Bring here the pink and purple columbine,1 The argument prefixed by E. K. to the tenth Eclogue has a special interest for us as showing how high a conception Spenser had of poetry and the poet's office. By Cuddy he evidently means himself, though choosing out of modesty another name instead of the familiar Colin. ‘In Cuddy is set forth the perfect pattern of a Poet, which, finding no maintenance of his state and studies, complaineth of the contempt of Poetry and the causes thereof, specially having been in all ages, and even amongst the most barbarous, always of singular account ’
Bring coronations and sops in wine,
Worne of paramours;
Strow me the ground with daffadowndillies,
And cowslips and kingcups and loved lilies;
The pretty paunce
And the chevisance
Shall match with the fair flowerdelice.
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1 Of course dillies and lilies must be read with a slight accentuation of the last syllable (permissible then), in order to chime with delice. In the first line I have put here instead of hether, which (like other words where th comes between two vowels) was then very often a monosyllable, in order to throw the accent back more strongly on bring, where it belongs. Spenser's innovation lies in making his verses by ear instead of on the finger-tips, and in valuing the stave more than any of the single verses that compose it. This is the secret of his easy superiority to all others in the stanza which he composed, and which bears his name. Milton (who got more of his schooling in these matters from Spenser than anywhere else) gave this principle a greater range, and applied it with more various mastery. I have little doubt that the tune of the last stanza cited above was clinging in Shakespeare's ear when he wrote those exquisite verses in ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’ (‘I know a bank’), where our grave pentameter is in like manner surprised into a lyrical movement. See also the pretty song in the eclogue for August. Ben Jonson, too, evidently caught some cadences from Spenser for his lyrics. I need hardly say that in those eclogues (May, for example) where Spenser thought he was imitating what wiseacres used to call the riding-rhyme of Chaucer, he fails most lamentably. He had evidently learned to scan his master's verses better when he wrote his ‘Mother Hubberd's Tale.’
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