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his own works display: his moral feeling, even in his own impure age, gave tone to his poetical genius. Indeed it is not the least merit of his poetry, that it flows from a pure and elevated moral nature. Had his taste been as refined as his moral sense was pure and noble, his creations would be the perfection of purity and dignity; they would have been all grace and beauty; "they would have melted with their own sweetness. His sensibility and tenderness constantly manifest themselves in the most touching forms; they are conspicuously displayed even amid the clash of arms, and the most daring feats of military prowess; a fondness for which he imbibed from the spirit of the
age, which was full of romance, and illuminated by the departing glories of chivalry.
The departing spirit of chivalry still hovered over the land 'like the genius of an Arabian tale,' and Spenser availed himself of the domains of chivalry and classic fiction, whose resources were as boundless as the imagination, and as rich, in the materials of song.
He has drawn freely from the stores of romance and classical literature, and yet seldom betrays a servile imitation : he marked out a path which genius had not trodden before him. He has a poet's eye for beauty, and a painter's perception of form and grace; and if he does not complete a picture with as few strokes as Chaucer does, yet he has never been excelled in the felicity of his descriptions.
Spenser's wealth of language equals the richness of his imagination, and energizes in poetic forms, with
the greatest ease, the glowing conceptions of his mind. It is claimed, that in him the arts of poetry and painting are as nearly identified as they can be, and that his descriptions variously illustrate the genius of Raphael, Correggio, and other great designers; a very fine conceit, engendered, doubtless, by the spirit of allegory in his Fairy Queen.
However this may be, it will be seen that the colors of these noble specimens of poetic painting are drawn from his mother tongue: his finest touches are executed in the purest Saxon.
VERSIFICATION OF SPENSER.
Spenser, like Chaucer, is the originator of a form of versification, which possesses a great variety of modulation, and is easily adapted to every form of poetical composition. “Its fullness and richness, its flowing melody, and the stately cadence with which it closes, commend it to the ear by the varied music of which it is susceptible, and to the mind by the breadth and expansion, which can be given to the images and sentiments expressed by it." The Spenserian stanza is justly acknowledged to be the richest and most sonorous form of verse in the English language. The variety of its pauses and accents, and the richness of its intonations are unsurpassed : the addition of “that exquisite line," lengthening the time, and increasing the quantity, gives a most charming and elevating effect to its close.
Lo! I, the man || whose muse whilom did mask, ||
Am now enforc'd, I a far unfitter task, I
To blazon broad | among the learned throng ; |
Fairy Queen, book 1. canto 1. Thomson attempted to revive this form of verse, and Byron adopted it as best fitted to express a variety of sentiment, but no one has been successful with it, save the great founder himself. He sustains it with perfect ease, and his sweet strains never surfeit. As Spenser was the first to make use of this stanza, he has also been by far the most successful; and of the many who have been led by his example to adopt it, none has equalled, and few have approached him. “One cannot but wonder at the power with which, to the end of so long a poem, he sustains this difficult form of versification, and pours forth stanza after stanza, without fatigue, and apparently without effort. His wing never flags for a moment, and his verse flows with unbroken ease and sweetness to the last." Even in those passages where the higher powers of the poet are not exercised, where he has no higher aim than to carry on the story, the great power of versification is manifest: with but little departure from the natural order of the words, his stanza are always graceful, flowing and melodious.
THE FAIRY QUEEN. Though the design of this great poem, like Chaucer's Tales, was never completed, yet as it is his master production, it best illustrates his genius. In representing the twelve moral virtues under the allegory of actions and sensible imagery, he has annihilated the bounds that separate the ideal and the real worlds, and exhausted the material, and spiritual, worlds, for elements to illustrate, adorn and moralize his song.
The poet gives form and substance to the abstractions of the mind; imbues them with reason and sentiment, and amid the chivalrous glow, and the pathetic adventures, his creations pass before us in an unbroken procession of beautiful and noble forms.
THE RED CROSS KNIGHT,
OR CHRISTIAN PURITY.
A GENTLE KNIGHT was pricking on the plain,
Full handsome knight he seem'd, and fair did sit
And on his breast a bloody cross he bore,
But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad;
Upon a great adventure he was bound,
Upon his foe, and his new force to learn;
Una's nature is one of spotless excellence, and in her character of purity and innocence, the emblem of truth is recognized : she possesses every element of human perfection. The heavenly Una, with her milkwhite lamb, is one of the loveliest creations of genius: she is the impersonation of truth, faith and love.
A lovely lady rode him sair beside,
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had;
So pure and innocent, as that same lamb,