Page:Anne Bradstreet and her time.djvu/21

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5
ANNE BRADSTREET.

bulk of the House of Commons, stood far above the mass of the peers."

Character had changed no less than outward circumstances. "The nation which gave itself to the rule of the Stewarts was another nation from the panic-struck people that gave itself in the crash of social and religious order to the guidance of the Tudors." English aims had passed beyond the bounds of England, and every English "squire who crossed the Channel to flesh his maiden sword at Ivry or Ostend, brought back to English soil, the daring temper, the sense of inexhaustable resources, which had bourn him on through storm and battle field."

Such forces were not likely to settle into a passive existence at home. Action had become a necessity. Thoughts had been stirred and awakened once for all. Consciously for the few, unconsciously for the many, "for a hundred years past, men had been living in the midst of a spiritual revolution. Not only the world about them, but the world within every breast had been utterly transformed. The work of the sixteenth century had wrecked that tradition of religion, of knowledge, of political and social order, which had been accepted without question by the Middle Ages. The sudden freedom of the mind from these older bonds brought a consciousness of power such as had never been felt before; and the restless energy, the universal activity of the Renaissance were but outer expressions of the pride, the joy, the amazing self-confidence, with which man welcomed this revelation of the energies which had lain slumbering within him."

This was the first stage, but another quickly and