look at anything, unless it be a jail or a volume of the ‘Congressional Globe,’—but the spirit of it is fresh and original.
We have at last got over the superstition that shepherds and shepherdesses are any wiser or simpler than other people.
We know that wisdom can be won only by wide commerce with men and books, and that simplicity, whether of manners or style, is the crowning result of the highest culture.
But the pastorals of Spenser
were very different things, different both in the moving spirit and the resultant form from the later ones of Browne
or the ‘Piscatory Eclogues
’ of Phinehas Fletcher
wrote because Spenser
had written, but Spenser
wrote from a strong inward impulse—an instinct it might be called—to escape at all risks into the fresh air from that horrible atmosphere into which rhymer after rhymer had been pumping carbonic-acid gas with the full force of his lungs, and in which all sincerity was on the edge of suffocation.
His longing for something truer and better was as honest as that which led Tacitus
so long before to idealize the Germans, and Rousseau so long after to make an angel of the savage.
himself supremely overlooks the whole chasm between himself and Chaucer
, as Dante
between himself and Virgil.
He called Chaucer
master, as Milton
was afterwards to call him
. And, even while he chose the most artificial of all forms, his aim—that of getting back to nature and life—was conscious, I have no doubt, to himself, and must be obvious to whoever reads with anything but the ends of his fingers.
It is true that Sannazzaro had brought the pastoral into fashion again, and that two of Spenser
's are little more than translations from Marot; but for manner he instinctively turned back to Chaucer
, the first and then only great English poet.
He has given common instead of classic names