1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

Anonymous, "John Marston" in Town and Country Magazine 8 (October 1776) 536-37.



Marston produced eight plays for the stage; he also wrote the Scourge of Villainy, three books of satyres. It appears from these satires, (printed in the year 1598) that Spenser's Faerie Queene occasioned many publications in which fairies were the principal actors, viz.

Go buy some ballads of the faery king.
In Lectores.

And in another place,

—At length some wonted sleepe doth crowne
His new folne lids; dreams, straight ten pound to one,
Out steps some faery with quick motion,
And tells him wonders of some flowrie vale;
Awakes, straite rubs his eyes, and prints his tale.
Book 3, Sat. 6.

These satires also contain many well-drawn characters, and several good strokes of satirical genius, but are not upon the whole so finished and classical as Bishop Hall's, the first part of which were published about a year or two before. Among other passages the following is a good deal the strain of the beginning of Milton's L'Allegro.

Sleepe, grim reproof, my jocund muse doth sing
In other keyes to nimble fingering;
Dull sprighted melancholy leave my braine,
To hell, Cimmerian night! in lively vaine
I strive to paint; then hence all dark intent,
And sullen frowns; come, sporting meriment,
Cheeke-dimpling laughter, &c.
Book 3, Sat. 10.

From these satires we may also learn how popular a play Romeo and Juliet was in those days. He is speaking to a wit of the town:

Luscus, what's play'd to day? — faith now I know
I set thy lips aborach, from whence doth flow
Nought but pure Juliet and Romeo.
Ibid.

Langbaine (Dram. Poets, page 351) informs us, that these satires, now forgotten, rendered Marston more eminent than his dramatic poetry.