1681
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To my ingenious Friend Mr. Charles Saunders, on his Play of Tamerlane.

Tamerlane the Great. A Tragedy as it is acted by their Majesties Servants at the Theatre Royal by C. Saunders, Gent.

John Bankes


In these commendatory verses John Bankes uses Spenser's example to warn a young poet of the poverty he can expect from poetry, a common theme in Restoration criticism of Spenser: "Not Spencer dead, nor Spencer now alive | Cou'd ever find a way by Wit to thrive: | It is a Dream of Wealth, a Fairy Land, | A fickle Treasure grasp'd like Golden Sand." At this period play-writing was a profitable if risky business, at least for a few authors.

Presumably this the dramatist John Bankes (c. 1650-1706) author of Virtue Betrayed; or, Anna Bullen (1682). Apparently nothing is known of Charles Saunders; Allardyce Nicholl remarks that he seems not to have known Christopher Marlowe's play on the same subject. Bankes composed several tragedies based on English history, including three concerned with Queen Elizabeth.

W. Davenport Adams: "John Banks, dramatist, produced, among other pieces, The Rival Kings (1677); The Destruction of Troy (1679); Virtue Betrayed (1682); The Unhappy Favourite: or, the Earl of Essex (1682); The Island Queens (1684); The Innocent Usurper (1694); and Cyrus the Great (1695). See the Biographia Dramatic and Knight's English Cyclopedia. 'His style,' it has been said, 'gives alternate specimens of meanness and bombast. But even his dialogue is not destitute of occasional nature and pathos, and the value of his works as acting plays is very considerable'" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 55.



When Night has thrown her sable Vest away,
And the Sun's mounted on the Wings of day,
Bright as Parnassus all around he Guilds,
First the young Trees, and then the Mother Fields,
To Youth, and Morn such Glories offers he,
Which Age can only wonder at and see,
But when the God has reacht the middle way,
He the World visits with a courser Ray,
Whips his dull Steeds, and hastens to the Sea,
Cooling his Tresses on the Amber Shore,
Then hates what he so well did love before:
Or as an Infant spring, that from the side
Of some lone Hill does through the Meadows glide,
Whose Chrystal Waters as they silent pass,
Aford the Nymphs both Dress, and Looking Glass,
Who take the yellow Sands that lye below,
And on their Heads the Golden Powder throw,
Whilst the Rich Flood most prodigally decks
With Rings their fingers, and with Pearls their necks
In whose clear Stream the Heav'ns delight to play
Phoebus to wast the tedious Summers Day,
The Moon and Stars, the live-long Night away,
Beneath 'tis Spring, above, Eternal Ray,
It's Winter Bloom, and ev'ry Season May.
But track these Beauties, and before they've run
More Miles than Youth has years, they all are gone,
Strong Tydes molest its' wanton Course and o're
It's hoary swelling Head huge Tempests roare,
And all it's Glebes are Sandy like it's Shore.
Till sick with Storms and every surly Blast,
'Tis forc'd to make the Sea its Grave at last.
On then brave Youth with Harp Divinely strung,
And sing more sweet than ever Antients sung,
Than Orpheus, Homer, or than Cowley Young;
E're Age shall come and thou shalt live to see
That Fumbling time of Love and Poetry.
Now of the Young, you all the vigour shew,
And of the Old the solid Judgment too:
To you the Merits of e'm both belong,
Not Alexander fought so very Young,
Nor Conquer'd be th' mighty World so soon
As you have charm'd, and all the Muses won;
And wise Minerva, like a Mother fond,
With her own Wreaths thy darling Temples Crown'd,
Has thee o're all thy Elder Brothers plac'd,
And with a Benjamins large Portion grac'd.
But let me not in wondring at your Youth,
Forget what's due to Friendship and to Truth.
Know Wit, like Beauty, pleases where it harms;
A Chequer'd Serpent 'tis with Sting and Charms:
And happy's he that never thinks at all,
And far more happy is that lavish Fool,
That dully wasts his Fortunes on a Whore,
Then he that splits upon this dangerous Shore.
Not Spencer dead, nor Spencer now alive
Cou'd ever find a way by Wit to thrive:
It is a Dream of Wealth, a Fairy Land,
A fickle Treasure grasp'd like Golden Sand,
Which, as 'tis held, does vanish through the Hand.
The Lethargy of the best natur'd Mind,
A Foe to Business, and to all unkind;
Like that too kills insensible and sure:
For he with Verse diseas'd, does still the more
Court his lov'd Plague, and itches to be poor;
A mark where vile Pretenders lose their arm,
And ev'n the best get but an empty Name.
Launch out young Merchant new set up of Wit,
The World's before thee, and thy Stock is great,
Sail by thy Muse, but never let her guide,
Then without danger you may safely glide
By happy'r Studies steer'd, and quickly gain
Th' promis'd Indies of a hopeful Brain,
Bring home a Man betimes that may Create
His Country's Glory in the Church, or State.

[Sig. A-Av]