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‘ [136] you defend in word, neither so hard nor so harsh but that it will easily yield itself to our mother-tongue. For the only or chiefest hardness, which seemeth, is in the accent, which sometime gapeth, and, as it were, yawneth ill-favoredly, coming short of that it should, and sometime exceeding the measure of the number, as in Carpenter; the middle syllable being used short in speech, when it shall be read long in verse, seemeth like a lame gosling that draweth one leg after her; and Heaven being used short as one syllable, when it is in verse stretched out with a diastole, is like a lame dog that holds up one leg.’1 It 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

1 Nash, who has far better claims than Swift to be called the English Rabelais, thus at once describes and parodies Harvey's hexameters in prose, ‘that drunken, staggering kind of verse, which is all up hill and down hill, like the way betwixt Stamford and Beechfield, and goes like a horse plunging through the mire in the deep of winter, now soused up to the saddle, and straight aloft on his tiptoes.’ It was a happy thought to satirize (in this inverted way) prose written in the form of verse.

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