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THE vivid imagination of the Greeks created a mythology, which has coloured the sentiments of all succeeding generations. To understand many of our vernacular phrases and allusions, we must even now go back to that wonderful life and learn something of its tendencies and meaning. In its commonest forms it overflowed with poetry. All nature ministered to its embellishment. Every stream had its naïad: the forest, the plain, the mountain and the ocean-cave were thronged with imaginary habitants; while the diversified products of the earth had each their guardian divinity, and their consecrating use. The conspicuous glory of the Olympic conqueror was typified by the silvery olive; and what symbol so appropriate to indicate the immortality of Verse as the unfading laurel? A myth was readily supplied. The tree was at one time a nymph seen and beloved by Apollo. The bashful Thessalian fled


before his eager pursuit, and ere overtaken an interposing power shielded her from harm, and the virgin stood transformed into a bay-tree. The disappointed god wreathed for himself a garland from its boughs, and pronounced it for ever sacred to himself.

The Romans adopted from the Greeks the practice of rewarding eminent merit by the presentation of some symbolical chaplet. They, however, enlarged it into an elaborate system. A variety of crowns, formed of various materials, were held forth as the worthy guerdon of numerous warlike feats and accomplishments; and certain rules were prescribed which the candidate or the champion was strictly required to observe. We have no very authentic assurance that poets were thus rewarded under the republic; but later, Statius three times gained the prize in the Alban contests, instituted or revived by Domitian, and on such occasions a garland of laurel leaves was the usual acknowledgment of musical or poetical success. The custom most prevailed, however, after the revival of letters in the middle ages. Learning then appeared to many with more than a syren's fascination. Its progress and its pursuit became the sole subject of their concern. No form or ceremony was omitted that might feed a useful vanity or kindle the ennobling emulation. Such forms then, were not idle or meaningless. At a time when profound learning existed side by side with an almost hopeless barbarism; any fiction that surrounded the individual with dignity, or challenged respect for his occupation, was more valid to withstand wrong, than the fitful vigilance of a prince, or the frail enactments of ill-executed laws. Hence originated the pomp and the splendour of the medieval laureations to which we shall have occasion presently to advert.

In England the title of poet-laureate was then never conferred, as is now the case, by royal appointment; it was

a scholastic distinction, and of many poets-laureate, the King merely selected one to publish his praises and to attend his court. It was simply a university degree.

The origin of degrees, as is the establishment of the universities by which they were conferred, is involved in considerable obscurity. Such institutions have no type in the classic era. As Christianity prevailed over Paganism, the schools connected with cathedral churches, and afterwards with monasteries, became the sole nurseries of general education. When Bishops became temporal lords and monks accumulated wealth, those seminaries were neglected; and scholars eschewing the rule of their negligent masters, withdrew from their several societies. and themselves opened independent places of teaching. In this way the University of Paris had its origin.

These establishments were encouraged and prospered. Nobles endowed them and kings granted immunities; but though schools of universalia studia, as had been the cathedral and monastic seminaries, it was long before they were erected into universities or corporations; and this word University we first find applied to the school at Paris, in a decretal of Pope Innocent III., dated the beginning of the thirteenth century. They then obtained powers of selfgovernment and of conferring degrees of honour and precedence within their several republics. These degrees which at first were only the old distinction between teacher and scholar became civil honours, were conferred with great pomp, and were in some cases placed on a par with nobility itself. When a Bachelor was created Master," says Wood, "the Chancellor gave him the badges with very great solemnity, and admitted him into the fraternity with a kiss on his left cheek using then these words, 'En tibi insignia honoris tui en librum, en cucullum, en pileum, en denique amoris mei pignus, osculum; in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sanctus.' That being

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done, he was to consider what was to belong to the reverence of so great a name as Master, viz., what he ought to have in relation to his habit, because for fifteen days he was to walk the streets in a round cap, not a plaited cap; neither in a collobe or tabard. He ought also to be so chaste and modest in word, look and action, that he may resemble a virgin newly espoused. Also that he was not to go alone; but always-chiefly within these fifteen days-have with him. an Esquire or supporter of his body or at least a companion.

"When the ultimate day of proceeding was come, care was to be taken that the Inceptor should be commended by a venerable company of Masters with a brief and wellordered speech, and that also the Master under whom he proceeds should use decent and fruitful words, lest the venerable company of Masters should be reviled by the standers-by, for the miscarriage and ill deportment of one Master redounds to the dishonour of all the rest."


Laureation, which had accompanied degrees in law and medicine, was reserved eventually for the graduate in grammar. It was in fact, his Master's degree in that faculty which included rhetoric and the art of versification. degrees were more common at Oxford than at Cambridge, and there are various instances of their being taken so late as the sixteenth century. Thus by the University Registers at Oxford, we find that on the 12th March, 1511, one Edward Watson, student in grammar, obtained a concession to be graduated and laureated in that faculty, provided he composed a Latin comedy, that is, any short poem not of a tragic cast, or one hundred Latin verses in praise of his University. The next year Richard Smyth obtained the like concession on condition that at the next public Act he should affix one hundred Latin hexameters to the great

gates of St. Mary's Church; and Maurice Byrchenshaw, scholar in rhetoric, obtained the same honour provided he wrote the customary number of verses, and promised not to read Ovid's "Art of Love" to his pupils. On the 5th June, 1511, John Bulman graduated in rhetoric, and a wreath was placed on his head by the Chancellor of the University. Skelton was laureated at Oxford, and some years afterwards, viz. in 1493, he obtained public permission to wear his laurel at Cambridge, or as we now should term it, took an ad eundem there; thus Churchyard writing in 1568 says:

"Nay, Skelton wore the laurel wreath,

And past in schoels, ye knoe."

Whittington, a graduate in rhetoric, in his panegyric on Wolsey, says:

'Suscipe Lauricomi munuscula parva Roberti."

(Accept this slight tribute from Robert the Laureate.) Through the more general use of English, the Latin language gradually became an accomplishment rather than a medium of communication; and such degrees ceasing to be useful were no longer solicited or conferred. The last instance was in 1514, when one Thomas Thomson was laureated.

In the annals of the German Empire, we meet with several instances of poets being presented with a crown of laurel. Frederick III. conferred it on Conradus Celtes Protuccius, the first poet-laureate of Germany, who by a patent of Maximilian I. was made Superintendent or Rector of the College of Poetry and Rhetoric in Vienna, with power to bestow the laurel on approved candidates. The honour being purely civil, emanated solely from the supreme authority, and the power of conferring it was occasionally invested in Counts Palatine and others, as a

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