The Preface

The Preface

There will not be wanting, I presume, one or other that will much discommend some part of this treatise of love-melancholy, and object (which Erasmus in his preface to Sir Thomas More suspects of his) "that it is too light for a divine, too comical a subject to speak of love symptoms, too fantastical, and fit alone for a wanton poet, a feeling young lovesick gallant, an effeminate courtier, or some such idle person." And 'tis true they say: for by the naughtiness of men it is so come to pass, as Caussinus observes, ut castis auribus vox amoris suspecta sit, et invisa, the very name of love is odious to chaster ears; and therefore some again, out of an affected gravity, will dislike all for the name's sake before they read a word; dissembling with him in Petronius, and seem to be angry that their ears are violated with such obscene speeches, that so they may be admired for grave philosophers and staid carriage. They cannot abide to hear talk of love toys, or amorous discourses, vultu, gestu, oculis in their outward actions averse, and yet in their cogitations they are all out as bad, if not worse than others.

"Erubuit, posuitque meum Lucretia librum
Sed coram Bruto, Brute recede, legit."

(Martial. "In Brutus' presence Lucretia blushed and laid my book aside; when he retired, she took it up again and read.")

But let these cavillers and counterfeit Catos know, that as the Lord John answered the Queen in that Italian Guazzo, an old, a grave discreet man is fittest to discourse of love matters, because he hath likely more experience, observed more, hath a more staid judgment, can better discern, resolve, discuss, advise, give better cautions, and more solid precepts, better inform his auditors in such a subject, and by reason of his riper years sooner divert. Besides, nihil in hac amoris voce subtimendum, there is nothing here to be excepted at; love is a species of melancholy, and a necessary part of this my treatise, which I may not omit; operi suscepto inserviendum fuit: so Jacobus Mysillius pleadeth for himself in his translation of Lucian's dialogues, and so do I; I must and will perform my task. And that short excuse of Mercerus, for his edition of Aristænetus shall be mine, "If I have spent my time ill to write, let not them be so idle as to read." But I am persuaded it is not so ill spent, I ought not to excuse or repent myself of this subject; on which many grave and worthy men have written whole volumes, Plato, Plutarch, Plotinus, Maximus, Tyrius, Alcinous, Avicenna, Leon Hebreus in three large dialogues, Xenophon sympos. Theophrastus, if we may believe Athenæus, lib. 13. cap. 9. Picus Mirandula, Marius Æquicola, both in Italian, Kornmannus de linea Amoris, lib. 3. Petrus Godefridus hath handled in three books, P. Hædus, and which almost every physician, as Arnoldus, Villanovanus, Valleriola observat. med. lib. 2. observ. 7. Ælian Montaltus and Laurentius in their treatises of melancholy, Jason Pratensis de morb. cap. Valescus de Taranta, Gordonius, Hercules de Saxonia, Savanarola, Langius, &c., have treated of apart, and in their works. I excuse myself, therefore, with Peter Godefridus, Valleriola, Ficinus, and in Langius' words. Cadmus Milesius writ fourteen books of love, "and why should I be ashamed to write an epistle in favour of young men, of this subject?" A company of stern readers dislike the second of the Æneids, and Virgil's gravity, for inserting such amorous passions in an heroical subject; but Servius, his commentator, justly vindicates the poet's worth, wisdom, and discretion in doing as he did. Castalio would not have young men read the Canticles, because to his thinking it was too light and amorous a tract, a ballad of ballads, as our old English translation hath it. He might as well forbid the reading of Genesis, because of the loves of Jacob and Rachael, the stories of Sichem and Dinah, Judah and Thamar; reject the Book of Numbers, for the fornications of the people of Israel with the Moabites; that of Judges for Samson and Dalilah's embracings; that of the Kings, for David and Bersheba's adulteries, the incest of Ammon and Thamar, Solomon's concubines, &c. The stories of Esther, Judith, Susanna, and many such. Dicearchus, and some other, carp at Plato's majesty, that he would vouchsafe to indite such love toys: amongst the rest, for that dalliance with Agatho,

"Suavia dans Agathoni, animam ipse in labra tenebam;
Ægra etenim properans tanquam abitura fuit."

For my part, saith Maximus Tyrius, a great Platonist himself, me non tantum admiratio habet, sed etiam stupor, I do not only admire, but stand amazed to read, that Plato and Socrates both should expel Homer from their city, because he writ of such light and wanton subjects, Quod Junonem cum Jove in Ida concumbentes inducit, ab immortali nube contectos, Vulcan's net, Mars and Venus' fopperies before all the gods, because Apollo fled, when he was persecuted by Achilles, the gods were wounded and ran whining away, as Mars that roared louder than Stentor, and covered nine acres of ground with his fall; Vulcan was a summer's day falling down from heaven, and in Lemnos Isle brake his leg, &c., with such ridiculous passages; when, as both Socrates and Plato, by his testimony, writ lighter themselves: quid enim tam distat (as he follows it) quam amans a temperante, formarum admirator a demente, what can be more absurd than for grave philosophers to treat of such fooleries, to admire Autiloquus, Alcibiades, for their beauties as they did, to run after, to gaze, to dote on fair Phædrus, delicate Agatho, young Lysis, fine Charmides, hæccine Philosophum decent? Doth this become grave philosophers? Thus peradventure Callias, Thrasimachus, Polus, Aristophanes, or some of his adversaries and emulators might object; but neither they nor Anytus and Melitus his bitter enemies, that condemned him for teaching Critias to tyrannise, his impiety for swearing by dogs and plain trees, for his juggling sophistry, &c., never so much as upbraided him with impure love, writing or speaking of that subject; and therefore without question, as he concludes, both Socrates and Plato in this are justly to be excused. But suppose they had been a little overseen, should divine Plato be defamed? no, rather as he said of Cato's drunkenness, if Cato were drunk, it should be no vice at all to be drunk. They reprove Plato then, but without cause (as Ficinus pleads) "for all love is honest and good, and they are worthy to be loved that speak well of love." Being to speak of this admirable affection of love (saith Valleriola) "there lies open a vast and philosophical field to my discourse, by which many lovers become mad; let me leave my more serious meditations, wander in these philosophical fields, and look into those pleasant groves of the Muses, where with unspeakable variety of flowers, we may make garlands to ourselves, not to adorn us only, but with their pleasant smell and juice to nourish our souls, and fill our minds desirous of knowledge," &c. After a harsh and unpleasing discourse of melancholy, which hath hitherto molested your patience, and tired the author, give him leave with Godefridus the lawyer, and Laurentius (cap. 5.) to recreate himself in this kind after his laborious studies, "since so many grave divines and worthy men have without offence to manners, to help themselves and others, voluntarily written of it." Heliodorus, a bishop, penned a love story of Theagines and Chariclea, and when some Catos of his time reprehended him for it, chose rather, saith Nicephorus, to leave his bishopric than his book. Æneas Sylvius, an ancient divine, and past forty years of age, (as he confesseth himself, after Pope Pius Secundus) indited that wanton history of Euryalus and Lucretia. And how many superintendents of learning could I reckon up that have written of light fantastical subjects? Beroaldus, Erasmus, Alpheratius, twenty-four times printed in Spanish, &c. Give me leave then to refresh my muse a little, and my weary readers, to expatiate in this delightsome field, hoc deliciarum campo, as Fonseca terms it, to season a surly discourse with a more pleasing aspersion of love matters: Edulcare vitam convenit, as the poet invites us, curas nugis, &c., 'tis good to sweeten our life with some pleasing toys to relish it, and as Pliny tells us, magna pars studiosorum amænitates quærimus, most of our students love such pleasant subjects. Though Macrobius teach us otherwise, "that those old sages banished all such light tracts from their studies, to nurse's cradles, to please only the ear;" yet out of Apuleius I will oppose as honourable patrons, Solon, Plato, Xenophon, Adrian, &c. that as highly approve of these treatises. On the other side methinks they are not to be disliked, they are not so unfit. I will not peremptorily say as one did tam suavia dicam facinora, ut male sit ei qui talibus non delectetur, I will tell you such pretty stories, that foul befall him that is not pleased with them; Neque dicam ea quæ vobis usui sit audivisse, et voluptati meminisse, with that confidence, as Beroaldus doth his enarrations on Propertius. I will not expert or hope for that approbation, which Lipsius gives to his Epictetus; pluris facio quum relego; semper ut novum, et quum repetivi, repetendum, the more I read, the more shall I covet to read. I will not press you with my pamphlets, or beg attention, but if you like them you may. Pliny holds it expedient, and most fit, severitatem jucunditate etiam in scriptis condire, to season our works with some pleasant discourse; Synesius approves it, licet in ludicris ludere, the poet admires it, Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci; (Hor. "He has accomplished every point who has joined the useful to the agreeable.") and there be those, without question, that are more willing to read such toys, than I am to write: "Let me not live," saith Aretine's Antonia, "If I had not rather hear thy discourse, than see a play?" No doubt but there be more of her mind, ever have been, ever will be, as Hierome bears me witness. A far greater part had rather read Apuleius than Plato: Tully himself confesseth he could not understand Plato's Timæus, and therefore cared less for it: but every schoolboy hath that famous testament of Grunnius Corocotta Porcellus at his fingers' ends. The comical poet,

-- "Id sibi negoti credidit solum dari,
Populo ut placerent, quas fecissit fabulas,"

"This he took to be his only business, that the plays which he wrote should please the people."

made this his only care and sole study to please the people, tickle the ear, and to delight; but mine earnest intent is as much to profit as to please; non tam ut populo placerem, quam ut populum juvarem, and these my writings, I hope, shall take like gilded pills, which are so composed as well to tempt the appetite, and deceive the palate, as to help and medicinally work upon the whole body; my lines shall not only recreate, but rectify the mind. I think I have said enough; if not, let him that is otherwise minded, remember that of Maudarensis, "he was in his life a philosopher" (as Ausonius apologiseth for him) , "in his epigrams a lover, in his precepts most severe; in his epistle to Cærellia, a wanton." Annianus, Sulpicius, Evemus, Menander, and many old poets besides, did in scriptis prurire, write Fescennines, Atellans, and lascivious songs; lætam materiam; yet they had in moribus censuram, et severitatem, they were chaste, severe, and upright livers.

"Castum esse decet pium poetam
Ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est,
Qui tum denique habent salem et leporem."

("The poet himself should be chaste and pious, but his verses need not imitate him in these respects; they may therefore contain wit and humour.")

I am of Catullus' opinion, and make the same apology in mine own behalf; Hoc etiam quod scribo, pendet plerumque ex aliorum sententia et auctoritate; nec ipse forsan insanio, sed insanientes sequor. Atqui detur hoc insanire me; Semel insanivimus omnes, et tute ipse opinor insanis aliquando, et is, et ille, et ego, scilicet. ("This that I write depends sometimes upon the opinion and authority of others: nor perhaps am I frantic, I only follow madmen: But thus far I may be deranged: we have all been so at some one time, and yourself, I think, art sometimes insane, and this man, and that man, and I also.") Homo sum, humani a me nihil alienum puto ("I am mortal, and think no humane action unsuited to me.") And which he urgeth for himself, accused of the like fault, I as justly plead, lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba est. Howsoever my lines err, my life is honest, vita verecunda est, musa jocosa mihi. But I presume I need no such apologies, I need not, as Socrates in Plato, cover his face when he spake of love, or blush and hide mine eyes, as Pallas did in her hood, when she was consulted by Jupiter about Mercury's marriage, quod, super nuptiis virgo consulitur, it is no such lascivious, obscene, or wanton discourse; I have not offended your chaster ears with anything that is here written, as many French and Italian authors in their modern language of late have done, nay some of our Latin pontificial writers, Zanches, Asorius, Abulensis, Burchardus, &c., whom Rivet accuseth to be more lascivious than Virgil in Priapeiis, Petronius in Catalectis, Aristophanes in Lycistratæ, Martialis, or any other pagan profane writer, qui tam atrociter ( one notes) hoc genere peccarunt ut multa ingeniosissime scripta obscænitatum gratia castæ mentes abhorreant. 'Tis not scurrile this, but chaste, honest, most part serious, and even of religion itself. "Incensed" (as he said) "with the love of finding love, we have sought it, and found it." More yet, I have augmented and added something to this light treatise (if light) which was not in the former editions, I am not ashamed to confess it, with a good author, quod extendi et locupletari hoc subjectum plerique postulabant, et eorum importunitate victus, animum utcunque renitentem eo adegi, ut jam sexta vice calamum in manum sumerem, scriptionique longe et a studiis et professione mea alienæ, me accingerem, horas aliquas a seriis meis occupationibus interim suffuratus, easque veluti ludo cuidam ac recreationi destinans; (Author C?lestinæ Barth. interprete. "That, overcome by the solicitations of friends, who requested me to enlarge and improve my volumes, I have devoted my otherwise reluctant mind to the labour; and now for the sixth time have I taken up my pen, and applied myself to literature very foreign indeed to my studies and professional occupations, stealing a few hours from serious pursuits, and devoting them, as it were, to recreation.")

"Cogor -- retrorsum
Vela dare, atque iterare cursus
Olim reloctos" --

(Hor. lib. 1. Ode 34. "I am compelled to reverse my sails, and retrace my former course.")

etsi non ignorarem novos fortasse detractores novis hisce interpolationibus meis minime defuturos. ("Although I was by no means ignorant that new calumniators would not be wanting to censure my new introductions.")

And thus much have I thought good to say by way of preface, lest any man (which godefridus feared in his book) should blame in me lightness, wantonness, rashness, in speaking of love's causes, enticements, symptoms, remedies, lawful and unlawful loves, and lust itself, I speak it only to tax and deter others from it, not to teach, but to show the vanities and fopperies of this heroical or Herculean love, and to apply remedies unto it. I will treat of this with like liberty as of the rest.

"Sed dicam vobis, vos porro dicite multis
Millibus, et facite hæc charta loquatur anus."

(Catullus. "What I tell you, do you tell to the multitude, and make this treatise gossip like an old woman.")

Condemn me not good reader then, or censure me hardly, if some part of this treatise to thy thinking as yet be too light; but consider better of it; Omnia munda mundis, a naked man to a modest woman is no otherwise than a picture, as Augusta Livia truly said, and mala mens, malus animus, ("Hony soit qui mal y pense.") 'tis as 'tis taken. If in thy censure it be too light, I advise thee as Lipsius did his reader for some places of Plautus, istos quasi Sirenum scopulos prætervehare, if they like thee not, let them pass; or oppose that which is good to that which is bad, and reject not therefore all. For to invert that verse of Martial, and with Hierom Wolfius to apply it to my present purpose, sunt mala, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt bona plura; some is good, some bad, some is indifferent. I say further with him yet, I have inserted ( levicula quædam et ridicula ascribere non sum gravatus, circumforanea quædam e theatris, e plateis, etiam e popinis) some things more homely, light, or comical, litans gratiis, &c. which I would request every man to interpret to the best, and as Julius Cæsar Scaliger besought Cardan (si quid urbaniuscule lusum a nobis, per deos immortales te oro Hieronyme Cardane ne me male capias) . I beseech thee, good reader, not to mistake me, or misconstrue what is here written; Per Musas et Charites, et omnia P?tarum numina, benigne lector, oro te ne me male capias. 'Tis a comical subject; in sober sadness I crave pardon of what is amiss, and desire thee to suspend thy judgment, wink at small faults, or to be silent at least; but if thou likest, speak well of it, and wish me good success. Extremum hunc Arethusa mihi concede laborem.

I am resolved howsoever, velis, nolis, audacter stadium intrare, in the Olympics, with those Æliensian wrestlers in Philostratus, boldly to show myself in this common stage, and in this tragicomedy of love, to act several parts, some satirically, some comically, some in a mixed tone, as the subject I have in hand gives occasion, and present scene shall require, or offer itself.

 

Previous Next