Spenser - (English Men of Letters Series)
by R. W. Church
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He had already too well caught the trick of flattery—flattery in a degree almost inconceivable to us—which the fashions of the time, and the Queen's strange self-deceit, exacted from the loyalty and enthusiasm of Englishmen. In that art Ralegh was only too apt a teacher. Colin Clout, in his story of his recollections of the Court, lets us see how he was taught to think and to speak there:—

But if I her like ought on earth might read, I would her lyken to a crowne of lillies, Upon a virgin brydes adorned head, With Roses dight and Goolds and Daffadillies; Or like the circlet of a Turtle true, In which all colours of the rainbow bee; Or like faire Phebes garlond shining new, In which all pure perfection one may see. But vaine it is to thinke, by paragone Of earthly things, to judge of things divine: Her power, her mercy, her wisdome, none Can deeme, but who the Godhead can define. Why then do I, base shepheard, bold and blind, Presume the things so sacred to prophane? More fit it is t' adore, with humble mind, The image of the heavens in shape humane.

The Queen, who heard herself thus celebrated, celebrated not only as a semi-divine person, but as herself unrivalled in the art of "making" or poetry,—"her peerless skill in making well,"—granted Spenser a pension of 50l. a year, which, it is said, the prosaic and frugal Lord Treasurer, always hard-driven for money and not caring much for poets, made difficulties about paying. But the new poem was not for the Queen's ear only. In the registers of the Stationers' Company occurs the following entry:—

Primo die Decembris [1589].

Mr. Ponsonbye—Entered for his Copye, a book intytuled the fayrye Queene dysposed into xij bookes &c., authorysed under thandes of the Archbishop of Canterbery and bothe the Wardens.


Thus, between pamphlets of the hour,—an account of the Arms of the City Companies on one side, and the last news from France on the other,—the first of our great modern English poems was licensed to make its appearance. It appeared soon after, with the date of 1590. It was not the twelve books, but only the first three. It was accompanied and introduced, as usual, by a great host of commendatory and laudatory sonnets and poems. All the leading personages at Elizabeth's court were appealed to; according to their several tastes or their relations to the poet, they are humbly asked to befriend, or excuse, or welcome his poetical venture. The list itself is worth quoting:—Sir Christopher Hatton, then Lord Chancellor, the Earls of Essex, Oxford, Northumberland, Ormond, Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord Grey of Wilton, Sir Walter Ralegh, Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Cumberland, Lord Hunsdon, Lord Buckhurst, Walsingham, Sir John Norris, President of Munster. He addresses Lady Pembroke, in remembrance of her brother, that "heroic spirit," "the glory of our days,"

Who first my Muse did lift out of the floor, To sing his sweet delights in lowly lays.

And he finishes with a sonnet to Lady Carew, one of Sir John Spencer's daughters, and another to "all the gracious and beautiful ladies of the Court," in which "the world's pride seems to be gathered." There come also congratulations and praises for himself. Ralegh addressed to him a fine but extravagant sonnet, in which he imagined Petrarch weeping for envy at the approval of the Faery Queen, while "Oblivion laid him down on Laura's hearse," and even Homer trembled for his fame. Gabriel Harvey revoked his judgment on the Elvish Queen, and not without some regret for less ambitious days in the past, cheered on his friend in his noble enterprise. Gabriel Harvey has been so much, and not without reason, laughed at, and yet his verses welcoming the Faery Queen are so full of true and warm friendship, and of unexpected refinement and grace, that it is but just to cite them. In the eyes of the world he was an absurd personage: but Spenser saw in him perhaps his worthiest and trustiest friend. A generous and simple affection has almost got the better in them of pedantry and false taste.

Collyn, I see, by thy new taken taske, Some sacred fury hath enricht thy braynes, That leades thy muse in haughty verse to maske, And loath the layes that longs to lowly swaynes; That lifts thy notes from Shepheardes unto kinges: So like the lively Larke that mounting singes.

Thy lovely Rosolinde seemes now forlorne, And all thy gentle flockes forgotten quight: Thy chaunged hart now holdes thy pypes in scorne, Those prety pypes that did thy mates delight; Those trusty mates, that loved thee so well; Whom thou gav'st mirth, as they gave thee the bell.

Yet, as thou earst with thy sweete roundelayes Didst stirre to glee our laddes in homely bowers; So moughtst thou now in these refyned layes Delight the daintie eares of higher powers: And so mought they, in their deepe skanning skill, Alow and grace our Collyns flowing quyll.

And faire befall that Faery Queene of thine, In whose faire eyes love linckt with vertue sittes; Enfusing, by those bewties fyers devyne, Such high conceites into thy humble wittes, As raised hath poore pastors oaten reedes From rustick tunes, to chaunt heroique deedes.

So mought thy Redcrosse Knight with happy hand Victorious be in that faire Ilands right, Which thou dost vayle in Type of Faery land, Elizas blessed field, that Albion hight: That shieldes her friendes, and warres her mightie foes, Yet still with people, peace, and plentie flowes.

But (jolly shepheard) though with pleasing style Thou feast the humour of the Courtly trayne, Let not conceipt thy setled sence beguile, Ne daunted be through envy or disdaine. Subject thy dome to her Empyring spright, From whence thy Muse, and all the world, takes light.


And to the Queen herself Spenser presented his work, in one of the boldest dedications perhaps ever penned:—

To The Most High, Mightie, and Magnificent Empresse, Renowmed for piety, vertve, and all gratiovs government, ELIZABETH, By the Grace of God, Qveene of England, Fravnce, and Ireland, and of Virginia, Defendovr of the Faith, &c. Her most hvmble Servavnt EDMVND SPENSER, Doth, in all hvmilitie, Dedicate, present, and consecrate These his labovrs, To live with the eternitie of her fame.

"To live with the eternity of her fame,"—the claim was a proud one, but it has proved a prophecy. The publication of the Faery Queen placed him at once and for his lifetime at the head of all living English poets. The world of his day immediately acknowledged the charm and perfection of the new work of art which had taken it by surprise. As far as appears, it was welcomed heartily and generously. Spenser speaks in places of envy and detraction, and he, like others, had no doubt his rivals and enemies. But little trace of censure appears, except in the stories about Burghley's dislike of him, as an idle rimer, and perhaps as a friend of his opponents. But his brother poets, men like Lodge and Drayton, paid honour, though in quaint phrases, to the learned Colin, the reverend Colin, the excellent and cunning Colin. A greater than they, if we may trust his editors, takes him as the representative of poetry, which is so dear to him.

If music and sweet poetry agree, As they must needs, the sister and the brother, Then must the love be great 'twixt thee and me, Because thou lov'st the one, and I the other. Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch Upon the lute doth ravish human sense; Spenser to me, whose deep conceit is such As passing all conceit, needs no defence. Thou lov'st to hear the sweet melodious sound That Phoebus' lute, the queen of music, makes; And I in deep delight am chiefly drown'd Whenas himself to singing he betakes. One god is god of both, as poets feign; One knight loves both, and both in thee remain.

(Shakespere, in the Passionate Pilgrim, 1599.)

Even the fierce pamphleteer, Thomas Nash, the scourge and torment of poor Gabriel Harvey, addresses Harvey's friend as heavenly Spenser, and extols "the Faery Singers' stately tuned verse." Spenser's title to be the "Poet of poets," was at once acknowledged as by acclamation. And he himself has no difficulty in accepting his position. In some lines on the death of a friend's wife, whom he laments and praises, the idea presents itself that the great queen may not approve of her Shepherd wasting his lays on meaner persons; and he puts into his friend's mouth a deprecation of her possible jealousy. The lines are characteristic, both in their beauty and music, and in the strangeness, in our eyes, of the excuse made for the poet.

Ne let Eliza, royall Shepheardesse, The praises of my parted love envy, For she hath praises in all plenteousnesse Powr'd upon her, like showers of Castaly, By her own Shepheard, Colin, her owne Shepheard, That her with heavenly hymnes doth deifie, Of rustick muse full hardly to be betterd.

She is the Rose, the glorie of the day, And mine the Primrose in the lowly shade: Mine, ah! not mine; amisse I mine did say: Not mine, but His, which mine awhile her made; Mine to be His, with him to live for ay. O that so faire a flower so soone should fade, And through untimely tempest fall away!

She fell away in her first ages spring, Whil'st yet her leafe was greene, and fresh her rinde, And whilst her braunch faire blossomes foorth did bring, She fell away against all course of kinde. For age to dye is right, but youth is wrong; She fel away like fruit blowne downe with winde. Weepe, Shepheard! weepe, to make my undersong.

Thus in both his literary enterprises, Spenser had been signally successful. The Shepherd's Calendar in 1580 had immediately raised high hopes of his powers. The Faery Queen in 1590 had more than fulfilled them. In the interval a considerable change had happened in English cultivation. Shakespere had come to London, though the world did not yet know all that he was. Sidney had published his Defense of Poesie, and had written the Arcadia, though it was not yet published. Marlowe had begun to write, and others beside him were preparing the change which was to come on the English Drama. Two scholars who had shared with Spenser in the bounty of Robert Newell were beginning, in different lines, to raise the level of thought and style. Hooker was beginning to give dignity to controversy, and to show what English prose might rise to. Lancelot Andrewes, Spenser's junior at school and college, was training himself at St. Paul's, to lead the way to a larger and higher kind of preaching than the English clergy had yet reached. The change of scene from Ireland to the centre of English interests, must have been, as Spenser describes it, very impressive. England was alive with aspiration and effort; imaginations were inflamed and hearts stirred by the deeds of men who described with the same energy with which they acted. Amid such influences, and with such a friend as Ralegh, Spenser may naturally have been tempted by some of the dreams of advancement of which Ralegh's soul was full. There is strong probability, from the language of his later poems, that he indulged such hopes, and that they were disappointed. A year after the entry in the Stationers' Register of the Faery Queen (29 Dec., 1590), Ponsonby, his publisher, entered a volume of "Complaints, containing sundry small poems of the World's Vanity," to which he prefixed the following notice.


SINCE my late setting foorth of the Faerie Queene, finding that it hath found a favourable passage amongst you, I have sithence endevoured by all good meanes (for the better encrease and accomplishment of your delights,) to get into my handes such smale Poemes of the same Authors, as I heard were disperst abroad in sundrie hands, and not easie to bee come by, by himselfe; some of them having bene diverslie imbeziled and purloyned from him since his departure over Sea. Of the which I have, by good meanes, gathered togeather these fewe parcels present, which I have caused to bee imprinted altogeather, for that they al seeme to containe like matter of argument in them; being all complaints and meditations of the worlds vanitie, verie grave and profitable. To which effect I understand that he besides wrote sundrie others, namelie Ecclesiastes and Canticum canticorum translated, A senights slumber, The hell of lovers, his Purgatorie, being all dedicated to Ladies; so as it may seeme he ment them all to one volume. Besides some other Pamphlets looselie scattered abroad, as The dying Pellican, The howers of the Lord, The sacrifice of a sinner, The seven Psalmes, &c., which when I can, either by himselfe or otherwise, attaine too, I meane likewise for your favour sake to set foorth. In the meane time, praying you gentlie to accept of these, and graciouslie to entertaine the new Poet, I take leave.

The collection is a miscellaneous one, both as to subjects and date: it contains among other things, the translations from Petrarch and Du Bellay, which had appeared in Vander Noodt's Theatre of Worldlings, in 1569. But there are also some pieces of later date; and they disclose not only personal sorrows and griefs, but also an experience which had ended in disgust and disappointment. In spite of Ralegh's friendship, he had found that in the Court he was not likely to thrive. The two powerful men who had been his earliest friends had disappeared. Philip Sidney had died in 1586; Leicester, soon after the destruction of the Armada, in 1588. And they had been followed (April, 1590) by Sidney's powerful father-in-law, Francis Walsingham. The death of Leicester, untended, unlamented, powerfully impressed Spenser, always keenly alive to the pathetic vicissitudes of human greatness. In one of these pieces, The Ruins of Time, addressed to Sidney's sister, the Countess of Pembroke, Spenser thus imagines the death of Leicester,—

It is not long, since these two eyes beheld A mightie Prince, of most renowmed race, Whom England high in count of honour held, And greatest ones did sue to gaine his grace; Of greatest ones he, greatest in his place, Sate in the bosome of his Soveraine, And Right and loyall did his word maintaine.

I saw him die, I saw him die, as one Of the meane people, and brought foorth on beare; I saw him die, and no man left to mone His dolefull fate, that late him loved deare: Scarse anie left to close his eylids neare; Scarse anie left upon his lips to laie The sacred sod, or Requiem to saie.

O! trustless state of miserable men, That builde your blis on hope of earthly thing, And vainlie thinke your selves halfe happie then, When painted faces with smooth flattering Doo fawne on you, and your wide praises sing; And, when the courting masker louteth lowe, Him true in heart and trustie to you trow.

For Sidney, the darling of the time, who had been to him not merely a cordial friend, but the realized type of all that was glorious in manhood, and beautiful in character and gifts, his mourning was more than that of a looker-on at a moving instance of the frailty of greatness. It was the poet's sorrow for the poet, who had almost been to him what the elder brother is to the younger. Both now, and in later years, his affection for one who was become to him a glorified saint, showed itself in deep and genuine expression, through the affectations which crowned the "herse" of Astrophel and Philisides. He was persuaded that Sidney's death had been a grave blow to literature and learning. The Ruins of Time, and still more the Tears of the Muses, are full of lamentations over returning barbarism and ignorance, and the slight account made by those in power of the gifts and the arts of the writer, the poet, and the dramatist. Under what was popularly thought the crabbed and parsimonious administration of Burghley, and with the churlishness of the Puritans, whom he was supposed to foster, it seemed as if the poetry of the time was passing away in chill discouragement. The effect is described in lines which, as we now naturally suppose, and Dryden also thought, can refer to no one but Shakespere. But it seems doubtful whether all this could have been said of Shakespere in 1590. It seems more likely that this also is an extravagant compliment to Philip Sidney, and his masking performances. He was lamented elsewhere under the poetical name of Willy. If it refers to him, it was probably written before his death, though not published till after it; for the lines imply, not that he is literally dead, but that he is in retirement. The expression that he is "dead of late," is explained in four lines below, as "choosing to sit in idle cell," and is one of Spenser's common figures for inactivity or sorrow.[107:1]

The verses are the lamentations of the Muse of Comedy.


Where be the sweete delights of learning's treasure That wont with Comick sock to beautefie The painted Theaters, and fill with pleasure The listners eyes and eares with melodie; In which I late was wont to raine as Queene, And maske in mirth with Graces well bescene?

O! all is gone; and all that goodly glee, Which wont to be the glorie of gay wits, Is layed abed, and no where now to see; And in her roome unseemly Sorrow sits, With hollow browes and greisly countenaunce, Marring my joyous gentle dalliaunce.

And him beside sits ugly Barbarisme, And brutish Ignorance, ycrept of late Out of dredd darknes of the deepe Abysme, Where being bredd, he light and heaven does hate: They in the mindes of men now tyrannize, And the faire Scene with rudenes foule disguize.

All places they with follie have possest, And with vaine toyes the vulgare entertaine; But me have banished, with all the rest That whilome wont to wait upon my traine, Fine Counterfesaunce, and unhurtfull Sport, Delight, and Laughter, deckt in seemly sort.

All these, and all that els the Comick Stage With seasoned wit and goodly pleasance graced, By which mans life in his likest image Was limned forth, are wholly now defaced; And those sweete wits, which wont the like to frame, Are now despizd, and made a laughing game.

And he, the man whom Nature selfe had made To mock her selfe, and truth to imitate, With kindly counter under Mimick shade, Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late; With whom all joy and jolly merriment Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.

* * * * *

But that same gentle Spirit, from whose pen Large streames of honnie and sweete Nectar flowe, Scorning the boldnes of such base-borne men, Which dare their follies forth so rashlie throwe, Doth rather choose to sit in idle Cell, Than so himselfe to mockerie to sell.

But the most remarkable of these pieces is a satirical fable, Mother Hubberd's Tale of the Ape and Fox, which may take rank with the satirical writings of Chaucer and Dryden for keenness of touch, for breadth of treatment, for swing and fiery scorn, and sustained strength of sarcasm. By his visit to the Court, Spenser had increased his knowledge of the realities of life. That brilliant Court, with a goddess at its head, and full of charming swains and divine nymphs, had also another side. It was still his poetical heaven. But with that odd insensibility to anomaly and glaring contrasts, which is seen in his time, and perhaps exists at all times, he passed from the celebration of the dazzling glories of Cynthia's Court, into a fierce vein of invective against its treacheries, its vain shows, its unceasing and mean intrigues, its savage jealousies, its fatal rivalries, the scramble there for preferment in Church and State. When it is considered what great persons might easily and naturally have been identified at the time with the Ape and the Fox, the confederate impostors, charlatans, and bullying swindlers, who had stolen the lion's skin, and by it mounted to the high places of the State, it seems to be a proof of the indifference of the Court to the power of mere literature, that it should have been safe to write and publish so freely, and so cleverly. Dull Catholic lampoons and Puritan scurrilities did not pass thus unnoticed. They were viewed as dangerous to the State, and dealt with accordingly. The fable contains what we can scarcely doubt to be some of that wisdom which Spenser learnt by his experience of the Court.

So pitifull a thing is Suters state! Most miserable man, whom wicked fate Hath brought to Court, to sue for had-ywist, That few have found, and manie one hath mist! Full little knowest thou, that hast not tride, What hell it is in suing long to bide: To loose good dayes, that might be better spent; To wast long nights in pensive discontent; To speed to day, to be put back to morrow; To feed on hope, to pine with feare and sorrow; To have thy Princes grace, yet want her Peeres; To have thy asking, yet waite manie yeeres; To fret thy soule with crosses and with cares; To eate thy heart through comfortlesse dispaires; To fawne, to crowche, to waite, to ride, to ronne, To spend, to give, to want, to be undonne. Unhappie wight, borne to disastrous end, That doth his life in so long tendance spend! Who ever leaves sweete home, where meane estate In safe assurance, without strife or hate, Findes all things needfull for contentment meeke, And will to Court for shadowes vaine to seeke, Or hope to gaine, himselfe will a daw trie: That curse God send unto mine enemie!

Spenser probably did not mean his characters to fit too closely to living persons. That might have been dangerous. But it is difficult to believe that he had not distinctly in his eye a very great personage, the greatest in England next to the Queen, in the following picture of the doings of the Fox installed at Court.

But the false Foxe most kindly plaid his part; For whatsoever mother-wit or arte Could worke, he put in proofe: no practise slie, No counterpoint of cunning policie, No reach, no breach, that might him profit bring, But he the same did to his purpose wring. Nought suffered he the Ape to give or graunt, But through his hand must passe the Fiaunt.

* * * * *

He chaffred Chayres in which Churchmen were set, And breach of lawes to privie ferme did let: No statute so established might bee, Nor ordinaunce so needfull, but that hee Would violate, though not with violence, Yet under colour of the confidence The which the Ape repos'd in him alone, And reckned him the kingdomes corner stone. And ever, when he ought would bring to pas, His long experience the platforme was: And, when he ought not pleasing would put by The cloke was care of thrift, and husbandry, For to encrease the common treasures store; But his owne treasure he encreased more, And lifted up his loftie towres thereby, That they began to threat the neighbour sky; The whiles the Princes pallaces fell fast To ruine (for what thing can ever last?) And whilest the other Peeres, for povertie, Were forst their auncient houses to let lie, And their olde Castles to the ground to fall, Which their forefathers, famous over-all, Had founded for the Kingdome's ornament, And for their memories long moniment: But he no count made of Nobilitie, Nor the wilde beasts whom armes did glorifie, The Realmes chiefe strength and girlond of the crowne. All these through fained crimes he thrust adowne, Or made them dwell in darknes of disgrace; For none, but whom he list, might come in place. Of men of armes he had but small regard, But kept them lowe, and streigned verie hard. For men of learning little he esteemed; His wisdome he above their learning deemed. As for the rascall Commons, least he cared, For not so common was his bountie shared. Let God, (said he) if please, care for the manie, I for my selfe must care before els anie. So did he good to none, to manie ill, So did he all the kingdome rob and pill; Yet none durst speake, ne none durst of him plaine, So groat he was in grace, and rich through gaine. Ne would he anie let to have accesse Unto the Prince, but by his owne addresse, For all that els did come were sure to faile.

Even at Court, however, the poet finds a contrast to all this: he had known Philip Sidney, and Ralegh was his friend.

Yet the brave Courtier, in whose beauteous thought Regard of honour harbours more than ought, Doth loath such base condition, to backbite Anies good name for envie or despite: He stands on tearmes of honourable minde, Ne will be carried with the common winde Of Courts inconstant mutabilitie, Ne after everie tattling fable flie; But heares and sees the follies of the rest, And thereof gathers for himselfe the best. He will not creepe, nor crouche with fained face, But walkes upright with comely stedfast pace, And unto all doth yeeld due curtesie; But not with kissed hand belowe the knee, As that same Apish crue is wont to doo: For he disdaines himselfe t' embase theretoo. He hates fowle leasings, and vile flatterie, Two filthie blots in noble gentrie; And lothefull idlenes he doth detest, The canker worme of everie gentle brest.

Or lastly, when the bodie list to pause, His minde unto the Muses he withdrawes: Sweete Ladie Muses, Ladies of delight, Delights of life, and ornaments of light! With whom he close confers with wise discourse, Of Natures workes, of heavens continuall course, Of forreine lands, of people different, Of kingdomes change, of divers gouvernment, Of dreadfull battailes of renowned Knights; With which he kindleth his ambitious sprights To like desire and praise of noble fame, The onely upshot whereto he doth ayme: For all his minde on honour fixed is, To which he levels all his purposis, And in his Princes service spends his dayes, Not so much for to gaine, or for to raise Himselfe to high degree, as for his grace, And in his liking to winne worthie place, Through due deserts and comely carriage.

The fable also throws light on the way in which Spenser regarded the religious parties, whose strife was becoming loud and threatening. Spenser is often spoken of as a Puritan. He certainly had the Puritan hatred of Rome; and in the Church system as it existed in England he saw many instances of ignorance, laziness, and corruption; and he agreed with the Puritans in denouncing them. His pictures of the "formal priest," with his excuses for doing nothing, his new-fashioned and improved substitutes for the ornate and also too lengthy ancient service, and his general ideas of self-complacent comfort, has in it an odd mixture of Roman Catholic irony with Puritan censure. Indeed, though Spenser hated with an Englishman's hatred all that he considered Roman superstition and tyranny, he had a sense of the poetical impressiveness of the old ceremonial, and the ideas which clung to it, its pomp, its beauty, its suggestiveness, very far removed from the iconoclastic temper of the Puritans. In his View of the State of Ireland, he notes as a sign of its evil condition the state of the churches, "most of them ruined and even with the ground," and the rest "so unhandsomely patched and thatched, that men do even shun the places, for the uncomeliness thereof." "The outward form (assure yourself)," he adds, "doth greatly draw the rude people to the reverencing and frequenting thereof, whatever some of our late too nice fools may say, that there is nothing in the seemly form and comely order of the church."

"Ah! but (said th' Ape) the charge is wondrous great, To feede mens soules, and hath an heavie threat." "To feed mens soules (quoth he) is not in man; For they must feed themselves, doo what we can. We are but charged to lay the meate before: Eate they that list, we need to doo no more. But God it is that feeds them with his grace, The bread of life powr'd downe from heavenly place. Therefore said he, that with the budding rod Did rule the Jewes, All shalbe taught of God. That same hath Jesus Christ now to him raught, By whom the flock is rightly fed, and taught: He is the Shepheard, and the Priest is hee; We but his shepheard swaines ordain'd to bee. Therefore herewith doo not your selfe dismay; Ne is the paines so great, but beare ye may, For not so great, as it was wont of yore, It's now a dayes, ne halfe so streight and sore. They whilome used duly everie day Their service and their holie things to say, At morne and even, besides their Anthemes sweete, Their penie Masses, and their Complynes meete, Their Diriges, their Trentals, and their shrifts, Their memories, their singings, and their gifts. Now all those needlesse works are laid away; Now once a weeke, upon the Sabbath day, It is enough to doo our small devotion, And then to follow any merrie motion. Ne are we tyde to fast, but when we list; Ne to weare garments base of wollen twist, But with the finest silkes us to aray, That before God we may appeare more gay, Resembling Aarons glorie in his place: For farre unfit it is, that person bace Should with vile cloaths approach Gods majestie, Whom no uncleannes may approachen nie; Or that all men, which anie master serve, Good garments for their service should deserve; But he that serves the Lord of hoasts most high, And that in highest place, t' approach him nigh, And all the peoples prayers to present Before his throne, as on ambassage sent Both too and fro, should not deserve to weare A garment better than of wooll or heare. Beside, we may have lying by our sides Our lovely Lasses, or bright shining Brides: We be not tyde to wilfull chastitie, But have the Gospell of free libertie."

But his weapon is double-edged, and he had not much more love for

That ungracious crew which feigns demurest grace.

The first prescription which the Priest gives to the Fox who desires to rise to preferment in the Church is to win the favour of some great Puritan noble.

First, therefore, when ye have in handsome wise Your selfe attyred, as you can devise, Then to some Noble-man your selfe applye, Or other great one in the worldes eye, That hath a zealous disposition To God, and so to his religion. There must thou fashion eke a godly zeale, Such as no carpers may contrayre reveale; For each thing fained ought more warie bee. There thou must walke in sober gravitee, And seeme as Saintlike as Sainte Radegund: Fast much, pray oft, looke lowly on the ground, And unto everie one doo curtesie meeke: These lookes (nought saying) doo a benefice seeke, And be thou sure one not to lack or long.

But he is impartial, and points out that there are other ways of rising—by adopting the fashions of the Court, "facing, and forging, and scoffing, and crouching to please," and so to "mock out a benefice;" or else, by compounding with a patron to give him half the profits, and in the case of a bishopric, to submit to the alienation of its manors to some powerful favourite, as the Bishop of Salisbury had to surrender Sherborn to Sir Walter Ralegh. Spenser, in his dedication of Mother Hubberd's Tale to one of the daughters of Sir John Spencer, Lady Compton and Monteagle, speaks of it as "long sithence composed in the raw conceit of youth." But, whatever this may mean, and it was his way thus to deprecate severe judgments, his allowing the publication of it at this time, shows, if the work itself did not show it, that he was in very serious earnest in his bitter sarcasms on the base and evil arts which brought success at the Court.

He stayed in England about a year and a half [1590-91], long enough apparently to make up his mind that he had not much to hope for from his great friends, Ralegh and perhaps Essex, who were busy on their own schemes. Ralegh, from whom Spenser might hope most, was just beginning to plunge into that extraordinary career, in the thread of which, glory and disgrace, far-sighted and princely public spirit and insatiate private greed, were to be so strangely intertwined. In 1592 he planned the great adventure which astonished London by the fabulous plunder of the Spanish treasure-ships; in the same year he was in the Tower, under the Queen's displeasure for his secret marriage, affecting the most ridiculous despair at her going away from the neighbourhood, and pouring forth his flatteries on this old woman of sixty as if he had no bride of his own to love:—"I that was wont to behold her riding like Alexander, hunting like Diana, walking like Venus; the gentle wind blowing her fair hair about her pure cheeks like a nymph; sometimes, sitting in the shade like a goddess; sometimes, singing like an angel; sometimes, playing like Orpheus—behold the sorrow of this world—once amiss, hath bereaved me of all." Then came the exploration of Guiana, the expedition to Cadiz, the Island voyage [1595-1597]. Ralegh had something else to do than to think of Spenser's fortunes.

Spenser turned back once more to Ireland, to his clerkship of the Council of Munster, which he soon resigned; to be worried with law-suits about "lands in Shanballymore and Ballingrath," by his time-serving and oppressive Irish neighbour, Maurice Roche, Lord Fermoy; to brood still over his lost ideal and hero, Sidney; to write the story of his visit in the pastoral supplement to the Shepherd's Calendar, Colin Clout's come home again; to pursue the story of Gloriana's knights; and to find among the Irish maidens another Elizabeth, a wife instead of a queen, whose wooing and winning were to give new themes to his imagination.


[107:1] v. Colin Clout, l. 31. Astrophel, l. 175.



"Uncouth [= unknown], unkist," are the words from Chaucer,[118:1] with which the friend, who introduced Spenser's earliest poetry to the world, bespeaks forbearance, and promises matter for admiration and delight in the Shepherd's Calendar. "You have to know my new poet, he says in effect: and when you have learned his ways, you will find how much you have to honour and love him." "I doubt not," he says, with a boldness of prediction, manifestly sincere, which is remarkable about an unknown man, "that so soon as his name shall come into the knowledge of men, and his worthiness be sounded in the trump of fame, but that he shall be not only kissed, but also beloved of all, embraced of the most, and wondered at of the best." Never was prophecy more rapidly and more signally verified, probably beyond the prophet's largest expectation. But he goes on to explain and indeed apologize for certain features of the new poet's work, which even to readers of that day might seem open to exception. And to readers of to-day, the phrase, uncouth, unkist, certainly expresses what many have to confess, if they are honest, as to their first acquaintance with the Faery Queen. Its place in literature is established beyond controversy. Yet its first and unfamiliar aspect inspires respect, perhaps interest, rather than attracts and satisfies. It is not the remoteness of the subject alone, nor the distance of three centuries which raises a bar between it and those to whom it is new. Shakespere becomes familiar to us from the first moment. The impossible legends of Arthur have been made in the language of to-day once more to touch our sympathies, and have lent themselves to express our thoughts. But at first acquaintance the Faery Queen to many of us has been disappointing. It has seemed not only antique, but artificial. It has seemed fantastic. It has seemed, we cannot help avowing, tiresome. It is not till the early appearances have worn off, and we have learned to make many allowances and to surrender ourselves to the feelings and the standards by which it claims to affect and govern us, that we really find under what noble guidance we are proceeding, and what subtle and varied spells are ever round us.

I. The Faery Queen is the work of an unformed literature, the product of an unperfected art. English poetry, English language, in Spenser's, nay in Shakespere's day, had much to learn, much to unlearn. They never, perhaps, have been stronger or richer, than in that marvellous burst of youth, with all its freedom of invention, of observation, of reflection. But they had not that which only the experience and practice of eventful centuries could give them. Even genius must wait for the gifts of time. It cannot forerun the limitations of its day, nor anticipate the conquests and common possessions of the future. Things are impossible to the first great masters of art which are easy to their second-rate successors. The possibility, or the necessity of breaking through some convention, of attempting some unattempted effort, had not, among other great enterprises, occurred to them. They were laying the steps in a magnificent fashion on which those after them were to rise. But we ought not to shut our eyes to mistakes or faults to which attention had not yet been awakened, or for avoiding which no reasonable means had been found. To learn from genius, we must try to recognize, both what is still imperfect, and what is grandly and unwontedly successful. There is no great work of art, not excepting even the Iliad or the Parthenon, which is not open, especially in point of ornament, to the scoff of the scoffer, or to the injustice of those who do not mind being unjust. But all art belongs to man; and man, even when he is greatest, is always limited and imperfect.

The Faery Queen, as a whole, bears on its face a great fault of construction. It carries with it no adequate account of its own story; it does not explain itself, or contain in its own structure what would enable a reader to understand how it arose. It has to be accounted for by a prose explanation and key outside of itself. The poet intended to reserve the central event, which was the occasion of all the adventures of the poem, till they had all been related, leaving them as it were in the air, till at the end of twelve long books the reader should at last be told how the whole thing had originated, and what it was all about. He made the mistake of confounding the answer to a riddle with the crisis which unties the tangle of a plot and satisfies the suspended interest of a tale. None of the great model poems before him, however full of digression and episode, had failed to arrange their story with clearness. They needed no commentary outside themselves to say why they began as they did, and out of what antecedents they arose. If they started at once from the middle of things, they made their story, as it unfolded itself, explain, by more or less skilful devices, all that needed to be known about their beginnings. They did not think of rules of art. They did of themselves naturally what a good story-teller does, to make himself intelligible and interesting; and it is not easy to be interesting, unless the parts of the story are in their place.

The defect seems to have come upon Spenser when it was too late to remedy it in the construction of his poem; and he adopted the somewhat clumsy expedient of telling us what the poem itself ought to have told us of its general story, in a letter to Sir Walter Ralegh. Ralegh himself, indeed, suggested the letter: apparently (from the date, Jan. 23, 1590), after the first part had gone through the press. And without this after-thought, as the twelfth book was never reached, we should have been left to gather the outline and plan of the story, from imperfect glimpses and allusions, as we have to fill up from hints and assumptions the gaps of an unskilful narrator, who leaves out what is essential to the understanding of his tale.

Incidentally, however, this letter is an advantage: for we have in it the poet's own statement of his purpose in writing, as well as a necessary sketch of his story. His allegory, as he had explained to Bryskett and his friends, had a moral purpose. He meant to shadow forth, under the figures of twelve knights, and in their various exploits, the characteristics of "a gentleman or noble person," "fashioned in virtuous and gentle discipline." He took his machinery from the popular legends about King Arthur, and his heads of moral philosophy from the current Aristotelian catalogue of the Schools.

Sir, knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this booke of mine, which I have entituled the Faery Queene, being a continued Allegory, or darke conceit, I haue thought good, as well for avoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being so by you commanded,) to discover unto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I have fashioned, without expressing of any particular purposes, or by accidents, therein occasioned. The generall end therefore of all the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline: Which for that I conceived shoulde be most plausible and pleasing, being coloured with an historicall fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for variety of matter then for profite of the ensample, I chose the historye of King Arthure, as most fitte for the excellency of his person, being made famous by many mens former workes, and also furthest from the daunger of envy, and suspition of present time. In which I have followed all the antique Poets historicall; first Homere, who in the Persons of Agamemnon and Ulysses hath ensampled a good governour and a vertuous man, the one in his Ilias, the other in his Odysseis: then Virgil, whose like intention was to doe in the person of Aeneas: after him Ariosto comprised them both in his Orlando: and lately Tasso dissevered them againe, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that part which they in Philosophy call Ethice, or vertues of a private man, coloured in his Rinaldo; the other named Politice in his Godfredo. By ensample of which excellente Poets, I labour to pourtraict in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a brave knight, perfected in the twelve private morall vertues, as Aristotle hath devised; the which is the purpose of these first twelve bookes: which if I finde to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged to frame the other part of polliticke vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king.

Then, after explaining that he meant the Faery Queen "for glory in general intention, but in particular" for Elizabeth, and his Faery Land for her kingdom, he proceeds to explain, what the first three books hardly explain, what the Faery Queen had to do with the structure of the poem.

But, because the beginning of the whole worke seemeth abrupte, and as depending upon other antecedents, it needs that ye know the occasion of these three knights seuerall adventures. For the Methode of a Poet historical is not such, as of an Historiographer. For an Historiographer discourseth of affayres orderly as they were donne, accounting as well the times as the actions; but a Poet thrusteth into the middest, even where it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste, and divining of thinges to come, maketh a pleasing Analysis of all.

The beginning therefore of my history, if it were to be told by an Historiographer should be the twelfth booke, which is the last; where I devise that the Faery Queene kept her Annuall feaste xii. dayes; uppon which xii. severall dayes, the occasions of the xii. severall adventures hapned, which, being undertaken by xii. severall knights, are in these xii. books severally handled and discoursed. The first was this. In the beginning of the feast, there presented him selfe a tall clownishe younge man, who falling before the Queene of Faries desired a boone (as the manner then was) which during that feast she might not refuse; which was that hee might have the atchievement of any adventure, which during that feaste should happen: that being graunted, he rested him on the floore, unfitte through his rusticity for a better place. Soone after entred a faire Ladye in mourning weedes, riding on a white Asse, with a dwarfe behinde her leading a warlike steed, that bore the Armes of a knight, and his speare in the dwarfes hand. Shee, falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother, an ancient King and Queene, had beene by an huge dragon many years shut up in a brasen Castle, who thence suffred them not to yssew; and therefore besought the Faery Queene to assygne her some one of her knights to take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish person, upstarting, desired that adventure: whereat the Queene much wondering, and the Lady much gainesaying, yet he earnestly importuned his desire. In the end the Lady told him, that unlesse that armour which she brought would serve him (that is, the armour of a Christian man specified by Saint Paul, vi. Ephes.) that he could not succeed in that enterprise; which being forthwith put upon him, with dewe furnitures thereunto, he seemed the goodliest man in al that company, and was well liked of the Lady. And eftesoones taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that straunge courser, he went forth with her on that adventure: where beginneth the first booke, viz.

A gentle knight was pricking on the playne, &c.

That it was not without reason that this explanatory key was prefixed to the work, and that either Spenser or Ralegh felt it to be almost indispensable, appear from the concluding paragraph.

Thus much, Sir, I have briefly overronne to direct your understanding to the wel-head of the History; that from thence gathering the whole intention of the conceit, ye may as in a handfull gripe al the discourse, which otherwise may happily seeme tedious and confused.

According to the plan thus sketched out, we have but a fragment of the work. It was published in two parcels, each of three books, in 1590 and 1596; and after his death two cantos, with two stray stanzas, of a seventh book were found and printed. Each perfect book consists of twelve cantos of from thirty-five to sixty of his nine-line stanzas. The books published in 1590 contain, as he states in his prefatory letter, the legends of Holiness, of Temperance, and of Chastity. Those published in 1596, contain the legends of Friendship, of Justice, and of Courtesy. The posthumous cantos are entitled, Of Mutability, and are said to be apparently parcel of a legend of Constancy. The poem which was to treat of the "politic" virtues was never approached. Thus we have but a fourth part of the whole of the projected work. It is very doubtful whether the remaining six books were completed. But it is probable that a portion of them was written, which, except the cantos On Mutability, has perished. And the intended titles or legends of the later books have not been preserved.

Thus the poem was to be an allegorical story; a story branching out into twelve separate stories, which themselves would branch out again and involve endless other stories. It is a complex scheme to keep well in hand, and Spenser's art in doing so has been praised by some of his critics. But the art, if there is any, is so subtle that it fails to save the reader from perplexity. The truth is that the power of ordering and connecting a long and complicated plan was not one of Spenser's gifts. In the first two books, the allegorical story proceeds from point to point with fair coherence and consecutiveness. After them the attempt to hold the scheme together, except in the loosest and most general way, is given up as too troublesome or too confined. The poet prefixes indeed the name of a particular virtue to each book, but, with slender reference to it, he surrenders himself freely to his abundant flow of ideas, and to whatever fancy or invention tempts him, and ranges unrestrained over the whole field of knowledge and imagination. In the first two books, the allegory is transparent and the story connected. The allegory is of the nature of the Pilgrim's Progress. It starts from the belief that religion, purified from falsehood, superstition, and sin, is the foundation of all nobleness in man; and it portrays, under images and with names, for the most part easily understood, and easily applied to real counterparts, the struggle which every one at that time supposed to be going on, between absolute truth and righteousness on one side, and fatal error and bottomless wickedness on the other. Una, the Truth, the one and only Bride of man's spirit, marked out by the tokens of humility and innocence, and by her power over wild and untamed natures—the single Truth, in contrast to the counterfeit Duessa, false religion, and its actual embodiment in the false rival Queen of Scots—Truth, the object of passionate homage, real with many, professed with all, which after the impostures and scandals of the preceding age, had now become characteristic of that of Elizabeth—Truth, its claims, its dangers, and its champions, are the subject of the first book: and it is represented as leading the manhood of England, in spite, not only of terrible conflict, but of defeat and falls, through the discipline of repentance, to holiness and the blessedness which comes with it. The Red Cross Knight, St. George of England, whose name Georgos, the Ploughman, is dwelt upon, apparently to suggest that from the commonalty, the "tall clownish young men," were raised up the great champions of the Truth,—though sorely troubled by the wiles of Duessa, by the craft of the arch-sorcerer, by the force and pride of the great powers of the Apocalyptic Beast and Dragon, finally overcomes them, and wins the deliverance of Una and her love.

The second book, Of Temperance, pursues the subject, and represents the internal conquests of self-mastery, the conquests of a man over his passions, his violence, his covetousness, his ambition, his despair, his sensuality. Sir Guyon, after conquering many foes of goodness, is the destroyer of the most perilous of them all, Acrasia, licentiousness, and her ensnaring Bower of Bliss. But after this, the thread at once of story and allegory, slender henceforth at the best, is neglected and often entirely lost. The third book, the Legend of Chastity, is a repetition of the ideas of the latter part of the second, with a heroine, Britomart, in place of the Knight of the previous book, Sir Guyon, and with a special glorification of the high-flown and romantic sentiments about purity, which wore the poetic creed of the courtiers of Elizabeth, in flagrant and sometimes in tragic contrast to their practical conduct of life. The loose and ill-compacted nature of the plan becomes still more evident in the second instalment of the work. Even the special note of each particular virtue becomes more faint and indistinct. The one law to which the poet feels bound is to have twelve cantos in each book; and to do this he is sometimes driven to what in later times has been called padding. One of the cantos of the third book is a genealogy of British kings from Geoffrey of Monmouth; one of the cantos of the Legend of Friendship is made up of an episode, describing the marriage of the Thames and the Medway, with an elaborate catalogue of the English and Irish rivers, and the names of the sea-nymphs. In truth, he had exhausted his proper allegory, or he got tired of it. His poem became an elastic framework, into which he could fit whatever interested him and tempted him to composition. The gravity of the first books disappears. He passes into satire and caricature. We meet with Braggadochio and Trompart, with the discomfiture of Malecasta, with the conjugal troubles of Malbecco and Helenore, with the imitation from Ariosto of the Squire of Dames. He puts into verse a poetical physiology of the human body; he translates Lucretius, and speculates on the origin of human souls; he speculates, too, on social justice, and composes an argumentative refutation of the Anabaptist theories of right and equality among men. As the poem proceeds, he seems to feel himself more free to introduce what he pleases. Allusions to real men and events are sometimes clear, at other times evident, though they have now ceased to be intelligible to us. His disgust and resentment breaks out at the ways of the Court in sarcastic moralizing, or in pictures of dark and repulsive imagery. The characters and pictures of his friends furnish material for his poem; he does not mind touching on the misadventures of Ralegh, and even of Lord Grey, with sly humour or a word of candid advice. He becomes bolder in the distinct introduction of contemporary history. The defeat of Duessa was only figuratively shown in the first portion; in the second the subject is resumed. As Elizabeth is the "one form of many names," Gloriana, Belphoebe, Britomart, Mercilla, so "under feigned colours shading a true case" he deals with her rival. Mary seems at one time the false Florimel, the creature of enchantment, stirring up strife, and fought for by the foolish knights whom she deceives, Blandamour and Paridell, the counterparts of Norfolk and the intriguers of 1571. At another, she is the fierce Amazonian queen, Radegund, by whom for a moment, even Arthegal is brought into disgraceful thraldom, till Britomart, whom he has once fought against, delivers him. And finally the fate of the typical Duessa is that of the real Mary Queen of Scots described in great detail—a liberty in dealing with great affairs of state for which James of Scotland actually desired that he should be tried and punished.[128:2] So Philip II. is at one time the Soldan, at another the Spanish monster Geryoneo, at another the fosterer of Catholic intrigues in France and Ireland, Grantorto. But real names are also introduced with scarcely any disguise: Guizor, and Burbon, the Knight who throws away his shield, Henry IV., and his Lady Flourdelis, the Lady Beige, and her seventeen sons: the Lady Irena, whom Arthegal delivers. The overthrow of the Armada, the English war in the Low Countries, the apostasy of Henry IV., the deliverance of Ireland from the "great wrong" of Desmond's rebellion, the giant Grantorto, form, under more or less transparent allegory, great part of the Legend of Justice. Nay, Spenser's long fostered revenge on the lady who had once scorned him, the Rosalind of the Shepherd's Calendar, the Mirabella of the Faery Queen, and his own late and happy marriage in Ireland, are also brought in to supply materials for the Legend of Courtesy. So multifarious is the poem, full of all that he thought, or observed, or felt; a receptacle, without much care to avoid repetition, or to prune, correct, and condense, for all the abundance of his ideas, as they welled forth in his mind day by day. It is really a collection of separate tales and allegories, as much as the Arabian Nights, or, as its counterpart and rival of our own century, the Idylls of the King. As a whole it is confusing: but we need not treat it as a whole. Its continued interest soon breaks down. But it is probably best that Spenser gave his mind the vague freedom which suited it, and that he did not make efforts to tie himself down to his pre-arranged but too ambitious plan. We can hardly lose our way in it, for there is no way to lose. It is a wilderness in which we are left to wander. But there may be interest and pleasure in a wilderness, if we are prepared for the wandering.

Still, the complexity, or rather, the uncared-for and clumsy arrangement of the poem is matter which disturbs a reader's satisfaction, till he gets accustomed to the poet's way, and resigns himself to it. It is a heroic poem, in which the heroine, who gives her name to it, never appears: a story, of which the basis and starting-point is whimsically withheld for disclosure in the last book, which was never written. If Ariosto's jumps and transitions are more audacious, Spenser's intricacy is more puzzling. Adventures begin which have no finish. Actors in them drop from the clouds, claim an interest, and we ask in vain what has become of them. A vein of what are manifestly contemporary allusions breaks across the moral drift of the allegory, with an apparently distinct yet obscured meaning, and one of which it is the work of dissertations to find the key. The passion of the age was for ingenious riddling in morality as in love. And in Spenser's allegories we are not seldom at a loss to make out what and how much was really intended, amid a maze of overstrained analogies and over-subtle conceits, and attempts to hinder a too close and dangerous identification.

Indeed Spenser's mode of allegory, which was historical as well as moral, and contains a good deal of history, if we knew it, often seems devised to throw curious readers off the scent. It was purposely baffling and hazy. A characteristic trait was singled out. A name was transposed in anagram, like Irena, or distorted, as if by imperfect pronunciation, like Burbon and Arthegal, or invented to express a quality, like Una, or Gloriana, or Corceca, or Fradubio, or adopted with no particular reason from the Morte d'Arthur, or any other old literature. The personage is introduced with some feature, or amid circumstances which seem for a moment to fix the meaning. But when we look to the sequence of history being kept up in the sequence of the story, we find ourselves thrown out. A character which fits one person puts on the marks of another: a likeness which we identify with one real person passes into the likeness of some one else. The real, in person, incident, institution, shades off into the ideal; after showing itself by plain tokens, it turns aside out of its actual path of fact, and ends, as the poet thinks it ought to end, in victory or defeat, glory or failure. Prince Arthur passes from Leicester to Sidney, and then back again to Leicester. There are double or treble allegories; Elizabeth is Gloriana, Belphoebe, Britomart, Mercilla, perhaps Amoret; her rival is Duessa, the false Florimel, probably the fierce temptress, the Amazon Radegund. Thus, what for a moment was clear and definite, fades like the changing fringe of a dispersing cloud. The character which we identified disappears in other scenes and adventures, where we lose sight of all that identified it. A complete transformation destroys the likeness which was begun. There is an intentional dislocation of the parts of the story, when they might make it imprudently close in its reflection of facts or resemblance in portraiture. A feature is shown, a manifest allusion made, and then the poet starts off in other directions, to confuse and perplex all attempts at interpretation, which might be too particular and too certain. This was no doubt merely according to the fashion of the time, and the habits of mind into which the poet had grown. But there were often reasons for it, in an age so suspicious, and so dangerous to those who meddled with high matters of state.

2. Another feature which is on the surface of the Faery Queen, and which will displease a reader who has been trained to value what is natural and genuine, is its affectation of the language and the customs of life belonging to an age which is not its own. It is indeed redolent of the present: but it is almost avowedly an imitation of what was current in the days of Chaucer: of what were supposed to be the words, and the social ideas and conditions, of the age of chivalry. He looked back to the fashions and ideas of the Middle Ages, as Pindar sought his materials in the legends and customs of the Homeric times, and created a revival of the spirit of the age of the Heroes in an age of tyrants and incipient democracies.[132:3] The age of chivalry, in Spenser's day far distant, had yet left two survivals, one real, the other formal. The real survival was the spirit of armed adventure, which was never stronger or more stirring than in the gallants and discoverers of Elizabeth's reign, the captains of the English companies in the Low Countries, the audacious sailors who explored unknown oceans and plundered the Spaniards, the scholars and gentlemen equally ready for work on sea and land, like Ralegh and Sir Richard Grenville, of the "Revenge." The formal survival was the fashion of keeping up the trappings of knightly times, as we keep up Judge's wigs, court dresses, and Lord Mayor's shows. In actual life it was seen in pageants and ceremonies, in the yet lingering parade of jousts and tournaments, in the knightly accoutrements still worn in the days of the bullet and the cannon-ball. In the apparatus of the poet, as all were shepherds, when he wanted to represent the life of peace and letters, so all were knights or the foes and victims of knights, when his theme was action and enterprise. It was the custom that the Muse masked, to use Spenser's word, under these disguises; and this conventional masquerade of pastoral poetry or knight errantry was the form under which the poetical school that preceded the dramatists naturally expressed their ideas. It seems to us odd that peaceful sheepcotes and love-sick swains should stand for the world of the Tudors and Guises, or that its cunning statecraft and relentless cruelty should be represented by the generous follies of an imaginary chivalry. But it was the fashion which Spenser found, and he accepted it. His genius was not of that sort which breaks out from trammels, but of that which makes the best of what it finds. And whatever we may think of the fashion, at least he gave it new interest and splendour by the spirit with which he threw himself into it.

The condition which he took as the groundwork of his poetical fabric suggested the character of his language. Chaucer was then the "God of English poetry;" his was the one name which filled a place apart in the history of English verse. Spenser was a student of Chaucer, and borrowed as he judged fit, not only from his vocabulary, but from his grammatical precedents and analogies, with the object of giving an appropriate colouring to what was to be raised as far as possible above familiar life. Besides this, the language was still in such an unsettled state that from a man with resources like Spenser's, it naturally invited attempts to enrich and colour it, to increase its flexibility and power. The liberty of reviving old forms, of adopting from the language of the street and market homely but expressive words or combinations, of following in the track of convenient constructions, of venturing on new and bold phrases, was rightly greater in his time than at a later stage of the language. Many of his words, either invented or preserved, are happy additions; some which have not taken root in the language, we may regret. But it was a liberty which he abused. He was extravagant and unrestrained in his experiments on language. And they were made not merely to preserve or to invent a good expression. On his own authority, he cuts down, or he alters a word, or he adopts a mere corrupt pronunciation, to suit a place in his metre, or because he wants a rime. Precedents, as Mr. Guest has said, may no doubt be found for each one of these sacrifices to the necessities of metre or rime, in some one or other living dialectic usage, or even in printed books—"blend" for "blind," "misleeke" for "mislike," "kest" for "cast," "cherry" for "cherish," "vilde" for "vile," or even "wawes" for "waves," because it has to rime to "jaws." But when they are profusely used as they are in Spenser, they argue, as critics of his own age such as Puttenham, remarked,—either want of trouble, or want of resource. In his impatience he is reckless in making a word which he wants—"fortunize," "mercified," "unblindfold," "relive"—he is reckless in making one word do the duty of another, interchanging actives and passives, transferring epithets from their proper subjects. The "humbled grass," is the grass on which a man lies humbled: the "lamentable eye," is the eye which laments. "His treatment of words," says Mr. Craik, "on such occasions"—occasions of difficulty to his verse—"is like nothing that ever was seen, unless it might be Hercules breaking the back of the Nemean lion. He gives them any sense and any shape that the case may demand. Sometimes he merely alters a letter or two; sometimes he twists off the head or the tail of the unfortunate vocable altogether. But this fearless, lordly, truly royal style makes one only feel the more how easily, if he chose, he could avoid the necessity of having recourse to such outrages."

His own generation felt his licence to be extreme. "In affecting the ancients," said Ben Jonson, "he writ no language." Daniel writes sarcastically, soon after the Faery Queen appeared, of those who

Sing of knights and Palladines, In aged accents and untimely words.

And to us, though students of the language must always find interest in the storehouse of ancient or invented language to be found in Spenser, this mixture of what is obsolete or capriciously new is a bar, and not an unreasonable one, to a frank welcome at first acquaintance. Fuller remarks with some slyness, that "the many Chaucerisms used (for I will not say, affected) by him, are thought by the ignorant to be blemishes, known by the learned to be beauties, in his book; which notwithstanding had been more saleable, if more conformed to our modern language." The grotesque, though it has its place as one of the instruments of poetical effect, is a dangerous element to handle. Spenser's age was very insensible to the presence and the dangers of the grotesque, and he was not before his time in feeling what was unpleasing in incongruous mixtures. Strong in the abundant but unsifted learning of his day, a style of learning, which in his case was strangely inaccurate, he not only mixed the past with the present, fairyland with politics, mythology with the most serious Christian ideas, but he often mixed together the very features which are most discordant, in the colours, forms, and methods by which he sought to produce the effect of his pictures.

3. Another source of annoyance and disappointment is found in the imperfections and inconsistencies of the poet's standard of what is becoming to say and to write about. Exaggeration, diffuseness, prolixity, were the literary diseases of the age; an age of great excitement and hope, which had suddenly discovered its wealth and its powers, but not the rules of true economy in using them. With the classics open before it, and alive to much of the grandeur of their teaching, it was almost blind to the spirit of self-restraint, proportion, and simplicity which governed the great models. It was left to a later age to discern these and appreciate them. This unresisted proneness to exaggeration produced the extravagance and the horrors of the Elizabethan Drama, full, as it was, nevertheless, of insight and originality. It only too naturally led the earlier Spenser astray. What Dryden, in one of his interesting critical prefaces says of himself, is true of Spenser; "Thoughts, such as they are, come crowding in so fast upon me, that my only difficulty is to choose or to reject; to run them into verse, or to give them the other harmony of prose." There was in Spenser a facility for turning to account all material, original or borrowed, an incontinence of the descriptive faculty, which was ever ready to exercise itself on any object, the most unfitting and loathsome, as on the noblest, the purest, or the most beautiful. There are pictures in him which seem meant to turn our stomach. Worse than that there are pictures which for a time rank the poet of Holiness or Temperance, with the painters who used their great art to represent at once the most sacred and holiest forms, and also scenes which few people now like to look upon in company—scenes and descriptions which may perhaps from the habits of the time may have been playfully and innocently produced, but which it is certainly not easy to dwell upon innocently now. And apart from these serious faults, there is continually haunting us, amid incontestable richness, vigour, and beauty, a sense that the work is over-done. Spenser certainly did not want for humour and an eye for the ridiculous. There is no want in him, either, of that power of epigrammatic terseness, which, in spite of its diffuseness, his age valued and cultivated. But when he gets on a story or a scene, he never knows where to stop. His duels go on stanza after stanza till there is no sound part left in either champion. His palaces, landscapes, pageants, feasts, are taken to pieces in all their parts, and all these parts are likened to some other things. "His abundance," says Mr. Craik, "is often oppressive; it is like wading among unmown grass." And he drowns us in words. His abundant and incongruous adjectives may sometimes, perhaps, startle us unfairly, because their associations and suggestions have quite altered; but very often they are the idle outpouring of an unrestrained affluence of language. The impression remains that he wants a due perception of the absurd, the unnatural, the unnecessary; that he does not care if he makes us smile, or does not know how to help it, when he tries to make us admire or sympathize.

Under this head comes a feature which the "charity of history" may lead us to treat as simple exaggeration, but which often suggests something less pardonable, in the great characters, political or literary, of Elizabeth's reign. This was the gross, shameless, lying flattery paid to the Queen. There is really nothing like it in history. It is unique as a phenomenon that proud, able, free-spoken men, with all their high instincts of what was noble and true, with all their admiration of the Queen's high qualities, should have offered it, even as an unmeaning custom; and that a proud and free-spoken people should not, in the very genuineness of their pride in her and their loyalty, have received it with shouts of derision and disgust. The flattery of Roman emperors and Roman Popes, if as extravagant, was not so personal. Even Louis XIV. was not celebrated in his dreary old age, as a model of ideal beauty and a paragon of romantic perfection. It was no worship of a secluded and distant object of loyalty: the men who thus flattered knew perfectly well, often by painful experience, what Elizabeth was: able, indeed, high-spirited, successful, but ungrateful to her servants, capricious, vain, ill-tempered, unjust, and in her old age, ugly. And yet the Gloriana of the Faery Queen, the Empress of all nobleness,—Belphoebe, the Princess of all sweetness and beauty,—Britomart, the armed votaress of all purity,—Mercilla, the lady of all compassion and grace,—were but the reflections of the language in which it was then agreed upon by some of the greatest of Englishmen to speak, and to be supposed to think, of the Queen.

II. But when all these faults have been admitted, faults of design and faults of execution—and when it is admitted, further, that there is a general want of reality, substance, distinctness, and strength in the personages of the poem—that, compared with the contemporary drama, Spenser's knights and ladies and villains are thin and ghostlike, and that, as Daniel says, he

Paints shadows in imaginary lines—

it yet remains that our greatest poets since his day have loved him and delighted in him. He had Shakespere's praise. Cowley was made a poet by reading him. Dryden calls Milton "the poetical son of Spenser:" "Milton," he writes, "has acknowledged to me that Spenser was his original." Dryden's own homage to him is frequent and generous. Pope found as much pleasure in the Faery Queen in his later years as he had found in reading it when he was twelve years old: and what Milton, Dryden, and Pope admired, Wordsworth too found full of nobleness, purity, and sweetness. What is it that gives the Faery Queen its hold on those who appreciate the richness and music of English language, and who in temper and moral standard are quick to respond to English manliness and tenderness? The spell is to be found mainly in three things—(1) in the quaint stateliness of Spenser's imaginary world and its representatives; (2) in the beauty and melody of his numbers, the abundance and grace of his poetic ornaments, in the recurring and haunting rhythm of numberless passages, in which thought and imagery and language and melody are interwoven in one perfect and satisfying harmony; and (3) in the intrinsic nobleness of his general aim, his conception of human life, at once so exacting and so indulgent, his high ethical principles and ideals, his unfeigned honour for all that is pure and brave and unselfish and tender, his generous estimate of what is due from man to man of service, affection, and fidelity. His fictions embodied truths of character which with all their shadowy incompleteness were too real and too beautiful to lose their charm with time.

1. Spenser accepted from his age the quaint stateliness which is characteristic of his poem. His poetry is not simple and direct like that of the Greeks. It has not the exquisite finish and felicity of the best of the Latins. It has not the massive grandeur, the depth, the freedom, the shades and subtle complexities of feeling and motive, which the English dramatists found by going straight to nature. It has the stateliness of highly artificial conditions of society, of the Court, the pageant, the tournament, as opposed to the majesty of the great events in human life and history, its real vicissitudes, its catastrophes, its tragedies, its revolutions, its sins. Throughout the prolonged crisis of Elizabeth's reign, her gay and dashing courtiers, and even her serious masters of affairs, persisted in pretending to look on the world in which they lived, as if through the side-scenes of a masque, and relieved against the background of a stage-curtain. Human life, in those days, counted for little; fortune, honour, national existence hung in the balance; the game was one in which the heads of kings and queens and great statesmen were the stakes,—yet the players could not get out of their stiff and constrained costume, out of their artificial and fantastic figments of thought, out of their conceits and affectations of language. They carried it, with all their sagacity, with all their intensity of purpose, to the council-board, and the judgment-seat. They carried it to the scaffold. The conventional supposition was that at the Court, though every one knew better, all was perpetual sunshine, perpetual holiday, perpetual triumph, perpetual love-making. It was the happy reign of the good and wise and lovely. It was the discomfiture of the base, the faithless, the wicked, the traitors. This is what is reflected in Spenser's poem; at once, its stateliness, for there was no want of grandeur and magnificence in the public scene ever before Spenser's imagination; and its quaintness, because the whole outward apparatus of representation was borrowed from what was past, or from what did not exist, and implied surrounding circumstances in ludicrous contrast with fact, and men taught themselves to speak in character, and prided themselves on keeping it up by substituting for the ordinary language of life and emotion a cumbrous and involved indirectness of speech.

And yet that quaint stateliness is not without its attractions. We have indeed to fit ourselves for it. But when we have submitted to its demands on our imagination, it carries us along as much as the fictions of the stage. The splendours of the artificial are not the splendours of the natural; yet the artificial has its splendours, which impress and captivate and repay. The grandeur of Spenser's poem is a grandeur like that of a great spectacle, a great array of the forces of a nation, a great series of military effects, a great ceremonial assemblage of all that is highest and most eminent in a country, a coronation, a royal marriage, a triumph, a funeral. So, though Spenser's knights and ladies do what no men ever could do, and speak what no man ever spoke, the procession rolls forward with a pomp which never forgets itself, and with an inexhaustible succession of circumstance, fantasy, and incident. Nor is it always solemn and high-pitched. Its gravity is relieved from time to time with the ridiculous figure or character, the ludicrous incident, the jests and antics of the buffoon. It has been said that Spenser never smiles. He not only smiles, with amusement or sly irony; he wrote what he must have laughed at as he wrote, and meant us to laugh at. He did not describe with a grave face the terrors and misadventures of the boaster Braggadochio and his Squire, whether or not a caricature of the Duke of Alencon and his "gentleman," the "petit singe," Simier. He did not write with a grave face the Irish row about the false Florimel (IV. 5),—

Then unto Satyran she was adjudged, Who was right glad to gaine so goodly meed: But Blandamour thereat full greatly grudged, And litle prays'd his labours evill speed, That for to winne the saddle lost the steed. Ne lesse thereat did Paridell complaine, And thought t'appeale from that which was decreed To single combat with Sir Satyrane: Thereto him Ate stird, new discord to maintaine.

And eke, with these, full many other Knights She through her wicked working did incense Her to demaund and chalenge as their rights, Deserved for their perils recompense. Amongst the rest, with boastfull vaine pretense, Stept Braggadochio forth, and as his thrall Her claym'd, by him in battell wonne long sens: Whereto her selfe he did to witnesse call: Who, being askt, accordingly confessed all.

Thereat exceeding wroth was Satyran; And wroth with Satyran was Blandamour; And wroth with Blandamour was Erivan; And at them both Sir Paridell did loure. So all together stird up strifull stoure, And readie were new battell to darraine. Each one profest to be her paramoure, And vow'd with speare and shield it to maintaine; Ne Judges powre, ne reasons rule, mote them restraine.

Nor the behaviour of the "rascal many" at the sight of the dead Dragon (I. 12),—

And after all the raskall many ran, Heaped together in rude rablement, To see the face of that victorious man, Whom all admired as from heaven sent, And gazd upon with gaping wonderment; But when they came where that dead Dragon lay, Stretcht on the ground in monstrous large extent, The sight with ydle feare did them dismay, Ne durst approch him nigh to touch, or once assay.

Some feard, and fledd; some feard, and well it fayned; One, that would wiser seeme then all the rest, Warnd him not touch, for yet perhaps remaynd Some lingring life within his hollow brest, Or in his wombe might lurke some hidden nest Of many Dragonettes, his fruitfull seede: Another saide, that in his eyes did rest Yet sparckling fyre, and badd thereof take heed; Another said, he saw him move his eyes indeed.

One mother, whenas her foolehardy chyld Did come too neare, and with his talants play, Halfe dead through feare, her litle babe revyld, And to her gossibs gan in counsell say; 'How can I tell, but that his talants may Yet scratch my sonne, or rend his tender hand?' So diversly them selves in vaine they fray; Whiles some more bold to measure him nigh stand, To prove how many acres he did spred of land.

And his humour is not the less real that it affects serious argument, in the excuse which he urges for his fairy tales (II. 1).

Right well I wote, most mighty Soveraine, That all this famous antique history Of some th' aboundance of an ydle braine Will judged be, and painted forgery, Rather then matter of just memory; Sith none that breatheth living aire dees know Where is that happy land of Faery, Which I so much doe vaunt, yet no where show, But vouch antiquities, which no body can know.

But let that man with better sence advize, That of the world least part to us is red; And daily how through hardy enterprize Many great Regions are discovered, Which to late age were never mentioned Who ever heard of th' Indian Peru? Or who in venturous vessell measured The Amazon huge river, now found trew Or fruitfullest Virginia who did ever vew?

Yet all these were, when no man did them know, Yet have from wisest ages hidden beene; And later times thinges more unknowne shall show. Why then should witlesse man so much misweene, That nothing is but that which he hath seene? What if within the Moones fayre shining spheare, What if in every other starre unseene Of other worldes he happily should heare, He wonder would much more; yet such to some appeare.

The general effect is almost always lively and rich: all is buoyant and full of movement. That it is also odd, that we see strange costumes and hear a language often formal and obsolete, that we are asked to take for granted some very unaccustomed supposition and extravagant assumption, does not trouble us more than the usages and sights, so strange to ordinary civil life, of a camp, or a royal levee. All is in keeping, whatever may be the details of the pageant; they harmonize with the effect of the whole, like the gargoyles and quaint groups in a Gothic building harmonize with its general tone of majesty and subtle beauty;—nay, as ornaments, in themselves of bad taste, like much of the ornamentation of the Renaissance styles, yet find a not unpleasing place in compositions grandly and nobly designed:

So discord oft in music makes the sweeter lay.

Indeed, it is curious how much of real variety is got out of a limited number of elements and situations. The spectacle, though consisting only of knights, ladies, dwarfs, pagans, "salvage men," enchanters, and monsters, and other well-worn machinery of the books of chivalry, is ever new, full of vigour and fresh images, even if, as sometimes happens, it repeats itself. There is a majestic unconsciousness of all violations of probability, and of the strangeness of the combinations which it unrolls before us.

2. But there is not only stateliness: there is sweetness and beauty. Spenser's perception of beauty of all kinds was singularly and characteristically quick and sympathetic. It was one of his great gifts; perhaps the most special and unstinted. Except Shakespere, who had it with other and greater gifts, no one in that time approached to Spenser, in feeling the presence of that commanding and mysterious idea, compounded of so many things, yet of which, the true secret escapes us still, to which we give the name of beauty. A beautiful scene, a beautiful person, a beautiful poem, a mind and character with that combination of charms, which, for want of another word, we call by that half-spiritual, half-material word "beautiful," at once set his imagination at work to respond to it and reflect it. His means of reflecting it were as abundant as his sense of it was keen. They were only too abundant. They often betrayed him by their affluence and wonderful readiness to meet his call. Say what we will, and a great deal may be said, of his lavish profusion, his heady and uncontrolled excess, in the richness of picture and imagery in which he indulges,—still there it lies before us, like the most gorgeous of summer gardens, in the glory and brilliancy of its varied blooms, in the wonder of its strange forms of life, in the changefulness of its exquisite and delicious scents. No one who cares for poetic beauty can be insensible to it. He may criticize it. He may have too much of it. He may prefer something more severe and chastened. He may observe on the waste of wealth and power. He may blame the prodigal expense of language, and the long spaces which the poet takes up to produce his effect. He may often dislike or distrust the moral aspect of the poet's impartial sensitiveness to all outward beauty,—the impartiality which makes him throw all his strength into his pictures of Acrasia's Bower of Bliss, the Garden of Adonis, and Busirane's Masque of Cupid. But there is no gainsaying the beauty which never fails and disappoints, open the poem where you will. There is no gainsaying its variety, often so unexpected and novel. Face to face with the Epicurean idea of beauty and pleasure is the counter-charm of purity, truth, and duty. Many poets have done justice to each one separately. Few have shown, with such equal power, why it is that both have their roots in man's divided nature, and struggle, as it were, for the mastery. Which can be said to be the most exquisite in all beauty of imagination, of refined language, of faultless and matchless melody, of these two passages, in which the same image is used for the most opposite purposes;—first, in that song of temptation, the sweetest note in that description of Acrasia's Bower of Bliss, which, as a picture of the spells of pleasure, has never been surpassed; and next, to represent that stainless and glorious purity which is the professed object of his admiration and homage. In both the beauty of the rose furnishes the theme of the poet's treatment. In the first, it is the "lovely lay" which meets the knight of Temperance amid the voluptuousness which he is come to assail and punish.

The whiles some one did chaunt this lovely lay: Ah! see, whoso fayre thing doest faine to see, In springing flowre the image of thy day. Ah! see the Virgin Rose, how sweetly shee Doth first peepe foorth with bashfull modestee, That fairer seemes the lesse ye see her may. Lo! see soone after how more bold and free Her bared bosome she doth broad display; Lo! see soone after how she fades and falls away.

So passeth, in the passing of a day, Of mortall life the leafe, the bud, the flowre; Ne more doth florish after first decay, That earst was sought to deck both bed and bowre Of many a lady, and many a Paramowre. Gather therefore the Rose whilest yet is prime, For soone comes age that will her pride deflowre; Gather the Rose of love whilest yet is time, Whilest loving thou mayst loved be with equall crime.

In the other, it images the power of the will—that power over circumstance and the storms of passion, to command obedience to reason and the moral law, which Milton sung so magnificently in Comus:—

That daintie Rose, the daughter of her Morne, More deare then life she tendered, whose flowre The girlond of her honour did adorne: Ne suffred she the Middayes scorching powre, Ne the sharp Northerne wind thereon to showre; But lapped up her silken leaves most chayre, When so the froward skye began to lowre; But, soone as calmed was the christall ayre, She did it fayre dispred and let to florish fayre.

Eternall God, in his almightie powre, To make ensample of his heavenly grace, In Paradize whylome did plant this flowre; Whence he it fetcht out of her native place, And did in stocke of earthly flesh enrace, That mortall men her glory should admyre. In gentle Ladies breste, and bounteous race Of woman kind, it fayrest Flowre doth spyre, And beareth fruit of honour and all chast desyre.

Fayre ympes of beautie, whose bright shining beames Adorne the worlde with like to heavenly light, And to your willes both royalties and Reames Subdew, through conquest of your wondrous might, With this fayre flowre your goodly girlonds dight Of chastity and vertue virginall, That shall embellish more your beautie bright, And crowne your heades with heavenly coronall, Such as the Angels weare before Gods tribunall!

This sense of beauty, and command of beautiful expression is not seen only in the sweetness of which both these passages are examples. Its range is wide. Spenser had in his nature besides sweetness, his full proportion of the stern and high manliness of his generation; indeed, he was not without its severity, its hardness, its unconsidering and cruel harshness, its contemptuous indifference to suffering and misery when on the wrong side. Noble and heroic ideals captivate him by their attractions. He kindles naturally and genuinely at what proves and draws out men's courage, their self-command, their self-sacrifice. He sympathizes as profoundly with the strangeness of their condition, with the sad surprises in their history and fate, as he gives himself up with little restraint to what is charming and even intoxicating in it. He can moralize with the best in terse and deep-reaching apophthegms of melancholy or even despairing experience. He can appreciate the mysterious depths and awful outlines of theology—of what our own age can see nothing in, but a dry and scholastic dogmatism. His great contemporaries were, more perhaps than the men of any age, many-sided. He shared their nature; and he used all that he had of sensitiveness and of imaginative and creative power, in bringing out its manifold aspects, and sometimes contradictory feelings and aims. Not that beauty, even varied beauty, is the uninterrupted attribute of his work. It alternates with much that no indulgence can call beautiful. It passes but too easily into what is commonplace, or forced, or unnatural, or extravagant, or careless and poor, or really coarse and bad. He was a negligent corrector. He only at times gave himself the trouble to condense and concentrate. But for all this, the Faery Queen glows and is ablaze with beauty; and that beauty is so rich, so real, and so uncommon, that for its sake the severest readers of Spenser have pardoned much that is discordant with it, much that in the reading has wasted their time and disappointed them.

There is one portion of the beauty of the Faery Queen, which in its perfection and fulness had never yet been reached in English poetry. This was the music and melody of his verse. It was this wonderful, almost unfailing sweetness of numbers which probably as much as anything set the Faery Queen at once above all contemporary poetry. The English language is really a musical one, and say what people will, the English ear is very susceptible to the infinite delicacy and suggestiveness of musical rhythm and cadence. Spenser found the secret of it. The art has had many and consummate masters since, as different in their melody as in their thoughts from Spenser. And others at the time, Shakespere pre-eminently, heard, only a little later, the same grandeur, and the same subtle beauty in the sounds of their mother-tongue, only waiting the artist's skill to be combined and harmonized into strains of mysterious fascination. But Spenser was the first to show that he had acquired a command over what had hitherto been heard only in exquisite fragments, passing too soon into roughness and confusion. It would be too much to say that his cunning never fails, that his ear is never dull or off its guard. But when the length and magnitude of the composition are considered, with the restraints imposed by the new nine-line stanza, however convenient it may have been, the vigour, the invention, the volume and rush of language, and the keenness and truth of ear amid its diversified tasks are indeed admirable, which could keep up so prolonged and so majestic a stream of original and varied poetical melody. If his stanzas are monotonous, it is with the grand monotony of the seashore, where billow follows billow, each swelling diversely, and broken into different curves and waves upon its mounting surface, till at last it falls over, and spreads and rushes up in a last long line of foam upon the beach.

3. But all this is but the outside shell and the fancy framework in which the substance of the poem is enclosed. Its substance is the poet's philosophy of life. It shadows forth, in type and parable, his ideal of the perfection of the human character, with its special features, its trials, its achievements. There were two accepted forms in poetry in which this had been done by poets. One was under the image of warfare. The other was under the image of a journey or voyage. Spenser chose the former, as Dante and Bunyan chose the latter. Spenser looks on the scene of the world as a continual battle-field. It was such in fact to his experience in Ireland, testing the mettle of character, its loyalty, its sincerity, its endurance. His picture of character is by no means painted with sentimental tenderness. He portrays it in the rough work of the struggle and the toil, always hardly tested by trial, often overmatched, deceived, defeated, and even delivered by its own default to disgrace and captivity. He had full before his eyes what abounded in the society of his day, often in its noblest representatives—the strange perplexing mixture of the purer with the baser elements, in the high-tempered and aspiring activity of his time. But it was an ideal of character which had in it high aims and serious purposes, which was armed with fortitude and strength, which could recover itself after failure and defeat.

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