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A Vision of Judgement

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THE annexed Specimens of Sir Philip Sidney’s hexameters will sufficiently evince that the failure of the attempt to naturalize this fine measure in his days, was owing to the manner in which the attempt was made, not to the measure itself.

First shall fertile grounds not yield increase of a good seed,
First the rivers shall cease to repay their floods to the ocean:
First may a trusty greyhound transform himself to a tyger.
First shall vertue be vice, and beauty be counted a blemish;
Ere that I leave with song of praise her praise to solemnize.
Her praise, whence to the world all praise bath bis only beginning:
But yet well I do find each man most wise in his own case.
None can speak of a wound with skill, if he have not a wound felt:
Great to thee my state seems, thy state is blest by my judgment:
And yet neither of us great or blest deemeth his own self,
For yet (weigh this, alas!) great is not great to the greater.
What judge you doth a hillock show, by the lofty Olympus?
Such my minute greatness doth seem compar’d to the greatest.
When Cedars to the ground fall down by the weight of an Emmet,
Or when a rich Rubie’s price be the worth of a Walnut,
Or to the Sun for wonders seem small sparks of a candle:
Then by my high Cedar, rich Rubie, and only shining Sun,
Vertues, riches, beauties of mine shall great be reputed.
Oh, no, no, worthy Shepherd, worth can never enter a title,
Where proofs justly do teach, thus matcht, such worth to be nough worth;
Let not a Puppet abuse thy sprite. Kings’ Crowns do not help them
From the cruel headach, nor shoes of gold do the gout heal;
And precious Couches full oft are shak’t with a feaver.
If then a bodily evil in a bodily gloze be not hidden,
Shall such morning dews be an ease to the heat of a love’s fire?


Sidney’s pentameters appear even more uncouth than his hexameters, as more unlike their model; for, in our pronunciation, the Latin pentameter reads as if it ended with two trochees.

Fortune, Nature, Love, long have contended about me,
Which should most miseries cast on a worm that I am.
Fortune thus ’gan say, misery and misfortune is all one.
And of misfortune, fortune hath only the gift.
With strong foes on land, on sea with contrary tempests,
Still do I cross this wretch what so be taketh in hand.
Tush, tush, said Nature, this is all but a trifle, a man’s self.
Gives haps or mishap, even as be ordereth his heart.
But so his humor I frame, in a mould of choler adusted,
That the delights of life shall be to him dolorous.
Love smiled, and thus said; What joyn’d to desire is unhappy:
But if he nought do desire, what can Heraclitus ail?
None but I work by desire: by desire have I kindled in his soul
Infernal agonies into a beauty divine:
Where thou poor Nature left’st all thy due glory, to Fortune
Her vertue is soveraign, Fortune a vassal of hers.
Nature about went back: Fortune blusht; yet she replied thus:
And even in that love shall I reserve him a spite.
Thus, thus, alas! woful by Nature, unhappy by Fortune;
But most wretched I am, now love awakes my desire.

Sidney has also given examples in his Arcadia of Anacreontic, Phaleucian, Sapphic, and Asclepiad verse, all written upon the same erroneous principle. Those persons who consider it ridiculous to write English verses upon any scheme of Latin versification, may perhaps be surprised to learn that they have read, as blank verse, many lines which are perfect Sapphics or Phaleucians. Rowe’s tragedies are full of such lines.

The Censura Literaria supplies me with two choice samples of Stanihurst’s Virgil.

“Neere joynetlye brayeth with rufflerye* rumboled Ætna:
Soomtyme owt it bolcketh† from bulck clowds grimly bedimmed
Like fyerd pitche skorching, or flush flame sulphurus heating:
Flownce to the stars towring the fire like a pellet is hurled,

* Ruffling seems to be turbulent noise. A ruffler was formerly a boisterous bully.

† To boick or boke, is ructare.

Ragd rocks, up raking, and guts of mounten yrented
From roote up he jogleth: stoans hudge slag* molten he rowseth,
With route snort grumbling, in bottom flash furie kindling.
Men say that Enceladus, with bolt haulf blasted, here harbrought,
Ding’d† with this squising‡ and massive burthen of Ætna,
Which pres on him nailed, from broached chimneys stil heateth:
As oft as the giant his brold§ syds croompeled altreth,
So oft Sicil‖ shivereth, therewith flaks smoakye be sparckled.”
“T’ward Sicil is seated, to the welkin loftily peaking,
A soyl, yclcept Liparon, from whence with flounce furye flinging,
Steans and burlye bulets, like tampounds, maynelye betowring.
Under is a kennel, wheare chymneys fyrye be scorching
Of Cyclopan tosters, with rent rocks chamferye sharded,
Lowd rub a dub tabering with flapping rip rap of Ætna.
In the den are dramming gads of steele, parchfulye sparckling,
And flam’s fierelye glowing, from furnace flashye be whisking.
Vulcan his hoate fordgharth, named eke thee Vulcian Island.

* Slag is the dross of iron. † Dash’d down. ‡ Squeezing.

§ i.e. Broiled sides crumpled. ‖ Tinacria

Doun from the hev’nlye palace traveyled the firye God hither.
In this cave the rakchuls yr’ne bars, bigge bulcked ar hamring,
Brontes and Steropes, with baerlym swartie Pyracmon,
These thre nere upbotching, not shapte, but partlye wel onward,
A clapping fier-bolt (such as oft with rounce rebel hobble,
Jove to the ground clattreth) but yeet not finnished holye.
Three showrs wringlye wrythen glimmring, and forciblye sowcing,
Thre watrye clowds shymring to the craft they rampired hizzing,
Three whern’s fierd glystring, with south winds rufflered huffling.
Now doe they rayse gastly lightnings, now grislye reboundings
Of ruffe raffe roaring, mens harts with terror agrysing,
With peale meale ramping, with thwick thwack sturdilye thundering.”

Stanihurst’s Virgil is certainly one of those curiosities in our literature which ought to be reprinted. Yet notwithstanding the almost incredible absurdity of this version, Stanihurst is entitled to an honourable remembrance for the part which he contributed to Holinshed’s Collection of Chronicles. None of our chroniclers possessed a mind better stored, nor an intellect more perpetually on the alert.


Sidney, who failed so entirely in writing hexameters, has written concerning them, in his Defence of Poesie, with the good sense and propriety of thought by which that beautiful treatise is distinguished. Let me not be thought to disparage this admirable man and delightful writer, because it has been necessary for me to show the cause of his failure in an attempt wherein I have now followed him. I should not forgive myself, were I ever to mention Sidney without an expression of reverence and love.

“Of versifying,” he says, “there are two sorts, the one ancient, the other modern; 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 Rhyme. Whether of these be the more excellent, would bear many speeches, the ancient, no doubt, more fit for musick, both words and time observing quantity, and more fit, lively to express divers passions by the low or lofty sound of the well-weighed syllable. The latter likewise with his Rhyme striketh a certain musick to the ear; and, in fine, since it doth delight, though by another way, it obtaineth the same purpose, there being in either sweetness, and wanting in neither majesty. Truly the English, before any vulgar language I know, is fit for both sorts; for, for the ancient, the Italian is so full of vowels, that it must ever be cumbered with elisions: the Dutch so, of the other side, with consonants, that they cannot yield the sweet sliding, fit for a verse. The
French, in his whole language, hath not one word that hath his accent in the last syllable, saving two, called Antepenultima; and little more hath the Spanish, and therefore very gracelessly may they use Dactyls; the English is subject to none of these defects. Now for Rhyme, though we do not observe quantity, yet we observe the accent very precisely, which other languages either cannot do, or will not do so absolutely.

That Cæsura, or breathing-place, in the midst of the verse, neither Italian nor Spanish have; the French and we never almost fail of. Lastly, the very Rhyme itself the Italian cannot put in the last syllable, by the French named the Masculine Rhyme, but still in the next to the last, which the French call the Female, or the next before that, which the Italian call Sdrucciola: the example of the former, is Buono Suouo: of the Sdrucciola, is Femina Semina. The French, on the other side, hath both the male, as Bon Son; and the Female, as Plaise, Taise, but the Sdrucciola he hath not, where the English hath all three, as Due, True, Father, Rather, Motion, Potion, with much more, which might be said, but that already I find the trifling of this discourse is too much enlarged.”

The French attempted to introduce the ancient metres some years before the trial was made in England. Pasquier says, that Estienne Jodelle
led the way in the year 1553, by this distich upon the poems of
Olivier de Maigny, “lequel,” he adds, “est vrayement une petit chef d’œuvre.

Phœbus, Amour, Cypris, veut sauver, nourrir et orner
Ton vers et chef, d’umbre, de flamme, de fleurs.

Pasquier himself, three years afterwards, at the solicitation of a friend, produced the following “essay de plus tongue haleine.”

Rien ne me plaist sinon de te chanter, et servir et orner;
Rien ne le plaist mon bien, rien ne te plaist que ma mort.
Plus je requiers, et plus je me tiens seur d’estre refusé,
Et ce refus pourtant point ne me semble refus.
O trompeurs attraicts, desir ardent, prompte volonté,
Espoir, non espoir, ains miserable pipeur.
Discours mensongers, trahistreux oeil, aspre cruanté,
Qui me ruine le corps, qui me ruine le cœur.
Pourquoy tant de favours t’ont les Cieux mis à l’abandon,
Ou pourquoy dans moy si violente fureur?
Si vaine est ma fureur, si vain est tout ce que des cleux
Tu tiens, s’en toy gist cette cruelle rigeur:
Dieux patrons de l’amour baunissez d’elle la beauté,
On bien l’accouplez d’une amiable pitié;
Ou si dans le miel vous meslez un venimeux fiel,
Vueillez Dieux que l’amour r’entre dedans le Chaos:
Commandez, que le froid, l’eau, l’Esté, l’humide, l’ardeur:
Brief que ce tout par tout tende a l’abisme de tous,
Pour finir ma douleur, pour finir cette cruanté,
Qui me ruine le corps, qui me ruine le cœur.
Non helas que ce rond soit tout un sans se rechanger,
Mai que ma Sourde se change, on de face, ou de façons:
Mais que ma Sourde de change, et plus douce escoute les voix,
Voix que je seme criant, voix que je seme, riant.
Et que le feu du froid desormais puisse triompher,
Et que le froid au feu perde sa lente vigeur:
Ainsi s’assopira mon tourment, et la cruauté
Qui me ruine le corps, qui me ruine le cœur.

Je ne dy pas,” says the author, “que ces vers soient de quelque valeur, aussi ne les mets-je icy sur la monstre en intention qu’on les trouve tels; mais bien estime-je qu’ils sont autant fluides que les Latins, et à tant veux-je que l’on pense nostre vulgaire estre aucunement capable de ce subject.Pasquier’s verses were not published till many years after they were written; and in the meantime Jean Antoine de Baif made the attempt upon a larger scale, “toutesfois,” says Pasquier, “en ce subject si mauvais parrain que non
seulement il ne fut suivy d’aucun, mais au contraire descourages un chacun de s’y employer. D’autant que tout ce qu’ll en fit estoit tant despourveu de cette naifveté qui doit accompagner nos œuvres, qu’aussi tost que cette sienne poësie voit la lumiere, elle mourut comme un avorton.
” The Abbé Goujet, therefore, had no reason to represent this attempt as a proof of the bad taste of the age: the bad taste of an age is proved, when vicious compositions are applauded, not when they are unsuccessful. Jean Antoine de Baif is the writer of whom the Cardinal du Perron said “qu’il étoit bon homme, mais qu’il étoit méchant poëte François.

I subjoin a specimen of Spanish Hexameters, from an Eclogue by D. Esteban de Villegas, a poet of great and deserved estimation in his own country.

Licidas y Coridon, Coridon el nmante do Filis,
Pastor el uno de cabras, el otro da blancas Ovejas,
Ambos á dos tiernos, mozos ambos, Arcades ambos,
Viendo que los rayos del Sol fatigaban al Orbe,
Y que vibrando fuego feróz la Canicula ladra,
Al puro cristal, que cria la fuente sonora,
Lievados del són alegre de su blando susurro,
Las plantas veloces mueven, los pasos animan,
Y al tronco de un verde enebro se sientan amigos.
Tú, que los erguidos sobrepujas del hondo Timavo
Peñones, generoso Duque, con tu inclita frente,
Si acaso tocáre el eco de mi rustica aveua
Tus sienes, si acaso liega á fértil abono,
Francisco, del acento mio la sonora Talia,
Oye pio, responde grato, censura severo:
No menos al caro hermano generoso retratas,
Que al tronco prudente sigues, generoso naciste
Heroe, que guarde el Cielo dilatando tus años;
Licidas y Coridon, Coridon el amante du Filis,
Pastores, las Musas aman, recrearte desean:
Tu, cuerdo, perdona entretanto la bárbara Musa,
Quo presto, inspirando Pean con amigo Coturno,
En trompa, que al Olimpo liegue por el ábrego suelta,
Tu fama lievarán los ecos del Ganges al Istro,
Y luego, torciendo el vuelo, del Aquilo al Austro.

It is admitted by the Spaniards, that the fitness of their language for the hexameter has been established by Villegas; his success, however, did not
induce other poets to follow the example. I know not whom it was that he followed, for he was not the first to make the attempt. Neither do I know whether it was ever made in Portuguese, except in some verses upon St Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, which are Latin as well as Portuguese, and were written as a whimsical proof of the affinity of the two languages. I have found no specimens in Italian. The complete success of the metre in Germany is well known. The Bohemians have learnt the tune, and have, like their neighbours, a translation of the
Iliad in the measure of the original. This I learn accidentally from a Bohemian grammar; which shows me also, that the Bohemians make a dactyl of Achilles, probably because they pronounce the χ with a strong aspirate.


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