For the philosopher, setting down with thorny arguments the bare rule, is so hard of utterance and so misty to be conceived, that one that has no other guide but him shall wade in him till he be old, before he shall find sufficient cause to be honest. As often happens in these cases, Gosson was himself a playwright, but excused his own writing from the attacks he made against poetry on the grounds that they were of a higher moral order than the bulk. I don't know, we'll see. I say the way, because where Sir Thomas More erred, it was the fault of the man, and not of the poet; for that way of patterning a commonwealth was most absolute, though he, perchance, hath not so absolutely performed it. First, truly, I note not only in these mysomousoi, poet-haters, but in all that kind of people who seek a praise by dispraising others, that they do prodigally spend a great many wandering words in quips and scoffs, carping and taunting at each thing which, by stirring the spleen, may stay the brain from a through-beholding the worthiness of the subject. Ulubrae was noted for its desolation.
But the historian, being captived to the truth of a foolish world, is many times a terror from well-doing, and an encouragement to unbridled wickedness. Now for the poet, he nothing affirms, and therefore never lies. Nay, let any history be brought that can say any writers were there before them, if they were not men of the same skill, as Orpheus, Linus, and some other are named, who, having been the first of that country that made pens deliver of their knowledge to their posterity, may justly challenge to be called their fathers in learning. His defense of poetry is indeed a fantastic argument with valid reasons and one can simply not deny what Sidney tells and that poetry is superior to all other branches of learning. Form: prose, with some portions of verse cited as examples.
We know a playing wit can praise the discretion of an ass, the comfortableness of being in debt, and the jolly commodity of being sick of the plague. For now, as if all the Muses were got with child to bring forth bastard poets, without any commission they do post over the banks of Helicon, till they make their readers more weary than posthorses; while, in the meantime, they, Queis meliore luto finxit præcordia Titan, 41 are better content to suppress the outflowings of their wit, than by publishing them to be accounted knights of the same order. But these arguments will by few be understood, and by fewer granted; thus much I hope will be given me, that the Greeks with some probability of reason gave him the name above all names of learning. It survives in a complete earlier version and an unfinished expanded version. Usque adeone mori miserum est? Now of time they are much more liberal. The poet uses the facts of the historian, but he makes them more noble by using the imagination in the creative process.
If you have a more intellectual temperament your heart will not be so captured by poetry and you would be better served by the instructions of philosophy. I dare undertake, Orlando Furioso or honest King Arthur will never displease a soldier; but the quiddity of ens, and prima materia, will hardly agree with a corselet. The philosopher therefore and the historian are they which would win the goal, the one by precept, the other by example; but both not having both, do both halt. In other words, what he's saying is poetry is the best because it has the power to create. In that same year, Ponsonby printed the same essay with the title The Defense of Poesie. Shelley's modern argument for poetry is cast in a Romantic strain in his critical work titled. Sidney here seems to miss the point of a joke of Cæsars reported by Suetonius.
And therefore though he recount things not true, yet because he tells them not for true he lies not; without we will say that Nathan lied in his speech, before alleged, to David; which, as a wicked man durst scarce say, so think I none so simple would say that Æsop lied in the tales of his beasts; for who thinks that Æsop wrote it for actually true, were well worthy to have his name chronicled among the beasts he writes of. Is it the bitter and wholesome , who rubs the galled mind, in making shame the trumpet of villainy with bold and open crying out against naughtiness? For Xenophon, who did imitate so excellently as to give us effigiem justi imperii—the portraiture of a just empire under the name of Cyrus as Cicero says of him —made therein an absolute heroical poem; so did Heliodorus in his sugared invention of that picture of love in Theagenes and Chariclea; and yet both these wrote in prose. But, if we mark them well, we shall find that they never, or very daintily, match hornpipes and funerals. There rests the heroical, whose very name, I think, should daunt all backbiters. The Lord Christ used both in His ministry on earth, from the moral philosophy contained in the Sermon on the Mount to the fictitious parables previously mentioned.
He said they were the masters of war and ornaments of peace, speedy goers and strong abiders, triumphers both in camps and courts. As Sidney points out, the Lord used fiction all the time to teach doctrine, and he mentions the story of the prophet Nathan a couple of times: The application most divinely true, but the discourse itself feigned; which made David I speak of the second and instrumental cause as in a glass to see his own filthiness, as that heavenly Psalm of Mercy well testifieth. And so was the manner the ancients took, by some Nuntius to recount things done in former time or other place. The crux of his argument is that in Platonic terms art doesn't imitate life, which is already one step from the ideal, it rather imitates the ideal itself, and is thus one step closer to the ideal than life is. This, according to the inclination of man, bred many-formed impressions. But that is easily answered: their naming of men is but to make their picture the more lively, and not to build any history. Aristotle writes the Art of Poesy; and why, if it should not be written? In sooth, thence where he himself alloweth community of women.
The French in his whole language has not one word that has his accent in the last syllable saving two, called antepenultima, and little more has the Spanish; and therefore very gracelessly may they use dactyls. But both have such an affinity in the wordish consideration, that I think this digression will make my meaning receive the fuller understanding:which is not to take upon me to teach poets how they should do, but only, finding myself sick among the rest, to show some one or two spots of the common infection grown among the most part of writers; that, acknowledging ourselves somewhat awry, we may bend to the right use both of matter and manner: whereto our language giveth us great occasion, being, indeed, capable of any excellent exercising of it. Which name how high and incomparable a title it is, I had rather were known by marking the scope of other sciences than by any partial allegation. Indeed but appareled, verse being but an ornament and no cause to poetry, since there have been many most excellent poets that never versified, and now swarm many versifiers that need never answer to the name of poets. Nay, rather in themselves they have, as it were, a kind of contrariety. Yet will some bring in an example of Eunuchus in Terence, that containeth matter of two days, yet far short of twenty years.
Members of the society with this kind of literature might be encourage to live a beautiful and ideal life. But if the question be for your own use and learning, whether it be better to have it set down as it should be or as it was, then certainly is more doctrinable the feigned Cyrus in Xenophon than the true Cyrus in Justin; and the feigned Æneas in Virgil than the right Æneas in Dares Phrygius; as to a lady that desired to fashion her countenance to the best grace, a painter should more benefit her to portrait a most sweet face, writing Canidia upon it, than to paint Canidia as she was, who, Horace sweareth, was foul and ill-favored. Doth not, to go in the highest, Gods word abused breed heresy, and his name abused become blasphemy? The notion, as seen in , is that poetry privileges , imagination and modes of understanding. That cæsura, or breathing-place in the midst of the verse, neither Italian nor Spanish have, the French and we never almost fail of. Now would be a good time to return to the and What has the poet given to us, and to Byrtnoth and his war-band individualized by name and dialogue and actions, that the chronicler did not have it in his power to give? For ordinary it is that two young princes fall in love; after many traverses she is got with child, delivered of a fair boy, he is lost, groweth a man, falleth in love, and is ready to get another child,and all this in two hours space; which how absurd it is in sense even sense may imagine, and art hath taught, and all ancient examples justified, and at this day the ordinary players in Italy will not err in. The example of the former is buono: suono; of the sdrucciola is femina: semina. The work is outlined below, with some quoted excerpts inserted: I.