1620
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epithalamion.

The Wood-man's Bear. A Poeme. By Jo. Sylvester.

Joshua Sylvester


Joshua Sylvester's modest epithalamion contains some echoes of Spenser and forms an acrostic on the name "Martha Nicholson."

Frederick Ives Carpenter: "Cf. Epith. and Spenser's characteristic dawn descriptions, e.d. F.Q. 1.2.7; 1.4.16; Gn. 64-9" Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 158.

Robert Southey: "In the Elizabethan age, our poets and novelists imitated the French and Italians, our dramatists the Spaniards. Even after the Restoration, some of our playwrights continued to pilfer their plots from Spain; but with Dubartas and Tasso the influence of their respective countries upon our poetry ceased altogether for a time. An effect, which has hitherto not been noticed, was then produced by the Dutch poets. In their school Joshua Silvester (who had lived among them) learnt some of the peculiarities of his versification" "Hayley's Memoirs" Quarterly Review 31 (1824-25) 282.

George Saintsbury: "The actual verse of Sylvester — perhaps the best read (as Englisher of 'Bartas') of any English poet during the first half of the seventeenth century — is by no means so stiff as the close and prim laurel wreath, the palisading effrontery of the ruff, and the severely buckrammed doublet of his portrait might suggest. In fact, it is rather in diction than in versification that Sylvester is grotesque; and it is noteworthy that his verse is freest and most melodious in his rather frequent original insertions. He is, however, a strict elider and apostrophator: and the couplet which he chiefly uses is of the indeterminate Draytonian sort, ready to take either branch of the Y by turns, but not taking either very decidedly. In wholly original pieces he gives himself more licence; and is the better for it" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:125.

Joshua Sylvester alludes to "our mysterious Elphine oracle" in Bartas, His Divine Weeks (1605) R. M. Cummings, Critical Heritage (1971) 88.



O you that on the double mountaine dwel,
And daily drink of the Castalian Well;
If any Muse among your sacred number,
Have power to waken, from a dying slumber;
A dull conceit, drown'd in a gulphe of griefe,
In haplesse ruine, hopelesse of reliefe:
Vouchsafe (sweet sisters) to assist me so,
That for a time I may forget my woe,
Or (at the least) my sad thoughts so beguile,
That sighes may sing, and teares themselves may smile;
While I in honor of a happy choice,
To chearefull Layes tune my lamenting voice;
Making the mountaines and the vallies ring,
And all the young-men and the maidens sing,
All earthly joyes, and all heavens blisse betide
Our joyfull Bridegroome, and his gentle Bride.

Then peace complaint, and pack thee hence proud sorrow,
I must goe bid my merry Greeks good morrowe:
Good morrow Gallants: thus begins our game:
What? fast asleepe? fie sluggards, fie for shame,
For shame shake off this humor from your eyes,
You have overslept: tis more then time to rise.

Behold, already in the ruddy East
Bright Erycina with the beaming crest,
Calles up Aurora, and shee rose-like blushing,
From aged Tythons cold armes, quickly rushing,
Opens the wide gates of the welcome day,
And with a becke summons the Sunne away,
Who quickly mounting on his glistering chaire,
Courseth his nimble Coursers through the aire,
With swifter pace then when he did pursue
The Laurel changed Nymph that from him flew:
Fearing perhaps (as well he might) to misse
A rarer obiect, then those loves of his.
Such, as at sight (but for the kind respect
Of loyall friendship, to a deare elect
Child of the Muses) had with hotter fier
Inflam'd the wanton Delphian Gods desier,
Altars adorn'd with blisse-presaging lights
In saffron roabes, and all his solemne rites
Thrice-sacred Hymen shall with smiling cheare
Unite in one, two Turtles loving deare:
And chaine with holy charmes their willing hands,
Whose harts are linckt in loves eternall bands.

M ilde vertues mirror, Beauties monument.
A dorned with heavens praise, and earths perfection:
R eceive (I pray you) with a brow unbent,
T his petty pledge of my poore pure affection.
H ad I the Indians golden heapes and hoordes,
A richer present would I then present you.
N ow such poore fruites as my bare feild affordes
I nstead of those, here have I rudely sent you:
C ount not the gifts worth, but the givers will:
O ft mighty Princes have accepted small things;
L ike as the aire all empty parts doth fill,
S o perfect friendship doth supply for all things.
O be it ever so: so never smart
N or teene shall trouble the Soon calm in hart.

M ind first your Maker in your dayes of youth:
A ske grace of him of him to governe well your waies:
R everence your Husband with unspotted truth:
T ake heed of pride the poison of our daies:
H aunt not with those that are of light report:
A void the vile charmes of unchast temptation.
N ever lend looke to the lascivious sort:
I mpeach not any's honest reputation:
C omfort the poore, but not beyond your power:
O ver your houshold have a needfull care:
L ay hold on Times locke, lose not any hower:
S pend, but in season: and in season spare:
O fspring, if any heaven vouchsafe to send you,
N urture them godly; and good end attend you.

So shall your life in blessings still abound,
So from all harme th' almightie hand shall shend you,
So with cleare honour shall your head be crownd,
So for your virtue shall the wise commend you,
So shall you shun vile slanders blasting voice,
So shall you long injoy your loving Pheare,
So shall you both be blessed in your choice,
So to each other be you ever deare:
O! be it ever so in every part,
That naught may trouble the Soon calm in hart.

[Sig. C5-C7]