Be merry, man! and take not sair in mind

The wavering of this wretchit world of sorrow! To God be humble, and to thy friend be kind,

And with thy neighbours gladly lend and borrow: His chance to-night, it may be thine to-morrow.

Be blithe in heart for any aventure;
For oft with wysurel it has been said aforrow,2

Without gladnéss availis no treasure.


Make thee good cheer of it that God thee sends,

For worldis wrak3 but welfare, nought avails : Na good is thine, save only but thou spends;

Remenant all thou brookis but with bales. Seek to soláce when sadness thee assails :

In dolour lang thy life may not endure; Wherefore of comfort set up all thy sails :

Without gladness availis no treasure.


Follow on pity;5 flee trouble and debate;

With famous folkis hold thy company; Be charitable, and humble in thine estate,

For worldly honour lastis but a cry; 6 For trouble in earth take no melancholy;

Be rich in patience, gif thou in goods be poor; Who livis merry, he livis mightily :

Without gladnéss availis no treasure.


Though all the werk? that ever had livand wight

Were only thine, no more thy part does fall But meat, drink, clais,8 and of the laifo a sight!

Yet, to the Judge thou shall give 'compt of all. Ane reckoning right comes of ane ragment 10 small,

Be just, and joyous, and do to none injúre, And TRUTH SHALL MAKE THEE STRONG AS ANY WALL:

Without gladnéss availis no treasure.

1 Wisdom. 2 A-fore, before. 8 Merchandise, treasure; that is, world's trash without health. Here we see the original, etymological meaning of the preposition but to be without.

4 Thou canst enjoy all the remainder only with bale, or sorrow. 6 Originally pity and piety are the same. 6 No longer than a sound. 7 Possessions. 8 Clothes. 9 Remainder. 10 One accompt

[blocks in formation]

SIR TAOMAS MORE was, without doubt, the most prominent character of the reign of Henry VIII. He was born in London in the year 1480. When a boy he was in the family of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who used to say of him to his guests, “ This boy who waits at my table, who lives to see it, will prove/a marvellous man.” He entered the University of Oxford at the age of seventeen, and at the age of twenty-two was elected member of Parliament. In 1516 he was sent to Flanders on an important mission, and on his return, the king conferred on him the honor of knighthood, and appointed him one of his privy council. In 1529, on the disgrace of Cardinal Wolsey, he was appointed Lord Chancellor, being the first layman who ever held the office. But he was soon to experience in himself the language which Shakspeare puts into the mouth of Wolsey to Cromwell,

“How wretched Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favors." Henry VIII. doubtless raised More to this high office, that he might aid him to obtain a divorce from his wife, and to marry Anne Boleyn. But More was sincerely attached to the Roman church, and looked with horror upon any thing that was denounced by the supreme head of the church, as the king's divorce was hy the pope. He therefore begged that monster of wickedness, Henry VIII., to excuse him from giving an opinion. But the tyrant was relentless, and the result was, that when the ct of Supremacy was passed by Parliament, 1534, declaring Henry to be the supreme head of the church, More refused to take the oath required of him, and he died on a scaffold, a martyr to his adhesion to the papal church, and the supremacy of the pope, on the 5th of July, 1535. • Nothing is wanting,” (says Mr. Hume,) " to the glory of this end but a better cause. But as the man followed his principles and sense of duty, however misguided, his constancy and integrity are not the less objects of our admiration.

More was a man of true genius, and of a mind enriched with all the learning of his time, and no one had a greater influence over his contemporaries. He held continued correspondence with the learned men of Europe. The great Erasmus went to England on purpose to enjoy the pleasure of his con versation. It is said that their first meeting was at the lord mayor's table, at that time always open to men of learning and eminence, but they were unknown to each other. At dinner, a dispute arising on some theological points, Erasmus expressed himself with great severity of the clergy, and ridiculed, with considerable acrimony, the doctrine of transubstantiation. More rejoined with all his strength of argument and keenness of wit. Erasmus, thus assailed, exclaimed with some vehemence, “ Aut tu Morus es, aut nullus ;''1 to which More with great readiness replied, “ Aut tu es Erasmus, aut Diabolus." 2

[ocr errors]

1 * You are either More or no one."

2 “Either you are Erasmus or the Devil."

In this contest Sir Thomas's wit, if not his arguments, rather prevailed; but not long after, Erasmus had a far greater advantage. More had lent Eras. mus a horse, which he took over with him to Holland. Instead of returning it to the owner, he sent him the following epigram, intended as an answer to the former arguments of Sir Thomas on the subject of transubstantiation

Quod mihi dixisti
De corpore Christi,

Crede qudd edas, et edis:
Sic tibi rescribo
De tuo palfrido,

Crede qudd habeas, et habes.1 More was of a very cheerful or rather mirthful disposition, which forsook him not to the last, and he jested even when about to lay his head upon the block. The following couplet, which is attributed to him, indicates the state of mind, which may have partially enabled him to meet his fate with a fortitude so admirable :

If evils come not, then our fears are vain;

And if they do, fear but augments the pain. Truth, however, compels me to add that his character presents many inconsistencies; for though he was a witty companion, he was a stern fanatic; though playful and affectionate in his own household, he lorded it with an iron rod over God's heritage; though an enlightened statesman, ably arguing in his study against sanguinary laws, from his chair of office he spared no pains to carry the most sanguinary into execution; and though ranked as a philosopher, he, every Friday, scourged his own body with whips of knotted cords, and by way of further penance, wore a hair shirt next to his lacerated skin.

The most celebrated work of Sir Thomas More was his Utopia. The title of it is as follows: «« A most pleasant, fruitful, and witty Work of the best State of the public Weal, and of the new Isle called Utopia.” It is a philosophical romance, in which More, after the manner of Plato, erects an imaginary republic, arranges society in a form entirely new, and endows it with institutions more likely, as he thought, to secure its happiness, than any which mankind had hitherto experienced. But while there is much in it that is fanciful and truly Utopian, there is also much that is truly excellent and worthy to be adopted. Thus, instead of severe punishment for theft, the author would improve the morals and condition of the people, so as to take away the temptation to crime; for, says he, “if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education exposed theni,

1 For want of a better, I give the following version:

or Christ's body you said
Believe that 'tis bread,

And bread it surely will be;
Thus to you I write back-
Believe that your hack

Is with you, and with you is he. 2 More properly written Eutopla, from the Greek eu (su) "Well, happily,” and topos (70805) “a place:” that is, “a land of perfect happiness.” The Utopia was written in Latin, and not translated till a subsequent age, by Bishop Burnet.


what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them ?"

DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLAND UTOPIA. It is somewhere in the midst of the sea, of a crescent shape, like the new moon, but more curved, the two extremities coming nearer together. Hence the concave part forms an admirable harbor for ships, but the entrance is so full of rocks, that no one but a Utopian could steer a vessel safely into the harbor. They are therefore secure from the attacks of an enemy. There are fifty-four cities in the island, about the same distance apart. They are surrounded by high walls; the streets twenty feet wide. All the houses have large gardens in the rear. “ Whoso will may go in,” for there is nothing within the houses that is private, or any man's own. And every tenth year they change houses by lot.

THEIR TRADES AND MANNER OF LIFE. Agriculture is that which is sơ universally understood among them all, that no person either man or woman is ignorant of it. The husbandmen labor the ground, breed cattle, hew wood, and convey it to the towns. They also raise a great deal of poultry, and that " by a marvellous policy: for the hens do not sit upon the eggs; but by keeping them in a certain equal heat, they bring life into them and hatch them: and the chickens, as soon as they come out of the shell, follow men and women instead of hens.” Besides agriculture, every man has some peculiar trade to which he applies himself. All the island over they wear the same sort of clothes, without any other distinction than that which is necessary for marking the difference between the two sexes, and the married and 'un. married. The fashion never alters, and every family makes their own clothes.

In TRAVELLING, though “ they carry nothing forth with them, yet in all their journey they lack nothing: for wheresoever they come they be at home." There are no “wine taverns nor ale-houses" there, so that the disgraceful business of manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks is not known. Happy island!

THEIR NOTIONS OF FINERY AND WEALTH. 4. The Utopians wonder how any man should be so much taken with the glaring, doubtful lustre of a jewel or stone, that can look up to a star, or to the sun itself: or how any should value himself because his cloth is made of finer thread; for, how fine soever that thread may be, it was once no better than the fleece of a sheep, and that sheep was a sheep still for all its wearing it. They wonder much to hear that gold, which in itself is so useless a thing, should be everywhere so much esteemed, that even man, for whom it was made, and by whom it has its value, should yet be thought of less value than it is; so that a man of lead, who has no more sense than a log of wood, and is as bad as he is foolish, should have many wise and good men serving him, only because he had a great heap of that metal.”

TaEiR NOTIONS OF HUNTING. “ Among foolish pursuers of pleasure they reckon all those that delight in hunting, or birding, or gaming; of whose madness they have only heard, for they have no such things among them. What pleasure, they ask, can one find in seeing dogs run after a hare? It ought rather to stir pity, when a weak, harmless, and timid hare is devoured by a strong, fierce, and cruel dog. Therefore, all this business of hunting is, among the Utopians, turned over to their butchers; and they look on hunting as one of the basest parts of a butcher's work."

1 So graphic is Sir Thomas's description of Utopia, that many of the learned of that day took it for true history, and thought it expedient that missionaries should be sent out to convert so wise a people to Christianity,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


OF LAWS AND LAWYERS. “They have but few laws, and such is their constitution that they need not many. They do very much condemn other nations whose laws, together with the comments on them, swell up so many volumes; for they think it an unreasonable thing to oblige men to obey a body of laws that are both of such a bulk and so dark that they cannot be read or understood by every one of the subjects. They have no lawyers among them, for they consider them as sort of people whose profession it is to disguise matters as well as to wrest laws; and, therefore, they think it is much better that every man should plead his own cause, and trust it to the judge.”

OF THEIR NOTIONS OF WAR. They detest war as a very brutal thing; and which, to the reproach of human nature, is more practiced by men than any sort of beasts: and they, against the custom of almost all other nations, think that there is nothing more inglorious than that glory which is gained by war. They would be both troubled and ashamed of a bloody victory over their enemies; and in no victory do they glory so much, as in that which is gained by dexterity and good conduct, without bloodshed.”3

Such are a few of the many admirable reflections to be found in the Utopia. No one can read it attentively without profit, and without acknowledging it to be full of those profound observations and shrewd insights into human nature, which show the author to be a man of singular wisdom, and far in advance of the spirit and practices of his own age.4

Besides the Utopia, Sir Thomas wrote a great number of theological treatises, the main design of which was to oppose the Reformation. He also wrote a “ History of Edward V. and his Brother, and of Richard III.” Of this, Hume speaks in the highest terms: “ No historian,” (he says, “either of ancient or modern times, can possibly have more weight. He may justly be esteemed a contemporary with regard to the murder of the two princes; and it is plain from his narrative that he had the particulars from the eyewitnesses themselves.” That wretch, Richard III., resolved, as the first step to his usurpation, to get both the young princes into his hand. Accordingly he despatched Cardinal Bourchier, with other ecclesiastics, to the queen, to prevail upon her to give them up. After a long dialogue, the cardinal, perceiving the little progress he had made with her, finally assured her that if she would consent to deliver the Duke of York to him, he “ durst lay his own body and soul both pledge, not only for his surety, but also for his estate." The queen, seeing longer resistance to be fruitless, taking the young duke by the hand, thus addressed the cardinal and other lords:

My lord, (quod she,) and all my lords, I neither am so unwise to mistrust your wits, nor so suspicious to mistrust your truths. Of which thing I purpose to make you such a proof, as if either


[ocr errors]

1 “This is a home thrust. Our laws are so numerous, that, together with their commentaries, they would have furnished sufficient solid reading for Adam, had he lived until now; and the best of it is, that he would probably have been as wise when he concluded as when he began."--J. A. St. John.

2 “As long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters."-Gibbon.

3 Another home thrust; for modern generals, so they obtain the victory, care not a straw for the expense of human life by which it is purchased.

4 Read-the "Preliminary Discourse” to an excellent edition of the Utopia, by J. A. St. John, Esq.; London, 1845: also, an admirably written life of More in Lord Campbell's “Lives of the Chancellors,”— one of the most interesting and instructive biographical works in the language.

« VorigeDoorgaan »