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Title: Spenser
Author: Church, R. W. (Richard William), 1815-1890
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Spenser" ***

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Transcriber's Note: Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been
left as in the original. Some typographical and punctuation errors have
been corrected. A complete list follows the text. The text contains
three Greek words--they may not display properly. Words italicized in
the original are surrounded by _underscores_. Words in bold in the
original are surrounded by +plus signs+. Characters inside {braces} are
superscripted in the original. In quoted material, a row of asterisks
represents an ellipsis. Ellipses match the original.



                            R. W. CHURCH,

                         DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S,

                          MACMILLAN AND CO.

       _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved._


As the plan of these volumes does not encourage footnotes, I wish to say
that, besides the biographies prefixed to the various editions of
Spenser, there are two series of publications, which have been very
useful to me. One is the series of Calendars of State Papers, especially
the State Papers on Ireland and the Carew MSS. at Lambeth, with the
prefaces of Mr. Hans Claude Hamilton and the late Professor Brewer. The
other is Mr. E. Arber's series of reprints of old English books, and his
Transcript of the Stationers' Registers, a work, I suppose, without
parallel in its information about the early literature of a country, and
edited by him with admirable care and public spirit. I wish also to say
that I am much indebted to Mr. Craik's excellent little book on _Spenser
and his Poetry_.

                                                         R. W. C.

_March, 1879._


     SPENSER'S EARLY LIFE (1552-1579)                           1


     THE NEW POET--THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579)              29


     SPENSER IN IRELAND (1580)                                 51


     THE FAERY QUEEN--THE FIRST PART (1580-1590)               81


     THE FAERY QUEEN                                          118


         YEARS (1590-1599)                                    166





Spenser marks a beginning in English literature. He is the first
Englishman who, in that great division of our history which dates from
the Reformation, attempted and achieved a poetical work of the highest
order. Born about the same time as Hooker (1552-1554), in the middle of
that eventful century which began with Henry VIII., and ended with
Elizabeth, he was the earliest of our great modern writers in poetry, as
Hooker was the earliest of our great modern writers in prose. In that
reviving English literature, which, after Chaucer's wonderful promise,
had been arrested in its progress, first by the Wars of the Roses, and
then by the religious troubles of the Reformation, these two were the
writers who first realized to Englishmen the ideas of a high literary
perfection. These ideas vaguely filled many minds; but no one had yet
shown the genius and the strength to grasp and exhibit them in a way to
challenge comparison with what had been accomplished by the poetry and
prose of Greece, Rome, and Italy. There had been poets in England since
Chaucer, and prose writers since Wycliffe had translated the Bible.
Surrey and Wyatt have deserved to live, while a crowd of poets, as
ambitious as they, and not incapable of occasional force and sweetness,
have been forgotten. Sir Thomas More, Roger Ascham, Tyndale, the
translator of the New Testament, Bishop Latimer, the writers of many
state documents, and the framers, either by translation or composition,
of the offices of the English Prayer Book, showed that they understood
the power of the English language over many of the subtleties and
difficulties of thought, and were alive to the music of its cadences.
Some of these works, consecrated by the highest of all possible
associations, have remained, permanent monuments and standards of the
most majestic and most affecting English speech. But the verse of
Surrey, Wyatt, and Sackville, and the prose of More and Ascham were but
noble and promising efforts. Perhaps the language was not ripe for their
success; perhaps the craftsmen's strength and experience were not equal
to the novelty of their attempt. But no one can compare the English
styles of the first half of the sixteenth century with the contemporary
styles of Italy, with Ariosto, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, without
feeling the immense gap in point of culture, practice, and skill--the
immense distance at which the Italians were ahead, in the finish and
reach of their instruments, in their power to handle them, in command
over their resources, and facility and ease in using them. The Italians
were more than a century older; the English could not yet, like the
Italians, say what they would; the strength of English was, doubtless,
there in germ, but it had still to reach its full growth and
development. Even the French prose of Rabelais and Montaigne was more
mature. But in Spenser, as in Hooker, all these tentative essays of
vigorous but unpractised minds have led up to great and lasting works.
We have forgotten all these preliminary attempts, crude and imperfect,
to speak with force and truth, or to sing with measure and grace. There
is no reason why they should be remembered, except by professed
inquirers into the antiquities of our literature; they were usually
clumsy and awkward, sometimes grotesque, often affected, always
hopelessly wanting in the finish, breadth, moderation, and order which
alone can give permanence to writing. They were the necessary exercises
by which Englishmen were recovering the suspended art of Chaucer, and
learning to write; and exercises, though indispensably necessary, are
not ordinarily in themselves interesting and admirable. But when the
exercises had been duly gone through, then arose the original and
powerful minds, to take full advantage of what had been gained by all
the practising, and to concentrate and bring to a focus all the hints
and lessons of art which had been gradually accumulating. Then the
sustained strength and richness of the _Faery Queen_ became possible;
contemporary with it, the grandeur and force of English prose began in
Hooker's _Ecclesiastical Polity_; and then, in the splendid Elizabethan
Drama, that form of art which has nowhere a rival, the highest powers of
poetic imagination became wedded, as they had never been before in
England or in the world, to the real facts of human life, and to its
deepest thoughts and passions.

More is known about the circumstances of Spenser's life than about the
lives of many men of letters of that time; yet our knowledge is often
imperfect and inaccurate. The year 1552 is now generally accepted as the
year of his birth. The date is inferred from a passage in one of his
Sonnets,[4:1] and this probably is near the truth. That is to say that
Spenser was born in one of the last two years of Edward VI.; that his
infancy was passed during the dark days of Mary; and that he was about
six years old when Elizabeth came to the throne. About the same time
were born Ralegh, and, a year or two later (1554), Hooker and Philip
Sidney. Bacon (1561), and Shakespere (1564), belong to the next decade
of the century.

He was certainly a Londoner by birth, and early training. This also we
learn from himself, in the latest poem published in his life-time. It is
a bridal ode (_Prothalamion_), to celebrate the marriage of two
daughters of the Earl of Worcester, written late in 1596. It was a time
in his life of disappointment and trouble, when he was only a rare
visitor to London. In the poem he imagines himself on the banks of
London's great river, and the bridal procession arriving at Lord Essex's
house; and he takes occasion to record the affection with which he still
regarded "the most kindly nurse" of his boyhood.

       Calm was the day, and through the trembling air
       Sweet-breathing Zephyrus did softly play,
       A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
       Hot Titan's beams, which then did glister fair:
       When I, (whom sullen care,
       Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
       In Princes Court, and expectation vain
       Of idle hopes, which still do fly away,
       Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain,)
       Walkt forth to ease my pain
       Along the shore of silver-streaming Thames;
       Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems,
       Was painted all with variable flowers,
       And all the meads adorned with dainty gems
       Fit to deck maidens' bowers,
       And crown their paramours
     Against the bridal day, which is not long:
     Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

            *       *       *       *       *

       At length they all _to merry London came,
       To merry London, my most kindly nurse,
       That to me gave this life's first native source,
       Though from another place I take my name,
       A house of ancient fame_.
       There, when they came, whereas those bricky towers
       The which on Thames broad aged back do ride,
       Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers,
       There whilome wont the Templar Knights to bide,
       Till they decayed through pride:
       Next whereunto there stands a stately place,
       _Where oft I gained gifts and goodly grace[5:2]
       Of that great Lord, which therein wont to dwell;
       Whose want too well now feels my friendless case;
       But ah! here fits not well
       Old woes, but joys, to tell_
     Against the bridal day, which is not long:
     Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song:
       Yet therein now doth lodge a noble peer,[5:3]
       Great England's glory and the wide world's wonder,
       Whose dreadful name late through all Spain did thunder,
       And Hercules two pillars, standing near,
       Did make to quake and fear.
       Fair branch of honour, flower of chivalry!
       That fillest England with thy triumph's fame,
       Joy have thou of thy noble victory,[5:4]
       And endless happiness of thine own name
       That promiseth the same.
       That through thy prowess, and victorious arms,
       Thy country may be freed from foreign harms;
       And great Elisa's glorious name may ring
       Through all the world, filled with thy wide alarms.

Who his father was, and what was his employment we know not. From one of
the poems of his later years we learn that his mother bore the famous
name of Elizabeth, which was also the cherished one of Spenser's wife.

           My love, my life's best ornament,
     By whom my spirit out of dust was raised.[6:5]

But his family, whatever was his father's condition, certainly claimed
kindred, though there was a difference in the spelling of the name, with
a house then rising into fame and importance, the Spencers of Althorpe,
the ancestors of the Spencers and Churchills of modern days. Sir John
Spencer had several daughters, three of whom made great marriages.
Elizabeth was the wife of Sir George Carey, afterwards the second Lord
Hunsdon, the son of Elizabeth's cousin and Counsellor. Anne, first, Lady
Compton, afterwards married Thomas Sackville, the son of the poet, Lord
Buckhurst, and then Earl of Dorset. Alice, the youngest, whose first
husband, Lord Strange, became Earl of Derby, after his death married
Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper, Baron Ellesmere, and then Viscount
Brackley. These three sisters are celebrated by him in a gallery of the
noble ladies of the Court,[6:6] under poetical names--"Phyllis, the
flower of rare perfection," "Charillis, the pride and primrose of the
rest," and "Sweet Amaryllis, the youngest but the highest in degree."
Alice, Lady Strange, Lady Derby, Lady Ellesmere and Brackley, and then
again Dowager Lady Derby, the "Sweet Amaryllis" of the poet, had the
rare fortune to be a personal link between Spenser and Milton. She was
among the last whom Spenser honoured with his homage: and she was the
first whom Milton honoured; for he composed his Arcades to be acted
before her by her grandchildren, and the _Masque of Comus_ for her
son-in-law, Lord Bridgewater, and his daughter, another Lady Alice. With
these illustrious sisters Spenser claimed kindred. To each of these he
dedicated one of his minor poems; to Lady Strange, the _Tears of the
Muses_; to Lady Compton, the Apologue of the Fox and the Ape, _Mother
Hubberd's Tale_; to Lady Carey, the Fable of the Butterfly and the
Spider, _Muiopotmos_. And in each dedication he assumed on their part
the recognition of his claim.

                    The sisters three,
     The honour of the noble family,
     Of which I meanest boast myself to be.

Whatever his degree of relationship to them, he could hardly even in the
days of his fame have ventured thus publicly to challenge it, unless
there had been some acknowledged ground for it. There are obscure
indications, which antiquarian diligence may perhaps make clear, which
point to East Lancashire as the home of the particular family of
Spensers to which Edmund Spenser's father belonged. Probably he was,
however, in humble circumstances.

Edmund Spenser was a Londoner by education as well as birth. A recent
discovery by Mr. R. B. Knowles, further illustrated by Dr. Grosart,[7:7]
has made us acquainted with Spenser's school. He was a pupil, probably
one of the earliest ones, of the grammar school, then recently (1560)
established by the Merchant Taylors' Company, under a famous teacher,
Dr. Mulcaster. Among the manuscripts at Townley Hall are preserved the
account books of the executors of a bountiful London citizen, Robert
Nowell, the brother of Dr. Alexander Nowell, who was Dean of St. Paul's
during Elizabeth's reign, and was a leading person in the ecclesiastical
affairs of the time. In these books, in a crowd of unknown names of
needy relations and dependents, distressed foreigners, and parish
paupers, who shared from time to time the liberality of Mr. Robert
Nowell's representatives, there appear among the numerous "poor
scholars" whom his wealth assisted, the names of Richard Hooker, and
Lancelot Andrewes. And there, also, in the roll of the expenditure at
Mr. Nowell's pompous funeral at St. Paul's in February, 1568/9, among
long lists of unknown men and women, high and low, who had mourning
given them, among bills for fees to officials, for undertakers' charges,
for heraldic pageantry and ornamentation, for abundant supplies for the
sumptuous funeral banquet, are put down lists of boys, from the chief
London schools, St. Paul's, Westminster, and others, to whom two yards
of cloth were to be given to make their gowns: and at the head of the
six scholars named from Merchant Taylors' is the name of Edmund Spenser.

He was then, probably, the senior boy of the school, and in the
following May he went to Cambridge. The Nowells still helped him: we
read in their account books under April 28, 1569, "to Edmond Spensore,
scholler of the m'chante tayler scholl, at his gowinge to penbrocke
hall in chambridge, x{s}." On the 20th of May, he was admitted sizar,
or serving clerk at Pembroke Hall; and on more than one occasion
afterwards, like Hooker and like Lancelot Andrewes, also a Merchant
Taylors' boy, two or three years Spenser's junior, and a member of the
same college, Spenser had a share in the benefactions, small in
themselves, but very numerous, with which the Nowells after the fine
fashion of the time, were accustomed to assist poor scholars at the
Universities. In the visitations of Merchant Taylors' School, at which
Grindal, Bishop of London, was frequently present,[9:8] it is not
unlikely that his interest was attracted, in the appositions or
examinations, to the promising senior boy of the school. At any rate
Spenser, who afterwards celebrated Grindal's qualities as a bishop, was
admitted to a place, one which befitted a scholar in humble
circumstances, in Grindal's old college. It is perhaps worth noticing
that all Spenser's early friends, Grindal, the Nowells, Dr. Mulcaster,
his master, were north country men.

Spenser was sixteen or seventeen when he left school for the university,
and he entered Cambridge at the time when the struggle which was to
occupy the reign of Elizabeth was just opening. At the end of the year
1569, the first distinct blow was struck against the queen and the new
settlement of religion, by the Rising of the North. In the first ten
years of Elizabeth's reign, Spenser's school time at Merchant Taylors',
the great quarrel had slumbered. Events abroad occupied men's minds; the
religious wars in France, the death of the Duke of Guise (1563), the
loss of Havre, and expulsion of the English garrisons, the close of the
Council of Trent (1563), the French peace, the accession of Pius V.
(1565/6). Nearer home, there was the marriage of Mary of Scotland with
Henry Darnley (1565), and all the tragedy which followed, Kirk of Field
(1567), Lochleven, Langside, Carlisle, the imprisonment of the pretender
to the English Crown (1568). In England, the authority of Elizabeth had
established itself, and the internal organization of the Reformed Church
was going on, in an uncertain and tentative way, but steadily. There was
a struggle between Genevan exiles, who were for going too fast, and
bishops and politicians who were for going too slow; between authority
and individual judgment, between home-born state traditions and foreign
revolutionary zeal. But outwardly, at least, England had been peaceful.
Now however a great change was at hand. In 1566, the Dominican
Inquisitor, Michael Ghislieri, was elected Pope, under the title of Pius

In Pius (1566-72), were embodied the new spirit and policy of the Roman
Church, as they had been created and moulded by the great Jesuit order,
and by reforming bishops like Ghiberti of Verona, and Carlo Borromeo of
Milan. Devout and self-denying as a saint, fierce and inflexible against
abuses as a puritan, resolute and uncompromising as a Jacobin idealist
or an Asiatic despot, ruthless and inexorable as an executioner, his
soul was bent on re-establishing, not only by preaching and martyrdom,
but by the sword and by the stake, the unity of Christendom and of its
belief. Eastwards and westwards, he beheld two formidable foes and two
serious dangers; and he saw before him the task of his life in the
heroic work of crushing English heresy and beating back Turkish
misbelief. He broke through the temporizing caution of his predecessors
by the Bull of Deposition against Elizabeth in 1570. He was the soul of
the confederacy which won the day of Lepanto against the Ottomans in
1571. And though dead, his spirit was paramount in the slaughter of St.
Bartholomew in 1572.

In the year 1569, while Spenser was passing from school to college, his
emissaries were already in England, spreading abroad that Elizabeth was
a bastard and an apostate, incapable of filling a Christian throne,
which belonged by right to the captive Mary. The seed they sowed bore
fruit. In the end of the year, southern England was alarmed by the news
of the rebellion of the two great Earls in the north, Percy of
Northumberland and Neville of Westmoreland. Durham was sacked and the
mass restored by an insurgent host, before which an "aged gentleman,"
Richard Norton with his sons, bore the banner of the Five Wounds of
Christ. The rebellion was easily put down, and the revenge was stern. To
the men who had risen at the instigation of the Pope and in the cause of
Mary, Elizabeth gave, as she had sworn "such a breakfast as never was in
the North before." The hangman finished the work on those who had
escaped the sword. Poetry, early and late, has recorded the dreary fate
of those brave victims of a mistaken cause, in the ballad of the _Rising
of the North_, and in the _White Doe of Rylstone_. It was the signal
given for the internecine war which was to follow between Rome and
Elizabeth. And it was the first great public event which Spenser would
hear of in all men's mouths, as he entered on manhood, the prelude and
augury of fierce and dangerous years to come. The nation awoke to the
certainty--one which so profoundly affects sentiment and character both
in a nation and in an individual--that among the habitual and fixed
conditions of life is that of having a serious and implacable enemy ever
to reckon with.

And in this year, apparently in the transition time between school and
college, Spenser's literary ventures began. The evidence is curious, but
it seems to be clear. In 1569, a refugee Flemish physician from Antwerp,
who had fled to England from the "abominations of the Roman Antichrist"
and the persecutions of the Duke of Alva, John Vander Noodt, published
one of those odd miscellanies, fashionable at the time, half moral and
poetical, half fiercely polemical, which he called a "_Theatre_, wherein
be represented as well the Miseries and Calamities which follow the
voluptuous Worldlings, as also the great Joys and Pleasures which the
Faithful do enjoy--an argument both profitable and delectable to all
that sincerely love the word of God." This "little treatise," was a
mixture of verse and prose, setting forth in general, the vanity of the
world, and, in particular, predictions of the ruin of Rome and
Antichrist: and it enforced its lessons by illustrative woodcuts. In
this strange jumble are preserved, we can scarcely doubt, the first
compositions which we know of Spenser's. Among the pieces are some
Sonnets of Petrarch, and some Visions of the French poet Joachim du
Bellay, whose poems were published in 1568. In the collection itself,
these pieces are said by the compiler to have been translated by him
"out of the Brabants speech," and "out of Dutch into English." But in a
volume of "poems of the world's vanity," and published years afterwards
in 1591, ascribed to Spenser, and put together, apparently with his
consent, by his publisher, are found these very pieces from Petrarch and
Du Bellay. The translations from Petrarch are almost literally the same,
and are said to have been "formerly translated." In the Visions of Du
Bellay there is this difference, that the earlier translations are in
blank verse, and the later ones are rimed as sonnets; but the change
does not destroy the manifest identity of the two translations. So that
unless Spenser's publisher, to whom the poet had certainly given some of
his genuine pieces for the volume, is not to be trusted,--which, of
course, is possible, but not probable--or unless,--what is in the last
degree inconceivable,--Spenser had afterwards been willing to take the
trouble of turning the blank verse of Du Bellay's unknown translator
into rime, the Dutchman who dates his _Theatre of Worldlings_ on the
25th May, 1569, must have employed the promising and fluent school boy,
to furnish him with an English versified form, of which he himself took
the credit, for compositions which he professes to have known only in
the Brabants or Dutch translations. The sonnets from Petrarch are
translated with much command of language; there occurs in them, what was
afterwards a favourite thought of Spenser's:--

                             --The Nymphs,
     That sweetly in accord did _tune their voice
     To the soft sounding of the waters' fall_.[13:9]

It is scarcely credible that the translator of the sonnets could have
caught so much as he has done of the spirit of Petrarch without having
been able to read the Italian original; and if Spenser was the
translator, it is a curious illustration of the fashionableness of
Italian literature in the days of Elizabeth, that a school-boy just
leaving Merchant Taylors' should have been so much interested in it. Dr.
Mulcaster, his master, is said by Warton to have given special attention
to the teaching of the English language.

If these translations were Spenser's, he must have gone to Cambridge
with a faculty of verse, which for his time may be compared to that with
which winners of prize poems go to the universities now. But there was
this difference, that the school-boy versifiers of our days are rich
with the accumulated experience and practice of the most varied and
magnificent poetical literature in the world; while Spenser had but one
really great English model behind him; and Chaucer, honoured as he was,
had become in Elizabeth's time, if not obsolete, yet in his diction,
very far removed from the living language of the day. Even Milton, in
his boyish compositions, wrote after Spenser and Shakespeare, with their
contemporaries, had created modern English poetry. Whatever there was in
Spenser's early verses of grace and music was of his own finding: no one
of his own time, except in occasional and fitful snatches, like stanzas
of Sackville's, had shown him the way. Thus equipped, he entered the
student world, then full of pedantic and ill-applied learning, of the
disputations of Calvinistic theology, and of the beginnings of those
highly speculative puritanical controversies, which were the echo at the
University of the great political struggles of the day, and were soon to
become so seriously practical. The University was represented to the
authorities in London as being in a state of dangerous excitement,
troublesome and mutinous. Whitgift, afterwards Elizabeth's favourite
archbishop, Master, first of Pembroke, and then of Trinity, was
Vice-Chancellor of the University; but as the guardian of established
order, he found it difficult to keep in check the violent and
revolutionary spirit of the theological schools. Calvin was beginning to
be set up there as the infallible doctor of Protestant theology.
Cartwright from the Margaret Professor's chair was teaching the
exclusive and divine claims of the Geneva platform of discipline, and in
defiance of the bishops and the government was denouncing the received
Church polity and ritual as Popish and anti-Christian. Cartwright, an
extreme and uncompromising man, was deprived in 1570; but the course
which things were taking under the influence of Rome and Spain gave
force to his lessons and warnings, and strengthened his party. In this
turmoil of opinions, amid these hard and technical debates, these fierce
conflicts between the highest authorities, and this unsparing violence
and bitterness of party recriminations, Spenser, with the tastes and
faculties of a poet, and the love not only of what was beautiful, but of
what was meditative and dreamy, began his university life.

It was not a favourable atmosphere for the nurture of a great poet. But
it suited one side of Spenser's mind, as it suited that of all but the
most independent Englishmen of the time, Shakespere, Bacon, Ralegh.
Little is known of Spenser's Cambridge career. It is probable, from the
persons with whom he was connected, that he would not be indifferent to
the debates around him, and that his religious prepossessions were then,
as afterwards, in favour of the conforming puritanism in the Church, as
opposed to the extreme and thorough-going puritanism of Cartwright. Of
the conforming puritans, who would have been glad of a greater
approximation to the Swiss model, but who, whatever their private wishes
or dislikes, thought it best, for good reasons or bad, to submit to the
strong determination of the government against it, and to accept what
the government approved and imposed, Grindal, who held successively the
great sees of London, York, and Canterbury, and Nowell, Dean of St.
Paul's, Spenser's benefactor, were representative types. Grindal, a
waverer like many others in opinion, had also a noble and manly side to
his character, in his hatred of practical abuses, and in the courageous
and obstinate resistance which he could offer to power, when his sense
of right was outraged. Grindal, as has been said, was perhaps
instrumental in getting Spenser into his own old college, Pembroke Hall,
with the intention, it may be, as was the fashion of bishops of that
time, of becoming his patron. But certainly after his disgrace in 1577,
and when it was not quite safe to praise a great man under the
displeasure of the Court, Grindal is the person whom Spenser first
singled out for his warmest and heartiest praise. He is introduced under
a thin disguise, "Algrind," in Spenser's earliest work after he left
Cambridge, the _Shepherd's Calendar_, as the pattern of the true and
faithful Christian pastor. And if Pembroke Hall retained at all the tone
and tendencies of such masters as Ridley, Grindal, and Whitgift, the
school in which Spenser grew up was one of their mitigated puritanism.
But his puritanism was political and national, rather than religious. He
went heartily with the puritan party in their intense hatred of Rome and
Roman partisans; he went with them also in their denunciations of the
scandals and abuses of the ecclesiastical government at home. But in
temper of mind and intellectual bias he had little in common with the
puritans. For the stern austerities of Calvinism, its fierce and eager
scholasticism, its isolation from human history, human enjoyment, and
all the manifold play and variety of human character, there could not be
much sympathy in a man like Spenser, with his easy and flexible nature,
keenly alive to all beauty, an admirer even when he was not a lover of
the alluring pleasures of which the world is full, with a perpetual
struggle going on in him, between his strong instincts of purity and
right, and his passionate appreciation of every charm and grace. He
shows no signs of agreement with the internal characteristics of the
puritans, their distinguishing theology, their peculiarities of thought
and habits, their protests, right or wrong, against the fashions and
amusements of the world. If not a man of pleasure, he yet threw himself
without scruple into the tastes, the language, the pursuits, of the gay
and gallant society in which they saw so much evil: and from their
narrow view of life, and the contempt, dislike, and fear, with which
they regarded the whole field of human interest, he certainly was parted
by the widest gulf. Indeed, he had not the sternness and concentration
of purpose, which made Milton the great puritan poet.

Spenser took his Master's degree in 1576, and then left Cambridge. He
gained no Fellowship, and there is nothing to show how he employed
himself. His classical learning, whether acquired there or elsewhere,
was copious, but curiously inaccurate; and the only specimen remaining
of his Latin composition in verse is contemptible in its mediæval
clumsiness. We know nothing of his Cambridge life except the friendships
which he formed there. An intimacy began at Cambridge of the closest and
most affectionate kind, which lasted long into after-life, between him
and two men of his college, one older in standing than himself, the
other younger; Gabriel Harvey, first a fellow of Pembroke, and then a
student or teacher of civil law at Trinity Hall, and Edward Kirke, like
Spenser, a sizar at Pembroke, recently identified with the E. K., who
was the editor and commentator of Spenser's earliest work, the anonymous
_Shepherd's Calendar_. Of the younger friend this is the most that is
known. That he was deeply in Spenser's confidence as a literary
coadjutor, and possibly in other ways, is shown in the work which he
did. But Gabriel Harvey was a man who had influence on Spenser's ideas
and purposes, and on the direction of his efforts. He was a classical
scholar of much distinction in his day, well read in the Italian authors
then so fashionable, and regarded as a high authority on questions of
criticism and taste. Except to students of Elizabethan literary history,
he has become an utterly obscure personage; and he has not usually been
spoken of with much respect. He had the misfortune, later in life, to
plunge violently into the scurrilous quarrels of the day, and as he was
matched with wittier and more popular antagonists, he has come down to
us as a foolish pretender, or at least as a dull and stupid scholar who
knew little of the real value of the books he was always ready to quote,
like the pedant of the comedies, or Shakespere's schoolmaster
Holofernes. Further, he was one who, with his classical learning, had
little belief in the resources of his mother tongue, and he was one of
the earliest and most confident supporters of a plan then fashionable,
for reforming English verse, by casting away its natural habits and
rhythms, and imposing on it the laws of the classical metres. In this he
was not singular. The professed treatises of this time on poetry, of
which there were several, assume the same theory, as the mode of
"reforming" and duly elevating English verse. It was eagerly accepted by
Philip Sidney and his Areopagus of wits at court, who busied themselves
in devising rules of their own--improvements as they thought on those of
the university men--for English hexameters and sapphics, or as they
called it, artificial versifying. They regarded the comparative value of
the native English rhythms and the classical metres, much as our
ancestors of Addison's day regarded the comparison between Gothic and
Palladian architecture. One, even if it sometimes had a certain romantic
interest, was rude and coarse; the other was the perfection of polite
art and good taste. Certainly in what remains of Gabriel Harvey's
writing, there is much that seems to us vain and ridiculous enough; and
it has been naturally surmised that he must have been a dangerous friend
and counsellor to Spenser. But probably we are hard upon him. His
writings, after all, are not much more affected and absurd in their
outward fashion than most of the literary composition of the time; his
verses are no worse than those of most of his neighbours; he was not
above, but he was not below, the false taste and clumsiness of his age;
and the rage for "artificial versifying" was for the moment in the air.
And it must be said, that though his enthusiasm for English hexameters
is of a piece with the puritan use of scripture texts in divinity and
morals, yet there is no want of hard-headed shrewdness in his remarks;
indeed, in his rules for the adaptation of English words and accents to
classical metres, he shows clearness and good sense in apprehending the
conditions of the problem, while Sidney and Spenser still appear
confused and uncertain. But in spite of his pedantry, and though he had
not, as we shall see, the eye to discern at first the genius of the
_Faery Queen_, he has to us the interest of having been Spenser's first,
and as far as we can see, to the last, dearest friend. By both of his
younger fellow-students at Cambridge, he was looked up to with the
deepest reverence, and the most confiding affection. Their language is
extravagant, but there is no reason to think that it was not genuine. E.
Kirke, the editor of Spenser's first venture, the _Shepherd's Calendar_,
commends the "new poet" to his patronage, and to the protection of his
"mighty rhetoric," and exhorts Harvey himself to seize the poetical
"garland which to him alone is due." Spenser speaks in the same terms;
"_veruntamen te sequor solum; nunquam vero assequar_." Portions of the
early correspondence between Harvey and Spenser have been preserved to
us, possibly by Gabriel Harvey's self-satisfaction in regard to his own
compositions. But with the pedagogue's jocoseness, and a playfulness
which is like that of an elephant, it shows on both sides easy
frankness, sincerity, and warmth, and not a little of the early
character of the younger man. In Spenser's earliest poetry, his
pastorals, Harvey appears among the imaginary rustics, as the poet's
"special and most familiar friend," under the name of Hobbinol,--

     "Good Hobbinol, that was so true."

To him Spenser addresses his confidences, under the name of Colin Clout,
a name borrowed from Skelton, a satirical poet of Henry VIII.'s time,
which Spenser kept throughout his poetical career. Harvey reappears in
one of Spenser's latest writings, a return to the early pastoral, _Colin
Clout's come home again_, a picture drawn in distant Ireland, of the
brilliant but disappointing court of Elizabeth. And from Ireland in
1586, was addressed to Harvey by "his devoted friend during life," the
following fine sonnet, which, whatever may have been the merit of
Harvey's criticisms and his literary quarrels with Greene and Nash,
shows at least Spenser's unabated honour for him.


     HARVEY, the happy above happiest men
     I read; that, sitting like a looker on
     Of this world's stage, dost note with critic pen
     The sharp dislikes of each condition;
     And, as one careless of suspicion,
     Ne fawnest for the favour of the great;
     Ne fearest foolish reprehension
     Of faulty men, which danger to thee threat;
     But freely dost, of what thee list, entreat,
     Like a great lord of peerless liberty;
     Lifting the good up to high honour's seat,
     And the evil damning over more to die;
     For life and death is in thy doomful writing;
     So thy renown lives ever by enditing.

     Dublin, this xviii. of July, 1586. Your devoted friend, during life,
                                                  EDMUND SPENSER.

Between Cambridge and Spenser's appearance in London, there is a short
but obscure interval. What is certain is, that he spent part of it in
the North of England; that he was busy with various poetical works, one
of which was soon to make him known as a new star in the poetical
heaven; and lastly, that in the effect on him of a deep but unrequited
passion, he then received what seems to have been a strong and
determining influence on his character and life. It seems likely that
his sojourn in the north, which perhaps first introduced the London-bred
scholar, the "Southern Shepherd's Boy," to the novel and rougher country
life of distant Lancashire, also gave form and local character to his
first considerable work. But we do not know for certain where his abode
was in the north; of his literary activity, which must have been
considerable, we only partially know the fruit; and of the lady whom he
made so famous, that her name became a consecrated word in the poetry of
the time, of Rosalind, the "Widow's Daughter of the Glen," whose refusal
of his suit, and preference for another, he lamented so bitterly, yet
would allow no one else to blame, we know absolutely nothing. She would
not be his wife; but apparently, he never ceased to love her through all
the chances and temptations, and possibly errors of his life, even
apparently in the midst of his passionate admiration of the lady whom,
long afterwards, he did marry. To her kindred and condition, various
clues have been suggested, only to provoke and disappoint us. Whatever
her condition, she was able to measure Spenser's powers: Gabriel Harvey
has preserved one of her compliments--"Gentle Mistress Rosalind once
reported him to have all the intelligences at commandment; and at
another, christened him her _Signior Pegaso_." But the unknown Rosalind
had given an impulse to the young poet's powers, and a colour to his
thoughts, and had enrolled Spenser in that band and order of
poets,--with one exception, not the greatest order,--to whom the
wonderful passion of love, in its heights and its depths, is the element
on which their imagination works, and out of which it moulds its most
beautiful and characteristic creations.

But in October, 1579, he emerges from obscurity. If we may trust the
correspondence between Gabriel Harvey and Spenser, which was published
at the time, Spenser was then in London.[22:1] It was the time of the
crisis of the Alençon courtship, while the Queen was playing fast and
loose with her Valois lover, whom she playfully called her frog; when
all about her, Burghley, Leicester, Sidney, and Walsingham, were
dismayed, both at the plan itself, and at her vacillations; and just
when the Puritan pamphleteer, who had given expression to the popular
disgust at a French marriage, especially at a connexion with the family
which had on its hands the blood of St. Bartholomew, was sentenced to
lose his right hand as a seditious libeller. Spenser had become
acquainted with Philip Sidney, and Sidney's literary and courtly
friends. He had been received into the household of Sidney's uncle, Lord
Leicester, and dates one of his letters from Leicester House. Among his
employments he had written, "_Stemmata Dudleiana_." He is doubting
whether or not to publish, "to utter," some of his poetical
compositions: he is doubting, and asks Harvey's advice, whether or not
to dedicate them to His Excellent Lordship, "lest by our much cloying
their noble ears he should gather contempt of myself, or else seem
rather for gain and commodity to do it, and some sweetness that I have
already tasted." Yet, he thinks, that when occasion is so fairly offered
of estimation and preferment, it may be well to use it: "while the iron
is hot, it is good striking; and minds of nobles vary, as their
estates." And he was on the eve of starting across the sea to be
employed in Leicester's service, on some permanent mission in France,
perhaps in connexion with the Alençon intrigues. He was thus launched
into what was looked upon as the road of preferment; in his case, as it
turned out, a very subordinate form of public employment, which was to
continue almost for his lifetime. Sidney had recognized his unusual
power, if not yet his genius. He brought him forward; perhaps he
accepted him as a friend. Tradition makes him Sidney's companion at
Penshurst; in his early poems, Kent is the county with which he seems
most familiar. But Sidney certainly made him known to the queen; he
probably recommended him as a promising servant to Leicester: and he
impressed his own noble and beautiful character deeply on Spenser's
mind. Spenser saw and learned in him what was then the highest type of
the finished gentleman. He led Spenser astray. Sidney was not without
his full share of that affectation, which was then thought refinement.
Like Gabriel Harvey, he induced Spenser to waste his time on the
artificial versifying which was in vogue. But such faults and mistakes
of fashion, and in one shape or another they are inevitable in all ages,
were as nothing, compared to the influence on a highly receptive nature,
of a character so elevated and pure, so genial, so brave and true. It
was not in vain that Spenser was thus brought so near to his

These letters tell us all that we know of Spenser's life at this time.
During these anxious eighteen months, and connected with persons like
Sidney and Leicester, Spenser only writes to Harvey on literary
subjects. He is discreet, and will not indulge Harvey's "desire to hear
of my late being with her Majesty." According to a literary fashion of
the time, he writes and is addressed as _M. Immerito_, and the great
business which occupies him and fills the letters is the scheme devised
in Sidney's _Areopagus_ for the "general surceasing and silence of bald
Rymers, and also of the very best of them too; and for prescribing
certain laws and rules of quantities of English syllables for English
verse." Spenser "is more in love with his English versifying than with
ryming,"--"which," he says to Harvey, "I should have done long since, if
I would then have followed your counsel." Harvey, of course, is
delighted; he thanks the good angel which puts it into the heads of
Sidney and Edward Dyer, "the two very diamonds of her Majesty's court,"
"our very Castor and Pollux," to "help forward our new famous enterprise
for the exchanging of barbarous rymes for artificial verses;" and the
whole subject is discussed at great length between the two friends; "Mr.
Drant's" rules are compared with those of "Mr. Sidney," revised by "Mr.
Immerito;" and examples, highly illustrative of the character of the
"famous enterprise" are copiously given. In one of Harvey's letters we
have a curious account of changes of fashion in studies and ideas at
Cambridge. They seem to have changed since Spenser's time.

     I beseech you all this while, what news at _Cambridge_?
     _Tully_ and _Demosthenes_ nothing so much studied as they were
     wont: _Livy_ and _Sallust_ perhaps more, rather than less:
     _Lucian_ never so much: _Aristotle_ much named but little
     read: _Xenophon_ and _Plato_ reckoned amongst discoursers, and
     conceited superficial fellows; much verbal and sophistical
     jangling; little subtle and effectual disputing. _Machiavel_ a
     great man: _Castilio_, of no small repute: _Petrarch_ and
     _Boccace_ in every man's mouth: _Galateo_ and _Guazzo_ never
     so happy: but some acquainted with _Unico Aretino_: the
     _French_ and _Italian_ highly regarded: the _Latin_ and
     _Greek_ but lightly. The _Queen Mother_ at the beginning or
     end of every conference: all inquisitive after news: new
     _books_, new fashions, new laws, new officers, and some after
     new elements, some after new heavens and hells too. _Turkish_
     affairs familiarly known: castles built in the air: much ado,
     and little help: in no age so little so much made of; every
     one highly in his own favour. Something made of nothing, in
     spight of Nature: numbers made of cyphers, in spight of Art.
     Oxen and asses, notwithstanding the absurdity it seemed to
     _Plautus_, drawing in the same yoke: the Gospel taught, not
     learnt; Charity cold; nothing good, but by imputation; the
     Ceremonial Law in word abrogated, the Judicial in effect
     disannull'd, the Moral abandon'd; _the Light, the Light_ in
     every man's lips, but mark their eyes, and you will say they
     are rather like owls than eagles. As of old books, so of
     ancient virtue, honesty, fidelity, equity, new abridgments;
     every day spawns new opinions: heresy in divinity, in
     philosophy, in humanity, in manners, grounded upon hearsay;
     doctors contemn'd; the _devil_ not so hated as the _pope_;
     many invectives, but no amendment. No more ado about caps and
     surplices; Mr. _Cartwright_ quite forgotten.

            *       *       *       *       *

     _David_, _Ulysses_, and _Solon_, feign'd themselves fools and
     madmen; our fools and madmen feign themselves _Davids_,
     _Ulysses's_, and _Solons_. It is pity fair weather should do
     any hurt; but I know what peace and quietness hath done with
     some melancholy pickstraws.

The letters preserve a good many touches of character which are
interesting. This, for instance, which shows Spenser's feeling about
Sidney. "New books," writes Spenser, "I hear of none, but only of one,
that writing a certain book called _The School of Abuse_, [Stephen
Gosson's _Invective against poets, pipers, players, &c._] and dedicating
to M. Sidney, was for his labour scorned: _if at least it be in the
goodness of that nature to scorn_." As regards Spenser himself, it is
clear from the letters that Harvey was not without uneasiness lest his
friend, from his gay and pleasure-loving nature, and the temptations
round him, should be carried away into the vices of an age, which,
though very brilliant and high-tempered, was also a very dissolute one.
He couches his counsels mainly in Latin; but they point to real danger;
and he adds in English,--"Credit me, I will never lin [= cease] baiting
at you, till I have rid you quite of this yonkerly and womanly humour."
But in the second pair of letters of April, 1580, a lady appears.
Whether Spenser was her husband or her lover, we know not; but she is
his "sweetheart." The two friends write of her in Latin. Spenser sends
in Latin the saucy messages of his sweetheart, "meum corculum," to
Harvey; Harvey, with academic gallantry, sends her in Latin as many
thanks for her charming letter as she has hairs, "half golden, half
silver, half jewelled, in her little head;"--she is a second little
Rosalind--"altera Rosalindula," whom he salutes as "Domina Immerito, mea
bellissima Colina Clouta." But whether wife or mistress, we hear of her
no more. Further, the letters contain notices of various early works of
Spenser. The "new" _Shepherd's Calendar_, of which more will be said,
had just been published. And in this correspondence of April, 1580, we
have the first mention of the _Faery Queen_. The compositions here
mentioned have been either lost, or worked into his later poetry; his
_Dreams_, _Epithalamion Thamesis_, apparently in the "reformed verse,"
his _Dying Pelican_, his _Slumber_, his _Stemmata Dudleiana_, his
_Comedies_. They show at least the activity and eagerness of the writer
in his absorbing pursuit. But he was still in bondage to the belief that
English poetry ought to try to put on a classical dress. It is strange
that the man who had written some of the poetry in the _Shepherd's
Calendar_ should have found either satisfaction or promise in the
following attempt at Trimeter Iambics.

     And nowe requite I you with the like, not with the verye
     beste, but with the verye shortest, namely, with a few
     Iambickes: I dare warrant they be precisely perfect for the
     feete (as you can easily judge), and varie not one inch from
     the Rule. I will imparte yours to Maister _Sidney_ and Maister
     _Dyer_ at my nexte going to the Courte. I praye you, keepe
     mine close to your selfe, or your verie entire friends,
     Maister _Preston_, Maister _Still_, and the reste.

                        _Iambicum Trimetrum._

          Unhappie Verse, the witnesse of my unhappie state,
            Make thy selfe fluttring wings of thy fast flying
            Thought, and fly forth unto my Love wheresoever she be:

          Whether lying reastlesse in heavy bedde, or else
            Sitting so cheerlesse at the cheerfull boorde, or else
            Playing alone carelesse on hir heavenlie Virginals.

          If in Bed, tell hir, that my eyes can take no reste:
            If at Boorde, tell hir that my mouth can eate no meate:
            If at hir Virginals, tell hir, I can heare no mirth.

          Asked why? say: Waking Love suffereth no sleepe:
            Say, that raging Love dothe appall the weake stomacke:
            Say, that lamenting Love marreth the Musicall.

          Tell hir, that hir pleasures were wonte to lull me asleepe:
            Tell hir, that hir beautie was wonte to feede mine eyes:
            Tell hir, that hir sweete Tongue was wonte to make me mirth.

          Nowe doe I nightly waste, wanting my kindely reste:
            Nowe doe I dayly starve, wanting my lively foode:
            Nowe doe I alwayes dye, wanting thy timely mirth.

          And if I waste, who will bewaile my heavy chaunce?
            And if I starve, who will record my cursed end?
            And if I dye, who will saye: _this was Immerito_?



       ----Since the winged god his planet clear
     Began in me to move, one year is spent:
     The which doth longer unto me appear
     Than _all those forty_ which my life outwent.

                  _Sonnet_ LX., probably written in 1593 or 1594.

[5:2] Leicester House, then Essex House, in the Strand.

[5:3] Earl of Essex.

[5:4] At Cadiz, June 21, 1596.

[6:5] _Sonnet_ LXXIV.

[6:6] _Colin Clout's come Home again_, l. 536. Craik, _Spenser_, i. 9.

[7:7] See _The Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell_, 1568-1580: from
the MSS. at Towneley Hall. Edited by Rev. A. B. Grosart, 1877.

[9:8] H. B. Wilson, _Hist. of Merchant Taylors' School_, p. 23.

[13:9] Comp. _Sheph. Cal._ April l. 36. June l. 8. F. Q. 6. 10. 7.

[22:1] Published in June, 1580. Reprinted incompletely in Haslewood,
_Ancient Critical Essays_ (1815), ii. 255. Extracts given in editions of
Spenser by Hughes, Todd, and Morris. The letters are of April, 1579, and
October, 1580.




It is clear that when Spenser appeared in London, he had found out his
powers and vocation as a poet. He came from Cambridge, fully conscious
of the powerful attraction of the imaginative faculties, conscious of an
extraordinary command over the resources of language, and with a
singular gift of sensitiveness to the grace and majesty and
suggestiveness of sound and rhythm, such as makes a musician. And
whether he knew it or not, his mind was in reality made up, as to what
his English poetry was to be. In spite of opinions and fashions round
him, in spite of university pedantry and the affectations of the court,
in spite of Harvey's classical enthusiasm, and Sidney's Areopagus, and
in spite of half-fancying himself converted to their views, his own
powers and impulses showed him the truth, and made him understand better
than his theories what a poet could and ought to do with English speech
in its free play and genuine melodies. When we first come upon him, we
find that at the age of twenty-seven, he had not only realized an idea
of English poetry far in advance of anything which his age had yet
conceived or seen; but that, besides what he had executed or planned, he
had already in his mind the outlines of the _Faery Queen_, and, in some
form or other, though perhaps not yet as we have it, had written some
portion of it.

In attempting to revive for his own age Chaucer's suspended art, Spenser
had the tendencies of the time with him. The age was looking out for
some one to do for England what had been grandly done for Italy. The
time in truth was full of poetry. The nation was just in that condition
which is most favourable to an outburst of poetical life or art. It was
highly excited; but it was also in a state of comparative peace and
freedom from external disturbance. "An over-faint quietness," writes
Sidney in 1581, lamenting that there were so few good poets, "should
seem to strew the house for poets." After the first ten years of
Elizabeth's reign, and the establishment of her authority, the country
had begun to breathe freely, and fall into natural and regular ways.
During the first half of the century, it had had before it the most
astonishing changes which the world had seen for centuries. These
changes seemed definitely to have run their course; with the convulsions
which accompanied them, their uprootings and terrors, they were gone;
and the world had become accustomed to their results. The nation still
had before it great events, great issues, great perils, great and
indefinite prospects of adventure and achievement. The old quarrels and
animosities of Europe had altered in character: from being wars between
princes, and disputes of personal ambition, they had attracted into them
all that interests and divides mankind, from high to low. Their
animating principle was a high and a sacred cause: they had become wars
of liberty, and wars of religion. The world had settled down to the
fixed antipathies and steady rivalries of centuries to come. But the
mere shock of transition was over. Yet the remembrance of the great
break-up was still fresh. For fifty years the English people had had
before its eyes the great vicissitudes which make tragedy. They had seen
the most unforeseen and most unexpected revolutions in what had for ages
been held certain and immovable; the overthrow of the strongest
institutions, and most venerable authorities; the violent shifting of
feelings from faith to passionate rejection, from reverence to scorn and
a hate which could not be satisfied. They had seen the strangest turns
of fortune, the most wonderful elevations to power, the most terrible
visitations of disgrace. They had seen the mightiest ruined, the
brightest and most admired brought down to shame and death, men struck
down with all the forms of law, whom the age honoured as its noblest
ornaments. They had seen the flames of martyr or heretic, heads which
had worn a crown laid one after another on the block, controversies, not
merely between rivals for power, but between the deepest principles and
the most rooted creeds, settled on the scaffold. Such a time of
surprise,--of hope and anxiety, of horror and anguish to-day, of relief
and exultation to-morrow,--had hardly been to England as the first half
of the sixteenth century. All that could stir men's souls, all that
could inflame their hearts, or that could wring them, had happened.

And yet, compared with previous centuries, and with what was going on
abroad, the time now was a time of peace, and men lived securely. Wealth
was increasing. The Wars of the Roses had left the crown powerful to
enforce order, and protect industry and trade. The nation was beginning
to grow rich. When the day's work was done, men's leisure was not
disturbed by the events of neighbouring war. They had time to open
their imaginations to the great spectacle which had been unrolled before
them, to reflect upon it, to put into shape their thoughts about it. The
intellectual movement of the time had reached England, and its strong
impulse to mental efforts in new and untried directions was acting
powerfully upon Englishmen. But though there was order and present peace
at home, there was much to keep men's minds on the stretch. There was
quite enough danger and uncertainty to wind up their feelings to a high
pitch. But danger was not so pressing as to prevent them from giving
full place to the impressions of the strange and eventful scene round
them, with its grandeur, its sadness, its promises. In such a state of
things there is everything to tempt poetry. There are its materials and
its stimulus, and there is the leisure to use its materials.

But the poet had not yet been found; and everything connected with
poetry was in the disorder of ignorance and uncertainty. Between the
counsels of a pedantic scholarship, and the rude and hesitating, but
true instincts of the natural English ear, every one was at sea. Yet it
seemed as if every one was trying his hand at verse. Popular writing
took that shape. The curious and unique record of literature preserved
in the registers of the Stationers' Company, shows that the greater
proportion of what was published, or at least entered for publication,
was in the shape of ballads. The ballad vied with the sermon in doing
what the modern newspaper does, in satisfying the public craving for
information, amusement, or guidance. It related the last great novelty,
the last great battle or crime, a storm or monstrous birth. It told some
pathetic or burlesque story, or it moralized on the humours or follies
of classes and professions, of young and old, of men and of women. It
sang the lover's hopes or sorrows, or the adventures of some hero of
history or romance. It might be a fable, a satire, a libel, a squib, a
sacred song or paraphrase, a homily. But about all that it treated it
sought to throw more or less the colour of imagination. It appealed to
the reader's feelings, or sympathy, or passion. It attempted to raise
its subject above the level of mere matter of fact. It sought for choice
and expressive words; it called in the help of measure and rhythm. It
aimed at a rude form of art. Presently the critical faculty came into
play. Scholars, acquainted with classical models and classical rules,
began to exercise their judgment on their own poetry, to construct
theories, to review the performances before them, to suggest plans for
the improvement of the poetic art. Their essays are curious, as the
beginnings of that great critical literature, which in England, in spite
of much infelicity, has only been second to the poetry which it judged.
But in themselves they are crude, meagre, and helpless; interesting
mainly, as showing how much craving there was for poetry, and how little
good poetry to satisfy it, and what inconceivable doggrel could be
recommended by reasonable men, as fit to be admired and imitated. There
is fire and eloquence in Philip Sidney's _Apologie for Poetrie_ (1581);
but his ideas about poetry were floating, loose, and ill defined, and he
had not much to point to as of first-rate excellence in recent writers.
Webbe's _Discourse of English Poetrie_ (1586), and the more elaborate
work ascribed to George Puttenham (1589), works of tame and artificial
learning without Sidney's fire, reveal equally the poverty, as a whole,
of what had been as yet produced in England as poetry, in spite of the
widespread passion for poetry. The specimens which they quote and praise
are mostly grotesque to the last degree. Webbe improves some gracefully
flowing lines of Spenser's into the most portentous Sapphics; and
Puttenham squeezes compositions into the shapes of triangles, eggs, and
pilasters. Gabriel Harvey is accused by his tormentor, Nash, of doing
the same, "of having writ verse in all kinds, as in form of a pair of
gloves, a dozen of points, a pair of spectacles, a two-hand sword, a
poynado, a colossus, a pyramid, a painter's easel, a market cross, a
trumpet, an anchor, a pair of pot-hooks." Puttenham's Art of Poetry,
with its books, one on Proportion, the other on Ornament, might be
compared to an Art of War, of which one book treated of barrack drill,
and the other of busbies, sabretasches, and different forms of
epaulettes and feathers. These writers do not want good sense or the
power to make a good remark. But the stuff and material for good
criticism, the strong and deep poetry, which makes such criticisms as
theirs seem so absurd, had not yet appeared.

A change was at hand; and the suddenness of it is one of the most
astonishing things in literary history. The ten years from 1580 to 1590
present a set of critical essays, giving a picture of English poetry of
which, though there are gleams of a better hope, and praise is specially
bestowed on a "new poet," the general character is feebleness, fantastic
absurdity, affectation and bad taste. Force, and passion, and simple
truth, and powerful thoughts of the world and man, are rare; and
poetical reformers appear maundering about miserable attempts at English
hexameters and sapphics. What was to be looked for from all that? Who
could suppose what was preparing under it all? But the dawn was come.
The next ten years, from 1590 to 1600, not only saw the _Faery Queen_,
but they were the years of the birth of the English Drama. Compare the
idea which we get of English poetry from Philip Sidney's Defense in
1581, and Puttenham's treatise in 1589, I do not say with Shakespere,
but with Lamb's selections from the Dramatic Poets, many of them unknown
names to the majority of modern readers; and we see at once what a bound
English poetry has made; we see that a new spring time of power and
purpose in poetical thought has opened; new and original forms have
sprung to life of poetical grandeur, seriousness, and magnificence. From
the poor and rude play-houses, with their troops of actors most of them
profligate and disreputable, their coarse excitements, their buffoonery,
license, and taste for the monstrous and horrible,--denounced not
without reason as corruptors of public morals, preached against at
Paul's Cross, expelled the city by the Corporation, classed by the law
with rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, and patronized by the great
and unscrupulous nobles in defiance of it--there burst forth suddenly a
new poetry, which with its reality, depth, sweetness and nobleness took
the world captive. The poetical ideas and aspirations of the Englishmen
of the time had found at last adequate interpreters, and their own
national and unrivalled expression.

And in this great movement Spenser was the harbinger and announcing
sign. But he was only the harbinger. What he did was to reveal to
English ears as it never had been revealed before, at least, since the
days of Chaucer, the sweet music, the refined grace, the inexhaustible
versatility of the English tongue. But his own efforts were in a
different direction from that profound and insatiable seeking after the
real, in thought and character, in representation and expression, which
made Shakespere so great, and his brethren great in proportion as they
approached him. Spenser's genius continued to the end under the
influences which were so powerful when it first unfolded itself. To the
last it allied itself, in form, at least, with the artificial. To the
last it moved in a world which was not real, which never had existed,
which, any how, was only a world of memory and sentiment. He never threw
himself frankly on human life as it is; he always viewed it through a
veil of mist which greatly altered its true colours, and often distorted
its proportions. And thus while more than any one he prepared the
instruments and the path for the great triumph, he himself missed the
true field for the highest exercise of poetic power; he missed the
highest honours of that in which he led the way.

Yet, curiously enough, it seems as if, early in his career, he was
affected by the strong stream which drew Shakespere. Among the
compositions of his first period, besides _The Shepherd's Calendar_, are
_Nine Comedies_,--clearly real plays, which his friend Gabriel Harvey
praised with enthusiasm. As early as 1579 Spenser had laid before
Gabriel Harvey for his judgement and advice, a portion of the _Fairy
Queen_ in some shape or another, and these nine comedies. He was
standing at the parting of the ways. The allegory, with all its tempting
associations and machinery, with its ingenuities and pictures, and
boundless license to vagueness and to fancy, was on one side; and on the
other, the drama, with its _prima facie_ and superficially prosaic
aspects, and its kinship to what was customary and commonplace and
unromantic in human life. Of the nine comedies, composed on the model of
those of Ariosto and Machiavelli and other Italians, every trace has
perished. But this was Gabriel Harvey's opinion of the respective value
of the two specimens of work submitted to him, and this was his counsel
to their author. In April, 1580, he thus writes to Spenser.

     In good faith I had once again nigh forgotten your _Faerie
     Queene_; howbeit, by good chance, I have now sent her home at
     the last neither in better or worse case than I found her. And
     must you of necessity have my judgement of her indeed? To be
     plain, I am void of all judgement, if your _Nine Comedies_,
     whereunto in imitation of Herodotus, you give the names of the
     Nine Muses (and in one man's fancy not unworthily), come not
     nearer Ariosto's comedies, either for the fineness of
     plausible elocution, or the rareness of poetical invention,
     than that _Elvish Queen_ doth to his _Orlando Furioso_, which
     notwithstanding you will needs seem to emulate, and hope to
     overgo, as you flatly professed yourself in one of your last

     Besides that you know, it hath been the usual practice of the
     most exquisite and odd wits in all nations, and specially in
     Italy rather to show, and advance themselves that way than any
     other: as, namely, those three notorious discoursing heads,
     Bibiena, Machiavel, and Aretino did (to let Bembo and Ariosto
     pass) with the great admiration and wonderment of the whole
     country: being indeed reputed matchable in all points, both
     for conceit of wit and eloquent deciphering of matters, either
     with Aristophanes and Menander in Greek, or with Plautus and
     Terence in Latin, or with any other in any other tongue. But I
     will not stand greatly with you in your own matters. If so be
     the _Faery Queene_ be fairer in your eye than the Nine Muses,
     and Hobgoblin run away with the garland from Apollo: mark what
     I say, and yet I will not say that I thought, but there is an
     end for this once, and fare you well, till God or some good
     angel put you in a better mind.

It is plain on which side Spenser's own judgement inclined. He had
probably written the comedies, as he had written English hexameters, out
of deference to others, or to try his hand. But the current of his own
secret thoughts, those thoughts, with their ideals and aims, which tell
a man what he is made for, and where his power lies, set another way.
The _Fairy Queen was_ 'fairer in his eye than the Nine Muses, and
Hobgoblin did run away with the garland from Apollo.' What Gabriel
Harvey prayed for as the 'better mind' did not come. And we cannot
repine at a decision which gave us, in the shape which it took at last,
the allegory of the _Fairy Queen_.

But the _Fairy Queen_, though already planned and perhaps begun, belongs
to the last ten years of the century, to the season of fulfilment not of
promise, to the blossoming, not to the opening bud. The new hopes for
poetry which Spenser brought were given in a work, which the _Fairy
Queen_ has eclipsed and almost obscured, as the sun puts out the morning
star. Yet that which marked a turning-point in the history of our
poetry, was the book which came out, timidly and anonymously, in the end
of 1579, or the beginning of 1580, under the borrowed title of the
_Shepherd's Calendar_, a name familiar in those days as that of an early
medley of astrology and homely receipts from time to time reprinted,
which was the Moore's or Zadkiel's almanac of the time. It was not
published ostensibly by Spenser himself, though it is inscribed to
Philip Sidney in a copy of verses signed with Spenser's masking name of
_Immerito_. The avowed responsibility for it might have been
inconvenient for a young man pushing his fortune among the cross
currents of Elizabeth's court. But it was given to the world by a friend
of the author's, signing himself E. K., now identified with Spenser's
fellow-student at Pembroke, Edward Kirke, who dedicates it in a long,
critical epistle of some interest to the author's friend, Gabriel
Harvey, and after the fashion of some of the Italian books of poetry,
accompanies it with a gloss, explaining words, and to a certain extent,
allusions. Two things are remarkable in Kirke's epistle. One is the
confidence with which he announces the yet unrecognized excellence of
"this one new poet," whom he is not afraid to put side by side with
"that good old poet," Chaucer, the "loadstar of our language." The other
point is the absolute reliance which he places on the powers of the
English language, handled by one who has discerned its genius, and is
not afraid to use its wealth. "In my opinion, it is one praise of many,
that are due to this poet, that he hath laboured to restore, as to their
rightful heritage, such good and natural English words, as have been
long time out of use, or almost clean disherited, which is the only
cause, that our mother tongue, which truly of itself is both full enough
for prose, and stately enough for verse, hath long time been counted
most bare and barren of both." The friends, Kirke and Harvey, were not
wrong in their estimate of the importance of Spenser's work. The "new
poet," as he came to be customarily called, had really made one of those
distinct steps in his art, which answer to discoveries and inventions in
other spheres of human interest--steps which make all behind them seem
obsolete and mistaken. There was much in the new poetry which was
immature and imperfect, not a little that was fantastic and affected.
But it was the first adequate effort of reviving English poetry.

The _Shepherd's Calendar_ consists of twelve compositions, with no other
internal connexion than that they are assigned respectively to the
twelve months of the year. They are all different in subject, metre,
character, and excellence. They are called _Æglogues_, according to the
whimsical derivation adopted from the Italians of the word which the
classical writers called Eclogues: "_Æglogai_, as it were αἰγῶν or
αἰγονόμων λόγοι, that is, Goatherd's Tales." The book is in its form
an imitation of that highly artificial kind of poetry which the later
Italians of the Renaissance had copied from Virgil, as Virgil had copied
it from the Sicilian and Alexandrian Greeks, and to which had been given
the name of Bucolic or Pastoral. Petrarch, in imitation of Virgil, had
written Latin Bucolics, as he had written a Latin Epic, his _Africa_. He
was followed in the next century by Baptista Mantuanus (1448-1516), the
"old Mantuan," of Holofernes in _Love's Labour's Lost_, whose Latin
"Eglogues" became a favourite school-book in England, and who was
imitated by a writer who passed for a poet in the time of Henry VIII.,
Alexander Barclay. In the hands of the Sicilians, pastoral poetry may
have been an attempt at idealizing country life almost as genuine as
some of Wordsworth's poems; but it soon ceased to be that, and in
Alexandrian hands it took its place among the recognized departments of
classic and literary copying, in which Virgil found and used it. But a
further step had been made since Virgil had adopted it as an instrument
of his genius. In the hands of Mantuan and Barclay it was a vehicle for
general moralizing, and in particular for severe satire on women and the
clergy. And Virgil, though he may himself speak under the the names of
Tityrus and Menalcas, and lament Julius Cæsar as Daphnis, did not
conceive of the Roman world as peopled by flocks and sheep-cotes, or its
emperors and chiefs, its poets, senators, and ladies, as shepherds and
shepherdesses, of higher or lower degree. But in Spenser's time, partly
through undue deference to what was supposed to be Italian taste, partly
owing to the tardiness of national culture, and because the poetic
impulses had not yet gained power to force their way through the
embarrassment and awkwardness which accompany reviving art,--the world
was turned for the purposes of the poetry of civil life, into a pastoral
scene. Poetical invention was held to consist in imagining an
environment, a set of outward circumstances, as unlike as possible to
the familiar realities of actual life and employment, in which the
primary affections and passions had their play. A fantastic basis,
varying according to the conventions of the fashion, was held essential
for the representation of the ideal. Masquerade and hyperbole were the
stage and scenery on which the poet's sweetness, or tenderness, or
strength was to be put forth. The masquerade, when his subject belonged
to peace, was one of shepherds: when it was one of war and adventure, it
was a masquerade of knight errantry. But a masquerade was necessary, if
he was to raise his composition above the vulgarities and trivialities
of the street, the fire-side, the camp, or even the court; if he was to
give it the dignity, the ornament, the unexpected results, the
brightness, and colour, which belong to poetry. The fashion had the
sanction of the brilliant author of the _Arcadia_, the "Courtier,
Soldier, Scholar," who was the "mould of form," and whose judgment was
law to all men of letters in the middle years of Elizabeth, the
all-accomplished Philip Sidney. Spenser submitted to this fashion from
first to last. When first he ventured on a considerable poetical
enterprise, he spoke his thoughts, not in his own name, nor as his
contemporaries ten years later did, through the mouth of characters in a
tragic or comic drama, but through imaginary rustics, to whom every one
else in the world was a rustic, and lived among the sheep-folds, with a
background of downs or vales or fields, and the open sky above. His
shepherds and goatherds bear the homely names of native English clowns,
Diggon Davie, Willye, and Piers; Colin Clout, adopted from Skelton,
stands for Spenser himself; Hobbinol, for Gabriel Harvey; Cuddie,
perhaps for Edward Kirke; names revived by Ambrose Phillips, and laughed
at by Pope, when pastorals again came into vogue with the wits of Queen
Anne.[42:1] With them are mingled classical ones like Menalcas, French
ones from Marot, anagrams like Algrind for Grindal, significant ones
like Palinode, plain ones like Lettice, and romantic ones like Rosalind;
and no incongruity seems to be found in matching a beautiful shepherdess
named Dido with a Great Shepherd called Lobbin, or when the verse
requires it, Lobb. And not merely the speakers in the dialogue are
shepherds; every one is in their view a shepherd. Chaucer is the "god of
shepherds," and Orpheus is a--

              "Shepherd that did fetch his dame
     From Plutoe's baleful bower withouten leave."

The "fair Elisa," is the Queen of shepherds all; her great father is
Pan, the shepherds' god, and Anne Boleyn is Syrinx. It is not unnatural
that when the clergy are spoken of, as they are in three of the poems,
the figure should be kept up. But it is curious to find that the
shepherd's god, the great Pan, who stands in one connexion for Henry
VIII., should in another represent in sober earnest the Redeemer and
Judge of the world.[42:2]

The poems framed in this grotesque setting, are on many themes, and of
various merit, and probably of different dates. Some are simply amatory
effusions of an ordinary character, full of a lover's despair and
complaint. Three or four are translations or imitations; translations
from Marot, imitations from Theocritus, Bion, or Virgil. Two of them
contain fables told with great force and humour. The story of the Oak
and the Briar, related as his friendly commentator, Kirke, says, "so
lively and so feelingly, as if the thing were set forth in some picture
before our eyes," for the warning of "disdainful younkers," is a first
fruit, and promise of Spenser's skill in vivid narrative. The fable of
the Fox and the Kid, a curious illustration of the popular discontent at
the negligence of the clergy, and the popular suspicions about the arts
of Roman intriguers, is told with great spirit, and with mingled humour
and pathos. There is of course a poem in honour of the great queen, who
was the goddess of their idolatry to all the wits and all the learned of
England, the "faire Eliza," and a compliment is paid to Leicester,

                 The worthy whom she loveth best,--
     That first the White Bear to the stake did bring.

Two of them are avowedly burlesque imitations of rustic dialect and
banter, carried on with much spirit. One composition is a funeral
tribute to some unknown lady; another is a complaint of the neglect of
poets by the great. In three of the Æglogues he comes on a more serious
theme; they are vigorous satires on the loose living and greediness of
clergy forgetful of their charge, with strong invectives against foreign
corruption and against the wiles of the wolves and foxes of Rome, with
frequent allusions to passing incidents in the guerilla war with the
seminary priests, and with a warm eulogy on the faithfulness and wisdom
of Archbishop Grindal; whose name is disguised as old Algrind, and with
whom in his disgrace the poet is not afraid to confess deep sympathy.
They are, in a poetical form, part of that manifold and varied system of
Puritan aggression on the established ecclesiastical order of England,
which went through the whole scale from the "Admonition to Parliament,"
and the lectures of Cartwright and Travers, to the libels of Martin
Mar-prelate: a system of attack which with all its injustice and
violence, and with all its mischievous purposes, found but too much
justification in the inefficiency and corruption of many both of the
bishops and clergy, and in the rapacious and selfish policy of the
government, forced to starve and cripple the public service, while great
men and favourites built up their fortunes out of the prodigal
indulgence of the Queen.

The collection of poems is thus a very miscellaneous one, and cannot be
said to be in its subjects inviting. The poet's system of composition,
also, has the disadvantage of being to a great degree unreal, forced and
unnatural. Departing from the precedent of Virgil and the Italians, but
perhaps copying the artificial Doric of the Alexandrians, he professes
to make his language and style suitable to the "ragged and rustical"
rudeness of the shepherds whom he brings on the scene, by making it both
archaic and provincial. He found in Chaucer a store of forms and words
sufficiently well known to be with a little help intelligible, and
sufficiently out of common use to give the character of antiquity to a
poetry which employed them. And from his sojourn in the North he is said
to have imported a certain number of local peculiarities which would
seem unfamiliar and harsh in the South. His editor's apology for this
use of "ancient solemn words," as both proper and as ornamental, is
worth quoting; it is an early instance of what is supposed to be not yet
common, a sense of pleasure in that wildness which we call picturesque.

     And first for the words to speak: I grant they be something
     hard, and of most men unused: yet English, and also used of
     most excellent Authors and most famous Poets. In whom, when as
     this our Poet hath been much travelled and throughly read, how
     could it be, (as that worthy Orator said,) but that 'walking
     in the sun, although for other cause he walked, yet needs he
     mought be sun-burnt'; and having the sound of those ancient
     poets still ringing in his ears, he mought needs, in singing,
     hit out some of their tunes. But whether he useth them by such
     casualty and custom, or of set purpose and choice, as thinking
     them fittest for such rustical rudeness of shepherds, either
     for that their rough sound would make his rymes more ragged
     and rustical, or else because such old and obsolete words are
     most used of country folks, sure I think, and I think not
     amiss, that they bring great grace, and, as one would say,
     authority, to the verse. . . . . Yet neither everywhere must
     old words be stuffed in, nor the common Dialect and manner of
     speaking so corrupted thereby, that, as in old buildings, it
     seem disorderly and ruinous. But as in most exquisite pictures
     they use to blaze and portrait not only the dainty lineaments
     of beauty, but also round about it to shadow the rude thickets
     and craggy cliffs, that by the baseness of such parts, more
     excellency may accrue to the principal--for ofttimes, we find
     ourselves I know not how, singularly delighted with the show
     of such natural rudeness, and take great pleasure in that
     disorderly order:--even so do these rough and harsh terms
     enlumine, and make more clearly to appear, the brightness of
     brave and glorious words. So oftentimes a discord in music
     maketh a comely concordance.

But when allowance is made for an eclectic and sometimes pedantic
phraseology, and for mannerisms to which the fashion of the age tempted
him, such as the extravagant use of alliteration, or, as they called it,
"hunting the letter," the _Shepherd's Calendar_ is, for its time, of
great interest.

Spenser's force, and sustained poetical power, and singularly musical
ear are conspicuous in this first essay of his genius. In the poets
before him of this century, fragments and stanzas, and perhaps single
pieces might be found, which might be compared with his work. Fugitive
pieces, chiefly amatory, meet us of real sprightliness, or grace, or
tenderness. The stanzas which Sackville, afterwards, Lord Buckhurst,
contributed to the collection called the _Mirror of Magistrates_,[46:3]
are marked with a pathetic majesty, a genuine sympathy for the
precariousness of greatness, which seem a prelude to the Elizabethan
drama. But these fragments were mostly felicitous efforts, which soon
passed on into the ungainly, the uncouth, the obscure or the grotesque.
But in the _Shepherd's Calendar_ we have for the first time in the
century, the swing, the command, the varied resources of the real poet,
who is not driven by failing language or thought into frigid or tumid
absurdities. Spenser is master over himself and his instrument even when
he uses it in a way which offends our taste. There are passages in the
_Shepherd's Calendar_ of poetical eloquence, of refined vigour, and of
musical and imaginative sweetness, such as the English language had
never attained to, since the days of him, who was to the age of Spenser,
what Shakespere and Milton are to ours, the pattern and fount of poetry,
Chaucer. Dryden is not afraid to class Spenser with Theocritus and
Virgil, and to write that the _Shepherd's Calendar_ is not to be matched
in any language.[46:4] And this was at once recognized. The authorship
of it, as has been said, was not formally acknowledged. Indeed, Mr.
Collier remarks that seven years after its publication, and after it had
gone through three or four separate editions, it was praised by a
contemporary poet, George Whetstone, himself a friend of Spenser's, as
the "reputed work of Sir Philip Sidney." But if it was officially a
secret, it was an open secret, known to every one who cared to be well
informed. It is possible that the free language used in it about
ecclesiastical abuses was too much in sympathy with the growing
fierceness and insolence of Puritan invective to be safely used by a
poet who gave his name: and one of the reasons assigned for Burghley's
dislike to Spenser is the praise bestowed in the _Shepherd's Calendar_
on Archbishop Grindal, then in deep disgrace for resisting the
suppression of the puritan prophesyings. But anonymous as it was, it had
been placed under Sidney's protection; and it was at once warmly
welcomed. It is not often that in those remote days we get evidence of
the immediate effect of a book; but we have this evidence in Spenser's
case. In this year, probably, after it was published, we find it spoken
of by Philip Sidney, not without discriminating criticism, but as one of
the few recent examples of poetry worthy to be named after Chaucer.

     I account the _Mirror of Magistrates_ meetly furnished of
     beautiful parts; and in the Earl of Surrey's _Lyrics_ many
     things tasting of birth, and worthy of a noble mind. The
     _Shepherd's Calendar_ hath much poetry in his Eglogues: indeed
     worthy the reading if I be not deceived. That same framing of
     his style in an old rustic language I dare not allow, sith
     neither Theocritus in Greek, Virgil in Latin, nor Sanazar in
     Italian, did affect it. Besides these do I not remember to
     have seen but few (to speak boldly) printed that have poetical
     sinews in them.

Sidney's patronage of the writer and general approval of the work
doubtless had something to do with making Spenser's name known: but he
at once takes a place in contemporary judgment which no one else takes,
till the next decade of the century. In 1586, Webbe published his
_Discourse of English Poetrie_. In this, the author of the _Shepherd's
Calendar_ is spoken of by the name given him by its Editor, E. K----, as
the "new poet," just as earlier in the century, the _Orlando Furioso_
was styled the "nuova poesia;" and his work is copiously used to supply
examples and illustrations of the critic's rules and observations.
Webbe's review of existing poetry was the most comprehensive yet
attempted: but the place which he gives to the new poet, whose name was
in men's mouths, though like the author of _In Memoriam_, he had not
placed it on his title-page, was one quite apart.

     This place [to wear the Laurel] have I purposely reserved for
     one, who, if not only, yet in my judgement principally,
     deserveth the title of the rightest English poet that ever I
     read: that is, the author of the _Shepherd's Calendar_,
     intituled to the worthy Gentleman Master Philip Sidney,
     whether it was Master Sp. or what rare scholar in Pembroke
     Hall soever, because himself and his friends, for what respect
     I know not, would not reveal it, I force not greatly to set
     down. Sorry I am that I cannot find none other with whom I
     might couple him in this catalogue in his rare gift of poetry:
     although one there is, though now long since seriously
     occupied in graver studies, Master Gabriel Harvey, yet as he
     was once his most special friend and fellow poet, so because
     he hath taken such pains not only in his Latin poetry . . .
     but also to reform our English verse . . . therefore will I
     adventure to set them together as two of the rarest wits and
     learnedest masters of poetry in England.

He even ventured to compare him favourably with Virgil.

     But now yet at the last hath England hatched up one poet of
     this sort, in my conscience comparable with the best in any
     respect: even Master Sp., author of the _Shepherd's Calendar_,
     whose travail in that piece of English poetry I think verily
     is so commendable, as none of equal judgement can yield him
     less praise for his excellent skill and skilful excellency
     showed forth in the same than they would to either Theocritus
     or Virgil, whom in mine opinion, if the coarseness of our
     speech, (I mean the course of custom which he would not
     infringe,) had been no more let unto him than their pure
     native tongues were unto them, he would have, if it might be,
     surpassed them.

The courtly author of the _Arte of English Poesie_, 1589, commonly cited
as G. Puttenham, classes him with Sidney. And from this time his name
occurs in every enumeration of English poetical writers, till he
appears, more than justifying this early appreciation of his genius, as
Chaucer's not unworthy successor, in the _Faery Queen_. Afterwards, as
other successful poetry was written, and the standards of taste were
multiplied, this first enthusiastic reception cooled down. In James the
First's time, Spenser's use of "old outworn words" is criticized as
being no more "practical English" than Chaucer or Skelton: it is not
"courtly" enough.[49:5] The success of the _Shepherd's Calendar_ had
also, apparently, substantial results, which some of his friends thought
of with envy. They believed that it secured him high patronage, and
opened to him a way to fortune. Poor Gabriel Harvey, writing in the year
in which the _Shepherd's Calendar_ came out, contrasts his own less
favoured lot, and his ill-repaid poetical efforts, with Colin Clout's
good luck.

     But ever and ever, methinks, your great Catoes, _Ecquid erit
     pretii_, and our little Catoes, _Res age quæ prosunt_, make
     such a buzzing and ringing in my head, that I have little joy
     to animate and encourage either you or him to go forward,
     unless ye might make account of some certain ordinary wages,
     or at the least wise have your meat and drink for your day's
     works. As for myself, howsoever I have toyed and trifled
     heretofore, I am now taught, and I trust I shall shortly
     learn, (no remedy, I must of mere necessity give you over in
     the plain field) to employ my travail and time wholly or
     chiefly on those studies and practices that carry, as they
     say, meat in their mouth, having evermore their eye upon the
     Title, _De pane lucrando_, and their hand upon their
     halfpenny. For I pray now what saith Mr. Cuddie, alias you
     know who, in the tenth Æglogue of the aforesaid famous new

            *       *       *       *       *

          The dapper ditties, that I wont devise
            To feed youths' fancy and the flocking fry,
          Delighten much: what I the best for thy?
            They han the pleasure, I a sclender prize.
          I beat the bush, the birds to them do fly.
            What good thereof to Cuddie can arise?

     But Master Colin Clout is not everybody, and albeit his old
     companions, Master Cuddie and Master Hobinoll, be as little
     beholding to their mistress poetry as ever you wist: yet he,
     peradventure, by the means of her special favour, and some
     personal privilege, may haply live by _Dying Pelicans_, and
     purchase great lands and lordships with the money which his
     _Calendar_ and _Dreams_ have, and will afford him.


[42:1] In the _Guardian_, No. 40. Compare Johnson's _Life of Ambrose

[42:2] _Shepherd's Calendar_, May, July, and September.

[46:3] First published in 1559. It was popular book, and was often

[46:4] Dedication to Virgil.

[49:5] Bolton in Haslewood, ii. 249.




In the first week of October, 1579, Spenser was at Leicester House,
expecting "next week" to be despatched on Leicester's service to France.
Whether he was sent or not, we do not know. Gabriel Harvey, writing at
the end of the month, wagers that "for all his saying, he will not be
gone over sea, neither this week nor the next." In one of the Æglogues
(September) there are some lines which suggest, but do not necessarily
imply, the experience of an eye-witness of the state of religion in a
Roman Catholic country. But we can have nothing but conjecture whether
at this time or any other Spenser was on the Continent. The _Shepherd's
Calendar_ was entered at Stationers' Hall, December 5, 1579. In April,
1580, as we know from one of his letters to Harvey, he was at
Westminster. He speaks of the _Shepherd's Calendar_ as published; he is
contemplating the publication of other pieces, and then "he will in hand
forthwith with his _Fairie Queene_," of which he had sent Harvey a
specimen. He speaks especially of his _Dreams_ as a considerable work.

     I take best my _Dreams_ should come forth alone, being grown
     by means of the Gloss (running continually in manner of a
     Paraphrase) full as great as my _Calendar_. Therein be some
     things excellently, and many things wittily discoursed of E.
     K., and the pictures so singularly set forth and portrayed, as
     if Michael Angelo were there, he could (I think) nor amend the
     best, nor reprehend the worst. I know you would like them
     passing well.

It is remarkable that of a book so spoken of, as of the _Nine Comedies_,
not a trace, as far as appears, is to be found. He goes on to speak with
much satisfaction of another composition, which was probably
incorporated, like the _Epithalamion Thamesis_, in his later work.

     Of my _Stemmata Dudleiana_, and specially of the sundry
     Apostrophes therein, addressed you know to whom, much more
     advisement he had, than so lightly to send them abroad: now
     list, trust me (though I do never very well) yet, in mine own
     fancy, I never did better. _Veruntamen te sequor solum:
     nunquam vero assequar._

He is plainly not dissatisfied with his success, and is looking forward
to more. But no one in those days could live by poetry. Even scholars,
in spite of university endowments, did not hope to live by their
scholarship; and the poet or man of letters only trusted that his work,
by attracting the favour of the great, might open to him the door of
advancement. Spenser was probably expecting to push his fortunes in some
public employment under the patronage of two such powerful favourites as
Sidney and his uncle Leicester. Spenser's heart was set on poetry: but
what leisure he might have for it would depend on the course his life
might take. To have hung on Sidney's protection, or gone with him as his
secretary to the wars, to have been employed at home or abroad in
Leicester's intrigues, to have stayed in London filling by Leicester's
favour some government office, to have had his habits moulded and his
thoughts affected by the brilliant and unscrupulous society of the
court, or by the powerful and daring minds which were fast thronging the
political and literary scene--any of these contingencies might have
given his poetical faculty a different direction; nay, might have even
abridged its exercise or suppressed it. But his life was otherwise
ordered. A new opening presented itself. He had, and he accepted, the
chance of making his fortune another way. And to his new manner of life,
with its peculiar conditions, may be ascribed, not indeed the original
idea of that which was to be his great work, but the circumstances under
which the work was carried out, and which not merely coloured it, but
gave it some of its special and characteristic features.

That which turned the course of his career, and exercised a decisive
influence, certainly on its events and fate, probably also on the turn
of his thoughts and the shape and moulding of his work, was his
migration to Ireland, and his settlement there for the greater part of
the remaining eighteen years of his life. We know little more than the
main facts of this change from the court and the growing intellectual
activity of England, to the fierce and narrow interests of a cruel and
unsuccessful struggle for colonization, in a country which was to
England much what Algeria was to France some thirty years ago. Ireland,
always unquiet, had became a serious danger to Elizabeth's Government.
It was its "bleeding ulcer." Lord Essex's great colonizing scheme, with
his unscrupulous severity, had failed. Sir Henry Sidney, wise, firm, and
wishing to be just, had tried his hand as Deputy for the third time in
the thankless charge of keeping order; he, too, after a short gleam of
peace, had failed also. For two years Ireland had been left to the local
administration, totally unable to heal its wounds, or cope with its
disorders. And now, the kingdom threatened to become a vantage-ground to
the foreign enemy. In November, 1579, the Government turned their eyes
on Arthur, Lord Grey of Wilton, a man of high character, and a soldier
of distinction. He, or they, seem to have hesitated; or rather, the
hesitation was on both sides. He was not satisfied with many things in
the policy of the Queen in England: his discontent had led him, strong
Protestant as he was, to coquet with Norfolk and the partisans of Mary
Queen of Scots, when England was threatened with a French marriage ten
years before. His name stands among the forty nobles on whom Mary's
friends counted.[54:1] And on the other hand, Elizabeth did not like him
or trust him. For some time she refused to employ him. At length, in the
summer of 1580, he was appointed to fill that great place which had
wrecked the reputation and broken the hearts of a succession of able and
high-spirited servants of the English Crown, the place of Lord-Deputy in
Ireland. He was a man who was interested in the literary enterprise of
the time. In the midst of his public employment in Holland, he had been
the friend and patron of George Gascoigne, who left a high reputation,
for those days, as poet, wit, satirist, and critic. Lord Grey now took
Spenser, the "new poet," the friend of Philip Sidney, to Ireland as his

Spenser was not the only scholar and poet who about this time found
public employment in Ireland. Names which appear in literary records,
such as Warton's _History of English Poetry_, poets like Barnaby Googe
and Ludovic Bryskett, reappear as despatch-writers or agents in the
Irish State Papers. But one man came over to Ireland about the same time
as Spenser, whose fortunes were a contrast to his. Geoffrey Fenton was
one of the numerous translators of the time. He had dedicated Tragical
Tales from the French and Italian to Lady Mary Sidney, Guevara's
Epistles from the Spanish to Lady Oxford, and a translation of
Guicciardini to the Queen. About this time, he was recommended by his
brother to Walsingham for foreign service; he was soon after in Ireland:
and in the summer of 1580, he was made Secretary to the Government. He
shortly became one of the most important persons in the Irish
administration. He corresponded confidentially and continually with
Burghley and Walsingham. He had his eye on the proceedings of Deputies
and Presidents, and reported freely their misdoings or their
unpopularity. His letters form a considerable part of the Irish Papers.
He became a powerful and successful public servant. He became Sir
Geoffrey Fenton; he kept his high place for his life; he obtained grants
and lands; and he was commemorated as a great personage, in a pompous
monument in St. Patrick's Cathedral. This kind of success was not to be

Lord Grey of Wilton was a man in whom his friends saw a high and heroic
spirit. He was a statesman in whose motives and actions his religion had
a dominant influence: and his religion--he is called by the vague name
of Puritan--was one which combined a strong and doubtless genuine zeal
for the truth of Christian doctrine and for purity of morals, with the
deepest and deadliest hatred of what he held to be their natural enemy,
the Anti-Christ of Rome. The "good Lord Grey," he was, if we believe
his secretary, writing many years after this time, and when he was dead,
"most gentle, affable, loving, and temperate; always known to be a most
just, sincere, godly, and right noble man, far from sternness, far from
unrighteousness." But the infelicity of his times bore hardly upon him,
and Spenser admits, what is known otherwise, that he left a terrible
name behind him. He was certainly a man of severe and unshrinking sense
of duty, and like many great Englishmen of the time, so resolute in
carrying it out to the end, that it reached, when he thought it
necessary, to the point of ferocity. Naturally, he had enemies, who did
not spare his fame; and Spenser, who came to admire and reverence him,
had to lament deeply that "that good lord was blotted with the name of a
bloody man," one who "regarded not the life of the queen's subjects no
more than dogs, and had wasted and consumed all, so as now she had
nothing almost left, but to reign in their ashes."

Lord Grey was sent over at a moment of the utmost confusion and danger.
In July, 1579, Drury wrote to Burghley to stand firmly to the helm, for
"that a great storm was at hand." The South of Ireland was in fierce
rebellion, under the Earl of Desmond and Dr. Nicolas Sanders, who was
acting under the commission of the Pope, and promising the assistance of
the King of Spain; and a band of Spanish and Italian adventurers,
unauthorized, but not uncountenanced by their Government, like Drake in
the Indies, had landed with arms and stores, and had fortified a port at
Smerwick, on the south-western coast of Kerry. The North was deep in
treason, restless, and threatening to strike. Round Dublin itself, the
great Irish Lords of the Pale, under Lord Baltinglass, in the summer of
1580, had broken into open insurrection, and were holding out a hand to
the rebels of the South. The English garrisons, indeed, small as they
were, could not only hold their own against the ill-armed and
undisciplined Irish bands, but could inflict terrible chastisement on
the insurgents. The native feuds were turned to account; Butlers were
set to destroy their natural enemies the Geraldines, and the Earl of
Ormond their head, was appointed General in Munster, to execute English
vengeance and his own on the lands and people of his rival Desmond. But
the English chiefs were not strong enough to put down the revolt. "The
conspiracy throughout Ireland," wrote Lord Grey, "is so general, that
without a main force it will not be appeased. There are cold service and
unsound dealing generally." On the 12th of August, 1580, Lord Grey
landed, amid a universal wreck of order, of law, of mercy, of industry;
and among his counsellors and subordinates, the only remedy thought of
was that of remorseless and increasing severity.

It can hardly be doubted that Spenser must have come over with him. It
is likely that where he went, his Secretary would accompany him. And if
so, Spenser must soon have become acquainted with some of the scenes and
necessities of Irish life. Within three weeks after Lord Grey's landing,
he and those with him were present at the disaster of Glenmalure, a
rocky defile near Wicklow, where the rebels enticed the English captains
into a position in which an ambuscade had been prepared, after the
manner of Red Indians in the last century, and of South African savages
now, and where, in spite of Lord Grey's courage, "which could not have
been bettered by Hercules," a bloody defeat was inflicted on his troops,
and a number of distinguished officers were cut off. But Spenser was
soon to see a still more terrible example of this ruthless warfare. It
was necessary, above all things to destroy the Spanish fort at Smerwick,
in order to prevent the rebellion being fed from abroad: and in
November, 1580, Lord Grey in person undertook the work. The incidents of
this tragedy have been fully recorded, and they formed at the time a
heavy charge against Lord Grey's humanity, and even his honour. In this
instance Spenser must almost certainly have been on the spot. Years
afterwards, in his _View of the State of Ireland_, he describes and
vindicates Lord Grey's proceedings; and he does so, "being," as he
writes, "as near them as any." And we have Lord Grey's own despatch to
Queen Elizabeth, containing a full report of the tragical business. We
have no means of knowing how Lord Grey employed Spenser, or whether he
composed his own despatches. But from Spenser's position, the Secretary,
if he had not some hand in the following vivid and forcible account of
the taking of Smerwick,[58:2] must probably have been cognizant of it;
though there are some slight differences in the despatch, and in the
account which Spenser himself wrote afterwards in his pamphlet on Irish

After describing the proposal of the garrison for a parley, Lord Grey

     There was presently sent unto me one Alexandro, their camp
     master; he told me that certain Spaniards and Italians were
     there arrived upon fair speeches and great promises, which
     altogether vain and false they found; and that it was no part
     of their intent to molest or take any government from your
     Majesty; for proof, that they were ready to depart as they
     came and deliver into my hands the fort. Mine answer was, that
     for that I perceived their people to stand of two nations,
     Italian and Spanish, I would give no answer unless a Spaniard
     was likewise by. He presently went and returned with a Spanish
     captain. I then told the Spaniard that I knew their nation to
     have an absolute prince, one that was in good league and amity
     with your Majesty, which made me to marvell that any of his
     people should be found associate with them that went about to
     maintain rebels against you. . . And taking it that it could
     not be his king's will, I was to know by whom and for what
     cause they were sent. His reply was that the king had not sent
     them, but that one John Martinez de Ricaldi, Governor for the
     king at Bilboa, had willed him to levy a band and repair with
     it to St. Andrews (Santander), and there to be directed by
     this their colonel here, whom he followed as a blind man, not
     knowing whither. The other avouched that they were all sent by
     the Pope for the defence of the _Catholica fede_. My answer
     was, that I would not greatly have marvelled if men being
     commanded by natural and absolute princes did sometimes take
     in hand wrong actions; but that men, and that of account as
     some of them made show of, should be carried into unjust,
     desperate, and wicked actions, by one that neither from God or
     man could claim any princely power or empire, but (was) indeed
     a detestable shaveling, the right Antichrist and general
     ambitious tyrant over all right principalities, and patron of
     the _Diabolica fede_--this I could not but greatly rest in
     wonder. Their fault therefore far to be aggravated by the
     vileness of their commander; and that at my hands no condition
     or composition they were to expect, other than they should
     render me the fort, and yield their selves to my will for life
     or death. With this answer he departed; after which there was
     one or two courses to and fro more, to have gotten a certainty
     for some of their lives: but finding that it would not be, the
     colonel himself about sunsetting came forth and requested
     respite with surcease of arms till the next morning, and then
     he would give a resolute answer.

     Finding that to be but a gain of time to them, and a loss of
     the same for myself, I definitely answered I would not grant
     it, and therefore presently either that he took my offer or
     else return and I would fall to my business. He then embraced
     my knees simply putting himself to my mercy, only he prayed
     that for that night he might abide in the fort, and that in
     the morning all should be put into my hands. I asked hostages
     for the performance; they were given. Morning came; I
     presented my companies in battle before the fort, the colonel
     comes forth with ten or twelve of his chief gentlemen,
     trailing their ensigns rolled up, and presented them unto me
     with their lives and the fort. I sent straight certain
     gentlemen in, to see their weapons and armour laid down, and
     to guard the munition and victual there left for spoil. Then
     put I in certain bands, who straight fell to execution. There
     were six hundred slain. Munition and victual great store:
     though much wasted through the disorder of the soldier, which
     in that fury could not be helped. Those that I gave life unto,
     I have bestowed upon the captains and gentlemen whose service
     hath well deserved. . . Of the six hundred slain, four hundred
     were as gallant and goodly personages as of any (soldiers) I
     ever beheld. So hath it pleased the Lord of Hosts to deliver
     your enemies into your Highnesses' hand, and so too as one
     only excepted, not one of yours is either lost or hurt.

Another account adds to this that "the Irish men and women were hanged,
with an Englishman who had served Dr. Sanders, and two others whose arms
and legs were broken for torture."

Such scenes as those of Glenmalure and Smerwick, terrible as they were,
it might have been any one's lot to witness who found himself in
presence of the atrocious warfare of those cruel days, in which the
ordinary exasperation of combatants was made more savage and unforgiving
by religious hatred, and by the license which religious hatred gave to
irregular adventure and the sanguinary repression of it. They were not
confined to Ireland. Two years later the Marquis de Santa Cruz treated
in exactly the same fashion a band of French adventurers, some eighty
noblemen and gentlemen and two hundred soldiers, who were taken in an
attempt on the Azores during a time of nominal peace between the crowns
of France and Spain. In the Low Countries, and in the religious wars of
France, it need not be said that even the 'execution' at Smerwick was
continually outdone; and it is what the Spaniards would of course have
done to Drake if they had caught him. Nor did the Spanish Government
complain of this treatment of its subjects, who had no legal commission.

But the change of scene and life to Spenser was much more than merely
the sight of a disastrous skirmish and a capitulation without quarter.
He had passed to an entirely altered condition of social life; he had
passed from pleasant and merry England, with its comparative order and
peace, its thriving homesteads and wealthy cities, its industry and

                             Eliza's blessed field,
     That still with people, peace, and plenty flows--

to a land, beautiful indeed, and alluring, but of which the only law was
disorder, and the only rule failure. The Cambridge student, the follower
of country life in Lancashire or Kent, the scholar discussing with
Philip Sidney and corresponding with Gabriel Harvey about classical
metres and English rimes; the shepherd poet, Colin Clout, delicately
fashioning his innocent pastorals, his love complaints, or his dexterous
panegyrics or satires; the courtier, aspiring to shine in the train of
Leicester before the eyes of the great queen,--found himself
transplanted into a wild and turbulent savagery, where the elements of
civil society hardly existed, and which had the fatal power of drawing
into its own evil and lawless ways the English who came into contact
with it. Ireland had the name and the framework of a Christian realm. It
had its hierarchy of officers in Church and State, its Parliament, its
representative of the Crown. It had its great earls and lords, with
noble and romantic titles, its courts and councils and administration;
the Queen's laws were there, and where they were acknowledged, which was
not, however, everywhere, the English speech was current. But underneath
this name and outside, all was coarse, and obstinately set against
civilized order. There was nothing but the wreck and clashing of
disintegrated customs, the lawlessness of fierce and ignorant
barbarians, whose own laws had been destroyed, and who would recognize
no other; the blood-feuds of rival septs; the ambitious and deadly
treacheries of rival nobles, oppressing all weaker than themselves, and
maintaining in waste and idleness their crowds of brutal retainers. In
one thing only was there agreement, though not even in this was there
union; and that was in deep, implacable hatred of their English masters.
And with these English masters, too, amid their own jealousies and
backbitings and mischief-making, their own bitter antipathies and
chronic despair, there was only one point of agreement, and that was
their deep scorn and loathing of the Irish.

This is Irish dealing with Irish, in Munster at this time:--

     The Lord Roche kept a freeholder, who had eight plowlands,
     prisoner, and hand-locked him till he had surrendered seven
     plowlands and a half, on agreement to keep the remaining
     plowland free; but when this was done, the Lord Roche extorted
     as many exactions from that half-plowland, as from any other
     half-plowland in his country. . . . And even the great men
     were under the same oppression from the greater: for the Earl
     of Desmond forcibly took away the Seneschal of Imokilly's corn
     from his own land, though he was one of the most considerable
     gentlemen in Munster.[62:3]

And this is English dealing with Irish:--

     Mr. Henry Sheffield asks Lord Burghley's interest with Sir
     George Carew, to be made his deputy at Leighlin, in place of
     Mr. Bagenall, who met his death under the following

     Mr. Bagenall, after he had bought the barony of Odrone of Sir
     George Carew, could not be contented to let the Kavanaghs
     enjoy such lands as old Sir Peter Carew, young Sir Peter, and
     last, Sir George were content that they should have, but
     threatened to kill them wherever he could meet them. As it is
     now fallen out, about the last of November, one Henry Heron,
     Mr. Bagenall's brother-in-law, having lost four kine, making
     that his quarrel, he being accompanied with divers others to
     the number of twenty or thereabouts, by the procurement of his
     brother-in-law, went to the house of Mortagh Oge, a man
     seventy years old, the chief of the Kavanaghs, with their
     swords drawn: which the old man seeing, for fear of his life,
     sought to go into the woods, but was taken and brought before
     Mr. Heron, who charged him that his son had taken the cows.
     The old man answered that he could pay for them. Mr. Heron
     would not be contented, but bade his men kill him, he desiring
     to be brought for trial at the sessions. Further, the morrow
     after they went again into the woods, and there they found
     another old man, a servant of Mortagh Oge, and likewise killed
     him, Mr. Heron saying that it was because he would not confess
     the cows.

     On these murders, the sons of the old man laid an ambush for
     Mr. Bagenall; who, following them more upon will than with
     discretion, fell into their hands, and were slain with
     thirteen more. He had sixteen wounds above his girdle, and one
     of his legs cut off, and his tongue drawn out of his mouth and
     slit. There is not one man dwelling in all this country that
     was Sir George Carew's, but every man fled, and left the whole
     country waste; and so I fear me it will continue, now the
     deadly feud is so great between them.[63:4]

Something like this has been occasionally seen in our colonies towards
the native races; but there it never reached the same height of
unrestrained and frankly justified indulgence. The English officials and
settlers knew well enough that the only thought of the native Irish was
to restore their abolished customs, to recover their confiscated lands,
to re-establish the crippled power of their chiefs; they knew that for
this insurrection was ever ready, and that treachery would shrink from
nothing. And to meet it, the English on the spot--all but a few who were
denounced as unpractical sentimentalists for favouring an irreconcilable
foe--could think of no way of enforcing order, except by a wholesale use
of the sword and the gallows. They could find no means of restoring
peace except turning the rich land into a wilderness, and rooting out by
famine those whom the soldier or the hangman had not overtaken. "No
governor shall do any good here," wrote an English observer in 1581,
"except he show himself a Tamerlane."

In a general account, even contemporary, such statements might suggest a
violent suspicion of exaggeration. We possess the means of testing it.
The Irish State Papers of the time contain the ample reports and
letters, from day to day, of the energetic and resolute Englishmen
employed in council or in the field--men of business like Sir William
Pelham, Sir Henry Wallop, Edward Waterhouse, and Geoffrey
Fenton;--daring and brilliant officers, like Sir William Drury, Sir
Nicolas Malby, Sir Warham St. Leger, Sir John Norreys, and John Zouch.
These papers are the basis of Mr. Froude's terrible chapters on the
Desmond rebellion, and their substance in abstract or abridgment is
easily accessible in the printed calendars of the Record Office. They
show that from first to last, in principle and practice, in council and
in act, the Tamerlane system was believed in, and carried out without a
trace of remorse or question as to its morality. "If hell were open, and
all the evil spirits were abroad," writes Walsingham's correspondent
Andrew Trollope, who talked about Tamerlane, "they could never be worse
than these Irish rogues--rather dogs, and worse than dogs, for dogs do
but after their kind, and they degenerate from all humanity." There is
but one way of dealing with wild dogs or wolves; and accordingly the
English chiefs insisted that this was the way to deal with the Irish.
The state of Ireland, writes one, "is like an old cloak often before
patched, wherein is now made so great a gash that all the world doth
know that there is no remedy but to make a new." This means, in the
language of another, "that there is no way to daunt these people but by
the edge of the sword, and to plant better in their place, or rather,
let them cut one another's throats." These were no idle words. Every
page of these papers contains some memorandum of execution and
destruction. The progress of a Deputy, or the President of a province,
through the country is always accompanied with its tale of hangings.
There is sometimes a touch of the grotesque. "At Kilkenny," writes Sir
W. Drury, "the jail being full, we caused sessions immediately to begin.
Thirty-six persons were executed, among which some good ones; two for
treason, a blackamoor, and two witches by natural law, for that we found
no law to try them by in this realm." It is like the account of some
unusual kind of game in a successful bag. "If taking of cows, and
killing of kerne and churles had been worth advertizing," writes Lord
Grey to the Queen, "I would have had every day to have troubled your
Highness." Yet Lord Grey protests in the same letter that he has never
taken the life of any, however evil, who submitted. At the end of the
Desmond outbreak, the chiefs in the different provinces send in their
tale of death. Ormond complains of the false reports of his "slackness
in but killing three men," whereas the number was more than 3000; and he
sends in his "brief note" of his contribution to the slaughter, "598
persons of quality, besides 3000 or 4000 others, and 158 slain since his
discharge." The end was that, as one of the chief actors writes, Sir
Warham St. Leger, "Munster is nearly unpeopled by the murders done by
the rebels, and the killings by the soldiers; 30,000 dead of famine in
half a year, besides numbers that are hanged and killed. The realm," he
adds, "was never in greater danger, or in like misery." But in the
murderous work itself there was not much danger. "Our wars," writes Sir
Henry Wallop, in the height of the struggle, "are but like fox-hunting."
And when the English Government remonstrates against this system of
massacre, the Lord-Deputy writes back that "he sorrows that pity for the
wicked and evil should be enchanted into her Majesty."

And of this dreadful policy, involving, as the price of the extinction
of Desmond's rebellion, the absolute desolation of the South and West of
Ireland, Lord Grey came to be the deliberate and unfaltering champion.
His administration lasted only two years, and in spite of his natural
kindness of temper, which we need not doubt, it was, from the supposed
necessities of his position, and the unwavering consent of all English
opinions round him, a rule of extermination. No scruple ever crossed his
mind, except that he had not been sufficiently uncompromising in putting
first the religious aspect of the quarrel. "If Elizabeth had allowed
him," writes Mr. Froude, "he would have now made a Mahommedan conquest
of the whole island, and offered the Irish the alternative of the
Gospel or the sword." With the terrible sincerity of a Puritan, he
reproached himself that he had allowed even the Queen's commands to come
before the "one article of looking to God's dear service." "I confess my
sin," he wrote to Walsingham, "I have followed man too much," and he saw
why his efforts had been in vain. "Baal's prophets and councillors shall
prevail. I see it is so. I see it is just. I see it past help. I rest
despaired." His policy of blood and devastation, breaking the neck of
Desmond's rebellion, but failing to put an end to it, became at length
more than the home Government could bear; and with mutual
dissatisfaction he was recalled before his work was done. Among the
documents relating to his explanations with the English Government, is
one of which this is the abstract: "Declaration (Dec. 1583), by Arthur,
Lord Grey, of Wilton, to the Queen, showing the state of Ireland when he
was appointed Deputy, with the services of his government, and the
plight he left it in. 1485 chief men and gentlemen slain, not accounting
those of meaner sort, nor yet executions by law, and killing of churles,
which were innumerable."

This was the world into which Spenser was abruptly thrown, and in which
he was henceforward to have his home. He first became acquainted with it
as Lord Grey's Secretary in the Munster war. He himself in later days
with ample experience and knowledge reviewed the whole of this dreadful
history, its policy, its necessities, its results: and no more
instructive document has come down to us from those times. But his
description of the way in which the plan of extermination was carried
out in Munster before his eyes, may fittingly form a supplement to the
language on the spot of those responsible for it.

     _Eudox._ But what, then, shall be the conclusion of this
     war? . . .

     _Iren._--The end will I assure me be very short and much
     sooner than can be, in so great a trouble, as it seemeth,
     hoped for, although there should none of them fall by the
     sword nor be slain by the soldier: yet thus being kept from
     manurance and their cattle from running abroad, by this hard
     restraint they would quickly consume themselves, and devour
     one another. The proof whereof I saw sufficiently exampled in
     these late wars of Munster; for notwithstanding that the same
     was a most rich and plentiful country, full of corn and cattle
     that you would have thought they should have been able to
     stand long, yet ere one year and a half they were brought to
     such wretchedness as that any stony heart would have rued the
     same. Out of every corner of the woods and glynnes they came
     creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear
     them; they looked like anatomies of death, they spake like
     ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead
     carrions, happy where they could find them, yea and one
     another soon after, insomuch that the very carcases they
     spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a
     plot of water-cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a
     feast for a time, yet not able long to continue there withal;
     that in a short space there were none almost left, and a most
     populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man and
     beast; yet sure in all that war there perished not many by the
     sword, but all by the extremity of famine which they
     themselves had wrought.

It is hardly surprising that Lord Grey's Secretary should share the
opinions and the feelings of his master and patron. Certainly in his
company and service, Spenser learned to look upon Ireland and the Irish
with the impatience and loathing which filled most Englishmen; and it
must be added with the same greedy eyes. In this new atmosphere, in
which his life was henceforth spent, amid the daily talk of ravage and
death, the daily scramble for the spoils of rebels and traitors, the
daily alarms of treachery and insurrection, a man naturally learns
hardness. Under Spenser's imaginative richness, and poetic delicacy of
feeling, there appeared two features. There was a shrewd sense of the
practical side of things: and there was a full share of that sternness
of temper which belonged to the time. He came to Ireland for no romantic
purpose: he came to make his fortune as well as he could: and he
accepted the conditions of the place and scene, and entered at once into
the game of adventure and gain which was the natural one for all English
comers, and of which the prizes were lucrative offices and forfeited
manors and abbeys. And in the native population and native interests, he
saw nothing but what called forth not merely antipathy, but deep moral
condemnation. It was not merely that the Irish were ignorant,
thriftless, filthy, debased and loathsome in their pitiable misery and
despair: it was that in his view, justice, truth, honesty had utterly
perished among them, and therefore were not due to them. Of any other
side to the picture, he like other good Englishmen, was entirely
unconscious: he saw only on all sides of him the empire of barbarism and
misrule which valiant and godly Englishmen were fighting to vanquish and
destroy--fighting against apparent but not real odds. And all this was
aggravated by the stiff adherence of the Irish to their old religion.
Spenser came over with the common opinion of Protestant Englishmen, that
they had at least in England the pure and undoubted religion of the
Bible: and in Ireland, he found himself face to face with the very
superstition in its lowest forms which he had so hated in England. He
left it plotting in England; he found it in armed rebellion in Ireland.
Like Lord Grey, he saw in Popery the root of all the mischiefs of
Ireland; and his sense of true religion, as well as his convictions of
right, conspired to recommend to him Lord Grey's pitiless government.
The opinion was everywhere--it was undisputed and unexamined--that a
policy of force, direct or indirect, was the natural and right way of
reducing diverging religions to submission and uniformity: that
religious disagreement ought as a matter of principle to be subdued by
violence of one degree or another. All wise and good men thought so: all
statesmen and rulers acted so. Spenser found in Ireland a state of
things which seemed to make this doctrine the simplest dictate of common

In August, 1582, Lord Grey left Ireland. He had accepted his office with
the utmost reluctance, from the known want of agreement between the
Queen and himself as to policy. He had executed it in a way which
greatly displeased the home Government. And he gave it up with his
special work, the extinction of Desmond's rebellion, still
unaccomplished. In spite of the thousands slain, and a province made a
desert, Desmond was still at large and dangerous. Lord Grey had been
ruthlessly severe, and yet not successful. For months there had been an
interchange of angry letters between him and the Government. Burghley,
he complains to Walsingham, was "so heavy against him." The Queen and
Burghley wanted order restored, but did not like either the expense of
war, or the responsibility before other governments for the severity
which their agents on the spot judged necessary. Knowing that he did not
please, he had begun to solicit his recall before he had been a year in
Ireland; and at length he was recalled, not to receive thanks, but to
meet a strict, if not hostile, inquiry into his administration. Besides
what had been on the surface of his proceedings to dissatisfy the
Queen, there had been, as in the case of every Deputy, a continued
underground stream of backbiting and insinuation going home against him.
Spenser did not forget this, when in the _Faery Queen_ he shadowed forth
Lord Grey's career in the adventures of Arthegal, the great Knight of
Justice, met on his return home from his triumphs by the hags, Envy and
Detraction, and the braying of the hundred tongues of the Blatant Beast.
Irish lords and partisans, calling themselves loyal, when they could not
get what they wanted, or when he threatened them for their insincerity
or insolence, at once wrote to England. His English colleagues, civil
and military, were his natural rivals or enemies, ever on the watch to
spy out and report, if necessary, to misrepresent, what was questionable
or unfortunate in his proceedings. Permanent officials like Archbishop
Adam Loftus the Chancellor, or Treasurer Wallop, or Secretary Fenton,
knew more than he did; they corresponded directly with the ministers;
they knew that they were expected to keep a strict watch on his
expenditure; and they had no scruple to send home complaints against him
behind his back, as they did against one another. A secretary in Dublin
like Geoffrey Fenton is described as a moth in the garment of every
Deputy. Grey himself complains of the underhand work; he cannot prevent
"backbiters' report:" he has found of late "very suspicious dealing
amongst all his best esteemed associates;" he "dislikes not to be
informed of the charges against him." In fact, they were accusing him of
one of the gravest sins of which a Deputy could be guilty; they were
writing home that he was lavishing the forfeited estates among his
favourites, under pretence of rewarding service, to the great loss and
permanent damage of her Majesty's revenue; and they were forwarding
plans for commissions to distribute these estates, of which the Deputy
should not be a member.

He had the common fate of those who accepted great responsibilities
under the Queen. He was expected to do very hard tasks with insufficient
means, and to receive more blame where he failed than thanks where he
succeeded. He had every one, English and Irish, against him in Ireland,
and no one for him in England. He was driven to violence because he
wanted strength; he took liberties with forfeitures belonging to the
Queen because he had no other means of rewarding public services. It is
not easy to feel much sympathy for a man who, brave and public spirited
as he was, could think of no remedy for the miseries of Ireland but
wholesale bloodshed. Yet, compared with the resident officials who
caballed against him, and who got rich on these miseries, the Wallops
and Fentons of the Irish Council, this stern Puritan, so remorseless in
what he believed to be his duty to his Queen and his faith, stands out
as an honest and faithful public servant of a Government which seemed
hardly to know its own mind, which vacillated between indulgence and
severity, and which hampered its officers by contradictory policies,
ignorant of their difficulties, and incapable of controlling the
supplies for a costly and wasteful war. Lord Grey's strong hand, though
incapable of reaching the real causes of Irish evils, undoubtedly saved
the country at a moment of serious peril, and once more taught lawless
Geraldines, and Eustaces, and Burkes the terrible lesson of English
power. The work which he had half done in crushing Desmond was soon
finished by Desmond's hereditary rival, Ormond; and under the milder,
but not more popular, rule of his successor, the proud and irritable
Sir John Perrot, Ireland had for a few years the peace which consisted
in the absence of a definite rebellion, till Tyrone began to stir in
1595, and Perrot went back a disgraced man, to die a prisoner in the

Lord Grey left behind him unappeasable animosities, and returned to meet
jealous rivals and an ill-satisfied mistress. But he had left behind one
whose admiration and reverence he had won, and who was not afraid to
take care of his reputation. Whether Spenser went back with his patron
or not in 1582, he was from henceforth mainly resident in Ireland. Lord
Grey's administration, and the principles on which it had been carried
on, had made a deep impression on Spenser's mind. His first ideal had
been Philip Sidney, the attractive and all-accomplished gentleman,--

                  The President
     Of noblesse and of chevalrie,--

And to the end the pastoral Colin Clout, for he ever retained his first
poetic name, was faithful to his ideal. But in the stern Proconsul,
under whom he had become hardened into a keen and resolute colonist, he
had come in contact with a new type of character; a governor under the
sense of duty, doing the roughest of work in the roughest of ways. In
Lord Grey, he had this character, not as he might read of it in books,
but acting out its qualities in present life, amid the unexpected
emergencies, the desperate alternatives, the calls for instant decision,
the pressing necessities and the anxious hazards, of a course full of
uncertainty and peril. He had before his eyes day by day, fearless,
unshrinking determination, in a hateful and most unpromising task. He
believed that he saw a living example of strength, manliness, and
nobleness; of unsparing and unswerving zeal for order and religion, and
good government; of single-hearted devotion to truth and right, and to
the Queen. Lord Grey grew at last, in the poet's imagination, into the
image and representative of perfect and masculine justice. When Spenser
began to enshrine in a great allegory his ideas of human life and
character, Lord Grey supplied the moral features, and almost the name,
of one of its chief heroes. Spenser did more than embody his memory in
poetical allegories. In Spenser's _View of the present State of
Ireland_, written some years after Lord Grey's death, he gives his
mature, and then at any rate, disinterested approbation of Lord Grey's
administration, and his opinion of the causes of its failure. He kindles
into indignation when "most untruely and maliciously, those evil tongues
backbite and slander the sacred ashes of that most just and honourable
personage, whose least virtue, of many most excellent, which abounded in
his heroical spirit, they were never able to aspire unto."

Lord Grey's patronage had brought Spenser into the public service;
perhaps that patronage, the patronage of a man who had powerful enemies,
was the cause that Spenser's preferments, after Lord Grey's recall, were
on so moderate a scale. The notices which we glean from indirect sources
about Spenser's employment in Ireland are meagre enough, but they are
distinct. They show him as a subordinate public servant, of no great
account, but yet, like other public servants in Ireland, profiting, in
his degree, by the opportunities of the time. In the spring following
Lord Grey's arrival (March 22, 1581), Spenser was appointed Clerk of
Decrees and Recognizances in the Irish Court of Chancery, retaining his
place as Secretary to the Lord-Deputy, in which character his signature
sometimes appears in the Irish Records, certifying State documents sent
to England. This office is said by Fuller to have been a "lucrative"
one. In the same year he received a lease of the Abbey and Manor of
Enniscorthy, in the County of Wexford. Enniscorthy was an important post
in the network of English garrisons, on one of the roads from Dublin to
the South. He held it but for a short time. It was transferred by him to
a citizen of Wexford, Richard Synot, an agent, apparently, of the
powerful Sir Henry Wallop, the Treasurer; and it was soon after
transferred by Synot to his patron, an official who secured to himself a
large share of the spoils of Desmond's rebellion. Further, Spenser's
name appears, in a list of persons (January, 1582), among whom Lord Grey
had distributed some of the forfeited property of the rebels--a list
sent home by him in answer to charges of waste and damage to the Queen's
revenue, busily urged against him in Ireland by men like Wallop and
Fenton, and readily listened to by English ministers like Burghley, who
complained that Ireland was a "gulf of consuming treasure." The grant
was mostly to persons active in service, among others one to Wallop
himself; and a certain number of smaller value to persons of Lord Grey's
own household. There, among yeomen ushers, gentlemen ushers, gentlemen
serving the Lord-Deputy, and Welshmen and Irishmen with uncouth names,
to whom small gratifications had been allotted out of the spoil, we
read--"the lease of a house in Dublin belonging to [Lord] Baltinglas for
six years to come to Edmund Spenser, one of the Lord-Deputy's
Secretaries, valued at 5_l._" . . . "of a 'custodiam' of John Eustace's
[one of Baltinglas' family] land of the Newland to Edmund Spenser, one
of the Lord-Deputy's Secretaries." In July, 1586, when every one was
full of the project for "planting" Munster, he was still in Dublin, for
he addresses from thence a sonnet to Gabriel Harvey. In March, 1588/9,
we find the following, in a list of officers on the establishment of the
province of Munster, which the government was endeavouring to colonize
from the west of England: "Lodovick Briskett, clerk to the council (at
20_l._ per annum), 13_l._ 6_s._ 8_d._ (this is exercised by one Spenser,
as deputy for the said Briskett), to whom (i. e. Briskett) it was
granted by patent 6 Nov. 25 Eliz. (1583)." (_Carew MSS._) Bryskett was a
man much employed in Irish business. He had been Clerk to the Irish
Council, had been a correspondent of Burghley and Walsingham, and had
aspired to be Secretary of State when Fenton obtained the post: possibly
in disappointment, he had retired, with an office which he exercised by
deputy, to his lands in Wexford. He was a poet, and a friend of
Spenser's: and it may have been by his interest with the dispensers of
patronage, that "one Spenser," who had been his deputy, succeeded to his

In this position Spenser was brought into communication with the
powerful English chiefs on the Council of Munster, and also with the
leading men among the Undertakers as they were called, among whom more
than half a million of acres of the escheated and desolate lands of the
fallen Desmond were to be divided, on condition of each Undertaker
settling on his estate a proportionate number of English gentlemen,
yeomen, artisans and labourers with their families, who were to bring
the ruined province into order and cultivation. The President and
Vice-President of the Council were the two Norreys, John and Thomas, two
of the most gallant of a gallant family. The project for the planting of
Munster had been originally started before the rebellion, in 1568. It
had been one of the causes of the rebellion; but now that Desmond was
fallen, it was revived. It had been received in England with favour and
hope. Men of influence and enterprise, Sir Christopher Hatton,
Walsingham, Walter Ralegh, had embarked in it: and the government had
made an appeal to the English country gentlemen to take advantage of
this new opening for their younger sons, and to send them over at the
head of colonies from the families of their tenants and dependants, to
occupy a rich and beautiful land on easy terms of rent. In the Western
Counties, north and south, the appeal had awakened interest. In the list
of Undertakers are found Cheshire and Lancashire names, Stanley,
Fleetwood, Molyneux: and a still larger number for Somerset, Devon, and
Dorset, Popham, Rogers, Coles, Ralegh, Chudleigh, Champernown. The plan
of settlement was carefully and methodically traced out. The province
was surveyed as well as it could be under great difficulties. Maps were
made which Lord Burghley annotated. "Seignories" were created of varying
size, 12,000, 8000, 6000, 4000 acres, with corresponding obligations as
to the number and class of farms and inhabitants in each. Legal science
in England was to protect titles by lengthy patents and leases;
administrative watchfulness and firmness were to secure them in Ireland.
Privileges of trade were granted to the Undertakers: they were even
allowed to transport coin out of England to Ireland: and a long respite
was granted them before the Crown was to claim its rents. Strict rules
were laid down to keep the native Irish out of the English lands and
from intermarrying with the English families. In this partition,
Seignories were distributed by the Undertakers among themselves with the
free carelessness of men dividing the spoil. The great people, like
Hatton and Ralegh, were to have their two or three Seignories: the
county of Cork with its nineteen Seignories is assigned to the gentleman
undertakers from Somersetshire. The plan was an ambitious and tempting
one. But difficulties soon arose. The gentleman undertakers were not in
a hurry to leave England even on a visit to their desolate and dangerous
seignories in Munster. The "planting" did not thrive. The Irish were
inexhaustible in raising legal obstacles and in giving practical
annoyance. Claims and titles were hard to discover or to extinguish.
Even the very attainted and escheated lands were challenged by virtue of
settlements made before the attainders. The result was that a certain
number of Irish estates were added to the possessions of a certain
number of English families. But Munster was not planted. Burghley's
policy, and Walsingham's resolution, and Ralegh's daring inventiveness
were alike baffled by the conditions of a problem harder than the
peopling of America or the conquest of India. Munster could not be made
English. After all its desolation, it reverted in the main to its Irish

Of all the schemes and efforts which accompanied the attempt, and the
records of which fill the Irish State papers of those years, Spenser was
the near and close spectator. He was in Dublin and on the spot, as Clerk
of the Council of Munster. And he had become acquainted, perhaps, by
this time, had formed a friendship, with Walter Ralegh, one of the most
active men in Irish business, whose influence was rising wherever he was
becoming known. Most of the knowledge which Spenser thus gathered, and
of the impressions which a practical handling of Irish affairs had left
on him, was embodied in his interesting work, written several years
later--_A View of the present State of Ireland_. But his connexion with
Munster not unnaturally brought him also an accession of fortune. When
Ralegh and the "Somersetshire men" were dividing among them the County
of Cork, the Clerk of the Council was remembered by some of his friends.
He was admitted among the Undertakers. His name appears in the list,
among great statesmen and captains with their seignories of 12,000
acres, as holding a grant of some 3000. It was the manor and castle of
Kilcolman, a ruined house of the Desmonds, under the Galtee Hills. It
appears to have been first assigned to another person.[79:5] But it came
at last into Spenser's hands, probably in 1586; and henceforward, this
was his abode and his home.

Kilcolman Castle was near the high road between Mallow and Limerick,
about three miles from Buttevant and Doneraile, in a plain at the foot
of the last western falls of the Galtee range, watered by a stream now
called the Awbeg, but which he celebrates under the name of the Mulla.
In Spenser's time it was probably surrounded with woods. The earlier
writers describe it as a pleasant abode with fine views, and so Spenser
celebrated its natural beauties. The more recent accounts are not so
favourable. "Kilcolman," says the writer in Murray's Handbook, "is a
small peel tower, with cramped and dark rooms, a form which every
gentleman's house assumed in turbulent times. It is situated on the
margin of a small lake, and, it must be confessed, overlooking an
extremely dreary tract of country." It was in the immediate
neighbourhood of the wild country to the north, half forest, half bog,
the wood and hill of Aharlo, or Arlo, as Spenser writes it, which was
the refuge and the "great fastness" of the Desmond rebellion. It was
amid such scenes, amid such occupations, in such society and
companionship, that the poet of the _Faery Queen_ accomplished as much
of his work as was given him to do. In one of his later poems, he thus
contrasts the peace of England with his own home:--

     No wayling there nor wretchednesse is heard,
     No bloodie issues nor no leprosies,
     No griesly famine, nor no raging sweard,
     No nightly bordrags [= border ravage], nor no hue and cries;
     The shepheards there abroad may safely lie,
     On hills and downes, withouten dread or daunger:
     No ravenous wolves the good mans hope destroy,
     Nor outlawes fell affray the forest raunger.


[54:1] Froude, x. 158.

[58:2] Calendar of State Papers Ireland, 1574-1585. Mr. H. C. Hamilton's
Pref. p. lxxi-lxxiii. Nov. 12, 1580.

[62:3] Cox, Hist. of Ireland, 354.

[63:4] Irish Papers, March 29, 1587.

[79:5] Carew MSS. Calendar, 1587, p. 449. Cf. Irish Papers; Calendar,
1587, p. 309, 450.




The _Faery Queen_ is heard of very early in Spenser's literary course.
We know that in the beginning of 1580, the year in which Spenser went to
Ireland, something under that title had been already begun and submitted
to Gabriel Harvey's judgment; and that among other literary projects,
Spenser was intending to proceed with it. But beyond the mere name, we
know nothing, at this time, of Spenser's proposed _Faery Queen_.
Harvey's criticisms on it tell us nothing of its general plan or its
numbers. Whether the first sketch had been decided upon, whether the new
stanza, Spenser's original creation, and its peculiar beauty and
instrument, had yet been invented by him, while he had been trying
experiments in metre in the _Shepherd's Calendar_, we have no means of
determining. But he took the idea with him to Ireland; and in Ireland he
pursued it and carried it out.

The first authentic account which we have of the composition of the
_Faery Queen_, is in a pamphlet written by Spenser's friend and
predecessor in the service of the Council of Munster, Ludowick Bryskett,
and inscribed to Lord Grey of Wilton: a _Discourse of Civil Life_,
published in 1606. He describes a meeting of friends at his cottage
near Dublin, and a conversation that took place on the "ethical" part of
moral philosophy. The company consisted of some of the principal
Englishmen employed in Irish affairs, men whose names occur continually
in the copious correspondence in the Rolls and at Lambeth. There was
Long, the Primate of Armagh; there were Sir Robert Dillon, the Chief
Justice of the Common Pleas, and Dormer, the Queen's Solicitor; and
there were soldiers, like Thomas Norreys, then Vice-President of
Munster, under his brother John Norreys; Sir Warham Sentleger, on whom
had fallen so much of the work in the South of Ireland, and who at last,
like Thomas Norreys, fell in Tyrone's rebellion; Captain Christopher
Carleil, Walsingham's son-in-law, a man who had gained great distinction
on land and sea, not only in Ireland, but in the Low Countries, in
France, and at Carthagena and San Domingo; and Captain Nicholas Dawtry,
the Seneschal of Clandeboy, in the troublesome Ulster country,
afterwards "Captain" of Hampshire at the time of the Armada. It was a
remarkable party. The date of this meeting must have been after the
summer of 1584, at which time Long was made Primate, and before the
beginning of 1588, when Dawtry was in Hampshire. The extract is so
curious, as a picture of the intellectual and literary wants and efforts
of the times, especially amid the disorders of Ireland, and as a
statement of Spenser's purpose in his poem, that an extract from it
deserves to be inserted, as it is given in Mr. Todd's _Life of Spenser_,
and repeated in that by Mr. Hales.

     "Herein do I greatly envie," writes Bryskett, "the happiness
     of the Italians, who have in their mother-tongue late writers
     that have, with a singular easie method taught all that Plato
     and Aristotle have confusedly or obscurely left written. Of
     which, some I have begun to reade with no small delight; as
     Alexander Piccolomini, Gio. Baptista Giraldi, and Guazzo; all
     three having written upon the Ethick part of Morall
     Philosophie both exactly and perspicuously. And would God that
     some of our countrimen would shew themselves so wel affected
     to the good of their countrie (whereof one principall and most
     important part consisteth in the instructing men to vertue),
     as to set downe in English the precepts of those parts of
     Morall Philosophy, whereby our youth might, without spending
     so much time as the learning of those other languages require,
     speedily enter into the right course of vertuous life.

     In the meane while I must struggle with those bookes which I
     vnderstand and content myselfe to plod upon them, in hope that
     God (who knoweth the sincerenesse of my desire) will be
     pleased to open my vnderstanding, so as I may reape that
     profit of my reading, which I trauell for. Yet is there _a
     gentleman in this company_, whom I have had often a purpose to
     intreate, that as his liesure might serue him, he would
     vouchsafe to spend some time with me to instruct me in some
     hard points which I cannot of myselfe understand; _knowing him
     to be not onely perfect in the Greek tongue, but also very
     well read in Philosophie, both morall and naturall_.
     Neuertheless such is my bashfulness, as I neuer yet durst open
     my mouth to disclose this my desire unto him, though I have
     not wanted some hartning thereunto from himselfe. For of loue
     and kindnes to me, _he encouraged me long sithens to follow
     the reading of the Greeke tongue, and offered me his helpe to
     make me vnderstand it_. But now that so good an opportunitie
     is offered vnto me, to satisfie in some sort my desire; I
     thinke I should commit a great fault, not to myselfe alone,
     but to all this company, if I should not enter my request thus
     farre, as to moue him to spend this time which we have now
     destined to familiar discourse and conuersation, in declaring
     unto us the great benefits which men obtaine by the knowledge
     of Morall Philosophie, and in making us to know what the same
     is, what be the parts thereof, whereby vertues are to be
     distinguished from vices; and finally that he will be pleased
     to run ouer in such order as he shall thinke good, such and
     so many principles and rules thereof, as shall serue not only
     for my better instruction, but also for the contentment and
     satisfaction of you al. For I nothing doubt, but that euery
     one of you will be glad to heare so profitable a discourse and
     thinke the time very wel spent wherin so excellent a knowledge
     shal be reuealed unto you, from which euery one may be assured
     to gather some fruit as wel as myselfe.

     Therefore (said I), turning myselfe to _M. Spenser_, It is you
     sir, to whom it pertaineth to shew yourselfe courteous now
     unto vs all and to make vs all beholding unto you for the
     pleasure and profit which we shall gather from your speeches,
     if you shall vouchsafe to open unto vs the goodly cabinet, in
     which this excellent treasure of vertues lieth locked up from
     the vulgar sort. And thereof in the behalfe of all as for
     myselfe, I do most earnestly intreate you not to say vs nay.
     Vnto which wordes of mine euery man applauding most with like
     words of request and the rest with gesture and countenances
     expressing as much, _M. Spenser_ answered in this maner:

     Though it may seeme hard for me, to refuse the request made by
     you all, whom euery one alone, I should for many respects be
     willing to gratifie; yet as the case standeth, I doubt not but
     with the consent of the most part of you, I shall be excused
     at this time of this taske which would be laid vpon me; for
     sure I am, that it is not vnknowne unto you, that I haue
     alreedy vndertaken a work tending to the same effect, which is
     in _heroical verse_ under the title of a _Faerie Queene_ to
     represent all the moral vertues, assigning to euery vertue a
     Knight to be the patron and defender of the same, in whose
     actions and feates of arms and chiualry the operations of that
     vertue, whereof he is the protector, are to be expressed, and
     the vices and unruly appetites that oppose themselves against
     the same, to be beaten down and ouercome. Which work, _as I
     haue already well entred into_, if God shall please to spare
     me life that I may finish it according to my mind, your wish
     (_M. Bryskett_) will be in some sort accomplished, though
     perhaps not so effectually as you could desire. And the same
     may very well serue for my excuse, if at this time I craue to
     be forborne in this your request, since any discourse, that I
     might make thus on the sudden in such a subject would be but
     simple, and little to your satisfactions. For it would require
     good aduisement and premeditation for any man to vndertake the
     declaration of these points that you have proposed, containing
     in effect the Ethicke part of Morall Philosophie. Whereof
     since I haue taken in hand to discourse at large in my poeme
     before spoken, I hope the expectation of that work may serue
     to free me at this time from speaking in that matter,
     notwithstanding your motion and all your intreaties. But I
     will tell you how I thinke by himselfe he may very well excuse
     my speech, and yet satisfie all you in this matter. I haue
     seene (as he knoweth) a translation made by himselfe out of
     the Italian tongue of a dialogue comprehending all the Ethick
     part of Moral Philosophy written by one of those three he
     formerly mentioned, and that is by _Giraldi_ vnder the title
     of a Dialogue of Ciuil life. If it please him to bring us
     forth that translation to be here read among vs, or otherwise
     to deliuer to us, as his memory may serue him, the contents of
     the same; he shal (I warrant you) satisfie you all at the ful,
     and himselfe wil haue no cause but to thinke the time well
     spent in reuiewing his labors, especially in the company of so
     many his friends, who may thereby reape much profit, and the
     translation happily fare the better by some mending it may
     receiue in the perusing, as all writings else may do by the
     often examination of the same. Neither let it trouble him that
     I so turne ouer to him againe the taske he wold haue put me
     to; for it falleth out fit for him to verifie the principall
     of all this Apologie, euen now made for himselfe; because
     thereby it will appeare that he hath not withdrawne himselfe
     from seruice of the state to liue idle or wholly priuate to
     himselfe, but hath spent some time in doing that which may
     greatly benefit others, and hath serued not a little to the
     bettering of his owne mind, and increasing of his knowledge;
     though he for modesty pretend much ignorance, and pleade want
     in wealth, much like some rich beggars, who either of custom,
     or for couetousnes, go to begge of others those things whereof
     they haue no want at home.

     With this answer of _M. Spensers_ it seemed that all the
     company were wel satisfied, for after some few speeches
     whereby they had shewed an extreme longing after his worke of
     the _Fairie Queene_, _whereof some parcels had been by some of
     them seene_, they all began to presse me to produce my
     translation mentioned by _M. Spenser_ that it might be perused
     among them; or else that I should (as near as I could) deliuer
     unto them the contents of the same, supposing that my memory
     would not much faile me in a thing so studied and advisedly
     set downe in writing as a translation must be."

A poet at this time still had to justify his employment by presenting
himself in the character of a professed teacher of morality, with a
purpose as definite and formal, though with a different method, as the
preacher in the pulpit. Even with this profession, he had to encounter
many prejudices, and men of gravity and wisdom shook their heads at what
they thought his idle trifling. But if he wished to be counted
respectable, and to separate himself from the crowd of foolish or
licentious rimers, he must intend distinctly, not merely to interest,
but to instruct, by his new and deep conceits. It was under the
influence of this persuasion that Spenser laid down the plan of the
_Faery Queen_. It was, so he proposed to himself, to be a work on moral,
and if time were given him, political philosophy, composed with as
serious a didactic aim, as any treatise or sermon in prose. He deems it
necessary to explain and excuse his work by claiming for it this design.
He did not venture to send the _Faery Queen_ into the world without also
telling the world its moral meaning and bearing. He cannot trust it to
tell its own story or suggest its real drift. In the letter to Sir W.
Ralegh, accompanying the first portion of it, he unfolds elaborately the
sense of his allegory, as he expounded it to his friends in Dublin. "To
some," he says, "I know this method will seem displeasant, which had
rather have good discipline delivered plainly by way of precept, or
sermoned at large, as they use, than thus cloudily enwrapped in
allegorical devises." He thought that Homer and Virgil and Ariosto had
thus written poetry, to teach the world moral virtue and political
wisdom. He attempted to propitiate Lord Burghley, who hated him and his
verses, by setting before him in a dedication sonnet, the true intent of

                                Idle rimes;
     The labour of lost time and wit unstaid;
     Yet if their deeper sense he inly weighed,
     And the dim veil, with which from common view
     Their fairer parts are hid, aside be laid,
     Perhaps not vain they may appear to you.

In earlier and in later times, men do not apologize for being poets; and
Spenser himself was deceived in giving himself credit for this direct
purpose to instruct, when he was really following the course marked out
by his genius. But he only conformed to the curious utilitarian spirit
which pervaded the literature of the time. Readers were supposed to look
everywhere for a moral to be drawn, or a lesson to be inculcated, or
some practical rules to be avowedly and definitely deduced; and they
could not yet take in the idea that the exercise of the speculative and
imaginative faculties may be its own end, and may have indirect
influences and utilities even greater than if it was guided by a
conscious intention to be edifying and instructive.

The first great English poem of modern times, the first creation of
English imaginative power since Chaucer, and like Chaucer so thoroughly
and characteristically English, was not written in England. Whatever
Spenser may have done to it before he left England with Lord Grey, and
whatever portions of earlier composition may have been used and worked
up into the poem as it went on, the bulk of the _Faery Queen_, as we
have it, was composed in what to Spenser and his friends was almost a
foreign land--in the conquered and desolated wastes of wild and
barbarous Ireland. It is a feature of his work on which Spenser himself
dwells. In the verses which usher in his poem, addressed to the great
men of Elizabeth's court, he presents his work to the Earl of Ormond, as

     The wild fruit which salvage soil hath bred;
     Which being through long wars left almost waste,
     With brutish barbarism is overspread;--

and in the same strain to Lord Grey, he speaks of his "rude rimes, the
which a rustic muse did weave, in salvage soil." It is idle to speculate
what difference of form the _Faery Queen_ might have received, if the
design had been carried out in the peace of England and in the society
of London. But it is certain that the scene of trouble and danger in
which it grew up greatly affected it. This may possibly account, though
it is questionable, for the looseness of texture, and the want of
accuracy and finish which is sometimes to be seen in it. Spenser was a
learned poet; and his poem has the character of the work of a man of
wide reading, but without books to verify or correct. It cannot be
doubted that his life in Ireland added to the force and vividness with
which Spenser wrote. In Ireland, he had before his eyes continually, the
dreary world which the poet of knight errantry imagines. There men might
in good truth travel long through wildernesses and "great woods" given
over to the outlaw and the ruffian. There the avenger of wrong need
seldom want for perilous adventure and the occasion for quelling the
oppressor. There the armed and unrelenting hand of right was but too
truly the only substitute for law. There might be found in most certain
and prosaic reality, the ambushes, the disguises, the treacheries, the
deceits and temptations, even the supposed witchcrafts and enchantments,
against which the fairy champions of the virtues have to be on their
guard. In Ireland, Englishmen saw, or at any rate thought they saw, a
universal conspiracy of fraud against righteousness, a universal battle
going on between error and religion, between justice and the most
insolent selfishness. They found there every type of what was cruel,
brutal, loathsome. They saw everywhere men whose business it was to
betray and destroy, women whose business it was to tempt and ensnare and
corrupt. They thought that they saw too, in those who waged the Queen's
wars, all forms of manly and devoted gallantry, of noble generosity, of
gentle strength, of knightly sweetness and courtesy. There were those,
too, who failed in the hour of trial; who were the victims of temptation
or of the victorious strength of evil. Besides the open or concealed
traitors, the Desmonds, and Kildares, and O'Neales, there were the men
who were entrapped and overcome, and the men who disappointed hopes, and
became recreants to their faith and loyalty; like Sir William Stanley,
who, after a brilliant career in Ireland, turned traitor and apostate,
and gave up Deventer and his Irish bands to the King of Spain.

The realities of the Irish wars and of Irish social and political life
gave a real subject, gave body and form to the allegory. There in actual
flesh and blood were enemies to be fought with by the good and true.
There in visible fact were the vices and falsehoods, which Arthur and
his companions were to quell and punish. There in living truth were
_Sansfoy_, and _Sansloy_, and _Sansjoy_; there were _Orgoglio_ and
_Grantorto_, the witcheries of _Acrasia_ and _Phædria_, the insolence of
_Briana_ and _Crudor_. And there, too, were real Knights of goodness and
the Gospel--Grey, and Ormond, and Ralegh, the Norreyses, St. Leger, and
Maltby--on a real mission from Gloriana's noble realm to destroy the
enemies of truth and virtue.

The allegory bodies forth the trials which beset the life of man in all
conditions and at all times. But Spenser could never have seen in
England such a strong and perfect image of the allegory itself--with the
wild wanderings of its personages, its daily chances of battle and
danger, its hairbreadth escapes, its strange encounters, its prevailing
anarchy and violence, its normal absence of order and law--as he had
continually and customarily before him in Ireland. "The curse of God was
so great," writes John Hooker, a contemporary, "and the land so barren
both of man and beast, that whosoever did travel from one end to the
other of all Munster, even from Waterford to Smerwick, about six score
miles, he should not meet man, woman, or child, saving in cities or
towns, nor yet see any beast, save foxes, wolves or other ravening
beasts." It is the desolation through which Spenser's knights pursue
their solitary way, or join company as they can. Indeed to read the same
writer's account, for instance, of Ralegh's adventures with the Irish
chieftains, his challenges and single combats, his escapes at fords and
woods, is like reading bits of the _Faery Queen_ in prose. As Spenser
chose to write of knight errantry, his picture of it has doubtless
gained in truth and strength by his very practical experience of what
such life as he describes must be. The _Faery Queen_ might almost be
called the Epic of the English wars in Ireland under Elizabeth, as much
as the Epic of English virtue and valour at the same period.

At the Dublin meeting described by Bryskett, some time later than 1584,
Spenser had already "well entered into" his work. In 1589, he came to
England, bringing with him the first three books; and early in 1590,
they were published. Spenser himself has told us the story of this first
appearance of the _Faery Queen_. The person who discovered the
extraordinary work of genius which was growing up amid the turbulence
and misery and despair of Ireland, and who once more brought its author
into the centre of English life, was Walter Ralegh. Ralegh had served
through much of the Munster war. He had shown in Ireland some of the
characteristic points of his nature, which made him at once the glory
and shame of English manhood. He had begun to take a prominent place in
any business in which he engaged. He had shown his audacity, his
self-reliance, his resource, and some signs of that boundless but
prudent ambition which marked his career. He had shown that freedom of
tongue, that restless and high-reaching inventiveness, and that tenacity
of opinion, which made him a difficult person for others to work with.
Like so many of the English captains, he hated Ormond, and saw in his
feud with the Desmonds the real cause of the hopeless disorder of
Munster. But also he incurred the displeasure and suspicion of Lord
Grey, who equally disliked the great Irish Chief, but who saw in the
"plot" which Ralegh sent to Burghley for the pacification of Munster, an
adventurer's impracticable and self-seeking scheme. "I must be plain,"
he writes, "I like neither his carriage nor his company." Ralegh had
been at Smerwick: he had been in command of one of the bands put in by
Lord Grey to do the execution. On Lord Grey's departure he had become
one of the leading persons among the undertakers for the planting of
Munster. He had secured for himself a large share of the Desmond lands.
In 1587, an agreement among the undertakers assigned to Sir Walter
Ralegh, his associates and tenants, three seignories of 12,000 acres
a-piece, and one of 6000, in Cork and Waterford. But before Lord Grey's
departure, Ralegh had left Ireland, and had found the true field for his
ambition, in the English court. From 1582 to 1589, he had shared with
Leicester and Hatton and afterwards with Essex, the special favour of
the Queen. He had become Warden of the Stannaries and Captain of the
Guard. He had undertaken the adventure of founding a new realm in
America under the name of Virginia. He had obtained grants of
monopolies, farms of wines, Babington's forfeited estates. His own great
ship, which he had built, the Ark Ralegh, had carried the flag of the
High Admiral of England in the glorious but terrible summer of 1588. He
joined in that tremendous sea-chase from Plymouth to the North Sea,
when, as Spenser wrote to Lord Howard of Effingham--

         Those huge castles of Castilian King,
     That vainly threatened kingdoms to displace,
     Like flying doves, ye did before you chase.

In the summer of 1589, Ralegh had been busy, as men of the sea were
then, half Queen's servants, half buccaneers, in gathering the abundant
spoils to be found on the high seas; and he had been with Sir John
Norreys and Sir Francis Drake in a bootless but not unprofitable
expedition to Lisbon. On his return from the Portugal voyage his court
fortunes underwent a change. Essex, who had long scorned "that knave
Ralegh," was in the ascendant. Ralegh found the Queen, for some reason
or another, and reasons were not hard to find, offended and dangerous.
He bent before the storm. In the end of the summer of 1589, he was in
Ireland, looking after his large seignories, his law-suits with the old
proprietors, his castle at Lismore, and his schemes for turning to
account his woods for the manufacture of pipe staves for the French and
Spanish wine trade.

He visited Spenser, who was his neighbour, at Kilcolman, and the visit
led to important consequences. The record of it and of the events which
followed, is preserved in a curious poem of Spenser's written two or
three years later, and of much interest in regard to Spenser's personal
history. Taking up the old pastoral form of the _Shepherd's Calendar_,
with the familiar rustic names of the swains who figured in its
dialogues,--Hobbinol, Cuddie, Rosalind, and his own Colin Clout,--he
described under the usual poetical disguise, the circumstances which
once more took him back from Ireland to the court. The court was the
place to which all persons wishing to push their way in the world were
attracted. It was not only the centre of all power, the source of
favours and honours, the seat of all that swayed the destiny of the
nation. It was the home of refinement, and wit, and cultivation, the
place where eminence of all kinds was supposed to be collected, and to
which all ambitions, literary as much as political, aspired. It was not
only a royal court; it was also a great club. Spenser's poem shows us
how he had sped there, and the impressions made on his mind by a closer
view of the persons and the ways of that awful and dazzling scene,
which exercised such a spell upon Englishmen, and which seemed to
combine or concentrate in itself the glory and the goodness of heaven,
and all the baseness and malignity of earth. The occasion deserved a
full celebration; it was indeed a turning-point in his life, for it led
to the publication of the _Faery Queen_, and to the immediate and
enthusiastic recognition by the Englishmen of the time of his unrivalled
pre-eminence as a poet. In this poetical record, _Colin Clout's come
home again_, containing in it history, criticism, satire, personal
recollections, love passages, we have the picture of his recollections
of the flush and excitement of those months which saw the first
appearance of the _Faery Queen_. He describes the interruption of his
retired and, as he paints it, peaceful and pastoral life in his Irish
home, by the appearance of Ralegh, the "Shepherd of the Ocean," from
"the main sea deep." They may have been thrown together before. Both had
been patronized by Leicester. Both had been together at Smerwick, and
probably in other passages of the Munster war; both had served under
Lord Grey, Spenser's master, though he had been no lover of Ralegh. In
their different degrees, Ralegh with his two or three Seignories of half
a county, and Spenser with his more modest estate, they were embarked in
the same enterprise, the plantation of Munster. But Ralegh now appeared
before Spenser in all the glory of a brilliant favourite, the soldier,
the explorer, the daring sea-captain, the founder of plantations across
the ocean, and withal, the poet, the ready and eloquent discourser, the
true judge and measurer of what was great or beautiful.

The time, too, was one at once of excitement and repose. Men felt as
they feel after a great peril, a great effort, a great relief; as the
Greeks did after Salamis and Platæa, as our fathers did after Waterloo.
In the struggle in the Channel with the might of Spain, England had
recognized its force and its prospects. One of those solemn moments had
just passed when men see before them the course of the world turned one
way, when it might have been turned another. All the world had been
looking out to see what would come to pass; and nowhere more eagerly
than in Ireland. Every one, English and Irish alike, stood agaze to "see
how the game would be played." The great fleet, as it drew near, "worked
wonderfully uncertain yet calm humours in the people, not daring to
disclose their real intention." When all was decided, and the distressed
ships were cast away on the western coast, the Irish showed as much zeal
as the English in fulfilling the orders of the Irish council, to
"apprehend and execute all Spaniards found there of what quality
soever." These were the impressions under which the two men met. Ralegh,
at the moment, was under a cloud. In the poetical fancy picture set
before us--

     His song was all a lamentable lay
     Of great unkindnesse, and of usage hard,
     Of Cynthia the Ladie of the Sea,
     Which from her presence faultlesse him debard.
     And ever and anon, with singults rife,
     He cryed out, to make his undersong;
     Ah! my loves queene, and goddesse of my life,
     Who shall me pittie, when thou doest me wrong?

At Kilcolman, Ralegh became acquainted with what Spenser had done of the
_Faery Queen_. His rapid and clear judgment showed him how immeasurably
it rose above all that had yet been produced under the name of poetry in
England. That alone is sufficient to account for his eager desire that
it should be known in England. But Ralegh always had an eye to his own
affairs, marred as they so often were by ill-fortune and his own
mistakes; and he may have thought of making his peace with Cynthia, by
reintroducing at Court the friend of Philip Sidney, now ripened into a
poet not unworthy of Gloriana's greatness. This is Colin Clout's

     When thus our pipes we both had wearied well,
     (Quoth he) and each an end of singing made,
     He gan to cast great lyking to my lore,
     And great dislyking to my lucklesse lot,
     That banisht had my selfe, like wight forlore,
     Into that waste, where I was quite forgot.
     The which to leave, thenceforth he counseld mee,
     Unmeet for man, in whom was ought regardfull,
     And wend with him, his Cynthia to see:
     Whose grace was great, and bounty most rewardfull;
     Besides her peerlesse skill in making well,
     And all the ornaments of wondrous wit,
     Such as all womankynd did far excell,
     Such as the world admyr'd, and praised it.
     So what with hope of good, and hate of ill,
     He me perswaded forth with him to fare.
     Nought tooke I with me, but mine oaten quill:
     Small needments else need shepheard to prepare.
     So to the sea we came; the sea, that is
     A world of waters heaped up on hie,
     Rolling like mountaines in wide wildernesse,
     Horrible, hideous, roaring with hoarse crie.

This is followed by a spirited description of a sea-voyage, and of that
empire of the seas in which, since the overthrow of the Armada, England
and England's mistress were now claiming to be supreme, and of which
Ralegh was one of the most active and distinguished officers:--

     And yet as ghastly dreadfull, as it seemes,
     Bold men, presuming life for gaine to sell,
     Dare tempt that gulf, and in those wandring stremes
     Seek waies unknowne, waies leading down to hell.
     For, as we stood there waiting on the strond,
     Behold! an huge great vessell to us came,
     Dauncing upon the waters back to lond,
     As if it scornd the daunger of the same;
     Yet was it but a wooden frame and fraile,
     Glewed togither with some subtile matter.
     Yet had it armes and wings, and head and taile,
     And life to move it selfe upon the water.
     Strange thing! how bold and swift the monster was,
     That neither car'd for wind, nor haile, nor raine,
     Nor swelling waves, but thorough them did passe
     So proudly, that she made them roare againe.
     The same aboord us gently did receave,
     And without harme us farre away did beare,
     So farre that land, our mother, us did leave,
     And nought but sea and heaven to us appeare.
     Then hartlesse quite, and full of inward feare,
     That shepheard I besought to me to tell,
     Under what skie, or in what world we were,
     In which I saw no living people dwell.
     Who, me recomforting all that he might,
     Told me that that same was the Regiment
     Of a great Shepheardesse, that Cynthia hight,
     His liege, his Ladie, and his lifes Regent.

This is the poetical version of Ralegh's appreciation of the treasure
which he had lighted on in Ireland, and of what he did to make it known
to the admiration and delight of England. He returned to the Court, and
Spenser with him. Again, for what reason we know not, he was received
into favour. The poet, who accompanied him, was brought to the presence
of the lady, who saw herself in "various mirrors,"--Cynthia, Gloriana,
Belphoebe, as she heard him read portions of the great poem which was
to add a new glory to her reign.

       "The Shepheard of the Ocean (quoth he)
     Unto that Goddesse grace me first enhanced,
     And to mine oaten pipe enclin'd her eare,
     That she thenceforth therein gan take delight;
     And it desir'd at timely houres to heare,
     All were my notes but rude and roughly dight;
     For not by measure of her owne great mynde,
     And wondrous worth, she mott my simple song,
     But joyd that country shepheard ought could fynd
     Worth harkening to, emongst the learned throng."

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 50_l._ 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:--

               The Most High, Mightie, and Magnificent
       Renowmed for piety, vertve, and all gratiovs government,
                         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


     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 worldës 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

     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

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

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

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 Alençon 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 Atè 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 levée. 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.

The unity of a story, or an allegory--that chain and backbone of
continuous interest, implying a progress and leading up to a climax,
which holds together the great poems of the world, the _Iliad_ and
_Odyssey_, the _Æneid_, the _Commedia_, the _Paradise Lost_, the
_Jerusalem Delivered_--this is wanting in the _Faery Queen_. The unity
is one of character and its ideal. That character of the completed man,
raised above what is poor and low, and governed by noble tempers and
pure principles, has in Spenser two conspicuous elements. In the first
place, it is based on manliness. In the personages which illustrate the
different virtues, Holiness, Justice, Courtesy, and the rest, the
distinction is not in nicely discriminated features or shades of
expression, but in the trials and the occasions which call forth a
particular action or effort: yet the manliness which is at the
foundation of all that is good in them is a universal quality common to
them all, rooted and imbedded in the governing idea or standard of moral
character in the poem. It is not merely courage, it is not merely
energy, it is not merely strength. It is the quality of soul which
frankly accepts the conditions in human life, of labour, of obedience,
of effort, of unequal success, which does not quarrel with them or evade
them, but takes for granted with unquestioning alacrity that man is
called--by his call to high aims and destiny--to a continual struggle
with difficulty, with pain, with evil, and makes it the point of honour
not to be dismayed or wearied out by them. It is a cheerful and serious
willingness for hard work and endurance, as being inevitable and very
bearable necessities, together with even a pleasure in encountering
trials which put a man on his mettle, an enjoyment of the contest and
the risk, even in play. It is the quality which seizes on the paramount
idea of duty, as something which leaves a man no choice; which despises
and breaks through the inferior considerations and motives--trouble,
uncertainty, doubt, curiosity--which hang about and impede duty; which
is impatient with the idleness and childishness of a life of mere
amusement, or mere looking on, of continued and self-satisfied levity,
of vacillation, of clever and ingenious trifling. Spenser's manliness is
quite consistent with long pauses of rest, with intervals of change,
with great craving for enjoyment--nay, with great lapses from its ideal,
with great mixtures of selfishness, with coarseness, with
licentiousness, with injustice and inhumanity. It may be fatally
diverted into bad channels; it may degenerate into a curse and scourge
to the world. But it stands essentially distinct from the nature which
shrinks from difficulty, which is appalled at effort, which has no
thought of making an impression on things around it, which is content
with passively receiving influences and distinguishing between emotions,
which feels no call to exert itself, because it recognizes no aim
valuable enough to rouse it, and no obligation strong enough to command
it. In the character of his countrymen round him, in its highest and in
its worst features, in its noble ambition, its daring enterprise, its
self-devotion, as well as in its pride, its intolerance, its fierce
self-will, its arrogant claims of superiority, moral, political,
religious, Spenser saw the example of that strong and resolute
manliness, which, once set on great things, feared nothing--neither toil
nor disaster nor danger, in their pursuit. Naturally and unconsciously,
he laid it at the bottom of all his portraitures of noble and virtuous
achievement in the _Faery Queen_.

All Spenser's "virtues" spring from a root of manliness. Strength,
simplicity of aim, elevation of spirit, courage are presupposed as their
necessary conditions. But they have with him another condition as
universal. They all grow and are nourished from the soil of love; the
love of beauty, the love and service of fair women. This of course, is a
survival from the ages of chivalry, an inheritance bequeathed from the
minstrels of France, Italy, and Germany to the rising poetry of Europe.
Spenser's types of manhood are imperfect without the idea of an
absorbing and overmastering passion of love; without a devotion, as to
the principal and most worthy object of life, to the service of a
beautiful lady, and to winning her affection and grace. The influence of
this view of life comes out in numberless ways. Love comes on the scene
in shapes which are exquisitely beautiful, in all its purity, its
tenderness, its unselfishness. But the claims of its all-ruling and
irresistible might are also only too readily verified in the passions of
men; in the follies of love, its entanglements, its mischiefs, its
foulness. In one shape or another it meets us at every turn; it is never
absent; it is the motive and stimulant of the whole activity of the
poem. The picture of life held up before us is the literal rendering of
Coleridge's lines:--

     All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
     Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
     Are all but ministers of Love,
           And feed his sacred flame.

We still think with Spenser about the paramount place of manliness, as
the foundation of all worth in human character. We have ceased to think
with him about the rightful supremacy of love, even in the imaginative
conception of human life. We have ceased to recognize in it the public
claims of almost a religion, which it has in Spenser. Love will ever
play a great part in human life to the end of time. It will be an
immense element in its happiness, perhaps a still greater one in its
sorrows, its disasters, its tragedies. It is still an immense power in
shaping and colouring it, both in fiction and reality; in the family, in
the romance, in the fatalities and the prosaic ruin of vulgar fact. But
the place given to it by Spenser is to our thoughts and feelings even
ludicrously extravagant. An enormous change has taken place in the ideas
of society on this point: it is one of the things which make a wide
chasm between centuries and generations which yet are of "the same
passions," and have in temper, tradition and language, so much in
common. The ages of the Courts of Love, whom Chaucer reflected and whose
ideas passed on through him to Spenser, are to us simply strange and
abnormal states through which society has passed, to us beyond
understanding and almost belief. The perpetual love-making, as one of
the first duties and necessities of a noble life, the space which it
must fill in the cares and thoughts of all gentle and high-reaching
spirits, the unrestrained language of admiration and worship, the
unrestrained yielding to the impulses, the anxieties, the pitiable
despair and agonies of love, the subordination to it of all other
pursuits and aims, the weeping and wailing and self-torturing which it
involves, all this is so far apart from what we know of actual life, the
life not merely of work and business, but the life of affection, and
even of passion, that it makes the picture of which it is so necessary a
part, seem to us in the last degree, unreal, unimaginable, grotesquely
ridiculous. The quaint love sometimes found among children, so quickly
kindled, so superficial, so violent in its language and absurd in its
plans, is transferred with the utmost gravity to the serious proceedings
of the wise and good. In the highest characters it is chastened,
refined, purified: it appropriates, indeed, language due only to the
divine, it almost simulates idolatry; yet it belongs to the best part of
man's nature. But in the lower and average characters, it is not so
respectable; it is apt to pass into mere toying pastime and frivolous
love of pleasure: it astonishes us often by the readiness with which it
displays an affinity for the sensual and impure, the corrupting and
debasing sides of the relations between the sexes. But however it
appears, it is throughout a very great affair, not merely with certain
persons, or under certain circumstances, but with every one: it obtrudes
itself in public, as the natural and recognized motive of plans of life
and trials of strength; it is the great spur of enterprise, and its
highest and most glorious reward. A world of which this is the law, is
not even in fiction a world which we can conceive possible, or with
which experience enables us to sympathize.

It is, of course, a purely artificial and conventional reading of the
facts of human life and feeling. Such conventional readings and
renderings belong in a measure to all art; but in its highest forms they
are corrected, interpreted, supplemented by the presence of interspersed
realities which every one recognizes. But it was one of Spenser's
disadvantages, that two strong influences combined to entangle him in
this fantastic and grotesque way of exhibiting the play and action of
the emotions of love. This all-absorbing, all-embracing passion of love,
at least, this way of talking about it, was the fashion of the Court.
Further, it was the fashion of poetry, which he inherited; and he was
not the man to break through the strong bands of custom and authority.
In very much he was an imitator. He took what he found; what was his
own was his treatment of it. He did not trouble himself with
inconsistencies, or see absurdities and incongruities. Habit and
familiar language made it not strange that in the Court of Elizabeth,
the most high-flown sentiments should be in every one's mouth about the
sublimities and refinements of love, while every one was busy with keen
ambition, and unscrupulous intrigue. The same blinding power kept him
from seeing the monstrous contrast between the claims of the queen to be
the ideal of womanly purity--claims recognized and echoed in ten
thousand extravagant compliments--and the real licentiousness common all
round her among her favourites. All these strange contradictions, which
surprise and shock us, Spenser assumed as natural. He built up his
fictions on them, as the dramatist built on a basis, which, though more
nearly approaching to real life, yet differed widely from it in many of
its preliminary and collateral suppositions; or as the novelist builds
up his on a still closer adherence to facts and experience. In this
matter Spenser appears with a kind of double self. At one time he speaks
as one penetrated and inspired by the highest and purest ideas of love,
and filled with aversion and scorn for the coarser forms of passion--for
what is ensnaring and treacherous, as well as for what is odious and
foul. At another, he puts forth all his power to bring out its most
dangerous and even debasing aspects in highly coloured pictures, which
none could paint without keen sympathy with what he takes such pains to
make vivid and fascinating. The combination is not like anything modern,
for both the elements are in Spenser so unquestionably and simply
genuine. Our modern poets are, with all their variations in this
respect, more homogeneous; and where one conception of love and beauty
has taken hold of a man, the other does not easily come in. It is
impossible to imagine Wordsworth dwelling with zest on visions and
imagery, on which Spenser has lavished all his riches. There can be no
doubt of Byron's real habits of thought and feeling on subjects of this
kind, even when his language for the occasion is the chastest; we detect
in it the mood of the moment, perhaps spontaneous, perhaps put on, but
in contradiction to the whole movement of the man's true nature. But
Spenser's words do not ring hollow. With a kind of unconsciousness and
innocence, which we now find hard to understand, and which perhaps
belongs to the early childhood or boyhood of a literature, he passes
abruptly from one standard of thought and feeling to another; and is
quite as much in earnest when he is singing the pure joys of chastened
affections, as he is when he is writing with almost riotous luxuriance
what we are at this day ashamed to read. Tardily, indeed, he appears to
have acknowledged the contradiction. At the instance of two noble ladies
of the Court, he composed two Hymns of Heavenly Love and Heavenly
Beauty, to "retract" and "reform" two earlier ones composed in praise of
earthly love and beauty. But, characteristically, he published the two
pieces together, side by side in the same volume.

In the _Faery Queen_, Spenser has brought out, not the image of the
great Gloriana, but in its various aspects, a form of character which
was then just coming on the stage of the world, and which has played a
great part in it since. As he has told us, he aimed at presenting before
us, in the largest sense of the word, the English gentleman. It was as a
whole a new character in the world. It had not really existed in the
days of feudalism and chivalry, though features of it had appeared, and
its descent was traced from those times: but they were too wild and
coarse, too turbulent and disorderly, for a character which, however
ready for adventure and battle, looked to peace, refinement, order, and
law as the true conditions of its perfection. In the days of Elizabeth
it was beginning to fill a large place in English life. It was formed
amid the increasing cultivation of the nation, the increasing varieties
of public service, the awakening responsibilities to duty and calls to
self-command. Still making much of the prerogative of noble blood and
family honours, it was something independent of nobility and beyond it.
A nobleman might have in him the making of a gentleman: but it was the
man himself of whom the gentleman was made. Great birth, even great
capacity, were not enough; there must be added a new delicacy of
conscience, a new appreciation of what is beautiful and worthy of
honour, a new measure of the strength and nobleness of self-control, of
devotion to unselfish interests. This idea of manhood, based not only on
force and courage, but on truth, on refinement, on public spirit, on
soberness and modesty, on consideration for others, was taking
possession of the younger generation of Elizabeth's middle years. Of
course the idea was very imperfectly apprehended, still more imperfectly
realized. But it was something which on the same scale had not been yet,
and which was to be the seed of something greater. It was to grow into
those strong, simple, noble characters, pure in aim and devoted to duty,
the Falklands, the Hampdens, who amid so much evil form such a
remarkable feature in the Civil Wars, both on the Royalist and the
Parliamentary sides. It was to grow into that high type of cultivated
English nature, in the present and the last century, common both to its
monarchical and its democratic embodiments, than which, with all its
faults and defects, our western civilization has produced few things
more admirable.

There were three distinguished men of that time, who one after another
were Spenser's friends and patrons, and who were men in whom he saw
realized his conceptions of human excellence and nobleness. They were
Sir Philip Sidney, Lord Grey of Wilton, and Sir Walter Ralegh: and the
_Faery Queen_ reflects, as in a variety of separate mirrors and
spiritualized forms, the characteristics of these men and of such as
they. It reflects their conflicts, their temptations, their weaknesses,
the evils they fought with, the superiority with which they towered over
meaner and poorer natures. Sir Philip Sidney may be said to have been
the first typical example in English society of the true gentleman. The
charm which attracted men to him in life, the fame which he left behind
him, are not to be accounted for simply by his accomplishments as a
courtier, a poet, a lover of literature, a gallant soldier; above all
this there was something not found in the strong or brilliant men about
him, a union and harmony of all high qualities differing from any of
them separately, which gave a fire of its own to his literary
enthusiasm, and a sweetness of its own to his courtesy. Spenser's
admiration for that bright but short career was strong and lasting.
Sidney was to him a verification of what he aspired to and imagined; a
pledge that he was not dreaming, in portraying Prince Arthur's greatness
of soul, the religious chivalry of the Red Cross Knight of Holiness, the
manly purity and self-control of Sir Guyon. It is too much to say that
in Prince Arthur, the hero of the poem, he always intended Sidney. In
the first place, it is clear that under that character Spenser in places
pays compliments to Leicester, in whose service he began life, and
whose claims on his homage he ever recognized. Prince Arthur is
certainly Leicester, in the historical passages in the Fifth Book
relating to the war in the Low Countries in 1576: and no one can be
meant but Leicester in the bold allusion in the First Book (ix. 17) to
Elizabeth's supposed thoughts of marrying him. In the next place,
allegory, like caricature, is not bound to make the same person and the
same image always or perfectly coincide; and Spenser makes full use of
this liberty. But when he was painting the picture of the Kingly
Warrior, in whom was to be summed up in a magnificent unity the
diversified graces of other men, and who was to be ever ready to help
and support his fellows in their hour of need, and in their conflict
with evil, he certainly had before his mind the well-remembered
lineaments of Sidney's high and generous nature. And he further
dedicated a separate book, the last that he completed, to the
celebration of Sidney's special "virtue" of Courtesy. The martial strain
of the poem changes once more to the pastoral of the _Shepherd's
Calendar_ to describe Sidney's wooing of Frances Walsingham, the fair
Pastorella; his conquests by his sweetness and grace over the
churlishness of rivals; and his triumphant war against the monster
spirit of ignorant and loud-tongued insolence, the "Blatant Beast" of
religious, political, and social slander.

Again, in Lord Grey of Wilton, gentle by nature, but so stern in the
hour of trial, called reluctantly to cope not only with anarchy, but
with intrigue and disloyalty, finding selfishness and thanklessness
everywhere, but facing all and doing his best with a heavy heart, and
ending his days prematurely under detraction and disgrace, Spenser had
before him a less complete character than Sidney, but yet one of grand
and severe manliness, in which were conspicuous a religious hatred of
disorder, and an unflinching sense of public duty. Spenser's admiration
of him was sincere and earnest. In his case the allegory almost becomes
history. Arthur, Lord Grey, is Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice. The
story touches apparently on some passages of his career, when his
dislike of the French marriage placed him in opposition to the Queen,
and even for a time threw him with the supporters of Mary. But the
adventures of Arthegal mainly preserve the memory of Lord Grey's
terrible exploits against wrong and rebellion in Ireland. These exploits
are represented in the doings of the iron man Talus, his squire, with
his destroying flail, swift, irresistible, inexorable; a figure,
borrowed and altered, after Spenser's wont, from a Greek legend. His
overthrow of insolent giants, his annihilation of swarming "rascal
routs," idealize and glorify that unrelenting policy, of which, though
condemned in England, Spenser continued to be the advocate. In the story
of Arthegal, long separated by undeserved misfortunes from the favour of
the armed lady, Britomart, the virgin champion of right, of whom he was
so worthy, doomed in spite of his honours to an early death, and
assailed on his return from his victorious service by the furious
insults of envy and malice, Spenser portrays almost without a veil, the
hard fate of the unpopular patron whom he to the last defended and

Ralegh, his last protector, the Shepherd of the Ocean, to whose judgment
he referred the work of his life, and under whose guidance he once more
tried the quicksands of the Court, belonged to a different class from
Sidney or Lord Grey; but of his own class he was the consummate and
matchless example. He had not Sidney's fine enthusiasm and nobleness; he
had not either Sidney's affectations. He had not Lord Grey's
single-minded hatred of wrong. He was a man to whom his own interests
were much; he was unscrupulous; he was ostentatious; he was not above
stooping to mean, unmanly compliances with the humours of the Queen. But
he was a man with a higher ideal than he attempted to follow. He saw,
not without cynical scorn, through the shows and hollowness of the
world. His intellect was of that clear and unembarrassed power which
takes in as wholes things which other men take in part by part. And he
was in its highest form a representative of that spirit of adventure
into the unknown and the wonderful of which Drake was the coarser and
rougher example, realizing in serious earnest, on the sea and in the New
World, the life of knight-errantry feigned in romances. With Ralegh, as
with Lord Grey, Spenser comes to history; and he even seems to have been
moved, as the poem went on, partly by pity, partly by amusement, to
shadow forth in his imaginary world, not merely Ralegh's brilliant
qualities, but also his frequent misadventures and mischances in his
career at Court. Of all her favourites Ralegh was the one whom his
wayward mistress seemed to find most delight in tormenting. The offence
which he gave by his secret marriage suggested the scenes describing the
utter desolation of Prince Arthur's squire, Timias, at the jealous wrath
of the Virgin Huntress, Belphoebe,--scenes, which extravagant as they
are, can hardly be called a caricature of Ralegh's real behaviour in the
Tower in 1593. But Spenser is not satisfied with this one picture. In
the last Book Timias appears again, the victim of slander and ill-usage,
even after he had recovered Belphoebe's favour; he is baited like a
wild bull, by mighty powers of malice, falsehood, and calumny; he is
wounded by the tooth of the Blatant Beast; and after having been cured,
not without difficulty, and not without significant indications on the
part of the poet that his friend had need to restrain and chasten his
unruly spirit, he is again delivered over to an ignominious captivity,
and the insults of Disdain and Scorn.

       Then up he made him rise, and forward fare,
     Led in a rope which both his hands did bynd;
     Ne ought that foole for pity did him spare,
     But with his whip, him following behynd,
     Him often scourg'd, and forst his feete to fynd:
     And other-whiles with bitter mockes and mowes
     He would him scorne, that to his gentle mynd
     Was much more grievous then the others blowes:
     Words sharpely wound, but greatest griefe of scorning growes.

Spenser knew Ralegh only in the promise of his adventurous prime--so
buoyant and fearless, so inexhaustible in project and resource, so
unconquerable by checks and reverses. The gloomier portion of Ralegh's
career was yet to come: its intrigues, its grand yet really gambling and
unscrupulous enterprises, the long years of prison and authorship, and
its not unfitting close, in the English statesman's death by the
headsman--so tranquil though violent, so ceremoniously solemn, so
composed, so dignified;--such a contrast to all other forms of capital
punishment, then or since.

Spenser has been compared to Pindar, and contrasted with Cervantes. The
contrast, in point of humour, and the truth that humour implies, is
favourable to the Spaniard: in point of moral earnestness and sense of
poetic beauty, to the Englishman. What Cervantes only thought
ridiculous Spenser used, and not in vain, for a high purpose. The ideas
of knight-errantry were really more absurd than Spenser allowed himself
to see. But that idea of the gentleman which they suggested, that
picture of human life as a scene of danger, trial, effort, defeat,
recovery, which they lent themselves to image forth, was more worth
insisting on, than the exposure of their folly and extravagance. There
was nothing to be made of them, Cervantes thought; and nothing to be
done, but to laugh off what they had left, among living Spaniards, of
pompous imbecility or mistaken pretensions. Spenser, knowing that they
must die, yet believed that out of them might be raised something nobler
and more real, enterprise, duty, resistance to evil, refinement, hatred
of the mean and base. The energetic and high-reaching manhood which he
saw in the remarkable personages round him he shadowed forth in the
_Faery Queen_. He idealized the excellences and the trials of this first
generation of English gentlemen, as Bunyan afterwards idealized the
piety, the conflicts, and the hopes of Puritan religion. Neither were
universal types; neither were perfect. The manhood in which Spenser
delights, with all that was admirable and attractive in it, had still
much of boyish incompleteness and roughness: it had noble aims, it had
generosity, it had loyalty, it had a very real reverence for purity and
religion; but it was young in experience of a new world, it was wanting
in self-mastery, it was often pedantic and self-conceited; it was an
easier prey than it ought to have been to discreditable temptations. And
there is a long interval between any of Spenser's superficial and thin
conceptions of character, and such deep and subtle creations as Hamlet
or Othello, just as Bunyan's strong but narrow ideals of religion, true
as they are up to a certain point, fall short of the length and breadth
and depth of what Christianity has made of man, and may yet make of him.
But in the ways which Spenser chose, he will always delight and teach
us. The spectacle of what is heroic and self-devoted, of honour for
principle and truth, set before us with so much insight and sympathy,
and combined with so much just and broad observation on those accidents
and conditions of our mortal state which touch us all, will never appeal
to English readers in vain, till we have learned a new language, and
adopted new canons of art, of taste, and of morals. It is not merely
that he has left imperishable images which have taken their place among
the consecrated memorials of poetry and the household thoughts of all
cultivated men. But he has permanently lifted the level of English
poetry by a great and sustained effort of rich and varied art, in which
one main purpose rules, loyalty to what is noble and pure, and in which
this main purpose subordinates to itself every feature and every detail,
and harmonizes some that by themselves seem least in keeping with it.



     "Unknow, unkyst; and lost, that is unsoght."

                                  _Troylus and Cryseide_, lib. i.

[128:2] Hales' _Life_, Globe Edition.

[132:3] _Vid._ Keble, _Prælect. Acad._, xxiv. p. 479, 480.



The publication of the _Faery Queen_ in 1590 had made the new poet of
the _Shepherd's Calendar_ a famous man. He was no longer merely the
favourite of a knot of enthusiastic friends, and outside of them only
recognized and valued at his true measure by such judges as Sidney and
Ralegh. By the common voice of all the poets of his time he was now
acknowledged as the first of living English poets. It is not easy for
us, who live in these late times and are familiar with so many literary
masterpieces, to realize the surprise of a first and novel achievement
in literature; the effect on an age, long and eagerly seeking after
poetical expression, of the appearance at last of a work of such power,
richness, and finished art.

It can scarcely be doubted, I think, from the bitter sarcasms
interspersed in his later poems, that Spenser expected more from his
triumph than it brought him. It opened no way of advancement for him in
England. He continued for a while in that most ungrateful and
unsatisfactory employment, the service of the State in Ireland; and that
he relinquished in 1593.[166:1] At the end of 1591 he was again at
Kilcolman. He had written and probably sent to Ralegh, though he did not
publish it till 1595, the record already quoted of the last two year's
events, _Colin Clout's come home again_,--his visit, under Ralegh's
guidance, to the Court, his thoughts and recollections of its great
ladies, his generous criticisms on poets, the people and courtiers whom
he had seen and heard of; how he had been dazzled, how he had been
disenchanted, and how he was come home to his Irish mountains and
streams and lakes, to enjoy their beauty, though in a "salvage" and
"foreign" land; to find in this peaceful and tranquil retirement
something far better than the heat of ambition and the intrigues of
envious rivalries; and to contrast with the profanations of the name of
love which had disgusted him in a dissolute society, the higher and
purer ideal of it which he could honour and pursue in the simplicity of
his country life.

And in Ireland, the rejected adorer of the Rosalind of the _Shepherd's
Calendar_ found another and still more perfect Rosalind, who, though she
was at first inclined to repeat the cruelty of the earlier one, in time
relented, and received such a dower of poetic glory as few poets have
bestowed upon their brides. It has always appeared strange that
Spenser's passion for the first Rosalind should have been so lasting,
that in his last pastoral, _Colin Clout's come home again_, written so
late as 1591, and published after he was married, he should end his poem
by reverting to this long-past love passage, defending her on the ground
of her incomparable excellence and his own unworthiness, against the
blame of friendly "shepherds," witnesses of the "languors of his too
long dying," and angry with her hard-heartedness. It may be that,
according to Spenser's way of making his masks and figures suggest but
not fully express their antitypes,[168:2] Rosalind here bears the image
of the real mistress of this time, the "country lass," the Elizabeth of
the sonnets, who was, in fact, for a while as unkind as the earlier
Rosalind. The history of this later wooing, its hopes and anguish, its
varying currents, its final unexpected success, is the subject of a
collection of Sonnets, which have the disadvantage of provoking
comparison with the Sonnets of Shakespere. There is no want in them of
grace and sweetness, and they ring true with genuine feeling and warm
affection, though they have of course their share of the conceits then
held proper for love poems. But they want the power and fire, as well as
the perplexing mystery, of those of the greater master. His bride was
also immortalized as a fourth among the three Graces, in a
richly-painted passage in the last book of the _Faery Queen_. But the
most magnificent tribute to her is the great Wedding Ode, the
_Epithalamion_, the finest composition of its kind, probably, in any
language: so impetuous and unflagging, so orderly and yet so rapid in
the onward march of its stately and varied stanzas; so passionate, so
flashing with imaginative wealth, yet so refined and self-restrained. It
was always easy for Spenser to open the floodgates of his inexhaustible
fancy. With him,--

     The numbers flow as fast as spring doth rise.

But here he has thrown into his composition all his power of
concentration, of arrangement, of strong and harmonious government over
thought and image, over language and measure and rhythm; and the result
is unquestionably one of the grandest lyrics in English poetry. We have
learned to think the subject unfit for such free poetical treatment;
Spenser's age did not.

Of the lady of whom all this was said, and for whom all this was
written, the family name has not been thought worth preserving. We know
that by her Christian name she was a namesake of the great queen, and of
Spenser's mother. She is called a country lass, which may mean anything;
and the marriage appears to have been solemnized in Cork, on what was
then Midsummer Day, "Barnaby the Bright," the day when "the sun is in
his cheerful height," June 11/22, 1594. Except that she survived
Spenser, that she married again, and had some legal quarrels with one of
her own sons about his lands, we know nothing more about her. Of two of
the children whom she brought him, the names have been preserved, and
they indicate that in spite of love and poetry, and the charms of
Kilcolman, Spenser felt as Englishmen feel in Australia or in India. To
call one of them _Sylvanus_, and the other _Peregrine_, reveals to us
that Ireland was still to him a "salvage land," and he a pilgrim and
stranger in it; as Moses called his firstborn Gershom, a stranger
here--"for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land."

In the year after his marriage, he sent over these memorials of it to be
published in London, and they were entered at Stationers' Hall in
November, 1595. The same year he came over himself, bringing with him
the second instalment of the _Faery Queen_, which was entered for
publication the following January, 1595/6. Thus the half of the
projected work was finished; and finished, as we know from one of the
Sonnets (80), before his marriage. After his long "race through Fairy
land," he asks leave to rest, and solace himself with his "love's sweet
praise;" and then "as a steed refreshed after toil," he will "stoutly
that second worke assoyle." The first six books were published together
in 1596. He remained most of the year in London, during which _The Four
Hymns on Love and Beauty, Earthly and Heavenly_, were published; and
also a Dirge (_Daphnaida_) on Douglas Howard, the wife of Arthur Gorges,
the spirited narrator of the Island Voyage of Essex and Ralegh, written
in 1591; and a "spousal verse" (_Prothalamion_), on the marriage of the
two daughters of the Earl of Worcester, late in 1596. But he was only a
visitor in London. The _Prothalamion_ contains a final record of his
disappointments in England.

                   I, (whom sullein care,
     Through discontent of my long fruitlesse stay
     In Princes Court, and expectation vayne
     Of idle hopes, which still doe fly away,
     Like empty shaddowes, did afflict my brayne,)
     Walkt forth to ease my payne
     Along the shoare of silver streaming Themmes--

His marriage ought to have made him happy. He professed to find the
highest enjoyment in the quiet and retirement of country life. He was in
the prime of life, successful beyond all his fellows in his special
work, and apparently with unabated interest in what remained to be done
of it. And though he could not but feel himself at a distance from the
"sweet civility" of England, and socially at disadvantage compared to
those whose lines had fallen to them in its pleasant places, yet
nature, which he loved so well, was still friendly to him, if men were
wild and dangerous. He is never weary of praising the natural advantages
of Ireland. Speaking of the North, he says,--

     And sure it is yet a most beautifull and sweet countrey as any
     is under heaven, seamed throughout with many goodly rivers,
     replenished with all sortes of fish, most aboundantly
     sprinckled with many sweet Ilandes, and goodly lakes, like
     litle Inland Seas, that will carry even ships upon theyr
     waters, adorned with goodly woodes fitt for building of howses
     and shippes, soe comodiously, as that yf some princes in the
     world had them, they would soone hope to be lordes of all the
     seas, and ere long of all the world; also full of good portes
     and havens opening upon England and Scotland, as inviting us
     to come to them, to see what excellent comodityes that
     countrey can affoord, besides the soyle it self most fertile,
     fitt to yeeld all kind of fruite that shal be comitted
     therunto. And lastly, the heavens most milde and temperat,
     though somewhat more moyst then the part toward the West.

His own home at Kilcolman charmed and delighted him. It was not his
fault that its trout streams, its Mulla and Fanchin, are not as famous
as Walter Scott's Teviot and Tweed, or Wordsworth's Yarrow and Duddon,
or that its hills, Old Mole, and Arlo Hill, have not kept a poetic name
like Helvellyn and "Eildon's triple height." They have failed to become
familiar names to us. But the beauties of his home inspired more than
one sweet pastoral picture in the _Faery Queen_; and in the last
fragment remaining to us of it, he celebrates his mountains and woods
and valleys as once the fabled resort of the Divine Huntress and her
Nymphs, and the meeting-place of the Gods.

There was one drawback to the enjoyment of his Irish country life, and
of the natural attractiveness of Kilcolman. "Who knows not Arlo Hill?"
he exclaims, in the scene just referred to from the fragment on
_Mutability_. "Arlo, the best and fairest hill in all the holy island's
heights." It was well known to all Englishmen who had to do with the
South of Ireland. How well it was known in the Irish history of the
time, may be seen in the numerous references to it, under various forms,
such as Aharlo, Harlow, in the Index to the Irish Calendar of Papers of
this troublesome date, and to continual encounters and ambushes in its
notoriously dangerous woods. He means by it the highest part of the
Galtee range, below which to the north, through a glen or defile, runs
the "river Aherlow." Galtymore, the summit, rises, with precipice and
gully, more than 3000 feet, above the plains of Tipperary, and is seen
far and wide. It was connected with the "great wood," the wild region of
forest, mountain, and bog which stretched half across Munster from the
Suir to the Shannon. It was the haunt and fastness of Irish outlawry and
rebellion in the South, which so long sheltered Desmond and his
followers. Arlo and its "fair forests," harbouring "thieves and wolves,"
was an uncomfortable neighbour to Kilcolman. The poet describes it as
ruined by a curse pronounced on the lovely land by the offended goddess
of the Chase,--

     Which too too true that land's in-dwellers since have found.

He was not only living in an insecure part, on the very border of
disaffection and disturbance, but like every Englishman living in
Ireland, he was living amid ruins. An English home in Ireland, however
fair, was a home on the sides of Ætna or Vesuvius: it stood where the
lava flood had once passed, and upon not distant fires. Spenser has left
us his thoughts on the condition of Ireland, in a paper written between
the two rebellions, some time between 1595 and 1598, after the twelve
or thirteen years of so-called peace which followed the overthrow of
Desmond, and when Tyrone's rebellion was becoming serious. It seems to
have been much copied in manuscript, but though entered for publication
in 1598, it was not printed till long after his death in 1633. A copy of
it among the Irish papers of 1598 shows that it had come under the eyes
of the English Government. It is full of curious observations, of shrewd
political remarks, of odd and confused ethnography; but more than all
this, it is a very vivid and impressive picture of what Sir Walter
Ralegh called "the common woe of Ireland." It is a picture of a noble
realm, which its inhabitants and its masters did not know what to do
with; a picture of hopeless mistakes, misunderstandings, misrule; a
picture of piteous misery and suffering on the part of a helpless and
yet untameable and mischievous population--of unrelenting and scornful
rigour on the part of their stronger rulers, which yet was absolutely
ineffectual to reclaim or subdue them. "Men of great wisdom," Spenser
writes, "have often wished that all that land were a sea-pool."
Everything, people thought, had been tried, and tried in vain.

     Marry, soe there have beene divers good plottes and wise
     counsells cast alleready about reformation of that realme; but
     they say, it is the fatall desteny of that land, that noe
     purposes, whatsoever are meant for her good, will prosper or
     take good effect, which, whether it proceede from the very
     GENIUS of the soyle, or influence of the starres, or that
     Allmighty God hath not yet appoynted the time of her
     reformation, or that He reserveth her in this unquiett state
     still for some secrett scourdge, which shall by her come unto
     England, it is hard to be knowen, but yet much to be feared.

The unchanging fatalities of Ireland appear in Spenser's account in all
their well-known forms; some of them, as if they were what we were
reading of yesterday. Throughout the work there is an honest zeal for
order, an honest hatred of falsehood, sloth, treachery, and disorder.
But there does not appear a trace of consideration for what the Irish
might feel or desire or resent. He is sensible indeed of English
mismanagement and vacillation, of the way in which money and force were
wasted by not being boldly and intelligently employed; he enlarges on
that power of malignity and detraction which he has figured in the
Blatant Beast of the _Faery Queen_: but of English cruelty, of English
injustice, of English rapacity, of English prejudice, he is profoundly
unconscious. He only sees that things are getting worse and more
dangerous; and though he, like others, has his "plot" for the
subjugation and pacification of the island, and shrinks from nothing in
the way of severity, not even, if necessary, from extermination, his
outlook is one of deep despair. He calculates the amount of force, of
money, of time, necessary to break down all resistance: he is minute and
perhaps skilful in building his forts and disposing his garrisons; he is
very earnest about the necessity of cutting broad roads through the
woods, and building bridges in place of fords; he contemplates restored
churches, parish schools, a better order of clergy. But where the spirit
was to come from of justice, of conciliation, of steady and firm
resistance to corruption and selfishness, he gives us no light. What it
comes to is, that with patience, temper, and public spirit, Ireland
might be easily reformed and brought into order: but unless he hoped for
patience, temper, and public spirit from Lord Essex, to whom he seems to
allude as the person "on whom the eye of England is fixed, and our last
hopes now rest," he too easily took for granted what was the real
difficulty. His picture is exact and forcible, of one side of the
truth; it seems beyond the thought of an honest, well-informed, and
noble-minded Englishman that there was another side.

But he was right in his estimate of the danger, and of the immediate
evils which produced it. He was right in thinking that want of method,
want of control, want of confidence, and an untimely parsimony,
prevented severity from having a fair chance of preparing a platform for
reform and conciliation. He was right in his conviction of the
inveterate treachery of the Irish Chiefs, partly the result of ages of
mismanagement, but now incurable. While he was writing, Tyrone, a
craftier and bolder man than Desmond, was taking up what Desmond had
failed in. He was playing a game with the English authorities which as
things then were is almost beyond belief. He was outwitting or cajoling
the veterans of Irish government, who knew perfectly well what he was,
and yet let him amuse them with false expectations--men like Sir John
Norreys, who broke his heart when he found out how Tyrone had baffled
and made a fool of him. Wishing to gain time for help from Spain, and to
extend the rebellion, he revolted, submitted, sued for pardon but did
not care to take it when granted, fearlessly presented himself before
the English officers while he was still beleaguering their posts, led
the English forces a chase through mountains and bogs, inflicted heavy
losses on them, and yet managed to keep negotiations open as long as it
suited him. From 1594 to 1598, the rebellion had been gaining ground; it
had crept round from Ulster to Connaught, from Connaught to Leinster,
and now from Connaught to the borders of Munster. But Munster, with its
English landlords and settlers, was still on the whole quiet. At the end
of 1597, the Council at Dublin reported home that "Munster was the best
tempered of all the rest at this present time; for that though not long
since sundry loose persons" (among them the base sons of Lord Roche,
Spenser's adversary in land suits) "became Robin Hoods and slew some of
the undertakers, dwelling scattered in thatched houses and remote places
near to woods and fastnesses, yet now they are cut off, and no known
disturbers left who are like to make any dangerous alteration on the
sudden." But they go on to add that they "have intelligence that many
are practised withal from the North, to be of combination with the rest,
and stir coals in Munster, whereby the whole realm might be in a general
uproar." And they repeat their opinion that they must be prepared for a
"universal Irish war, intended to shake off all English government."

In April, 1598, Tyrone received a new pardon; in the following August,
he surprised an English army near Armagh, and shattered it with a
defeat, the bloodiest and most complete ever received by the English in
Ireland. Then the storm burst. Tyrone sent a force into Munster: and
once more Munster rose. It was a rising of the dispossessed proprietors
and the whole native population against the English undertakers; a
"ragged number of rogues and boys," as the English Council describes
them; rebel kernes, pouring out of the "great wood," and from Arlo, the
"chief fastness of the rebels." Even the chiefs, usually on good terms
with the English, could not resist the stream. Even Thomas Norreys, the
President, was surprised, and retired to Cork, bringing down on himself
a severe reprimand from the English Government. "You might better have
resisted than you did, considering the many defensible houses and
castles possessed by the undertakers, who, for aught we can hear, were
by no means comforted nor supported by you, but either from lack of
comfort from you, or out of mere cowardice, fled away from the rebels on
the first alarm." "Whereupon," says Cox, the Irish historian, "the
Munsterians, generally, rebel in October, and kill, murder, ravish and
spoil without mercy; and Tyrone made James Fitz-Thomas, Earl of Desmond,
on condition to be tributary to him; he was the handsomest man of his
time, and is commonly called the _Sugan_ Earl."

On the last day of the previous September (Sept. 30, 1598), the English
Council had written to the Irish Government to appoint Edmund Spenser,
Sheriff of the County of Cork, "a gentleman dwelling in the County of
Cork, who is so well known unto you all for his good and commendable
parts, being a man endowed with good knowledge in learning, and not
unskilful or without experience in the wars." In October, Munster was in
the hands of the insurgents, who were driving Norreys before them, and
sweeping out of house and castle the panic-stricken English settlers. On
December 9th, Norreys wrote home a despatch about the state of the
province. This despatch was sent to England by Spenser, as we learn from
a subsequent despatch of Norreys of December 21.[177:3] It was received
at Whitehall, as appears from Robert Cecil's endorsement, on the 24th of
December. The passage from Ireland seems to have been a long one. And
this is the last original document which remains about Spenser.

What happened to him in the rebellion we learn generally from two
sources, from Camden's _History_, and from Drummond of Hawthornden's
Recollections of Ben Jonson's conversations with him in 1619. In the
Munster insurrection of October, the new Earl of Desmond's followers did
not forget that Kilcolman was an old possession of the Desmonds. It was
sacked and burnt. Jonson related that a little new-born child of
Spenser's perished in the flames. Spenser and his wife escaped, and he
came over to England, a ruined and heart-broken man. He died Jan. 16,
1598/9; "he died," said Jonson, "for lack of bread in King Street
[Westminster], and refused twenty pieces sent to him by my Lord of
Essex, saying that he had no time to spend them." He was buried in the
Abbey, near the grave of Chaucer, and his funeral was at the charge of
the Earl of Essex. Beyond this we know nothing; nothing about the
details of his escape, nothing of the fate of his manuscripts, or the
condition in which he left his work, nothing about the suffering he went
through in England. All conjecture is idle waste of time. We only know
that the first of English poets perished miserably and prematurely, one
of the many heavy sacrifices which the evil fortune of Ireland has cost
to England; one of many illustrious victims to the madness, the evil
customs, the vengeance of an ill-treated and ill-governed people.

One Irish rebellion brought him to Ireland, another drove him out of it.
Desmond's brought him to pass his life there, and to fill his mind with
the images of what was then Irish life, with its scenery, its
antipathies, its tempers, its chances, and necessities. Tyrone's swept
him from Ireland, beggared and hopeless. Ten years after his death, a
bookseller, reprinting the six books of the _Faery Queen_, added two
cantos and a fragment, _On Mutability_, supposed to be part of the
_Legend of Constancy_. Where and how he got them he has not told us. It
is a strange and solemn meditation, on the universal subjection of all
things to the inexorable conditions of change. It is strange, with its
odd episode and fable which Spenser cannot resist about his neighbouring
streams, its borrowings from Chaucer, and its quaint mixture of
mythology with sacred and with Irish scenery, Olympus and Tabor, and his
own rivers and mountains. But it is full of his power over thought and
imagery; and it is quite in a different key from anything in the first
six books. It has an undertone of awe-struck and pathetic sadness.

     What man that sees the ever whirling wheel
     Of Change, the which all mortal things doth sway,
     But that thereby doth find and plainly feel
     How Mutability in them doth play
     Her cruel sports to many men's decay.

He imagines a mighty Titaness, sister of Hecate and Bellona, most
beautiful and most terrible, who challenges universal dominion over all
things in earth and heaven, sun and moon, planets and stars, times and
seasons, life and death; and finally over the wills and thoughts and
natures of the gods, even of Jove himself; and who pleads her cause
before the awful Mother of all things, figured as Chaucer had already
imagined her:--

     Great Nature, ever young, yet full of eld;
     Still moving, yet unmoved from her stead;
     Unseen of any, yet of all beheld,
     Thus sitting on her throne.

He imagines all the powers of the upper and nether worlds assembled
before her on his own familiar hills, instead of Olympus, where she
shone like the Vision which "dazed" those "three sacred saints" on
"Mount Thabor." Before her pass all things known of men, in rich and
picturesque procession; the Seasons pass, and the Months, and the
Hours, and Day and Night, Life, as "a fair young lusty boy," Death, grim
and grisly;--

     Yet is he nought but parting of the breath,
     Ne ought to see, but like a shade to weene,
     Unbodied, unsoul'd, unheard, unseene--

and on all of them the claims of the Titaness, Mutability, are
acknowledged. Nothing escapes her sway in this present state, except
Nature which, while seeming to change, never really changes her ultimate
constituent elements, or her universal laws. But when she seemed to have
extorted the admission of her powers, Nature silences her. Change is
apparent, and not real; and the time is coming when all change shall end
in the final changeless change.

       "I well consider all that ye have said,
     And find that all things stedfastnesse do hate
     And changed be; yet, being rightly wayd,
     They are not changed from their first estate;
     But by their change their being do dilate,
     And turning to themselves at length againe,
     Do worke their owne perfection so by fate:
     Then over them Change doth not rule and raigne,
     But they raigne over Change, and do their states maintaine.

       "Cease therefore, daughter, further to aspire,
     And thee content thus to be rul'd by mee,
     For thy decay thou seekst by thy desire;
     But time shall come that all shall changed bee,
     And from thenceforth none no more change shal see."
     So was the Titanesse put downe and whist,
     And Jove confirm'd in his imperiall see.
     Then was that whole assembly quite dismist,
     And Natur's selfe did vanish, whither no man wist.

What he meant--how far he was thinking of those daring arguments of
religious and philosophical change of which the world was beginning to
be full, we cannot now tell. The allegory was not finished: at least it
is lost to us. We have but a fragment more, the last fragment of his
poetry. It expresses the great commonplace which so impressed itself on
the men of that time, and of which his works are full. No words could be
more appropriate to be the last words of one who was so soon to be in
his own person such an instance of their truth. They are fit closing
words to mark his tragic and pathetic disappearance from the high and
animated scene in which his imagination worked. And they record, too,
the yearning hope of rest not extinguished by terrible and fatal

       When I bethinke me on that speech whyleare
     Of Mutabilitie, and well it way,
     Me seemes, that though she all unworthy were
     Of the Heav'ns Rule; yet, very sooth to say,
     In all things else she beares the greatest sway:
     Which makes me loath this state of life so tickle,
     And love of things so vaine to cast away;
     Whose flowring pride, so fading and so fickle,
     Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.

       Then gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd,
     Of that same time when no more Change shall be,
     But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd
     Upon the pillours of Eternity,
     That is contrayr to Mutabilitie;
     For all that moveth doth in Change delight:
     But thence-forth all shall rest eternally
     With Him that is the God of Sabaoth hight:
     O! that great Sabaoth God, grant me that Sabaoths sight.



[166:1] Who is _Edmondus Spenser, Prebendary of Effin_ (Elphin)? in a
list of arrears of first fruits; Calendar of State Papers, _Ireland_,
Dec. 8, 1586, p. 222. Church preferments were under special
circumstances allowed to be held by laymen. See the Queen's
"Instructions," 1579; in Preface to Calendar of Carew MSS. 1589-1600, p.

[168:2] "In these kind of historical allusions Spenser usually perplexes
the subject: he leads you on, and then designedly misleads you."--Upton,
quoted by Craik, iii. 92.

[177:3] I am indebted for this reference to Mr. Hans Claude Hamilton.
See also his Preface to Calendar of Irish Papers, 1574-85, p. lxxvi.

                          ST. JOHN'S SQUARE.



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Introduction, by Professor MASSON. pp. lx., 695.

     "_Such an admirable compendium of the facts of Goldsmith's
     life, and so careful and minute a delineation of the mixed
     traits of his peculiar character as to be a very model of a
     literary biography in little._"--SCOTSMAN.

+Pope's Poetical Works.+ Edited, with Notes, and Introductory Memoir by
A. W. WARD, M.A., Professor of History in Owens College Manchester. pp.
lii., 508.

     _The LITERARY CHURCHMAN remarks: "The Editor's own notes and
     introductory memoir are excellent, the memoir alone would be
     cheap and well worth buying at the price of the whole

+Dryden's Poetical Works.+ Edited, with a Memoir, Revised Text, and
Notes, by W. D. CHRISTIE, M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge. pp.
lxxxvii., 662.

     "_An admirable edition, the result of great research and of a
     careful revision of the text._"--PALL MALL GAZETTE.

+Cowper's Poetical Works.+ Edited, with Notes and Biographical
Introduction, by WILLIAM BENHAM, Vicar of Margate. pp. lxxiii., 536.

     "_Mr. Benham's edition of Cowper is one of permanent
     value._"--SATURDAY REVIEW.

revised for Modern Use. With an Introduction by Sir EDWARD STRACHEY,
Bart. pp. xxxvii., 509.

     "_It is with perfect confidence that we recommend this edition
     of the old romance to every class of readers._"--PALL MALL

+The Works of Virgil.+ Rendered into English Prose, with Introductions,
Notes, Running Analysis, and an Index. By JAMES LONSDALE, M.A., and
SAMUEL LEE, M.A. pp. 228.

     "_A more complete Edition of Virgil in English it is scarcely
     possible to conceive than the scholarly work before

+The Works of Horace.+ Rendered into English Prose, with Introductions,
Running Analysis, Notes, and Index. By JAMES LONSDALE, M.A., and SAMUEL

     _The STANDARD says, "To classical and non-classical readers
     it will be invaluable._"

+Milton's Poetical Works.+--Edited, with Introductions, by Professor

     "_In every way an admirable book._"--PALL MALL GAZETTE.



The following words use an oe ligature in the original:


The following corrections have been made to the text:

     Page 6: dust was raised.[6:5][anchor missing in original

     Page 41: scenery on which the poet's sweetness[original has

     Page 42: "[quotation mark missing in original]Shepherd that
     did fetch

     Page 48: Discourse[original has Discouse] of English Poetrie

     Page 76: as deputy for the said Briskett)[ending parenthesis
     missing in original]

     Page 83: [original has extraneous quotation mark]In the meane
     while I must struggle

     Page 105: looselie scattered abroad,[original has comma]

     Page 122: as most fitte[original has fittte] for the

     Page 151: standard of moral character[original has charater]

     Page 173: "Men of great wisdom," Spenser writes[original has

     Page 174: Throughout the work there is an[original has a]
     honest zeal

     Page 178: through in England.[original has comma] All

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