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education. He states in the title that he was Master of Arts of both Universities, and it appears that he took his degree of B. A. at Pembroke Hall in 1587, and of M. A. in 1501; but no distinct mention, we believe, is to be found of him at Oxford. He took orders, and four years after the publication of the work on our table, he was made Rector of Wing, in Rutlandshire. He was born in 1565, and was consequently one year younger than Shakspeare, who seems to have been a favourite poet with him. Meres does not appear to have obtained any preferment in the church, as he died at his living of Wing in 1646, at the advanced age of 81 years.
By far the greater part of his work has nothing to do with the purpose for which we employ it, and indeed is little applicable to any purpose of utility. It consists of the arrangement of an immense number of similes under different heads, which similes are drawn either from objects in nature, in art, or from imaginary properties of both. For the sake of illustration, we will quote one or two specimens.
“ As the goodnesse of an horse doth not cosist in goldě bridles, in costly trappings, or in a veluet saddle, but in the swiftnesse of his running, the strength of his legs, and the firmenesse of bis pace: so the vertue of the minde doeth not consist in riches, in the health of the body, in humane estimation, or in libertie, for these thinges may be taken away; but in a right knowledge of God, and an vpright liuing among men. Chrysost. hom. quod nemo læditur nisi a seipso.
"As it happeneth in trees, if one take away the fruit with the leaues, and cut off all the branches, the roote still remayning sounde, the tree eftsoones flourisheth with greater beauty: so if the roote of vertue remaine sounde, although riches bee taken away, and the bodie putrifie, yet all thinges returne with greater plenty, as we may see in Lob. Idem. hom. 4. ad popul. Antioch.
“ If you tread a precious stone in the durt it sheweth the beauty more perspicuously: so tbe vertue of the Saintes, whethersoener it bee throwne, it still appeareth more beautifull, whether it be in seruitude, in prison, or in prosperitie. Idem. hom. 63. in Genesin.
“ As an ouoriferous oyntment doth not keepe its fragrancie shutte vp within it selfe, but doth sende it forth, and sweeten those places neare vnto it: so generous and excellent men doe not hide their vertues within themselues, but do both helpe others, and make them better. Idem hom. 2. in I. ad Thesalonicenses."
This, in truth, was the fashionable style of the time, being used in most of the curious old romances; the example is said to have been set by John Lilly, the author of a production
of that kind, which, though tedious, possesses passages of considerable poetical merit, entituled, “ Euphues, the Ana. tomie of Wit,” and “ Euphues and his England ;" the first printed in 1580, and the last in 1582. In order to shew the resemblance, we will extract only one sentence" As the cipresse tree the more it is watered, the more it withereth, and the oftener it is lopped, the sooner it dieth : so unbridled youth, the more it is by graue advice counselled, or due correction controlled, the sooner it falleth to confusion, hating all reasons that would bring it from folly, as that tree doth all remedies that should make it fertile.” This style soon obtained the name of Eupheuism, and it was carried to a most ridiculous extreme in the court of Elizabeth. Drayton, speaking 6 of poets and poesie," and the debt due to Šir Philip Sidney, says, that he
--- did first reduce
Playing with words and idle similies," &c. In truth, the absurdest superstitions and inventions were resorted to for the sake of a simile. With these general remarks, we shall dismiss therefore all the early part of Meres's Paladis Tamia, and proceed to what he says in that portion of his book which gives “ A comparative Discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets ;” for the reader will find that he still proceeds upon his system of resemblances. We shall omit what he states regarding Chaucer, Gower, &c. because his opinions of his contemporaries are chiefly valuable.
“ As the Greeke tongue is made famous and eloquent by Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Aeschilus, Sophocles, Pindarus, Phocylides, and Aristophanes ; and the Latine tongue by Virgill, Ouid, Horace, Silius Italicus, Lucanus, Lucretius, Ausonius, and Claudianus : so the English tongue is mightily enriched, and gorgeously inuested in rare ornaments and resplendent abiliments by Sir Philip Sidney, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Warner, Shakespeare, Marlow, and Chapman.
" As Xenophon, who did imitate so excellently, as to give vs effe. giem iusti imperij, the portraiture of a iust Empyre vnder the name of Cyrus (as Cicero saieth of him) made therein an absolute beroicall poem ; and as Heliodorus writ in prose his sugred inuention of that picture of Loue in Theagines and Cariclea, and yet both excellent admired poets: so Sir Philip Sidney writ his immortal poem The Countesse of Pembrooke's Arcadia, in prose, and yet our rarest poet.
“ As Sextus Propertius saide ; nescio quid magis nascitur Iliade : so I say of Spencer's Fairy Queene, I knowe not what more excellent or exquisite poem may be written.
“As Achilles bad the aduantage of Hector, because it was his fortune to bee extolled and renowned by the beauenly verse of Homer: so Spencer's Elisa the Fairy Queen hath the aduantage of all the Queenes in the worlde, to bee eternized by so diuine a poet.
“ As Theocritus is famoused for his İdyllia in Greeke, and Virgyll for his Eclogs in Latine : so Spencer their imitatour in his Shepheardes Calender, is renowned for the like argument, and honoured for fine poeticall inuention, and most exquisite wit.
“ As Parthenius Nicæus excellently sung the praises of his Arete: so Daniel hath diuinely sonetted the matchlesse beauty of his Delia.
“As euery one mourneth, when hee heareth of the lamentable plangors of Thracian Orpheus for his dearest Euridice: so euery one passionateth, when he readeth the afficted death of Daniels distressed Rosamond.
“ As Lucan hath mournefully depainted the ciuil wars of Pompey and Cæsar: so hath Daniel the ciuill wars of Yorke and Lancaster; and Drayton the ciuill wars of Edwarde the second, and the Barons.
“ As Virgil doth imitate Catullus in the like matter of Ariadne for his story of Queene Dido: so Michael Drayton doth imitate Ouid in his Englands Heroical Epistles.
“As Sophocles was called a Bee for the sweetnes of his tongue: so in Charles Fitz-lefferies Drake, Drayton is termed Goldenmouth'd, for the purity and pretiousnesse of his stile and phrase.
“As Accius, M. Attilius and Milithus were called Tragediographi, because they writ tragedies : so may wee truly terme Michael Drayton Tragediographus, for his passionate penning the downfals of valiant Robert of Normandy, chast Matilda, and great Gaueston.
“As loan. Honterus in Latine verse writ three bookes of Cosmography with geographicall tables : so Michael Drayton is now in penning in English verse a poem called Polu-olbion, geographical and hydrographicall of all the forests, woods, mountaines, fountaines, riuers, lakes, flouds, bathes, and springs that be in England.”
Drayton's Polyolbion is one of the most learned, laborious, and entertaining topographical poetical works ever printed: although the personifications are innumerable, there is a variety as endless, and a spirit of description and a high vein of poetry that is delightful. No less a man than Selden thought the notes to it worthy his pen. The first part of Polyolbion was not published until fourteen years after Meres wrote what is above quoted. He proceeds,
“ As Aulus Persius Flaccus is reported among al writers to be of an honest life and vpright conuersation: so Michael Drayton (que
toties honoris di amoris causa nomino ) among schollers, souldiours, poets, and all sorts of people, is helde for a man of vertuous disposition, honest conuersation, and wel gouerned cariage, which is almost miraculous among good wits in these declining and corrupt times, when there is nothing but rogery in villanous man, and when cheal. ing and craftines is counted the cleanest wit, and soundest wise. dome.”
With the English words marked in Italics our readers are well acquainted; they are taken from Henry IV. p. 1, A. 2, Sc. 4; but Malone, who makes such use of Meres in his « Attempt to ascertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakspeare were written,” has passed over this passage without notice. The truth of the general application by Meres of the quotation to writers of that period, was shewn in some degree in our article upon Greene's Groatsworth of Wit. After a deserved tribute to Warner, Meres mentions Shakspeare, and enumerates the tragedies and comedies at that time known to have been written by him.
" As Decius Ausonius Gallus in libris Fastorum, penned the occurrences of the world from the first creation of it to his time, that is, to the raigne of the Emperor Gratian: so Warner in his absolute Albions Englande hath most admirably penned the historie of his own country from Noah to his time, that is, to the raigne of Queene Elizabeth; I haue heard bin ternid of the best wits of both our Vniuersities, our English Homer.
“As Euripides is the most sententious among the Greeke pocts : so is Warner anong our English poets.
“ As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to liue in Pythagoras : so the sweete wittie soule of Ouid lives in the mellifuous & hony. tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, bis Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his priuate friends, &c.
“As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latines; so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage ; for comedy witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Loue labors lost, his Loue labors wonne, his Midsummers night dreame, and his Merchant of Venice; for tragedy, his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King Iohn, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet.
“As Epius Stolo said, that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin : so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase, if they would speake English.”
Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis was first printed, if we recollect rightly, in 1593, and his Rape of Lucrece in the year following. The “ Sugred Sonets" were not given to
the world under the title of the Passionate Pilgrim, &c. until 1599; so that it is conjectured that Meres had seen them in MS. and was among the “ priuate friends” of their author. Of the list of plays supplied, one bears a strange title, “ Love's Labour won," and it has been conjectured, indeed almost ascertained, that this was not a comedy which has been lost, but that “ All's well that ends well," originally had that name. When we first read of Love's Labour won, it produced a strong palpitation, for we thought we had at any rate discovered the title of one of the never to be recovered pieces of our greatest poet.
“ As there are eight famous and chiefe languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latine, Syriack, Arabicke, Italian, Spanish, and French: so there are eight notable seuerall kindes of poets, Heroick, Lyricke, Tragicke, Comicke, Satiricke, lambicke, Elegiacke, & Pastoral.
" As Homer and Virgil among the Greeks and Latines are the chiefe heroick poets: so Spencer and Warner be our chiefe heroicall makers.
“ As Pindarus, Anacreon, and Callimachus among the Greekes; and Horace and Catullus among the Latines are the best lyric poets : so in this faculty the best among our poets are Spencer (who excelleth in all kinds), Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Bretton.
“ As these , tragicke poets flourished in Grecce, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Alexander Aetolus, Achæus Erithriæus, Astydamas Atbeniensis, Apolodorus Tarsensis, Nicomechus Phrygius, Thespis Atticus, and Timon Apolloniates; and these among the Latines, Accius, M. Attilius, Pomponius Secunolus, and Seneca : so these are our best for tragedie, the Lorde Buckhurst, Doctor Leg of Cambridge, Doctor Edes of Oxforde, maister Edward Ferris, the authour of the Mirrour for Magistrates, Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kid, Shakespeare, Drayton, Chapman, Decker, and Beniamin lohnson.
"As M. Anneus Lucanus writ iwo excellent tragedies, one called Medea, the other de Incendio Troiæ cum Priami calamitate : so Doctor Leg hath penned two famous tragedies, the one of Richard the 3. the other of the destruction of Ierusalem."
It has been conjectured, that this Richard III. by Dr. Leg was an English tragedy, and that it preceded that of Shakspeare; but there is little doubt that it was in Latin, and that it is the very play inentioned by Sir John Harington in the:“ Apologie of Poetrie," prefixed to his translation of Ariosto as a tragedy performed at St. John's Col. lege," which would move Phalaris the tyrant.” Some persons entertained a notion that this latter was also an English play, but that it was not seems plain from what T. Heywood states in his “ Apology for Actors,” 1612, where