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yee the blindfoulded pretie God, that feathered Archer, Of Louers Miseries which maketh his bloodie game? Wote ye why his Moother with a Veale hath coouered his Face ?
Trust me, least he my Looue happely chaunce to beholde.'
Seeme they comparable to those two which I translated you ex tempore in bed, the last time we lay together in Westminster ?
* That which I eate did I ioy, and that which I greedily gorged,
As for those many goodly matters least I for others.'
I would hartily wish you would either send me the Rules and Preceptes of Arte which you observe in Quantities, or else followe mine that M. Philip Sidney gaue me, being the very same which M. Drant deuised, but enlarged with M. Sidney's own iudgement, and augmented with my Obseruations, that we might both accorde and agree in one : leaste we ouerthrowe one another, and be ouerthrowne of the reste.” Spenser tells that he has in mind to write in this manner of English versifying an Ephithalamion Thamesis, which book will, he thinks, be very profitable for the knowledge, and rare for the invention and manner of handling. In setting forth the marriage of the Thames he will show his first beginning and offspring, and all the country that he passes through, “and also describe all the Riuers throughout Englande whyche came to this Wedding, and their righte names, and right passage &c. A worke, beleeue me, of much labour, wherein notwithstanding Master Holinshed hath muche furthered and aduantaged me, who therein hath bestowed singular paines, in searching out their first heades and sourses : and also in tracing and dogging oute all their Course, til they fall into the sea." Spenser then speaks of his “Dreames” and “ Dying Pellicane” as finished, and presently to be printed, so he adds: “I wil in hande forth with with my 'Faerie Queene, whyche I praye you hartily send me with al expedition."
Here we see that “ The Faerie Queene” was already begun, that the part written had been sent to Harvey for his criticism, and that Spenser wished to have it back, that he might go on with his work upon it.
A postscript tells that the “ Dreames had been so fully glossed by E. K. with discourse of “ some things excellently and many things wittily," that they had grown to make a book as large as "The Shepherd's Calendar," and were set forth with singularly good pictures, "as if Michael Angelo were there”; for which reason he thought best they should come forth alone. Spenser referred also to a poem with apostrophes addressed to the Earl of Leicester, Stemmata Dudleiana, of which “must more aduisement be had, than so lightly to send them abroad : howbeit, trust me (though I do neuer very well) yet in my own fancy I neuer did better.” The next letter is Harvey's on the earthquake; and in the next-last of the five-Harvey replies to Spenser upon the New Versifying. Spenser had touched on difficulties. Harvey thinks that no rules, whether by Thomas Drant or any other man, will meet the English poet's need, until there shall be a thorough settlement of the spelling of words in accordance with their prosody. He argues, rightly, that length or shortness of a syllable in English depends, not on diphthong or position, or any rule derived from Greek or Latin poetry, but “on the universal consent of all, and continued by a general use and custom of all.” There must be fixed pronunciation, and fixed spelling in accordance with it, before there can be any certain general art of versifying in the manner of the ancients. He makes bold, nevertheless, with his particular examples, and looks upon Sidney and Dyer as the two great poets—with, perhaps, Spenser as a third—who will lead the company of the beginners in this work of reformation.
The reference in this letter of Gabriel Harvey's to his friend's proposed volume of “Dreames” is followed by allusions to other works written by Spenser
“Master Colin Clout is not everybody, and albeit his old companions, Master Cuddy and Master Hobbinol, be as little beholding to their Mistress Poetrie 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. Extra jocum, I like your ‘Dreams' passingly well : and the rather because they savour of that singular and extraordinary vein and invention which I ever fancied most, and in a manner admired only in Lucian, Petrarch, Aretine, Pasquil, and all the most delicate and fine conceited Grecians and Italians : (for the Romans to speak of are but very ciphers in this kind :) whose chiefest endeavour and drist was to have nothing vulgar, but in some respect or other, and especially in lively hyperbolical amplifications, rare, quaint and odd in every point and, as a man would say, a degree or two at the least above the reach and compass of a common scholar's capacity.
dare say you will hold yourself reasonably well satisfied if your Dreams be but as well esteemed of in England as Petrarch's Visions be in Italy : which, I assure you, is the very worst I wish you. But see how I have the Art Memorative at commandment. In good faith I had once again nigh forgotten your 'Faerie Quieene’: howbeit by good chance I have now sent her home at the last, neither in better nor worse case than I found her. And must you of necessity have my judgment of her indeed ? To be plain, I am void of all judgment 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 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 letters. 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 shew and advance themselves that way than any other.
But I will not stand greatly with you in your own matters. If so be the Faerie 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 an end for this once, and fare you well till God or some good angel put you in a better mind.”
How much of “The Faerie Queene,” as we now have it, was written before 1580, and read by Spenser's critical
friend, we cannot know ; nor can we know whether the first three books of the poem, as first published in 1590, included any part of the beginning at which
Spenser's Harvey shook his head ten years before. The
Early Work. story may possibly, as first planned, have opened at the court of the Faerie Queene, with those incidents which Spenser, upon second thoughts, kept for the close, while he contented himself with telling their plan in his prefatory letter to Sir Walter Raleigh. The form of Harvey's comment somewhat implies an opening in Fairyland, and Spenser, perhaps, afterwards recast his work to make it begin in the midst of action. It may have been so, but I hardly think it was. Gabriel Harvey was a good scholar who, like many other cultivated men, loved and wrote verse without being a poet, and he well represented critical taste in the university life of his day. His taste was of the fashion of his day, which favoured “the fine conceited Grecians and Italians, whose chiefest endeavour and drift was to have nothing vulgar, but in some respect or other, and especially in lively hyperbolical amplifications, rare, quaint and odd in every point and, as a man would say, a degree or two, at the least, above the reach and compass of a common scholar's capacity." His taste was, like that of his day, for the strained ingenuities that had been cultivated in the little Courts of Italy. He was bred to a way of thinking superstitiously of wit, whereby Lyly, who yielded to it, feared that he had “committed idolatry against wisdom.” * His taste was for the superfluous eloquence that desired, as again Lyly expressed it, to eat finer bread than is made of wheat, or wear finer cloth than is made of wool.” Those early works of Spenser's which the poet, who took Chaucer for his master, himself set aside and would not print, his critical friend praised; and those on which he rightly chose to
* " E. W.” viii. 309,
rest his claim to live till English speech shall be no more, his critic of the hour could not appreciate.
“The Faerie Queene," fresh in intention, bound to no convention, drawing from Chaucer its simplicity of speech, Harvey believed to be a dangerous experiment. “ Mother Hubbard's Tale," which Spenser published in 1591 as written in his "raw and greene youth," Gabriel Harvey must have known in 1580 as well as the other pieces which he then commended. But it was written in homely English that aimed at the simplicity of Chaucer, and Harvey never mentioned it. Spenser had written also, in his earlier years, the two Hymns to earthly Love and Beauty, which he published only in his later life with addition of other two Hymns to the heavenly Love and Beauty. When he left England, Spenser had not even cared to proceed to actual issue of the volume of “ Dreames ”—first called by him his “Slumber --which he had been preparing for publication, with the gloss of his friend “ E. K.” already written. Spenser did not give to the world the Nine Comedies that Harvey praised, nor “The Dying Pelican ”—probably the Pelican who was left weeping in the Plowman's Tale *- -nor the “ Stemmata Dudleiana,” which to himself seemed very good when he was yet warm with the first heat of his invention.
Spenser followed his own judgment while respecting the opinions of friends. Those earlier writings, which were not made public as first written, were not all suppressed. What he chose to retain of the “Stemmata Dudleiana,” Spenser certainly included afterwards in his “Ruines of Time," which poem seems also to include probably as much of the
Dreames as he thought worth preserving. We shall recognise in Spenser's later work some other passages that seem to have been extracted and recast from poems otherwise known to us only by their mention in the correspondence between Spenser and Harvey.
* “E. W.” vi. 97, 98.