Page:Anne Bradstreet and her time.djvu/27

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11
ANNE BRADSTREET.

Pagan worship in the gardens of the Florentine Academy, their direct influence was purely intellectual. But the language of the Hebrew, the idiom of the Hellenistic Greek, lent themselves with a curious felicity to the purpose of translation. As a mere literary monument the English version of the Bible remains the noblest example of the English tongue, while its perpetual use made it from the instant of its appearance, the standard of our language." One must dwell upon this fact persistently, before it will become possible to understand aright either the people or the literature of the time. With generations the influence has weakened, though the best in English speech has its source in one fountain. But the Englishman of that day wove his Bible into daily speech, as we weave Shakespeare or Milton or our favorite author of a later day. It was neither affectation nor hypocrisy but an instinctive use that made the curious "mosaic of Biblical words and phrases which colored English talk two hundred years ago. The mass of picturesque allusion and illustration which we borrow from a thousand books, our fathers were forced to borrow from one; and the borrowing was the easier and the more natural, that the range of the Hebrew literature fitted it for the expression of every phase of feeling. When Spencer poured forth his warmest love-notes in the 'Epithalamion,' he adopted the very words of the Psalmist, as he bade the gates open for the entrance of his bride. When Cromwell saw the mists break over the hills of Dunbar, he hailed the sun-burst with the cry of David: 'Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered. Like as the smoke vanisheth so shalt thou drive them