Page images
PDF
EPUB

(^whether it was that the " nature" of Sidney would not allow him to express it with severity) Gosson persisted in dedicating to him the " short Apologie of the Sehoole of Abuse," of which I have spoken. The first thing we have to do is to examine briefly the "Sehoole of Abuse" itself. The subsequent quotation refers to the old theme of degeneracy of the age, the comparison being made between the condition of society in Gosson's time, and in the first state of barbarism of the people of England. "Oh what a wonderfull chaunge is this! Our wreastling at armes is turned to wallowing in ladies laps, our courage to cowardice, our running to ryot, our bowes into bolles, and our darts into dishes. We have robbed Greece of gluttonie, Italy of wantonnesse, Spaine of pride, Fraunce of deceite and Duchland of quaffing. Compare London to Rome, and England to Italy, you shall finde the theaters of the one, the abuses of the other to be rife among vs: experto crede, I haue seene somewhat and therefore, I think, I may say the more."

Elliot. Does he mean by " experto crede" that he has "seen somewhat" of the foreign countries he names, or that he has had experience of the vices of his own?

Bourns. I apprehend the last, for we do not know that he travelled: he was born in 1554, was entered at Oxford in 1572, and probably soon afterwards commenced poet and play-wright. What gave him his disgust, whether the hisses of his audience or otherwise, there is no account, but returning to his university (from whence he dates his dedication to his " short Apologie" in 1579), he took orders and died in 1629. The most curious part of his " Schoole of Abuse" relates to himself and one of his own plays: it is this. He is speaking of some plays that may be endured, after having abused all plays, players, and poets, in general. "And as some of the players are farre from abuse, so some of their playes are without rebuke which are as easily remembred as quickly reckoned.—The two prose bookes plaied at the Belsauage where you shall finde neuer a woorde without wite, neuer a line without pith, neuer a letter placed in vaine. The lew and Ptolome showne at the Bull, the one representing the greedinesse of worldly chusers, and bloody mindes of vsurers, the other very liuely describing how seditious estates with their owne deuices, false friends with their own swoordes, and rebellious commons in their own snares, are ouerthrowne: neither with amorous gesture wounding the eye, nor with slouenly talke hurting the eares of the chast hearers. The Blacke Smiths daughter and Catilins conspiracies vsually brought in to the theater; the firste contayning the trechary of Turkes, the honourable bountye of a noble minde, and the shining of vertue in distresse; the last, because it was knowne to be a pig of mine owne sowe, I will speake the lesse of it, onely giuirig you to vnderstand that the whole marke which I shot at in that woorke was to showe the rewarde of traytors in Catilin, and the necessary gouernment of learned men in the person of Cicero, which foresees euery danger that is likely to happen and forstalles it continually ere it take effect."

Morton. He only mentions here "Catiline's Conspiracies" as " a pig of his own sow" (most elegant phraseology to be sure), but he says nothing of his Comedy nor of his Morality.

Bourne. They have been assigned to Gosson on other authorities, which it might be tedious to enumerate. He was also a pastoral poet, according to the account of Francis Meres, who mentions Gosson's name in conjunction with that of Spenser. Wood also bears testimony that he was celebrated "for his admirable penning of pastorals;" .there are but two poems by Gosson now known, and only one of them is noticed by Ritson.

Morton. Can you show us either of them? We might thus perhaps form some notion of his talents as a poet. *

Bourne. I can show you both, but one of them consists merely of commendatory stanzas prefixed to "The pleasant Historie of the conquest of the Weast India," by Thos. Nicholas, printed in 1578: the first stanza of it is very curious, as it plainly has an allusion to what you called Gosson's tergiversation, for here he laments " the follies of his youth," .when he devoted his time to the idleness of poetry. The rest, though easily written, as if by a pen of some practice, is little more than an enlargement of the thought contained in the first six lines.

"The Poet which sometimes hath trod awry, And sung in verse the force of firie loue,

When he beholds his lute with carefull eye,

Thinks on the dumps that he was wont to proue:

His groning sprite yprickt with tender ruth

Calls then to mind the follies of his youth."

Morton. These lines were printed, you say, in 1578, probably then shortly before Gosson published his " Schoole of Abuse."

Bourne. Most likely, and after he had again taken up his residence at Oxford to prepare himself for the church.

Elliot. The lines are not amiss, and the allusion to the sight of his lute bringing his youthful follies to his recollection is rather pretty. From whence do you take the other specimen of Gosson's skill in poetry?

Bourne. From a translation by a person of the name of H. Kirton, called "The Mirror of Mans life," dedicated to Anne, Countess of Pembroke, and published in 1580. The book is rarely to be met with. If Gosson wrote no better when he was younger, it is strange how he acquired the reputation he undoubtedly obtained. But you shall hear the poem,

which is original, is not very long, and has not anywhere been extracted. It is called,
"Speculum humanum;
Made by Ste. Gosson.
O what is man? or whereof might he vaunt>
From earth and aire, and ashes first he came:
His tickle state, his courage ought to daunt:
His life shall flit, when most he trusts the same.
Then keepe in minde thy moolde and fickle stame;
Thyself a naked Adam shalt thou finde:
A babe by birth both borne and brought forth blind:

A drie and withered reede, that wanteth sap,
Whose rotten roote is refte, euen at a clap:

A signe, a shew of greene and pleasant grasse
Whose glyding glorie sodeinlie doth passe.

A lame and lothsome limping legged wight
That daily doth Gods frowne and furie feele,
A crooked cripple, voide of all delight,
That haleth after him an haulting heele,
And from Hierusalem on stilts doth reele:
A wretch of wrath, a sop in sorrow sowst,
A brused barke with billowes all bedowst,

A filthie cloth, a stinking clod of clay,
A Backe of sinne that shall be swallowed aye

Of thousand hels, except the Lord do lend
His helping hand, and lowring browes vnbend.

The prime of youth, whose greene vnmeUowd yeres WHh hoised head doth check the loftie Skies,

« PreviousContinue »