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THE FAERY QUEENE.
and brave warriors, who made Elizabeth's reign in England illustrious.
The taste for labyrinths has gone by, and we read Spenser for the genuine poetry with which his legendary cantos abound. His stanza was adopted by Thomson in his “Castle of Indolence,” with perfect success, and Burns has followed his example in “The first Pastoral in any Language.” Therefore, let us cull a few unfading flowers of poesy from the “Faery Queene.”
In the “Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse or of Holinesse,” he and Una visit the Cave of Despair.
“Ere long they come where that same wicked wight,
His dwelling has low in a hollow cave,
Far from that haunt all other chearefull fowle, And all about it wand'ring ghostes did wayle and
And all about old stockes and stubs of trees,
Whereon nor fruit nor leafe was ever seen,
teene, Would fain have fled, ne durst approachen neare, But th' other forst him staye, and comforted him in
* Placed. + Not the Redcross Knight, but Trevisan, who had visited the cave
before. I Trouble.
That darksome cave they enter, where they find
That cursed man, low sitting on the ground,
His rawbone cheeks, through penurie and pine, Were shronke into his jawes as he did never dine.”
His ragged clouts pinned together with thorns, and the corpse of a suicide beside him, with a rusty knife in the deadly bleeding wound, complete the horrid picture. Despaire was so bewitchingly eloquent as to the duty of performing the happy despatch in like manner, that the Redcrosse Knight wavered, and Despaire brought him swords, ropes, poison, and fire.
“But when as none of them he saw him take,
He to him raught a dagger, sharpe and keen,
To come and goe, with tidings from the heart,
At last resolved to work his finall smart,
But the fair and holy Una snatched the cursed knife, and threw it to the ground.
“Come, come away, fraile, feeble, fleshly wight,
Ne let vaine wordes bewitch thy manly heart,
Where justice growes, there growes the greater
grace, The which doth quench the brond of hellish smart;
And that accurst handwriting doth deface, Arise, Sir Knight, arise, and leave this cursed place.”
In the “ Legend of Temperance,” Sir Guyon is allured, like Ulysses, by the Siren songs of Pleasure“O thou fayre sonne of gentle faery,
That art in mightie armes most magnifyde
This is the port of reste from troublous toyle,
In his big base them fitly answered,
That he the boteman bade row easily, And let him heare some part of their rare melody.” Rescued from that and other dangers, the Knight, after landing on an enchanted shore, travelled through an earthly paradise, with bowers of bliss, hills and dales, crystal streams, sparkling fountains, and balmy breezes, where art and nature “ each did the other's worke more beautifye,” and fairy forms of false, deceitful beauty, strove to bewitch and betray, but under safe guidance he was enabled to resist them all. • Eftsoones they heard most melodious sound
Of all that mote delight a daintie eare,
ERA OF THE REFORMATION.
Right hard it was for wight that did it heare
Was there concerted in one harmonie,
The joyous birdes, shrowded in cheerfull shade,
Their notes unto the voice attempered sweet;
Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call
These extracts may suffice to show with what natural grace and sweetness our English poets Chaucer and Spenser sang.
Spenser was a cotemporary of Shakspere in that æra so preeminently distinguished in the literary history of our country and of Europe, extending from the latter part of the sixteenth century and the middle of the reign of Queen Elizabeth to 1660, the restoration of Charles the Second. Besides those great poets, Milton also shone among that constellation of men of original and powerful genius, Bacon and Sydney, Napier the inventor of logarithms, Hooker and Sir Walter Raleigh, and of divines, Jeremy Taylor, whose prose Jeffrey praised as containing “more of the body and soul of poetry than all the odes and epics that have since been produced in Europe,”—adding that as much may be said of large portions of Barrow, of Hooker and of Bacon.
But what inestimable treasures of sacred learning were placed within the reach of all people by the translation of the books of the Old and New Testaments into our native tongue, in its simplicity, purity, and strength. It was like a renewed revelation of the most momentous and animating truths, long withheld and
BIBLE TRANSLATED AND CIRCULATED.
concealed from their investigation; the most instructive histories, the loftiest strains of poetry and eloquence; pure religion and morality taught by divine precept and by one perfect life, and illustrated by the most memorable events and by rare and beautiful examples; with such aids and such motives to obedience as human philosophy never could supply.
That sudden emancipation and enlightenment of the minds of men after long bondage and obscurity had its natural consequence in some partial abuses of unaccustomed liberty and light. But so great and so glorious have been the results, that the feeble cry of those who in these latter days would disparage the Reformation, should be lost in the general thanksgiving of a grateful people who can rejoice with their own Milton when he thus hailed its dawn. “When I recall “to mind at last, after so many dark ages, wherein “the huge overshadowing train of error had almost
swept the stars out of the firmament of the Church ; “how the bright and blissful reformation (by divine
power) struck through the black and settled night “of ignorance and antichristian tyranny, methinks a
sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the “bosom of him that reads or hears; and the sweet “ odour of the returning gospel imbathe his soul with " the fragrancy of heaven. Then was the sacred Bible
sought out of the dusty corners where profane false“hood and neglect had thrown it, the schools opened, “divine and human learning raked out of the embers of “forgotten tongues, the princes and cities trooping apace to the new erected banner of salvation ; the
martyrs with the unresistible might of weakness, “shaking the power of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old dragon.”
The natural and beautiful poetry of the old English dramatists was discouraged and indeed suppressed during the Civil war, and Commonwealth. On the return of Charles the Second he introduced French fashions, not only in his gay and profligate court but also in literature. The plays of Shakspere far excelling all,