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FROM BOOKS III, IV, AND V
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
MARY E. LITCHFIELD
Boston, U.S.A., AND LONDON
EXCEPT to the special student of literature, Britomart, the most charming of Spenser's heroines, is almost unknown. Indeed, she has for long years been wandering in the mazes of the poet's fairy-land, well-nigh lost to view. And yet no story in the Faery Queene is so romantic and none has such a strong human interest as that which tells of the " lady knight.” As we read of her adventures we are reminded of Rosalind in the forest of Arden. In this little book the scattered portions of Spenser's interesting narrative have been taken out and re-united. It has been necessary to omit stanzas and occasionally lines from the parts selected, but the language of the poet has in no instance been tampered with. In the case of writers like Dante and Milton, the attempt to take out and re-unite scattered portions would be an evident impertinence. With Spenser, however, a genius whose constructive ability did not enable him to make of a long poem an artistic whole, the proceeding seems justifiable. The text is that of the best editions, but the spelling has been modernized except where the modern spelling would
change the sound of the word. In the elucidation of difficult passages the highest authorities have been consulted. The notes, however, contain only such information as is necessary to the intelligent study of the poem. In order that this study may prove a delight rather than a task, the notes have been placed at the bottom of the page, and have been so arranged that any portion of the narrative may be read by itself. Except for a few suggestions, there has been no attempt at tracing the allegory.
SINCE every piece of literature is in a way the product of the age in which it is written, we must, if we would rightly estimate the poetry of Spenser, consider the circumstances amid which the poet lived and the events and movements that left their impress upon his character. And since Spenser's poetry has an important — though not the most important — place in the literature of the 16th century in England, it is well, before studying his works, to seek to know the causes that led to the unparalleled literary activity of the Elizabethan Age.
During the century that preceded the birth of Spenser, great events followed one another in quick succession : in 1453 Constantinople was taken by the Turks, and through the Greek scholars that fled to Italy the culture of Greece was carried into Western Europe ; about 1475 Caxton set up his printing-press in England ; Columbus discovered the New World in 1492; in 1517 Luther attacked the doctrine of indulgences ; in 1534 Henry VIII declared himself head of the English church. However, not until the reign of Elizabeth, with its long years of internal peace, did the conditions resulting from these events find adequate expression in English literature. Caxton fortunately set up his