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On the disputed question of E. K.'s identity I need not enter; it is enough here to note that the full, though often mysterious explanatory details which he gives (to which we may add his adoption of Spenser's conventional spelling, unless this be due to the poet's own. revision for the press), prove him clearly entitled to speak of Spenser as his “so very good and so choise frend ” ;-although we may perhaps infer from the phrase "him selfe being for long time furre estraunged," from the conjectural character of certain notes, and the divergence of others from Spenser's own intention, that the familiarity between the Poet and the Scholiast in April 1579 had suffered some cooling interruption : -even if Spenser's praises of the (never-published) Glosse upon his Dreames by E. K. in his letter of April 1580, may support the interpretation which has been offered, that the estrangement noticed was rather local than personal.—How far, in case of the Calender, Spenser precisely authorized the Gloss, remains uncertain ; that he was virtually his own commentator, although recourse to such a literary device could not in his case, be rejected on general grounds, is, I am convinced, a wholly improbable conjecture.
Turning, lastly, to the twelve poems before us, as I need not here linger over the general question of the Bucolic or Pastoral, a few words may be given to the relation between the Calender and the models assigned to Spenser. E. K. gives several reasons, in his conjectural manner, why “this our new Poete” should have begun his career with Pastoral, naming as his examples the chief writers in the style, Theocritus, Vergil, and then several of their Renaissance followers, amongst whom
Petrarch alone is now a living name to us.
Marot and Sanazzaro, with “ divers other excellent both Italian and French Poetes," seem to be suggested as Spenser's immediate models ; and this is confirmed in some degree by the Calender itself. Harvey's letter of this date to Spenser, describing the studies popular at Cambridge, is in accordance : “ Petrarch and Boccace in every man's mouth,—the French and Italian highly regarded : the Latin and Greek but lightly."-I find no certain trace of Theocritus, and hardly more of Vergil than Spenser might have learned without reference to the original. He has neither the power and variety of the Greek idyllist, nor the exquisiteness of phrase, the underlying passion, the magical charm of the Roman. Nor do the ten Bucolics of Mantuanus (died 1516), dedicated to Paris Ceresarius,* supply evidence of any special influence on his part upon the Calender ;-they are careful pieces of writing, full of minute detail, at times either too rustic and inelegant, or too copious in moralization ; in short, quite worthy of the praise which Shakespeare, perhaps ironically, has placed in the mouth of the pedantic schoolmaster Holofernes.f The signs of Spenser's study of Petrarch and Sanazzaro will be best looked for in his own Sonnets. That he has here closely followed the latter is not confirmed by the twelve Eclogues of his Arcadia. These are purely pastoral, not digressing into politics or theology, and greatly imitative of Vergil. In some the frightful trissyllabic rhyme (sdrucciolo) is used : in some an Ode
Reprinted in the Carmina Illustrium Poetarum Italorum, Florence, 1715:
† Love's Labour's Lost, Act iv, Sc. 3
in blank verse or in lyrical stanzas is introduced. Spenser borrows nothing from the names of Sanazzaro's personages, which appear to be original inventions. The ninth Eclogue has the air of greater aim at country diction than the others, and the Ofelia who here strikes an English reader is probably only framed from the rustic Ofellus of Horace. Sanazzaro writes in literary Italian, making no attempt at dialect, and what there is of natural description is only introduced in immediate connection with the persons of the Eclogue.-To Marot, on the other hand, as my comment on December will show, Spenser is indebted for more than his Scholiast notices.
Yet, granting that the pastoral form was adapted by Spenser from recent Renaissance models, as in them from Vergil and Theocritus ;-and by him, also, first employed in our literature,—the final impression left by the Calender ought, I think, to be that it is in the main a thoroughly original work, imbued much more with an English than with a Renaissance spirit, and in its tone and its details derived in due course from our own poetry, not from those foreign sources, ancient and modern, to which E. K., in the fashion of the day, thought it seemly to trace his friend's inspiration. To Chaucer, of course, as incomparably the richest and the most vigorous genius who, to this date, had ennobled our poetry, Spenser looked up as his master ; and Chaucer's general influence, doubtless, was the most powerful element (so far as such influences are really traceable) in forming the disciple. Here he found, not only “numbers,” verse in its technical form, but "the elegancy, facility, and golden cadence of Poesy” herself. Yet-at any rate in the Minor Poems—Chaucer's inspiration is influential rather over the general manner of Spenser than his style, choice of subject, or quality of thought. This was best; and it was also inevitable. For the two men are obviously of very different gifts and natures : it is in the romantic plays of Shakespeare, not in the Faerie Queene, that the Pilgrimage makes its authentic reappearance.
Chaucer's genius also shines far more in his longer works than in brief lyrics. Thus it is probable that Spenser formed himself most upon the writers of whom I have given short sketch in the preceding pages ; one finds among them, at least, his didactic tone, the quality which led Milton to call him “the sage and serious Spenser," whom he “dared to be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas.” Even in this field, however, my study has not lighted upon any distinct detailed debt from Spenser to his immediate predecessors and contemporaries. What we find is, that these take suggestions from each other, as others afterwards copied him, with a freedom from which Spenser was perhaps exempted by his own almost too fluent copiousness. The sonnet form, of course, he may have partially learned from Surrey or Wyatt. Sackville's admirably sustained loftiness of melody, as I have noticed, has a strong claim to be regarded as a model for Spenser's, as it is difficult not to believe that the Induction preluded to the allegories of the Faerie Queene. The literary influence, however, of that poet to whom one would have naturally looked as marked out for the strongest hold over Spenser is strangely absent, not only from the Calender, but from the whole body of his poetry. It is part of that deep and irritating ignorance, already noticed, under which we lie as to the details of the English Renaissance, that no evidence appears to remain upon Spenser's introduction to Sir Philip Sidney, -no notice of him, personally, in any of Sidney's preserved writings. Even the dedication of the Calender to
Of Noblesse and of chevalree, (with the reference to it in E. K.'s Epistle,) claims no personal knowledge, and might have been addressed to Sidney simply in his recognized position as beyond compare the most highly placed and conspicuous man of literary culture in England. But Spenser's letter to Harvey, dated from the house of Leicester, Sidney's too-predominant uncle, in October 1579, discussing the curious and instructive attempt initiated, as he boasted, by Harvey, to reform English metres after the Greco-Roman model, speaks of "Master Sidney and Master Dyer" as "twoo worthy Gentlemen," who “have me, I thanke them, in some use of familiarity.” Beyond this, all is conjecture; though we may accept as possible that in 1578-9 Spenser was at Penshurst, and that the phrase of the fourth Eclogue describing him as "the Southerne shepheerdes boye” refers to his association with Sidney. Whether, however, Sidney at that time communicated any of his own poetry to Spenser,—the songs of the Arcadia, or the more intimate and passionate Astrophel series,—nay, whether any portion of these was completed by 1578-9, is wholly uncertain.* To add to our perplexity, Sidney's
* The possibly probable dates for Astrophel and Stella, after careful consideration of the circumstances of Sidney's life, I would