1681 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joshua Sylvester

John Dryden, Preface to Spanish Fryar (1681) Sig. A3; Ker (1900) 1:247.



I remember, when I was a boy, I thought inimitable Spenser a mean Poet, in comparison of Sylvester's Dubartas, and was rapt into an ecstasy when I read these lines:—

Now, when the Winter's keener breath began
To chrystallize the Baltick Ocean;
To glaze the Lakes, to bridle up the Floods,
And periwig with Snow the bald-pate Woods.

I am much deceived if this be not abominable fustian, that is, thoughts and words ill-sorted, and without the least relation to each other; yet I dare not answer for an audience, that they would not clap it on the stage: so little value there is to be given to the common cry, that nothing but madness can please madmen, and a poet must be of a piece with the spectators, to gain a reputation with them.