Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Limits of Authority
By Samuel Daniel (15621619)
METHINKS we should not so soon yield up our consents captive to the authority of antiquity, unless we saw more reason; all our understandings are not to be built by the square of Greece and Italy. We are the children of nature as well as they, we are not so placed out of the way of judgment, but that the same sun of discretion shineth upon us; we have our portion of the same virtues as well as of the same vices, et Catilinam quocunque in populo videos, quocunque sub axe. Time and the turn of things bring about these faculties according to the present estimation; and, res temporibus non tempora rebus servire oportet. So that we must never rebel against use; quem penes arbitrium est, et ius et norma loquendi. It is not the observing of trochaics nor their iambics, that will make our writings aught the wiser; all their poesy, and all their philosophy is nothing, unless we bring the discerning light of conceit with us to apply it to use. It is not books, but only that great book of the world, and the all overspreading grace of Heaven that makes men truly judicial. Nor can it but touch of arrogant ignorance, to hold this or that nation barbarous, these or those times gross, considering how this manifold creature man, wheresoever he stand in the world, hath always some disposition of worth, entertains the order of society, affects that which is most in use, and is eminent in some one thing or other that fits his humour and the times. The Grecians held all other nations barbarous but themselves; yet Pyrrhus, when he saw the well-ordered marching of the Romans, which made them see their presumptuous error, could say it was no barbarous manner of proceeding. The Goths, Vandals, and Longobards, whose coming down like an inundation overwhelmed, as they say, all the glory of learning in Europe, have yet left us still their laws and customs, as the originals of most of the provincial constitutions of Christendom; which well considered with their other courses of government, may serve to clear them from this imputation of ignorance. And though the vanquished never speak well of the conqueror, yet even through the unsound coverings of malediction appear those monuments of truth, as argue well their worth, and prove them not without judgment, though without Greek and Latin.