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‘ [195] judgment of ear; and trouble not thyself as to who may think it good or bad, hoping that posterity will approve it,—she who gives faith to doubtful, light to obscure, novelty to antique, usage to unaccustomed, and sweetness to harsh and rude things.’ Spenser's innovations were by no means always happy, as not always according with the genius of the language, and they have therefore not prevailed. He forms English words out of French or Italian ones, sometimes, I think, on a misapprehension of their true meaning; nay, he sometimes makes new ones by unlawfully grafting a scion of Romance on a Teutonic root. His theory, caught from Bellay, of rescuing good archaisms from unwarranted oblivion, was excellent; not so his practice of being archaic for the mere sake of escaping from the common and familiar. A permissible archaism is a word or phrase that has been supplanted by something less apt, but has not become unintelligible; and Spenser's often needed a glossary, even in his own day.1 But he never endangers his finest passages by any experiments of this kind. There his language is living, if ever any, and of one substance with the splendor of his fancy. Like all masters of speech, he is fond of toying with and teasing it a little; and it may readily be granted that he sometimes ‘hunted, the letter,’ as it was called, out of all cry. But even where his alliteration is tempted to an excess, its prolonged echoes caress the ear like the fading and gathering reverberations of an Alpine horn, and one can find in his heart to forgive even such a debauch of initial assonances as

Eftsoones her shallow ship away did slide,
More swift than swallow shears the liquid sky.

1 I find a goodly number of Yankeeisms in him, such as idee (not as a rhyme); but the oddest is his twice spelling dew deow, which is just as one would spell it who wished to phonetize its sound in rural New England.

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New England (United States) (1)

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Edmund Spenser (2)
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