1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Phineas Fletcher

William Winstanley, Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) 159-60.



This learned person, Son and Brother to two ingenious Poets, himself the third, not second to either was son to Giles Fletcher, Doctor in Law, and Embassador from Queen Elizabeth to Theodor Juanowick Duke of Muscovia; who though a Tyrannick Prince, whose will was his Law, yet settled with him very good Terms for our Merchants trading thither. He was also brother to two worthy Poets, viz. George [sic] Fletcher, the Author of a Poem, entituled Christs Victory and Triumph over and after Death; and Giles Fletcher, who wrote a worthy Poem, entitled, Christs Victory, made by him being but Batchelor of Arts, discovering the piety of a Saint, and divinity of a Doctor. Thus our Phineas Fletcher was Fellow of Kings Colledge in Cambridge, and in Poetick fame exceeded his two Brothers, in that never enough to be celebrated Poem, entituled, The Purple Island, of which to give my Reader a taste (who perhaps hath never seen the Book) I shall here add two Stanza's of it.

Thrice happy was the worlds first infancy,
Not knowing yet, nor curious ill to know:
Joy without grief, love without jealousie:
None felt hard labour, or the sweating Plough:
The willing earth brought tribute to her King:
Bacchus unborn lay hidden in the cling
Of big swollen Grapes; their drink was every silver spring.

And in another place, speaking of the vanity of ambitious Covetousness.

Vain men, too fondly wise, who plough the Seas,
With dangerous pains another earth to find:
Adding new Worlds to th' old, and scorning ease,
The earths vast limits daily more unbind!
The aged World, though now it falling shows,
And hasts to set, yet still in dying grows,
Whole lives are spent to win, what one Deaths hour must lose.

Besides this Purple Island, he wrote divers Piscatorie Eclogues, and other Poetical Miscellanies, also a Piscatory Comedy called Sicelides, which was acted at Kings-Colledge in Cambridge.