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English Literature

AFTER Coleridge and Wordsworth once met they soon became fast friends, and in order to be near Coleridge the Wordsworths moved to another house near Nether Stowey in Somersetshire.

HROTHGAR, King of the Spear Danes, was a mighty man in war, and when he had fought and conquered much, he bethought him that he would build a great and splendid hall, wherein he might feast and be glad with his people.

And so it was done. And when the hall was built, there night by night the thanes gathered and rejoiced with their King; and there, when the feast was over, they lay them down to sleep.

    "'Twas in spring, when winter tide 
    With his blasts, terrible to bide 
    Was overcome; and birdies small, 
    As throstle and the nightingale, 
    Began right merrily to sing, 

THERE are so many books now published which tell the stories of the Faery Queen, and tell them well, that you may think I hardly need have told one here. But few of these books give the poet's own words, and I have told the story here giving quotations from the poem in the hope that you will read them and learn from them to love Spenser's own words. I hope that long after you have forgotten my words you will remember Spenser's, that they will remain in your mind as glowing word-pictures, and make you anxious to read more of the poem from which they are taken.

THE second great Puritan writer of England was John Bunyan. He was born in 1628, more than twenty years after Milton. His father was a tinker. A tinker! The word makes us think of ragged, weather-worn men and women who wander about the countryside. They carry bundles of old umbrellas, and sometimes a battered kettle or two. They live, who knows how? they sleep, who knows where? Sometimes in our walks we come across a charred round patch upon the grass in some quiet nook by the roadside, and we know the tinkers have been there, and can imagine all sorts of stories about them.

"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.

LONG before Wordsworth closed his eyes on this world, Coleridge, in some ways a greater poet than his friend, had gone to his last rest. Wordsworth had a happy, loving understanding of the little things of real life. He had an "exquisite regard for common things," but his words have seldom the glamour, the something which we cannot put into words which makes us see beyond things seen. This Coleridge had. It is not only his magic of words, it is this trembling touch upon the unknown, the unearthly beauty and sadness of which he makes us conscious in his poems that marks him as great.

ALTHOUGH there are lines of Beowulf which seem to show that the writer of the poem was a Christian, they must have been added by some one who copied or retold the story long after the Saxons had come to Britain, for the poet who first told the tale must have been a heathen, as all the Saxons were.

The Britons were Christian, for they had learned the story of Christ from the Romans. But when the Saxons conquered the land they robbed and ruined the churches, the Christian priests were slain or driven forth, and once more the land became heathen.

The Bruce is a book which is the outcome of the history of the times. It is the outcome of the quarrels between England and Scotland, and of Scotland's struggle for freedom. Now we come to another poet, and another poem which was the outcome of the quarrels between England and Scotland. For although Scotland's freedom was never again in danger, the quarrels between the two countries were, unhappily, not over.

IN the beginnings of our literature there were two men who, we might say, were the fountain-heads. These were the gay minstrel abroad in the world singing in hall and market-place, and the patient monk at work in cell or cloister. And as year by year our literature grew, strengthened and broadened, we might say it flowed on in two streams. It flowed in two streams which were ever joining, mingling, separating again, for the monk and the minstrel spoke to man each in his own way.

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