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[172] in which he could shut himself up from the actual, with its shortcomings and failures.

The ways through which my weary steps I guide
     In this delightful land of Faery
Are so exceeding spacious and wide,
     And sprinkled with such sweet variety
Of all that pleasant is to ear and eye,
     That I, nigh ravisht with rare thoughts' delight,
My tedious travail do forget thereby,
     And, when I 'gin to feel decay of might,
It strength to me supplies, and cheers my dulled spright.

Spenser seems here to confess a little weariness; but the alacrity of his mind is so great that, even where his invention fails a little, we do not share his feeling nor suspect it, charmed as we are by the variety and sweep of his measure, the beauty or vigor of his similes, the musical felicity of his diction, and the mellow versatility of his pictures. In this last quality Ariosto, whose emulous pupil he was, is as Bologna to Venice in the comparison. That, when the personal allusions have lost their meaning and the allegory has become a burden, the book should continue to be read with delight, is proof enough, were any wanting, how full of life and light and the other-worldliness of poetry it must be. As a narrative it has, I think, every fault of which that kind of writing is capable. The characters are vague, and, even were they not, they drop out of the story so often and remain out of it so long, that we have forgotten who they are when we meet them again; the episodes hinder the advance of the action instead of relieving it with variety of incident or novelty of situation; the plot, if plot it may be called,

That shape has none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,

recalls drearily our ancient enemy, the Metrical Romance; while the fighting, which, in those old poems, was tediously sincere, is between shadow and shadow,

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