1622
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thrifts Equipage: Meditation 1. Of Frugality, or Thrift.

Thrifts Equipage: viz. Five Divine and Morall Meditations, of 1. Frugalitie. 2. Providence. 3. Diligence. 4. Labour and Care. 5. Death.

Robert Aylett


43 Spenserians: Thrift is recommended by examples from Scripture. Robert Aylett of Doctors Commons must have been a very busy man at this period; is seems possible that much of this very long poem might have been written a decade earlier while he was studying law at Cambridge.



My Muse now fares like some plaine country Mayd,
Walking in fairest Garden for delight,
With all variety and choyce arrayd,
Of herbs and flowers to please the Sent and Sight;
Who with the choycest flowers doth first bedight
White silken pillowes of her bosome faire;
But after their rich colours her inuite,
With them to decke her head and golden haire,
That as she them adornes, so they may all begay her.

For when Brides garden first I entered
Of Graces, for delightfull meditation,
I onely some choyce Flowers gathered,
For holy Life, and heav'nly Contemplation:
But passing foorth with choyce of Delectation,
Such sweet and rich variety I find,
Fit to adorne my life and conversation,
Out of those pleasant knots I cannot wind,
Which with new choyce of flowres and herbs delight my mind.

But amongst all the fragrant herbes and flowers,
That in the Graces garden doe abound,
I find none of more sov'raigne grace and powers,
Than this of Thrift, which next I do propound:
An herbe indeed that's hardly to be found,
Because she most what in a corner growes,
And matteth low upon the fattest ground,
And many her mistake for likely showes,
But scarce one of an hundred that her truly knowes.

Oh heav'nly Muse! that taught the shepherds swaine,
(As he his flockes was following great with yong,
To feed them on faire Jordans flowrie plaine)
Divinest skill in Tunes and heav'nly Song;
With some such holy Fury touch my tong,
Whilst I now of Frugality do sing;
Who, though she little doth to me belong,
Yet if thou helpe to touch my harsher string,
I may teach some her practice, whilst her praise I ring.

She is that Vertue, or that golden Meane,
'Twixt Avarice and Prodigalitie,
The constant Moderation betweene
Base Niggardize, and wasting Luxury.
We Temp'rance, Abstinence, and Modesty,
With Continence, in this word THRIFT contain;
And yet exclude not Liberality.
Who doth to name of frugall man attaine,
One of the highest Titles due to man doth gaine.

And such indeed have onely right fruition
Of all such fruits, as God to man doth send;
Who prudently here weighing their condition,
Preserve the Substance, and the fruits do spend:
Who flockes and cattell diligently tend,
Grasse, Vines and Corn that in the fields do grow,
To them their lambes for clothing, Wooll will lend;
From Goats and Kine great store of milke shal flow,
To feed their houshold, and large gifts abroad bestow.

There is a Thrift in Substance, and in Grace;
One temporall, the other spirituall:
They that the one, without the other, trace,
Do neither of them find perpetuall:
God is of both the Cause effectuall;
Apollo water, Paul may plant and sow,
But God it is that work to all in all:
As all spirituall Thrift from him doth flow,
So, by his blessing all in substance thrive and grow.

This did the Churle by good experience prove,
So long as he good Jacob could retaine,
He saw great blessings come from heav'n above,
And therefore sought him ay to entertaine:
Whilst Joseph with th' Egyptian doth remaine,
All prospers in his house, and in his field,
And in the prison he doth favour gaine,
Because all well succeeds that he doth wield:
By heav'ns sweet influence the earth her fruits doth yeeld.

Thrift eldest daughter is of Temperance,
By Prudence nursed in her tender yeeres,
But when to riper yeeres she doth advance,
A Standard under Fortitude she beares:
Shee, graced by these three most noble Peeres,
By their advice directs her actions right,
By Temperance she feedes, and cloathing weares;
By Prudence store provides with wise foresight;
By Fortitude 'gainst Fortunes blasts she stands upright.

She moderateth all delights and pleasure,
Not that she us forbids all sports or play,
But makes us recreate our selves with measure,
That from our selves they take us not away:
As he that moderates, upon the way
His fiercer Steed, is said to use him right;
Not he that let's him runne about and stray:
So onely he doth pleasures use aright,
That serves not them, but makes them serve to his delight.

For she not onely is a Moderation
In meates, and what to clothing doth pertaine,
But she eke moderates our recreation,
Lest for it we do lose a greater gaine:
She doth too much of any thing refraine,
And cuts off all luxurious vaine expence.
If thou to thrift and riches wouldst attaine
Here, seeke not to increase and raise thy rents,
But moderate Desire, and vaine Concupiscence.

I ever from Frugalitie exclude
All sordid basenesse, want of aliment,
She out of plenty alwaies doth seclude
Some few things necessary for Content:
For to be frugall and magnificent,
May both well in a prudent man combine,
Else Thrift no daughter is of Temperment;
I onely those for frugall men define,
Who use their store, but suffer it not to decline.

I oft do find in some a simulation,
Or ostentation of Frugality;
When great men follow thriftie imitation
Of those, which are of meaner qualitie:
And this may be too much Rusticitie,
Be it in Diet, Vessels, Ornament;
Best rule for Thrift in all, is Modesty:
For where it meetes with one that's provident,
Hee's temp'rate, modest, frugall and magnificent.

But the most deare and faithfull friend to Thrift,
Is carefull Husbandry, and Providence:
This is the thriving Vertue, which is grift
On stocke of Labour, Care, and Diligence.
This brings in fewell to Magnificence,
And like good huswife fetcheth food from farre.
The thriftie handmaid of Beneficence,
In Summer for the Winter taketh care;
And, ere she builds, Materials doth abroad prepare.

Fye on the lazie Grashopper, that sings
All Summer, and in Winter sterves for cold,
Unlike the frugall Pismire, which still brings
In new provision, ere she spend her old:
Like many youthfull Gallants, who their gold,
In summer of their youth do sport away;
But when their coyne is spent, and land is sold,
Too late, find Ryot cause of their decay:
But prudent Thrift foresees and shunnes such evill day.

By civill Law, the madde and prodigall
Are interdicted the administration
Of their owne Goods; and have Curators all,
To manage their estate in frugall fashion:
And so long must they both abide Curation;
The furious till he gets his wits againe,
The Prodigall, till he to emendation
Doth of his Manners and his Thrift attaine:
'Tis good for Common-wealth, none spend his state in vaine.

One, Thrift unto the Temples doth compare
Amongst the Heathen, which, most sure Asyle,
And Sanctuaries for all Debtors were:
Another likes a thrifty man, ere-while,
To ground wel compast, and wel till'd with toyle:
For as such lands grow foule by slothfulnesse,
But fruitfull, where the plough doth stir the soyle:
So men grow grosse and foule by Idlenesse,
But pure and healthfull by laborious Thriftinesse.

Heathen, such fruitfull frugall men compare
Unto the gods, who had so little need,
Though they had all, that they it all could spare
To mortals, who did here their blessings need:
Farre otherwise 'tis with our rich-mens breed;
They nothing spare, but spend ev'n all and more,
Their Flesh and Lusts luxuriously to feed:
Thus they, in plenty swimming, are but poore,
When those that have but little, yet have greater store.

This their rich misery doth not proceed
From any fault, that is in outward store,
But from Lusts and Cupidities which breed
In Soule and Body, as I said before:
Like some in fits of Agues, who the more
Coole Beere they drink, the more they do desire,
Their drinking thirst increaseth: He therefore
Must purge the humours, cause of all this Fire,
Else drinke till he burst, he growes within the drier.

Me thinkes I rightly may this Thrift compare
Unto the sev'n fat Kine on Nylus shore,
Or those sev'n goodly cares of Corne, which were
To Egypts Monarch signes of Thrift and store:
The blasted eares, and Bullockes leane and poore,
I liken unto Prodigality:
Who all the fruits devowers up, and more,
That are provided by Frugality:
Thus she with her owne bowels feeds her enemy.

As when the Ayer suckes immoderatly
Up moysture from the ground, the clouds do fall
From thence againe on Earth most lavishly:
Ev'n so, when Misers here do licke up all,
For to enrich their heyers therewithall,
Soone as the long-expected day doth come
Of their most welcome, tearelesse funerall,
Their wealth all lavishly about doth run,
Till their rich cloud be spent, and they be quite undone.

It is most terrible, prodigious,
To see an Earthquake, with dread violence,
Swallow a Country, City, Towne, or House;
Yet Prodigals, oft by profuse expence,
Do swallow Towers, Houses, Farms and Rents:
Then they, saith one, them vomit up againe,
Not truly sell them; for they have long since
Them spent in drinking, lusts and pleasures vaine;
They onely now are faint to spue them out for paine.

Many good precepts find I of the wise,
Us to instruct in true Frugality;
But David doth the onely way advise,
In his most sweet divinest Psalmody:
He shall have plenty and prosperity,
That feares the Lord, and scatters to the poore,
His name be blessed to Posterity.
He that disperseth shall have greater store:
For goods-disposer gives him all his wealth therefore.

Abels first frugall man I of do reade,
Who gave the fairest firstlings of his Flockes,
Because there was no poore that then had need,
To him that gave him all his store and stockes.
This gave to Isaac great and castie Shockes,
When in one yeere he reapt an hundred-fold:
Jacob, that went out with a staffe, now stockes
All Shechims country with his Herd and Fold:
The land of Canaan scarce can all his substance hold.

The Heathen say, that heav'nly Providence
To mortals here for labours Blessings sell:
And therefore do require all diligence
Of all, that would have all things prosper well.
Of Abstinence and Continence some tell,
That give a man with little, much content;
Which of anothers inch will make an ell,
By whom nought lavishly on Lusts is spent,
But onely needfull wants of Nature to content.

Fabricius thus with little, doth despise
Great Princes presents, and the gifts of Kings:
His Flocks him cloath, his Farmes with food suffise.
Seranus is his plough a-following,
When as the Senate comes, him newes to bring,
That they him their Dictator had elected.
Brave Curius, who, for Empires managing,
Was after of all Consuls most respected,
Dwelt in a country-Cottage all alone neglected.

More royal's sure Content in Poverty,
In little homely Bowres, which can defend
Us from Sunnes heate, and Ayers injury,
Then glistring Towers, where they waste and spend
In pompe and luxury, what God doth lend:
There, costly Dainties oft with poyson wound:
Here, without cost, the earth sound Cates doth send:
There, golden Vessels, purple Beds are found:
Here, all the flowry bankes do rest and quiet sound.

When Alexander, in a little Tunne,
Saw a great Tenant with content of mind,
The Cynicke, Lo, saith he, that here doth wun
More rest, than I in all the world can find:
I covet all, he nothing lesse doth mind.
They surely have more pleasure, and lesse paine,
Who are with little unto Thrift inclin'd,
Than they that seeke a world of wealth to gaine,
That they may more indulge to ease and pleasure vaine.

One praiseth hunger, as best sawce to meat,
Because it cost him least, yet savour'd best,
And alwaies with delight did drinke and eate,
Because he ne're did without hunger feast.
Some onely live to eate, drinke and digest,
But we ought onely eate and drinke to live;
To live to feed, is to be like a beast:
Who would in reason more, than sense, be thrive,
To body needfull things, to Soule must plenty give.

Xantippe's said once Socrates too blame,
For that he often made an inuitation
Of greatest friends; yet's fare was still the same,
Avoyding alwaies costly preparation:
Soone he replide thus to her allegation:
If, as they seeme, they be our friends indeed,
They will respect our Thrift; but if for fashion
They make a shew: let's to our selves take heed,
And not spend our estate, them daintily to feed.

These patternes are of frugall abstinence,
Which, as you see, the Heathen ev'n adore;
Now see the holy fathers providence
To raise themselues to plenty being poore:
Noe, Abraham, Booz, and a thousand more,
Live upon Tillage, Grazing, Husbandry,
And tend their flockes, corne, cattell, grasse, and store:
Yea, Kings did hereunto themselves apply,
To joyne Magnificence with this Frugality.

Ev'n after Saul anoynted is a King,
He followeth the Cattell from the field,
And they that death to Ishbosheth did bring,
Came to buy Corne; it seemes he Tillage held.
None e're did so magnificently weld
A Scepter, as did royall Salomon,
To which his Thrift such wondrous store did yeeld:
To his sheepe-shearing sprucest Absolon,
Invites ev'n princely David, and his eldest sonne.

See how great Princes, and the sonnes of Kings
Are not ashamed of Frugality.
Priests liv'd indeed of Tythes and Offerings,
And therefore lookt most to Gods husbandry:
Paul had a trade, although a Pharisie;
And though he to th' Apostleship attaine,
Yet workes he in his Trade and Mysterie,
His living with his labour here to gaine,
Nor will he charge the Church, though bound, him to maintaine.

Th' Apostles all were Fishermen, and gain'd
Their living, by induring wet and cold:
Divines thinke, Joseph blessed Jesus train'd
In his owne Trade, till he thrise ten yeeres told.
I could be yet three times as manifold,
This Vertue with examples to commend,
But I had rather be a little bold,
And you perswade her practice to intend;
One's for her praise, but this is counsell for a friend:

Oh what a happinesse it is to live,
And do much good, without offence, to all!
To eate secure those cates our ground doth give,
To lie so low, one can no lower fall,
Yet have ev'n there Content imperiall:
No wickednesse can enter such a Cell,
Highest delights, that can a Prince befall,
This private Cottage may affoord as well,
Where Care not halfe their sorrowes unto thee will tell.

To many, Rist from meane to great estate,
Is not an end, but change of Misery:
The fault is in the Mind, (not in the Fate,)
Which is the same in wealth and poverty:
Who onely mind change and variety,
Live ill, because they still begin to live:
They rightly here injoy prosperity,
That so much pleasure to their Bodies give,
As they not for, but in the Body sought to live.

Happy is he, who never saw that one
With whom he would exchange his meane estate;
Most miserable, who to that are come,
They things, which were superfluous of late,
Have now made necessary to their state:
Such are ev'n slaves, not masters of their pleasure;
They love their ills, which is the hardest fate.
Alas! there is no remedy nor measure
Of Vices, when as men esteeme them as a treasure.

No good befals a man under the Sunne,
The which his mind is not prepar'd to lose:
No losse more easie is to any one,
Than of the things he hath no need to use:
He's never poore, who Natures rules doth chuse;
Nor rich, that liveth by Opinion:
Natures desires be finite; boundlesse those,
That false Opinion depend upon,
Loathing no Sallet: Hunger likes an Onion.

Sure he is best, to whom with sparing hand,
God gives sufficient, let him wish no more:
In need of things superfluous to stand,
Is miserable want, in greatest store.
Excesse oppresseth many, who before
With little could have liv'd and beene content:
These, though they have enough, yet stil be poore,
Because they first beyond their compasse went:
This evill prudent Thrift betimes seeke to prevent.

Who is not made in Husbandry to sweat,
May sweat in Arts or Lawes politicall;
'Tis fit all earne their bread, before they eate:
Nothing is more expensive, prodigall,
Than to have nothing here to doe at all:
Want of employment, Ease, and Idlenesse,
Have caus'd more noble Houses here to fall,
Than Fortunes blasts, or Envies bitternesse.
Let him not live to spend, that nothing doth professe.

Then let him never live, that doth professe
What's worse than nothing, basest Usury:
Herein is certaine profit, I confesse,
But alwaies with anothers misery:
Is this the vertue of Frugality?
By others losses to increase our store?
Then so is rapine, theft, and robbery,
Selling of Justice, which oft bring in more,
Than all the frugall Trades I named have before.

Since Nature with so little is content,
Who here would use unlawfull Arts for gaine?
We are but Stewards here of what is sent,
If we our Talents use aright to gaine,
We twice as many shall of God obtaine:
But if to hide them in the earth we chuse,
Or spend them on our Lusts and Pleasures vaine,
They shall be tane from us, who them abuse,
And giv'n to such as shall them to Gods glory use.

But I so worldly Thrift have followed,
That I forgotten have to thrive in Grace,
And as it in the world is practised,
Must put her off unto the second place:
For I so neere have finished my race,
I must deferre this to another time:
God grant we may them both aright imbrace.
Now, like good husbands, knocke we off betime,
And be at worke to morrow in the mornings prime.

[pp. 1-11]