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SERIES THE SECOND.
A BALLAD OF LUTHER, THE POPE, A
CARDINAL, AND A HUSBANDMAN. In the former Book, we brought down this second Series of poems as low as about the middle of the sixteenth century. We now find the Muses deeply engaged in religious controversy. The sudden revolution, wrought in the opinions of mankind by the Reformation, is one of the most striking events in the history of the human mind. It could not but engross the attention of every individual in that age, and therefore no other writings would have any chance to be read, but such as related to this grand topic. The alterations made in the established religion by Henry VIII, the sudden changes it underwent in the three succeeding reigns within so short a space as eleven or twelve years, and the violent struggles between expiring Popery, and growing Protestantism, could not but interest all mankind. Accordingly every pen was engaged in the dispute. The followers of the Old and New Profession (as they were called) had their respective Ballad-makers; and every day produced some popular sonnet for or against the Reformation. The following ballad, and that intitled “Little John Nobody,' may serve for specimens of the writings of each party. Both were written in the reign of Edward VI; and are not the worst that were composed upon the occasion. Controversial divinity is no friend to poetic flights. Yet this ballad of Luther and the Pope,' is not altogether devoid of spirit; it is of the dramatic kind, and the characters are tolerably well sustained; especially that of Luther, which is made to speak in a manner not unbecoming the spirit and courage of that vigorous Reformer. It is printed from the original black-letter copy (in the Pepys collection, vol. I. folio,) to which is prefixed a large wooden cut, designed and executed by some eminent master.
We are not to wonder that the Ballad-writers of that age should be inspired with the zeal of controversy, when the very stage teemed with polemic divinity. I have now before me two very ancient quarto black-letter plays: the one published in the time of Henry VIII, intitled, Every man; the other called Ilusty Juventus, printed in the reign of Edward VI. In the former of these, occasion is taken to inculcate great reverence for old mother church and her
superstitions : 1 in the other, the poet (one R. Wever) with great success attacks both. So that the Stage in those days literally was, what wise men have always wished it,-a supplement to the pulpit. This was so much the case, that in the play of Lusty Juventus, chapter and verse are every where quoted as formally as in a sermon; take an instance :
"The Lord by his prophet Ezechiel sayeth in this wise playnlye,
Be converted, 0 ye children, &c.' From this play we learn that most of the young people were New Gospellers, or friends to the Reformation; and that the old were tenacious of the doctrines imbibed in their youth: for thus the Devil is introduced lamenting the downfal of superstition :
• The olde people would believe stil in my lawes,
In olde traditions, and made by men, &c.'
The worlde was never meri
The father a foole, the chyld a preacher.' Of the plays abovementioned, to the first is subjoined the following Printer's Colophon, 1 Chus endeth this moral plape of Every man. [Impronted at London in Powles chprche parde bp me John Skot. In Mr. Garrick's collection is an imperfect copy of the same play, printed by Richarde Pynson.
The other is intitled, An enterlude called Lusty Juventus : and is thus distinguished at the end: Finis. quod R. Wever. Imprinted at London in Paules churche peard, by Abraham Dere at the signe of the Lambe. Of this too Mr. Garrick has an imperfect copy of a different edition.
Of these two Plays the Reader may find some farther particulars in the former Volume, Book II. see the Essay on the Origin of the English Stage; and the curious Reader will find the Plays themselves printed at large in Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama,' 3 vols. Oxford, 1773, 12mo. 1 Take a specimen from his high encomiums on the priesthood,
“There is no emperour, kyng, duke, ne baron
God hath to them more power gyven,
God gave preest that dignitè,
See Hawkins's Orig. of Eng. Drama, Vol. I. p. 61.
THE HUSBANDMAN. LET us lift up our hartès all,
And prayse the Lordes magnificence, Which hath given the wolues a fall,
And is become our strong defence :
For they thorowe a false pretens From Christes bloude dyd all us leade,
Gettynge from every man his pence, As satisfactours for the deade.
For what we with our FLAYLES coulde get
To kepe our house, and servauntes; That did the Freers from us fet,
And with our soules played the merchauntes :
And thus they with theyr false warràntes
That for fatnesse theyr belyes pantes,
The carefull, nor the pore wydowe;
If it above the ground did growe:
But now we Husbandmen do knowe Al their subteltye, and their false caste;
For the lorde hath them overthrowe With his swete word now at the laste.
DOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER.
Has usurpèd kyngès powers,
li.e. denied us the cup, see below, ver. 94.
Thou thinkest by thy jugglyng colours
As do the deceatful foulers,
Thou flatterest every prince, and lord,
Thretening poore men with swearde and fyre; All those, that do followe Gods worde,
To make them cleve to thy desire,
Theyr bokes thou burnest in flaming fire; Cursing with boke, bell, and candell,
Such as to reade them have desyre, Or with them are wyllynge to meddell.
Thy false power wyl I bryng down,
Thou shalt not raygne many a yere,
Even with this PEN that thou seyste here:
Thou fyghtest with swerd, shylde, and speare, 45 But I wyll fyght with Gods worde;
Which is now so open and cleare,
And to utter dampnacion,
Yet doth our lawe excuse my fashion.
For blamynge me, and my condicion, The holy decres have the[e] condempnèd.
1 i.e. Make thee knock under the table.
Thou stryvest against my purgatory,
Because thou findest it not in scripture;
Knowest thou not, that I have power
In erth, and every creature ? Whatsoever I do it must be well.
As for scripture, I am above it;
Am not I Gods hye vicare? Shulde I be bounde to folowe it,
As the carpenter his rulèr?1
Nay, nay, hereticks ye are, That will not obey my auctoritie.
With this SWORDE I wyll declare, That ye shal al accursed be.
Sent from Christes hye vicary,
That wil Luther resist strongly:
He is a greate herèticke treuly,
For he thinketh onely thereby
Receive ye this PARDON devoutely,
And loke that ye agaynst him fight; Plucke up youre herts, and be manlye, For the pope sayth ye do but ryght:
'i.e. his rule. VOL. II.