1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Basse

Samuel Egerton Brydges, in Restituta or ... English Literature Revived 1 (1814) 42-43.



BASSE has a tribute of praise to "poette Shakspeare," which stands at the head of the commendatory poems on the great bard; and it appears, from Warton's Life of Bathurst, that Basse had a volume of poems ready for the press, which we may conjecture the confusion of the times prevented appearing. Let it be remembered, too, that the celebrated song beginning "From forth my dark and dismal cell," originally set to music and published by Henry Lawes, was the work of William Basse. This fact, with a further tribute to his talents, is thus recorded in Isaac Walton's scientific and fascinating volume. Peter requests his friend Corydon to sing a song for him; to which he replies, "I will sing a song if any body will sing another; else, to be plain with you, I will sing none: I am none of those that sing for meat" (of which, by the way, the number has never been small), "but I will sing for company." Then, says Piscator, "I'll promise you I'll sing a song that was lately made at my request. 'probus hic amor est dignusque notari,' by Mr. William Basse, one that hath made the choice songs of The Hunter in his Career, and of Tom o' Bedlam, and many others of note." After Corydon has finished one of Sir John Chalkhill's ditties, Peter chants a piscatory eclogue, where in the art of Angling is moralized with a fervour which would have enchanted the heart of Mr. Flowerdew herself.

So far as versifying is concerned, we have here evidence enough, perhaps, of the ability of Basse to furnish the rhymes; but the proof of the learning requisite for the purpose is not so apparent.