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of his college friend, Gabriel Harvey. Two different stories are told concerning this introduction, which might be reconciled only by a very considerable change in the order of the incidents of Spenser's early life. According to one account, we should be compelled to assume, that either his introduction to Sidney was later than the time stated, or that he received, in the first instance, a very small portion of his patron's countenance, and was soon forgotten. The story runs thus:- That when Spenser had completed the ninth canto of the first book of the Fairy Queen, he repaired to Leicester House, and sent in a copy to Sidney, who, on reading a few stanzas, was so astonished and delighted at the description of Despair, that, turning to his steward, he bade him give fifty pounds to the person who brought these verses: on reading the next stanza, he ordered him to give a hundred. The amazed steward thought fit to make some delay, in hopes that his lord might come to his senses, and estimate the verses more nearly at the current rate of scribbling; but after the next stanza, Sidney raised the sum to two hundred, and forbade any further delay, lest he might be tempted to give away his whole estate. The story must have some ground in reality; but that which it would displace is founded on a larger combination of occurrences, and occupies more space in his history. According to the more received account, Spenser's first movement on leaving college was a visit to his own family in the north of England. There he produced some minor poems, and continued in some uncertainty as to his future course, when his friend Harvey wrote to him from London, where he was himself gaining ground as a poet, strongly urging him to try his fortune in the same adventurous field. Spenser was easily persuaded; and on his arrival was introduced by his friend to Sidney, who, at once recognising his high pretension, took him into his household, and carried him with him to Penhurst, where he made use of his taste and judgment in the compositions on which he was himself engaged. This is the more probable and best sustained account: it has also the merit of offering to the reader's mind a sweet and singular picture of the high communion of the two noblest hearts and loftiest intellects of their age, in the sequestered haunts of contemplation and fancy, while the affections, and the aspirations of ambition were young in both.
In the course of his northern residence, during which some conjecture, with no small likelihood, that he was engaged in tuition, Spenser is said to have fallen in love with the lady whom, under the name of Rosalind, he celebrates in his pastorals; which are full of her cruelty and her lover's despair. But as the lady is as much the appendage of poesy as of chivalry, it is very probable that the fierceness of his despair found a full vent in the poem which first raised him to reputation, and took its permanent station in the poetry of England. These compositions were the best introduction to the favour of Sidney.
As is usual with the youthful poet, Spenser appears, during his residence with his patron, to have been engaged in wide speculations as to the adoption of a path worthy of his growing powers. The first was one highly illustrative of the age, but little worthy of the poet. The new enthusiasm for classic antiquity--the imperfection of English style, and the exquisite grace and finish of those great standard works of Greek and Roman genius, which alone seem equally attractive in every change of language, literature, and climate--most naturally suggested the adoption of the metre of Virgil and Ovid, the favourites of the age with these, of course, the whole train of Latin harmonies would be attempted. In this curious appropriation, Spenser, with many other writers, was for a time employed; and the conception was not unworthy of the richest genius of the age: its disadvantages could only be discovered by trial.* Fortunately, Spenser, after some time, discovered a track more suited to the character and powers of his native tongue, and adapted with curious felicity to the rich Gothic solemnity of his genius. But of this we shall say more before we have done.
It seems that he soon recovered from an error which would have committed his labours to the waste-paper grave of scholastic theology; and it is thought that he then began the Fairy Queen. This we are, however, inclined to consider as a doubtful point. His labours, whatever was their subject, quickly met with an interruption. His patron's influence soon introduced him for a time into other scenes than the civilized and tranquil shades of Penhurst. He was sent over to Ireland with Lord Grey of Wilton, who was appointed to the government of this island in 1580. Spenser was retained as his secretary; and, in scenes of civil strife and barbarism, so uncongenial to the muse, his course is for a time lost to the eye of history. Grey returned to England in two years; but Spenser obtained a grant of three thousand acres in the county of Cork, as a compensation for his service. It is supposed that he at this time had returned to England, where he remained until the death of Sidney, who, the reader is aware, was slain in the Low Countries in 1586. This afflicting incident closed the gate of preferment, and Spenser returned to fulfil the condition of his grant by residing on his estate.
Kilcolman Castle, or rather its ruin, is still to be seen, and is described by most historians of the county of Cork. It had belonged to the earls of Desmond, the former lords of the poet's estate, and of the whole district in which it was contained. The river Awbeg, on which it stood—the “Gentle Mulla” of the poet-rises near Buttevant, and enters the river Blackwater near Bridgetown. It winded with a smooth course through the (then) wooded and romantic solitudes of a widely pastoral district, presenting along its tranquil course numerous diversities of the lone and solemn scenery which fancy loves to people with her creatures of romance. The poet's dwelling was within about four miles of the present village of Doneraile, and looked out over a far expanse of plain, bounded by the distant eastward hills of the county of Waterford. The Rathnoure mountains closed the aspect on the north, the Nagle mountains on the south, and on the west the mountains of Kerry.
“ The ruins present the remains of a principal tower, in a castellated building of some extent. The outlines and vestiges of several apart
still be distinctly traced. The lower of these rooms seems to have been used as a hall or kitchen, and is arched with stone. The stairway of the tower still exists, and leads to the decayed remains of a small chamber. Little can be added concerning this interesting ruin, except that the remaining windows command extensive prospects."*
* The only successful attempt we can recollect at this species of composition, is the Sapphic Ode which commences a book of the “ Curse of Kehama.”
Here, then, Spenser began to reside in the year 1587, seven years from his first arrival in Ireland. And it has been observed, that the rural and scenic descriptions contained in many of his poems, and especially in the “ Fairy Queen,” are entirely drawn from the surrounding country: hence the “wild forests,” and “wasteful woods,” and the whole characteristic sylvan colouring of this poem. Nor would it be possible, without many a bold reach of conjecture, to trace the numerous latent transformations by which the incidents of time and place have become metamorphosed into the visions of poetic combination. Who that reads the opening of the twelfth canto-
“ Then, when as cheerless night so covered had
She heard a shrilling trumpet sound aloud,"and recollects how faithfully the characteristic incident of Irish insurrection is presented, will fail to remember how often sadly familiar to the poet's ear must have been the “ shrilling." horn from the nightly hills ? " The sudden harmony of many bagpipes” among the thickest woods, and the “ shrieking hubbubs” (an Irish word), can have no prototype in nature but the one. The scenery of the country is directly described in the following lines :--+
“Whylome, when Ireland flourished in fame
The gods then used, for pleasure and for rest, busolud soft to resort thereto, as seemed them best :
But none of all therein more pleasure found
Sprinkled with wholesom waters, more than most on ground.” The manner in which the fawns, satyrs, and hamadryads, and all the poetical inhabitants of the woods, seem to have infested his imagination in the first portions of the “Fairy Queen,” but more especially in Book I. Canto vi., appears to us decisive of the point—that it was here this poem was commenced, although the conception, and perhaps some rough sketching, may have previously existed.
It was while engaged in this retreat in the composition of his immortal work, that he was visited by Raleigh—the incident is described in “ Colin Clout's come home again,” in which he describes his friend who had just returned from Portugal as the “shepherd of the ocean,
“ I sate as was my trade Under the foot of Mole, that mountain hore ;
Keeping my sheep amongst the cooly shade
This visit was the means of drawing Spenser from his retreat: he read the three first books to his guest, whose enthusiastic spirit was fired with admiration. He conjured the poet to lose no time in its publication, and urged him so warmly to repair at once to London, that Spenser accompanied him, and the three first books were printed in the year 1590. Of his adventures on this occasion, the accounts are neither
abundant nor authentic. It is stated, with the highest probability, being in fact a matter of course, that he was introduced by Raleigh to the Queen, who appointed him Poet Laureate; but it is (with much probability) asserted by some without any pension. It is however affirmed, that the lord-treasurer, Burleigh, whose prudent parsimony exceeded his taste for verse, and his jealousy of court favour either his love of economy or his regard for merit, exerted his powerful influence to intercept the queen's favour. The fact seems ascertained by the complaints of Spenser, which with a pension of £50 would have been quite out of place. A story is told by all biographers, that the queen having read the Fairy Queen, ordered a gratuity of one hundred pounds to be paid to the author. Burleigh, to whom this command was addressed, with a well-feigned expression of surprise replied
What! all this for a song?" “ Then give him what is reason," answered Elizabeth, whose prudence was not less though her taste was more. Burleigh's estimate of “ What is reason?” was slight indeed; and when Spenser, after an interval of suspense, discovered that he was likely to be without his expected recompense, he came to a determination to remind the queen of her promise, which he did by these lines:
“ I was promised on a time
The queen, who thus learned the remissness of Burleigh, peremptorily commanded the payment of her order. The patent for his pension,
There is another passage may perhaps have succeeded this incident. of Spenser, which seems to be descriptive of the incident here mentioned:
“ Full little knowest thou that hast not tried
To feed on hopes to pine with fear and sorrow :
But the favour of courts, proverbially uncertain, and the invidious dislike of intriguing ministers, were in some degree compensated by the friendship and admiration of the higher spirits of the age. If his fortunes did not advance with the rapidity of expectation, he must have at least felt the triumph of his genius. His publisher afforded the certain proof of the success which was most to be desired, by a spirited effort to collect and publish all his other pieces at the time extant.
Not long after this event, Spenser once more sought his poetical retirement on the banks of the Mulla; and with the short interval of a visit to London in the winter of 1591, continued for many years in the assiduous composition of the remaining books of the Fairy Queen and other well known works. It was during this period that he formed an attachment to the beautiful daughter of a merchant of Cork. Spenser was now approaching his fortieth year: he was compelled to experience the bitter sweets of a long and of course anxious probation; and often perhaps to be painfully reminded of his youthful attachment to the perfidious and fickle Rosalind. The Irish lady was remarkable for her due sense of the dignity of her sex, and ber pride is celebrated by her lover.
“ For in those lofty looks is close implied
In another sonnet he celebrates her
“ Mild humbless mixt with awful majesty."
“ Was it the works of nature or of art
After a courtship of three years, this proud young beauty relented, and some graceful verses describe the intoxicating delight of her first smiles. He was married in Cork, in 1554, and has left the record of one day's unalloyed happiness in the epithalamium he wrote on the occasion:
* Mother Hubbard's Tale.