Therefore either to transgresse the rules of their primitiue records or to seeke to giue their gods honour by belying them otherwise then in that sence which I haue alledged had bene a signe not onely of an vnskilfull Poet but also of a very impudent and leude man. As in Musick we do not say a straine of so many notes, but so many sem'briefes though sometimes there are no more notes then sem'briefes so in a verse the numeration of the sillables is not so much to be obserued, as their waite, and due proportion. Harke how these winds, there the voice naturally affects a rest, then murmur at thy flight, that is of it selfe a perfect number, as I will declare in the next Chapter, and therefore the other odde sillable betweene them ought to be short, least the verse should hang too much betweene the naturall pause of the verse, and the Dimeter following, the which Dimeter though it be naturally Trochaical, yet it seemes to haue his originall out of the Iambick verse. After whom followed John Lydgate the monke of Bury, and that nameles, who wrote the Satyre called Piers Plowman, next him followed Harding the Chronicler, then in king Henry th' eight times Skelton, I wot not for what great worthines surnamed the Poet Laureat. Will lofty courtly wits not ayme Still at perfection? Of that kind I will demonstrate three in this Chapter, and in the first we will proceede after the manner of the Saphick, which is a Trochaicall verse as well as the Hendicasillable in Latine.
In what price the noble poems of Homer were holden with Alexander the great, in so much as every night they were laid under his pillow, and by day were carried in the rich jewel coffer of Darius lately before vanquished by him in battle. And Quintus Catulus, a good Poet, and Cornelius Gallus, treasurer of Egipt, and Horace, the most delicate of all the Romain Lyrickes, was thought meete and by many letters of great instance prouoked to be Secretarie of estate to Augustus thEmperour, which neuerthelesse he refused for his vnhealthfulnesse sake, and, being a quiet mynded man and nothing ambitious of glory, non voluit accedere ad Rempublicam, as it is reported. And for that they were aged and graue men, and of much wisedome and experience in thaffaires of the world, they were the first lawmakers to the people, and the first polititiens, deuising all expedient meanes for thestablishment of Common wealth, to hold and containe the people in order and duety by force and vertue of good and wholesome lawes, made for the preseruation of the publique peace and tranquillitie: the same peraduenture not purposely intended, but greatly furthered by the aw of their gods and such scruple of conscience as the terrors of their late inuented religion had led them into. In which though sometimes vnder a knowne name I haue shadowed a faind conceit, yet it is done without reference or offence to any person, and only to make the stile appeare the more English. In other ages it was not so, for we read that Kings and Princes have written great volumes and published them under their own regall titles.
The fift, sixt, and seauenth, were our English Sapphick, and two other Lyricall numbers, the one beginning with that verse which I call our Dimeter, the other ending with the same. It came, vpon this reason, experience to be so highly commended in all consultations of importance, and preferred before any learning or science, and yet experience is no more than a masse of memories assembled, that is, such trials as man hath made in time before. What musick can there be where there is no proportion obserued? Some eares accustomed altogether to the fatnes of rime may perhaps except against the cadences of these numbers; but let any man iudicially examine them, and he shall finde they close of themselues so perfectly that the help of rime were not only in them superfluous but also absurd. Rose-cheekt Lawra come Sing thou smoothly with thy beawties Silent musick, either other Sweetely gracing. All in sattin Oteny will be suted, Beaten sattin as by chance he cals it Oteny sure will haue the bastinado. If otherwise, then doth it breed Chimeras and monsters in man's imaginations, and not onely in his imaginations, but also in all his ordinary actions and life which ensues. Greatest in thy wars, Greater in thy peace, Dread Elizabeth; Our muse only Truth, Figments cannot vse, Thy ritch name to deck That itselfe adorns: But should now this age Let all poesye fayne, Fayning poesy could Nothing faine at all Worthy halfe thy fame.
The world is made by Simmetry and proportion, and is in that respect compared to Musick, and Musick to Poetry: for Terence saith speaking of Poets, artem qui tractant musicam, confounding musick and Poesy together. The second: What more vnhappy life, what misery more? The Lord Vaux his commendation lyeth chiefly in the facillitie of his meetre, and the aptnesse of his descriptions such as he taketh upon him to make, namely in sundry of his Songs, wherein he sheweth the counterfait action very lively and pleasantly. If you doubt whether the first of misery be naturally short or no, you may iudge it by the easie sliding of these two verses following: The first. Gascon for a good meeter and for a plentifull vayne. Such was the common wealth of Plato, and Sir Thomas Moores Vtopia, resting all in deuise, but neuer put in execution, and easier to be wished then to be performed. Is there not a curse of Nature laid vpon such rude Poesie, when the Writer is himself asham'd of it, and the hearers in contempt call it Riming and Ballating? But with vs Christians, who be better disciplined, and do acknowledge but one God Almightie, euerlasting, and in euery respect selfe suffizant, autharcos, reposed in all perfect rest and soueraigne blisse, not needing or exacting any forreine helpe or good, to him we can not exhibit ouermuch praise, nor belye him any wayes, vnlesse it be in abasing his excellencie by scarsitie of praise, or by misconceauing his diuine nature, weening to praise him if we impute to him such vaine delights and peeuish affections as commonly the frailest men are reproued for: namely, to make him ambitious of honour, iealous and difficult in his worships, terrible, angrie, vindicatiue, a louer, a hater, a pitier, and indigent of mans worships, finally, so passionate as in effect he shold be altogether Anthropapathis.
And this was thought no small peece of cunning, being in deed a matter of some difficultie to finde out so many wordes beginning with one letter as might make a iust volume, though in truth it were but a phantasticall deuise, and to no purpose at all more then to make them harmonicall to the rude eares of those barbarous ages. But wherein any one most excelled, thereof he tooke a surname, as to be called a Poet Heroick, Lyrick, Elegiack, Epigrammatist, or otherwise. He had an elder brother, Richard. Number is discreta quantitas, so that when we speake simply of number, we intend only the disseuer'd quantity; But when we speake of a Poeme written in number, we consider not only the distinct number of the sillables, but also their value, which is contained in the length or shortnes of their sound. De Vulgari Eloquentia: Dante's Book of Exile. And the Greeke and Latine Poesie was by verse numerous and metricall, running vpon pleasant feete, sometimes swift, sometime slow their words very aptly seruing that purpose but without any rime or tunable concord in thend of their verses, as we and all other nations now vse.
Yet before I enter into that discourse, I will briefely recite and dispose in order all such feete as are necessary for composition of the verses before described. For which purpose also they vsed by old nurses appointed to that seruice to suppresse the noise by casting of pottes full of nuttes round about the chamber vpon the hard floore or pauement, for they vsed not mattes nor rushes as we doe now. Also how Frances the French king made Sangelais, Salmonius, Macrinus, and Clement Marot of his privy Chamber for their excellent skill in vulgar and Latin Poesie. Now also of such among the Nobility or gentry as be very well seen in many laudable sciences, and especially in making or Poesie, it is so come to pass that they have no courage to write and if they have, yet are they loath to be aknown of their skill. Likewise the first of these trisillables is short, as the first of b n fit, g n rall, h d ous, m m rie, n m rous, p n tr te, s p rat, t m rous, v r ant, v r ous; and so may we esteeme of all that yeeld the like quicknes of sound. And as this was vsed in the greatest and gayest matters of Princes and Popes by the idle inuention of Monasticall men then raigning al in their superlatiue, so did euery scholer and secular clerke or versifier, when he wrote any short poeme or matter of good lesson, put it in ryme; whereby it came to passe that all your old Prouerbes and common sayinges, which they would haue plausible to the reader and easie to remember and beare away, were of that sorte as these. The first founder of all good affections is honest loue, as the mother of all the vicious is hatred.
The world is made by Simmetry and proportion, and is in that respect compared to Musick, and Musick to Poetry: for Terence saith, speaking of Poets, artem qui tractant musicam, confounding Musick and Poesy together. They understand some traditional conventions, which they followed. My flames did truly burne, thine made a shew, As fires painted are which no heate retayne, Or as the glossy Pirop faines to blaze, But toucht cold appeares, and an earthy stone. Herenniumand De Ratione Dicendi Rhetorica ad Herennium. Besides it is not perceiued, that Princes them selues do take any pleasure in this science, by whose example the subiect is commonly led, and allured to all delights and exercises, be they good or bad, according to the graue saying of the historian, Rex multitudinem religione impleuit, quae semper regenti similis est. Perceyuing, besides, the title to purport so slender a subiect, as nothing almost could be more discrepant from the grauitie of your yeeres and Honorable function, whose contemplations are euery houre more seriously employed vpon the publicke administration and seruices, I thought it no condigne gratification nor scarce any good satisfaction for such a person as you. But it is not so, for before that came to passe the Poets or holy Priests chiefly studied the rebuke of vice, and to carpe at the common abuses, such as were most offensiue to the publique and priuate, for as yet for lacke of good ciuility and wholesome doctrines there was greater store of lewde lourdaines then of wise and learned Lords or of noble and vertuous Princes and gouernours.
So as it may be knowen what we hold of them as borrowed, and what as of our owne peculiar. Then follow these lines, entitled The Writer to his Booke: Whether thus hasts my little booke so fast? Is there not a curse of Nature laid vpon such rude Poesie, when the Writer is himself ashamd of it, and the hearers in contempt call it Riming and Ballating? Learning, after the declining of the Romaine Empire and the pollution of their language through the conquest of the Barbarians, lay most pitifully deformed till the time of Erasmus, Rewcline, Sir Thomas More, and other learned men of that age, who brought the Latine toong again to light, redeeming it with much labour out of the hands of the illiterate Monks and Friers: as a scoffing booke, entituled Epistolae obscurorum virorum, may sufficiently testifie. Arthure brooks only those that brooke not him, Those he most regards, and deuoutly serues: But them that grace him his great brau'ry skornes, Counting kindnesse all duty, not desert: Arthure wants forty pounds, tyres eu'ry friend, But finds none that holds twenty due for him. Rich in detail about the nature, purpose, and functions of poetry as well as the poet's character and goals, it is also a valuable historical document, offering generous insight into Elizabethan court culture, implicitly on display in the attitudes and values of the writer. The book has no illustrations or index.
It was not therefore without reason that so commendable, yea honourable, a thing as loue well meant, were it in Princely estate or priuate, might in all ciuil common wealths be vttered in good forme and order as other laudable things are. Of the later sort I thinke thus. None then should through thy beawty Lawra pine, Might sweet words alone ease a loue-sick heart: But your sweet words alone that quit so well Hope of friendly deeds kill the loue-sick heart. The second book is valuable as an explanation of poetics proper, explaining measure and the effects of various meters, caesura and other pauses as techniques improving oral recitation, the uses of cadence to complement content, ending with discussions of the various metrical feet, and their uses in verse. The eight Chapter: of Ditties and Odes. For custome I alleage, that ill vses are to be abolisht, and that things naturally imperfect can not be perfected by vse. The second Dimeter consists of two Trochyes because it requires more swiftnes than the first and an odde sillable, which, being last, is euer common.
I will propound but one question, and so conclude this point. The second kinde consists of Dimeter, whose first foote may either be a Sponde or a Trochy. Ducunt volentes fata, nolentes trahunt. All monasillables that end in a graue accent are euer long, as wr th, h th, th se, th se, t oth, s oth, thr ugh, d y, pl y, fe te, spe de, str fe, fl w, gr w, sh w. But for all this, I do deny that the Eglogue should be the first and most auncient forme of artificiall Poesie, being perswaded that the Poet deuised the Eglogue long after the other drammatick poems, not of purpose to counterfait or represent the rusticall manner of loues and communication, but vnder the vaile of homely persons and in rude speeches to insinuate and glaunce at greater matters, and such as perchance had not bene safe to haue beene disclosed in any other sort, which may be perceiued by the Eglogues of Virgill, in which are treated by figure matters of greater importance then the loues of Titirus and Corydon. Which neuerthelesse did not so preuaile but that the ryming Poesie of the Barbarians remained still in his reputation, that one in the schole, this other in Courts of Princes more ordinary and allowable.