1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Fraunce

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 223-26.



An Ancient Writer who liv'd in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and was the Author of a Book called, The Countess of Pembroke's Ivy Church; which Title in former Catalogues was set down as the Name of a Play in 2 Parts, tho' in reality, there is but one Dramatick Piece, call'd

Amintas's Pastoral, being the first part of the Book, printed 4to. Lond. 1591. and dedicated to the Right Excellent and most Honourable Lady, the Lady Mary, Countess of Pembroke. This play is writ in English Hexameters, and is a Translation from Tasso's Aminta; which was done into Latin by one Mr. Watson, before this Version was undertaken by our Author. He owns that he has somewhat alter's Sigr. Tasso's Italian, and Mr. Walton's Latinae Amintas, to make them both one English.

Notwithstanding Mr. Chapman in his Translation of Homer, and Sir Philip Sidney in his Eclogues, have practic'd this way of Writing; yet this way of Imitating the Latin Measures of Verse, particularly the Hexameter, is now laid aside, and the Verse of Ten Syllables, which we stile Heroick Verse, is most in use. If this Translation be allow'd grains for the time when 'twas writ, 'twill be excus'd by the more moderate Criticks; tho' if compar'd with the Translation which was afterwards printed in 1628. or that more Modern Version done by Dancer, at the King's Return, 'twill appear inferior to either in Value.

The Second Part goes under the Title of Phillis Funeral; and it is writ in the form of Eclogues, being divided by the Author into twelve Parts, which he stiles Days. This Poem is likewise writ in Hexameters; to which is annext in the same Measure, The Lamentation of Corydon for the Love of Alexis. This is a Translation of the second Eclogue of Virgil Verse for Verse. The Author added likewise the beginning of The Aethopick History of Heliodorus, in the same Species of Metre.

With these Pieces are commonly join'd another of our Authors Writing, call'd The Countess of Pembrokes Emanuel; Containing the Nativity, Passion, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ; together with certain Psalms of David, all in English Hexameters; printed in quarto Lond. 1591. and dedicated to the Right Excellent and most Honourable Lady, the Lady Mary, Countess of Pembroke; by the following Distick.

Mary the best Mother sends her best Babe to a Mary,

Lord to a Ladies Sight, and Christ to a Christian Hearing.

Mr. Phillips says, That he writ some other things in Hexameter, and Pentameter, and the same writes Mr. Winstanley: tho' I doubt the former takes his Opinions upon Trust, and the latter does not I believe know a Pentameter from an Asclepiade Verse. The truth is, there are no Pentameters throughout the Volume: but in the last Act, there is a Scene between Phillis and Amintas (which whether it be in the Original, I question) where this pair of Lovers sing some Asclepiades, which I suppose is the Occasion of the mistake: tho' I cannot but wonder at Mr. Winstanley's negligence, that when he copied out the beginning of Heliodorus, he should not inform himself better; but I hope my small pains may be serviceable to his next Impression. Neither is his Conjecture less probable concerning the time of our Author's Death, which he supposes was about the former part of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth; this can not be, since our Author was alive in the Year 1591. and in the Thirty-third Year of her Reign: tho' how long after he surviv'd I know not.