The neglect of the Muses would become one of the most common of all poetical themes in the Spenserian tradition.
William Oldys?: "His Tears of the Muses he dedicates to Lady Strange; of whose Husband, as the Patron of all Learning, we have already cited a passage from Colin Clout's &c. But here he employs every Muse, in her own way, to lament the almost universal neglect shown to the Learned and Ingenious" Faerie Queene, ed. Church (1758) 1:xxvi.
Edmond Malone argues at great length that "our pleasant" Willy" refers not to Shakespeare but to John Lilly: "The sixth, seventh, and eighth of these stanzas [Thalia's speech] were inserted by Rowe in the first edition of his short account of Shakespeare; and he then supposed that they related to our poet; alluding, as he thought, to his having withdrawn himself for some time from the publick, and discontinued dramatick compositions, from 'a disgust he had taken to the then ill taste of the town, and the mean condition of the stage.' But as he suppressed the passage in his second edition, (published in 1714, about five years after the first), it may be presumed, that he found reason to change his opinion. Dryden, however, he informs us, always thought that these verses related to Shakspeare. But with all due deference to these great poets, their authority on either side is in this instance of no weight; because, in their time, little attention was given to the gradual progress and changes of our language, and they appear to have been very slightly acquainted with the literary history of the former age. It must, however, be acknowledge that, at the first view, this passage, in some respects, seems peculiarly applicable to our great dramatick writer, and admirably descriptive of the character and powers of a poet" Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare (1790; 1821) 2:176-77.
John Aikin: "The Tears of the Muses are eloquent complaints, but somewhat too monotonous. They assert with dignity the merits of literature; but it may be supposed, that, like all other censurers of their age, the poet exaggerates in his declamations on the discouragements to which learning was subjected, in a reign which we are taught to consider as peculiarly favourable to it" Works of Spenser (1802) 1:xlvi.
Retrospective Review: "The Tears of the Muses consists of the complaints of the nine Muses over the decay of learning patronage, &c.; complaints which few people, acquainted with Spenser's life, will think he had a right to make, with reference to any personal neglect or discouragement. These pieces are chiefly worthy of notice on account of the harmony of the numbers" 12 (1825) 155.
John Wilson: "In the summer of 1589, Sir Walter Raleigh visited Spenser at Kilcolman. We wonder if the poet cultivated his own land, and if he were a good farmer? He was bound to cultivate it, but where was the capital? The rental was, we believe, at about twenty pounds: and, we daresay, Spenser did little more than kill his own mutton. Yet living in a castle of the Desmonds, and surrounded by 3000 acres of his own land, we must not, with his pension, call the Queen's own chosen poet, thought not laureate, poor" Blackwood's Magazine 34 (1833) 812.
Edwin Guest: "King James terms the ballet-stanza of six, 'common verse;' and the frequent use, which was made of it during the whole of the sixteenth and the latter half of the fifteenth century, in some measure justifies the title. He thinks it well-fitted for 'materis of love;' but the range of its application was by no means limited. The following staves are from Spenser's Tears of the Muses. On would almost wish to retain the old delusion, that the compliment ["our pleasant Willy"] was meant for Shakespeare, but modern criticism says Sir Philip Sydney" History of English Rhythms (1838) 2:360.
John Payne Collier: "Some critics have spoken rather slightingly of the poetical merits of the second piece in the volume, The Tears of the Muses; but we are far from agreeing with them, seeing that the thoughts are not only new and natural, but that the expressions are almost uniformly felicitous. The nine several divisions of which it consists must necessarily have come from Spenser's pen while he was resident in London in 1589 and 1590; and nothing can be more interesting than his references to his contemporaries, and to the condition of literature at the period" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:lxxix.
William Minto: "Three stanzas are often quoted from Thalia's complaint regarding the decay of the theatres in Spenser's Tears of the Muses, and it has been elaborately argued that they refer to Shakespeare.... I have stated some reasons (p. 345) for refusing to believe that these stanzas, however appropriate to Shakespeare we may think them, can possibly have been applied to him in 1591. I believe that death is, in the first stanza, real and not metaphorical, and that Willy is Spenser's friend Sidney. Sidney's death is lamented under that name in an eclogue in Davidson's Poetical Rhapsody — 'an eclogue made long since upon the death of Sir Philip Sidney'" Characteristics of English Poets (1874) 481-82.
Rehearse to me, ye sacred Sisters nine,
The Golden Brood of great Apollo's Wit,
Those piteous Plaints and sorrowful sad Tine,
Which late you poured forth as ye did sit
Beside the Silver Springs of Helicone,
Making your Musick of heart-breaking Mone.
For since the time that Phoebus' foolish Son
Ythundered, through Jove's avengeful Wrath,
For traveling the Charret of the Sun
Beyond the Compass of the pointed path,
Of you his mournful Sisters was lamented,
Such mournful Tunes were never since invented.
Nor since that fair Calliope did lose
Her loved Twins, the Dearlings of her Joy,
Her Palici, whom her unkindly Foes,
The fatal Sisters, did for Spight destroy,
Whom all the Muses did bewail long space;
Was ever heard such wailing in this Place.
For all their Groves, which with the heavenly Noises
Of their sweet Instruments were wont to sound,
And th' hollow Hills, from which their Silver Voices
Were wont redoubled Ecchoes to rebound,
Did now rebound with nought but rueful Cries,
And yelling Shrieks thrown up into the Skies.
The trembling Streams, which wont in Channels clear
To rumble gently down with Murmur soft,
And were by them right tuneful taught to bear
A Base's Part amongst their Consorts oft;
Now forc'd to overflow with brackish Tears,
With troublous Noise did dull their dainty Ears.
The joyous Nymphs, and light-foot Fairies
Which thither came to hear their Musick sweet,
And to the Measures of their Melodies
Did learn to move their nimble-shifting Feet;
Now hearing them so heavily lament,
Like heavily lamenting from them went.
And all that else was wont to work Delight
Through the Divine Infusion of their Skill,
And all that else seem'd fair and fresh in sight,
So made by Nature for to serve their Will;
Was turned now to dismal Heaviness,
Was turned now to dreadful Ugliness.
Ay me! what thing on Earth that all things breeds,
Might be the Cause of so impatient Plight?
What Fury, or what Fiend with felon Deeds
Hath stirred up so mischievous Despight?
Can Grief then enter into heavenly Hearts,
And pierce immortal Breasts with mortal Smarts?
Vouchsafe ye then, whom only it concerns,
To me those secret Causes to display;
For none but you, or who of you it learns,
Can rightfully aread so doleful Lay.
Begin, thou eldest Sister of the Crew,
And let the rest in order thee ensue.
Hear, thou great Father of the Gods on high,
That most art dreaded for thy Thunder-Darts;
And thou our Sire, that reignst in Castalie,
And Mount Parnass, the God of goodly Arts;
Hear and behold the miserable State
Of us thy Daughters, doleful desolate.
Behold the foul Reproach and open Shame,
The which is day by day unto us wrought,
By such as hate the Honour of our Name,
The Foes of Learning, and each gentle Thought;
They, not contented us themselves to scorn,
Do seek to make us of the World forlorn.
Ne only they that dwell in lowly Dust,
The Sons of Darkness and of Ignorance;
But they whom thou, great Jove, by Doom unjust
Didst to the Type of Honour earst advance:
They now puft up with 'sdeignful Insolence,
Despise the Brood of blessed Sapience.
The Sectaries of my celestial Skill,
That wont to be the World's chief Ornament,
And learned Imps that wont to shoot up still,
And grow to height of Kingdoms Government,
They under keep, and with their spreading Arms
Do beat their Buds, that perish through their Harms.
It most behoves the honourable Race
Of mighty Peers, true Wisdom to sustain,
And with their noble Countenance to grace
The learned Foreheads, without Gift or Gain:
Or rather learn'd themselves behoves to be:
That is the Girlond of Nobility.
But (ah!) all otherwise they do esteem
Of th' heavenly Gift of Wisdom's Influence,
And to be learned, it a base thing deem;
Base minded they that want Intelligence:
For God himself for Wisdom most is prais'd,
And Men to God thereby are nighest rais'd.
But they do only strive themselves to raise
Through pompous Pride, and foolish Vanity;
In th' Eyes of People they put all their Praise,
And only boast of Arms and Ancestry:
But vertuous Deeds, which did those Arms first give
To their Grandsires, they care not to atchieve.
So I, that do all noble Feats profess
To register, and sound in Trump of Gold,
Through their bad Doings, or base Slothfulness,
Find nothing worthy to be writ or told:
For better far it were to hide their Names,
Than telling them, to blazon out their Blames.
So shall succeeding Ages have no Light
Of things forepast, nor Monuments of Time;
And all that in this World is worthy hight
Shall die in Darkness, and lie hid in Slime:
Therefore I mourn with deep Heart's Sorrowing,
Because I nothing noble have to sing.
With that she rain'd such Store of streaming Tears,
That could have made a stony Heart to weep;
And all her Sisters rent their golden Hears,
And their fair Faces with salt Humour steep.
So ended she: and then the next anew
Began her grievous Plaint as doth ensue.
O who shall pour into my swollen Eyes
A Sea of Tears that never may be dride,
A brazen Voice that may with thrilling Cryes
Pierce the dull Heavens, and fill the Air so wide,
And Iron Sides, that sighing may endure,
To wail the Wretchedness of World impure?
Ah! wretched World, the Den of Wickedness,
Deform'd with Filth and foul Iniquity;
Ah! wretched World, the House of Heaviness,
Fill'd with the Wrecks of mortal Misery;
Ah! wretched World, and all that is therein,
The Vassals of God's Wrath, and Slaves of Sin.
Most miserable Creature under Sky,
Man without Understanding doth appear;
For all this World's Affliction he thereby,
And Fortune's Freaks, is wisely taught to bear:
Of wretched Life the only Joy she is,
And th' only Comfort in Calamities.
She arms the Breast with constant Patience,
Against the bitter Throws of Dolour's Darts;
She solaceth with Rules of Sapience
The gentle Minds, in midst of worldly Smarts:
When he is sad, she seeks to make him merry,
And doth refresh his Sprights when they be weary.
But he that is of Reason's Skill bereft,
And wants the Staff of Wisdom him to stay,
Is like a Ship, in midst of Tempest left,
Withouten Helm or Pilot her to sway:
Full sad and dreadful is that Ship's Event;
So is the Man that wants Intendiment.
Why then do foolish Men so much despise
The precious Store of this celestial Riches?
Why do they banish us, that patronize
The Name of Learning? Most unhappy Wretches,
The which lie drowned in deep Wretchedness,
Yet do not see their own Unhappiness.
My Part it is, and my professed Skill,
The Stage with Tragick Buskins to adorn,
And fill the Scene with Plaints and Outcries shrill
Of wretched Persons, to Misfortune born:
But none more tragick Matter I can find
Than this, of Men depriv'd of Sense and Mind.
For all Man's Life me seems a Tragedy,
Full of sad Sights and sore Catastrophees;
First coming to the World with weeping Eye,
Where all his Days, like dolorous Trophees,
Are heaps with Spoils of Fortune and of Fear,
And he at last laid forth on baleful Bier.
So all with rueful Spectacles is fill'd,
Fit for Megaera or Persephone;
But I, that in true Tragedies am skill'd,
The Flowre of Wit, find nought to busy me;
Therefore I mourn, and pitifully mone,
Because that mourning Matter I have none.
Then 'gan she woefully to wail, and wring
Her wretched Hands in lamentable wise:
And all her Sisters thereto answering,
Threw forth loud Shrieks and drery doleful Cries.
So rested she: and then the next in rew,
Began her grievous Plaint as doth ensue.
Where be the sweet Delights of Learning's Treasure,
That wont with comick Sock to beautify
The painted Theatres, and fill with Pleasure
The Listners Eyes and Ears with Melody;
In which I late was wont to reign as Queen,
And mask in Mirth with Graces well beseen?
O! all is gone: and all that goodly Glee,
Which wont to be the Glory of gay Wits,
Is laid abed, and no where now to see;
And in her room unseemly Sorrow sits,
With hollow Brows, and griesly Countenance,
Marring my joyous gentle Dalliance.
And him besides sits ugly Barbarism,
And brutish Ignorance, ycrept of late
Out of drad Darkness of the deep Abysm,
Where being bred, he Light and Heaven does hate:
They in the Minds of Men now tyrannize
And the fair Scene with Rudeness foul disguize.
All Places they with Folly have possess'd,
And with vain Toys the Vulgar entertain;
But me have banished, with all the rest
That whilom wont to wait upon my Train,
Fine Counterfesance, and unhurtful Sport,
Delight, and Laughter deckt in seemly sort.
All these and all that else the comick Stage
With season'd Wit and goodly Pleasance grac'd;
By which Man's Life, in his likest Image,
Was limned forth, are wholly now defac'd:
And those sweet Wits, which wont the like to frame,
Are now despis'd, and made a laughing Game.
And he the Man, whom Nature self had made
To mock her self, and Truth to imitate,
With kindly Counter under Mimick Shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all Joy and jolly Merriment
Is also deaded, and in Dolour drent.
In stead thereof, scoffing Scurrility,
And scorning Folly with Contempt is crept,
Rolling in Rimes of shameless Ribauldry
Without regard, or due Decorum kept;
Each idle Wit at will presumes to make,
And doth the Learned's Task upon him take.
But that same gentle Spirit, from whose Pen
Large Streams of Honey and sweet Nectar flow,
Scorning the Boldness of such base-born Men,
Which dare their Follies forth so rashly throw;
Doth rather choose to sit in idle Cell,
Than so himself to Mockery to fell.
So am I made the Servant of the man
And Laughing-stock of all that life to scorn,
Not honored nor cared for of any,
But loath'd of Losels as a thing forlorn:
Therefore I mourn and sorrow with the rest,
Until my cause of Sorrow be redrest.
Therewith she loudly did lament and shrike,
Pouring forth Streams of Tears abundantly;
And all her Sisters with Compassion like,
The Breaches of her Singults did supply.
So rested she; and then the next in rew,
Began her grievous Plaint, as doth ensew.
Like as the Dearling of the Summer's Pride,
Fair Philomele, when Winter's stormy Wrath
The goodly Fields, that earst so gay were dy'd
In Colours divers, quite despoiled hath,
All comfortless doth hide her cheerless Head
During the time of that her Widowhead:
So we, that earst were wont in sweet Accord
All Places with our pleasant Notes to fill,
Whilst favourable Times did us afford
Free liberty to chant our Charms at will;
All comfortless upon the bared Bow,
Like woful Culvers do sit wailing now.
For far more bitter Storm than Winter's Stower,
The Beauty of the World hath lately wasted;
And those fresh Buds, which wont so fair to Power,
Hath marred quite, and all their Blossoms blasted:
And those young plants, which wont with Fruit t' abound,
Now without Fruit or Leaves are to be found.
A stony Coldness hath benumb'd the Sense,
And lively Spirits of each living Wight,
And dimm'd with Darkness their intelligence,
Darkness more than Cymmerians daily Night;
And monstrous Error flying in the Air,
Hath marr'd the Face of all that seemed fair.
Image of hellish Horror, Ignorance,
Born in the Bosom of the black Abyss,
And fed with Furies Milk for Sustenance
Of his weak Infancy, begot amiss
By yawning Sloth on his own Mother Night;
So he his Sons both Sire and Brother hight;
He, arm'd with Blindness and with Boldness stout,
(For blind is bold) hath our fair Light defaced;
And gathering unto him a ragged Rout
Of Fauns and Satyrs, hath our Dwellings raced;
And our chaste Bowers, in which all Vertue reign'd,
With Brutishness and beastly Filth hath stain'd.
The sacred Springs of Horse-foot Helicon,
So oft bedewed with our learned Layes,
And speaking Streams of pure Castalion,
The famous witness of our wonted Praise;
They trampled have with their foul Footing's Tread,
And like to troubled Puddles have them made.
Our pleasant Groves, which planted were with Pains,
That with our Musick wont so oft to ring,
And Arbours sweet, in which the Shepherds Swains
Were wont so oft their Pastorals to sing;
They have cut down, and all their Pleasure marr'd,
That now no Pastoral is to be heard.
In stead of them, foul Goblins and Shriek-Owls,
With fearful howling do all Places fill;
And feeble Eccho now laments and howls,
The dreadful Accents of their Out-cries shrill.
So all is turned into Wilderness,
Whilst ignorance the Muses doth oppress.
And I, whose Joy was earst with Spirit full
To teach the warbling Pipe to sound aloft,
My Spirits now dismay'd with Sorrow dull,
Do mone my Misery with Silence soft.
Therefore I mourn and wail incessantly,
Till please the Heavens afford me Remedy.
Therewith she wailed with exceeding Wo,
And piteous Lamentation did make;
And all her Sisters seeing her do so,
With equal Plaints her Sorrow did partake.
So rested she: and then the next in rew,
Began her grievous Plaint, as doth ensue.
Whoso hath in the Lap of soft Delight
Been long time lull'd, and fed with Pleasure sweet,
Fearless through his own Fault or Fortune's spight,
To tumble into Sorrow and Regret;
If chance him fall into Calamity,
Finds greater burthen of his Misery.
So we that earst in Joyance did abound,
And in the Bosom of all Bliss did sit,
Like Virgin Queens, with Laurel Garlands crown'd;
For Vertue's Meed and Ornament of Wit;
Sith Ignorance our Kingdom did confound,
Be now become most wretched Wights on ground.
And in our Royal Thrones, which lately stood
In th' Hearts of Men to rule them carefully,
He now hath placed his accursed Brood,
By him begotten of foul Infamy;
Blind Error, scornful Folly, and base Spight,
Who hold by wrong, that we should have by right,
They to the vulgar sort now pipe and sing,
And make them merry with their Fooleries;
They cheerly chant, and Rimes at random fling,
The fruitful Spawn of their rank Fantasies:
They feed the Ears of Fools with Flattery,
And good Men blame, and Losels magnify.
All Places they do with their Toys possess,
And reign in Liking of the Multitude;
The Schools they fill with fond New-fangleness,
And sway in Court with Pride and Rashness rude!
'Mongst simple Shepherds they do boast their Skill,
And say, their Musick matcheth Phoebus' Quill.
The noble Hearts to Pleasures they allure,
And tell their Prince that Learning is but vain;
Fair Ladies Loves they spot with Thoughts impure,
And gentle Minds with leud Delights distain:
Clerks they to loathly Idleness intice,
And fill their Books with Discipline of Vice.
So every where they rule and tyrannize,
For their usurped Kingdom's maintenance;
The whiles we silly Maids, whom they despize,
And with reproachful Scorn discountenance,
From our own native Heritage exil'd,
Walk through the World, of every one revil'd.
Nor any one doth care to call us in,
Or once vouchsafeth us to entertain,
Unless some one, perhaps of gentle Kin,
For pities sake compassion our Pain,
And yield us some Relief in this Distress:
Yet to be so reliev'd is Wretchedness.
So wander we all careful comfortless,
Yet none doth care to comfort us at all;
So seek we Help our Sorrow to redress,
Yet none vouchsafes to answer to our Call:
Therefore we mourn and pitiless complain,
Because none living pitieth our Pain.
With that she wept and wofully lamented,
That nought on Earth her Grief might pacify;
And all the rest her doleful Din augmented;
With Shrieks and Groans and grievous Agony.
So ended she: and then the next in rew,
Began her piteous Plaint as doth ensue.
Ye gentle Spirits breathing from above,
Where ye in Venus silver Bowre were bred,
Thoughts half divine, full of the Fire of Love,
With Beauty kindled, and with Pleasure fed,
Which ye now in security possess,
Forgetful of your former Heaviness:
Now change the Tenor of your joyous Layes,
With which ye use your Loves to deify,
And blazon forth an earthly Beauty's Praise,
Above the compass of the arched Sky:
Now change your Praises into piteous Cries,
And Eulogies turn into Elegies.
Such as ye wont whenas those bitter Stounds
Of raging Love first 'gan you to torment,
And launce your Hearts with lamentable Wounds
Of secret Sorrow and sad Languishment,
Before your Loves did take you unto Grace;
Those now renew as fitter for this place.
For I that rule in Measure moderate
The Tempest of that stormy Passion,
And use to paint in Rimes the troublous State
Of Lover's Life in likest Fashion ;
Am put from practise of my kindly Skill,
Banish'd by those that Love with Lewdness fill.
Love wont to be School-master of my Skill,
And the deviceful matter of my Song;
Sweet Love devoid of Villany or Ill,
But pure and spotless, as at first he sprong
Out of th' Almighty's Bosom, where he nests;
From thence infused into mortal Brests.
Such high Conceit of that celestial Fire,
The base-born Brood of Blindness cannot ghess,
Ne never dare their Dunghil Thoughts aspire
Unto so lofty pitch of Perfectness,
But rime at Riot, and do rage in Love;
Yet little wote what doth thereto behove.
Fair Cytheree, the Mother of Delight,
And Queen of Beauty, now thou may'st go pack;
For lo! thy Kingdom is defaced quight,
Thy Scepter rent, and Power put to wrack;
And thy gay Son, the winged God of Love,
May now go prune his Plumes like ruffed Dove.
And ye three Twins, to Light by Venus brought,
The sweet Companions of the Muses late,
From whom what-ever thing is goodly thought,
Doth borrow Grace, the Fancy to aggrate:
Go beg with us, and be Companions still,
As heretofore of Good, so now of Ill.
For neither you nor we shall any more
Find Entertainment, or in Court or School;
For that which was accounted heretofore
The Learned's Meed, is now lent to the Fool:
Me sings of Love; and maketh loving Lays,
And they him hear, and they him highly praise.
With that she poured forth a brackish Flood
Of bitter Tears, and made exceeding mone;
And all her Sisters seeing her sad Mood,
With loud Laments her answer'd all at one.
So ended she: and then the next in rew,
Began her grievous Plaint as doth ensue.
To whom shall I my evil Case complain,
Or tell the Anguish of my inward Smart,
Sith none is left to remedy my Pain,
Or deigns to pity a perplexed Heart;
But rather seeks my Sorrow to augment
With foul Reproach and cruel Banishment?
For they to whom I used to apply
The faithful Service of my learned Skill,
The goodly Off-spring of Jove's Progeny,
That wont the World with famous Acts to fill,
Whose living Praises in heroick Stile,
It is my chief Profession to compile:
They all corrupted through the Rust of Time,
That doth all fairest things on Earth deface,
Or through unnoble Sloth, or sinful Crime,
That doth degenerate the noble Race;
Have both Desire of worthy Deeds forlorn,
And Name of Learning utterly do scorn.
Ne do they care to have the Auncestry
Of th' old Heroes memoriz'd anew;
Ne do they care that late Posterity
Should know their Names, or speak their Praises due:
But die forgot from whence at first they sprong,
As they themselves shall be forgot ere long.
What boots it then to come from glorious
Forefathers, or to have been nobly bred?
What odds 'twixt Irus and old Inachus,
'Twixt best and worst, when both alike are ded;
If none of neither mention should make,
Nor out of Dust their Memories awake?
Or who would ever care to do brave Deed;
Or strive in Vertue others to excel;
If none should yield him his deserved Meed,
Due Praise, that is the Spur of doing well?
For if Good were not praised more than Ill,
None would chuse Goodness of his own free-will.
Therefore the Nurse of Vertue I am hight,
And golden Trumpet of Eternity,
That lowly Thoughts lift up to Heaven's height,
And mortal Men have Power to deify:
Bacchus and Hercules I rais'd to Heaven,
And Charlemain, amongst the Starris seaven.
But now I will my golden Clarion rend,
And will henceforth immortalize no more ;
Sith I no more find worthy to commend
For Prize of Value, or for learned Lore:
For noble Peers whom I was wont to raise,
Now only seek for Pleasure, nought for Praise.
Their great Revenues all in sumptuous Pride
They spend, that nought to Learning they may spare;
And the rich Fee, which Poets wont divide,
Now Parasites and Sycophants do share:
Therefore I mourn and endless Sorrow make,
Both for my self, and for my Sister's sake.
With that she loudly 'gan to wail and shrike,
And from her Eyes a Sea of Tears did poure,
And all her Sisters, with Compassion like,
Did more increase the Sharpness of her Showre.
So ended she; and then the next in rew,
Began her Plaint, as doth herein ensue.
What Wrath of Gods, or wicked Influence
Of Stars conspiring wretched Men t' afflict,
Hath pour'd on Earth this noyous Pestilence,
That mortal Minds doth inwardly infect
With love of Blindness and of Ignorance,
To dwell in Darkness without Soverance?
What difference 'twixt Man and Beast is left,
When th' heavenly Light of Knowledge is put out,
And th' Ornaments of Wisdom are bereft?
Then wandreth he in Error and in Doubt,
Unweeting of the Danger he is in,
Through Fleshes Frailty, and Deceit of Sin.
In this wide World in which they Wretches stray,
It is the only Comfort which they have,
It is their Light, their Load-star, and their Day;
But Hell and Darkness, and the grisly Grave
Is Ignorance, the Enemy of Grace,
That Minds of Men born heavenly doth debace.
Through Knowledge we behold the World's Creation,
How in his Cradle first he fostred was;
And judge of Nature's cunning Operation,
How things she formed of a formless Mass;
By Knowledge we do learn our selves to know,
And what to Man, and what to God we owe.
From hence, we mount aloft into the Sky,
And look into the crystal Firmament;
There we behold the Heaven's great Hierarchy,
The Stars pure Light, the Spheres swift Movement,
The Spirits and Intelligences fair,
And Angels waiting on th' Almighty's Chair.
And there, with humble Mind and high Insight,
Th' Eternal Maker's Majesty we view,
His Love, his Truth, his Glory, and his Might,
And Mercy more than mortal Men can view.
O sovereign Lord! O sovereign Happiness,
To see thee, and thy Mercy measureless!
Such Happiness have they, that do embrace
The Precepts of my heavenly Discipline;
But Shame and Sorrow and accursed Case
Have they, that scorn the School of Arts Divine,
And banish me, which do possess the Skill
To make Men heavenly-wise, through humbled Will.
However yet they me despise and spight,
I feed on sweet Contentment of my Thought,
And please my self with mine own self-delight,
In Contemplation of things heavenly wrought:
So, loathing Earth, I look up to the Sky
And being driven hence, I thither fly.
Thence I behold the Misery of Men,
Which want the Bliss that Wisdom would them breed:
And like brute Beasts do lie in loathsom Den
Of ghostly Darkness, and of ghastly Dreed:
For whom I mourn, and for my self complain,
And for my Sisters eke whom they disdain.
With that, she wept and wail'd so piteously,
As if her Eyes had been two springing Wells:
And all the rest her Sorrow to supply,
Did throw forth Shrikes, and Cries, and drery Yells.
So ended she, and then the next in rew,
Began her mournful Plaint as doth ensue.
A Doleful Case desires a doleful Song,
Without vain Art or curious Complements;
And squallid Fortune into Baseness flong,
Doth scorn the Pride of wonted Ornaments.
Then fittest are these ragged Rimes for me,
To tell my Sorrows that exceeding be.
For the sweet Numbers and melodious Measures,
With which I wont the winged Words so ty,
And make a tuneful Diapase of Pleasures;
Now being let to run at liberty
By those which have no Skill to rule them right,
Have now quite lost their natural Delight.
Heaps of huge Words uphoorded hideously,
With horrid sound, though having little Sense,
They think to be chief Praise of Poetry;
And thereby wanting due Intelligence,
Have marr'd the Face of goodly Poesie,
And made a Monster of their Fantasie.
Whilom in Ages past none might profess,
But Princes and high Priests, that secret Skill;
The sacred Laws therein they wont express,
And with deep Oracles their Verses fill:
Then was she held in sovereign Dignity,
And made the Noursling of Nobility.
But now nor Prince nor Priest doth her maintain,
But suffer her prophaned for to be
Of the base Vulgar, that with Hands unclean,
Dares to pollute her hidden Mysterie;
And treadeth under foot her holy Things,
Which was the Care of Kesars and of Kings.
One only lives, her Age's Ornament,
And Mirror of her Maker's Majesty,
That with rich Bounty and dear Cherishment,
Supports the Praise of noble Poesie;
Ne only favours them which it profess,
But is her self a peerless Poetress.
Most peerless Prince, most peerless Poetress
The true Pandora of all heavenly Graces,
Divine Eliza, sacred Emperess;
Live she for ever, and her royal Places
Be fill'd with Praises of divined Wits,
That her eternize with their heavenly Writs.
Some few beside, this sacred Skill esteem,
Admirers of her glorious Excellence;
Which being lightned with her Beauty's Beem,
Are thereby fill'd with happy Influence,
And lifted up above the Worldes gaze,
To sing with Angels her immortal Praise.
But all the rest, as born of Salvage Brood,
And having been with Acorns always fed,
Can no whit favour this celestial Food;
But with base Thoughts are into Blindness led,
And kept from looking on the lightsom Day:
For whom I wail and weep all that I may.
Eftsoons such store of Tears she forth did powre,
As if she all to Water would have gone;
And all her Sisters seeing her sad Stowre,
Did weep, and wail, and made exceeding mone,
And all their learned Instruments did break:
The rest, untold, no living Tongue can speak.
[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 5:1359-77]