The Defence of Poesie

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The Defence of Poesie (1595)
by Philip Sidney
7826The Defence of Poesie1595Philip Sidney (1554-1586)




By Sir Phillip Sidney,

Title page decoration from 'The Defence of Poesie' by Sir Philip Sidney published in 1595


Printed for William Ponsonby.


Fleuron from 'The Defence of Poesie' by Sir Philip Sidney published in 1595
Fleuron from 'The Defence of Poesie' by Sir Philip Sidney published in 1595

The defence of Poesie, by

Sir Philip Sidney Knight.

When the right vertuous E.W. and I, were at the Emperours Court togither, wee gaue our selues to learne horsemanship of Ion Pietro Pugliano, one that with great commendation had the place of an Esquire in his stable: and hee according to the fertilnes of the Italian wit, did not onely affoord vs the demonstration of his practise, but sought to enrich our mindes with the contemplations therein, which he thought most precious. But with none I remember mine eares were at any time more loaden, then when (either angred with slow paiment, or mooued with our learner like admiration) hee exercised his speech in the praise of his facultie. He said souldiers were the noblest estate of mankind, and horsemen the noblest of souldiers. He said they were the maisters of warre, and ornaments of peace, speedie goers, and strong abiders, triumphers both in Camps and Courts: nay to so vnbleeued a point he proceeded, as that no earthly thing bred such wonder to a Prince, as to be a good horseman. Skill of gouernment was but a Pedanteria, in comparison, then would he adde certaine praises by telling what a peerlesse beast the horse was, the onely seruiceable Courtier without flattery, the beast of most bewtie, faithfulnesse, courage, and such more, that if I had not bene a peece of a Logician before I came to him, I thinke he would haue perswaded me to haue wished my selfe a horse. But thus much at least, with his no few words he draue into me, that selfeloue is better then any guilding, to make that seem gorgious wherin our selues be parties. Wherin if Pulianos strong affection and weake arguments will not satisfie you, I wil giue you a nearer example of my selfe, who I know not by what mischance in these my not old yeares and idlest times, hauing slipt into the title of a Poet, am prouoked to say somthing vnto you in the defence of that my vnelected vocation, which if I handle with more good will, then good reasons beare with me, since the scholler is to be pardoned that followeth the steps of his maister. And yet I must say, that as I haue more iust cause to make a pittifull defence of poore Poetrie, which from almost the highest estimation of learning, is falne to be the laughing stocke of children, so haue I need to bring some more auaileable proofes, since the former is by no man bard of his deserued credit, the silly later, hath had euen the names of Philosophers vsed to the defacing of it, with great daunger of ciuill warre among the Muses. And first truly to all them that professing learning enuey against Poetrie, may iustly be obiected, that they go very neare to vngratefulnesse, to seeke to deface that which in the noblest nations and languages that are knowne, hath bene the first light giuer to ignorance, and first nurse whose milke litle & litle enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges. And will you play the Hedge-hogge, that being receiued into the den, draue out his host? Or rather the Vipers, that with their birth kill their parents? Let learned Greece in any of his manifold Sciences, be able to shew me one booke before Musæus, Homer, & Hesiod, all three nothing else but Poets. Nay let any Historie bee brought, that can say any writers were there before them, if they were not men of the same skill, as Orpheus, Linus, and some other are named, who hauing bene the first of that country that made pennes deliuerers of their knowledge to the posteritie, nay iustly challenge to bee called their Fathers in learning. For not onely in time they had this prioritie, (although in it selfe antiquitie be venerable) but went before them, as causes to draw with their charming sweetnesse the wild vntamed wits to an admiration of knowledge. So as Amphion, was said to mooue stones with his Poetry, to build Thebes, and Orpheus to be listned to by beasts, indeed stonie and beastly people. So among the Romans, were Liuius, Andronicus, and Ennius, so in the Italian language, the first that made it aspire to be a treasure-house of Science, were the Poets Dante, Bocace, and Petrach. So in our English, wer Gower, and Chawcer, after whom, encoraged & delighted with their excellent foregoing, others haue folowed to bewtify our mother toong, aswel in the same kind as other arts. This did so notably shew it self, yͭ the Philosophers of Greece durst not a lōg time apear to yeworld, but vnder yemask of poets. So Thales, Empedocles, and Parmenides, sang their naturall Philosophie in verses. So did Pithagoras and Phocillides, their morall Councels. So did Tirteus in warre matters, and Solon in matters of pollicie, or rather they being Poets, did exercise their delightfull vaine in those points of highest knowledge, which before them laie hidden to the world. For, that wise Solon was directly a Poet, it is manifest, hauing written in verse the notable Fable of the Atlantick Iland, which was continued by Plato. And truly euen Plato who so euer well considereth, shall finde that in the body of his worke though the inside & strength were Philosophie, the skin as it were and beautie, depended most of Poetrie. For all stands vpon Dialogues, wherein hee faines many honest Burgesses of Athens speak of such matters, that if they had bene set on the Racke, they would neuer haue confessed them: besides his Poeticall describing the circumstances of their meetings, as the well ordering of a banquet, the delicacie of a walke, with enterlacing meere Tales, as Gyges Ring and others, which, who knowes not to bee flowers of Poetrie, did neuer walke into Appollos Garden. And euen Historiographers, although their lippes sound of things done, and veritie be written in their foreheads, haue bene glad to borrow both fashion and perchance weight of the Poets. So Herodotus entituled his Historie, by the name of the nine Muses, and both he and all the rest that followed him, either stale, or vsurped of Poetrie, their passionate describing of passions, the many particularities of battels which no man could affirme, or if that be denied me, long Orations put in the mouthes of great Kings and Captains, which it is certaine they neuer pronounced. So that truly neither Philosopher, nor Historiographer, could at the first haue entered into the gates of populer iudgements, if they had not taken a great pasport of Poetrie, which in all nations at this day where learning flourisheth not, is plaine to be seene: in all which, they haue some feeling of Poetry. In Turkey, besides their law giuing Diuines, they haue no other writers but Poets. In our neighbour Countrey Ireland, where truly learning goes verie bare, yet are their Poets held in a deuout reuerence. Euen among the most barbarous and simple Indians, where no writing is, yet haue they their Poets who make & sing songs which they call Arentos, both of their Auncestors deeds, and praises of their Gods. A sufficient probability, that if euer learning come among them, it must be by hauing their hard dull wittes softened and sharpened with the sweete delights of Poetrie, for vntill they finde a pleasure in the exercise of the minde, great promises of much knowledge, wil little persuade them that know not the frutes of knowledge. In Wales, the true remnant of the auncient Brittons, as there are good authorities to shew, the long time they had Poets which they called Bardes: so thorow all the cōquests of Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans', some of whom, did seeke to ruine all memory of learning from among them, yet do their Poets euen to this day last: so as it is not more notable in the soone beginning, then in long continuing. But since the Authors of most of our Sciences, were the Romanes, and before them the Greekes, let vs a litle stand vpon their authorities, but euen so farre as to see what names they haue giuē vnto this now scorned skill. Among the Romanes a Poet was called Vates, which is as much as a diuiner, foreseer, or Prophet, as by his conioyned words Vaticinium, and Vaticinari, is manifest, so heauenly a title did that excellent people bestowe vppon this hart-rauishing knowledge, and so farre were they carried into the admiration thereof, that they though in the chanceable hitting vppon any of such verses, great foretokens of their following fortunes, were placed. Whereupon grew the word of Sortes Vergilianæ, when by suddaine opening Virgils booke, they lighted vppon some verse of his, as it is reported by many, whereof the Histories of the Emperours liues are full. As of Albinus the Gouernour of our Iland, who in his childhood met with this verse Arma amens capio, nec sat rationis in armis: and in his age performed it, although it were a verie vaine and godlesse superstition, as also it was, to thinke spirits were commaunded by such verses, whereupon this word Charmes deriued of Carmina, commeth: so yet serueth it to shew the great reuerence those wittes were held in, and altogither not without ground, since both by the Oracles of Delphos and Sybillas prophesies, were wholly deliuered in verses, for that same exquisite obseruing of number and measure in the words, and that high flying libertie of conceit propper to the Poet, did seeme to haue some diuine force in it. And may not I presume a little farther, to shewe the reasonablenesse of this word Vatis, and say that the holy Dauids Psalms are a diuine Poeme? If I do, I shal not do it without the testimony of great learned mē both auncient and moderne. But euen the name of Psalmes wil speak for me, which being interpreted, is nothing but Songs: then that it is fully written in meeter as all learned Hebritians agree, although the rules be not yet fully found. Lastly and principally, his handling his prophecie, which is meerly Poeticall. For what else is the awaking his musical Instruments, the often and free chaunging of persons, his notable Prosopopeias, whē he maketh you as it were see God comming in his maiestie, his telling of the beasts ioyfulnesse, and hils leaping, but a heauenly poesie, wherin almost he sheweth himselfe a passionate louer of that vnspeakable and euerlasting bewtie, to be seene by the eyes of the mind, onely cleared by faith? But truly now hauing named him, I feare I seeme to prophane that holy name, applying it to Poetry, which is among vs throwne downe to so ridiculous an estimation. But they that with quiet iudgements wil looke a litle deeper into it, shal find the end & working of it such, as being rightly applied, deserueth not to be scourged out of the Church of God. But now let vs see how the Greekes haue named it, and how they deemed of it. The Greekes named him ποιητὴν, which name, hath as the most excellent, gone through other languages, it commeth of this word ποιεὶν which is to make: wherin I know not whether by luck or wisedome, we Englishmen haue met with the Greekes in calling him a Maker. Which name, how high and incomparable a title it is, I had rather were knowne by marking the scope of other sciences, thē by any partial allegatiō. There is no Art deliuered vnto mankind that hath not the workes of nature for his principall obiect, without which they could not consist, and on which they so depend, as they become Actors & Plaiers, as it were of what nature will haue set forth. So doth the Astronomer looke vpon the starres, and by that he seeth set downe what order nature hath taken therein. So doth the Geometritian & Arithmititian, in their diuers sorts of quantities. So doth the Musitians in times tel you, which by nature agree, which not. The natural Philosopher thereon hath his name, and the (morall Philosopher standeth vppon the naturall vertues, vices, or passions of man: and follow nature saith he therein, and thou shalt not erre. The Lawier saith, what men haue determined. The Historian, what men haue done. The Gramarian, speaketh onely of the rules of speech, and the Rhetoritian and Logitian, considering what in nature wil soonest prooue, and perswade thereon, giue artificiall rules, which still are compassed within the circle of a question, according to the proposed matter. The Phisitian wayeth the nature of mans bodie, & the nature of things helpfull, or hurtfull vnto it. And the Metaphisicke though it be in the second & abstract Notions, and therefore be counted supernaturall, yet doth hee indeed build vpon the depth of nature. Only the Poet disdeining to be tied to any such subiectiō, lifted vp with the vigor of his own inuention, doth grow in effect into an other nature: in making things either better then nature bringeth foorth, or quite a new, formes such as neuer were in nature: as the Heroes, Demigods, Cyclops, Chymeras, Furies, and such like; so as he goeth hand in hand with nature, not enclosed within the narrow warrant of her gifts, but freely raunging within the Zodiack of his owne wit. Nature neuer set foorth the earth in so rich Tapistry as diuerse Poets haue done, neither with so pleasaunt riuers, fruitfull trees, sweete smelling flowers, nor whatsoeuer els may make the too much loued earth more lonely: her world is brasen, the Poets only deliuer a golden. But let those things alone and goe to man, for whom as the other things are, so it seemeth in him her vttermost comming is imploied: & know whether she haue brought foorth so true a louer as Theagenes, so constant a friend as Pylades, so valiant a man as Orlando, so right a Prince as Xenophons Cyrus, so excellent a man euery way as Virgils Aeneas. Neither let this be iestingly cōceiued, bicause the works of the one be essenciall, the other in imitation or fiction: for euerie vnderstanding, knoweth the skill of ech Artificer standeth in that Idea, or fore conceit of the worke, and not in the worke it selfe. And that the Poet hath that Idea, is manifest, by deliuering them foorth in such excellencie as he had imagined them: which deliuering foorth, also is not wholly imaginatiue, as we are wont to say by thē that build Castles in the aire: but so farre substancially it worketh, not onely to make a Cyrus, which had bene but a particular excellency as nature might haue done, but to bestow a Cyrus vpon the world to make many Cyrusses, if they will learne aright, why and how that maker made him. Neither let it be deemed too sawcy a comparison, to ballance the highest point of mans wit, with the efficacie of nature: but rather giue right honor to the heauenly maker of that maker, who hauing made man to his owne likenes, set him beyond and ouer all the workes of that second nature, which in nothing he sheweth so much as in Poetry; when with the force of a diuine breath, he bringeth things foorth surpassing her doings: with no small arguments to the incredulous of that first accursed fall of Adam, since our erected wit maketh vs know what perfectiō is, and yet our infected wil keepeth vs frō reaching vnto it. But these argumēts will by few be vnderstood, and by fewer graunted: thus much I hope wil be giuen me, that the Greeks with some probability of reason, gaue him the name aboue all names of learning. Now let vs goe to a more ordinarie opening of him, that the truth may be the more palpable: and so I hope though we get not so vnmatched a praise as the Etimologie of his names will graunt, yet his verie description which no man will denie, shall not iustly be barred from a principall commendation. Poesie therefore, is an Art of Imitation: for so Aristotle termeth it in the word μίμηοις, that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth to speake Metaphorically. A speaking Picture, with this end to teach and delight. Of this haue bene three generall kindes, the chiefe both in antiquitie and excellencie, were they that did imitate the vncōceiueable excellencies of God. Such were Dauid in his Psalmes, Salomon in his song of songs, in his Ecclesiastes and Prouerbes. Moses and Debora, in their Hymnes, and the wryter of Iobe: Which beside other, the learned Emanuell, Tremelius, and F. Iunius, doo entitle the Poeticall part of the scripture: against these none will speake that hath the holie Ghost in due holie reuerence. In this kinde, though in a full wrong diuinitie, were Orpheus, Amphion, Homer in his himnes, and manie other both Greeke and Romanes. And this Poesie must be vsed by whosoeuer will follow S. Paules counsaile, in singing Psalmes when they are mery, and I knowe is vsed with the frute of comfort by some, when in sorrowfull panges of their death bringing sinnes, they finde the consolation of the neuer leauing goodnes. The second kinde, is of them that deale with matters Philosophicall, either morall as Tirteus, Phocilides, Cato; or naturall, as Lucretius, and Virgils Georgikes; or Astronomicall as Manilius and Pontanus; or Historicall as Lucan: which who mislike the fault, is in their iudgement quite out of tast, & not in the sweet food of sweetly vttered knowledge. But bicause this second sort is wrapped within the folde of the proposed subiect, and takes not the free course of his own inuentiō, whether they properly bee Poets or no, let Gramarians dispute; and goe to the third indeed right Poets, of whom chiefly this question ariseth: betwixt whom and these second, is such a kinde of difference, as betwixt the meaner sort of Painters, who counterfeyt onely such faces as are set before them, and the more excelent, who hauing no law but wit, bestow that in colours vpon you, which is fittest for the eye to see, as the constant, though lamenting looke of Lucretia, when shee punished in her selfe anothers faulte: wherein hee painteth not Lucretia whom he neuer saw, but painteth the outward bewty of such a vertue. For these third be they which most properly do imitate to teach & delight: and to imitate, borrow nothing of what is, hath bin, or shall be, but range onely reined with learned discretion, into the diuine consideration of what may be and should be. These be they that as the first and most noble sort, may iustly be termed Vates: so these are waited on in the excellentest languages and best vnderstādings, with the fore described name of Poets. For these indeed do meerly make to imitate, and imitate both to delight & teach, and delight to moue men to take that goodnesse in hand, which without delight they would flie as from a stranger; and teach to make them know that goodnesse wherunto they are moued: which being the noblest scope to which euer any learning was directed, yet want there not idle tongues to barke at them. These be subdiuided into sundry more speciall denominations. The most notable be the Heroick, Lyrick, Tragick, Comick, Satyrick, Iambick, Elegiack, Pastorall, and certaine others: some of these being tearmed according to the matter they deale with, some by the sort of verse they liked best to write in, for indeed the greatest part of Poets, haue apparelled their poeticall inuentions, in that numbrous kind of writing which is called vers. Indeed but apparelled verse: being but an ornament and no cause to Poetrie, since there haue bene many most excellent Poets that neuer versefied, and now swarme many versefiers that need neuer answere to the name of Poets. For Xenophon who did imitate so excellently as to giue vs effigiem iusti imperii, the pourtraiture of a iust Empyre vnder the name of Cyrus, as Cicero saith of him, made therein an absolute heroicall Poeme. So did Heliodorus, in his sugred inuention of that picture of loue in Theagenes & Chariclea, and yet both these wrote in prose, which I speake to shew, that it is not ryming and versing that maketh a Poet, (no more then a long gown maketh an Aduocate, who though he pleaded in Armour, should be an Aduocat and no souldier) but it is that faining notable images of vertues, vices, or what els, with that delightfull teaching, which must be the right describing note to know a Poet by. Although indeed the Senate of Poets hath chosen verse as their fittest raiment: meaning as in matter, they passed all in all, so in maner, to go beyond them: not speaking table talke fashion, or like men in a dreame, words as they chanceably fall from the mouth, but peasing each sillable of eache word by iust proportion, according to the dignitie of the subiect. Now therfore it shal not be amisse, first to way this latter sort of poetrie by his workes, and then by his parts, and if in neither of these Anatomies hee be condemnable, I hope we shall obteine a more fauourable sentence. This purifying of wit, this enriching of memorie, enabling of iudgement, and enlarging of conceit, which commōly we cal learning, vnder what name so euer it come forth, or to what immediate end soeuer it be directed, the finall end is, to lead and draw vs to as high a perfection, as our degenerate soules made worse by their clay-lodgings, can be capable of. This according to the inclination of man, bred many formed impressions. For some that thought this felicity principally to be gotten by knowledge, and no knowledge to be so high or heauenly, as acquaintance with the stars; gaue thēselues to Astronomie: others perswading thēselues to be Demygods, if they knew the causes of things, became naturall and supernaturall Philosophers. Some an admirable delight drew to Musicke; and some the certaintie of demonstration to the Mathematicks: but all one and other hauing this scope to know, & by knowledge to lift vp the minde from the dungeon of the bodie, to the enioying his owne diuine essence. But when by the ballance of experience it was found, that the Astronomer looking to the stars might fall in a ditch, that the inquiring Philosopher might be blind in him self, & the Mathematician, might draw forth a straight line with a crooked hart. Then lo did proofe, the ouerruler of opinions make manifest, that all these are but seruing sciences; which as they haue a priuate end in themselues, so yet are they all directed to the highest end of the mistresse knowledge by ye Greeks ἀρχιτεκτονικὴ, which stands as I thinke, in the knowledge of a mans selfe, in the Ethike and Politique consideration, with the end of well doing, and not of well knowing onely. Euen as the Sadlers next ende is to make a good Saddle, but his further ende, to serue a nobler facultie, which is horsmanship, so the horsemans to souldiery: and the souldier not only to haue the skill, but to performe the practise of a souldier. So that the ending end of all earthly learning, being verteous action, those skils that most serue to bring forth that, haue a most iust title to be Princes ouer al the rest: wherin if we cā shew, the Poet is worthy to haue it before any other competitors: among whō principally to challenge it, step forth the moral Philosophers, whom me thinkes I see comming towards me, with a sullain grauitie, as though they could not abide vice by day-light, rudely cloathed, for to witnesse outwardly their contempt of outward things, with bookes in their hands against glorie, whereto they set their names: sophistically speaking against subtiltie, and angry with any man in whom they see the foule fault of anger. These men casting larges as they go of definitions, diuitions, and distinctions, with a scornful interrogatiue, do soberly aske, whether it be possible to find any path so ready to lead a man to vertue, as that which teacheth what vertue is, & teacheth it not only by deliuering forth his very being, his causes and effects, but also by making knowne his enemie vice, which must be destroyed, and his combersome seruant passion, which must be mastred: by shewing the generalities that contains it, and the specialities that are deriued from it. Lastly by plaine setting downe, how it extends it selfe out of the limits of a mans owne little world, to the gouernment of families, and mainteining of publike societies. The Historian scarsely giues leisure to the Moralist to say so much, but that he loaden with old Mouse-eaten Records, authorising himselfe for the most part vpon other Histories, whose greatest authorities are built vppon the notable foundation Heresay, hauing much ado to accord differing writers, & to pick truth out of partiality: better acquainted with a 1000. yeres ago, thē with the present age, and yet better knowing how this world goes, then how his owne wit runnes, curious for Antiquities, and inquisitiue of Nouelties, a wonder to yoong folkes, and a Tyrant in table talke; denieth in a great chafe, that any man for teaching of vertue, and vertues actions, is comparable to him. I am Testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriæ, magistra vitæ, nuncia vetustatis. The Philosopher saith he, teacheth a disputatiue vertue, but I do an actiue. His vertue is excellent in the dangerlesse Academy of Plato: but mine sheweth forth her honourable face in the battailes of Marathon, Pharsalia, Poietiers, and Agincourt. Hee teacheth vertue by certaine abstract considerations: but I onely bid you follow the footing of them that haue gone before you. Old aged experience, goeth beyond the fine witted Philosopher: but I giue the experience of many ages. Lastly, if he make the song Booke, I put the learners hand to the Lute, and if he be the guide, I am the light. Then would he alleage you innumerable examples, confirming storie by stories, how much the wisest Senators and Princes, haue bene directed by the credit of Historie, as Brutus, Alphonsus of Aragon, (and who not if need be.) At length, the long line of their disputation makes a point in this, that the one giueth the precept, & the other the example. Now whom shall we find, since the question standeth for the highest forme in the schoole of learning to be moderator? Truly as mee seemeth, the Poet, and if not a moderator, euen the man that ought to carry the title from them both: & much more from all other seruing sciences. Therfore compare we the Poet with the Historian, & with the morall Philosopher: and if hee goe beyond them both, no other humaine skill can match him. For as for the diuine, with all reuerence it is euer to be excepted, not onely for hauing his scope as far beyond any of these, as Eternitie exceedeth a moment: but euen for passing ech of these in themselues. And for the Lawier, though Ius be the daughter of Iustice, the chiefe of vertues, yet because he seeks to make men good, rather formidine panæ, then virtutis amore: or to say righter, doth not endeuor to make men good, but that their euill hurt not others, hauing no care so he be a good citizen, how bad a man he be. Therfore as our wickednes maketh him necessarie, and necessitie maketh him honorable, so is he not in the deepest truth to stand in ranck with these, who al endeuour to take naughtinesse away, and plant goodnesse euen in the secretest cabinet of our soules: and these foure are all that any way deale in the consideration of mens manners, which being the supreme knowledge, they that best breed it, deserue the best commendation. The Philosopher therefore, and the Historian, are they which would win the goale, the one by precept, the other by example: but both, not hauing both, doo both halt. For the Philosopher setting downe with thornie arguments, the bare rule, is so hard of vtterance, and so mistie to be conceiued, that one that hath no other guide but him, shall wade in him till he be old, before he shall finde sufficient cause to be honest. For his knowledge standeth so vpon the abstract and generall, that happie is that man who may vnderstand him, and more happie, that can apply what he doth vnderstand. On the other side, the Historian wanting the precept, is so tied, not to what should be, but to what is, to the particular truth of things, and not to the general reason of things, that his example draweth no necessarie consequence, and therefore a lesse fruitfull doctrine. Now doth the peerlesse Poet performe both, for whatsoeuer the Philosopher saith should be done, he giues a perfect picture of it by some one, by whō he presupposeth it was done, so as he coupleth the generall notion with the particuler example. A perfect picture I say, for hee yeeldeth to the powers of the minde an image of that whereof the Philosopher bestoweth but a wordish description, which doth neither strike, pearce, nor possesse, the sight of the soule so much, as that other doth. For as in outward things to a man that had neuer seene an Elephant, or a Rinoceros, who should tell him most exquisitely all their shape, cullour, bignesse, and particuler marks, or of a gorgious pallace an Architecture, who declaring the full bewties, might well make the hearer able to repeat as it were by roat all he had heard, yet should neuer satisfie his inward conceit, with being witnesse to it selfe of a true liuely knowledge: but the same mā, assoon as he might see those beasts wel painted, or that house wel in modell, shuld straightwaies grow without need of any description to a iudicial comprehending of them, so no doubt the Philosopher with his learned definitions, be it of vertues or vices, matters of publike policy or priuat gouernment, replenisheth the memorie with many infallible grounds of wisdom, which notwithstanding lie darke before the imaginatiue and iudging power, if they be not illuminated or figured forth by the speaking picture of Poesie. Tully taketh much paines, and many times not without Poeticall helpes to make vs know the force, loue of our country hath in vs. Let vs but heare old Anchices, speaking in the middest of Troies flames, or see Vlisses in the fulnesse of all Calipsoes delightes, bewaile his absence from barraine and beggerly Ithecæ. Anger the Stoickes said, was a short madnesse: let but Sophocles bring you Aiax on a stage, killing or whipping sheepe and oxen, thinking them the Army of Greekes, with their Chieftaines Agamemnon, and Menelaus: and tell me if you haue not a more familiar insight into Anger, then finding in the schoolemen his Genus and Difference. See whether wisdom and temperance in Vlisses and Diomedes, valure in Achilles, friendship in Nisus and Eurialus, euen to an ignorant man carry not an apparant shining: and contrarily, the remorse of conscience in Oedipus; the soone repenting pride in Agamemnon; the selfe deuouring crueltie in his father Atreus; the violence of ambition in the two Theban brothers; the sower sweetnesse of reuenge in Medea; and to fall lower, the Terentian Gnato, and our Chawcers Pander so exprest, that we now vse their names, to signifie their Trades: And finally, all vertues, vices, and passions, so in their owne naturall states, laide to the view, that we seeme not to heare of them, but clearly to see through them. But euen in the most excellent determination of goodnesse, what Philosophers counsaile can so readely direct a Prince, as the feined Cirus in Xenophon, or a vertuous man in all fortunes: as Aeneas in Virgill, or a whole Common-wealth, as the Way of Sir Thomas Moores Eutopia. I say the Way, because where Sir Thomas Moore erred, it was the fault of the man and not of the Poet: for that Way of patterning a Common-wealth, was most absolute though hee perchaunce hath not so absolutely performed it. For the question is, whether the fained Image of Poetrie, or the reguler instruction of Philosophie, hath the more force in teaching? Wherein if the Philosophers haue more rightly shewed themselues Philosophers then the Poets, haue atteined to the high toppe of their profession (as in truth Mediocribus esse poetis non Dii, non homines, non concessere columnæ,) it is (I say againe) not the fault of the Art, but that by fewe men that Art can be accomplished. Certainly euen our Sauiour Christ could as well haue giuen the morall common places of vncharitablenesse and humblenesse, as the diuine narration of Diues and Lazarus, or of disobedience and mercy, as that heauenly discourse of the lost childe and the gracious Father, but that his through searching wisedome, knew the estate of Diues burning in hell, and of Lazarus in Abrahams bosome, would more constantly as it were, inhabit both the memorie and iudgement. Truly for my selfe (mee seemes) I see before mine eyes, the lost childs disdainful prodigalitie, turned to enuy a Swines dinner: which by the learned Diuines are thought not Historical acts, but instructing Parables. For conclusion, I say the Philosopher teacheth, but he teacheth obscurely, so as the learned onely can vnderstand him, that is to say, he teacheth them that are alreadie taught. But the Poet is the food for the tendrest stomacks, the Poet is indeed, the right populer Philosopher. Whereof Esops Tales giue good proofe, whose prettie Allegories stealing vnder the formall Tales of beastes, makes many more beastly then beasts: begin to hear the sound of vertue from those dumbe speakers. But now may it be alleadged, that if this imagining of matters be so fit for the imagination, then must the Historian needs surpasse, who brings you images of true matters, such as indeed were done, and not such as fantastically or falsly may be suggested to haue bin done. Truly Aristotle himselfe in his discourse of Poesie, plainly determineth this questiō, saying; that Poetrie is φιλοσοφότερών, and σπουδαιοτερον, that is to say, it is more Philosophicall and more then History. His reason is, because Poesie dealeth with καθόλου, that is to say, with the vniuersall consideration, and the Historie with καθέκαστον, the particular. Now saith he, the vniuersall wayes what is fit to be said or done, either in likelihood or necessitie, which the Poesie considereth in his imposed names: and the particular onely marketh whether Alcibiades did or suffered this or that. Thus farre Aristotle. Which reason of his, as all his is most full of reason. For indeed if the questiō were, whether it were better to haue a particular act truly or falsly set downe, there is no doubt which is to be chosen, no more then whether you had rather haue Vespacians Picture right as he was, or at the Painters pleasure nothing resembling. But if the question be for your owne vse and learning, whether it be better to haue it set downe as it should be, or as it was; then certainly is more doctrinable, the fained Cyrus in Xenophon, then the true Cyrus in Iustin: and the fained Aeneas in Virgill, then the right Aeneas in Dares Phrigius: as to a Ladie that desired to fashion her countenance to the best grace: a Painter shuld more benefite her to pourtrait a most sweete face, writing Canidia vppon it, then to paint Canidia as shee was, who Horace sweareth was full ill fauoured. If the Poet do his part aright, he wil shew you in Tantalus Atreus, and such like, nothing that is not to be shunned; in Cyrus, Aeneas, Vlisses, each thing to be followed: where the Historian bound to tell things as things were, cannot be liberall, without hee will be Poeticall of a perfect patterne, but as in Alexander or Scipio himselfe, shew doings, some to be liked, some to be misliked; and then how wil you discerne what to follow, but by your own discretiō which you had without reading Q. Curtius. And whereas a man may say, though in vniuersall consideration of doctrine, the Poet preuaileth, yet that the Historie in his saying such a thing was done, doth warrant a man more in that he shall follow. The answere is manifest, that if he stand vpon that was, as if he should argue, because it rained yesterday, therfore it should raine to day, then indeede hath it some aduantage to a grosse conceit. But if hee knowe an example onely enformes a coniectured likelihood, and so goe by reason, the Poet doth so farre exceed him, as hee is to frame his example to that which is most reasonable, be it in warlike, politike, or priuate matters, where the Historian in his bare, was, hath many times that which we call fortune, to ouerrule the best wisedome. Manie times he must tell euents, whereof he can yeeld no cause, or if he do, it must be poetically. For that a fained example hath as much force to teach, as a true example (for as for to mooue, it is cleare, since the fained may be tuned to the highest key of passion) let vs take one example wherein an Historian and a Poet did concurre. Herodotus and Iustin doth both testifie, that Zopirus, King Darius faithfull seruant, seeing his maister long resisted by the rebellious Babilonians, fained himselfe in extreame disgrace of his King, for verifying of which, he caused his owne nose and eares to be cut off, and so flying to the Babylonians was receiued, and for his knowne valure so farre creadited, that hee did finde meanes to deliuer them ouer to Darius. Much like matter doth Liuy record of Tarquinius, and his sonne. Xenophon excellently faineth such an other Stratageme, performed by Abradates in Cyrus behalfe. Now would I faine knowe, if occasion be presented vnto you, to serue your Prince by such an honest dissimulation, why you do not as well learne it of Xenophons fiction, as of the others veritie: and truly so much the better, as you shall saue your nose by the bargaine. For Abradates did not counterfeyt so farre. So then the best of the Historian is subiect to the Poet, for whatsoeuer action or faction, whatsoeuer counsaile, pollicie, or warre, stratageme, the Historian is bounde to recite, that may the Poet if hee lift with his imitation make his owne; bewtifying it both for further teaching, and more delighting as it please him: hauing all frō Dante his heuē to his hell, vnder the authority of his pen. Which if I be asked what Poets haue don so? as I might wel name some, so yet say I, and say again, I speake of the Art and not of the Artificer. Now to that which commonly is attributed to the praise of Historie, in respect of the notable learning, is got by marking the successe, as though therein a man shuld see vertue exalted, & vice punished: truly that commendation is peculier to Poetrie, and farre off from Historie; for indeed Poetrie euer sets vertue so out in her best cullours, making fortune her well-wayting handmayd, that one must needs be enamoured of her. Well may you see Vlisses in a storme and in other hard plights, but they are but exercises of patience & magnanimitie, to make thē shine the more in the neare following prosperitie. And of the contrary part, if euill men come to the stage, they euer goe out (as the Tragedie writer answered to one that misliked the shew of such persons) so manicled as they litle animate folkes to follow them. But the Historie beeing captiued to the trueth of a foolish world, is many times a terror from well-doing, and an encouragement to vnbrideled wickednes. For see we not valiant Milciades rot in his fetters? The iust Phocion and the accomplished Socrates, put to death like Traytors? The cruell Seuerus, liue prosperously? The excellent Seuerus miserably murthered? Sylla and Marius dying in their beds? Pompey and Cicero slain then when they wold haue thought exile a happinesse? See we not vertuous Cato driuen to kill himselfe, and Rebell Caesar so aduanced, that his name yet after 1600. yeares lasteth in the highest honor? And marke but euen Caesars owne words of the forenamed Sylla, (who in that onely, did honestly to put downe his dishonest Tyrannie) Litteras nesciuit: as if want of learning caused him to doo well. He ment it not by Poetrie, which not content with earthly plagues, deuiseth new punishments in hell for Tyrants: nor yet by Philosophy, which teacheth Occidentos esse, but no doubt by skill in History, for that indeed can affoord you Cipselus, Periander, Phalaris, Dionisius, and I know not how many more of the same kennell, that speed well inough in their abhominable iniustice of vsurpation. I conclude therfore that he excelleth historie, not onely in furnishing the minde with knowledge, but in setting it forward to that which deserues to be called and accounted good: which setting forward and mouing to well doing, indeed setteth the Lawrell Crowne vpon the Poets as victorious, not onely of the Historian, but ouer the Philosopher, howsoeuer in teaching it may be questionable. For suppose it be granted, that which I suppose with great reason may be denied, that the Philosopher in respect of his methodical proceeding, teach more perfectly then the Poet, yet do I thinke, that no man is so much GREEK HERE, as to compare the Philosopher in moouing with the Poet. And that moouing is of a higher degree then teaching, it may by this appeare, that it is well nigh both the cause and effect of teaching. For who will be taught, if hee be not mooued with desire to be taught? And what so much good doth that teaching bring foorth, (I speake still of morall doctrine) as that it mooueth one to do that which it doth teach. For as Aristotle saith, it is not GREEK HERE, but GREEK HERE must be the frute: and how GREEK HERE, can be without being moued to practise, it is no hard matter to consider. The Philosopher sheweth you the way, hee enformeth you of the particularities, as well of the tediousnes of the way, as of the pleasaunt lodging you shall haue when your iourney is ended, as of the many by turnings that may diuert you from your way. But this is to no man but to him that will reade him, and reade him with attentiue studious painfulnesse, which constant desire, whosoeuer hath in him, hath alreadie past halfe the hardnesse of the way: and therefore is beholding to the Philosopher, but for the other halfe. Nay truly learned men haue learnedly thought, that where once reason hath so much ouer-mastered passion, as that the minde hath a free desire to doo well, the inward light each minde hath in it selfe, is as good as a Philosophers booke, since in Nature we know it is well, to doo well, and what is well, and what is euill, although not in the wordes of Art which Philosophers bestow vppon vs: for out of naturall conceit the Philosophers drew it; but to be moued to doo that which wee know, or to be mooued with desire to know. Hoc opus, hic labor est. Now therein of all Sciences I speake still of humane (and according to the humane conceit) is our Poet the Monarch. For hee doth not onely shew the way, but giueth so sweete a prospect into the way, as will entice anie man to enter into it: Nay he doth as if your iourney should lye through a faire vineyard, at the verie first, giue you a cluster of grapes, that full of that taste, you may long to passe further. Hee beginneth not with obscure definitions, which must blurre the margent with interpretations, and loade the memorie with doubtfulnesse: but hee commeth to you with words set in delightfull proportion, either accompanied with, or prepared for the well enchanting skill of Musicke, and with a tale forsooth he commeth vnto you, with a tale, which holdeth children from play, and olde men from the Chimney corner; and pretending no more, doth intend the winning of the minde from wickednes to vertue; euen as the child is often brought to take most wholesome things by hiding them in such other as haue a pleasaunt taste: which if one should begin to tell them the nature of the Alloes or Rhabarbarum they should receiue, wold sooner take their phisick at their eares then at their mouth, so is it in men (most of which, are childish in the best things, til they be cradled in their graues) glad they will be to heare the tales of Hercules, Achilles, Cyrus, Aeneas, and hearing them, must needes heare the right description of wisdom, value, and iustice; which if they had bene barely (that is to say Philosophically) set out, they would sweare they be brought to schoole againe; that imitation whereof Poetrie is, hath the most conueniencie to nature of al other: insomuch that as Aristotle saith, those things which in themselues are horrible, as cruel battailes, vnnatural monsters, are made in poeticall imitation, delightfull. Truly I haue knowne men, that euen with reading Amadis de gaule, which God knoweth, wanteth much of a perfect Poesie, haue found their hearts moued to the exercise of courtesie, liberalitie, and especially courage. Who readeth Aeneas carrying old Anchises on his backe, that wisheth not it were his fortune to performe so excellent an Act? Whom doth not those words of Turnus mooue, (the Tale of Turnus hauing planted his image in the imagination) fugientem haec terra videbit? Vsqueadeone mori miserum est? Wher the Philosophers as they think scorne to delight, so must they be content little to mooue; sauing wrangling whether Virtus be the chiefe or the onely good; whether the contemplatiue or the actiue life do excell; which Plato & Poetius well knew: and therefore made mistresse Philosophie verie often borrow the masking raiment of Poesie. For euen those hard hearted euill men who thinke vertue a schoole name, and know no other good but indulgere genio, and therefore despise the austere admonitions of the Philosopher, and feele not the inward reason they stand vpon, yet will be content to be delighted, which is all the good, fellow Poet seemes to promise; and so steale to see the form of goodnes, (which seene, they cannot but loue) ere themselues be aware, as if they tooke a medicine of Cheries. Infinit proofes of the straunge effects of this Poeticall inuention, might be alleaged: onely two shall serue, which are so often remembred, as I thinke all men know them. The one of Menemus Agrippa, who when the whole people of Rome had resolutely diuided themselues from the Senate, with apparant shew of vtter ruine, though he were for that time an excellent Orator, came not amōg them vpon trust either of figuratiue speeches, or cunning insinuations, and much lesse with farre set Maximes of Philosophie, which especially if they were Platonike, they must haue learned Geometrie before they could well haue conceiued: but forsooth, he behaueth himselfe like a homely and familiar Poet. He telleth them a tale, that there was a time, when all the parts of the bodie made a mutinous conspiracie against the belly, which they thought deuoured the frutes of each others labour: they concluded they would let so vnprofitable a spender starue. In the end, to be short, for the tale is notorious, and as notorious that it was a tale, with punishing the belly they plagued themselues; this applied by him, wrought such effect in the people, as I neuer red, that onely words brought foorth: but then so suddaine and so good an alteration, for vpon reasonable conditions, a perfect reconcilement ensued. The other is of Nathan the Prophet, who when the holie Dauid, had so farre forsaken God, as to confirme Adulterie with murther, when he was to do the tendrest office of a friend, in laying his owne shame before his eyes; sent by God to call againe so chosen a seruant, how doth he it? but by telling of a man whose beloued lambe was vngratefully taken from his bosome. The Application most diuinely true, but the discourse it selfe fained; which made Dauid (I speake of the second and instrumentall cause) as in a glasse see his owne filthinesse, as that heauenly Psalme of mercie well testifieth. By these therefore examples and reasons. I thinke it may be manifest, that the Poet with that same hand of delight, doth draw the mind more effectually then any other Art doth. And so a conclusion not vnfitly ensue, that as vertue is the most excellēt resting place for al worldly learning to make his end of, so Poetry being the most familiar to teach it, and most Princely to moue towards it, in the most excellent worke, is the most excellent workeman. But I am content not onely to decipher him by his workes (although workes in commendation and dispraise, must euer hold a high authoritie) but more narrowly will examine his parts, so that (as in a man) though altogither may carrie a presence full of maiestie and bewtie, perchance in some one defectuous peece we may finde blemish: Now in his parts, kindes, or species, as you list to tearme them, it is to be noted, that some Poesies haue coupled togither two or three kindes, as the Tragicall and Comicall, whereupon is risen the Tragicomicall, some in the maner haue mingled prose and verse, as Sanazara and Boetius; some haue mingled matters Heroicall and Pastorall, but that commeth all to one in this question, for if seuered they be good, the coniunction cannot be hurtfull: therefore perchance forgetting some, and leauing some as needlesse to be remembred. It shall not bee amisse, in a word to cite the speciall kindes, to see what faults may be found in the right vse of them. Is it then the Pastorall Poeme which is misliked? (For perchance where the hedge is lowest they will soonest leape ouer) is the poore pipe disdained, which somtimes out of Maelibeus mouth, can shewe the miserie of people, vnder hard Lords and rauening souldiers? And again by Titerus, what blessednesse is deriued, to them that lie lowest, from the goodnesse of them that fit highest? Sometimes vnder the prettie tales of Woolues and sheepe, can enclude the whole considerations of wrong doing and patience; sometimes shew that contentions for trifles, can get but a trifling victory, wher perchance a man may see, that euen Alexander & Darius, when they straue who should be Cocke of this worldes dunghill, the benefit they got, was, that the afterliuers may say, Haec memini & victum frustra contendere Thirsim. Ex illo Coridon, Coridon est tempore nobis. Or is it the lamenting Elegiack, which in a kinde heart would mooue rather pittie then blame, who bewaileth with the great Philosopher Heraclitus, the weakenesse of mankinde, and the wretchednesse of the world: who surely is to bee praised either for compassionate accompanying iust causes of lamentations, or for rightlie painting out how weake be the passions of wofulnesse? Is it the bitter but wholesome Iambick, who rubbes the galled minde, in making shame the Trumpet of villanie, with bolde and open crying out against naughtinesse? Or the Satirick, who Omne vafer vitium ridenti tangit amico, who sportingly, neuer leaueth, till he make a man laugh at follie; and at length ashamed, to laugh at himself; which he cannot auoyde, without auoyding the follie? who while Circum praecordia ludit, giueth vs to feele how many headaches a passionate life bringeth vs to? How when all is done, Est Vlubris animus si nos non deficit aequus. No perchance it is the Comick, whom naughtie Play-makers and stage-keepers, haue iustly made odious. To the arguments of abuse, I will after answer, onely thus much now is to be said, that the Comedy is an imitatiō of the cōmon errors of our life, which he representeth in the most ridiculous & scornfull sort that may be: so as it is impossible that any beholder can be content to be such a one. Now as in Geometrie, the oblique must be knowne as well as the right, and in Arithmetick, the odde as well as the euen, so in the actions of our life, who seeth not the filthinesse of euill, wanteth a great foile to perceiue the bewtie of vertue. This doth the Comaedie handle so in our priuate and domesticall matters, as with hearing it, wee get as it were an experience what is to be looked for of a niggardly Demea, of a craftie Dauus, of a flattering Gnato, of a vain-glorious Thraso: and not onely to know what effects are to be expected, but to know who be such, by the signifying badge giuen them by the Comaedient. And litle reason hath any man to say, that men learne the euill by seeing it so set out, since as I said before, there is no man liuing, but by the force truth hath in nature, no sooner seeth these men play their parts, but wisheth them in Pistrinum, although perchance the sack of his owne faults lie so behinde his backe, that he seeth not himselfe to dance the same measure: wherto yet nothing can more open his eies, then to see his owne actions contemptibly set forth. So that the right vse of Comaedie, will I thinke, by no bodie be blamed; and much lesse of the high and excellent Tragedie, that openeth the greatest woundes, and sheweth forth the Vlcers that are couered with Tissue, that maketh Kings feare to be Tyrants, and Tyrants manifest their tyrannicall humours, that with sturring the affects of Admiration and Comiseration, teacheth the vncertaintie of this world, and vppon how weak foundations guilden roofes are builded: that maketh vs know, Qui scaeptra saeuus duro imperio regit, Timet timentes, metus in authorem redit. But how much it can moue, Plutarch yeeldeth a notable testimonie of the abhominable Tyrant Alexander Pheraeus, from whose eyes a Tragedie well made and represented, drew abundance of teares, who without all pittie had murthered infinite numbers, and some of his owne bloud: so as he that was not ashamed to make matters for Tragedies, yet could not resist the sweete violence of a Tragedie. And if it wrought no further good in him, it was, that he in despight of himself, withdrew himselfe from hearkening to that which might mollifie his hardened heart. But it is not the Tragedie they do mislike, for it were too absurd to cast our so excellent a representation of whatsoeuer is most woorthie to be learned. Is it the Lyricke that moste displeaseth, who with his tuned Lyre and well accorded voice, giueth praise, the reward of vertue, to vertuous acts? who giueth morall preceptes and naturall Problemes, who sometime raiseth vp his voyce to the height of the heauens, in singing the laudes of the immortall God? Certainly I must confesse mine owne barbarousnesse, I neuer heard the old Song of Percy and Duglas, that I founde not my heart mooued more then with a Trumpet; and yet is it sung but by some blinde Crowder, with no rougher voyce, then rude stile: which being so euill apparelled in the dust and Cobwebbes of that vnciuill age, what would it worke, trimmed in the gorgious eloquence of Pindare? In Hungarie I haue seene it the manner at all Feastes and other such like meetings, to haue songs of their ancestors valure, which that right souldierlike nation, think one of the chiefest kindlers of braue courage. The incomperable Lacedemonians, did not onelie carrie that kinde of Musicke euer with them to the field, but euen at home, as such songs were made, so were they all content to be singers of them: when the lustie men were to tell what they did, the old men what they had done, and the yoong what they would doo. And where a man may say that Pindare many times praiseth highly Victories of small moment, rather matters of sport then vertue, as it may be answered, it was the fault of the Poet, and not of the Poetrie; so indeed the chiefe fault was, in the time and custome of the Greekes, who set those toyes at so high a price, that Phillip of Macedon reckoned a horse-race wonne at Olympus, among his three fearefull felicities. But as the vnimitable Pindare often did, so is that kind most capable and most fit, to awake the thoughts from the sleepe of idlenesse, to embrace honourable enterprises. Their rests the Heroicall, whose verie name I thinke should daunt all backbiters. For by what conceit can a tongue bee directed to speake euil of that which draweth with him no lesse champions then Achilles, Cirus, Aeneas, Turnus, Tideus, Rinaldo, who doeth not onely teache and mooue to a truth, but teacheth and mooueth to the most high and excellent truth: who maketh magnanimitie and iustice, shine through all mistie fearefulnesse and foggie desires. Who if the saying of Plato and Tully bee true, that who could see vertue, woulde bee woonderfullie rauished with the loue of her bewtie. This man setteth her out to make her more louely in her holliday apparrell, to the eye of anie that will daine, not to disdaine vntill they vnderstand. But if any thing be alreadie said in the defence of sweete Poetrie, all concurreth to the mainteining the Heroicall, which is not onelie a kinde, but the best and most accomplished kindes of Poetrie. For as the Image of each Action stirreth and instructeth the minde, so the lostie Image of such woorthies, moste enflameth the minde with desire to bee woorthie: and enformes with counsaile how to bee woorthie. Onely let Aeneas bee worne in the Tablet of your memorie, how hee gouerneth himselfe in the ruine of his Countrey, in the preseruing his olde Father, and carrying away his religious Ceremonies, in obeying Gods Commaunment, to leaue Dido, though not onelie all passionate kindnesse, but euen the humane consideration of vertuous gratefulnesse, would haue craued other of him: how in stormes, how in sports, how in warre, how in peace, how a fugitiue, how victorious, how besieged, how besieging, how to straungers, how to Allies, how to enemies, how to his owne. Lastly, how in his inwarde selfe, and howe in his outward gouernment, and I thinke in a minde moste preiudiced with a preiudicating humour, Hee will bee founde in excellencie fruitefull. Yea as Horace saith, Melius Chrisippo & Grantore: but truly I imagin it falleth out with these Poet-whippers, as with some good women who often are sicke, but in faith they cannot tel where. So the name of Poetrie is odious to them, but neither his cause nor effects, neither the summe that containes him, nor the particularities descending from him, giue any fast handle to their carping dispraise. Since then Poetrie is of al humane learnings the most ancient, and of most fatherly antiquitie, as from whence other learnings haue taken their beginnings; Since it is so vniuersall, that no learned nation doth despise it, nor barbarous nation is without it; Since both Romane & Greeke gaue such diuine names vnto it, the one of prophesying, the other of making; and that indeed that name of making is fit for him, considering, that where all other Arts retain themselues within their subiect, and receiue as it were their being from it. The Poet onely, onely bringeth his own stuffe, and doth not learn a Conceit out of a matter, but maketh matter for a Conceit. Since neither his description, nor end, containing any euill, the thing described cannot be euil; since his effects be so good as to teach goodnes, and delight the learners of it; since therein (namely in morall doctrine the chiefe of all knowledges) hee doth not onely farre passe the Historian, but for instructing is well nigh comparable to the Philosopher, for mouing, leaueth him behind him. Since the holy scripture (wherein there is no vncleannesse) hath whole parts in it Poeticall, and that euen our Sauior Christ vouchsafed to vse the flowers of it: since all his kindes are not onely in their vnited formes, but in their seuered dissections fully commendable, I thinke, (and thinke I thinke rightly) the Lawrell Crowne appointed for tryumphant Captaines, doth worthily of all other learnings, honour the Poets triumph. But bicause we haue eares as well as toongs, and that the lightest reasons that may be, will seeme to waigh greatly, if nothing be put in the counter-ballance, let vs heare, and as well as we can, ponder what obiections be made against this Art, which may be woorthie either of yeelding, or answering. First truly I note, not onely in these GREEK HERE, Poet-haters, but in all that kind of people who seek a praise, by dispraising others, that they do prodigally spēd a great many wandring words in quips and scoffes, carping and taunting at each thing, which by sturring the spleene, may staie the brain from a through beholding the worthinesse of the subiect. Those kind of obiections, as they are full of a verie idle easinesse, since there is nothing of so sacred a maiestie, but that an itching toong may rub it selfe vpon it, so deserue they no other answer, but in steed of laughing at the ieast, to laugh at the ieaster. We know a playing wit can praise the discretion of an Asse, the comfortablenes of being in debt, and the iolly commodities of being sicke of the plague. So of the contrary side, if we will turne Ouids verse, Vt lateat virtus, prox imitate mali, that good lye hid, in nearnesse of the euill. Agrippa will be as mery in shewing the vanitie of Science, as Erasmus was in the commending of folly: neither shal any man or matter, escape some touch of these smiling Raylers. But for Erasmus and Agrippa, they had an other foundation then the superficiall part would promise. Marry these other pleasaunt fault-finders, who will correct the Verbe, before they vnderstand the Nowne, and confute others knowledge, before they confirme their owne, I would haue them onely remember, that scoffing commeth not of wisedome; so as the best title in true English they get with their meriments, is to be called good fooles: for so haue our graue forefathers euer tearmed that humorous kinde of iesters. But that which giueth greatest scope to their scorning humor, is ryming and versing. It is alreadie said (and as I thinke truly said) it is not ryming and versing that maketh Poesie: One may be a Poet without versing, and a versefier without Poetrie. But yet presuppose it were inseperable, as indeed it seemeth Scalliger iudgeth truly, it were an inseperable commendation. For if Oratio, next to Ratio, Speech next to Reason, be the greatest gift bestowed vpon Mortalitie, that cannot bee praiselesse, which doth most polish that blessing of speech; which considereth each word not onely as a man may say by his forcible qualitie, but by his best measured quantity: carrying euen in themselues a Harmonie, without perchance number, measure, order, proportion, be in our time growne odious. But laie aside the iust praise it hath, by being the onely fit speech for Musicke, (Musicke I say the most diuine striker of the senses) Thus much is vndoubtedly true, that if reading be foolish without remembring, Memorie being the onely treasure of knowledge, those words which are fittest for memory, are likewise most conuenient for knowledge. Now that Verse far exceedeth Prose, in the knitting vp of the memorie, the reason is manifest, the words (besides their delight, which hath a great affinitie to memorie) being so set as one cannot be lost, but the whole woorke failes: which accusing it selfe, calleth the remembrance back to it selfe, and so most strongly confirmeth it. Besides one word, so as it were begetting an other, as be it in rime or measured verse, by the former a mā shall haue a neare gesse to the follower. Lastly euen they that haue taught the Art of memory, haue shewed nothing so apt for it, as a certain roome diuided into many places, well & throughly knowne: Now that hath the verse in effect perfectly, euerie word hauing his natural seat, which seat must needs make the word remembred. But what needes more in a thing so knowne to all men. Who is it that euer was scholler, that doth not carry away som verses of Virgil, Horace, or Cato, which in his youth hee learned, and euē to his old age serue him for hourely lessons; as Percontatorem fugito nam garrulus idem est, Dum tibi quis{que} placet credula turba sumas. But the fitnes it hath for memorie, is notably prooued by all deliuerie of Arts, wherein for the most part, from Grammer, to Logick, Mathematickes, Phisick, and the rest, the Rules chiefly necessaie to be borne away, are compiled in verses. So that verse being in it selfe sweet and orderly, and being best for memorie, the onely handle of knowledge, it must be in iest that any man can speak against it. Now then goe we to the most important imputations laid to the poore Poets, for ought I can yet learne, they are these. First, that there beeing manie other more frutefull knowledges, a man might better spend his time in them, then in this. Secondly, that it is the mother of lyes. Thirdly, that it is the nurse of abuse, infecting vs with many pestilent desires, with a Sirens sweetnesse, drawing the minde to the Serpents taile of sinfull fansies; and herein especially Comedies giue the largest field to eare, as Chawcer saith, how both in other nations and in ours, before Poets did soften vs, we were full of courage giuē to martial exercises, the pillers of manlike libertie, and not lulled a sleepe in shadie idlenes, with Poets pastimes. And lastly and chiefly, they cry out with open mouth as if they had ouershot Robinhood, that Plato banished them out of his Commonwealth. Truly this is much, if there be much truth in it. First to the first. That a man might better spend his time, is a reason indeed: but it doth as they say, but petere principium. For if it be, as I affirme, that no learning is so good, as that which teacheth and moueth to vertue, and that none can both teach and moue thereto so much as Poesie, then is the conclusion manifest; that incke and paper cannot be to a more profitable purpose imployed. And certainly though a man should graunt their first assumption, it should follow (mee thinks) very vnwillingly, that good is not good, because better is better. But I still and vtterly deny, that there is sprung out of earth a more fruitfull knowledge. To the second therfore, that they should be the principall lyers, I answere Paradoxically, but truly, I think truly: that of all writers vnder the Sunne, the Poet is the least lyer: and though he wold, as a Poet can scarcely be a lyer. The Astronomer with his cousin the Geometrician, can hardly escape, when they take vpon them to measure the height of the starres. How often thinke you do the Phisitians lie, when they auerre things good for sicknesses, which afterwards send Charon a great number of soules drownd in a potion, before they come to his Ferrie? And no lesse of the rest, which take vpon them to affirme. Now for the Poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore neuer lieth: for as I take it, to lie, is to affirme that to bee true, which is false. So as the other Artistes, and especially the Historian, affirming manie things, can in the clowdie knowledge of mankinde, hardly escape from manie lies. But the Poet as I said before, neuer affirmeth, the Poet neuer maketh any Circles about your imaginatiō, to coniure you to beleeue for true, what he writeth: he citeth not authorities of other histories, but euē for his entrie, calleth the sweete Muses to inspire vnto him a good inuention. In troth, not laboring to tel you what is, or is not, but what should, or should not be. And therefore though he recount things not true, yet because he telleth them not for true, he lieth not: without we will say, that Nathan lied in his speech before alleaged to Dauid, which as a wicked man durst scarce say, so think I none so simple, wold say, that Esope lied, in the tales of his beasts: for who thinketh that Esope wrote it for actually true, were wel worthie to haue his name Cronicled among the beasts he writeth of. What childe is there, that comming to a play, and seeing Thebes written in great letters vpon an old doore, doth beleeue that it is Thebes? If then a man can arriue to the childes age, to know that the Poets persons and dooings, are but pictures, what should be, and not stories what haue bin, they will neuer giue the lie to things not Affirmatiuely, but Allegorically and figuratiuely written; and therefore as in historie looking for truth, they may go away full fraught with falshood: So in Poesie, looking but for fiction, they shall vse the narration but as an imaginatiue ground plat of a profitable inuention. But hereto is replied, that the Poets giue names to men they write of, which argueth a conceit of an actuall truth, and so not being true, prooueth a falshood. And dooth the Lawier lye, then when vnder the names of Iohn of the Stile, and Iohn of the Nokes, hee putteth his Case? But that is easily answered, their naming of men, is but to make their picture the more liuely, and not to build anie Historie. Painting men, they cannot leaue men namelesse: wee see, wee cannot plaie at Chestes, but that wee must giue names to our Chessemen; and yet mee thinkes he were a verie partiall Champion of truth, that would say wee lyed, for giuing a peece of wood the reuerende title of a Bishop. The Poet nameth Cyrus and Aeneas, no other way, then to shewe what men of their fames, fortunes, and estares, should doo. Their third is, how much it abuseth mens wit, training it to wanton sinfulnesse, and lustfull loue. For indeed that is the principall if not onely abuse, I can heare alleadged. They say the Comedies rather teach then reprehend amorous cōceits. They say the Lirick is larded with passionat Sonets, the Elegiack weeps the want of his mistresse, and that euen to the Heroical, Cupid hath ambitiously climed. Alas Loue, I would thou couldest as wel defend thy selfe, as thou canst offend others: I would those on whom thou doest attend, could either put thee away, or yeeld good reason why they keepe thee. But grant loue of bewtie to be a beastly fault, although it be verie hard, since onely man and no beast hath that gift to discerne bewtie, graunt that louely name of loue to deserue all hatefull reproches, although euen some of my maisters the Philosophers spent a good deale of their Lampoyle in setting foorth the excellencie of it, graunt I say, what they will haue graunted, that not onelie loue, but lust, but vanitie, but if they list scurrilitie, possesse manie leaues of the Poets bookes, yet thinke I, when this is graunted, they will finde their sentence may with good manners put the last words foremost; and not say, that Poetrie abuseth mans wit, but that mans wit abuseth Poetrie. For I will not denie, but that mans wit may make Poesie, which should be GREEK HERE, which some learned haue defined figuring foorth good things to be GREEK HERE which doth contrariwise infect the fancie with vnwoorthie obiects, as the Painter should giue to the eye either some excellent perspectiue, or some fine Picture fit for building or fortification, or containing in it some notable example, as Abraham sacrificing his sonne Isaack, Iudith killing Holofernes, Dauid fighting with Golias, may leaue those, and please an ill pleased eye with wanton shewes of better hiddē matters. But what, shal the abuse of a thing, make the right vse odious? Nay truly though I yeeld, that Poesie may not onely be abused, but that being abused by the reason of his sweete charming force, it can do more hurt then anie other armie of words: yet shall it be so farre from concluding, that the abuse should giue reproach to the abused, that cōtrariwise, it is a good reason, that whatsoeuer being abused, doth most harme, being rightly vsed (and vpon the right vse, ech thing receiues his title) doth most good. Do we not see skill of Phisicke the best ramper to our often assaulted bodies, being abused, teach poyson the most violent destroyer? Doth not knowledge of Law, whose end is, to euen & right all things, being abused, grow the crooked fosterer of horrible iniuries? Doth not (to go to the highest) Gods word abused, breede heresie, and his name abused, become blasphemie? Truly a Needle cannot do much hurt, and as truly (with leaue of Ladies be it spoken) it cannot do much good. With a swoord thou maist kill thy Father, and with a swoord thou maist defende thy Prince and Countrey: so that, as in their calling Poets, fathers of lies, they said nothing, so in this their argument of abuse, they prooue the commendation. They alledge herewith, that before Poets began to be in price, our Nation had set their hearts delight vppon action, and not imagination, rather doing things worthie to be written, thē writing things fit to be done. What that before time was, I think scarcely Spinx can tell: since no memerie is so ancient, that hath not the precedens of Poetrie. And certain it is, that in our plainest homelines, yet neuer was the Albion Nation without Poetrie. Marry this Argument, though it be leuiled against Poetrie, yet is it indeed a chain-shot against all learning or bookishnes, as they commonly terme it. Of such mind were certaine Gothes, of whom it is written, that hauing in the spoile of a famous Cittie, taken a faire Librarie, one hangman belike fit to execute the frutes of their wits, who had murthered a great number of bodies, woulde haue set fire in it. No said an other verie grauely, take heed what you do, for while they are busie about those toyes, wee shall with more leisure conquere their Countries. This indeed is the ordinarie doctrine of ignorance, and many words sometimes I haue heard spent in it: but bicause this reason is generally against al learning, as wel as Poetrie, or rather all learning but Poetrie, because it were too large a digression to handle it, or at least too superfluous, since it is manifest that all gouernment of action is to be gotten by knowledge, and knowledge best, by gathering manie knowledges, which is reading; I onely with Horace, to him that is of that opinion, Iubio stultum esse libenter: for as for Poetrie it selfe, it is the freest from this obiection, for Poetrie is the Companion of Camps. I dare vndertake, Orlando Furioso, or honest king Arthure, will neuer displease a souldier: but the quidditie of Ens & Prima materia, will hardly agree with a Corcelet. And therefore as I said in the beginning, euen Turkes and Tartars, are delighted with Poets. Homer a Creeke, flourished, before Greece flourished: and if to a slight coniecture, a coniecture may bee apposed, truly it may seem, that as by him their learned mē tooke almost their first light of knowledge, so their actiue men, receiued their first motions of courage. Onely Alexanders example may serue, who by Plutarche is accounted of such vertue, that fortune was not his guide, but his footestoole, whose Acts speake for him, though Plutarche did not: indeede the Phaenix of warlike Princes. This Alexander, left his Schoolemaister liuing Aristotle behinde him, but tooke dead Homer with him. Hee put the Philosopher Callisthenes to death, for his seeming Philosophicall, indeed mutinous stubbornnesse, but the chiefe thing hee was euer heard to wish for, was, that Homer had bene aliue. Hee well founde hee receiued more brauerie of minde by the paterne of Achilles, then by hearing the definition of fortitude. And therefore if Cato misliked Fuluius for carrying Ennius with him to the field, It may be answered, that if Cato misliked it, the Noble Fuluius liked it, or else he had not done it; for it was not the excellent Cato Vticencis, whose authoritie I would much more haue reuerenced: But it was the former, in truth a bitter punisher of faultes, but else a man that had neuer sacrificed to the Graces. Hee misliked and cried out against all Greeke learning, and yet being foure score yeares olde beganne to learne it, belike fearing that Pluto vnderstood not Latine. Indeed the Romane lawes allowed no person to bee carried to the warres, but hee that was in the souldiers Role. And therefore though Cato misliked his vnmustred person, he misliked not his worke. And if hee had, Scipio Nasica (iudged by common consent the best Romane) loued him: both the other Scipio brothers, who had by their vertues no lesse surnames then of Asia and Affricke, so loued him, that they caused his bodie to be buried in their Sepulture. So as Catoes authoritie beeing but against his person, and that answered with so farre greater then himselfe, is herein of no validitie. But now indeede my burthen is great, that Plato his name is laide vppon mee, whom I must confesse of all Philosophers, I haue euer esteemed most worthie of reuerence; and with good reason, since of all Philosophers hee is the most Poeticall: yet if hee will defile the fountaine out of which his flowing streames haue proceeded, let vs boldly examine with what reasons hee did it. First truly a man might maliciously obiect, that Plato being a Philosopher, was a naturall enemy of Poets. For indeede after the Philosophers had picked out of the sweete misteries of Poetrie, the right discerning true points of knowledge: they foorthwith putting it in methode, and making a Schoole Art of that which the Poets did onely teach by a diuine delightfulnes, beginning to spurne at their guides, like vngratefull Prentices, were not content to set vp shop for themselues, but sought by all meanes to discredit their maisters, which by the force of delight being barred them, the lesse they could ouerthrow them, the more they hated them. For indeed they found for Homer, seuen Cities straue who should haue him for their Cittizen, where many Cities banished Philosophers, as not fit members to liue among them. For onely repeating certaine of Euripides verses, many Atheniens had their liues saued of the Siracusans, where the Atheniens themselues thought many Philosophers vnworthie to liue. Certaine Poets, as Simonides, and Pindarus, had so preuailed with Hiero the first, that of a Tyrant they made him a iust King: where Plato could do so little with Dionisius, that he himselfe of a Philosopher, was made a slaue. But who should do thus, I confesse should requite the obiections made against Poets, with like cauillations against Philosophers: as likewise one should do, that should bid one read Phaedrus or Simposium in Plato, or the discourse of loue in Plutarch, and see whether any Poet do authorise abhominable filthinesse as they doo. Againe, a man might aske, out of what Common-wealth Plato doth banish them, in sooth, thence where he himselfe alloweth communitie of women. So as belike this banishment grew not for effeminate wantonnesse, since little should Poetical Sonnets be hurtful, when a man might haue what woman he listed. But I honor Philosophicall instructions, and blesse the wits which bred them: so as they be not abused, which is likewise stretched to Poetrie. S. Paul himselfe sets a watch-word vppon Philosophie, indeed vppon the abuse. So doth Plato vppon the abuse, not vpon Poetrie. Plato found fault that the Poettes of his time, filled the worlde with wrng opinions of the Gods, making light tales of that vnspotted essence; and therfore wold not haue the youth depraued with such opinions: heerein may much be said; let this suffice. The Poets did not induce such opinions, but did imitate those opinions alreadie induced. For all the Greeke stories can well testifie, that the verie religiō of that time, stood vpon many, and many fashioned Gods: Not taught so by Poets, but followed according to their nature of imitation. Who list may read in Plutarch, the discourses of Isis and Osiris, of the cause why Oracles ceased, of the diuine prouidence, & see whether the Theology of that nation, stood not vpon such dreams, which the Poets indeede superstitiously obserued. And truly since they had not the light of Christ, did much better in it, then the Philosophers, who shaking off superstition, brought in Atheisme. Plato therfore, whose authoritie, I had much rather iustly cōsture, then vniustly resist: ment not in generall of Poets, in those words of which Iulius Scaliger saith; Qua authoritate barbari quidam at{que} hispidi abuti velint ad poetas è rep. Exigendos. But only ment to driue out those wrong opinions of the Deitie: wherof now without further law, Christianitie hath taken away all the hurtful beliefe, perchance as he thought nourished by then esteemed Poets. And a man need go no further then to Plato himselfe to knowe his meaning: who in his Dialogue called Ion, giueth high, and rightly, diuine commendation vnto Poetrie. So as Plato banishing the abuse, not the thing, not banishing it, but giuing due honour to it, shall be our Patron, and not our aduersarie. For indeed, I had much rather, since truly I may do it, shew their mistaking of Plato, vnder whose Lyons skinne, they would make an Aslike braying against Poesie, then go about to ouerthrow his authoritie; whome the wiser a man is, the more iust cause he shall finde to haue in admiration: especially since he attributeth vnto Poesie, more then my selfe do; namely, to be a verie inspiring of a diuine force, farre aboue mans wit, as in the forenamed Dialogue is apparant. Of the other side, who would shew the honours haue bene by the best sort of iudgements graunted them, a whole sea of examples woulde present themselues; Alexanders, Caesars, Scipioes, all fauourers of Poets: Laelius, called the Romane Socrates himselfe a Poet; so as part of Heautontimoroumenon in Terence, was supposed to bee made by him. And euen the Greeke Socrates, whome Appollo confirmed to bee the onely wise man, is said to haue spent part of his olde time in putting Esopes Fables into verses. And therefore full euill should it become his scholler Plato, to put such words in his maisters mouth against Poets. But what needs more? Aristotle writes the Arte of Poesie, and why, if it should not bee written? Plutarche teacheth the vse to bee gathered of them, and how, if they should not bee reade? And who reades Plutarches either Historie or Philosophie, shall finde hee trimmeth both their garments with gardes of Poesie. But I list not to defend Poesie with the helpe of his vnderling Historiographie. Let it suffice to haue shewed, it is a fit soyle for praise to dwell vppon: and what dispraise may set vppon it, is either easily ouercome, or transformed into iust commendation. So that since the excellencies of it, may bee so easily and so iustly confirmed, and the lowe creeping obiections so soone trodden downe, it not beeing an Art of lyes, but of true doctrine; not of effoeminatenesse, but of notable stirring of courage; not of abusing mans wit, but of strengthening mans wit; not banished, but honored by Plato; Let vs rather plant more Lawrels for to ingarland the Poets heads (which honor of being Lawreate, as besides them onely triumphant Captaines were, is a sufficient authoritie to shewe the price they ought to bee held in) then suffer the ill sauoured breath of such wrong speakers once to blow vppon the cleare springs of Poesie. But since I haue runne so long a Carrier in this matter, me thinkes before I giue my penne a full stoppe, it shall be but a litle more lost time, to enquire why England the Mother of excellent mindes should be growne so hard a stepmother to Poets, who certainely in wit ought to passe all others, since all onely proceedes from their wit, beeing indeed makers of themselues, not takers of others. How can I but exclaime. Musa mihi causas memoria quo numine laeso, Sweete Poesie that hath aunciently had Kings, Emperours, Senatours, great Captaines, such as besides a thousandes others, Dauid, Adrian, Sophocles, Germanicus, not onelie to fauour Poets, but to bee Poets: and of our nearer times, can present for her Patrons, a Robert King of Scicill, the great King Fraunces of Fraunce, King Iames of Scotland; such Cardinalls as Bembus, and Bibiena; suche famous Preachers and Teachers, as Beza and Melanchchon; so learned Philosophers, as Fracastorius, and Scaliger; so great Orators, as Pontanus, and Muretus; so pearcing wits, as George Buchanan; so graue Counsailours, as besides manie, but before all, that Hospitall of Fraunce; then whome I thinke that Realme neuer brought forth a more accomplished iudgement, more firmly builded vpō vertue: I say these with numbers of others, not onely to read others Poesies, but to poetise for others reading; that Poesie thus embraced in all other places, should onely finde in our time a hard welcome in England. I thinke the verie earth laments it, and therefore deckes our soyle with fewer Lawrels then it was accustomed. For heretofore, Poets haue in England also flourished: and which is to be noted, euen in those times when the Trumpet of Mars did sonnd lowdest. And now that an ouer faint quietnesse should seeme to strowe the house for Poets. They are almost in as good reputation, as the Mountebanckes at Venice. Truly euen that, as of the one side it giueth great praise to Poesie, which like Venus (but to better purpose) had rather be troubled in the net with Mars, then enioy the homely quiet of Vulcan. So serueth it for a peece of a reasō, why they are lesse gratefull to idle England, which now can scarce endure the paine of a penne. Vpon this necessarily followeth, that base men with seruill wits vndertake it, who thinke it inough if they can be rewarded of the Printer: and so as Epaminandas is said with the honor of his vertue to haue made an Office, by his exercising it, which before was contemtible, to become highly respected: so these men no more but setting their names to it, by their own disgracefulnesse, disgrace the most gracefull Poesie. For now as if all the Muses were got with childe, to bring forth bastard Poets: without any commission, they do passe ouer the Bankes of Helicon, till they make the Readers more wearie then Post-horses: while in the meane time, they Queis meliore luto finxit praecordia Titan, are better content to suppresse the out-flowings of their wit, then by publishing them, to be accounted Knights of the same order. But I that before euer I durst aspire vnto the dignitie, am admitted into the companie of the Paper-blurrers, do finde the verie true cause of our wanting estimation, is want of desert, taking vppon vs to be Poets, in despite of Palla•. Now wherein we want desert, were a thank woorthie labour to expresse. But if I knew I should haue mended my selfe, but as I neuer desired the title, so haue I neglected the meanes to come by it, onely ouer-mastered by some thoughts, I yeelded an inckie tribute vnto them. Marrie they that delight in Poesie it selfe, should seek to know what they do, and how they do: and especially looke themselues in an vnflattering glasse of reason, if they be enclinable vnto it. For Poesie must not be drawne by the eares, it must be gently led, or rather it must lead, which was partly the cause that made the auncient learned affirme, it was a diuine gift & no humane skil; since all other knowledges lie readie for anie that haue strength of wit: A Poet no industrie can make, if his owne Genius be not carried into it. And therefore is an old Prouerbe, Orator fit, Paeta nascitur. Yet conconfesse I alwaies, that as the fertilest ground must be manured, so must the highest flying wit haue a Dedalus to guide him. That Dedalus they say both in this and in other, hath three wrings to beare it selfe vp into the aire of due commendation: that is Art, Imitation, and Exercise. But these neither Artificiall Rules, nor imitatiue paternes, we much comber ourselues withall. Exercise indeed we do, but that verie fore-backwardly; for where we should exercise to know, we exercise as hauing knowne: and so is our braine deliuered of much matter, which neuer was begotten by knowledge. For there being two principall parts, Matter to be expressed by words, and words to expresse the matter: In neither, wee vse Art or imitation rightly. Our matter is, Quodlibet, indeed though wrongly performing, Ouids Verse. Quicquid conabor dicere, Versus erit: neuer marshalling it into anie assured ranck, that almost the Readers cannot tell where to finde themselues. Chawcer vndoubtedly did excellently in his Troilus and Creseid: of whome trulie I knowe not whether to meruaile more, either that hee in that mistie time could see so clearly, or that wee in this cleare age, goe so stumblingly after him. Yet had hee great wants, fit to be forgiuen in so reuerent an Antiquitie. I account the Mirrour of Magistrates, meetly furnished of bewtiful partes. And in the Earle of Surreis Lirickes, manie thinges tasting of a Noble birth, and worthie of a Noble minde. The Sheepheards Kallender, hath much Poetrie in his Egloges, indeed woorthie the reading, if I be not deceiued. That same framing of his style to an olde rusticke language, I dare not allow: since neither Theocritus in Greeke, Virgill in Latine, nor Sanazara in Italian, did affect it. Besides these, I doo not remember to haue seene but fewe (to speake boldly) printed, that haue poeticall sinnewes in them. For proofe whereof, let but moste of the Verses bee put in prose, and then aske the meaning, and it will bee founde, that one Verse did but beget an other, without ordering at the first, what should bee at the last, which becomes a confused masse of words, with a tingling sound of ryme, barely accompanied with reasons. Our Tragidies and Commedies, not without cause cryed out against, obseruing rules neither of honest ciuilitie, nor skilfull Poetrie. Excepting Gorboducke, (againe I say of those that I haue seen) which notwithstanding as it is full of stately speeches, and wel sounding phrases, clyming to the height of Seneca his style, and as full of notable morallitie, which it dooth most delightfully teach, and so obtaine the verie ende of Poesie. Yet in truth, it is verie defectious in the circumstaunces, which greeues mee, because it might not remaine as an exact moddell of all Tragidies. For it is faultie both in place and time, the two necessarie Companions of all corporall actions. For where the Stage should alway represent but one place, and the vttermoste time presupposed in it, should bee both by Aristotles precept, and common reason, but one day; there is both manie dayes and places, inartificially imagined. But if it bee so in Gorboducke, howe much more in all the the rest, where you shall haue Asia of the one side, and Affricke of the other, and so manie other vnder Kingdomes, that the Player when he comes in, must euer begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceiued. Now you shall haue three Ladies walke to gather flowers, and then we must beleeue the stage to be a garden. By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock. Vpon the back of that, comes out a hidious monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a Caue: while in the meane time two Armies flie in, represented with soure swords & bucklers, and thē what hard hart wil not receiue it for a pitched field. Now of time, they are much more liberall. For ordinarie it is, that two yoong Princes fall in loue, after many trauerses she is got with childe, deliuered of a faire boy: he is lost, groweth a man, falleth in loue, and is readie to get an other childe, and all this in two houres space: which howe absurd it is in sence, euen sence may imagine: and Arte hath taught, and all auncient examples iustified, and at this day the ordinarie players in Italie will not erre in. Yet will some bring in an example of Eunuche in Terence, that conteineth matter of two dayes, yet far short of twentie yeares. True it is, and so was it to be played in two dayes, and so fitted to the time it set foorth. And though Plautus haue in one place done amisse, let vs hit it with him, & not misse with him. But they will say, how then shall we set foorth a storie, which contains both many places, and many times? And do they not know that a Tragidie is tied to the lawes of Poesie and not of Historie: not bounde to follow the storie, but hauing libertie either to faine a quite new matter, or to frame the Historie to the most Tragicall conueniencie. Againe, many things may be told which cannot be shewed: if they know the difference betwixt reporting and representing. As for example, I may speake though I am here, of Peru, and in speech digresse from that, to the description of Calecut: But in action, I cannot represent it without Pacolets Horse. And so was the manner the Auncients tooke, by some Nuntius, to recount things done in former time or other place. Lastly, if they will represent an Historie, they must not (as Horace saith) beginne ab ouo, but they must come to the principall poynte of that one action which they will represent. By example this will be best expressed. I haue a storie of yoong Polidorus, deliuered for safeties sake with great riches, by his Father Priamus, to Polminester King of Thrace, in the Troyan warre time. He after some yeares, hearing the ouerthrowe of Priamus, for to make the treasure his owne, murthereth the Childe, the bodie of the Childe is taken vp, Hecuba, shee the same day, findeth a sleight to bee reuenged moste cruelly of the Tyrant. Where nowe would one of our Tragedie writers begin, but with the deliuerie of the Childe? Then should hee saile ouer into Thrace, and so spende I know not howe many yeares, and trauaile numbers of places. But where dooth Euripides? euen with the finding of the bodie, the rest leauing to be told by the spirite of Polidorus. This needes no further to bee enlarged, the dullest witte may conceiue it. But besides these grosse absurdities, howe all their Playes bee neither right Tragedies, nor right Comedies, mingling Kinges and Clownes, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the Clowne by head and shoulders to play a part in maiesticall matters, with neither decencie nor discretion: so as neither the admiration and Commiseration, nor the right sportfulnesse is by their mongrell Tragicomedie obtained. I know Apuleius did somewhat so, but that is a thing recounted with space of time, not represented in one moment: and I knowe the Auncients haue one or two examples of Tragicomedies, as Plautus hath Amphitrio. But if we marke them well, wee shall finde that they neuer or verie daintily matche horne Pipes and Funeralls. So falleth it out, that hauing indeed no right Comedie in that Comicall part of our Tragidie, wee haue nothing but scurrillitie vnwoorthie of anie chaste eares, or some extreame shewe of doltishnesse, indeede fit to lift vp a loude laughter and nothing else: where the whole tract of a Comedie should be full of delight, as the Tragidie should bee still maintained in a well raised admiration. But our Comedients thinke there is no delight without laughter, which is verie wrong, for though laughter may come with delight, yet commeth it not of delight, as though delight should be the cause of laughter. But well may one thing breed both togither. Nay rather in themselues, they haue as it were a kinde of contrarietie: For delight wee scarcely doo, but in thinges that haue a conueniencie to our selues, or to the generall nature: Laughter almost euer commeth of thinges moste disproportioned to our selues, and nature. Delight hath a ioy in it either permanent or present. Laughter hath onely a scornfull tickling. For example, wee are rauished with delight to see a faire woman, and yet are farre from beeing mooued to laughter. Wee laugh at deformed creatures, wherein certainly wee cannot delight. We delight in good chaunces, wee laugh at mischaunces. We delight to heare the happinesse of our friendes and Countrey, at which hee were worthie to be laughed at, that would laugh: we shall contrarily laugh sometimes to finde a matter quite mistaken, and goe downe the hill against the byas, in the mouth of some such men as for the respect of them, one shall be hartily sorie, he cannot chuse but laugh, and so is rather pained, then delighted with laughter. Yet denie I not, but that they may goe well togither, for as in Alexanders picture well set out, wee delight without laughter, and in twentie madde Antiques, wee laugh without delight. So in Hercules, painted with his great beard and furious countenaunce, in a womans attyre, spinning, at Omphales commaundement, it breedes both delight and laughter: for the representing of so straunge a power in Loue, procures delight, and the scornefulnesse of the action, stirreth laughter. But I speake to this purpose, that all the ende of the Comicall part, bee not vppon suche scornefull matters as stirre laughter onelie, but mixe with it, that delightfull teaching whiche is the ende of Poesie. And the great faulte euen in that poynt of laughter, and forbidden plainly by Aristotle, is, that they stirre laughter in sinfull things, which are rather execrable then ridiculous: or in miserable, which are rather to be pitied then scorned. For what is it to make folkes gape at a wretched begger, and a beggerly Clowne: or against lawe of hospitalitie, to least at straungers, because they speake not English so well as we do? What doo we learne, since it is certaine, Nil habet infoelix paupertas durius in se, Quam quod ridiculos homines facit. But rather a busie louing Courtier, and a hartlesse threatning Thraso; a selfe-wise seeming Schoolemaister, a wry transformed Traueller: these if we saw walke in Stage names, which we plaie naturally, therein were delightfull laughter, and teaching delightfulnesse, as in the other the Tragidies of Buchanan do iustly bring foorth a a diuine admiration. But I haue lauished out too many words of this Play-matter; I do it, because as they are excelling parts of Poesie, so is there none so much vsed in England, and none can be more pittifully abused: which like an vnmannerly daughter, shewing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesies honestie to be called in question. Other sort of Poetrie, almost haue we none, but that Lyricall kind of Songs and Sonets; which Lord, if he gaue vs so good mindes, how well it might be employed, and with how heauenly fruites, both priuate and publike, in singing the praises of the immortall bewtie, the immortall goodnes of that God, who giueth vs hands to write, and wits to conceiue: of which we might wel want words, but neuer matter, of which we could turne our eyes to nothing, but we should euer haue new budding occasions. But truly many of such writings as come vnder the banner of vnresistable loue, if I were a mistresse, would neuer perswade mee they were in loue: so coldly they applie firie speeches, as men that had rather redde louers writings, and so caught vp certaine swelling Phrases, which hang togither like a man that once tolde me the winde was at Northwest and by South, because he would be sure to name winds inough, then that in truth they feele those passions, which easily as I thinke, may be bewraied by that same forciblenesse or Euergia, (as the Greeks call it of the writer). But let this be a sufficient, though short note, that we misse the right vse of the materiall point of Poesie. Now for the outside of it, which is words, or (as I may tearme it) Diction, it is euen well worse: so is it that hony-flowing Matrone Eloquence, apparrelled, or rather disguised, in a Courtisanlike painted affectation. One time with so farre set words, that many seeme monsters, but must seeme straungers to anie poore Englishman: an other time with coursing of a letter, as if they were bound to follow the method of a Dictionary: an other time with figures and flowers, extreemly winter-starued. But I would this fault were onely peculiar to Versefiers, and had not as large possessiō among Prose-Printers: and which is to be meruailed among many Schollers, & which is to be pitied among some Preachers. Truly I could wish, if at least I might be so bold to wish, in a thing beyond the reach of my capacity, the diligent Imitators of Tully & Demosthenes, most worthie to be imitated, did not so much keepe Nizolian paper bookes, of their figures and phrases, as by attentiue translation, as it were, deuoure them whole, and make them wholly theirs. For now they cast Suger and spice vppon euerie dish that is serued to the table: like those Indians, not content to weare eare-rings at the fit and naturall place of the eares, but they will thrust Iewels through their nose and lippes, because they will be sure to be fine. Tully when he was to driue out Catiline, as it were with a thunderbolt of eloquence, often vseth the figure of repitition, as Viuit & vincit, imo insenatum, Venit imo, insenatum venit, &c. Indeede enflamed, with a well grounded rage, hee would haue his words (as it were) double out of his mouth, and so do that artificially, which we see men in choller doo naturally. And we hauing noted the grace of those words, hale them in sometimes to a familiar Epistle, when it were too much choller to be chollericke. How well store of Similiter Cadenses, doth sound with the grauitie of the Pulpit, I woulde but inuoke Demosthenes soule to tell: who with a rare daintinesse vseth them. Truly they haue made mee thinke of the Sophister, that with too much subtiltie would proue two Egges three, and though he might bee counted a Sophister, had none for his labour. So these men bringing in such a kinde of eloquence, well may they obtaine an opinion of a seeming finenesse, but perswade few, which should be the ende of their finenesse. Now for similitudes in certain Printed discourses, I thinke all Herberists, all stories of beasts, foules, and fishes, are rifled vp, that they may come in multitudes to wait vpon any of our conceits, which certainly is as absurd a surfet to the eares as is possible. For the force of a similitude not being to proue any thing to a contrary disputer, but onely to explaine to a willing hearer, when that is done, the rest is a moste tedious pratling, rather ouerswaying the memorie from the purpose whereto they were applied, then anie whit enforming the iudgement alreadie either satisfied, or by similitudes not to be satisfied. For my part, I doo not doubt, when Antonius and Crassus, the great forefathers of Cicero in eloquence, the one (as Cicero testifieth of them) pretended not to knowe Art, the other not to set by it, (because with a plaine sensiblenesse, they might winne credit of popular eares, which credit, is the nearest steppe to perswasion, which perswasion, is the chiefe marke of Oratorie) I do not doubt I say, but that they vsed these knacks verie sparingly, which who doth generally vse, any man may see doth dance to his owne musick, and so to be noted by the audience, more careful to speak curiously then truly. Vndoubtedly (at least to my opinion vndoubtedly) I haue found in diuers smal learned Courtiers, a more sound stile, then in some professors of learning, of which I can gesse no other cause, but that the Courtier following that which by practise he findeth fittest to nature, therein (though he know it not) doth according to art, thogh not by art: where the other vsing art to shew art and not hide art (as in these cases he shuld do) flieth from nature, & indeed abuseth art. But what? methinks I deserue to be poūded for straying from Poetrie, to Oratory: but both haue such an affinitie in the wordish consideratiō, that I think this digression will make my meaning receiue the fuller vnderstanding: which is not to take vpon me to teach Poets how they should do, but only finding my selfe sicke among the rest, to shew some one or two spots of the common infection growne among the most part of writers; that acknowledging our selues somewhat awry, wee may bende to the right vse both of matter and manner. Whereto our language giueth vs great occasion, being indeed capable of any excellent exercising of it. I knowe some will say it is a mingled language: And why not, so much the better, taking the best of both the other? Another will say, it wanteth Grammer. Nay truly it hath that praise that it wants not Grammer; for Grammer it might haue, but it needs it not, being so easie in it selfe, and so voyd of those combersome differences of Cases, Genders, Moods, & Tenses, which I thinke was a peece of the Tower of Babilons curse, that a man should be put to schoole to learn his mother tongue. But for the vttering sweetly and properly the conceit of the minde, which is the end of speech, that hath it equally with any other tongue in the world. And is perticularly happy in compositions of two or three wordes togither, neare the Greeke, farre beyond the Latine, which is one of the greatest bewties can be in a language. Now of versefying, there are two sorts, the one auncient, the other moderne. The auncient marked the quantitie of each sillable, and according to that, framed his verse: The moderne, obseruing onely number, with some regard of the accent; the chiefe life of it, standeth in that like sounding of the words, which we call Rime. Whether of these be the more excellent, wold bear many speeches, the ancient no doubt more fit for Musick, both words and time obseruing quantitie, and more fit, liuely to expresse diuers passions by the low or loftie sound of the well-wayed sillable. The latter likewise with his rime striketh a certaine Musicke to the eare: and in fine, since it dooth delight, though by an other way, it obtaineth the same purpose, there being in eitner sweetnesse, and wanting in neither, maiestie. Truly the English before any Vulgare language, I know is fit for both sorts: for, for the auncient, the Italian is so full of Vowels, that it must euer be combred with Elisions. The Duch so of the other side with Consonants, that they cannot yeeld the sweete slyding, fit for a Verse. The French in his whole language, hath not one word that hath his accent in the last sillable, sauing two, called Antepenultima; and little more hath the Spanish, and therefore verie gracelesly may they vse Dactiles. The English is subiect to none of these defects. Now for Rime, though we doo not obserue quantie, yet wee obserue the Accent verie precisely, which other languages either cannot do, or will not do so absolutely. That Caesura, or breathing place in the midst of the Verse, neither Italian nor Spanish haue: the French and we, neuer almost faile off. Lastly, euen the verie Rime it selfe, the Italian cannot put it in the last sillable, by the French named the Masculine Rime; but still in the next to the last, which the French call the Female; or the next before that, which the Italian Sdrucciola: the example of the former, is Buono, Suono, of the Sdrucciola, is Femina, Semina. The French of the other side, hath both the Male as Bon, Son; and the Female, as Plaise, Taise; but the Sdrucciola he hath not: where the English hath all three, as Du, Trew, Father, Rather, Motion, Potion, with much more which might be sayd, but that alreadie I finde the triflings of this discourse is much too much enlarged. So that since the euer-praise woorthie Poesie is full of vertue breeding delightfulnesse, and voyd of no gift that ought to be in the noble name of learning, since the blames layd against it, are either false or feeble, since the cause why it is not esteemed in England, is the fault of Poet-apes, not Poets. Since lastly our tongue is most fit to honour Poesie, and to bee honoured by Poesie, I coniure you all that haue had the euill luck to read this inck-wasting toy of mine, euen in the name of the nine Muses, no more to scorne the sacred misteries of Poesie. No more to laugh at the name of Poets, as though they were next inheritors to fooles; no more to iest at the reuerent title of a Rimer, but to beleeue with Aristotle, that they were the auncient Treasurers of the Grecians diuinitie; to beleeue with Bembus, that they were first bringers in of all Ciuilitie; to beleeue with Scalliger that no Philosophers precepts can sooner make you an honest man, then the reading of Virgil; to beleeue with Clauserus, the Translator of Cornutus, that it pleased the heauenly deitie by Hesiod and Homer, vnder the vaile of Fables to giue vs all knowledge, Logicke, Rhetoricke, Philosophie, naturall and morall, and Quid non? To beleeue with me, that there are many misteries contained in Poetrie, which of purpose were written darkly, least by prophane wits it should be abused: To beleeue with Landin, that they are so beloued of the Gods, that whatsoeuer they write, proceeds of a diuine furie. Lastly, to beleeue themselues when they tell you they will make you immortal by their verses. Thus doing, your name shall florish in the Printers shops. Thus doing you shalbe of kin to many a Poeticall Preface. Thus doing, you shal be most faire, most rich, most wise, most all: you shall dwel vpon Superlatiues. Thus doing, though you be Libertino patre natus, you shall sodeinly grow Herculea proles. Si quid mea Carmina possunt. Thus doing, your soule shall be placed with Dantes Beatrix, or Virgils Anchises. But if (fie of such a but) you bee borne so neare the dull-making Cataract of Nilus, that you cannot heare the Planet-like Musicke of Poetrie; if you haue so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift it selfe vp to looke to the skie of Poetrie, or rather by a certaine rusticall disdaine, wil become such a mome, as to bee a Momus of Poetrie: then though I will not wish vnto you the Asses eares of Midas, nor to be driuen by a Poets verses as Bubonax was, to hang himselfe, nor to be rimed to death as is said to be done in Ireland, yet thus much Curse I must send you in the behalfe of all Poets, that while you liue, you liue in loue, and neuer get sauour, for lacking skill of a Sonet, and when you die, your memorie die from the earth for want of an Epitaphe.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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