Page:Anne Bradstreet and her time.djvu/26

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Geneva Bibles soon appeared and their substance had become part of the life of every English family within an incredibly short space of time. Not only thought and action but speech itself were colored and shaped by the new influence. We who hold to it as a well of English undefiled, and resent even the improvements of the new Version as an infringement on a precious possession, have small conception of what it meant to a century which had had no prose literature and no poetry save the almost unknown verse of Chaucer.

"Sunday after Sunday, day after day, the crowds that gathered round the Bible in the nave of St. Pauls, or the family group that hung on its words in the devotional exercises at home, were leavened with a new literature. Legend and annal, war song and psalm, State-roll and biography, the mighty voices of prophets, the parables of Evangelists, stories of mission-journeys, of perils by the sea and among the heathens, philosophic arguments, apocalyptic visions, all were flung broadcast over minds unoccupied for the most part by any rival learning. The disclosure of the stores of Greek literature had wrought the revolution of Renaissance. The disclosure of the older mass of Hebrew literature, wrought the revolution of the Reformation. But the one revolution was far deeper and wider in its effects than the other. No version could transfer to another tongue the peculiar charm of language which gave their value to the authors of Greece and Rome. Classical letters, therefore, remained in the possession of the learned, that is, of the few, and among these, with the exception of Colet and More, or of the pedants who revived a