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Full Online Book HomeEssaysAmong My Books - Second Series - SPENSER. Continues 3. Footnotes 263 - 322
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Among My Books - Second Series - SPENSER. Continues 3. Footnotes 263 - 322 Post by :Translink Category :Essays Author :James Russell Lowell Date :April 2012 Read :3855

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Among My Books - Second Series - SPENSER. Continues 3. Footnotes 263 - 322

SPENSER. Continues 3. Footnotes 263 - 322

(263) Though always misapplied in quotation, as if he had used the word in that generalized meaning which is common now, but which could not without an impossible anachronism have been present to his mind. He meant merely freedom from prison.

(264) In his "Defence of Poesy" he condemns the archaisms and provincialisms of the "Shepherd's Calendar."

(265) "There is, as you must have heard Wordsworth point out, a language of pure, intelligible English, which was spoken in Chaucer's time, and is spoken in ours; equally understood then and now; and of which the Bible is the written and permanent standard, as it has undoubtedly been the great means of preserving it." (Southey's Life and Correspondence, III. 193, 194.)

(266) Nash, who has far better claims than Swift to be called the English Rabelais, thus at once describes and parodies Harvey's hexameters in prose, "that drunken, staggering kind of verse, which is all up hill and down hill, like the way betwixt Stamford and Beechneld, and goes like a horse plunging through the mire in the deep of winter, now soused up to the saddle, and straight aloft on his tiptoes." It was a happy thought to satirize (in this inverted way) prose written in the form of verse.

(267) Edmund Bolton in his _Hypercritica says, "The works of Sam Daniel contained somewhat a flat, but yet withal a very pure and copious English, and words as warrantable as any man's, and _fitter perhaps for prose than measure_." I have italicized his second thought, which chimes curiously with the feeling Daniel leaves in the mind. (See Haslewood's Ancient Crit. Essays, Vol. II.) Wordsworth, an excellent judge, much admired Daniel's poem to the Countess of Cumberland.

(268) Mr. Hales, in the excellent memoir of the poet prefixed to the Globe edition of his works, puts his birth a year earlier, on the strength of a line in the sixtieth sonnet. But it is not established that this sonnet was written in 1593, and even if it were, a sonnet is not upon oath, and the poet would prefer the round number forty, which suited the measure of his verse, to thirty-nine or forty-one, which might have been truer to the measure of his days.

(269) This has been inferred from a passage in one of Gabriel Harvey's letters to him. But it would seem more natural, from the many allusions in Harvey's pamphlets against Nash, that it was his own wrongs which he had in mind, and his self-absorption would take it for granted that Spenser sympathized with him in all his grudges. Harvey is a remarkable instance of the refining influence of classical studies. Amid the pedantic farrago of his omni-sufficiency (to borrow one of his own words) we come suddenly upon passages whose gravity of sentiment, stateliness of movement, and purity of diction remind us of Landor. These lucid intervals in his overweening vanity explain and justify the friendship of Spenser. Yet the reiteration of emphasis with which he insists on all the world's knowing that Nash had called him an ass, probably gave Shakespeare the hint for one of the most comic touches in the character of Dogberry.

(270) The late Major C. G. Halpine, in a very interesting essay, makes it extremely probable that Rosalinde is the anagram of Rose Daniel, sister of the poet and married to John Florio He leaves little doubt, also, that the name of Spenser's wife (hitherto unknown) was Elizabeth Nagle. (See "Atlantic Monthly," Vol II 674 November, 1858.) Mr. Halpine informed me that he found the substance of his essay among the papers of his father, the late Rev. N. J. Halpine, of Dublin. The latter published in the series of the Shakespeare Society a sprightly little tract entitled "Oberon," which, if not quite convincing, is well worth reading for its ingenuity and research.

(271) In his prose tract on Ireland, Spenser, perhaps with some memory of Ovid in his mind, derives the Irish mainly from the Scythians.

(272) Compare Shakespeare's LXVI. Sonnet.

(273) This poem, published in 1591, was, Spenser tells us in his dedication, "long sithens composed in the raw conceit of my youth." But he had evidently retouched it. The verses quoted show a firmer hand than is generally seen in it, and we are safe in assuming that they were added after his visit to England. Dr. Johnson epigrammatized Spenser's indictment into

"There mark what ills the scholar's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron and the jail,"

but I think it loses in pathos more than it gains in point.

(274) Paradiso, XI. 4-12 Spenser was familiar with the "Divina Commedia," though I do not remember that his commentators have pointed out his chief obligations to it.

(275) His own words as reported by Lodowick Bryskett. (Todd's Spenser, I. lx.) The whole passage is very interesting as giving us the only glimpse we get of the living Spenser in actual contact with his fellow-men. It shows him to us, as we could wish to see him, surrounded with loving respect, companionable and helpful. Bryskett tells us that he was "perfect in the Greek tongue," and "also very well read in philosophy both moral and natural." He encouraged Bryskett in the study of Greek, and offered to help him in it. Comparing the last verse of the above citation of the "Faery Queen" with other passages in Spenser, I cannot help thinking that he wrote, "do not love amiss."

(276)
"And know, sweet prince, when you shall come to know,
That 'tis not in the power of kings to raise
A spirit for verse that is not born thereto;
Nor are they born in every prince's days"

_Daniel's Dedic Trag. of "Philotas."_

(277) Louis XIV. is commonly supposed in some miraculous way to have created French literature. He may more truly be said to have petrified it so far as his influence went. The French _renaissance in the preceding century was produced by causes similar in essentials to those which brought about that in England not long after. The _grand siecle grew by natural processes of development out of that which had preceded it, and which, to the impartial foreigner at least, has more flavor, and more French flavor too, than the Gallo-Roman usurper that pushed it from its stool. The best modern French poetry has been forced to temper its verses in the colder natural springs of the ante-classic period.

(278) In the Elizabethan drama the words "England" and "France" we constantly used to signify the kings of those countries.

(279) I say supposed, for the names of his two sons, Sylvanus and Peregrine, indicate that they were born in Ireland, and that Spenser continued to regard it as a wilderness and his abode there as exile. The two other children are added on the authority of a pedigree drawn up by Sir W. Betham and cited in Mr. Hales's Life of Spenser prefixed to the Globe edition.

(280) Ben Jonson told Drummond that one child perished in the flames. But he was speaking after an interval of twenty-one years, and, of course, from hearsay. Spenser's misery was exaggerated by succeeding poets, who used him to point a moral, and from the shelter of his tomb launched many a shaft of sarcasm at an unappreciative public. Giles Fletcher in his "Purple Island" (a poem which reminds us of the "Faery Queen" by the supreme tediousness of its allegory, but in nothing else) set the example in the best verse he ever wrote:--

"Poorly, poor man, he lived; poorly, poor man, he died."

Gradually this poetical tradition established itself firmly as authentic history. Spenser could never have been poor, except by comparison. The whole story of his later days has a strong savor of legend. He must have had ample warning of Tyrone's rebellion, and would probably have sent away his wife and children to Cork, if he did not go thither himself. I am inclined to think that he did, carrying his papers with him, and among them the two cantos of Mutability, first published in 1611. These, it is most likely, were the only ones he ever completed, for, with all his abundance, he was evidently a laborious finisher. When we remember that ten years were given to the elaboration of the first three books, and that five more elapsed before the next three were ready, we shall waste no vain regrets on the six concluding books supposed to have been lost by the carelessness of an imaginary servant on their way from Ireland.

(281) Sir Philip Sidney did not approve of this. "That same framing of his style to an old rustic language I dare not allow, since neither Theocritus in Greek, Virgil in Latin, nor Sannazzaro in Italian did affect it." ("Defence of Poesy.") Ben Jonson, on the other hand, said that Guarini "kept not decorum in making shepherds speak as well as himself could." ("Conversations with Drummond.") I think Sidney was right, for the poets' Arcadia is a purely ideal world, and should be treated accordingly. But whoever looks into the glossary appended to the "Calendar" by E.K., will be satisfied that Spenser's object was to find unhackneyed and poetical words rather than such as should seem more on a level with the speakers. See also the "Epistle Dedicatory." I cannot help thinking that E.K. was Spenser himself, with occasional interjections of Harvey. Who else could have written such English as many passages in this Epistle?

(282) It was at Penshurst that he wrote the only specimen that has come down to us, and bad enough it is. I have said that some of Sidney's are pleasing.

(283) See "My Study Windows," 264 _seqq_.

(284) Of course _dillies and _lilies must be read with a slight accentuation of the last syllable (permissible then), in order to chime with _delice_. In the first line I have put _here instead of _hether_, which (like other words where _th comes between two vowels) was then very often a monosyllable, in order to throw the accent back more strongly on _bring_, where it belongs. Spenser's innovation lies in making his verses by ear instead of on the finger-tips, and in valuing the stave more than any of the single verses that compose it. This is the secret of his easy superiority to all others in the stanza which he composed, and which bears his name. Milton (who got more of his schooling in these matters from Spenser than anywhere else) gave this principle a greater range, and applied it with more various mastery. I have little doubt that the tune of the last stanza cited above was clinging in Shakespeare's ear when he wrote those exquisite verses in "Midsummer Night's Dream" ("I know a bank"), where our grave pentameter is in like manner surprised into a lyrical movement. See also the pretty song in the eclogue for August. Ben Jonson, too, evidently caught some cadences from Spenser for his lyrics. I need hardly say that in those eclogues (May, for example) where Spenser thought he was imitating what wiseacres used to call the _riding-rhyme of Chaucer, he fails most lamentably. He had evidently learned to scan his master's verses better when he wrote his "Mother Hubberd's Tale."

(285) Drummond, it will be remarked, speaking from memory, takes Cuddy to be Colin. In Milton's "Lycidas" there are reminiscences of this eclogue as well as of that for May. The latter are the more evident, but I think that Spenser's

"Cuddie, the praise is better than the price,"

suggested Milton's

"But not the praise,
Phoebus replied, and touched my trembling ears."

Shakespeare had read and remembered this pastoral. Compare

"But, ah, Mecaenas is yclad in clay,
And great Augustus long ago is dead,
And all the worthies liggen wrapt in lead,"

with

"King Pandion, he is dead;
All thy friends are lapt in lead."

It is odd that Shakespeare, in his "lapt in lead," is more Spenserian than Spenser himself, from whom he caught this "hunting of the letter."

(286) "Ruins of Time." It is perhaps not considering too nicely to remark how often this image of _wings recurred to Spenser's mind. A certain aerial latitude was essential to the large circlings of his style.

(287) Perhaps his most striking single epithet is the "sea-shouldering whales," B. II 12, xxiii. His ear seems to delight in prolongations For example, he makes such words as _glorious_, _gratious_, _joyeous_, _havior_, _chapelet dactyles, and that, not at the end of verses, where it would not have been unusual, but in the first half of them. Milton contrives a break (a kind of heave, as it were) in the uniformity of his verse by a practice exactly the opposite of this. He also shuns a _hiatus which does not seem to have been generally dipleasing to Spenser's ear, though perhaps in the compound epithet _bees-alluring he intentionally avoids it by the plural form.


(288)
"Like as a wayward child, whose sounder sleep
Is broken with some fearful dream's affright,
With froward will doth set himself to weep
Ne can be stilled for all his nurse's might,
But kicks and squalls and shrieks for fell despight,
Now scratching her and her loose locks misusing,
Now seeking darkness and now seeking light,
Then craving suck, and then the suck refusing."

He would doubtless have justified himself by the familiar example of Homer's comparing Ajax to a donkey in the eleventh book of the Illiad. So also in the "Epithalamion" it grates our nerves to hear,

"Pour not by cups, but by the bellyful,
Pour out to all that wull."

Such examples serve to show how strong a dose of Spenser's _aurum potabile the language needed.

(289) I could not bring myself to root out this odorous herb-garden, though it make my extract too long. It is a pretty reminiscence of his master Chaucer, but is also very characteristic of Spenser himself. He could not help planting a flower or two among his serviceable plants, and after all this abundance he is not satisfied, but begins the next stanza with "And whatso _else_."

(290) Leigh Hunt's Indicator, XVII.

(291) Ben Jonson told Drummond "that in that paper Sir W. Raleigh had of the allegories of his Faery Queen, by the Blatant Beast the Puritans were understood." But this is certainly wrong. There were very different shades of Puritanism, according to individual temperament. That of Winthrop and Higginson had a mellowness of which Endicott and Standish were incapable The gradual change of Milton's opinions was similar to that which I suppose in Spenser. The passage in Mother Hubberd may have been aimed at the Protestant clergy of Ireland (for he says much the same thing in his "View of the State of Ireland"), but it is general in its terms.

(292) Two of his eclogues, as I have said, are from Marot, and his earliest known verses are translations from Bellay, a poet who was charming whenever he had the courage to play truant from a bad school. We must not suppose that an analysis of the literature of the _demi-monde will give us all the elements of the French character. It has been both grave and profound; nay, it has even contrived to be wise and lively at the same time, a combination so incomprehensible by the Teutonic races that they have labelled it levity. It puts them out as nature did Fuseli.

(293) Taste must be partially excepted. It is remarkable how little eating and drinking there is in the "Faery Queen." The only time he fairly sets a table is in the house of Malbecco, where it is necessary to the conduct of the story. Yet taste is not wholly forgotten:--

"In her left hand a cup of gold she held,
And with her right the riper fruit did reach,
Whose sappy liquor, that with fulness sweld,
Into her cup she scruzed with dainty breach
Of her fine fingers without foul impeach,
That so fair wine-press made the wine more sweet."
B. II c. xii. 56.

Taste can hardly complain of unhandsome treatment!

(294) Had the poet lived longer, he might perhaps have verified his friend Raleigh's saying, that "whosoever in writing modern history shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth." The passage is one of the very few disgusting ones in the "Faery Queen." Spenser was copying Ariosto; but the Italian poet, with the discreeter taste of his race, keeps to generalities. Spenser goes into particulars which can only be called nasty. He did this, no doubt, to pleasure his mistress, Mary's rival; and this gives us a measure of the brutal coarseness of contemporary manner. It becomes only the more marvellous that the fine flower of his genius could have transmuted the juices of such a soil into the purity and sweetness which are its own peculiar properties.

(295) There is a gleam of humor in one of the couplets of "Mother Hubberd's Tale," where the Fox, persuading the Ape that they should disguise themselves as discharged soldiers in order to beg the more successfully, says,--

"Be you the soldier, for you likest are
For manly semblance _and small skill in war."_


(296) Bunyan probably took the hint of the Giants suicidal offer of "knife, halter, or poison," from Spenser's "swords, ropes, poison," in Faery Queen, B. I. c. ix. 1.

(297) Book II. c. 9.

(298) See Sidney's "Defence," and Puttenham's "Art of English Poesy," Book I. c. 8.

(299) We can fancy how he would have done this by Jeremy Taylor, who was a kind of Spenser in a cassock.

(300) Of this he himself gives a striking hint, when speaking in his own person he suddenly breaks in on his narrative with the passionate cry,

"Ah, dearest God, me grant I dead be not defouled."

_Faery Queen_, B. I. c. x. 43.

(301) Was not this picture painted by Paul Veronese, for example?

"Arachne figured how Jove did abuse
Europa like a bull, and on his back
Her through the sea did bear: ...
She seemed still back unto the land to look,
And her playfellows' aid to call, and fear
The dashing of the waves, that up she took
Her dainty feet, and garments gathered near....
Before the bull she pictured winged Love,
With his young brother Sport, ...
And many nymphs about them flocking round,
And many Tritons which their horns did sound."

_Muiopotmos_, 281-296.

Spenser begins a complimentary sonnet prefixed to the "Commonwealth and Government of Venice" (1599) with this beautiful verse,

"Fair Venice, flower of the last world's delight."

Perhaps we should read "lost"?

(302) Marlowe's "Tamburlaine," Part I. Act V. 2.


(303)
Grayheaded Thought, nor much nor little, may
Take up its lodging here in any heart;
Unease nor Lack can enter at this door;
But here dwells full-horned Plenty evermore.

_Orl. Fur._, e. vi. 78.

(304) B. I. c. iii. 7. Leigh Hunt, one of the most sympathetic of critics, has remarked the passionate change from the third to the first person in the last two verses.

(305) B. II. c. viii. 3.

(306) Observations on Faery Queen, Vol. I pp. 158, 159. Mr. Hughes also objects to Spenser's measure, that it is "closed always by a fullstop, in the same place, by which every stanza is made as it were a distinct paragraph." (Todd's Spenser, II. xli.) But he could hardly have read the poem attentively, for there are numerous instances to the contrary. Spenser was a consummate master of versification, and not only did Marlowe and Shakespeare learn of him, but I have little doubt that, but for the "Faery Queen," we should never have had the varied majesty of Milton's blank verse.

(307) As where Dr. Warton himself says:--

"How nearly had my spirit past,
Till stopt by Metcalf's skilful hand,
To death's dark regions wide and waste
And the black river's mournful strand,
Or to," etc.,

to the end of the next stanza. That is, I had died but for Dr. Metcalf 's boluses.

(308) Iliad, XVII. 55 _seqq_. Referred to in Upton's note on Faery Queen, B. I. c. vii. 32. Into what a breezy couplet trailing off with an alexandrine has Homer's (Greek: pnoiai pantoion anemon) expanded! Chaplin unfortunately has slurred this passage in his version, and Pope _tittivated it more than usual in his. I have no other translation at hand. Marlowe was so taken by this passage in Spenser that he put it bodily into his _Tamburlaine_.

(309) Inferno, XXIV. 46-52.

"For sitting upon down,
Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame,
Withouten which whoso his life consumeth
Such vestige leaveth of himself on earth
As smoke in air or in the water foam."

_Longfellow._

It shows how little Dante was read during the last century that none of the commentators on Spenser notice his most important obligations to the great Tuscan.

(310) Faery Queen, B. II. c. iii. 40, 41.

(311) Ibid., B. I. c. v. 1.

(312) Ibid., B. II. c. viii. 1,2.

(313) B. III. c. xi. 28.

(314) B. I. c. i. 41.

(315) This phrase occurs in the sonnet addressed to the Earl of Ormond and in that to Lord Grey de Wilton in the series prefixed to the "Faery Queen". These sonnets are of a much stronger build than the "Amoretti", and some of them (especially that to Sir John Norris) recall the firm tread of Milton's, though differing in structure.

(316) Daphnaida, 407, 408.

(317) Faery Queen, B. I. c. x. 9.

(318) Strictly taken, perhaps his world is not _much more imaginary than that of other epic poets, Homer (in the Iliad) included. He who is familiar with mediaeval epics will be extremely cautious in drawing inferences as to contemporary manners from Homer. He evidently _archaizes like the rest.

(319) Faery Queen, B. VI. c. x. 10-16.

(320) Purgatorio, XXIX., XXX.

(321) I find a goodly number of Yankeeisms in him, such as _idee (not as a rhyme); but the oddest is his twice spelling _dew deow_, which is just as one would spell it who wished to phonetize its sound in rural New England.

(322) This song recalls that in Dante's Purgatorio (XIX. 19--24), in which the Italian tongue puts forth all its siren allurements. Browne's beautiful verses ("Turn, hither turn your winged pines") were suggested by these of Spenser. It might almost seem as if Spenser had here, in his usual way, expanded the sweet old verses:--

"Merry sungen the monks binnen Ely
When Knut king rew thereby;
'Roweth knightes near the loud,
That I may hear these monkes song.'"

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