1596 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Readers. In Part of Du Bartas.

Part of Du Bartas, English and French, and in his owne kinde of Verse, so neare the French Englished, as may teach an English-Man French, or a French-Man English. With the Commentary of S. G. S. By William L'Isle of Wilburgham, Esquier for the Kings Body.

William Lisle


This early comment on Spenser's versification was belatedly published in 1625 with William Lisle's translation of Du Bartas.

Joseph Haslewood: "As our author's pretensions as a poet are dubious, it requires an awakening interest by subject to give currency to his drawling Alexandrines" British Bibliographer 4 (1814) 382.

Edwin Guest: "When the stave is varied by lengthening one of its verses, it is almost invariably fashioned on the model which Spenser has left us, and therefore may be termed a Spenser-stave. Both broken and Spenser-staves were invented during the latter half of the sixteenth century, and some of their varieties still keep a pace, among the favourite combinations of English poetry" History of English Rhythms (1838) 2:291.

W. Davenport Adams: "William Lisle, antiquary and poet (d. 1637), wrote The Fair Ethiopian (1631), and Seven Straines of the Soul, translated a work by Aelfricus Abbas (1623), and edited Du Bartas' Ark in French and English (1637)" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 351.

Herbert E. Cory: "William L'isle in prefatory words to the reader before his translation of Du Bartas (1625) made a thoroughly neo-classical comment on Spenser 's alexandrines that should be quoted as among the comparatively few definite criticisms of Spenser's stanza in the seventeenth century. 'The Bartasian verse (not unlike herein to the Latin Pentameter) hath ever this propertie, to part in the mids betwixt two wordes: so much doe French prints signifie with a stroke interposed.... The neglect of this bath caused many a brave stanza of the Faerie Queene to end but harshly, which might have been prevented at the first; but now the fault may be sooner found than amended.' In the next century a critic as acute as Thomas Warton expressed the same insistence on the middle caesura and the same blindness to the charm of the flowing, pauseless alexandrine that Spenser used, at times, with such felicity" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 100-01.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "the first printed comment on Spenser's stanza is found in William L'Isle's Prefatory words to the reader, before his translation of Du Bartas. L'Isle insists on the necessity of a caesura in the middle of the alexandrine" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 33.

William Lisle praises Spenser's Muiopotmos in the preface to his translation of Virgil's Eclogues (1628).

In the dedicatory epistle of his better-known translation of Du Bartas (1595), Joshua Sylvester wishes for "a devine Sidney, a stately Spencer, or a sweet Daniell for an interpreter thereof" Sig. A2; Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 44.




And what is our English Pentameter but the same kind of verse which is used in our Comedies? Besides, I had a desire to trie how French and English would go hand in hand; for enterchangeable helpe and teaching of the one by the other; now both Nations are so well inclined to learne and conferre together. For which purpose I found this worke very fit, and readiest on such a sodain to present my Lord the King withall, at the here celebration of his marriage. And herefore onely, if there were none other cause, yet (gentle Readers) my hope is yee will hold me excused. I was about to end, but may not forget to let you understand, that this Bartassian verse (not unlike herein to the Latin Pentameter) hath ever this propertie, to part in the mids betwixt two wordes; so much doe some French prints signifie, with a stroke interposed, as here in the first two pages you may see, for example. The neglect of this hath caused many a brave Stanza in the Faerie Queene to end but harshly, which might have been prevented at the first, but now the fault may be sooner found than amended. I doe but note it unto you, that you may the better observe the true cadence of this our Authors verse: and so craving your favourable construction of these, and all my like endeavours, I rest willing to doe you what further service I am able.


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