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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. IIII. Gods Word.

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

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett seizes an opportunity to enter into controversy with the Roman church.



So mighty are the weapons manifold,
Wherewith our spirituall Foes do us assaile;
So many stratagems us to infold,
So many terrors vaine, our hearts to quaile,
That neither Brestplate, Helmet, Shield, or Maile,
Us help against their Forces can afford;
For if they close with us they will prevaile,
Therefore we must unsheathe our keenest Sword;
Our weapon spirituall, ev'n Gods most holy Word.

Which those that able are to wield aright,
Of farre more Force, and lively Power find,
Then all the weapons whereof Poets write,
To have been wondrous pow'rfull in their kind:
What Homer of Achilles Spear hath coyn'd,
I not unfitly to this Sword apply;
Whose wounds to heale, no Balme could be assign'd,
The Speare that hurt, must only remedy;
So whom this Sword doth kill, this Sword must vivifie.

Of wondrous weapons Heathen Poets tell,
Of Stygian Armour, and enchanted Swords;
Whereby small Knights, did monstrous Gyants quell,
Subdude, and raigned over them as Lords,
Such fiction to us good advice affords,
Against these Gyants spirituall to fight,
Our Fleshly Lusts, and for to binde in Cords,
Our vaine affections here that take delight,
In doing that is wrong, and leaving that is right.

God of all might, that hast us giv'n this sword,
Not only spirituall Battailes here to fight,
But dost engrave in it, as on record
Thy Rules, whereby we muster may aright;
The Lanthorne to our paths, our feets best light,
Direct my Muse to sing I humbly pray
Of this thy Word, by holy Words insight,
For but by it, none can aright display
That Swords eternal Power, which Sin and Hell dismay.

That Word, which in Beginning, by a word,
Of Nothing made, Heav'n, Earth, and Creatures all,
And was from all Beginning God and Lord,
Doth not within my Muses compasse fall:
That Word whereof now meditate I shall,
Is that revealed written veritie,
Which first and second Testament we call:
Both which were first declared mightily
By wonders, signes, and miracles from God on high.

For as the Lord most mighty wonders wrought,
By him, that publikely did first record
This sacred Word; And by his Hand forth brought
His Sonnes from bondage of a cruell Lord:
So those to whom he did this Grace afford,
Of publishing his later Testament,
Wrought mighty wonders by this mighty Word,
To all beholders great astonishment,
Confirming thus, that they from God above were sent.

From whom this Word hath all Authority,
For by the holy Spirits inspiration,
Came Law and Gospell, Prophets, History,
And all Canonicall wise ordination:
The sacred Light, that gives illumination
Until the Day-starre in our Hearts arise:
Whose heav'nly Wisdome breedeth Admiration
In all their Hearts, that are divinely wise,
But folly seemes to such as sinne doth blinde their eyes.

And sure it is a mighty pow'rfull Word,
If that the sense thereof be right apply'd,
More keene then any sharp two-edged sword,
And ev'n the Soule and Spirit doth divide:
By it are all our hearts intents descri'd,
The joynts and marrow it doth smite in sunder,
No Creature from her sight it self can hide,
All high exalted things it bringeth under:
And 'gainst all disobedience soundeth out like thunder.

This was the Sword, wherewith our valiant Head,
When he was tempted in the Wildernesse,
And with a six-weekes-fast sore weakened,
Did free himselfe from Hells malitiousnesse:
When first on him his Enemy did presse,
He us'd the hilts himselfe for to defend,
But when he could not thus his Foe represse;
Loe he the point against his Breast doth bend;
Behind me, Satan, All, Gods worship must attend.

Those, that will use a right this holy Word,
Must not the letter, but the sense apply;
Or else they use the Scabbard for the Sword,
Wherewith none ever wun the Victory:
It is the Mystery of Iniquitie,
To take the letter, and to leave the sense,
The forge of Antichrists Idolatry,
The feigned Rocke, the Key's of Heaven from whence
He claimes to Universall Power, Obedience.

A multitude of words, but all one sense,
And tending all to that grand mystery,
To which all mysteries have reference;
Mans personall union with the Deity:
The which to God was knowne infalsibly
In his election, ere the worlds Foundation,
And all the Bookes it seems to typifie
From Genesis unto the Revelation,
Sublime, transcendent mystery's of mans Salvation.

How should my Muse these hope to comprehend,
In this short fainting breath of meditation;
Which doth all humane wit and skill transcend,
Who each word hath an hid signification:
Each letter, pricke, and point, an observation,
All savouring of Wisdome, true, divine,
And far beyond mans weake investigation,
In it such rare profound deep eLearning shine,
A Volume is not able to expound a Line.

Fie then on those, that swolne with vaine ambition
To sway all Kingdomes with materiall sword;
Preferre before this Word, their vaine tradition,
Which nought but vainnesse, like themselves afford:
Their names be wiped out of the Record
And Booke, which all thy Saints names doth containe;
That thus doe seeke to vilifie this Word,
Which to accomplish Gods owne Sonne was slaine,
And thousand Martyrs spent their bloud it to maintain.

So deale with Prophets, that to hide conspire
From simple people, Food spirituall;
Which they, as new borne Babes do milke desire,
That they may grow up to be strong and tall:
I grant as Mothers breasts doe best of all
Nourish the Child, so doth Gods holy Word,
Which from our Mother-Churches breasts doth fall
Best nourishment unto her Babes afford;
So as it be sincere: Else be it all abhor'd.

True Angells Food! sweet Manna, pure, divine,
My Spirits daily bread, and nourishment,
Which wanting shee doth hunger, starve and pine,
And yeeld to Bodies fleshly Regiment:
My Soule with fat and marrow is content,
When I with joyfull lips thy praises sing,
And feed upon thy Lawes great wonderment;
Which to subjection doth my Body bring,
And makes the Spirit rule, and order like a King.

The Spirit it compares to Looking Glasse,
Where we our Faces Spots may all behold;
But soone out of our memory they passe,
Like to a Dreame or Tale that's idlely told:
But who his mind thereon doth daily hold,
Doth walke in perfect Law of Liberty,
Which to him doth apparently unfold
His Soule and Fleshes least deformity,
And sheweth him the means the same to rectifie.

Ev'n as the Raine indifferently doth fall,
Upon the fruitfull, and the barren ground;
So preached is this Heav'nly Word to all,
Though to the faithlesse it be fruitlesse found,
Oh! where this Word doth powerfully sonnd,
The strongest holds of sin it shatters downe;
And things most high exalted doth confound,
It's smallest Seed in lowly Valley sowne,
Eft suddenly is to a mighty Cedar growne.

It is is reported of the silver Dove,
She neere the purest Streames doth most delight;
In which Shee may espy the shadow move,
Of towring Falcon, or the ravening Kite;
Whereby she is forewarn'd to scape by flight,
From cruell Hawkes, that seeke her for a prey!
So if in spirituall streames we take delight,
Our spirituall Foes we there discover may,
That so our Soules forewarn'd, like Doves might fly away.

Most glorious Sun-shine! where it doth enlight,
More comfortable Light hath never showne;
But when Shee doth withdraw her Beames, is night
And darknesse spirituall, far grosser growne,
Then that which three day's was to Pharaoh knowne;
Hard-hearted Pharaoh, thou that didst despise,
This Word and all the wonders by it showne,
Ev'n all thy plagues light on them that devise,
To hide this heav'nly Light; from simple peoples ey's.

It is the doore, whereby the pastours may
Spiritually ascend into their Fold,
Those that do enter in another way
We doe as ravening wolves and robbers hold:
This Word's a touchstone, which doth try from Gold
All mettalls base, Inventions of mans braine,
Of which such store at Latium now are sold,
Not for the Flocks, but for the Shepheards gaine,
Masse, Dirges, Pardons, Trentalls, and Traditions vaine.

Nothing describe her nature better will,
Then Touchstone: th' use of which simplest may learne,
But one had need of cunning Gold-smiths skill;
True Touchstone from a false one to discerne,
Oh how did those noble Bereans earne!
To try those things that Paul delivered,
The things which our Salvation concerne,
By that which in the Scriptures they had read,
The Scriptures that the Spirit had canonized.

Who from the simple people these doe hide,
Deal as with Israel did the Cananite,
Who no Smith suffer'd in their Coasts t' abide,
To make a weapon for an Israelite:
Therefore no speare, nor sword when they should fight,
But in Sauls hands and Jonathans were found,
Chams hellish pollicy, most dev'lish sleight,
To hold in Ignorance and Bondage bound
By taking way such helpes as Liberty propound.

As first, God by his Word and Spirit wrought
And fashion'd all things in this worlds Creation,
So by this Word and Spirit he hath brought,
All things to passe in this our renovation;
And as he for our Bodyes preservation,
Hath here materiall Bread and Wine prepar'd,
So's Word and Spirit is for sustentation
Of all our Soules, that rightly it regard,
Such never need of thirst and hunger be afeard.

As Appetite's a Signe of Body's Health,
So of the Soules is hunger of his Word;
And as to him that seeketh store of wealth,
A Myne can best what he desires afford:
So he that spirituall treasures up would hoard,
Come to this sacred Word where he shall find,
It doth a world of mystery's record,
The richest jewels to adorne the mind,
True treasure's no where else revealed to mankind.

For it's the Magazine where pastours have,
All gems and treasures to enrich their fold;
The store-house, whence they all abundance crave
Of living food, their Lambs in plight to hold;
The armory, from whence they may he bold,
To fetch all armes and weapons to withstand
The wolves which them infest: and to uphold
Truth and the right, against all Satans band,
False Hereticks, base Lusts, and worlds encroaching hand.

But as the Manna that from Heav'n was sent,
Bred Wormes, if wrong, but Food if rightly used,
So breeds this Word our Soules due nourishment,
But never-dying wormes if once abused:
He that for Egypts Flesh-pots hath refused,
This Heav'nly Food, And mans tradition vaine,
His base false lying Legends rather chused,
Shall whilst this Flesh betweene his jaws remaine
Be with his great and wealthiest chosen shavelings slain.

Fountain of Living Water! which doth more
And faster spring, as it is emptied,
Most fruitfull Vine, which bringeth still more store,
Of heav'nly grapes, as they are gathered,
Th' epistle of Hero us King, which rightly read,
Brings us the gladsome tidings of Salvation;
Whose harder sense strong men may chew as bread,
The plainer babes may suck for sustentation;
We both aright concoct by heav'nly meditation,

The Sword that doth spiritually divide
From us, all manner of concupiscence:
Our youth's reformer, and our ages guide,
Transcending reason, more then reason sence;
Truths ground, the Fountaine of Intelligence;
Loves complement, the root of humblenesse;
Faiths hold, the Rule of all Obedience:
Hopes anchor, and the path of Righteousnesse,
The ladder which we climbe from hence to Happinesse.

Would you have more? it is the milke sincere,
Which can alone quench Hells eternall fire;
The only Daughter, to her Mother deare,
The mystery which Angells doe admire,
The sweetest song of blessed heav'nly Quire:
Whose Praise ev'n all the heav'nly Powers sing;
Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, all desire
With all their might to strike this lofty string,
Which David in one Psalme a thousand times doth ring.

As Jacob with the Angell wresteled,
Nor let him goe without a blessing would;
So when words mysteries by us are read,
We strive and struggle for the meaning should:
A goodly strife if we contending could
Hold out, till what we seek we do obtaine;
As Incense doth no pleasing smell unfold,
Nor Spice till it be in a Mortar braine,
So are words mysteries, till study makes them plaine.

This makes the lips of Christs endeared Bride,
Then any Hony combe to drop more sweet;
And underneath her daintiest tongue, abide
Hony and Milke; The Hony is most meet
To heale the wounds Sin makes from head to feet,
The Milke for Babes; Loe thus her either Brest,
Which like two twining Roes doe equall meet,
Yeeld most abundant Food, if softly prest,
And both with Roses sweet and Lilly's faire are drest.

This is the Tower of David, which is built
By th' holy Spirit, of most costly stone;
Whereon a thousand Shields doe hang all guilt
With Swords and weapons for the mightiest One:
This is the Privy Garden, where alone,
The Spouse with Bridegroome doth her self delight,
Planted with Nardus, Saffron, Cinamon,
And all trees good for medicine, tast, or sight,
Through which doth flow a well of living waters bright.

Most heav'nly Paradise! where Tree of Life
My Soule most heav'nly Fruits doth daily bring;
Fit for the Lamb to walk in, with his wife,
And for the Spouse most Angell-like to sing,
The Soveraigne Grace and Bounty of her King;
Where though I ofter seeke to hide in vaine,
Mee from my Nakednesse discovering,
My blessed Bridegroome calleth me againe,
And clothes me with the Robes of Lamb most righteous slaine.

There Manna-like (Loe) ev'ry Fruit doth taste,
Just as we would, none justly can complaine;
Though his unweeded Garden lieth waste,
God sends to good and bad alike his raine:
Let him, where thornes and bryars do remaine
Take heed, how he this heav'nly deaw accuse;
It is the root, thy evil heart and vaine,
Which doth the sweetnesse of this raine abuse;
Which for to water weeds and nettles doth it use.

How should this Word be sweet unto the mouth
Wherein is nought but Gall and Bitternesse!
Or how should heav'nly deaws from West or South,
Moisten that Heart, which by maliciousnesse
More hardned is, then Flint in wickednesse:
Alas what Corne can sweetest raine forth bring,
In Ground that choked is with worldlinesse:
Whereas the thornes up with the wheat doe spring,
And from the root suck up all heav'nly nourishing.

Ev'n as a Lamp without supply of Oyle
Being daily had, is soone extinguished;
So though we seem to prosper here a while
In Faith and Grace, all's soone abolished
Unlesse that they be daily nourished,
With Hearing, Reading, Prayer, Meditation,
In vaine it with our mouths is uttered,
Except it in our hearts makes habitation;
And we expresse it in our lives and conversation.

Oh let this holy Words most heav'nly Fire,
My secret, sound affections inflame,
And burn up all vaine fleshly worlds desire:
Oh blessed Fire! like that in Bush did flame,
But never did consume or burne the same;
The fire whereby Gold Catholike is tride,
And straw, and 'stubbled errour brought to shame,
In whom this inward fire doth ay reside;
He well the scorching heat of outward may abide.

But as no fleshly eyes can here behold,
The glorious Sunne, but by that Suns sweet sight;
So no mans understanding, may be bold
To know this Word, but where it doth enlight.
Lord! in thy Light, then let me see this Light,
Whereby I may my sinfull life amend;
And in thy Statutes set my whole delight,
And wholly in the way's of wisdome tend,
So shall my foot stand fast, with joy unto the end.

For as the snow and raine from Heav'n descend,
But never thither doe returne againe
Till that be done; for which thou didst them send,
To make the fruitfull soile fit for the graine;
So never shall thy Word return in vaine,
But sure accomplish what thou dost intend;
Then moisten daily, with this heav'nly raine,
My hardned Heart, that all my powers may bend,
To glorifie thy name, who dost these showers send.

How should he fear to want his daily Food,
Who with this Word of Life is nourished?
Or who can thirst that drinketh of his bloud?
Let not this Word be undervalued:
He that is with this Heav'nly Manna fed,
Eates of the fattest of Gods spirituall store;
Wherewith Christs tender Spouse is fostered,
Till Shee grow strong and fair to stand before
Her Head, And never thirst nor hunger any more.

This Word's Eternall, therefore hath no end;
I no beginning nor conclusion find.
I could herein my Life and Spirits spend,
It doth so feed my Soule and glad my mind:
But now my Muse to Prayer is assign'd,
And bows her knees to end Her Meditation
With Praise to Him who first mine Heart inclin'd,
To seeke this Heav'nly Food of Contemplation,
I hope unto his Glory, and mine owne Salvation.

[pp. 85-95]