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H.E. Marshall

"THE life of Dryden may be said to comprehend a history of the literature of England, and its changes, during nearly half a century." With these words Sir Walter Scott, himself a great writer, began his life of John Dryden. Yet although Dryden stands for so much in the story of our literature, as a man we know little of him. As a writer his influence on the age in which he lived was tremendous. As a man he is more shadowy than almost any other greater writer. We seem to know Chaucer, and Spenser, and Milton, and even Shakespeare a little, but to know Dryden in himself seems impossible.

THE 15th of August 1771 was a lucky day for all the boys and girls and grown-up people too of the English-speaking race, for on that day Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh. Literature had already begun to shake off its fetters of art. Romance had begun to stir in her long sleep, for six years before sturdy baby Walter was born, Bishop Percy had published a book called Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. In this book he had gathered together many old ballads and songs, such as those of Robin Hood and Patrick Spens.

ONE of Caedmon's poems is call The Genesis. In this the poet begins by telling of how Satan, in his pride, rebelled against God, and of how he was cast forth from heaven with all those who had joined with him in rebelling.

This story of the war in heaven and of the angels' fall is not in the Bible. It is not to be found either in any of the Latin books which the monks of Whitby may have had. The story did not come from Rome, but from the East. How, then, did Caedmon hear it?

AS Prince James slept he dreamed that a sudden great light shone into his prison, making bright all the room. A voice cried, "I bring thee comfort and healing, be not afraid." Then the light passed as suddenly as it had come and the Prince went forth from his prison, no man saying him nay.

    "And hastily by both the arms twain 
    I was araiséd up into the air, 
    Caught in a cloud of crystal clear and fair."

ONE April morning nearly three hundred and fifty years ago there was a stir and bustle in a goodly house in the little country town of Stratford-on-Avon. The neighbors went in and out with nods and smiles and mysterious whisperings.

TO almost every house in the land, as regular as the milk man, more regular than the postman, there comes each morning the newspaper boy. To most of us breakfast means, as well as things to eat, mother pouring out the tea and father reading the newspaper. As mother passes father's tea she says, "Anything in the paper, John?" And how often he answers, "Nothing, nothing whatever."

"THE army, moving by its right from off the ground on which they had rested, soon entered the path through the morass, conducting their march with astonishing silence and great rapidity. The mist had not risen to the higher grounds, so that for some time they had the advantage of starlight. But this was lost as the stars faded before approaching day, and the head of the marching column, continuing its descent, plunged as it were into the heavy ocean of fog, which rolled its white waves over the whole plain, and over the sea by which it was bounded.

WHILE Caedmon was still singing at Whitby, in another Northumbrian village named Jarrow a boy was born. This boy we know as Bede, and when he was seven years old his friends gave him into the keeping of the Abbot of Wearmouth. Under this Abbot there were two monasteries, the one at Jarrow and the other at Wearmouth, a few miles distant. And in these two monasteries Bede spent all the rest of his life.

THE fifteenth century, the century in which King James I reigned and died, has been called the "Golden Age of Scottish Poetry," because of the number of poets who lived and wrote then. And so, although I am only going to speak of one other Scottish poet at present, you must remember that there were at this time many more. But of them all William Dunbar is counted the greatest.

WHEN Shakespeare first went to London he had a hard life. He found no better work to do than that of holding horses outside the theater doors. In those days the plays took place in the afternoon, and as many of the fine folk who came to watch them rode on horseback, some one was needed to look after the horses until the play was over. But poor though this work was, Shakespeare seems to have done it well, and he became such a favorite that he had several boys under him who were long known as "Shakespeare's boys." Their master, however, soon left work outside the theater for work inside.

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