Preface to Greene's Menaphon/Text
TO THE GENTLEMEN STVDENTS OF BOTH VNIVERSITIES
CVrteous and wise, whose iudgements (not entangled with enuie) enlarge the deserts of the learned by your liberall censures; vouchsafe to welcome your Scholler-like Shepheard with such Vniuersity entertainment as either the nature of your bounty or the custome of your common ciuility may affoord. To you he appeales that knew him ab extrema pueritia, whose placet he accounts the plaudite of his paines; thinking his day-labour was not altogether lauisht sine linea, if there bee any thing at al in it that doth olere Atticum in your estimate. I am not ignorant how eloquent our gowned age is grown of late; so that euery mechanicall mate abhorreth the English he was borne too, and plucks, with a solemne periphrasis, his vt vales from the inke-horne: which I impute, not so much to the perfection of Arts, as to the seruile imitation of vaine glorious Tragedians, who contend not so seriously to excell in action, as to embowell the cloudes in a speech of comparison, thinking themselues more then initiated in Poets immortality, if they but once get Boreas by the beard and the heauenly Bull by the deaw-lap. But heerein I cannot so fully bequeath them to folly, as their ideot Art-masters, that intrude themselues to our eares as the Alcumists of eloquence, who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) thinke to out-braue better pennes with the swelling bumbast of bragging blanke verse. Indeede it may bee the ingrafted ouerflow of some kil-cow conceit, that ouercloyeth | their imagination with a more then drunken resolution, being not extemporall in the inuention of any other meanes to vent their manhoode, commits the disgestion of their cholericke incumbrances to the spacious volubilitie of a drumming decasillabon. Mongst this kind of men that repose eternitie in the mouth of a Player, I can but ingrosse some deep read Schoolemen or Grammarians, who, hauing no more learning in their skull then will serue to take vp a commoditie, nor Art in their braine then was nourished in a seruing mans idlenesse, will take vppon them to be the ironicall Censors of all, when God and Poetrie doth know they are the simplest of all. To leaue all these to the mercy of their Mother tongue, that feed on nought but the crums that fall frõ the Translators trencher, I come (sweet friend) to thy Arcadian Menaphon, whose attire (though not so stately, yet comely) doth intitle thee aboue all other to that temperatum dicendi genus which Tully in his Orator termeth true eloquence. Let other men (as they please) praise the Mountaine that in seauen yeares bringeth forth a Mouse, or the Italianate penne that, of a packet of pilfries, affords the presse a pamphlet or two in an age, and then in disguised array vaunts Ouids and Plutarchs plumes as theyr owne; but giue me the man whose extemporall veine in any humour will excell our greatest Art-maisters deliberate thoughts; whose inuentions, quicker then his eye, will challenge the prowdest Rhetoritian to the contention of like perfection with like expedition.
What is he among Students so simple, that cannot bring foorth (tandem aliquando) some or other thing singular, sleeping betwixt euery sentence? Was it not Maroes twelue yeeres toile that so famed his twelue Æneidos? Or Peter Ramus sixteene yeeres paines that so praised his petty Logicke? How is it, then, our drowping wits should so wonder at an exquisite line, that was his Masters day-labour? Indeede I must needes say, the descending yeares from the Philosophers Athens haue not been supplied with such present Orators, as were able in any English veine to be elo-|quent of their owne, but either they must borrow inuention of Ariosto & his countrimen, take vp choise of words by exchange in Tullies Tusculans & the Latine Historiographers storehouses; similitudes, nay, whole sheetes & tractates verbatim, from the plentie of Plutarch and Plinie; and, to conclude, their whole methode of writing from the libertie of comicall fictions that haue succeeded to our Rhetoritians by a second imitation: so that well may the Adage, Nil dictum quod non dictum prius, be the most iudiciall estimate of our latter Writers. But the hunger of our vnsatiate humorists, beeing such as it is, ready to swallow all draffe without difference, that insinuates it selfe to their sences vnder the name of delights, imploies oft-times many thredbare wits, to emptie their inuention of their apish deuices, and talke most superficially of Policie, as those that neuer ware gowne in the Vniuersitie; wherein they reuiue the old said Adage, Sus Mineruam, and cause the wiser to quippe them with Asinus ad lyram. Would Gentlemen and riper iudgements admit my motion of moderation in a matter of folly, I would perswade them to physicke their faculties of seeing and hearing, as the Sabæans doe their dulled sences with smelling; who (as Strabo reporteth), ouercloyd with such odoriferous sauours as the naturall increase of their country (Balsamum, Amomum, with Myrrhe and Frankencense) sends forth, refresh their nosthrilles with the vnsauourie sent of the pitchy slime that Euphrates casts vp, & the cõtagious fumes of Goats beards burned: so would I haue them, beeing surfeited vnawares with the sweet saciety of eloquence, which the lauish of our copious language may procure, to vse the remedie of contraries; and recreate their rebated wits, not, as they did, with the senting of slime or Goates beards burned, but with the ouerseeing of that sublime dicendi genus, which walkes abroade for wast paper in each seruing-mans pocket, and the otherwhile perusing of our Gothamists barbarisme; so should the opposite comparison of Puritie expell the infection of Absurditie, and their ouer-racked Rhetoricke be the Ironicall recreation of the Reader. |
But so farre discrepant is the idle vsage of our vnexperienced and illiterated Punies from this prescription, that a tale of Ioane of Brainfords will, and the vnlucky frumenty, will be as soone entertained into their Libraries as the best Poëme that euer Tasso eternisht: which, being the effect of an vndiscerning iudgment, makes drosse as valuable as gold, and losse as wel-come as gaine, the Glow-worme mentioned in Æsops Fables, namely the Apes folly, to to be mistaken for fire; when as, God wot, poore soules, they haue nought but their toyle for their heate, their paines for their sweate, and (to bring it to our English Prouerbe) their labour for their trauell. Wherein I can but resemble them to the Panther, who is so greedy of mens excrements that if they bee hanged vp in a vessell higher then his reach, he sooner killes himselfe with the ouer-stretching of his windlesse body then he will cease from his intended enterprise. Oft haue I obserued what I now set downe: a secular wit that hath liued all dayes of his life by What doe you lacke? to be more iudiciall in matters of conceit then our quadrant crepundios, that spit ergo in the mouth of euery one they meete: yet those and these are so affectionate to dogged detracting, as the most poysonous Pasquil any durty mouthed Martin or Momus euer composed is gathered vp with greedinesse before it fall to the ground, and bought at the dearest, though they smell of the friplers lauender halfe a yeere after: for I know not how the minde of the meanest is fedde with this folly, that they impute singularity to him that slaunders priuily, and count it a great peece of Art in an inkhorne man, in any tapsterly termes whatsoeuer, to expose his superiours to enuy. I will not deny but in scholler-like matters of controuersie a quicker stile may passe as commendable, and that a quip to an Asse is as good as a goad to an Oxe: but when the irregular Ideot, that was vp to the eares in diuinity before euer he met with probabile in the Vniuersitie, shall leaue pro & contra before hee can scarcely pronounce it, and come to correct common-weales, that neuer heard of the name of Magistrate before hee came to | Cambridge, it is no maruaile if euery Alehouse vaunt the table of the world turned vpside downe, since the child beateth his father, and the Asse whippeth his Master. But lest I might seeme, with these night-crowes, Nimis curiosus in aliena republica, I will turne backe to my first text of Studies of delight, and talke a little in friendship with a few of our triuiall translators. It is a common practise now a dayes amongst a sort of shifting companions, that runne through euery Art and thriue by none, to leaue the trade of Nouerint, whereto they were borne, and busie themselues with the indeuours of Art, that could scarcely Latinize their neck verse if they should haue neede; yet English Seneca read by Candlelight yeelds many good sentences, as Blood is a begger, and so forth; and if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning, hee will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls of Tragicall speeches. But O griefe! Tempus edax rerum, whats that will last alwayes? The Sea exhaled by droppes will in continuance bee drie, and Seneca, let blood line by line and page by page, at length must needes die to our Stage; which makes his famished followers to imitate the Kid in Æsop, who, enamoured with the Foxes newfangles, forsooke all hopes of life to leape into a newe occupation; and these men, renouncing all possibilities of credite or estimation, to intermeddle with Italian Translations: Wherein how poorely they haue plodded, (as those that are neither prouenzall men, nor are able to distinguish of Articles,) let all indifferent Gentlemen that haue trauelled in that tongue discerne by their two-pennie Pamphlets. And no maruell though their home borne mediocritie bee such in this matter; for what can bee hoped of those that thrust Elisium into hell, and haue not learned, so long as they haue liued in the Spheres, the iust measure of the Horizon without an hexameter? Sufficeth them to bodge vp a blanke verse with ifs and ands, and otherwhile for recreation after their Candle-stuffe, hauing starched their beards most curiously, to make a Peripateticall path into the inner parts of the Citie, and spend two or three howers in turning ouer | French Dowdie, where they attract more infection in one minute, then they can do eloquence all daies of their life, by conuersing with any Authors of like argument. But lest in this declamatorie veine, I should condemne all and commend none, I will propound to your learned imitation those men of import that haue laboured with credite in this laudable kind of Translation; In the forefront of whom I cannot but place that aged father Erasmus, that inuested most of our Greeke writers in the robes of the ancient Romanes; in whose traces Philip Melancthon, Sadolet, Plantine, and many other reuerent Germaines insisting, haue reedified the ruines of our decayed Libraries, and maruellously enriched the Latine tongue with the expence of their toyle. Not long after, their emulation being transported into England, euerie priuate scholer, William Turner, and who not, beganne to vant their smattering of Latine in English impressions. But amongst others in that age, sir Thomas Eliots elegance did seuer it selfe from all equals, although sir Thomas Moore with his comical wit at that instant was not altogether idle: yet was not knowledge fully confirmed in her Monarchy amongest vs, till that most famous and fortunate Nurse of all learning, Saint Iohns in Cambridge, that at that time was as an Vniuersity within it selfe, shining so farre aboue all other houses, Halles, and hospitals whatsoeuer, that no Colledge in the Towne was able to compare with the tithe of her Students; hauing (as I haue heard graue men of credite report) moe Candles light in it, euery Winter morning before foure of the clocke, then the foure of the clocke bell gaue strokes; till she (I say) as a pittying mother, put to her helping hand, and sent, from her fruitfull wombe, sufficient Scholers, both to support her owne weale, as also to supply all other inferiour foundations defects, and namely, that royall erection of Trinity Colledge, which the Vniuersity Orator, in an Epistle to the Duke of Somerset, aptly termed Colonia deducta from the suburbs of Saint Iohns. In which extraordinary conception, vno partu in rempublicam prodiere, the Exchequer of eloquence, sir Iohn Cheeke, a man of men, superna-|turally traded in all tongs, sir Iohn Mason, Doctor Watson, Redman, Ascam, Grindall, Leuer, Pilkinton: all which haue, either by their priuate readings or publique workes repurged the errors of Arte, expelled from their puritie, and set before our eyes a more perfect methode of studie.
But how ill their precepts haue prospered with our idle age, that leaue the fountaines of Sciences, to follow the riuers of Knowledge, their ouer-fraught studies with trifling compendiaries may testifie: for I know not how it commeth to passe, by the doting practise of our Diuinitie Dunces, that striue to make their pupills pulpit-men before they are reconciled to Priscian; but those yeares which should bee imployed in Aristotle are expired in Epitomies, and well too, they may haue so much Catechisme vacation, to rake vp a little refuse philosophy.
And heere I could enter into a large fielde of inuectiue against our abiect abbreuiations of Arts, were it not growne to a new fashion among our Nation, to vaunt the pride of contraction in euery manuarie action: insomuch that the Pater noster, which was wont to fill a sheete of Paper, is written in the compasse of a pennie: whereupon one merily affirmed that prouerbe to be deriued, No penny, no pater noster. Which their nice curtailing putteth mee in minde of the custome of the Scythians, who if they had beene at any time distressed with famine, tooke in their girdles shorter, and swaddled themselues straighter, to the intẽt, no vacuum being left in their intrailes, hunger should not so much tyrannize ouer their stomacks: euen so these men, oppressed with a greater penurie of Art, doe pound their capacitie in barren compendiums, and bound their base humours in the beggarlie straites of a hungry Analysis, lest, longing after that infinitum which the pouertie of their conceit cannot compasse, they sooner yeelde vp their youth to destinie, then their heart to vnderstanding.
How is it then such bungling practitioners in principles should euer profit the Common-wealth by their negligent paines, who haue no more cunning in Logicke or dialogue | Latine then appertaines to the literall construction of either? neuerthelesse, it is daily apparant to our domestical eyes that there is none so forward to publish their imperfectiõs, either in the trade of glose or translations, as those that are more vnlearned then ignorance, and lesse conceiuing than infants. Yet dare I not impute absurditie to all of that societie, although some of them haue set their names to their simplicity. Who euer my priuate opinion condemneth as faultie, Maister Gascoigne is not to bee abridged of his deserued esteeme, who first beate the path to that perfection which our best Poets haue aspired to since his departure; whereto hee did ascend by comparing the Italian with the English, as Tully did Græca cum Latinis. Neither was M. Turberuile the worst of his time, though in translating hee attributed too much to the necessitie of rime. And in this page of praise I cannot omit aged Arthur Golding, for his industrious toyle in Englishing Ouids Metamorphosis, besides many other exquisite editions of diuinitie, turned by him out of the French tongue into our owne. M. Phaer likewise is not to be forgot, in regard of his famous Virgill, whose heauenly verse had it not beene blemished by his hautie thoughts, England might haue long insulted in his wit, and corrigat qui potest haue been subscribed to his works. But Fortune, the Mistrisse of change, with a pittying compassion respecting Maister Stanihursts praise, would that Phaer should fall that hee might rise, whose heroicall poetry, infired, I should say inspired, with an hexameter furie, recalled to life what euer hissed Barbarisme hath been buried this C. yeere; and reuiued by his ragged quill such carterly varietie as no hodge plowman in a country but would haue held as the extremitie of clownerie: a patterne whereof I will propound to your iudgements, as neere as I can, beeing part of one of his descriptions of a tempest, which is thus,
Then did he make heauens vault to rebound,
with rounce robble hobble
Of ruffe raffe roaring,
with thwicke thwacke thurlerie bouncing. |
Which strange language of the firmament, neuer subiect before to our common phrase, makes vs that are not vsed to terminate heauens mouing in the accents of any voice, esteeme of their triobulare interpreter as of some Thrasonicall huffe snuffe, for so terrible was his stile to all milde eares, as would haue affrighted our peaceable Poets from inter-medling hereafter with that quarrelling kind of verse, had not sweet Maister France, by his excellent translation of Maister Thomas Watsons sugred Amintas, animated their dulled spirits to such high witted indeuours. But I know not how, their ouer-timerous cowardise hath stoode in awe of enuie, that no man since him durst imitate any of the woorst of those Romane wonders in English; which makes me thinke that either the louers of mediocritie are very many, or that the number of good Poets are very small; and in truth, (Maister Watson except, whom I mentioned before,) I know not almost any of late dayes that hath shewed himselfe singuler in any speciall Latine Poeme ; whose Amintas, and translated Antigone, may march in equippage of honour with any of our ancient Poets. I will not say but we had a Haddon, whose penne would haue challenged the Lawrell from Homer, together with Car, that came as neere him as Virgill to Theocritus. But Thomas Newton with his Leiland, and Gabriell Haruey, with two or three other, is almost all the store that is left vs at this houre. Epitaphers and position Poets wee haue more then a good many, that swarme like Crowes to a dead carcasse, but flie, like Swallowes in the Winter, from any continuate subiect of wit.
The efficient whereof I imagine to issue from the vpstart discipline of our reformatorie Churchmen, who account wit vanitie, and poetry impiety: whose errour although the necessitie of philosophie might confute, which lies couched most closely vnder darke fables profunditie, yet I had rather referre it as a disputatiue plea to diuines, then set it downe as a determinate position in my vnexperienced opinion. But how euer their dissentious iudgements should decree in their after noone sessions of an sit, the priuate truth of my discoue-|red Creede in this controuersie is this, that as that beast was thought scarce worthy to be sacrificed to the Egyptian Epaphus, who had not some or other blacke spot on his skin: so I deeme him farre vnworthy the name of a scholer, and so, consequently, to sacrifice his endeuours to Art, that is not a Poet, either in whole or in part.
And heere, peraduenture, some desperate quipper will canuaze my proposed comparison Plus vltra, reconciling the allusion of the blacke spot to the blacke pot, which maketh our Poets vndermeale Muses so mutinous, as euery stanzo they pen after dinner is full pointed with a stabbe. Which their dagger drunkennesse, although it might be excused with tam Marti, quàm Mercurio, yet will I couer it as well as I may with that prouerbiall fœcundicalices, that might well haue beene doore-keeper to the kanne of Silenus, when, nodding on his Asse trapped with Iuie, he made his moist nose-cloth the pausing intermedium twixt euery nappe. Let frugall scholers and fine fingered nouices take their drinke by the ounce and their wine by the halfe penny worths, but it is for a Poet to examine the pottle pots, and gage the bottome of whole gallons; qui bene vult poiein , debet ante pinein . A pot of blew burning ale, with a fiery flaming toste, is as good as Pallas with the nine Muses on Pernassus top: without the which, in vaine they may crie, O thou my Muse, inspire me with some penne, when they want certaine liquid sacrifice to rouze her forth her denne.
Pardon mee (Gentlemen) though somewhat merrily I glance at their immoderate folly, who affirme that no man writes with conceit, except he take counsell of the cup: nor would I haue you thinke that, Theonino dente, I arme my stile against all, since I doe know the moderation of many Gentlemen of that studie to be so farre from infamie as their verse from equality: whose sufficiency, were it as well seene into by those of higher place as it wanders abroad vnrewarded in the mouthes of vngratefull monsters, no doubt but the remembrance of Mæcenas liberality extended to Maro, and men of like quality, would haue left no memory to that | prouerbe of Pouerty, Si nihil attuleris, ibis Homere foras. Tush, say our English Italians, the finest wits our climate sends forth are but drie brained dolts in comparison of other countries: whom if you interrupt with redde rationem, they will tell you of Petrarch, Tasso, Celiano, with an infinite number of others; to whom if I should oppose Chaucer, Lydgate, Gower, with such like, that liued vnder the tyranny of ignorance, I do thinke their best louers would be much discontented with the collation of contraries, if I should write ouer all their heads, Haile, fellow, well met. One thing I am sure of, that each of these three haue vaunted their meeters with as much admiration in English as euer the proudest Ariosto did his verse in Italian.
What should I come to our Court, where the otherwhile vacations of our grauer Nobility are prodigall of more pompous wit and choice of words then euer tragicke Tasso could attaine to? But as for pastorall poems , I will not make the comparison, lest our countrimens credite should be discountenanced by the contention ; who although they cannot fare with such inferiour facility, yet I know would carry the bucklers full easily from all forraine brauers, if their subiectum circa quod should sauour of any thing hautie. And should the challenge of deepe conceit be intruded by any forrainer, to bring our English wits to the touchstone of Art, I would preferre diuine Master Spencer, the miracle of wit, to bandie line by line for my life, in the honour of England, against Spaine, Fraunce, Italy, and all the world. Neither is he the onely swallow of our Summer, (although Apollo, if his Tripos were vp againe, would pronounce him his Socrates,) but he being forborne, there are extant about London many most able men to reuiue Poetry, though it were executed tenne thousand times, as in Platoes, so in Puritans Common-wealth; as, namely, for example, Mathew Roydon, Thomas Achlow , and George Peele; the first of whom, as he hath shewed himselfe singular in the immortall Epitaph of his beloued Astrophell, besides many other most absolute Comike inuentions (made more publike by euery mans | praise, then they can be by my speech), so the second hath more then once or twice manifested his deepe witted scholarship in places of credite: and for the last, though not the least of them all, I dare commend him vnto all that know him, as the chiefe supporter of pleasance now liuing, the Atlas of Poetrie, and primus verborum Artifex: whose first increase, the arraignement of Paris, might pleade to your opinions his pregnant dexterity of wit, and manifold varietie of inuention; wherein (me iudice) he goeth a steppe beyond all that write. Sundry other sweete Gentlemen I doe know, that haue vaunted their pennes in priuate deuices, and tricked vp a company of taffaty fooles with their feathers, whose beauty if our Poets had not peecte with the supply of their periwigs, they might haue antickt it vntill this time vp and downe the Countrey with the King of Fairies, and dined euery day at the pease porredge ordinary with Delfrigus.
But Tolossa hath forgotten that it was sometime sacked, and beggars that euer they carried their fardels on foot-back: and in truth no maruaile , when as the deserued reputation of one Roscius is of force to enrich a rabble of counterfeits. Yet let subiects for all their insolence dedicate a De profundis euery morning to the preseruation of their Cæsar, lest their increasing indignities returne them ere long to their iugling to mediocrity, and they bewaile in weeping blankes the wane of their Monarchie.
As Poetrie hath beene honoured in those her forenamed professours, so it hath not beene any whit disparaged by William Warners absolute Albions. And heere Authoritie hath made a full point: in whose reuerence insisting I cease to expose to your sport the picture of those Pamphleters and Poets, that make a patrimonie of In speech, and more then a younger brothers inheritance of their Abcie. Reade fauourably, to incourage me in the firstlings of my folly, and perswade your selues, I will persecute those idiots and their heires vnto the third generation, that haue made Art bankerout of her ornaments, and sent Poetry a begging vp and | downe the Countrey. It may be, my Anatomie of Absurdities may acquaint you ere long with my skill in surgery, wherein the diseases of Art more merrily discouered may make our maimed Poets put together their blankes vnto the building of an Hospitall.
If you chance to meete it in Paules, shaped in a new suite of similitudes, as if, like the eloquent apprentice of Plutarch, it were propped at seuen years end in double apparell, thinke his master hath fulfilled couenants, and onely cancelled the Indentures of dutie. If I please, I will thinke my ignorance indebted vnto you that applaud it: if not, what rests, but that I be excluded from your curtesie, like Apocrypha from your Bibles?
How euer, yours euer,