1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Bodenham

Thomas Park, "Bel-vedere, or the Garden of the Muses" Censura Literaria 3 (1807) 30-35.



Bel-vedere, or the Garden of the Muses. "Quem referent Musae vivet, dum robora tellus, | Dum coelum stellas, dum vehit amnis aquas." Imprinted at London, by F. K. for Hugh Astley, dwelling at Saint Magnus Corner. 1600. Small 8vo. pp. 236, besides the Table of contents, &c.

A second edition of this book, with the omission of "Belvedere," in the title-page, was

Printed at London by E. A. for John Tap, and sold at his shop at Saint Magnus Corner. 1610.

The laudable compiler of this poetical commonplace book, was John Bodenham, who prefixed his arms, and of whom little seems to be known but that he was the editor also of Politeuphia, or Wit's Commonwealth in 1598, of Wit's Theatre of the Little World in 1599, and of England's Helicon in 1600; before which publication a Sonnet was addressed to him by A. B. and has been reprinted in CENSURA LITERARIA, Vol. 1. p. 217.

From that sonnet and from a prose address which follows, it appears that A. B. was a fellow-labourer with Bodenham, to whom he inscribed a poetical compliment before the Belvidere. This is followed by a sonnet to the Muses' Garden, signed W. Rankins, Gent.: a few lines in praise of the book, by R. Hathway, the kinsman possibly of Ann Hathaway, who married our great dramatic bard, (as Mr. Malone suggests in his Shakspearian Inquiry;) and two sonnets directed to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge: the latter signed "Sua cuique gloria." The following encomium on the work is so gracefully constructed, that it may well authorize transcription.

Of this Garden of the Muses.
Thou, which delight'st to view this goodly plot,
Here take such flowers as best shall serve thy use;
Where thou may'st find in every curious knot,
Of special virtue and most precious juice,
Set by Apollo in their several places,
And nourished with his celestial beams,
And water'd, by the Muses and the Graces,
With the fresh dew of those Castalian streams.
What scent or colour canst thou but devise
That is not here, that may delight the sense
Or what can Art or Industry comprise
That in abundance is not gather'd hence?
No Garden yet was ever half so sweet,
As where Apollo and the Muses meet! A. B.

But the most curious portion of this volume appears to be the editor's proemium, which becomes an object of attractive regard from having been omitted in the second impression.

"To the Reader.

It shall be needlesse (gentle reader) to make any apologie for the defence of this labour; because collected from so many singular men's workes, and the worth of them all having been so especially approved, and past with no mean applause the censure of all in generall, doth both disburden me of that paines, and sets the better approbation on this excellent booke. It shall be sufficient for me then to tell thee, that here thou art brought into the Muses' Garden; a place that may beseeme the presence of the greatest prince in the world. Imagine then, thy height of happinesse, in being admitted to so celestiall a paradise. Let thy behaviour then, while thou art here, answere thy great fortune, and make use of thy time as so rich a treasure requireth.

"The walkes, alleys, and passages in this Garden, are almost infinite; every where a turning; on all sides such windings in and out; yet all extending both to pleasure and profit, as very rare or seldome shalt thou see the like. Marke then, what varietie of flowres grow all along as thou goest, and trample on none rudely, for all are right precious. If thy conscience be wounded, here are store of hearbes to heale it: if thy doubts be fearefull, here are flowres of comfort: are thy hopes frustrated, here's immediate helpes for them. In briefe, what infirmitie canst thou have, but here it may be cured? What delight or pleasure wouldst thou have, but here it is affoorded?

"Concerning the nature and qualitie of these excellent flowres, thou seest that they are most learned, grave, and wittie sentences; each line being a severall sentence, and none exceeding two lines at the uttermost. All which, being subjected under apt and proper heads, as arguments, what is then dilated and spoken of; even so, each head hath first his definition in a couplet sentence; then the single and double sentences, by variation of letter do follow; and lastly, similies and examples in the same nature likewise, to conclude every head or argument bandied. So let this serve to shew thee the whole intent of this worke.

"Now that every one may be fully satisfied concerning this Garden, that no one man doth assume to him-selfe the praise thereof, or can arrogate to his owne deserving those things, which have been derived from so many rare and ingenious spirits; I have set down both how, whence, and where, these flowres had their first springing, till thus they were drawne together into the Muses Garden; that every ground may challenge his owne, each plant his particular, and no one be injuried in the justice of his merit.

"First, out of many excellent speeches, spoken to her Majestie, at tiltings, triumphes, maskes, and shewes, and devises perfourmed in prograce: as also out of divers choise ditties sung to her; and some especially, proceeding from her owne most sacred selfe! Here are great store of them digested into their meete places, according as the method of the worke plainly delivereth. Likwise out of private poems, sonnets, ditties, and other wittie conceits, given to her honorable Ladies and vertuous Maids of Honour; according as they could be obtained by sight, or favour of copying, a number of most wittie and singular sentenses. Secondly, looke what workes of poetrie have been put to the worlds eye, by that learned and right royall king and poet, James King of Scotland; no one sentence of worth hath escaped, but are likewise here reduced into their right roome and place. Next, cut of sundry things extant, and many in private, done by these right honourable persons following:

Thomas [Henry] Earle of Surrey.
The Lorde Marquesse of Winchester.
Mary, Countess of Pembrooke.
Sir Philip Sidney.

From poems and workes of these noble personages, extant.

Edward, Earle of Oxenford.
Ferdinando, Earle of Derby.
Sir Walter Raleigh.
Sir Edward Dyer.
Fulke Grevile, Esq.
Sir John Harrington.

From divers essayes of their poetrie; some extant among other honourable personages writings, some from private labours and translations.

Edmund Spencer.
Henry Constable, Esq.
Samuel Daniell.
Thomas Lodge, Doctor of Physicke.
Tho. Watson.
Michaell Drayton.
John Davies.
Thomas Hudson.
Henrie Locke, Esq.
John Marstone.
Chr. Marlow.
Benjn. Johnson.
William Shakspeare
Thomas Churchyard, Esq.
Tho. Nash.
Tho. Kidde.
Geo. Peele.
Robt. Greene.
Josuah Sylvester.
Nicolas Breton.
Gervase Markham.
Thomas Storer.
Robert Wilmot.
Chr. Middleton.
Richard Barnefield.

These being moderne and extant poets, that have lived together: from many of their extant workes, and some kept in private.

Tho. Norton, Esq.
Geo. Gascoigne, Esq.
Frauncis Kindlemarsh, Esq.
Thomas Atchelow.
George Whetstones.

These being deceased, have left divers extant labours, and many more held back from publishing, which for the most part have been perused, and their due right here given them in the Muses Garden. Besides, what excellent sentences have been in any presented Tragedie, Historie, Pastorall, or Comedie, they have been likewise gathered, and are here inserted in their proper places."

It will be seen from the above statement, that this compilation must have been formed with elaborate attention, and that it must necessarily contain many choice and sententious flores poetarum Anglicanorum. Its pervading defects arise from the names of the authors not being annexed to the extracts from their works, as in England's Parnassus; and from the selections having been made with still greater brevity. In a future number the CENSURA LITERARIA, some general specimen may not perhaps be unacceptable.

T. P.