페이지 이미지

upon as an original; while an English Reynard the Fox, in prose, was printed by Caxton in or soon after 1481, and is said to have been taken from a Dutch rédaction, which was produced at Gouda in 1479. From what source Henryson took those fables which are founded on incidents in the Reynard, it is not very easy to tell ; but he seems to impute them to Æsop, equally with the proper Æsopean fables.

The tale of Schir Chantecleir and the Fox' is from the Nun's Priest's Tale in Chaucer.

The tale of the Fox 'that beguiled the Wolf in the shadow of the moon,' deserves more particular notice, and the original source of it admits of no doubt.

It is well known that the Jews formed a very efficient vehicle in the middle ages for conveying stories, as well as other good things, from the East to the West, and that in this way we may explain the importation into Europe of several Oriental fictions, such as the 'Seven Wise Masters. Among the individuals of that nation who took a part in this sort of commerce was a Spanish Jew named Moses or Moyses Sephardi, who, being converted to Christianity about the year 1105, took the name of Petrus Alphonsi, that is, Peter Alphonsus' son, in honour of St. Peter, on whose day he was baptized, and of Alfonso, King of Castille, who was his godfather, and whose physician he became. The book by which this learned convert is now best known is his Disciplina Clericalis, so called, as he tells us, from its rendering the clergy well-disciplined or instructed. It consists of a series of moral sayings, maxims, and proverbs from Arabic or other Eastern sources, with illustrations from stories and fables, and quotations of poetry. Among the stories are several that are to be found in Bidpai, and some that appear in the Arabian Nights. The work was translated into French prose in or about the fifteenth century, under the title of La Discipline de Clergie, but there had been a previous translation into French verse in or about the thirteenth century, under the title of Le Chastoiement d'un pere à son fils. Manuscripts of Alfonsi's work, both in Latin and French, seem to have been not uncommon, and after the invention of printing we often meet with Alfonsi's stories mixed up with the Fables of Æsop in miscellaneous collections, to which also an addition is sometimes made from the jests of Poggio. This is the case with Steinhöwel and Caxton's Æsops, though it must be observed that the early printers do not always seem to have known the difference between Peter Alfonsi, who is sometimes called Adelfonsi, and another person, Adolphus, who wrote fables in Latin monkish rhyme. Alfonsi seems to have been well known to Chaucer, who quotes him more than once in the Tale of Melibeus,' by the name of Piers Alphonse, the French form of his appellation. Henryson, as an admirer and imitator of Chaucer, would naturally be led to draw his materials from the same sources of information, though whether he used the Latin original, or a French translation of Alfonsi we cannot tell.

Certain it is that the fable we have last mentioned is taken very closely from the twenty-fourth story in the Disciplina, though, as we shall afterwards show, there is also some appearance of its having borrowed an incident from another quarter, which would lead us to a wider conjecture as to the extent of Henryson's reading.

The story is this :—' A husbandman, angry with his oxen for ploughing ill, exclaims, “ May the wolf take ye !” The Wolf overhears him, and, encouraged by the Fox, who is also present, accosts the husbandman at his return homeward, and demands the oxen, as having been promised to him. The husbandman demurs, but at last agrees to refer the matter to the Fox, who enters on his judicial duties by trying separately to cajole both parties. He offers privately to decide in the husbandman's favou. in return for the promise of a handsome present of poultry to himself and his wife. He then takes the Wolf aside, and exposes the absurdity of his demands, but states the readiness of the other party to give him a good “ cabock," or cheese, to let him off. The Wolf wishes to see the cheese, and the Fox leads him to a draw-well, where he assures him it will be found.

* The shadow of the moon shone in the well :
“Schir," said Lowrence, “ anes ye sall find me leal ;
Now see ye not the cabock weill yoursel',

Quhite as ane neip, and als round as ane seal.” : The Wolf is satisfied, and desires the Fox to get it, who accordingly descends by one of the buckets, but declares the cheese is too big for him to lift, and desires the Wolf to come down in the other bucket and help him : • Than lichtly in the bucket lap the loun ;

His wecht, but weir, the other end gart rise.
The Tod came hailland up, the Wolf yeid doun;

Than angerly the Wolf upon him cries :
“ I cummand thus downwart, quhy thow uphart hies ?”
“ Schir," quod the Tod, “ thus fares it of Fortoun;

As ane comes up, scho quheillis ane other doun.'” The Fox thus gets to the surface and escapes, and the Wolf is left in the lurch with the Shadow of the Moon for a cabock.

This fable deserves attention in another respect, that it is either a combination of two different stories, which we are now



about to mention, or those two stories have been made out of it by disjoining its component parts. There is a fable in the common Æsop, found also in Avianus, of a Wolf who overhears a nurse consigning a naughty child to the tender mercies of the lupine species, and who thereupon waits about for some time in the credulous expectation of the threat being fulfilled. This corresponds with the beginning of Henryson's fable. Corresponding to another part of it, there is a story in Reynard, of the Fox having gone by mistake into one of the buckets of a well, and afterwards rescuing himself by inducing the Wolf, who is passing by, to go into the other bucket, which, of course, in its descent, elevates the lighter weight to the top, when the Fox escapes and leaves the Wolf below. As the two buckets pass each other, Alfonsi does not give an account of anything passing between the two animals, but in the Reineke Vos, a conversation is introduced, which agrees with what Henryson has made them say. It is singular also, that Pulci, in his Morgante Maggiore, which was published in 1481, has the same incident, and makes the Fox give a similar explanation to the Wolf in passing :

Disse la Volpe : Il mondo è fatta scale,

Vedi, compar, chi scende, e chi le sale.' We have thus rather a curious proof of the popularity of this part of the story in the fact, that about the very same point of time, three writers, in three different languages --Broad Scotch, Tuscan, and Low Saxon,--were introducing it to their several readers with the same amusing details.

It may seem singular that jests or stories which some may now think puerile, should thus have engaged the attention of men of genius and learning, and supplied so much of the material of literature. One explanation may be, that the reading or listening public were then in a state of pupillage; and we may parody Goldsmith's line on the Italians, and say,

The tales of children satisfy the child;' but, after all, it may be doubted whether such jocular fictions, recognised in all ages from India to Iceland, are not as well worth hearing as a great part of our sensational novels, or metaphysical poems.

The review we have thus taken of Henryson's productions will support, we hope, the character we ventured to give him at the outset. He was not so great as Dunbar, for he had not his genius or power, but he was also free from his asperity, and from some other faults; and when we compare him in reference to diction and versification, it should

asperity, and mor power, but great as Dunbar to give hi

be remembered that he is the earliest of his countrymen who wrote any considerable number or variety of poems. His works ought to be in the hands of every Scotchman; but they also mark an important stage in the progress of English literature; for they were republished in England, and cannot have been without their influence at the time. Dr. Nott thought it not improbable that Sir Thomas Wyatt was indebted for the idea and plan of his first satire to Henryson's 'Two Mice.'

The extracts we have given may at the same time afford a sufficient proof and illustration of the vigorous vernacular in which Henryson writes;' and we think it cannot be enough remembered that, in an age like the present, when a certain degree of literary power is almost universal, but when, in consequence, a stereotyped set of indirect indications and conventional circumlocutions often take the place of plain and pointed speaking, the faults which become incident to style are best corrected by recurring to writers who could only succeed in their art by expressing their ideas in the shortest, the simplest, the most intelligible, and the most appropriate manner. A familiarity with Chaucer, and the older Scottish poets, and with one of modern date, still greater than any of his older countrymen-we mean Burns—must suggest excellences in diction, which would give additional strength and beauty to the best poetical language of our own day; and it is in this direction accordingly that our greatest poets have been tending since the end of the last century. The provincial dialects of England, though none of them can have received the same polish as our Scottish tongue, have deservedly and with advantage obtained of late a greater share of attention than was formerly paid to them, and examples are not wanting where their rustic and primitive beauties have been so well called forth as to help in restoring the standard of true English simplicity. Even in Germany vigorous efforts have recently been made to revive the long lost excellences of the Lower Saxon dialects, and if thereby German writers can be led to write with greater clearness, shortness, and precision than most of them at present practise, it will be a blessed change, both for themselves and for their readers.

1 We ought perhaps to explain that in the spelling of our extracts we have not followed Mr. Laing's text; but have thought it best, in an article like the present, to adopt often the modern spelling, where the pronunciation did not interfere.

ART. VII.-1. Eighteenth Report from the Ecclesiastical Commis

sioners for England, 1866. 2. Two Letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Ecclesi

astical Commission. [By EDMUND J. SMITH.] Fifth Edition, 1864.

WHAT is the Ecclesiastical Commission ? It is an attempt to give practical expression to an original idea, the invention of this century—the idea that every holder of a spiritual office in the Church of England ought to have some duty to do, that he ought to be on the spot where the duty is, and that he ought to have some money-reward for doing it.

This great idea first showed itself in stormful indignation against sinecures and pluralities; but the modern pluralist, on whom the storm fell, was nothing to the grand growths in that kind which the rich soil and dank atmosphere of the middle ages could produce. We take two well-nurtured specimens. Bogo de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester, in the time of Edward 1., held no less than eighteen livings, and was, besides, treasurer of the Chapter of York, and dean of Stafford. In his church of Simonbourne, a hurdle out of a cowhouse, smeared with the filth that proved whence it came, was erected instead of carved and fretted reredos; and the vestments and ornaments of the Minster were used for garments and posset-cups for the fruitful wives of the city in their extremity, with a grotesque and shocking benevolence. William of Kildesby, the Secretary of Edward III., held within three years these offices : - Master of the Rolls, Privy Seal, Canon of Wetwang, Warden of the chapel in Tickhill Castle, Prebendary of Darlington, Canon of Southwell, of Bath and Wells, of Howden, of Lincoln, and of London, and Rector of Worfield. These do not exhaust the catalogue; and they sat so lightly upon the fortunate ecclesiastic, that when in the latter years of his life he was moved to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he was not moved to resign even one of his ecclesiastical dignities.

John Wycliffe, the Reformer, has become a historical puzzle, because of the variety of posts and employments attached to his name. Late writers have cut the knot, by assuming that there were two, or even three, persons of the same name at the same time. If Wycliff of Fylingham, Wycliff of Mayfield, and Wycliff of Leckhamstead are three different persons, at any rate Wycliffe the Reformer was living and holding offices at Oxford whilst he was changing and adding to his preferments in the country; and in an amusing passage he asserts the right of non-residence, and would only reform it in the way of making

« 이전계속 »