1738 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Nashe

Elizabeth Cooper, in The Muses Library (1738) 181-83.



Descended from a Family in Hertfordshire; but born at Leostoff in Suffolk. He received his Education at St. John's College, Cambridge, and was design'd for Holy Orders; But whether ever preferr'd, or honour'd with any great Man's Patronage is no where determin'd. — I am inclin'd to think the Contrary, because good Fortune is seldom without the Evidence of Flattery, or Envy: Whereas Distress, and Obscurity are almost inseparable Companions. — This is farther confirm'd by some Lines, vehemently passionate, in a Performance of his, call'd, Piers Penniless; which, to say nothing of the Poetry, are the strongest Picture of Rage, and Despair that I ever met with.

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 Woe!
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 take Pity of a Schollar's Need!

Forgive me God altho' I curse my Birth,
And ban the Air wherein I breathe a Wretch!
Since Misery hath daunted all my Mirth
And I am quite undone thro' Promise-Breach
O Friends! no Friends, that then ungently frown,
When changing Fortune casts us headlong down!

Without Redress complains my careless Verse.
And Midas Ears relent not at my Moan!
In some far Land will I my Griefs rehearse
Mongst them that will be mov'd when I shall groan!
England adieu! the Soil that brought me forth!
Adieu unkin'd where Skill is nothing worth!

His Works are various, both in Verse and Prose, tho' all Biting, and Satirical. — By some he is call'd the English Aretine; By others, a Buffoon in Print. — But that he had a sufficient Quantity of Spleen, at least, is apparent by the following Lines, occasion'd by a Controversy with Doctor Gabriel Harvey of Saffron-Walden.

Were there no Wars, poor Man should have no Peace;
Uncessant Wars with Wasps, and Drones I cry!
He that begins, oft knows no how to cease;
He hath begun; I'll follow till I die!

I'll hear no Truce, Wronge gets no Grave in me!
Abuse Pell Mell, incounter with Abuse!
Write he again, I'll 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!

As I have not been able to meet with his Poems myself, I beg Leave to insert his Character, as it seems impartially summ'd up, soon after his Death, in an old Comedy, call'd, The Return from Parnassus, or a Scourge for Simony.

Let all his Faults sleep in his mournful Chest,
And there for ever with his Ashes rest!
His Style was Witty; tho' he had some Gall:
Something he might have mended — so may all?