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had assigned the adventure of subduing the enchanter, Busirane; but he does not represent the virtue which is the subject of the book, nor does he succeed in the enterprise which he undertakes, which is performed by Britomart, upon whom the interest mainly depends. Prince Arthur is introduced, as before, but performs nothing of any consequence, and does not contribute at all to the accomplishment of the adventure.
The Fourth Book may also be considered in immediate connection with the Third, as it is little more than a continuation of the adventures begun in it. It is entitled the Legend of Friendship, which is illustrated in Cambell and Triamond, who, at first enemies, become afterwards attached friends. But no particular enterprise forms the subject of this book; no new champion appears from the court of the fairy queen; the interest springs from the same sources as in the Third Book; and the knights, whose mutual attachment gives to the book its title and ostensible subject, are introduced incidentally, and their story constitutes merely an episode.
The poet's purpose, in these two books, seems to have been to treat of the various relations of the two sexes, and the influences to which woman is exposed in social life, and to show the beauty and power of feminine virtue. The various forms of the passion of love, its different manifestations in different natures, are imbodied in Artegal and Britomart, Marinell and Florimel, and Scudamore and Amoret. Malecasta (b. III., c. I.) is Incontinence, whose six attendant knights are expressive of qualities congenial to her own nature. In Malbecco (b. III., c. IX., X.) we see the selfinflicted torments endured by him "who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet strongly loves." Lust is shadowed forth in various monstrous and loathsome shapes. Paridell and Blandamour are fickle and inconstant libertines. In Pæana (b. IV., c. IX.) is delineated a woman of such mingled elements that her character is moulded by the circumstances into which she is thrown, and her salvation is to be ascribed to the purifying influence of a sincere and virtuous attachment.
The main interest of these two books is derived from the sketches which they contain of womanly character. Spenser's tenderness, sensibility, and purity of feeling, gave him peculiar advantages in treating this theme. He understood the strength
and weakness of the female heart, and he felt for woman that respect which is entertained by every man of genius who keeps the primitive whiteness of his soul unstained. There were many feminine elements in his own soft and gentle nature, which gave him a fellow-feeling with the "delicate creatures," whom he has delineated with a beauty and truth which show that his whole heart was in his work. Four distinct forms of feminine excellence are displayed to us in Belphobe, Britomart, Amoret, and Florimel. Belphobe has been already mentioned. Britomart resembles Belphoebe in her purity and spirit, but differs from her in entertaining that softer passion which the former had never known. She is a dignified and intellectual woman, inspiring awe as well as awakening love; and the passion which she feels and struggles against is of a high ideal nature, kindled by the contemplation of an unsubstantial image of excellence. In order to express the power of chastity as an active principle, quenching the flames of animal appetite, and dissolving the spell by which its victim had been enthralled, the poet has encountered a difficulty which not even his genius has been able entirely to overcome. No wealth of poetry can make a fighting woman attractive. The qualities of a warrior are as inconsistent with feminine softness, as his robust and sinewy limbs and well-defined muscles are with the delicate outline of feminine beauty. Though the poet has stuggled so hard to make Britomart interesting, there is still something repulsive about her. Belphœbe is supernatural, or above nature; but Britomart is unnatural, or opposed to nature. We wonder at Artegal's loving a woman whom he had fought with, and by whom he had been rudely hurled from his horse. Still we must not be blind to the merit of the sketch as a work of art, which is indeed of a high order; and if the poet has not succeeded in all that he attempted, it was because he attempted an impossibility.
Amoret is a beautiful contrast both to her twin-sister Belphabe and to Britomart. She is the complement of Belphobe, and has those properties which the latter is without, and which are essential to the completeness of woman's nature. She differs from Britomart, on the other hand, in her helplessness and constant need of protection and support. Britomart is
"A perfect woman, nobly planned
But Amoret is of the affections all-compact. She needs a stronger nature to cling to, as the tendrils of the vine require a frame-work to twine themselves about. She expresses the affectionate devotedness of a loving and tender wife, whose whole soul flows into her husband's, as the river into the sea. Sir Scudamour is a chivalrous and accomplished knight, but seems to be introduced merely on account of his relation to Amoret. He relates the manner in which he won his bride in a beautiful allegory, the pith and substance of which is, that "faint heart never won fair lady," and that he who resolves to succeed has already half succeeded.
Timias is a character whom the reader will naturally associate with Amoret. He represents, apparently, the spirit of chivalrous honor and generosity, and is supposed to be intended as a compliment to the poet's friend, Sir Walter Raleigh. In his adventures, certain historical, or rather biographical, allusions are believed to be involved. Here we are again induced to have recourse to the authority of Sir Walter Scott, who remarks that "The affection of Timias for Belphœbe is allowed, on all hands, to allude to Sir Walter Raleigh's pretended admiration of Queen Elizabeth; and his disgrace, on account of a less Platonic intrigue with the daughter of Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, together with his restoration to favor, are plainly pointed out in the subsequent events. But no commentator has noticed the beautiful insinuation by which the poet points out the error of his friend, and of his friend's wife. Timias finds Amoret in the arms of Corflambo, or Sensual Passion; he combats the monster unsuccessfully, and wounds the lady in his arms."
We now come to the consideration of Florimel, that beautiful but perplexing vision. Her name is compounded of two Latin words, meaning honey and flowers; thus betokening the sweet and delicate elements of which her nature is moulded. seems to express the gentle delicacy and timid sensitiveness of woman; and her adventures, the perils and rude encounters to which these qualities are exposed in a world of passion and violence. She flees alike from friend and foe, and finds treachery in those upon whom she had thrown herself for protection; and yet she is introduced to us under circumstances not altogether consistent with feminine delicacy, as having left
the court of the fairy queen, in pursuit of a knight who did not even return her passion. We observe, too, that most of the knights seem acquainted with her person, and familiar with her story; and she is evidently the object of their enthusiastic admiration. Her false image, the "snowy Florimel," made by the witch, seems to differ from her, as prudery differs from delicacy. But what are the emblems veiled under the form of the monster who pursues her? (b. III., c. VII., 8. XXII.)— of the magic girdle, by which he is tamed? (b. III., c. VII., s. XXXVI.)—of the old man in the boat, by whom she is so rudely treated? (b. III., c. VIII.,) &c. Marinell, also, her lover, is a character not readily to be explained. He evidently savors of the sea, and perhaps imbodies the spirit of maritime adventure, for which the reign of Elizabeth was so remarkable. But what is the meaning of the rich strand, and of his overthrow by Britomart? Upton conjectures that Marinell is a type of the celebrated Lord Howard of Effingham, so memorable for the part he took in the defeat of the Armada. In the flight
of Florimel, he traces also an allusion to Mary of Scotland's seeking shelter in England from the violence of her rebellious subjects.
In addition to the historical allusions mentioned above, Sir Walter Scott remarks that "The fiery spirit of the unfortunate Earl of Westmoreland is detected under the personage of Blandamour, fickle both in friendship and in love, and easily heated into brawls, even when an exile." Paridel is also conjectured to be a likeness of the Earl of Northumberland, who, in conjunction with the Earl of Westmoreland, engaged in a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, in which he himself lost his life, and his associate his rank and fortune, and was obliged to abandon his country.
In point of literary merit, the Third Book, though inferior to the First and Second, is superior to the rest of the poem. Indeed, there is an obvious falling off after the Third Book, and the last three books are decidedly inferior to the first three. The Fourth is the least interesting of all. The Masque of Cupid, in the Third Book, (c. XII.,) is an unsurpassed specimen of Spenser's astonishing power of allegorical painting. The thin phantoms of the mind, Hope, Fancy, Desire, pass
before us in a costume as picturesque as it is appropriate; and each is stamped with an individuality as marked as that which distinguishes the men and women whom we meet in the streets. The conception and execution of the character of Florimel are also full of poetry; and the passage (b. III., c. I., s. XV.) in which she is first introduced to us, with her long yellow locks floating meteor-like behind her, from the swiftness of her flight, is one of the most vivid and beautiful in the whole poem. In the account of the birth of Belphœbe and Amoret, and in the description of the gardens of Adonis, (b. III., c. VI.,) Spenser has shown a good deal of curious learning, and a familiarity with those mystical doctrines of Plato and Pythagoras which were more favorite objects of study in his age than in our own. He is indeed quite remarkable among poets for his learning, especially his classical learning. His acquaintance with the mythology of antiquity was extensive; and though he has sometimes departed from it, yet, in most cases, he did so intentionally, in order to make the fable suit his purposes better. He has been censured for interweaving so much of heathen mythology into his poem; and without undertaking to defend him unreservedly, it may be remarked, that these stories and allusions had not become then so hackneyed as they are now, and that he has the example of all the prominent writers of his time to bear him out.
The Fifth Book is devoted to the quality of Justice, represented in Artegal, who is attended by Talus, a man of iron, whose invulnerable frame, resistless strength, and passionless nature, are expressive of the power which executes the decrees of justice and the mandates of magistrates. Artegal's main object is to rescue Irena from the tyranny of Grantorto; but, like a chivalrous knight errant, he is ready to turn aside and subdue the spirit of mischief and violence, wherever it may be encountered. The incidents in this book are illustrative of civil justice, the enlightened supporter of social order, and the foe alike of oppression and lawlessness. Pollentè is a tyrant, whose power rests upon the double support of strength and wealth, both of which the knight successfully resists. The "gyant" in the Second Book is a political fanatic, who has turned the brains of the populace with wild visions of reform. It is not easy to perceive exactly what is expressed in Radigund; but in her victory over the knight, the poet shows us that the