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one, and regarded human life in at least | barred against the attacks of a barbarous three aspects. The first is the ordinary foe. Here we have one of Spenser's life of men lived wisely; the second is the Irish experiences: life spiritual founded on faith in worlds unseen; the third is life lived unwisely, and dominated either by sensual passion or by pride.
Let us begin with his philosophy of or dinary life when wisely led. It is set forth chiefly in the Second Book, or the Legend of Temperance. The first canto tells us of the husband under a witch's
spell, of the self-slain wife, and the de
serted babe-all three the victims of lawless passion in the form of corrupt pleas
In the second canto the destructive passion is anger: two knights strive in fratricidal fury aggravated by the arts of their two lady-loves. These sirens allegorize the Two Extremes, and are contrasted with a third sister, Medina, or the Golden Mean, who endeavors to bring the warring knights to concord. It is not from war that she dissuades them, but from unworthy war. According to Spenser's philosophy, man's condition is by necessity" militant here on earth;" but the wars like the loves of men should have in them little in common with those of the inferior kinds; it was thus that Sidney wrote of "that sweet enemy, France." Rancor in the form of slander and detraction is yet more severely judged than the most relentless war. It is the first offence punished in the temple of justice.
The secret of human happiness, according to Spenser, is self-control, especially in the use of lawful things. It is that dignity in which man was created, and that belongs not to his spirit alone, but to its earthly tabernacle also, which, far more than any servile fear, binds him over to resist all to which that dignity is opposed. The mandates of conscience constitute the true glory and beauty of the world we inhabit. They are "exceedingly broad; and only in proportion as he rejoices in them while he obeys them, does man possess the "freedom of the city" in which he dwells. Lives ruled by these radiant and benignant laws advance through boundless spaces in security as well as swiftness, like the planets which move without collision through the heavenly regions because they are faithful to their prescribed orbits; while lawless lives break themselves against unseen obstacles, and fall helpless. This is the doc trine illustrated by the ninth canto of the second legend, which describes the House of Temperance. When Guyon and Prince Arthur reach its gates, they find them
As when a swarme of gnats at eventide
Whiles in the aire their clustring army flies,
Doth blow them quite away, and in the ocean
The foes at last dispersed of the passions that besiege the soul the gates of the castle are thrown open, and admittance is given to the knights by the princess who keeps state within.
Alma she called was, a virgin bright, That had not yet felt Cupides wanton rage; Yet was she woo'd of many a gentle knight, And many a lord of noble parentage, That sought with her to lincke in marriage; For shee was faire, as faire mote ever bee, And in the flowre now of her freshest age; Yet full of grace and goodly modestee, That even heven rejoiced her sweete face to
In robe of lilly white she was arayd,
That from her shoulder to her heele downe
The traine whereof loose far behind her strayd,
Branched with gold and perle, most richly wrought,
And borne of two fair damsels which were taught
That service well; her yellow golden heare Was trimly woven and in tresses wrought; No other tire she on her head did weere, But crowned with a garland of sweet rosiere.† Alma entertains her deliverers "with gentle court and gracious delight," and, after they have rested, leads them all round her castle walls. Next she shows them the
stately hall set with "tables faire," where all is bounty without excess, and the "goodly parlour" in which sit many beautiful ladies and knights who "them did in modest sort amate," and where even the son of Venus behaves with an approach to discretion.
And eke amongst them little Cupid playd His wanton sportes, being retourned late From his fierce warres, and having from him lavd
cruel bow, wherewith he thousands hath dismayd.
Book II., canto ix., stanza 16.
† Book II., canto ix., stanzas 18-19.
Not all Alma's pupils are yet perfect in her lore. One of these is called "Praisedesire;" she sits "in a long purple pall" with a branch of tremulous poplar in her hand, and to Prince Arthur's demand as to the cause of her sadness she replies that it has come to her from "her great desire of glory and of fame." Another maiden has an opposite fault, an undue fear of human dispraise.
The princess leads the warriors next to a tower which commands a view of far realms. Therein three stately chambers rise one above another, each the cell of a sage. These three sages are emblems of the Future, the Present, and the Past. The walls of one chamber are painted with "infinite shapes of things dispersed there," shadows that fit through idle fantasy to charm or to scare it; devices, visions, wild opinions, and soothsayings. Here abides the sad prophet whose kingdom is the future a sick imagination. Amongst them all he sate which wonnèd
When oblique Saturne sate in th' House of Agonies.
The second chamber is painted over with the types of all that imparts dignity to state; magistracies, the tribunals of justice, the triumphs of sciences and arts. This is the kingdom of the present; and the sage who sits in it, a strong man of "ripe and perfect age," though his wisdom has all come through continual practise and usage," represents practical judgment, and has for his kingdom the present. The third sage symbolizes memory, and the past is his domain.
These three sages are, we are told, severally imperfect, because they dwell apart, each in a world of his own. Each makes too much of what occupies his special field of vision. The fault is that of disproportion, one closely allied to defective self-control. Neither imagination, judgment, nor memory, is fit to rule. These are but Alma's counsellors, each ministering a knowledge which becomes wisdom only when blent with the knowledge of
the other two.
Next to a temperate will, the secret of
It is the mind that maketh good or ill, That maketh wretch or happie, rich or poore; and for this reason he affirms, that those who earn their " daily bread" are the most fortunate. That the lowly condition, when at its best, does not exclude genuine refinement, is a lesson which Calidore learns from Pastorell, the supposed daughter of old Melibee, though in reality a maiden of high degree.
It is while Calidore, a great knight of the Faery Queen's court, dwells with the shepherds, that there is vouchsafed to him that exquisite vision, the emblem of human life, a maiden in maiden attire, and of a sunny slope environed by the three with rosy crown, standing on the summit Graces and a hundred mountain nymphs, who dance around her, and pelt her with roses. That soft and serious human creature in the midst, we are told,
seemed all the rest in beauty to excell. Hers is the twofold human dower of spiritual greatness and of earthly infirmity; the dancing choir that encircle her are the blameless gifts of "boon nature," and the graces that beautify life. Those elemental powers need no apparel, and wear none. She needs none, and yet she wears one; for the order to which she belongs is bright, not with innocence only, but with modesty, and she is herself a mystery both of sanctity and of gladness. The mortal creature to whom those graces minister has inherited a higher gift than theirs, —
Divine resemblaunce, beauty soveraine rare.
The quotations we have made express Spenser's estimate of human life when, with its twofold capacities, it has neither risen above ordinary humanity nor failen below it. It is an estimate in some degree founded on the ancient philosophy, with its mens sana in corpore sano, and yet more on that spiritual teaching which regards man's estate as at once peaceful within and militant without: peaceful, because protected from the storms of pas sion and lawless ambition; militant, because a ceaseless war with evil is an essential part of our earthly probation. With those two conditions of human well
being Spenser blended another; viz., the constant presence of that high beauty which haunted him wherever he went, alike amid the splendor of courts and in lonely vales, and which he regarded as one of God's chief gifts to man. The spirit of beauty is ever accompanied in Spenser's poetry with the kindred spirits of gladness and of love-a gladness which has nothing in common with mere pleasure, and a love which rises far above its counterfeits. With him man's nobler affections are not mere genial impulses; they are themselves virtues girdling in an outer circle those Christian virtues that stand around humanity, as in Calidore's vision the mountain nymphs encompassed those three Graces who ministered to the rose-crowned maiden. The mode in which Spenser associated the virtues as well as the graces with his special idea of womanhood - an idea very remote from that common in our days is nowhere more beautifully illustrated than in Book IV., c. x., where Scudamour describes the temple of Venus and the recovery of his lost Amoret.
Into the inmost temple thus I came,
All deck'd with crownes and chaynes and girlonds gay,
And thousand precious gifts worth many a pound,
The which sad lovers for their vows did pay; And all the ground was strewd with flowers as fresh as May.
In the midst stands on the chief altar the statue of the goddess, to whom they sing a hymn. Round the steps of the altar sit many fair forms:
The first of them did seeme of riper yeares
By her sad semblant, and demeanure wyse;
And next to her sate goodly Shamefastnesse,
Thus sate they all around in seemly rate; And in the midst of them a goodly mayd, Even in the lap of Womanhood there sate, The which was all in lilly white arrayd, With silver streames amongst the linnen strey'd ;
Like to the Morne when first her shining face
Hath to the gloomy world itself bewray'd, That same was fairest Amoret in place, Shyning with beauties light, and heavenly vertues grace.*
Scudamour stands in doubt —
For sacrilege me seemed the church to rob. Observing, however, a smile on the countenance of the goddess, he persists:
She often prayd, and often me besought
That ever she to me could say or doe
It is easy to trace the same benignant philosophy in all these descriptions. The wisely led life is a life of truth, of simplicity, of justice, of human sympathy and mutual kindness, of reverence for humanity in all its relations, and of reverence for God. The unwise life is the opposite of these things.
But the ordinary human life, even when wisely led, constitutes in part only Spen
ser's ideal of human life. It includes an extraordinary portion, a mountain land ascending high above the limit of perpetual snow. This is the life which seriously aims at perfection, the life lived "from above," and of which faith and truth are not the regulative only but the constitutive principles. It is set forth in the first book and tenth canto of "The Faery
Book IV., canto x., stanza 52.
Queen." Una has discovered that the Red-Cross Knight, though zealous for the good, is as yet but scantly qualified by knowledge or strength for that enterprise on which he was missioned from the Faery Court. That he may learn goodly lore and goodly discipline, she brings him to the House of Holiness. It is presided over by one who represents heavenly wisdom.
Dame Cœlia men did her call, as thought From heaven to come, or thither to arise; The mother of three daughters, well upbrought
In goodly thews and godly exercise;
The eldest two most sober, chast, and wise,
But faire Clarissa to a lovely fere
Was linked, and by him had many pledges dere.*
At the gateway sits a porter, Humiltà. Entering, Una and her knight find themselves in a spacious palace court, whence "a francklin faire and free," by name Zeal, ushers them to a stately hall. There they are welcomed by "a gentle squire, hight Reverence."
We are next introduced to Cœlia's daughters, Faith and Hope. Spenser describes them as Raphael would have done, had he painted in words:
Thus as they gan of sondrie thinges devise,
They numbred even steps and equall pace;
That could have dazed the rash beholder's sight,
And round about her head did shine like heaven's light.
She was arayed all in lilly white,
And in her other hand she fast did hold
Wherein darke things were writt, hard to be
Her younger sister, that Speranza hight,
Or anguish in her hart, is herd to tell: Upon her arme a silver anchor lay, Whereon she leanèd ever as befell; And ever up to heven, as she did pray, Her stedfast eyes were bent, ne swervèd other way.*
A groom, Obedience, leads the youthful knight to the guest-house; and the next day Fidelia begins to instruct him in her sacred book "with blood ywritt; "
For she was able with her wordes to kill, And raize againe to life the hart that she did thrill.
And when she list poure out her larger spright,
She would command the hasty sun to stay, Or backward turne his course from heven's
The knight waxes daily as in knowledge so proportionately in repentance; but Speranza teaches him to take hold of her silver anchor; and Patience, a kindly physician, pours balms into the wounds He is next inflicted on him by Penance. consigned to a holy matron, Mercy, that he may have a share in all her holy works. Mercy leads him into her great hospital
In which seven bead-men that had vowed all Their life to service of high heaven's king initiate him, each into the duties which belong to his several function, the office of the first being to provide a home for the homeless, of the second to feed the
hungry, of the third to provide raiment for "the images of God in earthly clay," of the fourth to release captives, of the fifth to tend the sick, of the sixth to inter the dead, of the seventh to take charge of the widow and the orphan. With all these sacred ministrations the knight is successively made acquainted, and thus fitted for a glimpse into the more exalted region of contemplation and the interior life.
Thence forward by that painful way they
Great grace that old man to him given had;
Book I., canto x., stanza 12.
Yet wondrous quick and persaunt was his spright,
As eagle's eye that can behold the sunne.* Hearing that the youth has been sent to him by Fidelia to learn "what every living wight should make his marke," the aged man shows him the celestial city descending from heaven.
the inferior kinds, as Epicurus esteemed it.
The contemplative sage tells the RedCross Knight that, though he knows it not, he is himself sprung from the race of England's ancient kings.
From thence a faery thee unweeting reft, There as thou slep'st in tender swadling band,
And her base elfin brood there for thee left: Such men do chaungelings call, so chaunged by faeries' theft.
As he thereon stood gazing, he might see The blessed angels to and fro descend From highest heaven in gladsome companee, And with great joy into that citty wend, As commonly as friend does with his friend.† According to Spenser's estimate, humanThe knight exclaims in ecstasy, "What ity itself is such a changeling, and perneed of arms since peace doth ay remain?"petually betrays its lofty origin. SpenHe is answered that his task must be ser's philosophy, both of the humbler and accomplished before he is fit to enter into the more exalted human life, will be best his rest; but that notwithstanding, whilst understood when contrasted with the two laboring on earth, he is to be a citizen of chief forms of life depraved, as illustrated the heavenly city as well as of God's city by him. A large part, perhaps too large a part, of his poem is given to this subject; but it will suffice here briefly to sketch his general scheme of thought. Moral evil he contemplates in two aspects, that of the body insurgent against the soul, and that of the soul insurgent against its Maker, or passion on the one side and pride on the other. The former vice is rebuked chiefly in Book II., the Legend of Temperance, and the latter in the Legend of Holiness, or Book I. In the Legend of Temperance passion is exhibited in its two predominant forms of senThe perils and suality and ambition. degradations of an animalized life are shown under the allegory of Sir Guyon's sea voyage with its successive storms and whirlpools, its "rock of Reproach "strewn with wrecks and dead men's bones, its "wandering islands," its "quicksands of Unthriftihead," its "whirlpoole of Decay," its sea monsters, and lastly its "bower of bliss," and the doom which overtakes it, together with the deliverance of Acrasia's victims, transformed by that witch's spells into beasts. Still more powerful is the allegory of worldly ambition, illustrated under the name of "the cave of Mammon." The Legend of Holiness delineates with not less insight those enemies which wage war upon the spiritual life. As the aims of that life are the highest man proposes to himself, so its foes are the most insidious. Una, the heroine of this legend, means truth; and the first enemy with whom her knight has to contend is Error, a serpent woman, with her monstrous brood. A craftier foe assails him soon, the magician Archimago, or Hypocrisy. Separated by him from truth, the knight becomes subjected to false
Such is that supernatural life, at once active and contemplative, which, according to Spenser's philosophy, admits of being realized even upon earth by its choicer spirits. Between the two lives there is much in common as well as much diversity. In each life man's course is a warfare: in the ordinary life man has to fight against his own passions, and against all who would injure his fellow-man; in the extraordinary life the combat becomes one for the establishment of a divine king. dom. In each the joy of life comes largely from beauty and from love; but in the sublimer life both of these are spiritual things. In both lives fame is won, but only in the higher is it the direct voice of God. In both there is commonly suffering, but in the higher that suffering is purification. The higher life has for its patrons Fidelia, Speranza, and Charissa, with whom are conjoined that other triad, Humility, Patience, and Purity; but those twelve virtues known of old are also min. istering spirits to both lives, and belong to a cognate race; while that great mother virtue, Reverence, the mystic Cybele of the House of Virtues, is the connnecting link between the two classes of virtues. The higher life is as superior to the lower as the statue is to the pedestal; but that pedestal is yet hewn out of the same Parian marble. The ordinary human life, when wisely led, is thus the memorial of a more heroic life, once man's portion, and destined to be his again, and not the mere culmination of the life which belongs to
Book I., canto x., stanza 47. † Book I., canto x., stanza 56.