1697 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Davies

Nahum Tate, in Davies, Nosce Teipsum (1697); Poetical Works of Sir John Davies (1773) iii-v.



There is a natural love and fondness in Englishmen for whatever was done in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. We look upon her as our golden age; and the great men who lived in it, as our chiefest heroes of virtue, and greatest examples of wisdom, integrity and learning.

Among many others, the author of this poem merits a lasting honour; for, as he was a most eloquent lawyer, so, in the composition of this piece, we admire him for a good poet and exact philosopher. 'Tis not rhyming that makes a poet, but the true and impartial representing of virtue and vice, so as to instruct mankind in matters of greatest importance. And this observation has been made of our countrymen, That Sir John Suckling wrote in the most courtly and gentleman-like style; Waller in the most sweet and flowing numbers; Denham with the most accurate judgment and correctness; Cowley with pleasing softness, and plenty of imagination: none ever uttered more divine thought than Mr. Herbert; none more philosophical than Sir John Davies. His thoughts are moulded into easy and significant words; his rhymes never mislead the sense, but are led and governed by it: so that in reading such useful performances, the wit of mankind may be refined from its dross, their memories furnished with the best notions, their judgments strengthened, and their conceptions enlarged, by which means the mind will be raised to the most perfect ideas it is capable of in this degenerate state.