Humanism in England

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Тетради по истории английской литературы

Пособие для учителей и учащихся. Часть III

Волкова Н. Л.

At the head of the English Renaissance better known as Reformation stood a group of new thinkers known as the Oxford Reformers. The leaders of this group were William Grocyn (1440?-1519), Thomas Linacre (cir. 1460-1524), John Colet (1467?-1519?), the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536), and Sir Thomas More (1478-1535). In 1491 Grocyn returned from Italy, where he had studied under greatest classical scholars of the day, and he started the regular public instruction in Greek at Oxford. He was soon joined by his friend Linacre. Among Linacre’s students was Thomas More, the attractive and quick-witted youth who already seemed likely to prove a “marvellous man”. By 1497, Oxford had acquired such a reputation as a school for the classics that Erasmus, too poor to go to Italy, came to England instead, to study under Grocyn and Linacre. Under these men and their associates Oxford became the centre of new learning in England and Cambridge soon joined in. The work of Oxford Reformers bears the stamp of a deeply serious and religious spirit. The knowledge of Greek which Colet gained in semi-pagan Italy he applied to the study of the New Testament, he also read a course of lectures on the Epistles of St. Paul. Colet devoted a considerable part of his fortune to the establishment of the free grammar school of St. Paul in London; and in this school (although great attention was given to the classics), the image of the child Christ was set up above the headmaster’s desk, with the inscription, “Hear ye Him”. Both Erasmus and More were profoundly serious, having caught much of Colet’s spirit. More jested with his executioner on the steps of the scaffold, but he willingly died for his faith. Thomas More was keenly alive to imperfections of both Church and State. In his account of imaginary commonwealth of Utopia (1516), he set before Europe a picture of an ideal state.

The Bible was translated and Luther faced Pope and Cardinal with his “Here I stand, Martin Luther; I cannot do otherwise: God help me.” The year of 1525 saw the introduction of Tyndale’s translation of the Bible, and eight years later the policy of Henry VIII withdrew the Church from the headship of Rome.

The difference between these English humanists and many of their Italian contemporaries is more than personal, it is national also. The Renaissance in England was a thing different from the Renaissance in Italy. The Renaissance in England produced no Raphael, no Michel Angelo; but it produced no Borgia or no Machiavelli. The Renaissance in Italy, which embodied in colour and stone a love of beauty, produced no such mighty intellect as that of Bacon, it produced no Shakespeare. The attraction of Italy for the English is the attraction of opposites.

In the fifteenth century England had absorbed many vital influences; early in the sixteenth century these new ideas began to find the outlet in the work of a new class of writers, and we reach the threshold of the Elizabethan Era, when the Renaissance expressed itself in English literature.

The Bible

The English Bible became, in its various forms, the single most important book of the sixteenth century.

Prior to the Reformation, most laypeople encountered the Bible through the interpretations of priests, who were able to read it in the Latin translation known as the Vulgate. Protestants insisted that the Scriptures should be available to all laypeople in their own languages. In 1525, a remarkable English translation of the New Testament by the Lutheran William Tyndale was printed on the Continent and smuggled into England. In 1530 it was followed by Tyndale’s translation of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). Attempts to suppress the edition were futile, although Tyndale himself was arrested and executed in 1536. Three years after Tyndale was burned at the stake, this book was ordered to be placed in every church in England.

With the accession of Edward VI, many editions of the Bible followed, but the process was sharply reversed when Mary came to the throne in 1553: along with people condemned as heretics, English Bibles were burned in great bonfires.

Marian persecution was directly responsible for what would become the most scholarly Protestant English Bible, the translation known as the Geneva Bible. After Elizabeth came to the throne, church authorities ordered a careful revision of the Great Bible. The success of the Geneva Bible prompted those Elizabethan Catholics to bring out a vernacular translation of their own, the Douay-Rheims version, in order to counter the Protestant readings and glosses.

After Elizabeth’s death in 1603, King James I and his bishops ordered that a revised translation of the entire Bible be undertaken by a group of forty-seven scholars. The result was the Authorised Version, more popularly known as the King James Bible.

In the passage selected here, I Corinthians 13, Tyndale’s use of the word “love,” echoed by Geneva Bible, is set against the Catholic “charity.” The latter term would gesture toward the religious doctrine of “works,” against the Protestant insistence on salvation by faith alone. It is a sign of the conservative, moderate Protestantism of the King James version that it too opts for “charity.”

From the Tyndale’s Bible, 1525, 1535.

1 Corinthians 13

Though I spake with the tongues of men and angels, and yet had no love, I were even as sounding brass: or as a tinkling cymbal.

And though I could prophesy, and understood all secrets, and all knowledge: yea, if I had all faiths so that I could move mountains out of their places, and yet had no love, I were nothing.

And though I bestowed all my goods to feed the poor, and though I gave my body even that I burned, and yet had no love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love suffereth long, and is courteous. Love envieth not. Love doth not frowardly, swelleth not, dealeth not dishonestly, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh not evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity: but rejoiceth in the truth, suffereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth in all things.

Though that prophesying fail, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge vanish away, yet love falleth never away.

For our knowledge is imperfect, and our prophesying is imperfect.

But when that which is perfect is come then that which is imperfect shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I imagined as a child. But as soon as I was a man, I put away childishness.

Now we see in a glass even in a dark speaking: but then shall we see face to face. Now I know imperfectly: but then shall I know even as I am known.

Now abideth faith hope, and love, even these three: but the chief of these is love.

From the Geneva Bible, 1560, 1602.

1 Corinthians 13

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not lov
e, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profith me nothing.

Love suffereth long and is kind.

Love envieth not.

Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doeth not behave itself unseemly.

Seeketh not her own.

Is not easily provoked.

Thinketh no evil.

Rejoiceth not in inequity, but rejoiceth in the truth.

Bareth all things.

Believeth all things.

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Humanism in England

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