1609 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Fletcher

Francis Beaumont, "To my Friend Maister John Fletcher, upon his faithfull Shepheardesse" Fletcher, The Faithful Shepheardess (1609) sig. 3v.



I know too well that no more then the man
That travels through the burning desarts, can
When he is beaten with the raging sunne,
Halfe smotherd with the dust, have power to runne
From a coole river, which himselfe doth finde,
Ere he be slak'd: no more can he whose minde
Joies in the muses, hold from that delight,
When nature, and his full thoughts bid him write,
Yet wish I those whome I for friends have knowne,
To sing their thoughts to no eares but their owne:
Why should the man, whose wit nere had a staine,
Upon the publicke stage present this vaine,
And make a thousand men in judgement sit,
To call in question his undoubted wit,
Scarce two of which can understand the lawes
Which they should judge by, nor the parties cause,
Among the rout there is not one that hath
In his owne censure an explicite faith.
One company knowing they judgement lacke,
Ground their beliefe on the next man in blacke;
Others, on him that makes signes, and is mute,
Some like as he does in the fairest sute,
He as his mistres doth, and she by chance,
Nor wants there those, who as the boy doth dance
Between the actes, will censure the whole play:
Some like if the wax lights be new that day:
But multitudes there are whose judgements goes
Headlong according to the actors clothes.
For this these publicke things and I, agree
So ill, that but to do aright to thee,
I had not bene perswaded to have hurld
These few, ill spoken lines, into the world,
Both to be read, and censurd of, by those,
Whose very reading makes verse senceles prose,
Such as must spend above an houre, to spell
A challenge on a post, to know it well,
But since it was thy happe to throw away,
Much wit, for which the people did not pay,
Because they saw it not, I not dislike
This second publication, which may strike
Their consciences, to see the thing they scornd,
To be with so much will and art adornd.
Bisides one vantage more in this I see,
Your censurers must have the qualitie
Of reading, which I am affraid is more
Then halfe your shreudest judges had before.