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The simple dignity of Milton * was either entirely neglected, or mistaken for bombast and insipidity, by the refined readers of a diffolute age, whose taste and morals were equally vitiated.
From this detail it will appear, that allegorical poetry, through many gradations, at last received its ultimate consummation in the Fairy Queen. Under this confideration therefore, I hope what I have here collected on this subject, will not seem too great a deviation from the main subject of the present section ; which I conclude with the just and pertinent sentiments of the Abbè du Bos, on allegorical action. The passage though properly respecting dramatic poets,
« No man
* Even Dryden, blinded by the beauties of verfification only, seems not to have had a juft idea of Milton's greatness. It is odd, that in praising Milton, he should infift on these circumstances. “ has so copiously translated Homer's Grecisms, and the latin elegancies “ of Virgil." By what follows it appears, that he had no notion of Milton's fimplicity. “ He runs into a Flat THOUGHT sometimes “ for a hundred lines together, but 'tis when he is got into a TRACK “ OF SCRIPTURE. He afterwards strangely misrepresents Milton's reason for writing in blank-verse. “ Neither will I justifie Milton “ for his writing in blank verse ; for whatever causes he alleges for “ the abolishing of rhime (which I have not now the leisure to examine) “ his own particular reason is plainly this, that RHIME WAS NOT HIS
TALENT.” Whether thime was Milton's talent or not, I shall not enquire, but shall infer from this reason assigned by Dryden, that had Dryden composed the PARADISE Lost he would have written it in rhyme, and that consequently, with BURNET, he judged the want of it an imperfection in Milton's poem, See dedication to Dryden's Juvenal,
is equally applicable to the action of the Fairy QueenE. “ It is impossible for a piece, whofe subQUEENE
ject is an allegorical action, to interest us very “ much. Those which writers of approved wit and “ talents have hazarded in this kind, have not suc“ ceeded so well as others, where they have been dif
posed to be less ingenious, and to treat historically " their subject. -Our heart requires truth even in “ fiction itself; and when is is presented with an
allegorical fiction, it cannot determine itself, if I may be allowed the expreffion, to enter into the sentiments of those chimerical personages....... A “ theatrical piece, were it to speak only to the mind, "
would never be capable of engaging our attention “ through the whole performance. We may there- . “fore apply the words of Lactantius upon this occa
« Poetic licence has its bounds, beyond “ which you are not permitted to carry your
fiction. “ A poet's art consists in making a good represen“tation of things that might have really happened, “ and embellishing them with elegant images. . « TOTUM AUTEM, QUOD REFERAS, FINGERE, “ ID EST INEPTUM ESSE ET MENDACEM, PO
TIUS QUAM POETAM
N reading the FAIRY QUEENE, fome observa
tions occurred which could not be conveniently referred to the general heads of the foregoing sections; but which, in this, are thrown together without connection, as they occasionally and successively offered themselves.
B. i. Introduct. f. i.
Fierce warres, and faithfull loves shall MORALIZE my
song. By the word moralize, Spenser declares his design of writing an allegorical poem; “ though my subject, says he, consists of fierce wars and faithful loves, yet under these shall be couched moral doctrine, and the precepts of virtue.” Our author, in another place, styles his FAERIE QUEENE, A MORALL LAY, where the shepherd addresses Colin Clout, who represents Spenser.
Whether it were fome Hymne, or MORALL LAY,
And bishop Hall, in the prologue to his fatires, alluding to this poem, hints at the preceptive nature of it in these words ; speaking of the swords of Elfish Knights,
Or sheath them new
And Drayton calls our author, with reference to the morality contained in the FAERIE QUEENÉ,
Grave MORALL Spenser*.
Spenser's poetry is,
Truth severe, by fairy fiction dreft t.
As a real poet expreffes it ; one who has shewn us that all true genius did not expire with Spenser. Let me add Milton's opinion, who calls our author, “ Our
fage serious Spenser, whom I dare be known to " think, A BETTER TEACHER THAN SCOTUS OR “ AQUINAS 1."
B. i. c. i. f. 2.
But of his cheare did seeme too solemne fad.
* To my most dearely loved friend, Henry Reinolds, of poets and poesie,
+ Gray's Odes, 1 A Speech againft Unlicensed Printing. Birch's edit, vol, 1. p. 147. Qa
Sad did not always imply sorrow, but gravity of countenance and depórtment. .“ Certaine gentlemen “ of the priviè chamber [of Henry VIII.) were re“ moved for their lewdnesle, and then foure sad and « antient knights put into their places *."
B. i. c. i. s. 4.
Under a veile that wimpled was full low.
A veil plaited. But the veil and the wimple were two different articles in the dress of a nun. Thus Lydgate, in describing the Abbele, in the Daunce of Macchabre.
And ye my ladie, gentle dame abbeffe,
One Machabree, a french poet, wrote a description, in verse, of a proceffion painted on the walls of St. Innocent's cloister, at Paris, called the DANCE OF DEATH. This piece was translated by Lydgate, who tells us in the Prologue, ft. 5.
The which Daunce at St. Innocent's
Stow mentions this DANCE OF DEATH, in his Sur
Stowe's Annals, by Howes, pag. 508.