Hexameter Fury and Hissed Barbarism

Thomas Nashe, To the Gentlemen Students of Both Universities

Who ever my private opinion condemneth as faultie, Master Gascoigne is not to bee abridged of his deserved esteeme, who first beate the path to that perfection which our best Poets have aspired too since his departure; whereto he did ascend by comparing the Italian with the English, as Tullie did “Graeca cum Latinis.” Neither was Master Turbervile the worst of his time, although in translating he attributed too much to the necessitie of rime. And in this page of praise, I cannot omit aged Arthur Golding, for his industrious toile in Englishing Ovids Metamorphosis, besides manie other exquisite editions of Divinitie, turned by him out of the French tongue into our own.

Master Phaer likewise is not to be forgot in regard of his famous Virgil, whose heavenly verse had it not bin blemisht by his hautie thoghts England might have long insulted in his wit, and “corrigat qui potest” have been subscribed to his workes. But fortune the Mistres of change with a pitying compassion respecting Master Stanihursts praise, would that Phaer shoulde fall that hee might rise, whose heroicall Poetrie infired, I should say inspired, with an hexameter furie, recalled to life whatever hissed barbarisme hath bin buried this hundred yeare; and revived by his ragged quill such carterlie varietie, as no hodge plowman in a countrie but would have held as the extremitie of clownerie; a patterne whereof, I will propounde to your judgements, as neere as I can, being parte of one of his descriptions of a tempest, which is thus:

Then did he make heavens vault to rebounde, with rounce robble hobble

Of ruffle raffe roaring, with thwick thwack thurlery bouncing.

Which strange language of the firmament never subject before to our common phrase, makes us that are not used to terminate heavens moveings, in the accents of any voice, esteeme of their triobulare interpreter, as of some Thrasonical huffe snuffe, for so terrible was his stile, to all milde eares, as would have affrighted our peaceable Poets, from intermedling hereafter with that quarrelling kinde of verse; had not sweete Master France, by his excellent translation of Master Thomas Watsons sugred Amintas, animated their dulled spirits to such high witted endevors.

But I knowe not how, their over timerous cowardise, hath stoode in awe of envie, that no man since him durst imitate any of the worste, of those Romane wonders in english, which makes me thinke that either the lovers of medocritie are verie many, or that the number of good Poets, are very small: and in trueth, (Master Watson except, whom I mentioned before) I knowe not almost any of late dayes that hath shewed himselfe singular in any speciall Latin Poem, whose Amintas, and translated Antigone may march in equipage of honour with any of our ancient Poets.

A crudely printed, full-length picture of a standing man. He is in Elizabethan-style clothing and chains are around his ankles

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