« PreviousContinue »
admirable Italian commentary on the ETHICS of Aristotle, entitled FILOSOFIA MORALE SOPRA IL LIBRI D'ETHICA D'ARISTOTILE, declaims against the barbarity of rhyme, and strongly recommends a total rejection of this Gothic ornament to his countrymen. He enforces his precept by his own example; and translates all Aristotle's quotations from Homer and Euripides into verse without rhyme. Gonsalvo Perez, the learned secretary to Philip of Spain, had also recently translated Homer's Odyssey into Spanish blank-verse. How much the excellent Roger Ascham approved of Surrey's disuse of rhyme in this translation from Virgil, appears from the following passage in his SCHOLEMASTER, written about the year 1564". "The noble lord Thomas earle of Surrey, FIRST OF ALL ENGLISHMEN, in translating the fourth [and second] booke of Virgill; and Gonsalvo Perez, that excellent learned man, and secretarie to king Philip of Spayne", in translating the ULYSSES of Homer out of Greeke into Spanish, have both by good judgement avoyded the FAULT OF RYMING.-The spying of this fault now is not the curiositie of English eyes, but even the good judgement also of the best that write in these dayes in Italie.And you, that be able to understand no more than ye find in the Italian tong; and never went further than the schoole of PETRARCH and ARIOSTO abroade, or else of CHAUCER at home, though you have pleasure to wander blindlie still in your foule wronge way, envie not others, that seeke, as wise men have done before them, the FAYREST and RYGHTEST way.-And therefore, even as Virgill and Horace deserve most worthie prayse, that they, spying the unperfitness in Ennius and Plautus, by trewe imitation of Homer and Euripides, brought poetrie to the same perfectnes in Latin as it was in Greeke, even so those, that by the same way would BENEFIT THEIR TONG and country, deserve rather thankes than dispraysex."
The revival of the Greek and Roman poets in Italy, excited all the learned men of that country to copy the Roman versification, and consequently banished the old Leonine Latin verse. The same classical idea operated in some degree on the vernacular poetry of Italy. In
I know of no English critic besides, who has mentioned Surrey's Virgil, except Bolton, a great reader of old English books. Hypercrit. p. 237. Oxon. 1772.
[Meres had spoken of it with commen dation before Bolton; but his words are nearly a repetition of those uttered by Ascham. See Wits Treasury, 1598. An anonymous writer, in 1644, thus introduced Surrey with several of his successors in vindication of the English as a poetic language. "There is no sort of verse, either ancient or modern, which we are not able to equal by imitation. We have our English Virgil, Ovid, Seneca,
Lucan, Juvenal, Martial and Catullus; in the Earl of Surry, Daniel, Jonson, Spencer, Don, Shakespear, and the glory of the rest, Sandys and Sydney." Vindex Anglicus.-PARK.]
Among Ascham's Epistles, there is one to Perez, inscribed Clarissimo viro D. Gonsalvo Perisio Regis Catholici Secretario primario et Consiliario intimo, Amico meo carissimo. In which Ascham recommends the embassador sir William Cecil to his acquaintance and friendship. Epistol. Lib. Un. p. 228. b. edit. Lond.
B. ii. p. 54. b. 55. a. edit. 1589. 4tc.
the year 1528*, Trissino published his ITALIA LIBERata di Goti, or ITALY DELIVERED FROM THE GOтнs, an heroic poem, professedly written in imitation of the Iliad, without either rhyme, or the usual machineries of the Gothic romance. Trissino's design was to destroy the TERZA RIMA of Dante. We do not, however, find, whether it be from the facility with which the Italian tongue falls into rhyme, or that the best and established Italian poets wrote in the stanza, that these efforts to restore blank-verse produced any lasting effects in the progress of the Italian poetry. It is very probable, that this specimen of the Eneid in blank-verse by Surrey, led the way to Abraham Fleming's blank-verse translation of Virgil's Bucolics and Georgics, although done in Alexandrines, published in the year 1589.
Lord Surrey wrote many other English poems which were never published, and are now perhaps entirely lost. He translated the EcCLESIASTES of Solomon into English verse. This piece is cited in the Preface to the Translation of the Psalms†, printed at London in [about] 1567. He also translated a few of the Psalms into metre. These versions of Scripture show that he was a friend to the reformation. Among his works are also recited, a Poem on his friend the young duke of Richmond, an Exhortation to the citizens of London, a Translation of Boccace's Epistle to Pinus, and a sett of Latin epistles. Aubrey has preserved a poetical Epitaph, written by Surrey on sir Thomas Clere, his faithful retainer and constant attendant, which was once in Lambethchurch; and which, for its affection and elegance, deserves to be printed among the earl's poems. I will quote a few lines.
Shelton for love, Surrey for lord thee chasea:
(Aye me, while life did last that league was tender!)
Thine earle halfe dead gave in thy hand his Will;
John Clerc, who travelled into Italy with Pace, an eminent linguist of those times, and secretary to Thomas duke of Norfolk, father of lord
[Dr. Nott conceives Surrey could not have seen this poem, as it was not printed till after his death.-PRICE.]
Y London, 4to.
[Ascribed hereafter to archbishop Parker.-PARK.]
[The book of Epistles and the translation of Boccace's Epistle to Pinus have not hitherto been discovered.-DR. NOTT.]
See Aubrey's Surrey, V. 247.
Towns taken by lord Surrey in the Bologne expedition, [except Kelsal, which was burnt during the incursion into Scotland,-NOTT.]
d He died in 1545. See Stowe's Chron. p. 586. 588. edit. 1615.
Surrey, in a dedication to the latter, prefixed to his Tretise of NoBILITIE, printed at London in 1543, has mentioned, with the highest commendations, many translations done by Surrey, from the Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish languages. But these it is probable were nothing more than juvenile exercises.
Surrey, for his justness of thought, correctness of style, and purity of expression, may justly be pronounced the first English classical poet. He unquestionably is the first polite writer of love-verses in our language. It must, however, be allowed, that there is a striking native beauty in some of our love-verses written much earlier than Surrey's. But in the most savage ages and countries, rude nature has taught elegance to the lover.
Sir Thomas Wyat. Inferior to Surrey as a writer of Sonnets. His Life. His Genius characterised. Excels in Moral Poetry.
WITH Surrey's Poems, Tottel has joined, in his editions of 1557 and 1565, the SONGES and SONNETTES of sir Thomas Wyat the eldera, and of Uncertain Auctours.
Wyat was of Allington-castle in Kent, which he magnificently repaired, and educated in both our universities. But his chief and most splendid accomplishments were derived from his travels into various parts of Europe, which he frequently visited in the quality of an envoy. He was endeared to king Henry the Eighth, who did not always act from caprice, for his fidelity and success in the execution of public business, his skill in arms, literature, familiarity with languages, and lively conversation. Wood, who degrades every thing by poverty of style and improper representation, says, that "the king was in a high manner delighted with his witty jestsb." It is not perhaps improbable, that Henry was as much pleased with his repartees as his politics. He is reported to have occasioned the reformation by a joke, and to have planned the fall of cardinal Wolsey by a seasonable story. But he had almost lost his popularity, either from an intimacy with queen Anne
• Lond. 12mo. A translation from the French.
* Wyat's begin at fol. 19. Ath. Oxon. i. 51.
[In Sloane MS. 1523, some maxims and sayings of sir T. Wyat are preserved. A letter occurs in the Harleian MSS. Ascham in his "discourse of the state of Germanie," has the following tributary remark, “A
knight of England of worthy memorie for wit, learnyng and experience, old syr Thomas Wiat, wrote to his sonne that the greatest mischief amongst men, and least punished, is unkyndnes."-PARK.]
See Miscellaneous Antiquities, Numb. ii. pag. 16. Printed at Strawberry-hill,
Boleyn, which was called a connection, or the gloomy cabals of bishop Bonner, who could not bear his political superiority. Yet his prudence and integrity, no less than the powers of his oratory, justified his innocence. He laments his severe and unjust imprisonment on that trying occasion, in a sonnet addressed to sir Francis Bryan; insinuating his solicitude, that although the wound would be healed, the scar would remain, and that to be acquitted of the accusation would avail but little, while the thoughts of having been accused were still fresh in remembranced. It is a common mistake, that he died abroad of the plague in an embassy to Charles the Fifth. Being sent to conduct that emperor's embassador from Falmouth to London, from too eager and a needless desire of executing his commission with dispatch and punctuality, he caught a fever by riding in a hot day, and in his return died on the road at Shirburn, where he was buried in the great conventual church, in the year 1541. The next year, Leland published a book of Latin verses on his death, with a wooden print of his head prefixed, probably done by Holbein. It will be superfluous to transcribe the panegyrics of his cotemporaries, after the encomium of lord Surrey, in which his amiable character owes more to truth than to the graces of poetry, or to the flattery of friendship*.
We must agree with a critic above quoted, that Wyat cooperated with Surrey, in having corrected the roughness of our poetic style. But Wyat, although sufficiently distinguished from the common versifiers of his age, is confessedly inferior to Surrey in harmony of numbers, perspicuity of expression, and facility of phraseology †. Nor is he equal to Surrey in elegance of sentiment, in nature and sensibility. His feelings are disguised by affectation, and obscured by conceit. His declarations of passion are embarrassed by wit and fancy; and his style is not intelligible, in proportion as it is careless and unadorned. His compliments, like the modes of behaviour in that age, are ceremonious and strained. He has too much art as a lover, and too little as a poet. His gallantries are laboured, and his versification negligent. The truth is, his genius was of the moral and didactic species: and his poems abound more in good sense, satire, and observations on life, than in pathos or imagination. Yet there is a degree of lyric sweetness in the following lines to his lute‡, in which, The lover complaineth the unkindness of his love.
d Fol. 44.
eNENIE in Mortem T. Viati, Lond. 1542. 4to. See also Leland's Encom. p. 358.
* [The following epitaph from Leland, as it is short and the book very scarce, may here be appended: Urna tenet cineres ter magni parva Viati; Fama per immensas sed volat alta plagas. PARK.]
+ [Mr. Headley, a very able critic, was of opinion that sir T. Wyat deserves equally of posterity with Surrey, for the diligence with which he cultivated polite letters, although in his verses he seems to have wanted the judgement of his friend, who in imitating Petrarch resisted the contagion of his sweets.-PARK.]
[This harmonious and elegant poem, in one of the Harrington MSS. dated 1564, is ascribed to viscount Rochford, for an ac