« PreviousContinue »
first edition I have seen, is dated 1547*. All the proverbs of the English language are here interwoven into a very silly comic tale. The lady of the story, an old widow now going to be married again, is thus described, with some degree of drollery, on the bridal day.
In this late olde widow, and then olde newe wife,
Her lust was as yong, as her lims were olde.
She was made like a beere-pot, or a barrell.
She smirkt and she smilde, but so lisped this las,
plication of this professed court-wit seems
In quarto. Others followed, 1549.1562.1566.1576.-1587.-1598.
[Davies, of Hereford, in his "Scourge of Folly," about 1611, printed a Descant upon Englishe proverbes, and exhibited with a retrograde taste, not only the manner, but the dull rhymth (?) of his precursor, in the following metrical address
In came the third with his five egges, and sayd,
As comely as a cowe in a cage.
Gup with a gald back, Gill, come up to supper,
The work has its value and curiosity as a repertory of proverbs made at so early a period. Nor was the plan totally void of ingenuity, to exhibit these maxims in the course of a narrative, enlivened by facts and circumstances. It certainly was susceptible of humour and invention.
Heywood's largest and most laboured performance is the SPIDER AND THE FLIE, with wooden cuts, printed at London by Thomas Powell, in 1556b. It is a very long poem in the octave stanza, containing ninety-eight chapters. Perhaps there never was so dull, so tedious, and trifling an apologue: without fancy, meaning, or moral*. A long tale of fictitious manners will always be tiresome, unless the design be burlesque; and then the ridiculous, arising from the contrast between the solemn and the light, must be ingeniously supported. Our author seems to have intended a fable on the burlesque construction t; but we know not when he would be serious and when witty, whether he means to make the reader laugh, or to give him advice. We must indeed acknowledge, that the age was not yet sufficiently refined, either to relish or to produce burlesque poetry. Harrison, the author of the
knewe a priest that was as nice as a Nunnes
Measure is a merry meane,
Which filde with noppy drinke
But I meane measures gret,
Measure is a merry meane,
And measure is this mate;
Thou wouldst not change the state.
In volewmes full or flat,
Epig. upon Proverbes, Cent. iii. Ep. 28.-
+ [Herbert says "We are to consider the author here, as he really was, a catholic; partial in vindicating the catholic cause and the administration by queen Mary, whom he characterises by the maid, with her broom (the civil sword), executing the commands of her master (Christ) and her mistress (holy church). By the flies are to be understood the catholics; and by the spiders, the protestants. How justly the characters are supported I have neither leisure nor inclination to examine." MS. note.-PARK.]
с But I must not forget Chaucer's Sir Thopas, and that among the Cotton ma
DESCRIPTION OF BRITAINE, prefixed to Hollinshed's Chronicle, has left a sensible criticism on this poem. "One hath made a booke of the SPIDER AND THE FLIE, wherein he dealeth so profoundlie, and be
nuscripts, there is an anonymous poem, perhaps coeval with Chaucer, in the style of allegorical burlesque, which describes the power of money, with great humour, and in no common vein of satire. The hero of the piece is Sir Penny. MSS. Cott. Galba, E. 9.
INCIPIT NARRACIO DE DNO DENARIO.
In erth it es a littill thing,
Whare he es lent in land;
Bow untill 3 his hand:
Papes, kinges, and emperoures,
Person, prest, and knyght,
SIR PENI chaunges man's mode,
Men honors him with grete reuerence,
Vnto that litill swaine.
In kinges court es it no bote,
Se mekill es he of myght,
With PENY may men wemen till 10
So oft may it be sene,
Lang with him will thai noght chide,
In gude skarlet and grene.
He may by 12 by heuyn and hell,
In erth has he swilk grace,
When he bigines him to mell 14,
And waik 15 that bald has bene.
Whare PENI gase bitwene 18.
For to gif dome 22 tham es ful lath 23,
Ful dere with tham es he.
Thare 24 strif was PENI makes pese 25,
In land whare he will lende,
And halden dere in horde.
Other god will thai none haue,
Thaire bales 33 for to blin 34.
On him halely 35 thaire hertes sett,
Nowther for gude ne ill.
All that he will in erth haue done,
He may both lene 38 and gyf;
old. 5 ready. 6 makes, causes, compels. 7 against, before. use. 9 dispute. 10 approach, gain. 11 make them walk. [He may enable them to wear long sweeping dresses. A "trayl-syde gown," says Dr. Jamieson, "is so long as to trail upon the ground."] 13 loose. 14 meddle. 15 weak. 16 all you want is soon done. 17 borrowing or pledging. [surety and pledge.] 18 goes between. 19 judges. 21 truth. judgement. 23 loath. 24 where. 25
20 makes. 27 void.
31 coveted. 32 despise, quit. [lose.] 35 wholly. 36 love. 37 1 doing and speaking.
38 lend. 42 to sit.
PENI es a gude felaw,
Men welcums him in dede and saw 41.
He es noght welkumd als a gest,
23 seat. [the dais.] 29 mess. 30 high-table.
yond all measure of skill, that neither he himselfe that made it, neither anie one that readeth it, can reach unto the meaning thereof." It is a proof of the unpopularity* of this poem, that it never was reprinted. Our author's EPIGRAMS, and the poem of PROVERBS, were in high vogue, and had numerous editions before the year 1598 +. The most lively part of the SPIDER AND FLIE is perhaps the mock-fight between the spiders and flies, an awkward imitation of Homer's BATRACHOMUOMACHY. The preparations for this bloody and eventful engagement, on the part of the spiders, in their cobweb-castle, are thus described.
Behold the battilments in every loope:
How th' ordinance lieth, flies far and nere to fach:
Se the enprenabill fort, in every border,
The capital spider, with wepon in hand,
The beginning of all this confusion is owing to a fly entering the poet's window, not through a broken pane, as might be presumed, but through the lattice, where it is suddenly entangled in a cobweb. The cobweb, however, will be allowed to be sufficiently descriptive of the poet's apartment. But I mention this circumstance as a probable proof, that windows of lattice, and not of glass, were now the common fashion,1
In the Conclusion to the Spider and Flie, Heywood mentions queen Mary and king Philip'. But as most of his pieces seem to have been written some time before, I have placed him under Henry the Eighth.
[The following doubtless was composed on the spousals of Philip and Mary: "A balade specifienge partly the maner, partly the matter, in the most excellent meetyng and lyke mariage betwene our soveraigne Lord and our soveraigne Lady, the kynges and queenes highnes. Pende by John Heywood." Herb. p. 800. Oldys says he had seen "A briefe balet touching the trayterous takynge of Scarborow castle," subscribed J. Heywood, and printed in b. l. Mention is made of these at p. 85. note. The first of them is allegorically figurative, and begins:
The Egles byrde hath spred his wings
On bough or braunch this birde wold
Till on the Rose, both red and whight,
1 [Mr. Warton must have read the Conclusion of Heywood very cursorily, says Herbert, or he would not have been at such a loss for the intention of his poem of the Spider and the Flie.-PARK.]