G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
William Webbe (c. 15501591)
A Discourse of English Poetrie 1586
[A Discourse of Eng | lish Poetrie. || Together with the Authors | iudgment, touching the re- | formation of our Eng- | lish Verse. || By William Webbe | Graduate was printed at London in 1586 by Iohn Charlewood for Robert Walley (1 vol. 4to). The text is taken from the rare copy in the Bodleian (Malone 708). Webbe dedicated this draught of English Poetry to Edward Suliard, of Flemyngs, in the parish of Runwell, Essex, to whose sons Edward and Thomas he had been tutor. I sende it into your sight, not as anie wyttie peece of worke that may delight you, but, being a sleight somewhat compyled for recreation in the intermyssions of my daylie businesse (euen thys Summer Eueninges), as a token of that earnest and vnquenchable desyre I haue to shewe my selfe duetifull and welwylling towardes you.1]
A Preface to the Noble Poets of Englande.
AMONG the innumerable sortes of Englyshe Bookes, and infinite fardles of printed pamphlets, wherewith thys Countrey is pestered, all shoppes stuffed, and euery study furnished, the greatest part I thinke, in any one kinde, are such as are either meere Poeticall, or which tende in some respecte (as either in matter or forme) to Poetry. Of such Bookes therfore, sith I haue beene one that haue had a desire to reade not the fewest, and because it is an argument which men of great learning haue no leysure to handle, or at least hauing to doo with more serious matters doo least regarde, if I write something concerning what I thinke of our English Poets, or aduenture to sette downe my simple iudgement of English Poetrie, I trust the learned Poets will giue me leaue, and vouchsafe my Booke passage, as beeing for the rudenesse thereof no preiudice to their noble studies, but euen (as my intent is) an instar cotis to stirre vppe some other of meete abilitie to bestowe trauell in this matter: whereby I thinke wee may not onelie get the meanes, which wee yet want, to discerne betweene good writers and badde, but perhappes also challenge from the rude multitude of rusticall Rymers, who will be called Poets, the right practise and orderly course of true Poetry.
It is to be wondred at of all, and is lamented of manie, that where as all kinde of good learning haue aspyred to royall dignitie and statelie grace in our English tongue, being not onelie founded, defended, maintained, and enlarged, but also purged from faultes, weeded of errours, and pollished from barbarousnes, by men of great authoritie and iudgement, onelie Poetrie hath founde fewest frends to amende it, those that can reseruing theyr skyll to themselues, those that cannot running headlong vppon it, thinking to garnish it with their deuises, but more corrupting it with fantasticall errours. What shoulde be the cause that our English speeche, in some of the wysest mens iudgements, hath neuer attained to anie sufficient ripenes, nay not ful auoided the reproch of barbarousnes in Poetry? The rudenes of the Countrey, or basenesse of wytts; or the course Dialect of the speeche? Experience vtterlie disproueth it to be anie of these. What then? Surelie the canckred enmitie of curious custome: which as it neuer was great freend to any good learning, so in this hath it grounded in the most such a negligent perswasion of an impossibilitie in matching the best, that the finest witts and most diuine heades haue contented themselues with a base kinde of fingering, rather debasing theyr faculties in setting forth theyr skyll in the coursest manner, then for breaking custome they would labour to adorne their Countrey and aduaunce their style with the highest and most learnedst toppe of true Poetry. The rudenes or vnaptnesse of our Countrey to be either none or no hinderaunce, if reformation were made accordinglie, the exquisite excellency in all kindes of good learning nowe flourishing among vs, inferiour to none other nation, may sufficiently declare.
That there be as sharpe and quicke wittes in England as euer were among the peerelesse Grecians or renowmed Romaines, it were a note of no witte at all in me to deny. And is our speeche so course, or our phrase so harshe, that Poetry cannot therein finde a vayne whereby it may appeare like it selfe? Why should we think so basely of this? rather then of her sister, I meane Rhetoricall Eloquution? which as they were by byrth Twyns, by kinde the same, by originall of one descent, so no doubt, as Eloquence hath founde such fauourers in the English tongue, as she frequenteth not any more gladly, so would Poetrye, if there were the like welcome and entertainment gyuen her by our English Poets, without question aspyre to wonderfull perfection, and appeare farre more gorgeous and delectable among vs. Thus much I am bolde to say in behalfe of Poetrie, not that I meane to call in question the reuerend and learned workes of Poetrie written in our tongue by men of rare iudgement and most excellent Poets, but euen as it were by way of supplication to the famous and learned Lawreat Masters of Englande, that they would but consult one halfe howre with their heauenly Muse what credite they might winne to theyr natiue speeche, what enormities they might wipe out of English Poetry, what a fitte vaine they might frequent, wherein to shewe forth their worthie faculties if English Poetrie were truely reformed, and some perfect platforme or Prosodia of versifying were by them ratified and sette downe, eyther in immitation of Greekes and Latines, or, where it would skant abyde the touch of theyr Rules, the like obseruations selected and established by the naturall affectation of the speeche. Thus much I say, not to perswade you that are the fauourers of Englishe Poetry, but to mooue it to you: beeing not the firste that haue thought vpon this matter, but one that by consent of others haue taken vpon me to lay it once again in your wayes, if perhaps you may stumble vppon it, and chance to looke so lowe from your diuine cogitations, when your Muse mounteth to the starres and ransacketh the Spheres of heauen: whereby perhaps you may take compassion of noble Poetry, pittifullie mangled and defaced by rude smatterers and barbarous immitatours of your worthy studies. If the motion bee worthy your regard, it is enough to mooue it; if not, my wordes woulde simply preuaile in perswading you; and therefore I rest vppon thys onely request, that of your courtesies you wyll graunt passage, vnder your fauourable corrections, for this my simple censure of English Poetry, wherein, if you please to runne it ouer, you shall knowe breefely myne opinion of the most part of your accustomed Poets, and particularly, in his place, the lyttle somewhat which I haue sifted out of my weake brayne concerning thys reformed versifying.
INTENDING to write some discourse of English Poetrie, I thinke it not amysse if I speake something generally of Poetrie, as what it is, whence it had the beginning, and of what estimation it hath alwayes beene and ought to be among al sorts of people. Poetrie, called in Greeke [poiesis] beeing deriued from the Verbe [poieo], which signifieth in Latine facere, in English to make, may properly be defined the arte of making: which word, as it hath alwaies beene especially vsed of the best of our English Poets to expresse the very faculty of speaking or wryting Poetically, so doth it in deede containe most fitly the whole grace and property of the same, the more fullye and effectually then any other English Verbe. That Poetry is an Arte (or rather a more excellent thing then can be contayned wythin the compasse of Arte), though I neede not stande long to prooue, both the witnes of Horace, who wrote de arte Poetica, and of Terence, who calleth it Artem Musicam, and the very naturall property thereof may sufficiently declare. The beginning of it, as appeareth by Plato, was of a vertuous and most deuout purpose; who witnesseth that by occasion of meeting of a great company of young men, to solemnize the feasts which were called Panegeryca, and were wont to be celebrated euery fift yeere, there they that were most pregnant in wytt, and indued with great gyfts of wysedome and knowledge in Musicke aboue the rest, did vse commonly to make goodly verses, measured according to the sweetest notes of Musicke, containing the prayse of some noble vertue, or of immortalitie, or of some such thing of greatest estimation: which vnto them seemed so heauenly and ioyous a thing, that, thinking such men to be inspyrde with some diuine instinct from heauen, they called them Vates. So when other among them of the finest wits and aptest capacities beganne in imitation of these to frame ditties of lighter matters, and tuning them to the stroake of some of the pleasantest kind of Musicke, then began there to growe a distinction and great diuersity betweene makers and makers. Whereby (I take it) beganne thys difference: that they which handled in the audience of the people graue and necessary matters were called wise men or eloquent men, which they meant by Vates; and the rest which sange of loue matters, or other lighter deuises alluring vnto pleasure and delight, were called Poetæ or makers. Thus it appeareth both Eloquence and Poetrie to haue had their beginning and originall from these exercises, beeing framed in such sweete measure of sentences and pleasant harmonie called [rythmos], which is an apt composition of wordes or clauses, drawing as it were by force the hearers eares euen whether soeuer it lysteth, that Plato affirmeth therein to be contained [goiteia] an inchauntment, as it were to perswade them anie thing whether they would or no. And heerehence is sayde that men were first withdrawne from a wylde and sauadge kinde of life to ciuillity and gentlenes and the right knowledge of humanity by the force of this measurable or tunable speaking.
This opinion shall you finde confirmed throughout the whole workes of Plato and Aristotle: and that such was the estimation of this Poetry at those times, that they supposed all wisdome and knowledge to be included mystically in that diuine instinction wherewith they thought their Vates to bee inspyred. Wherevpon, throughout the noble workes of those most excellent Philosophers before named, are the authorities of Poets very often alledged. And Cicero in his Tusculane questions is of that minde, that a Poet cannot expresse verses aboundantly, sufficiently, and fully, neither his eloquence can flowe pleasauntly, or his wordes sounde well and plenteously, without celestiall instinction: which Poets themselues doo very often and gladlie witnes of themselues, as namely Ouid in 6. Fasto: Est deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illo, etc. Wherevnto I doubt not equally to adioyne the authoritye of our late famous English Poet who wrote the Sheepheards Calender, where, lamenting the decay of Poetry at these dayes, saith most sweetely to the same:
Then make thee winges of thine aspyring wytt,
And, whence thou earnest, flye back to heauen apace, etc.
Whose fine poeticall witt and most exquisite learning, as he shewed aboundantly in that peece of worke, in my iudgment inferiour to the workes neither of Theocritus in Greeke nor Virgill in Latine, whom he narrowly immitateth: so I nothing doubt but if his other workes were common abroade, which are as I thinke in the close custodie of certaine his freends, we should haue of our owne Poets whom wee might matche in all respects with the best. And, among all other his workes whatsoeuer, I would wysh to haue the sight of hys English Poet, which his freend E. K. did once promise to publishe, which whether he performed or not, I knowe not: if he did, my happe hath not beene so good as yet to see it.
But to returne to the estimation of Poetry. Besides the great and profitable fruites contained in Poetry, for the instruction of manners and precepts of good life (for that was cheefly respected in the first age of Poetry), this is also added to the eternall commendations of that noble faculty: that Kinges and Princes, great and famous men, did euer encourage, mayntaine, and reward Poets in al ages, because they were thought onely to haue the whole power in their handes of making men either immortally famous for their valiaunt exploytes and vertuous exercises, or perpetually infamous for their vicious liues. Wherevppon it is said of Achilles that this onely vantage he had of Hector, that it was his fortune to be extolled and renowmed by the heauenly verse of Homer. And as Tully recordeth to be written of Alexander, that with natural teares he wept ouer Achilles Tombe, in ioy that he concerned at the consideration howe it was his happe to be honoured wyth so diuine a worke as Homers was. Aristotle, a most prudent and learned Philosopher, beeing appointed Schoolemaster to the young Prince Alexander, thought no worke so meete to be reade vnto a King as the worke of Homer: wherein the young Prince, being by him instructed throughly, found such wonderfull delight in the same when hee came to maturity, that hee would not onely haue it with him in all his iourneyes, but in his bedde also vnder his pyllowe, to delight him and teache him both nights and dayes. The same is reported of noble Scipio, who, finding the two Bookes of Homer in the spoyle of Kyng Darius, esteemed them as wonderfull precious Iewelles, making one of them his companion for the night, the other for the day. And not onely was he thus affected to that one peece or parte of Poetry, but so generally he loued the professors thereof, that in his most serious affayres, and hottest warres against Numantia and Carthage, he could no whitte be without that olde Poet Ennius in his company. But to speake of all those noble and wyse Princes, who bare speciall fauour and countenaunce to Poets, were tedious, and would require a rehearsall of all such in whose time there grewe any to credite and estimation in that faculty. Thus farre therefore may suffice for the estimation of Poets. Nowe I thinke most meete to speake somewhat concerning what hath been the vse of Poetry, and wherin it rightly consisted, and whereof consequently it obteyned such estimation.
To begin therefore with the first that was first worthelye memorable in the excellent gyfte of Poetrye, the best wryters agree that it was Orpheus, who by the sweete gyft of his heauenly Poetry withdrew men from raungyng vncertainly and wandring brutishly about, and made them gather together and keepe company, make houses, and keep fellowshippe together, who therefore is reported (as Horace sayth) to asswage the fiercenesse of Tygers and mooue the harde Flynts. After him was Amphion, who was the first that caused Citties to bee builded, and men therein to liue decently and orderly according to lawe and right. Next was Tyrtæus, who began to practise warlike defences, to keepe back enemies and saue themselues from inuasion of foes. In thys place I thinke were most conuenient to rehearse that auncient Poet Pyndarus; but of the certaine time wherein he flourished I am not very certaine; but of the place where he continued moste, it shoulde seeme to be the Citty of Thebes, by Plinie, who reporteth that Alexander in sacking the same Cittie woulde not suffer the house wherein he dwelt to be spoyled as all the rest were. After these was Homer, who as it were in one summe comprehended all knowledge, wisedome, learning, and pollicie that was incident to the capacity of man. And who so liste to take viewe of hys two Bookes, one of his Iliades, the other his Odissea, shall throughly perceiue what the right vse of Poetry is: which indeede is to mingle profite with pleasure, and so to delight the Reader with pleasantnes of hys Arte, as in the mean time his mind may be well instructed with knowledge and wisedome. For so did that worthy Poet frame those his two workes, that in reading the first, that is his Iliads, by declaring and setting forth so liuely the Grecians assembly against Troy, together with their prowesse and fortitude against their foes, a Prince shall learne not onely courage and valiantnesse, but discretion also and pollicie to encounter with his enemies, yea a perfect forme of wyse consultations with his Captaines and exhortations to the people, with other infinite commodities.
Agayne, in the other part, wherein are described the manifold and daungerous aduentures of Vlisses, may a man learne many noble vertues; and also learne to escape and auoyde the subtyll practises and perrilous entrappinges of naughty persons; and not onely this, but in what sort also he may deale to knowe and perceiue the affections of those which be neere vnto him, and most familiar with him, the better to put them in trust with his matters of waight and importaunce. Therefore I may boldly sette downe thys to be the truest, auncientest, and best kinde of Poetry, to direct ones endeuour alwayes to that marke, that with delight they may euermore adioyne commoditie to theyr Readers: which because I grounde vpon Homer, the Prince of all Poets, therefore haue I alledged the order of his worke, as an authority sufficiently proouing this assertion.
Nowe what other Poets which followed him, and beene of greatest fame, haue doone for the moste parte in their seuerall workes I wyll briefely, and as my slender ability wyll serue me, declare. But, by my leaue, I must content my selfe to speake not of all, but of such as my selfe haue seene and beene best acquainted withall, and those not all nor the moste part of the auncient Grecians, of whom I knowe not how many there were, but these of the Latinists, which are of greatest fame and most obuious among us.
Thus much I can say, that Aristotle reporteth none to haue greatly flourished in Greece, at least wyse not left behynd them any notable memoriall, before the time of Homer. And Tully sayth as much, that there were none wrytt woorth the reading twyce in the Romaine tongue, before the Poet Ennius. And surely as the very summe or cheefest essence of Poetry dyd alwayes for the most part consist in delighting the readers or hearers wyth pleasure, so, as the number of Poets increased, they styll inclyned thys way rather then the other, so that most of them had speciall regarde to the pleasantnesse of theyr fine conceytes, whereby they might drawe mens mindes into admiration of theyr inuentions, more then they had to the profitte or commoditye that the Readers shoulde reape by their works. And thus, as I suppose, came it to passe among them that, for the most part of them, they would not write one worke contayning some serious matter: but for the same they wold likewise powre foorth as much of some wanton or laciuious inuention. Yet some of the auncientest sort of Grecians, as it seemeth, were not so much disposed to vayne delectation: as Aristotle sayth of Empedocles, that in hys iudgment he was onley a naturall Philosopher, no Poet at all, nor that he was like vnto Homer in any thing but hys meeter or number of feete, that is, that hee wrote in verse. After the time of Homer there began the firste Comedy wryters, who compyled theyr workes in a better stile, which continued not long before it was expelled by penalty, for scoffing too broade at mens manners, and the priuie reuengements which the Poets vsed against their ill wyllers. Among these was Eupolis, Cratinus, and Aristophanes; but afterward the order of thys wryting Comedies was reformed and made more plausible: then wrytte Plato (Comicus), Menander, and I knowe not who more.
There be many most profitable workes, of like antiquity, or rather before them, of the Tragedy writers: as of Euripides and Sophocles; then was there Phocilides and Theagines, with many other: which Tragedies had their inuention by one Thespis, and were pollished and amended by Æschilus. The profitte or discommoditie which aryseth by the vse of these Comedies and Tragedies, which is most, hath beene long in controuersie, and is sore vrged among vs at these dayes: what I thinke of the same, perhaps I shall breefely declare anon.
Nowe concerning the Poets which wrote in homely manner, as they pretended, but indeede with great pythe and learned iudgment, such as were the wryters of Sheepeheards talke and of husbandly precepts, who were among the Grecians that excelled, besides Theocritus and Hesiodus, I know not; of whom the first, what profitable workes he left to posterity, besides hys Idillia or contentions of Goteheards, tending most to delight and pretty inuentions, I can not tell. The other, no doubt for his Argument he tooke in hande, dealt very learnedly and profitably, that is, in precepts of Husbandry, but yet so as he myxed much wanton stuffe among the rest.
The first wryters of Poetry among the Latines shoulde seeme to be those which excelled in the framing of Commedies, and that they continued a long time without any notable memory of other Poets. Among whom the cheefest that we may see or heare tell of were these: Ennius, Caecilius, Naeuius, Licinius, Attilius, Turpilius, Trabea, Luscius, Plautus, and Terens. Of whom these two last named haue beene euer since theyr time most famous, and to these dayes are esteemed as greate helpes and furtheraunces to the obtayning of good Letters. But heere cannot I stay to speake of the most famous, renowmed, and excellent that euer writte among the Latine Poets, P. Virgill, who performed the very same in that tongue which Homer had doone in Greeke, or rather better, if better might, as Sex. Propert. in his Elegies gallantly recordeth in his praise, Nescio quid magis nascitur Iliade. Vnder the person of Æneas he expresseth the valoure of a worthy Captaine and valiaunt Gouernour, together with the perrilous aduentures of warre, and polliticke deuises at all assayes. And as he immitateth Homer in that worke, so doth he likewyse followe the very steps of Theocritus, in his most pythy inuentions of his Æglogues: and likewyse Hesiodus in hys Georgicks or bookes of Husbandry, but yet more grauely, and in a more decent style. But, notwithstanding hys sage grauity and wonderfull wisedome, dyd he not altogether restrayne his vayne, but that he would haue a cast at some wanton and skant comely an Argument, if indeede such trifles as be fathered vppon him were his owne. There followed after him very many rare and excellent Poets, wherof the most part writt light matters, as Epigrammes and Elegies, with much pleasant dalliance, among whom may be accounted Propertius, Tibullus, Catullus, and diuers whom Ouid speaketh of in diuers places of his workes. Then are there two Hystoricall Poets, no lesse profitable then delightsome to bee read, Silius and Lucanus: the one declaring the valiant prowesse of two noble Captaines, one enemie to the other, that is, Scipio and Haniball; the other, likewise, the fortitude of two expert warriours (yet more lamentably then the other, because these warres were ciuill), Pompey and Cæsar. The next in tyme, but (as most men doo account, and so did he himselfe) the second in dignity, we wyll adioyne Ouid, a most learned and exquisite Poet. The worke of greatest profitte which he wrote was his Booke of Metamorphosis, which though it consisted of fayned Fables for the most part, and poeticall inuentions, yet beeing moralized according to his meaning, and the trueth of euery tale beeing discouered, it is a worke of exceeding wysedome and sounde iudgment. If one lyst in like manner to haue knowledge and perfect intelligence of those rytes and ceremonies which were obserued after the Religion of the Heathen, no more profitable worke for that purpose then his bookes De fastis. The rest of his dooinges, though they tende to the vayne delights of loue and dalliaunce (except his Tristibus wherein he bewayleth hys exile), yet surely are mixed with much good counsayle and profitable lessons, if they be wisely and narrowly read. After his time I know no worke of any great fame till the time of Horace, a Poet not of the smoothest style, but in sharpnesse of wytt inferiour to none, and one to whom all the rest both before his time and since are very much beholding. About the same time Iuuenall and Persius, then Martial, Seneca, a most excellent wryter of Tragedies, Boetius, Lucretius, Statius, Val: Flaccus, Manilius, Ausonius, Claudian, and many other, whose iust times and seuerall workes to speake of in this place were neither much needefull, nor altogeather tollerable, because I purposed an other argument. Onely I will adde two of later times, yet not farre inferiour to the most of them aforesayde, Pallengenius and Bap. Mantuanus; and, for a singuler gyft in a sweete Heroicall verse, match with them Chr. Oclan, the Authour of our Anglorum Prælia. But nowe, least I stray too farre from my purpose, I wyl come to our English Poets, to whom I would I were able to yeelde theyr deserued commendations: and affoorde them that censure which I know many woulde, which can better if they were nowe to write in my steede.
I know no memorable worke written by any Poet in our English speeche vntill twenty yeeres past: where, although Learning was not generally decayde at any time, especially since the Conquest of King William Duke of Normandy, as it may appeare by many famous works and learned bookes (though not of this kinde) wrytten by Byshoppes and others, yet surelye that Poetry was in small price among them, it is very manifest, and no great maruayle, for euen that light of Greeke and Latine Poets which they had they much contemned, as appeareth by theyr rude versifying, which of long time was vsed (a barbarous vse it was), wherin they conuerted the naturall property of the sweete Latine verse to be a balde kinde of ryming, thinking nothing to be learnedly written in verse which fell not out in ryme, that is, in wordes whereof the middle worde of eche verse should sound a like with the last, or of two verses the ende of both should fall in the like letters as thus:
This brutish Poetrie, though it had not the beginning in this Countrey, yet so hath it beene affected heere that the infection thereof would neuer (nor I thinke euer will) be rooted vppe againe: I meane this tynkerly verse which we call ryme. Master Ascham sayth that it first began to be followed and maintained among the Hunnes and Gothians and other barbarous Nations, who, with the decay of all good learning, brought it into Italy: from thence it came into Fraunce, and so to Germany; at last conueyed into England, by men indeede of great wisedome and learning, but not considerate nor circumspect in that behalfe. But of this I must intreate more heereafter.
Henry the first King of that name in England is wonderfully extolled, in all auncient Recordes of memory, for hys singuler good learning in all kinde of noble studies, in so much as he was named by his surname Beaucleark, as much to say as Fayreclerke (whereof perhappes came the name of Fayreclowe). What knowledge hee attained in the skyll of Poetry, I am not able to say. I report his name for proofe that learning in this Country was not little esteemed of at that rude time, and that like it is, among other studies, a King would not neglect the faculty of Poetry. The first of our English Poets that I haue heard of was Iohn Gower, about the time of king Rychard the seconde, as it should seeme by certayne coniectures bothe a Knight and questionlesse a singuler well learned man: whose workes I could wysh they were all whole and perfect among vs, for no doubt they contained very much deepe knowledge and delight; which may be gathered by his freend Chawcer, who speaketh of him oftentimes in diuers places of hys workes. Chawcer, who for that excellent fame which hee obtayned in his Poetry was alwayes accounted the God of English Poets (such a tytle for honours sake hath beene giuen him), was next after if not equall in time to Gower, and hath left many workes, both for delight and profitable knowledge farre exceeding any other that as yet euer since hys time directed theyr studies that way. Though the manner of hys stile may seeme blunte and course to many fine English eares at these dayes, yet in trueth, if it be equally pondered, and with good iudgment aduised, and confirmed with the time wherein he wrote, a man shall perceiue thereby euen a true picture or perfect shape of a right Poet. He by his delightsome vayne so gulled the eares of men with his deuises, that, although corruption bare such sway in most matters that learning and truth might skant bee admitted to shewe it selfe, yet without controllment myght hee gyrde at the vices and abuses of all states, and gawle with very sharpe and eger inuentions, which he did so learnedly and pleasantly that none therefore would call him into question. For such was his bolde spyrit, that what enormities he saw in any he would not spare to pay them home, eyther in playne words, or els in some prety and pleasant couert, that the simplest might espy him.
Neere in time vnto him was Lydgate, a Poet surely for good proportion of his verse and meetely currant style, as the time affoorded, comparable with Chawcer, yet more occupyed in supersticious and odde matters then was requesite in so good a wytte: which, though he handled them commendably, yet, the matters themselues beeing not so commendable, hys estimation hath beene the lesse. The next of our auncient Poets that I can tell of I suppose to be Pierce Ploughman, who in hys dooinges is somewhat harshe and obscure, but indeede a very pithy wryter, and (to hys commendation I speake it) was the first that I haue seene that obserued the quantity of our verse without the curiosity of Ryme.
Since these I knowe none other tyll the time of Skelton, who writ in the time of Kyng Henry the eyght, who as indeede he obtayned the Lawrell Garland, so may I wyth good ryght yeelde him the title of a Poet: hee was doubtles a pleasant conceyted fellowe, and of a very sharpe wytte, exceeding bolde, and would nyppe to the very quicke where he once sette holde. Next hym I thynke I may place master George Gaskoyne, as painefull a Souldier in the affayres of hys Prince and Country as he was a wytty Poet in his wryting: whose commendations, because I found in one of better iudgment then my selfe, I wyl sette downe hys wordes, and suppresse myne owne: of hym thus wryteth E. K., vppon the ninth Æglogue of the new Poet. Master George Gaskoyne, a wytty Gentleman and the very cheefe of our late rymers, who, and if some partes of learning wanted not (albe it is well knowne he altogether wanted not learning), no doubt would haue attayned to the excellencye of those famous Poets. For gyfts of wytt and naturall promptnes appeare in him aboundantly.
I might next speake of the dyuers workes of the olde Earle of Surrey, of the L. Vaus, of Norton of Bristow, Edwardes, Tusser, Churchyard, Wyl. Hunnis, Haiwood, Sand, Hyll, S. Y., M. D., and many others; but to speake of their seuerall gyfts and aboundant skyll shewed forth by them in many pretty and learned workes woulde make my discourse much more tedious.
I may not omitte the deserued commendations of many honourable and noble Lordes and Gentlemen in her Maiesties Courte, which in the rare deuises of Poetry haue beene and yet are most excellent skylfull, among whom the right honourable Earle of Oxford may challenge to him selfe the tytle of the most excellent among the rest. I can no longer forget those learned Gentlemen which tooke such profitable paynes in translating the Latine Poets into our English tongue, whose desertes in that behalfe are more then I can vtter. Among these I euer esteemed, and while I lyue in my conceyt I shall account, Master D. Phaer without doubt the best: who, as indeede hee had the best peece of Poetry whereon to sette a most gallant verse, so performed he it accordingly, and in such sort, as in my conscience I thinke would scarcely be doone againe, if it were to doo again. Notwithstanding, I speak it but as myne own fancy, not preiudiciall to those that list to thinke otherwyse. Hys worke, whereof I speake, is the englishing of Æneidos of Virgill, so farre foorth as it pleased God to spare him life, which was to the halfe parte of the tenth Booke, the rest beeing since wyth no lesse commendations finished by that worthy scholler and famous Phisition, Master Thomas Twyne.
Equally with him may I well adioyne Master Arthur Golding, for hys labour in englishing Ouids Metamorphosis, for which Gentleman surely our Country hath for many respects greatly to gyue God thankes: as for him which hath taken infinite paynes without ceasing, trauelleth as yet indefatigably, and is addicted without society by his continuall laboure to profit this nation and speeche in all kind of good learning. The next very well deserueth Master Barnabe Googe to be placed, as a painefull furtherer of learning: hys helpe to Poetry, besides hys owne deuises, as the translating of Pallengenius Zodiac. Abraham Flemming, as in many prety Poesis of hys owne, so in translating hath doone to hys commendations. To whom I would heere adioyne one of hys name, whom I know to haue excelled as well in all kinde of learning as in Poetry most especially, and would appeare so if the dainty morselles and fine poeticall inuentions of hys were as common abroade as I knowe they be among some of hys freendes. I wyl craue leaue of the laudable Authors of Seneca in English, of the other partes of Ouid, of Horace, of Mantuan, and diuers other, because I would hasten to ende thys rehearsall, perhappes offensyue to some, whom eyther by forgetfulnes or want of knowledge I must needes ouer passe.
And once againe, I am humbly to desire pardon of the learned company of Gentlemen Schollers and students of the Vniuersities and Innes of Courte, yf I omitte theyr seuerall commendations in this place, which I knowe a great number of them haue worthely deserued, in many rare deuises and singuler inuentions of Poetrie: for neither hath it beene my good happe to haue seene all which I haue hearde of, neyther is my abyding in such place where I can with facility get knowledge of their workes.
One Gentleman notwithstanding among them may I not ouerslyppe, so farre reacheth his fame, and so worthy is he, if hee haue not already, to weare the Lawrell wreathe, Master George Whetstone, a man singularly well skyld in this faculty of Poetrie. To him I wyl ioyne Anthony Munday, an earnest traueller in this arte, and in whose name I haue seene very excellent workes, among which, surely, the most exquisite vaine of a witty poeticall heade is shewed in the sweete sobs of Sheepheardes and Nymphes; a worke well worthy to be viewed, and to bee esteemed as very rare Poetrie. With these I may place Iohn Graunge, Knyght, Wylmott, Darrell, F. C, F. K., G. B., and many other, whose names come not nowe to my remembraunce.
This place haue I purposely reserued for one, who, if not only, yet in my iudgement principally, deserueth the tytle of the rightest English Poet that euer I read, that is, the Author of the Sheepeheardes Kalender, intituled to the woorthy Gentleman Master Phillip Sydney: whether it was Master Sp. or what rare Scholler in Pembrooke Hall soeuer, because himself and his freendes, for what respect I knowe not, would not reueale it, I force not greatly to sette downe: sorry I am that I can not find none other with whom I might couple him in this Catalogue in his rare gyft of Poetry: although one there is, though nowe long since seriously occupied in grauer studies (Master Gabriell Haruey), yet as he was once his most special freende and fellow Poet, so because he hath taken such paynes, not onely in his Latin Poetry (for which he enioyed great commendations of the best both in iudgment and dignity in thys Realme), but also to reforme our English verse and to beautify the same with braue deuises, of which I thinke the cheefe lye hidde in hatefull obscurity: therefore wyll I aduenture to sette them together, as two of the rarest witts and learnedst masters of Poetrie in England. Whose worthy and notable styl in this faculty I would wysh, if their high dignities and serious businesses would permit, they would styll graunt to bee a furtheraunce to that reformed kinde of Poetry, which Master Haruey did once beginne to ratify: and surely in mine opinion, if hee had chosen some grauer matter, and handled but with halfe that skyll which I knowe he could haue doone, and not powred it foorth at a venture, as a thinge betweene iest and earnest, it had taken greater effect then it did.
As for the other Gentleman, if it would please him or hys freendes to let those excellent Poemes, whereof I know he hath plenty, come abroad, as his Dreames, his Legends, his Court of Cupid, his English Poet, with other, he shoulde not onely stay the rude pens of my selfe and others, but also satisfye the thirsty desires of many which desire nothing more then to see more of hys rare inuentions. If I ioyne to Master Haruey hys two Brethren, I am assured, though they be both busied with great and waighty callinges (the one a godly and learned Diuine, the other a famous and skylfull Phisition), yet if they lysted to sette to their helping handes to Poetry, they would as much beautify and adorne it as any others.
If I let passe the vncountable rabble of ryming Ballet makers and compylers of sencelesse sonets, who be most busy to stuffe euery stall full of grosse deuises and vnlearned Pamphlets, I trust I shall with the best sort be held excused. For though many such can frame an Alehouse song of fiue or sixe score verses, hobbling vppon some tune of a Northen Iygge, or Robyn hoode, or La lubber etc., and perhappes obserue iust number of sillables, eyght in one line, sixe in an other, and there withall an A to make a iercke in the ende: yet if these might be accounted Poets (as it is sayde some of them make meanes to be promoted to the Lawrell) surely we shall shortly haue whole swarmes of Poets: and euery one that can frame a Booke in Ryme, though for want of matter it be but in commendations of Copper noses or Bottle Ale, wyll catch at the Garlande due to Poets; whose potticall, poeticall (I should say), heades I would wyshe at their worshipfull comencements might in steede of Lawrell be gorgiously garnished with fayre greene Barley, in token of their good affection to our Englishe Malt. One speaketh thus homely of them, with whose words I wyll content my selfe for thys time, because I woulde not bee too broade wyth them in myne owne speeche.
In regarde (he meaneth of the learned framing the newe Poets workes which writt the Sheepheardes Calender) I scorne and spue out the rakehelly rout of our ragged Rymers (for so themselues vse to hunt the Letter) which without learning boaste, without iudgment iangle, without reason rage and fume, as if some instinct of poeticall spyrite had newlie rauished them aboue the meanesse of common capacity. And beeing in the midst of all their brauery, suddainly, for want of matter or of Ryme, or hauing forgotten their former conceyt, they seeme to be so payned and trauelled in theyr remembraunce, as it were a woman in Chyldbyrth, or as that same Pythia when the traunce came vpon her: Os rabidum fera corda domans etc.
Thus farre foorth haue I aduentured to sette downe parte of my simple iudgement concerning those Poets, with whom for the most part I haue beene acquainted through myne owne reading: which though it may seeme something impertinent to the tytle of my Booke, yet I trust the courteous Readers wyll pardon me, considering that poetry is not of that grounde and antiquity in our English tongue, but that speaking thereof only as it is English would seeme like vnto the drawing of ones pycture without a heade.
Nowe therefore, by your gentle patience, wyll I wyth like breuity make tryall what I can say concerning our Englishe Poetry, first in the matter thereof, then in the forme, that is, the manner of our verse; yet so as I must euermore haue recourse to those times and wryters, whereon the English poetry taketh as it were the discent and proprietye.
English Poetry therefore, beeing considered according to common custome and auncient vse, is where any worke is learnedly compiled in measurable speeche, and framed in wordes contayning number or proportion of iust syllables, delighting the readers or hearers as well by the apt and decent framing of wordes in equall resemblance of quantity, commonly called verse, as by the skyllfull handling of the matter whereof it is intreated. I spake somewhat of the beginning of thys measuring of wordes in iust number, taken out of Plato: and indeede the regarde of true quantity in Letters and syllables seemeth not to haue been much vrged before the time of Homer in Greece, as Aristotle witnesseth.
The matters whereof verses were first made were eyther exhortations to vertue, dehortations from vices, or the prayses of some laudable thing. From thence they beganne to vse them in exercises of immitating some vertuous and wise man at their feastes: where as some one shoulde be appointed to represent an other mans person of high estimation, and he sang fine ditties and wittie sentences, tunably to their Musick notes. Of thys sprang the first kinde of Comedyes, when they beganne to bring into these exercises more persons then one, whose speeches were deuised Dyalogue wise, in aunswering one another. And of such like exercises, or, as some wyll needes haue it, long before the other, began the first Tragedies, and were so called of [tragos], because the Actor, when he began to play his part, slewe and offered a Goate to their Goddesse: but Commedies tooke their name of [komazein kai adein], comessatum ire, to goe a feasting, because they vsed to goe in procession with their sport about the Citties and Villages, mingling much pleasaunt myrth wyth theyr graue Religion, and feasting cheerefully together wyth as great ioy as might be deuised. But not long after (as one delight draweth another) they began to inuent new persons and newe matters for their Comedies, such as the deuisers thought meetest to please the peoples vaine: And from these they beganne to present in shapes of men the natures of vertues and vices, and affections and quallities incident to men, as Iustice, Temperance, Pouerty, Wrathe, Vengeaunce, Sloth, Valiantnes, and such like, as may appeare by the auncient workes of Aristophanes. There grewe at last to be a greater diuersitye betweene Tragedy wryters and Comedy wryters, the one expressing onely sorrowfull and lamentable Hystories, bringing in the persons of Gods and Goddesses, Kynges and Queenes, and great states, whose partes were cheefely to expresse most miserable calamities and dreadfull chaunces, which increased worse and worse, tyll they came to the most wofull plight that might be deuised. The Comedies, on the other side, were directed to a contrary ende, which, beginning doubtfully, drewe to some trouble or turmoyle, and by some lucky chaunce alwayes ended to the ioy and appeasement of all parties. Thys distinction grewe, as some holde opinion, by immitation of the workes of Homer; for out of his Iliads the Tragedy wryters founde dreadfull euents, whereon to frame their matters, and the other out of hys Odyssea tooke arguments of delight, and pleasant ending after dangerous and troublesome doubtes.
So that, though there be many sortes of poeticall wrytings, and Poetry is not debarred from any matter which may be expressed by penne or speeche, yet for the better vnderstanding and breefer method of thys discourse, I may comprehende the same in three sortes, which are Comicall, Tragicall, Historiall. Vnder the first may be contained all such Epigrammes, Elegies, and delectable ditties, which Poets haue deuised respecting onely the delight thereof: in the seconde, all dolefull complaynts, lamentable chaunces, and what soeuer is poetically expressed in sorrow and heauines. In the third we may comprise the reste of all such matters which is indifferent betweene the other two, [which] doo commonly occupy the pennes of Poets: such are the poeticall compyling of Chronicles, the freendly greetings betweene freendes, and very many sortes besides, which for the better distinction may be referred to one of these three kindes of Poetry. But once againe, least my discourse runne too farre awry, wyll I buckle my selfe more neerer to English Poetry: the vse wherof, because it is nothing different from any other, I thinke best to confirme by the testimony of Horace, a man worthy to beare authority in this matter, whose very opinion is this, that the perfect perfection of poetrie is this, to mingle delight with profitt in such wyse that a Reader might by his reading be pertaker of bothe; which though I touched in the beginning, yet I thought good to alledge in this place, for more confirmation thereof, some of hys owne wordes. In his treatise de arte Poetica, thus hee sayth:
That is, He misseth nothing of his marke which ioyneth profitt with delight, as well delighting his Readers as profiting them with counsell. And that whole Epistle which hee wryt of his Arte of Poetrie, among all the parts thereof, runneth cheefelie vppon this, that whether the argument which the Poet handleth be of thinges doone or fained inuentions, yet that they should beare such an Image of trueth that as they delight they may likewise profitt. For these are his wordes: Ficta voluptatis causa sint proxima veris. Let thinges that are faigned for pleasures sake haue a neere resemblance of the truth. This precept may you perceiue to bee most duelie obserued of Chawcer: for who could with more delight prescribe such wholsome counsaile and sage aduise, where he seemeth onelie to respect the profitte of his lessons and instructions? or who coulde with greater wisedome, or more pithie skill, vnfold such pleasant and delightsome matters of mirth, as though they respected nothing but the telling of a merry tale? So that this is the very grounde of right poetrie, to giue profitable counsaile, yet so as it must be mingled with delight. For among all the auncient works of poetrie, though the most of them incline much to that part of delighting men with pleasant matters of small importaunce, yet euen in the vainest trifles among them there is not forgotten some profitable counsaile, which a man may learne, either by flatte precepts which therein are prescribed, or by loathing such vile vices, the enormities whereof they largelie discouer. For surelie I am of this opinion that the wantonest Poets of all, in their most laciuious workes wherein they busied themselues, sought rather by that meanes to withdraw mens mindes (especiallie the best natures) from such foule vices then to allure them to imbrace such beastly follies as they detected.
Horace, speaking of the generall dueties of Poets, sayth, Os tenerum pueri balbumque poeta figurat, and manie more wordes concerning the profitte to be hadde out of Poets: which because I haue some of them comprised into an English translation of that learned and famous knight, Sir Thomas Elyot, I wyll set downe his wordes.
The Poet fashioneth by some pleasant meane
The speeche of children stable and vnsure:
Gulling their eares from wordes and thinges vncleane,
And manie other like wordes are in that place of Horace to like effect. Therefore poetrie, as it is of it selfe, without abuse is not onely not vnprofitable to the liues and studies of menne, but wonderfull commendable and of great excellencie. For nothing can be more acceptable to men, or rather to be wished, then sweete allurements to vertues and commodious caueates from vices; of which Poetrie is exceeding plentifull, powring into gentle witts, not roughly and tirannicallie, but as it were with a louing authoritie. Nowe, if the ill and vndecent prouocations, whereof some vnbridled witts take occasion by the reading of laciuious Poemes, bee obiectedsuch as are Ouids loue Bookes and Elegies, Tibullus, Catullus, and Martials workes, with the Comedies for the most part of Plautus and TerenceI thinke it easily aunswered. For though it may not iustlie be denied that these workes are indeede very Poetrie, yet that Poetrie in them is not the essentiall or formall matter or cause of the hurt therein might be affirmed, and although that reason should come short, yet this might be sufficient, that the workes themselues doo not corrupt, but the abuse of the vsers, who, vndamaging their owne dispositions by reading the discoueries of vices, resemble foolish folke who, comming into a Garden without anie choise or circumspection, tread downe the fairest flowers and wilfullie thrust their fingers among the nettles.
And surelie to speake what I verelie thinke, this is mine opinion: that one hauing sufficient skyll to reade and vnderstand those workes, and yet no staie of him selfe to auoyde inconueniences, which the remembraunce of vnlawfull things may stirre vppe in his minde, he, in my iudgement, is wholy to bee reputed a laciuious disposed personne, whom the recitall of Sins whether it be in a good worke or a badde, or vppon what occasion soeuer, wyll not staie him but prouoke him further vnto them. Contrariwise, what good lessons the warie and skylful Readers shall picke out of the very worst of them, if they list to take anie heede, and reade them not of an intent to bee made the worse by them, you may see by these fewe sentences, which the foresayd Sir Thomas Elyott gathered as he sayth at all aduentures, intreating of the like argument. First, Plautus in commendations of vertue hath such like wordes:
Martiall, a most dissolute wryter among all other, yet not without many graue and prudent speeches as this, is one worthy to be marked of these fond youthes which intangle theyr wytts in raging loue, who, stepping once ouer shoes in theyr fancyes, neuer rest plunging till they be ouer head and eares in their follie.
If thou wylt eschewe bitter aduenture,
And auoyde the annoyance of a pensifull hart,
Set in no one person all wholly thy pleasure;
The lesse maist thou ioy, but the lesse shalt thou smart.
These are but fewe gathered out by happe, yet sufficient to shewe that the wise and circumspect Readers may finde very many profitable lessons dispersed in these workes, neither take any harme by reading such Poemes, but good, if they wil themselues. Neuertheles, I would not be thought to hold opinion that the reading of them is so tollerable, as that there neede no respect to be had in making choyse of readers or hearers: for if they be prohibited from the tender and vnconstant wits of children and young mindes, I thinke it not without great reason: neyther am I of that deuillish opinion, of which some there are, and haue beene, in England, who, hauing charge of youth to instruct them in learning, haue especially made choyse of such vnchildish stuffe to reade vnto young Schollers, as it shoulde seeme of some filthy purpose, wylfully to corrupt theyr tender mindes and prepare them the more ready for theyr loathsome dyetts.
For, as it is sayd of that impudent worke of Luciane, a man were better to reade none of it then all of it, so thinke I that these workes are rather to be kept altogether from children then they should haue free liberty to reade them, before they be meete either of their owne discretion or by heedefull instruction to make choyse of the good from the badde. As for our Englishe Poetrie, I know no such perilous peeces (except a fewe balde ditties made ouer the Beere potts, which are nothing lesse then Poetry) which anie man may vse and reade without damage or daunger: which indeede is lesse to be meruailed at among vs then among the olde Latines and Greekes, considering that Christianity may be a staie to such illecibrous workes and inuentions as among them (for their Arte sake) myght obtaine passage.
Nowe will I speake somewhat of that princelie part of Poetrie, wherein are displaied the noble actes and valiant exploits of puissaunt Captaines, expert souldiers, wise men, with the famous reportes of auncient times, such as are the Heroycall workes of Homer in Greeke and the heauenly verse of Virgils Æneidos in Latine: which workes, comprehending as it were the summe and grounde of all Poetrie, are verelie and incomparably the best of all other. To these, though wee haue no English worke aunswerable in respect of the glorious ornaments of gallant handling, yet our auncient Chroniclers and reporters of our Countrey affayres come most neere them: and no doubt, if such regarde of our English speeche and curious handling of our verse had beene long since thought vppon, and from time to time been pollished and bettered by men of learning, iudgement, and authority, it would ere this haue matched them in all respects. A manifest example thereof may bee the great good grace and sweete vayne which Eloquence hath attained in our speeche, because it hath had the helpe of such rare and singuler wits, as from time to time myght still adde some amendment to the same. Among whom I thinke there is none that will gainsay but Master Iohn Lilly hath deserued moste high commendations, as he which hath stept one steppe further therein then any either before or since he first began the wyttie discourse of his Euphues. Whose workes, surely in respecte of his singuler eloquence and braue composition of apt words and sentences, let the learned examine and make tryall thereof thorough all the partes of Rethoricke, in fitte phrases, in pithy sentences, in gallant tropes, in flowing speeche, in plaine sence, and surely, in my iudgment, I thinke he wyll yeelde him that verdict which Quintilian giueth of bothe the best Orators Demosthenes and Tully, that from the one nothing may be taken away, to the other nothing may be added. But a more neerer example to prooue my former assertion true (I meane the meetnesse of our speeche to receiue the best forme of Poetry) may bee taken by conference of that famous translation of Master D. Phaer with the coppie it selfe, who soeuer please with courteous iudgement but a little to compare and marke them both together, and weigh with himselfe whether the English tongue might by little and little be brought to the verye maiesty of a ryght Heroicall verse. First you may marke how Virgill alwayes fitteth his matter in hande with wordes agreeable vnto the same affection which he expresseth: as in hys Tragicall exclamations, what pathe[ti]call speeches he frameth? in his comfortable consolations, howe smoothely hys verse runnes? in his dreadfull battayles and dreery byckerments of warres, howe bygge and boystrous his wordes sound? and the like notes in all partes of his worke may be obserued. Which excellent grace and comely kind of choyse, if the translatour hath not hitte very neere in our course English phrase, iudge vprightly: wee wyll conferre some of the places, not picked out for the purpose, but such as I tooke turning ouer the Booke at randon. When the Troyans were so tost about in tempestious wether, caused by Æolus at Iunoes request, and driuen vpon the coaste of Affrick with a very neere scape of their liues, Æneas after hee had gone a land and kylled plenty of victuals for his company of Souldiours, hee deuided the same among them, and thus louinglie and sweetely he comforted them (Æn. Lib. i):
et dictis maerentia pectora mulcet:
O socii (neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum),
O passi grauiora: dabit deus his quoque finem.
Vos et Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantes
Accestis scopulos: vos et Cyclopea saxa
Experti. Reuocate animos, maestumque timorem
Mittite. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuuabit.
Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum,
Tendimus in Latium: sedes vbi fata quietas
Ostendunt. Illic fas regna resurgere Troiae.
Durate, et vosmet rebus seruate secundis.
Talia voce refert: curisque ingentibus aeger
Spem vultu simulat, premit allum corde dolorem.
And then to cheere their heauy harts with these words he him bent,
O Mates, (quoth he) that many a woe haue bidden and borne ere thys,
Worse haue we seene, and this also shall end when Gods wyll is.
Through Sylla rage (ye wott) and through the roaring rocks we past;
Though Cyclops shore was full of feare, yet came we through at last.
Plucke vppe your harts, and driue from thence both feare and care away;
To thinke on this may pleasure be perhapps another day.
By paynes and many a daunger sore, by sundry chaunce we wend,
To come to Italy, where we trust to find our resting ende,
And where the destnyes haue decreed Troyes Kingdome eft to ryse.
Be bold and harden now your harts, take ease while ease applies.
Thus spake he tho, but in his hart huge cares had him opprest;
Dissembling hope with outward eyes, full heauy was his brest.
Nowe likewise for the braue warlike phrase and bygge sounding kynd of thundring speeche, in the hotte skyrmyshes of battels, you may confer them in any of the last fiue Bookes: for examples sake, thys is one about the ninth Booke.
It clamor totis per propugnacula muris:
Intendunt acris arcus, amentaque torquent.
Sternitur omne solum telis: tum scuta cauaeque
Dant sonitum flictu galeae: pugna aspera surgit, etc.
A clamarous noyse vpmounts on fortresse tops and bulwarks towres;
They strike, they bend their bowes, they whirle from strings sharp shoting showres.
All streetes with tooles are strowed, than helmets, skulles, with battrings marrd;
And shieldes dishyuering cracke, vpriseth roughnesse byckring hard.
Looke how the tempest storme when wind out wrastling blowes at south,
Raine ratling beates the grownde, or clowdes of haile from Winters mouth
Downe dashyng headlong driues, when God from skyes with griesly steuen
His watry showres outwrings, and whirlwind clowdes downe breakes from heauen.
Onely one comparison more will I desire you to marke at your leysures, which may serue for all the rest, that is, the description of Fame, as it is in the 4. booke, towardes the end, of which it followeth thus.
Monstrum horrendum ingens, cui quot sunt corpore plumae
Tot vigiles oculi, etc.
Monster gastly great, for euery plume her carkasse beares
Like number learing eyes she hath, like number harkning eares,
Like number tongues and mouthes she wagges, a wondrous thing to speake;
At midnight foorth shee flyes, and vnder shade her sound dooth squeake.
All night she wakes, nor slumber sweete doth take nor neuer sleepes;
By dayes on houses tops shee sits, or gates of Townes she keepes.
On watching Towres she clymbes, and Citties great she makes agast:
Both trueth and falshood forth she telles, and lyes abroade doth cast.
But what neede I to repeate any more places? There is not one Booke among the twelue which wyll not yeelde you most excellent pleasure in conferring the translation with the Coppie, and marking the gallant grace which our Englishe speeche affoordeth. And in trueth the like comparisons may you choose out through the whole translations of the Metamorphosis by Master Golding, who (considering both their Coppyes) hath equally deserued commendations for the beautifying of the English speeche. It would be tedious to stay to rehearse any places out of him nowe: let the other suffice to prooue that the English tongue lacketh neyther variety nor currantnesse of phrase for any matter.
I will nowe speake a little of an other kinde of poetical writing, which might notwithstanding for the variablenesse of the argument therein vsually handled bee comprehended in those kindes before declared: that is, the compyling Eglogues, as much to say as Goteheardes tales, because they bee commonly Dialogues or speeches framed or supposed betweene Sheepeheardes, Neteheardes, Goteheardes, or such like simple men; in which kind of writing many haue obtained as immortall prayse and commendation as in any other.
The cheefest of these is Theocritus in Greeke; next him, and almost the very same, is Virgill in Latin. After Virgyl in like sort writ Titus Calphurnius and Baptista Mantuan, wyth many other both in Latine and other languages very learnedlye. Although the matter they take in hand seemeth commonlie in appearaunce rude and homely, as the vsuall talke of simple clownes, yet doo they indeede vtter in the same much pleasaunt and profitable delight. For vnder these personnes, as it were in a cloake of simplicitie, they would eyther sette foorth the prayses of theyr freendes, without the note of flattery, or enueigh grieuously against abuses, without any token of bytternesse.
Somwhat like vnto these works are many peeces of Chawcer, but yet not altogether so poeticall. But nowe yet at the last hath England hatched vppe one Poet of this sorte, in my conscience comparable with the best in any respect: euen Master Sp:, Author of the Sheepeheardes Calender, whose trauell in that peece of English Poetrie I thinke verely is so commendable, as none of equall iudgment can yeelde him lesse prayse for hys excellent skyll and skylfull excellency shewed foorth in the same then they would to eyther Theocritus or Virgill, whom in mine opinion, if the coursenes of our speeche (I meane the course of custome which he woulde not infringe) had beene no more let vnto him then theyr pure natiue tongues were vnto them, he would haue (if it might be) surpassed them. What one thing is there in them so worthy admiration whereunto we may not adioyne some thing of his of equall desert? Take Virgil and make some little comparison betweene them, and iudge as ye shall see cause.
Virgill hath a gallant report of Augustus couertly comprysed in the first Æglogue; the like is in him of her Maiestie, vnder the name of Eliza. Virgill maketh a braue coloured complaint of vnstedfast freendshyppe in the person of Corydon; the lyke is him in his 5 Æglogue. Agayne, behold the pretty Pastorall contentions of Virgill in the third Æglogue; of him in the eight Eglogue. Finally, either in comparison with them, or respect of hys owne great learning, he may well were the Garlande, and steppe before the best of all English Poets that I haue seene or hearde; for I thinke no lesse deserueth (thus sayth E. K. in hys commendations) hys wittinesse in deuising, his pithinesse in vttering, his complaintes of loue so louely, his discourses of pleasure so pleasantly, his Pastrall rudenes, his Morrall wysenesse, his due obseruing of decorum euery where, in personages, in season[s], in matter, in speeche, and generally in all seemely simplicity of handling hys matter and framing hys wordes. The occasion of his worke is a warning to other young men, who, being intangled in loue and youthful vanities, may learne to looke to themselues in time, and to auoyde inconueniences which may breede if they be not in time preuented. Many good Morrall lessons are therein contained, as the reuerence which young men owe to the aged, in the second Eglogue: the caueate or warning to beware a subtill professor of freendshippe, in the fift Eglogue: the commendation of good Pastors, and shame and disprayse of idle and ambitious Goteheardes, in the seauenth: the loose and retchlesse lyuing of Popish Prelates, in the ninth: the learned and sweete complaynt of the contempt of learning vnder the name of Poetry, in the tenth. There is also much matter vttered somewhat couertly, especially the abuses of some whom he would not be too playne withall: in which, though it be not apparent to euery one what hys speciall meaning was, yet so skilfully is it handled, as any man may take much delight at hys learned conueyance, and picke out much good sence in the most obscurest of it. Hys notable prayse deserued in euery parcell of that worke, because I cannot expresse as I woulde and as it should, I wyll cease to speake any more of, the rather because I neuer hearde as yet any that hath reade it, which hath not with much admiration commended it. One only thing therein haue I hearde some curious heades call in question, viz: the motion of some vnsauery loue, such as in the sixt Eglogue he seemeth to deale withall, which (say they) is skant allowable to English eares, and might well haue beene left for the Italian defenders of loathsome beastlines, of whom perhappes he learned it: to thys obiection I haue often aunswered (and I thinke truely) that theyr nyce opinion ouer shooteth the Poets meaning, who though hee in that as in other thinges immitateth the auncient Poets, yet doth not meane, no more did they before hym, any disordered loue, or the filthy lust of the deuillish Pederastice taken in the worse sence, but rather to shewe howe the dissolute life of young men, intangled in loue of women, doo neglect the freendshyp and league with their olde freendes and familiers. Why (say they) yet he shold gyue no occasion of suspition, nor offer to the viewe of Christians any token of such filthinesse, howe good soeuer hys meaning were: wherevnto I oppose the simple conceyte they haue of matters which concerne learning or wytt, wylling them to gyue Poets leaue to vse theyr vayne as they see good: it is their foolysh construction, not hys wryting that is blameable. Wee must prescrybe to no wryters (much lesse to Poets) in what sorte they should vtter theyr conceyts. But thys wyll be better discussed by some I hope of better abillity.
One other sorte of Poeticall wryters remayneth yet to bee remembred, that is, The precepts of Husbandry, learnedly compiled in Heroycall verse. Such were the workes of Hesiodus in Greeke, and Virgils Georgickes in Latine. What memorable worke hath beene handled in immitation of these by any English Poet I know not (saue onely one worke of M. Tusser, a peece surely of great wytt and experience, and wythal very prettilye handled). And I thinke the cause why our Poets haue not trauayled in that behalfe is, especially, for that there haue beene alwayes plenty of other wryters that haue handled the same argument very largely. Among whom Master Barnabe Googe, in translating and enlarging the most profitable worke of Heresbachius, hath deserued much commendation, as well for hys faythfull compyling and learned increasing the noble worke as for hys wytty translation of a good part of the Georgickes of Virgill into English verse.
Among all the translations which hath beene my fortune to see, I could neuer yet finde that worke of the Georgicks wholly performed. I remember once Abraham Flemming in his conuersion of the Eglogues promised to translate and publishe it; whether he dyd or not I knowe not, but as yet I heard not of it. I my selfe wott well I bestowed some time in it two or three yeeres since, turning it to that same English verse which other such workes were in, though it were rudely: howe beit, I did it onely for mine owne vse, and vppon certayne respectes towardes a Gentleman mine especiall freende, to whom I was desirous to shewe some token of duetifull good wyll, and not minding it should goe farre abroade, considering howe slenderly I ranne it ouer: yet, since then, hath one gott it in keeping, who, as it is told me, eyther hath or wyll vnaduisedly publishe it: which iniury though he meanes to doo me in myrth, yet I hope he wyll make me some suffycient recompence, or els I shall goe neere to watch hym the like or a worse turne.
The most vsuall and frequented kind of our English Poetry hath alwayes runne vpon and to this day is obserued in such equall number of syllables and likenes of wordes that in all places one verse either immediatly, or by mutuall interposition, may be aunswerable to an other both in proportion of length and ending of lynes in the same Letters. Which rude kinde of verse, though (as I touched before) it rather discrediteth our speeche, as borrowed from the Barbarians, then furnisheth the same with any comely ornament, yet beeing so ingraffed by custome, and frequented by the most parte, I may not vtterly dissalowe it, least I should seeme to call in question the iudgement of all our famous wryters, which haue wonne eternall prayse by theyr memorable workes compyled in that verse.
For my part, therefore, I can be content to esteeme it as a thing the perfection whereof is very commendable, yet so as wyth others I could wysh it were by men of learning and ability bettered, and made more artificially according to the woorthines of our speeche.
The falling out of verses together in one like sounde is commonly called, in English, Ryme, taken from the Greeke worde [Rithmos], which surely in my iudgment is verye abusiuelye applyed to such a sence: and by thys the vnworthinesse of the thing may well appeare, in that wanting a proper name wherby to be called, it borroweth a word farre exceeding the dignitye of it, and not appropriate to so rude or base a thing. For Ryme is properly the iust proportion of a clause or sentence, whether it be in prose or meeter, aptly comprised together: wherof there is both an naturall and an artificiall composition, in any manner or kynde of speeche, eyther French, Italian, Spanish, or English, and is propper not onely to Poets, but also to Readers, Oratours, Pleaders, or any which are to pronounce or speake any thing in publike audience.
The first begynning of Ryme (as we nowe terme it), though it be somewhat auncient, yet nothing famous. In Greece (they say) one Symias Rhodius, because he would be singuler in somthing, wryt poetically of the Fable, contayning howe Iupiter beeing in shape of a Swanne begatte the Egge on Leda, wherof came Castor, Pollux, and Helena, whereof euery verse ended in thys Ryme, and was called therefore [oon], but thys foolyshe attempt was so contemned and dispysed that the people would neither admitte the Author nor Booke any place in memory of learning. Since that it was not hearde of till the time the Hunnes and Gothians renued it agayne, and brought it into Italie. But howsoeuer or wheresoeuer it beganne, certayne it is that in our Englishe tongue it beareth as good grace, or rather better, then in any other; and is a faculty whereby many may and doo deserue great prayse and commendation, though our speeche be capable of a farre more learned manner of versifying, as I wyl partly declare heereafter.
There be three speciall notes necessary to be obserued in the framing of our accustomed English Ryme. The first is, that one meeter or verse be aunswerable to an other, in equall number of feete or syllables, or proportionable to the tune whereby it is to be reade or measured. The seconde, to place the words in such sorte as none of them be wrested contrary to the naturall inclination or affectation of the same, or more truely the true quantity thereof. The thyrd, to make them fall together mutually in Ryme, that is, in wordes of like sounde, but so as the wordes be not disordered for the Rymes sake, nor the sence hindered. These be the most pryncipall obseruations which I thinke requisite in an English verse: for as for the other ornaments which belong thereto, they be more properly belonging to the seuerall gyfts of skylfull Poets then common notes to be prescribed by me: but somewhat perhaps I shall haue occasion to speake heereafter.
Of the kyndes of English verses which differ in number of syllables there are almost infinite, which euery way alter according to hys fancy, or to the measure of that meeter wherein it pleaseth hym to frame hys ditty. Of the best and most frequented I wyll rehearse some. The longest verse in length which I haue seene vsed in English consisteth of sixteene syllables, eache two verses ryming together, thus,
Wher vertue wants and vice abounds, there wealth is but a bayted hooke
To make men swallow down their bane, before on danger deepe they looke.
Thys kynde is not very much vsed at length thus, but is commonly deuided, eche verse into two, whereof eche shal containe eyght syllables, and ryme crosse wyse, the first to the thyrd, and the second to the fourth, in this manner,
An other kynd next in length to thys is where eche verse hath fourteene syllables, which is the most accustomed of all other, and especially vsed of all the translatours of the Latine Poets, for the most part thus,
My mind with furye fierce inflamde of late, I know not howe,
Doth burne Parnassus hyll to see, adorned wyth, Lawrell bowe.
Which may likewyse, and so it often is deuyded, eche verse into two, the first hauing eyght sillables, the second sixe, wherof the two sixes shall alwayes ryme, and sometimes the eyghtes, sometimes not, according to the wyll of the maker.
There are nowe wythin this compasse as many sortes of verses as may be deuised differences of numbers: wherof some consist of equall proportions, some of long and short together, some of many rymes in one staffe (as they call it), some of crosse ryme, some of counter ryme, some ryming wyth one worde farre distant from another, some ryming euery thyrd or fourth word, and so likewyse all manner of dytties applyable to euery tune that may be sung or sayd, distinct from prose or continued speeche. To auoyde therefore tediousnesse and confusion, I wyll repeate onely the different sortes of verses out of the Sheepeheardes Calender, which may well serue to beare authoritie in thys matter.
There are in that worke twelue or thirteene sundry sorts of verses which differ eyther in length or ryme, of destinction of the staues; but of them which differ in length or number of sillables, not past sixe or seauen. The first of them is of tenne sillables, or rather fiue feete in one verse, thus,
A Sheepheards boy (no better doo him call),
When Winters wastfull spight was almost spent.
Thys verse he vseth commonly in hys sweete complayntes and mornefull ditties, as very agreeable to such affections.
The second sort hath naturally but nine syllables, and is a more rough or clownish manner of verse, vsed most commonly of him if you mark him in hys satyricall reprehensions and his Sheepeheardes homelyest talke, such as the second Æglogue is.
Ah for pitty! wyll rancke Winters rage
These bytter blasts neuer gynne to asswage?
The number of nine sillables in thys verse is very often altered, and so it may without any disgrace to the same, especially where the speeche should be most clownish and simple, which is much obserued of hym.
The third kynd is a pretty rounde verse, running currantly together, commonly seauen sillables or sometime eyght in one verse, as many in the next, both ryming together: euery two hauing one the like verse after them, but of rounder wordes, and two of them likewyse ryming mutually. That verse expresseth, notably, light and youthfull talke, such as is the thyrde Æglogue betweene two Sheepheardes boys concerning loue.
The fift is a deuided verse of twelue sillables into two verses, whereof I spake before, and seemeth most meete for the handling of a Morrall matter, such as is the praise of good Pastors, and the dispraise of ill, in the seauenth Æglogue.
These sortes of verses for breuities sake haue I chosen foorth of him, whereby I shall auoide the tedious rehearsall of all the kindes which are vsed: which I thinke would haue beene vnpossible, seeing they may be altered to as manie formes as the Poets please: neither is there anie tune or stroke which may be sung or plaide on instruments, which hath not some poetical ditties framed according to the numbers thereof, some to Rogero, some to Trenchmore, to downe right Squire, to Galliardes, to Pauines, to Iygges, to Brawles, to all manner of tunes which euerie Fidler knowes better then my selfe, and therefore I will let them passe.
Againe, the diuersities of the staues (which are the number of verses contained with the diuisions or partitions of a ditty) doo often times make great differences in these verses. As when one staffe containeth but two verses, or (if they bee deuided) foure; the first or the first couple hauing twelue sillables, the other fourteene, which versifyers call Powlters measure, because so they talle their wares by dozens. Also, when one staffe hath manie verses, whereof eche one rimeth to the next, or mutuallie crosse, or distant by three, or by foure, or ended contrarye to the beginning, and a hundred sortes, whereof to shewe seuerall examples would bee too troublesome. Nowe for the second point.
The naturall course of most English verses seemeth to run vppon the olde Iambicke stroake, and I may well thinke by all likelihoode it had the beginning thereof. For if you marke the right quantitie of our vsuall verses, ye shall perceiue them to containe in sound the very propertie of Iambick feete, as thus,
For transpose anie of those feete in pronouncing, and make short either the two, foure, sixe, eight, tenne, twelue sillable, and it will (doo what you can) fall out very absurdly.
Againe, though our wordes can not well bee forced to abyde the touch of Position and other rules of Prosodia, yet is there such a naturall force or quantity in eche worde, that it will not abide anie place but one, without some foule disgrace: as for example try anie verse, as thys,
Make the first sillable long, or the third, or the fift, and so foorth, or, contrariwise, make the other sillables to admitte the shortnesse of one of them places, and see what a wonderfull defacing it wil be to the wordes, as thus,
So that this is one especiall thing to be taken heede of in making a good English verse, that by displacing no worde bee wrested against his naturall propriety, wherevnto you shal perceyue eche worde to be affected, and may easilie discerne it in wordes of two sillables or aboue, though some there be of indifferencie, that wyll stand in any place. Againe, in chouching the whole sentence, the like regarde is to be had that wee exceede not too boldly in placing the verbe out of his order and too farre behinde the nowne: which the necessitie of Ryme may oftentimes vrge. For though it be tollerable in a verse to sette wordes so extraordinarily as other speeche will not admitt, yet heede is to be taken least by too much affecting that manner we make both the verse vnpleasant and the sence obscure. And sure it is a wonder to see the folly of manie in this respect, that vse not onely too much of thys ouerthwart placing, or rather displacing of wordes, in theyr Poemes and verses, but also in theyr prose or continued writings; where they thinke to rolle most smoothlie and flow most eloquently, there by this means come foorth theyr sentences dragging at one anothers tayle as they were tyde together with poynts, where often you shall tarrie (scratching your heade) a good space before you shall heare hys principall verbe or speciall word, leaste hys singing grace, which in his sentence is contained, should be lesse and his speeche seeme nothing poeticall.
The thyrd obseruation is the Ryme or like ending of verses, which, though it is of least importance, yet hath won such credite among vs that of all other it is most regarded of the greatest part of Readers. And surely, as I am perswaded, the regarde of wryters to this hath beene the greatest decay of that good order of versifying which might ere this haue beene established in our speeche. In my iudgment, if there be any ornament in the same, it is rather to be attributed to the plentifull fulnesse of our speeche, which can affoorde ryming words sufficient for the handling of any matter, then to the thing it selfe for any beautifying it bringeth to a worke, which might bee adorned with farre more excellent collours then ryming is. Notwithstanding I cannot but yeelde vnto it (as custome requireth) the deserued prayses, especially where it is with good iudgement ordered. And I thinke them right worthy of admiration for their readines and plenty of wytt and capacity, who can with facility intreate at large and, as we call it, extempore, in good and sencible ryme, vppon some vnacquainted matter.
The ready skyll of framing anie thing in verse, besides the naturall promptnesse which many haue therevnto, is much helped by Arte, and exercise of the memory: for, as I remember, I reade once among Gaskoynes workes a little instruction to versifying, where is prescribed, as I thinke, thys course of learning to versifye in Ryme.
When ye haue one verse well setled and decently ordered, which you may dispose at your pleasure, to ende it with what word you wyll, then, what soeuer the word is, you may speedilie runne ouer the other wordes which are aunswerable therevnto (for more readines through all the letters Alphabetically), whereof you may choose that which wyll best fitte the sence of your matter in that place: as for example, if your last worde ende in Booke, you may straightwayes in your minde runne them ouer thus, Brooke, Cooke, crooke, hooke, looke, nooke, pooke, rooke, forsooke, tooke, awooke, etc. Nowe it is twenty to one but alwayes one of these shall iumpe with your former worde and matter in good sence. If not, then alter the first.
And indeede I thinke that, next to the Arte of memory, thys is the readyest way to attaine to the faculty of ryming well Extempore, especially if it be helped with thus much paynes. Gather together all manner of wordes, especially Monasillables, and place them Alphabetically in some note, and either haue them meetely perfectly by hart (which is no verye laboursome matter) or but looke them diligently ouer at some time, practising to ryme indifferent often, whereby I am perswaded it wil soone be learned, so as the party haue withall any reasonable gyft of knowledge and learning, whereby hee want not bothe matter and wordes altogether.
What the other circumstaunces of Ryming are, as what wordes may tollerably be placed in Ryme, and what not; what words doo best become a Ryme, and what not; how many sortes of Ryme there is; and such like; I wyll not stay nowe to intreate. There be many more obseruations and notes to be prescribed to the exacte knowledge of versifying, which I trust wilbe better and larger laide forth by others, to whom I deferre manie considerations in this treatise, hoping that some of greater skill will shortlie handle this matter in better sorte.
Nowe the sundry kindes of rare deuises and pretty inuentions which come from the fine poeticall vaine of manie in strange and vnacustomed manner, if I could report them, it were worthie my trauell: such are the turning of verses, the infolding of wordes, the fine repititions, the clarklie conueying of contraries, and manie such like. Whereof though I coulde sette downe manie, yet because I want bothe manie and the best kindes of them, I will ouerpasse, onelie pointing you to one or two which may suffice for example.
Looke vppon the rufull song of Colin sung by Cuddie in the Sheepheardes Calender, where you shall see a singuler rare deuise of a dittie framed vpon these sixe wordes Woe, sounde, cryes, part, sleep, augment, which are most prettilie turned and wounde vppe mutually together, expressing wonderfully the dolefulnesse of the song. A deuise not much vnlike vnto the same is vsed by some who, taking the last wordes of a certaine number of verses as it were by the rebound of an Echo, shall make them fall out in some prettie sence.
Here if you take the last worde of euerie verse, and place them orderlie together, you shall haue this sentence: Shielde well thyne hart with hope. But of these Echoes I knowe indeede verie daintie peeces of worke, among some of the finest Poets this day in London, who for the rarenesse of them keepe them priuelie to themselues and wil not let them come abroad.
A like inuention to the last rehearsed, or rather a better, haue I seene often practised in framing a whole dittie to the Letters of ones name, or to the wordes of some two or three verses, which is very witty: as for example, this is one of W. Hunnis, which for the shortnes I rather chusde then some that are better.
Thus are there infinite sortes of fine conueiances (as they may be termed) to be vsed, and are much frequented by versifyers, as well in composition of their verse as the wittines of their matter: which all I will referre to the consideration of euerie pleasant headded Poet in their proper gifts; onelie I sett downe these fewe sortes of their formes of versifying, which may stand in steede to declare what manie others may be deuised in like sorte.
But nowe to proceede to the reformed kind of English verse, which manie haue before this attempted to put in practise and to establish for an accustomed right among English Poets, you shall heare in like manner my simple iudgment concerning the same.
I am fully and certainlie perswaded that if the true kind of versifying in immitation of Greekes and Latines had beene practised in the English tongue, and put in vre from time to tyme by our Poets, who might haue continually beene mending and pollyshing the same, euery one according to their seuerall giftes, it would long ere this haue aspyred to as full perfection as in anie other tongue whatsoeuer. For why may I not thinke so of our English, seeing that among the Romanies a long time, yea euen till the dayes of Tully, they esteemed not the Latine Poetrie almost worth any thing in respecte of the Greeke, as appeareth in the Oration pro Archia Poeta; yet afterwardes it increased in credite more and more, and that in short space, so that in Virgilles time wherein were they not comparable with the Greekes? So likewise now it seemeth not currant for an English verse to runne vpon true quantity and those feete which the Latines vse, because it is straunge, and the other barbarous custome, beeing within compasse of euery base witt, hath worne it out of credite or estimation. But if our wryters, beeing of learning and iudgment, would rather infringe thys curious custome then omitte the occasion of inlarging the credite of their natiue speeche, and theyr owne prayses, by practising that commendable kind of wryting in true verse, then no doubt, as in other partes of learning, so in Poetry shoulde not stoupe to the best of them all in all maner of ornament and comlinesse. But some obiect that our wordes are nothing resemblaunt in nature to theirs, and therefore not possible to bee framed with any good grace after their vse: but cannot we then, as well as the Latines did, alter the cannon of the rule according to the quality of our worde, and where our wordes and theyrs wyll agree, there to iumpe with them, where they will not agree, there to establish a rule of our owne to be directed by? Likewise, for the tenor of the verse, might we not (as Horace dyd in the Latine) alter their proportions to what sortes we listed, and to what we sawe wold best become the nature of the thing handled or the quallity of the words? Surely it is to be thought that if any one, of sound iudgment and learning, shoulde putt foorth some famous worke, contayning dyuers formes of true verses, fitting the measures according to the matter, it would of it selfe be a sufficient authority, without any prescription of rules, to the most part of Poets for them to follow and by custome to ratify. For sure it is that the rules and principles of Poetry were not precisely followed and obserued of the first beginners and wryters of Poetry, but were selected and gathered seuerally out of theyr workes for the direction and behoofe of their followers. And indeede, he that shall with heedefull iudgment make tryall of the English wordes shall not finde them so grosse or vnapt but that they wyll become any one of the most accustomed sortes of Latine or Greeke verses meetely, and run thereon somewhat currantly.
I my selfe, with simple skyll, I confesse, and farre vnable iudgment, haue ventured on a fewe, which notwithstanding the rudenes of them may serue to shewe what better might bee brought into our speeche, if those which are of meete abilitye woulde bestowe some trauell and endeuour thereuppon. But before I sette them downe, I wyll speake somewhat of such obseruations as I could gather necessary to the knowledge of these kinde of verses, least I should seeme to runne vpon them rashly, without regarde either of example or authority.
The foote of a verse is a measure of two sillables, or of three, distinguished by time which is eyther long or short. A foote of two sillables is eyther simple or mixt, that is, of like time or of diuers. A simple foote of two sillables is likewise twofolde, eyther of two long sillables, called Spondæus, as goodnesse, or of two short, called Pyrrichius, as hyther. A myxt foote of 2 sillables is eyther of one short and one long, called Iambus, as dying, or of one long and one short, called Choreus, as gladly. A foote of 3 sillables in like sorte is either simple or myxt. The simple is eyther Molossus, that is of three long, as forgiuenes, or Tribrachys, that is of 3 short, as merylie. The mixt is of 6 diuers sortes, 1. Dactylus, of one long and two short, as happily; 2. Anapæstus, of two shorte and one long, as t[r]auelers; 3. Bacchius, of one short and two long, as remembrers; 4. Palimbachius, of two long and one short, as accorded; 5. Creticus, of a long, a short, and a long, [as] daungerous; 6. Amphibrachus, of a short, a long, and a short, as reioyced.
Many more deuisions of feete are vsed by some, but these doo more artificially comprehende all quantities necessary to the skanning of any verse, according to Tallæus in hys Rethorique. The place of the feete is the disposing of them in theyr propper roomes, whereby may be discerned the difference of eche verse which is the right numbring of the same. Now as for the quantity of our wordes, therein lyeth great difficultye, and the cheefest matter in this faculty. For in truth there being such diuersity betwixt our words and the Latine, it cannot stande indeede with great reason that they shoulde frame, wee beeing onelie directed by such rules as serue for onely Latine words; yet notwithstanding one may well perceiue by these fewe that these kinde of verses would well become the speeche, if so bee there were such Rules prescribed as woulde admitt the placing of our aptest and fullest wordes together. For indeede, excepting a fewe of our Monasyllables, which naturally shoulde most of them be long, we haue almost none that wyll stande fitlie in a short foote: and therfore, if some exception were made against the precise obseruation of Position and certaine other of the rules, then might we haue as great plenty and choyse of good woordes to furnish and sette foorth a verse as in any other tongue.
Likewise, if there were some derection in such wordes as fall not within the compasse of Greeke or Latine rules, it were a great helpe, and therefore I had great misse in these few which I made. Such as is the last sillable in these wordes, able, noble, or possible, and such like: againe for the nature and force of our W, of our th, of our oo, and ee, of our wordes which admytte an e in the ende after one or two Consonantes, and many other. I for my part, though (I must needes confesse) many faultes escaped me in these fewe, yet tooke I as good heede as I coulde, and in trueth did rather alwaies omitt the best wordes and such as would naturally become the speech best then I wolde committe any thing which shoulde notoriously impugne the Latine rules, which herein I had onely for my direction. Indeede most of our Monasyllables I am forced to make short, to supply the want of many short wordes requisite in these verses. The Participle A, being but the English article adioyned to Nownes, I alwayes make short, both alone and in composition, and likewise the wordes of one sillable ending in E, as the, when it is an article, he, she, ye, etc. We I thinke should needes be alwayes long because we pronounce continually VVe. I, beeing alone standing for the Pronowne Ego, in my iudgment might well be vsed common; but because I neuer sawe it vsed but short I so obserued it. Words ending in y I make short without doubt, sauing that I haue marked in others one difference which they vse in the same, that is to make it short in the ende of an Aduerb, as gladly, and long in the ende of an Adiectiue, as goodly: but the reason is, as I take it, because the Adiectiue is or should be most commonly written thus, goodlie. O, beeing an Aduerbe, is naturally long: in the ende of wordes, both Monasyllables and other, I thinke it may be vsed common. The first of Pollisyllables I directed according to the nature of the worde, as I thought most aunswerable to Latine examples, sauing that somewhere I am constrayned to straine curtesy with the preposition of a worde compounded or such like, which breaketh no great square, as in defence or depart, etc. The myddle sillables, which are not very many, come for the most part vnder the precinct of Position, whereof some of them will not possibly abide the touch, and therfore must needes be a little wrested: such are commonly the Aduerbs of three sillables, as mournfully, spyghtfully, and such like words, deriued of this Adiectiue full: and therfore if there be great occasion to vse them, they must be reformed by detracting onely (l) and then they stand meetely currant, as mournfuly. The last sillables I wholly directed so neere as I could to the touch of common rules.
The most famous verse of all the rest is called Hexametrum Epicum, which consisteth of sixe feete, wherof the first foure are indifferently either Spondæi or Dactyli, the fift is euermore a dactyl, and the sixt a Spondæ, as thus,
Thys kinde of verse I haue onely seene to be practised in our English speeche; and indeede wyll stand somewhat more orderlye therein then any of the other kindes, vntill we haue some tolleration of wordes made by speciall rule. The first that attempted to practise thys verse in English should seeme to be the Earle of Surry, who translated some part of Virgill into verse indeede, but without regard of true quantity of sillables. There is one famous Distichon, which is common in the mouthes of all men, that was made by one Master Watson, fellowe of S. Iohns Colledge in Cambrydge, about 40. yeeres past, which for the sweetnes and gallantnes therof in all respects doth mat[c]h and surpasse the Latine coppy of Horace, which he made out of Homers wordes, qui mores hominum etc.
Which two verses, if they be examined throughout, all the rules and obseruations of the best versifying shall bee founde to attaine the very perfection of them all. There be two other not much inferiour to these, which I found in the Glosse of E. K. vppon the fift Æglogue of the newe Poet: which Tully translated out of Greeke into Latine, Haec habui quae edi etc.
Which though they wyll not abide the touch of Synalæpha in one or two places, yet perhappes some English rule, which might wyth good reason be established, would make them currant enough, and auoyde that inconuenience which is very obuious in our wordes. The great company of famous verses of thys sort which Master Haruey made is not vnknowne to any, and are to be viewed at all times. I for my part, so farre as those examples would leade me, and mine owne small skyll affoorde me, haue blundered vppon these fewe, whereinto I haue translated the two first Æglogues of Virgil, because I thought no matter of mine owne inuention nor any other of antiquitye more fitte for tryal of thys thyng, before there were some more speciall direction which might leade to a lesse troublesome manner of wryting.
I durst not enterpryse to goe any further with this rude translation, beeing for the respects aforesayd a troublesome and vnpleasant peece of labour: And therefore these shall suffice till further occasion shall serue to imploy some profitable paynes in this behalfe.
The next verse in dignity to the Hexameters is the Carmen Elegiacum, which consisteth of foure feete and two od sillables, viz: the two first feete, eyther Dactyli or Spondæi indifferent, the one long sillable, next two Dactyli and an other long sillable : some doo measure it in this sorte (and more truely yet not so readily to all) accounting first two indifferently either Dactyli or Spondæi, then one Spondæ and two Anapæsti. But it commeth all to one reckoning. Thys verse is alwayes vnseperably adioyned vnto the Hexameter, and serueth especially to the handling of loue and dalliances, whereof it taketh the name. It will not frame altogether so currantlye in our English as the other, because the shortnesse of the seconde Penthimimer will hardly be framed to fall together in good sence after the Latine rules. I haue not seene very many of them made by any, and therefore one or two for example sake shall be sufficient.
As for the verses Phalaecium and Iambicum, I haue not as yet made any tryall in them: but the Sapphic I assure you, in my iudgment, wyl doo very pretty, if the wants which I speake were once supplied. For tryall of which I haue turned the new Poets sweete song of Eliza into such homely Sapphick as I coulde.
Thys verse consisteth of these fiue feete, one Chore, one spondæ, one dactyl, and two Choreis, with this addition, that after euery third verse be sette one Adonium verse, which consisteth of a dactyl and a spondæ. It is more troublesome and tedious to frame in our speeche by reason they runne without difference, euery verse being a like in quantity throughout, yet in my iudgement standeth meetely well in the same. I pray looke the Coppy which I haue translated in the fourth Æglogue of the Sheepheardes Calenderthe song of Colins making which Hobbinoll singeth in prayse of the Queenes maiesty vnder the name of Eliza.
Ye dainty Nymphes, that in this blessed brooke
doo bathe your brest,
Forsake your watry bowres, and hether looke,
at my request.
And onely you Virgins that on Parnass dwell,
Whence floweth Helicon, the learned well,
helpe me to blase
her worthy praise,
That in her sex doth all excell.
Of fayre Eliza be your siluer song,
that blessed wight:
The flowre of Virgins, may she flourish long
in princely plight.
For she is Syrinx daughter without spott,
Which Pan, the Sheepheards God, on her begot:
so sprang her grace
of heauenly race,
No mortall blemish may her blott.
See where she sittes, etc.
The Saphick Verse.
O ye Nymphes most fine, who resort to this brooke,
For to bathe there your pretty breasts at all times,
Leaue the watrish bowres, hyther and to me come
at my request nowe.
And ye Virgins trymme, who resort to Parnass,
Whence the learned well Helicon beginneth,
Helpe to blase her worthy deserts, that all els
mounteth aboue farre.
Nowe the siluer songes of Eliza sing yee,
Princely wight, whose peere not among the virgins
Can be found: that long she may remaine among vs,
now let vs all pray.
For Syrinx daughter she is, of her begotten
Of the great God Pan; thus of heauen aryseth
All her exlent race; any mortall harde happe
cannot aproche her.
See, she sittes most seemely in a grassy greene plott,
Clothed in weedes meete for a princely mayden,
Boste with Ermines white, in a goodly scarlett
Decked is that crowne that vpon her head standes
With the red Rose and many Daffadillies;
Bayes, the Primrose, and violetts be sette by: how
ioyfull a sight ist.
Say, behold did ye euer her Angelike face,
Like to Phbe fayre? or her heauenly hauour,
And the princelike grace that in her remaineth,
haue yee the like seene?
Medled ist red rose with a white together,
Which in either cheeke do depeinct a trymme cheere;
Her maiestie and eye to behold so comely, her
like who remembreth?
Phbus once peept foorth with a goodly guilt hewe,
For to gaze; but when he sawe the bright beames
Spread abroade fro her face with a glorious grace,
it did amaze him.
When another sunne he behelde belowe heere,
Blusht he red for shame, nor againe he durst looke:
Would he durst bright beames of his owne with hers match,
for to be vanquisht.
Shew thy selfe now, Cynthia, with thy cleere rayes,
And behold her: neuer abasht be thou so:
When she spreades those beames of her heauenly beauty, how
thou art in a dump dasht?
But I will take heede that I match not her grace
With the Laton seede; Niobe that once did,
Nowe she doth therefore in a stone repent; to all
other a warning.
Pan he may well boaste that he did begit her,
Such a noble wight; to Syrinx is it ioy
That she found such lott with a bellibone trym
for to be loaden.
When my younglinges first to the dammes doo bleat out,
Shall a milke white Lambe to my Lady be offred:
For my Goddesse shee is, yea I my selfe her Heardgrome,
though but a rude Clowne.
Vnto that place Caliope dooth high her,
Where my Goddesse shines: to the same the Muses
After her, with sweete Violines about them
Is not it Bay braunche that aloft in handes they haue,
Eune to giue them sure to my Lady Eliza:
O so sweete they playand to the same doo sing too:
heaunly to heare ist.
See, the Graces trym to the stroake doo foote it,
Deftly daunting, and meriment doo make them,
Sing to the instruments to reioyce the more, but
wants not a fourth grace?
Then the daunce wyll be eune, to my Lady therefore
Shalbe geune that place, for a grace she shall be
For to fill that place, that among them in heaune she
may be receiued.
Thys beuy of bright Nymphes, whether ist goe they now,
Raunged all thus fine in a rowe together?
They be Ladies all i the Lake behight soe;
they thether all goe.
One, that is there chiefe that among the rest goes,
Called is Chloris; of Olyues she bears a
Goodly Crownett, meete for a Prince that in peace
All ye Sheepheardes maides that about the greene dwell,
Speede ye there to her grace; but among ye take heede
All be Virgins pure that aproche to deck her,
When ye shall present ye before her in place,
See ye not your selues doo demeane too rudely:
Bynd the fillets, and to be fine the waste gyrt
fast with a tawdryne.
Bring the Pinckes, therewith many Gelliflowers sweete,
And the Cullambynes: let vs haue the Wynesops,
With the Cornation that among the loue laddes
wontes to be worne much.
Daffadowndillies all a long the ground strowe,
And the Cowslyppe with a prety paunce let heere lye;
One verse there remaineth vntranslated as yet, with some other of this sorte, which I meant to haue finished, but by reason of some let which I had, I am constrained to defer to some other time, when I hope to gratify the Readers with more and better verses of this sort; for in trueth I am perswaded a little paine taking might furnish our speeche with as much pleasaunt delight in this kinde of verse as any other whatsoeuer.
Heere followe the Cannons or generall cautions of Poetry, prescribed by Horace, first gathered by Georgius Fabricius Chemnicensis: which I thought good to annex to thys Treatise, as very necessary obseruations to be marked of all Poets.
First, let the inuention be meete for the matter, not differing, or straunge, or monstrous. For a womans head, a horse necke, the bodie of a dyuers coloured Byrd, and many members of sundry creatures compact together, whose legges ending like a Fyshes tayle, this in a picture is a wonderful deformitie; but if there be such diuersitye in the frame of a speeche, what can be more vncomely or ilfauoured?
3. The proprietie of speeche must bee duely obserued that wayghty and great matters be not spoken slenderly or matters of length too briefly: for it belongeth much both to the comlinesse and nature of a matter that in big matters there be lykewise vsed boysterous wordes.
5. The disposing of the worke must be such that there be no offence committed, as it were by too exquisite dilligence: for many thinges may be oft committed, and some thing by too curious handling be made offenciue. Neyther is it in one part to be well furnished, and in another to be neglected. Which is prooued by example of a Caruer, who expressed very artificially the heade and vpper part of a body, but the rest hee could not make an ende of. Againe, it is prooued thus, that a body should not be in other partes beautifull, and yet bee deformed in the crooked nose; for all the members in a well shapen bodie must be aunswerable, sound, and well proportioned.
7. The ornament of a worke consisteth in wordes, and in the manner of the wordes; [they] are either simple or mixt, newe or olde, propper or translated. In them all good iudgment must be vsed and ready wytt. The chiefest grace is in the most frequented wordes, for the same reason holdeth in wordes as doth in coynes, that the most vsed and tried are best esteemed.
9. One must vse one kynde of speeche alike in all wrytings. Sometime the Lyric ryseth aloft, sometime the comicall. To the Tragicall wryters belong properly the bygge and boysterous wordes. Examples must be interplaced, according fitly to the time and place.
10. Regarde is to be had of affections: one thing becommeth pleasant persons, an other sadde, an other wrathfull, an other gentle, which must all be heedefully respected. Three thinges therefore are requisite in verses, beauty, sweetnes, and the affection. Theophrastus sayth that this beauty or delectablenesse is a deceyt, and Aristotle called it [Greek], a momentany tyrany. Sweetnesse retayneth a Reader; affection moueth him.
12. The personnes are eyther to be fayned by the Poets them selues, or borrowed of others. If he borrow them, then must hee obserue [Greek], that is, that he folow that Author exactly whom he purposeth to immitate and whereout he bringeth his examples. But if he fayne newe personnes, then must he keepe his [Greek], that is equallie: so bringing them in eche place, that it be alwayes agreeable, and the last like vnto the first, and not make one person nowe a bolde boaster, and the same straightwaies a wise warie man, for that is passing absurd. Againe, euery one must obserue [Greek], which is interpreted conuenientiam, fitnesse: as it is meete and agreeable euery where a man to be stoute, a woman fearefull, a seruant crafty, a young man gentle.
13. Matters which are common may be handled by a Poet as they may be thought propper to himselfe alone. All matters of themselues are open to be intreated of by any man: but if a thing be handled of some one in such sort as he thereby obtaine great prayse, he maketh it his owne or propper to himselfe; as many did write of the Troiane war, but yet Homer made matter which was common to all propper to himselfe.
14. Where many thinges are to be taken out of auncienter tongues, as the Latines tooke much out of the Greekes, the wordes are not so preciselie to be followed but that they bee altered according to the iudgment and will of the Immitator; which precept is borrowed of Tully, Non verbum verbo necesse est reddere.
17. In a Comedie it is [not] needfull to exhibite all the actions openlie, as such as are cruell, vnhonest, or ougly; but such thinges may better bee declared by some meete and handsome wordes, after what sorte they are supposed to bee doone.
It fytteth not to bring in the personnes of Gods but in verie great matters. Cicero sayth, when the Tragedy wryters cannot bring theyr matters to good passe, they runne to God. Let not more personnes speake together then foure, for auoyding confusion.
The Chori must be well garnished and sette foorth: wherein eyther menne are admonished, or reprehended, or counsayled vnto vertue. Such matter must bee chosen for the Chorus as may bee meete and agreeable to that which is in hand. As for instruments and singing, they are Reliques of olde simplicitye. For the Musicke commonlye vsed at Theaters and the licenciousnesse of theyr songes, which together wyth theyr wealth increased among the Romaines, is hurtfull to discipline and good manners.
19. In a Satyr the clownish company and rurall Gods are brought in to temperate the Heauinesse of Tragedies wyth some myrth and pastyme. In iesting it must be obserued that it bee not lacyuious, or Rybaldlike, or slaunderous; which precept holdeth generallie in all sortes of wrytynges.
In a Satyr greate heede is to be taken of the place, of the day, and of the personnes: as of Bacchus, Silenus, or the Satyres. Againe of the vnmeetnesse or inconuenience of the matter, and of the wordes that they be fitted according to the persons: of Decorum, that he which represented some noble personage in the Tragedie bee not some busy foole in the Satyr: finallie of the hearers, least they bee offended by myxing filthy matters with iestes, wanton toyes wyth vnhonest, or noysome with merry thinges.
20. The feete are to be applied propper to euery kinde of verse, and therin a Poet must not vse too much licence or boldnes. The auncient writers in Iambick verses vsed at first pure Iambicks: Afterwards Spondæus was admitted into Locos impares, but at last such was the licentious custome, that they woulde both Spondæus where they listed, and other feete without regarde.
Those verses which be made Extempore are of no great estimation: those which are vnartificiall are vtterly repelled as too foolish. Though many doo lightlie regard our verses, yet ought the Carelesnesse of the hearers to bee no cause in vs of errour and negligence. Who desireth to make any thing worthy to be heard of learned eares, let hym reade Greeke Authors heedefullie and continually.
22. Artes haue their increasinges euen as other things, beeing naturall: so haue Tragedies, which were first rudely inuented by Thespis, at last were much adorned by Æschylus: at the first they were practised in Villages of the Countrey, afterwardes brought to stages in great Citties.
23. Some Artes doo increase; some doo decay by a certayne naturall course. The olde manner of Commedies decayde by reason of slaundering which therein they vsed against many, for which there was a penaltie appointed, least their bitternes should proceede to farre: In place of which, among the Latines, came the Satyres.
24. A Poet should not content himselfe onely with others inuentions, but himselfe also by the example of old wryters sholde bring something of his owne industry which may bee laudable. So did they which writte among the Latines the Comedies called Togatae, whose arguments were taken from the Greekes, and the other which wrytt the Pretextatae, whereof the arguments were Latine.
26. A Poet, that he may be perfect, hath neede to haue knowledge of that part of Philosophy which informeth the life to good manners. The other which pertaineth to naturall thinges is lesse plausible, hath fewer ornaments, and is not so profitable.
27. A Poet to the knowledge of Philosophie shoulde also adde greater experience, that he may know the fashions of men and dispositions of people. Thys profit is gott by trauelling, that whatsoeuer he wryteth he may so expresse and order it that hys narration may be formable.
28. The ende of Poetry is to wryte pleasant thinges, and profitable. Pleasant it is which delighteth by beeing not too long or vneasy to be kept in memory, and which is somewhat likelie and not altogether forged. Profitable it is which styrreth vppe the mindes to learning and wisedome.
29. Certaine escapes are to be pardoned in some Poets, specially in great workes. A faulte may bee committed either in respect of hys propper Arte or in some other Arte: that a Poet shoulde erre in precepts of hys owne arte is a shamefull thing; to committe a faulte in another Arte is to be born withal: as in Virgil, who fayneth that Æneas comming into Affrica slew with hys darte certaine Stagges, whereas indeede Affrica hath in it none of those beastes. Such errours doo happen eyther by vnheedefulnes, when one escapeth them by negligence; or by the common fragility of man, because none there is which can know all thinges. Therefore this last kinde of errour is not to be stucke vppon.
30. A good Poet should haue respect to thys, how to retaine hys Reader or hearer. In a picture some thing delighteth beeing sette farre of, something neerer, but a Poet should delight in all places as well in sunne as shaddowe.
32. A Poeme if it runne not sweetely and smoothly is odious; which is proued by a simile of the two senses, hearing and tasting, as in sweete and pleasaunt meates. And the Poem must bee of that sorte, that for the sweetenesse of it may bee acceptable and continue like it selfe vnto the ende, least it wearye or driue away a Reader.
33. He that would wryte any thing worthy the posteritye, let him not enterprise any thing wherevnto his nature is not agreeable. Mercury is not made of wood (as they say), neyther doth Minerua fauour all studies in euery one. In all Artes nature is the best helpe, and learned men vse commonly to say that A Poet is as well borne as made a Poet.
35. The profitte of Poetry sprang thus, for that the auncient wyse men set downe the best things that pertained to mans life, manners, or felicity, and, examining and proouing the same by long experience of time, when they were aged they published them in wrytinges. The vse of Poetry, what it was at the first, is manifest by the examples of the moste learned men: as of Orpheus, who first builded houses; of Amphion, who made Citties; of Tyrtæus, who first made warre; of Homer, who wryt most wysely.
The confession of an errour betoken[eth] a noble and a gentle minde. Celsus and Quintillian doo report of Hippocrates that, least he should deceiue his posterity, he confessed certayne errours, as it well became an excellent minded man and one of great credite. For (as sayth Celsus) light witts, because they haue nothing, wyll haue nothing taken from them.
38. In making choise of such freendes as should tell vs the trueth and correct our wrytinges, heedefull iudgment must bee vsed; least eyther we choose vnskylfull folke, or flatterers, or dissemblers. The vnskilfull know not how to iudge; flatterers feare to offende; dissemblers in not praysing doo seeme to commende.
39. Let no man deceiue himselfe, or suffer himselfe to be deceiued, but take some graue learned man to be iudge of his dooing, and let him according to hys counsayle change and put out what hee thinketh good.
40. He which will not flatter and is of ability to iudge, let him endeuour to nothing so much as to the correction of that which is wrytten, and that let be doone with earnest and exquisite iudgment. He which dooth not thus, but offendeth wilfully in breaking his credite too rashly, may be counted for a madde, furious, and franticke foole.
Out of the Epistles Ad Maecenatem, Augustum, et Florum.
42. An immitation should not be too seruile or superstitious, as though one durst not varry one iotte from the example: neyther should it be so sencelesse or vnskilfull as to immitate thinges which are absurde and not to be followed.
43. One should not altogether treade in the steppes of others, but sometime he may enter into such wayes as haue not beene haunted or vsed of others. Horace borrowed the Iambick verse of Archilocus, expressing fully his numbers and elegantly, but his vnseemely wordes and pratling tauntes hee moste wyselye shunned.
45. The common peoples iudgments of Poets is seldome true, and therefore not to be sought after. The vulgar sort in Rome iudged Pacuuius to be very learned; Accius to bee a graue wryter; that Affranius followed Menander, Plautus Epicharmus; that Terence excelled in Arte, Caecilius in grauity: but the learned sorte were not of this opinion. There is extant in Macrobius (I knowe not whether Angellius) the like verdite concerning them which wryt Epigrammes: That Catullus and Caluus wrytt fewe thinges that were good, Naeuius obscure, Hortensius vncomely, Cynna vnpleasant, and Mummius rough.
46. The olde wryters are so farre to be commended as nothing be taken from the newe: neyther may we thinke but that the way lyeth open styll to others to attaine to as great matters. Full well sayd Sidonius to Eucherius, I reuerence the olde wryters, yet not so as though I lesse esteemed the vertues and desertes of the wryters in this age.
47. Newnes is gratefull if it be learned: for certaine it is Artes are not bothe begunne and. perfected at once, but are increased by time and studie; which notwithstanding, when they are at the full perfection, doo debate and decrease againe.
48. No man should dare to practise an Arte that is daungerous, especially before he haue learned the same perfectly; so doo guyders of Shyppes, so doo Phisitions, but so did not manie Romaine Poets (yea so doo not too many English wryters) who in a certaine corragious heate gaped after glory by wryting verses, but fewe of them obtayned it.
49. A Poet should be no lesse skylfull in dealing with the affectes of the mynde then a tumbler or a Iuggler shoulde bee ready in his Arte. And with such pyth shoulde he sette foorth hys matters that a Reader shoulde seeme not onely to heare the thing, but to see and be present at the dooing thereof. Which faculty Fabius calleth [Greek], and Aristotle [Greek].
50. Poets are either such as desire to be liked of on stages, as Commedie and Tragedie wryters, or such as woulde bee regestered in Libraries. Those on stages haue speciall respect to the motions of the minde, that they may stirre bothe the eyes and eares of their beholders. But the other, which seeke to please priuately with[in] the walles, take good aduisement in their workes, that they may satisfy the exact iudgments of learned men in their studies.
51. A Poet shoulde not bee too importunate, as to offende in vnseasonable speeches; or vngentle, as to contemne the admonitions of others; or ambicious, as to thinke too well of his owne dooinges; or too wayward, as to thinke reward enough cannot be gyuen him for his deserte; or, finally, too proude, as to desyre to be honoured aboue measure.
52. The emendations of Poemes be very necessary, that in the obscure poyntes many thinges may be enlightned, in the baser partes many thinges may be throughly garnished. Hee may take away and put out all vnpropper and vnseemely words; he may with discretion immitate the auncient wryters; he may abridge thinges that are too lofty, mittigate thynges that are too rough, and may vse all remedies of speeche throughout the whole worke. The thinges which are scarce seemely he may amende by Arte and methode.
53. Let a Poet first take vppon him as though he were to play but an Actors part, as he may bee esteemed like one which wryteth without regarde; neyther let him so pollish his works but that euery one for the basenesse thereof may think to make as good. Hee may likewyse exercise the part of gesturer, as though he seemed to meddle in rude and common matters, and yet not so deale in them, as it were for variety sake, nor as though he had laboured them thoroughly, but tryfled with them, nor as though he had sweat for them, but practised a little. For so to hyde ones cunning, that nothing should seeme to bee laborsome or exquisite, when, notwithstanding, euery part is pollished with care and studie, is a speciall gyft which Aristotle calleth [kripsin].
54. It is [not] onely a poynt of wysedome to vse many and choyse elegant wordes, but to vnderstand also and to set foorth thinges which pertaine to the happy ende of mans life. Whereuppon the Poet Horace calleth the Arte poeticall, without the knowledge of learning and philosophy, a prating vanity. Therfore a good and allowable Poet must be adorned with wordes, plentious in sentences, and, if not equall to an Orator, yet very neere him, and a special louer of learned men.
This small trauell (courteous Reader) I desire thee take in good worth, which I haue compyled, not as an exquisite censure concerning this matter, but (as thou mayst well perceiue, and in trueth to that onely ende) that it might be an occasion to haue the same thoroughly and with greater discretion taken in hande and laboured by some other of greater abilitie, of whom I knowe there be manie among the famous Poets in London, who, bothe for learning and leysure, may handle this Argument far more pythilie then my selfe. Which if any of them wyll vouchsafe to doo, I trust wee shall haue Englishe Poetry at a higher price in short space: and the rabble of balde Rymes shall be turned to famous workes, comparable (I suppose) with the best workes of Poetry in other tongues. In the meane time, if my poore skill can sette the same any thing forwarde, I wyll not cease to practise the same towardes the framing of some apt English Prosodia, styll hoping and hartelie wishing to enioy first the benefitte of some others iudgment, whose authority may beare greater credite, and whose learning can better performe it.
Note 1. Warton informs us that Edward Hake wrote a tract entitled The Touch-stone of Wittes (12mo, black letter; London, Edmund Botifaunt, 1588), chiefly compiled with some slender additions from William Webbes Discourse of English Poetrie (Hist. iv. 97). He quotes one sentence from it: Then haue we the Mirrour of Magistrates lately augmented by my friend mayster Iohn Higgins, and penned by the choysest learned wittes, which, for the stately-proportioned uaine of the heroick style and good meetly proportion of uerse, may challenge the best of Lydgate, and all our late rhymers. This is all we know of Hakes volume. Warton does not tell us where he saw the text. No copy is known to be preserved. [back]