1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anthony Copley

Thomas Park, "Wits Fittes and Fancies" Censura Literaria 5 (1807) 356-63.



Wits Fittes and Fancies. Fronted and entermedled with presidentes of honour and wisdome. Also Loves Owle: an idle conceited Dia logue betwene Love and an Olde-man. Recta securus. A. C. Imprinted at London by Richard Iohnes, at the sign of the Rose and Crowne next above S. Andrewes Church in Holborne. 1595. 4to.

This book was reprinted in 1614, without the poetical appendage entitled "Love's Owle." The early edition is so rare as to have escaped the observation of Herbert. From the learned and liberal possessor of the only copy I have seen, I derive the information, that the prose division of the volume was in part translated or collected from the Spanish book "La Floresta Spagnola," of which a French translation was printed at Lyons in 1600. By Anthonie Copley, the English translator, this volume is inscribed to that celebrated naval hero, George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, who was thus invited to receive it "in gree," that is — with kindly welcome.

"I did intende it (says the Dedicator) to your late sea-voyage, to the ende it might have pleased you to passe away therwith some unpleasant houres. But as it was not ripe ynough for that season, so now I pray God it come in due season to your good liking. Divers of them are of mine own inserting, and that without any injury I hope to my authour; the which are easily to be discerned from his, for that they taste more Englishe. Neither have I used his methode therein, but have set downe one of mine owne, which I take to be better. Which, both methode and matter, if I shall once perceive your L. to daigne it in your favour, I will not feare that any gentleman will easilie disgrace it, to whome next under your Lordship I wish it currant and well accepted. For such, I knowe, is generally their devotions to your woorth, that whatsoever matter (were it guilt it selfe) that is once refuged to your vertues shrine and sanctuarie, they will not rashlie ravish it to arraignment and publike shame.

"As for my LOVES OWLE, in the latter ende, the trueth is — I can pretend it no outlandish priviledge to your Honour's favour, and therefore doe rather leave it to your pardon then good liking, as a follie of an idle vaine. Upon which your said pardon of the one, and good liking of the other, presuming, I will endevour according to my ever vowed and bounden dutie to your L. to serve you (God willing) in some better worth hereafter. Hoping that what I have beer done, may at leastwise serve to put better wittes in minde to honour your noblenesse aswell with their peacefull pens, as others doe with their sea-paines."

An address follows "to the gentlemen readers," which is at least as worthy of transcription as any other part of the volume.

"GENTLEMEN: These Wittes, Fittes. and Fancies, are of the nature to admit no eloquence wherewith to delight yee, as also manie of them to seem barren at the first sight, which nevertheles to the second eie may minister content and merriment. Understand yee therefore, that I direct them not to the sullen and moodie person who happily in his austeritie will befoole a great manie of them before ever hee read them; as matter either differing from, his soure disposition, or perhaps above his wit. Neither doe I professe them as regular methodes or deepe grounded axioms of logicke certaintie, but as certaine free offals and presidentes of Wits wandering variety. Momus (gentlemen) I confesse, were able to make a foule wracke among them, were he as precise as he is malicious: wherefore, my desire is they come not under his ravin, nor yet under Miuos' heavy censure: but whosoever is gentle merrie wittie, he take all. Neither must anie person, of what vocation soever, take offence at any thing herein contained; considering that mirth, not malice, meanes it all. As for my LOVES OWLE, I am content that Momus turn it to a tennis ball, if he can, and bandy it quite away: namely, I desire M. Daniel, M. Spencer, and other the prime poets of our time, to pardon it with as easie a frowne as they please, for that I give them to understand, that an Universitie Muse never pen'd it, though humbly devoted there unto.

Yours, in desire to please you, A. C."

The following ancient witticisms are extracted from the chapter which treats of "Table Matter."

"An honest man, invited a physitian to dinner, and at dinner time drunk to him in a cup of wine: whereunto the physitian excepted, and said — 'That bee durst not pledge him in wine, for feare of pimples and inflammations in his face!' The other then answered — foule yll on that face that makes the whole body fart the worse.'

"An Italian used to say, that 'wine hath these two discommodities with it: if you put water into it, you marre it; and if you put none in, you marre your selfe.'

"The Dutch-man useth to say, that 'eating is not any whit necessarie, other then in as much as it procureth a man to drinke and talke.'

"A turkie-pie had been often serv'd in to a poor gentleman's board, and at last a serving-man being to serve it in again, made some stay of it by the way, resting it upon the buttry-hatch. By chance his maister came by, and seeing it there, asked him— why bee did not carrie it in? 'Marie, sir, (answered the servingman) I thought it could by this time a-day have found the way in alone.'

"A serving-man, by mischance, shed broth on his maister's board, and his master said — 'Sirra, I could have done so my selfe.' He answered — 'No marvell, Sir; for your worship hath seen mee do it first.'

"A gentleman, using to dine often with the Maior of London, on a time brought his friend with him, saying — 'My Lord, beer I am come, a bold guest of yours againe, and have brought my shadow with me.' The Maior welcomed him and his shadow. Within a while after he came againe to dinner to him, and brought two companions with him: to whom the Maior said — Sir, you be hartily welcome: but I pray you tel me — Do you not think it a monstrous thing, for one body to have two shadowes?'

"One woonted to say that 'poore men want meate to their stomackes, and rich men stomackes to their meats.'

"Two gentlemen went to breake their fast in a taverne, and a bagpiper stood piping at the doore. At last, in came one and set them downe a cupple of egges. Whereat one of the gentlemen excepted and said. — 'Hath all this cackling been but for these two poore egges?'

"One was telling a gentlewoman how such a gallant of the court ate everie day eight capons in blank-manger. She answered — 'Oh, the foxe!'

"At a nobleman's banquet a ship of marchpain-stuffe was set upon the board, wherein was all manner of fishes in the like stuffe. Every one snatching thereat, a sea-captaine setting far off could not reach therunto; but one of the companie gave him a sprat, which bee receiving, helde it a good space to his eare. The nobleman seeing it, asked him his conceipt therein? He then, in reference to the little portion that came to him out of that march-pane, thus merrily answered — 'And like your Grace, my father before me (as your Honour knowes) was sometimes a sea-captaine, and it was his mischance and my hard hap, that since his last undertaken voyage at sea, which was some twelve yeeres ago, I never since could hear what was become of him: wherefore, of every fish that falleth into my handes I still aske, whether it can tell me any newes of him? And this pettie sprat (my Lord) saith — 'he was then a little one, and remembers no such matter.'"

After this taste of Anthony Copley's borrowed wit, the following may serve as a sufficient sample of his original poetry. It forms part of the "idle conceited dialogue," termed "Love's Sonnet," in which Love recommends his services to "an olde man," by way of Lullaby.

"Now that I take my lute in hand
Rage and Rancour you command,
Take your sister Melancholie,
And downe to darke hell all hie yee.
For heere I meane to make my residence,
By vertue of my peacefull influence;
And cheere this aged man with lovelements
for ever.
Lulla lulllabie, &c.

Though age be olde and colde, I can
Re-young him to a lustie man,
And in his jointes infuse a fire
To execute a kind desire.
I can revgetate his dying yeere,
By faire be-priesting him to a bonny-pheere,
Or els dispensing him such like good cheere
els where. Lulla lullabie, &c.

The plough-lob I can civillize,
The franticke man with grace agnize:
Kings and Cesars I subdue,
And with my rites their soules indue.
All faire and goodly things I do detect,
And with my vaile I cover all defect,
And all in unitie I do connect
and approve. Lulla lullabie, &c.

I doe devise all gay attyres,
Calles, rebatoes, perwigs, and wires:
Hoop-sleeves, French-bodies, vardingalles,
Paintings, perfumes, and washing balles:
With twenty thousand such like bonny things,
To grace fair Nature, and mis-nature's doings,
And profite trades by doing my devisings
workemanly. Lulla lullabie, &c.

Feasts and frollickes I doe ordaine,
And merrie meetings on the plaine:
Revels, and daunces in a rowe,
And morrow-musicke at the window:
Tilting and justs are my magnificence,
The pomp wherof forbeareth no expence,
If so my spirit be in the pretence,
and grace it. Lulla lullabie, &c.

Wrinckles and pimples I can cure,
And make the stutting tongue demure;
The trembling palsey I can staie,
And take the misers gowt away:
The cripple creature I can make to runne,
The blinde man with new eyes to see the sunne,
And set in other teeth where th' old are done,
with the rewine. Lulla lullabie, &c.

Then since I am so physicall,
So musicall, so martiall,
So court-accepted, and rurall,
And so joy-mighty over all:
Be not t' yourself so prejudiciall
As to refuse my beneficiall
Bounties, in over melancholie gall.
Lulla lullabie, lulla Lulla bie."

Love by these, and other similar allurements, wins over the silly gray-beard to become his servitor and to vow eternal fealty to him as his sovereign, which the cajoler Cupid no sooner hears, than he calls the dotard an errant ideot to be so duped, and threatens him with private annoyance and public exposure, concluding his maledictions thus—

Besides thy inward anguishes,
Farre worse then all the premises,
Vaine hope, and desperation,
And doubtfull interpretation,
of every occurrent:
Presumption and jelousie,
Care, passion, and captivitie,
Errour and indiscretion,
Unrest and vaine invention,
and thy wealth mispent.
These and such like absurdities,
Shall owlefie thee 'n all mens eies;
Who when they have twitted thee to death,
Yet shall thy shame survive unneth,
and thus thy epitaph—
Who ere' thou art that readst this Epitaph above,
Know that heer underneath doth lie the Owle of Love.

T. P.