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Have all these done-and yet I miss
And shall not I my Celia bring,
TO THE NOBLE LADY, THE LADY MARY WROTH.36 I that have been a lover, and could show it,
Though not in these, in rhymes not wholly dumb,
Since I exscribe your sonnets," am become
A better lover, and much better poet.
Nor is my Muse nor I ashamed to owe it,
with divers quatorzains of honorable and learned personages, divided into eight decads: 1594. Shakespeare's Sonnets were not published till thirteen years afterwards, and Constable during the interval enjoyed the reputation of being "the first sonneteer of his time." But his sonnets are infinitely inferior to those of Surrey and Wyatt, by whom he was preceded. - B.
35 The French poet Bonefons, or Bonefonius, who, in imitation of Secundus, wrote Basia, in the praise of his mistress, Pancharis.-W.
36 See ante, pp. 58, 60.
87 The Urania of Lady Mary Wroth was interspersed with numerous songs and snatches of verse, to which this passage alludes.-B.
Both brains and hearts; and mine now best do
For in your verse all Cupid's armory,
His flames, his shafts, his quiver, and his bow,
But then his mother's sweets you so apply,
A FIT OF RHYME AGAINST RHYME.
Rhyme, the rack of finest wits,
Spoiling senses of their treasure,
Cozening judgment with a measure,
But false weight;
Wresting words from their true calling;
Propping verse for fear of falling
To the ground;
Jointing syllabes, drowning letters,
They were bound!
Soon as lazy thou wert known,
All good poetry hence was flown,
And art banished;
For a thousand years together,
All Parnassus' green did wither,
And wit vanished!
Pegasus did fly away;
At the wells no Muse did stay,
So to see the fountain dry,
And Apollo's music die,
All light failed!
Starveling rhymes did fill the stage,
Not a poet in an age,
Not a work deserving bays,
Nor a line deserving praise,
Greek was free from rhyme's infection,
Happy Greek, by this protection,
Was not spoiled;
Whilst the Latin, queen of tongues, Is not yet free from rhyme's wrongs, But rests foiled.
Scarce the hill again doth flourish, Scarce the world a wit doth nourish, To restore
Phoebus to his crown again;
And the Muses to their brain;
Vulgar languages that want
Words, and sweetness, and be scant
Of true measure,
Tyrant rhyme hath so abused,
That they long since have refused
He that first invented thee,
May his joints tormented be,
Still may syllabes jar with time,
May his sense when it would meet
The cold tumor in his feet,
And his title be long fool,
That in rearing such a school
Was the founder! 88
AN EPIGRAM ON WILLIAM LORD BURLEIGH,
If thou wouldst know the virtues of mankind,
Cecil, the grave, the wise, the great, the good,
38 Some resemblance may be traced between particular passages in this piece and the opening of Dryden's lines to the Earl of Roscommon, on translated verse, in which, following the course of poetry through the Greeks and Romans, he shows how it became debased by the introduction of rhyme: "Till barbarous nations, and more barbarous times, Debased the majesty of verse to rhymes; These rude at first; a kind of hobbling prose, That limped along, and tinkled in the close."
89 The following note is attached to this epigram in the folio: "Presented upon a plate of gold to his son, Robert, Earl of Salisbury, when he was also Treasurer." See also ante, pp. 24, 31, 32.
The orphan's pillar, the true subject's shield, The poor's full storehouse, and just servant's field;
The only faithful watchman for the realm,
Of all the land:- Who now, at such a rate,
TO THOMAS LORD ELESMERE, THE LAST TERM HE SAT CHAN-
So, justest lord, may all your judgments be
40 See ante, p. 37. A note in the folio tells us that this epigram (as also that which follows) was written for " a poor man," who had a suit depending before Lord Elesmere.