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[149] countless generations (οἵη περ φύλλων γενεή), and not from any top-dressing capriciously scattered over the surface at some master's bidding.1 England had long been growing more truly insular in language and political ideas when the Reformation came to precipitate her national consciousness by secluding her more completely from the rest of Europe. Hitherto there had been Englishmen of a distinct type enough, honestly hating foreigners, and reigned over by kings of whom they were proud or not as the case might be, but there was no England as a separate entity from the sovereign who embodied it for the time being.2 But now an English people began to be dimly aware of itself. Their having got a religion to themselves must have intensified them much as the having a god of their own did the Jews. The exhilaration of relief after the long tension of anxiety, when the Spanish Armada was overwhelmed like the hosts of Pharaoh, while it confirmed their assurance of a provincial deity, must also have been like sunshine to bring into flower all that there was of imaginative or sentimental in the English nature, already just in the first flush of its spring.

(The yonge sonne
     Had in the Bull half of his course yronne.)

And just at this moment of blossoming every breeze

1 Louis XIV. is commonly supposed in some miraculous way to have created French literature. He may more truly be said to have petrified it so far as his influence went. The French renaissance in the preceding century was produced by causes similar in essentials to those which brought about that in England not long after. The grand siecle grew by natural processes of development out of that which had preceded it, and which, to the impartial foreigner at least, has more flavor, and more French flavor too, than the Gallo-Roman usurper that pushed it from its stool. The best modern French poetry has been forced to temper its verses in the colder natural springs of the ante-classic period.

2 In the Elizabethan drama the words ‘England’ and ‘France’ are constantly used to signify the kings of those countries.

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