Page images
PDF
EPUB

Our author's Pastorals are written in professed imitation of Chaucer's style. This he tells us expressly in the beginning of Colin Clouts come home again :

The shepherd's boy, best knowen by that name,

• That after TityRus* first sung his lay.' And the tale of the Oak and Brier, in the Eclogue of Februarie, is more peculiarly modelled after Chaucer's manner, and is accordingly thus introduced :

- A tale of truth • Which I cond of Tityrus in my youth.' And, in another pastoral, he hints at his having copied Chaucer :

• That Colin hight which well could pipe and sing, • For he of TITYRUS his song did lere.'

In the Pastorals he likewise appears to bave attempted an imitation of the Visions of Pierce Plowman ; for after exhorting his Muse not to contend with 'Chaucer, he adds, in the Epilogue to the Shep.-Cal. • Nor with the Plowman that the pilgrim playde

awhile.'

* Milton, in imitation of our author, styles Chaucer TITY. RUS, where he hints at Chaucer's having travelled into Italy, Mans. v. 34 Quin et in has quondam pervenit TITYRUS oras.'

T. WARTON.

And besides, that his Pastorals might, in every respect, have the air of a work in old English, he has adopted and given them the title of an old book, called the SHEPHEARD'S KALENDER, first printed by Wynkin de Worde, and reprinted about twenty years before he published these Pastorals, viz, in 1559. This is what E. K. means, where he says in his epistle prefixed, · He tearmeth it • the SuePHERDS KALENDER, applying an old

name to a new work.' One of Spenser's reasons for using so much ancient phraseology in these Pastorals, was undoubtedly the obvious one of clothing rural characters in the dress of Dorick simplicity ; but the principal reason is most probably, that which is delivered by his friend and commentator, E. K., who was ‘ privie to all his

designs:'- In myne opinion, it is one especial prayse of many which are due to this poet, that • he hath laboured to restore, as to their rightful

heritage, such good and natural English words, as have been long time out of use, and almost cleane disherited; which is the only cause that

our mother-tongue, which truly of itselfe is both . full enough for prose, and stately enough for verse, hath long time beene counted most bare and barren of both; which default, when as some have endeavoured to salve and recure, they patched up the holes with peeces and ragges of • other languages; borrowing here of the French,

there of the Italian, and every where of the

· Latine ; pot weighing how ill those tongues « accord with themselves, but much worse with

ours; so now they have made our Englishe 'tongue a gallimaufrey, or hodge-podge of all other speeches.' Thus that, which induced Spenser to adopt so much obsolete language in the Pastorals, induced him likewise to do the same in the Faerie Quecne. Hence too it appears, that he was disgusted with the practice of his contemporary writers, who had adulterated, according to his judgment, the purity of the English tongue, by various innovations froin the Spanish, French, Latin, and Italian. And, that this was a prevailing affectation in the age of queen Elizabeth, may be concluded from the following passages.

Thus Marston in his Satires, Proem. b. 2.

"I cannot quote a motte Italienate;
• Or brand my Satires with a Spanish terme.'

Bishop Hall in his Satires, published in 1597 :

There if he can with termes Italianate,
Big-sounding sentences, &c.'

And Camden, having given us a specimen of the Lord's prayer in old English, has these words : • Hitherto will our sparkfull youth laugh at their

great grand-fathers English, who had more care ' to do well, than to speak minion-like; and left

6

more glory to us by their exploiting great

actes, than we shall by our forging new words, and uncouth phrases.' Remains, Artic. Languages. A learned gentleman, one R. C. [Carew] who has addressed a letter to Camden, inserted in that author's Remains, thus speaks. “So have

our Italian travellers brought us acquainted of

their sweet-relished phrases ; even we seeke to • make our good of our late Spanish enemie, and

fear as little the hurt of his tongue, as the dint r of his sword.' Again, · We within these sixty

years have incorporated so many Latin and • French words, as the third part of our tongue

consisteth now in them.' And Ascham, in his Schole-Master, informs us, that not only the language, but the manners, of Italy had totally infected his country-men, where he is describing the ITALIANIZED ENGLISHMAN*.

Our author's disapprobation of this practice appears more fully from his own words, where he expressly hints that Chaucer's language, which he so closely copied, was the pure English, F. Q. iv. ii. 32.

[ocr errors]

• Dan Chaucer well or ENGLISH UNDEFILDET:

* The same author aequaints us, that about this time an infinite number of Italian books were translated into English: among the rest, were many Italian novels; the translations of which, Shakspeare manifestly made use of for some of his plots,

T. WARTON. + A learned and sagacious lexicographer gives a very different account of the purity of Chaucer's style. •Chaucerus, permisso

But although Spenser disapproved of this corrupt adulteration of style, 80 fashionable in his age, yet we find him notwithstanding frequently introducing words from a foreign tongue, such as, visnomie, amenance, arret, mesprise, sovenance, affrap, aguise, amenage, abase, and the like; but these words the frequent return of his rhyme obliged him to introduce, and accordingly they will generally be found at the end of his lines. The poverty of our tongue, or rather the unfrequency of its identical terminations, compelled him likewise, for the sake of rhyme, perpetually to coin new English words, such as damnify'd, unmercify'd, wonderment, warriment, unruliment, habitaunce, hazardrie, &c. To this cause his many Latinisms also may be attributed, which, like all the rest, are substituted to make out the necessary jing

The censure of Ben Jonson, in his Discoveries, upon our author's style, is perhaps unreasonable : • Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language. The ground-work and substance of his style is the language of his age. This indeed is seasoned with various expressions, adopted from the elder poets ; but in such a manner, that the

exemplo, integris vocum plaustrisex eadem Gallia in nostram ' linguam invectis; eam, nimis antea a Normannorum victo. * ria adulteratam, omni fere nativa gratia et nitore spoliavit,

pro genuinis coloribus fucum illinens, pro vera facie larvam 'induens.' Skinner, Præfat, ad Etymolog. Ling. Anglic.

T. WARTON.

[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »