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ACCOUNT OF THE RAREST BOOKS
WHICH DURING THE LAST FIFTY YEARS HAVE COME UNDER
J. PAYNE COLLIER F. S. A.
IN FOUR VOLUMES
N E W Y O R. K
EARLY ENGLISH LITERATURE.
SABIE, FRANCIS. — Adam's Complaint. The Olde Worldes Tragedie. David and Bathsheba. A Jove Musa. — Imprinted at London by Richard Johnes, at the Rose and Crowne next above Saint Andrewes Church in Holborne. 1596. 4to.
This production is by an author who ambitiously attempted all kinds of verse, – Francis Sabie. He began with blank-verse in 1595, when he reproduced Robert Greene's “Pandosto, the Triumph of Time” (afterwards called “Dorastus and Fawnia”) under the title of “The Fisherman's Tale.” In the same year came out “Pan his Pipe,” consisting chiefly of English hexameters; and in 1596 he published the work in our hands in rhyming stanzas. He had no great success in any department. He rendered Greene's pretty novel almost wearisome. He displayed no skill in classical measures, which he fancied were especially adapted to pastorals, because they had been used by Virgil; and his rhymes are only tolerable. He seems to have taken up the sacred subject of “Adam's Complaint,” &c., because he had failed in his profane experiments. *
The dedication, signed Francis Sabie, is in twelve lines to the Bishop of Peterborough, Dr. Howland, though what claim he had upon that prelate does not appear. We will give a few quotations, not for any great merit they possess, but because no specimens have hitherto been anywhere printed. Sabie's blank-verse and his hexameters, on the other hand, have received more attention than they deserve. “Adam's Complaint” opens thus:–
1 From the Registers of the Stationers’ Company, in an entry that has never been noticed, we find that Francis Sabie was a schoolmaster at VOL. IV. 1
“New formed Adam of the reddish earth,
It may be too nice to object to the tautology of “happy bliss,” especially in Sabie's case, with whom it is a not unfrequent ornament; and after calling upon his Muse “to rowse herself,” as if in fear that her aid might not be sufficient, he implores “great Jehovah, heaven's great architect,” to direct his “fainting Muse,” while she essays “the horrors to rehearse” of the task he has undertaken. Adam then narrates his fall and its consequences, not very charitably, or gallantly, laying the blame upon his wife: — “O wretched Evah! mankinds deadly foe, Accursed Grandame, most ungentle mother, Sin-causing woman, bringer of mans woe, Woe to thy selfe, and woe unto all other! Thy mighty maker, in his just displeasure, Hath multiplied thy sorrowes out of measure.” In the end Adam foresees the redemption of man through a vista of thousands of years, and is rapturously grateful for it. The “Old World's Tragedy” is the story of the Flood; and after some pieces of exaggerated description we arrive at this bathos: —
Lichfield, and in 1587 bound his son Edmond apprentice to Robert Cullen, Stationer: — “12 Junij Edwond Sabie, sonn of Francis Sabie of Lichefield in the countie of Stafford, Scholutaister, hath putt himself apprentise to Robert Cullen, citizen and stationer of London, for the terme of seven yeres from the date hereof.” The usual fee of 28. 6d. was paid to the Company on the occasion. It is not stated whether the father was a clergyman as well as a schoolmaster. It seems probable that he was so, although we do not meet with Sabie's name in the records of either University. 1 See Brit. Bibl. I. 489, 497. Poet. Decam. I. 137, &c.
“Some upon roofes and turrets high did clime:
We are also told that, —
“Twise twenty dayes, as blacke as any cole, The murthering raine distilled from the Pole; ” and when the earth was covered with waters, that
“The Dolphins woonder under watrie floods To see faire turrets and thicke growing woods: In steed of sacrifice on Altars faire, Sit seemly Marmaydes combing of their haire; In Churches eke, their Organists now wanting, Melodious Odes and ditties now recanting.” This etymological use of the verb to “recant” is not usual, though we have it in Spenser in a sort of double sense, – “Till he recanted had his wicked rhymes.” Sabie's compound epithets are now and then amusing; “bristlebearing boar” is not bad, but we have also the following: — “The silly Lambe was, with the ravening Wolfe, Drown'd in the vast no-pitie-taking gulfe.” “Stark” is well applied in describing the beasts leaving the ark; but perhaps Sabie was helped to it, as Dryden admits that sometimes he had been, by the rhyme. The huge creatures “Alive on earth came forthwith from the arke, There stretcht their limmes, unweldy yet, and starke.” In the third portion of the work, which relates to David and Bathsheba, (here, though not on the title-page, called Beersheba,) the author is not very sparing of “the man after God's own heart.” He first describes David's vain conflict with himself: — “And now begins the combatant assault Betweene the willing flesh and milling spirit; The flesh alluring him unto the fault, The spirit tells him of a dreadful merit; And, in the end, flesh conquered the spirit. He sends, she came, he woos, she gave consent, And did the deed, not fearing to be shent.”
Just afterwards Sabie thus reproaches David: —
“Oblivious Prophet, call to minde thine oth: