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Coleridge (search for this): chapter 2
r to truth and nature. The fact is that what we see is in the mind to a greater degree than we are commonly aware. As Coleridge says,— O lady, we receive but what we give, And in our life alone doth Nature live! I have made the unfortunate Duhan those of his contemporaries. Some of his elegiacs are not ungrateful to the ear, and it can hardly be doubted that Coleridge borrowed from his eclogue of Strephon and Klaius the pleasing movement of his own Catullian Hendecasyllabics. Spenser, mable to barbara or celarent. Another pretty verse in the same eclogue, But gently took that ungently came, pleased Coleridge so greatly that he thought it was his own. But in general it is not so much the sentiments and images that are new as tng to his great toe, about which he had seen Tartars and Turks, Romans and Carthaginians, fight in his imagination; and Coleridge has told us how his eyes made pictures when they were shut. This is not uncommon, but I fancy that Spenser was more ha
is almost inconceivable that Spenser's hexameters should have been written by the man who was so soon to teach his native language how to soar and sing, and to give a fuller sail to English verse. One of the most striking facts in our literary history is the pre-eminence at once so frankly and unanimously conceded to Spenser by his contemporaries. At first, it is true, he had not many rivals. Before the Faery Queen two long poems were printed and popular,— the Mirror for Magistrates and Warner's Albion's England,—and not long after it came the Polyolbion of Drayton and the Civil Wars of Daniel. This was the period of the saurians in English poetry, interminable poems, book after book and canto after canto, like far-stretching vertebrae, that at first sight would seem to have rendered earth unfit for the habitation of man. They most of them sleep well now, as once they made their readers sleep, and their huge remains lie embedded in the deep morasses of Chambers and Anderson. We
Italian April (search for this): chapter 2
Which piped there unto that merry rout; That jolly shepherd that there piped was Poor Colin Clout; (who knows not Colin Clout?) He piped apace while they him danced about; Pipe, jolly shepherd, pipe thou now apace, Unto thy love that made thee low to lout; Thy love is present there with thee in place, Thy love is there advanced to be another Grace. Faery Queen, B. VI. c. x. 10-16. Is there any passage in any poet that so ripples and sparkles with simple delight as this? It is a sky of Italian April full of sunshine and the hidden ecstasy of larks. And we like it all the more that it reminds us of that passage in his friend Sidney's Arcadia, where the shepherd-boy pipes as if he would never be old. If we compare it with the mystical scene in Dante, Purgatorio, XXIX., XXX. of which it is a reminiscence, it will seem almost like a bit of real life; but taken by itself it floats as unconcerned in our cares and sorrows and vulgarities as a sunset cloud. The sound of that pastoral
John Skelton (search for this): chapter 2
cellent Latin phrase, Corpus poetarum. In fancy I always read it on the backs of the volumes,—a body of poets, indeed, with scarce one soul to a hundred of them. One genuine English poet illustrated the early years of the sixteenth century,—John Skelton. He had vivacity, fancy, humor, and originality. Gleams of the truest poetical sensibility alternate in him with an almost brutal coarseness. He was truly Rabelaisian before Rabelais. But there is a freedom and hilarity in much of his writg that gives it a singular attraction. A breath of cheerfulness runs along the slender stream of his verse, under which it seems to ripple and crinkle, catching and casting back the sunshine like a stream blown on by clear western winds. But Skelton was an exceptional blossom of autumn. A long and dreary winter follows. Surrey, who brought back with him from Italy the blank-verse not long before introduced by Trissino, is to some extent another exception. He had the sentiment of nature a
Philip Sidney (search for this): chapter 2
id more than any one else to redeem from the leaden gripe of vulgar and pedantic conceit. Sir Philip Sidney, born the year after him, with a keener critical instinct, and a taste earlier emancipatedBefore the publication of his Shepherd's Calendar in 1579, he had made the acquaintance of Sir Philip Sidney, and was domiciled with him for a time at Penshurst, whether as guest or literary dependanprovincial dialects for words wherewith to enlarge and freshen his poetical vocabulary. Sir Philip Sidney did not approve of this. That same framing of his style to an old rustic language I dare e one: how to commend poetry at all to a generation which thought it effeminate trifling, See Sidney's Defence, and Puttenham's Art of English Poesy, Book I. c. 8. and how he, Master Edmund Spenser his condolences are graduated to the unimpassioned scale of social requirement. Even for Sir Philip Sidney his sighs are regulated by the official standard. It was in an unreal world that his aff
Jeremy Taylor (search for this): chapter 2
of the Wise Virgins The general end of the book, he tells us in his Dedication to Sir Walter Raleigh, is to fashion a gentleman of noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. But a little further on he evidently has a qualm, as he thinks how generously he had interpreted his promise of cuts: To some I know this method will seem displeasant, which had rather have good discipline delivered plainly in way of precepts or sermoned at large, We can fancy how he would have done this by Jeremy Taylor, who was a kind of Spenser in a cassock. as they use, than thus cloudily enwrapped in allegorical devices. Lord Burleigh was of this way of thinking, undoubtedly, but how could poor Clarion help it? Has he not said, And whatso else, of virtue good or ill, Grew in that garden, fetcht from far away, Of every one he takes and tastes at will, And on their pleasures greedily doth prey’? One sometimes feels in reading him as if he were the pure sense of the beautiful incarnated to the o
eautiful verses (‘Turn, hither turn your winged pines’) were suggested by these of Spenser. It might almost seem as if Spenser had here, in his usual way, expanded the sweet old verses:— Merry sungen the monks binnen Ely When Knut king rew thereby; ‘Roweth knights near the lond, That I may hear these monks song.’ With that the rolling sea, resounding swift In his big bass, them fitly answered, And on the rock the waves, breaking aloft, A solemn mean unto them measured, The whiles sweet Zephyrus loud whisteled His treble, a strange kind of harmony Which Guyon's senses softly ticketed That he the boatman bade row easily And let him hear some part of their rare melody. Despite Spenser's instinctive tendency to idealize, and his habit of distilling out of the actual an ethereal essence in which very little of the possible seems left, yet his mind, as is generally true of great poets, was founded on a solid basis of good-sense. I do not know where to look for a more cogent and
the lowly dust To ZZZdoubted knights whose woundless armor rusts And helms unbruised waxen daily brown: There may thy Muse display her fluttering wing, And stretch herself at large from East to West. Verses like these, especially the last (which Dryden would have liked), were such as English ears had not yet heard, arid curiously prophetic of the maturer man. The language and verse of Spenser at his best have an ideal lift in them, and there is scarce any of our poets who can so hardly help beie eminent ones than any other writer of English verse. I need say nothing of Milton, nor of professed disciples like Browne, the two Fletchers, and More. Cowley tells us that he became irrecoverably a poet by reading the Faery Queen when a boy. Dryden, whose case is particularly in point because he confesses having been seduced by Du Bartas, tells us that Spenser had been his master in English. He regrets, indeed, comically enough, that Spenser could not have read the rules of Bossu, but add
to be pitied than Spenser. The sensitive purity of the poet might indeed well be wounded when a poem in which he proposed to himself to discourse at large of the ethick part of Moral Philosophy His own words as reported by Lodowick Bryskett. (Todd's Spenser, I. IX.) The whole passage is very interesting as giving us the only glimpse we get of the living Spenser in actual contact with his fellow-men. It shows him to us, as we could wish to see him, surrounded with loving respect, companionace I left her palace. Observations on Faery Queen, Vol. I. pp. 158, 159. Mr. Hughes also objects to Spenser's measure, that it is closed always by a fullstop, in the same place, by which every stanza is made as it were a distinct paragraph. (Todd's Spenser, II. XLI.) But he could hardly have read the poem attentively, for there are numerous instances to the contrary. Spenser was a consummate master of versification, and not only did Marlowe and Shakespeare learn of him, but I have little
Lyrical Ballads (search for this): chapter 2
Spenser's object was to find unhackneyed and poetical words rather than such as should seem more on a level with the speakers. See also the Epistle Dedicatory. I cannot help thinking that E. K. was Spenser himself, with occasional interjections of Harvey. Who else could have written such English as many passages in this Epistle? I look upon the Shepherd's Calendar as being no less a conscious and deliberate attempt at reform than Thomson's Seasons were in the topics, and Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads in the language of poetry. But the great merit of these pastorals was not so much in their matter as their manner. They show a sense of style in its larger meaning hitherto displayed by no English poet since Chaucer. Surrey had brought back from Italy a certain inkling of it, so far as it is contained in decorum. But here was a new language, a choice and arrangement of words, a variety, elasticity, and harmony of verse most grateful to the ears of men. If not passion, there was ferv
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