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in 1579 his first volume, The Shepherds' Calendar. This is a pastoral poem, in twelve eclogues, modelled to some extent after the eclogues of Virgil.
Connection with Sidney and Leicester. — About this time Spenser made the acquaintance of Sir Philip Sidney, and of Sidney's uncle, the powerful Earl of Leicester, and thenceforward his fortunes are mixed up a good deal with the affairs of that illustrious family. Through this source he obtained, in 1580, the appointment of secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and some grants in connection with it of considerable pecuniary value. In 1586, he received from the Crown, through the interposition, it is supposed, of Sir Philip Sidney, a grant of three thousand acres of land in Ireland, being part of the forfeited estates of the Earl of Desmond.
Connection with Raleigh. – While Spenser was living at Kilcolman Castle, on his Irish estates, he received a visit from Sir Walter Raleigh, who had obtained from the Crown ten thousand acres of the same forfeited estates. During this visit, Spenser read to Raleigh so much of the Fairy Queen as was then written, namely the first three books. By the advice of Raleigh, Spenser went forth with to London, and published these three books, in the beginning of 15990. The reception of the work was enthusiastic. It was peculiarly adapted to the stately solemnities of the age and court of Queen Elizabeth, and it brought the author not ouly immediate fame, but a substantial pension from the Queen.
Other Publications. - In the following year, 1591, Spenser published another volume, containing several minor poems: The Ruins of Time, a requiem upon his deceased patron, the Earl of Leicester, The Tears of the Muses, l'irgil's Gnat, Mother Hubberd's Tale, The Ruins of Rome, Visions, and Muiopolmos, or The Fate of the Butterfly. These were followed, in the next year, by the publication of Dapnaida, an elegy upon the Lady Douglas Howard.
Return to Ireland. - After spending some time in London, attending to these various publications, Spenser returned to his Irish home, and thence, in 1595, sent forth his next publication, Colin Clout 's Come Home Again. In this, under pastoral names, as Colin, Hobbinol, Melissa, Cynthia, and so on, he celebrates his various distinguished friends at Court, and especially dwells at great length upon the virtues and glories of the Queen. The same year witnessed the appearance of another volume, containing Amoretti or Smnets, and the Epithalamium. The former are all addressed to the woman whom he was about to make his wife, and the latter is in celebration of his marriage. It is the noblest spousal verse in the language.
Latest Publications.- In 1596, Spenser went again to London to superintend the publication of the next three books of the Fairy Queen. He also published the Prothalamion, in reference to the expected marriage of two noble ladies of his acquaintance, and his four Hymns, two in honor of Love and Beauty, and two in honor of Heavenly Love and Beauty. These Hymns, so called, are long poems, containing nearly twelve hundred lines.
His Misfortunes and Death. - The Englishmen, Raleigh, Spenser, and others, who had been put in possession of the forfeited estates of the Irish rebels, were necessarily odious to the Irish peasantry. This irritation became at length so great, that in 1598 it broke out into open insurrection. The insurgents attacked Kilcolman Castle, plundered, and set fire to it. Spenser and his wife escaped, but a new-born infant perished in the flames. Ho took refuge in London, and there, after a few months of painful anxiety, died, at the age of forty-five. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Plan of the Fairy Queen. — Spenser's chief work, The Fairy Queen, was left unfinished. His plan contemplated twelve Books, each Book
composed of twelve Cantos. Only six Books were completed. The poem is of the allegorical kind. Each book has a story and a hero of its own, with a series of connected adventures, all intended to illustrate some one great moral virtue. Thus Book I. is The Legend of the Red-Cross Knight, or of Holiness; Book II. is the Legend of Sir Guyon, or of Temperance; Book III., The Legend of Britomart, or of Chastity; Book IV., The Legend of Cambel and Triamond, or of Friendship; Book V., The Legend of Artegal, or of Justice; and Book VI., The Legend of Sir Calidore, or of Courtesy. Spenser nowhere gives a list of the virtues intended to be celebrated in the remaining six books. Besides the heroes and heroines of the several books, there is one superior hero, Prince Arthur, who intervenes in each book, to rescue its particular hero in his extremity. This common hero represents Magnificence, or the embodiment of all human excellence, and is in the end to be united to the Queen, Gloriana; in other words, heroism is to be glorified.
Character of his Poetry.- As a scene-painter, Spenser is unrivalled. No poem in the langnage, no poem probably in any language, equals the Fairy Queen in the number, variety, and gorgeous splendor of its scenes. The author's power of invention seems exhaustless, and he fairly revels in the never ending pictures of bewildering enchantment which come at his bidding. From the very luxuriance of his imagination, however, he often forgets himself, and loses the thread of his story; and he lacks the exactness of thought which marks the work of that other great prince of dreamers, John Bunyan.
His Versification. — As a versifier, Spenser is wonderful for the freedom, variety, and sweetness of his rhythms. His words come pouring forth in an endless tide of song. His marvellous facility in versifying, however, made him careless; and he lacks accordingly something of that perfect finish in his rhythms which is to be found in some other masters of song. The stanza used in the Fairy Queen is one invented by the author, and is known as the Spenserian Stanza. It seems especially suited for the kind of chivalrous adventures which it is employed to describe. This stanza has been much used by later poets, particularly by Byron.
Sidney. Sir Philip Sidney, 1554-1586, was one of the special ornaments of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was possessed by nature, not only of high talents, but of a certain nobleness of disposition which made him the object of almost universal admiration.
His Education. — Sidney's education was ordered with the greatest care; and being connected by birth and alliance with the most distinguished families in the kingdom, he had no lack of opportunities for displaying his extraordinary abilities to the best advantage. He attended for a time at Oxford, and then at Cambridge, and afterwards went abroad for the purpose of study, in connection with travel, taking with him letters of introduction from his uncle, the Earl of Leicester. He visited France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, and Italy. In Italy he spent eight months in reading Cicero, Plutarch, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Dante, and Ariosto.
Festivities. -- He returned to England in 1575, in time to participate in the gorgeous festivities at Kenilworth Castle, which have been celebrated by the genius of Sir
Embassy to Germany - In the following year, being only twenty-two years old, he was sent by Queen Elizabeth, nominally on a visit of condolence to the Emperor of Germany, but really to concert measures with the German Princes for a league with England in behalf of Protestantism. The abilities displayed by him in this delicato affair gained him the highest commendations from the veteran and astute Walsiogham.
Letter to the Queen, — In the following year, Sidney addressed a letter of remonstrance to the Queen against the project of her marriage to the Duke of Anjou. This was a bold step certainly, considering the hot nature of the Tudor blood. But instances are not wanting in which both Henry and Elizabeth seemed rather pleased than otherwise, with a freedom of speech, which in their ordinary moods, and from ordinary persons, would have cost a man his liberty, if not his life. Sidney, in this as in many other instances, seems to have known instinctively just how far to go without giving offence.
Retirement. - Soon after this a quarrel occurred between him and the Earl of Oxford, which led Sidney to live for a time in retirement, at Wilton, the seat of his brother-in-law, the Earl of Pembroke. While there with his sister, and primarily for her amusement, he wroto one of his two most famous productions.
The Arcadia. - The Arcadia, or as he himself styles it, “The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia," written during his temporary retirement from Court, is a sort of philosophical romance, and was not finished by himself. The Countess, after his death, revised and arranged the manuscript, and published it with a continuation by Markham.
Estimate of the Arcadia. – The Arcadia was instantly and universally popular. Some part of this popularity was due no doubt to the singular and romantic feeling of personal regard entertained towards the author by his contemporaries. In the course of a century, the work fell into almost universal neglect, and began at length to be the subject even of contempt and ridicule. Horace Walpole characterized it as "a tedious, lamentable, pedantic, pastoral romance, which the patience of a young virgin in love cannot now wade through.” Mr. Hazlitt, a more recent critic, has expressed a condemnation equally sweeping. There has been springing up of late, however, a disposition to regard this once celebrated performance with greater favor. Those readers whose taste has been formed upon the stimulating and highly seasoned productions of the modern sensitional school, will of course find Sidney's work pedantic and prosy. Still there are some minds, oven now, who tire of this perpetual excitement, and who would not be ashamed to lay aside The Mysteries of Paris, or Griffith Gaunt, to find a calm and pensive enjoyment in the perusal of the Arcadia.
The Defence of Poesie. The other principal prose work of Sidney, The Defence of Poesie, was written not long after, in 1581, the author being then twenty-seven years old. It has received the commendation of the highest critics, and is still occasionally read. Though written in a style now antiquated, it is in some respects to this day the best argument extant on the subject of which it treats.
Sidney's fame as an author now rests upon these two works. Neither of them seems to have been much esteerned by himself, and neither of them was published until after his death.
His Poetry.— In his own time, Sidney was in high repute as a poet. His Sonnets, particularly, were greatly admired. They are mostly addressed to the Lady Penelope Devereux, whom he celebrates under the name of Stella, siguing himself Astrophel. The reader will find in them abundance of artificial conceits and elaborate nothings.
Military Career, – Sidney's great ambition was to be distinguished as a soldier. He obtaiued a command in the war then going on in Holland, but his career was brought to a speedy termination. He was mortally wounded in the battle of Zutphen, and after lingering for a few days, died in the arms of his wife, Oct. 7, 1586, in the 33d year of his age.
His Character. – Sidney was the intimate friend and patron of Spenser, and in his character and life was the actual embodiment of this great poet's ideal. The extraordinary hold which he had upon the minds of his contemporaries can be accounted for only by sopposing him to have been gifted to an unusual degree with those ennobling qualities which Spenser has shadowed forth in Sir Calidore, or The Legend of Courtesy. Sidney was indeed distinguished even as an author: but his main distinction grew out of his character as a man; -- as one who could be a graceful courtier without duplicity, a man of fashion without frivolity, a warrior and a hero without loss of rank in the Court of the Muses ; who was successful in almost every walk of honorable enterprise without incurring the envy or reproach of his competitors; one, in whom the most ordinary affairs of life became invested, in the eyes of his countrymen, with some peculiar fitness — whose every sentiment was a melody whose every act was rhythmical — whose whole life indeed was one continued poem. “ He trod from his cradle to his grave amid incense and flowers, and he died in a dream of glory.”
MARY SIDNEY, Countess of Pembroke, 1552-1621, is now known to history, partly as the sister of Sir Philip Sidney, and partly for the epitaph upon her, written by Ben Jonson:
“Underneath this sable hearse
The Countess was intimately associated with her brother in his literary labors, and was herself the author of several pieces, original and translated. She wrote A Poem on Our Saviour's Passion; A Pastoral Dialogue in Pruise of Astræn (Queen Elizabeth); An Elegy on Sir Philip Sidney, etc.
FULKE GREVILLE, Lord Brooke, 1554–1628, a nobleman and scholar in the days of Elizabeth, is associated with the memory of Sir Philip Sidney.
Brooke wrote a good deal, both in prose and verse, but is more noted for his passionate admiration of the works of Sidney than for his own performances. Besides a Life of Sidney, he wrote two Tragedies, Alaham and Mustapha, and several didactic poems.
"The titles of Lord Brooke's poems, A Treatise of Human Learning, A Treatise of Monarchy, A Treatise of Religion, An Inquisition upon Fame and Honor, lead us to anticipate more of sense than fancy. In this we are not deceived; his mind was preg. nant with deep reflection upon multifarious learning, but he struggles to give utterance to thoughts which he had not fully endowed with words, and amidst the shackles of rhyme and metre which he had not learned to manage. Hence, of all our poets, he may be reckoned the most obscure; in aiming at condensation, he becomes elliptical beyond the bounds of the language, and his rhymes, being forced for the sake of sound, leave all meaning behind. Lord Brooke's poetry is chiefly worth notice as an indication of that thinking spirit upon political science which was to produce the ripe speculations of Hobbes, and Harrington, and Locke." — Hallum.
GABRIEL HARVEY, 1545-1630, a writer of some note in his own day, is now chiefly known for his connection with Spenser and Sidney.
Ilarvey was the senior of Spenser, and had for a time considerable influence over him. Harvey endeavored to persuade Spenser to embark in a project to remodel Eng. lish verse, and to introduce the longs and shorts of the classical authors. But Spenser's instinctive gening broke loose from these arbitrary trammels. Harvey's Letters and Sonnets are valuable for the notices which they contain of many of his literary contemporaries.
Raleigh. Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552-1618, is famous as a courtier, an adventurer, and a writer.
Early Career. — Raleigh was born in Devonshire, studied at Oxford, served as a volunteer in France and the Netherlands on the Huguenot side for a number of years, and afterwards in Ireland, during Desmond's rebellion. He attracted the attention of Queen Elizabeth, as tradition has it, by laying down his cloak as an impromptu carpet for her majesty over a muddy place. Be this as it may, Raleigh became