His poem, however, procured to him, as he deserved, a very high distinction among the writers of his time, whom, in harmony of versification, he has far surpassed. Whether Elizabeth bestowed any marks of her favour, does not appear. He knew, however, her love of flattery, and wrote twenty-six acrostic hymns on the words Elizabetha regina, which are certainly the best of their kind.

It is probable that these complimentary trifles made him known to the courtiers, for when the queen was to be entertained by Mr. Secretary Cecil, our poet, by desire, contributed his share in A Conference between a Gentleman Usher and a Post, a dramatic entertainment, which does not add much to his reputation. A copy exists in the British Museum, Harl. MS. No. 286. His progress from being the terræ filius of a court to a seat in parliament is not known, but we find that he was chosen a member in the last parliament of Elizabeth, which met on the 27th of October 1601. He appears to have commenced his political career with spirit and intelligence, by opposing monopolies, which were at that time too frequently granted, and strenuously supporting the privieges of the house, for which the queen had not the greatest respect.

In consequence of the figure he now made, and after suitable apologies to the judges, he was restored, in Trinity-term 1601, to his former rank in the Temple. Lord Chancellor Ellesmere appears to have stood his friend on this occasion, and Davies continued to advance in his profession, until the accession of James I. opened new prospects. Having gone with lord Hunsdon to Scotland to congratulate the new king, the latter finding that he was the author of Nosce Teipsum, graciously embraced him, as a mark of his friendship, and certainly no inconsiderable proof of his taste.

In 1603 he was sent as solicitor-general to Ireland, and immediately rose to be attorney-general. Being afterwards appointed one of the judges of assize, he conducted himself with so much prudence and humanity on the circuits as greatly to contribute to allay the ferments which existed in that country, and received the praises of his superiors," as a painful and well-deserving servant of his majesty." In Trinity-term 1606, he was called to the degree of serjeant at law, and received the honour of knighthood, on the 11th of February 1607. His biographer attributes these promotions to the patronage of lord Ellesmere and the earl of Salisbury, with whom he corresponded, and to whom he sent a very interesting account of a circuit he performed with the lord deputy in July. 1607. Such was Ireland then that a guard of "six or seven-score foot and fifty or three-score horse" was thought a necessary protection against a peasantry recovering from their wildness.

In 1608 he was sent to England, with the chief justice, in order to represent to king James the effects which the establishment of public peace, and these progresses of the law, had produced, since the commencement of his majesty's reign. His reception on such an occasion could not but be favourable. As his residence in Ireland afforded him many opportunities to study the history and genius of that people, he published the result of his inquiries in 1612, under the title of A Discovery of the true Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued till the Beginning of his Majesty's Reign. This has been reprinted four times, and has always been considered as a most valuable document for political inquirers. Soon after the publication of it, he was appointed the king's serjeant, and a parliament having been called in Ireland in the same year, he was elected representative for the county of Fermanagh, the first it had ever chosen; and after a violent struggle between the Roman Catholic and Protestant members, he was chosen speaker of the house of commons. In 1614 he interested himself in the revival

of the society of antiquaries, which had been instituted in 1590, but afterwards discontinued, and was now again attempted to be revived by sir James Ley; at this period it could enumerate among its members the names of Cotton, Hackwell, Camden, Stow, Spelman, and Whitlock.

In 1615 he published Reports of Cases adjudged in the King's Courts in Ireland, These, says his biographer, were the first reports of Irish judgments which had ever been made public, during the four hundred years that the laws of England had existed in that kingdom. To the Reports is amexed a preface, addressed to lord chancellor Ellesmere," which vies with Coke in solidity and learning, and equals Blackstone in classical illustration and elegant language."

In 1616 he returned from Ireland, and found that a change had taken place in the English administration. He continued however, as king's serjeant, in the practice of the law, and was often associated as one of the judges of assize. Some of his charges on the circuits are still extant in the Museum. In 1620 we find him sitting in the English parliament for Newcastle-under-line, where he distinguished himself chiefly in debates on the affairs of Ireland, maintaining, against Coke and other very high authorities, that England cannot make laws to bind Ireland, wbich had an independent parliament.

Amidst these employments, he found leisure to republish his Nosce Teipsum in 1622, along with his Acrostics, and Orchestra, a poem on the antiquity and excellency of dancing, dedicated to Charles, prince of Wales, originally published in 1596. But this first edition has escaped the researches of modern collectors, and the poem, as we now tind it, is imperfect. Whether it was not so in the first edition may be doubted. His biographer thinks it was there perfect, but why afterwards mutilated cannot be ascertained.

Sir John Davies lived four years after this publication, employed probably in the duties of his profession; and at the time when higher honours were within his reach, he died suddenly of an apoplexy in the night of the 7th of December 1626, and in the tiftyseventh year of his age. He had previously supped with the lord keeper Coventry, who gave him assurances of being chief justice of England. He was buried in St. Martin's Church in the Fields, where a monument was erected to his memory, which appears to have been destroyed when the old church was pulled down.

He married, while in Ireland, Eleanor, the third daughter of lord Audley, by whom he bad one son, who was an idiot and died young, and a daughter, Lucy, who was married to Ferdinando, lord Hastings, afterwards earl of Huntingdon. Sir John's lady appears to bave been an enthusiast ; a volume of her prophecies was published in 1649, 40. Anthony Wood informs us that she foretold the death of her busband, who turned the matter off with a jest. She was harshly treated during the republic, for her officious prophecies, and is said to have been confined several years in Bethlehem-hospital and in the Tower of Loudon, where she suffered all the rigour that could be inflicted by those who would tolerate no impostures but their own. She died in 1652, and was interred bear her husband in St. Martin's church. The late earl of Huntingdon informed lord Mountmorres, the historian of the Irish parliament, that sir John Davies did not appear to have acquired any landed property in Ireland, from his great employments.

The character of sir John Davies as a lawyer is that of great ability and learning. As a politician be stands unimpeached of corruption or servility, and his Tracts are valued as the result of profound knowledge and investigation. They were republished with some originals in 1786, by Mr. George Chalmers, who prefixed a Life of the Author, to which the present sketch is greatly indebted.

As a poet, he was one of the first of his day, but has been unaccountably neglected, although his style approaches the refinement of modern times. The best arbiters of poetical merit, however, seem to be agreed that his Nosce Teipsum is a noble monument of learning, acuteness, command of language, and facility of versification. It has none, indeed, of the sublimer flights which seem adapted to philosophical poetry, but lie is particularly happy in his images, which strike by their novelty and elegance. As to his versification, he has anticipated the harmony which the modern ear requires more successfully than any of his contemporaries.

His Orchestra, if we consider the nature of the subject, is a wonderful instance of what a man of genius may elicit from trifles. Whether Soame Jenyns be indebted to him in his poem on the same subject, the reader has now an opportunity of examining. His Acrostics are considered as the best ever writter, but that praise is surely not very great. It is amusing, however, to contemplate bim gravely endeavouring to overcome the difficulties he had created, and seeking with great care to exchange an intruding word for one better suited to his favourite initials.

According to Wood, he wrote a version of some of the Psalms, which is probably lost. It is more certain that he wrote epigrams, which were added to Marlow's translation of Ovid's Epistles, printed at Middleburgh in 1596. Mr. Ellis has given two of them among his Specimens, which do not excite much curiosity for the rest. Marlow's volume is exceedingly scarce, which may be accounted for by the following information. In 1599, the hall of the stationers underwent as great a purgation as was carried on in Don Quixote's library. Marston's Pygmalion, Marlow's Ovid, the Satires of Hall 'and Marston, the Epigrams of Davies, &c. were ordered for immediate conflagration by the prelates Whitgift and Bancroft'. There are other pieces frequently ascribed to sir John Davies, which, Mr. Ritson thinks, belong to John Davies of Hereford; but as our author superintended the edition of his poems printed about four years before his death, he included all that he thought proper to acknowledge, and probably, if we except the Epigrams, nearly all that he had written.

The lord Dorset recommended an edition of his works to Tate, who published the Nosce Teipsum, with the preface now annexed. In 1773, another edition was published by Mr. Thomas Davies, from a copy corrected by Mr. William Thomson, the poet, including the Acrostics and Orchestra.

· Warton's History of Poetry, vol. iii. p. 488. C.



Rel., Nat.











to meditate upon ourselves; that he has disclosed to us greater secrets at home; self-reflection being the only way to valuable and true knowledge, which consists in that rare science of a man's self, which the moral philosopher loses in a crowd of definitions, divisions, and distinctions: the historian cannot find it amongst all his musty records, being far better acquainted with the transactions of a thousand years past, than with the present age, or with himself: the writer of fables and romances


Among many others, the author of this poem merits a lasting honour; for, as he was a most eloquent lawyer, so, in the composition of this piece, we admire him for a good poet, and exact philosopher. It is not rhyming that makes a poet, but the true and impartial representing of virtue and vice, so as to instruct mankind in matters of greatest importance. And this observation has been made of our countrymen, that sir John Suckling wrote in the most courtly and gentleman-like style; Waller in the most sweet and flowing numbers; Denham with the most accurate judgment and correctness; Cowley with pleasing softness, and plenty of imagination: none ever uttered more divine thought than Mr. Herbert; none more philosophical than sir John Davies. His thoughts are moulded into easy and significant words; his rhymes never mislead the sense, but are led and governed by it: so that in reading such useful performances, the wit of mankind may be refined from its dross, their memories furnished with the best notions, their judgments strengthened, and their conceptions enlarged, by which means the mind will be raised to the most perfect ideas it is capable of in this degenerate state.

THERE is a natural love and fondness in English-wanders from it, in following the delusions of a for whatever was done in the reign of fancy, chimeras that do not only queen Elizabeth; we look upon her time as our exceed the works, but also the possibility of nature. Whereas the resemblance of truth is the utmost golden age; and the great men who lived in it, as our chiefest heroes of virtue, and greatest examples limit of poetical liberty, which our author has very of wisdom, courage, integrity, and learning. religiously observed; for he has not only placed and connected together the most amiable images of all those powers that are in our souls, but he has furnished and squared his matter like a true philosopher; that is, he has made both body and soul, colour and shadow of his poem out of the storehouse of his own mind, which gives the whole work a real and natural beauty; when that which is borrowed out of books, (the boxes of counterfeit complexion) shows well or ill as it has more or less likeness to the natural. But our author is beholding to none but himself; and by knowing himself thoroughly, he has arrived to know much; which appears in his admirable variety of well-chosen metaphors and similitudes, that cannot be found within the compass of a narrow knowledge. For this reason the poem, on account of its intrinsic worth, would be as lasting as the Iliad, or the Æneid, if the language it is wrote in were as immutable as that of the Greeks and Romans.

But as others have laboured to carry out our thoughts, and to entertain them with all manner of delights abroad; it is the peculiar character of this author, that he has taught us (with Antoninus) |

Now it would be of great benefit to the beaux of our age to carry this glass in their pocket, whereby they might learn to think, rather than dress well: it would be of use also to the wits and virtuosoes to carry this antidote about them against the poison they have sucked in from Lucretius or Hobbs. This would acquaint them with some principles of religion; for in old times the poets were their divines, and exercised a kind of spiritual authority amongst the people. Verse in those days was the


sacred style, the style of oracles and laws.
vows and thanks of the people were recommended
to their gods in songs and hymns. Why may they
not retain this privilege? for if prose should con-
tend with verse, it would be upon unequal terms,
and, as it were, on foot against the wings of Pega-
sus. With what delight are we touched in hearing
the stories of Hercules, Achilles, Cyrus, and Æneas?
Because in their characters we have wisdom, ho-
nour, fortitude, and justice, set before our eyes.
It was Plato's opinion, that if a man could see vir-
tue, he would be strangely enamoured on her per-
Which is the reason why Horace and Virgil
have continued so long in reputation, because they
have drawn her in all the charms of poetry. No
man is so senseless of rational impressions, as not
to be wonderfully affected with the pastorals of the
ancients, when under the stories of wolves and
sheep, they describe the misery of people under
hard masters, and their happiness under good. So
the bitter but wholesome iambic was wont to make
villany blush; the satire incited men to laugh at
folly; the comedian chastised the common errours
of life; and the tragedian made kings afraid to be
tyrants, and tyrants to be their own tormentors.


into the principles both of natural and supernatural motives: hereby the soul is made intelligible, which comprehends all things besides; the boundless tracks of sea and land, and the vaster spaces of Heaven; that vital principle of action, which has always been busied in inquiries abroad, is now made known to itself; insomuch that we may find out what we ourselves are, from whence we came, and whither we must go; we may perceive what noble guests those are, which we lodge in our bosoms, which are nearer to us than all other things, and yet nothing further from our ac quaintance.

But here all the labyrinths and windings of the human frame are laid open: it is seen by what pullies and wheels the work is carried on, as plainly as if a window were opened into our breast: for it is the work of God alone to create a mind.-The next to this is to show how its operations are performed.



Wherefore, as sir Philip Sidney said of Chaucer, that he knew not which he should most wonder at, either that he in his dark time should see so distinctly, or that we in this clear age should go so stumblingly after him; so may we marvel at and bewail the low condition of poetry now, when in our plays scarce any one rule of decorum is observed, but in the space of two hours and an half we pass through all the fits of Bedlam; in one scene we are all in mirth, in the next we are sunk into sadness; whilst even the most laboured parts are commonly starved for want of thought; a confused heap of words, and empty sound of rhyme.




To that clear majesty which in the north

Doth, like another Sun, in glory rise,

Which standeth fix'd, yet spreads her heav'nly


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This very consideration should advance the esteem of the following poem, wherein are represented the various movements of the mind; at which we are as much transported as with the most excellent scenes of passion in Shakspeare, or Fletcher: for in this, as in a mirrour (that will not flatter) we see how the soul arbitrates in the understanding upon the various reports of sense, and all the changes of imagination: how compliant the will is to her dictates, and obeys her as a queen does her king. At the same time acknowledging a subjection, and yet retaining a majesty. How the passions move at her command, like a well disciplined army; from which regular composure of To that great spring, which doth great kingdoms the faculties, all operating in their proper time and place, there arises a complacency upon the whole soul, that infinitely transcends all other pleasures.

What deep philosophy is this! to discover the process of God's art in fashioning the soul of man after his own image; by remarking how one part moves another, and how those motions are varied by several positions of each part, from the first springs and plummets, to the very hand that points out the visible and last effects. What eloquence and force of wit to convey these profound speculations in the easiest language, expressed in words so vulgarly received, that they are understood by the meanest capacities!

For the poet takes care in every line to satisfy the understandings of mankind: he follows step by step the workings of the mind from the first strokes of sense, then of fancy, afterwards of judgment,

Loadstone to hearts, and loadstar to all eyes.

Like Heav'n in all, like Earth to this alone,

That through great states by her support do Yet she herself supported is of none, [stand;

But by the finger of th' Almighty's hand.

To the divinest and the richest mind,

Both by Art's purchase, and by Nature's dow'r, That ever was from Heaven to Earth contin'd, To show the utmost of a creature's pow'r :


[streams, The sacred spring, whence right and honour Distilling virtue, shedding peace and love,

In every place, as Cynthia sheds her beams:

I offer up some sparkles of that fire,

Whereby we reason, live, and move and be, These sparks by nature evermore aspire,

Which makes them now to such a highness flee.

Fair soul, since to the fairest body join'd,

You give such lively life, such quick’ning pow'r ; And influence of such celestial kind,

As keeps it still in youth's immortal flower;

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