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A Critical Analysis of Sampling Literature from the Reformation and Restoration Period

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A Critical Analysis of Sampling Literature from the Reformation and Restoration Period

            This is a review and analysis of two works each from the Reformation and the Restoration Periods. The works of Martin Luther in his German Translation of the Bible, and William Tyndale’s “The Obedience of a Christian Man are samplings from the Reformation period while John Dryden’s poem ‘Song to a Fair Young Lady, Going Out of Town in the Spring ‘and Samuel Johnsons ‘Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenile’ are samplings from the Restoration Period.

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The Analysis will include personal criticisms and the works significance from a literary point of view and their impact to modern literary appreciation.

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Part I Reformation: Martin Luther’s German Bible

“I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” (Luther 1483-1546)

            German monk, theologian, university professor, priest, father of Protestantism, and church reformer Martin Luther’s ideas started the Protestant Reformation and changed the course of Western civilization.

At the center of his teachings is the ideology that salvation is a free gift from God and can only be acquired from Jesus, the redeemer of sins. This posed as a challenge to the infallibility of the Pope, writing that the Holy Bible is the only infallible source of Christian Doctrine. Furthermore, considered perhaps as his greatest life work, a translation of the New Testament into German had great impacts as it brought the scriptures to a larger scale of accessibility, as well as influencing the King James translation of the Bible. His tenacity and refusal to retract his writing in A Diet of Worms in 1521 in Confrontation with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V caused him to be excommunicated by Pope Leo X.

            Debatably so, his German Translation of the Holy Bible, which later came to be known as the Luther Bible, first printed in 1534, did not only bring the Scriptures to greater accessibility to his people, but also set a standard in the evolution of the modern

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German Language. The 19th century theologian Philip Schaff sees this translation as a work that brings the scriptures closer to the hearts of the people.

“The richest fruit of Luther’s leisure in the Wartburg, and the most important and useful work of his whole life, is the translation of the New Testament, by which he brought the teaching and example of Christ and the Apostles to the mind and heart of the Germans in life-like reproduction. It was a republication of the gospel. He made the Bible the people’s book in church, school, and house.” (Schaff 1819-1893)

            The rich poeticism and “closer” to the heart translation of Luther of the Bible in German did not only have impacts on theology and Christianity, but as well as education and linguistics. The rich stylization and ‘embellishments’ in the translation were taken both ways; one as a deviation from the true ‘literal’ meaning of the scriptures, while on the other hand, a romanticized proximity to the German people. Personally, I believe that whether such a highly embellished style served its purpose to endear and bring the scriptures closer to the people or not, one thing remains clear, that the Bible, in all due respects, is perhaps the most wonderful literary work that defies time and translation and never fails to incite deeper introspections as to its real significance and importance in the realms of spirituality and theology. To my mind, it must be remembered that such “necessary’ embellishment add to the wonderful literary history of a book that continues to incite and provoke endless discussions and debates, and as such, aside from its obvious theological importance, must also be considered a study in and in contrast with literary styles and period writings for the literaturist, spiritual or not.

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Part II Reformation: William Tyndale’s The Obedience of A Christian Man

“I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.” (Tyndale 1494- 1536)

Tyndale was a 16th century protestant reformer and scholar. He was the first to translate the Bible, drawing directly from Hebrew and Greek into the Modern English of his time. Just like Luther, his works were among those from which the King James Version of the Bible also drew heavily from. His non mainstream works also irked the church and the powers that be, which caused him to be arrested, jailed, tried for hearsay, and executed and burned in 1536.

In October 2, 1528, he published his book “The Obedience of A Christian Man.” This caused a great storm, as there was a general ignorance of the Bible’s meanings during those times. Just like Luther, he was also a believer of “Married Clergy” and the ideology of “Non-Intermediary” between God and the soul, which of course, was seen as anti-papal and in contradiction to the power of the priest in the sacrament of confession.

Perhaps the most critical of points in his book are two-pointed; First, that there is a divinely ordained social structure from above, and below. Obedience must be applied equally to everyone, from the lowest of men, in life and riches, to even the King himself.  Second, he used the scriptures to attack the malpractices of the church during his time, and all under the direct protection of the Pope, in all sorts of corrupt practices.

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 “Obedience applies to all — even kings must be servants of God. From Christ came the law of love; not the making of riches at the cost of other people. Secondly the book tackles the corruption of the clergy of the English church in the direct control of the Pope. The king himself should rid the English nation of them and demand reparation. With the authority of Scripture, Tyndale can attack the follies associated with the worship of saints and modern ‘miracles’; fraudulent beliefs associated with purgatory; the ‘belly-brotherhood’ of monks and friars; the dangers of the confessional and the great suffering imposed on ordinary people through corrupt priesthood. One example of this was the practice of ‘mortuaries’ whereby the officiating priest at a funeral could take the most valuable item in a household.” (Stephen Green, August 2001.)

Personally, I am in awe and amazed by the effective use, and great command of Tyndale of the English language to put forth his arguments in his bid to rid English life of Roman interference. Such thought provoking and compelling piece of writing, from a litreaturist’s point of view, is a powerful and effective use of mastery of language to awaken vigilance, and invite critical thought to what he believes ails the life of his people during his time. Akin to and in the tradition of “protest” literature, this body of work puts forth a mix of theological digressions and arguments, as well as pointy and well crafted literary styles into great advantage. This, perhaps, is the reason why, up to the present, his arguments in his work still finds relevance, and is still being utilized by modern day protestors and activists in their struggle for change in the theological/theosophical

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vantage points. His sterling literary work survives the test of time and still finds dynamic correlation to what ails faith and spirituality as well as religion in today’s modern world.

PART III Restoration John Dryden’s’ “Song to a Fair Young Lady, Going Out of Town in the Spring”

“By education most have been misled; So they believe, because they were bred. The priest continues where the nurse began, And thus the child imposes on the man.” (Dryden 1631-1700)

John Dryden was known as a dramatist. Not until Samuel Johnson pointed out the greatness of his poetry, which was ‘metaphorically to the accomplishments of Rome under the emperor Augustus, when Horace, Ovid, and Virgil flourished. Dryden, in Johnson’s metaphor, “embellished” English poetry: “he found it brick, and he left it marble.” The metaphor rightly identifies Dryden with the Auguston Age of English literature. It evokes the largeness — even the monumentality — of his poems, as well as their strength and polished elegance and, above all, their assured public character.’

As is said above, most of the attention given to Dryden’s work is in his plays. However, a close reading of his poem Song to A Fair Young Lady Going Out of Town in the Spring reveals also his proficiency with poetry as medium for his convictions as a ‘restorationist.’ With a rhyme scheme of ababcc in iambic tetrameter, the poem, on surface reading may easily qualify for a lyric love poem for unrequited love. However, a second or even third and closer look, and upon closer scrutiny, I feel that there are deeper

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layers to what is actually shown on the surface of the poem. I see familiar allusions that are necessarily connected to the theme of reformationist works. With that in mind, I see the addressee in the poem, ‘Chloris’ easily representing the church. After all, it is but common to refer to the church as feminine as it is, after all the ‘bride’ of Christ. Further in to the poem, I feel strongly that this is a critique of the Catholic Church. This is seen more strongly so in lines 7 to 12.

Chloris is gone, the cruel fair; /She cast not back a pitying eye:/But left her lover in despair/To sigh, to languish, and to die:/Ah! how can those fair eyes endure/
To give the wounds they will not cure?// (Dryden)

            This can be a critic to how the church fails her ‘lover,’ Christ, as it has become his abandoning lover, by running contrary to the teachings He himself has made and inflicting ‘wounds’ that they will not cure. The same critic follows through in the next paragraphs. The next paragraph speaks of the power that the church has over men and laws of the land. Interestingly so, the last two lines are evocative of the messianic redemption of Christ thus, “I only am by love design’d/ To be the victim for mankind.” This evokes the ‘sacrificial lamb’ image which is of Christ. Then again, it may be argued that this is just an over-reading of the poem, and may be off the mark, the poem being a mere lyric love poem that speaks of unrequited or abandoned love, but the point is, this in itself shows a sterling quality of the poem; its ability to have multiple interpretations and readings, thus creating multiple stimulus for the reader, to share with a varied audience a significant human experience, be it through the surface reading, or the deeper analytical reading of the poem.

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PART IV Restoration Samuel Johnson’s Imitation of Juvenal X

“There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified and new prejudices to be opposed.” (Johnson 1709-1784)

Samuel Johnson was a literary titan during his time in the 18th century. He was an essayist, poet, editor, critic, lexicographer, and even considered as the most lettered among men. When he moved to London he began writing essays for ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine.’ Perhaps, his greatest work was a Dictionary of the English Language, completed after nine years of extensive work and finally published 1755.

The Sampling of his writings for this paper is his poem “The Vanity of Human Wishes or Imitation of Juvenal Number Ten. The poem is a lengthy work in heroic couplet. It focuses on human futility as well as humanity’s quest for greatness. It is peppered with ‘didactic’ and ‘moral’ lessons stressing the importance of Christian values as imperative to living a good and upright life. During the 18th century, imitations were hugely popular, as in the styles of Pope (1688-1744). This lengthy poem, in the tradition or imitation of the Latin poet Juvenal takes a look at human condition and its struggle for greatness and achievement. However, Johnson’s poem showed empathy to the plight of humanity. In exposing the futile efforts of some who wish to achieve greatness, Johnson had concrete vivid imagery and a straightforward style that were devoid of flourish and embellishments. In lines 219 – 222 he belittle a king’s great ambition for conquest and uses it as a cautionary example to such a futile attempt at greatness.

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“His Fall was destin’d to a barren Strand,/A petty Fortress, and a dubious Hand;/
He left the Name, at which the World grew pale,/To point a Moral, or adorn a Tale.”//

            As an advice, Johnson then moves on to point out that what humanity should aspire for, are not the things of this world, which are all vain and futile, but to concentrate on the more spiritual values that are Christian in nature. His empathy for Charles is clearly one of the difference that Johnson drew in the poem, where Juvenal had scorn for Hannibal in his original poem. To give a full critique and reading of this lengthy poem would require much in depth reading and further analysis, but it would not be very hard to see how the poem’s sterling qualities stand out. The language could be considered ‘post-modern’ and pitch perfect for the time it was written. The images were solid and very evocative giving the imaging device a very captivating and effective use. The metaphors were novel and not cliché. T.S Elliot, referring to lines 189-220 of the poem is quoted to have said that “if these are not poetry, I do not know what it.” In conclusion, let the poem speak for itself, as T.S Elliot lauds these lines, to show what great poetry the piece was. Lines 189-220 from the poem would suffice and succinctly bring the matter to a close and end all doubt whatsoever as to its literary merit. I end with my favorite, albeit short but powerful, lines from the poem.

Such was the Scorn that fill’d the Sage’s Mind,
Renew’d at ev’ry Glance on Humankind;
How just that Scorn ere yet thy Voice declare,
Search every State, and canvass ev’ry Pray’r.

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WORKS CITED:

http://www.cresourcei.org/creededictworms.html… An Edict of Worms

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Luther_Bible

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09438b.htm

http://www.tyndale.org/TSJ/20/green.html

http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/751.html

http://www.samueljohnson.com/briefbio.html

http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/johnson.html

http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/johnson/vanity1.html

 

Cite this A Critical Analysis of Sampling Literature from the Reformation and Restoration Period

A Critical Analysis of Sampling Literature from the Reformation and Restoration Period. (2016, Nov 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/a-critical-analysis-of-sampling-literature-from-the-reformation-and-restoration-period/

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