1598
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Comparative Discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets.

Palladis Tamia. Wits Treasury being the Second Part of Wits Common Wealth. By Francis Meres Maister of Artes of both Universities.

Rev. Francis Meres


Francis Meres's early list of Shakespeare's plays has been proved valuable for dating Shakespeare's plays, though his curious catalogues are interesting in other ways as well. Edmund Spenser appears in several genre catalogues (heroic, elegiac, pastoral): "I say of Spencers Fairy Queene, I knowe not what more excellent or exquisite Poem may be written" Fol. 280. Meres is also apparently the first writer to attach Spenser's name to the Shepheardes Calender.

Nathan Drake: "Meres is certainly much indebted to the thirty-first chapter of the first book of Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie; but he has considerably extended the catalogue of poets, and it should be added, that his comparisons are drawn with no small portion of skill and felicity, and that his criticisms are, for the most part, just and tersely expressed" Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 228.

John Wilson: "Webbe, in his discourse on poetry, thinks the Calendar faultless; and Francis Meres, in his Wits Treasury, says 'Theocritus is famed for his Idyllia in Greek, and Virgil for his eclogues in Latin; so Spenser, their imitator, in his Shepherd's Calendar, is renowned for the like argument, and honored for fine poetical invention, and most exquisite wit.' Nay, Abraham France, in his Logic of the Law, takes examples from it 'to express the precepts of Logicke'" Blackwood's Magazine 34 (1833) 811.

John Payne Collier: "The year before Whetstone published his poem on Sidney's death, (the original of which is preserved in the State Paper Office) [attributing the Shepheardes Calender to Sir Philip Sidney] William Webbe printed his Discourse of English Poetry (4to. 1586), and he doubted whether he might attribute the Shepheardes Calender to Spenser, whom he ventured to point out only by the two first letters of his surname — 'Maister Sp. or what other rare schollar of Pembroke Hall.' Three years later, viz. in 1589, Puttenham, in his Arte of English Poesie, p. 51, speaks of 'that other gentleman who wrote the late Shepheardes Callender,' without attempting to name him. The last edition in 4to. came out in 1597; and in 1598, Francis Meres, who was well seen in all the poetry of his day, did not scruple to print Spenser's name at length in his Palladis Tamia, fo. 280 b" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:xxxviii n.

W. Davenport Adams: "Francis Meres, miscellaneous writer (. 1646), published The Sinner's Guide (1596); God's Arithmetick (1597); Granada's Devotion (1598); and Palladis Tamia, Wit's Treasury (1598), being the second part of Wit's Commonwealth (1597). Palladis Tamia is merely a selection, but includes an original chapter by Meres, called A Compartive Discourse of our English Poets with Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets, which is often referred to" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 389.

George Saintsbury: "Francis Meres, whose Palladis Tamia (1598) is to be eternally mentioned with gratitude, because it gives us our one real document about the order of Shakespeare's plays, but is quite childish in the critical characterisation which it not uninterestingly attempts" History of English Criticism (1911) 69-70.

Herbert E. Cory: "Francis Meres wrote his Palladis Tamia (1598) to prove them the peers of the singers of all the world. Concerning Spenser he uttered a stately pageant of elaborate compliments: 'As Sextus Propertius said 'nescio quid magis nascitur Iliade': so I say of Spenser's Fairy Queene, I know not what more excellent or exquisite poem may be written.' In his remarks on the epic poets he declared: 'As Homer and Vergil among the Greeks and Latins are the chiefe Heroic Poets: So Spenser and Warner be our chiefe heroicall makers.' Spenser, it seems, was perfect in everything: 'As Pindarus, Anacreon, and Callimachus among the Greeks, and Horace and Catullus among the Latines are the best Lyrick poets; so in this faculty the best among our poets are Spenser (who excelleth in all kinds), Daniel, Drayton, Shakespere and Breton.... As Theocritus in Greek, Virgil and Mantuan in Latine, Sanazar in Italian and the Authour of Amintae Gaudia and Walsingham's Melibaeus are the best for Pastorall, so amongst us the best in this kind are Sir Philip Sidney, Master Challener, Spenser, Stephen Gosson, Abraham Fraunce and Barnefield.' This is typical work of the Age of Enthusiasm. Unbounded faith in Spenser, appreciation of Shakespeare, Drayton, and Daniel is accompanied by a grotesque lack of discrimination in citing such names as those of Fraunce and Gosson without a smile. We can see from the literary swashbuckling of men like Nashe and Meres what England had to learn before literary criticism became an art and what a rare world of fine frenzy England had to lose to buy her discrimination" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 93-94.




As Greece had three Poets of great antiquity, Orpheus, Linus and Musaeus and Italy, other three auncient Poets, Livius Andronicus, Ennius and Plautus: so hath England three auncient Poets, Chaucer, Gower and Lydgate.

As Homer is reputed the Prince of Greek Poets; and Petrarch of Italian Poets: so Chaucer is accounted the God of English Poets.

As Homer was the first that adorned the Greek tongue with true quantity: so Piers Plowman was the first that observed the true quantitie of our verse without the curiositie of Rime.

Ovid writ a Chronicle from the beginning of the world to his own time, that is, to the reign of Augustus the Emperour: so hath Harding the Chronicler (after his maner of old harsh riming) from Adam to his time, that is, to the raigne of King Edward the fourth.

As Sotades Maronites the Iambicke Poet gave himselfe wholy to write impure and lascivious things: so Skelton (I know not for what great worthines, surnamed the Poet Laureat) applied his wit to scurrilities and ridiculous matters, such among the Greeks were called Pantomimi, with us Buffons.

As Consaluo Periz that excellent learned man, and Secretary to King Philip of Spayne, in translating the Ulysses of Homer out of Greeke into Spanish, hath by good judgement avoided the faulte of Ryming, although not fully hit perfect and true versifying: so hath Henrie Howarde that true and noble Earle of Surrey in translating the fourth book of Virgils Aeneas, whom Michael Drayton in his Englands heroycall Epistles hath eternized for an Epistle to his faire Geraldine.

As these Neoterickes Jovianus Pontanus, Politianus, Marullus Tarchaniota, the two Strozae the father and the son, Palingenius, Mantuanus, Philelphus, Quintianus Stoa and Germanus Brixius have obtained renown and good place among the auncient Latine Poets: so also these English men being Latine Poets, Gualter Haddon, Nicholas Car, Gabriel Harvey, Christopher Ocland, Thomas Newton with his Leyland, Thomas Watson, Thomas Campion, Brunswerd and Willey, have attained good report and honorable advancement in the Latin Empyre.

As the Greeke tongue is made famous and eloquent by Homer, Hesiod, Euripedes, Aeschilus, Sophocles, Pindarus, Phocylides and Aristophanes; and the Latine tongue by Virgill, Ovid, Horace, Silius Italicus, Lucanus, Lucretius, Ausonius and Claudianus: so the English tongue is mightily enriched, and gorgeouslie invested in rare ornaments and resplendent abiliments by Sir Philip Sidney, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Warner, Shakespeare, Marlow and Chapman.

As Xenophon, who did imitate so excellently, as to give us effigiem iusti imperii, the portraiture of a just Empyre under the name of Cyrus (as Cicero saieth of him) made therein an absolute heroicall Poem; and as Heliodorus writ in prose his sugred invention of that picture of Love in Theagines and Cariclea, and yet both excellent admired Poets: so Sir Philip Sidney writ his immortal Poem, The Countesse of Pembrookes Arcadia, in Prose, and yet our rarest Poet.

As Sextus Propertius saide: Nescio quid magis nascitur Iliade: so I say of Spencers Fairy Queene, I knowe not what more excellent or exquisite Poem may be written.

As Achilles had the advantage of Hector, because it was his fortune to bee extolled and renowned by the heavenly verse of Homer: so Spensers Elisa the Fairy Queen hath the advantage of all the Queenes in the worlde, to bee eternized by so divine a Poet.

As Theocritus is famoused for his Idyllia in Greeke, and Virgill for his Eclogs in Latine: so Spencer their imitatour in his Shepheardes Calender, is renowned for the like argument, and honoured for fine Poeticall invention, and most exquisit wit.

As Parthenius Nicaeus excellently sung the praises of his Arete: so Daniel hath divinely sonetted the matchlesse beauty of his Delia.

As every one mourneth, when tree heareth of the lamentable plangors of Thracian Orpheus for his dearest Euridice: so every one passionateth, when he readeth the afflicted death of Daniels distressed Rosamond.

As Lucan hath mournefully depainted the civil wars of Pompey and Caesar: so hath Daniel the civill wars of Yorke and Lancaster: and Drayton the civill wars of Edward the second, and the Barons.

As Virgil doth imitate Catullus in ye like matter of Ariadne for his story of Queene Dido: so Michael Drayton doth imitate Ovid in his Englands Heroical Epistles.

As Sophocles was called a Bee for the sweetnes of his tongue: so in Charles Fitz-Jefferies Drake, Drayton is termed Golden-mouth'd, for the purity and pretiousnesse of his stile and phrase.

As Accius, M. Attilius and Milithus were called Tragoediographi, because they writ Tragedies: so may wee truly terme Michael Drayton Tragoediographus, for his passionate penning the downfall of valiant Robert of Normandy, chast Matilda, and great Gaveston.

As Ioan. Honterus in Latine verse writ 3. Bookes of Cosmography with Geographicall tables: so Michael Drayton is now in penning in English verse a Poem called Poly-olbion Geographical and Hydrographicall of all the forests, woods, mountaines, fountaines, rivers, lakes, flouds, bathes and springs that be in England.

As Aulus Persius Flaccus is reported among al writers to be of an honest life and upright conversation: so Michael Drayton (que toties honoris & amoris causa nomino) among schollers, souldiours, Poets, and all sorts of people, is helde for a man of vertuous disposition, honest conversation, and wel governed cariage, which is almost miraculous among good wits in these declining and corrupt times, when there is nothing but rogery in villanous man, and when cheating and craftines is counted the cleanest wit and soundest wisedome.

As Decius Ausonius Gallus in libris Fastorum, penned the occurrences of ye world from the first creation of it to his time, that is, to the raigne of the Emperor Gratian: so Warner in his absolute Albions Englande hath most admirably penned the historic of his own country from Noah to his time, that is, to the raigne of Queene Elizabeth; I have heard him termd of the best wits of both our Universities, our English Homer.

As Euripedes is the most sententious among the Greek Poets: so is Warner among our English Poets.

As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare, witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends, &c.

As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: so Shakespeare among ye English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for Comedy, witnes his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love labors lost, his Love labours wonne, his Midsummers night dreame, and his Merchant of Venice: for Tragedy his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.

As Epius Stolo said, that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin: so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase, if they would speake English.

As Musaeus, who wrote the love of Hero and Leander, had two excellent schollers, Thamaras and Hercules: so hath he in England two excellent Poets, imitators of him in the same argument and subject, Christopher Marlow and George Chapman.

As Ovid saith of his worke; Iamq opus exegi, quod nec Iovis ira, nec ignis Nec poterit ferrum, nec edax abolere vetustas. And as Horace saith of his; Exegi monumentaere perennius; Regaliq; situ pyramidu altius; Quod non imber edax; Non Aquilo impotens possit diruere; aut innumerabilis annorum series and fuga temporum: so say I severally of Sir Philip Sidneys, Spencers, Daniels, Draytons, Shakespeares, and Warners workes;

Non Iovis ira: imbres: Mars: ferrum; flamma, senectus,
Hoc opus unda: rues: turbo: venena went.
Et quanquam ad plucherrimum hoc opus euertendum tres illi Dii conspirabunt, Cronus, Vulcanus, & pater ipse gentis;
Non tamen annorum series, non flamma, nec ensis,
Aeternum potuit hoc abolere Decus.

As Italy had Dante, Boccace, Petrarch, Tasso, Celiano and Ariosto: so England had Mathew Roydon, Thomas Atchelow, Thomas Watson, Thomas Kid, Robert Greene and George Peele.

As there are eight famous and chiefe languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latine, Syriack, Arabicke, Italian, Spanish and French: so there are eight notable severall kindes of Poets, Heroick, Lyricke, Tragicke, Comicke, Satiricke, Iambicke, Elegiacke and Pastoral.

As Homer and Virgil among the Greeks and Latines are the chiefe Heroick Poets: so Spencer and Warner be our chiefe heroicall Makers.

As Pindarus, Anacreon and Callimachus among the Greekes; and Horace and Catullus among the Latines are the best Lyrick Poets: so in this faculty the best among our Poets are Spencer (who excelleth in all kinds) Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Bretton.

As these Tragicke Poets flourished in Greece, Aeschylus, Euripedes, Sophocles, Alexander Aetolus, Achaeus Erithriaeus, Astydamas Atheniesis, Apollodorus Tarsensis, Nicomachus Phrygius, Thespis Atticus, and Timon Apolloniates; and these among the Latines, Accius, M. Attilius, Pomponius Secundus and Seneca: so these are our best for Tragedie, the Lorde Buckhurst, Doctor Leg of Cambridge, Doctor Edes of Oxforde, maister Edward Ferris, the Authour of the Mirrour for Magistrates, Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kid, Shakespeare, Drayton, Chapman, Decker, and Benjamin Johnson.

As M. Anneus Lucanus writ two excellent Tragedies, one called Medea, the other de Incendio Troiae cum Priami calamitate: so Doctor Leg hath penned two famous tragedies, ye one of Richard the 3. the other of the destruction of Jerusalem.

The best Poets for Comedy among the Greeks are these, Menander, Aristophanes, Eupolis Atheniensis, Alexis Terius, Nicostratus, Amipsias Atheniensis, Anaxedrides, Rhodius, Aristonymus, Archippus Atheniensis and Callias Atheniensis; and among the Latines, Plautus, Terence, Naeuius, Sext. Turpilius, Licinius Imbrex, and Virgilius Romanus: so the best for Comedy amongst us bee, Edward Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Maister Rowley once a rare Scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes one of her Majesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie John Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.

As Horace, Lucilius, Juvenall, Persius Lucullus are the best for Satyre among the Latines: so with us in the same faculty these are chiefe, Piers Plowman, Lodge, Hall of Imanuel Colledge in Cambridge; the Authour of Pigmalions Image, and certaine Satyrs; the Author of Skialetheia.

Among the Greekes I wil name but two for Iambics, Archilochus Parius, and Hipponax Ephesius: so amongst us I name but two Iambical Poets, Gabriel Harvey, and Richard Stanyhurst, bicause I have seene no mo in this kind.

As these are famous among the Greeks for Elegie, Melanthus, Mymnerus Colophonius, Olympius Mysius, Parthenius Nicaeus, Philetas Cous, Theogenes Megarensis, and Pigres Halicarnassaeus; and these among the Latines, Mecaenas, Ovid, Tibullus, Propertius, T. Valgius, Cassius Severus and Clodius Sabinus: so these are the most passionate among us to bewaile and bemoane the perplexities of Love, Henrie Howard Earle of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyat the elder, Sir Francis Brian, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Rawley, Sir Edward Dyer, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Whetstone, Gascoyne, Samuell Page sometimes fellowe of Corpus Christi Colledge in Oxford, Churchyard, Bretton.

As Theocritus in Greeke, Virgil and Mantuan in Latine, Sanazar in Italian, and the Authour of Amyntae Gaudia and Walsinghams Melibaeus are the best for pastorall: so amongst us the best in this kind are Sir Philip Sidney, master Challener, Spencer, Stephen Gosson, Abraham Fraunce and Barnefield.

These and many other Epigrammatists ye Latin tongue hath, Q. Catulus, Porcius Licinius, Quintus Cornificius, Martial, Cn. Getulicus, and wittie Sir Thomas Moore, so in English we have these, Heywood, Drante, Kendal, Bastard, Davies.

As noble Mecaenas that sprung from the Hetruscan Kinges not onely graced Poets by his bounty, but also by beeing a Poet himselfe; and as James the 6th. nowe king of Scotland is not only a favorer of Poets, but a Poet, as my friend master Richard Barnefielde hath in this Disticke passing well recorded:

The King of Scots now living is a Poet,
As his Lepanto, and his furies show it:

so Elizabeth our dread soveraign and gracious Queene is not only a liberal patrone unto Poets, but an excellent Poet herselfe, whose learned, delicate and noble Muse surmounteth, be it in Ode, Elegy, Epigram, or in any other kind of Poem Heroicke, or Lyricke. Octavia sister unto Augustus the Emperour was exceeding bountifull unto Virgil, who gave him for making 26. verses, 1137 pounds, to wit, tenne Sestertiaes for everie verse, which amount to above 43. pounds for every verse: so learned Mary, the honorable Countesse of Pembrook, the noble sister of immortall Sir Philip Sidney, is very liberall unto Poets; besides shee is a most delicate Poet, of whome I may say, as Antipater Sidonius writeth of Sappho.

Dulcia Mnemosyne demirans carmina Sapphus,
Quaesivit decima Pieris uncle fores.

Among others in times past, Poets had these favourers, Augustus, Mecaenas, Sophocles, Germanicus, an Emperour, a nobleman, a Senatour, and a Captaine: so of later times Poets have these patrones, Robert king of Sicil, the great king Frances of France, king James of Scotland, and Queene Elizabeth of England.

As in former times two great Cardinals, Bembus and Biena, did countenance Poets: so of late yeares two great preachers have given them their right hands in felowship, Beza and Melancthon.

As the learned philosophers Fracastorius and Scaliger have highly prized them: so have the eloquent Orators Pontanus and Muretus very gloriously estimated them.

As Georgius Buckananus Jephthe, amongst all moderne Tragedies is able to abide the touch of Aristotles precepts, and Euripedes examples: so is Bishop Watsons Absalon.

As Terence for his translations out of Apollodorus and Menander, and Aquillus for his translation out of Menander, and C. Germanicus Augustus for his out of Aratus, and Ausonius for his translated Epigrams out of Greeke, and Doctor Johnson for his Frogge-fight out of Homer, and Watson for his Antigone out of Sophocles, have got good commendations: so these versifiers for their learned translations are of good note among us, Phaer for Virgils Aeneads, Golding for Ovids Metamorphosis, Harington for his Orlando Furioso, the translators of Senecaes Tragedies, Barnabe Googe for Palingenius, Turbervile for Ovids Epistles and Mantuan, and Chapman for his inchoate Homer.

As the Latines have these Emblematists Andreas AIciatus, Reusnerus, and Sambucus: so we have these, Geffrey Whitney, Andrew Willet, and Thomas Combe.

As Nonnus Panapolyta writ the Gospell of Saint John in Greeke Hexameters: so Jervis Markham hath written Salomons Canticles in English verse.

As C. Plinius writ the life of Pomponius Secundus: so yong Charles Fitz-Jeffrey, that high touring Falcon, hath most gloriously penned the honourable life and death of worthy Sir Francis Drake.

As Hesiod writ learnedly of husbandry in Greeke: so hath Tusser very wittily and experimentally written of it in English.

As Antipater Sidonius was famous for extemporall verse in Greeke, and Ovid for his Quicquid conabar dicere versus erat: so was our Tarleton, of whome Doctour Case that learned physitian thus speaketh in the seventh Booke, and seventeenth chapter of his Politikes; Aristoteles suum Theodoretum laudauit quendam peritum Tragoediarum actorem; Cicero suum Roscium: nos Angli Tarletonum, in cuius voce & vultu omnes iocosi affectus, in cuius cerebroso capite lepidae facetiae habitant. And so is now our wittie Wilson, who, for learning and extemporall witte in this facultie, is without compare or compeere, as to his great and eternall commendations he manifested in his chalenge at the Swanne on the Bankeside.

As Achilles tortured the deade bodie of Hector, and as Antonius, and his wife Fulvia tormented the livelesse corps of Cicero: so Gabriell Harvey hath shewed the same inhumanitie to Greene that lies full low in his grave.

As Eupolis of Athens used great libertie in taxing the vices of men: so dooth Thomas Nash, witnesse the broode of the Harveys.

As Actaeon was wooried of his owne hounds: so is Tom Nash of his Ile of Dogs. Dogges were the death of Euripedes, but bee not disconsolate gallant young Juvenall, Linus, the sonne of Apollo died the same death. Yet God forbid that so brave a witte should so basely perish, thine are but paper dogges, neither is thy banishment like Ovids, eternally to converse with the barbarous Getes. Therefore comfort thyselfe sweete Tom. with Ciceros glorious return to Rome, and with the counsel Aeneas gives to his seabeaten soldiors. Lib. I. Aeneid.

Pluck up thine heart, and drive from thence both feare and care away:
To thinke on this may pleasure be perhaps another day.
Durato, & temet rebus servato secundis.

As Anacreon died by the pot: so George Peele by the pox.

As Archesilaus Prytanaeus perished by wine at a drunken feast, as Hermippus testifieth in Diogenes: so Robert Greene died of a surfet taken at Pickeld Herrings, and Rhenish wine, as witnesseth Thomas Nash, who was at the fatall banquet.

As Jodelle, a French tragical poet beeing an Epicure, and an Atheist, made a pitifull end: so our tragicall poet Marlow for his Epicurisme and Atheisme had a tragicall death; you may read of this Marlow more at large in the Theatre of Gods judgments, in the 25. chapter entreating of Epicures and Atheists.

As the poet Lycophron was shot to death by a certain rival of his: so Christopher Marlow was stabd to death by a bawdy Servingman, a rivall of his in his lewde love.


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