1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Davies of Hereford

William Winstanley, Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) 117.



In the writing of this Mans Life, we shall make use of Dr. Fuller in his England's Worthies, who saith, that he was the greatest Master of the Pen that England in his Age beheld, for,

1. Fast writing; so incredible his expedition.
2. Fair writing; some minutes consultation being required to decide whether his Lines were written or printed.
3. Close writing; a Mystery which to do well, few attain unto.
4. Various writing; Secretary, Roman, Court and Text.

This Poetical Fiction of Briareus the Giant, who had an hundred hands, found a Moral in him, who could so cunninghly and copiously disguise his aforesaid elemental hands, that by mixing, he could make them appear an hundred; and if not so many sorts, so many degrees of writing. He had also many pretty excursions into Poetry, and could flourish Matters as well as Letters, with his Fancy as well as with his Pen. Take a taste of his Abilities in those Verses of his before Coriat's Crudities, being called the Odcombian Banquet, wherein the whole Club of Wits in that Age joyned together, to write Mock-commendatory Verses in Praise-dispraise of his Book.

If Art that oft the Learn'd hath stammer'd,
In one Iron Head-piece (yet no Hammer-Lead)
May (joyn'd with Nature) hit Fame on the Cocks-comb,
Then 'tis that Head-piece that is crown'd with Odcomb.
For he, hard Head (and hard, sith like a Whet-stone)
It gives Wits edge, and draws them too like Jet-stone)
Is Caput Mundi for a world of School-tricks,
And is not ignorant in the learned'st — tricks,
H' hath seen much more than much, I assure ye,
And will see New-Troy, Bethlem, and Old-Jury
Mean while (to give a taste of his first travel,
With streams of Rhetorick that get golden Gravel)
He tells how he to Venice once did wander;
From whence he came more witty than a Gander:
Whereby he makes relations of such wonders,
That Truth therein doth lighten, while Art thunders,
All Tongues fled to him that at Babel swerved,
Lest they for want of warm months might have starved.
Where they do revel in such passing measure,
(Especially the Greek, wherein's his pleasure.)
That (jovially) so Greek he takes the guard of,
That he's the merriest Greek that ere was heard of;
For he as 'twere his Mother's twittle twattle,
(That's Mother-tongue) the Greek can prittle prattle.
Nay, of that Tongue he so hath got the Body,
That he sports with it at Ruffe, Gleek or Noddy, &c.

He died at London in the midst of the Reign of King James I. and lieth buried in St. Giles in the Fields.