1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Randolph

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 411-17.



He Flourisht in the Reign of King Charles the First; and was Born at Houghton, in Northamptonshire; from whence he was sent for Education to Westminster School; and thence was remov'd to Cambridge, where he became Fellow of Trinity Colledge in that University. He was accounted one of the most pregnant Wits of his Time; and was not only admir'd by the Wits of Cambridge, but likewise belov'd and valu'd by the Poets, and Men of the Town in that Age. His Gay Humour, and Readiness at Repartee, begat Ben. Johnson's Love to that Degree, that he Adopted him his Son: on which Account Mr. Randolph writ a Gratulatory Poem to him, which is printed, these Lines being part of the Copy:

—When my Muse upon obedient knees
Asks not a Father's Blessing, let her leese
The Fame of this Adoption; 'tis a Curse
I wish her 'cause I cannot think a worse.

How true a Filial Love he pay'd to his Reputation, may appear from his Answer to that Ode, which Ben. writ in Defence of his New-Inn, and which Mr. Feltham reply'd upon so sharply. Having given you the two former, in my Account of Mr. Johnson; give me leave likewise to transcribe this in Honour of Mr. Randolph, whose Memory I reverence, for his Respect to that Great Man.

AN ANSWER TO MR. BEN. JOHNSON'S ODE, TO PERSWADE HIM NOT TO LEAVE THE STAGE.
I.
Ben, do not leave the Stage,
'Cause 'tis a loathsome Age:
For Pride and Impudence will grow too bold,
When they shall hear it told
They frighted thee; stand high as is thy Cause,
Their Hiss is thy Applause:
More just were thy Disdain,
Had they approv'd thy Vein:
So thou for them, and they for thee were born;
They to incense, and thou as much to scorn.

II.
Will't thou engross thy Store
Of Wheat, and pour no more,
Because their Bacon-brains have such a tast,
As more delight in Mast:
No! set them forth a board of Dainties, full
As thy best Muse can cull;
Whilst they the while do pine
And thirst, midst all their Wine.
What greater plague can Hell it self devise,
Than to be willing thus to Tantalize?

III.
Thou can'st not find them stuff,
That will be bad enough
To please their Pallates: let 'em them refuse,
For some Pye-Corner Muse;
She is too fair an Hostess, 'twere a sin
For them to like thine Inn:
'Twas made to entertain
Guests of a Nobler Strain;
Yet if they will have any of thy Store,
Give them some scraps, and send them from thy dore.

IV.
And let those things in plush
Till they be taught to blush,
Like what they will, and more contented be
With what Brome swept from thee.
I know thy worth, and that thy lofty Strains
Write not to Cloaths, but Brains:
But thy great Spleen doth rise,
'Cause Moles will have no Eyes:
This only in my Ben I faulty find,
He's angry, they'l not see him that are blind.

V.
Why should the Scene be mute,
Cause thou canst touch thy Lute,
And string thy Horace; let each Muse of Nine
Claim thee, and say, Th' art mine.
'Twere fond to let all other Flames expire,
To sit by Pindar's Fire:
For by so strange Neglect,
I should my self suspect,
The Palsie were as well thy Brains disease,
If they could shake thy Muse which way they please.

VI.
And tho' thou well canst sing
The Glories of thy King;
And on the wings of Verse his Chariot bear
To Heaven, and fix it there;
Yet let thy Muse as well some Raptures raise,
To please him, as to praise.
I would not have thee chuse
Only a treble Muse;
But have this Envious, Ignorant Age to know,
Thou that canst sing so high, canst reach as low.

There was another Copy of Verses writ by Mr. Carew to Mr. Johnson, on occasion of his Ode of Defiance, annexed to his Play of the New-Inn: See his Poems, 8vo. p. 90.

Having given you a taste of his Lyrick Poetry, I now proceed to his Dramatick Performance; of which (according to our Custom) I shall speak Alphabetically.

Amyntas, or The Impossible Dowry; a Pastoral, acted before the King and Queen at Whitehall.

Aristippus, or The Jovial Philosopher; presented in a private Shew; to which is added The Conceited Pedlar.

Jealous Lovers, a Comedy presented to their Gracious Majesties, at Cambridge, by the Students of Trinity Colledge; and dedicated to Dr. Comber, D. of Carlile. This Play I think to be the best of his, and was revived on the Stage, at London, in 1682. as may appear by an Epilogue written by Mrs. Behn, and printed in her Collection of Poems, published 8vo. Lond. 1685. This Play was revised and printed by the Author, in his Life-time; being usher'd by the Chief Wits of both Universities to the Press. One of which says thus of it:

Tho' thou hast made it publick to the view
Of Self-love, Malice, and that other Crew:
It were more fit it should impaled lye
Within the walls of some great Library;
That if by chance through Injury of Time,
Plautus, and Terence, and that Fragrant Thyme
Of Attick-Wit should perish, we might see
All those reviv'd in this own Comedy.
The Jealous Lover, Pander, Gull, and Whore,
The Doting Father, Shark, and many more
Thy Scene doth represent unto the Life,
Besides the Character of a curst Wife;
So truly given in so proper Stile,
As if thy Active Soul had dwelt a while
In each Man's Body; and at length had seen
How in their Humors they themselves demean.

Muses Looking-Glass, a Comedy, which by the Author was first called The Entertainment; as I learn from Sir Aston Cockain's Works, who writ an Encomiastick Copy on it. See his Works, p. 98. As to this Play, it answers both the Designs of Poetry, Profit, and Delight: and what a Student of Christ-church, Mr. Rich. West, said of it, will be found true by every Reader.

Who looks within his clearer Glass, will say,
At once he writ an Ethick Tract, and Play.

All these Dramatick Pieces, and his Poems, were published by his Brother, Mr. Thomas Randolph, of Christ-church Colledge in Oxon. and are now printed the 5th Edit. Oxon. 1668.

I know not when our Author died; tho' I presume he liv'd to no great Age, being too much addicted to the Principles of his Predecessor Aristippus, Pleasure, and Contempt of Wealth.

My Readers are not to expect any Discoveries of Thefts, for this Author had no occasion to practice Plagiary, having so large a Fond of Wit of his own, that he needed not to borrow from others; and therefore I may justly say, with a Friend of his,

With what an Extasie shall we behold
This Book? which is no Ghost of any old
Worm-eaten Author; here's no Jest, or Hint,
But had his Head both for its Oar, and Mint.
Wer't not for some Translations none could know
Whether he had e're look'd in Book or no.

Of this Nature, are not only his several Versions, as the Second Epod of Horace, several Pieces out of Claudian, &c. but likewise a Dramatick Piece from Aristophanes, called in the Original [Greek characters], but by our Translator,

Hey for Honesty, Down with Knavery; a pleasant Comedy, printed 4to. Lond. 1651. This Play was first translated by our Author; and afterwards augmented and published by F. J. I shall not pretend to determine, whether this Translation, for that published in octavo be better; but leave it to those more vers'd in the Original than I pretend to. Permit me therefore to conclude all with the following Lines, writ by One of St. John's, in Memory of our Author.

Immortal Ben is dead, and as that Ball
On Ida toss'd, so is his Crown, by all
The Infantry of Wit. Vain Priests! That Chair
Is only fit for his true Son and Heir.
Reach here thy Laurel: Randolph, 'tis thy praise:
Thy naked Skull shall well become the Bays.
See, Daphne courts thy Ghost: and spite of Fate,
Thy Poems shall be Poet Laureate.