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Irish. Spenser's castle was fired. It was all he could do to escape with his wife and children; indeed, according to Ben Jonson, as reported by Drummond, one little child was left behind. In the beginning of the year 1599, in a state of great niental, if not other distress, he died in King Street, Westminster. He was buried in the neighbouring Abbey, not far from his grea: predecessor Chaucer.
Spenser was not only a great poet himself, but in a singular degree was the cause—that is, the immediate cause--of poetry in others. He did not, of course, make his readers poets, but in those of them who were so by natute he awakened a sense of their powers. In some such sense Milton, Thomson, Keats, and many others, called him father.
He was not a poet of the dramatic sort, as were Chaucer and Shakspere ; he had little or no sense of humour. He was a poet of conscious moral purposes ; also of abstract thoughts rather than of embodiments. His persona are rather virtues, ideas, essences, than living and breathing creatures of flesh and blood. As a poet, he lives and moves in a high, pure, spiritual world, wrapt in the contemplation of beauty and love, and other such fair existences.
The melody of his versification is especially remarkable. In a longer poem the incessant sweetness of his lines is apt to be somewhat cloying; in a shorter one, especially when he writes in a bright happy mood, as in his Epithalamium, the effect is delightful.
Though he was but ten years senior to Shakspere, his language is comparatively obsolete. This is because in some respects he belonged to the age which was ending rather than to the great Elizabethan ära. The subject he chose for his great work drew him into the midst of the old times of chivalry, and the literature that belonged to them. With such a subject the older forms of the language seemed to consort better. To him too, perhaps, as to Virgil, the older words and word-forms seemed to give elevation and dignity. Moreover, an older dialect was probably to some extent his vernacular, as he had probably passed his youth in Lancashire. Lastly, the only great poet who had preceded him, his great model, the Tityrus of whom he * his songs did lere," was Chaucer. To him Chaucer's language may have seemed the one language of English poetry.
INTRODUCTION. This is the last complete poem written by Spenser that is now extant. It was written and published towards the end of the year 1596, after the Earl of Essex's return from Spain. In that same year he published his Hymns to Heavenlle Love and Heavenlie Beauty.
There is no such word in Greek or Latin as “Prothalamium.” The word for a marriagesong is Epithalamium-that which is sung at the bridal-chamber door. But this is no such song, but rather one in honour of a meeting of the happy pair-pairs in this case-before the bridal day has fully come. In Greece, and probably in Rome, a Hymenæan song was sung as the bridal procession moved along from the bride's house to that of the bridegroom (a custom as early as Homer's time; see Iliau, xviii. 493): in Rome this song was called Talasius, or Talassio ; but this song does not answer to that, or one of those. Probably Spenser invented the word to express his purpose. The “Pro" may have a temporal force; and the whole word mean “ the song that preceded the nuptials." He himself calls it “a Spousall verse.”
The happy pairs were “the two honourable and vertuous ladies the Lady Elizabeth and the Lady Catherine Somerset" (see l. 67) on the one hand, on the other “the two worthie gentlemen Mr. Henry Gilford and Mr. William Peter, Esquyers.”
The text is here printed faithfully from the original edition, except that in l. 12 "the" is read for “he."
1. 3. spirit. Here, perhaps, in its radical sense. See on this word Max Müller's Lect, on the Science of Language, 2d Series, Lect. viii.
[What is meant by lightly here?)
1. 4. Titans. See Class. Dict.
fayre. In Anglo-Saxon, adverbs were sometimes but cases of nouns or adjectives specially used. All cases but the nominative were in fact so used ; but perhaps the case most commonly employed was the dative. The e at the end of fayre here is perhaps the e of the dative case used adverbially. This e had in Spenser's time lost both its sound and its meaning; then, as now, ly was the usual adverbial sign; so that what was really an adverb passed for an adjective adverbially used. For an instance of the old usage, see Chaucer, Prol. 94 :
“Well cowde he sitte on hors and faire ryde.” glyster. Gray uses this form in his lines “On a favourite Cat drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes :'
“Know one false step is ne'er retrieved ...
Nor all that glisters gold.”
5. It will be observed that the verb aflict in this sentence has two objects, viz. whom and my bruyne. It has been proposed to read whose for whom; but this is quite unnecessary. The latter object may be taken as in fact defining the former, and so standing in a sort of apposition to it. Or, the whom may be taken as used in a loose conjunctival way, as is no; uncommon in Elizabethan English; eg. Shakspere's Winter's Tale, V. i. 136:
Once more to look on him."
“Who when he lived, his breath and beauty set
Gloss on the rose, smell on the violet." See Abbott's Shakespearian Grammar, $ 115.
6. See Spenser's Life. It is mentioned there that an estate was given him in Ireland ; but it was evidently surrounded with discomforts, and its position of course cut him off from the brilliant society and life of the time. No wonder he sought other preferment. Murmurs like that in this stanza are common in his poems. See below, l. 140, and Mother Hubberds Tale, 11. 905–18.
8. (What is the force of of here? Mention any other forces it may have.)
11. Silver streaming Themmes. See a fuller picture of the Thames in the Faerie Queene, B. IV. cant. xi., where his marriage with the Medway is described. Denham, too, mentions its extreme clearness, ironically it might seem to us; see Cooper's Hill:
“O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.
the which: so below, l. 47, &c. Which is partly adjectival in its nature. Etymologically it = who like. The very oldest form in which it is found-i.e. its Gothic form-is hvêleiks. Compare Anglo-Saxon hwylc, Old Frisian hwelik, the Scotch quhilk. Thus it answers to the Latin qualis, and the Greek andikos, rather than to qui and ós. Therefore it can be used with the article, as other adjectives in English can be. We may say “the who-like (which] person,” just as we say, “the like person,” or, “the Cæsar-like person.” This adjectival usage with “which" still prevailed when its etymology was quite forgotten, and the word had come to be used as if it was but a various form of 'who. It has almost entirely died out now, which having come to be used as the neuter of who.
As which = who-like, so such = so-like: compare Gothic svaleiks, Scotch swilk. Hence in older English which was used correlatively to such, as in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, 1:
“Whan that Aprille . . . hath ...
Of which vertue engendred is the flour.”
1. 13. [What is meant by paynted here ?] Comp. Ovid, Fast. iv. 430 : “Pictaque dissimili flore nitebat humus.”
variable. The termination ble has not in this word the force which it usually has in our modern usage. Variable generally = varying, changing, inconstant ; as in Romeo and Juliet, II. ii. 109:
“O swear not by the inoon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable." So merciable in Chaucer's Frankeleynes Tale :
“Lord Phebus, cast thy merciable eye
On wrecche Aurilie, which that am forlorne." “In Early English,” says Marsh, “this termination [-ble] had by no means a uniformly passive force, and it formerly ended many words where we have now replaced it by -al and ful.” And he instances medicinable in the sense of medicinal, vengeable of vengeful, powerable of powerful. “Similar forms occur in Shakespeare.” Comp. comfortable, changeable, impeccable, delectable, peaceable. In the text variable = our modern“ various.”
15. maydens bowres. See note, p. 66.
17. against = in opposition to, and hence so as to face, to meet, to provide for the bridal day. “To ride against the king or other noble person signified to ride to meet." (Halliwell's Dict.) See Hamlet :
“Some say that ever, 'gainst that season comes,” &c. So elsewhere in Spenser. So in Hooker, &c. Shakspere, Midsummer Night's Dream, III. ii. 99:
"I'll charm his eyes against she do appear.”
So Gen. xliii. 25; Exod. vii. 15. Dryden uses the word in the same sense.
Brydale = bride's ale, i.e. feast. But this etymology had been long forgotten. Hence Spenser's “bridale feast,” Faerie Queene, IV. xi. 9. Another meaning of ale is alehouse, as in Piers the Ploughman, Prol. 42, Ed. Skeat.
[What is the force of Long here?]
22. greenish locks. Ovid speaks of the cærulei crines, which may mean much the same, of the Sicilian nymph Cyane. (Metam. v. 432.)
Adjectives in ish were much more common in older English than they are now. Nowadays they belong nearly altogether to colloquial language. See Faerie Queene, IV. xi. 11. Webster's White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona :
“Come, come, my lord, untie your folded thoughts,
And let them dangle loose as a bride's hair.”
On which Steevens notes :” “Brides formerly walked to church with their hair branging loose behind. Anne Bullen's was thus dishevelled when she went to the altar with King
Henry the Eighth.” (But perhaps Steevens is confusing that unhappy Queen's marriage with her coronation. She rode through the streets to be crowned, “sitting in her hair.")
1. 25. entrayled (Old French) = intertwined. Spenser uses the word several times, as in Faerie Queene, II. iii. 27. In V. v. 2 he has “trayled.”
26. flasket. A dim. from flask, from the same root as flagon. The word is still in use in Cornwall amongst the fishermen for the vessel with which the fish are transferred from the “seine" to the “tuck-net.” See Murray's Guide to Cornwall..
Comp. the picture of Proserpine and her girl friends gathering flowers in the meadows of Enna, Ovid, Fast. iv. 429-42; and Europa with hers, Mosch. ii. 33 et seq.
2. 27. feateously = neatly, cleverly. From Old French faictis = Lat. factitius. See Chaucer, Prol. 157, Ed. Morris :
“Full fetys was hire cloke." Comp. 'Foot it featly' (Temp. I. ii. 380).
28. on hye = in haste. So hie thee = haste thee.
34. posy. This word is very commonly used for a verse or motto inscribed on a ring; as in the Merchant of Venice, V. i. 147, where Gratiano speaks of
"A hoop of gold, a paltry ring
And generally for a legend, as in Webster's Northward Ho, III. ii. : “I'll have you make twelve posies for a dozen of cheese-trenches.” (Cf. Massinger's Old Law, II. i.) As flowers had their language once in Western Europe (see Hamlet, IV. v. 175; Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, I. i., &c.), as they have still in the East, it has been conjectured that the word posy was applied also to a nosegay as being significant and, so to speak, motto containing. Others, regarding the nosegay in the same way, have derived its name from pensée, a thought. But neither of these derivations is quite satisfactory.
37. [What is meant by With that?]
Swans were a very familiar sight on the Thames in Spenser's time, and before and after it. “Paulus Jovius, who died in 1552, describing the Thames, says: “This river abounds in swans, swimming in flocks; the sight of whom and their noise are vastly agree able to the fleets that meet them in their course." (Knight's Cyclop. of London.)
38. Lee = stream. This word, in various forms, occurs as a river-name in England (in Hertfordshire), in Ireland, in France, and other parts of Europe. Like nearly all European river-names, it is a Keltic word. We do not know of its occurring elsewhere than here as a common noun.
39. yet. See note on Il Pens. 30.
45. nor nothing neare. In Old English, one negative does not neutralize, but strengthens another in the same sentence. See Piers Ploughman, Prol. 30, Shakspere passim, &c. As late as Goldsmith we have instances of this double negative. 48. to = when brought near to, i.e. in comparison with. So Ben Jonson:
“All that they did was piety to this.” Hamlet, I. ii. 140: “Hyperion to a satyr.” Comp. Greek após.
49. least .. plumes = that they might soil their fair plumes in the least degree, i.e. that they might not soil them; and so, for fear that they might soil them. So in Latin ne is
used without ut, in Greek uń without ivu. With the virtually negative force of least comp. that of Latin minime.
2. 55. Eftsoones = soon after, immediately. Eft = aft, a word still used in a special sense by sailors, properly = behind, and so following; it is, in fact, the positive of after. The s in eftsoons was originally a genitive case-sign. So the s in else, unawares, needs. In the words once, twice, thrice, modern spelling has substituted c: in Piers Ploughman we have onis, elles, &c.
their fill. Here an adverbial phrase of degree. So perhaps “a hundred fold” in Milton's Sonnet “Avenge, O Lord.” 56. all in haste = altogether in haste, in great haste. Comp. I Pens. 33 :
“All in a robe of deepest grain,” &c. &c. The adverb alle occurs in Chaucer, &c.
58. they stood amazed still. Here the pred. is they stood still ; amazed serves for an adverb of manner. (In what other way might the sentence be analysed ?]
60. them seem'd. So me thinks, him thought, him were lever (Chaucer's Frank. Tate), &c. In all these, and such cases, the pronoun is the Old English dative, the verb is impersonal. So, too, is to be explained “if you please.” At a later time these various verbs were used personally, and the nominative of the pronoun replaced the dative.
62. heavenly borne = heavenly by birth, and so in meaning = heaven-born. Analytically, borne is a quasi-adverb defining heavenly, which is part of the pred.
63. Teeme. See Hymn on Nat. 18; Midsummer Night's Dream, V. i. 391 ; Romeo and Juliet, I. iv. 57. It is cognate with the verb teem.
Ovid (Metam. x. 708) describes Venus as “ yoking her swans and so traversing the air."
65. Observe the word-play.
78. (What part of speech is that here?)
Tempes shore = the shore of, i.e. consisting of, Tempe. Tempe was the shore. Comp. Gray's Long Story:
“ In Britain's isle, no matter where,
An ancient pile of building stands." So “Siloa's brook,” Paradise Lost, i. 11. Shore is often used of the banks of a river by our old writers. See Il Pens. 75; Faerie Queene :
“Besides the fruitful shore of muddy Nile ;” &c. 80. Spenser seems here to invert the course of the Peneus. In fact, it rises in Thessaly. See Atlas.
83. while = time. It is still used for a space of time.
93. bower = chamber; radically, something built, not connected with bough. In Beowulf, and in the older romances, it is used especially of a lady's chamber or room, = boudoir. Tennyson uses it rightly in his Godiva :
“Then fled she to her inmost bower.” “Bower-maidens” in Scotch = ladies' maids.
95. of = out of, from. So James iv. 1. Bacon, Ess. 51: “The even carriage between, two factions proceedeth not alwaies of moderation, but of a truenosse to a man's selfe, with end to make use of both.” (Apud Bible Word-Book.) Will. of Palerne (E. E. Text S.), 1139: “For she bade brought hem of bale bothe they seide,” &c.
your loues couplement = the union or marriage of your loves. Couple in the sense