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Roger Ascham :

Roger Ascham is known as a distinguished writer, a fine classical scholar, and an entertaining correspondent. He was born at Kirby Wise, near Thirst in Yorkshire, in the year 1515, and died in 1568. He became a student of St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1530 and soon obtained his fellowship, notwithstanding his well known sympathy with the Reformed doctrines. Later, he was appointed University Reader in Greek, and in 1546 University orator. Amongst “past-times” for gentlemen, he gives cock fighting an important place, but Ascham’s chief interests were music, writing and archery.

His first work to attract attention, Toxophilus-devote6 to archery, one of his favorite recreations- he published in 1545, and dedicated it to Henry VIII. In 1548 his reputation gained for him the position of tutor to the Lady Elizabeth at Chesnutt.

The years 1550-53 were lived on the Continent, chiefly at Augsburg; he was then secretary to Sir Richard Morrison or Morison, who held the post of ambassador to Charles V. When he returned to England he obtained the Latin secretary ship to Queen Mary. This prominent post being given to a Protestant, has occasioned great surprise. His extreme care and tact helped him to escape suffering in any way for his opinions.

On the accession of Elizabeth, who was once his pupil, he remained at Court and became the Queen’s tutor as well as secretary. These posts were held by Ascham until the end of his life.

Ascham, a sturdy old scholar of the more formal type, was a Puritan in his tastes, and opposed to the new taste for Romance, by an undoubted pioneer of good, direct English prose.

In an age so saturated with rhetoric and ornate conceits, it is a great tribute to Ascham that he should have achieved a prose at once simple and straightforward, yet never bald nor unmusical.

Literary Works :

1. Toxophilus, published 1545

2. Schoolmaster, published 1570, after his death.

3. Report of Germany

4. Two hundred and ninety-five letters, Latin and English, partly official and partly personal. Professor Sainsbury calls his prose “a go-cart to habituate the infant limbs of English prose to

orderly movement.” It is no unfair description.

Sidney and Prose:

Sir Philip Sidney brought forward the prose another stage. Considering him here as a stylist, he put aside the elaborate affectations of Lyly, and while not free from mannerism, struck a happy comparison between the straightforward simplicity of Ascham and the lightly-colored complexity of Euphuism. His prose at its best is both simple and melodious, strong and sweet, and he achieves for prose much what Spenser did for verse.

“The Poet both not only show the way, but gives so sweet a prospect into the way as will entice any man to enter into it. Nay, he doth, as if your journey should lie thro’ a fair vineyard, at the very first give you a cluster of grapes, that full of that taste you may long to pass further.”

Hooker :

The aim of Hooker was to give us a prose that should be at once simple and impressive. Sidney had combined simplicity with cadence. Hooker gave to the cadence a finer and more sustained rhythm. In point of time he is the forerunner of Lyly, but he certainly carried prose style to a higher stage of development, arid if less powerful an influence in his day than either Lyly or Sidney, exerted in the long run a more potent one.

Theological literature very rarely lends itself to literary excellences. Of how few modern theologians can it be said that they had the art of saying well what they had to say. But Hooker will be remembered not merely as that first vernacular defender of the English Church, but as a writer of fine, eloquent prose.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the most versatile, brilliant, and daring spirits of his time, whose achievements give a color to the period in which he lived, was born near Burleigh Salter ton in 1552. His father had married the widow of Other Gilbert, thus Walter Raleigh was the half- brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the explorer, who took possession of Newfoundland, oldest British colony, in 1583.

Remarkable, as was Raleigh’s physical activity, no less restless was his mind. When imprisonment gave enforced leisure to the one, the other part of him went a-roving.

He was a verse-writer of distinction – does not Gabriel Harvey speak of his “fine and sweet invention”? And wrote a fine sonnet that was appended to the first edition of the Faerie Queen and many poems signed “Ingot,” published in England’s Helicon.

As to his prose, perhaps his most notable achievement was the History of the World, a serious, discursive review of the past and present very popular for its treatment of Biblical history and early times, but disliked by James, “for being too saucy in censuring Princes.”

It is rich in fine passages of eloquent prose and is also an interesting piece of self-revelation. Its chief defect, an entire lack of humor, is felt at times, but is largely counterbalanced by the picture it presents of a restless, adventurous and ambitious spirit, with a rich sense of the fullness of life and a tragic appreciation of its ironies.

“Even such is time that takes on trust Our Youth, our joys, our all we have, And pays us but with rust and dust.”

Literary Works

1. Fight about the Islet of the Azores, appeared in 1591.

2. A Discovery of the Empire of Guiana, 1596.

3. History of the world, written during his imprisonment, 1612.

4. Verses found in his Bible in the Gatehouse in Westminster, 1618.

5. Cynthia, lost until part of it was published by Dr. Hannah in 1885.

6. The Pilgrimage, supposed to be written in 1603.

7. Poems on Sir Philip Sidney, 1591, without his signature.

8. The Lie first appeared in print in 1608.

9. Nymph’s Reply, the Prerogatives of Parliaments, The Cabinet Council, published by Milton in 1658.

10. The Discoveries.” Perfect piece of writing.”

11. Advice to his son. William Webbed

The Rules to be Observed in Scottish Poetry (1585), by James the First, is a book of not much importance, but William Webber’s Discourse of English Poesies (1586) is of greater value.

Webbed was an enthusiastic admirer of Spenser- “the mightiest English poet that ever lived.” With the poetry of Chaucer’s age however, he is not closely acquainted, and in his excursion into the poetry of the past, he displays no particular acumen.

Webber’s value lies less in his argumentative disquisition than in his power of appreciation. He has a natural taste for fine verse, and it is on the appreciative side of criticism not the judicial, that he claims recognition.

Earlier Renaissance :

Michelet summed up the Renaissance in “the discovery of the world and the discovery of man”. With the latter aspect, the culture, and art of the movement are necessarily concerned. The richly veined humanity of the Italian Renaissance sufficiently emphasized this side: on the other, the revolution wrought in astronomy and the art of navigation introduced a new world as dazzling and surprising in its vast possibilities as the imaginative world opened by Michael Angelo and Shakespeare.

The Call of the Sea :

The sense of curiosity and the craving for adventure and so long restricted to the tortuous word- spinning and crusading zeal of the Middle Ages, received a tremendous stimulus that soon found expression in maritime discovery and commercial enterprise. The adventurous sea-man was to open up not merely new countries but a new literature. Yet, the Call of the Sea was no new note in our literature; the white surf thunders grimly through Beowulf, and carries its salt sting and desolating grandeur throughout the whole of Saxon poetry.

After the Norman Conquest when the English were becoming more civilized, and the seaman adventure was merged into the bartering merchant, the Call of the Sea is lost in other cries, and even Chaucer’s Shipman fails to carry conviction. But with the Renaissance, once again we can hear the roar of the ocean and can taste the salt brine.

The adventurous spirit in English literature, hitherto, had been practically confined to that extra­ordinary mixture of outrageous fable and genuine travel entitled the Travels of Sir John Mandeville; that had sufficed during the late Middle Ages to satisfy the craving for wonders beyond narrow seas.

It really mattered very little that there was “no such person” – indeed it took several ventures to find that out, so distinct is its impress of a genial, curious, broad-minded personality revealed in this mosaic of many men’s wanderings, for its enormous popularity testified not merely to the love of the marvelous but to the passion for knowledge about the other countries, which is characteristically English.

The serious recording of voyagers, however, was a thing not begotten in England. It came, as might be expected, from Spain and Italy. Peter Martyr of Aegina catechized the navigators of the time.

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