previous next
[178] measure, like the rhythmical impulse of the oar, floats you lullingly along from picture to picture.

If all the pens that ever poet held
Had fed the feeling of their master's thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspired their hearts
Their minds and muses on admired themes,
If all the heavenly quintessence they still
From their immortal flowers of poesy,
If these had made one poem's period,
And all combined in beauty's worthiness;
Yet should there hover in their restless heads
One thought, one grace, one wonder at the best,
Which into words no virtue can digest.

Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Part I. Act V. 2.

Spenser, at his best, has come as near to expressing this unattainable something as any other poet. He is so purely poet that with him the meaning does not so often modulate the music of the verse as the music makes great part of the meaning and leads the thought along its pleasant paths. No poet is so splendidly superfluous as he; none knows so well that in poetry enough is not only not so good as a feast, but is a beggarly parsimony. He spends himself in a careless abundance only to be justified by incomes of immortal youth.

Pensier canuto ne molto ne poco
Si puo quivi albergare in alcun cuore;
Non entra quivi disagio ne inopia,
Ma VI sta ogn'or col corno pien la Copia.1

This delicious abundance and overrunning luxury of Spenser appear in the very structure of his verse. He found the ottava rima too monotonously iterative; so, by changing the order of his rhymes, he shifted the


Grayheaded Thought, nor much nor little, may
Take up its lodging here in any heart;
Unease nor Lack can enter at this door;
But here dwells full-horned Plenty evermore.

Orl. Fur., c. VI. 73.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Edmund Spenser (2)
Marlowe (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: