1675 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

Edward Phillips, in Theatrum Poetarum (1675) 2:167-68.



Mr. Daniel was born nigh to the Town of Taunton in Somersetshire; his Father was a Master of Musick, and his harmonious Mind (saith Dr. Fuller) made an impression in his Son's Genius, who proved to be one of the Darlings of the Muses, a most excellent Poet, whose Wings of Fancy displayed the Flags of highest Invention: Carrying in his Christian and Sirname the Names of two holy Prophets; which, as they were Monitors to him, for avoyding Scurrility, so he qualified his Raptures to such a strain, as therein he abhorred all Debauchery and Prophaneness.

Nor was he only one of the inspired Train of Phoebus, but also a most judicious Historian, witness his Lives of our English Kings, since the Conquest, until King Edward the Third, wherein he hath the happiness to reconcile brevity with clearness, qualities of great distance in other Authors; and had he continued to these times, no doubt it had been a Work incomparable: Of which his Undertaking, Dr. Heylin in the Preface to his Cosmography, gives this Character, speaking of the chiefest Historians of this Nation; "And to end the Bed-roll (says he) half the Story of this Realm done by Mr. Daniel, of which I believe that which himself saith of it in his Epistle to the Reader, that there was never brought together more of the Main." Which work is since commendably continued (but not with equal quickness and judgment) by Mr. Trussel.

As for his Poems so universally received, the first in esteem is, that Heroical one of the Civil Wars between the two Houses of York and Lancaster; of which the elaborate Mr. Speed, in his Reign of Richard the Second, thus writes: "The Seeds (saith he) of those fearful Calamities, a flourishing Writer of our Age (speaking of Mr. Daniel) wishing nearly to have imitated Lucan, as he is indeed called our English Lucan, doth not unfortunately express, tho' he might rather have said he wept them, than sung them; but indeed so to sing them, is to weep them."

I sing the Civil Wars, tumultuous Broils
And bloody Factions of a mighty Land,
Whose people haughty, proud with foreign spoyles;
Upon their selves turn back their conquering hand
While Kin their Kin, Brother the Brother foils,
Like Ensigns, all against like Ensigns stand:
Bows against Bows, a Crown against a Crown,
While all pretending right, all throw down

Take one Taste more of his Poetry, in his sixth Book of that Heroical Poem, speaking of the Miseries of Civil War.

So wretched is this execrable War,
This civil Sword, where in though all we see
be foul, and all things miserable are,
Yet most of all is even the Victory;
Which is, not only the extream Ruiner
of others, but her own Calamity;
Where who obtains, cannot what he would do:
Their power hath part that holp him thereunto.

Samuel Daniel, an Author of good note and reputation in King James his Reign; whose History of the 11 first Kings of England from the Norman Conquest, though it be of all the rest of his Works most principally sought after and regarded, yet are not his Poetical writings totally forgotten, as namely his Historical Poem of the Civil Wars between the House of York and Lancaster, his Letter of Octavia to Antoninus, his Complaint of Rosamund, his Panegyric. &c. and of Dramatic pieces his Tragedy of Philotas, and Cleopatra, Hymen's Triumph, and the Queens Arcadia, a Pastoral.