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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Peace with her Foure Garders: Meditation 4. Of Courtesie, or Humanity.

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


This meditation contains reflections on education and the liberal arts. The Court of Love in stanza four alludes to the allegory begun in Robert Aylett's Brides Ornaments.



Thus have I brought the Muse from pleasing shade,
And gentle sweetest Heliconian Spring,
To Stoicks Schoole, to teach her in the trade
Of Constancie, and firme persevering:
Some Criticke will me blame for marshalling
Cato severe, with Virgins sweet delight,
But nothing more makes for their honouring,
Than with that noble Vertue to be dight,
Which makes them high accepted ev'n in Princes sight.

And sure, O Kings, your wisedomes cannot find
More prudent Senatours, your States to sway,
Than Muses friends, which have a constant mind,
And know as well to governe as obay:
Who by their Courtesie and Constance may
Order your Hals, and wield your State-affaires:
For noble Courtesie and Constance ay
Adorne Kings Judgements-Seats, and stately Chaires,
And strangers intertaine, that to your Court repaires.

For in each flourishing and goodly State,
Upon the royall Person of the King,
The courteous Courtier hath a place to waite,
As well as Senate for wise-governing:
These both must joyne in prudent managing
Of subject Provinces, and to entreate,
Of Leagues with Princes on them bordering;
But he for all employments is most meete,
Where Courtesie and Constance both together greet.

Wherefore in Court of Loves most royall Queene,
Where Graces all, in due administration,
Are in most comely order placed seene
For Kingdomes Peace, and Princes Delectation:
Behold this one thing worth thy Observation,
Brave Constance ay with Courtesie is joyn'd,
For all men do observe, with admiration,
A courteous carriage, with a constant mind,
Adoring ev'n as Gods the valiant gentle kind.

For sure except these both together meet,
Constance alone's so rigid and severe,
She for a pedagogue is farre more meet,
Than Office in Loves gentle Court to beare:
And, if that single courtesie appeare,
Without this resolute most constant Grace,
She is but apish complement, to bleare
Beholders eyes with Conges and a face,
When nought that in her looks, within her heart hath place.

David the heav'nly Muses darling deare,
An Embleme of Humanity I find,
In Camp he is undanted, without feare,
In Court of constant, noble, courteous mind,
One Jonathans true love to him inclin'd,
The other smites ev'n stout Goliah downe,
His Muse the evill spirit of Saul doth bind,
And rais'd him from the fould to high renowne,
And set upon his royall head the golden Crowne.

True noble Courtesie, most heav'nly Grace,
Most high to be esteem'd and reckoned
Of all; but most of those whom God doth place,
Above their brethren to be honored:
For they that heere us governe in his stead,
Ought, like their Lord, to gentlenesse incline,
Who, though his Throne shines round with lightning dread,
With courteous countenance on his doth shine,
Oh gentle King me grant this Grace aright to line.

Gentlenesse, Courtesie, Humanitie,
Divers in name, in nature are the same,
Proceeding from the minds integrity,
And are as sparkes of Loves celestiall flame:
The outward shews which coplements we name,
Are but as Symboles of her heart and mind,
If they be true, she is a noble Dame,
If feign'd, she is the shame of womankind,
And seekes to lye with all, where she may favour find.

I know not whether I may better call
Her Sister, or the Child of Gravity,
But sure I find these Graces all in all,
Delighting in each others Company:
The glory of all faire Societie,
Most reverend and amiable Peeres,
In whom all sweetnesse shines with Majesty,
Where not least ostentation vaine appeares,
Chiefe ornaments of Youth, and grace of silver haires.

Both doe proceed from one Dame, Sanctitie.
And both employed are in reformation
Of manners; but in briefe Humanity
A man, humane, like to his name doth fashion:
And this to Poets fables gave occasion,
To tell how men were made of stocks and stones,
And Beasts turn'd men, by Orpheus his perswasion.
And for she thus brought men to live as one,
Amphions Harp is said Thebes wals to build alone.

Yea those, that in Humanity transcended,
And others brought unto civility,
Were deified when their lives were ended,
And ever honour'd of Posterity:
Ah! what more princely is than Courtesie?
Thus Kings to King of heav'n most neere do come,
When savage men unto Society
They bring, which else like furious Beasts would runne,
And ev'n more cruell to themselves than beasts become.

Thus Courtesie with adamantine band
Men tyes in Friendship, free from Envies rents,
For no offence can part their joyned hand,
Where gentlenesse interprets friends intents;
Where Kindnesse ever Courtesies prevents,
And gratefull, alwayes strives to overcome,
As Foes by Armes, Friends by munificence
The barbarous and insolentest groome
Doth gentle, kinde, benigne, by Courtesie become,

Man is the weakest creature God hath made,
For where all else, by heav'nly Providence,
Have bodyes arm'd 'gainst Foes that them invade,
And rage of Times by Natures muniments,
Man onely Vertue hath for his defence,
This gentle vertue, sweet humanity,
With loving kind and tender heart, from whence
Flow Pitie, Mercy, Love, Benignity,
Whereby we mutuall helpes to others heere supply.

For these Companions are to gentlenesse,
Which make her heere beloved unto all;
Sweet gracious lookes, and speeches gracefulnesse,
Are to this courteous Lady naturall,
To which she adding Majesty withall,
And comely Guize doth steale mens hearts away,
And free, from sterne morosity and gall,
In sweet Tranquillity and Peace doth stay,
Immutable, without base perturbation, ay.

Farre from the base morose and cynnicall,
That to all others manners are averse,
Who are so crooked, crosse and criticall,
In their owne dispositions so perverse,
No friend with them is able to converse,
Delighting to be conversant with none;
But sullen, truculent, so sterne and fierce,
You easier may wring water from a stone.
Then mirth and gentle words; or lookes from such an one.

Neighbourhood, Countreys-Love, Affinity,
Kindred and Friendship are cold barren names;
Such neither like nor love the Company
Of honest equals, nor of gentle Dames:
This Vice in ev'ry man ev'n Nature blames,
But most in Officers of Court or State,
For Courteous gravity her Courtier frames;
Sweet, gentle, facile, pleasing, delicate,
Faire Almas bounteous Peares in all to imitate.

As he is worthy Death, who heere denyes
His brother Water from a living Spring,
Or him Sunnes comfortable Beames envyes,
Or from his Candles-light, light-borrowing,
Or to direct aright the wandering;
So he is most discourteous, inhumane,
Who when he profit may to others bring,
Without least Damage to himselfe, or blame,
Yet to his brother churlishly denies the same.

Humanity's like fairest July-flower
With silken leaves, which bud, doth yet inclose,
Which faire dispreading by sweet Natures power
As she doth waxe broader and sweeter blowes;
No flower in Loves fairest garden growes,
That more delights the smell, affects the eye,
But as from roote bright hue and sweetnesse flowes,
So from the heart springs fairest Courtesie,
Else as the Flower fades, so dyes Humanity.

For as a gentle heart it selfe bewrayes,
By doing courteous deeds, with free delight,
Ev'n so base dunghill minde it selfe displayes,
In malice, churlishnesse, revenge and spight:
Humanity is Friendships chiefest night,
Foes reconciler, Bounty's greatest Fame,
Than to accept more ready to requite,
Gifts are to her like Oyle powr'd on the flame,
Which more and more her heart with friendly love inflame.

As blowing on hot coales them more enflames,
But water on them powr'd extinguisheth;
So bitter words enrage, but soft reclaimes:
One ire appeaseth, th' other kindleth:
And as more safe on Sea he travelleth,
That passeth on with soft and gentle blast,
Than whom full Sailes like arrow carryeth:
So stands the mild, sweet gentle man more fast,
Than he whose furious mood beares all before in hast.

As lukewarme water cooles an inflamation,
So courteous language, anger pacifies,
And as wild horse is tam'd by mild tractation,
So cruell foes are wonne by courtesies:
We easier our most savage enemies
Subdue by Gentlenesse, than cruelty,
Wild Hawkes the Faulkner surer to him tyes,
By handling gently, and familiarly,
Than if he never suffer'd them from fist to fly.

The Bough by gentlenesse is easily bent,
Which handled boistrously would break in sunder.
Thus fiercest Bull is with the yoake content,
And gentlenesse brings cruell Tygres under:
Philosophers affirme that dint of Thunder,
Doth never hurt, where it doth yeelding find,
It melts the blade, and yet behold and wonder!
The scabberd's not consum'd, it bones doth grind,
And yet the yeelding flesh is neither scorch'd nor pin'd.

Wisely, said he, that thought wise men below
Should not be mov'd with those which do offend,
But where they vices find increase and grow,
Should strive and do their best them to amend;
Like good Physicians, who when they attend
Their Patients, are not angry with their fit,
But to the cure best skill and cunning bend:
As all are sonnes of Eve, we sinne commit,
But he is most like God, that heere amendeth it.

Humanitie may have a threefold sense,
Mans Nature, Vertue, and his education,
In humane Arts, and pure Intelligence;
From whence she seemes to have denomination:
And therefore Liberall Arts by ev'ry Nation,
Are call'd the studies of humanity,
And breed in man a courteous conversation,
With gentle manners and civility,
Which onely heav'ns bestow on Muses Nursery.

And hence it is, that rustique Boores and Clownes,
Who want the good of civill education,
So rude and rustique are in Countrey townes,
When those, that have with Muses conversation,
Or neere to Princes Courts their habitation,
Become more civill, sociable, kinde;
Hence 'tis that ev'ry rude and savage nation,
Where gentle Arts abide not, are inclin'd
To rustique force, and savage cruelty of mind.

No greater Grace the heav'ns to man afford,
Than gentle breeding up in heav'nly lore,
By thews and holy knowledge to accord
Their wrathfull furious Passions evermore:
Plato the Gods immortall doth adore,
That they him reasonable made, no Beast;
A Man, no Woman: But it glads him more,
That he knew humane Arts, and heav'nly best,
By which he thought himselfe in life and death most blest.

The Emperour Trajane; when his friends him blame
As carelesse of imperiall Majesty,
Because so mild, sweet, gentle he became
And affable to all his company;
Said he would so be in high Sov'raignty
To others: as if else he private were,
He wish'd to find the royall Dignity,
With whom all good men ought be free from feare,
But cruell, vile, malicious, never should come there.

Philip, who had by Liberalitie
Obliged, as he thought, to him a Nation,
Received nought but Scorne for Courtesie,
Wherefore his Courtiers, mov'd with indignation,
Perswade their King unto revenge and passion:
Soft, said the Prince, if these men doe requite
Our benefits, in such a scornefull fashion,
They us for injuries will more despight:
True patterne of a prudent, patient, gentle Knight.

Is Jury barren then of gentle deed?
Because I onely of the Nations tell,
The lives of Abram, Isaac, Joseph reade,
And see how they in Courtesie excell:
When as betwixt the Heardmen strife befell,
Abram leaues to his nephew Lot the Plaine,
His Courtesie the Angels greetes so well,
Their errand gently they to him explaine,
Yea gracious God to him familiar talke did daigne.

Most gentle Jacob, courteous like thy Sire,
Though Laban churlishly thee handeled;
Let all thy patient gentlenesse admire,
When thou didst see thy Dina ravished,
And for her Rape a Nation slaughtered:
Thy gentle Joseph into Egypt sold,
Who when he sees his brethren humbeled,
Could not his heart and eyes from weeping hold,
The Dreames thus proving true, which he before had told.

Though Shemei barke, David forbids to smite,
Oh let him curse, my sonne me seekes to kill:
The Lord with Blessings may his Curse requite,
If in his fauour I continue still,
I shall returne, else be it as he will.
Mephibosheth must have his fathers land,
And at his Table eate of Bread his fill,
Chimham in old Barzellais roome shall stand.
And nothing be denide him at King Davids hand.

But Kings and People, all learne gentlenesse
Of our most courteous, gentle King of Kings,
Who, when he walk'd on earth in lowlinesse,
And was the Lord and Maker of all things,
Neuer us'd bitter words nor threatenings,
But was to meanest, courteous, gentle, mild;
The Lord rebuke thee, Michael onely sings
When Satans malice would have him beguil'd
Of Moses body; but he never him revil'd.

As of the head, so of the members learne
Mildnesse, Humanity, and Gentlenesse,
Speeches morose, and countenances sterne
Never agree with worth and noblenesse:
Nor to the vessels of true holinesse:
And Dames that soft and tender are by kind,
Adorn'd with Natures goodliest gracefulnesse,
Be gentle, humble, soft and meeke in mind,
So you with God and Man, shall grace and favour find.

No vertue so adornes a valiant man,
Nor vertuous Dame, whom valiant men doe love,
As courtesie, which best direct them can
To beare themselves in all as doth behove:
Whether them God hath plast to rule above,
Or wait below, it them befits to know
Their Duties, that none justly may reprove
Their rudenesse, in not giving what they ow:
Who gives each man his due, doth great discretion show.

Nothing more wins mens hearts than gentle words,
Nor their affections than sweet lookes delight,
If Men, like Beasts, should make the strongest Lords,
And be enrag'd one at anothers sight,
Societie of men would perish quight,
The rules of Policies and States would faile;
Mens lives should be in hazzard of each wight,
That them by force or cunning would assaile,
Yea savage Beasts against their weakenesse would prevaile.

Rude manners those that have them doe infest,
And grievous are to all they deale withall,
But gentlenesse in Angels, Man, and Beast,
Is much commended and belov'd of all:
The Poets want the Gods in heav'n to call
Most gentle, bountifull, and amiable;
But Fiends and Furies, cruell, tetricall,
To first they Temples build, and prayers fable,
Counting th' other dreadfull and abominable.

If Socrates a froward wife would beare,
As men ride horses wild; that they may know
To rule them better that well tamed were,
Much more should Christians sweetly beare the blow
Of proud and cruell worldlings heere below:
And not to grieve at their prosperitie,
Though heere they seeme in wealth and blisse to flow,
Alas such stand in places slippery,
And in their haughty pride shall perish suddenly.

Who that most wicked Sect doe imitate,
That would all friendship and acquaintance shun,
That they might heere enjoy more happy fate,
And partners of no others losse become:
One burthen is inough for any one,
Oh! why should others losses them molest:
By this is all Humanity undone,
And man made more ungentle than a beast,
The Heathen therefore did such beastlinesse detest.

The first and speciall Duty, which we ow,
Is Love to God, which we call Piety;
Next, is the Mercy we to men do show,
And this indeed is true Humanity:
This is the summe of all Divinity;
And this to Piety doth Practice joyne:
All love the Lord in words, but doe deny
Their hearts and hands to Mercy to incline,
God grant they both in us together may combine.

Chiefe Band amongst men is Humanity,
Which who would breake, deserves eternall paine,
From one man all derive their pedigree,
And therefore Kinsmen all in him remaine:
From one God, we our soules doe all obtaine,
And so we brethren are, and neerer joyn'd
In Soule than Body: And we hope in vaine,
If all into one head be not conjoyn'd,
And feele not all one Spirit working in our minde.

Inhumane cruell Beasts! which take delight
Without just cause Gods image to destroy,
Torment, kill, torture, cruelly despight,
When God would have all live in amity.
Oh measure others by thy misery!
No man without anothers ayd can live,
He that denies helpe in adversitie,
None at his need unto him helpe shall give,
As none shall be forgiv'n, that doth not heere forgive.

No man, that doth obey Dame Natures hest,
Can hurt a man, much lesse him spoile or kill:
Learne of the gentle, meeke, and harmlesse beast,
How he Society doth covet still:
The Shepheards gentle Flocks the Plaines do fill,
Wolves, Beares and Tygres love to Lord alone:
Where they their yong ones with the fat may fill,
And forrage all the Countrey for their owne,
Lo Mercy there is strange, where Misery's unknowne.

Such in their Complement are onely kind;
And where they kindnesse may receive againe,
Oh be mine heart to gentlenesse inclind!
Not for base recompence, reward, or gaine,
But for his sake, who for my sinne was slaine:
But over-courteously I doe abuse
My Readers patience, with ungentle straine,
Yet if he gentle be, he cannot chuse,
But my most willing mind, though not my Verse excuse.

[pp. 34-44]