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[161] critic of the day, and because they are a good sample of Spenser's earlier verse:—

Thou kenst not, Percie, how the rhyme should rage;
O, if my temples were distained with wine,
And girt in garlands of wild ivy-twine,
How I could rear the Muse on stately stage
And teach her tread aloft in buskin fine
With quaint Bellona in her equipage!

In this eclogue he gives hints of that spacious style which was to distinguish him, and which, like his own Fame,

With golden wings aloft doth fly
Above the reach of ruinous decay,
And with brave plumes doth beat the azure sky,
Admired of base-born men from far away.

Ruins of time. 1

He was letting his wings grow, as Milton said, and foreboding the ‘Faery Queen’:—

Lift thyself up out of the lowly dust

To ZZZdoubted knights whose woundless armor rusts
And helms unbruised waxen daily brown:
There may thy Muse display her fluttering wing,
And stretch herself at large from East to West.

Verses like these, especially the last (which Dryden would have liked), were such as English ears had not yet heard, arid curiously prophetic of the maturer man. The language and verse of Spenser at his best have an ideal lift in them, and there is scarce any of our poets who can so hardly help being poetical.

It was this instantly felt if not easily definable charm that forthwith won for Spenser his never-disputed rank as the chief English poet of that age, and gave him a popularity which, during his life and in the following generation, was, in its select quality, without a competitor.

1 It is perhaps not considering too nicely to remark how often this image of wings recurred to Spenser's mind. A certain aerial latitude was essential to the large circlings of his style.

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