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of Aristotle's precepts and Euripides's examples, save only two that ever I saw, Mr. Watson's ‘Absalon,' and Georgius Buchananus's Jepthe.'
“One man in Cambridge,* well liked of many, but best liked of himself, was many times bold and busy to bring matters upon stages which he called tragedies. In one, whereby he looked to win his spurs, and wherea many ignorant fellows fast clapped their hands, he began the protasis with trochæis octonariis : which kind of verse as it is but seldom and rare in tragedies, so is it never used save only in epitasi, when the tragedy is highest and hottest, and full of greatest troubles. I remember full well what Mr. Watson merrily said unto me of his blindness and boldness in that behalf; although otherwise there passed much friendship between them. Mr. Watson had another manner of care of perfection, with a fear and reverence of the judgment of the best learned ; who to this day would never suffer yet his · Absalon' to go abroad, and that only, because in locis paribus Anapæstus is twice or thrice used instead of Iambus-a small fault, and such a one as perchance would never be marked, no neither in Italy nor France. This I write, not so much to note the first, or praise the last, as to leave in memory of writing for good example to posterity, what perfection in any time was most diligently sought for in like manner in all kind of learning, in that most worthy college of St. John's in Cambridge.”'
Upon this last anecdote, however, Mr. Upton has the following note ::“ What is here assigned could never be the true reason of Mr. Watson's refusing to publish his tragedy, so accurately composed as to be put in competition with Buchanan's 'Jepthe.' For why did he not
* It is not known to whom our author here alludes.
correct what he judged amiss? a thing so very easy for him to do. Though what if we say there was no fault in this respect committed, nor any need of alteration ? For excepting the sixth place, the Anapest has free liberty to stand where it pleases, and that for this reason, especially with the comedians, as Hephæstion has observed.” [The import of the passage quoted from Hephæstion is, that the comedians introduce the Anapest in this indiscriminate or irregular manner, that their verse may the more resemble the ease and freedom of ordinary conversation.] “I suppose the true reason hereof was, either an unwillingness to appear in print, or a dissatisfaction with the times, he being one of the ejected bishops."
The historical style is divided by Ascham into that suited for journals (diaria), that for annals, that for commentaries, and that for history properly so called.
The philosophical he divides into continuous discourse (sermo), and dialogue (contentio).
The oratorical he divides into the plain (humile), the moderately elevated (mediocre), and the sublime.
Having laid down these general principles, he proceeds: “Now, to touch more particularly which of those authors that be now most commonly in men's hands will soon afford you some piece of eloquence; and what manner a piece of eloquence; and what is to be liked and followed; and what to be misliked and eschewed in them; and how some again will furnish you fully withal, rightly and wisely considered, somewhat I will write, as I have heard Sir John Cheke many
say. “The Latin tongue, concerning any part of pureness of it, from the spring to the decay of the same, did not endure much longer than is the life of a well-aged man, scarce one hundred years from the time of the last Scipio
Africanus and Lælius to the empire of Augustus. And it is notable that Velleius Paterculus writeth of Tully, How that the perfection of eloquence did so remain only in him, and in his time, as before him were few which might much delight a man, or, after him, any worthy admiration, but such as Tully might have seen, and such as might have seen Tully.' And good cause why; for no perfection is durable. Increase hath a time, and decay likewise; but all perfect ripeness remaineth but a moment, as is plainly seen in fruits, plums, and cherries ; but more sensibly in flowers, as roses and such like, and yet as truly in all greater matters. For what naturally can go no higher, must naturally yield and stoop again.
“ Of this short time of pureness of the Latin tongue, for the first forty years of it, and all the time before, we have no piece of learning left, save Plautus and Terence, with a little rude imperfect pamphiet of the elder Cato.* And as for Plautus, except the schoolmaster be able to make wise and wary choice, first, in propriety of words, then in framing of phrases and sentences, and chiefly in choice of honesty of matter, your scholar were better to play than learn all that is in him. But surely, if judgment for the tongue, and direction for the manners, be wisely joined with the diligent reading of Plautus, then truly Plautus, for that pureness of the Latin tongue in Rome, when Rome did most flourish in well-doing, and so thereby in well-speaking also, is such a plentiful storehouse for common eloquence in mean matters, and all private men's affairs, as the Latin tongue for that respect hath not the like again. When I remember the
* One would imagine Mr. Ascham had never seen Victorius's edition of “ Cato, de Re Rusticâ ;" since he here calls it a little rude imperfect pamphlet. And yet it was printed by Rob. Stephens, anno 1543.-Upton.
worthy time of Rome, wherein Plautus did live, I must needs honour the talk of that time, which we see Plautus doth use.
“ Terence is also a storehouse of the same tongue for another time, following soon after; and although he be not so full and plentiful as Plautus is, for multitude of matters and diversity of words, yet his words be chosen so purely, placed so orderly, and all his stuff so neatly packed up and wittily com passed in every place, as by all wise men's judgment “He is counted the cunninger workman, and to have his shop, for the room that is in it, more finely appointed, and trimlier ordered, than Plautus's is.'
“ Three things chiefly, both in Plautus and Terence, are to be specially considered, the matter, the utterance, the words, the metre. The matter in both is altogether within the compass of the meanest men's manners, and doth not stretch to any thing of any great weight at all ; but standeth chiefly in uttering the thoughts and conditions of hard fathers, foolish mothers, unthrifty young men, crafty servants, subtle bawds, and wily harlots; and so, is much spent in finding out fine fetches, and packing up pelting matters, such as in London commonly come to the hearing of the masters of Bridewell. Here is base stuff for that scholar that should become hereafter either a good minister in religion, or a civil gentleman in service of his prince and country (except the preacher do know such matters to confute them), when ignorance surely in all such things were better for a civil gentleman than knowledge.
“For word and speech Plautus is more plentiful, and Terence more pure and proper. And for one respect, Terence is to be embraced above all that ever wrote in
this kind of argument: because it is well known by good record of learning, and that by Cicero's own witness, that some comedies bearing Terence's name were writ by worthy Scipio and wise Lælius ; and namely · Heautontimorumenos,' and ' Adelphi.' And therefore, as oft as I read those comedies, so oft doth sound in mine ear the pure fine talk of Rome, which was used by the flower of the worthiest nobility that ever Rome bred. Let the wisest man, and best learned that liveth, read advisedly over the first scene of `Heautontimorumenos,' and the first scene of Adelphi,' and let him considerately judge whether it is the talk of a servile stranger born, or rather even that wise eloquent speech which Cicero in Brutus doth so lively express in Lælius. And yet nevertheless,in all this good propriety of words and pureness of phrases which be in Terence, you must not follow him always in placing of them ; because for the metre sake, some words in him sometimes be driven awry, which require a straighter placing in plain prose; if you will form, as I would you should do, your speech and writing to that excellent perfectness, which was only in Tully, or only in Tully's time.”
The subjects both of Latin and of English versification are then treated of at considerable length; but
the latter especially, our author's observations are not of much value, “ This matter," he says,
“ maketh me gladly remember my sweet time spent at Cambridge, and the pleasant talk which I had oft with Mr. Cheke and Mr. Watson of this fault, not only in the old Latin poets, but also in our new English rhymers at this day.” He complains that Englishmen in general will not " acknowledge and understand rightfully our rude beggarly rhyming, brought first into Italy by Goths and