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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

IX. Stephen Hawes

§ 5. Hawes’s Learning and Models

We have seen that Hawes was reputed a man of wide learning, and his writings bear this out. He was familiar with the Bible and with theological books. The influence of the wisdom-literature of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha is manifest in the prominent part assigned to Wisdom and Discretion in The Example of Virtue. The conclusion of the same poem is crowded with saints and martyrs, while Augustine and Bernard are quoted in The Conversion of Swearers. The exposition of the sciences in The Passetyme, though not free from slips, of which he was himself aware, shows that he had studied the text-books of the trivium and quadrivium. It was not, however, the intellectual value of those studies that appealed to him so much as their moral influence. Rhetoric and music, he says, produce not only order in words and harmony in sounds, but also order in man’s life and harmony in his soul. Hawes was thoroughly versed in the romantic and allegorical writings of the preceding generations. He appeals to Caxton’s Recuyell of the Histories of Troy, and, speaking of Arthur, he evidently refers to Malory’s Morte d’Arthur as a familiar book. Whether or not Hawes possessed the powerful memory attributed to him, his methods, illustrations, turns of phrase, continually remind us of the Roman de la Rose, of Chaucer—Troilus and Criseyde for example—of Gower’s Confessio Amantis, of Lydgate—especially The Temple of Glass. His indebtedness to these three poets he frequently acknowledges; and it may be summarily illustrated. The prayer at the end of The Passetyme, that the scansion may not be marred by bad printing and that the poet’s intention may be manifest, is, in idea and phrasing, closely modelled on a passage near the conclusion of Chaucer’s Troilus. Troilus, which Hawes often cites, is also his original for the lovers’ meeting in the temple of Music and for their sorrowful parting, chaps. XVII, XIX. Gower’s Confessio supplies the fabliaux about Aristotle and Vergil, and the tradition that Evander’s daughter devised the principles of Latinity, chaps. XXIX, V. The Passetyme resembles The Temple of Glass in being partly in rime royal, partly in decasyllabic couplets. Again, the dazzling brightness of the tower of Doctrine and the impossibility of gazing at it till clouds covered the sun, chap. III, Hawes borrowed, diction and all, from Lydgate’s description of the crystal fane. The gold vine with grapes of rubies in the roof of the same tower comes from Mandeville. Hawes evidently had The Court of Sapience also in his mind. The prison in the tower of Chastity, chap. XXXII, is a distant and pale reflection of Dante’s Inferno. Finally, Hawes appears to have drawn, directly or indirectly, from Martianus Capella’s de Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, the well known text-book of the Middle Ages.