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Woods and groves are of thy dressing,
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
, Thus we salute thee with our early song,
t And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
Spenser's "Lord! how all creatures laugh'd " is an instance of joyous and impulsive expression not common with English poets, out of the pale of comedy. They have geniality in abundance, but not animal spirits.
AN ANGEL, WITH A PILGRIM AND A FAINTING KNIGHT.
Character, Active Superhuman Beauty, with the finest coloring and contrast; Painter, the same.
During the while that Guyon did abide
In Mammon's house, the palmer, whom whilere
That wanton maid of passage had denied,
By further search had passage found elsewhere;
And being on his way, approached near
While Guyon lay in trance: when suddenly
He heard a voice that called loud and clear,
"Come hither, hither, O come hastily!"
That all the fields resounded with the rueful cry.
The palmer leant his ear unto the noise,
To weet who call'd so importunedly;
Again he heard a more enforced voice,
That bade him come in haste. He by-and-bye
His feeble feet directed to the cry;
Which to that shady delve him brought at last,
Where Mammon earst did sun his treasury:
There the good Guyon he found slumbering fast
In senseless dream; which sight at first him sore aghast.
Beside his head there sat a fair young man,34
Of wondrous beauty and of freshest years,
Whose tender bud to blossom new began,
And flourish far above his equal peers;
His snowy front, curled with golden hairs,
Like Phoebus' face adorn'd with sunny rays,
Divinely shone; and two sharp winged shears,
Decked with diverse plumes, lite painted jays,
Were fixed at his back to cut his airy ways. t
""Beside his head," &c—The superhuman beauty of this angel should be Raphael's, yet the picture, as a whole, demands Titian; and the painter of Bacchus was not incapable of the most imaginative exaltation of countenance. As to the angel's body, no one could have painted it like him,—nor the beautiful jay's wings; not to mention the contrast between the pilgrim's weeds and the knight's armor. See a picture of Venus blinding Cupid, beautifully engraved by Sir Robert Strange, in which the Cupid has variegated wings.
AURORA AND TITHONUS.
Character, Young and Genial Beauty, contrasted with Age,—the accessories full of the mixed warmth and chillness of morning; Painter, Guido.
The joyous day 'gan early to appear,
And fair Aurora from the dewy bed
Of aged Tithon 'gan herself to rear
With rosy cheeks, for shame as blushing red.
Her golden locks, for haste, were loosely shed
About her ears, when Una did her mark
Climb to her chariot, all with flowers spread,
From heaven high to chase the cheerless dark:
With merry note her loud salutes the mounting lark.
THE BRIDE AT THE ALTAR.
Character, Flushed yet Lady-like Beauty, with ecstatic Angels regarding her; Painter, the same.
Behold, while she before the altar stands,
Hearing the holy priest that to her speaks,
And blesses her with his two happy hands,
How the red roses flush up in her cheeks!
And the pure snow, with goodly vermeil stain,
Like crimson dyed in grain!
That ev'n the angels, which continually
About the sacred altar do remain,
Forget their service and about her fly,
Oft peeping in her face, that seems more fair 35
The more they on it stare;
But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground,
Are governed with goodly modesty,
That suffers not one look to glance awry,
Which may let in a little thought unsound.
w " Oft peeping in her face," &c.—I cannot think the words peeping and stare, the best which the poet could have used; but he is aggravating the beauties of his bride in a long epithalamium, and sacrificing everything to her superiority. The third line is felicitous.
A NYMPH BATHING.
Character, Ecstacy of Conscious and Luxurious Beauty; Painter, Guido.
—Her fair locks which formerly were bound
Up in one knot, she low adown did loose,
Which flowing long and thick, her cloth'd around,
And the ivory in golden mantle gown'd,
So that fair spectacle was from him reft,
Yet that which reft it, no less fair was found:
So hid in locks and waves from looker's theft,
JVaught but her lovely face she for his looking left.
Withal she laughed, and she blush'd withal,3'
That blushing to her laughter gave more grace,
And laughter to her blushing.
36 " Withal she laugh'd," &c.—Perhaps this is the loveliest thing of the kind, mixing the sensual with the graceful, that ever was painted. The couplet, So hid in locks and waves, &c, would be an excessive instance of the sweets of alliteration, could we bear to miss a particle of it.
THE CAVE OF DESPAIR.
Character, Savage and Forlorn Scenery, occupied by Squalid Misery;
Painter, Salvator Rosa.
Ere long they come where that same wicked wight
His dwelling has, low in a hollow cave.
Far underneath a craggy cliff ypight,
Dark, doleful, dreary, like a greedy grave,
That still for carrion carcasses doth crave;
On top whereof ay dwelt the ghastly owl,
Shrieking his baleful note, which ever drave
Far from that haunt all other cheerful fowl,
And all about it wand'ring ghosts did wail and howl:
And all about old stocks and stubs of trees,
Whereon nor fruit nor leaf was ever seen,
Did hang upon the ragged rocky knees,
On which had many wretches hanged been,
Whose carcasses were scattered on the green,
And thrown about the cliffs. Arrived there,
That bare-head knight, for dread and doleful teen,*
Would fain have fled, nor durst approachen near,
But th' other forc'd him stay and comforted in fear.
Look'd deadly dull, and stared as astoun'd;
His raw-bone cheeks, through penury and pine,
Were shrunk into his jaws, as he did never dine.
That darksome cave they enter where they find
That cursed man low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullen mind;
His griesly locks, long growen and unbound,
Disordered hung about his shoulders round,
And hid his face through which the hollow eyne.
His garment naught but many ragged clouts,
With thorns together pinn'd and patched was,
The which his naked sides he wrapp'd about;
And him beside there lay upon the grass
A dreary corse, whose life away did pass,
All wallow'd in his own yet lukewarm blood,
That from his wound yet welled fresh alas!
In which a rusty knife fast fixed stood,
And made an open passage for the gushing flood.
Still finer than this description are the morbid sophistry and the fascinations of terror that follow it in the original; but as they are less poetical or pictorial than argumentative, the extract is limited accordingly. There is a tradition that when Sir Philip Sidney read this part of the Faerie Queene, he fell into transports of admiration.
A KNIGHT IN BRIGHT ARMOR LOOKING INTO A CAVE.
Character, A deep effect of Chiaroscuro, making deformity visible;
But full of fire and greedy hardiment,
The youthful knight would not for aught be stay'd,
But forth unto the darksonie hole he went,
And looked in. His glistering armor made
A little glooming light, much like a shade ;37
By which he saw the ugly monster plain,
Half like a serpent horribly display'd,
But th' other half did woman's shape retain,
Most loathsome, filthy foul, and full of vile disdain.