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that would say we lyed for giving a peece of wood, the reverend title of a Bishop. The Poet nameth Cyrus or Aeneas, no other way, then to shewe, what men of theyr fames, fortunes, and estates, should doe.
Their third is, how much it abuseth mens wit, trayning it to wanton sinfulnes, and lustfull love: for indeed that is the principall, if not the onely abuse I can heare alledged. They say, the Comedies rather teach, then reprehend, amorous conceits. They say, the Lirick, is larded with passionate Sonnets. The Elegiack, weepes the want of his mistresse. And that ever to the Heroical, Cupid hath ambitiously climed. Alas Love, I would thou couldest as well defende thy selfe, as thou canst offende others. I would those, on whom thou doost attend, could eyther put thee away, or yeelde good reason, why they keepe thee. But grant love of beautie, to be a beastlie fault, (although it be very hard, sith onely man, and no beast, hath that gyft, to discerne beauty). Grant, that lovely name of Love, to deserve all hatefull reproches: (although even some of my Maisters the Phylosophers, spent a good deale of theyr Lamp-oyle, in setting foorth the excellencie of it.) Grant, I say, what soever they wil have granted; that not onely love, but lust, but vanitie, but, (if they list) scurrilitie, possesseth many leaves of the Poets bookes: yet thinke I, when this is granted, they will finde, theyr 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 Eikastike, which some learned have defined, figuring foorth good things,) to be Phantastike: which doth contrariwise, infect the fancie with unworthy objects. As the Painter, that shoulde give to the eye, eyther some excellent perspective, or some fine picture, fit for building or fortification : or contayning in it some notable example, as Abraham sacrificing his sonne Isaack, Judith killing Holofernes, David fighting with Goliah, may leave those, and please an ill-pleased eye with wanton shewes of better hidden matters. But what, shall the abuse of a thing, make the right use odious ? Nay truely, though I yield, that Poesie may not onely be abused, but that being abused, by the reason of his sweete charming force, it can doe more hurt than any other Armie of words : yet shall it be so far from concluding, that the abuse should give reproch to the abused, that contrariwise it is a good reason, that whatsoever
being abused, dooth most harme, beeing rightly used: (and upon the right use each thing conceiveth his title) doth most good.
Doe wee not see the skill of Phisick, (the best rampire to our often-assaulted bodies) beeing abused, teach poyson the most violent destroyer? Dooth not knowledge of law, whose end is, to even and right all things being abused, grow the crooked fosterer of horrible injuries? Doth not (to goe to the highest) Gods word abused, breed heresie and his Name abused, become blasphemie?
They alledge heere-with, that before Poets beganne to be in price, our Nation, hath set their harts delight upon action, and not upon imagination: rather doing things worthy to bee written, then writing things fitte to be done. What that before tyme was, I thinke scarcely Sphinx can tell : Sith no memory is so auncient, that hath the precedence of Poetrie. And certaine it is, that in our plainest homelines, yet never was the Albion Nation without poetrie. Mary, thys argument, though it bee leaveld against Poetrie, yet is it indeed a chaineshot against all learning, or bookishnes, as they commonly tearme it. Of such minde were certain Gothes, of whom it is written, that having in the spoile of a famous Citie, taken a fayre librarie: one hangman (bee like fitte to execute the fruites of their wits) who had murthered a great number of bodies, would have set fire on it: no, sayde another, very gravely, take heede what you doe, for whyle they are busie about these toyes, wee shall with more leysure conquer their Countries.
This indeede is the ordinary doctrine of ignorance, and many wordes sometymes I have heard spent in it: but because this reason is generally againstall learning, aswell as Poetrie; or rather, all learning but Poetry: because it were too large a digression, to handle, or at least, to superfluous : (sith it is manifest, that all government of action, is to be gotten by knowledge, and knowledge best, by gathering many knowledges, which is, reading,) I onely (say] with Horace, to him that is of that opinion.
Jubeo stultum esse libenter: for as for Poetrie it selfe, it is the freest from thys objection. For Poetrie is the companion of the Campes.
I dare undertake, Orlando Furioso, or honest King Arthur, will never displease a Souldier : but the quiddity of Ens, and Prima materia, will hardely agree with a Corslet : and therefore, as I said in the beginning, even Turks and Tartares are delighted with Poets. Homer a Greek, florished, before Greece florished. And if to a slight conjecture, a conjecture may
be opposed : truly it may seem, that as by him, their learned men, tooke almost their first light of knowledge, so their active men, received their first motions of courage. Onlie Alexanders example may serve, who by Plutarch is accounted of such vertue, that Fortune was not his guide, but his foote-stoole : whose acts speake for him, though Plutarch did not: indeede, the Phenix of warlike Princes. This Alexander, left his Schoolemaister, living Aristotle, bebinde him, but tooke deade Homer with him : he put the Philosopher Calisthenes to death, for his seeming philosophicall, indeed mutinous stubburnnes. But the chiefe thing he ever was heard to wish for, was, that Homer had been alive. He well found, he received more braverie of minde, bye the patterne of Achilles, then by hearing the definition of Fortitude: and therefore, if Cato misliked Fulvius, for carying Ennius with him to the field, it may be aunswered, that if Cato misliked it, the noble Fulvius liked it, or els he had not doone it : for it was not the excellent Cato Uticensis, (whose authority I would much more have reverenced,) but it was the former : in truth, a bitter punisher of faults, but else, a man that had never wel sacrificed to the Graces. Hee misliked and cryed out upon all Greeke learning, and yet being 80. years olde, began to learne it. Be-like, fearing that Pluto under stood not Latine. Indeede, the Romaine laws allowed, no per son to be carried to the warres, but hee that was in the Souldiers role: and therefore, though Cato misliked his unmustered person, hee misliked not his worke. And if hee had, Scipio Nasica judged by common consent, the best Romaine, loved him. Both the other Scipio Brothers . . so loved him, that they caused his body to be buried in their Sepulcher. So as Cato, his authoritie being but against his person, and that aunswered, with 80 farre greater then himselfe, is heerin of no validitie.
But now indeede my burthen is great ; now Plato his name is layde upon mee, whom I must confesse, of all Philosophers, I have ever esteemed most worthy of reverence, and with great reason: Sith of all Philosophers, he is the most poeticall. Yet if he will defile the Fountaine, out of which his flowing streames have proceeded, let us boldly examine with what reasons hee did it. First truly, a man might maliciously object, that Plato being a Philosopher, was a naturall enemie of Poets : for indeede, after the Philosophers, had picked out of the sweetemisteries of Poetrie, the right discerning true points of knowl edge, they forthwith putting it in method, and making a Schoole-arte of that which the Poets did onely teach, by a divine delightfulnes, beginning to spurne at their guides, like ungratefull Prentises, were not content to set up shops for themselves, but sought by all meanes to discredit their Maisters. Which by the force of delight beeing barred them, the lesse they could overthrow them, the more they hated them. For indeede, they found for Homer, seaven Cities strove, who should have him for their Citizen ; where many Citties banished Philosophers, as not fitte members to live among them. For onely repeating certaine of Euripides verses, many Athenians had their lyves saved of the Siracusians : when the Athenians themselves, thought many Philosophers, unwoorthie to live....
Againe, a man might aske out of what Common-wealth Plato did banish them ? insooth, thence where he himselfe alloweth communitie of women : So as belike, this banishment grewe not for effeminate wantonnes, sith little should poeticall Sonnets be hurtfull, when a man might have 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.
But what need more? Aristotle writes the Arte of Poesie; and why is it should not be written ? Plutarch teacheth the use •to be gathered of them, and how if they should not be read ? And who reades Plutarchs eyther history or philosophy, shall finde, hee trymmeth both theyr garments, with gards of Poesie. But I list not to defend Poesie, with the helpe of her underling, Historiography, let it suffice, that it is a fit soyle for prayse to dwell upon : and what disprayse may set upon it, is eyther easily overcome, or transformed into just commendation. So that sith the excellencies of it, may be so easily, and so justly confirmed, and the low-creeping objections, so soone troden downe; it not being an Art of lyes, but of true doctrine : not of effeminatenes, but of notable stirring of courage : not of abusing mans witte, but of strengthning mans wit: not banished, but honored by Plato : let us rather plant more Laurels, for to engarland our Poets heads, (which honor of being laureat, as besides them, onely tryumphant Captaines weare, is a sufficient authority to shewe the price they ought to be had in,) then suffer the ill-favouring breath of such wrongspeakers, once to blowe upon the cleere springs of Poesie.
SONNET PREFIXED TO THE FOREGOING.
BY HENRY CONSTABLE.
[About 1555 to before 1616.]
GIVE pardon, blessed soul! to my bold cries,
If they, importune, interrupt thy song,
Which now with joyful notes thou sing'st among
That since I saw thee now it is so long;
And yet the tears that unto thee belong,
I did not feel the grief I did sustain;
Astonishment takes from us sense of pain :
UNA AND THE LION.
BY EDMUND SPENSER.
(From " The Faerie Queen.")
[EDMUND SPENSER, English poet, was born in London about 1552, and attended Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. He became intimate with Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of Leicester, and through the latter's influence procured (1580) the post of private secretary to Lord Grey de Wilton, the queen's deputy in Ireland. For his services in suppressing Desmond's rebellion, he obtained 3000 acres of the forfeited Desmond estates, including Kilcolman Castle and manor. At Raleigh's suggestion he went to London in 1589, and the next year brought out the first three books of “The Faerie Queene," which so pleased Elizabeth that she gave him a yearly pension of £50. In 1591 he returned to Kilcolman in poverty, and wrote “ Colin Clout's Come Home Again." Seven years later his house was burned by the Irish rebels, and on January, 1699, he died in poverty at Westminster. By his own request he was buried near Chaucer in Westminster Abbey, the funeral expenses being paid by the Earl of Essex. Besides the above works, Spenser wrote: “The Shepherd's Calendar," " Amoretti," “ Astrophel,” “Four Hymns," etc.]
Naught is there under heaven's wide hollowness,