Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Teaching of Poets
By Thomas Wilson (c. 15261581)
From the Arte of Rhetorike
THE SAYING of poets and all their fables are not to be forgotten, for by them we may talk at large, and win men by persuasion, if we declare beforehand, that these tales were not feigned by such wise men without cause, neither yet continued until this time, and kept in memory without good consideration, and thereupon declare the true meaning of all such writing. For undoubtedly there is no one tale among all the poets, but under the same is comprehended some thing that pertaineth, either to the amendment of manners, to the knowledge of the truth, to the setting forth of natures work, or else the understanding of some notable thing done. For what other is the painful travail of Ulysses, described so largely by Homer, but a lively picture of mans misery in this life. And as Plutarch saith, and likewise Basilius Magnus: in the Iliades are described strength and valiantness of the body. In Odissea is set forth a lively pattern of the mind. The poets are wise men, and wished in heart the redress of things, the which when for fear, they durst not openly rebuke, they did in colours paint them out, and told men by shadows what they should do in good sooth, or else because the wicked were unworthy to hear the truth, they spake so that none might understand but those unto whom they please to utter their meaning, and knew them to be men of honest conversation.