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reverence. Chaucer, who was supposed to have greatly assisted the doctrines of his contemporary, Wickliffe, by ridiculing the absurdities, and exposing the impostures, of the monks, was not only respected as the father of English poetry, but revered as a champion of reformation : and a familiar knowledge of his phraseology was considered, at least in the reign of Edward VI. as essential to the politeness of a courtier. “ I know them,” says Wilson in his “ Rhetorique,” “ that think rhetorick to stand “ wholly upon dark words : and he that can catch
an ink-horn term by the tail, him they count to “ be a fine Englishman and a good rhetorician.“ He that cometh lately out of France will talk “ French-English, and never blush at the matter. “ Another chops in with English Italianated. The “ fine courtier will talk nothing but Chaucer.” This, by the way, may serve to explain the cause of Spenser's predilection for a phraseology, which, though antiquated, was not either obsolete or unfashionable,
The whole world of words, therefore (to borrow an expression of one of our glossarists), was open to Shakspeare and his contemporaries, and the mode of employing its treasures was left very much to their discretion. Criticism was in its infancy: this was the age of adventure and experiment,
undertaken for the instruction of posterity. Mr. Warton thinks he sees in the writers of this reign " a certain dignity of inattention to niceties,” and to this he attributes the “ flowing modulation which
now marked the measures of our poets :" but there seems to be neither dignity nor inattention in deviating from rules which had never been laid down; and the modulation which he ascribes to this cause is not less likely to have resulted from the musical studies which now formed à part of general education. The lyrical compositions of this time are so far from being usually marked with a faulty negligence, that excess of ornament, and laboured affectation, are their characteristic blemishes. Such as are free from conceit and antithesis are, in general, exquisitely polished, and may safely be compared with the most elegant and finished specimens of modern poetry.
“ I find none example-so well maintaining this figure in
“ English metre, (of the Gorgeous) [Exargasia] as that ditty “ of her Majesty's own making, passing sweet and harmo“ nical. And this was the action: our sovereign lady, “ perceiving how by the Scotish queen's residence within “ this realm, at so great liberty and ease as were scarce “ worthy of so great and dangerous a prisoner, bred secret “ factions among her people, and made many of her nobi“ lity incline to favour her party :-to declare that she was “ nothing ignorant in those secret favours, though she “ had long with great wisdom and patiencie dissembled it, “ writeth this ditty, most sweet and sententious," &c. Puttenham, “ Arte of English Poesie," p. 207.
The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy, And wit me warns to shun such snares as threaten
mine annoy. For falsehood now doth flow, and subject faith
doth ebb; Which would not be if Reason ruld, or Wisdom But clouds of toys untried do cloak aspiring minds, Which turn to rain of late repent, by course of
weav'd the web.
changed winds. The top of hope suppos'd the root of ruth will be, And fruitless all their graffed guiles, as shortly ye
shall see. Then dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition
blinds, Shall be unseald by worthy wights, whose foresight
falsehood finds. The daughter of debate, that eke discòrd doth sow, Shall reap no gain where former rule hath taught still peace
grow. No foreign banish'd wight shall anchor in this port, Our realm it brooks no strangers' force, let them
elsewhere resort. Our rusty sword with rest shall first his edge
employ To poll their tops that seek such change, and gape
WEBSTER, ALIAS GEORGE PUTTENHAM,
Published “ The Arte of English Poesie, Contrived into three
“ Bookes,” 1589, 4to. This writer has given us many specimens of his own poetry, with a view of exemplifying the
rules he inculcates. Puttenham speaks of himself as having been a scholar in
Oxford; though whether he was bred there, Wood says he could not tell. He recites an anecdote which he remembered in the first year of Queen Mary's reign, and he quotes a passage from an eclogue entitled “ Elpine,” which he made at the age of 18, addressed to King Edward VI. This places the date of his birth before 1535. He was author of two interludes, “ Lustie London," and " The Woer,' and a copious composer of Triumphals, &c, in honour of Queen Elizabeth; to whom he was a gentleman-pensioner. His “ Arte of Poesie" is commended by. Bolton, in his Hypercritica, as elegant, witty, and artificial.” The following short ditty is perhaps the best that can be selected as an example of his talents.
Cruel you be, who can say nay;
Since ye delight in other's woe: Unwise am I, ye may
say, For that I have honour'd you so: But blameless I, who could not choose
To be enchanted by your eye: But ye to blame, thus to refuse
My service, and to let me die.