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But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

The Soul's Errand.

Go, soul, the body's guest,
Upon a thankless errand!
Fear not to touch the best,

The truth shall be thy warrant ; Go, since I needs must die, And give the world the lie. Go, tell the court it glows,

And shines like rotten wood; Go, tell the church it shows What's good, and doth no good: If church and court reply, Then give them both the lie. Tell potentates, they live

Acting by others actions, Not lov'd unless they give, Not strong but by their factions. If potentates reply, Give potentates the lie. Tell men of high condition That rule affairs of state, Their purpose is ambition, Their practice only hate.

And if they once reply, Then give them all the lie. Tell them that brave it most,

They beg for more by spending, Who in their greatest cost, Seek nothing but commending. And if they make reply, Then give them all the lie. Tell zeal it lacks devotion, Tell love it is but lust, Tell time it is but motion, Tell flesh it is but dust;

And wish them not reply, For thou must give the lie. Tell age it daily wasteth,

Tell honour how it alters, Tell beauty how she blasteth, Tell favour how she falters. And as they shall reply, Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles In tickle points of niceness: Tell wisdom she entangles Herself in over-wiseness.

And when they do reply, Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness,

Tell skill it is pretension, Tell charity of coldness,

Tell law it is contention.
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.
Tell fortune of her blindness,
Tell nature of decay,
Tell friendship of unkindness,
Tell justice of delay.

And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming,
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming.
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it's fled the city,

Tell how the country erreth, Tell, manhood shakes off pity, Tell, virtue least preferreth. And if they do reply, Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing:
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing;
Yet stab at thee who will,
No stab the soul can kill."

[Address to the Nightingale.]

As it fell upon a day,
In the merry month of May,
Sitting in a pleasant shade
Which a grove of myrtles made;
Beasts did leap, and birds did sing,
Trees did grow, and plants did spring;
Everything did banish moan,
Save the nightingale alone.
She, poor bird, as all forlorn,
Lean'd her breast up-till a thorn;
And there sung the dolefull'st ditty,
That to hear it was great pity.
Fie, fie, fie, now would she cry;
Teru, teru, by and by;
That, to hear her so complain,
Scarce I could from tears refrain;
For her griefs, so lively shown,
Made me think upon mine own.
Ah! (thought I) thou mourn'st in vain ;
None takes pity on thy pain:
Senseless trees, they cannot hear thee,
Ruthless bears they will not cheer thee:
King Pandion he is dead;
All thy friends are lapp'd in lead;
All thy fellow-birds do sing,
Careless of thy sorrowing!
Whilst as fickle Fortune smil'd,
Thou and I were both beguil'd.
Every one that flatters thee
Is no friend in misery.

Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.

Every man will be thy friend
Whilst thou hast wherewith to spend:
But, if store of crowns be scant,
No man will supply thy want.
If that one be prodigal,
Bountiful they will him call;
And with such-like flattering,

Pity but he were a king.' If he be addict to vice, Quickly him they will entice; But if fortune once do frown, Then farewell his great renown: They that fawn'd on him before Use his company no more. He that is thy friend indeed, Ile will help thee in thy need; If thou sorrow, he will weep, If thou wake he cannot sleep: Thus, of every grief in heart Ile with thee doth bear a part. These are certain signs to know Faithful friend from flattering foe.


These writers bring us to EDMUND SPENSER, whose genius is one of the peculiar glories of the romantic reign of Elizabeth. 'It is easy,' says

Pope, to mark out the general course of our poetry; Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, and Dryden, are the great landmarks for it.' We can now add Cowper and Wordsworth; but, in Pope's generation, the list he has given was accurate and complete. Spenser was, like Chaucer, a native of London, and like him, also, he has recorded the circumstance in his poetry :

Merry London, my most kindly nurse,
That to me gave this life's first native source,
Though from another place I take my name,
An house of ancient fame.

deformed by a number of obsolete uncouth phrases (the Chaucerisms of Spenser, as Dryden designated them), yet containing traces of a superior original genius. The fable of the Oak and Briar is finely told; and in verses like the following, we see the germs of that tuneful harmony and pensive reflection in which Spenser excelled:


He was born at East Smithfield, near the Tower, Whose drops in dreary icicles remain.

Edmund Spenser.

about the year 1553. The rank of his parents, or the degree of his affinity with the ancient house of Spenser, is not known. Gibbon says truly, that the noble family of Spenser should consider the Faery Queen as the most precious jewel in their coronet.* The poet was entered a sizer (one of the humblest class of students) of Pembroke College, Cambridge, in May 1569, and continued to attend college for seven years, taking his degree of M.A. in June 1576. While Spenser was at Pembroke, Gabriel Harvey, the future astrologer, was at Christ's College, and an intimacy was formed between them, which lasted during the poet's life. Harvey was learned and pedantic, full of assumption and conceit, and in his Venetian velvet and pantofles of pride,' formed a peculiarly happy subject for the satire of Nash, who assailed him with every species of coarse and contemptuous ridicule. Harvey, however, was of service to Spenser. The latter, on tiring from the University, lived with some friends in the north of England; probably those Spensers of Hurstwood, to, whose family he is said to have belonged. Harvey induced the poet to repair to London, and there he introduced him to Sir Philip Sidney, one of the very diamonds of her majesty's court.' In 1579, the poet published his Shepherd's Calendar, dedicated to Sidney, who afterwards patronised him, and recommended him to his uncle, the powerful Earl of Leicester. The Shepherd's Calendar is a pastoral poem, in twelve eclogues, one for each month, but without strict keeping as to natural description or rustic character, and


You naked buds, whose shady leaves are lost,
Wherein the birds were wont to build their bower,
And now are clothed with moss and hoary frost,
Instead of blossoms wherewith your buds did flower:
I see your tears that from your boughs do rain,

*It was lately announced, that the family to which the poet's father belonged has been ascertained as one settled at Hurstwood, near Burnley, in Lancashire, where it flourished till


These lines form part of the first eclogue, in which the shepherd boy (Colin Clout) laments the issue of his love for a country lass,' named Rosalind-a happy female name, which Thomas Lodge, and, following him, Shakspeare, subsequently connected with love and poetry. Spenser is here supposed to have depicted a real passion of his own for a lady in the north, who at last preferred a rival, though, as Gabriel Harvey says, 'the gentle Mistress Rosalind' once reported the rejected suitor to have all the intelligences at command, and another time christened him Signior Pegaso.' Spenser makes his shepherds discourse of polemics as well as love, and they draw characters of good and bad pastors, and institute comparisons between Popery and Protestantism. Some allusions to Archbishop Grindal (Algrind' in the poem) and Bishop Aylmer are said to have given offence to Lord Burleigh; but the patronage of Leicester and Essex must have made Burleigh look with distaste on the new poet. For ten years we hear little of Spenser. He is found corresponding with Harvey on a literary innovation contemplated by that learned person, and even by Sir Philip Sidney. This was no less than banishing rhymes and introducing the Latin prosody into English verse. Spenser seems to have assented to it, fondly overcome with Sidney's charm;' he suspended the Faery Queen, which he had then begun, and tried English hexameters, forgetting, to use the witty words of Nash, that the hexameter, though a gentleman of an ancient house, was not likely to thrive in this clime of ours, the soil being too craggy for him to set his plough in.' Fortunately, he did not persevere in the conceit; he could not have gained over his contemporaries to it (for there were then too many poets, and too much real poetry in the land), and if he had made the attempt, Shak re-speare would soon have blown the whole away. As a dependent on Leicester, and a suitor for court favour, Spenser is supposed to have experienced many reverses. The following lines in Mother Hub bard's Tale, though not printed till 1581, seem to belong to this period of his life:

All so my lustful life is dry and sere,
My timely buds with wailing all are wasted;
The blossom which my branch of youth did bear,
With breathed sighs is blown away and blasted,
And from mine eyes the drizzling tears descend,
As on your boughs the icicles depend.


Full little knowest thou that hast not tried,
What hell it is in suing long to bide;
To lose good days that might be better spent;
To waste long nights in pensive discontent;
To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow;
To feed on hope, to pine with fear and sorrow;
To have thy prince's grace, yet want her peers';
To have thy asking, yet wait many years;
To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares;
To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs;
To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
To spend, to give, to wait, to be undone ! 86


Strong feeling has here banished all antique and affected expression: there is no fancy in this gloomy painting. It appears, from recently-discovered documents, that Spenser was sometimes employed in inferior state missions, a task then often devolved on poets and dramatists. At length an important appointment came. Lord Grey of Wilton was sent to Ireland as lord-deputy, and Spenser accompanied him in the capacity of secretary. They remained there two years, when the deputy was recalled, and I the poet also returned to England. In June 1586, Spenser obtained from the crown a grant of 3028 acres in the county of Cork, out of the forfeited lands of the Earl of Desmond, of which Sir Walter Raleigh had previously, for his military services in Ireland, obtained 12,000 acres. The poet was obliged to reside on his estate, as this was one of the conditions of the grant, and he accordingly repaired to Ireland, and took up his abode in Kilcolman Castle, near 1: Doneraile, which had been one of the ancient strongholds or appanages of the Earls of Desmond. The poet's castle stood in the midst of a large plain, by the side of a lake; the river Mulla ran through his grounds, and a chain of mountains at a distance

approved of his friend's poem; and he persuaded Spenser, when he had completed the three first books, to accompany him to England, and arrange for their publication. The Faery Queen appeared in January 1589-90, dedicated to her majesty, in that strain of adulation which was then the fashion of the age. To the volume was appended a letter to Raleigh, explaining the nature of the work, which the author said was a continued allegory, or dark conceit.' He states his object to be to fashion a gentleman, or noble person, in virtuous and gentle discipline, and that he had chosen Prince Arthur for his hero. He conceives that prince to have beheld the Faery Queen in a dream, and been so enamoured of the vision, that, on awaking, he resolved to set forth and seek her in Faery Land. The poet further de vises' that the Faery Queen shall keep her annual feast twelve days, twelve several adventures happening in that time, and each of them being undertaken by a knight. The adventures were also to express the same number of moral virtues. The first is that of the Redcross Knight, expressing Holiness; the second Sir Guyon, or Temperance; and the third, Britomartis, a lady knight,' representing Chastity. There was thus a blending of chivalry and religion in the design of the Faery Queen. Spenser had imbibed (probably from Sidney) a portion of the Platonic doctrine, which overflows in Milton's Comus, and he looked on chivalry as a sage and serious thing. Besides his personification of the abstract virtues, the poet made his allegorical personages and their adventures represent historical characters and events. The queen, Gloriana, and the huntress Belphoebe, are both symbolical of Queen Elizabeth; the adventures of the Redcross Knight shadow forth the history of the Church of England; the distressed knight is Henry IV.; and Envy is intended to glance at the un-. fortunate Mary, Queen of Scots. The stanza of Spenser is the Italian ottava rima, now familiar in English poetry; but he added an Alexandrine, or long line, which gives a full and sweeping close to the verse. The poet's diction is rich and abundant. He introduced, however, a number of obsolete expressions, new grafts of old and withered words,' for which he was censured by his contemporaries and their successors, and in which he was certainly not copied by Shakspeare. His Gothic subject

We may conceive the transports of delight with which Raleigh perused or listened to those strains of chivalry and gorgeous description, which revealed to him a land still brighter than any he had seen in his distant wanderings, or could have been present even to his romantic imagination! The guest warmly

*The Platonism of Spenser is more clearly seen in his hymns on Love and Beauty, which are among the most passionate and exquisite of his productions. His account of the spirit of love is not unlike Ovid's description of the creation of man: the soul, just severed from the sky, retains part of its heavenly power

Spenser afterwards wrote two religious hymns, to counteract the effect of those on love and beauty, but though he spiritualises his passion, he does not abandon his early belief, that the fairest body encloses the fairest mind: he still saysFor all that's good is beautiful and fair.'

The Grecian philosophy was curiously united with Puritanism in both Spenser and Milton. Our poet took the fable of his great poem from the style of the Gothic romance, but the deep sense of beauty which pervades it is of classical origin, elevated and purified by strong religious feeling.

and story' had probably, as Mr Campbell conjectures, made him lean towards words of the olden time,' and his antiquated expression, as the same critic finely remarks, is beautiful in its antiquity, and, like the moss and ivy on some majestic building, covers the fabric of his language with romantic and venerable associations.' The Faery Queen was enthusiastically received. It could scarcely, indeed, be otherwise, considering how well it was adapted to the court and times of the Virgin Queen, where gallantry and chivalry were so strangely mingled with the religious gravity and earnestness induced by the Reformation, and considering the intrinsic beauty and excellence of the poem. The few first stanzas, descriptive of Una, were of themselves sufficient to place Spenser above the whole hundred poets that then offered incense to Elizabeth.

The queen settled a pension of £50 per annum on Spenser, and he returned to Ireland. His smaller poems were next published-The Tears of the Muses, Mother Hubbard, &c., in 1591; Daphnaida, 1592; and Amoretti and the Epithalamium (relating his courtship and marriage) in 1595. His Elegy of Astrophel, on the death of the lamented Sidney, appeared about this time. In 1596, Spenser was again in London to publish the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the Faery Queen. These contain the legend of Cambel and Triamond, or Friendship; Artegal, or Justice; and Sir Caledore, or Courtesy. The double allegory is continued in these cantos as in the previous ones: Artegal is the poet's friend and patron, Lord Grey; and various historical events are related in the knight's adventures. Half of the original design was thus finished; six of the twelve adventures and moral virtues were produced; but unfortunately the world saw only some fragments more of the work. It has been said that the remaining half was lost, through the disorder and abuse' of a servant sent forward with it to England. This is highly improbable. Spenser, who came to London himself with each of the former portions, would not have ventured the largest part with a careless servant. But he had not time to complete his poetical and moral gallery. There was an interval of six years between his two publications, and he lived only three years after the second. During that period, too, Ireland was convulsed with rebellion. The English settlers, or undertakers,' of the crown lands, were unpopular with the conquered natives of Ireland. They were often harsh and oppressive; and even Spenser is accused, on the authority of existing legal documents, of having sought unjustly to add to his possessions. He was also in office over the Irish (clerk of the council of Munster); he had been recommended by the queen (1598) for the office of sheriff of Cork; and he was a strenuous advocate for arbitrary power, as is proved by a political treatise on the state of Ireland, written by him in 1596 for the government of Elizabeth, but not printed till the reign of Charles I. The poet was, therefore, a conspicuous object for the fury of the irritated and barbarous natives, with whom 'revenge was virtue.' The storm soon burst forth. In October 1598, an insurrection was organised in Munster, following Tyrone's rebellion, which had raged for some years in the province of Ulster. The insurgents attacked Kilcolman, and having robbed and plundered, set fire to the castle. Spenser and his wife escaped; but either in the confusion incidental to such a calamity, or from inability to render assistance, an infant child of the poet ('new-born,' according to Ben Jonson) was left behind, and perished in the flames. The poet, impoverished and broken-hearted, reached London, and died in about three months, in King Street, Westminster, on the

16th January 1599. He was buried near the tomb of Chaucer in Westminster Abbey, the Earl of Essex defraying the expense of the funeral, and his hearse attended (as Camden relates) by his brother poets, who threw 'mournful elegies' into his grave. A monument was erected over his remains thirty years afterwards by Anne, countess of Dorset. His widow, the fair Elizabeth, whose bridal bower at Kilcolman he had decked with such 'gay garlands' of song, probably remained in Ireland, where two sons of the unfortunate poet long resided.

Spenser is the most luxuriant and melodious of all our descriptive poets. His creation of scenes and objects is infinite, and in free and sonorous versification he has not yet been surpassed. His lofty rhyme' has a swell and cadence, and a continuous sweetness, that we can find nowhere else. In richness of fancy and invention he can scarcely be ranked below Shakspeare, and he is fully as original. His obligations to the Italian poets (Ariosto supplying a wild Gothic and chivalrous model for the Faery Queen, and Tasso furnishing the texture of some of its most delicious embellishments) still leave him the merit of his great moral design-the conception of his allegorical characters-his exuberance of language and illustration-and that original structure of verse, powerful and harmonious, which he was the first to adopt, and which must ever bear his name. His faults arose out of the fulness of his riches. His inexhaustible powers of circumstantial description betrayed him into a tedious minuteness, which sometimes, in the delineation of his personified passions, becomes repulsive, and in the painting of natural objects led him to group together trees and plants, and assemble sounds and instruments, which were never seen or heard in unison out of Faery Land. The ingenuity and subtlety of his intellect tempted him to sow dark meanings and obscure allusions across the bright and obvious path of his allegory. This peculiarity of his genius was early displayed in his Shepherd's Calendar; and if Burleigh's displeasure could have cured the poet of the habit, the statesman might be half forgiven his illiberality. His command of musical language led him to protract his narrative to too great a length, till the attention becomes exhausted, even with its very melody, and indifference succeeds to languor. Had Spenser lived to finish his poem, it is doubtful whether he would not have diminished the number of his readers. His own fancy had evidently begun to give way, for the last three books have not the same rich unity of design, or plenitude of imagination, which fills the earlier cantos with so many interesting, lofty, and ethereal conceptions, and steeps them in such a flood of ideal and poetical beauty. The two first books (of Holiness and Temperance) are, like the two first of Paradise Lost, works of consummate taste and genius, and superior to all the others. We agree with Mr Hazlitt, that the allegory of Spenser is in reality no bar to the enjoy.nent of the poem. The reader may safely disregard the symbolical applications. We may allow the poet, like his own Archimago, to divide his characters into double parts,' while one only is visible at a time. While we see Una, with her heavenly looks, That made a sunshine in the shady place, or Belphœbe flying through the woods, or Britomart seated amidst the young warriors, we need not stop to recollect that the first is designed to represent the true church, the second Queen Elizabeth, or the third an abstract personification of Chastity. They are exquisite representations of female loveliness and truth, unmatched save in the dramas of Shakspeare. The allegory of Spenser leaves his wild enchantments,

his picturesque situations, his shady groves and lofty A lovely lady rode him fair beside, trees,

of any star),

(Not pierceable by power his Masque of Cupid, and Bower of Bliss, and all the witcheries of his gardens and wildernesses, without the slightest ambiguity or indistinctness. There is no haze over his finest pictures. We seem to walk in the green alleys of his broad forests, to hear the stream tinkle and the fountain fall, to enter his caves of Mammon and Despair, to gaze on his knights and ladies, or to join in his fierce combats and crowded allegorical processions. There is no perplexity, no intercepted lights, in those fine images and personifications. They may be sometimes fantastic, but they are always brilliant and distinct. When Spenser fails to interest, it is when our coarser taste becomes palled with his sweetness, and when we feel that his scenes want the support of common probability and human passions. We surrender ourselves up for a time to the power of the enchanter, and witness with wonder and delight his marvellous achievements; but we wish to return again to the world, and to mingle with our fellow-mortals in its busy and passionate pursuits. It is here that Shakspeare eclipses Spenser; here that he builds upon his beautiful groundwork of fancy-the high and durable structure of conscious dramatic truth and living reality. Spenser's mind was as purely poetical, and embraced a vast range of imaginary creation. The interest of real life alone is wanting. Spenser's is an ideal world, remote and abstract, yet affording, in its multiplied scenes, scope for those nobler feelings and heroic virtues which we love to see even in transient connexion with human nature. The romantic character of his poetry is its most essential and permanent feature. We may tire of his allegory and 'dark conceit,' but the general impression remains; we never think of the Faery Queen without recalling its wondrous scenes of enchantment and beauty, and feeling ourselves lulled, as it were, by the recollected music of the poet's verse, and the endless flow and profusion of his fancy.

[Una and the Redcross Knight.]

A gentle knight was pricking on the plain,
Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield,
Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain,
The cruel marks of many a bloody field;
Yet arms till that time did he never wield:
His angry steed did chide his foaming bit,
As much disdaining to the curb to yield:
Full jolly knight he seem'd, and fair did sit,
As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit.

And on his breast a bloody cross he bore,
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead (as living) ever him adored:
Upon his shield the like was also scored,
For sovereign hope, which in his help he had :
Right faithful true he was in deed and word;
But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad:
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

Upon a great adventure he was bound,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
(That greatest glorious queen of fairy lond,)
To win him worship, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
And ever as he rode his heart did yearn
To prove his puissance in battle brave
Upon his foe, and his new force to learn ;
Upon his foe, a dragon horrible and stern.

Upon a lowly ass more white than snow;
Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
Under a veil that wimpled was full low,
And over all a black stole she did throw,
As one that inly mourn'd: so was she sad,
And heavy sat upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her in a line a milk-white lamb she led.
So pure and innocent, as that same lamb,
She was in life and every virtuous lore,
And by descent from royal lineage came
Their sceptres stretcht from east to western shore,
Of ancient kings and queens, that had of yore
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal fiend with foul uproar
Forewasted all their land and them expell'd:
Whom to avenge, she had this knight from far com

Behind her far away a dwarf did lag,
That lazy seem'd in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his back. Thus as they past
The day with clouds was sudden overcast,
And angry Jove an hideous storm of rain
Did pour into his leman's lap so fast,
That every wight to shroud it did constrain,
And this fair couple eke to shroud themselves were fain
Enforced to seek some covert nigh at hand,
A shady grove not far away they spied,
That promised aid the tempest to withstand;
Whose lofty trees, yclad with summer's pride,
Did spread so broad, that heaven's light did hide,
Nor pierceable with power of any star:
And all within were paths and alleys wide,
With footing worn, and leading inward far:
Fair harbour, that them seems; so in they entered are.
And forth they pass, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to hear the birds' sweet harmony,
Which therein shrouded from the tempest dread,
Seem'd in their song to scorn the cruel sky.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and high,
The sailing Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop Elm, the Poplar never dry,
The builder Oak, sole king of forests all,
The Aspin good for staves, the Cypress funeral
The Laurel, meed of mighty conquerors
And poets sage, the Fir that weepeth still,
The Willow, worn of forlorn paramours,
The Yew obedient to the bender's will,
The Birch for shafts, the Sallow for the mill,
The Myrrh sweet bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,
The fruitful Olive, and the Plantain round,
The carver Holme, the Maple seldom inward sound
Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Until the blustering storm is overblown,
When, weening to return, whence they did stray,
They cannot find that path which first was shown,
But wander to and fro in ways unknown,
Furthest from end then, when they nearest ween,
That makes them doubt their wits be not their own:
So many paths, so many turnings seen,
That which of them to take, in divers doubt they been.

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