1622
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Peace with her Foure Garders: Meditation 1. Of Peace and Concord.

Peace with her Foure Garders. viz. Five Morall Meditations: Of Concord, Chastitie, Constancie. Courtesie. Gravitie. Eschew Evill, and Doe Good, Seeke Peace and Ensue It.

Robert Aylett


There are 215 Spenserians in Peace with her Foure Garders, a new sequence of five meditations of Christian virtues. The whole sequence comprises one of the longest didactic poems in the English language; it was reprinted in the seventeenth century and presumably found readers (John Milton among them) though seldom mentioned since.

Robert Aylett's first meditation contains a fable of the fox and the serpent.



When first Worlds great Creatour fashioned
This little Mansion for our Soules of Clay;
Man in his image he so ordered,
He had both Will and Power to obay:
Thus this sweet concord might have lasted ay,
If to his Power, had been joynd his Will,
Which failing in Obedience to stay,
He brake the Peace, whereby he all did fill
With Fury, Warres and Strifes, which doe continue still.

Thus, by mans wilfull fault, Hostility
Betweene him and his Maker first began,
Such breach hath Sinne made with the Deity,
As reconcile, not all the creatures can:
Besides, they all are Foes become to man,
For that he 'gainst their Maker did rebell:
Poore Adam, guilty, naked, wo and wan,
The Noise of God to covert doth compell:
A guilty Conscience is more terrible than hell.

Adam ev'n then did feele a double paine,
One paine of Losse, another paine of Sense,
And now against him Battailes all maintaine,
Heav'n, Hell, World, Creatures, Wife and Conscience,
Are out with him for Disobedience:
Till God, who first elected Man in Love,
For mercies sake, now by Obedience,
From him doth paine of Losse, and Sense remove,
And brings to endlesse Peace, and rest, in heav'n above.

Of wondrous value is this Pearle of Peace,
Which to redeeme, the Lord of Life was sold,
Most sweet peace-offring; when for our release
Christs precious bloud was as a ransome told.
Not that we heere should Peace and quarter hold
With Hell, World, Lust, true Peace's mortall foes:
Such Peace doth us in dang'rous warres infold:
Except we these most valiantly oppose,
For seeming Peace on earth, we doe the heav'nly lose.

Therefore the great Peace-maker did not come
To send us Peace on earth, but Swords and Strife;
Debate betwixt the Father and the Sonne,
Mother and Daughter, Husband and the Wife:
Perpetuall warfare is a Christians life,
With Armes and Weapons, he must fortifie
Against his foes, which will assaile him rife:
Right end of Warres and all hostility,
Is gaine of happy Peace, and sweet tranquillity.

Thou, that before, through warres and dread affray,
Hast for us enter'd on true Peace and rest,
By thine owne bloudy wounds us op'ning way,
And paines, wherewith thy foes did thee infest;
Inspire sweet heav'nly peace into my brest,
That thence, as from a Lymbick may distill
Sweet drops of peace, on hearts that are opprest,
And with true love of heav'nly peace so fill,
As feeling her sweet Good, they never faint for ill.

Peace may be call'd the minds serenity,
The concord of th' affections and the will,
The Band of Love, the hearts simplicity,
The Soules chiefe good, the conscience free from ill;
Thus is she simply: but if so you will
Discerne her nature plainer; we divide
Her by the friends, to whom she beares good-will,
Thus we in Peace with God doe first abide,
Next, with our selves, and, last with all the world beside.

And yet this peace with God, our selves, and men,
Is but one, and the same true heav'nly peace:
That happy peace, we have with God, is when
We freed by Faith, are justifide of Grace:
True inward peace then in our hearts hath place,
When as our Consciences excuse within:
Then peace with men we rightly doe embrace,
When to have peace with all men we begin:
Thus have we peace with Jewes, and Turkes, but hate their sinne.

Eternall, inward, and externall peace,
Eternall Peace is that with God alone,
From which our inward Life hath and increase,
The third's the peace we have with ev'ry one;
No farther yet than it concernes our owne:
For when we wrong'd or injuride behold
Those, that with us in godly League are growne.
We breake our League, if peace with them we hold,
For by such worldly peace our love to God growes cold.

God is the Author, Christ the King of Peace,
The Seeds of peace, are by the Spirit sowne,
Which, water'd by his Servants heere, increase
Till they into abundant fruits are growne.
How beautifull the feet of them doe showne,
That Peace's joyfull tidings to us bring!
This Pearle of Peace, where ever it is knowne,
Doth passe all understanding; Christ our King
Did honour Peace on earth with his sweet publishing.

Health, Quiet, Happinesse, Prosperitie,
All Concord, Liberty and good successe,
Peace to us brings with minds-tranquillity,
And frees our Soules from dismall heavinesse:
It is the doore to inward happinesse,
True inward Peace our hearts doth mollifie,
And make like Wax, that Joy on them may presse
The privy Seale; whereby, assuredly,
We sealed are to live with God eternally.

The Gentiles that farre off, and strangers were,
Peace by Christs precious bloud now maketh nie:
For he's our peace whereby all one we are.
For so all fulnesse of Divinity
Inhabited in's Body really;
That on the Crosse by his most precious blood,
He all in heav'n and earth did pacifie:
Abysse profound, not to be understood,
But where sweet inward Peace of Conscience makes it good.

For in the heart and Conscience is the Seat
Of all the Peace, that mortals can befall:
Alas! what bootes it, though our peace seeme great
Abroad, if that within we nourish shall
Hate Diffidence, Contentions, Envy, Gall,
Without this inward peace and holinesse?
We may not hope to see the Lord at all,
Peace-makers onely shall have happinesse.
True peace on earth the earnest is of heav'nly Blesse.

Sweet voyce of peace! than which, we nothing heare
In heav'n or earth more glad and acceptable!
What more delightfull can to us appeare?
What here than to possesse, more profitable?
As sprite of man to quicken is not able
The members, without peace and unity;
So never stand the Churches members stable,
Unlesse sweet inward peace them vivifie,
And cause them all to live in peace and amitie.

Inseparable friends are Righteousnesse
And peace, they one another meet and kisse:
Except thou Justice love, thou do'st professe
In vaine thy love to peace: Him that doth misse
True love to Justice, peace will never blisse:
What more than Peace do all mankind admire?
But Righteousnesse to them a stranger is:
Sweet Fruits of Peace all earnestly require,
But to the workes of Justice no man hath desire.

With peace are alwayes Mercy, Grace, and Love,
Faith, Meeknesse, Humblenesse, Joy, Holinesse,
Except these Graces her companions prove,
She's but seeming-quiet Lazinesse,
Ev'n stupifide with worldly happinesse:
Like dreames and slumbers, in a morning faire,
Which feed our Fantasies with seeming blesse,
But when we wake, lo, nothing but the ayre,
Our golden hopes are flowne, we left in more Despaire.

This is a seeming peace: there is a feign'd,
Which wolves do in sheeps clothing oft propound:
Ah! many Soules by such false peace are train'd,
To build their peace upon uncertaine ground.
Such semblance make, as if there did abound
With them, Joy, Peace, Truth, and Sinceritie;
But seeke, and nothing lesse with them is found,
Vaine outward glory, wealth, prosperitie,
Is all their ayme and end, not minds Tranquillitie.

Curst be their Union, cursed is their peace:
For by their concord, plots, and unity,
True Justice hindred is, in her increase,
For thus they foster all iniquity.
These make a shew of peace, but come to try
Them by their actions, they are instruments
Of Warres, Rebellions, Treasons, Cruelties;
Like Simeon, Levi, cov'ring their intents,
With making Proselites, and sewing Churches rents.

Foure mortall enemies there are to peace,
Base avarice, pale envie, wrath, and pride:
If from us we for ever banish these,
We may in happy peace for ay abide:
These two words, Mine and Thine, do more divide
The minds of brethren, neighbors, priests and flocke,
Than all that you can reckon me beside:
These two the bands of Amity unlocke,
And all the world together in a fury shocke.

Ev'n as mans body, whose just temp'rature
Consists of humid, frigid, hot and dry;
So long as they in Concord do indure,
Doth thrive and grow: but if ambitiously
They strive amongst themselves for soveraignty,
Their civill breach doth cause Deaths execution.
So is't in City, Church, or Family,
Sweet Peace and Concord breed sound constitution:
But Envy, Discord, Pride, a fearefull dissolution.

And as in Musicke divers diffring Sounds,
By Concord make one pleasant Harmonie,
But he that straines above the rest, confounds
His owne, and all the others melody:
So it befalleth each Society,
So long as they in Concord do remaine,
They live in plenty, ease, prosperity:
But if they jarre for Envy, Pride, or Gaine,
They from their quiet state do tumble downe amaine.

As many weake stickes, in one faggot bound,
No strength of man e're able is to breake,
Which if they be alone and single found,
Would seeme but easie to a man that's weake;
The same we may of Peace and Concord speake,
Whilst they true Subjects hearts in one do bind,
No forraine Powre on them their spite can wreak,
But if with jarres it them disjoyn'd doth find,
It breakes their rankes, them chasing like a fearefull Hind.

Concord and Peace be like a brazen wall,
No Fort's so strong as vertuous minds combin'd:
But as a straight and crooked piece, by all
The workmans skill, cannot in one be joyn'd:
So fores it with a good and wicked mind;
In wicked nature fraught with guile and spight,
True Peace and Concord thou shalt never find:
For as good minds great pleasure take in right,
So base malicious hearts, in doing wrong, delight.

The hungry Foxe, pursuing hard his prey,
By chance upon a sleeping Snake doth tread;
For which, she wroth, deferres not long his pay,
But with sting taught him to take better heed:
Thus dang'rously both wounded are indeed,
And both to wounds do Phisicks helpe apply,
Which inwardly do ranckle more than bleed,
Yet both by Leeches skill and Surgery:
For bodies griefe, not minds, do find a remedy.

Many yeeres after, this malicious Snake,
Who still revenge doth harbour in her brest,
Meeting the Foxe, him fairely thus bespake:
Ah! how great sorrow doth my heart molest,
That we should one another thus infest:
For since the time that first began our broyle,
No greater care within mine heart doth rest,
But how our loves againe to reconcile,
(Thus would malicious Snake the crafty Foxe beguile.)

Now if you please, let us all injuries
Forget, and as we ought true Peace embrace:
For Peace and Concord all good things supplies
To mortals, of what-ever ranke or place:
What thing more pleasing, sweet and good than Grace?
She all conserves, keepes all things safe and sound,
Makes great increase of Fruit in little space,
In pleasure, wealth and ease she doth abound,
Yea all the good, that one can wish, in her is found.

She is the cherisher and nurse of Life,
She breeds, feeds, nourisheth, gives education,
When all confounded are by warres and strife,
Which breeds Corruption: Peace brings Generation.
Nothing on earth is of like estimation.
Thus having said, she offers him to kisse,
And faire embrace, according to her fashion:
But Renold trusts her ne'r the more for this,
Who most malicious, cruell, implacable is:

But thus replies, All's true that thou hast said:
But as true peace of all things is the best,
So sure of nothing more am I afraid
Than feigned peace: a poyson neatly drest,
Which thou concealst now boyling in thy brest;
And, with a seeming Kindnesse, cruelly
Wouldst spill my Life, when as I fear'd it least:
No open force, spite, or bostilitie,
So dang'rous is, as feigned peace and amity.

This publique, private, health, wealth, dignity,
All overthrowes, when most we seeme secure:
No man will trust an open enemy,
And therefore 'gainst his malice stands more sure;
When he by fraud can him no harme procure:
But such faire painting words, and honest showes,
Insnare the simple inexpert and pure,
And into misery and errour throwes,
Then he too late plaine-dealing from dissembling knowes.

But now to thee, that peace dost so commend:
I answer, That for reconciliation,
And thee imbracing as a faithfull friend,
I never had so fond determination:
God shield me from thy sly malicious nation.
Thy guilefull heart's as hollow as the sand;
Thou doubt'st of Truth, I of Equivocation:
Stand off: The Morall you may understand,
You have this Tale from me, but at the second hand.

Thus did the Snake our mother Eve beguile
By baits of honour, kindnesse, and ambition:
But from her stole this pearle of peace the while,
And plung'd her, and her Seed in all perdition:
E're since by feign'd shewes, and false apparition,
This subtill Serpents viprous progeny,
Imbrace us, Joab-like, with all submission,
But to the heart-blood stab us privily.
Ile never trust a base malicious enemy.

Of a fat Joviall Oratour I read
A pleasant story; who when he ascends
Into a narrow Deske for Peace to plead,
The people all foorth shouts and laughters sends:
Though's corps were grosse, his wit soone apprehends
Th' occasion, and he thus them telleth plaine,
My wife at home in bignesse me transcends,
Yet us at peace, one bed can well containe,
At oddes, we in this Citty wals cannot remaine.

But well my Muse of her Digression wites
From Peace to Concord; which the Schooles define,
An union of divers appetites
Of divers men, who in affection joyne.
To Peace, this Definition they assigne,
To be a concord in the appetite,
Which doth th' affections but of one combine
In one: I Peace and Concord here unite,
And of them, as but one true perfect peace do write.

All cruell warres and battels David fought,
Was but to stablish peace to Solomon;
That type of happy peace, who now (no doubt)
Rests in that Peace, which he on Earth begun:
Oh blessed, joyfull, happy Union,
The Song of peace thou singest of the Bride,
And that great King of peace, her lovely One;
When sitting at the Banquet by his side,
Her with true peace as with a Banner he doth hide.

His sweetest gardens are our beds of rest,
The fruits there growing, sweetest fruits of peace,
The tunes which birds there warble in their brest,
Be songs of Peace: There Spring doth never cease,
But Zephyrus with Dewes blowes full increase.
Sweet Peace! which makes the Turtles voice resound
Such Musique, as the heaviest heart can ease,
For she her notes doth to the heart propound,
But none conceive the sweetnesse, till they feele the sound.

If I through Scriptures gardens should you lead,
And shew you all that glorious Nurcerie
Of fruits and flowres there, of Peace that breed:
I should you tire with sweet Variety.
It was the last bequest and Legacie,
Our King of peace did his Apostles leave:
Who made our peace when he on Crosse did die.
For Peace, he barres and gates of hell doth cleave,
And his Will in due time to endlesse peace receive.

See his Apostles, Martyrs, Fathers all,
How meeke and lowly they on peace attend,
Refusing neither Crosse, nor cup of Gall,
So as they might attaine unto their end;
Sweet peace on earth they labour to defend,
When they have made their peace in heav'n above:
Who feeles this inward Peace, feares not to spend
Wealth, Strength, and Life, for to maintaine the love
Of those, which with them members of one Body prove.

But what need I thee furnish from without,
If in thine heart this inward peace thou find?
This peace of Conscience will give (no doubt)
More Rest and Comfort to thy Soule and Mind,
Than all wealth, pleasure, glory here assign'd
Unto the wicked, for their worldly rest.
Sweet peace of Conscience! who art not confin'd
To any pleasure here, on earth possest,
Eternall, heav'nly peace possesseth all thy brest.

Oh I had my Muse some lofty rapted straine,
The glory of this heav'nly peace to sing,
Which doth the heav'n, earth, sea, ayre, all maintaine.
By gentle governement and ordering:
Or were she able, on a high-strain'd string,
To sing the Honour of my Soveraigne,
That grand Peace-maker, Britaines peacefull King,
Who through the Christian world doth Peace maintaine:
God grant, for peace on earth, thou heav'nly peace mayst gaine.

But ah! how can my soule opprest with Care,
And worldly tumults, of such Glory sing,
Since quiet peace her selfe removeth farre
From Discord, Strife, Contentions, Quarrelling?
Oh let me under shadow of thy wing,
In happy rest and Peace for ay abide!
So shall I never feare the malicing
Of Envy, Satan, Covetize, or Pride:
True inward peace was never vanquished, though tride.

Ah thus I wish for Peace, but worldly Care
And troubles more and more my mind oppresse;
Afflictions heere and Crosses should prepare,
And fit a man for peace and happinesse,
But oft they fill us more with worldlinesse;
Yet such the nature is of inward peace,
She fils the hearts of all, that her possesse,
And ever as her vigour doth increase,
Our worldly thoughts and cares do more and more decease.

O King of Peace! grant me this inward peace,
'Tis that for which the Spirit alwayes prays,
That peace which brings all Graces sweet increase,
And now thou art to heav'n gone, with us stays.
This Peace, Hell, Death, nor Tyrants rage dismays,
'Tis not such peace as world to us doth give,
In Comforts she transcends Sunnes gentlest rays,
By her when we in Life of Grace have thrive,
With her we ever shall in life of Glory live.

This is the peace which sets our hearts as sure
As Sions Mount, which no force can remove,
This peace it is which ever shall endure,
If rooted in our hearts by Faith and Love:
This Peace which first descends from heav'n above,
And doth our troubled Consciences still,
Which makes the Members like the Head to prove,
This is the Peace of God, the which doth fill
Both heav'n and earth with Peace, and all men with good will.

Now never let my Soule enioy true Peace,
If now she doth not more my heart delight,
Than all the pleasures, glory, wealth and ease,
Which heere mens minds to vanity invite:
God of all Peace, which hast me giv'n a sight
Of this most rich invalewable treasure,
Grant, I on peace may set my whole delight,
True peace like love, which hath no bounds nor measure,
In this I ly downe safe, and take my rest and pleasure.

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