And so on through all the organs of the body.
The author of Ecclesiastes understood these matters better in that last pathetic chapter of his, blunderingly translated as it apparently is. This, I admit, is the worst failure of Spenser
in this kind; though, even here, when he gets on to the organs of the mind, the enchantments of his fancy and style come to the rescue and put us in good-humor again, hard as it is to conceive of armed knights entering the chamber of the mind, and talking with such visionary damsels as Ambition and Shamefastness.
Nay, even in the most prosy parts, unless my partiality deceive me, there is an infantile confidence in the magical powers of Prosopopoeia which half beguiles us, as of children who play
that everything is something else, and are quite satisfied with the transformation.
The problem for Spenser
was a double one: how to commend poetry at all to a generation which thought it effeminate trifling,1
and how he, Master Edmund Spenser
, of imagination all compact, could commend his
poetry to Master John Bull
, the most practical of mankind in his habitual mood, but at that moment in a passion of religious anxiety about his soul.
Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci
was not only an irrefragable axiom because a Latin poet had said it, but it exactly met the case in point.
He would convince the scorners that poetry might be seriously useful, and show Master Bull his new way of making fine words butter parsnips, in a rhymed moral primer.
Allegory, as then practised, was imagination adapted for beginners, in words of one syllable and illustrated with cuts, and would thus serve both his ethical and pictorial purpose.
Such a primer, or a first instalment of it, he proceeded to put forth; but he so bordered it with