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the Chaucerian spirit. The gravely-drawn portrait of the formal priest, who could not read or write :
Of such deep learning little had he neede,
And hateful heresies, of God abhor'd:
But this good Sir did follow the plaine word,
Ne meddled with their controversies vaine (11. 386-91).
—as well as the sermon that follows, with its sublime excuse for the neglect of all a pastor's duties by the text All shalbe taught of God, is in the best vein of Chaucerian irony. Like Chaucer too he does not labour his moral, but tells his story vividly and in places with a real humour. But from this he can rise into the manner more essentially characteristic of his own art. His idealism finds voice in the brief appeal against the degradation of poetry and in the picture of the brave courtier, his indignation in the magnificent outburst of invective at the pitiful suitor's state. Mother Hubbards Tale is Spenser's only poem written with a definite satiric purpose; it reveals a combination of qualities which are not commonly attributed to him—a satiric power ranging from the slyest suggestion to savage irony, a shrewd and humorous knowledge of the world, and a certain primitive understanding of both animal and human nature. The Teares of the Muses and the Ruines of Time are far less interesting. The whole tone of the former, out of touch with the development of poetry which finds such generous if somewhat uncritical recognition only a little later in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, suggests that it was written at least before Spenser's return from Ireland, and perhaps earlier still. Passages in it recall the language of Cuddie in October of the Shepheardes Calender, but there is no Piers to give the antidote, and the monotonous harping upon the degeneracy of the times does not ring entirely true.) The Ruines of Time also contains early work, and in the tragick Pageaunts' with which it closes we have a return to the emblematic art of the early Visions. But from a lament which, for the most part, is conventional both in style and setting, Spenser rises to genuine feeling in his scorn for the courting masker' who fawned on the great Leicester in the days of his prosperity, and now that he is dead upbraids his deeds (197-224); and in his tribute to Sidney's memory (281-343) his verse takes on that peculiarly haunting melody in which he is wont to voice an intimate emotion.
Muiopotmos was written in 1590; it seems to have been printed separately in that year and then added to the Complaints. Its tone is very different from the other contents of the book. The lines which Keats borrowed from it as a motto for his first volume:
What more felicitie can fall to creature
Than to enjoy delight with libertie?
express the spirit in which Spenser wrote it. It is surely a mistake to read into this delicious jeu d'esprit a moral or satirical intention. For once Spenser was not sage nor serious, but simply a poet, spinning for sheer delight in his craft a web of verse as delicate as Arachne's. The fineness of Spenser's art is often shown in his delineation of insects;1 here his butterfly is exquisitely painted; and so lovely is the garden into which he strays that Milton drew hints from it for his Paradise. Muiopotmos stands with Nymphidia and the fairy scenes of A Midsummer Night's Dream as the most charming of Elizabethan fantasies.
Here and there in Muiopotmos are lines which show that Spenser's love of Chaucer had not waned; and this is still clearer from Daphnaïda, which celebrates the mourning of Sir Arthur Gorges for his lost wife. In writing this lament for a lady with whom he had no personal acquaintance he turned to the Boke of the Duchesse, where Chaucer was engaged upon a similar task; and both in his general design and in many details he is indebted to his master. But Chaucer's octosyllabics he felt to be unsuited both to the subject and to his own genius. All through the volume of Complaints he had been experimenting in different combinations of the five-foot line: 3 here, in Daphnaïda, by transposing the fifth and sixth lines of the verse royal and thus avoiding the couplet ending, he invents a new stanza of singular sweetness and beauty.
Back in Ireland, Spenser settled down once more to the duties of his clerkship, and to the management of his estate.) A quarrel with his neighbour, Lord Roche, had troubled him before his departure, and though this was settled, apparently in his favour, at the English courts, another dispute with Roche over three plough-lands, which Spenser was accused of appropriating, converting a grete deale of corne growinge thereuppon to his proper use, to the damage of the complainant of two hundred pounds sterling', seems to have gone against him. On the slender evidence before us it is unnecessary to take sides between the disputants. As an Englishman and an uncompromising friend of Grey's Spenser is certain to have been disliked by his more powerful Irish neighbours, and he is not likely to have concealed his own feelings with regard to them. But it is easy to make too much of these petty worries; for it is clear enough that they did not seriously disturb his happiness and peace of mind. The years into which he had now entered show great poetic productiveness. His
1 Cf. e.g. his description of the gnat as 'a litle noursling of the humid ayre' (Virgils Gnat, 283), and the simile of the shepherd annoyed by gnats (Faerie Queene, I. i. 23), where his sympathy is all on the side of the insects.
2 Vide Nadal, Daphnaïda and the Boke of the Duchesse (Mod. Lang. Assoc. Am., vol. xxiii, 1908), where the analogy is elaborately worked out.
In Mother Hubberds Tale the heroic couplet; in Ruines of Time the rhyme royal; in The Teares of the Muses the six-line decasyllabic (ababcc) (cf. Shepheardes Calender, June and December); in Virgils Gnat and Muiopotmos the ottava rima; in the different sonnet sequences the Shakespearian and the Spenserian sonnet forms.
first work was Colin Clouts Come Home Againe,1 in which he recounted his recent experiences,-Ralegh's visit to him at Kilcolman, their journey to London, his reception at court, and his impressions of all he saw there. In no other poem are we more keenly sensible of the subtle charm of Spenser's personality than in this graceful piece of idealized autobiography. The form is pastoral; the manner simple and without ornament, but never prosaic, touching the most trivial incident with grace, and capable of rising without violence to express the deepest emotion. It is the triumph of the familiar style in which so few writers have excelled. To write thus is only possible to one who is both artist and gentleman: Pope can do it occasionally, but he is not always a gentleman; so can Cowper, but he is not always an artist. The masters in this kind are Shelley and Spenser. At the same period Spenser collected a small volume of poems commemorative of Sidney, to which he contributed the first-Astrophel, A Pastorall Elegie-and probably the second; 2 and he was busy upon the second instalment of the Faerie Queene, of which three more books, written, it seems, at the rate of one a year, were practically complete in 1594.
On June 11, 1594, after rather more than twelve months' courtship, he married Elizabeth Boyle, whose home was at Kilcoran, near to the sea strand of Youghal. She was a lady of good family, and kinswoman to Sir Richard Boyle, afterwards created first Earl of Cork. The inner history of this courtship and its consummation is recorded, in idealized form, in the Amoretti and Epithalamion.
Modern criticism, which has made so damaging an assault upon the sincerity of Elizabethan sonneteers, could hardly be expected to leave this beautiful sequence unassailed; and the view has lately been advanced that the Amoretti are addressed for the most part to Lady Carey, and hence were written during Spenser's residence in London. But whilst it is possible that some of the sonnets were in the first place inspired by Lady Carey, or indeed by Rosalind or some earlier 5 and still more elusive flame, there is no reason for suspecting the integrity of the series as a whole; and amid much that is borrowed from the stock-in-trade of the French sonneteers, and recounts the emotions incident to every courtship, real
1 Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, dated in the dedication to Ralegh, December 1591, was published with Astrophel in 1595, and contains passages which must have been added in that year.
The Lay of Clorinda, who laments her lost brother, is commonly attributed to the Countess of Pembroke. But if she did write it, she had studied to some purpose the peculiarly Spenserian effects of rhythm and melody. The poem is, moreover, like the introductory elegy, woven into the plan of the volume, and not a separate work, standing by itself, like those that follow. It is more natural, therefore, to believe that Spenser wrote it in her name. For criticism of Astrophel vide supra, p. xiii. 3 Spenser's wife was first identified by Grosart; vide Life, pp. 198-201.
Mr. P. W. Long, Mod. Lang. Rev. (April 1908), answered by Mr. J. C. Smith in the same journal (July 1910).
5 Thus e.g. Sonnet VIII is Shakespearian form, which at least suggests very early composition.
or feigned, there is much also that, to the sympathetic reader at least, seems circumstantial in detail, both in the progress of his suit and in the character of his mistress. Anyhow, it is evident from their publication with the Epithalamion that Spenser intended them to be regarded as addressed to his future wife; and if he had been criticized for incorporating in the sequence poems of earlier date, his reply, like Donne's in his Good Morrow, would have been
But this; all pleasures fancies be.
If any beauty I did see
Which I desired and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.
In Astrophel, with more daring poetic licence, he had identified Stella with Sidney's wife, the Lady Francis Walsingham; and it was natural to the Platonist to gather into his present emotion the tribute that he had paid to other women.
The Amoretti are written with an easy and familiar grace, at once clear and melodious, capable of touching into beauty the ordinary changes and chances of the lover's fortune, or of voicing the rarer ecstasy, so typically Spenserian, of the sonnet Most glorious Lord of Lyfe. As a series they are incomplete, for when the lover seems already to have reached the goal venomous tongues cause misunderstanding and separation; and the last four sonnets are in a minor key. The consummation is read in the Epithalamion, the most magnificent lyric ever penned of love triumphant. The Epithalamion seems to concentrate into itself the essence of Spenser's art. Nowhere else is there a more magic union of the lover's passion with deep religious feeling, of a free and ardent joy with a deep and tender reverence. The style ranges from utter simplicity to highly wrought and richly coloured imagery, and draws alike upon the resources of mediaeval | superstition and classic myth. And Spenser's unfailing power over music is here unsurpassed. His intricate stanza form was suggested by the canzoni of Petrarch, but it is all his own. The linked melody of the rhymes, the varying rhythms, the relief of the occasional short line, and the lingering refrain of the final Alexandrine unite in a metrical design sustained throughout with marvellous beauty. This song is Spenser's highest poetic achievement.
In the winter of 1595-6, Spenser was again in London; for the second instalment of the Faerie Queene was entered at the Stationers' Hall on the 20th of January. What hopes of personal advancement he had were now centred in the Earl of Essex, but they can hardly have been sanguine. The influence of Burghley was still unshaken; and Spenser, as walking 'beside the silver-streaming Themmes', he looked up at Essex House, and praised the Spanish victories of the noble peer who was lodged therein, thought less of what he might secure through his new friend than of 'the gifts and goodly grace' that he had gained from Leicester its former owner, the patron of his youth. During
this visit he wrote little poetry. (From Greenwich, this first of September 1596' he dated the publication of Fowre Hymnes, the first two the work of the greener times of his youth' and expressive of his Platonic conception of Love and Beauty, the other two added at this time to satisfy the religious scruples of the most vertuous ladies, the Ladie Margaret Countesse of Cumberland, and the Ladie Marie Countesse of Warwick'. It is unnecessary to accept literally Spenser's apology for the earlier two Hymnes. The third and fourth books of the Faerie Queene show clearly enough that their Platonism was still a vital part of his creed; and the addition that he now made to them only extends their scope so as to embrace, in a manner perfectly natural to Spenser, the central ideas of Christianity. His deepening experience had taught him that Love and Beauty spiritually conceived are the consummation alike of the Platonic and the Christian faith.)
Now also he wrote the Prothalamion, a spousal verse made in honour of the two daughters of the Earl of Worcester. Metrically this poem is, perhaps, as beautiful as his own marriage ode, but it has not a like concentration upon its avowed theme, nor does it voice the same ecstasy of passion. His main energies were probably directed to the composition of his Veue of the Present State of Ireland, for which he had long been collecting materials. In this masterly tract he defends and justifies the character and policy of Grey against his detractors, exposes what seem to him the inevitable results which will follow from the weak and vacillating rule of his successor, Sir John Perrot, and outlines to the home government that method of dealing with the Irish problem which alone could save the English supremacy. Finally, he urges the creation of a Lord Lieutenantship for Ireland; and in suggesting for the office that man 'on whom the eye of England is fixed, and our last hopes now rest', he points clearly to Essex as the only person equal to coping with the situation. Written with a wide knowledge both of the antiquities of the country and its laws and customs, and a full appreciation of its present condition, this pamphlet is as able a plea as could well be penned for a policy of resolute and remorseless suppression. In its lack of sympathy with the Irish, and its failure to understand the real causes of their disaffection, it is typical of the view held by all Elizabethans and by most English statesmen since. It is not surprising that the tract was not sanctioned by the government; it was not entered at the Stationers' Hall till 1598, and then with the proviso 'uppon condicion that hee gett further aucthoritie before yt be prynted'. It did not actually appear till 1633.
Spenser was back again at Kilcolman in the next year (1597). He had resigned his clerkship to the Council of Munster three years before, in favour of Sir Richard Boyle,1 and was without office until, in September 1598, he was recommended by Elizabeth to be Sheriff
1 Grosart suggests with some plausibility that this resignation may have been a family arrangement made at the time of his marriage. (Life, p. 203.)