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DEFECTS OF SPENSER'S ALLEGORY*.
THE faults of Spenser, in relation to his Machinery or Allegories, seem to me to be all reducible to three general heads. They arise either from the poet's mixing the fables of Heathenisin with the truths of Christianity; or from his mifrepresenting the Allegories of the ancients; or from something that is wrong in the Allegories of his own invention. As to the two former, I shall not have much to say; but shall beg leave to be a little more diffuse, as to the third.
The strongest instance I can recollect of the first kind, his mixing Christianity and Heathenism together, is in that short view, which he gives of the infernal regions, in the seventh Canto of the second Book. The particular part I mean, is where he speaks of Jupiter and Tantalus, and of Pontius Pilate and our Saviour, almoft in the same breath.
The instances of Spenser's misrepresenting the stories, and allegorical personages, of the ancients, are not uncommon in this poem. Thus, in a former view of hell, he speaks of Esculapius as in eternal torments, B. i. C. v. ft. 40 to 43. In another place, he introduces a company of Satyrs, to save a Lady from a rape (B. i. C. vi. ft. 6 to 19); though their distinguishing character was luft: and makes Sylvanus the god or governour of the Satyrs, (B. i. C. vi. ft. 15.) a dignity which the ancients never fpeak of for him; no more than of the ivy-girdle, which he gives him, round his waist, B. i. C. vi. ft
* From his Polymetis, edit. 1747. p. 302, &c. TODD.
a where he Speaks, &c.] If any should be offended to find Pontius Pilate, and Tantalus, in the same place of punishment, I think it might be said, by way of apology, that wicked men will suffer hereafter in some state or place of punishment, proportionable to their crimes ; and that the poet, who describes such a place, is at liberty to send thither what wicked persons foever he pleases, provided he acts according to poetical de
. 14. It is with the same fort of liberty, as I take it, that he describes the day, or morning, as having purple hair, B. i. C. v. st. 10; the Sirens, as halffith, B. ii. C. xii. st. 31; and « Bacchus, as fat, B. iii. C. i. ft. 51: that he speaks of · Clio, as Apollo's wife, B. i. C. xi. ft. 5; and of Cupid as brother to the Graces, B. ii. C. viii. ft. 6: and that he represents Orion, in one place, as' fiying from
as having purple hair,] See Mr. Upton's note on F. Q. ii. ii. 1. TODD.
the Sirens, as half-fim ;] See also Dr. Jortin's observation, and Mr. Upton's vindication of the poet, in the notes on F. Q. ii. xii. 30. TODD.
d and Bacchus, as fat ;] This is a misrepresentation, very common among the modern artists; and from them, I suppose, bas stolen into the works of our poets. It is not only to be proved from our sign-posts : for some tolerable ftatuaries, and some very good painters, even in Italy, have given into it.
SPENCE. Fat is a proper epithet for Bacchus; because drinking makes people fat-bellied : hence he is called rAETPSN by Charon in Aristophanes, Bat. v. 202. He is likewise pictured plump and fat in Gorlæus, Gemm. 205. Which gem Casaubon has printed and illustrated in his treatise, De Satyrica Poeh. Upton.
of Clio, as Apollo's wife ;) Mr. Spence has mistaken the meaning of the poet. Clio is here represented as the DAUGHTER, not the wife, of Phæbus and his aged bride, i. e. MnemoSyne, or Memory. See also the notes on F.Q. i. xi. 5. TODD.
us flying from a snake,] The poet means that the sun was almost beginning to rise, and that Orion was setting : Orion
a snake, in the heavens, B. ii. C. ii. st. 46; and, in another, as a water-god, and one of the attendants of Nepture. The latter is in Spenser's account of the marriage of the Thames and Medway; in which he has greatly increased Neptune's court; and added several" deities as attendants to that god; which were never regarded as such by any of the ancients, B. iv. C. xi. ft. 15.
This may be sufficient to thow, that, where Spenser does introduce the Allegories of the ancient poets, he does not always follow them so exactly as he might; and in the Allegories which are purely of his own invention, though his invention is one of the richest and most beautiful that perhaps ever was, I am forry to fay, that he does not only fall very short of that fimplicity and propriety which is so remarkable in the works of the ancients; but runs now and then into thoughts, that are quite unworthy so great a genius. I shall mark out some of these faults, that appear even through all his beauties; and which may, perhaps, look quite gross, , when they are thus taken from them, and laid together by themselves: but if they should prejudice a reader at all againft fo fine a writer ; let him read almost any one of his entire Cantos, and it will reconcile him to him again. The reason of my producing these instances, is only to show what faults the greatest Allegorist may commit; whilst the manner of allegorifing is left upon so unfixed and irregular a footing as it was in his tiine, and is ftill among us.
The first fort of fault I shall mention, from such Allegories of Spenser as are purely of his own invention, is there being sometimes too complicated,
flying from the snake, alludes to his figure and position on the töbere or globe. ' UPTON.
Such for example are his representations of Scandal, Discord, and Pride.
Scandal is, what Spenser calls, the Blatant Beast: and indeed he has made a very strange beast of him. He says, that his mouth was, as wide as a peck, B. vi. C. xii, ft. 26 : and that he had a thoufand tongues in it; of dogs, cats, bears, tygers; men, and serpents, B. vi. C. xii. st. 28.
There is a duplicity in his figure of Discord, which is carried on to far as to be quite preposterous. He makes her hear double, and look two different ways; he splits her tongue, and even her heart, in two: and makes her act contrarily with her two hands; and walk forward with one foot, and backward with the other, at the same time, B. iv. C. i. ft. 29.
There is a great deal of apparatus in Spenter's manner of introducing Pride, in a personal character : and she has to many different things and attributes about her, that was this fhow to be represented, (in the manner of our old Pageants, ) they would rather let one a guessing what they meant themselves, than serve to point out who the principal figure fhould be. She makes her appearance, exalted in a high chariot, drawn by fix different creatures : every one of them carrying a
every one of them carrying a Vice, as a poftilion, on his back; and all drote on by Satan as charioteer,] Ridiculous as this representation must be thought, it was perhaps no uncommon method of delineating the fervant of lin. In the religious allegories, or emblematical books, of the poet's time, I think it not improbable that such a picture might exist. I have now before me, The Christian Pilgrime in his spirituall Conflict and Conqueft, printed at Paris or rather at Douay, in 1652, in 12mo. It is embellished with engravings; and, at the beginning of the work, “The animal, carnal, and sensual man" is described (as " he who gives up the raynes of his Reason to the intire conduct of Sensuality, and puts his soul into the devil's power,) by the following engraved emblem : The globe of the earth is
Vice, as a poftilion, on his back; and all drove on hy Satan, as charioteer, B. i. C. iv. st. 18, &c. The fix Vices are Idleness, on an ass; Gluttony, on a hog; Lechery, on a goat; Avarice, on a camel laden with gold; Envy, eating a toad, and riding on a wolf; and Wrath, with a fire-brand in his hand, riding on a lion. The account of each of these particular Vices in Spenser, is admirable: the chief fault I find with it is, that it is too complex a way of characterising Pride in general; and may poffibly be as improper in some few respects, as it is redundant in others.
There is another particular in some of Spenser's Allegories which I cannot but look upon as faulty, though it is not near to great a fault as the former. What I mean is his affixing such filthy ideas to fome of his personages, or characters, that it half turns one's ftomach to read his account of them. Such, for example, is the description of Errour, in the very first Canto of the poem; of which we may very well fay, in the poet's own words, on a like occafion, B. v. C. xi. ft. 31. « Such loathly matter were finall lust to speak, or think.'
The third fault in the Allegories of Spenfer's own invention is, that they are sometimes stretched to such a degree, that they appear extravagant rather than great; and that he is sometimes fo minute, in pointing out every particular of its valtness to you, that the object is in danger of becoming ridiculous, instead of being admirable. This is not common in Spenser: the strongest instance of the few I can
placed in a splendid chariot, of which the devil is the charioteer, driving furioully a pair of the Spenserian ftud, a hog and a goat. TODD.
Such, for example, is the description of Errour,] See Dr. Jortin's and Mr. Upton's notes on F. Q. i. i. 20. TODD.