« EelmineJätka »
the spectator's amount of comprehension. The great privilege of the poet is, that, using the medium of speech, he can make his readers poets; can make them aware and possessed of what he intends, enlarging their comprehension by his details, or enlightening it by a word. A painter might have the same feeling as Shakspeare respecting the moonlight "sleeping" on a bank; but how is he to evince it? He may go through a train of the profoundest thoughts in his own mind; but into what voluminous fairy circle is he to compress them? Poetry can paint whole galleries in a page, while her sister art requires heaps of canvass to render a few of her poems visible.
This, however, is what everybody knows. Not so, that Spenser emulated the Raphaels and Titians in a profusion of pictures, many of which are here taken from their walls. They rive the Poet's Poet a claim to a new title,--that of Poet of the Painters. The reader has seen what Mr. Hazlitt says of him in connection with Rubens; but the passage adds, what I have delayed quoting till now, that "none but Rubens could have painted the fancy of Spenser;" adding further, that Rubens "could not have painted the sentiment, the airy dream that hovers over it." I venture to think that this fine critic on the two sister arts wrote the first of these sentences hastily; and that the truth of the second would have shown him, on reflection, with what painters, greater than Rubens, the poet ought to have been compared. The great Fleming was a man of a genius as fine and liberal as his nature; yet who that looks for a moment at the pictures which ensue, shall say that he would have been justified in putting his name to them? Sentiments and airy dreams hover over them all,--say rather, abide and brood over many, with such thoughtfulness as the Italian aspect can only match. More surprising is Mr. Coleridge's assertion, that Spenser's descriptions are "not, in the true sense of the word, picturesque; but composed of a wondrous series of images, as in dreams." Lectures (ut sup.), vol. i., p. 93. If, by true sense of the word, he means the acquired sense of piquancy of contrast, or a certain departure from the smoothness of beauty in order to enhance it, Spenser certainly is not in the habit of putting many thorns in his roses. His bowers of bliss, he thought,
did not demand it. The gentle beast that Una rode, would not have cut a very piquant figure in the forest scenery of Mr. Gilpin. But if Coleridge means picturesque in the sense of fitness for picture, and very striking fitness, then the recollections of the masks, or the particular comparison of Prince Arthur's crest with the almond tree (which is the proof he adduces) made him forget the innumerable instances in which the pictorial power is exhibited. Nor was Spenser unaware, nay, he was deeply sensible of the other feelings of the picturesque, as may be seen in his sea-gods' beards (when Proteus kisses Amoret), his "rank grassy fens," his "weeds of glorious feature,” his oaks “half dead," his satyrs, gloomy lights, beautiful but unlucky grounds, &c., &c., &c. (for in this sense of the word, there are feelings of the invisible corresponding with the stronger forms of the picturesque). He has himself noticed the theory in his Bower of Bliss, and thus anticipated the modern taste in landscape gardening, the idea of which is supposed to have originated with Milton:
One would have thought (so cunningly the rude
Art, and that Art at Nature did repine.
But the reader will judge for himself.
I have attached to each of the pictures in this Spenser Gallery the name of the painter, of whose genius it reminded me; and I think the connoisseur will allow, that the assignment was easy, and that the painter-poet's range of art is equally wide and wonderful.
CHARISSA; OR, CHARITY.
Character, Spiritual Love; Painter for it, Raphael.
She was a woman in her freshest age,
A multitude of babes about her hung
Playing their sports, that joyed her to behold,
24" And by her side," &c. This last couplet brings at once before us all the dispassionate graces and unsuperfluous treatmen of Raphael's allegorical females.
*Owches wondrous fair. Owches are carcanets or ranges of jewels. t Uneath. Scarcely, with difficulty.
Character, Sweetness without Devotedness; Painter, Correggio.
With him went Hope in rank, a handsome maid,
Of cheerful look, and lovely to behold:
In silken samite she was light array'd,
And her fair locks were woven up in gold.25
25" And her fair locks," &c. What a lovely line is that! and with a beauty how simple and sweet is the sentiment portrayed in the next three words,-" She alway smil'd!" But almost every line of the stanza is lovely, including the felicitous Catholic image of the
Holy-water sprinkle dipp'd in dew.
Correggio is in every color and expression of the picture.
CUPID USURPING THE THRONE OF JUPITER.
Character, Potency in Weakness; Painter, the same.
In Satyr's shape, Antiope he snatch'd
A shepherd, when Mnemosyne he catch'd;
While thus on earth great Jove these pageants play'd,
And scoffing, thus unto his mother said:
And take me for their Jove, whilst Jove to earth is gone."
MARRIAGE PROCESSION OF THE THAMES AND MEDWAY.
Character, Genial Strength, Grace, and Luxury, Painter,
First came great Neptune with his three-fork'd mace,
And by his side his queen, with coronal,
And deck'd with pearls which the Indian seas for her prepare.
These marched far afore the other crew,
That made the rocks to roar as they were rent.
Or take another part of the procession, with dolphins and seanymphs listening as they went, to
Then was there heard a most celestial sound
So went he playing on the watery plain.26
26" So went he," &c. This sweet, placid, and gently progressing