Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

rich our minds with the contemplation therein, which he thought most precious. But with none, I remember, mine ears were at any time more loaden, than when (either angred with Now payment, or moved with our learner-like admiration) he exercised his speech in the praise of his faculty.

He said, Soldiers were the noblest estate of mankind, and horsemen the noblest of soldiers. He said, they were the masters of war, and ornaments of peace, speedy goers, and strong abiders, triumphers both in camps and courts : nay, to so unbelieved a point he proceeded, as that no earthly thing bred such wonder to a prince, as to be a good horseman : Skill of government, was but a Pedanteria in comparison. Then would he add certain praises, by telling what a peerless beast the horse was, the only serviceable courtier, without flattery, the beast of inost beauty, faithfulness, courage ; and such more, that if I had not been a piece of a Logician before I came to him, I think he would have persuaded me to have wifhed myself a horse. But thus much, at least, with his no few words, he drove into me, I'hat self love is better than any gilding, to make that seem gor. geous wherein ourselves be parties.

Wherein, if Pugliano's strong affection, and weak arguments, will not satisfy you, I will give you a nearer examiple of niyself; who, I know not by what mischance, in these my not old years and idlest times, having flipped into the title of a Poet, am provoked to say something unto you in the defence of that my unelected vocation ; which if I handle with more good will, than good reasons, bear with me; fince the scholar is to be pardoned that followeth the fteps of his master.

And yet I must say, That as I have more just cause to make a pitiful defence of poor Poetry, which, from almost the highest estimation of learning, is fallen to be the laughing-stock of children : fo have I need to bring some more available proofs, since the former is by no man barred of his deserved credit, whereas the filly latter hath had even the names of Philosophers using to the defacing of it, with great danger of civil war among the Mufes.

And first, truly, to all them that, profeffing learning, inveigh against Poetry may justly be objected, That they go very near to ungratefulness, to seek to deface that, which, in the no. blest nations and languages that are known, hath been the first light-giver to ignorance, and first nurse, whose milk by little and little, enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher know. ledges. And will you play the hedg.hog, that being received into the den, drove out his hoft?

B2

or

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

lor rather the vipers, that with their birth kill their parents ??

Lét learned Greece, in any of her manifest sciences, be able to shew me one book before Mufæus, Homer, and Hesiod; all three nothing else but poets. Nay, let any history be brought, that can say any writers were there before them, if they were not men of the same skill, as Orpheus, Linus, and some others are named, who having been the first of that country that made pens deliverers of their knowledge to pofterity, may juftly challenge to be called their Fathers in learning. For not only in time they had this priority (although in itself antiquity be venerable) but went before them, as causes to draw, with their charming fweetness, the wild untained wits to an admiration of knowledge. So ás Amphion was said to move ftones with his poetry to build Thebes, and Orpheus to be listened to by beasts, indeed ftony and beastly people : So among the Romans were Livius Andronicus, and Ennius : So in the Italian language, the first that made it to aspire to be a treafure-house of science, were the poets Dante, Boccace, and Per trarch: So in our English; were Gower, and Chaucer ; after whom, encouraged and delighted with their excellent foregoing, others have fol, lowed to beautify our mother tongue, as well in the fame kind, as other arts.

This

[ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]

This did so notably shew itself, that the Philofophers of Greece durft not a long time appear to the world, but under the mask of Poets : So Thales, Empedocles, and Parmenides, sang their natural philosophy in verses: So did Pythagoras and Phocylides their moral counsels : So did Tyrtaus in war matters, and Solon in matters of policy; or rather, they being poets, did exercise their de. lightful vein in those points of highest knowledge, which before them lay hidden to the world : For that wise Solon was directly a poet, it is manifeft, having written, in verse, the noble fable of the Atlantick island, which was continued by Plaro. And, truly, even Plato, whofoever well confidereth, shall find, that in the body of his work, though the inside and strength were Philosophy, the skin, as it were, and beauty, depended most of Poetry. For all Ttands upon Dialogues; wherein he feigns, many honeft burgesses of Athens speaking of such matters, that if they had been set on the rack, they would never have confessed them : besides, his poetical describing the circumstances of their meetings, as the well ordering of a banquet, the delicacy of a walk, and interlacing inere tales, as Gyges's Ring, and others; which, who knows not to be flowers of poetry, did never walk into Apollo's garden. And even Historiographers, although their lips

found

3

B 3

6

THE DEFENCE

if

sound of things done, and verity be written in their fore-heads, have been glad to borrow, both fashion, and, perchance, weight, of the Poets : So Herodotus intituled the Books of his history by the names of The nine Muses; and both he, and all the rest that followed him, either stole or ufurped, of poetry, their passionate describing of passions, the many particularities of battles which no man could affirm; or, that be denied me, long orations, put in the mouths of great kings and captains, which, it is certain, they never pronounced.

So that, truly, neither Philofopker, nor Historiographer, could, at the first, have entered into the gates of popular judgments, if they had not taken a great disport of Poetry; which in all nations, at this day, where learning flourisheth not, is plain to be seen : in all which, they have some feeling of Poetry. In Turkey, besides their law.giving divines, they have no other writers but poets. In our neighbouring country Ireland, where, truly, learning goes very bare, yet are their poets held in a devout reverence. Even among the most barbarous and fimple Indians, where no writing is, yet have they, their poets, who make, and fing songs, which they call Arentos, both of their ancestors deeds, and praises of their gods. A sufficient probability, that if ever learning come among them, it must

be

« VorigeDoorgaan »