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but the latter has that sort of unity and simplicity which results from its nature." He discovers the unity of the poem in the "relation of its several adventures to one common original, the appointment of the Fairy Queen;" and to one common end, the completion of her injunctions. It is a unity of design, not of action. The poem is moulded to the moral. Out of the twelve virtues one illustrious character is to be composed; and this circumstance explains the subordinate position of Arthur who is to obtain the object of his labours, Gloriana, not by surpassing every knight in his own peculiar virtue, but by combining "the whole circle of their virtues in himself." Hurd concludes, therefore, that the allegory of the Fairy Queen is governed by the moral, while the narrative is conducted on the ideas and customs of chivalry. Either of the designs might have been clearly carried out; united, they become perplexed and difficult of separation. The allegory entangles the narrative; and the narrative impedes the allegory.
But these objections, though they may exercise the ingenuity of the critic, detract very slightly from the pleasure of the reader; and it has been happily observed, that the heart is won, while the poetical canon is enforced. I look, with an anxious hope, to some future opportunity of bringing Spenser prominently forward as the Sacred Poet of our country. In so doing, I shall be supported and confirmed by the opinion and example of one of the sweetest poets of our age, who with many of Spenser's notes, has also imbibed much of Spenser's enthusiasm *. "He was in every way calculated," observes the excellent writer, "to answer the purposes of his art, especially in an age of excitation and refinement, in which the gentler and more homely beauties, both of character and of scenery, are too apt
* See an article in the thirty-second volume of the Quarterly Review, p. 231, attributed to Professor Keble.
to be despised; with passion and interest enough to attract the most ardent, and grace enough to win the most polished; and yet hy a silent preference everywhere inculcating the love of better and more enduring things." Nor will the lineaments of the Christian character be darkened, to any thoughtful eye, by those "allegorical devises" in which the poet, in his own words, loved cloudily to enwrap them. Spenser should, indeed, he read, as Thomas Warton loved to read him,
At the root of mossy trunk reclined.
Pleasures of Melancholy.
The Muse of his verse seems only to lift her veil before the student in the quiet hour of contemplation; there all the charms of his intellectual physiognomy dawn in their natural lustre,—his touching pathos, his moral dignity^ and his pensive tenderness.
Sir William Temple regretted that Spenser had not more completely enveloped his moral in his fancy. But the Christian may rejoice in the censure. It is this undertone of religious feeling, mingling with, and melting into, all the rich and various music of his fancy, that imparts to the reflective reader so delicate and lasting a pleasure. Truth seems to glimmer through the darkest allegory, and like his own Una, resting in the w8od when fatigued with the search after her knight, "her angel's face," continually pours
A sunshine in the shady place. His pictures glow with a southern sunshine, but their richest colours are frequently employed, to heighten and embellish the portrait of Virtue, and his most gorgeous descriptions often point their moral to the heart. His own exquisite line,
Virtue gives herself light through darkness for to wade, might be prefixed as the motto to his poem.
The Fairy Queen is not, indeed, a perfect poem— breathing throughout the solemn sanctity of Milton, and preserving unruffled the serene aspect of a religious fancy. Although the author was above his age, he was of it. Hurd said that he copied the disorder of Ariosto*; and the image of that Glory, who is the emblem of Virtue, is sometimes disturbed and broken up by new currents of thought; but the ripple subsides, and the image re-appears.
The claim of Spenser to the title of a Sacred Poet is, however, to be estimated by the treasures we have lost, as well as by those which we possess. His translation of Ecclesiastes, of the Song of Songs, the Hours of our Lord, the Sacrifice of a Sinner, and the Seven Psalms, are sought for in vain; but the Hymns of Heavenly Love and Heavenly Beauty are happily preserved. They were written to counteract the prejudicial influence of some lighter compositions, produced, as he told the Countess of Warwick, in the "greener times" of his youth. Warton refers to the sixth canto of the third book of the Fairy Queen, for additional evidence of Spenser's attachment to the Platonic School. His friend Sir Philip Sidney, had already, in the Apology for Poetry, recommended the devotion of the lyre to the "praises of the immortal beauty;" and a simila&train of thought had been diffused by Boethius, the most popular author of the time. The poet might, also, have caught a few notes of the same philosophy from his master Chaucer t. They are written i) in his plainest manner, and breathe a glowing spirit of devotion. The following stanzas are taken from the Hymn of Heavenly Love.
Then let thy flinty heart, that feels no pain
* Discourse on Poetical Imitation.
From the Hymn of Heavenly Beauty :—
All joy, all blisse, all happinesse, have place;
For she, out of her secret treasury,
None thereof worthy bee but those whom she
In which they see such admirable things,
As carries them into an extasy,
And hear such heavenly notes and carolings
Of God's high praise, that fills the brazen sky,
And feel such joy and pleasure inwardly,
That maketh them all worldly cares forget,
And only think on that before them set.
Ne from thenceforth doth any fleshly sense
Or idle thought of earthly things remain,
But all that earst seemed sweet seems now offence,
And all that pleased earst now seems to pain;
Their joy, their comfort, their desire, their gain,
Is fixed all on that which now they see,
All other sights but fained shadowes bee.
And that fair lanipe which useth to inflame
So full their eyes are of that glorious sight,
And senses fraught with such satietie,
That in nought else on earth they can delight
But in the respect of that felicitie,
Which they have written in their inward eye;