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tories and fables, since a man durst not speak of them: but we must contemn their ignorance, for I would gladly have your ancient things brought into competition with the modern, were it for no other reason, but that this causes the bringing in of a many proper names, which, by their great letters would extremely set out the story. Next to this, comes to be considered, that thy discourses must not be tied to one kind of period, nor be always of one dress, like the fool's coat in a play. It is an excellent secret I heard one boast of at Paris; I think he had an ell wherewith he measured all his periods, clipping them if they chanced to fall out too long, or else he cast them in a mould, and measured them by the pottle, such was his dexterity in that point; whereof he gave this reason, because he was a poet, an orator, and a musician (which seldom happens) and knew all the measures, cadences, and harmonies of discourse, which others were ignorant of. But we shall do well enough to imitate him, nay exceed him. Moreover, when the book shall be finished, thou must not dedicate it to Charité alone, as I sometime proposed to Clarimond. Thou shalt dedicate it to me too, and shalt make either of us an epistle. But here is one thing troubles me extremely to know, when the book is bound up in red Spanish leather, with our characters upon it, whether thou wilt come and present it with only a simple compliment; as to say, Incomparable Shepherd, I present you with this work in my dressing; or whether it will be necessary that thou repeat to us by heart the epistle that shall be in the book, which thou shalt pronounce, as if it were an oration. The author I quoted before, desirous to dedicate his book to the King of Spain, was in the same perplexity. Now, thou art to know, that he having sufficiently dedicated his books in this kingdom, goes from country to country to seek new gods to sacrifice unto; and it is thought, that one of these days, he will go and present Bethlem Gabor with a romance of knight-errantry, to instruct him in the militia ; and the great Turk with a book of love-letters, to teach him to overcome the cruelty of his mistresses, which must be Persia, Germany, and the republic of Venice, whom he hath a long time been a suitor to. This author, I say, being on his departure, thought it was but civil to repeat his“ epistle dedicatory”all through before him he should present his book to, though he had never done it before. But to be more assured in the business, he knew not whether he should take the advice of a casuist, a civilian, or a sworn stationer. At last, a certain poet told him, that since men put epistles before their books, it was a sign the authors never presented them themselves, but should send them, though they lived in the same house with their Mecenas, because the epistles would speak for them, there being no need of their presence. I think he took his advice, for he gave over his voyage into Spain. Thou must seriously consider what judgement thou shouldst make on such an occasion. But since we are come so far, I shall note to thee the opinion of the same author upon a sonnet in Pasquire, against those who, speaking to the king, make use of the words, your majesty,' as if they spoke of another person, and so make the royalty feminine, which was, never to call the King of Spain his catholic majesty in his epistle. He said that when he heard that word, he imagiend it spoken
of the king's wife, and to give the king a more convenient title, must be a masculine; as if one should say, Sir, since it hath pleased your ray to shed its favours on me;' or to speak yet better, “Sir, since your power hath vouchsafed to look on me with a favourable eye, I will die in the service of your power: I am, your power's most humble vassal.' Thus you see this writer had handsome inventions: but it is true, for some we have no need of them, and for the rest, they are not much better than such as we should find out ourselves. You give me such excellent instructions, says Philiris, that if I have but the ingenuity to follow them, I shall be the best author in the world, but must acknowledge an obligation to you, both for my eloquence and reputation : I wish myself already retired, that I might take notes of all you have said. I have not told thee all, says Lysis: There will be one thing very remarkable in my history, if thou write it immediately, before there happen any notable change in my affairs ; and that is, that all who shall read it will be finely decoyed; they will imagine to find at last, a marriage between the shepherd Lysis and the shepherdess Charité, according to the ordinary rules of all romances; but there will be no such thing. It is certain they will be much deceived there, replies Philiris, smiling; but your marriage shall come in the continuation of your adventures, which I shall one day finish. But that shall not be till such time as we shall have no readers but such as will be abused. Yet I must tell you, the circumvention will be ever thought remarkable. I have known divers romancists, who would come and make their brags to me, that they would surprise and decoy all the world; for the first romance they would make should begin at the end, and that there was no great art or subtilty to begin one but in the midst. I shall begin it according to your order and instructions to Clarimond : but though your adventures be already very eminent, and able to satisfy the most disdainful and nauseous intellects, yet I should intreat you to add to, and heighten them if it may be possible, that so the work may be the more complete."
The story now draws near a close. Hircan marries one of the nymphs, and Anselme is joined to Angelica. Adrian, the uncle of Lysis, accompanied by his wife Pernella, comes to carry away his mad nephew, and sees, with astonishment, that the gentlemen around him have so long found amusement in his fooleries, that they are become little better than himself; and he is puzzled and distressed by all the stories they relate, whether true or false. Lysis, driven to his last shift, feigns to poison himself and to die, to the great grief of the honest silkman, especially when he learns, that the dead heroes of Arcadia are burnt, which he considers a most anti-christian way of treating his poor, mad cousin. Lysis, on hearing his own funeral oration, being dissatisfied, moves a little, and his friends think it time to relieve him, seeing his condition ; therefore, Charité is brought in; on which he returns by slow degrees to life, his mistress runs out of the house, and the
As for yours,
poor uncle rejoices exceedingly, but is yet troubled how to proceed.
Clarimond, the author of the Banquet of the Gods, not bearing to see the well-meaning tradesman in such perplexity, undertakes the cure of the Extravagant Shepherd; and to that end, pronounces a long speech against all romance writers, beginning with Homer, as the original sinner of the fraternity, neither does Virgil nor Ovid escape, the latter being particularly amenable at the bar of this literal critic, with whom all metaphor is lying.
“ I come forward to the Italian poets. There's Ariosto hath made a romance that is pestered with most absurd inventions. His fable is an imitation of those of the knights errants, and yet it contains many things taken out of Ovid's metamorphoses. The flying horse of Astolphus is the Pegasus of Perseus, and both those warriors relieve a young virgin exposed to a monster. Any one may find other relations: besides, the order is so disjointed, that there is above fifty stories heaped one on another. The author at seven or eight times finishes them, and will leave you two knights with their swords lifted up ready to strike, to go and see what another does; and then he returns to them and makes them exchange two or three blows, and then leaves them again.
“Thus does he make us languish after his fooleries, and his knights are transported from one country into another with as much speed as if their horses had wings.
“ As concerning Tasso, we are as much beholding to him as to Ariosto, for having turned our history into a fable. This last hath made it exquisitely impertinent; for though he be obliged to speak as a Christian in his Jerusalem Besieged; yet he makes nothing to talk as a pagan, and bring all the ancient divinities on the stage. There are a many more who have thus made a confusion of things without any judgement; but its enough to condemn them all at once.
“To come up to our own time, I shall bring in play the most famous poet that ever was in France : any one may conceive I mean Ronsard; and what reputation soever his works have gotten, I shall venture to encounter them. Let a man consider his sonnets, his poems, and his elegies, they are all full of ancient absurdities; and as for his hymns, wherein he is thought to have been most fortunate, pitch upon that of the four seasons of the year, which is the most esteemed because the fables are most of his own invention. The father and mother which he attributes to the winter in one, are not attributed in another; and thus does he make the seasons change parents to accommodate them to his design. As for his Françiad, the same things in a manner may be said against it as against those other pieces of poetry we have already quoted; for if Virgil hath imitated Homer, Ronsard hath imitated Virgil and Homer together; but the imitation is so low and poor, that it will never be forgiven him. If Pallas hides Ulysses in a cloud when he goes to King Alcinous, and if Venus does the like for Æneas when he goes to Dido, Ronsard must needs tell us, that that
goddess did the same favour for Francus when he was to go to King Diceus, though he tells us not what necessity there was that that hero should be so hidden. This Francus had suffered shipwreck at sea as well as Æneas, and his good hostesses must needs fall in love with him: he slights them both, though they were very favourable to him, because he still reflects on the destinies who assure him he shall be the founder of a new Troy. All this Æneas does, and what is yet far more ridiculous, for a more punctual imitation of Homer, Ronsard cannot make his heroes go three steps without the command of some god. Sometimes Mercury must disguise himself, sometimes Venus; one while he sees them in his sleep, another when he is waking, and a third time he meets with some auguries and predictions, wherein is contained all should happen to him; so that when it comes to pass, it must be repeated once again, nay a third time, if there be any body to relate it to, which is so tedious, that it is no small trouble to read him. Is it not still the same invention for want of other? But, besides, would it not have been a rude impertinence among the very pagans, to believe that the gods should shift from one place to another so suddenly to the relief of a mortal ? These poets never suppose any addresses by prayer to those whom they have undertaken to honour, but they say there was presently thunder heard on the left hand, to assure them that Jupiter heard them. Thunder was very common in that time, in any season of the year. Ronsard must also make his comparisons and descriptions like those he made his patrons; but though that be a thing hath gotten much esteem with others, for my part it loses with me.”
This long speech is answered by another of the same description in defence, and, as last words are ever strongest, the ladies and Lysis agree with the defendant; but, at length, Clarimond succeeds in inducing Lysis to perceive, that as he had succeeded in imposing, by a feigned death, on his uncle, so had he been himself the willing dupe of the various impostures practised upon him-a deep sense of shame now succeeds, accompanied by melancholy, from which he is aroused, by learning that Charité, to whom he was sincerely, as well as fantastically attached, would listen to his passion, if he would forsake his habit, his crook, and his uncommon mode of address. He takes heart, listens to the suggestion of his real friends, marries, and becomes rational.
In the language of this romance there is a considerable share of wit, and an extensive acquaintance with the mythology of the ancients, and the use made of their imagery, by the then modern French romance writers; but that day is so completely gone by with us, that it is difficult to believe that the clumsy expedients resorted to could deceive the most ignorant, or entrap the most unwary; yet it is certainly a clever, wellwritten book, and in referring to its great prototype we must remember, that a shepherd is a much less interesting personage than a knight errant. Few ladies will esteem the lover who sits
in the shade to string verses, or weave chaplets, equal to him who breaks a lance, or encounters a squadron, in honour of his mistress; and by the same rule, his insanity is less sublime in its imaginations, and his absurdity less ludicrous in its effects. The author's intention is most pointed against the romance writers of his own country; and it is remarkable, that he never alludes but once to the work of the gentle and brave Sir Philip Sidney,—and then it is touched without dispraise, as though the virtues and talents of that gallant spirit held a spell, that could control the carpings of criticism.
Art. VI.--The Shepherd's Hunting; being certain Eclogues,
written during the time of the Author's imprisonment in the Marshalsea. By George Wither, Gentleman. London : printed by Richard Badger, for Robert Allot. 1633.
Wither is an author now little read, and, for the most part, unreadable. Yet he has passages, here and there, which redeem all his dryness, his quaintness, and prolixity; that it does the heart good to think of; and that make us equally love the man, and regret the misapplied powers of the author. His good parts are like the little green isolated spots in some wide and sterile waste. It is, indeed, (at first sight,) a most surprising thing, how any one could write so ill and so well at the same time,-more especially, as his best lines are not the result of care and industry, but seem genuine breakings out of his true character. It is not easy to conceive how any man should write that exquisitely simple and affecting passage in the Shepherd's Hunting, in praise of “Poesy,” and yet be the author of that immensely long, dull, fanatical poem, the Britain's Remembrancer. The only way to reconcile the apparent contradiction, is to suppose, that he wrote with an exaggerated idea of the importance of certain pragmatical doctrines and rules of conduct, the inculcating of which he had much more at heart than real poetry,-which he probably might not even know to be poetry. Perhaps, the little occasional bits of feeling and the natural touches of pathos, which we admire in Wither, were not unlike the ploughman's song, by which he sings himself into inattention to his
furrows for a few moments, and then stops suddenly, on finding himself deviating from the right line. We should not be at all surprised, if Wither checked himself at the end of the passage above alluded to; and, with some feeling of self reproach, looked back upon his paper, to see how far this trifting