G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
Samuel Daniel (15621619)
A Defence of Ryme ?1603
[Daniels reply to Campion is entitled A Defence of Ryme, Against a Pamphlet entituled: Obseruations in the Art of English Poesie. Wherein is demonstratiuely proued, that Ryme is the fittest harmonie of words that comportes with our Language. By Sa. D. At London: Printed by V. S. for Edward Blount. The text is printed from the copy (undated) in the Bodleian Library (CC. 23 art.) which is bound in at the end of The Works of Samuel Daniel, fol. 1601. The running head-line throughout is An apologie for Ryme (cf. note, vol. i, pp. 1489).]
To all the worthie Louers and Learned Professors of Ryme within His Maiesties Dominions. S. D.
WORTHIE Gentlemen, about a yeare since, vpon the great reproach giuen to the Professors of Rime and the vse thereof, I wrote a priuate letter, as a defence of mine owne vndertakings in that kinde, to a learned Gentleman, a great friend of mine, then in Court. Which I did rather to confirm my selfe in mine owne courses, and to hold him from being wonne from vs, then with any desire to publish the same to the world.
But now, seeing the times to promise a more regards to the present condition of our writings, in respect of our Soueraignes happy inclination this way, whereby wee are rather to expect an incoragement to go on with what we do then that any innouation should checke vs with a shew of what it would do in an other kinde, and yet doe nothing but depraue, I haue now giuen a greater body to the same Argument, and here present it to your view, vnder the patronage of a noble Earle, who in bloud and nature is interessed to take our parte in this cause with others, who cannot, I know, but holde deare the monuments that haue beene left vnto the world in this manner of composition, and who I trust will take in good parte this my Defence, if not as it is my particular, yet in respect of the cause I vndertake, which I heere inuoke you all to protect.
THE Generall Custome and vse of Ryme in this kingdome, Noble Lord, hauing beene so long (as if from a Graunt of Nature) held vnquestionable, made me to imagine that it lay altogither out of the way of contradiction, and was become so natural, as we should neuer haue had a thought to cast it off into reproch, or be made to thinke that it ill-became our language. But now I see, when there is opposition made to all things in the world by wordes, wee must nowe at length likewise fall to contend for words themselues, and make a question whether they be right or not. For we are tolde how that our measures goe wrong, all Ryming is grosse, vulgare, barbarous; which if it be so, we haue lost much labour to no purpose; and, for mine owne particular, I cannot but blame the fortune of the times and mine owne Genius, that cast me vppon so wrong a course, drawne with the current of custome and an vnexamined example. Hauing beene first incouragd or framd thereunto by your most Worthy and Honorable Mother, and receiuing the first notion for the formall ordering of those compositions at Wilton, which I must euer acknowledge to haue beene my best Schoole, and thereof alwayes am to hold a feeling and gratefull Memory; afterward drawne farther on by the well liking and approbation of my worthy Lord, the fosterer of mee and my Muse; I aduentured to bestow all my whole powers therein, perceiuing it agreed so well, both with the complexion of the times and mine owne constitution, as I found not wherein I might better imploy me. But yet now, vpon the great discouery of these new measures, threatning to ouerthrow the whole state of Ryme in this kingdom, I must either stand out to defend, or els be forced to forsake my selfe and giue ouer all. And though irresolution and a selfe distrust be the most apparent faults of my nature, and that the least checke of reprehension, if it sauour of reason, will as easily shake my resolution as any mans liuing, yet in this case I know not how I am growne more resolued, and, before I sinke, willing to examine what those powers of iudgement are that must beare me downe and beat me off from the station of my profession, which by the law of Nature I am set to defend: and the rather for that this detractor (whose commendable Rymes, albeit now himselfe an enemy to ryme, haue giuen heretofore to the world the best notice of his worth) is a man of faire parts and good reputation; and therefore the reproach forcibly cast from such a hand may throw downe more at once then the labors of many shall in long time build vp againe, specially vpon the slippery foundation of opinion, and the worlds inconstancy, which knowes not well what it would haue, and
Discit enim citius meminitque libentius illud
Quod quis deridet, quam quod probat et venerator.
And he who is thus become our vnkinde aduersarie must pardon vs if we be as iealous of our fame and reputation as hee is desirous of credite by his new-old arte, and must consider that we cannot, in a thing that concernes vs so neere, but haue a feeling of the wrong done, wherein euery Rymer in this vniuersall Iland, as well as myselfe, stands interressed. So that if his charitie had equally drawne with his learning, hee would haue forborne to procure the enuie of so powerfull a number vpon him, from whom he can not but expect the returne of a like measure of blame, and onely haue made way to his owne grace by the proofe of his abilitie, without the disparaging of vs, who would haue bin glad to haue stood quietly by him, and perhaps commended his aduenture, seeing that euermore of one science an other may be borne, and that these Salies made out of the quarter of our set knowledges are the gallant proffers onely of attemptiue spirits, and commendable, though they worke no other effect than make a Brauado: and I know it were Indecens et morosum nimis alienae industriae modum ponere.
We could well haue allowed of his numbers, had he not disgraced our Ryme, which both Custome and Nature doth most powerfully defend: Custome that is before all Law, Nature that is aboue all Arte. Euery language hath her proper number or measure fitted to vse and delight, which Custome, intertaininge by the allowance of the Eare, doth indenize and make naturall. All verse is but a frame of wordes confined within certaine measure, differing from the ordinarie speach, and introduced, the better to expresse mens conceipts, both for delight and memorie. Which frame of words consisting of Rithmus or Metrum, Number or measure, are disposed into diuers fashions, according to the humour of the Composer and the set of the time. And these Rhythmi, as Aristotle saith, are familiar amongst all Nations, and e naturali et sponte fusa compositione: and they fall as naturally already in our language as euer Art can make them, being such as the Eare of it selfe doth marshall in their proper roomes; and they of themselues will not willingly be put out of their ranke, and that in such a verse as best comports with the nature of our language. And for our Ryme (which is an excellencie added to this worke of measure, and a Harmonie farre happier than any proportion Antiquitie could euer shew vs) dooth adde more grace, and hath more of delight then euer bare numbers, howsoeuer they can be forced to runne in our slow language, can possibly yeeld. Which, whether it be deriud of Rhythmus or of Romance, which were songs the Bards and Druydes about Rymes vsed, and therof were called Remensi, as some Italians holde, or howsoeuer, it is likewise number and harmonie of words, consisting of an agreeing sound in the last sillables of seuerall verses, giuing both to the Eare an Echo of a delightful report, and to the Memorie a deeper impression of what is deliuered therein. For as Greeke and Latine verse consists of the number and quantitie of sillables, so doth the English verse of measure and accent. And though it doth not strictly obserue long and short sillables, yet it most religiously respects the accent; and as the short and the long make number, so the acute and graue accent yeelde harmonie. And harmonie is likewise number; so that the English verse then hath number, measure, and harmonie in the best proportion of Musicke. Which, being more certain and more resounding, works that effect of motion with as happy successe as either the Greek or Latin. And so naturall a melody is it, and so vniuersall, as it seems to be generally borne with al the Nations of the world as an hereditary eloquence proper to all mankind. The vniuersalitie argues the generall power of it: for if the Barbarian vse it, then it shewes that it swais th affection of the Barbarian: if ciuil nations practise it, it proues that it works vpon the harts of ciuil nations: if all, then that it hath a power in nature on all. Georgieuez de Turcarum moribus hath an example of the Turkish Rymes iust of the measure of our verse of eleuen sillables, in feminine Ryme; neuer begotten I am perswaded by any example in Europe, but borne no doubt in Scythia, and brought over Caucasus and Mount Taurus. The Sclauonian and Arabian tongs acquaint a great part of Asia and Affrique with it; the Moscouite, Polacke, Hungarian, German, Italian, French, and Spaniard vse no other harmonie of words. The Irish, Briton, Scot, Dane, Saxon, English, and all the Inhabiters of this Iland either haue hither brought or here found the same in vse. And such a force hath it in nature, or so made by nature, as the Latine numbers, notwithstanding their excellencie, seemed not sufficient to satisfie the eare of the world thereunto accustomed, without this Harmonicall cadence: which made the most learned of all nations labour with exceeding trauaile to bring those numbers likewise vnto it: which many did with that happinesse as neither their puritie of tongue nor their materiall contemplations are thereby any way disgraced, but rather deserue to be reuerenced of all grateful posteritie, with the due regard of their worth. And for Schola Salerna, and those Carmina Prouerbialia, who finds not therein more precepts for vse, concerning diet, health, and conuersation, then Cato, Theognis, or all the Greekes and Latines can shew vs in that kinde of teaching? and that in so few words, both for delight to the eare and the hold of memorie, as they are to be imbraced of all modest readers that studie to know and not to depraue.
Me thinkes it is a strange imperfection that men should thus ouer-runne the estimation of good things with so violent a censure, as though it must please none else because it likes not them: whereas Oportet arbitratores esse non contradictores eos qui verum indicaturi sunt, saith Arist., though he could not obserue it himselfe. And milde charitie tells vs:
Non ego paucis
Offendar maculis quas aut incuria fudit
Aut humana parum cauit natura.
For all men haue their errours, and we must take the best of their powers, and leaue the rest as not appertaining vnto vs.
Ill customes are to be left. I graunt it; but I see not howe that can be taken for an ill custome which nature hath thus ratified, all nations receiued, time so long confirmed, the effects such as it performes those offices of motion for which it is imployed; delighting the eare, stirring the heart, and satisfying the iudgement in such sort as I doubt whether euer single numbers will doe in our Climate, if they shew no more worke of wonder than yet we see. And if euer they prooue to become anything, it must be by the approbation of many ages that must giue them their strength for any operation, as before the world will feele where the pulse, life, and enargie lies; which now we are sure where to haue in our Rymes, whose knowne frame hath those due staies for the minde, those incounters of touch, as makes the motion certaine, though the varietie be infinite.
Nor will the Generall sorte for whom we write (the wise being aboue books) taste these laboured measures but as an orderly prose when wee haue all done. For this kinde acquaintance and continuall familiaritie euer had betwixt our eare and this cadence is growne to so intimate a friendship, as it will nowe hardly euer be brought to misse it. For be the verse neuer so good, neuer so full, it seemes not to satisfie nor breede that delight, as when it is met and combined with a like sounding accent: which seemes as the iointure without which it hangs loose, and cannot subsist, but runnes wildely on, like a tedious fancie without a close. Suffer then the world to inioy that which it knowes, and what it likes: Seeing that whatsoeuer force of words doth mooue, delight, and sway the affections of men, in what Scythian sorte soeuer it be disposed or vttered, that is true number, measure, eloquence, and the perfection of speach: which I said hath as many shapes as there be tongues or nations in the world, nor can with all the tyrannicall Rules of idle Rhetorique be gouerned otherwise then custome and present obseruation will allow. And being now the trym and fashion of the times, to sute a man otherwise cannot but giue a touch of singularity; for when hee hath all done, hee hath but found other clothes to the same body, and peraduenture not so fitting as the former. But could our Aduersary hereby set vp the musicke of our times to a higher note of iudgement and discretion, or could these new lawes of words better our imperfections, it were a happy attempt; but when hereby we shall but as it were change prison, and put off these fetters to receiue others, what haue we gained? As good still to vse ryme and a little reason as neither ryme nor reason, for no doubt, as idle wits will write in that kinde, as do now in this, imitation wil after, though it breake her necke. Scribimus indocti doctique poemata passim. And this multitude of idle Writers can be no disgrace to the good; for the same fortune in one proportion or other is proper in a like season to all States in their turne; and the same vnmeasurable confluence of Scriblers hapned when measures were most in vse among the Romanes, as we finde by this reprehension,
Mutauit mentem populus leuis, et calet vno
Scribendi studio; pueri[que] patresque seueri
Fronde comas vincti cenant et carmina dictant.
So that their plentie seemes to haue bred the same waste and contempt as ours doth now, though it had not power to disualew what was worthy of posteritie, nor keep backe the reputation of excellencies destined to continue for many ages. For seeing it is matter that satisfies the iudiciall, appeare it in what habite it will, all these pretended proportions of words, howsoeuer placed, can be but words, and peraduenture serue but to embroyle our vnderstanding; whilst seeking to please our eare, we enthrall our iudgement; to delight an exterior sense, wee smoothe vp a weake confused sense, affecting sound to be vnsound, and all to seeme Servum pecus, onely to imitate Greekes and Latines, whose felicitie in this kinde might be something to themselues, to whome their owne idioma was naturall; but to vs it can yeeld no other commoditie then a sound. We admire them not for their smooth-gliding words, nor their measures, but for their inuentions; which treasure if it were to be found in Welch and Irish, we should hold those languages in the same estimation; and they may thanke their sword that made their tongues so famous and vniuersall as they are. For to say truth, their Verse is many times but a confused deliuerer of their excellent conceits, whose scattered limbs we are faine to looke out and ioyne together, to discerne the image of what they represent vnto vs. And euen the Latines, who professe not to be so licentious as the Greekes, shew vs many times examples, but of strange crueltie in torturing and dismembering of words in the middest, or disioyning such as naturally should be married and march together, by setting them as farre asunder as they can possibly stand: that sometimes, vnlesse the kind reader out of his owne good nature wil stay them vp by their measure, they will fall downe into flatte prose, and sometimes are no other indeede in their naturall sound: and then againe, when you finde them disobedient to their owne Lawes, you must hold it to be licentia poetica, and so dispensable. The striuing to shew their changable measures in the varietie of their Odes haue been verie painefull no doubt vnto them, and forced them thus to disturbe the quiet streame of their words, which by a naturall succession otherwise desire to follow in their due course.
But such affliction doth laboursome curiositie still lay vpon our best delights (which euer must be made strange and variable), as if Art were ordained to afflict Nature, and that we could not goe but in fetters. Euery science, euery profession, must be so wrapt vp in vnnecessary intrications, as if it were not to fashion but to confound the vnderstanding: which makes me much to distrust man, and feare that our presumption goes beyond our abilitie, and our Curiositie is more then our Iudgement; laboring euer to seeme to be more then we are, or laying greater burthens vpon our mindes then they are well able to beare, because we would not appeare like other men.
And indeed I haue wished that there were not that multiplicitie of Rymes as is vsed by many in Sonets, which yet we see in some so happily to succeed, and hath beene so farre from hindering their inuentions, as it hath begot conceit beyond expectation, and comparable to the best inuentions of the world: for sure in an eminent spirit, whome Nature hath fitted for that mysterie, Ryme is no impediment to his conceit, but rather giues him wings to mount, and carries him, not out of his course, but as it were beyond his power to a farre happier flight. Al excellencies being sold vs at the hard price of labour, it followes, where we bestow most thereof we buy the best successe: and Ryme, being farre more laborious than loose measures (whatsoeuer is obiected), must needs, meeting with wit and industry, breed greater and worthier effects in our language. So that if our labours haue wrought out a manumission from bondage, and that wee goe at libertie, notwithstanding these ties, wee are no longer the slaues of Ryme, but we make it a most excellent instrument to serue vs. Nor is this certaine limit obserued in Sonnets, any tyrannicall bounding of the conceit, but rather reducing it in girum and a iust forme, neither too long for the shortest proiect, nor too short for the longest, being but onely imployed for a present passion. For the body of our imagination being as an vnformed Chaos without fashion, without day, if by the diuine power of the spirit it be wrought into an Orbe of order and forme, is it not more pleasing to Nature, that desires a certaintie and comports not with that which is infinite, to haue these clozes, rather than not to know where to end, or how farre to goe, especially seeing our passions are often without measure? and wee finde the best of the Latines many times either not concluding or els otherwise in the end then they began. Besides, is it not most delightfull to see much excellentlie ordred in a small roome, or little gallantly disposed and made to fill vp a space of like capacitie, in such sort that the one would not appeare so beautifull in a larger circuite, nor the other do well in a lesse? which often we find to be so, according to the powers of nature in the workman. And these limited proportions and rests of stanzes, consisting of six, seuen, or eight lines, are of that happines both for the disposition of the matter, the apt planting the sentence where it may best stand to hit, the certaine close of delight with the full bodie of a iust period well carried, is such as neither the Greekes or Latines euer attained vnto. For their boundlesse running on often so confounds the Reader, that, hauing once lost himselfe, must either giue off vnsatisfied, or vncertainely cast backe to retriue the escaped sence, and to find way againe into this matter.
Me thinkes we should not so soone yeeld our consents captiue to the authoritie of Antiquitie, vnlesse we saw more reason; all our vnderstandings are not to be built by the square of Greece and Italie. We are the children of nature as well as they; we are not so placed out of the way of iudgement but that the same Sunne of Discretion shineth vppon vs; we haue 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 turne of things bring about these faculties according to the present estimation: and Res temporibus non tempora rebus seruire oportet. So that we must neuer rebell against vse: Quem penes arbitrium est et vis et norma loquendi. It is not the obseruing of Trochaicques nor their Iambicques that wil make our writings ought the wiser. All their Poesie, all their Philosophie is nothing, vnlesse we bring the discerning light of conceipt with vs to apply it to vse. It is not bookes, but onely that great booke of the world and the all-ouerspreading grace of heauen that makes men truly iudiciall. Nor can it be but a touch of arrogant ignorance to hold this or that nation Barbarous, these or those times grosse, considering how this manifold creature man, wheresoeuer hee stand in the world, hath alwayes some disposition of worth, intertaines the order of societie, affects that which is most in vse, and is eminent in some one thing or other that fits his humour and the times. The Grecians held all other nations barbarous but themselues; yet Pirrhus when he saw the well ordered marching of the Romanes, which made them see their presumptuous errour, could say it was no barbarous manner of proceeding. The Gothes, Vandales, and Longobards, whose comming downe like an inundation ouerwhelmed, as they say, al the glory of learning in Europe, haue yet left vs stil their lawes and customes as the originalls of most of the prouinciall constitutions of Christendome, which well considered with their other courses of gouernement may serue to cleare them from this imputation of ignorance. And though the vanquished neuer yet spake well of the Conquerour, yet even thorow the vnsound couerings of malidiction appeare those monuments of trueth as argue wel their worth and proues them not without iudgement, though without Greeke and Latine.
Will not experience confute vs, if wee shoulde say the state of China, which neuer heard of Anapestiques, Trochies, and Tribracques, were grosse, barbarous, and vnciuille? And is it not a most apparant ignorance, both of the succession of learning in Europe and the generall course of things, to say that all lay pittifully deformed in those lacke-learning times from the declining of the Romane Empire till the light of the Latine tongue was reuiued by Rewcline, Erasmus, and Moore? when for three hundred yeeres before them, about the comming downe of Tamburlaine into Europe, Franciscus Petrarcha (who then no doubt likewise found whom to imitate) shewed all the best notions of learning, in that degree of excellencie both in Latine, Prose and Verse, and in the vulgare Italian, as all the wittes of posteritie haue not yet much ouer-matched him in all kindes to this day: his great Volumes in Moral Philosophie shew his infinite reading and most happy power of disposition: his twelue Æglogues, his Affrica, containing nine Bookes of the last Punicke warre, with his three bookes of Epistles in Latine verse shew all the transformations of wit and inuention that a Spirite naturally borne to the inheritance of Poetrie and iudiciall knowledge could expresse: all which notwithstanding wrought him not that glory and fame with his owne Nation as did his Poems in Italian, which they esteeme aboue al whatsoeuer wit could haue inuented in any other forme then wherein it is: which questionles they wil not change with the best measures Greeks or Latins can shew them, howsoeuer our Aduersary imagines. Nor could this very same innouation in Verse, begun amongst them by C. Tolomi, but die in the attempt, and was buried as soone as it came borne, neglected as a prodigious and vnnaturall issue amongst them: nor could it neuer induce Tasso, the wonder of Italy, to write that admirable Poem of Ierusalem, comparable to the best of the ancients, in any other forme than the accustomed verse. And with Petrarch liued his scholar Boccacius, and neere about the same time Iohannis Rauenensis, and from these, tanquam ex equo Troiano, seemes to haue issued all those famous Italian Writers, Leonardus Aretinus, Laurentius Valla, Poggius, Biondus, and many others. Then Emanuel Chrysolaras, a Constantinopolitan gentleman, renowmed for his learning and vertue, being imployed by Iohn Paleologus, Emperour of the East, to implore the ayde of Christian Princes for the succouring of perishing Greece, and vnderstanding in the meane time how Baiazeth was taken prisoner by Tamburlan, and his country freed from danger, stayed still at Venice, and there taught the Greeke tongue, discontinued before in these parts the space of seauen hundred yeeres. Him followed Bessarion, George Trapezuntius, Theodorus Gaza, and others, transporting Philosophie, beaten by the Turke out of Greece, into christendome. Hereupon came that mightie confluence of Learning in these parts, which, returning as it were per postliminium, and heere meeting then with the new inuented stampe of Printing, spread it selfe indeed in a more vniuersall sorte then the world euer heeretofore had it; when Pomponius Laetus, Aeneas Syluius, Angelus Politianus, Hermolaus Barbarus, Iohannes Picus de Mirandula, the miracle and Phnix of the world, adorned Italie, and wakened other Nations likewise with this desire of glory, long before it brought foorth Rewclen, Erasmus, and Moore, worthy men, I confesse, and the last a great ornament to this land, and a Rymer.
And yet long before all these, and likewise with these, was not our Nation behinde in her portion of spirite and worthinesse, but concurrent with the best of all this lettered world; witnesse venerable Bede, that flourished aboue a thousand yeeres since; Aldelmus Durotelmus, that liued in the yeere 739, of whom we finde this commendation registred: Omnium Poetarum sui temporis facile primus, tantae eloquentiae, maiestatis, et eruditionis homo fait, vt nunquam satis admirari possim vnde illi in tam barbara ac rudi aetate facundia accreuerit, vsque adeo omnibus numeris tersa, elegans, et rotunda, versus edidit cum antiquitate de palma contendentes. Witnesse Iosephus Deuonius, who wrote de bello Troiano in so excellent a manner, and so neere resembling Antiquitie, as Printing his Worke beyond the seas they haue ascribed it to Cornelius Nepos, one of the Ancients. What should I name Walterus Mape, Gulielmus Nigellus, Geruasius Tilburiensis, Bracton, Bacon, Ockam, and an infinite Catalogue of excellent men, most of them liuing about foure hundred yeeres since, and haue left behinde them monuments of most profound iudgement and learning in all sciences! So that it is but the clowds gathered about our owne iudgement that makes vs thinke all other ages wrapt vp in mists, and the great distance betwixt vs that causes vs to imagine men so farre off to be so little in respect of our selues.
We must not looke vpon the immense course of times past as men ouer-looke spacious and wide countries from off high Mountaines, and are neuer the neere to iudge of the true Nature of the soyle or the particular syte and face of those territories they see. Nor must we thinke, viewing the superficiall figure of a region in a Mappe, that wee know strait the fashion and place as it is. Or reading an Historie (which is but a Mappe of Men, and dooth no otherwise acquaint vs with the true Substance of Circumstances then a superficiall Card dooth the Seaman with a Coast neuer seene, which alwayes prooues other to the eye than the imagination forecast it), that presently wee know all the world, and can distinctly iudge of times, men, and maners, iust as they were: When the best measure of man is to be taken by his owne foote bearing euer the neerest proportion to himselfe, and is neuer so farre different and vnequall in his powers, that he hath all in perfection at one time, and nothing at another. The distribution of giftes are vniuersall, and all seasons haue them in some sort. We must not thinke but that there were Scipioes, Cæsars, Catoes, and Pompeies borne elsewhere then at Rome; the rest of the world hath euer had them in the same degree of nature, though not of state. And it is our weaknesse that makes vs mistake or misconcieue in these deliniations of men the true figure of their worth. And our passion and beliefe is so apt to leade vs beyond truth, that vnlesse we try them by the iust compasse of humanitie, and as they were men, we shall cast their figures in the ayre, when we should make their models vpon Earth. It is not the contexture of words, but the effects of Action, that giues glory to the times: we find they had mercurium in pectore, though not in lingua; and in all ages, though they were not Ciceronians, they knew the Art of men, which onely is Ars Artium, the great gift of heauen, and the chiefe grace and glory on earth; they had the learning of Gouernement, and ordring their State; Eloquence inough to shew their iudgements. And it seemes the best times followed Lycurgus councell; Literas ad vsum saltem discebant, reliqua omnis disciplina erat vt pulchre pararent vt labores preferrent, &c. Had not vnlearned Rome laide the better foundation, and built the stronger frame of an admirable state, eloquent Rome had confounded it vtterly, which we saw ranne the way of all confusion, the plaine course of dissolution, in her greatest skill: and though she had not power to vndoe herselfe, yet wrought she so that she cast herselfe quite away from the glory of a commonwealth, and fell vpon the forme of state she euer most feared and abhorred of all other: and then scarse was there seene any shadowe of pollicie vnder her first Emperours, but the most horrible and grosse confusion that could be conceued; notwithstanding it still indured, preseruing not onely a Monarchie, locked vp in her own limits, but therewithall held vnder her obedience so many Nations so farre distant, so ill affected, so disorderly commanded and vniustly conquered, as it is not to be attributed to any other fate but to the first frame of that commonwealth; which was so strongly ioynted, and with such infinite combinations interlinckt as one naile or other euer held vp the Maiestie thereof. There is but one learning, which omnes gentes habent scriptum in cordibus suis, one and the selfe-same spirit that worketh in all. We haue but one bodie of Iustice, one bodie of Wisdome thorowout the whole world; which is but apparelled according to the fashion of euery nation.
Eloquence and gay wordes are not of the substance of wit; it is but the garnish of a nice time, the Ornaments that doe but decke the house of a State, and imitatur publicos mores: Hunger is as well satisfied with meat serued in pewter as siluer. Discretion is the best measure, the rightest foote in what habit soeuer it runne. Erasmus, Rewcline, and More brought no more wisdome into the world with all their new reuiued wordes then we finde was before; it bred not a profounder Diuine then S. Thomas, a greater Lawyer then Bartolus, a more acute Logician then Scotus; nor are the effects of all this great amasse of eloquence so admirable or of that consequence, but that impexa illa antiquitas can yet compare with them.
Let vs go no further but looke vpon the wonderfull Architecture of this state of England, and see whether they were deformed times that could giue it such a forme: Where there is no one the least piller of Maiestie but was set with most profound iudgement, and borne vp with the iust conueniencie of Prince and people: no Court of iustice but laide by the Rule and Square of Nature, and the best of the best commonwealths that euer were in the world: so strong and substantial as it hath stood against al the storms of factions, both of beliefe and ambition, which so powerfully beat vpon it, and all the tempestuous alterations of humorous times whatsoeuer: being continually in all ages furnisht with spirites fitte to maintaine the maiestie of her owne greatnes, and to match in an equall concurrencie all other kingdomes round about her with whome it had to incounter.
But this innouation, like a Viper, must euer make way into the worlds opinion, thorow the bowelles of her owne breeding, and is alwayes borne with reproch in her mouth; the disgracing others is the best grace it can put on, to winne reputation of wit; and yet it is neuer so wise as it would seeme, nor doth the world euer get so much by it as it imagineth; which being so often deceiued, and seeing it neuer performes so much as it promises, me thinkes men should neuer giue more credite vnto it. For, let vs change neuer so often, wee can not change man; our imperfections must still runne on with vs. And therefore the wiser Nations haue taught menne alwayes to vse, Moribus legibusque praesentibus etiamsi deteriores sint. The Lacedæmonians, when a Musitian, thincking to winne himselfe credite by his new inuention and be before his fellowes, had added one string more to his Crowde, brake his fiddle and banished him the Citie, holding the Innouator, though in the least things, dangerous to a publike societie. It is but a fantastike giddinesse to forsake the way of other men, especially where it lies tolerable: Vbi nunc est respublica, ibi simus potius quam dum illam veterem sequimur simus in nulla.
But shal we not tend to perfection? Yes: and that euer best by going on in the course we are in, where we haue aduantage, being so farre onward, of him that is but now setting forth. For we shall neuer proceede, if wee be euer beginning, nor arriue at any certayne Porte, sayling with all windes that blowenon conualescit planta quae saepius transferturand therefore let vs hold on in the course wee haue vndertaken, and not still be wandring. Perfection is not the portion of man; and if it were, why may wee not as well get to it this way as another, and suspect those great vndertakers, lest they have conspired with enuy to betray our proceedings, and put vs by the honour of our attempts, with casting vs backe vpon another course, of purpose to ouerthrow the whole action of glory when we lay the fairest for it, and were so neere our hopes? I thanke God that I am none of these great Schollers, if thus their hie knowledges doe but giue them more eyes to looke out into vncertaintie and confusion, accounting my selfe rather beholding to my ignorance that hath set me in so lowe an vnder-roome of conceipt with other men, and hath giuen me as much distrust, as it hath done hope, daring not aduenture to goe alone, but plodding on the plaine tract I finde beaten by Custome and the Time, contenting me with what I see in vse.
And surely mee thinkes these great wittes should rather seeke to adorne than to disgrace the present; bring something to it, without taking from it what it hath. But it is euer the misfortune of Learning to be wounded by her owne hand. Stimulos dat emula virtus, and where there is not abilitie to match what is, malice will finde out ingines, either to disgrace or ruine it, with a peruerse incounter of some new impression; and, which is the greatest misery, it must euer proceed from the powers of the best reputation, as if the greatest spirites were ordained to indanger the worlde, as the grosse are to dishonour it, and that we were to expect ab optimis periculum, a pessimis dedecus publicum. Emulation, the strongest pulse that beats in high mindes, is oftentimes a winde, but of the worst effect; for whilst the soule comes disappoynted of the obiect it wrought on, it presently forges another, and euen cozins it selfe, and crosses all the world, rather than it will stay to be vnder her desires, falling out with all it hath, to flatter and make faire that which it would haue.
So that it is the ill successe of our longings that with Xerxes makes vs to whippe the sea, and send a cartel of defiance to Mount Athos: and the fault laide vpon others weakenesse is but a presumptuous opinion of our owne strength, who must not seeme to be maistered. But had our Aduersary taught vs by his owne proceedings this way of perfection, and therein framd vs a Poeme of that excellencie as should haue put downe all, and beene the maisterpeece of these times, we should all haue admired him. But to depraue the present forme of writing, and to bring vs nothing but a few loose and vncharitable Epigrammes, and yet would make vs belieue those numbers were come to raise the glory of our language, giueth vs cause to suspect the performance, and to examine whether this new Arte constat sibi, or aliquid sit dictum quod non sit dictum prius.
First, we must heere imitate the Greekes and Latines, and yet we are heere shewed to disobey them, euen in theire owne numbers and quantities; taught to produce what they make short, and make short what they produce; made beleeue to be shewd measures in that forme we haue not seene, and no such matter; tolde that heere is the perfect Art of versifying, which in conclusion is yet confessed to be vnperfect, as if our Aduersary, to be opposite to vs, were become vnfaithfull to himselfe, and, seeking to leade vs out of the way of reputation, hath aduentured to intricate and confound him in his owne courses, running vpon most vneuen groundes, with imperfect rules, weake proofs, and vnlawful lawes. Whereunto the world, I am perswaded, is not so vnreasonable as to subscribe, considering the vniust authoritie of the Law-giuer: for who hath constituted him to be the Radamanthus, thus to torture sillables and adiudge them their perpetuall doome, setting his Theta or marke of condemnation vppon them, to indure the appoynted sentence of his crueltie, as hee shall dispose? As though there were that disobedience in our wordes, as they would not be ruled or stand in order without so many intricate Lawes; which would argue a great peruersenesse amongst them, according to that in pessima republica plurimae leges, or that they were so farre gone from the quiet freedome of nature that they must thus be brought backe againe by force. And now in what case were this poore state of words, if in like sorte another tyrant the next yeere should arise and abrogate these lawes and ordaine others cleane contrary according to his humor, and say that they were onely right, the others vniust? what disturbance were there here, to whome should we obey? Were it not farre better to holde vs fast to our olde custome than to stand thus distracted with vncertaine Lawes, wherein Right shall haue as many faces as it pleases Passion to make it, that wheresoeuer mens affections stand, it shall still looke that way? What trifles doth our vnconstant curiositie cal vp to contend for? what colours are there laid vpon indifferent things to make them seeme other then they are, as if it were but only to intertaine contestation amongst men, who, standing according to the prospectiue of their owne humour, seeme to see the selfe same things to appeare otherwise to them than either they doe to other, or are indeede in them selues, being but all one in nature? For what adoe haue we heere? what strange precepts of Arte about the framing of an Iambique verse in our language? which, when all is done, reaches not by a foote, but falleth out to be the plaine ancient verse, consisting of ten sillables or fiue feete, which hath euer beene vsed amongest vs time out of minde, and, for all this cunning and counterfeit name, can or will [not] be any other in nature then it hath beene euer heretofore: and this new Dimeter is but the halfe of this verse diuided in two, and no other then the Caesura or breathing place in the middest thereof, and therefore it had bene as good to haue put two lines in one, but only to make them seeme diuerse. Nay, it had beene much better for the true English reading and pronouncing thereof, without violating the accent, which now our Aduersarie hath heerein most vnkindely doone: for, being as wee are to sound it, according to our English March, we must make a rest, and raise the last sillable, which falles out very vnnaturall in Desolate, Funerall, Elizabeth, Prodigall, and in all the rest, sauing the Monosillables. Then followes the English Trochaicke, which is saide to bee a simple verse, and so indeede it is, being without Ryme: hauing here no other grace then that in sound it runnes like the knowne measure of our former ancient Verse, ending (as we terme it according to the French) in a feminine foote, sauing that it is shorter by one sillable at the beginning, which is not much missed, by reason it falles full at the last. Next comes the Elegiacke, being the fourth kinde, and that likewise is no other then our old accustomed measure of fiue feet: if there be any difference, it must be made in the reading, and therein wee must stand bound to stay where often we would not, and sometimes either breake the accent or the due course of the word. And now for the other foure kinds of numbers, which are to be employed for Odes, they are either of the same measure, or such as haue euer beene familiarly vsed amongst vs.
So that of all these eight seuerall kindes of new promised numbers, you see what we haue: Onely what was our owne before, and the same but apparelled in forraine Titles; which had they come in their kinde and naturall attire of Ryme, wee should neuer haue suspected that they had affected to be other, or sought to degenerate into strange manners, which now we see was the cause why they were turnd out of their proper habite, and brought in as Aliens, onely to induce men to admire them as farre-commers. But see the power of Nature; it is not all the artificiall couerings of wit that can hide their natiue and originall condition, which breakes out thorow the strongest bandes of affectation, and will be it selfe, doe Singularitie what it can. And as for those imagined quantities of sillables, which haue bin euer held free and indifferent in our language, who can inforce vs to take knowledge of them, being in nullius verba iurati, and owing fealty to no forraine inuention? especially in such a case where there is no necessitie in Nature, or that it imports either the matter or forme, whether it be so or otherwise. But euery Versifier that wel obserues his worke findes in our language, without all these vnnecessary precepts, what numbers best fitte the Nature of her Idiome, and the proper places destined to such accents as she will not let in to any other roomes then in those for which they were borne. As for example, you cannot make this fall into the right sound of a verse
None thinkes reward rendred worthy his worth,
vnlesse you thus misplace the accent vpon Rendrèd and Worthìe, contrary to the nature of these wordes: which sheweth that two feminine numbers (or Trochies, if so you wil call them) will not succeede in the third and fourth place of the Verse. And so likewise in this case,
Though Death doth consume, yet Vertue preserues,
it wil not be a Verse, though it hath the iust sillables, without the same number in the second, and the altering of the fourth place in this sorte,
Though Death doth mine, Virtue yet preserues.
Againe, who knowes not that we can not kindely answere a feminine number with a masculine Ryme, or (if you will so terme it) a Trochei with a Sponde, as Weaknes with Confesse, Nature and Indure, onely for that thereby wee shall wrong the accent, the chiefe Lord and graue Gouernour of Numbers? Also you cannot in a verse of foure feet place a Trochei in the first, without the like offence, as, Yearely out of his watry Cell; for so you shall sound it Yeareliè, which is vnnaturall. And other such like obseruations vsually occurre, which Nature and a iudiciall eare of themselues teach vs readily to auoyde.
But now for whom hath our Aduersary taken all this paines? For the Learned, or for the Ignorant, or for himselfe, to shew his owne skill? If for the Learned, it was to no purpose, for euerie Grammarian in this land hath learned his Prosodia, and alreadie knowes all this Arte of numbers: if for the Ignorant, it was vaine, for if they become Versifiers, wee are like to haue leane Numbers instead of fat Ryme; and if Tully would haue his Orator skilld in all the knowledges appertaining to God and man, what should they haue who would be a degree aboue Orators? Why then it was to shew his owne skill, and what himselfe had obserued; so he might well haue done without doing wrong to the fame of the liuing, and wrong to England, in seeking to lay reproach vpon her natiue ornaments, and to turne the faire streame and full course of her accents into the shallow current of a lesse vncertaintie, cleane out of the way of her knowne delight. And I had thought it could neuer haue proceeded from the pen of a Scholler (who sees no profession free from the impure mouth of the scorner) to say the reproach of others idle tongues is the curse of Nature vpon vs, when it is rather her curse vpon him, that knowes not how to vse his tongue. What, doth he think himselfe is now gotten so farre out of the way of contempt, that his numbers are gone beyond the reach of obloquie, and that, how friuolous or idle soeuer they shall runne, they shall be protected from disgrace? as though that light rymes and light numbers did not weigh all alike in the graue opinion of the wise. And that is not Ryme but our ydle Arguments that hath brought downe to so base a reckning the price and estimation of writing in this kinde; when the few good things of this age, by comming together in one throng and presse with the many bad, are not discerned from them, but ouerlooked with them, and all taken to be alike. But when after-times shall make a quest of inquirie, to examine the best of this Age, peraduenture there will be found in the now contemned recordes of Ryme matter not vnfitting the grauest Diuine and seuerest Lawyer in this kingdome. But these things must haue the date of Antiquitie to make them reuerend and authentical. For euer in the collation of Writers men rather weigh their age then their merite, and legunt priscos cum reuerentia, quando coaetaneos non possunt sine inuidia.1 And let no writer in Ryme be any way discouraged in his endeuour by this braue allarum, but rather animated to bring vp all the best of their powers, and charge with all the strength of nature and industrie vpon contempt, that the shew of their reall forces may turne backe insolencie into her owne holde. For be sure that innouation neuer works any ouerthrow, but vpon the aduantage of a carelesse idlenesse. And let this make vs looke the better to our feete, the better to our matter, better to our maners. Let the Aduersary that thought to hurt vs bring more profit and honor by being against vs then if he had stoode still on our side. For that (next to the awe of heauen) the best reine, the strongest hand to make men keepe their way, is that which their enemy beares vpon them: and let this be the benefite wee make by being oppugned, and the meanes to redeeme backe the good opinion vanitie and idlenesse haue suffered to be wonne from vs; which nothing but substance and matter can effect. For Scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.
When we heare Musicke, we must be in our eare in the vtter-roome of sense, but when we intertaine iudgement, we retire into the cabinet and innermost withdrawing chamber of the soule: And it is but as Musicke for the eare Verba sequi fidibus modulanda Latinis; but it is a worke of power for the soule Numerosque modosque ediscere vitae. The most iudiciall and worthy spirites of this Land are not so delicate, or will owe so much to their eare, as to rest vppon the outside of wordes, and be intertained with sound; seeing that both Number, Measure, and Ryme is but as the ground or seate, whereupon is raised the work that commends it, and which may be easilie at the first found out by any shallow conceipt: as wee see some fantasticke to beginne a fashion, which afterward grauity itselfe is faine to put on, because it will not be out of the weare of other men, and Recti apud nos locum tenet error vbi publicus factus est. And power and strength that can plant it selfe any where hauing built within this compasse, and reard it of so high a respect, wee now imbrace it as the fittest dwelling for our inuention, and haue thereon bestowed all the substance of our vnderstanding to furnish it as it is. And therefore heere I stand foorth, onelie to make good the place we haue thus taken vp, and to defend the sacred monuments erected therein, which containe the honour of the dead, the fame of the liuing, the glory of peace, and the best power of our speach, and wherin so many honourable spirits haue sacrificed to Memorie their dearest passions, shewing by what diuine influence they haue beene moued, and vnder what starres they liued.
But yet notwithstanding all this which I haue heare deliuered in the defence of Ryme, I am not so farre in loue with mine owne mysterie, or will seeme so froward, as to bee against the reformation and the better setling these measures of ours. Wherein there be many things I could wish were more certaine and better ordered, though my selfe dare not take vpon me to be a teacher therein, hauing so much neede to learne of others. And I must confesse that to mine owne eare those continuall cadences of couplets vsed in long and continued Poemes are verie tyresome and vnpleasing, by reason that still, me thinks, they run on with a sound of one nature, and a kinde of certaintie which stuffs the delight rather then intertaines it. But yet, notwithstanding, I must not out of mine owne daintinesse condemne this kinde of writing, which peraduenture to another may seeme most delightfull; and many worthy compositions we see to haue passed with commendation in that kinde. Besides, me thinkes, sometimes to beguile the eare with a running out, and passing ouer the Ryme, as no bound to stay vs in the line where the violence of the matter will breake thorow, is rather gracefull then otherwise. Wherein I finde my Homer-Lucan, as if he gloried to seeme to haue no bounds, albeit hee were confined within his measures, to be in my conceipt most happy. For so thereby they who care not for Verse or Ryme may passe it ouer with taking notice thereof, and please themselues with a well measured Prose. And I must confesse my Aduersary hath wrought this much vpon me, that I thinke a Tragedie would indeede best comporte with a blank Verse and dispence with Ryme, sauing in the Chorus, or where a sentence shall require a couplet. And to auoyde this ouer-glutting the eare with that alwayes certaine and full incounter of Ryme, I haue assaid in some of my Epistles to alter the vsuall place of meeting, and to sette it further off by one Verse, to trie how I could disuse mine owne eare and to ease it of this continuall burthen which indeede seemes to surcharge it a little too much: but as yet I cannot come to please my selfe therein, this alternate or crosse Ryme holding still the best place in my affection.
Besides, to me this change of number in a Poem of one nature fits not so wel as to mixe vncertainly feminine Rymes with masculine, which euer since I was warned of that deformitie by my kinde friend and countri-man Maister Hugh Samford, I haue alwayes so auoyded it, as there are not aboue two couplettes in that kinde in all my Poem of the Ciuill warres: and I would willingly if I coulde haue altered it in all the rest, holding feminine Rymes to be fittest for Ditties, and either to be set for certaine, or els by themselues. But in these things, I say, I dare not take vpon mee to teach that they ought to be so, in respect my selfe holds them to be so, or that I thinke it right: for indeed there is no right in these things that are continually in a wandring motion, carried with the violence of vncertaine likings, being but onely the time that giues them their power. For if this right or truth should be no other thing then that wee make it, we shall shape it into a thousand figures, seeing this excellent painter, Man, can so well lay the colours which himselfe grindes in his owne affections, as that hee will make them serue for any shadow and any counterfeit. But the greatest hinderer to our proceedings and the reformation of our errours is this Selfe-loue, whereunto we Versifiers are euer noted to bee specially subiect; a disease of all other the most dangerous and incurable, being once seated in the spirits, for which there is no cure but onely by a spirituall remedie. Multos puto ad sapientiam potuisse peruenire, nisi putassent se peruenisse: and this opinion of our sufficiencie makes so great a cracke in our iudgement, as it wil hardly euer holde any thing of worth. Caecus amor sui; and though it would seeme to see all without it, yet certainely it discernes but little within. For there is not the simplest writer that will euer tell himselfe he doth ill, but, as if he were the parasite onely to sooth his owne doings, perswades him that his lines can not but please others which so much delight himselfe: Suffenus est quisque sibi
neque idem vnquam
Aeque est beatus, ac poema cum scribit.
Tam gaudet in se tamque se ipse miratur.
And the more to shew that he is so, we shall see him euermore in all places, and to all persons repeating his owne compositions; and
Next to this deformitie stands our affectation, wherein we alwayes bewray our selues to be both vnkinde and vnnaturall to our owne natiue language, in disguising or forging strange or vnusuall wordes, as if it were to make our verse seeme another kind of speach out of the course of our vsuall practise, displacing our wordes, or inuenting new, onely vpon a singularitie, when our owne accustomed phrase, set in the due place, would expresse vs more familiarly and to better delight than all this idle affectation of antiquitie or noueltie can euer doe. And I cannot but wonder at the strange presumption of some men, that dare so audaciously aduenture to introduce any whatsoeuer forraine wordes, be they neuer so strange, and of themselues, as it were, without a Parliament, without any consent or allowance, establish them as Free-denizens in our language. But this is but a Character of that perpetuall reuolution which wee see to be in all things that neuer remaine the same: and we must heerein be content to submit our selues to the law of time, which in few yeeres wil make al that for which we now contend Nothing.