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The Knight is led further on, and shown more treasures, and afterwards taken into the palace of Ambition ; but all in vain.
Mammon emmovèd was with inward wrath ;
But direful deadly black, both leaf and bloom,
There mournful cypress grew in greatest store ;16
Pour'd out his life and last philosophy
The garden of Proserpina this hight;17
Clothed with leaves, that none the wood might see,
Their fruit were golden apples, glistering bright,
And those, with which th’ Eubean young man wan
Here also sprung that goodly golden fruit,
And had of her fair Helen for his meed,
The warlike elf much wonder'd at this tree
That is the river of Cocytus deep,
Which to behold, he climb'd up to the bank ;
One cursèd creature he by chance espied,
Deep was he drenched to the utmost chin,
The whiles he starv'd with hunger and with droughth: He daily died, yet never thoroughly dyen couth.22
The knight, him seeing labor so in vain,
But, if that thou be such as I thee see, Of grace I pray thee give to eat and drink to me!"
“Nay, nay, thou greedy Tantalus," quoth he; “ Abide the fortune of thy present fate; And unto all that live in high degree, Example be of mind intemperate, To teach them how to use their present state." Then 'gan the cursed wretch aloud to cry, Accusing highest Jove and gods ingrate :
And eke blaspheming Heaven bitterly, As author of injustice, there to let him die.
He look'd a little further, and espied
But rather fouler seemed to the eye;
The knight him calling, asked who he was ?
The whilst my hands I wash'd in purity;
Infinite more tormented in like pain
Nor sittest down on that same silver stool,
All which he did to do him deadly fall
That dreadful fiend, which did behind him wait,
Nor suffered lust his safety to betray:
And now he has so long remained there,
Therefore great Mammon fairly he besought
The god, though loth, yet was constrain'd ť obey,
The life did flit away out of her nest,
13 That house's form within was rude and strong, &c.
Hazlitt, with his fine poetical taste, speaking of the two stan. zas here following, and the previous one beginning, And over all, fc., says, that they are unrivalled for the “ portentous massiveness of the forms, the splendid chiaroscuro and shadowy horror,"_“ Lectures on the English Poets,” third edition, p. 77. It is extraordinary that in the new Elegant Extracts,” published under his name, seven lines of the first stanza, beginning at the words," from whose rough vault,” are left out. Their exceeding weight, the contrast of the dirt and squalor with the gold, and the spider's webs dusking over all, compose chief part of the grandeur of the description (as indeed he has just said). Hogarth, by the way, has hit upon the same thought of a spider's web for his poor's-box, in the wedding-scene in Mary-le-bone church. So do tragedy and comedy meet.
15 « Not such as earth,” &c.-Upton thinks it not unlikely that Spenser imagined the direful deadly and black fruits which this infernal garden bears, from a like garden which Dante describes, Inferno, canto xiii., v. 4.
Non frondi verdi, ma di color fosco,
(No leaves of green were theirs, but dusky sad;
Dante's garden, however, has no flowers. It is a human grove ; that is to say, made of trees that were once human beings,—an aggravation (according to his customary improvement upon horrors) of a like solitary instance in Virgil, which Spenser has also imitated in his story of Fradubio, book i., canto 2, st. 30.
16 There mournful cypress grew in greatest store, &c.
Among the trees and flowers here mentioned, heben, is ebony; coloquintida, the bitter gourd or apple ; tetra, the tetrum solanum, or deadly night-shade; samnitis, Upton takes to be the Sabine, or savine-tree ; and cicuta is the hemlock, which Socrates drank when he poured out to his friends his “last philosophy.” How beautifully said is that! But the commentators have shown that it was a slip of memory in the poet to make Critias their representative on the occasion,--that apostate from his philosophy not having been present. Belamy is bel ami, fair friend, a phrase answering to good friend, in the old French writers.
17 The garden of Proserpina this hight.
The idea of a garden and a golden tree for Proserpina is in Claudian, De Raptu Proserpina, lib. ii., v. 290. But Spenser has made the flowers funereal, and added the " silver seat, a strong yet still delicate contrast to the black flowers, and in cold sympathy with them. It has also a certain fair and lady. like fitness to the possessor of the arbor. May I venture, with all reverence to Spenser, to express a wish that he had made a ,