G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
Roger Ascham (15151568)
Of Imitation: The Scholemaster (Book II) 1570
[The First Book of The Scholemaster (London, John Daye: 1570) deals with the bringyng up of youth, and is only incidentally concerned with matters of literary interest; but it supplies hints of certain topics which are discussed more fully elsewhere. Ascham defines the Platonic [euphues], the first of the seven trewe notes of a good witte; he interpolates a recommendation of the new versifying, on which he promises to speak more at large hereafter; and, in the well-known passage on the evil influence of Italian travel and Italian books (especially in English translation), he shows his sympathy with the Puritanical principles of Gosson and the anti-stage pamphleteers. In introducing the seven trewe notes he says:
And bicause I write English, and to Englishemen, I will plainlie declare in Englishe both what thies wordes of Plato meane, and how aptlie they be linked and how orderlie they folow one an other.
He then proceeds:
[Euphues] is he that is apte by goodnes of witte, and appliable by readines of will, to learning, hauing all other qualities of the minde and partes of the bodie, that must an other day serue learning, not trobled, mangled, and halfed, but sounde, whole, full, and hable to do their office: as, a tong, not stamering, or ouer hardlie drawing forth wordes, but plaine, and redie to deliuer the meaning of the minde; a voice, not softe, weake, piping, womannishe, but audible, stronge, and manlike; a countenance, not werishe and crabbed, but faire and cumlie; a personage, not wretched and deformed, but taule and goodlie: for surelie a cumlie countenance, with a goodlie stature, geueth credit to learning, and authoritie to the person; otherwise, commonlie, either open contempte or priuie disfauour doth hurte, or hinder, both person and learning. And euen as a faire stone requireth to be sette in the finest gold with the best workmanshyp, or else it leseth moch of the Grace and price, euen so excellencye in learning, and namely Diuinitie, ioyned with a cumlie personage, is a meruelous Iewell in the world. And how can a cumlie bodie be better employed than to serue the fairest exercise of Goddes greatest gifte, and that is learning? But commonlie the fairest bodies ar bestowed on the foulest purposes. I would it were not so, and with examples herein I will not medle: yet I wishe that those shold both mynde it and medle with it, which haue most occasion to looke to it, as good and wise fathers shold do, and greatest authoritie to amend it, as good and wise magistrates ought to do. And yet I will not let openlie to lament the vnfortunate case of learning herein.
For, if a father haue foure sonnes, three faire and well formed both mynde and bodie, the fourth wretched, lame, and deformed, his choice shalbe to put the worst to learning, as one good enoughe to becum a scholer. I haue spent the most parte of my life in the Vniuersitie, and therfore I can beare good witnes that many fathers commonlie do thus; wherof I haue hard many wise, learned, and as good men as euer I knew make great and oft complainte: a good horseman will choise no soch colte, neither for his own nor yet for his masters sadle.
Further over, Ascham enlarges on the moral weakness of Italianate Englishmen, and concludes:
These be the inchantementes of Circes, brought out of Italie, to marre mens maners in England; much by example of ill life, but more by preceptes of fonde bookes, of late translated out of Italian into English, sold in euery shop in London, commended by honest titles the soner to corrupt honest maners, dedicated ouer boldlie to vertuous and honorable personages the easielier to begile simple and innocent wittes. It is pitie that those which haue authoritie and charge to allow and dissalow bookes to be printed be no more circumspect herein than they are. Ten Sermons at Paules Crosse do not so moch good for mouyng men to trewe doctrine as one of those bookes do harme with inticing men to ill liuing. Yea, I say farder, those bookes tend not so moch to corrupt honest liuing as they do to subuert trewe Religion. Mo Papistes be made by your mery bookes of Italie than by your earnest bookes of Louain. And bicause our great Phisicians do winke at the matter, and make no counte of this sore, I, though not admitted one of their felowshyp, yet hauyng bene many yeares a prentice to Gods trewe Religion, and trust to continewe a poore iorney man therein all dayes of my life, for the dewtie I owe, and loue l beare, both to trewe doctrine and honest liuing, though I haue no authoritie to amend the sore my selfe, yet I will declare my good will to discouer the sore to others.
S. Paul saith that sectes and ill opinions be the workes of the flesh and frutes of sinne: this is spoken no more trewlie for the doctrine than sensiblie for the reason. And why? For ill doinges breed ill thinkinges. And of corrupted maners spryng peruerted iudgementes. And how? There be in man two speciall thinges: Mans will, mans mynde. Where will inclineth to goodnes, the mynde is bent to troth: Where will is caried from goodnes to vanitie, the mynde is sone drawne from troth to false opinion. And so the readiest way to entangle the mynde with false doctrine is first to intice the will to wanton liuyng. Therfore, when the busie and open Papistes abroad could not, by their contentious bookes, turne men in England fast enough from troth and right iudgement in doctrine, than the sutle and secrete Papistes at home procured bawdie bookes to be translated out of the Italian tonge, whereby ouer many yong willes and wittes allured to wantonnes do now boldly contemne all seuere bookes that sounde to honestie and godlines. In our forefathers tyme, whan Papistrie, as a standyng poole, couered and ouerflowed all England, fewe bookes were read in our tong, sauyng certaine bookes of Cheualrie, as they sayd, for pastime and pleasure, which, as some say, were made in Monasteries, by idle Monkes or wanton Chanons: as one for example, Morte Arthure; the whole pleasure of which booke standeth in two speciall poyntes, in open mans slaughter and bold bawdrye: In which booke those be counted the noblest Knightes that do kill most men without any quarell, and commit fowlest aduoulteres by sutlest shiftes; as Sir Launcelote, with the wife of king Arthure, his master: Syr Tristram, with the wife of kyng Marke, his vncle: Syr Lamerocke, with the wife of king Lote, that was his own aunte. This is good stuffe for wise men to laughe at, or honest men to take pleasure at. Yet I know when Gods Bible was banished the Court, and Morte Arthure receiued into the Princes chamber. What toyes the dayly readyng of such a booke may worke in the will of a yong ientleman, or a yong mayde, that liueth welthelie and idlelie, wise men can iudge, and honest men do pitie. And yet ten Morte Arthures do not the tenth part so much harme as one of these bookes made in Italie and translated in England. They open, not fond and common wayes to vice, but such subtle, cunnyng, new, and diuerse shiftes, to cary yong willes to vanitie, and yong wittes to mischief, to teach old bawdes new schole poyntes, as the simple head of an English man is not liable to inuent, nor neuer was hard of in England before, yea when Papistrie ouerflowed all. Suffer these bookes to be read, and they shall soone displace all bookes of godly learnyng. For they, carying the will to vanitie and marryng good maners, shall easily corrupt the mynde with ill opinions and false iudgement in doctrine; first to thinke ill of all trewe Religion, and at last to thinke nothyng of God hym selfe, one speciall pointe that is to be learned in Italie and Italian bookes. And that which is most to be lamented, and therfore more nedefull to be looked to, there be moe of these vngratious bookes set out in Printe within these fewe monethes than haue bene sene in England many score yeare before. And bicause our English men made Italians can not hurt but certaine persons, and in certaine places, therfore these Italian bookes are made English, to bryng mischief enough openly and boldly to all states, great and meane, yong and old, euery where.
The Second Book, teaehyng the ready way to the Latin tong, begins with some general remarks on the practical value of double translation, and then proceeds to discuss the six wayes appointed by the best learned men for the learning of tonges and encreace of eloquence, viz. Translatio linguarum, Paraphrasis, Metaphrasis, Epitome, Imitatio, Declamatio. The more important matter for our present purpose is found in the fifth and concluding section1 (fol. 45 vo to the end), which is here printed from the copy in the Bodleian Library (Malone, 645).]
IMITATION is a facultie to expresse liuelie and perfitelie that example which ye go about to folow. And of it selfe it is large and wide: for all the workes of nature in a maner be examples for arte to folow.
But to our purpose: all languages, both learned and mother tonges, be gotten, and gotten onelie by Imitation. For as ye vse to heare, so ye learne to speake: if ye heare no other, ye speake not your selfe: and whome ye onelie heare, of them ye onelie learne.
And therefore, if ye would speake as the best and wisest do, ye must be conuersant where the best and wisest are: but if yow be borne or brought vp in a rude contrie, ye shall not chose but speake rudelie: the rudest man of all knoweth this to be trewe.
Yet neuerthelesse, the rudenes of common and mother tonges is no bar for wise speaking. For in the rudest contrie, and most barbarous mother language, many be found [that] can speake verie wiselie: but in the Greeke and Latin tong, the two onelie learned tonges, which be kept not in common taulke but in priuate bookes, we finde alwayes wisdome and eloquence, good matter and good vtterance, neuer or seldom asonder. For all soch Authors as be fullest of good matter and right iudgement in doctrine be likewise alwayes most proper in wordes, most apte in sentence, most plaine and pure in vttering the same.
And, contrariwise, in those two tonges, all writers, either in Religion or any sect of Philosophie, who so euer be founde fonde in iudgement of matter, be commonlie found as rude in vttering their mynde. For Stoickes, Anabaptistes, and Friers, with Epicures, Libertines, and Monkes, being most like in learning and life, are no fonder and pernicious in their opinions than they be rude and barbarous in their writinges. They be not wise therefore that say, What care I for a mans wordes and vtterance, if his matter and reasons be good. Soch men say so, not so moch of ignorance, as eyther of some singular pride in themselues or some speciall malice or other, or for some priuate and parciall matter, either in Religion or other kinde of learning. For good and choice meates be no more requisite for helthie bodies than proper and apte wordes be for good matters, and also plaine and sensible vtterance for the best and depest reasons: in which two pointes standeth perfite eloquence, one of the fairest and rarest giftes that God doth geue to man.
Ye know not what hurt ye do to learning, that care not for wordes but for matter, and so make a deuorse betwixt the tong and the hart. For marke all aiges: looke vpon the whole course of both the Greeke and Latin tonge, and ye shall surelie finde that, whan apte and good wordes began to be neglected, and properties of those two tonges to be confounded, than also began ill deedes to spring, strange maners to oppresse good orders, newe and fond opinions to striue with olde and trewe doctrine, first in Philosophie and after in Religion, right iudgement of all thinges to be peruerted, and so vertue with learning is contemned, and studie left of: of ill thoughtes cummeth peruerse iudgement, of ill deedes springeth lewde taulke. Which fower misorders, as they mar mans life, so destroy they good learning withall.
But behold the goodnesse of Gods prouidence for learning: all olde authors and sectes of Philosophy, which were fondest in opinion and rudest in vtterance, as Stoickes and Epicures, first contemned of wise men and after forgotten of all men, be so consumed by tymes, as they be now not onelie out of vse but also out of memorie of man: which thing, I surelie thinke, will shortlie chance to the whole doctrine and all the bookes of phantasticall Anabaptistes and Friers, and of the beastlie Libertines and Monkes.
Againe, behold on the other side how Gods wisdome hath wrought, that of Academici and Peripatetici, those that were wisest in iudgement of matters and purest in vttering their myndes, the first and chiefest that wrote most and best in either tong, as Plato and Aristotle in Greeke, Tullie in Latin, be so either wholie or sufficiently left vnto vs, as I neuer knew yet scholer that gaue him selfe to like, and loue, and folowe chieflie those three Authors, but he proued both learned, wise, and also an honest man, if he ioyned with all the trewe doctrine of Gods holie Bible, without the which the other three be but fine edge tooles in a fole or mad mans hand.
The whole doctrine of Comedies and Tragedies is a perfite imitation, or faire liuelie painted picture of the life of euerie degree of man. Of this Imitation writeth Plato at large in 3. de Rep., but it doth not moch belong at this time to our purpose.
The second kind of Imitation is to folow for learning of tonges and sciences the best authors. Here riseth, emonges proude and enuious wittes, a great controuersie, whether one or many are to be folowed: and, if one, who is that one; Seneca or Cicero; Salust or Cæsar; and so forth in Greeke and Latin.
The third kinde of Imitation belongeth to the second: as, when you be determined whether ye will folow one or mo, to know perfitlie, and which way to folow, that one; in what place; by what meane and order; by what tooles and instrumentes ye shall do it; by what skill and iudgement ye shall trewelie discerne whether ye folow rightlie or no.
This Imitatio is dissimilis materici similis tractatio; and, also, similis materiei dissimilis tractatio, as Virgill folowed Homer: but the Argument to the one was Vlysses, to the other Æneas. Tullie persecuted Antonie with the same wepons of eloquence that Demosthenes vsed before against Philippe.
Horace foloweth Pindar, but either of them his owne Argument and Person; as the one, Hiero king of Sicilie, the other, Augustus the Emperor: and yet both for like respectes, that is, for their coragious stoutnes in warre and iust gouernment in peace.
One of the best examples for right Imitation we lacke, and that is Menander, whom our Terence (as the matter required), in like argument, in the same Persons, with equall eloquence, foote by foote did folow.
Erasmus, the ornament of learning in our tyme, doth wish that som man of learning and diligence would take the like paines in Demosthenes and Tullie that Macrobius hath done in Homer and Virgill, that is, to write out and ioyne together where the one doth imitate the other. Erasmus wishe is good, but surelie it is not good enough: for Macrobius gatherings for the Æneados out of Homer, and Eobanus Hessus more diligent gatherings for the Bucolikes out of Theocritus, as they be not fullie taken out of the whole heape, as they should be, but euen as though they had not sought for them of purpose but fownd them scatered here and there by chance in their way, euen so, onelie to point out and nakedlie to ioyne togither their sentences, with no farder declaring the maner and way how the one doth folow the other, were but a colde helpe to the encrease of learning.
In thies fewe rude English wordes are wrapt vp all the necessarie tooles and instrumentes, where with trewe Imitation is rightlie wrought withall in any tonge. Which tooles, I openlie confesse, be not of myne owne forging, but partlie left vnto me by the cunningest Master, and one of the worthiest Ientlemen that euer England bred, Syr Iohn Cheke, partelie borowed by me out of the shoppe of the dearest frende I haue out of England, Io. St. And therefore I am the bolder to borow of him, and here to leaue them to other, and namelie to my Children: which tooles, if it please God that an other day they may be able to vse rightlie, as I do wish and daylie pray they may do, I shal be more glad than if I were able to leaue them a great quantitie of land.
This foresaide order and doctrine of Imitation would bring forth more learning, and breed vp trewer iudgement, than any other exercise that can be vsed, but not for yong beginners, bicause they shall not be able to consider dulie therof. And, trewelie, it may be a shame to good studentes, who, hauing so faire examples to follow, as Plato and Tullie, do not vse so wise wayes in folowing them for the obteyning of wisdome and learning as rude ignorant Artificers do for gayning a small commoditie. For surelie the meanest painter vseth more witte, better arte, greater diligence, in hys shoppe, in folowing the Picture of any meane mans face, than commonlie the best studentes do, euen in the vniuersitie, for the atteining of learning it selfe.
Some ignorant, vnlearned, and idle student, or some busie looker vpon this litle poore booke, that hath neither will to do good him selfe, nor skill to iudge right of others, but can lustelie contemne, by pride and ignorance, all painfull diligence and right order in study, will perchance say that I am to precise, to curious, in marking and piteling thus about the imitation of others; and that the olde worthie Authors did neuer busie their heades and wittes in folowyng so preciselie, either the matter what other men wrote, or els the maner how other men wrote. They will say it were a plaine slauerie, and iniurie to, to shakkle and tye a good witte, and hinder the course of a mans good nature, with such bondes of seruitude, in folowyng other.
The best booke that euer Tullie wrote, by all mens iudgement, and by his owne testimonie to, in wrytyng wherof he employed most care, studie, learnyng, and iudgement, is his booke de Orat, ad Q. F. Now let vs see what he did for the matter, and also for the maner of writing therof. For the whole booke consisteth in these two pointes onelie: In good matter, and good handling of the matter. And first, for the matter, it is whole Aristotles, what so euer Antonie in the second and Crassus in the third doth teach. Trust not me, but beleue Tullie him selfe, who writeth so, first, in that goodlie long Epistle ad P. Lentulum, and after in diuerse places ad Atticum. And in the verie booke it selfe Tullie will not haue it hidden, but both Catulus and Crassus do oft and pleasantly lay that stelth to Antonius charge. Now, for the handling of the matter, was Tullie so precise and curious rather to follow an other mans Paterne than to inuent some newe shape him selfe, namelie in that booke, wherein he purposed to leaue to posteritie the glorie of his witte? yea forsoth, that he did. And this is not my gessing and gathering, nor onelie performed by Tullie in verie deed, but vttered also by Tullie in plaine wordes: to teach other men thereby what they should do in taking like matter in hand.
And that which is especially to be marked, Tullie doth vtter plainlie his conceit and purpose therein, by the mouth of the wisest man in all that companie: for sayth Scaeuola him selfe, Cur non imitamur, Crasse, Socratem illum, qui est in Phaedro Platonis? etc.
And furder to vnderstand that Tullie did not obiter and bichance, but purposelie and mindfullie, bend him selfe to a precise and curious Imitation of Plato, concernyng the shape and forme of those bookes, marke, I pray you, how curious Tullie is to vtter his purpose and doyng therein, writing thus to Atticus.
Quod in his Oratoriis libris, quos tantopere laudas, personam desideras Scaeuolae, non eam temere dimoui: sed feci idem, quod in [politeía] deus ille noster Plato, cum in Piraeeum Socrates venisset ad Cephalum locupletem et festiuum senem, quoad primus ille sermo haberetur, adest in disputando senex: deinde, cum ipse quoque commodissime locutus esset, ad rem diuinam dicit se velle discedere, neque postea reuertitur. Credo Platonem vix putasse satis consonum fore, si hominem id aetatis in tam longo sermone diutius retinuisset. Multo ego satius hoc mihi cauendum putaui in Scaeuola, qui et aetate et valetudine erat ea qua [esse] meministi, et his honoribus, vt vix satis decorum videretur, cum plures dies esse in Crassi Tusculano. Et erat primi libri sermo non alienus a Scaeuolae studiis: reliqui libri [technologian] habent, vt scis. Huic ioculatoriae disputationi senem illum, vt noras, interesse sane nolui.
If Cicero had not opened him selfe and declared hys owne thought and doynges herein, men that be idle, and ignorant, and enuious of other mens diligence and well doinges, would haue sworne that Tullie had neuer mynded any soch thing, but that of a precise curiositie we fayne and forge and father soch thinges of Tullie as he neuer ment in deed. I write this not for nought; for I haue heard some both well learned and otherwayes verie wise, that by their lustie misliking of soch diligence haue drawen back the forwardnes of verie good wittes. But euen as such men them selues do sometymes stumble vpon doyng well by chance and benefite of good witte, so would I haue our scholer alwayes able to do well by order of learnyng and right skill of iudgement.
Concernyng Imitation many learned men haue written, with moch diuersitie for the matter, and therfore with great contrarietie and some stomacke amongest them selues. I haue read as many as I could get diligentlie, and what I thinke of euerie one of them I will freelie say my mynde. With which freedome I trust good men will beare, bicause it shall tend to neither spitefull nor harmefull controuersie.
In Tullie, it is well touched, shortlie taught, not fullie declared by Ant. in 2. de Orat.: and afterward in Orat. ad Brutum, for the liking and misliking of Isocrates: and the contrarie iudgement of Tullie agaynst Caluus, Brutus, and Calidius, de genere dicendi Attico et Asiatico.
Dionis. Halic. [peri mimeseus] I feare is lost: which Author, next Aristotle, Plato, and Tullie, of all other that write of eloquence, by the iudgement of them that be best learned, deserueth the next prayse and place.
Erasmus, beyng more occupied in spying other mens faultes than declaryng his owne aduise, is mistaken of many, to the great hurt of studie, for his authoritie sake. For he writeth rightlie, rightlie vnderstanded: he and Longolius onelie differing in this, that the one seemeth to giue ouermoch, the other ouer litle, to him whom they both best loued and chiefly allowed of all other.
Other haue written also, as Cortesius to Politian, and that verie well: Bembus ad Picum a great deale better: but Ioan. Sturmius, de Nobilitate literata et de Amissa dicendi ratione, farre best of all, in myne opinion, that euer tooke this matter in hand. For all the rest declare chiefly this point, whether one, or many, or all are to be followed: but Sturmius onelie hath most learnedlie declared who is to be followed, what is to be followed, and, the best point of all, by what way and order trew Imitation is rightlie to be exercised. And although Sturmius herein doth farre passe all other, yet hath he not so fullie and perfitelie done it as I do wishe he had, and as I know he could. For though he hath done it perfitelie for precept, yet hath he not done it perfitelie enough for example: which he did, neither for lacke of skill, nor by negligence, but of purpose, contented with one or two examples, bicause he was mynded in those two bookes to write of it both shortlie, and also had to touch other matters.
Barthol. Riccius Ferrariensis also hath written learnedlie, diligentlie, and verie largelie of this matter, euen as hee did before verie well de Apparatu linguae Lat. He writeth the better in myne opinion, bicause his whole doctrine, iudgement, and order semeth to be borowed out of Io. Stur. bookes. He addeth also examples, the best kinde of teaching: wherein he doth well, but not well enough: in deede, he committeth no faulte, but yet deserueth small praise. He is content with the meane, and followeth not the best: as a man that would feede vpon Acornes, whan he may eate as good cheape the finest wheat bread. He teacheth, for example, where and how two or three late Italian Poetes do follow Virgil; and how Virgil him selfe in the storie of Dido doth wholie imitate Catullus in the like matter of Ariadna: Wherein I like better his diligence and order of teaching than his iudgement in choice of examples for Imitation. But, if he had done thus, if he had declared where and how, how oft and how many wayes, Virgil doth folow Homer, as for example the comming of Vlysses to Alcynous and Calypso, with the comming of Æneas to Cartage and Dido; Likewise the games, running, wrestling, and shoting, that Achilles maketh in Homer, with the selfe same games that Æneas maketh in Virgil; The harnesse of Achilles, with the harnesse of Æneas, and the maner of making of them both by Vulcane; The notable combate betwixt Achilles and Hector, with as notable a combate betwixt Æneas and Turnus; The going downe to hell of Vlysses in Homer, with the going downe to hell of Æneas in Virgil; and other places infinite mo, as similitudes, narrations, messages, discriptions of persons, places, battels, tempestes, shipwrackes, and common places for diuerse purposes, which be as precisely taken out of Homer as euer did Painter in London follow the picture of any faire personage; And when thies places had bene gathered together by this way of diligence, than to haue conferred them together by this order of teaching, as diligently to marke what is kept and vsed in either author, in wordes, in sentences, in matter, what is added, what is left out, what ordered otherwise, either praeponendo, interponendo, or postponendo, and what is altered for any respect, in word, phrase, sentence, figure, reason, argument, or by any way of circumstance: If Riccius had done this, he had not onely bene well liked for his diligence in teaching, but also iustlie commended for his right iudgement in right choice of examples for the best Imitation.
Riccius also for Imitation of prose declareth where and how Longolius doth folow Tullie; but, as for Longolius, I would not haue him the patern of our Imitation. In deede, in Longolius shoppe be proper and faire shewing colers, but as for shape, figure, and naturall cumlines, by the iudgement of best iudging artificers he is rather allowed as one to be borne withall than especially commended as one chieflie to be folowed.
If Riccius had taken for his examples where Tullie him selfe foloweth either Plato or Demosthenes, he had shot than at the right marke. But to excuse Riccius somwhat, though I can not fullie defend him, it may be sayd his purpose was to teach onelie the Latin tong; when thys way that I do wish, to ioyne Virgil with Homer, to read Tullie with Demosthenes and Plato, requireth a cunning and perfite Master in both the tonges. It is my wish in deede, and that by good reason: For who so euer will write well of any matter must labor to expresse that that is perfite, and not to stay and content himselfe with the meane: yea, I say farder, though it be not vnposible, yet it is verie rare, and meruelous hard, to proue excellent in the Latin tong for him that is not also well seene in the Greeke tong. Tullie him selfe, most excellent of nature, most diligent in labor, brought vp from his cradle in that place and in that tyme where and whan the Latin tong most florished naturallie in euery mans mouth, yet was not his owne tong able it selfe to make him so cunning in his owne tong, as he was in deede, but the knowledge and Imitation of the Greeke tong withall.
Therefore thou that shotest at perfection in the Latin tong think not thy selfe wiser than Tullie was, in choice of the way that leadeth rightlie to the same: thinke not thy witte better than Tullies was, as though that may serue thee that was not sufficient for him. For euen as a hauke flieth not hie with one wing, euen so a man reacheth not to excellency with one tong.
I haue bene a looker on in the Cokpit of learning thies many yeares: And one Cock onelie haue I knowne, which with one wing, euen at this day, doth passe all other, in myne opinion, that euer I saw in any pitte in England, though they had two winges. Yet neuerthelesse, to flie well with one wing, to runne fast with one leg, be rather rare Maistreis moch to be merueled at than sure examples safelie to be folowed. A Bushop that now liueth, a good man, whose iudgement in Religion I better like than his opinion in perfitnes in other learning, said once vnto me: We haue no nede now of the Greeke tong, when all thinges be translated into Latin. But the good man vnderstood not that euen the best translation is, for mere necessitie, but an euill imped wing to flie withall, or a heuie stompe leg of wood to go withall: soch, the hier they flie, the sooner they falter and faill: the faster they runne, the ofter they stumble, and sorer they fall. Soch as will nedes so flie, may flie at a Pye and catch a Dawe: And soch runners, as commonlie they shoue and sholder to stand formost, yet in the end they cum behind others and deserue but the hopshakles, if the Masters of the game be right iudgers.
Therefore, in perusing thus so many diuerse bookes for Imitation, it came into my head that a verie profitable booke might be made de Imitatione, after an other sort than euer yet was attempted of that matter, conteyning a certaine fewe fitte preceptes, vnto the which should be gathered and applied plentie of examples, out of the choisest authors of both the tonges. This worke would stand rather in good diligence for the gathering, and right iudgement for the apte applying of those examples, than any great learning or vtterance at all.
Erasmus, giuyng him selfe to read ouer all Authors, Greke and Latin, seemeth to haue prescribed to him selfe this order of readyng, that is, to note out by the way three speciall pointes, All Adagies, all similitudes, and all wittie sayinges of most notable personages: And so, by one labour, he left to posteritie three notable bookes, and namelie two, his Chiliades, Apophthegmata, and Similia. Likewise, if a good student would bend him selfe to read diligently ouer Tullie, and with him also at the same tyme as diligently Plato and Xenophon with his bookes of Philosophie, Isocrates and Demosthenes with his orations, and Aristotle with his Rhetorickes, which fiue of all other be those whom Tullie best loued and specially followed, and would marke diligently in Tullie where he doth exprimere or effingere (which be the verie proper wordes of Imitation) either copiam Platonis or venustatem Xenophontis, suauitatem Isocratis, or vim Demosthenis, propriam et puram subtilitatem Aristotelis, and not onelie write out the places diligentlie, and lay them together orderlie, but also to conferre them with skilfull iudgement by those few rules which I haue expressed now twise before: if that diligence were taken, if that order were vsed, what perfite knowledge of both the tonges, what readie and pithie vtterance in all matters, what right and deepe iudgement in all kinde of learnyng would follow, is scarse credible to be beleued.
These bookes be not many, nor long, nor rude in speach, nor meane in matter, but, next the Maiestie of Gods holie word, most worthie for a man, the louer of learning and honestie, to spend his life in. Yea, I haue heard worthie M. Cheke many tymes say: I would haue a good student passe and iorney through all Authors both Greke and Latin; but he that will dwell in these few bookes onelie, first in Gods holie Bible, and than ioyne with it Tullie in Latin, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Isocrates, and Demosthenes in Greke, must nedes proue an excellent man.
Some men alreadie in our dayes haue put to their helping handes to this worke of Imitation: As Perionius, Henr. Stephanus in dictionario Ciceroniano, and P. Victorius most praiseworthelie of all, in that his learned worke conteyning xxv. bookes de varia lectione: in which bookes be ioyned diligentlie together the best Authors of both the tonges where one doth seeme to imitate an other.
But all these, with Macrobius, Hessus, and other, be no more but common porters, caryers, and bringers of matter and stuffe togither. They order nothing. They lay before you what is done: they do not teach you how it is done. They busie not them selues with forme of buildyng. They do not declare, this stuffe is thus framed by Demosthenes, and thus and thus by Tullie, and so likewise in Xenophon, Plato, and Isocrates, and Aristotle. For ioyning Virgil with Homer I haue sufficientlie declared before.
In Tragedies (the goodliest Argument of all, and, for the vse either of a learned preacher or a Ciuill Ientleman, more profitable than Homer, Pindar, Virgill, and Horace, yea comparable in myne opinion with the doctrine of Aristotle, Plato, and Xenophon), the Grecians Sophocles and Euripides far ouer match our Seneca in Latin, namely in [konomia] et Decoro, although Senacaes elocution and verse be verie commendable for his tyme. And for the matters of Hercules, Thebes, Hippolytus, and Troie, his Imitation is to be gathered into the same booke, and to be tryed by the same touchstone, as is spoken before.
In histories, and namelie in Liuie, the like diligence of Imitation could bring excellent learning, and breede stayde iudgement, in taking any like matter in hand. Onely Liuie were a sufficient taske for one mans studie, to compare him, first with his fellow for all respectes, Dion. Halicarnassaeus; who both liued in one tyme, tooke both one historie in hande to write, deserued both like prayse of learnynge and eloquence: Than with Polybius that wise writer, whom Liuie professeth to follow; and, if he would denie it, yet it is plaine that the best part of the thyrd Decade in Liuie is in a maner translated out of the thyrd and rest of Polibius: Lastlie with Thucydides, to whose Imitation Liuie is curiouslie bent, as may well appeare by that one Oration of those of Campania, asking aide of the Romanes agaynst the Samnites, which is wholie taken, Sentence, Reason, Argument, and order, out of the Oration of Corcyra, asking like aide of the Athenienses against them of Corinth. If some diligent student would take paynes to compare them togither, he should easelie perceiue that I do say trew. A booke thus wholie filled with examples of Imitation, first out of Tullie, compared with Plato, Xenophon, Isocrates, Demosthenes, and Aristotle, than out of Virgil and Horace, with Homer and Pindar, next out of Seneca, with Sophocles and Euripides, lastlie out of Liuie, with Thucydides, Polibius, and Halicarnassaeus, gathered with good diligence, and compared with right order, as I haue expressed before, were an other maner of worke for all kinde of learning, and namely for eloquence, than be those cold gatheringes of Macrobius, Hessus, Perionius, Stephanus, and Victorius, which may be vsed, as I sayd before, in this case, as porters and caryers, deseruing like prayse, as soch men do wages; but onely Sturmius is he, out of whom the trew suruey and whole workemanship is speciallie to be learned.
I trust this my writyng shall giue some good student occasion to take some peece in hand of this worke of Imitation. And as I had rather haue any do it than my selfe, yet surelie my selfe rather than none at all. And by Gods grace, if God do lend me life, with health, free laysure, and libertie, with good likyng and a merie heart I will turne the best part of my studie and tyme to toyle in one or other peece of this worke of Imitation.
This diligence to gather examples, to giue light and vnderstandyng to good preceptes, is no new inuention, but speciallie vsed of the best Authors and oldest writers. For Aristotle him selfe (as Diog. Laertius declareth), when he had written that goodlie booke of the Topickes, did gather out of stories and Orators so many examples as filled xv. bookes, onelie to expresse the rules of his Topickes. These were the Commentaries that Aristotle thought fit for hys Topickes: And therfore to speake as I thinke, I neuer saw yet any Commentarie vpon Aristotles Logicke, either in Greke or Latin, that euer I lyked, bicause they be rather spent in declaryng scholepoynt rules than in gathering fit examples for vse and vtterance, either by pen or talke. For preceptes in all Authors, and namelie in Aristotle, without applying vnto them the Imitation of examples, be hard, drie, and cold, and ther fore barrayn, vnfruitfull, and vnpleasant. But Aristotle, namelie in his Topickes and Elenches, should be not onelie fruitfull but also pleasant to, if examples out of Plato and other good Authors were diligentlie gathered and aptlie applied vnto his most perfit preceptes there. And it is notable that my frende Sturmius writeth herein, that there is no precept in Aristotles Topickes wherof plentie of examples be not manifest in Platos workes. And I heare say, that an excellent learned man, Tomitanus in Italie, hath expressed euerie fallacion in Aristotle with diuerse examples out of Plato. Would to God I might once see some worthie student of Aristotle and Plato in Cambrige, that would ioyne in one booke the preceptes of the one with the examples of the other. For such a labor were one speciall peece of that worke of Imitation, which I do wishe were gathered together in one Volume.
Cambrige, at my first comming thither, but not at my going away, committed this fault in reading the preceptes of Aristotle without the examples of other Authors: But herein, in my time, thies men of worthie memorie, M. Redman, M. Cheke, M. Smith, M. Haddon, M. Watson, put so to their helping handes, as that vniuersitie, and all studentes there, as long as learning shall last, shall be bounde vnto them, if that trade in studie be trewlie folowed which those men left behinde them there ..
Now to returne to that Question, whether one, a few, many, or all are to be followed, my aunswere shalbe short: All, for him that is desirous to know all: yea, the worst of all, as Questionistes, and all the barbarous nation of scholemen, helpe for one or other consideration: But in euerie separate kinde of learnyng, and studie by it selfe, ye must follow choselie a few, and chieflie some one, and that namelie in our schole of eloquence, either for penne or talke. And as in port[r]aicture and paintyng wise men chose not that workman that can onelie make a faire hand, or a well facioned legge, but soch one as can furnish vp fullie all the fetures of the whole body of a man, woman, and child, and with all is able to, by good skill, to giue to euerie one of these three, in their proper kinde, the right forme, the trew figure, the naturall color, that is fit and dew to the dignitie of a man, to the bewtie of a woman, to the sweetnes of a yong babe; euen likewise do we seeke soch one in our schole to folow, who is able alwayes, in all matters, to teach plainlie, to delite pleasantlie, and to cary away by force of wise talke, all that shall heare or read him, and is so excellent in deed as witte is able or wishe can hope to attaine vnto: And this not onelie to serue in the Latin or Greke tong, but also in our own English language. But yet, bicause the prouidence of God hath left vnto vs in no other tong, saue onelie in the Greke and Latin tong, the trew preceptes and perfite examples of eloquence, therefore must we seeke in the Authors onelie of those two tonges the trewe Paterne of Eloquence, if in any other mother tongue we looke to attaine either to perfit vtterance of it our selues or skilfull iudgement of it in others.
And now to know what Author doth medle onelie with some one peece and member of eloquence, and who doth perfitelie make vp the whole bodie, I will declare, as I can call to remembrance the goodlie talke that I haue had oftentymes of the trew difference of Authors with that Ientleman of worthie memorie, my dearest frend, and teacher of all the litle poore learning I haue, Syr Iohn Cheke.
The trew difference of Authors is best knowne per diuersa genera dicendi that euerie one vsed. And therfore here I will deuide genus dicendi, not into these three, Tenue, mediocre, et grande, but as the matter of euerie Author requireth, as
These differre one from an other in choice of wordes, in framyng of Sentences, in handling of Argumentes, and vse of right forme, figure, and number, proper and fitte for euerie matter; and euerie one of these is diuerse also in it selfe, as the first,
And here, who soeuer hath bene diligent to read aduisedlie ouer Terence, Seneca, Virgil, Horace, or els Aristophanes, Sophocles, Homer, and Pindar, and shall diligently marke the difference they vse, in proprietie of wordes, in forme of sentence, in handlyng of their matter, he shall easelie perceiue what is fitte and decorum in euerie one, to the trew vse of perfite Imitation. Whan M. Watson in S. Iohns College at Cambrige wrote his excellent Tragedie of Absalon, M. Cheke, he, and I, for that part of trew Imitation, had many pleasant talkes togither, in comparing the preceptes of Aristotle and Horace de Arte Poetica with the examples of Euripides, Sophocles, and Seneca. Few men, in writyng of Tragedies in our dayes, haue shot at this marke. Some in England, moe in France, Germanie, and Italie also, haue written Tragedies in our tyme: of the which not one I am sure is able to abyde the trew touch of Aristotles preceptes and Euripides examples, saue onely two that euer I saw, M. Watsons Absalon and Georgius Buckananus Iephthe. One man in Cambrige, well liked of many, but best liked of him selfe, was many tymes bold and busie to bryng matters vpon stages, which he called Tragedies. In one, wherby he looked to Wynne his spurres, and whereat many ignorant felowes fast clapped their handes, he began the Protasis with Trochoeiis Octonariis: which kinde of verse, as it is but seldome and rare in Tragedies, so it is neuer vsed, saue onelie in Epitasi: whan the Tragedie is hiest and hotest, and full of greatest troubles. I remember ful well what M. Watson merelie sayd vnto me of his blindnesse and boldnes in that behalfe, although otherwise there passed much frendship betwene them. M. Watson had an other maner care of perfection, with a feare and reuerence of the iudgement of the best learned: Who to this day would neuer suffer yet his Absalon to go abroad, and that onelie bicause, in locis paribus, Anapestus is twise or thrise vsed in stede of Iambus: A smal faulte, and such one as perchance would neuer be marked, no neither in Italie nor France. This I write, not so much to note the first, or praise the last, as to leaue in memorie of writing, for good example to posteritie, what perfection, in any tyme, was most diligentlie sought for in like maner, in all kinde of learnyng, in that most worthie College of S. Iohns in Cambrige.
For what proprietie in wordes, simplicitie in sentences, plainnesse and light, is cumelie for these kindes, Cæsar and Liuie, for the two last, are perfite examples of Imitation: And for the two first the old paternes be lost, and as for some that be present and of late tyme, they be fitter to be read once for some pleasure than oft to be perused for any good Imitation of them.
Sermonem, as Officia Cic. et Eth. Arist. Contentionem, as the Dialoges of Plato, Xenophon, and Cicero:
Of which kinde of learnyng, and right Imitation therof, Carolus Sigonius hath written of late, both learnedlie and eloquentlie: but best of all my frende Ioan. Sturmius in hys Commentaries vpon Gorgias Platonis, which booke I haue in writyng, and is not yet set out in Print.
Examples of these three, in the Greke tong, be plentifull and perfite, as Lycias, Isocrates, and Demosthenes: and all three in onelie Demosthenes, in diuerse orations, as contra Olimpiodorum, in Leptinem, et pro Ctesiphonte. And trew it is that Hermogenes writeth of Demosthenes that all formes of Eloquence be perfite in him. In Ciceroes Orations Medium et sublime be most excellence handled, but Humile in his Orations is seldome sene. Yet neuerthelesse in other bookes, as in some part of his Offices, and specially in Partitionibus, he is comparable in hoc humili et disciplinabili genere, euen with the best that euer wrote in Greke. But of Cicero more fullie in fitter place. And thus the trew difference of stiles, in euerie Author and euerie kinde of learnyng, may easelie be knowne by this diuision:
Now, to touch more particularlie which of those Authors, that be now most commonlie in mens handes, will some affourd you some peece of Eloquence, and what maner a peece of eloquence, and what is to be liked and folowed, and what to be misliked and eschewed in them, and how some agayne will furnish you fully withall, rightly, and wisely considered, somwhat I will write as I haue heard Syr Iohn Cheke many tymes say.
The Latin tong, concerning any part of purenesse of it, from the spring to the decay of the same, did not endure moch longer than is the life of a well aged man, scarse one hundred yeares from the tyme of the last Scipio Africanus and Laelius to the Empire of Augustus. And it is notable that Vellius Paterculus writeth of Tullie, how that the perfection of eloquence did so remayne onelie in him and in his time, as before him were few which might as moch delight a man, or after him any worthy admiration, but soch as Tullie might haue seene, and such as might haue seene Tullie. And good cause why: for no perfection is durable. Encrease hath a time, and decay likewise, but all perfit ripenesse remaineth but a moment: as is plainly seen in fruits, plummes, and cherries, but more sensibly in flowers, as Roses and such like; and yet as trewlie in all greater matters. For what naturallie can go no hier must naturallie yeld and stoupe againe.
Of this short tyme of any purenesse of the Latin tong, for the first fortie yeare of it, and all the tyme before, we haue no peece of learning left, saue Plautus and Terence, with a litle rude vnperfit pamflet of the elder Cato. And as for Plautus, except the scholemaster be able to make wise and ware choice, first in proprietie of wordes, than in framing of phrases and sentences, and chieflie in choice of honestie of matter, your scholer were better to play then learne all that is in him. But surelie, if iudgement for the tong, and direction for the maners, be wisely ioyned with the diligent reading of Plautus, than trewlie Plautus for that purenesse of the Latin tong in Rome, whan Rome did most florish in well doing, and so thereby in well speaking also, is soch a plentifull storeho[u]se for common eloquence, in meane matters, and all priuate mens affaires, as the Latin tong, for that respect, hath not the like agayne. Whan I remember the worthy tyme of Rome wherein Plautus did liue, I must nedes honor the talke of that tyme which we see Plautus doth vse.
Terence is also a storehouse of the same tong, for an other tyme, following soone after; and although he be not so full and plentiful as Plautus is, for multitude of matters and diuersitie of wordes, yet his wordes be chosen so purelie, placed so orderly, and all his stuffe so neetlie packed vp and wittely compassed in euerie place, as, by all wise mens iudgement, he is counted the cunninger workeman, and to haue his shop, for the rowme that is in it, more finely appointed and trimlier ordered than Plautus is.
Three thinges chiefly, both in Plautus and Terence, are to be specially considered: The matter, the vtterance, the words, the meter. The matter in both is altogether within the compasse of the meanest mens maners, and doth not stretch to any thing of any great weight at all, but standeth chiefly in vtteryng the thoughtes and conditions of hard fathers, foolish mothers, vnthrifty yong men, craftie seruantes, sotle bawdes, and wilie harlots, and so is moch spent in finding out fine fetches and packing vp pelting matters, soch as in London commonlie cum to the hearing of the Masters of Bridewell. Here is base stuffe for that scholer that should becum hereafter either a good minister in Religion or a Ciuill Ientleman in seruice of his Prince and contrie (except the preacher do know soch matters to confute them), whan ignorance surelie in all soch thinges were better for a Ciuill Ientleman than knowledge. And thus, for matter, both Plautus and Terence be like meane painters, that worke by halfes, and be cunning onelie in making the worst part of the picture, as if one were skilfull in painting the bodie of a naked person from the nauell downward, but nothing else.
For word and speach Plautus is more plentifull, and Terence more pure and proper: And for one respect Terence is to be embraced aboue all that euer wrote in hys kinde of argument: Bicause it is well known by good recorde of learning, and that by Ciceroes owne witnes, that some Comedies bearyng Terence name were written by worthy Scipio and wise Laelius, and namely Heauton and Adelphi. And therefore, as oft as I reade those Comedies, so oft doth sound in myne eare the pure fine talke of Rome, which was vsed by the floure of the worthiest nobilitie that euer Rome bred. Let the wisest man, and best learned that liueth, read aduisedlie ouer the first scene of Heauton and the first scene of Adelphi, and let him consideratlie iudge whether it is the talke of the seruile stranger borne, or rather euen that milde eloquent wise speach which Cicero in Brutus doth so liuely expresse in Laelius. And yet, neuerthelesse, in all this good proprietie of wordes and purenesse of phrases which be in Terence, ye must not follow him alwayes in placing of them, bicause for the meter sake some wordes in him somtyme be driuen awrie, which require a straighter placing in plaine prose, if ye will forme, as I would ye should do, your speach and writing to that excellent perfitnesse which was onely in Tullie, or onelie in Tullies tyme.
The meter and verse of Plautus and Terence be verie meane, and not to be followed: which is not their reproch, but the fault of the tyme wherein they wrote, whan no kinde of Poetrie in the Latin tong was brought to perfection, as doth well appeare in the fragmentes of Ennius, Cecilius, and others, and euidentlie in Plautus and Terence, if thies in Latin be compared with right skil with Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes, and other in Greeke of like sort. Cicero him selfe doth complaine of this vnperfitnes, but more plainly Quintilian, saying, in Comoedia maxime claudicamus, et vix leuem consequimur vmbram: and most earnestly of all Horace in Arte Poetica, which he doth namely propter carmen Iambicum, and referreth all good studentes herein to the Imitation of the Greeke tong, saying,
This matter maketh me gladly remember my sweete tyme spent at Cambrige, and the pleasant talke which I had oft with M. Cheke and M. Watson of this fault, not onely in the olde Latin Poets, but also in our new English Rymers at this day. They wished as Virgil and Horace were not wedded to follow the faultes of former fathers (a shrewd mariage in greater matters) but by right Imitation of the perfit Grecians had brought Poetrie to perfitnesse also in the Latin tong, that we Englishmen likewise would acknowledge and vnderstand rightfully our rude beggerly ryming, brought first into Italie by Gothes and Hunnes, whan all good verses and all good learning to were destroyd by them, and after caryed into France and Germanie, and at last receyued into England by men of excellent wit in deede, but of small learning and lesse iudgement in that behalfe.
But now, when men know the difference, and haue the examples, both of the best and of the worst, surelie to follow rather the Gothes in Ryming than the Greekes in trew versifiyng were euen to eate ackornes with swyne, when we may freely eate wheate bread emonges men. In deede, Chauser, Th. Norton of Bristow, my L. of Surrey, M. Wiat, Th. Phaer, and other Ientlemen, in translating Ouide, Palingenius, and Seneca, haue gonne as farre to to their great praise as the copie they followed could cary them; but, if soch good wittes and forward diligence had bene directed to follow the best examples, and not haue bene caryed by tyme and custome to content themselues with that barbarous and rude Ryming, emonges their other worthy praises, which they haue iustly deserued, this had not bene the least, to be counted emonges men of learning and skill more like vnto the Grecians than vnto the Gothians in handling of their verse.
In deed, our English tong, hauing in vse chiefly wordes of one syllable which commonly be long, doth not well receiue the nature of Carmen Heroicum, bicause dactylus, the aptest foote for that verse, conteining one long and two short, is seldom therefore found in English; and doth also rather stumble than stand vpon Monasyllabis. Quintilian, as in hys learned Chapiter de Compositione, geueth this lesson de Monasyllabis before me; and in the same place doth iustlie inuey against all Ryming; that if there be any who be angrie with me for misliking of Ryming may be angry for company to with Quintilian also for the same thing. And yet Quintilian had not so iust cause to mislike of it than as men haue at this day.
And although Carmen Exametrum doth rather trotte and hoble than runne smothly in our English tong, yet I am sure our English tong will receiue carmen Iambicum as naturallie as either Greke or Latin. But for ignorance men can not like, and for idlenes men will not labor, to cum to any perfitenes at all. For, as the worthie Poetes in Athens and Rome were more carefull to satisfie the iudgement of one learned than rashe in pleasing the humor of a rude multitude, euen so if men in England now had the like reuerend regard to learning, skill, and iudgement, and durst not presume to write except they came with the like learnyng, and also did vse like diligence in searchyng out not onelie iust measure in euerie meter, as euerie ignorant person may easely do, but also trew quantitie in euery foote and sillable, as onelie the learned shalbe able to do, and as the Grekes and Romanes were wont to do, surelie than rash ignorant heads, which now can easely recken vp fourten sillabes, and easelie stumble on euery Ryme, either durst not, for lacke of such learnyng, or els would not, in auoyding such labor, be so busie as euerie where they be; and shoppes in London should not be so full of lewd and rude rymes, as commonlie they are. But now the ripest of tong be readiest to write: And many dayly in setting out bookes and balettes make great shew of blossomes and buddes, in whom is neither roote of learning nor frute of wisedome at all. Some that make Chaucer in English and Petrarch in Italian their Gods in verses, and yet be not able to make trew difference, what is a fault and what is a iust prayse in those two worthie wittes, will moch mislike this my writyng. But such men be euen like followers of Chaucer and Petrarke, as one here in England did folow Syr Tho. More, who, being most vnlike vnto him in wit and learnyng, neuertheles in wearing his gowne awrye vpon the one shoulder, as Syr Tho. More was wont to do, would nedes be counted lyke vnto him.
This mislikyng of Ryming beginneth not now of any newfangle singularitie, but hath bene long misliked of many, and that of men of greatest learnyng and deepest iudgement. And soch that defend it do so, either for lacke of knowledge what is best, or els of verie enuie that any should performe that in learnyng, whereunto they, as I sayd before, either for ignorance can not, or for idlenes will not, labor to attaine vnto.
And you that prayse this Ryming, bicause ye neither haue reason why to like it nor can shew learning to defend it, yet I will helpe you with the authoritie of the oldest and learnedst tyme. In Grece, whan Poetrie was euen as the hiest pitch of perfitnes, one Simmias Rhodius of a certaine singularitie wrote a booke in ryming Greke verses, naming it [pson], conteyning the fable how Iupiter in likenes of a swan gat that egge vpon Leda, whereof came Castor, Pollux, and faire [H]elena. This booke was so liked that it had few to read it, but none to folow it: But was presentlie contemned: and, sone after, both Author and booke so forgotten by men, and consumed by tyme, as scarse the name of either is kept in memorie of learnyng. And the like folie was neuer folowed of any many hondred yeares after, vntill the Hunnes and Gothians and other barbarous nations of ignorance and rude singularitie did reuiue the same folie agayne.
The noble Lord Th. Earle of Surrey, first of all English men in translating the fourth booke of Virgill, and Gonsaluo Periz, that excellent learned man, and Secretarie to kyng Philip of Spaine, in translating the Vlisses of Homer out of Greke into Spanish, haue both, by good iudgement, auoyded the fault of Ryming, yet neither of them hath fullie hit[t]e perfite and trew versifying. In deede, they obserue iust number, and euen feete: but here is the fault, that their feete be feete without ioyntes, that is to say, not distinct by trew quantitie of sillabes: And so soch feete be but numme feete, and be euen as vnfitte for a verse to turne and runne roundly withall as feete of brasse or wood be vnweeldie to go well withall. And as a foote of wood is a plaine shew of a manifest maime, euen so feete in our English versifing without quantitie and ioyntes be sure signes that the verse is either borne deformed, vnnaturall, and lame, and so verie vnseemlie to looke vpon, except to men that be gogle eyed them selues.
The spying of this fault now is not the curiositie of English eyes, but euen the good iudgement also of the best that write in these dayes in Italie: and namelie of that worthie Senese Felice Figliucci, who, writyng vpon Aristotles Ethickes so excellence in Italian, as neuer did yet any one in myne opinion either in Greke or Latin, amongest other thynges doth most earnestlie inuey agaynst the rude ryming of verses in that tong: And whan soeuer he expresseth Aristotles preceptes with any example out of Homer or Euripides, he translateth them, not after the Rymes of Petrarke, but into soch kinde of perfite verse, with like feete and quantitie of sillabes, as he found them before in the Greke tonge; exhortyng earnestlie all the Italian nation to leaue of their rude barbariousnesse in ryming, and folow diligently the excellent Greke and Latin examples in trew versifiyng.
And you that be able to vnderstand no more then ye finde in the Italian tong, and neuer went farder than the schole of Petrarke and Ariostus abroad, or els of Chaucer at home, though you haue pleasure to wander blindlie still in your foule wrong way, enuie not others that seeke, as wise men haue done before them, the fairest and rightest way; or els, beside the iust reproch of malice, wisemen shall trewlie iudge that you do so, as I haue sayd and say yet agayne vnto you, bicause either for idlenes ye will not, or for ignorance ye can not, cum by no better your selfe.
And therfore, euen as Virgill and Horace deserue most worthie prayse, that they, spying the vnperfitnes in Ennius and Plautus, by trew Imitation of Homer and Euripides brought Poetrie to the same perfitnes in Latin as it was in Greke, euen so those that by the same way would benefite their tong and contrey deserue rather thankes than disprayse in that behalfe.
And here for my pleasure I purpose a litle by the way to play and sporte with my Master Tully; from whom commonlie I am neuer wont to dissent. He him selfe, for this point of learnyng, in his verses doth halt a litle, by his leaue. He could not denie it, if he were aliue, nor those defend hym now that loue him best. This fault I lay to his charge: bicause once it pleased him, though somwhat merelie, yet oueruncurteslie, to rayle vpon poore England, obiecting both extreme beggerie and mere barbariousnes vnto it, writyng thus vnto his frend Atticus: There is not one scruple of siluer in that whole Isle, or any one that knoweth either learnyng or letter.
But now, master Cicero, blessed be God and his sonne Iesus Christ, whom you neuer knew, except it were as it pleased him to lighten you by some shadow, as couertlie in one place ye confesse saying, Veritatis tantum vmbram consectamur, as your Master Plato did before you: blessed be God, I say, that sixten hundred yeare after you were dead and gone it may trewly be sayd, that for siluer there is more cumlie plate in one Citie of England than is in foure of the proudest Cities in all Italie, and take Rome for one of them. And for learnyng, beside the knowledge of all learned tongs and liberall sciences, euen your owne bookes, Cicero, be as well read, and your excellent eloquence is as well liked and loued, and as trewlie folowed, in England at this day, as it is now, or euer was, sence your owne tyme in any place of Italie, either at Arpinum, where ye were borne, or els at Rome, where ye were brought vp. And a litle to brag with you, Cicero, where you your selfe, by your leaue, halted in some point of learnyng in your owne tong, many in England at this day go streight vp, both in trewe skill and right doing therein.
This I write, not to reprehend Tullie, whom aboue all other I like and loue best, but to excuse Terence, because in his tyme, and a good while after, Poetrie was neuer perfited in Latin, vntill by trew Imitation of the Grecians it was at length brought to perfection: And also thereby to exhorte the goodlie wittes of England, which, apte by nature and willing by desire, geue them selues to Poetrie, that they, rightly vnderstanding the barbarous bringing in of Rymes, would labor, as Virgil and Horace did in Latin, to make perfit also this point of learning in our English tong.
After Plautus and Terence no writing remayneth vntill Tullies tyme, except a fewe short fragmentes of L. Crassus excellent wit, here and there recited of Cicero for example sake, whereby the louers of learnyng may the more lament the losse of soch a worthie witte.
And although the Latin tong did faire blome and blossome in L. Crassus and M. Antonius, yet in Tullies tyme onely, and in Tullie himselfe chieflie, was the Latin tong fullie ripe and growne to the hiest pitch of all perfection.
And bicause emongs them of that tyme there was some difference, good reason is that of them of that tyme should be made right choice also. And yet let the best Ciceronian in Italie read Tullies familiar epistles aduisedly ouer, and I beleue he shall finde small difference for the Latin tong, either in propriety of wordes or framing of the stile, betwixt Tullie and those that write vnto him: As Ser. Sulpitius, A. Cecinna, M. Cael[i]us, M. et D. Bruti, A. Pollio, L. Plancus, and diuerse other. Read the epistles of L. Plancus in x. Lib., and for an assay that Epistle namely to the Coss. and whole Senate, the eight Epistle in number; and what could be eyther more eloquentlie or more wiselie written, yea by Tullie himselfe, a man may iustly doubt. Thies men and Tullie liued all in one tyme, were like in authoritie, not vnlike in learning and studie, which might be iust causes of this their equalitie in writing: And yet surely they neyther were in deed, not yet were counted in mens opinions, equall with Tullie in that facultie. And how is the difference hid in his Epistles? verelie, as the cunning of an expert Seaman in a faire calme fresh Ryuer doth litle differ from the doing of a meaner workman therein, euen so, in the short cut of a priuate letter, where matter is common, wordes easie, and order not moch diuerse, small shew of difference can appeare. But where Tullie doth set vp his saile of eloquence, in some broad deep Argument, caried with full tyde and winde of his witte and learnyng, all other may rather stand and looke after him than hope to ouertake him, what course so euer he hold, either in faire or foule. Foure men onely, whan the Latin tong was full ripe, be left vnto vs, who in that tyme did florish, and did leaue to posteritie the fruite of their witte and learning: Varro, Salust, Caesar, and Cicero. Whan I say these foure onely, I am not ignorant that euen in the same tyme most excellent Poetes, deseruing well of the Latin tong, as Lucretius, Catullus, Virgill, and Horace, did write, but bicause in this litle booke I purpose to teach a yong scholer to go, not to daunce, to speake, not to sing (whan Poetes in deed, namelie Epici and Lyrici, as these be, are fine dauncers and trime singers): but Oratores and Historici be those cumlie goers, and faire and wise speakers, of whom I wishe my scholer to wayte vpon first, and after in good order and dew tyme to be brought forth to the singing and dauncing schole: And for this consideration do I name these foure to be the onelie writers of that tyme.
Varro, in his bookes de lingua Latina et Analogia, as these be left mangled and patched vnto vs, doth not enter there in to any great depth of eloquence, but as one caried in a small low vessell him selfe verie nie the common shore, not much vnlike the fisher men of Rye and Hering men of Yarmouth, who deserue, by common mens opinion, small commendacion for any cunning sailing at all, yet neuertheles in those bookes of Varro good and necessarie stuffe, for that meane kinde of Argument, be verie well and learnedlie gathered togither.
His bookes of Husbandrie are moch to be regarded and diligentlie to be read, not onelie for the proprietie, but also for the plentie of good wordes, in all contrey and husbandmens affaires: which can not be had by so good authoritie out of any other Author, either of so good a tyme, or of so great learnyng, as out of Varro. And yet, bicause he was fourscore yeare old whan he wrote those bookes, the forme of his style there compared with Tullies writyng is but euen the talke of a spent old man: whose wordes commonlie fall out of his mouth, though verie wiselie, yet hardly and cold[l]ie, and more heauelie also than some eares can well beare, except onelie for age and authorities sake. And, perchance, in a rude contrey argument, of purpose and iudgement he rather vsed the speach of the contrey than talke of the Citie.
And so, for matter sake, his wordes sometyme be somewhat rude, and, by the imitation of the elder Cato, old and out of vse: And beyng depe stept in age, by negligence some wordes do so scape and fall from him in those bookes, as be not worth the taking vp by him that is carefull to speak or write trew Latin, as that sentence in him, Romani in pace a rusticis alebantur, et in bello ab his tuebantur. A good student must be therfore carefull and diligent to read with iudgement ouer euen those Authors which did write in the most perfite tyme: and let him not be affrayd to trie them, both in proprietie of wordes and forme of style, by the touch stone of Caesar and Cicero, whose puritie was neuer soiled, no not by the sentence of those that loued them worst.
All louers of learnyng may sore lament the losse of those bookes of Varro which he wrote in his yong and lustie yeares with good leysure and great learnyng of all partes of Philosophie: of the goodliest argumentes perteyning both to the common wealth and priuate life of man, as de Ratione studii et educandis liberis, which booke is oft recited and moch praysed in the fragmentes of Nonius, euen for authoritie sake. He wrote most diligentlie and largelie also the whole historie of the state of Rome; the mysteries of their whole Religion; their lawes, customes, and gouernement in peace; their maners, and whole discipline in warre. And this is not my gessing, as one in deed that neuer saw those bookes, but euen the verie iudgement and playne testimonie of Tullie him selfe, who knew and read those bookes, in these wordes:Tu aetatem patriae: tu descriptiones temporum: tu sacrorum, tu sacerdotum iura: tu domesticam, tu bellicam disciplinam: tu sedem regionum, locorum; tu omnium diuinarum humanarumque rerum nomina, genera, officia, causas aperuisti, etc.
But this great losse of Varro is a litle recompensed by the happy comming of Dionysius Halicarnassaeus to Rome in Augustus dayes: who, getting the possession of Varros librarie, out of that treasure house of learning did leaue vnto vs some frute of Varros witte and diligence; I meane his goodlie bookes de Antiquitatibus Romanorum. Varro was so estemed for his excellent learnyng, as Tullie him selfe had a reuerence to his iudgement in all doutes of learnyng. And Antonius Triumuir, his enemie, and of a contrarie faction, who had power to kill and bannish whom he listed, whan Varros name amongest others was brought in a schedule vnto him to be noted to death, he tooke his penne and wrote his warrant of sauegard with these most goodlie wordes, Viuat Varro, vir doctissimus. In later tyme, no man knew better, nor liked and loued more Varros learnyng than did S. Augustine, as they do well vnderstand that haue diligentlie read ouer his learned bookes de Ciuitate Dei: Where he hath this most notable sentence: Whan I see how much Varro wrote, I meruell much that euer he had any leasure to read; and, whan I perceiue how many thinges he read, I meruell more that euer he had any leasure to write, etc.
Salust is a wise and worthy writer; but he requireth a learned Reader, and a right considerer of him. My dearest frend, and best master that euer I had or heard in learning, Syr I. Cheke, soch a man as, if I should liue to see England breed the like againe, I feare I should liue ouer long, did once giue me a lesson for Salust, which, as I shall neuer forget my selfe, so is it worthy to be remembred of all those that would cum to perfite iudgement of the Latin tong. He said that Salust was not verie fitte for yong men to learne out of him the puritie of the Latin tong, because he was not the purest in proprietie of wordes, nor choisest in aptnes of phrases, nor the best in framing of sentences; and therefore is his writing, sayd he, neyther plaine for the matter, nor sensible for mens vnderstanding. And what is the cause thereof, Syr? quoth I. Verilie, said he, bicause in Salust writing is more Arte than nature, and more labor than Arte: and in his labor also to moch toyle, as it were, with an vncontented care to write better than he could, a fault common to very many men. And therefore he doth not expresse the matter liuely and naturally with common speach, as ye see Xenophon doth in Greeke; but it is caried and driuen forth artificiallie, after to learned a sorte, as Thucydides doth in his orations. And how cummeth it to passe, sayd I, that Caesar and Ciceroes talke is so naturall and plaine, and Salust writing so artificiall and darke, whan all they three liued in one tyme? I will freelie tell you my fansie herein, said he: surely Caesar and Cicero, beside a singular prerogatiue of naturall eloquence geuen vnto them by God, both two, by vse of life, were daylie orators emonges the common people and greatest councellers in the Senate house, and therefore gaue themselues to vse soch speach as the meanest should well vnderstand and the wisest best allow, folowing carefullie that good councell of Aristotle, loquendum vt multi, sapiendum vt pauci. Salust was no soch man, neyther for will to goodnes nor skill by learning; but, ill geuen by nature, and made worse by bringing vp, spent the most part of his yougth very misorderly in ryot and lechery, in the company of soch, who, neuer geuing theyr mynde to honest doyng, could neuer inure their tong to wise speaking; but at last cummyng to better yeares, and bying witte at the dearest hand, that is by long experience of the hurt and shame that commeth of mischeif, moued by the councell of them that were wise, and caried by the example of soch as were good, first fell to honestie of life, and after to the loue of studie and learning; and so became so new a man that Caesar, being dictator, made him Pretor in Numidia, where he, absent from his contrie and not inured with the common talke of Rome, but shut vp in his studie and bent wholy to reading, did write the storie of the Romanes. And for the better accomplishing of the same, he red Cato and Piso in Latin for gathering of matter and troth, and Thucydides in Greeke for the order of his storie and furnishing of his style. Cato (as his tyme required) had more troth for the matter than eloquence for the style. And so Salust, by gathering troth out of Cato, smelleth moch of the roughnes of his style: euen as a man that eateth garlike for helth shall cary away with him the sauor of it also, whether he will or not. And yet the vse of old wordes is not the greatest cause of Salustes roughnes and darknesse: There be in Salust some old wordes in deed as patrare bellum, ductare exercitum, well noted by Quintilian, and verie much misliked of him; and supplicium for supplicatio, a word smellyng of an older store than the other two so misliked by Quint. And yet is that word also in Varro, speaking of Oxen thus, boues ad victimas faciunt, atque ad Deorum supplicia: and a few old wordes mo. Read Saluste and Tullie aduisedly together, and in wordes ye shall finde small difference; yea Salust is more geuen to new wordes than to olde, though som olde writers say the contrarie: as Claritudo for Gloria, exacte for perfecte, Facundia for eloquentia. Thies two last wordes exacte and facundia, now in euery mans mouth, be neuer (as I do remember) vsed of Tullie, and therefore I thinke they be not good: For surely Tullie speaking euery where so moch of the matter of eloquence would not so precisely haue absteyned from the word Facundia if it had bene good, that is proper for the tong, and common for mens vse. I could be long in reciting many soch like, both olde and new wordes in Salust, but in very dede neyther oldnes nor newnesse of wordes maketh the greatest difference betwixt Salust and Tullie, but first strange phrases made of good Latin wordes but framed after the Greeke tonge, which be neyther choisly borowed of them, nor properly vsed by him; than a hard composition and crooked framing of his wordes and sentences, as a man would say, English talke placed and framed outlandish like. As for example first in phrases, nimius et animus be two vsed wordes, yet homo nimius animi is an vnused phrase. Vulgus, et amat, et fieri, be as common and well known wordes as may be in the Latin tong, yet id quod vulgo amat fieri, for solet fieri, is but a strange and Grekysh kind of writing. Ingens et vires be proper wordes, yet vir ingens virium is an vnproper kinde of speaking; and so be likewise aeger consilii, promptissimus belli, territus animi, and many soch like phrases in Salust, borowed, as I sayd, not choisly out of Greeke, and vsed therefore vnproperlie in Latin. Againe, in whole sentences, where the matter is good, the wordes proper and plaine, yet the sense is hard and darke, and namely in his prefaces and oration[s], wherein he vsed most labor, which fault is likewise in Thucydides in Greeke, of whom Salust hath taken the greatest part of his darkenesse. For Thucydides likewise wrote his storie, not at home in Grece, but abrode in Italie, and therefore smelleth of a certaine outlandish kinde of talke, strange to them of Athens, and diuerse from their writing that liued in Athens and Grece, and wrote the same tyme that Thucydides did, as Lysias, Xenophon, Plato, and Isocrates, the purest and playnest writers that euer wrote in any tong, and best examples for any man to follow whether he write Latin, Italian, French, or English. Thucydides also semeth in his writing not so much benefited by nature as holpen by Arte, and caried forth by desire, studie, labor, toyle, and ouer great curiositie; who spent xxvii. yeares in writing his eight bookes of his history. Salust likewise wrote out of his contrie, and followed the faultes of Thuc. to moch; and boroweth of him som kinde of writing which the Latin tong can not well beare, as Casus nominatiuus in diuerse places absolute positus, as in that place of Iugurth, speaking de Leptitanis, Itaque ab imperatore facile quae petebant adepti, missae sunt eo cohortes Ligurum quatuor. This thing in participles, vsed so oft in Thucyd. and other Greeke authors to, may better be borne with all, but Salust vseth the same more strangelie and boldlie, as in thies wordes, Multis sibi quisque imperium petentibus. I beleue the best Grammarien in England can scarse giue a good reule why quisque, the nominatiue case, without any verbe, is so thrust vp amongest so many oblique cases. Some man perchance will smile, and laugh to scorne this my writyng, and call it idle curiositie thus to busie my selfe in pickling about these small pointes of Grammer, not fitte for my age, place, and calling to trifle in: I trust that man, be he neuer so great in authoritie, neuer so wise and learned, either by other mens iudgement or his owne opinion, will yet thinke that he is not greater in England than Tullie was at Rome, not yet wiser nor better learned than Tullie was him selfe, who, at the pitch of three score yeares, in the middes of the broyle betwixt Caesar and Pompeie, whan he knew not whither to send wife and children, which way to go, where to hide him selfe, yet, in an earnest letter, amongest his earnest councelles for those heuie tymes concerning both the common state of his contrey and his owne priuate great affaires, he was neither vnmyndfull nor ashamed to reason at large, and learne gladlie of Atticus, a lesse point of Grammer than these be, noted of me in Salust, as whether he should write ad Piraeea, in Piraeea, or in Piraeeum, or Piraeeum, sine praepositione: And in those heuie tymes he was so carefull to know this small point of Grammer that he addeth these wordes, Si hoc mihi [zitima] persolueris, magna me molestia liberaris. If Tullie, at that age, in that authoritie, in that care for his contrey, in that ieoperdie for him selfe and extreme necessitie of hys dearest frendes, beyng also the Prince of Eloquence hym selfe, was not ashamed to descend to these low pointes of Grammer, in his owne naturall tong, what should scholers do, yea what should any man do, if he do thinke well doyng better than ill doyng: And had rather be perfite than meane, sure than doutefull, to be what he should be in deed, not seeme what he is not in opinion. He that maketh perfitnes in the Latin tong his marke must cume to it by choice and certaine knowledge, not stumble vpon it by chance and doubtfull ignorance. And the right steppes to reach vnto it be these, linked thus orderlie together, aptnes of nature, loue of learnyng, diligence in right order, constancie with pleasant moderation, and alwayes to learne of them that be best; and so shall you iudge as they that be wisest. And these be those reules which worthie Master Cheke dyd impart vnto me concernyng Salust and the right iudgement of the Latin tong.
Caesar, for that litle of him that is left vnto vs, is like the halfe face of a Venus, the other part of the head beyng hidden, the bodie and the rest of the members vnbegon, yet so excellentlie done by Apelles, as all men may stand still to mase and muse vpon it, and no man step forth with any hope to performe the like.
His seuen bookes de bello Gallico and three de bello ciuili be written so wiselie for the matter, so eloquentlie for the tong, that neither his greatest enemies could euer finde the least note of parcialitie in him (a meruelous wisdome of a man, namely writyng of his owne doynges), nor yet the best iudegers of the Latin tong, nor the most enuious lookers vpon other mens writynges, can say any other but all things be most perfitelie done by him.
Brutus, Caluus, and Calidius, who found fault with Tullies fulnes in woordes and matter, and that rightlie, for Tullie did both confesse it and mend it, yet in Caesar they neither did, nor could, finde the like or any other fault.
And therfore thus iustlie I may conclude of Caesar, that where, in all other, the best that euer wrote, in any tyme, or in any tong, in Greke or Latin (I except neither Plato, Demosthenes, nor Tullie), some fault is iustlie noted, in Caesar onelie could neuer yet fault be found.
Yet neuertheles, for all this perfite excellencie in him, yet it is but in one member of eloquence, and that but of one side neither, whan we must looke for that example to folow, which hath a perfite head, a whole bodie, forward and backward, armes and legges and all.