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[169] to disqualify him for achieving the quest of the Holy Grail, and accordingly it is not uninstructive to remember that he had drunk, among others, at French sources not yet deboshed with absinthe.1 Yet, with a purity like that of thrice-bolted snow, he had none of its coldness. He is, of all our poets, the most truly sensuous, using the word as Milton probably meant it when he said that poetry should be ‘simple, sensuous, and passionate.’ A poet is innocently sensuous when his mind permeates and illumines his senses; when they, on the other hand, muddy the mind, he becomes sensual. Every one of Spenser's senses was as exquisitely alive to the impressions of material, as every organ of his soul was to those of spiritual beauty. Accordingly, if he painted the weeds of sensuality at all, he could not help making them ‘of glorious feature.’ It was this, it may be suspected, rather than his ‘praising love,’ that made Lord Burleigh shake his ‘rugged forehead.’ Spenser's gamut, indeed, is a wide one, ranging from a purely corporeal delight in ‘precious odors fetched from far away’ upward to such refinement as

Upon her eyelids many graces sate
Under the shadow of her even brows,

where the eye shares its pleasure with the mind. He is court-painter in ordinary to each of the senses in turn, and idealizes these frail favorites of his majesty King Lusty Juventus, till they half believe themselves

1 Two of his eclogues, as I have said, are from Marot, and his earliest known verses are translations from Bellay, a poet who was charming whenever he had the courage to play truant from a bad school. We must not suppose that an analysis of the literature of the demimonde will give us all the elements of the French character. It has been both grave and profound; nay, it has even contrived to be wise and lively at the same time, a combination so incomprehensible by the Teutonic races that they have labelled it levity. It puts them out as Nature did Fuseli.

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Edmund Spenser (2)
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