1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Davies of Hereford

John Payne Collier, "Mirum in Modum" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 1:224-25.



This seems to be the first printed work of its voluminous author; but that he had written earlier we have evidence in his Wittes Pilgrimage, 4to, n.d., which contains (sign. V i.) "A Dump upon the death of the most noble Henrie late Earle of Pembrooke," who died in 1601. Wittes Pilgrimage is a collection of many scattered pieces, which Davies had composed between the years 1600 and 1618, but which possess little merit or originality, and remained unpublished till shortly before the author's death: some account of them, and of various others, may be seen in Brit. Bibl. II. 247, where they receive more attention than they deserve. His Mirum in Modum is a very dull and unintelligible discourse, in various stanzas, upon the soul, its faculties, &c., and the author very appropriately placed these two lines by way of motto on his title-page:—

Eyes must be bright, or else no eyes at all
Can see this sight much more then mysticall.

It is dedicated to the Earl of Pembroke, Sir Robert Sidney, and Edward Herbert, Esq., in a sonnet wherein the author devotes his understanding, will, and memory to them; and in the last couplet he parts between the three, his soul, his book, and his "broken heart." It does not however appear that he had met with any particular affliction at this period. He arbitrarily divides his subject; and the following stanza, which, from its reference to the literature of the time, is worth quoting, concludes his first division:—

Halla! my Muse: heere rest a breathing while,
Sith thou art now arriv'd at Reasons seate;
To whom, as to thy Sov'raigne, reconcile
Thy straying thoughts, and humbly hir intreate
With her just measure all thy lines to meate;
Lest that, like many Rimers of our time,
Thou blotst much paper without means or measure,
In verse whose reason runneth al to rime:
Yet of the Lawrell wreathe they make a seazure,
And doth Minerva so a shrewde displeasure.