« PreviousContinue »
PURITANS AND KINGS
I. THE SOUL AND THE WORLD
1. THE PEOPLE OF A BOOK
JOHN RICHARD GREEN
THE PURITAN SPIRIT
when the Bible was ordered to be set up in churches. Sunday after Sunday, day after
day, the crowds that gathered round Bon[From A Short History of the English
ner's Bibles in the nave of St. Paul's, or the People]
family group that hung on the words of the
Geneva Bible in the devotional exercises at No greater moral change ever passed over home, were leavened with a new literature. a nation than passed over England during Legend and annal, war-song and psalm, the years which parted the middle of the State-roll and biography, the mighty voices reign of Elizabeth from the meeting of the of prophets, the parables of Evangelists, Long Parliament. England became the stories of mission journeys, of perils by the people of a book, and that book was the sea and among the heathen, philosophic arBible. It was as yet the one English book guments, apocalyptic visions, all were flung which was familiar to every Englishman; it broadcast over minds unoccupied for the was read at churches and read at home, and most part by any rival learning. The diseverywhere its words, as they fell on ears closure of the stores of Greek literature had which custom had not deadened, kindled a wrought the revolution of the Renascence. startling enthusiasm. When Bishop Bonner The disclosure of the older mass of Hebrew set up the first six Bibles in St. Paul's literature wrought the revolution of the "many well-disposed people used much to Reformation. But the one revolution was resort to the hearing thereof, especially when far deeper and wider in its effects than the they could get any that had an audible voice other. No version could transfer to another to read to them." . “One John Porter
tongue the peculiar charm of language which used sometimes to be occupied in that good- gave their value to the authors of Greece and ly exercise, to the edifying of himself as well Rome. Classical letters, therefore, remained as others. This Porter was a fresh young in the possession of the learned, that is, of man and of a big stature; and great multi- the few; and among these, with the exceptudes would resort thither to hear him, be- tion of Colet and More, or of the pedants cause he could read well and had an audible who revived a Pagan worship in the gardens voice.” But the “goodly exercise” of read- of the Florentine Academy, their direct iners such as Porter was soon superseded by fluence was purely intellectual. But the the continued recitation of both Old Testa- tongue of the Hebrew, the idiom of the ment and New in the public services of the Hellenistic Greek, lent themselves with a Church; while the small Geneva Bibles car- curious felicity to the purposes of translaried the Scripture into every home. The tion. As a mere literary monument, the popularity of the Bible was owing to other English version of the Bible remains the causes besides that of religion. The whole noblest example of the English tongue, while prose literature of England, save the for- its perpetual use made it from the instant gotten tracts of Wyclif, has grown up since of its appearance the standard of our lanthe translation of the Scriptures by Tyndale guage. For the moment, however, its litand Coverdale. So far as the nation at large erary effect was less than its social. The was concerned, no history, no romance, hard- power of the book over the mass of Englishly any poetry, save the little-known' verse
men showed itself in a thousand superficial of Chaucer, existed in the English tongue ways, and in none more conspicuously than
in the influence it exerted on ordinary
Literature reflected the general speech. It formed, we must repeat, the tendency of the time; and the dumpy little whole literature which was practically ac- quartos of controversy and piety, which still cessible to ordinary Englishmen; and when crowd our older libraries, drove before them we recall the number of common phrases the classical translations and Italian novwhich we owe to great authors, the bits of elettes of the age of the Renascence. Shakespeare, or Milton, or Dickens, or “Theology rules there,” said Grotius of EngThackeray, which unconsciously interweave land only two years after Elizabeth's death; themselves in our ordinary talk, we shall and when Casaubon, the last of the great better understand the strange mosaic of scholars of the sixteenth century, was invited Biblical words and phrases which colored to England by King James, he found both English talk two hundred years ago. The King and people indifferent to pure letters. mass of picturesque allusion and illustration “There is a great abundance of theologians which we borrow from a thousand books, in England," he says, "all point their studies our fathers were forced to borrow from one; in that direction." Even a country gentleand the borrowing was the easier and the man like Colonel Hutchinson felt the theomore natural that the range of the Hebrew logical impulse. “As soon as he had iniliterature fitted it for the expression of proved his natural understanding with the every phase of feeling. When Spenser acquisition of learning, the first studies he poured forth his warmest love-notes in the exercised himself in were the principles of
Epithalamion," he adopted the very words religion.” The whole nation became, in fact, of the Psalmist, as he bade the gates open a Church. The great problems of life and for the entrance of his bride. When Crom- death, whose questionings found no answer well saw the mists break over the hills of in the higher minds of Shakespeare's day, Dunbar, he hailed the sun-burst with the pressed for an answer not only from noble cry of David: “Let God arise, and let his and scholar but from farmer and shopenemies be scattered. Like as the smoke keeper in the age that followed him. We vanisheth, so shalt thou drive them away!” must not, indeed, picture the early Puritan Even to common minds this familiarity with as a gloomy fanatic. The religious movegrand poetic imagery in prophet and ment had not as yet come into conflict with apocalypse gave a loftiness and ardor of general culture. With the close of the Elizaexpression, that with all its tendency to ex- bethan age, indeed, the intellectual freedom aggeration and bombast we may prefer to which had marked it faded insensibly away: the slipshod vulgarisms of today.
the bold philosophical speculations which But far greater than its effect on litera- Sidney had caught from Bruno, and which ture or social phrase was the effect of the had brought on Marlowe and Ralegh the Bible on the character of the people at large. charge of atheism, died like her own reElizabeth might silence or tune the pulpits; ligious indifference, with the Queen. But but it was impossible for her to silence or the lighter and more elegant sides of the tune the great preachers of justice, and Elizabethan culture harmonized well enough mercy, and truth, who spoke from the book with the temper of the Puritan gentleman. which she had again opened for her people. The figure of Colonel Hutchinson, one of The whole moral effect which is produced the Regicides, stands out from his wife's now-a-days by the religious newspaper, the canvas with the grace and tenderness of a tract, the essay, the lecture, the missionary portrait by Vandyck. She dwells on the perreport, the sermon, was then produced by sonal beauty which distinguished his youth, the Bible alone; and its effect in this way, on "his teeth even and white as the purest however dispassionately we examine it, was ivory," "his hair of brown, very thickset in simply amazing. One dominant influence his youth, softer than the finest silk, curling told on human action: and all the activities
with loose great rings at the ends.” Serious that had been called into life by the age that as was his temper in graver matters, the was passing away were seized, concentrated, young squire of Owthorpe was fond of and steadied to a definite aim by the spirit hawking, and piqued himself on his skill of religion. The whole temper of the nation in dancing and fence. His artistic taste felt the change. A new conception of life showed itself in a critical love of “paintings, and of man superseded the old.
sculpture, and all liberal arts," as well as in moral and religious impulse spread through the pleasure he took in his gardens, "in the
improvement of his grounds, in planting jewels of the Renascence disappeared. groves and walks and forest trees.” If he Colonel Hutchinson "left off very early the was "diligent in his examination of the wearing of anything that was costly, yet in Scriptures," "he had a great love for music, his plainest negligent habit appeared very and often diverted himself with a viol, on much a gentleman." The loss of color and which he played masterly.” We miss, in- variety in costume reflected no doubt a cerdeed, the passion of the Elizabethan time, its tain loss of color and variety in life itself; caprice, its largeness of feeling and sympa- but it was a loss compensated by solid gains. thy, its quick pulse of delight; but, on the Greatest among these, perhaps, was the new other hand, life gained in moral grandeur, conception of social equality. Their comin a sense of the dignity of manhood, in mon calling, their common brotherhood in orderliness and equable force. The temper Christ, annihilated in the mind of the Puriof the Puritan gentleman was just, noble, tans that overpowering sense of social disand self-controlled. The larger geniality of tinctions which characterized the age of the age that had passed away was replaced Elizabeth. The meanest peasant felt himby an intense tenderness within the nar- self ennobled as a child of God. The proudrower circle of the home. "He was as kind est noble recognized a spiritual equality in a father,” says Mrs. Hutchinson of her hus- the poorest "saint." The great social revoluband, was dear a brother, as good a master, tion of the Civil Wars and the Protectorate as faithful a friend as the world had.” The was already felt in the demeanor of gentlewilful and lawless passion of the Renascence men like Hutchinson. "He had a loving and made way for a manly purity. "Neither in sweet courtesy to the poorest, and would youth nor riper years could the most fair or often employ many spare hours with the enticing woman ever draw him into unneces- commonest soldiers and poorest ·laborers.” sary familiarity or dalliance. Wise and "He never disdained the meanest nor flatvirtuous women he loved, and delighted in tered the greatest.” But it was felt even all pure and holy and unblamable conversa- more in the new dignity and self-respect tion with them, but so as never to excite with which the consciousness of their callscandal or temptation. Scurrilous discourse ing” invested the classes beneath the rank even among men he abhorred; and though of the gentry. Take such a portrait as that he sometimes took pleasure in wit and mirth, which Nehemiah Wallington, a turner in vet that which was mixed with impurity he Eastcheap, has left us of a London houserever could endure.” To the Puritan the wife, his mother. “She was very loving,” wilfulness of life, in which the men of the he says, "and obedient to her parents, lovRenascence had reveled, seemed unworthy ing and kind to her husband, very tenderof life's character and end. His aim was hearted to her children, loving all that were to attain self-command, to be master of him- godly, much misliking the wicked and proself, of his thought and speech and acts. fane. She was a pattern of sobriety unto A certain gravity and reflectiveness gave its. many, very seldom was seen abroad except tone to the lightest details of his converse at church; when others recreated themselves with the world about him. His temper, quick at holidays and other times, she would take as it might naturally be, was kept under her needle-work and say, 'here is my recreastrict control. In his discourse he was ever tion.' . . God had given her a pregon his guard against talkativeness or fri- nant wit and an excellent memory. She Polity, striving to be deliberate in speech and was very ripe and perfect in all stories of “ranking the words beforehand." His life the Bible, likewise in all the stories of the was orderly and methodical, sparing of diet Martyrs, and could readily turn to them; and of self-indulgence; he rose early, "he she was also perfect and well seen in the never was at any time idle, and hated to see English Chronicles, and in the descents of any one else so.” The new sobriety and the Kings of England. She lived in holy self-restraint marked itself even in his wedlock with her husband twenty years, change of dress. The gorgeous colors and wanting but four days."
2. THE CONFLICT IN THE SOUL
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
"A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here":
Love said, “You shall be he.” “I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee!" Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I ?”
I struck the board, and cried, “No more; I
will abroad! What! shall I ever sigh and pine? My lines and life are free; free as the road, Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit? Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine Before my sighs did dry it; there was
corn Before my tears did drown it; Is the year only lost to me?
· Have I no bays to crown it, No flowers, no garlands gay! all blasted,
And thou hast hands,
Thy rope of sands Which petty thoughts have made; and made
to thee Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law, While thou didst wink and wouldst not
Go where it doth deserve." “And know you not,” says Love, “who bore
the blame ?"
“My dear, then I will serve.” "You must sit down,” says Love, "and taste
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky! The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
For thou must die.
Sweet rose, whose hue, angry and brave,
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye, Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.
Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie, My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.
Away! take heed;
I will abroad. Call in thy death's head there, tie up thy
He that forbears
Deserves his load."
At every word, Methought I heard one calling, "Child";
And I replied, “My Lord.”
Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like seasoned timber, never gives; But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.
Yet digged the mole, and lest his ways be
Worked under ground, Where he did clutch his prey; but one did
And looking back, at that short space,
0, how I long to travel back,
Were gnats and flies;
Drank them as free. The fearful miser on a heap of rust Sat pining all his life there, did scarce trust
His own hands with the dust, Yet would not place one piece above, but
In fear of thieves. Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
And hugged each one his pelf; The downright epicure placed heaven in
And scorned pretence;
Said little less;
Who think them brave; And poor, despised Truth sat counting by
Their victory. Yet some, who all this while did weep and
sing, And sing and weep, soared up into the ring;
But most would use no wing.
Before true light!
Because it shows the way, The way, which from this dead and dark
Leads up to God;
More bright than he!
One whispered thus: "This ring the Bridegroom did for none
I saw Eternity the other night,
All calm, as it was bright;
Driv'n by the spheres Like a vast shadow moved; in which the
And all her train were hurled. The doting lover in his quaintest strain
Did there complain; Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
Wit's four delights, With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of
pleasure; Yet his dear treasure, All scattered lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flower.
BEHIND THE VEIL
The darksome statesman, hung with weights
and woe, Like a thick midnight-fog, moved there so
slow, He did not stay, nor go; Condemning thoughts, like sad eclipses,
Upon his soul,
Pursued him with one shout.
They are all gone into the world of light!
And I alone sit lingering here; Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear. It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
Like stars upon some gloomy grove,