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useless or ridiculous ; as they tended at least, to illustrate an institution of no frivolous or indifferent nature. Chivalry is commonly looked upon as a barbarous sport, or extravagant amusement, of the dark ages.

It had however no small influence on the manners, policies, and constitutions of antient times, and served many public and important purposes. It was the school of fortitude, honour, and affability. Its exercises, like the grecian games, habituated the youth to fatigue and enterprise, and inspired the noblest sen- , timents of heroism. It taught gallantry and civility to a favage and ignorant people, and humanised the native ferocity of the northern nations. It conduced to refine the manners of the combatants, by exciting an emulation in the devices and accoutrements, the splendour and parade, of their tilts and tournaments : : while its magnificent festivals, thronged with noble dames and courteous knights, produced the first efforts of wit and fancy.

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I am still further to hope, that, together with other specimens of obsolete literature in general, hinted at before, the many references I have made, in particular to Romances, the necessary appendage of antient Chivalry, will also plead their pardon. For however monstrous and unnatural these compositions may ap

pear

pear to this age of reason and refinement, they merit more attention than the world is willing to bestow. They preserve many curious historical facts, and throw considerable light on the nature of the feudal fyftem. They are the pictures of antient ufages and customs; and represent the manners, genius, and character of our ancestors. Above all, such are their Terrible Graces of magic and enchantment, fo magnificently marvellous are their fictions and fablings, that they contribute, in a wonderful degree, to rouse and invigorate all the powers of imagination: to store the fancy with those sublime and alarming images, which true poetry best delights to display.

Lastly, in analyfing the Plan and Conduct of this poem, I have so far tried it by epic rules, as to de monstrate the inconveniencies and incongruities, which the poet might have avoided, had he been more ftudious of design and uniformity. It is true, that his romantic materials claim great liberties; but no materials exclude order and perspicuity. I have endeavoured to account for these defects, partly from the peculiar bent of the poet's genius, which at the same time produced infinite beauties, and partly from the predominant taste of the times in which he wrote.

Let

Let me add, that if I have treated fome of the italian poets, on certain occasions, with too little respect, I did not mean to depreciate their various incidental excellencies. I only fuggested, that those excellencies, like some of Spenser's, would have appeared to greater advantage, had they been more judiciously difposed. I have blamed, indeed, the vicious excess of their fictions'; yet I have found no fault in general, with their use of magical machinery; notwithstanding, I have so far.conformed to the reigning maxims of modern criticism, as, in the mean time, to recommend claffical propriety.

I cannot take my final leave of the reader, without the satisfaction of acknowledging, that this work has proved a most agreeable task; and I hope this confideration will at least plead my pardon for its length, whatever cenfure or indulgence the rest of its faults may deserve. The business of criticism is commonly laborious and dry; yet it has here more frequently amused than fatigued my attention, in its excursions upon an author, who makes such perpetual and powerful appeals to the fancy. Much of the pleasure that Spenser experienced in composing the FAIRY QUEEN, must, in some measure, be shared by his commentator ; and the critic, on

this occasion, may speak in the words, and with the rapture, of the poet.

The wayes through which my weary steppes I guyde
In this DELIGHTFULL LAND OF FAERIE,
Are so exceeding spacious and wyde,
And sprinkled with such sweet varietie
Of all that pleasant is to ear or eye,
That I nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight,
My TEDIOUS TRAVEL do forgett thereby:

And when I gin to feele decay of might,
It strength to me supplies, and cheares my dulled

spright.

6. . .

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