1600 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lesbias Rule of Praise.

The most elegant and witty Epigrams of Sir John Harrington, Knight, digested into Foure Bookes: Three whereof never before Published. [Second edition.]

Sir John Harington


Published in 1618 as the one-hundredth of Harington's epigrams. Wells prints an alternative version from Folger MS 4455, p. 156, dated June 19, 1605: "So Lynus prayses Churchyard in his censure | Not Sydney, Daniell, Constable, nor Spensure" (1972) 71. Linus, who like Lesbia praises antiquated beauty, has not been identified.

Edmond Malone: "Sir John Harrington was by the unanimous consent of his own age, considered as a man of extraordinary wit; yet his writings would not at this day gain him so high a reputation. They prove, however, decisively, that what Dryden would call 'clenches,' was then considered as sterling iwt" Note in Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden (1800) 1:2:244n.

Samuel Egerton Brydges: "Sir John Harington was born 1561, and died at his seat at Kelston, near Bath, in 1612, aged 51.... The epigrams, it must be confessed, although they appear to have once enjoyed some reputation, possess no poetical merit. They are flat, colloquial, rhymes, of that low tone, above which it seems to have been difficult for the genius of Harington to rise. But they may still be persused with some interest by the antiquary, the biographer, and the investigator of ancient manners, and customs; like those of Sir Aston Cokayne, which contain numerous cotemporary notices of his friends, neighbours, and acquaintance" Censura Literaria 4 (1807) 11.

Thomas Corser: "Although of note in their time, these Epigrams do not possess much interest now, or any true poetical merit, but are flat and common-place, and somewhat coarse; their chief value being that they contain some notices and illustrations of the manners and customs of that period. At present Harington is chiefly known by his translation of Ariosto, but these Epigrams were perhaps his most popular work, and were several times reprinted" Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 7 (1877) 171.



Lesbia, whom some thought a lovely creature,
Doth sometimes praise some other womans feature:
Whom worthy fame, by beauties merits praises,
But onely of their seemely parts she tels,
Whom she doth sure beleeve, her selfe excels.
So, Linus praises Churchyard in his censure,
Not Sydney, Daniel, Constable, nor Spencer.

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