« PreviousContinue »
With Raine & storme the lande was vexed still: The ire of God the people could not shunne, Great grewe the greef that came by headstrong will, And all these plagues by proude conceit begonne, That thought to rule perhapps past reasons lore; Threate that who please, my muse not framde therefore."
Elliot. It begins better than it concludes:
"The flood of hate that never thinks of ebb,
is very good, as well as the introductory lines; but Churchyard afterwards runs his figure of the tree off its legs.
Morton. He carries it out injudiciously into the minutiee; neither does it seem very clear why because "spiteful twigs began so fast to sprout" it should follow, that "from the heart the tree was rotten through."
Bourne. It certainly looks like a non sequitur, unless we reflect that we often see shoots and twigs more flourishing upon a tree whose heart is rotten, than on another that is sound; and for this reason, that the " kindly sap" ascending up the bark has only to nourish those shoots and twigs and not the main trunk, which is decayed.
Elliot. At any rate you have made an ingenious reconcilement of the matter.
Bourne. The following additional extract, from the same division of the poem, is remarkable for its applicability to transactions within our own memory during the French Revolution.
"O Fraunce, who lookes vpon thy bloodie waies,
Thou hadst a tyme and wretched race to run
Elliot. The greater portion of that extract is singularly applicable to events almost of our own day; for the poetry much cannot be said; there is little choice or originality in the epithets.
Morton. The description of civil war is a curious compound: it begins with a horse's head and ends in a fish's tail with a vengeance.
Bourne. But visum teneatis principally for the reason I have already stated: many of the lines are by no means deficient in spirit; indeed what relates to France is the best part of the whole pamphlet. In some degree to show in what way, and how far old Churchyard has had injustice done him, I will refer you to the work of an actual contemporary, which will illustrate the point, and is, at the same time, a most singular curiosity: a production of greater rarity cannot easily be mentioned, and it recently sold for a sum very little short of the price obtained for Micro-cynicon, the unique volume of satires I showed you the other day.
Elliot. I hope it was better worth the money— I mean intrinsically, for I allow the value of Microcynicon as one link in the chain of satirists.
Bourns. I would not have you expect too much from the tract in my hand, although the story to which it refers has been excellently told by Boccacio (Gior. X. Nov. 8.) You remember it, I dare say: it is that of Titus and Gisippus. Warton (H. E. P. III. 468.) asserts that this author translated from Boccacio, but this is not the fact, as I will convince you presently.
Elliot. But who is the author of your English version of the tale? he showed some judgment in selecting an interesting fable.
Bourne. His name is Edward Lewicke, and I am afraid that what you have mentioned is the principal merit that critical charity can allow him. The title of his book is the following: "The most wonderful and pleasaunt History of Titus andGisippus, whereby is fully declared the figure of perfect frendshyp: drawen into English metre By Edwarde Lewicke. Anno 1562."
Morton. He seems very modest—he only pretends to have "drawn it into English metre," he sets up no claim on the score of poetry. According to Ritson, I perceive, a considerably elder poet, of the name of William Walter, had translated the story into verse.
Bourne. And some specimens may be found in Dibdin's Ames, (II. 338.) Notwithstanding the better models that Lewicke possessed, and the advance poetry had made under the authors of Tottel's Miscellany, his translation is not much better than the version by Walter. Lewicke's opening stanza is this:
"There was in the city of Rome
Morton. The form of the stanza seems by no means happily chosen, requiring four similar rhymes, especially when we recollect that our language was not at that time so pliable as to be easily wrought into strange shapes.
Elliot. However, let us hear a little more of it: one stanza will not enable us to form a judgment even of the versification.
Morton. I have but an indistinct recollection of the story. Titus and Gisippus were, I know, two friends, the first a Roman and the last a Greek, who studied under the same master at Athens, and became enamoured of the same lady.
Bourne. Yes; and Gisippus was about to be married when Titus fell in love with his intended bride, and Gisippus, who seems to have preferred his friend to his wife, resigned his claim. Titus returns to Italy, leaving Gisippus in Athens, who soon afterwards becomes a poor wanderer and reaches Rome: there he sees Titus, who is living in great splendor, and imagines that he will not condescend to recognize him, or in the modern phrase, that Titus cut him. Gisippus first resolves to destroy himself, but abandoning that purpose, falls into a sort of trance in a barn. At night a robber, who had committed a murder, takes the knife of the sleeping Gisippus, and dipping it in the blood, returns the instrument to the hand of the owner, who is soon afterwards charged with the crime. On his trial, Titus, for the first time,
VOL. II. a