G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
The Epistle Dedicatory to The Shepheards Calender 1579
[This Epistle, addressed by E. K. to Gabriel Harvey in commendation of Spensers Shepheards Calender, is reprinted from the first edition of the Calender, issued by Hugh Singleton of Creed Lane near Ludgate, towards the close of 1579.]
To the Most Excellent and Learned, Both Orator and Poete, Mayster Gabriell Harvey, His Verie Special and Singular Good Frend E. K. Commendeth the Good Lyking of This His Labour, and the Patronage of the New Poete.
UNCOVTHE, vnkiste, sayde the old famous Poete Chaucer: whom, for his excellencie and wonderfull skil in making, his scholler Lidgate, a worthy scholler of so excellent a maister, calleth the Loadestarre of our Language, and whom our Colin Clout in his Æglogue calleth Tityrus the God of shepheards, comparing hym to the worthines of the Roman Tityrus, Virgile. Which prouerbe, myne owne good friend Ma. Haruey, as in that good old Poete it serued well Pandares purpose for the bolstering of his baudy brocage, so very well taketh place in this our new Poete, who for that he is vncouthe (as said Chaucer) is vnkist, and vnknown to most men is regarded but of few. But I dout not, so soone as his name shall come into the knowledg of men, and his worthines be sounded in the tromp of fame, but that he shall be not onely kiste, but also beloued of all, embraced of the most, and wondred at of the best. No lesse, I thinke, deserueth his wittinesse in deuising, his pithinesse in vttering, his complaints of loue so louely, his discourses of pleasure so pleasantly, his pastoral rudenesse, his morall wisenesse, his dewe obseruing of Decorum euerye where, in personages, in seasons, in matter, in speach; and generally, in al seemely simplycitie of handeling his matter and framing his words: the which, of many thinges which in him be straunge, I know will seeme the straungest, the words them selues being so auncient, the knitting of them so short and intricate, and the whole Periode and compasse of speache so delightsome for the roundnesse, and so graue for the straungenesse. And firste of the wordes to speake, I graunt they be something hard, and of most men vnused, yet both English, and also vsed of most excellent Authors and most famous Poetes. In whom, whenas this our Poet hath bene much traueiled and throughly redd, how could it be (as that worthy Oratour sayde) but that walking in the sonne, although for other cause he walked, yet needes he mought be sunburnt; and, hauing the sound of those auncient Poetes still ringing in his eares, he mought needes, in singing, hit out some of theyr tunes. But whether he vseth them by such casualtye and custome, or of set purpose and choyse, as thinking them fittest for such rusticall rudenesse of shepheards, eyther for that theyr rough sounde would make his rymes more ragged and rustical, or els because such olde and obsolete wordes are most vsed of country folke, sure I think, and think I think not amisse, that they bring great grace, and, as one would say, auctoritie to the verse. For albe, amongst many other faultes, it specially be obiected of Valla against Liuie, and of other against Saluste, that with ouer much studie they affect antiquitie, as coueting thereby credence and honor of elder yeeres, yet I am of opinion, and eke the best learned are of the lyke, that those auncient solemne wordes are a great ornament, both in the one and in the other; the one labouring to set forth in hys worke an eternall image of antiquitie, and the other carefully discoursing matters of grauitie and importaunce. For, if my memory faile not, Tullie, in that booke wherein he endeuoureth to set forth the paterne of a perfect Oratour, sayth that ofttimes an auncient worde maketh the style seeme graue, and as it were reuerend, no otherwise then we honour and reuerence gray heares, for a certein religious regard which we haue of old age. Yet nether euery where must old words be stuffed in, nor the common Dialecte and maner of speaking so corrupted therby, that, as in old buildings, it seme disorderly and ruinous. But all as in most exquisite pictures they vse to blaze and portraict not onely the daintie lineaments of beautye, but also rounde about it to shadow the rude thickets and craggy clifts, that, by the basenesse of such parts, more excellency may accrew to the principall; for oftimes we fynde ourselues, I knowe not how, singularly delighted with the shewe of such naturall rudenesse, and take great pleasure in that disorderly order. Euen so doe those rough and harsh termes enlumine, and make more clearly to appeare, the brightnesse of braue and glorious words. So oftentimes a dischorde in Musick maketh a comely concordaunce: so great delight tooke the worthy Poete Alceus to behold a blemish in the ioynt of a wel shaped body. But if any will rashly blame such his purpose in choyse of old and vnwonted words, him may I more iustly blame and condemne, or of witlesse headinesse in iudging or of heedelesse hardinesse in condemning; for, not marking the compasse of hys bent, he wil iudge of the length of his cast: for in my opinion it is one special prayse of many whych are dew to this Poete, that he hath laboured to restore, as to theyr rightfull heritage, such good and naturall English words as haue ben long time out of vse and almost cleane disherited. Which is the onely cause that our Mother tonge, which truely of it self is both ful enough for prose and stately enough for verse, hath long time ben counted most bare and barrein of both. Which default when as some endeuoured to salue and recure, they patched up the holes with peces and rags of other languages, borrowing here of the French, there of the Italian, every where of the Latine; not weighing how il those tongues accorde with themselues, but much worse with ours: So now they haue made our English tongue a gallimaufray or hodgepodge of al other speches. Other some, no[t] so wel sene in the English tonge as perhaps in other languages, if they happen to here an olde word, albeit very naturall and significant, crye out streightway that we speak no English, but gibbrish, or rather such as in old time Euanders mother spake: whose first shame is, that they are not ashamed, in their own mother tonge, straungers to be counted and alienes. The second shame, no lesse then the first, that what so they vnderstand not they streight way deeme to be sencelesse and not at al to be vnderstode. Much like to the Mole in Æsopes fable, that, being blynd her selfe, would in no wise be perswaded that any beast could see. The last, more shameful then both, that of their owne country and natural speach, which together with their Nources milk they sucked, they haue so base regard and bastard iudgement, that they will not onely themselues not labor to garnish and beautifie it, but also repine that of other it shold be embellished. Like to the dogge in the maunger, that him selfe can eate no hay, and yet barketh at the hungry bullock that so faine would feede: whose currish kind, though it cannot be kept from barking, yet I conne them thanke that they refrain from byting.
Now, for the knitting of sentences, whych they call the ioynts and members therof, and for al the compasse of the speach, it is round without roughnesse, and learned wythout hardnes, such indeede as may be perceiued of the leaste, vnderstoode of the moste, but iudged onely of the learned. For what in most English wryters vseth to be loose, and as it were vngyrt, in this Authour is well grounded, finely framed, and strongly trussed up together. In regard wherof, I scorne and spue out the rakehellye route of our ragged rymers (for so themselues vse to hunt the letter) which without learning boste, without iudgement iangle, without reason rage and fome, as if some instinct of Poeticall spirite had newly rauished them aboue the meanenesse of commen capacitie. And being in the middest of all theyr brauery, sodenly, eyther for want of matter or of ryme, or hauing forgotten theyr former conceipt, they seeme to be so pained and traueiled in theyr remembrance, as it were a woman in childebirth, or as that same Pythia when the traunce came vpon her: Os rabidum fera corda domans, &c.
Nethelesse, let them a Gods name feede on theyr owne folly, so they seeke not to darken the beames of others glory. As for Colin, vnder whose person the Authour selfe is shadowed, how furre he is from such vaunted titles and glorious showes, both him selfe sheweth, where he sayth,
Of Muses, Hobbin[ol], I conne no skill,
Enough is me to paint out my vnrest, &c:
And also appeareth by the basenesse of the name, wherein it semeth he chose rather to vnfold great matter of argument couertly then, professing it, not suffice thereto accordingly. Which moued him rather in Æglogues then other wise to write, doubting perhaps his habilitie, which he little needed, or mynding to furnish our tongue with this kinde wherein it faulteth; or following the example of the best and most auncient Poetes, which deuised this kind of wryting, being both base for the matter and homely for the manner, at the first to trye theyr habilities, and, as young birdes that be newly crept out of the nest, by little first to proue theyr tender wyngs before they make a greater flyght. So flew Theocritus, as you may perceiue he was all ready full fledged. So flew Virgile, as not yet well feeling his winges. So flew Mantuane, as not being full somd. So Petrarque. So Boccace. So Marot, Sanazarus, and also diuers other excellent both Italian and French Poetes, whose foting this Author euery where followeth; yet so as few, but they be wel sented, can trace him out. So finally flyeth this our new Poete as a birde whose principals be scarce growen out, but yet as [one] that in time shall be hable to keepe wing with the best.
Now, as touching the generall dryft and purpose of his Æglogues, I mind not to say much, him selfe labouring to conceale it. Onely this appeareth, that his vnstayed yougth had long wandred in the common Labyrinth of Loue, in which time to mitigate and allay the heate of his passion, or els to warne (as he sayth) the young shepheards, .f. his equalls and companions, of his vnfortunate folly, he compiled these xij Æglogues, which, for that they be proportioned to the state of the xij monethes, he termeth the SHEPHEARDS CALENDAR, applying an olde name to a new worke. Hereunto haue I added a certain Glosse or scholion, for thexposition of old wordes and harder phrases; which maner of glosing and commenting, well I wote, wil seeme straunge and rare in our tongue: yet, for so much as I knew many excellent and proper deuises, both in wordes and matter, would passe in the speedy course of reading, either as vnknowen or as not marked, and that in this kind, as in other, we might be equal to the learned of other nations, I thought good to take the paines vpon me, the rather for that by meanes of some familiar acquaintaunce I was made priuie to his counsell and secret meaning in them, as also in sundry other works of his, which albeit I know he nothing so much hateth as to promulgate, yet thus much haue I aduentured vpon his frendship, him selfe being for long time furre estraunged, hoping that this will the rather occasion him to put forth diuers other excellent works of his which slepe in silence, as his Dreames, his Legendes, his Court of Cupide, and sondry others, whose commendations to set out were verye vaine, the thinges though worthy of many yet being knowen to few. These my present paynes, if to any they be pleasurable or profitable, be you iudge, mine own good Maister Haruey, to whom I haue, both in respect of your worthinesse generally and otherwyse vpon some particular and special considerations, voued this my labour and the maydenhead of this our commen frends Poetrie; himselfe hauing already in the beginning dedicated it to the Noble and worthy Gentleman, the right worshipfull Ma. Phi. Sidney, a special fauourer and maintainer of all kind of learning. Whose cause, I pray you, Sir, yf Enuie shall stur vp any wrongful accusasion, defend with your mighty Rhetorick and other your rare gifts of learning, as you can, and shield with your good wil, as you ought, against the malice and outrage of so many enemies, as I know wilbe set on fire with the sparks of his kindled glory. And thus recommending the Author vnto you, as vnto his most special good frend, and my selfe vnto you both, as one making singuler account of two so very good and so choise frends, I bid you both most hartely farwel, and commit you and your most commendable studies to the tuicion of the greatest.
Your owne assuredly to be commaunded,
Post scr. NOW I trust, M. Haruey, that vpon sight of your speciall frends and fellow Poets doings, or els for enuie of so many vnworthy Quidams which catch at the garlond which to you alone is dewe, you will be perswaded to pluck out of the hateful darknesse those so many excellent English poemes of yours which lye hid, and bring them forth to eternall light. Trust me, you doe both them great wrong, in depriuing them of the desired sonne, and also your selfe, in smoothering your deserued prayses, and all men generally, in withholding from them so diuine pleasures, which they might conceiue of your gallant English verses, as they haue already doen of your Latine Poemes, which, in my opinion, both for inuention and Elocution are very delicate and superexcellent. And thus againe I take my leaue of my good Mayster Haruey: from my lodging at London thys 10. of Aprill, 1579.