G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
Thomas Lodge (15581625)
A Defence of Poetry 1579
[Of Lodges Defence of Poetry, Music, and Stage Plays, written in reply to Stephen Gossons Schoole of Abuse, only two copies are known, one being in the Bodleian, the other in the Britwell Collection. Neither copy has a title-page. The book was issued privately in 1579, and was withdrawn immediately. It was reprinted by the Shakespeare Society in 1853. The present version, which has been transcribed from the Bodleian copy (Malone, Add. 896), restores a few words and spellings which had been mistaken in the reprint. The text is very corrupt, and in some places defies emendation. Many of the errors seem to be due to the printers ignorance of MS. contractions. In the original there are only two paragraph-breaks.
The accompanying table gives the earlier contributions to the anti-stage controversy.
John Northbrooke enters his Treatise wherein Dicing, Dauncing, vaine Playes or Enterluds, with other idle Pastimes, &c., commonly vsed on the Sabaoth Day, are reproued by the Authoritie of the Word of God and auntient Writers (ed. Collier, Shakes. Soc, 1843).
The Schoole of Abuse. Conteining a plesaunt invectiue against Poets, Pipers, Plaiers, Jesters and such like Catterpillers of a Commonwelth; setting vp the Flagge of Defiance to their mischieuous exercise, and ouerthrowing their Bulwarkes, by Prophane Writers, Naturall reason, and common Experience . By Stephan Gosson. Stud. Oxon. Dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney (See Spensers letter, 16th Oct., infra, p. 89). The pamphlet has been reprinted in Somerss Collection (1810, iii. 552), by the Shakespeare Society (ed. Collier), and by Mr. Arber in his English Reprints (New Issue, 1895).
Straunge News out of Affrick. A Defence of the stage, of which nothing is known except the account given by Gosson in his Ephemerides (see Arbers edit. u.s. pp. 623).
A Short Apologie of the Schoole of Abuse, against Poets, Pipers, Players, and their Excusers, by Gosson. Added to his Ephemerides of Phialo. The Apologie is dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney. Reprinted by Arber, u.s. pp. 6475. Towards the close Gosson writes: It is tolde mee that they haue got one in London to write certaine Honest excuses, for so they tearme it, to their dishonest abuses which I reuealed . How he frames his excuses, I know not yet, because it is doone in hudder mudder. Trueth can neuer be Falsehods Visarde, which maketh him maske without a torch, and keepe his papers very secret. It is doubtful whether this passage, and especially the allusion to secrecy, refers to the next work.
Lodges Defence (here reprinted).
The Play of Playes, an unknown Defence, described by Gosson in the Fourth Action of his Playes Confuted.
Henry Denham enters his tract, A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theatres.
A Treatise of Daunses, wherein it is showed, that they are as it were accessories and dependants (or things annexed) to whoredom: where also by the way is touched and proved, that Playes are ioyned and knit together in a ranck or rowe with them (see Chatsworth Library Catalogue, vol. iv. p. 49).
Playes confuted in five Actions &c., by Gosson, in answer to Lodges Defence and the Play of Playes. Dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham. (Reprinted by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in the Roxburghe Library, 1868.)
Sidney writing his Apologie or Defence. Published in 1595 (see p. 148).
The Anatomie of Abuses, by Philip Stubbes. (Reprinted by the New Shaks. Soc. 1877, ed. F. J. Furnivall.)
A Touchstone for the Time, by George Whetstone. (Added to A Mirour for Magestrates of Cyties.)
A Mirrour of Monsters, by William Rankins.
There is but little material of literary interest in these controversial works (excluding Sidneys Apologie or Defence); they are almost exclusively devoted to partisan discussion of the social influence of the playhouse. Gossons essays have not been reprinted here, for though he is the best known and the most active of the Puritan pamphleteers, and though he prompted Lodge to write his rhetorical answer and may have inspired Sidneys essay, he but rarely ventures to touch on the art or theory of poetry and the drama. The more important passages in his works are printed in the notes to Lodge and others, by way of illustration and commentary. Lodges Defence, even in the portion here printed, is almost as uncritical as Gossons attack, but it has a superior historical importance in defining a special trend in the later development of Elizabethan criticism.]
PROTOGENES can know Apelles by his line though he se him not, and wise men can consider by the Penn of aucthoritie of the writer thoughe they know him not. The Rubie is discerned by his pale rednes; and who hath not hard that the Lyon is knowne by hys clawes? Though Æsopes craftie crowe be neuer so deftlye decked, yet is his double dealing esely desiphered: & though men neuer so perfectly pollish there wrytings with others sentences, yet the simple truth wil discouer the shadow of ther follies: and bestowing euery fether in the bodye of the right M. tourne out the naked dissembler into his owen cote, as a spectacle of follye to all those which can rightlye Iudge what imperfections be.
There came to my hands lately a litle (woulde God a wittye) pamphelet, baring a fayre face as though it were the scoole of abuse; but, being by me aduisedly wayed, I fynd it the oftscome of imperfections, the writer fuller of wordes then iudgement, the matter certainely as ridiculus as serius. Assuredly his mother witte wrought this wonder, the child to disprayse his father, the dogg to byte his mayster for his dainty morcell: but I se (with Seneca) that the wrong is to be suffered, since he disprayseth, who by costome hath left to speake well. But I meane to be short, and teach the Maister what he knoweth not, partly that he may se his own follie, and partly that I may discharge my promise,both binde me: therefore I would wish the good scholmayster to ouer looke his abuses againe with me, so shall he see an ocean of inormities which begin in his first prinsiple in the disprayse of poetry. And first let me familiarly consider with this find faulte what the learned haue alwayes esteemed of poetrie. Seneca, thoughe a stoike, would haue a poeticall sonne, and, amongst the auncientest, Homer was no les accompted then Humanus deus. What made Alexander, I pray you, esteme of him so much? why allotted he for his works so curious a closset? was ther no fitter vnderprop for his pillow then a simple pamphelet? in all Darius cofers was there no iewell so costly? Forsoth, my thinks, these two (the one the father of Philosophers, the other the cheftaine of chiualrie) were both decerned if all were as a GOSSON would wish them; yf poets paynt naughte but palterie toyes in vearse, their studies tended to foolishnesse, and in all their indeuors they did naught els but agendo nihil agere. Lord, howe Virgils poore gnatt pricketh him, and how Ouids fley byteth him! he can beare no bourde, he hath raysed vp a new sect of serius stoikes, that can abide naught but their owen shadowe, and alow nothing worthye but what they conceaue. Did you neuer reade (my ouer wittie frend) that vnder the persons of beastes many abuses were dissiphered? haue you not reason to waye that whatsoeuer ether Virgil did write of his gnatt or Ouid of his fley was all couertly to declare abuse? but you are homo literatus, a man of the letter, little sauoring of learning; your giddy brain made you leaue your thrift, and your abuses in London some part of your honestie. You say that Poets are subtil; if so, you haue learned that poynt of them; you can well glose on a trifeling text. But you haue dronke perhaps of Lethe; your gramer learning is out of your head; you forget your Accidence; you remember not that vnder the person of Æneas in Virgil the practice of a dilligent captaine is discribed, vnder the shadow of byrds, beastes, and trees the follies of the world were disiphered; you know not that the creation is signified in the Image of Prometheus, the fall of pryde in the person of Narcissus; these are toyes, because they sauor of wisedome which you want. Marke what Campanus sayth: Mira fabularum vanitas, sed quae si introspiciantur videri possunt non vanae. The vanitie of tales is wonderful; yet if we aduisedly looke into them they wil seme and proue wise. How wonderful are the pithie poemes of Cato? the curious comedies of Plautus? how brauely discouereth Terence our imperfection in his Eunuch? how neatly dissiphereth he Dauus? how pleasauntly paynteth he out Gnatho? whom if we shoulde seeke in our dayes, I suppose he would not be fair from your parson.
But I see you would seeme to be that which you are not, and, as the prouerb sayth, Nodum in [s]cirpo quaerere. Poetes, you say, vse coullors to couer their inco[n]u[en]iences, and wittie sentences to burnish their bawdery; and you diuinite to couer your knauerye. But tell mee truth, Gosson, speakest thou as thou thinkest? what coulers findest thou in a Poete not to be admitted? are his speeches vnperfect? sauor they of inscience? I think, if thou hast any shame, thou canst not but like and approue them: are their gods displesant vnto thee? doth Saturne in his maiesty moue thee? doth Iuno with her riches displease thee? doth Minerua with her weapon discomfort thee? doth Apollo with his harping harme thee?thou mayst say nothing les then harme thee, because they are not, and, I thinke so to, because thou knowest them not. For wot thou that in the person of Saturne our decaying yeares are signified; in the picture of angry Iuno our affections are dissiphered; in the person of Minerua is our vnderstanding signified, both in respect of warre as policie. When they faine that Pallas was begotten of the braine of Iupiter, their meaning is none other but that al wisedome (as the learned say) is from aboue, and commeth from the father of Lights: in the portrature of Apollo all knowledge is denotated. So that, what so they wrot, it was to this purpose, in the way of pleasure to draw men to wisedome: for, seing the world in those daies was vnperfect, yt was necessary that they like good Phisitions should so frame their potions that they might be appliable to the quesie stomaks of their werish patients. But our studientes by your meanes haue made shipwrack of theyr labors; our schoolemaisters haue so offended that by your iudgement they shall subire poenam capitis for teaching poetry; the vniversitie is litle beholding to you,al their practices in teaching are friuolus. Witt hath wrought that in you, that yeares and studie neuer setled in the heads of our sagest doctors. No meruel though you disprayse poetrye, when you know not what it meanes.
Erasmus will make that the path waye to knowledge which you disprayse; and no meane fathers vouchsafe in their seriouse questiones of deuinitie to inserte poeticall sensures. I think, if we shal wel ouerloke the philosophers, we shal find their iudgements not halfe perfect. Poetes, you saye, fayle in their fables, Philosophers in the verye secrets of Nature. Though Plato could wish the expulsion of Poetes from his well publiques, which he might doe with reason, yet the wisest had not all that same opinion: it had bene better for him to haue sercht more narowly what the soule was, for his definition was verye friuolus, when he would make it naught els but Substantiam intellectu predictam. If you say that Poetes did labour about nothing, tell me (I besech you) what wonders wroughte those your dunce Doctors in ther reasons de ente, et non ente, in theyr definition of no force, and les witt? how sweate they, power soules, in makinge more things then cold be? that I may vse your owne phrase, did not they spende one candle by seeking another? Democritus, Epicurus, with ther scholler Metrodorus, how labored they in finding out more worlds then one? Your Plato in midst of his presisnes wrought that absurdite that neuer may be redd in Poets, to make a yearthly creature to beare the person of the creator, and a corruptible substance an incomprehensible God! for, determining of the principall causes of all thinges, a made them naughte els but an Idea, which if it be conferred wyth the truth, his sentence will sauour of Inscience. But I speake for Poetes; I answeare your abuse; therefore I will disproue or disprayse naught, but wish you with the wise Plato to disprayse that thing you offend not in. Seneca sayth that the studdie of Poets is to make children ready to the vnderstanding of wisdom, and that our auncients did teache artes Eleutherias, i. liberales, because the instructed children by the instrument of knowledg in time became homines liberi, i. Philosophye. It may be that in reding of poetry it happened to you as it is with the Oyster, for she in her swimming receiueth no ayre, and you in your reding lesse instruction. It is reported that the shepe of Euboia want ther gale, and on the contrarye side that the beastes of Naxus have distentum fel. Men hope that scollers should have witt, brought vpp in the Vniuersite; but your sweet selfe, with the cattell of Euboia, since you left your College, have lost your learning. You disprayse Maximus Tirius pollicey, and that thinge that he wrott to manifest learned Poets mening you atribute to follye. O holy hedded man! why may not Iuno resemble the ayre? why not Alexander valour? why not Vlisses pollice? Will you have all for your owne tothe? must men write that you maye know theyr meaning? as though your wytt were to wrest all things? Alas! simple Irus, begg at knowledge gate awhile; thou haste not wonne the mastery of learning. Weane thy selfe to wisdome, and vse thy tallant in zeale, not for enuie; abuse not thy knowledge in dispraysing that which is pereles. I shold blush from a Player to become an enuiouse Preacher, if thou hadst zeale to preach; if for Sions sake thou coldst not holde thy tongue, thy true dealing were prayse worthy, thy reuolting woulde counsell me to reuerence thee. Pittie weare it that Poetrye should be displaced; full little could we want Buchanans workes, and Boetius comfortes may not be banished. What made Erasmus labor in Euripides tragedies? Did he indeuour by painting them out of Greeke into Latine to manifest sinne vnto vs? or to confirme vs in goodness? Labor (I pray thee) in Pamphelets more prayse worthy: thou haste not saued a Senator, therefore not worthye a Lawrell wreth; thou hast not (in disprouing poetry) reproued an abuse, and therfore not worthy commendation.
Seneca sayth that Magna vitae pars elabitur male agentibus, maxima nihil agentibus, tota aliud agentibus. The most of our life (sayd he) is spent ether in doing euill, or nothing, or that wee should not; and I would wish you weare exempted from this sensure. Geue eare but a little more what may be said for poetrie, for I must be briefe; you haue made so greate matter that I may not stay on one thing to long, lest I leaue another vntouched. And first, whereas you say that Tullie, in his yeres of more iudgement, despised Poetes, harke (I pray you) what he worketh for them in his Oration pro Archia poeta: but before you heare him, least you fayle in the incounter, I would wysh you to followe the aduise of the dasterdlye Ichneumon of Ægipt, who, when shee beholdeth the Aspis her enemye to drawe nighe, calleth her fellowes together, bismering herselfe with claye, agaynst the byting and stroke of the serpent: arme your selfe, call your witts together: want not your wepons, lest your imperfect iudgement be rewardede with Midas eares. You had neede play the night burd now, for you[r] day Owl hath misconned his parte, and for to who now a dayes he cryes foole you: which hath brought such a sort of wondering birds about your eares, as I feare me will chatter you out of your Iuey bush. The worlde shames to see you, or els you are afrayde to shew your selfe. You thought poetrye should want a patron (I think) when you fyrste published this inuectiue, but yet you fynd al to many, euen preter expectationem; yea, though it can speake for its selfe, yet her patron Tullie now shall tell her tale. Haec studia (sayth he) adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, aduersis perfugium ac solatium praebent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur. Then will you disprayse that which all men commend? you looke only vpon the refuse of the abuse, nether respecting the importance of the matter nor the weigh[t]e of the wryter. Solon can fayne himselfe madde, to further the Athenians. Chaucer in pleasant vein can rebuke sin vncontrold; and, though he be lauish in the letter, his sence is serious. Who in Rome lamented not Roscius death? and canst thou suck no plesure out of thy M. Claudians writings? Hark what Cellarius a learned father attributeth to it; Acuit memoriam (saith he), it profiteth the memory. Yea and Tully atributeth it for prais to Archias that vpon any theame he cold versify extempory. Who liketh not of the promptnes of Ouid? who not vnworthely cold bost of himself thus, Quicquid conabar dicere versus erat. Who then doothe not wonder at poetry? who thinketh not that it procedeth from aboue? what made the Chians and Colophonians fal to such controuersy? Why seke the Smirnians to recouer from the Salaminians the prais of Homer? Al wold haue him to be of ther city: I hope not for harme, but because of his knowledge. Themistocles desireth to be acquainted with those who could best discipher his praises. Euen Marius himselfe, tho neuer so cruel, accompted of Plotinus poems. What made Aphricanus esteme Ennius? Why did Alexander giue prais to Achilles, but for the prayses which he found written of him by Homer? Why estemed Pompie so muche of Theophanes Mitiletus? or Brutus so greatlye the wrytinges of Accius? Fuluius was so great a fauorer of Poetry, that, after the Aetolian warres, he attributed to the Muses those spoiles that belonged to Mars. In all the Romaine conquest, hardest thou euer of a slayne Poete? nay rather the Emperours honored them, beautified them with benefites, and decked their sanctuaries with sacrifice. Pindarus colledg is not fit for spoil of Alexander ouercome; nether feareth poetry the persecutors sword. What made Austin so much affectate that heauenly fury? not folly, for, if I must needes speake, illud non ausim affirmare, his zeale was in setting vp of the house of God, not in affectate eloquence; he wrot not, he accompted not, he honnored not so much that (famous poetry) whyche we prayse, without cause, for, if it be true that Horace reporteth in his booke de Arte Poetica, all the answeares of the Oracles weare in verse. Among the precise Iewes you shall find Poetes; and for more maiestie Sibilla will prophesie in verse. Beroaldus can witnes with me that Dauid was a poet, and that his vayne was in imitating (as S. Ierom witnesseth) Horace, Flaccus, and Pindarus; somtimes his verse runneth in an Iambus foote, anone he hath recourse to a Saphic vaine, and aliquando semipede ingreditur. Ask Iosephus, and he wil tel you that Esay, Iob, and Salomon voutsafed poetical practises, for (if Origen and he fault not) theyre verse was Hexameter and pentameter. Enquire of Cassiodorus, he will say that all the beginning of Poetrye proceeded from the Scripture. Paulinus, tho the Byshop of Nolanum, yet voutsafe[th] the name of a Poet; and Ambrose, tho he be a patriarke in Mediolanum, loueth versifing. Beda shameth not the science that shamelesse GOSSON misliketh. Reade ouer Lactantius, his proofe is by poetry; and Paul voutsafeth to ouerlooke Epimenides: let the Apostle preach at Athens, he disdaineth not of Aratus authorite. It is a pretye sentence, yet not so prety as pithy, Poeta nascitur, Orator fit: as who should say, Poetrye commeth from aboue, from a heauenly seate of a glorious God, vnto an excellent creature man; an Orator is but made by exercise. For, if we examine well what befell Ennius amonge the Romans, and Hesiodus among his contrimen the Grecians, howe they came by theyr knowledge, whence they receued their heauenly furye, the first will tell vs that, sleping on the Mount of Parnassus, he dreamed that he received the soule of Homer into him, after the which he became a Poete; the next will assure you that it commeth not by labor, nether that night watchings bringeth it, but that we must haue it thence whence he fetched it, which was (he saith) from a well of the Muses which Persius calleth Caballinus, a draught whereof drewe him to his perfection; so of a shephard he becam an eloquent Poet. Wel then you see that it commeth not by exercise of play making, nether insertion of gawds, but from nature, and from aboue: and I hope that Aristotle hath sufficiently taught you that Natura nihil fecit frustra. Persius was made a poete Diuino furore percitus; and whereas the poets were sayde to call for the Muses helpe, ther mening was no other, as Iodocus Badius reporteth, but to call for heauenly inspiration from aboue to direct theyr endeuors. Nether were it good for you to sette light by the name of a Poet, since the offspring from whence he commeth is so heauenly. Sibilla in her answers to Æneas against hir will, as the poet telleth vs, was possessed with thys fury; ye[a], wey consideratly but of the writing of poets, and you shal se that when ther matter is most heauenly their stile is most loftye, a strange token of the wonderfull efficacy of the same. I would make a long discourse vnto you of Platoes 4 furies, but I leue them: it pitieth me to bring a rodd of your owne making to beate you wythal.
But, mithinks, while you heare thys, I see you swallowe down your owne spittle for reuenge, where (God wot) my wryting sauoreth not of enuye. In this case I could wyshe you fare farre otherwyse from your foe; yf you please, I wyll become your frende, and see what a potion or receypt I can frame fytt for your diet. And herein I will proue myselfe a practiser; before I purdge you, you shall take a preparatiue to disburden your heuay hedde of those grose follis you haue conceued: but the receipt is bitter, therfore I would wysh you first to tasten your mouth with the Sugar of perseuerance: for ther is a cold collop that must downe your throate, yet such a one as shall chaunge your complection quit. I wyll haue you therfore to tast first of the cold riuer Phricus, in Thracia, which, as Aristotle reporteth, changeth blacke into white, or of Scamandar, which maketh gray yalow, that is of an enuious man a wel minded person, reprehending of zeale that wherein he hath sinned by folly; and so being prepard, thy purgation wyll worke more easy, thy vnderstandinge wyll be more perfit, thou shalt blush at thy abuse, and reclaime thy selfe by force of argument; so wilt thou proue a clene recouered patient, and I a perfecte practiser in framing so good a potion. This broughte to passe, I with thee wil seeke out some abuse in poetry, which I wil seeke for to disproue by reason, first pronounced by no smal birde, euen Aristotle himselfe. Poetae (sayth he) multa mentiuntur; and to further his opinion seuer Cato putteth in his censure, Admiranda canunt, sed non credenda, Poetae. These were sore blemishes, if obiected rightly; and heare you may say the streme runnes a wronge; but, if it be so, by you[r] leue, I wyll bring him shortly in his right chanel. My answere shall not be my owne, but a learned father shall tell my tale; if you wil know his name, men call him Lactantius, who, in hys booke de diuinis institutionibus, reesoneth thus. I suppose (sayth he) Poets are full of credit, and yet it is requisite for those that wil vnderstand them to be admonished that among them not onely the name but the matter beareth a show of that it is not; for if, sayth he, we examine the Scriptures litterallye, nothing will seeme more falls, and, if we way Poetes wordes and not ther meaning, our learning in them wilbe very mene. You see nowe that your Catoes iudgement is of no force, and that all your obiections you make agaynst Poetrye be of no valor; yet, lest you should be altogether discoraged, I wyll helpe you forwarde a little more. It pities me to consider the weaknes of your cause; I wyll therfore make your strongest reason more strong, and, after I have builded it vp, destroy it agayn. Poets you confesse are eloquent, but you reproue them in their wantonnesse: they write of no wisedom; you may say their tales are friuolus, they prophane holy thinges, they seeke nothing to the perfection of our soules, theyr practise is in other things of lesse force. To this obiection I answer no otherwise then Horace doeth in his booke de Arte Poetica, where he wryteth thus.
Siluestres homines sacer interpresque deorum
Caedibus et victu foedo deterruit Orpheus:
Dictus ob hoc lenire tigres, rabidosque leones:
Dictus et Amphion, Thebanae conditor vrbis,
Saxa mouere sono testudinis, et prece blanda
Ducere quo vellet: fuit haec sapientia quondam,
Publica priuatis secernere, sacra profanis;
Concubitu prohibere vago; dare iura maritis;
Oppida moliri; leges incidere ligno.
The holy spokesman of the Gods,
Wich heaue[n]ly Orpheus hight,
Did driue the sauage men from wods,
And made them liue aright;
And therefore is sayd the Tygers fierce
And Lyons full of myght
To ouercome: Amphion, he
Was sayd of Theabs the founder,
Who by his force of Lute did cause
The stones to part a sonder,
And by his speach them did derect,
Where he would haue them staye.
This wisedome this was it of olde
All strife for to allay;
To giue to euery man his owne;
To make the Gods be knowne;
To driue each lecher from the bed
That neuer was his owne;
To teach the law of mariage;
The way to build a towne;
For to engraue these lawes in woods
This was these mens renowne.
I cannot leaue Tirtheus pollicy vntouched, who by force of his pen could incite men to the defence of theyr countrye. If you require of the Oracle of Apollo what successe you shal haue, respondet bellicoso numine.
Lo now you see your obiections [and] my answers; you behold or may perceiue manifestlye that Poetes were the first raysors of cities, prescribers of good lawes, mayntayners of religion, disturbors of the wicked, aduancers of the wel disposed, inuentors of laws, and lastly the very fot-paths to knowledge and vnderstanding; ye[a], if we shold beleue Herome, he will make Platos exiles honest men, and his pestiferous poets good preachers, for he accounteth Orpheus, Museus, and Linus Christians; therefore Virgil (in his 6 boke of Æneiados, wher he lernedly describeth the iourny of Æneas to Elis[i]um) asserteneth vs that, among them that were ther for the zeale they beare toward their country, ther wer found Quique pii Vates, et Phoebo digna loqu[u]ti: but I must answer al obiections, I must fil euery nooke. I must arme myself now, for here is the greatest bob I can gather out of your booke, forsoth Ouids abuses, in descrybing whereof you labour very vehementlye, terming him letcher, and in his person dispraise all poems: but shall on[e] mans follye destroye a vniuersal commodity? what gift, what perfit knowledg hath ther bin emong the professors of which ther hath not bin a bad on[e]; the Angels haue sinned in heauen, Adam and Eue in earthly paradise, emong the holy Apostles vngratious Iudas. I reson not that al poets are holy, but I affirme that poetry is a heauenly gift, a perfit gift, then which I know not greater plesure. And surely, if I may speak my mind, I think we shal find but few Poets, if it were exactly wayd, what they oughte to be: your Muscouian straungers, your Scithian monsters wonderful, by one Eurus brought vpon one stage in ships made of Sheepe skins, wyll not proue you a poet, nether your life alow you to bee of that learning. If you had wisely wayed the abuse of poetry, if you had reprehended the foolish fantasies of our Poets nomine non re which they bring forth on stage, my self wold haue liked of you and allowed your labor. But I perceiue nowe that all red colloured stones are not Rubies, nether is euery one Alexander that hath a scare in his cheke; al lame men are not Vulcans, nor hooke nosed men Ciceroes, nether each professor a poet. I abhore those poets that sauor of ribaldry: I will with the zealous admit the expullcion of such enormities: poetry is dispraised not for the folly that is in it, but for the abuse whiche manye ill Wryters couller by it. Beleeue mee the magestrats may take aduise (as I knowe wisely can) to roote out those odde rymes which runnes in euery rascales mouth, sauoring of rybaldry. Those foolishe ballets that are admitted make poets good and godly practises to be refused. I like not of a wicked Nero that wyll expell Lucan, yet admit I of a zealous gouernour that wil seke to take away the abuse of poetry. I like not of an angrye Augustus which wyll banishe Ouid for enuy. I loue a wise Senator, which in wisedome wyll correct him, and with aduise burne his follyes: vnhappy were we, yf like poore Scaurus we shoulde find [a] Tiberius that wyll put vs to death for a tragedy making; but most blessed were we, if we might find a iudge that seuerely would amende the abuses of Tragedies. But I leaue the reformation thereof to more wyser than myselfe, and retourne to GOSSON, whom I wyshe to be fully perswaded in this cause; and therefore I will tell hym a prety story, which Iustin wryteth in the prayse of poetrye. The Lacedemonians, when they had loste many men in diuers incountryes with theyr enemyes, soughte to the Oracles of Apollo requiring how they myght recouer theyr losses. It was answered, that they mighte ouercome if so be that they could get an Athenian gouernor: Whereupon they sent Orators vnto the Athenians, humbly requesting them that they woulde appoynt them out one of theyr best captaynes. The Athenians, owinge them old malice, sent them in steede of a soldado vechio a scholar of the Muses, in steede of a worthy warrior a poore poet, for a couragious Themistocles a silly Tirthetus, a man of great eloquence and singuler wytte, yet was he but a lame lymde captaine, more fit for the coche then the field. The Lacedemonians, trusting the Oracle, receued the champion, and, fearing the gouernment of a stranger, made him ther Citizen; which once don, and he obteining the Dukdome, he assended the theater, and ther very learnedly wyshing them to forget theyr folly and to thinke on victory, they, being acuate by his eloquence, waging battail, won the fielde.
Lo now you see that the framing of common welthes, and defence therof, proceedeth from poets, how dare you therfore open your mouth against them? how can you disprayse the preseruer of a countrye? You compare Homer to Methecus, cookes to Poetes, you shame your selfe in your vnreuerent similituds, you may see your follyes; verbum sapienti sat. Where as Homer was an ancient poet, you disalow him, and accompte of those of lesser iudgement. Strabo calleth poetry primam sapientiam. Cicero, in his firste of hys Tusculans, attributeth the inuencion of philosophy to poets. God keepe vs from a Plato that should expel such men: pittie were it that the memory of these valiant victours should be hidden, which haue dyed in the behalfe of ther countryes. Miserable were our state yf we wanted those worthy volumes of Poetry: could the learned beare the losse of Homer? or our younglings the wrytings of Mantuan? or you your volumes of Historyes? Belieue me, yf you had wanted your Mysteries of nature, and your stately storyes, your booke would haue scarce bene fedde wyth matter. If therefore you will deale in things of wisdome, correct the abuse, honor the science, renewe your schoole; crye out ouer Hierusalem wyth the prophet the woe that he pronounced; wish the teacher to reforme hys lyfe, that his weake scholler may proue the wyser; cry out against vnsaciable desyre in rich men; tel the house of Iacob theyr iniquities; lament with the Apostle the want of laborers in the Lords vineyards; cry out on those dume doggs that will not barke; wyll the mightye that they ouer mayster not the poore; and put downe the beggars prowde heart by thy perswasions. Thunder oute wyth the Prophete Micha the mesage of the Lord, and wyth him desyre the Iudges to heare thee, the Prynces of Iacob to hearken to thee, and those of the house of Israell to vnderstande; then tell them that they abhorre iudgement, and preuent equitie, that they iudge for rewardes, and that theyr priests teach for hyre, and the prophets thereof prophesie for money, and yet that they saye the Lorde is wyth them, and that no euil can befall them; breath out the sweete promises to the good, the cursses to the badde, tell them that a peace muste needes haue a warre, and that God can rayse vp another Zenacharib; shew them that Salamons kingdome was but for a season, and that aduersitie cometh ere we espye it. These be the songes of Sion, these be those rebukes which you oughte to add to abuses; recouer the body, for it is sore; the appe[n]dices thereof will easely be reformed, if that we ar at a staye.
[Lodge proceeds to discuss Gossons Second AbuseMusic, which you vnaduisedly terme Pyping. Homer commended it. Looke vppon the harmonie of the Heauens? hange they not by Musike? Dauid sang and praised the Lord with the harp: and the testimony of the Greek philosophers is in fauour of its vse. But as I like Musik, so admit I not of thos that depraue the same: your Pipers are so odius to mee as yourselfe; nether alowe I your harpinge merye beggars, although I knewe you my self a professed play maker and a paltry actor.]
Well, I leaue this poynt til I know further of your mynde; mean while I must talke a little wyth you about the thyrd abuse, for the cater cosens of Pypers, theyr names (as you terme them), be Players, and I thinke as you doe, for your experience is sufficient to enforme me; but here I must loke about me, quacunque te t[et]igeris vlcus est: here is a task that requireth a long treatis, and what my opinion is of Players ye now shall plainly perceue. I must now search my wits; I see this shall passe throughe many seuere sensors handling; I must aduise me what I write, and write that I would wysh. I way wel the seriousnes of the cause, and regarde very much the iudges of my endeuor, whom, if I could, I would perswade that I woulde not nourish abuse, nether mayntaine that which should be an vniversall discomoditye. I hope they wil not iudge before they read, nether condemne without occasion. The wisest wil alwais carry t[w]o eares, in that they are to diserne two indifferent causes. I meane not to hold you in suspenc[e] (seuere Iudges): if you gredely expect my verdit, brefely this it is.
Demost[he]nes thoughte not that Phillip shoulde ouercome when he reproued hym, nether feared Cicero Anthonies force when in the Senate hee rebuked hym. To the ignorant ech thinge that is vnknowne semes vnprofitable, but a wise man can forsee and prayse by proofe. Pythagoras could spy oute in womens eyes two kind of teares, the one of grefe, the other of disceit; and those of iudgement can from the same flower suck honey with the bee, from whence the Spyder (I mean the ignorant) take their poison. Men that haue knowledge what comedies and tragedis be wil comend them, but it is sufferable in the folish to reproue that they know not, becaus ther mouthes will hardly be stopped. Firste therfore, if it be not tedious to GOSSON to harken to the lerned, the reder shal perceiue the antiquity of playmaking, the inuentors of comedies, and therewithall the vse and comoditye of them. So that in the end I hope my labor shall be liked, and the learned wil soner conceue his folly. For tragedies and comedies, Donate the gramarian sayth, they wer inuented by lerned fathers of the old time to no other purpose but to yeelde prayse vnto God for a happy haruest or plentiful yeere. And that thys is trewe the name of Tragedye doth importe, for, if you consider whence it came, you shall perceiue (as Iodocus Badius reporteth) that it drewe his original of Tragos, Hircus, et Ode, Cantus (so called), for that the actors thereof had in rewarde for theyr labour a gotes skynne fylled wyth wyne. You see then that the fyrste matter of Tragedies was to giue thankes and prayses to God, and a gratefull prayer of the countrymen for a happye haruest, and this I hope was not discommendable. I knowe you will iudge i[t] farthest from abuse. But to wade farther, thys fourme of inuention being found out, as the dayes wherein it was vsed did decay, and the world grew to more perfection, so the witt of the younger sorte became more riper, for they leauing this fourme inuented an other, in the which they altered the nature but not the name; for, for sonnets in prayse of the gods, they did set forth the sower fortune of many exiles, the miserable fal of haples princes, the reuinous decay of many countryes; yet not content with this, they presented the liues of Satyers, so that they might wiselye, vnder the abuse of that name, discouer the follies of many theyr folish fellow citesens. And those monsters were then as our parasites are now adayes: suche as with pleasure reprehended abuse. As for Commedies, because they bear a more plesanter vain, I will leaue the other to speake of them. Tulley defines them thus: Comedia (saith he) is imitatio vitae, speculum consuetudinis, et imago veritatis; and it is sayde to be termed of Comai (emongste the Greekes), which signifieth Pagos, and Ode, Cantus; for that they were exercised in the fielde, they had they[r] beginning with tragedies, but their matter was more plessaunt, for they were suche as did reprehend, yet quodam lepore. These first very rudly were inuented by Susarion Bullus and Magnes, t[w]o auncient poets, yet so that they were meruelous profitable to the reclamynge of abuse; whereupon Eupolis with Cratinus and Aristophanes began to write, and with ther eloquenter vaine and perfection of stil dyd more seuerely speak agaynst the abuses then they: which Horace himselfe witnesseth. For, sayth he, ther was no abuse but these men reprehended it; a thefe was loth to be seene [at] one [of] there spectacle[s], a coward was neuer present at theyr assemblies, a backbiter abhord that company; and I my selfe could not haue blamed you (Gosson) for exempting yourselfe from this theater; of troth I shoulde have lykt your pollicy. These therefore, these wer they that kept men in awe, these restrayned the vnbridled cominaltie; wherupon Horace wisely sayeth,
Yea, would God our realme could light vppon a Lucilius; then should the wicked bee poynted out from the good; a harlot woulde seeke no harbor at stage plais, lest she shold here her owne name growe in question, and the discourse of her honesty cause her to bee hated of the godly. As for you, I am sure of this one thing, he would paint you in your players ornaments, for they best becam you. But as these sharpe corrections were disanulde in Rome when they grewe to more licenciousnes, so I fear me if we shold practise it in our dayes the same intertainmente would followe. But in ill reformed Rome what comedies now? A poets wit can correct, yet not offend. Philemon will mitigate the corrections of sinne by reprouing them couertly in shadowes. Menander dare not offend the Senate openly, yet wants he not a parasite to touch them priuely. Terence wyl not report the abuse of harlots vnder there proper stile, but he can finely girde them vnder the person of Thais. Hee dare not openly tell the Rich of theyr couetousnesse and seuerity towards their children, but he can controle them vnder the person of Durus Demeas. He must not shew the abuse of noble yong gentilmen vnder theyr owne title, but he wyll warne them in the person of Pamphilus. Wil you learne to knowe a parasite? Looke vpon his Dauus. Wyl you seke the abuse of courtly flatterers? Behold Gnato. And if we had some Satericall Poetes nowe a dayes to penn our commedies, that might be admitted of zeale to discypher the abuses of the worlde in the person of notorious offenders, I knowe we should wisely ryd our assemblyes of many of your brotherhod.
But, because you may haue a full scope to reprehende, I will ryp vp a rablement of play makers, whose wrightinges I would wishe you ouerlooke, and seeke out theyr abuses. Can you mislike of Cecilius? or dispise Plinius? or amend Neuius? or find fault with Licinius? Wherein offended Acutius? I am sure you can not but wonder at Terence? Wil it please you to like of Turpilius? or alow of Trabea? You muste needs make much of Ennius; for ouerloke al thes and you shal find ther volums ful of wit if you examin them; so that, if you had no other masters, you might deserue to be a doctor, wher now you are but a folishe scholemaister: but I wyll deale wyth you very freendlye, I wil resolue eueri doubt that you find; those instrumentes which you mislike in playes grow of auncient custome, for, when Roscius was an Actor, be sure that as with his tears he moued affections, so the Musitian in the Theater before the entrance did mornefully record it in melody (as Seruius reporteth). The actors in Rome had also gay clothing, and euery mans aparel was apliable to his part and person. The old men in white, the rich men in purple, the parasite disguisedly, the yong men in gorgeous coulours, ther wanted no deuise nor good iudgement of the comedy, where I suppose our players both drew ther plaies and fourme of garments. As for the appointed dayes wherin comedies wer showen, I reede that the Romaynes appoynted them on the festiual dayes; in such reputation were they had at that time. Also Iodocus Badius will assertain you that the actors for shewing pleasure receued some profite. But let me apply those dayes to ours, their actors to our players, their autors to ours. Surely we want not a Roscius, nether ar ther great scarsity of Terences profession, but yet our men dare not nowe a dayes presume so much as the old Poets might, and therfore they apply ther writing to the peoples vain; wheras, if in the beginning they had ruled, we should now adaies have found smal spectacles of folly. But (of truth) I must confes with Aristotle that men are greatly delighted with imitation, and that it were good to bring those things on stage that were altogether tending to vertue: all this I admit and hartely wysh, but you say vnlesse the thinge be taken away the vice will continue. Nay, I say if the style were changed the practise would profit, and sure I thinke our theaters fit that Ennius, seeing our wanton Glicerium, may rebuke her. If our poetes will nowe become seuere, and for prophane things write of vertue, you I hope shoulde see a reformed state in those thinges; which I feare me yf they were not, the idle hedded commones would worke more mischiefe. I wish as zealously as the best that all abuse of playinge weare abolished; but for the thing, the antiquitie causeth me to allow it, so it be vsed as it should be. I cannot allow the prophaning of the Sabaoth. I praise your reprehension in that; you did well in discommending the abuse, and surely I wysh that that folly wer disclaymed; it is not to be admitted, it maks those sinne, whiche perhaps, if it were not, would have binne present at a good sermon. It is in the Magistrate to take away that order, and appoynt it otherwyse. But sure it were pittie to abolish that which hath so great vertue in it, because it is abused. The Germanes, when the vse of preaching was forbidden them, what helpe had they I pray you? Forsoth the learned were fayne couertly in comedies to declare abuses, and by playing to incite the people to vertues, when they might heare no preaching. Those were lamentable dayes you will say, and so thinke I; but was not this, I pray you, a good help in reforming the decaying Gospel? You see then how comedies (my seuere iudges) are requesit both for ther antiquity and for ther commoditye, for the dignity of the wrighters, and the pleasure of the hearers. But, after your discrediting of playmaking, you salue vppon the sore somewhat, and among many wise workes there be some that fitte your vaine: the practice of parasites is one, as which I meruel it likes you so well, since it bites you so sore. But sure in that I like your iudgement, and for the rest to I approue your wit, but for the pigg of your owne sow (as you terme it) assuredly I must discommend your verdit. Tell me, GOSSON, was all your owne you wrote there? did you borow nothing of your neyghbours? Out of what booke patched you out Ciceros Oration? Whence fet you Catilins Inuectiue. Thys is one thing, alienam olet lucernam, non tuam; so that your helper may wisely reply vpon you with Virgil
Hos ego versiculos feci: tulit alter honores.
I made these verses, other bear[s] the name.
Beleue me I should preferr Wilsons: Shorte and sweete, if I were iudge, a peece surely worthy prayse, the practice of a good scholler; would the wiser would ouerlooke that, they may perhaps cull some wisedome out of a players toye. Well, as it is wisedome to commend where the cause requireth, so it is a poynt of folly to praise without deserte. You dislike players very much, theyr dealings be not for your commodity; whom if I myghte aduise, they should learne thys of Iuuenal.
Viuendum est recte, cum propter plurima, tum his
Praecipue causis, vt linguas mancipiorum
Contemnas. Nam lingua mali pars pessima serui.
We ought to leade our liues aright,
For many causes moue.
Especially for this same cause,
Wisedom doth vs behoue
That we may set at nought those blames
Which seruants to vs lay;
For why, the tongue of euel slaue
Is worst, as wisemen euer say.
Methinks I heare some of them verifiing these verses vpon you; if it be so that I hear them, I will concele it: as for the statute of apparrell and the abuses therof, I see it manifestly broken, and, if I should seeke for example, you cannot but offend my eyes. For, if you examine the statuts exactly, a simple cote should be fitted to your backe, we shold bereue you of your brauerye, and examine your auncestry, and by profession, in respect of that statute, we should find you cater cosens with a, (but hush) you know my meaning: I must for pitie fauor your credit, in that you weare once a scholler.
And because I think my selfe to haue sufficiently answered that I supposed, I conclude wyth this: God preserue our peaceable Princes, and confound her enemies: God enlarge her wisedom, that like Saba she may seeke after a Salomon: God confounde the imaginations of her enemies, and perfit his graces in her, that the daies of her rule may be continued in the bonds of peace, that the house of the chosen Isralites may be maynteyned in happinesse: lastly, I frendly bid GOSSON farwell, wyshinge him to temper his penn with more discretion.