To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
TO THOSE GENTLEMEN EXCELLENT FOR THEIR PIETY, WISDOM, LEARNING AND HONOR, THOSE BOUNTIFUL PATRONS OF LETTERS, SIR THOMAS HENEAGE AND SIR JOHN FORTESCUE, MEMBERS OF OUR MOST SERENE QUEEN ELIZABETH’S PRIVY COUNCIL &C.,
LORDS RIGHT DESERVING OF MY DUTY
I, who nine months ago made a din in your ears, singing my epigrams and those of Leland, now offer up Brownswerd’s well-turned poems. Favor my undertakings, I pray you. You, I say, whom our protecting Queen has added to the number of her senate and magnificent bevy of men, to whose control she has entrusted the reigns of government, so that great duties might be performed at. abroad, you for whom the voices of all Englishmen swell in cheering, you from whose lips flow Attic honey, I pray, in accordance with your usual goodness and uprightness of mind, take these things of mine in good part.
Most devoted to your dignity,
HUGH WINNINGTON’S IMPROMPTU VERSES ON THESE POEMS OF THAT EXCELLENT SCHOOLMASTER DOMINUS JOHN BROWNSWERD
Theseus kept company with Pirithous as he was making his way to the borders of black Dis and the waters of the Styx, Phocean Pylades never abandoned Orestes, and Patroclus was often supported by Achilles’ aid. But you far surpass these in piety, you who free your teacher from his sad fate. For nearly all those poems written on wakeful nights (oh the sorrow!) have perished from squalid neglect. But you, having taken pity on your tutor’s lot, snatch these remains from the waters of Acheron.
WILLIAM HANFORD TO THOMAS NEWTON, ABOUT THIS EDITION OF POEMS
Hilly Macclesfield mourns its Brownswerd, cast in his hard tomb by savage Libitina, and its numerous youth mourn their preceptor, but lamentation that comes too late is in vain. But though he has finished the task of his short life and happily gone off to Elysium, you are arranging that his better part survives, and that his elegant poems escape the greedy pyre.
REGINALD BRISCOE TO THE SAME
You appear to have learned to act as a step-parent, you who strive to celebrate Brownswerd with your friendly pen. You are doing a thing worthy of him, yourself and us, fair Newton. Hence your nation, too, will be grateful to you.
These pious writings abound with no uncouth language, here you read no nonsense, trash or trifles, but rather poems spiced with learned nostrums, varied with novel inventions of the Muses.
THE POEMS OF JOHN BROWNSWERD, SCHOOLMASER OF MACCLESFIELD
1. THE ARMOR OF DAVID, ABOUT TO FIGHT AGAINST GOLIATH THE PHILISTINE
I Samuel 17
Once, when the royal harper David was fitting to his small shoulders the great armor which had belonged to Saul, he cast them away and, blushing, added these words: “Bah, these do not suit me, rather they do me harm. For this great helmet troubles my head, the breastplate chafes my sides, I can scarcely walk. My thigh bears this unwieldy sword, ah, I seem more impeded by the sword. Away with these things, away. Small thing befit a little man, and things made with great labor are fit for you my king. Give this shepherd his staff, let a wallet go with his slingshot, these are sufficient for your servant.”
Poems 2 - 4 are the same poem cast into different meters.
5. TO ROBERT RIDING OF TIDESWELL
Four times now Cynthia has hidden her chaste face in her brother Phoebus and fallen silent, and four times she has mingled herself with the flames of heaven, her countenance revealed, while eagerly awaiting a letter from you, my mind in suspense, I have been led on by a vain little breath of optimism, biding my silence between hope and fear, as in the forest a beast, barked at by a large pack of dogs, rushes to a stream’s steady source, eager to plunge its muzzle in the cool water. Oh, I pray you, spare me from hanging suspended in these cruel doldrums, undeserving, spare your loving friend from the torture of such a long delay, spare me my just complaints. I do not dwell in the deep steppes of the distant Don, or of the inhospitable Caucasus, or those lands vexed by the the blazing Tropics .My fate has made me your neighbor in affection, your kinsman in profession and station, and has bidden me join you in the polishing of uncouth lads in this same land. When beasts emit a noise devoid of reason, it is a shameful thing for a being having its share of the celestial Mind to lack the office of an eloquent tongue. Nor do kettles of Dodona cease ringing out tunes in fixed numbers with their sonorous voice as a rod stirs the air. But the elegant Muse, like the elm tree fostered by a gentle zephyr, grows by means of much use, and frequent usage makes a boy facile at writing. The school of the Liberal Arts whet the wit’s powers, as gleaming fire rises up when a vein of flint is stricken, fanned by the east wind.
Give me back the measures of your eloquence from which I am shut off, give them back. Why are you shirking? What delay is so often keeping back the letters owed to me, my learned schoolmaster?
6. TO DOMINUS PENDLETON, MASTER OF THE SCHOOL OF WHITCHURCH
It is reasonable that you allow my pages to intrude on your learned studies, although they be boorish and inelegant, my refined schoolmaster. Always dwelling on the printed page with great effort weakens the mind’s vigor, and is a thing fraught with assorted dangers. Muses which lack relaxation do not long endure. Phoebus, shining in his alternating turns, does not always keep his bow drawn taut. His father puts on a happy face, at times setting aside his gloomy spirits, nor does he always strike at lofty temples with his fearful thunder. Drawn over-tight by the machinery of its peg, a fine string snaps and spoils the music, and the wise man seeks out joys to lighten his cares. Caesar, freed from his grave cares of state, is said to have hunted tiny flies with for amusement, and to have snatched at winged sport with his greedy claw, he whose brother, that glory and darling of Rome, took Jerusalem, that ancient name of Judah, by storm, and inconstant Idumaea. That famed Censor of unbested gravity is said to have set aside his gloomy countenance, Cato’s old-time virtue is said to have been soaked in wine. A small quarry does not always escape the plunder of the bird taught to bear Jove’s arms and the noble boy whom rainy Ida bore. You should read with a happy brow these words of my kindly heart, and place as great value on them as if a friend had sent them from foreign climes: with a happy brow such as that of rejoicing Phoebus when rides in his car, bringing back the daylight and routing the shades of night, illuminating the earth with his placid face; with a happy brow such as that of the thirsty great prince who snatched from a peasant’s hand water drawn from a Persian well, as if it were a great gift; such as that of the friend and companion of Pirithous, born of two-formed Cecrops, who once was a guest in the mean home of rustic Hecale; such as that of the Redeemer of our race, Who saw with His divine mind the gift of an old widow woman and, as a judge, preferred it to gleaming gold. Let not malice, greedy and fertile in venom, engender these things, nor pride, raising its head aloft, not loving what is its own, but adoring itself. Such is not my mind, nor have I such great power over men I have conquered; humble, I gradually creep on the ground, not moving a single step in the dark. Neither have I wet my lips at the Nag’s Font, nor has it been granted me to take my ease on the twin-peaked crag, having been crowned with the Muses’ consecrated leaf. Oh happy me, most happy, if it is granted me to kiss chaste feet and look on reverend faces from afar. Frequent report and a learned man’s splendor, penetrating here, moves me to offer you a letter, such as my Minerva has been able to produce. If perchance you should ask what my forward Muses want, it is to join hand to hand, foot to foot, so that it might cling in a tight bond. Now farewell, mindful of me, and make it come to pass that, like the soil, the letter you receive yields a return and enriches its owner with much interest.
7. TO JOHN BRETCHGIRDLE
Phoebus has raced twice six fiery circuits through the golden stars, and the like number of times his sister, set alight, has shone with her changing face, whilst your piety has constantly rung in my ear, the chaste simplicity of your learned heart, and your zeal, putting to rout the darkness of dire error. Other men will rejoice when the wares of Araby have been brought over the savage seas, heedless while they flee from safe poverty and cannot endure secure homes. There are those for whom the one honor is to spread their menacing arms through discordant peoples, so that the Ocean, difficult to reach, might set the limit on their rule and heaven might envy their fame. There exists the hand which, being unsparing of enemy blood, heaps up threefold titles, violating right and law so that its glory, acquired by harsh crime, might be manifest. Nor are there lacking folk who are allured by the popularity acquired by earnest canvassing, the words of favor, as shifting as a breeze, and who seek to be pointed at. The Muses, that chaste bevy of Phoebus, make you distinguished, nor could gnawing Envy (a god born of Night and Sleep) carp at your reputation. Helicon bestows on you its pure scents, Pimplea crowns your locks with many kinds of flower; with its constant flow Castalia waters your lips with its holy dew. The Samian prophet’s letter perceives you to travel a determined course through its right branch, the route of Astraea, who knows not how to yield to vices as she seizes upon clear heaven. Religion and sacred faith possess your holy heart and promote your pious steps; grace, the fair nymphs and likewise the Loves dwell in it, as in a temple. Oh you are most blessed, you who stoutly trample underfoot the doubtful commotions of the cheating goddess and her enticing gifts, and on the infernal homes of horrid Erebus. Happy the boy who submits his tender hands to your rod and submits to this pious regimen, passing his green years in your bosom. Shall my rustic bashfulness let such rare virtues go unacknowledged by its pen? Shall my sloth and unworthy silence deceitfully hide them? Shall the bushel suppress the lamp? You, oh you gods, make it better: I shall speak out, I shall speak out, nor shall I allow noble endowments to be deprived of their just praises, lest a lying tongue also conceal our good God, in a place where he who steers his steeds with their flame-swift feet as swift traverses with his beam, and to which Thyestes’ feast and its dire crime thrust back his speedy car.
Not that my reed has to power to pour forth that which is worthy of your merits, no, not if Misenus were my companion, or that miraculously sounding trumpet of our God in heaven. But, with a murmur, a stream falling from its peaceful source seeks its parent in the sea, nor does great Nereus refuse it his embrace, small though it be. Thus, oh You Who governs our affairs above the shining sky, beholding everything, embrace these offerings taken from my humble zeal, gladly and mercifully receive Your creation. Nor did Amram’s son spurn fleeces from a stinking flock wherewith to shroud the holy mystery, impoverished piety offers honest nectar to the gods as its incense. You are most like these, you to whom the Muse has granted a more splendid heart; so gently, and in a manner worthy of your mind, receive my trifles, you learned and upright man. Lest you remain ignorant who I am, learn that the land of Poynton possesses me; instructing boys of untaught age, I bleat like an unschooled Corydon amidst rustic birds, seen to be thus many degrees lesser than the others as those whereby the day-bringing star outshines the rest, or those whereby the lark is inferior to the nightingale. I am (truth to tell) as much the worst of all men as you are the best of all, though you praise me, I have perceived, with immoderate praise, and I owe you immoderate thanks. For this alone I have earned a white mark of praise, that I revere learned men with the greatest loyalty, in which class, as I judge, you hold first place. Day longed-for to dawn for me, bright day, you which join us in friendly affection. I shall reign happier than if Assyria were my lot, I shall scorn Mygdonian wealth. Hoped-for day, you will be no less welcome than dew falling from heaven on Mt. Hermon, or sweet oil flowing into the beard of the Pope.
8. A HYMN DEDICATED TO JOHN BRETCHGIRDLE
Arise, my friendly lyre, shaking off gnawing cares, awake and stretch now all your strings. Come, we must sing of Christ Jesus. Oh mighty Father of things, oh You Who hold heaven’s shining throne, subduing the lands lying beneath Your feet, living through every age, Whose hidden face the shadows cloak, You Who, being afar, shine with an unseen light, and are born on the wing’s swift wing, at Whose nod the numerous throng of stars moves along and observes the vigilant orders wherewith You govern them, You who hold the scepter, a figure of awe, You are our God, our perpetual God, an enduring source of life, whence flows a stream of good things, thriving eternally with Your blessed horn of plenty, an inexhaustible fountain of goodness, a great ocean of fostering light, a champion of tranquil peace, the Way, the Law, the Judge of righteousness. Wherever it stretches, the guided world acknowledges You as its light, the champion of our race, Whose wrath all creation dreads. As long as Your goodness shines, nothing is allowed the evildoer. Your pious hand has put its mark on Your holy offspring, although the Evil One may burst his sides in his raging. Just as without You there is nothing sweet in the world, so with You nothing is bitter. You are repose, You are the goal, the soul’s sweet haven and heaven, shepherd of unbested piety, lamb not knowing of sin or stain, You who on the cross defeat the world’s crime and savage death. Honor and virtue befit you alone. Glory and praise, rule and power proclaim you: let the world agree and pray to You alone. Let not this honor belong us to us, who are wretched and lavish in our evil, oh supreme Artisan, let not this honor belong to us little wretches, let it belong to You alone. For whatever the heaven’s spacious regions, the vast sea, the earth contains, knows You and fears You, and bends its knee at Your name. Bring it about that we all celebrate Your name with due praises, that we all dread You, bring it about that our manner of life looks to Your honor. Be present, bring aid, stretch forth Your hand for my Bretchgirdle, so that his heart may for ever and ever flourish for You, and that it might thrive sound in a sound body, he who designs to be painstaking in vexing the unruly and their morals with his sharp file, reforming Northwich with his tranquil face and learned mouth. With the greatest zeal has devoted seven years to polishing his rhetoric, and, relying on that, he is busied each night and day. He carefully employs the talent entrusted to his faith, he doubles its value, he is not idle, committing his master’s wealth to a profitless burial. I pray you preserve him, oh kindly Father Who holds the supreme reins in Your hand. May you enhance him, may you enrich him, may he live, the best part of of my soul. And you, you youth nourished by the fields of Northwich, you should wholeheartedly revere, embrace, and love this master who has deserved so well of you. Oh goddess, draw out the thread of his long life, stretching out his string, Lachesis, remember to say “spun out, run for many smooth years.”
9. TO THE SAME
Bretchgirdle (no mortal alive is more friendly, more frank), I greet you with my wonted music, you glory of Northwich and our nation. I, Brownswerd, once your friend, have played much saucy music on my fiddle, using the measures of the learned Lesbian girl as I made my racket, vexing to the ear. What fountain now waters your happy self? Famed Dirce? Or that one ennobled by the nag’s hoof, haunted by the Pierian throng? Or do you recline by the double cave of Parnassus? Are you extolling stern-faced Zeno? The child of Stagira, or him who was accused by Anytus? Or Solomon’s ample halls? Or do you prefer to adore hairy Plato? Or (in the manner of one who lives at Hybla) are you storing up exempla in your learned breast? Or, reading remembering history, are you scanning the tome of this ancient world? Your mind is quick, your mind is eager, you loathe base sloth, being impatient of delay and accustomed to strike at loft things with a quick shot. You are always relentlessly pursuing a schoolmaster’s anxious work, whether the morning star is fleeing as Phoebus hastens onward, or whether the evening star is bringing back its customary shadows. Secluded, while with full zeal you cherish the honorable arts and push them forward with your foot, you perform the function of a whetstone, which diminishes itself by sharpening hard steel. While I enjoy moderate leisure, the Muse relaxes me with her fat thumb, my rustic lyre refreshes me when I am wearied by effort, relieving me with a tuneful noise, such as that with which the horn-bearing god filled Arcady’s remote greenwoods, when his rustic pipe gave a singing-lesson to judging Tmolus, the time that Phoebus conquered. Now all of the Pylian’s years seem consumed, or those of that old Dardanian man for whose bed his consort, rising from her rosy bed, bore eternal brightness, since the time my eyes have seen your learned letters, whose value, alas, is now only too clear, while, abandoned, I burn with fierce longing. Not thus did the daughter of Icarus, that splendor of the Greek name, remain until her husband, the son of Laertes, might gain his return by his crafty art, a bereft woman using her hand to undo her weaving. Not thus, while the son of the unfavorable morning star sought the oracles of Delos, did prayerful Halcyon with her anxious heart weary the gods who denied her her husband. Not with such a loud yapping of dogs did the hunted beast go in to the forest at a full run, craving to quench its oppressing thirst with flowing water. As the night, an accomplice of friendly deceit, torments suspenseful lovers’ hearts tormented by the tricksy teasing of the hour hidden by its opposite number, so, my heart urging me on, in hope I devour your sweet letters, without any shame or bashfulness lest I displease yourself, groaning that the heedless, slothful days pass by.
But why does Bretchgirdle give my ear a warning tweak as I sing? Is this foreign to my subject? Does the fidelity of my promise suffer a lapse? Have I knowingly preferred the base to the honorable? Oh poor me, I am caught in a narrow place, I struggle in vain. For my mind, remembering and returning from no small path, betrys me, nor does it allow me to hide in my guilt. But pardon me this lapse, by all the gods I pray you: while I readily promise you a swift hand, my sinews and my strength of mind fail me, as the limbs of the weak god are slack, devoid of motion, while his lively mind thrives, and he shoots far his active glance, but complains that his idle body is prostrate. For savage poverty checks one’s impulses and clips one’s wings, horrid, an enemy to clever wits, leaden weights attached to their feet. Once the wanton boy, the driver of the flame-bearing chariot, so that he might banish doubt of his birth, made himself memorable to the world by giving his accursed body to the Eridanus. And you, fierce-natured son of Priam, meeting the scion of Aeacus in unfair battle, died and, prostrate, scratched the bloody earth with your spear. Thus, thus, when I ineptly pursue undertakings beyond my strength, to stupid to measure myself by my own foot, I am dishonored and left as a laughing-stock, my weapons shattered. Undertaking a sublime task beyond the bounds of my powers, and having been warned, I bend back my sails and desire to enter a safe harbor. You, for whom a fountain of living water dances with a constant outpour, receive these firstfruits, from which you can see that it in great matters is enough for a young man to have shown his willingness. Look this over with a friendly eye while a sweet recess is being granted to your band of students, then give it your touch so that my praises, being instructed, might gain supreme honor. And that you may do this more willingly, lo, kindly receive this scroll of pious stuff, that you may polish your friend’s gift with an eager hand. But more when I meet you in person: soon the day dedicated to Christ will be at hand, for the farmer has killed the hateful hog, making sacrifice to his household god, and to Venus and Minerva. Now the hardy ditcher gives himself up wholeheartedly to his skin, now he dances with a free foot in the Salian manner, hastening to stamp on the hated earth.
10. TO JOHN BELSOL
The fire-bearing Titan does not drive his chariot to climes so remote, nor does the fickle rule of Antium, so deceitful, oppress the undeserving with its lawless hatred [so widely], but that the splendor of your learned name extends, fair Belsol, and the Muses, who reveal the obscure man, ennoble you with their swift wing. They repay their gratitude to their sweet son, not without interest, he who has been ardent with great effort, studying wisdom from his tender years. Hence appears the ennobling pledge of the goddess Wisdom, promising her worshippers the highest honors and gifts scarce destined to perish. For thus once the goddess poured herself through the famed seed of Jesse’s prophetic son, while shaping hearts she constantly sat on his lips, issuing forth from his profound mouth. With his keen mind Pythagoras perceived this, painstaking in drawing figures with his compass, and that it is a great glory to shoulder this sweet task, a rest for the weary. Filled with the holy spirit, our nurturing God’s beloved Daniel foresaw this, that the learned would shine with a light brighter than the wide world’s light and eye. Learning broadcasts one’s loveable name far and wide to the ends of the earth, a name such as consuming envy will not blacken, nor the passage of days flying by. Where Syrtis rages, vexed by Hyperion’s cruel face, where Boreas rages, where shining Phoebus rises, hastening to his wonted bed, this thing overtops the stars with its lofty head, this surveys deepest Tartarus and Chaos, nothing in the world is so remote but that penetrates it with its keen eyesight. Here where the dense earth is hidden, as if under much water, she leads the way as a bright lamp, lest darkness seize men’s minds or make them sinful. Learning, that trusty guardian of the tomes of this transitory world, illuminates human affairs with things that are known, it reveals the hidden, reclaiming them from shadowy Lethe. In comparison to her, the Hermus is cheap and of no worth, nor is its rival for glory the Pactolus, nor the blessed Tagus, deep heaven’s acknowledged limit. Gems, no matter how noble, are cheap, as are the forests of Sheba, and whatever metal the eastern miner digs from the bowels of Mother Earth. Whatever the capacious world possess or is nourished by Nereus’ watery ground goes down in price, and Nature herself denies that perishable riches are of so much value. Learning procures the highest glory, it is a magnet for affection, an effective philter, conjoining our mortal race to the blessed dwellers in heaven, the lowest to the highest. Hail throughout all time’s orbit, you of the gods who is to be praised, hail, mankind’s holy explainer, the mind’s shining image, mark and mirror, by whose energetic intervention dark India stands as a neighbor to Gades, and the many-streamed Nile, flowing from uncertain climes, greets the Don, the Ethopian, exposed to savage Phoebus’ darts and the nomad Numidian acknowledges the far-off Briton, the Sauromatian and the son of the Rhone. This most amazing instrument draws together remote peoples, it reveals the mind’s inmost recesses, it travels through all cities lying between the two poles.
Why say more to the learned? By this help, acknowledge Belsol to be a loyal servant of Pallas, to whom the lavish goddess has unstintingly granted no mean intellect. He has undertaken this like a fine [ . . . ] workman who has worked his field, and by his masterful cultivation bequeaths it, well-tended and fruitful, to his children. Hence has emerged the power of keen young men, flourishing in the approved arts, just as an industrious swarm issues forth from its populous hive. The Sicilian mountain rejoices in its buzzing, and Hymettus rejoices in its pleasing hum. Its work is ardent, and its many cells are filled with sweet nectar. Thus it is said that once a famed band of men, energetic with the arms it had taken up, leveled proud Troy to the ground, men who had previously been hidden by Minerva’s deceiving gift. The Trojan women cried mournfully, yet Aeacus’ offspring thrust forward his ancestral wrath, raged against the gods’ temples and did injury to their divinity. Amidst these things Epeius, the architect of the trick, stood by, witnessing the outcome of his stupendous task, nor could he believe that horrendous frauds had come from Pallas’ art.
But why should a bristly pig sing of Minerva? Whither, Muse, am I stretching my sinews, forgetful of how slender is my furniture, how sterile the vein of my wit? But pardon a man who admits this, nor condemn your servant, I pray, because I weave this little gift for Belsol, an auspice for the returning year,not that I can charm his learned brest with graceful songs, being an unclean little man, scarce retrieved one foot’s distance from the shadows of ignorance, but that by my friendly address my good will and faith may be evident, and that I can plant the roots of cultivating a constant mutual friendship.Let this be the limit of what I write, let it be the the goal of my prayers on the day whereon Elizabeth, that heroine, received the helm of the British race and the reverend crown. Pimplaea, weave fragrant flowers, weave them, bright Pimplea, with which her head may be garlanded, and her chaste honor and the beauty of her brow may endure forever. And you decent Graces, hasten here; joined with the Nymphs, strike the ground three times with a free foot, the land now redeemed from the clutches of a bloody master. Heed me, you Muses, and you come gladly, prophet of Cyrrha. Here will be a Helicon, let Orpheus be present, hey, somebody fetch Linus, and let him summon Io Pan with his well-kempt locks. For us let him produce Demodocus, made famous by the Maeonian lyre. Oh fatal goddess who has power over life long and short, you who wield the distaff, mercifully spin out her ensuing threads, and peacefully let them endure, as many years as once lived the Pylian old man, Phoebus of Cume, or Memnon’s father, as many as the self-renewing bird counts, or that which bears the weaponry of Jove.
11. TO THE SAME
Let it not be my lot to celebrate the favoring gods, rather, I pray, let all grace be absent from my writings, let me live banished from every Castalian choir, unless my songs be to your liking, Belsol, like what is poured from the peak of Hennean Hybla, which the busy swarm collects, dreading winter, like what young Hebe deservedly offered the son of Alcides and what the Dardanian boy offered the king of the gods, and what the Arab, who partakes in Phoebus as he rises towards the gods of heaven, gleans from the fragrant reed. These things are small, but small things have given satisfaction, one’s will is of value, intention is precious enough. Thus the ruler of vast Olympus is said to have hidden in humble flesh, treading the earth with a slave’s foot, and to have looked on the giver of the gift with a serene phase while the generous old woman dedicated her coppers to the gods, and when the thirsty king forgot the fleeing Persian and received the water offered him as if it were a gift of the gods. A French general received a radish, rustic Conon is said to have taken it with gratitude. Nor did the son of Amram shun rams’ fleeces for shrouding holy things, a pauper offered incense to the gods. Value increases because of weight, not number; things which are good hold themselves in close confinement, things which are bad lay strewn about. Blemished error is a companion of loquacity, and many words flow from the mouth of a verbose man who has strayed from what is right. The tight-lipped Spartans delighted in Laconic brevity, but their few words were possessed of great weight. What is smaller in appearance than a jewel of the Orient? But great riches reside in that small body. For the Gaetulan beast can be identified by the tips of his claws, even if he is hidden in his cage. For this reason your poems are valuable to me, because with my mind I perceive your mind in them. Because you readily bestow splendid signs of affection on my undeserving self, what should I say? As he rides through the immense sky in his swift car, the sun, sees nothing more welcome in the world. Here I wish to linger long, here let hand wrap around hand, foot around foot, in a lengthy contest. Gods grant that this friendship is stricken up under a happy star, that for us it may be fixed and enduring. Neither the bright faith of Aegeus’ son shall best me, nor Pylades, known for his friendly mind, nor the comrade of Euryalus, nor that Pythian glory of the Sicilian race, nor Titus, glory of the Italian, nor you who have deserved the heraldry of enduring fame, you whom the Parthenopean Muse raises to the gods above. But let my prayers be these (if my prayers have any power), let this be the limit to my duties, lest lofty Olympus be imagined after the model of a small hill, but rather let me measure myself by my own foot. Live, fare well.
12. THOMAS HYDE’S VERGIL TO ITS FINDER
Oh you who pick me up after I have fallen thanks to ill-fortune, by this small poem learn who I am and who I was. Once I was a reed, begotten the seven-mouthed stream of the Nile, which wends its way from an unknown part of the world. Snatched from my paternal shore, an artisan’s skilled hand turned me to use, inflicting many a wound. Next I was carried through foreign people, through kingdoms and cities, over sea and lands, everywhere which Arcturus oppresses and which Phoebus bakes from the south, what he sees when he rises, what he escapes when he sets. As I wandered, a gentleman with long hair caught me, and taught my limbs, pressed in numerical order, to bear Vergil’s work. England bound me with thongs and dressed me in a handsome garment, making me a proper book. Next, when I was on sale young Hyde purchased me for sixteen coins and kept me for himself. You have heard who I am, sweet friend, and you will do a great favor and perform a sacred duty, if you take the trouble to return my lost self to my master. Right, piety, and God Himself approve this. Thus may those who live by theft not steal what is yours, thus may you have safe peace, thus may all good things flow for you.
13. TO DOMINUS WRENCH, SCHOOLMASTER AT CHESTER
You are reading a poem more than puerile, you who are greater in age and in piety: being a skilled interpreter of proper studies, read it through with an unfurrowed brow. Theon’s savage malice has not sharpened its claws, planning a sideswipe, nor he whose rabid tongue-lashing Lycambes experienced. Overconfident youth is not threatening to drive ancient years from their rank, or impudently to drive a hoary head from its platform. Nor is a bad man’s officious hand attempting to repair the keen eyesight of the bird that once was given blond Minerva as a companion. I know that there is a safe and sound reward for silence. What? Are words to be condemned to a perpetual night? An unspeaking tongue destroyed the Amyclans. He who hides his kindled torches under a small bushel is wretched, unlovely, hateful, his lights are deservedly overwhelmed by thick night. He who allows his distinguished endowments of mind to lie hidden, unused, him the Muses do not look upon him kindly, nor does Apollo bathe him with his rays. A structure laboriously built atop a mountain does not know how to hide, but, broadcasting its beauty afar, it dazzles the beholding eye. Your pious and earnest candor makes you well known, nor does it ever allow you to creep about in obscurity or lurk in a crowded city. The glory and splendor of a learned mind excludes this wrong, the throng of your learned flock overcomes it, your grateful alumni forbid it. Every devotee of ancient letters sounds your praises, as does every man who with his hand worships Minerva. A Muse who does not know how to be set free carries you with her swift wing. As when his reverend bull, whose neck is conspicuous, wearied from fighting many battles against the young, is the sole possessor of the spacious pastures, and now no young bull is minded to attack him, for they fearfully look at his breast, a subject of awe for its countless scars, and his worn-down horns, Or as Jove’s tree, worn with age, forgetful of the long line of green years, stands as an oak inviolate with much honor, around which are helmets shattered by a sword’s sinister blow, bloodstained spoils gained in battle, dedicated to Gradivus. Hyperion’s son follows no courses so far from our shores but that the fame of your probity penetrates our ears. The mighty river Severn, that rival of the Rhine and the Phrygian Meander, the ruler of the English fields, rejoices in no fame more splendid, there where that race ennobled by the ancient name of Camber capaciously extends itself between Essa and the remains of Claudius Caesar; warned by which fame, my stupid and sterile Muse makes her appearance, providing something like the unkempt scree of a bad soil, where the mountainous boundary lines joins Chester to the Duke’s camp and Derby to Ebrancum, and a fourfold judge keeps an eye on the territory. Be happy, I pray, and adorn tender minds with holy studies (which you do): may you enhance them, enrich them, polish them, and may you live a long life.
14. TO MICHAEL CLYTERVALLENSIS
When this Jackson often celebrates our name with his melodious horn, learned Michael, he certainly does nothing new or strange. We know with what zeal he revives prostrate Muses, how he mildly indulges our vices, bewitched by purblind affection. As a newborn babe wears the boots of mighty Alcides, as an Indian elephant comes forth in the world from a humble mouse (if it pleases the gods), so this eloquent lad bestows praises with his kindly mouth, but, departing from the reasonable, he makes a huge Olympus out of a small mound. But my mind (its face mightily blushing) silently shouts that violence is done to it; aware of itself, it equally condemns this eulogist and its own fault. The severe Muse teaches me always to measure myself by my own foot, and curtailed poverty compels me to confine my feathers within my narrow nest. That praise belongs to few men, namely the learned, those whom the father of the gods feeds from His bounteous storehouse and blesses with his horn of plenty. I am a rude, unlettered, uncivil, uncouth, wooden, stump-like, foolish, profane gerund-grinder, a disgrace and an opprobrium to the chaste Muse. You take all this glory, Michael, gained by your outstanding arts. The decent Graces bestow it, and the chorus of sweet-singing sisters, so that attending ivy might bind your candid brow, you whom fair-haired Minerva’s school consecrated as a son, not without applause. Oh, gladly have I seen the sweet Muses (in whom the earnest care of my praise has shone) snatched at by friendly hands. In addition, the glory of the learned throng and my zeal for you were manifest when Atherton fed us together at its hospitable board. My poverty can see nothing greater, similar or second to this, as long as this mind of mine languishes as a member of my sickly body. The dew of Amycla, memorable for all the wide world, is cheap in comparison, as is the nectar of Sicily and the fragrant grove of Araby, the oriental gemstone grows cheap. The precious water of the Lydian race is cheap, promising golden sands. The Tagus is cheap, grazing on Phoebus’ bedchamber, and likekwise the Hermus. Oh thrice and four times blessed he who, standing freely on his feet, joins such a reverend assembly, and, thanks to friendly good fortune, makes up the fourth at table. For me, this honor aroused unexpected joys, like the sailor, stricken by the south wind’s raging fury, who rejoices to enter his home port; like a man whose tongue has been tortured by protracted thirst, when his good angel offers welcome relief, and he swallows water with a greedy gulp. With no more joyful a face did Capharaea witness its champion cruising by Argos with a flying sail, whom Hector had kept away for ten years, or a mother saw her son returned, sent home by bloody Trasumenus, when with his terrible wrath Hannibal had attacked the world’s citadel. This cause is no less. For who of sound mind would not not crave to be approved by that mouth, which with its well-known probity has won every point? Favor me in my absence, oh Michael, I pray you, a man whom the nagging, onerous care of a school always vexes, and in its anxiety gives him no rest. The zeal of a friendly heart is not absent, nor a dutiful mind; my ready spirit persists, always zealous for your honor. Thus far I have sung with a fertile Muse, while I give shape to untrained lads, and strike the hands subject to my baleful rod with a moderate blow, Not that they should see two-faced Janus in this thing, or Vertumnus, with Sappho forbidding these things which the god thought unworthy of his table, and the goddess of her bed.
15. THE CANTICLE OF THE VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD
My mind swells up to sound the noble praises of the highest godhead, a mind suffused with serene light, and it happily triumphs because of the Lord Jesus. For, coming from highest Olympus, He looked kindly on me, His handmaiden of most humble station, and chose to hold her in such dignity as has scarce befallen anyone of the female sex. Lo, I am called blessed and greatly happy, and in every age I am called noble. He has done great things, which the whole world will remember, great things which only He could do, He Whose holy name the spacious centuries extol. He, being possessed of inexhaustible piety, persisting in His love, will refresh the peoples, as many as have observed His reverend commandments over the enduring passage of time. Jehovah does these things, Jehovah’s finger of amazing strength, shattering the passions of the arrogant, swelling against His own person. He overthrows the throne of the savage tyrant, touching the stars with his uplifted head, and He uplifts the illustrious prince from the lowly dregs of the commons, feeding from His rich storehouse the man whom dire famine has wasted with its sharp bite, and, sending away the wealthy man empty-handed, He mocks him in his greed. With a paternal face He lifted up Israel, His son, taking him into His inmost marrow, and He mercifully remembers His own, and behold He frees them of the pledge which He imposed on their holy ancestors, and which that lord, worn down by heavy old age, the leader of the faithful band, trustingly imbibed with an eager ear, Abraham, that noble prince, aware of the happy hour and that peaceful torch, destinies which would endure to his late descendants out of the depths of time.
16. TO JOHN HALLSALL
Lest perchance you think that I hold old age in disregard, Halsey, be aware of my dutifulness. My reverence for a hoary head has always been great, and for him who has come first in any order, which grave Lycurgus’ most famous screeds have sanctioned, which Moses broadcast from the mouth of highest God. And the royal harper, by a prophet’s nourishing spirit, says such words in teaching the young. You who seek after wisdom should consult a father heavy in years, and old men who have been taught much by experience and their ancient days. Consider the monuments of olden times, and with vigilant mind ponder their steps. That descendant of Dione gained everlasting honor, he carried his ancient father’s pious limbs. But one should mark how far this honor should go, lest the blind lead the blind and both take a fall. For since old men deceive and are themselves deceived, being children of men, dust and fleeting shadow, trust is to be given with caution, nor should one swear for all time on an old man’s gloomy words. For holy Joel perceived that the sacred spirit should be sent from heaven’s high citadel into all flesh. Whence a younger age, stricken as if by a rapid stream, should prophecize amongst the peoples and sing memorable things. This light, given by the hand of the Lord and shining with amazing brightness, strikes our eyes, thanks to which (a wonderful thing, unknown to our ancestors) you may see lads pouring forth the words of a mature old man. Praise of our infinite God pours forth from a tender young mouth, greater, and a glory which can fill the vast world. But that morose old man, elegant Terence’s character, is wrong when he imagines he is all-seeing. It is hard to wrench error from a swollen chest, grown callous and idle over a long time, or to accustom a Spartan hound to a quivering leash after his cold blood has grown sluggish in a lazy body.
17. TO SOME MAN
Gods give us better! And let this barbaric fury be far removed, that I should envy or try to undermine what you have written. All this dire cuttlefish-ink, all malice is absent from a man inspired by the learnedly-singing Muses. The envious man looks at something more lofty and powerful, there is no room for envy in lowly things. I see nothing that feeds envy, and (pardon me for so saying), every Grace, Muse and Venus is missing. Yet the will and industry in your writings is a welcome thing. “Bernard does not see everything,” everybody is deceived, boy, lad, woman, man, and old man alike. For whoever is able to discern the straight from the curved, he is an old man, he is a boy who understands boyish things. Socrates will be dear to me, as will be Plato. But let me be frank, to me the truth is yet dearer. As the son of Salathiel affirms, this is better than wine, than being a king, than a woman, than all the world. This is the fixed target and goal towards which alone men’s wise concern strives, their vigilant effort. Who shuns it is black, foreign to every Muse. He who seeks it alone, he shines in his whiteness. Happy is he who bends back his sail and avoids the reef, and who acknowledges his mistake. Let every enterprise end in the truth, and in it let there be the boundary and limit of what I write. Farewell.
18. ON THEOPHRASTUS
Oh Theophrastus, preeminent glory of the race of Cecrops, on the point of bitter death you are said to have complained about the narrow limit of human life, and that death comes a-walking with too swift a step, when the Phoebus’ crow lives long centuries and the swift-foot stag endures for long spaces of time. Make an end to your envy, Nature is no step-mother, for he who has lived well has lived long.
19. A PRAYER BEFORE A MEAL
All living things turn their eyes towards You, their nourishing creator, awaiting Your hands. And you distribute Your largess on them so it will flow from a full horn of plenty, You lavishly feed them from Your storehouse. Stretching forth Your open hand with Your supreme goodness, You bless every creation with a bounteous gift. Grant, Father, that Your grace preside over our table, and, wealthy king, bless Your gifts.
20. AFTER A MEAL
Oh God, Who have brought us to this point from our earliest childhood, You who create proper nourishment for every soul, shooting Your welcome darts throughout the wide world, for You let there be praise and honor, let there be glory and splendor. Holy Father, fill our peaceful hearts with tranquil light and eager joy, so that, our bodies satisfied with a moderate meal, with greater strength we may direct our enriched steps in piety.
21. ON THE CIVIL DISCORD OF THE CHURCH AT MANCHESTER, 1560
Where, where are you hastening with your crazed mind, reverend sirs? Where is your profane anger taking you? What do your hands seek, aimed at your brothers’ vitals? Where is this civil frenzy heading, these fierce looks and word-threatening words, foot fighting foot, head fighting head? Why do you rend the garment a mother has woven with gold, the mystic shroud of God most high? The shaggy bear does not thus quarrel with himself, Hyrcanian tigers enter into no such battles. Trusty concord joins together the Marmarican lions, one rhinoceros cherishes another as its friend. Will sacrilegious Judas never lose his desire to betray innocent Christ and his faith? Will the day ever come when dire greed for Plutus will come to an end? Will that day never come? Woe to you, woe, insatiable lover of gold; woe to you, gnawing envy which sets snares for pious deeds. Woe to you, dire Typhon, never yielding to your better, and woe to you, blind and raging ambition. Hence the gods’ awesome majesty is harmed, and (an unspeakable thing!) a mark of shame is branded on the sacred Word. Hence many a man who has imbibed sweet words with an eager heart, hanging on the lips of a learned man, is mistaken in his mind, dragging along his footsteps and feeble knees, a thing which the twice-seven-mouthed Nile and the Danube cannot wash clean, a crime which no victim can expiate. This, this is a device which the Latin tyrant and his lying See would wish for, placing a great value upon it; happily the deceitful man would look on it out the corner of his eye and the false prophet would quietly laugh in his heart. But (do you hear her?), religious Piety rends her garment and tears at her hair, crying out “Do not, oh do not draw the wounding steel against a mother’s breast. For when a furious hand seeks after friendly blood, alas, the impious point wounds my bowels. I pray you not to contend with hatreds, oh I pray you: let your anger subside, let fraternal hands join in pious pledges so that Christ’s glory may shine with your unanimous voice, and that the trumpet of the Word may sound more strongly.”
22. IN PRAISE OF THE GODDESS TRUTH
Once upon a time, when a Persian tyrant, outstretched on his welcome bed, was seeking repose, and sleep came over his limbs, all sodden with wine, it is said that this recumbant governor of great affairs engaged the minds of the princes in attendance, submitting to their fair judgment, which thing out of all human affairs is the most important and powerful, which justly lays claim on supreme powers throughout the world. The first awarded the mighty laurel and exclusive palm to a king, on whose will depend the fearful hearts of commoners. The second is said to have cast his outspoken vote for the liquor of Bacchus, nor did the power of a woman lack ample praise. Salathiel’s noble descendant, being of excellent mind, did not tolerate God being dethroned, and, offering His profound opinions. “The virtue of truth is preeminent,” said He, “its glory is greatest, its dignity always to be venerated. The appearance of truth is amazing, and it knows not how to be bested.” The world’s circle is vast and has many windings, the ambit of heaven, and of the deep sea. And yet the sun, swift in its course and surveying all with its rapid eye, sees nothing in all the world which the truth by itself does not surpass, leave behind itself by amazing distances, and tramples underfoot. Overtopping lofty Olympus with its high head, it takes its seat next to the great Thunderer, its shoulders bared, naked with its shining tresses. Here it sends its nourishing beams of supernal light to pious minds, dispelling thick darkness, so that all error is banished far away. Meanwhile, in time it reveals things foreign to the fertile earth, and in time it again conceals them, things created in fleeting time. Arithmetical Plato lost this, vainly investigating it with his keen mind, as did Anytus’ accused, the man of the Porch who first propounded its shady doctrines, snd he who took his famous nickname from walking about, that loose fellow who made his tongue a servant to his natural inclination, and the crew of sophomoric Cynics. As they gaped at the hoppings of round fleas and, reaching to highest Olympus, snatched at ideas and at adroit entelechies, these men were excessively swollen with pride about the vain powers of their intellect, a fragile vessel. But God scorned them, smiling from His shining citadel of heaven. With a divine voice the truth is revealed to men who have studied no wisdom, whose mind has gone unpolished by any book-learning. In time, having pity on our sad condition, flowing forth from the bosom of nourishing godhead, the truth came into the world, submitting to the lowly clothing of flesh, establishing itself as an open highway for us, in whose Word shines forth the unsullied truth, nor is the appearance truth to be sought from any other source. Christ alone is the unsullied, serene truth, He is the professor of eternal wisdom, He is wise, true, and the lover of truth. Whoever willingly shuns this, pursuing vain ways, he shall perish, caught in Stygian night, destined to lack all gift of light. This one end the Saints of heaven strive to celebrate with fearless praise, truth is the honest mind’s single goal and Gades. He who freezes in Arctic frosts, he whop is accustomed to ride over open fields, he who feels the fiery path of the unfriendly sun, he whom Phoebus sees with his new beams as he bathes Nabathean realms with his bright car, hastening towards his bed as night presses on him, tey all have this work to enjoy wholeheartedly and fill their happy faces. This work, this task occupies them all by night and by day. You goddess, hostile to false tongues, you whom Faith, clad in white cloth, worships with a firm mind, as does the maiden Astraea, imitating the inspirations of the gods, dispel the false doctrines of a diseased race, dispel its doubtful turnings, its treacherous Meanders. Dispel deceiving shadows of the mind, vexed by the long series and passage of unfriendly time, banish the tricks of the the Roman viper, so that your beautiful splendor may shine far and wide on earth, and so that by your illumination we may see the holy Light.
23. IN PRAISE OF HISTORY AND POETRY
That most great ruler of the Aemathian people is said to have once paid his respects at the tomb of Pelias’ son, exclaiming “Oh greatest of heroes, you are most fortunate, you had such a loyal friend in life, and whose shade is celebrated and extolled to the gods by the trumpet of the swan of Smyrna!” The illustrious acts of the one resound in the song of the Maeonian lyre, his fame rivals the lofty heavens. But he who cast the Persian down from his lofty throne and, unconquered, shattered the Achaemenid captains, who bore his victorious standards through the cities of the East and through Nabathean realms with lightning-like speed, he whom fleet Victory bore on her swift pinions and brought to fortune’s highest step, he who imagined the whole world in his huge mind and launched a menacing assault on either home of the sun, could not for any fee find a herald who could make songs equal to his deeds, nor find his equal. He could have fulfilled his destiny in all of its numbers, had music’s glory been conjoined to Mars. But Rhamnusia, hostile to his prayers, resisted, lest anything be happy in every respect. He was the one man upon whom Calliope never looked with her peaceful eye, who had only Chaerilus. This man wanted to commit the general’s deeds to strings unequal to the task in strength, his lyre was broken by the weight of events, playing strident tunes to the Muses’ annoyance, vexing splendid deeds with his offending talent. And the reward of a whipping awaited this bad poet, he suffered just damages in keeping with his deserts. For whoever attempts to produce verse worthy of a brave man, unless the Aonian Sisters favor him with their happy godhead, unless grace be upon his Muses, and the twin sisters, unless sweet Venus wholeheartedly embrace him, that man strives to encrust a pure vase, and to becloud the bright little stars. Fearing this, the famous general commanded that Apelles’ hand alone artfully depict his body’s beauty, that he be sculpted in gold only by the supreme art of Lysippus, and in light marble only by that of Praxiteles. And he preferred to have the name of Homer’s Thersites rather than to possess Achilles-like glory on the lyre of Chaerilus. For bright deeds are blackened when ill depicted, and, on the contrary, the tuneful Muse bestows blessings with her song. This is her task, to place things in the light of the sun and to celebrate the doings of men with her living trumpet. This is her duty, to banish the failing reputation of old age and to rescue histories from rotten annihilation. Neither orchards hanging in the Babylonian sky, a wall more threatening than that woman’s work, nor the memorable mass of Halicarnassus, which lavish love raised up to the heaven, nor the temple of many-breasted Diana, that glory of Ephesus, nor the god’s altar built of bull’s right horns, nor that wonderful colossal sculpture at Rhodes, a noble ivory example of Phidias’ art, nor the pyramids of which the timid Nile’s fickle dweller boasts, amazing monuments of ancient leaders, illuminate and ennoble a great man as much as do the goddess powerful in numbers, and Apollo the bard, sweetly sounding his chords, and Pierian tunes. But the praise of great men is a business full of peril, exposed to envy, and very conspicuous. For the things which are fair, these things Nature has placed in a high place. Ephyrean manors are not approved for all men, it is given to few to pour forth swan-like song, not any old man can sing a dirge. Let this be the song for a funeral, this the rule for epigrams, let it be like gems native to the Syrian shores: namely, let it shine and scorn the sharp tooth, and bear a great price on its small body.
24. TO JAMES BATSON, AN EXCESSIVELY SOFT AND EFFEMINATE WRITER OF EPITAPHS
Why, Batson, do you lament brave deaths with tragic mourning? Why do you wail over a brave man in such a womanly way? Why thump your breast? Why tear at your head’s glories? And why create envy for the gods on high? You invite masculine luminaries to soft lamentings, and you solicit men to forget themselves, men who are outstanding for their virtue, their courage and station, men who have performed hard service in the field. You dare irk these men with your absurd song? It would be strange if you weren’t embarrassed and ashamed of yourself. The crew of grave sages has not taught this, nor the woven series of lengthy history, not God, nor reason, nature, or living virtue, not the mind aware of its secret joy, nor the hearts of the Spartans who knew not how to retreat, or the proud glory of the ancient sons of Romulus. It is a very lowly thing, unworthy of a noble Spartan woman, to bewail a dead man’s tomb in this way. More properly that old man, a noble son of the Rhudians, reclaimed his funeral from complaining tears: “Let no man seek to drench my grave with tears, for I am alive, flying through learned men’s lips.” Why is it not sufficient for a Latin bard, that glory of the Venusian race, to have informed you, not in one single place? Does he not condemn the superfluous honors of the tomb, and scorn the vainglory of a final pyre? What does the illustrious son of Gryllus teach us, that light of Mopsus’ city, teach us, what does that Attic Muse teach? Hearing of the death of his noble son, he scarcely deigned renounce the adornment of his head. Come now, what does Paul, outstanding in his faith, sound forth from his lightning-like breast, what does the sacred page sound forth? Let nobody mourn with immoderate tears when a Christian sheds the imprisonment of his terrestrial flesh, as does the profane crowd, its mind plunged in dense mist and possessing no faith. Nourishing faith does not do such, for it hates the fragile use of the body and with unbroken mind strikes at the stars. And it craves to be released, and to live together with Christ, regarding as like to dung whatever the world adores.
25. ON THE DEATH OF THAT RIGHT SPLENDID KNIGHT EDMUND TRAFFORD
Oh hero destined never to die, why are you said to be dead? Here you live, I say, rather than die. You are alive, Trafford, you are alive, nor will any day dawn to steal that life of yours. Death is not harmful for him who lives in Christ; rather, a wide highway lies open for heavenly repose, the Thunderer keeps His worshipper close at hand under tranquil peace. And the tremendous force of death cannot wrench you from there, nor Stygian Jove’s dark crew. You die according to the just measure of your thread, time having past, you die conspicuous for your many children, powerful at home and in peacetime, a source of fear in war and battle, noble, surrounded by distinguished friendships. Happy Manchester sees you as a kindly patron, the unfair hand has felt you as a magistrate, and at length, beloved by all, revered by all, enhanced by all endowments of fortune, you die. Your nation has received your worm-bearing ashes and bones, and, loving you, has peacefully taken you into its peaceful bosom. But your victorious spirit has passed over the fiery bulwarks of heaven and rejoices to join the supernal choirs. From there you it happily smiles at the humble earth, the world’s vain toys and deceptive riches, and it enjoys the bright light and ethereal spirits forever, praising You, God, without end.
26. ON THE PREEMINENCE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
When, eagerly heeding God’s commandment, that loyal servant the son of Amram had pitched his holy tents, the son of Amram, nothing fairer than whom the sun has beheld, nothing milder than whom has existed in the world, his prescient wisdom set apart a triple seat, and appointed three places for his offices. The lowest he bade serve his wandering people, and wished the commons to have an open space where they might worship their Jehovah with a tremulous murmur and await the consecrated words of their God. But the middlemost place he ordered be made ready for the sacred band, and to remain as the holding of the priesthood, so they might earnestly strive to assist at the artfully constructed table and reconcile God with their pious prayers. To these it was given to issue threatening precepts to the complaining commons, and to expound the grave tablets with their learned voice. A third place was set far apart, safe from all sound and sight, consecrated by august religion. Rumor has it that the ancestral household gods rejoiced in this home, in this home existed the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest alone penetrated these sacred glories with his chaste step, but not without bloodshed, to whom it was permitted to behold these arcane figures in silence, and offer up yearly sacrifices to a shrouded God. Oh nourishing God, what does this triple scene, this machinery show us? What strange thing does this mystic image teach? Am I to think that beneath its thick outer bark it designates that someday a priest will come under a happy star, Who will cleanse the doomed world with His own blood, placating his wrathful Father with a just victim, and Who as a prophet will expose mysteries previously unknown, and disperse the night with His heavenly rays? A golden light was present to resist the gliding centuries, a golden light was present to resist sin, when the world trembled, stricken by its sudden brightness, it shone, and a great glory descended from highest heaven. And this holy power sent forth words, which the Fates received and wrote down on hard adamant. “Behold, a Son has come, a glory to the nation of Judah, the world’s light and salvation, behold, a Son as come. Lo, He is wholly beloved to Me, obey Him when He teaches, the beloved of my Soul and the half of Myself. Whoever follows Him as his teacher, that night which swerves from the truth will flee him, and life’s clear path will guide him. When He speaks, this world’s vain wisdom will perish, as will the vainglory of the puffed up sophomore. He will trample on the winding coils of the ancient serpent, and beneath His feet he will trample upon its head. Just as when Hyperion’s son drives his panting horses when he raises his first torch in the ruddy sky, night flees the shining light banishes the shadows, and friendly day feeds men’s amazed eyes, so the almighty Word which flows from His divine mouth lays low the treacherous dogmas of the blind world. Thus its maker’s hand shatters a glass vessel, easily broken with the blow of an iron rod. The tripods fall silent, as does the cauldron of tuneful Phoebus, and whatever sounds forth the Devil’s sly words. His glory casts the crooked brow of the Garamantians into obscurity, and the oak, beloved to Jove, fears to lie. In the face of such a great teacher let the tribe of the learned compress its lips and imitate silent Harpocrates. Nor should you be embarrassed to hearken to Paul warning Cecrops, even if a grain-gazer by repute. Nor should learned Plato be ashamed to learn new things, let Aristotle learn of the Unknown God. Let the belly-talking prophets fall still, those chattering frogs, and let the trifling Schools at last fall silent. Let the crazed bard with his stupid song fall silent, and you, you crew of soul-squandering Druids be still. Issuing from the earth, let Tages’ teaching be silent. Lo, a prophet comes from heaven Who sings accurate things. Let the flamen with his reverend head hold his tongue, wearing his priestly hat and his great sneer. Then let the inspector of livers fall silent, he is not a foresightful augur, and let the wretch cease peering at the smoking guts of cattle. And you too, barbaric Memphis, you cherisher of learned lies, cast away your monstrosities of gods so you might at length grow wise. Cast away the books full of falsehoods which the dark cunning of malign Satan has introduced, and you who gawk at Phoebus’ altar in the thirsty sand, and you who wash your learned face with Tantalus’ water, and you who deem it base to spare yourself for resurrection and cast your cold limbs on dancing pyres. Let the Babylonian vanish far away, having a heart ignorant of the truth as he numbers the stars. Why foolishly pry into the supreme Thunderer’s secrets, not cultivating your heart with pious offices? He who seeks lofty things takes a fall, the powerful man’s wisdom is foolish, it falls away headlong from the face of the the truth. The noble trickster with his magical Persian art takes a fall, noble in his vain talent. For he who lacks Christ dwells in the thick darkness of death, black night sits on his heavy eyes. Although a man might seem distinguished by the gift of wisdom, if Christ deprives him of the holy spirit he strives in vain to move the rolling rock, his studious mind goes astray, its goal lost. Whoever abandons Christ let him depart far, far away, let him go to the crows, let him be wretched in wretched ways. Let he flee beyond the Bisaltae, nor let Phoebus look on such an unspeakable fellow, lest his diseased tongue poison the nearby herd, nor his stealthily spreading effluvium harm the flock. Christ is the mind’s single light, the single master of our life, sent from high heaven’s citadel. The man who does not cling to Him thinks the imaginings of a vain mind, nursing dreams in his diseased heart. The tyrant of Pella was much gladdened of heart, and was not afraid to publish in writings that he had been born in such a happy century and had Aristotle for his professor. But what did he gain from his master’s learned discourse? What sort of man was he when he had graduated from that omniscient school? He was a cheerful bandit of the world, who held justice and right in contempt, puffed up with ambition, savage by nature. He was an ingrate towards many, but easily entreated by nobody, indulgent to his savagery, a rival of the gods. Neither a sage teacher’s instruction nor his clever tongue softens manners or makes men upright. For in vain the schoolmaster has raged with his rod, and pointlessly applied his artful hands, unless the holy Spirit, descending from lofty Olympus, has tamed wild hearts and shaped human character. The Thunderer’s august Law changes and bends the mind, like a dog’s by your lyre, divine prophet. It is the Spirit that teaches the truth, which makes us admit the truth, and corrects our unschooled manners. And, just as when Zephyrus fails to strike the earth with his pleasant breeze and the air does not sound with its happy murmur, the dying swan does not sing his sweet songs, nor strives to produce shrill tunes with his mouth, thus unless Christ illuminates minds with His tranquil light, we are deceived and our every striving is in vain. Oh nourishing Spirit, Who penetrates the world with Your breeze, oh Spirit, fountain of truth and source of good, to Whom alone belongs the learned tongue’s eloquence, Who moves the pious plectrums of our thankful heart, be present, oh Paraclete, flow into our minds, and kindly give divine aid to our studies, so that the venerable face of truth, salvation and life, will show us the way from out of the sacred Book.
27. TO JAMES GUYSUS
If Horace’s lyre is to be believed, all trifling singers suffer from a peculiar fault, that, though repeatedly commanded, their minds are never disposed to leave off singing: they impose their Muses on their friends for an enormous fee, but without prompting they know not how to impose any limit or end on their strident dirge, and they refuse to give their poor little strings a rest. You may deservedly number among these gentlemen my very mean and unhandsome Muses, learned and clever Guyson. But since, with the help of those unschooled girls I have lately woven some trifles out of thick, crude thread, which I do not think sufficiently worthy of a Cato, or tolerant of Perseus’ file, until I have begotten better, I pray you, looking on these silly things with a friendly eye, take my enthusiasm in good part.
28. ON THE CONSIDERATION OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP
As with its judgment voracious fire tries tawny gold in a raging furnace, so when treacherous Nemesis, falling like a horrendous storm, crushes one, a friend’s steadfast faith appears clearly, and shines forth brightly. Many a man comes a-flying to prosperity, a fickle follower of affluent fortune, but rare is the Pylades who consoles his sad Orestes when Fate is oppressive.
29. ON THE READING OF FABLES
A fable of Aesop, if somebody judges it by its surface alone, is quite puerile, but if you examine it with a careful eye, you will perceive the author’s wise genius and profound meaning, whereby the goddess Wisdom generously blesses the reader. For what does the first one teach (so that I need not fetch my examples farther)? While it scratches round about, behold, the rooster discovered a jewel in the filthy dung. And since he did not know its value, nor its use, he esteemed his discovery less than a single grain of wheat. Among foolish minds, trifling joys are valued less than wisdom and the celestial gifts of the gods. Whence this deceptive and very preposterous human concern? This is because he who is prone the earth, a fawning slave of his belly, for whom the sight of honest duty is repulsive, a man who is more powerful in the bulk of his transitory body, just as the spacious arches of heaven surpass the lands that lie beneath, shuns the value of fair virtue, the nourishing mind’s riches, and the splendor of a well-ordered intellect. And there is no more deadly foe to the pursuit of wisdom than the benighted forwardness of an unschooled, sense heart. Therefore in His sacred sermons the most holy Redeemer of the world forbade giving what is sacred to dogs, or a pearl gathered from the Red Sea to swine, since it would be the case that the latter would trample the shiny little stone with their snouts and trotters, and the former would rend with their bloody bite, acting against those who had bestowed the divine gift. For a pure vessel is most fit for a pure liquor, and the grace of divine dew falling from heaven is by far most welcome for the afflicted, diseased mind.
30. ON OPPORTUNITY
From the time of the Greeks, Pallas’ Ausonian soldier, the priest of Phoebus, and that glory of the Celts and of Bordeaux home, are said to have chosen this figure for Opportunity, and to have represented her graphically as having luxurious locks flowing from her head, but deformed with baldness of the scalp in the back. And she stands on a flying wheel and a round sphere, and a sharp scythe arms both her hands. But it is not enough to dwell on her external surface, or halt one’s step on the ladder’s first rung. Rather, it is necessary to look more carefully at this Silenus, asking what mystic meanings lie hidden. What does this appearance mean, now bald, now luxuriant with hair? What does this woman’s rare defect teach? Seize the hour, young, place no trust in the swiftly-passing day. Use the time while you may, for it flees. For it flees on never-returning step, and the road you have traveled forbids your return. This image exhorts us to the pursuit of virtue, while flourishing age allows and fosters it, so that it will be agreed by men and God that our accounting of the time we have spent is a good one. Why is she planting her feet on a swift globe? This advises us that the day is running, and can never stand still. It now remains for me to say what the image of the scythe shows us. What does its threatening point mean to teach us? That with its sharp tooth age steals everything which the sun looks down on, driven with his fire-bearing horses. This treacherous world possess nothing its own, nothing steady, solid or enduring. But make an exception of virtue, prudent reader: virtue alone blunts the scythe’s blade, while all else disappears in the breezes of the air, like a mist.
31. ON THE PRAISES OF LEARNING
Whoever maintains that the arts of Pallas are to be ranked after any amount of gold or glittering gems, he is mistaken, his mind enveloped in thick darkness, like a beast deprived of the light of reason. For what other than reason and the vocal gifts of a ready tongue distinguish Man from a lazy donkey? Or, if we wish to tell the truth, than piety a faith? Remove from Man only the the worship of a supreme Being, and the wretch will be so far removed from the happy lot which he saw when created that all-seeing Phoebus shows us nothing more abject, nothing more base. But religion is blind without the right guidance of learning, and misleadingly aims at a wrong target. So come now, my dearest son, earnestly pursue the sacred Muses, and let this be your first and greatest care, the greater world’s Ruler has given Man none better; seize the day and bend to your pages while your strength and years favor you, while your age is capable of being swayed, while the blood runs warm in your youthful body. For the age that follows, unequal to the chaste Muses, very much degenerates and tends towards the worse. Expend it wisely while it thrives, and snatch the time while it allows itself to be taken, the irrevocable hour flies by. And remember how quickly fleet-footed youth will show you its back, believing that every minute of the day has been wasted which Pallas does not claim for her honorable arts, as Pliny testifies with his learned mouth. This makes men resemble the eternally blessed spirits. It is accompanied by honor and smiling grace. This makes a man welcome and acceptable to supreme monarchs, a good man for his country, wise and powerful with his voice. But I am not minded to celebrate the divine Muses in this song, since we are limited by a brief space of time, and their own trumpet proclaims them with a full voice, which the vast world displays far and wide, and publishing lights which rival the flames of Phoebus.
32. ON THE SUN AND BOREAS
Aesop, that distinguished son of the Phrygian nation, to whose genius this mystic fable is indebted for its existence, tells how once upon a time golden-tressed Phoebus and Thracian Boreas entered into a context. And, behold, a suitable subject for the test was at hand. For by chance a traveler was making his way, his back laden with a huge weight, and the game was to see which could win the palm for making him throw away his load. The latter threateningly rushed forward with a violent whirlwind, at the assault of which Nereus and the vast world shuddered, and he thundered hideously, but in vain. For the traveler, resisting every attempt, gathered his garment and warded off the tyrant with his struggling step. Not knowing how to succumb, he traversed the road he had taken. And now it was Hyperion’s turn, and he gradually poured forth his rays, peacefully sending his arrows, those penetrating darts, through the fluttering breezes. At length the weary traveler’s shaking knees gave way, and his limbs exuded salty sweat. Unable to bear the bear the heat, his burden now far from easy, his legs collapsed and cast himself upon the ground. The noble victory fell to Phoebus’ fires. From this we learn how superior is the virtue of a keen mind to physical brawn, and that (as great Tully pronounced with his eloquent mouth) the weapons of Mars achieve little unless wisdom serves as a vigilant consul, possessing domestic power and governing physical strength. Nor will you have any fear in performing a lengthy office, or acting as a magistrate or warden, for reason amiably shows the way, whereas force drags. In sum, the Syracusan geometer’s rare wand (of him who is reputed to have been the first to insert the smooth cylinder within the sphere and to have represented the volume of the rapid heaven) is said to have taught that, thanks to Pallas’ skilled art, a lad who has lived scarce seventeen years can accomplish more with no effort than a hundred hands with their untrained strength. He taught this while he was manufacturing his excellent warlike inventions of divine wisdom for the use of the Trinacrian prince, and pondering things of advantage to his native land.
33. ON TRUE FELICITY
Pray tell me what silver is, and tell me what is gold. Just tell me this, I pray by the gods above. What but rotten earth distinguished by different colors? The one glows ruddy, the other is shining and bright. Thus St. Jerome is once said to have taught, that great translator possessed of divine eloquence. What are proud furs (life’s vain playthings) but spoils and skins of captured beasts? Pray what is a glittering gem? A hardened composition of Phoebus’ rays, gathered over a long time, and baked fluid, which no man either upright or pious would pray to possess, unless to the degree that necessity demands. For us let this be the single, brass wall at which our satiated mind aims, that nothing exterior can render a man happy, this exists only in the goods of the mind. Realms do not confer this, nor splendor or honor of life, not illustrious breeding or the riches of Midas. For all these things disappear and vanish faster than the swift East wind, like smoke and its attendant shadow. He who does not possess these things has a heart plunged in Pharian shadows, and he has no taste of God. For if earthly fortune were to make a man blessed, assuredly he who lacked it would be unhappy and wretched. Heroic virtue flourishes and reigns forever, and to it alone belong glory, life and honor. This is not stolen by fraud adorned with handsome color, nor by might or the thief’s grasping hand. This alone is immune from fickle fortune’s blow, everything else hangs by a thin thread. Whoever perversely denies these things, let him be an Apuleius, human in appearance, but otherwise a vile beast.
34. ON THE POWER OF MEMORY
Only a diseased mind doubts the greatness of divine Mnemosyne’s wealth and power, and our faith would suffer unless our life’s prudent preceptor would teach us her uses. Nor does there exist any gift of divine bounty wherein the mind may boast the more of its heavenly origin. But I am not minded to expound her immense powers, I wish only to commit to blank paper as an example one thing taken from amidst the heap of the things whereby she procures us immortal glory and fame, so that the power of this divine spirit may be seen, if she exerts all her sinews. She came to us first from Cecropian shores: behold how Themistocles, when he abandoned his unfair homeland and endured exile, a reward of his nation of ingrates, learned the Persian tongue before Phoebus had surveyed the twelve signs of the Zodiac in his fire-bearing car, in order to converse with the king without an interpreter. And likewise the founder of that kingdom, Cyrus, by divine intervention rescued from the teats of a barking wolf-bitch, was able to name each man who followed his standards in war. Cyneaeus, the ambassador of the Aeacidae, could call each Roman senator by name. That famed ruler, the inhabitant of the fetid Pontus, who in the space of two years resisted forty-four battles onslaughts out of the Latin part of the world, is said to have handed down legal decisions to his people in twenty-two languages (for such was the number of races he governed), almost never obliging anyone to hang on his lips for an answer. This same power taught Theodectus to recite numerous verses in their due order after a single hearing. The gods have granted us more excellent virtue from heaven, it shines with practice and gathers strength, but grows feeble with lack of of use.
35. TO RICHARD LUCY
If the Muses of ancient bards are to be trusted, an idle donkey, dressing himself in the shaggy skin of a beast of Massyla, caused a great panic in the district of Cyme, and he is said to have laid the livestock prostrate on the ground with fear, monstrously roaring and threatening. But, betrayed by the evidence of a floppy ear, this novel actor provided sport and laughter for the inhabitants and paid his penalty. Thus whatever rascal imposes on the unlettered people (evilly wearing the mask of an honest man), and gives it the fig in its folly, him all-seeing and vigilant time finally will reveal as a laughing-stock for young years. Thus (Phoebus thus getting his revenge) time revealed the long ears of the Phrygian tyrant very uncouth, shaggy and boorish, as soon as the East wind ruffled the light croppings of his chatty barber. Aesop’s bird, fair-haired Minerva’s companion, was vexed by its lot. A bird waxed proud in feathers stolen from the others, and was pleased with its trick. After time betrayed it, its thieving tricks were soon revealed and, with each bird seeking to retrieve its clothing, it raised a laugh for the feathered flock. Falsehoods do not long flourish and thrive, nor does a trick strike its root deep. If you seek substantial glory that never fears annulment, avoid deceptions more than an obscene dog and a viper, and the unspeakable arts of the Stygian Jove, who wears the very bright, pleasant and attractive face of a shining character while working harm on the unwary with his silent venom. Remember to measure yourself by your own foot, and feather your nest with moderation. This is the purpose of what I write, farewell, and, taking care to bring to perfection the responsibility which is your lot, be the man you yourself wish to seem.
[Poem 36 is a reworking of Horace, Ode I.i into elegiac couplets]
37. ON PLAY PERMITTED BY A TEACHER
Although wanton license corrupts upright manners and infects unschooled minds, and it is better to rage with the savage teeth of a wolf than give free rein to a wanton flock (let that young brother of Clymene serve as a sad example, cast down from the starry sky to the Latin Po), nevertheless, when you have presented them with pleasant yet serviceable poems, and likewise poems worthy of a learned man, you need to remember that we once lived as freshmen and submitted our shaking hands to the threatening rod. We gave ourselves to these common studies, with the result that this was the first token of the friendship into which we entered. Let the flock of young men freely issue into the spacious yards and gratify their weary minds. Let them play with their equals in mind and physical strength. Let flower choose flower and foot follow closely on foot, whether they want to compete in a race or in naked wrestling, or if some are pleased to shoot arrows at a butt, or to attempt a jump or make trial of swimming, or if the round stone provide a contest for some. Finally, let them enjoy their play (but always of an honorable kind) when the third hour of the declining day comes around.
38. WHO IS GOD AND WHAT MANNER OF BEING IS HE?
The heavenly letter reveals Who God is and what manner of being He is. He is eternal spirit, lacking in dimension and body, the sole ruler and creator of this wide world, omniscient, omnipotent, holy and good, all-sufficient, wise, the judge of the right, merciful, inclined to forgiveness, slow to wrath, shunning being seen, although nothing is brighter. His substance knows no beginning and no end. Scripture teaches these things, let submissive reason hold its peace, for these other things transcend the reach of the human mind.
[38a. RALPH BARLOWE ON RAPHAEL HOLINSHED’S CHRONICLE]
39. ONE OF POLITIANUS’ LETTERS TO LORENZO MEDICI, RENDERED AS A POEM
A poet is akin and alike to the river-wandering sawn, both are bright and both adore streams. Both sing sweetly, both are most dear to Phoebus. But the swan shuns song unless the zephyr’s grace blows on it and fills it with a fine love for song. Therefore you must not be surprised at my sad silences, since you, who are my zephyr, being, alas, in ill health, do not breathe on me, nor fill me me with sweet love of the Muse.
40. ON THE FINGERS
Let the strongest be named the thumb. The fine one that follows is called the index. The middle one mocks, and so it is deservedly deemed infamous. Let the one adorned by a gold band be the medical, and let the final, which digs out the ear, be the auricular.
A memorial couplet engraved on brass and affixed to the tomb of Dominus John Brownswerd, that excellent teacher, buried and returning to dust in the church of Macclesfield in Cheshire. He peacefully went to sleep in the Lord April 25, 1589.