Strength and Beauty of the Version
Its Influence on Later Writers
would have been a failure. The rules of James which held the translators rigidly to the old Saxon outline made the version a popular book, and the scholarly and literary atmosphere through which it passed in translation made it acceptable to scholars and churchmen. It was the final triumph of the old native tongue. The school of Langland and Tyndale and Latimer was henceforth to rule English literature.
The strength and beauty of the King James Version have been recognized by every English master for three centuries. It is “ the greatest prose triumph of the time,” says Brooke; it is “ probably the greatest prose work in any language,” declares Saintsbury. Its influence is traceable in every masterpiece in later English literature. The makers of the Revised Version testify to its beauty and power: “ We have had to study this great Version carefully and minutely, line by line; and the longer we have been engaged upon it the more we have learned to admire its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression, its general accuracy, and, we must not fail to add, the music of its cadences, and the felicity of its rhythm.'
Nor has its influence been confined to literary fields. From the study of its pages there came to Englishmen a new conception of human life and of individual liberty, and a new outlook upon religious and social problems. The Puritan Revolution had its roots in this one book, and the whole spirit of the succeeding age which made England what she now is came largely from its pages. It stimulated mental activity; it awoke the lower classes, upon whom there still hung the drowsiness of the Middle Ages. Legend and annal,” says Green,“ war-song
“ The National Epic of Britain
Close of the Period of Foundations
and psalm, State-roll and biography, the mighty voices of prophets, the parables of Evangelists, stories of mission journeys, of perils by the sea and among the heathen, philosophic arguments, apocalyptic visions, all were flung broadcast over minds unoccupied for the most part by any rival learning.” It educated England as no other country has ever been educated, and its influence has increased with every year.
Consider (says Huxley], that for three centuries this book has been woven into the life of all that is best and noblest in English history ; that it has become the national epic of Britain, and is as familiar to noble and simple from John-o'-Groat's house to Land's End as Dante and Tasso once were to the Italians; that it is written in the noblest and purest English and abounds in exquisite beauties of mere literary form; and, finally, that it forbids the veriest hind who never left his village to be ignorant of the existence of other countries and other civilizations, and of a great past stretching back to the farthest limits of the oldest nations in the world.
With the Bible in its final form the period of foundations may be said to have closed in England. Henceforth there was to be the rearing of a noble superstructure, but it was to be upon a broad and unchangeable base. REQUIRED READING. No one can attain to a strong and idiomatic prose style or be able to appreciate fully the masterpieces of English literature without a constant study of the English Bible.
TABLE X.—THE ELIZABETHAN AGE, 1557–1625
FOREIGN LITERATURE AND ENGLISH HISTORY
1.- POETRY. 1585. Raleigh's 1544–1595. Tasso. Sir Philip Sidney, 1554
Virginia Colony. 1564-1642. Galileo. 1586.
158 7. Execution 1572. St. Bartholomew. Edmund Spenser, 1552–
1580. Montaigne's Essays. 1599.
1588. The Spanish 1584. Death of William The Sonneteers, 1592–
of Orange. 1596.
1595. Tyrone's Re- 1596-1650. Descartes, Samuel Daniel, 1562–
French Philosopher. 1619.
1603. Accession of 1598. Edict of Nantes. Michael Drayton, 1563–
1600–1681. Calderon, 1631.
1604. Hampton Spanish Dramatist.
Court Confer- 1605. Cervantes John Donne, 1573–1621.
Quixote. II.—THE ELIZABETHAN 1605. Gunpowder 1606 – 1684. Corneille, NOVEL. Plot.
French Dramatist. John Lyly, 1553–1606. 1607. Virginia 1618. Thirty Years' War Robert Greene, 1560
1620. The Puritans 1621–1695. La Fontaine, Sir Philip Sidney, 1554
Settle New Eng French Fabulist. 1586.
1622 - 1673. Molière, Thomas Nash, 1567-1600. 1621. Impeachment French Dramatist.
1623-1662. Pascal, III.-LATER PROSE.
1625. Charles I. French Philosopher. Richard Hooker, 1553–
1600. Francis Bacon, 1561-1626. King James Bible, 1611.
IV.—THE DRAMA. See Table IX.
THE AGE OF MILTON
N just what year or what decade the great creative
period came to an end it is impossible to say. It certainly did not close with the reign of Elizabeth. The Queen undoubtedly heard its most rapturous and inspired notes, but many of its greatest productions came forth during the reign of her successor, and its echoes died not wholly away until the days of the Commonwealth. But while it is impossible to fix precise limits, just as it is im. possible to tell the day or the week when spring closes and summer begins, it is nevertheless certain that some time during the last years of King James and the early
years of Charles I. the period came to an THE STUARTS.
end. The inspired group of poets and James I., 1603–1625. Charles I., 1625-1649. dramatists and prose writers who began The Commonwealth. their work during the last decade of Charles 11., 1660-1685. Elizabeth left behind them no successors. James II., 1685-1688. William and Mary,
As one by one these true Elizabethans 1688-1702.
ceased to sing, the chorus died away. Anne, 1702-1714.
Singers there were in abundance, writers and poets in every style and key, but they had lost the rapture, the inspiration, and the daring of the earlier creators.
It had been a marvelous epoch. When it opened, the native books of England might have been gathered upon
The Elizabethan Period
English Phase of Italian Renaissance
a single shelf. Imitation and experiment had set its stamp upon every volume; not one could have been chosen as a safe model for future writers. But in a scant half-century all was changed. England now had a native literature which in volume and strength and originality was not inferior to the best literatures of the world. It had produced works which have served even to our own day as the supreme models for literary production; it had laid completely the foundations upon which all later English writers have built and upon which all future writers must continue to build. All the centuries from Cædmon to Chaucer and Spenser had been but a gradual preparation for this epoch.
It was a brief period. It had originated in the enthusiasm and patriotism and hope of a great people united in a moment of crisis about an idealized leader. It had been the English phase of the Italian Renaissance. The leaders of the nation's thought had awakened for a moment to the meaning of a larger life; they had caught a glimpse of a new world, and it thrilled them and inspired them. But the direction of this English Renaissance had been sensuous and uncontrolled. Mere beauty, the ecstasy of the present hour, the artless voicing of the moment's joy or woe, this became the literature of the time. It was an era of intensity and passion, an era that cared nothing for posterity, and by its very carelessness made itself immortal. The movement had been largely aristocratic; its center had to a large degree been the court and the sovereign, and all of its leading literary products had been first presented with magnificent accompaniments and with royal acclamation.
It was this very element of aristocracy and exclusive