pg 45THE ANSWER OF Mr. HOBBES TO SIR WILL. D'AVENANT'S PREFACE BEFORE GONDIBERT
1SIR, If to commend your Poeme, I should onely say (in generall 2Termes) that in choyce of your Argument, the disposition of the 3partes, the maintenance of the Characters of your Persons, 4the dignity and vigour of your expression you have performed all the 5parts of various experience, ready memory, cleare judgment, swift 6and well govern'd fancy, though it were enough for the truth, it were 7too little for the weight and credit of my testimony. For I lie open to 8two Exceptions, one of an incompetent, the other of a corrupted 9Witnesse. Incompetent, because I am not a Poet; and corrupted 10with the Honor done me by your Preface. The former obliges me to 11say something (by the way) of the Nature and differences of Poesy.
12As Philosophers have divided the Universe (their subject) into 13three Regions, Caelestiall, Aëriall, and Terrestriall; so the Poets, 14(whose worke it is by imitating humane life, in delightfull and 15measur'd lines, to avert men from vice, and encline them to vertuous 16and honorable actions) have lodg'd themselves in the three Regions of 17mankind, Court, Citty, and Country, correspondent in some pro- 18portion, to those three Regions of the World. For there is in Princes, 19and men of conspicuous power (anciently called Heroes) a lustre and 20influence upon the rest of men, resembling that of the Heavens; and 21an insincerenesse, inconstancy, and troublesome humor of those 22that dwell in populous Citties, like the mobility, blustring, and im- 23purity of the Aire; and a plainesse, and (though dull) yet a nutritive 24faculty in rurall people, that endures a comparison with the Earth 25they labour.
26From hence have proceeded three sorts of Poesy. Heroique, Scom- 27matique, and Pastorall. Every one of these is distinguished againe 28in the manner of Representation, which sometimes is Narrative, 29pg 46wherein the Poet himselfe relateth, and sometimes Dramatique, 30as when the persons are every one adorned and brought upon the 31Theater, to speake and act their owne parts. There is therefore 32neither more nor lesse then six sorts of Poesy. For the Heroique 33Poeme narrative (such as is yours) is called an Epique Poeme; 34The Heroique Poeme Dramatique, is Tragedy. The Scommatique 35Narrative, is Satyre, Dramatique is Comedy. The Pastorall narrative, 36is called simply Pastorall(anciently Bucolique) the same Dramatique, 37Pastorall comedy. The Figure therefore of an Epique Poeme, and of 38a Tragedy, ought to be the same, for they differ no more but in that 39they are pronounced by one, or many persons. Which I insert to 40justify the figure of yours, consisting of five bookes divided into 41Songs, or Cantoes, as five Acts divided into Scenes has ever bene 42the approved figure of a Tragedy.
43They that take for Poesy whatsoever is Writ in Verse, will thinke 44this division imperfect, and call in Sonnets, Epigrammes, Eclogues, 45and the like peeces (which are but Essayes, and parts of an entire 46Poeme) and reckon Empedocles, and Lucretius(naturall Philosophers) 47for Poets, and the morall precepts of Phocylides, Theognis, and the Editor’s Note48Quatraines of Pybrach, and the History of Lucan, and others of that 49kind amongst Poemes; bestowing on such Writers for honor, the 50name of Poets, rather then of Historians, or Philosophers. But the 51subject of a Poeme is the manners of men, not naturall causes; 52manners presented, not dictated; and manners feyned (as the name 53of Poesy importes) not found in men. They that give entrance to Critical Apparatus54Fictions writ in Prose, erre not so much, but they erre. For Poesy 55requireth delightfulnesse, not onely of fiction, but of stile; in which Critical Apparatus56if Prose contend with Verse it is with disadvantage and (as it were) 57on foot against the strength and winges of Pegasus.
58For Verse amongst the Greekes was appropriated anciently to the 59service of their Gods, and was the Holy stile; the stile of the Oracles; 60the stile of the Lawes; and the stile of men that publiquely recom- 61mended to their Gods, the vowes and thankes of the people; which 62was done in their holy songes called Hymnes; and the Composers of 63them were called Prophets and Priests before the name of Poet was 64knowne. When afterwards the majesty of that stile was observed, 65the Poets chose it as best becomming their high invention. And for 66the Antiquity of Verse it is greater then the antiquity of Letters. pg 4767For it is certaine, Cadmus was the first that (from Phœnicia, a Critical Apparatus68country that neighboureth Judæa) brought the use of Letters into 69Greece. But the service of the Gods, and the lawes (which by 70measured Sounds were easily committed to the memory) had bene 71long time in use, before the arrivall of Cadmus there.
72There is besides the grace of stile, another cause why the antient Critical Apparatus73Poets chose to write in measured language, which is this. Their 74Poemes were made at first with intention to have them sung, as well 75Epique, as Dramatique (which custome hath been long time layd 76aside, but began to be revived in part, of late yeres in Italy) and 77could not be made commensurable to the Voyce or Instruments, in 78Prose; the wayes and motions whereof are so uncertayne and undis- 79tinguished, (like the way and motion of a Ship in the Sea) as not 80onely to discompose the best Composers, but also to disappoint 81some times the most attentive Reader, and put him to hunt counter 82for the sense. It was therefore necessary for Poets in those times, to 83write in Verse.
84The verse which the Greekes, and Latines (considering the nature 85of their owne languages) found by experience most grave, and for 86an Epique Poeme most decent, was their Hexameter; a Verse 87limited, not onely in the length of the line, but also in the quantity Critical Apparatus88of the syllables. In steed of which wee use the line of ten syllables, 89recompensing the neglect of their quantity, with the diligence of 90Rime. And this measure is so proper for an Heroique Poeme, as 91without some losse of gravity and dignity, it was never changed. 92A longer is not farre from ill Prose, and a shorter, is a kind of 93whisking (you know) like the unlacing, rather then the singing of a 94Muse. In an Epigramme or a Sonnet, a man may vary his measures, 95and seeke glory from a needlesse difficulty, as he that contrived Editor’s Note96verses into the formes of an Organ, a Hatchet, an Egge, an Altar, 97and a payre of Winges; but in so great and noble a worke as is an 98Epique Poeme, for a man to obstruct his owne way with unprofitable 99difficulties, is great imprudence. So likewise to chuse a needelesse 100and difficult correspondence of Rime, is but a difficult toy, and forces 101a man some times for the stopping of a chinke to say some what 102he did never thinke; I cannot therefore but very much approve 103your Stanza, where in the syllables in every verse are ten, and the 104Rime Alternate.
pg 48105For the choyse of your subject your have sufficiently justified 106your selfe in your Preface. But because I have observed in Virgil, 107that the Honor done to Æneas and his companions, has so bright a 108reflexion upon Augustus Cæsar, and other great Romanes of that 109time, as a man may suspect him not constantly possessed with the 110noble spirit of those his Heroes, and beleeve you are not acquainted 111with any great man of the Race of Gondibert, I adde to your Justifi- 112cation of the purity of your purpose, in having no other motive of 113your labour, but to adorne vertue, and procure her Lovers; then 114which there cannot be a worthier designe, and more becomming 115noble Poesy.
116In that you make so small account of the example of almost all the 117approuved Poets, ancient and moderne, who thought fit in the 118beginning, and some times also in the progresse of their Poems, to 119invoke a Muse, or some other Deitye, that should dictate to them, 120or assist them in their writings, they that take not the lawes of Art, 121from any reason of their owne, but from the fashion of precedent 122times, will perhaps accuse your singularity. For my part, I neither 123subscribe to their accusation, nor yet condemne that Heathen 124custome, otherwise then as accessary to their false Religion. For 125their Poets were their Divines; had the name of Prophets; Excercised 126amongst the People a kind of spirituall Authority; would be thought 127to speake by a divine spirit; have their workes which they writte in 128Verse (the divine stile) passe for the word of God, and not of man; 129and to be hearkened to with reverence. Do not our Divines (excepting 130the stile) do the same, and by us that are of the same Religion cannot 131justly be reprehended for it? Besides, in the use of the spirituall 132calling of Divines, there is danger sometimes to be feared, from want Editor’s Note133of skill, such as is reported of unskillfull Conjurers, that mistaking 134the rites and ceremonious points of their art, call up such spirits, as 135they cannot at their pleasure allay againe; by whom stormes are Critical Apparatus136raysed, that overthrow buildings, and are the cause of miserable 137wrackes at sea. Unskillful divines do oftentimes the like, For when 138they call unseasonably for Zeale there appeares a spirit of Cruelty, 139and by the like error insteed of Truth they rayse Discord; insteed of 140Wisedome, Fraud; insteed of Reformation, Tumult; and Controversie 141insteed of Religion. Whereas in the Heathen Poets, at least in those 142whose workes have lasted to the time wee are in, there are none 143of those indiscretions to be found, that tended to subversion, or pg 49144disturbance of the Commonwealthes wherein they lived. But why 145a Christian should thinke it an ornament to his Poeme; either to 146profane the true God, or invoke a false one, I can imagine no cause, 147but a reasonlesse imitation of custome; of a foolish custome; by 148which a man enabled to speake wisely from the principles of nature, 149and his owne meditation, loves rather to be thought to speake by 150inspiration, like a Bagpipe.
Editor’s Note151Time and education begets experience; Experience begets 152memory; Memory begets Judgement, and Fancy; Judgement begets 153the strength and structure; and Fancy begets the ornaments of a 154Poeme. The Ancients therefore fabled not absurdly, in making 155memory the mother of the Muses. For memory is the World (though 156not really, yet so as in a looking glasse) in which the Judgment the 157severer Sister busieth her selfe in grave and rigide examination of all 158the parts of Nature, and in registring by Letters, their order, 159causes, uses, differences and resemblances; Whereby the Fancy, Critical Apparatus160when any worke of Art is to be performed, findes her materials at 161hand and prepared for use, and needes no more then a swift motion 162over them, that what she wants, and is there to be had, may not lye 163too long unespied. So that when she seemeth to fly from one Indies 164to the other, and from Heaven to Earth, and to penetrate into the 165hardest matter, and obscurest places, into the future, and into her 166selfe, and all this in a point of time, the voyage is not very great, her 167selfe being all she seekes; and her wonderfull celerity, consisteth not 168so much in motion, as in copious Imagery discreetly ordered, and 169perfectly registred in the memory; which most men under the name 170of Philosophy have a glimpse of, and is pretended to by many that 171grossely mistaking her embrace contention in her place. But so 172farre forth as the Fancy of man, has traced the wayes of true 173Philosophy, so farre it hath produced very marvellous effects to the 174benefit of mankind. All that is bewtifull or defensible in buildinge; 175or mervaylous in Engines and Instruments of motion; Whatsoever Critical Apparatus176commodity men receave from the observation of the Heavens, from 177the description of the Earth, from the account of Time, from walk- 178ing on the Seas; and whatsoever distinguisheth the civility of Europe, 179from the Barbarity of the American sauvages, is the workemanship 180of Fancy, but guided by the Precepts of true Philosophy. But where 181these precepts fayle, as they have hetherto fayled in the doctrine of pg 50182Morall vertue, there the Architect (Fancy) must take the Philoso- 183phers part upon herselfe. He therefore that undertakes an Heroique 184Poeme (which is to exhibite a venerable and amiable Image of 185Heroique vertue) must not onely be the Poet, to place and connect, 186but also the Philosopher, to furnish and square his matter, that is, to 187make both body and soule, coulor and shaddow of his Poeme out 188of his owne store: which how well you have performed I am now 189considering.
Editor’s Note190Observing how few the persons be you introduce in the begin- 191ninge, and how in the course of the actions of these (the number 192increasinge) after severall confluences, they run all at last into the 193two principall streames of your Poeme, Gondibert and Oswald, me 194thinkes the Fable is not much unlike the Theater. For so, from 195severall and farre distant Sources, do the lesser Brookes of Lombardy, 196flowing into one another, fall all at last into the two mayne Rivers, 197the Po, and the Adice. It hath the same resemblance also with a 198mans veines, which proceeding from different parts, after the like 199concourse, insert themselves at last into the two principall veynes of 200the Body. But when I considered that also the actions of men, which 201singly are inconsiderable, after many conjunctures, grow at last Critical Apparatus202either into one great protecting power, or into two destroying 203factions, I could not but approve the structure of your Poeme, 204which ought to be no other then such as an imitation of humane 205life requireth.
206In the streames themselves I find nothing but settled Valour, 207cleane Honor, calme Counsell, learned diversion and pure Love; Editor’s Note208save onely a torrent or two of Ambition, which (though a fault) has 209somewhat Heroique in it, and therefore must have place in an 210Heroique Poeme. To shew the reader in what place he shall find 211every excellent picture of vertue you have drawne, is too long. And 212to shew him one, is to prejudice the rest; yet I cannot forbeare to 213point him to the Description of Love in the person of Birtha, in the 214seventh Canto of the second Booke. There has nothing bene sayd of 215that subject neither by the Ancient nor moderne Poets comparable 216to it. Poets are Paynters: I would faine see another Painter draw so 217true perfect and natural a Love to the Life, and make use of nothing 218but pure lines, without the helpe of any the least uncomely shaddow, 219as you have done. But let it be read as a piece by it selfe, for in the 220almost equall height of the whole, the eminence of partes is Lost.
pg 51221There are some that are not pleased with fiction, unlesse it be Editor’s Note222bold; not onely to exceed the worke, but also the possibility of nature, 223they would have impenetrable Armors, Inchanted Castles, in- 224vulnerable bodies, Iron men, flying Horses, and a thousand other 225such thinges, which are easily fayned by them that dare. Against 226such I defend you (without assenting to those that condemne either 227Homer or Virgil) by dissenting onely from those that thinke the 228Beauty of a Poeme consisteth in the exorbitancy of the fiction. For 229as truth is the bound of Historicall, so the Resemblance of truth is 230the utmost limit of Poeticall Liberty. In old time amongst the 231Heathen such strange fictions, and Metamorphoses, were not so 232remote from the Articles of their faith, as they are now from ours, 233and therefore were not so unpleasant. Beyond the actuall workes of 234nature a Poet may now go; but beyond the conceaved possibility of 235nature never. I can allow a Geographer to make, in the Sea, a fish 236or a ship, which by the scale of his mappe would be two or three 237hundred mile long, and thinke it done for ornament, because it is 238done with out the precincts of his undertaking; but when he paynts 239an Elephant so, I presently apprehend it as ignorance, and a playne 240confession of Terra incognita.
241As the Description of Great men and Great Actions is the constant 242designe of a Poet; so the Descriptions of worthy circomstances are 243necessary accessions to a Poeme, and being well performed are the 244Jewels and most pretious ornaments of Poesy. Such in Virgil are the 245Funerall games of Anchises, The duel of Æneas and Turnus,&c. Critical Apparatus246and such in yours are The Hunting, The Battayle, Critical Apparatus247The Citty Morning, The Funerall, The House of Astragon, The Library, and the Temples, 248equall to his, or those of Homer whom he imitated.
249There remaynes now no more to be considered but the Ex- 250pression, in which consisteth the countenance and coulour of a 251bewtifull Muse; and is given her by the Poet out of his owne pro- 252vision, or is borrowed from others. That which he hath of his owne, 253is nothing but experience and knowledge of Nature, and specially 254humane nature; and is the true, and naturall Colour. But that which 255is taken out of Bookes (the ordinary boxes of Counterfeit Complex- 256ion) shewes well or ill, as it hath more or lesse resemblance with the 257naturall, and are not to be used (without examination) unadvisedly. Critical Apparatus258For in him that professes the imitation of Nature, (as all Poets do) pg 52259what greater fault can there be, then to bewray an ignorance of 260nature in his Poeme; especially having a liberty allowed him, if he 261meete with any thing he cannot master, to leave it out?
262That which giveth a Poeme the true and naturall Colour consis- 263teth in two things, which are; To know well, that is, to have images of 264nature in the memory distinct and cleare; and To know much. A 265signe of the first is perspicuity, property, and decency; which delight 266all sortes of men, either by instructing the ignorant, or soothing the Critical Apparatus267learned in their knowledge. A signe of the later is novelty of ex- 268pression, and pleaseth by excitation of the mind; for novelty causeth 269admiration, and admiration, curiosity, which is a delightfull 270appetite of knowledge.
271There be so many wordes in use at this day in the English tongue, 272that, though of magnifique sound, yet (like the windy blisters of a 273troubled water) have no sense at all; and so many others that loose 274their meaning, by being ill coupled, that it is a hard matter to avoyd 275them; for having bene obtruded upon youth in the Schooles (by 276such as make it, I thinke, their businesse there (as t'is exprest by the 277best Poet)
Editor’s Note278With termes to charme the weake and pose the wise,
282they grow up with them, and gaining reputation with the ignorant,283are not easily shaken off.
- 280bert. lib.
- Critical Apparatus281II. Cant. 5.
284To this palpable darknesse, I may also adde the ambitious 285obscurity of expressing more then is perfectly conceaved; or perfect 286conception in fewer words then it requires. Which Expressions, 287though they have had the honor to be called strong lines, are in deed 288no better then Riddles, and not onely to the Reader, but also (after 289a little time) to the Writer himselfe darke and troublesome.
290To the property of Expression I referre, that clearenesse of 291memory, by which a Poet when he hath once introduced any person 292whatsoever, speaking in his Poeme, mainteyneth in him to the end 293the same character he gave him in the beginning. The variation 294whereof, is a change of pace, that argues the Poet tired.
295Of the Indecencyes of an Heroique Poem, the most remarquable 296are those that shew disproportion either betweene the persons and 297their actions, or betweene the manners of the Poet and the Poeme. pg 53298Of the first kind, is the uncomlinesse of representing in great 299persons the inhumane vice of Cruelty, or the sordide vices of Lust 300and Drunkenesse. To such parts as those the Ancient approved 301Poets, thought it fit to suborne, not the persons of men, but of 302monsters and beastly Giants, such as Polyphemus, Cacus, and the 303Centaures. For it is supposed a Muse, when she is invoked to sing a 304song of that nature, should maidenly advise the Poet, to set such 305persons to sing their owne vices upon the stage; for it is not so un- 306seemely in a Tragedy. Of the same kind it is to represent scurrility, 307or any action or languadge that moveth much laughter. The delight Editor’s Note308of an Epique Poeme consisteth not in mirth, but admiration. Mirth 309and laughter is proper to Comedyand Satyre. Great persons that 310have their mindes employed on great designes, have not leasure 311enough to laugh, and are pleased with the contemplation of their 312owne power and vertues, so as they need not the infirmities and vices 313of other men to recommend themselves to their owne favor by 314comparison, as all men do when they laugh. Of the second kind, 315where the disproportion is betweene the Poet, and the Persons of his 316Poeme, one is in the Dialect of the Inferior sort of People which is Editor’s Note317allwayes different from the language of the Court. Another is to 318derive the Illustration of anything, from such metaphores or com- 319parisons as cannot come into mens thoughts, but by meane conver- Critical Apparatus320sation, and experience of humble or evill Artes, which the persons of 321an Epique Poeme cannot be thought acquainted with.
322From Knowing much, proceedeth the admirable variety and Critical Apparatus323novelty of metaphors and similitudes, which are not possibly to be 324lighted on, in the compasse of a narrow knowledge. And the want 325whereof compelleth a Writer to expressions that are either defac'd 326by time, or sullied with vulgar or long use. For the Phrases of Poesy, 327as the ayres of musique with often hearing become insipide, the 328Reader having no more sense of their force, then our Flesh is sensible 329of the bones that susteine it. As the sense we have of bodies, con- 330sisteth in change and variety of impression, so also does the sense of 331languadge in the variety and changeable use of words. I meane not 332in the affectation of words newly brought home from travaile, but in 333new (and with all significant) translation to our purposes, of those 334that be already receaved; and in farre fetch't (but withall, apt, 335instructive, and comely) similitudes.
336Having thus (I hope) avoyded the first Exception, against the pg 54337incompetency of my Judgement, I am but little moved with the 338second, which is of being bribed by the honor you have done me, 339by attributing in your Preface somewhat to my Judgment. For I 340have used your Judgment no lesse in many thinges of mine, which 341comming to light will thereby appeare the better. And so you have 342your bribe againe.
343Having thus made way for the admission of my Testimony, I 344give it briefly thus; I never yet saw Poeme, that had so much shape 345of Art, health of Morality, and vigour and bewty of Expression as 346this of yours. And but for the clamour of the multitude, that hide 347their Envy of the present, under a Reverence of Antiquity I should 348say further, that it would last as long as either the Æneid, or Iliad, Critical Apparatus349but for one Disadvantage. And the Disadvantage is this: The lan- 350guages of the Greekes and Romanes (by their Colonies and Conquests) 351have put off flesh and bloud, and are become immutable, which 352none of the moderne tongues are like to be. I honor Antiquity, but 353that which is commonly called old time, is yong time. The glory of 354Antiquity is due, not to the Dead, but to the Aged.
Editor’s Note355And now, whilest I thinke on't, give me leave with a short discord 356to sweeten the Harmony of the approaching close. I have nothing to 357object against your Poeme; but dissent onely from something in your 358Preface, sounding to the prejudice of Age. Tis commonly sayd, that 359old Age is a returne to childhood. Which me thinkes you insist on so 360long, as if you desired it should be beleeved. That's the note I Critical Apparatus361meane to shake a litle. That saying, meant onely of the weakenesse 362of body, was wrested to the weaknesse of minde, by froward child- 363ren, weary of the controulment of their parents, masters, and other 364admonitors. Secondly the dotage and childishnesse they ascribe to 365age is never the effect of Time, but sometimes of the excesses of 366youth, and not a returning to, but a continuall stay with childhood. 367For they that wanting the curiosity of furnishing their memories 368with the rarities of nature in their youth, and passe their time in 369making provision onely for their ease, and sensuall delight, are 370children still, at what yeres soever; as they that comming into a Critical Apparatus371populous citty, never going out of their Inne, are strangers 372still, how longsoever they have bene there. Thirdly, there is no 373reason for any man to think himselfe wiser to day then yesterday, pg 55375which does not equally convince he shall be wiser to morrow then 376to day.
377Fourthly, you will be forced to change your opinion, hereafter 378when you are old; and in the meane time you discredit all I have 379sayd before in your commendation, because I am old already. But 380no more of this.
381I beleeve (Sir) you have seene a curious kind of perspective, where, 382he that lookes through a short hollow pipe, upon a picture con- 383teyning diverse figures, sees none of those that are there paynted, 384but some one person made up of their partes, conveighed to the eye 385by the artificiall cutting of a glasse. I find in my imagination an 386effect not unlike it from your Poeme. The vertues you distribute 387there amongst so many noble Persons, represent (in the reading) the 388image but of one mans vertue to my fancy, which is your owne; and 389that so deepely imprinted, as to stay for ever there, and governe all 390the rest of my thoughts, and affections in the way of honoring and 391serving you, to the utmost of my power, that am (SIR) Your most 392humble and obedient servant, THOMAS HOBBES.
Paris Jan. 10. 1650.pg 56pg 57pg 58