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ACTS AND MONUMENTS
Pp. 103 ff. This book, more commonly called Foxe's Book of Martyrs, is the work of a violent partisan. It purports to describe "the great persecutions and horrible troubles that have been wrought and practised by the Romish prelates, especially in this realm of England, and Scotland, from the year of our Lord a thousand unto the time now present" (1563). Probably no book ever written is more uncritical and unjust, or has done so much to create among Protestants a wrong conception of Queen Mary and the Catholics of the sixteenth century. Catholics like Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher and numerous others, who suffered the same sorts of deaths as the Protestant martyrs, Foxe regards as wicked men who were justly and not too severely punished by righteous and gracious Henry VIII. Foxe's book - a huge folio originally, eight octavo volumes in the modern editions - is an unrelieved orgy of blood and bitterness, but it was much relished by our Protestant ancestors.
1. 219 etc. Remorse of Conscience, Dread, Revenge, Misery, etc., are personifications of the mediæval type.
THOMAS SACKVILLE, LORD BUCKHURST
A MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES
Pp. 105 ff. This is a tremendous collection (over 1400 pages) of tragic stories of wicked and unfortunate kings and nobles of Great Britain, from 1085 B.C. to the end of the fifteenth century after Christ. In character and aim it is mediæval; its editor says in his address to the nobility (i.e., those called magistrates in the title): "Here, as in a looking-glass, you shall see, if any vice be in you, how the like hath been punished in other[s] heretofore." The plan was derived from such medieval works as Chaucer's Monk's Tale and Lydgate's Falls of Princes. Nine editions, not counting reprints, were published between 1554 and 1610, and it contributed greatly to the development of historical poems and plays on British history. The author of the Induction was Thomas Sackville, one of the authors of Gorboduc, the first English tragedy, who later, as Lord Buckhurst, was an eminent statesman. The subject of the Induction is a vision in which the goddess Sorrow shows the author the enemies of mankind and the sad plight of their victims.
1. 210. Averne, lake Avernus, near Cumæ, through which Æneas entered the underworld. This description is based on the Æneid, VI, 237 f.
THE SHEPHEARDS CALENDER
Pp. 108 ff. About 300 B.C., when the social life of Greek cities had become highly artificial and sophisticated, there arose, just as there has arisen in our own time, a feeling of satiety and weariness, and a fad of celebrating the charm and the virtues of rural life — a movement "back to nature." The most important literary result of this fad was the Eclogues of Theocritus, a native probably of Sicily, and a dweller in the courts of Syracuse and Alexandria. In these Eclogues Theocritus represents goatherds as discussing the interests and incidents of their simple life, such as the care of their flocks, their contests in song, their loves, their joys and their sorrows. Three
centuries later, when Roman society was similarly sophisticated, the Latin poet Vergil wrote, in imitation of Theocritus, poems of a similar character, his Eclogues. With the revival of classical learning in the period of the Renaissance came imitations of all types of classical literature, and among them of the eclogue. This type of poetry, the pastoral, as it is called, passed naturally from a celebration of the simplicity and innocent sweetness of country life to a contrasting of it with the complicated, wearisome, vicious life of men in cities, and the pastoral became very early a medium of social, religious, and political satire. Under these conditions, naturally enough, the pastoral was often allegorical or symbolical. Feeding one's flocks meant really something else - governing a kingdom, or ruling a diocese, or presiding over a college; contests in song meant really contests in politics, or religion, or some other affair of the great world; and the characters, though bearing the names of shepherds, were understood to be statesmen, or bishops, or scholars, or poets.
Spenser was not the first Englishman to write pastoral poetry, but his Shepheards Calender was the first English pastoral of real beauty or power. It is a series of twelve poems, one for each month, in which shepherds are represented as keeping their flocks and engaging in discussions of matters that interest them. Some of these poems, "ægloges" he calls them, are undoubtedly allegorical. That for February has been thought to be in reality a controversy as to the old and new religious establishments.
The vogue of the pastoral conception and its conventions explains the form and tone of many lyrics of the Elizabethan age, as well as Milton's choice of the pastoral eclogue as the form for Lycidas.
The language of the Shepheards Calender is archaic. Spenser wished to give it a rustic tone, and he did so, not by imitating the language of the rustics of his own day, but by imitating the spelling of older English and using some old words. He had particularly in mind the works of Chaucer, which had already been published in several editions. As he did not know how to pronounce fourteenth century English, it is highly probable that he thought that in some of the metres of the Shepheards Calender he was writing Chaucerian
P. 108. Ægloga is so spelled because Spenser thought the word meant goat-song. The word is properly eclogue and means a choice or a chosen song. Phyllis (1. 63) and Tityrus (1. 92) are names
from Vergil (and Theocritus); Thenot (1. 25) is from the French poet Marot.
1. 40. Making music by blowing in pipes made of the straws or stems of oats was conventionally one of the chief occupations of the shepherds in pastoral poems. In England corn never means maize, Indian corn, but simply grain.
P. 109. ll. 65-66. A gilt girdle embossed with glass beads (buegle or bugle) was an appropriate gift to win the love of Phyllis, the country maid.
1. 92. By Tityrus Spenser usually indicates Chaucer, but this tale of the Oak and the Briar is not from Chaucer.
1. 116. Thelement: the element par excellence, i.e., the air, the other three elements being earth, water, and fire.
THE FAERIE QUEENE
Pp. 111 ff. Spenser's design in writing the Faerie Queene is best told in his own words in a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh:
"The generall end therefore of all the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline: Which for that I conceived shoulde be most plausible and pleasing, being coloured with an historicall fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for variety of matter than for profite of the ensample, I chose the historye of King Arthure, as most fitte for the excellency of his person, being made famous by many mens former workes, and also furthest from the daunger of envy, and suspition of present time. I labour to pourtraict in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a brave knight, perfected in the twelve private morall vertues, as Aristotle hath devised; the which is the purpose of these first twelve bookes: which if I finde to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged to frame the other part of polliticke vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king. . . In that Faery Queene I meane glory in my generall intention, but in my particular I conceive the most excellent and glorious person of our soveraine the Queene, and her kingdome in Faery Land. And yet, in some places els, I doe otherwise shadow her. For considering she beareth two persons, the one of a most royall Queene or Empresse, the other of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in some places I doe expresse in Belphoebe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia, (Phoebe and Cynthia being both names of Diana). So in the person of Prince Arthure I sette forth magnificence in particular; which vertue, for that (according to
Aristotle and the rest) it is the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all, therefore in the whole course I mention the deedes of Arthure applyable to that vertue which I write of in that booke. But of the xii. other vertues I make xii. other knights the patrones [i.e., patterns, models], for the more variety of the history: of which these three bookes contayn three. The first of the Knight of the Redcrosse, in whome I expresse holynes: The seconde of Sir Guyon, in whome I sette forth temperaunce: The third of Britomartis, a lady knight, in whome I picture chastity.
"The beginning therefore of my history, if it were to be told by an Historiographer, should be the twelfth booke, which is the last; where I devise that the Faery Queene kept her Annuall feaste xii. dayes, uppon which xii. severall dayes, the occasions of the xii. severall adventures hapned, which being undertaken by xii. severall knights, are in these xii. books severally handled and discoursed. The first was this. In the beginning of the feast, there presented him selfe a tall clownishe younge man, who, falling before the Queen of Faries, desired a boone (as the manner then was) which during that feast she might not refuse: which was that hee might have the atchievement of any adventure, which during that feaste should happen: that being graunted, he rested him on the floore, unfitte through his rusticity for a better place. Soone after entred a faire Ladye in mourning weedes, riding on a white Asse, with a dwarfe behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the Armes of a knight, and his speare in the dwarfes hand. Shee, falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother, an ancient King and Queene, had bene by an huge dragon many years shut up in a brasen Castle, who thence suffred them not to yssew; and therefore besought the Faery Queene to assygne her some one of her knights to take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish person, upstarting, desired that adventure: whereat the Queene much wondering, and the Lady much gainesaying, yet he earnestly importuned his desire. In the end the lady told him, that unless that armour which she brought would serve him (that is, the armour of a Christian man specified by Saint Paul, vi. Ephes.), that he could not succeed in that enterprise which being forthwith put upon him with dewe furnitures thereunto, he seemed the goodliest man in al that company, and was well liked of the Lady. And eftesoones taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that straunge Courser, he went forth with her on that adventure: where beginneth the first booke, viz.
Aside from its length, The Faerie Queene as planned was impracticable. Medieval poems, such as the Roman de la Rose and the romances of the Grail Cycle, had indeed personified abstract qualities and allegorized situations and actions; but Spenser's outline called, first, for a much more elaborate display of the virtues and vices and their conflicts with one another, and, secondly, for historical interpretations also of characters and scenes involved in the romance. In the First Book he succeeds fairly well with the efforts of the Red Cross Knight to free the church from Error, Hypocrisy, and the great dragon, Sin; but as the poem advanced, the plots inevitably became entangled, the characters and situations inconsistent, and the allegory obscured.
Moreover, the structural weakness of the poem, as shown in Spenser's outline, involves an intolerable degree of suspense if the work is to be regarded as a continuous whole. If, however, each book is read separately with the emphasis on the romance rather than on the allegory, the poem can scarcely fail to give great pleasure, both by its continual appeal to the imagination, and by its wonderful verse movement and perfect adaptation of sound to sense.
The nine-line stanza used was invented by Spenser and is named for him Spenserian. It consists of the ten-syllabled eight-line stanza which had been in common use earlier, plus an alexandrine, or twelve-syllabled line rhyming with the eighth line. The rhyme-scheme is, then, ababbcbcc. The movement is full of dignity, but necessarily slow (cf. Pope's clever gibe at the Alexandrine in the Essay on Criticism, II, 356357).
The key to the allegory in the passages quoted
The Red Cross Knight (1. 1), holiness, Church of England.
Gloriana (1. 20), glory, Elizabeth. Dragon (1. 27), sin.
The Lady (1. 28), Una, truth.
The ass (1. 29), humility.
The milkwhite lamb (1. 36), innocence.
The dwarf (1. 46), prudence. The aged sire, Archimago (the chief magician, 1. 384), hypocrisy; also Jesuitism.
The lion (1. 38), strength of mind.
Stanzas VIII to XXVIII tell how Error and her brood are overcome by the knight; but he and the lady then fall into the clutches of Hypocrisy.
P. 113. Canto I, 1. 313. file his tongue, polish it so that it would utter smooth words.
1. 317. sad humor, heavy vapor.
1. 328. In late classic writers, Proserpine, the wife of Pluto (Hades), came to be associated and even confused with Hecate, the goddess of magic (1. 381). Cf. Gayley's Classic Myths, pp. 83, 84.
1. 332. Gorgon, i.e., Demogorgon. This name was first given to Pluto, seemingly, by a writer of the fifth century A.D. It appears in Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum, which is supposed to be the source of Ariosto. Spenser probably got it from Ariosto, and Milton (Paradise Lost, II, 965) from Spenser.
1. 333. Styx and Cocytus are two of the rivers in the kingdom of the dead. There were two or (according to some authors) three others.
11. 343-387. The visit of a messenger to the house of Morpheus occurs in Ovid's Metamorphoses (XI, 592-632), and has been borrowed and worked up by many later poets, Chaucer among them. Chaucer in his Death of Blanche the Duchess (l. 160–165) has just the hint of Spenser's wonderful description of the cave of sleep in the lines:
"Save ther were a fewe welles
Came rennyng fro the cliffes a-doun, That made a deedly, slepyng soun, And ronnen doun right by a cave That was under a rokke y-grave Amidde the valey, wonder depe."
1. 348. Tethys, a Titaness, i.e., one of the older race of gods, overthrown by Jupiter (cf. Keats's Hyperion). She was the wife of Oceanus, the ocean, another of the same line. his refers to Morpheus, whose bed was beneath the sea.
Pp. 115 ff. The custom of writing a poem to celebrate a wedding and to be sung at the bride's house by a procession of youths and maidens is classical. Such poems were called Epithalamia, or hymeneal songs.
1. 1. learned sisters, the Muses, who are regularly invoked by poets. Cf. Gayley's Classic Myths.
1. 7. Probably an allusion to Spenser's Tears of the Muses.
1. 16. Orpheus, cf. Gayley's Classic Myths; also Milton's L'Allegro, l. 145-150, Lycidas, 11. 58-63, and notes on these lines.
1. 25. Hymen, god of marriage, represented in art as a winged youth bearing a lighted torch and the nuptial veil. He was supposed to lead the wedding procession or masque (1. 26).
1. 43. Flowers of early summer. Spenser was married June 11, St. Barnabas Day, which was then (cf. ll. 265-272) the date of the summer solstice.
1. 44. truelove wise, with truelove knots.
1. 75. Tithon's bed. Aurora, goddess of the dawn, is fabled to have loved Tithonus and to have procured for him from the gods the gift of immortality. Unfortunately she neglected to ask that he should never grow old. Tennyson's fine poem Tithonus depicts the distress which came from this neglect.
1. 83. concent, harmony, from Latin concentus, a singing together.
P. 116. 1.95. Hesperus, the evening star, is here mentioned only for its brightness; but Spenser can hardly have failed to remember the line in the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis in which Catullus speaks of Hesperus as bringer of what the husband desires (1. 328). Tennyson in Locksley Hall Sixty Years After calls Hesper the "bringer home of all good things" (cf. ll. 185-194).
1. 98. Hours, "the goddesses of order in nature, who cause the seasons to change in their regular course, and all things to come into being, blossom, and ripen at the appointed time."
1. 103. The three Graces, as well as the Hours, attended on Venus. Cyprian, because she was supposed to have first landed on Cyprus after her birth in the sea.
1. 190. Medusa was a maiden who dared to vie in beauty with the goddess Minerva. As a punishment her hair was changed into serpents and her appearance became such that all who saw her"read her mazeful head" were turned into stone. Read Shelley's lines On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci:
"Yet it is less the horror than the grace Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone."
P. 117. 1. 269. the Crab, the zodiacal sign Cancer, the first sign after the summer solstice, in which the sun seems to crawl slowly backward from the high point it had reached.
1. 433. The meaning seems to be: "May you (the song), instead of lasting only a short time, as would the ornaments you have taken the place of, be an eternal memorial of my love."
Pp. 117 f. The Amorelli and the Epithalamion were published together in a small volume in 1595; and as the Epithalamion celebrates Spenser's own marriage, it has been assumed that the Amoretti celebrate his courtship of his wife. Recently this assumption has been attacked, and the theory maintained that the Amoretti, like so many of the sonnet-cycles of the time, were a mere literary exercise of courtly compliment. This may be true; at any rate, it is unsafe to regard these sonnets as strictly autobiographical and to use them as they have been used in writing Spenser's life. Other Elizabethan sonnet-cycles quoted from in this volume are Sidney's Astrophel and Stella, Daniel's Delia, Drayton's Idea, and Shakespeare's Sonnets. For later cycles, see Mrs. Browning and D. G. Rossetti.
VIII, 1. 5. the blinded guest, the god of love. P. 118. XXIV, 1. 10. Helice, the constellation of the Great Bear, by which Greek sailors steered their course (cf. note on L'Allegro, 1. 80).
Pp. 118 ff. The subtitle reads: A Spousall Verse made by Edm. Spenser in Honour of the Double Marriage of the Two Honorable & Vertuous Ladies, the Ladie Elizabeth and the Ladie Katherine Somerset, Daughters to the Right Honourable the Earle of Worcester and espoused to the Two Worthie Gentlemen Master Henry Gilford, and Master William Peter, Esquyers. The occasion seems to have been a real water fête to celebrate the spousall, i.e., formal betrothal, of the two daughters of the Earl of Worcester. The bridegrooms were Sir Henry Guildford and William, Lord Petre. That a distinction between spousall and marriage was made at that time is clear (cf., for example, Faerie Queene (I, x, 4, 7)): "Though spoused, yet wanting wedlocks solemnize." That this poem celebrates such a contracting is indicated by 11.
175-179, which become perfectly clear if "at th' appointed tide" refers to the spousal ceremony while "their bridal day" in the refrain refers forward to the wedding, which did not take place until November 8. It seems certain that the poem was written between the two events.
The names Somerset and Devereux are punned upon in 11. 67 and 153–154 (happy: Fr. heureux).
Perhaps Spenser hoped for some reward for this occasional poem. He says that he has been disappointed after a long stay at court (ll. 5-10), and we know from the dedication of the Four Hymns that he was at Greenwich in September, 1596. His allusions to the favors that he had received from Leicester (ll. 137-142), to his love of London (l. 127-131), and his laudation of the Earl of Essex's fame (l. 145-158) and personal beauty (ll. 163-165) strongly suggest that he used the occasion to solicit Essex's influence with the Queen to secure for him a place that would enable him to live in London. Perhaps he aimed at this result both directly through Essex and indirectly through the Earl of Worcester. But the Queen was disappointed at the results of Essex's expedition (11. 147-152), and he was for a time out of her favor. In any case, the poem seems to have brought no result, as Spenser soon after returned to Ireland.
If the poem is to be read literally as describing a real pageant, the party of the brides set out upon the Lea River (l. 37-38, 114-118), which empties into the Thames opposite Greenwich, where the court then was; and on the Thames, near the place where the poet stood (near Greenwich?), they were met by the "nymphs" (from the Court, then at Greenwich) with flowers and songs, and so passed up the Thames to the Temple (ll. 132136) or to Essex House which stood by it (ll. 137, 163), where they were met by Essex and the bridegrooms.
Compare the regular metre with the refrain at the end of each stanza, and the less regular verse of the Epithalamion.
ll. 42-44. For the story of Jove's changing himself into a swan to win the love of Leda, cf. Gayley's Classic Myths.
Venus' silver team, doves.
P. 119. ll. 78-80. This district of Greece was famed for its beauty, and the name Tempe was generalized to mean any beautiful valley (cf. Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn, l. 7).
1. 121. Cynthia, the moon; a compliment to Elizabeth, as the Virgin Queen, was also implied. P. 120. l. 147-149. The conquest of Cadiz by the English. Essex led the expedition. The