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as with a trumpet'. He was not solicitous to be recited in the highways. Rather he desired that fair ladies and cavaliers should debate his graceful conundrums in the asylums of their own breasts-or, better, whisper them to each other in boudoirs. Modern revivals are make-believes. No heart-strings have been ravelled into knots. There is no mistress. The intent is, not to enchant a few, but to puzzle and amaze the many. The pieces are mere metrical exercises, ghosts of a dead past, barren of all sincerity. For the moment, in the brief intervals of repose from tournaments, war, the ambushes of statecraft, and Court intrigues, Sidney was sincere enough. In a sense he was even natural ; the sworn antagonist of Euphuism, that reductio ad absurdum of the type of literature which was his own. Never was there a keener instinct for grace, beauty, heroism. Before we condemn Astrophel and Stella- perhaps, the Arcadia itself-for faults equally apparent throughout undramatic Elizabethan verse, let us seek a match for Sidney's—since Chaucer—as a whole in intrinsic merits at the actual date of its production, and we shall fail.

The Complete Poems of Sir Philip Sidney, ed. Rev. A. B. Grosart (Early English Poets). Three vols. Chatto & Windus, 1877.

1 Defence of Poesy, p. 4. Miscellaneous works, ed. W. Gray, 1820.

2 Verses, To the Tune of a Spanish Song (Pansies from Penshurst and Wilton), viii, st. 2. 3 Love, v (Ibid.).

Wooing-stuff, vi. 5 The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, Lamon's Song, x, vv 459-64. • Ibid., Epitaph on Argalus and Parthenia, 41. ? Ibid., Zelmane, of Philoclea, xvii, vv. 122-46.

Astrophel and Stella, Song viii, stanzas 15–16. 9 Ibid. 31.

10 Ibid. 41. 11 Ibid. 73.

12 Ibid. 103. 13 Ibid. 70.

14 A Farewell (Sidera), v. 15 Defence of Poesy, ibid. 53.

16 Ibid. 34.

8

EDMUND SPENSER

1553-1599

* LINKED sweetness long drawn out'; that is the popular judgement on Spenser. Yet, by established literary edict; still unrevoked, the foundation stones of modern English poetry are Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton. Milton keeps his place. Shakespeare has deepened, widened, his. Spenser, recognized as a classic, is become a dowager of the British Parnassus ; honoured, and unread. Not one in a thousand readers takes his volumes from the shelf. At the same time, all would be ashamed to avow ignorance of them.

His verse has ceased to give pleasure, unless to the poetically-minded-in these days a diminishing class. For the educated Englishman in general the Epithalamion is high-flown; the Faerie Queene is interminable. He had the vice, for our hurried times unpardonable, of prolixity. Continually he offends readers by appearing to put no faith in their ability to supply details. In reality he could not bear not to picture the whole scene to himself, not to see the

Bright Scolopendraes arm'd with silver scales,

Mighty Monoceros with immeasured tayles.1 While he prays for sympathy in his labours :

O! what an endlesse worke have I in hand ! 2 his public is wishing he had spared much of his pains in compassion for its own. Macaulay's profane blessing on the shipwreck, negligence, or conflagration, which saved literature from a supplement to the existing seventy-two or eighty cantos of as many more, has often been echoed with interest.

Few of his admirers can deny that his immortal work would have been the better for less copiousness in language, for less facility in versification. His heavenly gift of fancy itself, as onwards it

far'd as dauncing in delight, might have been yet diviner had it known an occasional pause. Frequently it is hard to see the wood for the trees. In his Irish solitude his pure mind was haunted by visions more voluptuous than tempted the hermit of the Thebaid. He piled up Ossas on Pelions of gorgeous palaces only fit to be tenanted by fairest damsels

rich attir'd With golden hands and silver feete beside. Perilous adventure jostles adventure, carcasses, generally to be raised to life, are heaped on carcasses, horror on horror, heroism on heroism, until the brain reels bewildered. Moreover, the suspicion of allegory troubles the interest of the story; the archaic language also ; besides that, borrowing archaisms, he is never frankly archaic. Worst of all, or withal, we miss in the professed disciple of Chaucer the open-air, the nature, the directness, of the Master.

There the root is of the explanation of the present coldness towards perhaps the most poetical of British poets. While the same cause existed always, for sufficient reasons it did not operate equally of old. For his own, and several generations to follow, which never learnt to read Shakespeare, he was the fountain of romance. Every deed of terror, self-sacrifice, conceived by minstrels, forged by monkish chroniclers, he idealized, and embalmed in honeyed verse. Imagination, the reader's as well as the writer's, wandered about a limitless, enchanted forest-Paradise, or beckoned and wantoned through vistas, hardly less lovely, of

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Hell. A pageant dazzling in the framework, splendidly fantastic in the incidents! To his immediate contemporaries, as to himself, it was half real. His friends were ever prepared to scour the Spanish Main for spoil. Hundreds of glorious failures were pining, writhing, in dungeons of the Inquisition.' A legion was fighting for the pure Faith in the Netherlands. Spaniards were raiding Galway.

Wild Irishry furnished a permanent background. We see in his View of the Present State of Ireland, how he would have dealt with it, have clenched a mail hand, and in no velvet glove. Actual dangers and guerdons were not altogether unlike, outside the Christian symbolism, to those encountered and won by the Red Cross knight, by Sir Guyon, Britomartis, Cambel, Artegall, Sir Calidore. Gloriana's champions were as fierce in spirit, pillaged and massacred giants and Paynim as ruthlessly, as Elizabeth's buccaneers despoiled and butchered Dons and Desmonds. Creatures of Spenser's brain and his royal Mistress's favour held identical commissions to enter in and possess the gate of Antichrist.

The great poem satisfied other instincts and cravings in the century of civil discord which succeeded. It inspired the twelve-year-old genius of Cowley. In hundreds of manor houses and parsonages its many pages must have afforded a blissful asylum from the babel of opposing creeds and party strifes. It was a welcome relief, during the Commonwealth, to sour Puritanism, and the Blatant Beast, and, at the Restoration, to the sensual allurements of Archimago. During the interregnum, for poetry, of the Georgian Era, that long Dunciad, it was still heard protesting, and not in vain. The deadliest blow against popular favour for Spenser was struck, less by national insensibility, than by the growing friction of life. His poetry could not have been born amid prosaic modern

turmoil, competition of ambitions, topics, and interests. For appreciation it wants mental leisure, and some approach to a monopoly of it. When now, by accident, or in shame, a volume is opened, it is galloped through, prodigy of knight-errantry after prodigy. The varying lights and shades are all confused and blurred. Work like Spenser's ought to be read lovingly, as Ralegh, or as Wordsworth, faithful to him in age as in youth, would have read him. Such minutes of a day are, if any, given to him now as can be stolen from a month's supply of new literature which would have sufficed once for a reign.

None of us, however, who would derive true profit from poetry can afford to be blind to the light of so particular a star in the poetic firmament as Spenser. He reigns over a kingdom of his own. Whatever theme he touches bears the impress of his peculiar genius; and many themes were touched by him. Love he traces through all its manifold phases. Like all the poets of his time he worships at the shrine ; but always with purity :

Fayre is my Love, when her fayre golden haires
With the loose wynd ye waving chance to marke;
Fayre when the rose in her red cheekes appeares ;
Or in her eyes the fyre of love does sparke.
Fayre, when her breast, lyke a rich laden barke,
With pretious merchandise she forth doth lay ;
Fayre, when that cloud of pryde, which oft doth dark
Her goodly light, with smiles she drives away.
But fayrest she, when so she doth display
The gate with pearles and rubyes richly dight,
Throgh which her words so wise do make their way
To beare the message of her gentle spright.

The rest be works of Natures wonderment ;
But this the worke of harts astonishment.4

Even in an Epithalamion, a class of composition in which

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