1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Geoffrey Whitney

J. H. M., in "A Choice of Emblems" Censura Literaria 5 (1807) 233-35



A Choice of Emblemes, and other Devises, for the most parte gathered out of sundrie writers, Englished and moralised. ANd divers newly devised by Geffry Whitney, &c. &c. Imprinted at Leyden in the house of Christopher Plantyn, by Francis Raphelenguius, 1586. 4to. pp. 230, exclusive of Dedication, &c.

I have every reason to suppose, that this most curious work is of the greatest rarity, which may be accounted for, in some degree, by its having been printed abroad, and it is very rarely (from what cause I am unable to conjecture) that a perfect copy is to be met with in this country. I refer the reader to Herbert's Ames' General History of Printing, page 1695, for some account of it; in addition to which I beg to observe, that many of the wood cuts, with which each page is adorned, display considerable ingenuity in design, and great excellence in point of execution. It appears that Whitney was a native of Cheshire (which I do not find noticed elsewhere) from one of the plates representing a phenix at page 177, being dedicated "to my countrimen of the Namptwhiche in Cheshire." In the lines underneath he observes,

Althoughe I knowe that aucthors witnes true,
What here I write, bothe of the oulde, and newe;
Which when I wayed, the newe, and eke the oulde,
I thought uppon your towne destroyed with fire:
And did in minde, the newe Namptwhiche behoulde,
A spectacle for anie man's desire:

Whose buildings brave, where cinders weare but late,
Did represente (me thought) the Phoenix fate.
And as te oulde, was manie hundreth yeares,
A towne of fame, before it felt that crosse:
Even so, (I hope) this Whiche, that newe appeares,
A Phoenix age shall laste, and knowe no losse.

As specimens of the author's style and versification I subjoin the two following "Emblemes."

"Mihi pondera, luxus."
When Autumne ripes the frutefull fieldes of graine,
And Ceres doth in all her pompe appeare,
The heavie eare doth breake the stalke in twaine,
Wherebie we see this by experience cleare:
Hir owne excesse, did cause her proper spoile,
And made her corne, to rotte uppon the soile.

Soe worldlie wealthe, and great aboundance, marres
The sharpenes of our sences, and our wittes,
And, oftentimes, our understanding barres,
And dulles the same, with manie carefull fittes:
Then since excesse procures our spoile and paine,
The meane preferre, before immoderate gaine.
p. 23.

"Latet anguis in herba."
Of flattringe speeche, with sugred wordes beware,
Suspect the harte, whose face doth fawne and smile;
With trusting theise, the worlde is clog'd with care,
And fewe there bee can scape theise vipers vile:
With pleasinge speeche they promise, and protest,
When hatefull hartes lie hidd within their brest.

The faithfull wight, dothe neede no collours brave;
But those that truste, in time his truthe shall trie,
Where fawning mates can not their credit save,
Without a cloake, to flatter, faine, and lye:
No foe so fell, nor yet soe harde to scape,
As is the foe, that fawnes with freindlie shape.
p. 24.

J. H. M.