« PreviousContinue »
deed; but the knowledge and Imitation of the Greek tongue withal.
This he confesseth himself; this he uttereth in many places, as those can tell best that use to read him most.
Therefore thou, that shootest at perfection in the Latin tongue, think not thyself wiser than Tully was, in choice of the way that leadeth rightly to the same: think not thy wit better than Tully's was, as though that may serve thee, that was not sufficient for him. For even as a hawk flieth not high with one wing, even so a man reacheth not to excellency with one tongue.
I have been a looker-on in the cockpit of learning these many years, and one cock only have I known, which with one wing even at this day, doth pass all others, in mine opinion, that ever I saw in any pit in England, though they had two wings. Yet, nevertheless, to fly well with one wing, to run fast with one leg, be rather rare masteries much to be marvelled at, than sure examples safely to be followed. A bishop that now liveth, a good man, whose judgement in religion I better like, than his opinion in perfectness in other learning, said once unto me, * We have no need now of the Greek tongue, when all things be translated into Latin." But the good man understood not, that even the best translation is for meer necessity but an evil imped wing to fly withal, or a heavy stump leg of wood to go withal. Such the higher they fly, the sooner they falter and fail : the faster they run, the ofter they stumble, and sorer they fall. Such as will needs so fly, may Ay at a pie, and catch a daw; and such runners as commonly they, shove and shoulder to stand foremost; yet, in the end, they come behind others, and deserve but the hopshackles, if the masters of the game be right judgers.
Therefore, in perusing thus so many divers books for Imitation, it came into my head, that a very profitable book might be made de Imitatione, after another sort than ever yet was attempted of that matter, containing a certain few fit precepts, unto which should be gathered and applied plenty of examples, out of the choicest authors of both the tongues. This work would stand rather in good diligence for the gathering, and right judgement for the apt applying of those examples, than any great learning or utterance at all.
The doing thereof would be more pleasant than painful,
and would bring also much profit to all that should read it, and great praise to him that would take it in hand with just desert of thanks.
Erasmus, giving himself to read over all authors Greek and Latin, seemeth to have prescribed to himself this order of reading; that is, to note out by the way three special points, all adages, all similitudes, and all witty sayings of most notable personages. And so, by one labour, he left to posterity three notable books, and namely two, his Chiliades, Apophthegmata, and Similia. Likewise, if a good student would bend himself to read diligently over Tully, and with him also at the same time as diligently Plato and Xenophon, with his books of philosophy, Isocrates, and Demosthenes with his Orations, and Aristotle with his Rhetoricks, (which five of all others be those whom Tully best loved, and specially followed,) and would mark diligently in Tully, where he doth exprimere or effingere (which be the very proper words of Imitation), either copiam Platonis, or venustatem Xenophontis, suavitatem Isocratis, or vim Demosthenis, propriam et puram subtilitatem Aristotelis ; and not only write out the places diligently, and lay them together orderly, but also confer them with skilful judgement by those few rules which I have expressed now twice before: if that diligence were taken, if that order were used, what perfect knowledge of both the tongues, what ready and pithy utterance in all matters, what right and deep judgement in all kind of learning would follow, is scarce credible to be believed.
These books be not many, nor long, nor rude in speech, nor mean in matter; but next the majesty of God's holy word, most worthy for a man, the lover of learning and honesty, to spend his life in. Yea, I have heard worthy Mr. Cheke many times say; “ I would have a good student pass and journey through all authors both Greek and Latin.” But he that will dwell in these few books only; first, in God's holy Bible, and then join with it Tully in Latin, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Isocrates, and Demosthenes in Greek, must needs prove an excellent man.
Some men already in our days have put to their helping hands to this work of Imitation : as Perionius, Hen. Stephanus in dictionario Ciceroniano, and Pet. Victorius most praise-worthy of all, in that his learned work containing twenty-five books de Varia Lectione; in which books be joined diligently together the best authors of both the tongues, where one doth seem to imitate another.
But all these, with Macrobius, Hessus, and others, be no more but common porters, carriers, and bringers of matter and stuff together. They order nothing; they lay before you what is done; they do not teach you how it is done. They busy not themselves with form of building : they do not declare, this stuff is thus framed by Demosthenes, and thus and thus by Tully; and so likewise in Xenophon, Plato, and Isocrates, and Aristotle. For joining Virgil with Homer, I have sufficiently declared before.
The like diligence I would wish to be taken in Pindar and Horace, an equal match for all respects.
In tragedies, (the goodliest argument of all, and for the use either of a learned preacher, or a civil gentleman, more profitable than Homer, Pindar, Virgil, and Horace; yea comparable in mine opinion with the doctrine of Aristotle, Plato, and Xenophon,) the Grecians, Sophocles and Euripides, far overmatch our Seneca in Latin, namely in Olmovopiq et Decoro : although Seneca's elocution and verse be very com. mendable * for his time. And for the matters of Hercules, Thebais, Hippolytus, and Troas, his imitation is to be gathered into the same book, and to be tried by the same touchstone, as is spoken before.
In histories, and namely in Livy, the like diligence of imitation could bring excellent learning and breed staid judgement in taking any like matter in hand.
Only Livy were a sufficient task for one man's study, to compare him, first with his fellow for all respects, Dionysius Halicarnassæus ; who both lived in one time, took both one history in hand to write, deserved both like praise of learning and eloquence: then with Polybius, that wise writer, whom
There are many conjectures made by learned men, concerning the time when these tragedies were written, and who their author was. Mr. Ascham, by this expression, seems to bring them lower than most do. We have Erasmus's opinion in these words : “ Tacitus commemorat illius (Senecæ) poemata, de quibus sentiens, incertum. Nam tragediarum opus eruditi quidam malunt Senecæ filio tribuere, quàm huic: sunt, qui fratri Senecæ adscribant. Ex prima tragedia versus aliquot refert, Duc me, parens, summique dominator poli, &c. Quanquam mihi videtur opus hoc tragediarum non esse unius hominis.” Lib. 28. Ep. 12.
Livy professeth to follow; and if he would deny it, yet it is plain, that the best part of the third Decade in Livy, is in a manner translated out of the third and rest of Polybius : lastly, with Thucydides, to whose imitation Livy is curiously bent, as may well appear by that one oration of those of Campania, asking aid of the Romans against the Samnites, which is wholly taken, sentence, reason, argument, and order, out of the oration of Corcyra, asking like aid of the Athenians against them of Corinth. If some diligent student would take pains to compare them together, he should easily perceive that I do say true.
A book thus wholly filled with examples of imitation, first out of Tully, compared with Plato, Xenophon, Isocrates, Demosthenes, and Aristotle; then out of Virgil and Horace, with Homer and Pindar; next out of Seneca, with Sophocles and Euripides ; lastly out of Livy, with Thucydides, Polybius, and Halicarnassæus, gathered with good diligence, and compared with right order, as I have expresser! before, were another manner of work for all kind of learn: ing, and namely for eloquence, than be those cold gatherings of Macrobius, Hessus, Perionius, Stephanus, and Victorius; which
be used (as I said before) in this case, as porters and carriers, deserving like praise, as such men do wages; but only Sturmius is he, out of whom the true survey and whole workmanship is specially to be learned.
I trust, this my writing shall give some good student occasion to take * some piece in hand of this work of Imitation. And as I had rather have any do it than myself, yet surely myself rather than none at all. And by God's grace,
if God do lend me life, with health, free leisure and liberty, with good liking and a merry heart, I will turn the best part of my study and time to toil in one or other piece of this work of Imitation.
This diligence to gather examples, to give light and understanding to good precepts, is no new invention, but specially used of the best authors and oldest writers. For Ari
* Something of this nature has since been done by Jacobus Tollius, in his Gustus Criticarum Animadversionum ad Longinum ; where he has with good judgement compared Pindar with Horace, Theocritus with Virgil, and Apollonius with Ovid; and some few more beside. But had Mr. Ascham lived, we should
have seen a far more excellent performance.
stotle himself, (as Diogenes Laertius declareth,) when he had written that goodly book of the Topics, did gather out of historians and orators so many examples as filled fifteen books, only to express the rules of his Topics. These were the commentaries that Aristotle thought fit for his Topics. And therefore, to speak as I think, I never saw yet any commentary upon Aristotle's Logic, either in Greek or Latin, that ever I liked ; because they be rather spent in declaring school-point rules, than in gathering fit exainples for use and utterance either by pen or talk. For precepts in all authors, and namely in Aristotle, without applying unto them the imitation of examples, be hard, dry, and cold, and therefore barren, unfruitful, and unpleasant. But Aristotle, namely in his Topics and Elenches, should be not only fruitful, but also pleasant too, if examples out of Plato, and other good authors, were diligently gathered and aptly applied unto his most perfect precepts there.
And it is notable, that my friend Sturmius writeth herein, that there is no precept in Aristotle's Topics, whereof plenty of examples be not manifest in Plato's works. And I hear say, that an excellent learned man, Tomitanus in Italy, hath expressed every fallacy in Aristotle, with divers examples out of Plato. Would to God I might once see some worthy student of Aristotle and Plato in Cambridge, that would join in one book the precepts of the one with the examples of the other. For such a labour were one special piece of that work of Imitation, which I do wish were gathered together in one volume.
Cambridge, at my first coming thither, but not at my going away, committed this fault in reading the precepts of Aristotle without the examples of other authors. But herein, in my time, * these men of worthy memory, Mr. Redman, Mr. Cheke, Mr. Smith, Mr. Haddon, Mr. Watson, put so to their helping hands, as that university, and all stu
* “Eo tempore Cantabrigiam venit, quo literæ et Græcæ et Latinæ efflorescere, et præclara studia in ea Academia herbescere, et ad summum hujus regni ornamentum maturescere cæperunt. Ea ætate postea floruit, quâ Georgius Daius, Joan. Redmannus, Rob. Pemberus, Tho. Smithus, Joan. Checus, Nic. Ridlæus, Edm. Grindallus, Tho. Watsonus, Gualterus Haddonus, Jacob. Pilkintonus, R. Hornus, Joan. Christophersonus, Tho. Wilsonus, Joan. Setonus, et infiniti alii excellenti doctrina præditi, et perspecta vitæ morumque probitate or