« EdellinenJatka »
churchwardens' accounts, too, show that the work of thus decorating the English parish churches was in full operation up to the very eve of the religious changes. In these truthful pictures of parochial life, we may see the people and their representatives busily engaged in collecting the necessary money, and in superintending the work of setting up altars and statues and paintings, and in hiring carvers and decorators to enrich what their ancestors had provided for God's house. It was the age, too, of organ-making and bell-founding, and there is hardly a record of any parish church at this time which does not show considerable sums of money spent upon these. From the middle of the fifteenth century to the period described as "the great pillage," music, too, had made great progress in England, and the renown of the English school had spread over Europe. Musical compositions had multiplied in a wonderful way, and before the close of the fifteenth century "prick song," or part music, is very frequently found in the inventories of our English parish churches. In fact, it has been recently shown that much of the music of the boasted school of ecclesiastical music to which the English Reformation had been thought to have given birth, is, in reality, music adapted to the new English services, from Latin originals, which had been inspired by the ancient offices of the Church. Most of the "prick song" masses and other musical compositions were destroyed in the wholesale destruction which accompanied the religious changes, but sufficient remains to show that the English pre-Reformation school of music was second to none in Europe. The reputation of some of its chief masters, like Dunstable, Tallis, and Bird, had spread to other countries, and their works had been used and studied, even in that land of song, Italy.
A dispassionate consideration of the period preceding the great religious upheaval of the sixteenth century will, it can hardly be doubted, lead the inquirer to conclude that it was not in any sense an age of stagnation, dis
content, and darkness. Letters, art, architecture, painting, and music, under the distinct patronage of the Church, had made great and steady progress before the advent of the new ideas. Moreover, those who will examine the old parish records cannot fail to see that up to the very eve of the changes, the old religion had not lost its hold upon the minds and affections of the people at large. And one thing is absolutely clear, that it was not the Reformation movement which brought to the world in its train the blessings of education, and the arts of civilisation. What it did for all these is written plainly enough in the history of that period of change and destruction.
CHAPTER II. THE REVIVAL OF LETTERS IN ENGLAND.
The story of the English literary revival in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is of no little interest and importance. The full history of the movement would form the fitting theme of an entire volume; but the real facts are so contrary to much that is commonly believed about our English renaissance of letters, that some brief account is necessary, if we would rightly understand the attitude of men's minds on the eve of the Reformation. At the outset, it is useful to recall the limits of this English renaissance. Judged by what is known of the movement in Italy, the land of its origin, the word "renaissance" is usually understood to denote not only the adoption of the learning and intellectual culture of ancient Greece and Rome by the leaders of thought in the Western World during the period in question, but an almost servile following of classical models, the absorption of the pagan spirit and the adoption of pagan modes of expression so fully, as certainly to obscure, if it did not frequently positively obliterate, Christian sentiment and Christian ideals. In this sense it is pleasing to think, the renaissance was unknown in England. So far, however, as the revival of learning is concerned, England bore its part in, if indeed it may not be said to have been in the forefront of, the movement.
This has, perhaps, hardly been realised as it should be. That the sixteenth century witnessed a remarkable
.awakening of minds, a broadening of intellectual interests, and a considerable advance in general culture, has long been known and acknowledged. There is little doubt, however, that the date usually assigned both for the dawning of the light and for the time of its full development is altogether too late; whilst the circumstances which fostered the growth of the movement have apparently been commonly misunderstood, and the chief agents in initiating it altogether ignored. The great period of the reawakening would ordinarily be placed without hesitation in post-Reformation times, and writers of all shades of opinion have joined in attributing the revival of English letters to the freedom of minds and hearts purchased by' the overthrow of the old ecclesiastical system, and their emancipation from the narrowing and withering effects of medievalism.
On the assumption that the only possible attitude of English churchmen on the eve of the great religious changes would be one of uncompromising hostility to learning and letters, many have come to regard the one, not as inseparably connected with the other, but the secular as the outcome of the religious movement. The undisguised opposition of the clergy to the " New Learning " is spoken of as sufficient proof of the Church's dislike of learning in general, and its determination to check the nation's aspirations to profit by the general classical revival. This assumption is based upon a complete misapprehension as to what was then the meaning of the term "New Learning." It was in no sense connected with the revival of letters, or with what is now understood by learning and culture; but it was in the Reformation days a well-recognised expression used to denote the novel religious teachings of Luther and his followers.1 Uncom1 The use of the expression " New Learning " as meaning the revival of letters is now so common that any instance of it may seem superfluous. Green, for example, in his History of the English People, vol. ii., constantly speaks of it. Thus (p. S1), "Erasmus embodied for the Teutonic peoples the quickening influence of the New Learning during the long promising hostility to such novelties, no doubt, marked the religious attitude of many, who were at the same time the most strenuous advocates of the renaissance of letters. This is so obvious in the works of the period, that were it not for the common misuse of the expression at the present day, and for the fact that opposition to the " New Learning " is assumed on all hands to represent hostility to letters, rather than to novel teachings in religious matters, there would be no need to furnish examples of its real use at the period in question. As it is, some instances taken from the works of that time become almost a necessity, if we would understand the true position of many of the chief actors at this period of our history.
Roger Edgworth, a preacher, for instance, after speaking of those who "so arrogantly glory in their learning, had by study in the English Bible, and in these seditious English books that have been sent over from our English runagates now abiding with Luther in Saxony," praises the simple hearted faith that was accepted unquestioned by all "before this wicked 'New Learning' arose in Saxony and came over into England amongst us."'
From the preface of The Praier and Complaynte of the Ploweman, dated February, 1531, it is equally clear that the expression " New Learning" was then understood only of religious teaching. Like the Scribes and Pharisees in the time of Our Lord, the author says, the bishops and priests are calling out: "What 'New Learning' is it? These fellows teach new learning: these are they that trouble all the world with their new learning? . . . Even now after the same manner, our holy bishops with all their ragman's roll are of the same sort. . . . They defame,
scholar-life which began at Paris and ended amidst sorrow at Basle." Again (p. 84), "the group of scholars who represented the New Learning in England." Again (p. 86), "On the universities the influence of the New Learning was like a passing from death to life." Again (p. 125), "As yet the New Learning, though scared by Luther's intemperate language, had steadily backed him in his struggle." * Sermons. London: Robert Caly, 1557, p. 36.