English Seneca By Candlelight

Thomas Nashe, To the Gentlemen Students of Both Universities

But least I might seeme with these night crowes “Nimis curiosus in aliena republica,” I’le turne backe to my first text, of studies of delight, and talke a little in friendship with a few of our triviall translators. It is a common practise now a daies amongst a sort of shifting companions, that runne through every arte and thrive by none, to leave the trade of “Noverint,” whereto they were borne, and busie themselves with the indevors of Art, that could scarcelie latinize their necke-verse if they should have neede; yet English Seneca read by candle light yeeldes manie good sentences, as “Bloud is a begger,” and so foorth: and, if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning, he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfulls of tragical speaches.

But O griefe! “tempus edax rerum,” what’s that will last alwaies? The sea exhaled by droppes will in continuance be drie, and Seneca let bloud line by line and page by page, at length must needes die to our stage: which makes his famisht followers to imitate the Kidde in Aesop, who, enamored with the Foxes newfangles, forsooke all hopes of life to leape into a new occupation; and these men renowncing all possibilities of credit or estimation, to intermeddle with Italian translations: wherein how poorelie they have plodded (as those that are neither provenzall men nor are able to distinguish of Articles,) let all indifferent Gentlemen that have travailed in that tongue discerne by their twopenie pamphlets: and no mervaile though their home-born mediocritie be such in this matter; for what can be hoped of those, that thrust Elisium into hell, and have not learned so long as they have hued in the spheares, the just measure of the Horizon without an hexameter.

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