Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

him two works in prose, which abound in beauty and pathos, Mary Magdalene's Funeral Tears, and the Triumphs over Death.

TIMES GO BY TURNS.

The lopped tree in time may grow again,

Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower;
The sorriest wight may find release of pain,

The driest soil suck in some moistening shower:
Time goes by turns, and chances change by course,
From foul to fair, from better hap to worse.
The sea of Fortune doth not ever flow;

She draws her favours to the lowest ebb:
Her tides have equal times to come and go;

Her loom doth weave the fine and coarsest web:
No joy so great but runneth to an end,
No hap so hard but may in fine amend.
Not always fall of leaf, nor ever spring;

Not endless night, yet not eternal day:
The saddest birds a season find to sing;

The roughest storm a calm may soon allay.
Thus, with succeeding turns God tempereth all,
That man may hope to rise, yet fear to fall.
A chance may win that by mischance was lost;

That net that holds no great takes little fish;
In some things all, in all things none are cross'd;

Few all they need, but none have all they wish.
Unmingled joys here to no man befall;
Who least, hath some; who most, hath never all.

SCORN NOT THE LEAST.

Where words are weak, and foes encount’ring strong,

Where mightier do assault than do defend,
The feebler part puts up enforced wrong,

And silent sees that speech could not amend :
Yet higher powers must think, though they repine,
When sun is set, the little stars will shine.
While pike doth range, the silly tench doth fly,

And crouch in privy creeks with smaller fish;
Yet pikes are caught when little fish go by,

These fleet afloat, while those do fill the dish;
There is a time even for the worms to creep,
And suck the dew while all their foes do sleep.

The merlin cannot ever soar on high,

Nor greedy greyhound still pursue the chase;
The tender lark will find a time to fly,

And fearful hare to run a quiet race.
He that high growth on cedars did bestow
Gave also lowly mushrooms leave to grow.
In Haman's pomp poor Mardocheus wept,

Yet God did turn his fate upon his foe;
The Lazar pin’d, while Dives' feast was kept,

Yet he to heaven—to hell did Dives go.
We trample grass, and prize the flowers of May;
Yet grass is green when flowers do fade away.

EDMOND SPENSER.

[Born 1553—died 1599.] EDMOND SPENSER, descended from the ancient family of that name, was born in London about the year 1553. In 1569 he entered Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was the intimate friend of two of the greatest men who distinguished the Elizabethan age, Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh. He was a frequent guest of the former, at Penshurst; and the latter visited him at Kilcol. man, his Irish home. Both of them are recorded in his verse. Spenser accompanied Lord Grey of Wilton to Ireland, as his secretary, and obtained, in the county of Cork, a grant of 3026 acres out of the forfeited lands of Desmond. He married, in the year 1594, a lady whom he has celebrated in many of his sonnets, as well as in his “Epithalamion.” The next three years of his life were spent apparently in domestic happiness and literary labour; and in his Fairy Queen, much of which was composed during that period, we have many records of the delight with which he regarded the beautiful scenery, at that time for the most part a forest, in the neighbourhood of which his castle was placed. This period of repose was followed by a calamity in which his fortunes were wrecked. In the war consequent upon the rising of Tyrone, Spenser's house was burned by a party of the Irish. The poet with his wife escaped ; but one of his children perished in the flames. His former friend and patron, Essex, would doubtless have restored his fortunes; nor is it likely that he would have been neglected by the Queen, who had, several years previously, conferred upon him a pension of 501., and to whom he had, in 1596, presented his remarkable tract on the government of Ireland: but his heart was broken. He died in Jan. uary 1599, and was buried, at the expense of Essex, in Westminster Abbey, not far from the grave of Chaucer. All the poets of the age attended his funeral, and threw verses into his grave.

His great poem, long as it is, carries out but half of the author's design. It has been believed by some that the remaining portion of it was burned with his castle; while others have asserted that it had been sent to England, but was lost through the carelessness of a servant. We possess, however, no conclusive evidence that the work was completed.

The poetry of Spenser belongs to the first order. There is a salutary purity and nobleness about it. He is a connecting link between Chaucer and Milton; resembling the former in his de scriptive power, his tenderness, and his sense of beauty, though inferior to him in homely vigour and dramatic insight into character. In ideality and imagination he has an affinity with Milton, but with Milton rather as represented by his “ Comis," and other early poems, than at that later period when his genius had submitted to the chains of Puritanism. The Fairy Queen is the chief representative in English poetry of the romance which once delighted hall and bower. In this respect Spenser is in British verse what Ariosto is in Italian ; except that in the northern poet there exists, with a more serious mind, a far deeper appreciation of what was best and truest in the spirit of chivalry. In his freshness of moral, and warmth of religious sentiment, Spenser reminds us yet more of Tasso than of Ariosto. Notwithstanding his polemical allegory of Duessa, a sorry tribute to the age, nothing is more striking than the Catholic tone that belongs to Spenser's poetry. The religion and the chivalry of the Middle Ages were alike the inspirers of his song. He belongs to the order of poets who are rather the monument of a time gone by than an illustration of their own. He was admirable in his appreciation of classical mythology, as well as in his use of the chivalrons legend; and merits, in a peculiar sense, those epithets of “ learned” and “sage,” which he applies to poets. In the legend of Irena (or Ierne), the distressed and captive lady whom Artegal (Fairy Queen, book v. canto 1) was sent to deliver from thrall, Spenser has been said to have alluded to the condition of Ireland. If so, the difference of his views, as poet, from those indicated in his political tract is remarkable.

THE HOUSE OF HOLINESS.

[From the Fairy Queen, book i. canto x.]
Her faithfull knight faire Una brings

To House of Holinesse;
Where he is taught repentaunce, and

The way to hevenly blesse.
What man is he, that boasts of fleshly might
And vaine assurance of mortality,
Which, all so soone as it doth come to fight
'Gainst spirítuall foes, yields by and by,

Or from the fielde most cowardly doth fly!
Ne let the man ascribe it to his skill,
That thorough grace hath gained victory:

If any strength we have, it is to ill;
But all the good is Gods, both power and eke will.

[blocks in formation]

There was an auncient house not far away,
Renowned throughout the world for sacred lore
And pure unspotted life: so well, they say,
It governd was, and guided evermore,
Through wisedome of a matrone grave and bore;
Whose onely ioy was to relieve the needes
Of wretched soules, and helpe the helpelesse pore

All night she spent in bidding of her bedes,
And all the day in doing good and godly deedes.

Dame Cælia men did her call, as thought
From Heaven to come, or thether to arise;
The mother of three daughters, well upbrought
in goodly thewes and godly exercise:
The eldest two, most sober, chast, and wise,
Fidelia and Speranza, virgins were;
Though spousd, yet wanting wedlocks solemnize;

But faire Charissa to a lovely fere?
Was lincked, and by him had many pledges dere.

Arrived there, the dore they find fast lockt;
For it was warely watched night and day,
For feare of many foes; but, when they knockt,
The porter opened unto them streight way.
He was an aged syre, all hory gray,
With lookes full lowly cast, and gate full slow,
Wont on a staffe his feeble steps to stay,

Hight Humilta. They passe in, stouping low;
For streight and narrow was the way which he did show.

Each goodly thing is hardest to begin;
But, entred in, a spatious court they see,
Both plaine and pleasaunt to be walked in;
Where them does meete a francklinfaire and free,
And entertaines with comely courteous glee;
His name was Zele, that him right well became:
For in his speaches and behaveour hee

Did labour lively to expresse the same, And gladly did them guide, till to the hall they came. companion.

freeman, or gentleinan.

There fayrely them receives a gentle squyre,
Of myld demeanure and rare courtesee,
Right cleanly clad in comely sad attyre;
In word and deede that shewd great modestee,
And knew his good to all of each degree;
Hight Reverence: he them with speaches meet
Does faire entreat; no courting nicetee,

But simple, trew, and eke unfained sweet,
As might become a squyre so great porsons to greet.

And afterwardes them to his dame he leades,
That aged dame, the lady of the place,
Who all this while was busy at her beades;
Which doen, she up arose with seemely grace,
And toward them full matronely did pace.
Where, when that fairest Una she beheld,
Whom well she knew to spring from hevenly race,

Her heart with ioy unwonted inly sweld,
As feeling wondrous comfort in her weaker eld:

And, her embracing, said; “O happy earth,
Whereon thy innocent feet doe ever tread !
Most vertuous virgin, borne of hevenly berth,
That, to redeeme thy woeful parents head
From tyrans rage and ever-dying dread,
Hast wandred through the world now long a day,
Yett ceassest not thy weary soles to lead;

What grace hath thee now hether brought this way? Or doen thy feeble feet unweeting: hether stray?

Straunge thing it is an errant knight to see
Here in this place; or any other wight,
That hether turnes his steps: so few there bee,
That chose the narrow path, or seeke the right!
All keepe the broad high way, and take delight
With many rather for to goe astray,
And be partakers of their

evill plight,
Then with a few to walke the rightest way:
O foolish men, why hast ye to your own decay?"
Thy selfe to see, and tyred limbes to rest,

O matrone sage,” quoth she, “I hether came;
And this good knight his way with me addrest,
Ledd with thy prayses and broad-blazed fame,
That up to Heven is blowne.” The auncient dame
Him goodly greeted in her modest guyse,
And enterteynd them both, as best became,

3 unawares.

« НазадПродовжити »