1625
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. III. Of Temperance.

The Brides Ornaments, viz. Five Meditiations, Morall and Divine. [Books III and IV.]

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett opens his discourse on Temperance in the Spenserian vein, and afterwards mentions Guyon and the Palmer as types of temperance.



My Muse now fares like to some Pilot wise,
Who having some dread storms of danger past,
That tost his vessell oft up to the skies,
Now sailing in the calme with temperate blast,
Goes gently on, lest too much dangerous haste
His ship unwares on hidden rocke impight,
And him and all his hopes away should cast,
For thus it oft befals some carelesse wight,
To wreck in fairest calme, when they the storme have quight.

I late was tost in rough and boisterous Sea,
Of Zeale and Jealousie, which having past,
I am to saile in calm and fairest Lea,
Of Temperance most abstinent and chaste;
Therefore my Muse goes on with sober hast,
Knowing against her many dangers lie,
Which by the touch, tongue, smell, eye, ear, or taste,
Would her entrap, and bring in jeopardy,
Which Poets by the Syrt's and Syrens do imply.

And therefore did the famous blinde Bards quill,
Preferre Ulysses in his Court of Fame,
Who of this Temperance had got the skill,
'Fore Ajax, Hector, or Achilles name,
His Odysses may testifie the same
Which were compos'd his Temperance to commend
By which he men and monsters overcame,
And did life, honour, chastitie defend,
'Gainst Syrens and Enchantments to his latest end.

And sure the Heathen, to all Christians shame,
Seem'd wondrously us herein to transcend,
But that they wanted that most holy flame
Of zeale, which I so lately did commend,
And knowledge, which should guide them to their end,
All that they had by natures light was showne,
But God his holy Word to us doth send,
Whereby his Will and Counsell is made knowne,
What fruit then ought we beare, where so good seed is sowne.

Eve was the first Author of Intemperance,
Led by her eye, nice tast, and fond desire
Of Knowledge, with proud wicked Ignorance,
And chang'd Gods love to everlasting ire,
The Garden loosing for eternall fire;
But what shee lost his Temperance doth gaine,
Whose aid now in mine entrance I desire
Who from all food did fortie daies abstaine,
And all's Life from intemperate, thought, word, deed, refrain.

This Virtue some doe make so Cardinall,
That all the rest in her they would imply;
As Love, Peace, Concord, Pudour Virginall,
Gentleness, Meeknesse, Liberalitie,
Thrift, Silence, Friendship, Goodnesse, Gravitie,
Honesty, Purenesse, all true moderation,
Which doth withhold from Sin and Vanitie,
And bringeth unto true humiliation:
Most happy Mother of so faire a Generation.

But in some limits that I may her bound,
I her define to be a moderation
Of such desires, as are within us found
In Diet, Actions, Words, and Affectation;
For with these fow'r I bound my Meditation;
In Diet shee requires Sobrietie,
In Actions, true unfain'd humiliation,
Her Words she graceth aye with Modesty,
And her affections charmes with Meeknesse; Chastity.

See in her Diet, first Sobrietie,
In words and actions true humiliation,
Accompany'd with precious Modesty,
Last Continence from Lust, and angry Passion;
The cause of all is prudent Moderation;
The aged Palmer, Spencer, Guyons trustie guide,
That stands against all stubborne perturbation,
By whose sage helpe, secure and safe we slide,
By whirle-pooles and deepe gulfes which gape for us so wide.

For all through this worlds boistrous Sea must passe,
Before we at our quiet Hav'n arrive,
The Boate our Body is, as brittle glasse,
Our Steeres-man's Temperance, it right doth drive.
Besides the Rocks that threat this Boat to rive;
Are many Gulfes and Whirl-pooles of decay
Which wait th' Affections, and the Senses five
By force and sweet Allurements to assay,
Some fall by rage and diet, some by lustfull play.

But in that Body where doth reason sway,
And Sense and Passion be obedient,
There the affections all behold you may
In happy peace, and goodly government:
There Temperance adornes her glorious Tent,
With virtues all to make it shine most bright,
The mirrour of Gods workes most excellent,
And to them all such bounteous banquets dight,
As may be best for Health, Praise, Profit, and Delight.

Most glorious frame of nature! which shee built,
The whole world in one point t' epitomize,
Just, pure, and perfect, till intemp'rate guilt,
Her Makers Hests by Pride did foul misprise,
Since that shee learned to be lowly, wise,
And not obey intemperate desire,
Thus she her glorious house reedifies,
And most of all doth lowly Cells admire,
The loftiest is no place for temperate retire.

Shee therefore never comes in company,
Of such as swim in pride, and bathe in blisse,
Wasting their daies in ease and luxury,
For in such ease, men easily do amisse,
But hee whose mind in studie watchfull is,
Whose limbs are toyl'd with labour, mind, with pain;
Shee these as her sweet darlings dear doth kisse,
The idle life cannot to her attaine;
Before her Gate, high God employment did ordain!

Excesse doth make the minde of beastly man,
Forget his first created excellence;
That pure estate in which his Life began,
And as a Beast that wants intelligence,
'Twixt sense and reason put no difference;
But like a Brute of base and swinish kind;
Delights in filth and foule incontinence,
For Lust and Wine so far transforme the minde,
Affections beare the sway, and royall reason binde.

Thus Bacchus Fountain's turn'd to puddle lake,
Wherein like filthy beasts base men lie drown'd,
And Swines of Gods fair Images do make;
This vice hath now with us such footing found,
As Drunkennesse with glory doth abound,
Pure, Liber, wont to be the Muses friend,
All musing, Wit and Learning doth confound,
The Flemings this did first to us commend,
But herein we them and all Nations now transcend.

No better stratageme doth Satan know,
(I alwayes must except base drunkennesse)
Then gaming all our youth to overthrow,
The fruict Intemperate of Idlenesse
Oh horrible, infernall wickednesse:
To heare a wretch, his Makers Name blaspheme,
When Dice or Carding crosse his good successe,
And ev'n his Soule, which Christ's bloud did redeeme;
With his estate, to hazard to a dyes esteeme.

Intemperate, drinking, play, smoake, in excesse
Is now our gallants onely occupation,
The poisoning fruits of their loose Idlenesse,
Base Gormandizing, filthy Fornication
Is turn'd from foule reproach to commendation,
Now use of Armes and manly exercise,
Are held a toile and not a recreation;
Who so is moderate, chaste, valiant, wise,
Him as precise and cynicall they doe despise.

Oh foolish man! learn Temperance of thy Dog,
Thine Horse and Hawke, wherein thou tak'st delight,
Which when they should shew sport, thou dost not clog
And fill with food, their greedie appetite;
Thou them dost diet, that they may be light,
And keepst from Lust, their courage to prolong,
One dulls the Body, th' other kills the Sprite,
But Abstinence doth make both swift and strong,
The temperate mans dayes are happy, healthful, long,

And may unto Pauls Pilote be compar'd,
Whose vessell with exceeding tempest tost,
Unlades, and lightens, having most regard,
To save his Life, though all his goods be lost:
Ev'n so the temperate man in this world crost,
With baits of appetite, lust, anger, Pride,
Makes use of those that for his use are most,
But needlesse things, wherewith his vessels cloid,
With his owne hands doth to the hungry, fish divide.

When behold the stately Firmament,
Adorn'd with glorious Lamps of heav'nly fire;
The Stars with their appointed roomes content,
And neither other to supplant desire;
Their Temperance in Heav'n I doe admire:
But then I view the ambitious sparkes below,
Who to possesse the whole Earth doe aspire;
And all poor Cottages to overthrow,
That stopt their prospect, great alone on earth to grow.

Nature with small, no plentie Lust can bound,
Unlimited desires here satisfie,
No Gold, nor Silver can, though they abound,
Like stones amongst the wise Kings vanitie,
Though Jesses Sonne have such varietie
Of Wives and Maids, yet comes the stranger, Lust,
Urias only Lamb for him must die,
No home-bred fare, can satisfie base dust;
But strange rare cates from forraine Nations have we must.

The temperate man, I to a Brooke compare,
Contented with sweet Fountaines of her owne;
Which runs most pleasant, pure, delightfull, cleere:
But if with flouds her channels once be flowne,
Then streight her troubled waters foule are growne.
So whil'st we Temperance with us retain,
And no excesse of Diet's in us knowne,
Our heart from ire, our bed is free from staine:
But cease from Temperance, and all is foule again.

And as pure Streames continue sweet and cleere,
Whilst they within their Channells swiftly flow,
Refreshing all the plants and flowers neere,
But if they idlely stand, or run but slow,
Then thicke and foule like idle lake they grow:
Ev'n so the man that doth his minde advance,
His Makers heav'nly will to doe and know,
To honour shall be rais'd above all chance,
But he that idle grow's falls to Intemperance.

Shee is a short, but a most pleasant way,
Wherein small labour is, but much much delight,
The Empresse that doth our affections sway,
The Genius of all other vertues hight,
Pillar of Fortitude, The Helmet bright,
Against Lasciviousness, The eyes best guide,
Bond of goodwill, of cogitations light,
Restraint; The Enemy of Lust and Pride,
The Soules chaste counsellour, her vow' and prayers to guide.

Of Prudence and true Wisedome the foundation,
To him that hath her, can no ill befall,
No greater wealth can be then Contentation,
Who hath her, hath that, who lacks that, wants all,
Who nothing need; ev'n Gods the Heathen call.
Fortune may bring us wealth and royall fare,
But Temperance must give content withall,
By her we freed from perturbations are,
And having daily bread, doe take no further care.

For from her Temper shee receives her name,
As being of extreames the moderation,
The golden meane that doth affections frame,
Actions and Words to natures ordination,
Unspotted pure as at our first Creation:
Thus wee abstain from Lust and Violence,
And though on earth is yet our Conversation,
Wee hope ere long to be received hence,
Meane while, our Life's a sacrifice of Continence.

Thus see our protoplasts first cloth'd in skins
The greene herbe of the field their onely meate,
The Beasts their Convives, and the Woods their Inns,
To shield from cold, and save from scorching heate,
And all this must be got with toile and sweate,
No living thing was then allowed good;
For as the learned thinke, man might not eat,
Of any living creature till the Floud,
But since, as the greene herbe God gave them all for food.

How often did the Fathers pray and fast,
And some from women, some from wine abstain,
Till sixtie years they keepe their bodies chast,
A Temperate and chast seed here to obtaine:
When Ruth at Booz feet, all night had laine;
He ladeth her with corne and sends away,
From lawless Lust he doth himselfe containe,
Though he had dranke, and cheer'd his heart that day,
An habite of true Temperance see here you may.

Joseph would not against his Maker sinne,
For Pharaohs Stewards Ladies soft embrace,
Yet easier 'tis a walled town to winne,
Then to resist temptations vile and base,
Nought sooner doth our lives with Lust disgrace,
Then bathe in ease and swim in foule excesse,
Had David been at warre in Joabs place
He had not faln into such wickednesse,
Adultery, the fruit of fullnesse, Idlenesse.

Oh tell me David, where was then become,
Thy fasting wont thy soule to humble so,
That it was wont to thy reproach to come,
And weakned so thy knees, thou couldst not goe?
Thy teares which did to such great plentie grow,
They were thy meat and drinke, both day and night,
All watering thy couch, so they did flow,
That ev'n my Muse weepes at thy piteous plight,
Yet had thy soule therein unspeakable delight.

I cannot but admire the Temperance,
Of that great Monarch, mighty Philips Sonne,
Who when he had unto his governance,
Darius Empire, Wife and Daughters wonne,
Their beautie would by no meanes looke upon;
Esteeming it a most unworthy deed,
When he so many men had overcome,
To be of one weake woman conquered,
Like Temperance of so young a Prince I never read.

Not that the Heathens Temper I compare,
To those that have beene truly sanctifide,
Of which Job is to us a patternne rare;
Who lest his eyes should draw his heart aside,
Did covenant they on no Maid should glide:
How infinite are watchings, fastings, cold,
Which to subdue the flesh Paul did abide,
But above all th' examples I have told,
The Locust-eater and's Disciples lives behold.

And though whilst that the Bridegroome pleas'd to stay,
The children of Bride-chamber did not fast,
Yet when from them he taken was away,
Behold they then did pay for all was past,
And oft did hunger, whip, and prison taste;
No Poets quill ere able was to fain,
Like Temperance of pure Lamb most temprate chast,
Reviled, scoffed, scorned, scourged, slain;
Yet open'd not his mouth to scoffe, or speake againe.

Oh shall the King of Angels and of Men,
Abus'd by workmanship of his owne hand,
Endure such wrongs, and never turne agen:
Whose one word could have call'd th' whole heav'nly Band,
The Fury of these wretches to withstand;
And shall the Lord of Life so meekly dye,
For our intemperate affections; and
Shall not we them all with him crucifie,
And fleshly members of our Body's mortifie?

But we like Foxes build a stately hall,
And like the Birds in stately Cedars nest,
When Hee that did of nothing make them all,
Had not a place to lay his head to rest;
Wee see his glorious members here distrest,
Want lodging, food, and raiment for the cold,
Whil'st we abound in meates, and fill our chest
With change of raiment, and with store of gold,
And in birds softest plumes, our looser limbs infold.

Alas how many hunting worlds gay showes,
By base Intemperances sweetned baite,
And vile Ambition which downe headlong throwes,
Are brought to ruine most unfortunate;
Oh grant that I may live in mean estate,
And my freed soule with Contemplation please;
My clothing warme, my diet temperate,
Freed from all tempests of worlds raging Seas,
Which tosse poor sailing soules, in dangerous disease.

Most happy who with little is content,
That though he want, yet never doth complaine;
Nor wisheth more his sorrow to augment,
Knowing that he by heaping wealth doth gaine,
Nothing but care, vexation, and paine:
What more then daily bread here doe I need?
What need of forraine cates or feathers vaine?
Let fields my food; my flocke my clothing breed,
No other would I wear, no other would I feed.

In vaine doe foolish men the Heav'ns accuse
Of sad misfortunes, paines, and injuries,
Which do (if we knew truly them to use)
To ev'ry man what's fittest for him size,
That's not the best estate which most we prize,
Nor that the worst, which most men seeke to shun,
Each as he list his fortunes may devise,
With wishes, no man happinesse hath wun,
Such wishers cease to live, before their life begun.

It is mans minde that maketh good or ill,
Wretched or happy, sad, glad, rich or poore,
He hath abundantly all things at will,
That having little, yet desires no more,
When he that's drown'd in wealth, and swims in store,
Doth live in want to satisfie desire,
Which never hath enough, fond fooles therefore,
Are they that feed Lusts and Ambitions fire;
Which like base Avarice, doth more and more require.

When first I saw the glory of the Great,
I then them only happy men did hold,
For sumptuous houses, lodging, rayment, meat,
Honour, Attendance, Jewells, Silver, Gold,
But when the cares and dangers I behold,
Of those whom Fortune doth so high advance,
How to dissembling flattery some are sold;
Lust, Fulnesse, Idlenesse, Intemperance;
My life I happy deeme, in quiet lowly chance.

Thus of late folly's, I though late complaine,
And that sweet Peace, which doth not there appeare,
Now in mine homely Cell I entertaine,
Which by her want I learne to love more dear;
Sweet holy quiet life! where meanest cheare
To hungry stomacks, is a daily feast,
Where thirst like Nectar, makes fresh cooling beere;
Where in a cabbin is more quiet rest,
Then on Downe Persian beds, with Gold and Feathers drest.

In this estate I no man doe envy,
Nor would envied be of any one;
Great store of wealth, doth store of cares supply,
That little that I have is still mine owne,
I reape with Joy the crop, that I have sowne,
Without least care but onely to attend it,
The Lambs I weane, are daily greater growne:
What have I but to praise him that doth send it?
And with a cheerefull heart unto the poore to lend it.

But least corrupt my mind, or body grow
With too much ease, or wanton Idlenesse;
My mind I set my Makers Will to know,
His Wisedome, Power, Truth, and Holinesse;
I often ride or walke to wearinesse,
The members of my body to subdue
And Temper 'gainst Lust and Laciviousnesse,
Thus by sweet contemplation, oft I view,
Such high transcendent things, as yet I never knew.

Thus wrapt with contemplation I find,
That all these worlds-gay show's which men admire,
Are but vaine shadow's, to the joy's of mind
Of those, that lead their lives in safe retire;
Whose onely happiness and hearts desire,
Is here the talents God hath lent to spend
Unto his glory, as he doth require,
And using Temperately what he doth send;
Thus grant that I may live, thus grant that I may end.

[pp. 20-31]