1621
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. V. Of Fortitude.

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

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett mentions Braggadochio as an example of what fortitude is not: "Thus Braggadochio himself doth boast, | To be fit Leader of a mightie Hoast." A striking passage omitted in the 1654 Divine and Moral Speculations, hails Elizabeth for her masculine valour.



All Valiant Captains of the sacred Host
Of Loves high Queene that fight 'gainst Hate and Hell,
Christs Souldiers muster up from ev'ry coast,
And them to stand in complete Armes compell,
That Satans fiery darts they may repell.
But as in worldly Battailes, Armes are vaine,
If Cowards hearts doe faint, or courage quell:
So in this spirituall Warfare, all are slaine,
That with true Fortitude this fight cannot maintayne.

I therefore her, Loves valiant Generall,
And chief Commandresse of her Forces name,
For that the most brave Sp'rits heroicall,
Have alwayes beene most honour'd by the same;
Amongst the Heathen men, that sought vaine Fame,
This Vertue was in such great estimation,
Of heav'nly Seede they thought their Heros came,
Expecting not from humane propagation
Such worth: except the Gods concurr'd in Generation.

And therefore those, whose valour did transcend
The ordinarie reach of humane Race,
By Pedigrees are lin'd out to descend
From Joves or some great Deities embrace:
Thus in a mist they seeme the Truth to trace,
For Vertues all (but chiefly Fortitude)
Are not begotten, but infus'd by Grace,
And in Kings hearts in larger amplitude,
As they it more doe neede than common multitude.

For as small Waters faire and goodly seeme,
When little Channels doe their course maintayne;
Yet would a Man them scarcely Waters deeme,
If they ran drisling in some River mayne:
Ev'n so a Subjects heart, that doth contayne
True Fortitude, but in a measure small,
Great glorie to himselfe thereby may gayne,
But if in Princes heart the same should fall,
It scarcely would be counted Fortitude at all.

Wherefore, the Hearts of Kings are said to bee
Like mightie Rivers in th' Almighties hand,
From which as from a little Ocean, hee
Disposeth Water over all the Land:
His Nobles, which, him round like Brookes doe stand,
Refresh and water ev'ry Dale and Plaine,
As from their Soveraigne they have command,
But all draw Water from one Ocean maine,
Whither all Tribute must returne with praise againe.

And therefore since I find it all but vaine
To seeke for any good and perfect Grace,
But from the bountie of my Soveraigne,
I here beseech th' Almightie guide my trace,
In finding out this Vertues royall Race,
That I her wondrous Glorie may expresse
So here, as all may strive her to embrace,
As th' onely strength of humane happinesse,
Till with Loves gracious Trayne shee bring us unto blesse.

Thus, strong in God, and Power of his might,
I Fortitude doe truely first explaine
To be a strength of mind or valiant Sprite,
Whereby courageously we doe sustaine
Hard things, for Vertues sake, and not for gaine:
Betwixt Boldnesse and Feare, a moderation,
True Fortitude doth from base Feare retaine,
Meeknesse from murmuring at Gods castigation,
And Patience mitigates the know of our passion.

Patience is past, and Meeknesse comes behind,
I therefore Fortitude here twofold name,
One of the Body, th' other of the Mind:
This Fortitude of Body is the same
We common have with Beasts both wilde and tame,
Encreast by feeding, strength, good constitution;
In stout sustayning is her greatest fame,
Next in on-setting with brave resolution:
This helps in Warre, but minds it best in persecution.

I twofold likewise call that of the Mind,
One true, the other that which Men doe fayne,
When for false ends we nobly are enclin'd,
Or when these Causes following constrayne;
Passion, Experience, Ignorance, Art, Gayne.
Passion of Feare, of Furie, Hope, and Anger;
By these we mightie things doe oft darraigne,
Experience, Art, make us to dread no danger,
By Ignorance, and for Gayne we boldly Life endanger.

For feare of danger, and t' avoid disgrace,
The Coward faint will like a Dragon fight;
Who can withstand the furie of the Base?
Experience, Art prevail oft against might;
And Ignorance of danger doth incite
The fearefull, great atchievements to adventer,
Custome of winning makes us oft in spite
Of Fate and Fortune into Battels enter:
By Sea, for hope of gayne, some to the Indies venter.

But Fortitude which doth prepare the Mind
For God and Goodnesse chearefully to die,
Is that brave Vertue formerly defin'd,
Which Death nor Hell it selfe can terrifie:
By this we onely on the Lord relie,
And strong in God, and Power of his might,
Put on our armes to fight most valiantly,
Faith, Hope, and Truth, with Patience, Justice Right,
And with the spirituall Sword undantedly doe fight.

Though, of our selves, we no more able are
These mightie Armes to weare and weild aright,
Then little David was King Sauls to beare,
When he Goliah met in single fight;
Yet, if Gods power we consider right,
And set by all the worldly strength we have,
Relying on his providence and might,
As David, we may say, with courage brave,
Who me from Beare and Lyon, from all harme shall save.

For from the Lord is all sufficiency,
Our Enemies in Christ we nothing feare,
But fight Gods Battailes most couragiously,
In whom we able to doe all things are:
And as he shame endur'd and crosse did beare,
So Souldiers of our valiant Generall,
We with undaunted resolution dare
Oppose the World, Flesh, Sinne, and Devils all:
Whose Faith stands firme in Christ, what dread can him apall?

Though spirituall Enemies doe more abound
In number, Malice, Strength, and Policy,
Yet by these spirituall weapons we confound
Them all, triumphing on them valiantly:
This spirituall strength growes in us inwardly,
As doth the new and inward Man revive,
Which stronger growes as our corruptions die,
And by the Fleshes weaknesse most doth thrive,
And when the Body's dead preserves our Soules alive.

Our Soule, the subject of true Fortitude,
Not giv'n by Nature, but infus'd by Grace,
The spirit of Man it is that doth include
This most heroike Vertue: 'Tis not place,
Wealth and preferment, or a noble Race,
And Breeding, that doth raise so high the Mind,
To count all fading Objects vaine and base,
And wholly be to heav'nly things inclin'd,
Whereby our strength above all earthly things we find.

True Fortitude is borne ev'n from above,
And in Loves Court is of such high regard,
That none couragious are, but they that love,
And of their valour hope for Loves reward.
Love conquers all: oh! What can be compar'd
To mightie Acts of Love? whose jealous ire
Consumes all that her Grace doe not regard,
Oh! what is stronger than Loves hot desire?
None e're without her did to noble acts aspire.

Love, Fortitude her valiant Generall,
In all her spirituall Battels doth employ,
On whom these Graces wait, and follow all
To fight against our spirituall Enemy,
Long Suffering, Patience, Magnaminitie,
Assured Faith, Hope, Constancy and Peace,
But most of all, shee loves Humilitie:
For as great Acts her glorie more increase,
So shee inclines to Meeknesse, and true Lowlinesse.

What is't that I have not receav'd (saith shee?)
All help's from God; Mans strength is weake and vaine:
If he be so for us, Who can 'gainst us bee?
Oh, who can to true Fortitude attaine,
But he that from above doth it obtaine?
Boldnesse therefore and Intimiditie,
Which leaves Gods glorie, seeking private gaine,
Is to true Fortitude an enemie,
As well as Cowardize and Effeminitie.

For as all Cowards timorous and faint,
Discourage Friends and hearten Enemies,
So foolish, rash, unexpert, unaquaint
With spirituall Battailes, and the policies
Of cruell Satan, and his complicees,
Doe desp'rately themselves and fellowes traine,
Unarm'd where Satan in close ambush lies,
Where some are stung, some poyson'd, and some slaine,
All as his captiv'd Slaves in bands hee doth retaine.

Thus those that one their owne strength doe relie,
And have within themselves vaine confidence,
Proud Boasters oft Goliah-like defie
Their Enemies: but take a fall at length.
God onely is our Rocke of firme defence.
Beastely presumption 'tis for to depend
On fleshes arme, in things of consequence:
But devillish madnesse 'tis, for to defend
Our spirituall strength, and as our owne it to commend.

This spirituall Pride of all most dangerous,
As bodily, in them doth harbour most,
Who are least valiant and couragious.
Thus Braggadochio himself doth boast,
To be fit Leader of a mightie Hoast;
And Merit-mongers out of foolish Pride,
Will merit more than their first Father lost,
And lay up store, for many Soules beside,
Who for their money may to heav'n have entrance wide.

(No flouds of teares are able to disgrace
The resolution of brave Fortitude,
Which like pure Diamonds adorne her Face,
And from her all hard-heartednesse seclude:
Oh, may mine eyes like Fountaynes bee endude
With floods in Warre my panting Soule to coole.
'Tis Satans policie first to exclude
From quenching waters the besieged Soule,
Then burn the town with fire, when he hath stopt the Poole.)

When valiant Gideon went out to fight
With Midian, God made a Proclamation,
Who dreaded or did feare the Enemies might;
Returne should to their People and their Nation;
And shall we in this spirituall dimication,
Hope to withstand our ghostly Enemies,
Except our Hearts be strengthned 'gainst tentation,
To fight with Powers, Principalities,
And by true Fortitude to treade downe injuries?

Wherefore the sonne of Sirach, doth compare
The heart of Fooles to an high plast'red wall,
Which stormes of wind and winter cannot beare,
But shaking, tottering, at length doth fall;
Imaginations vaine his heart apall:
But a wise heart, that is established
By counsell, to a strong and stately Hall,
With Beames and Ligaments so coupeled
As it of Winds and Tempests never stands in dread.

As Harts huge Hornes him profit not at all,
By reason of his faint and fearefull heart;
So Christian Armour yeelds defence as small,
If diffidence our Fortitude pervert,
And as none proudlier march then stately Hart,
In Summer faire of his prosperitie,
But if he hear a Dogge, or see a Dart,
Doth faint for feare and flyeth cowardly;
So doth the Man whom God doth Fortitude denie.

The heart of man's like Pilot in a Ship,
Whose cunning in calme weather is unseene,
But if Winds blow, and Waves to Heav'n up skip,
And all in danger great of drowning beene,
Then both his skill and courage may be seene:
Then though the Sailes be rent and Ship be torne,
He faints not till the wished Port he win:
So though our Flesh here's tortur'd and forlorne,
Yet by true Fortitude we to our Hav'n are borne.

As Branches of the Palme, the more opprest
With burthens, nearer Heav'n themselves doe raise;
So Fortitude in valiant Christians brest,
The more assaulted, merits greater praise:
And as those Boughes are stronger found alwayes,
That are oppos'd to Boreas boystrous blast,
Then those on whom the South and Westwinde playes,
So that Mans mind doth stand most firme and fast,
Who hath through greatest perils and tentations past.

Now onely of this Sparke is my discourse,
This Vertue, Manlinesse the Grecians call;
For they that ran not valiantly their course,
The Heathen scarse accounted men at all:
By Latines; Fortitudes originall
Comes from a Body strong, and valiant Mind;
They therefore count those most heroicall,
Who most in warre to valour are inclin'd,
Or whom most resolute 'gainst Fortunes stormes they find.

With them a Man of warre was seldome found,
Able in Peace to conquer Injurie;
The godly in examples doe abound,
Of suffering and doing valiantly.
Let captiv'd Lot declare how valourously,
From mightie Kings him Abram succoured,
Which shewes his strength and magnanimitie,
But his mind's valour, when he suffered
Cold, Famine, Banishment, his owne Sonne slaughtered.

Most Princely Jacob with God wresteled,
And therefore better might with men prevaile,
Yet how was he by Laban injured?
His brother Esau did his life assaile,
Yet strong in God his heart did never faile,
Not, when at Mahanim he met Gods Hoast;
And Esau, with foure hundred, did he quaile.
Of Josuah's valour may all Judah boast,
But of them all herein may David glorie most.

Apocryphall are Stories, not the Facts,
Of Machabaeus and his Brethren;
Whose noble Fortitude and valiant Acts,
Transcend the courage of all mortall Men.
Oh! wondrous prowesse which they shewed then,
For to defend their Lawes and Libertie,
Their Temples, Cities, Wives, and Childeren,
From prophanation by Idolatrie,
And from the bondage of an Heathen enemie.

I might of Moses, Caleb, Gedeon tell,
Jeptha, Job, Samson, Davids Worthies three,
That through an Hoast drew Water from a Well;
Ev'n millions of examples you may see
Of Saints, which in Gods Booke our paternes be.
As Children three which would endure the flame
Before they would commit Idolatrie;
Of all the Apostles onely Paul I name,
Whose Fortitude in God deserves eternall fame.

What? are the Servants greater then their Lord?
No: all the strength that did in them abound,
He of his fulnesse did to them afford,
In whom all perfect Fortitude was found:
Whom when he did converse with Men on ground,
No Devill, Power, terrour could dismay:
And that he might, at last, Hels powers confound,
His Life, on cursed Crosse, ev'n downe did lay;
Sad Night! But loe: His rising brings a joyfull Day.

Which to sweet Nectar turnes our Cup of Gall:
Loe! This is true brave Fortitude of mind,
That as Christ chearefully did suffer all,
That God for our Redemption had assign'd;
So all our strength and will must be inclin'd,
All crosses valiantly to suffer here,
But where we them against Gods glorie find:
For with such injuries Christ could not beare;
And therefore Merchants did with whips from Temple scare.

What? Shall I here all Woman kind exclude,
As Subjects meane for this Heroike Grace?
No: In the mind is seat of Fortitude,
And oft in Female brests obtains high place,
'Tis not proud Looks, mens Tire, stout Speech, bold Face,
Can Women for true Fortitude commend:
No Vertue like to Modesty doth grace
That Sexe, and best their Honour doth defend:
In this the bravest Women alwayes did transcend.

See faire Rebecca cover'd with a vaile;
Judge Debora under an Oken tree;
Most modest Judith durst the Head assaile
Of Holofernes: Hester next I see
Bring Haman unto shame for Mordochee:
Shall I name one that doth surmount them all?
Loe, our late Queene Elizabeth was shee,
Yet was most modest, shamefac't, Virginall:
All Female boldnesse Impudence, not Grace we call.

This Androgune, Masculine-Foeminine,
Sometimes of Doubtfull, oft of Common Gender,
Who turn'd her face where Womanhood should shine
To bold out-facing: And her locks did tender
Unto the Scisers: Our Faiths great Defender,
Because shee was of Fortitude the scorne,
And Ape of Manhood, did so reprehend her,
As now of vertuous Ladies have her lorne,
Forgotten, and disgraced, as shee were never borne.

Great Faiths Defender! who dost here defend,
As Faith, so Valour and true Fortitude;
Oh, were my Muse but able to commend
Thy Princely Heart, and Minds brave magnitude,
Wherewith th' Almightie hath thy brest indude;
Or tell the courage of thy valiant Sonne
Our Prince; which stretcheth to such amplitude,
That had my Song with his great Praise begun,
My Life on Earth had ended ere my Muse had done.

But we returne to Fortitude within,
By which we fight 'gainst spirituall enemies,
World, Devil, Flesh, and our originall Sinne,
Hell, Empires, Powers, Principalities.
To our spirituall Peace all enmities:
Against these, for our safegard, we embrace
All spirituall Graces, as sure remedies;
Ah! how dare they looke Satan in the face,
That are quite destitute of all true saving Grace?

Alas! what strength have they then that depend
Upon the Pope and his Supremacie,
Or hope his holy Water can defend
Them from this strong and subtle enemie?
Saints, Reliques, Bulls, Beades, and such trumperie,
Are now the onely weapons they must weare;
Their Agnus Deis doe so terrifie
The Devill, and away ill spirits scare,
For other spiritual Armour, now they need not care.

How hope they to be able to withstand
The Serpents malice, and the Worlds despite,
Who lay by Armes, and loose and idle stand,
Not buckeling themselves unto the fight?
As Armes were, like apparell, for delight,
Or for sport onely, and a glittering show,
These fainting hearts that are afraid to fight,
Vaine Fooles that never yet Hels strength did know,
Which at the first encounter them will overthrow.

Alas! ev'n too too many now a dayes,
Like Gallants of our time, make goodly show
In glitt'ring Armes, and bragge great might in Frayes;
But come where danger to their life may grow,
They then away both Armes and Weapons throw.
Thus they abuse the knowledge God doth lend,
Unto their ruine and their overthrow,
Wanting true valour Truth for to defend,
And Christian Fortitude to hold out to the End.

My onely wish is, ever to be strong
In God and in the power of his Might,
Casting off all things that doe not belong
Unto the Christian Battaile I must fight:
Oh! who in warres can serve his Prince aright,
That doth himself with Worlds affaires entangle?
With spirituall Weapons we maintayne this fight,
And not with cunning at the Bar to jangle,
We here must fight for Life, and not for profit wrangle.

I here confesse mine inward strength is vaine,
Unable to withstand such enemies,
That I to seeke out of my selfe am faine,
For helpe against Hels powr's and policies;
So many are my knowne infirmities,
I mine owne strength doe utterly distrust,
Hoping thy Grace, that all our wants supplies,
Will strengthen me against Hell, Sinne, and Lust,
Since in no finite Power, but infinite I trust.

Oh, grant me firme on thine Omnipotence,
In crosses and afflictions to relie,
And wholly to renounce all confidence,
Mans strength, or hope in Princes, can supply:
Who, under shadow of thy Wings doe lie,
No forraine Power, nor inward dread can feare,
Thy strength is seen most in infirmitie,
In thee wee able to doe all things are,
By force of thy great Might we ought adventure dare.

God is my Refuge, Strength and Fortitude,
My Rocke, Shield, Buckler, and in whom I trust,
Who hath my Foes all unto me subdu'd,
Making our Enemies to licke the dust.
Most firme defence unto the Meeke and Just;
All superstitious vanities are vaine,
Who put in God their confidence and trust,
Firme, stalbe, sure, like Sions Mount remayne,
No powers of Hell can shake where this foundation's layne.

Great is the Power wherein we doe trust,
A mghtie Power and exceeding strong,
Able to raise our Bodies from the dust,
And to Eternitie our life prolong:
All pow'r from God, to God all doth belong,
Why then should'st thou my Soule distrust or quaile?
On him relie, and none can doe thee wrong:
Thine Heart and Conscience Satan may assaile,
But by Gods helpe, thou shalt against them all prevaile.

So by this mightie Power we shall at length
Be Victors, though Sinne seeme us here to foile:
Lord grant me this spirituall Pow'r and Strength,
That though my Body suffer here a while,
And like a Coward oft doth take the foile;
I may with courage so my Soule defend,
No Power me may of spirituall Arms despoile.
Lord grant I practise may what I commend,
So I, with prayse my Booke and Meditation end.

Thus as one of the Bridegromes meanest Friends,
I to adorne the Bride doe offer here
These Ornaments: The gift no worth commends,
But He to whom the Widdowes mite was deare,
Because shee all her substance offred there,
Will well accept of this poore Offering,
That when I shall at that great day appeare
Before the Judge, to give my reckoning,
This time may be allow'd me for Gods honouring.

[pp. 192-204]