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first books of the Fairy Queen. In 1597 he was compelled by an Irish rebellion to fly from his house, and in the hurry and confusion, one of his children being unfortunately left behind, perished in its conflagration. He died in London, two years after this melancholy event, broken-hearted it is to be feared, and comparatively poor.
Spenser displays in his poetry an invention almost endless, and a fancy extremely exuberant and gorgeous. His versification is rich, flowing, and harmonious, to a degree which perhaps no succeeding poet has surpassed. His imagery is luxuriant and romantic. In personification and allegory he is occasionally sublime. His poetry is sweet in its sentiment, enchanting in its melody, and exceedingly delightful for the vein of pensive tenderness and pathos, which runs though the whole of it.
'Of the manners, conversation, and private character of Spenser,' says Dr Aikin, 'we have no information from contemporaries; our conclusions must therefore be only drawn from his writings, and the few known events of his life. To the intimate friend of Sidney and Raleigh, especially of the former, it is reasonable to attribute virtue as well as genius. His works breathe a fervent spirit of piety and morality; and, it would be difficult to conceive anything base or dissolute in conduct, in conjunction with the dignity of sentiment, which is uniformly supported in the productions of his muse.'
The moral tendency of the Fairy Queen may be learned from the nature of its leading purpose, which was, in the words of the poet, that of 'fashioning a gentleman of noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline.' This object he accomplishes by exhibiting twelve different knights, each of which, in the particular adventure allotted to him, proves an example of some different virtue, as of holiness, temperance, justice, chastity; and has one complete book assigned to him, of which he is the hero. Besides these individual examples, he exhibits Prince Arthur as his principal or general hero, in whose character he professes to pourtray, 'The image of a brave knight perfected in the twelve private moral virtues.'
UNA AND THE RED-CROSS KNIGHT.
A GENTLE knight was pricking on the plain,
Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield,
Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain,
The cruel marks of many a bloody field;
Yet arms till that time did he never wield:
His angry steed did chide his foaming bit,
As much disdaining to the curb to yield:
Full jolly knight he seemed, and fair did sit,
As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit.
But on his breast a bloody cross he bore,
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead, as living, ever him adored:
Upon his shield the like was also scored,
For sovereign hope, which in his help he had :
Right faithful true he was in deed and word,
But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad;
Yet nothing did he dread; but ever was ydrad.
Upon a great adventure he was bound,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
The greatest glorious queen of fairy lond,
To win him worship and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
And ever as he rode, his heart did yearn
To prove his puissance in battle brave
Upon his foe, and his new force to learn;
Upon his foe, a dragon horrible and stern.
A lovely lady rode him fair beside
Upon a lowly ass more white than snow;
Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
Under a veil, that wimpled was full low,
And over all a black stole she did throw,
As one that inly mourned: so was she sad,
And heavy sat upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her in a line a milk-white lamb she led.
So pure an innocent as that same lamb
She was in life and every virtuous lore,
And by descent from royal lineage came
Of ancient kings and queens, that had of yore
Their sceptres stretched from east to western shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal fiend with loud uproar
Forewasted all their land, and them expelled,
Whom to avenge she had this knight from far compelled.
Behind her, far away, a dwarf did lag,
That lazy seemed, in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his back. Thus as they past,
The day with clouds was sudden overcast,
As angry Jove an hideous storm of rain
pour into the earth's green lap so fast,
That every wight to shroud, it did constrain,
And this fair couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.
Enforc'd to seek some covert nigh at hand,
A shady grove not far away they spied,
That promised aid the tempest to withstand
Whose lofty trees, yclad with summer's pride,
Did spread so broad that they heaven's light did hid
Not pierceable with power of any star:
And all within were paths and alleys wide,
With footing worn, and leading inward far:
Fair harbour, that them seems; so in they entered a
And forth they pass with pleasure forward led,
Joying to hear the birds' sweet harmony,
Which, therein shrouded from the tempest dread,
Seemed in their song to scorn the cruel sky.
Much can they praise the trees so strait and high,
The sailing pine, the cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop elm, the poplar never dry,
The builder oak, sole king of forests all,
The aspin, good for staves, and cypress funeral
The laurel, meed of mighty conquerors
And poets sage, the fir, that weepeth still,
The willow, worn of forlorn paramour,
The yew, obedient to the bender's will,
The birch for shafts, the sallow for the mill.
The myrrh, sweet bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike beech, the ash for nothing ill,
The fruitful olive and the plantain round,
The carver holme, the maple, seldom inward sound
Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Until the blustering storm is overblown,
When, weening to return, whence they did stray,
They cannot find that path which first was shown,
But wander to and fro in ways unknown,
Furthest from end, then, when they nearest ween,
That makes them doubt their wits be not their own;
So many paths, so many turnings seen,
That which of them to take, in divers doubt they been
AT length they chanc'd to meet upon the way
An aged sire, in long black weeds yclad,
His feet all bare, his beard all hoary gray,
And by his belt his book he hanging had;
Sober he seemed, and very sagely sad;
And to the ground his eyes were lowly bent,
He fair the knight saluted, louting low,
Who fair him quitted, as that courteous was,
And after asked him if he did know
Of strange adventures which abroad did pass.
'Ah my dear son,' quoth he, ‘how should, alas!
Silly old man, that lives in hidden cell,
Bidding his beads all day for his trespass,
Tidings of war and worldly trouble tell?
With holy father sits not with such things to mell
But if of danger, which hereby doth dwell,
And homebred evil ye desire to hear,
Of a strange man I can you tidings tell,
That wasteth all this country far and near.'
'Of such,' said he, 'I chiefly do inquire;
And shall thee well reward to show the place,
In which that wicked wight his days doth wear:
For to all knighthood it is foul disgrace,
That such a cursed creature lives so long a space.'
'Far hence,' quoth he, 'in wasteful wildernesse,
His dwelling is, by which no living wight
May ever pass, but thorough great distress.'
'Now,' said the lady, 'draweth toward night;
And well I wote that of your later fight
Ye all forwearied be; for what so strong,
But, wanting rest, will also want of might?
The sun, that measures heaven all day long;
At night doth bait his steeds the ocean waves among.
Then with the sun, take, sir, your timely rest,
And with new day new work at once begin;
Untroubled night, they say, gives counsel best.'
'Right well, Sir Knight, ye have advised bin:'
Quoth then that aged man; 'the way to win
Is wisely to advise: now day is spent;
Therefore with me ye may take up your inn,
For this same night.' The knight was well content; So with that godly father to his home they went.
A little lowly hermitage it was,
Down in a dale, hard by a forest's side,
Far from resort of people, that did pass
In travel to and fro; a little wide
There was a holy chapel edified,
Wherein the hermit duly wont to say
His holy things each morn and eventide :
Thereby a chrystal stream did gently play,
Which from a sacred fountain welled forth away.
Arrived there, the little house they fill,
Ne look for entertainment, where none was;
Rest is their feast, and all things at their will:
The noblest mind the best contentment has.
With fair discourse the evening so they pass;
For that old man of pleasing words had store,
And well could file his tongue as smooth as glass:
He told of saints and popes, and evermore
He strow'd an Ave-Mary after and before.
The drooping night thus creepeth on them fast,
And the sad humor loading their eyelids,
As messenger of Morpheus, on them cast
Sweet slumbering dew, the which to sleep them bids
Unto their lodgings then his guests he rids;
Where, when all drown'd in deadly sleep he finds,
He to his study goes; and there amidst
His magic books, and arts of sundry kinds,
He seeks out mighty charms to trouble sleepy minds.
DESCRIPTION OF PRINCE ARTHUR.
Ar last she chanced by good hap to meet
A goodly knight, fair marching by the way
Together with his squire, arrayed meet:
His glittering armour shined far away,
Like glancing light of Phoebus' brightest ray;
From top to toe no place appeared bare
That deadly dint of steel endanger may:
Athwart his breast a bauldric brave he ware,
That shined, like twinkling stars, with stones most p
And in the midst thereof one precious stone
Of wondrous worth and eke of wondrous might,
Shaped like a lady's head, exceeding shone,
Like Hesperus among the lesser lights,
And strove for to amaze the weaker sights;
Thereby his mortal blade full comely hung
In ivory sheath, ycarved with curious slights;
Whose hilts were burnished gold, and handle strong
Of mother pearl, and buckled with a golden tongue.
His haughty helmet, horrid all with gold,
Both glorious brightness and great terrour bred;
For all the crest a dragon did enfold
With greedy paws, and over all did spread
His golden wings; his dreadful hideous head