But soon as he appeared to their view
They vanished all away out of his sight
And clean were gone, which way he never knew,
All save the shepherd, who, for fell despite
Of that displeasure, broke his bagpipe quite.
said that ‘he had consumed a whole night looking to his great toe, about which he had seen Tartars and Turks, Romans
and Carthaginians, fight in his imagination’; and Coleridge
has told us how his ‘eyes made pictures when they were shut.’
This is not uncommon, but I fancy that Spenser
was more habitually possessed by his imagination than is usual even with poets.
His visions must have accompanied him ‘in glory and in joy’ along the common thoroughfares of life and seemed to him, it may be suspected, more real than the men and women he met there.
His ‘most fine spirit of sense’ would have tended to keep him in this exalted mood.
I must give an example of the sensuousness of which I have spoken:—
And in the midst of all a fountain stood
Of richest substance that on earth might be,
So pure and shiny that the crystal flood
Through every channel running one might see;
Most goodly it with curious imagery
Was overwrought, and shapes of naked boys,
Of which some seemed with lively jollity
To fly about, playing their wanton toys,
Whilst others did themselves embay in liquid joys.
And over all, of purest gold was spread
A trail of ivy in his native hue;
For the rich metal was so colored
That he who did not well avised it view
Would surely deem it to be ivy true;
Low his lascivious arms adown did creep
That themselves dipping in the silver dew
Their fleecy flowers they tenderly did steep,
Which drops of crystal seemed for wantonness to weep.
Infinite streams continually did well
Out of this fountain, sweet and fair to see,