« PreviousContinue »
Then turning back in silence soft they stole,
By that same hole, an entrance, dark and base,
By that same way the direful dames do drive
To gaze on earthly wight, that with the night durst ride.
30“ So filthy and so foul."—Why he should say this of Night, except, perhaps, in connection with the witch, I cannot say. It seems to me to hurt the "abhorred face." Night, it is true, may be reviled, or made grand or lovely, as a poet pleases. There is both classical and poetical warrant for all. But the goddess with whom the witch dared to ride (as the poet finely says at the close) should have been exhibited, it would seem, in a more awful, however frightful guise.
31 “Their mournful chariot fill'd with rusty blood.”—There is something wonderfully dreary, strange, and terrible, in this picture. By rusty blood" (which is very horrid) he must mean the blood half congealing; altered in patches, like rusty iron. Be this as it may, the word "rusty," as Warton observes, seems to have conveyed the idea of somewhat very loathsome and horrible to our author."
VENUS IN SEARCH OF CUPID, COMING TO DIANA.
Character, Contrast of Impassioned and Unimpassioned BeautyCold and Warm Colors mixed; Painter, Titian.
(Yet I know not whether Annibal Caracci would not better suit the demand for personal expression in this instance. But the recollection of Titian's famous Bath of Diana is forced upon us.)
Shortly unto the wasteful woods she came,
She having hung upon a bough on high
Soon as she Venus saw behind her back,
Be overtaken soon her garments loose 32
32 "Soon her garments loose," &c.-This picture is from Ovid, but the lovely and beautifully colored comparison of the garland is Spenser's own.
Character, Budding Beauty in male and female; Animal Passion; Luminous Vernal coloring; Painter, the same.
Then came fair May, the fairest maid on ground,33
33" Then came," &c.—Raphael would have delighted (but Titian's colors would be required) in the lovely and liberal uniformity of this picture, the young goddess May supported aloft; the two brethren on each side; animals and flowers below; birds in the air, and Cupid streaming overhead in his green mantle. Imagine the little fellow, with a body of Titian's carnation, tumbling in the air, and playfully holding the mantle, which is flying amply behind, rather than concealing him.
This charming stanza beats the elegant but more formal invocation to May by Milton, who evidently had it in his recollection. Indeed the latter is almost a compilation from various poets. It is, however, too beautiful to be omitted here.
Now the bright morning-star, day's harbinger,
Hail beauteous May, that dost inspire
Woods and groves are of thy dressing,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
Spenser's "Lord! how all creatures laugh'd" is an instance of joyous and impulsive expression not common with English poets, out of the pale of comedy. They have geniality in abundance, but not animal spirits.
AN ANGEL, WITH A PILGRIM AND A FAINTING KNIGHT.
Character, Active Superhuman Beauty, with the finest coloring and contrast; Painter, the same.
During the while that Guyon did abide
In Mammon's house, the palmer, whom whilere
The palmer leant his ear unto the noise,
Which to that shady delve him brought at last,
Beside his head there sat a fair young man,34
Like Phoebus' face adorn'd with sunny rays,
34 “Beside his head," &c.—The superhuman beauty of this angel should be Raphael's, yet the picture, as a whole, demands Titian; and the painter of Bacchus was not incapable of the most imaginative exaltation of countenance. As to the angel's body, no one could have painted it like him,-nor the beautiful jay's wings; not to mention the contrast between the pilgrim's weeds and the knight's armor. See a picture of Venus blinding Cupid, beautifully engraved by Sir Robert Strange, in which the Cupid has variegated wings.
AURORA AND TITHONUS.
Character, Young and Genial Beauty, contrasted with Age,—the accessories full of the mixed warmth and chillness of morning; Painter, Guido.
The joyous day 'gan early to appear,
Of aged Tithon 'gan herself to rear
With rosy cheeks, for shame as blushing red.