« PreviousContinue »
contest between the Red-Cross Knight and Sansjoy, and the conveyance of the wounded Saracen in the chariot of the Night to hell, where he is subjected to the healing art of Esculapius, there is nothing requiring much explanation, although we coincide with Spence in wondering what classical authority Spenser has for consigning that worthy deity, to whom in his last hours Socrates sacrificed a cock, to eternal torments. The sixth Canto proceeds to trace Una's adventures, and the description of her power over the Satyrs, and Sylvanus, their god or governor, seems intended to illustrate the influence of moral truth and purity upon rude and brutalised minds. Sir Satyrane, who is so picturesquely introduced here, is conjectured by Upton to be Sir John Perrot, a man of honesty and worth, but too coarse to be a courtier. He was generally held to be a natural son of Henry the Eighth, who has also his place in this part of the poem as the Satyr described in the twenty-second stanza of the Canto :
"A Satyr chanced her wand'ring for to find,
And made her person thrall unto his beastly kind."
In the seventh Canto, the giant Orgoglio and his ministering Dragon, who overcome and imprison the Red-Cross Knight, undoubtedly signify the Roman Catholic power, "the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself against God," and the "Great Red Dragon, having the seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads." The victory of these over Holiness is represented as for a season complete, but at this point Arthur is introduced for the Knight's deliverance, and is here probably designed as an emblem of the Power of God. Without quoting, we may simply refer our readers to the passage describing the apparition of the Hero to Una, who is flying in great distress at the tidings of her lord's discomfiture and captivity by Orgoglio, as one of the finest in all the Poem. In the eighth Canto, the old man Ignaro, with his bunch of rusty keys, whom Arthur and Una find in the castle, after the destruction. of Orgoglio, and who always replies to questions that "he could not tell," is, of course, Ignorance; and its connexion with the proud domination of Rome is thus symbolised.
The "horn" sounded by Prince Arthur is either Justice generally speaking, or, as some contend, more specially the "Word of God, the sound of which has gone into all the earth," and Duessa riding on her scarlet-coloured beast, is now an emblem, not of Hypocrisy merely, but of Hypocrisy as presiding over Popery. In the ninth Canto, "Despair " needs no comment, except, that here Spenser excels Bunyan, who describes Giant Despair as conclusively destroyed, while Spenser, with grand propriety, represents him as eternally attempting suicide.
"He chose an halter from among the rest,
For thousand times he so himself had drest."
The "House of Holiness," (which has suggested the "House Beautiful" in the "Pilgrim's Progress,") with Dame Cœlia, or Heavenly Grace, and her daughters, Fidelia, Speranza, and Charissa-Faith, Hope, and Charity-where the Red-Cross Knight is brought to be healed and refreshed, where he sees the Celestial City, and is told of his own origin and his name—St George of England—has also a very plain and obvious meaning.
We have said that in "The Faerie Queene" there are allegories within allegories, and this is nowhere more strikingly manifested than in the eleventh and twelfth Cantos, where the victory of the Red-Cross Knight over the enormous dragon which has environed Una's parents, after three days' contest, figures the triumph of our blessed Redeemer over Satan in the three days of the Passion and Resurrection; and the marriage of Una with her devoted lover shadows the mystical marriage between Christ the Bridegroom, and the Bride the Lamb's wife.
"During the which there was an heavenly noise
In their trinal triplicities on high."
And thus, as a dissolving view fades away to music, does the story of the Red-Cross Knight and his Una disappear to this celestial harmony, and we awake and behold it is a dream, and yet a dream representing, in the fairest manner, such sublime realities as the contests and trials which Holiness and Truth
must encounter in this bad world-the separation and division which often prevail amongst virtues and the virtuous themselves -the power of illusion wielded by Falsehood to disturb and distract the True-the abhorrent aspect of naked vice, and the homage which all meaner evils pay to Pride, the Sultana of Evil-the need of celestial aid and hope to encourage those who are fighting the good fight of faith, and the certainty of the ultimate and glorious triumph of Worth and Truth, as embodied in their only perfect form, the faith of Jesus Christ.
We cannot dwell so long or minutely on the explication of the remaining books of the poem. In the Second Book, Sir Guyon is Temperance, although Upton thinks that, besides, in him the poet shadows forth the Earl of Essex, and that by the Palmer he means Dr Whitgift, his tutor. The Distressed Damsel is Duessa. In the "Babe's Bloody Hand," in the second Canto, there is an allusion to the rebellion of the O'Neales, the savage Irish chieftains, whose watchword was "Landerg-abo,"-" The Bloody Hand." The three sisters Medina, Perissa, and Elissa, mean Moderation, Extravagance, or Superfluity, and Defect; Braggadochio is Boastfulness, but is thought covertly to refer to the Duke of Anjou, and Frompart to Simier. Belphœbe, so magnificently pictured in the third Canto, is another alias of the Maiden Queen, a portrait done, of course, by a very flattering hand. Furor, or Wrath, and his mother, Occasion, as well as Mammon, and Acrasia, or Intemperance, explain themselves. Pyrocles and Cymocles denote apparently False Ambition and Vain-glory. Atin is Strife. In the "Idle Lake," the "Bower of Bliss," and the "House of Temperance," the allegory is quite obvious. Alma, in the ninth Canto, is the Mind; and her castle, with the tongue as porter, the nose as portcullis, and the mouth as porch, is the Body. Some of the minor allusions in this and the other books we shall explain in the notes. The general argument is, of course, the triumph of Temperance and the rescue of many of the votaries of Acrasia from her Bower of Bliss.
Chastity is the theme of the Third Book of the poem. And here we find in Britomart another emblem of Queen Elizabeth, and Upton remarks, in reference to the fight between Sir Guyon and her, and its issue, "Sir Guyon is dismounted, presuming to
match himself against Britomart. If Guyon historically and covertly (now and then) means the Earl of Essex, will it not bear an easy allusion to his presuming to match himself with Queen Elizabeth? And has not the poet, with the finest art, managed a very dangerous and secret piece of history?" Timias, the squire to Prince Arthur, here first introduced, is supposed to denote Sir Walter Raleigh, the world-famous friend of the poet. Arthegal, whom Britomart sees in Merlin's magic glass, is designed, it is said, for Spenser's patron, Arthur, Lord Grey of Wilton. Marinel, who has his name from the sea, was intended, in some particulars, to represent the Lord High Admiral, Lord Howard. Amoret and Florimel represent different aspects in the character, and incidents in the history, of Mary Queen of Scots; as where, for instance, Florimel escapes, as Mary did, in a fisher's boat, and is treated harshly by Proteus, as was Mary by her pretended friends, especially the Earl of Shrewsbury. Paridel is the brave, unfortunate Charles Nevil, last of the Earls of Westmoreland, who, on account of his accession to the rebellion in 1569, for the liberation of Queen Mary and the restoration of Popery, had to flee to the Continent, and who was noted for hist innumerable amours. Malbecca stands for a cuckold, and Hellenore, his wife, for a wanton. In the general argument of this book, the success of Chastity is not so complete as that of Holiness and Temperance in the first two, for, says Upton, “the constant Florimel is still left in doleful durance, Amoret is delivered from the cruel Enchanter, but finds not her lover, and Britomart is still in pursuit of Arthegal; this suspense being kept up that this book might connect itself with the following." The Fourth Book, on "Friendship," contains, amidst much mist and darkness, a certain solution of some of the perplexities of the former. Several of the separated lovers meet and marry. Arthegal weds Britomart, Scudamour gains Amoret, and Marinel is betrothed to Florimel, and as if to complete the epithalamic character of the book, a marriage between the Thames and the Medway is described in the most glowing colours. Ballamour is supposed to represent the Earl of Northumberland, the leader of the rebellion of 1569; Duessa is, for the time being, Mary Queen of Scots, and yet, strange to say, that Queen appears also
as Amoret; and the cruel treatment of the latter by Busirane, is supposed by Upton to figure, "not only, in the general moral, the vile vassalage of Love and Beauty under the tyranny of Lust, but, in the particular historical allusion, the cruel confinement and persecutions of the Queen of Scots by the direction chiefly of Burleigh." Timias's insult to Amoret, followed by his fearful remorse, is an allusion to Raleigh's intrigue with Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of Queen Elizabeth's maids of honour, which he made up for by afterwards marrying her, but which at the time greatly incensed the queen against him. There are many subordinate allegories in this book, such as that of Care, the Blacksmith, in the fifth Canto; of Greedy Lust, the Savage, in the seventh Canto; of Infectious Lust, the Giant, with eyes full of contagious fire, in the eighth Canto; and of Scudamour's exquisite courtship of Amoret, in the tenth Canto—this last, says the Tatler, being so natural that it explains itself. The general scope of the whole is, that faithful Love and Friendship, however tried at first, are sure of an ultimate reward.
In the Fifth Book, we come to clearer ground than in some previous parts of the poem. Sir Artegal, or Justice, is, as we have seen, Lord Grey of Wilton, who went over to Ireland as Lord-Lieutenant in July 1580, and was accompanied, as secretary, by our poet. He goes to Irena (Ireland), to deliver it from Grantorto, or the genius of Popery—a spirit, alas! living and reigning there still. Talus, the Iron Man, is severe and rigorous Power. Sir Sanglier, as has been conjectured, glances at Shan O'Neale, already referred to, the leader of the Irish insurrection of 1567, a man notorious for his profligacy. In the second Canto, the conversation between the Giant and Sir Artegal has been supposed by some to predict the future democracy of Europe, the shallowness of its pretensions and the certainty of its downfall; but if so, it hardly gives that idea fair play, and seems to contain rather a one-sided conception, borrowed from Irish observations, than a candid and full account of the workings of the popular element in society. The Saracen Pollente, with his trapfalls, is probably Charles IX. of France, the man of "Black Bartholomew's Day;" and Guizor, his groom of evil guise," is the head of the Popish party, the