Page images
PDF
EPUB

Iean vander Noodt." In this Epistle, van der Noodt describes himself as a refugee from the abominations of the Romish Antichrist. “ I have,” he says,

among my other travails been occupied about this little Treatise, wherein is set forth the vileness and baseness of worldly things which commonly withdraw us from heavenly and spiritual matters. To the end that understanding the vanity and baseness of the same, and therewithal considering the miserable calamities that ensue thereupon, we might be moved the rather to forsake them, and give ourselves to the knowledge of Heavenly and eternal things, whence all true happiness and felicity doth proceed.” This book, he said, could best be dedicated, as thank-offering for shelter, to her Majesty, a most blessed and happy prince, whose ancestors conquered in France, who herself is a rare Phoenix of her time, with “learning, knowledge, counsel, judgment, and eloquence as well in the Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Dutch, as in our natural English,” who can give wise answers to every ambassador in his own language, who is expert in music, and "according to the exact proportions of geometry exquisite in the measures of the dance, instructed by Apollo and the Muses in the art of poetry, so as to be a second Sappho, skilful in painting and imagery, and accompanying all with the love and fear of God, according to the saying of King Lemuel in the third of Proverbs, 'Favour is deceivable, and Beauty a mere vanity, but the woman that feareth the Lord is beloved.'" God, says van der Noodt, has lightened the queen with His Holy Spirit, and chosen her “especially to be His champion, to defend His beloved Church.” Never did England flourish as now under her. Christ said, If they persecute you in one city, flee into another. Some have gone with their wives, children, and parents into the territory of Frederick, Prince Elector and County Palatine, others elsewhere : “But we, a number of us, are arrived in safety in this your Majesty's realm of England, as into a most safe

and sure harborough, where we live (God be thanked) under your Majesty's protection and safeguard, in great liberty to serve God in either language, the French or the Dutch without all fear of tyrants or danger of the gaping throats of greedy ravening wolves.” After such dedication, the book begins with Spenser's translation of six Visions of Petrarch, which are entitled "Epigrams," and each placed opposite the woodcut emblem that was used also in other editions of van der Noodt's book. The original of these Visions is a single poem in Petrarch, the Canzone beginning “Standomi un giorno solo a la finestra.” It is in six twelve-lined stanzas, followed by three lines of “ Envoy”.

“ Canzon tu puoi ben dire :

Queste sei visioni al signor mio
An fatto un dolce di morir desio.”

In van der Noodt's book they were translated by Spenser into twelve or fourteen-lined little poems, each consisting of three four-lined stanzas of alternate rhyme, with or without an added couplet. In reprinting them, Spenser turned all into fourteen-lined poems, and added a new seventh sonnet in place of the four lines with which he had translated the three lines of Petrarch’s “Envoy”

My song, thus now in thy conclusions
Say boldly that these same six Visions
Do yield unto thy Lord a sweet request, -
Ere it be long within the earth to rest.”

The fourteen sonnets giving Visions from Bellay culminated in the Scarlet Woman and the cry that Babylon is fallen, the White Horse of the Book of Revelation, and a last sonnet beginning, “I saw new earth, new heavens, said Saint John." The young poet translated these into pieces of fourteen lines, without troubling himself to put them into rhyme. They were translated afresh, therefore, for the

volume of 1591, into the rhymed form used by Spenser for all sonnets that he wrote-three four-lined stanzas of alternate rhyme, with addition of a final couplet. For illustration, let us take the first of these Visions of Bellay, as Spenser translated it without rhyme in his boyhood, and as he rhymed it afterwards before he claimed it as his own-

It was the time when rest, the gift of gods,

Sweetly sliding into the eyes of men,
Doth drown in the forgetfulness of sleep
The careful travails of the painful day :
Then did a ghost appear before mine eyes
On that great river's bank that runs by Rome,
And cal me then by my proper name,
He bade me upward unto heaven look,
He cried to me, and Lo (quod he) behold
What under this great Temple is contained,
Lo all is nought but flying vanity.
So I, knowing the world's unsteadfastness,
Sith only God surmounts the force of time,
In God alone do stay my confidence.”

These lines of 1569 became in 1591

" It was the time when rest, soft sliding down

From heaven's height into men's heavy eyes,
In the forgetfulness of sleep doth drown

The careful thoughts of mortal miseries :

“ Then did a ghost before mine eyes appear

On that great river's bank that runs by Rome,
Which, calling me by name, bade me to rear

My looks to Heaven, whence all good gists do come.

“ And crying loud, Lo now,

behold (quoth he) What under this great Temple placéd is : Lo, all is nought but flying vanitee.

So I, that know this world's inconstancies,

“ Sith only God surmounts all times decay,

In God alone my confidence do stay."

In this way, Spenser revised all his translations from Bellay; but the translations from Petrarch, when he republished them as “formerly translated,” remained absolutely as they were first written, with only a few acts of revision to extend to fourteen lines those “ Epigrams 'that were at first written in twelve.

After the poems in van der Noodt's book came the prose text, entitled “A Brief Declaration of the Authour vpon his Visions, taken out of the Holy Scripture and dyuers Orators, Poetes, Philosophers and true histories. Translated out of French into English by Theodore Roest.” The running title used as page-heading is “ The Theatre for Worldlings,” and that is the name by which the book was known,

Friendship with van der Noodt, and work of this kind done for him, implied sympathy with the spirit of the

refugees from the Low Countries. Such feeling Spenser at

we shall find to be intense in Spenser's manCollege.

hood, and it is thus shown to have been strong also in his youth. That he wrote much verse at school and college is not merely to be inferred from the fact that he was born to be one of the four greatest of our English ets. A letter of Gabriel Harvey's that names unpublished poems written by Spenser in his student days includes, among other work, not fewer than nine comedies.

Having entered Pembroke Hall, on the twentieth of May, 1569, as a sizar, there is evidence, a year and a half later, of the want of outward means implied in such a form of studentship. In the Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell there is this entry, dated the seventh of November, 1570:

“ To Richard Lougher* and Edmond Spenser towe poor scholars of Pembrock haule vi* a peace, in the whole xijs by the handes of Mr. Thomas Newce felow of the same howse. xijs.” It will be remembered that six

* Langherne.

shillings at that time would be equal to about three pounds in present buying power. Spenser's wealth was within him.

The Master of Pembroke Hall in Spenser's time of residence at Cambridge was Dr. John Young, who in 1578 was made Bishop of Rochester-Roffensis. He is the faithful Roffy of one of the eclogues of Spenser's "Shepherd's Calendar.” Evidence furnished to Dr. Grosart, from the college books, of old allowances to men when ill, shows that Spenser was ill for more than a fortnight in 1571 ; for two periods, each of a month, in 1572 ; for six weeks in 1573; for a month, and for a second period of a fortnight, in 1574; from which we may assume that the young poet's health was not robust. He graduated as B.A. in 1573, and as M.A. in 1576. Then, after seven years' residence, he left the university without having obtained a fellowship, and went to his friends in Lancashire, at Hurstwood and elsewhere among the barren hills and the vales of Pendle Forest.

One of the friends whom Spenser left at Cambridge, Gabriel Harvey, loved him well, and in his own way, and according to his own lights, also loved good literature. When Spenser had finished his course

Harvey. at the university, and his age was about four-and-twenty, that friend and fellow-student of his at Pembroke Hall, Gabriel Harvey, was lecturing on rhetoric at Cambridge. The introductory lecture of Harvey’s course in 1577, apparently his second course, was published under the name of “Ciceronianus ”; and his two first lectures of the course for 1578 were also published, under the name of "Rhetor." He had then advanced from a close fullowing of Bembo and other Italians, who exalted above all things the Ciceronian style. He had received an impulse to the appreciation of individuality in other authors from the reading of Jean Sambuc's “Ciceronianus." He had learnt within that year to look for the whole man in a writer as a source of style, and, still exalting

C--VOL. IX.

Gabriel

« PreviousContinue »