1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Nashe

William Winstanley, Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) 77-79.



Thomas Nash was also a Gentleman born, and bred up in the University of Cambridge; a man of a quick apprehension and Satyrick Pen: One of his first Books he wrote was entituled Pierce Penniless his Supplication to the Devil, wherein he had some Reflections upon the Parentage of Dr. Harvey, his Father being a Rope-maker of Saffron-Walden: This begot high Contests betwixt the Doctor and him, so that it became to be a well-known Pen-Combate. Amongst other Books which Mr. Nash wrote against him, one was entituled, Have with ye to Saffron-Walden; and another called Four Letters confuted; in which last he concludes with this Sonnet;

Were there no Wars, poor men should have no Peace;
Uncessant Wars with Wasps and Drones I cry:
He that begins oft knows not how to cease;
He hath begun; Ile follow till I die.
Ile hear no Truce, wrong gets not Grave in me:
Abuse pell-mell encounter with abuse;
Write he again, Ile write eternally;
Who feeds Revenge, hath found an endless Muse.
If Death ere made his black Dart of a Pen,
My Pen his special Bayly shall become:
Somewhat Ile be reputed of 'mongst men,
By striking of this Dunce or dead or dumb:
Await the World the Tragedy of Wrath,
What next I paint shall tread no common Path.

It seems he had a Poetical Purse as well as a Poetical Brain, being much straightned in the Gifts of Fortune; as he exclaims in his Pierce Penniless.

Why is't damnation to despair and die,
When Life is my true happiness disease?
My Soul, my Soul, thy Safety makes me fly
The faulty Means that might my Pain appease.
Divines and dying men may talk of Hell,
But in my Heart her several Torments dwell.

Ah worthless Wit, to train me to this Wo!
Deceitful Arts that nourish Discontent,
Ill thrive the Folly that bewitch'd me so!
Vain Thoughts adieu; for now I will repent:
And yet my Wants persuade me to proceed,
Since none takes pity of a Scholar's need.

Forgive me, God, although I curse my Birth,
And ban the Ayr wherein I breath a wretch,
Since Misery hath daunted all my Mirth,
And I am quite undone through Promise breach.
Oh Friends! no Friends, that then ungently frown,
When chaning Fortune casts us headlong down.

Without redress complains my careless Verse,
And Midas ears relent not at my mone;
In some far Land will I my griefs rehearse,
'Mongst them that will be mov'd, when I shall grone.
England adieu, the Soil that brought me forth;
Adieu unkind, where Skill is nothing worth.

He wrote moreover a witty Poem, entituled, The White Herring and the Red; and two Comedies, the one called Summer's last Will and Testament, and See me and see me not.