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We purpose, as what seems to us the best method of making our readers, acquainted with the meaning and the merits of the wonderful poem before us, and with the genius of its author, to p.efix three essays to the three first volumes of our republication-one, namely, on the design and meaning of the poem, a second on the life of Spenser, and a third on his genius.

We propose, in the present essay, to present our readers with a short account of the general scope, and with an explanation of a number of the special types and allusions contained in this great allegorical poem. Hazlitt somewhere advises the reader of “The Faerie Queene” not to concern himself with the allegory at all, saying that if we do not make or meddle with the allegory, the allegory will let us alone. No doubt the most delightful way of reading the “ Pilgrim's Progress" is that pursued by a child, who surrenders himself implicitly to the stream of the story, who regards all the characters and incidents as real, and allows himself to be pleased he knows not how, and cares noť wherefore. But men do not, alas! always. continue children, and when in advanced years they read over again the allegory which had enchanted their childhood, they are not satisfied without an explication of its meaning, and begin even to prefer the severe joy springing from the perception of truth, purpose, and order, to the delightful intoxication of ignorance and wonder. Children, however, have seldom patience to read “The Faerie Queene” through, and few persons accomplish this feat till they have attained an age when the intellect begins to ask reasons for the entertainment which the imagination is receiving, and to inquire, What is the tendency of this mighty stream of fancy and poetry

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on which the author has embarked us? Even when as a boy we read a considerable portion of this poem, we remember distinctly that, partly from not understanding its meaning, and partly from its comparative meagreness of incident, the effect was bewilderment rather than pleasure, and that we turned eagerly from the mazy pages of him who strayed in the wood of Error, to the narrative of him who,“ lighting on a certain place where there was a den, slept, and dreamed a dream,” and whose parable, apart from its disguised Christian truth, carried us on by the clear current of its style and the interest of its story.

As to the general plan of the poem, we are not left to critical conjecture. Spenser himself, in his noble dedicatory epistle to Sir Walter Raleigh, has in part explained it. Since that is already in our readers' hands, we need not quote it entire, but may give its substance in our own words.

It was customary for kings in the days of knight-errantry to give an annual feast, at which knights appeared and claimed the privilege of being sent on adventures such as the time might demand. On the next year, at the anniversary of the entertainment, they returned, and in the presence of the court rehearsed, in modest yet glowing terms, their achievements—what robbers they had killed, what distressed virgins rescued, what castles subdued, and what monstrous beasts destroyed. At Lisle, for instance, in 1453, in the court of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a feast was celebrated in reference to a crusade against the Turks, which continued for twelve days, and each day was distinguished by the claim and allowance of some adventure. On this hint Spenser spake—feeling how intensely capable of poetical treatment was such an idea. What finer conception can be imagined than that of a great assembly of gallant knights and lovely ladies, presided over by some chivaltous monarch,

“ His deep eye laughter-stirr'd

With merriment of kingly pride," or by some queen, lustrous as a leopard, mild as a lamb, and magnificent as a summer's morn; of knight after knight stepping forward to the central throne, and on bent knee beseeching the honour of undertaking some deed of derring-do; of the gracious smile on the fair lips as they grant the request, and of the profound obeisance with which the brave accepted men retire; of the recurrence of the festival; of the anxious looks and beating hearts now seen and heard amidst the splendid throng, as they ponder the probability of some of the gallant warriors having perished while doing their devoir; of the shouts of applause which welcome the survivors as they enter, while a few quiet tears, trickling down beautiful cheeks, mourn the lost; and of the rapt attention and enthusiastic silence with which the assembly listens to the recital

« Of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field ;
Of hairbreadth 'scapes in the imminent deadly breach ;
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery ; of redemption thenge

And with it all their travel's history," -adventures told, too, in language which ever and anon towers, trembles, kindles into poetry!

Thus, in the fancy of Spenser, the Faerie Queene held a splendid feast, which continued twelve days, and on each of these days respectively, twelve several complaints are laid before her, and twelve knights are despatched on adventures, each of whom proves an example of some particular virtue, such as Justice, Charity, Holiness, Temperance, and is the hero of one complete book of the poem. These twelve knights denote the twelve virtues, but besides, there is a leading knight or hero,—Prince Arthur, the British prince, son of Uther Pendragon, by whom the Poet understands Magnificence, “which virtue,” says Spenser, "according to Aristotle and the rest, is the perfection of all the rest, and containeth in it them all.” Prince Arthur, too, is introduced as an auxiliary in almost every book, and the purpose of all his actions is to find out and gain to himself Gloriana, or Glory," the name of the Faerie Queene in my general intention,” says the poet, “but in my particular, the most excellent and glorious person of our sovereign the Queen (Elizabeth), and her kingdom in Faerie Land.” Her, Arthur had seen in a dream or vision, and, ravished by her loveliness, he follows in her pursuit ever afterwards. It is probably from this that Shelley has taken

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the hint of his exquisitely musical and imaginative “ Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude," where the hero dreams that

“A veiled maid Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones : Her voice was as the voice of his own soul,

Heard in the calm of thought ;” and when, as he beholds,

“ Her outspread arms now bare,
Her dark locks floating in the breath of night,
Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips
Outstretch'd and pale, and quivering eagerly,
His strong heart sinks and sickens with the excess

Of love"-
and he pursues till death the ideal of his vision! Perhaps the
truth diversely expressed by both these surpassing poets may be,
that whether we seek after artistic or moral excellence we must
be ravished by an ideal,--that we must follow an object not
merely because it is worthy or true, but because it is beautiful,
--and that our imagination gives a far more powerful stimulus in
pursuing the high and the holy than either the intellect or the
heart. In Arthur, in general, Spenser professed to portray " the
image of a true knight perfected in the twelve private moral
virtues.”

Our poet had the choice of two different plans in the prosecution of his allegorical purpose. Either in a plan somewhat similar to that of the Queen's Wake) he might commence by a preliminary picture of the court of the Faerie Queene, and of the festival celebrated there, and then introduce in successive poetic chapters the various adventures of the knights-errant; or he might first relate these latter, and then shew them all converging to the one point of meeting at the court. The question was, whether to describe the annual feast which, on breaking up, dismissed the adventurers to their various tasks, and then relate their achievements; or, having first narrated these in their order, to produce a picture of the second annual feast, where they again assemble, as the consummation and great climax of the poem. Spenser has, on what must have seemed to him adequate grounds, chosen the latter mode of

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