Our matter is quodlibet indeed, though wrongly performing Ovids verse, Quicquid conabar dicere, versus erat; never marshalling it into any assured rank, that almost the readers cannot tell where to find themselves. Lastly, to believe themselves, when they tell you they will make you immortal by their verses. Secondly, that it is the mother of lies. Now for the p oet, he nothing affirmeth, jrad therefore never lieth. It like the Philosophers stone transmutes all that it touches. The poet then can teach virtue--which is one of the central functions of tragedy--evil men who experience evil fortune end in disgrace.
But the poet is the food for the tenderest stomachs; the poet is indeed the right popular philosopher. But, besides these gross absurdities, how all their plays be neither right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither decency nor discretion; so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy obtained. There is no art delivered unto mankind that hath not the works of nature for his principal object, without which they could not consist, and on which they so depend as they become actors and players, as it were, of what nature will have set forth. Now then go we to the most important imputations laid to the poor poets; for aught I can yet learn they are these. Poetry does not require logic for poets themselves do not know how far reaching an impact their own works may have in the future. For the question is, whether the feigned image of poesy, or the regular instruction of philosophy, hath the more force in teaching.
Is it the bitter and wholesome , who rubs the galled mind, in making shame the trumpet of villainy with bold and open crying out against naughtiness? For, as I take it, to lie is to affirm that to be true which is false; so as the other artists, and especially the historian, affirming many things, can, in the cloudy knowledge of mankind, hardly escape from many lies. I say the way, because where Sir Thomas More erred, it was the fault of the man, and not of the poet; for that way of patterning a commonwealth was most absolute, though he, perchance, hath not so absolutely performed it. Which if I be asked what poets have done? Ay, he even comes to the Senate. In our neighbor country Ireland, where truly learning goeth very bare, yet are their poets held in a devout reverence. And so far were they carried into the admiration thereof, that they thought in the chanceable hitting upon any such verses great fore-tokens of their following fortunes were placed; whereupon grew the word of Sortes Virgilianæ, when by sudden opening Virgils book they lighted upon some verse of his making. For now they cast sugar and spice upon every dish that is served to the table; like those Indians, not content to wear ear-rings at the fit and natural place of the ears, but they will thrust jewels through their nose and lips, because they will be sure to be fine.
For what else is the awaking his musical instruments, the often and free changing of persons, his notable prosopopoeias, when he maketh you, as it were, see God coming in His majesty, his telling of the beasts joyfulness and hills leaping, but a heavenly poesy, wherein almost he showeth himself a passionate lover of that unspeakable and everlasting beauty to be seen by the eyes of the mind, only cleared by faith? Olympus for Olympia 30 7. Among whom as principal challengers step forth the moral philosophers; whom, me thinketh, I see coming toward me with a sullen gravity, as though they could not abide vice by daylight; rudely clothed, for to witness outwardly their contempt of outward things; with books in their hands against glory, whereto they set their names; sophistically speaking against subtility; and angry with any man in whom they see the foul fault of anger. To have love or move beyond our baser natures and identify ourselves with what is beautiful beyond our own self is the first step to morality. On the other side, the historian, wanting the precept, is so tied, not to what should be but to what is, to the particular truth of things, and not to the general reason of things, that his example draweth no necessary consequence, and therefore a less fruitful doctrine. For delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves, or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature.
But, besides these gross absurdities, how all their plays be neither right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither decency nor discretion; so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy obtained. Muchlike matter doth Livy record of Tarquinius and his son. The ancient marked the quantity of each syllable, and according to that framed his verse; the modern observing only number, with some regard of the accent, the chief life of it standeth in that like sounding of the words, which we call rime. I know some will say it is a mingled language. These be they that, as the first and most noble sort may justly be termed vates, so these are waited on in the excellentest languages and best understandings with the fore-described name of poets. This, indeed, is the ordinary doctrine of ignorance, and many words sometimes I have heard spent in it; but because this reason is generally against all learning, as well as poetry, or rather all learning but poetry; because it were too large a digression to handle, or at least too superfluous, since it is manifest that all government of action is to be gotten by knowledge, and knowledge best by gathering many knowledges, which is reading; I only, with Horace, to him that is of that opinion Jubeo stultum esse libenter; for as for poetry itself, it is the freest from this objection, for poetry is the companion of the camps. Again, many things may be told which cannot be showed,—if they know the difference betwixt reporting and representing.
Indeed, inflamed with a well-grounded rage, he would have his words, as it were, double out of his mouth; and so do that artificially, which we see men in choler do naturally. If then a man can arrive at that childs-age, to know that the poets persons and doings are but pictures what should be, and not stories what have been, they will never give the lie to things not affirmatively but allegorically and figuratively written. I prefer my romanticism not be deconstructed by anyone but me. But I that, before ever I dust aspire unto the dignity, am admitted into the company of the paper-blurrers, do find the very true cause of our wanting estimation is want of desert, taking upon us to be poets in despite of Pallas. But these arguments will by few be understood, and by fewer granted; thus much I hope will be given me, that the Greeks with some probability of reason gave him the name above all names of learning.
But rather a busy loving courtier; a heartless threatening Thraso; a self-wise-seeming schoolmaster; a wry transformed traveller: these if we saw walk in stage-names, which we play naturally, therein were delightful laughter and teaching delightfulness,as in the other, the tragedies of Buchanan do justly bring forth a divine admiration. The poet names Cyrus and Æneas no other way than to show what men of their fames, fortunes, and estates should do. Sidney was also versed in the phenomenon of courtiership. This, applied by him, wrought such effect in the people, as I never read that ever words brought forth but then so sudden and so good an alteration; for upon reasonable conditions a perfect reconcilement ensued. It's actually not one poem, it's a 'sonnet cycle' containing 108 sonnets plus 11 songs that he just threw in there that track the rise and fall of a courtly love relationship.
So these men bringing in such a kind of eloquence, well may they obtain an opinion of a seeming fineness, but persuade few,—which should be the end of their fineness. Maybe it was a typographer's choice? It's not a pocket full of posies from 'Ring Around the Rosie,' although it does sound like that. True it is, and so was it to be played in two days, and so fitted to the time it set forth. So that, as in their calling poets the fathers of lies they say nothing, so in this their argument of abuse they prove the commendation. Tully, when he was to drive out Catiline as it were with a thunderbolt of eloquence, often used that figure of repetition, as Vivit Vivit? Now would be a good time to return to the and What has the poet given to us, and to Byrtnoth and his war-band individualized by name and dialogue and actions, that the chronicler did not have it in his power to give? Doth not, to go in the highest, Gods word abused breed heresy, and his name abused become blasphemy? These are basically the marks of a budding critic - a friend who might say something like this. Human beings have diverse temperaments and, thus, diverse tastes.