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But the prose of Southwell is no less charming than his poetry, as the fol. lowing beautiful extracts will fully show:
MARY MAGDALENE'S TEARS.1
But fear not, Blessed Mary, for thy tears will obtain. They are too mighty orators to let thy suit fall; and though they pleaded at the most rigorous bar, yet have they so persuading a silence
1 This goes upon the supposition that the "woman that was a sinner," whose act of love to the Saviour is recorded in Luke vii. 37-50, was Mary Magdalene; but of this there is not only no proof but very little probability.
and so conquering a complaint, that, by yielding, they overcome, and, by entreating, they command. They tie the tongues of all accusers, and soften the rigor of the severest judge. Yea, they win the invincible and bind the omnipotent. When they seem most pitiful they have greatest power, and being most forsaken they are more victorious. Repentant eyes are the cellars of angels, and penitent tears their sweetest wines, which the savor of life perfumeth, the taste of grace sweeteneth, and the purest color of returning innocency highly beautifieth. This dew of devotion never faileth, but the sun of justice draweth it up, and upon what face soever it droppeth, it maketh it amiable in God's eye. For this water hath thy heart been long a limbeck, sometimes distilling it out of the weeds of thy own offences with the fire of true contrition; sometimes out of the flowers of spiritual comforts with the flames of contemplation; and now out of the bitter herbs of thy master's miseries with the heat of a tender compassion. This water hath better graced thy looks than thy former alluring glances. It hath settled worthier beauties in thy face than all thy artificial paintings. Yea, this only water hath quenched God's anger. qualified his justice, recovered his mercy, merited his love, purchased his pardon, and brought forth the spring of all thy favor. Till death dam up the springs, thy tears shall never cease running; and then shall thy soul be ferried in them to the harbor of life, that, as by them it was first passed from sin to grace, so, in them it may be wafted from grace to glory.
LIFE HATH NO "UNMEDDLED" JOY.
There is in this world continual interchange of pleasing and greeting accidence, still keeping their succession of times, and overtaking each other in their several courses; no picture can be all drawn of the brightest colors, nor a harmony consorted only of trebles; shadows are needful in expressing of proportions, and the bass is a principal part in perfect music; the condition here alloweth no unmeddled joy; our whole life is temperate between sweet and sour, and we must all look for a mixture of both: the wise so wish better that they still think of worse, accepting the one if it come with liking, and bearing the other without impatience, being so much masters of each other's fortunes, that neither shall work them to excess. The dwarf groweth not on the highest hill, nor the tall man loseth not his height in the lowest valley; and as a base mind, though most at ease, will be dejected, so a resolute virtue in the deepest distress is most impregnable.
EDMUND SPENSER. 1553-1599.
Nor shall my verse that elder bard forget,
EDMUND SPENSER,' the illustrious author of the "Faerie Queene," was born in London, 1553. Of his parentage little is known. "The nobility of the Spensers," says Gibbon, "has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of Marlborough: but I exhort them to consider the Faerie Queen as the most precious jewel of their coronet." But his parents were undoubtedly poor, as he entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, 1569, as a sizar. After taking his master's degree in 1578, he went to reside with some relations in the north of England. He remained there but a short time, for in the latter part of the same year he went to London, and published his "Shepherd's Kalendar," a series of twelve eclogues, named after the twelve months of the year. It gave him great reputation at the time as a pastoral poet,3 for it contains many spirited and beautiful passages; but it was written in a language even then too obsolete, and could not have been understood without a commentary. It soon, therefore, lost its popularity, and is now but little read. In the summer of 1580 he went to Ireland, as secretary to Lord Grey, who had been appointed lord lieutenant. On that nobleman's being recalled in 1582, the poet returned with him to England, and in 1586 received a grant of 3028 acres of land forfeited to the crown, as a reward for his services, provided he would return to Ireland to cultivate them. He accepted the conditions. The Castle of Kilcolman, in the county of Cork, was his residence; and the river Mulla, which he frequently mentions in his poems, flowed through his grounds. Here he was visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, whom he styles "the Shepherd of the Ocean," with whom he had become acquainted during his former residence in Ireland. He persuaded the poet to accompany him to England, and by him he was presented to Queen Elizabeth, an event which he celebrates in his poem, entitled "Colin Clouts come Home againe."
"Raleigh's visit," remarks Mr. Campbell,4 " occasioned the first resolution of Spenser to prepare the first books of The Faerie Queene' for immediate publication. Spenser has commemorated this interview, and the inspiring influence of Raleigh's praise, under the figurative description of two shepherds tuning their pipes beneath the alders of the Mulla-a fiction with which the mind, perhaps, will be much less satisfied, than by recalling the scene as it really existed. When we conceive 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,
1 The works of Spenser are now made accessible to every one, in that beautiful Boston edition, in five volumes, edited by G. S. Hillard, Esq.
? That is, a "charity student." They had certain allowance made in then college bills, and received that name from the size, as it was called, or portion of bread, meat, &c. allotted to a student.
3 Drayton says, "Master Edmund Spenser had done enough for the immortality of his name had he only given us his Shepherd's Kalendar, a masterpiece, if any."
4" Specimens of British Poets," il. 173. A second edition of this valuable work has lately been republished in one large octavo. Read, particularly, the "Essay on English Poetry," preceding the extracts.
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."
In 1590 Spenser published the first three books of "The Faerie Queene," and in 1591, he received a pension of £50 a year from Queen Elizabeth. The favorable manner in which "The Faerie Queene" was received, induced the publisher to collect and print the author's minor poems, which may be found in the editions of his works. In 1595 the second part of "The Faerie Queene," consisting of three more books, appeared. The poet intended to complete the work in twelve books, and it is said that the last six were lost on his way from Ireland to England. But of this there is no proof, and scarcely any probability. "It is much more likely," says Mr. Hillard, "that the sorrows and misfortunes which clouded the last three years of the poet's life, deprived him of both the will and the power to engage in poetical composition." In September, 1598, the rel llion of O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, drove him and his family from Kilcolman. In the confusion of flight, one of the poet's children was unfortunately left behind, and perished in the house, which was burnt by the rebels. He arrived in England, harassed by these misfortunes, and died in London on the 16th of January, 1599, at the age of forty-five, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Thus died Spenser, at the early age of forty-five. But how little is there of the great and good that can die! He still lives, to delight, to charm, to instruct mankind. He still lives, and, as far as his writings are read, lives to exert the most salutary influence in inspiring a love for the just, the beautiful, the true; in purging the soul from the grovelling propensities and ppetites that continually clog it here, and in filling it with ardent aspirations for those high and holy things that claim kindred with its origin.
Had Spenser never written "The Faerie Queene," many of his minor poems, and especially his "Divine Hymns," would have given him a high, a very high rank in English literature. But The Faerie Queene," from its unequalled richness and beauty, has thrown the rest of his writings comparatively into the shade. Two things, however, have prevented its being generally read; one is its antiquated diction, and the other its allegorical character. The latter "has been" (remarks Mr. Hillard) "a kind of bugbear—a vague image of terror brooding over it, and deterring many from ever attempting its perusal. To borrow a lively expression of Hazlitt's, they are afraid of the allegory, as if they thought it would bite them.' But though it be an allegorical poem, it is only so to a certain extent and to a limited degree. The interest which the reader feels is a warm, flesh-and-blood interest, not in the delineation of a virtue, but in the adventures of a knight or lady. It is Una-the trembling, tearful woman-for whom our hearts are moved with pity, and not forsaken Truth. We may fairly doff the allegory aside, and let it pass, and
1 I would earnestly recommend to the reader's attention the "Introductory Observations on the Faeric Queen," by Mr. Hillard, prefixed to the edition just spoken of. They are written with that discriminating taste, justness of thought, and felicity of style, which characterize all his writings. Read, also, an excellent article on Spenser in the 2d vol. of D'Israeli's "Amenities of Literature:" aiso, some very just critical remarks in Hallam's "Literature of Europe
the poem will lose little or nothing of its charm. The grand procession of stately and beautiful forms, the chivalrous glow, the stirring adventures, the noble sentiments, the picturesque descriptions, the delicious poetry, would all be left unimpaired."
The poet, in a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, gives the plan of his work. "The general end of all the book," he says, "is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline." He takes the history of King Arthur, "as most fit for the excellency of his person," whom he conceives to have seen in a vision the Faerie Queene, "with whose excellent beauty ravished, he awaking resolved to seek her out." By this Faerie Queene, Gloriana, he means Glory in general, but in particular, her majesty, Queen Elizabeth; and by Faerie Land, her kingdom. So in Prince Arthur he sets forth Magnificence or Magnanimity, for "that is the perfection of all the rest, and containeth in it them all; therefore," he says, "in the whole course I mention the deeds of Arthur applicable to that virtue which I write of in that book."
Of the twelve books he makes or intended to make twelve knights the patrons, each of twelve several virtues. The first, the knight of the Red Cross, expressing Holiness: the second, Sir Guyon, or Temperance: the third, Britomartis, a "Lady Knight," in whom he pictures Chastity: the fourth, Cambell and Triamond, or Friendship: the fifth, Artegal, or Justice: the sixth, Sir Calodore, or Courtesy: what the other six books would have been, we have no means of knowing. The first canto of the first book thus opens:
THE KNIGHT AND THE LADY.
A gentle Knight! was pricking on the plaine,
And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore,
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,
For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had.
1 A gentle Knight.-Spenser comes at once to the action of the poem, and describes the Red-cross knight as having already entered upon the adventure assigned him by the Faerie Queene, which was to slay the dragon which laid waste the kingdom of Una's father. The Red-cross knight is St. George the patron saint of England, and represents holiness or Christian purity, and is clothed in the "whole armor of God," described by St. Paul in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. 2 Yeladd-clad.
Cheere-air, or mien.