For the onely . . . one legge: A crucial passage on the difficulty of adapting classical prosody to English verse. Greek and Latin prosody is a system that organizes syllable quantity, ‘length’, into patterns, the prosodic length of a word’s syllables—the measure of the Number being determined by a set of rules based on the spelling, derivation, grammatical inflection, and ancient pronunciation of the word as well as its position in a sequence of words. Whereas speech-stress and syllable length are only loosely related from the standpoint of classical prosody, several early English quantitative poets, Spenser included, seemed to regard stressed syllables in English as the likely candidates for treatment as metrically long. (This confusion of stress and quantity is still with us, leading us to speak of stressed syllables as ‘long’.)
According to the rules of Latin prosody, a syllable preceding the juncture of ‘n’ and ‘t’ should be long, but Spenser’s ear tells him that the second syllable of Carpenter is unstressed, hence his reference to the unstressed syllable as used shorte in speache. (Unfortunately, Spenser, Harvey, and many of their contemporaries use the same terms, short and long, to describe differences of both quantity and stress, hence the description of an unstressed syllable as ‘shorte in speache.’) This clash—that a syllable ‘short in speach’ should be ‘long in Verse’—is roughly what Spenser refers to when he speaks of the Accente as comming shorte of that it should.
Spenser adduces Heauen as a problem similar to Carpenter. The entire word is used—i.e., usually pronounced—shorte as one sillable (hence its frequent spelling as ‘heav’n’ or ‘heau’n’). But Spenser apparently regards the spelling as dictating, in verse, a peculiarly lengthened monosyllabic scansion. (‘Diastole’ can have many meanings in classical prosody, but Spenser apparently adduces it here as the term for the irregular use of a short syllable as if it were metrically long.) He may be suggesting that the orthography dictates a disyllabic scansion—this is evidently how Harvey understands him (3.517-37)—although his own practice at 4.90 suggests that he regards ‘heauenlie’ as disyllabic. (Harvey objects at 5.64, insisting that, spelled thus, the word should be regarded as a trisyllable.) Spenser laments that, in the case of both Carpenter and Heaven, a reader attempting to adapt her pronunciation to the claims of prosodic rule must distort a word’s customary pronunciation—an unstressed second syllable in the case of Carpenter; a single, short syllable in the case of Heaven—by means of an unnatural stress or lengthening. Spenser registers the fact that the unnatural adjustment in each case is slightly different by adopting different similes to describe them—‘like a lame Gosling and like a lame Dogge’.
But it . . . Use.: It seemed to Harvey, as it has to many subsequent interpreters of this letter, that Spenser was here arguing that the adjustment of accente to number was to be achieved by cultivating the habit (‘custome’) of pronouncing rough English words in such a way as to subdue normal accent and to bring out prosodic quantity, hence Harvey’s outraged response: you shal never have my subscription or consent (though you should charge me wyth the authoritie of five hundreth Maister Drants,) to make your Carpēnter, our Carpĕnter, an inche longer, or bigger, than God and his Englishe people have made him (3.448-452). (It is not clear whether Harvey supposed Spenser to be proposing that his countrymen and women should pronounce English verses in classical metres according to unnatural rules, that they should undertake a wholesale reform of English speech, or that they should simply accept a prosodic rule that clashed with ‘native’ quantity.) But Harvey may be partly misunderstanding Spenser. In his next sentence, Spenser proposes, in tones of national pride that match Harvey’s, that his countrymen and women measure our Accentes, by the sounde, reserving the Quantitie to the Verse: that is, Spenser seems to be proposing a custom of reading English verse—measuring accents—according to the patterns of standard English pronunciation of prose, with the patterning implicit in quantitative English prosody to be regarded as no more than implicit, and not to be pronounced.
This would not be strange: in Ludus Literarius (1612), the schoolmaster Richard Brinsley explains that Latin verse was properly to be recited according to normal prose accent, with no effort to ‘bring out’ prosodic quantity. Brinsley also attests to the utility of a form of recitation that he refers to as ‘scanning’, in which quantitative values are exaggerated, but he regards this chiefly as an aid to memorizing verse and as a means of demonstrating alertness to the underlying metrical structure. When Spenser says that Carpenter is read long in Verse or that Heaven is stretched out with a Diastole he may especially be referring both to the underlying metrical design and to the exceptional practice of scanning aloud, which was meant to render the metre artificially prominent.
Thus, although Harvey misunderstands him, when Spenser says that the accommodation of Accente and Number, pronunciation and prosody, is to be wonne with Custome, and rough words . . . subdued with Use, he means that customary pronunciation is to win out over number. In the previous sentences, used short means ‘pronounced as short (or unaccented)’; here use seems to mean customary pronunciation.
Tetrasticon: quatrain. In this case, the quatrain is in elegiacs, alternating pairs of (quantitative) hexameters and pentameters. For the conventions governing the classical hexameter, see the Introduction. The classical pentameter is a bipartite line comprising two feet of either dactyls or spondees, a long syllable followed by a caesura, and then two dactylic feet, followed in turn by a long syllable—in effect, two half-lines containing two-and-a-half feet, and thus, in this particular sense, a pentameter. Here is a proposed scansion
For Harvey’s effort in the same metre, ‘Encomium Lauri’, and for his metrical criticism of these lines, see, 3.109-142 below.
in bed . . . togither: The tone here is hardly salacious, though the riddling character of the distich following and its concern with indulgence and over-indulgence have an insinuating effect. It was not uncommon for people to share beds, especially for those in straitened circumstances, but the evocation of verse composition in what could be an erotically charged situation might be taken as suggesting that these two witty university men have revived not only the prosody, but also the rakish homoeroticism especially associated with Greco-Roman culture. For E.K.’s censorious approval of the implied ‘pæderastice’ attachment of Hobbinol (associated with Harvey at SC Sept gloss 69-70) and Colin (associated with Spenser in the same gloss), see SC Jan gloss 21-37.
That which . . . for others: The apparent quantitative scansion of these hexameter lines is
At SC Maye gloss 49-56, E.K. quotes, without attribution, a slightly different, but no less opaque version of the distich; both versions awkwardly translate what Cicero describes (in Tusc. Disp. 5.35.101) as his own translation of the epitaph at the tomb of Sardanapalus, the sense of which is that the speaker has enjoyed his self-indulgence---before death, in the case of Sardanapalus.
I would . . . rest.: The sentence suggests that one of Spenser’s chief goals in bringing these letters into wider circulation is to standardize English quantitative practice. By adducing the authority of Sidney and Drant, he seems to be stacking the deck against Harvey’s ‘rules and precepts’, but the sentence implies that Spenser had adopted a pragmatic approach to quantitative prosody: instead of pursuing an ideal quantitative system, he seems to be seeking consensus on a set of practicable metrical conventions among the interested parties.
While it is impossible to reconstruct the precise principles that Sidney imparted to Spenser, Sidney did write out a list of rules for ‘English measurde verses’ that are preserved in a MS of the Old Arcadia at St John’s, Cambridge that was written in 1581; see Ringler 1962: 391.
Thomas Drant, the imputed source for Sidney’s rules, was a clergyman and poet educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He had published translations of Greek and Latin poetry in the 1560s and at the end of that decade had become a chaplain to Bishop Grindal, to whom he would dedicate a collection of Latin poems in the late 1570s. This letter offers the only evidence that Drant had developed a set of rules for quantitative versifying in English.
The evocation of a slightly competitive environment in which disagreeing proponents of quantitative practice might be ‘overthrown’ by its opponents is intriguing, especially since no evidence survives of opposition, formal or informal, to such versifying. Like E.K.’s commentary in SC, such remarks might be understood as meant to stimulate interest by conferring on literary practice the glamour of mystery and controversy.
Naturall, or Supernaturall: Harvey’s interlocutor invites him to resume the central concern that animates Book VI of Seneca’s Nat Quaest: Illud quoque proderit praesumere animo, nihil horum deos facere, nec ira numinum aut caelum concuti aut terram: suas ista causas habent (‘It will help to keep in mind that gods cause none of these things and that neither heaven nor earth is overturned by the wrath of divinities. These phenomena have causes of their own’; 3.1).
Ah mala . . . Vesperi: ‘Ah, wicked License; it was not this way in the beginning. Youthful Learning without manly Discipline is foolish. As if sternness were fitting only for the poorer boys and not so much more fitting for fine and noble youths in that pristine Instruction and Education that is liberal, wise, learned, and eminently suited as much to the person of the Tutor as to the student. Wisdom in all things, that will be the keenest weapon. Other things are much as before: continuous War between the Head and limbs of the university. Doxosophia sustained in our public halls, ratified within private walls, and flaunted everywhere. (You know that you know nothing if you know not this.) Everywhere Wealth is the only thing of worth, Modesty dismissed as measly, Letters discounted as Nothing. Believe me, no one believes anyone, and friendship, my friend, means nothing. Where does that leave you, meanwhile? You ask how you should act? How, indeed? It is best to profit from others’ folly. I watch, I keep silent, I smile: I have spoken. And I’ll add what the famous Satirist says: There are many reasons why one should live properly now, and above all so that one may scorn the tongues of slaves.
‘From my lodgings, the day after the above conversation on the Earthquake, that is (if I’m not mistaken) on the evening of April seventh’
The ‘famous Satirist’ (Satyricus ille), is Juvenal: the lines are adapted from his ninth Satire, 118-20.
τῑ . . . nobis: Elizabethan grammarians recognized a number of rules by which orthography and position determined the quantity of a syllable, but these rules were not exhaustive: the length of many syllables could not be determined by rule. (For more on ‘length by position’, see the Introduction.) Harvey follows Lily (and others) in alleging that, in such cases, the practice of early poets determines the quantity on otherwise indeterminate syllables: Quarum verò syllabarum quantitas sub praedictas rationes non cadit, à poetarum, exemplo atque autoritate petenda est, certissima omnium regula (‘As for syllables whose quantity does not fall under the rules already mentioned, quantity is derived from the practice, example, and authority of poets, which are the most certain of rules’; Grammar, 1567, H1). According to Harvey, the first syllables of τιμὴ, timē (‘honor’) and unus (‘one’) were ‘naturally’ short, but Homer and Ennius made them long by the very act of beginning lines of their epics with those words. (Classical epic poems were usually composed in lines of dactylic hexameter, the first syllable of which must be long.)
The half line from Homer, ‘timē d’ ek dios esti’, may be rendered ‘Honour is from Zeus’ (Il 2.197); the complete line from Ennius’ Annales is unus homo nobis cunctando, restituit rem, ‘one man, delaying, restored the state to us’.
Harvey’s ‘A New Yeeres Gift’, to which he refers as nos Trinitatem (‘our Trinity’) at 2.687 above, may be scanned thus:
Some observations on the scansions may be useful here, especially since Harvey’s procedure often seems less than systematic. There are some odd irregularities: he usually treats ‘and’ as long, save when followed by ‘h’. His ear for accentual patterning may similarly dictate scanning ‘Not the like’ (9) as a dactyl, despite the fact that ‘like’ should be long by position, according to Latin rules of scansion.
Harvey elides‘-ie’ followed by a vowel three times (at 9 and 15), treating each compounded syllable as a short syllable. Inconsistently, having treated the first syllable of ‘againe’ elided with the last syllable of ‘Trinitie’ as short in 9, he treats the first syllable of ‘against’ as long in 12.
It is unclear whether ‘Gewe-’ of ‘Gewegawes’ comprises one long syllable or two short ones. The scansion of 19 seems especially uncertain.
L’Enuoy: For the envoy as genre, see SC, ‘To His Booke’, headnote.
The scansion of the first line here is uncertain, but it appears to witness an instance in which, for Harvey, stress-patterning expresses quantity more decisively than orthography does.
perhappes . . . higher: Because of the ambiguity of ‘conceite’ Harvey’s exhortation does double duty, encouraging Spenser both to imaginative reading and to imaginative writing: he exhorts Spenser to let Petrarch’s poem inspire him to higher imaginative conception (conceit) than that of his quatrain on Cupid, higher than that of Harvey’s poem as well or, perhaps, higher than that of Petrarch’s own poem—but he also seeks to shape Spenser’s understanding (conceit) of Harvey’s own poem by suggesting that it was written under the influence of Petrarch’s poem and should therefore be esteemed the more highly for its emulous complexity.
Encomium Lauri: ‘In Praise of the Laurel’. This poem, in quantitative hexameters, may be scanned as follows:
Speculum Tuscanismi: ‘The Mirror of Tuscanism’ or perhaps ‘Tuscanismo’s Mirror’. Although Harvey and John Lyly had been friends, Lyly (among others) apparently brought the poem to the attention of his patron, the Earl of Oxford, suggesting that the poem was meant as a personal satire on the Earl, which it surely was, although Harvey denied it (Foure Letters, 1592, C4). For troubles that the various provocations of the Letters brought on Harvey, see the Introduction, p. [cross-ref].
Harvey’s grip on the regularities of dactylic hexameter is especially loose here. 15, indeed, seems to require so much latitude—‘ly’ treated as a long syllable, ‘guyses’ treated as bisyllabic, with a long second syllable—that one might suspect a transmissional problem. The final lines suggest that he continues to treat ‘and’ before ‘h’ as short and, if he means to respect this rule throughout, then ‘Tongue, and’ in 18 must be regarded as a dactyl.
The last line deserves special notice, given Harvey’s special attention to the proper scansion of ‘Travailer’ at 471-480 below (and the thematic focus on travel in Letter 5). As Harvey makes clear in that later discussion, he expects a high degree of coincidence between stress and length and if we take the pattern of quantity as an orchestration of stress, the line has droll force. The constraints of the hexameter would promote the second syllable of ‘Travaile’ and thence an awareness of both the French origins of the word and of the etymological sense of the laboriousness of travel, rendered an oxymoron by the epithets ‘Blessed and happy’. As for ‘Travailer’, which Harvey will later insist should not be scanned with its second syllable as long, despite the Latin rules of orthographic quantity, the regularities of the hexameter require that its second syllable be treated in the present line as short. Yet, while Harvey’s line effectively rejects any lengthening (by orthography) of the second syllable, the requisite lengthening (by position) of the final syllable effectively gallicizes the ‘Travailer’, capitulating to the estrangement of the Englishman that the poem deplores throughout.
The poem is marked by a heavier use of elision than in the other quantitative verses in Letters.
John Harvey’s hexameter may be scanned thus:
It is worth noting that because of orthographic rules and the rule of length by position, Spenser would probably have regarded ‘like’ and the second syllable of ‘Majestie’ as long in these lines. But John Harvey seems to be disregarding such rules here and instead organizes his hexameters according to accentual patterns.
I dare . . . wish you.: The ‘Dreames’ thus described might plausibly be taken as early versions of Ruins, Visions, or both. It might also be taken as referring to those revisions of the poems translated for Theatre that were eventually published as Bellay and Petrarch, although the phrasing seems not to refer to translations.
my Dame: woman in authority over me
Sed . . . vale: ‘Beseech you. I will respond soon to your little darling’s delightful letters as meticulously as possible, while in the meantime sharing with her as many exquisite greetings and healths as she has hairs—half-golden, half-silver, and half-bejeweled—on her head. What [more] do you seek? By your Venus, she is another little Rosalind, and your very own little Hobbinol, and no other, loves her lavishly (with your permission, as before). O my Lady Immerito, my most beautiful Madam Colin Clout, much more than abundant salutations to you, and fare well.’
Harvey is responding to Spenser’s request at 1.76-7 that he write to Spenser’s sweetheart (Corculum). Most commentators suppose the sweetheart to be Spenser’s new wife, on the dual evidence of the reference to her as a ‘Domina Immerito’—which may be translated ‘Madam’ or ‘Lady Immerito’—and the record of Spenser’s marriage to a Maccabaeus Chylde on 27 October 1579. But the logic of the passage suggests that the ‘Domina Immerito’, the ‘bellissima Collina Clouta’ here addressed is not a Mrs. Spenser, but the same addressee as that of the preceding three sentences, Spenser himself, albeit affectionately feminized. (It may be observed that in classical elegy, the domina is always a commanding mistress and never a wife.) While Harvey’s queer joke may indeed be motivated by Spenser’s having married—the joke being that marriage feminizes the besotted groom—Harvey’s joke may as easily reflect his sense that there is something perverse in Spenser’s having encouraged him to adopt an elaborately affectionate posture towards Spenser’s sweetheart—in which case the joke will involve Harvey’s demonstration of a now polymorphous and ambidirectional warmth. Difficult as it may be to specify the force of the passage, it cannot securely corroborate the theory that Harvey’s correspondent had married Maccabeus Chylde.
Iambicum Trimetrum: Spenser is adapting the rules of classical iambic trimeter, the most widely used meter in spoken passages of classical drama. Greek iambic trimeter consists of three dipodies, or pairs of feet, each pair composed of either two iambs or a spondee and an iamb (thus, x-‿-); substitutions of paired short syllables for a single long one are allowed in all but the final syllable of the line. The Latin adaptation of the iambic trimeter, often called the senarius, was widely used in Roman comedy and tragedy (with slightly different rules for each genre). The senarius is organized in feet rather than in metra and while the sixth foot is always an iamb, the preceding five feet often feature even greater freedom of substitution than was allowed in Greek trimeter. Spenser has chosen a form that allows considerable metrical latitude for his earliest surviving effort in quantitative versifying.
Although he claims that his practice here is ‘precisely perfecte for the feete’ and in other ways strictly regular, it has not seemed so to those readers who have attempted to scan his lines. Davison, presumably regarding the second line as defective and the third as hypermetrical, transposed ‘Thought’ in his reprinting of the poem in A Poetical Rhapsody; Attridge solved the same problem by treating ‘fluttring’ as a misprint for ‘fluttering’ and by scanning the fifth foot of the third line as a dactyl, a substitution allowable in the senarius. Harvey is the most explicitly critical: at 5.59-76 below, he notes the inconsistent quantities of l. 2 (though not its defective character) and the hypermetrical character of l. 3, and chides Spenser for spelling that carelessly obscures what Harvey imagines to be his intended scansions, for the overuse of spondees, and for a reliance on initial trochaic substitutions that undermines the iambic character of the verse.
In Davison’s edition of 1602, the poem is arranged into three line strophes, which gives visual prominence to its triple rhetorical structures.
Harvey and Spenser argue below about the metrics of this poem, so the following scansion must be regarded as especially uncertain: