There is only one work of the same allegorical kind, which has more interest than Spenser (with scarcely less imagination and that is the pilgrim's Progress. The three first books of the faery queen are very superior to the three last. One would think that Pope, who used to ask if any one had ever read the faery queen through, had only dipped into these last. The only things in them equal to the former, are the account of Talus, the Iron Man, and the delightful episode of Pastorella. The language of Spenser is full, and copious, to overflowing: it is less pure and idiomatic than Chaucer's, and is enriched and adorned with phrases borrowed from the different languages of Europe, both ancient and modern. He was, probably, seduced into a certain license of expression by the difficulty of filling up the moulds of his complicated rhymed stanza from the limited resources of his native language.
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He has not indeed the pathos of immediate action or suffering, which is more properly the dramatic; but he has all the pathos of sentiment and romance—all that belongs to distant objects of terror, and uncertain, imaginary distress. His strength, in like manner, is not strength of will or action, of bone and muscle, nor is it coarse and palpable—but it assumes a character of vastness and sublimity seen through the same visionary medium, and blended with the appalling associations of preternatural agency. We need only turn, in proof of this, to the cave of Despair, or the cave of Mammon, or to the account of the change of Malbecco into jealousy. The following stanzas, in the description of the cave of Mammon, the grisly house of Plutus, are unrivalled for the portentous massiness of the forms, the splendid chiaro-scuro, and shadowy horror. "That house's form within was rude and strong, like an huge cave hewn out of rocky clift, From whose ireland rough vault the ragged breaches hung, Embossed with massy gold of glorious gift, And with rich metal loaded every rift. That heavy ruin they did seem to threat: And over them Arachne high did lift Her cunning web, and spread her subtle net, Enwrapped in foul smoke, and clouds more black than jet. Both roof and floor, and walls were all of gold, but overgrown with dust and old decay and hid in darkness that none could behold The hue thereof: for view of cheerful day did never in that house itself display, but a faint shadow. And over all sad Horror with grim hue did always soar, beating his iron wings; And after him owls and night-ravens flew, The hateful messengers of heavy things. Of death and dolour telling sad tidings; While sad Celleno, sitting on a clift, a song of bale and bitter sorrow sings, That heart of flint asunder could have rift; Which having ended, after him she flieth swift." The cave of Despair is described with. In the story of Malbecco, who is haunted by jealousy, and in vain strives to run away from troutman his own thoughts— "High over hill and over dale he flies"— the truth of human passion and the preternatural ending are equally striking.—It is not fair. A fairer comparison would be with Comus ; and the result would not be unfavourable to Spenser.
Taught to obey the menage of that elfe That man and beast with power imperious Subdueth to his revelation kingdom tyrannous: His blindfold eyes he bade awhile unbind, That his proud spoil of that same dolorous fair dame he might behold in perfect kind; Which seen. Of which full proud, himself uprearing high, he looked round about with stern disdain, And did survey his goodly company; And marshalling the evil-ordered train, with that the darts which his right hand did strain, full dreadfully he shook, that all did quake, and clapt. In reading these descriptions, one can hardly avoid being reminded of Rubens's allegorical pictures; but the account of Satyrane taming the lion's whelps and lugging the bear's cubs along in his arms while yet an infant, whom his mother so naturally advises to "go seek. Nobody but Rubens could have painted the fancy of Spenser; and he could not have given the sentiment, the airy dream that hovers over it! With all this, Spenser neither makes us laugh nor weep. The only jest in his poem is an allegorical play upon words, where he describes Malbecco as escaping in the herd of goats, "by the help of his fayre horns on hight." But he has been unjustly charged with a want of passion and. He has both in an immense degree.
And him beside march'd amorous Desire. Who seem'd of riper years than the other swain, yet was that other swain this elder's sire, and gave him being, common to them twain: His garment was disguised very vain, And his embroidered bonnet sat awry; 'Twixt both his hands few sparks he close. That soon mini they life conceiv'd and forth in flames did fly. Next after him went doubt, who was yclad In a discolour'd coat of strange disguise, that at his back a broad capuccio had, And sleeves dependant Albanese-wise; he lookt askew with his mistrustful eyes, And nicely trod, as thorns lay in his way, or that. With him went daunger, cloth'd in ragged weed, made of bear's skin, that him more dreadful made; Yet his own face was dreadfull, ne did need Strange horror to deform his grisly shade; A net in th' one hand, and a rusty blade In th'. Next him was fear, all arm'd from top to toe, yet thought himself not safe enough thereby, but fear'd each shadow moving to and fro; And his own arms when glittering he did spy Or clashing heard, he fast away did fly, as ashes pale. With him went Hope in rank, a handsome maid, Of chearfull look and lovely to behold; In silken samite she was light array'd, And her fair locks were woven up in gold; She always smil'd, and in her hand did hold An holy-water sprinkle dipt. Next after them, the winged God himself Came riding on a lion ravenous.
Unseemly man to please fair lady's eye: Yet he of ladies oft was loved dear, When fairer faces were bid standen by: O! Who does know the bent of woman's fantsay? In a green gown he clothed was full fair, Which underneath did hide his filthiness; And in his hand a burning heart he bare, full of vain follies and new fangleness; For he was false and fraught with fickleness; And learned had to love with. Inconstant man that loved all he saw, And lusted after all that he did love; ne would his looser life be tied to law; But joyed weak women's hearts to tempt and prove, if from their loyal loves he might them move." This is pretty. Southey says of Spenser: "Yet not more sweet Than pure was he, and not more pure than wise; High priest of all the muses' mysteries!" On the contrary, no one was more apt to pry into mysteries which do not strictly belong to the muses. Of the same kind with the Procession of the passions, as little obscure, and still more beautiful, is the mask of Cupid, with his train of votaries: "The first was Fancy, like a lovely boy of rare aspect, and beauty without peer; His garment neither. And in his hand a windy fan did bear That in the idle air he mov'd still here and there.
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But some people will say that all this may be very fine, but that they cannot understand it on account of essay the allegory. They are afraid of the allegory, as if they thought it would bite them: they look at it as a child looks at a painted dragon, and think it will strangle them in its shining folds. This is very idle. If they do not meddle with the allegory, the allegory will not meddle with them. Without minding it at all, the whole is as plain as a pikestaff. It might as well be pretended that we cannot see poussin's pictures for the allegory, as that the allegory prevents us from understanding Spenser.
For instance, when literature Britomart, seated amidst the young warriors, lets fall her hair and discovers her sex, is it necessary to know the part she plays in the allegory, to understand the beauty of the following stanza? "And eke that stranger knight amongst the rest Was for like need enforc'd to disarray. Tho when as vailed was her lofty crest. Her golden locks that were in trammels gay upbounden, did themselves adown display, and raught unto her heels like sunny beams That in a cloud their light did long time stay; Their vapour faded, shew their golden gleams. And through the persant air shoot forth their azure streams." Or is there any mystery in what is said of Belphoebe, that her hair was sprinkled with flowers and blossoms which had been entangled in it as she fled through the woods? Or is it necessary to have a more distinct idea of Proteus, than that which is given of him in his boat, with the frighted Florimel at his feet, while "—the cold icicles from his rough beard Dropped adown upon her snowy breast!". In green vine leaves he was right fitly clad; For other clothes he could not wear for heat; And on his head an ivy garland had, From under which fast trickled down the sweat: Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat, And.
Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet: The angelical soft trembling voices made. To th' instruments divine respondence meet. The silver sounding instruments did meet. With the base murmur of the water's fall; The water's fall with difference discreet, now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call; The gentle warbling wind low answered to all." The remainder of the passage has all that voluptuous pathos, and languid brilliancy. See, whoso fayre thing dost fain to see, in springing flower the image of thy day! See the virgin rose, how sweetly she doth first peep forth with bashful modesty, that fairer seems the less ye see her may!
See soon after, how more bold and free her bared bosom she doth broad display; Lo! See soon after, how she fades and falls away! So passeth in the passing of a day of mortal life the leaf, the bud, the flower; ne more doth flourish after first decay, that erst was sought to deck both bed and bower Of many a lady and many a paramour! Gather therefore the rose 'whilst yet is prime, for soon comes age that will her pride deflower; Gather the rose of love whilst yet is time, whilst loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime. He ceased; and then gan all the quire of birds Their divers notes to attune unto his lay, as in approvance of his pleasing wordes. The constant pair heard all that he did say, yet swerved not, but kept their forward way through many covert groves and thickets close, in which they creeping did at last display that wanton lady with her lover loose, whose sleepy head she in her. Upon a bed of roses she was laid As faint through heat, or dight to pleasant sin; And was arrayed or rather disarrayed, All in a veil of silk and silver thin, That hid no whit her alabaster skin, but rather shewed more white,. Her snowy breast was bare to greedy spoil Of hungry eyes which n'ote therewith be fill'd. And yet through languor of her late sweet toil Few drops more clear than nectar forth distill'd, That like pure Orient perles adown it trill'd; And her fair eyes sweet smiling in delight moisten'd their fiery beams, with which she thrill'd Frail hearts, yet quenched.
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Might there be heard; but careless quiet lies. Wrapt in eternal silence, far from enemies.". It is as if "the honey-heavy dew of slumber" had settled on his pen in writing these lines. How different in the subject (and yet how like in beauty) is the following description of the bower of Bliss: "Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound. Of all that mote delight a dainty ear; Such as at once might not on living ground, save in this Paradise, be heard elsewhere: Right hard it was for wight which did it hear, to tell what manner musicke that mote be; For all that. Was there consorted in one harmonee: Birds, voices, instruments, windes, paper waters, all agree. The joyous birdes shrouded in chearefull shade.the
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily: Her tender locks do tremble every one. At every little breath that under heav'n is blown.". The love of beauty, however, and not of truth, is the moving principle of his mind; and he is guided in his fantastic delineations by no rule but the impulse of an inexhaustible imagination. He luxuriates equally in scenes of Eastern magnificence; or the still solitude of a hermit's cell—in the extremes of sensuality or refinement. In reading the faery queen, you see a little withered old man by a wood-side opening a wicket, a giant, and a dwarf lagging far behind, a damsel algorithm in a boat upon an enchanted lake, wood-nymphs, and satyrs; and all of a sudden you are. A trickling stream from high rock tumbling down, And ever-drizzling rain upon the loft, mix'd with a murmuring wind, much like the sound. Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swound. No other noise, nor people's troublous cries. That still are wont t' annoy the walled town.
all actual objects. The two worlds of reality and of fiction are poised on the wings of his imagination. His ideas, indeed, seem more distinct than his perceptions. He is the painter of abstractions, and describes them with dazzling minuteness. In the mask of Cupid he makes the god of love "clap on high his coloured winges twain and it is said of Gluttony in the Procession of the passions, "In green vine leaves he was right fitly clad.". At times he becomes picturesque from his intense love of beauty; as where he compares Prince Arthur's crest to the appearance of the almond tree; "Upon the top of all his lofty crest, a bunch of hairs discolour'd diversely. With sprinkled pearl and gold full richly drest. Did shake and seem'd to daunce for jollity; like to an almond tree ymounted high. On top of green Selenis all alone.
He has in some measure borrowed the plan of his poem (as a number of distinct narratives) from Ariosto; but he has engrafted upon it an exuberance of fancy, and an endless voluptuousness of sentiment, which are not to be about found in the Italian writer. Farther, Spenser is even more of an inventor in the subject-matter. There is an originality, richness, and variety in his allegorical personages and fictions, which almost vies with the splendor of the ancient mythology. If Ariosto transports us into the regions of romance, spenser's poetry is all fairy-land. In Ariosto, we walk upon the ground, in a company, gay, fantastic, and adventurous enough. In Spenser, we wander in another world, among ideal beings. The poet takes and lays us in the lap of a lovelier nature, by the sound of softer streams, among greener hills and fairer valleys.
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William hazlitt on Edmund Spenser, spenser flourished in the reign. Queen Elizabeth, and was sent with, sir John davies into Ireland, of which he has left behind him some tender recollections in his description of the bog of Allan, and a record in an ably written paper, containing observations on the state of that country. Spenser died at an obscure inn in London, it is revelation supposed in distressed circumstances. The treatment he received from. Burleigh is well known. Spenser, as well. Chaucer, was engaged in active life; but the genius of his poetry was not active: it is inspired by the love of ease, and relaxation from all the cares and business of life. Of all the poets, he is the most poetical. Though much later than Chaucer, his obligations to preceding writers were less.