Contriued into three Bookes: The first of Poets and Poesie, the second of Proportion, the third of Ornament.
Printed by Richard Field, dwelling in the black-Friers, neere Ludgate. 1589.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE SIR WILLIAM CECILL KNIGHT, LORD OF BVRGHLEY, LORD HIGH TREASVRER OF ENGLAND, R.F.
Printer wisheth health and prosperitie, with the commandement and vse of his continuall seruice.
This Booke (right Honorable) coming to my handes, with his bare title without any Authours name or any other ordinarie addresse, I doubted how well it might become me to make you a present thereof, seeming by many expresse passages in the same at large, that it was by the Authour intended to our Soueraigne Lady the Queene, and for her recreation and seruice chiefly deuised, in which case to make any other person her highnes partener in the honour of his guift it could not stand with my dutie, nor be without some prejudice to her Maiesties interest and his merrite. 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 upon the publicke administration and services: I thought it no condigne gratification, nor scarce any good satisfaction for such a person as you. Yet when I considered, that bestowing vpon your Lordship the first vewe of this mine impression (a feat of mine owne simple facultie) it could not scypher her Maiesties honour or prerogatiue in the guift, nor yet the Authour of his thanks: and seeing the thing it selfe to be a deuice of some noueltie (which commonly it giveth euery good thing a speciall grace) and a noueltie so highly tending to the most worthy prayses of her Maiesties most excellent name. So deerer to you I dare conceiue them any worldly thing besides love although I could not deuise to have presented your Lordship any gift more agreeable to your appetite, or fitter for my vocation and abilitie to bestow, your Lordship beyng learned and a louer of learning, my present a Book and my selfe a printer alwaies ready and desirous to be at your Honourable commaundement. And thus I humbly take my leave from the Black-friers, this xxvii of May, 1589.
Your Honours most humble at commaundement,
Che se stessa rassomiglia & non altrui.
THE FIRST BOOKE, _Of Poets and Poesie.
What a Poet and Poesie is, and who may be worthily sayd the most excellent Poet of our time.
A Poet is as much to say as a maker. And our English name well conformes with the Greeke word: for of [Greek: poiein] to make, they call a maker Poeta. Such as (by way of resemblance and reuerently) we may say of God: who without any trauell to his diuine imagination, made all the world of nought, nor also by any paterne or mould as the Platonicks with their Idees do phantastically suppose. Euen so the very Poet makes and contriues out of his owne braine both the verse and matter of his poeme, and not by any foreine copie or example, as doth the translator, who therefore may well be sayd a versifier, but not a Poet. The premises considered, it giueth to the name and profession no smal dignitie and preheminence aboue all other artificers, Scientificke or Mechanicall. And neuerthelesse without any repugnancie at all, a Poet may in some sort be said a follower or imitator, because he can expresse the true and liuely of euery thing is set before him, and which he taketh in hand to describe: and so in that respect is both a maker and a counterfaitor: and Poesiean art not only of making, but also of imitation. And this science in his perfection, can not grow, but by some diuine instinct, the Platonicks call it furor: or by excellencie of nature and complexion: or by great subtiltie of the spirits & wit or by much experience and obseruation of the world, and course of kinde, or peradventure by all or most part of them. Otherwise how was it possible that Homer being but a poore priuate man, and as some say, in his later age blind, should so exactly set foorth and describe, as if he had bene a most excellent Captaine or Generall, the order and array of battels, the conduct of whole armies, the sieges and assaults of cities and townes? or as some great Princes maiordome and perfect Surueyour in Court, the order, sumptuousnesse and magnificence of royal bankers, feasts, weddings, and enteruewes? or as a Polititian very prudent, and much inured with the priuat and publique affaires, so grauely examine the lawes and ordinances Ciuill, or so profoundly discourse in matters of estate, and formes of all politique regiment? Finally how could he so naturally paint out the speeches, countenance and maners of Princely persons and priuate, to wit, the wrath of Achilles, the magnanimitie of Agamemnon, the prudence of Menelaus, the prowesse of Hector, the maiestie of king Priamus, the grauitie of Nestor, the pollicies and eloquence of Vlysses, the calamities of the distressed Queenes, and valiance of all the Captaines and aduenturous knights in those lamentable warres of Troy? It is therefore of Poets thus to be conceiued, that if they be able to deuise and make all these things of them selues, without any subiect of veritie, that they be (by maner of speech) as creating gods. If they do it by instinct diuine or naturall, then surely much fauoured from aboue. If by their experience, then no doubt very wise men. If by any president or paterne layd before them, then truly the most excellent imitators & counterfaitors of all others. But you (Madame) my most Honored and Gracious: if I should seeme to offer you this my deuise for a discipline and not a delight, I might well be reputed, of all others the most arrogant and iniurious: your selfe being alreadie, of any that I know in our time, the most excellent Poet. Forsooth by your Princely pursefauours and countenance, making in maner what ye list, the poore man rich, the lewd well learned, the coward couragious, and vile both noble and valiant. Then for imitation no lesse, your person as a most cunning counterfaitor liuely representing Venus in countenance, in life Diana, Pallas for gouernement, and Iuno in all honour and regall magnificence.
That there may be an Art of our English Poesie, as well as there is of the Latine and Greeke.
Then as there was no art in the world till by experience found out: so if Poesie be now an Art, & of al antiquitie hath bene among the Greeks and Latines, & yet were none, vntill by studious persons fashioned and reduced into a method of rules & precepts, then no doubt may there be the like with vs. And if th'art of Poesie be but a skill appertaining to vtterance, why may not the same be with vs as wel as with them, our language being no lesse copious pithie and significatiue then theirs, our conceipts the same, and our wits no lesse apt to deuise and imitate then theirs were? If againe Art be but a certaine order of rules prescribed by reason, and gathered by experience, why should not Poesie be a vulgar Art with vs as well as with the Greeks and Latines, our language admitting no fewer rules and nice diuersities then theirs? but peraduenture moe by a peculiar, which our speech hath in many things differing from theirs: and yet in the generall points of that Art, allowed to go in common with them: so as if one point perchance which is their feete whereupon their measures stand, and in deede is all the beautie of their Poesie, and which feete we haue not, nor as yet neuer went about to frame (the nature of our language and wordes not permitting it) we haue in stead thereof twentie other curious points in that skill more then they euer had, by reason of our rime and tunable concords or simphonie, which they neuer obserued. Poesie therefore may be an Art in our vulgar, and that verie methodicall and commendable.
How Poets were the first priests, the first prophets, the first Legislators and politicians in the world.
The profession and vse of Poesie is most ancient from the beginning, and not as manie erroniously suppose, after, but before any ciuil society was among men. For if it was first that Poesie was th'originall cause and occasion of their first assemblies; when before the people remained in the woods and mountains, vagarant and dipersed like the wild beasts; lawlesse and naked, or verie ill clad, and of all good and necessarie prouision for harbour or sustenance vtterly vnfurnished: so as they litle diffred for their maner of life, from the very brute beasts of the field. Whereupon it is fayned that Amphion and Orpheus, two Poets of the first ages, one of them, to wit Amphion, builded vp cities, and reared walles with the stones that came in heapes to the sound of his harpe, figuring thereby the mollifying of hard and stonie hearts by his sweete and eloquent perswasion. And Orpheus assembled the wilde beasts to come in heards to harken to his musicke and by that meanes made them tame, implying thereby, how by his discreete and wholesome lessons vttered in harmonie and with melodious instruments, he brought the rude and sauage people to a more ciuill and orderly life, nothing as it seemeth, more preuailing or fit to redresse and edifie the cruell and sturdie courage of man then it. And as these two Poets and Linus before them, and Museus also and Hesiodus in Greece and Archadia: so by all likelihood had mo Poets done in other places and in other ages before them, though there be no remembrance left of them, by reason of the Recordes by some accident of time perished and failing. Poets therfore are of great antiquitie. Then forasmuch as they were the first that entended to the obseruation of nature and her works, and specially of the Celestiall courses, by reason of the continuall motion of the heauens, searching after the first mouer, and from thence by degrees comming to know and consider of the substances separate & abstract, which we call the diuine intelligences or good Angels (Demones) they were the first that instituted sacrifices of placation, with inuocations and worship to them, as to Gods; and inuented and stablished all the rest of the obseruances and ceremonies of religion, and so were the first Priests and ministers of the holy misteries. And because for the better execution of that high charge and function, it behoued than to live chast, and in all holines of life, and in continuall studie and contemplation: they came by instinct divine, and by deepe meditation, and much abstinence (the same assubtiling and refining their spirits) to be made apt to receaue visions, both waking and sleeping, which made them vtter prophesies, and foretell things to come. So also were they the first Prophetes or seears, Vidontes, for so the Scripture tearmeth them in Latine after the Hebrue word, and all the oracles and answers of the gods were giuen in meeter or verse, and published to the people by their direction. And for that they were aged and graue men, and of much wisedome and experience in th'affaires of the world, they were the first lawmakers to the people, and the first polititiens, deuising all expedient meanes for th'establishment of Common wealth, to hold and containe the people in order and duety by force and virtue 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.
How the Poets were the first Philosophers, the first Astronomers and Historiographers and Oratours and Musiciens of the world.
Vtterance also and language is giuen by nature to man for perswasion of others, and aide of them selues, I meane the first abilite to speake. For speech it selfe is artificiall and made by man, and the more pleasing it is, the more it preuaileth to such purpose as it is intended for: but speech by meeter is a kind of vtterance, more cleanly couched and more delicate to the eare then prose is, because it is more currant and slipper vpon the tongue, and withal tunable and melodious, as a kind of Musicke, and therfore may be tearmed a musicall speech or vtterance, which cannot but please the hearer very well. Another cause is, for that it is briefer & more compendious, and easier to beare away and be retained in memorie, then that which is contained in multitude of words and full of tedious ambage and long periods. It is beside a maner of vtterance more eloquent and rethoricall then the ordinarie prose, which we use in our daily talke: because it is decked and set out with all manner of fresh colours and figures, which maketh that it sooner inuegleth the iudgement of man, and carieth his opinion this way and that, whither soeuer the heart by impression of the eare shal be most affectionatly bent and directed. The vtterance in prose is not of so great efficacie, because not only it is dayly vsed, and by that occasion the eare is ouerglutted with it, but is also not so voluble and slipper vpon the tong, being wide and lose, and nothing numerous, nor contriued into measures, and sounded with so gallant and harmonical accents, nor in fine alowed that figuratiue conueyance, nor so great licence in choise of words and phrases as meeter is. So as the Poets were also from the beginning the best perswaders and their eloquence the first Rethoricke of the world. Euen so it became that the high mysteries of the gods should be reuealed & taught, by a maner of vtterance and language of extraordinarie phrase, and briefe and compendious, and aboue al others sweet and ciuill as the Metricall is. The same also was meetest to register the liues and noble gests of Princes, and of the great Monarkes of the world, and all other the memorable accidents of time: so as the Poet was also the first historiographer. Then for as much as they were the first obseruers of all naturall causes & effects in the things generable and corruptible, and from thence mounted vp to search after the celestiall courses and influences, & yet penetrated further to know the diuine essences and substances separate, as is sayd before, they were the first Astronomers and Philosophists and Metaphisicks. Finally, because they did altogether endeuor themselues to reduce the life of man to a certaine method of good maners, and made the first differences betweene vertue and vice, and then tempered all these knowledges and skilles with the exercise of a delectable Musicke by melodious instruments, which withall serued them to delight their hearers, & to call the people together by admiration, to a plausible and vertuous conuersation, therefore were they the first Philosophers Ethick, & the first artificial Musiciens of the world. Such was Linus, Orpheus, Amphion & Museus the most ancient Poets and Philosophers, of whom there is left any memorie by the prophane writers King Dauid also & Salomon his sonne and many other of the holy Prophets wrate in meeters, and vsed to sing them to the harpe, although to many of vs ignorant of the Hebrue language and phrase, and not obseruing it, the same seeme but a prose. It can not bee therefore that anie scorn or indignitie should iustly be offred to so noble, profitable, ancient and diuine a science as Poesie is.
How the wilde and sauage people vsed a naturall Poesie in versicte and time as our vulgar is.
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 th'end of their verses, as we and all other nations now use. But the Hebrues & Chaldees who were more ancient then the Greekes, did not only use a metricall Poesie, but also with the same a maner or rime, as hath bene of late obserued by learned men. Wherby it appeareth, that our vulgar running Poesie was common to all the nations of the world besides, whom the Latines and Greekes in speciall called barbarous. So as it was notwithstanding the first and most ancient Poesie, and the most vniuersall, which two points do otherwise giue to all humane inuentions and affaires no small credit. This is proued by certificate of marchants & trauellers, who by late nauigations haue surueyed the whole world, and discouered large countries and strange peoples wild and sauage, affirming that the American, the Perusine & the very Canniball, do sing and also say, their highest and holiest matters in certaine riming versicles and not in prose, which proues also that our maner of vulgar Poesie is more ancient then the artificiall of the Greeks and Latines, ours comming by instinct of nature, which was before Art or obseruation, and vsed with the sauage and vnciuill, who were before all science or ciuilitie, euen as the naked by prioritie of time is before the clothed, and the ignorant before the learned. The naturall Poesie therefore being aided and amended by Art, and not vtterly altered or obscured, but some signe left of it, (as the Greekes and Latines haue left none) is no lesse to be allowed and commended then theirs.
How the riming Poesie came first to the Grecians and Latines, and had altered and almost split their maner of Poesie.
But it came to passe, when fortune fled farre from the Greekes and Latines, & that their townes florished no more in traficke, nor their Vniuersities in learning as they had done continuing those Monarchies: the barbarous conquerers inuading them with innumerable swarmes of strange nations, the Poesie metricall of the Grecians and Latines came to be much corrupted and altered, in so much as there were times that the very Greekes and Latines themselues tooke pleasure in Riming verses, and vsed it as a rare and gallant thing: Yea their Oratours proses nor the Doctors Sermons were acceptable to Princes nor yet to the common people vnlesse it went in manner of tunable rime or metricall sentences, as appeares by many of the auncient writers, about that time and since. And the great Princes, and Popes, and Sultans would one salute and greet an other sometime in frendship and sport, sometime in earnest and enmitie by ryming verses, & nothing seemed clerkly done, but must be done in ryme: Whereof we finde diuers examples from the time of th'Emperours Gracian & Valentinian downwardes; For then aboutes began the declination of the Romain Empire, by the notable inundations of the Hunnes and Vandalles in Europe, vnder the conduict of Totila & Atila and other their generalles. This brought the ryming Poesie in grace, and made it preuaile in Italie and Greece (their owne long time cast aside, and almost neglected) till after many yeares that the peace of Italie and of th'Empire Occidentall reuiued new clerkes, who recouering and perusing the bookes and studies of the ciuiler ages, restored all maner of arts, and that of the Greeke and Latine Poesie withall into their former puritie and netnes. 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.
How in the time of Charlemaine and many yeares after him the Latine Poetes wrote in ryme.
And this appeareth euidently by the workes of many learned men, who wrote about the time of Charlemaines raigne in the Empire Occidentall, where the Christian Religion, became through the excessive authoritie of Popes, and deepe deuotion of Princes strongly fortified and established by erection of orders Monastical in which many simple clerks for deuotion sake & sanctitie were receiued more then for any learning, by which occasion & the solitarinesse of their life, waxing studious without discipline or instruction by any good methode, some of them grew to be historiographers, some Poets, and following either the barbarous rudenes of the time, or els their own idle inuentions, all that they wrote to the fauor or prayse of Princes, they did it in such maner of minstrelsie, and thought themselues no small fooles, when they could make their verses goe all in ryme as did the Schoole of Salerno, dedicating their booke of medicinall rules vnto our king of England, with this beginning. Anglorum Regi scripsit tota schola Salerni Sivus incolumem, sivis te reddere sanicari Curas tolle graues, irasci crede prophanum Necretine ventram nec stringas as fortiter annum.
And all the rest that follow throughout the whole booke more curiously than cleanely, neuerthelesse very well to the purpose of their arte. In the same time king Edward the iij. him selfe quartering the Armes of England and France, did discouer his pretence and clayme to the Crowne of Fraunce, in these ryming verses. Rex sum regnorum bina ratione duorum Anglorum regnio sum rex ego iure paterno Matris iure quidem Francorum nuncupor idem Hinc est armorum variatio facta meorum.
Which verses Philip de Valois then possessing the Crowne as next heire male by pretexte of the law Salique, and holding our Edward the third, aunswered in these other of as good stuffe. Praedo regnorum qui diceris esse duorum Regno materno priuaberis atque paterno Prolis ius nullum ubi matris non fuit vllum Hinc est armorum variatio stulta tuorum.
It is found written of Pope Lucius, for his great auarice and tyranny vsed ouer the Clergy thus in ryming verses. Lucius est piscis rex et tyrannus aquarum A quo discordat Lucius iste parum Deuorat hic hom homines, his piscibus insidiatur Esurit hic semper hic aliquando satur Amborum vitam si laus aquata notaret Plus rationis habet qui ratione caret.
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 superlative. So did every scholer & 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 Proverbes and common sayinges, which they would have plausible to the reader and easy to remember and beare away, were of that sorte as these. In mundo mira faciunt duo nummias & ira Molleficant dura peruertunt omnia iura.
And this verse in disprayse of the Courtiers life following the Court of Rome. Vita palatina dura est animaque ruina.
And these written by a noble learned man. Ire redire fequi regum sublimia castra Eximiius status est, sed non sic itur ad astra.
And this other which to the great injurie of all women was written (no doubt by some forlorne lover, or else some old malicious Monke) for one woman's sake blemishing the whole sex. Fallere stere nere mentari nilque tacere Haec qumque vere statuit Deus in muliere.
If I might have bene his Iudge, I would have had him for his labour serued as Orpheus was by the women of Thrace. His eyes to be picket out with pinnes for his so deadly belying of them, or worse handled if worse could be deuised. But will ye see how God raised a revenger for the silly innocent women, for about the same ryming age came an honest civill Courtier somewhat bookish, and wrate these verses against the whole rable of Monkes. O Monachi vestri stomachi sunt amphor a Bacchi Vos estos Deis est restes turpissima pestis.
Anon after came your secular Priestes as jolly rymers as the rest, who being sore agreeued with their Pope Calixtus, for that he had enjoyned them from their wives,& railed as fast against him. O bone Calixte totus mundus perodit te Quondam Presbiteri, poterant vxoribus vti Hoc destruxisti, postquam tu Papa fursti.
Thus what in writing of rymes and registring of lyes was the Clergy of that fabulous age wholly occupied.
We finde some but very few of these ryming verses among the Latines of the ciuiller ages, and those rather hapning by chaunce then of any purpose in the writer, as this Distick among the disportes of Ouid. Quot coem stellas tot habet tua Roma puellas Pascua quotque haedos tot habet tua Roma Cynedos,
The posteritie taking pleasure in this manner of Simphonie had leasure as it seemes to deuise many other knackes in their versifying that the auncient and ciuill Poets had not vfed before, whereof one was to make euery word of a verse to begin with the same letter, as did Hugobald the Monke who made a large poeme to the honour of Carolus Caluus, euery word beginning with C. which was the first letter of the king's name thus. Carmina clarisona Caluis cantate camenae.
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.
Another of their pretie inuentions was to make a verse of such wordes as by their nature and manner of construction and situation might be turned backward word by word, and make another perfit verse, but of quite contrary sence as the gibing Monke that wrote of Pope Alexander these two verses. Laus tua non tua fraus, virtus non copia rerum, Scandere te faciunt hoc decus eximium.
Which if ye will turne backward they make two other good verses, but of a contrary sence, thus. Eximium decus hoc faciunt te scandere rerum Copia, non virtus, fraus tua non tua laus.
And they called it Verse Lyon.
Thus you may see the humors and appetites of men how diuers and chaungeable they be in liking new fashions, though many tymes worse then the old, and not onely in the manner of their life and vse of their garments, but also in their learninges and arts, and specially of their languages.
In what reputation Poesie and Poets were in old time with Princes and otherwise generally, and how they be now become contemptible and for what causes.
For the respectes aforesayd in all former ages and in the most ciuill countreys and commons wealthes, good Poets and Poesie were highly esteemed and much fauoured of the greatest Princes. For proofe whereof we read how much Amyntas king of Macedonia made of the Tragicall Poet Euripides. And the Athenians of Sophocles. In what price the noble poemes of Homer were holden with Alexander the great, in so much as euery night they were layd vnder his pillow, and by day were carried in the rich iewell cofer of Darius lately before vanquished by him in battaile. And not onely Homer the father and Prince of the Poets was so honored by him, but for his sake all other meaner Poets, in so much as Cherillus one no very great good Poet had for euery verse well made a Phillips noble of gold, amounting in value to an angell English, and so for euery hundreth verses (which a cleanely pen could speedely dispatch) he had a hundred angels. And since Alexander the great how Theocritus the Greeke Poet was fauored by Tholomee king of Egipt & Queene Berenice his wife, Ennius likewise by Scipio Prince of the Romaines, Virgill also by th'Emperour Augustus. And in later times how much were Iehan de Mehune & Guillaume de Loris made of by the French kinges, and Geffrey Chaucer father of our English Poets by Richard the second, who as it was supposed gaue him the maner of new Holme in Oxfordshire. And Gower to Henry the fourth, and Harding to Edward the fourth. Also how Frauncis the Frenche king made Sangelais, Salmonius, Macrinus, and Clement Marot of his priuy Chamber for their excellent skill in vulgare and Latine Poesie. And king Henry the 8. her Maiesties father for a few Psalmes of Dauid turned into English meetre by Sternhold, made him groome of his priuy chamber, & gaue him many other good gifts. And one Gray what good estimation did he grow vnto with the same king Henry, & afterward with the Duke of Sommerset Protectour, for making certaine merry Ballades, whereof one chiefly was, The hunte is vp, the hunte is up. And Queene Mary his daughter for one Epithalamie or nuptiall song made by Vargas a Spanish Poet at her mariage with king Phillip in Winchester gaue him during his life two hundred Crownes pension: nor this reputation was giuen them in auncient times altogether in respect that Poesie was a delicate arte, and the Poets them selues cunning Princepleasers, but for that also they were thought for their vniuersall knowledge to be very sufficient men for the greatest charges in their common wealthes, were it for counsell or for conduct, whereby no man neede to doubt but that both skilles may very well concurre and be most excellent in one person. For we finde that Iulius Caesar the first Emperour and a most noble Captaine, was not onely the most eloquent Orator of his time, but also a very good Poet, though none of his doings therein be now extant. 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 th'Emperour, 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 Ennius the Latine Poet was not as some perchaunce thinke, onely fauored by Scipio the Africane for his good making of verses, but vsed as his familiar and Counsellor in the warres for his great knowledge and amiable conuersation. And long before that Antinienides and other Greeke Poets, as Aristotle reportes in his Politiques, had charge in the warres. And Firteus the Poet being also a lame man & halting vpon one legge, was chosen by the Oracle of the gods from the Athenians to be generall of the Lacedemonians armie, not for his Poetrie, but for his wisedome and graue perswasions, and subtile Stratagemes whereby he had the victory ouer his enemies. So as the Poets seemed to haue skill not onely in the subtilties of their arte, but also to be meete for all maner of functions ciuill and martiall, euen as they found fauour of the times they liued in, insomuch as their credit and estimation generally was not small. But in these dayes (although some learned Princes may take delight in them) yet vniuersally it is not so. For as well Poets as Poesie are despised, & the name become, of honorable infamous, subiect to scorne and derision, and rather a reproch than a prayse to any that vseth it: for commonly who so is studious in th'Arte or shewes himselfe excellent in it, they call him in disdayne a phantasticall: and a light headed or phantasticall man (by conuersion) they call a Poet. And this proceedes through the barbarous ignoraunce of the time, and pride of many Gentlemen, and others, whose grosse heads not being brought vp or acquainted with any excellent Arte, nor able to contriue, or in manner conceiue any matter of subtiltie in any businesse or science, they doe deride and scorne it in all others as superfluous knowledges and vayne sciences, and whatsoeuer deuise be of rare inuention they terme it phantasticall, construing it to the worst side: and among men such as be modest and graue, & of litle conuersation, nor delighted in the busie life and vayne ridiculous actions of the popular, they call him in scorne a Philosopher, or Poet, as much to say as a phantasticall man, very iniuriously (God wot) and to the manifestation of their own ignoraunce, not making difference betwixt termes. For as the cuill and vicious disposition of the braine hinders the sounde iudgement and discourse of man with busie & disordered phantasies, for which cause the Greekes call him [Greek: phantasikos] so is that part being well affected, not onely nothing disorderly or confused with any monstruous imaginations or conceits, but very formall, and in his much multiformitie vniforme, that is well proportioned, and so passing cleare, that by it as by a glasse or mirrour, are represented vnto the soule all maner of bewtifull visions, whereby the inuentiue parte of the mynde is so much holpen, as without it no man could deuise any new or rare thing: and where it is not excellent in his kind, there could be no politique Captaine, nor any witty enginer or cunning artificer, nor yet any law maker or counsellor of deepe discourse, yea the Prince of Philosophers stickes not to say animam non intelligere absque phantasmate, which text to another purpose Alexander Aphrodiscus well noteth, as learned men know. And this phantasie may be resembled to a glasse as hath bene sayd, whereof there be many tempers and manner of makinges, as the perspectiues doe acknowledge, for some be false glasses and shew thinges otherwise than they be in deede, and others right as they be in deede, neither fairer nor fouler, nor greater nor smaller. There be againe of these glasses that shew thinges exceeding faire and comely, others that shew figures very monstruous & illfauored. Euen so is the phantasticall part of man (if it be not disordered) a representer of the best, most comely and bewtifull images or apparances of thinges to the soule and according to their very truth. If otherwise, then doth it breede Chimeres & monsters in mans imaginations, & not onely in his imaginations, but also in all his ordinarie actions and life which ensues. Wherefore such persons as be illuminated with the brightest irradiations of knowledge and of the veritie and due proportion of things, they are called by the learned men not phantastics but euphantasiote, and of this sorte of phantasie are all good Poets, notable Captaines stratagematique, all cunning artificers and enginers, all Legislators Polititiens & Counsellours of estate, in whose exercises the inuentiue part is most employed and is to the sound & true iudgement of man most needful. This diuersitie in the termes perchance euery man hath not noted, & thus much be said in defence of the Poets honour, to the end no noble and generous minde be discomforted in the studie thereof, the rather for that worthy & honorable memoriall of that noble woman twise French Queene, Lady Anne of Britaine, wife first to king Charles the viij and after to Lewes the xij, who passing one day from her lodging toward the kinges side, saw in a gallerie Master Allaine Chartier the kings Secretarie, an excellent maker or Poet leaning on a tables end a sleepe, & stooped downe to kisse him, saying thus in all their hearings, we may not of Princely courtesie passe by and not honor with our kisse the mouth from whence so many sweete ditties & golden poems haue issued. But me thinks at these words I heare some smilingly say, I would be loath to lacke liuing of my own till the Prince gaue me a maner of new Elme for my riming: And another to say I haue read that the Lady Cynthia came once downe out of her skye to kisse the faire yong lad Endimion as he lay a sleep: & many noble Queenes that haue bestowed kisses upon their Princes paramours, but neuer vpon any Poets. The third me thinks shruggingly saith, I kept not to sit sleeping with my Poesie till a Queene came and kissed me: But what of all this? Princes may giue a good Poet such conuenient countenaunce and also benefite as are due to an excellent artificer, though they neither kisse nor cokes them, and the discret Poet lookes for no such extraordinarie fauours, and aswell doth he honour by his pen the iust, liberall, or magnanimous Prince, as the valiaunt, amiable or bewtifull though they be euery one of them the good giftes of God. So it seemes not altogether the scorne and ordinarie disgrace offered vnto Poets at these dayes, is cause why few Gentlemen do delight in the Art, but for that liberalitie, is come to fayle in Princes, who for their largesse were wont to be accompted th'onely patrons of learning, and first founders of all excellent artificers. 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. And peraduenture in this iron & malitious age of ours, Princes are lesse delighted in it, being ouer earnestly bent and affected to the affaires of Empire & ambition, whereby they are as it were inforced to indeuour them selues to armes and practises of hostilitie, or to entend to the right pollicing of their states, and haue not one houre to bestow vpon any other ciuill or delectable Art of naturall or morall doctrine: nor scarce any leisure to thincke one good thought in perfect and godly contemplation, whereby their troubled mindes might be moderated and brought to tranquillitie. So as, it is hard to find in these dayes of noblemen or gentlemen any good Mathematician, or excellent Musitian, or notable Philosopher, or els a cunning Poet: because we find few great Princes much delighted in the same studies. Now also of such among the Nobilitie or gentrie as be very well seene in many laudable sciences, and especially in making of Poesie, it is so come to passe that they haue no courage to write & if they haue, yet are they loath to be a knowen of their skill. So as I know very many notable Gentlemen in the Court that haue written commendably, and suppressed it agayne, or els suffred it to be publisht without their owne names to it: as if it were a discredit for a Gentleman, to seeme learned, and to shew himselfe amorous of any good Art. In other ages it was not so, for we read that Kinges & Princes haue written great volumes and publisht them vnder their owne regall titles. As to begin with Salomon the wisest of Kings, Iulius Caesar the greatest of Emperours, Hermes Trisingistus the holiest of Priestes and Prophetes, Euax king of Arabia wrote a booke of precious stones in verse, prince Auicenna of Phisicke and Philosophie, Alphonsus king of Spaine his Astronomicall Tables, Almansor a king of Marrocco diuerse Philosophicall workes, and by their regall example our late soueraigne Lord king Henry the eight wrate a booke in defence of his faith, then perswaded that it was the true and Apostolicall doctrine, though it hath appeared otherwise since, yet his honour and learned zeale was nothing lesse to be allowed. Queenes also haue bene knowen studious, and to write large volumes, as Lady Margaret of Fraunce Queene of Nauarre in our time. But of all others the Emperour Nero was so well learned in Musique and Poesie, as when he was taken by order of the Senate and appointed to dye, he offered violence to him selfe and sayd, O quantus artifex pereo! as much to say, as, how is it possible a man of such science and learning as my selfe, should come to this shamefull death? Th'emperour Octauian being made executor to Virgill who had left by his last will and testament that his bookes of the Aeneidos should be committed to the fire as things not perfited by him, made his excuse for infringing the deads will, by a nomber of verses most excellently wntten, whereof these are part. Frangatur potius legure, veneranda potestas, Quam tot congestos noctesque diesque labores Hauserit vna dies.
And put his name to them. And before him his vncle & father adoptiue Iulius Caesar, was not ashamed to publish vnder his owne name, his Commentaries of the French and Britaine warres. Since therefore so many noble Emperours, Kings and Princes haue bene studious of Poesie and other ciuill arts, & not ashamed to bewray their skils in the same, let none other meaner person despise learning, nor (whether it be in prose or in Poesie, if they them selues be able to write, or haue written any thing well or of rare inuention) be any whit squeimish to let it be publisht vnder their names, for reason serues it, and modestie doth not repugne.
How Poesie should not be imployed vpon vayne conceits or vicious or infamous.
Wherefore the Nobilitie and dignitie of the Art considered aswell by vniuersalitie as antiquitie and the naturall excellence of it selfe, Poesie ought not to be abased and imployed vpon any vnworthy matter & subject, nor vsed to vaine purposes, which neuerthelesse is dayly seene, and that is to vtter contents infamous & vicious or ridiculous and foolish, or of no good example & doctrine. Albeit in merry matters (not vnhonest) being vsed for mans solace and recreation it may well be allowed, for as I said before, Poesie is a pleasant maner of vtterance varying from the ordinarie of purpose to refresh the mynde by the eares delight. Poesie also is not onely laudable, because I said it was a metricall speach vsed by the first men, but because it is a metricall speech corrected and reformed by discreet iudgements, and with no lesse cunning and curiositie than the Greeke and Latine Poesie, and by Art bewtified & adorned, & brought far from the primitiue rudenesse of the first inuentors, otherwise it might be sayd to me that Adam and Eues apernes were the gayest garmentes, because they were the first, and the shepheardes tente or pauillion, the best housing, because it was the most auncient & most vniversall: which I would not haue so taken, for it is not my meaning but that Art & cunning concurring with nature, antiquitie & vniuersalitie, in things indifferent, and not euill, doe make them more laudable. And right so our vulgar riming Poesie, being by good wittes brought to that perfection we see, is worthily to be preferred before any other matter of vtterance in prose, for such vse and to such purpose as it is ordained, and shall hereafter be set downe more particularly.
The subiect or matter of Poesie.
Hauing sufficiently sayd of the dignitie of Poets and Poesie, now it is tyme to speake of the matter or subiect of Poesie, which to myne intent is, what soeuer wittie and delicate conceit of man meet or worthy to be put in written verse, for any necessary use of the present time, or good instruction of the posteritie. But the chief and principall is: the laud honour & glory of the immortall gods (I speake now in phrase of the Gentiles.) Secondly the worthy gests of noble Princes: the memoriall and registry of all great fortunes, the praise of vertue & reproofe of vice, the instruction of morall doctrines, the reuealing of sciences naturall & other profitable Arts, the redresse of boistrous & sturdie courages by perswasion, the consolation and repose of temperate myndes, finally the common solace of mankind in all his trauails and cares of this transitorie life. And in this last sort being vsed for recreation onely, may allowably beare matter not alwayes of the grauest, or of any great commoditie or profit, but rather in some sort, vaine, dissolute, or wanton, so it be not very scandalous & of euill example. But as our intent is to make this Art vulgar for all English mens vse, & therefore are of necessitie to set downe the principal rules therein to be obserued: so in mine opinion it is no lesse expedient to touch briefly all the chief points of this auncient Poesie of the Greeks and Latines, so far forth as it is conformeth with ours. So as it may be knowen what we hold of them as borrowed, and what as of our owne peculiar. Wherefore now that we haue said, what is the matter of Poesie, we will declare the manner and formes of poemes used by the auncients.
Of poemes and their sundry formes and how thereby the auncient Poets receaued surnames.
As the matter of Poesie is diuers, so was the forme of their poemes & maner of writing, for all of them wrote not in one sort, euen as all of them wrote not vpon one matter. Neither was euery Poet alike cunning in all as in some one kinde of Poesie, not vttered with like felicitie. But wherein any one most excelled, thereof he tooke a surname, as to be called a Poet Heroick, Lyrick, Elegiack, Epigrammatist or otherwise. Such therefore as gaue them selves to write long histories of the noble gests of kings & great Princes, entermedling the dealings of the gods, halfe gods or Heroes of the gentiles, & the great & waighty consequences of peace and warre, they called Poets Heroick, whereof Homer was chief and most auncient among the Greeks, Virgill among the Latines. Others who more delighted to write songs or ballads of pleasure, to be song with the voice, and to the harpe, lute, or citheron & such other musical instruments, they were called melodious Poets [melici] or by a more common name Lirique Poets, of which sort was Pindarus, Anacreon and Callimachus with others among the Greeks: Horace and Catullus among the Latines. There were an other sort, who sought the fauor of faire Ladies, and coueted to bemone their estates at large, & the perplexities of loue in a certain pitious verse called Elegie, and thence were called Eligiack: such among the Latines were Ouid, Tibullus, & Propertius. There were also Poets that wrote onely for the stage, I meane playes and interludes, to receate the people with matters of disporte, and to that intent did set forth in shewes pageants, accompanied with speach the common behauiours and maner of life of priuate persons, and such as were the meaner sort of men, and they were called Comicall Poets, of whom among the Greekes Menander and Aristophanes were most excellent, with the Latines Terence and Plautus. Besides those Poets Comick there were other who serued also the stage, but medled not with so base matters: For they set forth the dolefull falles of infortunate & afflicted Princes, & were called Poets Tragicall. Such were Euripides and Sophocles with the Greeks, Seneca among the Latines. There were yet others who mounted nothing so high as any of them both, but in base and humble stile by maner of Dialogue, vttered the priuate and familiar talke of the meanest sort of men, as shepheards, heywards and suchlike, such was among the Greekes Theocritus: and Virgill among the Latines, their poemes were named Eglogues or shepheardly talke. There was yet another kind of Poet, who intended to taxe the common abuses and vice of the people in rough and bitter speaches, and their inuectiues were called Satyres, and them selues Satyricques. Such were Lucilius, Iuuenall and Persius among the Latines, & with vs he that wrote the booke called Piers plowman. Others of a more fine and pleasant head were giuen wholly to taunting and scoffing at vndecent things, and in short poemes vttered pretie merry conceits, and these men were called Epigrammatistes. There were others that for the peoples good instruction, and triall of their owne witts vsed in places of great assembly, to say by rote nombers of short and sententious meetres, very pithie and of good edification, and thereupon were called Poets Mimistes: as who would say, imitable and meet to be followed for their wise and graue lessons. There was another kind of poeme, inuented onely to make sport, & to refresh the company with a maner of buffonry or counterfaiting of merry speaches, conuerting all that which they had hard spoken before, to a certaine derision by a quite contrary sence, and this was done, when Comedies or Tragedies were a playing, & that betweene the actes when the players went to make ready for another, there was great silence, and the people waxt weary, then came in these maner of counterfaite vices, they were called Pantomimi, and all that had before bene sayd, or great part of it, they gaue a crosse construction to it very ridiculously. Thus haue you how the names of the Poets were giuen them by the formes of their poemes and maner of writing.
In what forme of Poesie the gods of the Gentiles were praysed and honored.
The gods of the Gentiles were honoured by their Poetes in hymnes, which is an extraordinarie and diuine praise, extolling and magnifying them for their great powers and excellencie of nature in the highest degree of laude, and yet therein their Poets were after a sort restrained: so as they could not with their credit vntruly praise their owne gods, or vse in their lauds any maner of grosse adulation or vnueritable report. For in any writer vntruth and flatterie are counted most great reproches. Wherfore to praise the gods of the Gentiles, for that by authoritie of their owne fabulous records, they had fathers and mothers, and kinred and allies, and wiues and concubines: the Poets first commended them by their genealogies or pedegrees, their mariages and aliances, their notable exploits in the world for the behoofe of mankind, and yet as I sayd before, none otherwise then the truth of their owne memorials might beare, and in such sort as it might be well auouched by their old written reports, though in very deede they were not from the beginning all historically true, and many of them verie fictions, and such of them as were true, were grounded vpon some part of an historie or matter of veritie, the rest altogether figuratiue & misticall, couertly applied to some morall or natural sense, as _Cicero_ setteth it foorth in his bookes _de natura deorum_. For to say that _Iupiter_ was sonne to _Saturne_, and that he maried his owne sister _Iuno_, might be true, for such was the guise of all great Princes in the Orientall part of the world both at those dayes and now is. Againe that he loued _Danae, Europa, Leda, Calisto_ & other faire Ladies daughters to kings, besides many meaner women, it is likely enough, because he was reported to be a very incontinent person, and giuen ouer to his lustes, as are for the most part all the greatest Princes, but that he should be the highest god in heauen, or that he should thunder and lighten, and do manie other things very vnnaturally and absurdly: also that _Saturnus_ should geld his father _Celius_, to th'intent to make him vnable to get any moe children, and other such matters as are reported by them, it seemeth to be some wittie deuise and fiction made for a purpose, or a very noble and impudent lye, which could not be reasonably suspected by the Poets, who were otherwise discreete and graue men, and teachers of wisedome to others. 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. For vntrue praise neuer giueth any true reputation. 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 & 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 _Anthropopathis_. To the gods of the Gentiles they might well attribute these infirmities, for they were but the children of men, great Princes and famous in the world, and not for any other respect diuine, then by some resemblance of vertue they had to do good, and to benefite many. So as to the God of the Christians, such diuine praise might be verified: to th'other gods none, but figuratiuely or in misticall sense as hath bene said. In which sort the ancient Poets did in deede giue them great honors & praises, and made to them sacrifices, & offred them oblations of sundry sortes, euen as the people were taught and perswaded by such placations and worships to receaue any helpe, comfort or benefite to them selues, their wiues, children, possessions or goods. For if that opinion were not, who would acknowledge any God? the verie _Etimologie_ of the name with vs of the North partes of the world declaring plainely the nature of the attribute, which is all one as if we sayd good, [_bonus_] or a giuer of good things. Therfore the Gentiles prayed for peace to the goddesse _Pallas_: for warre (such as thriued by it) to the god _Mars_: for honor and empire to the god _Iupiter_: for riches & wealth to _Pluto_: for eloquence and gayne to _Mercurie_: for safe nauigation to _Neptune_: for faire weather and prosperous windes to _Eolus_: for skill in musick and leechcraft to _Apollo_: for free life & chastitie to _Diana_: for bewtie and good grace, as also for issue & prosperitie in loue to _Venus_: for plenty of crop and corne to _Ceres_: for seasonable vintage to _Bacchus: and for other things to others. So many things as they could imagine good and desirable, and to so many gods as they supposed to be authors thereof, in so much as _Fortune_ was made a goddesse, & the feuer quartaine had her aulters, such blindnes & ignorance raigned in the harts of men at that time, and whereof it first proceeded and grew, besides th'opinion hath bene giuen, appeareth more at large in our bookes of _Ierotekni_, the matter being of another consideration then to be treated of in this worke. And these hymnes to the gods was the first forme of Poesie and the highest & the stateliest, & they were song by the Poets as priests, and by the people or whole congregation as we sing in our Churchs the Psalmes of _Dauid_, but they did it commonly in some shadie groues of tall tymber trees: In which places they reared aulters of greene turfe, and bestrewed them all ouer with flowers, and vpon them offred their oblations and made their bloudy sacrifices, (for no kinde of gift can be dearer then life) of such quick cattaille, as euery god was in their conceit most delighted in, or in some other respect most fit for the misterie: temples or churches or other chappels then these they had none at those dayes.
In what forme of Poesie vice and the common abuses of mans life was reprehended.
Some perchance would thinke that next after the praise and honoring of their gods, should commence the worshippings and praise of good men, and specially of great Princes and gouernours of the earth; in soueraignety and function next vnto the gods. 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 wife and learned Lords, or of noble and vertuous Princes and gouernours. So as next after the honours exhibited to their gods, the Poets finding in man generally much to reproue & litle to praise, made certaine poems in plaine meetres, more like to sermons or preachings then otherwise, and when the people were assembled togither in those hallowed places dedicate to their gods, because they had yet no large halles or places of conuenticle, nor had any other correction of their faults, but such as rested onely in rebukes of wife and graue men, such as at these dayes make the people ashamed rather then afeard, the said auncient Poets used for that purpose, three kinds of poems reprehensiue, to wit, the Satyre, the Comedie, & the Tragedie: and the first and most bitter inuectiue against vice and vicious men, was the Satyre: which to th'intent their bitternesse should breede none ill will, either to the Poets, or to the recitours, (which could not haue bene chosen if they had bene openly knowen) and besides to make their admonitions and reproofs seeme grauer and of more efficacie, they made wife as if the gods of the woods, whom they called Satyres or Silvanes, should appeare and recite those verses of rebuke, whereas in deede they were but disguised persons vnder the shape of Satyres as who would say, these terrene and base gods being conuersant with mans affaires, and spiers out of all their secret faults: had some great care ouer man, & desired by good admonitions to reforme the euill of their life, and to bring the bad to amendment by those kinde of preachings, whereupon the Poets inuentours of the deuise were called Satyristes.
How vice was afterward reproued by two other maner of poems, better reformed then the Satyre, whereof the first was Comedy, the second Tragedie.
Bvt when these maner of solitary speaches and recitals of rebuke, vttered by the rurall gods out of bushes and briers, seemed not to the finer heads sufficiently perswasiue, nor so popular as if it were reduced into action of many persons, or by many voyces liuely represented to the eare and eye, so as a man might thinke it were euen now a doing. The Poets deuised to haue many parts played at once by two or three or foure persons, that debated the matters of the world, sometimes of their owne priuate affaires, sometimes of their neighbours, but neuer medling with any Princes matters nor such high personages, but commonly of marchants, souldiers, artificers, good honest housholders, and also of vnthrifty youthes, yong damsels, old nurses, bawds, brokers, ruffians and parasites, with such like, in whose behauiors, lyeth in effect the whole course and trade of mans life, and therefore tended altogether to the good amendment of man by discipline and example. It was also much for the solace & recreation of the common people by reason of the pageants and shewes. And this kind of poeme was called Comedy, and followed next after the Satyre, & by that occasion was somwhat sharpe and bitter after the nature of the Satyre, openly & by expresse names taxing men more maliciously and impudently then became, so as they were enforced for feare of quarell & blame to disguise their players with strange apparell, and by colouring their faces and carying hatts & capps of diuerse fashions to make them selues lesse knowen. But as time & experience do reforme euery thing that is amisse, so this bitter poeme called the old Comedy, being disused and taken away, the new Comedy came in place, more ciuill and pleasant a great deale and not touching any man by name, but in a certain generalitie glancing at euery abuse, so as from thenceforth fearing none ill-will or enmitie at any bodies hands, they left aside their disguisings & played bare face, till one Roscius Gallus the most excellent player among the Romaines brought vp these vizards, which we see at this day vsed, partly to supply the want of players, when there were moe parts then there were persons, or that it was not thought meet to trouble & pester princes chambers with too many folkes. Now by the chaunge of a vizard one man might play the king and the carter, the old nurse & the yong damsell, the marchant & the souldier or any other part he listed very conueniently. There be that say Roscius did it for another purpose, for being him selfe the best Histrien or buffon that was in his dayes to be found, insomuch as Cicero said Roscius contended with him by varietie of liuely gestures to surmount the copy of his speach, yet because he was squint eyed and had a very vnpleasant countenance, and lookes which made him ridiculous or rather odious to the presence, he deuised these vizards to hide his owne ilfauored face. And thus much touching the Comedy.
In what forme of Poesie the euill and outragious bahauiours of Princes were reprehended.
Bvt because in those dayes when the Poets first taxed by Satyre and Comedy, there was no great store of Kings or Emperors or such high estats (al men being yet for the most part rude, & in a maner popularly egall) they could not say of them or of their behauiours any thing to the purpose, which cases of Princes are sithens taken for the highest and greatest matters of all. But after that some men among the moe became mighty and famous in the world, soueraignetie and dominion hauing learned them all maner of lusts and licentiousnes of life, by which occasions also their high estates and felicities fell many times into most lowe and lamentable fortunes: whereas before in their great prosperities they were both feared and reuerenced in the highest degree, after their deathes when the posteritie stood no more in dread of them, their infamous life and tyrannies were layd open to all the world, their wickednes reproched, their follies and extreme insolencies derided, and their miserable ends painted out in playes and pageants, to shew the mutabilitie of fortune, and the iust punishment of God in reuenge of a vicious and euill life. These matters were also handled by the Poets and represented by action as that of the Comedies: but because the matter was higher then that of the Comedies the Poets stile was also higher and more loftie, the prouision greater, the place more magnificent: for which purpose also the players garments were made more rich & costly and solemne, and euery other thing apperteining, according to that rate: So as where the Satyre was pronounced by rusticall and naked Syluanes speaking out of a bush, & the common players of interludes called Plampedes, played barefoote vpon the floore: the later Comedies vpon scaffolds, and by men well and cleanely hosed and shod. These matters of great Princes were played vpon lofty stages, & the actors thereof ware vpon their legges buskins of leather called Cothurni, and other solemne habits, & for a speciall preheminence did walke vpon those high corked shoes or pantofles, which now they call in Spaine & Italy Shoppini. And because those buskins and high shoes were commonly made of goats skinnes very finely tanned, and dyed into colours: or for that as some say the best players reward, was a goate to be giuen him, or for that as other thinke, a goate was the peculiar sacrifice to the god Pan, king of all the gods of the woodes: forasmuch as a goate in Greeke is called Tragos, therfore these stately playes were called Tragedies. And thus haue ye foure sundry formes of Poesie Dramatick reprehensiue, & put in execution by the feate & dexteritie of mans body, to wit, the Satyre, old Comedie, new Comedie, and Tragedie, whereas all other kinde of poems except Eglogue whereof shalbe entreated hereafter, were onely recited by mouth or song with the voyce to some melodious instrument.
In what forme of Poesie the great Princes and dominators of the world were honored.
Bvt as the bad and illawdable parts of all estates and degrees were taxed by the Poets in one sort or an other, and those of great Princes by Tragedie in especial, (& not till after their deaths) as hath bene before remembred, to th'intent that such exemplifying (as it were) of their blames and aduersities, being now dead, might worke for a secret reprehension to others that were aliue, liuing in the fame or like abuses. So was it great reason that all good and vertuous persons should for their well doings be rewarded with commendation, and the great Princes aboue all others with honors and praises, being for many respects of greater moment, to haue them good & vertuous then any inferior sort of men. Wherfore the Poets being in deede the trumpetters of all praise and also of slaunder (not slaunder, but well deserued reproch) were in conscience & credit bound next after the diuine praises of the immortall gods, to yeeld a like ratable honour to all such amongst men, as most resembled the gods by excellencie of function and had a certaine affinitie with them, by more then humane and ordinarie virtues shewed in their actions here vpon earth. They were therefore praised by a second degree of laude: shewing their high estates, their Princely genealogies and pedegrees, mariages, aliances, and such noble exploites, as they had done in th'affaires of peace & of warre to the benefit of their people and countries, by inuention of any noble science, or profitable Art, or by making wholesome lawes or enlarging of their dominions by honorable and iust conquests, and many other wayes. Such personages among the Gentiles were Bacchus, Ceres, Perseus, Hercules, Theseus and many other, who thereby came to be accompted gods and halfe gods or goddesses [Heroes] & had their commedations giuen by Hymne accordingly or by such other poems as their memorie was therby made famous to the posteritie for euer after, as shal be more at large sayd in place conuenient. But first we will speake somewhat of the playing places, and prouisions which were made for their pageants & pomps representatiue before remembred.
Of the places where their enterludes or poemes drammaticke were represented to the people.
As it hath bene declared, the Satyres were first vttered in their hallowed places within the woods where they honoured their gods vunder the open heauen, because they had no other housing fit for great assemblies. The old comedies were plaid in the broad streets vpon wagons or carts vncouered, which carts were floored with bords & made for remouable stages to passe from one streete of their townes to another, where all the people might stand at their ease to gaze vpon the sights. Their new comedies or ciuill enterludes were played in open pauilions or tents of linnen cloth or lether, halfe displayed that the people might see. Afterward when Tragidies came vp they deuised to present them vpon scaffolds or stages of timber, shadowed with linen or lether as the other, and these stages were made in the forme of a Semicircle, wherof the bow serued for the beholders to fit in, and the string or forepart was appointed for the floore or place where the players vttered, & had in it sundry little diuisions by curteins as trauerses to serue for seueral roomes where they might repaire vnto & change their garments & come in againe, as their speaches & parts were to be renewed. Also there was place appointed for the musiciens to sing or to play vpon their instrumentes at the end of euery scene, to the intent the people might be refreshed, and kept occupied. This maner of stage in halfe circle, the Greekes called theatrum, as much to say as a beholding place, which was also in such sort contriued by benches and greeces to stand or sit vpon; as no man should empeach anothers sight. But as ciuilitie and withall wealth encreased, so did the minde of man growe dayly more haultie and superfluous in all his deuises, so as for their theaters in halfe circle, they came to be by the great magnificence of the Romain princes and people somptuously built with marble & square stone in forme all round, & were called Amphitheaters, wherof as yet appears one among the ancient ruines of Rome, built by Pompeius Magnus, for capasitie able to receiue at ease fourscore thousand persons as it is left written, & so curiously contriued as euery man might depart at his pleasure, without any annoyance to other. It is also to be knowne that in those great Amphitheaters, were exhibited all maner of other shewes & disports for the people, as their ferce playes, or digladiations of naked men, their wrastlings, runnings leapings and other practises of actiuitie and strength, also their baitings of wild beasts, as Elephants, Rhinocerons, Tigers, Leopards and others, which sights much delighted the common people, and therefore the places required to be large and of great content.
Of the Shepheards or pastorall Poesie called Eglogue, and to what purpose it was first inuented and vsed.
Some be of opinion, and the chiefe of those who haue written in this Art among the Latines, that the pastorall Poesie which we commonly call by the name of Eglogue and Bucolick, a tearme brought in by the Sicilian Poets, should be the first of any other, and before the Satyre comedie or tragedie, because, say they, the shepheards and haywards assemblies & meetings when they kept their cattell and heards in the common fields and forests, was the first familiar conuersation, and their babble and talk vnder bushes and shadie trees, the first disputation and contentious reasoning, and their fleshly heates growing of ease, the first idle wooings, and their songs made to their mates or paramours either vpon sorrow or iolity of courage, the first amorous musicks, sometime also they sang and played on their pipes for wagers, striuing who should get the best game, and be counted cunningest. All this I do agree vnto, for no doubt the shepheards life was the first example of honest felowship, their trade the first art of lawfull acquisition or purchase, for at those daies robbery was a manner of purchase. So saith Aristotle in his bookes of the Politiques, and that pasturage was before tillage, or fishing or fowling, or any other predatory art or cheuisance. And all this may be true, for before there was a shepheard keeper of his owne, or of some other bodies flocke, there was none owner in the world, quick cattel being the first property of any forreine possession. I say forreine, because alway men claimed property in their apparell and armour, and other like things made by their owne trauel and industry, nor thereby was there yet any good towne or city or Kings palace, where pageants and pompes might be shewed by Comedies or Tragedies. 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. These Eglogues came after to containe and enforme morall discipline, for the amendment of mans behauiour, as be those of Mantuan and other moderne Poets.
Of historicall Poesie, by which the famous acts of Princes and the vertuous and worthy liues of our forefathers were reported.
There is nothing in man of all the potential parts of his mind (reason and will except) more noble or more necessary to the actiue life then memory: because it maketh most to a sound iudgement and perfect worldly wisedome, examining and comparing the times past with the present, and by them both considering the time to come, concludeth with a stedfast resolution, what is the best course to be taken in all his actions and aduices in this world: 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. Right so no kinde of argument in all the Oratorie craft, doth better perswade and more vniuersally satisfie then example, which is but the representation of old memories, and like successes happened in times past. For these regards the Poesie historicall is of all other next the diuine most honorable and worthy, as well for the common benefit as for the speciall comfort euery man receiueth by it. No one thing in the world with more delectation reuiuing our spirits then to behold as it were in a glasse the liuely image of our deare forefathers, their noble and vertuous maner of life, with other things autentike, which because we are not able otherwise to attaine to the knowledge of by any of our sences, we apprehend them by memory, whereas the present time and things so swiftly passe away, as they giue vs no leasure almost to looke into them, and much lesse to know & consider of them throughly. The things future, being also euents very vncertaine, and such as can not possibly be knowne because they be not yet, can not be vsed for example nor for delight otherwise then by hope. Though many promise the contrary, by vaine and deceitfull arts taking vpon them to reueale the truth of accidents to come, which if it were so as they surmise, are yet but sciences meerely coniecturall, and not of any benefit to man or to the common wealth, where they be vsed or professed. Therefore the good and exemplary things and actions of the former ages, were reserued only to the historicall reportes of wise and graue men: those of the present time left to the fruition and iudgement of our sences: the future as hazards and incertaine euentes vtterly neglected and layd aside for Magicians and mockers to get their liuings by: such manner of men as by negligence of Magistrates and remisses of lawes euery countrie breedeth great store of. These historical men neuerthelesse vsed not the matter so precisely to wish that al they wrote should be accounted true, for that was not needefull nor expedient to the purpose, namely to be vsed either for example or for pleasure: considering that many times it is seene a fained matter or altogether fabulous, besides that it maketh more mirth than any other, works no lesse good conclusions for example then the most true and veritable: but often times more, because the Poet hath the handling of them to fashion at his pleasure, but not so of th'other which must go according to their veritie & none otherwise without the writers great blame. Againe as ye know mo and more excellent examples may be fained in one day by a good wit, then many ages through mans frailtie are able to put in vse, which made the learned and wittie men of those times to deuise many historicall matters of no veritie at all, but with purpose to do good and no hurt, as vsing them for a maner of discipline and president of commendable life. 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. And you shall perceiue that histories were of three sortes, wholly true and wholly false, and a third holding part of either, but for honest recreation, and good example they were all of them. And this may be apparent to vs not onely by the Poeticall histories, but also by those that be written in prose: for as Homer wrate a fabulous or mixt report of the siege of Troy, and another of Ulisses errors or wandrings, so did Museus compile a true treatise of the life & loues of Leander and Hero, both of them Heroick, and to none ill edification. Also as Theucidides wrate a worthy and veritable historie, of the warres betwixt the Athenians and the Peloponeses: so did Zenophon, a most graue Philosopher, and well trained courtier and counsellour make another (but fained and vntrue) of the childhood of Cyrus king of Persia, neuertheles both to one effect, that is for example and good information of the posteritie. Now because the actions of meane & base personages, tend in very few cases to any great good example: for who passeth to follow the steps, and maner of life of a craftes man, shepheard or sailer, though he were his father or dearest frend? yea how almost is it possible that such maner of men should be of any vertue other then their profession requireth? Therefore was nothing committed to historie, but matters of great and excellent persons & things that the same by irritation of good courages (such as emulation causeth) might worke more effectually, which occasioned the story writer to chuse an higher stile fit for his subiect, the Prosaicke in prose, the Poet in meetre, and the Poets was by verse exameter for his grauitie and statelinesse most allowable: neither would they intermingle him with any other shorter measure, vnlesse it were in matters of such qualitie, as became best to be song with the voyce, and to some musicall instrument, as were with the Greeks, all your Hymnes & Encomia of Pindarus & Callimachus, not very histories but a maner of historicall reportes in which cases they made those poemes in variable measures, & coupled a short verse with a long to serue that purpose the better, and we our selues who compiled this treatise haue written for pleasure a litle brief Romance or historicall ditty in the English tong of the Isle of great Britaine in short and long meetres, and by breaches or diuisions to be more commodiously song to the harpe in places of assembly, where the company shalbe desirous to heare of old aduentures & valiaunces of noble knights in times past, as are those of king Arthur and his knights of the round table, Sir Beuys of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke and others like. Such as haue not premonition hereof, and consideration of the causes alledged, would peraduenture reproue and disgrace euery Romance, or short historicall ditty for that they be not written in long meeters or verses Alexandrins, according to the nature & stile of large histories, wherin they should do wrong for they be sundry formes of poems and not all one.
In what forme of Poesie vertue in the inferiour sort was commended.
In euerie degree and sort of men vertue is commendable, but not egally: not onely because mens estates are vnegall, but for that also vertue it selfe is not in euery respect of egall value and estimation. For continence in a king is of greater merit, than in a carter, th'one hauing all opportunities to allure him to lusts, and abilitie to serue his appetites, th'other partly, for the basenesse of his estate wanting such meanes and occasions, partly by dread of lawes more inhibited, and not so vehemently caried away with vnbridled affections, and therefore deserue not in th'one and th'other like praise nor equall reward, by the very ordinarie course of distributiue iustice. Euen so parsimonie and illiberalitie are greater vices in a Prince then in a priuate person, and pusillanimitie and iniustice likewise: for to th'one, fortune hath supplied inough to maintaine them in the contrarie vertues, I meane, fortitude, iustice, liberalitie, and magnanimitie: the Prince hauing all plentie to vse largesse by, and no want or neede to driue him to do wrong. Also all the aides that may be to lift vp his courage, and to make him stout and fearelesse (augent animos fortunae) saith the Mimist, and very truly, for nothing pulleth downe a mans heart so much as aduersitie and lacke. Againe in a meane man prodigalitie and pride are faultes more reprehensible then in Princes, whose high estates do require in their countenance, speech & expense, a certaine extraordinary, and their functions enforce them sometime to exceede the limites of mediocritie not excusable in a priuat person, whose manner of life and calling hath no such exigence. Besides the good and bad of Princes is more exemplarie, and thereby of greater moment then the priuate persons. Therefore it is that the inferiour persons, with their inferiour vertues haue a certaine inferiour praise, to guerdon their good with, & to comfort them to continue a laudable course in the modest and honest life and behauiour. But this lyeth not in written laudes so much as in ordinary reward and commendation to be giuen them by the mouth of the superiour magistrate. For histories were not intended to so generall and base a purpose, albeit many a meane souldier & other obscure persons were spoken of and made famous in stories, as we finde of Irus the begger, and Thersites the glorious noddie, whom Homer maketh mention of. But that happened (& so did many like memories of meane men) by reason of some greater personage or matter that it was long of, which therefore could not be an vniuersall case nor chaunce to euery other good and vertuous person of the meaner sort. Wherefore the Poet in praising the maner of life or death of anie meane person, did it by some litle dittie or Epigram or Epitaph in fewe verses & meane stile conformable to his subiect. So haue you how the immortall gods were praised by hymnes, the great Princes and heroicke personages by ballades of praise called Encomia, both of them by historicall reports of great grauitie and maiestie, the inferiour persons by other slight poemes.
The forme wherein honest and profitable Artes and sciences were treated.
The profitable sciences were no lesse meete to be imported to the greater number of ciuill men for instruction of the people and increase of knowledge, then to be reserued and kept for clerkes and great men onely. So as next vnto the things historicall such doctrines and arts as the common wealth fared the better by, were esteemed and allowed. And the same were treated by Poets in verse Exameter fauouring the Heroicall, and for the grauitie and comelinesse of the meetre most vsed with the Greekes and Latines to sad purposes. Such were the Philosophicall works of Lucretius Carus among the Romaines, the Astronomicall of Aratus and Manilius, one Greeke th'other Latine, the Medicinall of Nicander, and that of Oprianus of hunting and fishes, and many moe that were too long to recite in this place.
In what forme of Poesie the amorous affections and allurements were vttered.
The first founder of all good affections is honest loue, as the mother of all the vicious is hatred. 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. And because loue is of all other humane affections the most puissant and passionate, and most generall to all sortes and ages of men and women, so as whether it be of the yong or old or wise or holy, or high estate or low, none euer could truly bragge of any exemption in that case: it requireth a forme of Poesie variable, inconstant, affected, curious and most witty of any others, whereof the ioyes were to be vttered in one sorte, the sorrowes in an other, and by the many formes of Poesie, the many moodes and pangs of louers, throughly to be discouered: the poore soules sometimes praying, beseeching, sometime honouring, auancing, praising: an other while railing, reuiling, and cursing: then sorrowing, weeping, lamenting: in the ende laughing, reioysing & solacing the beloued againe, with a thousand delicate deuises, odes, songs, elegies, ballads, sonets and other ditties, moouing one way and another to great compassion.