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124

PLAN OF “THE FAERIE QUEENE.”

and lost by a careless servant, or during the poet's voyage to Eng. land, is very improbable. Spenser had only time between 1596 and his death to write two cantos and a fragment of a third. Hallam justly says, “The short interval before the death of this great poet was filled up by calamities sufficient to wither the fertility of

any

mind.” Prince Arthur, who is chosen as the hero of the poem, falls in love with the Faerie Queene, and, armed by Merlin, sets out to seek her in Faery Land. She is supposed to hold her annual feast for twelve days, during which twelve adventures are achieved by twelve knights, who represent, allegorically, certain virtues.

The Red-Crosse Knight, or Holiness, achieves the adventure of the first and finest book. In spite of the plots of the wizard Archimago (Hypocrisy) and the wiles of the witch Duessa (Falsehood), he slays the dragon that ravaged the kingdom of Una's father, and thus wins the hand of that fair princess, (Truth.) Sir Guyon, or Temperance, is the hero of the second adventure; Britomartis, or Chastity-a Lady-Knight-of the third ; Cambel and Triamond, typifying Friendship, of the fourth; Artegall, or Justice, of the fifth; Sir Calidore, or Courtesy, of the sixth. The six books form a descending scale of merit. The first two have the fresh bloom of genius upon them; the third contains some exquisite pictures of womanhood, coloured with the light of poetic fancy; but in the last three the divine fire is seen only in fitful and uncertain flashes. It was not that the poet had written himself out, but he had been tempted to aim at achieving too much. Not content with giving us the most exquisite pictures of chivalrous life that have ever been limned in English words, and at the same time enforcing with some success lessons of true morality and virtue, he attempted to interweave with his bright allegories the history of his own day. Thus Gloriana the Faerie Queene, and Belphoebe the huntress, represent Elizabeth; Artegall is Lord Grey; Envy is intended for poor Mary Stuart. Spenser's flattery of Queen Bess, whose red wig becomes in his melodious verse “yellow locks, crisped like golden wire,” is outrageous. It was a fashion of the day, to be sure ; and, after all, poets are only human.

TIIE LANGUAGE AND STANZA OF SPENSER.

125

It is almost needless to say that the politics dull and warp the beauty of the poetry,-a fact nowhere more manifest than in the fifth book, whose real hero is Lord Grey of Wilton.

The language of Spenser was purposely cast in an antique mould, of which one example is the frequent use of y before the past participle. The expletives do and did occur in his pages to a ridiculous extent. The stanza in which this great poem is written, and which bears the poet's name, is the Italian ottava rima, with a ninth line—an Alexandrine—added to close the cadence. It may well be compared to the swelling wave of a summer sea, which sweeps on—a green transparent wall-until it breaks

upon the pebbly shore in long and measured flow. Thomson, Campbell, and Byron have proved the power of the grand Spenserian stanza.

In his Pastorals—the “Shepheard's Calender” and “Colin Clout” -Spenser cast aside much of the stereotyped classic form. Instead of Tityrus and Corydon breathing their joys and sorrows in highly polished strains, we find Hobbinoll and Diggon, Cuddie and Piers, chatting away in good old-fashioned English about the Church and its pastors, poets and their woes, and similar themes. The Calender contains twelve eclogues--one for every month in the year.

That Spenser could write capital prose, as well as exquisite verse, is clearly proved by his “ View of the State of Ireland,” a dialogue in which that land and the habits of its natives are finely described. The views of Spenser as to the government of the Irish people seem to have harmonized with those of relentless Strafford, whose plan was aptly named “Thorough," from its sweeping cruelty. This prose work of Spenser, though presented to Elizabeth in 1596, was not printed until 1633.

THE OPENING STANZAS OF TIIE FIRST CANTO OF "THE

FAERIE QUEENE."

[riding

A gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine,
The cruel markes of many a bloody fielde;

126

STANZAS FROM

THE FAERIE QUEENE."

Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
IIis angry steede did chide his foming bitt,
As much disdayning to the curbe to yield :

Full iolly knight he seemed, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.

And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore,
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead, as living ever, him ador'd :
Upon his shield the like was also scor’d,
For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had.
Right, faithfull, true he was in deede and word;

But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad;
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

[feared

Upon a great adventure he was bond,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
(That greatest glorious queene of Faery lond,)
To winne him worshippe, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly thinges he most did crave :
And ever, as he rode, his hart did earne
To prove bis puissance in battell brave

Upon his fue, and his new force to learne;
Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne.

A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside,
Upon a lowly asse more white than snow;
Yet she much whiter; but the same did hide
Under a vele, that wimpled was full low;
And over all a blacke stole shee did throw :
As one that inly mournd, so was she sad,
And heavie sate upon her palfrey slow;

Seemned in heart some hidden care she had ;
And by her in a line a milke-white lambe she lad.

So pure and innocent, as that same lambe,
She was in liče and every vertuous lore;
And by descent from royall lynage came
Of ancient kinges and queenes, that had of yore
Their scepters stretcht from east to westerne shore,
And all the world in their subjection held ;
Till that infernal Feend with foule uprore

Forwasted all their land, and them expeld;
Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compeld.

STANZAS FROM

THE FAERIE QUEENE."

127

Behind her farre away a Dwarfe did lag,
That lasie seemd, in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his backe. Thus as they past,
The day with cloudes was suddeine overcast,
And angry Iove an hideous storme of raine
Did poure into his lemans lap so fast,

That everie wight to shrowd it did constrain;
And this faire couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.

Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand,
A shadie grove not farr away they spide,
That proinist ayde the tempest to withstand;
Whose loftie trees, yclad with soinmer's pride,
Did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide,
Not perceable with power of any starr :
And all within were pathes and alleies wide,

With footing worne, and leading inward farr :
Faire harbour that them seems ; so in they entred ar.

And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,
Ioying to heare the birdes sweete harmony,
Which, the rein shrouded from the tempest dred,
Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and hy,
The sayling pine; the cedar proud and tall;
The vine-propp elme; the poplar never dry;

The builder oake, sole king of forrests all ;
The aspine good for staves ; the cypresse funerall;

The laurell, meed of mightie conquerours
And poets sage; the firre that weepeth still ;
The willow, worne of forlorne paramours;
The eugh, obedient to the benders will ;
The birch for shaftes; the sallow for the mill ;
The mirrhe sweete-bleeding in the bitter wound;
The warlike beech; the ash for nothing ill ;

The fruitfull olive; and the platane round;
The carver holme; the maple seeldom inward sound.

Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;
When, weening to returne whence they did stray,
They cannot finde that path, which first was showne,
But wander too and fro in waies unknowne,
Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,

128

STANZAS FROM

THE FAERIE QUEENE."

That makes them doubt their wits be not their owne:

So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
That, which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.

At last resolving forward still to fare,
Till that some end they finde, or in or out,
That path they take, that beaten seemd most bare,
And like to lead the labyrinth about;
Which when by tract they hunted had throughout,
At length it brought them to a hollow cave,
Amid the thickest woods. The Champion stout

Eftsoones dismounted from his courser brave,
And to the Dwarfe a while his needlesse spere he gave.'

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