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Calendar’ and his ‘Mother Hubberd's Tale.” Both of these pieces are full of the spirit of poetry, and his genius displays itself in each in a variety of styles. The Shepherd's Calendar, though consisting of twelve distinct poems denominated AEclogues, is less of a pastoral, in the ordinary acceptation, than it is of a piece of polemical or party divinity. Spenser's shepherds are, for the most part, pastors of the church, or clergymen, with only pious parishioners for sheep. One is a good shepherd, such as Algrind, that is, the puritanical archbishop of Canterbury, Grindall. Another, represented in a much less favourable light, is Morell, that is, his famous antagonist, Elmore, or Aylmer, bishop of London. Spenser's religious character and opinions make a curious subject, which has not received much attention from his biographers. His connexion with Sidney and Leicester, and afterwards with Essex, made him, no doubt, be regarded throughout his life as belonging to the puritanical party, but only to the more moderate section of it, which, although not unwilling to encourage a little grumbling at some things in the conduct of the dominant party among the bishops, and even professing to see much reason in the objections made to certain outworks or appendages of the established system, stood still or drew back as soon as the opposition to the church became really a war of principles. Spenser's puritanism seems almost as unnatural as his hexameters and pentameters. It was probably, for the greater part, the produce of circumstances, rather than of conviction or any strong feeling, even while it lasted; and it appears nowhere in such prominence as in his Shepherd's Calendar, the first work that he published. It has even been asserted that his Blatant
Beast, in the Sixth Book of the Fairy Queen, is meant for a personification of Puritanism. At any rate, it is evident that, in his latter years, his Christianity had taken the form rather of Platonism than of Puritanism. The puritanical spirit of some parts of the Shepherd's Calendar, however, probably contributed to the popularity which the poem long retained. It was reprinted four times during the author's lifetime, in 1581, 1586, 1591, and 1597. Yet it is not only a very unequal composition, but is, in its best executed or most striking parts, far below the height to which Spenser afterwards learned to rise. We may gather from it that one thing which had helped to give him his church-reforming notions had been his study and admiration of the old poetry of Chaucer and the Visions of Piers Ploughman. One of his personages, who, in one of the AEclogues, discourses much in the style of the principal figure in Langland's poem, is called Piers; and Chaucer is not only in various passages affectionately commemorated under the name of Tityrus, but several of the AEclogues are written in a peculiar versification, which appears to be intended as an imitation of that of Chaucer's poetry. So far as Spenser, at this time of his life, can be accounted any authority in such a matter, it inay be admitted that he seems to have regarded the verse of his great predecessor as only accentually, not syllabically, regular; but it is still more evident, at the same time, that these intended imitations of Chaucer in the Shepherd's Calendar do not really give a true representation of his prosody, according to any theory of it that may be adopted. The flow of the verse is rather that of the Visions of Piers Ploughman, only without the regular alliteration and with the addi
tion of rhyme. As a specimen of the Shepherd's Calendar, we will give, from the second AEclogue, which is one of those composed in this peculiar measure, the Tale of the Oak and the Briar, as told by the old shepherd Thenot, who says he conned it of Tityrus in his youth :—
There grew an aged tree on the green,
* Strongly fixed. b. Much. • Husbandman. d Rind. * Darkens.
The mouldy moss which thee accloyeth'
f Coils around. # Advise. * Daunted. 'Perhaps the true reading is “encompass round,” that is, circumambulate. k Ponder, consider. Then. "Spring.
"The meaning seems to be, are ready for firewood. WOI,.. III. re
Hindering with his shade my lovely light,