1633 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joshua Sylvester

John Vicars, "His Life, &c" Joshua Sylvester, Du Bartas, his Divine Weekes and Workes (1633) sig. A6-A6v.



In Verse to personate what Art hath painted,
Craves not Apelles, but Apollo's skill;
The veine and straine of Maro's learned Quill,
Or some, with sweet Urania best-acquainted.

Yet, sith ev'n all, whose brows are deckt with bayes,
Seem to neglect Thee; Pan hath ta'n the paines
(With Oaten-pipe, in homely rustick Strains)
To sound, not Arts, but Hearts plain warbled layes.

Is't not a Wonder, worthy admiration,
In this so Sin-full, Sin-foule Age, to see
All reall Vertues in one Man to be?
All, met in one, to have cohabitation?

Thou wast no Lordly great Cosmopolite;
Yet, much renowned by thy vertuous Fame:
A Saint on Earth (No need of greater Name,)
A true Nathanael, Christian-Israelite.

Thy Wisedome, in thy Sparing-Speech was shown.
Tis strange his Words should drop, whose works did stream:
Yet words and works shone, all, with graces beam:
Thy Pietie, sobrietie, well known.

Religious, valiant, like good Josua,
Religious, in Thy Selfe and Familie:
Courageous, to withstand Adversitie
And worldly Cares; which most men, most dismay.

No Temporizer; yet, the Court frequenting:
Scorning to sooth or smooth this Ages crimes:
At War with Vice, in all thy holy Rymes:
Thine Israels-Sins (with Jeremie) lamenting.

No Croesus-rich, nor yet an Irus-poore:
The Golden-Mean, was thy Chiefe Loves delight.
Thy Portion pleas'd thee well; and well it might:
Than Piety, what Riches better? more?

Adorned with the Gift of Gods good Spirit:
I mean the Gift of Tongues; French, Spanish, Dutch,
Italian, Latin. As thy Selfe, few such:
But, for thy Native-English, of most Merit.

Wherein, like former fluent Cicero
(With Figures, Tropes; Words, Phrases, sweetly rare)
Of Eloquence thou mad'st so little spare,
That Nile (in Thee) may seem to overflow.

Witness Du Bartas (that rare Master-peece
Of Poetry) to past and future Times:
By whose mellifluous, sugred, sacred Rimes,
Thou got'st more fame, than Jason by his Fleece.

Of which thy Work (I justly may averre)
The radiant Sun-shine is so fair, so trim,
As other Poets Moon-light much doth dim;
Admired Silver-Tongued Sylvester.

Yea, All thy full-ear'd Harvest-Swathes are such,
As (almost) all thy Brethrens high-topt Sheaves
Bend, bow to thine, like Autumn-scattered leaves,
So white thy Wheat is, and the Weight so much.

Nor wrong I them, by this harsh appellation.
Their pleasing Veine was oft too vaine: but Thine,
Still-pleasant-grave: Heer, Morall; There, Divine.
Right Poet-Laureat Thou wert of our Nation.

This then, say I (maugre the Spleen infernall
Of Elvish-Envie) shall promote thy Prayse,
And trim thy Temples with nere-fading Bayes.
Such heav'nly Off-springs needs must live Eternall.

What should I say? much more than I can say.
A Man thou wert; and yet, than man much more.
Thy Soule resembled, right, an House of Store;
Wherein all Vertues, in Thee, treasur'd lay.

A blessed Death an holy Life ensues,
Thy pious End this Truth hath well exprest:
Such as thy Life, such was thy Death; all-blest:
Thy Heav'n-born Soule, her Native-home did chuse.

And, hadst thou dy'd at Home, it had been better;
It would (at least) have given thee much Content:
But, herein, England's worthy to be shent,
Which to thy Worth did prove so bad a Debtor.

Nor minde I this, but then I blush for shame
To think, that though a Cradle, Thee, it gave,
Yet (O unkinde) deny'd thy Corps a grave;
Much more a Statue, reared to thy Name.

But, Thou wert wise; who to thy Selfe built'st One
(Such, such an One) as is of endless Date:
A reall, royall one; which (spite of Hate)
To Times last time shall make thy Glory knowne.

Now, though thy step-Dame Countrey cast thee off;
(Ah! too ungratefull, most unkinde, to Thee,)
Yet heer accept a Mite of Love from Mee,
(Thy meanest Brother) This Mean Epitaph:

HIS EPITAPH.
Heer lyes (Death's too-rich Prize) the Corps enterr'd
Of JOSUAH SYLVESTER, DU BARTAS Peer;
A Man of Arts best Parts, to God, Man, deer;
In formost Rank of Poets best, preferr'd.