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[146]
To feed on hope, to pine with fear and sorrow,
To have thy prince's grace yet want her Peers',
To have thy asking yet wait many years,
To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares,
To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs,
To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
To spend, to give, to want, to be undone.

Whoever leaves sweet home, where mean estate
In safe assurance, without strife or hate,
Finds all things needful for contentment meek,
And will to court for shadows vain to seek,

That curse God send unto mine enemy!

1 When Spenser had once got safely back to the secure retreat and serene companionship of his great poem, with what profound and pathetic exultation must he have recalled the verses of Dante!—

Chi dietro a jura, e chi ad aforismi
Sen giva, e chi seguendo sacerdozio,
E chi regnar per forza e per sofismi,
E chi rubare, e chi civil negozio,
Chi nei diletti della carne involto
S'afiaticava, e chi si dava alla ozio,
Quando da tutte queste cose sciolto,
Con Beatrice ma era suso in cielo
Cotanto gloriosamente accolto.

Paradiso, XI. 4-12. 2

What Spenser says of the indifference of the court to learning and literature is the more remarkable because he himself was by no means an unsuccessful suitor.

1 This poem, published in 1591, was, Spenser tells us in his dedication, ‘long sithens composed in the raw conceit of my youth.’ But he had evidently retouched it. The verses quoted show a firmer hand than is generally seen in it, and we are safe in assuming that they were added after his visit to England. Dr. Johnson epigrammatized Spenser's indictment into

There mark what ills the scholar's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail,

but I think it loses in pathos more than it gains in point.

2 Spenser was familiar with the ‘Divina Commedia,’ though I do not remember that his commentators have pointed out his chief obligations to it.

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