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plithed. His method i at least, is very different from that which was practised by Homer and Virgil, in conducting their heroes to their proposed end. If it should be en quired bow it is chat ARTHUR 'executes the grand, finple, and ultimate design intended by Spenfer, it may be alleged that the hero, by lending his respective assistance to each of the twelve knights; approaches, in his allotted defence of them, ftill dearer and nearer to glory, till at last he gains a complete poffeffion. But the reward in this case is fupel rior to the merit. ARTHUR, instead of merely giving his aid to the other knights, should have been the leading adventurer.". If in his own person he had exerted himself in the protection of the twelve virtues, he might deservedly have been styled the perfect paccern of all, and have luca ceeded in the cask afligned, the attainment of glory. As macters now ftand, the difficulties which we expect Areliur to furmount, in order to accomplish his final atchievement; are removed by others; and therefore he only futtains a subordinate or accessory character. On the whole it may be remarked, that the adventures in the" Fairy Queen," when separately taken as the subject of each single book, have not always a mutual dependence upon each other, and confequently do not contribute, in the manner which they ought to have done, to form one legitimate poem. Spenser was probably aware, that by conftituting twelve several adventures for twelve several heroes, the want of a general connection would often be discerned. . Perhaps it was on this account that he was sometimes induced to refuine and finish, in a diftant book, a tale formerly begun and left imperfect. This conduct, however, is highly inartificial; as it deftroys that repose of mind which is felt after having accompanied a hero, through a variety of struggles and diftreffes, to success and victory, To introduce him afterwards in a lower scene of action, is to derogate from his dignity, and to fully the transcendent lustre of his former exploits. It, is probable that Spenser would have involved both himself and his readers in less embarassment, if he had made every book one entire detached poem of twelve cantos, without any reference to the rest." In that case he would have written kwelitoridifferent books, "in each of which he might have coinpleted the pattern of a particular virtue in twelve knights relpectively; whereas by the mes thód he has adopted, his endeavour to represent all the vitues exemplified in one, has failed of success.
Whatever truth there may be in these observations, it is not meant to apply them, in the way of condemnation, to the Fairy Queen." It would not be reasonable to judge Sponser by iprecepts which he did not attend to, and the authority of which was not acknowledged at the period wherein he lived." It would have been totally foreign to his design, and to the nature of his subject, to have conducted it according to the strict laws of classical taste, and the rules of (Aristocle. Our great poet proceeded upon a plan which was derived from the established modes and ideas ofichivalry; and in doing this he wrote with the exuberance of a warm imagination and a strong sensibility. His business was to engage the fancy, and to interest the attention by bold and' Itriking 'images'; which were con. ceived with rapidity, and arranged withour art. As the chief sources of delight were the various and the marvel. lous, Spepfer Nas naturally led to ransack alike the regions of reality and romance, of truth and fiction, in order to find the proper decorations and furniture for his noble undertaking o Deftirute, therefore, as the “ Fairy Queen' may be thought to be of that'economy which epic feverity requitesui.we scarcely regret the loss, while it is so amply fupplied by somebing more powerfully attracting ; something which engages the feelings of the heart, in preference to the cold approbation of the head. If there be any poem, the graces of which please, because they are fituated beyond the reach of art, and in which the force and faculties of creative imagination give the highest delight, Spenser's is that poem. Though the critic may not be fatisfied; the reades is transported; which is perhaps the best of all praises.
Did the nature and limits of our article admit of it,' we might; with the assistance of the able writer who has paid the beft and completeft attention to the subject, enter into aloog difcuffion of the - Fairy Queen.” We might en
large on Spenser's, imitations from old romancos, and from Chaucer and Ariosto; on his use and, abuse of ancient hutory and mythology; op his allegorical character; and on various other particulars: buy it must suffice to take: soine notice of his ttanza, serfification, and languages The stanza, with the addition of one line, was adopted by him from the practice of Ariosto and Talso, the fashionablo poets of the age. But in chufing this stanza, Spenser did. not pay a proper regard to the genius of the English lana guage, whicn does not fall fo easily as the Italian does, into a frequent repeticion of the same terminationNor did Ariosto and 1 atso embarrass themselves with the necessity of finding out fo many similar terminations as Spenser. Ia their « Ortava Rima” there were only three similar endings, alternatively rhyming; and the cwo last lines formed a discinct. ubyme : whereas, in. Spepser, the second thyme is veptated four times, and the third three. By this conGrains, our poeţ was alınot unavoidably led into feveral faules of confiderable magnitude. It hence happened, that however unimportant the thing might be which he in: tended, to express, he was fometimes obliged to dilate it with griding and tedious circumstances. At other times, wh:n matter tailed towards the clole of a stanza, he was la: 1 under the necessity of running into la ridiculous 'rea dundancy and repetition of words; and he iwas occasionally forced to make out his compliment of rhymes, by intro ducing a puerile or impertinent idag. To the difficulty of a stanza, to injudicioully chosen, men be properly imputed the great number of his ellipses; for Hisceafy to riconceive, that the contraint which is productive of fupbifuity, hould be likewise the cause of omillionery
Though these inconveniences flowed from Spenser's measure, it must nevertheless be acknowledged, that fome advantages arose from it; and it may in particular be af firmed, that the fullness and figoificancy of his descriptions are frequently owing to the prolixity of his stanza. Laden as, he was with so many shackles, it is indeed furprising that he should, upon the whole; execute a poem of fach uncommon length with so much ease and spirit. He has not been so careless as co permit the same word to be repeated as a shyme to itself, in more than four or five instances; which is an extraordinary circumstance, when we confider the time wherein he wrote, and the nature of his stanza. Amidst his affected and too frequent use of obsolete words and phrases, his style, in general, is diftinguished by its perfpicuity and facility. His lines are feldom broken by transpositions, antitheses, or parentheses; and his sense and sound are equally flowing and uninterrupted. : In short, when every fault is pointed out which can be ascribed, either to the author himself, or to the age in which he flourished, it will still be found, that he eminently excelled in the richness of his harmony, and the beauty of his verfification.
In the character of a poet, Spenser fustains a very high and eminent rank. We should run no hazard of rational contradiction, were we to affert, that in powers of invention and richness of fancy, he has scarcely ever been exceeded. To the display of these talents, the subjects he was led to by the fashionable reading of the times were peculiarly accoinmodated. There could not be more admirable instruments in the hands of a genuine poet, than the adventures and manners of chivalry, and the superstitions and enchantments of the dark ages. They gave scope for all the wildness and beauty of imagery, and for all the splendour and inajesty of description; circumstances of which Spenser hath availed himself in the highest degree. As, therefore, the “ Fairy Queen” comes recommended to us by so many excellencies, it may be thought surprising that, at present, it should, comparatively, have only a small number of readers. But this may be accounted for from several causes. The cuftonis and manners described by Spenser are vanished away, and confequently are little understood by the bulk of mankind. His allufions, likewise, are often too abstruse and learned for common apprehenfion; and some degree of obsoleteness hangs upon his language. Nor is allegorical poetry adapted to the general understanding. Hence it is that Spenser, with all his merit, can only be the lasting favourite of the few, who, by reading and true taste, are fully qualified to appreciate, and to feel, his transcendent beauties. By such persons, he will be admired and applauded, so long as poetry shall continue to be the object of admiration and applaufe.