THE LIVES Of the Most Famous English Poets.
BY William Winstanley.
A FACSIMILE REPRODUCTION WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY William Riley Parker
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This book merits more attention and respect from literary historians than thus far have been accorded it. The case must be stated carefully. The work has obvious faults and limitations, which probably account for its never having been reprinted since its appearance in 1687. Almost forty percent of it is largely or entirely derivative. Its author, William Winstanley (1628?-1698), was undoubtedly a compiler and a hack-writer; his attitudes and methods can hardly be termed "scholarly." Nevertheless, this pioneer in biographical and bibliographical research was more nearly a scholar than the man he is usually alleged to have plagiarized; he wanted to see the books that Edward Phillips was often content merely to list by title in his Theatrum Poetarum (1675), and altogether, for his own enjoyment and that of his readers, he quoted from the works of more than sixty poets. Moreover, unlike Phillips, he tried to arrange his authors in chronological order, from Robert of Gloucester to Sir Roger L'Estrange.
Though Winstanley's Lives advertises on its title page accounts "of above Two Hundred" poets, only 147 are actually listed in the catalogue, and only 168 are noted throughout. Of these 168, only 34 had not already been mentioned by Phillips, a dozen years before. Some borrowing was inevitable, and, in fact, Winstanley leaned heavily upon both Phillips and Fuller for information and clues, just as Phillips had leaned heavily upon Bale's Summarium (1548), Camden's Remains, Puttenham's Art of English Poesy, several Elizabethan miscellanies, and Kirkman's play catalogues. Both men built (as scholars must build) upon the obvious materials available. Both (in the manner of their age) were extremely casual about documentation and acknowledgment. If this leads us to talk unhistorically about "theft," we must say that Phillips "stole" from a half dozen or so people, whereas Winstanley simply appropriated a lot of these stolen goods. For doing so, he alone has been labelled a plagiarist.
Let us be more specific. Of Winstanley's accounts of 168 poets, 34 seem to have come out of the Theatrum Poetarum with nothing new added (10 of these 34 merely named). Of the remaining 134 accounts, 34 are of poets not mentioned by Phillips, 29 are utterly independent of Phillips, 40 are largely independent (that is, they borrow some from Phillips but add more than they borrow), and 31 are largely derivative. We would praise a doctoral dissertation that succeeded in giving so much new data. Winstanley was careless, but he was not lazy, and he had a literary conscience of sorts. Often he went to Phillips' sources and came away with more than Phillips found (most conspicuously in his use of Francis Kirkman's 1671 play catalogue).
Since the groundwork had so recently been laid, Winstanley's problem, far more than that of Phillips, was one of selection. In the Theatrum Poetarum 252 modern British poets are named. Of these Winstanley chose to omit the 16 female and 33 Scottish poets. Of the remaining 203, he dropped 68, and for the student of literary reputation these omissions raise some interesting questions. Undoubtedly a few were inadvertent. About a dozen were authors noted but not dated by Phillips, and it is probable that Winstanley was unable to learn more about them. Fifteen others were English poets who apparently did not write in the vernacular. An additional fifteen were poets dated by Phillips but described as inferior or almost forgotten. Still another fifteen were older or early Renaissance poets whose names probably meant nothing to Winstanley. On the other hand, he omits the following late Renaissance or contemporary poets whose period is plainly indicated in the Theatrum Poetarum and who, we might suppose, would be known to anyone attempting literary history in the year 1687: Richard Barnfield, Thomas Campion, Francis Davison, John Hall of Durham, William Herbert, William Leighton, Thomas Sackville, Henry Vaughan the Silurist, and Samuel Woodford.
That most of Winstanley's omissions were deliberate, and were prompted by some awareness of literary reputation, is suggested not only by his request for help on a revised edition (which never materialized) but also by the fact that he was able to add to the Theatrum Poetarum thirty-four poets, almost all of whom could have been noted by Phillips. Among these were such recent poets as Thomas Tusser, Giles Fletcher the elder, Sir John Beaumont, Jasper Heywood, Philemon Holland, Sir Thomas Overbury, John Taylor the Water Poet, and the Earl of Rochester. The reader of this volume may want to have the additional names before him; they are: Sir John Birkenhead, Henry Bradshaw, William Chamberlayne, Hugh Crompton, John Dauncey, John Davies (d. 1618), Robert Fabyan, John Gower (fl. 1640), Lewys Griffin, "Havillan," Richard Head, Matthew Heywood, John Higgins, Thomas Jordan, Sir William Killigrew, Sir Roger L'Estrange, Matthew of Paris, John Oldham, Edward Phillips himself, John Quarles, Richard the Hermit, John Studley, John Tatham, Christopher Tye, Sir George Wharton, and William of Ramsey. Mentioned incidentally are John Owen, Laurence Whitaker, and Gawin Douglas.
Among the accounts that are utterly independent of Phillips are those of Churchyard, Chapman, Daniel, Ford, Cower, Lydgate, Lyly, Massinger, Nashe, Quarles, Suckling, Surrey, and Sylvester. Among those that add more than they borrow are the notices of Beaumont and Fletcher, Chaucer, Cleveland, Corbet, Donne, Drayton, Phineas Fletcher, Greene, Greville, Jonson, Lodge, Lovelace, Middleton, More, Randolph, Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, Warner, and Withers.
To a modern critic Winstanley may seem devoid of taste, but his acquaintance with English poetry is impressive. Indeed, Winstanley, unlike Phillips, strikes us as a man who really read and enjoyed poetry. Phillips is more the slipshod bibliographer and cataloguer, collecting names and titles; Winstanley is the amateur literary historian, seeking out the verse itself, arranging it in chronological order, and trying, by his dim lights, to pass judgment upon it.
WILLIAM RILEY PARKER Indiana University 12 March 1962
THE LIVES Of the most Famous English Poets,
OR THE Honour of PARNASSUS;
In a Brief ESSAY OF THE WORKS and WRITINGS of above Two Hundred of them, from the Time of K. WILLIAM the Conqueror,
To the Reign of His Present Majesty King JAMES II.
Marmora Maeonij vincunt Monumenta Libelli; Vivitur ingenio, extera Mortis erunt.
Written by WILLIAM WINSTANLEY, Author of the English Worthies.
Licensed, June 16, 1685. Rob. Midgley.
Printed by H. Clark, for Samuel Manship at the Sign of the Black Bull in Cornhil, 1687.
* * * * *
TO THE WORSHIPFUL
Francis Bradbury, Esq;
The Judicious Philosopher Philo-Judaeus, in his Book De Plantatione Noe, saith; That when God had made the whole World's Mass, he created Poets to celebrate and set out the Creator himself, and all his Creatures: such a high Estimate had he of those Genius of brave Verse. Another saith, that Poets were the first Politicians, the first Philosophers, and the first Historiographers. And although Learning and Poetick Skill were but very rude in this our Island, when it flourished to the height in Greece and Rome, yet since hath it made such improvement, that we come not behind any Nation in the World, both in Grandity and Gravity, in Smoothness and Propriety, in Quickness and Briefness; so that for Skill, Variety, Efficacy and Sweetness, the four material points required in a Poet, our English Sons of Apollo, and Darlings of the Delian Deity, may compare, if not exceed them
Whose victorious Rhime, Revenge their Masters Death, and conquer Time.
And indeed what is it that so masters Oblivion, and causeth the Names of the dead to live, as the divine Strains of sacred Poesie? How are the Names forgotten of those mighty Monarchs, the Founders of the Egyptian Pyramids, when that Ballad-Poet, Thomas Elderton, who did arm himself with Ale (as old Father Ennius did with Wine) is remembred in Mr. Cambden's Remains? having this made to his Memory,
Hic situs est sitiens atque ebrius Eldertonus, Quid dico; hic situs est; hic potius sitis est.
Now, Sir, all my Ambition, that I address these Lines unto you, is, that you will pardon the Defects I have committed herein, as having done my good will in so short an Epitome to lay a Ground-work, on which may be built a sumptuous Structure; a Work well worthy the Pen of a second Plutarch; since Poetical Devices have been well esteemed. even amongst them who have been ignorant of what they are; as the judicious Mr. Cambden reports of Sieur Gauland, who, when he heard a Gentleman express that he was at a Supper, where they had not only good Company and good Chear, but also savoury Epigrams, and fine Anagrams; he returning home, rated and belowted his Cook, as an ignorant Scullion, that never dressed or served up to him either Epigrams or Anagrams.
But, Sir, I intrench upon your Patience, and shall no further; only subscribing my self,
Your Worship's ever to be Commanded,
* * * * *
THE PREFACE TO THE READER.
As we account those Books best written which mix Profit with Delight, so, in my opinion, none more profitable nor delightful than those of Lives, especially them of Poets, who have laid out themselves for the publick Good; and under the Notion of Fables, delivered unto us the highest Mysteries of Learning. These are the Men who in their Heroick Poems have made mens Fames live to eternity; therefore it were pity (faith Plutarch) that those who write to Eternity, should not live so too. Now above all Remembrances by which men have endeavoured even in despight of Death, to give unto their Fames eternity, for Worthiness and Continuance, Books, and Writings, have ever had the Preheminence; which made Ovid to give an endless Date to himself, and to his Metamorphosis, in these Words;
Famque Opus exegi, &c.
Thus Englished by the incomparable Mr. Sandys.
And now the Work is ended, which Jove's Rage, Nor Fire, nor Sword, shall raze, nor eating Age, Come when it will, my Death's uncertain hour Which only of my Body hath a power; Yet shall my better Part transcend the Sky, And my immortal Name shall never dy: For wherefoe're the Roman Eagles spread Their conquering Wings, I shall of all be read. And if we Prophets truly can divine, I in my living Fame shall ever shine.
With the same Confidence of Immortality, the Renowned Poet Horace thus concludes the Third Book of his Lyrick Poesie.
Exegi Monumentum aere perennius. Regalique situ, &c.
A Monument than Brass more lasting, I, Than Princely Pyramids in site more high Have finished, which neither fretting Showrs, Nor blustring Winds, nor flight of Years, and Hours, Though numberless, can raze; I shall not die Wholly; nor shall my best part buried lie Within my Grave.
And Martial, Lib. 10. Ep. 2. thus speaks of his Writings;
——My Books are read in every place, And when Licinius, and Messala's high Rich Marble Towers in ruin'd Dust shall lie, I shall be read, and Strangers every where, Shall to their farthest Homes my Verses bear.
Also Lucan, Lib. 9. of his own Verse, and Caesar's Victory at Pharsalia, writeth thus;
O great and sacred Work of Poesie! Thou freest from Fate, and giv'st Eternity To mortal Wights; but Caesar envy not Their living Names; if Roman Muses ought May promise thee, whilst Homer's honoured, By future Times shalt Thou and I be read; No Age shall us with dark Oblivion stain, But our Pharsalia ever shall remain.
But this Ambition, or (give it a more moderate Title), Desire of Fame, is naturally addicted to most men; The Triumph of Miltiades would not let Themistocles sleep; For what was it that Alexander made such a Bustle in the world, but only to purchase an immortal Fame? To what purpose were erected those stupendious Structures, entituled The Wonders of the World, viz. The walls of Babylon, the Rhodian Colossus, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Tomb of Mausolus, Diana's Temple at Ephesus, the Pharoes Watch-Tower, and the Statue of Jupiter in Achaya, were they not all to purchase an immortal Fame thereby? Nay, how soon was this Ambition bred in the heart of man? for we read in Genesis the 11th. how that presently after the Flood, the People journeying from the East, they said among themselves, Go to, let us build us a City, and a tower, whose Top may reach unto Heaven; and let us make us a Name. Here you see the intent of their Building was to make them a Name, though God made it a Confusion; as all such other lofty Buildings built in Blood and Tyranny, of which nothing now remains but the Name; which is excellently exprest by Ovid in the Fifteenth Book of his Metamorphosis.
Troy rich and powerful, which so proudly stood, That could for ten years spend such streams of Blood, For Buildings, only her old Ruines shows, For Riches, Tombs, which slaughter'd Sires enclose, Sparta, Mycenae, were of Greece the Flowers; So Cecrops City, and Amphion's Towers: Now glorious Sparta lies upon the ground. Lofty Mycenae hardly to be found. Of Oedipus his Thebes what now remains? Or of Pandion's Athens, but their Names?
So also Sylvester in his Du Bartus.
Thebes, Babel, Rome, those proud Heaven-daring Wonders, Lo under ground in Dust and Ashes lie, For earthly Kingdoms even as men do die.
By this you may see that frail Paper is more durable than Brass or Marble; and the Works of the Brain more lasting than that of the Hand; so true is that old Verse,
Marmora Maeonij vincunt Monumenta Libelli: Vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt.
The Muses Works Stone-Monuments outlast. 'Tis Wit keeps Life, all else Death will down cast.
Now though it is the desire of all Writers to purchase to themselves immortal Fame, yet is their Fate far different; some deserve Fame, and have it; others neither have it, nor deserve it; some have it not deserving, and others, though deserving, yet totally miss it, or have it not equall to their Deserts: Thus have I known a well writ Poem, after a double expence of Brain to bring it forth, and of Purse to publish it to the World, condemned to the Drudgery of the Chandler or Oyl-man, or, which is worse, to light Tobacco. I have read in Dr. Fuller's Englands Worthies, that Mr. Nathanael Carpenter, that great Scholar for Logick, the Mathematicks, Geography, and Divinity, setting forth a Book of Opticks, he found, to his great grief, the Preface thereof in his Printers House, Casing Christmas-Pies, and could never after from his scattered Notes recover an Original thereof; thus (saith he) Pearls are no Pearls, when Cocks or Coxcombs find them.
There are two things which very much discourage Wit; ignorant Readers, and want of Mecaenasses to encourage their Endeavours. For the first, I have read of an eminent Poet, who passing by a company of Bricklayers at work, who were repeating some of his Verses, but in such a manner as quite marred the Sence and Meaning of them; he snatching up a Hammer, fell to breaking their Bricks; and being demanded the reason thereof, he told them, that they spoiled his Work, and he spoiled theirs. And for the second; what greater encouragement to Ingenuity than Liberality? Hear what the Poet Martial saith, Lib. 10. Epig. 11.
What deathless numbers from my Pen would flow, What Wars would my Pierian Trumpet blow, If, as Augustus now again did live, So Rome to me would a Mecaenas give.
The ingenious Mr. Oldham, the glory of our late Age, in one of his Satyrs, makes the renowned Spenser's Ghost thus speak to him, disswading him from the Study of Poetry.
Chuse some old English Hero for thy Theme, Bold Arthur, or great Edward's greater Son, Or our fifth Henry, matchless to renown; Make Agin-Court, and Crescy-fields out-vie The fam'd Laucinan-shores, and walls of Troy; What Scipio, what Maecenas wouldst thou find; What Sidney now to thy great project kind? Bless me! how great a Genius! how each Line Is big with Sense! how glorious a design Does through the whole, and each proportion shine!
How lofty all his Thoughts, and how inspir'd! Pity, such wondrous Parts are not preferr'd: Cry a gay wealthy Sot, who would not bail, For bare Five Pounds the Author out of Jail, Should he starve there and rot; who, if a Brief Came out the needy Poets to relieve, To the whole Tribe would scarce a Tester give.
But some will say, it is not so much the Patrons as the Poets fault, whose wide Mouths speak nothing but Bladders and Bumbast, treating only of trifles, the Muses Haberdashers of small wares.
Whose Wit is but a Tavern-Tympany, The Shavings and the Chips of Poetry.
Indeed such Pedlars to the Muses, whose Verse runs like the Tap, and whose invention ebbs and flows as the Barrel, deserve not the name of Poets, and are justly rejected as the common Scriblers of the times: but for such who fill'd with Phebean-fire, deserve to be crowned with a wreath of Stars; for such brave Souls, the darlings of the Delian Deity, for these to be scorn'd, contemn'd, and disregarded, must needs be the fault of the times; I shall only give you one instance of a renowned Poet, out of the same Author.
_On_ Butler_, who can think without just rage, The glory and the scandal of the age, Fair stood his hopes, when first he came to Town, Met every where with welcoms of renown, Courted, and lov'd by all, with wonder read, And promises of Princely favour fed: But what reward for all had he at last, After a life in dull expectance pass'd? The wretch at summing up his mispent days, Found nothing left, but poverty, and praise: Of all his gains by Verse he could not save Enough to purchase Flannel, an
Thus you see though we have had some comparable to Homer for Heroick Poesie, and to Euripides for Tragedy, yet have they died disregarded, and nothing left of them, but that only once there were such Men and Writings in being.
I shall, in the next place, speak something of my Undertakings, in writing the Lives of these Renowned Poets. Two things, I suppose, may be laid to my charge; the one is the omission of some that ought with good reason to have been mentioned; and the other, the mentioning of those which without any injury might have been omitted. For the first, as I have begg'd pardon at the latter end of my Book for their omission, so have I promised, (if God spare me life so long) upon the first opportunity, or second Edition of this Book, to do them right. In the mean time I should think my self much beholding to those persons who would give me any intelligence herein, it being beyond the reading and acquaintance of any one single person to do it of himself.
And yet, let me tell ye, that by the Name of Poet, many more of former times might have been brought in than what I have named, as well as those which I have omitted that are now living, namely, Sir Walter Rawleigh, Mr. John Weever, Dr. Heylin, Dr. Fuller, &c. but the Volume growing as big as the Bookseller at present was willing to have it, we shall reserve them to another time, they having already eternized their Names by the never dying Histories which they have wrote.
Then for the second thing which may be objected against me, That I have incerted some of the meanest rank; I answer, That comparatively, it is a less fault to incert two, than to omit one, most of which in their times were of good esteem, though now grown out of date, even as some learned Works have been at first not at all respected, which afterwards have been had in high estimation; as it is reported of Sir Walter Rawleigh, who being Prisoner in the Tower, expecting every hour to be sacrificed to the Spanish cruelty, some few days before he suffered, he sent for Mr. Walter Burre, who had formerly printed his first Volume of the History of the World, whom, taking by the hand, after some other discourse, he ask'd him, How that Work of his had sold? Mr. Burre returned this answer, That it sold so slowly, that it had undone him. At which words of his, Sir Walter Rawleigh stepping to his Desk, reaches the other part of his History, to Mr. Burre, which he had brought down to the times he lived in; clapping his hand on his breast, he took the other unprinted part of his Works into his hand with a sigh, saying, Ah my Friend, hath the first Part undone thee? The second Volume shall undo no more; this ungrateful World is unworthy of it; When immediately going to the fire-side he threw it in, and set his foot on it till it was consumed. As great a Loss to Learning as Christendom could have, or owned; for his first Volume after his death sold Thousands.
It may likewise be objected, That some of these Poets here mentioned, have been more famous in other kind of Studies than in Poetry, and therefore do not shine here as in their proper sphere of fame; but what then, shall their general knowledge debar them from a particular notice of their Abilities in this most excellent Art? Nor have we scarce any Poet excellent in all its Species thereof; some addicting themselves most to the Epick, some to the Dramatick, some to the Lyrick, other to the Elegiack, the Epaenitick, the Bucolick, or the Epigram; under one of which all the whole circuit of Poetick Design is one way or other included.
Besides, should we have mentioned none but those who upon a strict scrutiny the Name of Poet doth belong unto, I fear me our number would fall much short of those which we have written; for as one writes, There are many that have a Fame deservedly for what they have writ, even in Poetry itself, who, if they come to the test, I question how well they would endure to open their Eagle-eyes against the Sun. But I shall wade no further in this Discourse, desiring you to accept of what is here written.
* * * * *
The Names of the Poets Mention'd in this Book.
_Robert of Glocester_ _Richard_ the Hermit _Joseph of Exeter_ _Michael Blaunpayn_ _Matthew Paris_ _William Ramsey_ _Alexander Nequam_ _Alexander Essebie_ _Robert Baston_ _Henry Bradshaw_ _Havillan_ Sir _John Gower_ _Geoffrey Chaucer_ _John Lydgate_ _John Harding_ _Robert Fabian_ _John Skelton_ _William Lilly_ Sir _Thomas More_ _Henry Howard, Earl_ of _Surry_ Sir _Thomas Wiat_ Dr. _Christopher Tye_ _John Leland _Thomas Churchyard_ _John Higgins_ _Abraham Fraunce_ _William Warner_ _Thomas Tusser_ _Thomas Stow_ _Dr. Lodge_ _Robert Greene_ _Thomas Nash_ Sir _Philip Sidney_ Sir _Fulk Grevil_ Mr. _Edmund Spenser_ Sir _John Harrington_ _John Heywood_ _Thomas Heywood_ _George Peel_ _John Lilly_ _William Wager_ _Nicholas Berton_ _Tho. Kid, Tho. Watson_, &c. Sir _Thomas Overbury_ Mr. _Michael Drayton_ _Joshua Sylvester_ Mr. _Samuel Daniel_ _George Chapman_ _Robert Baron_ _Lodowic Carlisle_ _John Ford_ _Anthony Brewer_ _Henry Glapthorn_ _John Davis_ of _Hereford_ Dr. _John Donne_ Dr. _Richard Corbet_ Mr. _Benjamin Johnson_ _Fr. Beaumont_ and _Jo. Fletcher_ _William Shakespeare_ _Christopher Marlow_ _Barton Holyday_ _Cyril Turney_ _Thomas Middleton_ _William Rowley_ _Thomas Deckar_ _John Marston_ Dr. _Jasper Main_ _James Shirley_ _Philip Massinger_ _John Webster_ _William Brown_ _Thomas Randolph_ Sir _John Beaumont_ Dr. _Philemon Holland_ _Thomas Goffe_ _Thomas Nabbes_ _Richard Broome_ _Robert Chamberlain_ _William Sampson_ _George Sandys_, Esq; Sir _John Suckling_ Mr. _William Habington_ Mr. _Francis Quarles_ Mr. _Phineas Fletcher_ Mr. _George Herbert_ Mr. _Richard Crashaw_ Mr. _William Cartwright_ Sir _Aston Cockain_ Sir _John Davis_ _Thomas May_ _Charles Aleyn_ _George Withers_ _Robert Herric_ _John Taylor_, Water Poet _Thomas Rawlins_ Mr. _Thomas Carew_ Col. _Richard Lovelace_ _Alexander Broome_ Mr. _John Cleaveland_ Sir _John Birkenhead_ Dr. _Robert Wild_ Mr. _Abraham Cowley_ Mr. _Edmond Waller_ Sir _John Denham_ Sir _William Davenant_ Sir _George Wharton_ Sir _Robert Howard_ _W. Cavendish_, _D. of Newcastle_ Sir _William Killegrew_ _John Studly_ _John Tatham_ _Thomas Jordan_ _Hugh Crompton_ _Edmund Prestwich_ _Pagan Fisher_ _Edward Shirburn_, Esq; _John Quarles_ _John Milton_ _John Ogilby_ Sir _Richard Fanshaw_ Earl of _Orrery_ _Thomas Hobbs_ Earl of _Rochester_ Mr. _Thomas Flatman_ _Martin Luellin_ _Edmond Fairfax_ _Henry King_, Bishop of _Chichester_ _Thomas Manley_ Mr. _Lewis Griffin_ _John Dauncey_ _Richard Head_ _John Philips_ Mr. _John Oldham_ Mr. _John Driden_ Mr. _Elkinah Settle_ Sir _George Etheridge_ Mr. _John Wilson_ Mr. _Thomas Shadwell_ _Thomas Stanley_, Esq; _Edward Philips_ Mr. _Thomas Sprat_ _William Smith_ Mr. _John Lacey_ Mr. _William Whicherly_ Sir _Roger L'Estrange_
* * * * *
THE LIVES Of the most Famous ENGLISH POETS,
FROM WILLIAM the Conqueror, to these Present Times.
* * * * *
The Life of ROBERT of Glocester.
We will begin first with Robert of Glocester, so called, because a Monk of that City, who flourisht about the Reign of King Henry the Second; much esteemed by Mr. Cambden, who quotes divers of his old English Rhythms in praise of his Native Country, England. Some (who consider not the Learning of those times) term him a Rhymer, whilst others more courteously call him a Poet: Indeed his Language is such, that he is dumb in effect, to the Readers of our Age, without an Interpreter; which that ye may the better perceive, hear these his Verses of Mulmutius Dunwallo, in the very same Language he wrote them.
A Kynge there was in Brutayne Donwallo was his Nam, Staleworth and hardy, a man of grete Fam: He ordeyned furst yat theeues yat to Temple flowen wer, No men wer so hardy to do hem despit ther; That hath he moche such yhold, as hit begonne tho, Hely Chyrch it holdeth yut, and wole ever mo.
Antiquaries (amongst whom Mr. Selden) more value him for his History than Poetry, his Lines being neither strong nor smooth, yet much informing in those things wherein he wrote; whereof to give you a taste of the first planting Religion in this Land by King Lucius,
Lucie Cocles Son after him Kynge was, To fore hym in Engelonde Chrestendom non was, For he hurde ofte miracles at Rome, And in meny another stede, yat thurgh Christene men come, He wildnede anon in hys herte to fonge Chrystendom. Therefor Messagers with good Letters he nom, That to the Pape Eleutherie hastelyche wende; And yat he to hym and his menne expondem sende, And yat he might seruy God wilned muche thereto, And seyd he wald noght be glader hyt were ydo.
This English Rhymer or Poet, which you will have it to be, is said to have lived whilst he was a very old man, and to have died about the beginning of the Reign of King John.
* * * * *
RICHARD the Hermit.
Contemporary with Robert of Glocester, was one Richard, a Religious Hermit, whose Manuscripts were a while ago (and for ought I know, are still) kept in Exeter-Library, although Exeter-House in the Strand, is converted now into an Exchange: This Religious Hermit studied much in converting the Church-Service into English Verse; of which we shall give you an Essay in part of the Te Deum, and part of the Magnificat,
We heryen ye God, we knowlechen ye Lord: All ye erye worships ye everlasting fader: Alle Aungels in hevens, and alle ye pours in yis world, Cherubin and Seraphin cryen by voyce to ye unstyntyng.
My Soul worschips the Louerd, and my Gott joyed in God my hele For he lokyd ye mekenes of hys hondemayden: So for iken of yat blissefulle schall sey me all generacjouns; For he has don to me grete thingis yat mercy is, and his nam hely.
He likewise translated all the Psalms of David, as also the Collects, Epistles and Gospels for the whole year, together with the Pater Noster and Creed; though there was then another Pater Noster and Creed used in the Church, sent into England by Adrian the Fourth, Pope of Rome, an Englishman, the Son of Robert Breakspeare of Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire, unto King Henry the Second; which (for variety sake) we shall give you as followeth:
Ure fader in hevene riche, Thi nom be haliid everliche, Thou bring us to thi michilblisce, Thi wil to wirche thu us wille, Als hit is in hevene ido Ever in erth ben hit also, That heli bred that lastyth ay, Thou sende hious this ilke day, Forgiv ous al that we hauith don, Als we forgiu och oder mon, He let ous falle in no founding, Ak seilde ous fro the foul thing. Amen.
I Beleeve in God fader almigty, shipper of heven and erth, And in Jhesus Crist his onle thi son vre Louerd, That is iuange thurch the hooli Ghost, bore of Mary Maiden, Tholede pine undyr Pounce Pilate, pitcht on rode tre, dead and yburiid. Litcht into helle, the thridde day fro death arose, Steich into hevene, sit on his fader richt hand God Almichty, Then is cominde to deme the quikke and the dede, I beleve in ye hooli Gost, Alle hooli Chirche, None of alle hallouen forgivenis of sine, Fleiss uprising, Lif withuten end. Amen.
When this Richard the Hermit died, we cannot find, but conjecture it to be about the middle of the Reign of King John, about the year 1208.
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JOSEPH of Exeter.
Joseph of Exeter was born at the City of Exeter in Devonshire, he was also sirnamed Iscanus, from the River Isk, now called Esk, which running by that City, gave it formerly the denomination of Isca. This Joseph (faith my Author) was a Golden Poet in a Leaden Age, so terse and elegant were his Conceits and Expressions. In his younger years he accompanied King Richard the First, in his Expedition into the Holy Land, by which means he had the better advantage to celebrate, as he did, the Acts of that warlike Prince, in a Poem, entituled Antiochea. He also wrote six Books De Bello Trojano, in Heroick Verse, which, as the learned Cambden well observes, was no other then that Version of Dares Phyrgius into Latine Verse. Yet so well was it excepted, that the Dutchmen not long since Printed it under the name of Cornelius Nepos, an Author who lived in the time of Tully, and wrote many excellent pieces in Poetry, but upon a strict view of all his Works, not any such doth appear amongst them; they therefore do this Joseph great wrong in depriving him the honour of his own Works. He was afterwards, for his deserts, preferred to be Arch-bishop of Burdeaux, in the time of King John, about the year 1210.
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This Michael Blaunpayn, otherwise sirnamed the Cornish Poet, or the Rymer, was born in Cornwall, and bred in Oxford and Paris, where he attained to a good proficiency in Learning, being of great fame and estimation in his time, out of whose Rymes for merry England as Cambden calls them, he quotes several passages in that most excellent Book of his Remains. It hapned one Henry of Normandy, chief Poet to our Henry the Third, had traduced Cornwall, as an inconsiderable Country, cast out by Nature in contempt into a corner of the land. Our Michael could not endure this Affront, but, full of Poetical fury, falls upon the Libeller; take a tast (little thereof will go far) of his strains.
Non opus est ut opus numere quibus est opulenta, Et per quas inopes sustentat non ope lenta, Piscibus & stanno nusquam tam fertilis ora.
We need not number up her wealthy store, Wherewith this helpful Lands relieves her poor, No Sea so full of Filh, of Tin, no shore.
Then, in a triumphant manner, he concludeth all with this Exhortation to his Countrymen:
Quid nos deterret? si firmiter in pede stemus, Fraus ni nos superat, nihil est quod non superemus.
What should us fright, if firmly we do stand? Bar fraud, and then no force can us command.
Yet his Pen was not so lushious in praising, but, when he listed, it was as bitter in railing, witness this his Satyrical Character of his aforesaid Antagonist.
Est tibi gamba capri, crus passeris, & latus Apri, Os leporis, catuli nasus, dens & gena Muli, Frons vetulae, tauricaput, & color undique Mauri, His argumentis quibus est argutia Mentis, Quod non a Monstro differs, satis hic tibi monstro.
Gamb'd like a Goat, Sparrow-thigh'd, sides as a Boar, Hare-mouth'd, Dog-nos'd, like Mule thy teeth and chin, Brow'd as old wife, Bull headed, black as a More, If such without, then what are you within? By these my signs the wife will easily conster, How little thou does differ from a Monster.
This Michael flourished in the time of King John, and Henry the Third.
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Matthew Paris is acknowledged by all to be an Englishman saving only one or two wrangling Writers, who deserve to be arraigned of Felony for robbing our Country of its due; and no doubt Cambridgeshire was the County made happy by his birth, where the Name and Family of Paris is right ancient, even long before they were setled therein at Hildersham, wherein they still flourish, though much impaired for their Loyalty in the late times of Rebellion.
He was bred a Monk of St. Albans, living in that loose Age a very strict and severe life, never less idle than when he was alone; spending those hours, reserved from Devotion, in the sweet delights of Poetry, and laborious study of History, in both which he excelled all his Contemporaries: His skill also was excellent in Oratory and Divinity, as also in such manual Arts as lie in the Suburbs of the liberal Sciences, Painting, Graving, &c. so that we might sooner reckon up those things wherein he had no skill, as those wherein he was skilled: But his Genius chiefly disposed him for the writing of Histories, writing a large Chronicle with great Commendations from the Norman Conquest to the Year of our Lord 1250. where he concludes with this Distich:
Sifte tui metas studij, Matthaee, quietas Nec ventura petas, quae postera proferat atas.
Matthew, here cease thy Pen in peace, and study on no more, Nor do thou rome at things to come, what next Age hath in store.
Yet, notwithstanding this resolution, he afterwards resumed that Work, continuing it to the Year 1259. a History impartially and judicially written, neither flattering any for their Greatness, nor sparing others for their Vices, no not so much as those of his own Profession; yet though he had sharp Nails, he had clean Hands, strict in his own, as well as linking at the loose conversation of others, and for his eminent austerity, was imployed by Pope Innocent the Fourth, not only to visit the Monks in the Diocess of Norwich but also was sent by him into Norway, to reform the Discipline in Holui, a fair Covent therein, but much corrupted.
His History was set forth with all integrity about a hundred years ago, by his namesake, Matthew Parker, (though some asperse it with a suspition of forgery) and afterwards in a latter and more exact Edition, by the care and industry of Doctor William Wats, and is at this present in great esteem amongst learned men.
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This William Ramsey was born in Huntingtonshire, a County famous for the richest Benedictines Abbey in England; yet here he would not stay, but went to Crowland, where he prospered so well, that he became Abbot thereof. Bale saith he was a Natural Poet, and therefore no wonder if fault be found in the Feet of his Verses; but by his leave, he was also a good Scholar, and Arithmetician enough to make his Verse run in right Numbers.
This William wrote the Lives of St. Guthlake, St. Neots, St. Edmond the King, and divers others, all in Verse, which no doubt were very acceptable and praise-worthy in those times; but the greatest wonder of him, and which may seem a wonder indeed, was, that being a Poet, he paid the vast Debts of others, even forty thousand Marks for the engagement of his Covent, and all within the compass of eighteen Months, wherein he was Abbot of Crowland. This was a vast Sum in that Age, and would render it altogether incredible for a Poet to do, but that we find he had therein the assistance of King Henry the Second; who, to expiate the Blood of Becket, was contented to be melted into Coyn, and was prodigiously bountiful to many Churches as well as to this. He died about the year 1180.
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Alexander Nequam, the learnedest Englishman of his Age, was born at St. Albans in Hartfordshire: His Name in English signifies Bad, which caused many, who thought themselves wondrous witty in making Jests, (which indeed made themselves) to pass several Jokes on his Sirname, whereof take this one instance: Nequam had a mind to become a Monk in St. Albans, the Town of his Nativity, and thus Laconically wrote for leave to the Abbot thereof;
Si vis, veniam, sin autem, tu autem.
To whom the Abbot returned,
Si bonus sis, venias, si nequam, nequaquam.
Whereupon for the future, to avoid the occasion of such Jokes, he altered his Name from Nequam, to Neckam.
His admirable knowledge in good Arts, made him famous throughout England, France, Italy, yea and the whole World, and that with incredible admiration, that he was called Miraculum ingenij, the Wonder and Miracle of Wit and Sapience. He was an exact Philosopher, and excellent Divine, an accurate Rhetorician, and an admirable Poet, as did appear by many his Writings which he left to posterity, some of which are mentioned by Bale.
That he was born at St. Albans, appears by a certain passage in one of his Latine Poems, cited by Mr. Cambden, and thus Englished by his Translatour, Doctor Holland.
This is the place that knowledge took of my Nativity, My happy Years, my Days also of Mirth and Jollity. This Place my Childhood trained up in all Arts liberal, And laid the ground-work of my Name, and skill Poetical. This Place great and renowned Clerks into the World hath sent; For Martyr bless'd, for Nation, for Sight, all excellent. A troop here of Religious Men serve Christ both night and day, In Holy Warfare, taking pains duly to watch and pray.
He is thought by some, saith Bale, to have been a Canon Regular, and to have been preferred to the Abbotship of Glocester, as the Continuater of Robert of Glocester will have it.
And Master Alisander that Chanon was er Imaked was of Gloucestre Abbot thulk yer. Viz. 7 Reg. Regis Johannis.
But this may be understood of Alexander Theologus, who was contempory with him: and was Abbot of St. Maries in Cirencester at the time of his death.
Bishop Godwin, in his Catalogue of the Bishops of Lincoln, maketh mention of a passage of wit betwixt him and Phillip Repington Bishop of Lincoln, the latter sending the Challenge.
Et niger & Nequam cum sis cognomine Nequam, Nigrior esse potes, Nequior esse nequis.
Both black and bad, whilest Bad the name to thee, Blacker thou may'st, but worse thou canst not be.
To whom Nequam rejoyned,
Phi not a foetoris, Lippus malus omnibus horis, Phi malus & Lippus, totus malus ergo Philippus.
Stinks are branded with a Phi, Lippus Latin for blear-eye, Phi and Lippus bad as either, then Philippus worse together.
A Monk of St. Albans made this Hexameter allusively to his Name:
Dictus erat Nequam, vitam duxit tamen aquam.
The Elogy he bestoweth on that most Christian Emperor Constantine the Great, must not be forgot:
From Colchester there rose a Star, The Rays whereof gave Glorious Light Throughout the world in Climates far, Great Constantine, Romes Emperor bright.
He was (saith one) Canon of Exeter, and (upon what occasion is not known,) came to be buried at Worcester, with this Epitaph,
Eclipsim patitur Sapientia, Sol sepelitur, Cui si par unus, minus esset flebile funus; Vir bene discretus, & in omni more facetus, Dictus erat Nequam, vitam duxit tamen aequam.
Wisdom's eclips'd, Sky of the Sun bereft; Yet less the loss if like alive were left; A man discreet, in matters debonair, Bad Name, black Face, but Carriage good and fair.
Yet others say he was buried at St. Albans (where he found repulse when living, but repose when dead) with this Epitaph,
Alexander, cognomento Nequam, Abbas Cirecestriae, Literarum scientia clarus, obiit Anno Dom. 1217. Lit. Dom. C. prid. Cal. Feb. & sepultus erat apud Fanum S. Albani, sujus Animae propitietur altissimus, Amen.
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This Alexander was born in Staffordshire, say some; in Somersetshire, say others; for which, each County might strive as being a Jewel worth the owning, being reckoned among the chief of English Poets and Orators of that Age. He in imitation of Ovid de Fastis, put our Christian Festivals into Verse, setting a Copy therein to Baptista Mantuan. Then leaving Ovid, he aspired to Virgil, and wrote the History of the Bible, (with the Lives of some Saints,) in an Heroical Poem, which he performed even to admiration; and though he fell short in part of Virgil's lofty style, yet went he beyond himself therein. He afterward became Prior of Esseby-Abbey, belonging to the Augustines, and flourished under King Henry the Third, Anno Dom. 1220.
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Robert Baston was born not far from Nottingham, and bred a Carmelite Frier at Scarborough in Yorkshire: He was of such great Fame in Poetry, that King Edward the Second, in his Scotish Expedition pitcht upon him to be the Celebrater of his Heroick Acts; when being taken Prisoner by the Scots, he was forced by Torments to change his Note, and represent all things to the advantage of Robert Bruce, who then claimed the Crown of Scotland: This Task he undertook full sore against his will, as he thus intimates in the two first Lines.
In dreery Verse my Rymes I make, Bewailing whilest such Theme I take.
Besides his Poem De Belle Strivilensi, there was published of his writing a Book of Tragedies, with other Poems of various Subjects.
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Henry Bradshaw was born in the City of Chester, and bred a Benedictine Monk in the Monastery of St. Werburg; the Life of which Saint he wrote in Verse, as also (saith my Author) a no bad Chronicle, though following therein those Authors, who think it the greatest Glory of a Nation to fetch their Original from times out of mind. Take a Taste of his Poetry in what he wrote concerning the Original of the City of Chester, in these words;
The Founder of this City, as saith Polychronicon, Was Leon Gawer, a mighty strong Gyant, Which builded Caves and Dungeons many a one, No goodly Building, ne proper, ne pleasant.
But King Leir, a Britain fine and valiant, Was Founder of Chester by pleasant Building, And was named Guer Leir by the King.
These Lines, considering the Age he lived in, (which Arnoldus Vion saith, was about the Year 1346.) may pass with some praise, but others say he flourished a Century of years afterwards, viz. 1513. which if so, they are hardly to be excused, Poetry being in that time much refined; but whensoever he lived, Bale saith, he was (the Diamond in the Ring) Pro ea ipsa aetate, admodum pius.
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Should we forget the learned Havillan, our Book would be thought to be imperfect, so terse and fluent was his Verse, of which we shall give you two Examples, the one out of Mr. John Speed his Description of Devonshire, speaking of the arrival of Brute.
The God's did guide his Sail and Course, the Winds were at command, And Totness was the happy shore where first he came on land.
The other out of Mr. Weever his Funeral Monuments in the Parish of St. Aldermanbury in London, speaking of Cornwal.
There Gyants whilome dwelt, whose Clothes were skins of Beasts; Whose Drink was Blood; Whose Cups, to serve for use at Feasts, Were made of hollow Wood; Whose Beds were bushy Thorns; And Lodgings rocky Caves, to shelter them from Storms; Their Chambers craggy Rocks; their Hunting found them Meat. To vanquish and to kill, to them was pleasure great. Their violence was rule; with rage and fury led, They rusht into the fight, and fought hand over head. Their Bodies were interr'd behind some bush or brake, To bear such monstrous Wights, the earth did grone and quake. These pestred most the Western Tract; more fear made thee agast, O Cornwall, utmost door that art to let in Zephyrus blast.
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John Gower, whom some make to be a Knight, though Stow, in his survey of London, unknighteth him, and saith he was only an Esquire; however he was born of a knightly Family, at Stitenham in the North-Riding in Bulmore-Wapentake in Yorkshire. He was bred in London a Student of the Laws, but having a plentiful Estate, and prizing his pleasure above his profit, he quitted Pleading to follow Poetry, being the first refiner of our English Tongue, effecting much, but endeavouring more therein, as you may perceive by the difference of his Language, with that of Robert of Glocester, who lived in the time of King Richard the First, which notwithstanding was accounted very good in those days.
This our Gower was contemporary with the famous Poet Geoffry Chaucer, both excellently learned, both great friends together, and both alike endeavour'd themselves and employed their time for the benefit of their Country. And what an account Chaucer had of this our Gower and of his Parts, that which he wrote in the end of his Work, entituled Troilus & Cressida, do sufficiently testifie, where he saith,
O marvel, Gower, this Book I direct To thee, and to the Philosophical Strode. To vouchsafe, there need is, to correct Of your benignitees and zeles good.
Bale makes him Equitem Auratum & Poetam Laureatum, proving both from his Ornaments on his Monumental Statue in St. Mary Overies Southwark. Yet he appeareth there neither laureated nor hederated Poet, (except the leaves of the Bays and Ivy be wither'd to nothing, since the erection of the Tomb) but only rosated, having a Chaplet of four Roses about his Head, yet was he in great respect both with King Henry the Fourth, and King Richard the Second, at whose request he wrote his Book called Confessio Amantis, as he relateth in his Prologue to the same Book, in these words,
As it befell upon a tide, As thing, which should tho betide, Under the town of New Troie, Which toke of Brute his first ioye, In Themese, when it was flowende, As I by Bote came rowende; So as fortune hir tyme sette, My leige Lord perchance I mette, And so befelle as I cam nigh, Out of my Bote, when he me sigh, He bad me come into his Barge, And when I was with him at large, Amonges other things seyde, He hath this charge upon me leyde, And bad me doe my businesse, That to his high worthinesse, Some newe thynge I should boke, That he hymselfe it might loke, After the forme of my writynge, And this upon his commandynge Myne herte is well the more glad To write so as he me bad. And eke my fear is well the lasse, That none enuie shall compasse, Without a reasonable wite To seige and blame that I write, A gentill hert his tongue stilleth, That it malice none distilleth, But preiseth that is to be preised, But he that hath his word unpeised, And handleth with ronge any thynge, I praie unto the heuen kynge, Froe such tonges he me shilde, And nethelesse this worlde is wilde, Of such ianglinge and what befall, My kinges heste shall not faile, That I in hope to deserue His thonke, ne shall his will observe, And els were I nought excused.
He was before Chaucer, as born and flourishing before him, (yea, by some accounted his Master) yet was he after Chaucer, as surviving him two years, living to be stark blind, and so more properly termed our English Homer. His death happened Anno 1402. and was buried at St. Mary Overies in Southwark, on the North side of the said Church, in the Chappel of St. John, where he founded a Chauntry, and left Means for a Mass, (such was the Religion of those times) to be daily sung for him, as also an Obit within the same Church to be kept on Friday after the Feast of St. Gregory. He lieth under a Tomb of stone, with his Image also of stone over him, the hair of his head auburn long to his shoulders, but curling up, and a small forked beard; on his head a Chaplet, like a Coronet of four Roses; an habit of purple, damasked down to his feet, a Collar of Esses of Gold about his neck, which being proper to places of Judicature, makes some think he was a Judge in his old age. Under his feet the likeness of three Books, which he compiled, the first named Speculum Meditantis, written in French: the second, Vox Clamantis, penned in Latine: the third, Confessio Amantis, written in English, which was Printed by Thomas Berthelette, and by him dedicated to King Henry the Eighth, of which I have one by me at this present. His Vox Clamantis with his Cronica Tripartita, and other Works both in Latine and French, Stow saith he had in his possession, but his Speculum Meditantis he never saw, but heard thereof to be in Kent.
Besides, on the Wall where he lieth, there was painted three Virgins crowned, one of which was named Charity, holding this device,
En toy qui es fitz de Dieu le Pere, Sauue soit, qui gist sours cest pierre.
The second Writing Mercy, with this Decree,
O bone Jesu fait ta mercy, Al' ame, dont le corps gisticy.
The third Writing Pity, with this device,
Pour ta pite Jesu regarde, Et met cest a me en sauue garde.
And thereby formerly hung a Table, wherein was written, That whoso prayed for the Soul of John Gower, so oft as he did it, should have a M. and D. days of pardon.
His Arms were in a Field Argent, on a Cheveron Azure, three Leopards heads gold, their tongues Gules, two Angels supporters, on the Crest a Talbot.
Armigeri Scultum nihil a modo fert sibi tutum, Reddidit immolutum morti generale tributum, Spiritus exutum se gaudeat esse solutum Est ubi virtutum Regnum sine labe statutum.
All I shall add is this, That about fifty years ago there lived at Castle-Heningham in Essex, a School-master named John Gower, who wrote a witty Poem, called the Castle Combate, which was received in that Age with great applause.
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Three several Places contend for the Birth of that famous Poet. 1. Berkshire, from the words of Leland, that he was born in Barocensiprovincia; and Mr. Cambden avoweth that Dunington-Castle nigh unto Newbery, was anciently his Inheritance. 2. Oxfordshire, where J. Pits is positive that his Father was a Knight, and that he was born at Woodstock. 3. The Author of his Life, set forth 1602. proveth him born in London, out of these his own words in the Testament of Love.
Also in the City of London, that is to me so dear and sweet, in which I was forth grown, and more kindly love have I to that place, than any other in yerth, as every kindely creature hath full appetite to that place of his kindly ingendure, and to wilne rest and peace in that stede to abide, thilke peace should thus there have been broken, which of all wise men is commended and desired.
For his Parentage, although Bale writes, he termeth himself Galfridus Chaucer nobili loco natus, & fummae spei juvenis; yet in the opinion of some Heralds (otherwise than his Virtues and Learning commended him) he descended not of any great House, which they gather by his Arms: And indeed both in respect of the Name, which is French, as also by other Conjectures, it may be gathered, that his Progenitors were Strangers; but whether they were Merchants (for that in places where they have dwelled, the Arms of the Merchants of the Staple have been seen in the Glass-windows) or whether they were of other Callings, it is not much necessary to search; but wealthy no doubt they were, and of good account in the Commonwealth, who brought up their Son in such sort, that both he was thought fit for the Court at home, and to be employed for Matters of State in Foreign Countries.
His Education, as Leland writes, was in both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as appeareth by his own words, in his Book Entituled The Court of Love: And in Oxford by all likelihood, in Canterbury or in Merton Colledge, improving his Time in the University, he became a witty Logician, a sweet Rhetorician, a grave Philosopher, a holy Divine, a skilful Mathematician, and a pleasant Poet; of whom, for the Sweetness of his Poetry, may be said that which is reported of Stesichorus; and as Cethegus was called Suadae Medulla, so may Chaucer be rightly called the Pith and Sinews of Eloquence, and the very Life it self of all Mirth and pleasant Writing. Besides, one Gift he had above other Authors, and that is, by the Excellencies of his Descriptions to possess his Readers with a stronger imagination of seeing that done before their eyes which they read, than any other that ever writ in any Tongue. But above all, his Book of Canterbury-Tales, is most recommended to Posterity, which he maketh to be spoken by certain Pilgrims who lay at the Tabard-Inn in Southwark as he declareth in the beginning of his said Book.
It befell in that season, on a day, In Southwark, at the Tabert as I lay, Ready to wend on my pilgrimage To Canterbury, with full devout courage; That night was comen into the Hosterie, Well nine and twenty in a companie, Of sundry folke, by adventure yfall In fellowship, and Pilgrims were they all, That toward Canterbury woulden ride; The Stables and Chambers weren wide, And well wee were eased at the best, &c.
By his Travel also in France and Flanders, where he spent much time in his young years, but more in the latter end of the Reign of King Richard the Second; he attained to a great perfection in all kind of Learning, as Bale and Leland report of him: Circa postremos Richardi Secundi annos, Galliis floruit, magnamque illic ex assidua in Literis exercitatione gloriam sibi comparavit. Domum reversus Forum Londinense; & Collegia Leguleiorum, qui ibidem Patria Jura interpretantur frequentavit, &c. About the latter end of King Richard the Second's Days, he flourished in France, and got himself into high esteem there by his diligent exercise in Learning: After his return home, he frequented the Court at London, and the Colledges of the Lawyers, which there interpreted the Laws of the Land. Amongst whom was John Gower, his great familiar Friend, whose Life we wrote before. This Gower, in his Book entituled Confessio Amantis, termeth Chaucer a worthy Poet, and maketh him as it were the Judge of his Works.
This our Chaucer had always an earnest desire to enrich and beautifie our English Tongue, which in those days was very rude and barren; and this he did, following the example of Dantes and Petrarch. who had done the same for the Italian Tongue, Alanus for the French, and Johannes Mea for the Spanish: Neither was Chaucer inferior to any of them in the performance hereof; and England in this respect is much beholding to him; as Leland well noteth:
Anglia Chaucerum veneratur nostra Poetam; Cui veneris debet Patria Lingua suas.
Our England honoureth Chaucer Poet, as principal; To whom her Country-Tongue doth owe her Beauties all.
He departed out of this world the 25th. day of October 1400, after he had lived about seventy two years. Thus writeth Bale out of Leland, Chaucerus ad Canos devenit, sensitque Senectutem morbum esse; & dum Causas suas Londini curaret, &c. Chaucer lived till he was an old man, and found old Age to be grievous; and whilst he followed his Causes at London, he died, and was buried at Westminster.
The old Verses which were written on his Grave at the first, were these;
Galfridus Chaucer, Vates & Fama Poesis, Maternae haec sacra sum tumulatus humo.
Thomas Occleue, or Okelefe, of the Office of the Privy Seal, sometime Chaucer's Scholar, for the love he bore to the said Geoffrey his Master, caused his Picture to be truly drawn in his Book, De Regimine Principis, dedicated to Henry the Fifth; according to which, that his Picture drawn upon his Monument was made, as also the Monument it self, at the Cost and Charges of Nicolas Brigham Gentleman, Anno 1555. who buried his Daughter Rachel, a Child of four years of Age, near to the Tomb of this old Poet, the 21th. of June 1557. Such was his Love to the Muses; and on his Tomb these Verses were inscribed:
Qui fuit Anglorum Vates ter maximus olim, Galfridus Chaucer, conditur hoc Tumulo, Annum si quaeras Domini, si tempora Mortis, Ecce notae subsunt, quae tibi cuncta notant; 25 Octobris 1400. AErumnarum requies Mors. N. Brigham hos fecit Musarum nomine sumptus.
About the Ledge of the Tomb these Verses were written;
Si rogitas quis eram, forsante Fama docebit, Quod si Fama negat, Mundi quia Gloria transit, Haec Monumenta lege.
The foresaid Thomas Occleve, under the Picture of Chaucer, had these Verses:
Although his Life be queint, the resemblance Of him that hath in me so fresh liveliness, That to put other men in remembrance Of his Person I have here the likeness Do make, to the end in Soothfastness, That they that of him have lost thought and mind, By this peniture may again him find.
In his foresaid Book, De Regimine Principis, he thus writes of him:
But welaway is mine heart wo, That the honour of English Tongue is dead; Of which I wont was counsaile haue and reed: O Master dere, and Fadre reuerent: My Master Chaucer Floure of Eloquence, Mirror of fructuous entendement: O vniuersal fadre of Science: Alas that thou thine excellent Prudence In thy Bed mortal mightest not bequeath. What eyl'd Death, alas why would she the fle? O Death, thou didst not harm singler in slaughter of him, But all the Land it smerteth; But natheless yet hast thou no power his name flee, But his vertue afterteth Unslain fro thee; which ay us lifely herteth, With Books of his ornat enditing, That is to all this Land enlumining.
In another place of his said Book, he writes thus;
Alas my worthy Maister honourable, This Land's very Treasure and Richess! Death by thy Death hath harm irreparable Unto us done: her vengeable duress Dispoiled hath this Land of the sweetness Of Rhetorige; for unto Tullius Was never man so like among us: Also who was here in Philosophy To Aristotle, in our Tongue, but thee? The Steps of Virgil in Poesie, Thou suedst eken men know well enough, What combre world that thee my Master slough Would I slaine were.
John Lidgate likewise in his Prologue of Bocchas, of the Fall of Princes, by him translated, saith thus in his Commendation:
My Master Chaucer, with his fresh Comedies, Is dead alas, chief Poet of Brittaine, That whilom made full pitous Tradgedies, The faule of Princes he did complaine, As he that was of making Soveraine; Whom all this Land should of right preferre Sith of our Language he was the load-sterre.
Also in his Book which he writeth of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, he hath these Verses.
And eke my Master Chaucer now is in grave, The noble Rhetore, Poet of Britaine, That worthy was the Laurel to have Of Poetry, and the Palm attaine, That made first to distill and raine The Gold dew drops of Speech and Eloquence, Into our Tongue through his Eloquence.
That excellent and learned Scottish Poet Gawyne Dowglas Bishop of Dunkeld, in the Preface of Virgil's Eneados turned into Scottish Verse, doth thus speak of Chaucer;
Venerable Chaucer, principal Poet without pere, Heavenly Trumpet, orloge, and regulere, In Eloquence, Baulme, Conduct, and Dyal, Milkie Fountaine, Cleare Strand, and Rose Ryal, Of fresh endite through Albion Island brayed In his Legend of Noble Ladies fayed.
And as for men of latter time, Mr.Ascham and Mr. Spenser have delivered most worthy Testimonies of their approving of him. Mr.Ascham, in one place calleth him English Homer, and makes no doubt to say, that he valueth his Authority of as high estimation as he did either Sophocles or Euripides in Greek. And in another place, where he declareth his Opinion of English Versifying, he useth these Words; Chaucer and Petrark those two worthy Wits, deserve just praise. And last of all, in his Discourse of Germany, he putteth him nothing behind either Thucydides or Homer, for his lively Descriptions of Site of Places, and Nature of Persons, both in outward Shape of Body, and inward Disposition of Mind; adding this withal, That not the proudest that hath written in any Tongue whatsoever, for his time hath outstript him.
Mr. Spenser in his first Eglogue of his Shepherds Kalendar, calleth him Tityrus, the God of Shepherds, comparing him to the worthiness of the Roman Tityrus, Virgil. In his Fairy Queen, in his Discourse of Friendship, as thinking himself most worthy to be Chaucer's friend, for his like natural disposition that Chaucer had; he writes, That none that lived with him, nor none that came after him, durst presume to revive Chaucer's lost labours in that imperfect Tale of the Squire, but only himself: which he had not done, had he not felt (as he saith) the infusion of Chaucer's own sweet Spirit surviving within him. And a little before, he calls him the most Renowned and Heroical Poet, and his Writings the Works of Heavenly Wit; concluding his commendation in this manner:
Dan Chaucer well of English undefiled, On Fames eternal Bead-roll worthy to be filed; I follow here the footing of thy feet, That with thy meaning so I may the rather meet.
Mr. Cambden, reaching one hand to Mr. Ascham, and the other to Mr. Spenser, and so drawing them together, uttereth of him these words, De Homero nostro Anglico illud vere asseram, quod de Homero eruditus ille Italus dixit.
——Hic ille est, cujus de gurgite sacro, Combibit arcanos vatum omnis turba furores.
The deservingly honoured Sir Philip Sidney, in his Defence of Poesie, thus writeth of him, Chaucer undoubtedly did excellently in his Troylus and Crescid, of whom truly I know not whether to marvel more, either that he in that misty time could see so clearly or we in this clear age walk so stumblingly after him. And Doctor Heylin, in his elaborate Description of the World, ranketh him in the first place of our chiefest Poets. Seeing therefore that both old and new Writers have carried this reverend conceit of him, and openly declared the same by writing, let us conclude with Horace in the eighth Ode of his fourth Book;
Dignum Laudi causa vetut mori.
The Works of this famous Poet, were partly published in Print by William Caxton, Mercer, that first brought the incomparable Art of Printing into England, which was in the Reign of King Henry the Sixth. Afterward encreased by William Thinne, Esq; in the time of King Henry the Eighth. Afterwards, in the year 1561. in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, Corrected and Encreased by John Stow; And a fourth time, with many Amendments, and an Explanation of the old and obscure Words, by Mr. Thomas Speight, in Anna 1597. Yet is he said to have written many considerable Poems, which are not in his publish'd Works, besides the Squires Tale, which is said to be compleat in Arundel-house Library.
* * * * *
John Lydgate was born in a Village of the same name, not far off St. Edmondsbury, a Village (saith Cambden) though small, yet in this respect not to be passed over in silence, because it brought into the World John Lydgate the Monk, whose Wit may seem to have been framed and fashioned by the very Muses themselves: so brightly reshine in his English Verses, all the pleasant graces and elegancy of Speech, according to that Age. After some time spent in our English Universities, he travelled through France and Italy, improving his time to his great accomplishment, in learning the Languages and Arts; Erat autem non solum elegans Poeta, & Rhetor disertus, verum etiam Mathematicus expertus, Philosophus acutus, & Theologus non contemnendus: he was not only an elegant Poet, and an eloquent Rhetorician, but also an expert Mathematician, an acute Philosopher, and no mean Divine, saith Pitseus. After his return, he became Tutor to many Noblemens Sons, and both in Prose and Poetry was the best Author of his Age, for if Chaucer's Coin were of greater Weight for deeper Learning, Lydgate's was of a more refined Stantard for purer Language; so that one might mistake him for a modern Writer. But because none can so well describe him as himself, take an Essay of his Verses, out of his Life and Death of Hector, pag. 316 and 317.
I am a Monk by my profession, In Berry, call'd John Lydgate by my name, And wear a habit of perfection; (Although my life agree not with the same) That meddle should with things spiritual, As I must needs confess unto you all.
But seeing that I did herein proceed [A]At his command, whom I could not refuse, I humbly do beseech all those that read, Or leisure have, this story to peruse, If any fault therein they find to be, Or error, that committed is by me;
That they will of their gentleness take pain, The rather to correct and mend the same, Than rashly to condemn it with disdain, For well I wot it is not without blame, Because I know the Verse therein is wrong, As being some too short and some too long.
For Chaucer, that my Master was, and knew What did belong to writing Verse and Prose, Ne're stumbled at small faults, nor yet did view With scornful eye the Works and Books of those That in his time did write, nor yet would taunt At any man, to fear him or to daunt.
[Footnote A: Hen. 5.]
Now if you would know further of him, hear him in his Prologue to the Story of Thebes, a Tale (as his Fiction is) which (or some other) he was constrained to tell, at the command of mine Host of the Tabard in Southwark, whom he found in Canterbury, with the rest of the Pilgrims which went to visit Saint Thomas shrine.
This Story was first written in Latine by Geoffry Chaucer, and translated by Lydgate into English Verse, but of the Prologue of his own making, so much as concerns himself, thus:
——While that the Pilgrims lay At Canterbury, well lodged one and all, I not in sooth what I may it call, Hap or fortune, in conclusioun, That me befell to enter into the Toun, The holy Sainte plainly to visite, After my sicknesse, vows to acquite. In a Cope of blacke, and not of greene, On a Palfrey slender, long, and lene, With rusty Bridle, made not for the sale, My man to forne with a voyd Male, That by Fortune tooke my Inne anone Where the Pilgrimes were lodged everichone, The same time her governour the host Stonding in Hall, full of wind and bost, Liche to a man wonder sterne and fers, Which spake to me, and said anon Dan Pers, Dan Dominick, Dan Godfray, or Clement, Ye be welcome newly into Kent: Thogh your bridle have nother boos ne bell; Beseeching you, that ye will tell First of your name, and what cuntre Without more shortly that ye be, That looke so pale, all devoid of bloud, Upon your head a wonder thred-bare Hood, Well arrayed for to ride late: I answered my Name was Lydgate Monke of Bury, me fifty yeare of age, Come to this Town to do my Pilgrimage As I have hight, I have thereof no shame: Dan John (quoth he) well brouke ye your name, Thogh ye be sole, beeth right glad and light, Praying you to soupe with us this night; And ye shall have made at your devis, A great Pudding, or a round hagis, A Franche Moile, a Tanse, or a Froise, To been a Monk slender is your [A]coise, Ye have been sick I dare mine head assure, Or let feed in a faint pasture. Lift up your head, be glad, take no sorrow, And ye should ride home with us to morrow, I say, when ye rested have your fill. After supper, sleep will doen none ill, Wrap well your head, clothes round about, Strong nottie Ale will make a man to rout; Take a Pillow, that ye lye not low; If nede be, spare not to blow; To hold wind, by mine opinion, Will engender colles passion, And make men to greven on her [B]rops, When they have filled her maws and her crops; But toward night, eate some Fennell rede, Annis, Commin, or Coriander-seed, And like as I have power and might, I charge you rise not at midnight, Thogh it be so the Moon shine clere, I will my self be your [C]Orlogere, To morrow early, when I see my time, For we will forth parcel afore prime, Accompanie [D]parde shall do you good.
[Footnote A: Countenance.]
[Footnote B: Guts.]
[Footnote C: Clock.]
[Footnote D: Verily.]
But I have digressed too far: To return therefore unto Lydgate. Scripsit partim Anglice, partim Latine; partim Prosa, partim Versu Libros numero plures, eruditione politissimos. He writ (saith my Author) partly English, partly Latine; partly in Prose, and partly in Verse, many exquisite learned Books, saith Pitseus, which are mentioned by him and Bale, as also in the latter end of Chaucer's Works; the last Edition, amongst which are Eglogues, Odes, Satyrs, and other Poems. He flourished in the Reign of Henry the Sixth, and departed this world (aged about 60 years) circiter An. 1440. and was buried in his own Convent at Bury, with this Epitaph,
Mortuus saeclo, superis Superstes, Hic jacet Lydgate tumulaetus Urna: Qui fuit quondam celebris Britannae Fama Poesis.
Dead in this World, living above the Sky, Intomb'd within this Urn doth Lydgate lie; In former time fam'd for his Poetry, All over England.
* * * * *
John Harding, our Famous English Chronologer, was born (saith Bale) in the Northern parts, and most likely in Yorkshire, being an Esquire of an eminent Parentage. He was a man equally addicted to Arms and Arts, spending his Youth in the one, and his Age in the other: His first Military Employment was under Robert Umfreuil, Governor of Roxborough-Castle, where he did good Service against the Scots. Afterwards he followed the Standard of King Edward the Fourth, to whom he valiantly and faithfully adhered, not only in the Sun-shine of his Prosperity, but also in his deepest Distress.
But what endeared him the most to his Favour, and was indeed the Masterpiece of his Service, was his adventuring into Scotland; a desperate Attempt, and performed not without the manifest hazarding of his Life; where he so cunningly demeaned himself, and insinuated himself so far into their Favour, as he got a sight of their Records and Original Letters; a Copy of which he brought with him to England, and presented the same to King Edward the Fourth: Out of these he collected a History of the several Submissions, and sacred Oaths of Fealty openly taken from the time of King Athelstane, by the Kings of Scotland; to the Kings of England, for the Crown of Scotland; a Work which was afterwards made much use of by the English; although the Scotch Historians stickle with might and main, that such Homage was performed only for the County of Cumberland, and some parcel of Land their Kings had in England South of Tweed.
Now as his Prose was very useful, so was his Poetry as much delightful; writing a Chronicle of our English Kings from Brute to King Edward the Fourth, and that in English Verse; for which he was accounted one cf the chiefest Poets of his time; being so exactly done, that by it Dr. Fuller adjudges him to have drunk as deep a draught of Helicon as any in his Age: And another saying, that by the fame he deservedly claimed a Seat amongst the chiefest of the Poetical Writers.
But to give you the better view of his Poetical Abilities, I shall present you with some of his Chronicle-Verse, concerning the sumptuous Houshold kept by King Richard the Second, cap. 193.
Truly I herd Robert Ireleffe say, Clarke of the Green-cloth, and that to the houshold Came every daye, forth most part alway Ten thousand folke, by his Messes told, That followed the hous aye as thei wold. And in the Kechin, three hundred Seruitours, And in eche Office many Occupiours.
And Ladies faire, with their Gentleweomen Chamberers also and Lauenders, Three hundred of theim were occupied then; There was great pride emong the Officers, And of all men far passing their compeers; Of rich arraye, and much more costeus, Then was before, or sith, and more precious, &c.
This our Poet Harding was living Anno 1461. being then very aged; and is judged to have survived not long after.
* * * * *
Robert Fabian was born and bred in London as witnesseth Bale and Pits; becoming one of the Rulers thereof, being chosen Sheriff, Anno 1493. He spent his time which he had spare from publick Employments, for the benefit of posterity; writing two large Chronicles: the one from Brute to the Death of King Henry the Second; the other, from the First of King Richard, to the Death of Henry the Seventh. He was (saith my Author) of a merry disposition, and used to entertain his Guests as well with good Discourse as good Victuals: He bent his Mind much to the Study of Poetry; which according to those times, passed for currant. Take a touch of his Abilities in the Prologue to the second Volume of his Chronicle of England and France.
Now would I fayne, In words playne, Some Honour sayne, And bring to mynde; Of that auncient Cytye, That so goodly is to se, And full true ever hath be, And also full kynde, To Prince and Kynge That hath borne just rulynge, Syn the first winnynge of this Hand by Brute. So that in great honour By passynge of many a showre, It hath euer borne the flowre; And laudable Brute, &c.
These Verses were made for the Honour of London; which he calleth Ryme Dogerel, and at the latter end thereof, excuseth himself to the Reader in these words:
Who so him lyketh these Versys to rede, With favour I pray he will theym spell; Let not the rudenes of theym hym lede For to dispraue thys Ryme Dogerell: Some part of the honour it doth you tell Of this old Cytye Troynouant; But not thereof the halfe dell; Connyng in the Maker is so adaunt: But though he had the Eloquence Of Tully, and the Moralytye Of Seneck, and the Influence Of the swyte sugred Armony, Or that faire Ladye Caliope, Yet had he not connyng perfyght, This Citye to prayse in eche degre As that shulde duely aske by ryght.
Sir John Suckling, a prime Wit of his Age, in the Contest betwixt the Poets for the Lawrel, maketh Apollo to adjudge it to an Alderman of London; in these words;
He openly declar'd it was the best sign Of good store of Wit, to have good store of Coyne, And without a syllable more or less said, He put the Lawrel on the Alderman's Head.
But had the Scene of this Competition been laid a hundred and fifty years ago, and the same remitted to the Umpirage of Apollo, in sober sadness he would have given the Lawrel to this our Alderman.
He died at London, Anno 1511, and was buried at St. Michael's Church in Cornhil, with this Epitaph;
Like as the Day his Course doth consume, And the new Morrow springeth again as fast; So Man and Woman by Natures custom This Life do pass; at last in Earth are cast, In Joy and Sorrow, which here their Time do wast, Never in one state, but in course transitory, So full of change is of the World the Glory.
Dr. Fuller observeth, That none hath worse Poetry than Poets on their Monuments; certainly there is no Rule without Exceptions; he himself instancing to the contrary in his England's Worthies, by Mr. Drayton's Epitaph, and several others.
* * * * *
John Skelton, the Poet Laureat in his Age, tho' now accounted only a Rhymer, is supposed to have been born in Norfolke, there being an ancient Family of that Name therein; and to make it the more probable, he himself was Beneficed therein at Dis in that County. That he was Learned, we need go no further than to Erasmus for a Testimony; who, in his Letter to King Henry the Eighth, stileth him, Britanicarum Literarum Lumen & Decus. Indeed he had Scholarship enough, and Wit too much: Ejus Sermo (saith Pitz.) salsus in mordacem, risus in opprobrium, jocus in amaritudinem. Whoso reads him, will find he hath a miserable, loose, rambling Style, and galloping measure of Verse: yet were good poets so scarce in his Age, that he had the good fortune to be chosen Poet Laureat, as he stiles himself in his Works, The Kings Orator, and Poet Laureat.
His chief Works, as many as can be collected, and that out of an old Printed Book, are these; Philip Sparrow, Speak Parrot, The Death of King Edward the Fourth, A Treatise of the Scots, Ware the Hawk, The Tunning of Elianer Rumpkin: In many of which, following the humor of the ancientest of our Modern Poets, he takes a Poetical Liberty of being Satyrical upon the Clergy, as brought him under the Lash of Cardinal Woolsey, who so persecuted him, that he was forced to take Sanctuary at Westminster, where Abbot Islip used him with much respect. In this Restraint he died, June 21, 1529. and was buried in St. Margaret's Chappel, with this Epitaph;
J. Sceltanus Vates Pierius hic situs est.
We must not forget, how being charg'd by some on his Death-bed for begetting many Children on a Concubine which he kept, he protested, that in his Conscience he kept her in the notion of a Wife, though such his cowardliness, that he would rather confess Adultery, than own Marriage, the most punishable at that time.
* * * * *
To this John Scelton, we shall next present you with the Life of his Contemporary and great Antagonist William Lillie, born at Odiham, a great Market-Town in Hantshire; who to better his knowledge, in his youth travelled to the City of Jerusalem, where having satisfied his curiosity in beholding those sacred places where on our Saviour trode when he was upon the Earth; he returned homewards, making some stay at Rhodes, to study Greek. Hence he went to Rome, where he heard John Sulpitius and Pomponius Sabinus, great Masters of Latine in those days. At his return home, Doctor John Collet had new builded a fair School at the East-end of St. Paul's, for 153 poor mens Children, to be taught free in the same School; for which he appointed a Master, an Usher, and a Chaplain, with large Stipends for ever; committing the oversight thereof to the Masters, Wardens and Assistants of the Mercers in London, because he was Son to Henry Collet Mercer, sometime Major; leaving for the Maintenance thereof, Lands to the yearly value of 120l. or better; making this William Lilly first Master thereof; which Place he commendably discharg'd for 15 years. During which time he made his Latine Grammar, the Oracle of Free Schools of England, and other Grammatical Works. He is said also by Bale, to have written Epigrams, and other Poetry of various Subjects in various Latine Verse, though scarce any of them (unless it be his Grammar) now extant, only Mr. Stow makes mention of an Epitaph made by him, and graven on a fair Tomb, in the midst of the Chancel of St. Paul's in London containing these Words;
Inclyta Joannes Londini Gloria gentis, Is tibi qui quondam Paule Decanus erat, Qui toties magno resonabat pectore Christum, Doctor & Interpres fidus Evangelij: Qui mores hominum multum sermone disertae Formarat, vitae sed probitate magis: Quique Scholam struxit celebrem cognomine Jesu, Hac dormit tectus membra Coletus humo.
Floruit sub Henrico 7. & Henrico 8. Reg. Obiit An. Dom. 1519.
Disce mori Mundo, vivere disce Deo.
John Skelton (whom we mentioned before) whose Writings were for the most part Satyrical, mixing store of Gall and Copperas in his Ink, having fell foul upon Mr. Lilly in some of his Verses, Lilly return'd him this biting Answer;
Quid me Sceltone fronte sic aperta Carpis, vipereo potens veneno? Quid Versus trutina, meos iniqua Libras? Dicere vera num licebit? Doctrinae, tibi dum parare famam, Et doctus fieri studes Poeta, Doctrinam ne habes, nec es Poeta.
With Face so bold, and Teeth so sharp, Of Viper's venom, why dost carp? Why are my Verses by thee weigh'd In a false Scale? May Truth be said; Whilst thou to get the more esteem, A Learned Poet fain wouldst seem, Skelton, thou art, let all men know it, Neither Learned, nor a Poet.
He died of the Plague, Anno 1522, and was buried in St. Paul's, with this Epitaph on a Brass Plate, fixed in the Wall by the great North-Door:
Gulielmo Lilio, Pauliae Scholae olim Praeceptori primario, & Agnetae Conjugi, in sacratissimo hujus Templi Coemiterio hinc a tergo nunc destructo consepultis; Georgius Lilius, hujus Ecclesiae Canonicus, Parentum Memoriae pie consulens, Tabellam hanc ab amicis conservatam, hic reponendam curavit.
* * * * *
Sir THOMAS MORE.
Sir Thomas More, a great Credit and Ornament in his Time, of the English Nation, and with whom the Learned'st Foreigners of that Age, were proud to have correspondence, for his wit and excellent parts, was born in Milk-street, London. Anno Dom. 1480. Son to Sir John More, Knight, and one of the Justices of the Kings Bench.
He was bred first in the Family of Archbishop Morton, then in Canterbury-Colledge in Oxford; afterwards removed to an Inn of Chancery in London, called New-Inn, and from thence to Lincolns-Inn; where he became a double Reader. Next, his Worth preferred him to be Judge in the Sheriff of London's, Court, though at the same time a Pleader in others; and so upright was he therein, that he never undertook any Cause but what appeared just to his Conscience, nor never took Fee of Widow, Orphan, or poor Person.
King Henry the Eighth coming to the Crown, first Knighted him, then made him Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and not long after L. Chancellor of England, in which place he demeaned himself with great integrity, and with no less expedition; so that it is said, at one time he had cleared all Suits depending on that Court: whereupon, one thus versified on him,
When More some years had Chancellor been, No more Suits did remain; The same shall never more be seen, Till More be there again.
He was of such excellency of Wit and Wisdom, that he was able to make his Fortune good in whatsoever he undertook: and to this purpose it is reported of him, that when he was sent Ambassador by his Master Henry the Eighth into Germany, before he deliver'd his Embassage to the Emperor, he bid one of his Servants to fill him a Beer-glass of Wine, which he drunk off twice; commanding his Servant to bring him a third; he knowing Sir Thomas More's Temperance, that he was not used to drink, at first refused to fill him another; telling Sir Thomas of the weight of his Employment: but he commanding it, and his Servant not daring to deny him, he drank off the third, and then made his immediate address to the Emperor, and spake his Oration in Latine, to the admiration of all the Auditors. Afterwards Sir Thomas merrily asking his Man what he thought of his Speech? he said, that he deserved to govern three parts of the World, and he believed if he had drunk the other Glass, the Elegancy of his Language might have purchased the other part of the World.
Being once at Bruges in Flanders, an arrogant Fellow had set up a Thesis, that he would answer any Question could be propounded unto him in what Art soever. Of whom, when Sir Thomas More heard, he laughed, and made this Question to be put up for him to answer; Whether Averia capta in Withernamia sunt irreplegibilia? Adding, That there was an Englishman that would dispute thereof with him. This bragging Thraso, not so much as understanding the Terms of our Common Law, knew not what to answer to it, and so became ridiculous to the whole City for his presumptuous bragging.
Many were the Books which he wrote; amongst whom his Utopia beareth the Bell; which though not written in Verse, yet in regard of the great Fancy and Invention thereof, may well pass for a Poem, it being the Idea of a compleat Commonwealth in an Imaginary Island (but pretended to be lately discovered in America) and that so lively counterfeited, that many at the reading thereof, mistook it for a real Truth: insomuch that many great Learned men, as Budeus, and Johannes Paludanus upon a fervent zeal, wished that some excellent Divines might be sent thither to preach Christ's Gospel: yea, there were here amongst us at home, sundry good Men, and learned Divines, very desirous to undertake the Voyage, to bring the People to the Faith of Christ, whose Manners they did so well like.
Mr. Owen, the Brittish Epigrammatist, on this Book of Utopia, writeth thus;
More's Utopia and Mercurius Britanicus.
More shew'd the best, the worst World's shew'd by the: Thou shew'st what is, and he shews what should be.
But at last he fell into the King's displeasure, touching the Divorce of Queen Katherine, and for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy; for which he was committed to the Tower, and afterwards beheaded on Tower-Hill, July 6, 1635, and buried at Chelsey under a plain Monument.
Those who desire to be further informed of this Learned Knight, let them read my Book of England's Worthies, where his Life is set forth more at large.
* * * * *
HENRY HOWARD Earl of Surrey.
This Honourable Earl was Son to Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, and Frances his Wife, the Daughter of John Vere Earl of Oxford. He was (saith Cambden) the first of our English Nobility that did illustrate his high Birth with the Beauty of Learning, and his Learning with the knowledge of divers Languages, which he attained unto by his Travels into foreign Nations; so that he deservedly had the particular Fame of Learning, Wit and Poetical Fancy.
Our famous Poet Drayton, in his England's Heroical Epistles, writing of this Noble Earl, thus says of him;
The Earl of Surrey, that renowned Lord, Th'old English Glory bravely that restor'd, That Prince and Poet (a Name more divine) Falling in Love with Beauteous Geraldine, Of the Geraldi, which derive their Name From Florence; whether to advance her Fame, He travels, and in publick Justs maintain'd Her Beauty peerless, which by Arms he gain'd.
In his way to Florence, he touch'd at the Emperor's Court; where he fell in acquaintance with the great Learned Cornelius Agrippa, so famous for Magick, who shewed him the Image of his Geraldine in a Glass, sick, weeping on her Bed, and resolved all into devout Religion for the absence of her Lord; upon sight of which, he made this Sonnet.
All Soul, no earthly Flesh, why dost thou fade? All Gold, no earthly Dross, why look'st thou pale? Sickness, how dar'st thou one so fair invade? Too base Infirmity to work her Bale. Heaven be distempered since she grieved pines, Never be dry these my sad plantive Lines.
Pearch thou my Spirit on her Silver Breasts, And with their pains redoubled Musick beatings, Let them toss thee to world where all toil rests, Where Bliss is subject to no Fear's defeatings; Her Praise I tune whose Tongue doth tune the Sphears, And gets new Muses in her Hearers Ears.
Stars fall to fetch fresh light from her rich eyes, Her bright Brow drives the Sun to Clouds beneath. Her Hairs reflex with red strakes paints the Skies, Sweet Morn and Evening dew flows from her breath: Phoebe rules Tides, she my Tears tides forth draws, In her sick-Bed Love sits, and maketh Laws.
Her dainty Limbs tinsel her Silk soft Sheets, Her Rose-crown'd Cheeks eclipse my dazled sight. O Glass! with too much joy my thoughts thou greets, And yet thou shew'st me day but by twilight. Ile kiss thee for the kindness I have felt, Her Lips one Kiss would unto Nectar melt.
From the Emperor's Court he went to the City of Florence, the Pride and Glory of Italy, in which City his Geraldine was born, never ceasing till he came to the House of her Nativity; and being shewn the Chamber her clear Sun-beams first thrust themselves in this cloud of Flesh, he was transported with an Extasie of Joy, his Mouth overflow'd with Magnificats, his Tongue thrust the Stars out of Heaven, and eclipsed the Sun and Moon with Comparisons of his Geraldine, and in praise of the Chamber that was so illuminatively honoured with her Radiant Conception, he penned this Sonnet:
Fair Room, the presence of sweet Beauties pride, This place the Sun upon the Earth did hold, When Phaeton his Chariot did misguide, The Tower where Jove rain'd down himself in Gold, Prostrate as holy ground Ile worship thee. Our Ladies Chappel henceforth be thou nam'd; Here first Loves Queen put on Mortality, And with her Beauty all the world inflam'd. Heaven's Chambers harbouring fiery Cherubins, Are not with thee in Glory to compare. Lightning, it is not Light which in thee mines, None enter thee but streight entranced are. O! if Elizium be above the ground, Then here it is, where nought but Joy is found.
That the City of Florence was the ancient Seat of her Family, he himself intimates in one of his Sonnets: thus;
From Tuscan came my Ladies worthy Race; Fair Florence was sometimes her ancient Seat, The Weltern Isle, whose pleasant Shoar doth face, Whilst Camber's Cliffs did give her lively heat.
In the Duke of Florence's Court he published a proud Challenge against all Comers, whether Christians, Turks, Canibals, Jews, or Saracens, in defence of his Geraldines Beauty. This Challenge was the more mildly accepted, in regard she whom he defended, was a Town-born Child of that City; or else the Pride of the Italian would have prevented him ere he should have come to perform it. The Duke of Florence nevertheless sent for him, and demanded him of his Estate, and the reason that drew him thereto; which when he was advertiz'd of to the full, he granteth all Countries whatsoever, as well Enemies and Outlaws, as Friends and Confederates, free access and regress into his Dominions immolested, until the Trial were ended.
This Challenge, as he manfully undertook, so he as valiantly performed; as Mr. Drayton describes it in his Letter to the Lady Geraldine.
The shiver'd Staves here for thy Beauty broke, With fierce encounters past at every shock, When stormy Courses answer'd Cuff for Cuff, Denting proud Beavers with the Counter-buff; Which when each manly valiant Arm essays, After so many brave triumphant days, The glorious Prize upon my Lance I bare, By Herald's Voyce proclaim'd to be thy share.
The Duke of Florence for his approved Valour, offered him large Proffers to stay with him; which he refused: intending, as he had done in Florence, to proceed through all the chief Cities in Italy; but this his Purpose was frustrated, by Letters sent to him from his Master King Henry the 8th. which commanded him to return as speedily as possibly he could into England.
Our famous English Antiquary John Leland, speaking much in the praise of Sir Thomas Wiat the Elder, as well for his Learning, as other excellent Qualities, meet for a man of his Calling; calls this Earl the conscript enrolled Heir of the said Sir Thomas Wiat: writing to him in these words;
Accipe Regnorum Comes illustrissime Carmen, Quo mea Musa tuum laudavit moesta Viallum.
And again, in another place,
Perge, Houerde, tuum virtute referre Viallum, Dicerisque tuae clarissima Gloria stirpis.
A certain Treatise called The Art of English Poetry, alledges, That Sir Thomas Wiat the Elder, and Henry Earl of Surrey were the two Chieftains, who having travelled into Italy, and there tasted the sweet and stately Measures and Style of the Italian Poesie, greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar Poesie from what it had been before; and may therefore justly be shewed to be the Reformers of our English Meeter and Style.