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tion we do know scarcely encourage us to search any further. There is a sad incongruity between Lord Leicester and Prince Arthur which discourages any inquiry into the remaining personages. This personal side to allegory must be a failure, and in the sixteenth century was little more than a vehicle for flattery. It adds something to the interest of the poem; nothing to its excellence.
But not only in hidden meanings does the poet shew us the constructive and imaginative elements of his character, but in the manner and language in which he lays his thoughts before us. Now Spenser lived in a world of romance; he had studied with delight the literature of chivalry and adventure, and was also living in the midst of that courtly tendency towards the romantic which characterized the latter years of Elizabeth's reign. It was one of the different reactions for which the period is noted. It was a reaction from the severity of the Queen's earlier years, and from the more primitive simplicity of the first age of the Reformation. Naturally, then, Spenser threw his tale into an ancient form suitable to what Bishop Hurd calls his “Gothick style.” He had an affinity for those older turns of, expression, those more curious inflexions, which give the Faery Queene at first sight the appearance of having been written in an obsolete dialect. He chose the language which was dying out; and without any intention of writing in old English, looked always backwards, never forwards, in his choice of words and phrases. Nor should it be forgotten that he was protesting against the transition then going on in language, and against the affectations which were taking the place of thought and feeling. But, escaping from one form of “ Euphuism,' he fell into another; until his archaisms became an affectation. Even to men of his own age his style seemed to be too antique. Daniel (Sonnet cxi.) says of him
“Let others sing of knights and palladines
In aged accents and untimely words." A little later, Ben Jonson declares that“ Spenser writ no language.” In the eighteenth century the classical writers could scarcely endure the uncouth forms. They looked in vain for the wigs
and powder of their own time. Warton feels it to be a great drawback to the poem. Hughes published an edition much modernized : but it was reserved for “A Person of Quality to publish a 'Spenser redivivus,' in which he succeeds in freeing the poet entirely from what he calls the Saxon dialect.' To the ingenious activity of such persons we probably owe the indifference to Spenser which has since prevailed.
A few examples will suffice to shew the sort of archaism to be met with in the Faery Queene. In constructions, we may mention the use of the impersonal verb without the usual pronoun before it :-“sits not" ='it sits not,' “ seemed" ='it seemed,' and the like, occur very frequently :-or again, the use of the double negative, ne can no man:"-or “ should” for 'would have,' as “should beare" for 'would have borne.' As to forms or inflexions, we may notice among parts of verbs the p. p. ydrad=dreaded, ycladd = clad, troden=trodden, woxen, p. p. of 'to wax;' the pret. lad=led; wot, pret. of 'to weet;' raft of 'to reave'= to bereave; can = gan - began; raught = reached; brast =burst. Again we find bene, been, for the modern 'are;' mote= might; and a variety of similar forms. Trenchand, glitterand, are pres. participles. There are also old plurals of nouns, as fone =foes, eyne or eyen = eyes. For ancient words, now obsolete, though not perhaps lost from the language in Spenser's time, the Glossary at the end of this volume may be consulted.
It would be an interesting task to trace the gradual assimilation of French words into our language; and the Faery Queene provides a large number of instances of transition. Thus in ed. 1590 we have “ferse, in 1596 ‘fierce;' 'perse,' 'persaunt' are nearer the French origin than 'pierce,' 'piercing;' 'richesse,' 'noblesse,' 'humblesse,' are words not yet digested by our language; 'renverst,' esloyne,' 'covetise,' pourtrahed,' 'journall (for daily'), are all French forms; 'insupportable,' 'envý,' spirituall.' 'the tigré cruél,' are all in pronunciation nearer the French than the English. The language had thrown open its doors, and these are some of the guests not yet naturalized. While on this subject we must not omit to notice the Latinisms,
and imitations of the Italian, which meet us in every page. It was impossible that a writer of such keen sympathies as Spenser should avoid the influences of those books which he regarded as his models. The more marked instances will be pointed out in the Notes.
Another characteristic which tends to give an archaic feeling to the poem, is the use of alliteration, of which Spenser was particularly fond. It is a great feature of Early English poetry, as we see, for example, in the Vision of Piers Ploughman, or in the alliterative poems of the fourteenth century.
We cannot leave this part of the subject without noticing the Spenserian stanza. It is said to be a modification of the 'ottava rime' of Ariosto. But although this may be partly true, the long nine-lined stanza, ending with an Alexandrine, has an entirely independent character. Ariosto’s verse runs rapidly on, answering to the lively style of the poet, and his quick transitions: but Spenser's stanza, with occasional weaknesses, arising from its greater length, has a melody, a dignity, and weight, which suit his manner of handling his subject and the gravity of his mind. It may be fairly said to be all his own, and to have been accepted at his hands by poets ever since. How many English poets of name have written, often written their best, in the Spenserian stanza!
We have mentioned Ariosto; it is time we took brief notice of the sources whence Spenser drew the materials which he worked up into the Faery Queene. Homer and Virgil, whose influence can often be seen in the turn of expression and in the illustrations employed, we will pass over. From Chaucer he drew largely; though, as has been said, Chaucer painted persons, Spenser qualities. Still we see the influence of the Father of English poetry, which Spenser himself willingly acknowledged, in every part of his writings. He was also well read in the old
We can trace the Morte d'Arthur in the description of Prince Arthur; the twelve Knights of the Faery Queene are modelled after the Seven Champions of Christendom; and from Sir Bevis of Hampton he has drawn a great part of his
account of the contest between the Red Cross Knight and the Dragon. It is from these romances that what we may term the
properties of the poem are taken : the lion, the enchanted horn, the diamond shield, the sacred well, are all to be found in them. He may sometimes take a scene from the classical poets, as, for example, the bleeding trees; and he may draw upon the classical mythologies for his furniture of illustration; but he treats these subjects in an independent and romantic, rather than in a classical manner. There is nothing, however, so striking as the relation in which the Faery Queene stands to the two great Italian poets of the time, Ariosto and Tasso. Although Spenser borrowed very largely from the latter, to the extent of almost translating whole scenes, still there can be no doubt that he owed more to the former; for he was drawn towards the natural and fresh mind of Ariosto. The “poet of conduct and decorum,” the semi-classical Tasso, the delight of the eighteenth-century critics, could not have so much real influence over him. It has been rightly remarked that Spenser drew literal imitations from Chaucer, artificial fictions from Ariosto: that is, forms of expression may be found in abundance which are to be traced to the English poet, while such creations as Archimago and Duessa come from the Italian.
When the Faery Queene first appeared, the whole of England seems to have been moved by it. No such poet had arisen in this country for nearly two hundred years. Since Chaucer and the author of Piers Ploughman there had been no great poem. The fifteenth century had been almost a blank, the darkest period of our literary annals; the earlier part of the sixteenth had been occupied with great theological questions, which had engrossed men's minds till the long reign of Elizabeth gave stability to the Reformation in England, and the first fervour of the Church writers subsided. The tone of society was favourable to a work which, with a strong theological element in it, still dealt with feats of chivalry and heroes of romance. The English mind was filled with a sense of poetry yet unexpressed. Great deeds, great discoveries, and men of capacity moving among them, had roused the spirit of the nation. The people were proud of their Queen and their freedom; the new aristocracy was just feeling its strength; it was a time of most varied life. Nothing was wanted but a great poem to express the universal desire; and Spenser first and then Shakespeare appeared, to fulfil the national instinct. Drayton, Fletcher (in his “Purple Island”), Milton, and perhaps Bunyan, shew in their writings the effect of our poet's genius. After the Restoration his influence cannot be so easily traced. Between 1650 and 1750 there are but few notices of him, and very few editions of his works. After 1750 there was a revived interest in his poetry; and between 1751 and 1758 no fewer than four different editions appeared. The classicists of the period treated Spenser as an ancient to be handled according to the then popular principles of classical criticism. Warton, Church, Hughes, Spence, and the like, found innumerable faults. They tried him by their own standard, and, as a classic, he was sorely deficient. Bishop Hurd at last appeared as his champion, and pointed out to an astonished age that the 'Gothick' poet could not be judged upon classical principles. And so the attack. upon him for his inaccurate use of allegories, of mythologies, of metaphors, for his strong writing,' which offended the taste of a fastidious and dissolute age, came at last to an end,—and Spenser returned into comparative oblivion. His position was assured, but his works have had little attention paid to them during the last century. Of late years there have been symptoms of a revived interest, which it is hoped that the present little volume may help forward.
This specimen of his works, the First Book of the Faery Queene, is intended to give students in English literature some notion of the style and manner of the poet. The text is printed from a new collation of the editions of 1590 and 1596, the latter being chiefly followed. Where however in these two editions, both published under the author's eye, a difference in orthography occurs, that spelling is usually followed which is the more modern of the two: for this volume only aims at a text useful to the student of English literature. For the same reason the punctuation of the edition of 1596 is departed from, wherever