1625
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Urania, or the Heavenly Muse.

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

Robert Aylett


An allegorical ode in 71 quatrains. Urania appears in a vision to deliver a lecture on sacred and profane poetry: Spenser ("who lowly late did maske in Shepheards weeds") appears in a catalogue of poets.

F. M. Padelford: "'Urania,' by its title, suggests the Urania of Du Bartas, which was nothing less than the declaration of a new school of poetry and the canonization of a new muse. As a matter of fact, Aylett's poem is a free revision of the Urania, or more immediately of Sylvester's translation. While the outline of the original is closely followed, and many stanzas lean heavily upon the actual phrasing of the earlier English version, some passages are condensed and others amplified. The meter is the same as that used by Sylvester — a stanza of four iambic pentameter lines, alternately rhymed. Aylett limits his version to seventy-one such stanzas, whereas Du Bartas and Sylvester employ eighty-five and eighty-six, respectively. By expanding the one stanza in which Urania announces herself, to three, Aylett links the poem with The Brides Ornaments, Urania declaring that she is a messenger sent from the Queen of Love — that queen whose court is the theme of the Proem to The Brides Ornaments" "Robert Aylett" (1936) 19.



About the Season Lawyers tongues doe rest,
And make for Ceres honor long vacation;
I (freed from tumults which me erst oprest,)
Dispose my mind to holy Meditation:

And thinking how I might a subject find,
Delightful, pleasing, sweet and profitable;
My heart to better, and inrich my mind,
And tongue acquaint with Phrases delectable.

As Traveller that meets with divers wayes,
I long deliberate to chuse the best
And fairest Path to Mount, where Lawrell Bayes
The Numbers crown that are divinely drest.

One while I sought in measures Comicall
To maske the Graces all upon the Stage;
Or in a Tragique Scene up Ghosts to call,
Of Worthies slain by cruel Tyrants rage:

Anon I would the Union celebrate,
Which made a Damask Rose of Red and White,
The fairest Flower of Brittons happy State;
Which Roses then, now Kingdomes doth unite.

I thought likewise to sing that happy Peace
Our Illand-world enjoyeth by this Union,
Which makes our honour, riches, strength increase,
And have with heav'nly Arts such free communion.

Then I th' admired Prudence would rehearse
Of Brittons Scepter-swaying Solomon,
Matter which would immortalize a Verse,
And save such Splendour from Oblivion.

Prone was my flesh the winged wag to sing
Of wanton Venus, and her Bitter-sweet,
That glads the Tast, but doth the Bowells wring,
For chaster eares a Subject far unmeet.

Whilst wavering thus in fruitless inquisition,
Yet unresolv'd of any course I rove,
Behold I see an heav'nly Apparition,
Some Herauld doubtlesse from the Queene of Love;

Her gesture and her grace Angelicall,
With wings whereby her selfe to heav'n she rears,
Her countenance faire, sweet, celestial,
Her voice like Musicke of the heav'nly Spheares.

A glorious Garland crown'd her golden head,
Bedeck'd with all the Flowers, sweet and gay,
That could on Tempes Plaines be gathered,
By learned Sisters in their fairest May.

Immortall Flowers, which spring and flourish ay,
And ay their verdure and sweet sent retaine,
Like heav'nly Arts, which never do decay,
But by their using greater glory gaine.

On shoulders hangs her azure mantle light,
With silver spangles all adorned faire,
Twinkling like brightest Starres in frosty night,
As they are moved by the gentle aire:

Her nether parts to hide from vulgar eye
A Kirtle like Heav'ns Canopy did cover;
Where all the Signes of Heav'n imbroidred fly,
And all the Graces seem about to hover.

I, saith shee, am Urania to thee sent,
From thine adored Mistrisse, Queen of Love;
I ravish Soules above the Firmament,
That they in Numbers like the Spheres may move.

With Silver Key I doe unlocke the mind
Of Mortalls sealed up in Ignorance,
That oft their Soules above the Stars they find,
When Bodyes lye on ground as in a trance.

For I the Spirit am of Contemplation,
Th' Elixir of Ambrosia divine,
Pure Angells food, Soules sweetest delectation,
The Helicon, where both the Sisters nine.

Art teacheth Art, Experience Policy,
And Practice guild's the tongue with Eloquence;
But none reach lofty straines of Poesie,
That have them not by heav'nly influence.

Hence 'tis that Clerks which gaine immortall praise,
By their deepe learned Eloquence in Prose,
Their numbers cannot to such honour raise,
As one that scarce the Rules of Grammer knows:

It is beyond the reach of will or wit,
A holy Flame of heav'nly Loves pure fire,
A soaring, high, transcendent, furious fit,
Whose Life, light, heat and strength love doth inspire.

Love's her Beginning, and her End is Love,
Love is the Soule, and Life of Poesie;
No Poeme without Love did ever prove,
No more then Musicke without Harmony.

The Love of Honour, and of Chevalry,
So rais'd the old blind Greeks Heroique quill;
Hee lifts Achilles valiant acts more high,
Than his that conquer'd all the world at will.

The love of Civill, and Self-government
Him taught to frame such an exact Ulisses;
That he who by this Patterne did invent,
Romes glorious author, such perfection misses.

Eglogues of Love are Muses first delights,
Till thorough country pleasures shee doth come,
To sing in state of Honour, Armes and Knights,
And out of old Troyes ashes raise up Rome.

The wanton, all whose speeches were in Verse,
Who sings in Fictions all Dame natures story;
In ev'ry sentence doth his Love rehearse,
But ah base Lust obscureth all his glory.

So Loves old rigid Cato vertues lore,
He makes them dance the measures cunningly;
So loves Lucretius Dame natures store,
He turns all Pliny into Poetry.

And as the object of our Love exceeds,
So strikes the Muse on high or lower strings;
Who lowly late did mask in Shepheards weeds,
In high Heroiques of Arms, and Honour sings.

My Darling Bartas, who on Angells wings,
Beholds the six day's of the Worlds Creation,
Was so in love with Heav'n and heav'nly things,
Hee wholly on them fixt his Contemplation.

And wen he on the Seventh Day comes to rest,
He them all orders to his Makers Glory:
Doubtlesse he fram'd a new world in his brest,
Whereof he so Divinely sings the story.

It was this heav'nly Love that did incite,
The warlike Shepheard such sweet notes to sing,
His love unto Gods Statutes day and night,
Do strike so loud his Harpe and Violls string.

And as Wind-Instrument to him repay's,
That sounds it sweetest, musick, for his breath;
So sings this Psalmist Hymnes, and heav'nly Lay's
To him that gives him Spirit, till his Death.

Oh heav'nly Musicke, which the rage could quell
Of Cis his sonne, possest with evill Spirit
Pure Hymns, from God, sweet mercy to compell,
When foulest Sins Hell-fire doe commerit.

Sweet Shepheard, when thou singest forth thy Flocks,
The Angells all admire thy heav'nly Lay's;
Thy Musicke moves stones, trees, and senslesse stocks,
When thou divin'st of Christs most happy day's.

Yet those hands that so gently touch a string,
Can Lions, Bears, and Wolves in peeces teare;
And quell the proud Philistine with a sling,
From whom the Host of Israel runs for feare.

Love at his birth him dandled in her Lap,
Whil'st all the Graces Lullaby's doe sing;
Shee fed him with Ambrosia for Pap,
And rais'd him from a Shepheard to a King.

And thou my Sonne, although thy Breath be faint;
I cannot but commend thy good desire,
With their divine Essay's thy Muse acquaint;
Which may be fewell to thy heav'nly fire.

Yet though thou strain Invention, Art, and wits,
And fill thy Verses with their wisest Says,
They shall not live, except some holy fits,
Thy Soule above the heav'ns bright Tapers raise.

Thy Soule, whose Beeing is Celestiall fire,
Must like the Saints be rapt up in a trance;
And extased with holiest desire,
If thou thy Verse wouldst up to Heav'n advance.

For as none but the Spirit of a man,
The secrets of that Spirit can disclose;
So none attain sublimest numbers can,
Except a holy Fury them compose.

And as no Actor well can play the King,
That is not one in his imagination:
So none can Vertues pure Ideas sing,
That suits his mind not to his meditation.

Poets are like to Organs sounding shrill
With fingers touch, so long as they be full:
But as on empty ones; in vaine's our skill,
Ev'n so are Verses, without Fury, dull.

And as none on the Harpe sweet tunes can sound,
Till hee by Art hath set in Tune each string;
So none high-rapted numbers can compound,
Till's soule be tun'd by spheare-like ravishing.

Sith then to Numbers life from Heav'n is sent,
Oh rarest Spirit! how dare you abuse
Them to dishonour him, who hath them lent
To's Glory, and your Chast delight to use?

Shall your divinest spirit stoupe so low,
To make your-selves base slaves to Lust and Sin;
And let your pure Pyrenean Fountains flow
In stinking Chanells all defil'd within.

Still will yon fawne on Fooles, and Greatnesse flatter?
And fill the world with wanton idle groanes?
Still shall your Muse like Pyes this one song chatter
Of Lust, which brings corruption to the bones?

Ist not enough you burne in lustfull flame,
Except you eke corrupt youth prone to vice?
And strumpet-like hang out your signes of shame,
The Passengers to folly to intice?

For numbers, notes, and tunes such power have,
They soonest on the noblest Spirit seaze;
Whereon they doe their forms and sounds engrave;
As Seales on wax imprinted are with ease.

And that's the Reason, grave and wiser Sages,
Have banish't from their coasts lascivious rymes,
When Poets chast and vertuous in all ages,
Have beene as Priests and Prophets in their times.

Would you the Genius of your Fury raise,
And change your fleshly to spirituall Flame,
Such matter would immortalize your praise,
And leave behinde you a most honour'd name.

Your Verse would be admir'd, you honoured
As Secretarys to the King of Kings,
For first the Prophets words thus numbered,
To handle mysteries and holy things.

Thus David all his Psalmes by measure sings,
Moses the freedome from Egyptian thrall,
And Miriam upon a Timbrell rings
Gods Praises; Judith the Assirians fall.

They sang for Joy, but Job, and Jeremy
Sing, when they with afflictions most are prest;
A Nunc Dimittis was the Poesie
The Swan-like Simeon warbled in his brest:

Magnificat the blessed Virgin sings;
The Angels, Glory sing to God on high:
And Martyrs, bound to stakes with Iron strings
Sing Praises whilst in Flames their Body's fry.

So burnes their zealous heate of Loves pure fire,
They feele no outward for the inward flame:
So long as they have Bowells to respire
They never cease to praise Gods holy Name:

But he that seemes an Angell of the light,
More easie children of the light t' abuse,
In Verse doth also his delusions write,
And for his Oracles did numbers chuse:

And for he knows that Loves pure heav'nly fire
Is that by which we Gods whole Law fulfil;
His Prophets all must chant of Lusts desire,
And make great Jove be rul'd by Cupids will.

Thus blood corrupt th' inchanter doth instill
With lustful Fire to scal'd youths hotter veines;
And poysons with this Copperis the quill
Of Heathen Poets, in their gentle straines.

Who to make more authenticke Ribauldry,
Doe faign their Gods therein to take delight,
Wherethough they Natures secrets wittily
Oft vail! yet thus to Lust they youth invite.

I know in first pure streames of Poesie,
The Muses Bath was chaste as Phoebus shrine,
The Virgin Graces, Joves chaste progeny,
And Pallas chast, and vertuous, as divine.

Venus was then with Almas title graced,
And lov'd her Spouse plaine Vulcan, Mars scarce knew:
Whom though shee oft in nuptiall bed imbraced,
'Twas not for wanton pleasure, but for due.

This Poetry, my Sonnes, reviv'd again,
To mortalls would restore the golden times,
And for your Brows immortall Lawrells gaine,
And to their ancient honour raise your Rimes.

But Satan since another patterne set,
Which he would have all his to imitate;
And like a Fowler draweth to his Net
Poore Birds with merry notes and pleasing Bait.

But thou that seek'st Gods Glory, not thine owne,
And striv'st to quench, not quicken lustfull Flame;
Chuse these divine ensamples I have showne,
And guild not with faire words the foulest shame.

When thou do'st feel Love's fury in thy brest,
What better theame or matter canst thou take;
Then sing in Love, who Heav'n and Earth possest,
Yet here himselfe for Love a Slave did make.

The Love betweene the Bridegroome and his Deare,
Were matter to immortalize a Song:
No Man or Angell ever yet did heare
Diviner Musicke from a mortall tongue.

This is a deepe, broad, boundlesse Ocean;
A high Parnassus of sweet Meditation;
No holy Fury dive the bottomme can,
Nor reach the height thereof by contemplation.

Soul-rapting Tunes: when Turtles voyce doth sound
The Songs of Sion, in a Holy Land.
Sweet accents, making Hills and Mountains bound,
And Cedars of the Forrest trembling stand.

This better will thy heart; enrich thy mind;
Here profit thou shalt reape with sweet delight.
Here thou refreshing Nectar-streames shalt find,
To coole thy thirst, and cleare thy dimmer sight.

For thus thou safely maist enjoy delight,
The pleasure may enjoy for evermore;
Vaine worldly Pleasures leave men ere their night,
But when the judgement comes, they run before.

These heav'nly precepts sweetned by her voyce,
So ravished my Soule with delectation:
My Muse at quiet since doth sole rejoyce,
And take delight in heav'nly contemplation.

And though I never hope to touch with hand,
Much less my head with Lawrell Bough adorne,
May I yet mine owne Passions thus command
My Cost and Tilt's short of my Crop of Corne.

[pp. 109-16]