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narration ; but a poet must begin from neither : because 'tis his province to carry you at once into the scene of action; and to complicate and perplex his story, in order to show his art in unravelling it. The poet therefore might have opened his poem either with Prince Arthur now actually set out on his quest, or with one of the knights sent from the Court of the Faerie Queene : by which means the reader is introduced into the midst of things; taking it for granted, that he either knows, or tome way or other will know, all that preceded. "Tis from the latter of these periods, namely from one of the Faery knights, who is already rode forth on his adventure, that Spenser opens his Poem; and he keeps you in fufpenfe concerning his chief hero, Prince Arthur, 'till 'tis proper to introduce him with suitable pomp and magnificence.
Homer fings the anger of Achilles and its fatal consequences to the Grecians: nor can it be fairly objected to the unity of the Iliad, that, when Achilles is removed from the scene of action, you scarcely hear him mentioned in several books: one being taken up with the exploits of Agamemnon, another with Diomed, another again with the fucceffes of Hector. For his extensive plan required his different heroes to be shown in their different characters and attitudes. What therefore you allow to the old Grecian, be not so ungracious as to deny to your own countryman.
Again, 'tis obfervable that Homer's poem, though he sings the anger of Achilles, is not called the Achilleid, but the Ilind; because the action was at Troy. So Spenser does not call his Poem by the name of his chief hero; but because his chief hero fought for the Faerie Queene in Fairy Land, and therein performed his various adventures, therefore he entitles his Poem The Faerie Queene. Hence it appears
that the adventures of Prince Arthur are neceffarily connected with the adventures of the knights of Fairy Land
This young Prince has been kept hitherto in designed ignorance of what relates to his family and real dignity: his education, under old Tinon and the magician Merlin, was to prepare him for future glory; but as yet his virtues have not been called forth into action. The poet therefore by bringing you acquainted with some of the heroes of Fairy Land, at the same time that he is bringing you acquainted with his chief hero, acts agreeably to his extensive plan, without destroying the unity of the action. The only fear is, left the underplots, and the seemingly adfcititious members, thould grow too large for the body of the entire action: ’tis requisite therefore that the several incidental intrigues should be unravelled, as we proceed in getting nearer and nearer to the main plot; and that we at length gain an uninterrupted view at once of the whole. And herein I cannot help admiring the resemblance between the ancient father of poets, and Spenser; who, clearing the way by the solution of intermediate plots and incidents, brings you nearer to his capital piece; and then shows his hero at large : and, when Achilles once enters the field, the other Greeks are lost in his iplendour, as the stars at the rising of the sun. So when Prince Arthur had been perfected in heroick and moral virtues, and his fame thoroughly known and recognized in Fairy Land; Him we should have seen not only diffolving the enchantment of the witch Dueffa, (an adventure too hard for the single prowess of St. George,) but likewise binding in adamantine chains, or delivering over to utter perdition, that old wisard Archimago, the common enemy of Fairy Knights, whom no chains as yet could hold: in short, Him fhould we have seen
eclipfing all the other heroes, and in the end accompanied with the Fairy Knights making his solemn entry into the presence of Gloriana, the Faerie Queene : and thus his merits would have entitled him to that Glory, which by Magnificence, or Magnanimity, the perfection of all the rest of the Virtues, he justly had acquired.
It seems, by some hints given us by the poet, that he intended likewise an Heroick Poem, whose title was to be King Arthur; and the chief subject of the poem, the wars of the King and Queen of Fairy Land, (now governed by Arthur and Gloriana,) against the Paynim King: the chief Captains employed were to be those Fairy Knights, whom already he had brought us acquainted with : and the historical allusions undoubtedly would point, in the allegorical view, at the wars that Queen Elizabeth waged with the King of Spain; as the Fairy Knights would typically represent her warlike Courtiers. This seems plain from what St. George fays to Una's parents, in F. Q. i. xii. 18.
“ I bownden am streight after this emprizem
in warlike wize “ Gainst that proud Paynim King that works her teene." And plainer still from what the poet says in his own perfon, in F. Q. i. xi. 7.
Fayre goddesse, lay that furious fitt afyde, « Till I of warres and bloody Mars doe sing; " And Bryton fieldes with Sarazin blood bedyde,
“ Twixt that great Faery Queen and Paynim King." Dryden tells us, in his preface to the translation of Juvenal, that he had fome thoughts of making choice for the subject of an heroick poem, King Arthur's conquests over the Saxons: And, hinting at the same design in the preface to his Fables, says,
“ That it was not for this noble knight (meaning Sir R. Blackmore] that he drew the plan of an Epick poem on King Arthur.” Milton likewife had the fame intention, as he intimates in a Latin poem to Mansus :
" Si quando indigenas revocabo in carmina reges,
Frangam Saxonicas Britonum sub Marte phalanges.” We have shown that the action of the Faerie Queene is uniform, great, and important; but 'tis required that the fable should be probable. A story will have probability, if it hangs well together, and is consistent: And, provided the tales are speciously told, the probability of them will not be destroyed, though they are tales of wisards or witches, monstrous men and monstrous women; for who, bụt downright miscreants, question wonderful tales ? and do you imagine that Homer, Virgil, Spenser, and Milton, ever thought of writing an epick pocm for unbelievers and infidels ? But if
, after all, the reader cannot with unsuspecting credulity firallow all these marvellous tales; what should hinder the poet, but want of art, from to contriving his fable, that more might be meant, than meets the eye or ear? cannot he fay one thing in proper numbers and harmony, and yet secretly intend fomething elle, or (to use a Greek expression) cannot he make the fable allegorical ? Thus Forms and Persons might be introduced, Madowing forth, and emblematically repretenting, the mysteries of physical and moral sciences: Virtue and Truth may appear in their original ideas and lovely forms; and even Vice might be decked out in fome kind of drets, resembling Beauty and Truth ; left, if seen without any disguise, the appear too loathsome for mortal eyes to behold her.
It must be confessed that the religion of Greece and Rome was particularly adapted to whatever figurative turn the poet intended to give it; and even philosophers mixed mythology with the gravett subjects of theology. Hefiod's Generation of the gods is, properly, the generation of the world, and a hiftory of natural philofophy: he gives life, energy, and form, to all the visible and invisible parts of the universe, and almoft to all the powers and faculties of the imagination; in a word his poem is “a continued allegory.” When every part therefore of the universe was thought to be under the particular care of a tutelar deity; when not only the fun, moon, and planets, but mountains, rivers, and groves; nay, even virtues, vices, accidents, qualities, &c. were the objects of veneration and of religious dread; there was no violation given to publick belief, if the poet changed his inetaphor, or rather continued it, in an allegory. Hence "Homer, instead of saying that Achilles, had not wisdom checked him, would have Nain Agamemnon, continues the metaphor; and, consistently with his religion, brings Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, down from heaven, on purpofe to check the rage of the angry hero. On the faine system is founded the wellknown Fable of Prodicus: and the Picture of Cebes is a continued allegory, containing the moft interesting truths relating to human life.
As it is neceffary that the poet should give his work all-that variety, which is consistent with its nature and design, 10 his allegory miglit be enlarged and varied by his pointing at historieal events under concealed names; and, while his ftory is told confiftently, fome historical characters and real tranfactions might, emblematically and typically, be fig