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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Peace with her Foure Garders: Meditation 5. Of Gravitie.

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


Gravity is presented as the sum of the private virtues; the poem concludes with an exhortation to poets to reform their levity.



My Muse now fares like some Geometrician,
That having view'd on Globe terrestriall
The Earth, and like a good Mathematician,
Cast up the Measure of her craggy ball,
Now thinkes that all doth in his Compasse fall,
But sayling forth by Compasse, Card, and Sterne,
With his owne eyes it to discover all,
He may Iles and Regions doth discerne,
Which never by the Map he able was to learne.

So when I first in Vertues Maps had read,
Of all the Graces link'd in golden Chaine,
I thought I had them all discovered,
And able was their Natures to explaine,
But more that I doe labour and take paine,
To tell their Numbers, Nature, Qualities,
More numberlesse I find their glorious traine,
And more admire their Grace and Dignities,
And more of them I write, the more my Muse descry's.

But none more faire I can amongst them find,
Than next I write of comely Gravity,
Which as I said, goes linked and combin'd
With gentle, noble, sweet Humanitie,
Whom follow Constancy and Chastity
Attending alwayes on this stately Peere,
Who for her venerable Majesty,
Is to the Queene of Love her selfe most deare,
And alwayes tires her face, which court'sie washeth cleare.

Now helpe, O heav'nly Queene! and Graces faire!
Her to adorne that beautify's you all
And lift my Muse to fly above the aire,
Oh never let my fit and fury fall,
Whil'st I describe this Grace Majesticall;
Which with her comely presence doth adorne
The Temple, Judgement Seat, and Princes Hall,
With Academies, where the Muse was borne,
And ay defends the ancient from the yongers scorne.

She is an inward splendour of the mind,
Which makes the whole man gracious, commendable,
The outward manners which in her we finde,
Her lookes and gestures, faire and delectable,
Are but as Beames of that bright admirable
Transcendent Grace, which in her heart doth shine,
To make words, lookes, and actions venerable,
And Dignity and Comelinesse to joyne,
With manners Sanctitie, which make a man Divine.

For sure all reverend shewes of Gravity,
Are but externall good expos'd to sight,
Except they have fast rooting inwardly,
And from the heart receive their Splendour bright,
As Majesty, is without Goodnesse light,
So's Gravity without true holinesse,
'Tis that which makes us grave, and to delight
In sober honesty, and comelinesse,
And to be patternes of all Grace and godlinesse.

She is that holy Law and Rule of Life,
Of constancie and gracious manners borne,
Free from lascivious Love, or causelesse strife,
And ever doth most gloriously adorne
Him, before whom her glorious ensigne's borne,
She is not lowring hard, to equals proud,
To betters base, nor doth inferiours scorne,
Aspiring, wanton, loose, exulting, lowd,
Her habit, looke, attire, all modesty doth shroud.

Her Ornaments are not Wealth, Strength, or Power,
Sumptuous apparell, decking Limbs, or face,
Sweet Chastitie of Manners is her Dower,
Her outward parts, adorn'd with inward Grace:
These be the ornaments that most her grace,
Not made by any skilfull hand, or Art;
Vertue the Queene of all things did enchace
These workes of wondrous Glory in her heart,
Wherewith she now adornes and graceth every part.

By these she casting out all perturbation,
Perpetuall tranquillity attaines,
And shines in Grace, which at her first Creation,
She from the Fountaine of all Grace obtaines,
And thus she true immortall honour gaines,
Not that which leanes on popular vaine blast;
But that whereby the Queene of Vertue raignes,
And stands upon her vertuous thoughts so fast,
She from the pitch of honour can not be displas't.

Hence 'tis, that who can to this pitch attaine,
Admits of nought unseemely to be done,
His mind no evill cogitations staine,
His actions chast as mind from whence they come,
Many indiff'rent things are fit for some,
Which some more grave and noble ill beseeme;
It doth no Judge or Magistrate become,
In servants habit publique to be seene,
What Country Maid commends, may ill beseeme a Queene.

Justly did Philip reprehend his Sonne,
When, to the Harpe, he heard him sweetly sing,
This well, saith he, soft Ladies doth become,
But Drums and Trumpets best beseeme a King;
It is for Clarkes no commendable thing,
To Hunt, Hawke, and great Horse for seruice traine,
Which highest Grace to Gentlemen doth bring,
Poets may witty pleasant fictions faine,
Which in a grave Divine would be accounted vaine.

Man in Gods Image to be like a Beast,
Neigh like a Horse, grunt, swill, like to a Swine,
Such things doth Gravity as base detest,
Equality and Comelinesse doe shine,
In her voice, speeches, countenance divine;
In going, sitting, gestures, and devotions;
She words perplext, contentions, doth decline,
Plaine, constant, resolute, are all her motions,
Proceeding from her hearts, pure, wise, and heav'nly notions.

Her words fly not at randome, all do flow
From Fountaine of pure understanding heart:
Her gestures are not quick, nor yet too slow,
Sweetly severe, consid'rates in each part:
Her looke's not Cruell, nor compos'd by Art,
Grave and severe, yet gentle, liberall,
Sweet Mistris of the Graces! where thou art
They are most gracious and comely all,
Wherefore I them thy Schollers all aright may call,

Nay rather thy companions: Poets feigne
Astrea call'd from heav'n, with thee to dwell,
And to put all her Nymphs to thee; to traine
Them up in Vertue as beseemeth well:
To men all gracefull manners thou dost tell,
Thou teachest Kings to rule their Subjects right,
Fathers their Duties to their sonnes to spell,
Servants to Masters, Lady to her Knight,
No Policy or force without thee rules aright.

Happy are they! thou teachest to eschew
All Levity, vaine feare, and ostentation,
Morose, rough manners, taunts, reproach undue,
Which shewes a mind subject to perturbation,
Delighting in anothers molestation:
These are like Scorpions, whose malignity,
To all, comes from their natures inclination,
And from their Malice comes Morositie,
Averse to all, but most to Truth and honesty.

As Urchin, which hath pricks upon his skin,
'Mongst Thorns, and Bryers alwayes takes delight,
So in all businesse these enter in,
They use morose, uncivill, barb'rous might;
They bring within them Malice, Gall and Spight.
How-ever be the thing wherein they deale,
Oh God forbid! such base malicious Sprite
Be ever Judge in Judahs common weale:
Such take large Toule, but never care to grind the meale.

Some dayes Euripus sev'n times ebbs and flowes,
Some other dayes, nor flowes nor ebbs at all,
The moving of this River's like to those,
That have not Gravity habituall:
Unlike themselves, loose, sparing, prodigall,
Idle precipite, vaine, for either part
Most earnest, vehement, patheticall,
These their owne businesse and friends pervert,
For want of Gravity, and Constance in their heart.

But Gravitie is like the Ocean maine,
Into whose Treasure all the Flouds doe flow,
Which he as constantly sends out againe,
Yet hereby doth, nor lesse, nor greater grow,
He neither swels, nor banks doth overflow,
When greater summes his tributaries pay,
Nor is base sparing, when their pay is slow,
The windes may tosse his waves but not dismay,
He smiles so soone to see his troubles blowne away.

As Censor in the Senate-house of Rome,
So is this Grace amongst the Graces all;
And as none might into the Senate come,
But those whom he did in his Conscript call:
So none may come into the Graces Hall,
But they must be conscrib'd by Gravity,
And those she will not have come there at all,
She passeth by them for their Levity,
Such confidence have all in her integritie.

But she most like is to the glorious Sunne,
Whose chearefull countenance is still the same;
And like him constantly one course doth runne,
Of which, she never weary is or lame:
From him's all elementall heate and flame,
With her all lively spirituall doth dwell:
He lightens all with his enlightning beame,
Sinnes, Clouds, and Ignorance she doth expell:
Sol prince of Lights, she of all Graces beares the bell.

She's like that Breath, which God is said to breathe
Into mans face for immortality,
His owne sweet Image, which he did bequeath
To Adam, Righteousnesse, and Sanctitie:
For where is inward holy Gravity,
All Graces spirituall are likewise found,
Where grave and modest outward Courtesie,
There outward comely Graces all are found,
Without the one we never find the other sound.

No firmer, or more ready muniment,
'Gainst Envie, Malice, and each enemy,
That here mankind assaile, and circumvent,
Than high, sublime, graue Manners majestie;
Who outward hath and inward Gravitie,
Concords with all without, hath Peace within,
Of Vertues all consent, and Unity,
Gods image thus renew'd, doth heere begin,
In humane flesh to vanquish Lust, and mortall Sinne.

Old Ages honour, garland of gray-haires,
Most ample orders Grace, and dignity,
The highest seates of Justice, richest chaires
Of State, from her have all their majestie:
She swayes the Scepter of high Sov'raignty,
The fairest Cope which Arons sonnes do weare,
Sweet, rev'rend, amiable Gravitie!
To thee I nothing find fit to compare,
All Simile's but shadowes to thy substance are.

For in the grave and rev'rend do shine
All Goodnesse, Constancie, and Sapience,
The Manners which were in the golden time,
The Age when raigned Right and Innocence,
Before Debate, Strife, and Malevolence
Were hatcht, since fledge, now taught aloft to sore;
Inveterate in reprobated Sense,
Habituated so in Vices lore,
They scoffe at graue examples, all that went before.

At first, I say, when in the golden Age,
Grave Saturne did Olympus Scepter sway,
Of high esteeme were then the ancient Sage,
And mortals all did their behests obay;
But since Jove did by violence betray
His father, and aspired to his Crowne,
Severer Gravity is driv'n away:
The Joviall men are onely of renowne,
Grave Saturne on their Lusts too rigidly doth frowne.

As long as Eve maintaines her Gravitie,
So long in her Integrity she stood:
But when neglecting Grace and Majestie,
She of her vassall learnes the ill from good,
The Serpent, with his base malicious brood,
Soone brings her to an everlasting blame;
She evill did, and evill understood,
And seekes to hide her naked parts from shame,
Which perfect Natures Gravitie did never blame.

Oh wondrous Grace of heav'nly Gravitie,
If in her likenesse she should here appeare!
But Adam lost her with Integrity,
Since, she could never be discerned cleare:
But when our Head with us conversed here,
Onely some Beames he pleaseth to bestow
Upon his members to himselfe most deare,
Whereby they shine like little lamps below,
And, as he lends them light, they great or lesser show.

If you examples of this Grace desire,
You must the Fathers lives, and Stories reade,
She a continued habit doth require,
Nor is expressed in a single deed,
I easier to you could their slips areed,
As Noah grave yet overtane with wine,
And Lot thus punish't with incestuous deed.
I read, that once ev'n Abram did decline,
And fainting, fell from this high Gravitie divine.

Could I now Job here picture in a Verse,
I might her comeliest feature to you show,
Reade his whole life: I onely will rehearse
What he would have his unjust friends to know:
Did he unto the Seat of Judgement goe;
The youngmen saw him, and themselves did hide,
The aged rise; the Princes tongues that flow
In Eloquence, their talking lay aside.
Speakes he? all mouths are shut, all eares are open wide.

I do not reade, that grave Judge Samuel
Did ever from this heav'nly Grace decline,
For all the time he judged Israel:
But sure his Tutor did so much incline
To gentlenesse, he swerved from her line.
Oh David! where was then thy Gravity,
When thou didst make Uriah drunke with wine,
That so he might go with thy Lemman lie,
To cover thy base Sinne of foule Adultery?

That innocent pure golden Gravitie,
With which thou in a linnen Ephod dight,
Laidst by thy sov'raigne kingly Majestie,
To dance before the Lord with all thy might:
Oh thus to be uncoverd in the sight
Of maides, and servants, well becomes a King,
Though prophane wicked Michols us despight,
Yet when to God we our Devotions bring,
To be most vile and meeke is no dishonouring.

Should I now passe by Judges, Prophets, Kings,
And from th' Apostles times this Vertue trace,
To shew how silly fisher-men did things
More grave and venerable in their place,
Than all the Prelates that have highest grace,
My selfe and Reader I too much should spend:
Let's labour in our hearts her to embrace,
For that indeed is Meditations end,
In vaine hee sees the right, that doth the wrong way wend.

By two or three examples, Ile commend
This Grace, as she did with the Heathen won:
Cato, one from the Senate did suspend,
Because he kist his wife before his sonne:
A Poet craving of a Judge alone,
To do him favour against Law, replide,
As Poet is not good, whose Vertues run
Not by the rules of Art: so Judge is wide,
That layes, for feare or favour, Lawes and right aside.

A Spartane lewd, in serious consultation,
Giving his good aduice, was followed
Of all the Senate in their Convocation;
And the Decree in his name entered:
A grave old man them better counselled,
That they their honour would not so defame,
To have Decrees in such names registred:
The Sentence might continue still the same,
Chang'd onely from a lewd, unto a grave mans name.

Themistocles is said, once with his friend,
After the Persians fatall overthrow,
To see that mighty slaughter, to descend
Unto the Sea, which wont to ebbe and flow;
Which many Chains and Bracelets up did throw:
These when he saw thus lying on the shore,
He them, thus saying, to his friend doth show,
Thou art no Captaine, gather them therefore:
Shewing, he Gravity, than Gold esteemed more.

Oh! shall a Captaine of the heathen host,
For Gravity despise all gold and gaine?
And Christians, thou whose Soule alone hath cost
More than all wealth that doth on earth remaine,
Neglect this Grace a little pelfe to gaine?
Oh! what do such, but Esaus Birth-right sell,
Or like the Prodigall, eate swill and graine:
If they at home with Gravity would dwell,
Manna should be their food, their drinke sweet living-Well.

Alas! how many be that do professe
Themselves great friends to gracious Gravitie,
And do in outward shewes expresse no lesse?
But they at home are full of Luxurie,
Base Wantonnesse, and all Immodesty;
Especially obscene in filthy Lust:
Thus Cupid binds Joves awfull Majestie;
Venus have her petitions granted must,
When Juno's and Minerva's throwne are in the dust.

Ah! I could wish, but never hope to see
The golden-Age, when ev'ry one was plaine,
And hearts and faces did in one agree;
Dissembling was not knowne all Saturnes raigne.
The Matrons modest Virgins sought to gaine
By patternes grave, in Vertue to begin
Their youth, the ancient up in labour traine;
To moderate their Lust, and keepe from sinne:
That as they seem'd without, so they might be within.

Three things the Persians did teach their youth,
To ride a horse, the Bow aright to draw,
The last thing was, in all to tell the Truth;
This made them of ill doing stand in aw,
They being bound to Truth, as to a law.
This last, true inward Gravitie would frame,
Considering God secret sinnes will draw
To light on earth, to our disgrace and blame,
Or else hereafter to our greater paine and shame.

But I confesse, we are so farre from feare
Of wanton loosenesse in our privacie,
That openly we without blushing beare
The ensignes of our Impudicitie.
So farre from antique graver Modestie,
In gestures, goings, lookes, vailes, and attire:
They now are baits of Lust and Luxurie,
And fewell to increase our shamelesse fire,
Which should be limited in Wedlocks chast desire.

And not shewes onely, but our sweetest songs,
Are now the Baits of Lust and Wantonnesse;
In Ribaldry we exercise our toungs,
With unchast tales we intertaine our guesse;
Without these now no mirth or cheerefulnesse.
Alas! poore Gravity is quite undone,
Her honours blended by Lasciviousnesse;
The Signes will tell you, where good-Ale doth won,
'Tis filthinesse to speake, what's filthy to be done.

Divinest Spirits! Muses Darlings deare!
That in sublimest Numbers take delight,
Oh! let your Fountaines streame as pure and cleare,
As runs the Helicon whereof you write:
Dim not your pure, sublime, most glorious light,
With lustfull thought, or wanton cogitation,
But spend the honour of your Furies might,
In holy, sweete, transcendent Contemplation,
And as your matter's grave, so be your conversation.

You by the Muses are inaugurate
Censors of Manners, inward Sanctitie,
As of the outward is the Magistrate;
Oh both be patternes of true Gravitie!
And you shall both shine like a Deitie,
Amongst the mortals which are here below:
Your private honour, publike majestie,
By Gravitie more glorious shall show,
So as your outward truly doth from inward flow.

Wives, Matrons, Widowes, Virgins faire be grave,
Dame Chastitie defend your Bodies may
From lawlesse Lust: This Vertue will you save
From lustfull proffer without saying nay;
The boldest dares not Gravitie assay;
She better than a thousand Argo's eyes,
All lustfull lookes and glances keepes away,
And silenceth inchanting Mercuries:
That Matron's truly chast, whom no man ever tryes.

God of all Grace, I humbly beg this Grace
Of inward, and of outward Gravitie,
Grave in my Muses, graue in publique place,
Grave with my friends, grave in my Family,
Grave in Adversitie, Prosperitie,
In all religious Duties truely grave:
Be I in Bondage, or at Libertie,
In health, or sicknesse, Gravitie I crave.
In all from crying Sinnes, this Grace my Soule shall save.

And though to sing of Gravitie I cease,
Yet never will I cease her Contemplation.
As yeeres, so must my Gravity increase.
The Author of all heav'nly Cogitation,
Me teach her practice in my Conversation.
This Booke began with Peace, I now will end
With Gravity both Booke and Meditation:
God grant it Readers hearts may all amend,
As it hath done the Authors, when the same he pen'd.

[pp. 45-56]