1595 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Michael Drayton

Thomas Lodge, "To Master Michael Drayton. Epistle 5" Lodge, A Fig for Momus (1595) sigs H2v-H4.



Michael, as much good hap unto thy state,
As Orators have figures to dilate:
As many crownes, as Alchymists have shifts,
Briefly, so many goods, as thou hast guifts:
I heare some upstart Rymer set a gog
By writing poems on the Lician frog,
Or Tithons Grashopper growes envious,
And will be famous with Archilochus:
Alas for them that by scurrilitie,
Would purchase fame and immortalitie:
But know this frend, true excellence depends,
On numbers aim'd to good, and happie ends:
What els hath wanton poetrie enjoy'd
But this? "Alas thy wit was ill imploy'd."
What reason mov'd the golden Augustine,
To name our poetrie, vaine errors wine?
Or Hierome, (deeply sighted in these evils)
To tearme it nothing, but the food of devils?
Nought but the misimployment of our guifts,
Ordain'd for arts, but spent in shameless shifts.
Looke as the sunne-beame in a burning glasse
Doth kindle fire, where ever it doth passe,
But freely spred upon th' ingendring earth,
Egs on the spring, and kils the cause of dearth:
So poetrie restraind in errors bounds,
With poisoned words, and sinful sweetnes wounds,
But clothing vertue, and adorning it,
Wit shines in vertue, vertue shines in wit:
True science suted in well couched rimes,
Is nourished for fame in after times.
Thou then sweet friend, grieve not though folly thrive,
Fame got by it, dies ere it is alive:
Be thou a prentize to a blessed Muse,
Which grace with thy good words will stil infuse:
O let that holy flame, that heavenly light,
That led old Abrahams race in darkesome night:
Oh let that star, which shining never ceast
To guide the Sages of balme-breathing East,
Conduct thy Muse unto that loftie pitch,
Which may thy style with praises more enritch.
They wash a More, they strive to drie the seas,
And plaine proud Atlas that intend to please,
By filthie words, by rayling and detraction,
Proper to Momus, and his hatefull faction:
For when they thinke they have deserved most,
Alas saith wisdome, all this toyle is lost:
But all this while I have forgot my text,
I must remember now, what followes next:
I have perus'd, thy learned nines and threes,
And scan'd them in their natures and degrees:
And to thy choice, Apologie applie,
This sodaine tribute of my memorie.
And first for three, which Bartas wisely names
The first of ods, which multiplied, frames
The sacred number nine: Three doth include
The name beloved by beatitude:
Three doth expresse the lincke and union
That knitteth one to two, and two in one:
Three doth include his infinite in three,
And is the step to immortalitie:
Three hath his center of the second one,
His true beginning, and his end alone:
The true Pythagorists, (as I have red)
Doe tearme the triangle, Minervas hed:
And in their purifying bathing us'd,
By threes, to sprinckle water once infus'd:
These threes so famous, are the steps to nine
Sacred unto the Muses most divine,
This number in proportions musicall
Is dissonant: and Astrologians call
The same Sinister for some secret worke;
Or hidden fate, that in the same doth lurke:
Hesiodus in his Theogonie,
Under Styx, nine fould streame doth signifie,
The discords, and complexions of mans bodie:
Pierias Michael, if thou list to see,
Will tell thee more, this shall suffice for me.
Here must I needes abruptlie make an end,
Call'd to discourse with old Amintas frend,
When he is gone, and I get time to wright:
Thou shalt have more, til then sweet friend goodnight.