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simple and steadfast. “ That she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master.”
The night before her martyrdom she composed a hymn which, though rugged, is not only interesting as one of the earliest poems in our language composed by a woman, but for the sentiments and the circumstances of the writer.
THE HYMN ANNE ASKEWE MADE THE NIGHT
BEFORE HER EXECUTION.*
Like as an armed knight
Appointed to the field,
And Faith shall be my shield.
Which will not fail at need ;
With it will I proceed.
And force of Christ's own way,
Though devils all say nay.
Obtained right witness,
To fear not earth's distress.
And Hope bids me do so ;
And ease me of my woe.
* These verses are slightly modernized,
Lord, thou say'st, “Whoso will knock,
To them will I attend : Therefore undo the lock,
And thy strong power send.
Alas ! more enemies, I have
Than hairs upon my head ; Let them not me deprave,
But fight thou in my stead. On Thee my care I cast,
For all their cruel spite; I care not for their haste,
Since Thou art my delight.
Like some, I'll never list,
My anchor to let fall For every drizzling mist
My ship's substantial.
I'm little used to write
In either prose or rhyme; Yet will I show one sight, That I saw in
I saw a royal throne,
Where justice ought to sit, But in her stead was one,
Of mighty cruel wit.
Engulph'd was righteousness,
As by the raging flood — Satan with all eagerness Suck'd
up the guiltless blood.
Then thought I, “ Jesus, Lord!
When thou shalt judge us all,
Hard is it to record,
On these men what will fall !
For that they do to me,
Of their iniquity.”
It is impossible that such women as flourished during that age could have lived and died in vain. The times, also, were eventful in other matters. New regions had been discovered, and the spirit of enterprise was strong, while the principles of the reformers had spread on every side. The seeds sown by Wickliffe two hundred years previously, and which had long germinated almost imperceptibly, now sprung up and yielded an abundant harvest. The scales of ignorance that had too long blinded the people, fell off, and their eyes were opened. Then came the great era of the Reformation, an event scarcely less important to literature than to religion, inasmuch as a noble literature is likely to be the product of a pure and holy faith.
THE REFORMATION, AND THE LITERARY ACTIVITY OF
WICKLIFFE's 160 or 200 manuscripts had been hunted up and safely burned in England and in Bohemia, and their ashes scattered, like those of their author, to the four winds of heaven; but the spirit in those writings, being the spirit of truth, was indestructible, and was destined in due time to be embodied in a worthy successor.
About thirty years after printing was invented in Germany, and twelve years after it had been introduced into England, Martin Luther was born
“ The solitary monk that shook the world.”
Luther's early personal history is brief but interesting. Born in poverty at Eisleben, in Saxony, of honest, intelligent, strict parents; want and work were his inheritance. A mind at once strong and active manifested itself, even in childhood; and the father, poor labourer as he was, determined his son should be a scholar. He went to the school ; but there learning was made as repulsive as possible by a brutal teacher. Still the boy persevered; obtained access ultimately to higher schools of learning, though obliged, as the custom was, to beg his bread with the poor scholars who in Germany used to sing and chant before the doors of the benevolent. His mind became deeply exercised on the subject of religion. He found nothing in the classics or the writings of the schoolmen to satisfy the craving of a soul that felt its need of a Saviour. At length he fell upon an old Latin Bible, and opening on the history of Samuel, — the child dedicated by his pious mother to the Lord, - he read and read again and again. What light was falling on his darkened soul! Still his conversion did not take place then. The sudden death of his friend Alexis roused him to a deeper sense of his own condition as a sinner.
“ Was he himself prepared to die, if 80 suddenly smitten ?” was a question conscience put with terrible distinctness. Soon after a terrific thunder-storm placed him in deadly peril. The lightning glared in upon Luther's soul, and kindled a fire of dread that nothing but the knowledge of a Saviour could appease. Fortunately he knew where to get this knowledge. The writings and preaching of the cloister were both vain and empty: he could not allay his appetite with the husks that the swine did eat: but in the neglected old book — the Latin version of the Holy Scrip