Page images

recollects Gisippus, and to save his friend accuses himself as the guilty man: the real murderer, who was in the crowd, conscience-struck, avows his offence; he is pardoned, and of course the two friends end their days in the utmost happiness. This is the outline of the story, which has been very similarly worked up by different authors. Goldsmith has told it very elegantly under different names in his Bee.

Elliot. It is by no means one of the best even of the serious tales of Boccacio, and he introduces a tremendously long harangue into the middle of it.

Bourne. So does your name-sake, Sir Thomas Elliot, from whose prose narrative Lewicke almost copied, as I will prove after you have heard the following stanzas from one of the most interesting parts: what I have said of the story will make them intelligible.

"There in a sorie simple state,
Gisippus thence away did trudge,
Cursing his chance infortunate.
Oh lord, thought he, what man wold iudge
Titus to haue bene such a snudge,
From whom I suffer all this smart?
Gisippus thus at him did grudge
Thinking for euer to depart,"

Morton. The wretched rhyme of snudge shows to what shifts the author was driven by his stanza. What is the meaning of that word?

Bourne. Lewicke might have supplied Mr. Todd with an authority for it, who truly explains it to be a "sneaking fellow," but he furnishes no quotation: you interposed in the middle of a sentence; the tale proceeds, Gisippus being determined "for ever to depart,"

"From Rome and wander the desert
As a beast with madnes possest:
But yet he was well faine to start
(Being with werines opprest)
Into an old barne to take rest,
Where he falling flat on the ground
Drew out his knife, & thought it best
To geue himself a deadly wounde.

But wisdome did his wil so drounde

That from that act it did him kepe,

Until he fell into a sounde

Or (as god would as he did slepe)

Into a sad and slumbring slepe:

His knife, wherwith he would haue slain

himself, downe by his side did stepe.

In the meanetime a thefe certaine,

Which was a commen ruffian playne,
And had both robbed and slaine a man,
Thought in that barne for to remaine,
To hide him selfe that night; but whan
He sawe a wretch, bewept and wan,
On slep and a knife by his side,

He toke the knife and quietly than
Towardes the dead man he did glide.

Into his wound both depe and wide
(Which at that time did freshlye blede)
He put the knife, thinkinge to hide
His owne vile acte and mischeuous dede;
And brought it all blodie with spede
To poore Gysippus where he laye
Aslepe and put it (without drede)
Into his hand and went his way."

Elliot. That is mere narration: it is perspicuous, and it aims at nothing more.

Bourne. For that perspicuity, and even for some of his very words and phrases, Lewicke was indebted, not to Boccacio (we cannot allow him that credit), but merely to Sir T. Elliot's "Governor," which was first published, I believe, in 1534, and between that date and 1580 went through 8 or 10 editions. A few sentences will enable you to make a sufficient comparison. "And therwith drew his knife, purposing to haue slain him selfe. But euer wisedome (whiche he by the study of Philosophy had attaied) withdrew him frome that desperate acte. And in this contencion &c. or as god wolde haue it, he fell into a depe slepe. His knife (wherwith he woulde haue slaine him self) falling down by him. In the meane time a commune and notable rufia or thefe whiche had robbed and slaine a man, was entred into the barne, where Gisippus laie; the entente to soiorne there all that nyghte. And seeing Gisippus bewept, and his visage replenished with sorrowe, and also the naked knife by him, perceiued well, that he was a man desperate, & surprised with heauinesse of herte was werye of his life: which the saied rufyan takyng for a good occasion to escape, toke the knife of Gisippus and putting it in the wound of him that was slain, put it all bloody in the hand of Gisippus, beyng faste a slepe, and so departed."

Elliot. There is not only a strong resemblance throughout, but a perfect identity in some passages. Warton was certainly in an error.

Bourne. It is not worth while to read any more from Lewicke's production; what we have seen will fully answer the purpose for which I brought it forward. At the end is the following colophon: "Imprinted at London by Thomas Hacket, and are to be solde at hys shop in Lumbarde Streete." Mr. Dibdin (Ames IV. 581.) had never seen the book, and calls it a 4to.,_when, in fact, it is only an 8vo. We may now return to Churchyard: the following lines are from that part of his tract which treats of the "Troubles of Scotlande," and are part of what Mr. Chalmers would have inserted in his reprint had he known of the existence of such a poem.

"Shall man that hath the reason to forbeare
Be worse then beast? O God that fault forbid!
Shall malice find a place and succour there,
Where Gods greate gifts ought lie like treasure hid?
Shall harts of men (the temple of the Lorde)
Lodge murther vile, & nourish foule discorde?
Shall those that knowes what lawe & peace is worth
Breake Lawe & Peace, and breede dessention still?
The tree is bad that bryngs suche braunches forth,
The hedds are vaine, that showes no deeper skill;
The ground is nought that breeds such scratting
brers, And soile not good where murther still appers."

Elliot. That is not exactly quasi divino quodam spiritu inflation.

Bourne. I do not pretend that it is; Churchyard is there grave and didactic, and you must not expect him at any time to write in the florid and ambitious style of the "towering falcon," Fitzgeffrey: he was a poet of quite another class, as well as of a different age.

Elliot. What does he say of the "blessed state of England?" That will of course be interesting.

Bourne. I am afraid that it will not exactly suit your taste.

"Here haue we scope to skippe or walke,

to ronne & plaie at base; Still voide of feare, and free of minde,

in euery poincte and cace. Here freends maie meete and talke at will,

the Prince & Lawe obaied;

« PreviousContinue »