Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

and luxurious imagery, enriched with wondrous sweetness of versification, is but to echo the universal verdict of critics. Campbell styles Spenser the “Rubens of English poetry,” while Charles Lamb refers to him as “the Poets' poet ;” and such, indeed, he is : for not only was he the special favourite of Milton, Dryden, Pope, and Gray, but there has scarcely been any eminent poet since his day who has not delighted to peruse, if not to pilfer from, his prolific productions. Leigh Hunt considers him, in the imaginative faculty, superior even to Milton; his grand characteristic is poetic luxury. Another of our noted bards speaks of him as “steeped in romance ;” and as “the prince of magicians.” Glance at his group of the Seasons ; how daintily his allegorical impersonations are decked with Aowers, and redolent with perfume :

[graphic]

So forth issew'd the seasons of the yeare :

First, lusty Spring all dight in leaves of Aowres
That freshly budded and new bloosmes did beare,

In which a thousand birds had built their bowres

That sweetly sung to call forth paramours;
And in his hand a iavelin he did beare,

And on his head (as fit for warlike stoures)
A guilt engraven morion he did weare ;
That as some did him love, so others did him feare.

Then came the iolly Sommer, being dight

In a thin silken cassock colored greene,
That was unlyned all, to be more light :

And on his head a girlond well beseene
He wore, from which as he had chauffed been

[graphic]

The sweat did drop; and in his hand he bore

A bowe and shaftes, as he in forrest greene Had hunted late the libbard or the bore, And now would bathe his limbes with labor heated sore.

[graphic]

Then came the Autumne all in yellow clad,
As though he ioyed in his plentious store,

Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad

That he had banisht hunger, which to-fore

Had by the belly oft him pinchèd sore: Upon his head a wreath, that was enrold

With eares of corne of every sort, he bore ; And in his hand a sickle he did holde, To reape the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.

[graphic]

Lastly came Winter cloathed all in frize,

Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill ; Whilst on his hoary beard his breath did freese,

And the dull drops, that from his purpled bill

As from a limbeck did adown distil : In his right hand a tipped staffe he held,

With which his feeble steps he stayed still ; For he was faint with cold, and weak with eld, That scarce his loosed limbes he able was to weld.

In these glowing lines, Spenser pays beautiful tribute to the Aoral month of May :

Then came faire May, the fairest maid on ground,

Deck'd all with dainties of her season's pride, And throwing Aowres out of her lap around;

Upon two brethren's shoulders she did ride,

The twins of Leda ; which, on either side,
Supported her like to their sovereign queene.

Lord! how all creatures laugh'd when her they spied,
And leap'd and danced as they had ravisht been;
And Cupid's self about her flutter'd all in greene.

Here is another choice stanza from the Faerie Queene, descriptive of Una (the impersonation of Faith)—"radiant with beauty beaming through her tears:” —

One day, nigh wearie of the yrkesome waye,

From her unhastie beaste she did alight :
And on the grasse her daintie limbes did laye

In secrete shadow, far from all mens sight :

From her fayre head her fillet she undight
And layd her stole aside : her angels-face,

As the great eye of heaven, shyned bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place :
Did ever mortall eye behold such heavenly grace ?

The original plan of this work contemplated twelve books, “ fashioning twelve moral virtues ;” of these, however, we have only six ; the others, if ever written, were probably destroyed with the rest of his property, and, it is said, his child, in the burning of his castle in Ireland during the rebellion. There is a story on record, but generally discredited, to the effect that when Spenser took his manuscript of the Faerie Queene to the Earl of Southampton,the great patron of the poets of his day,—that after reading a few pages, his lordship ordered his servant to carry to the author twenty pounds. Reading further, he cried out in a rapture, “Give him twenty more :” proceeding still with the perusal, he soon again stopped, and added another twenty pounds : but at length, checking his enthusiasm, he told his servant to “put him out of his house

or he should be ruined.” Sad to state, the close of our gentle poet's career was full of sorrow. He died at an inn in London, it is said, in poverty, and of a broken heart for his loss. Ben Jonson affirms that he died “for lack of bread,” and that when Lord Essex sent him (too late) twenty guineas, Spenser refused the gift, saying, “ He was sorry he had no time to spend them.” He was the friend of Sidney, at whose estate, Penshurst, these gifted sons of genius consecrated many happy hours to friendship and the muse. In 1580 the poets separated, one to the service of the camp, the other to his estate in Ireland, where he became acquainted with another master-spirit, Sir Walter Raleigh, by whom he was introduced to Queen Elizabeth.

When we conceive,” says Campbell, “Spenser reciting his compositions to Raleigh, in a scene so beautifully appropriate, the mind casts a pleasing retrospect over that influence which the enterprise of the discoverer of Virginia, and the genius of the author of the Faerie Queene,' have respectively produced on the fortune and language of England. The fancy might even be pardoned for a momentary superstition, that the genius of their country hovered unseen over their meeting, casting her first look of regard on the poet that was destined to inspire her future Milton, and the other on the maritime hero who paved the way for colonizing distant regions of the earth, where the language of England was to be spoken, and the poetry of Spenser to be admired.”

SHAKSPEARE, whom Bunsen styles “the great prophet of human destinies on the awakening of a new world,” was, in his fifteenth year, withdrawn from the “free school,” where, in the words of Ben Jonson," he had acquired small Latin and less Greek,” for the purpose of aiding his father's business, which, according to Aubrey, was then that of a butcher; and that “when he killed a calf, he would do it in a high style, and make a speeche.” A pursuit so uncongenial naturally tended to pervert his taste, and we soon find him among the roystering fraternities, known as “the topers and sippers” of Stratford, “ so renowned for the excellence of its beer

« AnteriorContinuar »