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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Peace with her Foure Garders: Meditation 3. Of Constancy.

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


As an example of Constancy, Saint Paul is superior to what "Homer, Virgil, Spencer, can supply." Robert Aylett seems to have taken this notion to heart, for the series of meditations grows more remote from Spenser and allegory is it continues.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "There is no reference to Spenser in either of these poems [Peace, Thrift's Equipage], which is rather the exception than the rule in earlier Spenserian imitation. Aylet was no enemy to the couplet; he wrote long poems in end-stopped couplets and heroic stanzas" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 61.



So oft as I the Splendour do behold
Of heav'nly Graces, linkt in golden chaine,
Which them so firmely doth together hold,
That all they but as one seeme to remaine;
My Soule is so delighted with their traine,
That she desires to dwell with them for ay;
But oft employment, pleasures, cares and gaine,
Mine eyes and heart so draw another way,
I fleshly motions more than spirituall obay.

And as these Graces joyn'd, my soule delight,
So doth each singled out by Meditation,
Sing I of Love, I love with all my might:
If Humblenesse, she workes humiliation:
So Faith, Repentance, Hope, Justification,
By Righteousnesse imputed: Mercy kind,
Joy, Patience, Fortitude, chast Conversation,
Peace, Meeknesse, Prayer, Zeale, ev'n all I find
Do alwayes to my Song, both sute mine heart and mind.

But such are my Corruptions innate,
Hels malice, and the worlds enticements vaine,
I can no longer hold that happy state,
Than I in Contemplation remaine:
This is the cause my Muse is now so faine
To sing of Constancie, that heav'nly Grace,
Which all the rest doth ay with us retaine
Most glorious Grace! the lustre of whose face,
Both heav'nly Love, and all her Peeres for ever grace.

For, without Her, the rest are all but showes,
Like Corne by high-wayes side, flourish awhile,
And seemes more glorious, than that which grows
Upon best bottom'd, dunged, tilled Soyle:
But as that onely doth our eyes beguile
With flourishes, in calme and gentle spring,
But Summers heate, and frosts, it's verdure spoile:
Ev'n so, these rootlesse Vertues flourishing,
Adverse or prosp'rous Fortune to confusion bring.

Thou, that art from Eternity the same,
Without least shadow of Variety:
Like to the Sun, heav'ns pure world-lightning flame,
Constant in beate, course, and serenitie:
Three, yet subsisting in one Deitie,
Who, though thou seem'st to change with things below,
Art farre in truth from Mutability:
Oh make mine heart in vertue constant grow,
That thence, as from a Fountaine, this Discourse may flow.

We Constancie a Perseverance call
In some good purpose: for in ev'ry thing
We undertake, right must be first of all
Resolv'd of, next, our firme persevering:
A vaine, unsettled, idle wavering
Without just ground, by Proteus, Poets faine,
Who on himselfe as many formes will bring,
As he hath idle notions in his braine,
Or base desires and Lusts which in his heart remaine.

But in good purpose to stand fast and sound,
Not onely man-like is, but most divine,
Like God, in whom no change was ever found:
For as the Sunne, this worlds pure crystall eyne,
In heav'n doth alwaies with like glory shine,
Though, by the varying Medium's here below,
It seeme more glorious in the Summer time,
Than when Eolian blasts darke clouds do blow:
So Constance is the same, though alt'ring oft in show.

This Constance is with Patience a twin,
Begot by Jupiter of Fortitude;
Mother and Babes as like, as neere of kin;
Who hath one, with all three must be indude:
These lift up to heroicall habitude,
And come from Justice, and a prudent mind.
If Fury, Rage, Wrong, Rashnesse do intrude,
We them no vertues faire, but vices find,
With whom Minerva, nor the Graces ever joyn'd.

Patience and Constancie in this agree,
Effeminate faint hearts ay to oppose,
And men relieve in all extremitie,
Undanted, resolute, who will not loose
That liberty, they have the Good to choose:
Thus seeme they one: now marke their difference,
Patience all wrongs with courage undergoes:
For without Suffering's no Patience:
But Constance is in joy and paine a firme defence.

Without Compulsion, free for Vertues sake,
Patience constrain'd, oft by necessity,
Most cheerefull valiantly doth undertake
To beare, what cannot well avoyded be:
One good end Constancie propounds, which she
Onely regards: but noble patience,
Before her will all evils conquerd see,
Which her oppresse in flesh or conscience:
Both have brave resolution, and sound confidence.

No fury of the headlesse Multitude,
No Tyrants rage a constant mind can shake;
Though all the world turne to a Chaos rude,
The ruines crush him may, but can not make
Him stagger, nor Joves thunder make him quake.
The Sea may roare, the waves mount to the skies,
And threaten him to drowne in deepest Lake:
But Fury, Rage, Waves, all he doth despise,
And when hopes outward faile, his inward highest rise.

He constant perseveres unto the end,
Like some good traveller, who gives not in,
Till he attaine the place he doth intend:
And as the Souldier, that the towne would winne,
Fights stoutly, till he conquers all within:
Ev'n so in Buildings, Arts, or Merchandize,
In any Worke or Science we beginne,
It is the end where all our glory lyes;
He runs in vaine, that faints before he wins the Prize.

Though all her meanes, and all her strength do saile,
Yet feares she not to hold out to the end,
She's still the same, and nothing can prevaile,
To alter any Good she doth intend.
To whom the heav'ns true Constancie do send
Within their hearts to dwell, on all occasions
Effects most admirable thence transcend,
She fils the heart with such secure perswasions;
They it defend from all faint-hearted base invasions.

A constant man, the most disastrous fate,
With a most pleasing forehead entertaines:
Integrity so sweetens his estate,
As in a pleasant Calme he ay remaines:
With her he alwayes in his heart retaines,
Hope, Prudence, Fortitude, Right, Temperance:
And when him Troubles, Losses, Griefe or Paines
Assaile, so stoutly patience doth advance,
He liveth most secure, not subject unto Chance.

Brave noble Constance! who art never sound,
Except dame Prudence thee accompany,
Thou on her counsels and advice dost found
Thy setled resolutions all, whereby
Thou standst most firme for Truth and Honesty;
Nothing can thee, thus well resolv'd, withstand.
In vaine and evill things no constancie,
But base perversnesse, we do understand;
Just, honest, profitable's all she takes in hand.

For perseverance in a thing that's ill,
Is to this Vertue no lesse enemy,
Than they that by affections guide their will,
With vaine inconstancy and levitie:
Who, of a wanton imbecillity,
Stagger and change at ev'ry idle motion;
Wind-shaken Reeds, whose instability,
Are like the brain-sicke, idle, vaine devotion
Of Novellists, drunke with hot humours giddy potion.

Prepost'rous fools! who when they should frequent
Assemblies, hide themselves at home alone;
From what they do approve, they soone dissent,
Hating what erst they lov'd, dispraise as soone,
What erst they liked well: Lo, such a one,
Appeares like Cato's Ape, wondrous severe,
With rugged brow; but you may find him soone
Dissolv'd in Laughter, or ev'n dead with feare:
Such, any publike Office is unfit to beare.

No truth of Judgement or Sinceritie,
In such a vaine inconstant mind is found:
But Slouth, Fraud, Wantonnesse, Iniquity,
With all the basest Vices there abound:
This Levity in youth doth age confound
With doting madnesse; and a man declares
Wise onely then in shew, not inward sound:
But then a brave and constant mind appeares,
When constant Resolution honours silver haires.

Well said th' old Cynicke, when him friends advise
To leave his study, and to take his rest:
I am, saith he, now running for a prize,
And therefore in the end must run my best.
The shorter time of Life to us doth rest,
More constantly we to our ayme must rend.
Who runs, saith Paul, the race, is never blest
With due reward, that holds not to the end:
For Constance is the Grace doth all the rest commend.

And as the man, that hard things undertakes,
Must alwaies have respect unto the end,
Which all precedent bitternesse sweet makes,
Be it for pleasure, glory, gaine, or friend;
So he that for Gods glory doth contend,
And makes it ay his constant end and ayme,
As that's immortall, so it him doth send
True immortality in heav'n to gaine,
Which comforts him for all his Labour, losse, and paine.

As Mountains huge stand fast on their foundation,
So constant minds on resolutions sound,
As they unmov'd, so without alteration
Are good Conclusions built on Vertues ground:
A constant man stands on a rocke profound,
Which neither stormes, wind, waves, nor force can move:
Crosses, afflictions, can no more confound
Him, than wind, waves, and stormes, the rocke remove,
Whose strong foundation stands on faith, hope, truth and love.

Anselmus doth a constant man compare
Unto a sixe-square dye, or hewed stone,
The sixe flat-sides, his sixe Conditions are,
Freedome, Prosperity, Subjection,
Adversity, Life-publique, and alone:
On which soever side he chance to fall,
He stands upright with resolution,
No changes can his constant mind appall,
But as he standeth firme on one side, so on all.

As bodily eyes all need Light of Sunne,
Whereby they may attaine unto their end,
So on all good and vertuous workes begun,
This holy Vertue Constance must attend:
And as except the Sunne his Light doth lend,
We open in the darke our eyes in vaine,
So vainely we good holy workes intend,
Except we constant to the end remaine,
Like Pilot drown'd in hav'n, when he hath scapt the Maine.

Is't not absur'd, that we should early rise,
Lose sleepe, broile with Suns heat, and take great paine,
Onely to winne a fading worthlesse prize,
And give in, when we sure be to obtaine
A Crowne, which shall for ever make us raigne?
Except the Souldier Constant be and bold,
His Captaines favour he shall never gaine,
Unlesse our spirituall fight we constant hold,
Gods comfortable face we never shall behold.

She is the Nurse of Merit, friend of Peace,
Way to Reward, sister of Patience,
True friendships Band, pure Sanctities increase:
Take away Constance, Bounties excellence
Doth fade, and Duty wants her recompence;
High Fortitude doth want her commendation.
She is alone the noble Grace, from whence
All other Graces have their Consummation:
To her is giv'n, or rather she gives man salvation.

What more like unto God than Constancie?
Who ay like Sunne in heav'n remaines the same,
Though to descend to mans capacity,
He often seeme to change his mind and name.
The Scriptures then mans changing closely blame,
When they affirme, God grieves, or doth repent:
'Tis flesh that alters, God is still the same:
So clouds seeme oft to change the Firmament,
Which till the Day of Doome stands firme and permanent.

When as she hath a constat of the right,
She therein perseveres unto the end:
Therefore of constat she is Constance hight;
And well this name her nature doth commend.
Her understanding first doth apprehend
Things to be good, before she doth beginne:
Then she most constantly doth ay intend,
When she consid'rately hath entred in:
Thus all the Saints on earth, a roome in heav'n must win.

And though all flesh, by our first Parents fall,
Are so unconstant, vaine, and wavering,
They have in words, thoughts, actions, and all,
Of Eves fond ficklenesse a relishing:
Lo Enoch yet constant persevering
To walke with God, till he him takes away:
And Noah, constant in the publishing
Of true Repentance, ev'n untill the day,
Flouds come and drowne all Flesh without the Arke that stay.

Abram most constant in beleefe we find:
No feare nor terror Jacob could dismay:
Joseph had rather yron linkes should bind
His lims, than from chast Constancie to stray.
So long as hard'ned Memphians disobay,
Moses most constantly for plagues doth call:
Lo Josuahs courage lengthens out the day,
Till he Gods enemies destroyeth all;
No force, nor fury can his constant mind appall.

I number may the Starres of heav'n as well,
As here the Mirrors all of Constance count,
Who champions brave against world, flesh, and hell,
In Fortitude and Patience surmount:
Many of them I formerly recount,
In Fortitudes and Patience Meditation,
They all arise from one faire heav'nly fount,
That clensing Laver of Regeneration,
Though glittring shows we find oft with the heathen nation.

Ile name one Carthage prisoner for all,
Who, upon promise to returne againe,
Was sent to Rome, the Senate there to call,
Them to perswade against their Cities gaine:
But he most nobly will not yeeld to staine
His Countries glory, for his private good,
But constantly perswades them to maintaine
Their honour, though he seal'd it with his blood,
And constant still the same against all tortures stood.

His noble mind their cruelties derides,
His Executioners are wearied,
Yet constant he and cheerefull all abides,
Griefe, gaine, for Countries good, he reckoned.
Yet hath this Constancie beene conquered
By thousand Martyrs, which most willingly
For Syons glory have beene martyred;
Who when their flesh doth broile, and bowels frie,
Sing joyfull Hallelujahs to God on hie.

Yet are these, but as Candles to the Sunne,
Compared with the constant Lord of all:
Beginne we with his apprehension,
When his Disciples all from him do fall,
Behold him in the high Priests Judgment-hall.
See Herods men of warre him foule deride:
Condemn'd by Pilate, scorn'd, abus'd of all:
The theefe that raileth, hanging by his side,
Yet he most valiant, constant, patient, doth abide.

But now the Sunne ascended is above,
Th' Apostles will their Light no longer hide,
They constantly before the Rulers prove,
That they the Lord of Life had crucifide:
And when they are before those Rulers tride,
And charg'd to preach no more in Jesus name,
They most couragious, constantly replide,
Be judges, whether it were greater blame,
You now to disobay or God who us did frame.

Paul ready is not onely to be bound,
But at Hierusalem for Christ to die,
He patient is in all afflictions found,
Constant in losses, joy, prosperity:
Read his imprisonments brave history,
You there shall more divine Idea's find,
Than Homer, Virgil, Spencer, can supply,
Though they in loftiest straines the form have lin'd
Of a most brave, heroicke, constant, noble mind.

These, as they saw their patterne set before,
Unto the Races end most constant run,
But yet their Fortitude's increased more,
By Confidence, that he which hath begun
So good a worke, it will not leave undone:
Let Divels try by crosses and tentation,
Hold constant to the end, the Crowne is won.
Though for a while we suffer tribulation,
A noble, constant mind stands without perturbation.

I do confesse 'tis difficult and rare,
To know ones-selfe; but to be still the same,
Is chiefest worke, of all the workes that are:
He that so constantly his mind can frame,
Deserves the honour of a constant name:
He's neere to glorious vertues consummation;
His soule minds only heav'n, from whence it came,
Secure and free from worlds vaine molestation,
And waites heav'ns leisure only for his glad translation.

Not that I constant Idlenesse commend,
Or a retired Life monasticall;
No, Constance alwayes Labour doth intend,
And is the same approv'd and seene of all:
Her words, lookes, gesture, are heroicall;
She makes the Body strong, confirmes the mind.
Ah! wo to them, that from her fauour fall,
And leave the right, the crooked way to find;
These grieve the Angels, which to guard them are assign'd.

Grant in Prosperity a prudent heart,
And in Adversity a mind upright;
So shall no pleasures vaine my Soule pervert,
Nor crosses or tentations me affright:
My selfe I with Gods blessings will delight,
So long as please his Bounty them to lend.
If I must suffer here for doing right,
I to the Just one will my cause commend,
Where I am sure to have a just and equall end.

The end, whereon all that is past depends,
If then we have a constant resolution,
A holy Life shall bring us happy ends,
Then comes our Fate, to justest reuolution:
We then of Adams losse have restitution,
Ah! all our Labour hath but beene in vaine,
If Courage faint in point of Dissolution:
This is the howre we happinesse attaine,
Or else for ever in hels torments must remaine.

Lord make me ever mindfull of this Hower,
That constant alwayes I may stand prepar'd,
Grant me with boldnesse to declare thy power,
And in the right of none to be afeard:
True happinesse is Constancies reward,
A high reward, but he it sure shall gaine,
That to the end holds out with due regard.
Things hardest, Perseverance will attaine,
And Constancy will make them ay with us remaine.

Then stand we firme, in what we have begun,
And labour constantly more to obtaine,
Lo, thus we heav'n upon the earth have won:
Thus we that true Security attaine,
Which ev'ry wise and good man seeks to gaine:
No Greatnesse, King, or Kesar is so high,
As those that over their affections raigne:
Here Peace of Conscience brings Security,
Saints wished true content, and Angels Dignity.

Most blessed Port, that Pilgrims can attaine!
Till they arrive at hav'n of Happinesse,
Pure Joy of heart, which onely they do gaine,
Where heav'ns sweet Comforter doth dwel in peace:
God of all Comfort, in my heart increase
This Constancie, that she may me defend
In private, publicke, losse, gaine, paine, and ease,
And grant, as I the Graces do commend,
I may in all continue constant to the end.

[pp. 22-23]