I lack not past two stiles to go over, and I am even at my Father's house!'... The streets of Hadleigh were beset on both sides with men and women of the town and country who waited to see him; whom when they beheld so led to death, with weeping eyes and lamentable voices, they cried, 'Ah, good Lord! there goeth our good shepherd from us!'" The journey was at last over. " 'What place is this,' he asked,' and what meaneth it that so much people are gathered together?' It was answered, ' It is Oldham Common, the place where you must suffer, and the people are come to look upon you.' Then said he, ' Thanked be God, I am even at home!'.... But when the people saw his reverend and ancient face, with a long white beard, they burst out with weeping tears and cried, saying, ' God save thee, good Dr. Taylor; God strengthen thee and help thee; the Holy Ghost comfort thee!' He wished, but was not suffered, to speak. When he had prayed, he went to the stake and kissed it, and set himself into a pitch-barrel which they had set for him to stand on, and so stood with his back upright against the stake, with his hands folded together and his eyes towards heaven, and so let himself be burned." 'One of the executioners " cruelly cast a fagot at him, which hit upon his head and brake his face that the blood ran down his visage.
Then said Dr. Taylor,' O friend, I have harm enough - what needed that?'" One more act of brutality brought his sufferings to an end. - " So stood he still without either crying or moving, with his hands folded together, till Soyce with a halberd struck him on the head that the brains fell out, and the dead corpse fell down into the fire".
The terror of death was powerless against men like these. Bonner, the Bishop of London, to whom, as Bishop of the diocese in which the Council sate, its victims were generally delivered for execution, but who, in spite of the nickname and hatred which his official prominence in the work of death earned him, seems to have been naturally a good-humoured and merciful man, asked a youth who was brought before him whether he thought he could bear the fire. The boy at once held his hand without flinching in the flame of a candle which stood by. Rogers, a fellow-worker with Tyndale in the translation of the Bible, and one of the foremost among the Protestant preachers, died bathing his hands in the flame "as if it had been in cold water." Even the commonest lives gleamed for a moment into poetry at the stake. "Pray for me," a boy, William Hunter, who had been brought home to Brentwood to suffer, asked of the bystanders. "I will pray no more for thee," one of them replied, "than I will pray for a dog." "' Then,' said William, 'Son of God, shine upon me;' and immediately the sun in the elements shone out of a dark cloud so full in his face that he was constrained to look another way; whereat the people mused, because it was so dark a little time before." The persecution fell heavily on London, and on Kent, Sussex, and the Eastern Counties, the homes of the mining and manufacturing industries; a host of Protestants were driven over sea to find refuge at Strasburg or Geneva. But the work of terror failed in the very ends for which it was wrought.
The old spirit of insolent defiance, of outrageous violence, was roused again at the challenge of persecution. A Protestant hung a string of puddings round a priest's neck in derision of his beads. The restored images were grossly insulted. The old scurrilous ballads were heard again in the streets. One miserable wretch, driven to frenzy, stabbed the priest of St. Margaret's as he stood with the chalice in his hand. It was a more formidable sign of the times that acts of violence such as these no longer stirred the people at large to their former resentment. The horror of the persecution left no room for other feelings. Every death at the stake won hundreds to the cause of its victims. "You have lost the hearts of twenty thousands that were rank Papists," a Protestant wrote to Bonner, "within these twelve months." Bonner indeed, never a very zealous persecutor, was sick of his work; and the energy of the bishops soon relaxed. But Mary had no thought of hesitation in the course she had begun. "Rattling letters" from the council roused the lagging prelates to fresh activity and the martyrdoms went steadily on. Two prelates had already perished; Hooper, the Bishop of Gloucester, had been burned in his own cathe dral city; Ferrar, the Bishop of St. David's, had suffered at Caer marthen.
Latimer and Bishop Ridley of London were now drawn from their prison at Oxford. " Play the man, Master Ridley," cried the old preacher of the Reformation as the flames shot up around him; "we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out." One victim remained, far beneath many who had preceded him in character, but high above them in his position in the Church of England. The other prelates who had suffered had been created after the separation from Rome, and were hardly regarded as bishops by their opponents. But, whatever had been his part in the schism, Cranmer had received his Pallium from the Pope. He was, in the eyes of all, Archbishop of Canterbury, the successor of St. Augustine and of St. Thomas in the second see of Western Christendom. To burn the Primate of the English Church for heresy was to shut out meaner victims from all hope of escape. But revenge and religious zeal alike urged Mary to bring Cranmer to the stake. First among the many decisions in which the Archbishop had prostituted justice to Henry's will stood that by which he had annulled the King's marriage with Catharine and declared Mary a bastard.
The last of his political acts had been to join, whether reluctantly or no, in the shameless plot to exclude Mary from the throne. His great position too made him more than any man the representative of the religious revolution which had passed over the land. His figure stood with those of Henry and of Cromwell on the frontispiece of the English Bible. The decisive change which had been given to the character of the Reformation under Edward was due wholly to Cranmer. It was his voice that men heard and still hear in the accents of the English Liturgy. As an Archbishop, Cranmer's judgment rested with no meaner tribunal than that of Rome, and his execution had been necessarily delayed till its sentence could be given. But the courage which he had shown since the accession of Mary gave way the moment his final doom was announced. The moral cowardice which had displayed itself in his miserable compliance with the lust and despotism of Henry displayed itself again in six successive recantations by which he hoped to purchase pardon.