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[166] that Ovid would have been glad to admit this exquisitely fantastic illumination into his margin.

No German analyzer of aesthetics has given us so convincing a definition of the artistic nature as these radiant verses. ‘To reign in the air’ was certainly Spenser's function. And yet the commentators, who seem never willing to let their poet be a poet pure and simple, though, had he not been so, they would have lost their only hold upon life, try to make out from his ‘Mother Hubberd's Tale’ that he might have been a very sensible matter-of-fact man if he would. For my own part, I am quite willing to confess that I like him none the worse for being unpractical, and that my reading has convinced me that being too poetical is the rarest fault of poets. Practical men are not so scarce, one would think, and I am not sure that the tree was a gainer when the hamadryad flitted and left it nothing but shiptimber. Such men as Spenser are not sent into the world to be part of its motive power. The blind old engine would not know the difference though we got up its steam with attar of roses, nor make one revolution more to the minute for it. What practical man ever left such an heirloom to his countrymen as the ‘Faery Queen’?

Undoubtedly Spenser wished to be useful and in the highest vocation of all, that of teacher, and Milton calls him ‘our sage and serious poet, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas.’ And good Dr. Henry More was of the same mind. I fear he makes his vices so beautiful now and then that we should not be very much afraid of them if we chanced to meet them; for he could not escape from his genius, which, if it led him as philosopher to the abstract contemplation of the beautiful, left him as poet open to every impression of sensuous delight. When he wrote the

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Edmund Spenser (3)
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