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Poema.-A poem is not alone any work, or composition of the poet's in many or few verses; but even one alone verse sometimes makes a perfect poem. As when Æneas hangs up and consecrates the arms of Abas with this inscription:
Eneas hæc de Danais victoribus arma.
And calls it a poem, or carmen. Such are those in Martial:
Omnia, Castor, emis: sic fiet, ut omnia vendas.* And,
Pauper videri Cinna vult, et est pauper.
Horatius.-Lucretius.-So were Horace's odes called Carmina, his lyric songs. And Lucretius designs a whole book in his sixth :
Quod in primo quoque carmine claret.
Epicum.-Dramaticum.-Lyricum.-Elegiacum. -Epigrammat.-And anciently all the oracles were called Carmina; or whatever sentence was expressed, were it much or little, it was called an Epic, Dramatic, Lyric, Elegiac, or Epigrammatic poem.
But how differs a Poem from what we call Poesy?
Poesis.-Artium regina.- Poet. differentiæ.Grammatic. Logic. - Rhetoric. Ethica. - A poem, as I have told you, is the work of the poet; the end and fruit of his labour and study.
i Virg. Æn. lib. 3.
* Martial, lib. 8. epig. 19.
Poesy is his skill or craft of making; the very fiction itself, the reason or form of the work. And these three voices differ, as the thing done, the doing, and the doer; the thing feigned, the feigning, and the feigner; so the poem, the poesy, and the poet. Now the poesy is the habit, or the art; nay, rather the queen of arts, which had her original from heaven, received thence from the Hebrews, and had in prime estimation with the Greeks, transmitted to the Latins and all nations that professed civility. The study of it (if we will trust Aristotle) offers to mankind a certain rule and pattern of living well and happily, disposing us to all civil offices of society. If we will believe Tully, it nourisheth and instructeth our youth, delights our age, adorns our prosperity, comforts our adversity, entertains us at home, keeps us company abroad, travels with us, watches, divides the times of our earnest and sports, shares in our country recesses and recreations; insomuch as the wisest and best learned have thought her the absolute mistress of manners, and nearest of kin to virtue. And whereas they entitle philosophy to be a rigid and austere poesy; they have, on the contrary, styled poesy a dulcet and gentle philosophy, which leads on and guides us by the hand to action, with a ravishing delight, and incredible sweetness. But before we handle the kinds of poems, with their special differences; or make court to the art itself, as a mistress, I would lead you to the knowledge of our poet, by a perfect information what he is or should be by nature, by exercise, by imitation, by study, and so bring him down through the disciplines of grammar, logic, rhetoric, and the ethics, adding somewhat
out of all, peculiar to himself, and worthy of your admittance or reception.
1. Ingenium.-Seneca. Plato. Aristotle.Helicon.- Pegasus.— Parnassus.- Ovid. First, we require in our poet or maker (for that title our language affords him elegantly with the Greek) a goodness of natural wit. For whereas all other arts consist of doctrine and precepts, the poet must be able by nature and instinct to pour out the treasure of his mind; and as Seneca saith, Aliquando secundum Anacreontem insanire jucundum esse; by which he understands the poetical rapture. And according to that of Plato, Frustrà poeticas fores sui compos pulsavit. And of Aristotle, Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixturâ dementiæ fuit. Nec potest grande aliquid, et supra cæteros loqui, nisi mota mens. Then it riseth higher, as by a divine instinct, when it contemns common and known conceptions. It utters somewhat above a mortal mouth. Then it gets aloft, and flies away with his rider, whither before it was doubtful to ascend. This the poets understood by their Helicon, Pegasus, or Parnassus; and this made Ovid to boast:
Est deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo:
Lipsius.-Petron in Fragm.-And Lipsius to affirm Scio, poetam neminem præstantem fuisse, sine parte quadam uberiore divina aura. And hence it is that the coming up of good poets (for I mind not mediocres or imos) is so thin and rare among us. Every beggarly corporation affords the state a mayor, or two bailiffs yearly; but Solus rex, aut poeta, non quotannis nascitur. To
this perfection of nature in our poet, we require exercise of those parts, and frequent.
2. Erercitatio. - Virgil. Scaliger.- Valer. Maximus-Euripides.-Alcestis.-If his wit will not arrive suddenly at the dignity of the ancients, let him not yet fall out with it, quarrel or be over-hastily angry; offer to turn it away from study in a humour; but come to it again upon better cogitation; try another time with labour. If then it succeed not, cast not away the quills yet, nor scratch the wainscot, beat not the poor desk; but bring all to the forge and file again; torn it anew. There is no statute law of the kingdom bids you be a poet against your will, or the first quarter; if it come in a year or two, it is well. The common rhymers pour forth verses, such as they are, er tempore; but there never comes from them one sense worth the life of a day. A rhymer and a poet are two things. It is said of the incomparable Virgil, that he brought forth his verses like a bear, and after formed them with licking. Scaliger the father writes it of him, that he made a quantity of verses in the morning, which afore night he reduced to a less number. But that which Valerius Maximus hath left recorded of Euripides the tragic poet, his answer to Alcestis, another poet, is as memorable as modest: who, when it was told to Alcestis, that Euripides had in three days brought forth but three verses, and those with some difficulty and throes; Alcestis, glorying he could with ease have sent forth an hundred in the space; Euripides roundly replied, Like enough; but here is the difference, thy verses will not last these three days, mine will to all time. Which was as much as to tell him, he could not write a verse. I have met many of
these rattles, that made a noise, and buzzed. They had their hum, and no more. Indeed, things wrote with labour deserve to be so read, and will last their age.
3. Imitatio. Horatius. - Virgil.- Statius.Homer.- Horat. Archil. Alcaus, &c. - The third requisite in our poet, or maker, is imitation, to be able to convert the substance or riches of another poet to his own use. To make choice of one excellent man above the rest, and so to follow him till he grow very he, or so like him, as the copy may be mistaken for the principal. Not as a creature that swallows what it takes in crude, raw, or undigested; but that feeds with an appetite, and hath a stomach to concoct, divide, and turn all into nourishment. Not to imitate servilely, as Horace saith, and catch at vices for virtue; but to draw forth out of the best and choicest flowers, with the bee, and turn all into honey, work it into one relish and savour: make our imitation sweet; observe how the best writers have imitated, and follow them. How Virgil and Statius have imitated Homer; how Horace, Archilochus; how Alcæus, and the other lyrics; and so of the rest.
4. Lectio.-Parnassus.-Helicon.-Ars coron.-M. T. Cicero.- Simylus.- Stob. Horat.-Aristot. But that which we especially require in him, is an exactness of study, and multiplicity of reading, which maketh a full man, not alone enabling him to know the history or argument of a poem, and to report it; but so to master the matter and style, as to shew he knows how to handle, place, or dispose of either with elegancy, when need shall be. And not think he can leap forth suddenly a poet, by dreaming he hath been in Parnassus, or having washed his lips, as they