Winter, and summer, and spring, how swiftly they pass, and how early time brought thee his sorrows, and grief cast her dust upon thy head.
Adieu ma Lyre, adieu fillettes, Jadis mes douces amourettes, Adieu, je sens venir ma fin, Nul passetemps de ma jeunesse Ne m'accompagne en la vieillesse, Que le feu, le lict et le vin.
Wine, and a soft bed, and a bright fire: to this trinity of poor pleasures we come soon, if, indeed, wine be left to us. Poetry herself deserts us; is it not said that Bacchus never forgives a renegade? and most of us turn recreants to Bacchus. Even the bright fire, I fear, was not always there to warm thine old blood, Master, or, if fire there were, the wood was not bought with thy book- seller's money. When autumn was drawing in during thine early old age, in 1584, didst thou not write that thou hadst never received a sou at the hands of all the publishers who vended thy books? And as thou wert about putting forth thy folio edition of 1584, thou didst pray Buon, the bookseller, to give thee sixty crowns to buy wood withal, and make thee a bright fire in winter weather, and comfort thine old age with thy friend Gallandius. And if Buon will not pay, then to try the other booksellers, "that wish to take everything and give nothing."
Was it knowledge of this passage, Master, or ignorance of everything else, that made certain of the common steadfast dunces of our days speak of thee as if thou hadst been a starveling, neglected poetaster, jealous forsooth of Maitre Francoys Rabelais? See how ignorantly M. Fleury writes, who teaches French literature withal to them of Muscovy, and hath indited a Life of Rabelais. "Rabelais etait revetu d'un emploi honorable; Ronsard etait traite en subalterne," quoth this wondrous professor. What! Pierre de Ronsard, a gentleman of a noble house, holding the revenue of many abbeys, the friend of Mary Stuart, of the Duc d'Orleans, of Charles IX., HE is traite en subalterne, and is jealous of a frocked or unfrocked manant like Maitre Francoys! And then this amazing Fleury falls foul of thine epitaph on Maitre Francoys and cries, "Ronsard a voulu faire des vers mechants; il n'a fait que de mechants vers." More truly saith M. Sainte-Beuve, "If the good Rabelais had returned to Meudon on the day when this epitaph was made over the wine, he would, methinks, have laughed heartily." But what shall be said of a Professor like the egregious M. Fleury, who holds that Ronsard was despised at Court? Was there a party at tennis when the king would not fain have had thee on his side, declaring that he ever won when Ronsard was his partner? Did he not give thee benefices, and many priories, and call thee his father in Apollo, and even, so they say, bid thee sit down beside him on his throne? Away, ye scandalous folk, who tell us that there was strife between the Prince of Poets and the King of Mirth. Naught have ye by way of proof of your slander but the talk of Jean Bernier, a scurrilous, starveling apothecary, who put forth his fables in 1697, a century and a half after Maitre Francoys died. Bayle quoted this fellow in a note, and ye all steal the tattle one from another in your dull manner, and know not whence it comes, nor even that Bayle would none of it and mocked its author. With so little knowledge is history written, and thus doth each chattering brook of a "Life" swell with its tribute "that great Mississippi of falsehood," Biography.
To Herodotus of Halicarnassus, greeting.--Concerning the matters set forth in your histories, and the tales you tell about both Greeks and Barbarians, whether they be true, or whether they be false, men dispute not little but a great deal. Wherefore I, being concerned to know the verity, did set forth to make search in every manner, and came in my quest even unto the ends of the earth. For there is an island of the Cimmerians beyond the Straits of Heracles, some three days' voyage to a ship that hath a fair following wind in her sails; and there it is said that men know many things from of old: thither, then, I came in my inquiry. Now, the island is not small, but large, greater than the whole of Hellas; and they call it Britain. In that island the east wind blows for ten parts of the year, and the people know not how to cover themselves from the cold. But for the other two months of the year the sun shines fiercely, so that some of them die thereof, and others die of the frozen mixed drinks; for they have ice even in the summer, and this ice they put to their liquor. Through the whole of this island, from the west even to the east, there flows a river called Thames: a great river and a laborious, but not to be likened to the River of Egypt.
The mouth of this river, where I stepped out from my ship, is exceedingly foul and of an evil savour by reason of the city on the banks. Now this city is several hundred parasangs in circumference. Yet a man that needed not to breathe the air might go round it in one hour, in chariots that run under the earth; and these chariots are drawn by creatures that breathe smoke and sulphur, such as Orpheus mentions in his "Argonautica," if it be by Orpheus. The people of the town, when I inquired of them concerning Herodotus of Halicarnassus, looked on me with amazement, and went straightway about their business--namely, to seek out whatsoever new thing is coming to pass all over the whole inhabited world, and as for things old, they take no keep of them.
Nevertheless, by diligence I learned that he who in this land knew most concerning Herodotus was a priest, and dwelt in the priests' city on the river which is called the City of the Ford of the Ox. But whether Io, when she wore a cow's shape, had passed by that way in her wanderings, and thence comes the name of that city, I could not (though I asked all men I met) learn aught with certainty. But to me, considering this, it seemed that Io must have come thither. And now farewell to Io.
To the City of the Priests there are two roads: one by land; and one by water, following the river. To a well-girdled man, the land journey is but one day's travel; by the river it is longer but more pleasant. Now that river flows, as I said, from the west to the east. And there is in it a fish called chub, which they catch; but they do not eat it, for a certain sacred reason. Also there is a fish called trout, and this is the manner of his catching. They build for this purpose great dams of wood, which they call weirs. Having built the weir they sit upon it with rods in their hands, and a line on the rod, and at the end of the line a little fish. There then they "sit and spin in the sun," as one of their poets says, not for a short time but for many days, having rods in their hands and eating and drinking. In this wise they angle for the fish called trout; but whether they ever catch him or not, not having seen it, I cannot say; for it is not pleasant to me to speak things concerning which I know not the truth.