Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Africanus and Lælius to the empire of Augustus. And it is notable that Velleius Paterculus writeth of Tully, ‘How that the perfection of eloquence did so remain only in him, and in his time, as before him were few which might much delight a man, or, after him, any wor. thy admiration, but such as Tully might have seen, and such as might have seen Tully.' And good cause why; for no perfection is durable. Increase hath a time, and decay likewise; but all perfect ripeness remaineth but a moment, as is plainly seen in fruits, plums, and cherries ; but more sensibly in flowers, as roses and such like, and yet as truly in all greater matters. For what naturally can go no higher, must naturally yield and stoop again.

“ Of this short time of pureness of the Latin tongue, for the first forty years of it, and all the time before, we have no piece of learning left, save Plautus and Terence, with a little rude imperfect pamphlet of the elder Cato.* And as for Plautus, except the schoolmaster be able to make wise and wary choice, first, in propriety of words, then in framing of phrases and sentences, and chiefly in choice of honesty of matter, your scholar were better to play than learn all that is in him. But surely, if judgment for the tongue, and direction for the manners, be wisely joined with the diligent reading of Plautus, then truly Plautus, for that pureness of the Latin tongue in Rome, when Rome did most flourish in well-doing, and so thereby in well-speaking also, is such a plentiful storehouse for common eloquence in mean matters, and all private men's affairs, as the Latin tongue for that respect hath not the like again, When I remember the worthy time of Rome, wherein Plautus did live, I must needs honour the talk of that time, which we see Plautus doth use.

* One would imagine Mr. Ascham had never seen Victorius's edition of “ Cato, de Re Rusticâ ;” since he here calls it a little rude imperfect pamphlet. And yet it was printed by Rob. Stephens, anno 1543.- Upton.

“ Terence is also a storehouse of the same tongue for another time, following soon after; and although he be not so full and plentiful as Plautus is, for multitude of matters and diversity of words, yet his words be chosen so purely, placed so orderly, and all his stuff so neatly packed up and wittily compassed in every place, as by all wise men's judgment “He is counted the cunninger workman, and to have his shop, for the room that is in it, more finely appointed, and trimlier ordered, than Plautus's is.'

“ Three things chiefly, both in Plautus and Terence, are to be specially considered, the matter, the utterance, the words, the metre. The matter in both is altogether within the compass of the meanest men's manners, and doth not stretch to any thing of any great weight at all; but standeth chiefly in uttering the thoughts and conditions of hard fathers, foolish mothers, unthrifty young men, crafty servants, subtle bawds, and wily harlots; and so, is much spent in finding out fine fetches, and packing up pelting matters, such as in London commonly come to the hearing of the masters of Bridewell. Here is base stuff for that scholar that should become hereafter either a good minister in religion, or a civil gentleman in service of his prince and country (except the preacher do know such matters to confute them), when ignorance surely in all such things were better for a civil gentleman than knowledge.

“ For word and speech Plautus is more plentiful, and Terence more pure and proper. And for one respect, Terence is to be embraced above all that ever wrote in

*

[ocr errors]

*

this kind of argument: because it is well known by good record of learning, and that by Cicero's own witness, that some comedies bearing Terence's name were writ by worthy Scipio and wise Lælius; and namely • Heautontimorumenos,' and · Adelphi.' And therefore, as oft as I read those comedies, so oft doth sound in mine ear the pure fine talk of Rome, which was used by the flower of the worthiest nobility that ever Rome bred. Let the wisest man, and best learned that liveth, read advisedly over the first scene of Heautontimorumenos,' and the first scene of Adelphi,' and let him considerately judge whether it is the talk of a servile stranger born, or rather even that wise eloquent speech which Cicero in Brutus doth so lively express in Lælius. And yet nevertheless, in all this good propriety of words and pureness of phrases which be in Terence, you must not follow him always in placing of them; because for the metre sake, some words in him sometimes be driven awry, which require a straighter placing in plain prose; if you will form, as I would you should do, your speech and writing to that excellent perfectness, which was only in Tully, or only in Tully's time.”

The subjects both of Latin and of English versification are then treated of at considerable length; but upon the latter especially, our author's observations are not of much value. “ This matter,” he says, “maketh me gladly remember my sweet time spent at Cambridge, and the pleasant talk which I had oft with Mr. Cheke and Mr. Watson of this fault, not only in the old Latin poets, but also in our new English rhymers at this day.” He complains that Englishmen in general will not “ acknowledge and understand rightfully our rude beggarly rhyming, brought first into Italy by Goths and

Hups, when all good verses, and all good learning too, were destroyed by them, and after carried into France and Germany, and at last received into England by men of excellent wit indeed, but of small learning, and less judgment in that behalf.” To “follow rather the Goths in rhyming than the Greeks in true versifying,” he considers to be “ to eat acorns with swine, when we may freely eat wheat bread among men.” “ Indeed," he adds, “ Chaucer, Thomas Norton of Bristol, my Lord of Surrey, Tho. Phaer, and other gentlemen, in transJating Ovid, Palingenius*, and Seneca, have gone as far, to their great praise, as the copy they followed could carry them.” He thinks, however, that these good wits would have done better had they not contented themselves with that barbarous and rude rhyming. The English tongue, he maintains, although not very well adapted for hexameter verse, would receive the iambic measure as naturally as either Greek or Latin. As examples of the revival, in modern times, of the ancient measures, he instances the translation of the fourth book of the Eneid into English by the Earl of Surrey, and that of the Odyssey into Spanish by Gonsalvo Perez; “yet neither of them," he says, “ hath fully hit perfect and true versifying.” Afterwards, adverting to the circumstance of English scholars having been beforehand with those of Italy, “ first in spying out, then in seeking to amend this fault in learning,” he introduces the following passage : “ And here, for my pleasure, I purpose a littie by the way to play and sport with my master

* Marcellus Palingenius, a native of Ferrara, a Latin poet of the sixteenth century, the author of a poem entitled Zodiacus Vitæ, in twelve books, first published in 1536. A translation of the first six books of this poem was published in 156), by Barnaby Googe, which is now an exceedingly rare book.

VOL. I.

K

Tully, from whom commonly I am never wont to dissent. He himself, for this point of learning, in his verses doth halt a little, by his leave: he could not deny it, if he were alive; nor those defend him now that love him best. This fault I lay to his charge, because once it pleased him, though somewhat merrily, yet over-uncourteously, to rail upon poor England, objecting both extreme beggary and mere barbarousness unto it, writing thus unto his friend Atticus: “There is not one scruple of silver in that whole isle; or any one that knoweth either learning or letter.'

“But now, Master Cicero, blessed be God and his son Jesus Christ, whom you never knew, except it were as it pleased him to enlighten you by some shadow, as covertly in one place you confess, saying, Veritatis tantùm umbram consectamur,' (we follow only the shadow of truth) as your master Plato did before you ; blessed be God, I say, that sixteen hundred years after you were dead and gone, it may truly be said, that for silver there is more comely plate in one city of England than is in four of the proudest cities in all Italy, and take Rome for one of them: and for learning, beside the knowledge of all learned tongues and liberal sciences, even your own books, Cicero, be as well read, and your excellent eloquence is as well liked and loved, and as truly followed in England at this day, as it is now, or ever was since your own time, in any place of Italy, either at Arpinum where you was born, or else at Rome where you was brought up. And a little to brag with you, Cicero, where you yourself, by your leave, halted in some point of learning in your own tongue, many in England at this day go straight up, both in true skill and right doing therein."

« AnteriorContinuar »