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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. II. Of Truth.

The Brides Ornaments: Poetical Essayes upon a Divine Subject. [In The Song of Songs, which was Salomons.]

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett salutes Spenser in an allusion to Florimell's girdle, stanzas 40-41: "Divinest Spencer, thou didst shadow well | In Legend of true Love and Chastitie: | By girdle faire of fairest Florimell, | This sacred Belt of Truth and Veritie."



Such is the nature and sweet inclination
Of Heav'nly Graces all, whereof I sing,
That with most kinde and mutual relation,
They all seeme joyn'd together in a ring,
So close each one another following,
That who gets one doth all the rest obtayne.
For, from one Fountayne all of them doe spring,
All link'd together in so strong a chayne,
As where one Vertue dwels, there all the rest remayne.

'Tis vaine to thinke that single Graces can
Make up complete the Man spirituall,
More then divided Members of a Man
Can grow, or thrive, not joyn'd together all.
Hence Poets the three Graces twins doe call,
Joves Daughters, and them in one ring doe joyne;
And hence they make the Virgins musicall,
All but one consort, which are Sisters nine:
Thus by their fables shadowing things Divine.

For they discern'd by Natures dimmed light,
One Authour sole of ev'ry goodly grace,
Whom Father they and King of all doe hight,
And him Lord over all their gods doe place.
Loe, thus as in a mist they Truth did trace,
But missing the true path of Righteousnesse,
In stead of Truth they Errour did embrace,
For never was Dame Justice Errours guesse,
Nor ever Truth did dwell with Unrighteousnesse.

For seeming Truth, without the Rule of Right,
Like Summum jus is greatest injurie:
And Righteousnesse not guided by Truths light,
Is Curiousness or false Hypocrisie.
Faith that brings forth fruits of Iniquity,
Is base Presumption; Love, Dissimulation
That worketh not in us by Charitie,
All from one Head have life and sustentation,
And therefore all together make their habitation.

But none more like are, or of Kin more neare,
Then this faire pair of Truth and Righteousness;
The blessed Mother and her Daughter deare;
For Truth the Mother is of Uprightness:
And surely, Truth and honest Simpleness
To ev'ry Vertue doth so needfull grow,
That all faire shewes not done in Singleness
And Truth of heart, are but a false vaine show,
A splendid sinne corrupted by Mans heart below.

Thou, in whose Lips was never found least guile,
Whose Heart hates lying and iniquitie,
Whose Hands did never God or Man beguile,
Whose Hand, Heart, Word, and Thought is Veritie,
Whose blessed Spirit of Truth doth testifie
Unto our Spirits true way of Righteousness,
By which we come to live eternally,
Direct my Muse Truths nature to expresse,
That Truth may guide my steps to endlesse Happinesse.

My bounded Muse here dareth not define
Of boundlesse Truth from all Eternitie,
Which as impossible's to mete by Line,
As Persons three, which in the Trinitie
Make but one Truth and perfect Unitie.
But as one God consists of Persons three,
And each participates of Deitie;
So we one Truth communicated see
To Persons three, which but one in the God-head bee.

Of Father, Sonne, and Spirit of Truth we reade
But as one God, so but one Truth alone;
Into which Truth the Spirit of Truth doth leade,
Who sent is from the Father and the Sonne.
The Word of Truth that gloriously did won
With Spirit and Father from eternitie:
Flesh here tooke of our flesh, bone of our bone,
To free us from errours captiviite,
And chalk't us out a way to walke in Veritie.

This is the Truth whereof I meane to write,
Which ought to be of our whole Life the square,
To levell out our words, thoughts, acts aright,
And eke our Judgements to Gods Word to square:
For of this Truth foure parts there onely are,
Of Judgement, Action, Speech, and of the Heart,
The want of one, the rest doth all impaire;
Wrong judgement, words and actions doth divert,
But a false heart doth judgement, action, speech pervert.

And that I right and plainely may proceed,
I will all foure thus singled out define;
And first the Truth of Judgement I areade,
A power inlightning of Gods Spirit Divine,
Which doth Mans understanding part refine,
And settles in the Doctrine of his Word:
Behold, when Truth doth in our judgement shine,
All Heresie and Schismes by us abhord,
This Truth of Judgement sacred Knowledge doth afford.

Truth of the heart is a sweet singlenesse
And sincere meaning, whereby Man constraynes
His heart to approve it selfe in Holinesse,
To him that searcheth both the Heart and Raynes.
This in the inward Man the Truth contaynes,
And is to God most acceptable treasure:
This Truth from all Hypocrisie refraynes:
Here doth the Devill soonest take his seasure,
For, loe, the Heart of man's deceitfull above measure.

The Truth of speech is when our hearts agree
Unto the matter and unto our mind:
For if it from our Heart doe disagree,
Or from the thing whereto it is design'd,
The first to be plaine lying is defin'd.
The second, falshood at the best we name:
One doth abuse the Conscience and the Mind;
The other brings the Authour unto shame;
Both falsifie the Truth and are alike to blame.

The Truth of Actions, honest dealing, plaine,
Faithfull in all without dissimulation;
With God and Man whether we lose or gaine,
When we doe not deceive by simulation,
And feigning things without determination;
Or else dissembling whereabouts we goe:
These are from Truth a wicked declination,
And when we God or Man deceaven so,
What we would unto us, to others we not doe.

But as a naturall body doth consist
Of quarters foure, to make a man complete,
And if but one of all those foure be mist,
The other three lose all their life and heate:
Ev'n so it is with Truth where of I treate,
If of these foure substantiall parts want one,
The other three are vainnesse or deceat;
For Truth of Judgement, Heart, Speech, Action,
Make but one Truth without dissimulation.

But Truth of Judgement ground is and foundation
Of all the rest: For, be our Hearts sincere,
Our words and deeds without dissimulation,
If Errour in our Judgements doth appeare,
With Paul we may ev'n persecute the deare
And holy Servants of the Sonne of Truth,
And thinke we doe to God good service here.
Fie then on Fooles that so misse-spend their youth,
They never seeke to know or learne the way of Truth.

But be our Judgements ev'n as right and sound,
As Christs Disciples by their Master taught;
Yet if within us Judas hearts be found,
On us the greater judgement shall be wrought.
Who knowes his Masters will and doth it nought,
Oh, what doth he by this his knowledge gayne,
But ev'n the sting of his owne conscience brought
To desperation and infernall payne,
And to get out this sting puts on an hempen chayne:

What shall we say of those that doe professe
Truth of Religion, and a Heart sincere?
Yet in their dealings nothing lesse expresse,
But for their gayne deceive, lie, and forsweare:
Surely, these men a double heart doe beare:
For were the Heart, which is a lively Spring
Whence flow our words and deeds, oh were that cleare,
Then all the streames from thence forth issuing,
Would be pure like the fountain, from whence they do spring.

But things we best of all by causes know:
God is the Cause of each good gift and grace,
But here more mediate Causes I may show,
Whereby he in the Truth doth guide our pace.
By's Word we Truth of Judgement doe embrace,
Which is to wandring Soules a guide and light,
His Spirit on our Hearts doth Truth enchase,
Then Truth of Judgement makes us speake aright,
And Truth of Heart makes all our actions true and right.

Thus (as Effects) true Speech and Actions flow
From Truth of Judgement, and the Truth of Heart,
As all Mankinde from Eve and Adam grow:
But if the subtill Serpent can pervert
Our Hearts or Judgements, as he did divert
Our two first Parents, then as all their seede
Defiled is with their corrupted part,
So from our Heart and Judgement will proceede
Corrupted words and actions which such fountaynes breede.

Therefore to set our Judgement true and right,
We to the ground and pillar ought to come
Of Truth, which is the Church of God, so hight,
Because the treasures of all Truth there won,
Of all Gods Oracles which there have rome.
From which all Truth of Judgement we derive,
The Church a carefull Keeper doth become:
There's Truth that able is to save alive,
And away Errour, Darknesse, Superstition drive.

O blessed Truth, that holy Church preserves
From Satans malice, and the Moth of time,
O Glorious Church, whose soundnesse pure reserves
Truth of Religion, which doth make thee shine
In Righteousness, Faith, Hope, and Love Divine,
More then Pompe, Wealth, Universalitie:
For Truth doth deck Christs Spouse more trim and fine
Then Time, Consent, Succession, Unity,
Now foild with Superstition and Idolatrie.

With these false Ornaments the Church of Rome,
Like painted Harlot, shuns the open Light:
Nor will unto the Ground and Pillar come
Of Truth, to trie if shee be wrong or right.
Therefore, poore Laiks never must have sight
Of holy Writ, to frame their Judgement by:
Traditions and false Miracles them light,
And on the Churches word they must relie:
Thus Ignorance the Mother is of Poperie.

But as sound Truth abhors such Ignorance,
Ev'n so presumptuous Curiositie
Shee doth decline, nor ever doth advance
Her purest thoughts to things that be too high:
Her subject is no higher Mysterie
Then Spirit of Truth is pleased to reveal:
Into Gods secret Counsell for to prie,
Is like the Thief that fire from Heav'n did steale,
To whom ev'n Heathen judgements endlesse torments seale.

So universall is Truths glorious Fame,
That all things that the Heav'n and Earth contaynes,
Delight to be adorned by her Name:
Yea, God himself Truths title not disdaynes:
Loe, He Lord God of Truth for ay remaynes.
The Word of Truth, the Spirit of Truth, likewise
Wayes, judgements, works, commandments, Truth retaynes
In this, Saints, Angels, with God sympathize:
But Satan and his broode delight in contraries.

Thus as shee is adorn'd by Titles high,
So with her Glorie shee doth all adorne:
Nothing unto perfection cometh nigh,
Except by them the badge of Truth be borne.
And though some Worldlings doe her Liverie scorne,
As things against their pleasure, ease, and gayne,
For that plaine dealing is a Jewell worne,
But he that wears it beggerie shall gayne;
Yet Truth her credit still doth with the best retayne.

Yea Truth amongst the Writers of all times,
Hath beene in such great honour and account,
As without Truth yet never Prose or Rimes
To any Praise or Honour up did mount.
The holy Writ, wherein Truth doth surmount,
She safely doth 'gainst all her Foes defend.
How oft doth Davids Muse Gods Truth recount,
Whereby her glorie lasts to the worlds end?
Ah, my poore Muse, see thou alwayes on Truth attend.

There's not one Vertue that with Love doth dwell,
But honours Truth, and seekes her company:
Begin ev'n at Humilities low Cell,
And Mount to Mercy that doth sit on high,
All seeke the companie of Veritie.
Ev'n Love must be without dissimulation,
And Righteousness without Hypocrisie,
Unfeigned Faith, true coustant Expectation,
No Vertue without Truth comes neare Loves habitation.

Fair glosing shewes without Dame Veritie,
Are but as falsly feigned Holinesse,
Which surely doubles the iniquitie,
And never leades the way to Happinesse.
My Muse is farre unable to expresse
The prayses all of Peeres that Truth attends,
Whom shee adorns with wondrous Noblenesse:
But Righteousness upon her most depends,
And Mercy now and Truth have met and growne great friends.

But surely Truth hath not so many Friends,
But shee doth finde as many Enemies:
For Satan all his malice 'gainst her bends,
Supplanting Her by force or subtleties.
He father is of errours and of lyes,
And seekes herewith Truths glorie to distaine,
And therefore they maliciously devise
Interpretations false, and glosses vaine,
Traditions, mens inventions, 'gainst her to maintaine.

As Purgatorie first they did devise,
Purses for Pardon of mens sinnes to gleane:
So Limbo's they for Writers have likewise
Wherein to purge and make their Writings cleane,
(Index expurgatorius I meane)
In which if any Writer disagree
From their Traditions, whereupon they leane,
They in this Limbo Patrum purg'd must bee,
Or falsely else condemn'd to burne for Heresie.

Thus moderne Writs, sacred Antiquitie,
The Fathers, Schoole-men, Doctors, Histories,
They all of them in Purgatory frie,
And sore against the Truth doe tyrannize.
The ancient Fathers Truths antiquities,
That like John Baptist beare to her record,
They doe behead, or else them circumcise,
None scapes their Index but Gods holy Word,
And that must be translated with their Church t' accord.

But Errour striveth not more to deface
Our Truth of Judgement, than Iniquitie,
And proud prophanenesse seeketh to disgrace
True Dealing, Speech, and Hearts sinceritie:
Them branding with foule Follies infamie,
As none could live but those that can dissemble,
Reproaching them for Truth and Puritie,
That seeke hereby their pure Head to resemble,
When ev'n in Gods pure sight the purest Angels tremble.

Not that I goe about here to defend
Those feigned pure Ones, that most wickedly
Much Truth and Puritie in words pretend,
But in their Actions deale dishonestly;
Not those, that like the boasting Pharisie,
Call to their brother father off to stand,
Which soone discerne a Mote in Brother's eye,
But ev'n Beames in their owne not understand;
These for some false pretended Spots leave Church and Land.

Such rav'ning Wolves oft in long clothing goe,
And therefore hard by outward shewes to find;
We best them by their fruites may learne and know,
'Tis dangerous to censure in this kind.
For those that have a true pure Heart and Mind,
Make shew thereof as they that doe dissemble,
Therefore till all their Actions false I find,
To judge them Hypocrites mine heart doth tremble,
Lest to the Wicked I the Righteous should resemble.

For dealing true's like Touch-stone, which doth trie
The baser Mettall from the purest Gold:
Discerns a true Heart from Hypocrisie,
And fayned Puritie doth soone unfold.
And as by Touch-stones touch is easily told
What is pure Gold, from what is guilt for show;
Although the Gilt's more glorious to behold:
So Truth of Heart by Truth of Words we know,
And by the Actions which from them doe daily flow.

Truth's like the Treasure which the Husbandman,
As he was digging in the Field, did sound,
Which he keepes close, and sells all that he can,
And with the Money goes and buys the Ground.
Shee's like the precious Pearle the Merchant found,
And then sold all, this Gemme for to obtayne.
The wise Man heav'nly Counsell doth propound,
That wills us use all means her to obtayne,
And buy the Truth with losse of honour, pleasure, gayne.

Truth is like Salt that seasons ev'ry thing,
And makes it savoury to God and Man;
Preserves our Soules from Breath putrifying
Of busie Flies, that labour what they can
To breede corruption in the inward Man.
Shee leavens all the whole Lumps preparation,
The Soule and Body, Flower and the Bran,
Affection, Reason, Will, Communication,
Heart, Mind, Opinion, Judgement, Life, and Conversation.

As precious Ointment powr'd on Aarons head,
Ran downe upon his Beard and did not stay,
Till all the Skirts it of his cloathing spread:
So sacred Truth her vigour doth display
From head, whereas our Judgement makes her stay
Unto the Beard and Tongue, where speech have place,
Then to the Heart and Hands shee holds her way,
From whence our Actions all have life and grace;
Thus to the Skirts of our long clothing Truth doth trace.

Gods Truth compares her to a Belt or Zone,
Which Souldiers use for strength and ornament,
Whose golden Studs most gloriously shone,
And joyne the Armour in faire complement.
Loe, whilst this Girdle is about us pent,
Christians whole Armour hangs on fast and sure:
But if this Girdle from our Loynes be rent,
Off fals our Armes, and Satan or Worlds lure
Then wounds us desperately, or makes us sleep secure.

Divinest Spencer, thou didst shadow well
In Legend of true Love and Chastitie:
By girdle faire of fairest Florimell,
This sacred Belt of Truth and Veritie,
Which none on looser Ladies loynes could tie,
Yet their faire Limbs that had liv'd true and chaste,
It did adorne most rich and gloriously,
And was most fitting for their slender waste,
But they, Ungirt unblest, were that had beene unchaste.

For as the girdle doth inclose around
Mans body, where our soules high powers doe dwell:
Wherein as good or evil doe abound,
Ev'n all our actions flow thence ill or well:
So Truth about our soules keeps Centinell,
And ev'ry act we doe, shee doth make knowne
To that just Judge, from whom we can conceale
Not ev'n the secret thoughts are in us growne:
For nought so close or secret is to Truth unknown.

Thus Touch-stone, Treasure, Pearle, Salt, Leaven, Zone,
Doe all fall short with faire Truth to compare:
For Truth's in all's compar'd to God alone,
And none but God her glorie can declare:
Who for Truth's sake his owne Sonne did not spare,
But offerd him, false man to reconcile,
That Truth and Mercy might meete and prepare
Strict Justice on poore wretched Man to smile,
Whom Satan with false lyes and errour did beguile.

What doth the Word of Truth to us commend,
More then this inward Truth and Singlenesse?
Abram for this is styl'd by God a Friend,
And Job a man of Truth and Perfectnesse.
If I should here the Readers patience presse
With all examples therein to be found,
Surely, my Verses should be numberlesse:
Wherefore a few I for the Truth propound,
That you like Men of Berea may the Scripture sound.

Where you shall find of Truth examples store,
Ev'n Christ himself for Truth was crucifide,
Baptist beheaded, Paul endured more
For Truth then the Apostles all beside.
When Peter had the Lord of Truth denide,
He went out and did weepe more bitterly,
Then when his Master to him signifide
By girding him, what death he ought to die,
Whereby he should the Truth of God much glorifie.

And this hath made the Martyrs of all Ages
(Till death, their Truth of Judgement to maintayne;)
Sealing with blood the Truth of sacred pages,
And whilst they here indur'd most cruell payne,
They joyfull were in hope of glorious gayne,
Yea many have embraced losse and shame,
In singlenesse of heart Truth to maintayne.
But what though here they doe endure some blame?
The true in heart shall gayne an everlasting name.

David a man call'd after Gods owne heart,
For inward Truth and Singlenesse within.
No beautie, eloquence, or outward part
Can so commend a man: For Truth doth winne
The love of God and Man: But that foule sinne
Of lying Lips and a deceitfull Heart,
Is an abomination unto him.
In ev'ry triall Truth maintaynes her part,
But all dissemblers (Adam-like) aside doe start.

Loe, many Daughters have done vertuously,
But glorious Truth doth farre surmount them all
Yet if I onely sing of Veritie,
And labour not to practise it at all,
But from my Loynes her Girdle loosen shall,
It had beene better I had never knowne
The way of Truth, then afterwards to fall
And leave the Light, that unto me was showne,
Choking those seeds of Grace the Spirit of Truth had sowne.

But ah, the Devill and his Instruments
Continually doe seeke our Truth to spoile;
And by feare, force, and Worlds allurements,
Our Soules of this rich Jewell to beguile.
Loe, Romanists adulterate and defile
Ev'n Truth's pure Fountaynes and sweet lively Spring:
And Worldlings true sinceritie doe foile
With odious name of false dissembling,
And ev'n with basest termes Gods Priests dishonouring.

Ah, now we with the fashion all doe run;
As Buildings, Wares, Apparell, are for show,
So is Religion and Devotion;
Where is most pompe and glorie, thither flow
The greatest multitude; From whence doth grow
To such a height the name of Poperie;
Yea, many of us seeke for praise to know;
But leave true practice in sinceritie,
When not to know, but doe Gods will is charitie.

Fashion and Custome now so tyrannize,
As comely honest Truth they doe out-face:
If it the Fashion be us to disguise,
It as a comely Custome we embrace;
That which Paul thought a Womans foule disgrace,
Like Man to have her head uncover'd, shorne,
Amongst our Women holds a goodly grace,
Like unto mens their garments now be worne,
As they in Truth the frailtie of their Sexe did scorn.

But I could wish with all our power and might,
As in Gods presence pure we all did stand,
We would goe, thinke, know, speake, and practise right
In Truth of Judgement, with Tongue, Heart, and Hand;
This God did unto Abraham command,
To walke before him and to be upright:
Walking before God makes us upright stand;
Uprightness shewes we walke as in Gods sight:
Who thinks God him beholds, how dares he doe unright?

Let me here tell you, how a holy man
A Harlot did divert from filthy quest;
Who by her comely feature many wan
To leave their owne, and foile her filthy nest.
Himselfe in habit of a Gallant drest,
Agreed and paid, desir'd a secret rome,
Shee him unto a Chamber streight addrest,
So close that therein not the least light shone,
But ah (said he) Gods eye us here may see alone.

Alas (said shee) no place can be so close,
That can us hide from Gods all-seeing Eye;
Dost thou beleeve (saith he) Gods sees thy grosse,
Thy beastly foule sinne of adulterie,
And fear'st not lest his furie should destroy,
Ev'n whilst in this presumptuous sinne thou art,
And thee condemne to Hell eternally?
My Authour saith, hereby he did convert
Her wicked life to Truth and Singlenesse of Heart.

But I confesse, that though with all my might
I labour for true puritie of mind,
And would doe nothing but as in the sight
Of God and Angels, Satan and Mankind;
Yet often my deceitfull heart I finde
Tempting me secretly such things to doe,
Which I should not adventure in that kind,
If some Man present were the same to know,
Yet Truth the closest of them all to God doth show.

What, shall mans presence make me true and just?
And shall not Gods, that sees my secret thought,
To whom for all one day account I must,
And be rewarded as I here have wrought?
Shall not his presence me deterre from ought,
That may offend his sacred Majestie?
The Sonne of Truth whose blood me dearely bought,
And grieve the holy Spirit of Truth, whereby
Seal'd and redeem'd I am from Hels captivitie.

Oh thou that Truth requir'st in inward parts,
Us secretly mak'st Wisedome understand,
Renewing Spirits aright and clensing Hearts,
By whom in Truth and Righteousnesse we stand,
My way direct right to the holy Land,
Through Desarts wide of this Worlds wildernesse;
Feede me with heav'nly Manna from thine Hand,
With water from a Rocke my soule refresh,
And thorow Jordanes flood conduct to endlesse blesse.

The humble thou hast promised to guide,
And to direct his path aright for ay.
Who seeke unfeignedly in Truth t' abide,
Thou never sufferest to goe astray;
Oh then direct my goings in thy way,
My judgement, heart, hand, tongue, in Veritie;
Then grant me Love, Faith, Hope, Humilitie,
And season ev'ry Grace with Hearts sinceritie.

God is my Shepheard, How then can I stray?
He is my Light, Truth, and my righteous Guide,
His rod and staffe my slipperie feete doth stay,
Lest they at any time doe slip aside:
His Truth and Mercy evermore abide;
Though Wine and Women and the King are strong,
I nothing feare if Truth be on my side;
Thy Truth and Mercy shall my dayes prolong:
Of thy great Truth and Mercy ever be my song.

Oh, let thy Word of Truth my Judgement sway,
Thy Spirit of Truth mine inward Man inlight,
Incline mine Heart to learne, will, to obay,
And on thy Truth set thou my whole delight,
On it to meditate both day and night:
That whether I eate, sleepe, walke, watch, or pray,
I may remember I am in thy sight,
So shall I conscience make of every way,
And be most carefull what I aske, doe, think, or say.

But ah, Dread Mercy, I too long forbeare
To tune my Dittie to thy sacred praise,
Who were so gracious unto me whileare
When I appeal'd from Justice stricter Sayes,
Unto thy Throne of Grace, where though my wayes
Were all discover'd, by thy gracious dome
I was absolv'd. But next I will thee praise,
Now I with Truth and Righteousness have done:
For none without these two to Mercies grace can come.

[pp. 132-47]