G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
Francis Meres (15651647)
From Palladis Tamia 1598
[Meress Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury was printed in 1598 as the second instalment of the series of literary commonplace-books beginning with Bodenhams Politeuphuia, Wits Commonwealth (See Notes). The earlier sections of Meress work are concerned with topics of religion, morality, conduct, and the like; and the later with music, painting, and other subjects. The sections immediately preceding the passages here printed deal with Bookes (ff. 2656), Reading of bookes (ff. 2667), A choice is to be had in Reading of Bookes (ff. 2678), The vse of reading many bookes (f. 268), and Philosophie and Philosophers (ff. 26875). Of Books he says, As cherries be fulsome when they bee through ripe, because they be plenty: so bookes be stale when they be printed, in that they be common. In the chapter on the choice of Books he draws up a list of books to be censured of. As the Lord de la Noue in the sixt Discourse of his Politike and Military Discourses censureth of the bookes of Amadis de Gaul, which, he saith, are no lesse hurtfull to youth than the workes of Machiavell to age: so these bookes are accordingly to be censured of whose names followBeuis of Hampton, Guy of Warwicke, Arthur of the Round Table, Huon of Burdeaux, Oliver of the Castle, The Foure Sonnes of Aymon, Gargantua, Gireleon, The Honour of Chiualrie, Primaleon of Greece, Palermin de Oliua, The 7 Champions, The Myrror of Knighthood, Blancherdine, Meruin, Howleglasse, The Stories of Palladyne and Palmendos, The Blacke Knight, The Maiden Knight, The History of Clestina, The Castle of Fame, Gallian of France, Ornatus and Artesia, &c. The text of the following pages is that of the copy in the Bodleian Library.]
AS in a Vine clusters of grapes are often hidde vnder the broade and spacious leaues: so in deepe conceited and well couched poems, figures and fables, many things verie profitable to be knowne, do passe by a yong scholler. Plut.
As, according to Philoxenus, that flesh is most sweete which is no flesh, and those the delectablest fishes which are no fishes: so that Poetrie dooth most delight which is mixt with Philosophie, and that Philosophie which is mixt with Poetrie. Plutarchus in Commentario, quomodo adolescens Poetas audire debet.
Albeit many be drunke with wine, yet the Vines are not to bee cut downe, as Lycurgus did, but Welles and Fountaines are to be digged neare vnto them: so although many abuse poetrie, yet it is not to bee banished, but discretion is to be vsed, that it may bee made holesome. idem.
As Phisitians vse for medicine the feete and wings of the flies Cantharides, which flies are deadly poyson: so we may gather out of the same poem that may quell the hurtfull venome of it; for poets do alwaies mingle somewhat in their Poems, wherby they intimate that they condemne what they declare. idem.
As our breath doth make a shiller sound being sent through the narrow channell of a Trumpet then if it be diffused abroad into the open aire: so the well knitte and succinct combination of a Poem dooth make our meaning better knowen and discerned then if it were deliuered at random in prose. Seneca.
As eloquence hath found many preachers & oratours worthy fauourers of her in the English tongue: so her sister poetry hath found the like welcome and entertainment giuen her by our English poets, which makes our language so gorgeous & delectable among vs.
Many cockney and wanton women ar often sicke, but in faith they cannot tell where: so the name of poetrie is odious to some, but neither his cause nor effects, neither the summe that contains him nor the particularities descending from him, giue any fast handle to their carping dispraise. Sir Philip Sidney, in his Apologie for Poetry.
As Cato when he was a scholler woulde not beleeue his maister, except hee rendered a reason of what he taught him: so wee are not to beleeue Poets in all that they write or say, except they yeelde a reason. idem.
As in the same pasture the Bee seaseth on the flower, the Goate grazeth on the shrub, the swine on the root, & Oxen, Kine, & Horses on the grasse: so in Poets one seeketh for historie, an other for ornament of speech, another for proofe, & an other for precepts of good life. idem.
As they that come verie suddainlie out of a very darke place are greatly troubled, except by little & little they be accustomed to the light: so, in reading of Poets, the opinions of Phylosophers are to bee sowne in the mindes of young schollers, least many diuersities of doctrines doe afterwardes distract their mindes. idem.
As in the portraiture of murder or incest we praise the Art of him that drewe it, but we detest the thing it selfe: so in lasciuious Poets let vs imitate their elocution but execrate their wantonnes. idem.
Some thinges that are not excellent of themselues are good for some, bicause they are meet for them: so some things are commended in Poets which are fit and correspondent for the persons they speak of, although in themselues they bee filthy and not to be spoken; As lame Demonides wished that the shoes that were stolne from him might fit his feet that had stoln them. idem.
As that ship is endaungered where all leane to one side, but is in safetie one leaning one way and another another way: so the dissensions of Poets among themselues doth make them that they lesse infect their readers. And for this purpose our Satyrists Hall, the Author of Pigmalions Image and Certaine Satyres, Rankins, and such others are very profitable.
As a Bee doth gather the iuice of honie from flowres, whereas others are onely delighted with the colour and smel: so a Philosopher findeth that among Poets which is profitable for good life, when as others are tickled only with pleasure. Plut.
As some are delighted in counterfet wines confected of fruites, not that they refresh the hart but that they make drunke; so some are delighted in Poets only for their obscenity, neuer respecting their eloquence, good grace, or learning.
As Emperors, Kings, & princes haue in their handes authority to dignifie or disgrace their nobles, attendants, subiects, & vassals: so Poets haue the whole power in their handes to make men either immortally famous for their valiant exploites and vertuous exercises, or perpetually infamous for their vicious liues.
As the Greeke and Latine Poets haue wonne immortall credit to their natiue speech, beeing encouraged and graced by liberall patrones and bountifull Benefactors: so our famous and learned Lawreat masters of England would entitle our English to far greater admired excellency if either the Emperor Augustus, or Octauia his sister, or noble Mecænas were aliue to rewarde and countenaunce them; or if our witty Comedians and stately Tragedians (the glorious and goodlie representers of all fine witte, glorified phrase, and queint action) bee still supported and vphelde, by which meanes for lacke of Patrones (O ingratefull and damned age) our Poets are soly or chiefly maintained, countenaunced, and patronized.
In the infancy of Greece they that handled in the audience of the people graue and necessary matters were called wise men or eloquent men, which they ment by Vates: so the rest, which sang of loue matters, or other lighter deuises alluring vnto pleasure and delight, were called Poets or makers.
As the holy Prophets and sanctified apostles could neuer haue foretold nor spoken of such supernaturall matters vnlesse they had bin inspired of God: so Cicero in his Tusculane questions is of that minde, that a Poet cannot expresse verses aboundantly, sufficiently, and fully, neither his eloquence can flow pleasantly, or his wordes sound well and plenteously, without celestiall instruction; which Poets themselues do very often and gladly witnes of themselues, as namely Ouid in 6 Fast.
Est Deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illo. &c.
And our famous English Poet Spenser, who in his Sheepeheards Calender, lamenting the decay of Poetry at these dayes, saith most sweetly to the same,
Then make the wings of thine aspiring wit,
And whence thou earnest fly backe to heauen apace. &c.
As a long gowne maketh not an Aduocate, although a gowne be a fit ornament for him: so riming nor versing maketh a Poet, albeit the Senate of Poets hath chosen verse as their fittest rayment; but it is the faining notable images of vertues, vices, or what else, with that delightfull teaching, which must bee the right describing note to knowe a Poet by. Sir Philip Sidney in his Apology for Poetry.
A Comparatiue Discourse of Our English Poets with the Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets.
As Greece had three poets of great antiquity, Orpheus, Linus, and Musæus, and Italy other three auncient poets, Liuius Andronicus, Ennius, and Plautus: so hath England three auncient poets, Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate.
Ouid writ a Chronicle from the beginning of the world to his own time, that is, to the raign of Augustus the Emperor: so hath Harding the Chronicler (after his maner of old harsh riming) from Adam to his time, that is, to the raigne of King Edward the fourth.
As Sotades Maronites, the Iambicke Poet, gaue himself wholy to write impure and lasciuious things: so Skelton (I know not for what great worthines surnamed the Poet Laureat) applied his wit to scurrilities and ridiculous matters; such among the Greeks were called Pantomimi, with vs, buffons.
As Consaluo Periz, that excellent learned man, and Secretary to King Philip of Spayne, in translating the Ulysses of Homer out of Greeke into Spanish, hath by good iudgement auoided the faulte of ryming, although not fully hit perfect and true versifying: so hath Henrie Howarde, that true and noble Earle of Surrey, in translating the fourth book of Virgils Æneas; whom Michael Drayton in his Englands heroycall Epistles hath eternized for an Epistle to his fair Geraldine.
As these Neoterickes, Iouianus Pontanus, Politianus, Marullus Tarchaniota, the two Strozæ, the father and the son, Palingenius, Mantuanus, Philelphus, Quintianus Stoa, and Germanus Brixius have obtained renown and good place among the ancient Latine poets: so also these Englishmen, being Latine poets, Gualter Haddon, Nicholas Car, Gabriel Haruey, Christopher Ocland, Thomas Newton with his Leyland, Thomas Watson, Thomas Campion, Brunswerd, and Willey haue attained good report and honourable aduancement in the Latin empyre.
As the Greeke tongue is made famous and eloquent by Homer, Hesiod, Euripedes, Æschylus, Sophocles, Pindarus, Phocylides, and Aristophanes; and the Latine tongue by Virgill, Ouid, Horace, Silius Italicus, Lucanus, Lucretius, Ausonius, and Claudianus: so the English tongue is mightily enriched and gorgeously inuested in rare ornaments and resplendent abiliments by Sir Philip Sydney, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Warner, Shakespeare, Marlow, and Chapman.
As Xenophon, who did imitate so excellently as to giue vs effigiem iusti imperii, the portraiture of a iust empyre, vnder the name of Cyrus (as Cicero saieth of him), made therein an absolute heroicall poem; and as Heliodorus writ in prose his sugred inuention of that picture of Loue in Theagines and Cariclea; and yet both excellent admired poets: so Sir Philip Sidney writ his immortal poem, The Countess of Pembrookes Arcadia in Prose; and yet our rarest Poet.
As Achilles had the aduantage of Hector, because it was his fortune to bee extolled and renowned by the heauenly verse of Homer: so Spensers Eliza, the Fairy Queen, hath the aduantage of all the Queenes in the worlde, to be eternized by so diuine a Poet.
As Theocritus is famoused for his Idyllia in Greeke, and Virgill for his Eclogs in Latine: so Spencer their imitator in his Shepheardes Calender is renowned for the like argument, and honoured for fine Poeticall inuention and most exquisit wit.
As euery one mourneth when hee heareth of the lamentable plangors of Thracian Orpheus for his dearest Euridice: so euery one passionateth when he readeth the afflicted death of Daniels distressed Rosamond.
As Accius, M. Atilius, and Milithus were called Tragaediographi, because they writ tragedies: so may wee truly terme Michael Drayton Tragaediographus for his passionate penning the downfals of valiant Robert of Normandy, chast Matilda, and great Gaueston.
As Joan. Honterus, in Latine verse, writ three bookes of Cosmography, with geographicall tables: so Michael Drayton is now in penning, in English verse, a Poem called Poly-olbion, Geographicall and Hydrographicall of all the forests, woods, mountaines, fountaines, riuers, lakes, flouds, bathes, and springs that be in England.
As Aulus Persius Flaccus is reported among al writers to be of an honest life and vpright conuersation: so Michael Drayton, quem toties honoris et amoris causa nomino, among schollers, souldiours, Poets, and all sorts of people is helde for a man of vertuous disposition, honest conuersation, and well gouerned cariage; which is almost miraculous among good wits in these declining and corrupt times, when there is nothing but rogery in villanous man, and when cheating and craftines is counted the cleanest wit, and soundest wisedome.
As Decius Ausonius Gallus, in libris Fastorum, penned the occurrences of the world from the first creation of it to his time, that is, to the raigne of the Emperor Gratian: so Warner, in his absolute Albions Englande, hath most admirably penned the historie of his own country from Noah to his time, that is to the raigne of Queen Elizabeth. I haue heard him termd of the best wits of both our Vniversities our English Homer.
As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to liue in Pythagoras: so the sweete wittie soule of Ouid liues in mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare, witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his priuate friends, &c.
As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage. For Comedy, witnes his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Loue Labors Lost, his Loue Labours Wonne, his Midsummers Night Dreame, and his Merchant of Venice; For Tragedy, his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King Iohn, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Iuliet.
As Musæus, who wrote the loue of Hero and Leander, had two excellent schollers, Thamaras and Hercules: so hath he in England two excellent poets, imitators of him in the same argument and subiect, Christopher Marlow and George Chapman.
As there are eight famous and chiefe languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latine, Syriack, Arabicke, Italian, Spanish, and French: so there are eight notable seuerall kindes of Poets, Heroicke, Lyricke, Tragicke, Comicke, Satiricke, Iambicke, Elegiacke, and Pastoral.
As Pindarus, Anacreon, and Callimachus among the Greekes, and Horace and Catullus among the Latines are the best Lyrick poets: so in this faculty the best among our poets are Spencer (who excelleth in all kinds), Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Bretton.
As these Tragicke Poets flourished in Greece, Æschylus, Euripedes, Sophocles, Alexander Ætolus, Achæus Erithrius, Astydamas Atheniensis, Apollodorus Tarsensis, Nicomachus Phrygius, Thespis Atticus, and Timon Apolloniates; and these among the Latines, Accius, M. Atilius, Pompon[i]us Secundus, and Seneca: so these are our best for Tragedie, The Lorde Buckhurst, Doctor Leg of Cambridge, Doctor Edes of Oxford, Master Edward Ferris, the author of the Mirror for Magistrates, Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kid, Shakespeare, Drayton, Chapman, Decker, and Beniamin Iohnson.
As M. Anneus Lucanus writ two excellent tragedies, one called Medea, the other De incendio Troiae cum Priami calamitate: so Doctor Leg hath penned two famous tragedies, the one of Richard the 3, the other of The Destruction of Ierusalem.
The best Poets for Comedy among the Greeks are these, Menander, Aristophanes, Eupolis Atheniensis, Alexis Terius, Nicostratus, Amipsias Atheniensis, Anaxandrides Rhodius, Aristonymus, Archippus Atheniensis, and Callias Atheniensis; and among the Latines, Plautus, Terence, Næuius, Sextus Turpilius, Licinius Imbrex, and Virgilius Romanus: so the best for Comedy amongst vs bee Edward, Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Master Rowley, once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of Her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie Iohn Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.
As Horace, Lucilius, Iuuenall, Persius, and Lucullus are the best for Satyre among the Latines: so with vs, in the same faculty, these are chiefe, Piers Plowman, Lodge, Hall of Imanuel Colledge in Cambridge, the Author of Pigmalions Image and certain Satyrs, the Author of Skialetheia.
Among the Greekes I will name but two for Iambicks, Archilochus Parius and Hipponax Ephesius: so amongst vs I name but two Iambical Poets, Gabriel Haruey and Richard Stanyhurst, bicause I haue seene no mo in this kind.
As these are famous among the Greeks for Elegie, Melanthus, Mymnerus Colophonius, Olympius Mysius, Parthenius Nicæus, Philetas Cous, Theogenes Megarensis, and Pigres Halicarnassæus; and these among the Latines, Mæcenas, Ouid, Tibullus, Propertius, C. Valgius, Cassius Seuerus, and Clodius Sabinus: so these are the most passionate among vs to bewaile and bemoane the perplexities of loue, Henrie Howard, Earle of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyat the elder, Sir Francis Brian, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Rawley, Sir Edward Dyer, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Whetstone, Gascoyne, Samuell Page, sometimes Fellowe of Corpus Christi Colledge in Oxford, Churchyard, Bretton.
As Theocritus in Greek, Virgil and Mantuan in Latine, Sanazar in Italian, and the Authour of Amintæ Gaudia and Walsinghams Melibæus are the best for Pastorall: so amongst vs the best in this kind are Sir Philip Sidney, Master Challener, Spencer, Stephen Gosson, Abraham Fraunce, and Barnefield.
These and many other Epigrammatists the Latin tongue hath, Q. Catulus, Porcius Licinius, Quintus Cornificius, Martial, Cnus Getulicus, and wittie Sir Thomas Moore: so in English we have these, Heywood, Drante, Kendal, Bastard, Dauies.
As noble Mæcenas, that sprang from the Hetruscan Kinges, not onely graced Poets by his bounty but also by beeing a Poet himself; and as Iames the 6, nowe King of Scotland, is not only a fauorer of Poets but a Poet, as my friend Master Richard Barnefielde hath in this disticke passing well recorded,
The King of Scots now liuing is a Poet,
As his Lepanto and his Furies show it:
so Elizabeth, our dread Souereign and gracious Queene, is not only a liberal Patrone vnto Poets, but an excellent Poet herselfe, whose learned, delicate, and noble Muse surmounteth, be it in Ode, Elegy, Epigram, or in any other kind of poem, Heroicke or Lyricke.
Octauia, sister unto Augustus the Emperour, was exceeding bountifull vnto Virgil, who gaue him for making 26 verses, 1,137 pounds, to wit, tenne sestertiæ for euerie verse (which amounted to aboue 43 pounds for euery verse): so learned Mary, the honourable Countesse of Pembrook, the noble sister of immortall Sir Philip Sidney, is very liberall vnto Poets; besides, shee is a most delicate Poet, of whome I may say, as Antipater Sidonius writeth of Sappho,
Among others, in times past, Poets had these fauourers, Augustus, Mæcenas, Sophocles, Germanicus, an Emperor, a Nobleman, a Senatour, and a Captaine: so of later times Poets haue these patrones, Robert, King of Sicil, the great King Francis of France, King Iames of Scotland, and Queene Elizabeth of England.
As Terence for his translations out of Apollodorus and Menander, and Aquilius for his translation out of Menander, and C. Germanicus Augustus for his out of Aratus, and Ausonius for his translated Epigrams out of Greeke, and Doctor Iohnson for his Frogge-fight out of Homer, and Watson for his Antigone out of Sophocles, have got good commendations: so these versifiers for their learned translations are of good note among vs, Phaer for Virgils Æneads, Golding for Ouids Metamorphosis, Harington for his Orlando Furioso, the Translators of Senecas Tragedies, Barnabe Googe for Palingenius, Turberuile for Ouids Epistles and Mantuan, and Chapman for his inchoate Homer.
As Antipater Sidonius was famous for extemporall verse in Greeke, and Ouid for his Quicquid conabar dicere versus erat: so was our Tarleton, of whome Doctor Case, that learned physitian, thus speaketh in the Seuenth Booke and seuenteenth chapter of his Politikes: Aristoteles suum Theodoretum laudauit quendam peritum Tragaediarum actorem, Cicero suum Roscium: nos Angli Tarletonum, in cuius voce et vultu omnes iocosi affectus, in cuius cerebroso capite lepidae facetiae habitant. And so is now our wittie Wilson, who for learning and extemporall witte in this facultie is without compare or compeere, as, to his great and eternall commendations, he manifested in his challenge at the Swanne on the Banke Side.
As Achilles tortured the deade bodie of Hector, and as Antonius and his wife Fuluia tormented the liuelesse corps of Cicero: so Gabriell Haruey hath shewed the same inhumanitie to Greene, that lies full low in his graue.
As Actæon was wooried of his owne hounds: so is Tom Nash of his Isle of Dogs. Dogges were the death of Euripedes; but bee not disconsolate, gallant young Iuuenall, Linus, the sonne of Apollo, died the same death. Yet God forbid that so braue a witte should so basely perish! Thine are but paper dogges, neither is thy banishment like Ouids, eternally to conuerse with the barbarous Getæ. Therefore comfort thyselfe, sweete Tom, with Ciceros glorious return to Rome, and with the counsel Æneas giues to his seabeaten soldiors, Lib. 1, Æneid.
Pluck vp thine heart, and driue from thence both feare and care away!
To thinke on this may pleasure be perhaps another day.
As Archesilaus Prytanus perished by wine at a drunken feast, as Hermippus testifieth in Diogenes: so Robert Greene died of a surfet taken at pickeld herrings and Rhenish wine, as witnesseth Thomas Nash, who was at the fatall banquet.
As Iodelle, a French tragical poet, beeing an epicure and an atheist, made a pitifull end: so our tragicall poet Marlow for his Epicurisme and Atheisme had a tragical death. You may read of this Marlow more at large in the Theatre of Gods judgments, in the 25th chapter entreating of Epicures and Atheists. As the poet Lycophron was shot to death by a certain riual of his: so Christopher Marlow was stabd to death by a bawdy Servingman, a riual of his in his lewde loue.