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cels, cast down the desks of the monks, deface the altars, and destroy the images found in their churches. By the BLATANT Beast is understood Scandal, and by the havock just mentioned as effected by it, is implied the suppression of religious ' houses and popish fuperftition. But how can this be properly said to have been brought about by scandal ? And how could Spenser in particular, with any consistency say this, who was, as appears by his paftorals, a friend to the reformation, as was his heroine Elizabeth ?
But there is another capital fault in our author's allegories, which does not immediately fall under the stated rules of criticism. “ Painters, says a French " writer, ought to employ their allegories in religious “ pictures, with much greater reserve than in pro“ fane pieces. They may, indeed, in such subjects as “ do not represent the mysteries and miracles of our
religion, make use of an allegorical composition, “ the action whereof shall be expreffive of some truth, « that cannot be represented otherwise, either in paint“ ing or sculpture. I agree therefore to let them « draw Faith and Hope supporting a dying person, 6 and RELIGION in deep affliction at the feet of a " deceased prelate. But I am of opinion, that artists “ who treat of the miracles and dogmas of our religion,
are allowed no kind of allegorical composition. .... VOL. II.
« The facts whereon our religion is built, and the “ doctrine it delivers, are subjects in which the « painter's imagination has no liberty to sport *." The conduct which this author blames, is practised by Spenser, with this difference only; that the painters here condemned are supposed to adapt human allegory to divine mystery, whereas Spenser has mingled divine mystery with human allegory. Such a practice as this, tends not only to confound sacred and profane subjects, but to place the licentious fallies of imagination upon a level with the dictates of divine inspi. ration ;, to debase the truth and dignity of heavenly things, by making Christian allegory subservient subservient to the purposes of Romantic fiction.
This fault of our author, through a defect of judgement rather than a contempt of religion, has most glaringly committed throughout his whole first book, where the imaginary instruments and expedients of romance, are perpetually interwoven with the myfteries contained in the Book of REVELATIONS. Duessa, who is formed upon the idea of a romantic enchantress, is gorgeously arrayed in gold and purple, presented with a triple + crown by the giant Or.
Abbe du Bos, Reflex jons, &c. tom. i. c, xxiv.
Orgoglio, and seated by him on a monstrous fevenheaded dragon, (1. 7. 16.) whose tail reaches to the skies, and throws down the stars, (f. 18.) she bearing a golden cup in her hand. (1. 8. 25.) This is the SCARLET WHORE, and the Red DRAGON in the REVELATIONS. “ Behold a great red dragon, 6 having seven heads, and ten horns, and seven
crowns upon his heads; and his tail drew the third
part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to 66 earth *." Again,
" I saw a woman sit upon a « scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy,
having seven heads, and ten horns; and the wo
man was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and « decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, " having a golden cup in her hands, full of abomi« nation, and filthiness of her fornication t.
In Orgoglio's castle, which is described as very magnificent, Prince Arthur discovers,
An altar carv'd with cunning imagery,
The inspired author of the above-named book mentions the fame of what he saw in heaven.
" I saw " under the altar the souls of them that were slain for “ the word of God, and for the testimony which “ they held; and they cried with a loud voice, how
long, O Lord, holy and true, doft thou not
judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell “ on earth * ?”
A hermit points out to the Red-CROSSE knight the New Jerusalem, (1. 10. 53.) which an angel difcovers to St. John, (c. 21. 10. &c.) This prospect is taken, says the poet, from a mountain more lofty than either the mount of Olives or Parnassus. These two comparisons thus impertinently linked together, strongly remind us of the absurdity now spoken of, the mixture of divine truth, and profane invention; and naturally lead us to reflect on the difference between the oracles uttered from the former, and the fictions of those who dreamed on the latter.
Spenser, in the visionary dominions of Una's father, has planted the TREE of life, and of KNOWLEDGE: from the first of the trees, he says, a well flowed, whose waters contained a most falutary virtue, and which the dragon could not approach. Thus in the fame scripture, “ He shewed me a pure river of wa. “ ter of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the “ throne of God, and of the lamb. In the midst “ of the street of it, and on either fide of the river,
* Ch. 6. ver. 9. 10.
was there the TREE of life".' The circumstance, in particular, of the dragon not being able to approach this water, is literally adopted from romance, as has been before observed +. Thus also by the steps and fictions of romance, we are, conducted to the death of the dragon who besieged the parents of Una, by which is figured the destruction of the old serpent mentioned in the Apocalypse.
The extravagancies of pagan mythology are not improperly introduced into a poem of this fort, as they are acknowledged falsities; or at best, if expressive of any moral truth, no more than the inventions of men. But the poet that applies the VISIONS of God in such a manner is guilty of an impropriety, which, I fear, amounts to an impiety.
If we take a retrospect of english poetry from the age of Spenser, we shall find, that it principally confisted in visions and allegories 1. Fancy was a greater
+ Sect. ii, supra. | This subject may, probably, be one day considered more at large, in a regular history.
* Ch. 22. ver. I. 2.