previous next
[148] If Lord Burleigh could not relish such a dish of nightingales' tongues as the ‘Faery Queen,’ he is very much more 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 Philosophy1 could be so misinterpreted. But Spenser speaks in the same strain and without any other than a general application in his ‘Tears of the Muses,’ and his friend Sidney undertakes the defence of poesy because it was undervalued. But undervalued by whom? By the only persons about whom he knew or cared anything, those whom we should now call Society and who were then called the Court. The inference I would draw is that, among the causes which contributed to the marvellous efflorescence of genius in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, the influence of direct patronage from above is to be reckoned at almost nothing.2 Then, as when the same phenomenon has happened elsewhere, there must have been a sympathetic public. Literature, properly so called, draws its sap from the deep soil of human nature's common and everlasting sympathies, the gathered leaf-mould of

1 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, companionable and helpful. Bryskett tells us that he was ‘perfect in the Greek tongue,’ and ‘also very well read in philosophy both moral and natural.’ He encouraged Bryskett in the study of Greek, and offered to help him in it. Comparing the last verse of the above citation of the ‘Faery Queen’ with other passages in Spenser, I cannot help thinking that he wrote, ‘do not love amiss.’


And know, sweet prince, when you shall come to know,
That 't is not in the power of kings to raise
A spirit for verse that is not born thereto;
Nor are they born in every prince's days.

Daniel's Dedic. Trag. Of Philotas.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Edmund Spenser (3)
Todd (1)
Philotas (1)
Moral Philosophy (1)
Sam Daniel (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: