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ILLUSTRIOUS AUTHOR OF "THE FAERIE QUEENE."
WO centuries had passed since the time of Chaucer before England could boast of a poet worthy to succeed the author of the "Canterbury Tales," and Edmund Spenser is the only non-dramatic poet of the Elizabethan age whose works can be compared with the best that a later time has produced.
He was born in London, of poor parents, about 1553, and was educated as a charity student at Cambridge. He spent two years with relatives in the north of England, where he wrote the "Shepherd's Calendar." He was now invited by a college friend to London, and was introduced to Sir Philip Sidney, who treated him with great kindness, and encouraged his literary ambition. He revised his poem, and, calling it the "Poet's Year," dedicated it to Sidney. He was finally brought to the notice of Queen Elizabeth, and received an appointment in Ireland in 1580. Some years later he was granted Kilcolman Castle, with some three thousand acres of confiscated land near Cork. Here he composed most of his poems.
In 1590 Spenser was visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, and with him went to England. In 1594 he was married to a certain Elizabeth (surname unknown), of lowly origin. "She was certes but a country lasse," but "so sweet, so lovely, and so mild." In 1598 Tyrone's Rebellion broke out in southern Ireland. No English residents were safe, and Spenser had, as sheriff of Cork, somehow rendered himself particularly obnoxious. His castle was attacked, and set on fire, and his wife and child perished in the flames. Spenser returned to England, but survived his troubles only until the first of the following year, when he died. His remains found a fitting resting-place near the tomb of Chaucer, in Westminster Abbey. Beside the "Shepherd's Calendar," his principal poems are the "Epithalamion," "The Faerie Queene," a collection of lesser poems, entitled "Complaints," and four "Hymns." He also wrote in prose a "View of Ireland." Spenser's fame, however, rests upon "The Faerie Queene." This is described as the latest and most brilliant poetical expression of the sentiments of chivalry. It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and was intended to typify her and her splendid reign. It is composed of six books, though twelve were intended. Each book was to represent a virtue, portrayed in the person and adventures of a knight.
The several allegorical characters, beside representing virtues, personated historic characters; thus, the "Faerie Queene" symbolizes Elizabeth, and the
Queen of Scots, the Catholic Church, and the Church of England, among many others, are nobly, if somewhat obscurely, symbolized.
Spenser is now very little read, but in every age there will be some who will say with Pope: "There is something in Spenser that pleases one as strongly in one's old age as it did in one's youth.
AT THE ALTAR.
PEN the temple gates unto my love,
Open them wide that she may enter in, And all the posts adorn as doth behove, And all the pillars deck with garlands trim, For to receive this saint with honour due.
That cometh in to you.
With trembling steps, and humble reverence,
To humble your proud faces:
Bring her up to the high altar, that she may
The whiles, with hollow throats,
Behold, whiles she before the altar stands,
That even the angels, which continually
But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground,
That suffers not one look to glance awry,
Sing, ye sweet angels, alleluja sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your echo ring.
But to the prey when as he drew more nigh, His bloody rage assuaged with remorse, And, with the sight amazed, forgot his furious force.
QUEENE," BOOK I.
Instead thereof he kissed her weary feet,
And licked her lily hands with fawning tongue, As he her wrongéd innocence did weet.
Oh, how can beauty master the most strong, And simple truth subdue avenging wrong! Whose yielded pride and proud submission,
Still dreading death, when she had marked long, Her heart 'gan melt in great compassion; And drizzling tears did shed for pure affection.
"The lion, lord of every beast in field,"
Quoth she, "his princely puissance doth abate, And mighty proud to humble weak doth yield, Forgetful of the hungry rage which late Him pricked, in pity of my sad estate. But he, my lion, and my noble lord,
How does he find in cruel heart to hate Her that him loved, and ever most adored As the god of my life? Why hath he me abhorred ?"
"He was the man who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them, not laboriously, but luckily when he describes anything, you more than see it—you feel it, too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards and found her there."-Dryden.
E know almost nothing of the details of the life of William Shakespeare. He was born at Stratford-on-Avon, perhaps on April 23, 1564. The precise day of his birth is not fixed with certainty, but as he was baptized on April 26, the date traditionally assigned is at least approximately correct. The authenticated facts in the life of Shakespeare may be very briefly told. His father was an apparently well-to-do tradesman-a wool-comber or glover-but there is evidence that he fell into reduced circumstances while his son was yet a boy. William Shakespeare, the eldest son who survived childhood, was sent to the grammar school at Stratford, where, according to Ben Jonson, he acquired "small Latin and less Greek." There is no evidence that he was ever able to read easily or to speak any language except his own. Tradition says that he was for a time an assistant in his father's shop. But of the youth and early manhood of Shakespeare nothing is known, except that six months before he had entered upon his nineteenth year he was hastily married to Anne Hathaway, a woman some seven years his senior, whose home was at Shottery, a village near-by Stratford; and that within eighteen months, first a daughter, and then a boy and a girl, twins, were born to them.
When about twenty-three Shakespeare left Stratford for London. Tradition says that this departure was somehow connected with his having been arrested for deerstealing in the park of Sir Thomas Lucy. He soon became connected with the Metropolitan theater. One tradition has it that he got his living for a while by
holding the horses of gentlemen at the door of the theater; another has it that he was for a while stage-prompter. There is good reason to believe that these stories are entire fabrications; for within less than half-a-dozen years we find incidental mention made of him, showing that he was already known as a man of parts, and of good social repute. His connection with the London theater could hardly have been a merely accidental one. The London players were wont to visit Stratford : Thomas Green, one of the best of them, was a native of the town; and Richard Burbage, afterward the friend of Shakespeare, was from the same part of the country. We can not doubt that Shakespeare had become favorably known to them, and that he went up to London upon no uncertain adventure. At all events, it was not long before he was regularly installed as "playwright" to the company. A part of his duty was undoubtedly that of "touching up" the works of others;
but it was not long before he began to produce original dramas. He also bore a part in the representation of his own plays; the part of "the ghost" in Hamlet being especially mentioned as one of those which were enacted by him. That he throve in a pecuniary point of view is clear. As early as 1597, when he was thirtythree, we find him with money which he could afford to invest in landed property in his native place, and he retained, besides, large interests in the London theaters, from which he received a very ample income-estimated as equivalent to about five thousand dollars of our money now. Though he lived in familiar intercourse with the nobles, the wits, and the poets of his day, he looked forward to the time when he should retire to his native town, and with this view he purchased New Place, the principal house in Stratford, with more than a hundred acres of ground attached. "The year 1612 has been assigned as the date of his final retirement