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turn and run roundly withal as feet of brass or wood be unwieldy to go withal.” Ascham had recognised the difficulty arising from the number of long syllables in English, including many monosyllables for the most part long. Dactyls, he granted, were so hard to come by that it was almost impossible to write a good English pentameter. But there were the iambic measures. Our English runs into iambic verse more easily than into
other. We shall hear more in course of time about the Goths and Huns and Vandals. Because they destroyed Roman civilisation, however surely they prepared the way for building up another, it has been their fate that in all times when the fashion of the day in literature has been for imitation of the ancient Greek and Latin classics, Goth, Hun, and Vandal have been used as synonyms for anything destructive of good art in word or work. They were not Goths, Huns, or Vandals who brought rhyme into Italy. The main body of the poetry of the old northern tribes was unrhymed. Rhyme, as we have seen, came chiefly from the south.*
So it was that the argument which had arisen with the Renaissance acquired currency at our universities in Ascham's time, and was brought into prominence by Ascham's pleading against rhyme in “The Schoolmaster”: “This misliking of rhyme,” he said, “ beginneth not now of any newfangle singularity, but hath been long misliked of many, and that of men of greatest learning and deepest judgment.” Spenser at Cambridge had not been persuaded to abandon rhyme by his friend Gabriel Harvey, because Harvey seemed to be under the influence of Ascham and other men who argued more as scholars than as poets. But when Spenser came to London, and found courtly poets, high in social repute—Sidney and Dyer—touched with the same fine frenzy, he yielded to its promptings long enough to obtain for himself practical assurance that the end
* “ E. W.” iii. 150.
desired would not be reached at all by the way these friends of his had chosen as the straightest.
The larger life of our Elizabethan literature began about the time when Shakespeare, a youth of twenty-two, first came to London-possibly in 1586; when Marlowe, in this year or in 1587, produced his first play, “Tamburlaine," and in its prologue, not uninfluenced by these arguments at his university, openly turned away “from jigging veins of rhyming mother wits.” But Marlowe set aside the search for reconcilement of our English verse with Greek or Latin rules of quantity. It was he who took the iambic measure of our undeveloped blank verse, and began to shape it into what it afterwards became. The expansion of our literature after 1586 soon set at rest the questioning upon which William Webbe, in the summer evenings of the year 1586, was occupied when he wrote, at the manor house of Flemyngs in Essex, in the parish of Runwell and ten miles from Chelmsford, "A Discourse of English Poetrie : Together with the Authors judgment touching the reformation of our English Verse. By VVilliam VVebbe, Graduate. Imprinted at London, by John Charlewood for Robert V Valley. 1586.”*
William Webbe was a Cambridge man-probably the William Webbe of St. John's College who graduated as Bachelor of Arts in 1573, for he was at Cambridge with Spenser and Gabriel Harvey. He was a friend also of Robert Wilmot, one of the five authors of the play of “Tancred and Gismunda,” first acted before the queen at the Inner Temple in 1568. Young Webbe was then present at the performance, and Wilmot afterwards revised, and published the play, as by himself alone, in 1592, at which date we shall come to it again. Wilmot was presented, in 1582, by Gabriel Poyntz
* This was edited and published for a shilling by Professor Arber in 1870 in his “English Reprints," from the copy among the Malone books in the Bodleian, one of the only two known to be extant.
to the rectory of North Okenden, in Essex, and in 1585 he was presented by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's to the vicarage of Horndon on-the-Hill, where he was only a few miles from the manor house of Flemyngs. At Flemyngs his friend Webbe was living, and had lived for *wo years or more before 1585, as tutor to Edward and Thomas, the two sons of the Mr. Edward Sulyard to whom Webbe’s “ Discourse of English Poetrie” was dedicated.
The aim of William Webbe's book was to advocate the use in English poetry of Greek and Latin metres, and this was stated in his preface“ to the noble Poets of England.” From among those poets he wished that some strong leaders might arise, and suggested, “if they would but consult one half hour with their heavenly Muse, what credit they might win to their native speech, what enormities they might wipe out of English poetry, what a fit vein they might frequent wherein to shew forth their worthy faculties, if English Poetry were truly reformed, and some perfect platform or Prosodia of versifying were by them ratified and set down, either in imitation of Greeks and Latins, or where it would scant abide the touch of their rules, the like observations selected and established by the natural affectation of the speech.” He begins his “Discourse," however, with the nature and origin of poetry, taking throughout the view expressed in his saying of Homer, “Whoso list to take view of his two Books, one of his Iliads, the other his Odyssea, shall thoroughly perceive what the right use of poetry is : which is, indeed, to mingle profit with pleasure, and so to delight the reader with pleasantness of his Art, as in the meantime his mind may be well instructed with knowledge and wisdom.” After some discussion of the Greek and Latin poets, adding from later time, as not far inferior to the most of them, Palingenius, Mantuan, and Christopher Ocland for his Anglorum Prælia,* Webbe comes to his own country, and says that he knows no memorable work written by any poet in our English speech until twenty years past. He abuses rhyme, and quotes Ascham's opinion that it began among the Huns and Goths. He passes in review Chaucer, “always accounted the god of English Poets (such a title for honour's sake hath been given him)," Gower, Lydgate, and “the next of our ancient poets that I can tell of I suppose to be Pierce Ploughman, who in his doings is somewhat harsh and obscure, but indeed a very pithy writer, and (to his commendation I speak it) was the first that I have seen that observed the quantity of our verse without the curiosity of rhyme.” After Langland, Webbe says that he knows only of Skelton ; and then, passing to the men esteemed in his own time, gives first place to George Gascoigne, quoting praise of him out of E. K.'s gloss to “The Shepheardes Calender." Then he puts together in a list the Earl of Surrey, Lord Vaux, Thomas Norton, Richard Edwards, Thomas Tusser, Thomas Churchyard, John Heywood, William Hunnis, adding other writers of pieces in “The Paradise of Dainty Devices,” “Sand, Hyll, S. Y., M. D.” (Master Dyer), and many others. Among noble lords and gentlemen of her majesty's Court, Webbe specially names Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford. Among translators he places Thomas Phaer first for his nine and a half books of the translation of Virgil, “the rest being since with no less commendations finished by that worthy scholar and famous physician Master Thomas Twyne. Equally with him may I well adjoin Master Arthur Golding for his labour in Englishing Ovid's Metamorphoses for which gentleman surely our country hath for many respects greatly to give God thanks.
* “ E. W." viii. 270.
The next very well deserveth, Master Barnaby Googe, to be placed as a painful furtherer of learning ; his help to Poetry besides his own devices, as the translating of Palingenius' Zodiac. The translators of the Ten Tragedies of Seneca ; translators of the other parts of Ovid” (that is to say
Turbervile who translated the Heroical Epistles (1567), and Churchyard who published in 1580 his translation of the first three books De Tristibus]; “the translators of Horace” [Thomas Drant, who published in 1566 A Medicinable Morall, that is, the two Bookes of Horace his Satyres Englished. The Wailyngs of the Prophet Hieremiah, done into Englishe Verse. Also Epigrammes.
And in 1567 Horace his Arte of Poetrie, Pistles and Satyrs Englished]; “ the translator of Mantuan ” [Turbervile again], "and divers other, because I would hasten to end this rehearsal, perhaps offensive to some whom either by forgetfulness or want of knowledge I must needs over pass.”
Webbe praises George Whetstone as "a man singularly well skilled in this faculty of poetry,” his own friend Wilmot (part author of “Tancred and Gismunda”), G. B., F. C. (misprint, perhaps, for F. G., Fulke Greville), and F. K., who must be Francis Kinwelmarsh. He includes in his list four writers with whom we have not yet made acquaintance
Abraham Fleming, Anthony Munday, John Grange, [Edward] Knyght. Then he passes to the highest praise of the anonymous author of “The Shepheardes Calender," who, “if not only, yet in my judgment principally, deserveth the title of the rightest English Poet that ever I read "; and he evidently knew who was the author by suggesting "whether it was Master Sp. or what rare scholar in Pembroke Hall soever," while he almost coupled with Sp. Master Gabriel Harvey, “now long since seriously occupied with graver studies.” Then Webbe discusses tragedy and comedy, and dwells again upon the poet's joining profit with delight. He cites Chaucer as a due observer of that rule, “for who could with more delight prescribe such wholesome counsel and sage advice, where he seemeth only to respect the profit of his lessons and instructions? or, who could with greater wisdom or more pithy skill unfold such pleasant and delightsome matters of mirth, as though they respected