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as himself tells us, first caught his flame by reading Spenser; that our great Milton owned him for his original, as Mr. Dryden assures us ; and that Dryden studied him, and has bestowed more frequent commendations on him than on any other English poet.
The most known and celebrated of his Works, though I will not say the most perfect, is the Faeric Queene : it is conceived, wrought up, and coloured with a stronger fancy, and discovers more the particular genius of Spenser than any of his other writings. The Author, in a Letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, having called this poem a continued allegory, or dark conceit, it may not be improper to offer some Remarks on Allegorical Poetry in general, by which the beauties of this Work may more easily be discovered by ordinary readers. I must, at the same time, beg the indulgence of those, who are conversant with critical discourses, to what I shall here propose ; this being a subject something out of the way, and not expressly treated upon by those who have laid down rules for the art of poetry.
An Allegory is a fable or story in which, under imaginary persons or things, is shadowed some real action or instructive moral; or, as I think it is somewhere very shortly defined by Plutarch, it is that i in which one thing is related, and another thing is under. stood. It is a kind of poetical picture, or
hieroglyphick, which, by its apt resemblance, conveys instruction to the mind by an analogy to the senses, and so amuses the fancy, whilst it informs the understanding. Every allegory has, therefore, two sepses, the literal and the mystical: the literal sense is like a dream or vision, of which the mystical sense is the true meaning or interpretation.
This will be more clearly apprehended by considering, that as a simile is but a more extended metaphor, so an allegory is a kind of continued simile, or an assemblage of similitudes drawn out at full length. Thus, when it is said that Death is the offspring of Sin, this is a metaphor, to signify that the former is produced by the latter, as a child is brought into the world by its parent. Again, to compare Death to a meagre and ghastly apparition, starting out of the ground, moving towards the spectator with a menacing air, and shaking in his hand a bloody dart, is a representation of the terrours which attend that great enemy to
human nature. But let the reader observe, in Milton's Paradise Lost, with that exquisite fancy and skill this common metaphor and simile, and the moral con, tained in them, are extended and wrought up into one of the most beautiful allegories in our language.
The resemblance which has been so often ohserved in general between poetry and painting is
yet more particular in allegory, which, as I said before, is a kind of picture in poetry. Horace has, in one of his Odes, pathetically described the ruinous condition of his country after the Civil wars, and the hazard of its being involved in new dissensions, by the emblem of a ship shattered with storms, and driven into port with broken masts, torn sails, and disabled rigging, and in danger of being forced, by new storms, out to sea again. There is nothing said in the whole Ode but what is literally applicable to a ship; but it is generally agreed that the thing signified is the Roman State. Thus Rubens, who had a good allegorical genius in painting, has, in his famous work of the Luxemburg gallery, figured the government of France, on Lewis XIII.'s arrive ing at age, by a galley. The King stands at the helm ; Mary of Medicis, the Queen-mother and Regent, puts the rudder in his hand ; Justice, Fortitude, Religion, and Public Faith, are seated at the oars; and other Virtues have their proper employments in managing the sails and tackle.
By this general description of Allegory, it may easily be conceived, that in works of this kind there is a large field open to invention, which among the Ancients was universally looked upon to be the principal part of poetry. of raising images resemblances of thing giving them life and action, and presenting them as it were before the eyes, was thought to have
something in it like creation; and it was probably for this fabling part that the first authors of such works were called Poets or Makers, as the word signifies, and as it is literally translated and used by Spenser ; though the learned Gerard Vossius * is of opinion that it was rather for the framing their verses. However, by this art of fiction or allegory, more than by the structure of their numbers, or what we now call Versification, the poets were distinguished from historians and philosophers, though the latter sometimes invaded the province of the poet, and delivered their doctrines likewise in allegories or parables : and this, when they did not purposely make them obscure in order to conceal them from the common people, was a plain indication that they thought there was an advantage in such methods of conveying instruction to the mind; and that they served for the more effectual engaging the attention of the hearers, and for leaving deeper impressions on their memories.
Plutarch, in one of his discourses, gives a very good reason for the use of fiction in poetry, bee cause “ Truth of itself is rigid and austere, cannot be moulded into such agreeable forms as fiction can.
For neither the numbers,' says he, nor the ranging of the words, nor the ele• vation and elegance of the style, have so many graces as the artful contrivance and disposition
* De Arte Poetica, cap. 3, § 16. HUGHES.
of the fable.' For this reason, as he relates it after Plato, when the wise Socrates himself was prompted by a particular impulse to the writing of verses, being by his constant employment in the study of truth a stranger to the art of invention, he chose for his subject the Fables of Æsop, thinking,' says Plutarch, that any thing could be poetry which was void of fiction.'
The same author makes use of a comparison, in another place, which I think may be most properly applied to allegorical poetry in particular ; that as
grapes on a vine are covered by the leaves • which grow about them, so under the pleasant
narrations and fictions of the poets there are 'couched many useful morals and doctrines.'
It is for this reason, that is to say, in regard to the moral sense, that allegory has a liberty indulged to it beyond any other sort of writing whatsoever; that it often assembles things of the most contrary kinds in nature, and
supposes even impossibilities ; as that a golden bough should grow among the common branches of a tree, as Virgil has described it in the Sixth Book of his Æneis. Allegory is indeed the Fairy Land' of poetry, peopled by imagination ; its inhabitants are so many äpparitions ; its woods, caves, wild beasts, rivers, mountains, and palaces, are produced by a kind of magical power, and are all visionary and typical; and it abounds in such licences as would be shocking and monstrous,