G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
King James VI. (15661625)
Ane Schort Treatise conteining some reulis and cautelis to be obseruit and eschewit in Scottis Poesie 1584
[Ane schort | Treatise, | conteining some revlis | and cautelis to be obseruit and | eschewit in Scottis | Poesie, was issued in the volume of The Essayes of a Prentise, in the Divine Art of Poesie, printed at Edinburgh by Thomas Vautroullier in 1584. The text is taken from the copy which was formerly in the possession of the poet William Drummond of Hawthornden, and was presented by him to the Library of the University of Edinburgh (De. 2. 57). The Treatise begins at sig. K. On the back of the special title-page is printed A Qvadrain of Alexandrin Verse, declaring to qvhome the Authour hes directit his labour.
To ignorants obdurde, quhair wilful errour lyis,
Nor yit to curious folks, quhilks carping dois deiect thee,
Nor yit to learned men, quha thinks thame onelie wyis,
Bot to the docile bairns of knawledge I direct thee.
The incorporation in a book of Elizabethan texts of a tract on Scots verse, by a Scottish king, requires no apology, especially when its relation to earlier Southern work can be clearly shown (see Introduction).
The Preface to the Reader.
THE CAUSE why (docile Reader) I haue not dedicat this short treatise to any particular personis (as commounly workis vsis to be) is, that I esteme all thais quha hes already some beginning of knawledge, with ane earnest desyre to atteyne to farther, alyke meit for the reading of this worke, or any vther, quhilk may help thame to the atteining to thair foirsaid desyre. Bot as to this work, quhilk is intitulit The Reulis and cautelis to be obseruit and eschewit in Scottis Poesie, ye may maruell parauenture quhairfore I sould haue writtin in that mater, sen sa mony learnit men, baith of auld and of late, hes already written thairof in dyuers and sindry languages: I answer that, notwithstanding, I haue lykewayis writtin of it, for twa caussis. The ane is: As for them that wrait of auld, lyke as the tyme is changeit sensyne, sa is the ordour of Poesie changeit. For then they obseruit not Flowing, nor eschewit not Ryming in termes, besydes sindrie vther thingis, quhilk now we obserue and eschew, and dois weil in sa doing: because that now, quhen the warld is waxit auld, we haue all their opinionis in writ, quhilk were learned before our tyme, besydes our awin ingynis, quhair as they then did it onelie be thair awin ingynis, but help of any vther. Thairfore, quhat I speik of Poesie now, I speik of it as being come to mannis age and perfectioun, quhair as then it was bot in the infancie and chyldheid. The vther cause is: That as for thame that hes written in it of late, there hes neuer ane of thame written in our language. For albeit sindrie hes written of it in English, quhilk is lykest to our language, yit we differ from thame in sindrie reulis of Poesie, as ye will find be experience. I haue lykewayis omittit dyuers figures, quhilkis are necessare to be vsit in verse, for twa causis. The ane is, because they are vsit in all languages, and thairfore are spokin of be Du Bellay, and sindrie vtheris, quha hes written in this airt. Quhairfore, gif I wrait of them also, it sould seme that I did bot repete that quhilk they haue written, and yit not sa weil as they haue done already. The vther cause is that they are figures of Rhetorique and Dialectique, quhilkis airtis I professe nocht, and thairfore will apply to my selfe the counsale quhilk Apelles gaue to the shoomaker, quhen he said to him, seing him find falt with the shankis of the Image of Venus, efter that he had found falt with the pantoun, Ne sutor vltra crepidam.
I will also wish yow (docile Reidar) that, or ye cummer yow with reiding thir reulis, ye may find in your self sic a beginning of Nature as ye may put in practise in your verse many of thir foirsaidis preceptis, or euer ye sie them as they are heir set doun. For gif Nature be nocht the cheif worker in this airt, Reulis wilbe bot a band to Nature, and will mak yow within short space weary of the haill airt: quhair as, gif Nature be cheif, and bent to it, reulis will be ane help and staff to Nature. I will end heir, lest my preface be langer nor my purpose and haill mater following: wishing yow, docile Reidar, als gude succes and great proffeit by reiding this short treatise as I tuke earnist and willing panis to blok it, as ye sie, for your cause. Fare weill.
I haue insert in the hinder end of this Treatise maist kyndis of versis quhilks are not cuttit or brokin, bot alyke many feit in euerie lyne of the verse, and how they are commounly namit, with my opinioun for quhat subiectis ilk kynde of thir verse is meitest to be vsit.
To knaw the quantitie of your lang or short fete in they lynes, quhilk I haue put in the reule quhilk teachis yow to knaw quhat is Flowing, I haue markit the lang fute with this mark , and abone the heid of the shorte fute I haue put this mark .
That ye ryme ay to the hinmest lang syllabe (with accent) in the lyne, suppose it be not the hinmest syllabe in the lyne, as bakbyte yow and out flyte yow. It rymes in byte and flyte, because of the lenth of the syllabe, and accent being there, and not in yow, howbeit it be the hinmest syllabe of ather of the lynis. Or question and digestion: It rymes in ques and ges, albeit they be bot the antepenult syllabis, and vther twa behind ilkane of thame.
Ye aucht alwayis to note that, as in thir foirsaidis or the lyke wordis, it rymes in the hinmest lang syllabe in the lyne, althoucht there be vther short syllabis behind it, sa is the hinmest lang syllabe the hinmest fute, suppose there be vther short syllabis behind it, quhilkis are eatin vp in the pronounceing and na wayis comptit as fete.
Ye man be war likewayis (except necessitie compell yow) with Ryming in Termis, quhilk is to say, that your first or hinmest word in the lyne exceid not twa or thre syllabis at the maist, vsing thrie als seindill as ye can. The cause quhairfore ye sall not place a lang word first in the lyne is that all lang words hes ane syllabe in them sa verie lang, as the lenth thairof eatis vp in the pronouncing euin the vther syllabes quhilks ar placit lang in the same word, and thairfore spillis the flowing of that lyne. As for exemple in this word, Arabia, the second syllable (ra) is sa lang that it eatis vp in the prononcing (a), quhilk is the hinmest syllabe of the same word. Quhilk (a) althocht it be in a lang place, yit it kythis not sa, because of the great lenth of the preceding syllabe (ra). As to the cause quhy ye sall not put a lang word hinmest in the lyne, it is because that the lenth of the secound syllabe (ra), eating vp the lenth of the vther lang syllabe (a), makis it to serue bot as a tayle vnto it, together with the short syllabe preceding. And because this tayle nather seruis for cullour nor fute, as I spak before, it man be thairfore repetit in the nixt lyne ryming vnto it, as it is set doune in the first: quhilk makis that ye will scarcely get many wordis to ryme vnto it, yea nane at all will ye finde to ryme to sindrie vther langer wordis. Thairfore cheifly be warre of inserting sic lang wordis hinmest in the lyne, for the cause quhilk I last allegit. Besydis that, nather first nor last in the lyne, it keipis na Flowing. The reulis and cautelis quhairof are thir, as followis.
FIRST, ye man vnderstand that all syllabis are deuydit in thrie kindes: That is, some schort, some lang, and some indifferent. Be indifferent I meane they quhilk are ather lang or short, according as ye place thame.
The forme of placeing syllabes in verse is this. That your first syllabe in the lyne be short, the second lang, the thrid short, the fourt lang, the fyft short, the sixt lang, and sa furth to the end of the lyne. Alwayis tak heid that the nomber of your fete in euery lyne be euin, and nocht odde: as four, six, audit, or ten, and not thrie, fyue, seuin, or nyne, except it be in broken verse, quhilkis are out of reul and daylie inuentit be dyuers Poetis. Bot gif ye wald ask me the reulis quhairby to knaw euerie ane of thir thre foirsaidis kyndis of syllabes, I answer your eare man be the onely iudge and discerner thairof. And to proue this, I remit to the iudgement of the same, quhilk of thir twa lynis following flowis best,
I doubt not bot your eare makkis you easilie to persaue that the first lyne flowis weil and the vther nathing at all. The reasoun is because the first lyne keips the reule abone writtento wit, the first fute short, the secound lang, and sa furth, as I shewe beforequhair as the vther is direct contrair to the same. Bot specially tak heid, quhen your lyne is of fourtene, that your Sectioun in aucht be a lang monosyllabe, or ellis the hinmest syllabe of a word alwais being lang, as I said before. The cause quhy it man be ane of thir twa is for the Musique, because that quhen your lyne is ather of xiiij or xij fete it wilbe drawin sa lang in the singing, as ye man rest in the middes of it, quhilk is the Sectioun: sa as, gif your Sectioun be nocht ather a monosyllabe, or ellis the hinmest syllabe of a word, as I said before, bot the first syllabe of a polysyllabe, the Musique sall make yow sa to rest in the middes of that word, as it sall cut the ane half of the word fra the vther, and sa sall mak it seme twa different wordis, that is bot ane. This aucht onely to be obseruit in thir foirsaid lang lynis: for the shortnes of all shorter lynis then thir before mentionat is the cause that the Musique makis na rest in the middes of thame, and thairfore thir obseruationis seruis nocht for thame. Onely tak heid that the Sectioun in thame kythe something langer nor any vther feit in that lyne, except the secound and the last, as I haue said before.
Remember also to mak a Sectioun in the middes of euery lyne, quhether the lyne be lang or short. Be Sectioun I mean, that gif your lyne be of fourtene fete, your aucht fute man not only be langer then the seuint, or vther short fete, but also langer nor any vther lang fete in the same lyne, except the secound and the hinmest. Or gif your lyne be of twelf fete, your Sectioun to be in the sext. Or gif of ten, your Sectioun to be in the sext also. The cause quhy it is not in fyue is because fyue is odde, and euerie odde fute is short. Or gif your lyne be of aucht fete, your Sectioun to be in the fourt. Gif of sex, in the fourt also. Gif of four, your Sectioun to be in twa.
Ye aucht likewise be war with oft composing your haill lynis of monosyllabis onely (albeit our language haue sa many as we can nocht weill eschewe it), because the maist pairt of thame are indifferent, and may be in short or lang place, as ye like. Some wordis of dyuers syllabis are likewayis indifferent, as
In the first thairfore, (thair) is short and (fore) is lang; in the vther, (thair) is lang and (fore) is short; and yit baith flowis alike weill. Bot thir indifferent wordis, composit of dyuers syllabes, are rare, suppose in monosyllabes commoun. The cause then quhy ane haill lyne aucht nocht to be composit of monosyllabes only is that, they being for the maist pairt indifferent, nather the secound, hinmest, nor Sectioun will be langer nor the other lang fete in the same lyne. Thairfore ye man place a word composit of dyuers syllabes, and not indifferent, ather in the secound, hinmest, or Sectioun, or in all thrie.
Ye man also tak heid that quhen thare fallis any short syllabis efter the last lang syllabe in the lyne, that ye repeit thame in the lyne quhilk rymis to the vther, even as ye set them downe in the first lyne: as for exempill, ye man not say
Then feir nocht
Nor heir ocht,
Then feir nocht
Nor heir nocht,
repeting the same nocht in baith the lynis: because this syllabe nocht, nather seruing for cullour nor fute, is bot a tayle to the lang fute preceding, and thairfore is repetit lykewayis in the nixt lyne quhilk rymes vnto it euin as it [is] set doun in the first.
There is also a kynde of indifferent wordis asweill as of syllabis, albeit few in nomber. The nature quhairof is that gif ye place thame in the begynning of a lyne they are shorter be a fute nor they are gif ye place thame hinmest in the lyne, as
Ye se there are bot aucht fete in ather of baith thir lynis aboue written. The cause quhairof is that patience in the first lyne, in respect it is in the beginning thairof, is bot of twa fete, and in the last lyne of thrie, in respect it is the hinmest word of that lyne. To knaw and discerne thir kynde of wordis from vtheris, your eare man be the onely iudge, as of all the vther parts of Flowing, the verie twichestane quhairof is Musique.
I haue teachit yow now shortly the reulis of Ryming, Fete, and Flowing. There restis yet to teache yow the wordis, sentences, and phrasis necessair for a Poete to vse in his verse, quhilk I haue set doun in reulis, as efter followis.
FIRST, that in quhatsumeuer ye put in verse, ye put in na wordis ather metri causa or yit for filling furth the nomber of the fete, bot that they be all sa necessare as ye sould be constrainit to vse thame in cace ye were speiking the same purpose in prose. And thairfore that your wordis appeare to haue cum out willingly, and by nature, and not to haue bene thrawin out constrainedly, be compulsioun.
That ye eschew to insert in your verse a lang rable of mennis names, or names of tounis, or sik vther names, because it is hard to mak many lang names all placit together to flow weill. Thairfore, quhen that fallis out in your purpose, ye sall ather put bot twa or thrie of thame in euerie lyne, mixing vther wordis amang thame, or ellis specifie bot twa or thre of them at all, saying (With the laif of that race), or (With the rest in thay pairtis), or sic vther lyke wordis: as for example,
Ye man also take heid to frame your wordis and sentencis according to the mater: As in Flyting and Inuectiues your wordis to be cuttit short, and hurland ouer heuch. For thais quhilkis are cuttit short, I meane be sic wordis as thir,
Iis neir cair,
I sall neuer cair,
gif your subiect were of loue, or tragedies. Because in thame your words man be drawin lang, quhilkis in Flyting man be short.
Gif your subiect be of landwart effaris, to vse sklender reasonis, mixt with grosse ignorance, nather keiping forme nor ordour. And sa furth, euer framing your reasonis according to the qualitie of your subiect.
Let all your verse be Literall, sa far as may be, quhatsumeuer kynde they be of, bot speciallie Tumbling verse for flyting. Be Literall I meane that the maist pairt of your lyne sall rynne vpon a letter, as this tumbling lyne rynnis vpon F.
Fetching fude for to feid it fast furth of the Farie.
Ye man obserue that thir Tumbling verse flowis not on that fassoun as vtheris dois. For all vtheris keipis the reule quhilk I gaue before, to wit, the first fute short, the secound lang, and sa furth. Quhair as thir hes twa short and ane lang throuch all the lyne, quhen they keip ordour: albeit the maist pairt of thame be out of ordour, and keipis na kynde nor reule of Flowing, and for that cause are callit Tumbling verse: except the short lynis of aucht in the hinder end of the verse, the quhilk flowis as vther verses dois, as ye will find in the hinder end of this buke, quhair I giue exemple of sindrie kyndis of versis.
As for Comparisons, take heid that they be sa proper for the subiect that nather they be ouer bas, gif your subiect be heich, for then sould your subiect disgrace your Comparisoun, nather your Comparisoun be heich quhen your subiect is basse, for then sall your Comparisoun disgrace your subiect. Bot let sic a mutuall correspondence and similitude be betwix them as it may appeare to be a meit Comparisoun for sic a subiect, and sa sall they ilkane decore vther.
As for Epithetis, it is to descryue brieflie, en passant, the naturall of euerie thing ye speik of, be adding the proper adiectiue vnto it, quhairof there are twa fassons. The ane is to descryue it be making a corruptit worde, composit of twa dyuers simple wordis, as
Ye sie this word quhylis is repetit heir. This forme of repetitioun, sometyme vsit, decoris the verse very mekle. Yea, quhen it cummis to purpose, it will be cumly to repete sic a word aucht or nyne tymes in a verse.
YE man also be warre with composing ony thing in the same maner as hes bene ower oft vsit of before. As in speciall, gif ye speik of loue, be warre ye descryue your Loues makdome, or her fairnes. And siclyke that ye descryue not the morning and rysing of the Sunne in the Preface of your verse; for thir thingis are sa oft and dyuerslie writtin vpon be Poëtis already, that gif ye do the lyke it will appeare ye bot imitate, and that it cummis not of your awin Inuentioun, quhilk is ane of the cheif properteis of ane Poete. Thairfore, gif your subiect be to prayse your Loue, ye sall rather prayse hir vther qualiteis, nor her fairnes or hir shaip; or ellis ye sall speik some lytill thing of it, and syne say that your wittis are sa smal, and your vtterance sa barren, that ye can not discryue any part of hir worthelie; remitting alwayis to the Reider to iudge of hir, in respect sho matches, or rather excellis, Venus, or any woman, quhome to it sall please yow to compaire her. Bot gif your subiect be sic as ye man speik some thing of the morning or Sunne rysing, tak heid that, quhat name ye giue to the Sunne, the Mone, or vther starris the ane tyme, gif ye happin to wryte thairof another tyme, to change thair names. As gif ye call the Sunne Titan at a tyme, to call him Phbus or Apollo the vther tyme; and siclyke the Mone, and vther Planettis.
BOT sen Inuention is ane of the cheif vertewis in a Poete, it is best that ye inuent your awin subiect your self, and not to compose of sene subiectis. Especially translating any thing out of vther language, quhilk doing, ye not onely essay not your awin ingyne of Inuentioun, bot be the same meanes ye are bound, as to a staik, to follow that buikis phrasis quhilk ye translate.
Ye man also be war of wryting any thing of materis of commoun weill, or vther sic graue sene subiectis (except Metaphorically, of manifest treuth opinly knawin, yit nochtwithstanding vsing it very seindil), because nocht onely ye essay nocht your awin Inuentioun, as I spak before, bot lykewayis they are to graue materis for a Poet to mell in. Bot because ye can not haue the Inuentioun, except it come of Nature, I remit it thairvnto, as the cheif cause not onely of Inuentioun bot also of all the vther pairtis of Poesie. For airt is onely bot ane help and a remembraunce to Nature, as I shewe yow in the Preface.
¶ For compendious praysing of any bukes, or the authouris thairof, or ony argumentis of vther historeis, quhair sindrie sentences and change of purposis are requyrit, vse Sonet verse, of fourtene lynis, and ten fete in euery lyne. The exemple quhairof I neid nocht to shaw yow, in respect I haue set doun twa in the beginning of this treatise.
¶ Lyke verse of ten fete, as this foirsaid is of aucht, ye may vse lykewayis in loue materis: as also all kyndis of cuttit and brokin verse, quhairof new formes are daylie inuentit according to the Poëtes pleasour, as
¶ This onely kynde of brokin verse abonewrittin man of necessitie, in thir last short fete, as so moylie and coylie, haue bot twa fete and a tayle to ilkane of thame, as ye sie, to gar the cullour and ryme be in the penult syllabe.
¶ And of thir foirsaidis kyndes of ballatis of haill verse, and not cuttit or brokin as this last is, gif ye lyke to put ane owerword till ony of thame, as making the last lyne of the first verse to be the last lyne of euerie vther verse in that ballat, [will] set weill for loue materis.
Bot besydis thir kyndes of brokin or cuttit verse, quhilks ar inuentit daylie be Poetis, as I shewe before, there are sindrie kyndes of haill verse, with all thair lynis alyke lang, quhilk I haue heir omittit, and tane bot onelie thir few kyndes aboue specifeit as the best, quhilk may be applyit to ony kynde of subiect, bot rather to thir quhairof I haue spokin before.